Wednesday, December 17, 2008

I truly hate the cheap approach to blogging that involves re-posting of multiply re-posted content but once in a while something comes along and I think this is it:

Monday, December 08, 2008

It was 28 years ago today....

Despite the intervening years, I still remember waking to the news that John Lennon had been shot on the streets of New York.

I was in my 2nd year at University and stumbled over the cold wet streets of Manchester in a grief induced fog, barely containing my tears. I had to attend a sociology tutorial and my contribution to it was so lacking in focus that my tutor, a decent Hungarian Marxist, decided to ask me what my problem was. I told him and there was brief silence before we returned to discussing the labour theory of value. Lennon was perhaps a less significant figure than Lenin at that moment, but not to me.

John Lennon was the first of my rock'n'roll heroes. I remember as an excited 7 year old telling my older brother about this Liverpool band I'd seen Bill Grundy introduce on People and Places, a local news programme. He wasn't impressed. He'd seen them the year before at the Tower Ballroom in New Brighton. I didn't care. They made the most remarkable music I had ever heard.

I ran extra messages for my Grandma and added what was left of my Xmas money to make up the six shillings and eight pence I needed to buy Please, Please Me from McKenzie's in Grange Road West. The following year I begged and pleaded to be allowed to see A Hard Day's Night at the now demolished Essoldo cinema in the centre of Birkenhead. My mum was an Elvis fan and couldn't see what the fuss was about, The Beatles were certainly not important enough to risk letting her precious make a nocturnal trip to the rougher end of town. In the end, my best mate Brian Parker's dad took us after swearing that he would toss his own child into the arms of any marauding townie ruffians before he would let harm come to me.

The Beatles, but Lennon in particular, formed the soundtrack of my childhood and early teens. In the year following my father's death in 1969 I played Live Peace in Toronto (even the Yoko side) nightly to its own vinyl death on a crappy portable record player. I scrawled the lyrics to God, Mother, and Working Class Hero in felt tip pen on my bedroom wall. I was a sad and angry grammar school boy; an Irish working class square peg in an English middle class round hole. For me, Lennon captured both the rage and the joy that only outsiders can feel. I even forgave him Imagine when Sometime in New York City arrived.

I don't believe in heroes, but there can be no rules without exceptions and for me Lennon was one. I still miss him sometimes and wonder what he'd be up to now were he alive.

The photo of Lennon above was taken by Alan Tannenbaum on 26 November 1980 and is to be found on the Imagine Peace website together with numerous memories of the man himself

Friday, November 21, 2008

There are more than a dozen parody versions of this scene from The Fallen currently available on You Tube. Here are two of my favourites:

The housing boom goes bust

and John McCain graciously concedes defeat

What surprises me is that no-one has done one in an Irish flavour. I mean it's not as if our leaders hadn't seen a number of reversals of late what with Bertie's downfall, the back down on the budget and the terminal decline of the PDs.

Come on Irish viral videopushers, get yer finger out

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Cal-punk outfit goes digital mainstream

Dash Text: [ESRB: T (Teen) LYRICS,MILD SUGGESTIVE THEMES] Build your Rock Band library by purchasing this song game track pack: Dead Kennedys Pack 01. This pack includes "California Über Alles," "Holiday in Cambodia," and "Police Truck" by Dead Kennedys.

Hmmm, I'm wondering whether this is suitable Christmas stocking material for impressionable young minds, if only because the bleep quotient is likely to be insurmountably high. Which is probably why they left out this classic from 1981:

Now that takes me back. To my student days, somewhere between The Russell Club and Placemate 7 as I recall.

But times, like tastes, change as does one's capacity for alcohol and digital fripperies. These days I'd probably settle for this gem from those ever so clever lads at Schadenfreude Interactive GmbH

Status Quo and Metallica tunes on the piano accordion, what could better capture the Yuletide spirit?

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Dulce et decorum est pro patria vivo

November 11th is a date that, for as long as I can remember, leaves me full of deep emotional ambivalence. My father and my maternal grandfather both took the King's shilling and joined up in 1914 and 1939 respectively.

Grandad, a young groom from Kilkenny, joined the Royal Army Service Corps, where no doubt his experience with horses came in handy. He served in Gallipoli, Egypt and the trenches of Northern France where he lost his sight in a mustard gas attack. His British Army paybook recorded the cause of his discharge as a simple case of 'granular trachoma', rather than indicating that he was a fortunate survivor of a monstrous weapon of mass destruction.

At school in Birkenhead, where Wilfred Owen was a home-boy hero, it was easy for me to understand the bitter black irony in his poem Dulce et decorum est and yet hard to explain it to my schoolboy pals, raised as we all were on the nobility of war through comic books and history classes.
Gas! Gas! Quick, boys! – An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling,
And flound'ring like a man in fire or lime . . .
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.

In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

In my imagination, my grandfather was that floundr'ing man.

My father joined up to continue a war against fascism that for him had begun against Mosely's blackshirted thugs on the streets of Birkenhead in the 1930s. He enlisted in the 8th Battalion (Irish) of the King's Liverpool Regiment and spent most of the war in England and Scotland preparing for the second front. When it came in June 1944 he embarked for Normandy on the Ulster Monarch, a vessel that would later carry his family back and forth to Ireland until the 1960's.

He was landed on Juno Beach on the morning of 6th of June but failed to make it any further into France. Wounded by a mortar shell on the most heavily defended beach of the D-Day landings he was evacuated back to England. Juno took the lives of many, if not most, of his 8th Battalion comrades.

So many died on that morning that his battalion was disbanded and he spent the rest of the war attached to other units. He was MIA after the Ardennes offensive in late 1944 and then a witness to the liberation of the Belsen concentration camp the following year.

Like my grandfather before him, when his war ended he collected his demob suit and came home to his young wife and tried to resume his life as best he could.

Their wars were something both men put behind them. It was not something that was dwelt upon. They donned a poppy in November and observed two minutes silence at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month. They carried no pretensions regarding the nobility of war or the importance of patriotism. Neither man would willingly discuss their experiences, which had neither ennobled nor diminished them. They had both killed and nearly been killed by men like themselves, forced into foreign fields away from their lovers and families. The war shaped their lives but did not make it.

Remembrance for them was not a celebration death and glory, of flags and battle honours but a moment of regret felt in the hope that their history would not be repeated. I remember them both not for their status as warriors, but as ordinary men who survived horrors inflicted on them that I can barely imagine.

It is the living not the dead we should cherish, the survivors not the fallen, for we can do nothing for the fallen except ensure that their sacrifice is not repeated anew.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

The fate of Western civilization relies on this?

There was a time when the quadrennial clusterfuck that is the US presidential election would have interested me. As a committed world citizen, albeit of the Marxist variety, what happened on election night across the Atlantic did seem to be of some significance, even if, in reality, it boiled down to a choice between two fatal diseases: one that killed you in a week, the other in a fortnight.

However, since that unfortunate business with the chavs, the chards, the chads, or what ever it was they called them down in Florida, I have simply given up. The American people, whom I love as one would a sibling, (albeit a slightly edgy one with a penchant for nunchucks and hand-guns) just sat back and allowed a coup to occur and did feck all about it. I was disappointed in them to say the least.

See, unlike most of the Irish people that I know, I actually love America and its people. I love their optimism, enthusiasm, their boundless faith in the idea, if not the practice, of democracy. Even speaking as a Marxist, should the revolution ever happen, the document I would use to frame my post-revolutionary, socialist utopia would be the American constitution and the Bill of Rights. But the last time around when they allowed their democracy to be stolen from them without the merest protest I began to have me doubts.

Since then, I couldn't care less about who they elect because despite all the fuss it really doesn't make a difference. Not just to me as a resident of this small fucked-up outpost at the arse-end of Western Europe that is Ireland but just generally. Should Obama win, he's not going to do anything to rock the boat of US corporate capitalism, like introduce a decent health or education system. Unless he's been lying through his teeth, the black communities aren't going to see any change in their lot any time soon. And despite what they said on RTE tonight, Obama probably does know who and where we are and could care less.

I love you America, but it strikes me you're like lions led by donkeys and you're so seduced by the notion of your own democracy that you can't be bothered to defend it or even look at how it's used against you.

As the old Revolutionary Communist Party slogan said 'If voting could change anything, it would be made illegal'. Nowhere is this truer than the USA tonight. Whoever wins.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Education, schmeducation

Now that the fuss about the auld ones' medical cards has been shoved back under the stone from which it slithered, I'm glad to see that Education minister Batt (what kind of a name is that?) O'Keefe's attempt to weasel through a barrage of education cuts has finally crept onto the radar of the great Irish public .

The proposed cuts affect the primary and post-primary sectors increasing class size and removing payments for covering teacher absences. They also limit important supports for disadvantaged groups such as ethnic minorities, travellers and special needs pupils.

Bogman Batt, himself a former UCC man and college lecturer, defended the cutbacks on the grounds that unless they were implemented 'we will have no economy in two years time'.

Clearly in his UCC days he was off playing bogball instead of attending his economics classes. Like nature, economies tend to abhor a vacuum: fuck one up and another just magically appears in its place. Unless you count the time back in the day that Charley H and his mates tried to re-locate the Irish economy to the Cayman Islands, economies don't just slip off one night on the boat to England.

This of course is more than can be said for the young people who will be worst affected by the Batty-man's penny-pinching, I expect. Lacking the basic educational support to obtain employment in a high skills, high tech economy, they'll be off to Holyhead in their droves in a few years time.

And what saddens me most is the thought that that is precisely what the Government wants.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

A picture worth at least 1000 words

Chelsea 0 Liverpool 1
26th October 2008

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Be sure your shins will find you out

The news that Bertie Ahern has broken his leg comes as no surprise to this writer. It was almost inevitable that slipping the net the way he did would have consequences of one sort or another.

We've all seen The Sopranos. If you accept unsolicited dig-outs from businessmen who go informally by names like Fat Tony, Big Patrick and Earless Joe or put yourself in hock to the nuns and then renege on the vigorish just because you've been forced into early retirement and can't make the payments on your pension, you have to expect some kind of sanctions, now don't you? After all they can't repossess a house he never owned in the first place or drag the wee bollix through the small claims court for failing to live up to expectations.

Alternatively, I wouldn't want to get on the wrong side of Brian 'biffo' Cowan either. There's a man with a motive after the mess he was left to sort out. A wee camán-assisted tib and fib re-alignment would be small beer to that lad I'm after thinking.

As for the 'fell down the stairs' story that FF sources are pushing, sure haven't we all heard that one before? It rings about as true as the old 'walked into a door' explanation for a black eye.
If we hear sometime soon of a former Taoiseach turning up at low tide on the Liffey wearing a pair of concrete wellies with a couple of house bricks in his pockets, then it probably won't be Albert Reynolds is all I'm prepared to say.

I nicked today's picture from green ink Liam-Bob says check him/her out

Tuesday, October 21, 2008


Ouch! Fuck me! What bollix put that there? Me bleeding shins. Jesus, would someone put the light on before I banjax meself altogether!


Oh for chrissakes would you ever turn it off again. The state of this fucking place. You could choke a camel on the dust in here and would someone ever open a window. The smell of this kip is enough to gag a tramp.

Where did all those empty bottles come from? I don't drink Thunderbird and that mattress wasn't there last time I looked. Please God those stains aren't what I think they are...

I don't know, you turn your back for a moment and dereliction sets in. I'm lucky this blog hasn't been squatted by a posse of new age travellers with their fecking digeridoos, dogs on a string, German army surplus dreadlocks and the entire Levellers back catalogue. Maybe it has. Which would explain the pong of patchouli oil coming from that tattered sleeping bag in the corner.

Still and all, a quick spin around with the Dyson, a dash of Pledge and a bucket of carbolic should see things right....

Anyway, I know I've promised before, but this time I mean it. This blog is going to be kept up to date, on the ball, and up to snuff if it kills me. Just watch this space (but don't hold your breath unless you particularly see puce as your colour).

So just to be going on with, I found this old hobo asleep in the far corner of the blog. His name is Seasick Steve and he's not a bad old stick for a man who plays a guitar with 3 strings. We split a quart of T-bird over a graveyard stew and he told me he's playing the National Stadium in Dublin on the 29th if he can't jump the blind on a dice train out town before then.

As me new mate Seasick would say' Y'all have a nice time and come back this way soon, now'

The photograph above was nicked and adapted from Matt's photostream on Flickr The man knows how to point a camera. Check him out.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

No Platform For Racists

I hate racists. They're the reason I can never, ever, get a No1 razor cut. Thanks to Combat18, the NF and the BNP I have bumps and scars beneath my hairline that will only see the light of day when I need chemotherapy for terminal cancer. They're the result of countless Anti-Nazi League and Rock against Racism events and rallies in the 1980s when a Billy Bragg or Joe Strummer gig wasn't complete without blood running down your forehead.

But that's not the only reason I hate racists. My old man, god rest his soul, who joined the British Army to fight fascism, was involved in the liberation of Belsen concentration camp. He spent his remaining years tormented by what he saw there and what he was called upon to do in the aftermath: bulldozing the emaciated bodies of thousands of people into mass graves and marching German civilians at gunpoint from a nearby town to dig those graves. The pure hatred he felt for those civilians was the only aspect of his war experience he would ever talk to me about and the moral was clear: blind hatred isn't good. The same man would chuckle and smile when he remembered stoning Oswald Mosely's blackshirts of f the streets of Liverpool in the 1930s. His motto then was as mine is now: No platform for Fascists. Forget liberal platitudes about free speech. If the only speech you have to make consists of lies and hatred for people you don't even know, then you don't deserve the privilege for which thousands of people fought and died.

But I digress, my mate Bock (I hope he doesn't object to me calling him that) pointed me towards this site. In my view it's one of the nastiest Irish blog sites I've ever encountered. It's particularly nasty because it disguises blind, irrational, keep-em-out racism in the form of seemingly rational argument in a manner reminiscent of Josef Goebbels at his best. I'm not going to discuss it further than that other than to say VISIT THIS SITE. And when you do click on the 'Flag This Blog' icon. You know it makes sense.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Let joy be unconfined: Bertie calls it a day

Back in January I decided to limit my postings only to the shiny happy smiley things that I encountered in Irish current affairs. This is one of those moments.

The dodger of Drumcondra, the knave of the Nort'side has finally done the right thing and fallen on his sword or, knowing him, fallen on a sword borrowed from some mates in England to help him through a 'difficult period of public life'.

He's given notice that he'll stop darkening the towels of Leinster House on May 6th. This should allow him plenty of time to sweep up any loose change from down the side of the the Dail benches and melt down the silverware from Farmleigh House to make his fare on the next boat to the Cayman Islands or anywhere beyond the reach of the Mahon Tribunal, the Revenue Commissioners or the Criminal Assets Bureau.

Now if only someone could come up with evidence of Mary Harney corruptly receiving a container load of cream buns in exchange for destroying the health service.......

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Tonight Matthew, I'm going to be Nigel Blackwell

I hate tribute bands, I hate the idea of tribute bands, and I despise both the purveyors of tribute muzak and the sad fools who pay money over to see such exercises in collective embarrassment. Or at least I did until I came across these lads on the Half Man Half Biscuit website.

They're called Half Arsed Half Biscuit and I expect the very idea of an HMHB tribute band keeps Nigel 'I-wouldn't-want-a-record-contract-they- expect-you-to-do-too-much-work' Blackwell's restless legs doing midnight marathons on long winter nights around West Kirby or wherever it is on the Wirral he lives these days.

The idea of a tribute to anything from Birkenhead (Town Motto: Fold your arms, toss your head back while raising your eyebrows and tutting once loudly), except perhaps Tranmere Rovers for a brief period under the management of John Aldridge, really does break down the boundary between post-modern irony and post-laundry ironing.

Anyway, they seem to be from the Limerick area which is the only place in Ireland where people look uncannily like they grew up on the Woodchurch Estate. If they ever plan to come to Dublin, I'd gladly join them on stage for a chorus of Shit Arm Bad Tattoo. If only they'd put their gig dates on their totally Birkenhead website I'd even travel beyond the pale to see these lads.

So, happy 2008 to the rest of yez. I expect to be back here a bit more regularly in the forthcoming months.