All entries for July 2008
July 30, 2008
Writing about web page http://womad.org/festivals/charlton-park/
This is my 6th year going to WOMAD which happened over the weekend just gone. It originally started off just my Uncle, then I started going with him, and for the last 3 years, inclusively, Dad has come along as well. I’ve always meant to write notes on the festival, both because every year people ask me what its like and I go “oh quite good – I enjoyed whatshisface’s set”, well no longer! This year I actually wrote some notes whilst I was there and on the way home in the car, so I thought I’d publish them on my blog.
The lineup this year wasn’t as good as the past festivals I’ve been to – I appreciate that last year was a 25th anniversary, so had a very strong lineup, but this didn’t even really compete with previous years before that. I still enjoyed it, and will probably go again, but it give me pause for thought.
The weather was very hot – despite the Met Office predicting a small amount of rain. Last year the weather had a really negative impact on the festival – there was huge amounts of mud all over the place, and since the soil in the local area is clay it began so stick to boots like glue. Just walking between tents had become a difficulty. This year – the heat was quite draining, energy wise, but much preferred to the rain.
WOMAD has a vaguely interesting history, since essentially it began as a way of Peter Gabriel marketing so called ‘world music’ to a UK audience. Fortunately that audience managed to attract a boatload of hippies who succeeded in bringing a rather nice atmosphere to the festival. This leaves it in an interesting position of both being one of the most commercial festivals around (everyone who plays has some relationship with Real World Studios) and simultaneously one of the most leftwing.
There follows a listing of most of the sets I heard during the festival (though some I left early to ensure good positioning for preferred sets). The rating is a rough guide (out of 100) as to how much I enjoyed the event. Please note its hard not to enjoy a gig so < 60 is basically epic failure. The description is my notes from the day and may be incredibly inaccurate/complete rubbish.
Tashi Lhumpo Monks
Tedious + Repetitive religious ceremony, establishes some atmosphere, but fails to provide any real drive or interest.
Rumberos de Cuba
Traditionalist rumba outfit parading african influence bequeathed to Cuba. Basic evidence of griot techniques include narrative driven lyrics and expositional dancing.
Kenge Kenge Orutu Systems
Upbeat Kenyan group mix traditional instrucments with a more modern structure. Probably more interesting for dancier folks. Excellent audience involvement.
Billy Cobham + Asere
Veteran percussionist Cobham teams with a cuban outfit to produce a jazz and Son Cubana influenced fusion. Cobham provides surprising subtlety to his performance (at past gigs I’ve noted a tendance to dominate the proceedings). Strong soloing added a touch of class to the performance.
Diabate started this performance with two quite intimate Kora solos, showcasing his ability to communicate emotion through his instrument. The remainder of the set he was backed by his talented band, including his Kora playing son. Strong solos all round.
Bedouin Jerry Can Band
Several instruments consist of reused equipment from the 6 day war. Song structure involves more traditional arabic folky work. Simple rhythms, fat men dancing, plenty of facial. Good fun, but not the most sophisticated outfit.
Nathan ‘Flutebox’ Lee
Combined flutist/beatbox is as shit as it sounds, but the kind of collab that womad organisers seem to have a hankering for. I am perenially unimpressed by beatboxers. It seems like an incredibly easy to learn skill, something I really need to sit down for a week and learn purely to point out how shit they are. My main problem is their replication of very simple dance tunes and distortion. When someone has a beatboxer who can perform Mahler’s 5th symphony please come and talk to me.
Flute playing had merit but showmanship overode musical talent – The guy spent as much time shouting ‘give it up for x’ where x is an accompanying musician as he did playing his instrument.
Excellent mandolute + sax soloing raised this set from mediocrity to quite an enjoyable event. strong ambience to music and good showmanship from Mr. Taha carried through. Basic rhythms and simplistic song structure.
Electric Oud playing offered something a little different. DJ backing gave atmosphere (think Leafcutter John in Polar Bear) whilst shredding on an oud sounded really good. Strong rock sensibilities to composition gave a different setting to the oud and darabouka (which was also accompanying) which I haven’t heard through a more traditional setting.
Even band has an achilles heal – here it is their friendship with MC Spex, ex asian dub foundation, who came in one song and basically destroyed my enjoyment of this set. In my opinion promoting your latest outfit’s absence of talent by invading someone else’s gig is incredibly rude, no matter whether they asked you to perform or not. If it hadn’t been for this, I would have given an enjoyment rating of 8.
Malam Mamane Barka
Only living Biram master brought an african blues sound to the evening. Harplike sound of his unique instrument offers the soul of a nomadic existence to the audience. This is the cure to that tit Spex.
Admittedly I was tired by this stage of the evening, but this was an incredibly boring set. The whole Etran Finatawa & Tinariwen sound seems really staid to me at the moment. No real cockups, but really repetitive.
La Cor de La Plana
Occitan singing + drumming, quite simple – but really rhythmic performance.
Lively + Upbeat samba collective failed to impress me. Uninteresting instrumentals and several Covers. Filler
Last minute booking, for a slot TBC’d on the programme. Uninventive trio, but solid set. Main focus of the songs seemed to be lyrics, which might have been more appreciated by someone with a better understanding of the French language.
Interesting 6 piece, strong sax + guitar soloing, clearly charasmatic cambodian lead singer. Awesome beard on lead guitarist.
Eddy Grant & the frontline Orchestra
I really enjoyed this, when on paper it should be something I’d hate. Pop twist on classic calypso and saco song structure. Not the kind of thing I’d normally listen to. Superb showmanship and crowd interaction.
Sufi Evening (Sheik Taha/Monajat Yulchieva)
Asif Ali Khan (highlight of this mini-lineup) was cancelled. Focus on Qawwali, a kind of sufi religious song driven music. Bit disappointed that with all the ouds and daraboukas around there was little in the way of instrumental interest.
Eclectic country outfit offer interesting fusion with strong jazz and funk influences. Interesting solos, cool set. Its a shame their original band leader has been dead 30 years.
Siam tent was packed, so didn’t really see him properly. This sounded like a really good set, but the heat reduced my enjoyment and sapped my energy. A lot of instrumentals and soloing livened up the reggae.
Bassekou Kouyote + Ngoni Ba
Good set, griot storytelling, but subtler and more focus on the ngoni rather than the raucus riot of dance driven effort that seems to be used by many other groups.
Good set, very old school senegalese music group. Nice horns section.
Seun Kuti & Egypt 80
I really enjoyed this set – certainly a lot more than I had originally expected. Having heard recordings of his father’s gigs with this group, I was interested in hearing Seun Kuti’s work. Certainly a good performer, though a lot of compositions seem to be from his father’s day – so its hard to give credit for them. Even though the band lead has passed from generation to generation, the commentary on african politics seems as relevant as ever. I recall Femi-Kuti’s enjoyable gig from a couple of years ago and this has a very similar, afrobeat sound.
A food stand calling itself ‘Pie Minister’
Little Feat, when trying to encourage audience participation stated, “Just try to sing like Bob Dylan. Hold your nose and talk.”
The moto of the Workers Beer Co, “Thirst Amoung Equals”
July 18, 2008
Hearing consistently bad economic news at the moment, I thought I’d share some of Noel Coward’s words.
They’re out of sorts in Sunderland
And terribly cross in Kent,
They’re dull in Hull
And the Isle of Mull
Is seething with discontent,
They’re nervous in Northumberland
And Devon is down the drain,
They’re filled with wrath
On the firth of Forth
And sullen on Salisbury Plain,
In Dublin they’re depressed, lads,
Maybe because they’re Celts
For Drake is going West, lads,
And so is everyone else.
Misery’s here to stay.
There are bad times just around the corner,
There are dark clouds hurtling through the sky
And it’s no good whining
About a silver lining
For we know from experience that they won’t roll by,
With a scowl and a frown
We’ll keep our peckers down
And prepare for depression and doom and dread,
We’re going to unpack our troubles from our old kit bag
And wait until we drop down dead.
July 12, 2008
The elections here are somewhat complicated by the resignation of former senate, Trent Lott, which results in two elections happening simultaneously.
The normal election will be fought between Republican incumbent Thad Cochran and Erik Fleming. Both of these men have made mild position switches. Fleming used to support Lyndon LaRouche, but has since rejected such notions. Cochran originally states of McCain, “The thought of his being president sends a cold chill down my spine. He is erratic. He is hotheaded. He loses his temper and he worries me.” He now supports McCain. Fleming is currently a Mississippi House of representatives member, and has previously unsuccessfully run for the Senate seat of Trent Lott. Polls have Cochran ahead 60:35.
The other election is being fought as a result of the resignation of Senator Trent Lott last year. The republican governor, Haley Barbour, appointed former house of representatives member Roger Wicker as his temporary replacement. His Democratic opponent, Ronnie Musgrove, was the former lieutenant Governor and Governor of Mississippi, during whose time in office he banned Gay and Lesbian adoption, the pay of Mississippi teachers fell to 49th lowest level of all the states and claimed that there was, “no freedom from religion”. The polls have these two politicians in a tie.
Elizabeth Dole has been sitting senator since a 2002 special election. A former member of the Johnson, Nixon, Reagan and Bush Sr. administrations, challenger for the Republican nomination in 2000 and wife of former Senator and republican candidate Bob Dole, she has excellent connections, name recognition and fundraising potential. Her opponent – Kay Hagan is a Lawyer and member of the State Senate. Dole is currently enjoying a 10 point lead in the polls.
Centrist Republican incumbent and opponent of the Iraq war, Chuck Hagel, has decided not to seek reelection. In a fascinating piece of trivia, courtesy of wikipedia, “Hagel has a tradition of wearing costumes to work on Halloween, usually masquerading as colleagues or other notable political figures. He has arrived at work dressed as Joe Biden, John McCain, Colin Powell, and Pat Roberts in past years.” This leaves the field open between the two candidates both running for the position.
Mike Johanns is the republican candidate – a former governor who stepped down to act as US secretary of agriculture. He is highly popular in the state, having won the gubernatorial election in a landslide. Scott Kleeb (tagline: “Nebraska’s brand of change”) is a rancher and ironically professor of history and provides the democratic contender. Johanns, as one might expect, is polling 15-20 points ahead.
Currently New Hampshire is represented by the father-sun duo of John H. Sununu and John E. Sununu. It is the father, a former 3 term governor and White House chief of Staff, who is up for re-election. His opponent is Jeanne Shaheen, also a former governor. This is a re-run of the 2002 election, in which Sununu narrowly won, however, the political momentum has swung away from the republicans and towards the democrats in subsequent years. Consequently Shaheen leads in the polling by 10-15%.
Dick Zimmer is a former US House of Representatives member, and former member of the New Jersey legislature. He had unsuccessfully run for the Senate in 1996, and was drafted for the current race after Anne Estabrook withdrew, having suffered a mini-stroke. Frank Lautenberg currently holds the seat up for election, and has held 4 non-consecutive terms of office. He is one of the most liberal members of the Senate. Age is an important issue in this election, with Lautenberg having passed his 84th birthday, but its a double edged blade for the republicans, due to their presidential candidate and the relatively high proportion of electorate who are over 65 in New Jersey.
Another republican incumbent retiring leaves the door open for more democratic gains in New Mexico. With the support of popular Governor Bill Richardson and a rising democratic tide the party is confident of making gains here. Their candidate is Tom Udall, a former member of the House of Representatives for the state and cousin of Mark Udall mentioned earlier. The taking of this seat is another test of the Western strategy pushed by Howard Dean. His opponent, Steve Pearce, has a similar background in the House, but is sitting 15-20% behind in polling.
Incumbent Jim Inhofe is skeptical on global warming, cites the Bible as backing for his position on everything and has claimed that 9/11 was devine retribution for the US failing to defend Israel. He is also one of only 12 senators who opposed cutting interest rates on student loans. His opponent Andrew Rice is a member of the state Senate and largely behind in the polls, albeit with a large percentage yet to make up their minds.
Republican Senator Gordon Smith is up for re-election, his moderate view may continue to hold their appeal in these hard times for the republican party. The democratic challenge comes in the form of Jeff Merkley, the second cousin of the Udall cousins. Gordon Smith is currently the only elected Republican official in the state, and is currently holding onto a narrow lead in the race – which is considered highly competitive.
Tim Johnson is the Democratically aligned sitting senator from South Dakota, who holds quite a conservative voting record, such as repealing the ban on semiautomatic weapons and welfare reform. The 2002 election saw him claim a very narrow victory in a republican leaning year, and is a pretty strong candidate for re-election. His opponent, Joel Dykstra, is currently sitting in SD House of Representatives, and not a big name candidate. Trivia: Johnson was the only member of the senate to have a son in the military at the time of the Iraq invasion.
Single term republican incumbent John Cornyn has been ranked as the 4th most conservative US Senator. His democratic challenger is Veteran Rick Noriega, a member of the Texan House of Representatives. The low approval ratings of Cornyn make this a potentially interesting election, despite him being ahead of Noriega, that has potentially a large number of undecided voters. Obama is also looking at campaigning with the Texas senate and house challengers who are competitive.
Incumbent republican John Warner is retiring, leaving an open race between two former Governors: Jim Gilmore and Mark Warner (no relation). This is generally considered the Senate seat most likely to change hands from Republican to Democrat. Polling puts Warner 25% ahead of Gilmore, and with a widening gap as polls become more recent. As well as national momentum – the state is slowly swinging democrat, they have won the last two gubernatorial elections in 2001 and 2005, and Jim Webb took George Allen’s senate seat in 2006.
A few things have come to mind this week, all to do with Inconsistency.
- All the people/newspapers who a few years ago were outraged at the imprisonment of Tony Martin are now backing imprisoning everyone who carries a knife. So apparently you shouldn’t go to jail if you shoot someone with a gun, but if you just carry a knife you should.
- On last week’s Question Time the audience appeared to clap everything people said. This meant that they would clap a point by one of the commentators, and then applaud an exactly opposing argument by another panelist. This suggests both that the panelists were making strong arguments, and that the audience was full of idiots.
- It was commonly noted that during the G8 meeting politicians undertook an 8 course meal, whilst simultaneously talking about Global food shortages, and in Gordon Brown’s case telling people not to waste food. The latter isn’t hypocritical, assuming Mr. Brown finished his meal.
July 10, 2008
I haven’t blogged in a while, and haven’t blogged about US politics in ages, so here we go.
Obama finally put Clinton to bed. This has been inevitably basically since super Tuesday when Clinton blew her load and didn’t really get much of a win. Whats interesting has been the national polling of Obama against McCain. During the latter phases of the primaries Obama was heavily campaigned against by Clinton and also was undergoing Wrightgate, and consequently fell behind McCain in the national polling. This was up to 5% and over 100 EC votes at some stages.
During June, the month following Obama’s primary victory, he made a considerable comeback. Polling showed him gaining against McCain nationally, taking tracking polls averaged from key pollsters late last month had him over 150 EC to the good. Since then coverage has been more negative towards Obama, commenting on his movement towards the centre, and polls have fallen back.
Since primary season is over, a lot of senate races have become clear, so here’s a brief summary of a few of them.
Two term senator Jeff Sessions seems to be strongly leading (65-35) his democratic opponent, Vivian Figures, in nearly all polls. Despite democratic strength in the current electoral cycle, some places are still out of reach for them.
Ted Stevens (whose claim to fame is being the oldest republican in the senate and stating that, “The internet is like a series of tubes”) is having a hard time, despite his position as a longrunning incumbent, against Begrich. In some polls he’s still ahead, others behind. Steven’s senility is probably a campaigning drawback, hopefully he’ll be out of office come November.
Mark Udall is looking to take this seat for the democrats, and is polling about 10% ahead against Republican opponent Schaffer. This fits in well with Howard Dean’s strategy of hitting hard in the western states, traditionally a republican stronghold. There might be some synergy between this campaign and Obama’s national effort in Colorado.
Tom Harkin will retain his senate seat, continuing Iowa’s swing to the democrats over the current election cycle.
Two term incumbent Pat Roberts has a 10% or so margin above his democratic opponent, Jim Slattery. I don’t really know much about the candidates or polling issues here.
Mitch Mcconnell, current senate minority leader, holds a narrow lead over his democratic challenger, proving that even high ranking republicans aren’t impossible targets. He’s a stalwart conservative on nearly all issues. Interesting the libertarian party candidate is Sonny Landham who is a former porno actor who also starred in Predator. Despite his high profile, I doubt that he will really impact Mcconnell’s re-election bid too much, and Mcconnell is apparently fundraising well, so will probably be re-elected.
Incumbent Mary Landrieu is being challenged by a defectee to the republican cause, current State Treasurer John Kennedy. Landrieu is currently maintaining a razor-thing lead. I imagine the result of this will go down to the wire.
Early on in the election season it looked like John Kerry was going to be strongly challenged, but the polls have slowly slipped his way, as one would expect of a leading democrat in a democratically leaning state in a democratically leaning year. He’s currently miles ahead of his republican opponent Jeff Beatty and his re-election looks like a sure thing. Part of Beatty’s problem is that few locals even know who he is, polling data suggests that 44% of them have no opinion of him.
Jack Hoogendyk, Michigan house of reps member, is running against 6 term incumbent Carl Levin. He’s behind in the polling, and was the only republican running for the position. In 1996 Levin was opposed by Ronna Romney, who is Mitt Romney’s sister in law.
Susan Collins, centrist republican incumbent, is leading democratic challenger Tom Allen in polls, but by a narrowing margin. Joe Lieberman has stated that he might campaign for her.
If you thought the pornstar running in Kentucky was interesting, this is a minefield. The incumbent is Norm Coleman, a strong Bush supporter was one of the people who accussed Galloway of abusing his relationship with Saddam Hussein. Al Franken, well know comedian, SNL alumni, author, etc. is running against him, with a strongly leftwing agenda, note the title of one his books, “Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right”. Currently Al Franken is behind in polls, though I’m sure his campaign is entertaining. On 9th July Jesse Ventura, former professional wrestler and governor, announced that he may run for office. Now Ventura bear Coleman in his 1996 election campaign, his entrance into the the campaign makes what the wrestling community might call a ‘3-way dance’. On his previous election effort Ventura won on the back of the Reform party ticket, its unknown who would back him this time. Ventura claims organised religion is a shame, has made numerous comments about drunken Irishmen, heavily invested in mass transit during his period as governor, is now massively bald, supports gay and abortion rights. He is generally fiscally conservative and socially liberal. Its already amusing, and if Ventura runs it will become hilarious.
I’ll leave it at that for now. Perhaps I might get round to finishing off the rest of the alphabet at some point in time.