Friday, February 27, 2009

It's Friday. Let's Boogie!

Bobby Bare Jnr - Let's Rock And Roll

Thursday, February 26, 2009

David Beckham Moves to Villa!!

Someone left the (transfer) window open.

Too Much Time on Our Hands

But even so, I'm quite pleased with this one.

Older, Wiser, Better, Stronger, Higher, Faster

Happy first birthday to the Irish Left Review, a project that goes from strength to strength.

Fine interviews (Gilbert Achcar, Patrick Cockburn), insightful economic analysis, astute social commentary, devastatingly incisive book reviews, and outrageously controversial satire. Where else would you get all that for free?*

*With the exception of stealing Harper's.

Crisis Made Easy

A super post by Sean Coleman over at Normblog provides a concise but comprehensive account of the economic and political crisis, so far, in Ireland. It's a really good place to start if you want to unravel the tangled web they weave.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Should I Stay or Should I Go?

As Ireland slides deeper into a recession, its workers are returning to the emigration trail that blighted the nation for 150 years until the Celtic Tiger economic boom of the 1990s. With the Dublin-based Economic and Social Research Institute forecasting that 50,000 people will leave in search of work, the country is facing what former Prime Minister Bertie Ahern calls the “dark days” of mass exodus again.

. . .

Even so, there’s little likelihood of the wholesale exodus that marred earlier decades. Between 1871 and 1961, Ireland’s population shrank 36 percent to 2.8 million people. In the 1980s, an average 20,000 people left the country every year, departing for the U.S., the U.K. and Australia.

. . .

Moreover, many of the traditional destinations for the Irish -- including the U.S, Australia and the U.K. -- are struggling with rising unemployment.

“The difficulty is that today, there’s nowhere to go,” said John Graby, director of the Royal Institute of Architects of Ireland. “Even Australia seems to be going downhill. I heard of an Irish architect who sent an e-mail home saying he got the last job in Brisbane.”

The rest is here.

Another Reason to be an Atheist

God supports Espanyol.

Cedar Lounge Sweeps the Board

Although they of all people should know that competition is one of the ways the middle classes and associated intellectual capitalists attempt to re-establish their hegemony over cultural production in the face of democratizing forces, as well as allowing parasitic entrepreneurs to establish a beach-head on the commons. It's the co-opting of punk rock all over again, and CLR are The Police.

Repeat after me: Blog Meets Good, Blog Awards Bad!!!!

Sweeps The Board

Since when has the above phrase become synonymous with "a few" or "less than half those available"?

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Hello Cruel World

See you at the the old Bull & Gate!!

Credit Where It's Due . . .

I don't think any government has ever managed to unite the people of Ireland as well as this one. Even the Gards and the army are marching.

*UPDATE* Up to 100,000

Me and My Mates

On the day of the Irish Blog Awards, Shane Hegarty lists 20 of Ireland's "most essential blogs," managing to omit all of the most essential (with the exception of Slugger) but including all of the, *ahem*, "usual suspects."


Friday, February 20, 2009

It's Friday. Let's Boogie!

Tom Waits - Downtown Train

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Everywhere in Chains

George Orwell once said something along the lines of just because the news about the Gulags appeared in the Daily Telegraph, it didn’t mean it wasn’t true. The blurb on the front of Marcus Rediker’s The Slave Ship describes it as “A truly magnificent book.” That quote comes from the Sunday Telegraph. Conceivably, then, the Telegraph stable of newspapers has been correct at least twice in its history (and to be fair, its obituaries generally tend to be of people who genuinely have died). All the same, a recommendation from a paper whose readers are notorious for their schadenfreude can be a double-edged sword: One imagines that they would come to this book more to trace the family ancestry, locate the source of their wealth, and enjoy some tales of derring-do among the darkies than to be educated about the shaping of race and class in the Western hemisphere by the Atlantic slave trade. But maybe that’s just my prejudice.

An education is what any reader will receive, even so. By now, the basics of the slave trade are well known, including its triangular pattern; ships starting in Bristol or Liverpool carried manufactured goods to Africa, which were traded for slaves, who were carried to the Americas and sold to work on the plantations, where the raw materials-cotton, tobacco, and sugar-were bought to undergo modification in the factories and mills of Lancashire, Birmingham, and elsewhere oop North, for sale in, among other places, Africa. The slave trade was thus perfectly integrated into the other new markets generated by the Industrial Revolution. It was a business just like any other, a reality that tends to escape analyses of slavery that focus on the savagery and captivity endured by the slaves to the neglect of the logic behind both.

Not that there isn’t plenty of savagery and captivity to go around. The beauty of Rediker’s book is that he has relied heavily on contemporary accounts of life on a slaver, from merchants, captains, sailors, and the slaves themselves. This lends a clarity, vividness, and depth to the story that, while not for the faint of heart, will leave readers in no doubt as to what went on and why. The answer to the big why, of course, is the pursuit of profit. The pursuit of profit explains pretty much everything. But what Rediker manages to tease out in his account are the nuances, the subtle tensions, the balancing act that capitalists have always had to perform, in order to extract labour from the exploited. Anyone who has worked in a factory will recognize, or at least understand, the wheedling, coercion, and incentivization of behaviour deployed by ships’ captains to get the most from his crew and human commodities, even if the cat o’ nine tails is no longer the instrument of choice.

The journey from England to Africa typically saw the modification of the ship by skilled labourers-carpenters and smiths, for instance-who turned it in to a floating prison, a Guineaman, as the slave ships were universally referred to, before its arrival on the shores of such places as Benin, Congo, or Angola. In particular, this part of the journey saw the construction of the barricado, a barricade, a high, strong wooden barrier that stretched across the entire main deck of the ship and behind which the crew could retreat in the case of insurrection by the slaves; the barricado contained holes and a raised platform for the crew to fire their guns and cannon at the slaves, as well as a door that allowed only one person at a time to pass through. The barricado also turned the main deck into a kind of prison courtyard, so that when the slaves were allowed up onto the main deck for “dancing,” the crew could keep and eye on them and fire down on them if necessary.

“Dancing” was, by and large, a euphemism for exercise. The slave merchant had no use for damaged goods, so it was important in terms of maximizing his profit that the slaves he sold in the Americas be fit for work. This necessitated some sort of “humane” treatment, so slaves were fed and watered, but at the same time the captain had to ensure that fit, strong slaves were never in a position to revolt. “Dancing” thus took place in manacles and leg irons, with slaves supervised and motivated by crew members, under instruction to both keep the slaves healthy and acquiescent. This was a tall order, as you might imagine. Slaves understood the meaning of captivity, even if the technology was new to them, and would do everything in their power to escape or deprive the slaver of their labour. Suicide was common, either by hunger strike or leaping to the sharks that followed the Guineamen knowing there would be food. The ships were thus also equipped with netting around the sides of the decks to prevent such attempts-because the slaves believed that when they died their souls would return home, many drowned not just defiantly but happily-and with the speculum oris, an instrument used to force open the jaws of those recalcitrant slaves refusing to eat. The slave merchants knew there would be deaths on board their ships-cramming as many bodies as they could onto their ships was a recipe for epidemics-but death was always factored into the equation when gauging likely profits. Merchants had a good idea how many deaths to expect, providing mass suicides could be prevented, hence the expectation that the captain would nip any form of resistance, passive or otherwise, in the bud, pour encourager les autres.

Class tensions asserted themselves too in the relationship between captain and crew. Few sailors appear to have wanted to sign up on Guineamen. The mortality rate was exceedingly high for crewmembers, the captains were notoriously barbaric, and the morality of slavery was naturally an issue too. Many sailors signed up either to get out of prison or to avoid prison. Captains would scour the taverns of port cities with a couple of reliable mates, often family, in search of likely crew, who they’d attempt to get drunk and, with the connivance of a tavern owner in on the scam, draw into debts of such magnitude that they found themselves the next day with the options of either signing up or going to jail. This was no way for a captain to generate loyalty and devotion among his crew, but then he only required their obedience, not their love, and he relied upon the perception of a shared interest in survival once the slaves were on board to solicit the crewmembers’ allegiance. Rediker describes how captains’ personalities and attitudes slowly changed during the journey. Sweetness and light to the crew on the way to Africa, he would turn into a brute to slaves and crew alike once loaded and bound for the Americas. Crews did mutiny, but rarely in unison with slaves, and with a view to selling the slaves themselves on occasion. By and large, though, the captains and mates formed a cohesive group dedicated to realizing the profits at any cost, and so to the extent that they depended upon the crew to do this, they would do anything in their power to elicit compliance. A ratio of 8 or 10 slaves to every one crewmember was considered sufficient to meet all needs, including repression. But once the ship had deposited its cargo in the Americas, many crew became surplus to requirements and would be travelling back to England with nothing to contribute to the bottom line; on the contrary, they constituted a cost insofar as their wages would be paid on arrival. Consequently, toward the end of the voyage, just as the slaves were receiving improved treatment to ready them for market, the captains would try to alienate those crewmembers who would not be needed for the journey home so that they’d jump ship in the Caribbean rather than face the final leg under the captain’s command. This persecution of the crew was deliberate and at the behest of the merchants, who sometimes gave explicit instructions to the captain that they dispose of superfluous crew, even though such a practice was illegal. Rediker tells us that the slave ports were crammed with these pitiful wretches, former crewmembers crippled by disease or unable for one reason or another to get passage home.

Rediker demonstrates how the trade played a part in shaping not just the economic relations between Britain, Africa, and America, but also the social relations and the perceptions of race and class of those involved. Captains often tried to purchase slaves who would struggle in mutual comprehension. If they spoke many and different languages, it followed that they would less likely form a cohesive unit, find common ground, and revolt. A lack of common language made insurrection less likely. Nonetheless, the common experience of captivity transformed slaves, for both themselves and the crew, from being members of discrete, sometimes even antagonistic, African tribes, into Negroes, pure and simple, and crewmembers into White Men, regardless of the colour of their skin. Race relations were simplified, in effect, because of the universal experience of slavery. Slaves became brothers and sisters regardless of origin, by virtue of their shared experience. New bonds were formed in the face of necessity. Hardship produced co-operation. Slaves may well have found themselves in their predicament as a result of capture by other Africans, but on board ship every African became a brother or a sister. And for the plantation owners who received them, the slaves’ origins were of little consequence; they were a source of labour power and nothing else.

The book closes with accounts of the insurrection by sailors in Liverpool in 1775, in which a thousand sailors wearing red ribbons and armed with muskets, blunderbusses, and cannons attempted to destroy the Mercantile Exchange, and of the role of the slave ship in mobilizing forces to ultimately abolish the trade in Britain. It isn’t part of Rediker’s remit to explore the social and economic factors that contributed to the demise of the slave trade in Britain, only to explain how the slave ship itself played a part in shaping the struggles of those who took part. He does so convincingly, engagingly, and perceptively. This is a book in the tradition of “history from below,” and I couldn’t help but compare it to Silvia Federici’s Caliban and the Witch for the way it demystifies social relations and explains the interplay between class, race, gender, and empire. It isn’t really the kind of book you’re likely to buy as a gift, but it’s a compelling read, and you’ll be doing a really big favour for anyone you buy it for, even if it’s just yourself.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

I Wish I Was a Wart on a Worker's Hand

If you haven't already, you really oughta should of

Eton Crop: It's My Dog, Maestro!

Etop Crop: Yes Please, Bob

Eton Crop: Gay Boys on the Battlefield

Eton Crop: Six Silhouette Romances

Various Artists: Enemies of the State: The Best of the 1 in 12 Club

Various Artists: Hits and Corruption

Various Artists: Good Morning, Mr. Presley

Manuel Estimulo's Greek Brethren

For a moment I thought the messages here were genuine, but they're clearly fictional parodies of fascists because the characters aren't particularly well drawn and their personalities and vocabularies are lacking in the subtlety and depth you'd find in real people.

Who is talking about civilization? The Irish… once you filled the whole world with your filth and then you dare to slag us off? Did you ever hear abt IRA pal? In Greece we never had that, except a few communist who betrayed our history, a small conspiracy of subhumen like you Irish jerks and foreigners like slavs and Turks. We sent the to the exile and left them die while we were adoring our great history.

Just go and ask us, what is your opinion about Irish? Not good my friend.

I am glad to see your financial collapse. I hope you will end up without any single penny in your miserable life. But my country is booming and we will not allow immigrants to leech it, especially barbaric races like you

To the end


Saturday, February 14, 2009

The Case Against

The New York Times notices a problem with privatization of the judicial system:

. . . judge[,] Mark A. Ciavarella Jr., and a colleague, Michael T. Conahan, appeared in federal court in Scranton, Pa., to plead guilty to wire fraud and income tax fraud for taking more than $2.6 million in kickbacks to send teenagers to two privately run youth detention centers run by PA Child Care and a sister company, Western PA Child Care.

While prosecutors say that Judge Conahan, 56, secured contracts for the two centers to house juvenile offenders, Judge Ciavarella, 58, was the one who carried out the sentencing to keep the centers filled.

. . .

With Judge Conahan serving as president judge in control of the budget and Judge Ciavarella overseeing the juvenile courts, they set the kickback scheme in motion in December 2002, the authorities said.

They shut down the county-run juvenile detention center, arguing that it was in poor condition, the authorities said, and maintained that the county had no choice but to send detained juveniles to the newly built private detention centers.

The rest is here.

Friday, February 13, 2009

It's Friday. Let's Make This Boogie!

Dexy's Midnight Runners - There There My Dear

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Please Forgive the Obscenities

But Bock does rage so well.

This is just the latest in a list of underhanded manoeuvres by the Irish business/political class, and it coincides with further news of massive job losses. But what will happen to all that incandescent rage? Will it just turn into calculating self-preservation and the decision to get out of this country ASAP, or detached philosophical resignation and the reflection that there's no organized left in Ireland that is anywhere near achieving what everyone knows needs to be done if we want to prevent future Irish history from being just a series of repeats featuring Irish workers getting fucked over by a corrupt, cynical, self-serving nepotistic shower of bastards?

Oh for a charismatic ubermensch who will deliver us from these scheming financiers!

Don't take that literally.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Breakfast at Cannibal Joe's

The latest issue of the Iceland Review features an interview with novelist Einar Már Gudmundsson, who spoke at Reykjavik's first public citizens' meeting on October 27 to confront the country's economic crisis. He has since become, the magazine says, the voice of the people's frustration. Here is a translation of the opening words of his speech:

A cannibal is flying in first class. The stewardess brings a menu with several options. The cannibal is quite polite, as cannibals often are upon first impression. The cannibal scans the menu and then says to the stewardess, "I don't see anything appetizing on the menu. Would you be a dear and fetch me the passenger list?"

I'm not going to compare Iceland's fat cats, who have landed our nation in these dire straits along with the government, with cannibals. Not literally. But after having gotten their hands on nearly everything, the banks and state enterprises, they seem to have said to the government and supervisory agencies, "There is nothing appetizing on this menu. Would you be a dear and fetch me the national register?"

The government issued its guarantee for an entire casino—Russian roulette—with the end result of destroying the good name of an entire nation.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Good Morning, Mister President

The laughable wonderful Reader's Digest asked 18 "statesmen" (and women) to give President Obama their best advice on the most pressing issues facing the American people. My favourite by a country mile is French fuckwit philosopher fuckwit Bernard-Henri Lévy's advice, which reveals what I can only assume is a peculiarly Gallic understanding of the term "most pressing," not to mention the magazine's peculiar understanding of the term "statesman":

One of your first acts should be to have erected in the center of Karachi, Pakistan, a monument in memory of Daniel Pearl, the journalist who was kidnapped and killed there.

It would render justice to one of today's great American heroes. And it would test the true reliability of Pakistan as our ally.

Maude Barlow Interview

This is an enlightening interview in The Progressive with Maude Barlow, the first senior adviser on water issues for the United Nations and the author of Blue Covenant: The Global Water Crisis and the Coming Battle for the Right to Water.

Q: How dire is the water crisis?

Maude Barlow: Americans need to know that there are thirty-six states in the United States that are going to experience serious to severe water problems in the next five to ten years. Right now, there are at least seven states that are just absolutely at the water wall. The Colorado River is in catastrophic decline. This is not cyclical drought. Lake Mead and Lake Powell, the big backup reservoirs, are themselves in crisis.

I feel a kind of desperation, almost, to tell this story so that people start to understand and grapple with it. This is the most important human rights and ecological crisis of our time.

Q: You say politicians “are in some kind of inexplicable denial.” Why is that?

Barlow: We live in a world where our leaders have adopted one vision of development: neoliberal economic globalization, market-based growth. You’ve got to keep growing, you’ve got to compete by killing the other guy’s farms, and so on. It’s all based on this competitive model, and not on a much more cooperative local model of sustainable food or sustainable living.

The water crisis comes along, and rather than face this, these governments and their corporate friends and their political leaders are all saying, “Well, it’s just a temporary issue. We’ll deal with it. It’s kind of like energy. We’ll find new sources. Don’t you worry.”

The water crisis interrupts their theory that unlimited growth is sustainable. It’s not. If they really understood the water crisis and dealt with it, they would have to admit that we can’t keep going on the way we’re going on.

At What Point . . .

do rock stars become a parody of themselves?

Some empty seats at the November 20 premiere of Steve Nieve's Welcome to the Voice showed that lightweight musical programming does not necessarily guarantee success in the Théâtre du Châtelet's quest for popularity. Welcome to the Voice, originally recorded as a concept album for rock superstars Sting and Elvis Costello and classical soprano Barbara Bonney, is an engagingly simple story of operatic obsession: a Greek foundry worker finally achieves a duet with the diva of his dreams. For this stage premiere, Nieve — a frequent keyboard collaborator of Costello's — expanded his original scoring for string quartet and added an overture, while Muriel Teodori (Nieve's wife) adjusted her libretto. The show was conducted by Wolfgang Doerner. Sting and Costello sang their roles from the concept album, joined by Sylvia Schwartz in Bonney's old role of the Diva. The Ensemble Orchestral de Paris was in the pit.

The show suffered from a serious lack of dramatic rhythm, not helped by Teodori's libretto and its pretentious mix of platitudes: any opera beginning with the repeated word "transcendence" starts at a disadvantage in this respect. The foundry-worker character, sung by Sting, has the portentously classical name of Dionysos, an appellation that promises a complexity of motivation entirely absent from the stage — even though Bernard Arnould's mix of factory and opera-house backstage was handsomely realized. Nieve's score, fluently conducted by Doerner, begins with an overture of moody intensity; his interpolation of opera themes is achieved with some technical skill. When the sleeping Dionysos is visited by three operatic "ghosts"— Carmen, Butterfly and Norma, well sung by Marie-Ange Todorovitch, Sonya Yoncheva and Anna Gabler, respectively — the composer avoids quoting bleeding chunks of each opera but evokes their eternally fascinating heroines by incorporating memorable turns of phrase. Elsewhere, the score reflects a wide range of rock, pop and opera influences with a dash of Sondheim thrown in for good measure, but in the end, rock fans were left hungry for hard-core musical thrills and opera fans were shortchanged by Nieve's lack of vocal sophistication.

The problem of matching the levels of the cast's classically trained voices and the voices of rock performers was addressed via amplification. In general, too much amplification was used for the trained voices, not quite enough for Sting, or for his sound-alike real-life son, Joe Sumner, who played the hero's friend. Fortunately, Sting is a compelling stage presence: despite moments in the score that asked for more than he could manage comfortably, his rough-hewn sincerity and physical charisma carried the show through its ninety long minutes. The major disappointment was Elvis Costello, whose interpretation of the Police Chief was handicapped by inaudibility and a complete lack of vocal muscle on the first night. The best voice belonged to Schwartz. As Lily the diva, the soprano sounded worthy of obsession, even if the use of amplification inevitably muddies any definitive judgment on her vocal gifts. A rock fan remarked as she left the theater that she would like to hear this particular diva in a "real" opera: perhaps some doors were opened by this hybrid experience.

Friday, February 06, 2009

It's Friday. Let's Boogie!

Everything Everything - Suffragette Suffragette

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Option a)

(see Quandary post below)

Mind you, Airborne Toxic Event pretty much describes Northwich's tactics in the last 15 mins of last night's match as Alty dropped deeper and deeper and Vics threw their beanpole centrebacks forward.

A 1-0 slutchfest of a win thanks to a calamitous keeper error gave us our first derby double since 87/88 (thanks Barry) but hardly classic football unless by "classic" you mean "gothic horror".

I'm sure Setanta doesn't regret missing out on televising it for a minute, although You've Been Framed might have had enough material to keep them going for another ten years.

This was probably Alty's worst performance since beating Lewes 1-0, the difference being that this time they were cheered from the pitch rather than being booed off. Funny how a run of results and some local animosity can change people's perspective, isn't it?

So no gig but I saw TATE in November anyway and the Guardian review is not the most enthusiastic.

Reading Bock Makes Me Angry Too

And it should make you angry as well.

Yes, That's What We Need: More Religion

The greatest social need in the world today is not HIV/AIDS outreach. It's not hunger. It's not global warming. Not ending poverty or eliminating malaria or tuberculosis. Not clean water. Not racial reconciliation. Not sexual trafficking. Not abortion. And it's not peace in the Middle East, and not even world peace.

. . .

the most profound social problem facing humankind . . . is alienation from God.

I really must stop reading. It only gets me angry.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Tonight's Quandary

The rearrangement of The Alty vs Northwich Vics New Year's Day derby to tonight has left me with a decision to make. Having already bought a ticket for a gig in Manchester I'm now left with several options:

a) go to the match for 90 minutes and have a few drinks in the bar afterwards and thereby lose £10 on the gig ticket.

b) go to the match, leave at half-time knowing victory is secure/disgruntled and just see the headline band.

c) just go to the gig, see the support and headline band and rely on text updates from my mates at the game.

Bearing in mind that having a season ticket means I've already paid for the match and that the band is The Airborne Toxic Event, what should I do?

Monday, February 02, 2009