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Reclaim the Bridges in Dublin for International Women’s Day March 2, 2015

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Culture, Feminism, International Women's Day, The Left.
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ReclaimBridgesProg

Reclaim the Bridges

March 8th 2015

Starting 1 pm

Grattan Bridge (Capel Street), Dublin

Other actions nationwide – see WP for details.

Sid Meier February 28, 2015

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Culture.
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As long time fan of Sid Meier’s Civilization, and a raft of games from him and Microprose over the years, it’s nice to read this in the Guardian.

He appears to be engaging and wear his fame lightly. That said I found after Civilization II my interest waned, until using an iOS version of Civilization Revolutions (natch!). There was just something a bit too fussy about the graphics as compared to the original Civilization and Civilization II.

Sadly it’s impossible to play Civ I on an OS X machine, but I’ve found a workaround for Civ II by using Virtual Box, installing Windows 98 SE and a PC version of the game. So far so good. Spaceships, his latest one looks good.

This Weekend I’ll Mostly Be Listening to… The Sisters of Mercy, Floodland February 28, 2015

Posted by WorldbyStorm in This Weekend I'll Mostly Be Listening to..., Uncategorized.
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Goth. Interesting, often absurd. Worse again on video. This isn’t to say I don’t have more than a passing acquaintance with its exponents. From The Bolshoi to Gene Loves Jezebel, Xymox to Lords of the New Church there’s more than a few albums in the genre that I know all too well. No recanting though. The good is good.

And this album, Floodland, the songs – as distinct from the videos, remains pretty darn good. Some will point to their first album, First and Last and Always, but at this remove that sounds tinny and underproduced. Even so, Marian (ripped off almost note for note by the Mission on Wasteland), Some Kind of Stranger and A Rock and A Hard place are classics of a kind.

The real purists though will recall earlier singles and EP collections, but they’re mostly unnecessary, barely differentiated from the sludge of post punk which Goth developed from. A thin guitar sound, layered over a pulsing bassline with equally thin vocals was what characterised them. Granted, the vocals were a bit deeper than was then currently fashionable – Bowie meets Ian Curtis and they get on just fine – but that was about it. Fast paced though. All unquestionably fast paced and with a faint electronic edge. And I admit to still enjoying Body and Soul or their version of The Stooges classic 1969.

But then all changed and utterly.

Vocalist Andrew Eldritch (natch) jettisoned guitarist Gary Marx (who went on to nearly but not quite Goth superstars Ghostdance – and released a not half bad solo album some years back consisting of tracks he wrote for Eldritch during the 1990s) and other guitarist Wayne Hussey who would found the Mission, and there was some unpleasantness over group names with, so it is said Hussey intending rather cheekily to start up a rival outfit entitled The Sisterhood, until Eldritch raced in with his own sort of kind of group which offered a sort of proto-techno, no surprise there given the line-up which included the briefly employed original drummer of Motorhead Lucas Fox and, so it is said, Alan Vega of Suicide. As a final joke – or perhaps making a virtue of necessity due to record company constraints – instead of singing himself Eldritch roped in James Ray, a man whose vocal style was – shall we say, similar. Extremely similar.

Jettisoning Marx wasn’t necessarily the greatest idea, He had his moments. Jettisoning Hussey, well now. One could complain that Eldritch unleashed Hussey onto an unsuspecting world and some measure of fleeting success – not entirely true, Hussey had been around since 1980 and played with Pauline Murray and the Invisible Girls before going on to join Dead or Alive (by the by, as it happens in the days of Goth I saw the Mission twice, but that’s another story). But that would be the least of it.

That said in a display of good sense Eldritch also co-opted uber-Goth bassist Patricia Morrison of the Gun Club (later to become a member of the Damned and marry Dave Vanian) into the Sisterhood from where she joined TSOM on a full time basis (though there’s some dispute as to whether her bass parts were used in full or partially redone – all very Eldritch).

Sprinkle a scattering of mid-1980s pop production across it, somewhat similar in intent to the Psychedelic Furs Midnight to Midnight (whose John Ashton had produced an early EP) but… doomier. Throw in the odd short overwrought piano driven ballad and are we there yet?

Not quite. As a last grace note add some faux geo-political lyrics name checking the White House, the DDR and Red Square and possibly Chernobyl. What was it about? Who the fuck knew? But it sounded vast and cool and sort of clever without necessarily doing any of the heavy lifting required to actually be clever.

This was heavy rock for people who hated heavy rock. This was synth pop for people who hated synth pop. This was the Cold War as set to bass and synth and choirs and more choirs and even more choirs and transported to a stadium near you. This was…preposterous.

The singles, monstrous things really – accompanied by truly god awful videos where Eldritch, with his usual ghastly pallor only partially hidden behind 1960s aviator glasses, stick thin and angular, pirouetted (seriously) around sub-Mad Max studio sets and selected sites of interest in the former British Empire (India, Jordan, you get the picture) like some sort of demented faintly post-apocalyptic chancer channelled by way of then contemporary Berlin night clubs – were good. Actually they were great. The unleashed power of the earlier Temple of Love single, released by a previous incarnation of TSOM, reworked and ratcheted up to 10. Perhaps 11.

Two weeks back there was the New Romantic compilation, Modern Dance, in this slot, and there’s a weird similarity to my ears between Temptation by Heaven 17 and mid-period Sisters of Mercy. The massed choral vocals, the tricksy key and time changes.

But this should have come as little surprise for working in the background was one Jim Steinman whose oeuvre included the camper than camp enormity that was Meatloaf.

Naturally this is on many levels terrible stuff, one suspects barely a step away from Andrew Lloyd Webber, but entertainingly so. And… yet it’s sort of great, camp, bombastic and for the most part it is more considered than the image projected by the videos (Lucretia, My Reflection may just be the quintessential goth song, that funny mixture of post punk, taut energy and knowing narcissism). But, also in a way it’s a full stop.

Just as the Jesus and Mary Chain’s Psychocandy effectively demonstrated the limits of indie (and I’ve always thought it telling that that last spark of guitar experimentation occurred during the rise of hip-hop, rap, dance and electronica in popularity, more than ready to sneak in where post punk and new wave was fading) so this represented (along with the aforementioned Midnight to Midnight from the Psychedelic Furs) the limits of the pop accessibility of this section of post-punk, at least on its own terms. If Goth got bigger it only did so by high-tailing it to other genres… most obviously metal – so a neat bit of foreshadowing by Mr. erm… Eldritch, though we’re all still living with the after-effects of that, what with nu-metal and emo having come and gone.

And little wonder too that TSOM only released one more studio album, the not entirely awful, but far from compelling, Vision Thing (the phrase a direct quote from George Bush the elder) which took much the same elements as Flood Land but this time layered them with a faux-metal sound. Problem was that for all his often-expressed love of Motorhead Eldritch apparently didn’t realise, or care, that it’s politic to throw in a few key changes, the odd hummable chorus and eschew using the same riff for the entirety of one song and then the next one. Now sure, he wanted to replicate Suicide or whoever, but truth is, it leaves the impression that for all the rhetoric he didn’t quite get metal (where by contrast the Cult – who arrived on a not dissimilar trajectory really did get it. Big time).

This was implausibly influential in a low key sort of a way. There’s a raft of groups which emulated TSOM more or less exactly. And with better or usually worse results. The Daughters of Bristol (you see what they did there?), The Merry Thoughts and on and on… It’s something of a micro-industry. And why not? What harm? But what point?

No wonder, that that was more or less it from Eldritch subsequently on the recording front (bar a nice reworking of Temple of Love with Ofra Haza c.1992). No original albums in twenty plus years, nothing but a series of live appearances with lashed together units whose impermanence of line up and lack of product points to a dynamic impermeable to ordinary musical enterprise.

Thing was after all this what more was left to be said?

Dominion/Mother Russia

This Corrosion

Lucretia, My Reflection

And from before:

Temple of Love

Sisterhood Giving Ground

Leonard Nimoy: 1931-2015 February 27, 2015

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Culture.
8 comments

Sad to hear this this evening that Leonard Nimoy died today. Mission Impossible, Star Trek, obviously, but also the 1970s remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, more recently excellent appearances and cameo’s in Fringe.

That new left formation? February 26, 2015

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

All the talk of a new left slate that would either work with or in parallel with Sinn Féin is very interesting and it’s heartening to see some of the unions actually pushing towards a more functional involvement. Moreover it makes sense, even if there are odd contradictions. For example, it’s hard to determine whether this is meant to be a big tent project that encompasses SF and Inds and some small parties, or the latter working in parallel to SF. I’ve heard and read both being posited as potential approaches. Hard too to see all those forces lashed up in a sort of Syriza redux formation – not least because some of their Greek referents were outside Syriza and ran against, or in competition, to it. Still the local is everything, so perhaps there’s space there for flexibility.

The Phoenix piece on this, under the guise of a profile of Pearse Doherty, this last week admits that ‘A SF dominated Left Alliance government may turn out to be a chimera and a political proposal too far’. And it’s difficult too to quite get the measure of where the proposal is coming from. Is it from SF, or is it from elements of the left of SF? I’ve heard people argue from various perspectives that it is one or the other. Or is it that some of the unions are functioning as a bridge?

Shane Fitzcarraldo’s comment reproduced on the CLR last week gives a good outline of one rationale behind this, though the following really caught my attention:

A slate of the left-of-Sinn Fein which could agree key principles (abolish Irish Water, water and property taxes, repeal the 8th Amendment, for a wealth tax, end the tax haven regime in its totality, opposition to the sectarian Good Friday Agreement carve-up in the North, etc.), but would give supporting votes to a Sinn Féin minority government which ruled out coalition with the right and had a programme for government that broke with neoliberalism, would be a once-in-a-century earthquake in Irish political life.

There’s two clear problematic aspects there. First is it entirely clear that SF would seek to repeal the 8th? Secondly is it tenable that SF would be in ‘opposition to the sectarian Good Friday Agreement carve-up in the North’. The rest is pretty much boilerplate stuff that I suspect with some finessing SF wouldn’t find much of an issue with.

On the other hand. On the other hand. Given all the positioning on the centre right in relation to potential formations and alliances it makes sense for there to be some effort on the left to pull forces together, and even in the short term there may be a significant utility to this in terms of increasing transfers. I hate to bring up a certain three letter acronym, but the ULA served a purpose in generating an excitement and energy around the then potential left candidates. So perhaps we’re looking at a much more constrained ULA redux, with or without SF’s explicit imprimatur.

And it is, of course, possible that the idea – again with some somewhat more progressive unions working as a catalyst – has occurred to all involved more or less simultaneously.

As to the overall idea? The Phoenix suggests that it can only work with FF as a constituent element, which on the numbers makes sense but surely would be too much for some of those involved. ‘On a rough calculation that sees FF with 35 seats, SF 30, Left Independents 10 and the LP perhaps 10’. And argues that that would have the necessary 80 plus seats for government.

Who would the left Independents be? No mention of RBB, but Collins, Daly, Healy, someone they call Gallagher, McGrath, O”Sullivan, Pringle, Wallace and a couple more from a new intake post-election. If all those went in so I suspect would Murphy and Halligan, and possibly even Donnelly.

So many problems though. Would the LP sign up? Would some of those on the Ind side want to work in tandem with others or with FF? Or with SF? Or vice versa – the FF ranks aren’t exactly a hotbed of left Republicanism, are they?

And would those represented by Fitzcarraldo agree to what was not exactly a government ‘ruling out coalition with the right’, or one likely to ‘break with neoliberalism’, at least not much.

Still, it’s an idea.

An Phoblacht out now, including… February 25, 2015

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Culture, Economy, Irish Politics, Northern Ireland, The Left.
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Time to go Taoiseach

John Alderdice writes in Uncomfortable Conversations – Letting go of old ways of thinking

Michelle Gildernew and Fermanagh & South Tyrone– A special place, a special legacy

1916 centenary programme of events launched

Creating common ground ahead of Dáil election – Another View by Eoin Ó Broin

International Women’s Day: No peace without women, says Megan Fearon MLA

Trevor Ó Clochartaigh: Mise agus mo Dhia

Belfast’s famous black taxis – ‘Hacked off’ and still fighting for equality

The DUP’s anti-LGBT ‘Conscience Clause’ – Rainbow Project Director John O’Doherty

Van Morrison and Belfast school days shared by Robert Allen

Put our money in our hands – Fiscal devolution for the North – Conor Murphy MP

Irish state reveals its contempt for Irish language rights

Identity and the north… February 25, 2015

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Culture, Irish Politics, Northern Ireland.
46 comments

Some intriguing thoughts in Jim Fitzpatrick’s latest piece in the SBP on the North. He argues that the GFA/BA has through the particular mechanism of politicians designating themselves as unionist or nationalist created a very specific impasse (in passing he is most complimentary of Eamonn McCann, and rightly so, in warning of the problems that lay ahead). And he reasonably enough argues implicitly that this is only a reflection or expression of the broader society. But he notes that:

It made sense to state the obvious – the vast majority of the population identified as “one or the other” – but it did not make sense to effectively tie the new constitution to this evermore.

Of course the reason for this was to overcome the dangers of majoritarianism, and that circle hasn’t been squared either. But it is reasonable to see it as exacerbating the issue of identity.

Now, almost 17 years on from that agreement, the identity battles continue to rage with equal bitterness and passion. They dominate all else and are having a deeply corrosive effect on society. Those that care not for these battles have opted out, because there is no place for them in an arena defined and managed on these terms.

Even the Alliance Party, which has been forced to downgrade its own political capital by joining neither camp and therefore having no say in key Assembly votes, is defined by simply being what the others aren’t. It’s almost the flipside of the same coin, needing the sectarian to be the non-sectarian alternative.
And, as the party has to admit, it’s a diminished alternative because – lacking that tribal clout which legislation provides – it cannot sway key votes.

I think that point about ‘needing the sectarian to be the non-sectarian alternative’ while perhaps slightly overstated is something that is well worth considering. It’s a basic issue, or problem where by defining against something the danger becomes that of being defined by the thing one is against. And it’s also a problem of almost ignoring or denying significant elements of the societal dispensation and their power and how they function. In other words, a dynamic can emerge where one entirely correctly seeks to do away with sectarianism and decry it in others without engaging sufficiently with what it is and what it isn’t and offering cogent means of transcending it.

I’m not sure what the answer is to all this. Fitzpatrick notes the following, which doesn’t exactly give great hope.

Unionists consistently fail to acknowledge that nationalist identity is legitimate. They insult and belittle Irish culture and the Irish language and insist that Northern Ireland is, to misquote Margaret Thatcher, as “British as Finchley”.
Nationalists and republicans, meanwhile, seem to treat unionism as an illness. A temporary state artificially preserved by British intervention. It’s temporary nature may have lasted several hundred years, but that doesn’t seem to sway the analysis.
They imagine a mythical United Ireland where these deluded souls will recant and accept their true Irish identity once the apron strings from Mother Britannia have been cut.

I think the false consciousness approach to unionism is very mistaken. And it is – of course – simply a reflection of the Unionist attitude to nationalism. Albeit that under Stormont (the first) there was almost an attitude of hoping/wishing that nationalists would somehow go away. But more than mistaken it’s pointless. Unionists are not going to stop being unionists in any realisable time frame, any more than nationalists are going to stop being nationalists. This odd parallel, as it were, is also intriguing.

With that thought in mind note that Fitzpatrick continues:

There’s a fact at the centre of all of this which the Good Friday Agreement implicitly states, but no one dares acknowledge. Nationalists and unionists in Northern Ireland are stuck with each other. No one else wants them and there’s nowhere else to go.

If one views the GFA/BA as being a holding effort one can see how it is extremely convenient in fending off the competing nationalisms at the heart of it from their supposed sponsors. The British were clearly comfortable in diminishing their sovereignty somewhat in respect of the North (arguably that was true since Sunningdale, and the AIA was merely the first clear manifestation of same). The Irish government and polity were likewise happy enough to jettison the inconveniences of Articles 2 and 3. And the focus returned to Northern Ireland itself. No longer quite so close to the UK, and only slightly closer to the RoI.

Fitzpatrick argues that:

In reality, precious little could change in the event of a United Ireland. The unionist population would not recant or suddenly give up its British identity. So it’s highly likely that Northern Ireland in a new republic would not look significantly different to how it appears today.
Meanwhile, the nationalist population in the North – despite Martin McGuinness’s fondness for Queen Elizabeth – is not likely to start waving Union Jacks any time soon and will continue to enjoy celebrating Irish culture in different ways.

There’s a lot in that. I can’t see a united Ireland emerging without some sort of federal arrangement and one which just as the GFA/BA has allowed for a diminution of UK sovereignty would likewise require a diminution of RoI sovereignty allowing east west political and representational links perhaps in perpetuity. There’s just no way around it. In other words nationalism would have to become accustomed to the reality not just of Unionism but a unionism that was expressed with regular visits from the monarch, with political representation of some form in London, with the union flag flying across the North in tandem with the tricolour (or perhaps not depending on where), and so on and so forth. That’s the only way such a deal could be sold because national identity, like it or not, is not going to undergo a phase shift just because – say – 51 per cent of the population in the North supports a UI.

And that makes me wonder whether it wouldn’t be more sensible for nationalism to start working through that and getting together a package that would not so much offer that, but make it clear that it will as a minimum in any future dispensation seek to uphold national identity and cultural and political rights for Unionism even at the expense of full sovereignty.
But all that is blue sky thinking, really, given where we are today. The prospect of a significant change in the next decade or two seems remote.

So what is the solution? He proposes that:

A basic acceptance of that fundamental fact coupled with a little bit of respect for each identity and ultimately a change in the sectarian rules at Stormont might be too much to ask for. But it’s what is needed. And needed soon.

Respect is such a simple term. In some ways that’s always been at the heart of this. It was what Stormont from 1920 onwards could not gift, the societal pressures within Unionism being too great to do so. And yet had that been done it is just barely possible that the conflict might have been avoided. But even to phrase it this way is to wonder how feasible it is. The memory of the conflict is perhaps too raw, the sectarianism at this point too deeply embedded. And how would it manifest? An acceptance of all parades and flags? An acceptance of the Irish language? Would that be possible, and if possible enough, or nearly enough?

I’m not optimistic. I’d put good money on the status quo being the status quo for quite some time to come, staggering from one crisis to another, never getting as bad as it was, but never getting as good as it could be.

The good news for the left… and troubling analysis as regards the referendum for marriage equality. February 24, 2015

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Culture, Economy, Irish Politics, The Left.
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In my last post I pointed up the mixed news for the left, that despite everything it remains remarkably marginal in terms of electoral support, with the far left likely to get up to ten or so seats, perhaps more but not many more, very possibly less. The social democratic left (and by the by the definition of same and the boundaries with the far left is a little permeable) is in ragged order but again can expect to return seven or eight TDs. Perhaps more. None of this terrible, far from it. To have that number of TDs after a long period where the ‘left’ was represented by Tony Gregory and Joe Higgins alone is excellent, but the problems are self-evident.

But what of the good news? As a bloc, in the RedC/SBP poll, smaller parties and others remain in rude good health in comparison to some years back. A good 1 in 3 of voters are tending that way. And Richard Colwell of RedC notes an even more important aspect of that:

Support has been relatively steady at this level since October last year, and before that had been on a relatively consistent upward trend.

That’s the key, the fact that support is consistent across a long period of time. This doesn’t mean that it won’t falter. Anything but. But it does mean that more of that vote is likely to be retained by the small parties and Independents than not. And that’s great news on the level of individual candidates.

In the same piece Colwell looks at the referendum. RedC carried out polling that looked not just at headline support for marriage equality but also asked people secondary questions as regards issues that might impinge directly or indirectly. Given the reality that these issues will be raised the exercise has some validity, even if it is irritating in the extreme that the central question is being diverted in this way.

…the reality is that over a third of those who had claimed they would support the referendum, still have reservations about gay couples adopting. It is entirely plausible to suggest that those with reservations around issues that will be used in the campaign are not sure to vote in favour of it, and as such only 48 per cent of voters can actually be described as “secure” Yes voters.

That is not bad. Colwell notes that the headline figure is even better… but…

While overall the great majority (77 per cent) agree that they will vote to support the change to the constitution, in line with most recent polls that ask about vote intention directly, actually only 59 per cent agree strongly that they will do so, with 18 per cent only agreeing more tentatively.

And:

This view was further emphasised when we raised the issue of whether voters – despite saying they would vote Yes in favour of the referendum – had any reservations about the idea of same sex marriage. An even higher proportion of voters (42 per cent) who had previously suggested they would vote Yes, claim to still have reservations with the basic concept of the referendum.

Colwell suggests that:

Once this analysis is taken into account, and as an extreme measure all those with reservations about same-sex marriage and gay adoption are taken out of the Yes camp, the proportion “certain” to vote Yes at the referendum collapses from the highs of 77 per cent to just 44 per cent of all voters.

This may be overly pessimistic, but it’s fairly clear there’s a sustained effort in the media to shape the narrative – and the recent Bill has seen considerable evidence of same. Certainly no room for complacency.

‘An attack on rural Ireland’ February 23, 2015

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Culture, Economy, Irish Politics.
17 comments

Difficult to disagree when one reads the latest round of Bus Éireann cuts in rural routes.

It’s astounding how the fabric of rural life seems simply not to matter to the government. One comment in the article linked to notes that this comes on top of bank, post office and Garda station closures. And not only them…

Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers’ Association president John Comer said resentment was building rapidly in rural areas at “the relentless and intensive stripping-out of services” that had taken several decades to put in place. He said it now seemed that rural populations were expected to sit quietly and simply accept the disappearance of their State transport facilities in the same way as their schools, post offices, Garda stations and district departmental and veterinary offices had already disappeared.

What is the state about if it simply pulls back provision? How are communities to develop, to grow, to even simply communicate with one another. We’ve heard a lot of rhetoric about ‘austerity’ being over but John Comer above gets to the heart of the matter. The achievements of decades have been and continue to be rolled back by developments like this – and what, by the way, of the environmental costs, pushing those who can afford it yet further into car usage.

The report in the IT notes that:

Quoted in one report, Bus Éireann chief executive Martin Nolan said if the Government wanted smaller towns and villages on commercial routes to be serviced, it would have to provide a subsidy.

This Weekend I’ll Mostly Be Listening to… Pavement February 21, 2015

Posted by irishelectionliterature in This Weekend I'll Mostly Be Listening to....
7 comments

One of my favourite bands from the 90’s Pavement. I remember hearing “Slanted and Enchanted” for the first time Grungy wonderful Indie rock, The Brilliant ‘Zurich is stained’, ‘Here’ and the upbeat and catchy ‘Summer Babe’ were highlights from the album. They released a follow up album “Crooked Rain , Crooked Rain” where the sound at times was even more haphazard and slightly more Country influenced. Included here from that is “Range Life”, probably my favourite from that album.
Wowee Zowee was released a year later in 1995 , I like the album although it is probably my least favourite of their five studio albums. In 1997 they released ‘Brighten The Corners’ which was another great album “Shady Lane” is probably my favourite track from that. Their final album “Terror Twilight’ was released in 1999 and contained some gems like ‘Major Leagues’ and ‘spit on a stranger’.
Pavement ‘retired’ in 1999……… and did a reunion tour in 2010….. I’ve yet to see them live :(

(more…)

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