Friday, January 30, 2009

It's Friday. Let's Boogie!

The Specials - Gangsters

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Nice Punchline

The Graun on the general strike in France:

France has not experienced the banking woes that Britain and Ireland have faced but, as the country enters its first recession in 16 years, rising unemployment – predicted to top 10% next year – has sparked a mood of fear and anxiety. The latest unemployment figures could not be released today because statisticians are on strike.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

New Books, New Playlist

Messing around this morning with the blog I spotted a playlist beta from iLike that I've added to the left-hand column. With a bit of luck they'll add all tracks in full instead of the excerpts available for most, right now.

I've also updated my library books, deleting everything prior to 2009. The only books you'll see from now on are books I've read this year. If I remember to update it.

Some chance.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

What Does a Smart Priest Keep Under His Chasuble?

Why, the Priest Game, of course!

Something he can show any altarboy with pride.

(Now comes with free DVD in which the pope reveals the meaning of the Eucharist, explains the mystery of the Trinity, and makes up a Fourth Secret of Fatima.)

*UPDATE* Coming soon: Vatican Cluedo.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

A Book Named Hope

I have to confess to an unwanted addiction to the works of Rebecca Solnit. Well, not unwanted. I enjoy the process of reading them, even though I know there's so little nourishment in them. Like Chinese takeaways, perhaps. But even that's a little unfair and doesn't get to the root of my problem with her works, because they are, in their own way, inspirational, and they do what they say on the cover. It's just that the subjects Solnit deals with are so general, so abstract, and the way she writes so ethereal and nebulous that you feel like you've feasted on celery. Even her author photo seems to be in soft focus, taken through a vaselined lens, and that's an apt metaphor for her writing too.

I'd previously read Solnit's Field Guide to Getting Lost, Wanderlust: A History of Walking, and Migrations: Some Passages through Ireland, all for different reasons, so at least I knew what I was letting myself in for. These are all slight, meandering, contemplative, gentle books; upon finishing them, you even want to sigh before placing them down gently on the fire.

I jest. Not the fire. But the sigh is genuine enough because there is an element of melancholy about Solnit's writing that comes from the sense of detachment she generates. This is only possible because she takes particular situations or phenomena and then uses them as a springboard for more abstract reflection. It isn't that she skims lightly over life or over the surface of things the way Baudrillard might have, but her descriptions, while not superficial, are always terse even when she is being passionate and partisan. I've never done a word count for one of Solnit's books, but they feel like Arizona landscapes, full of vast emptinesses followed by spectacular canyons and landscapes that give way once again to deserts and soft warm winds.

Hope in the Dark is a lovely, inspiring book about the rise of the global justice movement. It is optimistic, it cites all the right sources (Jonathan Schell's The Unconquerable World, Subcomandante Marcos, Eduardo Galeano, Hakim Bey), and it is beautifully written. But once again, each chapter, and there are 21 of them in 165 pages, moves from particular to general, from concrete to abstract, and does so in such a smooth and rapid way—indicative of Solnit's exquisite writing, incidentally—that the reader doesn't have time to become immersed in the case studies that she is using to exemplify her argument. And this always leaves the reader somewhat adrift, grasping her point but without feeling any urgency about it. Her work is irredeemably cerebral even when she is discussing something so visceral as justice.

There is nothing but good and goodness in this book. It explains the importance of hope as a force that motivates people to persevere, and it recounts the victories that have taken place, despite the apparent odds, over the past 30 or 40 years. These are reason enough for you to read it, and I've no doubt that I'll be reading Solnit's next book, too. But prospective readers need to be aware that her works are like honey, slow-moving and mellifluous, even dreamlike sometimes. They're an activist's equivalent of a medieval Book of Hours, a gorgeously illuminated contemplative work meant to reinforce faith and leave you feeling tranquil, at peace, and spiritually refreshed. They do. But hungry.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Social Movements and Popular Protest Conference

The Fourteenth ALTERNATIVE FUTURES and POPULAR PROTEST Conference will be held at the Manchester Metropolitan University between Wednesday 15th April and Friday 17th April 2009. Abstracts due by Monday 2nd March 2009.

From 1995 to 2008, Manchester Metropolitan University hosted a series of very successful annual international conferences on 'ALTERNATIVE FUTURES and POPULAR PROTEST'.

We're very happy to announce that the Fourteenth AF&PP Conference will be held, between Wednesday 15th April and Friday 17th April 2009.

The Conference rubric remains as in previous years. The aim is to explore the dynamics of popular movements, along with the ideas which animate their activists and supporters and which contribute to shaping their fate.

Reflecting the inherent cross-disciplinary nature of the issues, previous participants (from over 50 countries) have come from such specialisms as sociology, politics, cultural studies, social psychology, economics, history and geography. The Manchester conferences have also been notable for discovering a fruitful and friendly meeting ground between activism and academia.


We invite offers of papers relevant to the conference themes. Papers should address such matters as:
* contemporary and historical social movements and popular protests
* social movement theory
* utopias and experiments
* ideologies of collective action
* etc.

More details here.

Torches of Liberty?

Pitchfork media has a review of the Lincoln Memorial Concert (blah!) and the Big Shoulders Ball (yay!) at the Black Cat in D.C., celebrating the Obama inauguration.

Organized by Chicago venue the Hideout and the Interchange Festival to benefit the Future of Music Coalition, the ball highlighted Windy City acts, many of whom had bused halfway across the country to celebrate the son of the city. Like Obama himself, most of the acts weren't born in Chicago, but made homes there. Freakwater and Eleventh Dream Day hail from Kentucky, Jon Langford from Wales and Sally Timms from Leeds, Leo from New York and D.C. Ostensibly the show was concocted to celebrate the diversity and activity of the Chicago scene and, by extension, of American popular music. The line-up covered all bases: the indie-friendly folk of Judson Claiborne, the re-imagined honkytonk of Freakwater, the acoustic blues of David "Honeyboy" Edwards, the beery bar-band rock of the Waco Brothers, the frictive guitar rock of Eleventh Dream Day, and however you classify Andrew Bird. There was jazz, dance, punk, even a bit of hip-hop courtesy of charismatic Icy Demons frontman Griffin Rodriguez.

"We're a protest band," Jon Langford claimed during the Waco Brothers' rip-roaring set. "Normally we protest against the government. This is a difficult time for us." This point needed to be made: With the decisive election and intense popularity of the proudly liberal Obama, the old punks suddenly have nothing to rail against. So the mood at the Big Shoulders Ball was strangely and sincerely patriotic. In addition to an enormous stencil of Obama, the stage was festooned with star-spangled banners that were neither ironic nor disdainful.

. . .

When Eleventh Dream Day took the stage just after midnight, barely half the original crowd remained. Their loss: "Bagdad's Last Ride" and "Satellite" lost none of their jitteriness, thanks as much to Bean's thunderous drumming as to Rick Rizzo's pained vocals. They were soon joined by Timms and Langford for a few Three Johns and Mekons numbers, which sounded impossibly jubilant and, yes, a little hopeful. During their final song, Langford and Dean Schlabowske tried to tear down the red-white-and-blue banners above the stage. Any other night, that might have appeared deeply symbolic, but that night, they were just having a ball.

Some nice photos too.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Ollie Jones Does Us Proud

Our wonderful nephew explains his part in the magic!

Official Coraline Trailer

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Things Fall Apart

It won't be to everyone's taste, I realize, (yes, Watkins, that's you I'm looking at), but the Irish Left Review is carrying a really interesting podcast from Slugger O'Toole, their first live podcast session, about the Irish government's decision to nationalize Anglo Irish Bank. The podcast features Michael Taft of Notes on the Front and ILR, Stephen Kinsella of his eponymous blog, and Gerard O'Neill of Turbulence Ahead, along with interviewer Mick Fealty of Slugger.

You can hear the podcast here.

Blog post title from here.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Beer, Beer, Beer, Beer, Beer, Beer, Beer, Beer, Beer, Beer, Beer, Beer, Beer, Beer, Beer, Beer, etc.

In the November 24 New Yorker, Burkhard Bilger discusses the revival of craft breweries in the States, with particular focus on Sam Calagione's Dogfish brewery in Milton, Delaware.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

A Quiz And A Kazoo

If you find yourself kicking your heels one Sunday in two why not head down to the L.M.R.C.A. Social Club on Navigation Road in Timperley. Frank Sidebottom will be performing there right through the year culminating in the recording of a live show.

The theme for last weeks show was "Daleks and Skiffle" which included a Sci-Fi quiz and a rendition of the old country-folk classic Little Red Caboose.

And not a mention of David Tennant all night!

(Picture shows Little Frank as Davros, he's green because Frank ran out of red poster paint to mix for the brownish hue required)

R.I.P Patrick McGoohan, the subject of question no.6 in Sunday's quiz.

Monday, January 12, 2009

White Teeth Grinning

A very readable article, "Dead Man Laughing," by Zadie Smith from the December 22 to 29 New Yorker on the place of British comedy in the Smith household.

I Delight in All Manifestations of the Terpsichorean Muse

Bad taste musicals of the near future.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Politics and Politeness

A fine and even-handed review of Ben Wilson's Decency and Disorder over at the Fat Man.

It's Friday, Let's Ave a Laff

First Best Living Stand-Up