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What’s that you said? How is your hearing? August 31, 2013

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Culture.
11 comments

For those of us who are concerned about our hearing, check this out. I’m okay, in that I fall into the category that I’m actually in – under 50. But man, I’m not happy to see so many frequencies have bit the dust over the years. Farewell under 40, 30, 20…

That said there are much more precise tests including apps from various companies and organisations for deaf people. And even those are only approximations.

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This Weekend I’ll Mostly Be Listening to… Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, Bad Reputation August 31, 2013

Posted by WorldbyStorm in This Weekend I'll Mostly Be Listening to....
2 comments

For many, perhaps particularly on this side of the Atlantic Ocean the name Joan Jett will evoke memories of that single, her signature tune ‘I love Rock’n’Roll’. A good track, perhaps a great cover, but excessive repetition smoothed away much of its appeal. Others will remember her tenure (recently revisited in film… ) as one of the Runaways in the late 1970s. But even with that it’s sometimes difficult to recall just how much a part she was of post-punk.

Consider the line-up on this, her first solo album, a roster of punk and post-punk talent, which included Paul Cook, Steve Jones, Dee Dee and Marky Ramone, Clem Burke and Frank Infante from Blondie and others.

You will find a range of reference points from 1950s pop right the way through to punk and new wave. But it is Jett’s aesthetic that comes through clearly.

Her vocals are central to this, from a throaty sneering rasp which is none-more-punk or metal to a softer more ballad oriented approach, and sometimes both in the same song, or, as in Make Believe, where in a single sentence she moves from croon to howl.

It’s still remarkably effective, in part because she controls it so perfectly – restraint where necessary, full throttle when appropriate. Add to that the riffs which underpin the songs – often primal and, particularly on the popper material, a genuine complexity of arrangements, and this is something of a classic.

Of course four decades inflicts collateral damage. Her reworkings of two Gary Glitter numbers is shadowed by subsequent events, but if ever anyone was capable of reappropriating them and reworking them so that that particular history can be detached from them as songs it is Jett. And let’s not ignore the feminist thread that runs through so much of these songs and in relation to Jett (who also founded her own music label and has become an icon of empowerment). That’s a given, lyrically and in all other ways – “A girl can do what she wants to do/And that’s what I’m gonna do” as Bad Reputation says.

It is possible to argue that the number of covers on the album are indicative of a certain laxness on the song-writing front (yet Jett wrote four out of the original twelve and her career has numerous highlights written by her), but Jett has never been shy to play covers. And that charge, perhaps, misses the point. I wonder is it that she has always perceived herself as being not just a solo musician/singer/songerwriter but more consciously part of a continuum of guitar based music. In that her approach is strangely, but perhaps appropriately, traditional, closer – though she might not see it this way – to folk music.

In any event what comes across is the sheer energy and enthusiasm Jett has. It’s in the delivery, but it’s also in the way she presents the material. This is someone who loves this music and isn’t afraid to throw a little of everything – albeit in a fairly constrained spectrum of musical territory – into the mix. And it works. Almost perfectly? Better than that.

Bad Reputation

You Don’t Own Me (cover of Lesley Gore)

Too Bad On Your Birthday

Don’t Abuse Me

You Don’t Know What You’ve Got…

Make Believe

After yesterday’s vote. August 30, 2013

Posted by WorldbyStorm in British Politics, European Politics, International Politics.
40 comments

The result of the vote in the House of Commons on Syria, 285 votes against involvement in military action as against 272 for, are positive for a number of reasons. Here’s a few of them.

Firstly, because all the supposed ‘actions’ by the US or the UK are so entirely cosmetic, driven largely by domestic US political concerns. They – and this is known by everyone involved, whether pro or contra them, will make absolutely no difference on the ground. Their intention is not to damage the capacity of the Syrian state to prosecute its side of what is clearly a civil war. They assist those on the opposing side in no functional way.

All they are there to do is to reassert US ‘authority’ and in the most pointless way possible.

Secondly, because Cameron’s defeat and subsequent retreat points up the first. By being prevented from participating, and by a democratic vote, it pushed back against those who would underwrite the cosmetic action outlined above. Indeed there’s been something of a retreat even in Washington – not that that will stop some actions eventually. But it may yet underscore the futility of such approaches in this instance.

None of those arguing that Obama should be ‘tougher’ intend for US troops to land on Syrian soil. And that is what it would take – putting aside the likely catastrophic consequences of same for one moment – to seriously alter the nature of the conflict there. If that’s not going to happen, and the US isn’t going to push the regime over, then all is is effectively rhetoric.

Notably it was a defeat to Cameron delivered in part by his own, Conservatives were conspicuous in their antipathy to the prospect of intervention. This is a strand that has long been extant in Conservatism. Douglas Hurd exemplified it best during the 1990s, but I wonder is it now much more dominant as the right libertarian element becomes an increasingly significant part of the mix in that party?

Thirdly, it underscores just how partisan and self-serving Cameron and his circle were in their attacks on the vastly more cautious Ed Miliband. Whatever about Miliband’s own position, and there was no small political calculation in that, the nature of those attacks was both absurd and abysmal – and perhaps hinted in their extremity at the fact Cameron was going down to defeat. Indeed the more that comes out the more absurd the Cameron position – not least the charge that Miliband was ‘siding with the Russians’. One has to admire Jim Fitzpatrick who resigned as a shadow minister because he couldn’t accept Miliband’s proposals. Good for him, even if perhaps it was a little premature given the immanence of the government defeat.

Michael Gove et al made a right show of themselves, and crucially demonstrated their inability to accept democratic decision making. Indeed Gove’s partner Sarah Vine in attacks on twitter on those who voted against the government merely underlined how hollow the exercise was.

Vine tweeted:

I am SO angry about today’s vote. No military action would have come out of it. It was simply about sending a signal. Cowardice.

What’s interesting is that Vine doesn’t appreciate the contradiction in her own words. If Vine knows that, and Cameron knows that then presumably Assad knows that too and can and will act accordingly. And what is the particular signal, and what would Assad have done on foot of receiving it? He’s unlikely to step back from attempting to consolidate his regime on foot of a ‘signal’, and all other options appear so much moonshine short of a more decisive military advantage to his opponents. And so the dance goes one.

As to the central issue of the Syrian civil war, given that no one actually wants to do anything very much about it one way or – and given that militarily there’s not very much that can be done about, short of the sort of massive intervention that characterised Iraq, it will continue much as it has done. But without in any sense wanting to appear to champion that regime, it is of a different character to Saddam and more importantly appears much less unpopular and – arguably, more stable (ironically the Syrian regime always appeared much more ramshackle than Iraq under Saddam – not so much in material terms, but in political terms, but it has proven remarkably resilient). And yet Iraq demonstrates that even in a context of a broadly loathed regime nationalist sentiment will emerge rapidly against those who intervene. What then of a serious effort to push Assad over?

But again, that’s not on the table.

So if the Iraq and Afghanistan have demonstrated the disastrous and potentially catastrophic limits of hard power in relation to interventions, Syria appears to point up to the limits of soft to medium power. While having clear implications for the future exercise of British power, and in fairness other European states have been generally extremely leery of involvement, that – one would hope – will have implications further afield.

Since we’re talking about food… August 30, 2013

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Culture, Economy.
3 comments

Interesting that Jamie Oliver cropped up this week in relation to food. I’ve been reading a lot about child and adult nutrition over the past while. There are a range of reasons for that, not least that I’ve seen first hand how the former is shaped by eating out, and by advertising. Having been on holiday in the UK it was a revelation as to how difficult it can be to eat… normally.
The Guardian recently had a piece on sugary drinks and childhood obesity on foot of British Heart Foundation warnings about those two areas.

Children are more likely to have a can of a sugary drink a day than eat five portions of fruit and vegetables, and the vast majority have less than an hour’s exercise, according to a new report.

The British Heart Foundation is very concerned that the lifestyles of modern children are setting them up for serious health problems in later life. Large numbers are in danger of developing coronary heart disease (CHD) as adults if they continue to skip meals and sport in favour of watching TV and drinking fizzy drinks, it says.

When did it become a case of a packet of crisps, chocolate and a soft drink on a daily basis for far too many children?

I don’t want to exaggerate this. Even as a kid, four decades ago, sweets were there, just down from the school I was at there was a converted container which doubled as a small sweet shop. My Great-Gran, who lived with us along with my Gran had a tin of biscuits in her room. They weren’t unknown to us. But those and crisps, and chocolate, and a soft drink? Cost alone would have made that near prohibitive.

But there are many angles to this. It’s not just the fact of such consumption as what is in it. The Guardian had an interesting piece recently on sugar. One doesn’t have to see sugar as an unmitigated evil to feel there’s a genuine problem here. Most obviously is a graphic half the way down the article which shows how food companies evade EU guidelines on demonstrating the levels of sugar/fat/salt etc in their products, by showing GDAs for adults as against children, something that is obviously deeply problematic. I’ve seen the same here in Ireland, the one that struck in my mind was a crisp like product aimed fairly at kids which on its salt level had something like 17 per cent of an adults recommended daily intake. What is it for a child? I’ve got to be honest, I don’t know. Similarly with a juice that in a small single serving carton contained 49% of an adults daily sugar. But given what is often a child’s daily consumption of salt, sugar etc, that’s a lot of salt or sugar in one sitting.

And what of children’s menu’s? Fried foods and chips for the most part. Smaller portions of ice cream but ice-cream with every thing. Rarely if ever do fresh vegetables make an appearance, or salads. A Slate piece here suggests that children’s menu’s came about in the US, at least, as a response to the Volstead Act (or Prohibition) where restaurants asked ‘Could it be that this untapped market [children] could help offset all that lost liquor revenue?’. There’s the market for you. Not that the menu’s were much fun. Stale bread was a norm, and it didn’t get much better than that driven by a peculiarly moralistic attitude to children’s food. But even when that eventually faded it didn’t get better either. Or arguably it got worse…

Restaurants had grown reliant on its marketing benefits; children didn’t want to give up booklets that doubled as clown masks or featured punch-out airplanes; and parents, quite understandably, had become attached to the low prices. So the children’s menu persisted. Meanwhile, a growing processed-food industry made it irresistibly cost-effective to rewrite it with junked-up, dumbed-down foods. By the 1970s, the children’s menu as we know it today was basically in place: The design was as colorful as ever, but the food had been restricted to its present-day palette of browns and yellows.

And the piece concludes by asking why it is that children’s menu’s exist at all when an easier way… well, look, here’s what they say:

Today, nutritionists are rightly appalled by the insipid, mostly fried fare designated for children. In response, a growing number of restaurants have tasked themselves with building a healthier children’s menu, but the approach taken by casual-dining chains like Red Lobster and Applebee’s is superficial: Instead of throwing out the chicken nuggets, they’re counting on sides of broccoli to magically counteract them. But even a more thorough revamp would be missing the point—namely, that children never needed a separate bill of fare to begin with. If there is any argument to be made for holding onto the kids’ menu, it is that contemporary portion sizes are more than a child can handle. (They’re more than most adults can handle, for that matter.) Moving forward, the industry might do well to look backward, to the children’s options offered in Parisian restaurants at the turn of the 20th century. This 1900 menu, from the Restaurant Gardes, has the right idea: a child’s cut-price prix fixe (couvert d’enfant) that doesn’t offer different food—just less of it.

Just less of it… just less of everything – and some more of the good stuff to break away from the yellow and brown palette and introduce some green. It’s simple really, but how to fend off a society – and economy – where that suddenly doesn’t seem simple at all?

The CLR Political Quiz …. Number 46 August 30, 2013

Posted by irishelectionliterature in CLR Political Quiz.
1 comment so far

1. Who has been Lord Mayor of Dublin and Mayor of Naas ?
2. What group had an address at 13 Lower Camden Street, Dublin 2 ?
3. Who used the pseudonyms Paddy Dollard and Jack Cleary ?
4. What Minister (according to themselves) has a ‘signature dish’ of ‘cheesecake and ice cream’ ?
5. How many current Fine Gael TDs lost their seats in the 2002 General Election ?
6. Name the two surviving members of the Dail from the 1940s?
7. Which ULA candidate got the highest number of votes in the 2011 General Election?
8. Who was the first female TD elected in Mayo?
9. Who was the only Workers Party candidate to be elected to the Dail on the first count?
10. Who is this?
picquiz46

Answers to The CLR Political Quiz .. Number 45

1. The first 4 names on the ballot were all Fianna Fail candidates
2. Treasure Island
3. Martin Cullen
4. Catherine Murphy (elected as WP, DL, Lab and Ind)
5. Queen Victoria
6. Brian Lenihan snr
7. ‘Leftline’
8. Andrew Fogarty
9. Sinéad Sheppard FG in Cobh TC
10. Father Paddy Ryan

This Week At Irish Election Literature August 30, 2013

Posted by irishelectionliterature in Irish Election Literature Blog.
4 comments

We start off this week with a sign that the local elections are coming soon enough… an ad from Labour Party Councillor Denis O’Callaghan with no sign of a Labour Party logo .

Continuing on the no party logo theme we have Patrick Nultys Summer 2013 newsletter 

However if it was Labour logos and plenty of them on all sorts of things you wanted …….A brochure and price list from The Labour Campaign Store

And finally one of two sets of very embarrassing candidate profiles from the 2001 YFG conference… includes Lucinda Creightons favourite chat up line, who she’d like to be stuck in a lift with etc

and finally finally “Tobacco First What Next? ..Start By Removing The Branding From Cigarettes And Where Will It End?” an ad from Japan International Tobacco against plain cigarette packs.

 

1913… meet 2013 August 29, 2013

Posted by irishelectionliterature in Irish Politics, Society.
1 comment so far

A piece from Joan Burtons latest newsletter with praise for her from The Irish Mail on Sunday …. Labour Ministers publishing praise they got from The Mail on F****n Sunday!!
joanwelfarefraud

And in today’s news August 29, 2013

Posted by Tomboktu in Complete nonsense, Economy, Ireland, Journalism.
1 comment so far

At 11.50 today, breakingnews.ie has a telling juxtaposition with its top three news items in Ireland. The headlines were, in order

(1) Jobless total down 22,000

(2) Emigration figures continue to rise

(3) 30 new jobs in Kerry as discount retailer announces new store.

When you opened story (2), it revealed that the number who had emigrated was 89,000.

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The benefits of going to a private college? List them again… August 29, 2013

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Culture, Economy, Education, Irish Politics.
12 comments

There was a short piece in the SPB a while back on the ‘benefits of going to a private college’. It’s odd, in a few hundred words one would think that such benefits could be outlined clearly, but apparently not. After starting well, suggesting that the ‘points required for entry onto courses in private colleges are generally significantly lower than colleges in the state sector – as a result of the fees, rather than a reflection of the quality of the courses’ it sort of sputters to a halt.

For it continues as follows… ‘if finances allow, studying a private college may allow a student to simply get on with their studies without having to repeat or go over seas’. Of ‘for many students, if finances allow, private college can be the yellow-brick road to the career of choice in law or business or provide courses in areas such as game design, journalism, psychology or ICT’.

One can see the key phrase in all that. But aren’t these pretty nebulous in any case? Once ‘can’ or ‘may’ come into play generally there aren’t hugely concrete advantages.

And what of this? While discussing the lower entry requirements it suggests that:

‘However this does not mean that standards within the private colleges are not demanding. Students have to measure up, be well motivated and be able to cope with the demand of undergraduate programmes.’

Which differs from the state institutions in what way?

And raises the question, what are the benefits again? Other than ‘if finances allow’.

***

Some may remember this piece too…

The strengths of the Irish left… August 29, 2013

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Politics, The Left.
33 comments

We’ve been discussing weaknesses on the left, problems with various campaigns, there have been a myriad number of complaints about this party or that party, or all parties. And non-parties, and think tanks and groups and so on. All of this can, when constructively directed, be very useful and important. Self-criticism and self-awareness in tandem with self-reflectivity (which is not necessarily the same as self-awareness) are vital to the success of any leftist project whatever its stripe.

And it is true that in the past four or five years there’s been a steep learning curve – or even further back if one is to count in the most useful educative experience of the Green Party entering government – and granted they were leftish, more than leftist, but their example is one that had some impact further afield – and not alone for the catastrophic conclusion to that time in government, but for the very fact they were there at all.

Obvious points on that curve – or would it be more appropriate to say aspects drawn from that process, would be: the general passivity of the broader population in the face of the worst socio-economic crisis in generations; the concentration on electoral politics and contest as a means of exercising political power on the part of that broader population (and the cathartic effects of same); the problems raised by radical cadres being drawn into the day to day parliamentary and constituency process, but the paradox generated by that being a product of the outcome of elections contested by same parties and formations; the limitations of campaigns as a means of political activity; the lack of unity on the Irish left between its various parts; the minority nature of that left; the tension between different forms of leftist thinking and approach and so on.

Each of these is worth treating of in and of itself.

But what of the opposite, what of the clear strengths of the Irish left? How does that fit into the broader picture, and what are these strengths?

After all, if – to focus momentarily on electoral politics – the election in 2011 while no new dawn did do one thing of value that was in bringing a broader and deeper mix of leftists into Dáil Éireann than ever before.

So what else?

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