Friday, December 30, 2005

World's greatest blog found

Confederate Leaders

a blessed companion is a book

My beloved and I received a large number of books as Christmas presents. People must have us down as readers. As part of those seasonal pieces which write themselves, I will now list all these books. You can have fun guessing which ones will have been read in three months time. Some of these are my beloved's books rather than mine; try and work out which.

Tom Garvin Preventing the Future: Why was Ireland so poor for so long?

A friend mentioned this book in conversation, and I've been going on about it ever since. It's about how a blocking coalition of Gaelgeoirí, the Church, conservative politicians, native industrialists, etc. pursued policies to their own advantage which had the side effect of keeping Ireland's economy in stasis. There is an anti-leftist tone to this book - the author loves to scove at the resentment towards the rich prevalent in Ireland before the 1960s.

Gideon Defoe The Pirates! in an adventure with Scientists

ARRRRRRRR!

David Toop Haunted Weather: Music, Silence and Memory

Well-known brainy music writer talks about stuff. Dipping into it suggests a pleasant writing style.

Neil Belton A Game with Sharpened Knives

A novel about Erwin Schrodinger, including stuff about his sojourn in Ireland during the Second World War. So kind of like "Improbable Frequencies", only without the tunes.

Mark Kurlansky 1968: the Year that rocked the world"

Any book by Mark Kurlansky has to include the topics of all books he has previously written. Thus this book has a chapter on the Basque revolt of 1968, triggered by harsh Spanish taxes on the sale of the salt necessary to preserve their catches of cod.

Christopher Hitchens Letters to a young contrarian

What, do people think I'm some kind of contrarian? I was dimly aware of the gin-soaked popinjay when this book came out, having high opinions of him as a denouncer of that cockfarmer Henry Kissinger. I do not really go for "contrarianism" as a concept, it seems too much like being against things just for the sake of it. Since then Hitchens has followed that line of thought to the logical end, and is adopting stupid positions simply for the sake of it, becoming a darling of the Right in the process. The cover shows him in true contrarian form, smoking away on a cigarette to show how un-tamed by convention he is. That said, dipping into the book suggests that he is possessed of a wonderfully fluid and clear writing style, suggesting that this will be a pleasant book to read.

John Peel & Sheila Ravenscroft Margrave of the Marshes

The first half is how far Peel had got with his autobiography before he died, the second is the wife's memoir of him. Skimming it reveals that Belle & Sebastian were the most debauched band ever to visit the House of the Peels. The wife's stuff about Peel is very touching.

It has to be said that Ms Ravenscroft is incredibly hot, and judging by the recent photos she has still got it big time. So eh, if you ever google yourself and find this blog, my e-mail address is on the right.

Mark Larson & Barney Hoskyns The Mullet: Hairstyle of the Gods

You can't beat books about mullets.

Shane Brennan In the Tracks of the Ten Thousand

If like me you had an education, you will know all about this Greek chap called Xenophon who led ten thousand Greek mercenaries out of Iraq after some sneaky t-heads treacherously murdered their leaders. This guy seems to have decided to walk the same route as old strange voice. Who knows if he will have similar adventures and fight hard to resist the charms of big asian women?

James Landale Duel: A true story of death and honour

This seems to be a book about a particular duel and then more generally about the whole dueling phenomenon thing. They were mad for the duels back in the past, but then they suddenly went out of fashion big time. Off in Spy School I have read stuff suggesting that war is going the same way.

C.S. Lewis The Chronicles of Narnia

In general, one should beware anything whose title features the words "chronicle" or "saga", unless it was written more than five hundred years ago. Nevertheless, these books make me happy as I had great wuv for them as a child. This collected set has the nice Pauline Baynes covers and internal illustrations - none of that film tie-in shite. Apparently there is some kind of religious subtext to these books, can't wait to see if I notice it.

Have I missed any?

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

and everybody's got to live their life

One thing you may have noticed about blogs is how popular they are with people who like to drone on about their inconsequential lives. I am as bad as everyone else, and the only reason why I talk so much about shite here (rather than my inconsequential life) is that I have no life - all my time is taken up by post-modernist international relations theory and other stuff to do with Spy School.

Anyway, if you click here, you will be transported to a blog where the author does at least have something interesting to talk about. Doing aid work in Darfur is probably more exciting than whatever you are doing. The great insight I have learned from this blog is that Darfur aid work is a great way to get some action for yourself if you are a single man. I wonder is this true of aid work generally? Perhaps I will discover this myself if I take that three month placement in Haiti.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

My Christmas Gift To You

Would you like a burned CD of pop music from the non-Western world? If so, send an e-mail to dirtydotvicaratgmaildotcom with your name and address, and I will send one to you. The CD will feature tunes from four continents. I cannot supply you with a tracklisting for this CD at this point. My tastes are broad but not deep, and I do not wish to expose myself to the ridicule of any readers with more advanced knowledge of the topic.

we're not university material

I've been listening to Pink Floyd a lot lately. This has been triggered by my viewing earlier in the year of the Italian film "Good Morning, Night", about the Red Brigade kidnapping of Aldo Moro. It uses 'Shine On You Crazy Diamond' effectively to evoke a general air of menace and malign expectation. Since then I acquired "Wish You Were Here", and have derived great enjoyment therefrom.

Since then I picked up the "Live at Pompeii" film, "Meddle", and "Atom Heart Mother", the latter being two records from before they went completely mega. "Live at Pompeii" captures them in roughly the same time period, mainly playing stuff from "Meddle" and "Saucer Full Of Secrets". It is an intriguing oddity - a live album without an audience. I suppose the idea is that you are meant to focus on the music, man, and filming without spectators in Pompeii allows for some great visuals. I was sorry they did not use the Cave Canem mosaic, but that's probably in Naples now.

The film seems to focus a lot on Nick Mason, with him being where the cameras point when covering the band playing. This is probably because a drummer is always more visually arresting than someone using a guitar to produce interestingly textured sounds (and no one in their right mind is going to put a camera anywhere near Roger Waters if they can help it). However, it did make me consider Mason's playing a bit more than I would have done previously, and it did seem a more important element in the Floyd sound than might hitherto have been thought. I think I must now seek out Nick Mason solo albums, and the likes of the studio record of "Ummagumma".

The "Live at Pompeii" bonus features are of interest. There are some wonderfully "dude" interviews with the director, where he goes on about how the new beginning bit (with planets and rockets and stuff) is meant to be about people on other worlds picking up Pink Floyd transmissions and then deciding to come to Earth and check out the music makers. Makes you think. There is also a great "and I don't want that" interlude filmed in the canteen of Abbey Road studio, where one of the band is going on about how you should always try not to get a corner slice of apple tart.

You know "Meddle". It has been said that basically the record is all about 'Echoes' and 'One Of These Days'. The other tracks are perhaps a bit slight, but I am still glad they are there. And if Low saw fit to cover one of them then there must be more there than I am appreciating, hein?

"Atom Heart Mother" is perhaps a bit over experimental, a product of the era where the band were considering making an album entirely from the sounds of the human body. Fortunately it is not as annoying as that, and the long title track is an enjoyably ambient listen. We must also salute the producers of one of the world's most iconic record covers.

Compared to all of this, however, any tracks I have heard from "Dark Side Of The Moon" are at best amazingly bland, at worst decidedly annoying (Woaaawww owwwww aoowwwwww etc.). But what really is TEH SUCk is "The Wall". One of the lads at work has been listening to a Pink Floyd compilation album a lot lately, and it is shocking how devoid of redeeming features the supposed good tracks are (apart from 'Another Brick In The Wall', obv.). It is amazing to think that the same band could produce a track with the menace and inventiveness of 'Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun' as the suck-ass easy-listening shite of 'Comfortably Numb'.

You may disagree. But your opinions and addresses will be noted, leading to impromptu visits from the taste police.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Christmas roundup

Today is Christmas day. My understanding is that there are no civilian flights through Irish airspace on Christmas day, so what were those high-flying aircraft I saw go by? More bomb fodder for Iraq, or more prisoners for the torture camps of the secret gulag?

Bros were on TOTP2 on Xmo eve. In retrospect they are even shiter than I can remember. They are completely devoid of any musiciany or vocal talent. The songs (written for them) are lameness incarnated. They look like members of the Aryan Thrust, with suspicious crotch enhancements. And instead of dancing they jerk spasmodically, like dead chickens with the gush. Their presence in the dustbin of history suggests that the human project is leading to actual progress, yet it is odd to think that there were people once who liked their music and found them sexually attractive.

I am struggling to think of any non-rubbish secular Christmas tunes.

Continue reading to learn of my amazing Christmas offer.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

HI DERE I R TOTALLY WIRED

One of my beloved's great insights is that Mark E. Smith is a pioneer of the whole "HI DERE" mode of discourse.

Mark E. Smith is of course the lead singer of The Fall, one of John Peel's favourite bands. And John Peel died on Irene's birthday. So as not to wreck Irene's birthday buzz they decided to hold a load of John Peel Day concerts a couple of weeks early, on the 13th of October. In Dublin the Peel Day stuff was on in The Hub, and the line-up promised two acts who had recorded Peel sessions together with two who had not. However, in the end Peel sessioners Luggage did not play, with Mr Luggage instead compering. His laconic understated manner was oddly inappropriate for this kind of carry on, despite making him one of the more engaging front men the Irish music scene has produced.

In between the sets they did a lot of playing music of the sort Peel would have liked, perhaps replicating a particular one of the Festive Fifties. Sadly, the DJs were a bit reliant on shite MP3s downloaded for free from the interweb, meaning that everything ended up sounding like it was produced by The Go! Team. Or maybe they were trying to reproduce the inerference-tastic experience of Irish listening to Peel. The venue also played videos (without sound) of a variety of tracks from the early 1980s... christ the video for 'Geno' is amazing, whatever about what Dexy's did after that, it is a real shame that the early line-up could not stay the course. Another impressive video was that for The Jam's "A Town Called Malice". Conceptually it was a simple case of the band being filmed while miming to the song, but the execution had the kind of verve and swishness that you would associate with someone as image conscious as Weller.

Er, sorry, this is all going a bit incoherent. The first of the bands on tonight were House of Mexico. I do not know if they have any link at all to Peel, but they did sound like one of those bands you would get playing in the Buttery when I was in College (the Buttery was the name of the college bar, gentle reader). I thought they were a bit pedestrian, but my partner in crime (a gentleman I can identify only as "Dave") was more impressed.

The next band were none other than FEMALE HERCULES. WOAHHHH! These guys may never have recorded a Peel session, but you cannot but think that he would have liked them. Eh, I'm not sure why I say that, what I really mean is that I like them and so all right-thinking people, such as John Peel, should also like them. They play a kind of souped up primal rock-n-roll with more than a taste of rockabilly. Plus, they are fronted by a rock animal who plainly lives to, er, rock, 24-7. The other two guys in the band may not rock 24-7, but they certainly do while onstage, so when you have Female Hercules playing in front of you, you know you are in for a an uncompromising treat.

I feel more people in the world should be aware of this great band, and I am privileged to live in the city where they still play gigs on a reasonably frequent basis. I was also grateful to their decision to cover 'Ex Lion Tamer', in tribute to the great man (insofar as it was on his programme that they first heard it). All in all the surf-psychobilly sounds of the Irish Buff Medways more than repaid the price of admission.

The last band on the bill were Hey Paulette. They recorded at least one Peel session at some stage in the late 1980s to early 1990s. I met one of them at a party once, and had a conversation about H.P. Lovecraft. He did not like him, or at least his girlfriend was very vocal on the idea that Lovecraft is as nothing compared to Edgar Allan Poe. Still, if Poe is so good, how come there's no role-playing game based on his writings, eh?

Moving back to today, Hey Paulette live seemed like the kind of band who released records on Sarah back in the day. I cannot judge whether they are a particularly good example of the genre, as it was already past my bedtime when they came on, so I made my excuses and left before they had finished their first song. It might be a good idea if gig organisers bore in mind that not everyone who goes to gigs is a time-wasting dilettante like themselves, and some of us have very important meetings to go to in the mornings, meetings for which we need to be on top of our game.

So anyway, this gig - value for money? Given that Luggage did not play and I missed most of Hey Paulette, you might think not. However, the admission was half-nothing, and Female Hercules played a stormer, so I judge this event a success.

I know that many movers and shakers in the Irish indie world read this blog - maybe in future they could make sure that the gigs they organise end at a sensible time. That way, people with proper jobs could stay to the bitter end, and not just dilettantish time-wasters.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

and make them large ones



When Britain was at its greatest, the country was ruled by men who were drunk morning, noon, and night. So why are the Liberals looking for a new leader?

Saturday, December 10, 2005

The magic of Khmer Pop



v/a "Cambodian Cassette Archives: Khmer Folk & Pop Music Vol. 1"

I bought this Sublime Frequencies release in New York. I became interested in Cambodian pop after reading an article about it in "Mojo" a while back. Apparently Cambodia had a flourishing pop scene in the late 1960s and early 1970s. before all pop practitioners were extermnated by the Khmer Rouge. This record collects a load of tracks from the scene, mostly lifted from cassettes the compiler located in Californian public libraries. These in turn seem largely to have been at least semi-pirated, and not too bothered about details like naming the performers or titles of songs, with the result that more than no tracks here are credited to Unknown.

The compiler mentions another interesting thing about Cambodian pop music - that it is forever being remixed. Whenever someone brought out a new cassette of the music they would always overdub it with new vocals or new keyboards or something. Like George Lucas they cannot leave well enough alone. This record catches most of the tracks in versions before they had synthetic noise dumped all over them.

Anyway, this is a great record, with that crazy pop sound I've come to expect from non-Western pop music. I love the way the way these kind of records show the reapproptiation of western musical ideas in local contexts to produce something bright and new. In this case the tracks are mostly perky up-beat numbers that you could imagine being great floor fillers. They're all sung in foreign, making it easier to focus on the music without being distracted by the verbiage.

What with this, my Bollywood music, and my Arabian pop records, I think I might just have enough world pop to DJ an entire set of that kind of thing, were some forward thinking person to be daring enough to look for such a thing. I could even live the dream and throw in a couple of DDR-tastic tunes.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Heroic Dog To Be Honoured By Statue



The Montrose Bamse Project has raised £50,000 to commission a statue of this brave dog, who was apparently a symbol of Norwegian resistance to Nazism despite the occupation of their country. Unlike many dogs today who are afraid of fireworks, Bamse used to stay at his post at his ship's gun tower throughout hostilities. On land, he would fetch errant sailors from pubs when it was time to put to sea.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

beware imitations

I find this very mysterious. In case anyone has any doubts, the real Inuit Bikini Scarlet Carwash resides here on Blogger.

I fear this means that the false Inuit Bikini Scarlet Carwash will soon be claiming to be the real one. World of meta.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Nice hair



I'm getting a bit fed up of people shiteing on about the secret Christian sub-text of the Narnia books. I have also found it ever harder to take Aslan seriously since realising that lions model themselves on Peter Stringfellow, and not the other way round.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

The Return of Toasted Heretic

Toasted Heretic are the band one could most credibly claim as The Irish Smiths, except that they never really became that successful and eventually split up to pursue careers in long-term unemployment. They've been riding the whole nostalgia thing recently, re-issuing their first two cassette-only albums on CD, and playing a couple of gigs around the country. I have never been a great man for the nostalgia... on the other hand, TH were the first band I ever left Dublin to see (breaking my glasses in the process), so I eventually drifted along to their Dublin gig in Whelans. Annoyingly, it started way earlier than a Whelans gig normally does. This meant that when I sauntered in the gig was half over (so that the venue could turn into a shite student disco), although they did at least let us in for half price.

And the band were amazing... I was really sorry to have missed the whole set and harboured fantasies about travelling around the country to see them again for weeks afterwards. It was funny how unlike a band who have reformed to milk the nostalgia circuit they were, coming across more like an exciting new band on the way up. i (and indeed the band) were quite struck by how young so many of the crowd were - surely these people were still in primary school when TH were in contention for the big time? This might explain singer Julian's repeated invitations to audience members to come and get to know the band after the gig.

I think I missed most of my favourite songs, so the fact that I loved this so much suggests that it must really have been very good indeed, or maybe I have just been seduced by nostalgia.

Now Toasted Heretic have a website where you can buy the re-released combo of "Songs For Swinging Celibates" & "Charm & Arrogance" and take part in discussion forums and stuff.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Yet more Fatal Deviation action

It seems like ten minutes since I last posted about Fatal Deviation, so maybe now I will discuss the film in slightly more detail than I did last time, and gratuitously link once more to the cover of the DVD. As you know, it is about this guy called Jimmy Bennett (played by Jimmy Bennett) who has to avenge his father's death and take part in the well-known Bealtaine martial arts tournament that takes place every year in Trim, Co. Meath. Along the way he is trained by a monk and gets on the wrong side of the local crime-lord. He visits a pub, gets into a fight, disarms some FULE who pulls a shotgun on him, and utters the immortal line “Fuck you and your gun, you prick”. For the ladies, the film features a naked man bathing in his own urine. So maybe It is hard to describe what exactly makes this film such a triumph; it does help that the way the hero looks like the kind of brick shithouse who would come around and kick your head in for scoving at his film.

It is easy to scove, but I do find myself with a grudging admiration for Mr Bennett (who also directed and wrote the script). I've never wrote or made a film, and I suspect that people will still be chortling at this sludgefest long after I have been forgotten.

Mikey Graham (of the Rock Group ‘Boyzone’) is great as the main villain, managing to make lines like ‘You made me look bad – and that’s not good’ sound almost credible. Clearly, he has a great future ahead of him.



STOP PRESS Amazingly, if you google “Fatal Deviation” this blog comes up in the first page of hits, meaning that it’s only a matter of time before Jimmy Bennett googles his film, finds this, and then comes around to pull my arms off. The last words I hear before dying of bloodloss might very well be “Fuck you and your blog, you prick”.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

No! The Pincers!

"Giant Water Scorpion Tracks Found: A six-legged water scorpion as big as a man walked the Earth some 330 million years ago, according to a largest fossil trackway of such a beast, unearthed in a layer of sandstone in Scotland."

Spark the hooter

Here is Sean Haugh:


Here is Sean Haugh's Blog.

Sean Haugh is an old-time superstar of Frank's APA, who dropped out to dedicate himself full time to Libertarian Party politics. He is a great man, and if his blog had been updated in the last month I would probably have added it into the links on the right.