:: Monday, August 28, 2006 ::

Twilight of the Heroes

Greg Dulli, originally uploaded by alister.

The Twilight Singers
Edinburgh Cabaret Voltaire
Sunday 27th August 2006.

The last time I saw the Twilight Singers at King Tut's last year was one of the best gigs I ever saw. Greg Dulli's band were hitting the same streak of brilliance that his previous band The Afghan Whigs did.

Mark Lanegan

Unfortunately my high expectations were to be disappointed. Cabaret Voltaire is a small venue and hot as hell but that shouldn't be a problem. But for some reason the sound was terrible, at least where I was standing. The vocals were more or less inaudible and the overall sound was so muddy it was hard to tell what song was being played at times. Worst of all was when Mark Lanegan came on stage, killing what momentum had built up, to mumble something unintelligible into the mike.

The Twilight Singers

There were some highlights to compensate. With fine renditions of Esta Noche and Teenage Wristband. But overall a case of 'better luck next time...'.

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:: Saturday, August 26, 2006 ::

Two-Fisted Engineering Tales

Ken Macleod and Charles Stross, originally uploaded by alister.

Edinburgh International Book Festival
Friday 25th August
Ken Macleod and Charles Stross: "Science and Fiction"

Ken Macleod and Charles Stross are two of Scotland's most internationally known writers. Never heard of them? Well that's because they are writing science fiction. In addition they are local boys and prominent bloggers, and their work contains a remarkable number of references to obscure trotskyist groups and long-forgotten Russians, so naturally I popped along to see them at the Book Festival.

The topic for the event was 'science and fiction' and it was sponsored by the ESRC Genomics Policy and Research Forum. If you are in academia you will have submitted a grant application to the ESRC at some time. I did, they said no, and so no academia for me. As a consequence there were a few real genuine scientists in the audience itching to ask tricky questions. Both Ken and Charlie have backgrounds as computer scientists and programmers ('money for old rope' they both agreed.)

The first issue was simply squaring sci-fi and science. Ken Macleod quickly 'fessed up. Einstein was right, faster than light travel is impossible. But it is a hell of a useful plot device. Charlie Stross was equally forthcoming, sci-fi is just like any other fiction, you don't so much break the rules as suspend disbelief.

The discussion moved on to the purpose of sci-fi. Ken pointed out the most popular books are the technothrillers a la Michael Crichton (Jurassic Park et al). These are about soothing peoples fears about technology. Sci-fi proper is about the human condition.

There was an intersting interlude discussing why sci-fi is so reviled in some quarters. Charlie told the story of the 'father' of SF, Hugo Gernsback. He founded a number of SF pulps such as Amazing Stories "two-fisted engineering tales" as Ken put it. This was in the 1920's when society was in crisis and ideologies such as communism and fascism were on the rise. But SF represented another ideology…technocracy. The idea that technocrats knew best how to run society. There is still a Technocratic Party today. It was another 20th Century challenge to liberal democracy. Therefore as Charles pointed out "Science fiction had a stench of the jackboot about it's origins."

Another alternative to SF has been the emergence of actual scientists capable of writing in an engaging way about science. The likes of Richard Dawkins. Ken noted "the role of SF as the propaganda arm of the enlightenment has been replaced by actual scientists."

There was some discussion about future-shock and dystopian genres such as cyberpunk. But also more optimistic writers such as Kim Stanley Robinson. Mundane SF and writers such as Ian McDonald and Geoff Ryman, which seeks to write only about what is techically feasible, a kind of SF dogme movement, was also discussed.

Finally there was a discussion on the 'technical curiousity' of our societies. Ken and Charlie both maintained that our generation is less curious about 'how things work' than previous generations. Computers may as well be powered by pixie dust. I must say I couldn't agree with this. A quick look at any discussion board for games, music and video downloads etc, will reveal young people in particular (but not exclusively) who are quite prepared to build their own pc's, to hack and deconstruct software and to run exotic open source alternatives. The curiousity is still there.

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:: Tuesday, August 22, 2006 ::

Lights, Camera, Munich

The Editors
The Dears
Live, Edinburgh Corn Exchange. Monday 21st August 2006


If I was a cynic I could say that I went to see a band who sound like the Smiths and a band who sound like a band who sound like Joy Division. But that would be untrue and unfair. Mind you, the other support act Komakino, were named after a Joy Division track. But I missed them, although they did have the coolest t-shirts. Shame I missed them actually as their myspace effort sounds pretty good.

The Dears were a bit of a surprise actually. I had heard somewhat dissappointing things about them. But the Canadian's put on a pretty impressive show.

Dears Singer

For the Editors I was a little worried that the show would be a repeat of the Strokes show at the same venue a few years ago. It was full of pissed lads chucking pints around. Shouldn't have worried as the few pissed lads present weren't very hardcore.

A good show with plenty of throwing shapes and audience interaction. An ecstatic reception for the hits Munich, All Sparks and Blood. The Editors told us this is the last show they would be doing before going back into the studio to record their next album. The summer festival circuit seems to have had an affect on their sound, with a more distinct early-U2-stadium element to it.


The Dears/Editors Flickr set.

Setlist courtesy of Editors forum.

  • Someone Says

  • All Sparks

  • Blood

  • Fall

  • Find Yourself a Safe Place

  • Bullets

  • Bones

  • Camera

  • You Are Fading

  • Lights

  • Open Your Arms


  • Weight of The World

  • Munich

  • Fingers in The Factories

A blokes video of Fingers in The Factories from the gig, on YouTube.

Editors Drummer and Guitar

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:: Friday, August 18, 2006 ::

Michael Franti

Michael Franti, originally uploaded by alister.

Michael Franti and Spearhead plus Xavier Rudd
Live, Edinburgh Corn Exchange 16th August 2006.

It was back into the Corn Exchange sweat box for another return visit by Michael Franti. The guy must spend most of his time on the road. This is the third time I have seen him in two years. A mate I met had seen him 12 times. Still, nice to see he got back from Baghdad in one piece and of course he is always good value. There is a reason he gets a big turn-out and that is because he and his band are a great live act. For my money he has never really translated that to record. His new tune sounds like U2, in a bad way, but even that sounds ok live.

Support came from Xavier Rudd, Aussie hippy one man band with a digeridoo and a drum machine not to mention several guitars. He clearly has a following and Edinburgh's Aussie community were out in force. He was fairly enjoyable even if he is a big hippie going on about the spiritual connections between Scotland and Australia.

More photos of the gig from me on flickr here.

Next up the Editors.

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:: Wednesday, August 16, 2006 ::

Blogger Finally Joins Year 2006

Google Operating System: The New Blogger About time.

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:: Monday, August 14, 2006 ::


Shame, originally uploaded by alister.

Pic from Saturday's Lebanon demo. Phone-camera quality sorry forgot the digi.

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:: Wednesday, August 09, 2006 ::

Thrill-Power Overload

This blogger is writing a history of 2000AD (the comic of Judge Dredd fame for all you ignorami). Seems that it nearly got closed due to being a bastion of union militancy. Cool.

Thrill-Power Overload: quoting an IPC boss: "I would say the most militant union officials at IPC were in the Youth Group. I decided to make a point. We would have to lose a title or two to concentrate our resources on fewer titles when the strike was over. The one I wanted to close was 2000 AD. There were two reasons for this. One was that it had the most militants around it, and the other was its closure would make the greatest impact on the rest of the Youth Group staff."

via linkmachinego

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Blogworld: The SSP - The Herald Me, Darren and DoctorVee blogging veterans finally made the cut! Infamy, infamy. They've all got it in for me. (© Kenneth Williams 'Carry-On Cupids'.)

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:: Monday, August 07, 2006 ::


Excerpt from a report published in Al-Hayat, August 7, 2006 :

[The president of the Iraqi Parliament, Dr. Mahmoud] Al-Mash’hadani spoke to Al-Hayat yesterday, at the end of an official visit to Damascus, where he met with president Bashar al-Assad… On the accusations directed at Syria and Iran of interfering in Iraq’s affairs, al-Mash’hadani said vehemently: “America installs itself between two countries like Syria and Iran that it considers as enemies and you want them to stay passive! That is not realistic at all, and if ever they intervene, it is to protect their national security. And we do not object to that, the national security of Syria and Iran is threatened by the American presence … Let’s suppose that they (the Syrians) interfere in Iraq’s affairs, why don’t you object to America’s rule over Iraq before objecting to Syria’s interference in order to protect its security? In this respect, Iraq has opened its doors to all countries, even to an Israeli presence, so has Syrian interference now become a threat to Iraq’s security? Who destroyed Iraq? Who plundered Iraq? Who stole from Iraq? Who humiliated Iraq? Who desecrated Iraq’s holy sites? Who damaged the honor of Iraqi women? It is none other than the blue jinn whose name is: the occupation.”
Al-Mash’hadani accused the American forces of standing behind terrorist attacks in Iraq, saying: “The occupation is the first and last cause of the problem, it has overthrown the [former] regime without a plan, it has suppressed the state with no reason, it has led to the resistance and it has infiltrated it, it has brought Al-Qaeda to Iraq…” After approving the statement that “American occupation troops stand behind some of the terrorist attacks,” he described today’s Iraq as “Americastan.”

(Thanks to Gilbert Achcar)

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Hall or Nothing

I've seen a lot of great gigs in the Queen's Hall over the years. Martin Stephenson, Therapy, Sigur Ros, Low to name but some. So it was sad news to hear that the venue is under threat. It seems Edinburgh Council is not renewing funding. After the Cameo it is a shame that another important cultural centre is under threat. The Queen's Hall provides a service all year round, not just at festival time. Info below.

I hope you won't mind getting involved in this extremely worthwhile activity in order to bring the City of Edinburgh Council to its senses.

The Queen's Hall in Edinburgh was originally a church built about 1830. It re-opened in about 1979 as an 850-seat concert hall and has hosted since then a enormous range of events. The hall has become, by common consent, an important part of Edinburgh's cultural scene but, in their wisdom, the City of Edinburgh Council have now proposed that they will stop supporting its operation by withdrawing their funding within the next three years. Anywhere else in the world more money would be finding its way to help the hall rather than moves being considered to run it down. It's all a bit weird especially when you consider that the annual sum in question here is only £100 000.

For a city which presents an apparently vibrant artistic and cultural face to the world, Edinburgh has lost too many venues already in the past 10 years or so. Please click on this link http://www.edinburghnews.com/savethequeenshall and send your name on-line to The Edinburgh Evening News' campaign -- 'Save The Queen's Hall' -- which has just been launched today.

Please circulate this to as many of your acquaintances , musical or otherwise, as soon as possible. The hall has to make a submission about this to a council committee on Monday 7 August 2006.

Further information from ... .

Iain McQueen

Head of Operations Clerk Street Edinburgh EHZ JIG

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Squatters Rights

Slashdot | Cameroon Typo-Squats all of .com: "'As reported on CircleID, the nation of Cameroon, which controls the .cm top level domain, has typo-squatted all of the .com domain space. They have placed a wildcard DNS record to redirect all traffic to an ad-based search page. Unlike the earlier case of Verisign putting a wildcard in the real .com domain, ICANN has very little direct control over what a nation can do with their own TLD. Will the owners of .co and .om follow?'"

So if you mis-type .com you go to a spammer links site. Try it! The whole country domain, jeez.

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:: Sunday, August 06, 2006 ::

What is to be done?

A grim end to a grim few weeks. At a Lothians SSP meeting on Saturday those who refused to back Tommy Sheridan were described as being "in the pay of the News of the World" by SWP hacks. The atmosphere in the party could not be worse. The meeting ended in a literal punch-up. A split in the SSP is on the cards for sure. I am a founder member of the SSP but I find it hard to stomach being in the same party as people who frame their friends as perjurers on orders from London. I'm sure the truth will come out in the end as it did for Jeffery Archer. It may not take as long in this case.

United Left statement

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:: Thursday, August 03, 2006 ::


Atheist quotes: "When I was a kid I used to pray every night for a new bicycle. Then I realised that the Lord doesn't work that way so I stole one and asked Him to forgive me." Emo Philips.

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:: Wednesday, August 02, 2006 ::

Edinburgh People's Festival 2006

Edinburgh People's Festival 2006 programme is up. Go check it out.

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