Ms .45's mp3/bureaucratic/gaming blog.

Monday, April 30, 2007

The Atheist Tabernacle Choir

I have declared Monday to be the atheist Sabbath. Here are a big stack of songs about god or religion.

The Pogues
If I Should Fall From Grace With God
I'm going to leave it to the audience to discuss amongst themselves to what extent Mr. McGowan may have fallen from grace with God.

The Doug Anthony Allstars
Go To Church
Commies For Christ
Little Gospel Song

Johnny Cash
Oh, Bury Me Not
Why Me Lord?
Most religious converts' stories go something like "I was a child-molesting alcoholic ice-abusing Democrat-voting sex-addicted Hyundai-Excel-driving twunt UNTIL I FOUND LOVE IN THE ARMS OF JESUS/ALLAH/XENU". This makes no sense. The most vulnerable moments to my atheism are when the sun is shining, I've just lost 5kg, "Miss Free Love '69" has just come on the radio, I got 84% on my end of semester mark, my customer loyalty bonus has just come in from the gas & electric company, some big-ass college somewhere is offering me large quantities of cash to write my Ph.D on the feasibility and advisability of democracy promotion, and some unbelievably hot guy with ten-inch eyelashes and cheekbones like ginsu knives is boosting his supply of yin energy from my Grotto of the White Tiger.* Alhamdulillah! Why Me Lord? displays an appropriate level of wonder and gratitude.

*This never happens.

This Is Serious Mum
I Ain't No Christian But I Believe in Jesus
Perhaps, Ron, you would enjoy non-realist Christianity.

Dear God
We're totally all over the irony of addressing a deity you claim not to believe in, right?

My Pal
It's only fair to let him have his say.

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Saturday, April 28, 2007

Thesis and eccch

This is great. Today, I wrote 750 words (see post below) on something that will gain me no credit anywhere, and less than 200 words on my thesis. (And nothing on my essay, although I'm less worried about that.) I have a really bad head cold and I'm not really up for writing anything substantial. It's such good timing - I have one week to hand in my essay and I'm a groaning ball of snot.

Economic development comes first

Two similar and very popular arguments are that economic development should precede the promotion of democracy, and that the development of the rule of law and human rights should precede the introduction of elections and parliaments.

Many commentators from the left and right agree that, rather than pushing for elections, the Bush administration/the US/the West should promote alternatives to Islamism, education and literacy, economic opportunity and human rights. Doing so, they believe, will promote the base for a stable transition to electoral democracy as the value of non-violent political transition becomes second nature.

Conservative realist Owen Harries actually puts a dollar price on entry to the democracy club, recommending that Western governments and development institutions concentrate on economic development, only targeting democracy promotion at non-rentier states with incomes of between USD $3000-$6000 per capita. He argues further that liberalism is a precursor to democracy, not the other way around, and laments the thought that the introduction of democracy would result in repressive, anti-Western Islamist theocracies similar to Iran. Conversely, the presence of an educated professional class is necessary to successfully introduce democracy. The possibility that an educated professional class may also be Islamist or sympathetic to Islamism is not entertained.

Thomas Carothers counters the idea that economic development comes first by highlighting the fact that autocracies are perfectly capable of, and desirous of, absorbing and neutralising any democratic tendencies inspired by higher incomes and education. Acknowledging (for instance) Fareed Zakaria's concern about the rise of "illiberal democracies", he points out that autocracy is inherently opposed to a functioning rule of law. The rule of law in a liberal democracy means that no-one is above the law, including the police, intelligence services, army and of course the President, Prime Minister or Brother Leader. As such, when these forces benefit from a situation of lawlessness or corruption, they are in a very powerful position to prevent any reform from happening.

The issue is of one of sequencing - whereas Zakaria would argue that autocrats do a bit of democratic fiddling and stop there, Carothers argues that autocrats do a bit of economic fiddling and stop there.

[This is where I conked out. If anyone has any brilliant ideas on where I can go with this, speak up.]


TISM - Wham Bam Thank You Imam
TISM - Australia, The World's Suburb (we've had this before, but it's still available so enjoy)
Bing Ji Ling - You Shook Me All Night Long (AC/DC cover)

Friday, April 27, 2007

Conservative infighting over the Muslim Brotherhood

This is a very interesting discussion. Conservatives have taken up the cause of Western approaches to the various Muslim Brotherhoods in different countries (including Britain and France as well as Middle Eastern countries), using Reaganite reasoning that moderates protect against radicals, and that approaching China was successful in sidelining the USSR. For instance:
European Social Democracy was our key ally in the Cold War. Without it we would have lost Europe to the Communists. Without the Muslim Brotherhood, and with Poole’s policies, we stand to lose the Middle East and the entire Muslim world. The analogy fits: the Muslim Brotherhood is to jihadism as Social Democracy was to Communism.
In that article, (linked from the MB's very good English website) the authors defend their considerable conservative credentials and reject the idea that they have been soft on the MB. More interesting is their response to Joshua Muravchik:

Josh [Muravchik] adopted the method of the pundit. He consulted one source- MEMRI (an estimable but hardly an objective, scholarly one dedicated to providing the whole picture).

This kind of polemical method took root in the West in the 1960s in the sectarian debates emanating from the universities and the left. It was followed by the gradual takeover of the university, particularly the social sciences and the humanities by those whose first aim was to politicize it, and by politicizing it they meant to radicalize it. They have succeeded beyond their wildest dreams. That pole in the partisan landscape was formed by the politically correct left in the university and much of the media, including Hollywood and the network news.

The neoconservatives arose as a reaction to this. They did not throw the first stone. More often than not they were right, especially on this issue of Communism, about which they (and I with them) have been corroborated by historical developments. Bill Bennett was right on the culture wars and that is a vast unexplored area of conservative agreement with Muslims, including many Islamists.

Aside from my disdain for his slagging of leftists, Leiken raises an interesting issue that I have often wondered about. So far, MB supporters in the West have been liberals - people like myself who would also support organisations like Helem, the Saudi Arabian Green Party, and other issues and causes that the MB is less than thrilled about. Conversely, enemies of the MB in the West have been conservatives. This causes me some degree of cognitive dissonance. Does - not - compute!

I have somewhat mixed feelings about what Leiken and Brooke's research will do to Western conservative approaches to Islamism. On the one hand, I despise sectarianism and feel that it is only correct that Western centre-right figures reach out to their counterparts in the Islamic world. The MB has already started doing this in the opposite direction, running (for instance) a positive article about Robert Satloff of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. (They lifted it in its entirety from a website called Taqrir Washington, but this is not the place to discuss the MB's enthusiastic embrace of copyleft.)

On the other hand, I am naturally cold on the notion of conservatives gaining more power. I have no love for the notion of gender apartheid, and the increasing fashionability of 'men are from mars, women are from uranus' nonsense in the West gels nicely with Islamist gender separatism. The MB doesn't seem to have a very unified position on women's rights - Abdul Monem Al-Futoh seeks to assure us that women may hold the highest political office, but the official MB line is that "The only public office which it is agreed upon that a woman cannot occupy is the presidency or head of state." Well, that's sort of good - and a great improvement over some other Middle Eastern countries - and I note that the MB has started linking to the Egyptian Centre for Women's Rights campaigns in its Women section. But my skin crawls at the idea that I might inadvertently contribute to making life more miserable for women, gays, atheists or other minorities in the Middle East via my support for the MB.

I endorse Leiken and Brooke's suggestion of engaging the MB, as I have written elsewhere. However, what I would say to the MB and what Leiken, Brooke or even Muravchik might say would probably be quite different.

Besides, it's just really fun to watch conservatives fight each other. You know you love it.

[EDIT] Now the New York Times gets in on the act with Islamic Democrats?, a look at the Egyptian MB and its practices, its need to deal with its Qutbian past, its attitude to Israel and Palestine, which comes to the conclusion that "
Even a wary acceptance of the brotherhood... would demonstrate that we take seriously the democratic preferences of Arab voters." Even better, the writer's contact in the MB asks

“I’ve heard that even George Bush’s mother thinks he’s an idiot; is that true?”

Thursday, April 26, 2007

What I've done so far

This is for the thesis. It's short and crap.

Chapter 4

Issues surrounding US democracy promotion to the Arab Middle East

Very few Western commentators have had the sheer nutsack* to come out and say "Democracy promotion is a terrible idea - autocracy is far better". Arguments tend not to be against the promotion of democracy as such, but about its timing, structure and the nature of democracy specifically. Many arguments rest on the specifics of Arab and Islamic society - some openly orientalist, others more structural, but all based on particular characteristics of the Middle East. In turn, Arab opinion ranges from absolute rejection of democracy (al-Qaeda and some of the more hardcore but non-violent Islamists), to qualified acceptance (mainstream Islamists such as the Muslim Brotherhoods in different countries), to enthusiasm about democracy itself, tempered by resentment and suspicion about US motives and sincerity in promoting it.

In this section of the thesis, I will look at liberal/progressive critiques of democracy promotion, conservative critiques, and where these critiques overlap. I will then examine the Arab experience and their attitudes to democracy promotion. I will outline some of the programs used to promote democracy in the Arab Middle East and examine their benefits and faults.

Left wing critiques of democracy promotion in general fall into two spaces. The first is to dismiss all democracy promotion as imperialist and only interested in promoting capitalism (and often, not even capitalism, but simply getting access to resources). The second, more centrist position is to accept the virtue of democracy and the desirability of its promotion, but to criticise the methods used to do so as well as the content of the supposed democracy. Of course, an individual writer may vary between these two positions.

Washington Post columnist E. J. Dionne criticised the administration for its handling of the war in Iraq, commenting that "Creating democracy where it has never existed is a long and painstaking process. You can't whip it up by buying a cake mix or holding a single election and declaring victory." [This doesn't go anywhere just yet, I have others]

Juan Cole blasts Bush for confusing elections with democracy, in language echoed by critics on the left and the right:

Democracy depends not just on elections but on a rule of law, on stable institutions, on basic economic security for the population, and on checks and balances that forestall a tyranny of the majority. Elections in the absence of this key societal context can produce authoritarian regimes and abuses as easily as they can produce genuine people power. Bush is on the whole unwilling to invest sufficiently in these key institutions and practices abroad.

I am not entirely sure what Cole would find "sufficient", but he is not alone in criticising Bush for failing to invest enough money or patience or time in democracy promotion. Interestingly, Steven A. Cook of the Council on Foreign Relations uses the same reasoning to defend the freedom agenda, stating that

While Hamas and Hezbollah may have embraced the procedures of democracy, there is no evidence that they have embraced the rule of law, the rights of women and minorities, political and religious tolerance, and alternation of power.

Cook is writing in the heat of the 2006 Israel-Lebanon war, explaining that democracy promotion is not to blame for the current crisis. Whereas Cole blames Bush for being indecisive about whether he really wants elections in the Middle East and for undermining the Palestinian Authority to the point where Hamas looked like an attractive alternative, Cook blames a lack of pre-existing democratic structures for the strong showing of Hamas and Hizballah.


That's about 500 words. Crap, innit?

*Don't panic, I'm not really going to use the words "sheer nutsack" in a thesis... :) Also the TNI link is just for your interest and to remind myself that I'm going to use it.


I get more hits on my site when I post an mp3, because of the Hype Machine, so I'm going to combine my mp3 posts with my thesis/essay posts.

In continuation of the Middle Eastern theme I started with Abjeez, I'm pleased to note that Iranian pop band 127 have updated their website, and it looks great. Unlike Abjeez, 127 actually live in Iran, and therefore face certain predictable obstacles. Their frustration seeps out on their media page - "127 has started recording material for another never-to-be-released album..."

Music from "second-world" countries (this term used to refer to Communist countries that were economically, but us Western imperialists would say not politically, developed) has often sounded really painfully dated as the only music bands could listen to in closed societies was smuggled in and not exactly cutting edge. (The first bands Iranians were permitted to listen to when Mohammad Khatami became President were Queen and Elton John. Hmmm, well thought out, homophobes!) Fortunately for 127, we're splat in the middle of an 80s revival, and 127's sound is fresh and enjoyable.

Perfect Esfahan Blues
My Sweet Little Terrorist Song (sounds quite a bit like Bob Dylan... it's good though)

There are songs I haven't heard yet at their revamped music page, so I'm looking forward to hearing them. Also, lead singer Sohrab Mohebbi has many interesting things to say about the music biz in general - this whinge about the state of the industry in Iran sounds eerily familiar to the sort of crap that gets tossed about in any tiny subculture, Western or not. This interested me, though:

Another issue is the state of Iranian bands. It is enough to look at the members of some of the best known (outside pop music) bands and we will find out that most bands don’t have permanent or regular musicians. In truth, several musicians make the rounds in these bands and only the lead singer is fixed. Imagine if {Jimmy Hendrix}, just because he was a good guitar player, had played with some or most of the rock bands of his time.
Is that necessarily a bad thing?

Also check out, the Swedish-hosted site for the Iranian music underground, and the Tehran Avenue Music Festival, about which more later.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Fauvist goodness

The Fauves' most recent B-Side of the Month is my favourite Fauves song ever, 'Suitcase of Carter Brown'. I actually recieved a copy of the 'Self Abuser' single back when I was doing my print zine (strangely enough called Ms. 45) , along with a t-shirt and a stack of freebies. Yay! Hurry up and download it before they replace it with something else - this is one of the Fauves' smoothest songs and, as they admit on their B-Sides page, "in the process of narrowing a list of recorded songs down to album length, there is nothing to say that there won't be instances where we have got it wrong and assigned perfectly good tracks with that dreaded pejorative: B-Side." You just don't understand how great this song is.

Suitcase of Carter Brown

"I don't understand women any more
I guess that means I didn't understand them before" - The Shallot

Back in the '80s, Cracked was a lite version of Mad magazine. Today, it's a lite version of the Onion, a sort of JJJ to the Onion's RRR (I'm sorry, that's an Australian analogy - I don't really have any way of making it comprehensible to readers outside of, um, Melbourne). Still, I've only just discovered it, and if you love the Onion AV Club's Inventories, you'll be able to spend fucking hours poring over Cracked's lists. May I recommend:

The 20 Worst Cover Songs In Pop Music History
Oh, I wouldn't say the worst. Sheryl Crow's version of 'Sweet Child O' Mine' reveals Axl's true inner AOR nature. Celine Dion and Anastacia doing 'You Shook Me All Night Long' is indeed mediocre, but it's just mediocre - you can't kill a great song like that. (For evidence, track down a copy of Bing Ji Ling's version.) I've never dared listed to Duran Duran doing '911 Is A Joke'.

From N00b to Nerd: The 4 Stages of Life on the Internet
Real old people always claim things were better in their day, which of course is a lie. Human society used to consist of eating dung in a cave and now contains video games and mini-beef-burger pizzas, with an unbroken chain of improvements in between. When they say "Things were better in the old days," they really mean "Things were better for us, personally, when we weren't so ridiculously old, and all you idiots weren't here being young at us."
Yeah! Stop being young at us old people!

What to expect from sex (as dictated by internet porn)
AFTERWARDS, YOU'RE ALLOWED TO HOLD MONEY OUT AND DRIVE AWAY: There's nothing funnier than showing some dumb bitch who's boss. You are truly a real man. That woman's low self-esteem and willingness to fuck you have rightly earned her public humiliation and financial destitution. Can someone say hot? Go, you!
I'm not sure whether this makes me suicidal or homicidal. Thank you, Hizballah/Hamas/Tamil Tigers, for making this choice a non-issue.

11 Guy Movie Classics (And Why They Secretly Suck)
Kudos to anyone who admits that Donnie Darko and The Usual Suspects blow chunks. Note also that this list includes Terminator, but not Terminator 2. And rightly so. (If I'm not a guy, why do guys keep knocking me back with the line "You're like a brother to me"?)

Monday, April 23, 2007

...and on with the procrastinating

A quick post before I go to bed.

Firstly, I draw your attention to a new blog in the right-hand column ------> called I Rock Cleveland, which, as its name suggests, is all about the middle Americana. I've just downloaded a fuckload of stuff from there and it's mostly pretty good.

Secondly, I move from rock to electronica. I started downloading Femme Fatality's Octavia's Love Song a few minutes ago, and initially didn't like it. For reasons that escape me, I decided not to just shut down the mp3 window, and within minutes I found it had really grown on me. It has a catchy hook and "wooo!". Also the singer sounds a fair bit like Phil Oakey of the Human League.

Still with the electronica, We Are Wolves are from Canada. They play spiky electropop of a type that may be familiar to you (Peaches, Matmos, Le Tigre, just about everybody in the goddamn '80s revival), and which I rather like. Weirdly, they are signed to Fat Possum. Fat Possum! The blues label! WTF? Little Birds sounds like Octavia's Love Song - they're both using a similar hook - but it's a good one and they're dissimilar enough for it to be worth downloading both. (Little Birds has more of the rock.)

Saturday, April 21, 2007

9000 words in 40 days (including 4000 words in 13 days)

I have stuff to write. Specifically, I have a 6000 word essay about the relationship between democracy and terrorism due in on the 4th of May, and a thesis about the Bush Administration's "freedom agenda" for the Middle East due in on the 1st of June. I don't know that I'm gonna make it, especially since I'm supposed to have a draft of the thesis in to my supervisor at about the same time I hand in my essay.

(By the way, the scare quotes around the words freedom agenda should not indicate to you that I'm doing a predictable liberal hatchet job on Bush, who, as we all know, is a chimp. A chimp with an IQ of 120* who speaks fluent French* and is an inspiring speaker provided you don't let him wander off topic. The point of the thesis is that, initially, the "freedom agenda" did in fact represent a genuine break with US foreign policy history, at least to some extent, until the Administration got spooked by the rise of Hamas and inhibited by the sheer shitfulness of the war in Iraq. If you call yourself a liberal, you should want to support democratic developments in the Middle East, including anyone in the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas or whoever, who shows signs of co-operation. The idea is excellent; the execution is appalling, Crack-man.)

*My sources are liberal - Ivo Daalder in America Unbound for the first, New York Times for the second. The NYT article was one of those "What would you ask the President?" things they do around election time, and the head of some US-France friendship society mentioned in her contribution that Bush speaks fluent French. It puts the whole "The French don't even have a word for entrepreneur" thing into perspective.

Anyhoo, it's fairly obvious from the posts below that I've been procrastinating my little (that is, not little) arse off via the pleasures of Blogger, despite the fact that this blog has about two genuine readers a day (out of about 30 hits per day, about two are not search spiders). So what I decided to do was to start writing directly into Blogger. That way, I can copy and paste what I write into my thesis template, and voila! The illusion of procrastination whilst doing real work! The two real readers are most welcome to comment.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Free Monem!

A while ago, I posted about the arrest of Egyptian blogger Kareem Amer on charges of "insulting Islam" and "defaming the President". Recently, a level of absurdity has been introduced as the authorities arrested Muslim Brotherhood activist Abdul Mon’em Mahmoud, presumably on charges of being a member of the illegal Brotherhood. Human rights activists suspect Monem was probably arrested for writing about torture and illegal detention in Egypt, which makes sense given that the Egyptian authorities don't evenly and equally enforce the ban on the MB. The government uses the Brotherhood when it sees fit, and squashes them when it suits.

One important reason that Western bloggers, human rights activists etc should support Monem is that he and other Muslim Brotherhood writers have spoken out in support of Kareem, despite Kareem's open contempt for Islam and Islamists. This indicates that at least some MB members are starting to "get" why freedom of speech and liberal democracy exist. It's not just because we want to insult Mohammed and have orgies! If we (ie The West) want Islamists to start behaving themselves and showing respect for democratic principles, we are obliged to offer carrots as well as sticks. Co-operating with Islamists on human rights issues, whilst still firmly criticising them when they fall down on these issues (ie anti-Jewish, anti-Coptic sentiment) will send a firm , consistent message of Western values, which are largely compatible with Islamic values.

In addition, there is a far greater human rights issue here. The Mubarak regime targets all opposition, not just Islamists or leftists. Even quite middle-of-the-road political parties have difficulty registering to operate as parties, and they have to apply to the government to register. In the West, parties have to apply to a government-funded body to register, and they may be forbidden/delisted for various reasons, but (for instance) left wing parties don't have to apply to the conservative party for permission to operate, nor right wing parties to the Labour party.

In Monem's case specifically, I don't yet have words of a petition or a specific campaign for him, but the Free Kareem! guys have stepped up to the plate on his behalf with news of his detention, and if you wanted to fire off an angry letter to the Egyptian Justice Minister, they have details right here.

Blog Orgy II: A quick one, please please please please please

Dave Bloustien, Beastly, Imperial Hotel, Cnr Bourke & Spring Sts, Melbourne, 7.15pm (Sun 6.15)
Dave Thornton, EuroMission, Trades Hall, 54 Victoria St, Carlton South, 9.15pm (Sun 8.15pm)

Dave Bloustien is a nice, gentle guy and Beastly is a nice, gentle show. It didn't help that I'd already seen a number of the jokes at a show Dave did at Three Degrees a couple of weeks ago ("Does anyone know the difference between a pigeon and a dove?" *thinks - yes, you told me last time*), but this is not the sort of show where you'll wee your pants with laughter. Bits are very funny, and the small size of the room creates a really cosy atmosphere for audience interaction that isn't too threatening. It made me think of Gerard McCulloch's Gerry of Arabia show from a few years ago - that wasn't particularly funny, but it was excellent as an eye-opening tour of the Arab world, and this was a good intro to some Africa issues for people like me who are ignorant and a bit overwhelmed by starving black people, HIV and child soldiers. I kinda felt like I would have enjoyed more discussion of Africa issues rather than less. This review of Beastly in Sydney highlights the fact that he's an educated, intelligent, interesting guy whom you'd like to buy a beer for and have a chat with. Whether this equates to $15 entry for the show is, I suppose, up to you.

Dave Thornton I'm having a bit more trouble writing about. EuroMission is piss funny, not so much because of the jokes - if you've ever seen any decent comedian do Amsterdam material, guess what, it's in this show - as because Thornton's facial gurning and physical humour adds a layer of absurdity over solid but standard jokes. The general theme of the show - Dave tours every country that's ever won the Eurovision Song Contest - is propped up with video footage of Eurovision (but not too much, thankfully) and interspersed with emails to Mum and Dad. (If you're sitting close enough, lean forward and read the "address book" at the side of the Hotmail screenshot - highlights include "Andrew Bolt [cockhead@...].) Highlights include getting checked for STDs in Ireland, parking naked in France, getting raped by Viking hordes, and remembering Oktoberfest. Which starts in September.

That's not why I'm having trouble writing about it - in fact I can just stop here and say go see it, it's ace - the reason it's hard to write about is because Thornton looks like a fucking Neu Bogan Vogue model (you know, the ones with the $150 mullets) and I spent the whole show going I WANT TO SWALLOW THAT GUY LIKE FREDDY KRUEGER IN NIGHTMARE ON ELM ST III: DREAM WARRIORS. He's like Wil Anderson - modelicious looks, groovy clothes, bong jokes - but without being a smarmy twat. Given that Anderson is universally reviled by men because their girlfriends want to blow him, it would be interesting to see if Thornton can win over male audiences even as their girlfriends stand up the front flashing their Brazilians.

Check out Dave's gallery, which includes a pretty good example of his stuff from Good Morning Australia on video, and you can tell me if I'm smoking crack on the modelicious issue. And go and see the show - I haven't seen any mainstream media reviews, which is just fucking wrong.

Blog Orgy I: A quick one, while he's away

At Trades Hall last night to see Dave Thornton (see above), I picked up a blank CD with a friendly note attached:

Free CD!
15 tracks and 2 remixes for your pleasure

If you like the music please consider making a donation via paypal from my website, or at least just say hello...

Chris used to be a member of Art Brut, and despite the suffix, currently lives in Melbourne. This means that if, like myself, you lack funds to make substantial donations, you could perhaps check out a live performance. You could also spend a while entertaining yourself at the Chinchilla Music website, which contains much entertainment and food for thought.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Eddeaa, Abjeez

This is the first in what I hope will be a series on music from the Middle East and its diaspora. I've discovered a few bands I really like, many of them Iranian - there's just something about repression that stirs creativity, or it does if you can avoid getting locked up.

These ladies ("Abjeez" = "sisters" - their brother is their soundman) are Persian by way of Sweden and the US, collaborating between continents via the internet. Their sound is highly original, mixing reggae, pop, flamenco and anything else you can hear (I can hear a kazoo, myself). This is an irresistibly catchy song with variety in its 4 and a half minutes. It's in Farsi, so of course I can't understand it (curse living at the arse end of the world!), but I get the impression that it's funny... (Eddeaa means "Pretension".)

More to the point, this is a great video - it takes me back to the 80's when video was exciting and new and people actually gave a shit about how the video looked. (Yes, I am fully aware that I'm getting all "In my day I had to walk 20 miles through ice and snow in bare feet to watch MTV at my cousin's house", and that for every Sledgehammer there was ... a bunch of other forgettable shit. The point is that this video is of the calibre of Sledgehammer, OK?) It was made by the husband of one of the sisters, who rejoices in the name Dr. Frank J. Suckdasti. I don't think this version is very high quality - try visiting their website for better quality.

Hear some samples from their album Hameh (Everyone) at CD Baby, and particularly enjoy that album cover!

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Slow Review seeks submissions

If you love reading the AV Club but chafe at the fact that they don't accept submissions, and find yourself writing 1000 word responses requiring several posts in order to adequately counter the editor's delusions about the historical and cultural importance of the original TV series of Charlie's Angels*, Slow Review may be for you.

Slow Review's call for submissions is

looking for essays that take their time making a point, that measure the local fauna and customs and shades of grey and thereby cover much pleasant journey-time, that gain in persuasion that way.

Imagine a group of jazz musos having a late-night session just for the love of playing. You tend to write better or more generously about a subject you know or respect when limits on time and space are absent or irrelevant. So give it the red-carpet prose treatment it deserves; write from what you know and love.

Generally speaking, it's about a tendency to rescue/revive/reveal stuff that can't, won't or wasn't promoted first time round or which simply disappeared — with of course plenty of comic leeway. It's whatever corresponds with the Slow Lifestyle; to develop a kudos aesthetic through items only the Slow Review would claim and celebrate with due consideration.

No reviews of product less than six months old, please. Personally, I think it's way cooler to reconsider a lost classic (I mean, Office Space wasn't a box office hit, but you'd be surprised how many people know what you mean when you lisp "Ethcuthe me... you haffe my thtapler...").

*Which I was banned from watching as a child, because, as my dad said, "It's shit."

Witch's Hat Huzzah

Are you indie, but sometimes feel a bit goth? Do you love Spinal Tap, Goblin Cock, Tenacious D, Steeleye Span, early Brian Johnson era AC/DC or Talking Heads? Do you really, really, really miss Freddie Mercury? Do you own a copy of Dracula or The Hobbit, but never actually read it? Do you crave the majesty of rock, the pageantry of roll? Witch's Hat are here to rescue you from your boring, dragonless existence.

Made by nerds for nerds, Witch's Hat walk a very fine line between pisstake and sincerity. It's like cheese, but really high quality cheese. Not all of their lyrics are ripped straight from Dungeons and Dragons, but the ones that are are delivered with a booming conviction that makes you want to pick up your crazy bastard sword and swing it about wildly and ineptly. Singer Greg is teh living David St. Hubbins (and I seriously want to hear these guys cover "Stonehenge"), despite an unnerving resemblance to Jack Black. (That's him on the cover of the magnificently titled Mastery Of The Steel, but as we can see in the video for "Huzzah!", he is a homely dude with moobs. But what moobs!)

It's kinda frustrating being around the other side of the world when you find bands like this, because you just know they're probably about a billion times better live. Check out the video for "Huzzah Huzzah" - that audience is having way more fun than you are right now.

Thanks to Nina from Emergency Umbrella Records for the heads-up. Emergency Umbrella is a diverse collective of bands from Columbia, Missouri , covering art-rock, metal, indie, chamber pop (?!) and all sorts of interesting stuff.

Friday, April 13, 2007

By an amazing coincidence, I've already done that twice...

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Arab Psycho Therapy, Arab Psycho Therapy, whatcha gonna give me?

I can't quite tell if this is serious.* Even worse, I now can't think of a band name, even though I'm always thinking of totally cool band names when I'm out buying milk or somesuch. If you're in a band and need a name, though, try "FuN tiGer !.!" or "my brother wore army shirt".

*I'm thinking not... but it's hard to say... and it's a lot more fun than "If you were a car, what sort of car would you be?"

Monday, April 09, 2007

The Thesis Fairies

It's 9th April. I have half of an honours thesis due in on 1st June. I have a 6000 word essay on the relationship between democracy and terrorism due in on 4th May. So, that's less than 4 weeks for the essay (I don't think they'll accept "There isn't one" as my full text, even though that's pretty much it), and less than eight weeks for the thesis, which has maybe another 6000 words to go, plus maybe 1500 words of conclusion. I've never had to write this much before, and I don't think my undergraduate degree has prepared me well for this workload. Seriously - you go from little baby essays to novellas. It's like, "OK, you've boiled a few eggs, now let's try making a five-course formal dinner involving souffle, thousand-year-old eggs, bombe alaska and homebrewed poitin".

To add a razor blade behind the eyeballs, I'm currently bleeding so hard I'm crying out for heroin, and I can't afford my happy pills, which doesn't just make me unhappy - I can deal with unhappy - it makes me gluggy and snotty, like a Clayton's head cold. I am basically out of action for one week, and obviously, there's one more due before the thesis has to be handed in. My sleeping habits have gone to hell for various reasons, meaning that I sleep until some stupid o'clock in the afternoon then feel like shit until I go to bed again.

It's times like these I like to try to invoke the Thesis Fairies. These mythical beings not only work for free, they leap into your ear, crawl into your brain, and pull out the delicious, gooey reasoning inside. The point is not that you haven't done your research - it's that you HAVE, and the Thesis Fairies crawl among the neurons and axons, find out what has to go on the page and where it came from, and voila! All your boring writing and referencing is done for you when you wake in the morning, refreshed and perky, to find your computer on and your fully footnoted (Harvard), beautifully and individually written thesis, which will totally pass a plagiarism Google because it's steaming fresh from your brain, all prettied up and exported to PDF ready for printing and distribution.

How do I call up these fairies? I certainly have enough blood to make a very decent sized pentagram, but it's a condition of my lease that I have to have the carpet cleaned before I move out, and I'd like half a chance of getting my bond back. Incense? Chanting? Poitin? What do you do to summon the Thesis Fairies?