Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Friday, February 24, 2006

Being for the Benefit of Mr. Reid

A review from New York magazine of the new albums from the Arctic Monkeys and Babyshambles.

I particularly like the closing lines:

"It takes a certain chutzpa to snort a line of cocaine through a page torn from a Paul Verlaine biography, as Doherty recently did for the benefit of a Mojo reporter. This is not breaking on through to the other side; it’s pure tabloid melodrama. Had crack been readily available in 1870, Rimbaud might have thought twice about the rational disordering of all the senses. The bohemian ideal has been outstripped by technology, and Doherty is a walking wake for it."

Only beaten by the Half Man Half Biscuit song, "Shit Arm, Bad Tattoo"

A New Definition of Web Log

Also from the wonderful Smithsonian magazine, this story of the discovery of 98 plate-glass negatives in a toolshed in Rochester, New York. The pictures reveal the day-to-day life of people in logging camps close to Galeton and Port Allegany, in north-central Pennsylvania, in 1897 and 1898.

I Left My Palette in New York City

A painting by crooner Tony Bennett, exhibited under his birth name, Anthony Benedetto, at the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Onward Mormon Soldiers

The January 23 issue of Aviation Week & Space Technology features an article, "Old and Sneaky," by senior military editor David A. Fulghum, in which he describes a trip on board Senior Scout. The magazine explains that the U.S. Air Force extended the offer to Fulghum to accompany a mission during Operation Trident Warrior '05, with the understanding that certain intelligence-related information could not be used in the article and that the last names of the 169th Intelligence Sqdn.'s aircrew would not be revealed.

"Some of the military's principal battlefield targets are changing. Instead of tanks and aircraft, the objects of choice are radars, microwave towers, cell phones, satellite dishes and other communication links. However, the goal is to exploit rather than destroy them. Exploitation could mean loosing a torrent of false information into an enemy network or controlling cell phone calls or dropping in a package of algorithms for mining computer databases. But a key element for any of these scenarios is the initial step of finding the doors-usually antennas of some sort-used to get information in and out of enemy networks.

Much of the exploratory operational work in the field is being done by the U.S. Air Force's secretive 55th Wing, which either flies or has operational control of the small RC-135 Rivet Joint, EC-130 Compass Call, EC-130J Commando Solo and Senior Scout units. Senior Scout is a containerized signals intelligence facility that has been compartmentalized for installation in a standard C-130E or H cargo-carrying aircraft."

. . .

"Generally, a crew of nine or more intelligence specialists operates from the container. During Operation Trident Warrior '05, I flew on a Senior Scout mission from the 169th Intelligence Sqdn., a Utah Air National Guard unit based in Salt Lake City. About 60-70% of squadron members are Mormons, many of them recruited for the language skills they developed doing missionary work for the church, says Lt. Col. Mitch, the 169th's operations officer. Specialties include Persian, Pashitun, Dari, Farsi and Arab dialects for their Central Command deployments, and Spanish for Southern Command assignments. The unit also boasts a 94% retention rate, he says. Aircrews are hand-picked for their ability to remain calm and analytical under stressful conditions."

. . .

"The Senior Scout payload has already proven its war-fighting worth in combat operations. The unit, flying out of a base in Uzbekistan, won USAF's 2005 Gen. Jerome E O'Malley Trophy for locating key commanders among a group of 120 insurgents that was maneuvering to attack a small group of U.S. Marines involved in supporting elections in Afghanistan in 2004. Within 90 sec. of being alerted to the danger by using communications, electronics and special signals detection, they had pinpointed three targets for tactical aircraft strikes. Senior Scout crewmen later identified the escape routes and locations of those fleeing once the U.S. attacks had intensified. Of the enemy group, 80 were killed."

The Special One

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

That'll Be an American Film, Then

John Roecker's Live Freaky! Die Freaky! is a stop-motion animation musical that draws its inspiration from the story of the Manson "family." Parts are voiced by a number of punk luminaries, including Green Day's Billie Joe Armstrong.

According to a review in The Advocate, Roecker was inspired to up his gore levels in the movie after seeing Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ, a movie that made him feel much better about what he was doing.

That'll Be a French Film, Then

The latest issue of Film Quarterly features a nostalgic look at the much-loved Jacques Demy movie Peau d'âne (Donkey Skin, or The Magic Donkey).

"Under the opening credits, we see several books. The largest among them opens, introducing our tale: “Once upon a time, there lived a king....” The source of this King's (Jean Marais) prosperity is a magic donkey, which excretes gold and jewels instead of manure. In addition to this limitless wealth, the King is blessed with a beautiful wife and daughter. Suddenly, though, the Queen (Deneuve) falls gravely ill. On her deathbed, she insists that the King promise to remarry, but only if he finds another woman as beautiful and virtuous as she. However, the only one who fits these criteria is their own daughter (also played by Deneuve). The King rashly decides that he will marry her.

Horrified, the Princess seeks advice and help from the Lilac Fairy (the deliciously devilish Delphine Seyrig), who counsels her to ask the King for several outrageous gifts-culminating with the skin of the magic donkey-as conditions of marriage. Desperate, the King reluctantly agrees, but before a wedding can take place, the Fairy helps the Princess (disguised in the horrible donkey skin) to escape to a faraway kingdom. There she assumes an alias as a lowly scullery maid called “Peau d'Ane.”

Don't you wish you knew how it ended?

Highlights from that Viz e-mail

It's doing the rounds of offices, I'm sure, and it's a cheap way of filling space.

Viz Editors' Letters:

Hats off to the England cricketers for their achievements in the Ashes this summer, which rightly earned Andrew 'Freddie' Flintoff BBC Sports Personality of the Year. Winning a two-team tournament against a nation with a much smaller population once in every ten attempts, then never shutting up about it makes me proud to be British.

Ben Hunt

The government tells us that we are eating too many pies and dying of heart disease, then in the next breath they're telling us we are living too long and there'll be no more pension money left for us. I wish they'd make their minds up.


The record companies would have us believe that the money made by CD pirates goes to fund the drug industry. But the money rock stars make from legal record sales ends up in exactly the same place. When they stop breaking the law, so will I.

P. Boddington, Ringway

It really annoys me to see these suicide bombers blowing up people as well as themselves. In my day, suicide was done in a more dignified way, such as slicing your wrists in the bath, or hanging yourself from a door with a belt.

Paul Mulraney, Belfast

Did anyone else feel that Mel Gibson's remake of the classic Life of Brian wasn't anywhere near as funny as the original?

I was extremely saddened to hear of Richard Whiteley's recent death. But I was cheered to imagine his life support machine making the famous Countdown "da-da, da-da, da-da-da-da! Booooooo!" sound as he took his final breaths.


What's all this nonsense about that 66-year-old Romanian woman being the world's oldest mum? My mum's 77. Beat that.

Thomas J

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Primavera 2006: Preliminary Announcement

Among those confirmed so far for Barcelona June 1, 2, 3:

Jose Gonzalez
TV Personalities (Yay!)
Killing Joke
Violent Femmes
Yo La tengo
Dinosaur Jr.
Flaming Lips
Drive-by Truckers
Richard Hawley

and the fabulous


It Couldn't Happen Here

Those of you in the States lucky enough to get Comedy Centrals Colbert Report can turn over now. In the U.K. some of us are privileged enough to get access to The Daily Show, while the Irish get nada unless they fork dosh out to Murdoch.

Here's a review, in any case, of The Colbert Report from the January 27 issue of lay-Catholic magazine Commonweal by Celia Wren. It sounds a blast, "a brilliant spoof of right-wing TV punditry"

"At the height of December's conservative-instigated ballyhoo about the word “Christmas,” for example, Colbert solemnly informed the audience that, as a “Christmas originalist,” he condemned any Yuletide customs that had evolved from their initial form in any way whatsoever. Santa Claus? A ghastly innovation, Colbert asserted. The real seasonal luminary can only be St. Nicholas. As for plastic mistletoe, forget it: the only acceptable mistletoe is the living plant, harvested by white-robed dwarves. Needless to say, Colbert also condemned those “storm troopers of diversity” who use the term “holiday,” rather than “Christmas.” “If there's one thing Jesus cared about,” he stated with deadpan intensity, “it's semantics.”

And since we're all doing Bunuel these days:

"An all-too-familiar strain of smug, insular patriotism recently came in for skewering, for example, when Colbert delivered a ridiculously bigoted survey of foreign news outlets. “If it has accent marks, can it really be news?” he demanded. To the gratification of highbrow viewers, this segment included a snippet from Salvador Dalí and Luis Buñuel's 1929 Un Chien Andalou, used by Colbert to disparage all things Spanish."

Disgraceful behavior.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Odds and Ends

To the visitor directed here by Google searching for information on "Simmel" and "Nose Picking": I'm sorry we couldn't help you. You might in any case find that "Elias" and "Nose Picking" yields better results (that's an in-joke for the sociologists among you; for the nonsociologists, Elias wrote a book entitled The Civilizing Process on the development of etiquette and its relationship to modernity.)

Most kids seem to go through a dinosaur craze. Don't know if the explanation is hormonal or Piagetian or something to do with Barney. It gets worrying, however, when your 6-year-old godson asks his mother, "What's the difference between an archaeologist and paleontologist?" She managed to contrive an answer, but I think all she really needed to do was plonk him down in front of Time Team and say, "You see those weird men with beards, Birmingham accents, and the stink of real ale coming off them? They're archaeologists. Ross, from Friends: He's a paleontologist. If you grow up to be like Ross from Friends, I'll kill you."

Manu Chao is playing this year's Oxegen festival at Punchestown Racecourse on July 9th, as well as Franz Ferdinand, the Kaiser Chiefs, and some bunch of unknowns called the Arctic Monkeys. More important, the line-up for this year's Primavera Sound is being announced tomorrow, I believe.

Don't worry. Book reviews and dick jokes are on the way.


Well, we didn't make the cut in the Irish blog awards, I'm sad to say, which only goes to show that our audience is rather too elite for such competitions.

Thank you to everyone who voted for us. I suppose we'll have to try less hard next year.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Trust Me: I'm an Amateur

Loath as I am to knock that beautiful photo of Kate Moss off the top of the page, I wanted to draw attention to this book, Expert Political Judgment: How Good Is It? How Can We Know?, by Philip E. Tetlock, reviewed here by Geoffrey Colvin. In the book, Tetlock summarizes the results of his remarkable research project: Over seven years, he got a wide range of experts and nonexperts to answer carefully constructed questions about the likelihood of specific future political and economic events. A staggering 82,361 forecasts were gathered, and the analysis revealed that the experts were no better than nonexperts at predicting the future. Not only that, but the more famous a forecaster was, the MORE likely he or she was to be WRONG.

It's exactly the conclusion I would have predicted.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Disgraced South Korean Scientist: I Created Kate Moss

Does this mean he'll fuck off now?

it seems that those loveable rogues the KLF are claiming to have invented pete doherty. i mean, i can take a joke but if this is true i'm going to kick drummond and cauty right up the mu mu.

Castoriadis: LibCom Obit

"The best of Castoriadis' thought lies in his radical libertarian vision which puts at the centre of a critique of capitalism, not economic laws or a fatal contradiction leading to its collapse, but the action of people attempting to take back their lives at every level."

Should be our strapline.

The rest is here.

Monday, February 13, 2006

I'd Know that Face a Mile Away

Isn't that the woman who's just had a face transplant?

Lorcy Bites Back

Jimmny Homunculus answers the "Seven" meme.

Friday, February 10, 2006

The Man in Black

Not Johnny Cash but Grandpa Munster, Al Lewis, self-described anarchist, who died last week. Darren directs us to an interview with him from the anarchist magazine The Shadow. Do give it a read, if only for his slagging of the interviewers.

Shame and Chagrin

My own, that is.

To wit, it is to my own shame and chagrin that I have postponed until recently reading the works of Thomas Frank, founder of the Baffler magazine and author of One Market Under God: Extreme Capitalism, Market Populism, and the End of Economic Democracy and The Conquest of Cool. This is something I'm planing to rectify in the near future, having just finished his book What's the Matter with Kansas?: How Conservatives Won the Heart of America. Frank is from Kansas himself, so even though he's a leftie, he lacks any of the patronizing condescension of the "Aren't Our Fellow Americans Stoopid" school of analysis. As he points out himself, Kansas has a long history of support of radical left and progressive populist movements, so it's all the more worrying that it has swung so far to the right.

What Frank draws out is the way Republicans have rebranded themselves as the party of "blue collar values" even as the Democrats have abandoned policies that defended working-class economic interests in order to make the party more palatable to big business. As a result, although George Bush and John Kerry are both Yale alumni, the former presents as a down-home Pabst Blue Ribbon drinking good old boy whereas Kerry comes across as a Brie-eating Brahmin. Working-class Kansas voters are thus presented with two parties, neither of which defends their economic interests, but one of which appears to represent uncomplicated, authentic Middle American values.

There's much more to it than that, of course, and this is hardly news to anyone on the left who's been paying attention, but Frank's analysis is superior by virtue of his empathy for ordinary Americans and his consistently populist approach.

Also to my shame and chagrin is my ignorance heretofore of The Commoner magazine, available here in pdf form. Describing itself as "A web journal of other values," the most recent issue, entitled "The Carnival of Values and the Exchange Value of Carnivals," features an opening article by David Graeber, whom we mentioned recently, on a topic closely related to that examined by Frank, entitled "Value as the Importance of Action." Don't be put off by the high-faluting academic pomposity that the essay titles promise. There's some substantive material here if you're willing to dig a little.

Why not read it over the weekend?

At Home with the Intelligentsia. No 27: Antonio Gramsci*

(Full image shows Gramsci buttering a pigeon)

*This series resurrected for our new Italian readers, courtesy of Stef.

Motorized Carriages All in a Row: Now What Do We Call That?

In the lastest issue of Motor Trend, Frank Markus reports that Ford is developing a technology called Vehicle-to-Vehicle, or V2V, which will enable cars of the future to talk to one another in the same way that planes do, using transponders to broadcast their respective locations. This will ensure greater safety on the road and notify drivers of upcoming traffic jams.

In fact, explains Markus, it could render traffic jams a thing of the past by making possible the "platooning" of groups of vehicles on the freeway, so that roads never get clogged.

Just imagine: Rows of cars all travelling at the same speed, with no bottlenecks, just a smooth flow of carriages all arriving at their destinations safely.

Didn't we used to call that a train?

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Local Heroes or Minority Report?

From the January/February edition of Film Comment magazine, an article by Manuel Yáñez Murillo tracing the history of Catalan cinema, to mark the season of movies at the Walter Reade Theater, New York: "An/Other Spanish Cinema: Film in Catalunya, 1906–2006."

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

A New Definition of Chutzpah

If I remember rightly (and I'm willing to be corrected), Lenny Bruce explained "chutzpah" with the following anecdote: In 1963, Time magazine did a feature on the most beautiful women in the world, and top of the list was Jackie Kennedy. It looked like a bit of brown-nosing, but it was a choice they could easily defend. In 1964, they did a similar feature, and top of the list was Lady Bird Johnson. THAT, said Lenny Bruce, is the definition of chutzpah.

And so I thought until I read the opinion piece by Steve Forbes in the January 30 issue of Forbes magazine. Commenting on the Jack Abramoff scandal, Forbes argues that it will not be the last such case in American life so long as central government remains so pervasive and huge. Here are his suggestions for effective steps that can be taken to prevent further lobbying outrages:

1) a flat tax

2) deregulation

3) term limits and reform of redistricting to create greater competition amongst politicians.

Can it be just coincidence that these are exactly the same solutions that Forbes suggests in his column this week, on the crisis over those fucking cartoons? Surely not.

Irish Blog Awards

Counago & Spaves has been long-listed in a couple of categories at the Irish Blog Awards. We're rather chuffed, even if we get no further. You can vote for us here in the Best Group Blog category and in the Most Humourous Post category for this.

Our highly esteemed friends Joseph McManus and Manuel Estimulo are also up in the Most Humourous Posting and in the Best Blog/Blogger categories. Far be it from us to sway how you vote, particularly since Joe and Manuel are rivals in one category, but you might want to exhibit some appreciation of their work in another category.

Or, indeed, for us in another category.


She's Italian, she's dating an Irishman, and she lives in Alty. Her blog is here.

We're Not Insensitive: We Were Just Thinking of the Team

Lomana Lua Lua's 18-month-old son died on January 20th, according to the Mirror, but the DR Congo player wasn't told by team staff or management because they were concerned that it might affect his performances during the African Nations' Cup. Lomana even gave an interview on January 26th, expressing pride in his family, not knowing his son was dead.

Truly contemptuous.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

When "Good" People Do Bad Things

An article today in the New York Times (sign-up required) by Benedict Carey discusses the process of Moral Disengagement:

"Common wisdom holds that people have a set standard of morality that never wavers. Yet studies of people who do unpalatable things, whether by choice, or for reasons of duty or economic necessity, find that people's moral codes are more flexible than generally understood. To buffer themselves from their own consciences, people often adjust their moral judgments in a process some psychologists call moral disengagement, or moral distancing.

In recent years, researchers have determined the psychological techniques most often used to disengage, and for the first time they have tested them in people working in perhaps the most morally challenging job short of soldiering, staffing a prison execution team."

Read the rest here.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Who Needs Buñuel?

Luis Buñuel's The Phantom of Liberty ends with an offscreen protest march chanting "Down with Freedom! Down with Freedom!" I'd always understood that he made surrealist fantasies, not documentaries.

They Can't Give Them Away!

I have to confess that I never thought I'd see the day, but the Daily Mail has launched an Irish edition, handing out free copies at Train and DART stations and even on street corners.

From what I can see, the good sense of the Irish public has prevailed so far. The only people I've seen taking copies have been tourists or British immigrants nostalgic from some down-home jingoism.

But you never know. People here are happy to buy Irish editions of the Sun and the Star, so I guess they'll swallow anything. Middle-class English parochialism is just so . . . so exotic.

In the Spirit of the Game

From today's Irish Independent:

Red card mayhem sparks GAA probe

Martin Breheny

GAA chiefs woke up with another violent headache today.

Dublin and All-Ireland champs Tyrone are likely to face a major disciplinary probe after the serious outbreaks of violence that marred yesterday's National Football League tie in Omagh.

Four players - two from each side - were sent off while nine others were booked in a game that spun out of control.

It started with the dismissal of Dublin's Alan Brogan who clashed with a Tyrone official as he left the field.

At least 20 players then became involved in a violent brawl.

Tyrone midfielder Colin Holmes was the only player dismissed for that incident but referee Paddy Russell later sent off Tyrone's Stephen O'Neill and Dublin's Denis Bastic. The ugly atmosphere prevailed all the way to the finish of a match Dublin won by 1-9 to 1-6.

"God Almighty couldn't have refereed that game," said Tyrone manager Mickey Harte.

Not even Father, Son and Holy Ghost?

Friday, February 03, 2006

Whereas as a film about Oberammergau should be compulsory

Parents protest about teacher showing kids a program on opera because it featured excerpts from Faust.

And puppets, which we all know give children nightmares AND have no souls.

Crass Fan Published in Respectable Paper Shock

Spotted at Ed Rooksby's place:

Rob Newman in the Guardian today poses the stark choice for humanity.

No choice, in fact.

Are they near the Islets of Langerhans?

Spotted in Atlanta magazine:

After adding stickers (which were later removed) calling evolution "a theory, not a fact" to textbooks, Cobb County was ranked No. 2 on The Campaign to Defend the Constitution's top 10 "Islands of Ignorance," places where the separation of church and state is considered theatened. But Cobb School Board Chair Kathie Johnstone was nore concerned with geography, saying, "None of the places they're listing are islands."

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Unmitigated Shite

I've finished reading Chuck Klosterman's Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs: A Low Culture Manifesto.

It is no such thing.

It is a collection of essays having little relation to one another save the same author. Topics include touring with a Guns N' Roses tribute band, serial killers my friends have known, and Internet porn, each covered in a tone that can only be described as irritating and peppered with faux insights that just don't measure up to reality. There's the odd funny line, but Klosterman isn't the least bit engaging, and there's no argument made for low culture that I can see at all.

This book should have "Disappointment" written all over it.

But at least it made me happy. Happy that I'd finished it.