Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Twas the Season: Diary Of an X Mass Work Do 2004

(Photo taken from Emertont on Flickr)

After spring cleaning the hard drive of a bent out of shape old work computer, that relentless 9-5 dosser Krossie, came across this hungover blast from the worklace past. We too are disappointed that RTE turned down his idea to unite Terror Danjah and Declean Nurney for a Christmas day broadcast called Songs from a Showband Era, but hopefully this tale of drunken woe will shiver the hangover cobwebs and get you through to Stephens...

7.30 pm: Speed off into the frosty night with Kris Kingle present for teacher A safely tucked under arm - thinking
"What woman doesn't want the beano annual 2005"

8 pm: – Pub Teacher B (in fetching spider web dress) informs me that she just met Bono drunk in Spar shop. Supplies extremely badly drawn picture and signature in green biro, which she claims the great man "drew" for her.

Observe that Bono's writing looks strangely familiar
Teacher B refuses to abandon obvious "made up" story.

8.05 pm: Bono's wife Aili Hewson wanders past

8.06 pm: All teachers run to smoking area to touch Bono and obtain partial indulgence (plenary indulgence can be gained by dropping the knee to the great man)

8.08 pm: Loudly declaim to male teachers that Bono tm (net worth 0.55 billion euro) as quote wanker unquote with messianic complex AND an Irish tax exile.

Teacher C observes he was in the same charismatic Christian group as saint bono but that his new stuff isn't too good.

Reply that only like Adam Clayton cos he takes drugs and is not Christian.

Application Teacher C quits unexpectedly and cannot be rebooted

Further declaim that bono wife Ali is "ride" and desire to have sexual congress with said Ms Hueston.

Note to self-stop drinking.

Consume two pints of Guinness

8.30 pm: In restaurant – late. Several teachers ignorant of the Kris kingle – emergency redistribution of "presents" begins.

Junior school have TWO Tables – RESULT

Text g'fnd important news of great strategic victory

G'fnd wishes me g'luck "with ironing"

Consume two starters, wine and bottle of miller

Further note to self – please stop drinking

10 pm: Main course – duck stuffed with some soft white stuff – absolutely delicious

Attempt to begin food fight. Results desultory though achieve direct hit on teacher D's pink pate.


Staff warning one.

Further note to self – please stop drinking

Desert enjoyed so steal second one

Kris kingle stuff distributed to dissatisfaction of almost all.

Though teacher A appears reasonably content with beano annual

11 pm: Attempt to drive Teacher C back out of our area into to "senior zone" Teacher C stands ground and continues conversation with Teacher E's tits.

11.30 pm: repair to pub – capture seats – inveigle teachers to sit down. Teachers remain standing. Past pupil is trapped by drunken teachers but eventually manages to sidle away with "I pity you look" attached to face.

12 am: Attempt to chat up teacher F. Teacher F appears vaguely interested. Text g'fnd that teacher F is attempting to chat me up.

No reply.

12.10 am VERY loudly declaim to male, female teachers, past pupils and staff that Bono tm (net worth 0.55 billion euro) is a wanker with messianic complex, Christian, wealthy ass hole AND an Irish tax exile.

Further repeat claim that bono wife Ali is "ride" and desire to have sexual congress with said.

Note to self-probably too late to stop drinking.

Consumption 2 pints Guinness – one bought by Teacher G's husband.

Teacher H is getting off with teacher I's fiancée – teacher I too drunk to notice

12.20 am: Lead posse from pub of teachers J, K and L. Teacher J very drunk.

12.25 am: Achieve successful entry into club despite Teacher J's best attempts to prevent.

Nature of club: Not bad – good DJ mixing (and beat matching) New Order, Britiny (toxic yeah!) Kenny Logins plus rnb and disco classics

12.30-1.30 am: Consume unknown quantity Guiness continue half hearted attempts on Teacher F plus Teachers M and N. Teacher N seems amenable but continues to flash huge ring with set diamonds in one's face for some strange reason.

Teacher J grabbing punters by the neck in attempt to initiate romantic liaisons. Punters unimpressed and one attempts combat.

Teacher J is narrowly rescued.

Note to self continue drinking shure, shure you'll be grand

Punter who attacked teacher J earlier now attempting to get off with him.

1.45 am: Drunk woman spills pint on teacher K. Teacher K expresses vague wish to respond with violence against punter's boyfriend. Point out size of b'fnd. Notice b'fnd is attempting to clean up under table. Further note that floor is covered with white powder

-->[if !supportLists]-->- -->[endif]-->Very the season

Why even wait for the jacks to get the cocaine into ya?

2.20 am: – Teachers have achieved mystical union in giant ruck on dance floor – feel mildly depressed at sharp contrast between cheery Christmas tunes and cokey punters – exit with Teacher K complaining about past teacher A and former career. Past teacher A has earlier accosted me with mistle tow earlier so feel vaguely disposed to drunken defence.

Insert teacher k in taxi.

Text message from teacher F.

Teacher F thinks me sweet but "already seeing someone"

Scroll through texts and note that boastful message about Teacher F coming on to me that I sent to g'fnd was, was, in fact, instead sent directly to teacher F herself.

Achieve congress with bike and drunkingly and illegally make for home.

???? am: Accosted by small dog

Take dog on in exciting death race

Dog wins

???? am: Phone call from teacher B asking to "call up to mine" for a while

?.01 am: Succeed in breaking phone

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Thursday, December 13, 2007

Eye Candy: Toronto Street Art Gallery

When I moved over here first I went around for the first week or so snapping compulsively at whatever street art came into view. The results looked a little something like this.

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Sunday, December 09, 2007

Vidiot: King Kong Fighting.

Zombie like midway through game play? Natural rushes from the crowds? Well if you want your name written into history, you have to pay the price. Does that sound like the self grandiose advise of Beckham giving one of those staged and painful soul searching interviews you get every once in a blue moon? No, just the wise words of the world record holder in Donkey Kong the old coin op, to a loser that has made it his own midlife crisis a need to win that very title. We are about to enter the very strange world of retro gaming with attitude.

Check out the movie's site.

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Eye Candy: Hey Apathy!

Hey Apathy is a comic series by Toronto based street influenced graphic artist Mike Parsons, some of his larger pieces were on display today just off College St. Some of these he'd drawn doing that on street painting-as-busking thing you see going on. Remember those children's search books Where's Wally? Well imagine one of the characteristic crowd scenes rendered in black ink, over 12 foot in length and bursting with a frenzied energy and paranoid pressure.

Parson's work is churned out at a ruthless rate, he doesn't stop himself to cover mistakes and his obsession with the anonymity of crowds is a running theme of distaste throughout his larger canvases. Some of the images are similar to rushed HR Geiger rip offs, in one panel the shrill squawk of mobile phones becomes unbearable in a queue until the neural systems of their users burst through their skulls and drag the phones back into the central nervous system.

Parsons work is that feeling of standing in a major city and staring with your neck creaked up at the structures above you, built by us but dwarfing us with that pain of city isolation and social inadequacy too. I don't suspect the bloke is much of a humanist, but if you like those Dystopia cartoons that appear in Totally Dublin - then you might want to check him out.

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Friday, December 07, 2007

Bolivia: Social Movements On Fire.

Over the weekend of November 24-25th, protesters clashed with police in Sucre, Bolivia - they were demanding that the capital of be moved there. Three people died and over some 100 were wounded in the clashes. Yesterday Morales announced plans for a nationwide referendum to resolve a deepening political crisis in the country. A few months ago, two recent works on Bolivia were given a look over for the WSM's Red and Black Revoltuion 14, the review appeared on Indymedia.ie first and here it is for you blog readers

A few years ago the Cochabamba water war coincided perfectly with the 2000 anti-globalisation peak to solidify many of that movement's arguments about neo-liberal rule in cold hard scenarios of struggle. An exciting new round of images depicting indigenous women confronting militarised police dotted left publications, while documentaries like 'The Corporation' used the revolt as a sharp anecdote in hacking off the avaricious tentacles of multinationals.

A review of "The Price of Fire" by Ben Dangl and "Impasse In Bolivia" by Benjamin Kohl and Linda Farthing.

With the success of the Movimiento al Socialismo (1), western attention moved from the social movements honed in such resource struggles to the left caudillo Morales and, despite previous excited flutters, there's now little comment on how the grassroots relate to this new moment.

Al Giordano complained in a recent book on Oaxacca, that the radical press often shares problems with the mainstream - reeling in a journalism of instant replays, full of heroic and tragic moments from the barricades, instead of cogent analysis.

Thankfully in the past six months two very different books sought to pierce through the frailty of movement reportage on social movements in Bolivia, to explore why they emerged with such force since the 1990's and how they now relate to the MAS.

The first of these is Kohl and Farthing's 'Impasse in Bolivia', a heavily wrought background to the face off between a globally prescribed neo-liberal hegemony and a local population repeatedly drawing on a five hundred year resistance narrative.

Taking the reader through a well-elucidated history from the Spanish Conquest to the early 21st Century, they track how economic restructurings affected the composition of Bolivian resistance movements prior to neo-liberalism.

The exploitation of silver deposits at Potosi by the Spanish profoundly re-organised Andean society, leading to the emergence of indigenous resistance through nested kinship structures that fuelled rebellions such as the mythic 1781 siege of La Paz from the alti-plano by tens of thousands of Aymara warriors.

The authors describe how the later drive for an independent Bolivia stemmed from liberal criollos keen for the benefits of their own state but bent on uprooting and modernising indigenous communal land-holding systems to fundamentally exclude them as citizens.

The eventual replacement of these hacienda based elites with natural resource companies at state level set the ground for embryonic industrial agitation and ripples that reach the present.

In the thirties a rivalry between Standard Oil and Royal Dutch Shell over control of deposits in the Chaco region forced Bolivia into a proxy war with Paraguay for control of the disputed area. Defeat both drastically reduced the country's land mass and welded the social force for the 1952 Revolution among war weary drafted students, workers and campesinos.

The resultant Movimineto Nacional Revolucionaro deposed the mining oligarchies with a regime subject to land and labour pressure from below in the form of the Confederacion Obera Bolivian. Forced to recognise land seizures and labour demands, it constructed a state in the modernist nationalist tradition with a strong central administration and control over natural resources.

This defiant union movement continued to push for a deepening of citizenship rights only to be marshalled with a military dictatorship in 1964 as Cold War realities hit home.

The imposition of neo-liberal economics in the eighties under the NEP against this historic background becomes quite central to the authors' account, seen as a serious attack both on what became known as the "State of '52" and the labour movement.

Engineered for president Estenssoro by Jeffery Sachs of the IMF, it was the first programme of its kind, leading to some economic recovery in the face of hyper-inflation but an ensuing human misery.

Over 20,000 miners lost their jobs, manufacturing collapsed and over two thirds of the urban population were dragged into the informal economy, dramatically paralysing the COB as the backbone to popular struggles.

With the way paved for an affirmation of neo-liberal policies, Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada's Plan de Todos in the nineties unfolded with the familiar theme of privatised state owned enterprises, gutting the country's revenue.

Yet according to the authors, the couching of this new market democracy in electoral and social reforms inadvertently opened a space for indigenous resistance in rural areas.

As failed neo-liberal promises bolstered anger, diverse movements around coca eradication in Chapare, land rights and basic urban services quickly transformed the political landscape to "forge a common sense of injured national identity (2)."

Unfortunately Kohl and Farthing's work is hamstrung with the distance of academia, it sketches the imposition of neo-liberalism brilliantly but fails to illustrate "the shape that popular challenges to it will take (3)" in any grounded way.

Using a very different approach Benjamin Dangl's 'The Price Of Fire' is refreshingly intimate, he too starts with a "revolution in reverse," rolling through the tides of Bolivian revolt during a brief stay in old Potosi.

His writing style is steeped in hauntology and the psychic scars of centuries of exploitation; it's the fruit of bar room conversations, pickets and blockades and a brief encounter with Morales. He cushions this in minor analysis and travelogue, allowing voices from social movements to provide a "human face to the looting and struggles of a continent (4)."

During a visit to the Chapare, this "bearded gringo with a notepad" rails against the use of coca eradication as a paltry excuse for US intervention in the post cold-war climate, arguing that the migration of unemployed miners to rural areas accelerated coca's growth as the only viable cash crop under neo-liberalism.

From this dynamic the MAS emerged, capable of unifying different strands of struggle with its origins in coca growers' unions formed by former miners. Visually this is seen in the use of the coca leaf as party insignia, once used for energy by silver miners but equally evocative of indigenous and anti-imperialist messages today.

The book continuously traces how modes of militancy spread through migration. Like Farthing and Kohl, he agrees that the water war was a momentous turning point with the practice of mass assemblies in rural areas becoming more engrained in cities through the Coordinadora.

Retaining a critical eye, he doesn't rush to romanticise the end result of the water war. Bechtel may have left but the public water company is still controlled by a local political elite, though one more subject to street based popular power.

The question of how to use Bolivian gas further unified traditionally diverse social movements in the 2003 gas war to reverse the privatisation carried out in the mid-nineties. Protesters used "the wealth underground" as a point of correction for past lost resources and to envision a future of possible development, education and health-care.

Casting his eye to Caracas, Dangl hints at the use of oil revenue in Venezuela to empower the nation's poor with literacy programmes, health clinics and community centres as a path for the Morales regime.

'The Price of Fire' takes a brief jaunt into urban geography in a chapter on the internal world of the El Alto, a city whose residents played a crucial role in the 2003 gas revolt. The same social forces that drove miners to become cocaleros in rural Chapare led to the informal settlements outside La Paz skyrocketing to a population of 800,000.

Neighbourhood organisations sufficiently ingrained to strangle the capital below in periods of struggle, sprung up based on the experience of miner and rural agitation, as well as the absence of basic state services. One of the few academics Dangl speaks with describes their strength as lying in "the basic self-organisation that fills every pore of the society and has made superfluous many forms of representation (5)."

Within these El Alto urban movements we are given glimpses of a counter-cultural response to neo-liberal hegemony in Teatro Trono, a theatre group meshing struggles against the IMF with traditional myths in popular education programmes. There's also a growing hip-hop movement that fuses the Aymara language with sampled stateside beats into a poetics of urban resistance to poverty.

In his conclusion Dangl takes a critical look at the problem fraught Morales' regime. He claims that images of troops entering gas fields from afar look like the stuff of radical expropriation but nationalisation really meant a series of buy outs of majority stakes sold for a pittance in the 1990s, higher taxes and a re-negotiation of over generous contracts.

Stepping aside from the flurry of rhetoric surrounding nationalisation, the YPFB in reality still remains at a capital disadvantage with international companies holding minority shares.

Rarely mentioned in discussions of Bolivian social movements is the traditional demand for a constituent assembly convoked by Morales this year. Many of the movement activists we meet through Dangl's travels complain that the electoral nature of the assembly excludes them, forcing them to abandon their autonomy and seek representation through the MAS party.

Simultaneously it has reinvigorated right wing parties weakened by the popular rebellions, allowing them the space to develop a dangerous language of autonomy for oligarchical strong holds like Santa Cruz.

If you are looking for long streams of statistics on Bolivia's immiseration, then Farthing and Kohl have compiled a resource for your agitational pot-shots and filler articles - but if you want the human face of Bolivia's social movement push, then Dangl is your only man.

Whichever you prefer, Bolivia remains a fertile soil for the rebellious imagination, full of "better worlds- some that have lasted and some no more than euphoric glimpses (6)."

(1) Movimiento al Socialismo (Movement Towards Socialism) is the party of Evo Morales.
(2) Kohl, Benjamin and Linda C. Farthing. Impasse in Bolivia: Neoliberal Hegemony and Popular Resistance (Zed Books, 2006) p175
(3) Ibid p23
(4) Dangl, Benjamin. The Price of Fire: Resource Wars and Social Movements in Boliva (AK Press, 2007) p11
(5) Ibid p151
(6) Ibid p9

Check out Upsidedownworld for an analysis of the latest tensions.

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Moving On Over.

Thanks to an early Xmas present, I finally got myself some web space and a domain. So I'll be moving over to sountracksforthem.com some time in near future once I get a skeleton site up and runningthere. All in all, this will mean a significantly different approach to doing this thing we call Soundtracksforthem once all is up and running. Stay tuned to here for now...


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Sunday, December 02, 2007

Film Review: Under Their Finger

Elio Petri's The Working Class Goes to Heaven (La Classe Operaia Va In Paradiso) is a grim look at the psychological wounds imposed by the factory regime on its chief character, Ludovico Massa. Cruelly nicknamed Lulù the Tool by his pissed off and contrary co-workers, in a factory where he operates a lathe, his obsessive output making him the measure management use to gauge everyone else's work rate.

The movie was part of Italy's il cinema politico wave, a cinematic movement where directors screened the tensions in a country polarised, much like Dario Fo brought the crisis of the day to the stage of popular theatre. As the hang over of 1968's Red Autumn turned into one long winter of discontent through to the late seventies, younger workers brought the anti-authoritarianism of the universities into the factories, and the artistic community brought these influences into their own fields.

Petri began his career as a movie critic for the Communist daily L'Unità, no shock then there's a didactic touch to it all. With a gigantic finger pinned to the walls around the factory, pressing down at head level upon the characters; just in case you didn't already realise - these are individuals rightly under the finger of the boss.

That classic Ennio Moricone sound-tracking smothers everything deliciously in an overt desperation. It's a surreal atonal gasp running throughout - partially the factory rhythm in music (much like the 8 bar blues sequence at the start of Paul Scrader's Blue Collar) but more so the internal shriek of the factory worker in the face of monotony.

Lulu arises everyday at 6:30am, shaking his partner in frustration that she gets to sleep in later than him; its that everyday invasion of work to the domicile. Reading the morning paper's business section he identifies wholly with his companies moves on the exchange: "we're buying Beckenbower." Over coffee he explains himself as an appendage to a production unit - a machine that feeds itself raw materials - producing on the lathe and then shit at night.

The choreography of Lulu at work tends towards a sexual pounding of the machine. He finds his pace for the breathtakingly idiotic race for the piece rate between exclaims of "a bolt, a bum" and terrifies a female co-worker with this aggressive sexual behaviour. As he trains two younger students starting in the factory, the tensions between his work ethic and the younger generation, who some of the older workers are starting to listen to every morning at the gate, starts to become clear - but when he loses a finger to his machine everything changes for him.

Another of Elio Petri's movies, one I've yet to see, was Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion, it copped the Best Foreign Film Oscar back in the day and has been described as an examination of the pathology of power via a bent police commissioner. This movie too uses some pretty familiar tropes to look at the psychology of work and the authoritarianism of the factory regime.

As a director Petri is hostile to all the forces in the movie, all are somewhat retarded by the systems they dwell in; from the extreme left students who bay at the factory workers through megaphones each morning "today for you there will be no light," unable to see the humanity between the slogans of their programmes to the supervisors ill assured tyrannies on the floor.

No surprise then that Lulu, once fired for his eventual political turn around, finds himself disillusioned with it all; left to quantify the past few years of his life through acts of violence against commodities in his home. Ever greater outrages take him as calculates the amount of work hours it cost him to purchase something - "a clock? 30 Hours!"

Visiting his estranged son one morning in a school, Lulu comments through the playground wire "you look like little workers." Fences stand between all in the film, both as metaphors and material, and sizable portions of screen time are spent talking through gaps in them or running around them.

The poetic voice of the movie is Militina, an old communist in an asylum, long since abandoned caring about his incarceration, he sees the whole world an institution of one framework or another. His crime against reason? Nearly strangling a supervisor, finally awoken to an explosion of contradictions, he realised that he didn't even know what he'd churned out in the factory all these years: "A man has the right to know what he is doing!"

Anyone that has some sympathy for political directors that combine some dramatic subtleties with sprinkled hammer blows of politics will get off big time here, but I actually don't quite know how to make my mind up about it - overbearing and pissing on any hope would be a fair sentiment too.

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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 antropheatgmail.com

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