The CLUAS Archive: 1998 - 2011

10

Ms Kathy Sierra, the catalyst for the Blog Code of ConductAs the BBC recently reported, a draft "Blogging Code of Conduct" is being proposed after perceived threats made on a popular blog against US developer, Kathy Sierra. Ms Sierra was threatened on the US blog Creating Passionate Users. The offensive comments (details here) caused Ms Sierra to cancel a personal appearance at the SXSW festival. The main tenet of the proposed code of conduct draft is that :-

  • anonymous blog messaging should be banned;
  • writers must take responsibility for comments as well as content;
  • don't say anything that you wouldn't say in person;
  • users of sites that advocate "open" blogging should be warned on that site's home page before they blunder into the deep and dark abyss that is known as free speech...

Imagine this on the CLUAS homepage...Forgive my facetiousness. But doesn't this remind you of Tipper Gore's anti offensive language campaign in the mid eighties that resulted in the now infamous Parental Advisory Sticker. Recent US albums facing censorship from the sticker included Gwen Stefani's menacing The Sweet Escape and Bloc Party's disturbing Slient Alarm, putting them in the same basket as much more infamous Eminem and Ice-T albums... The mind boggles. 

Clearly the imposition of an unenforceable law that has little or no control and boundaries has a precedence in the US. So should we be worried about the Blogosphere? Or should CLUAS impose its own rules and regulations in an attempt to stamp out a fire before it flames.

Blogs obviously provide a more immediate, and intense, forum for debate. That may mean that fundamental differences come to the fore faster, and nerves are laid bare. The facelessness encourages a lack of control that is less apparent on other media. So what does this mean? To me, the best Blogs exhibit a kind of intense honesty that cannot be seen in the House of Commons or on a newspaper letters page.

I take full responsibility for the content of my Blog. If I am to take further responsibility for the content of the comments on my Blog, my position becomes a lot less tenable. The legal concept of Copyright does not apply (and should never apply) to a Blog so any Code on Conduct could only be a voluntary exercise, right? Even so, we are moving at a pace towards our first legal challenge to the right to reply to a Blog.

Allowing people to vent is, in my opinion, a positive thing. Whether it be that the new Arctic Monkeys is crap or that that Mugabe should be removed forthwith, it's still a valuable opinion. Some people are inherently aggressive, nasty, uncontrolled but I just fail to see how imposed voluntary rules can possibly help - those humane enough to take such rules into account are unlikely to ever sink to the level of abuse in the first place.

CLUAS allows me to choose whether to allow anonymous comments to the Blog (something that differentiates the Blog from the Discussion Board, for example). That is a good thing. Long may it continue.


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10
When Pearl Jam released their debut album 'Ten' in 1991, few realised that half the songs on the track listing had been composed in the water by Eddie Vedder during various surf sessions. Since then Vedder has been sure to punch up his surfer credentials and, to be fair, when his surf buddy is eight time ASP World Champion Kelly 'Because I'm worth it' Slater he is certainly entitled to, or is he? Recently "welcomed into the inner circle" of the North Shore mafia during the 2006 winter season on Oahu, an iconic monochrome photograph of the pair, boards under arm, striding towards the ocean's edge was published in the March 2007 edition of Surfing Magazine.

So what's the big deal I hear you ask ? Well, as surfing has marched towards the mainstream two critical things have happened. Firstly, this movement has coincided with a shift by the big surf companies from focusing on their practical products such as boards, wetsuits and rashvests to focusing on their lifestyle products such as t-shirts, jackets and wallets; all by promoting the 'idea' of surfing as a sunkissed, beach based idyll populated by perfectly bronzed uber babes and dudes. The result is the rise of the 'Surfanista', a person who wears branded surfwear but does not practice the sport itself and may not even live anywhere near the ocean either. Nothing illustrates the rise and influence of the Surfanista better than the recently opened Quiksilver Outlet store just outside Kildare which is like a glorified TK Max. Here you can buy any array of clothing with the logo of Kelly Slater's main sponsor emblazoned on them but you cannot buy the surfboards that hang overhead from the ceiling since they are for decorative purposes only. It's as if the merchandise now had its own line of merchandise.

Secondly, as more people learn about the sport of surfing in Ireland and decide to have a go themselves, tensions have started to develop at the main breaks around the country, one particularly ugly example being the shortboarder out on the right hand side of The Dumps in Kerry last weekend snarling and shouting at other surfers, many of them veterans, who were out for a mellow session. I myself was surfing elsewhere so I avoided the grief but if you are reading this pal, I don't care how well you surf, you are still a bonafide asshole and you have no birthright to the waves.

All of which is to say that a tension is developing in surfing whereby people are encouraged to buy into the fantasy lifestyle of surfing through the purchase of expensive branded clothing but are then actively discouraged from practising the surprisingly cheap sport itself by the kind of knobheads who make Whelans such an unpleasant place to have a beer in. As Bruce Springsteen once put it, "You can look / But you better not touch". It's the direct opposite of the DIY punk mentality, Not U2, so to speak and it makes me sick to the core. I think Alex Garland really skewered that attitude in his novel, 'The Beach' in which backpackers are drawn to a mythical beach community hidden from the outside world and, when they find it, are then sworn to secrecy about its actual location.

Which is where that photo of Kelly Slater and Eddie Vedder on the North Shore comes in because if anything screams of a elitist, hierarchical, exclusive, aristocratic and corporate approach to surfing it's that image. The surfer as rockstar, the rockstar as surfer, the both of them as king. The crowd of unwashed fans held at bay as these two goliaths stride forward to play in an ocean that neither of them has any ownership of. Oh yeuch !
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09

 

Just like Rambo resting up in a Buddhist monastery before waging war on the Commies, your blogger has been relaxing in his native Kingdom in advance of the Paris marathon on 15 April. Now you may think that long-distance running is hardly the stuff of rock n’roll living, but you’d be wrong. This is the story of how Joe Strummer, at the height of The Clash’s fame, ran the Paris marathon.

It’s April 1982, and The Clash are the hippest band in the world (much as how Arcade Fire or Radiohead are today’s untouchable groups). However, their previous album, the wildly ambitious reggae-punk triple disc ‘Sandinista’, had received a ‘Kid A’-style poor critical and commercial reception, and the forthcoming release of ‘Combat Rock’ (a deliberate reference to the ongoing Falklands War, and a title guaranteed to minimise official radio play but maximise rebel cred) on 14 May would therefore be crucial for their career.

As told by Chris Salewicz in his recent Strummer biography Redemption Song, Clash manager Bernie Rhodes had several publicity stunts in mind for the release, one of which was that Strummer should ‘disappear’ in order to generate hype and sales.

Strummer, though, trumped his manager by deciding to disappear for real. So, on 21 April 1982 – three weeks before the album’s release date – Strummer took the boat and train from London to Paris, accompanied by his then-girlfriend Gaby Salter, who had a friend offering the pair the use of a flat in Montmartre.

As The Clash were huge in France (so much so that for the next twenty years nearly every French rock band would depend on reggae beats, punk guitars, lame sloganeering and leather trousers), Strummer grew a beard as a disguise and kept low-profile. He did his own bohemian sightseeing tour of Paris, visiting museums and locations made famous by artists and writers (he was a fan of Rimbaud, the quintessentially dissolute 19th century French poet). Salter, in Salewicz’s book, says that the pair travelled around the city by metro, reading articles about Strummer’s disappearance. And together they ran the Paris marathon.

I fought the wall: Strummer in the London marathon in 1981...

It wasn’t Strummer’s first marathon; he ran the 1981 London marathon (right)and - sponsored, rather incongruously, by the right-wing Sun tabloid - did so again in 1983 (below right). In the 1982 Paris marathon Salter finished last and, if we extrapolate from a 1999 interview Strummer gave to US magazine Steppin’ Out, her boyfriend could not have been too far ahead:

 

Q: Didn’t you once run in the Paris Marathon?
Joe: Yep. I ran three of them.
Q: Correct me if I’m wrong but is it also true that you never trained for any of them?
Joe: You shouldn’t really ask me about my training regime, you know.
Q: Why?
...and again in 1983.
Joe: Because it’s not good and I wouldn’t want people to copy it.

Q: Don’t make me beat it out of you.
Joe: Okay, you want it, here it is. Drink 10 pints of beer the night before the race. Ya got that? And don’t run a single step at least four weeks before the race.
Q: No running at all?
Joe: No, none at all. And don’t forget the 10 pints of beer the night before. But make sure you put a warning in this article, “Do not try this at home.” I mean, it works for me and Hunter Thompson but it might not work for others. I can only tell you what I do.

Strummer claimed that he ran the 1983 London marathon in 3 hours and 20 minutes. Now, your blogger (tall, svelte and athletic) has been training to run next Sunday’s Paris marathon in 3:20 too. So, we’d like to see some documentary proof that the Strummer routine can produce those results, please. Either our Joe was secretly doing regular laps of the Casbah before rocking it every night, or else this is just one more legend in the Clash mythology.

‘Combat Rock’ was released in Strummer’s absence on 14 May 1982. It was a critical success and chart-scaling hit in both the UK and US. However, with their singer missing The Clash’s short UK tour had to be cancelled and their scheduled US summer tour was now in danger of collapsing and bankrupting the band. A May 20 warm-up appearance at the Lochem festival in the Netherlands was selling poorly as punters justifiably feared a no-show. The Clash teetered on the brink of a break-up.

Fortunately, on 17 May a Dutch journalist spotted Strummer in a Paris bar and contacted the Lochem promoter, who in turn got on to the Clash’s people in London. One of them, ‘creative director’ Kosmo Vinyl, went to Paris and, finding Strummer in another bar, talked him round. On 18 May 1982 Strummer returned to London and The Clash.

Two days later The Clash played the Lochem festival during a violent storm and even more violent scuffles between security and fans, all of which provoked Strummer into inviting up to 500 fans onto the dangerously sagging stage. On their return to London the band sacked drummer Topper Headon as a consequence of his heroin use, re-recruiting original drummer Terry Chimes and heading to the States for their 29 May tour-opener in New Jersey.

So, Joe Strummer survived the Paris marathon – and more importantly for rock fans, so did The Clash.

From 'Combat Rock', here's one of The Clash's finest moments - the utterly brilliant 'Rock The Casbah':

 


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09
Mon Dieu, we must have been very innocent pre-teens back in 1988 to have found this raunchy - but even today 'Joe Le Taxi' and Vanessa Paradis (at the time, barely a teen herself) tends to raise a reaction of 'phwoar' and 'ooh la la'  from people who were 11 or 12 when this single came out. Really, it's JUST about a guy driving a taxi!

Today Mlle Paradis is the rather emaciated partner of Johnny Depp but her most famous single sounds fantastic. Unlike a lot of '80s French music, it isn't trying to sound like The Clash - and the sparse production sounds so refreshing in today's age of compressed ADD clutter. Also, when your blogger mentions to Irish people that he writes about French music, the Pavlovian response is 'Joe Le Taxi!'.

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08

French electro-pop duo Cassius are playing a one-off Irish show tonight (8 April) at the Trinity Rooms in Limerick.

They first came to prominence in 1999 with a smashing house remix of their single '1999' from an album of the same name, but only got around to following it up in 2006 with '15 Again', a so-so record of electro-tinged R n'B. However, the album featured a ripping single called 'Toop Toop', replete with snarling Arctic Monkeys-style guitars and punk attitude to burn - one of the best French tunes of last year. Check it out for yourself:

 

 


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06
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05
..

Snowboarders have been listening to their MP3 players for years as they carve down virgin powder slopes and half pipes but surfers being surfers and water being water its taken somewhat longer for wave riders to catch on to the potential of listening to their favourite music during a session. Recently however, that has started to change with the release of the DryPod, an i-Pod compatible waterproof case and headphone set which allows surfers to listen to their favourite tunes whilst out on the break. Another company that has been keen to produce something surf friendly is Freestyle Audio who have created the Freestyle Audio Digital Media player and enlisted Billabong team rider and former world champion Andy Irons to promote it. Whether these devices catch on; surfers being notoriously cheap when it comes to spending money on non essential items (wetsuits, plane tickets, boards and hoodies excluded) is another matter.

Perhaps, these devices will only appeal to the Wilbur Kookmeyers amongst the surfing community. Who knows ?


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05
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04

A comment ("...back in the days when it meant something to him...") left by the reader 'Wazza' on my first blog entry has got me thinking. It was in reference to Robbie Williams and seemed to suggest that Williams' heart is no longer in his music, that somehow he'd lost his muse. Williams' rise was certainly a dramatic one - from making it massive by proving his old mates wrong, by having 250,000 people chant his name. Maybe now Williams is suffering from the Rules of being a Celebrity in the Modern Age that dictate that he cannot stay on a pedestal that high. He has to fall. Maybe that fall has everything to do with his manic depressive nature but, personally, Williams has, in recent years, become a much more interesting artist (though both Williams' record company and would probably disagree based on the quite dismal performance of his 2006 release, Rudebox). It seems to me that the music now means more to Williams than his audience.

"...back in the days when it meant something...". Another interpretation of Wazza's comment applies to the quite extraordinary number of 40+ year old rock stars who are returning to their old stomping grounds in the hope of rejuvenating both their lives and their music. The Who's Endless Wire was a tired rehash of Tommy except the main protaganist wasn't a deaf, dumb and blind boy but Townsend himself explaining away his rather unusual websurfing activities. The beauty of the Stooges was that their thrillingly ugly slabs of sound raged against their perceived lack of respect. Now their first release in over 30 years, the Weirdness,  sounds cleansed, anodyne and should never have been allowed to happen.

Cave's GrindermanThe Pixies have reformed. The Police are reforming... and are guaranteed to make huge amounts of money from their impending world tour. Indeed Pixies legend Black Francis has clearly stated that he is in this game for the filthy lucre (and let's not even talk about that Sex Pistol's reunion embarrassment). Does the music still mean something to them?

Not that this drive to recreate the glory years can be a totally negative thing.... The elder statesman of literate Aussie rock, Nick Cave, has regressed on his latest release, Grinderman, to the clanking, discordant days of the Birthday Party. And rather thrilling it is too with its dirty laughs (No Pussy Blues) and garage beats. Indeed the original press release for the band describes them rather perfectly - "Foul-mouthed, noisy, hairy, and damn well old enough to know better."

Grinderman stands out because, whilst it is a nod to the past, it doesn't pander to the past. Cave is 50 years old this year and he sounds it. But you can hear his heart is still in it. And he kinda sounds like the Stooges...

There are some bands that I would love to see reform, for purely selfish reasons of course. REM (the original Bill Berry lineup), the Band, Midnight Oil. Any other suggestions? 


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Nuggets from our archive

2005Michael Jackson: demon or demonised? Or both?, written by Aidan Curran. Four years on this is still a great read, especially in the light of his recent death. Indeed the day after Michael Jackson died the CLUAS website saw an immediate surge of traffic as thousands visited CLUAS.com to read this very article.