Wednesday, 14 November 2012

An open letter to Taoiseach Enda Kenny

Dear Mr Kenny,
You stated in a recent interview that you are personally against abortion and you said the following: “I think that this issue [abortion] is not of priority for government now.” Well Mr Kenny – you were not elected for your personally held beliefs or opinions. You were elected to govern this country for the benefit of all citizens. That involves doing what is best for the people in this country whether your opinion deems it moral or not.
And let me tell you something about opinion. I was once of the opinion that abortion was inherently wrong. Due in no small part to what I heard from the Catholic Church I thought anyone that even thought of doing it, was in a way evil. For me to remember that now, to think that I even thought that makes me ashamed. Why? It wasn’t until someone close to me had to make that choice. Then it hit me: who the hell am I to even attempt to force my opinion on someone regarding a choice they have made in regard to their own body?
You know what I decided to be angry about from that day on? Firstly I was angry at myself for allowing myself believe that. Then I became angry about men in a corrupt institution and the fact they had made me even think that. I was angry at those who like telling others what to do with their own bodies. I became angry at the fact that Irish women have to leave their own country, they have to leave supportive families, friends and services behind to go abroad to have abortions. I am angry that women are not free to choose what it is they wish to do with their bodies.
What century are we living in Mr Kenny? You know what also angers me? That the organisation behind this ‘moral’ crusade is the institution of the Catholic Church and their ideological ‘supporters’. You know – that’s the institution who for years covered up the rape and abuse of children.
You know – children. The beings who in the Church’s warped opinion have a right to life in the womb, but once born the very same beings were the ones that priests could rape, molest and abuse for decades and their superiors excused them for doing it. They moved them and shielded them from the law of the State. Some morals to live by! But then – nothing surprises me about the backwardness, immorality and evil of the Catholic Church.
I believe regarding the abused children, the Church and the State of Ireland, you once said: “But thankfully for them [the children], and for us [the people], this is not Rome. Nor is it industrial-school or Magdalene Ireland, where the swish of a soutane smothered conscience and humanity and the swing of a thurible ruled the Irish-Catholic world. This is the 'Republic' of Ireland 2011. A Republic of laws.....of rights and responsibilities....of proper civic order..... where the delinquency and arrogance of a particular version..... of a particular kind of 'morality'..... will no longer be tolerated or ignored.”
Why are you still allowing this criminal institution and its arrogance dictate what choices you make? Why are you are still tolerating “a particular kind of morality” when it comes to women and their choices regarding their bodies? Why Mr Kenny?
I do not call into question your own personally held beliefs Mr Kenny, but you are the Taoiseach of this country. You govern a people with many, many differently held beliefs. You govern many, many different cultures and you were elected to make decisions based on the legal constitution of this country. As you said yourself – this is a Republic of laws. I remind you that since 1992 a woman has had the right to an abortion in this country, yet successive governments, including yours, have refused to legislate.
“What”? I hear you ask.
I know Taoiseach. This is a country of “rights and responsibilities, of proper civic order” and yet 31-year-old Savita Praveen Halappanavar died in Galway because “a particular kind of ‘morality’” still runs through our political discourse and culture.
Shame on you and your government for allowing this to continue and shame on you for not having the decency and courage to sort out this shambolic mess that the women of this country find themselves in when it comes to decisions about their bodies. It took the rape of a fourteen year old in 1992 to get the Supreme Court to act. A woman has now needlessly died. What will make legislating for the X case a priority for your government Taoiseach? Another rape? Another death?
Or will it take a particular type of ‘moral guidance’ about women and their bodies from a man in a hat and a frock to make you legislate?
The eyes of the world are currently on us as a nation in regard to Savita’s tragic death. The ball is in your court Taoiseach. Be a leader. Legislate for the X case and move us beyond a particularly twisted form of morality.

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Historical Musical Mutterings

Today’s musical mutterings is a little different – it’s a musical history muttering! Enjoy!

One of my more ridiculous musical obsessions is the creation of music playlists for my listening pleasure. The fascination began with my first MP3 player the mighty Samsung Yepp player.

It had a mahoosive 32 megabytes of memory! Yup! That’s right! 32 megabytes! I have single songs with more megabytes than that these days! Oh the memories! I won’t go into the how and the why I bought it or how it was mis-sold to the eager youngster standing there with hi entire weekly pay packet…… ugh. The memories.

Keeping 'it' Fresh YO

Needless to say I had to create many a ‘6 song’ playlist to fit the 32 mb limit so that my bus ride to work and back from work was kept fresh yo.

I hasten to add here that my music collection at that stage was approximately 23 cds and I had only just discovered Napster so my ability to mix it up and keep the music fresh was….. somewhat limited. So after a few months of having to change the playlist every night, I got my hands on some dosh that enabled me to buy a Sony Minidisc player.
It was the happiest day of my musical existence! I now had a device that I could make proper playlists for and I could bring minidiscs with me on my journeys to school, work and friends houses so I could have a choice of playlist! Also I had always been a Sony head. My first Walkman had been a Sony, the blank tapes I bought were Sony, my first stereo system was a Sony and I was a PlayStation fiend! To return ‘home’ to Sony felt good after a treacherous stepover to Samsung. “Yuck” I said as I brushed my shoulder and sanitised my hands. MPFREEEE was how I liked it and MiniDO was the future.

As I was now working a bit more frequently after school and at weekends, I had a bit of spare money to buy more music. My CD collection exploded. Online sites allowed me check out songs from bands I had never heard of. The internet allowed me talk to music heads from around the world and swap songs by email. It was sheer bliss. I discovered original music sites like ‘cdwow’ and amazon and discovered I could get cds for less than half the price I was currently paying HMV. If angels existed, their ‘hallelujah’ moment for me was then. My minidisc collection was small because I didn’t want to copy over albums for the sake of it. My intention was that my minidisc collection would be my personal DJ collection. Mixes and playlists that I created. They were creatively entitled ‘Minidisc 1’ and ‘Minidisc 2’ and….. I think you get the picture! But not only could you have an assortment of discs, but

they were different colours 

What happened TDK?

they were different….. names

Em..... what he said

So in my years of ownership I created in the region of 15 playlists which let me tell you, received the highest amount of detailed listening to ensure one song followed the other perfectly. I tried to mix it nicely with some light rock to start; that would lead you into heavier rock, then to some metal, before ending on a chilled out note.

My Second Minidisc Player
For some reason then in 2004, the unthinkable happended: I fell out of love with the Minidisc player. It was one of those relationships that ended, not due to falling out of love with it, but the love had changed. We were going in different directions. My second minidisc ended up being sold to a Cash Generators store and for Crimboxmas 2004, I requested and received the following:

 Yes. I had gone a full 360 from being MPFREE to being back at MPTOTALLY. Memory size had rocked in the 4 years since I last owned an MP3 player and I felt it was the right time to go back and of course, Sony were my guys to turn to. I still kept my minidiscs as my HiFi system was a Minidisc one so I still had my playlists and strangely, I never remade them for my MP3. They felt sacred to the old Minidisc life and I left them be.

Things went along ok for about nine months. This was a time when no matter what MP3 player you bought, your manufacturer had their own software they wanted you to use and use it you had to. I liked the emerging iTunes, but Sony demanded that I use SonicStage. All my MP3’s had to be converted into WMA’s or something else in order to work. I pined for the days of hassle free music listening and I wanted the ability to choose what software I wanted to use no matter what MP3 I bought. But of course, things would never be that easy. I ended up having two separate but duplicate music libraries on my laptop. I loved iTunes, hated SonicStage but couldn’t bring myself to sell the MP3 that I had received for Crimboxmas previous.

Then in October 2005, my old Dell laptop died. It was no longer fit for anything besides solitaire. My music was thankfully backed up on a hard drive so it was not lost. I wondered what next. My decision was to change my musical and technology based life for ever. I bought an Apple iBook G4 laptop (which to this day is still working!) and that purchase signaled the end for my Sony MP3. It was not Apple compatible and rather strangely I lost all interest in having a personal music player. I sold the MP3 on eBay and didn’t bother with anything for months.

I started working full time in September 2006 in sales and my first months incentive payment was used to move back into the personal music sphere. I bought an iPod Nano! It was 8 GB, the same size as my old Sony so this was perfect for the time. Then I decided I’d be sacreldiscus. I made playlists on my iTunes of all my old Minidisc playlists and in memory of them, kept the creative titling. Indeed, I was so happy to have digitally reconnected with those playlists that on my iPod today I am currently beginning ‘Minidisc 31’! The main changes today are that my Nano was exchanged for a 160GB Classic iPod as my music collection now verges on the insane. I have in excess of 24,000 songs and over 177GB of music. And crazily, all my ‘Minidisc’ playlists are now joined by 11 ‘Chillout’ playlists, 3 Classical playlists and numerous Setlist playlists of bands that I’ve seen live. I have only a few rules when making my playlists. No more than 20 songs and artist duplication is nearly always forbidden. Some playlists I have allowed exceptions! But I try my best to keep the artists as mixed and as separated as possible. Some playlists need exceptions because the genre of music can be so unique, see my example below.

But do I think I have a problem?!

Simple answer is ‘no’! I find it very challenging and thoroughly enjoyable to sit down and try and thrash out a new playlist. I have a ‘list’ that I throw songs I’ve heard and liked into, then I start from there. It can be a great way to hear different genres together and appreciate many different types of music. One of my two most recent playlists is a most interesting listen. I’ve gone for a real up/down tempo mixing rock with some post rock. It’s quite the ride!

Thus far the list is:
Auto Rock – Mogwai
Little By Little – Oasis
Moya – Godspeed You! Black Emperor
Come on Home – Franz Ferdinand
Blaise Bailey Finnegan III - Godspeed You! Black Emperor
Pardon Me – Incubus
Retreat! Retreat! – 65daysofstatic
Your Love Alone Is Not Enough – Manic Street Preachers
Oroborus – Ulfomammut
Pick A Part That’s New – Stereophonics
State of Non-Return – Om
The Day That Never Comes - Metallica

I’m aiming for 17 or 18 songs on this list I think.

So that’s my musical history muttering! Let me tell you, remembering my old Minidisc’s and MP3 players was awesome! Hope you enjoyed reading as much as I enjoyed writing this!

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Lack of Leadership on board the Arse

It’s been a while since I wrote about my beloved Arsenal. I guess I find it can be a bit more difficult because there are so many different gooner voices out there in blogland, let alone the blogosphere and spblogace, that I wonder if I’m adding anything of interest to what’s already there. But after a trying few weeks I’m going to add my thoughts to some things that have already been written. Hopefully my voice adds something to the conversation!

(picture by Dan Leydon)

I have read quite a few different reactions to Arsene over the last number of years and they seem to ebb and flow with regard to ‘he knows what he’s doing’ to ‘what the hell is he doing?’  I’ve always been a massive fan and supporter of his ideology and I still am. When arguments used to happen in pubs, I was standing up for the need to build the stadium and an acknowledgment that there might be a few years without a league trophy (wasn’t expecting the current trophy drought!) and the need to go for youth. Arguments against this philosophy were never personal attacks like these days on the beautiful magic interweb. What Wenger did in the first years of the stadium was nothing short of miraculous. I don’t think the fans were ever told the whole truth about monies being available to the manager but I accepted that belt tightening was a necessity due to our circumstance. However, what was apparent was the ever-increasing competition for the top 4 places. That Wenger has kept us there is proof of his ability as a manager and a coach. Yes there have been seasons with luck and seasons where without a certain 30 goal scoring thing we wouldn’t be anywhere but that is part and parcel of football. The point is that it happened, nothing you can do now except reminisce. I’m not like others in that I don’t get strung up about when Wenger talks about 4th place being like a trophy. Yes an actual trophy would be nice after such a drought, but in todays football world, putting the effort in to winning a cup like the League Cup and/or the FA cup can cost you League points. I look at Liverpool – yes the club that everyone likes to compare us to and if you ask Liverpool fans about blah blah blah, they say they wished blah blah blah. You’ve heard it all. My point is regarding their struggle post Benitez. Liverpool were like us. They were one of the teams pre season who was going to finish in the top 4. Then they didn’t. And look at their struggles since. Look at the money they have spent. Yes they’ve bought quite a bit of mediocrity but it’s a very, very tough journey back to the promised land of the top 4 and the margins for error are getting slimmer and slimmer every season. Arsenal this season are showing slight signs of slippage and despite Arsene’s previous miracles, there is just something missing from the club today that I think is the cause of this slippage.

What I feel Arsenal currently lack is leadership at every point in the club. We have an owner who is silent. We have a CEO who says the right things to the right people at the right times. We have a manager whom I don’t think is even questioned. Now I’m not asking for ownership that interferes in the day-to-day managers job – that’s not Arsenal. The leadership I feel we’re missing at the top are the custodians. People like Danny Fizsman and David Dein, who while not questioning the manager, would (and I certainly feel this) subtly have asked questions about players, teams and matches. Even if it were to subtly encourage or motivate Arsene to think a little differently. What they cared about was Arsenal. Well in Dein’s case, he did up to about 2007 when he sold his shares to Usmanov. I don’t buy into his reasoning for selling and if he truly cared about the club he’d clip his son around the ear when it comes to being an agent for some of our past players. We currently have an owner who cares about a club that will make him money. He is happy to keep things going the way things currently go as it keeps our share price high and ultimately I feel that is his sole goal having seen and heard nothing to inspire me or make me think otherwise. I remember the summer of 2001 where after a few mediocre seasons, Wenger whipped out the cheque book and brought players like Van Bronkhorst, Sol, Richard Wright and Jeffers to the club. Now some signings were inspired, some great squad additions and others didn’t work out. What happened after the additions?  My own personal thoughts are that Wenger was told from above that the money was there, tell us who to sign to make us title challengers again and let us worry about the money for now. There was mutual understanding between everyone and Wenger trusted them like they trusted him. Currently Wenger has to worry about balancing the books and the team and I worry he does it alone. I look at the run down in the fantastic blog from The Swiss Ramble where he lays it out brilliantly and plainly how Arsenal’s business plan means they really do need to sell before they can buy. No one on the board currently is an Arsenal man besides the honorary PHW who hasn’t much influence anymore. It’s very eerily silent.

The other lack of leadership issue I have has been the choice of captains. Since Vieira left I don’t think Arsenal have had a proper captain with the exception of a certain scoring thing last season. Yes I know the way he left, but last season he had the players doing things together, he knew the traditions of Arsenal and on the pitch he was a talker and an action man. Wenger has never been much of a ranter or a hairdryer style manager. He inherited Adams who knew the right things to say and gave 100% He gave the captaincy to Vieira. These were players who didn’t know the meaning of giving up, of not contesting every 50/50, but also knowing what to say and when to say it. Henry’s shadow was too great when he inherited the captaincy. Look at the freedom the team played with after his departure. Gallas? Need I say anything more than ‘center circle’? While Fabregas was one of the greatest players I ever got to watch, he was no captain. Vermaelen this season seems to be burdened by it. He doesn’t seem to be the player of old who made less mistakes but his slightly reckless mistakes were made up by the fact he scored goals. Arteta would have been the best choice for captain but the fact he’s not means he’s not going to try and step on Vermaelen’s toes. While Wenger doesn’t hold the idea of captaincy in the highest of regard and prefers his leaders to be in the dressing room and all over the pitch, there’s something that choosing the right captain can bring. Vieira calmed his insane temperament when he inherited the responsibility of captain. He was a leader on the pitch that if the team was down he inspired others to rise with him. After Vieira left we still had what Wenger termed ‘leaders’ on the pitch, but they didn’t do much without a proper captain and leader. There’s just something that can inspire you when looking to the man wearing the armband when you need inspiration. If you look and see an Adams or a Vieira with the look of anger in their eyes after conceding, or hearing them shout at you having done something silly – you awaken to the challenge. Right now while Arteta is respected and seen as a captain, the players will look at Vermaelen and see little to be inspired about.

So in summation – my belief is that Wenger doesn’t have leadership around him in the club and this is what is holding Arsenal back. He has yes men above him and players that respect the pants off him. I think what Wenger and Arsenal need more than ever right now, is a true captain major to run the ship and a true captain to rally the troops on the pitch. A club is made up of many elements all gently pushing, persuading, sometimes fighting, but all pushing in the same direction. Arsenal currently has a man trying to steer somewhere he knows he wants to go, but has no leadership to help him get there. I think Wenger is still the man to lead our club, but he needs his leadership around him in the supporting roles. I think he misses the subtle inputs of others who share his same goal: for Arsenal to win trophies.

Musical Mutterings

Bit of a quieter musical muttering this week. More of a musical mumble cough *tumbleweed* blog! My music listening has not stopped, fear not dear reader, but I have no new albums to review this week. My musical choices were inspired by what would get my legs pumping hardest on my new bicycle! Disc 2 of Garage Inc. was a definite leg mover! My top 5 listenings for the last week were:

Queens of the Stone Age
Green Day

I am a big fan of Idlewild and I am disappointed they never made it as big as they should have. They’ve released some sublime musical offerings over their career (currently on hiatus) yet never managed to break into the upper echelons of the musical halls. They’ve had their own cult following which thankfully, was big enough to keep them together for over a decade. Their last album, ‘Post Electric Blues’, was a brilliant album and it was funded solely by fans (like me) paying in advance of its making to finance the recording! You see music industry? People are willing to pay for music. Good music. And pay more than you charge for shit. Take note.

On another muttering note, I saw an amazing bit of news from Queens of the Stone Age the other day. Not only are they back recording a new album, but Dave Grohl is back on drums! For those in the not know - check out the album Songs for the Deaf from 2002 - masterpiece. He has always said Josh Homme is the only man who can persuade him to sit behind the kit. I was lucky enough to see Grohl from afar behind the kit when I saw QotSA play in 2001 and 2002 at a festival, but even more lucky to get a ticket to Them Crooked Vultures in Hammersmith Apollo in 2010. I was right up front and watching Grohl bash that kit was an amazing experience. Getting close to the legend that is John Paul Jones was also nice! This week I shall be getting my hands on two new albums so more to musically mutter about next week. Hopefully I shall have a few of the other projects I’m writing about nearer to completion also. Waiting for a book to come into my library for one project and editing two more! Been a bit quiet here on the old blog this last week but that should change soon!