Wednesday, December 28, 2005

A Happy New Year from Counago & Spaves

Some of us here are lazy sods for whom the above message is the full extent of expressing our benevolence towards humanity. Others amongst us are far wittier and more energetic, in spite of appearances to the contrary.

Take it easy, all you blogophiles, and have a good one. If you're feeling spritely, have two: It won't do you any harm.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Death of Firstborn Fun for Kids

Oytoys has finger puppets to explain the 10 plagues of Egypt to kids in a nonthreatening way: Boils, Locusts, Frogs, they're all here!

An SWP Worth Saving*

The SWP Rescue Fund is up and running.

*And one with mass appeal, to boot.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

This One Goes Up To Eleven: Ireland's Top Ten for 2005

I’m afraid this year wasn’t a vintage one for Irish music by any stretch of the imagination, but it did see the rebirth of electronica in Ireland, with four of the year’s top ten records belonging, broadly speaking, to the genre known as Bogsynth.

As ever, this list is derived from the Raidio Siamsa charts, not RTE’s farrago of lies. Thus we have a representative picture of current yoof tastes, rather than what The Man wants you to hear. This year, I give you a bonus track, since one performer appears twice. In reverse order, then, as is traditional:

11: "You Touched Me" – Diocese of Ferns Male Voice Choir (Birdbath Records)

10: "J.O.V." – Slippery Razor and the Facials (Munkus)

9: "Mobius Trip" – Gavin Escher (Blood Vessel)

8: "So Easily Shocked" (But I Love You) – Gypsy Rose Mahone (Cuaint Music)

7: "Mosney Macht Frei" – Urban Spurt (Flob Sounds)

6: "Suzie’s Arms and Eyebrows" – Kilbarrack and the Toll Roads (Gurrier)

5: "Shellsuit Armada" – The Floaters (Galway Hooker)

4: "Freaky Priest" (Call the Cops Mix) – Diocese of Ferns Male Voice Choir (Birdbath Records)

3: "A Sheep in Wolf’s Clothing" – Barmecide (Spunt)

2: "Undercover Fingerer" – DJ Manky B (Athletico Coolock)

And this year’s Number 1:

"The Ballad of Daymo Potemkin" – The Calipers (Botty)

Two Out of Three Ain't Bad

Ronaldinho: Too Ugly for Madrid

Barcelona take 1st and 3rd in FIFA World Player of the Year Awards

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Taken to Task - and rightly so

One of the most linked to postings on this site has been this one on the problem of evil and the stereotyping of psychopathic behaviour in media portrayals. A recent comment has been added by Donna Williams drawing attention to my lazy stereotyping of autistic people as "lacking in empathy." Her point is, I think, incontrovertible. Go read.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Just Another Day in Saudi #138

Worth a look is William Sampson's Confessions of an Innocent Man: Torture and Survival in a Saudi Prison, which documents the grotesque and terrifying nature of the abuse he suffered while in Saudi custody, as well as providing devastating insight into Saudi justice. It also offers a damning indictment of Canadian embassy officials who Sampson describes as ineffectual and condescending, often appearing to be more concerned with placating his captors than ensuring his safety.

It's a Breakout!

Gardaí have warned motorists to exercise extreme caution if driving in Co Cavan.

More than 5,000 chickens escaped from a lorry following an accident.

It happened on the N55, south of Ballinagh, near Cavan town. The southbound lane is blocked and it is near a sharp bend.

Extreme care is needed as the chickens are loose; all drivers are asked to reduce their speed.

Some of the chickens are laying eggs on the road and conditions are quite treacherous.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

I Prefer to Think of Dylan as America's Kevin Coyne

An article in the magazine of this week's Independent on Sunday profiles the wonderful and greatly missed Kevin Coyne.

He's described as Britain's Bob Dylan. Some understatement.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Babelfish does its thing

Here's a translation of the article below courtesy of Babelfish. Translation into which language, I'm not sure.

The pop strip of Manchester

The city of The Smiths prepares a macrofestival of the arts for the 2007


Manchester, crucificada many years by one attributed industrial fealdad, has in fact much of which to be proud. Cradle of a good number of radical movements, was in Manchester where the first industrial revolution took place; where it arose the sufragismo and the vegetarianism; where the first professional league of soccer started up and, put to emphasize, where it opened to the first Marks and Spencer. And soon, new paragraph, it is music.

It is the city of birth of sinfín of capital groups of the history of the pop music. The Smiths, Joy Division, New Order, Simply Network, Stone Roses, The Happy Mondays, Oasis, Bee Gees, Robbie Williams and his Take That, The Verve... House is the city of music, disclosed to the world from the Property, that club opened in 1982 by likeable and manirroto television presenter, Tony Wilson, through its record one, Factory Record, and that Michael Winterbottom elevated to legendary category of through 24 film hour party people.

Much history to avoid it. The companies dedicated to the tourist promotion of the English city begin to operate this rich musical legacy. And not to watch only back, Manchester prepares an ambitious biennial festival whose first edition will be celebrated during three weeks of June and July of the 2007.

It will not be a solely musical festival. It will embrace all the arts, although with two very strict conditions: the protagonists must be first swords in their field and, first of all, they must present/display a totally new work, not taught nowhere before. They only admit world-wide openings.

In order to initiate the promotion of the artistic encounter, the Manchester International Festival programmed the last month five performances of Gorillaz, the virtual group created by Damon Albarn, leader of Blur, that never before had offered its songs in direct. Five plenty, with the entrances sold in a matter of minutes, provided a hopeful takeoff to the festival, that next will announce more stellar performances to continue warming up the appointment of the 2007.

And with this Manchester appointment it trusts surpassing to Birmingham as tourist destiny and moving away more to Liverpool, with which it maintains a ferocious rivalry historical. Of course, also it hopes to dilute the image of gray and declining city that drags from the industrial time, of when the textile factories and cotton estigmatizaban the urban landscape. Painful it is, in this sense, a famous phrase of Mark Twain: "I would like to live in Manchester. The transit between Manchester and the death would be imperceptible ".

Now which the Manchester United of is capacaída, which it has been left even outside Liga de Campeones, who not even is left the consolation to see David Beckham buy by the stores chic, music returns to become the spiritual motor of the city of architect Norman Foster, Danny director Boyle and the actor Horseradish tree Kingsley.

It makes at a level less boisterous than in years 80 and 90, when the fusion of the guitars and cadences of dance impelled by the culture of clubs and groups as Stone Roses and The Happy Mondays granted to Manchester the world-wide attention. Magazines of varied cut as Newsweek and Life emphasized in cover the efervescencia of the city.

Rain always has been good for the creativity, and in Manchester much water after the year falls. Also in Liverpool, that seems, however, to still live on the prestige of the group of the remembered today John Lennon. It speaks journalist Jonathan Schofield, author of local guide City life and musical specialist. "the bands of Liverpool are melódicas; those of always they have been noisier and bailables here. I have the sensation that Liverpool undergoes an enormous undertow of the Beatles ".
They count now in Manchester with more than 20 discográficas. Until Morrisey, e'migre' to the Angels, has returned to fall in love with his city and he often sees himself him take a walk by the streets of the center, that is experiencing a repoblación, with which that entails of renovation of buildings, of opening of restaurants and extension of services.

To more, it is the mass of students, one of the most nourished of Great Britain, wonderful base of public for concerts. That mythical the Property is now cement of apartments is considered by some a sacrilege; a blessing, however, for Jonathan Schofield. "it has allowed that others clubs grow without having to be put under the constant comparison". And that the locality, is possible to add, takes a new artistic direction, as it proposes the festival of the 2007.

El pop tira de Manchester (II)

As Ardeelee commented, the article in my entry below is no longer accessible, unless you sign in. So here's the article in question:

El pop tira de Manchester

La ciudad de The Smiths prepara un macrofestival de las artes para el 2007


Manchester, crucificada muchos años por una atribuida fealdad industrial, tiene en realidad mucho de que enorgullecerse. Cuna de un buen número de movimientos radicales, fue en Manchester donde tuvo lugar la primera revolución industrial; donde surgió el sufragismo y el vegetarianismo; donde se puso en marcha la primera liga profesional de fútbol y, puestos a destacar, donde abrió el primer Marks and Spencer. Y luego, punto y aparte, está la música.
Es la ciudad de nacimiento de un sinfín de grupos mayúsculos de la historia de la música popular. The Smiths, Joy Division, New Order, Simply Red, Stone Roses, The Happy Mondays, Oasis, Bee Gees, Robbie Williams y su Take That, The Verve... Es la ciudad de la música house, divulgada al mundo desde La Hacienda, ese club abierto en 1982 por un simpático y manirroto presentador de televisión, Tony Wilson, a través de su discográfica, Factory Records, y que Michael Winterbottom elevó a categoría de legendario a través de la película 24 hour party people.
Mucha historia para obviarla. Las compañías dedicadas a la promoción turística de la ciudad inglesa empiezan a explotar este rico legado musical. Y para no mirar sólo atrás, Manchester prepara un ambicioso festival bianual cuya primera edición se celebrará durante tres semanas de junio y julio del 2007.
No será un festival únicamente musical. Abrazará todas las artes, aunque con dos condiciones muy estrictas: los protagonistas deben ser primeras espadas en su campo y, ante todo, deben presentar un trabajo totalmente nuevo, no enseñado en ningún sitio antes. Sólo admiten estrenos mundiales.
Para iniciar la promoción del encuentro artístico, el Manchester International Festival programó el mes pasado cinco actuaciones de Gorillaz, el grupo virtual creado por Damon Albarn, líder de Blur, que nunca antes había ofrecido sus canciones en directo. Cinco llenos, con las entradas vendidas en cuestión de minutos, proporcionaron un esperanzador despegue al festival, que próximamente anunciará más actuaciones estelares para seguir calentando la cita del 2007.
Y con esta cita Manchester confía en superar a Birmingham como destino turístico y alejar más a Liverpool, con la que mantiene una feroz rivalidad histórica. Por supuesto, también espera diluir la imagen de ciudad gris y decadente que arrastra desde la época industrial, de cuando las fábricas textiles y de algodón estigmatizaban el paisaje urbano. Dolorosa es, en este sentido, una famosa frase de Mark Twain: "Me gustaría vivir en Manchester. El tránsito entre Manchester y la muerte sería imperceptible".
Ahora que el Manchester United está de capacaída, que ha quedado incluso fuera de la Liga de Campeones, que ni siquiera queda el consuelo de ver a David Beckham comprar por las tiendas chic, la música vuelve a convertirse en el motor espiritual de la ciudad del arquitecto Norman Foster, el director Danny Boyle y el actor Ben Kingsley.
Lo hace a un nivel menos bullicioso que en los años 80 y 90, cuando la fusión de las guitarras y cadencias de baile impulsada por la cultura de clubs y por grupos como Stone Roses y The Happy Mondays concedió a Manchester la atención mundial. Revistas de corte variado como Newsweek y Life destacaron en portada la efervescencia de la ciudad.
La lluvia siempre ha sido buena para la creatividad, y en Manchester cae mucha agua al cabo del año. También en Liverpool, que parece, no obstante, vivir aún del prestigio del grupo del hoy recordado John Lennon. Habla el periodista Jonathan Schofield, autor de la guía local City life y especialista musical. "Las bandas de Liverpool son melódicas; las de aquí siempre han sido más ruidosas y bailables. Tengo la sensación que Liverpool sufre una enorme resaca de los Beatles".
Cuentan ahora en Manchester con más de 20 discográficas. Hasta Morrisey, emigrado a Los Ángeles, ha vuelto a enamorarse de su ciudad y se le ve a menudo pasear por las calles del centro, que está experimentando una repoblación, con lo que eso conlleva de renovación de edificios, de apertura de restaurantes y ampliación de servicios.
A más, está la masa de estudiantes, una de las más nutridas de Gran Bretaña, estupenda base de público para conciertos. Que la mítica La Hacienda sea ahora cemento de apartamentos es considerado por algunos un sacrilegio; una bendición, en cambio, para Jonathan Schofield. "Ha permitido que otros clubs crezcan sin tener que someterse a la constante comparación". Y que la localidad, cabe añadir, tome una nueva dirección artística, como propone el festival del 2007.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

El pop tira de Manchester

I was surprised to find today in El Periódico (the name of that newspaper means 'the Newspaper', so you can guess that's a newspaper), a two-page article about some kind of 'macrofestival' that is being prepared in Manchester for 2007. The headline of the article is 'El pop tira de Manchester', if you chose the edition in Spanish, or 'Manchester explota el pop', if you read the one in Catalan. That's what happens when you have a double edition in two different languages. Both headlines have their own nuances, and the result is quite interesting. The first one means something like 'Manchester is drawn by pop (music)', whereas I understand the second one as 'Manchester exploits pop (music)'. Headlines are usually difficult to translate, but I'm sure someone else can give you better translations.

D.I.Y.—Working Class Autonomy or Blokes in Skirts?

Hak Mao recently cast an incredulous eye over the mania for property development programs on British TV, which set me to considering why this should be a specifically British idiosyncrasy. Just by chance, I’d been pondering changes in male working-class leisure activity during the 20th century, as one invariably does after two bottles of Argentinean Malbec, and the thought arose that perhaps these social phenomena might be connected.

Apocryphal or pure spin it may have been, but during the 1970s I was frequently told that the largest participation sport in the country was angling, and NOT footie, as everyone usually assumed. This information was usually conveyed to me by blokes who were in any case too uncoordinated to be any good at footie—and who were thus just jealous of my brilliance—or by latent autistics who enjoyed nothing more than getting up at 4 on a Sunday morning to sit on the edge of the local pond or reservoir and stare at water for the entire day while sat in mud and pouring rain. Notwithstanding the dubious categorization of angling as a sport—I appreciate that it can be done competitively, but so can masturbation, and until they start televising it I don’t regard that as a sport either, however obsessively it is pursued—I’m willing to accept that it was a hugely popular pastime. At some point, however, it appears to have been superseded by a national passion for DIY. In the mid to late 70s you couldn’t move for B&Qs, MFIs, Homebases, and all those other megastores that still give cultural snobs the willies (the most recent manifestation of which can be found on the new Half Man, Half Biscuit album.) So why did this happen?

My suspicion is that the empowerment of women as a consequence of 1) the women’s movement and 2) financial austerity that made two incomes the sine qua non of home ownership (and which, incidentally, put the hiring of professionals out of the question) can account not just for the decline in popularity of pastimes taking place away from the home but also for the “masculinzation” of particular areas of the domestic sphere (Men doing domestic chores? Unheard of!).

The principle characteristic that led to angling’s decline and DIY’s rise is that one of them could be done at home while the other constituted an ESCAPE from the home. In the days when the man was the sole breadwinner and women were expected to stay home and raise the kids, the demarcation of gender boundaries was very clear, and the man took it as his prerogative as the breadwinner to spend his leisure time away from noisy kids, care of whom was a task assigned to the domestic sphere. Angling was a form of relaxation is a place where relaxation was possible. The actual catching of fish was incidental, as most anglers will tell you.

The increase in the number of women in full-time paid employment shifted the balance in gender relations, but there were also cultural changes that played a part in accentuating this shift, such as women’s demands for a role in the public sphere, that men do their share of domestic work in an environment where the workload was falling unequally on the female partner, and so on, as well as a decline in the traditional “masculine” manufacturing industries and a rise in “feminized” service industries.

The necessity of two incomes to pay the mortgage highlights the fact that we are dealing here with a particular class stratum here, rather than with the working class as a whole. This is a largely white, suburban-based working class, socially mobile (at least in their own eyes), and potentially Tory voting—hence the cultural snobbery, I suspect, of some on the left—Contrast this stratum, incidentally, with the sexist, racist white working class that laments the loss of the good old days when Dad could spend Sunday down the pub and come home to find his dinner ready for him (a lamentation I recall specifically made by BNP members on TV in an attempt to present themselves as “normal” and to validate the defence of their “culture.”)

The sharing out of domestic responsibility thus meant a loss of “privileges” for the husband, or rather, made domestic arrangements more equitable just as wage-earning arrangements began in the direction of equalization. DIY offered a way of providing the husband with a hobby while at the same time enabling him to “make himself useful around the house.” By way of compensation, DIY was “masculinized” in order to distinguish it from the feminine domestic sphere and get round suggestions of emasculation; the building and fixing of stuff required specialized tools, mechanisms, and knowledge that rendered it distinct from cooking, decoration, laundry and so on. It also helped that DIY required lots of banging and screwing (I use those terms advisedly), so that it made sense for them to be put at one remove from the living area. Thus, the compromise could be enhanced by letting the husband convert the shed or the garage for his DIYing, thereby giving him a retreat, an escape, while keeping him accessible and domesticated.

DIY remains hugely popular today but seems to have been modified in recent years, having dissolved into “interior design”—how else to explain Lawrence Llewellyn-Bowen? I can only speculate that this continued blurring of the boundaries has arisen as a consequence of the increase in the number of single people living alone prior to committing to a partnership, the rise in single-parent families, and/or an increase in the number of people sharing non-familial homes so that all domestic tasks fall to each member without regard to genderization. It is something to be devoutly wished for, in my opinion, regardless of the causal mechanisms involved. As a nonacademic it isn’t my job to do the research, attempt to falsify the hypothesis, or seeks the finances to do either, but I DO think that this is the sort of work that cultural studies SHOULD be doing, i.e. I think it should be a sociology of culture, identifying causal relationships between cultural changes and wider social developments. It would thereby serve as a way of demystifying and clarifying the determinants of human behaviour and of demonstrating the rationality of cultural choices by bringing to light the conditions in which such choices are made (hopefully you've realized by now that the title for this post is facetious). For my part, I only speculate and hypothesize about these issues because I find them fascinating. I could be entirely wrong!

I haven’t even attempted to locate the source of the mania for property development that Hak Mao spotted. It’s a case, I think, of “What know they of Britain who only Britain know?” Someone living on the Continent, where home rental is far more widespread than in Britain, would most likely find our manias incomprehensible. Perhaps our compañeros in Catalunya can tell us. What’s the Catalan for MDF?

Thursday, December 08, 2005

A Sad Night in Lisbon

Because the Cork Mardarse wasn't playing, so all his worshippers can blame the defeat on his absence, disregarding past results. What other top club in Europe so depends on a midfield psychopath to sustain morale and bully those around him into playing well?

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Don't Tell J. G. Ballard

From a review by Daniel Belasco of an exhibition by Michael Rakowitz at Lombard-Freid gallery in New York (Art in America magazine, November).

"A second room, at the rear of the gallery, contained an interrelated set of four works on paper and four sculptures that address famous tragedies in the history of modern American architecture and industrial design. Positive Agitation (2005) typifies Rakowitz's method of doubling or tripling historical associations through clever combinations of industrial forms. The kinetic piece centered on the dust bag of a vintage Hoover vacuum that was inflated by regular gusts of air emanating from the wall via a tube connected to a car tailpipe. This breathing action seemingly mocked iconic designer Henry Dreyfuss's suicide from carbon monoxide poisoning. Elsewhere, two cartoonlike pencil drawings on vellum recounted the death of architect Louis Kahn in a Penn Station men's room. The photo-based images and droll expository texts were reminiscent of the work of Ben Katchor. The viewer could also push the button on a standard electric hand dryer, sending warm air though a plastic tube, thus inflating a small transparent version of the Twin Towers. In this engaging echo chamber of a show, architectural history repeated itself as farce."

Shut the Fuck Up #2

Steven Wells tells Bill Buford & Co. a few home truths.

Bros: The Movie

From the November/December issue of Film Comment:

Mining a similar mockumentary vein to more rewarding ends, Brothers of the Head is the narrative-feature debut of Keith Fulton and Louis Pepe, best known for their Terry Gilliam documentary, Lost in La Mancha. Based on a Brian Aldiss novel and adapted by Gilliam collaborator Tony Grisoni, Brothers is about two conjoined twins who are groomed to become a novelty musical act only to rebel and become punk-rock legends. The faux-documentary form is used mostly to get gloomy and atmospheric shots of the twins trying to avoid the camera, brought off with characteristic flair by cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle. Ken Russell makes an appearance as himself to talk about his collaboration with the twins on a (fictive) film that led to their discovery, and Pete Shelley of the Buzzcocks co-wrote some of the songs. There is something not quite fully formed about the film, but it works as a tribute to that specifically English brand of windswept, misty-moors eccentricity, before plunging into amphetamine-damaged punk psychosis.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Lorcan's Christmas Present Sorted

Although I don't see Norwich or Monaghan on the map.

Proper Winter Celebrations

If you're in or near New York for the winter solstice, you're one lucky bastard:

HERE BE MONSTERS at the Magnet Theater 254 W. 29th St., NYC

December 21st 2005 at 8.30pm

Non-denominational winter solstice observance featuring JON "santa-man" LANGFORD and The SHIP & PILOT


and the Mighty CHRIS "red nosed" MILLS

plus more weird performers to be added

7pm a tiny intimate reception with Langford's ARRRRT

The bad news: It's a Wednesday.

Chairman in good decision shock!

Nice to see Kevin Wilson back in charge at Kettering.For someone who took the Poppies to within an inch of having a crack at the Conference last season (not that I'm complaining , being an Alty fan) I thought it was harsh relieving him of his duties fot NOT wearing comedy breasts and NOT being mates with Ally McCoist.

Gazza's attempts to defend himself in TV interviews was not helped by the fact that he was obviously pissed. (His "my ex-wife and ex-kids" a bit of a giveaway). And then he gets himself arrested.

I'll start my Pete Doherty for QPR campaign now I think.

Monday, December 05, 2005

3 things I'm glad I didn't say to the proctologist

1) You call THAT a finger?

2) Are you enjoying this as much as I am?

3) Anything you find, we go halves!

Friday, December 02, 2005

If you get the chance..

go see Gogol Bordello. The best New York gypsy-punk band I've seen all week. Their tunes aren't so hot but the live show is so much fun I moshed for the first time since Mano Negra.

Even better , to my mind , were the support act The Scotch Greens. A cross between a beefed up The Men They Could't Hang and a banjoised Clash. Their version of Janie Jones was worth paying 3 quid a beer for alone.

The other support , on a night of US roots punk , was Throw Rag. Not dissimilar to Th' Legendary Shack Shakers in a skinny punkabilly kind of way but a little less confrontational.

While I'm about it, tips for next year are Hot Puppies and The Cyclones (and The Scotch Greens obviously).

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Shutting the Fuck Up

I'll be taking an extended leave from blogging as of Monday. My fellow Counagoites can and will, I'm sure, be using C&S for whatever purposes they see fit, and I'll be hanging around the blogs of my friends like a banished priest at a garden party to toss in the odd bon mot or unwanted observation, but the fact is I feel like I've become a slave to my creation, obliged to feed it every day instead of letting it feed me.

I'm in a blogging rut, basically, and need a long holiday and some hard drugs.