May Day DCTU march April 16, 2014Posted by WorldbyStorm in Culture, Economy, Irish Politics, The Left.
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A Soviet helicopter on Firefly April 12, 2014Posted by WorldbyStorm in Culture.
I’m sure many of you have noticed this, but I’m rewatching Firefly and have to admit that it’s better second time around than the first time. And it was pretty good on first watching. One thing that strikes me is that the chemistry of the cast is remarkable for a show that lasted all of fourteen episodes or so. Effects – well, better than Babylon 5 as well they should be given that it was four or five years later, but not stellar. Plots, intricate but enjoyable and generally the question has to be asked as to why they cancelled it.
Anyhow, be that as it may, up to episode 6 or 7 entitled Ariel, and what’s that I see but a former Soviet gunship helicopter dressed up as an air ambulance. Swords into ploughs and so on, but it does work better than might be expected. It was of course a prop made for the show.
Years ago I used to follow a Firefly/Serenity podcast, and enjoyed it while never quite getting the level of enthusiasm. I think though at this remove I finally do understand it. Excellent science fiction.
Generation lack of empathy? April 11, 2014Posted by WorldbyStorm in Culture, Technology.
A very depressing piece in the Guardian recently which touches on some appalling incidents in the recent past, most recently:
Hollie Gazzard [who] finished her shift in the hair salon she worked in, a young man stuck a blade in her flesh and stabbed her to death. Colleagues screamed as they watched her fall. Paramedics tried, but they couldn’t save her. People passing stared, as they always stare when tragedies unfold in front of their eyes. When there’s screaming, and crying, and blood flowing as a life ebbs away, it’s hard not to. But some of them didn’t just stare. They whipped out their phones and videoed it.
There’s something distinctly disturbing about the impulse of people to take photographs or video from phones of an attack or the aftermath of a murder.
Still, I wonder about the following:
…the ability of young people to empathise, according to recent research, might not be quite as well developed as their ability to post selfies on Instagram. The American psychologist Sara Konrath has collated evidence from 72 studies which seems to show that empathy levels among American college students are 40% lower than they were 20 years ago. In the last 10 years, she says, there has been an especially sharp drop.
Which is then linked to this:
Young people, according to a new book called The App Generation by Harvard psychologist Howard Gardner and digital media expert Katie Davis, spend 80% of their time on social media talking about themselves. Eighty percent is quite a lot. If it’s 80%, you’ve got to call it narcissism. If it’s 80%, it’s narcissism on a sociopathic scale.
Even if one accepts the figure, and I’m not entirely convinced (for example, what does it mean to ‘talk about oneself’, is that the text on a site or is it in the interactions? Those are two somewhat different things), while it may be narcissistic it’s not necessarily sociopathic. Moreover the overall argument reifies social media and the centrality of same to perhaps an unsustainable level. Lots of people don’t interact with social media. Moreover there are many other more obvious culprits for a lessening in empathy (and even that’s a bit arguable, for it surely is context driven?). For example, to pick one and one alone, how about what is broadly termed neo-liberalism or to put it another way what some would see as right-wing socio-economic and political approaches? Couldn’t they have had an impact, particularly in the US in the dog eat dog context of contemporary advanced capitalism particularly in the era since Reagan? Add to that a particular economic decline in the past five years and perhaps a lack of empathy is to be regarded as inevitable.
It’s not that social media don’t come with negative effects and outcomes and more on that soon, but… it is difficult not to think that for all those who would whip out a phone during such events there are many more who would abhor such actions – at least in their most negative incarnation.
Third-level institutions need to adopt a “more commercial approach” if they are to survive, according to a major review of the financial health of higher education.
The study by consultants Grant Thornton argues for the outsourcing of “non-core” campus functions and a more aggressive policy of seeking donations from alumni to help balance the books.
I was standing on the edge of the dancefloor towards the end of last Friday night. Only went for a quiet pint and in search of another, later, quiet pint I ended up in front a DJ who was playing the famous Rhythm Controll acapella.
In the beginning, there was Jack, and Jack had a groove.
And from this groove came the groove of all grooves.
And while one day viciously throwing down on his box, Jack boldly declared,
“Let there be HOUSE!” and house music was born.
“I am, you see, I am the creator, and this is my house!
And, in my house there is ONLY house music.
But, I am not so selfish because once you enter my house it then becomes OUR house and OUR house music!”
And, you see, no one man owns house because house music is a universal language, spoken and understood by all.
You see, house is a feeling that no one can understand really unless you’re deep into the vibe of house.
House is an uncontrollable desire to jack your body.
And this is our house and our house music.
And in every house, you understand, there is a keeper.
And, in this house, the keeper is Jack.
Now some of you who might wonder,
“Who is Jack, and what is it that Jack does?”
Jack is the one who gives you the power to jack your body!
Jack is the one who gives you the power to do the snake.
Jack is the one who gives you the key to the wiggly worm.
Jack is the one who learns you how to walk your body.
Jack is the one that can bring nations and nations of all Jackers together under one house.
You may be black, you may be white; you may be Jew or Gentile. It don’t make a difference in OUR House.
And this is fresh.
You can get very tired of nightclubs and we all have but that speech, bellowing preacherman over an almighty kickdrum, felt as true then as it has always done. This is fresh.
House is a bit of a funny thing to define sometimes, ever changing in style but utterly consistent in ideal. Hedonistic for sure but all the old cliché about togetherness and release is really what has kept people coming back for three decades now. House is a feeling and it’s in our bones.
I had hoped to be in London last weekend for Frankie Knuckles at the Rulin 20th birthday but other not so quite weekends had finished off any travel plans. Sickened then to hear of his passing on Monday night and saddened more so. Influential or famous figures dying is a strange one but I instantly felt the loss of something. The outpouring respect all week has been remarkable and really underlines how much this music means to everyone.
Frankie Knuckles changed lives and the world for a lot of people. There have been great tributes from those who were actually there but he has been with all of us every weekend.
The old and short version of the story goes of two New York kids getting their DJ start at the Continental Baths. Larry Levan went on to The Paradise Garage and Frankie to Chicago. As Levan’s club gave it’s name to Garage, Frankie’s sound at the Warehouse did the same.
Nice synopsis here from Miles Simpson
The New York disco sound underpinned Frankie’s set: songs, orchestration, and big studio production. But something happened during his time at The Warehouse. As he became integrated into the Chicago scene, his slick New York musical style began to meld with the more electronic synth pop and post-punk new wave styles championed by the likes of Herb Kent on his ‘Punk Out’ radio show and by the ‘Hot Mix 5 on their hugely influential WBMX show.
This style of music was also favoured by many of the younger, often straight, kids that were beginning to attend The Warehouse parties, as well as their own regular haunts like The Playground. At this venue, a young DJ by the name of Jesse Saunders played alongside Hot Mix 5 DJ, Farley Keith Williams, or Farley Jackmaster Funk, as he was later to become better known.
Frankie was increasingly mixing this more modern music by the likes of Skatt Brothers, Yello, and Gino Soccio, with what was becoming one of his trademarks: the re-edit.
Frankie had been schooled in the discos of New York, where pioneering DJs such as Walter Gibbons had started using two copies of the same record to extend rhythmic break sections to work their dancefloors into a frenzy. This in turn saw the development of remixes by Gibbons, friend Larry Levan, and mentor Tee Scott, that took short album tracks and transformed them into longer, percussion driven tracks designed for the dance-floor.
Frankie’s edits were essentially a lower cost, more rudimentary, extension of this idea; a halfway house between live mixes and remixes, using spliced sections of tape to extend drum breaks and loop particular lyrical refrains. With the help of his friend and sound engineering student, Erasmo Rivera, Frankie rebuilt popular records, stretching out the percussive elements, making them more in keeping with the modern electronic music, which he now played alongside. This allowed him to tease his dancers with looped snippets of tracks the dancers felt they knew, building the anticipation and tension, before satisfying their need by hitting them with the song they knew and wanted.
One could argue that these re-edits were actually the first House records, and soon the original versions of many of these tracks, along with the new electronic music Frankie was playing, started to appear on the wall of his favoured record shop, Imports Etc, with the label ’As Heard At The Warehouse’. Shop staff, like Brett Wilcotts and Chip E, began to shorten that description to ‘Warehouse Music’ and then further still to ‘House Music’.
Thus, the name was born – not to describe a specific genre of music, but more a DJing style: Frankie’s DJing style.
In 1983, Frankie left The Warehouse to set up his own club, The Powerplant and Williams brought in another DJ to fill void Frankie left and renamed the club. That DJ was Ron Hardy and the club’s new name was the Music Box. And the hotchpotch of different records that sound-tracked those heady nights and hazy mornings at The Warehouse had already made their mark on many kids that had danced to them – kids who went on to dance to Ron, the kids who were just about to become the first wave of true House Music producers and create the music to fit the name.
Record shoppers at Imports Etc one day found a new shelf where staff had selected music they heard the night before. And House music was born. There is something deeply universal about the whole thing, malleable enough to accommodate any changing or localised trend while always arriving at the same place. People always remember their first time walking into a proper club. When it hits you and for most it never leaves.
At this point the point the music was still very much DJ lead, the ashes of disco, uptempo R&B, European imports and gospel all in the mix. Once Frankie got hold of an early cassette of Jamie Principle’s ‘Your Love’ Chicago took off.
House was part of a democratisation of club music, mirroring artists like Mantronix and Bambaataa’s ‘Planet Rock’ in New York, it was now possible for one guy and few machines to fill dancefloors. House was ‘disco on budget’ according to WestEnd Records boss Mel Cheren and while Juan Atkins, Derrick May, and Kevin Saunderson would travel to the Warehouse before returning to Detroit with heads full of ideas, the DJs themselves were crossing the Atlantic.
For millions of people in Britain, the first sight of House music was Daryl Pandy’s – still incredible – performance of ‘Love can’t turn around’ on Top of the Pops in 1986. Within a few short years they were dancing in fields on the M25. House completely changed British culture forever.
The 90s charts were so dominated that we saw the pushback of Britpop in a move with many echoes of Comiskey Park. There were, in fairness, many elements to push back against but House, along side Hip Hop, Reggae, Rhythm & Blues, remains one of the meta-genres. Timeless, foundational and from which everything else flows. All the little tributaries arise and collapse back into the source before returning as something new. Every Summer with out fail House returns as the sound of holidays and release from the rat-race. As for Frankie, I really liked this take from David Drake.
A producer’s sound can be defined in concrete terms; in hip-hop, think of the musical signature that runs through the work of its biggest names, like Premier’s drums or the Neptunes’ guitars. For a DJ the common denominator is elusive, speaking as they do with songs created by others, and for an audience whose reaction helps mold the set’s ebb and flow. The songs Frankie Knuckles was drawn to have an effusive quality that drew from the uplift and transcendent energy of gospel. His art was, in that sense, a continuation of tradition.
But to the aesthetic mainstream of his time, he was positioned at the extreme, and it’s a tribute to his vision that much of the world soon re-centered around the approach he cultivated at the outer edge. It wasn’t the sherm-addled sonic extreme of clubs like The Music Box, the atmosphere-rending sounds of acid house. It was an ideological extreme. A strain of dance that found strength in exposing sincere, un-self-conscious emotion, values inherited from disco. Frankie Knuckles was the house producer closest to that ideal: his was a confident, muscular vulnerability. It can be difficult to identify one thread that runs through his diverse and important work. But at the core of his art—evident in his DJ sets and his production alike—is a boldness, a certainty that inverts the usual dynamic, so choices typically associated with fecklessness and weakness instead feel like the strongest possible armor.
I haven’t really posted any music here as I wanted to mark his legacy more so than anything else. His work, particularly in remixing, up until the early nineties is pure bliss and best appreciated on dancefloor at four in the morning. Away from production Frankie Knuckles should be remembered primarily as a DJ, one harder to find in modern times, who managed to carve out something new.
When founding the Paradise Garage, the other boss at WestEnd Records, Ed Kushins said that “If people can dance together, they can live together”.
It will take a lot more than nightclubs before we get where we want to be but Frankie Knuckles at least gave us a glimpse of what’s possible.
Private Eye April 4, 2014Posted by WorldbyStorm in Culture.
Here’s a curious one, in the course of an interview with Ian Hislop in the Observer at the weekend he said the following:
Is it odd that someone like you who grew up in different nations, ended up obsessed with this one?
I enjoyed living in two worlds. The other boys headed back to Worthing from my prep school at Easter and I went to Hong Kong on a plane and finished the journey home on a Chinese junk. I lived in Africa and Jeddah and Saudi Arabia… but being there made me feel more British than ever. I am very, very interested in Britain. Private Eye could not be more parochial. We don’t sell any copies in America, or anywhere else for that matter.
I buy it myself on occasion, and used to fairly frequently. And in Dublin many newsagents carry it. So I wonder how many copies are sold in Ireland, both North and South.
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Hex was a collaboration between Donette Thayer of Game Theory and Steve Kilbey of the Church. It lasted two albums long, starting with the eponymous “Hex” album in 1988 and then the follow-up “Vast Halos” in 1990.
It’s an interesting one, Kilbey’s new-wave/psychedelia infused aesthetic is here and yet it’s oddly muted, perhaps because Thayer brings her own aesthetic – one positioned in indie guitar rock – and a characterful voice as well. I’m always fascinated by joint projects. How do they divide up the composition, the arrangements and so on? But this one I find particularly pleasing because while Kilbey appears to have written much of the music, his approach doesn’t overwhelm it.
I particularly like the cool quality of Thayer’s voice when set against the strummed guitars (and as an aside it’s remarkable to me that Thayer hasn’t done more over the years – a solo album from 1997 is out of print but has some great songs on it to judge from what one can hear online), warm swells of keyboard and nascent electronic percussion. There’s a detachment there. Though for all that it seems to me there’s an oddly pastoral feel to both the songs and the lyrics, and if the basslines – again often electronic – bring to mind the gothier end of post-punk (exhibit A, ‘In the Net’, exhibit B, ‘Mercury Towers’), well that’s no crime in my book.
The second album was released some years later, again under the Hex name, but it was – to my ears at least – slighter, albeit with some interesting individual tracks (as with Hollywood in Winter, see below). But this first album is cohesive from start to finish.
In the Net
Hollywood in Winter (from the second Hex album)
An Phoblacht – April Edition now out March 28, 2014Posted by WorldbyStorm in An Phoblacht, Culture, Economy, Irish Politics, The Left.
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IN THE APRIL 2014 ISSUE
Another Garda scandal
Justice Minister should ‘walk the plank’
Shatter should walk the plank – Fresh Garda scandal rocks Irish Government – Revelation that police station phone calls were bugged by Garda
Alexis Tsipras of Syriza (Greek Coalition of the Radical Left) – anti-austerity leader talks to An Phoblacht
Sinn Féin/An Phoblacht YouTube hits 2million mark
Sinn Féin opposing privatisation of Belfast services
In Pictures – International Women’s Day 2014
Martina Anderson – An MEP making a difference on the ground
Cumann na mBan veteran Marion Steenson talks to Trevor Ó Clochartaigh
Economist Morgan Kelly sets the cat among the pigeons
Easter commemorations 2014
2014 Republican Roll of Honour and Republican Roll of Remembrance
Remembering the Past: The founding of Cumann na mBan 100 years ago
Eoin Ó Murchú: Bí ar an airdeall faoi ról an AE san Úcráín
Book Reviews: The Citizen Army at war; and the trials of the 1916 leaders
Voting rights for Irish citizens in the North and the diaspora
Ireland’s unique and traditional foods and the battle for EU recognition, by Robert Allen
And much more . . .
From the “What you maybe meant to keep…” exhibition March 22, 2014Posted by WorldbyStorm in Culture, Irish Politics, The Left.
I’m not a gaelgoir but I do love the Irish Language. Iarla Ó Lionáird being a particular favourite of mine (A previous TWIMBLT on him).
A few years back John Spillane brought out “Songs we learned at school” and I bought it as a present for somebody and ended up buying it for myself too. Its a wonderful CD and one or two are below.
One of the big things last summer were the videos by Colaiste Lurgan. For someone like myself, who would have a radio diet of news or sports shows it was in Irish that I first heard many of the tunes they did. I really loved their version of ‘Wake Me Up’ being played after or before matches in Croke Park and much of the crowd singing along in Irish.
Poking around youtube I also found some nice versions of their own songs in Irish by various bands which I thought were great too.