Saturday, 31 October 2009

Review: The Thick of It, Episode 2

'Could you pull in over here? And take out that cyclist, I think he is shadow cabinet.' Malcolm Tucker
SOMEONE once said that the glory in Richard Pryor's comedy was that in between the laughter and the tears you say, 'That's so true'.
The Thick of It is the best example of this in modern TV.
It redefines the genre of political comedy as, and, hey, wanky film theory phrase ahoy, it tears up conventional ideas of verisimilitude. It appears so real, draws so closely on news narratives and satirises them to such an extent that it renders all politics absurd.
Tonight, new social affairs minister Nicola Murray (Rebecca Front, pictured right), already in trouble with the press because of dodgy family links to PFI and private schooling, has to meet the Guardian with her department having lost the details of thousands of immigrants.
Before she gets there we see her office staff in a frenzy shedding documents and trying to hide the gaffe. The self-preservation instinct of the weasel civil servants is evident in the next scene:
Minister Murray: 'Someone has done a huge poo on my desk. Who is going to clear it up?'
Press kingpin Terry: 'My bum is clear of that.'

But its tremendous glory is in the probably pitch perfect depiction of the ad hoc craziness of political spin doctors formulating crisis policy, media strategy amid the incredibly elitist and closed realm of the Westminster reporting.
It's at a private lunch at the Guardian to define key policy and trying not to let slip time bomb scandals in a department that is clearly in crisis, that Murray lets slip to a visiting freelancer that a department in crisis has a media time bomb ticking.
Media management is the whore everyone involved is subservient to. Policy, such as it is, is always formulated and seen through the filter of how it will appear on the political pages of newspapers and TV news reports.
A government in crisis which once steadfastly and ruthlessly controlled the agenda can no longer do so. As junior policy merchant Olly (Chris Addison) and the apoplectic Malcolm try to intimidate the freelancer (Zoe Telford, with the story to make her career) to ditch it, it is apparent they can no longer control or frighten anyone. Their goose is cooked, their time in government is ticking inexorably down.
But, ultimately TTOI is now (as it always was) the Peter Capaldi Show. Malcolm's melt down in the taxi after Nicola discloses the 'hemorrhaging of data' was absolutely pricessless but his summation of the crisis was his best insult of all three series and the film spin-off:
'E-fucking-nough, you have laid your first egg of solid fuck [...] and spewed it out of your arse at 300 miles an hour.'

The horrible beauty of The Thick of It, and Malcolm Tucker's pointless tirades in support of a government facing impending destruction, is that they are so true of real political life that they go beyond comedy and render the whole process of modern governance absurd.

Mick Jones, Rachid Taha, Casbah: Brilliant, just brilliant

FOUND this reading my own post.
The Clash and Rachid on one stage.
Literally can't describe how happy I am. Watched it five times in a row.
Got a Diet Pepsi headache staying up.
Jonesy even shouts 'Says it's not kosher'.
Just, just, ...unutterably brilliant.
Joe would've approved and would also have been there.
(Dabs eyes, manfully, and points to non-existent onion while grabbing coat).

Friday, 30 October 2009

FOLLOW FRIDAY: Rachid Taha, the French Algerian Joe Strummer

RACHID TAHA, an Algerian-born, Lyon-raised 'French' singer songwriter has written (and rewritten) some of the most vital songs of the last 30 years.
As the leader of the band Carte de Séjour in the 1980s he helped pave the way for a new conception of French music, breaking down the barriers between rock music and those of the immigrant French and traditional music of France. The band's name referenced the residency card most immigrants were required to have in France.
The band, which eventually split in 1989/1990, was best known for its ironic reworking of the Charles Trenet chanson/ song Douce France a version which raised questions about the status of the North African immigrant French and their status in a France that was witnessing the rise of the Le Pen-led Front Nationale.
But it was after the split with Carte de Séjour that Taha would go on to become the great star of what is rather patronisingly called 'world' music. He comes out of the tradition of Rai singing and his fusing of the North African and arabic world with everything from punk to dance, to rock to techno has seen him become a hero in his adoptive home and throughout the Arabic disapora.
Through the 1990's his relationship with British producer Steve Hillage saw him produce some excellent music, the albums Olé Olé, Barbès, Rachid Taha, Made in Medina and the single Voilà, Voilà which appears on the brilliant 1997 album Carte Blanche on the cover of which he looks uncannily like Joe Strummer cira-London Calling.
The Clash link is important to the understanding of Taha because much of his music treads the punky esoteric line of the British band's Sandinista album. Taha met the Clash before a 1981 show in the Paris theatre, the Mogador which has become legendary in the country - French music's equivalent of the Pistols at the Free Trade Hall.
Taha is an awkward, radical punk at heart, a champion of the underdog and a natural heir to his great hero Strummer. This Socialist Worker interview sums it up.
Taha and Strummer never met again, but there were plans afoot for them to get together at the time of Strummer's untimely death nearly seven years ago. Taha's real overground breakthrough would be his Arabic cover Rock El Casbah (from Tékitoi) which appeared in the Strummer documentary The Future is Unwritten.
Taha's real breakthrough album in the English speaking world came with 1998's 'Diwan' which featured a trio of his calling card songs, Ya Rayah, Habina and Menfi.

He has gone on to make great albums in the 2000s, Tékitoi, Diwan 2 which is perhaps the greatest example of Rai music committed to vinyl/ CD/ digital format. He also released the tremendous best of Rachid Taha: The Definitive Collection which contains a bonus disc beautiful 30 minute documentary following Taha back to Algeria produced and presented by Andy Kershaw - his strongest advocate in the British music media.
His new album Bonjour was reviewed today in the posh papers, we'll reserve judgement before we review it at GM.
FOLLOW FRIDAY 10 on Spotify

Thursday, 29 October 2009

FUNNIEST PODCAST ALERT: Danny Baker meets David Lee Roth

THANKS to Paul Beard over at the Word magazine blogs for this extraordinary bit of radio from Danny's time on the BBC Radio London breakfast show. Baker and DLR rip the place up. I nearly hyper-ventilated.

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Pioneering blogger Mick Fealty

MICK FEALTY, the man behind the brilliant and pioneering Northern Irish politics (and so much more) blog, Slugger O'Toole gave this very enlightening interview to the BBC College of Journalism today. It's a must for all journalism students and anyone interested in the blogosphere, blogospherians, if you will.

Mick Fealty on Blogging from BBC College of Journalism on Vimeo.

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Paul Du Noyer In the Cities: Celebrating the popular music of Liverpool and London

I WILL be in conversation with acclaimed music writer, magazine editor, author and all round good egg Paul Du Noyer at a public event for Liverpool Hope University's small but perfectly formed Cornerstone Festival on Thursday, November 26.
Paul's most recent book,
'In the City', a history of London's popular music has addressed, among other themes, the intrinsic nature of storytelling to the songs of England's capital city through the centuries. It's a fascinating read and one everyone interested in music should delve into.
His best selling history of Liverpool music,
'Wondrous Place', which charted Merseyside music (in its first edition) from the Cavern scene to the dance super club Cream, is one of the most rewarding reads in music journalism's canon and one of GM's Top 10 books of all time.
I will be asking Paul, Hope's visiting fellow in journalism, to compare, nay, juxtapose, the popular songs of Liverpool with those of London and tease out the reasons why both cities' musics emerged in the way that they have.
Below is a brilliant interview done with Paul's long-time colleague and friend
David Hepworth, one of the founding partners of the wonderfully refreshing The Word magazine.
If you enjoy this interview, then the Cornerstone Festival event will take it to, what the 'kids' describe as, another level.
We'd have loved, in the way of modern music magazines, to hand out a free CD, but due to copyright you'll probably have to make do with a collaborative Spotify playlist closer to the time.

Saturday, 24 October 2009

Donal Og Cusack: A turning point for the GAA but perhaps not Ireland?

CORK GAA star Donal Og Cusack, one of the finest and most decorated hurling goalkeepers of his generation, could just have become the unlikely catalyst for change in the attitudes of Irish society.
Donal Og, who has three All-Ireland final winning medals, has come out as gay and is believed to be the first elite male athlete in Europe to do so. He officially did so in his recently released autobiography, Come What May, and it has been the central story for Irish newspapers and phone-in shows all this week.
What's more unusual is that he did so more widely in the book's serialisation in the Irish Daily Mail -I'm not sure the Dacre-helmed British parent paper would do the same.
Rumours had been circulating about Cusack's sexuality for at least three years and indeed Tipperary fans had chanted homophobic songs at him during a championship game three years ago, but the media hoo-ha this week revealed a shift in attitude in the GAA.
The usually conservative top brass have been most favourable in their response to Donal Og's book, while a host of other figures have done the same. (See news digest below)
But, will this be a major signal of shift in opinion in an Ireland which is sthrowing off the yoke of oppressive Catholic theocracy? Perhaps not, homophobia comes from deeper instincts merely a religious root, but here's hoping it's the start. All must salute Donal Og's courage in coming out and facing-up to the eejits taunting him.
Here is a list of the best articles on the matter and below Donal talks about the book on the newly relaunched and reinvigorated Ryan Tubridy-helmed Late Late Show, which brilliantly played him onto a version of David Bowie's 'Rebel Rebel' reflecting Cork's nickname as the rebel county and Donal Og's courage.
David Sharrock in the Times
Mark Simpson at the BBC, (although the player pictured is not Donal Og)
Irish Independent op-ed piece
Tremendous response from the comments section of the Belfast Telegraph
The Herald's largely supportive op-ed

Tucker's (bad) luck:The Thick of It returns

'You were a relatively late appointment which didn't give me the time to fuck the I's and fist the T's.' - Malcolm Tucker (pictured right)

MALCOLM Tucker, superbly played by Peter Capaldi, is back bullying junior ministers in the era-defining political comedy The Thick of It.
This time Nicola Murray played by Rebecca Front, the incoming social affairs secretary, is the one dropping a whole heap of cack on Malcolm's lap.
In a hasty reshuffle she gets the social affairs portfolio despite the fact that her and her husband have potentially devastating links to a prison private finance initiative and a daughter who is going to a private-fee paying school.
Her appointment is indicative of the collapsing Government, once a highly functioning control freak with a vice-like grip on the news, it's now not taking care of the simplest of media vetting.
It's always good to see the self serving, back stabbing, neurotic spin team of Olly, Glenn and Terri who are cowed and bullied by Malcolm. While their incompetency was once not a problem for the Government - now they are implicit in its hasty implosion.
After the feature film spin-off In The Loop, reviewed here some months back, creator Armando Ianucci chose to build this, the first show of the third and final series, around an old fashioned sight gag.
In perhaps the greatest gag of any of the three series - a complicated set up saw Murray answer questions about her 'corruption' while doing a photo op where she is manoeuvred over the phone by hapless spin doctors to stand in front of a sign bearing the phrase 'I am Bent'.
It was tremendous to see such an old fashioned gag unravel.
It also said much about the cynicism of modern political discourse in the media. As Malcolm said in the show's sign-off 'Right, I'm away to wipe my arse on pictures of Nick Robinson, I 'm getting good at giving him a quiff.'

Friday, 23 October 2009

Malachi O'Doherty: A wonderful writer and podcaster

BELFAST author Malachi O'Doherty has been one of the most insightful and provocative writers about Northern Ireland for more than two decades.
As a teenager I was always inspired by his journalism with the BBC and he has served venerable old Belfast intellectual institution Fortnight magazine as editor in the very recent past. He writes occasional and wonderful columns for the Belfast Telegraph too.
He is the author of four outstanding books 'The Trouble With Guns' (Blackstaff), 'I Was A Teenage Catholic' (Marino), 'The Telling Year: Belfast 1972' (Gill and Macmillan) and 'Empty Pulpits: Ireland’s Retreat From Religion' (Gill and Macmillan) with the first and third among the most essential books written about the Troubles.
Last year he was a brilliant panellist and the most realistic voice among a self congratulatory bunch at the University of Liverpool's Institute of Irish Studies' John Kennedy Memorial Lecture commemorating the 10th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement.
His next book 'Under his Roof', a series of vignettes about his father Barney, is almost with us. A couple of recordings of excerpts from it are here.
But having given up the editor's job at Fortnight a few years back he is now full time with his writing and journalism and through this he has become a tremendous podcaster. His short interviews show at the premier of Steve McQueen's Bobby Sands film, Hunger, is brilliant, but his podcast portfolio is a tremendous example of what the modern 360 degree author could become. Journalist as writer, broadcaster, producer and public intellectual.
Listen to them here. They are a tremendous day spent for anyone who loves the arts, Radio 4, Northern Irish affairs or simply great journalism.
Here is his interview with Belfast academic Carlo Gebler and former prisoner and Guardian columnist Erwin James on education and writing in the prison system.
Erwin James and Carlo Gebler

Thursday, 22 October 2009

FOLLOW FRIDAY: Beulah on Spotify

IT is perhaps fitting that having a singer diagnosed with bi-polar disorder that San Francisco band Beulah went through multiple personalities in their short lifespan.
A combustible mix of classic songwriting and an intensely indie ethos based around the difficult relationship between founders Miles Kurosky and Bill Swan, Beulah could have been been the next big thing between getting together in 1996 and their split in 2004.
With a first album recorded largely on Maxell cassette tapes to a final dark sign off record, they constantly challenged the normal constraints of the strand of American indie in which they were bracketed (normally mentioned in the same breath as label mates and 60s revivalists Apples in Stereo and Neutral Milk Hotel).
Their stand-out record, The Coast is Never Clear, displays elements of the 60s influence with flute and brass, but the frequent hand claps, cow bells, finger clicks, off kilter percussion and backing vocal 'bap-bap-yeahs-yeahs', makes it an album which rewards frequent listening.
Kurosky's world weariness shoots through much their work and he is a mean writer of the tragi-comic; song titles like 'I love John, She loves Paul', 'A Good Man is Easy to Kill' and 'Me and Jesus Don't Talk Anymore'.
The chorus of 'Gene Autrey' (clip below) sums up his world view - 'Everybody dies/ sad and lonely.' The incongruity of the upbeat brass driven backing makes it all the more engaging.
'A Good Man is Easy to Kill' with its references to Kurosky's favourite author Flannery O'Connor, is the best song in the band's canon. I'll let the lyric do the talking.
'And when they cut up your lung
You said it could all breathe easy
The hole swallowed your heart
When they drill holes in your skull
And screwed that halo to your head
Did you think you could fly?
I made a prayer for you
Then prayed some more that it’d come true
Don’t know about God but I believe in you

(Chorus) So give up, give up your love
Give up, give up your love
I promise its not gonna kill ya
And I need ya, Lord I need ya
And though you haven’t got a lot to give up
A good man is easy to kill well,'

Although tensions between Kurosky and Swann, which had been prevalent in the band since its outset, continued to simmer but be managed well, in the 12 months after the release of Yoko, Beulah seemed perpetually to be on the brink of breaking through to some semblance of mainstream success. But, it never came.
Yoko, a sombre and bleak record, but no less rewarding for it, was recorded in the spectre of Kurosky's split from his long term girlfriend and three band members' divorces.
Having said they would split if Yoko didn't achieve gold status for sales they gave a a free, farewell show at New York's Battery Park at Castle Clinton on August 5, 2004. Almost a year to the day later, a DVD chronicling their last tour Autumn 2003, titled 'A Good Band is Easy to Kill' was released.
They are gone, but not forgotten at GM towers where they still rank highly on Spotify and iTunes most played.
Spotify collaborative playlist here

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

WaPo wash and go: Washington Post gets a spruce up

Charles Apple's brilliant newspaper/ visual design blog brings this first look at the Washington Post's redesign which sees the grand old lady tweaked and updated and made just that bit classier.
Have a look at Charles' blog for the bona fides of the re-design.
Click on the image enlarge.

Danny Baker and how The Word magazine podcast sets a new high water mark for the genre

SIMPLY stunning, the best 1hr and 7mins you'll spend listening to anything, anywhere or anytime. Including you Radio 4 listeners.
When I grow up, I want to be Danny Baker.

The funniest football book this Christmas:Harry Pearson

GUARDIAN sport columnist and former When Saturday Comes writer Harry Pearson has re-released the funniest book on football this Crimbo, 'Dribble:The Unbelievable Encyclopaedia of Football'.
It's brilliant, just got it this evening and have been in hysterics.
Pearson has produced THE funniest piece of football writing when reflecting on the signing of the artistic southern Spanish wing meister Reyes by Arsenal a fewyears back.
But 'Dribble' packs his gag a paragraph style into a tremendous book. I've just got finished sections A-D and to use the language of my students 'am well impressed' and Pearson is a 'complete legend, man'.

Some examples:
'Sometimes when sports people speak it is necessary to interpret carefully what they say. The phrase consummate professional, for example,is short-hand for for, 'He was so peripheral I didn't even notice him until he thumped that bloke when the ref wasn't looking.'


'The era of a football fan's life in which he or she starts to sound like his/her father. Usually begins in the mid-forties and is characterised by a tendency to say, 'Cristiano Ronaldo? He's not fit to lace George Best's boots', 'There just aren't the characters in the game any more and 'Call that a tackle! He couldn't tackle a fish supper.'

‘Well, you know the quality of light in Valencia is extraordinary, it’s almost as if the very air is alive – GET STUCK IN BROWN, YOU FANNY MERCHANT – I think it’s something to do with flat landscapes and water because, and this will sound funny – WHERE’S YOUR FLAG, LINESMAN, WEDGED UP YOUR ARSE? – the only other place I’ve
encountered anything like it was on the salt marshes near Holkham. It was early evening, a thunderstorm was brewing and it gave this amazing golden tinge to everything that was positively ethereal – JESUS CHRIST, WILKO, YOU BLIND BANDY-LEGGED POOF – and really quite enchanting.’

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Jan Moir, Stephen Gately and the real debate

IN a story which saw a newspaper columnist commit the greatest professional sin of going after the softest possible target - a dead man - Jan Moir's salacious, wrong headed and prejudiced take on death of Stephen Gately could just become a landmark in journalism regulation.
An avalanche of complaints to the PCC orchestrated first on Twitter has seen where online social media provides publics with a chance not only to have their say on what is written by news organisations, but challenge it.
Here I post some of my posts to The Word magazine blog on Friday evening about the matter.
I first anticipated that it would re-open the issue of statutory regulation of the press and the beginning of the end of self-regulation. I am also adding now the allegation that the Mail has been attacking the BBC due to its own commercial interests and that this has to be a dimension of the regulation argument.

"I shudder to go back on previously strongly-held beliefs, but, surely in an age where commercial media companies with large newspaper interests are invidiously calling for greater regulation of the BBC, then the incidents this week make a fine counter case for statutory regulation of newspapers. Tired arguments for the market regulating itself don't play any more. Is it time to save newspapers from themselves in the long term?"

After this I took issue with the nature of the column which is a horrible example of taking a shot at a) someone who couldn't have right of reply and, b) flew in the face of the facts of the case anyway. I was responding to accusations I was merely a right-on, left Guardian reader, or a tofu munching sandal wearer.

"Surely it isn't right on to object to gleefully and maliciously dancing on the grave of a poor fella before he is in the sod and to attack his grieving mother.
If so, then hand me my dungarees, Greenham Common t-shirt and the keys to the Steven Biko one-legged whale/lesbian drop in centre circa 1981. I'll be the chairperson sisters and brothers."

One poster then claimed 'It's not the job of newspapers to reflect the moral code we think readers should have.' My response:

"Which is why the Mail does it tediously and in a method middle England fashion every day: working mothers, feckless scroungers, immigrants, women who wear the veil, gays, thieving politicians* ad nauseum, declining standards blah-de-feckin-tosspot-blah.
* actually I'll concede that one."

Again the idea of the most mythical of powerful blocs in British society, a liberal Liberal establishment, reared its head. The PC brigade who somehow censor right thinking (racist/ homophobic?) discourse.

"Who are the liberal establishment?
No-one has ever been able to tell me this.
And, if they are so powerful, why have they achieved so little that Jan Moir can still spout this cack in the second biggest-selling national daily?
Who are the right on brigade? Have they got a uniform and regimental hat? Are they forgotten Spanish Civil War veterans?
Where do they parade? I bet you'll say Hackney.

Again posters claimed it was a Guardian orchestrated campaign of right-on politics and that the Guardian didn't have to do this kind of populist journalism because of its trust status. And that us sandal wearers should just not read it. My contestation to this is that in civil society we have a right and an obligation to protest against this kind of journalism as it is offensive and divisive. At heart mine is a Habermasian and/ or Gramscian argument, that through engagement in protest (praxis) we change society and its shifting morals of what is acceptable in public discourse.

"The Guardian's organisation has nothing to do with this and is merely a squirrel in this debate.
It's not moral superiority, just a democratic protest we are allowed to indulge in in civil society against a piece of terrible, flimsy, mean spirited, vindictive and homophobic journalism.
Freedom of speech for journalists is not a carte blanche to produce this kind comment. It breaches both our codes of conduct/ practice, it causes outrage which reflects badly on a profession suffering both a massive crisis of self-identity and of public confidence.
And the argument that we didn't have to read it doesn't wash - when someone produces this kind of offensive rubbish it's not sufficient just to say 'Hey, don't read it' - any more so than we would with a piece of religiously offensive rubbish.
I'm afraid in this case there is no devil's advocate standpoint - it was wrong headed journalism on a number of levels.
It's not about 'rightness'


"I didn't say I was right, I said I was right to protest against this kind of wrong headed, negative journalism which serves no purpose other than pure outrage. It was puerile in the truest sense of the word. (It also smacks of being written too closely to deadline for comfort.)
It does nothing for the profession and does little to advance the cause of deliberative democracy or the role of journalism in it.
And, it is within my rights to say so and try and take action against it.
I don't take offence lightly, I'm not even slightly right on (in fact I'm quite portly). It's not simply the homophobia I object to - jaysus we'd never be off our HHs if we complained against that - it's the mean spiritedness towards someone whose family hadn't even buried him yet."

The great thing about the Word Magazine is that no-one fell out and that those on the Mail's unfashionable (and wrong) side of the debate put their heads articulately above he parapet.

The most articulate post came from a gay man who responded vigorously and eloquently. Fairplay to MarkieChops. Read his reply and the the full debate here.

What The Wire tells us about Irish Politics

THIS is a great example of what a political blog can achieve. Esoteric and written by people with a cogent viewpoint, linked to like minded blogs, it's always worth a read.
Follow it.
It also combines GM's two great loves: socialist politics and The Wire.
Read Dublin Opinion here.

Being Irish in England: Paul Brady still holds true

GM posted this on Facebook ages ago, but when all is said and done, this is the finest song about being Irish in Britain.
From the wonderful five part Philip King Bringing it All Back Home documentary of the early 90s.
The CD is remarkable in that is brings together the usual suspects: U2, Christy Moore and Hothouse Flowers, but also that there are stellar performances from the Everly Brothers and Luka Bloom.

Thursday, 15 October 2009


FROM NOW on we are going to borrow a feature from our good friends at the Too Many Fandoms blog and do FEATURED FRIDAY.
Today our inaugural artist is the twinkly-eyed, gregarious, glass-half-full, God of Celtic Soul, Van 'where's the craic' Morrison.
A surly oul bugger, seemingly caught in the murky shadows of some perennial Celtic Twilight, on his night he still possesses one of the greatest and unique voices in rock. One part Californian mystic and three parts East Belfast shipyard fitter, it's a voice which carries emotion wonderfully.
Listen to the Spotify playlist here
Please watch this non-embeddable but memorable duet of Crazy Love with Bob Dylan.
Below he talks surprisingly happily and very frankly about Astral Weeks (officially Q Magazine's greatest album of all time in 1990) and gives you the impression he knows where every single penny goes.
How can you fault straight forward honesty like:
Q:'Is there a band that you like or influences you today?'
A; 'No.'

He does however look and sound like yer dodgy dealing uncle who went to the States to find his fortune and comes back pretending to be a millionaire.

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

American: The Bill Hicks Story

IT IS perennially interesting that few overtly left wing comedians inspire the kind of vehemently devoted international following so long after their deaths as Bill Hicks.
Perhaps only Lenny Bruce and (perhaps only in the US and among comedy devotees ) George Carlin are spoken with in the same reverence.
AMERICAN: The Bill Hicks Story, a new movie by British film makers Matt Harlock and Paul Thomas premiers next week at the 53rd BFI London Film Festival.
It promises to be an innovative mix of animation and live stand-up clips which avoids the usual talking heads format used in previous Hicks' documentaries like Totally Bill Hicks.
As well as being chosen for the London Film Festival, it has also been picked for the Sheffield Documentary Festival.
For members of the GM massive who are hoping to attend - sorry it's all booked up, but for those of us in the muddy pool, FACT may come to our big screen aid before it inevitably heads to DVD. (No confirmation yet.
This quote from an Italian fan on the film's message board illustrates Hicks' enduring power:
A friend of mine told me to watch his shows, last November. From that moment, my perception of the world changed and lots of useless thought went right off my mind. Sadly, here in Italy he’s not that famous, but I’ve made my part and told my friends to watch him. I also made a tribute to this great man, on Youtube. He is a great inspiration to me and his words will never pass away. Grazie Bill.

A wee tearful moment may be appropriate and entirely understandable among the more emotional males.

David Simon and the gen behind The Wire

From a fine article in The Times, The Wire creator David Simon, reveals the intention behind the series in advance of his new book with show writer and former Baltimore Sun alumnus Rafael Alvarez.

'Character is an essential for all good drama, and plotting is just as fundamental. But ultimately, the storytelling that speaks to our current condition, that grapples with the basic realities and contradictions of our immediate world – these are stories that, in the end, have a small chance of presenting a social, and even political, argument. And to be honest, The Wire was not merely trying to tell a good story or two. We were very much trying to pick a fight.
[..]The Wire was not about Jimmy McNulty. Or Avon Barksdale. Or Marlo Stanfield, or Tommy Carcetti or Gus Haynes. It was not about crime. Or punishment. Or the drug war. Or politics. Or race. Or education, labor relations or journalism.
It was about The City.
It is how we in the West live at the millennium, an urbanized species compacted together, sharing a common love, awe, and fear of what we have rendered not only in Baltimore or St. Louis or Chicago, but in Manchester or Amsterdam or Mexico City or Cairo as well.
At best, our metropolises are the ultimate aspiration of community, the repository for every myth and hope of people clinging to the sides of the ever-more-fragile pyramid that is capitalism. At worst, our cities – or those places in our cities where most of us fear to tread – are vessels for the darkest contradicts and most brutal competitions that underlie the way we actually live together, or fail to live together.'

Man, but that last para is poetry.

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

The greatest song ever written

IF you measure the 'heft' of a pop song on how much you have hummed it, thought about it, turned it over in your head during the span of your life and how often it can induce a deep emotional response in you, then please watch this. It has dominated GM's life since we were a wee fella.
More to follow on why when GM has a bit more time, because the story of our love of this wonderful song is both time consuming and involving.
'This song is by a fella by Guy Clarke, it's a kind a country song' was how Freddie White introduced it when we heard it first in 1980. Changed us completely.

Steve Earle celebrates the life of Townes Van Zandt

TOWNES van Zandt is one of the great singer songwriters of late 20th Century America, a man who despite suffering from drug and alcohol addictions and manic depression still managed to write some of the finest songs in the US country rock canon.
Like a lot of tragic rock and roll stories, he died in 1997, aged 51, after years of battling his addictions.
He is best known for the song Pancho and Lefty which became a number one song on the US country charts after being recorded by Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard.It remains one of the most unique 'country' songs written.
Steve Earle, a man who has faced and beaten myriad pharmaceutical demons himself, has recently recorded a tribute album of Townes' songs.
Van Zandt took Earle under his wing when the latter, as a teenager, moved to Nashville and then Houston to study under his mentor's wing.
The new album, Townes, is an extraordinarily beautiful testament to a tortured man's great gift for telling stories to music.
This podcast comes from the peerless Sound Opinions show on Chicago Public Radio in the US. I hope you enjoy Steve Earle as much as we do at GM.

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Wolfe Tones Rock Band: video game phenomenon

A NEW video game looks set to become a phenomenon in Ireland this Christmas.
Aiming to capitalise on the success of the recent Beatles game launch and the rise of dissident republicanism in North, Wolfe Tones Rock Band is sure to be flying off the shelves of Tyrone and South Armagh.
Based on the narrative of The Beatles Rock Band, you will play classic hits like Only Our Rivers Run Free and the Broad Black Brimmer as the Wolfe Tones make their famous journey from the small folk clubs of the south to the heights of playing to 2,000 rabid culchie drunks in a marquee in an unsurfaced GAA club car park somewhere in deepest Co Derry.
Derek Warfield, the Dublin-born former leader of the Men Behind the Wire-hitmakers says the game is uncannily realistic.
Warfield, now leader of the breakaway Continuity Wolfe Tones said: “The game captures the very essence of being in the Wolfe Tones, from singing historically inaccurate propaganda right down to the background sound of Nordie lads, off their heads on Buckfast and glue, chanting ‘Oo Ah, Up the Rah’ in all the wrong places.”
Special features await players on a number of platforms. On the Nintendo Wii, as reward for a successful completion of the game, your handset turns into a virtual brick which you can lob repeatedly at the security forces who turn up to police the emptying the GAA club marquee.
Although it is normal for such a hotly anticipated game to get a headline-grabbing star-studded launch, it is believed that the lorry carrying the first copies of Wolfe Tones Rock Band is going to be ceremonially hi-jacked in the Forkhill area next Wednesday.
*STOP PRESS: A spokesman for the band's fan club was unavailable for comment describing himself as standing in the middle of Agincourt Avenue in Belfast's Holy Lands (sic) area at 5am 'stocious drunk, singing Sean South, still out on the pure bender after Freshers' Week.'
He did say that he would be free for a 'lock o' pints' after Queens University GAA club's thirds training at the Dub, 'the morra.'