Monday, February 28, 2005

With Cartoons Like This...

Channel Four are doing what they do best and occupying my Sunday evening, as they do my Christmas by revisiting our collective memories with the ‘Hundred Greatest You Name It’s.’ This week it’s cartoons, the hundred greatest cartoons of all time and all the usual commentary from all the usual pundits. Perfect for a Sunday night, so spaced out from being on the tear the nights before spaced out and in no condition to entertain any other sections of humanity, slap on the telly and Channel Four Will supply you with a program of b-celebrities, second rate comedians and historians that are about as academic as a tour guide, all emulating even the most degraded forms of pub shite talk, and you don’t even to engage - you just enjoy. Just seen clips from ‘Charly Says…’ for the first time. A 1970’s British Home Office cartoon series focusing on terrifying kids about what a dangerous place their home can be. In the early nineties, amidst tabloid hysteria about kids slipping out their bed room windows to get pilled out of it, the Prodigy sampled it. Babbling to a sludgy techno backdrop, the cat being Charly, is translated by his mate; ‘Charly says, always tell your parents before you go out.’ The cat babbles in perfect unison with the record and scarily enough too, the thing looks like its gurning in the original. Are the Power Puff Girls brainwashing America’s youth, their latest enemy is a man in a turbine. Their main enemy is Mojo Monkey, in one episode called the ‘Beat-alls’ they do a parody of the fab four, having seen it its fucking hilarious, through out there is a soundtrack of ripped off Beatles melodies all reminiscent of Sgt Pepper. Mojo Monkey wanders up to a bank, saunters in with a lazar gun and demands ‘give me money, that’s what I want.’ Of course, the gruesome fours reign of terror becomes undone not by the interference of the annoyingly chirpy wenches that are the power puff girls but the interference of Mojo Monkey, the Lennon figures new wife – Mocca Ono, a performance artist who proceeds to run the criminals career.

There was a short lived satirical magazine knocking around in Ireland a few years ago, that responded to Bosco being removed from the air by running with a story about how a drunken Bosco sexually assaulted Marian. When Frank, beclad in his dungarees per normal intervened, a violent and pissed Bosco clattered the fucker across the head with a bottle leaving him with a faceful of stiches. Bosco then went on the run, disappearing from our screens. Broke my shits laughing at the thought of the red headed gimp riding Marians leg with all the perverted glee of a puppy pissed on buckfast. Someone was telling me yesterday, that the Tribune ran with another satirical piece at the height of hysteria after 911. Bin Laden apparently had seized the magic door and was using it to outwit American forces in Afghanistan. Was anybody else ever freaked out as a kid by Flaherty's Garden? Discussing Bosco with a few mates one night we all had these memories of some Bosco bit with a dog that cawed like a crow, and a crow barking like a dog. Turns out it was one particular episode that was so bizarre, it jarred in all of our minds as the basis for the series.

In ‘Wait Till Dad Gets Home’ despite the tones of violence against children in the title, there’s a neighbour who looks like Nixon that’s as paranoid as fuck and sets up vigilante gangs against communist spies in every fucking episode, in one the target was some illegal Mexican workers digging a hole at the side of the road. ‘Que Pasa’ they ask, ‘stop that code talk, the games up…’ Why the fuck would a coyote be chasing after a road runner, a bird that looks like a half starved chicken? Some cartoons are just too fucking annoying Watching this, I am convinced that adults making these cartoons renege all sensibilities and just fuck with kids heads. Our own Bosco did it while Zig and Zag waged a full frontal assault against the bored stuff scheduling of RTE from the comfort of the Den mid afternoon. Leering and groping female guests, while Dustin ran amok with political jibes against the government and a generation of middle aged fools plagued with line dancing. From Rob, a boy that wore a dress: “One morning, Aunty Flow was standing at the side of the road, when Rob and his friends walked by. She said ‘hello’ they were so occupied with their own thoughts that no one replied. They would have noticed if she was standing on her head.”

No wonder eighties kids ended up doing ecstasy in the 90’s growing up to The Magic Round About. Fucking riddled with drug references. In one episode, a folk singer rabbit called Dylan sits around going ‘I’m watching these crazy mushrooms grow’ while the dog Doogle, who is constantly tempted with sugar cubes laced with LSD is locked in a crazed room of colours, mirrors and of course sugar everywhere, fighting the urge to indulge. Rainbow: 'One Skin Two Skin, Four Skin...I think he's trying to get Jeffry Up..." Captain Pugwash and Masterbates

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Becoming a comrade

The word comrade seems so archaic. Its not an identity that I would use to talk about or towards a mate who I'm organising with. This past November at the beyond esf in London I started to hear people use the term in all seriousness. In meetings with people from all over Europe, people from Greece or Italy were referred to as our Greece comrade or Italian comrade. I was intrigued and started to ask people if they used the term and what it meant to them. The consensus was that they didn't generally use it but would here it. Basically it seemed to mean someone that you are united in struggle with - the terms was suppose to cross boundaries of nationality, gender and so on. Fair enough.

So when I was walking around trafalger square in a constant process of attempting de-arrests of anarchist from all around Europe I was startled by the socialists speeches on the stage talking about how we were all united, how we should basically pat each other on the backs for coming together and spend too much money to be part of a commericalised talk shop. As the libertarians surrounded a line of cops demanding that an Italian comrade be released. I heard the speaker on the big stage call to everyone as "comrades and sisters"

huh? Is there a difference, if the archaic term is being used at all, should be not use to for the propose of united everyone and not separating the women from the comrades. I walked away thinking how disconnected the speeches were from my reality. They were up there talking about being united, while they take no notice of the police brutality and oppression was happening all around them.

It wasn't till four month later when I met Ray O'rielly did I ever consider the term as a compliment and think about using it myself.

Three weeks ago the forum bar at UCD was taken over by the student bar. To many students that meant losing the perks of Jim as the manager - perhaps a few less free drinks and it meant that asshole security guards hassling them for there student cards although they have been drinking daily since September this year and beyond. But the real problems had to do with the staff. We all knew that there would be changes and five of the staff left immediately and another one since then.

The four of the original staff realised quickly that they were being screwed over, that the new manager had no concept of equality or labor law for that matter. So what to do . . .Unionize!! To tell the truth, I had been waiting to join for a while, but it is easier to convince a staff to join with you when they see injustice in there face.

We considered mandate, the bar staff union. We thought about siptu the large, well established but bureaucratic and impersonal union. And we finally went with the Independant workers union. As ray himself says "This is a radical union, a radical organisation", which is music for your ears if you are ready for a fight!

Although ray and I are coming from different places . . . after our first chat he called me comrade. For the first time I smiled at the sound of the word. It brought excitement to the process of fighting back. It gave me confidence that he was serious about his radicalness, and as superficial as it is, it did make me feel that he took me serioulsy.

Since our first meeting ray has agreed to do a talk both at the grassroots gathering and for the anarchist society. He has talked to me about anarchism and wsm. Everytime we talk now he always refers to me as 'comrade' I haven't got to the point of calling him or anyone else that term. Honestly I think I would burst our laughing while saying it. But in the meantime I am happy to be a comrade with someone who takes his struggle seriously and doesn't differenciate between comrades and women.

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Monday, February 21, 2005

We Are Hireable On Demand...Exploitable At Will And Fireable At A Whim"

Hands up who remembers back in the day, at the height of hype on the IT economy, when every half witted career guidance counsellor in the country did their best to pilfer leaving cert students of their dreams by forcing them into dead end computer courses in preparation for a career in call centers? The mass media cheer-led us into a new millennium and we awaited the collapse of work as we knew it Jim, ready to lap it up in the leisure society, with dreams of flexible working from home wearing headsets and tapping keyboards. Then the repetitive drone of the dot com boom was suddenly slapped aside and the realization dawned that while Gates may have got his millions - millions of others were left with nothing but repetitive strain injury and flexiploitation. It’s admirable the myriad of ways they make us swallow their bullshit. They repackage it every once and awhile in a never ceasing effort to make old lines of conflict and tensions once spotted, less obvious.

Douglas Coupland coined the achingly appropriate term ‘McJob’ for the monotonous dead end short-term employment that so much of Generation X fell into and we now take for granted. He presented the McJob as a slacker lifestyle choice that facilitated an escape from the cage of traditional career choices allowing us to define ourselves as something other than our job descriptions that’d see us all going the Willy Loman way.

As a result he certainly fell for the worst excesses of post-modernity as a method taken on by power and capital to impose a frightening new method of work discipline and organization on us. This increasingly obvious face of work in advanced capitalist countries has had a number of different terms attached to it by arse-hole academics each vying for position to create the latest ‘post-whatever the fuck’ trend in the ivory tower. While simultaneously turning themselves into supposed experts on the reality the rest of us live. The best term for the McJob phenomenon is the most obvious - precarity.

Read the rest of this article and commentary over on the local indymedia

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Internet Goodies

Whenever it comes time to reappropriate some time from work, the internet takes on teh role of some twisted fucker with a feather that just ain't going to leave you alone. Some hip hip heads from Coolock it seems, called Disfunctional provide a particularly Northside themed brand od hip hop, not giving a fuck about wheter its black OCB, green Rizla or Red Swan they sing the praise of a six pack of dutch while ripping into plastic laced Irish soap bar. Footage of UK Troops being dosed with LSD seems like it's totally derived from some comedy sketch show, this shit is so funny its almsot fuckignn tragic, check out that bloke dancing around a tree clinging onto his telephone wire as if it were a ribbon tapering from a may pole.

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Saturday, February 19, 2005

Thank God Its Friday My Arsehole

Sitting on a bus parallel to streams of traffic wedged together the perpetual Friday gridlock that is Dublin city. Faces staring out ghostlike, translucent through windows. The train never waits, every second counts and every cunt is in your way. It’s becoming more and more obvious that the state were never really serious about providing public transport through the Luas at least not at a mass level, that becomes even more depressingly obvious considering the privatisation of the service. Queuing for a Luas is a very alienating affair, with a stream of about thirty people behind you and twelve in front the mechanical voice of some failed English actor garbles again and again ‘Thank you, your ticket is printing, please wait for your change…’ Then you’re in front of it, fumbling with more and more change as it randomly spits back every twenty cent you have. Then the Luas arrives and the cunts are pressed against you. Inches from the face of some biddy from the country, you can smell her foundation as some other auld biddy elbows you in the side of the head and trips you up with her bags of shopping. Desperate to get out of the a city they’ve been paranoid in since they arrived, mind warped with tabloid headlines about chills junkies waiting to In unspoken looks, every one stares sympathetically at each other as tensions build and every one on the Heuston Station bound anxiously eyes up their watch in the realisation that their train is pulling out with seconds to spare. So on to Super Macs and chicken fat, an internet portal in a wall and an hour staring at walls waiting for a later train. Thank God its Friday My Fucking Arse.

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Friday, February 11, 2005

UCDSU Elections in an allegorical style

Once upon a time in some tyrannical feudalistic shithole of a society, there was a box. In this box were magic beans. These beans were of gender. The reason for this wasn’t natural but more like a noting of reality so one can slightly empathise with the twisted author of this tale. One bean wanted to be sowed so "He" could reap the rewards of being sowed like getting laid by a female farmer. Other beans were indifferent to everything going on but were receptive to the warm beams of sunlight that touched them. I know clichéd up your arse fairytale crap that you would quote if you were Gary glitter telling a story to senior infants.

Two beans ,that had being together in the box with the bean who wanted to get laid by the female farmer, had fallen out due to an argument over the dispersion of water each soaked up so they decide to ignore each other. But the coolest bean of all was the one who knew he was just a bean but that he could emancipate the beans from the wicked peasants and farmers at play.

The moral of the story is that life, not only an internationally acclaimed student election is like a bean. Life eats you up and farts you out. I call this philosophical tirade "beansian".

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Bosco brilliance

The Reign Of BoscoBosco was an Irish children's television programme during the late 1970s. It was produced by the Lambert Puppet Theatre.

The main character, in the RTE programme was Bosco, a small red-haired puppet with bright red cheeks. Bosco lived in a box, which he only left to go on excursions to places such as Dublin Zoo (the Irish language word for 'box' is bosca).

Any guests to the show would enter and exit through the 'Magic Door'. This was also used to exit the shot to any inserts in the show. The Magic Door told where people (or the camera shot) were going through song.

There were various short animations, usually stop-motion, as part of the show. The ploncksters were plasticine critters, which were continually engaged in fights or schemes against each other. Flaherty was a dog, continually plagued by an amateur crow magician in a series of shorts featuring stop-motion models. Freddy the Fox featured a host of well-modelled characters, with distinctive traits, such as Fiachra the Frog. There was also a cartoon featuring a potato family that lived in a supermarket. At night, the potato children would run amok.

Occasionally, characters from the Lambert Theatre's other show, Wanderly Wagon, would be introduced into the show.

The show featured arts and crafts segments, in the style of the BBC's children's programme Blue Peter. Another main part of the show was story-time.

The show ran for approximately forty episodes, but was repeated before (and later during) The Den daily until 1998.

During 2000, the Bosco puppet was stolen in a burglary of the Lambert Puppet Theatre's museum, and photos of it in various places around the world were sent to the media. This inspired an advert for Meteor in 2004.

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Tuesday, February 08, 2005

A Walls As Good As It Gets

My Drunken ScrawlIn the past year, Dublin walls have become increasingly stamped over with stencil graffiti, some like the ‘these are dangerous times’ series evoked the anti-war sentiment that blistered last year. Others advertised events like Reclaim the Streets, one even distorted the Coke font into Killer Cola, with an unambiguous message about their crimes in Colombia. Apparently, so the rumour goes, once spotted Coke had hired cleaners out straight away, such is the force of street art.

Perhaps that's why some multinational corporations, such as Nike, have been chasing famous stencil artists such as British artist Banksy to design their latest advertising logos. Banksy is perhaps the world's best-known stenciler, having recently designed the Think Tank album cover for British pop band Blur.

That there are similarities between stencil graffiti and corporate logos is no surprise. Logos have become the world as we understand it, stencil graphics work on the same level, subverting them with information compressed into single images that are instantly recognisable, and repeatable. Stencils use the aesthetic principles of advertising to suggest an alternative. Stencil graffiti is a backlash against boring surroundings, advertisements are everywhere there to find you, the messages of stencilled imagery and slogans ambushes in the same style. Unexpected because we have become so accustomed to seeing our cities walls decorated with the sell.

Wholly subversive, Banksy’s stencils erode authority figures; police men with smiley faces, monkeys bearing weapons of mass destruction and ‘laugh now but one day we’ll be in charge’ on sandwich boards. If stencil art is unexpected walking down the street, then so can the message perturb and cut across the expectations that stem from mainstream dialogues. Among Banksy’s best pieces is a masked anti-capitalist flinging a bunch of flowers. Another huge piece featured stampeding stock exchange types throwing their cheque books at police; in red letters ’cheque book vandalism’ got the point across. Like all great art, he doesn’t keep stump on the galleries either, infamous for stencilling ‘mind the crap’ on the steps leading into the Tate the night before the Turner prize was given to an unfolded bed. Traditional landmarks have been signed with ‘this is not a photo opportunity’, while blank white walls have been left with tags like "By Order National Highways Agency This Wall Is A Designated Graffiti Area", skip to a few days later and people will have obediently replied. For six months after 9-11, he moved temporarily away from imagery finding it easier to convey meaning in text based stencils like ’wrong war’ and ’bury the dead, not the truth.’

Banksy’s most famous series is the teams of tooled up rats dismantling the city’s artefacts. Representing all the powerless misrepresented losers coming back, after a rethink, grouped together. Three such rats gather across the Thames from Westminster, one on look out, and two aiming a mortar at parliament. It doesn’t matter if their trajectory is off, the point hits. At a recent London solo exhibition called Turf War, Banksy stencilled two cows from top to bottom with pictures of arrows and Anglo-Saxon faces, with the note: "the average African receives less in subsidies per head than an EU cow". Many have begun to question to question his credibility after his Turf War exhibitions, criticising him for doing too much day work and not enough nights. But for an stenciler that sprayed ‘designated riot zone’ on the steps of Trafalgar Square the night before Mayday; outdoing his own wit has become an increasingly arduous challenge, not to say risky.

As his website intro states ‘this revolution is for display purposes only.’ Introduced to Britain by anarcho-punks Crass at Thatcher’s height, outbursts of stencilling are always linked to political rebellion. Like adbusting (where the corporate message of a billboard is distorted to a political statement and movements like reclaim the streets, Banksy’s art is not his. It is instinctively public, and meant for participation. It is about the reclamation of our daily environment, and the creation of a public system of signs and meanings which lie outside the advertisements which stain every wall you care to look at. It’s using the tactics of mass consumerism against it, for an entirely different end. Plenty of people moan that graffiti is ugly, but as Banksy says ‘it's a product of society so it's bound to be pretty ugly.’ So arm yourself (card board is free and spray comes at €8), this is an art revolution we can all take part in. See you on the streets, hoodies up.

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Monday, February 07, 2005

The return of Chris Morris

This month sees the return of legendary shit-stirrer and all-round hero of our times Chris Morris to British television after a lengthy absence. The man whose record for provoking the most viewer complaints in history was recently topped by Jerry Springer: the Opera is taking a new path with 'Nathan Barley', a sit-com about a pompous, over-privileged trendy and his cretinous friends in the London media scene. There's a lot of expectation surrounding the new series over the last decade, Morris has carved out a unique niche for himself in British culture as the most uncompromising and savagely funny comedian of his generation. Whether or not 'Nathan Barley' is a success, Morris has already done more than enough to ensure that his name won't be forgotten for a very long time.

Morris first came to notice with The Day Today, a spoof news show that first aired in 1994. A decade on, it hasn't aged a day. Its parody of hyperbolic media coverage was cruelly accurate; the worse the 'serious' media gets, the more powerful the spoof appears. It was, of course, the show that spawned Alan Partridge; Coogan's petty-minded sports reporter was a brilliant character, and well worth the two subsequent shows based around him, Knowing Me, Knowing You and I'm Alan Partridge. But there was never any doubt as to who the star was. Morris pulled a brilliant turn as the sneery, Paxmanesque presenter who flirted with his co-hosts, bullied the incompetent reporters, and even managed to incite a war between Britain and Australia for the sake of ratings. The show just wasn't big enough for his talent, and Morris followed up The Day Today with a solo effort, the hard-hitting current affairs show Brass Eye.

It's hard to write about this show without degenerating into hysterical superlatives; suffice it to say that it was like nothing else on television, ever nor has anyone come close to topping it since. When I first saw the show in 1997, it was a cult favourite; re-release on video and DVD has brought it to a much wider audience, helped by obsessive word-of-mouth hype. If you haven't seen it yet, go straight to the video store and rent it out.

Most attention at the time focused on the bogus interviews Morris would conduct with real celebrities. The fake celebrity interview has now become such a cliché that it's amazing you can watch one without having to stifle a yawn. The difference, of course, is that Morris wasn't just playing a prank he was on a single-minded mission to humiliate vacuous people who used their fame to mouth off about things they didn't understand. It's impossible to feel much sympathy for the celebs, because Morris went out of his way to show them they were being made a fool of. Why on earth did Noel Edmonds agree to read out a script, informing viewers that the Czech drug 'cake' affected the part of the brain known as Shatner's Basoon, which controls time perception.

But looking at Brass Eye now, the celebrity maulings were just a garnish: Morris was the real attraction. His range was amazing, going from an inch-perfect parody of Pulp (Blouse, whose lead singer Purvis Grundy had written a song of love to Myra Hindley) to aggressive investigative reporter Ted Maul (who kicked the bumper off the car of a truculent interviewee in a fit of rage) without missing a beat. Every single detail of the show was perfect, from the over-long, over-blown credit sequences to the absurd names of the presenters. Something Morris didn't get enough credit for was sheer bravery. Going up to (genuine) drug dealers on a London street, wearing only a nappy, and asking them for imaginary drugs like 'clarkycat' is taking things a little further than most comedians are willing to venture for the sake of a punch-line. And at a time when the brain-dead FHM/Guy Ritchie culture loved to glamorise criminals, only Morris would have interviewed 'Mad' Frankie Fraser and made a mockery of him to his face (even imitating his accent).

To say that the humour was close to the bone doesn't really do it justice. Having dissected the hypocrisy of the drugs debate, Morris concluded that night's programme by telling viewers that while his own heroin consumption was healthy and normal, if you're less stable, less well-educated, less middle-class than me, like blacks or builders, for example, my advice is to leave well alone'. A discussion about AIDS ended with Morris informing a gay man who was HIV-positive that he had 'bad AIDS', unlike the virtuous people who had contracted the disease 'through no fault of their own' via infected blood.

Society never really cares for such a cruelly accurate mirror to be held up to its face, and the modern media certainly doesn't get irony. Morris was vilified from the start; the show was delayed after tabloid outrage over a sequence purporting to show the Yorkshire Ripper on day release to star in a West End musical based on his life story. Channel 4 boss Michael Grade ordered him to delete it (Morris retaliated by inserting the line 'Grade is a cunt' in a frame of the last episode). The final show proved to be the final straw “ when the ad break came, a bogus Channel 4 news report informed viewers that Clive Anderson had been murdered by Noel Edmonds. Morris got the sack.

Morris went back to work on the radio, but returned to television with the sketch show Jam in 2000. A very different programme, Jam had none of the topical flavour of Brass Eye, but in its own way was every bit as disturbing (it's also available on DVD watch it, but bring a strong stomach to the proceedings). But the best, or worst, was yet to come, Brass Eye was revived for a one-off special in 2001 that ridiculed the media’s obsession with paedophilia. Unless you were in a foreign country at the time, you’ll have heard the shrieking it caused in the tabloid press. Charlie Brooker, with whom Morris wrote much of his Brass Eye material (and the man behind 'Nathan Barley'), told a story which gave the most perfect illustration of the media's hypocrisy at the time. He opened a tabloid newspaper one day to find an article denouncing him as a sick, depraved man who found child sex funny then looked across the page to find a picture of under-age Charlotte Church with her tits hanging out.

There's no sign that Morris wants to revive Brass Eye, which is probably just as well the concept would lose its freshness and impact if over-done. But with just seven programmes, Chris Morris has had as much impact on modern culture as Johnny Rotten had in the seventies. Morris would deny any earnest political intent: he sneers at lefty comedians like Mark Thomas and Michael Moore (he once interviewed Moore, and asked him had he heard of Thomas: 'you must know him, he also goes around bullying receptionists.') But he's probably done more to challenge today's orthodoxies than Moore's goofy sloganeering ever could.

'Nathan Barley' is a very different kind of show, and Morris won't be in front of the camera at all. If it conveys any of the vitriol of Charlie Brooker's TVGoHome site, on which the character is based, it'll be well worth a watch. Check out this link for a sample: It's not clear how much of the website's profanity will find its way into the show: I doubt Channel 4 will ever allow Morris and Brooker to quote the following lines verbatim: Get a grip. You're a cunt, you always HAVE been a cunt, and you always WILL be a cunt: a useless, artless, soulless, worthless, hateful, sickening, handful-of-your own-shit-fucking cunt-chewing cunt-eyed cunt!

Then again, you never know...

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Another damn thing about Doyle's

There's another thing about that horrible hole that reminds me of Whelan's at its worst - and that's the tendency of drunken idiots to crash into you on the dancefloor. In every other Dublin club, people take care not to bash into someone else's space for fear of getting their heads kicked in. This healthy fear of violence broke down in the toothless middle-class indie-kid atmosphere of Whelan's, and all manner of twats would take intolerable liberties and simply crash into your path while you were preparing to throw the gob in on some teenage Strokes fan to the accompaniment of "Bohemian Like You". Of course, the advantage of said atmosphere was that you could retaliate without any fear of retribution; persistent tossers could be clothes-lined or elbowed in the face, and they'd never say a word, even if you knocked them to the ground. But it grew to be tiresome, even for a spiteful individual like me. Anyway, this shitehawkery has been revived on the Doyle's dance-floor, so if you venture there, be ready to shoulder-charge the cunts.

Furthermore, something is really going to have to be done about the Monkey Cunt behind the decks. A friend suggested the following solution: bring a sackload of bananas into the club and distribute them around the dance-floor. Then request "Monkey Man" by the Specials, which will be the cue for everyone to pelt the fruit at the DJ box, knocking the little shit out the window and onto the street below, where he'll hopefully be crushed by an oncoming bus.

Until such a joyful liberation transpires, my advice is to stay well away...

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A Fibbers For Our Time

Fibbers For Our TimeDoyles, sitting there quietly opposite Trinity, it took me about eighteen months of living in Dublin to realise the place existed, the wonder of discovering a house party full of particularly drunk Trinity students. Being drunk, that can be a great thing. Being sober, it can be disconcerting. Being stoned out of your bin, knackered and sleep walking, after six hours of meetings, it can be horrifying, fascinating and somewhat exhilarating but only if being snide is your thing. So some how we keep finding ourselves back there. There have been nights there where intoxicated with the glee of drunken pranksterism we've pilfered drunks galore, ran around pretending to chaw our jaws shouting 'woo....woooo' at timid looking types in an effort to get them dancing, we've swung from the lights (briefly), instigated dance floor sit-downs for 'one more choon (again briefly), found ourselves in such paralytic states of cider intoxication that drinking cans in public there was a sound idea and to be preached to all and sundry. Doyles is fun, but like most places in Dublin, it's intoxication rather than the venue that creates the atmosphere and all in all that means an anti social behavioural sort of night. So the promises have been made again, never to return. It reminds me of how three years ago, a few of us made a pledge after many nights of enduring nu-metal tripe in Fibbers that we would never return.

We returned about twice, pissed out of our heads of course and the victim of an old friends reluctance to go anywhere else. Past the surliest bouncers in the world, into that cavern of a club to be glared at by handfuls of teenagers all competing for a place in the most pissed off teenager in the world championship. It was real, 'fuck you I won't clean up my bedroom tantrums left right and centre on the dance floor, as angry Goths whipped each other with whirling hair and splashed sweat at each other. Fibbers was always for Goths and metal heads that had skipped the small town and were reaching for something different in Dublin. There's been a few occasions I've gone back in the last year, to be refused for lack of ID only to see brief glimpses of kids in Placebo shirts and Craddle of Filth gear running wild at the bottom of the stairs. Doyles is like that, it's the Fibbers of the trendy Bohemian set that feel no guilt about listening to a DJ that looks like a particularly lazy monkey spinning the same set list again, and again and again. Doyles is a smaller Whelan's, people are so impeccably dressed its fucking amazing on the one hand and disheartening on the other, the punters are clones of whatever NME rock band seems best situated popularly at the moment, Franz Ferdinand seem to lead the fashion stakes at the moment, hence loadsa sweep over haircuts, blazers and Converse a-go-go. As in Fibbers here's only one way to cope in there, copious amounts of drink and a hefty head ache in the morning, neither of which are positive. Make sure to watch out for the inevitable flying glasses, as the previously unconscious drunk at the opposite table flings there pint at you in a forgetful frenzy to reach the dance floor as the Strokes blare out. Pompously, I do worry about my generation, but only when sober.

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Friday, February 04, 2005

Doo Noo Na Nooo..Wop..Wop..Wop -Sergio Leone

Remaining conspicuous through absence from the canons of motion picture greats, the stylistic flourishes of Sergio Leone westerns provide the popular mind with an immediate shorthand for the genre cinematically. The weird jaunty offbeat music of Morricone, defined the western musically, using his scores as a substitute for dialogue. In a method that echoed sampling techniques, he spliced sound effects like pistol shots alongside whoops and hollers. Leone also defined the genre visually. With surreal sparse landscapes to rival Dali compensating for Italian locations, and fast zoom ins on squinted eyes creating rising tensions and ebbs that can be so easily missed if the viewer drifts. And it is easy to drift watching Leone, his movies are best analogised (and accompanied) by a spliff, they burn slowly and languidly. Yet remain an extremely lucid experience. His early work experience on blockbusting Imperial epics made in Italy such as Ben Hur gave him an impetus to use lengthy films as a means to draw out every detail, both visually and psychologically for total worth. Famously Leone showed Tonino Delli Colli, his main cinematographer, the paintings and engravings of Rembrandt before shooting 'Once Upon A Time in The West'. As anyone that has seen his film will admit, they have a chronically surreal feel. Leone also hijacked Rembrandts physiological portrait and ran with it as a cinematic method ensuring in that a person's history is etched in their face. When it came to American releases, this was something the studios couldn't appreciate. Tellingly before the release of ˜Once Upon A Time In America', the editor of Police Academy Two was hauled in for a hatchet job.

Eastwood has been playing his character from the Dollars movies, the man with no name since Leone plucked him from his role as a limping deputy on the set of Rawhide for $6,500. One critic has harshly described how "Clint had two expressions, one with the hat, and the other without a hat." In both movies, he plays a character existing outside the law but firmly on the side of a self defined justice arising from his own experience. It's a figure Eastwood has tried to assimilate into the American establishment ever since with such roles as Dirty Harry, a brute reply to the sixties counter culture A Fistful of Dollars is a startlingly obvious remake of Akira Kurosawa's Yojimbo, a tale of a silent samurai arriving in a town torn asunder by two rival gangs of fighters. He plays them off against each other, helping a family to escape, and in the end allows both gangs to finish each other off leaving him with all the money. Apply a quick costume change, a few cowboy hats, cigars, and Leone's film remains much the same. In For A Few Dollars More, Eastwood returns playing the same archetype, this time hooking up with Lee Van Cleef in a conspiracy to hand in Il Indio, a bandit planning to rob the Bank of El Paso. In this film traits of Leone's visual style become defined. The close up's on opponents eyes in shootouts, and the use of Morricone's scores as musical flashbacks, where a musical pocket watch becomes associated with the bounty hunters memory of his sister being raped by Il Indio. Its in this theme of familial revenge based on an almost chivalrous notion of honour in which many find hints of Leone's conservatism. As lonesome figures protect family units from encroaching strangers be they bandits or official transgressors. The Good, The Bad and The Ugly thematically defines Leone's work during this period, a tale of three people searching for two hundred thousand dollars worth of gold against the backdrop of the American Civil War. Eastwood is Blondie, the good. Lee Van Cleef returns as Angel Eyes, the bad. And Eli Wallach plays, the ugly Tuco, a two bit bandit. But this is the stuff of beyond good and evil, each character is driven by their own eager motives and the only value system is relativity, it's a film of ambivalence.

It took years for movies dramatising the agony of the Vietnam conflict to hit the big screen, yet oddly enough a jaundiced contemporary view of the states seeped into a mass audience through Leone's spaghetti westerns. From the later sixties on, his films would retain their childlike visual quality but take on much more explicit adult themes as social commentaries. Leone had a double attitude to America which came from a youth spent watching bootlegged tapes of John Ford movies under fascism. As American troops arrived on the scene after the liberation of Italy, Leone realised ‘they were no longer the Americans of the West. They were soldiers like any others…materialists, possessive, keen on pleasures and earthly goods.' He later contrasted himself with John Ford's work, describing how 'his characters and protagonists always looks forward to a rosy, fruitful future. Whereas I see the history of the West as really the reign of violence by violence.' Its the assimilation of this unlawful violence by the American establishment that Leone begins to explore in the 'Once Upon A Time' trilogy

Once Upon A Time In The West is essentially a film about the onset of industrial capitalism in the west and the demise of social relationships based on almost knightly codes of honour and their replacement by ones mediated by access to capital. In Once Upon A Time In The West, we have the crude caricature of the railroad boss cripple Mr Morton who uses cash to buy control of criminal gun slingers like Frank (Henry Fonda), incorporating them into the rising corporate establishment to hound rustic family figures like Jill McBain (Claudia Cardinale) off their land in an effort to monopolise the railway. Set in contrast to this is Charles Bronson, a man who throughout the film adopts the names of those killed by Frank as his own identity. With his newfound ally Cheyenne (James Robards) we see a final battle between the old forces of the west and the monopolised violence of an encroaching state and capitalism, represented by Morton and Frank.

The Once Upon A Time series present a startlingly critical view of America as an institution, whereas Leone's earlier work simply critiqued the idea of the romantic American hero. Leone moved unto a jaundiced view of American foreign policy in A Fistful of Dynamite, starring Rod Stieger as an Irish revolutionary, Sean Mallory dealing with his own betrayal by Irish nationalism, yet continuing his fight for land and freedom among the Mexican peasantry during the years of Zapata. The films opening scene where Juan Miranda, a Mexican bandit bums a lift in a carriage of upper class snobs rivals Otto Dix's 'Card Playing Cripples' for setting up grotesque ruling class stereo types, that proceed to utter a series of crass racial and class based slurs against the bare foot bandit as a camera zooms in and frames their fat faces as they wolf down food. When Juan's bandit family finally dole out some class justice, one American on board exclaims 'Im an American' to which Juan replies 'to me you are just a son of a bitch.' Throughout Morricone returns with a croaking "wop, wop. wop" theme tune for Juan and a haunting refrain of 'Sean, Sean, Sean' for Coburn as the mismatched pair get caught up in the Mexican revolution. So from films about social bandits, to socialist bandits, his next movie was about the rise of the American Mob in 'Once Upon A Time In America' and focuses partially on the corruption of the American socialist ideal at the hands of mob interference in the American union movement. Leone's work presents timely films for a period where the reign of American Empire is increasingly challenged and resisted as he himself said 'as Romans, we have a strong sense of the fragility of empires. It is enough to look around us.'


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Invisible Agent: For What Its Worth

Discovered an amazing website recently called Invisible Agent, visiting it felt like walking into HMV and five finger discounting a stack of music you've been itching to test for months. It was all there, like a crash course in the Dublin electronica scene of the past while and all for free. Coming into work with a come down is never tasty, but theres always hope in a world that may as well fall apart when you randomly click on a track and it happens to be one that was jammed sonically into your skull by speaker stacks you were dancing beside the night before. Music can so easily be lost to you, especially in something like the dance scene where a DJ almost in a sense prides themselves on a ruthless underground nerdiness that means fuckers like me are left at a loss when it comes to identifying what exactly it is that's making me go nod my head back and forth like the Duracell bunny on a mission to headbut a fox to death. Anyway worth checking out on the site are Chrymea, floaty in a Boards of Canada mixed with a cheery Sunday afternoon bubble bath, complements contemplation but with enough of a beat behind it too pull you along and ensure you never fall asleep.

He has one track that rips off a guitar line in big beat manner and pulls it back and forth, before exploding it with beats and bass. Put this one on at a house party not so long ago, resulted in a corner of a bored sitting room going berserk and several of the more out of it types complementing the leap from RnB to something more bouncy with the 'no stick this on arguments. If you're looking for something to prompt serious bouts of stomping around the place, with ever bouncier steps then check out Sondamentalist. A number of his tracks are addictive, a number are pedantic and a few are a wee bit dodge, but of those that are worth it they drive you along like some mechanical conveyor belt dosed with speed, great pulsing electro and then some techno aggro for the gurning. Amongst others on the site are Corrugated Tunnel, Inner Frequency, Ikea Boy and a lot of names you see knocking around Dublin flyers, and all for free. Do not forget to check out the bloke from ADF MCing for some Bassbin DJ. Not to be lost out on in the madness of the Invisible Agent led prompt to music accumulation, respect has to go to a Radioactive Man fabric mix, reminds me of all the best of that techno that used to slip into the Irish Top Thirty a number of years ago. Also Miss Kitten deserves a mention as does Soulseek, what a wonderful little thing.

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Buckfast: I Thought This Relationship Was Over.

There I was, me and an old bottle of Buckie, I peeked at the ingredients, not one of them recognisable to someone with out a chemistry degree. Contents: Alchohol 15% Vol, Vanillin : 0.009%, Potassium Phosphate 0.20%, Sodium Phosphate 0.05% and Sodium Glycerophosphate BPC 0.65%) Fuck knows what's in the water out in Devon or whatever it is those Benedictines get up to in the factory, but Buckfast is exactly what I've always said it was: liquid speed. Be it because I've a tendency to pogo on speaker stacks, rampage around the city with spray paint, spend hours swimming in the Dodder or rant at rooms of people for an hour at a time, I decided some time ago that my relationship with Buckie was over. Buckie didn't take it too well though, and there she was. After a conference on the environment, and back in a mates gaff in Galway scoffing free and cheap wine that was tiring me out more so than anything she stormed back into my life. One of the punks told me the night before that there was to be an insane party in the city the night we were down. Sitting around anxiously, lurking in a corner. Texting for party details, as some bloke lectured me about the Goya principle. I swallowed my own sense of guilt after terrifying some Finnish girl by sticking on Come To Daddy at full whack. There were several others driving me on in an effort to turn a wine reception with its inherent politeness into the much more optimistic party. But they were unwilling to accept the stares of bile that darted from all corners. Better than directions was Buckfast Boy himself. He came pogoing in through the door, using the walls like a pinball machine to bounce himself to the nearest couch before bursting into a speel about 'the party up the road.' Like a straggly mop haired poster boy for substance abuse, he ranted and converted the rest of the room to the over all project for the night's madness.

There we were, helping ourselves to the Buckfast, two veterans sitting on the stairs extolling the virtues/vices of the Abbey way to another that could be forgiven for never getting past the cough medicine like texture and taste. Conversation immediately speeds up. In Galway the Spanish Arch has the colloquial distinction of being known as Buckfast Arch “ bottles of it float in the sea - there's a Belfast punk band that used the label as an album design - mthere's traditional poems about it in Edinburgh - there's different effects from different bottles. Just two slugs, down the throat it slides and within minutes it feels like the building anticipation of a song, I'm thinking of that bit after I've Just got to find peace and unity' in 'Release the Pressure' by Leftfield - then suddenly - the bass and your bouncing. It's the caffeine, it's the only that really makes sense about it, that or the rotting levels of sugar in the thing. So out the road and onwards, we were led. Shouting after each other so as not to get lost. From the night air to an average sized bed room with assorted punk types going fucking ape shit to grinding, melodic hardcore drilled out by a Killcoole band Soldiers Take Half, emotive vocals, and riff after riff being piled on high and every one dancing in one sweaty primal mess. Of course intensity of thought was whacked out of orbit, the mental grove slightly switched over with even the faintest smell of Buckfast and I headed straight into the Buckie hangover. Which really is't a hangover, but more of an alarm clock in your head that goes off round 10am the next morning and has you awake bright and preppy but without a shred of dignity left to get up and do anything. Head buried in a duvet you just groan the paranoia away.

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Thursday, February 03, 2005

All It Took Was A Mandolin

It was too easy to take the piss, it was like being in the Gaeltacht again but without the cynicism. All these very innocent Irish speaking types sitting around a table, bright eyed and bushy tailed in a De Valera-esque way. And then the four of us - the boredom, the boredom, shouting for Class A's as a wind up and sticking on techno as an experiment in population control in a confined space. No use. This lot were not up for it. But then again who were we to define the parameters of being up for it? When all of a sudden a mandolin was produced, next an accordion, up came the flute and guitar and such a transformation I have never seen - they went mental. Whenever there is loud/live music at a party you never leave, it's a steadfast generational rule passed down from piss head to pill head.

Before you could say 'that scene from Father Ted with the inbred kid on the rock' there was yeeeeooowwws emanating from all corners and some bloke with a Mohawk stomping Riverdance to terrify Satan below. It took but minutes to convince some compadres to stall around. Was it worth it? Seeing a couple of tunes battling out the tunes on traditional instruments, and others giving heart tearing renditions of 'Ireland independent and free' type hymns had me as startled and entertained as I've been in quite awhile. Bizarre. Bizarre. Bizarre. And they seemed so quite. Fuck knows what the neighbours thought was going on.

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Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Mutiny Is The Conscience Of War

Fahrenheit 911 may have failed in its intended aim of toppling the Bush administration, but its certainly had reverberations within the US Military. "Everyone's watching it…It's shaping a lot of people's image of Bush" was how one Corporal described it. Before the elections an enlisted solider in Najaf moaned "nobody I know wants Bush…this whole war was based on lies."

A catalogue of discord can be uncovered with just a few clicks on Google. In March last year two British service men were sent home from the Middle East after refusing to fight in the war. Across the Atlantic, many like Abdul Henderson who appeared in Fahrenheit 911 are refusing to return to Iraq. Jimmy Massey, a Staff Sergeant with the U.S. Marines and a self-described "good old boy", followed his example, describing the invading force as behaving like "a bunch of pit bulls loose on a cage full of rabbits." Quite a proportion of these dissenters have been sentenced to jail time and have had their cases taken up as prisoners of conscience by Amnesty International and two have even claimed political asylum in Canada.

The refusal of a direct order to engage in a ‘suicide mission’ by 19 members of a US Army Reserve platoon last month focussed media attention on dissent among occupation forces in Iraq. Yet the most vivid manifestation of such opposition occurred early in the occupation when a Muslim soldier, rolled three grenades towards the tents of his commanding officers after being disciplined for insubordination. The next day George Heath, spoke from the unit's Fort Campbell, Kentucky headquarters, "incidents of this nature are abnormalities throughout the Army.’ For Steve Hessk, a Vietnam Era Vet the event ‘rekindled memories that are not that distant.’

Much of the popular imagination around the Vietnam era dismisses the social movements, that developed in opposition to the war as idle dreamers who’d over done it on the blow and sampled too much of the electric kool aid. We end up presented with the afro as a nice cultural artefact for fancy dress, but never with the politics of the Black Panther’s which often accompanied it. Riots across campuses and cities that relied upon the National Guard and shootings for their suppression, become simply a momentary backing video to cheesy Ben and Jerry clones hawking some collection of sixties pop on infomercials. Music the rioters probably scorned in the same way we do boy bands today. When we iconize a moment in history it’s oft at the expense of the meaning and conflict that generated it to begin with. Usually it’s at the added expense of a consumer tapping into packaged clichés of kitsch radicalism.

So the counter culture is now viewed as simply a culture. But subversion and ‘dropping out’ within the US Military in Vietnam has been politically rather than aesthetically etched onto the surface of popular culture dealing with the conflict. Think of the poster for ‘Full Metal Jacket’, ‘Born to Kill’ scrawled on a helmet with an accompanying peace symbol. Then there’s the vacuum of authority and disorder throughout ‘Apocalypse Now’ with its acid munching grunts going chemically AWOL. Indiscipline within the military isn’t as easily sanitised for mass consumption as indiscipline on the campuses - so much of the cinema dealing with it really bears a punch. This popular image is not without a historical base.

While it has become easy for ‘hippiedom’ to be co-opted, marketed and squeezed of its radicalism. The potent force of the counter culture, the black movement and the social movements spiralling around them, when translated into the military through the drafting process hit like a hand grenade in a rabbit hole. Arising as they did at one of the most precious props to the social system: the military might enforcing the authority of the elites. From 1968 on in Vietnam, the command structure was increasingly threatened; soldiers defiantly wore anti-war t-shirts and pins. Illegal cafes were opened up on bases where advice could be received on ‘search and evade’ missions and sabotaging the war effort.

A vitriolic manifestation of this refusal of discipline was ‘friendly fire’ directed at unpopular superiors. Over three hundred anti-war newspapers flourished on US Bases, "In Vietnam," wrote the Ft. Lewis-McCord Free Press, "The Lifers, the Brass, are the true enemy." By 1970, the equivalent of four infantry divisions had deserted. After years of side stepping the issue, the Pentagon admitted in 1993 that there were 600 incidents of fragging, with 1400 ‘suspicious deaths’ of officers. In The Armed Forces Journal, Marine Colonel Robert D. Heinl Jr., described how "our army that now remains in Vietnam is in a state approaching collapse, with individual units avoiding or having refused combat, murdering their officers and non-commissioned officers..." A New York Times article quoted an enlisted man saying, "the American garrisons on the larger bases are virtually disarmed. The lifers have taken our weapons away." With a ground army whose chief enemy was within, the Pentagon was forced to shift towards a policy of aerial bombardment and increased reliance on the Navy. Resistance to this re-structuring reached epidemic proportions as Sailors sabotaged their carriers so they couldn’t leave port. The House Armed Services Committee summed up the crisis of rebellion in the Navy: "The US Navy is now confronted with pressures...which, if not controlled, will surely destroy its enviable tradition of discipline. Recent instances of sabotage, riot, willful disobedience of orders, and contempt for authority...are clear-cut symptoms of a dangerous deterioration of discipline."

Temporarily the propaganda wing of the army responded by opening up Patriotic Cafes selling cheap coffee and alcohol. Heroin also became rife in the forces, devastating the radicalism just as it had in the ghettos Officers were encouraged to grow side burns and sat through popular culture classes in an effort to relate better to the yoof. After 1973, the Pentagon was forced to wholly restructure and create a professional technologically equipped army, one that would be most of all, loyal. Throughout much of the late seventies and eighties, US intervention in foreign spheres on behalf of its elites was left to the CIA and subversion from within. Exemplified by intervention against Allende with the CIA’s successful attempts to ‘make the economy scream’ and in funding the contras against the Sandinistas.

Stunningly enough the lessons drawn in Vietnam seem to have been lost. The Powell Doctrine that there be no large ground force intervention in the absence of large scale popular support and a clear exit strategy has been dismissed. American forces are chronically over-stretched across Afghanistan and Iraq. Last Junes ‘stop loss’ order’ that halted any demobilisation of the Reserves and National Guards has been described as a ‘back door draft.’ There may be no official draft, but there is an economic draft. Money spent on recruitment has doubled since the early nineties to $2.7b. The Pentagon has ventured into producing video games to target kids for recruitment, and hooked up with hip-hop magazine The Source in co-ordinated campaigns to recruit black youth. Buried deep in the 670 pages of the No Child Left Behind Act, public high schools are forced to give military recruiters access to and also contact information for every student at the threat of deprivation of federal funding. In the Village Voice, Nic Ferrer, a father and dedicated organizer against military recruitment describes how "they constantly cut funding from education and youth programs until our kids are left with no options to better their lives. That’s when the recruiters swoop down, aiming this PR campaign at our sons and daughters, tricking them into going from the frontlines of the war raging in our communities to the frontlines of the war in Iraq."

Speaking to Democracy Now! about feelings of discontent towards ‘Sergeant Major at the Base’ types, Paul Rieckhoff, an outspoken Iraq Veteran describes how ‘among the junior soldiers its very open. I mean, we're well aware of it. Its almost as if its become a consensus…the reservists and National Guard members who originally contracted for duty one weekend a month, and two weeks in summer, find themselves locked into active duty that in many cases is already in its second year.’ The historical ramifications of military insubordination appear glaringly on the surface of history, “Mutiny is the Conscience of War” was a common piece of graffiti scrawled by conscripts in the trenches of World War I, as they began to fraternize with the ‘enemy’ before turning their guns away from each other and absconding home to turn them against their own ruling classes in Germany and Russia. Contemporary implications are just as harsh, as Kidron one of the early Israeli refuseniks (nearly 2,000 Israeli conscripts refuse to serve in the occupied territories) believes, "the refusenik movement has a great deal of deterrent power, because the generals don't know how far they can rely on the army." Refusal is a "potentially contagious disease" he outlines, citing the example of an Israeli Air Force pilot who gathered 27 signatures on a letter refusing bombing missions in civilian areas. "The pilot told me he spoke with 100 pilots who agreed with him. Twenty-seven signed. The question is: When will the other 73 sign?"


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Obesity With That Sir?

The latest McDonalds’ ad is telling. A man rushes to the counter and proceeds to push a microphone into the face of some bewildered kid bedecked in a green smock. “So what’s in your burgers?” he asks, in pursuit of the sort of anti-corporate expose that has fuelled Fast Food Nation and Super Size Me. Pressed, the kid blurts “100% Irish Beef.”

The reporter is left to stare despondently into the camera. Since the early nineties campaigners have systematically undermined the craftily manufactured identity of a global giant. After years of silencing activists with legal action, McDonalds found itself embroiled in the McLibel case, a magnificent act of corporate suicide, leaving behind a grinning skull with dollar symbols for eyes, and buckets of dirt to fling in Ronald McDonald’s face. Despite winning, the corporation unwittingly provided the defiant defendants a platform to expose the dangers of its food, its anti union record, its deliberate exploitation of kids through ads and its shoddy work practices in the longest running case in British history.

Years of ads have socialised people into wolfing down fast food, and outlets were forced to up their portion size in response. Images of overweight people dragging themselves around in motorised carts seems like off-kilter sci-fi, yet over-eating is as liable to kill an American as smoking. By 2000, there were 300 million obese adults. Not surprisingly this has created employment opportunities for people like Debora Senytka, a design engineer in General Motors' human/vehicle integration department. Hers is the responsibility of accommodating the ever-growing American waist-band without sacrificing extras like CD Players, cup-holder and god forbid airbags. Marshal Cohen, an industry analyst described the battle between clothes retailers and manufacturers, ‘designers didn't want to ruin the reputation of their brand by having anyone who was overweight walking around in their clothes." When regular sales slackened off, executives found fat people waddling around badly dressed and now 23% of all American sales are plus-size.

During the onslaught against McDonalds, other companies like Subway stepped into the ring, consciously targeting consumers with healthier options. In one of their most popular ad campaigns, a former heavy weight slips into his old trousers, they collapse around him like a circus tent. Transforming him into an icon of hope for the American obese. Provided of course, they change brand loyalties. Of course the health lecture is old hat. In the face of such competition and ailing profits, the latest McDonalds ad campaign sees them on the offensive, product images are being manipulated and now the brands are subverting the brand-bashers.

Changes in production methods prompted the development of the fast food industry. Where we see food being moved around but its production remains purposefully hidden. In 1960 a revolution occurred in the meat industry, a company called Iowa Beef Packers created a "disassembly" line for cattle that eventually did away with skilled workers. Many feedlots are owned or controlled by the four giant meatpacking firms, slaughtering 84% of American cattle. Family farms gave way to factory farming, just as family retailers gave way to WalMart. The skills of the local butcher were replaced by the automated modern slaughter house, just as the skills of the cook were replaced by the automated processes workers in McDonalds use. It’s easy to trace the origins of fast food corporations back to the early diners that sprouted in American factory districts to feed workers. As large scale production dispersed, they followed the shifting nature of work to harness the consumption of transient crowds of city centre shoppers and commuters. Instead of grubby factory worker hangouts, clever marketing transformed them into youth and family eateries. Just as political ideologues convinced us the working class was dead, and all that remained was consumers.

Fast food is intimately linked to our working lifes. 15% of Americans experience their first employment with McDonalds, if you can keep your head down in that boot camp and come out with a reference you are signalled out to future employers as someone who will swallow all sorts of shit for a pay packet. With conditions so severe in fast food joints, they normalise slightly better, yet crap, work elsewhere. As one group of McDonalds workers state ‘‘’first jobs’ at places like McDonalds have replaced national service as an often temporary stage of disciplining and preparation for a lifetime of subservience to capitalism.’ Fast Food Nation regales in how an alienated society has created an alienated means of feeding itself. Obesity and fast food does not just arise from the choices we as individual consumers make, it is intimately linked to how we are organised and disciplined in the workplace. Its interesting to note that in 1989 white collar workers consumed 32% of fast food in France and students another 32%. Just as old style American diners were the choice of factory workers, modern fast food outlets are the choice of low paid workers and cash strapped students.

With rampant property speculation forcing people into boxes ever further out in the suburbs, government undercutting decent public transport in favour of half assed private iniatives like the LUAS and traffic chaos. Returning home for lunch is no longer an option. After two hours sitting on a bus to get home, TV Dinners and junk food are an easy choice for a tired, stressed work force, just as a drive-through solves the problems of a starved commuter. Forced into fast food, as our work-breaks and the real value of our wages decrease, this is a real case of give me convenience or give me death. Give me obesity or 45 impatient minutes sitting in a restaurant for proper food. More and more of our lives become dominated by getting to and from work. Or over-coming its monotonous repetition. We have less and less time to prepare our own food. In the ‘60’s designer and psychologist Louis Cheskin persuaded McDonalds to keep the yellow arches logo, in some freudian way he argued they represented the nourishment of the mothers breast. As kids we were turned against ma’s cooking by ads, just as the early McDonald’s slogan “Give Mom a night off”, tempted working mothers away from aspects of their unpaid double shift in the home. Like most of our creative impulses, with cooking, there is no economic value in it for industry, if we do it for ourselves. It seems obvious, we should make sandwiches. But there is a whole philosophy of advertising dedicated to tearing us away from such self-sufficiency, others dedicated to taking on that role for us at exceptional costs, even the most simplistic aspects of our lives are colonised for profit.

People like Eric Schlosser see change arising from individuals making better choices in the market place, corporations will "sell free-range, organic, grass-fed hamburgers if you demand it. They will sell whatever sells at a profit." It is that simple. But playing brands off against each other leaves the social system breeding them in tact. Using the logic of profit and creating a consumer demand for healthier options, might give them a more ethical façade, more annoying ads and us a trimmer waist-band. But it will probably also add to the existing numbers of under paid and abused soya workers and exploited part-time teenage workers will remain. Nothing will change about the willingness of corporations to psychopathically ignore the concerns of society in pursuit of profit. If the present ordering of work and its domination of our lives by profit is the root, then breaking away from that and reclaiming a degree of control over such fundamentals as the companies producing what we eat is the solution. That requires organisation, and such organisation means anything but the atomised actions of individual consumers.

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Soundtracksforthem specialises in iconoclastic takes on culture, politics, and more shite from the underbelly of your keyboard. A still-born group blog with a recent surge of different contributers but mainly maintained by James R. Big up all the contributers and posse regardless of churn out rate: Kyle Browne, Reeuq, Cogsy, Chief, X-ie phader/Krossie, Howard Devoto, Dara, Ronan and Mark Furlong. Send your wishes and aspirations to

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