Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Grabba Grabba Tape

Sounded even worse than they looked.

Upon Reflection, Don't Believe a Word

One of the downsides to watching bands perform at festivals is they have good reason to believe that, in all probability, you’re not there specifically to see them, with the result that they’re inclined to just go through the motions, plug the album they’re touring to promote, and avail of whatever VIP facilities are on offer. Only the bands headlining each day have to worry, you'd think; while they’re pretty much guaranteed a good-sized audience regardless of the other goodies on offer, word of a bad show will get around just as quickly as reports of a good one.

So you’d be right to expect the headlining acts to put on a bit of a show, to prove themselves worthy of the interest, whereas minor acts might provide spotty, less polished, and less enthusiastic sets. Well, none of that and all of that was true about Primavera, insofar as there were no totally incompetent sets, not that this attendee saw anyway, and nothing to go mad about, either, but there were some standouts. Here’s my highly subjective and impressionistic recollection of what went on (and what didn’t):


Xavier Baró

A local boy who’s been doing the rounds for some time, though I’d never heard of him. A pleasant enough, slightly exotic introduction to the festival that reminded us all we were in “abroad.”

Art Brut

Amusing and daft, the young and public-school-sounding Art Brut offered uncomplicated indie rock mostly on the subjects of being in a band and kissing girls. The disarming lead shouter had a habit of beginning each song by asking his band “Are you ready, Art Brut?” or “Let’s tell them about it, Art Brut.” A live act rather than a muso's fave.

Maxïmo Park

Sunderland’s finest Jam look-a-likes with Ralph Coates/Bobby Charlton comb-overs. As seen on TOTP. Angular sound and angular dance steps, à la Hazel O’Connor in Breaking Glass. Managed to gather a decent-sized crowd who’d heard of their up-and-coming status. Inoffensive poppy stuff, but very little that stood out. Shite Web site that doesn’t load easily.

The Arcade Fire

One of the highlights of the entire festival, let alone the first night. Played a fabulous set in front of a packed house. Really tight, passionate, exciting stuff. I know it’s turning into a bit of a trend to pack the stage with musicians—I think AF had nine up there—but when they mesh like this, the sound is overwhelming. Really pleased that I got to see them.

Los Planetas

More local lads (well, Spanish, anyway), whom most of the crowd seemed to know. Nothing inspiring, though, I’m afraid; sub–Echo & the Bunnymen bass-laden material. We stayed only for two or three songs, and the sameness began to wear very quickly. Besides, we were knackered. It was time for bed, at least for this bunch of middle-aged has-beens (not Los Planetas).


Micah P. Hinson

An unassuming Texan who lives in Manchester, young Micah Paul Hinson offers gothic tales belying his age. That’s the PR anyway. Mostly it was subdued melancholia preceding really shouty crescendos. Highly enjoyable if only because he looked like he could burst a blood vessel at any moment. Really gave it some welly and an exception to the rule about performers at festivals. He didn’t have a huge audience, but he still won them over with his commitment.

David Thomas & Two Pale Boys

Wasted on the majority of festivalgoers, who missed his set entirely. If you’ve seen or heard Pere Ubu, you’ll know pretty much what to expect. Innovation, experimentation, and weirdness that isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. Trumpet player Andy Diagram at one point inverted his instrument and blew into it the way we used to with milk bottles when we were kids, but generating the ethereal sound of curlicue whistles. Reminded me a little of Andrew Bird. Without the violin. And with David wearing what I always think is a butcher’s apron, even though it’s just red plastic, not cloth soaked in blood.

Nouvelle Vague

Lounge music takes on the Dead Kennedys, Bauhaus, Buzzcocks, etc. Newish idea three or four years ago, maybe, but a bit worn now.

Sons & Daughters

Impressive Glasgow band launching their new album, Repulsion Box. Hadn’t heard anything from these guys beforehand, but they’ve worked with Edwyn Collins, so they can’t be bad. Catchy, boppy, foot-stomping songs that kept us there for the whole set even though we hadn’t originally planned to see them.

Sondre Lerche

Norwegian solo performer who’s recently been dragging an orchestra around with him, and good job too. Earnest and no doubt impressive as a songsmith, Lerche wasn’t striking enough to take our attention away from the most beautiful cellist we’d ever seen; golden curls, cute nose, and capable of moving herself to ecstasy as her playing became increasingly frantic and the instrument between her legs vibrated with greater and greater intensity.

I’m sure he was very good too.

Mercury Rev

Mercury Wank. At this point of the festival, the most pretentious band we’d seen and heard so far. Like a night at the Haçienda without the redeeming feature of drugs or Bez dancing.

New Order

Like a night at the Haçienda watching New Order. Miserable, morose. Some of their tracks are just brilliant, it must be said, but within five minutes of coming on stage, they’d managed to insult the audience three times; referring to Barcelona as Spain, apologizing for staying away for so long but one of the band “got the shits last time we were here,” which was reason enough not to come back, and then introducing the song “Crystal” by saying, “this one is from an album that you didn’t like in Spain, so fuck you.” And to add injury to insults, they insist on letting Barney sing. I’d rather they'd stuck with Ian Curtis.

Human League

Great fun. Didn’t try anything too difficult, just ran through their greatest hits: “Don’t you want me,” “Mirror Man,” “Electric Dreams,” “The Lebanon,” etc. And decent enough to take the piss out of themselves; at least, I think they were. The brunette backing singer wore a basque (not a Basque) that revealed thighs like piledrivers, and the blonde was happy to show us her twiglet-like legs with chewed-up centre-half’s knees. Phil Oakey surrendered to middle-age long ago and tried to pass off his shaved head as cool when we all really know it’s because he couldn’t manage the old wedge without revealing a bald patch.

We met one of the band in the hotel lift after the gig. “Not a bad one,” he said. “Well, considering it was Spain and Phil kept forgetting the words.” We didn’t notice. And subsequent discussion with other bands stopping in the hotel suggested the whole festival was a well-organized affair. So he was just a twat.


Grabba Grabba Tape

Looked ridiculous. Sounded worse. Two-person speed electronica. Like Rolf Harris having a fit.

Dogs Die in Hot Cars

Can’t say I recall all that much about these guys, another Glasgow band, I understand, but then we only stayed for a couple of songs before wandering out to find

Steve Earle and the Dukes

Another of the highlights. Mostly played material from Revolution and had the courtesy to congratulate the Spanish people on the quality of their democracy (all democracies are imperfect, he conceded, but at least the Spanish version worked) before dedicating his next song to the American troops in Iraq: "Rich Man’s War." Straightforward country rock, and every one a gem on the night. He was joined on stage for a couple of songs by the excellent Alison Moorer.

Would have been a tad strident and didactic if the music hadn’t been so brilliant.

Television Personalities

Cancelled due to illness. A real low point for me.

While most of the other punters predictably headed off at this point towards Sonic Youth, we few brave contrarians headed for the “Danzka Drome,” where a number of cutting-edge French artistes were being showcased. We were thus among a minuscule number of non-Gallic witnesses to a performance by

Françoiz Breut, a chanteuse in the style of Françoise Hardy from whom we learned that “cutting edge” in France means singing a few songs in English. At the risk of sounding sexist let me once again state how physically attractive I found this singer (look, some of the male singers didn’t even have that going for them), although she reaffirmed the predominance of the lounge aesthetic seen earlier in Nouvelle Vague.

The other French cliché to hand was that of the Gitane, the flowing-skirted gypsy singer with the tambourine. Her name was


Think bohemian plus bossa nova with a louche, lethargic version of Kylie’s “Can’t Get You Out of My Head,” which made the non-Gauls laugh but was treated as a serious homage by everyone else, and you won’t be far off (And I knew I’d get “homage” in there somewhere).

Garage rock band The Dirtbombs were a real find for me, even though they’ve been going over 12 years, I think. A Detroit band with two drummers and two bass guitarists, one of whom was a crazed Asian girl who came close to having a Spinal Tap moment when she decided to stand on the drum kit. The third of the real standouts from this festival, like the Arcade Fire, they were unorthodox, unusual in their sound, and sincere in their passion. If you get a chance to catch them in your town, do.

Next up were

The Weddoes, who managed to give us a handful of their greatest hits (“Kennedy,” “My Favourite Dress,” etc.) combined with several from the new album, Take Fountain, and a couple of songs from David Gedge’s other band, Cinerama. Gedge was no more cheerful than usual, and even his sarcastic witticisms failed to hit the mark, (To those shouting requests, he replied, “I’m so sorry I wrote so many fantastic songs.” Smartarse.)

By contrast, the lads from They Might Be Giants were a breath of fresh air. They commented, apparently, that they’d eschewed festivals until now, and I think they were surprised to find themselves holding court to a crowd of perhaps 10,000 people. John Linnell, the unnaturally ageless keyboard player, grinned throughout the entire show, both, I suspect, from delight at the reception and disbelief at having passed up such opportunities in the past. They gave us “Birdhouse in Your Soul” and “Boss of Me,” the Malcolm in the Middle song, and generally pissed about and had a great time. A co-blogger who’d never seen them before leaned across and commented to me in his best Catalan-inflected English, “Bonkers. They’re totally bonkers.”

For this blogger, the festival concluded with the

Gang of Frauds

Imagine your most repugnant teachers from school: the bullying, didactic ones. Aggravate the chips on their shoulders by proudly wearing a Mekons t-shirt for their gig. And then picture them pompously fretting around the stage, trying to smash up their instruments.

Yes! They tried to smash up their instruments. And with no trace of irony.

Not only that, they treated the Catalans and Spanish to ridiculously mordant songs about H-Block and power cuts. Like any of these kids were even alive back then.

Well, okay, some of these issues are always with us, but Steve Earle wiped the floor with guys in terms of contemporaneity. And at least he didn’t come across as a posturing, self-important buffoon.

Exactly like watching schoolteachers rock out.

Schoolteachers from Kes.

As I was leaving, at 3.30 a.m. with a flight at 11.45, The Go! Team struck up their first tune, and I saw them the next morning in the hotel lobby, so they’re better men than I am, that’s for sure. But I shall have to leave any reviewing of them to my co-bloggers, who at least stayed for a few songs; similarly, they have the responsibility for reporting back on Echo & the Bunnymen, Sonic Youth, and Anthony & the Johnsons, the last of whom’s performance it would have been craven for me to have attended given the disdain, mockery, and scorn I have poured upon their work in moments and postings past.

Prepare yourself for photos.

It Involves My History Teacher and a Jar of Peanut Butter

Do you have a secret? If so, you can post it anonymously at PostSecret, an "ongoing community art project where people mail-in their secrets anonymously on one side of a homemade postcard."

Ignore the exhibitionistic/voyeuristic aspect and enjoy the artwork. Plenty of the secrets are clearly made up anyhow.

This Sort of Thing Wouldn't Happen in France

Irish schoolkids sold wristbands quoting Pope J-P 2 to help inspire them during their exams.

I trust that those students who nevertheless fail their exams will draw the appropriate conclusions as to where the blame lies.

Monday, May 30, 2005

Not Just Gesture Politics, But a Rather Unpleasant Gesture To Boot

The Independent reports that white wristbands sold by the Make Poverty History coalition were manufactured in Chinese factories accused of using forced labour.

Reports on two factories manufacturing the bands found the working conditions violated Chinese law and the standards of the Ethical Trading Initiative, which promotes better international working practices.

I Pop Out for a Few Days

And this happens. And this.

And this.

Some people have no consideration.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

It's a tough job but someone's got to do it.

Your intrepid Counago & Spaves team soaking up the atmosphere at Primavera Sound 2005. Reviews to follow.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

And They're Off!

. . . to Barcelona for a few days. Back on Monday with pictures (hopefully).


"We're not watching this sexist crap," they said.

From IOL:

Wellington, New Zealand - Enraged football fans took to the streets of Auckland at four on Sunday morning, looking for a bar showing the English FA Cup's outcome after the local Sky TV channel switched over to another programme at full time.

With Arsenal and Manchester United in a scoreless tie after the regulation 90 minutes of play, Sky Sport went to its next scheduled programme, Sports Illustrated 2005 Swimwear at Play, the New Zealand Herald reported on Monday.

Fans left watching a parade of bikini-clad women missed 30 minutes of extra time and the first penalty shootout in the cup's 134-year history.

About 150 to 200 people at Auckland's Albion Hotel who described themselves as "gutted" when the coverage ended took to the streets of New Zealand's largest city in search of another bar showing the game, manager Paul Hafford told the paper.

Sky Digital customers found the continued coverage on another sports channel, but subscribers to the cheaper UHF service missed out.

"Obviously, there was a problem, and the UHF coverage finished before the end of the game. Why that happened I don't know," Sky's director of sports, Kevin Cameron, said after fans bombarded the channel with protests.

Soccer Update for All Our Readers in Idaho

WALES, ENGLAND - The World Soccerbowl FA Final Cup showdown between the Awesome ArsenalGunners and the Mighty Manchester Buccaneers began at 3pm GMT in Wales, England, in the Cardiff Bowl, national stadium of Team England - which is represented by David Beckham and his wife pop superstar Victoria Beckham.

The head coaches Arsenal Venga and Al Ferguson Sr. had to change their starting rosters due to injured team members. The Buccaneers missed defensive cornerback Gary Neville and the Gunners missed their top points scorer this season - Terrence Henry.

Both coaches opened the quarter with offensive formations, although the Buccaneers started the game with a defense strategy and quick counter-attacking through wide receiver Cristiano Ronaldo Dos Santos Aveiro.

By utilizing a solid defense in the first half and exploding on offense in the second half the Buccaneers began to control the game. Cristiano Ronaldo Dos Santos Aveiro had 376 Running Yards total in the game. That's his second highest this season, the fifth highest in total this season for all offense players and takes his average to 275.875 career average rushing yards, which is the 11th highest ever in the world in the FA Soccerbowl cup since 1956 and 3rd highest ever for a Latino wide receiver since 1923. Like this guy was totally awesome.

Rio Ferdinand - the man currently embroiled in a massive drug scandal with other top athletes Ben Johnson, Kurt Cobain and Marion Jones - tried to clear his name by scoring a field goal from a free play after Jen Lehmann had block-shocked an effort from David Beckham's England assistant Wayne Rooney. However the lineman spotted an infringement and ruled a no goal.

Cristiano Ronaldo Dos Santos Aveiro continued to provide assists to Ruud Van 'The Man' Nistelrooy but he couldn't improve his end of season stats to boost his career total which now stands at 221 Touchdowns.

Both head coaches made few substitutions but wide receiver Giggs nearly converted a field goal for his team when defenseman Senderos gave possession away in the third quarter. Goal Tender Lehmann made a rush and cleared play to the touchline.

The Buccaneers had the ball in the Gunners end-zone for most of the fourth quarter but couldn't cross the line as Goal Tender Lehmann produced seven block-shots, four tip-overs and nine catches to ensure he picked up the Budweiser Most Valuable Player Award ahead of David Beckham.

With the game tied at zero zero, the FA Soccerbowl went into a Budweiser sponsored overtime. The Gunners took only one incomplete goal attempt in OT through Robin Van Persie while the Buccaneers continued to play offensive formations with Cristiano Ronaldo Dos Santos Aveiro adding more rushing yards in overtime to bring his total to 456.65 yards. The Gunners decided to use body-block defense moves to regain possession and Jose Antonio Reyes was sent to the sin-bin in the final minute of overtime for an illegal body-check.

The FA Soccerbowl was decided by free shots for the first time in the history of the world ever. With Venga and Ferguson Sr. choosing not to bring on the free shot special teams it was left to team leader and minority special interest group player-of-the-year Patrick Vieira to convert the winning free shot for the Gunners after a small ginger-haired Buccaneer had failed to convert his shot.

After the event, diehard Buccaneer fans - brothers Avi and Joel Glazer spoke out; "The result today was unfair. If we had one million dollars for every incomplete goal conversion from our team today it would only take us only the rest of our lifetimes to clear the interest payments on the club's

Their senile father Malcolm who is also a life-long Buccaneers fan was overcome with joy at the final whistle as his childhood heroes the Manchester Buccaneers a.k.a. The Red Devils lifted the trophy - "Give me a B - U - C - C - A - N - E - E - R, Go Buccaneers! We won, we won, the Red team won! Woohoo Go the Buccaneers"

He continued "That was totally awesome man, that was like, just way cool, when Paul McGrath lifted the SOCCERBOWL cup I was so happy. Now that we've defeated the Gunners in play off series I'm looking forward to meeting Chelski in the play-off final for the World Premiership Title"

If you're going to choose a whisky, why not Lagavulin?

The Guardian reports that the wankers at the London Development Agency have yielded to popular pressure (once it agreed with their decision) and have named the new bridge at Wembley "The White Horse Bridge," having narrowed down the options to five: Sir Bobby Charlton, Sir Geoff Hurst, Sir Alf Ramsey, Live Aid, and the eventual winner.

The original winning name in the public poll was Dietmar Hamann, the last goalscorer at Wembley, whose victory was secured by, one suspects, voters of a more Teutonic tendency. There were quite a few votes for a Roy Keane Bridge as well, which is not to suggest that Liverpool and Man U. supporters don't know how to use a phone, only that overseas votes were originally included and treated as valid (maybe they can name something else after Keane, like, oh, I don't know, an asylum for the criminally insane).

Personally, I would have much preferred the Peter McParland Bridge or the Mike Farrelly Bridge after the winning goal-scorer in the mighty Altrincham's F.A. Trophy victory over Runcorn in 1986, except people might confuse him with this guy.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Revenge of the Shit

Can I get a copyright on this headline before the Sith hits the fans?

A Grim Day

Yesterday's road accident in Meath.

More here and here.

The Good News for the rest of us

An editorial in this month's Christianity Today reports that the pronounced fall of the dollar against the euro is having a damaging impact on missionaries in Europe, although the damage is not limited to the European Union. The dollar has also been performing extremely badly against the Japanese yen, and Douglas LeRoy, assistant director of Church of God World Missions, reports that missionaries in Russia are affected worst of all.

The editorial concludes by asking American Christians to contact missionaries they support to learn their additional financial needs and to give more to mission agencies that need more funds to maintain their operations.

Got to get the Good News to the natives in those benighted regions of the world the other side of Immigration Control.

Monday, May 23, 2005

At Home with Topo Gigio. No. 2: Topo Gigio

(Full image shows Gigio flamenco dancing with A. J. Ayer)

At Home with the Intelligentsia. No. 18: A. J. Ayer

(Full image shows Ayer flamenco dancing with Topo Gigio)

Let's Play Gonzo!

A letter to the editor of the Aspen Daily News complaining about their reverential treatment of former Aspen resident Hunter S. Thompson commented,

"It’s as though you are making this man out to be a hero, a pinochle of society . . ."

Clearly they were recalling his long-lost novel, The Rummy Diary.

What do Jimmy Martin and Paul Ricoeur have in common?

Guardian obituaries.

New Kevin Coyne Album

Recorded with Jon Langford and available at Buried Treasure Records:

Kevin Coyne with Jon Langford and the Pine Valley Cosmonauts.

One Day in Chicago

1. Monkeyheart (K. Coyne)
2. Britischer Cowboy (K. Coyne)
3. Over Land & Sea (K. Coyne/R. Coyne)
4. Money Like Water (K. Coyne/Langford)
5. The Way Of The World (K. Coyne/Langford/Brennan/Rice/R. Coyne)
6. Happy Island Girl (K. Coyne)
7. Scene Of The Crime (K. Coyne/Langford)
8. She's Not There (K. Coyne/Rice)
9. You You You (K. Coyne/Langford/Brennan/Rice/R. Coyne)
10. Angel (K. Coyne/R. Coyne)

11. Saviour (K. Coyne/A. Legget/G. Smith)
12. Blame It On The Night (K. Coyne)
13. Fat Girl (K. Coyne)
14. Money Like Water (K. Coyne/Langford)
15. Karate King (K. Coyne)

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Look How Excited We Are!

Only Four More Days to Primavera Sound 2005!!!

Friday, May 20, 2005

It won't even help them plan better escape routes

Down the pub and a workmate tells me he's just back from a week in Valencia, where, on his last day, he had his rucksack robbed. Fortunately, the only thing in it of any consequence was an old book he'd borrowed the week before from Cabra Library, having joined it just two days earlier. The book? An out-of-date tourist's guide to Valencia.

That 10 thing

that's doing the round is incredibly annoying because there are LOADS of things I haven't done, but why define your life negatively: I've never been to the Moon, to Mars, to Millwall, for instance, but who gives a fuck? Anyway, here's my list of ten things I've never done:

1: Liked any of my bosses

2: Stabbed anyone for fun

3: Kept a promise if I could get out of it

4: Buried a dead pet

5: Faked multiple orgasms

6: Read a work of fiction and felt the better for it

7: Deliberately ejaculated over the back of a greyhound

8: Done a fair day's work for a fair day's pay

9: Knowingly produced children

10: Paid for drugs

Much the same as most people, I imagine.

Today's Listening Pleasure

is this.

I have it on good authority that although the Television Personalities have had to cancel recent performances due to illness, they WILL be playing at Primavera Sound 2005.


I last saw them at the Boardwalk in Manchester in 1987 and was smitten. Such energy, such irony, such passion, such sartorial elegance. Not to be missed.

Glad to be Robbed

Ireland failed to make the final 10 in last night's Eurovision Song Contest "semi-finals," despite having an excellent, potentially competition-winning entry, albeit performed by a couple of Harry Potter's schoolfriends.

Louis Walsh blames the Irish end of the organization for sending amateurs, but the fact is that no one in Britain got a vote (the source of all the likely pro-Irish votes) whereas all those horrid Balkan countries ganged up on us.

That said, if this becomes a regularly televised feature, I can see the semis overtaking the main event for audience figures, both because of its kitschness and genuinely appalling quality of some of its entrants. Thanks to the block voting, you'll be able to see some of them tomorrow, but pay particular attention to the stunning Moldovans, who clearly have never seen Eurovision before.

Diplomat of the Week

Barcelona's Samuel Eto'o, who taunted Real fans with the rhyme "Madrid, cabrón, saluda al campeón" (Madrid, bastards, salute the champions).

Of course, he then ruined it by apologizing. (Unless his apology was something along the lines of "I'm sorry for any misunderstanding. What I meant to say was 'Your scum-sucking money-grubbing Galacticos couldn't shoot straight in a brothel, dribble if they were senile, or tackle Spanish for beginners.'")

What he forgot to mention, above all, was that Franco's favourites won NOTHING this season.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Good vs. Evil

Homer Simpson's favourite reading matter, TV Guide, reports on the new NBC miniseries Revelations in its April 10-16 issue.

The series focuses on the events that might occur if the prophecies in the biblical Book of Revelation came true.

Jerry Jenkins, co-author of the execrable Left Behind series of books, comments,

"I'm encouraged that the production values are good, so that Revelations will be popular and will keep the debate alive. Unfortunately, what Bill Pullman, as the show's skeptic, comes to believe is a mishmash of myth, silliness and misrepresentation. No one believes that Jesus will return again as a baby."

Indeed, Jerry.

Two Cheers for the Culture Show

From the newsletter:

"Verity Sharp catches up with Kathy Burke, known most famously as the female half of the slobs Wayne and Waynetta. She’s moved on from acting to become one of the most sought after theatre directors, and is currently working on a revival of her Tricycle Theatre production of Brendan Behan’s play 'A Quare Fellow'. Kathy talks about why she chose to end her acting career, her Irish roots, her fascination with Behan’s work and her future directing plans."

One cheer withdrawn for this news:

"We also have what we think is the first appearance on British TV of Antony Hegarty. He has a voice and style that defies easy definition and a fan base that includes Lou Reed, Marc Almond, Laurie Anderson, Boy George and Rufus Wainwright. We met up with Antony on the tour that his band Antony and the Johnsons are making of Europe, ahead of his upcoming UK tour. Antony talks to the Culture Show about his career and musical inspirations. This film will also feature a rare interview with the singer Marc Almond."

Yes, Lisa, I know how you feel about Rufus, but just look at the company he's keeping.

Parerga and Paralipomena

Maurice Brinton: For Workers Power

I know I promised a review; please accept, instead, a trip down false memory lane:

I’m too young and fresh-faced to be able to recall Solidarity at the height of their powers and influence, back in the 60s and 70s. My first encounters with them must have been at anarchist bookfairs in London in the very early 80s, when I was studying sociology at the LSE and contemplating a move away from the Marxism I’d been drawn to by ‘A level’ sociology and my erstwhile mentor, the late Don Henry. I’d already had a series of negative experiences with the WRP detailed elsewhere on C&S, and it was beginning to come clear to me that the Marxist claim that the Communists’ and the proletariat’s interests were identical because they were not separated by differences in property ownership was undermined by both the history of the Russian Revolution and Marx’s own manoeuvrings in the International.

Nevertheless, the only anarchists I knew in those days were Crasstafarian pacifists, vegetarian animal rightists, and anti-work Situationists and Idlers—none of them exclusively middle- or working-class, but none of them either engaging with the problems of social organization, administration, and the distribution of work and resources that I, as a budding sociologist, thought were crucial to a legitimate critique of existing social arrangements. Thus, as you can imagine, in an ocean of black-clad dog-on-string neo-hippies, the group of middle-aged men in cardigans and slippers, smoking pipes in the corner of the room, held a fascination for me that I struggled to shake off.

“Who earth are they?” I asked some bloke on the Direct Action bookstall.

“Oh, that’s Solidarity. The libertarian socialists. Not strictly anarchists.”

Well, not anarchists in the prevailing sense of the time, and throughout this collection of Maurice Brinton’s writings, he carefully avoids referring to Solidarity as an anarchist organization. Personally, I’ve never seen this as a problem; if it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, etc. What is most striking about this disinclination (something I mentioned en passant to Darren over at Inveresk Street in commenting on the SPGB’s review of the same book), is how typically it reflects Brinton’s reluctance to diverge from the positions of Cornelius Castoriadis, Solidarity’s ideological touchstone and one of the leading lights of Socialisme ou Barbarie. And, if anything, that is the most disappointing aspect of this book: There’s very little in here that can’t be found in the writings of Castoriadis. For sure, there are reviews of Castoriadis’s pseudonymous works in which Brinton says, “Of course, we don’t agree with everything he says,” but this is clearly a ‘collective we,’ signifying that while other members of Solidarity might disagree with Castoriadis, Brinton doesn’t. Indeed, he almost seems to tag along behind Castoriadis in such a way that you can practically map out parallel trajectories in their thought, right down to the adoption of psychoanalysis as a liberatory philosophy and the necessity of equalization of wages in a socialist society (now I think of it, THAT was one of the characterizing features other anarchists used to define Solidarity: “What do they believe in?” I asked. “Everyone should be paid the same wage,” would come the reply).

Those parallel trajectories, to be fair, cease their symmetry with the merger of Solidarity and Social Revolution, which clearly led to a diminution in Castoriadis’s influence. It is only after this merger that Brinton talks of the abolition of wage labour and the wageless society. Moreover, it’s only really at that point that Solidarity venture beyond the workerism that had set them apart from the rest of the anarchist movement—other than the anarcho-syndicalists, natch—and which had drawn me to them in the first place (never enough to join, mind you; the anarcho-syndicalists held greater appeal just because they did not fetishize any particular guru and because they were still offering a class-based analysis, in contrast to Solidarity’s rather vague notion of “order givers versus order takers”).

Thus, it’s possible to trace through Brinton’s writings the gradual emergence of a more sophisticated and broader understanding of the nature of social transformation, especially after the merger. It must have been dawning on a number of people that much of the baggage that came with class-based anarchism was beginning to look outdated, had lost not just its appeal to punters but also its explanatory power, all thanks to its by-then sclerotic adherence to economism (I even knew anarcho-syndicalists who defined anarchism as “Marxist economics plus anti-statist politics”); the Marxist infra/superstructure dichotomy they still used as a means of diagnosis and divination resulted in an attitude that I encountered on more than one occasion, namely, a sneering workerism that disregarded (as bourgeois moralism) noneconomic analyses of other power relationships in society, between men and women, say, parents and children, white and black, and between human beings and nature as a whole. Late on in this collection, Brinton quite rightly criticizes those anarchists who had failed to engage with the new Marxist thinkers like Habermas, Gorz, and Thompson, thinkers who had recognized that the left’s conception of what constituted revolutionary solutions to the problems posed by contemporary capitalism needed to be completely revised.

It took a very long time for people to change their minds. The most frequently repeated phrase in this book is Brinton’s observation that, “One of the greatest pains to human nature is the pain of a new idea.” Generally, it’s Brinton’s challenge to the Trotskyist and Leninist left from which he, Castoriadis, and the rest of Solidarity came (whereas his most common objection to the anarchism of the 60s and 70s is its reluctance to theorize, its devotion to “actionism” in place of considered analysis). Fortunately, thanks to people like Brinton, the anarchist movement at least has responded, even if anarchism is still criticized by Marxists for being undertheorized. In my view, it’s contemporary anarchism’s willingness to “think on the run,” to theorize not opportunistically but accurately, that has enabled it to engage with real changes that have taken place over the past 40 years and to avoid placing a template over events in order to make reality conform to theory.

Everything else aside, this volume has the saving grace of containing Brinton’s essay “The Bolsheviks and Workers Control,” compulsory reading, in my view, for anyone on the left who seriously imagines that the concepts of ‘the vanguard party’ or ‘democratic centralism’ or ‘professional revolutionaries’ have anything to offer socialism. The Bolsheviks’ insistence, at various points during the revolution, that the factory committees be accountable to the trade unions and the trade unions to the Party, so that what might have been workers’ management deteriorated into workers’ control and then still further into the dictatorship of the Party, demonstrates the necessity of vigilance against strategies presenting themselves as progressive which at the same time take away from people control over their own lives (Interestingly, Brinton comments that he has no objection to centralization; what is important is how democratic the process of centralization is, an intriguing position given all his other insights throughout this book into the dangers of bureaucratic growth when the decision-making process is centralized. Co-ordination is a necessity, I accept, but the distancing of decision-making powers from the grass roots seems to be antithetical to the withering away of the state that even Marx envisaged).

In conclusion, then: There is ONE major change in my thinking that I can attribute unreservedly to Solidarity. The, at heart, very simple observation that ownership of the means of production is meaningless if ownership is just legalese; if, in practice, it does not mean control and management of the means of the production, it means the formation of a new class system. For what does it mean for me to own something if I can’t do with it what I want? If I don’t have control over it, how can I be said to own it? And this is where we came in: Solidarity confirmed for me the falsehood underlying the Marxist belief that because there are no differences in property relations between the Party and the proletariat, there can be no conflict of interest, a belief disproved by Marxism in practice.

The rest, as they say, is history.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Review coming up tomorrow.

At home with the intelligentsia. No. 17: Leon Trotsky

(Full image shows Trotsky deriving autoerotic gratification while choking the Russian Revolution at birth.)

In Case You Missed It

Real Madrid won NOTHING this season.

That's Odd. I Usually Find Wanton Sex Is the Best Kind

From Associated Press:

Court Rules Woman Not Liable in Sex Suit


"BOSTON — A woman isn't legally responsible for injuries her boyfriend suffered while they were having consensual sex more than a decade ago, a state appeals court ruled Monday.

The man, identified only as John Doe in court papers, filed suit against the woman in 1997, claiming she was negligent when she suddenly changed positions, landed awkwardly on him and fractured his penis.

The man underwent emergency surgery in September 1994, "endured a painful and lengthy recovery" and has suffered from sexual dysfunction that hasn't responded to medication or counseling, the appeals court said.

Although the woman may have exposed her boyfriend to "some risk of harm," the three-judge panel said her conduct during the sexual encounter wasn't "wanton or reckless" and can't support a lawsuit.

The man's lawsuit already has been thrown out by judges in Salem District Court and Essex Superior Court.

The appeals court upheld those rulings while noting that its ruling doesn't apply to cases where someone has negligently infected a partner with a sexually transmitted disease.

"There are no comprehensive legal rules to regulate consensual sexual behavior," Justice Joseph Trainor wrote. "In the absence of a consensus of community values or customs defining normal consensual conduct, a jury or judge cannot be expected to resolve a claim that certain consensual sexual conduct is undertaken without reasonable care."

The man's attorney, John Greenwood, said he is likely to appeal Monday's ruling to the state's highest court.

"It's a case that hasn't been seen before in Massachusetts," he said.

Greenwood argued that consensual sex doesn't mean "anything goes. ... The fact that some behavior was agreed to by the parties doesn't mean all behavior was agreed to by the parties."

The woman's attorney didn't immediately return a telephone call Monday."

I wonder why not.

He Cited Pascal's Wager as Precedent

From today's Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

Casino cash fed Ralph Reed's Alabama fight


"Ralph Reed delivered what was expected as a consultant to two Alabama anti-gambling campaigns: victories over proposals for a state lottery and video poker, and donations totaling $1.15 million.

But Reed didn't tell the campaign organizations — and, he insists, he didn't know — that the money came from a Mississippi Indian tribe trying to protect its casinos from competition.

The money's path to the Christian Coalition of Alabama and another anti-lottery group echoes Reed's entanglement in a scandal surrounding Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff and Indian casino money in Texas.

In that case, Abramoff hired Reed in 1999 to build public support for closing the Tigua tribe's casino in El Paso. The casino closed in 2002. Immediately afterward, Abramoff, who had kept his role secret, offered to help the Tiguas reopen the casino — for $4 million, according to Senate testimony.

Reed has said he was unaware that he was being paid with money from rival tribes.

In Alabama, leaders of the anti-gambling groups said Reed was the conduit for contributions from a group headed by anti-tax activist Grover Norquist, who has said the money originated with the Mississippi tribe. The Alabama organizations said Reed had repeatedly told them the money was not tainted by ties to gambling interests."

The rest is here (sign-up required)

Garbage In, Garbage Out

I think I'm right in saying that Esperanto was (is?) the official language of the International Workers Association, but I'm not up to speed, so I've attached the babelfish translator below should you feel the need to translate the nonsense in English here into nonsense in some other language.

There doesn't appear to be a Catalan option, but I'm sure we can offer that facility should readers so desire.

Too Much Bloody Perspective*

A link from Reidski identifying Darren of Inveresk Street drew my attention to Perspective, which carries some excellent gig photos, including these of The Ex (of Spanish Civil War fame) and these of Manu Chao and the Radio Bemba Sound System tour, (which I caught at the Point, Dublin, last year). A happy coincidence, since my current driving listening is the entire back catalogue of Mano Negra, whose gig in Manchester back in the early 90s (late 80s, Jordi?) was by far one of the best I've ever been to - up there with the Pogues at the Hacienda and the 3 Johns, Chumbawamba, and Mekons in Leeds a couple of years back.

Yes, that's right. I'm gearing up for Primavera.

*David St. Hubbins

But Can We Still Call Conservatives ''Fascists"?

Spotted on CBS News but from AP:

"Using a young readers' novel called The Misfits as its centerpiece, middle schools nationwide will participate in a "No Name-Calling Week" initiative . . . The program, now in its second year, has the backing of groups from the Girl Scouts to Amnesty International but has also drawn complaints that it overemphasizes harassment of gay youths.

The initiative was developed by the New York-based Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network, which seeks to ensure that schools safely accommodate students of all sexual orientations. GLSEN worked with James Howe, the openly gay author of The Misfits and many other popular children's books.

"Gay students aren't the only kids targeted - this isn't about special rights for them," Howe said. "But the fact is that 'faggot' is probably the most common insult at schools."

. . .

No Name-calling Week" takes aim at insults of all kinds - whether based on a child's appearance, background or behavior. But a handful of conservative critics have zeroed in on the references to harassment based on sexual orientation.

"I hope schools will realize it's less an exercise in tolerance than a platform for liberal groups to promote their pan-sexual agenda," said Robert Knight, director of Concerned Women for America's Culture and Family Institute.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Not just independent, totally detached from reality

I love k-punk's report here on the launch of DIY: The Rise of Lo-Fi Culture, by Amy Spencer. The barely concealed contempt for Indie Solipsism is a joy to read. I like the odd bit of indie now and then, don't get me wrong, but it always contained that potential for shoe-gazing didn't it?

Smart contrast, too, between blogs and livejournals. I always thought a blog would be like a diary, but it's a much more interactive process. Much more fun, too.

News Digest

Thanks to Fruits of Our Labour for pointing out two items of continuing interest to Counago & Spaves types: An item at To The Barricades reporting on activities of anarchist comrades in Athens driving police off the polytechnic campus, and an editorial from the New York Times last week on research demonstrating the similiarities between the personalities of successful business people and psychopaths.

Cheers guys

Radix Malorum est Cupiditas #2

The Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland holds an annual essay contest for high school juniors and seniors on a set topic with some economics component. Last year, they were asked to outline the economic concepts as explained in their favourite movie. The winning essay (pdf file) was "Money and Banking in the Movie Mary Poppins," by Anna Dev of Shaker Heights High School.

Other winning entries include "Economic Principles in Far and Away," "The Must-have Christmas Toy: A Look at the Economic Problem Posed in the Movie Jingle All the Way," and "The Lord of the Rings: An Epic Tale of Supply and Demand."

Don't see any Marxist analyses amongst this lot. Where's "Primitive Accumulation and the Generation of Surplus Value in Finding Nemo"?

Kids today, eh?

Good News from the Middle East

Without a hint of sarcasm. From the New York Times (sign-up required) news that the Kuwaiti parliament has granted full political rights to women.

Are you watching, Riyadh?

Punk rock like it used to be

Punk band Anti-Flag is running a campaign from its Web site against an obscure provision in the No Child Left Behind Act which requires public school systems to provide private details of students (addresses, phone numbers and so on) to the U.S. military to help identify potential enlistees. Details here.

The site also links to the Underground Action Alliance site, which carries an interesting article from the Houston Chronicle about how Dubya signed a bill, while governor of Texas, called the Texas Futile Care Law, which allows the state to discontinue life support for someone, say like Terri Schiavo, IF the patient's family can't pay for treatment. So much for the right to life, eh?

Radix Malorum est Cupiditas

Or the Love of Money is the Root of All Evil, an apt way of introducing Wheresgeorge.com, a site where Americans track the journey taken by various denomination bills that they've written on as transactions take place involving fellow site users.

Really. Not just more money that sense, but more time than sense, too. They could be blogging, for Pete's sake.

I prefer Thousand Island Dressing, personally

Don't miss the Louisiana Shrimp and Petroleum Festival, held every Labor Day weekend in Morgan City.

(Headphones recommended for site - at least, if you like Cajun music).

Monday, May 16, 2005

Not Much Else to Do in Idaho, I imagine

Check out the artwork and poetry produced by Idaho ten-year-old Akiane Kramarik. Yeah, yeah, I know it's easy to be cynical about the subject matter; Just lay aside your urbane sophistication for ten minutes and revel in her ability.


Just Another Day in Saudi #2

From today's Arab News:

Dissenters Get Six to Nine Years in Jail

Rasheed Abou-Alsamh, Arab News

RIYADH, 16 May 2005 — The Riyadh Higher Court yesterday sentenced three reformists to jail terms ranging from six to nine years for sowing dissent and disobeying the ruler.

Three judges at the court, which was ringed by security forces, issued their verdict after a nine-month trial which was conducted almost entirely behind closed doors.

The court sentenced academics Ali Al-Dumaini to nine years in jail, Abdullah Al-Hamed to seven years, and Matruk Al-Faleh to six years in jail.
All have been imprisoned for more than a year after being arrested in March 2004. The prosecutors had accused them of using Western terminology in calling for reforms.

“I’m in shock,” said an obviously upset Jamila Al-Ukala, the wife of Al-Faleh, as she talked to supporters and reporters outside the courthouse.

“They didn’t commit a crime. From the beginning there was no evidence against them,” said Ameer Al-Faleh, the 23-year-old son of Al-Faleh. “The whole case is just about thoughts, that were just ink on paper.”

Lawyer Ali Gothaimi said the three would appeal the decision within a month.

Al-Dumaini reportedly got the harshest sentence because of his criticism of the Saudi educational system.

According to Gothaimi, the panel of judges found that the men had overstepped the bounds by speaking to the foreign media, intended to incite people against the government and defamed officials. They also accused the trio of challenging the independence of the judiciary.

But Al-Ukala denied these charges.

Police kept a close watch yesterday on the relatives and supporters of the three, who had quietly started to gather outside the courthouse from eight in the morning. By 9:15 a.m., the police tried to move the crowd of around 35 people, including six women, four children and around 10 journalists, further away from the courthouse. The crowd was eventually funneled onto a side street, where everyone waited for more than three hours in the dusty heat until the verdict was announced.

Although the hearing was supposedly open to the public, only lawyer Khaled Al-Mutairi was actually allowed into the courtroom.

A Surefire Loser - Mild Porn

Review from the April 22 Entertainment Weekly:

"Torremolinos 73 has the dubious distinction of being just about the mildest porno comedy ever made. It's like something the teenage Pedro Almodóvar might have written to shock his 10th-grade creative writing teacher. In Franco's Spain during the early '70s, Alfredo (Javier Camara), a failed encyclopedia salesman, is about to get downsized when he learns his company is undergoing a transition. It will now produce a series of "educational" super-8 sex films. Alfredo and his wife, the lovely, subdued Carmen (Candela Peña), are given a camera and offered the chance to perform in their own homemade skin flicks at 50,000 pesetas a pop. Amusing as it is to learn that this fuddy-duddy couple enjoys a robust sex life, in a strange way it neuters the movie. Shooting self-made erotica doesn't change them; it's just a job they take on so that they can afford to have a baby. What does change is that Alfredo decides he wants to be Ingmar Bergman—literally. He writes a script based on The Seventh Seal, which gets produced after Carmen becomes a popular porn star in Scandinavia. Torremolinos 73 is at once far-fetched and saccharine—not a great combination. They should have called it Cinema Pornadiso."

The BIG football stories of the weekend

Were Barcelona winning the Spanish title and Altrincham F.C. winning the play-offs to return to the Conference.

News reports say that thousands upon thousands thronged the streets of the Catalan capital and Stamford New Road last night in celebration.

Just for the record, Real Madrid won NOTHING this year. They even won fewer trophies than Altrincham, who actually received a cup for beating Eastbourne 2-1 yesterday.

I bet Roberto Carlos wishes he was playing at Moss Lane.

They wouldn't have him.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

At home with the intelligentsia. No. 16: Raymond Williams

(Full image shows Williams holding up two polecats he'd repeatedly reversed over in his Wolseley)

Friday, May 13, 2005

None so deaf . . .

A nice snippet by Greg Raver-Lampman and Natalia A. Feduschak from the March/April Columbia Journalism Review describes how sign-language interpreter Natalia Dmitruk subverted state-sponsored lies during the recent elections in Ukraine:

While reporting the results on state-run TV, Dmitruk signed: 'Don't believe the results from the Central Election Commission. They are not true. Our president is Viktor Yushchenko.'

She then briefly returned to translating the actual newscast but broke away from the script once again: 'I am ashamed to be translating these lies to you. I won't do it again.' She knew such honesty would get her fired, but, she says, lying to her 'listeners' - deaf Ukrainians- 'weighed heavily on my soul.'

'Can you imagine if Yanukovych had won?' Dmitruk joked warily. 'I would be under the asphalt.' She offers no opinions about whether renowned journalists in her country should have risked their careers to get the truth out. 'I am not a journalist,' Dmitruk says. 'I was convinced I was doing the right thing.'

Compost Corner!

After the gravitas of Jacques Barzun, I allowed myself a touch of levity in the form of Tony Allen's book A Summer in the Park: A Journal of Speakers' Corner. I remember Tony from the early 1980s when he did a benefit gig for the Autonomy Club, the old anarchist centre in Wapping that I used to frequent of a Friday afternoon (me and Vince, that was it). Tony was never a particularly brilliant comic, but I doubt very much that the possibility of selling out would have ever occurred to him, and at least he doesn't have Mark Steel's smugness and punchable face.

In a slight book lacking in profundities but abundant with acuities, he presents a diary of 5 months spent giving speeches at Speakers' Corner, as well as descriptions of other speakers and the "professional" hecklers who seem to see it as their duty to deflate any pomposity they encounter but who, by the sounds of things, are really just annoying feckless wankers who enjoy interrupting for the sake of it.

The characters Tony describes are mostly rather sad and almost all male, which says a lot about both the practice of public speaking and the male propensity for self-delusion, but he gets on rather well with the SPGBers, who are also regulars there, and he even manages to convert a couple of their more perceptive members to anarchism during the period covered.

I would have liked to have read more of Tony's material and the actual texts of his speeches; as an advocate of anarchism I find him persuasive and amusing. There's plenty of material at Speakers' Corner Net to check out, however, if the book whets your appetite sufficiently.

Definition of 'Family Values' expanded

An article in The Nation by Ayelish Garvey reports on the domestic antics of one Dr. W. David Hager, a prominent obstetrician-gynecologist and Bush Administration appointee to the Advisory Committee for Reproductive Health Drugs in the Food and Drug Administration. Hager's wife alleges that, among other forms of abuse, her husband repeatedly took advantage of her narcolepsy to sodomize her. He might have got away with it all had he not been so hypocritical as to present himself as the Lord's tool and a leading conservative Christian voice on women's health and sexuality.

Someone far more honest is anti-abortion extremist Neal Horsley. Here is a posting from the blog News Hound, whose tag is "We watch FOX so you don't have to."

"Last night, anti-abortion extremist Neal Horsley was a guest on The Alan Colmes Show, a FOX News radio program. The topic was an interesting one - whether or not an internet service provider should allow Horsley to post the names of abortion doctors on his website. Horsley does that as a way of targeting them and one doctor has been killed. In the course of the interview, however, Colmes asked Horsley about his background, including a statement that he had admitted to engaging in homosexual and bestiality sex.

At first, Horsley laughed and said, "Just because it's printed in the media, people jump to believe it."

"Is it true?" Colmes asked.

"Hey, Alan, if you want to accuse me of having sex when I was a fool, I did everything that crossed my mind that looked like I..."

AC: "You had sex with animals?"

NH: "Absolutely. I was a fool. When you grow up on a farm in Georgia, your first girlfriend is a mule."

AC: "I'm not so sure that that is so."

NH: "You didn't grow up on a farm in Georgia, did you?"

AC: "Are you suggesting that everybody who grows up on a farm in Georgia has a mule as a girlfriend?"

NH: It has historically been the case. You people are so far removed from the reality... Welcome to domestic life on the farm..."

Colmes said he thought there were a lot of people in the audience who grew up on farms, are living on farms now, raising kids on farms and "and I don't think they are dating Elsie right now. You know what I'm saying?"

Horsley said, "You experiment with anything that moves when you are growing up sexually. You're naive. You know better than that... If it's warm and it's damp and it vibrates you might in fact have sex with it."

In addition to Horsley, Colmes has recently interviewed Randall Terry another radical anti-abortionist and anti-gay activist. In the middle of an otherwise serious interview, Terry began joking - apropos of nothing - that he and Colmes were ex-lovers.

Another extremist interviewed by Colmes not too long ago was Rev. Fred Phelps who stated on the show that he thought the death penalty should be given for those who engage in "sodomy." When Colmes asked Phelps if he had ever engaged in gay sex, Phelps blustered but never said no.

Hmm, I'm beginning to sense a pattern here. Come
to think of it, Ann Coulter is reputed to have an unusually, er, wide-ranging sex life, too, though as far as I know it's just confined to men. Still, it doesn't exactly match the profile of an ultra-conservative."

Reported by ellen at May 6, 2005 01:27 PM

Doesn't match the profile? She's joking, surely. Sado-masochism and debasement are the sine qua nons of the right-wing mentality. Read The Authoritarian Personality if you want a real laugh.

Just so the disabled don't miss out on killing animals too.

An article in the April edition of Field & Stream (and verified, so it's not an April Fool), reports on the Live Shot virtual shooting system, which will allow hunters to aim their rifles at animals using a remotely based computer. Imagine a virtual hunting game, but using real animals.

Better than shooting Jack Black, I suppose (obscure reference to that shite Day of the Jackal remake with Bruce Willis).

But will it make Norm anti-American?

Malcolm Glazer poised to take over Man U.

Interviewed by the BBC this morning, a member of the Supporters Club said this event was bad not just for United but for all the Premiership.

An Altrincham fan says, "Still, I'm sure there's a downside to this."

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

At home with the intelligentsia. No. 15: Virginia Woolf

(Full image shows Woolf doing her impersonation of Nicole Kidman in Stanley Kubrick's Eyes Wide Shut)

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

More Sporadic Blogging

My unspectacular birthday finished spectacularly on Sunday night when better half woke up at 3 a.m. in agony and had to be rushed to hospital with, it transpires, a kidney stone slowly working its painful way through her body. We've been at the Lourdes in Drogheda ever since and I'll be off there again in a minute. Excuse the low productivity in this region for the next few days: We have a stone to pulverise.

Friday, May 06, 2005

We Will Wobble

Nice posting at Fruits of Our Labor on the IWW and a concise definition of anarcho-syndicalism too!

Quicker than a bishop's finger

An article in the April Harvard Business Review ($6 purchase price) by Amy Salzhauer reports on the use of femtosecond lasers in the fields of medicine and industry. These lasers produce pulses of light that last only a millionth of a billionth of a second.

"It takes light only about a second to travel from the Moon to Earth. ln a femtosecond . . . light travels about 300 nanometers, or a fraction of the width of a human hair."

Or, imagine a dog jumping in and out of a bucket once every three seconds for 500 million years.

THAT fast.

I embarrassed myself by shouting for an encore

Letter of the day, from the Independent:

"Sir: John Cage's "Four Minutes, 33 Seconds" may be performed by any number of players (Brian Viner, 2 May). Of many heard, I find the spare austerity of the version for solo piano unsurpassed."

Bruce J. Reid
Lichfield, Staffordshire

Note: That's RULING party.

From Karachi's daily paper The News:

"Three Pakistani expatriates win in British elections
(Updated at 1610 PST)

LONDON: The three Pakistani expatriates contesting British elections on the ruling party’s tickets also successfully got through the contests with flying colours registering a stamp of their own in the broad spectrum of British society that the Pakistani community is actively contributing.

Among the Labour Party candidates, Pakistani expatriates winning the elections included Khalid Mahmood romping home victoriously from Perry Bar constituency of Birmingham, Mohammad Sarwar triumphing from Glasgow Central, while a Pakistani British lawyer Sadiq Khan emerging victorious from the constituency of Toting in London.

Marsha Singh and Piara Singh Ghabra among the South Asian candidates winning the elections also belonged to the Labour Party contesting from Bradford and South Hall constituencies of London respectively."

It Must be brilliant, David Thewlis is in it.

Also from today's NYT, a review of Kingdom of Heaven.

Kansans Not Yet Fully Evolved

From today's New York Times (sign-up required):

"TOPEKA, Kan., May 5 - Six years after Kansas ignited a national debate over the teaching of evolution, the state is poised to push through new science standards this summer requiring that Darwin's theory be challenged in the classroom."

Here we go again.

"If the board adopts the new standards, as expected, in June, Kansas would join Ohio, which took a similar step in 2002, in mandating students be taught that there is controversy over evolution."

Controversy, yes. Not scientific controversy, though, only political.

When Will People Learn? Democracy Doesn't Work! *

Once again, 40 percent of registered voters stayed at home, asserting their right to autonomy from representative government and lending greater credibility to direct action than any individual political party (Regardless of what they say, it's the political parties that encourage apathy, no one else).

The struggle (to get out of bed of a morning) goes on.

* (c) Homer Simpson

I Never Thought I'd Live to See the Day

. . . the Tories lost Solihull.

So it was to the Lib Dems. What do you want, miracles? Rejoice!

Thursday, May 05, 2005

At home with the intelligentsia. No. 14: Martin Heidegger

(Full image shows Heidegger concealing from his grandchildren a Mr. Potato Head that he'd attempted to eat)

Beware "The Culture"

One of the downsides to panoramic works like Jacques Barzun’s From Dawn to Decadence: 500 Years of Western Cultural Life is that it can leave you in a daze, a sort of psychic vertigo, in which vast quantities of information have been supplied yet to very little effect. One expects to be bowled over by the impact of such a leviathan and, consequently, one braces oneself for the deluge, only to find oneself dripped on.

First of all, Barzun’s notion of Western cultural life is incredibly selective; we are talking French, British and German, in the main, with some genuflection toward Vienna and Florence along the way, but by and large Western culture for Barzun means courtly arts rather than anything that might consitute popular culture (I don’t recall anything more than a passing reference to what Habermas devoted an entire work to, namely the structural transformation of the public sphere in the 17th and 18th centuries). Barzun’s specificities mean that this might be a nice introductory text for an undergrad studying Moderns, say, but not for anyone who imagines that “culture” means anything beyond opera, literature, and painting. And even on that score, were you to take a trip over to Alphonse’s blog, you can pretty much guarantee that the texts cited there appear nowhere in Barzun’s tome. I know where I prefer to get my lessons from.

Second, Barzun seems to want to argue that the past 500 years of culture embody an unfolding of particular themes—emancipation, individualization, secularization and so on—all of which he capitalizes as they appear throughout the text. It’s a case poorly made, not just because he is so selective in his choices and, I have no doubt, contrary selections could have been cited, but also because works of art are consciously made products, and if the themes he cites are deliberately chosen by artists, he needs to ask why it is that the artists he has highlighted have chosen those themes. If, on the other hand, he is arguing that these themes have appeared in spite of the artists' intended aims, but rather as a consequence of the unfolding of history, then he needs to link “culture” as he so narrowly defines it to the societies in which they evolve, since it can only be as a result of various economic, historical, and political conditions that art could develop so consistently in this way; moreover, I think he’d be making a major discovery if he could demonstrate such a definite causality. Figurational sociologists would be lining up to have a word.

I don’t generally provide links to HarperCollins books, as you no doubt know by now. I didn’t realize until I finished it that it was a Murdoch book, and you can be damned sure I wouldn’t have bought it if I had. I provide a link on this occasion in the knowledge that anyone who disregards my warnings will only have themselves to blame.

It wasn't all aches and pains: I had the Marquis de Sade for company

In the form of Jesus Franco's movie Justine.

For connoisseurs of bad taste, I have to say, this movie is a must. Appallingly acted, ridiculously 'titillating,' and wonderful for its clear failure to achieve whatever goals it set for itself (it's actually quite difficult to know what those goals are, yet the viewer can still tell that they haven't been reached).

The movie features plenty of shots of Barcelona's Gothic Quarter and of Gaudi architecture, which I enjoyed, but best of all is the interview with the director, which comes as a bonus item. He describes with some disappointment the challenges he encountered during filming, including the imposition of lead actress Romina Power (Tyrone's daughter) on him (she really is useless), the fact that Jack Palance was drunk throughout shooting (his performance is so over-the-top you're only sad that he never tells Justine "You're my best mate, you are"), and the fact that Klaus Kinski only appeared for two half-day shoots - and he was playing the Marquis de Sade!

Add to that the fact that they were filming in General Franco's fascist Spain and therefore constantly trying to avoid the censors ("If the film had been made in Spanish rather than Italian and English, we'd have all been in prison," says the director at one point) and you can understand why titillation is about as good as you're going to get from this Sade.

Still, it helped me while away Monday afternoon along with the LemSip.

And a Great Plague Covered the Land

Well, I was ill in bed for four days with a nasty cold, hence the tranquility at C&S.

But now I'm back with a vengeance!

and a stuffy nose.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

What's So Funny About Peace, Love and Understanding?

Counago & Spaves send fraternal greetings on International Workers Day to all our friends and companeros. Here's to 365 a year!