Wednesday, March 29, 2017

'And the damned barbed wire gets higher and higher': Behind the town Martin McGuinness loved so well

Since leading Sinn Fein politician Martin McGuinness died aged 66 on March 20, much ink has been spilt on the life and legacy of the ex-IRA fighter who helped negotiate Ireland's peace process. Praise and sometimes slander, from highest offices around the world to ordinary people, have come the way of the deceased man from Derry in Ireland's north. 

But how many of these bastards have bothered to use McGuinness's death as a great excuse to bang on about one of the greatest songs most famously sung by possibly Ireland's greatest-ever folk singer as part of one of the great Irish folk bands? Huh?

A whole bunch of people have missed this rather obvious trick. But no more! The absence of Luke Kelly and the Dubliners in discussions of Martin McGuinness's life and times ends here! I WILL END THIS AND I WILL END THIS NOW!

Yes! You can listen BELOW to Irish songwriter Phil Coulter's classic song "The Town I Loved So Well", first recorded by the Dubliners in 1973. 

It describes the Derry that McGuinness, like Coulter and thousands of other working-class men and women, grew up in. It captures the tragedy of the violence that wracked it from the perspective of the working class who were its victims. And YES there is much more to say and GODDAMN IT fear NOT I go on to SAY FUCKING BUCKET LOADS OF IT DOWN BELOW IN THIS VERY POST! 

But first, before anything else should even be thought, much less said... first... Luke Kelly.

In my memory I will always see
the town that I have loved so well
Where our school played ball by the gasyard wall
and we laughed through the smoke and the smell
Going home in the rain, running up the dark lane
past the jail and down behind the fountain
Those were happy days in so many, many ways
in the town I loved so well 
In the early morning the shirt factory horn
called women from Creggan, the Moor and the Bog
While the men on the dole played a mother's role,
fed the children and then trained the dogs
And when times got tough there was just about enough
But they saw it through without complaining
For deep inside was a burning pride
in the town I loved so well 
There was music there in the Derry air
like a language that we all could understand
I remember the day when I earned my first pay
And I played in a small pick-up band
There I spent my youth and to tell you the truth
I was sad to leave it all behind me
For I learned about life and I'd found a wife
in the town I loved so well 
But when I returned how my eyes have burned
to see how a town could be brought to its knees
By the armoured cars and the bombed out bars
and the gas that hangs on to every tree
Now the army's installed by that old gasyard wall
and the damned barbed wire gets higher and higher
With their tanks and their guns, oh my God, what have they done
to the town I loved so well 
Now the music's gone but they carry on
For their spirit's been bruised, never broken
They will not forget but their hearts are set
on tomorrow and peace once again
For what's done is done and what's won is won
and what's lost is lost and gone forever
I can only pray for a bright, brand new day
in the town I loved so well

The song is a great demonstration of the talents of Luke Kelly as a folk singer, as he hits lines bemoaning a sudden and devastating shift towards violence with ever greater force.

The song starts depicting a working class community that suffers poverty (the men are on the dole, though the women work in local factories), but with a strong sense of community and pride. The narrator leaves and later returns to find a town "brought to its knees" by violence, with the "army installed by the old gas yard walls, and the damned barbed wire grows higher and higher". Kelly's voice is almost broken with barely suppressed anger as he declares "My God, what have they done?", before insisting the town's spirit is "bruised but never broken" and they set their eyes towards peace.

It is a song about social realities in the folk tradition, and is not explicitly political. It is no "rebel" song, and while it bemoans British military violence there is no suggestion of sympathy for the armed resistance McGuinness helped lead in the 70s. If anything, the reference to "bombed out bars" suggests the violence, from all sides are fuelling the singer's despair and grief.

But this doesn't reduce its capacity to capture the reality that made McGuinness who he was.  When it was clear the armed struggle could not bring about a speedy end to the war, while the violence wrecked havoc on all aspects of society in Ireland's north, McGuinness was part of the push for an end to armed conflict to shift the struggle to peaceful means.

The ;picture of Derry, and what happened to it in the Troubles,  provides a great frame to understand Martin McGuinness.

Born the son of a tailor in 1950, McGuinness grew up poor, in the working-class (and largely Catholic and nationalist) Bogside in Derry. Leaving school at 15, he worked a series of low-paying jobs. He was working as a butcher's apprentice when, in 1969, he witnessed one atrocity against his community too many and joined the IRA.

Derry is the second largest city in the six Irish counties that Britain retained when Ireland was partitioned in 1921 at the end of the War of Independence that ended direct British rule over 26 of Ireland's 32 counties.

To ensure a population in the partitioned state that was "loyal" to the Crown, it was established with an artificial majority of the largely loyalist Protestants, with the largely nationalist Catholic population a minority (Derry, however, has a clear Catholic majority).

The state was set up on the basis of Protestant supremacy, with Northern Ireland's first prime minister James Craig famously declaring it "A Protestant Parliament for a Protestant people."

Run along sectarian lines, Catholics suffered poor services, housing and were denied access to many jobs, often reducing to living in slums. Local voting rights were granted to those who owned property. As many Catholics didn't own homes, they couldn't vote. In Derry, this meant that despite Catholics being the majority, the town was run by bigoted pro-British Protestant unionists.

Most of Northern Ireland's working class were Protestant, but within the working class, the poorest and most deprived were overwhelmingly Catholic (and nationalist).

In his funeral oration at McGuinness's graveside, his long-time comrade and Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams said:
Like many other Derry ‘wans’, Martin grew up in a city in which Catholics were victim of widespread political and economic discrimination. 
He was born into an Orange State which did not want him or his kind. Poverty was endemic. 
Unsurprisingly, such injustice sparked opposition. Inspired by the US civil rights struggle, the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association was formed in 1967 to campaign for equality for Catholics. The response to peaceful civil rights marches was extreme violence — especially in Derry.

Extra-legal loyalist gangs and the infamously sectarian and violent Royal Ulster Constabulary viciously attacked marchers. When marchers sought to defend themselves, attacks grew into anti-Catholic pogroms.

Catholics in mixed or largely Protestant areas were driven from their homes, which were often burned — turning the Catholic areas of cities like Belfast and Derry into besieged ghettos. Adams, in his 1997 memoir Before the Dawn, describes police snipers on building tops, opening fire on any Catholic they saw move. At this time, the IRA was all but non-existent.

In 1969, tens of thousands of Catholics fled across the border into the Republic of Ireland — at the time, the largest forced movement of people in Europe since World War II.

The besieged population did not take the repression lying down, and brutal attacks by police and loyalist gangs were met with barricades and riots as people sought to defend their communities. In January 1969, with barricades erected, the nationalist areas of Derry (including the Bogside) declared their areas "Free Derry" — a liberated zone, protected by residents armed with clubs and petrol bombs, in which the sectarian authorities were barred from entering.

In August 1969, three days of violent street fighting between the RUC and the nationalist community,  known as the Battle of the Bogside broke out, sparked by attempts by a notoriously sectarian Orange parade to march through nationalist areas. With the community undefeated, the British government took the fatal decision to mobilise British soldiers, sending them to the Bogside.

The Troubles had begun.

The British military failed to take control of Free Derry until 1972 (while the IRA operated openly, defending the area), but the path to full scale military conflict was opened.

In his graveside oration, Adams continued:
I remember [Martin] telling me that he was surprised when his father, a quiet modest church going man, marched in the civil rights campaign here in Derry. 
The Orange State’s violent suppression of that civil rights campaign; the Battle of the Bogside, and the emerging conflict propelled Martin into a life less ordinary.
Listen to the song again with this context.

With British soldiers on the streets, the conflict spiralled into war, as a civil rights struggle morphed into an armed struggle for national liberation.

To crack down on the newly re-energised republican movement, the British authorities introduced internment in August 1971. Doors were smashed in, homes raided and hundreds of overwhelmingly Catholic men and women (most of whom weren't active republicans) were interned without trial, often tortured.

In Before the Dawn, Adams describes a terrible event in the working-class Catholic neighbourhood of Ballymurphy, where he lived. The day interment was introduced, the British Army set up a "free fire" zone in the area. For three days, soldiers opened fire on sight on anyone within their line of fire — shooting 11 civilians dead, including a priest who ran to to aid a wounded man and a mother of eight, on the streets desperately trying to round up her children to keep them safe.

This massacre predates the start of the IRA's bombing campaign. There has never been any justice for the atrocity. The soldiers responsible came from the 1st Battalion, Parachute Regiment. Five months later, on January 30, 1972, the same regiment opened fire on unarmed civil rights marchers, killing 14 in the infamous Bloody Sunday massacre.

McGuinness, a leading IRA member in  Derry at the time, witnessed the events on Bloody Sunday. In an April 1972 Irish Times profile of McGuinness entitled (to McGuinness's embarrassment) "The Boy Who Rules Free Derry", he said:
The worst I ever felt was Bloody Sunday. I wandered about stunned, with people crying and looking for their relatives, and I thought of all that about honour between soldiers. The British Army knew right well we wouldn’t fight them with all those thousands of people there, so they came in and murdered the innocent.
Think of this context and listen to the song again.

It's not hard to see how the likes of McGuinness ended up IRA volunteers, responding to such conditions with guns in their hand.

McGuinness may have become a leader of note, but his story was typical of his generation. Young working class men and women, looking to live ordinary lives, were driven to resist by violence and oppression.

A story told often about young working class men from nationalist areas being "lifted" by the British occupying forces, interned with trial and tortured — despite frequently having no involvement in republicanism. Instead, they were interested in the same things as young men everywhere — watching sport, getting drunk, trying to get laid.

But once released, the previously apolitical youths would search out their local IRA recruiter.

Adams pointed out in his 1997 memoir Before the Dawn, the working class nationalist in Ireland's north were not better or worse than anyone else. They were neither devils nor saints, just ordinary people facing extraordinary violence. Neither inherently pacifists nor predisposed to violence, they didn't want war but were willing to fight one when they felt they had no choice.

And with that reality of ordinary people — will all the good and bad that comes with it — came good and bad in the armed conflict.

There was incredible bravery, resilience and sacrifice. (None are more justly famous than the 1981 hunger strikes in which 10 men died rather than give up their dignity in the face of the Thatcher government's heartless cruelty).

This existed along with reprehensible violence that can not be justified no matter the cause. (One infamous example is the 1987 Remembrance Day bombing, when an IRA bomb went off at an Remembrance Day event at a War Memorial in Ennskillen in Northern Ireland and killed 10 civilians. The incident was described by Sinn Fein as a "huge tragedy" and Sinn Fein's An Phoblacht criticised it as a "monumental error". The IRA unit responsible was disbanded. The IRA had not intended to kill civilians, instead aiming to target British soldiers, but such deaths were always a strong risk with such bombings.)

The point is not whether both aspects have equal weight — I think the republican movement, whatever it did wrong, was trying to respond as best it could to a horrific situation not of its own making. Merely to point out that people enter such struggles with all their flaws and imperfections, not helped in this instance by the role of militarist thinking in the republican tradition.

(There is something sickening about the lecturing of one side of a conflict, which did not start the conflict, by those writing in safety who have never lived through one thousandth of the suffering of the nationalist community in Northern Ireland.

And when pointing out the reprehensible, it is reprehensible not to point out the sheer scale of the violence dealt out against not just active republicans but the general Catholic population during the Troubles, who were targeted for cold-blooded mass murder by loyalist death squads operating in collusion with the British state. This ugly truth is proven in great detail by Anne Cadwallder's 2013 book Lethal Allies: British Collussion in Ireland.)

McGuinness and Adams, especially, grasped that the issue was not simply which side had greater cause or was responsible for more suffering, but finding a way to resolve the armed conflict so the struggle for republican goals — and to advance the interests of working class people who bore the brunt of the conflict, from all sides — could occur in a peaceful framework.

 As a few commentators have pointed out, there were never *two* Martin McGuinnesses, a violent terrorist first and a peacemaker second. Rather just one with the same goals, who proved willing to adapt strategy and tactics through experience. Adams put it in his speech at McGuinness's funeral:
"There was not a bad Martin McGuinness or a good Martin McGuinness. There was simply a man, like every other decent man or woman, doing his best."
Keep this in mind, then listen to the song again.

The best evidence of that intent — to do his best for the community he came from, lived in, loved and sought to serve as best he could — came with the turn out to McGuinness's funeral. Thousands accompanied his coffin and is made its way down the streets of his beloved Bogside.

McGuinness's funeral, March 23.

Looking at the pictures of McGuinness's tricolour-draped coffin almost lost in the sea of people, I wracked my brains to think of a single living Australian politician whose funeral would generate such a response. I finally concluded a few could — but only to ensure the bastards were definitely dead and buried.

Make no mistake. The town McGuinness loved so well sure loved him back.

"The Town I Loved So Well" may not be a rebel song, but here is one about Joe McDonnell, one of the republican prisoners who died in the 1981 hunger strikers.

'And you dare to call me a terrorist, while you look down your gun...'

Thursday, March 02, 2017

Five covers of Tom Waits you need in your life right now! It will blow your mind in the most amazing way possible!!!

Number four actually gave me chills!!!

Yes that is click bait. I mean, yeah, listening number four on this list gives me fucking chills. Listening to a Tom Waits song always give me chills.

But if just one person is conned into listening to a single Waits song, then the end most certainly justifies even the most irritating means.

And we do need more of the sheer glory that is Tom Waits in our lives. For fuck's sake, Donald Trump is running rampant, the latest climate science is terrifying and the Western Sydney Wanderers are struggling to hold on sixth in the fucking A-League (and don't even mention what allegedly passes for the Wanderers' Asian Champions League campaign).

These, of course, are not simply "Tom Waits songs". They are five great covers I stumbled across while trawling YouTube.

It seems to me that ii is a basic, self-evident truth that Tom Waits is an incredible songwriter. I mean some things are just a fucking given, even in this strange age of alternative facts.

However, I am forced to accept, though I do not pretend to understand, that Tom Waits famed ultra-gravelly voice is something of an "acquired taste" and the voice can put-off for some from enjoying the remarkable storytelling and song-writing craftsmanship of which Waits is one of the greatest practitioners.

Waits voice is actually a tool to express emotion and serve the story telling. There is a sense that Waits just sounds like a Cookie Monster impersonator (or vice versa) , and, yeah, he sometimes does. But his voice is actually quite versatile and used in range of ways, including a sort of falsetto.

A recent New York Times article described Waits' voice, in a somewhat breathlessly OTT way, as:
An instrument of subtle melodic grace and brutal rhythmic power, his voice breeds metaphors as much as it delivers unmistakable sounds. It’s a worn leather bag, a broken chair, a lost dog that has just found his owner, a day without rain, a children’s choir with strep throat and the purest producer of deep feeling I’ve encountered. The last one isn’t a metaphor, I realize. 
More prosaically, Waits has a falsetto and a basso, a holler and a croon. It’s a voice that can take in the full breadth of human experience, on songs like “A Little Rain” or “Last Leaf,” managing, in its gentleness, to find new ways, through story and through image, to put the listener elsewhere, to put them deep inside a song.
Personally, I think as good an example as any as to the value of Waits' voice is his beautifully sweet song to the love of his life, who he was soon married -- 1980's "Jersey Girl". It is a song whose sweetness threatens to  overpower but for the way Waits' voice grounds it, brings the soaring sentiment of love down to Earth.

The beauty of its sentiment is contrasted with the harshness his voice, making it even more moving -- a man whose voice suggests suffering losing himself in the joy of finding true love, itself a love grounded in the very real urban landscape of New Jersey.

(Bruce Springsteen famously made the song a concert standard, and he also knows how to deliver a song like this with just enough dirt to carry it. An example of what happens when you fail to moderate its sweet core is Bon Jovi's horrific cover, which you can check out for purposes of scientific research.)

But... regardless... there are plenty of ways to skin a tale of a broken heart, and these covers all present Waits songs with vocals that serve the stories without grating any poor sensitive eardrums.

On his 2007 Orphans triple album of previously unrecorded tracks, Tom Waits divided his music into the broad categories of "brawlers", "bawlers" and "bastards". Three of these five tracks fall clearly into the "bawlers" category ("Alice", "Hold On" and "New Year's Eve"), which is probably the one on which Waits has most built his songwriting reputation. These are tales of heartache as people ground down by society struggle to find a way to keep on going.

One of the tracks fits pretty clearly into the "brawlers" basket -- "Bad As Me", a raucous tale of joyful sinners from his 2011 album of the same name.

And the other doesn't really fit exactly into these categories. "Clap Hands" is from Waits classic 1985 album Rain Dogs, his album inspired by living in New York, in which he presents the city's streets are overflowing with drunks and weirdos in a surreal dream-scape. The song, and the rendition below (second on the list), captures that pretty well.

Full playlist


'And so a secret kiss brings madness with the bliss...' 

That line has always struck me. This is beautiful rendition of a song filled with a bittersweet melancholy.

At the start, Evan Ivey, who I know nothing else about, says the song "saved my life". I don't know what prompted her claim, but she is not alone. You can read a moving account by blogger William Henry Prince in which he explains in detail how a Tom Waits song did, in fact, save his life.

There is also a Reddit discussion of people discussing how listening to Waits saved their lives, and I can believe it. Waits certainly makes me want to save this world from the rapidly developing eco-holocaust coz what is the point of achieving something as glorious as Tom Waits' output only for it to be destroyed along with the rest of human civilisation? You can hear Waits' equally spine-tingling original.

Clap Hands

'Said steam, steam, a hundred bad dreams, going up to Harlem with a pistol in his jeans...'

The Dirty Diary's YouTube account has some similarly great versions of other Tom Waits songs, as well as some other impressive dirty blues all recorded in his home. This is not a million miles from the original, but still a stunning effort and, like all five tracks, probably more immediately accessible to someone not already a Waits fan. Hear the original.

Hold On

Down by the Riverside motel
It's ten below and falling
By a ninety-nine cent store
She closed her eyes and started swaying
But it's so hard to dance that way
When it's cold and there's no music...
I have to admit, I did not expect to like to like this as much as I do. The three acts combining for the cover -- Burroughs,  Hi Ho Silver and The Native Siblings -- all seem the kinda middle-class indie kid music that brings out a savage allergic reaction in me that often comes close to requiring hospitalisation.

But... and I don't know anything else about these acts... this is an affecting take on one of Waits' best  heart-wrenching "story" songs. Hear Waits' original.

New Year's Eve

'The stars looked like diamonds, then came the sirens. And everyone started to cuss...'

I had never heard of Madison Ward and the Mama Bear -- a son-and-mother folk duo -- before this very solid cover of a track from Tom Waits 2011 Bad as Me album. It is a story song in a similar vein to  "Hold On" and, in a just world, would be to New Year's Eve what The Pogue's "Fairy Tale of New York" is to Christmas.

It is great cover by an act that, listening to some more from them, definitely seem worth following. And, as I said at the start, their cover gives me chills. Hear the original.

Bad As Me

I'm the one with the gun
Most likely to run
I'm the car in the weeds
If you cut me I'll bleed
You're the same kind of bad as me
FUCK I LOVE SHOVELS AND ROPE! My love of Shovels and Rope rivals my love of Tom Waits, and if you've made it this far into this post you'll grasp how big that praise is for me. I could rant a lot about Shovels and Rope, but that is a topic for another blog post (like this one).

I'll just note their combination of deeply affecting harmonies with the dirt and sweat of rock'n'roll, served up as a raw, dirt stained duo is second to none, performance wise. And here... they dedicate themselves to Tom Waits and produce an energetic, electric cover worthy of The Great Man himself. You can hear the original here.

Friday, February 17, 2017

'Give me a drink!'

'Son of bitch! Get me a drink!'

This truly is a song for our times.

I think here Nathaniel Rateliff from the wonderful soulful R&B combo Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats speaks for all of us right now. I dare say anyone who tried watching Donald Trump's latest surrealist performance art/press conference, caught up on the latest climate science, or even just had the misfortune of watching the ridiculous so-called performance the Western Sydney Wanderers put on to lose 2-0 at home to the Central Coast Mariners, for fuck's sake.

Jesus fuck, get me another drink.

Monday, February 06, 2017

Banning gingers from power? Tough, but fair

This is a tough call.

This placard appeared at Sydney's refugee rights demonstration on February 5, called in response to bickering between the Orange Freak and the Australian government over a deal to illegally traffic desperate human beings from the isolated, offshore, torture camps Australia holds them in to the United States of America, where brown people are, like, not exactly fucking loved right now.

It makes a controversial point. In the interests of full disclosure, I am obliged to point out I am, actually, one of them.

I am a ginger. A ranga. One of "the Orange People". A carrot-topped possessor of some fire-crotched Fanta pants. (Actually... maybe just pretend I didn't refer to my own crotch on this blog and we'll all sleep better at night.)

This is a sensitive issue for me. A life-long history of savage bigotry, of the sort it is hard to bring myself to even describe... but... and a trigger warning to victims of gingerphobia... but it includes a childhood in which ... god this is hard... but it includes a childhood in which I was repeatedly called "Bluey".

This despite the fact that I was, and indeed am, demonstrably not "blue" in any way. My hair colour is clearly orange, of the sort popularly called "red".

Too little research has been carried out into the long-term affects of such demonstratably false nicknames being applied to innocent children, too young to comprehend the social context... but I can only assume my long record of sustained adult (and teenage, let's be honest) alcohol abuse must at root be tied back to this false characterisation of my hair colour.

My point is... the rise of Donald Trump has brought with it a terrifying rise in hate. For instance, the very day after he won the elections, I personally witnessed a clear cut example of Trump-fuelled hate right here in Sydney!

Yes! An angry Mexican abused me just coz I'm orange!

He saw me, came right up and angrily pointed his finger as he almost spat out the phrase, "Your people!"

My first response, when I got over the shock, was like, "Hey dude! #NotAllGingers, yeah? Like #GingerLivesMatter!"

But then... once I calmed down and thought it through... I was forced to admit the prick had a point.

And so does that placard.

Because there is something us Orange People don't talk about much, even among ourselves. And it is that we have always known, deep down, if we are willing to admit it, that a ginger would destroy the planet.

It is just one of those things. Of course it would be a fucking ranga.

We are just broken somewhere deep inside.Whether from the schoolyard abuse or some deep flaw in the DNA that produces the deformity that is red hair... I cannot say. But yeah. A fucking ranga. Just fucking had to be.

That protest placard is a tough call, yes, but fair. Ban all orange people from holding any office now. Except maybe in Scotland, otherwise they'd never find enough bastards to fill their devolved parliament.

Down by the Riverside motel
It's ten below and falling
By a ninety-nine cent store
She closed her eyes and started swaying
But it's so hard to dance that way
When it's cold and there's no music
Oh, your old hometown's so far away
But inside your head there's a record that's playing
This bears no relation to the rest of the post, it is just you can't get enough Tom Waits.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

What does January 26 actually represent? Let's ask a country singer

January 26 is a controversial date in Australia, an occasion of great yearly celebrations as "Australia Day" marking the official start of the European invasion and subsequent genocide. 

But I simply don't care who I offend, I am going to use the occasion to lay down some hard truths whether people want to hear them or not. Mainly that Kev Carmody is a country singer and all you bloody idiots who think "country music is right-wing" or "so uncool" can get fucked.

Kev Carmody is an Aboriginal country and folk singer who is both very definitely not right wing and also very definitely very fucking cool.

Best known to wider audiences for writing and singing "From Little things Big things Grow" with Paul Kelly (about the historic Gurunji strike that opened the way for Aboriginal peoples to win some land rights), Carmody has been singing his country about Aboriginal oppression and resistance and just general struggles of life in the best country folk tradition for 30 years now.  It builds on a much longer and deeper Aboriginal country music tradition over the past few decades.

"Australia Day" is as good a day to listen to him as ever. More accurately labelled Invasion Day, there  are a lot more to the day than BBQs, beaches and flag draped bogans. There are protests on the streets -- like this one in Melbourne, which drew tens of thousands:

About 5000 marching to mark Invasion Day in Melbourne's CBD. (Photo via Nick Fredman on Facebook.

Unsurprisingly, there is growing controversy over January 26, including a push to change the date for a national celebration so it no longer marks the start of the wholesale theft of Aboriginal land and destruction of their culture.

Fremantle council's decision this year to cancel "Australia Day" fireworks, in recognition of the sorrow and anger the date causes, predictably led to right-wing meltdowns. Because more than 200 years of genocide and dispossession is one thing, but for god's sake, if you can't have a huge celebration with fireworks on the date that officially marks the start of the invasion and unprecedented catastrophe for the land's original inhabitants.then it is political correctness gone made.

What is wrong with Australia Day is captured perfectly by Kev Carmody's songs below. The first, from his 1987 debut, is on the theft and hypocrisy carried about by the invaders.

"River of Tears", a devastating true story where police murdered an innocent Black man David Gundy in his home in Sydney, shows the oppression and violence against the original inhabitants of the land have not ended. Hundreds of Black people have died in recent decades at the hands of police, and not one cop has ever been brought to justice.

"Cannot Buy My Soul" marks the ongoing resistance -- also seen in protests on the streets in m any cities today.

In 1788 down Sydney Cove
The first boat-people land
Said sorry boys our gain’s your loss
We gonna steal your land
And if you break our new British laws
For sure you’re gonna hang
Or work your life like convicts
With chains on your neck and hands

Terrorists dressed in uniformUnder the protection of their lawTerrorise blacks in dawns of fear
They come smashin’ through your doorYou’re not safe out there on freedom street
You’re not safe inside the "can"For their shotguns and their stunt gasThey’re licenced to drop you where you stand

For 200 years us blacks are beaten down here too long on the doleMy dignity I’m losing here and mentally I’m oldThere’s a system here that nails us ain’t we left out in the coldThey took our life and liberty friend but they couldn’t buy our soul

Friday, December 30, 2016

So 2016 is killing astronomers too

Vera Rubin discovers some stuff no one can actually see.

This year has involved a lot of deaths of a lot of people, which has clearly never happened before.

To be fair, we are talking some real giants, I mean we've lost Muhammad Ali, David Bowie, Leonard Cohen, Merle Haggard and probably even some others. It looks like the death toll of well-known-and-loved people from various entertainment fields will just keep growing until 12:01am, January 1, 2017 clicks over ... assuming this is in fact due to some sort of Witch's Curse and not just the natural attrition of a generation of post-WWII entertainers from the '60s, '70s and '80s passing on and becoming the repository for a collective grief over a social era being destroyed by neoliberalism while civlisation is threatened by twin horrors of climate change and the disturbing rise of the far right.

But more than just gay icon George Michael, bi--open-minded-and-questioning icon David Bowie and "all sexual preferences in the Known Universe" icon Prince who passed away. Vera Rubin, an insanely smart woman who revolutionised our entire understanding of the universe also left us. The astronomer, who discovered dark matter and died Christmas Day aged 88.

Sure 88 is not a bad age to go, but I am sure Rubin's death caused much grief for her family, friends and the POOR FUCKING JOURNALISTS tasked with WRITING ARTICLES, like AT CHRISTMAS, about DARK MATTER.

Some journalists got off easy, getting to write pieces about Carrie Fisher, filled with a variety of the sassy quotes she helpfully provided through her colourful life and with the opportunity for some cool "cinnamon bun" retro images. Or they got to write about George Michael, with the clear-cut excuse to play "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go" unironically for the first time since the journo was in primary school, coz like it was "research"!

Others were tasked with explaining dark matter in short news pieces, forced to desperately try to think back to year 11 Physics and reassuring themselves they must know SOMETHING about this shit and thinking "OK let's start with matter... that is easy... matter is... SHIT what does matter mean, what does Wikipedia say? [furious typing] Right... so matter is 'everything'! Well that's easy! Everything is everywhere! And therefore dark matter is...

"What, he invisible part of everything??? WHAT THE FUCK! HOW CAN YOU BE THE INVISIBLE PART OF EVERYTHING??? Jesus... and this invisible shit no one can see or properly makes galaxies spin as fast as they do???? WHY THE FUCK COULD VERA RUBIN HAVE NOT DIED *NEXT* WEEK WHEN I'M ON FUCKING LEAVE!"

The answer seems to be basically dark matter, and for that matter dark energy and probably anything else the physics community deems"dark" (like there is a competing theory called "dark fluid" and something else called "dark flow" that no amount of re-reading its Wikipedia entry makes it make any more sense to me), exist to make mathematical equations work that wouldn't otherwise, at lest that is what I have gathered from a couple of SBS documentaries I was mostly paying attention for.

Still...  Vera Rubin seemed pretty cool.

'I'm not bragging or complaining, I'm just talking to myself man to man...' This has nothing to do astronomy, it is just I wrote an angry rant about Jacobin Magazine and Merle Haggard, which was the highlight of my year.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

There are poor-hating hypocrites and then there is Bronwyn Bishop.

Brownyn Bishop thinks dole bludgers are flying helicopters to their drug dealers, or something.

Huffington Post reports:
Former MP Bronwyn Bishop, who was forced to resign as Speaker of the House of Representatives after using taxpayer funds to take expensive helicopter rides, claims "many" people with depression are "rorting" the welfare system, and are "drug addicts".
Yes Bronwyn Bishop, whose "own abuse of the parliamentary expense system was so egregious that it spawned its own '-gate' suffix in Choppergate". Brownwyn Bishop, who:
...was forced to resign as Speaker in 2015, after she chartered a $5200 helicopter flight from Melbourne to Geelong -- which would have been a 90 minute road trip in her Commonwealth car, also paid for by the taxpayer -- for a Liberal party function ...
She also famously billed the taxpayer $88,000 for a 15-day official visit to Europe in 2015, and nearly $43,000 for an 11-day trip to Asia.
Leaving aside the surely self-evident point that Bronwyn Bishop manages to slander an entire group of people without any recourse while simultaneously stigmatising people who use and abuse intoxicants while proposing stripping them of their only source of funds in a move that probably wouldn't help them or society too much... it is worth noting Brownyn Bishop's achievement here.

This is a country with a very long tradition of politicians with six figure salaries, almost unending perks and gold-plated pensions cynically bashing welfare recipients while slashing taxes for the rich. After all, Bishop was just echoing similar comments by ex-PM and loyal backbencher Tony Abbott, who made repealing a mild tax on mining companies a centre-piece of his campaign for power.

There is nothing new about some cynical pollie going bludger-bashing with ridiculous ill-though out logic in a bid to set different sections of the working class against each other, score some cheap points and -- most importantly -- get the Murdoch press tabloids and shock jocks off their backs because if they DIDN'T say this shit, the screeching would be about THEM. It is basic self-defence for a major party politician to bash the defenceless before the right-wing media bashes them for not bashing the defenceless.

That is all to be expected, it is how our political system functions. Murdoch mags and shock jock screechers wail, and politicians join in on harmonies.

So far so "Australia Is The Greatest Country In the World Or It Would Be If Not For All the Bloody Bludgers and Bleeding Heart Pollies Wasting Our Hard Earned Tax Dollars, Christ Some Of Us Actually Work For A Living (TM)". 

No, what is impressive about Bronwyn Bishop's intervention is the hypocrisy is so insanely intense that it manages to be unavoidable. And if there is something the mainstream media of all stripes like to do, it is avoid political hypocrisy, if only because otherwise they'd talk about nothing else and there'd be no time left for the cricket scores.

It takes some extreme bullshit for the stench to be even noted. Others in her position would take their parliamentary pension and just shut the fuck up. Not Bronwyn Bishop. Fair play, I suppose.

'You tell me anyone without a job should go out and die...' Brownyn Bishop's comments are hardly new, but fucking evil enough to drive me to post a song by anarchist industrial band iNsuRge, who I haven't listened to since about 1997.