John Martyn RIP
A lot of people have been hit hard by this one. Just sixty years old a tremendous loss.
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:: Friday, January 23, 2009 ::
Burns, Baby, Burns
This year marks the 250th anniversary of the birth of the great Scottish poet Robert Burns. Burns is still a figure who attracts immense interest and debate. At the heart of interest in him is the quality of his verse whether writing about love, politics or everyday life in the countryside. Around the world people know Auld Lang Syne and perhaps My Love is Like a Red Red Rose or even To A Haggis. Burns is one of the key aspects of the Scottish Government's Homecoming events. The homecoming website likes to talk a lot about branding and corporate sponsorship. Evidence of which I found in Tesco's clearly hoping to shift some haggis and neeps (I got mine from the butcher instead.)
Outside of the surprisingly tough world of Burns academia there is less known about the radical Burns. This Burns was the supporter of the French Revolution and of political liberty. To speak of these things could mean being disappeared to Australia and it required both care and courage to do so. The Burns scholar Patrick Scott-Hogg (below) has uncovered good evidence that points to Burns as the real author of certain poems, articles and letters of the time which side with the radical cause.
Paddy is an academic from Strathclyde University and the author of the Canongate Burns and I went along to the launch of his new book 'The Patriot Bard' at Blackwells in Edinburgh. It proved to be an entertaining and well attended launch for what promises to be a fascinating book.
Paddy painted a picture of Burns that went beyond the cliche of the womaniser and exploded the myth of Burns as intellectually simple man. The radicalism of Burns shines through in one of his greatest works 'A Man's A Man'. Fitting that a quote from that was the last words of German revolutionary Karl Liebknecht as he faced a firing squad in 1919.
"Ye see yon birkie ca'd 'a lord,'
Wha struts, an stares, an a' that?
Tho hundreds worship at his word,
He's but a cuif for a' that.
For a' that, an a' that,
His ribband, star, an a' that,
The man o independent mind,
He looks an laughs at a' that."
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Peaceful and prosperous were two words you would have used to describe Iceland. Now the island faces ruin as the credit crunch has wiped out banks and rendered the currency worthless. The icelandic Left-Green Movement have gone up in the polls. More remarkably civil disturbance has come to the streets of Iceland. Not really a riot by British or French standards, but the first time tear gas has been used in the nation since 1949. No, I don't know what happened in 1949.
Experts are predicting similar scenes in other countries with food and gas shortages on the agenda in places like Bulgaria and Ukraine.
What about good old Blighty? The excellent Leftbanker blog is predicting bankruptcy.
"Even conservative think tanks are predicting unemployment levels of 3.4 million which in reality is over 4m. Companies are going bankrupt at a rapid rate as credit and orders dry up. All this is feeding backing into the Banking and financial system increasing the losses. It is a dynamic that the government cannot stop and opens them to huge liabilities which may take the UK to the edge of bankruptcy, forcing them to go to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for a crisis loan. The IMF will impose strict conditions on any such loan which likely to include a freeze on pay rises and a large reduction in in public services."
As they say at the end of Crimewatch, don't have nightmares.
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:: Thursday, January 22, 2009 ::
Who Watches the News?
Fascinating archive footage discovered (well fascinating if you know who Alan Moore is.)
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:: Sunday, January 18, 2009 ::
An interesting new development in Scottish politics has been the Scottish Social Forum which met for the first time in late 2008. It was an encouraging event which brought together lots of greens and reds and a several other shades to discuss climate change, peak oil and our society. It was an event refreshingly free of the usual sectarian bunfights, phantom front-groups and so on. Long may that continue. With the crisis in the economy it is clear that debate over consumption is likely to sharpen.
Here is a wee film to promote it.
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:: Tuesday, January 13, 2009 ::
Could be so good for you.
Last year I went to see a great new Scottish band Attic Lights who do a great take on Beach Boys influenced Scottish pop with a Teenage Fanclub twist. If you haven't already done so do yourself a favour and check out their debut album.
But in a weird development they have been picked to do the soundtrack to a new Minder remake. Yes it's 'I could be so good for you'. They namechecked the Replacements in the Daily Record as influences on the track which is the first and last time they'll get a mention in that publication.
Also check out this YouTube intro to the band.
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:: Saturday, January 10, 2009 ::
Edinburgh Demo for Gaza
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:: Tuesday, January 06, 2009 ::
Stop the slaughter in Gaza. Protest.
From todays news:
"At least 40 people have been killed in an Israeli air strike on a United Nations-run school in the Gaza Strip, Palestinian medical sources have said.
A number of children were among those who died when the al-Fakhura school in the Jabaliya refugee camp took a direct hit, doctors at nearby hospitals said.
People inside had been taking refuge from the Israeli ground offensive.
Earlier, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) warned of a "full-blown humanitarian crisis" in Gaza.
Speaking on the 11th day of the Israeli assault, a senior ICRC official, Pierre Kraehenbuhl, said life in Gaza had become intolerable."
The slaughter in Gaza is intolerable. Protest.
Saturday 10 January 2009
Assemble 12:30pm East Market Street (behind Edinburgh Waverley Train Station)
March through the city centre and to the US Consulate.
Bring in-date medicine for Gaza, and spare shoes.
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:: Sunday, January 04, 2009 ::
Auld Lang Syne
"Original manuscript of Auld Lang Syne, hand-written by Robert Burns."
Yes, happy new year to you all.
This is from the interesting official flickr page of the Scottish Government.
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Things Could Be Worse
According to this display in Blackwell's bookshop which promoted books about the great depression of the 30's.
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:: Friday, January 02, 2009 ::
If you look through the archives of this blog you will find lots of reviews and photos of shows at the Liquid Rooms in Edinburgh. Sadly the venue has been hit by a terrible fire which could close if for up to a year. Where to go? There are smaller venues like Bannermans and Cabaret Voltaire and bigger ones like The Picture House and the Corn Exchange. But is there an equivalent to the Liquid Rooms? I hope so.
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