Monday, November 30, 2009

Friday, November 27, 2009

It's Friday. Let's Boogie!

Geoff Berner - Official Theme Song Of The Vanvouver Whistler 2010 Winter Olympic Games (The Dead Children Were Worth It)

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Marx on My Lenin, or just Seaman Stains?

Art in America magazine has a couple of particularly entertaining reviews in its November issue. Here's some of Sarah Valdez's piece on Genesis P.Orridge's show at Invisible Exports:

P-Orridge’s work often contains an odd but compelling mixture of playfulness, the paranormal and radical erotica. English Breakfast (2002-09) consists of a head shot of the Queen—her visage replaced by a fried egg with red beans, tomatoes, bacon, sausage and a mushroom, the food (an English breakfast) contrasting nicely with her many jewels. A sort of “E” with the vertical line running down the middle, the insignia for Thee Temple ov Psychick Youth—an occult organization P-Orridge founded but has since dissociated h/erself from—embellishes several compositions, including the psychedelic Electric Newspaper, Issue Two (1995), which served as album art for P-Orridge’s still-operative band Psychic TV. A 1989 series of illustrations for Terrence Sellers’s classic underground book The Correct Sadist blends what look like historical etchings of variously suffering nudes, snakes, tigers and demons with present-day fetish erotica. In a striking self-portrait, Flowering Pain Give Space (1998), P-Orridge appears enthroned, bound and blindfolded, wearing a corset, red stilettos and nipple clamps, with weights hanging from h/er shackled penis and a catheter running to h/er mouth—surrounded by a repeated image of yellow flowers in a gold vase.

and here's Brian Boucher's review of Mary Reid Kelley's work at Fredericks & Freiser:

In her first solo show, Mary Reid Kelley combined animation and live action in two pungent and funny videos. Both feature the artist alternately reciting and singing original verse inspired by WWI-era patriotic doggerel. In each black-and-white video, she wears period costume and thick makeup, outlining and obscuring her features, lending a cartoonish appearance. In one video, she wears black ovals that cover her eyes; for the other, she dons bulbous prosthetics with eyes drawn on them, making her face, in both cases, masklike. Reid Kelley’s punning libretto, her sly references to Marxist-Leninist rhetoric and her unified esthetic made for a convincing debut.

Sadie, the Saddest Sadist (7 minutes, 23 seconds), 2009, is set in Great Britain in 1915, according to a free booklet that includes the video’s lyrics (one is provided for each piece). The title character, a munitions worker, wants to learn a trade “so [she] could be a traitor.” She meets Jack, a sailor (played by Reid Kelley in drag), and with “passions inflamed,” she requests rousing war stories. His sung reply: “Calm down sweetheart / Britannia rules the waves.” In pledging herself to him, she offers her “surplus devotion,” and after their off-camera tryst, she sings, “The stains on my sheets / will come out with some lemon / I know that you care / by these Marx on my Lenin.” Live action alternates with stop-motion animation in which dancing refrigerator magnet-style letters spell out the dialogue or toy with it, as when “surplus devotion” is anagrammatized into “spurs devolution.”

More somber, The Queen’s English (4 minutes, 20 seconds), 2009, features a nurse who observes the demise of a soldier at the Western Front in 1915. She speaks in front of a drawn backdrop of a ward where soldiers are represented as primary shapes in beds, alluding at once to Analytical Cubism and to contemporary descriptions of men as interchangeable cogs in the war machine. The nurse’s monologue is marked by sad allusions to Humpty Dumpty and grisly references to decomposing flesh, and also by anachronistic humor, as when she professes to love the soldier “the way a Dutchman loves a dike / the way a woman needs a man / that needs a fish that needs a bike.” When he died, she explains, “I laid him, gently / in a Marquee piece of sod.”

One might want to read these pieces as sardonic commentary on current wars, but Reid Kelley’s interest seems to be primarily in historical material, expressed in details such as the patriotic flyers that hang on the walls behind Sadie and Jack when they meet, which urge citizens to conserve food and to fight for king and country. Her fine ear for popular verse makes Reid Kelley’s work rich fun for those who are, as Jack describes himself, “verbally inclined.”

Philistine that I am, I can't make out if they're meant to be funny or not.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

An Adult's Christmas in Wales

Or "When The Red Robins Meet The Red Red Robins"

Saturday Dec 12th Wrexham v Altrincham (FA Trophy)

Saturday Dec 26th Wrexham v Altrincham (League)

Friday Jan 1st Altrincham v Wrexham (League)

Friday, November 20, 2009

It's Friday. Let's Boogie!

Trashcan Sinatras - Only Tongue Can Tell

Folk Devils and Moral Panics (for Reidski)

The Staines News reports on the widespread panic on Wheatsheaf Lane over the impending match between Staines and Millwall.

One Wheatsheaf Lane resident, who didn't want to be named, said: "I am concerned because of the history of the club. I will have no hesitation in ringing 999 if there is any trouble.

"One of my neighbours has said they will board up the front windows of the house."
Jenny Hutt, of Wheatsheaf Lane, said: "I will be putting my car in my garage, because you never know what might happen."

. . .

Rana Yewer, who lives nearby, said: "We are quite near the town centre here, so the fans could have a few drinks. I am a bit concerned.

Another resident said: "I wasn't concerned until I heard about the Millwall and West Ham fight recently, so I am going to hide my car around the back."

Of course, the Comments section has attracted the usual scurrility:

mark my pants said:

The residents of Staines are to blame for this.
You have been flaunting the trappings of capitalism and treading down the working classes for too long.

Superintendent Duncan Greenhalgh said:

I'd just like to remind residents in Wheatsheaf Lane that parking any kind of vehicle in your rear garden is a breach of the road traffic act 1966 and would result in a fixed penalty notice. I personally will be attending a grenade diversity training course that weekend but our community officers will be available to give commendations for the best use of weapons of mass destruction, and geraniums.

Carl Blainey said:

This is the chance I've been waiting for for years. I really hate the people of Staines. I'm going to disguise myself as a Millwall fan and mingle with them then set light to whatever I can find.

What colour do Millwall play in?

danny dyer said:

make no mistake this one is gonna be pwoper pwoper nawty. so nawty that i am turning up wiv me mate woss kemp. he is pwoper ard and wont take no nonsense from any tweatment or f twoop i tell yer.

Private Parts said:

My mate Charlie Bright is in the army and based at Aldershot just down the road from Staines. Anyway he is a Millwall supporter and is proper loony tunes. He's gone AWOL and I hope it is no coincidence that a box grenades from under his bed and a sniper rifle have gone missing. Please please let there be no grassy knolls down Wheatsheaf Lane.....

Concerned Resident said:

I hope none of the above is true. I live in Wheatsheaf Lane and we held a community meeting last night to voice ouur fears & concerns. The police seemed to play down the fear of violence but having looked at Millwall on youtube this morning and the comments above, I'm very worried, especially as we have just bought a new car and got new windows.

Steve from Egham said:

Let's not forget that the people of Staines aren't exactly angels themselves. A lot of us think they've had this coming for a long time.

I think we've been here before, haven't we?

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Cock Shitting Fuck Bollock Wank


Ireland's Investment Strike

A very interesting article here by Michael Burke on the current shambles that is the Irish economy and the government's rescue plans (although the term "shambles" obscures the fact that the government knows exactly what it's doing):

The crisis of the economy and of the banking sector, as well as a potentially looming crisis in the balance of payments all have the same primary source. Bank lending to private sector developers and other speculators has brought about a ruinous situation for the Irish economy, its banks and the level of its foreign debt. These issues need to be confronted head-on, and any policy prescriptions which do not are sure to end in failure.

Irish Government's Response to the Crisis

The coalition government of the Irish Republic, comprised of Fianna Fail and the Green Party, has set out its policy response to the economic and banking crisis. Perhaps it is the catastrophic scope of recent of events which has led policy in a Biblical direction. Whatever the cause, the government's stance is summarised in Matthew 4:25, "For whoever has, to him more shall be given; and whoever does not have, even what he has shall be taken away from him."

The thrust of policy is to bail out bank shareholders and large-scale property developers by using taxpayer funds. This represents a transfer of wealth from the poor to the rich, on a very large scale. The two planks of the policy have been an austerity Budget and the proposed establishment of the National Asset Management Agency (NAMA). This Agency will purchase banks' bad debts owed by property developers and speculators, paid for by issuing bonds, ultimately covered by Irish taxpayers.

The two aspects of the government's stance are clearly linked. Their main aim is to rescue the greatest possible amount of private capital from the economic and financial wreckage, with Irish taxpayers picking up the bill. At the same time, the enormous levels of debt associated with NAMA (at least Euros 54bn in bond issues have been suggested) are offered as justification for large-scale cuts in government spending, including on social welfare and other provisions.

Austerity Budget

The Emergency Budget unveiled in April focused on reducing social spending in a series of measures that included a raid on state employees' pensions, pay cuts, job losses and reductions in welfare spending. At the same time, taxes were also increased. As outlined above, the automatic increase in government spending was one of the few bright spots on the economic horizon.

Now, to replace that with an austerity budget in the depth of recession is, at least, a high risk strategy. According to Finance Minister Lenihan, the combined total of spending cuts in the Emergency Budget and previous public sector pay cuts amounts to Euros 3.3bn. In addition, tax increases announced in April amount to an estimated Euros 1.8bn [10]. This represents a fiscal tightening of 3% of GDP. Given that the economy is already contracting at double digit rates, this represents a gross overreaction, effectively ensuring that the 'cure' is as bad as the disease. Worse, the tax increases are not progressive ones, aimed at higher income groups or the wealthy, but aimed at the poorest in society (along with a halving of the jobseekers' allowance, which is explicitly aimed at young workers).

While these policies could easily be criticised in terms of morality or justice, they also make no economic sense. If it is accepted that taxes have to rise at some point to stabilise government finances, it is imperative now that these do not fall on the poor, as they have a far greater propensity to consume their income, which is precisely what is needed during recession. By contrast, sheltering the rich from tax rises merely increases their ability to save, or to purchase luxury goods.


The leadership of the FF/Green coalition government has argued that the austerity budget is a necessary measure to stabilise government finances. But the proposed NAMA legislation threatens to overwhelm government finances entirely.

The outline of the plan is reasonably straightforward. At the time of writing the proposed legislation is being debated in the Dail. The government intention is that NAMA will be established in order to purchase up to Euros 77bn in bad debts from the banks, relieving them of this burden on their balance sheets. For reference, Euros this is over 42% of Ireland's 2008 GDP, and, given the contraction in the economy, will be a greater proportion of 2009 GDP. The government will issue at least 54bn in bonds to pay the banks for these bad debts, that is, the debt will owed by Irish taxpayers. The government claims that this discount or 'haircut' represents a potential bargain for taxpayers, while admitting that it is overpaying for the assets by at least Euros 7bn. Of this Euros 54bn total, the government admits that Euros 9bn will be eaten up by loans where the borrowers have already defaulted. The plan is highly controversial because many commentators expect the eventual losses to be much greater, leaving the bill with taxpayers. It has also been suggested that the resources of the National Pension Reserve Fund be used in part to fun NAMA.

Yet, as we have previously shown, it would be possible to restore a function banking system and to alleviate the worst effects of the downturn by taking control of the leading elements of the property and construction industries. In this way it would be wholly unnecessary to compensate either bankrupt property developers or bank shareholders in order to revive economic activity and restore the provision of credit to viable businesses. As even the big home builders have pointed out, NAMA does nothing even to ensure that builders have any working capital over the next 6 to 9 months. NAMA is a gargantuan error, completely missing the main transmission processes which could restore economic and financial stability.

Very Interesting

A multipage article by Pedro Sánchez and Gord Westmacott in Canadian magazine The Walrus discusses the problems facing leftist governments in South America. After a five-page nation-by-nation account, they conclude:

So, despite an undeniable rise in popular political expression across the region, nothing in Latin America is certain. “What’s happening,” argues Larry Birns, director of the Washington-based Council on Hemispheric Affairs, “is that the poor — which was an inert political factor, an inert sociological factor — has become a hotbed of rising expectations. What you’re seeing in Latin America is a kind of new political law emerging from the street — if you defraud us on running on a campaign agenda, if you use your platform to simply get into office and then dismiss it, then the people have a right to recall the election by hitting the streets.” For now, the populist wave has cast its lot with the democratic left. But populist movements have a long history of flying any number of flags of political convenience, from doctrinaire Marxism to military dictatorships. Such movements also show a persistent and problematic willingness to blindly deliver their collective power into the waiting hands of a caudillo, the archetypal and charismatic strongman, the father figure who is not always benevolent.

In Macondo, the residents fought valiantly against the hundred years of solitude that threatened to engulf their town. They experienced blissful moments, moments of magic and miracle, but all was ultimately lost. Today, in Caracas and Montevideo, in Buenos Aires and Brasília, the people are demanding a different ending to their own story.

What made me laugh, though, was the lone, anonymous comment.

Poor Taste or Modern Ballet?

The November issue of Dance magazine reports on Stephen Mills's Light/The Holocaust & Humanity Project, performed by Pittsburgh Ballet Theater as the centerpiece of its 40th-anniversary season. The work deals directly with the Holocaust, which is presented from the perspective of the victims, according to Mills. Mills, who is not Jewish and has some misgivings about creating Light, believes that there is an urgency to the project because soon there will be no more survivors with firsthand accounts.

Yes, from the perspective of the victims. As you can see above.

Bloody Prima Donnas

Birmingham's just not good enough for some people.

In the highly competitive upper echelons of the ballet world, what Clara Blanco did several years ago is almost unheard of.

In 2006, the San Francisco Ballet corps member quit the company and headed for England’s Birmingham Royal Ballet. A year later, she was eager, if not desperate, to return to San Francisco.

. . .

The Birmingham year did afford Blanco the opportunity to perform in major ballets by Ashton and MacMillan, who are rarely represented in SFB’s repertory. But she hated the weather in the English city (“I think it rained 300 days that year”) and the touring, and wasn’t prepared for the rigid casting system. (“You are not permitted to do roles until dancers with more seniority have performed them first.”)

Since when was ballet performed outdoors, you whining prancer?

Good news for Sookie Stackhouse

French woman marries her dead fiancé.

The Burning Question

Will Britt Ekland be dancing nude at his cremation?

Monday, November 16, 2009

Which Is Why Channel M Gave Him His Own Show

Congratulations to John Robb and the students of Salford University.

Friday, November 13, 2009

The Raffles Of Timperley

The run of luck that has seen me collect 5 (and a half) bodies of Little Frank in various raffles continued at last night's Frank Sidebottom show at The Salutation. A last minute decision to pop along after seeing Airborne Toxic Event at The Ritz was rewarded with the winning of the above Amoeba Frank ball puzzle.Aren't you jealous?

It's Friday. Let's Boogie!

Wilco - California Stars

A Brief Message for Anyone Who Works in Marketing

Kill Yourself.

No. Seriously.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Pedigree Chum

I recall reading somewhere that in medieval Russia, caviar was so plentiful it was part of the staple diet of peasants and only acquired its cachet as stocks declined and it became a relative rarity, suggesting that taste has less to do with refinement than simple supply and demand. I was reminded of this minor detail of history by this sidebar in the latest issue of Mother Jones magazine on the rebranding of fish species. Anyone for Slimehead?

Kicking Ngog Around

Rafa speaks: "It was a pity to score with a penalty that maybe wasn't a penalty. It is not fair sometimes but we have had a lot of things go against us this season and we deserved more from this game."

So that's alright then. Any supposed prior injustice justifies cheating. Glad to have had that cleared up finally.

Monday, November 09, 2009

What is the Secret of Great Comedy?

Pat Leahy in yesterday's Sunday Business Post:

Former president Mary Robinson was expressing her disappointment last week about how few women are involved in politics at a senior level in this country.

"I am disappointed at the number of women in parliament in Ireland in both houses of the Oireachtas," the former president told Claire Byrne on the Breakfast Show on Newstalk.

Indeed. Of course, the situation isn’t helped by women who, having achieved high political office, then bugger off early to some other job, like . . . er, Mary Robinson.

The former president suggested that Ireland take inspiration from abroad. "When you think of Rwanda as having 56 per cent women in the parliament, the highest in the world now, half the cabinet and the chief of police, etc, we don’t have a high proportion of women in our defence forces or in our police." Yup. Things are just great in Rwanda.

Philip Gourevitch in yesterday's Observer Magazine:

On the 15th anniversary of the genocide, Rwanda is one of the safest countries in Africa. Since 1994, per-capita GDP has nearly tripled, even as the population has increased by almost 25%, to more than 10 million. There is national health insurance and a steadily improving education system. Tourism is a boom industry. In Kigali, the capital, broom-wielding women in frocks and gloves sweep the streets at dawn. Plastic bags are outlawed. Broadband and mobile phones are widespread. Traffic police enforce speed limits and the mandatory use of seat belts and motorbike helmets. Rwanda's is the only government on earth in which the majority of parliamentarians are women. Soldiers in uniform are almost nowhere to be seen.

Not that they could teach us anything, eh, Pat?

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

No Further Convincing Required

Laurie Taylor's latest newsletter promoting his Thinking Allowed program on Radio 4:

Plenty to read in the papers this morning. The Sun has the story of a grandfather being beaten to within an inch of his life while the Mirror gives me all the details of how a drunken man stabbed his friend in a bust-up over a packet of sausages.

But nowadays I’m reading such stories with rather less appetite than usual. What’s changed my attitude is the recognition that their appearance tends to obscure or even deny the presence in our society of other serious criminals – smiling white collar fraudsters who during the course of their everyday jobs steal massive amounts of money from banks, pension funds, corporations, government and private individuals.

According to even the most conservative estimate £20 billion was stolen in 2005 and City accountants believe such fraud figures may treble as a result of the current recession.

And how much of that fraud will be detected? One leading police fraud officer told me that the figure was probably no more than five per cent. Cases of financial crime are complex, but can that really be sufficient explanation for the news that the Financial Services Authority failed to initiate a single prosecution last year?

You can tell the story of the neglect of fraud in a little flowchart. Even if a serious fraud is detected in a company it’s rarely reported to the police or financial authorities. (Frankly, your bank would rather no-one else knew about their lack of security). Even if a fraud is reported it may not then be subsequently investigated. Former police officers who’ve worked in this area told me that outside London I’d be hard pressed to find a force with even a couple of officers dedicated to the crime. Then after a successful investigation there may be no prosecution (long drawn-out cases which end in failure are a serious embarrassment to bodies like the Serious Fraud Office which knows full well that between 2003 and 2007 four out of every ten fraud prosecutions failed). But if at the end of this hazardous path, a verdict of guilty is finally achieved, then the white collar criminal can usually look forward to a light sentence in an open prison.

Does the existence of so much unchecked, undiscovered, unpunished fraud matter? Former Director of Public Prosecutions, Sir Ken MacDonald put it this way in The Times earlier this year. Regulation and enforcement, he argued, ‘create an environment in which people can make decisions…confident in the knowledge that what they legally hold will not be stolen from them. That is the basis of all law and it is shockingly absent from our financial markets.’

Brave words. It's unlikely that a public figure will ever express such a sense of outrage about another group of white collar criminals who never made an appearance in my seminars and rarely warranted a single headline. And yet their actions, or lack of action, lay behind, according to official statistics, over two hundred deaths and as many as 28,000 serious injuries every year. The perpetrators of this mayhem are the UK employers who failed in one way or another to secure the safety of their own workers. Official figures admit 229 people died at work last year: crushed in building sites, consumed by machinery, decapitated by cranes , burned to death by acid, and other grizzly ends, but these figures go up enormously when one adds in all those who continue to perish from the effects of such known work-place hazards as asbestos.

Of course a small proportion of these deaths and injuries may be nobody’s fault or the fault of the victim. But how might we ever know? The body charged with regulating safety at work, investigating deaths and injuries, and prosecuting offenders, is the Health and Safety Executive. But my visit to the HSE headquarters on Merseyside revealed that the total number of inspectors has dropped to 1415. There is no more dangerous workplace than the construction site, but a recent estimate suggests that there is now a single inspector available for every 3,300 building sites. I also learned at the HSE that the numbers of prosecutions for safety crimes had fallen by 46 per cent over the last six years.

Perhaps it’s our traditionally cavalier attitude to white collar crime which means that so little attention is currently paid to computer fraud. Stories may regularly surface about how people have been cheated out of their savings by ‘phishing’ (e-mails offering unexpected legacies in return for bank details) and ‘scareware (the use of bogus viruses to achieve similar ends). But despite an estimated 294,600 computer fraud offences in 2008 alone, there have been just 200 prosecutions for such offences under the Misuse of Computer Act in the last 20 years.

Why don’t we bother more about white collar crime? And why should we give it more attention? Over a hundred years ago, the American sociologist, Edward Alsworth Ross, perfectly captured the problem. ‘The stealings and slaying that lurk in the complexities of today’s social relations are not deeds of the dive, the dark alley, the lonely road and the midnight hour. The modern high-power dealer of woe wears immaculate linen and sins with a calm countenance and a serene soul, leagues or months from the evil he causes. Upon his gentlemanly presence the eventual blood and tears do not obtrude themselves. The hurt passes into that vague mass, the ‘public’ and is there lost from view’.

How might we ensure that more of these white collar criminals in their immaculate suits are brought to justice? Attitudes might just start to shift if readers of the popular press – and that includes the mass of politicians – woke up every morning to some slightly unusual headlines. How about:

‘Rich City boss robs poor pensioner blind.’ or ‘Top Company Executive drowns worker in vat of acid.’
I’ll be introducing a special three part exploration of White Collar Crime at four o’clock today or after the midnight news on Sunday (or download our podcast).

In next week’s programme I will take a critical look at the various agencies which attempt to regulate this form of crime (the Serious Fraud Office, the Financial Services Authority and the Health and Safety Executive). And in the third programme on the following Wednesday (18th November) I’ll be looking at the very modest punishments which await the few people ever successfully convicted of white collar crime.

This means that this will be my last newsletter until we resume normal programming again on Wednesday 25th November. I trust you won’t miss me too much!

You can hear the programmes which were made in association with the Open University, and have your say on the issue of white collar crime, by going to a dedicated website: