Archive for August, 2008

Cough cough

A Fermanagh man has been caught with 6 million fags. By my rough calculations, that’s enough to keep 15 people, or 75% of Fermanagh, smoking 20 a day for 55 years. Unfortunately most of them would taste disgusting since there’s nothing worse than a dried-up cigarette, and whatever savings you might make by buying in bulk would be more than offset by the cost of Strepsils. So whilst he might have thought he was doing Fermanagh some service, in fact he was driving it to ruin.

Capo di tutti capi

The nipper was brought along to the nurse yesterday for the check-up on his development. Turns out, though it was always fairly obvious to me, that in one area of development in particular, he stands out from the rest of his peer group, and in so doing he takes after his pa.

Continue reading ‘Capo di tutti capi’

Riddim

I thought the Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy were worthily angry but a bit dull at the same time. But since then Michael Franti has written some top drawer tunes that in a parallel universe would be massive hits, though the strident lyrical content rarely coincides in with the priorities of mainstream radio and the like. The last three Spearhead albums have all been excellent, the latest of these -All Rebel Rockers, produced by Sly and Robbie- is the best yet, with a deeper dub influence than before, though I shall not embarrass myself by elaborating on the nature of the grooves. I see the band is playing Electric Picnic this weekend, which I would be looking forward to if I were in fact going.

Metastasis

Not going to provide evidence, but somehow situations where one would have previously used the word ‘changed’ metastasised into situations where it seems more appropriate to use the word ‘metastasise’. The possibility that something might simply turn into something else has also metastasised into the possibility that something might metastasise.

On this matter I am conservative: we need to change back to change I can believe in.

Yeah, Whatever

The Back Seat Drivers blog is true to the first word in its title at the minute, with Dick conducting a detailed examination of Kevin Myers’s cited statistics on Nigerian rent allowance claimants and revealing-fetch the salts- Mr Myers is being scaremongerifyingly and distortionately misindignant, if not deextraliberately so.

But before fitting condemnatory brickbats to the ends of our collective pitchforks and baying for his blood in a hate-filled leftist spittlefleckfest, consider this: they may be statistics, and as such lies and damned lies -but at least they’re statistics.

Some articles one might suspect of being founded on anti-immigrant sentiment have no statistics at all, much to the annoyance of those of us manning the gates of Vienna against the onslaught of Tsaro-islamofascicommunisticist hordes and their intellectual anti-Enlightenment corollaries ensconced in the Irish Times.

For instance, yesterday I read an article in the not-in-any-way-racist-now-that-there’s-a-recession-on-and-there-has-to-be-someone-out-there-we-can-blame-so-as-to-reunite-the-nation-in-a-common-cause-other-than-getting-filthy-rich-now-that-that’s-off-the-menu-for-the-time-being Sunday Independent about what to do about the cultural fanaticism of the witch-obsessed Africans she heard about from someone on the radio.

Sez she:

Whatever else many of our African immigrants may have brought with them to Ireland, they have included a belief in witches, seen as an active threat to the well-being of families and communities.

Yeah, but how many is ‘many’? (And even if the many is roughly quantifiable, so what? Tens of thousands of children are exorcised of evil every year in Ireland, in a practice known as ‘baptism’.)

But the formal structure of the sentence is the thing that jars here. There’s the proprietorial implications: ‘our African immigrants’ (of course, my African immigrants would never get up to such a thing, my dears). Then there’s the grounding of her complaint in terms of whether or not ‘African immigrants’ ought to be here in the first place (i.e. if they didn’t bring things with them that were of use to us, they would have no right to be here), but most importantly, the gesture of balancing the complaint about African immigrants (the belief in witches) with an acceptance that they might fulfil some useful purpose.

And then there’s this:

To hear that witchcraft is on the religious agenda of an African church in Dublin is to feel some alarm at the possibility that this tradition of evil-seeking has been re-introduced to Ireland.

‘Some alarm at the possibility’, i.e. there is precisely no evidence that it is in fact happening, but if it were happening, we should be alarmed at it, which is why I’m writing a 700 word article for the Sunday Independent about it. Like I said, at least Myers has statistics. OK, at least Myers has statistics sometimes.

Cold Comforts

Well I for one am excited by a new Cold War, since I have to admit, I didn’t really stop and look around me during the last one.

My primary school teacher decided not to prepare us for confirmation, describing it as a waste of time, and instead read us the story of Fatima. One of the secrets told to the children by the Virgin Mary, he revealed to us (it wasn’t in the book he was reading from) was that some day Russia would soon convert. In fact, the secret was a lot more interesting than that: World War II was a consequence of people failing to establish devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, but after the Pope consecrated Russia, the country would soon convert. As it did, sort of, 40 years later. Most of what I knew of Russia at the time was from Rocky IV, and ‘Russians’ by Sting, but I was afraid of it nonetheless, because it was quite a regular occurrence in those days to hear reports on Monday mornings of visiting priests at Mass who had claimed the world was going to end. You could tell that if it happened, the Russians -who didn’t believe in God- would have something to do with it.

Anyway, turns out that Virgin Mary was talking nonsense: Russia is on the turn, possibly something to do with insufficient devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. The real disaster is that it can’t be consecrated twice, so the Pope is powerless. And I still am not clear on what confirmation was all about.

Pepe Escobar gives some sort of pinko clown conspiracy analysis above, quoting selectively from a clutch of minor player weirdoes like Zbigniew Brzezinski, Richard Holbrooke and so on. No mention of Fatima though, which is disappointing.

My Lovely Lovely Junkie Horse

It’s possible, of course, that gene doping or other techniques could turn out to be much riskier. But is that a reason to ban them? Society has always allowed explorers and adventurers to take risks in exchange for glory. The climbers who died on K2 this month ascended it knowing that one climber dies for every four who scale it.

If elite adult athletes were allowed to push the limits of human performance in return for glory, they might point the way for lesser mortals to coax more out of their bodies. If a 50-year-old sprinter could figure out how to run as fast as her 25-year-old self, that could be useful to aging weekend warriors — or any aging couch potato.

-Some tube in the New York Times.

Just think: it’s forty years since Bob Beamon broke the world long jump record in Mexico, which stood for 23 years. And yet the western world is full of big fat pigs who couldn’t manage to jump out the front door. So the man above is wrong. It might point the way for lesser mortals -but similarly, I might shite a whelk.

But he does have a point with the whole natural vs. unnatural thing:

We all know the body can be improved. We all know Olympic athletes have the highest-functioning bodies in the world. They can call themselves natural, just as they used to call themselves amateurs, but at some point that claim may seem the most unnatural thing of all.

So when everyone else is wearing bolt-on angel wings and flying to work, making lazy circles in the sky as they so do, thinking about what genitalia they’ll be wearing that night, these -there’s no other word for it- freaks will be still trying to see how quickly you can move a distance of 100 metres in a straight line. And they’ll expect us to treat them as heroes! The cheek.

Sauce for the drugs cheat is sauce for the horse, if you ask me. Sure horses are bred especially for showjumping. Imagine if you had aliens from another planet who had abducted a sample of high-performing humans and bred -via a tortuous process that took place over the course of hundred years- a master breed of crack Olympic athletes who could run the hundred metres in 6 seconds. Once the question of their nationality had been resolved, do you reckon the IOC would allow them to participate? Would they in my rear end. In fact, their introduction would mean, among other things, that any preoccupation with drug-testing would be null and void.

So what’s the big deal about your man who rubbed his horse down with Deep Heat For Horses and now he’s a drugs cheat or something. Sure the horse itself isn’t ‘natural’, as I have expertly and uncontroversially demonstrated above. To adapt an argument from opposition to the Catholic Church’s position on birth control, what’s wrong with using a little bit of chemistry to improve performance when it’s ok to use maths, physics and biology?

Meta-Shite

I noticed that the new Glen Campbell album, which I panned below, is getting fairly decent reviews on Metacritic, which conducts a survey of reviews of prominent music journals. The ‘meta’ rating, and most of the ratings used to supply the ‘meta’ rating, are unreliable, nay worthless.

To give you an example: take the recent reviews down the left hand side of the page. There are 166 records on display there. Of these, 141 receive a metascore rating of >60, which means generally favourable reviews. That means, according to Metacritic, that a whopping 85% of the content is good stuff! In which case, if Metacritic is in any way reliable, that means we’re living in a golden age for popular music.

Of course, the figure is total bullshit, as confirmed by the presence of Dennis Wilson’s Pacific Ocean Blue up near the top. I couldn’t believe the raving crap that got written about this album, which has a couple of decent tracks (Moonshine, Rainbows), a couple of outstanding ones (River Song, Thoughts of You) and a load of filler with embarassingly bad lyrics (Pacific Ocean Blues: ‘We live on the edge of a body of water/Warmed by the blood of the cold hearted/Slaughter of otter/Wonder how she feels mother seal’).

From the pseuds’ corner end of the spectrum, Richard Williams in the Guardian praised the ‘strategic use of banjo‘, ‘textures and densities constantly in flux’ and ‘quasi-Dixieland collective polyphony…almost cinematic in effect, conceptually well ahead of anything else being attempted at the time.’

And The Sun gave it 5 stars too, describing Dennis Wilson as a genius.

The principal appeal of Dennis Wilson is the fact that he took loads of drugs, drank the head off himself, had sex with lots of women and hung out with the Manson family, and still managed to write the odd decent tune (Slip On Through, for instance, on the Beach Boys’ Sunflower album, is superb) and remain reasonably good-looking. Brian Wilson -who really was a genius- by contrast turned into a big fat mad beardy pig and therefore not an aspirational icon for the type of people Steven Wells describes as ‘he least rock’n’roll creatures on the planet – balding white suburbanites with mortgages, unhappy marriages, huge stomachs and enormous, carefully annotated vinyl and CD collections‘.

Foxy

In terms of songs about foxes committing suicide with Stanley knives, this has to be the finest song ever.

Glen Twaddle

Changing the subject somewhat, I thought I’d write a few posts charting my encounters with music these days. For some unprobed reason, my finger has wiggled its way slowly towards the pulse, wherefromwhich it fell some 13 or 14 years ago. Not that this fact would become clear from the first record to which I refer here: Meet Glen Campbell, which came out yesterday, and which I have listened to once. My own enthusiasm for Glen Campbell I have covered previously, and when I did, I mentioned that he needed ‘someone like Rick Rubin to help him put together an album’, referring to Rick Rubin’s rehabilitation of Neil Diamond and Johnny Cash.

A rehabilitation has been conducted, but not in the pared-down manner characteristic of Rick Rubin. Rather, under the supervision of Julian Raymond, the intention has been to recreate the sound of Glen Campbell’s heavily orchestrated late ’60s and early ’70s music. Fair enough: despite his history as a crack session musician, his musical identity consisted, to my mind anyway, of the sound of his smooth tenor and twanging guitar atop a thick carpet of MOR strings. There was no trobadour hidden underneath. Judged purely in terms of an attempt to regenerate Campbell’s sound, the record is impressive for the same reasons as one might admire the set detail of Life On Mars.

Where it fails is precisely where Johnny Cash’s rehabilitation succeeded: in the selection of more contemporary songs. His version of ‘Sing’ by Travis is a major improvement on the original, but it’s still a terrible song. He fares better with ‘Walls’ and ‘Angel Dream’, both by Tom Petty, the form and simple lyrical content seem to fit well with the production. But whereas Cash’s success was founded on the strength of his own powers of reinterpretation, Glen Campbell has no such powers. The best things in his back catalogue are the Jimmy Webb songs, which were mostly written with his voice in mind. Campbell’s smooth burr was an ideal vessel for Webb’s bittersweet reflections. There was no need for Campbell to suffuse the singing with any sort of personal drama. All he had to do to produce the goods was to sing the words to the melody. Not all songs are like Jimmy Webb’s, though.

And the problem here is that Campbell either isn’t able, or isn’t bothered, to interpret the songs for his own voice so that their meaning flows through his voice, rather than, as is too often the case here, producing an effect of Glen Campbell Sings The Replacements, or Glen Campbell Sings The Velvet Underground.

In the case of The Replacements’ Sadly Beautiful, a magnificent song, the effect is Sadly Terrible And Sort Of Embarrassing. The point of the original was how the vaguely sentimental lyrics worked against Westerberg’s cracked voice and the sparse, stark instrumentation, but here it’s thick sweater and big coffee mug time.  Disastrous.

Worse still is his rendition of Jesus -a song I never cared for much anyway- where the sense of seamy crisis of the original gives way to one of those revoltingly self-satisfied retrospective melodramas that you often get from the born again. I started to wonder what projectile vomiting might look like.

The U2 cover is better than the original, proving that some pigs can be marginally improved by a touch of lipstick. The Foo Fighters Green Day’s ‘Time of Your Life’ was a dreadful song, but Glen does it an injustice anyway.

Avoid, unless you’re sick in the head. But I recommend The Capitol Years 66-77 compilation if you’re wondering why I might have taken an interest in the guy in the first place.


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