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What a difference a week makes. Labour polls… from ‘unaware’ to ‘deplorable’… November 29, 2015

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

How interesting. Last week:

Tánaiste and Labour Party leader Joan Burton has said she is not aware of any internal party analysis which shows the party could lose over 20 seats at the next general election, as the most recent opinion poll showed the party on just 7 per cent support.

This evening:

Tánaiste Joan Burton has deplored the leak of internal Labour party analysis which claimed the party could lose up to 20 seats.

And provided this sort of explanation as to how the two statements could tally…

Speaking today, Ms Burton insisted she has not seen the contents of the internal party analysis.
She said: “All of the time every TD in their own constituency is constantly assessing their own position, they are looking at how the opposition are doing.
“The parties as a whole are doing that continuously but that is entirely different to suggestions that there was some kind of survey which had those outcomes. That is not so.”

Visa woes… November 29, 2015

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

Can this be correct that Tim Pat Coogan, of all people, was denied a US visa some years back? I missed the story at the time, but from Irish Central 2013:

Tim Pat Coogan is an iconic figure in Irish journalism and a well known historian. He has had a long absence from this side of the Atlantic, but made a welcome appearance around New York last week.

Chances are you have read his definitive works on Eamon de Valera or Michael Collins, but his new book on the Great Hunger entitled ‘The Famine Plot’ may be his best yet, laying out in scalding terms the British government’s responsibility for Europe’s greatest tragedy before the Holocaust.

Incredibly, earlier this year he had been denied a visa to promote his new book by an American Embassy factotum, whose knowledge of Irish history and current affairs must have matched that of a toddler.

After intervention by powerful friends such as Senator Charles Schumer in New York, justice was done and Coogan made his long awaited trip across the Atlantic.

What on earth would be the cause of that?

Marion Steenson RIP November 29, 2015

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
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Sunday Independent Stupid Statement of the Week: We Got Nothing Edition November 29, 2015

Posted by Garibaldy in Sunday Independent Stupid Statement of the Week.

Virtually nothing of interest in the Sindo this week, though when one of the columnists can get away with turning this in, that’s no wonder.

Books on Music for Christmas… November 29, 2015

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

As I get older I’m a real sucker for books on music. Not those somewhat off the shelf, cut and paste news articles about individual groups, though i’ve one of those on the JAMC, and another on Goth and you’re not getting near them for I love their tacky little hearts to bits.

Of course it’s all ephemeral, indeed reading them is a bit like reading histories of say Vichy France (this by the way is a fantastic account of one part of that particular subject)- all gone now, gone and in some ways forgotten. For nothing dates faster than popular culture – it is almost the definition of popular culture.

Who in ten years time will give a toss about Hey Elastica? Who much worries about the denizens of the Bat Cave these days? Sometimes I think it’s only myself and IEL who really love Into Paradise and Blue in Heaven.

And even much larger names once well loved are falling off the cultural radar. Not all though – there was a real oddness cycling past the O2 Arena this week with U2 playing and seeing some time between 5 and 6 gaggles of fans waiting at the gate that the group and its road crew would arrive at. There were Gardai there to hold them and the traffic back. They still mobilise that sort of emotion all these years later? Apparently so.

But books there are about this. The last couple of years saw some great publications. Tracey Thorn’s account of her life and career is close to the best I’ve read dealing with that area. Viv Albertine’s book was more wrenching in some ways, but perhaps a little less loveable. Bob Stanley’s Yeah, Yeah, Yeah was commanding in its sweep, but the sort of book where you almost want a sharper focus.

I’ve already mentioned Mark Ellen’s genuinely brilliant (albeit I say that with a couple of caveats) autobiography. And so I ask, what books published this year do people recommend? One comes to my mind, one from Jon Savage on 1966 – I was born October of the previous year, so I feel a certain closeness to it (another book I’m keen to read though it’s from last year is Dave Stubbs volume on krautrock – anyone read it?). Any others in any genre or area in music?

Critiques of products in consumer society. November 28, 2015

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

Thought this in the Guardian was worth considering, an essay on just how difficult it is now to review computer games. I always used a Mac so games were fairly thin on the ground back in the day. Things have, obviously, changed since then, but what has long struck me is how over-hyped most games are. Clunky user interfaces, not great gameplay, weird glitches and so on abound. And yet look at the reviews and often it’s 9/10s, or whatever the equivalent is in the rating systems used. Which has to make one wonder both about the reviews and those who read them.

A very pertinent point in the following:

Why do people get so angry about game reviews? Partly it’s because they are passionate fans and fandom becomes part of identity. In this context, critical reviews can be read as attacks on people’s preferences and passions. No one wants to hear that they’ve invested time and money in something that wasn’t worthwhile. We see this in all areas of specialist writing and reportage, from film journalism to football match reports – in a consumer society, people can be savage when their tastes are questioned. We also have the skewing nature of comments sections, subreddits and forums, which only ever represent the most vocal, and often the most caustic, minorities. But essentially there’s this whole friction between games as products or hobbies and games as an artform that deserves to be explored and exposed for its failures and foibles.

Last year, and continuing into this year, there was the Gamergate stuff which ostensibly according to some of its proponents was about ethics in gaming journalism. That struck me as entertaining given that mainstream reviews of games seemed to exist in a fantasy land of product launches, uncritical boosterism and what have you.

Nor, by the way is this restricted to games. I’ve long listened to tech podcasts and bought Mac magazines (at least until the latter went out of business – sign of the times and all that). But a computer I bought a couple of years ago had what I’d call a pretty serious flaw in how it worked – an integration between the OS and the specific hardware. Was this mentioned in said tech podcasts, or even online? It was not. Yet this was a global problem which affected numerous users in very specific areas – as it happened it related to the audio.

The rather credulous attitude to all this on the part of some, reflected in attitudes to games, is puzzling. These are businesses, in business to make profit. They’re not charities. And that means that those who engage with them as consumers have to exercise due scepticism.

Suspended animation November 28, 2015

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

When I was young suspended animation was the way we would get to the stars. I use the ‘we’ lightly. It was the cheapo non-Faster Than Light way forward. Sure, it looked a bit dangerous, but at least it didn’t involve a radical reworking of cosmological constants. Back then the problems of building mechanical structures and processes that would last for centuries wasn’t really an issue. That’s changed somewhat. And of course it played a not insignificant role in 2001.

Anyhow, there was a rash of programmes that featured it. Space 1999 had an episode of startling bleakness centred on the idea.

You can find more on the trope at TV Tropes (natch!).

But I recall very dimly a programme, most likely British TV, about a man who is put into suspended animation and wakes up possibly decades in the future. I’ve no clear memory of it, I think the man was involved in an accident of some sort. It was a one-off. I know this is a long shot but does anyone else remember it?

This Weekend I’ll Mostly Be Listening to…Stereolab, the early EPs November 28, 2015

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
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One of the oddities of music in the 1980s and even well into the 1990s was just how inaccessible it was. Take motorik. I only infrequently heard Neu or Can during that time and certainly didn’t have an album until the mid to late1990s. And so my view of them and motorik in general was, in a way, shaped by others who came after (The Church memorably on the album Gold Afternoon Fix emulated, or is that replicated, the first two minutes of Neuschnee on their track Essence).

Exhibit A, Stereolab. Those of us with long memories will recall McCarthy, founded by Tim Gane, and their fantastic politically literate post-punk, well actually a little later than post-punk, but certainly of that ilk. McCarthy deserve a This Weekend of their own, but it will wait.

Founded in 1990 Stereolab was a sharp turn in direction from that pursued by McCarthy. Gone were the male vocals. Gane was still central, but now there were french accented female vocals courtesy of Laetitia Sadler. In were analog synths. The guitars weren’t jettisoned but the sound was different. Throbbing motorik excursions. Crisp drumbeats.

Nor did this mean they jettisoned the politics, anything but. Yet it was wrapped in a softer sound. The touchstone was a mutation of krautrock, wrapped in an imagery of sound recording experiments and so on. It was, to me, enormously appealing at a time when proto-Brit pop was stalking the land.

It was also almost unfeasibly catchy, though fair to say it never lit the charts alight. Ep after Ep appeared with new even better tracks. And somehow I wound up buying a lot of them. If you want to capture them more fully the album Switched On is a compilation of some of their earliest recordings – indeed two further ’Switched On’ compilations were released. But here’s a sampling of tracks from those EPs I got. They’re useful because they span a defined time in the life of the group, from an initial rawness, not so much in the sound, though there is that, but also, somehow in the aesthetic – as if they’re attempting to strip down songs to discrete elements in order to work out what makes them tick (which perhaps they are). Thrumming basslines, staccato melody lines, a certain economy of approach abound. That was to change and fairly rapidly – not least with the involvement of Sean O’Hagan, late of Microdisney, and who collaborated on some of the later early EPs. And where they ended up while evident in the early tracks was some distance away. I like the later stuff, some of it a lot, but I love the earlier output.

Super-Electric, all the way from 1991, sparks with all the energy its title suggests, fading in on squiggling synth sounds and a brilliant Neu like drone – it’s also remarkably muscular as the guitar (?) sound spits and fizzes towards the end of the track. Jenny Ondioline is just about perfect – everything that motorik promised and more (and there are at least two versions, both much longer, and while you’re at it check out the lyrics). But then is so French Disko too, nestled away as track number 4 on the Jenny Ondioline Pt. 1 EP – perhaps their greatest song of this period. But perhaps these represented a break with what had come before, for the EP charted, a first.

And speaking of non-A-side tracks, check out the experiments and slower paced pieces, few of which are dull and most of which are exemplary – Au Grand Jour, Brittle, Changer, the list is endless. Ping Pong from the last of this raft of EPs, at least the ones I bought, is pop, horns and politics and freaking brilliant backing vocals (from Mary Hansen who died in an accident in 2000 but her input was central to the sound of Stereolab).

For a group who have had some remarkable highs the EPs prove they started as they meant to continue.


Au Grand Jour

The Light That Will Cease to Fail


French Disko

Jenny Ondioline


Moogie Wonderland

The failure of austerity as a political tool… November 27, 2015

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

There’s useful three page overview of the five year anniversary of the Bailout in the SBP by Jack Horgan Jones. But two aspects caught my attention in particular. Firstly what Marky Blyth of Brown University in the US has noted. As the report notes…

…he is scathing in his assessment of Irish fiscal consolidation.

‘Two years of constriction was nothing more than waste of time, pain and effort. Ireland has quadrupled its debt since it came into the crisis, and it’s a success. This must be some definition of the word success I’ve hitherto been unaware of’.

And as pertinently:

What is undeniable is that large swathes of the Irish population have become alienated from the political process in recent years. Dr. Aidan Regan, a political scientist at UCD, is unsurprised by this.

‘To what extent are voters increasingly detached? IF you look at the people who tend not to trust national or European politics, you see in all countries which have imposed austerity measures, that has rapidly increased,’ he said.

In Ireland that number has risen in the last seven years from 29 to 61 per cent. The ramificatons of this would be felt in years to come Regan said.

Importantly, there’s sufficient numbers of detached voters to lead to more volatility in parliament. You can’t ignore the reality that large numbers of people have a total lack of trust in national and European politics.

The article is perhaps more generous in terms of the concept of a ‘recovery’ than many of us would be, but it does note that any such recovery has been predicated on the unique situation of the Irish economy which has used the ‘very buoyant export market’ to its advantage. The problem is that that is sectoral and limited in its impacts on the ground.

But the main point, that of austerity not merely immiserating people but also having a clear political consequence, that is a destabilisation of political environments is something that one has to wonder about. Where does that end? If the intention was to politically as well as economically consolidate the orthodoxy it has been an abysmal failure with the development for the first time in a generation, perhaps more, of flawed, partial but very real challenges to the ‘centrist’ (I use the word advisedly) and conservative parties of the orthodoxy.

Social housing… November 27, 2015

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

This is worrying. I heard a bit about this yesterday.

A protest on the site where the first set of modular homes are to be located in Dublin has ended.

It is understood that ground work on the site by contractors will resume in the morning.

They claimed the modular housing project puts plans by a local co-op to build 40 social housing units on the same land in serious doubt.

The Council argues that:

…the modular homes provide no issues for the co-op’s plans.

The Council says it is in dialogue with the co-op to draw up a memorandum of understanding with regard to developing their housing in the remainder of the site.

One would have thought that that memorandum of understanding would be the first thing the Council would do to allay concerns. And there’s another issue as regards poaching, as it were, of land allocated to other forms of social housing, even if only in part. Which points, yet again, to the lack of long term or even medium term thinking in all this.


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