Saturday, June 30, 2007

Greenskeepers - Go

Love this act, love this song... house with simple drum programming, solid basslines and the most important thing sometimes, (not always mind), a cracking sense of humour.

This one being a triffle rude.... ooo er... my fave remix is the no Assembly Firm one, it so rocks... not many videos for 'dance' tracks let alone remixes though.


Friday, June 29, 2007

BZP to be Banned in NZ

As a strong supporter of all currently banned 'drugs' being legalised I am saddened by the decision to ban BZP based pills.

I don't believe there was any need for a ban and as history has shown, prohibition does not work.

Here was an opportunity for our govt to act in both a responsible manner that allowed those whom were of age to choose what they put into their bodies and thus how they lived their lives.

BZP is way safer than booze & fags.. yet the govt will not be banning these proven killers.

This is not a decision that democracy can be proud of.

Stop molly coddling us and let us live our lives.... as long as our actions don't endanger others and a substance has not been proven to directly limit ones physical safety and life why prohibit it?

Whilst I am no fan of these 'party pills' I have and would have continued to avail myself of them from time to time -I reckon I use them in very low doses about once every 10 months.

As a member of SAC the ramifications of this ban are going to be fascinating to watch, as one who is very fond of our dance scene I expect some major differences.... both good and bad.

Grumpy of the inner city.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Bobs big day in town

I took the opportunity to work from home yesterday, due to construction going down in the office.

To celebrate the glorious day that it was - cold and very sunny (well cold for Auckland alright), I decided to have a extended lunch break and to venture into town.

Now town for me is a long 5 minute walk up the road and then down into the central city... I very rarely go into town, cause it bores me... I'm a bloke, i don't like shopping so I minimalise my exposure to retail hell whenever possible.

So into town I go, I had one intention on my mind, to hopefully stumble upon the missing volume of Phillip K Dick short stories for which I have been searching for over a decade. So my first stop is JB Hi Fi, a bulk music/DVD/games emporium that is newish here - a big aussie chain. It was frightening, in both good and bad ways - horrific in decor and not a pleasant place to be... but crikey what a lot of stuff... I found Joy Division CDs for $7, which seemed a good deal, let my fingers flick through the Fall and then got depressed at the crap they called a dance section. I then looked at the DVDs and got all flustered so buggered off to Whitcoulls.

No sign of any Dick, other than perhaps myself, in Whitcoulls, no sign of the Rip It Up post punk book by Simon Reynolds and no sign of anything bookish that took me fancy... so again I strayed off my chosen path into the DVD section, as I had some book vouchers that have been burning a hole in my wallet for too many months I was keen to finally take there collective weight off my mind and out of my wallet, so I came away with the pilto movie and first season of Battle Star Galatica, the 2004 remake of that classically bad sc fi telly series. Yep a mug is really born every second.

I then ventured to Borders books store, plenty of Dick but not the one I seek, found the Simon Reynolds book and looked for its companion CD, according to the puter it was there but alas I could not find it so decided against the book, for now... cripes their music section is looking sad - perhaps a reflection on increased competition.

I then decided I should venture home, I was already feeling quite giddy from the entire experience. And so it was soon over, 5 minutes later I was safely enscounsed in my home... eagerly pushing a DVD into the player to emerse myself in that which I have already seen.

Watch pilot movie, do some work, watch episode from first series, more work... repeat til one goes to sleepy byes

You're a sad man Bob... a sad, sad man

Awesome it was!

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Mid week reading

Dunno what my ISP has done but I get virtually no spam these days, tis great....

At school however I still get a daily fix of around 30 emails suggesting I could be a bigger and harder man if only I was to purchase the right product..... most are simply arse but one variety really shows some spammer has a sense of humour:

Hello my friend!

I am ready to kill myself and eat my dog, if medicine prices here ( are bad.

Look, the site and call me 1-800 if its wrong..

PS My dog and I are still alive :)

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Mornings are for coffee

Anyone notice that the insurgents setting off car bombs and the like in Iraq have suddenly morphed into al-Qaida according to most media?

Well by most I mean those outside of New Zealand for here we've moved on, Iraq doesn't really exisit anymore, far too much snow down south and cats up trees for our media to spend much time on the middle east... a shame for it really does seem to be once again on the brink of something not nice.

So whats up in the middle east or whats up with the media?

Nothing good it seems.

its the middle yeah meltdown baby

Where is the modern day Hunter S Thompson's covering the US presidential campaign, a fear & loathing on that campaign trail would be a wonderful thing....

Meanwhile only 70something days til the rugby world cup


Monday, June 25, 2007

Quiet weekends in front of the box can serve up good and bad things

Good: Tycoon Toys - a documentary on rich peoples obsessions.... an episode with these billionaires and their Tank collections, awesome!

Bob imagines the trainset he'd create if a billionaire....

Bad: Alexander - the Oliver Stone movie... Bob's review "piece of shit". The highlights were the many ad breaks, then at least I got some exercise as I popped outside to scream.

Verdict - don't be afraid of books kids.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

You never listen to a word that I said / You only seen me / For the clothes that I wear

Public Image Limited (PiL) formed in 1978 by vocalist John Lydon (ex-Sex Pistols), ex-Clash guitarist Keith Levene, and bassist Jah Wobble.

PiL are often regarded as one of the most challenging and innovative bands of the post-punk period.

Public Image Limited - Public Image (1978)

One of the all time great songs IMO, I will never tire of it...

PiL - Flowers of Romance (1980)

PiL - (This is Not a) Love Song (1983)

I was obsessed with this song as a young teen. It was funny, it was ironic, it was nothing like that which my mates liked!

Public Image Ltd - Rise (1986)

Off the wonderfully titled and designed album/compact disc/cassette...

Anger is an energy Anger is an energy Anger is an energy

Unfortunately there is no video for my fave track of theirs, Socialist/Chant/Radio 4 from the fucking amazing Metal Box. Which has recently been reissued, I so need to get me the reissue cause I only ever had the original dubbed onto cassette (yeah... Bob Daktari killing the music industry since ages ago).

PiL: Fodderstompf

Friday, June 22, 2007

Shortest Day Of The Year

Things to do on the shortest day:

Wear Shorts (but of course)
Find a reason to finish/leave work early (done)
Listen only to EPs (albums are so passe on a day like this)
Walk with a limp (for shits and giggles)
Get angry at a band you've never heard of (done - see below)
Watch a youtube clip or three (done - see below)
Shake your fist at the sky and yell something inane (am saving this one for later)
Um... wot else... look confused and scratch head (done)
Sleep for a long time (done, last night)
Dream of midgets/little people having sex (I am hoping/praying this doesn't happen.. am I watching too much Boston Legal??)
Wonder if its the longest day in the northern hemisphere (will google this later, one assumes it must be so)
Build a wall of cardboard and create a pretend insurgent camp behind it (in progress)
Argue a point not cause you believe it but for the sake of a argument (chances are high, I am in a funny mood)
Wear Shorts (yes you can wear two pairs at once - done)
Post something silly and throw away on ya blog (almost done)

righto, the weekend awaits and I have little planned and that suits me fine.... have fun people

From popbitch:

The Automatic V Bob The Builder

The Automatic had a huge hit last year with Monster. Bob The Builder's people approached the band for permission to do a cover of the song for Xmas, with the lyrics changed to:

'What's that coming over the hill?
It's Bob The Builder, Bob The Builder.'

Sadly the band refused, afraid that people people would shout this back at them at all their future gigs. (And now's your chance...)
Bob the Builder rocks!

One for Ms Hilton

I am no fan of this 'celeb' nor this song... but I must admit a fascination for the storm in a teacup and obsession media has for Paris... it really is quite something from my standpoint, being a member of SAC - the Sociologist Action Committee - a rogue group of three former sociology students who find themselves in the NZ Music industry...

I can't help feeling that William Gibson got our evolving present so right in his novel Neuromancer, the obsession with looks crated clinically, the cult of personality and the world of the mega rich... a world devoid of substance.

Hey Paris, when I saw you tonight in your party dress,
Your make-up perfect, your hair a perfect mess
I must confess

Hey Paris, a love that I’d been hold in
Felt like the walls were closing’ in around me
I must confess

I confess to the crime of lovin’ you
And everything that comes with
I confess that too

Hey Paris, look out in the evening sky
There’s a big ol’ lovers moon that’s rising high
Let’s take a ride

Hey Paris, just out past the LA line
Where the air is clean & the water tastes like wine
Let’s take a ride
It ain’t even half-past eleven
We got time to make it to Heaven tonight

Paris, look at me
The sun will set you free
Paris, let’s blow this town
This town just brings me down

Hey Paris, honest as the day is long
All I want is everything you want,
Girl honest I do

Hey Paris, It’s not just your dress that’s blue
I know I am, I think that you are too
Honest, I do

Blue is the color of lonesome me
Lonesome & blue you don’t have to be no more
Paris, no more

You got a friend till the very end
I’ll stand by you
I’ll pray for you
I’m looking out for you

…Steady girl!

Song for the Day: Rune Lindbæk - Africa (a cover of the Toto 'classic')

Thursday, June 21, 2007

This Mortal Coil - Song To the Siren

Spent a lot of time last night in the world of youtube, TV cannot compete with being able to call up that which interests you then and there.

Now all Bob wants is better quality video and sound and decent internet speeds to capture that which I wanna view in our odd little technological backwater.

By god I love this song, a love affair that started in, I reckon, 1984. As the single I have this on 16 Days was released in 83, thus it would have taken some months before it hit New Zealand shelves, so we'll say '84.

I used to play this a lot, back in my early student radio days and more lately on my George FM show, which I must have left about a year ago now - I dug playing this on George, of which i guess I did so maybe 3 times, it was a sure bet to get loads of texts from people blown away by well just how fucking beautiful this song is.

Liz Fraser in top form with a voice to die for.

This Mortal Coil - Song To the Siren (1983)

If memory serves I got the single cause I was a big Modern English fan, whom wrote 16 Days Gathering Dust, I quite liked the Cocteau Twins but it wasn't til Song To the Siren that I really started to explore their world.

This was back in the days when I would collect most releases on a record label, it simply made sense and 4AD was a wonderful label, to put it mildly.

I don't know what it is with me, I have been spending a bit of time of late on youtube and each visit I find myself looking for and watching music clips from mainly the 80's - is this some sort of mid life crisis I wonder? A vein attempt to reach back to my younger more formulative days... perhaps so and why the hell not, I had hair on my head and drunk jugs of beer...

Or perhaps its a reflection on the lack of videos for most of the electronic/dance related acts that have dominated my attention since the early 90's. Must do a night looking for old rave, techno and jungle clips - of which I am sure there is bugger all.

Last night I was basking, once again, in the old punk days and had intended to have angry type post about all the bands I followed from that particular genre. Punk was the formulative musical experience for me, it connected not just with my ears, punk helped shape my sense of self, the political elements and philosophy embodied by so many of the punk bands still resonate within me. I am a punk... not some stereotypical mohawked thug, no I'm a silly old man who wears shorts... but my heart, my soul, my me is and will always be concerned most with being true to myself (as much as I can be) and being simply me - an individual if you will, and that is the core of what being a punk is.

Aw jeeze here I am blabbering on like some stupid old fool... here's the Cocteau Twins, I need a coffee.

Cocteau Twins - Pearly Dew Drops Drops (1984)

Cocteau Twins - Lorelei (1985)

I think this is a video made by a fan.

And with that I do belive its time to start my day.

Good Morning!

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Disappointed of Onehunga

I'm quite critical of our media... hell I'm critical of just about everything... I can't help myself.

Some would and do call me bitter or cynical or more often both - I can deal with that as I am cynical and sometimes bitter. Who isn't?

Since I was a child I've grown up with a certain publication, a weekly magazine, it is like Coronation street, a constant in my very inconsistant life. It provides me with much food for thought, reinforces some of me existing beliefs and has always introduced me to subject matter I wouldn't normally bother with.

Of late, the last few years, I got the magazine on subscription and being a chap who likes his routines I would read the mag, pretty much cover to cover, on a Saturday afternoon and it took most of a afternoon to digest it. I'd then refer back to the magazine over the course of the week, re-reading some articles and using it for reference for that most vital of tasks - working out what to desensitise my mind with on the telly.

Over the years it has introduced me to issues, art and culture of which I would be ignorant of without it.

It simply has for a magazine in my eyes rocked big time.

I remember my very first politics lecture in '85, and the professor asking if there were any political magazines with a obvious bias in this country, I timidly put my hand up and gave this magazines name... I was right and quite possibly grew at least a foot in at that instance.

Over the years its editors have changed, the format has been rejigged many times yet always the content was some of the most intelligent and insightful on offer, outside of very specialist publications.

But something has changed.

The once left leaning bias seems to be swinging to a quite mainstream right wing one. Some of the articles are simply fluff pieces. Its not as crucial in my eyes as it once was.

It is taking less time each week for me to digest and there are often articles I don't even bother with.

I like all good aging members of a population want this puppy back as I remember it... fuck change us old buggers yell!

I still buy and read the thing each and every week and it is still a publication I enjoy and respect more than most. But I fear it may lose the ability it once had to entice me into subject matter I care little for.

Hell I read the sports column each week and really enjoy what for me is a subject I care little for, as a mild understatement.

I hope this is simply a phase the publication is going through - its had dry spells before, yes thats it, its merely a phase... one reflected globally, that slow slide towards the right.

Whatever it is, I am still a little dispondant by my The Listener, I don't want it to change, I like my left wing bias. I don't want to simply skip the in depth articles in favour of the arts reporting and TV guide sections.

I don't want to give it up as I am increasingly doing with other media (NZ Television News, our Newspapers - in a physical format).

*crosses fingers and chants to himself... its just a phase, its just a phase*

On a different note - does one really have to go to country gigs to score chicks?

One hopes not.

All you guys out there going to the metal shows, even seeing the classic rockers, YOU'RE IN THE WRONG PLACE! You've got to go to the country gig, you've got to go see Keith Urban. Felice pegged the ratio at TEN TO ONE!

Short ones, tall ones, big ones, small ones. All in their jeans and cowboy boots, their tits hanging out of their clingy tops. It was a veritable GIRLS GONE WILD! How did they all get the MEMO?

Nary a tattoo, nary a piercing. The attendees were positively wholesome. And at the appointed hour, when the hi-def screen showed a beating heart and Keith Urban emerged on a riser, strumming his electric guitar, you should have heard the SCREAMS! You could COUNT THE ORGASMS!

And you can include me in the tally. There was a shot of adrenaline, an excitement, all too often absent. And all there was was this one guy, smiling, playing his axe, sans dance steps, sans backing tracks. But then the backing band appeared. A drummer, of course, but FOUR MORE GUITARISTS!

Bob Lefsetz on Keith Urban

Nothing against country, I find as I allow myself to grow musically that this is a genre that has given me so much over the past 10 years... I just don't desire to wear a cowboy hat and yell yeeha... oh fuck it I really would like to do that... its the wholesome call I find disturbing, I prefer people who are, well, freaks I guess. Great review of mr urbans show but....

On that note, the album of my week is the new and longish time coming album from the Dead C "Future Artists", me a big fan of their noisedronerockscapes

And this album is a goodie, a nice change from the electronic fare for which I usually get excited by..... oh yeah!

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Musical interludes that make me smile

The past couple of walks to work I've come across a gent playing the flue, he stands under one of the motorway overbridges which I walk under on my daily wander.

Its only happned twice but I do hope this chance encounter continues, for not only does his flute playing sound quite accomplished, its a jolly fine sound to walk past each morning.

You can't really talk to a flautist due to the nature of how one interacts with a flute, I do hope my smiles and Fridays claps were indication enough to show my pleasure to the man.

Over summer I had a similar experience, pretty much everyday as I returnd home someone in the block of apartments in which I live plays the bagpipes, and it just happened that each day as I got home they would be playing. I am no big bagpipe fan but I really enjoyed the minute or so of play I would hear before entering the building.

Sometimes its the little things that make your day... to these players I can say thank you and play on.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Afghanistan: The west has to accept that there is no military solution

by Jonathan Steele
The Guardian
June 15, 2007

The honest way forward in Afghanistan is to understand the south is lost and refocus efforts on Kabul and the north

Kabul -- The team that wrote President Bush's Prague speech on democracy this week have clearly never visited Afghanistan. Otherwise they would not have had the president quoting a Soviet dissident who compared "a tyrannical state to a soldier who constantly points a gun at his enemy". The guns that most Afghans see pointed at them are held by Americans, and they are all too often fired. At least 135 unarmed civilians have been reported killed over the past two months by western troops, mainly US special forces.

The deaths by ground fire and US air strikes have become so frequent that last month the upper house of Afghanistan's parliament did something it has never done before. It called on the Nato-led forces to cease taking offensive action against the Taliban and asked the Afghan government to talk to the insurgents, provided the Taliban accept the country's new constitution. It also asked for a timetable for the withdrawal of foreign troops. The upper house is not normally a radical body. More than half its members were appointed by Bush's friend, President Hamid Karzai. Its speaker is a moderate former mujahideen leader who was driven from power by the Taliban a decade ago. That men with this background should now be expressing doubts over Nato's tactics and even over its presence in Afghanistan sends a powerful signal.

Five years after western forces arrived here, the upper house's concern reflects an impatience with them that is widespread in Kabul. Initially the International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) was considered too passive. The demand was for it to deploy out of Kabul to the non-Pashtun north and west, and arrest or disarm the warlords. Although these were anti-Taliban figures, they ran their areas like fiefdoms, neglecting development and stealing revenues.

After a two-year delay Isaf did move out, and now runs so-called provincial reconstruction teams in most provinces. It still leaves the warlords alone, since confronting them is considered the Afghan government's job. Some have been sidelined by Karzai, but given good jobs in Kabul. Others were elected to parliament, after attempts to ban militia leaders from being candidates were dropped. None has been put on trial - a cult of impunity that also benefits a new generation of corrupt officials.

In the Pashtun south, the Taliban's homeland, the west did little. Instead of pumping in aid while the defeated Taliban were still demoralised, the Taliban were given three years to recover. Now that Isaf has finally gone into the south, the complaint is that it is too aggressive. Isaf troops demolish houses, empty out villages, displace tens of thousands of people, and use indiscriminate firepower that kills innocent civilians. Isaf's task is complicated by the presence of over 10,000 US troops who are not under Nato command but operate in the same zones, killing more Afghans than Isaf, and giving all foreign forces a bad name since no one can understand the difference.

Making a priority of "force protection" - which means that soldiers on patrol or in convoy treat every Afghan as a potential enemy and fire on anything suspicious - has helped the Taliban to gain recruits. Before 9/11 the connection between the Taliban and al-Qaida was only at the leadership level, and tenuous at best. Now it is pervasive and at the grassroots. Young Afghans are strapping on suicide belts, a technique imported from Iraq - it was never used against the Soviet occupiers two decades ago, and shocks older Afghans as a perversion of their warrior nation's traditions. But it helps to make Isaf and US special forces even more jittery, feeding into the instinct to over-react.

Last autumn, British commanders tried to break out of excessive reliance on military force. They made a potentially precedent-setting deal with tribal leaders in the town of Musa Qala by agreeing to withdraw provided the Taliban did not move in. The deal was sabotaged by the Americans and, as on many earlier occasions, Tony Blair failed to stand up to the White House. He let the Musa Qala experiment fizzle out.

In Kabul, some western analysts with long experience of Afghanistan are in despair. They argue that Isaf should recognise the trap it is in. Western governments and their electorates will never provide enough troops to secure the south, but the reckless use of air-power to make up for the shortage of ground troops only loses more hearts and minds. The downward spiral of anger and alienation accelerates.

The only honest solution is to accept that the south is a lost cause as far as western military action is concerned. Isaf should refocus its effort and the available foreign aid money on Kabul and the north. Turn them into an example of how development and modernisation can be done gradually and sensitively and with a real long-term commitment, rather than spending millions on advice on "good governance" from overpaid consultants on short-term contracts. There is no danger that the Pashtun-based Taliban will capture Kabul and the north again. Isaf need not announce a pullout, but it should prepare the ground by redeploying its forces to garrisons in Kandahar and the provincial capitals in the south, and quietly abandoning its isolated outposts and the futile in-and-out patrolling of the hinterland.

Some diplomats argue that, while this may be what the west eventually does, there is still time to use a mix of military attacks in a few areas combined with discreet contacts with Taliban commanders through tribal leaders. These should aim for agreement on phased withdrawals by Isaf, and promises that security will be in the hands of Afghan police chosen by local people rather than sent in from outside. The Afghan army is seen as an adjunct of the occupiers and not welcomed.

Pashtun tribal elders reject Taliban ideology, which they see as obscurantist, regressive, and hostile to development. They had six years' experience of it after 1995, and know what it means. But the Taliban are successfully expanding their reach by exploiting national pride and hostility to foreign occupation and the corrupt practices of Kabul-appointed governors. Removing the occupation and having locally chosen police would allow the elders to reassert control.

A key precondition for a new approach in Afghanistan has to be an end to the west's simplistic "war on terror" rhetoric and its latest incarnation, Bush's Prague talk of "freedom versus extremism". Promising "victory" in Afghanistan only risks the perception of "defeat" when the reality eventually dawns that there is no military solution.

There are NZ forces in Afganistan... engineers and quite probably SAS.

I sincerly hope our SAS forces are not contributing to the carnage being unleashed on the innocent... and Taliban forces. Somehow I feel this is not the case, which all but negates our countries stance on the wars of revenge unleashed by the US and her allies.

If we want to be a country that promotes morality and common sense in a world steadily going mad, we shouldn't be in Afganistan.

Helen bring our troops home, now.

This is not our fight. Let us focus on helping those who have fallen victim to the bullies of the west, helping in a non military manner.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Cabaret Voltaire

Oh yeah baby, a weekend of it....

Four more clips from this very important band for me and well a hell of a lot of loons around the globe.

Cabaret Voltaire - Sluggin' For Jesus 1981

Simply godlike, you can imagine the influence this sort of track had on the early techno producers of the time.

Cabaret Voltaire - Yashar 1982

A track I still pull out a lot, it makes me smile...

It's one I played heaps when the whole electro clash thang was kicking off here and also a time I was booked to push play on record players in clubs, not often but often enough for me. A awesome track and like most of Cabaret Voltaires music years ahead of its time...

Cabaret Voltaire - Sensoria 1984

Sensoria from their second album for Virgin (Microphonies) is one of the great 12"s of all time IMHO, one I used to start almost all my radio shows with, in 85.

I'd get to the station at 3pm on a Friday, the station started broadcasting at 3, cue Sensoria up and run off to another building, turn the transmitter on (a huge ex army transmitter that well it was fucking huge, would have taken a truck to move it) and run back and push play on this track. I then had 8 minutes to catch my breath and cue another record - the station was 100% vinyl.

They were fun and simple times. I'd do a three hour show. Dash back to the halls of residence, where I lived in my first year, scoff back some food (bad fish n chips on a Friday) and dash to the pub. To drink like a loon, talk music with me mates and probably yell a lot... if lucky there would be bands to take in and the gang members whom ruled the pub would leave us alone.

Cabaret Voltaire - I Want You 1985

The 12" of this and other Cabaret Voltaire tracks of this ear were more often than not a mashup of at least two of their tracks, the 12"s were long (for the time, usually 9+ minutes, which seemed an eternity then) and the 12" for I Want You is simply a little mad.

For more Cab's clips do a youtube search, there's a few more there. Tis so cool to see these, for I haven't had the pleasure, for some of the clips posted, before.

Cabaret Voltaire Discography

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Now thats what I call music

Cabaret Voltaire came from Sheffield, England.

Initially comprised of Stephen Mallinder, Richard H. Kirk and Chris Watson, the group was named after the Cabaret Voltaire, a nightclub in Zurich, Switzerland that was a center for the early Dada movement.

Their earliest performances were dada-influenced performance art, they later developed into one of the most prolific and important groups to blend pop with dance music, techno, dub house and experimental electronic music.

The band formed in Sheffield in 1973 and experimented widely with sound creation and processing, seemingly more interested in sound itself rather than song. They eventually turned to live performance - generally attracting hostility from Sheffield's working-class audiences. For a while Sheffield was the city I looked to for music, it was my Chicago (for the house types that I know visit here)

In 1978, Cabaret Voltaire signed to Rough Trade Records. With Rough Trade they released several highly acclaimed musically experimental singles and EPs, including Extended Play, Nag Nag Nag, Three Mantras and 3 Crepuscule Tracks, and albums such as The Voice of America in 1980 and the widely-hailed Red Mecca in 1981.

In 1983, coinciding with the departure of Watson (who went on to found The Hafler Trio with Andrew M. McKenzie before becoming a BBC sound engineer and then a soloist), Cabaret Voltaire decided consciously to turn in a more commercial direction, with the album The Crackdown on Virgin Records. This decision was rewarded with the album reaching No. 31 in the UK - over 60 places higher than their previous (and only) chart placing. In 1984, the singles "Sensoria" and "James Brown" from the album Micro Phonies (also on Virgin) charted on the independent music charts as well as getting heavy play in the underground dance scene.

In 1987, the band released Code, followed by the house-influenced Groovy, Laidback & Nasty in 1990. A series of completely instrumental works under the Cabaret Voltaire name were released on Instinct Records in 1993 and 1994, but appeared to be largely the product of Kirk. However, Mallinder was present and involved in these recordings even if his vocals were absent. The only album where Mallinder's involvement is questionable is 1994's The Conversation where Kirk is credited with all instruments, programming, arrangements and samples and Mallinder gets only a co-writing credit. The last CV release to feature Mallinder singing is the ethno-techno single, Colours in 1990.

In my world one of the most important bands ever! They were my Beatles, my Brian Wilson, my Bryds, my Velvet Underground.... that set the benchmarks by which I judged and assessed so much music - that wasn't guitar centric.

Naga Nag Nag is one of my top five singles of all time and Voice Of America one of my top five albums. For many years they dominated my listening and buying habits.

I heart Cabaret Voltaire to use the language of the young.

Nag Nag Nag as featured here is the type of track that should be on high rotate in the sets of the young electro punks/disco punks or whatever they call themselves movement that is popular with the indie kids of today.... to put it simply: it fucking rocks!

Friday, June 15, 2007

Their elitist, corporate version of 'democracy' is not ours

Eyewitness from G8 riots
Whose World is This?
by David Rovics

Singer David Rovics appeared on stage during the G8 counter-demonstrations, incorporating them into his "G8 Warm-Up Tour" of northern Europe. He sent this account.

The riots in Rostock, Germany began around 3 pm last Saturday. In European riots outside of G8 meetings and such, generally all sides refrain from using lethal weapons. (If anybody breaks with this tradition - such as Genoa in 2000 or Gothenberg in 2001 - it is always the police.) The riots on Saturday were part of a long series of such confrontations around Germany, around Europe, around the world.

On one side were many thousands of police brought in from all over Germany, dressed in space-age green or black riot gear. On the other were thousands of mostly young men and women, mostly German but including participants from all over Europe and a smattering of other places, many wearing balaclavas or bandanas over their faces, most dressed in black.

These events are strangely beautiful, partly like a brilliantly choreographed modern dance performance with the city as its stage, partly like a medieval battle. Many of those who don't wish to be involved leave the scene in a hurry, many others find some high ground and watch the melee unfold, and quite a few more try to keep on with whatever they were doing before the riot started and hope it ends soon.

For months before the event tension had been building, as is standard before these big convergences. As if following a script, the German authorities raided leftwing social centers throughout the country looking for people they described ominously as 'terrorists'. (What a useful word for anybody you don't like.) These raids were reported throughout the European press, of course. The idea is to scare people off from coming to the protests. As usual, it worked, and the crowds were probably less than half what they would be if so many people had not been afraid to go.

Police were stopping people driving suspicious-looking vehicles, looking for gas masks, fireworks, or other things they didn't want at the G8 protests. Of course, anybody coming in a day early driving a normal-looking rental car like me had no problems and could have brought anything into Rostock, but if you were trying to bring some banned item in with a home-made 'pull-me-over' car, or a big bus full of anarchists, you had problems.

But all the efforts of the police were in vain, since one of the most effective weapons people use in these confrontations are readily available in unlimited quantities in every European city - cobblestones. The streets of Rostock were littered with broken cobblestones that young people had been smashing on the street and breaking into fist-sized pieces to throw at the cops.

The most impressive part are the modern equivalent of the archers, those firing flares, lighting up the sky, arcing far over the heads of the crowd and landing in the packed lines of riot police. Many times the police retreated, many times they charged, and many times they tripped over each other in the narrow streets, where their numbers simply couldn’t be accommodated. By the end of the day there were hundreds injured, dozens with broken bones, including quite a few police.

The day began with my friend Lisa dropping me off at the main train station, where one of the two opening rallies was to take place. She forgot her cell phone in the hotel room and it took her hours to drive back to it. For the whole day it seems the police had shut down most of the roads leading into the city. Sometimes roads leading out were also closed, but mostly it was easy to get out but hard to get in.

For days leading up to June 2nd, mostly youthful alternative-looking sorts of folks were streaming out of the main train station, coming from all over, then heading purposefully from the train station to the main Convergence Center or one of the three camps within twenty kilometers of Rostock, surrounding the small resort town of Helingendam, where the G8 meetings are taking place as I write. On Saturday morning the crowd kept doubling in size every ten minutes or so until by 11 am there were tens of thousands of people, and the same thing was taking place at another site in town for the other opening rally.

The crowd was a multigenerational collection of people with very diverse views, but united in the idea that this world could be a very different place. There were representatives of the massive German anti-nuclear movement, there were those calling for the G8 nations to end their wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, or to do something about global warming. There were quite a few Turkish communists, there were Danish union members, Dutch squatters, and many, many others with no particular political affiliation or ideology. Just people who know that things are not as they should be, this world is not quite the world we want, and these G8 leaders need to be held to account for the world they have, in so many ways, created for us.

They are essentially asking the question that is as old as what we dare call “civilization.” Whose world is this? Is it for the corporate elite and their pseudo-democratic governments to rule in the interest of profit, or is the world's wealth for us all to share more equally? Is our world a place where we can allow any nation's army to bomb cities in another nation? And when all this death and destruction is all about oil and control, what then? What is the appropriate response when our air is being poisoned by coal-burning power plants, our food and soil poisoned by pesticides, our water poisoned by nuclear waste, and we're all dying of cancer? Is this how things should be? If not, how can we change the situation?

One of the speakers was from the MST, the landless peasants movement in Brazil. They have answered the question of whose world is this by seizing the land that the rich call their property and they are forming collective farms. They have chosen to eat and fight rather than to starve and die. The questions are immediate, the stakes high, and in Brazil, as with many other countries, much blood has been spilled over these questions.

In modern Europe there have been historic compromises between the haves and the have-nots, and most people live in relative comfort. The struggles rarely result in people getting killed these days. But as in the rest of the world, all over Europe the historic struggle goes on, continually trying to answer the question in one form or another, is the world here for the private gain of the few or for the public good of the many?

One of the things that's always so striking about these mass convergences such as this week of action going on right now in and around Rostock is how few of the people I know in various activist networks around Europe are actually there. There were tens of thousands of people present at the big rally last Saturday, but they clearly represent a small fraction of the European left. Throughout my tour of Europe leading up to the G8 protests I asked people if they were planning to go. There were always one or two, sometimes a few, who were. But most said no, they couldn't get off work, or they had to take care of their kids, or they were concerned about getting arrested, or they were on probation from the last arrest, or they were too broke to afford the train ticket.

Yet here we were on June 2nd, with the big public space in front of the train station thronged with tens of thousands of people. Behind the stage for everyone to see were two large banners, proclaiming in German and in English, 'another world is possible.' I sang, a German hiphop artist performed, and then there were several speakers from around the world, including the woman from MST.

It was a long and peaceful march to the site of what was supposed to be the main rally, which turned into a smaller rally than the opening ones, as many people left, others stayed and fought, and a few tried to pay attention to what was happening on the stage, which kept on starting and then stopping again depending on what was happening around it.

June 2nd was the main rally against the G8, but the actual G8 meetings are happening now, with smaller groups (many thousands) based at their various camps engaging in road blockades and many other different types of actions to try and prevent the meetings from happening, or at least to disrupt them.

Already the G8 meeting organizers have cut their meetings down from three days to 1-1/2 days. They presumably have their reasons why they're doing this, but everyone knows the real reason - fear of us, fear of humiliation, fear that the world will see them naked, humbled by a few thousand citizens determined to let them know that their elitist, corporate version of 'democracy' is not ours.

David Rovics is a singer, songwriter and social activist. This account of the events surrounding the G8 forms part of his narrative of his European tour which can be read, along with numerous other pieces by him, on his website, from which you can also download his music. It's all available free, but as David has not yet transcended his corporeal existence and continues to need regular inputs of nutritional biomass, you might care to buy at least one CD.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Fighting for Freedom

Reporting on life behind the wire: The Sudanese journalist held in Guantanamo Bay

Sami al-Haj is a Sudanese journalist who was captured on his first assignment for Al Jazeera and has been detained without charge in Guantanamo Bay since June 2002. But, remarkably, imprisonment hasn't stopped him reporting on life behind the wire. Andrew Buncombe tells his story and talks to those he left behind

Published: 09 June 2007
The Independant

Sami al-Haj spends his days alone, thinking of his wife and the son he barely knows.

He spends his time thinking of the world beyond the razor wire, of the world away from the walls and bars, the orange jumpsuit he is forced to wear and the military guards that oversee him. He thinks too of his fellow prisoners incarcerated along with him at Guantanamo Bay and the anguish they endure.

And when he gets an opportunity – which is rare – he tells someone what he has seen.

Haj – prisoner identification number 345 – is one of around 380 detainees still being held at the prison located at a US naval base located on the south-east coast of Cuba. Yet he is unique among the prisoners in that he is the only one who was seized and detained while working as a journalist. It was while working as a cameraman for the Al Jazeera network that Haj was seized by the Pakistani authorities as he was trying to enter Afghanistan in December 2001. He had a valid visa but that made no difference to either the Pakistanis who grabbed him or the Americans who held Haj without charge – first at Bagram Airbase and then at Guantanamo. The seventh of June marked the fifth anniversary of his imprisonment at that off-bounds, "Alice-in-Wonderland" jail in the Caribbean.

But if the Bush administration was able to incarcerate the cameraman, it has been unable to prevent him behaving as a journalist. Throughout the five years he has been held, 38-year-old Haj has continued to act like a reporter, detailing and documenting what he has seen and experienced inside Guantanamo and then passing this on to his lawyers. Indeed, with the US administration's strenuous efforts to prevent all but the barest information ever emerging from Guantanamo, Haj is one of the very few eyes and ears able to provide a first-hand account of an aspect of the US government's "war on terror" that it would rather the world did not see.

"This is where the United States leads the world in the so-called war on terror, a Holy war of errors," says Haj, in one of the "dispatches" passed for clearance by US censors. "At one time or other more than 700 people have been held in the cages of Guantanamo Bay in the ... years since January 2002. They belong to 45 different nationalities."

He adds: "For more than four years many of us have been isolated in a small cell, less that 10ft by 6ft, with the intense neon lights on 24 hours a day. Many of us are not allowed to exercise outside these cells for more than one hour, just once a week. We are provided with food and drinks which are not suitable for the iguanas and rats that live beside us on Torture Island."

Haj is a Sudanese citizen who had been working for the Qatar-based Al Jazeera network for only a matter of months when he was seized close to the Afghan border. The order for him to be detained apparently contained the number of his old passport, which had been lost two years previously and Haj thought the matter would quickly be cleared up. He was very wrong.

The US authorities have never formally charged Haj, though during the time of his incarceration at Guantanamo they have levelled various accusations at him – accusations that have changed from year to year. Among the allegations that have emerged during a series of Combatant Status Review Tribunals (CSRT) is that Haj ran a website supporting terrorism, that he sold Stinger missiles to Islamic militants in Chechnya and that he interviewed Osama bin Laden. He denies all the charges, though his lawyers point out that another Al Jazeera cameraman was present during an interview with Bin Laden. Could this be a case of guilt by association?

Remarkably, during 130 separate interviews, his interrogators have questioned him very little about his alleged links to the al-Qa'ida leader or other radicals.

Rather their questions have focused almost exclusively on the operation of Al Jazeera. One of his lawyers reported that Haj said he had been told by several people that he would be set free if he agreed to return to Al Jazeera and spy for them. Each time he turned them down.

"I don't know how they would put pressure on Al Jazeera. Perhaps wait for him to confess to something he has not done and then take that against Al Jazeera," says Ahmad Ibrahim, a colleague of Haj's at the Arabic language network. "The fact that he had only been working for Al Jazeera for four months did not allow him to know too much. He was just a normal person. He was not very experienced."

In one of his pieces of reportage, Haj talks of the interrogation sessions he and the other prisoners endure. He claims that he or other prisoners have witnessed a female US interrogator pull the testicles of one of the detainees, that two interrogators had sex in front of a prisoner, that a female interrogator smeared what she said was her menstrual blood on a prisoner and that a prisoner was forced to walk on all fours while a interrogator rode on his back.

"During our days, months and years of detention we are constantly hauled off for interrogation sessions which are a by-word for abuse," Haj writes. "Here we encounter the 'Enhanced Interrogation Techniques'. One such method is solitary confinement which, for a selected number of prisoners, has been known to last for years. Interrogation itself can last for 28 hours without interruption, the prisoner forced to crouch or stand in stress positions, deprived of sleep, sexually humiliated without any clothes, sometimes even having Israeli or US flags wrapped around their heads. If they want to frighten us, then when we are bound and hooded they bring in the dogs."

More than five years of protesting his innocence, of thinking about his family, has taken its toll on Haj. Back in January he started a hunger strike in protest at his incarceration. Twice a day the prison authorities strap him to a chair using 16 separate restraints and force-feed him using a tube that has on occasion been forced, inadvertently, into his lungs rather than his stomach.

By way of punishment for his "difficult" behaviour he has been held in solitary confinement. Those who have been permitted to visit him say he has lost weight and is pale. And despite this the cameraman says he will not give up his effort to speak out.

In another note, he writes: "I sometimes ask myself, who are these people who are held in cages not even fit for wild animals? How do these humans live? The Prophet Jonah lived inside a whale and Moses lived inside a coffin, so the Guantanamo cells are only for those who are strong and those who have a will to adopt the path of the prophets. If I stay all my life in these cages, let those who inflict this on me do what they wish, but I feel I am living the life of a King."

"His number one concern is the other guys in there," says Zachary Katznelson, one of several lawyers who represent Haj and who last visited him at Guantanamo on 30 April. Katznelson, senior counsel with the London-based group Reprieve, adds: "As much as he misses his family he thinks it's vitally important that he is there to report all this. He has said he is willing to be the last one if it means the story gets out – if the world gets to know about Guantanamo."

The prison camp at Guantanamo Bay was established at the beginning of 2002 as a place to keep terror suspects rounded up in President Bush's war on terror. Deliberately located outside the US proper to avoid both the arm of the civil justice system as well as prying eyes, around 800 prisoners have been taken to the prison over the past five years. Of those, some 340 have been released.

When the first handcuffed, shackled and hooded suspects were taken to the prison, the authorities did their best to portray them as a dangerous and pressing threat to the US. The men were so terrifying, claimed the then chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Richard Myers, they "would chew through a hydraulics cable to bring a C-17 [transport plane] down".

Five years on, only four of those prisoners have been charged and just one – Australian David Hicks – brought to trial. Meanwhile an analysis of the Pentagon's own documents by New Jersey's Seton Hall University found that 55 per cent of the prisoners brought to Guantanamo are not alleged to have have committed any hostile acts against the US. Just eight per cent are accused of fighting for a terrorist group while 86 per cent were captured by the Northern Alliance or Pakistani authorities and handed over "at a time when the US offered large bounties for the capture of suspected terrorists".

The prison camp's operation has been condemned by the United Nations, the American Bar Association and the Red Cross – the only organisation permitted free access to the prisoners and which broke with its normal protocol of not commenting publicly to warn in 2003 of the declining mental health of many of the inmates. It said the nature of their incarceration and interrogation was "a form of torture". Three prisoners hanged themselves last year, and last week a Saudi man was found dead, apparently having taken his own life.

In another memo, Haj reflects on why the operation at Guantanamo – a stark affront to the rule of law and due process – has been allowed to proceed.

"What does the Guantanamo experiment mean to Bush?" he writes. "Why has he set up Torture Island, to wreak havoc on the reputation of the USA? Look at Guantanamo through a clear glass and it is undeniable that a catastrophe has befallen the entire world as a result of this cowboy reaction to the sad death of innocents in September 2001."

Thousands of miles away, Haj's wife, Asma, also reflects on the injustice she believes has befallen her husband. She is struggling to bring up the couple's son, Mohammed, now nearly six, by herself while still trying to campaign for Haj's release. Speaking by telephone from Doha, the capital of Qatar, where Al Jazeera is still paying Haj's salary, she says her faith has given her some comfort.

"Everybody in life goes through a trial or a trauma at some point," she says. "I live in the hope that I will be reunited and it is that hope that keeps me going. It's hard to talk about."

One of the most difficult things, she says, has been watching her son grow up without his father. To this point she has been able to get by telling Mohammed about his father's plight only in the vaguest sense, yet she realises that such a situation cannot last. "I think the questions will be more sophisticated as the time goes on," she says. "I don't think even the Americans know why they have taken him or why they have not put him on trial."

From all accounts, Haj became a cameraman not because he felt some draw to journalism, but because he thought it would provide a good income for his family. Given such a matter-of-fact background, his dedication to speaking out about what he sees inside America's gulag is all the more remarkable. "I did not have a chance to learn about his journalism because he was seized on what was really his first assignment," says his wife.

Those demanding that the US either release Haj or else bring him to trial come from all quarters. The Sudanese government has called for his release as has the media organisation Reporters without Borders, which has described Guantanamo as a "humanitarian outrage".

Meanwhile in Guantanamo, aware that his friends and supporters are demanding his release, Sami al-Haj continues to do his best to bear testimony to what is taking place at the US prison camp. In one of his notes he imagines a scene at the Statue of Liberty, her right arm extended and lit up. Yet the light shines to the ground where a series of small, claustrophobic cells can be seen, packed with people wearing orange jump suits.

"The enormous statue cries out to the world 'Liberty and Justice for All'," he writes. "Yet despite the floodlights all around Lady Liberty her voice becomes weaker and the world begins to see that she is either deceiving or deceived. Else how could she allow those cells to be built in her very foundation?"

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Good Times

I don't often have many good things to say about our Telly Programmers, cause generally they offer us poooze. But credit where credit is due, I am over the moon with TV2s decision to air Sienfeld reruns at 6pm.

Over the moon. For too long I have tried to make good with our networks news hour, only to get frustrated at the almost complete lack of actual news. Their standards are continuing the downward spiral and well, like many I have found more than enough ways to stay in touch with the evenst shaping our planet, ways our TV channels here simply can't compete with, means devoid of the celebrity bullshit, the voyeristic 'human interest' stories, the obsession with crime and the really bad political coverage.

So now I can happily fill that 6-7pm hour - an hour I want to be a sloth on the couch and be either informed or entertained. It may be thanks to two reruns, Seinfeld & Friends, but thats enough for me. Both are enough to have me chortle a little and neither make me angry.

So news, be gone I have a new nightly friend to hang with - one that won't let me down, well until the programmers change the lineup. For now I am quite stoked, to use a word that infuriates some (and rightly so).

An additional upside Al Jareeza has been extened in the mornings, so when those stupid boats are being sialed via delayed coverage I have a get out of gaol free card.

Oh its the simple things in life that can make a difference.

Now if we could just get all the warmongers to stop their games of human folly, I could give away even more news time to bad US sitcoms.

toot toot

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

I Got Nothing

A wintery day
Slept in
Feeling frazzled
Naked trees
Days fly by

Monday, June 11, 2007

Why music really is getting louder

Adam Sherwin, Media Correspondent

Dad was right all along - rock music really is getting louder and now recording experts have warned that the sound of chart-topping albums is making listeners feel sick.

That distortion effect running through your Oasis album is not entirely the Gallagher brothers' invention. Record companies are using digital technology to turn the volume on CDs up to "11".

Artists and record bosses believe that the best album is the loudest one. Sound levels are being artificially enhanced so that the music punches through when it competes against background noise in pubs or cars.

Britain's leading studio engineers are starting a campaign against a widespread technique that removes the dynamic range of a recording, making everything sound "loud".

"Peak limiting" squeezes the sound range to one level, removing the peaks and troughs that would normally separate a quieter verse from a pumping chorus.

The process takes place at mastering, the final stage before a track is prepared for release. In the days of vinyl, the needle would jump out of the groove if a track was too loud.

But today musical details, including vocals and snare drums, are lost in the blare and many CD players respond to the frequency challenge by adding a buzzing, distorted sound to tracks.

Oasis started the loudness war and recent albums by Arctic Monkeys and Lily Allen have pushed the loudness needle further into the red.

The Red Hot Chili Peppers' Californication, branded "unlistenable" by studio experts, is the subject of an online petition calling for it to be "remastered" without its harsh, compressed sound.

Peter Mew, senior mastering engineer at Abbey Road studios, said: "Record companies are competing in an arms race to make their album sound the 'loudest'. The quieter parts are becoming louder and the loudest parts are just becoming a buzz."

Mr Mew, who joined Abbey Road in 1965 and mastered David Bowie's classic 1970s albums, warned that modern albums now induced nausea.

He said: "The brain is not geared to accept buzzing. The CDs induce a sense of fatigue in the listeners. It becomes psychologically tiring and almost impossible to listen to. This could be the reason why CD sales are in a slump."

Geoff Emerick, engineer on the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper album, said: "A lot of what is released today is basically a scrunched-up mess. Whole layers of sound are missing. It is because record companies don't trust the listener to decide themselves if they want to turn the volume up."

Downloading has exacerbated the effect. Songs are compressed once again into digital files before being sold on iTunes and similar sites. The reduction in quality is so marked that EMI has introduced higher-quality digital tracks, albeit at a premium price, in response to consumer demand.

Domino, Arctic Monkeys' record company, defended its band's use of compression on their chart-topping albums, as a way of making their music sound "impactful".

Angelo Montrone, an executive at One Haven, a Sony Music company, said the technique was "causing our listeners fatigue and even pain while trying to enjoy their favourite music".

In an open letter to the music industry, he asked: "Have you ever heard one of those test tones on TV when the station is off the air? Notice how it becomes painfully annoying in a very short time? That's essentially what you do to a song when you super-compress it. You eliminate all dynamics."

Mr Montrone released a compression-free album by Texan roots rock group Los Lonely Boys which sold 2.5 million copies.

Val Weedon, of the UK Noise Association, called for a ceasefire in the "loudness war". She said: "Bass-heavy music is already one of the biggest concerns for suffering neighbours. It is one thing for music to be loud but to make it deliberately noisy seems pointless."

Mr Emerick, who has rerecorded Sgt. Pepper on the original studio equipment with contemporary artists, admitted that bands have always had to fight to get their artistic vision across.

He said: "The Beatles didn't want any nuance altered on Sgt. Pepper. I had a stand-up row with the mastering engineer because I insisted on sitting in on the final transfer."

The Beatles lobbied Parlophone, their record company, to get their records pressed on thicker vinyl so they could achieve a bigger bass sound.

Bob Dylan has joined the campaign for a return to musical dynamics. He told Rolling Stone magazine: "You listen to these modern records, they're atrocious, they have sound all over them. There's no definition of nothing, no vocal, no nothing, just like - static."

Studio sound

- The human ear responds to the average sound across a piece of music rather than peaks and crescendos. Quiet and loud sounds are squashed together, decreasing the dynamic range, raising the average loudness

- The saturation level for a sound signal is digital full scale, or 0dB. In the 1980s, the average sound level of a track was -18dB. The arrival of digital technology allowed engineers to push finished tracks closer to the loudest possible, 0dB

- The curves of a sound wave, which represent a wide dynamic range, become clipped and flattened to create "square waves" which generate a buzzing effect and digital distortion on CD players.


Music should be a rewarding experience for ones entire life.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Crass - Systematic Death

I was and am still such a huge fan of Crass and their vision of anarchy and peace taking the intellectual hippy ethic of the 60s into the punk era... and beyond.

Bands like Crass had a profound effect on my thinking at the time and as such have had a huge influence on my outlook on life. I used to reference them in my sociology essays at Uni in the 80's.... ahh simplier times, or were they?

Where are the political bands of today, god knows the world needs them... and no, U2 and Spearhead don't count!

Crass - Poison In A Pretty Pill

Saturday, June 09, 2007

The The - This Is The Day

Always puts me in a good mood this old clunker.

Friday, June 08, 2007


Really want to go see this band but Pig Out aren't on til 2am at the earilest and to be honest I don't think I can be arsed staying up that late....

I guess that makes me sad and old, or just tired perhaps?

Probably have a few quiet ones at Supperclub and listen to the techno kids :)

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Black Gold...

It always come back to oil... or energy, more ways to rape our planet to ensure nothing survives...

Baghdad Burns, Calgary Booms
by Naomi Klein
The Nation

The invasion of Iraq has set off what could be the largest oil boom in history. All the signs are there: multinationals free to gobble up national firms at will, ship unlimited profits home, enjoy leisurely "tax holidays" and pay a laughable 1 percent in royalties to the government.
This isn't the boom in Iraq sparked by the proposed new oil law--that will come later. This boom is already in full swing, and it is happening about as far away from the carnage in Baghdad as you can get, in the wilds of northern Alberta. For four years now, Alberta and Iraq have been connected to each other through a kind of invisible seesaw: As Baghdad burns, destabilizing the entire region and sending oil prices soaring, Calgary booms.

Here is how chaos in Iraq unleashed what the Financial Times recently called "north America's biggest resources boom since the Klondike gold rush." Albertans have always known that in the northern part of their province, there are vast deposits of bitumen--black, tarlike goo that is mixed with sand, clay, water and oil. There are approximately 2.5 trillion barrels of the stuff, the largest hydrocarbon deposits in the world.

It is possible to turn Alberta's crud into crude, but it's awfully hard. One method is to mine it in vast open pits: First forests are clear-cut, then topsoil scraped away. Next, huge machines dig out the black goop and load it into the largest dump trucks in the world (two stories high, a single wheel costs $100,000). The tar is diluted with water and solvents in giant vats, which spin it around until the oil rises to the top, while the massive tailings are dumped in ponds larger than the region's natural lakes. Another method is to separate the oil where it is: Large drill-pipes push steam deep underground, which melts the tar, while another pipe sucks it out and transports it through several more stages of refining, much of it powered by natural gas.

Both techniques are costly: between $18 and $23 per barrel, just in expenses. Until quite recently, that made no economic sense. In the mid-1980s, oil sold for $20 a barrel; in 1998-99, it was down to $12 a barrel. The major international players had no intention of paying more to get the oil than they could sell it for, which is why, when global oil reserves were calculated, the tar sands weren't even factored in. Everyone but a few heavily subsidized Canadian companies knew that the tar was staying put.

Then came the US invasion of Iraq. In March 2003, the price of oil reached $35 a barrel, raising the prospect of making a profit from the tar sands (the industry calls them "oil sands"). That year, the United States Energy Information Administration "discovered" oil in the tar sands. It announced that Alberta--previously thought to have only 5 billion barrels of oil--was actually sitting on at least 174 billion "economically recoverable" barrels. The next year, Canada overtook Saudi Arabia as the leading provider of foreign oil to the United States.

All this has meant that Iraq's oil boom has not been delayed; it has been relocated. All the majors, save BP, have rushed to northern Alberta: ExxonMobil, Chevron and Total, which alone plans to spend $9-$14 billion. In April, Shell paid $8 billion to take full control of its Canadian subsidiary. The town of Fort McMurray, ground zero of the boom, has nowhere to house the tens of thousands of new workers, and one company has built its own airstrip so it can fly in the people it needs.

Seventy-five percent of the oil from the tar sands flows directly to the United States, prompting Brian Hall, an energy consultant with Colorado-based IHS, to call the tar sands "America's energy security blanket." There is a certain irony there: The United States invaded Iraq at least in part to secure access to its oil. Now, thanks partly to economic blowback from that disastrous decision, it has found the "security" it was looking for right next door.

It has become fashionable to predict that high oil prices will spark a free-market response to climate change, setting off an "explosion of innovation in alternatives," as New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman wrote recently. Alberta puts the lie to that claim. High prices have indeed led to an R&D extravaganza, but it is squarely focused on figuring out how to get the dirtiest possible oil out of the hardest-to-reach places. Shell, for instance, is working on a "novel thermal recovery process"--embedding large electric heaters in the deposits and literally cooking the earth.

And that's the Alberta tar sands for you: The industry already contributing to climate change more than any other is frantically turning up the heat. The process of refining bitumen emits three to four times the greenhouse gases produced by extracting oil from traditional wells, making the tar sands the largest single contributor to Canada's growth in greenhouse gas emissions. Nonetheless, the industry plans to more than triple production by 2020, with no end in sight. If prices stay high, it will soon become profitable to extract an additional 141 billion barrels from the tar sand, which would place the largest oil reserves in the world in Alberta.

Developing the sands is devouring trees and wildlife--the Pembina Institute, the leading authority on the tar sands' environmental impact, warns that boreal forests covering "an area as large as the State of Florida" risk being leveled. Now it turns out that the main river feeding the industry the massive quantities of water it needs is in jeopardy. Climate scientists say that dropping water levels are the result--fittingly enough--of climate warming.

Contemplating the collective madness in Alberta--a scene even the Financial Times has labeled "some dystopian fantasy"--it strikes me that Canada has ended up with more than Iraq's displaced oil boom. We have its elusive weapons of mass destruction too. They are out near Fort McMurray, in the jet-black goo beneath the earth's crust. And with the help of trucks, pipes, steam and gas, these weapons are being detonated.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Five For Queens Birthday

Bn1's mix CD, he gave me last weekend, awesome it is
Various - Xpressway Pile Up, my all time fave NZ music compilation
Waydes bits & bobs minimal CD, I like this minimal lark
Dubtstep Allstars 3
Skull Disco Compilation

I can't decide on this dubstep stuff, I am enjoying the trying to work out if I really dig it or just like it quite a lot.

Happy Birthday Liz!

Friday, June 01, 2007

Derrick May

Photo taken by Night Rider

I like this

Pre Supper warmup, perhaps

Oh dear... wot the hell are they doing

So EMI recently announced they would offer their digital catalogue at a premium price unencumbered with DRM.

This was great news, as trusting ones customers is something this stupid industry has done a real bad job at of late.

But alas all is not as one would seem, DRM has taken a new form in these non DRM files…
With great power comes great responsibility, and apparently with DRM-free music comes files embedded with identifying information. Such is the situation with Apple's new DRM-free music: songs sold without DRM still have a user's full name and account e-mail embedded in them, which means that dropping that new DRM-free song on your favorite P2P network could come back to bite you.

Apple hides account info in DRM-free music, too

What the hell are these people thinking?

When you're competing with free stuff one might suggest that at the very least your product should be a good if not better.

The key to selling online is to remove any barriers to making that sale.

For some inserting personal information into a file will be reason enough not to make that purchase.