Well, did I do it?

imageIt was during my Christmas break in 2015 that I set myself a challenge – Read 52 Books in a year.  1 a week – should be easy?

It all started with Steven Gerrard – a christmas present

The road to wigan pier followed closely.  George Orwells tale of how we can show a brighter future

As it was the centenary of 1916 Easter Rising there were plenty of books relating to that theme

Jimmy Wren’s The GPO Garrisson was one such story of all the people in the GPO that week

Kieran Glennon’s From Pogrom TO Civil War took in a slightly later time in Irelands Nationalist history

Roger Casement is not only a figure in Irish Nationalist History, prior to (and during)his involvement in Ireland culminating in his trial where he stated “Ireland has wronged no man, that has injured no land, that has sought no dominion over others – Ireland is treated today among the nations of the world as if she was a convicted criminal” he was a British Foreign diplomat.  His most notable work was exposing the slave trade in Congo and the  horrendous slaughter of Peruvian Indians.  The Devil and Misteer casement tells the story of Peru whole King Leopolds Ghost spoke of Congo

Russian troubadors Pussy Riot have had a lot written about them Words Will Break Cement is one of those

Kim Gordon has spoken a lot about how Pussy Riot are strong Women in a band and her Girl In  A Band book tells of her time in Sonic Youth and beyond

Chasing The Scream challenged my perception on the so-called War On Drugs and has really made me think about its relevance

As part of the challenge I asked my kids what book they would like me to read – Pele was my youngest ones choice.  A strange book about a character who exists in a world of stardom and almost seems like an alter ego of Edson Arantes do Nascimento. Luca Caioli asked is Messi More Than A Superstar and the answer is very much yes in his mind, interesting that humility is his biggest trait after being a superstar ball player

During Easter Week I decided to take a 360 turn and see how many Ross O’Carroll Kelly books I could cram in this year.  Ross is the obnoxious, sexist beast known to so many Dubliners. The teenage Dirt-Bag years is one of the early ones, his formative college years, a J1 American Visa and the theft of a statue from UCD all get the O’Carroll gloss.

One of the hardest books to read was The Wrath of Cochise, not for the level of detail of the blood feud between the Chiracuau Indians and the US Army but just the level of detail.  Terry Mort has a way with words, and it’s a long way. It was enlightening to read about the ‘White men’ being willing to loose lives in wars and use that as a tactic or about the Irish Bounty hunter James Kirker.  it is interesting that this small island has produced many people who travelled for different reasons and had an impact around the world. Kirker was a hugely successful bounty hunter, willing to work, and kill, for the highest bidder.  There were many Irish recruits into the US Army in the 1850’s – over 30% of those enlisted were Irish hunger having forced them from their homes. Then there were those being sold into slavery, a tale of woe that still continues.

I re-introduced myself to the world of pop punk and Lookout records through Larry Livermores two book and the story of Lookout. Interesting that a label with no initial aspirations other than to release records and get bands heard ended up as a multi million dollar business and the tale of how those millions made people want more. Another label I re-introduced my self to was K Records. Love Rock Revolution, the story of K was published a few years ago but I missed out on it then. It tells the story of Calvin Johnson and K, much like Lookout, a label that saw huge increases in sales when Nirvana got signed but thankfully unlike lookout K is still going.  Sarah records was another label I listened to many bands from and Pop Kiss tells its story with a glorious jangle.

The Lost Women Of Rock Music – Female Musicians of the punk era by Helen Reddington is still altogether too true as it tells the battle females have just to be recognised in rock.. Punk promised to breakthrough  as more and more females joined bands but the establishment re-established its hold and MTV had a different story to tell. It drove it underground

NOFX were a band whose antics when they were in ireland I had blocked out of memory. I knew there was a story around a fireplace and an inscription but the tides of time held no grudges. it was sad to read stories of how fireplaces in other cities, belonging to other peoples parents, were treated with similar disdain. Like spoilt children the drug fuelled lifestyle of nofx left casualties in their wake. We had to run other gigs after they left town, we had to mend a lot of bridges. This book is not surprising in its tome. Pity I like their music so much.

Jack Doyle’s autobiography slowed me down and made me realise I wouldn’t meet my target.  Instead of 1 book a week I went for one a fortnight.  It halved the overall number but still was hopeful and realistic.

This was bropught to fruitiion with somw time over Christmas allowing me to complete my final two.  How Champions Thnk gives some snippets into the mind of sucessful people and it finashed in style with the Aesthetic of Our Anger – a critique of anarcho punk, politics and music.  Although this book is aimed more at an academic audience it is an excellent reflection on the influence of Crass throughout popular culture.

So next year I will try and better this, wish me luck

This years List

1. King Leopolds Ghost

2. The Devil and Me

3. Steve Gerard – My Story

4. Jimmy Wren – The Gpo Garrisson

5. Kieran Glennon – From Pogrom to Civil War

6. Paul Howard – Ross O Carroll Kelly, the teenage Dirtbag years

7. George Orwell – The Road to wigan pier

8. Johan Hari – Chasing the scream

9. Pele – the autobiography

10. Kim Gordon – Girl In  A Band

11. Masha Gessen – Words Will Break Cement

12. The Wrath of Cochise – The Blood Feud That Sparked the Apache Wars

13. Larry Livermore – Spy Rock Memories

14. Larry Livermore – How to Ru(i)n a record label

15. Jeff Alullis – NOFX The Hepatitis Bathtub and other Stories

16. Kevin Prested – Punk USA – The Rise and Fall of Lookout Records –

17. Mark Baumgarten – Love Rock Revolution – The Story of K Records

18. Luca Caioli – Messi: More Than a Superstar

19. Michael White – Pop Kiss – the life and afterlife of sarah records

20 Helen Reddington  – The lost Women of Rock Musc

21.Dave Dictor – MDC

22. The Defects – Nervous Breakdown

23  Michael Taub -Jack Doyle The gorgeous God

24  Adrian Chiles – We Don’t Know What We’re Doing

25 William Macaskill -Doing Good Better

26  Bob Rotella – How Champions Think

27  Mike dines and Matthew Worley – The Aesthetic of our anger

Contributors to ‘In Concert’

screen-shot-2016-12-07-at-21-28-40When seeing images from war torn Syria or hearing stories of a people ravaged by war we were moved to try and dom something so we reached out to the music community. I put some of these into Hope *2 fanzine earlier this year but we thought it’d be nice to chronicle the Irish submissions, a secret history of the musicians influencing the bands that influenced us

FROM THE IRISH RED CROSS

5 years on and the plight of Syrians continues. The figures make for shocking reading. In a country with an estimated population of 22.2 million the situation is worsening almost on a daily basis. The number of people in need has increased from 1 million in 2012 to 13.5 million in 2016.

For those that can remain in Syria, regular access to basic needs such as food, water and medical assistance continues to be a challenge. Three in four are currently living in poverty and 5.7 million people are in need of adequate shelter.
Whole neighbourhoods have been destroyed, forcing families to flee in search of safe shelter, but there is little available. When they left their homes, many did so with only the clothes they were wearing. They have nothing else. More than half of those affected are children.
People continue to flee fighting within Syria underlining yet again the dire situation families in Syria are facing. It is vital that they are able to seek protection and support as conflict continues to rage. There are an estimated 6.6 million internally displaced inside the country.
Others are unable to flee and remain under siege as war rages around them. At the start of this year the Red Cross Red Crescent eventually gained access to towns such as Madaya, Foua and Kefraya. The blockade on life saving supplies lasted for months with ordinary Syrian families paying the price.
On entering Madaya our colleague Marianne Gasser, described the situation:
”I was taken to what was euphemistically called the “health centre”. It was, in fact, one room in the basement of a house. Ushered into the semi-darkness, I was met by the sight of limp bodies lying on blue blankets on the floor: elderly people, weak from hunger and illness. There were several children, hollow-faced. I noticed the needle marks on their arms where drips had been administered to try to give them the sustenance they needed to survive.”
The Red Cross Red Crescent is committed to bringing aid to the millions of people affected by this crisis inside Syria. In addition, we are reaching the millions who have fled over the country’s border into the wider region and now wait in refugee camps, uncertain of what their future holds.
https://www.redcross.ie/latest-appeals/syria-appeal/

List of Acts
1 TED CARROLL (promoter, manager, record shop owner and owner of Chiswick Records)
ROCK AND ROLL IN IRELAND AND BEYOND

2 JOE WEADICK (Red Seven/Columbia Showband)
RED SEVEN, LONDON, 1963

3 MARCUS CONNAUGHTON (broadcaster, author)
FLEETWOOD MAC, DUBLIN, 1969

4 BRIAN O’KEALLAIGH (The Gorehounds)
GOOSE LAKE INTERNATIONAL MUSIC FESTIVAL, MICHIGAN, 1970

5 FERDIA MACANNA (Rocky de Valera, The Rhythm Kings, author)
THIN LIZZY, DUBLIN, 1971

6 GERRY MCAVOY (Rory Gallagher band, author)
RORY GALLAGHER, BELFAST, 1971

7 JOHN MCKENNA (broadcaster)
LEONARD COHEN, DUBLIN, 1972

8 PETE HOLIDAI (The Radiators, Trouble Pilgrims)
ALICE COOPER/ROXY MUSIC, LONDON, 1972

9 CIARAN MCLAUGHLIN (The Undertones, That Petrol Emotion, Everlasting Yeah)
PLANXTY, DERRY, 1973

10 NEIL MCCORMICK (author, journalist, musician)
U2, DUBLIN, 1976

11 DAVE SWEENEY (the Max Quad Band, Rocky de Valera and the Gravediggers, the Fat Lady Sings)
DR FEELGOOD, DUBLIN, 1976

12 TONY CLAYTON-LEA (author, journalist, DJ)
IGGY POP, 1977

13 DAMIAN O’NEILL (The Undertones, That Petrol Emotion, Everlasting Yeah)
SIOUXSIE & THE BANSHEES/THE HEARTBREAKERS, MANCHESTER, 1977

14 JUDE CARR (Heat fanzine)
THE RADIATORS FROM SPACE, DUBLIN, 1977

15 AIDAN O’ROURKE (The Sinners)
THE CLASH, DUBLIN, 1977

16 JAKE REILLY (The Blades)
THE CLASH, DUBLIN, 1977

17 JOHN FISHER (The Dandelion Market)
THE CLASH, DUBLIN, 1977

18 ELVERA BUTLER (promoter, head of Reekus Records)
FROM THE WHO TO THE STRANGLERS

19 BRIAN SEALES (DC Nien, Tokyo Olympics)
THE STRANGLERS, DUBLIN, 1978

20 BARRY COOKE (Dead Fridge in the Road)
STIFF LITTLE FINGERS, DUBLIN, 1978

21 PAUL CHARLES (booking agent, author)
SIGNING THE UNDERTONES, BELFAST, 1978

22 GERRY SMYTH (author)
THE BOOMTOWN RATS, 1978

23 PAT O’DONNELL (The Fountainhead, producer)
IAN DURY, DUBLIN, 1978

24 RAYMOND GORMAN (That Petrol Emotion, Everlasting Yeah)
DEXY’S MIDNIGHT RUNNERS, COLERAINE, 1979

25 DAVID LINEHAN (Aidan Walsh and the Screaming Eagles, Hooligan)
R0CKY DE VALERA, DUBLIN, 1979 + OTHERS

26 RORY STOKES (The Sussed, the Spiders From Kimmage)
U2/THE SUSSED, DUBLIN, 1979

27 FRANK RYNNE (Those Handsome Devils, the Babysnakes)
THE RAMONES, DUBLIN, 1980

28 BILLY MCGRATH (UCD Ents Officer 1975-1976, manager of The Atrix and Stagalee,
TV producer, documentary maker)
U2, LONDON, 1980

29 SÉAN O’CONNOR (The Lookalikes)
THIN LIZZY/THE LOOKALIKES, DUBLIN, 1980

30 PETER DEVLIN (The Devlins, producer, broadcaster)
THE SPECIALS/THE BEAT, THE STARDUST, DUBLIN, 1981

31 PAUL BYRNE (In Tua Nua, producer)
ECHO AND THE BUNNYMEN, DUBLIN, 1981

32 ANDREW BASS (Reveille, producer, studio owner)
U2/REVEILLE, GALWAY, 1981.

33 CÁIT O’RIORDAN (The Pogues, Radiators, PreNup)
U2, LONDON, 1981

34 STANO (artist, musician, composer)
TOM WAITS, DUBLIN, 1981

35 CATHAL O’REILLY (The Shade, Luggage)
KID CREOLE AND THE COCONUTS, DUBLIN, 1981

36 DEKLAN DACHAU (Paranoid Visions)
THEATRE OF HATE, DUBLIN, 1981

37 CION O’CALLAGHAN (freelance Drummer – Paddy Casey, Shane McGowan)
ROCKY DE VALERA, DUBLIN, 1982

38 COLM O’DWYER (TCD Ents Officer 1991-1992)
U2, 1982

39 PETER JONES (Paranoid Visions)
POISON GIRLS, DUBLIN, 1983

40 DARAGH MCCARTHY (musician, filmmaker: The Stars are Underground)
VIRGIN PRUNES, DUBLIN, 1983

41 WILL WALSH (The Pleasure Cell, The John Wayne Memorial Dancing Lizardmen)
THE SMITHS, 1983

42 ROY WALLACE (Toxic Waste, documentary maker)
TOXIC WASTE, BREMEN, 1984

43 PAT CLAFFERTY (Mexican Pets)
THE CLASH, DUBLIN, 1984

44 KIERAN GLENNON (DJ Dr Night Dub)
THE JOHN WAYNE MEMORIAL LIZARDMEN, DUBLIN, 1985

45 HUGO FITZGERALD (Kill Devil Hill)
THE MEMBRANES/THE PLEASURE CELL/KILL DEVIL HILL, DUBLIN, 1985

46 COLM WALSH (manager Intoxicating Rhythm Section, Sultans of Ping)
THE GOLDEN HORDE/THE GOREHOUNDS/BONESHAKERS/PARANOID VISIONS,
DUBLIN, 1985

47 PAUL PAGE (The Whipping Boy)
ECHO AND THE BUNNYMEN, DUBLIN, 1985

48 MICK HEANEY (journalist, DJ)
THE CRAMPS, BOSTON, 1986

49 GARETH MURPHY (author, Cowboys and Indies)
U2, LONDON, 1987

50 REG GORDON (photographer, The Hope Collective)
SO MANY SUNDAYS, DUBLIN, LATE 80’S EARLY 90’S

51 JIM DAVIS (TCD Ents Officer 1990-1991),
PHIL CHEVRON, DUBLIN, 1990

52 PHILIP O’CONNOR (author, journalist, musician, The Banished),
FUGAZI / THERAPY?, DUBLIN, 1990

53 DAVE O’GRADY (promoter, publicist, Gilded ALM),
THERAPY?, DUBLIN, EARLY 90’S

54 SMILEY BOLGER (DJ, promoter Morans, McGonagles, the New Inn)
THAT PETROL EMOTION, DUBLIN, 1990

55 NEIL DOWLING (promoter, Event Ease)
STONES ROSES, BELFAST, 1990/BOLT THROWER, DUBLIN, 1990

56 EDWINA FORKIN (film producer, TCD Ents Officer 1989-1990)
SONIC YOUTH/NIRVANA 1991

57 JILL FORTYCOATS (Mexican Pets)
THE EX/DOG FACED HERMANS, DUBLIN, 1991

58 FINBAR MCLOUGHLIN (Gearhead Nation)
THE EX/DOG FACED HERMANS, DUBLIN, 1991

59 CANICE KENEALY, (Engine Alley)
PRIMAL SCREAM, DUBLIN, 1992

60 SEAN CAMPBELL, (author)
U2, KANSAS CITY, 1992

61 KEVIN MARTIN (promoter, fanzine editor)
MOBY/ORBITAL/APHEX TWIN, CHICAGO 1993

62 JOHNNY BOYLE (Lir, Pugwash, Picturehouse, Marianne Faithfull, The Frames)
RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE, DUBLIN, 1993

63 BARRY MCCORMACK (Jubilee All-Stars, solo artist)
SWERVEDRIVER, DUBLIN, 1993

64 PHIL UDELL (journalist, State ie, Word-Up Collective)
BACK TO THE PLANET, DUBLIN, 1993

65 EILEEN HOGAN (author, lecturer)
THERAPY?, LIMERICK, 1994

66 PETESY BURNS (Toxic Waste, FUAL, The Outcasts, member of Warzone Collective)
VICTIMS FAMILY/GROTUS, DUBLIN, 1994

67 TOM POLLARD (The Pyrex Babies)
ROLLINS BAND, DUBLIN, 1994

68 KIERAN KENNEDY (The Black Velvet Band)
THE BLACK VELVET BAND, SWITZERLAND, 1994

69 MICHELLE MCCARTHY (marketing manager, Madison Square Garden)
GARTH BROOKS, DUBLIN, 1995

70 WAYNE P SHEEHY (producer/studio owner, drummer with Ron Wood)
RON WOOD, TORONTO, 1990s

71 PAUL McDERMOTT (DJ, zine editor, lecturer)
CATHAL COUGHLAN & NINE WASSIES FROM BAINNE, CORK, 1997

72 IAN PEARCE (Split Red/Los Cabras/The Dangerfields/Comply Or Die)
ABHINANDA, BELFAST, 1998

73 EMM GRYNER (David Bowie/The Cardigans/The Cake Sale/solo artist)
DAVID BOWIE, DUBLIN, 1999

74 COLM O’CALLAGHAN (journalist, broadcaster)
ELVIS COSTELLO, DUBLIN, 1999

75 FRANCES ROE (Jam Jar Jail)
ROCKET FROM THE CRYPT, DUBLIN, 2001

76 EMMET GREENE (Bandicoot Promotions),
BOBBY CONN, CORK, 2002

77 KIERAN CUNNINGHAM (sports editor, The Star)
CATHAL COUGHLAN, CORK, 2005

78 ROISIN NIC GHEARAILT (M(h)aol)
FLAMING LIPS, 2005/DEADMAUS, 2009

79 EOIN DEVEREUX (author, lecturer)
MORRISSEY, OSTIA, 2006

80 JIM ROGERS (author, lecturer)
CHRISTY MOORE, DUBLIN, 2007

81 CONSTANCE KEANE (M(h)aol)
INCUBUS, DUBLIN, 2007

82 THE LATE DAVID TURPIN (artist)
LAURIE ANDERSON OLYMPIA THEATRE, 2007)

83 PETE MURPHY (publicist)
TOM WAITS, DUBLIN, 2008

84 DES O’BYRNE (The Golden Horde, NYC DJ),
GÉTATCHÈW MÈKURYA AND THE EX, NEW YORK, 2008

85 VONA GROARKE (author, Spindrift),
RICHARD HAWLEY, DERBYSHIRE, 2009

86 ROB FLYNN (The Winter Passing),
HAVE HEART, DUBLIN, 2009

87 ROBBIE ROBINSON (film director, An Irish Exorcism and member of the
Intoxicating Rhythm Section Captain Tripps),
KINGS X, LONDON, 2009

88 AIDAN WALSH (musician, rehearsal room proprietor)
AIDAN WALSH AND THE SCREAMING EAGLES, DUBLIN, 2010

89 DAVE LONG (Into Paradise),
THERAPY?, DUBLIN, 2010

90 BRIAN CROSBY (musician, Bell X1, The Cake Sale, producer)
SUFJAN STEVENS, BERLIN, 2011

91 ELLIE & LOUISE MACNAMARA (Heathers)
THE MOUNTAIN GOATS, BLOOMINGTON, IN., 2011

92 MICHELLE DOYLE (Sissy)
THE RAINCOATS, SEATTLE, 2012

93 JUSTIN MCDAID (freelance journalist, Golden Plec)
ENABLERS, DUBLIN, 2013

94 JIM CARROLL (journalist, broadcaster)
THE GLOAMING 2014

95 COLIN COULTER (author, co-editor Ireland Under Austerity)
RUEFREX, 2014

96 SUZANNE RHATIGAN (singer, promoter)
GRACE JONES, COUNTY LAOIS, 2015

97 HENRY CLUNEY (Stiff Little Fingers, X-SLF)
SOLO, BLACKPOOL, 2015

98 JOHN O’FLYNN (author)
MAPPING POPULAR MUSIC, DUBLIN, 2015

99 CLODAGH SPUD (fanzine editor)
RUDE PRIDE/THE SULTANS/TAKERS AND USERS/THE DIVILS
DUBLIN/BELFAST, 2015

100 PAUL PURCELL (DJ, founder of Glacial Sounds record label),
SWING TING, MANCHESTER, 2015

101 MICHAEL McCAUGHAN (TCD Ents Officer 1984-1985, author; The Price of Our Souls: Gas, Shell & Ireland),
JELLO BIAFRA, DUBLIN, 2015

102 GARRY O’NEILL (cultural historian, author)
VARIOUS

103 TERRY O’NEILL (manager of Thin Lizzy and others, promoter and publicist)
VARIOUS

104 ANTO DILLON (editor, Loserdom fanzine)
VARIOUS

105 JAMES HENDICOOT (freelance journalist, NME, Dublin Gazette)
TALKING WITH THE DROPKICK MURPHYS, 2013

The book was compiled, funded and published by two veterans of the Dublin DIY (do-it-yourself) music scene, Niall McGuirk and Michael Murphy.
They came up with a simple idea to raise funds for the Irish Red Cross Syria Appeal. Ask people in Ireland’s music community to write about their favourite gigs.
People love talking about gigs. People love hearing about great gigs.
So they asked some of their favourite musicians, writers and behind-the-scenes characters to remember some outstanding gigs. Then they asked friends of friends who asked friends of friends.
This book is a compilation of over one hundred of the best of those gig memories. It includes recollections of gigs that were legendary and influential (Fleetwood, the Clash, Leonard Cohen, the Smiths), as well as gigs that were quickly forgotten. From immaculately presented stadium gigs to ramshackle events in sketchy halls; from showbands to punk, death metal and dance it documents some of the inspiring, brilliant and bizarre events witnessed by Ireland’s music community far and wide.

Quotes from Niall and Michael:
It is a brilliant book. We are proud of it. Look at the brilliant writing. These people weren’t just members of Ireland’s music community, they weren’t just witnesses to spectacular, sometimes life-changing, gigs: they are also outstanding writers.
We thought that it was particularly important to include some of the ‘forgotten heroes’ of the Irish music community. To hear the voices of the people who were ‘there’ who were a major part of the scene but are never included in the history.

In Concert – out now Supporting Irish Red Cross

screen-shot-2016-12-07-at-21-28-40It’s been over 12 months in the making but we have finally released In Concert, Favourite Gigs of Ireland’s Music Community.

When we first saw the heartbreaking pictures from Aleppo we reached out to those people we know best, our friends in the music community.  Six months ago Hope *2 came out and this featured those in the punk community in an effort to raise money for pikpa lesvos centre.  We held back on many contributions from the Irish music scene as we felt it would be nice for this group to extend their support. The results are In Concert and whilst there are many more who could and deserve to be included we feel this can help form part of a ‘secret history’ of the irish music scene. People like Ted Carroll who founded Chiswick Records, Pete Holidai from Radiators, Cáit O’Riordan from the Pogues, Pat Clafferty of Mexican Pets, Deko Dachau from Paranoid Visions to more recent luminaries like Constance Keane from M(h)aol or Rob Flynn from Winter Passing.  105 contributors altogether speaking of showbands, leonard cohen, the clash, theatre of hate, golden horde, therapy? and so many more including U2.

The book is a benefit for Irish Red Cross specifically in their efforts to assist people forced to flee their homes in Syria

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The Lost Women of Rock Music

Messi – More Than A Superstar

Messi

More Than A Superstar

Icon Books

messi

I’m struck by reading messi, more than a superstar at how much Luca Caioli wants to portray Lionel Messi as an ordinary person. A person with an amazing talent that has just stumbled across this life of fame and (ahem…) non payment of taxes.
His first coach has “never heard him boast about playing well and scoring goals” and that feeling resonates. How many times have we squirmed as someone talks about how good they are. It is part of the Irish psyche to play yourself down. And if you don’t do it there will be plenty of friends ready to knock you off any perch you might build up. Don’t get comfortable.
Then I wonder is that the right thing? Is it just self confidence that allows one to speak of their own ability? If I see a mirror I get an urge to rush past it without looking up. The inverse is the case for my kids. They are comfortable with it. Is one of us wrong?
By page 35 humility has been mentioned on four separate occasions. It reminds me of Gaelic Football in Dublin where players can play for their county in front of 80.000 people but still come back to their club and be one of the gang. I’ve often seen Brian Fenton in St Anne’s park talking to young Raheny players, offering advice and generally being a good guy. It’s no more than you get from most people in the club the only difference is that Fenton is lauded on tv most weeks when he plays. Should that make a difference? Obviously not but how can you stop it? It must be hard work.
The other night I was out for a meal and I saw a little known food critic on the table opposite. I couldn’t help but stare and think of a conversation gong around in the kitchen of the restaurant, or on tables beside us as these people looked to eat their meal in peace. What if this was Messi looking for a quiet curry or out for a quiet walk in the park. Would he be able to have one? Nope, so how do you stay humble in such circumstances?
Of course for it to be any book of relevance when talking about messi, Diego maradona has to get a mention. How infuriating (or flattering) must it be for any great player that comparisons get made big course it is only natural. It’s a sign of quality. Argentina have had many people described as the next Maradona but none given that title as much as Messi. Of course the fact they both possess so much skill on their respective left foot means there is validity to the comparisons.  For me there is only one, of each
Of course with a talent like messi he is always going to be in demand. Whenever talent rises people wish to claim it and make use of it. For a young messi this meant being dragged around as his club and country wanted to use him for their needs. With him in the team you had a better chance of winning. Cause gives us some examples of that conflict. The one option of doing what is best for the individual never seems to be noted though.
Of course boring such a precious talent means every season brings new records and honours. Every season has a litany of special goals or majestic passes. Some of them get mentioned here and the imagery they conjure up is simply breathtaking. I love watching Messi play football, he makes it seem si simple.
As interesting and all that Messis ability to play football is it starts to grate a bit when picking through the seasons. He is a record breaker, his trophy haul is phenomenal his goal scoring record is second to none and the way he can win things for his teams are magnificent. This book reminds us of that. It gives very little background information.  There are no insights into Messis thoughts, no new breakthroughs are announced. This is where it really falls down for me. I know little more about the “Flea” than I did when starting the book. His humility is reaffirmed, that’s for sure but little else.
niallhope

Book of the week – The Devil and Mr Casement

The devil and mr casement
Jordan Goldman
Verso books

casement

Previously i reviewed King Leopold’s ghost, a book loaned to me by a union activist. On return of that I was given a different but similar missive, the devil and mr casement. While King Leopold’s was about the Congo and the suffering imposed on its population the devil moves continent. To South America and Peru.

With one thread between the two, Roger casement. After all it is the centenary of the Easter Rising so why not celebrate one of Ireland’s heroic gun runners by reading of his exploits prior to dealing with the Germans during the First World War in an effort to get arms from them for this countries own war effort.

Casement is a colourful character, one out of kilter in an Ireland of stereotypes. Christened twice under two different religions and gay made him NOT the poster boy for the rebellion, that’s for sure, but through all the torment growing up he knew knew the difference between what he felt was right and wrong.

The devil in this book is the Peruvian Amazon company, listed in the British Stock Exchange, through it’s owner – Julio Cesar Arana, dealing with rubber and about to exploit anyone it can. Geography helped it get a stronghold in an area where few people travelled. An emerging market looking for rubber as car tires, bike tires and many other uses for rubber was being found. There are stories of brutality and torture as the British empire became aware of the plight of people in Peru.

We get used to the language of today and phrases like living wage as being of their time. I have been at many conferences when forced labour and it’s horrendous effects on human beings, prisoners in their own skin, have lights shine on them. It’s certainly not a 21st century phenomena and since slavery has been abolished in some areas over one and a half centuries ago it is something that has continually been part of the global radar. We like to think that the settled western world has no place for such things but we do. As my “no to human trafficking bookmark” constantly reminds me. However it was very much prevalent amongst “respectable” rubber producing companies, most notably the previously mentioned Peruvian Amazon company.

It’s also easy to forget that different times to today were lived under extremely different circumstances. Now I have the potential to communicate with over 50% of the worlds population instantaneously. I can pretty much see where any island is in the world. Many countries secret services can try and get cameras into any of the worlds nooks and crannies. They aren’t quite there yet but it’s getting closer. Whereas a century ago maps were being drawn and vast areas of countries were either unexplored or untraversable. Except for indigenous people and local gangs. Which is where much of the worlds rubber stock came from but always with some man (pretty much always a man) ready to exploit it for profit. And ready to do whatever it takes to hang on and increase it.

So it took a while for word to get around the world on events good or bad. The Peruvian Amazon Company were getting away with indiscretions in the name of business as their product was very much in demand and that demand was being met. However they had some forced labour issues and due to the expansion of the British empire it became the business of the British state when stories of its citizens (from Barbados) being tortured came to light. They set up a committee to investigate. And who better to lead the investigation? Future traitor and leading humanitarian Roger Casement.

Casements work in compiling his report for the foreign office made him almost like an investigative journalist. He hunted people down? Sourced interpreters and spoke to as many as he could whilst hearing tales of decapitation. Casement disgust was mixed with amazement when a domestic murder held so much more credence that this tales of inhumanity it helped shape his belief in justice for downtrodden and lp doubt played a part in his wish to assist Irish Rebels in their future fight against the British empire.

He published a paper on the situation that garnered huge press coverage. How could it not when it stated that the native Indian population nosedived from 50,000 to 11,000 in the years between 1908 and 1911.

This book tells the story in chronological order through extensive research of letter, newspaper article and published journals. I was struck when reading the details of a select committee set up by the House of Commons to investigate the company as it had British directors. Some of the transcripts are mind boggling in their evasiveness but that brought me a century ahead and this small island, formerly fully part of the British empire. We have had our share of select committees and tribunals investigating wrongdoing and corruption. Many answers to these were misleading and quite frankly bizarre. So what has really changed?

Slavery is abolished but we still have forced labour.
Labour laws are in place but we still have people being paid below minimum wage
Health and safety standards are published but we still have negligent workplaces.

We are forever evolving and still have a way to go but thanks to people like Roger Casement change came quicker to some countries.

niallhope

Book of the week Pele – the autobiography

pele – the autobiography

pocket books sport

 

Where i live in Dublin there is a certain footballer who was lauded when Dublin won the all-ireland last year.  This player had taken the championship by storm/ and won player of the year by the seasons end.  We often see him in the local park, walking his dog.  He always has time to say hello to the kids and encourages all he sees to play sport.

i often wonder what really goes on in Brian Fentons head, how hard isit to stay grounded when youve played such a pivotal role in your counties success,.  How do you  keep those feet on the ground when most people you see have already spotted you and either congratulate you on your performances or want to, and you know it.  Im sure you practice outting up a facade and try and remain humble.

now magnify that by one million and you are Pele.  My guess is that many years ago Pele gave in to the temptation to remain humble and one day had an epiphany.  “Im the best footballer in the world, there can be no doubt”  And then you have to write a book….

 

Well this is the book.  Really it should be told King but it is the story of a man better at football than at business who is treated like a king everywhere he goes.  This was published in the 90s but no doubt the focus is more relenting.

Just like a king there are stories of women, not as many enry the 8th but on the way, plenty of children too but with an obvious llove for them.

I read this as my son asked me, never really would have stretched out for it but am glad that i did.  He is some footballer after all.

niallhope

Chasing The Scream

Chasing The Scream

Johann Hari

Bloomsbury Press

Home

chasing-the-scream-3

As a starting point to this review I have one question.  According to the lancet, What is the most harmful drug?
Coincidentally shortly in the week where two people were shot and murdered in separate instances on Dublin’s streets I started reading ‘Chasing the scream’, courtesy of El presidente. Ironically enough this book was given to me as a present by one of the very few adults I know that doesn’t drink alcohol, smoke or take drugs. When I look in the mirror I see another one. I have never participated and found it ironic ( and still do to a certain extent) that I know people who wish to “smash the system” and will boycott nestle or other companies over dubious business practices but seem to think it’s ok to assist in the profits of alcohol companies or drug lords. Just because I don’t take them though doesn’t mean I can’t see the merit in decriminalisation and the case is made constantly throughout these pages. Just as people who drink alcohol have a 90% chance of becoming alcoholic the figures are similar for drug users. Imagine how different the world would look like if the money was taken from fighting drug crime to treatment centres and awareness
This weeks killings in Dublin were acted out in open spaces with many people acting as bystanders, dragged into events by virtue of “being in the wrong place at the wrong time”. The perpetrators and victims, if media are to be believed, were involved or linked by blood relation to Dublins criminal underworld. Much of this underworld are involved in the sale and distribution of drugs.
And that’s where Chasing the scream comes in. It charts the beginning of the drug war and how just over a century ago department stores were selling heroin nets. We begin with three individuals born into a time when the war on drugs had not yet started but was about to play a huge part in their lives
Harry Anslinger was an FBI agent assigned to what was become the war on drugs. Whether it was a war on drugs or on minorities using them is up to question as much of Anslingers language would not be tolerated today
Billie holidays story is a real tale of wrong place wrong te. Orphaned and destitute
Of course every war has victims. Victims of circumstances and in some cases geography. Soldiers don’t always have a historical reason or a sense of belonging. Sometimes they just fall into it. Chino is one. Destined for a life of destitution, it seems that Chino was always going to end on the streets in a spiral of drug abuse and violence. The war on drugs creates many casualties and drug dealers in many instances are casualties “..exploded and discarded shells, left behind on a global battlefield”. People in their radar can be casualties but the majority of violence isn’t around the action of taking drugs, it’s around the fight for power. Hari explains that in great detail and looking at the recent killings in Dublin only copper fastens that. A fight over territory so that more money can be made. He also speaks to people on all sides, including  those responsible for enforcing the law, however it is noticeable that increasing arrests haven’t led to decreasing number of drug deals
There are other victims written about here. New York, Mexico, Texas. All places with people struggling through life and somehow with a vision for a better world, a world that if it arrives is only temporary. Take Mexico and its 70,000 dead (that’s SEVENTY THOUSAND PEOPLE murdered in a country). What hope is there?  We need hope but with the drug war continuing it is hard to find it.
There is a fascinating chapter on the people who fall into addiction. There is a a theory that says addiction is not about usage it’s more akin to easing pain. The 10% of drug users who become addicts do so for a reason and maybe it’s not down to repetitive use.  Why do addicts keep doing it? we are asked  “because it makes them feel good, and the rest of their life doesn’t make them feel good”. Hari asks why isn’t more time spent looking at the people and their environment rather than biochemistry and the brain. Of course it is a valid point even if you’re sceptical of the underlying reasons. The way we view addicts is another aspect for consideration if someone is being treated for alcohol addiction there is almost sympathy, how different is that viewpoint for a drug addict. Portugese authorities are starting to view their addicts with sympathy. As drug use is no longer criminalised on lisbons streets there is a feeling “we all want to protect our children from drugs, we all want to keep people dying as a result of drug use. We all want to reduce addiction. And the evidence suggests that when we move beyond the drug war, we will be able to achieve these goals with shared success.
Another interesting aspect and a potential solution to assisting addicts and society at large is the idea of a social recovery. We are all in a rush to be consumers. Working more and buying more. This is have devastating effects on our environment but yet we continue. Why not pursue this? Cities like Licerpool, Vancouver and Geneva have all, to varying effects, set up injection clinics where heroin is provided in a controlled environment. This has reduced drug crime and deaths. Why not spend money in this rather than in crime prevention and detention?
Former Swiss president, Ruth dreifuss, is asked what she would say to David Cameron and Barack Obama should they be stuck in a lift together. “You are responsible for all of your citizens, and being responsible means protecting them and giving them the means to protect themselves. There is no group that you can abandon”. Yet it seems those involved in drugs are being abandoned.
As someone who walked the streets to first stop animal experiments in March 1983 and whose feelings haven’t wavered since I’m disappointed to read of tests with rats around the use of opiates. These tests are given ink but I can’t point to their validity. It sidetracked the issue for me and would be far more comfortable if it wasn’t raised.
I finished this book as we entered our general election frenzy and smiled wryly as hari observes “in a true democracy, nobody gets written off. Nobody gets abandoned. The revolution lives”. Some day maybe. To a country near you.
Oh an the answer is alcohol
niallhope

What I’m Reading – Roy Foster – Vivid Faces

This is the first in a series of how many I eventually do.  Rather than writing a review I will ask people to tell me what they are reading and what they like about the book.  Kicking it off is Michael McCaughan telling me about Roy Foster’s Vivid Faces, the Revolutionary Generation in Ireland 1890 – 1923 Penguin Books

royfoster

Is a really interesting account about some of the main and not so main people behind the Rising and subsequent insurrection and war of independence and civil war era.

Foster takes these characters and looks at not just what their cv’s were like, ie cultural nationalist or served in the British armay and then trained the irish volunteers. he looks at it from a generational perspective, almost as a generation who rejected their parents values, went out and were influenced by feminism, vegetarianism, the most remarkable things we don’t associate with that generation because we have it down to a narrow nationalist narrative.

I learned today that there were two vegetarian restaurants in Dublin at the time where a lot of them used to hang out in. It a cultural history through people’s stories that are not just tales of the great men who participated

el presidente

Book of the week – Kim Gordon, Girl In A Band

kimgordon

Kim Gordon

Girl in a band

Faber Press
Wrapped in what must be the most understated title ever we get Kim Gordons autobiography. Kim was the bass player in hugely influential guitar noise band Sonic Youth. For over 30 years the band forged new ground for guitar based music. Always evolving, forever moving.
In an interesting twist we get the last days of the band to begin with. Kim was married to Thurston Moore for 27 years, all that time playing together in Sonic Youth and when that marriage hit the rocks the band did too. When talking about their relationship it feels at times like I was a fly on the wall of a therapy session. This books publishing must have had a cathartic effect on Kim. Some home truths are exposed.
Once that’s out of the way we hear of her youth. Growing up in l.a. A year out in Hawaii and another in Hong Kong. Early holidays in Oregon.  I have vivid memories as a kid going to the cinema to see an old Peter lorrie movie. My memory of it is that it was called “the hand” but Kim reminds me in the book that it was “the beast with five fingers”. While I was hiding behind the seat in front of me at the cinema Kim was in fear that the chopped hand with a life of its own was under her bed waiting to pounce. I guess that film had a profound effect on both of us.
However Kim’s life after that was a life of beatnik, jazz, cool music and New Yorker magazines.
As autobiographies are tales of people’s life’s to date we hear the sadness of her fathers passing, her older brother’s mental illness, her breeding in art and tales of former lovers including the story of an on off relationship with Simpsons score composer Danny Elfman.
It was another Dan, Grantham who introduced punk rock to an open minded Kim Gordon and who stated that rock an roll was more important than art. Kim was more no wave with its vulnerabilities than punk rock with its attitude and aligned herself with that scene
Before putting this book in my hands Kim Gordon and sonic youth were, to me, all about New York. It’s the city I associate the band with. Of course, being the u.s everyone is transient so Kim ended up there but sees it now as a city changed. 35 years later its unrecognisable from the cheap, dangerous and eclectic land it was. It kind of sounds like Dublin. Major retailers and very few quirks. Capital is driving out innovators. “New York City today is a city on steroids.”
Much of the book is made up of short stories, snippets from time. Sonic youth collaborated with many interesting people and many of these are mentioned. Kurt Cobain, Raymond Pettibon, Spike Jonez, Chuck d, Henry Rollins and more. It’s a list of those whose influence has helped shaped alternative culture in the U.S.  Of course Kim is a strong independent female voice swamped at times in this mans world. In her description of Karen carpenter where Kim States “she was an extreme version of what a lot of women suffer from – a lack of control over things other than their bodies, which turns the female body into a tool for power – good, bad, or ugly” it sums up a generation better than a legion of sociologists writing tomes
Now, with Sonic Youth finished, art plays a large part in her life but the art of music is never far away and although she exhibits in a New York Gallery I’ve no doubt there will always be music in her life.
niallhope