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“The dogs of war [were] unleashed week after week after week to attack me…” April 24, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Culture, Marriage equality, Social Policy.
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… or so says John Waters here.

‘Tsunami’s of hatred’, ‘an ideological dimension’, ‘sinister developments’, ‘alert the Irish people to what’s happening’, ‘your freedom is at stake’, ‘what happens to the Irish Times isn’t a domestic matter, it’s a matter for the Irish people’, ‘a mob on twitter are dictating what is happening’, ‘lack of support’, ‘condescension’, ‘why should I have to endure this kind of abuse from people for expressing my opinion’, ‘I’m saying to them ‘wake up’, your newspapers and media are being taken over’, ‘the chanting mobs on twitter’…

And more… and more… and…

Special screening of The Colombia Connection April 24, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Culture, The Left.
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‘The Colombia Connection’, explores Colombia’s armed and social conflict and the historic role played by the US government in the conflict.

The film will be introduced by the director Pablo Navarrete and Mariela Kohon, Director of the British human rights NGO Justice for Colombia.

Date: Tuesday 29 April 2014
Time: 6-8pm (film starts at 6.30pm)
Venue: Screen Cinema, D’Olier Street, Dublin 2

Entry is FREE but suggested £4 donation gratefully accepted

Republicanism and agency April 22, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Culture, Feminism, Irish Politics, Republicanism, The Left.
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An…erm… bracing review in the Irish Times of a new book that seeks to give an overview of Irish political and social thought from the 17th century onwards. This is from Bryan Fanning and Tom Garvin and entitled ‘The Books That Define Ireland’. The review is by Nicholas Allen and in the course of dissecting the 29 essays on 27 individual books he argues that the authors have produced:

…an uneven collection that starts slowly and generates interest only when the two authors begin to introduce personal experience into passages of otherwise pedestrian critique.

But Allen’s critique is intriguing too for the angle taken:

The essays are dense with biography, history and textual summary. Together they form the catechism of an Ireland whose imaginative cartography is strangely alien. I was left with the impression that the two greatest historical threats to the island’s survival were masturbation and the IRA.

For…

This is in part because the two shadows that reach longest over the books that Fanning and Garvin read are religion and statehood, a condition sometimes mistaken for nationality.

Which is a most interesting point. But Allen goes further…

…a persistent antagonism to later forms of republicanism in Ireland sours the tone of the accompanying essay. Thinking of the sorrow of starvation in Skibbereen, Garvin concludes that “the entire IRA tradition feeds off enduring memories of British indifference to the suffering of their putative ancestors, and many an atrocity has been justified by reference to ‘Black ’47’ “. This is a claim absurd in its imprecision.

Or how about this?

It is one of a series that mars the book. Another such is the unlikely suggestion that “much of the pseudo-history of traditionalist outfits like the IRA is directly or indirectly inspired by Geoffrey Keating”. Another records Fanning’s disappointment that Patrick Pearse and “romantic nationalists like him … successfully co-opted the real Wolfe Tone”.

But we’re only getting started really:

Garvin suggests there that the dual traditions of civil disobedience and of military struggle against British rule have metastasised post-independence into a disregard for the State and its authority. The argument is worth discussion. Garvin’s conclusions are not. “It would be interesting,” he writes, “to see how many people involved in the recent wave of public scandals have Northern or Border backgrounds and close or distant IRA connections.” If there is some genius in the ability to be so vaguely offensive, there is little compelling in the argument, even if we take the North to begin somewhere on a line between south Dublin and Co Offaly.

There does seem to be some truth in the idea that there is in some quarters a curious exaggeration of the degree of agency republicanism (and PIRA in particular, though not just or only them) have had. In a strong form that can be seen in the strictures recommended (and imposed) by those like Conor Cruise O’Brien, a sort of belief in an innate credulity on the part of the inhabitants of this island (or some significant portion of same) to anything wrapped in a tricolour and referencing 1916. This persists in the curious attitudes of Harris et al (I was entertained by his thoughts this weekend as to a kinder gentler independence struggle run along essentially pacifist lines – something that seems bizarrely partitionist and also underestimating of the nature of the British state during that period). I guess the weak form is seen in various manifestations both at state and other levels – perhaps the current issue over the participation of British royalty at the 1916 commemorations is of a piece with that.

Of course one has to admit that there was some agency – and at times a considerable degree of agency. And no state(s) are comfortable with the prospect of paramilitarism, for obvious reasons. And yet, the near existential nature of the threat as posited by those mentioned above, always seemed to me to be overblown. Where was the evidence of parallel structures that could supplant those of the Republic, let alone a genuine and long-lasting public enthusiasm for same? And what of the institutions of state which – and perhaps the current period of economic crisis underlines this perfectly – if anything appear to be deep rooted and, for all the rhetoric, continuing to retain democratic legitimation in the eyes of those who afford that legitimation. And all this before we arrive at the arms of that state and how they would respond to any genuine internal threat to their position. But perhaps these are discussions for another day.

Allen makes a range of other useful points…

The Ireland that this book defines is an oddity already. The first woman author appears in Chapter Twenty One; the Celtic Tiger has been relegated already to the category of shameful secret; and the span of nearly 400 years in what the authors call historical and social literature makes for often dry reading (both authors admit they are untrained in advanced literary study; perhaps their work’s greatest achievement is to prove the value of such scholarship)

And yet, it does make me curious to actually read the book.

Ah, no John, don’t do it… April 19, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Culture, Economy, The Left.
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…a great interview with John Cooper Clarke here, but… what’s this he says?

So which way would you vote?


It’s a tough call. I wouldn’t recommend any of them. I suppose if I had to I would vote Labour but only out of blind class hatred, nothing else.

Fair enough.

But…

That’s what keeps these bastards coming back. To be honest, the only one whose language I even remotely understand is Nige [Farage]. Shoot me down in flames. Everyone else: they talk about nothing that seems to matter. It’s beyond satire. And even satire has become PR, you know, since someone told politicians they will get more votes if they join in with the piss-taking themselves.

Hmmm…

This weekend I’ll mostly be listening to… the Creatures (Siouxsie Sioux and Budgie) April 19, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in This Weekend I'll Mostly Be Listening to....
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Siouxsie Sioux and Budgie kept the Creatures as a sort of the dancier, albeit experimental and therefore more clattery sounding or if you prefer the more percussion oriented iteration of the Banshees, and why not? Though truth is that the Banshees for all their ability to craft pop hits were a curiously gritty operation. Siouxsie is in a way beyond analysis, being such an iconic figure both musically and in terms of aesthetic throughout the 1980s and beyond. But that grit has, I’ve always felt, anchored her close to her punk roots which has curiously afforded the baroque elements a more convincing aspect.

And with the Banshees as the main project the Creatures appeared but intermittently, with only three albums between 1983 and 1999. ‘Miss the Girl’ from 1983′s Feast is probably their best known track and very fine it is too.

But, I have to admit to a fondness for Anima Animus from 1999. It’s as good as anything the Banshees put out in years prior to its release and yet has a nicely electronic inflected aspect that positions it neatly in the last part of the 1990s. Granted Siouxsie has one of the most distinctive voices in music – with an ability to shift from whispers to great sheets of sound with perhaps disturbing ease, and one would expect it to be good, but tracks like 2nd Floor with its insistent dance gothisms (perhaps even a touch of electroclash in there too) work perfectly.

Prettiest Thing has a nicely sinister/cynical approach set to a pulsating electronic bass. Say is a bit of a dance/electronic classic, perhaps as close to a ballad as Siouxsie was ever likely to present us with (is that an hint of the melody from Jealous Guy in there?), and yet executed effortlessly. And Another Planet is, like almost all the tracks, dripping with atmospheric menace.

Well, well worth a listen.

Miss the Girl (from 1983 and live on Top of the Pops)

2nd Floor

Another Planet

Disconnected

Prettiest Thing

Say [the music in this is pretty low in volume, but you get the idea]

May Day DCTU march April 16, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Culture, Economy, Irish Politics, The Left.
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DCTU

A Soviet helicopter on Firefly April 12, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Culture.
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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.

There’s quite a bit of info on it online. This shows a mock up. Here’s a precis of the episode. And here’s more from the wikia.

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, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Culture, Technology.
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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.

Consultants deliver report recommending ‘more commercial’ colleges… April 9, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Culture, Economy, Third Level Education.
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Who’d have guessed?

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.

This weekend I’ll mostly be listening to….the House sound of Frankie Knuckles April 5, 2014

Posted by doctorfive in This Weekend I'll Mostly Be Listening to....
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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.

franks

 

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.

Frankie three from the back at the Hacienda

Frankie three from the back at the Hacienda

frankhacffrankhacg

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.

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