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A very contemporary phenomenon October 21, 2018

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Jason O’Toole, known to us at this site for his interviews, tackles the Conor McGregor phenomenon in the Mirror. An interesting case study in celebrity, sport and capitalism/commercialism I’d have thought.

Sunday and the Week’s Media and other Stupid Statements October 21, 2018

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Someone is concerned that elected politicians are given too rough a ride by the media. Guess who that someone might be.

It is not just Opposition politicians who get an easy ride [from the media]. Vested interest groups of all kinds are regularly given a platform to promote their views with little in the nature of critical examination. Compare the standard aggressive interviewing approach towards leading politicians with the sympathetic hearing given to those attacking the Government of the day for either personal or sectoral advantage.

The real danger is that over time it can undermine belief in basic democratic standards. We have ample evidence of this in the world today. Look at the way the mainstream media’s hounding of Hillary Clinton over the relatively unimportant emails controversy paved the way for the victory of Donald Trump. Closer to home, contrast the way the British media hound Prime Minister Theresa May at every turn over Brexit while indulging the dangerous buffoon Boris Johnson.
Attacking mainstream politicians is as easy as shooting fish in a barrel. Over time, the incessant misrepresentation of those who are doing their best to deal with the complexities of exercising power will corrode the fabric of our democracy.

Spikey stars October 21, 2018

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As a kid painting space scenes I used to love doing stars – but not just any stars. Nope, for real authenticity one had to draw them with spikes that came out of them like crosses. You may recall similar ones from science fiction illustrations and films. They often appeared in astronomy books. Of course I knew that they were some sort of visual artefact, though I suspect I wasn’t sure originally whether this was what was visible to the naked eye through a telescope or in space.

But the more prosaic truth is that they were a very specific result of the construction of certain telescopes as this site notes here.

Certain telescopes have a large primary mirror that focuses the incoming beam of light onto a secondary mirror or a sensor that is held over the primary mirror. The secondary mirror diverts the light out of the telescope so it can be seen or further processed. Or, alternately, a sensor held above the primary mirror converts the image to an electrical signal that is delivered to a computer.

The key point is that the secondary mirror or sensor must be held in place over the primary mirror by support rods which are in the way of the incoming light. These support rods are also called struts or vanes. Some of the starlight that enters the telescope and heads toward the primary mirror skims past the support rods and gets deflected slightly in the process. This deflection of light that skims past an obstruction is called diffraction. The diffraction caused by the support rods ultimately shifts light in the final image to places where it did not originally exist. For stars and other bright point sources of light, this shifted light pattern takes the form of radial spikes.

It’s a pity, visually they’re rather fine, particularly on deep space photos such as the above. And here’s a pic illustrating this, form Peter Elson’s The Best of Isaac Asimov from the 1970s. Always liked Elson’s work.

A new political poll… October 20, 2018

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Grim reading in this one… from the SBP/Red C

FG 33% NC

FF 25% +3

SF 15% +1

LP 5% -1

IND 12% -1

IA 4% NC

GP 4% +2

SD 2% -2

SOL-PBP 0% -2


A new Presidential poll… a predictable set of results… October 20, 2018

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The Sunday Times/Behaviour & Attitudes poll suggests Mr Higgins is on 69%, 58 points ahead of his nearest rival Sean Gallagher who is on 11%. Sinn Féin candidate Liadh Ní Riada is on 7%, one point ahead of Joan Freeman on 6%.Gavin Duffy is on 4%, while Peter Casey is on 2%.

Difficult to see this changing much, isn’t it? Though this came out prior to Casey’s thoughts, such as they were, on the travelling community.

Brian Jonestown Massacre at The Academy October 20, 2018

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Always really liked BJM, indeed I recall watching Dig and realising that whatever about Anton Newcombes failings they seemed of a lesser degree than rivals The Dandy Warhols, though give them their due they can write a song.

But musically BJM has always been more or less dead centre in one part of my wheelhouse. The mix of psychedelia, post-punk, dance and subtle electronics is just about spot on. I think for a group that evolved out of something close to shoe gaze it is remarkable to see the journey they/he have/has taken. That said the most recent release Something Else is perhaps a bit too guitar oriented though last years Don’t Get Lost was majestic (particularly the dance inflected numbers). There’s a crossover for me in that 12 string guitarist Rick Maymi has worked with Steve Kilbey – together they produced the fairly great The Wilderness Years by David Neil, a sort of fictional band from the 70s or 80s.

As to the gig, which was at the Academy this week. This was straight up BJM, and again strongly guitar oriented, Newombe saying next to nothing, looping, occasionally wearing, otherwise fascinating, finished by a long long version of A Word which saw the roadies brought on to play guitar as well in a MBV stylee and then leave the stage along with everyone else. No encore, kind of detached. I’ve more to say but perhaps a This Weekend Might be no harm.

An interesting night out. Even if Joel Gion kept reminding me of the Gilmore Girls.

When Jokers Attack

Hold That Thought

A Word (take Six)

Yeah Yeah

Jamie Reid October 20, 2018

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Interesting interview with Jamie Reid, artist and one time collaborator with the Sex Pistols, Jimmy Cauty and Afro Celt Sound system…

In recent years, Reid’s restless muse has seen him work with everyone from Afro Celt Sound System to the KLF’s Jimmy Cauty. His belief in social justice, however, drives everything he does. Disheartened by Brexit (“a nightmare”) and cautiously supportive of Jeremy Corbyn (“I wish him all the best, but politics is a bear pit”) his simmering hatred of the mainstream only really boils over on the subject of celebrity culture.

He’s harsh and in my mind correct views on Emin and Hirst and the commercial aspect of contemporary art.

And he notes:

“Radical ideas will always get appropriated,” he says in conclusion. “The establishment will rob everything they can, because they lack the ability to be creative. That’s why you always have to keep moving.”

Tom Robinson Band at Whelans… October 20, 2018

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Got to see Tom Robinson Band last week at Whelans, myself and Tomboktu went along. And quite an evening it was too.

The Trouble Pilgrims played support and donated instruments and backline when TRB’s went missing due to the bad weather. So there was a four or five song set from them. I’d never seen them before, though Robinson’s introduction of them as sounding like a cross between Hawkwind and Captain Beefheart was intriguing. I found them enjoyable though apparently they’ve taken a bit of a new direction in recent times. If this new direction is one where the controls are set squarely for Irish new wave circa 1986 then you might quite like them too.

Then we were treated to a solo acoustic set by one of TRB’s band mates who has released his own album, which he was perhaps understandably, perhaps not, far from shy about promoting as great. This was unfortunate pacing since it seemed to slow proceedings down, and in retrospect it would have been better to have had him go on first before TP.

Then it was on to TRB after another break, though got to say given they came on stage at 10 it looked like it could be a short set. In fairness they gave it their all in that hour – playing the entirety of Power in the Darkness and then the attendant EPs along with evergreens such as Martin and (Sing if You’re) Glad to be Gay. And Robinson sang the latter and a couple of other songs with updated verses, in that instance detailing progress made, in others lambasting the Tories and reactionaries for Brexit, attacks on the welfare state, austerity etc, etc. Closing with 2-4-6-8 Motorway on the dot of 11 rounded off a near enough perfect hour.

One thing that struck me just how heavy he was. It was all pub-rock/punky energy. Up Against the Wall, Ain’t Gonna Take It, (the cod prophetic) Winter of ’79, Better Decide Which Side You’re on and many more are gems, and far too often overlooked when people look back to that period of time. And on that what also struck me was how in a way he’s been somewhat sidelined in the histories of that period. Was that because he came – avowedly so, from the middle class, or the pub rock roots of his sound or because he was so overtly political, or possibly homophobia? Or perhaps his curious pop career – War Baby etc, somewhat overshadowed his earlier work? Whatever it was an inspiring gig and underscored what a great album it was. And what a sound character he is.

Winter of ’79

Long Hot Summer (about Stonewall)

Sing If You’re (Glad To Be Gay) (live 1970s)

2 4 6 8 Motorway (Glastonbury)

This Weekend I’ll Mostly Be Listening to… Curve October 20, 2018

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I always loved Curve – in particular their first album and the initial batch of singles. But how to categorise them? Shoegaze, well yes, to an extent. There was indeed shaped feedback and guitars in the mix. Techno and dance? To another extent. The foregrounded bass and electronic and dance beats were there. Industrial, at their harder edge, without question – no end of clattering in the percussion when needed. Small wonder their singles and albums arrived with considerable critical and general acclaim from 1991 onwards.

But strangely Curve were also and very unfairly regarded by a small tranche of critics as a contrived group, in no small part because in a slightly different incarnation Toni Halliday and Dean Garcia had been in a pop group together in the mid-1980s and there was a link to the Eurythmics (Garcia had been part of the live band in the early 80s). And yet why were they more contrived than, say, Garbage? Speaking of which, listen to the lyrics and they were certainly mining that seam of self-loathing that Garbage were later adjacent to (along with a fair raft of mid-90s industrial tinged or outright groups).

This was hardly surprising. Listen to ‘Doppelgänger’ and its rippling, pulsating bassline – something of a signature move of theirs that locked them distinctly into the dance as much as indie (always thought a remix album would be interesting) and one can hear a sort of reworking of Donna Summer’s ‘I Feel Love’ for the early 1990s but painted in charcoal shades. This undertow of dance expands their sound remarkably.

And Curve weren’t afraid to work across genres. Their first EP featured the track Ten Little Girls with the rapper JC-001, an excellent collaboration though one they didn’t follow up later in their career (Alan Moulder, JAMC producer and later(?) husband of Halliday, contributed some guitars on). The first album was fantastic, an extension of the singles and EPs. The later albums were almost equally strong, but darker again and with a more… metallic…edge. Which raises the question why weren’t they enormous. I’d wonder did they arrive just a fraction too early, that another year or so and they’d have been there.

Garcia went on to the excellent SPC-ECO with his daughter (featured here a while back) as well as numerous other collaborations and solo work while Halliday collaborated with a remarkable range of artists (best known in some circles might be her vocals on the first Leftfield album or FSOL’s Lifeforms).

Here’s a range of tracks from the early singles (collected on the album Pubic Fruit) and first album.

Ten Little Girls

I Speak Your Every Word


Coast is Clear

Fait Accompli


Split into Fractions

Falling free (Aphex Twin remix – later on his cheeky ’26 mixes for cash’ CD)

And for good measure from the second album Missing Link

A sledgehammer, threats, deception, rhetoric? October 19, 2018

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A senior Democratic Unionist has branded Taoiseach Leo Varadkar as ‘vile’ after accusing him of using terrorist victims to scaremonger over Brexit.Sammy Wilson Mr Varadkar’s behaviour was “despicable, low and rotten”, claiming he was scraping the bottom of a “very deep barrel of threats, deception and rhetoric”.East Antrim MP Mr Wilson was responding to Mr Varadkar’s warning during this week’s EU summit that violence could again return if a hard border was imposed in Ireland post-Brexit.

And yet, and yet, who else was warning pretty much the same last month?

Why none other than…

The PSNI Chief Constable has accused some Westminster politicians of failing to understand the dangers of terrorism in Northern Ireland post -Brexit.
In an interview in the Sunday Times, George Hamilton warns that the government is failing to prepare for the impact of the UK leaving the EU on the peace and security in NI.
He said that he is not getting the information and clarity needed.
In the Sunday Times interview, he said that any physical infrastructure or border officials following the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union would become targets for dissident republicans and require police protection.
“The purpose for which those checking points and [Irish] border controls would be put in place would become less and less relevant because they would move away from issues of trade or movement of people to old-fashioned security on a national frontier,” he said.
“That was done during the period of the Troubles rather unsuccessfully, and was sadly the subject of attacks and many lives lost.”

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