:: Thursday, November 30, 2006 ::

Happy St. Andrews Day

Peter Howson's St. Andrew

Happy St. Andrews day to you all. For those who don't know it is Scotland's national day, sponsored by a two thousand year old apostle of John the Baptist. The Saints connection with Scotland has several legends surrounding it. Pick the one you like best. I quite like the reference to Óengus II of the Picts seeing a St. Andrews' cross in the sky during a battle.

We have a new battle over Scotland's future coming up next May when the Scottish Parliamentary elections will be held. The traditional rulers of Scotland, The Labour Party, are trailing in the polls to the Scottish National Party (SNP). We could have an SNP administration running Scotland next year and a constitutional crisis. We could also see the scenario of a Tory Westminster government and an SNP Holyrood administration. An explosive combination. The national question in Scotland has calmed down since the Scottish Parliament was won, but has not gone off the boil. In the next period things could start to heat up again.

Labour are worried. Really worried. And they have begun an almighty assault on the SNP. At their recent conference in Oban the Scottish Labour Party had speaker after speaker to attack the SNP. Leading ideologue Douglas Alexander MP (who I knew in his former life as head of the Scottish branch of the National Union of Students) said:

"Alex Salmond says that next May he's got a date with destiny. It's not his first. The problem is destiny keeps on standing him up. In truth, [the SNP's] 19th century philosophy of borders and barriers just doesn't make sense in a 21st century shaped by the twin forces of globalisation and interdependence. History and modernity are against him. Alex Salmond is an old man in a hurry."

Interesting to see the ideological spin on the attack on the SNP.

From the point of view of neo-liberal globalisers the British state shouldn't make any more sense than a Scottish state.

In fact the SNP are if anything more in favour or untrammelled globalisation. It's the cornerstone of the 'celtic tiger' approach. Like Ireland, drop business taxes and provide incentives to relocate. At the same time try to engineer a workforce with skills but who will accept low wages. Gotta compete with Bangalore after all.

See also the SNP's gushing love of the EU, a 'Europe of the Regions' etc.

No, borders and barriers don't make sense. Which is why we need to talk about their hypocrisy over immigration controls, restrictions on Romanian etc immigration, detention centres for asylum seekers. New Labour are hardly against borders or barriers. Those barriers also can't work in a 'globalised' world. Poor people from Africa will still get in leaky boats to get a better life in Europe doing the jobs Europeans don't want, or can't afford, to do. Poor people in Latin America will still ride the death trains to work in the fields and meat packers propping up US agriculture.

We need a vision of a Scotland that stands out from this crap. That offers rights, protection and a decent life to all, native and immigrant alike and that supports those fighting for better societies in Africa, Latin America and all over the world.

But talk like that can get you nailed to a diagonal cross.

Image is 'study for St. Andrew' by Peter Howson currently in exhibition at Edinburgh's City Art Centre. I have postcards of, among other things, Communist Party banners painted by the young Howson.

:: Alister | 3:32 pm | save this page to del.icio.us Save This Page | permalink⊕ | | (3) comments

:: Sunday, November 26, 2006 ::

New Slimline Phones Unveiled

Princes Street, Edinburgh, yesterday. (No it's not me with the phone.)

New Slimline Phones

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:: Thursday, November 23, 2006 ::

Rockin' With Ted

Ted Chippington that is. I am on record as being a great admirer of Ted Chippington. For those of you not in the know, Ted was the greatest stand-up comic of the '80s.

Typical Ted routine, courtesy of wikipedia:
"I was walking down the road the other day, this chap drove up beside me and said, 'Excuse me, mate, I'm in a dilemma.' I said, 'Aye, good motors, Dilemmas. I was thinking of buying one myself. A red one perhaps.'"

"I was walking down the road the other day, this chap walked up to me and said 'Do you want to buy some grass, mate?' I said 'No thanks, mate, I've got crazy paving. Haven't got a garden, you see.'"

"I was walking down the road the other day, this chap walked up to me and said 'Do you want to buy some LSD, mate?' I said 'No thanks, mate, We've gone decimalised now. You know, pounds, shillings and pence - no use to me any more.'"

"I was walking down the road the other day, this chap came up to me. I said to him, 'Haven't seen you for a while.' He said 'Well, I've just got back from Nam.' I said, 'What, you mean Vietnam?' He said 'No, mate, Chelt'nam.'"

"I look forward to when I've got a car and I can drive down the road, so I won't get all these characters coming up to me."

Ted has been revived, found religion and is now the Rev. Ted. There are plans to release a box set of his complete works in 2007. He has a MySpace. He is currently doing a few tour dates but none anywhere near me unfortunately. If you get the chance please go and see him. You won't regret it.

Here is a rather untypical example of Ted at work. This is a collaboration with label-mates Fuzzbox and The Nightingales on Ted's song Rocking with Rita.

Another one on YouTube.

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:: Monday, November 20, 2006 ::


So in virtual worlds as in real life. Second Life Scotland has split...between the yanks and the Scots! Apparently the US based side wanted it to be a tartan and shortbread tourist spot whereas the Scots wanted it to reflect some real-life Scotland. So I'll be off to real-virtual Scotland when it is ready. I know, it's confusing.

Which leads me on to the question...is it possible to be a gamer and be normal? The excellent videoGaiden investigate.

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:: Friday, November 17, 2006 ::

Irk the Purists

Half Man Half Biscuit, originally uploaded by alister.

Half Man Half Biscuit
Live, Edinburgh Liquid Rooms
Wednesday 15th November 2006.

It's time for the annual visit of Half Man Half Biscuit to Edinburgh hurray! Heavy rain and roadworks made my bus trip incredibly slow meaning that I missed support act The Hussy's who I had been looking forward to seeing. But my mate informed me that they had a nice bouncy set.

Andy Kershaw once remarked that Half Man Half Biscuit were the greatest British folk group since the Clash and I think that is a good description. Not a novelty act more like slightly curmudgeonly social commentators with a healthy disdain for all things pretentious or idiotic, with extra references to obscure musicians, composers of Nineteenth Century church music, television shows from the 70's and Winter Olympics bronze medalists thrown in for free.

HMHB kicked off with Vatican Broadside a charming terrace singalong about the Pope's disdain for death-metallers Slipknot. And from there it was into a nice selection of both classics and obscurities. Personal faves, The Light At The End of the Tunnel, Everything's AOR, We Built This Village on a Trad-Arr Tune, Them's the Vagaries and of course Joy Division Oven Gloves ("The plates are too hot/You'll never guess what/I've got Joy Division oven gloves").

The undoubted highlight was the rendition of the ever-mutating song '24 hour garage people' whose tale of tormenting surly youths working in said 24 hour garages was boosted with the addition of the faintly heard strains of their iPod (simulated with a tape deck and featuring various 80's classics.) Not so sure about the encore of 'Mrs Robinson' though...for purist-irking purposes no doubt.

Before heading off back to Birkenhead in the van they left us with this thought "There is nothing better in life than writing on the sole of your slipper with a biro (on a Saturday night instead of going to the pub)"

No 'Ballad of Climie Fisher' though unfortunately.

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:: Thursday, November 16, 2006 ::

Live from Second Life Scotland

Yes it's the middle of the night, as SL seems to go on US times. Lots of tartan and bagpipes in SL Scotland.

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:: Wednesday, November 15, 2006 ::

Get a (second) life

Progressive Gold has got some interesting feedback on the question of campaigning in Second Life and other virtual worlds, which I discussed here.

"These developments may be inevitable, but I doubt I'm ever going to get my head around why anyone thinks it advantageous in any way to exist in a virtual world like Second Life when all it is is a simulacrum of this one. What is the point of having a virtual world in which the conditions can be anything, anything at all that mathematical modelling allows, but which just replicates the meatworld you're actually existing in? What a bloody waste of time, effort and bandwidth.

To bring RL money and politics into such a virtual world seems to negate the whole point of the exercise. If a socialist party wants to experiment in virtuality, why not create a socialist world on their own server somewhere to see how theory works in practice? Seems to me that'd be a lot more productive than canvassing Second Life denizens, most of whom can't vote for them anyway. I'd've thought any actual electoral returns the SP get from SL'd be minimal. The only point of it is for the PR value, but who wants to get lumped in with xenophobic losers like UKIP?

I can see why they'd canvass in SL if it were for a SL election: I suppose even virtual worlds must have a government - but the campaigning in SL is not aimed at SL government, it's meant to affect a RL election. If it's leftist geeks they want to reach, there must be better ways than this.

Personally I've never been a big MUD fan and Second Life does not appeal at all so perhaps I'm biased. I've always though that if I want greed, crime and political shenanigans I can get them here in spades."

Fair points. Also I wonder if people even want to encounter politics in a space that most probably go to for pure escapism and to "be someone else". But a few SSP members have recently got together and are planning some stuff for a new "Scotland" zone in Second Life. Experiments really at this stage. I logged in and am finding it a bit laggy but will see what I can do.

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:: Tuesday, November 14, 2006 ::

Northampton man to appear on television

Great story from the Northampton Evening Telegraph:

"NORTHAMPTON writer Alan Moore is to feature in a forthcoming episode of The Simpsons.

The new shop has persuaded Moore to make a public appearance. In reality, Mr Moore rarely makes publicity appearances, preferring to concentrate on his prolific output of work.

This has earned him a reputation in America as a recluse although in Northampton he has a wide network of long-time friends and family."

See, Northampton is the centre of the universe.

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:: Thursday, November 09, 2006 ::

Zorro Bloggo

Well he has been kind enough to link to me so the least I could do is linky him back. SSP national convener Colin Fox MSP is now blogging at http://colinfoxmsp.blogspot.com/. Not sure if there are any others in the Scottish parliament who are seriously blogging.

In other blog news Neil's Year off the Drink has ended and he is back on and blogging from The Vegetable.

You might also want to visit Rantin' Ravin' Gordon.

:: Alister | 10:08 am | save this page to del.icio.us Save This Page | permalink⊕ | | (0) comments

Singles Going Steady


Yes it's Scottish singles this week on Perspective. Had a rake through last night, but missing a few including from the Associates. Some dodgy Love and Money stuff though!

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:: Wednesday, November 08, 2006 ::

Club Country

The Scottish top ten singles poll has led me to some interesting places including the discovery of a Scottish college with no less than 3 Scottish pop legends on the teaching staff. But it also led me to YouTube which is great for odd and obscure TV clips. The Associates are currently top of the chart (by a mile) and YouTube offered up all sorts of Associates goodies including an appearance on the BA Robertson show with Billy McKenzie wearing a natty airline pilots outfit.

Below I bring you Billy McKenzie performing You Only Live Twice on the Jonathan Ross show sometime in the early 90's would be my guess.

You can also find more top ten Scottish singles discussion and downloads at Vinyl Villains blog.

:: Alister | 10:18 am | save this page to del.icio.us Save This Page | permalink⊕ | | (4) comments

:: Tuesday, November 07, 2006 ::

The Absolute Game

Interesting chat in the pub last night with my mate Dave, who is co-author of a new web-site Jock 'n' Roll which is seeking to find the greatest Scottish pop singles of all time.

A wide-ranging conversation brought up long forgotten bands like Champion Doug Veitch, The Wilderness Children, Bourgie Bourgie and many others.

He had already asked me for my top ten before the site went live, so here it is, with only minor changes.

  1. Jesus and Mary Chain – Never Understand.

  2. Associates – Party Fears Two.

  3. Skids – Into the Valley.

  4. Orange Juice – Blue Boy

  5. Cocteau Twins – Pearly Dewdrops

  6. Teenage Fanclub - Sparky's Dream

  7. Big Country – Fields of Fire

  8. Primal Scream – Loaded

  9. Aztec Camera – Oblivious

  10. Edwyn Collins – A Girl Like You

Not quite making the cut were Belle and Sebastian with Lazy Line Painter Jane and Camera Obscura with Lloyd, I’m Ready To Be Heartbroken.

The actual top ten at the moment (and the top 50 are listed and updated weekly) is as follows:

1 (1) The Associates—Party Fears Two (1982)
2 (2) Aztec Camera—Oblivious (1983)
3 (4) The Skids—Into The Valley (1979)
4 (3) The Blue Nile—Tinseltown In The Rain (1984)
5 (5) Franz Ferdinand—Take Me Out (2004)
6 (7) Big Country—In A Big Country (1983)
7 (6) Jesus and Mary Chain—Never Understand (1985)
8 (10) Orange Juice—Rip It Up (1983*)
9 (8) Deacon Blue—Dignity (1987)
10 (18) Trashcan Sinatras—Obscurity Knocks (1990)

Fair enough, except for Deacon Blue! Some artists like Teenage Fanclub are suffering from having voting spread over several singles, with no obvious one to concentrate on.

Anyway, if you have your own opinions go to the site and vote!

:: Alister | 10:13 am | save this page to del.icio.us Save This Page | permalink⊕ | | (0) comments

:: Wednesday, November 01, 2006 ::

lol at ukip noobs

The media seems to have gone crazy about Second Life recently. SL is a 'virtual world' with 1,211,392 users. It's like the MMO (massively multiplayer online role-playing game) World of Warcraft but without the orcs, goblins or fighting. Although actually you can fight there if you want to, according to the Observer anyway. The fact that news-agency Reuters has set up an office there seems to have stirred them up. Actually millions of people already use these spaces. In countries such as South Korea it is a thoroughly mainstream activity. You can buy cards with the currency of virtual worlds in corner shops.

Today the Guardian Games Blog announced that right-wing xenophobes UKIP were setting up an office in SL. They describe UKIP as 'libertarian' which they are not, in fact they are the polar opposite of libertarians who believe in free movements of people. Well a nice little publicity coup if nothing else. But in cyberspace there are no national boundaries and the defence of 'Britishness' 'imperial measurements' and the 'pound sterling' are a bit meaningless. Perhaps they will campaign to put the queen's head on Linden dollars?

Apparently Dutch parliamentarians also plan to take to the streets of a virtual Amsterdam, which judging from the screen-shots is a bit cleaner than the real one I was in last week. The participants include Arda Gerkens from the Socialist Party.

"With the elections to be held on November 22, they are visiting locations in SL that are frequented regularly by Dutch people, from where they will hand out election flyers. The Members of Parliament will also tour projects in SL dealing in the field of health care and education. All of the participants recognize the importance of virtual worlds like SL: 'Such worlds are becoming more and more realistic and, consequently, the impact they have on people and society increases, too. Politicians should be aware of this development.'

It is probably inevitable that mainstream parties will move into these spaces. You might not see David Cameron doing a molten core run or Tony Blair taking down frostfire, but we may have to face that even in lands residing on servers there is no escape from politics.

All that is solid melts into air, indeed.

:: Alister | 11:26 am | save this page to del.icio.us Save This Page | permalink⊕ | | (3) comments