In Praise of Noughties Music

Musically, of the four decades that I’ve lived through (80s, 90s, 00s, 10s), my favourite is the nineties. It was my teenage decade, the era of personal discovery, so the music that I grew up with – Britpop, basically – has a subjective importance to me that nothing will ever match.

However, I’m moving towards the opinion that of these four decades, the noughties was objectively the best for music. At least, for the indie/pop/rock genre.

Just think of all the great bands that came out of that decade. The list goes on and on: The Libertines, The Strokes, The Killers, The White Stripes, Razorlight, Arctic Monkeys, Elbow, Muse, Franz Ferdinand, The Arcade Fire, Kings of Leon, Kaiser Chiefs, Florence and the Machine, Mumford & Sons, Keane, Snow Patrol, MGMT, The Darkness, The Yeah Yeah Yeahs and of course Amy Winehouse, are just a few of the incredible acts which were absolutely massive in the noughties.

Close behind them, you’ve got the likes of Kasabian, The Vaccines, Bloc Party, Vampire Weekend, Doves, Editors, British Sea Power, Fleet Foxes, Goldfrapp, Interpol, The Coral, The Decemberists, The Kooks, Athlete… I could keep going. OK, I will… Bat for Lashes, Rilo Kiley, The Go! Team, Wolfmother, The Zutons, The Thrills, The Delays, Cloud Control, Magic Numbers, Hal, The Noisettes… Even The Duckworth Lewis Method (Neil Hannon’s cricket themed band) got their fabulous debut album out just before the decade closed.

Even the massive commercial bands that critics and musos get a bit snobby about were actually pretty decent. It says something about the musical quality of a decade when the very worst thing it produced was Coldplay.

Facebook Deleted

Facebook is trash. It manipulates you into addictive behaviour to keep your attention. It sells your personal data to people who want to use it for shady purposes. It is undermining the fabric of society and politics. It is causing vast damage to mental health. And it is not going to change.

It’s been a long time since I’ve really used it, and whenever I do occasionally pop back to see if there’s anything worth seeing, there never is. Maybe my friends are still posting good stuff, or maybe they’ve all moved on with their busy lives too. Either way, the algorithms have swamped my timeline with ads and junk.

So, now that it’s clear I’m getting no value or joy from Facebook at all, and Facebook is sucking vast amounts of value and joy from human society as a whole, it’s time to push the nuclear button and delete my account entirely.

To Facebook: goodbye!

To my friends: see you elsewhere!

Brexit, and the Second World War in popular culture

I wrote this in late 2018 and never got around to posting it. Italics added by me now.

I think one of the big differences in ideology and worldview between Leavers and Remainers is their understanding of WW2 and the rise of fascism.

The popular view of WW2, as portrayed in countless books, films, TV series, etc, is that fascism was an external threat: foreign dictators and armies, defeated militarily by the plucky Allies.

Popular culture doesn’t often look at the rise of fascism in the ’20s and ’30s. When it does, it generally subscribes to what I call the “George Lucas Theory of Fascism” – dictators are sneaky super-geniuses who make their way to power using trickery and force.

The other view – the more historically accurate one – is that fascism was a popular movement, a wave of grassroots fear and anger, ridden by opportunistic politicians who styled themselves as the people’s champions.

People didn’t have fascism imposed on them from above. They demanded it themselves.

They wanted strong leaders to tear up state bureaucracy and get things done, reassert sovereignty and regain past national glories, protect them from dangerous foreigners and socialists, and take revenge on the liberal elites they despised.

I can think of only two works of popular culture which come close to portraying the popular rise of fascism, and then only barely: Cabaret and The Sound of Music. And those films are unlikely to have been watched by many ardent Brexiters.

When you ignore all of that, and see fascism as its end result – a political establishment, backed up by military force – it’s easy to see why Leavers regard the EU as a totalitarian threat, and themselves as the plucky Allies fighting it.

But when you know how fascism really starts, it’s obvious which side of the Brexit divide most closely resembles it.

New Year’s resolutions 2018: end of year review

You can probably guess, from the fact that I’ve only posted one article since the last end of year review, that I haven’t had a lot of free time in 2018. I offer the same reason for my pitiful performance below.

1. Complete The Lords of Midnight.

Status: failed.

2. Switch to a non-free private email provider.

Status: failed.

3. Switch to safety razors, shaving soap and brush.

Status: failed.

4. Watch 13 specific films (see list).

Status: passed (barely – I finished watching the last one on 5 Jan 2019).

1, 2 and 3 are still ambitions, but I’m not going to make any resolutions to complete them in 2019, as I’d obviously just fail again.

Brexit IS a class issue, and here’s why

This John Harris article, Brexit is a class betrayal. So why is Labour colluding in it?, is a persuasive argument about Labour strategy and why it should support a #PeoplesVote. But it doesn’t do much to support its headline claim – that Brexit is a class issue. (I know, the headlines are written by the editors, not the commentators.)

I think the claim is right: Brexit is a class issue. I’ll try to explain why.

The spectacle of millionaire toffs and spivs inciting popular hatred against “elites” – which Harris mentions but doesn’t analyse – is an obvious example of misdirection from the ruling class.

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New Year’s resolutions 2018

2017 was a bit of a wash out on resolutions. Buying a house and starting to renovate it took up too much time. In 2018, the house work continues, plus we’re getting a puppy in a couple of weeks. So I don’t hold out much hope for these:

1. Complete The Lords of Midnight.

2. Switch to a non-free private email provider.

3. Switch to safety razors, shaving soap and brush.

4. Watch 13 specific films:

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920)
The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938)
Ben-Hur (1959)
Cleopatra (1963)
Zardoz (1974)
Sholay (1975)
Network (1976)
Logan’s Run (1976)
Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)
Conan the Barbarian (1982)
Tron (1982)
Apollo 13 (1995)
Contact (1997)

New Year’s resolutions 2017: end of year review

It’s time to see how I did with my 2017 New Year’s resolutions. And the answer is: very poorly.

1. Complete The Lords of Midnight.

Status: failed.

2. Use DuckDuckGo at all times.

Status: largely passed.

DuckDuckGo is a search engine which doesn’t track you. You should use it.

3. Switch to a non-free private email provider.

Status: failed.

4. Switch to safety razors, shaving soap and brush.

Status: failed.

5. Switch to a better solution than takeaway coffee cups.

Status: mostly passed.

I was gifted a Keep Cup which helped me to achieve this one.

6. Watch 13 specific films.

Status: passed, barely.

I say barely because I watched the last one, Gandahar, on 1st January 2018. But I achieved the higher goal: knocking a good chunk out of the “films I want to watch” list.

What next?

I’m going to carry 1, 3 and 4 forward to 2018. A bit shamefully, this is 1’s fourth year as a resolution. I’ll carry forward 6 as well, with a new list of films.

Patterns of India (Part 5: Miscellaneous)

While travelling in India, I became fascinated with the variety of patterns in its architecture. Historically, they’re mostly a legacy of the Sultanates and the Mughal Empire, and Islam’s tradition of non-figurative art. But interesting patterns can also be found in Jain, Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh and modern architecture, and also in natural forms.

These galleries collects all the photographs of patterns I took during my visit. I’m releasing these into the public domain. They are far from comprehensive, and others can be found in various places such as Wikimedia Commons.

Part 1: Delhi
Part 2: Agra and Fatehpur Sikri
Part 3: Rajasthan
Part 4: Chandigarh
Part 5: Miscellaneous

AMRITSAR

Harmandir Sahib

A gold painted relief pattern on the Golden Temple of Amritsar


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Patterns of India (Part 4: Chandigarh)

While travelling in India, I became fascinated with the variety of patterns in its architecture. Historically, they’re mostly a legacy of the Sultanates and the Mughal Empire, and Islam’s tradition of non-figurative art. But interesting patterns can also be found in Jain, Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh and modern architecture, and also in natural forms.

These galleries collects all the photographs of patterns I took during my visit. I’m releasing these into the public domain. They are far from comprehensive, and others can be found in various places such as Wikimedia Commons.

Part 1: Delhi
Part 2: Agra and Fatehpur Sikri
Part 3: Rajasthan
Part 4: Chandigarh
Part 5: Miscellaneous

CHANDIGARH

The Rock Garden

The Rock Garden of Chandigarh is one of the great outsider art installations of the world, on a par with the Palais Idéal in France.

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Patterns of India (Part 3: Rajasthan)

While travelling in India, I became fascinated with the variety of patterns in its architecture. Historically, they’re mostly a legacy of the Sultanates and the Mughal Empire, and Islam’s tradition of non-figurative art. But interesting patterns can also be found in Jain, Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh and modern architecture, and also in natural forms.

These galleries collects all the photographs of patterns I took during my visit. I’m releasing these into the public domain. They are far from comprehensive, and others can be found in various places such as Wikimedia Commons.

Part 1: Delhi
Part 2: Agra and Fatehpur Sikri
Part 3: Rajasthan
Part 4: Chandigarh
Part 5: Miscellaneous

Rajasthan retained a large degree of autonomy and aristocratic Hindu culture under the Mughals. Its art and architecture is therefore more figurative, and outside the scope of these galleries. However, Mughal influence can be seen, especially in the patterns of Amber Fort in Jaipur, below. Also, I couldn’t resist the peacocks, which are almost abstract in their kaleidoscopic exuberance.

BIKANER

Junagarh Fort


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