Friday, October 24, 2014

The ripple of hope

Thanks to Leandra Gebrakedan for sending me this quote from Robert F Kennedy, speaking at the University of Cape Town, SA, in 1966.

"Few will have the greatness to bend history, but each of us can work to change a small portion of events, & in the total of all those acts will be written the history of this generation [...] 

Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, & crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance."

Overly gendered language aside, it's a lovely quote for times when you need to remind yourself how your small contribution can make a difference.

LBJ Library photo by Yoichi R. Okamoto [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Introduction to Climate Change Campaigning

Pssst? Wanna try a new training workshop? 

Here's one we made earlier.

The session plan and accompanying resources from our half-day introductory training in Coventry are now available on Campaign Hubs here or at the end of this article.

NB Campaign Hubs down due to The Great Website Ragnarok of October 2014. For now, see the links at the end of the article.

The session went well for a first attempt - we tried to fit a lot in and just about managed it. It had a really good 'feel' to it in the same way that the Campaign Organisers weekend did: open, non-didactic and fizzing with creativity.

We didn't prescribe courses of action, but people came away from it wanting to take action on Schools Run On Sun and apply renewed focus to campaigning against shale gas exploitation in Warwickshire

It's pretty exciting (in a geeky sort of way) thinking about the opportunity this gives us to provide further peer-to-peer and staff-led support.

Things we'd do differently next time? Have another look at the timings for the different parts, natch. And proactively approach more people to help with local promotion, sure. But nothing insurmountable.

Given that it's early days for this training, I'd be interested in hearing whether anyone else wanted to pick up and try out this session or a variant on it. All the material you need is behind the link or below. 

I'm very happy to advise and support any willing guinea pigs. :-)

Training Resources

Here's the event plan we used and some relevant resources we gave out to participants.

The starting point is - as always - the free-to-download Local Groups Handbook, which is the Friends of the Earth equivalent of a Haynes Manual for organizing at the grassroots. It has individual sections on inspiring groups, teamwork, action (including campaign planning), profile-raising, finding and keeping people and fundraising.

A Personal Story of Climate Change - Self, Us, Now: see this handout about constructing an inspiring story of your commitment to action on climate change.

Handy ‘How To’ booklets

Jannat Hossein (hi Jannat!) has also helpfully suggested the session should also reference our guide to local groups on embracing diversity, which will help us all think about how to be as inclusive as we can be when organising in our community.

Campaign Information

Climate Change gateway page (general information)
Schools Run On Sun campaign information and briefings
Fracking and shale gas campaign information and briefings
20 Things You Need To Know About Climate Change introductory booklet

If there's something weird in Norton Canes, who you gonna call?

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Flashback: music reviews

This week: Corduroy, Soul Coughing, White Town.

And a dubious album cover.

In my wasted youth at the University of Hull, I penned the odd review for Hullfire, the student newspaper. For the sake of both completeness and comedy value, I occasionally add them to this blog.

Back in April 1997, I seem to have been a) very serious, b) extremely grumpy and c) overly fond of quote marks, as these reviews show.

Corduroy - The New You (LP)

Really Corduroy-boys, what were you thinking with this album cover?

Operating on the retro FM-rock periphery of acid jazz, Corduroy were born to write ersatz US sitcom themes. It also becomes clear upon listening to The New You that they gleefully confirm to every stereotype of an 'ironic' band.

They call songs 'Season of the Rich' or (wait for it) 'Designosaur'. On 'Supercrime' they moan about the shop that won't fix their broken hi-fi. They include secret tracks full of 'scary' chanting - what japes...

In the final analysis, however, it doesn't really matter how '4 real' Corduroy are, when against the odds the album actually turns out to be a rather fine goodtime record. If they stopped laying on the kitsch with a trowel and concentrated on transferring their live act to tape, it would have been even better.

Soul Coughing - Super Bon Bon (single)

Soul Coughing transcend the dull and actually enter the realms of the unpleasant with this sub-Beck indie-rap stoned rantalogue. Only redeeming feature: possible first use of the word 'mezzanine' in a song. White Town - Wanted (single)
Oh woe! Does the idea of a third-rate industrial Dubstar appeal? Thought not. Where 'Your Woman' grooved and made enigmatic references to 'highbrow Marxist ways', this merely clanks with a vengeance. Only redeeming feature - a five second electronic fart at the end.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Black metal ecology

As an outsider and music fan looking into black metal, it's interesting how to see how quickly it moved from straight-up Satanic nihilism 'n' blast-beats in the early 90's to the search for new musical and cultural values.

Much like punk (or any Romantic movement, for that matter) the rejection of the immediate past becomes not just a foundation for new orthodoxies, but for new heresies.The rediscovery of forgotten traditions. 

And one persistent escape route from pure negation has been towards deep ecological themes

After all, if you've rejected not just humanism and liberalism, but the ideological boundaries of traditional black metal, where do you go? The pursuit of transcendence through nature - generally implicitly but sometimes explicitly pagan - suggests a way of living rightly as well as providing lyrical inspiration and a whole new instrumental palette from the folk tradition.

Musically and memetically speaking, this interest in nature and folk music was embedded in the genre at a relatively early stage - most prominently in Ulver (see my Kveldsanger review here) but also in the Tolkienesque leanings of most of the early 90's Norwegian bands. 

Yet the fullest implications of black metal ecology seem to have been worked out in the US - the last Western frontier state - with bands like Agalloch, Botanist, Panopticon and Wolves In The Throne Room (WITTR). 

These band's membership of the black metal club may be disputed by the kvlt or denied by the bands themselves. But they're certainly 'blackened' in the sense that it's impossible to imagine them existing without the Norwegian year zero. 

Wolves in the Throne Room, Tivoli Helling, Utrecht by Enric Martinez, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 generic license.

Wolves In The Throne Room

WITTR - particularly, their Black Cascade album, was my gateway to black metal and its offshoots - how could I resist a band which allegedly formed at an Earth First camp and sounded like the imminent collapse of civilisation?

Or - for the more prosaically minded - exactly as exciting as a shoe-gazing Motörhead might sound? 

Since Black Cascade, when the first fan-boy in corpse-paint disparaged them as hipsters and sellouts, WITTR have been on an escape trajectory from black metal.  So they've dialed back the aggression and moved onto the endearingly grand Celestial Lineage and its ambient alter ego, Celestite

From the first of those, Woodland Cathedral (below) mixes chanted vocals, organ with that black metal tremolo guitar to beguiling effect.  Being the song of love and reverence to the forest which the title suggests, it does exemplify the tendency of eco-metal to take itself very seriously indeed. While this fits the subject matter, it does also leave it looking a little po-faced at times.

Bearing witness

An interesting way of viewing WITTR is - I think - as a project of bearing witness, an idea common to the Quakers on the one hand as it is to the nihilistic fantasies of Lovecraft on the other.

Despite their eco-anarchist roots and their agrarian commune in the Pacific Northwest, they aren't in the business of providing solutions to environmental problems. They aren't even inclined to offer a lyrical diagnosis, in the same way that a death metal, punk or grindcore act from similar sub-cultural roots might be inclined to decry the evils of the world.

Rather, WITTR observe. Their songs look at the rapture of nature as is, and the imagined apocalypse as may be.

Well, this isn't in any way creepy

Tuesday, October 14, 2014


Occasional readers of this blog may have noted that it's been relatively quiet here for the last month or so. 

There are at least a few good reasons for this: I've been mulling over some ideas for NaNoWriMo next month, as well having a long-form post about ecology in black metal well underway.

But mainly it's because I've been unwell. Not with the confined-to-quarters flu, let alone anything serious, but a nagging, consistent lack of energy. I hoped that I would shake it off but it's finally forced me to spend the first half of this week resting.

Lesson learned: I need to get better at recognizing my own limits and listen to those who care for me when they tell me to slow down.

At any rate, the batteries are recharging again, thanks to enforced rest, so stand by for some more posts in the coming days.

Here are a few things I've wanted to post about but have fallen foul of the above

Happy Ada Lovelace Day today!

By Original watercolor portrait (Ada lovelace.jpg): Alfred Edward Chalon Woodcut-style graphic (Ada Lovelace.tif): Colin Adams, for the Ada Initiative SVG conversion (Ada Lovelace.svg): Fred the Oyster Colorization: Kaldari (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons 

Terrorizer comes out (ahem) against homophobia in metal (kudos where kudos is due - and I'd much rather be praising them than otherwise)

And last, but by no means least, this news just in.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Progenie Terrestre Pura

Today's micro-genre is ambient blackened space-metal, courtesy of the rather marvelous Progenie Terrestre Pura from Italy. You can listen to or download the whole album from their Bandcamp page for less than a fiver.

Raise your hand if the cover gives you flashbacks to classic SF airbrush art of the 70's and 80's.

[raises hand]