Thursday, August 31, 2006

Particularly Twins Who Hate Each Other

An interesting article from today's New York Times on the role, or lack thereof, of genes in ageing.

"Life spans, says James W. Vaupel, who directs the Laboratory of Survival and Longevity at the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research in Rostock, Germany, are nothing like a trait like height, which is strongly inherited.

“How tall your parents are compared to the average height explains 80 to 90 percent of how tall you are compared to the average person,” Dr. Vaupel said. But “only 3 percent of how long you live compared to the average person can be explained by how long your parents lived.”

“You really learn very little about your own life span from your parents’ life spans,” Dr. Vaupel said. “That’s what the evidence shows. Even twins, identical twins, die at different times.” On average, he said, more than 10 years apart."

Help Find Banshee!!

Banshee is missing. Keep your eyes peeled.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Prince Phillip went on an impromptu walkabout this morning when he smacked his thumb with a hammer

An enjoyable image I just thought I'd share with my readers by way of introducing this review by Jah Wobble of the Pocket Essentials guide to Psychogeography, by Merlin Coverley.

I spotted the review, incidentally, at Ballardian, now blogrolled left, the place for all things, well, Ballardian.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Never and Always, But Particularly September 15th

New dates announced for The Three Johns: Friday, September 15th at the Green Room, Manchester, with Band(ism) and The Firebrats, and Monday, September 18th at the Windmill, Brixton, with Striplight.

When the Earth Aches
When the People Need
Call it Destiny
Call it Fate
Call it Stupid
Call it Fat
Reverberating down through Time
The Return of

There is a legend that, in the 80s, when the nation was low and dishonorable, there came three men striding like giants across post-punk’s political dreamscape. Wading through mud, beating each other with guitars, THE THREE JOHNS brought a dirty shaft of gold into the lives of anyone they encountered. Now, in the time of awaiting, they have returned to lift your gaze back towards the Sun.

Hideout Block Party

Featuring The Ex, Sally Timms, Calexico, Killdozer, CocoRosie and many many more, September 8 to 10. More details here.

Agora Update

The latest update from the Cornelius Castoriadis/Agora International Web site carried a number of interesting pieces for those who are interested by those kinds of things.

We have received word of the death of Murray Bookchin on July 30, 2006. Bookchin (b. January 14, 1921), a former Trotskyist like Castoriadis, shared Castoriadis's advocacy of direct democracy and even preceded the latter in his concern with environmental issues. Castoriadis discussed Bookchin's municipally-based, ecologically-informed, anarchist views briefly in Crossroads in the Labyrinth. They both joined the Editorial Advisory Board of Society & Nature in the 1990s. When Bookchin and his partner Janet Biehl resigned from this journal in 1997--considering it, among other things, too "Castoriadian"--Agora International's David Ames Curtis wrote a reply, "On the Bookchin/Biehl Resignations and the Creation of the New Liberatory Project", at Castoriadis's request and with his approval, the text appearing only a year and a half later in censored form in the successor journal, Democracy & Nature. It was on account of D&N's censorship effort that Castoriadis had determined to leave its Editorial Advisory Board as soon as the censored version appeared, a decision he was not able to carry out, however, due to his own intervening illness and death. Bookchin later wrote Curtis a conciliatory letter acknowledging that Castoriadis's views deserved further examination, but ill health and other priorities kept Bookchin from realizing his aim of writing such a text.

We have received word of the death of the historian and social activist Pierre Vidal-Naquet on July 29, 2006. Vidal-Naquet (b. July 23, 1930), a sympathizer of Socialisme ou Barbarie since the mid-1950s, formed a discussion group in the early 1960s with Castoriadis, Claude Lefort, Jean-Pierre Vernant and others called the "Cercle Saint-Just" (later renamed the "Centre de Recherches et d'Études Sociales et Politiques," or CRESP). It was Castoriadis who came to the defense of Vidal-Naquet in a 1979 polemic with Bernard-Henri Lévy--with Castoriadis's contribution now available as "The Vacuum Industry" in The Rising Tide of Insignificancy (The Big Sleep) And it was Vidal-Naquet who soon thereafter introduced Castoriadis for his election to the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales. Castoriadis joined Clisthène l'Athénien authors Vidal-Naquet and Pierre Lévêque at a March 27, 1992 Georges Pompidou Center meeting instigated by Agora International, organized by Stephane Barbery, David Ames Curtis, Clara Gibson Maxwell, and Pascal Vernay, and moderated by Christian Descamps of the Espace Séminaire Philosophie on the occasion of the two-thousand-five-hundredth anniversary of Cleisthenes' reforms in ancient Athens. Vidal-Naquet's oration at Castoriadis's funeral on January 3, 1998 later appeared in translation as his "Homage to Cornelius Castoriadis" in the review Common Knowledge.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Wasn't He in The Undertones?

Darren is added to the list of worthies/reprobates subjected to Norm's curiosity.

Quote of the Week

Glenn Roeder on Inter Milan

"They don't keep players who aren't any good."

So just remind me where you just got Martins from, Glenn.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

But What Does It Say in Braille?

DUBLIN, Ireland (AP) - Irish atheists are celebrating as a "natural miracle" the discovery of a pomegranate which, when cut open, revealed the phrase "There Is No God" in multicoloured seeds. The pomegranate was bought by local resident Aoife O'Sullivan from a greengrocers in Rathmines, South Dublin.

Andrew Cox of the Irish Association of Atheists commented that, "It only tells us what we've known for a long time, but while we discount divine intervention in the physical universe as an explanation for material phenomena, it's comforting to know that Nature is even-handed in the arbitrary messages She conveys."

Leaders of the country's Muslim community are less impressed. A spokesman said, "The pomegranate is a fruit through which Allah has traditionally spoken to Muslims. I have no doubt that this discovery is part of a series, the other members of which will complete the phrase with the words '...but Allah, and Mohammed is his prophet.'"

Followers have been instructed to buy up all available stocks of pomegranates in Ireland in order to locate the missing items. They can expect stiff competition, however, from the Irish Nietzsche Society, who anticipate finding the entire text of Thus Spake Zarathustra in pomegranate form.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

MoMA and Dada

What about THAT for a title? Genius, eh?

Here's a look at some of the highlights of the exhibition “Dada: Zurich, Berlin, Hannover, Cologne, New York, Paris,” at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, from June 18 to September 11.

Unborn Child Watched Over By Fred Basset

Tell me I'm wrong. The Daily Mail article suggests it's Jesus, but since when did the King of Kings have floppy ears?

Live Fast, Die Middle-Aged

Fifty-five-year-old Larry Grodsky, the best-known motorcycle safety expert in the United States, was killed instantly on April 8 when his motorcycle collided with a deer on a deserted West Texas highway. Grodsky, who wrote for Rider magazine and who ran several riding schools, was traveling back from the International Motorcycle Safety Conference.

His most recent article in Rider magazine, published posthumously, described how it should feel to brake properly under emergency situations.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Muslim Superheroes Save the World

The 99 is a new comic series featuring superheroes who possess godly attributes. Invented by Kuwaiti businessman Naif al-Mutawa, each superhero embodies a Muslim virtue, such as Jabbar the enforcer, Mumita the destroyer, and Bari the healer. Although inspired by Muslim values, The 99 is not a religious comic, and al-Mutawa says he has no desire to attract extremists of either conservative or liberal persuasions—preferring to reflect Islam's message of tolerance and diversity. Al-Mutawa's firm, Teshkeel Comics, is expected to publish four 99 series each month.

No Andy Gray, No Chris Kamara, and It Isn't Owned by Murdoch

That's Al Jazeera's Sports Plus channel, which some British pubs have taken to using for its coverage of Premiership footie.

"The Premier League says the only legal way to watch its soccer matches in a local commercial setting is through the British Sky Broadcasting Group, which is far more expensive than the foreign options.

“It’s illegal and it’s copyright theft,” said Dan Johnson, a league spokesman. “We sell to Sky, and they have the sole rights to show league matches."

Ah yes, I see. We have no choice.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Blood, Sweat and Beers: A Bloodshot Primer

The dulcet tones of Sally Timms explaining the attraction of Cowfolk Punk . . . or is Cowpoke Funk?

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

By Their Company Shall Ye Know Them

Bush reads Camus, too. Can it be any coincidence that the protagonist of the book shoots an Arab just for the sake of it?

Camus at Combat

I had the chance to identify my intellectual hero in the Normblog profile but didn't take it. Now I can: Albert Camus.

Here's a review by Joseph Frank (sign-up required), which appeared in the July 24 New Republic, of Camus at "Combat": Writing 1944–1947, edited by Jacqueline Levi-Valensi. The book features all of Camus' journalistic writings for the underground magazine. Both book and review are well worth a read.

Admit it. You all thought I was going to say Castoriadis, didn't you?

Monday, August 14, 2006

Newport Here We Come!!

The Three Johns will be headlining at the Newport Crow Point Festival on Saturday, September 16. Be there or Do the Square Thing.

Commuting as Indulgence

Norm has a brief but insightful and sceptical post here, in response to an article in the Times concerning research lauding the benefits of commuting. As someone who has lived a 10-minute walk from work and who now commutes 35 miles (8 minutes by car to train station, 55-minute train journey) to the same office, I reckon I’m familiar with the benefits and disadvantages of each option.

You might reasonably assume that a 10-minute walk through Georgian Dublin of a morning would be not just convenient but also uplifting, particularly given that part of that stroll included the leafy bank of the Grand Canal. And you’d be right. Indeed, I was even able to walk home at lunchtime, make myself a sandwich, and turn the TV on to watch the news, offering me a complete separation from work half-way through the working day. It also meant that, because the office has flex-time, I could choose to go into the office at 10 having had a long lie in, leave at 6, and still be home at a civilized hour for my evening meal before strolling down to Haddington Road or Toner’s for a couple of pints or further into town if there was a gig on worth catching. I could even have deigned to read a book, such was the scope of my options.

Why would I then choose to move out of city centre Dublin to Mornington, 35 miles north, a suburb of another city entirely, in fact (Drogheda)? Well, there’s the rub. For one thing, the size of a mortgage required to live in the city centre was preposterous, and indeed still is, whereas Mornington was, back then, at least, laughably undervalued, since the south of Dublin was still regarded as the most desirable area for commuters (especially Dalkey, Killiney, Bray). For another, the quality of life in the city centre rapidly deteriorated in the late 90s. Not only would there frequently be shouting or fighting in the street at 2 in the morning, but there were also people coming inside the front gate to have a piss, to throw up, to fuck prostitutes, or to eat their kebabs from Abrakebabra on Baggot Street. One of my good friends was hospitalised by a gang of thugs in Portobello, the streets were increasingly covered in dog shit and takeaway wrappers, and the local shops and pubs got more and more crowded as Dublin became the venue of choice for stag parties, hen nights, international business conferences, MTV Awards, the Tour de France, you name it.

By contrast, when we moved up north, we found Mornington to be quiet, secluded, friendly, and clean. We found a house just two minutes’ walk from the beach, the same distance from the mouth of the River Boyne, and close to the National Ecology Centre and specially designated wildlife preserves. Our commuting options are limited to the M1 and the train, but the train starts at Drogheda, one station down the line, so it is still almost empty when it arrives in Laytown, offering us a choice of seats (the Belfast Enterprise, which also stops at Drogheda, siphons off those commuters who want a quick trip in the morning). Rarely is the train packed to the point where those standing cannot comfortably move around, and although the train makes 6 stops before reaching Connolly Station, the trip along the coast is simply spectacular and relaxing. If you have the time in your working life to appreciate it, it is a genuine pleasure.

This trip is also the reason why I read much more than I used to. Living in town presented me with so many options that it was much too easy to plump for the least taxing, namely, allowing myself to be entertained by a band or a comedian or by several pints of Guinness, all of which involved the spending of cash I didn’t really have thanks to that fucking mortgage! Yes, I should have been reading more books back then and taking advantage of the spare time offered by the short commute, but that wasn’t how things worked. It’s only now, when I don’t have much choice (I have an mp3 player but regard listening to music as a waste of time – seriously!) that I find myself tearing through books at a rate of two a week, thanks to a lengthy and comfortable commute. Sure, I get home much later, (7.30 p.m. most days), but that only motivates me NOT to waste what time I have watching the TV. Instead, I’ll make the most of that time either writing, playing tennis and coaching the local youngsters, reading some more, or sitting in the back garden with a bottle of wine contemplating philosophy or the smell of the ozone from the Irish Sea. There’s a lot to be said for that long commute, trust me.

Apologies for such an eminently self-satisfied and bourgeois post on an ostensibly anarchist blog. But fuck it, even anarchists commute.

Legendary Local in Terrace Taunt

The few Stevenage fans who witnessed their team trounced by Alty 2-1 on Saturday were goaded with the chant "We take more to The Faulkners". For those not in the know, it ain't the biggest pub in town.

Friday, August 11, 2006

But You Heard It Here First

From the August issue of Chicago magazine, a special issue featuring the "Best of Chicago":

Best Ensemble


Plaudits have been heaped upon Neko Case, the Humboldt Park alt chanteuse who early this year tipped into rock stardom with her fourth studio album, Fox Confessor Brings the Flood. But on her current tour, now looping across the United States and Europe, attention must be paid to the dream team behind her: Case's longtime collaborator Jon Rauhouse on pedal steel guitar; Devil in the Woodpile regular Tom V. Ray on upright bass; and New Pornographer vet Paul Rigby on banjo. The final jewel in the crown? The acclaimed jazz songbird Kelly Hogan lends her silky voice on backup vocals.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Fun for All the Family at . . . ArmyWorld!!

From the Washington Post:

"Army officials say they are considering allowing a private developer to build a 125-acre entertainment, hotel and conference center complex next to a national Army museum at Fort Belvoir that could draw more than 1 million people a year to traffic-choked southern Fairfax County.

The possibility of adding what county officials call a military theme park arises as about 22,000 employees prepare to be transferred to Fort Belvoir in the next five years because of the federal base realignment and closure recommendations, designed to save $49 billion nationwide.

The Army is considering the entertainment venue to help offset the cost of the $300 million museum, which a spokesman said is scheduled to open in 2013. No federal funds are being sought for the museum, but Fairfax has donated $240,000.

A Florida developer has submitted an unsolicited proposal for a military theme park that would include the "Chateau Belvoir" hotel and an entertainment district with bars like the "1st Division Lounge" and several "4D" rides."

The rest is here.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Starbucks Union Message

"The Starbucks "investigation" of IWW member Daniel Gross concluded today with his termination after more than three years of organizing at the company. Daniel's expression of solidarity at a union picket line with co-worker and fellow union member, Evan Winterscheidt, was deemed threatening by Starbucks despite multiple eyewitnesses who confirm that Daniel merely asserted to District Manager Allison Marx that Evan should not be fired. With the termination of IWW members Daniel Gross, Evan Winterscheidt, Joe Agins Jr., and Charles Fostrom in less than a year, Starbucks has demonstrated conclusively its intense hostility to the right of workers to join a union.

To provide additional cover for the unlawful termination, Starbucks issued Daniel a blatantly discriminatory performance review today with negative ratings for things like, "not communicating partner morale issues to the Store Manager." The manager confirmed that morale issues included complaints about wages and working conditions. Last we checked, an employer may not mandate an employee to engage in surveillance of co-worker's protected activities.

Far from breaking our campaign, Starbucks has done the opposite. The current and former Starbucks workers who proudly carry the red Industrial Workers of the World membership card vow to redouble our efforts to achieve an independent voice on the job. The right to free association at work is fundamental and not subject to compromise. But to vindicate our right to union membership, we need support from you, the working class; the class that built this society with our sweat and indeed with our blood.

The multinational retailers like Wal-Mart, Starbucks, and Borders seek totalitarian control of the workplace. The way forward to reign in these massive corporations is a social movement of workers and community members. The Wobblies at Starbucks have proven that by taking direct action against the company over issues of concern to workers and by avoiding the skewed certification process of NLRB elections, baristas can improve their lives on and off the job. This strategy only works however, if the company incurs significant economic, political, and social costs when it violates the right to organize by terminating workers for union activity.

Take action with us sisters and brothers. Together we will win:

1) Do not spend your hard earned money at Starbucks until the company respects the right of workers to organize and reinstates Daniel Gross and the rest of the IWW baristas. Let the company know you are taking a stand by participating in the email action:

2) Obtain a resolution or pledge from your community group, labor union, or house of worship agreeing to stay way from Starbucks products until justice is done. Please send copies to

3) Hold a rally or leafleting action at Starbucks in support of the right to organize and in defense of the fired union baristas if you feel that's appropriate in your local community. Please check in with the baristas at the store beforehand to involve them in the action.

4) If you are a student, join the Justice from Bean to Cup! campaign launching this Fall to ensure Starbucks doesn't operate on campuses without reinstating the IWW baristas, respecting the right to organize, and making a meaningful commitment to Fair Trade. Get involved by e-mailing

5) Make a financial contribution to the IWW Starbucks Workers Union to ensure a continued independent voice for employees at the world's largest coffee chain. Send checks made out to "IWW Starbucks Workers Union" or well-concealed cash to:

IWW Starbucks Workers Union
347 Maujer St. Apt. #C
Brooklyn, NY 11206

Monday, August 07, 2006

Every Wart and Wrinkle

Some scary close-ups of the Mekons at both of last week's gigs can be found here.

Friday, August 04, 2006

No Apologies for Our Absence

Because we were here and here, with him and her, doing this.