Friday, April 29, 2005

Only One Big Union Can Save Us Now

Matthew Harwood has an article worth checking out in this month's Washington Monthly, "Pinkertons at the CPA", on the Bush administration's deliberate targeting of Iraqi trade unions.

Freedom, yes, but our version, not yours.

Bad News from the 19th Century

No, not the Church again, but the writings of children's author Favell Lee Mortimer, author of Reading without Tears, The Peep of the Day, and the Far Off books, the last of which are about to be republished in one volume.

Peep of the Day was once described by New Yorker magazine as "one of the most outspokenly sadistic children's books ever written."

Here's a sample of Mrs. Mortimer's work:

"How kind of God it was to give you a body! I hope that your body will not get hurt.

Will your bones break?--Yes, they would, if you were to fall down from a high place, or if a car were to go over them...

How easy it would be to hurt your poor little body!

If it were to fall into the fire, it would be burned up...

If a great knife were run through your body, the blood would come out.

If a great box were to fall on your head, your head would be crushed.

If you were to fall out of the window, your neck would be broken.

If you were not to eat some food for a few days, your little body would be very sick, your breath would stop, and you would grow cold, and you would soon be dead."

The Far Off books are stunningly xenophobic volumes for children about foreign lands, lands which, apparently, Mortimer never visited: The Irish are friendly unless you annoy them in which case they become very irate, nothing gets done properly in Sweden, German women don't read books, the Portuguese are only slightly less lazy than the Spanish, and so on. A must-read.

Check out the samples here from Reading without Tears. They're just brilliant. You can download the text at Project Gutenberg here.

Just the thing to keep you smiling on a Friday afternoon.

good news from Spain

Hi all,

Last week the Spanish government passed the bill to allow gay marriages. That makes Spain the third country in Europe, after Belgium and Holland, where gay and lesbian couples can get married. This, of course, has incensed Papa Ratzi and the Vatican, and also some of the religious authorities in Spain. Cardinal Trujillo, for example, called judges who disagreed with the bill to refuse to marry gay couples. Representatives of the socialist Spanish government, though, pointed out that judges are not above the law, whether they agree with it or not. In fact, the cardinal's statement is a call for civil disobedience, which is a crime!
So, these days the right-wing radio sation COPE is full of conspiracy theories, calling also for the illegalization of the Basque communist party and claiming referees are helping Barca to win the primera Liga! And it gets better and better, Real Madrid appealed against every single yellow card they were shown during their last match against Villarreal and the Spanish football federation rejected those appeals. Must be some kind of socialist-gay-Catalan-Basque- separatist lobby behind this, surely...
Summarising, the Church and the PP (Aznar's and now Rajoy's right wing party, defeated in the last elections) are still living a few thousand light-years from the real world.


Thursday, April 28, 2005

At home with Topo Gigio. No. 1: Topo Gigio

(Full image shows Gigio bodypopping with Cornelius Castoriadis)

At home with the intelligentsia. No. 13: Cornelius Castoriadis

(Full image shows Castoriadis bodypopping with Topo Gigio)

Good News. The Revolution's Back On

In Streatham, at least, where the Workers Revolutionary Party, or one of them, is standing a candidate in the election, Billy Colvill.

Is this Billy Colvill the actor? Has he been recruited by the Redgraves, or is this a thespian splinter group?

Augusto Roa Bastos

Guardian obit here.

this is a message from persons unknown

Mind-bogglingly extensive site here about Speakers' Corner.

Blurb says:

"Speakers' Corner in London's Hyde Park is one of the greatest places in the Universe.

The Web site is intended to allow you to explore and understand Speakers' Corner. We will to reach into the future and the past, combining the oratory, discussion, debate, humour and madness, that has sustained Speakers' Corner for over a hundred and fifty years.

Amongst those who have attended meetings here, are the some of the most influential figures in world history such as Karl Marx, Frederick Engels and V.I. Lenin. Oliver Cromwell's corpse was hung up here in a cage for public display, as a warning to others who might wish to abolish the Monarchy. This was of course in the days before Speakers' Corner, when "Tyburn", one of the "hanging fields" of London was located there.

Others whose ghosts haunt this corner include William Morris, George Orwell, the Pankhursts, C.L.R. James, Benn Tillet, Marcus Garvey, and a star-spangled cast of millions more who shall remain unmentioned, excepting the immovable Lord Soper, who was still speaking till three weeks before he died at 95 years of age.

Speakers' Corner has had a more powerful influence than any "university" in the world, because here there are no entry requirements, no rules of intellectual formality and above all, no class restrictions. It is, as Leslie James the Hyde Park pamphleteer wrote, a fitting location to represent "the century of the common man."

Includes stacks of real audio downloads.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Girl Survives Rabies

Didn't read or hear about this in the news.

Excerpted here from Current Health 2 magazine:


Until recently, no human ever survived untreated rabies, a disease caused by a virus that can infect most mammals. Without treatment, humans who develop rabies inevitably die.

Jeanna Giese, a 15-year-old from Fond du Lac, Wis., beat those odds. She was bitten by a bat on Sept. 12, 2004, during a church service. After the bat bit her, it flew into a window and fell to the floor. Jeanna's family and other churchgoers thought that only healthy bats could fly, so they picked it up and tossed it outside. Jeanna thought the bite was just a scratch, so she never sought medical care.

About six weeks later, Jeanna began to exhibit the symptoms of severe rabies. She was confused and hallucinating, and her speech was slurred. Doctors at Children's Hospital of Wisconsin in nearby Wauwatosa knew that if they didn't act quickly, Jeanna would die.

Typically, people bitten by a wild animal are given a vaccine to prevent rabies. The vaccine causes the body to develop its own protection against the rabies virus. However, it should be given as soon as possible after the bite. Once symptoms appear, it is too late, and the rabies virus eventually attacks and destroys brain tissue, causing death.

Jeanna's doctors were desperate. So they loaded Jeanna with four different virus-fighting drugs and put her into an induced coma. An induced coma is a state of unconsciousness brought about by drugs. Jeanna needed a breathing machine, or ventilator, to breathe for her while she was comatose.

Doctors knew that the rabies virus damages the brain centers that control breathing, swallowing, and other vital functions. They also knew that brain activity drops greatly during a coma. If Jeanna's brain activity could be kept very low, the doctors hoped that the virus-fighting drugs might have a chance to rid her body of the virus.

It was a risky treatment. While in a coma, Jeanna's kidneys could have failed. Her lungs might have become infected. She was at risk every day.

Jeanna's dangerous treatment worked. She survived, the first human to do so after the onset of rabies symptoms."

Fuck me.

Life's Little Inequities

The March 4 issue of the Canadian magazine Maclean's presents research findings that are alternately amusing and dark:

In "Unlovely, Unloved," Brian Bergman reports news that good-looking children are six times more likely to be safely buckled into shopping cart seats than children who are less pleasant on the eye. The issue of shopping-cart safety is serious because over 30,000 children are badly injured each year in North America due to falls from shopping carts or tip-overs.

I suspect we need to clearly establish the direction of the causal chain here. Are the ugly kids falling out of shopping trolleys, or do they become ugly after they've fallen out?

In the same issue, Christopher Watt presents evidence that the average height of members of a society is proportionately related to the level of equality in it. The Dutch currently stand (forgive the pun) as the tallest people in the world, and according to Richard Steckel, an economic historian at Ohio State University, it is the relative equality within Dutch and other European societies that is leading them to grow quickly. The Netherlands, Canada, and other countries that have universal health coverage, protein-rich diets, and relatively low income inequality will experience continuing growth spurts among their populations

No Resolve

Okay, so I admit it, I cracked. After nearly four months of self-denial, I gave in and bought a book, scuppering my New Year's resolution; it doesn't mean I'll be buying any more, of course (it doesn't give me the excuse for a book-buying bender).

You have to understand, it was a book I just had to buy.

This one.

For Workers' Power, by Maurice Brinton, edited by David Goodway.

It may seem obscurantist and a bizarre choice for a deal-breaker, even with myself, but Brinton was a major influence on Solidarity, was himself influenced by Castoriadis, and is cited as an influence by Michael Albert, who co-founded Z Maagazine.

Here's the blurb from AK Press's site:

"It is hard to conceive of anyone doing a better job than Goodway and AK Press at bringing Brinton's politics and whole milieu back into prime focus. Brinton had a big effect on me, years back, and I never saw half the materials presented here. Brinton was a contributor to the past half century's activism and sums many of its lessons most brilliantly. To ignore him is to practice self denial. Don't do it." [Michael Albert]

"One of the greatest pains to human nature is the pain of a new idea..."

Reading the ideas of Maurice Brinton for the first time proves discomforting to most, and downright insufferable to many. The most prolific contributor to the British Solidarity Group (1961-1992), he sought to inspire a mass movement based on libertarian socialist politics. Attempting to blow away the bad air of the "Old" and "New" Left alike, Brinton used the past as a guide - but not an anchor - in his visionary writings.

With unrestrained passion, clarity and consistency, he examines the totality of revolutionary politics and flays the "revolutionaries" who obstruct their realization. Included here are Brinton's finest essays, pamphlets, eye-witness reportage and his most influential works - The Irrational in Politics and The Bolsheviks and Workers' Control."

Michael Albert has some interesting material over at Z Net, including a site devoted to Parecon, short for Participatory economics, "a type of economy proposed as an alternative to contemporary capitalism. The underlying values are equity, solidarity, diversity, and participatory self management. The main institutions are workers and consumers councils utilizing self managed decision making, balanced job complexes, remuneration according to effort and sacrifice, and participatory planning."

It also features a collection of papers and discussions by Albert, including a debate with Alan Haass of the International Socialist Organization, in which Castoriadis's indirect influence is apparent:

"On the one hand, in orthodox variants, and in almost all its texts, the Labor Theory of Value misunderstands the determination of wages, prices, and profits in capitalist economies and turns activists’ thoughts away from seeing how the dynamics of the workplace and market are largely functions of bargaining power and social control, categories that the labor theory of value largely ignores. Likewise, orthodox Marxist crisis theory, in all its variants, distorts understanding of capitalist economies and anti-capitalist prospects by often seeing intrinsic collapse where no such prospect exists and by often orienting activists away from the importance of their own organizing as a far more promising basis for change."

Anyone who knows me will tell you what a pain in the arse I am when it comes to my objections to the Labour Theory of Value, but it needs to be repeated over and over again: It's a metaphysical abstraction, not an economic one, and as such it explains nothing.

Albert again, channeling old Cornelius:

"Leninism is a natural outgrowth of Marxism when employed by people in capitalist societies, and Marxism Leninism, far from being the "theory and strategy for the working class, is, instead, due to its focus, concepts, values, goals, organizational and tactical commitments, the theory and strategy of the coordinator class, not the working class. It employs coordinator class organizational and decision making logic and structure, and seeks coordinator class dominating economic aims."

This is an argument that seems a little dated now, but when I was hanging around the Trots at the start of the 80s, their sense of entitlement and superiority was nauseating. Marxism offers them that sense of entitlement: It is the (false)ideology of the foreman class, of supervisors, technicians, teachers, and "those who know better." Former Trots like Castoriadis, willing to embrace Anarchist Communism, have always seemed to me to offer a genuinely socialist alternative.

So now you understand: I just had to buy this book.

New Perspectives Quarterly

Has one or two interesting and fairly short articles in its Winter 2005 edition.

In The Rise and Fall of America's Soft Power, Nathan Gardels argues that America's decision to go to war in Iraq despite global opposition has demoted the country from a hegemon to a preponderant military power, with the consequence that the legitimacy of American operations in the world today can no longer be assumed and must be earned each and every time for the forseeable future.

In Europe's Muslims Show the Way, Tariq Ramadan, whose visa to work in the United States was revoked by the government, reflects on that decision and discusses how Western governments and Muslims in the West should respond to recent kidnappings by Islamist groups in Iraq, the headscarf ban in France, and whether he expects a backlash against Muslims in Europe.

Finally, in A Europe of Two Souls, an interview with novelist Orhan Pamuk, topics discussed include the changes currently taking place in Turkey, whether Muslims in the West should accept the liberal culture norms of their host countries, and his decision to explore the minds of radical Islamists in his latest novel, Snow.

All available online.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

The Problem of Evil (again)

I saw an intriguing interview with crime novelist John Connolly on TV3’s Morning program last week, on to promote his new book, The Black Angel. During the interview, one of the presenters asked him his views on the nature of evil. John reflected for a while and observed that this was a topic he had discussed on a number of occasions previously, with police officers, social workers, and psychologists; the best answer he had received, he said, was that evil is “an absence of empathy.”

Well, that got me started, of course. As longtime readers of C&S will know, evil is a subject close to my heart. I have pondered in several past postings the nature of the psychopathic personality, using as my touchstone Harvey Cleckley’s grand opus The Mask of Sanity. My more than passing interest in autism has also cropped up on the odd occasion, particularly when Temple Grandin is in the news, as has the odd reference here and there to better half’s professional contact with psycho- and sociopaths.

It got me started in part because John Connolly is such a well-respected and widely read author, so one might have expected that he could have offered something more insightful into the psychopathic mind, that he would have had a handle on the subject. Not having read any of his works, I can’t say what it is about them that grips readers, but I am surmising on the basis of his response that it is more to do with plot than character, if this is the extent of his understanding.

Why so annoyed? Well, principally because “absence of empathy” is such an inadequate description that leaves out so much. As Temple Grandin tells it, “absence of empathy” is precisely what defines the autistic, not the psychopathic. An autistic person is incapable of intuiting another’s mental states, is unable to put themself into another’s shoes. This renders interpersonal behaviour problematic for autistic people, but it does not make them psychopaths, in part because their incapacity to recognize pain in others actually renders them harmless. They have no desire to inflict pain on others and are incapable of deriving pleasure from the infliction of pain. They might accidentally hurt others, and indeed frequently cause offence through being plain-spoken or apparently neglectful of others’ feelings, but this is a far cry from psychopathological behaviour.

And there’s more to be said, since, as Cleckley’s biographies clearly demonstrate, psychopaths can, if they are lucky, go through their entire lives presenting an appearance of being well-adjusted and ‘normal.’ Circumstances generally conspire against psychopaths because of their impulsive behaviour and feelings of superiority to those around them, but from time to time they will be lucky enough to fall into a social location that enables them to satisfy their impulses while managing to keep up that ‘Mask of Sanity.’

Cleckley’s psychopaths are mostly characterised by impulsive behaviour and a sense of social detachment, an indifference to others that can lead to neglecting others’ feelings but which also leads to indifference to their own reputation and long-term well-being. Cleckley’s psychopaths, generally, don’t care a damn about society’s norms; rather, they impetuously satisfy their own desires regardless of the long-term consequences for all concerned. If you like, we can see this as a form of social autism, an incapacity to conceive of deferred gratification.

There are, however, amongst this group, psychopathic personalities who do constitute a threat to others, the sorts of individuals whom better half encounters in her professional capacity. What distinguishes these people is a sense of resentment absent in Cleckley's other psychopaths. Generally speaking, these are people with a real chip on their shoulders, usually against specific people but often against the world in general, which they think has deprived them of their rightful entitlements. This begrudgery arises because the narcissism so common in psychopaths is thoroughly frustrated in their case: They see people around them whom they consider inferior getting ahead in life, while they, for one reason or another, are prevented from recieving what they regard as their just desserts. Where their sense of superiority comes from is difficult to say—Cleckley acknowledges it but doesn’t try to diagnose it—but one consequence of it is a disdain and disregard for the feelings of others, whose opinions are regarded as worthless or of little merit.

The vicious psychopath doesn’t lack empathy at all. He enjoys inflicting pain, and in order to be able to do so, he needs to be capable of recognizing the interior mental states of others in a way that autistic people cannot. Somewhere in their biography you will be able to find an explanation for the pleasure they derive from inflicting pain—either they see it as a form of revenge against those they imagine have wronged them (their own parents, for instance, for the inadequate upbringing) or else they wish to demonstrate their power over others who might have exhibited such crimes as having lives of their own, independent of the narcissist. In any case, the sine qua non of such a personality is some experience of brutalization that validates rage, revenge, and violence as a way of demonstrating frustration. This brutalization needn’t be beatings; it can be emotional blackmail, deliberate shaming, withholding of affection, or other forms of behaviour that a youngster might anticipate receiving and which he sees being exhibited towards other youngsters.

A sense of injustice, whether warranted or not, lies behind the behaviour of the antisocial psychopath. Cruelty and viciousness wouldn’t satisfy the psychopath at all if he couldn’t empathise. The problem arises because the empathy doesn’t generate concern and guilt in the psychopath, the way it does for everyone else, but the opportunity to hurt and derive pleasure instead.

Cleckley’s 'satisfied' psychopaths could fulfill the role of Eichmann in a Nazi state, detached and indifferent to the significance of all the papers he stamps sending people off to the camps; indeed, what we have come to refer to as ‘instrumental reason’ even encourages that sense of detachment, treating people as objects, numbers, and so on. But the ‘evil-ness,’ the vindictiveness of a real fascist requires empathy gone wrong, empathy in a brutalized and hard-done-by narcissist; someone like Hitler.

Call it ‘evil’ if you want, but there’s no need for a metaphysical explanation, only biographical.

Proof of Evolution

I was surprised to find this article in the March 28th issue of U.S. News & World Report, which is generally a very conservative alternative to Time and Newsweek, but it just goes to show that mutations do occur.

These articles will give you more an idea of the usual U.S. News target audience.

Monday, April 25, 2005

At home with the intelligentsia. No. 12: Walter Benjamin

(Full image shows Benjamin admiring the Bay City Rollers stencilling on his sister's satchel).

Just Another Ordinary Day in Saudi

Excerpted from Arab News

Winners at the 2005 Saudi Achievement Awards ceremony, held at the Al-Faisaliah Hotel in Riyadh (see No. 13):

1) Best Corporate SMB Solution: CISCO
2) Best Open Source Co.: Holool

3) Best Aviation Co. of the Year: Al-Wallan Aviation. The award was presented to Saad Al-Wallan, CEO, Al-Wallan Aviation. Having been in the field of aviation for years, Al-Wallan established his own private aviation company and is now the sole agent in Saudi Arabia, the Gulf, Jordan and Yemen of LearJet and Cessna Citation, both aircraft that are made specifically to transport VIPs and businessmen in the most luxurious atmosphere.

4) Best Automotive Co.: Mohamed Yousuf Naghi Motors (BMW). The award was presented to a representative of Mohamed Yousuf Naghi, chairman and CEO of Al-Naghi Companies.

5) Best Property Developer: Dar Al-Arkan. The company is the only real-estate developer in the market which has taken upon itself the establishment of projects that are worth SR800 billion for middle class citizens. In addition, it has launched the first real-estate fund for housing units on a lease basis which extends to 20 years.

6) Best Corporate Social Responsibility: Al-Jiwar Co. Jiwar Al-Haram is one of the leading companies in real-estate development in the field of religious tourism. Today the company is constructing housing units near the Grand Mosque of Makkah worth SR8 billion. The company is well-known for supporting charitable and social projects all over the Kingdom.

7) Best Courier Co.: UPS.
8) Best E-Government Solution: Zuhair Al-Fayez Co. for IT Solutions.

9) Best Initiative and Innovative Co. of the Year: IJADA. The award was given to Bakr Binladin on behalf of the company. The company has developed many IT solutions for Saudi companies. It has also participated in increasing the operational efficiency needed by companies in various sectors.

10) Best Retail Co. of the Year: Al-Othaim Commercial Co.

11) Best in Corporate Banking: The Saudi Investment Bank. The award was delivered to Saud ibn Saleh Al-Saleh. The bank is known for providing many services to a large diversified sector of consumers.

12) Best in Retail Banking: National Commercial Bank. The award was presented to Abdul Hadi ibn Ali Shayef. NCB, which is among the oldest and well-known banks in the Kingdom, has undergone expansions since last year by developing several branches inside commercial sectors which stresses its focus on consumers.

13) Best in Hospitality: The Al-Faisaliah Hotel. The award was given to Michael Gibb, managing director, regional vice president. The hotel is among the finest in Riyadh.

14) Best Businesswoman of the Year: Princess Hessa bint Khaled Al-Sudairy (Unique Female Services Center). She is considered among the first Saudi businesswomen to establish a center that specializes in the training and rehabilitation of Saudi women and in several areas like management, training and computer science.

15) Best in Business Development: Oracle.

16) Best Petrochemical Co. of the Year: SABIC. The award was presented to Prince Saud ibn Abdullah ibn Thunaiyan Al-Saud, CEO. It is among the leading companies in the world in petrochemicals. It is also a powerful economic force for the Saudi industry.

17) Best Corporate Communication Mechanism Book Writer: Abdullah ibn Hamoud Al-Shehri from Saudi Association for Media and Communications.

18) Best Corporate Campaign: STC.

19) Public Relations Man of the Year: Sultan Al-Bazie (Dar Tariq Media). His efforts helped in the success of the first municipal elections in Riyadh. Coordinating between the Saudi media, the foreign media and government sectors, he was able to tackle his mission successfully.

20) Business Management: Prince Turki ibn Abdullah ibn Abdulrahman Al-Saud (Dar Al-Riyadh Holding Co.). Under Prince Turki’s leadership, the company has gone global and is maintaining a steady development and productivity rate.

21) The Man of the Year 2004 in Business: Prince Faisal Bin Salman, chairman, SRMG.

Shoot the Pianist

An all-too-brief review by John Intini of Adrien Brody's latest movie, The Jacket, taken from the March 7 issue of Maclean's.

"It’s easy to forget that Adrien Brody won an Academy Award two years ago. All you have to do is watch (though I'm not recommending it) his string of dreadful performances since his Oscar-winning role in The Pianist—from a small role in The Singing Detective to his overacting in M. Night Shyamalan's disastrous The Village. Now add The Jacket, his first lead role since winning as best actor, to that list. Brody plays Jack Starks, a wounded Gulf War vet suffering from amnesia who ends up in an insane asylum. Under the unorthodox care of Dr. Becker (Kris Kristofferson), Starks is pumped full of experimental drugs, strapped in a straightjacket and locked in a morgue drawer for hours at a time to "treat" his demons.

But the real torture is having to sit through the 103-minute film, which shifts between present (1992) and future (2007) whenever Brody is in lockdown. Keira Knighdey's uninspired performance as Starks's only friend does nothing to help this fragmented story. Director John Maybury's use of quick edits and tense music seems merely cheesy. And too many key moments are laughable, thanks mainly to Brody's un-Oscar-like acting."


What's Martian for 'spam'?

An article by Craig Covault from the February 28th Aviation Week & Space Technology reports that the U.S. government has initiated an $800 million project to create a Martian Internet, in which

"robotic spacecraft will conduct high-data-rate exchanges between themselves and with their Earth-based teams. The objective is to better control increasingly ambitious robotic missions and to return more imagery and data from those flights for faster distribution to the science community and public."

But mostly the robots will be accessing photos of satellites with their cowlings removed.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Avui és Sant Jordi

Today is Sant Jordi (St. George's Day), and in Barcelona and in all Catalonia it is a big day. And it is our friend Jordi's day, by the way.
As you may know, the tradition is to buy a book and a rose for the loved ones. People go out on the streets, the center of the cities get really crowded, and the whole thing is a very interesting experience.
The Catalan government promotes the festivity with sites like this. It works by passing the mouse cursor over the text. The final note, which is in Catalan, invites you to congratulate on this day by sending literary texts. Then you can go on and send a text to somebody.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Well, they let the judges dress up like Superman

From this month's Art News, a report from Jeff Grossman

Guerrilla Skirmish

"The Guerrilla Girls have been battling bias against women in art institutions across the country for 20 years with informative billboards and posters. Donning gorilla masks and, during protests, adopting the names of women artists both famous and obscure, members of the group have carefully preserved their anonymity, with more than 100 women having participated over the years. Now a case pending in federal court may force them to shed their disguises and reveal their identities. The collective has broken down into factions fighting for the right to use the Guerrilla Girls name.

The plaintiffs, artists Jerilea Zempel and Erika Rothenberg, are being represented by Theodore K. Cheng, Esq., of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP. Zempel and Rothenberg, also known as "Frida Kahlo" and "Käthe Kollwitz," formed the corporation Guerrilla Girls in September 1999. They claim in their lawsuit against Guerrilla Girls Broadband and a group of 17 anonymous women, who also identify themselves as Guerrilla Girls, that they "have been the guiding force behind Guerrilla Girls since its founding." Zempel and Rothenberg say they are the actual authors of the books Confessions of the Guerrilla Girls (1995) and The Guerrilla Girls' Bedside Companion to Western Art (1998), both published in the group's name. According to court documents, Zempel and Rothenberg maintain that the name Guerrilla Girls and all intellectual-property rights associated with it belong to them or the corporation. They claim that when they formed the corporation, the group was no longer in existence.

The 17 women, who are represented by attorney Barbara Hoffman, say that Zempel and Rothenberg don't own the Guerrilla Girls name or property, and that the informal group remains active. They asked the court to let them participate without revealing their true names—a request that Judge Louis L. Stanton of the District Court for the Southern District of New York denied in October. The defendants have requested that they testify on the witness stand wearing their masks, a move that Judge Stanton said might seem "bizarre." One of the women, known as "Gertrude Stein," said in an affidavit, "The revelation of the identity of the Guerrilla Girls, even now, would destroy the effectiveness of the messages originally conveyed."

Pretrial proceedings are on hold while the anonymity ruling is appealed. The court of appeals in New York is scheduled to take up the issue next month, says Hoffman."

I think it's a real shame they're not allowed to keep their masks on. It's not like they're trying to make a mockery of court proceedings.

This brings back to my mind the case of the guy arrested for mooning Chancellor Helmut Kohl back in the 90s who was, unfortunately, denied his request at his trial that Kohl be brought into the court to correctly identify the defendant's arse. Brilliant.

Suckers of Satan's Cock, every one (except Russell Crowe)

An article by Raymond Fiore in the April 8th issue of Entertainment Weekly:


Think just anyone can sell khakis? There's a method to the madness.

She sings! She Dances! Yes, Sarah Jessica Parker clearly enjoys being a Gap girl. So what to make of the recent announcement that the sexy, City-less star is being succeeded as the face of the clothing chain by an actual girl, 17-year-old, up-and-coming soul singer Joss Stone? Don't get your khakis in a bunch! Despite erroneous reports that Parker was axed prematurely, the deal that Gap announced last May was for a two-season campaign, which was extended to three. Switching to Stone is simply a function of natural spokesperson selection. Because in the big-money world of celeb product endorsements, it's all about which star is right for which product. And getting that right can take some pretty deep—and expensive—digging.

“The first criteria that we look at is, Does this person have a strong sense of individual style?” says Gap spokesperson Erica Archambault, which is why both Parker and Stone were fitted for Gap campaigns—"trendsetter" Parker for sophisticated pink layers, and "cute" Stone for youth-skewing jeans. To ensure that Star A is a good match for Sweater B, advertisers rely on costly celeb-rating services like Q Scores and E-Poll to deliver extensive, census-like figures about the recognition and likability of about 2,000 celebs. (Q Scores' most likable personality? Tom Hanks, of course. Tops among kids ages 6 to 11: Would you believe Extreme Makeover: Home Edition's Ty Pennington? And polarizing blondes? Ellen DeGeneres, Britney Spears, and Madonna.) E-Poll generates E-Scores, which, among other things, rate stars on specific traits, like “unique” and “stylish.” Though overall awareness of Stone is still low, she scores high for being “talented” and “attractive”—and so has the statistical makings of a breakout.

Even an acne-treatment infomercial gets the same treatment. The spots for Proactiv zit cream rely on the true-life (and true-zit-filled-photo) testimonials of stars like Jessica Simpson, P. Diddy, and Alicia Keys. “We measure the heck out of them before we sign them because these are multimillion-dollar agreements,” says Greg Renker, cofounder of Proactiv distributor Guthy-Renker. “The people you find have to be convincing.”

True, there are occasions when research won't help. “Sometimes you want someone who's not hot,” says Lisa Bifulco of the Kaplan Thaler Group ad agency. “George Hamilton was perfect for Ritz [Chips].” Hamilton is so off-the-radar, he doesn't even have an E-Score. “The B- or C-list celebrity,” says Bifulco, “can be appropriate and effective . . . But who wouldn't want to work with Brad Pitt?” Indeed, the “physically fit” Pitt has become one of Madison Avenue's most desired pitchmen, especially after the one-time-only airing of his Heineken spot during the Super Bowl. Because of it, agencies now eagerly expect A-listers to make the jump from overseas commercials to Catherine Zeta-Jones-style U.S. ubiquity. “Zeta-Jones got one of the biggest commercial deals in history,” says celebrity broker Doug Shabelman, of Burns Entertainment & Sports Marketing, of her 2002 signing with T-Mobile. As the face of the then-nascent brand, “glamorous” Zeta-Jones has given the company a big boost—without hurting her own image one bit. As a result, says Shabelman, “actors who wouldn't even touch U.S. campaigns are now realizing that unless they have an established brand name, they're going to have to work very hard to compete.”

And compete they will. Shabelman notes that the best news for corporations is that the old-time stigma against product pitching has been so demolished that “the list [of celebs] that won't do [ads] has gotten a lot smaller.” And just who is a core member of the resistance to the trend? “Aggressive” Russell Crowe, who publicly criticized the likes of George Clooney and Robert De Niro for their ad campaigns (Clooney for fashion label Emidio Tucci overseas and De Niro for American Express). But Shabelman thinks that even the Serious Actor will eventually come around. “Right now you won't see Russell Crowe, but maybe in five years you'll see him do an ad for a beer company that also sponsors his movie and [concert] tour.” Sure, but only if he calls his next band 30 Odd Foot in Mouth.

Primavera Line-up

From the official site:


Here are the details about which day, stage and at what time are this year’s artists performing.



20:15 Xavier Baró
21:15 Art Brut
22:15 Maxïmo Park
23:30 The Arcade Fire
0:45 Los Planetas
2:15 Radio 4
3:30 Services
4:30 Vitalic


21:00 It's Not Not
22:00 Nisei
23:00 Jesu
1:00 Isis
2:15 Tim Hecker
3:45 Max Tundra



19:10 Broken Social Scene
21:20 Iggy & The Stooges
23:55 New Order
2:30 The Human League


18:15 Sole + 12twelve
20:10 Ron Sexsmith
22:45 American Music Club
1:20 Mercury Rev
3:35 Wiley
4:45 Dj Krush


19:00 Jr.
20:00 Gravenhurst
21:00 Mercromina
22:00 Nouvelle Vague
23:00 Sons & Daughters
0:00 Destroyer
1:15 Erase Errata
2:15 Whitey
3:15 Alter Ego
4:15 Kompakt Sound System


18:00 Sr. Chinarro
19:00 Vetiver
20:00 Micah P. Hinson
21:00 David Thomas & Two Pale Boys
22:00 Kristin Hersh
23:00 Sondre Lerche
0:45 Sophia
1:45 Psychic Tv
3:00 Piano Magic
4:00 Nathan Fake
5:00 Optimo Dj's


16:00 Nacho Vegas
17:05 Parker & Lily
18:15 Antony & The Johnsons
20:10 Brigitte Fontaine
22:45 Enrique Morente


16:00 Minimal
16:45 The Secret Society
17:30 Tarántula
18:15 Solex
19:00 Humbert Humbert
20:00 Ginferno
21:00 Acid House Kings



19:10 Josh Rouse
21:20 Steve Earle & The Dukes
23:55 Sonic Youth
2:30 Gang Of Four


18:15 Christina Rosenvinge
20:10 Television Personalities
22:45 The Wedding Present
1:20 They Might Be Giants
3:35 The Go! Team
4:45 Erlend Oye


19:00 Mate
20:00 Grabba Grabba Tape
21:00 Dogs Die In Hot Cars
22:00 The Dirtbombs
23:00 The Futureheads
0:00 Astrud
1:15 Out Hud
2:15 Polysics
3:15 Les Georges Leningrad
4:15 Wighnomy Brothers


18:00 Don nino
18:45 Coralie Clément
19:35 Bertrand Betsch
20:35 Françoiz Breut
21:40 Experience
22:45 Dominique A
0:00 Helena
0:55 The Married Monk
1:50 Daniel Darc
2:55 Oslo Telescopic
3:55 M83
5:00 Sammy Jo dj


16:00 Text Of Light
17:05 The Czars
18:15 Vic Chesnutt
20:10 Tortoise
22:45 Echo & The Bunnymen


16:00 Nadadora
16:45 Guillamino
17:30 (lo:muêso)
18:00 Alison Moorer
19:00 Garzón
20:00 Ovni
21:00 The Cheese

This is going to take some planning if I'm going to relive my youth. For a start, I shall have to sleep all day, like I did at college.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

The Neighbours

The Maiden Tower.

This is all Neil Jordan country, incidentally. The area has featured in The Crying Game and Michael Collins, as well as providing the setting for his book Shade. Here's an interview about it from the Graun.

The Tara Brooch

Lucky they didn't tread on it.

Just Watch That Street Cred Plummet

Since Alphonse decided to show us her domicile online, here's a distant shot of chez Counago, marked with an x, at the mouth of the River Boyne. Yes, that's a golf course you can see next door, and the beach is where they hold the Laytown Races every September and where they found the Tara brooch. And there's the tennis club where I'm men's over 40s doubles champion.

Street cred? What street cred?

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

At home with the intelligentsia. No. 11: Jacques Lacan

(Full image shows Lacan fisting a mongoose)

An excuse for all those lawyer jokes

Home page of the Alliance Defense Fund, a U.S. organization of Christian attorneys engaged in fighting women's reproductive rights, strengthening the "traditional family," and defending religious freedom of expression (i.e. freedom for Christian religious expression).

Call me intolerant, but when a political agenda is given religious justification, or rather when religion invades the political sphere, the word "totalitarian" leaps immediately to mind.

And to make matters worse, colonized by wankers!

Film review of the week, by Lisa Schwarzbaum, in the March 18 Entertainment Weekly:

"Dear Frankie is a Scottish weepie of such bathos and balderdash that it deserves a drinking game in its rotten honor: Bend an elbow every time you've underestimated how low screenwriter Andrea Gibb and director Shona Auerbach will go to wring a tear. The kid in the title (Jack McElhone) is deaf (gulp!), and he lives with his mother, Lizzie (Emily Mortimer, so pretty, glug!), and his chain-smoking granny (Mary Riggans) in a drab Glasgow flat (cheers!). He doesn't remember his absent da as the abusive bastard he was (chug!), and Lizzie encourages false memory by inventing a loving father who's a merchant seaman on a ship with a fake name, sending Frankie letters that are actually written by Lizzie (double glug!). Only it turns out that a real ship with the same name is coming into port (hic!), which means Lizzie needs to hire a guy (played by handsome Gerard Butler, chinchin!) who will pass as Frankie's da (slurp!). Whatever you imagine the ending will be, it's more shameless than that."


Face of Area Man Miraculously Appears in Onion

Interview with Jon Langford in the latest issue of The Onion:

"Last year, Alverno College in Milwaukee and the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis co-commissioned Langford to create a multimedia stage version of The Executioner's Last Songs. It debuts in Milwaukee this month, with performances in Chicago, Minneapolis, and Austin also planned. While preparing his show, Langford talked to The Onion A.V. Club about murder ballads, punk rock, and why songs can't change the world."

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Correction: New Pope Named

Apologies for obvious mistake.

New Pope Named

I'm used to being in a minority, but this is ridiculous

Took Chris Lightfoot's political survey here.

Compared to the whole population...
· 0.0% are significantly to your left
· 1.0% have views about the same as yours
· 99.0% are significantly to your right

Such magnificent purity!

Irony Free Zone at Harvard

William Buckley writing in the March 28th National Review about the Lawrence Summers controversy reflects on views expressed by Meghan O'Rourke, culture editor of Slate, about the small number of women working in the sciences in universities: She reported that women account for roughly 20 percent of science and engineering faculty in departments across the United States, although few hold senior positions. In particular, she drew attention to Summers's record as Harvard president; under his leadership, tenure appointments of women have fallen every year, and only 4 of the last 32 appointments have been female.

Buckley goes on to report Summers's three explanations for the disparity in the sciences: 1) Women can't put in the 80-hour work week that would make them competitive; 2) Innate differences between men and women permit men to outperform; and 3) gender discrimination discourages women from going the extra mile.

Like Bill Hicks, said: "Yeah, thanks to you, you fucker!"

Steve, Don't Eat It!

The March 28 Business Week (free registration required) has an article by David Kiley on the popularity of organ meats at respected restaurants in New York, New Orleans, Minneapolis, and other U.S. cities. Kiley himself has the excuse of being unable to digest steaks and chops, but anyone else availing of these "fancy imperialist tidbits" (copyright M. Python) deserves all the ridicule and humiliation that the kitchen staff are undoubtedly directing their way. People up North didn't eat offal because they preferred it to better cuts of meat; they ate it because they were hungry.

If you ask me, posh bastards who go do fancy restaurants and pay a fortune to dine on pigeons' brains, cat's cheese salad, and any other disgusting stuff that the rest of us would have to be starving before we went near need a good kicking and a crash course in "Fetishism for Beginners."

(By the way, it is recommended that this post be enjoyed with a 2002 Chilean Pinot Noir.)

(DO check out the original Steve, Don't Eat It! here.)

The Trouble with Tasers

Interesting article by Anne-Marie Cusac in the latest issue of the Progressive on the use of high-powered tasers by police in the U.S. At least 70 people had died by November of last year shortly after being struck by a taser.

A Geek Manifesto

An article by Kurt Kleiner from the April 17 issue of New Scientist:

Risk-taking boys do not get the girls

"WHETHER it's driving too fast, bungee-jumping or reckless skateboarding, young men will try almost anything to be noticed by the opposite sex. But a study of attitudes to risk suggests that the only people impressed by their stunts are other men.

Futile risk-taking might seem to have little going for it in Darwinian terms. So why were our rash ancestors not replaced by more cautious contemporaries?

One idea is that risk-takers are advertising their fitness to potential mates by showing off their strength and bravery. This fits with the fact that men in their prime reproductive years take more risks. To test this idea, William Farthing of the University of Maine in Orono surveyed 48 young men and 52 young women on their attitudes to risky scenarios. Men thought women would be impressed by pointless gambles, but women in fact preferred cautious men (Evolution and Human Behaviour, vol 26, p 171).

Reckless thrill-seekers might be trying a more subtle route to women's affections. Men say they prefer their same-sex friends to be risk-takers, and women prefer high-status males. "So if he has higher status among other men, women might like him for his status, even though they don't like the risk-taking in itself," Farthing says."

Yeah, I'd like it if all my male friends were risk-takers too. Eventually I'd be the only one left.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Howard's Way

Make your own here.

At home with the intelligentsia. No. 10: Susan Sontag

(Full image shows Sontag sat in a shower cubicle dehiscing walnuts)

Proof there is no justice in this world

Kelly Hogan is supporting Martha Wainwright at Schuba's, Chicago, on May 31.

Supporting, for Christ's sake!

Those who attend will have the privilege of witnessing the archetypal incarnation of the phrase "From the Sublime to the Ridiculous."

Well Up . . . and Bubble

If you want to hear what all the fuss is about, and if you have RealPlayer, you can download the radio series The Well of Song from RTE's Web site here.

"John Spillane presents a new series bringing to air his wide world of singers, songs and sources.

The Well of Song will feature John sharing the most wonderful and magical songs that have moved him over the years from the " 3 Canadians"- Joni Mitchell/Leonard Cohen/Neil Young - to the eccentric sounds of his native Cork with bands such as The Sultans of Ping, Five Go Down to the Sea, Microdisney, The Nine Wassies from Bainne, to gems with the lustre of Con Fada O'Drisceoill and his current three favourite living Irish songwriters - Damian Dempsey, Ger Wolfe and Ronán Ó Snodaigh."

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Well Worth the Wait

Ordered from some California site over a month ago, turned up at the office yesterday.

1. Drink Problem - Renees
2. Often - Five Go Down To The Sea
3. Song of Deep Hate - Hagar the Womb
4. Different - Word
5. Channel Steamer - Nikki Sudden
6. Last Pop Song - One Thousand Mexicans
7. Harry Was a Babysitter - Bomb Party
8. Rooster Blue - Three Johns
9. Vengenance - New Model Army
10. Going to Be - The Janitors
11. Hey Little Gary - Moosists
12. Don't Panic - Jazzawhaski
13. Passing - Global Infantalists
14. Fields of Sleep - Into a Circle
15. Zap Rap - Big Zap
16. Cry Wolf - Nineteen Nineteen
17. West of Pecos - Howard Hughes
18. Tribute to the Punks of '76 - Punks Of '76

I haven't heard "Vengeance" since the mid-80s, when a gang of us used to frequent the Berlin nightclub in Manchester. Happy nights dancing to "Westworld," "Rock Lobster," and "Vengeance."

Don't know why, maybe copyright reasons, but the Nineteen Nineteen track on this album has been replaced by the Three Johns' "AWOL." You won't hear me complaining, although I really bought it for The Janitors (I used to have a Janitors T-shirt years ago that would be worth a small fortune today - a small fortune being anything up to five quid) and for Five Go Down to the Sea, whose charismatic and frankly bonkers lead singer, Finbarr Donnelly, died accidentally a few years back when he drowned in the Serpentine.

For some reason, the best bands in Ireland all come from Cork: Fatima Mansions, Nine Wassies from Bainne, and the Fives. Dublin offers U2, Boyzone, Westlife, and Bewitched. Go figure.

Finbarr was also the subject of an award winning documentary by Cork Community Radio, appropriately titled Get That Monster Off the Stage. A true legend, though what the band is doing on an album titled British Airwaves beats me.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Shakers, Cutler, Guardian.

Guardian review of the Legendary Shack*Shakers here (played Manchester last Monday) and an appreciation of Ivor Cutler by Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand here.

Who have Franz Ferdinand now NOT cited as an influence?

Downhill all the way

The March/April issue of Skiing magazine contains a very helpful article for skiers by Jon Billman on the consumption of marijuana in Switzerland:

“I won't try to hide the fact that for a big chunk of the skiing population, sliding downhill and the chronic go together like chips and salsa or Limbaugh and OxyContin. I won't moralize, either, though I'm sick to death of the puritanical evangelical set who'd have us know what is righteous—like Crown Royal and golf. Strange hypocrisies abound, friends, in the land of the free. Your Zoloft prescription is ready now. Be sure to visit our mid-mountain cocktail bar on the way down, pour some more vodka into your Red Bull, and please be careful skiing down Blue Boulevard. We live in a drug culture, but Switzerland is different. Countrywide, Switzerland's is not a drug culture, it's a marijuana culture. The Suisse understand the difference. I learned about the no-ropes marijuana climate in Switzerland from—trust me here—two of the best skiers in the world, both of whom, if you’ve read this magazine or seen any ski film in the last five years, you would recognize.”

Billman explains that

“The preferred Suisse bud varieties are grown outdoors, of Amsterdam lineage. Some former vineyards have turned from growing grapes to growing the more lucrative leaves since the Swiss Senate, in 2001, approved legal possession and limited pot production. Mind you, approval by the Senate did not mean marijuana was above-board legal. Interpretation and enforcement of pot laws in Switzerland vary throughout the country's 26 cantons, which are Switzerland's equivalent of states. (Think 3.2 beer in Utah, legal prostitution in Pahrump County, Nevada.) Alas, in 2003 the Swiss House of Representatives tossed out government proposals to decriminalize marijuana and OUT TO LUNCH signs appeared in head shops around the country.

That didn't mean, of course, that bud was difficult to find. When it comes to enforcing existing marijuana laws, no one seems very interested. Case in point: At the Pub Mont Fort in Verbier, I once visited with a Telluride expat who funded his winters in Europe by growing the locally popular Valais Pride outdoors on his patio—it beat washing dishes or running a chairlift and left his days open for skiing.”

Vineyards dropping grapes to grow pot? Wow. Imagine if we could get the French to follow suit. Or Napa Valley.

Like John Lennon might have said: Imagine there's no wine snobs.

I Inject, Your Honor

The April issue of Texas Monthly (sub only) carries an article by Skip Hollandsworth about Texas Panhandle district attorney Rick Roach:

"No one fought harder to rid the Panhandle of its methamphetamine epidemic than district attorney Rick Roach. In retrospect, an addict may not have been the best guy for the job."

A zealous, tough prosecutor, Roach dedicated himself to putting drug traffickers and longtime drug abusers behind bars and was able to persuade jurors to return guilty verdicts with long sentences. In January, however, he was arrested and charged with possession of cocaine and methamphetamine and with the intention to distribute the drugs, which caused shock throughout the community. Indeed, area newspapers had long praised the prosecutor's attempts to rid the Panhandle of drug crime, and he was so popular among the mostly conservative churchgoing Republican voters in his massive district that he had run unopposed the previous year."

Preview here.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

At home with the intelligentsia. No. 9: Roland Barthes

(Full image shows Barthes lighting a cigarette while smearing foie gras over his homophobic neighbour's laundry)

Jim Butler

Or, if you prefer, plain old Seamus de Buitleir.

Julia Darling

linked left, died yesterday. Guardian obit here.

We Grow These in Texas

Is the title of an artwork by Jon Langford featuring Uncle Sam holding a clutch of skulls. It was created to promote the Pine Valley Cosmonauts' albums entitled The Executioners' Last Songs, which were an attempt to raise funds for the Illinois Death Penalty Moratorium Project.

It also features in the art exhibition “Axis of Evil: The Secret History of Sin,” a collection of stamp art by 47 artists from 11 different countries that opened at the Glass Curtain Gallery at Columbia College Chicago. The exhibition is being investigated by the Secret Service, as reported here in the Columbia Chronicle, although the agents involved did not specify the natyure of their inquiries.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

At home with the intelligentsia. No. 8: Angela Carter

(Full image shows Carter surrounded by liberated lab beagles smoking Marlboros)

And keep that Oscar away from Cathal Coughlan

In an article in the March 11 Entertainment Weekly, Marc Shaiman humourously recounts the problems he had trying to get the song he cowrote with Scott Wittman for Robin Williams past the network watchdogs prior to the Oscar ceremonies. The song, which you can hear here, was pulled from the show. Lyrics, extracted from the EW article, below:

"Recently, a group protested to Congress their suspicions that beloved animated figure SpongeBob SquarePants is gay, due to his incluslon in a video promoting tolerance. We have just received a telegram of their further findings . . .


Pinocchio's had his nose done
Sleeping Beauty is popping pills
The Three Little Pigs ain't kosher
Betty Boop works Beverly Hills.

Superman is on steroids
Tinky Winky is in the pink
Dammit to hell
Wake up and smell
The stink beneath the Ink!

Chip 'n' Dale both are strippers
Scrooge McDuck is really tight
Bugs Bunny's a sexaholic
And Snow White has been up all night!

There's something fishy 'bout Nemo
Batman and Robin share a sink
Winnie the Pooh
We know what he's into
The stink beneath the Ink.

Fred Flintstone is dyslexic
Jessica Rabbit is really a man
Olive Oyl is anorexic
And Casper is in the Ku Klux Klan.

Cinderella's into identity theft
Pocahontas is addicted to craps
Dumbo's an overeater
Josie and the Pussycats dance on laps.

It's clear the Road Runner's hooked on speed
Charlie Brown is seeing a shrink
People of America, take a whiff
Smokey the Bear just lit a spliff!
Tom & Jerry are dating ‘N Sync.

Oh the stink...
Beneath the ink! (Don't blink)
The Ink! (The kink!)
The stink beneath the Ink!

A Man Under the Influence

If only.

The Guardian reports the bizarre news that George Bush's iPod carries music by Alejandro Escovedo, another Bloodshot Records coup (Coup? Who said coup?). More here at the Bloodshot site.

The above-named album is a work of great beauty, by the way. And Alejandro needs your dough. Check it out.

Delhi Dilemma

Maintaining the Indian theme, this article by Siddhartha Deb in the latest issue of the Columbia Journalism Review concerning the change in content of the newspapers targeting India's English-speaking and urban elites that has taken place during the current, narrowly focused economic boom (bubble?) is worth checking out.

Ms. Spring 2005

No, not a beauty competition for all you nonsexist bloggers out there, but Volume XV No. 1 of the feminist magazine. The spring issue features some interesting stuff, including news of research on the social habits of bonobos, an extract from this book, Baghdad Burning: Girl Blog from Iraq, soon to be published, and a piece on the all-women police battalion of Tamil Nadu: The state has 188 all-woman police stations.

Not all available on the Web site, so you'll have to get your own copy.

For those yet to discover Andrew Bird

This from his newsletter:

"Hi Folks – just a quick note today – just the facts…

There is a great feature up at pitchfork today – it is a list and description of “Ten Songs or Albums That Still Bust My Bunker” written by Mr. Bird himself.

You can now find incredible, gorgeous hand silkscreened prints by Jay Ryan from the artwork to “The Mysterious Production of Eggs” up for sale now at the bird machine.

Andrew played on KCRW’s “Morning Becomes Eclectic” program last week – the show is archived in audio and video @ KCRW

What else? If you are at the Chicago record release show THIS SATURDAY April 16 @ Metro, come say hi ! I’ll be milling around the merch booth before and after Andrew’s show … If you don’t yet have tickets, they are going fast and furious… we recommend advance tickets – they can be purchased for no surcharge at Hi Fi

Our foxy T-shirts are currently sold out, but never fear we’ll have them up again for sale at the website next week.

Complete up to the minute tour dates…. Kevin O’Donnell will be performing with Andrew for all of them except the German dates and May 30-June 4.

APRIL 16 // Chicago, IL Metro

Advance tickets available at Hi Fi Records for no surcharge.

w/ Archer Prewitt and Clyde Federal

APRIL 24 // Hamburg, Germany Knust

APRIL 25 // Berlin, Germany Mudd-Club

* SHORT SET* opening for Son, Ambulance

APRIL 28 // London, UK ULU

with The Real Tuesday Weld and Tim Keegan

APRIL 30 // Paris, France La Cigale

with Great Lake Swimmers

MAY 1 // Amsterdam, Netherlands Paradiso

MAY 2 // Brussels, Belgium Botanique

MAY 3 // Liège, Belgium L'Escalier

MAY 4 // Gent, Belgium Video

MAY 14 // Newport, Kentucky Southgate House

Antena to support

MAY 15 // Columbus, OH Little Brothers

Antena to support - early evening show

MAY 16 // Cleveland, OH The Grog Shop

Antena to support

MAY 17 // Pittsburgh, PA Club Cafe

Antena to support - early evening show

MAY 18 // Philadelphia, PA World Cafe Live

Benefit show for Boisterous Babies - Bird on @ 9 PM

MAY 20 // New York, NY Knitting Factory

Antena to support - early evening show

MAY 11 // Providence, RI The Call

Antena to support

MAY 22 // Brooklyn, NY Southpaw

Antena to support

MAY 24 // Arlington, VA Iota

Antena to support

MAY 25 // Baltimore, MD Funk Box

Antena to support

MAY 26 // Chapel Hill, NC Local 506

Antena to support

MAY 27 // Charleston, SC Village Tavern

Antena to support

MAY 28 // Atlanta, GA The Earl

Antena to support

MAY 29 // Nashville, TN 3rd and Lindsley

with Over the Rhine and Kim Taylor

MAY 30 // Chattanooga, TN Barking Legs Theater

2 shows - no support - 7 pm / 9:30 pm

JUNE 1 // Oxford, MS ` Proud Larrys

JUNE 2 // Memphis, TN Hi Tone

JUNE 3// St Louis, MO Off Broadway

JUNE 4// Bloomington, IN Second Story

As always, thanks for your support!!!


Andrew Bird Net

Radio Gnashville

From those good people at Bloodshot Records:

Jon Langford on Chicago's WXRT - Mondays!

The kind and misguided folks at Chicago's premiere commercial radio station WXRT 93.1FM have handed over the keys to Herr Langford and told him he can play "whatever he wants" on the new show, The Eclectic Company. Join the fun and Justin Timberlake-free radio stylings every other Monday from 10pm to Midnight starting on March 7th. He'll be playing stuff you'd never normally hear on the radio & dragging in interesting people to pick their favorite tunes and tell tall tales. Upcoming guests include Mekon Sally Timms and Jon King of the Gang of Four. Listen in on Radio may never be the same, and it sure won't get any worse.

What you missed this week: Jon Langford hosts Monday April 11th, (10pm to Midnight CT) featuring special guest, rock writing legend Greil Marcus, talking about his new book Like a Rolling Stone - Bob Dylan At The Crossroads

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

At home with the intelligentsia. No. 7: Slavoj Zizek

(Full image shows Zizek getting married)

But would Hans Blix have spotted it?

An article from the January/February issue of the always stimulating Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists recounts how John Coster-Mullen built a replica atom bomb, commissioned by the Historic Wendover Airfield Museum in Utah, and drove it 800 miles across the U.S. without being stopped.

That's not a fever, that's rabies

The Farrelly brothers have remade Fever Pitch, based on the Nick Hornby book, except this time about an obsessive Boston Red Sox fan.

What's the point? The original was an overrated movie based on an overrated book about an overrated team. If you want to write a comedy about sports, look no further than the City of Manchester Stadium. Hell, you wouldn't even need actors.

Litigation, the essence of punk rock

Amusing for everyone except Dan Snaith, who had released two albums under the name Manitoba. Snaith has been forced to change his band name after a lawsuit on behalf of Handsome Dick Manitoba, frontman for ageing punk band The Dictators and best known for being clobbered by Wayne County. Handsome Dick sued for trademark infringement.

Manitoba is now known as Caribou.

Whether or not the Pixies will pursue Snaith on similar grounds remains to be seen.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Hill of Tara

Article from today's Independent on thecontinued threat to the Hill of Tara from motorway extension.

Creating Great New Irish Stereotypes

An article from the March issue of Smithsonian magazine (available as PDF download), Ireland Unleashed, tells the world how wonderful Ireland is after the blessings of the Celtic Tiger. No more maidens dancing at the crossroads; instead, Riverdance and everyone driving Mercs and Beemers. No more tooraloora lullabies; not when we have U2. And a corporate lawyer living in Cork explains that it's even okay to be an Anglophile these days: "You can admit you listen to the BBC."

Yes, that's listen to the BBC. Because, of course, they still don't have television down there.

Must-see Movie of the Week

The Aristocrats, by Paul Provenza and Penn Jillette. Any film so repulsive must be good.

The Religion Thing

Thoughtful and considered pieces from Ed Rooksby and Socialism in an Age of Waiting on “the religious question” appeared over the weekend, pondering the appropriate socialist attitude toward religion and the religious. SIAW also ask whether it might be possible for socialists to develop an attitude comparable to “hating the sin but loving the sinner” as advocated by the Christian faith in one form or another.

As anarchists, and therefore socialists, our beef has always been with organized religion and the insidious nature of power relationships as they are exercised through the hierarchy (and patriarchy) of the church (used in the broadest sense to cover all mainstream organized religions). The religious impulse itself is another matter entirely: Anarchists’ attitudes towards what we might call “spirituality” vary from the scepticism of Stirner and the Bakuninites to the Catholic workerism of Simone Weil and Dorothy Day to the anthroposophy of Jens Bjørneboe.

For what it’s worth, my own personal view is that it’s both patronizing and short-sighted for anarchists to imagine that the religious are less enlightened, more parochial, or simply more gullible than those of us who have, it follows, attained a higher level of perceptiveness and proximity to understanding the world as it really is. The impulse to find meaning in the world is something that is universal, something that not just derives from the human condition, I would argue, but which arises simply as a logical consequence of the presence of consciousness to itself. In other words, if we ever encounter aliens, they too will exhibit, if they are conscious, the same propensity toward making sense of life in a manner that we can call religious, not forgetting that what we today regard as superstition was once regarded as science, as providing an explanation for everything.

I’m drawing on the existentialists, particularly Sartre, here, although he gives anyone a hard time who attempts to argue that life has definite meaning and that our existence here is anything but accidental. Unnecessarily hard, I think, because the temptation to conclude that our existence must have some purpose is overwhelming. That the universe exists at all is something impossible to explain; that there should be something rather than nothing prompts speculation in itself. Add to that the infinite number of possible forms that the universe could take and you begin to see why anyone might conclude that their existence surely could not be accidental: The odds against their existence are so immense that surely arbitrary chance would have resulted in some other outcome.

The irony is that, whatever outcome there might have been, if there were conscious entities in it, they would be tempted to regard their existence as anything but accidental. Existentialists (myself included) are in the minority, I have no doubt, when we conclude that, yes, it is an accident that we exist—Darwinism has made things much easier for that minority to bolster its case, mind you, and to increase its numbers—and we are right to argue our corner, but it doesn’t make sense for us to behave the way someone like Dawkins does and to regard religion as irrational and “a virus.” Human beings have a distinctively human reason (yes, reason) for being attracted to explanations for their existence, and when the absurdity of that existence is compounded by apparently inexplicable and arbitrary suffering, the need to find an explanation or justification for that pain is only made all the more urgent. Some of that suffering, socialists can relieve because it originates not in “the human condition” but in the organization and distribution of resources in society, but the last thing we should do is present socialism as a form of earthly religion, promising a universal panacea for everything that ails us as a species.

Behold, The Future Foretold!

The latest missive from Rennie Sparks of the Handsome Family (link left)

"Dear Diary, I have made every sensible attempt to contact you via bus station telephone as well as encrypted e-mails masquerading as appeals from the Nigerian government. I feel I have no recourse but to write you directly and announce:


Alas, we must start from the beginning -- several days ago I dropped a raw egg into a jar of water and studied the patterns as the yolk slowly drifted apart. I was much alarmed by what I saw.





I examined my dental records, a recent MRI, and a childhood colonoscopy, but found conflicting messages within the hazy images. I threw chicken bones from a burlap bag. I swung a hatchet down into the kitchen table and took careful note of the pattern of quivering in the handle. I looked at the swirls of hair left by my cat upon the bedspread. It was simply not possible that all this hair had come from my cat!

I approached a young girl on the street and asked her to hold my key chain dangling between her first finger and thumb. Her slender fingers trembled and the keys slowly began to swing in a wide counter clockwise circle. I made a dowsing rod from a coat hanger and carefully marked where the rod began to point downward as I slowly walked about my neighbor’s yard in the wee hours before dawn. I drew the alphabet in the dirt behind the grade school and spun round until I fell over onto one of the letters. There was much blood.



+44 (023) 8071 1820


£12.50 adv

I walked into the local police department and demanded to be handcuffed. I set my shirt afire. I opened the telephone book at random. I called strangers and asked them to guess what was in my mouth. I took a jar full of beetles down to the cemetery and observed how they gravitated towards the graves of murder victims. I examined the bubbles left by drunks urinating in my flower pots. For the love of all nameless gods, I beg you to cease and desist. Your ever-faithful servant...

Xo Rennie"

Sunday, April 10, 2005

What's a Rat King?

This is.

What Noise Does an Anarchist Make?

Mostly a kind of whining sound.

A joke at my own expense and the opening line to novel No. 4, which my agent is waiting very patiently for while she tries to flog the previous three to unsuspecting publishing houses around the world. Also my way of introducing our latest blogroll addition, Fruits of Our Labour, a rather fetchingly designed site which describes itself as centering around the positive social developments in the world today.* The New York/Cowes duo who blog there explain that

“Many blogs on the left are cynical or negative, which is understandable considering the current climate. Our intention is to provide positive and inspirational news and content reminding us that another world is indeed possible.”

Something that some of us need reminding of on a regular basis.

*Okay, so the fact that our reading and musical tastes seem to coincide might also have been a contributory factor to the decision.

Friday, April 08, 2005

At home with the intelligentsia. No. 6: Simone de Beauvoir

(Full image shows de Beauvoir poking a rat king with chopsticks)

Now that's what I call music (c)

It hasn't been all bad. I finally got round to buying this today, too: Lust for Life, by Iggy Pop.

It's difficult to explain why I postponed buying this album for so long. Well, actually, no it isn't. I always associate Iggy Pop with a much-loved friend of mine (who I even shared the same birthday with), who killed himself not long after earning his Ph.D. Phil was a lovely, considerate, gentle bloke who I sat next to in Russian 'O' level classes for a couple of years (in fact, I doubt I'd have passed if it hadn't been for him) but who came to college with a wiser and more sceptical head on his shoulders than I did, a sweet and slightly obsessive teenager.

When Iggy came to play in Brum, we were 17. Phil was determined to go, and because I was too chicken, Phil realized that there would be a spare pair of boots free; these were my Dad's boots from his National Service days in the Marines. Thus, my most vivid memory of Phil is watching him stomp up our street in my Dad's old boots, audible from 150 yards away.

He brought them back the next day. "How was the gig?" I asked him. "Don't know," he said. "Spent most of it on me arse. I could barely stand up on the polished floor in those fucking boots."

Gave the album a listen to today. The opening track made me feel much less cheated by life.

Why do I keep buying this shite on the recommendation of music magazines? Am I still a teenager or something?

I'm a Bird Now, by Anthony & the Johnsons:

serene and fragile songs of delicate intimacy?

Or irritating and precious overhyped, overtremulous tat?

Decide for yourself. I already have. But at a price.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

At home with the intelligentsia. No. 5: Bertrand Russell

(Full image shows Russell struggling to untangle a nest of wire coat hangers)

Bend Sinister

From this month's Atlantic:

"Unless you're trying to fill out your bullpen for a post-season run, the evolutionary usefulness of left-handedness may seem a little puzzling. But it turns out that southpaws may remain in the gene pool because they're good to have around in a fight. A study by two French academics tracked the prevalence of left-handedness across a variety of traditional societies, and found that the more violent ones tended to have a higher percentage of lefties. Among the Dioula people of Burkina Faso, for instance, the homicide rate is just 0.013 murders per thousand inhabitants per year, and left-handers make up only 3.4 percent of the population. In contrast, the more warlike Yanomamo of the Venezuelan rain forest have a homicide rate of four per thousand per year, and southpaws compose roughly 23 percent of their population. What's advantageous in baseball, it turns out, may also be advantageous in a jungle knife fight."

"Handedness, Homicide and Negative Frequency-Dependent Selection," Charlotte Fourie and Michel Raymond, Institute of Evolutionary Sciences, University Montpellier II

Kilkenny Rhythm & Roots Festival

approaches, at the end of this month. Line-up includes Micah P. Hinson, the Legendary Shack Shakers, and Carolyn Mark (one half of the Corn Sisters with Neko Case). Book early.

Book Meme

Lisa of Rullsenberg has very kindly roped me into the book meme competition that's doing the rounds: It isn't formally a competition, but it's one of those memes that generates competitiveness amongst literary snobs. I'm just moaning, of course, because the central requirement is that the books you cite be works of fiction, which I barely ever read, offering me no opportunity for oneupmanship. Still, I've got plenty of opinions. Which ones would you like?

You're stuck inside Fahrenheit 451, which book do you want to be?

For my own pleasure, I would choose either Bigot Hall, by Steve Aylett, or Milk, Sulphate & Alby Starvation, by Martin Millar. Both immensely funny and, in both books, the language just sparkles. No supposed 'classic' has ever affected me as much as these. Alternatively, I'd plump for Mekons United, which comes with a free CD, giving me an accompanying sound track.

But I suppose I have to select something worthy, so it will have to be The Plague, by Albert Camus. Even in translation, the clarity and conciseness of his language stand out.

Have you ever had a crush on a fictional character?

Of course not. They're fictional, aren't they? I have enough trouble with crushes on real people.

Now I come to think of it, though, I did fancy Julie Andrews in A Sound of Music when I was 7.

The last book you bought is:

Hanging Crimes, by Frank Sweeney. All about the death penalty in Ireland. It's a birthday present for my dad. Before you ask, we do get on.

The last work of fiction I bought was Diary, by Chuck Palahniuk, reviewed here.

The last book you read:

As far as fiction goes, see the above answer. Otherwise, I finished The Coming of the Third Reich, by Richard J. Evans, on the train home last night.

What are you currently reading?

Russian Philosophy, by Frederick Copleston (bedside); to help me sleep. Booked, by Tom Humphries (bogside - to help me shit); this contains surprisingly lyrical newspaper articles about such topics as GAA, the travails of Irish soccer, and mountain running.

My new train reading is From Dawn to Decadence, by Jacques Barzun. The next fiction I read will be Money, by Martin Amis.

Five books you would take to a deserted island:

Don Quixote, by Cervantes, because I started it but haven't finished it and my brother says I should.

Q, by Luther Blisset. Italian anarchists write a collective novel about the Reformation. How can you go wrong?

And now for some cheating: Three volumes on my shelves I haven't read but must.

USA, by John Dos Passos. Three novels in one.

The Muriel Spark Omnibus, Volume One: includes Jean Brodie and Memento Mori.

The Essential Gore Vidal. Has excerpts from Myra Breckenridge, Julian, etc.

Look, I could be on that island a long time.

Who are you going to pass this stick to (3 persons) and why?

Reidski, because he doesn't blog often enough.

Alphonse, to see if he lists any books I've heard of.

and Clare, to spread this party further afield.

Ah thenk yow.

There Must be Millions of Them

Check out the consumables at the wonderful Unemployed Philosophers Guild, including the Nietzschean "Will to Power Bar" and Freudian "After Therapy Mints."

Perfect gift items for the nerd in your life.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Got the General Idea?

"General Idea Editions 1967-1995," a retrospective of General Idea's prints, posters, books, multiples and editions, is currently touring Canada and the USA: See it at the Luckman Gallery in Los Angeles, March 19 - May 14, 2005.

The catalogue raisonné of General Idea's editions, General Idea Editions 1968-1995, has been awarded the 2004 Melva J. Dwyer Award by the Art Librarian's Society of North America. It can be ordered from Art Metropole, Toronto, from Printed Matter, New York, or from Walther Koenig Buchhandlung, Köln.

Our New Corporate Motto

Jerry Stahl

Previously praised and much admired author of Plainclothes Naked and I,Fatty, Jerry's IMDb biog is here, including details of his work on CSI. I notice that he wrote one episode called "Fur and Loathing" and that another featured a killer named Dr. Benway. Good stuff.

cheers Mart.

Righteous Scribes

(so as to avoid calling them Babes; Ani DiFranco can get away with it, I can't.)

Clare Sudbery writes at the very funny and moving Boob Pencil, "random warblings from a textually loquacious word freak." Manchester-based, she works in Alty and is the author of The Dying of Delight, in which "two shady women run headlong towards, and away from, the solar eclipse of 1999 - a momentous collision of Levenshulme, lesbians and LSD." I could spend hours over at Boob Pencil, but then C&S would never get done.

Julia Darling, who blogs at her eponymous site here, is the winner of the 2003 Northern Rock Foundation Writer's Award and a Fellow of Literature and Health at The University of Newcastle upon Tyne. Her Manifesto for a New City, a show based on a manifesto for the re-shaping of Newcastle that she wrote after visiting Barcelona, tours between 31st March and 28th April, visiting Hexham, Newbury, Glasgow, Alnwick, South Shields and Stockton-on-Tees. A woman of wonderful taste.

The History of Civilization is also . . . balls

Also from the American Spectator:

“The Committee for Western Civilization's seventh Inaugural Ball, entitled “Salute to Public Service” and celebrating the second inauguration of President George W. Bush, was one of the more anticipated events of the Washington season.

The Committee for Western Civilization is dedicated to establishing a deeper understanding of the ideas that sustain our civilization. In other words, through events and lectures, the Committee introduces class and civility into society again. Men dressed in tuxedos and ladies wore dresses of rose, champagne, and classic black, some of whom were admirably adorned in mink.”

Ahh, just like the good old days. Makes you long for Class War's "Bash the Rich" marches doesn't it?

Whatever happened to Freedom FROM Religion?

I just came across this article in the March issue of The American Spectator (you have to know your enemy!) but which is subscription only. Fortunately, it also appears here, The Religious Information Service of Ukraine.

David Aikman's article about Viktor Yushchenko's "orange revolution" offers another perspective on the recent elections there:

"Even TVs cable networks seemed colorblind to what was going on in Ukraine despite the unusual nature of its "orange revolution" as did the prestige dailies and the news magazines. But what happened in Ukraine was not just a struggle of pro democracy, pro West forces against the corruption and repressiveness of the old heirs of Soviet style autocracy. It was, in large part, the spontaneous uprising of Ukraine's new evangelical Protestant churches against the threat that a Russian style clampdown on non Orthodox Christians might be one of Yanukovych's first orders of business.

The emergence of a new evangelical constituency in Ukraine was a direct consequence of the Soviet Union's collapse in 1991. Protestant missionaries flocked into Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine by the hundreds and thousands, many of them mom and pop teams from the US who knew little about the cultures they were seeking to evangelize. Russia and Belarus soon reacted harshly, enacting laws that gave the Orthodox Church in each country virtual monopoly on religious activity."

I remain one of those few sceptics who regard all religions as little more than an excuse for a hierarchy of snake-oil salesmen to exploit the credulousness, poverty, and alienation of millions of people struggling to come to terms with the meaninglessness and demystification accompanying modernity. Call me a cynical old fucker, but when evangelists pour into a "newly freed" country, I see a new form of enslavement quickly taking shape. How can the locals see this sort of intrusion as anything other than an act of aggression?

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Pullet Surprise Winners

From today's New York Times:

The 89th annual Pulitzer Prizes were announced on Monday. Following are the winners in Letters, Drama and Music.

FICTION: Gilead, by Marilynne Robinson

Nearly a quarter of a century passed between Ms. Robinson's first novel, Housekeeping, published in 1981, and this second book, the elegiac tale of a 76-year-old Congregationalist pastor who, facing imminent death, writes a letter to his 7-year-old son. Gilead is set in 1956 in Iowa, a place that Ms. Robinson, 61, knows well as a teacher at the University of Iowa Writers' Workshop.

GENERAL NONFICTION: Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and bin Laden, From the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001, by Steve Coll

In chronicling how Al Qaeda's brand of Islamic fundamentalism came to thrive in the chaos left by the Soviet pullout from Afghanistan, Mr. Coll, 46, an associate editor and former managing editor at The Washington Post, pieced together the period of ignorance and inaction that led to the worst terrorist attack on American soil.

BIOGRAPHY: De Kooning: An American Master, by Mark Stevens and Annalyn Swan

Mr. Stevens, 53, is the art critic for New York magazine and a former art critic for The New Republic and Newsweek. He is married to Ms. Swan, 54, who has been a writer at Time and a music critic and senior arts editor at Newsweek. Ten years in the making, this book about de Kooning is widely considered the first major biography of the painter.

HISTORY: Washington's Crossing, by David Hackett Fischer

Mr. Fischer, 69, is Warren professor of history at Brandeis University. In Washington's Crossing, he shows how a despairing American army refused to surrender during the darker moments of the Revolution. Reached at his home in Wayland, Mass., Mr. Fischer said he believed that his book presented a complex look at the general. "My Washington was a figure who took me very much by surprise," he said. "What he did was bring together the values of the American Revolution with the conducting of the war."

POETRY: Delights & Shadows, by Ted Kooser

Mr. Kooser, of Garland, Neb., is the poet laureate of the United States. Like Wallace Stevens, Mr. Kooser, 65, worked in life insurance for much of his career. He was vice president of Lincoln Benefit Life Insurance, where he wrote advertising copy and oversaw legal affairs; he rose daily at 4:30 a.m. to compose poetry, which he asked his secretary and colleagues to critique. He retired in 1998.

Clarity is the hallmark of Mr. Kooser's style, with deceptively modest metaphors grounded in the Nebraska landscape. The Bloomsbury Review described his work as "like clean, clear water."

DRAMA: Doubt, by John Patrick Shanley

At first glance, the genesis of Doubt would seem to be obvious: The play tells the story of a strong-minded nun investigating suspicions of pedophilia in a Roman Catholic school, and was produced after real-life sex scandals in the church. But Mr. Shanley, 54, said the play was actually inspired by what he called a visceral reaction to current American political discourse. "People who have great certainty can be a force of good, but can also be incredibly destructive," he said yesterday.

MUSIC: Second Concerto for Orchestra, by Steven Stucky

Mr. Stucky's concerto is a colorfully orchestrated work written for the Los Angeles Philharmonic, which Mr. Stucky has been associated with - first as composer in residence, and now as consulting composer for new music - since 1988. The piece includes allusions to works by Ravel, Stravinsky and Sibelius, composers Mr. Stucky finds particularly influential. But it is also built on motifs that Mr. Stucky based on a code he devised, in which the letters of the alphabet were assigned to musical pitches.