Sunday, 28 April 2013

Teenage Kicks - Undertones best Irish band ever?

Yes, there are a lot of things going on in Ireland at the moment.  

AIB have hiked their interest rates, though the ECB will soon lower them. 

Fianna Fail, the party of gobshites that bankrupted the country, look set to get back into power at the  next general election - with the Shinners as natural coalition partners - thanks to the short memories of the Irish electorate.   Are 800 years short?  There must be an element of selectivity at play.

I don't know about you, but I've had enough of the whole shooting match, so I'm off up my hole like the rest of them.

Gombeen Nation is now a leisure blog (apart from when needs dictate otherwise).  I'm too busy doing other things to be arsed chronicling what a mad place Ireland is; such as getting used to some recently acquired gadgets - decent camera (with video), dashcam, and VideoStudio Ultimate.  Sorry - it's for the sake of my - admittedly disputed - sanity.

Anyway.  I can't sing to save my life, but I can play OK I think - so excuse the vocals.   Here's my "tribute" The Undertones (first clip), and their seminal (as opposed to semenal) Teenage Kicks.  

It was tough being a lad back then.  I suppose some things have improved, at least.


Best Irish band ever :   The Undertones.

Second best?  A photo finish between The Blades, Thin Lizzy, The Boomtown Rats, The Radiators,  Stiff Little Fingers, The Outcasts and maybe a few others.  Suggestions welcome.

And for the future (and the revelant past), there's Cavan songsters The Strypes covering an Eddie Holland Motown number... though they do lots of other good things too.

Some hope, perhaps?

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Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Exploring English Revisited

Are you one of those people who subscribes to the unlikely notion that schooldays were the happiest days of your life?  If so, your life must have turned out very badly indeed.

I have to admit that I harbour some fond memories of schooldays, though.  Namely ones spent on the mitch –  or playing truant, as Dennis the Menace and friends called it in the comics.

School was awful.  Being threatened, battered and browbeaten every day by bullies bigger than you.  They called themselves teachers.  

How some of these ignorant gobshites ever got near a classroom, in adult life, is a scandal.  Some came through the religious orders, some were mutton-headed Gaelic zealots who appeared little qualified in anything else.  Others were just plain incompetent.

English was OK though – one of the few subjects in which you were encouraged to think for yourself.  The Inter Cert syllabus featured the Exploring English trio of schoolbooks, compiled by Augustine Martin: short stories, prose and poetry.  

They were pretty good reads, and believe me, such an assertion is not coloured by time-tainted nostalgia on my part.  Even if, looking back, the omission of something from Joyce’s “Dubliners”– Araby,  for instance, jars a little.  Maybe it was that mention of a petticoat?

I loved to read Exploring English on my own time – admittedly, the stories I liked rather than the ones the teacher thought might come up in the exams.  In fairness, most of them were pretty good anyway.

The Exploring English series was re-issued for adult consumption a year or two back, and – much to the other half’s surprise – I got a copy from Eason’s last Saturday.  My original copy had long been consumed by the damp and mould of the Georgian childhood abode, complete with its very own bare stairs.

 There is something decidedly weird about reading stuff you last perused when you were sixteen or so.  Fundamentally, your impressions and understanding are much the same – but enriched and confirmed by having been around that “little” bit longer.  There have to be some advantages to it, after all.

Well worth a read, even if you didn’t do so first time round.

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Thursday, 18 April 2013

New, improved, Alternative Irish National Anthem - brought to you by Gombeen Nation

I know you're sick of this...  I really do.

But I have been grappling with a camera and Corel VideoStudio Ultimate since yesterday evening.  I have no idea what's going on in the world, or Ireland - except that in the latter case it's probably  more of the same.  Same as it ever was.

Anyway, the new Irish national Anthem is now ready - and it is about to become a You Tube viral sensation... not.  

But there you go.  

Whereas the punk movement in 70's Britain questioned orthodoxies, Ireland and its spoilt youth is still a quantum leap from sticking a safety pin through Dev's - or Bertie's, or Endas, or Michael D's  - appendages.

But there you go.  It takes time here.  

Maybe a couple of generations. 

While you're waiting.

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Sunday, 14 April 2013

You Tube AudioSwap not swappy enough

Anybody walking past the gaff would swear there was a rabid nationalist residing in the manor.

You see, I spent most of yesterday playing a piss-take version of  the Irish national anthem on guitar, bass and a drum machine.  Sad I know.

 When I say drum machine, I mean you tap in the bass drum and the snare with your fingers... you still have to keep time and all that - but mercifully, you don't have to be an actual drummer.

Years ago, while living in London, I had this Fostex four-track recorder.  It cost a packet and broke after a couple of days.  Home recording was not a straightforward affair back then.

Now, however, you can get a brilliant free programme called Audacity (this isn't a paid ad, by the way) which gives you a load of audio tracks to record onto.  Then all you do is plug your instrument into your computer, courtesy of a mini-jack, play and record.  It's fantastic. 

A few weeks back, I was farting about with several bottles of Stella Artois, my bass and guitar,  and a trial version of  Corel VideoStudio Pro.  I ended up doing an alternative version of the national anthem which some of you may have seen on You Tube:  Alternative Irish National Anthem.

Now, while Corel VideoStudio Pro is great for making videos, it only has four audio tracks. And I had the sound turned down when I was creating my musical accompaniment for the slideshow, such as it was. (Thank goodness for that, I hear you say).  

Thing is, I was able to make a better recording using Audacity yesterday -  I even made a metronome-aided click track to get the timing a bit tighter.  I'm not usually so methodical.

Now I have a better audio track but cannot replace the original track on the video I have uploaded.  You see,  though You Tube will allow you to replace your original audio with one of its selected songs, it won't let you replace the audio track with a new one of your own.

So it looks like the only thing to do is replace the current You Tube video with a new one when I get the full version of VideoStudio Pro next week.  

In the meantime, there's an MP3 of the reworked national anthem above.

I think it's a bit better.

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Thursday, 11 April 2013

Migrant Rights Centre Ireland head calls for Fianna Fail to tackle racism in its ranks

An interesting piece appeared in The Irish Times op-ed page today, by Siobhan O’Donoghue, director of the Migrant Rights Centre Ireland.

O'Donoghue cites instances of rabble-rousing racist comments from two Fianna Fail councillors, one who advocates an "Irish-first" housing policy – similar to the BNP's "British first" policy when it had a councillor, Derek Beackon, elected in the Isle of Dogs back in the 90s. 

It's interesting to read the comments section in the original Times online article, where the feeling of some esteemed commenters seems to be "and what's wrong with that?".

What's wrong, is that at least the BNP were honest in their racism – unlike the mealy mouthed Soliders of Destiny, and their economy wrecking, gobshite, backwoods gombeen TDs and councillors.  

Even though open racism is not official Fianna Fail policy – apart from a bit of institutionalised Anglophobia – it seems to be OK by Micheal Martin once his party colleagues issue their xenophobic utterances "in a personal capacity".

Mind you, this is not confined to The Soliders and their gobshite voters...  the blog has previously highlighted a Fine Gael mayor, Kevin Kiely, who called for "foreign workers" to be deported, another one, Kieran Dennison, who complained about "foreign nationals" on housing lists and a Shinner, Aengus O Snodaigh, who used the cloak of Irish cultural nationalism (so much more subtle, as the likes of Plaid Cymru will know)  in an attempt to exclude "foreign workers" from the Civil Service by means of unnecessary Irish language requirements, after moves were made to relax such barriers.  Then there was a "Labour" senator, Jimmy Harte, who called for a woman to be "sent back to Poland".

Ireland is full of such attitudes, from the right to the so-called "left".

They are, it seems, endemic.

Racism must never be accepted as a strategy to gain votes

Siobhán O’Donoghue

Last Updated: Wednesday, April 10, 2013, 17:48

Democracy requires accountability and accountability is synonymous with integrity, transparency and honesty. The willingness of elected representatives to uphold these principles and values is in theory the cornerstone of a functioning democracy.

Transparency International amongst others have signalled a dramatic weakening of these principles in recent years, and readers will be only too well aware of the dire consequences arising from the lack of accountability in public life.

In the recent incident of a Limerick Fianna Fáil councillor declaring that there should be an “Irish first” policy to access social housing, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin claimed that councillor Kevin Sheahan was “acting in a personal capacity”. Martin provided this view in a response to an email sent by many concerned people to him about Sheahan’s comments. Fianna Fáil has not made a public statement on the issue to date.

The use of the term “acting in a personal capacity” seems to have become a popular strategy in accountability avoidance tactics. A number of weeks ago Fianna Fáil also said that Donegal county councillor Seán McEniff was “acting in a personal capacity” when he demanded the segregation of Travellers and settled people. For the record neither McEniff nor Sheahan stated at the time they made these comments that they were “acting in a personal capacity”. Both made their comments in public settings in the course of carrying out their public office.

Racism, fascism and far-right movements are on the rise across Europe. Most people are appalled by the extremes of hatred targeted towards minority groups, including immigrants and Roma. The actions of groups such as Golden Dawn in Greece have been compared to pre-World War II conditions. It may seem a stretch of the imagination to make the connection between the rise of extreme right wing movements elsewhere in Europe and events involving local elected representatives in Ireland. However, if in this insidious manner racism goes unchecked, the conditions that lead to violent extremism can and do become a reality.

The comments of councillors Sheahan and McEniff have appeared on right wing and white supremacist websites and discussion boards as justification of the extreme views being promoted by these groups. There is also evidence on social media that some people willingly believe his false assertions even when the facts are presented to them. The Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government has strongly rejected councillor Sheahan’s assertion that immigrants are getting preferential treatment in accessing social housing, and the statistics reinforce the facts.

The fact that there are local and European elections next year adds urgency to the need for decisive action to deal with those who use the lives of vulnerable minority groups to engage in dangerous and rogue electioneering. Allowing the politics of fear and resentment to blossom is dangerous. Political parties cannot turn a blind eye to their members using racism as a strategy to gain votes.

All the main political parties have endorsed the Anti-Racism Political Protocol first produced by the National Consultative Committee on Racism and Xenophobia and now co-ordinated by the Irish Network Against Racism. Candidates in signing the protocol agree to “guarantee that when engaging in ongoing debate in relation to groups which are the potential targets of racism, such as asylum seekers, refugees, migrant workers and Travellers, [their] contribution to such debate is conducted in a responsible way and with respect to the dignity and rights of minority ethnic groups”.

All political parties, not just Fianna Fáil, need to dust off their copy of the protocol and engage in an education process with their members, especially candidates running in next year’s elections.

Fianna Fáil now has a choice to make. Does it allow its councillors to wilfully deceive their constituents, and condone the blatant fuelling of racism by party representatives? Or will it uphold its proclaimed condemnation of racism by holding its representatives accountable through imposing sanctions? As Edmund Burke once said, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”

Saturday, 6 April 2013

Bono's "tax-cheat" graffiti scandalises Killiney - and The Gloss

Have you ever heard of Irish author, Robert Noonan?   Noonan, a Dubliner, is probably better known to the world as Robert Tressell - after the painter and decorators'  bench on which he plied his trade, his experiences of which can be found in The Ragged-Trousered Philanthropists.

I read it yonks ago - when I was a mere slip of a thing in my twenties - and enjoyed it immensely.  I remember that Tressell was merciless in his satirisation of the supposed "charitable" tendencies of the factory owners, assorted town worthies and their wives, and the clergy.   The former loved to be seen doing "good deeds" for charity, even as they created the very conditions for such in their grimy, exploitative, sweatshop establishments.  

The book was set in the Edwardian era, between 1901-1910...  around the time the bockety old house I grew up in was built, in fact - fashioned by Tressell's very contemporaries.  

That house still stands - just about - and the "charitable" characters so keen to be seen doing "good deeds" are very much alive and thriving in Ireland... or living for tax reasons outside it.  You know the list:  J.P. McManus, Dermott Desmond, Denis O'Brien and the like.

Sure, they are doing nothing illegal.  Maybe if I was stinking rich I'd get out of the place too, not only for the sake of getting out of the place, but to "minimise my tax liability" .  I don't know for sure, but if the Euromillions numbers come up, I will keep you posted.

What gets me is the hypocrisy of -  on the one hand  -  denying a very broke Irish exchequer much-needed revenue and - on the the other - being seen to do "good deeds" in the eyes of the ever-dopey, ever-passive, ever-gobshitey Irish public.  

Not all of them are, thankfully.  Quite a few people are slowly wising up to the antics of one Bono Vox,  pop star, tax-avoidance specialist, and sickeningly pompous, self indulgent, charity posturer.  

Witness the following from the usually vacuous "The Gloss", which came with last Thursday's Irish Times:

We're speculating as to who on earth could be responsible for the new graffiti in Killiney? "Bono: shorted-assed tax cheat lives down here", it reads, in red, with an arrow helpfully pointing the way to the singer's house.

Neighbours have observed that the graffiti is in the CCTV blind spot, and therefore must have been executed by someone who knows the area very well.  

(See simulated Gombeen Nation graffiti - as it might have appeared - above.  Not very scientific, I know, but I can't be arsed driving out to Killiney to take a photo).

To get in on the fashion/gossip magazine spirit, one wonders if the culprit might have been grumpy Belfast contrarian Van Morrisson, who lives nearby?   He might not be all sweetness-and-light, our Van, but I can't imagine his hypocrisy-tolerance-level to be too high either.

And do you know what?  Despite being a grumpy so-and-so who doesn't bang on about saving the planet and spend time cosying up to world leaders - ostensibly to persuade them to do the same - he has, to the best of my knowledge, never availed of the artists' tax exemption. 

He pays his taxes which must run into monetary multiples of other popsters' "good deeds".


Maybe Van really is the man?

And maybe a word for JP, Dermott, Denis and the rest:

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Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Catholic Church takes shotgun to weddings over gay marriage

The Gombeen Nation position on religion is that its adherents can do – or believe – what they like once they don't bother anyone else.   All too often, however, transgressing that boundary proves too big a temptation for many of them.

Religion, you see, is absolutist.  Each brand is sure it alone is right, and the others are mistaken.

The Christian phrase "Do to others as you would have them do to you" probably isn't a bad principle for running a society – but one that many a "heretic" must have ruefully considered as the flames licked around their ankles for maintaining that the Earth revolved around the Sun, and other such thoughts which ran counter to Catholic teaching.

More recently, I grew up in a time when priests and nuns were to be found outside divorce referendum polling booths campaigning for "no" votes.    A time when getting a rubber johnny required a doctor's consultation or a trip to the Dandelion Market... assuming you actually had reason to need the things.   A time when all sorts of abuse was being carried out on children by priests and nuns.

Thankfully, the battle against the Church's overpowering influence is more or less won - and the topic of the Catholic Church is something I can't really get worked up about now, as I did in the 80s – as it dictated, through the State, to me and other non-believers like me.

However, much of the Catholic Church's decline is not due to any epiphany on the part of the Irish public who, despite a newly-professed "secularism", can't beat a path up the chapel isle quickly enough when it comes to marriage.   The Catholic Church's decline is due to it repeatedly shooting itself in the foot with a high-calibre blunderbuss.

It cannot help itself, it seems.

And the blunder below should see yet more of its flock leaving the pen, if only because of the extra inconvenience encumbered.

"CATHOLIC CHURCHES in Ireland have said they would refuse to perform civil marriages as part of religious ceremonies if the constitution is changed to allow full civil marriage for same-sex couples – potentially forcing Catholic couples to have two separate wedding ceremonies."

The claim is in a submission made to the Constitutional Convention by the Irish Episcopal Conference, the group made up of the country’s Catholic bishops.
The submission says that the Catholic Church does not recognise “any other partnerships or legal unions as having an ethical or legal equivalence with marriage”, which the Church defines as being between a man and a woman. 

“Any change to the definition of marriage would create great difficulties and in the light of this, if there were two totally different definitions of marriage, the Church could no longer carry out the civil element,” it says. 

Move may mean couples need two wedding ceremonies
Because Irish law does not explicitly recognise religious weddings, and instead offers its own civil marriage, it instead gives religious bodies and their officials the ability to perform civil marriages, with powers similar to a State-employed civil registrar. 

As a result, a civil marriage is usually performed in the same ceremony as a religious one. In Catholic weddings, the civil marriage register usually signed after the religious Mass has ended and before the newlyweds leave the chapel. 

This means couples seeking a Catholic wedding, and who want their marriage to be recognised in law, only need to have one ceremony, despite having two separate marriages.
A directive from bishops to end this practice would mean that couples engaging in a traditional Catholic wedding ceremony would not legally be married – and would instead have to visit a registry office in order to have a legally recognised civil wedding performed. 

“Changing the Constitutional definition of marriage to include same-sex unions would, over time, inevitably influence how society as a whole understands marriage,” the bishops’ submission says. 

“Marriage would be reduced to an arrangement of the sexual relationship of any two people. It would cease to be the institution upon which the family, and therefore society itself, is founded.”

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