The sound on most CDs Wolfe releases is deliberately low-bitrate, with a glossy, uneasy, skinny sheen that’s a stark contrast to the lossless warmth of most streamed music. Some fans call lo-bit music “ghostwave”, because, as Hall Of Mirrors act Cursor Daly puts it, “you start listening to stuff that isn’t there, phantom sound— your ears are filling in the gaps. Below 128 kbps you’re essentially hallucinating sound, no two people hear the same thing. Loads of CD nerds were neuroscience majors.”
Reading this again after it was linked in the previous article. It’s really very funny. Also, Grimes was a neuroscience student! (although I particulalry like listening to her album on vinyl)
“Along with the success of Record Store Day as a reliable gateway for young vinyl buyers, record stores also point to the ubiquity of download cards that come with new vinyl LPs as a sales driver. The claim makes sense given another aspect of young consumers’ buying habits that stores and labels didn’t anticipate: Recently, London-based ICM Research found that “15 percent of those who buy physical music formats such as CDs, vinyl records, and cassettes never listen to them—they buy them purely to own.”
So if it’s less about sound, then vinyl is a badge as much as a format—a way listeners can self-identify as true music fans. And when assessing the current state of vinyl, perhaps the harbinger of its eventual decline or plateau is the durability of that badge status: If enough music fans decide vinyl’s perceived authenticity has been compromised, will it become a hollow gimmick? And if vinyl fatigue sets in, will consumers be satisfied to stream or download? If they still crave something physical, will they revert to CDs? Or cassettes?”
Reading this prompted me to look up the proper (Marxist) definition of commodity fetishism, which may, strictly speaking, be misapplied here: it is precisely not fetishizing the object for its own value (though what that would even be is debatable) but for its social significance: “It is nothing but the definite social relation between men themselves which assumes here, for them, the fantastic form of a relation between things”, and having “absolutely no connection with the physical nature of the commodity and the material relations arising out of this”.
On the one hand, vinyl has a social cachet, or meaning (in addition to a subjective aesthetic value, which again is difficult if not impossible to extricate from the social setting), which may loosely fit this definition. On the other, a more economic connection might be what the line about download codes first suggested to me: that purchasing a physical copy is, materially, a way of supporting the artists and labels that is more satisfying and less dutiful than paying for a download. In other words, the physical and aesthetic use-value of a record coincides with its social and ethical exchange-value, insofar as we are committed to supporting artists through commercial exploitation, theirs and ours.
The other thing I noted in the piece was this part near the beginning:
“More and more people are buying vinyl; sales hit a record 6.1 million units in the U.S. last year. But as demand increases, the number of American pressing plants remains relatively fixed. No one is building new presses because, by all accounts, it would be prohibitively expensive.”
If vinyl sales are so high, and increasing, it’s hardly prohibitive, in an economic sense, surely? I’ve seen this explained away before by pointing to the very uncertainty alluded to (and largely dismissed) above, although the connection is not made here: that the risk of the vinyl boom deflating is too great to justify the capital investment. Or unless the risk-taking American entrepreneur (I note that the manufacturing described is indeed in American plants) has disappeared, or gone entirely into the online bubble, the returns don’t justify it either. The article suggests that the pain of the supply shortage is shared relatively equally, but in the context of major labels dumping large amounts of dubious stock on stores (One Direction vinyl, for example), maybe the economic interests of the larger and more influential players aren’t as badly affected, yet - or they’re not going long on “perceived authenticity” either.
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I wrote my first piece on Medium, about a 19th-century county gaol, mediated through Foucault. Pretty straightforward really, just historical research/notes, didn’t get too philosophical (I have work to be doing/not procrastinating!).
“…what is modern philosophy if we read it as a history of veridiction in its parresiastic form? It is a practice which tests its reality in its relationships to politics. It is a practice which finds its function of truth in the criticism of illusion, deception, trickery, and flattery. And finally it is a practice which finds [the object of its] exercise in the transformation of the subject by himself and of the subject by the other. Philosophy as exteriority with regard to a politics of illusion which challenges it to constitute itself as true discourse, and philosophy as ascesis, that is to say, as constitution of the subject by himself, seems to me to constitute the mode of being of modern philosophy, or maybe that which, in the mode of being of modern philosophy, takes up the mode of being of ancient philosophy.”
Michel Foucault, The Government of Self and Others, 353-4
“We need a characterization of art today that feels more pressing and relevant. That’s what I tried to do in the book: you know, there was minimalism which exteriorized the art object so that it was now about the room it was placed in, and therefore about the institution that built that room, and there was the influence of conceptual art and its foregrounding information and circulation and systems of distribution and so on and so forth. Today you find these developments in their most advanced state in social practice. Instead of objects that are exteriorized, it’s subjects that are exteriorized!”
Found a wildflower meadow/patch of scrubland today near the Corrib that was full of bumblebees, dragonflies as big as my fist swooping around or taking off from the path in front of me with a disconcerting clacking sound, white and purple orchids, willow warblers going hoo-et from the branches of birch trees. None of which photographed particularly well or at all.
In other procrastination from thesis writing, I’m just about finished Foucault’s The Government of Self and Others (it’s not strictly related to my work) and have started The History of Sexuality.
As already mentioned, European history “between the wars”. I did a very interesting compulsory module in my final year of undergraduate on the interwar period, with a lot of focus on the cultural side of it, and I chose an MA in the ‘history of modernity’ done by one of the same lecturers. More specifically though, the history of Communism in Europe in that period, beginning with the rise of the threat of fascism and continuing on through the Second World War; it’s a little grandiose, but once 2008 came around (I started my MA in 2009) the parallels became increasingly apparent; the complacent liberal world shattered, not just by the First World War, but by economic and political crisis. And then there are these massive ideologies which suck people in, until some of them, earlier than others (Victor Serge, Arthur Koestler, George Orwell) notice the contradictions in their preferred idea, but are trapped by the need to fight against the worst enemy; throughout all this, there’s a nostalgia for the pre-WWI world and the idea of constant progress and/or comfortable stasis it represented (I have Stefan Zweig’s The World of Yesterday to read about that idea). In general, it’s close enough to be accessible but distant enough to really feel like ‘history’; the post-war world, particularly up until ‘68, is heavily shaped by it (and not just the war itself), so the connections to current politics are not too difficult to find.
16. Do you own some historical item? (coin, clothing, weapons, books, ect) If yes which one is your favourite?
I have an inherited coin collection with a few relatively old and odd coins - which I should actually dig out again to identify with the help of the internet now - but my favourite item is, connected with the above, an original 1937 cloth-backed orange copy of Koestler’s Spanish Testamentas published by the Gollancz Left Book Club. Actually the book’s not great, I’ll probably never read the first half again and the second half is with some changes in my more modern copy of Dialogue with Death; but I guess what I like is having the actual object connected with the period, more so than the text (although for research purposes that helped).
'We look into the core of you as a technical digital entity'
Reading this lengthy Evgeny Morozov piece via @hautepop, about ‘algorithmic regulation’, was reminded of an article I saw recently in the Irish Times business section (I was reading the physical paper at home, otherwise I probably wouldn’t have clicked on it) describing a new system to counter online credit card fraud. On the one hand it does sound ingenious, on the other it fits very much with the self as a probability construct:
"We actually use about 80 different data sources instead of these rules. We actually look at the human in the transaction. And we make a decision in about a quarter of a second,” he says.
The retailer must first allow Trustev access to its systems and for the first few weeks Trustev just watches transactions on the site in order to establish a profile for a “normal” customer.
“So what we do is we sit in there, we look at you, we look at your device, we look at your IP address. We look at your behaviour. We look at your location. We look at your email address. And we do a lot of mix and matching with that and a lot of algorithmic work, and we make a decision,” he says before adding : “We look into the core of you as a technical digital entity.”
I am not quite sure what that means but, in these post-Snowden days, it sounds a little Orwellian.
“We create a digital footprint of you at that time,” he explains. The amplification does not reassure to be honest. Nor does what comes next.
“We’ve gone through the payment. How you browse the site. How you interact with links. The machine you’re on. The IP address you’re on. Does the IP you’re on match the shipping address? If you enter your mobile, we pull back mobile location. Does the IP address match the mobile location, match the address you put in?
“And now you’re starting to run through multiple different, completely independent, pieces of data confirming identity and location,” he adds.
It’s a lot of information and Trustev retains it and uses it across its “platform”. However, it is all erased after 90 days as required by law.
“After 90 days it is useless information anyway,” he explains, which in its own way is quite unsettling.
My new phone has a ‘music square’ which appears to automatically categorize your music by mood, with two axes. Results:
Exciting: Ramones, ‘Blitzkrieg Bop’ - excellent
Calm: Vampire Weekend, ‘A-Punk’ - okaaay
Joyful: Ramones, again, ‘53rd & 3rd’ - hmm, “Standing on the street/I’m tryin’ to turn a trick”, “Then I took out my razor blade/Then I did what God forbade”; to be fair, it sort of excludes ‘passion’ (see next), but it’s hardly full of joy either, except in a twisted sense of jouissance
Passionate: Mclusky, ‘Alan is a Cowboy Killer’ - it’s intense, I’ll admit, but beyond that (and accepting that the music is being analysed rather than the lyrics) it’s still very wrong
I don’t think it’s covered all my library (Regulator Watts features heavily as well) although the above is fairly represenative of what it has to work with (and why I’m not great at putting music on at parties). Mind you, my first definition of punk - based on the pop-punk of Green Day, Rancid, the Bouncing Souls - was music in which the content of the lyrics were largely antithetical to the mood of the songs, so maybe I shouldn’t be so surprised.
That’s a tough one, actually. For a start, I’m not much a film buff, although I have recently realised I will watch anything from the 1970s, particularly with the involvement of Scorsese, De Niro, New York, poorly paved streets, etc. But when it comes to history, I think I prefer engaging with it on the grand, or at least political/’intellectual’, scale that doesn’t really translate into cinematic representation very easily. Unless it’s a character study posed in an historical epoch I like, I suppose - but I don’t even read much historical fiction, as opposed to fiction written in (or near to) historical periods. As a depiction of social history, I rather liked Jimmy’s Hall this year, although it’s probably good rather than great as a film. Really, I’d have to include TV drama series: Carnivale, Band of Brothers, and Mad Men. Or for a film based on a really good book, the 1967 version of Ulysses.
23. Favourite historical song
Certainly in terms of how often the chorus gets stuck in my head, the Clash’s ‘Spanish Bombs’, although untangling the references can get pretty complicated.
10. Pieces of art (paintings, sculpures, lithographies, etc.) related to history you like most (post an image of them)
Francis Bacon, from ‘Man in Blue V’ (1954) on the cover of Darkness at Noon, illustrating the self-effacing nature of totalitarianism:
Felix Nussbaum, ‘Self-Portrait in a Surreal Landscape’ (1939), adorning the cover of a volume of autobiography by Koestler’s more level-headed friend and fellow ex-Communist, Jew and refugee from a collapsing Mitteleuropa, Manes Sperber:
I’m kinda giving away the answer to another of the questions when I say that the mid-20th century period in European history is my ‘favourite’, but I do particularly like a lot of the art surrounding it.
Closer to home, I was really taken with seeing Seán Keating’s ‘Tipperary Hurler’ (1928) up close in the Hugh Lane recently. The painting is wonderfully intense, with the subject being both sportsman and patriot (what I read was that it bears a strong resemblance to a well-known IRA volunteer). Although obviously I have some mixed feelings about, ahem, ‘muscular nationalism’.
“I need to negotiate who I am with others for the idea to even matter. Alone, I am no one, no matter how much information I may consume.”—Also, this (does it say something about me that this registers as profound, if not revelatory? Probably)
“Because excess information is “pushed” at us rather than something we have to seek out, we are always being reminded that there is more to know than we can assimilate, and that what we know is a partial representation, a construct. Like a despairing dissertation writer, we cannot help but know that we can’t assimilate all the knowledge it’s possible to collect. Each new piece of information raises further questions, or invites more research to properly contextualize it.”—
Really interesting Rob Horning piece about data surveillance, population control, the construction of the self, truth and probability (and profit). Although this line is actually a plot point from The Matrix: Reloaded*
"A margin of noncompliance has already been factored in and may in fact be integral to the containment of the broader social dynamics being modeled at the population level."
(*you know, the scene with all the tv screens, and the long expository speech - that I couldn’t really follow when I saw it first, but just happened to be watching a few nights ago)
"So there are two approaches: the revolutionary approach, basically structured around traditional positions of public law, and the radical approach, basically structured around the new economy of governmental reason. These two approaches imply two conceptions of the law. In the revolutionary, axiomatic approach, the law will be seen as the expression of a will. So there will be a system of will-law. The problem of the will is, of course, at the heart of the problems of right, which again confirms that the fact that this is a fundamentally juridical problematic. The law is therefore conceived as the expression of a collective will indicating the part of right individuals have agreed to cede, and the part they wish to hold on to. In the other problematic, the radical utilitarian approach, the law is conceived as the effect of a transaction that separates the sphere of intervention of public authorities from that of the individual’s independence. This leads to another distinction which is also very important. On one side you have a juridical conception of freedom: every individual originally has in his possession a certain freedom, a part of which he will or will not cede. On the other side, freedom is not conceived as the exercise of some basic rights, but simply as the independence of the governed with regard to government. We have therefore two absolutely heterogeneous conceptions of freedom, one based on the rights of man, and the other starting from the independence of the governed. I am not saying that the two systems of the rights of man and the independence of the governed do not intertwine, but they have different historical origins and I think they are essentially heterogeneous or disparate. With regard to the problem of what are currently called human rights, we would only need to look at where, in what countries, how, and in what form these rights are claimed to see that at times the question is actually the juridical question of rights, and at others it is a question of this assertion or claim of the independence of the governed vis-à-vis governmentality."
The Birth of Biopolitics, 41-2
"Governing properly will mean that one is able to govern by utilising two resources. First phobōs (fear). Those who govern must make fear reign over those who are governed, and they will do this by demonstrating their strength (bia, the text says). This material strength must be effectively present and visible, and this fear will ensure good government. But at the same time, and this will be the second means of governing, the governors must show aidōs (that is to say, a sense of decency and respect). This aidōs is not directly the respect that the governed owe to those who govern them, but this aidōs (respect) must be, as it were, an internal relationship of the governors to themselves, their respect for their obligations, for the city, and for the laws of the city. Aidōs will mean that one is able to submit to the laws like a slave (he uses the term douleuein). Being a slave of the law, wanting to constitute oneself as a slave of the law will characterise the aidōs (respect) of the governors with regard to themselves, the city, and its laws. And this respect will then bring about the respect that others – the governed – may have for them. So “aidōs” should be understood as a virtue which characterizes the relationship of the governed to the governors, but which also and especially characterizes the attitude of the governors towards themselves.”
This post about Ireland’s appearance before the UN Human Rights Committee - the monitoring body for the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) - focuses on an aspect of the state’s justification of our extremely restrictive recent abortion law that caught my attention as well: its compliance with “citizens’ right to vote”.
“Mary Jackson, principal officer at the Department of Health, responding to Ireland rapporteur Yuval Shany’s questioning about how Ireland’s current regime could be reconciled with Articles 6 and 7 of the ICCPR, which guarantee the right to life and prohibit torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, said that ‘Ireland’s approach to legislating for abortion complied with Article 25 of the Covenant which guaranteed all citizens’ right to vote and self-determination.’
Every citizen shall have the right and the opportunity, without any of the distinctions mentioned in article 2 and without unreasonable restrictions: (a) To take part in the conduct of public affairs, directly or through freely chosen representatives;
(b) To vote and to be elected at genuine periodic elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret ballot, guaranteeing the free expression of the will of the electors;
(c) To have access, on general terms of equality, to public service in his country.
Ireland’s position, then, was that torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment could be administered provided that it arose from the free expression of the will of electors.
Or perhaps it could not be torture, or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, given that voters had freely chosen to administer it.”
Without having looked too deeply at the proceedings, I can spot one flaw in the argument here: the reference to Art. 25 was not meant to justify a violation of Art. 7, because, as the rapporteur stated and any student of human rights knows, the prohibition of torture is absolute and therefore admitting of no justification or, in the legal term, ‘derogation’. More to the point, ascribing the status of non-derogable “mental torture” to the theoretical operation of the abortion legislation – where a woman who requests a termination because of the threat of suicide faces interviews by multiple psychiatrists before the procedure may, possibly, be allowed – is an extreme position legally, even if it doubtless has moral force.
The use of Art. 25 seems to be more of a weak figleaf of protection for Ireland’s abortion regime from outside criticism by reference to the inherent difficulty of passing controversial social (i.e., ‘religious’) legislation in Ireland. The appeal is made both to the constitutional majoritarianism underlying the pro-life 8th Amendment, and – at least implicitly – to the principle of sovereignty and the ability of democratic polities to decide, or self-determine, the implementation of ‘human rights’. The latter is a common refrain in these interactions between states and international bodies, to which the usual response is to point out the formal supremacy of international law while allowing a sensible (and politically efficacious) measure of discretion.
However, the specific (and unsuccessful) articulation of the Irish citizens’ “right to vote” also highlights one of the key aspects of human rights law: its “counter-majoritarian” quality, or the principle that formally defined ‘rights’ trump any attempt to counter them by passing legislation. It’s similar to the constitutional principles or ‘checks and balances’ within countries, except here democratic governments are bound by the international treaties they sign up to. As well as countering the ‘tyranny of the majority’, it also expresses the broader meaning of democracy as being about the protection of rights as well as just voting. Yet it equally highlights a certain contradiction of liberalism, the idea of being ‘forced to be free’, that true freedom cannot rest on free choice.
Of course, in theory (and, at times, in practice) constitutions and treaties can be amended through democratic means – usually indirectly, by governments, occasionally more-or-less directly, as in the case of the Irish plebiscites, or often obliquely, through the ‘guardians of the constitution’, the courts, national, regional or international. Nevertheless the idea persists that these worthy documents take on a solid form, constraining ‘democratic’ government action – in the post above, “such things as human rights enshrined in international law”, “fundamental human rights” – for the most part because they do express ideas that we wish our governments to be held accountable to. If they don’t – well tough.
"And the United Nations has spoken. Fitzgerald listened and she heard them. Of course, “the will of the majority cannot derogate from the State’s human rights obligations”, she said. That’s new. That’s significant."
The criticism of the Irish abortion regime in effect places the Irish government in between two counter-majoritarian movements, although one perhaps admits it more readily than the other: human rights, and Catholic doctrine. The opponents of abortion in all circumstances, while making up between 10-15% of the population in repeated polling, continue to hold on to the idea that there really is a majority opposed to liberalisation of abortion – the last referendum in 2002, further constraining the constitutional position, was after all only very narrowly defeated – but ultimately their argument, along with all other pro-life movements, rests on a ‘rights claim’ for the unborn that cannot be alienated by any democratic majority (in practice, other European Catholic countries have more liberal abortion laws where the position of the Church is one of criticism rather than blocking). On the other side, while not enshrining freedom of choice as a right in itself, the international human rights movement insists that legislation be undertaken in accordance with other inalienable rights of the person.
To pass such adequate legislation the Irish government would need to face down a very vocal minority, both within parliament (and its own parties) and outside, as well as a broad reluctance to pursue ‘liberal’ goals, better than it has done already; and ultimately to address the constitutional issue by engaging on yet another bitter referendum campaign. Yet to do so - which is only what Irish women deserve - in favour of one counter-majoritarian project, even with the supposed authoritative force of international law, over another, deeply culturally embedded, is to pursue a stalemate of ‘rights’ that only highlights their limitations in the face of politics. (My own position with regards to abortion is that since the two claims are irreconcilable, the validity goes to the one compatible with a secular, pluralist state - but that is still a political stance) .
“However, the reasoning is not at all out of joint with Ireland’s dominant political culture. Attending to the demands of ‘the markets’, the general will of money, first and foremost, is the self-evident necessity, and the basic logic to political life according to conventional wisdom is that only once these things are attended to can the general public have access to the services it requires. Among the general public, those with property and money come first.”
What I’ve been working on of late is the legal basis of this, in Europe particularly, in the idea of an “economic constitution” that establishes an order of market freedoms protected from (majority) democratic interference. These are the ‘fundamental freedoms’ of the EU (of movement of goods, people, services and capital) to be balanced, judicially, against ‘fundamental rights’ that are supposed to protect social and democratic interests. Yet the latter are not, in formal terms anyway, necessarily more ‘democratic’ – and the opposition of such rights underlies the “structural bias” (Koskenniemi) of the legal and judicial system towards particular economic and social ends, away from the debate and discourse of democratic politics. Challenging the use of rights might be as ‘revolutionary’ as calling for the implementation of some of them.
a) the essay discusses Foucault’s writings and public statements in 1976-77, a few years before the Birth of Biopolitics lectures, but it illustrates the same ‘turn’ towards considering issues of power and the subject in a more explicitly (or conventionally) political setting; translating that early Foucault which is so integral to modern critical theory into something which actually intersects with political and economic science. Or at least that’s how I’ve experienced it; I was first exposed to Foucault as part of an undergrad political theory course which covered him alongside (or against) Habermas, and then later encountering aspects of his work in settings mostly (or at least strictly) outside the academic, reading Madness and Civilisation, all the ideas which have influenced critical sociology, and so on, but it’s only now that I’ve realised he produced what is arguably one of the foundational critiques of neoliberalism as a political and economic (as well as legal) project that he feels properly relevant, and perhaps understandable, to me.
b) there’s an interesting criticism of that approach in an article by Michael Behrent, ‘Liberalism without Humanism’, which basically argues for Foucault as a closet neoliberal. There are a few articles and academic pieces I’ve come across online in my readings that are open-access – that isn’t one of them, but as well as putting up some of the more accessible links sometime I think I want to try my hand at discussing this one. Mirowski in his book quotes him approvingly, as part of the idea that leftists shouldn’t be too enthused by Foucault’s critique of neoliberalism and see it more of a cloaked approbation: that as a famed anti-humanist (that is, roughly, rejecting the woolly, sentimental and plain ideological trappings of bien-pensant Western public philosophy in favour of his far more cynical views about power and domination) the technocratic form of neoliberalism actually allowed him to approach a ‘liberal’ stance without compromising his anti-humanist one. I agree there is certainly an ambiguity in Foucault’s opinion on his subject, but I think other aspects of his arguments as they apply to the political history are a little more dubious, or at least open to other interpretations
c) the topic in the quote, and in the article more generally, is to a large extent that perennial issue of the purposes of philosophy and philosophising. Likewise there is this quote about the ‘work of the intellectual’ from which The Knife took their album title Shaking the Habitual and which is reproduced inside the sleeve. I also just reached an interesting section of the Government of Self and Others lectures where he discusses Plato and his definition of philosophy, wherein it has not only an external dimension, to ‘others’, of truth-telling or parrhesia, but an internal one regarding the apprehension of philosophical truth. One of the conditions of which is not writing – for mostly elitist, Pythagorean (i.e. hidden, esoteric truths) reasons but also to emphasise (in a quasi-Buddhist way, perhaps) the centrality of practice, “of self on self” (which if it sounds masturbatory, there is a whole discussion revolving around, as the translator notes, the French verb frotter). He suggests that Plato’s actual writings on The Laws and The Republic were perhaps not really “serious”, as prescriptions of political theory, but like a “game” or “myth” – something similar to how Machiavelli’s The Prince is often understood, as an ironic reflection on amoral politics – which may be worth thinking about with regard to his often rather sarcastic (as with pretty much everything) treatment of neoliberalism. So I guess write, think, but don’t forget to laugh…
“One emerges stronger, more intelligent, more joyous after reading Foucault and yet he only complicates everything further. How is this possible? My intuition tells me this: joy in thinking has nothing to do with how comfortable the conclusions you reach are, but rather with the fact that we discover we are capable of reaching a place by ourselves. It is an experience that leaves a lasting imprint: if we have proven capable of thinking something (whatever it is) for ourselves, we can do so again.”—'Michael Foucault: a new political imagination' - translation by Hired Knave
Ireland is currently split between people who are mortally embarrassed by the cancellation farrago and those who declare it to be of the utmost importance. What is it with the Irish and country music?
Country & Irish, its local variation, is a legacy of the showband era of the 1960s where the soundtrack to Ireland’s tentative social modernisation was provided by covers bands playing brightly-lit, alcohol-free halls and marquees, overseen by anxious parish priests, desperately battling the zeitgeist. The showbands played a mixture of contemporary rock n’roll and country, the latter probably because of its ancestral affinity with Irish traditional music (one of the roots of Country & Western lies in the music imported by early Ulster Scots immigrants to the Appalachians and further south in the US).
I started writing a post about this earlier in the week, but after explaining the situation in a half-dozen paragraphs I was too depressed to continue. The important point to include I think is that initially two shows were announced for the 80,000 capacity Croke Park GAA stadium, which then became three and then five (all sold out) to meet demand, or put another way, to speculate on the demand. The local controversy about the number of night-time music concerts at the sports stadium led to the refusal of the formal licence application for the last two gigs, at which point Brooks demanded to play “five shows or none at all” (who actually ‘cancelled’ them is somewhat opaque).
This is a good, if early, take on the rapidly farcical goings-on and their illustration of the “sure, it’ll be grand”, nod-and-a-wink attitude to the interface between business and legislative regulation in Ireland. It’s also important, I think, to point out that it’s a two-sided practice, both entrepreneurial and governmental - the promoter sells tickets ‘subject to licence’ on the assumption that the planners won’t realistically refuse them. Furthermore, the promoter waited several months after selling the tickets to make the application, effectively maximising the disruption and controversy of the refusal - with ticket-holders (90,000 supposedly from outside of Ireland) likely to have booked flights and accomodation.
While on the one hand this is an unfortunate conflict between the expectations and desires of two groups of (relatively) ordinary individuals, the 400,000 Garth Brooks fans and those of the local Croke Park residents with serious and reasonable objections to a run of five night-time concerts (having already had three nights of One Direction this year, the baseline number of concerts agreed with the GAA), on the other this has predictably become about something bigger: money, and power. The disocurse is a not-so-ironic reflection of the Celtic Tiger obsession with valuing speculative business practices over bureaucratic regulation; decisions which run counter to economic interests must be ‘changed’, even - especially - if that means undoing the legal framework, and eroding the political authority, that offers communities some protection from exploitation.
These justifications are not even cohesive on a national level, as noted above: “that €50m [€250m in the Taoiseach’s telling], which presumably would otherwise be kept stuffed in mattresses, is being lost to the economy” - that is, money spent in Dublin at a concert is money otherwise saved or spent elsewhere in Ireland, for the majority of fans; and in any case a considerable fraction will be repatriated back to the good ol’ USA with Brooks. Conceivably, it will be a boost to the economic activity of Dublin, with money circulating between pubs, taxi drivers and hotels, to the benefit of the owners of city businesses. The junior minister for trade, and local Labour Party TD, Joe Costello is a reliable source for these clueless statements, comparing the money “generated” by the gigs to international trade missions as a way of justifying the Taoiseach’s possible intervention in the situation. As if to emphasise the biopolitical dimension of this, he said “he believed it was appropriate for the Taoiseach to get involved because the issue was not just a matter of dealing with 400,000 fans, but also a matter of dealing with the economy of the country”.
Ireland: the best small country in which to have business interests represented as an existential issue. After all, it’s our (global) reputation.
“There was an enormous bit of blanket bog, beautiful and desolate, and I was just following a wire fence across it. The Border is almost always attached to something; it rarely just goes across a field. There’s usually a wall, or a hedge, or a stream, or a fence. But this time I felt as far from other people as you can possibly be.”—
This reminded me of seeing Terence Flanagan’s ‘Bogwater and Bullwire’ in the Hugh Lane, a 1975 painting prompted by the Troubles (isn’t it strange how many elements of irish history are described only by definite articles?)
Earlier this week EMA tweeted “whoa just found out my weird vocal improv noise tape is up on @Spotify”, something I’d known for a while, and pointed out that ‘Red Star’ from Past Life Martyred Saints began as ‘Mouth Like The Sun’, which I’d also noticed, but I hadn’t realised that 'Cthulu' started as 'Perfection'. In fact, when I first wrote at length about The Future’s Void, I speculated on a connection between ‘Cthulu’ and ‘Red Star’, as mystical blues songs about ‘redemption’ and ‘revelation’. In turn, the first time I talked about Little Sketches on Tape was in connection with 'Red Star', although I also used it later as a way of getting at the vocal form of 'California' and the nature of recording itself. Point is, there’s a lot in these minimalist experiments to hear (and not just for me to write about*).
(*next up, whenever I get down to it, ‘Solace’ and sonic geography)
“And although, as Knoll is quick to point out, photos were being altered long ago in Soviet Russia, it was only Photoshop that democratised that ability. In a way Jennifer was the last person to sit on solid ground, gazing out into an infinitely fluid sea of zeros and ones, the last woman to inhabit a world where the camera never lied.”—Jennifer in paradise: the first photoshopped image (via)
“In this alignment, capitalism moves beyond the “intrinsically sad” affects of industrial capitalism and the “extrinsically joyful” affects of Fordist consumerism; “the sting of the idea that ‘real life is elsewhere’” has been removed from the well-aligned worker. Joyful life is life spent working at the call center, at the Google campus, and so on. Capital today profits on humans’ capacities for affective survival, on our abilities to convert the bleakness of any situation into conditions for a different kind of flourishing. The desire to work becomes the last achievable desire available for those who have to work all the time anyhow; we desire it so we can keep desiring.”—