Friday, March 31, 2006

Not a Prayer

Todays NYT:

"Prayers offered by strangers had no effect on the recovery of people who were undergoing heart surgery, a large and long-awaited study has found.

And patients who knew they were being prayed for had a higher rate of post-operative complications like abnormal heart rhythms, perhaps because of the expectations the prayers created, the researchers suggested.

. . .

"At least 10 studies of the effects of prayer have been carried out in the last six years, with mixed results. The new study was intended to overcome flaws in the earlier investigations. The report was scheduled to appear in The American Heart Journal next week, but the journal's publisher released it online yesterday."

The rest is here.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

a belated farewell to nikki sudden

until two days ago, i'd never knowingly heard a thing by nikki sudden, legendary singer and guitarist with post-punk icons swell maps. their reputation preceded them and yet i'd never quite managed to find them, despite falling for sudden's melancholic brother, epic soundtracks, a few years ago.

then, dare i say suddenly, i heard of NS's demise in new york following a gig at the knitting factory. the causes of his death are as yet unknown although first thoughts of an overdose are now swinging towards a possible heart attack. he was 49.

strangely, perhaps morbidly, his death finally galvanised me into seeking out swell maps' first two albums, "a trip to marineville" and "jane from occupied europe" and they really are both a gloriously cacophonous racket with "special" running right through them like blackpool rock. i almost feel guilty enjoying them right now.

but, more than anything, my thoughts are with sudden's parents, both of whom survive him. epic soundtracks was found dead in november 1997 and now they have to somehow deal with the death of their other son. i cannot even begin to imagine how they feel right now.

And Those With No Kids Become Anarchists

The latest issue of Foreign Policy reports the findings of two British economists that a person's politics change according to the sex of their children.

According to Andrew Oswald, a professor at Warwick University, and Nattavudh Powdthavee, of the University of London, having daughters pushes people to become more left-wing, while sons make people more likely to vote in a right-wing way.

The report says that they found that British parents who have three daughters are 12 percent more likely to support a left-wing party than those with three sons, and, in Germany, a father's likelihood of voting Left increases by 2.5 percent with every daughter he has. Oswald and Powdthavee reckon that men who have daughters start to subconsciously represent the female point of view in the way they vote—they do not like the idea that their daughters may one day receive lower wages than their male colleagues, for instance—whereas parents with boys may value lower taxes, because many believe that such changes in the tax code usually favor men.

DaDa Day

From the mighty Harper's:

That's the Matter With Kansas

Posted on Thursday, March 30, 2006. From a proclamation issued December 27, 2005, by Dennis Highberger, mayor of Lawrence, Kansas, which calls itself the “City of the Arts.” The thirteen days of commemoration were chosen by rolling dice and picking numbers out of a hat. Originally from Harper's Magazine, March 2006.

WHEREAS: Dadaism is an international tendency in art that seeks to change conventional attitudes and practices in aesthetics, society, and morality; and

WHEREAS: Dadaism may or may not have come into being in the summer of 1916 at the Cabaret Voltaire at 1 Spiegelgasse in Zurich, Switzerland, with the participation of Hugo Ball, Tristan Tzara, Emmy Hennings, Marcel and Georges Janco, Jean Arp, and Richard Huelsenbeck; and

WHEREAS: The central message of Dada is the realization that reason and anti-reason, sense and nonsense, design and chance, consciousness and unconsciousness, belong together as necessary parts of a whole; and

WHEREAS: Dada is a virgin microbe that penetrates with the insistence of air into all those spaces that reason has failed to fill with words and conventions; and

WHEREAS: zimzim urallala zimzim urallala zimzim zanzibar zimzalla zam;

NOW, THEREFORE, I, Dennis Highberger, Mayor of the City of Lawrence, Kansas, do hereby proclaim the days of February 4, March 28, April 1, July 15, August 2, August 7, August 16, August 26, September 18, September 22, October 1, October 17, and October 26, 2006, as “International Dadaism Month.”

The Clue is in the Title

This Saturday's Independent comes with a free copy of Chabrol's Le Boucher. A fine film to scare the shits out of any 12-year-old staying up late (which is how I remember seeing it . . . and responding, but we shan't go into that).

And Who Doesn't Love Crisis?

A review by David Edelstein from the March 6 issue of New York magazine of the documentary Our Brand Is Crisis, which offers an inside look at the election campaign run by the Greenberg, Carville, and Shrum for 2002 Bolivian presidential candidate Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada.

Oh yeah, and Bruce Willis as a disillusioned alcoholic.

Not in the same movie, unfortunately.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

No Embarrassment Too Great . . .

. . . . in order to eke out a post.

This Sunday saw Laytown/Bettystown Men's First Team win the Dublin Winter League Class Four. Proof is here.

The team was playing in Class 2 up until two years' ago, when, thanks to an admin oversight, we weren't resubmitted and so ended up being relegated and allocated a place two divisions down. Last year we failed to get promotion (well, I was out with a burst appendix, so it clearly wasn't going to happen), but this year with a full-strength team we coasted it: Two sets dropped by the team during the entire campaign.

The law of hubris means that having announced this fact to the world, we'll be sent straight back down again next season.

I'll keep you posted. I'm sure you'll be dying to hear.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Or You Could Go to Primavera Sound 2005

This year's Electric Picnic lineup features New Order, Antony & the Johnsons, and the Gang of Four. In scenic County Laois.

Other attractions, for those so inclined, include the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Devendra Banhart, and Rufus Wainwright. Only €100 more expensive than Primavera for the three days, and you don't have to visit boring old Barcelona!

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Paul Never Lost His Beat

Last Saturday Paul Collins played at the Sidecar club in Barcelona. Collins is best known for his second band, which he named The Beat, and then renamed Paul Collin's Beat, to avoid being mistaken with the English Beat. Their first album is a classic of the American new wave from the late 70s.
Apparently he settled in Madrid some years ago, and he has never stopped working as a composer, singer and musician. His last work, 'Flying High', shows that he barely lost any of his early talent.
Now he came to Barcelona with a band of three Spanish musicians, and he put up a great performance, combining some of the best moments of his last CD with a considerable number of songs from all his career. It was a pleasant surprise to see that his early hits still sound as fresh as day one.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Altrincham's Burning

I realize it's not exactly Babylon: I'm just trying to sustain the punk-nostalgia theme being propagated at Lisa's and Darren's.

Stef plans to have a bonfire round the back of the terraces. Given the recent inclement weather conditions and that Alty are playing Burton Albion tomorrow, ON the terraces might be a better idea.

Anyone got any old Scritti Politti albums they want to chuck on?

Thursday, March 23, 2006

One Person Makes a Crowd

There's an excellent and entertaining article in the latest edition of Harper's magazine, here divided into four installments, in which Bill Wasik explains how he invented flash mobs, those gangs of idiots congregating in selected locations, as a result of mass text messages, for a few minutes before dispersing.

I've been spending the past few weeks belatedly familiarizing myself with the Baffler and the works of Thomas Frank, and Wasik's article taps into that same bemusement with "hipsters":

"In recent decades, the concept of deindividuation has fallen into scientific neglect, and yet I believe that it possesses great theoretical usefulness today. Consider the generational cohort that has come to be called the hipsters—i.e., those hundreds of thousands of educated young urbanites with strikingly similar tastes. Have so many self-alleged aesthetes ever been more (in the formulation of Festinger et al.) “submerged in the group”? The hipsters make no pretense to divisions on principle, to forming intellectual or artistic camps; at any given moment, it is the same books, records, films that are judged au courant by all, leading to the curious spectacle of an “alternative” culture more unanimous than the mainstream it ostensibly opposes. What critical impulse does exist among their number merely causes a favorite to be more readily abandoned, as abandoned—whether, Franz Ferdinand, or Jonathan Safran Foer—it inevitably will be. Once abandoned, it is never taken up again."

And before you say anything, yes, I do realize that he's just sooooo behind the times. Everyone knows that these days it's the Arctic Monkeys, Zizek, Badiou, and . . . well, I was going to say David Eggers, but he's already passé, and I wouldn't want look like a total idiot, would I, not in front of you cutting-edge fascionistas.

Amusant, non?

University College (of Life) Dunlin

A fascinating article in the latest issue of Canadian Geographic (subscription required) by Dick Dekker focuses on the flight choreography of dunlins, a type of shorebird, in Boundary Bay, British Columbia. Dekker explains his theory that the birds choreograph their flights with the tides in order to escape the clutches of killer falcons. Observing that the birds spend a large amount of time flying over the ocean rather than landing on shore, he says he came to suspect that the over-ocean flights of the dunlins were an anti-predator strategy because the birds are safer from surprise attacks by falcons when they are over water. Interesingly, while in flight, the bird flock increases in density as all its members strive to reach the safest position, in the center. Dekker reports the finding of scientists that the majority of kills by falcons are of juveniles, suggesting that the dominant adults tend to fight their way into the safer center of the flock.

The bastards.

The same issue also features an article by C. J. Conway on the recent increase in number of derailments of rail cars carrying toxic materials in Canada, an increase that he says has coincided with major consolidation and change in railroading, with management cutting the number of workers, using less fuel, and transporting higher-revenue traffic.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Seems I Have the Same Musical Taste as McManus

From the March 2006 GQ (U.S. edition):

The Case for Neko Case.

by Michael Crowley

The flame-haired siren from the New Pornographers talks about her new album, her problem with "alt-country," and . . . Playboy?

Neko Case once took off her shirt onstage at the Grand Ole Opry, and she does belong to a group called the New Pornographers, but don't get the wrong idea. Case ditched the shirt at the Opry only because she was sweltering hot, and you probably know that the New Pornographers are an excellent Canadian indie band specializing in euphoric pop anthems. Though Case is perhaps best known for her Porno career, that should change this month with the release of Fox Confessor Brings the Flood, the fourth solo album from the copper-haired singer, which confirms her as one of pop's most enchanting voices.

Born in Virginia and raised in Tacoma, Washington, Case started out as a punk rocker until she fell under the twin influences of gospel and country that define her sound today. But don't call Case "alt-country." She prefers "country noir"—a perfect term to describe music that's darker and more mysterious than plain old cowgirl tunes. On Fox Confessor, Case seems to channel Loretta Lynn via David Lynch: At turns husky and sweet, Case's huge voice soars to cosmic heights and plunges to sultry depths with the backing of gentle percussion and watery guitars. Case's songs often tell bleak tales, about everything from her desolate former hometown to "pretty girls" who get dragged through "saccharine gutters." (For inspiration on this latest album, Case mined Ukrainian fairy tales, of all things.)

New Pornographers fans accustomed to Case's sunnier side may take some time to adjust to her melancholy solo life. And while that band (whose members she met while studying up north in Vancouver) did wonders for Case's profile, balancing a band and a stand-alone career has been tough. "It's like two full-time jobs," she sighs. "The Pornographers and I have had to figure out how to make that work. It's impossible on a days-of-the-year level and impossible on a human level. If you're gone from home a lot, you will start exhibiting signs of mental illness." Case's workload fatigue, however, hasn't dampened the enthusiasm of her growing legion of fans. Not long ago, Case was named the Sexiest Babe in Indie Rock in a readers' poll (a fan of the adult magazine, she was asked if she'd pose, and after claiming she'd "consider it," she said she was too shy). Lately, Case has been receiving the ultimate signifier of rock-star sex appeal: underwear tossed at her feet. "Men and ladies!" she notes. "At a certain point, I wondered if people were bringing extra because they knew they were supposed to throw it."

Neko on country music "I like old country music a lot, like Loretta Lynn. It's funny, because country music has this stigma of being this really sexist, redneck thing. But at that time, country had women playing guitars all over."

Neko on Canada "Canada is very exciting! As a person who works in music and art, I think they're a lot more multicultural than we are. But I take a lot of shit for being an American."

Neko on David Lynch "I like all Lynch's movies, but I have a real soft spot for Lost Highway. I read the mos thorrible reviews of it, but when Mulholland Dr. came out it got great reviews. They seem so very similar. Did people like Mulholland Dr. more because there were naked lesbian sex scenes in it? Did that make it artier?"--M.C.

Tasteful picture here.

I'll See Your Six Hegemonies and Raise You One Rhizome

I made a start on Richard F. Day's Gramsci Is Dead: Anarchist Currents in the Newest Social Movements with the best of intentions, having seen the book recommended and having finished John Holloway's execrable quasi-Marxist Change the World Without Taking Power: The Meaning of Revolution Today. To be fair to Day, he does warn readers that his book targets "activist academics" and "theoretically inclined activists," so I should have had my loins girded for the onslaught of terminology.

I'm not even going to attempt to outline his argument because I put the book down after two and a half chapters. There are two very good reviews here and here, but I'm content to confess that overtheorizing leaves me cold, and that's what a lot of these books theorizing "new new social movements" seem to do. Years of studying philosophy taught me, if nothing else, to beware of abstractions and metaphors. Reading Hegel and Spinoza and Parmenides, it strikes me that it's possible to construct an entirely coherent theoretical universe that runs parallel to the real thing without the two ever coming into contact (yes, I know, that's what parallel means). And when I read of rhizomes, multitudes, discourses, and a plethora of other abstractions, I know it's only a matter of time before characteristics belonging only to the abstract term are assumed to belong to the concrete.

So, that's my excuse for not finishing an (I'm sure) otherwise worthy book. What value it actually has, and more important, to whom, it's difficult to say. Academics who want to write about progressive movements and acquire cred by association, I imagine.

For me, Henri Alleg's 120-page book The Question is worth a thousand Gramsci Is Dead's. An account of his torture by French Paratroops in Algeria in 1957, the language is simple, direct, evocative. It is a moving and powerful story that had me close to tears on the train, wanker that I am. In the 1958 edition I bought online, Alleg's account (he was a Communist and editor of the newspaper Alger Republicain) is accompanied by a preface by Jean-Paul Sartre which addresses the ongoing situation in Algeria and the use of torture by the French state. It is a brilliantly written piece that reminds us of a salient fact: "Torture costs human lives but does not save them." Certainly, this is true in the long run, whatever information a torturer gleans in the short term.

I see that a new edition of this book is due out soon. Secure a copy if you can.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Refusing to be Bystanders

A review by Anthony Lane in the New Yorker of Sophie Scholl—The Final Days, which was nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the Oscars. The movie follows up an earlier film, The White Rose, made 20 years ago and touches on the same topics mentioned in the Conroy book here.

No War for Oil Denomination

A different angle on the "war for oil" conspiracy/hypothesis from Cóilín Nunan in the Feasta Review. Feasta is the Foundation for the Economics of Sustainability.

Wise Words Indeed

A selection of proverbs from America: A Prophecy: A Sparrow Reader, published by Softskull Press (check out some of their other stuff too).

At night, milk is black.

The cheapest anchor floats.

Mice give milk, too.

Let sleeping bags lie.

Spaghetti lives twice.

A parasite never changes its mind.

Cancer does its own research.

Toilets never meet.

Two heads are bigger than one.

Don't applaud a house of cards.

Spotted (predictably) at Utne Reader.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Fun-Packed Holiday Reading

That was the Dandy Summer Special 1973. Spring 2006 offered less innocent pleasures:

The Ginger Man, by J. P. Donleavy. Since any lunchtime drinking I get to do takes place in the pub of the same name, I thought I should finally get round to reading this. What can I say? It's Withnail and I with wife-beaters.

Unspeakable Acts, Ordinary People: The Dynamics of Torture, by John Conroy.

Hardly what you want to be reading on the beach, but highly recommended nonetheless.

Conroy's book focuses on three cases of torture used either in or by democracies in the past 35 years: During internment in Belfast in 1971 by the British state, by the Israeli army in the village of Beita in 1988, and by Chicago police officers during an investigation into a murder in 1982 (the initial case later revealing widespread use of torture by particular officers).

The more interesting chapters from this reader's perspective, however, were those that bracketed these case histories. The first of these outlined the history, use, evolution, and decline in the use of traditional torture techniques (i.e. away from inflicting short-term violent pain and towards long-term, slow, self-inflicted pain, incurred by stress positions, sleep deprivation, starvation, etc. all of which are less recognizable as torture because they tend to constitute an extension of ordinary bodily deprivation, thereby being less “cruel and unusual.”)

Conroy also identifies four central features that manifest themselves in societies that adopt a policy of torture:

1: The class of people whom society accepts as torturable has a tendency to expand.

“In the Roman empire, the rules changed so that slaves were eligible to be tortured not just as defendants but also as witnesses to crimes committed by others. Then freemen lost their exemption in cases involving treason. By the fourth century, freemen were regularly being subjected to the same excruciating machines, devices and weapons previously reserved for slaves, And the crimes they were tortured for, as either witnesses or as the accused, had become less and less serious.”

2: It is easy to condemn the torment when it is done to someone who is not your enemy, but it seems perfectly justifiable when you perceive a threat to your own well-being.

3: In places where torture is common, the judiciary’s sympathies are usually with the perpetrators, not with the victims.

4: Torture arouses little protest as long as the definition of the torturable class is confined to the lower orders; the closer it gets to one’s own door, the more objectionable it becomes.

The book's penultimate chapter focuses not on those actively engaged in torture but on those who allow torture to happen by virtue of their non-intervention, referred to by Conroy as by-standers. Here he makes use of several pieces of research in social psychology, for instance the bystander experiments on intervention reported in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, which found that individuals are less likely to engage in socially responsible action if they think other bystanders are present. This might strike one as counterintuitive, but research tended to lend credence to the idea of a "diffusion of responsibility": when subjects believed they were the only individuals present at the distress of another person, they were more inclined to help. By contrast, when there were more people around (or so the subjects thought), they were less inclined to respond. Subjects were inclined to look to everyone else in the group to define the situation, resulting in complete immobilization. It took particularly bold individuals to be courageous enough to break the deadlock.

Efforts to identify common characteristics of such bold interveners are made in Perry London’s “The Rescuers: Motivational Hypotheses about Christians who Saves Jews from the Nazis.” London identifies three personality traits linked to altruistic behaviour: 1: a spirit of adventurousness 2: an intense identification with a parent who set a high standard of moral conduct, and 3: a sense of being socially marginal. Whereas Dr. Ervin Staub’s “Helping a Distressed Person: Social, Personality and Stimulus Determinants” discovered a strong correlation in the student subjects of his experiments between cleanliness and an unwillingness to help others in distress. Staub hypothesizes that students who value cleanliness are more likely to be conventional in outlook and inclined therefore to conformism. Presumably this also means higher levels of trust and faith in the authorities and a belief in the ordered nature of the world. Those who suffer pain in some way deserve it. Staub also found that those students who ranked ambition highly as a value were less likely to intervene to help fellow students in distress, but also that when a demand was made directly of a subject, they were more likely to intervene positively, in effect, the obverse conditions that give rise to diffused responsibility, in which no one is specifically called upon to render aid.

It's also worth noting Conroy's observation that when torture is made public in democracies, there are five identifiable stages in the response of the regime to such publicity:

1: Total denial.
2: Trivializing of the abuse (Nothing more than hazing, for example).
3: Disparaging of the victims
4: Attempts to justify the treatment on the grounds that it was effective or appropriate.
5: Charging of those who take up the cause of the tortured as aiding enemies of the state.

A timely book and one that ought to be on reading lists in police and military training schools everywhere. The rest of us should have our own copies, too.

Taxi but no Tapas

In the end, despite my best intentions, I only got to see one film at the Viva! festival and that was El Taxista Ful, a drily witty film about an unemployed middle-aged taxi thief in Barcelona who, after being arrested, is adopted by the local anarchist and squatters organisations.

Last night we arrived half an hour before the start of Tapas only to find The Cornerhouse packed and all the shows sold out. Not one for booking in advance for cinema tickets, I decided to return to the pub in Alty and so missed the chance to meet Jose Corbacho and Juan Cruz, the Goya award-winning directors and friends of Pep and Jordi, who Pep informed me would be travelling to Manchester for the screening. Shame. I'll just have get the DVD when it is released.

Friday, March 17, 2006

St.Patrick's Day Massacre

In memory of the persecution of our brothers the snakes I'll be off to get legless tonight here.


Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Geno - Dexy's Midnight Runners

(No.1 in a series of I can't be arsed doing the other 7)

On moving to Manchester at the age of14 I found myself going from a fairly inconspicuous school existence to briefly being the class novelty. The attention and ribbing I attracted made me focus even more on my own regional identity , fortunately supported by a strong Birmingham music scene and a successful Villa side (unlike the wasters who rolled over against Man. City last night).
My association with Dexy's , at first out of convenience , grew into a love of their swaggering , heads-up , chest-out , arrogant punk-soul music , the pinnacle of which was achieved when Geno reached no.1 in the charts.
The only real downside to this was that due to my accent and a penchant for wearing tightly rolled woolly hats to school I was lumbered with the nickname "Benny".

Damn those kids!

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Latest Additions

To Primavera include Lou Reed , Isobel Campbell and The Brian Jonestown Massacre

Not In My Real Name!

I wonder if McManus is lying low because of this.

Monday, March 13, 2006

When We Were Very Young

Inspired by Kara and Stef's recent photos and before John returns and takes it down

Not To Be Missed!

Spending most of Saturday frustrated by the efforts of the combined Banjo Orchestras of Altrincham and Aston and their attempts to make contact with the rear end of any one of 1,000 head of cattle in a confined space it was a relief to see a performance by Gogol Bordello that hit the spot every time.

I thought their gig last year at Night & Day was top notch but must say they exceeded themselves in the much larger Academy 2 on Saturday night. Two hours of rocking good fun (a 3 minute breather half-way through made it seem like two sets rather than a set plus encore) kept a stupid grin on my face and a bounce in my pogo through a no-weak-point set that included twin washboard attack (Eugene Hutz could pass for Derek Guyler if you squint, are pissed, and near the back), catapults, metal-bins on microphones, police sirens, and a woman sat on a bass drum beating the bejudas out of it whilst being passed over the heads of the audience.

The tour is over now in the UK but keep an eye out for them over the Summer they should be a must for every festival going. As live gigs go it's up there with the best*.

*The Pogues - Bull & Gate
The Mekons 25th Annivesary-Leeds Irish
Th' Legendary Shack Shakers-Roadhouse
Mano Negra-Manchester Academy

You Are The Ref....

...and you haven't got a fucking clue!

Following Saturday's expulsion at The Den, the question needs to be asked:

If the ball goes out for a throw and no-one attempts to restart the game then who does the Ref book for timewasting?

Next person to touch the ball?

Nearest player to the touchline?


Friday, March 10, 2006

I'd Like the Blow on the Head, Please, Bob.

More amazing stuff from Archaeology magazine:

Greek archaeologists have found evidence of a master surgeon operating centuries before Hippocrates. The remains of a woman who had been successfully treated for a serious head injury were excavated at Abdena, on the north coast of the Aegean, by Eudokia Skarlatidou of the Greek Archaeological Service. These remains provide incontrovertible proof that two centuries before Hippocrates was born, surgical practices outlined in Hippocrates' treatise On Head Wounds were already in use. Buried before 600 B.C., the woman had most likely been struck by a missile hurled by Thracians attacking her settlement, but evidence of surgery on her skull, where the surgeon scraped the bone with a rasp, show that she survived for a further two decades after the attack.


One for the History Books

Ageing farts that we are, we missed the last ever gig by art-punk experimentalists Puget Sound.

I wouldn't mind, but they've been going for years and this is the first I've heard of them.

Slippers and pipe await.

Intelligence from the Alternative CIA

If you don't already read the intelligence briefings from Stratfor, let me recommend them. You can subscribe to their weekly reports for free: One on geopolitical intelligence (Wednesdays), one on terrorism (Thursdays), and one on public policy (Fridays). It's safe to say they offer a more nuanced and alternative outlook to what you normally encounter on the Internet, always a bonus when you're trying to think outside the box or beyond the clichés of ideology.

George Friedman also has a book out, America's Secret War: Inside the Hidden Worldwide Struggle, which I haven't read yet, although it gets the standard rave reviews at Amazon.

If you want to know what McManus should be thinking about when he's actually fantasizing about Scotch dribbling down pert breasts, this is a good place to start.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Beyond Belief

Counago & Spaves is two years old today. Don't know how we've managed to sustain this low level of quality for quite so long.

It can only be down to you, our readers. If you weren't there, god only knows what we'd be doing with our spare time. Thank you both.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Film Festival

Viva Film Festival on in Manchester from Wedensday.

Any recommendations Jose? Jordi?

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Headline of the Week

Blind, Homeless Trapeze Artist Saves Woman from Drowning.

from Maclean's, Jan. 30.

Fuck #3

Because I couldn't bring myself to make a joke about life in a Scotch sitting room.

R.I.P. Ivor Cutler.

Just in Time for International Women's Day

"Gov. Michael Rounds of South Dakota signed into law the nation's most sweeping state abortion ban on Monday, an intentional provocation meant to set up a direct legal challenge to Roe v. Wade, the 1973 United States Supreme Court decision that made abortion legal."

The rest is here (sign up required).

Perhaps It Could Share a Cell with David Irving*

Cat in Austria has contracted avian flu.

*On second thoughts, that would constitute cruelty to animals.

Monday, March 06, 2006

From Snow to Sand

To warm things up a bit, and for what it's worth, here's my desert island discs selection as requested/required by Lisa:

1: Death of the European, by the Three Johns, 12" vinyl version.

Somewhere deep in the feculent bowels of Special Branch's archives, there’s a photo of me with a tache, beard and homburg, sporting a shirt that reads, on the front, “U.S. Imperialist Running Dogs Out of Europe Now!” and on the reverse, “And Take Thatcher with You.” Never known for my sartorial elegance, I was wearing it at a rally protesting the U.S. bombing of Libya in 1986, the day after attending a Three Johns concert at The International club in Manchester, during which they had encouraged the audience to attend the rally.

Their exhortation that Friday night was followed by a performance of this song, a threnody for Europe, a protest against American cultural imperialism, a lament for what was lost as a consequence of cold war realpolitik, and, in its 12-inch vinyl version at full blast, the most amazing six minutes of visceral, pounding, throbbing, urgent rock I’ve ever heard.

This is the nearest thing to sex I’ve heard on vinyl (sex the way I do it anyway, which is probably a disastrous admission), from the initial slow thumping and John Hyatt’s hortatory “Big Mouth/Open Wide/Open Up Those Pearly Gates of Freedom” to the final, orgasmic crescendo and the subsequent, post-climactic melancholia perfectly encapsulated in John Wayne’s faltering statement of self-doubt, “Who am I working for this time?” repeated over and over and increasingly fractured, until a final, extended drawl brings the song to a close on a note of sadness and exhaustion. It’s the tune I want to have played as they lower me into the ground/shoot me into space/suck me up the hoover/feed me to the dog.

2: Memphis, Egypt, by the Mekons, from the album Rock and Roll.

"Destroy your safe and happy lives, before it is too late. The battles we fought were long and hard, just not to be consumed by rock and roll."

The early to mid-80s saw me working in a diecasting factory in Ancoats, making parts for gas cookers, washing machines, street lamps. A cruddy job but well-paid, and for someone still living at home, as I was, it meant wads of disposable cash. That, in turn, meant I was out clubbing every night, getting pissed out of my tree, and shagging anything that moved (if she/it/the band would let me). I was a one-man Me generation, justifying my hedonism and lack of consideration for others by regular appeal to The Book of Pleasures and The Revolution of Everyday Life. The second track on the Rock and Roll album, "Club Mekon," probably better encapsulates my attitudes and behaviour in those days: a decadent, sordid, cheery fin de siecle nihilism. This song, however, a paean to Herbert Marcuse and a call to arms for the anti-postmodern generation, just rocks. The sentiments mean a lot to me, but for pure exhilaration, and as opening tracks to albums go, I haven't heard it beaten yet.

3: Worlds in Collision, by Pere Ubu, from the album Worlds in Collision.

Okay, I am Greil Marcus. Sorry.

4: Holiday in Cambodia, by the Dead Kennedys, 12" vinyl.

My favourite anti-totalitarian left song. Used to play it first thing every morning at full volume just to put a spring in my step. Full of rage at the smugness of the left's condescension in supporting Third World national liberation movements in the belief that my enemy's enemy is my friend. Delightful.

5: Wild Mountain Berries, by Kelly Hogan, from the album Beneath the Country Underdog.

Also delightful, but in a very different way. I've been in love with Kelly Hogan's voice since I first heard it (and saw her) on the Bloodshot Records tour in Manchester. I could pick any track off this album, but this song presents her at her most free-spirited and wildest. Always makes me smile.

6: My Sister's Tiny Hands, by the Handsome Family, from the album Through the Trees.

"We came in this world together. Legs wrapped round each other. My cheek against my sister's, we were born like tangled vine. We lived along the river where the black clouds never lingered. The sunlight spread like honey in my sister's tiny hands. But, while picking sour apples in the wild waving grasses, sister stumbled in a briar and was bitten by a snake. Every creature casts a shadow under the sun's golden finger, but when the sun sinks past the waving grass, some shadows are dragged along. Alone, I took to drinking bottles of cheap whiskey and staggering through the back woods killing snakes with a sharpened stick. But, still I heard her laughing in those wild, waving grasses. Still her tiny hands went splashing at the river's sparkling shore. So, I took my rusty gas can and an old iron shovel. I set the woods to burning and choked the river up with stones."

This song always makes me laugh. The spitefulness and futility of the narrator's actions against inanimate nature, the massacre of snakes, the depth of his closeness to his sister. The standard heart-rending weirdness of the Handsomes; beautifully crafted, surreal, psychotic.

7: Dirty Old Town, by the Pogues, from the album Rum, Sodomy, and the Lash.

Salford, Ewan MacColl, Shane MacGowan. I know that factory, those gasworks, that girl. I kissed her in the pub doorway, though.

8: Paraffin Brain, by Eton Crop, 12" vinyl with A Bundle Of Bucks (For A Dead Dog Is A Bargain)

No, I'm not being wilfully obscure. Besides, this was originally a Nightingales song, so I claim the privilege of Brummie connections (there is such a thing, trust me).

If I ever have one regret in life, it will be not having seen Eton Crop live. They were meant to support the Three Johns in Manchester one night in 86 or 87, but their ferry from Holland was cancelled, and a local band, The Mud-Hutters, stood in for them. So, this is a sort of Nostalgie de Bou.


Any fellow Counagoans want to take up this challenge, too? It'll take up some space and show everyone how much groovier you are than I.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Timperley (En Printemps)

Due to adverse weather conditions Saturday afternoon was spent drinking tea, reading Uncut , listening to Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison and monitoring Ceefax p337.

And it couldn't have been better.

Friday, March 03, 2006

How does he know?

Off to The Lowry on Tuesday to see I,Keano. I was intrigued by the review in the Manchester Evening News where the critic (a footy reporter) proudly boasted that he got all the jokes.

What did he do? Write the bleeding thing?

Why Should Bart Simpson Get All the Good Lines?

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Out by August. Definitely.

From the Construction Business Weekly:

"Amid the furore surrounding the FA's announcement that it would be moving the FA Cup Final to Cardiff, nobody seemed to notice one delicious irony.

As a result of the FA's decision, not only will the first final at Wembley not be the Cup Final, it will not even be a football match, but the Rugby League Challenge Cup Final on the 26th August.

As Bradford Bulls prop Stuart Fielden said: "You'd think they were rebuilding Iraq, not Wembley."

Is This a Negative Review? I'm Not Sure

From the current issue of Art News, a review by Elisabeth Kley of an exhibition of Keith Tyson's work at the PaceWildenstein gallery in New York.

"If postmodernism signifies the end of a signature style and the death of individuality, Turner Prize-winner Keith Tyson is postmodern with a vengeance. His show was overcrowded with paintings and sculptures that brought to mind NeoExpressionism, Neo-Geo, and neo-everything else, all held together by a tedious title: "Geno Pheno."

In his sculptures, Tyson borrows indiscriminately from more talented postmodernists Matthew Barney, Damien Hirst, Jeff Koons, Sarah Lucas, and Ron Mueck without revealing a shred of personal sensibility. His excruciatingly banal paintings, reminiscent of everyone from Jean-Michel Basquiat to Gerhard Richter to Robert Ryman, mostly consist of two panels playing off each other. They simply degrade the decent works from which they are derived.

Admittedly, a few of the assemblages here bordered on the amusing or attractive, notably 7776 + 1 (Cutting the Fungal Cord), 2005, a shiny black six-sided structure with glass walls, evocative of a Chinese pavilion. Leading up to it are black steps sprinkled with dead flies. Poetic mottoes are carved on each tread; for example, "tearful suspension of form," and "beyond the reactionary ant's nest." Inside is a white sculpture in neo-Pre-Raphaelite style of an enormous broken mushroom surrounded by calla lilies, four small winged horses pulling a longhaired man by a rope attached to his wrist, and two vaguely phallic poles, all emerging from a pool of synthetic milk.

The piece de resistance was The Inertia of Desire (Worthless Fat Fuck with Nullifiers), 2005: a sculpture of an enormous, disembodied beer belly covered with a sparse crop of hair and sporting two Band-Aids, lying on a cheap Oriental rug and surrounded by empty beer cans and a partially eaten Mars Bar. A sterling, achievement in the field of bad art, this monumental collection of overproduced rubbish deserves a resounding salute."

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Fuck! #2

Peter Osgood dies of heart attack at age 59.

That diving header is one of the first great goals I remember. I practiced it in our back garden on many occasions, sometimes without a ball (also known as "The Franny Lee.")


Only the good die young.

spotted at Lisa's.