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Evolution… and not evolution March 29, 2015

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Culture, Science.
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Good piece here in Slate.com this week from a lecturer, James J. Krupa, in the University of Kentucky who teaches evolution. it’s an amazing insight into just how difficult in some parts of the United States it is to teach that area of science (Krupa notes that the US is 34th lowest of ‘advanced’ states in terms of public acceptance of evolution, just ahead of Turkey). He notes that ‘rarely do I have a Kentucky student who learned about evolution in human biology’.

I can’t but wonder what effect that has more broadly, in terms of pushing people from science, in terms of closing minds. It’s just disastrous on so may different levels. He also notes the ‘combative’ nature of some of those opposed to evolution… walk-outs, shouting in the middle of classes, and so on.

What’s particularly troubling is – and Krupa notes this, that most ‘mainstream’ Christian religions (and it is Christians who are overwhelmingly the problem here) accept evolution. Yet as Krupa notes that ‘One student explained that as a devout Catholic he had no choice but to reject evolution. He accused me of fabricating the pope’s statements. When I explained that he could go to the Vatican website for verification or call the Vatican to talk to a scientist, he insisted that there was no such information available from the Vatican. He then pointed his finger at me and said the only way he would believe me is if then–Pope John Paul II came to my class to confirm these quotes face-to-face. The student then stomped out, again slamming the auditorium door behind him’.

Clearly, so, this isn’t just about formal religious dogma, but about something much more. Identity, a means of conforming and not conforming simultaneously. Community, of sorts. Dissent. Fear and perhaps antagonism to modernity, or parts of it.

This I love:

Some students take offense very easily. During one lecture, a student asked a question I’ve heard many times: “If we evolved from monkeys, why are there still monkeys?” My response was and is always the same: We didn’t evolve from monkeys. Humans and monkeys evolved from a common ancestor. One ancestral population evolved in one direction toward modern-day monkeys, while another evolved toward humans. The explanation clicked for most students, but not all, so I tried another. I asked the students to consider this: Catholics are the oldest Christian denomination, so if Protestants evolved from Catholics, why are there still Catholics? Some students laughed, some found it a clarifying example, and others were clearly offended. Two days later, a student walked down to the lectern after class and informed me that I was wrong about Catholics. He said Baptists were the first Christians and that this is clearly explained in the Bible. His mother told him so. I asked where this was explained in the Bible. He glared at me and said, “John the Baptist, duh!” and then walked away.

The Church and The Smiths March 28, 2015

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Culture.
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Reading this on the Church website announcing a European tour on foot of their latest album (good, not great) – one which doesn’t take in Dublin, for shame, I was intrigued by the following:

On the subject of creation let’s not forget that Mike Joyce, Andy Rourke and Johnny Marr were inspired to form The Smiths after seeing The Church play at Leadmill Sheffield in 1982!

Really? I’m not a huge Smiths fan, always liked some of the songs, particularly the singles, a lot, but never warmed to them as much as with other groups (that said I’ve always really liked Marr’s solo/collaborative stuff, particularly Electronic with Bernard Sumner from New Order). But that didn’t sound entirely right.

Anyhow, this Smiths oriented website doesn’t mention a Church connection.

However, a bit of digging reveals this.

Name: Tara Anderson
E-mail: tristesse@mindspring.comHi! I was just wondering if you are/ever were a fan of The Church, Johnny, and if you’re up on any of their recent releases. Early Church is very similar in sound to The Smiths, and I was wondering if they influenced you at all, or is it simply the Rickenbacker sound that you had in common with them? Thanks, Tara

I went to see them in a really small room when we were just starting out.They were really good.I haven’t really kept up with them.

Not quite ‘inspired to form’ the Smiths but I guess a vague link of sorts.

Anyhow, here from the Church, their superb Unguarded Moment from the early 1980s…

And a Smiths track I’m partial to…

A different future… more Soviet Space Art… March 28, 2015

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Culture, The Left.
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1958 postcard

Mentioned this here a while ago…

But there’s more… a multitude of sites online that have images drawn from the 50s, 60s and 70s by Soviet space art painters. Here’s the reliable io9 on this topic. I’m particularly fond of Andrei Sokolov’s work (scroll down) which I’ve mentioned before. More here (again, scroll down).

I love this imagery because there’s a difference in style to that of Western space art of the same period – albeit some of the spacecraft look deeply indebted to Chesley Bonestalls work. There’s something more painterly about these images, and a sense that they are different in intent and approach. It’s something in the sheer alieness of the depictions, of the craft. The eye wanders across fields of metallic objects and it’s difficult to tell are these human produced or alien artefacts.

It’s as if this is a view into an alternate history where the red star went even further than it did – and truth is the Soviet space programme was a very real achievement for humanity, and a remarkable one given the constraints on that society.

This Weekend I’ll Mostly be Listening to… The Units March 28, 2015

Posted by WorldbyStorm in This Weekend I'll Mostly Be Listening to....
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Until recently I’d never consciously heard of this crowd, a US based – also involved in performance art – early electronic/new wave group who were extant from the late 1970s until 1983. It was only reading this piece here from a 1980s magazine – on a pointless quest to find out how Japan got that sequenced synth bass sound on Quiet Life, and if anyone has any idea how it is done I’d appreciate it – that I read of them.

Wiki, as can be seen above, has some information on them and there’s bits and pieces of their output on the web. YouTube has a good selection of their songs.

First up a caveat or two. The music is often clunky as if they’re not quite sure whether to go new wave or electronic/synth pop, and the production is – at times – different. But that aside there’s some interesting sounds here, with songs that – well, mix electronic/synth pop and new wave.

What’s interesting is that it takes a different route entirely from, say, John Foxx or Gary Numan, though there is more than a hint of Ultravox. In part it is because it is more abrasive. This isn’t the steely and somewhat detached alienation JG Ballard, this is a different sort of alienation entirely, fuelled as much by punk as by 1970s electronic experimentation.

Now some of this is more than a little bit like Talking Heads – which is not necessarily a good thing in my book. But then again it’s early Talking Heads, and that’s a bit better in my book. Go has a cracking synth line. Digital Stimulation is pretty good in an early 1980s style. And then Cowboy sounds weirdly like a demo track from Boards of Canada. And that points up something very curious about the group, there’s plenty of electronic sounds here that sound, for all the dodgy production, remarkably more modern than the release date would suggest. It’s not difficult to see these reworked completely into instrumentals, or near instrumentals – and lo, well read below.

Perhaps not entirely surprisingly they broke up after a horribly misconceived foray into commercial synth pop. But there have been some interesting remixes of their material in subsequent years…

Anyone reading here who remembers them from back in the day?

High Pressure Days

Digital Stimulation

Cowboy

Cannibals (debut single from 1979)

Go + Mission

Warm Moving Bodies

The Units – High Pressure Days (Dynamicron Remix)

Marriage equality… March 26, 2015

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Culture, Irish Politics, Marriage equality.
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Bruce Arnold is in dissenting mode again. Fresh from the spat over the Irish language wording of the referendum, he writes along much the same lines as his IT piece about how so much is about to change and be changed utterly. And so he writes, despite effective evidence to the opposite in relation to the many marriages where people choose not to have children or are unable to, that ‘The complementary ingredients of marriage that give it completeness and are vested in sexual partnership would become an optional rather than an essential feature of marriage’. I’ve noted the willingness of the anti-marriage equality side to throw so many in marriages today under the bus. Having been married myself for almost a decade before the creature appeared I find it equal parts entertaining and absurd that that was clearly not a marriage in the eyes of those making that case.

The apocalypse beckons by his reckoning in other areas:

Much of the existing law of marriage would have to be revised and re-enacted – and much of family case law abandoned – at considerable loss.

And:

The law of judicial separation would also change in that the grounds of adultery would no longer be sustainable, as adultery can only take place between a man and a woman.

Then there’s this:

A big question mark also hangs over the future solemnisation of civil marriages in religious ceremonies. It is very doubtful if solemnisation of civil marriages in churches could continue under a same-sex marriage regime.

And:

Same-sex marriage is being aggressively promoted by a small minority of people for their own ends, regardless of the effect on society as a whole. It is the duty of the government and the Oireachtas to promote the interests of society as a whole, even if that impacts on the wishes of a minority. It is not possible to grant the wishes of every citizen. Mature and responsible societies know this.

And so on. Away from his eschatological visions those of us inclined to the sense that all this is easily enough dealt with will draw our own conclusions.

But’s what this, a new front being opened, or at least extended, by the anti-marriage equality camp?

Education policy would have to be reformed and widely changed. Under the amendment the state would be authorised to engage in a programme of positive discrimination in schools and elsewhere in favour of same-sex marriage.
The state would inculcate acceptance of the new reality of gender-neutral marriage in children and young adults. I believe parents are as yet unaware of this intrusive reality facing all types of the newly framed family.

‘positive discrimination in favour of same-sex marriage’… ‘intrusive reality’… hmmm… how on earth does he come to that conclusion? But it doesn’t take any great insight to see how that line will be used, or how articles like his which reference it will become touchstones in future arguments.

SOCIALIST VOICE – March edition out now March 25, 2015

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Culture, Irish Politics, The Left.
4 comments

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Northern workers protest against austerity
Eugene McCartan
On Friday 13 March tens of thousands of public-sector workers took part in a day of action against proposed cuts, job losses, and welfare cuts. Called by the Northern Ireland Committee of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, it brought public transport, ambulance services and other public services to a standstill.

Economic misery and bloody chaos
Tommy McKearney
The soap opera that surrounded SYRIZA’s limp attempt to negotiate with the vicious, agenda-driven European Union, led by the financial sector, has understandably captured huge attention during the recent past. As with all the best action within that genre, viewers were kept in mock suspense while the inevitable dénouement was played out.

The American media: a masterful work of deception
Richard Bryant
I have been fascinated by the coverage surrounding Brian Williams’s inability to accurately remember certain details concerning his time in Iraq and New Orleans. It is a story that says much about our culture and the times in which we live.

The Greek people are in a double bind
Mary MacMahon
Since the election of the SYRIZA government in Greece earlier this year the European media have gone into overdrive to marginalise the Greek people and the new government. Even the very limited agenda of SYRIZA, which raised so much hope within Greece and throughout Europe, has been dashed on the real existing European Union—not the air-fairy one that is the darling of the social democrats, ultra-leftists, and broken-down Labour Party types and their supporters within the trade union movement.

“Divide and rule” still the strategy of the United States
Tom Bateson
In early March the Obama regime issued an executive order placing sanctions on seven Venezuelan officials for alleged violations of human rights and the political prosecution of opposition protesters since February 2014.
The statement refers to “the unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States posed by the situation in Venezuela.”

Merkel’s poodle
Alan Hanlon
Adolf Hitler had a German shepherd dog named Blondi. Hitler liked to have photos taken of himself with Blondi, or with children, as part of his campaign to groom the German people into thinking of him as a man of peace, who loved animals and children, instead of the street thug that he was.

Take it down from the mast?
Tomás Mac Síomóin
Irish representatives, along with fellow EU neo-liberals, ganged up on Greece in the recent negotiations between the elected representatives of that country and the EU. Their stance, lauded by most of the Irish media, has already made a hollow mockery of next year’s official 1916 commemoration.

What’s left of Labour?
Robert Navan
On the 28th of January last Dáil Éireann debated a motion to approve the terms of the free-trade agreement between the European Union and Colombia, sometimes known as the EU-Colombia Trade Agreement.
The agreement has been in operation since August 2013 but still requires ratification by all member-states.

Back from the future
Jenny Farrell
The “Cold War” is not over. And it won’t be—until the very last memory of an alternative to the society of capital is deemed eradicated. So let us take a moment to stem this drive for oblivion.
As the rewriting of GDR (East German) history continues unabated, there are some areas in which the servant scribes find this a little more difficult.

Film review:
Some dreams are worth fighting for
Jenny Farrell
Jimmy’s Hall, perhaps Ken Loach’s last major feature film, is of special interest as it celebrates the life and struggle of the Irish communist Jimmy Gralton.
It is rare indeed to come across a film that unashamedly stands by the tradition of struggle by the dispossessed against the combined forces of economic, political and religious power,

Theatre
Counter culture
Paul Doran
Counter Culture at the New Theatre, Dublin, Monday 16 March

This was a very enjoyable evening, organised by the James Connolly Festival, which is fund-raising for its major list of public events taking place in May.
The evening began with the poet Theo Dorgan,

The ‘Page One’ documentary and the economic crisis… March 22, 2015

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Culture, Economy.
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Caught the fascinating documentary, Page One, on the New York Times, recently. Very bitty in parts and oddly unreflective of gender in that only one woman was interviewed, but overall useful and David Carr who died earlier this year came over as a sympathetic centre of the film, and one who spoke some good sense too.

What struck me once more is how the newspaper industry in the late 2000s had a collective nervous breakdown. We can see some of this in the near-hysterical attacks on public sector workers and the very idea of the state in some of the economic crisis coverage here during that period and on a human level it’s not hard to understand why. Here were decades, century, old institutions going to the wall like dominoes under the twin assault of new/free social media and an economic crisis unparalleled in recent history. Massive cutbacks (a literal decimation of NYT staff, and worse again elsewhere). Small wonder that it seemed like end days. Revealing to learn that only in 2013 was tenure finally abolished at the NYT. 2013!

And yet having worked in allied areas myself I know from first hand experience that the work life in the media and associated ‘creative’ industries (a revolting term) is significantly different to that elsewhere in the private sector and always has been. Part of that is due to a self-generated mythos, it was once put to me that ‘we (meaning they) are the bomber crews working through the night while the foot soldiers slog along 9 to 5’. This was intended as an apologia for not paying overtime but demanding the overtime be worked. A revealing mischaracterisation both of war and work, I thought at the time, as well as lending what were in truth fairly mundane jobs a patina of risible bombast and self-regard that many working in the area would recognise as such from the off. Add in – in some though not all areas – an hostility to unions and away it goes…

But the broader point being that the experience there – and truth is that the newspaper industry remains extant albeit undeniably changed (despite predictions by some in the documentary that there’d be no NYT, for example, in ‘five years’), was mapped completely inaccurately onto other areas of work, that the contingency of jobs, conditions, whatever in the printed media was assumed to be true for everywhere else in the private sector. And this added even further to the toxic atmosphere and the development or exacerbate of a narrative about private sector and public sector rather than seeking better conditions and genuine and transformative change for all.

Jodorowsky’s Dune March 21, 2015

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Culture.
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Caught this during the week. A very very interesting insight into both a remarkable project by Alejandro Jodorowsky – Chilean filmmaker, writer, surrealist, to film Frank Herbert’s Dune (a book I never liked to be honest) and the pitfalls of film production. The cast of characters involved is something else, Dan O’Bannon, Chris Foss, H.R. Ginger, Amanda Lear, Orson Welles, Pink Floyd, David Carradine, Gloria Swanson, Mick Jagger, Dali and others. The fact Jorodowsky, who is by turns inspirational and more inspirational, got them to sign on for the film is almost beyond belief. The fact it crashed and burned when Hollywood saw he intended to be director less so.

It sort of makes sense that David Lynch would direct the 1980s version, which was no great shakes. But Jorodowsky’s version. That I’d have paid good money to see.

This Weekend I’ll Mostly Be Listening to… The Fat Lady Sings March 21, 2015

Posted by irishelectionliterature in This Weekend I'll Mostly Be Listening to....
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Another Dublin band from the late 80’s and early 90’s (and who later reformed for a while around 2005) were The Fat Lady Sings. I saw them numerous times live and a while back found a recording of one of their concerts in a box of tapes in the attic.The wonderful Fanning Sessions Archive has the very same tape of a concert on their site , it really is worth a listen. Its from The Seven Bands On The Up series which was on in the SFX which I was also at.
“Be Still” and “Arclight” in particular are two of my favourite songs and even my Children like them. Singer Nick Kelly had a certain cool elegance and in the past few years I’ve run into him at formalish occasions but am still too dumbstruck to say how much I admire his music or I suppose even acknowledge that I’m a fan.
They released a good number of singles and two albums ‘Twist’ (1991) and ‘Johnson’ (1993). They broke up in 1994.

A man of the people? Not quite… March 20, 2015

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Culture, Economy.
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I was heartened by this from Owen Jones in the Guardian today, when writing about the continuing rumbles of the Clarkson issue. Again, it’s not him or the programme or even the details of the alleged incident that is really of interest, but rather the way it exemplifies a noxious interaction between attitudes towards celebrity, workers rights and above all a reification of money making as the unassailable great virtue where anything else set against it is – even allegedly cases involving serious assaults – less important. This attitude is exemplified time and again in comments on articles on the case, not least on the one by Jones where comparisons are made with footballers and how ‘they’d not be fired’, or the continual reiteration of the phrase that he ‘brings home the bacon for the BBC’. The faux image of oppositionalism is also called upon, as if a white middle-aged middle class man with decidedly conservative views somehow is representative of and the repository of some great dissent in the societies we live in, rather than being the epitome of the orthodoxy that rules them.

But what of class in all this you may ask? Well, Jones has interesting stats from YouGov polling.

According to YouGov, 45% think he should be sacked, compared with 36% who want him to keep his job. And though this privately educated member of the Chipping Norton set is presented as a man of the people against an effete bourgeois elite, there is a clear class division in his support.

Which is as follows:

Among those graded middle-class, those demanding his dismissal outnumber supporters by 4 percentage points; among those labelled working-class, the gap grows to 17 percentage points. If Clarkson prevails, the overpaid BBC elite will have defied the wishes of millions of working-class licence fee payers.

Perhaps it is because those in the working class, and workers more generally, recognise this particular manifestation of the class struggle for what it is, another example of how those with power and wealth are positioned within legal frameworks and just the scope of room for movement and autonomy there is for them that is denied to the rest of us – explicitly and increasingly so as noted in this example last week.

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