Monday, January 30, 2006

Des Bishop: Give Him More TV Minutes.

The inanity of RTE's much rightly shat upon comedy night continues to hurtle over the edge and crash as two of its flag ships, Anonymous and Stew finished up tonight. Anonymous does what RTE does best: steer well clear of originality and remain totally dependent on second rate Irish celebrities. It cakes their faces in make up and latex disguises to wind up unsuspecting members of the public.

Haven't we seen this before on RTE? Didn't Brendan O'Connor head off dressed as a priest to buy condoms on Don't Feed The Gondola's? So why the fuck would it be funny when Samantha Mumba does it? Been there, done that - Dom Jolly did it again and we could still handle a rather timeless comedic convention of the candid camera, but RTE take it on board these days and the idea is fucked. I mean even Mike Murphy could get the idea of comedy through disguise and windups somewhat right over two decades ago? Jason Byrne's the real problem in all this, give a second rate Irish comedian half an hour on TV and they'll put about as much effort into the concept as a dog does its bed.

Over on Stew, there's some moderately good sketches. A married duo of FM 104-esque radio DJ's who stomp around the radio station of a public hospital, never dropping their irritating mid-atlantic radio voices even while groveling for aplogies after affairs. The junkie political canvassers are also something of an oddity, but the unrepentent gaelgoir and "chunkfella" ma is as irritating a set of characters as you can summon. Its a sense of humour wholly reliant on the "northside/southside begorrah, aren't we worlds apart" convention, the sort of ABC of Irish comedy that a gerbil could throw out. The overall the routine of watching failed Fair City stars, as well as the leftovers of the dog's dinner of the Fr Ted cast is really a tired experience on RTE. Saying that, we've come some way since Upwardly Mobile..

Des Bishop is an unlikey anti-dote to all this stupidty with his Joy In The Hood. First making an impression on me via his regular slots on DFTG, screaming and roaring in a put upon Cork accent about the lack of yokes and pirate DJ's. Bishop is making a striking use of the time given to him for his show. Going into the displaced and marginalised communites of the Celtic Tiger, setting up stand up comedian workshops and effectively in the end facilitating a sort of foregrounding of issues in these communities via comedy that echoes the educational ethos of Paulo Freire. Or maybe that's pushing it?

Some have accused Bishop of using these communities as a source for the sort of gags to fuel his latest €25 plus tour. Don't forget he performs these routines in front of these communities as well, to their joy and laughter. He's aroused the ire of Limerick politicians for showing the realities of life in marginalised communities in a negative light the . But that lot are only concerned because what they've left marginalised, lost behind the PR campaigns and tourist brochures is coming back to haunt them. And anyway, what politician ever likes it when they are by-passed and the communities they claim to speak for take centre stage themselves?


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Sunday, January 29, 2006

IPods, downloading and the idea of the malfunctioning consumer

When it comes to IPods, downloading and the idea of the malfunctioning consumer there can be a hysterical back lash against the view that people can use elements of consumerism against its over all logic. It can be easy to forget that people have a great degree of autonomy in how they view cultural products and in how they use them. We're never really going to get anywhere if we keep on insisting that everyone who tunes into MTV is a programmed clone, nor are we ever going to get anywhere if we eye up rebellious elements when they become popularised and mainstream with suspicion and distaste.

According to this view human beings are a like a CD ROM, society can only burn knowledge in to us and we accept it. Personally I think it's a whole lot different than that. Capital constantly finds itself constantly shifting its content, but never its form in order to assimilate, co-opt and neutralise radicalism. The reason for this is that we, the amorphous masses are always finding the op outs which allow us to break free from the logic of capitalism which is the commodity form.

So while people may aimlessly listen to Britney Spears they may also pilfer, burn and download her music for free of the net which is a direct breakage with the logic of capitalism, taking her out of the market against her and the industrys wishes. If I was confronted with a Britney fan, and if part of her musical experience was piracy, then in my eyes; brilliant. That for me is the more interesting part of where music is going.

Piracy is wrecking havoc on the industry and they are definitely on the back foot when it comes to combating it. The IRMA press hullabuloo about the 17 downloaders who are meant to be facing persecution in the courts is obviously nothing more than a bullshit attempt to scare people away from downloading. Its quite obvious none of these people have been brought up yet, its fiction designed to break up the peer to peer networks fucking the music buisiness over, and deservedly so.

There are a number of interesting social consequences from the levels of piracy. There is a huge potential for fusion between differenent scenes,as when anyone with a hint of creativity can download a music editor (pirated again...) off the net and stock up on 10 GB of samples then there is a huge potential for music to be used in a wholly new way. As far as Im concerned, this is the all important bit; the way changes in technology have facilitated people in making a breech with the industries and philosophies that bred the technology in the first place. Back to da mo-phuckin' DIY..... The ability to sample, fucks up the ability to enforce copy right, but means everyone now has the potential if not the desire to start fucking around with beats and some samples. In one way I think this ability to sample is important, no fucker ever declared copyright over the three chord and a riff idea of punk; yet they try to enforce the idea of copyright on a nicked sample meshed with a beat to create something new.

In terms of live gigs, there is undoubtedly a benefit there, the more artists you listen to, the greater your musical palette, then the more likely you are to go to a gig.

In short, people define the industry more than it defines them. As a 16 year old, I seriously got off on RATM and have been a commited anarchist for some years now. Am I alone? I think not. The fact that when RATM toured some parts of the states a few years ago there were riot cops greeting them at every gig and forcing melees with their fans says a lot; this is the part of the RATM experience that needs analysis rather than the fact that they are on SONY or whatever. That may be a contradiction, but hardly anymore so than any of us that end up working in corporate jobs just to get drunk on the weekend. True they could have done it ala Fugazi, but I wonder who politicised more people? Fugazi or RATM. My bets are on RATM politicising people first off, those that get into Fugazi are probably vaguely political anyway. People may be used by the industry but its clear we can also give it our own meaning, such as when we use IPods to raid its vaults, despite the fact they come with a rather ironic sticker saying 'do not use this device to pirate music.' What the fuck else is it for? Or as Alice Nutter and so on did a few years ago we can take the fuckers capital and run.

Some good readings: Review of S
enseless Acts of Beauty: Cultures of Resistance since the Sixties by George McKay.
Kill or Chill? Analysis of the Opposition to the Criminal Justice Bill. Part One: Sign of the Times
Punk and Autonomia: this one is an analysis of punk as youth defining itself outside of capitalism.

For some reason, probably due to access to be new music I've become far more interested in reading about music than most other things, which is rather dangerous for someone facing into a thesis. There's some good readings too. There's one called Last Night A DJ Saved My Life, which traces the development of the DJ as an art form, interesting bit about that one is the role of technological change in prompting new musical forms and so on. There's one called Flashback which is a history of acid house as well, thats really good. Th ebest one seems to be Altered States which is a similar history there's some mad shit in that book which shatters alot of myths about the overt politics of early acid house, but salvages stuff like the free parties and the continuity between them and travellers in Britan. The Battle Of Beanfield in one sense shows just how seriously the state can take 'drop out's...

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Saturday, January 28, 2006

A Carthograhpy of a Cahnts.

Flocks of Goths.
Copper Face Jacks - cops riding nurse
Young professionals on leeson street smelling of an excess of aftershave and cheap polyster suits.
Boho chicks and nerd rock twats on Georges St.
The repentent farmers childern lost in georges st arcade.
The D4 Nonces and their orange faced hanger ons, as if the fuckers had walked off the TV, irradiated by the chemicals
Techno nerds
The hosue morans that stagger around Wax and the pod.
The foriegn student, bongos and hippies. We all thought they were hippies untill we discovered H and M.


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Super News: Have the Gods Gone Bowling?

Al Gore's latest TV adventure, is a rather intriguing grappling with the culture of interactivity on the net. Why sit and watch the programming choices of others when with broadband you can flit in and around as many varied shows as you want? Current TV, broadcasts pods, which are miniature productions uploaded by the sites users and then if considered good enough by downloaders make their way onto the cabel and satellite TV twin of the site.

The best of these so far seems to be Super News. The creative off spring of South Park cross breeding with an animated version of Brass Eye, Super News is the ruthless comedic hand grenade in the rabbit hole of current affairs coverage. Josh Faure-Brac, the 32-year-old writer behind it describes how viewers don't need to be political junkies to get the point, but he hopes the show will deflate to such a degree the goons bouncing off each other in positions of power, that people will go out and purposefully re-read their understandings of the mechanics of power and leadership.

This is a pop cultural fix with a keen eye for the absurdities of current affairs. Anyone who liked the Jib Jab piss take of the last US elections will be fond of this. See more at the Current TV site and Wired's take on it.

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No Way? Thats Not Yer Man From Bros?

"No way? Thats not your man from Bros?" is exactly the sort of thought that'll be flying through your head as you click through this online video collection of raved up mongrels from the late eighties onwards. This link was sent out first over the IE-Dance email list, which is always a good one to be on for staying up to date on gigs, even despite the manic level of posting that goes on.

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Friday, January 27, 2006

An Interview With A Vampire: IRMA and Pimping The System

"S'cuse me Bud, d'ya 'ave an inlay card for tha?"

Last Christmas you gave her your heart, this year she probably just settled for an IPod. Given the prevalence of white necklaces around the place, we're probably all in on the same silent conspiracy. A generation of disobedient, malfunctioning consumers – all the logic of consumerism’s gone straight out the window and we’ve settled down to plunder tunes from the net instead. The reel to reel resistance of tape copying has morphed into a whole sale ransacking of the music industry in the form of peer to peer file sharing. If the latest moves on the industry's behalf are anything to go by, its time to stick those mix tapes in the blender, microwave those CD-rs and erase those mp3s because with an unprecedented venom the industry is out to get you. Well at least that is the logic of IRMA's latest drive against Irish file sharers. We may not be too far off some geezer in a hi-vis standing on the street stopping music fans making themselves deaf with their Ipods, before asking: "s'cuse me Bud, d'ya 'ave an inlay card for tha?"

The introduction of the Copyright and Related Rights Act in 2000 put the Irish state to the forefront of legislating for copyright in the digital era, ensuring the rights holders monopoly over online distribution. The general ideological justification for all this crap rests on the premise “that unless the rights of creators and investors to a fair return are supported, the community as a whole would be impoverished by the fact that, in many cases, these works would not be created or developed.” IRMA has recently used this legislation to take litigation against over 60 "serial uploaders" this year in two separate legislative waves. IRMA's drive is primarily a scare tactic, designed to disrupt these networks by putting word out that serial up loaders are being targeted. Within peer to peer networks there is a spoken rule of "share or be banned" so if people chicken out of the game and become parasites, well, that's the mutual aid down the proverbial and the concept collapses.

The Digital Rights Ireland group raises several concerns over the manner in which IRMA carried out its litigations against music sharers, stressing possible contravention of European legislation: “firstly, there is the manner in which the individuals’ shared folders on their hard drives were entered and scanned. This was done on IRMA’s behalf by a company called MediaSentry. MediaSentry is a US based company, which does not operate within the ‘safe-harbour’ scheme for Data Protection. This means it has not agreed to handle EU citizens’ data in accordance with the European Data Protection regulations.”

All in all, the man has probably learnt something from the experiences of American copyright lobbyist Jack Valenti. Who with all the foresight of a drunk driver told a Congressional panel in 1982: "I say to you that the VCR is to the American film producer and the American public as the Boston strangler is to the woman home alone." New technology has always incited fear in the entertainment industry, Disney guffawed and stalled the idea of rental tapes going as far as investigating methods to ensure they could only be used once. While back in the eighties the British Phonographic Industry cacked itself and launched the “Home Taping is Killing Music” campaign. Leaving themselves open to a ruthless and relentless campaign of satire by agit-prop heroes the Dead Kennedys, who upped their already besmirched reputation among industry circles by printing "home taping is killing big business profits. We left this side blank so you can help" on one side of the orginal In God We Trust Inc.

The industry is forcing downloaders on to legal networks like Connect Ireland, Eircom, Itunes Ireland, My Coke Music, Vitaminic Music Club Ireland, Wippit Ireland. All promoted by IRMA on its site as legal download entities, with a reservoir of tracks ranging from 250,000 to 1m. Connect requires the use of MS Explorer 5+ as did Cokes entity, Vitaminic are waiting for a new site to come online, while Wippet was undoubtedly the best deal at £50 for unlimited downloads over a year, and the heftiest choice of tracks. But face it, this twatish corporate competition is never going to be as efficient as the illegal digital underground networks like Soulseek.

Newspaper hacks trying to convey an ounce of credibility cite the stellar success of groups like the Arctic Monkies, and their relinquishing of copyright as evidence of how dynamics in the music industry have changed. Legal guru Lawerence Lessig describes how copyright is used to lock down creativity - in music this is even more obvious. The development of dance music would have been stunted if copyright was asserted, given the widespread pilfering of beats and loops as the definitive feature of the genre. Coldcut, one of Britain's definitive early dance acts had an album deleted as a result of the stringent application of copyright – so much for guaranteeing innovation. Sympathy for the industry and corporate gluttons like Metallica decreases even more when you read what the likes of Steve Albini and Courtney Love have to say about the minuscule control minor bands on mainstream labels have over their works and their resultant financial crippling.

The threat posed by peer to peer file sharing is very much rooted in the emergence of the knowledge economy, immaterial production based on the manipulation of signs and symbols rather than the manipulation of nature. The reproduction of music files is essentially a reproduction of capital, but without any economic value being derived by the copyright holder. This is the problem the music industry has, its got nowt to do with creativity, and income for bands – it’s a battle for the control of the means of musical distribution. Downloaders view themselves as engaged in an entirely different practice - continuing traditions of sharing and lending, previously associated with non-digital music formats such as vinyl, tape or CD. There have been other, more serious, contestations of copyright, the most obvious are the non-violent daily direct action against bio-piracy in India, where rural peasants reuse seeds despite Monsanto’s patent to take a ‘stolen harvest’ back out of the market and into the commons. Most people are all to familiar with the humanitarian consequences of the zealous effect of imposing patents have on the distribution of AIDs drugs. What if copyright was enforced on university photocopiers?

The music piracy debate really needs to be reframed. The success of bands like Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, and most boundary bashing musical subcultures from punk to rave show profit does not equal creativity. If we have the technology should we not remove culture from the market and allow equal access to all? After years of the industry ripping bands and fans off, screw P. Diddy and his kids desire for a gold toilet. Gangsta rapper revolutionaries the Dead Prez have it right "pimp the system" - I'm a dot.communist, and you?

What follows is an interview with Sean Murtagh, head of IRMA's anti-piracy operations (carried out on several days prior to December 12 over email ..).

Home taping never killed music, so is this fear of online piracy not similarly unjustified?

When someone copied music from an LP or analogue tape, to analogue tape, the copy and every subsequent generation of copies was inferior to the master. Ripping tracks from CDs and burning them to CDRs is, in fact, "cloning" - each copy is an exact replica of its parent. This is a much greater threat to the record industry than home-taping ever was. Bear in mind that 1 in 3 CDs worldwide is an illegally burned CDR and you will see that this is not just an industry crying wolf.

How does peer to peer music sharing differ from lending CD's or burning them for a mate? Is the worry here the sheer scale of sharing or are you trying to make a principled point on copyright here?

Making copies of copyrighted music, even for your mates, is a breach of copyright if you don't have permission to do it. What sort of friend gives you something that they have stolen? P2P sharing, when done without copyright owners permission, is copyright theft on a large-scale. IRMA's job is to tackle piracy wherever it occurs.

Should you not be placing more emphasis on the inequalities of relationship between artists and record labels rather than chasing after fans who may end up contributing directly to the artists via gig tickets or t-shirts?

IRMA cannot comment in the private contractual relationships between artist and their record companies. It is always convenient, when people want to have a go at record companies, to wheel out the argument that they are ripping off artists, but nowadays, artists are probably in a much stronger bargaining position than ever before, given that there are now other ways of getting their music to market.

Are rights of privacy being sacrificed in forcing an ISP to hand over the personal details of peer to peer file sharers?

Since when has the right to privacy been allowed to shield someone from the consequences of their illegal actions? The High Court has held that the right of a copyright owner to protect his/her creations from illegal exploitation outweighs the right to privacy of the individual committing that illegality. It should be stressed that IRMA does not simply go to ISPs and ask them to hand over the details; we ask a High Court judge to decide on the balance between the various rights involved.

Full version is availible over on Indymedia.

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Thursday, January 26, 2006

Special Dispositions for Chomsky - What Would Emma Have Thunk?

So the great bespectacled Chommers has come and gone? What a build up there was - and as a whole the events themselves were just an interesting quirk to after work hours rather than the mind shattering revelations some were expecting. The humourous highpoint was the special disposition he was given by the state to enter the country, what a way we've come as anarchists from the Palmer raids that saw Goldman and other anarchists deported from the states. The low point was the passive consumption of his politics by so many, or maybe this is just an activist disdain for the huddled masses?

I came across some anecedote from an activist in the 1970's who described how when Howard Zinn rolled into town his talks would be witty, with a flowery acerbic delivery that you could really enjoy sitting through, where as when Chomsky came on it was as if a cloud of guilt hung over the audience as each person felt they should have a note book and pen out taking down references. You could see that in his talks this week alright. But the bloke seems well aware of his purpose, it gets illustrated in Manufacturing Consent where you have something like 40 pages asserting the propaganda model then maybe 400 or something where he relentlessly, and as objectively as possible illustrates the model in practice. That seems to be what he does in his lectures as well, the sort of assertions that govern most left wing rethoric and educational talks are backed up with a relentless potted history and critique that is usually lacking.

He seems intent on highlighting dichotamies which is something of a nifty rethorical device. For instance in his tuesday talk, his "conservative recommendations" (his words) for American foreign policy were not his own opinion, but were preferential options agreed by the overwhelming majority of the population as sourced in opinion polls in the mainstream press. In this illustration that the actions and expressions of the ruling elite there are soo removed from the desires of its people there lies an implicit critique of contemporary democracy, that is expressed without resorting to slogans and assertions that are sometimes groundlessly put forward as political arguments. There's certianly something to learn from this style - especially given the inability of elite circles to argue back against him. If he confuses people its probably a good thing, as in challenging so many of the assumptions of popular belief you undermine a lot of presupposed ideas and at least people might be tempted to explore a little more the foundational basis of their own views.

One thing that got to me was the obvious seperation from engagement in political activism among the people that went to the talks, and not just anarchist activism, but activism of any form. As if attending Chomsky was an act within itself. This was all the more clear as I was giving out a free anarchist paper outside, in the RDS one of my fellow paper pushers from the cheap seats raised the refusal of people to accept a free paper which challenges on a regular basis the dominant ideas of power as a question to Chomsky himself, (while simultaneously predicting his immeninent demise and waving a hi vis jacket around like a loon) - he linked it to an "intentional ignorance" in his answer.

Perhaps Chomsky's chief failure is that his arguements are too much of a critique and he merely expresses the pro-active challenges to power as an afterthought to critiquing it. In the talk with the WSM he was remarkably chirpy about the prospects for the future in terms of a deepening of democracy and radical social movements - but if he was the expression of sixties dissent and started off in meetings of 5/6, on a pessemistic note there are far too many radical political meetings of 5/6 - so what do these 1000 that attended each talk be at? How do they envision change coming about and are just who exactly are they waiting on to carry it out? At the WSM talk he reasserted much of his writings on anarchism. He is a very repeative man, with much of what he was saying practically coming verbatim from texts like Notes On Anarchism.

More than anyone he is a populariser of radical ideas, as the proliferation of articles on the net, books in every bookshop in the country and the minor media feeding frenzy this week illustrates. Its probably fair to equate him with some of his own heroes such as Paine who developed a huge low level, quite but prevalent popularity for certain ideals.

Best of print: For anyone who missed the UCD Tuesday talk, there's a good review of it in the latest Village by Harry Browne, as well as a very personal letter he sent to Chomsky highlighting his use/abuse for politial gain at the hands of Amnesty. It should be on the net later in the week if ye miss it in the shops.

Best of the web: Catch the Tuesday night session in UCD (webstream of thursday session) the bloke doesn't half no how to digress. The WSM session should be up on Indymedia in video form soon as..
Sarcy Indymedia contributer tackles the D4 quifed Amnesty muppets in Moaning is half way to a solution..Thumped has an interesting discussion on the great debate between Chomsky and Foucault...Some of Chomsky's thoughts on po-mo here...Terrifying photo of Chomsky over here on Aauld Rotten Hat FC...RTE does its share on Prime Time as does Newstalk and grumpy Dunphy..

Worst of the web:
Tedious debate on on the visit. More UCD idiots get themselves tangled up in knots of purposeful mishearing, their adult equivilents find themselves equally as perplexed.

UPDATE: Kevin Myers is an irritating twat. Journo muppets who are paid to speak out of their dill can be irritating enough, but this bloke is on a whole other level. Here he is ranting about Chomsky, in a diatribe accusing him of being like an autistic child faced with the impposibility of escaping observence of patterns. Nicely torn asunder here.

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That Bad Bastard Morris Is Back...

Ah, I got all excited too as rumors of the all round return of satire's most sadistic fucker, Chris Morris was predicted on sites like Thumped, alas hold off the merry making as Morris is simply putting in a few guest appearances in Graham Linehans next TV offering the IT People.

A programme that from a judge a book by the cover sort of way, looks set to be a mash up of the Office and Nathan Barley. Its available from tomorrow over on the C4 site.


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Monday, January 23, 2006

Graphic Journalist Joe Sacco Files Another Report From Iraq

Graphic journalist Joe Sacco has filed another report from the front lines of the Iraqi occupation. His previous report is still availible over here. Sacco is the bloke responsible for the wonderful Palestine comic book which deals with his experiences there at the tale end of the first intifada.


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Friday, January 20, 2006

Sixty Second Film Reviews: January 2006

Okay - so whats the deal? Well the plan is to do some pretty succint reviews of the films I see each month in one post, and then start another similar thread at the start of the next month. Films can be both contemporary, recent and old.

Anchorman: the sort of film that hammers away in the Steve Martin vein with the same crude gags that trip over each other endlessly, but are left into give it the sort of wacky visual dynamic that defines this rather torrid genre of

Hollywood slop. Network it ain't.

Jarhead: a war movie with a penchant for referencing the very classics it can't possibly live up to. Far more clued in than most of the critics give it credit for, Jarhead manages to present a vision of the sort of dehumanisation of economic draftees that leads to situations like Abu Garib, as well as grappling with the changing nature of how America wages its wars in the wake of Vietnam.

Sophie Scholl: critics fall over themselves to heap undeserved praise on this for its grappling with war time resistance within the Reich. With its hackneyed cries of "freedom" at the end, it does as good a job to mystify the failure of de-nazifaction as can be done.

Downfall: an excellent take on the complexities of commitment to the Nazi regime, as well as illustrating the internal power struggles that lay beneath what appeared as a behemoth of unified power. A fantastic dramatisation that moves beyond the Allo Allo cliches of Sophie Scholl.

The Descent: a second rate X-Files episode that's far to reliant on a host of leftover Gollum graphics from the Lord of The Rings series for its own good. Avoid.

Saw 2: A CSI episode gone haywire, with far too many nods to the Cube for its own good.

Napoleon Dynamite: an extremely off beat interpretation of the American highshool movie, filled with loathsome characters that'll leave you with a stockpile of instantly recognisable one liners.

Lord Of War: if Amnesty International were making a major motion picture - then this would probably be it. A fast moving romp through the arms trade and straight into its vicious darkened heart.

Dead Bodies: all its smart assed fast paced plot movements, can't compensate for this film that speds along to a "hip" indie soundtrack in a desperate attempt to associate itself with the new wave of Brit cinema spawned by Madonna's squeeze. So some twat accidently kills his girlfriend leading to a chaotic cover up, and more dead bodies. Sean Mckinley and a host of other Irish faces play their usual sterotypes in the background for the sake of a cheque. While the main actors all share the actorial range of Fair City's Jimmy Doyle struggling with constipation. All copies of this deserve a shallow grave, rather than the comparison on the cover.

28 Days Later: we like our horror here, so how I excused this from my horror list is beyond me. There's not much that can be said about this that hasn't been said. God Speed providing a tension laden soundtrack, the humour of the multiple endings, the subversion of the zombie convention. Ten
"Ah yeahs" out of then.


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Wednesday, January 18, 2006

The Apocalypse Of The League Of Gentlemen.

The League of Gentlemen finally ended. Yeah, well fine - the film may have come out over a year and a half ago, but I relented in watching it right up until this week. Paralyzed by the fear of a comedy cash in, troubled by doubts over how the programme could possibly transfer to the silver screen. Well how did it? Not very well to be brutal, despite the sudden proliferation of acclaim from critics who missed the humor the first time round when there was no laughing track - this film was missing something. Despite a clear love of the characters shining through in a film that stands as the erection of a mausoleum to Royston Vasey, the writers moved away from Royston and entered into a rather silly cinematic device that reminds me of Wes Cravens Final Nightmare, the one where Freddie crosses over and starts attacking the cast of his latest movie, an awfull excuse perhaps to get the actors on screen, sneaking some acclaim and recognition from behind the masks of their characters. Then there was the awful redundant digression into a sub plot based in the 17th century that was like some rejected script from Blackadder. Ah well, things could have been worse, the third series was really reduced to the state of a rather twisted sketch show rather than a twisted universe.

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Breakcore Nutters Leechrum Set Up Monthly Club In Dublin - Its Wrong - All Wrong!

What happens when you add this, this and this? Probably the potential for one of Dublin's most chaotic and exciting club explosions, that's what's in store - as breakcore nutters Leechrum Records who brought over the likes of Planet Mu beat mangling beasts Exile and Chevron to these shores last year set up their own monthly club night in Fraizers on O'Connell Street. What once may have been a movement of isolated nutters sitting in gaffs downloading brutalized beats and tortured undanceable rhythms that reduce dance floors to gibbering mangled and usually mashed happy idiots has been stretching its wings and pulling devotees in under its wings in an organic flurry of growth over the past wee while. Dublin heads such as Herv, Lakker and others have brought the sound a certain degree of respectability, while the boredom of music scenes full of DJ's that barely dance to their own tunes, the combination of a truly jilted generation living off the jaded memories of musical movements that were worth latching onto means that breakcore is pulling in fans from across the alternative musical divide. No more traveling to the UK or Galway for the nuttiness, now it's setting up camp in the capital and we all better be there. First up its local rave revivalists T-Wok and Solen, with stand up comedy thrown into the mix. Check out the Leechrum site for details of their new monthly club nites, in Fraizers, and worst of all the bar serves Buckfast. ITS WROONG!

Leechrum are also organising a Leprechaun Error tour of some of the Brighton breakcore greats across Ireland. The line up includes Shitmat, Chevron, Ebola, The Gross Consumer and Nwodtlem hits Dublin on Friday 24 February, doors open at 10pm and it goes till late. So hand over your money suckers.

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Eyebrowy Are Back Again.

We've mentioned these before. Coming across like a Hot Press with a sense of humour about the incestuousness of the Dublin indie scene, this lot have been making waves as new media darlings in the staid Dublin alternative scene. Due to Hot Press muppet Stuart Clark starting a "get eyebrowy on TV campaign" the boyos have now been commisioned to provide some light relief in RTE 2's main alternative music vehicle The Last Broadcast. It ain't No Disco, and mainly seems to be there to pacify Dave Fanning. The first of the Eyebrowy's interventions on the show are availible online now.

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Saturday, January 14, 2006

Are We Are Not Allowed To Have A Design For Life?

Oh aye, the Manic Street Preachers, eh? Now there's a band that need a reassesment. A glum bunch of pricks from the arse end of Wales, they arose like the practical expression of every small town teenagers fetish of self-made infamy, the brazen manifestation of desires we were too embarrassed to express. These days, the Manics are bracketed off. Dismissed by the more noxious and unimaginative elements of the left as Stalin backing communists, due to the Cuba gigs and undermined musically by a continued association with a more mature, lager fueled brit-pop thats more staid Richard Ashcroft than inspired Gorillaz larking about between genres.

There are those of us who get the Manics, can identify with them through all the hyperbole and brutal over emphasis, and then there are those that miss the point entirely. Who instintcively write them off as the balladers of a particular mentally thick, British form of working class identity in imagined visions of football louts and drunken cunts bouncing up and down to "A Design for Life." I think Ken Loach managed to tackle this football shirt prejudice in a recent sort film. These people are trully missing out an another instinct, the instinct of distrust that goes alongside music that refuses to take it self seriously. I mean what fucking teenager thinks it can't change the world or that doesn't let its concerns dwarvf all others?

As a teenager, music was the most serious thing there was, certain choices established your role within a social grouping. An over extended fondness for Radoiohead or Placebo went as far as establishing a projected sexuality, musical choice represented an alliegence to a string of social values and directly challenged the petty margins of power existing in peer to peer contact. There was nothing more important, what music you identified with was who you were. The Manics took this seriosuly, their infatuation with punk led a rather flippant disregard for the baggy trousered, psychedelic wearing fruitcakes of their day. Dismissing them as hippies, the Manics positioned themselves as a bulwark to the hordes of E munching apathethic zombie hordes, with songs sloganeering about the portence of rebellion amidst a consumer brand culture that was yet to recieve a collective christening courtesy of Noami Klien. Worse than that, the Manics went as far as expressing the most vitriolic observations of life. There's was a tenuous build up, from the Guns n Roses tinged stadium rock, to the over produced Gold Against the Soul the Manics issued half baked edicts on contemptory life and their own piss addled mental states...

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Thursday, January 12, 2006

The Queering of the Cowboy.

Masterful genre skipper Ang Lee is back with a blast in his latest venture into something resembling the western in Brokeback Mountain. Its 1963, and two poor Wyoming cowboys find work herding sheep on the fictional Brokeback Mountain. A summer of whiskey, and leaving the sheep dogs to babysit the sheep leads to some man on man loving. Interestingly this queering of the cowboy is driving the American right fucking apeshit, any one who's seen Outfoxed will be familar with the antics of Bill O'Reilly. Well, he's been raving again, taking offense at the " agenda going on here. It is part of the advocacy for mainstreaming homosexual behavior and promoting gay marriage, and it is also undermining the American cowboy ideal."

Love stories, and me don't mix all too well, they are torrid, long and drawn out, Brokeback Mountain displays all these tendencies, but there is something all the more powerful welding it together. The film displays the sheer destruction wrought on the individual soul by constraining concepts of hegemonic masculinities, that are intricately linked to the expressions of work men are socialised into. Ennis Del Mar (Ledger) is haunted by the memory of "two old birds" who lived together as a couple, one of whom was brutally killed by ranch hands once their sexuality became apparent. Jack Twist (Gyllenhaal), Del Mar's lover is a boysih rodeo cowboy, forced into a hetrosexual marriage after a once off shag with the daughter of a wealthy agricultural machine dealer, the ultimate displacement of the cowboy skills.

The seperation between the two is edged on by social conformity, and the denial of the importance attached by the two to each other by relatives and friends will be admired by anyone who was ever moved by If These Walls Could Talk. The film tracks not only the developing relationship between the two, but the transformation of the west, and the ultimate redundancy of the cowboy aesthetic to the states today. Whatever about films like Farenheit 9-11, this queering of the american ideal is one of the most subversive acts submitted to film in years. But don't let all the media hype let you forget the orginal attempt to do this in a Midnight Cowboy. For once it seems someone has written something decent for UK Indymedia in this diappointed take on the sexual politics of Brokeback Mountain.

On one of my slightly typical cynical notes: Am I the only cahnt out there awaiting the imminent publication of a viral java cartoon called Bareback Mountain? Sitting in the IFI restaurant, a place where pomposity and pretentiousness finds a uniquely Irish expression, surrounded as you are by posters for the sort of films RTE show on repeat five times a year (Live and Let Live, The Quiet Man et al to ad nasuem), the pretentious touch comes with the posters having French titles giving the whole arena a latent intellectualism it doesn't deserve. Watching the movie I was gripped by the idea of a java cartoon, I can see it now: Ennis goes up to Jacks room, which his ma has preserved perfectly from his boyhood. Dolls and pink wall paper abound - fuck the Aeniad comparisons, the homophobic viral java that will abound in a month will be the most telling aspect of this particular movie phenonmeon.

Not to be missed: The IFI are showing a series of Mike Leigh's films over the coming weeks, Leigh who directed last years critically acclaimed Vera Drake which dealt with the relaities of back street abortion in 1950's England is a chief later day proliferator of the kitchen sink drama, a gritter Ken Loach - he makes his politics apparent in the observation of the contradicitions of every day life rather than in epic like tales of resistance and struggle.

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Who Thought Kurt Cobain Had Anything To Do With Rebellion?

Everyone knows the one about the latent political symbolism of the X Men. Written against the background of the emerging civil rights movement, those that wanted to find politics, could find it - in neat metaphors for the repression of minorities in the form of mutants. Or in the Mutant Registration Act, that was the kernal of the early story as a parallel with the Nuremburg Laws, while Malcolm X or the Black Panthers were manifested in the character of Magneto, the bold revolutionist who refused assimilation on human terms providing a stark opposition to the reformism of Xavier. In the later sixties, youthful drop outs with minds tweaked on acid would see echoes of themselves in the blossoming of extra-normal powers of perception in the students of the X university and isolated home town teens getting turned on by the freak evolution.

I've recently become rather enamoured with graphic novels, the €20 + tag provides quite the block, so lets call it an aroused interest as opposed to a full blown decadent infatuation. Channel Zero is the work of Brian Wood, the first in a series of graphic novels that play off the slogans of the anti-capitalist period, and the more technical minded fantasies within it. Ward sees comics as an outlaw medium which are perfect for the expresson of political dissent. Channel Zero is essentially a comic about turning off the TV, to follow Le Tigre its about getting off the internet and on to the street. As the introduction by Warren Ellis puts it "pop culture rolled over and died sometime ago. Some people actually think Marilyn Manson is scary, that Kurt Cobain actually had something to do with rebellion." Into this stoked pile of shit enters the the Channel Zero narrative, growing up as a student in NY prior to 9-11, Wood obsessed over the idea that Rudi Guiliano's political reign would go national, alongside a rejuvanated christian right and a bolstered imperial ambition in the contintental south -this is the world of Channel Zero. In a wave of moral hsyteria the state has introduced the Clean Act with a huge bureacucracy censoring DATA deemed dangerous to the moral and security fabric of the nation, wheat pasters are routinely shot, the American population is made suspectible to propaganda through chat shows and is ever further removed from the reality of geo-political politics.

Enter Jennie 2.5, like the main protaginist in a William Gibson novel, tattooed all over with the brands and logos that proliferate and polluate her visual horizons, she is geeked and ready to use her technical skills to undermine the whole god damn mess by hacking the TV stations and broadcasting her own anti-system propoganda. Along the way she deals with the consequences of using a mainstream medium to propogate rebellion, how politics can manifest itself as dead words in the mouths of sub-cultures and the consequences of state repression. Woods graphic design background makes a bold break with traditional comics, its stark black and white style aping the DIY photocopied seriousness laden in punk zines. Its failure is in a coherant politics, everything that is seen as against the American beast is who-haa-ed up with out any real questioning of the content. Still anyone with an interest in Cyber Punk ought to check it out.

Maus by Art Spiegelman is a two part comic which attempts to come to terms with the author's fathers experience in the Warsaw ghetto and later in the camps. The narrative contains two elements, as the cartoonist illustrates his own relationship with his rather irritant father the aged Vladek, and a history of his fathers experiences during the holocaust. Spiegelmann uses an old comic device to represent his characters, turning jews into mice, poles into pigs and germans into cats, all in an ironic nod to propoganda posters issued by the Reich during the period. The first epsiode of Maus, saw the cartoonist win the Pulitzer prize, a rather handy anecdote to throw in the face of those who willfully defy the notion that there is any intelligence in comics. The comic may not hold the same impact as a Primo Levi novel, but its purpose stands as the authors own attempt to come to grips with his family's experiences, as he navigates his own sense of identity and guilt over living in a world without the same repression, and a refusal to understand the experiences of those that survived.

Another comic that bears some similarity to Maus is Joe Sacco's Palestine, his illustrated journal of his experiences in the aforementioned occupied terroritories at the tale end of the first intifadia. Most of Sacco's experience seemed to have consisted of listening to the stories of those living in the Gaza Strip, these he illustrates with a stark dignity that brings a sense of the personal to what can often seem like an overmediated situation. As with Maus, Sacco's comic reaches out to an audience that may not neccesarily read the more weighted standards on topics that are so gravenly serious. Again, this effect can be seen in the work of Marjane Satrapi, who uses a simple comic book form in Persepolis to trudge up memories of her childhood under communist parents in a secular Iran before the revolution and the pass over to eventual fundamentalism. She is a master of the daily anecodotal, illustrating political upheavel through the prisms in which it made itself felt to her, primarily through family members and school. Her follow up volume sees her contend with exile abroad as her mind dwells on the situation at home.

Some other graphic novel authors I've yet to get around to but come highly recommended include Grant Morrison, who was responsible for revisiting the Batman series with a gothic eye for the darkness implicit in the tales of Arkham Asylum, much of his influence can be seen in the latest Batman movie. Morrison also created a series based on the adventures of the Invisibles, with the lead figure, King Mob named after the London based situationist group of the early seventies. He also riled the tabloid press in the eighties with a strip called St Swintins Day, a urban drama about a young teenager who dreams of assisinating Thatcher. Alan Moore is another British comic author who's V Is For Vendetta is about to make it on to the silverscreen, again there is meant to be a latent political content in this tale of life and resistance in a fascistic post nuclear war based Britain. Maybe its a spurning on from the cinematic wonder of Frank Miller's Sin City, but I think I can see myself being drawn into these wonderous little worlds for a period.

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Friday, January 06, 2006

There Ain't Nothing As Fun As This Here Guv.

So there isn't.

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Thursday, January 05, 2006

The Virtual Economy Of Video Games.

Ok - so it must be the post Xmas come down or that mid winter hibernation? Whatever it is I've found myself at that time of year where a certain childhood fascination with videogames comes lurking up behind me, slaps a bag over my head and blinds me to any other ambition than laziness. Something more prompted it this year, the documentation of a relatively new expression of exploitation on the net - the bizarre phenomena of video game sweatshops in China, where apparently 100, 000 are employed in the farming of accounts in games such as Everquest, Anarchy Online and Worlds of Warcraft. This is a practice, where free accounts are set up and the players up their skill levels in Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games (MMORPG), farming by making virtual currency by repeatedly hunting in-game bots that deliver up goods, just as mario would bounce off the head of a Goomba to offer up coins, these farmers have forced developers behind games like Anarchy Online to reduce the free availability of such currency, known as ingots, which are traded online.

There have been even been cases of
online muggings and a key give away sign of farmers are repeative action and characters remaining online beyond what is humanely possible. Momentarily these MMORPG's fascinated me, coming from a childhood where I was captivated like many others by games such as Zelda and Metroid. A bespectacled mate, with the sort of look in his eys and a rural back ground that betrayed a histroy of table top Dungeons and Dragon style gaming familiarized me with some of the more common online games recently, and I was hooked on a journalistic idea to go into one of these games as a character and conduct interviews with some of the other participants about just what exactly it is that they got from these excursions in virtual reality. I was familiar with the concept, and some of the history of them. Everquest is the central one, of these games, with world of war craft coming up second as a heavily subscription based one an requiring excessive patch updates.

Surely all I wanted was an instant fix of this parallel world. So the first game I played was Everquest. I was expecting a world more akin to some Daylightz, some cybertastic future shock, but what awaited me was something like a world your local friendly Norwegian death metal fraternity would be more familiar with.
With Wikipedia book marked it was off to enter the game and interact with the gamers, and this was a wholly different experience to the anonymity of the shoot em ups. Runescape - was a Zelda like friend manga based game, but then along game the horrific violence of Project Entropia and a much cooler name and a sci-fi grounding. After traveling through a tutorial island I was on to the mine and smeltering copper in order to arm myself with a dagger. The first thing you encounter is a virtual financial advisor in the game. It trains you how to eat, kill, save and invest in that order, then there was demand for religious reflection by visiting temples in the game to recharge regularly. The sites hosting the game worlds varied from 700 to 1200 users on line each time, with 10 dedicated UK servers.

Millions of people play these games daily, engaging in routine plots and repeatative actions to up their ranks within the game. There is even now an
online gamers anonymous which is a " is a fellowship of people sharing their experience, strengths and hope to help each other recover and heal from the problems caused by compulsive game playing." An academic paper has been written on the topic. What fasicinated me more than anything was the Synchronicity between the virtual and real economies in these games. In Project Entropia, an in game apartment complex recently traded for 100, 000 dollars. Meanwhile, those availing of free accounts in order to play the game are forced to wear an identifiable orange suit to differentiate themselves from subscribers. Money can be made by begging, robbing or by being hired out by those turning their real dosh in to virtual cash in the game. How fucked up - these games have a real class expression inside them?

I couldn't abide by the sheer routine nature of having to carry out so many pointless tasks to work my way into anything resembling an interest in playing these, so my journalistic inquiry never got further than this. Nick Dwyer-Whitford, author of Cyber Marx
has an article over here on the origins of the video-gaming industry. Like most of this autonomist stuff, its well worth a read.

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Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Crawling Up The Walls.

So are you looking? Are the walls creeping in on you, as well? I was out tonight. The lack of a structure was driving me bezerk over the elimination of purpose that was Xmas. Doing Equality Studies as a night time course leaves me with so much contaminated time - moments where I should already be in a course lecture, or moments I should be reading course handouts . Whatever the anti-dote to relaxing that besets the frontal lope in these seconds. Xmas is a nice one. The fire is lit, if not in reality, at least in memory, the comfort is provided, through insular packages of chocolate, white cards lashed on scribbled with the juices of ink that peculiarises the gift to you. And enough, less than engrossing, but palatable TV is presented to you. What a plate - do consume it!

Laterly, I do think I/we're living in peculiar times. Smithfield, in my memory goads me back to the dead end of anonymous journeys from the Heuston to town, via the Jarvis abattoir of sense. It was where the cider was stabbed open with the thirst of the most abused after feeblily buying their allowance of two bottles per person in front of Lidl tills. A friend told me the other day - how she recently took this photo of veiled Muslim devotee's playing ping pong on an open, concrete table top set up in the Smithfield Square/Market. How changed.

Tonight I went into Isoldes Tower. Grogans, which remains part of this narrative strikes me as a funny place, art work stick out on the wall, and you wonder how the bidding goes - I mean can I mount there? And if someone can stick a price sticker on the exit sign that's always a hint - I mean wasn't Jim Royles son's band inspired by such aluminum? I don't want to engage in cryptic blogging, so here's the insurmountable moment - d'others were in there. And after an Xmas of absorption in mindrot, there was the phone call summoning me back to the job. Out I goes, to Isoldes, in the end up - something to undermine the nowt.

Apparently, I look like an Italian squatter - which leads to a discussion about Czechtech with a Czech, and an immersion into the politics of multiculturalism in Dublin - because there ain't going to be a lot of it until the drink one is mellowed out. We leave and after a night of her trying to calm a boyfriend besieged by a guy claiming she was "working the bar for drinks" - we have a pounding as the harrassing drunk bloke gave the Italian - not a beating, but a cleverly placed punch in the face on the walk away from the club, not an invitation to fight - but a bang - a thank you very much man. The Italian boyfriend is pumping blood. I'd been talking to him earlier in the night. His dad had been in the Diaz school in Genoa when all of that went wrong, he was from the south of Italy and owt Berlusconi way needed to go down. We were chatting, hanging out, and I could see a fight brew all night.

Sure, I know - but aren't you exasperated too? "Weeeeeeeeeeeeeee.....DA PEOPLE" - sincerely have a drink problem, we all know that - but there's something more afresh going on than just pished ribaldry on the streets. The walls are closing in on us. Fucking hell, street violence needs examining - its the ultimate parameter, we are not well. A hidden injury of class it maybe - but we need to come to terms with the Tiger, cos we aint' doing well. Apparently in Maynooth someone is doing research into the rise in violence and the possible links to patterns matching economic data. That'd be interesting. After all I'd be sober tonight, were I not in work tomorrow.

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Sunday, January 01, 2006

Anyone For Some Video Gaming Home Brew?

All of those abiding by the idea that copyright exists to preserve iniative and future access to intellectual products, need only take a look at the MAME project to see the difficulties in their argument. Mame is an Multiple Arcade Machine Emulator, something that basically creates a little patch on your computer where the ripped data files of arcade and console games from the pre-Playstation era can be played on a program emulating the infrastructure of their relevant machines. The net abounds with dozens of websites offering downloads of the ROMs that made up the original games, download them and they can then be played on your PC. Amazingly, as always to satisfy a market urge, some companies now offer converters to allow you hook up your old console controllers to your machine. There's a wide and leery market in the cabinet cases of old arcade machines too, with fans seeking to embed their PC's in them, load them up with MAME and have their own arcade heaven in their gaff.

Remember consoles like the Commodore 64 ran off as little as 64k, compare that to the size of an average floppy disc. The SNES ran off 16mb, so what these technological obsessive are doing is recycling old hardware in order to preserve nearly two generations of video games in the sort of archive that no copyright respecting multinational would respect, allowing you to play hundreds of old games. Nintendo seem to be coping on to this and are looking to commodify the process with their new Revolution toy. More interestingly is the effect that this home brewing of video game software and hardware is having is the development of much more serious levels of piracy amongst users of new consoles like the PSP. The PSP is PC compatible - if you have the right USB connection, and with a memory card all of its own, ROMs are being downloaded off the net and fed into the slightly tweaked machine leaving you with free games. Now if I remember, the cost of games was always the real sore point for video-gamers, with an abundance of dirt cheap, shite games and the quality ones being well priced up.

The internet will breed all sorts of rabid fanatics, as the ROM and emulator revival online will testify. Having spent hours myself, trudging through ROM sites to download the sources of so much of a wasted childhood on the Nes, Gameboy and Snes, its rather frightening to see that sheer quality of the inbuilt mythology in a game like Super Metroid, something that devoured hours of my evenings for months could carry across what remains rather shoddy graphical presentations of the characters and levels that immersed you. For someone who quit gaming at the end of the second wave after a childhood brand loyalty to Nintendo, cultivated by Mario Bros cartoons and the wonders of the Legend of Zelda. Never progressing on to the Playstation series, these ROMS and emulators bring many abiding memories back, about just how passionate and obsessive those grey little consoles made me. Funny, for me Irelands technological lag in the eighties meant that my first encounter with video game technology was an Atari 2600, the first Atari console, my cousins had one in and around 1987, ten years after its release, Id still swear Combat is the most effective two player ever. Try it here. Quickly loading up some of these games for a momentary glance of their game play can be an odd experience today, some of the games retain their classic playability, the RPG's such as Zelda involving strategy and immersion in a plot still work. Others such as even the classic Metal Slug, bore as just another version of the age old platform/screen scroller classic that goes back to the first Donkey Kong game.

The best game remains Starfox which came packed with the original Snes box, with its Starwars-esque space battles as you controlled weaved through meteors and tail dived through the gaps in buildings and watch your enemies crash. At the end of the Snes era, you could see the system begin to crash as its graphics strove for the lifelike and cinetmatic quality that began to define the gaming experience from PSX on. Today a game like Doom which capitivated me with its paranoid levels of haunted demons amidst a mining disaster on a distant planet is so blotchy as to be almost unplayable. Equally games like Killer Instinct, and Mortal Combat whose violence led Nintendo to censor the blood and gore out were at the forefront of breaking with the cuteness that defined gaming, allowing the experience to move into an adult market. Anyway, now if only there were a ROM for Mariokart...

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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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