Wednesday, January 27, 2010

B-b-b-bangin' Musicos to watch out for in 2010!

Okie dokey,

It's almost February and I reckon I have come to the decision to suggest what I think is best. There's some great music out there and some especially good stuff from new, emerging and somewhat establishing themselves artists. These are the people who need the publicity and in fairness we all need a bit of newness in our lives one in a while (and this is coming from the guy who didn't listen to anything younger than twenty years - except for the Stone Roses - for the best part of two or three years).

These are only introductions and no one can really tell where and what is going to happen to these in the next twelve months. A good few of them are 'Irish' and another few or them are not. That's not really relevant but if you think I'm tooting my own national horn so be it. Here's the list:

* Hot Chip - Hot Chip
* Mumford and Suns - Sigh no more (I'm sure we've all heard the stunning first single little lion man)
* Yes Cadets - EP available on itunes
* Two Door Cinema Club - Tourist History available from march 1st.
* Delorentos - You Can Make Sound second album released before christmas already done well, if you need any convincing listen to this -
* Marina and the Diamonds - The Family Jewels relleased Feb 22 - listen to this ... all I can say 'Cuckoo, cuckoo'!
* Fionn Regan - second album The Shadow of an Empire is out now and if the song protection racket is anything to go by it promises to be another keeper.

...and I'm always going to give The Mighty Stef a plug because I think he's deadly!

All these bands/artists have their tunes available on itunes or other web formats for those of you too lazy to wander down to your nearest music shop and have an adventure in between the rows and rows of amazing (and shite) CDs.

I'm also going to preach a little - Buy the music don't steal it. This isn't an attitude that I apply across the board, there are plenty of artists and bands out there who have loads of money and will make music and money all the time. But these growing and unestablished artists need as much support as possible otherwise they'll turn into jugglers or accountants or something and we'll all end up having no choice but to enjoy the X-Factor or American Idol or whatever nonsense is being thrown on us by main stream media (All Ireland Talent Show anyone?)

Please feel free to add anything to this list no matter where in the world you are! Deadly tunes are always appreciated :D

Peace and big smiles!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Battle of the Networks!

I have recently being paying attention to my old Myspace account after much neglect and disinterest caused I think by the preponderance of Facebook as the international and local social network of choice. I reckon that most or certainly a lot of people use both. When I first left for Korea folks in Ireland used to use a social network site called Bebo but that got crushed by the Facebook wave. Myspace certainly suffered in popularity and if I’m not mistaken has mostly being functioning as a website for bands, individuals and organisations that are unable to create a website. This is where I think Myspace held a small advantage over Facebook – Myspace of late has been a place for people with something (whether it's bullshit or not) to say.

Facebook however operates as a place for people with nothing to say and something to say. I’ve blabbered on both social networks and I’m not sure which one is more successful or reaches more people or has more people listening. In a sense, Myspace’s advantage here is its blog function which allows people to follow and participate and it sends out an email any time something is posted. Facebook hasn’t bothered with this function but revels in the lunacy of it’s status updates that seem to take control of the world sometimes – at least they seem to take control of my world especially when I go through phases of thinking of my life’s actions in status updates and how can I make the simplest and most inane action sound wittier in a status update. Different strokes for different folks I suppose.

Since the introduction and rise of Facebook, Myspace’s star has slowly sunk. Facebook is gradually, like Google, becoming not only a noun but also a verb (and probably in time an adjective and adverb but don’t ask me how that will work). It’s advantages are clear; lots of shiny and fun applications and games to waste more of your time, easy photo uploading, groups and more groups, events easily created, and of course most important of all the ability to copy and ‘share’ with other people.

Myspace was plagued from the start of Facebook’s no nonsense blue and white website that denied users the choice of how they wanted to present themselves leaving the ubiquitous profile picture to reign supreme (I’ve written about it before here and here,). Complicated HTML editing and competing websites offering to ‘pimp-your-profile’ that took a while to get the hang of and, personally speaking, I was never happy with what the end result was. There was also the speed it took to open a person’s page if they had videos, pictures… I used Myspace with broadband and it still seemed to take a week and I can imagine how happy people with dial-up internet felt about the affair. Facebook’s quick and efficient use of direct links to websites and the speed it takes to open the almost colourless webpage left Myspace dragging its heels in the mud.

But it is changing. Myspace is catching up. All the advantages Myspace had before are still there but it is now approaching Facebook’s market, the people with nothing to say. I’ve been looking at a number of the older features and I have to admit it that a lot of them have been updated and made a lot better. Myspace now has a chat function, a Java quick-uploader for photographs like Facebook. It now provides its own templates for profiles but still offers the HTML editing version that makes it still very unique and personable. The profile page look and home page look are more interesting with more links and more streamlined edges. What made Myspace unique, a space that was yours, has been redesigned to fit with the ultra-sleek and competitive internet environment of 2010.

Does this make any one better than the other. Yes your Myspace home page and profile page will look a lot nicer or prettier or cooler or sophisticated than the bland white and blue of Facebook but essentially they offer the same thing. Your friends, people you might know, the constant and endless stream of things friends have done and said; these are all in front of you whenever you sign in.

But Myspace’s strides and advances over the past year have been significant to warrant attention. Facebook can share the world (for want of a better term) but Myspace have seemingly invested a lot of money in their links with celebrities and music personalities. Both directly competing with each other for attention but only one is growing at a rate that seems to want to take over the world.


This little account has been an attempt to try and assess the competition between the two. I don’t know how much competition there is between the two, I notice that the same people who use Myspace and Facebook for publicity use both as much, it’s probably in their best interests for publicity’s sake.

But what seemed like a dead horse, now it has actually gotten up and continued on with the race building on its own strengths in an attempt to win back some of the attention taken away by the worldwide phenomenon of Facebook. In the end I don’t really think it matters if there is a winner or a looser but that there is an option. With the growth of the internet options will never cease but at the top of the scale it’s nice to know that you can make the world pink around your profile picture if you’re fed up as being the same as everyone else.

Think about it – as people we are all different. If we want to be cool with cool pictures around us (remember the posters on the wall when you were a teenager and in college?) why shouldn’t we express it that way? But while your deep in agreement, why not think about it on the global scale that we are all human (incidentally maybe white isn’t such a good colour for a universal profile colour) and that what is on the inside is more important than ‘skin’ colour. Or am I looking into this too much?

Monday, January 18, 2010

Oh, to be cool.

To be “cool” or to be “not cool”, is that a question or a goal in life? People go out of their way to be 'cool', that is clear; but people who are apparently “not cool”, do they go out of their way to stand out as someone not making an effort to stand out?

Do me a favour for this little musing: ignore the generalising (I know it's being hypocritical by generalising. I'll write some day about why I hate generalising and why it's the worst thing in the world short of murdering your younger siblings favourite pet etc.) and I'll do my best to make my point no matter how blunt my argument seems to appear.

Coolness is an opinion; it's the opposite of “uncool”. It's also a standard set by someone or a group of people. If I took an example to set the standard I would be alienating the rest of the standards because it's far from universal. Jocks, goths, hippies, society bumpkins, the whole kit and caboodle all refer to things as “cool” and “not cool”. There are things some people see as universally cool and then we have the things we differ over.

I think I've always based my idea of being cool on Easy Rider. Let’s take it from here: two men, Wyatt and Billy, are riding to Mardi Gras in New Orleans from L.A. with money and bikes that they got from a big coke deal at LAX. They meet lots of different folk in the middle of the dried up South - there are the hippies starving but exuding free love in a desert commune, the fertile and apparently virile farmer, the lawyer George Hanson who is memorably played by Jack Nicholson, the local men who beat and kill him not long after, the two prostitutes who they take around the town and later take acid with in a graveyard and finally the men who shoot and kill both Wyatt and Billy at the conclusion of the film.

While the film itself is all about freedom and how to obtain it and with the eventual result that they attain neither freedom nor a happy-ever-after ending. The scene above which I included is a good place to begin this analysis. The sixties and seventies was when "cool" began to spread across the world as a status of desirability outside the normal constraints of class and education. "Cool" is a definition that has come and extended it's reach over every aspect of life that now separates those who are, those who are not, and also those who strive to be "cool".

If I suggested that class and education had an effect on the level of "cool" I don't think there would be several people who would disagree - but then there are people who try and step outside or above or below these standards in the pursuit of "cool" which confuses everything. "Cool" is itself a class and status. There are those who want it, there are those who can never have it, and there are those, like we saw in Easy Rider, who hate it more than anything.

Is being "cool" being different or is it something else? What it is, is an opinion. What I want to ask is why do some people want to be "cool" and others want to keep so far away from it? I think it is like comparing them to members of a pack of animals (I won't say flock of sheep) and then there are the individuals that want to be far from the main pack. Being different and being "cool" and being normal (for want of a better word) are all different ways that we grow as individuals who gradually want to become part of a group - be it the larger normal group, the tiny different group and of course the always popular and always growing cooler group.

Who we decide to be is part of our natural desire 'to be something', it's the same reason we go to school, find careers, travel and find love. How we are perceived by our peers shapes how we develop as individuals. Perhaps some people are naturally different and naturally cool. But is it as glorious and glamorous as that? Are we not who we are and the world that forms around us is what conceives us as different or normal or “cool” or “not cool”.

Look again at the characters in Easy Rider that I mentioned earlier. If we took each of them from their elements, would they be normal or different or would they be “cool”?

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

"X-Men" - segregation and separation

I was watching the new X-men Origins film yesterday (OK, I know it's not new but relatively new). It brought a lot of ideas forward and can show something about the twentieth century that perhaps can only be shown to its full ferocity through the medium of fantasy comic book movie remakes.

In the twentieth century experiments on the human body became widespread; through assorted eugenic societies in the majority of western nations, to the Nazi genocide and on to the racial segregation that characterised the final third of the twentieth century, humanity has proven itself more adept at attempting to create and to go to whatever means it can to be better than its rival. This film, and in fact the entire franchise is a chronicle to this past and the future that will involve us all.

I am going to use my very scant knowledge of the X-men series and of the entire background to twentieth century eugenic biopolitics to give you an opinion. This opinion will include grave over-generalisations and numerous presumptions but I hope that it will incite you to think about cult-media in a different manner.

In the film there is an extended scene where Wolverine or Logan, a ‘mutant’ (in this case someone who is human but who has a genetic malfunction that has mutated and given him some form of ‘power’ – incidentally all mutants have powers, this is why they are feared and excluded), and he has been taken to a secret military facility deep in the mountains to allow an experiment to be carried out on him for whatever reason. The key thing here is how he was tricked into allowing the experiment be carried out. By fear. By threatening his life. By taking the life of the one he loved. By placing him far from safety and alienating him from his own family and his own ‘kind’.

He is, in a sense, a mercenary, hired at the price of his own life’s safety. By agreeing to allow the experiment to be conducted on him he admits that he must rely on the scientific strengths of his enemy for his own survival – by altering his body he reduces his own humanity, objectifies himself and allows himself to be treated as part of the ‘mutant problem’. True, he does survive in the end. But at what price? The only way that he can be stopped is by a bullet into his brain which erases his memory and his identity, further alienating himself from what he truly believed himself to be; a quiet, Canadian, lumberjack who was in love with a local schoolteacher.

Now at this point I may seem to have drifted from the intended direction of this discourse. I am still attempting to give a broad interpretation of the film and what is going on in relation to international relevancy. Here I think we should think about who allows themselves to be used for human experiments? And I mean any experiment. From medical trials of a new treatment to allow genetic or artificial implants to enhance the body, we as humans admit our own frailty and inability to deal with the reality of what we have made our won lives.

This film or series builds itself on the difference between humans and mutants. The broad range of mutants against the closely defined category of humans again turns on the emergency lights and presents the segregation of individuals as a worldwide struggle – a war, one between those who are different and those who are normal. Not a very definite boundary I think you’ll agree. Even if you throw in politically correct terms like special needs and talented/gifted people, they are still different and separated, categorised and placed on the outside of society.

Now, no doubt you’re coming to understand the angle that I’m approaching this film from. It is essentially a story about racism. When I use the word racism I use it as a term that implies all manners of discrimination because of a physical difference in a person’s body. The act of racism is the discriminatory prejudice preventing access to a service or quality of life. The act of racism also employs tools such as ‘assimilation’. ‘Assimilation’ requires the victim, broadly speaking, to accept that they are different and to make a conscious effort to be less like them and to be more like the perpetrators of the discriminatory actions.

The film, X-men Origins: Wolverine, brings all of these topics together. We see people employed because they are ‘mutants’, then used for their skills but abused because that is all they are seen as, tools for obtaining something. We see mutants trying to move on, we see mutants fighting for survival against each other but always being subjected to the whim of the human authority, we see mutants suffering from scientific experiments, we see them escape but do they really escape? Is there real sanctuary in a world where they will always be hunted for what they are not who they are?

I cannot list the situations that this movie brought to my consciousness because the list itself is too long and I think it would not do justice to those who I did not include because of my own ignorance. It is rare that such a film questions such hard fought truths that we are led to believe everyday. Films regularly talk of freedom and survival and Hollywood is often the mightiest herald of them all, but this film is different. This film talks about the freedom of the masses, including individual freedom, and no matter who they are or what their genetic makeup is. This film exposes the world for the prejudice we accept as due process and questions what we ourselves are a party to.

We can choose to watch and enjoy or we can chose to watch, watch again, read between the lines and respond beyond the doors of the cinema or the couch in the living room.

I will leave it to you to decide.

Friday, January 8, 2010

English Teacher

I am asked:
Q - “North or South Korea”?
A - “Oh, South Korea of course”
Q - “Aw” disappointedly would be a frequent response
“So, what did you do there?”
A - “I thought English”, sorry for being so ordinary
Q - “Aw” disappointedly would be a frequent response
Is it so ordinary, so normal, so predictable, so much like everything else that it deserves an unenthusiastic “aw” for an answer?
“So, what was it like?”
A - “Different” so different – different cannot explain it – It cannot describe the heat in the summer & the wind that slices in two in winter & the smell & the submission to the rotary motion of the city that swallows you up and leaves you floating around like a leaf in an ornamental pond sullying the perfection of the adjacent royalty watching & waiting for a gardener to come to scoop you out.
Q - “So, how long were you there?”
A - “Over three years” but it seemed like a whole new life & entirety of uncountable years where I was not me & me was a new person while time stood still for me to return & find that everything had moved on or grown & to my amazement so have I no longer the avoidable but the listenable opinionable believable wisdom toting figurine from far away far far away.
Q - “So, you must like it over there.”
A - “Yeah” but why should I like it, do you stay in a place for three years in a place only because “you like it” – there is more to it than that - it means more to me than just “like” and “dislike” – every tree must grow but some do not grow in certain forests the same can be said with fish the same with people: when they are lined in r2ows & clipped and trimmed like trees - do they ever grow like a wild tree free to fight its way out into its natural mould winning the sunlight it strives to survive with while drinking every drop of moisture it can squeeze from the soil that surrounds it without any mechanical allocation or rules that regard how much or how many one is allowed to take - wild seeds will always grow stronger & if they do not live they will die trying to do so.
Q - “So, what are you going to do now?”
A - “I don’t know” how to explain it to you but there is more to the world than being a part of the mosaic - being your own mosaic on your own wall for yourself only to look at with yourself only to please & to smile when you look at yourself & see your mosaic in your reflection & not waiting for you to work for five more years to achieve.
A - “So, I suppose you’ll be a teacher then”
Q - “Why?” would I be a teacher when there is nothing I know which wants to be learned & there is nothing that “must” be learned that I want to teach - if I stood on a hill all day & did nothing would I be called a “stander” or an “on a hiller”? Of what consequence is it what I do for you & for others? I will be myself until I die & then I will allow people to decide what I was but now I cannot say what I am I am only who I am not an object but a person who breathes & thinks & feels & eats & loves & dreams & dreams & dreams & loves some more & hopes never stops hoping that I will always be just me & nothing else.
A - “Because that’s what you do”
A - “I suppose” that is all I do - all I do forever Amen – from morning through to night I teach myself & no-one else what I can only be & how I can only see & what I can only do & where I can only be – teaching- teaching to learn to grow & see above hedges & climb fences - teacher & student - somnambulating into & out of existence within a cocoon persisting far & close to my presence standing next to you answering your questions with lies and screaming the truths at the backs of my eyes teaching myself that I will not create a perjury of my life.
A - “Sounds great”
A/Q - “It is” is it?

one day in some month this year

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Contemporary Culture and the Letter 'K'

(I came across this today and thought it would be a point in which I could begin my work here - more from the author, Alfred Corn, here)

First inroads were made in our 19-aughts
(Foreshadowed during the last century by nothing
More central than "Kubla Khan," Kipling, Greek
Letter societies, including grotesque KKK -
Plus the kiwi, koala, and kookaburra from Down Under)
When certain women applied to their moist eyelids
A substance pronounced coal but spelled kohl,
Much of the effect captured on Kodak film
With results on and off the camera now notorious.
They were followed and sometimes chased by a platoon
Of helmeted cutups styled the Keystone Kops, who'd
Freeze in the balletic pose of the letter itself
Left arm on hi, leg pointed back at an angle,
Waiting under klieg lights next to a worried kiosk
To put the kibosh on Knickerbocker misbehavior.
Long gone, they couldn't help when that hirsute royal
King Kong arrived to make a desperate last stand,
Clinging from the Empire State, swatting at biplanes,
Fay Wray fainting away in his leathern palm
As i the grip of African might. Next, marketing
Stepped up with menthol tobacco and the brand name
Kool, smoked presumably by models and archetypes
Superior in ever way to Jukes and Kallikaks.
By then the race was on, if only because
Of German Kultur's increasing newsworthiness
On the international front. The nation that had canned
Its Kaiser went on to sponsor debuts for the hero
of Mein Kampf, Wotan of his day, launching thunderbolts
And Stukkas, along with a new social order astonishing
In its industrial efficiency. His annexing
Of Bohemia cannot have been spurred by reflecting
That after all Prague had sheltered the creator
And in some sense alter ego of Josef K.,
Whose trial remained a local fact until the fall
Of the Empire of a Thousand Years, unheard of in "Amerika"
Of the Jazz Age. But musicians Bix Beiderbecke and Duke
Ellington somehow always took care to include the token
Grapheme in their names,for which precaution fans
Of certain priceless '78s can only be grateful.
They skipped and rippled through a long post-war glow
Still luminous in the memory of  whoever recalls
Krazy Kat, Kleenex, Deborah Kerr, Korea, Kool-Aid,
And Jack Kennedy. Small wonder if New York had
A special feeling for the theme, considering radical
Innovations of De Kooning, Kline, and Rothko. This last
Can remind us that bearers of the letter often suffered
Bereavement and despair (cf. Chester Kallman) and even,
As with Weldon Kees, self slaying. Impossible not to see
Symptoms of a malaise more widespread still in culture
The collects kitsch and Krugerrands, with a just-kids lifestyle
Whose central shrine is the shopping mall - K-Mart, hail to thee!
To "Kuntry Kitchen," "Kanine Kennels," and a host of other
Kreative misspellings kreeping through the korpus
Of kontemporary lingo like an illnesss someone someday
(The trespass of metaphor) is going to spell "Kancer."

True, there have been recidivists in opposite
Direction (a falling away perhaps from the Platonic ideal
Of tó kalón) like "calisthenics" and Maria Callas,
ho seem  to have preferred te less marblelike romance
Of traditonal English. This and related factors make all
Supporters of the letter "k" in legitimate forms
And Avatars cherish it with fiery intensity -
All the more when besieged by forces beyond
Anyone's control, at least, with social or medical
Remedies now available. Dr. Kaposi named it,
That sarcoma earmarking a mortal syndrome thus far
Incurable and spreading overland like acid rain.
A sense of helplessness is not in the repertory
Of our national consciousness, we have no aptitude
For standing by as chill winds rise, the shadows gather,
And gray light glides into the room where a seated figure
Has taken up his post by the window, facing away from us,
No longer bothering to speak, his mind at one with whatever
Is beyond the ordinary spell of language, whatever dreams us
Into that placeless place, its nearest image a cloudless
Sky at dusk, just before the slow ascent of the moon.