The UK’s Supreme Court, sitting in London, has ruled that Scotland may not hold a referendum on Scottish independence.
The judgment is un-surprising – but also interesting.
First, it reveals that the British Union is emphatically not a union, at least, not in any modern sense.
Ask yourself what would happen if England wished to hold a referendum on an English secession from the UK union?
By contrast, the EU is a union, freely entered into. You decide to join, and, as the UK has shown, you have a right to leave. And that right to leave can be exercised unilaterally.
By contrast, any country or region wishing to leave the British Union de facto needs English approval to do so.
And that’s the intractable asymmetry problem at the heart of a union between a large English backside and 3 Celtic pimples.
The judgment is also interesting in another way. At line 78 in the judgment, it was held that: “a lawfully held referendum is not merely an exercise in public consultation or a survey of public opinion.“
This is new. I dislike referendum(b)s, viewing their plebiscite-democracy character as being at odds with a system of representative democracy. The UK’s judiciary here is demonstrating its jurisprudential elasticity by this new categorisation of plebiscites as having a legally intermediate nature, but no good will come of it. Referendums are too intrinsically febrile, and too susceptible to troll-farm / mob-capture. A system of representative democracy moves more slowly and any change emanating therefrom will be less socially divisive and longer lasting. That is, if you don’t like something, you need to get out there, form a party, sell your ideas to the electorate and get into government on your manifesto. That takes real commitment and tends to weed out the bullfhitters. By contrast, voting in a referendum is no more onerous than voting in a bake-off competition. They should be banned.
Has there ever been a dumber business deal than Musk’s botched and over-priced acquisition of Twitter? Musk massively over-paid for Twitter, and his approach to the deal was so amateurish that he locked himself in early. Frankly, had he been a mid-ranking investment manager, you’d have fired him for such a cock-up.
“It looked like Musk had put himself into a commercial situation he could not get out … Few business people, following advice, would have allowed this to happen … the utter lack in this transaction of any visible risk-based approach by Musk is remarkable.”
Twitter is just another technologically-unremarkable social media platform. From Friendster to Bebo to MySpace, the history of the internet is littered with their carcasses. There is nothing intrinsically different or sustainable about Twitter – it’s always going to be subject to the whims of generational fashion, and there is no technological barrier to entry for any competitor. Only an idiot would have blown $44 billion on a piece of crap like Twitter.
So, having lunged into a binding commitment on the seeming basis of no due diligence to speak of, what’s Musk’s big plan? Mostly, it’s to lash out and blame everybody else and inflict economic harm on other people to cover up his own bungling.
But then major companies (Audi, General Motors, Pfizer, United Airlines, etc) – who are less than enthused by having their products associated with racist assholes and dumb conspiracy theorists – start to cancel their Twitter advertising deals.
This is a direct result of Musk’s stupid strategy (the one he dreamt up in his office).
Next, Musk rages at said companies for being “influenced by activists”.
Blinded by his own ego, and too fragile to own his own mistake, Musk is unable to accept that companies merely respond to what their own customers are telling them. Unlike Musk, they make decisions for financial reasons.
Next, having hit a few speed-bumps with his stupid “back to the office” plan (e.g., Irish employees, who had moved out of Dublin due to Dublin’s exorbitant rents and general unavailability of housing, pointed out that returning to the office would involve them doing a 10-hour daily commute), Musk then invited everyone to sign up to work unlimited hours for no extra pay. This, according to Musk, is what you need to do – work around the clock, in a business you have no personal stake in, for no extra pay and dedicate your entire time on this planet to the good of your employer.
So, it’s OK for Musk to get super-normal rewards for working part-time, but you suckers should work around the clock for nothing more.
The hubris and hypocrisy of this increasingly-unhinged guy beats the band.
And let’s not forget that, in the travesty that passes for his “personal” life, Musk is a failure – he has a string of failed relationships (divorced three times already); and he has named one of his childen X Æ A-12, thereby all but ensuring that the unfortunate child will grow up to despise him.
Years ago, I admit I thought about buying a Tesla.
But Audi makes wonderful EVs folks. So does BMW. So does Lucid Air. So does Porsche. So does Hyundai. So does VW.
And it’s to one of those that my money will be going in future. I’d rather walk than buy anything that would associate me with a cissy-bully twerp like Elon Musk.
Musk’s toxic personal brand is now the biggest reputation liability his business interests have to deal with, and he’s too full of it to see that.
Thankfully, in Ireland or Britain, it is difficult to conceive of a reality where senior political figures and / or the son of a previous President or Prime Minister would be gloating, openly and crudely, about a potentially-murderous attack on the elderly husband of a political rival.
It reveals how far America has fallen that nobody is any longer surprised by that level of thuggery being on open display in the US.
This next image was part of a Trump-inspired culture of violence against political opponents:
No surprises then that, in response to such incessant promptings, Pelosi’s elderly husband was beaten up by a covid-denying, vaccine-denying Trump fan who believes the last election was stolen.
Sniggering at murderous attacks on political opponents?
The Atlantic magazine, rightly, noted that this unsavoury episode marked “a new level of depravity in the GOP“; the fact that “a parade of Republicans somehow think that an unhinged, hammer-wielding intruder putting an old man in the ICU is funny.”
No wonder the Trump fans love the fascist in the Kremlin – the similarities between them are all too obvious.
One genuinely wonders if the US will survive.
If a country’s polity has degenerated so much that the previous President’s son is openly and crudely gloating at a murderous attack on the husband of a political opponent, can one say that there even is a “United States” any more?
The building soars. Our spirits soar with it. You never hear of a “low-rise cathedral”.
Back in the last century, when Ireland was poor, I was embarrassed by Ireland’s lack of skyscrapers, and consoled myself with the expectation that, as soon as the country had a bit of money, we’d rectify the situation.
But we’ve had money coming out of earholes for decades, and still the same timidity.
I realised our lack of vertical ambition has nothing to do with money, and everything to do with an inferiority complex. A particularly-insidious inferiority complex too, as it has convinced itself it’s mere historical curation.
“ …the proposed building would stand apart as an overly assertive solo building which would not form part of a coherent cluster,” the planners found.
“The proposal would therefore have a significant and detrimental visual impact on Dublin’s historic skyline, by reason of fragmentation and visual intrusion and would thereby seriously injure the urban character of the City Centre skyline, would create a precedent for similar type undesirable development and would be contrary to the proper planning and sustainable development of the area.”
Yep, we can’t be having anything “assertive” now, how vulgar. We’re Irish, no assertiveness here. Croppies lie down. These planners see a large building “dominating”. I see a tall building as providing hope to its neighbours, a tall template that their stunted, apologetic existences can aspire to …
Architecturally, Dublin is still a colonised city, forever genuflecting to the 3-storey Georgians.
Everything about this miserable decision screams cautious bourgeois twats in full-on committee mode.
If I was in the room where that dull decision was taken, I suspect that I’d have fallen out with everyone in the room.
Are people still scarred by Fatima Mansions (the tower block, not the band) lol.
The subjectivity is off the scale here, as is the unspoken, and culturally regressive, reverse-snobbish, assumption that “everyone hates tall buildings”. Blind prejudice masquerading as a priori standards.
A tall building can be ugly and inappropriate, same as a short one.
And care must be taken to ensure that any building – tall or short – does not obscure a good view of an existing well-loved building, of course.
“Georgian proportions have defined the Dublin skyline for the last 250 years, but standards established then should not be the sole determinant for the ambition or natural evolution of the city for the next 250 years.
This position contributes to urban sprawl, prioritising the character of a few areas over developing the green belt within and outside the city.”
Consistently, in comparison to some other European cities, Dublin needs around twice the amount of land to house the same amount of people.
Dublin houses circa 2,900 people per square kilometre. The corresponding figure for Madrid is 5,400 people per square kilometre. For London, it’s 5,100 people per square kilometre. For Barcelona, 5,000 people per square kilometre.
In other words, Dublin’s sprawl is off the scale, and all because Dublin’s planners have decided that a large chunk of Irish territory should be governed by a height template established by the English in the 1700s. But that’s OK – the sprawl contributes to Dublin’s endemic traffic gridlock and it means that all those tourists stuck in taxis in from the airport get more time to admire all those pleasantly-nondescript low-rises that Dublin’s planners have decided are the only way to live:
Done right, a skyscraper is beautiful:
On my first visit to New York, I was up early and away into Manhattan, as excited as a child.
The towering brutalist buildings were and remain things of wonder:
Ugly as sin, and an appalling vista to be stoutly resisted, in the minds of Irish planners:
Check the old church beside the above skyscraper in London. In Dublin, that juxtaposition would have led to sackings.
And, of course, skyscrapers don’t just look good from the outside in. They’re terrific from the inside out too, as this one in London shows us;
That day in NYC years ago, I certainly didn’t get up early to have a day-long gawk at a bunch of 3 stories.
Dreams and ambitions should be lofty.
I judge countries’ ambitions, and openness to change by many things, but by 2 in particular – how tall their buildings are and how high their speed limits are …
In each case, well, “lower is lower”
Centuries later, when it comes to planning, we’re still dominated by our former colonists; it’s still a case of croppies lie down.
True, and one looks underneath the bonnet / hood of cultural life in an attempt to discern the increased tolerance for rank stupidity which facilitates both the rise to power of these numpties, and the willingness to try out their daft policies.
Always, I keep coming back to the Internet – specifically, its simultaneous democratisation of people who are not cool-headed but who are governed by their emotions (akin to being ruled by a cabal of racist taxi drivers), and, as a medium, the Internet’s social-media wing’s twin tendency towards bias-affirmation and its vulnerability to mendacious, industrial scale astro-turfing.
Truss’ cabinet is distinguished primarily by one thing – the number of its members who are extreme ideologues. The kind of people who will say to themselves: “never mind about it working in practice – does it work in theory?“
Brexit, for instance, was an exercise in self-delusion on a national scale.
It’s the spirit of the age. Instead of keeping religious beliefs inside churches or in one’s personal life, so that the only inform one’s macro ethics, in the age of neo-puritanism and rampant oppression Olympics and rigidly self-pitying identitarianism (from BLM through MeToo through Brexiter nationalism), religious fervour has infected domains previously animated by rationality, level-headedness and a spirit of compromise.
Or, in other words, most people nowadays are nuts, and it’s only an aging cohort of people who came of age in the 70s and 80s who still remember what it was like to be level-headed, and to have necessary doubts about anything.
Here’s a house in Miyazaki, Japan, designed for a family of four. Few Westerners would buy this house. You see lots of houses like this throughout Japan
Here’s a picture I took in 2010, somewhere in rural Japan, of a Nissan Cube outside a cuboid house:
And here are 2 pics of the wonderful Nissan Cube:
The Cube sold well in Japan, and was sold there for over 20 years, between 1998 and 2019. In Europe, it was sold for a mere 2 years, between 2009 and 2011, and Nissan pulled it from the European market, due to very poor sales. It didn’t fare much better in the US, being sold there merely between 2009 and 2014.
Pretty much every Western person I ever met hated the way Nissan Cube looked. They had never driven it, so had no idea about how it actually drove. But they were adamant that they never would even try it.
It appalled Westerners.
The French (in my experience) were least inclined to be critical, perhaps due to their tradition of making proudly-utilitarian cars (Citroen 2CV, Renault 4, etc). In terms of design ethos, the Renault 4 (surely the ultimate holiday home runaround!) predated the Cube by nearly 40 years:
Dig deeper, and it’s simple snobbery at work.
Square, boxy, lines are both utilitarian and very down to earth.
They do not project wealth, trendiness, or power.
The fact that they are useful and pleasant to be in is irrelevant.
We’re all living exemplars of Sartrean bad faith.
We’ve too much status-anxiety to embrace a Cube.
The Japanese, with the culture of humility, have no such mental blocks.
Standard-issue Loyalist (British) community graffiti in Belfast – a “Taig” is a racist term for an Irish nationalist, or Irish Catholic. “RA” is just short for “IRA“..
Obviously, the blokes who spray this stuff on to public property are small fry, not overly-endowed with grey matter.
Interestingly though, in Unherd (an English online political journal), an obviously literate English bloke set out, in some length, his views why it was reasonable to murder lots of random Irish people.
It struck me that, in essence, his views are substantively identical to those expressed in the above graffiti. I have screen-grabbed his posts below. (I have also kept larger screen-grabs, showing dates and times.)
“Bloody Sunday, or the Bogside Massacre, was a massacre on 30 January 1972 when British soldiers shot 26 unarmed civilians during a protest march in the Bogside area of Derry, Northern Ireland. Fourteen people died: thirteen were killed outright, while the death of another man four months later was attributed to his injuries. Many of the victims were shot while fleeing from the soldiers, and some were shot while trying to help the wounded. Other protesters were injured by shrapnel, rubber bullets, or batons, two were run down by British Army vehicles, and some were beaten. All of those shot were Catholics. The march had been organised by the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association (NICRA) to protest against internment without trial. The soldiers were from the 1st Battalion of the Parachute Regiment (“1 Para”), the same battalion implicated in the Ballymurphy massacre several months before.
Two investigations were held by the British government. The Widgery Tribunal, held in the aftermath, largely cleared the soldiers and British authorities of blame. It described some of the soldiers’ shooting as “bordering on the reckless”, but accepted their claims that they shot at gunmen and bomb-throwers. The report was widely criticised as a “whitewash”. The Saville Inquiry, chaired by Lord Saville of Newdigate, was established in 1998 to reinvestigate the incident much more thoroughly. Following a twelve-year investigation, Saville’s report was made public in 2010 and concluded that the killings were “unjustified” and “unjustifiable”. It found that all of those shot were unarmed, that none were posing a serious threat, that no bombs were thrown and that soldiers “knowingly put forward false accounts” to justify their firing.”
Of course, to this day, many pro-Union folk in the North of Ireland continue to view the murders as cause for celebration, and the murders were, and still are, viewed with a certain relish by many. This attitude still finds ready expression among right-wing Englishmen, especially those from a narrow military background.
Check out Charles Stanhope (obviously not his real name), an English bloke, seemingly from a British army background, posting on Unherd.
First, our hero reckons that the best way to have sorted out the Troubles would have been for the British army to have shot a lot more people in Derry.
His position here derives from multiple fantasies:
1 That the civil rights marchers were all in the IRA; and
2 That there was no IRA outside of Derry lol; and
3 That giving the Paddies a bloody nose would jolly well calm the buggers down.
(When reading his next statement, keep in mind that, during the Troubles, around 1% to 2% of the Irish Nationalist population were members of the IRA.).
Charles then explains the British rationale for Bloody Sunday.
Note, in doing so, also how Charles cherry-picks his facts to suit his colonist’s bias. He fails to mention that the deterioration in relationships between Irish Nationalists and the British army stemmed from a prior series of abuses by the British, notably their disastrous introduction of internment without trial, wherein the British, relying on very inaccurate and outdated intelligence (dating from the 1950s), arrested hundreds of uninvolved, innocent Nationalists, and roughed them up, including using them as guinea pigs for new torture techniques that the British army were keen to try out, including sleep deprivation, hoodings, stress positions, continual beatings, water-boarding, helicopter drops, dog runs etc.
In that context, the IRA in Belfast had shot some soldiers. In Charles’ view, the obvious way to exact retribution for an attack by the IRA in Belfast was to (wait for it) shoot a few random Catholics in Derry.
Charles’ logic is practical racism in action (“they’re all the same“), based on his use of the forward slash – by mentally putting a forward slash between “Catholics” and “IRA”, Charles soon talked himself into a position of de facto race hatred, namely that there was absolutely no difference beween a small group of shadowy IRA members and over half a million ordinary Irish Catholics, who, dashed inconveniently, were not in the ‘RA. But hey ho, a trusty forward slash sorts out that little bit of categorisation untidiness, freeing a path for his lads to take out a few of “the enemy“.
Incidentally, note the colonial mindset inherent in the use of the word “chastise” – colonists always views the natives as incompetent children, in perennial need of improvement by their white overlords. The reference to the “chastising” in the “sink estate” of Ballymurphy was the murder of 9 civilians by the British army in a poor housing estate in Belfast. “Richly deserved“, according to Charles, yet a 2021 Coroner’s Report into those murders concluded that “all those killed had been innocent and that the killings were without justification“. Just as the British government’s painstaking report into Charles’ “richly deserved” Derry murders by the British army concluded that those killings were “unjustified” and “unjustifiable“.
Next (below), Charles then takes refuge in another fantasy, namely that the civil rights marchers were”insurrectionists“.
Of course, in reality, the civil rights marchers were the exact opposite of insurrectionists, and Charles’ view of them is an ignorant absurdity. They were merely calling for reform in a UK context. In doing so, they effectively were calling for N Ireland to be treated similarly to Britain. The clue was in their name – Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association. Irish Republicans don’t use the term “Northern Ireland”; as they do not wish to give credence to the place by using its official British-given name. So, by using “Northern Ireland” in their name, the NICRA folk were showing themselves to be opposite of insurrectionists. One of the leaders of NICRA was Ivan Cooper, a liberal Protestant. They were not in any way calling for an overthrow of the UK state. They weren’t even seeking to secede from the UK state. They were merely seeking some long-overdue, and, by today’s standards, some very basic and unremarkable administrative reforms within Northern Ireland, including, for instance, an end to rampant Unionist gerrymandering, an end to blatant Unionist discrimination in public housing allocation, and an end to the rotten borough system of multiple votes for rich landowners (who of course tended mainly to be British Unionists) in local council elections. Following an incident in Dungannon, where a single Protestant person was prioritised ahead of a Catholic family with small children, local Unionist MP, Ian Paisley, voiced the prevalent British view when he stated that “I’d rather be British than fair“. The NI state responded with conspicuous brutality to these modest requests, and sent out the Unionist police force, the RUC, to beat up the unarmed student demonstrators, which they did with evident glee:
As a contemporaneous BBC report noted:
“The RUC indiscriminately attacked protesters and observers with baton charges. Fleeing people were struck by baton blows from a gauntlet of officers. Water cannons were used for the first time in the United Kingdom. People, including John Hume, were shot down by a firehose of water. Using a blackthorn stick instead of a baton, the District Police Inspector joined in the beatings. Police conduct was eerily similar to the malevolence exhibited in Birmingham, Alabama by Police Chief ‘Bull’ Connor.”
And the interesting point is, Charles doesn’t even seek to deny that rampant anti-Irish, anti-Catholic, prejudice was endemic in Northern Ireland. Above, even he admits that Northern Ireland was characterised by “a Protestant oligarchy and Catholic helots [serfs]”.
Very muddled thinking, but perhaps explicable by the standard-issue near-hysterical spasms of racist emotion with which blokes of his Blimpish class view the Paddies.
Let’s examine his thought processes – one the one hand (above), he states plainly that NI was badly ran, and structurally unfair.
Then he describes peaceful protests against such admitted unfairness as a “major insurrection“, and segues into an astonishing admission that a good response to protests by an embattled minority is for the forces of the state to weigh in on the side of what he admits was a “Protestant oligarchy” and kick the shit out of the serfs, whom he describes as “the enemy“:
Charles, tellingly, lets slip that he doesn’t consider Northern Ireland to be part of the UK – “if it had occurred in the UK.“, lol. Of course, despite the unrequited prostrations of Unionism, Britain has always viewed NI as lesser, and as other. This attitude underpins a colonial mindset which was able to justify sending in an elite wartime regiment to open fire on unarmed marchers. They’d never have done so in the real UK.
Despite admitting that NI was a British colonial failed experiment, under permanent maladministration by a “Protestant oligarchy” against its “Catholic helots“, Charles nonetheless feels strongly that the said “serfs” should under no circumstances have done anything about it, and should have meekly stayed at home and accepted their lot: “should have stayed at home and watched the telly“. One wonders if, in the face of similar systemic unfairnesses being perpetrated against English people, whether Charles’ advice would be to shut up and suck it up. Frankly, given his seeming military background and his stated propensity for extreme violence, I very much doubt that he’d be one for espousing supinity. Perhaps, in Charles’ view, the Irish are serfs, and it’s in the natural order of things that they should remain so? Otherwise, it’s difficult to reconcile the various sink-holes in his logic.
Charles concludes by once again regretting that the British army didn’t shoot lots more of the unarmed Irish protestors, and wistfully wonders how murdering “100+” of them might have worked. Damn – not enough murdered Paddies! I guess we all have regrets, Charles.
He then admits what has been apparent for decades – the Brits’ military top brass loved the Troubles – taking pot shots at the Paddies in a genuine conflict beats the hell out of schlepping rucksacks around the Brecon Beacons.
There is a legal aspect to all of his bilious drivel though. In his posts reproduced above, Charles is commendably open about his view that collective punishment, namely mass murder of random Irish / Catholic is appropriate and, indeed, “richly deserved“.
Charles’ racist concept of collective punishment, the notion that it doesn’t really matter which Irish person you kill (as they’re all “the enemy“), is catnip for these thugs.
It encourages them. As noted, “Taig” is a racist term for an Irish Nationalist / Catholic, and Charles’ “kill them all” approach is one that he shares with Loyalist thugs. The the ever-present “K.A.T.” graffito in Belfast is an acronym for “Kill All Taigs“, an atitude that Charles justifies at length in his foregoing posts about people like me, whom he views as “the enemy“:
Fortunately, in the UK, such outbursts are regulated by various hate speech statutes. For instance, section 19 of the Public Order Act 1986 states that:
Stating, without qualification, that mass murder of random Catholic / nationalist / Irish people is an appropriate way to deal with public protest could be construed as “insulting” to the said Catholic / nationalist/ Irish people; and, in my view, it could stir up racial hatred among certain elements in modern British society, especially in the North of Ireland.
I’ve always loved trash-punk. (I always resist terms like “grindcore”, given the tendecy too many of that genre have towards bombast.)
Very few records or bands measure up to the requisite blend of speed, brevity, chaos and silliness.
For much of my life, in that genre, one song reigned supreme, for me; namely 1985’s Wipe-out” by The Stupids.
2021’s “I am not a machine”, a song by South Korean band, the Drinking Boys and Girls Choir, has a similar spirit. Both songs featured here.
But Melt-Banana, formed nearly 30 years ago in Tokyo, are worthy long-term exemplars of the genre.
Their devotion to sonic chaos over such a lengthy period is particularly laudable. Musical respectability soon sets in with even the most initially-spirited bands, with all its fellow-travellers, namely lack of pace, loss of mischief, and encroaching embourgeoisement.
Melt-Banana though, in 2022, they still play and sing as if the stage was on fire.
Here’s their 2019 cover of The Damned‘s 1977 song, “Neat Neat Neat“:
Rarely has a cover been more true to the spirit of the original.
As with Trump’s toadies, as with Putin’s advisers, Britain’s Brexiters by and large are appointed on two criteria:
1 Belief in the True Cause of Hard Brexit or that Ukraine Does Not Exist (real or fake belief, either is fine, the important thing is to craw-thump daily about it, and, every time you fuck up, double down, using the old extremist approach of: “if our Glorious Idea is not working, that’s because we’re not being extreme enough“. Which is another way to subvert conventional wisdom about the speed at which one should dig if one finds oneself in a hole.).
2 Blind loyalty to The Leader. Whether through inexperience and stupidity, or through fear, is irrelevant. Debate works best if we all agree with each other. That ensures our debates are only ever about egging each other on to new depths. No countervailing opinions are tolerated.
Predictably, as with Trump’s comedy-show in government, as with Putin’s continuing millitary cock-ups, the result is a succession of cluster-fucks, of which the Brexit government’s continuing acts of witless sabotage against the UK’s political governance and financial stability are just the latest example:
The current UK government are a bunch of witless extremists and spineless, opportunistic second-raters. They continually confuse theory and reality. Their guiding mantra appears to be: “never mind about it working in practice – the important question is whether or not it works in theory.”
LBC Radio’s James O’Brien had some grim fun with the various absurdities and inconsistenties of various Brexiter Tory responses to their latest SNAFU:
“Starting with author Andrew Lilico, James read out one of Mr Lilico’s tweets which said he was
“Embarrassed for the IMF. This is the IMF self-declaring as a left-wing body. The UK should now withhold its IMF contributions”.
“So,”, James joked, “it’s time to leave the IMF. Eventually we’re going to leave the solar system.”
Typically level-headed summation here by the Financial Time’s Janan Ganesh:
“Truss and her cohort of Tories have none of that snide but ultimately healthy distance from the US. Take her vaunted supply-side revolution. Like all armchair free-marketeers (she has never set up a business) [even the writer of this blog is on his 5th start-up, ffs] she believes her nation is a blast of deregulation away from American levels of entrepreneurial vim.
The creator of a successful product in Dallas can expand to LA and Boston with little friction. The UK doesn’t have a market of hundreds of millions of people. (It did, once, but the present chancellor of the exchequer voted to leave it.)
Someone who glides over that point is also liable to miss the contrasting appeal to investors of gilts and Treasuries. Some readers baulked last month when I wrote that Truss might not last until the next election.
Even I didn’t think she would trip so soon.
It is a kind of patriotism, I suppose, to mistake your nation for a superpower.”
Curious as to why half of rural Ireland was going to see Garth Brooks (or “Gareth Brooks”, as he tends to be called in Ireland), I listened to 20 of his songs last weekend, for research purposes.
He does seem like a very nice, down to earth bloke. Bizarrely, in today’s judgemental world, this seems to help you sell records. Whereas previous generations more or less expected their fav popstars to be assholes – e.g., greedy, shallow, materialistic, selfish, promiscuous, junkies etc. Didn’t matter, in fact, it often aided their popularity, e.g., Rolling Stones, pretty much every performer in the late 60s, Rod Stewart et al. But now it does matter, apparently.
And he has a pleasant voice, and can hold a melody. And, by all accounts, puts on an energetic and professional show.
Of course, he occasionally does a proper country song, fiddles etc.
But the most surprising thing for me, as I listened, was the realisation that he’s not very country at all.
Much of his music is slick acoustic balladry and soft rock, with a country twang and a big hat. Lots of the time, he sounds like a cross between Barry Manilow and The Eagles.
So it’s not true that half of Ireland has gone mad for country music. Garth is easy listening music, slickly and energetically presented, and good luck to him.
But if you’re really looking for authentic country, no disrespect folks, you’d be advised to look elsewhere.
In particular, I’ve always preferred bluegrass, by a mile – bluegrass is the “heavy metal of country” – million miles an hour pickin’, good ol’ boys ‘n’ gals, and talent to burn.
Here are the Hillbilly Gypsies, live somewhere:
And here’s Bruce Molsky and friends with their version of the old Earl Johnson & His Clodhoppers song, “I Get My Whiskey From Rockingham”:
I also love a bit of good Cajun – here are the Cajun Country Revival, with “My Time is Gonna Come”:
And, slowing it down a bit, here’s the Stones, with “Faraway Eyes” (Jagger’s spoken intro is a treat – walks a fine line between taking the outright piss and authenticity, but the music, and the harmonies, are 100% proper country – nice slide-guitar work from Ronnie Wood too):
And, of course, Mr. Cash, with “Folsom Prison Blues”: