Thursday, September 28, 2006

BBC Fucking Around Again

Bans new Sparks single because of "rude" title.

I wonder what they'd make of "Up All Night," by Afternoon Penis (on Our Mouth Records), or "Kick the Pregnant," by Boulder (from their Ripping Christ LP), which, to be fair, even John Peel refused to play.

Here's One You'll All Know

I was never a big Pink Floyd fan but Track 19 brought the memories flooding back.

Aren't They All?

The very wonderful Irish Corruption site has become Public Inquiry. Blogroll adjusted accordingly. Here's today's post.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Sympathy for Psychopaths

An article at Wired by Suzanne Leigh highlights new research into psychopathic behaviour suggesting that

"psychopathy is a learning disability that makes it difficult for psychopaths to stop themselves from pursuing harmful behavior."

Leigh highlights the research of Joseph Newman, chairman of the psychology department at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, and contributor to the recently published book The Psychopath: Theory, Research and Practice.

I don't see a great deal that's new in this research, except that Newman distinguishes between psychopaths and sociopaths and argues that psychopaths do not have the high fear threshold sometimes ascribed to them (this ascription is open to contention, in any case, since sociopaths in wartime can usually be expected to desert in order to save their own skins rather than, say, go looking for the enemy just for kicks). Newman's use of the term psychopath also appears to coincide exactly with the use of the term sociopath by Robert Hare and Martha Stout, who do not use Newman's distinction (Newman argues that sociopathic behaviour is learned, psychopathic behaviour is the result of "faulty wiring").

I'd buy the book and find out more if it wasn't so ridiculously expensive.

DPS: Report #2

Being the second part of a dérive through Dublin with a map of Paris.

Rue Gay Lussac: "Marxism is the opiate of the intellectuals." "All Power to the Dromedariat!" "Under the Paving Stones, the Metro!" These are just a few of the slogans that adorned the walls of Paris during The Events of 1968. They were the work of a group of quasi-revolutionaries known as the sans-culottes, students who preferred to spend their money on mind-bending drugs and so-called "pop" music than on trousers and haircuts. Some of the most famous photos from that period were taken on the rue Gay Lussac, and although I was slightly bending the rules of the dérive by hopping into a taxi, I felt that I had to pay homage to that site, if only to see how much it had changed in the intervening years.

As you can see, the burghers of Paris have taken Hausmannian steps to ensure that the cobbles of Gay Lussac will not be crowbarred free again for use as projectiles against the gendarmerie. They have submerged the entire street beneath water and blocked the pavements with trees. Reflect on this for a moment, because it tells us something about the class struggle: The bourgeoisie would sooner destroy all possibility of engaging in trade and commerce than provide weapons for the disaffected classes to express their antipathy. They will no longer provide the rope with which to hang them: They would sooner drown us all.

Basilica of Sacré-Cœur: One of the aims of psychogeography is to examine and explore the way in which particular geographical sites and environments impact on our feelings, our thoughts, our emotions. I have visited this monument to piety many times, and on every occasion, I have left it feeling sick. Perhaps it is just the fresh air hitting me after all that incense, but I suspect it is more likely my revulsion at the garishness of the basilica itself and what it stands for. Built in 1884 to "expiate the crimes of the communards," in particular the killing of a bunch of nuns, the basilica dominates the northern skyline of the city, taunting Parisians, daring them to rebel again. It is my fervent hope that the next time the citizens rise up in revolutionary fervour and ask themselves "What is to be done?" they will look up, see this monstrosity, and say "Ah yes. We must kill the nuns."

The Eiffel Tower: In his book Mythologies, structuralist fuckwit and entrepreneur Roland Barthes observed that the Eiffel Tower has the advantage of being the only place in Paris from which you cannot see the Eiffel Tower. He also explained how the tower transforms "culture into nature," turning the city beneath one, all those manmade streets, boulevards, statues, knocking shops, into a vast jungle which one surveys much as God might survey his creation. Looking down at Paris from this great height (roughly 3 km), one appreciates that Barthes wasn't entirely screwing around for the sake of it. The city does indeed look almost vegetal, a Deleuzian field of rhizomes, blossoming, exploding, coiling back on itself, disappearing underground at Montparnasse only to burst forth, unpredictably, over by the Opera Garnier in a cascade of one-way streets and traffic accidents, most obviously that laundry van that did for Barthes himself. Irony indeed. And was it not the Parisians who invented irony? How else to explain that, of all the people I ever met, they have the least joie de vivre. As Merleau-Ponty might have said, Go figure.

Part three to follow.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Joke of the Day

Courtesy of the brilliant Manuel Estimulo, told here.

Mel Gibson walks into a bar.


It was a bar mitzvah.

Correct Use of a Bible

You have GOT to listen to this. It's the funniest thing I've heard in ages.

Monday, September 25, 2006

DPS: Report #1

The first event in the calendar of the Dublin Psychogeographical Society took place last Friday, a challenging, insightful, and fun day out for all concerned. I met at the Omphalos of Irish society, Holles Street hospital, at 11 a.m., armed only with a Tupperware box filled with tuna sandwiches, a hip flask of Black Bush (for self-lubrication and bribery of prostitutes and small children), and a 1987 map of Paris. The obvious discrepancies in the cities' contours notwithstanding, I was able to make fruitful use of my provisions. Moreover, when those provisions were found lacking, I was able to call on the help of the natives. Parisians have a reputation for being rude and/or condescending, but throughout my wanderings I found them inquisitive, friendly, helpful, and only a little repulsive.

Champs-Élysées and Louvre: I had been advised that it was possible to purchase the most exquisite Crêpes Suzette on the Champs-Élysées from street vendors, but I was disappointed to find one of Europe's most famous boulevards to be underwhelming in nearly every respect: Far shorter and grubbier than I had anticipated, and populated only by a small group of street urchins, two of them on mountain bikes, one of them kicking a plastic football. One of the mountain bikers was blind, however, which I found charming and most agreeable.

The Louvre is dark and unprepossessing, the interior without the natural light characteristic of other galleries of a similar size and reputation. The works on show were nothing to write home about either, so I haven't, but the gallery did serve alcoholic refreshments, a progressive step, in my opinion, indicative of France's relaxed attitude toward art. At lunchtime, the gallery was packed with office workers, demonstrating the average Parisian's thirst for culture that I had only previously known by repute.

The Marais: Formerly the Norwegian Quarter of Paris, following the expulsion of the Inktomi people from that country in 1580. It is unusual to find such huge tracts of Tundra in the centre of a modern European capital. Moose roamed freely, unembarrassed and unmolested.

Incidentally, the individual just ahead of me dressed in traditional Inktomi costume is Marcel, my illiterate native guide for this part of the Dérive. He refused swigs from my hip flask but devoured my tuna sandwiches greedily, a sign that not all has been lost and corrupted by Western decadence, I think. Marcel is not his birthname, but adopted out of reverence for the famous Inktomi explorer Marcel Addenammer.

Père Lachaise Cemetery: At last, I located part of the "real" Paris, untouched by tourists and largely unknown to outsiders. Buried here are such Parisian luminaries and low-lifes as Karl Marx, Jean-Paul Sartre, Orson Welles, and Milo O'Shea. And given the levels of cholesterol presented on each plate, I have to say, I'm not at all surprised. The sausage, bacon, eggs, chips, liver, onions, beans, and tomatoes with sliced white bread and butter and a pot of tea for one more than made up for my failure to find the grave of Samuel Beckett (I had been told that it was somewhere toward the back, near the toilets) and gave me a chance to sample authentic French cuisine, rather than the effete bourgeois rubbish on offer at such rip-off joints as La Garotte and Oulipo. Further investigation is required to find out exactly how French women manage to stay so slim on this diet, although I have to say that evidence for this conundrum was thin on the ground, if you'll forgive the pun. French women are just as big-boned, sweaty, and swarthy as other European women. So, at least, were my observations last Friday. Perhaps the more svelte and less generously proportioned Parisian ladies come out after dark. More on that, anon, when I have researched that aspect of contemporary French society in more detail.

Report #2 to follow.

Friday, September 22, 2006

All Together Now!!

It isn't longer at all. It just SEEMS longer.

Whereas, in Ireland, we do things differently.

A Beacon in a Cesspool

That's Corey Rusk of Touch & Go Records, as described by Jon Langford. Touch & Go celebrated its 25th anniversary this year at the three-day Hideout Block Party. Rusk is profiled here in the September issue of Chicago Magazine.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Men Like Monkeys

Or in this case, a three-million-year-old girl.

"The paleontologists who are announcing the discovery in the journal Nature today said the 3.3-million-year-old fossils were of the earliest well-preserved child ever found in the human lineage. It was estimated to be about 3 years old at death, probably female and a member of the Australopithecus afarensis species . . . An analysis of the skeleton revealed evidence of a species in transition, the scientists said in interviews yesterday.

The lower limbs supported earlier findings that afarensis walked upright, like modern humans. But gorillalike arms and shoulders suggested that it possibly retained an ancestral ability to climb and swing through the trees.

“Her completeness, antiquity and age at death make this find unprecedented in the history of paleoanthropology,” said Zeresenay Alemseged, the Ethiopian leader of the discovery team and a researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany."

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Some History

The Three Johns performing at the Green Room Theatre, Manchester, Friday, September 15.

This was the only shot I took. The rest of the night I spent bopping. Of course.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Let's Hope It Tastes Mostly of Grass

A follow-up to this post, from our Asia correspondent, presents a list of cocktails on offer in one bar in Manila:

More Fun Than Brain Surgery

The Three Johns session on Marc Riley's Friday night show can be heard here.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

The Secret of Our Success: Johnnies

Malcolm Gladwell has an interesting take on the reasons for the success of Ireland's "Celtic Tiger" economy in an article in the August 28th issue of The New Yorker:

"In the past two decades . . . Ireland has gone from being one of the most economically backward countries in Western Europe to being one of the strongest: its growth rate has been roughly double that of the rest of Europe. There is no shortage of conventional explanations. Ireland joined the European Union. It opened up its markets. It invested well in education and economic infrastructure. It’s a politically stable country with a sophisticated, mobile workforce.

But, as the Harvard economists David Bloom and David Canning suggest in their study of the “Celtic Tiger,” of greater importance may have been a singular demographic fact. In 1979, restrictions on contraception that had been in place since Ireland’s founding were lifted, and the birth rate began to fall. In 1970, the average Irishwoman had 3.9 children. By the mid-nineteen-nineties, that number was less than two. As a result, when the Irish children born in the nineteen-sixties hit the workforce, there weren’t a lot of children in the generation just behind them. Ireland was suddenly free of the enormous social cost of supporting and educating and caring for a large dependent population. It was like a family of four in which, all of a sudden, the elder child is old enough to take care of her little brother and the mother can rejoin the workforce. Overnight, that family doubles its number of breadwinners and becomes much better off.

This relation between the number of people who aren’t of working age and the number of people who are is captured in the dependency ratio. In Ireland during the sixties, when contraception was illegal, there were ten people who were too old or too young to work for every fourteen people in a position to earn a paycheck. That meant that the country was spending a large percentage of its resources on caring for the young and the old. Last year, Ireland’s dependency ratio hit an all-time low: for every ten dependents, it had twenty-two people of working age. That change coincides precisely with the country’s extraordinary economic surge."

Locating the Victims of "Posttraumatic Haemorrhage"

The current issue of Archaeology magazine features an article (abstract here) on the work of the Association for the Recovery of Historical Memory, a team of around 50 archaeologists, anthropolgists, and forensic doctors who are devoted to uncovering the stories of the victims of fascist Spain.

Teams of diggers from the organization are excavating and exhuming the mass graves throughout Spain in which lie the skeletons of those who were executed under Francisco Franco's regime, and they are also collecting the oral and written testimonies of Franco's victims. According to Luis Rivero, a biological anthropology Ph.D. student who volunteered at one such dig, the exhumations are not about looking for the guilty parties but about recovering history, bringing the subject out into the open, and providing closure after many years of silence.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Political Blogging Event

Also courtesy of the Manchizzle:

Political Bloggers: A Panel at Urbis 24/9

I'm going to be moderating a panel discussion at Urbis later this month - and yes, it's about blogging! Details are below. Please come if you're remotely interested, or pass this on to someone who might be. Or both.

Political Bloggers and the New Media Landscape

On 24 September 2006, to coincide with the Labour Party Conference (Sun Sept. 24 – Thurs Sept 28), Urbis will host a panel discussion that will explore the way political bloggers are changing the media.

In the UK, bloggers are increasingly driving the news, and providing a robust and democratic new forum for political debate. A consortium of influential UK political bloggers has just set up their own advertising venture, an indication that blogging has started to reshape the media market. These self-appointed pundits are both reviled as ranting rumormongers and hailed as the prophets of the digital revolution. So what's the truth – are bloggers setting the news agenda, or is this mostly hype? And will political bloggers put traditional journalists out of work, or can the two work together?

Panelists include:

Norman Geras: blogger, author and professor emeritus at Manchester University, where he taught in the school of government for several years. His mostly political blog, Normblog was voted best UK Blog at the 2005 Weblog awards. He is also an author of the Euston Manifesto.

Martin Stabe is an online reporter for The Press Gazette. He is a frequent contributor to the gazette's journalism weblog, Blog Watches Dog and he also maintains a blog at, which deals with politics across the Atlantic and across the channel.

Bill Jones blogs at Skipper, which covers UK politics, parliament and the press. He lives in Stockport and is a semi-retired lecturer at Manchester University specializing in British Politics. He is the editor of the Politics Today series of books published by Manchester University Press.

The event will be run as an informal panel discussion, followed by a question and answer session. Starts at 4pm. Free, booking not required

For more information, get in touch on themanchizzle at

Manchester Blog Awards . . .

. . . are up and running. Nominate your favourite Mancunian blog/blogger here.


The Guardian Weekend on Saturday was a special issue devoted to comedy that managed to avoid being in the least bit funny. The entire magazine featured one decent joke, from mediocre Irish comic Jason Byrne, which I paraphrase here because the Web site sees fit to omit it:

A salesman knocks on the front door of a house, only to be confronted by a small boy in a dressing gown, smoking a cigar, and sipping from a large glass of brandy. "Hello, little boy," says the salesman. "Is your mother or father in?" The little boy says, "Does it fucking look like they're in?"

Ah well. You had to be there.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Thursday, September 07, 2006

At Home with the Intelligentsia. No 28: Gilles Deleuze

(Full image shows Deleuze lost in the changing rooms of the men's clothing department in Rackham's, Guildford.)

Monday, September 04, 2006

Friday, September 01, 2006

We Will Wobble

News from the I.W.W. Web site (left) that baristas at the Logan Square Starbucks store in Chicago have joined the IWW Starbucks Workers Union. The baristas have issued a set of demands that included a living wage, guaranteed work hours, and the reinstatement of IWW baristas fired for organizing activity. They are also the first U.S. workers outside of New York City to declare union membership at the world's largest coffee chain.