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  • Friday, March 28, 2008


    Random 10 Songs: "Berlin and Havana Care for Kids" Edition

    This perfect day, these random songs, proving again that my tastes are practically Antediluvian, ancient and almost decrepit by today's pop music standards. Eh? Whotcha say, sonny? M'uh hearing ain't so good these days. Comes from listening to blistering loud music leaning agin the speakers in clubs and bars. Yep, that Sinatra fella sure was a rebel with wild music, pushing the boundaries. By gum.
    1. "I Kill Children" by Dead Kennedys
    2. "Solid Air" by John Martyn
    3. "Hey Darling" by Spencer Davis Group
    4. "Reasons for Waiting" by Jethro Tull
    5. "I Don't Care (So There)" by Donnas
    6. "Leg Bells" by David Byrne
    7. "Lord of This World" by Black Sabbath
    8. "Shit Towne" by Live
    9. "Kids Hangin' Out" by Wiskey Biscuit
    10. "This Ain't Havana" by Ramones
    Bonus track: "Berlin" by Lou Reed

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    Thursday, March 13, 2008


    Slaughtering Irish Heritage at Tara

    Squeak on the ramparts at Rath Lugh, before entering the tunnels below the proposed roadway

    As we come up on St. Patrick's Day, I'm minded to speak of the current events at Tara in Ireland.

    Tara includes "...a number of ancient monuments, and, according to tradition, was the seat of Árd Rí na hÉireann, or the High King of Ireland." Pre-Celtic monuments and structures dating back to the Neolithic period around 5,000 years ago are thick through this area. The archaeological sites are so extensive around the Hill of Tara they've never been completely mapped or examined. Currently, a major roadway is being built through the area, threatening to irrevocably destroy artifacts and structures which are without peer.

    Kathryn NicDhàna has written extensively about this recently on her blog at Pàganachd Bhandia and I really suggest you take a look at three of her recent posts which are full of excellent links to videos and support info.
    And who, you might ask, is "Squeak" in the picture above? She's an activist who is probably at the bottom of a narrow and deep tunnel near the construction area right now. If heavy equipment comes too near the tunnel it will probably collapse and kill her. That's the idea. The soil is weak. Since the current location of the roadwork is illegal, this is a tactic to keep them from proceeding. Otherwise, the contractor/construction crews will create a de facto roadway before the courts can catch up with them. That's how this kind of thing works. "Oops" they'll say, "A real shame about the destruction of that old stuff but we need a new roadway. And, hey, we've already done some damage so what's a little more? Right? Now get the fuck out of the way of Progress, you stupid gits!"

    Today Squeak D-locked herself by the neck to a jack holding up the roof of the tunnel, making it impossible to remove her without bringing down the tunnel. It kind of puts things like signing petitions of protest online into perspective. I've got the utmost respect for her. You can see a video of her down in the tunnel which is immensely inspiring and I highly recommend it.

    Never underestimate the power of activism to change society. The question is: How far are you willing to go achieve your goals?

    Listening to: "The Battle of Evermore" by Led Zeppelin

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    Monday, March 10, 2008


    #*$% and $!&@: Aspects of Socially Forbidden Language

    A few days ago, I found myself using the word "poop" instead of my more common "shit". I have no children and was not in mixed company where anyone would be offended by my choice of words. Where had this word come from?

    What I realized was I had been watching too much television, where the word "poop" had every chance of escaping the censor's bleep but "shit" was rarely heard outside of premium channels. This got me wondering about the social and environmental influences on word choice and expression.

    Long-time readers of my blog will know I have a fascination with language, from word origins to obscure definitions of common words. Despite my expansive vocabulary, I'm just as prone as the next person to use expletives for emphasis in my speech. I try to not overuse such words because they become useless with massive repetition, meaningless verbal tics like "um" and "you know." Any "curse" word becomes colorless and lacking in impact when used more than three times in a single sentence, something I've often seen on MTV and various reality shows.

    I have no objection to these fricative and plosive words on moral grounds. All words have their place in communication and expression. Shouting "Fuck!" is an excellent tension release when you accidentally hit your finger with a hammer. (Linguists have studied the reasons why some words combine sound, meaning and social taboo to form a "curse" word that is a satisfying expression on more than one level but I won't bore you with this info right now.) Many of our most common curse words have long histories. ("Fuck," I believe, was first written down in the 13th century and undoubtedly was spoken before that instance.) Their usage is hallowed by time and convention even if they are frowned on in certain circles and circumstances.

    I'm a big fan of using appropriate and simple words when possible. For example, when describing excrement, I prefer using "shit" to "feces" because shit is more common and widely used and understood. I suspect I'm like everyone else when it comes to speaking or writing to my audience: I tailor my vocabulary to suit the person/people I'm talking to. This is part courtesy and part intelligent communication technique. I do not use curse words unless the other person uses them first and even then I may be cautious or decide to refrain from such expressions anyway.

    This brings me back to "poop." This is not a word I commonly use. While there are occasions where I might use it if necessary (perhaps around young children,) it isn't part of my regular speech patterns. Yet here it was, tripping off my tongue and out of my mouth when I least expected it. It was a puzzlement.

    TV has been bleeping certain words for quite a long time. At one point not too long ago, you wouldn't even have heard the censorious bleeps very often on TV; such language was routinely edited out entirely. Whole scenes and interviews were eliminated merely because of the "bad" language content. The rise of unscripted dramas ("reality" shows) have put more "non-professional" people in front of the camera speaking with their normal everyday speech patterns. Previously, TV shows consisted almost entirely of actors, TV journalists, talk show hosts, pundits, etc. and these people either had scripted lines or they were trained to never say these sorts of words on air. They would very probably be fired for uttering them on air even once.

    TV has become a form of social interaction. We, as passive consumers of TV, are encouraged to emulate our favourite stars. Entertainment news shows and magazines often lead us to refer to celebrities by their first names as if the celebs were our friends. If I say the name Britney in the USA, the vast majority of people will assume I'm referring to Britney Spears. The speech patterns of the semi-famous on TV, even if only on a reality show, are communicated to us, with emotions and "unscripted" situations that provide context and examples of usage. The shows are rerun over and over, then there are the spinoffs and new seasons. These shows provide a tutorial of socially acceptable and appropriate language and communication for the viewing public, even when the words are bleeped out.

    So, what did I learn from my uncharacteristic utterance of "poop?" Apparently, on some unconscious level, I noticed that the word "poop" was not bleeped on TV, that it was an "allowed" word. My long-standing pattern of using "shit" in almost all circumstances, from descriptive to expletive, was changed at least for a moment without my awareness until it had happened.

    Bingo, I am a victim of the pasteurization of language by censors. What is glaringly obvious to me is this: TV is not real life.

    "Oh," you say, "what are you, an idiot? Of course TV isn't real. (I'm really worried about you. Do you need professional psychiatric help or an intervention?)"

    (Thank you for your concern but no to both.) If you spend a significant part of your day watching TV, over time you begin to adapt the attitudes, the values, the ethic of TVworld. Not wholesale, of course, not unless you're a very suggestable person. Little bits seep into your mind, little bits of TV logic, TV language, TV politics. These things begin to seem like reasonable ways of looking at the world. Soon you've spend 30 hours of your life watching American Idol as if the outcome was actually important or significant. Or you watch the evening news and begin to believe the only important events/stories in the world are ones on American TV.

    I try hard to be aware and conscious of this process and yet I still uttered this strange and uncharacteristic "poop". It's a moment of feeling like I'm a Manchurian Candidate or something. OK, I'm not programmed to kill (as far as I know) but finding something not-me, even as small and minor as a single word choice, is a little disturbing. I begin to wonder what else is lurking under the surface, what alien thought patterns have I absorbed without thinking? How can I block this invasion of my mind?

    Oops, gotta go. Idol will be on soon. Or is it The Biggest Loser? I forget. Why should I worry about this? It's not important, is it? Whatever, dude.

    Saturday, March 08, 2008


    Ennui vs Obama vs Clinton

    This election season is boring me to tears. In terms of mainstream electoral preferences (ie, the two major parties), I'm firmly in the Dem camp. It should be said, however, that I think national elections in the USA are generally at the bottom of the electorate's ability to change society, the absolute minimum responsibility a voter/citizen can take.

    Despite the hoopla about how wonderful it is that Dems have a choice between a Black man and a white woman, how amazing and wonderful it is that the US has reached a point where these groups can aspire to and probably achieve the White House, it remains a sorry indictment of our society that this happens in 2008.

    And what of those Dem two candidates? I'd estimate that the actual difference between their stated positions is minimal, probably under 5%. They are much more alike than different, representative of the right-centrist positions of the Dems. Once you delve beyond the surface excitement of their unique identities, there is little for me to be excited about.

    Obama is wonderfully charismatic. My housemate, Fierce Celt, had the premonition that Obama would run when she saw him speak at the 2004 Dem convention. His charisma and ability to speak to people's aspirations was apparent and obvious.

    And Clinton? It's been obvious at least since the Clintons left the White House in 2001 that she was positioning herself for the Prez run. (Even earlier to some people but I'm speaking about myself.)

    But I'm left with a violent antipathy towards both of them. Beyond the words and promises, the substance of their positions remains rather less than radical. Oh, much better than Bush II across the board or McCain but these Dems still generally support the status quo of corporate Amerika.

    Health care? Force people to buy insurance, whether they can afford it or not. (Government will tell you if you can afford it.) And if you don't buy it, face penalties, probably including jail in extreme circumstances. At the least, financial penalties. How compassionate, how generous, how uplifting for people struggling to survive.

    Iraq? Yeah, we'll get the troops out, sometime, as long as it suits our foreign policy. The US can't just abandon Iraq, right? We've got responsibilities and commitments to the people of Iraq.

    Don't get me wrong: I will probably vote Dem in November '08. That doesn't mean I'm happy with them.

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    Friday, March 07, 2008


    Random 20 Songs: International Women's Day 2008 Edition

    March 8th is International Women's Day. (Wikipedia) OK, this is not much of a tribute to IWD but it's the best I can do at the moment with several other things on my agenda. Sadly, I actually had to go through 300 randomly selected songs on my computer to get this list. There were more I could have chosen but they duplicated people/groups or didn't meet my criteria or I just wasn't inspired to include them.
    1. "Dig Me Out" by Sleater-Kinney
    2. "Slide" by L7
    3. "Ultra Twist" by Cramps
    4. "Move It" by Suzi Quatro
    5. "Cry Baby" by Janis Joplin
    6. "Wolf" by Veruca Salt
    7. "One Big Stroke" by Robin Lane
    8. "Someone's Calling Me" by Concrete Blonde
    9. "Sugarcube" by Yo La Tengo
    10. "Touch-A, Touch-A, Touch Me" by Susan Sarandon
    11. "Say When" by Lene Lovich
    12. "Into The West" by Annie Lenox
    13. "Spoilt" by Lunachicks
    14. "Belfry" by Lone Justice
    15. "Amelia" by Joni Mitchell
    16. "We Can Be Together" by Jefferson Airplane
    17. "The Staircase (Mystery)" by Siouxsie and the Banshees
    18. "Mystery Achievement" by Pretenders
    19. "Redondo Beach" by Patti Smith
    20. "Be Mine Tonite" by Robin Lane & The Chartbusters

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