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Saturday, 30 June 2012

Tour de France 2012

Well folks, it's that time of year when Griff and I shave our legs, put on the bright lycra pants and don some weird headgear. No, we're not going to the shadier parts of Glasgow, but are joining the ‘worldwide peloton’ of cycling buffs, to immerse ourselves in all things French, and tune into this years Tour de France.

‘Le Tour’ is the premier event for cycling, and once you see the beautiful landscapes, the ribbon of brightly-coloured cyclists flowing majestically through it, and then the fierce determination needed to tackle the overwhelming height of the mountains, you can't help but be inspired by the beauty of the French countryside and the dedication of the athletes as they seek to test themselves against it.

“From Paris to the blue waves of the Mediterranean,
 From Marseille to Bordeaux, passing along the roseate
 And dreaming roads sleeping under the sun,
 Across the calm of the fields of the Vendée,
 following the Loire, 
Which flows on still and silent, 
Our men are going to race madly, unflaggingly.” 

-  Henri Desgrange (creator of Le Tour).

Today's Tour is nothing like the early race, which began back in 1903. At that time, riders themselves would fix punctures, drink brandy during the race, and would be required to ride through the night. Some were accused of cheating by hopping in cars, others took trains and riders were occasionally beaten up by rival fans. But one thing was sure, the unique atmosphere of Le Tour is such that it caught everyone's imagination and its popularity has continued to grow each year.

Didi Senft who, in a red devil costume, has been the Tour devil since 1993.
The Tour has inspired several popular songs in France, notably P'tit gars du Tour (1932), Les Tours de France (1936) and Faire le Tour de France (1950). More recently,  Kraftwerk had a hit with Tour de France in 1983 (covered 'here' previously on The Streetlamp) and produced an album, Tour de France Soundtracks in 2003, on the occasion of the centenary of the Tour.

In films, the Tour was background for Cinq Tulipes Rouges (1949) by Jean Stelli, in which five riders are murdered. It next fetured in the burlesque Les Cracks (1967) by Alex Joffé. Patrick Le Gall made Chacun son Tour (1996) and the comedy, Le Vélo de Ghislain Lambert (2001), featured the Tour of 1974.

I find it a little surprising that there aren't more cultural references to le Tour, especially given the massive significance of the event in France. Perhaps the insane, grandiose spectacle of le Tour is such that any artist considering it finds themself overwhelmed by its sheer scale and opts instead to just sit back and enjoy its unique giddy whirl. I know that's how I tend to react to it all.

Given the sad absence of modern songs associated with le Tour I've decided instead to end this piece with a video by an important French musician from the 1960s whose work is sadly under-appreciated in the English speaking world. I'm referring to Jacques Dutronc a musician whose rough and energetic garage-style rock  surely served as a template for the British punk bands who sprang up a decade after his heyday. Have a listen below:

Jacques Dutronc - Et moi, et moi, et moi

Hope that shook away the cobwebs and left you suitably invigorated for three solid weeks of nerve-shredding, energy-sapping, top class cycling. See you all on the other side.


Sunday, 24 June 2012

Fear And Loathing In Coco Beach

This is not a look at the book Fear & Loathing In Las Vegas, nor an overview of the writings of Hunter S Thompson, both of which are covered in great detail all over the Internet. This is merely my own personal look at the phenomenon of Fear & Loathing, particularly Terry Gilliam's cinematic version of the book, and about it's effect and influence on my own life.
I first became aware of Fear & Loathing, and of Hunter S Thompson, back in 1987 after an NME writer mentioned both the book and the author in a caustic slagging of the then latest book by the American writer P.J O'Rourke. That weekend I bought Fear & Loathing but have to confess that on first read I simply didn't get it. I found the book had the same effect as being shouted at by a boorish drunk who insisted on telling you how good a time he had just had. I found parts of the book funny, but overall found it too garbled a narrative to enjoy fully, so put it away after the first read.
Jump five years to 1992 and I've just ended a relationship and find myself at a loose end. So I head in to the local Waterstones where a display of Hunter S Thompson's new writing collection, The Great Shark Hunt, attracts my attention. The Great Shark Hunt is a collection of Hunter's more political writings, especially from around the Watergate era. I find the book captivating, funny and fierce and it makes me want to read Fear & Loathing again. This time the book makes sense! Beneath all the drug induced psychobabble is a story of the search for the American Dream and how Las Vegas, (alleged) 'Fun' capital of the world is a festering pit of plastic smiles, easy sin and soulless inertia. It's also where Hunter, chronicler of the counter culture, realises that the great revolution of hope that started in the mid-60s has failed....that his generation failed to paint it black!

In 1998, Ray, myself and a few others went on holiday to Florida. We promised ourselves that we would go and see a film or two while we were there (this was back in the days when films were released in America a good few months before they opened in the UK). We had already decided upon the recent big budget remake of Godzilla, but I was even more surprised to see that Terry Gilliam's imagining of Fear & Loathing In Las Vegas was opening that week too. I suggested to Ray that we check that film out as well, but he seemed confused (naturally) when I tried to explain what it was all about.
Catching Fear & Loathing on the big screen, in Florida, on holiday, is something that I am forever glad we did. It not only altered the viewing of the film, it changed our attitude to the rest of the holiday. For the rest of our time there we felt like we were Raoul Duke and Dr Gonzo on a mad quest to dissect 'The World's Happiest Place' albeit without the mass drug consumption, although we pushed the alcohol boat out waaaay beyond it's usual mooring, culminating in a night of revelry in a bar called The Cattleman's which has gone down in local folklore, especially as we were continually asked if we were sure we could cover the bar tab!
Watching a cabaret band fronted by a weird Steve Wright/Timmy Mallet frontman massacre Smells Like Teen Spirit, or watching some overenthusiastic dance troupe pretend it was New Year's Eve (in the middle of May) while gyrating to Been Caught Stealing, driving all the way to Coco Beach only to sit in the RV because the air-con was salvation against the lunacy of the mid-day sun, being asked to remove my shades by a nervous storekeeper before he would sell me a six-pack of beer, suddenly having a moment of blissful inner tranquillity before I plummeted 200 feet on the Skydive in old town Kissimee, I could feel the spirit of Raoul Duke coarse through me as my cynicism-tinted spectacles practically melted on my face. Gilliam's interpretation of Thompson was a meeting of unnatural minds and we were wearing its influence like a layer of hypercritical sunscreen....

Plans had been underway since the mid-70s to bring Fear & Loathing to the big screen. The earliest treatment had seen Jack Nicholson become involved with the intention of playing Raoul Duke. Almost unbelievably, Marlon Brando was pencilled in to play Dr Gonzo! Of course none of this ever materialised. Later adaptations saw John Malkovich in line to play Duke, as well as Alex Cox being set to direct, even completing his own screenplay for his version. This allegedly fell apart when Cox found Thompson an unreliable and truculent presence in the project.
In 1980 a movie called 'Where The Buffalo Roam' was released to virtually complete indifference. The film starred Bill Murray in the role of Hunter S Thompson. Murray, like Jack Nicholson before him, was a friend of Thompson and it was his star power (huge at the time) that got the film made. The film covers the Fear & Loathing episode, but it is not the central tract of the movie. It's interesting to see a more straightforward, less visually flashy interpretation of the events in Las Vegas, and Where The Buffalo Roam is probably closer in reality to what happened, as opposed to the Fear & Loathing which pretty much happens in Raoul Duke's head.
Which brings us to Terry Gilliam's vision....
Hallucinatory, opulent, visceral and eye-popping on one hand; deranged, babbling, impenetrable and migraine-inducing on the other, Gilliam's version of Fear & Loathing is probably the greatest interpretation of an unfilmable book in Hollywood's history.
The film follows the narrative of the book down pat, dropping straight into a speeding convertible in the Nevada desert. We then work backwards, finding out who these people are, where they're going, what they're up to, and why they need such a gargantuan stash of drugs. Then we follow them into the dark heart of Las Vegas where Duke and his lawyer Dr Gonzo have been sent to report on the Mint 400 bike race. Instead of that, however, they go searching for the American Dream in the streets of Las Vegas, only to find that it doesn't exist.
Gilliam uses many curveballs to keep us on our toes and to create a fevered mindscape detached from reality. These include animation, animatronic puppets, optical morphing, and the fact that there is never a straight horizon in the whole film; the camera is always at a slight angle so the viewer is constantly aware that something is off-kilter. The film stars Johnny Depp as Raoul Duke and Benicio Del Toro as Dr Gonzo, and both Hollywood hunks 'ugly up' for their roles; Depp shaving his head to a bald pate, and Del Toro gaining 40 pounds in weight. It's interesting also to see the difference in acting styles clash; Del Toro's fearless method approach to Depp's mannered mimicry. The actors also insisted in playing the roles dead straight claiming any sense of insobriety would have rendered the performances impossible.
For the first hour the film plays almost at fever pitch until the scene where Gonzo begs Duke to kill him in the bathtub when the song White Rabbit this point the film, like the book, has become so frantic it threatens to fall in on itself. This is where Thompson, Duke, Gilliam and Depp take a breather and we settle down to hear what has become known as 'the wave speech'. Here, Duke looking out from his hotel window over Las Vegas reminisces back to San Francisco in the mid-60s when it felt that that the youth and the counter culture were going to win; they were going to destroy the war-mongering conservatives with a sense of peace and togetherness. But they chose to believe Timothy Leary's acid preaching without for one second understanding the consequences of opening their minds so radically. And now, five years later, he looks out over Las Vegas and sees that it was all a hopeless pipe dream...

Anyone who finds the film unwatchable and a horrid mess, I would ask them to do one thing....try watching the film with the sound off! Once you remove the psychotic chatter and (deliberately) impenetrable dialogue and no longer try to follow the narrative the film will blossom into one of the most beautiful films ever committed to celluloid. I mean it! Bereft of the white noise skreeeeee, this is a breathtakingly gorgeous looking film. Even the scenes of utter carnage, like the morning after the Adrenachrome binge look like a collaboration between Bosch and Carravaggio. This is another of my favourite scenes even if it did mean I'd never be able to hear 'Tammy' by Debbie Reynolds in the same light again. 'Tammy' was one of a clump of singles that my parents had in the house when I was an infant, and this collection of Del Shannon, Roy Orbison, Eddie Cochran and Neil Sedaka records shaped my early listening, and because of their drama and romanticism, led me on the path I still choose to walk. 'Tammy' is almost too melodic, too gushing, but it's combination of lush dynamism couple with the yearnings of a teenage girl for her first love have kept it at the forefront of my musical heart for my entire life. So its use to soundtrack the debauched squalor of Duke and Gonzo's hotel room cold have been fatal, but if anything adds an odd and surrealistic poignancy to what is up there on screen.

As usual, the studio heads didn't know what to do with Fear & Loathing and the film was dumped into a few cinemas and peppered with a few lousy reviews. Likewise when it opened a few months later in the UK, it was again shot down and hamstrung by reviewers who simply didn't get it...."No Fear, I Loathed It" screamed the Daily Record's film review of the time. But, as usual, the film has gone on to achieve cult adulation and is now regarded as one of the greatest Hollywood releases of the 1990s. In fact, it is now considered the most expensive Midnight Movie of all time.

It is now impossible for me to read Fear & Loathing In Las Vegas without thinking of Terry Gilliam's visuals; and it is also impossible for Ray and I to reminisce about that time in Florida without mentioning Fear & Loathing and how it shaped that holiday.
Even today, when writing these Blogs, I still feel a sense of 'what would Hunter do?' in my approach to them. Especially in the Blogs that cover the ~Streetlamp~'s days out, I still feel that touch on my shoulder....take the last one where we went to the Tramway; I finished by reporting that Griff set off through the backstreets of Glasgow while we headed back on to the motorway back to Stirling....this is a deliberate and direct mirroring of the end of Fear & Loathing where Dr Gonzo disappears off on the plane, and Duke heads back onto the highway...

"There he goes! One of God's own prototypes - a high powered mutant of some kind never even considered for mass production. Too weird to live and too rare to die...."


Sunday, 17 June 2012

~Tales Of The Momii~#2: The Early E.Ps

The second in my own personal overview of Momus' recorded career. Once again, I must point out that the interpretations of the lyrics are mine alone, and may not be entirely what the author intended.

In 1983, Nick Currie split up his band The Happy Family, citing differences with label 4AD as the main cause. A catch-all of unreleased tracks was assembled under the name 'The Business Of Living' and released on cassette only by label Les Temps in early 1984. No matter how hard I've scoured the Internet, I simply cannot find a recording of this anywhere, so as it stands I can offer no opinion on it.
In the meantime, Nick moved to London and began putting some new songs together, songs that would see the light of day in July of 1985. Songs that would be released under the moniker, which he would from then on be identified with....Momus; the Greek god of Mockery...

Momus' debut release was a 12", 3-track e.p entitled 'The Beast With Three Backs'. Opening track 'Ballad Of The Barrel Organist' immediately sees a shift away from the angular post-Punk jangle of his previous band and sets out the stall with a predominantly acoustic musical backing, seeming to consist of guitar and autoharp over which Momus details that first night of passion between new lovers. Momus' sexual frankness coupled with his overwrought romanticism have set him apart from almost all other songwriters, even contemporaries like Morrissey or Jarvis Cocker, and the blueprint from which all his subsequent work evolves is found right here.

With 'Third Party, Fire & Theft', the key word seems to be 'sparsity'....over a very basic rhythm that doesn't appear to have been created on anything resembling a drum-kit, the music jitters and jars with recurring gaps of silence as Momus reveals that men may well insure themselves up to the hilt against all kinds of physical damage, but no premium policy can ever protect against the psychological fuck-up of their suburban wives' infidelities at the hands of a serial womaniser..."Any day now the adulterer will arrive in our suburbs//Knock at the door with a Durex to enter our Laura Ashley wives"...

Third track, and probably my favourite, is 'Hotel Marquis De Sade' in which Momus paints a vivid picture of a pre-package holiday era Mediterranean hotel in which, in a single room on a single bed, two middle class English boys and an middle class English girl make 'the beast with three backs'. There's an early indication of Momus' genius in the way he conveys naivete with raw sexuality...."And Colin loves Alice// And Alice loves me// And I love the stains on the ceiling// And pump like the sea"...

These "three tracks about threesomes" as Momus himself put it, were released on the él Record label, a label which seemed to suit Momus' early career perfectly, being aesthetically stylish, predominantly European, and very arch and arty. The songs were recorded in Brussels, and it was to Belgium that Momus would look for inspiration for his next release....another three track e.p entitled 'Nicky' which consisted of three interpretations of the songs of Jacques Brel.....

The 'Nicky' e.p was the first record of Momus that I ever purchased, having seen it reviewed in the short-lived music magazine Underground. Released in June of 1986, again on él Records, the three tracks saw Momus take the basic lyrical and musical ideas of Brel and adapt them to suit his own persona. He also dispensed with Brel's orchestral bluster and applied a more minimalist lounge-pop approach, more in the style of  Serge Gainsbourg than Brel himself. At this point in time, all I knew about Jacques Brel is that he was a big influence on Scott Walker, whose altar I worshipped at. It was handy that two of the tracks that Momus covered were also two of Scott's best interpretations; 'Jacky' and 'If You Go Away'.
Lead track 'Nicky' sees Momus adopt a rather different disguise than that of both Brel and Walker, in this tale in which Satan walks among us in various camouflage. In Brel's version the Devil walks the earth as a Spanish Lothario and an opium addicted pimp before ascending to Heaven to reclaim his name of Lucifer. In Momus' version he's a down at heel cabaret artist living in Bromley, Kent and singing to bored housewives. In the finalé he still ends up in Heaven but as a washed up entertainer, 'prancing and Cliff Richard-ing' for bored Angels.....

Brel's 'Ne Me Quitte Pas' aka 'If You Go Away' is one of the greatest doomed love songs of all time, as I already claimed and covered in a previous Blog on Brel. Scott Walker's version remains pretty much the definitive cover version, but Momus' version, retitled 'Don't Leave' (which is actually a closer translation) is still strong stuff. Sticking closer to Brel's own musical palette for this one, Momus conjures up his own imagery of a man knowing his great love is about to end, rather than stick to the translation that Scott (and virtually every one else who has covered the song) have used. Marc Almond, on his own album of Brel covers, also applied this approach....

The third track, 'See A Friend In Tears', I'm afraid is not a song of Brel's that I know at all. Even of the many Jaques Brel albums and CDs that I have, this track never seems to surface, so I can't offer any comparison. However, this is still a fantastic song, and Momus delivers what I feel is one of his best vocals ever, and a style of singing he would move away from as his songs became less chansonnier and more electro-minimalist....

In March of 1987, having left él for Creation Records, Momus delivered a third three track, 12" e.p, this time with all the songs seeming to be about death; 'Murderers, The Hope of Women'.

The title track is one of Momus' most brilliant songs and one that has remained a huge favourite amongst his fanbase. Despite the initially misogynistic appearance of the title, the song's meaning couldn't be further from that. Momus sees women's free, creative and productive lives slowly destroyed by the soul-sapping dependence men inflict upon on them in the name of love and marriage...."In my pipe and slippers// Do I look like Jack the Ripper?" he asks. In a later interview, Momus admitted that such imagery came from the slow dragging down of independent women as they involve themselves in dull, stifling marriages or relationships, parallelling the slow motion death Louise Brooks suffers at the hands of Jack The Ripper at the end of 'Pandora's Box'. Some may find this fatalistic view of relationships a tad OTT, but I'm sure there must have been some women who knew exactly what he was getting at...

Now, middle track 'Eleven Executioners', I have to confess is not one of my favourite songs of his. I just find it a bit too arch and contrived. Plus despite using imagery from Borges and Proust, the lyric remains a little too oblique and uninvolving for me. I'll include it anyway and let you make up your own mind....

Final track, 'What Will Death Be Like?' however, is another classic. Pretty much a list song, Momus decides not to answer his own question and tell us what death will be like, but to rhyme off a huge list of things that make life such a thing of wonder and complexity to be cherished, enjoyed and even feared. Every line of the song begins with the words, "Death will be unlike....", after which Momus lists things as diverse as a garden in Autumn, the paintings of Holbein, roller coasters, Jean Paul Sartre, Narnia, moths flying into flames, 2001: A Space Odyssey, the last day of Summer, Edgar Allen Poe, strippers, Ian Curtis, glimpsing the sea through the boardwalk, the tractatus of Wittgenstein etc etc....

Songs from the 'Beast With Three Backs' and 'Murderers' were collected on a strange and eclectic album called 'Monsters Of Love' that Creation put out in early 1990, along with a remix of his most successful single 'The Hairstyle Of the Devil', and three 'new' tracks. 

 I don't know if there was anything dodgy or suspect about the album, but when Momus made his Creation albums available for free download, he didn't include this one! Also, on his own very thorough website, he writes revisionary liner notes for every album in his career, again except 'Monsters Of Love'.
Of the three new tracks; 'Monsters Of Love', 'Gilda' and 'Morality Is Vanity', only the last one, I feel, is worthy of appearing amidst some of his finest work. The song evokes early twentieth century bohemian cabaret and contains one of my favourite lines of his, "The ugly, given flattery, grow vain". The song is about fiddling while Rome burns, about having a good time as the world goes to Hell on a handcart, and perhaps that's every bit as relevant now....

These three were bold and brilliant works at a time when Pop music, even some Indie Pop music, was becoming insufferably synthetic, glib and worthless. Songs of quality musicianship, timeless in their delivery and containing some of the most breathtaking lyrics in Pop's English lexicon. The greatest tragedy of course is that it didn't outsell U2!!

Awake Ye Heathens!!


The album 'Monsters Of Love' which contains many of the tracks covered in this Blog can be found here

And the EP 'Nicky' can be downloaded here

Saturday, 16 June 2012

GREECE: Our Present is Your Future

I'm just back from a march and rally in Glasgow today, jointly organised by the Glasgow Campaign to Welcome Refugees, Positive Action on Housing, Unity and NCADC, the whole event supported by the STUC. I have written recently about the ongoing fight in Glasgow to stop the UK ConDem government and their proxy Serco's vicious attacks on refugees in Glasgow who are seeking asylum (see 'here'). I was interested to note a placard brought by a guy who'd travelled all the way from Sheffield to attend, which simply stated; "First They Come for the Asylum Seekers".

The paraphrasing of Pastor Niemöller's famous warning to history seemed appropriate on a day where our rally had to break up early and we were ushered off to safety by the police, who were  concerned that we were about to be attacked by fascist thugs. As the world sleepwalks into fascism, the parallels with Nazi Germany couldn't have been clearer. There we were, hundreds of concerned people, commited to social justice and extending the hand of friendship to our brothers and sisters from around the world, most of whom have been forced to flee to us for sanctuary because of the machinations of Western governments and corporations. Who is so concerned with what we had to say that they would seek to attack us? What is so dangerous about our message of peace, love and friendship that there are people in Scotland who will try to physically intimidate us to stop us spreading it? Our cause is supported by the major churches in Scotland, we were being addressed by an elderly Bishop of the Catholic Church, for God's sake. Will the forces of fascism physically attack a dignified old gentleman because he dares to oppose their message of racial hatred? As I have already stated, the annals of history have recorded this sort of thing before and we can not, must not, allow it to happen again. The people of Scotland, the people of all the World, must stand up for what they know is right. As one of the speakers commented;  
"There are some causes that you just know, deep down in your soul, and with every fibre in your body, are right".
Hate cannot win - we must not let it win.

With these thoughts fresh in my mind, I was pleased to see that the Reel News film 'GREECE: Our Present Is Your Future' is currently on tour in the UK. A visit to the Reel News site will bring you up to date with the rise of the fascist right in Greece. Their film will also let you see the front line of the social war that’s engulfing Europe, and allow you to join in the discussions on how to deliver practical solidarity and build a Europe wide movement against austerity too.
What are you waiting for?

The UK Tour dates are:

Friday June 22nd 7pm HACKNEY Halkevi Centre 31 – 33 Dalston Lane, London E8 3DF (with Hackney Trades Council; part of Turkish Kurdish International Labor Film Festival)

Saturday June 23rd 11am-4:30pm LONDON UNITE THE RESISTANCE CONFERENCE Bloomsbury Baptist Church, 235 Shaftesbury Avenue, WC2H 8EP

Thursday June 24th: 7pm Stroud Transition monthly film screening @ The Exchange, Brick Row, Stroud GL5 1DF (selection of Reel News films and Debtocracy)

Wednesday June 27th LANCASTER time and venue tbc

 Thursday June 28th 6pm GLASGOW The Albany Learning and Conference Centre, 44 Ashley Street G3 6DS (with Camcorder Guerillas and Woodlands Community Garden)

Also Thursday June 28th: 7:30pm HARINGEY Chestnut Community & Community Arts Centre, 280 St. Ann’s Road, N15 5BN (with UNISON North London Mental Health & Community branch)

Friday June 29th 6:30pm BRIGHTON The Cowley Club 12 London Road BN1 4JA (with live bands from Spain)

Tuesday July 3rd BRISTOL time and venue tbc

Thursday July 12th BRIDPORT 7:30pm (day before Tolpuddle festival starts) St John’s ambulance hall, Rax Lane DT6 3JJ (with Autonomy Films)

Friday July 20th – Sunday July 22nd GLOBALISE RESISTANCE FESTIVAL Tapeley Park, Devon

Wednesday July 25th NEWCASTLE 7:30pm The Star and Shadow cinema, Stepney Bank (opp. Tanners Pub)

 The Streetlamp will be at the screening in Glasgow, if you fancy attending this free event you can find details 'here'.
Hope to see you there!


Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Some Mean City: Just Another Saturday In The Capital Of The World

And so, another Saturday and another ~Streetlamp~ assault on the cultural spread of our favourite city (that's Glasgow in case you've not been paying attention).
We congregated in front of Monorail Music, just in time to see a seven foot Amazonian 'Tank Girl' arranging the outside clothes-rack in front of retro fashion emporium 'Mr Benn'. Griff remarked that his day was already complete and we needn't progress any further. But progress we did....we headed across to The Scotia, Glasgow's oldest pub for a little early afternoon sustenance. The Scotia is the very birthing pool of many of Glasgow's most noted Folk and Acoustic musicians, including Billy Connolly, Gerry Rafferty, Rab Noakes and Hamish Imlach. It's a place that regularly jigs and reels to mass Folk jams, but unfortunately it was too early in the day when we arrived but we've already agreed to go back one night.

Passing through the consumerist belt we headed up to the GoMA with the intention of catching Katy Dove's exhibition of short films, accompanied by the music of Katy's band, Muscles Of Joy. Before we headed up to see this we caught Karla Black's breathtaking Turner Prize nominated exhibition on the ground floor. This consisted of 16 TONNES of various sawdust arranged into a huge, yet fragile looking slab. All three of us resisted the temptation to jump into this massive and inviting looking spectacle. 

Then it was up to see Katy Dove's enchanting and hypnotic films. Griff has already proffered a full Blog on this exhibition which you can read here....
In the other galleries there was a running theme of 'life in the city'. This included a video installation by Emily Jacir that showed parallel life in New York and Ramallah. Simultaneously occurring images from a call centre, a food stall, a hairdressers and a public bar. We were really impressed by the way everything, right down to the lighting and positioning of the people in the dual shots matched each other.
By the time we left the GoMA, the blazing sunshine we arrived in had been replaced by pouring rain....

The rain clouds, so soon after the bright sunshine, bathed Glasgow in a surreal light that recalled the otherworldliness of Bertrand Tavernier's eerie Glasgow based Sci-fi 'Death Watch'; a film long unseen that's about to be re-issued....thank goodness!
We decided to head over to The Lighthouse, which meant walking through Buchannan Street. The street was filled, as usual, with awareness raising stalls, street entertainers and people peacefully protesting. Griff chatted a while to the people at the Refugee stall whom he had met up with at the rally a few Sundays ago. Ray and I shot the breeze with the guys on the Socialist Worker stand, whilst all around us people did football based acrobatics, and the guys from Anonymous walked about in their V For Vendetta masks....

Our main reason for visiting The Lighthouse was to stand in the viewing platform, from which you can look over the whole of Glasgow. On the way up the stairs we came across a small exhibition called Craig Johston's Apiological Network. This is an entire false world in which Scotland has developed a major industry based purely on the cultivation and manufacturing of honey. It included a bogus TV documentary which was very effective, and the whole thing had the feel of one of those early 1970s creepy TV series like 'The Changes' or 'The Stone Tape'. I found the whole project surprisingly woozy and moving, and it was one of my favourite things of the day.
National Apiological Network from Archiprix International on Vimeo.

Up on the viewing gantry we laughed in the face of Ray's vertigo as we gazed out over the rooftops of this mean city, the fractured filmy light rendering a chiaroscuro shimmer to the domes and steeples that spread out for miles. Looking over, we spotted that the adjacent MacKintosh Tower was even higher, so we sprinted up that to get an even better view of the metropolis. As we looked down onto the rooftops below us, Griff began enthusing over-verbosely about wanting to live in one of the shacks on the roofs, much to the amusement of the foreign tourists who were sharing the platform....
Back on the streets, we wandered through the Merchant City where the Yuppie Scum and affluent tourists attempted to dine alfresco as the Weegie Weather snarled unforgivingly at their indifferent arrogance. We in turn scoffed at one establishment's offer of soup-and-sandwich-combo for £5:00, whilst the aforementioned Scotia pub offered up a two course meal for £4:95!! Austere times my friends!
All this smell of food made us aware that we ourselves had not had lunch yet so we headed away from the overpriced nonsense, and found a small eatery unfortunately named MacDonalds (no!... not THAT one) where we ate heartily for a pittance. The cafe was just around the corner from Monorail Music so we decided to pop in for a scout around.
Whilst Griff and Ray just milled about the shop, I bought a few CDs including the new album by Laurel Halo which I was keen to hear (Griff: are you sure it wasn't because it had Japanese schoolgirls on the cover?).

We jumped in the car and headed for the South side of Glasgow. I shoved the Laurel Halo Cd in the car's music player and the glacial electronic ethereal music filled the car like perfumed nerve gas; a perfect accompaniment on this strangely lit afternoon as we headed down the unfamiliar streets South. A sudden abundance of Halal butchers and shops with signs in Arabic told us we had arrived, so we parked in front of the Tramway.
Ray has already posted a fine Blog detailing the main event we went to see at the Tramway; Antonia Hirsch's Komma, and you can read it here
The two charming female members of staff in charge of this section were impressed that we lasted the whole 16 minutes of the performance and chatted enthusiastically with us about the other exhibits that were on. We took in the installation 'Dissonance & Disturbance' by Lis Rhodes which included a short film called Dresden Dynamo, which is a 'film made without a camera'. This transpired as a strip of celluloid which had been defaced so that when it played through the projector you witnessed the animation effect coupled with the 'music' the film played as it ran. It made an ideal companion piece to Katy Dove's experimental films, and don't tell Griff And Ray this, but I actually preferred Lis's film to Katy's, especially when I realised the music was being created by the film itself.

After this, we took a stroll through the hidden gardens at the back of the building. Here we found a 'Wishing Tree' where people had hung their wishes from the branches. The rain had caused some of the wishes to dissolve, but we hoped that this was because they had been granted. The wishes veered between the moving and the avaricious; someone wished they could spend a little time with their Dad once again, others wished for world peace, some wished for extreme wealth and fame, and one or two wished they could marry Liam from One Direction! Crazy, I know....I don't know what Griff and Ray were thinking of!!

And that pretty much was that! As we said our 'goodbyes' we watched Griff head off through the back streets of the South Side, we aimed the car at the Kingston Bridge and 'Pastel Blue' by Sister Vanilla (another track from one of the CDs I purchased) patterned in the air as we left Glasgow on the M80 ramp and headed away from our favourite city....back to reality....another Saturday well spent....


Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Ray Got His Gun - Antonia Hirsch's Komma

After Griff wrote yesterday about an art event that has just closed (see 'here') I thought I would restore our reputation for getting on at the ground floor by writing about an amazing installation, currently running at Tramway until July 1st, which you can all go and see for free this month (if you live near Glasgow). Regular readers will be familiar with the Streetlamp team embarking every so often on a spiritually refreshing 'day of culture', and our most recent included a trip to the 'South Side', a rare treat for me and Gordon, who don't often get down that way. Our destination was Tramway a contemporary visual and performing arts venue based in a former tram depot in Pollockshields. If you've never been to this venue before then try to make time for a visit as it is a wonderful performance/exhibition space.

So what brought us there? That's what I want to share with you all - an intense and visceral installation, by Canadian visual artist Antonia Hirsch, entitled - Komma (after Dalton Trumbo’s Johnny Got His Gun) Presented in an installation context, is a 16mm film based on Hollywood script writer Dalton Trumbo's seminal anti-war novel. 

The central device of Trumbo’s novel is the horrifying predicament of the protagonist, a young American soldier who, tragically, has lost his face and both arms and legs during combat. Unable to see, speak, hear, smell, or act, he is fully conscious, but seemingly completely without agency. As he struggles to come to terms with his personal tragedy, he strains to communicate with ‘the outside world.’ 

Set around the time of World War I, the novel with its—then particularly inconvenient—anti-war message, was first published in 1939. The book came into true prominence during the Vietnam war era, after its author had re-emerged from McCarthyist blacklisting throughout the 1950s. Disturbingly, Trumbo wrote his novel after being inspired by an article he read about the then Prince of Wales' visit to a Canadian veterans' hospital to see a soldier who had, just like the fictional character, lost all of his senses and his limbs. Interestingly, the entire book was written without commas, though all other punctuation conforms to established conventions. This stylistic idiosyncracy makes sense when you consider that the term comma is derived from the Greek komma, meaning 'something cut off.' 

Hirsch's 16mm film takes this irregularity and runs with it, featuring the novel's text as a spoken word audio track with flashes of illumination marking the pauses where the commas should have been. The voice we hear speaks the internal dialogue of the central character but is rendered emotionless by being computer generated. This is intended to contrast the idiosyncrasies of articulation with binary modes of communication.This distinction, between negative and positive, light and dark, on and off, forms a rhythm, the black voids and illuminations highlighting the use of the comma to underpin the relationship between the voice and the written word. Hirsch explains the work as follows:

“It was the lack of commas in Dalton Trumbo's original novel that initially sparked my interest.

Dalton Trumbo was a screenwriter in Hollywood, he is behind such movies as Spartacus and Roman Holiday. Yet in the McCarthy era, he was blacklisted as one of the Hollywood Ten. Although he continued to write during this time under a pseudonym, it struck me how the novel's author had also been temporarily robbed of his voice that he couldn't "own" his voice during this period.

For my film I extracted those segments from Trumbo's novel where the protagonist reflects on the sensation of his own body, and most of this is a terrifying discovery of all the parts that are missing.”

I can assure you that the film is indeed an uncomfortable experience but one which everyone should force themselves to confront. After being ushered, by torchlight, into a pitch black screening room the viewer finds themself cut off from any point of reference other than the impersonal voice of the 'narrator' and the occasional sudden bright and blinding flash of light directly in the foreground. Truly, it makes for a very powerful and moving work of art, one that we here at The Streetlamp, highly recommend. So, take a trip down to The Tramway, we’re sure it will be an experience not to forget. 


Monday, 11 June 2012

Griff says; Muscles of joy - they'll make you smile.

 On Saturday, the Streetlamp team were out and about in Glasgow trying, vainly, to keep our finger on the pulse of the cultural beat of that great city - not an easy task given the sheer volume of events going on every single day. I'd badgered the other two into making GOMA one of our stops as I'd been intending to drop in to the exhibition of four short films by Glasgow-based artist Katy Dove for the last few months and, somehow, had never quite got around to it. Aware that the GOMA exhibition was entering its final weekend I was approaching a near state of panic that I was going to miss it entirely and that wouldn't do at all. You see, Katy Dove is not only a wonderfully creative visual artist who produces beguiling animated films but is a musician too, more of which later, but first - the films. Unfortunately, due to my extreme procrastination, I can no longer encourage you to go along and see her work at GOMA for yourself, but what I can do is post one of her works, luckily available on Youtube, below and exhort you to look out for her work in the future. Here is an excerpt from Open Ended, a short, abstract, animated film made during her residency at Platform in Easterhouse in 2007.

The film is fairly typical of Dove's style. She specialises in gentle, kaleidescopic, and slightly hypnotic, images which provide a visual equivalent to the accompanying soundtracks. The soundtracks themselves are wonderfully chosen and on Saturday, as we listened and watched, we agreed afterwards that, as the films progressed, we had become slightly mesmerised by them and that this was as close as we are likely to get to the experience of synaesthesia (barring some sort of traumatic head injury - hopefully not). The accompanying blurb to the show states that:

" (Katy Dove) is interested in the role of the mind in informing her creative process. Her work is reminiscent of the abstract expressionism of Joan Miró (1893–1983) and Wassily Kandinsky (1866–1944), and relates to the Rorschach ink blot theory that we use our subconscious to bring meaning to the outside world and abstract forms."

What I would add is that Dove's video installations, like all great art, are beautiful in their simplicity. She uses hand-drawn and hand-painted shifting, and constantly evolving, psychedelic shapes that evoke organic forms. As they glide, swirl and slide in layers of colour across the screen one can't help but be reminded at times of the liquid light shows used by the likes of  Hawkwind or the Velvet Underground back in the 60s, which brings us rather nicely into the domain of music. You see that seamless segue? You'd almost think I planned these pieces.
Anyway, as I mentioned above, Dove is also a musician and is a member of seven-piece, all-female, art-rock Glasgow band Muscles of Joy (pictured). The other band members are; Esther Congreave, Anne-Marie Copestake, Leigh Ferguson, Victoria Morton, Jenny O’Boyle and Ariki Porteous. 

Interestingly, all of the other band members are also active in the Glasgow visual arts scene and, as well as film-makers, their line-up includes sculptors, painters and photographers. Muscles of Joy occasionally provide the soundtracks to Dove's films and their particular style is difficult to pin down. I suppose it incorporates elements of spiky punk or post-punk energy married to a more cerebral, folk-influenced, avant-garde sensibility. Think of the aural wonder that was Return of the Giant Slits, or a collison of Laurie Anderson with the Delta 5 to get where I'm coming from. Anyway, why don't you make up your own mind? Rather serendipitously, the band have recently released a 7-track radio session broadcast by WFMU on Jan 27, 2012. The session is available as a free download from the Free Music Archive and I'm embedding my favourite track below to whet your appetite:

I hope you enjoyed that as much as I do and I hope too that you'll check out the band playing live if you get the chance - just keep your eyes on the journals covering the Scottish music scene. The band's album can be ordered by mail order from Watts of Goodwill, or you can just pop in to the Streetlamp's favourite music store, Monorail music in Glasgow, if you're in our neck of the woods. I'll finish by promising to keep an eye on any future exhibitions or events featuring any of the band members and hopefully bring them to your attention in a more timely fashion next time.


Sunday, 10 June 2012

Good Girls Go To Hell: the Shameful Incarceration Of Pussy Riot

Regular readers of the ~Streetlamp~ will doubtless know that among our main concerns and passions are; Riot Grrrl bands, freedom of speech, and political activism. So in tonight's Blog I'm going to address all three, as we look at the rather murky events surrounding a Russian politico-feminist band and the severe and distressing predicament they have found themselves in for daring to speak out against the re-election of Vladimir Putin....

Pussy Riot are a Moscow-based all-girl band who combine the radical feminist stance of bands like Bikini Kill with the more hardcore Punk thump of British bands like the Angelic Upstarts or the Cockney Rejects. It's probably fairer to describe them as a collective, rather than a band as there are at least 10 performers backed up by around 15 others who help out with the background details like videos, artwork, posters etc. The band are instantly recognisable by their Luchadoras style masks. The masks, and the pseudonyms they hide behind, are essential in Russia where outspoken political dissension is still heavily frowned upon (to put it lightly!).

Despite the band's musical bluster, there is a deep intellectualism at the core of the band's ideology, citing as influences Simone De Bouvoir, Michel Foucault, Jewish feminists Eve Sedgwick and Shulamith Firestone, Australian feminist Elizabeth Grosz, American cultural pranksters The Yes Men, and the Russian Mi Movement amongst many others. The group's tactics have seen them appear as if out of the blue, to play impromptu sets decrying the current state of Russia under Putin's regime. Despite a seemingly unthreatening stance, this all turned rather sinister in February of this year....

During Putin's clearly-not-rigged-in-the-slightest re-election campaign, Pussy Riot turned up at Moscow's Russian Orthodox church The Cathedral Of Christ The Saviour and performed an incendiary and obscenity filled song in which they pleaded with the Virgin Mary to drive out evil Putin from power and from Russia. Eleven days later two members of the band, Maria Alyokhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova were arrested by Russian authorities and charged with 'hooliganism', a charge which carries a penalty of SEVEN years imprisonment! Two weeks later another woman, Irina Loktina, who had earlier been questioned as a witness in this case, was similarly arrested and charged. 

According to the Union of Solidarity with Political Prisoners, all three women are charged with hooliganism according to article 213/2 of the Russian Criminal Code, without any evidence for incriminating such charges, which makes both pre-trial arrest and the charges illegal. The Union of Solidarity with Political Prisoners has recognised all three women as political prisoners, and Amnesty International have also stepped in, declaring the women 'prisoners of conscience' due to the ludicrous over-reaction by the Russian authorities.
The arrested women have staged hunger strikes since their incarceration, and several Free Pussy Riot campaigns have sprung up almost immediately.(See end of Blog for information on how you can help with these).

The arrest of the three women, and the insanely draconian punishment they face has created quite a split in opinion, not just in Russia, but on message boards and chat rooms throughout the internet. Some Russian Orthodox Christians believe the band deserve all they get, and have not helped by claiming the band ' deliberately flashed their genitals' during the performance. Below is the only existing footage of the performance....clearly no genitals (nor breasts as it was later mistakenly claimed) are shown in any way, no matter how fleeting.

However, some of the Russian Orthodoxy's hierarchy, and indeed some radical Muslim clerics, have thrown their support behind the prisoners, slamming Putin's henchmen of drastic over-reaction, and claiming that even if the women are found guilty, far minor punishments like community service would be more apt.

As things stand at the moment, the three women are still in prison, but the campaigns to free them are on the increase. Below is a list sites where you can follow the progress of the case, or where you can voice your own outrage, or help with any donations should you feel that way inclined:

The Official Free Pussy Riot site is here

A Facebook site can be found here

And a Twitter site can be found here

Whether you agree with the band's stance or ideology or not, the incarceration of political activists is a reminder that behind Glasnost, the dark shadow of Government-ordered secret police still looms!

Free Pussy Riot!!


 (Thanks to Neon Cupcake who suggested we cover this!!)

Sunday, 3 June 2012

~Kitten Wine~#35: The Well Of Loneliness

The very moral fabric of Great Britain, were the right wing media to be believed, is gossamer thin and in great peril of being torn asunder by the most innocuous of threats. From the 1950s on we have been led to believe that something as harmless as Pop Music was ready to bring the country to it's knees; from Elvis to the Rolling Stones, through the Sex Pistols to Frankie Goes To Hollywood and illegal Raves, youths with guitars and keyboards have been viewed as a great danger to the very existence of our society.
Or indeed there's movies! In the 1980s it was felt that terrible Italian slasher films with laughable special effects were the great cancer that would eat away the moral fibre of the British public; or when any unspeakable crime was committed, lamebrained tripe like Rambo 2, or not even remotely frightening guff like Childs Play 3 were trotted out as the cause of all our sorrows.
On a live TV debate about censorship, it was put to the ultra-Conservative Festival Of Light (the pro-censorship movement fronted by Mary Whitehouse and her Christian Right hags) that books are not censored, nor do they have any age restrictions, lurid gorenography like the works or Sven Hassel or James Herbert were easily available to Primary School children. The idea of banning or censoring books was snorted at (quite rightly!) as some kind of fascism. How dare we suggest that books could bring down the country!
But it was not always so....

In the early Twentieth Century, when pop music and films were still new pleasures, books were often seen as social menace, especially if they dealt frankly with the subject of (whisper it) s-e-x! D.H. Lawrence's classic Lady Chatterley's Lover, for example, was banned from the general public until the 1960s. But it was another book from the same era that we are to look at today....The Well Of Loneliness by Radclyffe Hall.

Published in 1928, The Well Of Loneliness was the first book to properly address the subject of female homosexuality. Homosexuality in general was still illegal in Britain in 1928 (as it would be for almost another FORTY years!!) and many men, including Oscar Wilde, were jailed for their way of life. Homosexuality amongst women however, was not really taken seriously, quite bizarrely. It was almost as though Victorian and Edwardian society simply couldn't get their heads round the idea that women might not actually be sexually attracted to men. Many women were locked away in sanatoriums, or given horrendous archaic psychiatric treatment including lobotomies and ECT to 'cure' them of their befuddling illnesses.
So, imagine the reacion when a book arrived detailing the inner emotional turmoil of a woman born into the lauded gentry of nobs and chinless wonders, who was herself 'sexually inverted', as was the phrase of the time, and her struggle to be accepted as a woman first, a sexuality second.

The heroine of the book has the none-more-Streetlamp name of Stephen Gordon (yes, really!), her parents assumed she would be boy and christened her thus. Hiding her 'peculiar' sexuality, she moves to London to become a novelist and then, on beginning to understand her 'affliction', moves to Paris with a gay male friend to wallow in the non-threatening Parisian Bohemia where she feels accepted. But, as was typical of the time, Stephen has a crisis of faith and has to try and balance her 'sinful' sexuality with her love of God, and she tries to appease God, knowing it will bring her unhappiness. The underlying message of the book is 'Give us also the right to our existence', but ends with the protagonist falling in line with society yet begging the reader 'Is this truly a fair existence?'.

As you can imagine, the book caused an absolute outrage when first published. How dare a women write about cavorting with other fillies was no doubt the cry from the masculinist society of the day. The Sunday Express went even further (gosh, there's a surprise) calling for the book to be banned outright as it was 'a danger to the nation' and began a campaign to have the book suppressed. This fired the ire of writers, such as T.S. Eliot, George Bernard Shaw and Virginia Woolf, who protested it's innocence, and the left wing newspaper the Daily Herald, who started a campaign in favour of the book's publication.
Yet, despite this championing from the Left and the intelligentsia, the book was criticised (and remains criticised) by some of it's core audience. The book's depiction of a heroine who seems to want to rid herself of her conflicted sexuality, coupled with the fact that Stephen takes to cross-dressing in man-drag was seen by the Lesbian community as more harm than good. However, what cannot be taken away is the Trojan-horse quality of the book, which ushered in a new era of sexual understanding, and practically introduced the very idea of gay women within society, and not merely as some adolescent folly, curable by barbaric medical practises.
Modern readers may find the tome's cloistered frustrations rather overwrought and soaked in the most purple of prose, yet the book stands as one of the most important works of the 20th Century, and still finds new readership today.

I was introduced to The Well Of Loneliness sometime in the mid 80s, when it was loaned to me by a female acquaintance. A year or so later, while browsing the Indiepop section of Ffopp Records in Glasgow, I came across a 12" e.p by the band McCarthy called 'The Well Of Lonliness', which was bedecked in a sleeve mirroring the cover of the book. I had heard of McCarthy but hadn't really taken much notice of them. I knew I HAD to purchase the record, and later that day found myself enjoying the jangly, left-field Pop they created.
McCarthy sound not disimilar to a less muscular version of The Smiths, all chiming Rickenbacker guitars and contradictory lugubrious vocals, but McCarthy were far more politically motivated than Morrissey's troupe, leaning so predominantly to the Left that they made Red Wedge look like UKIP! The bands early song titles; 'Red Sleeping Beauty', 'Frans Hals', 'The New Left Review' and 'The Comrade Era' clearly spell out their agenda.

Rather annoyingly, the single 'The Well Of Lonliness' was not about the book, but merely an allegorical title to a song about perpetual defeatism. But I was immediately hooked, and with The Smiths having just split up, and Morrissey's solo work still a while away, this was the Leftist Indie jangle I was looking for.

McCarthy's debut album, 'I Am A Wallet' was a small masterpiece, casting their agitprop view over everything, from Capitalism ('Monetaries' and 'The Procession Of Popular Capitalism'), through the monarchy ('The Wicked Palace Revolution' and 'Charles Windsor'), the homophobic attitude to AIDS ('God Made The Virus'), vivisection ('Antinature') and American Cultural Imperialism ('Antiamericancretin').

As if to prove a point to their narrow-minded critics, their next e.p was made without guitars! Like the Human League had once claimed, 'This Nelson Rockefeller' (about the plight of teenage prostitutes) featured just voices and machines (i.e. synths and drum machines) but works brilliantly. Vocalist Malcolm Eden's voice sounds even more melancholic against the synthetic background. This is, perhaps, best showcased by the track 'The Enemy Is At Home'....

As the band progressed, their vitriol remained intact, with singles like 'Keep An Open Mind Or Else!' and 'Should The Bible Be Banned'....which practically brings us full circle.
After McCarthy split, guitarist Tim Gane founded the band Stereolab, whose situationist minimalism continues to this day.

So, there you have it, my Friends, a classic example of  where one art form led me to another, both at a pivotal time in my life and both which helped to shape my political and personal thinking.
Keep an open mind...
......or else!!


You can download McCarthy's album 'I Am A Wallet' here
And you can read The Well Of Loneliness for free at this website

Now don't say we're not good to you!!! 

Friday, 1 June 2012

Tales of cyclists, Tories and bad, bad drivers.

 As you should all know by now (see ‘here’ and ‘here’), the Streetlamp team are avid cyclists. You also can’t have failed to notice that we also like a chance to get up on our soapbox and support a worthy cause too. Happily, the cause I want to write about tonight allows me to bring both of these Streetlamp interests together in a rather neat way.

Pedal on Parliament, is a grass roots campaign of cyclists forming a cross-section of Scottish cycling: commuters, road racers and club members, mountain bikers, long-distance tourers, Dutch-bike riding city cyclists, urban single speeders, tweed-wearing rural cyclists, plus those who just like getting from A to B quickly. The purpose of the campaign is to make it safer and easier for everyone to ride a bike – whatever bike they ride.

To this end, Pedal on Parliament has released an eight-point manifesto (see below) that aims to make Scotland a cycle friendly nation. They are now calling on all Scotland’s politicians, of all parties, to sign up to it, in order to make cycling a realistic choice for everyone, from eight to eighty – and show the rest of the UK that cycling doesn’t just belong on continental Europe, but in the country where it all began:

1)    Proper funding for cycling.
2)    Design cycling into Scotland’s roads.
3)    Safer speeds where people live, work and play
4)    Integrate cycling into local transport strategies
5)    Sensible road traffic law and enforcement
6)    Reduce the risk of HGVs to cyclists and pedestrians
7)    A strategic and joined-up programme of road user training
8)    Solid research on cycling to support policy-making

The campaign is supported by local Glasgow cycling legend Magnatom, whom we have written about previously on the Streetlamp (see ‘here’), and in an attempt to raise the profile of the campaign he wrote to Annabel Goldie the Conservative (boo! hiss!) MSP for the West of Scotland. In typical Tory fashion she replied with a load of meaningless political flannel before launching the following unexpected attack on cyclists:

"However, cyclists have obligations. Some cyclists ignore red lights, thereby endangering themselves and others; others do not use proper lighting on their bikes either at night or when visibility is poor; and others still neglect to wear helmets. That is not the responsibility of Government or motorists; it is up to the cyclists to behave responsibly and to undertake the appropriate training."

Yep, you can always rely on the Tories to turn around a positive campaign for cycling in Scotland into a chance to launch an unprovoked attack on us. Truly, they have no shame. You can read the complete exchange of correspondence on Magnatom’s site ‘here’.

Recently, I was cycling in a favourite spot of mine, where the Streetlamp team often go hill-walking, in a quiet corner of rural Stirlingshire when I happened across the following sobering and sombre shrine to a fellow cyclist who’d been involved in an accident: 

This simple gesture, made by an unknown person, of placing these items at the lonely spot really brought it home to me how vulnerable we are, even when out on the sort of quiet back-roads that should be heaven for cyclists. It seems obvious to me, that with cars getting bigger and faster we MUST change drivers’ mindset on cyclists. We have every right to use roads safely just as much as drivers do.
If you agree with this sentiment, then you can play your part by getting involved with the Pedal on Parliament campaign; it doesn’t have to be very much, at the very least you could take a few seconds to sign their online petition ‘here’.

Now for a wee bit of bike-related music to lighten the mood. Here’s the sweeping, indie-surf epic Late Night Bikes by Kansas City-based band Capybara.

Great song, I think. It can be downloaded as a free MP3 ‘here’. Drummer Mark Harrison says of the song:

"I think deep down everybody has a sense of nostalgia. In 'Late Night Bikes,' it's the simple pleasure of riding bikes at night that we wanted to share, whether you're on your way to meet up with friends or running to the store to pick up milk for the cereal that you're eating alone in your apartment."

He makes late night bike riding sound very romantic, doesn’t he? Now, let’s all work together to make it safe too.