Sunday, December 24, 2006

War Is Over

You will recall there was a war in Lebanon this summer. It seems that the country is finally back on its feet again, with Chateau Musar and Ksara wines back in the local off-license; so Christmas is not cancelled in Carwash Mansions after all. Still no sign of any arak, though some might see this as a good thing.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Let us have a funeral!

Father of the Turkmen dies. The Turkmen constitution allows for the succession of the head of the People's Assembly to the presidency, should the incumbent die in office. Unfortunately, President Nizayov also held that office, leading to some confusion.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Buy This Record


Bizarrely, the only place selling it seem to be City Discs in Temple Bar, but they seem to have an infinite supply of second hand copies.

Check out the POPJUSTICE website. The link now points to it.

Learn to love the Pop.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

World's greatest headline found

WORLD'S TALLEST MAN SAVES DOLPHIN

Meanwhile, I am not sure whether to salute or scove at the avoidance of references to recent films and internet phenomena in this article: MASS MOUSE ESCAPE ON SAUDI PLANE

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Do you want to party?

Do you know me or my beloved? Do you want to come to a party? Do you like fun? If so, you are in the right part of the internet. My beloved and I are hosting a party experience in Carwash Mansions on Friday 22nd December. Breaking with tradition, we have decided to go for a mulled wine style ambience, with cheese and crackers and hummus and pitta bread and mince pies and stuff. Mmmm.

We have also decided to solve the problem of Christmas presents by adopting a new regime - RANDOM SANTA. This is an opt-in game that everyone who comes to the party is invited to play, though no one has to. My beloved will now go all technical writer and explain how this works:

1. Come to our mullet wine partay on the 22nd of December.

2. Bring a present that you have wrapped. You can label it "from [you]" if you must, but we wouldn’t encourage this sort of thing.

3. TAKE a wrapped present FROM the big receptacle under or near the Christmas tree (we will put some presents there at the start of proceedings... we are not complete tightwads... so if you come along early you stand a higher chance of getting an amazing present from us as opposed to some used socks). This is your present to keep.

4. DEPOSIT the wrapped present that you have brought INTO aforementioned big receptacle.

5. (Optional) Unwrap the present you have just received, and try and guess who it’s from. Fun!

6. Drink mulled wine, demolish mince pies, feel yawning existential chasm, etc.

I must stress yet again that people are welcome to come along and party on without playing Random Santa, but we will not be giving any presents except through Random Santa, and any presents people give us will go straight into the Random Santa receptacle.

None more pink


Another gig I can remember going to was by ((((SUNN-O)))). They were supported by some dude who used to be in other bands (at least one of which might have been Napalm Death). For all that he just faffed away on a laptop I liked his set a lot, as it reminded me of music by shoegazers and proto-shoegazers. ((((SUNN-O)))) themselves played behind a wall of dry ice so thick that it took me ages to realise how many of them there were onstage – last time there were two, this time there seemed to be seven. They've gone a bit false metal by adding in a keyboard player, but they had also brought in a vocalist who did lots of that subterranaean glossolalic murmuring. The moving of his hands was the most striking thing about him, as the vocals sounded like a music instrument and nothing else of him was visible. The hands were moved in a very expressive manner.

So yeah, the gig was a bit different to the previous time we say them. Maybe not so loud, but there were still lots of people giving them the rock sign. I was the only person returning their rock salutes with my hand in the lock position - I don't know what it is with metal kids these days, can no one do the rock lock any more? I can't even find a good reference to the rock lock on the Internet. Goddamn Google.

I bought their White One album. The record features a good bit more vocals generally than the others, but is still of a piece with them. It has the track with Julian Cope doing vocals on one track. Check out ((((Sunn-O)))))’s website sometime, it is chortlesome the way they have to explain to their audience who Cope is (and they conveniently forget to mention his early success fronting a psychey pop band). Or so I thought... I cannot now find this webpage to link to.

But yeah, great gig, though somewhat marred by all the camera phone cockfarmers who seem to find photographing dry ice exciting. In the future cameras and camera phones will be BANNED from all gigs, like in the olden days when breakers of the law were ritually sacrificed.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Pinochet Dead!

Cockfarmer Augusto Pinochet died today. I feel like the people at the beginning of Tilsammans. Party on!

A concert where people remembered Palestine

The Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign managed to get former Planxty star Donal Lunny to headline a benefit concert for the organisation. They titled it Remember Palestine, because there is a sense in which Palestine has dropped off the radar what with the Iraq War and Lebanon stealing the headlines. Even the relatively recent shooting into a crowd of apparently unarmed women by Israeli soldiers elicited little more than reactions of "sure that’s hardly news, they’re always at it".

The first act up on stage was Roisín El Safty. She is from Galway, and sings songs written by her mother, in an Irish old time styleeee. She played three of these, finishing with one called 'An Phailistín'. This was entertainingly incendiary. Next up were some outfit called Band on an Island, who apparently feature some niece of Donal Lunny on an instrument. They played three songs and seemed to improve with each, though my favourite was the one about being chased by the Gardaí. They were not tradders. Shaz Oye is not a tradder either, but a woman who sings and plays guitar. She had a very loud voice about which I was undecided, but I was warming to her when she left. All of the acts from before the interval played three song sets, making opinion formation about them difficult.

After the interval, Iarla Ó Lionaird came out and did some of his sean-nós unaccompanied singing. Or maybe he had some accompaniment, it's so hard to remember. He was followed by the other Planxter on the bill, Andy Irvine, who played on his own for a bit before being joined by Donal Lunny. The two of them played away together like musicians who are comfortable in each other's company, which was just as well. If you know anything about Irish music you will understand that these two are giants, and not people who play together every day of the week, so it was nice to see them together. It was also interesting to see how Lunny, the ostensible headliner, never actually played on his own, played lead, or sang lead vocals. Yet, having seen Irvine on his own previously, I could see how Lunny filled in the spaces in the sound.

They finished with a rousing rendition of Irvine's song about Woody Guthrie, the one that 'samples' his 'All You Fascists Bound To Lose' chorus. Old Wobbler Irvine explained that, having recently been dubbed a fascist for playing the gig, he took especial pride in singing it. I did wonder, however, if given all the Indymedia posters in the audience it might have been better to change the line to 'all you facists bound to lose'.

So there you go. I went home and remembered Palestine.

Very small but very fierce

The Pygmy Shrew is Ireland's smallest mammal. Pygmy Shrews eat grubs and (small) insects. They are very territorial, and will defend their miniscule ranges from rival Pygmy Shrews.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Unlike web forum administrators, God loves a trier

Man is banned from internet forum. Man starts blog wherein he posts what he would have said on forum if not banned from it: In Lieu of Bowlie

Man has other blog (Chris Gilmour's Diary volume 12), where among other things he posts own advertisements. I can't find the one about anti-thrush remedies there, but this might be it on YouTube: Cillit Bang Arrgh

I'm not sure why I am referring to Mr Chris Gilmour as "Man".

Sunday, December 03, 2006

inuit bikini scarlet film club: "Children of Men"

You probably are aware of this. It is set in the future, and begins with the death of the world's youngest person, an 18-year-old Argentinean. For unspecified reasons people are no longer able to have children, and as the human race stares at extinction it turns nasty. The first part of the film sets up the world – one of pollution, miserableness, social dislocation, and the like. Illegal immigrants are being rounded up and sent to resettlement camps while billboards advertise euthanasia pills ("Quietus - you choose the time"). Everyone has pets, people's computers are covered in cuddly toys, and bombs keep exploding (planted either by the pro-immigrant Fishes or by the government as distraction, it is never established).

Then the plot kicks in. The protagonist (Clive Owen) is contacted by his ex-wife (Julianne Moore), now a leader of The Fishes. They want him to use his government contacts to help them transport a teenage illegal immigrant girl to the coast, for initially unspecified reasons. After that things start happening at such a rate that it would give too much away to say anything else. I nevertheless cannot resist talking about the last section of the film, set in the Bexhill Resettlement Camp during an uprising by the illegal immigrants resettled there. You will probably never see a depiction of modern urban warfare as gripping, and watching this made me feel like I was seeing Jenin, Beit Hannoun, or Fallujah.

I am up against deadline pressure, and as always I am having trouble expressing myself, but if you just absorb that this is one of the best films I have ever seen then you get the idea. This film is so emotionally involving that I spent the last portion of the film terrified that the protagonists would cop a stray or targeted bullet. It is a sufficiently bleak film that a down-beat "Oh dear, they’re all dead" ending would have fitted, so my fear for the characters was maybe justified, but I do not normally feel so for two dimensional projections of people on a cinema screen. The other great thing about the film was the way it genuinely makes you think about a lot of things, and not just ones related to the central premise. And it was good that it never got into explaining the sudden collapse in human fertility - unlike with V For Vendetta, say, there was no "Blimey it was the government what did it!" moment.

I should also mention that a lot of the last part of the film is set in the countryside around Rye, so if you have ever been to All Tomorrow's Parties it will look somewhat familiar.

Friday, December 01, 2006

ANIMALS FIGHT BACK!

Killer Whale Nearly Kills Trainer

Boars rampage through Bavarian boarhunting town

inuit bikini scarlet film club: "Our Man In Havana"

Recently shown in the IFI, this is one of those old Carol Reed adaptations of a Graham Greene novel. This is about spies, so I was watching it for work reasons. Noel Coward recruits Alec Guinness into the spying game (chortlesomely, in a public toilet). Alec Guinness' character is not really cut out for the whole business of running sub-agents, so he starts to just make it all up. At first this all great gas, but then things become that little bit grimmer.

If you have ever seen it, what did you make of the whisky miniatures game of draughts? Would you like to give it a go sometime?

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Records from Oxfam

One of my friends manages an Oxfam shop in Dublin. Her shop were promoting music a lot in October. Or was it September? Part of this involved lunchtime gigs on Saturday afternoons, the idea being to get people into the shop so that they buy stuff. It worked for me the afternoon Handsome Karl was playing music with some other jazzers. This is what I came home with:

Close Watch - An Introduction To John Cale (CD): I have been thinking about checking out John Cale’s post Velvets music for a while. On the strength of this compilation it is not much cop. Wor bird reckons Cale runs Roger Waters a close second in the coveted Ugliest Man In Rock competition.

Echoes of Nature 5: Whales of the Pacific (CD): This is one of those relaxation CDs you hear about. It features lots of sea noises, the occasional plaintive "waaaoooo?" whale noise, and music of the new agey sort. It is far better than this description makes it sound. Ooooaaoooo?

Electrelane The Power Out (CD): I have mentioned Electrelane* before, these being the all-girl, all-music, all-action combo who pursue a somewhat avant-garde bent (i.e. they appeared once on the cover of The Wire) but still sound essentially rock-oriented enough to play to your mum. This is one of their earlier albums, and while it does not have songs on it that hook me like the train one or the cover of 'The Partisan', it is perhaps a more solid album over all, being all good tunes from start to finish.

*Oh no wait, I just thought I had. They rock, but in an ever so slightly avant garde kind of way. The other album of theirs I have is called Axes, which features the above mentioned storming version of 'The Partisan' and the song I always refer to as The Train Song, for obvious reasons if you have ever heard the song.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Remembering

While in Berlin, I checked out some museums. That inexplicably controversial exhibition on European refugees of the 20th century was fascinating and moving, but did feature a lot of people doing the Children of Men sad face. I also visited the Jewish Museum, which is interesting but maybe slightly hollow, and checked out the Memorial For The Murdered Jews (Denkmal für die ermordeten Juden). This is an oddly extensive structure built over an acre or so of uneven ground, consisting of a number of blocks of dark stone pillars, each occupying the same ground area but rising to different heights. The piece was reminiscent of the Giant’s Causeway, though less impressive because of its newness. I really liked it as a piece of art, but did not really find that it worked as a memorial - instead remembering the victims of the Holocaust, I found myself imagining a complicated set-piece shoot out among the pillars, or the crack you could have playing chasing among them or jumping along the tops of them in a dangerous manner. Needless to say, playing chasing in the memorial or running along on tops of the monoliths is strictly VERBOTEN.

They like remembering bad things in Berlin. If you are ever there, check out the Topography of Terror (Topographie des Terrors). This is an open-air museum located in what were once cells in the basement of the Gestapo headquarters. Two periods of history meet with the museum being located right up against one of the few surviving sections of the Berlin Wall. The Topographie des Terrors documents the Nazis progression from bullying their political opponents to plotting the extermination of entire ethnic groups. It is a particularly evocative place to visit in the depths of winter, when the weather and the chillingly bureaucratic activities of the Third Reich combine to suck the life from your soul. Maybe there is something grotesquely inappropriate about engaging aesthetically with a memorial to terrible evil, but it hard not to be impressed with this exhibition's roughness.

If you've ever tried to learn German, you will probably have come across the Vater & Sohn comic strips. It was upsetting to learn that E.O. Plauen, their creator, was driven to suicide by the Nazis in 1944, after he was reported by a neighbour for suggesting in conversation that Germany was unlikely to win the war.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

DAS BESTE AUS BERLIN

My beloved and I went to Berlin recently, visiting two record shops: Station B on Kastanianallee and Saturn on Alexanderplatz. We were going to go to some place called Gelb in suckass West Berlin, allegedly Europe's best shop for minimal music, but sadly their opening hours are also a bit minimal.

Station B is a shop most forward thinking people would like, selling as it does lots of psychey, worldy, and jazzy music, as well as the hip music of today. It is presided over by this excitable German guy who tells you any given record you are looking at is brilliant. When I was in the shop before he did this with Sonic Boom’s compilation Space Lines, so I am inclined to take his word. Saturn, meanwhile, is a megastore type place.

Actual records acquired:

v/a Pebbles vol. 1 (vinyl): You know, scratchy psyche and late ‘60s punk. Notably this features 'Action Woman' by The Litter; sexual frustration never sounded so good. I was also amused to discover that Pop Will Eat Itself’s 'Beaver Patrol' is actually a cover. The sleeve notes claim that a beaver is a type of long hot dog popular in the Los Angeles area. O RLY?

v/a Ethiopian Modern Instrumental Hits (vinyl): This turns out to mostly include tracks from the volume of Les Éthiopiques that we already have, but it’s nice to be able to listen to Ethiopian jazz on vinyl Sundays.

TURBONEGRO Ass Cobra (CD): Imagine if The Hives were a bunch of camp metal bikers from Norway. Then you would be imagining TURBONEGRO. They sing songs about sailors and about having erections and appreciate how chortlesome Nordic speakers are when talking in English.

v/a Thai Beat A Go Go Volume 1 (CD): I was hoping for something as magical as the Khmer Pop CD I picked up a while back, but sadly this is mostly lamer beat music of a pedestrian nature.

v/a Amiga a Go Go Volume 2 (CD): Amiga was the East German record label; this is a compilation of socialist beat music. Much of it sounds like it would be at home on one of the later Rubble compilations. Particularly awesome was the cover of The Zombies' 'She's Not There', with the lyrics in German for extra madness. Saturn were selling this and volume 1 (previously reviewed in another publication) for half nothing; further investigation reveals that they have been deleted from the catalogues, which is maybe why they are going so cheaply. If you want to check out the magic of communist music, better head on over to Berlin fast!

Young Marble Giants Colossal Youth (CD): People be telling me how good this lot are, record shops in Ireland not be stocking their one album. Now I have it, but maybe the tracks I already know are the best? Or maybe loads of YMG together in one place is more fun. As you know, this short-lived and internally divided outfit played very sparse music accompanying quietly expressive vocals. Friend Eoghan reckons it lays down the template for music I like.

LATER: this record is awesomely good. The minimal music goes well with the minimal vocals, suggesting a world of boutique sadness.

The Greatest Work Christmas Party EVER

"This cheesey rave is quite enjoyable... what's this song, it has a good beat and sounds somewhat familiar... my goodness, is it a cover version of 'The Logical Song' by Supertramp... OMG SCOOOOOOTEERRRR!"

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Adventures in the Dublin Theatre Festival - part two

Emilia Galotti is some famous play to Germans, and was performed here in German by some progressive theatre company. However, they were performing it in a manner that seemed to deconstruct and ironically critique the narrative. This would maybe impress in Germany, where everyone studied the text at great length in school, but I found it all a bit annoying. I gather one of the reasons for the tricksy production was a sense that the story no longer has resonance in a world without hereditary princes possessed of absolute power. But the story seemed to me almost Shakespearian, and everyone loves him. Besides, there are large parts of the world ruled by hereditary absolutists, even if they are not officially monarchies.

I also found this play depressing because of its reminding me of how suckass my German is.

Rattled & Disappeared was a Hungarian adaptation of Kafka's The Trial, with a setting that deliberately hovered between the original Habsburg milieu and the present day. Presumably you know the story - the protagonist gets up one morning to find that two guys eating his breakfast. They reveal that he is under arrest, but it is an open arrest that allows him to go about his business semi-normally, though he soon finds himself up against an incomprehensible bureaucratic establishment.

This version took some of its cues from Kafka's friends reputedly finding the novel hilarious, so they played up the comic elements. They also threw in loads of mimed song and dance routines, giving the whole thing a somewhat Denis Potter air. And they emphasised the at-times seedy eroticism of the book. So something for all the family, though I did think maybe the second half went a bit too song-and-dance, losing narrative coherence as a result.

The set was a thing of wonder, not so much a box as a telescope with much of the action happening seemingly miles away at its end. In the end I would have to judge this the hit of the festival, for all my reservations about the second act. Part of this came down to this being the kind of play that works well in foreign – you kind of know the story already, the dialogue is not as important as the way the characters act towards each other, and there is a lot of running around and people hitting each other.

and that's all I saw. I ran away in terrore from the very idea of seeing the CAPITALE PUNISHMENTE IS BADDE play.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Adventures in the Dublin Theatre Festival - part one

I saw a couple of things, mostly in foreign, and sat too far back to enjoy them properly.

Orestes (not in foreign) won plaudits from many for being the first classically themed production in some time to not have some spurious relationship with the Iraq War grafted onto it. It tells the story of Orestes and Elektra on the last night before their death. The educated among you may remember their tale – they had murdered their mother to avenge her murder of their father; they are then sentenced to death as matricides. This production was based on Euripides' version of the story, and focuses mainly on the psychological effects of murdering your mother, even if it might in some sense be justified. Orestes has completely gone to pieces and has to be looked after by Elektra in a somewhat creepy manner. The play does unfortunately end abruptly, but I liked it.

The Vacationers (by Maxim Gorky) was performed in Russian by some Russian theatre company, with English surtitles. Sadly, the surtitles were not the best and often seemed to bear no relation to what was happening on stage, so it was all a bit incomprehensible. The characters seemed to be all incredibly annoying representatives of the pre-Revolutionary bourgeoisie who were out on holidays somewhere in those dacha things Russian people go on about. The cack-handed surtitles severely detracted from my enjoyment of the play, but it was nice to look at the attractive Russian lady actors.

La Tempête was a Canadian production of Shakespeare's The Tempest, done in a high tech styleeee, about which there was always a "blimey, how did they do that?" air. It was all very impressive and so on, but maybe a straighter production would have been better, especially for someone like me who has never seen the play before. I also found having the same (excellent) lady actor play both Caliban and Ariel a bit confusing.

I enjoyed comparing the whole thing to Forbidden Planet, considering out how the characters could be mapped onto each other.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Mogadishu

This evening I went to see Luke Haines, formerly of bands including The Auteurs, Baader-Meinhof, and Black Box Recorder. He was very good.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

"This is not a life"

V. quick non-review - if you live in Dublin, run off to the Project to see the Bedrock production of Alex Johnston's This Is Not A Life, before it finishes on Saturday. It rocks. Proper review to follow in a couple of months' time. For the moment, the less you know the better, but if you go sit at the big table.

Monkey Magic

Ever wondered what Monkey, Tripitaka, Piggsy, and Sandy would get up to on the duller bits of their journey to China? Wonder no more. WARNING! The linked to picture is so not safe for work.

Thanks to Momus for information on this Toshio Saeki artist fellow. That link isn't safe for work either.

Monday, November 06, 2006

You will be upgraded!

Have Google turned off the upload pictures capability in un-Beta Bloggers in order to force people to upgrade to Beta or because they want to make me learn more HTML code?

"Just the way I like it - nice and quick"

Attention Young Ladies! Do you find that your man faffs about too much when giving you some loving? You need to move to South Africa, where the new Pronto condom can be put on in just one second.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

The sensual sounds of Shoko Asahara

As you know, Shoko Asahara is/was the leader of the Aum Shinryko religious sect, the people who launched the nerve gas attacks on the Tokyo underground. He is now under sentence of death.

In an interesting post ("Fawkes Noose Network"), Momus discusses Asahara's adventures in music. It seems that like like David Koresh and Charles Manson he was also a frustrated musician, although he managed to combine being a cult-leader with making sweet music.

Watch out for those musicians. They are dangerous.

That's just mad

What's the wierdest thing you have ever done? In retrospect, for me the answer has to be going on holidays to the West Bank last summer. Lots of people go to the West Bank for entirely sensible reasons - business, work with NGOs or international organisations, or to stand in front of bull-dozers - but I went there for a holiday. I did take the easy option and spent most of my time in East Jerusalem, but it was still a rather odd thing to do. One of the reasons why I started this blog was to write about, and I still have not got round to doing that, but I will.

In other news, dissident Israeli intellectual Tanya Reinhart is launching a book in the Irish Writer's Centre on the 8th November. Reinhart is a leading advocate of the boycott of Israeli academia and an engaging speaker. The poet Aharon Shabtai will also be reading some of his work, hopefully in a language I can understand (that's assuming I go, of course).

Meanwhile, that Trócaire guy is back in Palestine.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Overhearing things, my new hobby

I also recently overheard A FAIRLY FAMOUS ACTRESS WHO WAS IN AT LEAST ONE FILM/TV SERIES YOU HAVE SEEN talking to some guy (director, other actor?) in a café about something they were filming in Dublin. She is playing one of the more exciting roles from a popular fictional series of books, making me somewhat excited about the whole thing except that it is being done for TV.

Overheard Half Of A Telephone Conversation

"I don't understand all this mortgage stuff.

...


"What, they give you money to buy a house?

...


"So, do you have to pay it back?"

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Draws Include All Survivors

I have started playing Diplomacy postally again. It's been a while, and I never played it that much in the first place. In case you have never heard of it, Diplomacy is the boardgame based around playing one of the European great powers at the turn of the 20th century. You engage in a lot of diplomatic discussions, try to form alliances, wheedle pathetically at people when they attack you, etc.. It is all based on a rather Realist view of the world; I am not surprised to hear that Kissinger loved playing it.

The amusing twist with this one is that I am playing it with a load of indie kid tweefuckers. Rather than being the pushovers you might expect, some of them are turning out to be devious little bastards. So fun is being had by all.

Want to play yourself? You could do worse than check out The Diplomatic Pouch or subscribe to a zine like The Abyssinian Prince.

I should point out that the game of Diplomacy is copyrighted by Avalon-Hill or Hasbro or your mum or someone like that.

Dude, war SuXoR!

Israeli stoners are paying the price for the recent war in Lebanon: Lebanon war puts damper on Israeli pot smokers

Sag Mir Wo Du Stehst!


I was in Berlin over the weekend. One thing I am coming to realise is that there is a bottomless pit of crazy ass weirdo music from before The Wall came down. Currently rocking my world is a socialist psych cover of The Zombies' 'She's Not There'. The lyrics have all been translated; I think they are now singing about increasing production in a tractor factory. Deadly stuff.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Spy School – What’s that all about?

One of my correspondents asked me about Spy School, so I thought I would maybe talk a little about it. First of all, it is not actually called Spy School, and I am not actually studying to be a spy. Obviously, I would say that. What I am actually doing is studying for an MA in International Relations from Dublin City University. The Spy School name comes from someone on the Internet.

For many people the term International Relations conjures up no mental image. I think of it as being to do with world politics, but also global economics, cultural interaction, the law of nations, and everything to do with the world. Maybe saying what courses I have studied would give a better impression. Thus far I have done two compulsory courses, one on International Relations Theory, the other on International Law. I have also taken two elective courses, one on Eastern Europe (mainly political), one on Latin American (mainly economic, or at least about the region’s attempts to achieve equitable insertion (snigger) into the world economy). Also available were courses on peace processes, terrorism, and international trade law. Since the end of September I have been taking two required courses, one on Development and one on International Political Economy. Then in 2007, I will have to choose one optional subject from four offered, likely to be American foreign policy, African politics, political Islam, and some boring law one. Then I have to write a dissertation about something over the summer.

Sometimes people ask why I am studying this course. Partly I am doing it for the laugh, and partly because I want to change the way my life works, with the course as a stepping-stone towards my doing something more intellectually engaging for a living. Sadly, it is still not immediately apparent what exactly I can do with an MA in International Relations. What I would ideally like is to find some way of supporting myself by thinking and writing about world affairs. Or maybe just thinking about it, all that writing really tires me out. If you spot any openings for lazy self-styled intellectuals, let me know.

I notionally write about what I learn in Spy School on my other blog, Hunting Monsters , although as is the way of these things I am a bit slack about updating it. Some of my classmates started another blog (The Dublin School of International Relations) and I have signed up for that too. And if you are really mad for the International Relations, there is always the Helicopterview mailing list.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Let us build a House of Free Creativity!

The BBC reports: "Turkmenistan's President Saparmurat Niyazov has personally inaugurated a massive book-shaped building dedicated to the free media."

The House of Free Creativity provides state of the art facilities and a comfortable working environment to any journalists who might find themselves in Turkmenistan. This should help prevent any further deaths through natural causes of journalists in police custody.

Friday, October 20, 2006

"He has surprised us all, we all envy him"

Putin goes madder. But his comments on Israel's President may have been misinterpreted. "Russian is a very complicated language, sometimes it is very sensitive from the point of view of phrasing," explains a spokesman.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

"Children of Men"

I expect to talk about this film at greater length in the pages of Frank's APA, and thus here in a month's time when it has left the cinema, but for now let me just say that this is the most impressive film I have seen in ages. It is emotionally involving in a way that very few films are, and it made me think of many things largely unconnected with the central premise. I recommend seeing it in the cinema, as the whole second half in particular gains from being seen on a big screen in a cinema with a big sound system.

A salty sea dog

You may recall me mentioning Bamse, the brave Norwegian dog who served onboard a Free Norwegian ship during the Second World War. The statue in his honour has finally been unveilled. The BBC have the full story.

Apparently Bamse is Norwegian for cuddly bear.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Renft

Unless you share my love of East German music, you have probably never heard of Klaus Renft, who died last week. Or maybe you recall his appearence in Anna Funder's book Stasiland. In the Klaus Renft Combo and later just as Renft, he was a one man counter culture during East Germany's long rule by the communists. As is the way of these things, Renft's bands never made much impact in the west, while the years after unification do not seem to have been particularly kind to him either. Oh well, such is life.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Baboons happy with new home

The BBC reports that a troupe of Baboons in Knowsley Safari Park were so annoyed when workmen started demolishing their winter quarters that they had to be separated by an electric fence. The stand-off was only settled by the installation of a new home for the Baboons, one featuring running water and electricity.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Gig: The Telescopes (Lazybird)

They said I would never make it to a Lazybird gig. They were wrong. Putting on a band I am an old fan of did the trick. You may remember The Telescopes back in the late 1980s and early 1990s, when they were one of the first bands to follow in My Bloody Valentine's footsteps. Since then they dropped below the world’s radar and possibly split up and stuff. Now they are back, with an all new direction based on not playing any of their old tunes or guitars or any shite like that. Instead they operate a hardline policy of all drone all the time, mostly played on synths though possibly with slide guitar or heavily treated actual guitar (READER'S VOICE: I thought you said they didn’t have any guitars). Deadly stuff, though I felt the lack of the lady band member who always used to face away from the crowd at gigs in the Camden Falcon. The support act was pretty good too, although I did not catch the fellow's name; maybe it was Magnetize.

One thing that has to be said about Lazybird – it is a great place to pick up chicks. And they're gagging for it – one of my mates regularly goes home with 25% of all the women present on any given night.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Hey cats, draws include all survivors

Mojo reports Jimi Hendrix was a great man for the Risk. He used to play it any chance he got. The wild man of rock used also to play the board hard, and was regarded as a dangerous opponent in London boardgamer circles of the late 1960s.

One has to wonder what might have been accomplished had Hendrix lived. Would he have made the transition to more mature games like Diplomacy?

Disturbing News For Civil Servants

Andrew Sherman reports that the European Court of Justice has ruled that it is discriminatory for employees at the same grade to be paid different amounts of money based solely on their length of service.

This is worrying news for all civil servants who like to put their feet up and watch those increments roll in rather than have to compete for promotions. Christ, I might be better off in the private sector.

The Guardian: 'Higher pay for long service ruled illegal'

Monday, October 02, 2006

Britain's Greatest Record Shops

The Guardian has a most enjoyable article on Britain's 20 greatest independent record shops: Plastic Fantastic

Of the ones they mention that I have been to, Monorail would have to be my favourite. I mean, come on, a record shop in a pub, what's not to like?

If you ever find yourself checking out Selectadisc in Nottingham, make sure to visit Page 45 while you're at it... it's just down the road or round the corner. Mind you, you need to be careful in Nottingham, it is a very dangerous city. I was shot several times the last time I was there.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Dublin Theatre Festival

So what are you going to? I'm off to see Orestes tonight, this being a performance by some British troupe of the play by Euripides. This is set after Orestes and his sister Elektra have murdered their mother to avenge their father's mother at her hands. Deadly stuff. Next week we're off to see La Tempête (Canadians perform an adaptation of Forbidden Planet in that crazy foreign language of theirs) and The Vacationers (Omsk state drama company perform some play by Maxim Gorky). After that we'll be off to Emilia Galotti (famous German play) and Rattledanddisapeared (loose adaptation by Hungarians of Kafka's The Trial). So, only one thing in English! I am so cosmopolitan.

I am not going to Came So Far For Beauty.

Programme

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Dun Laoghaire Festival of World Cultures 2006

One thing that is happening in Ireland these days is that people from other cultures are coming to live in it. Sometimes this leads to people moaning that said other culture people are taking our jobs, women, men, or cheap accommodation, or are providing disturbingly efficient and friendly service in many shops and restaurants. The Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown council is attempting to combat such thoughts by pointing out to people all the exciting stuff that comes from interacting with other cultures – funny food and, especially, funny music. So for the last number of years they have organised this Festival of World Cultures and brought in loads of world musicy type acts to play at it. I usually go along to at least some of it.

This year on the Saturday evening I went to see some fellows called The Marzoug Band from Biskra. Biskra is somewhere in Algeria… north-east, they say, but looking at a map reveals it is a good bit in from the coast. The music of these Marzoug fellows was mainly percussion based (drums of various types, and castanets), but their killer instrument is a bagpipe that looked like it was once a piglet. For one track they also boasted something that may have been an oud.

This was one of those indoor gigs you pay money to go to, with the concert taking place in the Pavilion Theatre. I was downstairs, in the unseated area, but while people were waiting for the band to come on we took to sitting cross-legged on the floor, giving things an endearingly ethnic vibe. As is the way of these things, Marzoug's crazy drumming and squealing piping soon brought people to their feet. The castanet lads did a bit of dancing as well, lending things an impressively real deal air by being a bit folkishly rubbish at it.

For their encores, Marzoug invaded the audience, playing their stuff among us. Whitey got down.

On Sunday afternoon, I had hoped to see Prison Love, but where they were playing was stuffed; this is always a problem with the free indoor gigs. So instead I drifted around a bit and caught some Tibetan dance troupe playing in the Harbour Plaza. They preformed a number of dances from their unfortunate country, and one from neighbouring Bhutan. They also sang while they danced, with the women doing that high-pitched semi-distorted sound the ladies of the east are known for. One would have to say that the blokes were maybe not as impressive as singers, but perhaps again this shows their true folkish lack of professionalism. One of the best routines was for a song called Uncle Lotus, which they sang with great gusto. It turns out, of course, that Uncle Lotus is one of the many code-words people in Tibet use for the current Dalai Lama. You do have to wonder about the Chinese occupation authorities in Tibet, watching people jump around happily singing about how much they wuv their Uncle Lotus. "Do you reckon we should check out this Uncle Lotus guy?" "Ah leave it. Let them sing about their relatives as much as they like, so long as no one brings that Dalai Lama fucker into it".

After that Mark and I wandered up to the main open air stage where Trans-Global Underground were due to be playing in a soundclash with Trio Bulgarka. You may have heard of these groups – Trans-Global Underground were a group I used to go on about a lot more than ten years ago when I was very taken with their first album, featuring as it does such tracks as 'Templehead', 'Shimmer', 'Slowfinger', 'This Is The Army Of Forgotten Souls', and so on. I somewhat lost touch with them after that, though I did see them play in Dublin the day after wor sister's wedding some years back, when the passing of time had rather shrunk both their line-up and their popularity. The Trio Bulgarka, meanwhile, are a Bulgarian vocal group perhaps best known for singing on Kate Bush albums and ads for cider.

In Dun Laoghaire, TGU came on first. One odd thing about TGU now is that basically none of the people whose names I remember from their record sleeves are in the band any more – no Alex Kasiek, Count Dubullah, Neil Sparkes, or Natacha Atlas, though of course some of these have gone on to solo fame and fortune. Instead the line up features some guy on drums, some guy on keyboards, a woman on sitar (and occasional bass), a bloke who runs around with a mobile drum, and a rapper. They do not wear masks.
The sound is broadly similar to what I would think of as "classic" TGU… music pulling elements from Africa, Arabia, and the Indian Sub-continent (and maybe the West Indies). Describing it in such bald terms does not really do it justice, though – this is perfect festival music, kind of hypnotic in its rhythms, dancey yet not so dancey you will cause yourself an injury. Deadly stuff.

And then the curiously dressed Trio Bugarka joined us. They are three ladies of indeterminate size and age who sing harmony stuff with each other in an usual vocal style that seems to be partly based around holding notes for a very long time. They sang a couple of songs on their own before TGU joined in… the combined tunes were like TGU songs over which the Trio sang. Now, you might think this kind of thing is a really weird mismatch of different musical styles, and maybe more than none of Trio Bulgarka were wondering if they were prostituting the sacred music of their ancient nation. From TGU's point of view, though, it was all grand – they are used to running all kinds of different musics together and seeing what happens. They are also used to having vocalists from particular musical traditions join them, with Natacha Atlas singing over much of their first couple of records. So yeah, it all worked. Actually, it was really good indeed, one of the best things I have ever seen at the Festival of World Cultures.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Film: Cave of the Yellow Dog

This is another of those films set in Mongolia. Wolves have attacked the flock of these nomadic herders. Their little daughter comes home from school, and she finds a little puppy dog hiding in a cave. She wants to keep him (obv.), naming him Zolchor, which means Spot in foreign; her father, however, fears that the dog will attract back the wolves, and demands that the dog be sent away. Somehow they never quite get round to this.

That's about it for plot stuff. The main thing of the film is the lush cinematography and the anthropological depiction of these people's lives. That aspect of it is interesting.. there is very much a sense that their lives are in transition, with modernity extending its tentacles into their lives. At one point, the father is talking to some old lads who mention how loads of their neighbours have sold up and moved to the town. Yet everything seems to unproblematic - you do not really get a sense that people are lying awake at night in terror of being absorbed into the cash nexus.

A particular favourite moment is when teeny daughter is left on her own to mind teeny tiny brother, who then goes on the rampage. Teeny daughter has all her work cut out stopping him from laying waste the family shrine, complete with picture of the Dalai Lama and statue of Buddha. The baby puts the latter of these in his month, leading his sister to say "Stop that! You can't eat God!"

The sense of animist culture that surrounds these people was interesting as well. When they break camp for the winter, they thank the earth for looking after them through the summer.

Anyway, the film has a happy ending when the little dog proves his worth and is then allowed to come and live with them forever.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Film: Miami Vice

In this, yer man Michael Mann remakes his old TV series. It is grand in and of itself, though ultimately a bit ponderous. And it’s all a bit Women In Refrigerator (this being a comics criticism term used to discuss the baroque sufferings of women characters in comics; more details). The women closest to the two main characters experience seem to have terrible things happen to them solely because the plot then gives their menfolk an excuse to be very annoyed with their enemies, whose perniciousness is now revealed.

I think some may have criticised the film on the basis of the thin drawing of the women characters. This particular line of argument is not really a runner, as none of the characters have any depth to them, and Gong Li is far more interesting than anyone else in the film.

Still, there are plenty of nice shots of guys with mullets driving around in speedboats or flying airplanes and stuff.

free music

I like music, but I like it best when it's free, so I am especially interested in these concerts taking place in the Oxfam on Parliament street (word). They might be hoping that the punters will buy something or make donations to those people in the Third World you hear about, but they won't get any money out of me! I didn't get to be Mr Bling Bling by making donations.

I note that one of my homies from the Carwash Mansions vicinity is playing in the Jazz ensemble on the 21st. Deadly.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

outsiders

I went to that exhibition of Outsider Art in the IMMA. Outsider Art is an umbrella concept for people making art who come from outside the art establishment, with such people often lacking any art training or sense of art history. Definitional issues abound, but the typical Outsider Artist seems to be either mentally ill or extremely eccentric. Anyway, the exhibition is great fun, with the work of these Outsider Johnnies having a wonderfully mad for it sensibility. Here is a picture by Henry Darger, some of whose striking work features in the exhibition (though not this one):


In other developments, yesterday I went to that concert I have been hyping. I have also been watching lots of Star Trek. Neither of these are very outsidery experiences.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

City of God

Here's another picture from my trip last year to TEH MIDDLE OF TEH EAST:


Through the window on the right is one of the sites where Jesus was crucified.

Film: Rebecca

This is an old Alfred Hitchcock directed film that the IFI were showing in a season of films whose linking feature now escapes me. In the film, a comedically sappy bird marries this slightly creepy rich guy (played by Laurence Olivier), and move to Manderlay, his ancestral pile. There she is weirded out by comparisons with Rebecca, the rich guy’s late first wife.

One thing that really has to be said about this film is that Olivier is brilliant in it. I have seen him ham it up in so many Shakespeare adaptations that I had written him off as the most over-rated actor of all time, but he communicates an agreeably ambiguous edginess to the role here that has me re-evaluating him completely. Beyond that, the pacing of the film is a bit weird – it seems like too much happens before they get to Manderlay, and too much happens after we learn the truth about Rebecca. Yet it all is so gamely presented that I let the film pull me where it would.

Strange Things Of The World

On one of her albums, Pat Benatar covers Kate Bush’s ‘Wuthering Heights’.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Very Fierce Panda Mauls Man

After a long train journey during which he drank four glasses of beer, Mr Zhang Xinyan decided that climbing into the enclosure of a giant Panda in Beijing Zoo would be a brilliant idea. Gu Gu the Panda then bit him repeatedly.

"'No one ever said they would bite people. I just wanted to touch it.'

"Zoo spokeswoman Ye Mingxia said the panda was unharmed and they were not considering punishing Mr Zhang yet."

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Film: A Scanner Darkly

I think maybe I have been thinking about Over The Edge too much, this being the self-described role-playing game of surreal danger. It is on this that I a blame my main problem with this film of Philip K. Dick’s novel – it’s just not that weird. Obviously, I have not read the book and cannot really claim to be an authority on Dick’s writings, but when I heard that the film was based on one of his books and was about drøgs, a plot instantly suggested itself to me.

This is what I expected – there would be these guys who were taking some funny drøgs. As a result of said drøgs, they would be getting a bit fucked up, and would be having hallucinations and stuff. They would be finding it hard to tell the difference between reality and their hallucinations, but the viewer would know that they were only imagining the really weird stuff, so no problem. But then, something would happen to suggest that OH NO the hallucinations were kind of real, and that the drøgs were not merely fucking them up but they were also tearing away the veil of apparent reality to reveal some mentalist true reality. Reality and so on would breakdown and everything would be incredibly scary and confusing.

What actually happens in A Scanner Darkly is that a load of stoners get fucked up on drøgs sit around having stoner conversations, and grass each other up to the peegs. Part of the roffles in all this comes from said stoners being played by a troupe of notorious Hollywood caners. While they do have wacky hallucinations and stuff, it is pretty much always clear what is real and what is not – any confusion the characters feel comes from their being fucked on drøgs and not from any problems with the fabric of reality itself. The moment when the main character (played by Keanu Reeves) most feels like reality is breaking apart around him is dealt with as an entirely subjective experience, so you can still cling to the “he’s fucked on drøgs” hypothesis.

That’s not to say that this is a bad film. The interpolated rotoscoping technique they use (essentially, shooting live action footage and then drawing over it) looks dead weird, and suits well the whole thing about people losing their grip on reality and stuff. The stoner conversations between the characters are very funny, especially any of the ones involving Robert Downey Jr. – his applying to join the cops is particularly amusing. Winona Ryder is amazingly hot once rendered into a cartoon person.

And the film does live in my mind after I saw it. But I would have to say one thing that annoyed me about it was something that sticks it very faithfully to the book. Right at the very end the film throws up some text from Phillip K. Dick, dedicating the film to all his drøg buddies who have since fallen on hard times as a result of their habit, whether it is through psychosis or physical damage of one sort or another. I mean, it’s grand that he gets to commemorate all his pals and stuff, but it turns the thing into some kind of tiresome anti-drøg diatribe. There is enough of that kind of thing already in mass culture.

Please god, let him stop!

The Guardian seems to have missed out the "Yet Another" from the start of their article about Christopher Tolkien's latest book.

Monday, September 18, 2006

The Well Below The Valley

As you know, Donal Lunny and a number of other musicians, including Andy Irvine, are playing in Dublin's Olympia next monday for the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign (details). I had hoped to post a copy of the event's poster here, but it does not exist anywhere on the Internet. Instead, here is a picture of Lunny and Irvine during the Planxty years: And here they are now:I don't know why I feel so obliged to pimp out this event, it's not like I am actually a member of the organisation they are playing for. Still, I reckon persons of musical discernment would be well-advised to attend.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

October Fest Palestine

Although the one in Munich is more famous, true beer aficionados will soon be heading to the West Bank for Taybeh's annual October Fest.

If you are ever in that part of the world, make sure to check out the Taybeh. They serve it in the Jerusalem Hotel and the George's Hostel.

(some embarrassing typos corrected)

Monday, September 11, 2006

Me am computer smart

There's book smarts, and then there is real life smarts.

I work with computers, doing stuff that bears some relationship to system administration. So I know all about computers. I have been playing this e-mail based boardgame for the last while, and one thing that has been really grinding my nads about said game is the way all the rules are in several different documents, making it very hard to find the particular rule you are looking for. Worse, the font in the rules was very small, making them very hard to read onscreen. But because me am smart, after six months I realised I could copy and paste all the rules into one document, and increase the font size!

Also, ever since I got this laptop a year ago, I have been tortured by how dark the screen display is. This is particularly irritating when watching DVDs. Yesterday, after watching Miller's Crossing, I thought "Maybe I should look and see if there is some kind of setting which will make the screen brighter". And there is!

Ho ho, I must apply to join that MESNA.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Comics Round Up 9/9/2006

I seem to recall saying I would talk about each week’s bag of comics. Here is this week’s.

Battler Britton (#3 of 5) by Garth Ennis and Colin Wilson.

Ennis recreates the war comics of his childhood, drafting in old-school artist Colin Wilson to make sure the various pieces of Second World War hardware are drawn so well that a true connoisseur can tell you not merely than an aircraft is a Messerschmitt Bf 109, but that it is a model F, most likely manufactured in early 1942. The story involves a squadron of British bombers (led by the eponymous Britton) who find themselves paired with a squadron of inexperienced American fighters. International rivalry ensues, though by the current issue the well-worn paths of the buddy narrative are being trod. Who cares, this is not about the story, it’s about the planes.

Y: The Last Man (#49) by Brian K. Vaughan, Pia Guerra, and José Marzan Jr..

You know the score – a mysterious plague has wiped out all males in the world, apart from the main character and his pet monkey. At the moment he and his ragtag gang of associates are in China, and may finally be on the brink of discovering what caused the plague and how they can go about making sure future males do not die of it. This episode is maybe a bit interstitial, giving the impression that exciting things are about to happen in the next couple of issues.

Local (#6) by Brian Wood and Ryan Kelly.

You may recall my mentioning this previously. It follows this woman as she moves around the North American continent. Each episode is very self-contained, and goes big-time for local detail (although I cannot confirm the accuracy of said detail, as only one of the stories I have read was set somewhere I have been to, and even that is not a place I am particularly familiar with).

In this one, Megan finds herself in New York, and the story is about the travails of living with people. The narrative structure of the overall story creates an interesting contrast between the individual issue and Megan’s overall route through life. Read on its own, she comes across as a bit of a fruitloop in this episode, though when you compare it to the previous issue you realise that she seems to be pulling herself together.

I recommend this title highly. Mr Wood is perhaps best known these days for writing DMZ, a comic set in New York during a near-future Ameican civil war. The one episode I have read of that did not really impress, but now I am starting to wonder if I should give it a second chance.

The Exterminators (#9) by Simon Oliver, Tony Moore, and Andy Parks.

The previous issue went a bit relationship on my ass, but now we are back to what the strip does best – the disgustingness of bugs and other vermin. Some issues back the strip killed off the most repulsive of the human characters, but now he (or something like him) appears

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Trailer Trash

I went to see Snakes On A Plane the other day. It was very good, but watching the trailers beforehand made me a bit worried about what kind of person they reckoned would go and see it.

First up was some Tenacious D film, featuring that annoying cockfarmer Jack Black. I think this Is meant to be a comedy. There is nothing funny about this trailer; it probably features the least unfunny bits of the film.

Then there was this film in which some attractive young women do martial arts stuff and take people out with swords. It looks amazingly bad, but it might appeal to those who still dream about the women in Hai Karate ads.

The third film was Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette. I have Coppola’s number - she makes nice-looking but ultimately vacuous films. This film about the life and death of the France’s 18th century queen fits the model – nice art direction, lovely Kristin Dunst in the lead role, but it all looks like the usual French revolutionary nonsense, with fancy looking toffs having their world overturned by the revolting masses. The trailer suggests that Coppola’s big innovation is to go for anachronism by having modern (or modernish) tunes in the film’s soundtrack; the Gang of Four’s ‘I Found That Essence Rare’ storms through the trailer. I imagine this must make the film look like a sequence of music videos.

I was glad to see the trailer for Talladega Nights – The Legend of Ricky Bobby, the latest Will Ferrell vehicle. I might actually go to it, as it gives the impression that the film will actually be funny. Comparing the trailer with the Tenacious D film is instructive. In and of themselves, the Talladega Nights trailer’s jokes are not all that, but the trailer is still very chortlesome, I think because Will Ferrell and John Reilly are funny in and of themselves in a way that Jack Black is not.

CAN YOU FEEL IT?

"Y'all ready for this?"

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Long and Lovely, Hilt's Cool and Bubbly

I think I read somewhere that the Paris Hilton song sounds like the Lilt ad. But I can't remember where I read it, so I might start passing this off as my own idea. Anyway, the songs does sound like the Lilt ad.

Pete Baran on Freaky Trigger talks about the recent jape by graffiti artist Banksy, whereby he replaced some of her CDs in shops with his own: Banksy Hitting Barn Door (Paris Hilton) With Banjo (Doctored CD). I agree with the proposition that Banksy is in this instance shooting fish in a barrel in a trite and puerile manner.

Wow, good job I am a slow typist. While writing this I've gone off and looked at the Banksy version of the art. Ho Ho Ho, I chortle.

The Nightmare Before Christmas

Check out the line-up: Sonic Youth, Iggy & The Stooges, Fursaxa, Double Leopards, Gang of Four, Islaja, and much, much more - what's not to like?

What's your excuse for not going?

Sunday, September 03, 2006

The Flaxley Flier

Freddie, a Jack Russell dog, is causing astonishment by regularly jumping up on the back of his neighbour Daisy (a Shetland Pony), and then sitting there while she trots around the paddock.

"I guess it is a rather peculiar sight," reports his owner, Mrs Patricia Swinley.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

"a most magnificent donkey"

Bruno the Donkey, from Skegness in Lincolnshire, has been judged the UK's top donkey for 2006, beating off strong competition from Panda, a donkey from the Tamar Valley Donkey Park in Cornwall.

Well done Bruno!

Another upcoming concert: Donal Lunny, Andy Irvine, Iarla O Lionaird and others play for the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign

Word. The concert takes place on Monday the 25th September in the Olympia. Tickets can apparently be purchased from the Olympia or Ticketmaster from next week.

DUNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNN

Good news for lovers of extreme music - SUNN-O)))) are paying another trip to these islands, and playing more gigs in Ireland than in Britain.

The caped crusaders' profile is that bit higher than when they last played here, so I reckon some of these gigs could be a bit crowded. The audiences will be fun to watch, as ((((SUNN))))) manage to make music that appeals to both metallers and hipster aficionados of the outré and avant garde.

If you go, bring ear plugs.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

"... like retromingent quadropeds"

I've been looking at the several years old Masters thesis of my dear friend Ammonite (not her real name). It's all about how ancient Roman men saw women as foodstuffs and thus lived in permanent fear of being poisoned by them. Deadly stuff.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Unrealised ambitions

These are a big part of my life. Do you remember all my big talk about going to observe elections in funny Eurasian countries? Well I do, but subsequently I remembered that from September onwards I have to juggle spy school with a full-time job. Ho hum.

I was also struck today by how it's over a year since I was in Palestine. One of the things I had in mind for Inuit Bikini Scarlet Carwash was to do a big write up of my trip there, complete with the amazing pictures taken by me of walls and old streets and holy sites and stuff like that. Still haven't done that either. Ah well.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

CD: THE GREATEST IRISH MUSIC TUNES EVER RELEASED

This is actually a compilation of tunes by Irish artists which is meant to give a cross-section of the local music I have listened to over the last number of years. The tracklisting represents a couple of different things - artists I like or have liked, artists I deem representative of a certain current of Irish music, artists I reckon people might find interesting (but not necessarily like). Not all the selections do all of these things simultanaeously.

There are no tracks by U2 here, because everyone knows what they sound like already. And no tracks by undeniably rubbish acts of the 1980s (Cactus World News, Cry Before Dawn, Aslan, etc.), as they have no redeeming features and I have nothing by them. I have also left out any older Irish tunes by good bands like Horslips as they do not fit the model.

So anyway, enough of my yakkin'. Here are the tunes, the order being roughly chronological:

Toasted Heretic 'Sodom Tonight' (from Songs For Swinging Celibates)
Toasted Heretic were a very important act in my circle. I remember hearing this song for the first time in the radio and being awestruck by it. This was back around 1987 or so, when the idea of there being such a thing as an Irish band making this kind of music was dangerously novel. In rapid succession the discovery was made that i) they had other songs ii) they had an entire cassette of songs, and iii) they played concerts. I saw them live and became acquainted with the band (though not as well as others), but gradually Toasted Heretic's career trajectory became apparent - a failure to capitalise on early promise, and a failure to break out of the ghetto of Irish music despite more than no support in certain quarters of the UK music press. Such is the way of life.

Wormhole 'Unknown To Us' (from Chicks Dig Scars)
One of the many somewhat experimental guitar rock outfits found in Dublin during the early 1990s. These fellows may later have mutated or evolved into E+S=B, who played with yer man Damo Suzuki. I like the whiny vocals on this track.

Whipping Boy 'Valentine 69' (from Submarine)
The Whipping Boy originally were a kind of early post-My Bloody Valentine band - shoegazing before the genre had acquired the name, but maybe a bit more muscular. For whatever reason, success eluded them. Then they reformed in the mid-1990s, riding a wave of music industry hype, and success eluded them again.

Harvest Ministers 'Six O'Clock Is Rosary' (from the e.p. 'If It Kills Me And It Will')
The Harvest Ministers released a couple of singles and maybe an album on Sarah, and appear on the final Sarah compilation, which means that more than no people outside Ireland have heard their music.

Revelino 'Happiness Is Mine' (from the untitled first Revelino album)
These fellow mutated out of The Coltranes. I'm not saying they are necessarily that good in an objective sense, but when I saw them live in the early/mid 1990s I was struck by their star quality - they seemed like the kind of act who should be playing to legions of adoring fans rather than to the usual suspects who go to all gigs in Dublin. They may have thought so too, so it was amusing when their second, post non-success album, was called something like To The End, and had a wonderful cover featuring a photo of some Kamikaze pilots bowing before heading off on a mission.

Sultans of Ping fc 'Where's Me Jumper?' (from Casual Sex In The Cineplex)
I have met people who have never heard this song, so I included it on the CD. Some have suggested making this Ireland's national anthem.

Katell Keineg 'Smile' (from Jet)
Katell Keineg is not actually Irish but she lives here and is part of the local scene, so she might as well be. This is from what I think is her first album. I would have preferred to include 'The Gulf of Araby', but that is from a record I do not have. This is life.

Female Hercules 'Gwendolyn' (from the e.p. 'Gwendolyn')
Female Hercules are a hardy perennial on the Dublin live scene, three guys who live to rock 24-7 and play music with an obvious psychobilly influence. Mr Female Hercules is a recognisable Dublin character, and a personal hero of mine.

WARLORDS OF PEZ 'Padre Pio' (from the v/a compilation Kicking Against…)
WARLORDS OF PEZ are best experienced live, where they play in masks and include bizarre audio-visual features to their performances. Plus they have a naked man onstage hiding behind a flipboard giving the titles of the songs (and their lyrics, usually the same thing).

David Kitt 'You Know What I Want To Know' (from the v/a compilation Kicking Against...)
I'm not entirely convinced that David "Kittser" Kitt is necessarily that good, but he ran Dublin for a bit during the late 1990s or early 2000s. The mainstream media here got a bit over excited by his combining of programmed beats with singer-songwritery guitar and vocal stuff, while true scenesters actively hated him. Listening to this track again I am struck by how pleasantly understated his delivery is, and I remember enjoying any live performance of his I caught (when he was supporting someone I had paid money to see).

Nina Hynes 'Swallow' (from a v/a compilation given with Homage (or should that be Homg;e, given the magazine's lack of interest in spell-checking?))
Dublin suffers from a surfeit of lady singer-songwriters, and I am throwing Ms Hynes in here as a random sample.

Neosupervital 'Rachael' (from a v/a compilation given with Homage magazine)
Mr Neosupervital is this suave guy who plays a weird guitar synth thing while wearing a suit. There is a slightly support act air to him, but it's the kind of quality support that makes you wish you showed up early to more gigs. This song is rocking my world at the moment, making me wonder if I should check out more of his stuff.

The Jimmy Cake 'The Opposite of Addiction' (from Dublin Gone, Everybody Dead)
Popular local band whose members have colonised most other Dublin bands..

Estel 'My Raymond Is Contagious' (from A Guide In Time Of Great Danger)
Unpopular local band, at least with people I know. This is pre-split Estel, and is unrepresentative of their sound, in so far as it has a guest vocalist. Classic Estel were better live than on record. Post-split, one Estel faction kept the name (Continuity Estel), while Estel-General Command became Pas Cas Cap.

The Chalets 'David Boring' (from the 'Night Rocker' e.p.)
The title track of this e.p. is a complete corker, but I reckoned the comics fans among you might appreciate this track.

Jape 'Floating' (from a v/a compilation given with Small Hours magazine)
When I saw Mr Jape live I realised how much I liked this song. It's funny how one of my friends described Jape as indie-shmindie bullshit when (live, anyway) this song is like some kind of monster rave anthem.

Fred 'Four Chords And The Truth' (from Making Music So You Don't Have To)
The Cork sensations. Sadly, on record you do not get to see their crazed dancer.

WARLORDS OF PEZ 'Monster Voice' (from an album sampler given away at a recent concert)
WARLORDS OF PEZ songs are short, so there is always room for one more.

That's your lot. At some stage in the future you can expect a CD of World Pop - mainly psych tunes from East Germany and Cambodia, bet you can't wait.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Another Concert: Sonic Boom Crawdaddy


Mr Boom is well known as a former member of Spacemen 3. His solo career has been a bit erratic, or rather he has ploughed the kind of furrow that never troubled the charts in the way that his old band-mate Jason Pierce did with Spiritualised. But if you like droney music, his live shows are a must.

Tonight, after a support performance by a fellow calling himself Technical Difficulties (a band name surely up there with Plus Support and Gig Cancelled), Sonic started to do his stuff, wheeling a bank of analogue synthesisers to the front of the stage. He then twiddled with his apparatus while it produced complex droning noises. The first track combined this kind of thing with samples of people describing nightmares, which was apparently linked to synthetic music pioneer Delia Derbyshire.

This was great stuff. The only thing wrong with it really was that the venue was not seated, although if it had been they would have had to rouse us with buckets of water at the end of the night.

Sonic still does not look the healthiest, god bless him. I must salute his uncompromising adherence to the bohemian life.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Defend Our Culture!

I don't know about you, but I like culture. And I like the world, so the Festival of World Cultures out in Dun Laoghaire this weekend is right up my alley. Sadly their website is a picture heavy abomination, but if you are thinking of heading out you could do worse than download their enormously large PDF programme of events.

I reckon I will be there for the soundclash between Trans-Global Underground and the Trio Bulgarka, which astonishingly is free. Although Trans-Global Underground went off the boil when they stopped wearing wooden masks, I retain a certain fondness for their global pillage sounds, while the Trio Bulgarka are perhaps best know to Whitey for singing on a Kate Bush album and an ad for cider.

I am also hoping to see those Algerian dudes who are playing on Saturday, and maybe (if I master bilocation) that guy who used to be in the Stone Roses or that weirdo Moroccan style trance music (that would be tri-location).

Whatever I see, though, I reckon none of it will be as good as the blackfaced Morris dancers and their travelling bull, who turned in a performance so exciting a couple of years back that Spiderman himself showed up.

My beloved is doing a thesis at the moment, and I have no friends, so if you see a guy wandering around on his own out in Dun Laoghaire this weekend, pop over and say hello - it might just be me.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Boredoms: Temple Bar Music Centre

This gig took place a while ago, and suffered from an excess of coolness. Indeed, it featured so much concentrated coolness that it collapsed in on itself, creating a super-dense event of such high powered cool that it started sucking in the coolness of all around it. I gather some of the people right at the front of venue had all their coolness permanently drained and now can only go to gigs by Phil Collins tribute acts. I was lucky to be just outside the event horizon.

Anyway, Boredoms (“The” is not cool) are from Japan. Three of them play drums. One of them plays keyboards and does vocals. It’s all about the way the drumming creates patterns inside itself and the way the players demonstrate a kind of telepathic link between each other. The vocals (featuring on very few of the pieces) are a bit rubbish, suggesting that this fellow might be Boredoms’ Andrew Ridgely, except that the keyboard parts remained of interest.

But yeah, deadly drumming.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Mouse Rides Frog


I stumbled across the accompanying image in a scientific journal last thursday. Google reveals that it has proved a hit with cute animal enthusiasts, and that it orginally accompanied an article in National Geographic. It is still a bit mysterious - did the frog know there was a mouse on its back? Did it care? Did the mouse fall off as soon as the frog strarted hopping through the water, or was the frog gamely swimming to carry its friend to safety?

We may never know the answers to these questions.

Heavy Metal - Schwerpunkt of the Underground


The Guardian yesterday carried an interesting piece by Julian Cope on how Metal has become the driving force in the avant garde musical underground. This is hardly news to people who have been following acts like SUNN-O)))) and Acid Mothers Temple, but it is interesting to see the good news being brought to Guardian readers.

I must be really hip - I've seen all three of the bands in the picture that comes with the article.