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Sunday, 30 December 2012

Endings and Beginnings - Alle Macht den Räten!

And so, we come to the final blog post of the year and, as custom dictates, take a moment to reflect on what has slipped into the past and what lies before us. I was interested to look back at a blog I posted at the end of last year (see 'here') where I spoke about 2011 being imbued with the spirit of change and optimism via the events of  the Arab Spring, the Occcupy movement, Los Indignados in Spain, and the Europe wide anti-austerity protests. At that time, I was still heavily involved in the public sector unions' attempt to co-ordinate a concerted riposte to the government's attack on workers' terms and conditions. Unfortunately, as outlined in this excellent, detailed piece by Steven John's on, we - meaning the ordinary union members - were soon to find ourselves being led into a dead-end by the union 'leaders'. Plus ça change, and all that.

So, in terms of generating a spirit of change amongst the mass of the population, 2012 has felt like a bit of a damp squib to some extent - and 2011 can be written off as just another false dawn. And yet, and yet...

Here in Scotland in 2012 there was something happening which seemed to offer the genuine possibility of a chance for radical change, in this country at least. I'm referring to the Radical Independence Campaign, which I've covered previously on these pages 'here'. Right now, some of the things we promised would happen at the conference in November are already being planned, not least of which was a commitment to a mass blockade of Faslane nuclear submarine base. I can promise Streetlamp readers that this will definitely happen next year over the 3 days of 13th to 15th of April. The event will be called Scrap Trident and as the date approaches we will keep you up to date with ways that you can participate.

Despite this positive attempt to unite left radicals in this country, there remains within libertarian socialist circles a lingering suspicion of the Radical Independence Campaign and where it may lead. This is understandable, I am not going to deny that history shows that the more authoritarian elements of the radical left have manipulated and betrayed anarchists in the past. And yet, and yet...

Recently I was alerted via another article on the wonderful site (please do check it out) to the release of a new book by PM Press called All Power to the Councils! A Documentary History of the German Revolution of 1918-1919. Edited and translated by Gabriel Kuhn, and drawing on newly uncovered material uncovered through meticulous archival historical research, this new documentary collection gathers eyewitness accounts and revolutionary voices from Germany’s 1918–1919 worker-soldier-council revolution. Unlike most of the histories of this period, which are written from a strongly communist perspective and focus almost exclusively on the role of Karl Liebknecht, Rosa Luxemburg,and the Communist Spartakusbund (Spartacus League), this book shows that there were other equally important radical left and anti-military traditions involved. In particular, Kuhn presents documents from Gustav Landauer and Erich Mühsam, the famous Munich anarchists who took part in the struggle for a councils´ republic in Bavaria. He also exhibits documentary evidence from Bremen, Brunswick, Wilhelmshaven and Kiel. All of these German cities were taken over by workers´ uprisings or sailors and soldiers in mutiny. Kuhn's sources demonstrate that the German Revolution was not orchestrated by a Marxist political vanguard, but by a spontaneous eruption of the whole population. Many very different groups were involved,  from centrist social democrats to trade unions, syndicalists and radical anarchists. Many ordinary workers only got radicalised during the events themselves.

One of the most interesting groups involved, formed during WWI, were the Revolutionary Stewards, a group of rank and file unionists independent from the official unions. Starting out by striking for better wages in the war industry, they ended up being one of the most radical advocates of a councils´ republic in Germany. Kuhn shows that when the Revolution unfolded in November 1918 this group was far more influential then Liebknecht and the Spartacists, because unlike them it had a wide network of supporters in the factories and workshops. In organizing three mass strikes between 1916 and 1918, the Revolutionary Stewards were decisive in bringing about the Revolution.

OK, history shows that the centrist social democrats’collaboration with reactionary counter-revolutionary and military forces paved the way to the Weimar Republic, and from there to Nazi Germany, but one can not but help wonder if, had the anarchist influence been more central, coherent and convincing, and tied closely to the mass, independent union movement, could the revolutionaries have created a less bureaucratic and centralist socialist model?

Is there anything that can we learn from these events that is pertinent to our position here in Scotland today? The anarchists, notably Landauer and Mühsam, were strong champions of federalism and formulated a strong critique of what they saw as the centralist tendencies of the Spartacists. That they were involved and embedded in the revolution from the start meant that they were able to do so. Had they more support within the ranks of the Revolutionary Stewards movement might they have been more effective?

All Power to the Councils! raises other questions too that all movements who promote radical change must face. For example; What are the actual demands, needs, and interests of the people? How do we best secure democratic and social progress? How do we facilitate a true transition of power? How do we establish political and economic institutions that really alter the forms of government and production?  How do we prevent powerful political forces, on the left and the right, from using the situation for their own ends? How do we go from being a mass protest movement to organising the mass effort of building a new society?

How do we turn a radical moment into longlasting radicalism?

Another question for some might be - can the libertarian left work effectively with the wider left? Perhaps it can, it is worth remembering that, despite the tensions between the different radical traditions in the German revolution, the various factions continued to defend each other in the face of social democratic and counter-revolutionary attacks. Landauer, for example, gave the Munich eulogy to Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg after they were murdered in January 1919. Mühsam called Luxemburg “the flame of the revolution” in an obituary published in his journal Kain. It is worth noting that, at the outset of the revolution, all of the radical factions were also united in their commitment to a council system and in their opposition to bourgeois parliamentarism.

Reading this book, I found myself wondering where they went wrong, how they organised together originally to form this co-ordinated vision and how they might have organised subsequently to protect that vision. During the revolutionary period, all of the radicals shared a single rallying cry - Alle Macht den Räten! (All Power to the Councils). How could they have protected that ideal - how could we?

These are interesting questions to ponder as we look forward into 2013.If you want to read All Power to the Councils! you can order it from PM Press. While you are on their site please take some time to check out their stimulating collection of fiction and nonfiction books, pamphlets, t-shirts, visual and audio materials. Alternatively, for those financially embarrassed, you can download a free pdf copy 'here'.

As usual, I'd like to end the blog, and the year, with a song that, I hope, demonstrates something of the reflective mood I'm in - facing more questions than answers. The song, fittingly for this time of year, is called 'Hogmanay' and was written several years ago by the current writer, so let me offer profound apologies for the shameless self-publicity. I do hope you'll forgive my self-indulgence and, hopefully, enjoy it in the spirit in which it is offered.


Friday, 28 December 2012

Baby Brave and the Love Bites - like eating ice cream or building sand castles

I often feel a bit sorry for the artists that fall into these few blog slots at the fag end of the vanishing year. For a start, it means they've missed the chance to be nominated for our prestigious Streetlamp Festive Thirty, and of course they can't be eligible for next year's either. On top of all that, just to add insult to injury, I'm writing about a light and sunny twee pop band tonight. Now, regular readers will be aware that all of The Streetlamp team are big fans of the twee pop genre. However, what you might not know is that Ray and I are firm believers in matching our music listening to the season of the year (yep, we are that sad) and we are both strongly of the opinion that twee pop is a summer pleasure, like eating ice cream or building sand castles. However, we have had a high level editorial meeting and, due to the extremely high quality of this band's music, we are willing to break our own rules and blog about them in December. These are revolutionary times!

So, who are the band in question? Why, it's Wrexham's Baby Brave and the Love Bites. I first came across this lot at the beginning of the month when they featured on a free sampler released on bandcamp by the Drum With Our Hands DIY record label from North Wales. The release was intended to showcase the talent gathered by this fine little label and I suggest you check it out. The song submitted by Baby Brave and the Love Bites was the excellent Take Your Castle to Spain. Have a listen:

As soon as I heard the flute intro and then the ukulele kicked in I was hooked. When I learned about the esoteric topic of the song, Sam Alper, designer of the Sprite caravan, I was completely charmed and delighted. I think you will be too.

Baby Brave are fronted by the sweetly-harmonising Emily and Jo, who are backed by three Love Bites – Sian - bass guitar, Steve - guitar and Mikey - drums.

The band have just released, via Drum With Our Hands, an EP, which includes Take Your Castle to Spain,  called The Hornet's Nest Of Unrequited Ambition That Was 1960s Vogue. Have a listen to track 1, CockRoach:

The CD version of the EP comes in five different patterned envelopes, each with a unique vintage postage stamp. The on body artwork of the CD is matched to the envelope pattern. Each envelope contains the CD, a special edition poster, and a one-of-a-kind Baby Brave and the Love Bites badge. You can also  immediately download the EP in your choice of MP3 320, FLAC, or just about any other format you could possibly desire on a Name Your Price basis.

I hope this sweet blast of pop has warmed you all up on this cold winter's evening. Remember to visit the Facebook pages of  Baby Brave and the Love Bites and Drum With Our Hands record label. Apologies to both for featuring you in the end of year slot and I promise that if you keep in touch with us we'll make sure you get a better slot next year.


Sunday, 23 December 2012

The 2012 Streetlamp Festive Thirty

 It's Christmas time, the font colour has changed to red, and the other Streetlampers have been banished from the keyboard. All this adds up to just one thing - it's time for this year's Streetlamp Festive Thirty.
For anyone who hasn't been following this blog from the beginning, the basic idea is that the Streetlamp team get together for a trawl through the Streetlamp archive and bring you our combined favourite thirty pieces of music to feature on the blog this year. Considered for inclusion are all of those songs which have featured in an article, regardless of their date of release. This means that the list is not a narrow 'Best music of 2012' but is instead a 'Best of The Streetlamp 2012'.

With the Streetlamp now well into its third year, it has changed quite a bit since its inception and now features more political and cultural blog pieces rather than just being a straightforward music blog. That's not to say that we've been ignoring the music and, as far as I'm concerned, the great music featured on here has been the one constant that has tied the whole enterprise together, and each of the Streetlamp Festive Thirty lists is a graphic illustration of that fact. When I look at the range of artists included I think that it highlights how diverse the three of us are in taste and, I believe, this makes a great recipe for an interesting blog.
Anyway, without any further rambling, I will now, as tradition dictates, present to you
- in alphabetical order -

The 2012 Streetlamp Festive Thirty

A Copy of A Copy of A Copy - Captain of the Rant vs. Hair Explosion
And If - Stephen Harrison
Bed on a Ward - Wise Children
Blackwater Side - Anne Briggs
Chair - Big Deal
Chico - The Velveteens
Comics - Executive Legs
Deep In The Woods - Tennis
Easy Baby - La Luz
Espejo - Julio y Agosto
Fast and Frightening - Luise Pop
Frances - Father Sculptor
Graduation Time - The Refrigerator Cuties
Henry Rollins Don't Dance - Allo Darlin'
I Call You Up - The Tuts
Island Song - Ashley Eriksson
I Think I Like You Girlfriend More Than You - Bentcousin
Late Night Bikes - Capybara
Like One - Silkies
Noam Chomsky? - The Hinkley Veltones
Outside of a small circle of friends - Phil Ochs
Seafarer - Tennis
Separate - Colorform
Shame - The Refrigerator Cuties
Spooked - Niamh de Barra
Strange Ideas - Liechtenstein
Sunglasses in Winter - Bentcousin
The Cinema Bell - Land Lovers
The Pocket Orchestra's Death Song - Land Lovers
These Things Happen - Loki with Bill Breaks


That's a pretty awesome list of songs, I hope you'll agree. Interesting to see too that we've got quite a few bands with two entries in the list this year - Tennis, Land Lovers, The Refrigerator Cuties and Bentcousin all managing that feat. Well done to them.

So, that's this years Festive Thirty and now all that remains for me to say is; 
"Have a very merry Christmas, and see you all in 2013."


Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Griff says; Get Bent!

I had a nice wee surprise last night when I returned from the illuminating and opinion-shifting evening that was Glasgow International Day To End Violence Against Sex Workers. I had logged on to Facebook when I saw that the impish and mischievous musical sprites that are Brighton's Bentcousin, featured previously on the Streetlamp 'here', had a new song up on their soundcloud page. And,what's more, against all expectations, it is a 'message' song with a serious, political, with a small p, satement to make.

Sunglasses in Winter, for that is the name of Bentcousin's new song, deals with the issue of violence against women and it does so brilliantly, But don't take my word for it, have a listen:

Isn't that just fantastic? It reminds me, in its sound and lyrical content, of some of the best of the post-punk bands of the early 80s. High praise, indeed, from me. The song is available as a free download too, so no excuses for not adding it to your MP3 player right now. The band can also be visited on facebook for details of upcoming releases, gigs etc.

Rather fortuitously, the nature of the lyric of Sunglasses in Winter also allows me to mention once more the White Ribbon Scotland campaign. I would be grateful if any Scottish boys or men reading this would consider visiting their website in order to show their support and to make their personal pledge never to commit, condone or remain silent about violence against women.

Thank you,


Monday, 17 December 2012

Singing Bradley's Song

Today is the 17th. of December, which means that it is Bradley Manning's 25th  birthday. As in previous years, the Streetlamp would like to draw everyone's attention to the fact that Manning, the alleged source of the largest intelligence leak in US history, including the infamous  "Collateral Murder" video, remains in prison facing 22 counts in a court martial that could see him remain there for the rest of his life.

Manning's trial is expected to begin in February 2013, but he won’t be sentenced by a military judge until March, and at that point he’ll likely have spent over 1,000 days, 10% of his life, in solitary confinement. Earlier this month we were able to hear something of the details of Manning's imprisionment over the last couple of years, at the motion hearing addressing his unlawful pretrial punishment. The information that was made available, such as that immediately upon his arrest on May 26, 2010, Manning was transferred to an 8’ x 8’ x 8’ wire mesh cage in Kuwait which contained just a toilet and a shelf where he remained in solitary for nearly two months are pretty harrowing. Or that at the Marine Corps Brig, Quantico , Virginia, he was held for nine months in maximum custody in a cell smaller than the one he saw overseas - just 6' x 8'. For only 20 minutes a day, Manning was allowed to see daylight while shackled in chains. For the remaining 23-and-a-half hours, Manning was deprived of just about everything, including contact with other inmates and often his clothes. He was forced to sleep from 1 PM to 11 PM, naked, and was allowed to do so only when facing his lamp.The list of indignities goes on and full details of this experience can be found elsewhere online.

Today, those of us on the outside must never allow ourselves to forget exactly what has been happening to Bradley Manning, man of conscience, whistleblower and human rights defender. The attempt to completely crush and dishonour him is continuing to play out here in one of the so-called Western democracies. Meanwhile we point our fingers and bleat about human rights violations in other countries who do not support our enthusiasm for the neoliberal project. Manning's case is the clearest example of the relentless suppression of any voice who draws attention to the hypocrisy at the heart of Western democracy. As Manning himself is alleged to have said of the video footage released along with the haul of US diplomatic cables to Wikileaks:

"This is possibly one of the more significant documents of our time, removing the fog of war and revealing the true nature of 21st century asymmetric warfare,”

We have nothing to add to that. If you want to find out how you can support Bradley Manning, visit this site here.

The video embedded below is a fine piece of political hip hop called  'Bradley's Song' by Symphony, a producer and rapper from Southern California.

If you enjoyed that then check out the same artist's  album 'The War Letters' released earlier this year on bandcamp as a free download.


Friday, 14 December 2012

Christmas? OK? Yes!

I'm not a huge fan of the whole Christmas experience. It seems to me that the collective madness that is consumerism reaches a truly strange and frightening pitch at this time of year. It almost makes me scared to go out of the house, people just get so frantic and, well... mad. Despite my reservations, The Streetlamp has had something of a tradition in the past of bringing you lots of festive musical fare and it seems that some of you, well our Ray for instance, are missing it this year. That being the case, Ray has finally broken me down with one of his Christmas suggestions for inclusion on the blog this month. The band in question are called OK?NO!! and are purveyors of an experimental brand of cutesy Japanese pop. They have released a single this month, called simply Xmas Song, and even I, old curmudgeon that I am, must admit that it is more than a little catchy and fairly bounces with energy. Have a listen:


The song is backed by an equally charming music box version of the same tune and both are available on a name your price basis from the band's bandcamp page .While you are visiting their site, you might want to take the opportunity tobandcamp site alsodownload their eponymous debut album, which was released in 2011.

I don't know much about the band other than the music appears to be the work of two musicians Akio Kanno and Sho Ueno, who are occasionally supported by drummer Nao Takegawa. The band release their music via Japanese net-label Sasakino Records, which was established in August 2010. Sasakino Records have an eclectic mix of artists on their roster and are on the lookout for more. Get in touch with them if you're a producer of experimental pop.


Sunday, 9 December 2012

Griff says; Come dine with The Chefs

Way back in February (see 'here') I wrote an article about Trixie's Big Red Motorbike and their place in the development of the branch of the indie-pop genre that went on to become the sub-genre known as twee pop. For those unfamiliar with twee pop let me explain that it is a gentle, ramshackle music that grew out of post-punk and is characterised by boy-girl harmonies, lovelorn lyrics, infectious melodies, and simple, unaffected performances. In that article one of the bands I name-checked were The Chefs, whom I described as purveyors of  self-conscious, clever/cute, student-pop. Unfortunately for The Chefs, they were a little ahead of their time and their jangly, melodic pop, which would have been justifiably fêted had they released it during the C-86 era, seemed oddly out of place in the early 80s of Thatcherism, inner city riots and the growing goth-rock movement.

One person who did appreciate them was John Peel and it was he who picked up on their four-track EP, called simply The Chefs, and released in 1980 by Attrix Records. Peel gave the EP regular airplay and, as I seem to mention rather often on these blog pages, I swiftly went out and bought the record.

The band line-up for the recording was:
Carl Evans - guitar/vocals
James McCallum - guitar
Helen McCookerybook - bass/vocals
Russel Greenwood -drums

The four tracks on the EP are: Sweetie, Thrush, Records & Tea and Boasting.
As The Chefs seem to have sunk rather into obscurity compared to their contemporaries, and as he is such a big fan of jangly pop music, our Ray decided recently to make a couple of Youtube videos, of Sweetie and Thrush to showcase the band's sound. Both are embedded below for your enjoyment:

The Streetlamp has converted both tracks from original vinyl into MP3 and they are available for download 'here'. More free MP3 recordings of the band can also be found on the fine 'Punk History of Brighton' website.



Thursday, 6 December 2012

Griff says; Welcome to a separate reality - Colorform and Sarah Valeri

Good news, Streetlampers! Our long-time, favourite NYC band, Colorform, are poised to release a new EP. Cue much joy at Streetlamp HQ. Unfortunately, due to the presence of the pesky Atlantic Ocean, we won't be able to attend the EP release party tomorrow, but those of you in and around New York City may be interested to know that the band can be found at the Parkside Lounge (317 E Houston btwn B and C) tomorrow night. Guest performer Khaled is on at 8:00 p.m. followed by Colorform themselves at 9:00 p.m.  Entry is a mere $5 and, what's more, everyone attending gets a free copy of the new EP. It's Colorform's last show of the year, so get yourself down there!

To get you in the mood, here's a track named Separate, from the new EP, released as a teaser and available as a free download on the band's soundcloud page. :

If you've read my previous writings on Colorform you'll know that I find this band particularly intriguing due to their synaesthetic merging of music and visual art and to their inclusion of cello as an integral part of their sound. That cello, by turns intimate or fiery, but always graceful, is weilded by the lovely Matt Logan, who as well as being a cellist is also a photographer, political activist and producer of the excellent ventilate blog.

As intimated above, Colorform's company also includes a visual artist, in the shape of Sarah Valeri. It is this integration of improvised visual art that adds another whole dimension to the Colorform experience and sets them apart from other bands. Before any live performance, and even in rehearsals, you will see a blank canvas laid out on a wall or the floor. Over the course of a set, this will be transformed into a full work, inspired by the music and the energy of the room.

Sarah's work can be found at her wordpress site  and, in particular, I'd like to draw your attention to her current work in progress 'The Fugitive's Astronomy Club'. This is a series of  drawings that Sarah hopes to transform, sometime in the future, into little art books, probably with stories attached.
The Fugitive's Astronomy Club drawings feature characters who Sarah imagines as anarchic wanderers, and as part of a unique exhibition project she has been sending selected reproductions through the mail to recipients all around the world, one person at a time. I am rather pleased and proud to say that I have received some of these reproductions here at Streetlamp HQ, which fittingly are from the story of Hester, who collects sounds. They really are very beautiful and have received wonderful comments from my rather envious friends. Here are some of the Hester images for your enjoyment:

Whatever happened to Hester’s house?

 Hester Empty Handed

 Hester in the park

Hester on the Staten Island Ferry

Thoughts in Hester's House

Hope you loved those as much as I do. Keep checking the Streetlamp for more details of the new Colorform EP and for the future adventures of The Fugitive's Astronomy Club.


Wednesday, 5 December 2012

The Bicycle Is Art - Streetlamp Special

Well, we don't know what the weather is like where you are, but here in Scotland we've had a horrible week of snow and ice, with more forecast. Rather annoyingly, the state of the icy roads plus the onset of early darkness has made the roads even more dangerous than usual for those of us whose principle mode of transport is the bicycle ( we know of at least one cyclist who has broken their wrist this week). As a result, The Streetlamp team haven't been able to cycle as much as we would normally, which has made us rather sad. To cheer ourselves up, and you too hopefully, we've decided to bring you a Streetlamp bicycle special. Principally, this will consist of links to interesting bike related sites on the internet plus a gallery of selected images from Ray's extensive collection of vintage bicycle-related art. OK, bicycle clips on? Then let's go.

First up is an advertising image from Peerless cycles, which we cherish because it reminds us of our beloved Les Enfants Du Paradis :

Next up are some images with the sort of striking clear and simple lines which distinguishes all the best poster art:

If you're interested, the title of our blog tonight is inspired by The Bicycle Is Art website, home to art of, and inspired by, the bicycle. Give them a visit.

The next image I (Griff) love because it reminds me of a still from a Hayao Miyazaki film:

Our next website recommendation is The Invisible Visible Man's blog. This thought-provoking site is written by an ex-pat Glaswegian cyclist now resident in New York. Check it out.

The following images are a selection of the once-popular scantily-clad Goddess/bicycle juxtapositions that  advertisers used to love:

In case anyone thinks The Streetlamp has violated its feminist principles by publishing the above, allow us to redress the balance by directing you to Spokeswomen, which bills itself as 'a blog for women who ride bicycles'. Check it out.
And to prove that women aren't just idealised Goddesses in vintage bicycle advertising, here are some more positive images:

We particularly like this last one as it's just such outrageous behaviour on a bike. Can you imagine the reaction of the British Transport Police if the next critical mass ride in Glasgow does this? Now there's an idea - it does look a bit like the tunnel out of Queen Street station!
And speaking of outlandish advertising images. What about these ones?:

We found ourselves wondering what the cyclist in the last image is shouting over his shoulder. Perhaps, "Naw, you get off the fxxxing road, ya bawbag!" Your own suggestions of what he might be saying will be gratefully recieved at Streetlamp HQ.
And speaking of the exchange of views which passes between motorists and cyclists, our last website rcommendation tonight is the excellent CycleHatred on Twitter. This Twitter feed has a simple but effective premise - it's the work of a cyclist re-tweeting the constant stream of Tweets that illustrate peoples crazy, ill informed, and frankly terrifying, view of cyclists.Here are some examples from tonight's feed:

"On Putney bridge in the mornings, I just wanna bump into one cyclist so they hit the rest of the wanky Lycra wearing creatures!"

"I'm sure all these cyclists in York have got a death wish can see myself running one over!"

"Cyclists shouldnt be allowed in rush hour"


" The cyclists I hate are the ones that don't stay close to the's like they want to be run over."

Those are just from the last few hours. There are pages and pages of this kind of shit. But remember, if you're on Twitter yourself, you can bait these morons right back if you're in the mood. Also, these are good to read just before you go on your next Critical Mass ride - gets you in the right frame of mind.

Now, all Together.

"Whose Roads?"

"Our Roads!"

Be careful out there.

Ray and Griff

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Viva Viva Palestina!

Today, 29th November, is the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People.

 In 1977, the General Assembly of the United Nations called for the annual observance of 29 November as the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People (resolution 32/40 B). On that day, in 1947, the Assembly adopted the resolution on the partition of Palestine (resolution 181 (II)).

In resolution 60/37 of 1 December 2005, the Assembly requested the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People and the Division for Palestinian Rights, as part of the observance of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People on 29 November, to continue to organize an annual exhibit on Palestinian rights or a cultural event in cooperation with the Permanent Observer Mission of Palestine to the UN. It also encouraged Member States to continue to give the widest support and publicity to the observance of the Day of Solidarity.

Today, the UN general assembly looks set to implicitly recognise a sovereign state of Palestine despite threats by the United States and Israel to punish the Palestinian Authority by withholding much-needed funds for the West Bank government. A resolution to change the Palestinian Authority's UN observer status from "entity" to "non-member state," is expected to pass easily in the 193-nation general assembly.

Accordingly, the Streetlamp would like to declare our support for the people of Palestine and  bring you some good free hip-hop music at the same time. The song we're embedding today (below) is a remix of Lowkey's epic chant-along anthem 'Free Palestine'by Khaki Mustafa, a Palestinian-American Hip-hop artist. Khaki's music focuses on spreading awareness on the issues affecting the Middle East, the pain and struggle of life and ways to promote unity among humanity.

Hope you liked that. The song is just one of the tracks from the #BeTheRevolution mixtape available now as a free download on bandcamp or as a physical copy for $4.99, available in December 2012. As well as Khaki, the mixtape features legendary QueensBridge hip-hop artist Tragedy Khadafi, Baltimore's own Sullee J, DC area's Radio Rahim, Bird & Sharif the Truth from STL, Tree reppin Southeast Portland, Faz from Australia & Leeky Apollo and RP from Charlotte.

Free hip-hop music with a social conscience. Sounds good, right? OK, now in return go and find out what your local Palestinian Solidarity group is up to and get involved.

All together now - Free Free Palestine!


Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Any action leading towards the revolution is moral, every inaction criminal

I thought long and hard about a title for this post as it's probably the most important thing I'll write this year. In the end I settled for a quote from Bakunin, the father of anarchist theory, as I felt I needed some truly heavy-weight backing.

The reason I need that backing is that I'm not a particularly 'good' libertarian socialist, I've compromised with statism throughout my life and continue to do so, much to my own disappointment. So I'm no Ammon Hennacy, that much is clear, but I am, still, at heart a libertarian socialist and, in my own flawed way, I try to be guided by libertarian principles and to oppose coercive force, hierarchical structures and the empty promise/farce of Parliamentary democracy. Those of you who follow this blog will, hopefully, be aware that I am an industrial relations representative in my workplace and a trade union activist, and that, such faith as I have, is placed in the hope of reforming the Trades Unions to become genuine vehicles of workers' power and social change.

Ok, so what's all this confessionalism leading too, you're probably wondering. Well, on Saturday I attended, along with 900 other delegates,  the Radical Independence Conference in Glasgow. The Conference was called to draw together socialists, feminists, trade unionists, greens, peace movement activists, anti-poverty campaigners, anti-racists groups, community activists, civil liberty campaigners, the equalities movement and more. These representatives, from all across the progressive movement, have united to build an extra-parliamentary conference in support of Scottish independence. The aim of the conference, and the campaign that will follow, will be to maximise grassroots involvement, which is the key to winning public support for independence in the run-up to the referendum in 2014.

I have to admit now that, my own emotions about the conference were that, for anyone involved in progressive politics in Scotland, this event was truly momentous. I honestly think that, those of us who are still around, will look back on this day  in 20, 30, even 50 years time and say, "This was the day that the Scottish left finally got its act together and became part of the global struggle against international capitalism".

Pause to let that sink in.

Yes, that's right, I'm advocating that an essentially nationalist movement, and one that asks us to participate by, in part, voting is a key element in Scottish workers' part in the growing, and increasingly intense, struggle against corporate fascism.

Let me explain.

Firstly, let's deal with the Nationalism issue. I know that many anarchists (yes you, Neil!) will be rolling their eyes at the naïveté of thinking that replacing one state with another is any kind of answer but I'd ask them to consider the following;

Scottish nationhood is part of a process, not an end point. If we break up the state that most of us were born into and have lived in our whole lives, we thereby illustrate to the populace, who have been cowed/fooled into believing otherwise, that true power resides with them and that change IS possible. Thereafter, an empowered population can move towards other goals as it sees fit.

This referendum is about nationalism either way. Whoever wins, we are going to have either the Scottish or UK version of it. The Saltire or the Union flag - hold your nose and take your pick. However, do bear in mind that a Yes vote and a new constitutional settlement allows us to rewrite everything. That's right, everything. We could have a constitution that seriously limits politicians power, protects workers' rights, properly respects our obligations to refugees and asylum seekers, curbs the power of capital, promotes green and environmental issues and gives real equality to ALL. These are all concepts which were endorsed by Conference on Saturday. This really would make us a 'beacon for other nations' in a real and meaningful way, but only if a united left starts working now to educate the public and make the alternative case to the SNP's wishy-washy neoliberalism. If we do, we could effect REAL change. If we don't, we are left with the status quo. That is, the UK. The nation that brought genocide to North America and Australasia, the nation that raised the idea of 'the market' to its current fetishistic position in world economics, the country that created, by force of arms, the world's largest ever Empire (covering a quarter of the globe and enslaving, murdering and exploititng the people who came under its control), the country that has deference to unelected wealth and privilege running like an unbreakable chain through its unwritten constitution, a country that invented the concentration camp, a country responsible for famine, torture, foul play and deceit at home and all over the globe in pursuit of its own ends, the country that has been involved in 100 years of aggressive oil wars and destruction of the natural environment . The UK is a country that at its inception was ruled by an elite class of wealthy, authoritarian, racist, snobbish parasites and right now is ruled by... well, you get the picture.

So, you want to smash the state? OK, let's start with the UK. And there is one huge, as yet unmentioned,  reason that I am behind the Radical Independence Campaign, and it is that, if we win the day, we can UNILATERALLY DISARM THE UK OF NUCLEAR WEAPONS!

Imagine that. Imagine the global repercussions. And we really CAN make this happen as Leonna O'Neill of Faslane Peace Camp made clear at the conference. Indeed, we've already started. The No to Nato Coalition and Scottish CND have called for a national day of action against Trident nuclear weapons to take place in Spring 2013. The Radical Independence campaign is throwing its full support, and its hundreds of activists,  behind this. We can make this the biggest demonstration at Faslane that we have ever seen. If we unite everyone in the independence movement and the whole peace movement: we can shut down Trident. This campaign can be about direct action if we make sure events like this are on the agenda. We can only do this from inside the campaign. Think about it.

And that brings us to my second point. Some anarchists/libertarians will continue to have objections to engaging with political parties and the electoral process (yes, you again, Neil!) and may claim that 'Voting for freedom is like fucking for virginity'. Those people may well be right, I cannot deny that engaging in the political process in Britain is like dancing with the devil. For those whose conscience won't allow it, I accept that and wish them well. I accept that many take the view of Emma Goldman that voting is useless at best and dangerous at worst, providing an illusion of participation while masking the true structures of decision-making. For those who believe that voting can be a tactical weapon to supplement the armoury of direct action, or who are undecided I offer the following:

Anarchists can and do vote. History shows us that prior to the Spanish Civil War, in the municipal elections, which had precipitated the departure of King Alfonso XIII, many anarchists had gone to the polls, against their publicly-proclaimed principles, for the tactical reason that a republic seemed more favourable to their aims than a monarchy. You're maybe thinking that the Spanish Civil War didn't end too well for the anarchists, but consider this; it wasn't that vote that really led to the elevation of Franco within the Right but, instead, the C.N.T.'s vigorous abstentionist campaign in 1933. The lack of the million votes which it controlled meant defeat for the Left and two years of reactionary right-wing government, as well as the crushing of the October 1934 rebellion in Asturias. This operation earned Franco the nickname "Butcher of Asturias". The rest is history.

More recently, and closer to home, Irish anarchists voted NO to the Twenty-fifth Amendment Bill (2002). This was a second attempt to strengthen the constitutional ban on abortion. It was submitted to a referendum on 6 March 2002 but was defeated. Leading up to the vote, members of the Workers Solidarity Movement, and most other Irish anarchists, were out in the streets putting up posters, delivering leaflets, raising funds, organising meetings and convincing their neighbours, friends and family to also vote NO.

Most anarchists vote to elect shop stewards in their workplaces, they vote for a secretary in their local residents associations, they vote where small local groups make direct democracy possible. Voting in itself is not wrong, the process of finding out how many and how few people want to do something is essential to acheiving consensus and getting organised. If we fail to do this, we risk leaving all the decisions that effect us to a few leaders or to powerful vested interests.

Remember too, that the vote in 2014 is a referendum. You will not be voting for the half-baked/half-hearted policies proferred by a career politician or party hack who upon achieving office will swiftly renege on all pre-election promises. No, this is about an idea; a referendum is an entirely different beast. Your vote will count. Direct action and activism will be necessary too but the pragmatic approach is, I believe, to see this referendum vote as supplementing that. Bear in mind too that this is something that is likely to happen once in your lifetime. Will you engage with hope in a progression (even a tiny step) towards something better or will you disengage in a spirit of cynicism or otherworldly purity? Please give it some thought. And once more, as Bakunin said:

"Any action leading towards the revolution is moral, every inaction criminal"

If you are interested in learning more about the aims of the Radical Independence Campaign then have a look at the declaration read out on the day of the conference. The campaign will be taking to the streets over the next two years. It will only succeed if it engages in direct action. It will only succeed if it engages with Scotland's blighted communities, for so long ignored by the politicians. It is vital that these communities, currently being targeted by the fascists of the SDL, are given an alternative narrative to the race-hate scapegoating being fed to them by Scotland's new Right. A representative of the Greek Coalition of the Radical Left, Syriza,spoke to the conference on Saturday. He urged us to get organised against the rising spectre of European fascism. The radical groups on the left in Scotland must unite. To my mind, the Radical Independence Campaign is about internationalism not nationalism. Let us recognise this. Let us unite now and argue about our differences once we have won.


Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Griff says; All part of life's rich pageant

 Regular readers will be aware of the Streetlamp's fondness for Scottish hip hop outsiders Stanley Odd and, in particular, our penchant for MC Solareye's wordplay. We're pleased, then, to announce that Solareye is to release an EP called 'The Pageant', which will be available as of tomorrow as a free download from the Stanley Odd website.

Written, recorded and released in a month, The Pageant, is a collection of stories and meanderings; grim fairytales and unlikely truths; ripples and reflections, all narrated by Solareye and featuring Harvey Kartel, Louie (Hector Bizerk) and Tickle (Black Lantern). The EP was produced by Dunt (ABAGA Records).

To promote the EP,  Solareye and Harvey Kartel will be performing live tomorrow night,  21st Nov,  at Bloc, Glasgow, supporting Hector Bizerk and on the 22nd Nov at Electric Circus, Edinburgh, supporting The Milk. The gig in Glasgow is free as well, so no excuses for not turning up unless, like me, you are working late that night (even so, if I can get finished in time I'll be along). Incidentally, the last time Stanley Odd played Glasgow I was also working late - I'm beginning to think someone's given them a copy of my rota!

Anyway, enough of my troubles, here's the brand new video for single 'The Pageant' below:


Sunday, 18 November 2012

'The Boiler' - Rhoda with the Special AKA

Recently, I wrote about Rape Crisis, Glasgow's 16 Days of Action for the Elimination of Violence Against Women campaign and the Glasgow Reclaim the Night march (see 'here'). As part of this campaign, I've been trying to organise, along with one of my union colleagues, a few suitable consciousness-raising events at my workplace. Another organisation which I support, White Ribbon Scotland, a campaign for men in Scotland who want to end violence against women, are also taking part in the 16 days of action and from them I got the idea to put on an after-work film showing.

My union colleague and I were having a discussion about which film we thought would be best suited to the event and I suggested the powerful and harrowing New Zealand drama 'Once Were Warriors'.
My colleague hadn't seen it and agreed to have a look at it to assess its suitability. After she'd agreed to watch it I began to have some doubts about it. After all, while it is a superbly acted and critically acclaimed piece, it can be very difficult viewing. And, sure, while the main female character, Beth, does eventually find the strength to leave her abusive partner, the journey to this point is not an easy one, for the character or the viewer. Eventually, my colleague and I decided that something else would better suit the bill, but our decision did make me think quite a bit about the portrayal of domestic and sexual violence in popular art-forms and  just where the line should be drawn between raising an issue and Cinéma vérité-style portrayals of violence. It also reminded me of an extremely controversial song, which caused quite a few waves in the world of popular music back in 1982, but which is barely mentioned nowadays. The song in question is 'The Boiler', a chilling and nakedly-emotional story of date-rape released by “Rhoda with the Special AKA”.

The Rhoda  in question was Rhoda Dakar, the former lead singer of minor ska revival band The Bodysnatchers. The Bodysnatchers were a seven-piece, all-female band, who were signed to Jerry Dammers' (The Specials' musical mastermind) 2 Tone record label.The Bodysnatchers were infamous for forming when they were barely able to play their instruments with the intention of "learning to play as they went along". The band played together for less than two years, disbanding in 1981, without having released an album.

'The Boiler' was actually the first song that The Bodysnatchers ever wrote, previously they had just played covers of old ska and reggae classics. Jerry Dammers heard it and was keen to produce it for the band, but pressure from Chrysalis (who were 2 Tone's parent company) caused The Bodysnatchers to record the safer, and more commercial, single 'Let's Do Rocksteady'. However, Dammers didn't forget about the song and made plans to record it in the future.

The song itself, which features a chilling, never to be forgotten, first-person narrative, spoken word vocal performance from Rhoda, came about through her improvising and just talking over a riff in rehearsal. Rhoda herself says of the song:

"I didn't know about writing songs, but I knew how to improvise - I had originally wanted to act and had worked in the theatre on leaving school. Performing it live was acting, that's all. A friend had been raped a couple of years earlier and I suppose I was thinking of her at the time. Recording it was a very long and drawn out process."

Indeed it was. After The Bodysnatchers split, citing ‘musical differences’ for their decline, with some members purportedly wanting to take a more political stance while others wanted to follow a more pop orientated career, Rhoda began working informally with The Specials on their second album 'More Specials'. However, The Specials too were coming to the end of their shelf-life and were soon to split themselves, with vocalists Terry Hall, Neville Staple and Lynval Golding leaving to form the Fun Boy Three. Prior to this, in the summer of 1981, Jerry Dammers had started working again on 'The Boiler', making several different remixes and, after the bands' break-up, finally began recording it. The recording of Rhoda's vocal started about a year before the song's eventual release and has been described by those involved as "a long and difficult process".

The song was released on 23 January 1982 under the name of “Rhoda with the Special AKA”. Jerry Dammers, who was adamant that the song should be released in order to raise an important issue, has desribed it as follows:

 "It is the only record that was ever made quite deliberately to be listened to once and once only".

 Most radio stations disagreed with playing it even once, and it was widely banned from commercial radio. The BBC banished it to a few plays on the night time schedule, where it was predictably championed by John Peel, but mainly tried to ignore it. Some retailers thought even less of it and refused to stock it. Despite this, the song reached a creditable number 35 in the UK singles chart.

I was one of the many people who bought a copy, but I will also admit that this is not a song that I have listened to much subsequently. It is a wonderfully produced piece of work, with Dammers' haunting musical accompaniment a perfect vehicle for Dakar's vocal. However, it is, without a doubt, one of the most difficult songs to hear through to the end, or to listen to more than once. In particular, the final 90 seconds are heart-rendingly horrific. I remember, at the height of the record's infamy, that some feminists argued that although the song highlighted the date-rape issue they felt that the way it did so was too harrowing and for that reason they could not support its release. I can certainly understand that argument although, personally, I feel that the right of an artist to explore the darkest parts of the human psyche is a considerable counter-balance to it. As such, I am embedding the song below, for those who are interested, but I am also warning any victims of sexual abuse or rape that this song is a potential trauma trigger. If you have any doubts at all about whether you want to hear this - then don't.

I mentioned the White Ribbon Scotland campaign above. I would be grateful if any Scottish boys or men reading this would consider visiting their website in order to show their support and to make their personal pledge never to commit, condone or remain silent about violence against women.

Thank you.


Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Griff says; Reclaim the Night!

The Streetlamp would like all of our readers in central Scotland to be aware that  Rape Crisis, Glasgow is marking the 16 Days of Action for the Elimination of Violence Against Women on Monday 26th November 2012 with their annual Reclaim the Night march and rally.

The 16 Days of Action links 25th November, which is International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women and 10th December, International Human Rights Day so that we can recognise that violence against women is a violation of women’s human rights.

This year the theme of the Glasgow event will be 'WOMEN ARE NOT FOR SALE IN SCOTLAND'. We here at the Streetlamp want to join  Rape Crisis, Glasgow in speaking out in support of the importance of promoting equality in Scotland for all women, using a challenging demand approach to prostitution and highlighting potential legislation to support this.

The route for the Reclaim the Night march in Glasgow will once again start from Botanic Gardens corner of Great Western Road and Queen Margaret Drive at 6.30 pm, down Byres Road, University Avenue, Gibson Street, Eldon Street and will end with a rally in the STUC. As always, there will be hot drinks, food, speeches and music at the end of the march.

 All are welcome. This is not a women only event. The Streetlamp will be there and we hope that you can join us.

If you don't live close to Glasgow, then please take some time to check out the website of the Centre for Women’s Global Leadership 'here' for more information on what’s happening elsewhere between 25th November and 10th December 2012.


Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Griff says; eliotE and the Ritournelles - Toy Story

I've something gentle and mild for you tonight in the shape of Inédit, the new release from French, folk-pop, experimentalists eliotE and the Ritournelles, available on bandcamp on a name your price basis. eliotE is singer, composer and songwriter Minnie Benoliel who performs her music on a diverse variety of instruments, including hand-made percussion and childrens' toys. The Ritournelles, who ably accompany her, are Thomas Charlet et Guillaume Magne. The band have been together for a bit over four years since the release of the Goodbye Ghosts EP in 2007.

If you enjoy your music playful and whimsical with a touch of the lullaby about it then you'll love this. Here's
'Pour les enfants qui ont peur de l'orage' from the new EP to whet your appetite:

Pour Les Enfants Qui Ont Peur de L'Orage - eliotE & The Ritournelles by eliotE

Check out the band's bandcamp site for more releases.


Thursday, 1 November 2012

Griff says; Jeux Sans Frontières

Regular readers will by now have cottoned on to the fact that I occasionally like to write about gaming. I must admit I'm not really much of a gamer myself but I do find the interface between the gaming and art worlds particularly fascinating. Gaming, after all, is a very new art form, and is one which is often characterised as trivial or juvenile. The obvious parallels can be drawn with the establishment reaction to the new-fangled fad of pop music in the 1950s or the early 20th century theatre owners dismissal of early film as a mere gimmick. For this reason, we are in an especially privileged position in that we belong to a generation, or generations, who can watch first-hand as gaming develops a remit which extends beyond entertainment into something more profound. And it will do that. Indeed, it already is doing that as my previous blogs on gaming (see 'here') have sought to make clear.

So, tonight, I wanted to introduce you to the wonderful world of Pippin Barr - author, blogger, artist, lecturer, thesis supervisor and game designer. Dr. Pippin Barr previously taught the experimental interaction and programming for game designers courses at IT University of Copenhagen in Denmark and his Ph.D. was about video game values, while his M.Sc. was about user-interface metaphors. This background is obvious in his games designing, which he began at the start of 2011,as he continually pushes at the boundaries of game-play. In particular, stretching the limits of simple narratives by the inherent mechanics contained within the game-play choices. If none of that last sentence makes any sense then I direct you to my previous blog on the experimental, minimalistic 'notgames' of Jordan Magnuson 'here'. Pippin Barr's short flashgames are reminiscent of Magnuson's work but with an added element of subversive black humour.

I first came across Barr due to his most famous creation, the game 'The Artist Is Present'. Astute Streetlamp readers, who tend to be familiar with the world of avant-garde art, will recognise the title as belonging to the monumental performance piece delivered by the divine Marina Abramovic at the New York Museum of Modern Art in 2010. If you have no idea who Marina Abramovic is or why this particular piece of performance art is so famous and well-loved have a look at this very good documentary 'here'. Anyway, Barr has taken the full 'The Artist Is Present' experience, including the interminable queuing and the multiple dashed hopes of finally being able to sit opposite Marina (yes, the Streetlamp team have been thoroughly seduced by the sublime Serbian ) and turned it into an 8-bit game experience. Does that make sense? Perhaps not, maybe its best to tell you that you can play the game 'here'. I loved it, but then I love Marina (sigh) so perhaps I'm biased.

Barr has many more extremely interesting games on his site. For my money, the best of these are the slyly satirical 'War Game', which takes an early arcade-style shooting game and turns it into a commentary on war and the military mind-set worthy of Catch-22. 'You Say Jump I Say How High' is another totally addictive game, particularly if, like me, you are a bit of a physics geek. You see, this game allows you, in fact requires you, to adjust the physical parameters of the world in which your little ghost character collects coins and moves through the levels. Imagine Super Mario as imagined by David Bohm.
Barr's game play ideas are continually surprising and inventive. Check out his conversion of the famous philosophical thought experiment The Trolley Problem into a game. Play for yourself and marvel at how fun philosophy can be (and how empty of any value utilitarianism is).
Then there are Barr's thirty-six separate versions of the grand-daddy of arcade video games Pong. Barr's versions include Blind Pong, Epilepsy Pong, Schizo Pong and Shrink Pong amongst others. You will be literally amazed at the sheer breadth of invention Barr can bring to such an ostensibly unsophisticated set-up.

I'll finish up by pointing out that Barr is also a visual artist and that the illustrations used throughout this piece are all his own work. More of this can be seen at his website.