Saturday, 19 March 2011

The kind of Socialism Sinatra would enjoy

I first heard this "swing" version of the internationale on the end credits of Michael (no relation)Moore's Capitalism a Love story , and spent a few hours trying to track it down, however since I mistakenly thought it was by Richard Cheese perhaps most well known for his cover of "Get down with the sickness" in the actually not quite bad Dawn of the Dead remake(shame about the remake of the sequel), and not Tony Babino my searches where fruitless until recently.

Despite the odd marriage, the emancipation of the global Proletariat, the overthrow selfish tyrants and all artificial divisions (looking at you nationalism) and quite rich Sinatra inspired vocals by Tony B do make for a good song, I found this vid this morning and have been singing it all day.

Monday, 14 March 2011

Metro 2033

"Fear the Future"

A quick disclaimer, this a rveiw of the novel Metro 2033 and not the video game which I have not played, though a friend who has tells me the plot is fundamentally the same, so this may get into spoiler territory for both.

Metro 2033 by Dimitry Glukovsky is on one level the standard fiction tale of a young man growing up in a back water being a “chosen one” who must journey to the far corners of his world in order to save his home and by extension the rest of the world from a great external threat. That we've all seen in dozens of works for years. While on another level it is a complex, at times darkly comedic satire of Russia’s political history. Some stations are the run by Communists on the “red line” in clear reference to the Soviet Union, there’s also a Trotskyist station and a run in with some funny extremely dedicated but weird Trots. Three stations have been overrun by Fascists in a clear comment on the depressingly large “national Bolshevist” movement and the trend of Ultra nationalism in current Russian politics. The dominant faction in terms of stations under its control are the Hansa (short for Hanseatic league) a cabal of merchants who have embraced market capitalism, another critique of the rise in neo-liberalism in the 90’s. Some stations are run overtly by Mafiya’s and Caucasian gangs again a transparent comment on the rise of organised crime throughout the Russian Federation. Smaller factions include Jehovah witnesses again a group that has caused a bit of a stir in contemporary Russia.

The setting is of course the Moscow underground after a nuclear war in the near future hence the title, we never find out why the war was started and who exactly was involved, but we do know that humans cannot survive on the surface without environment suits and shielding without suffering extreme mutation. The Metro survivors subsist on a diet of moss, mushrooms and chicken, pig and rat, the only stable currency is ammunition meaning that you literally shoot money in a fight, which might explain why there have been so few overt takeover attempts between the factions, with the only one of note being a war between the reds and the Hansa that was resolved before the events of novel start.

Artyom our protagonist accidently opened a route to the surface as a child and now in his twenties it appears that large numbers of psychic mutants “the dark ones” have been entering the Metro and have begun encroaching on his home station VDNKH. Hunter a stalker embarked on a mission to seal the doors Artyom opened but presumably did not succeed. This means that Artyom via Hunter’s last request must journey throughout the Metro to Polis the closest thing to a city left underground and seek aide from the government there. Though initially a simple task the politics of the Metro force Artyom to take a painfully long and circuitous route to Polis frequently getting side tracked with some travelling companions. He frequently comes close to death particularly when being hung for shooting a Fascist officer only to be rescued by the aforementioned Trots. After finally making to Polis Artyom is forced to agree to a scheme by the cities scholars whom suspect him of being a prophet who can find them a sacred tome. This tome is located on the surface within the Moscow library a place infested with a type of mutant known only as the “librarians”.

After surviving the journey to the surface Artyom is given the information he seeks. It seems the key to his salvation is the location of a missile silo that was spared in the Great War, however getting there will require both a “rocket man” (a missile commander) and the location of a secret entrance to that Silo’s bunker found only on the hidden government underground Metro-2.

After a run in with a cult of cannibals Artyom and a group of Stalkers in the company of one of the few remaining “rocket men” discover Metro-2 and get to work on setting up the Missile launchers. Artyom is then tasked with aiding the missile targeting and must journey back on to the surface to a lookout post in order radio in coordinates. And the novel ends shortly after.

Before I get much further I should point out that there is a sequel cleverly named Metro 2034 however as far as I am aware that one has not yet been translated into English, it has however been translated into German so those who speak it or its original Russian might want to give it a try.

I have also omitted quite abit from the above synopsis because despite having the standard overall adventure plot Metro 2033 does have quite a few twists on the established tropes that would be ruined when spoiled. Also the first two chapters are easily the worst, the book has a lot of back story to establish and does so in the worst way, the first 40 pages out of a total of 459 are almost all flashbacks triggered by snippets Artyom hears whilst by the camp fire. Fortunately by the final half of the second chapter the writing gets immeasurable better, there are still frequent cases of exposition and background info being given to Artyom and by extension the reader but in those instances you not only have an established feel for the world of the Metro and have to come to grips with much of the establishing back story, and the fact that they take place in a more organic way in settings that make more sense given Artyom has never left his station before and needs information on the changing nature of the Metro particular its politics an area where the young man is especially clueless.

The tone of the book is very similar to Roadside picnic by the famous (to Russians anyway) Strugatsky brothers(they even have characters called stalkers) and of course the film it inspired though perhaps the comparison most well known to a Western audience would be the Ukrainian video games series S.T.A.L.K.E.R. not unsurprising given that both they and the game Metro 2033 share some of the development team.

I would definately recommend Metro 2033 to anyone intersted in the dystopian after the end style survival genre, as well as those who have an interest in Russian history and politics as well as Sci-Fi fans in general as aside from those first chapters and some translation hiccups it is an highly intelligent and enjoyable read.

Friday, 11 March 2011

Revolutionary roadblocks

Unfortunately the present situation in Libya is a graphic demonstration of how Revolutions are in a constant state of motion (hence the name) and do not always move forward. Earlier in the week things looked very good for the Revolution, though Gaddafi was able to retake parts of the West, while unfortunate it was quite likely given that Tripoli is in the Western part of the nation and the government had built up a high concentration of loyal forces there, The Eastern revolt had got its act together and began march on Tripoli, major battles took place in both Brega and Ras Lanuf as the below video's show,


Ras Lanuf

Unfortunately as has been widely reported Gaddafi now feels secure enough to began bringing the full might of his forces to bear against the revolution,. Air strikes and artillery bombardments have become common and have been enough to force the Revolutionaries to withdraw from the city of Ras Lanuf

Government counter attack

However despite the grim news I remain confident that the Revolt will prove in the end to be sucesfull, you will I'm sure notice that the government has only been able to win in clashes where the odds are heavily in there favour such as in the West and when they aren't bogged down in extended fighting like when using Air and artillery this suggests that Gaddafi believes his troops are loyal enough to kill for him but not as he repeatedly claims to die for him. This will probably mean the conflict will take the form of bloody air strikes against population centres in order to break the will of the Revolution. Fortunately at present that will seems to still be very strong as the demonstration by the free women of Benghazi shows.

This is where the issue of a "no fly zone" comes into it. The US,UK and EU nations have been caught in an embarrassing situation, on the one hand Africa and the Middle East have seen an upsurge in mass mostly peaceful demonstrations demanding Democracy and an end to corruption and state brutality, the very ideas the Liberal West prides itself on and has been lecturing those very regions on how they should adopt them. On the other hand every single regime with the exception of Syria and Iran that has been threatened by has been a key ally of the West both in terms of resource acquisitions primarily energy products like oil and gas but also geo-strategically by ensuring other competitors like Russia and China can't get make a claim.

For example guess who makes those Mirage jets that are carrying out bombing runs on the Libyan people? thats right the French Dassault company. This is why the reactions from government on both Tunisia and Egypt have been so pathetic and why they are now bringing up the issue of a no fly zone over Libya since there own "bosses" (Yeah right) the western population is getting pretty annoyed that there governments aren't living up to there ideals.

The issue of a no fly zone is a little contentious with some citing the spectre of renewed imperialism, my problem with this argument is that it seems to ignore the wishes of the Libyan Revolutionaries who lets face it are the most qualified to make statements regarding the situation in Libya. It also seems to imply that the dedicated men and women of the Revolution who have time and again clearly stated that they don't want an armed intervention or military aide, and that they correctly see the governments of the West as opportunists who collaborated in there oppression as soon as the heat from Lockerbie and the IRA arms sales cooled down and the extent of oil supplies were confirmed. Would then just switch off and get back on their knees and welcome business as usual. Furthermore the sooner Gaddafi's air-power is neutralised the sooner he'll be overthrown and the stronger and more energetic the Revolution will be to resist foreign intervention, as they'll have less damage to repair and wounded to treat.

Avaaz a sort of global 38degrees is running a petition to but pressure on the UN to honour the wishes of the Libyan people, I've signed it and I hope anyone reading this will too.

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Happy International Womens Day!

Sorry its a bit late (it should still be women's day for those of you to the West of me) I was celebrating Shrove Tuesday (pancake day) with my relatives to mark the annual fast where not really religious though they are Catholic Irish so a lot of the customs rubbed off, this year I am giving up lager.

Anyway heres a quick post to celebrate the centenary of international womens day. To clarify in case the video confuses, I agree with the sentiment and it is a good thing that we have at least one day where the issue and discrimination affecting women past and present is guaranteed attention and discussion, I just don't see why it should stop at 00:00 the next morning. I mean I think its good that Daniel Craig is prepared to risk even more ridicule from fringe arseholes by coming out in support of women's rights, but is 007 in drag really the best way to get across a reminder that despite the hard work of Feminists and Socialists ( Keir Hardie and The Labour party was the first British political party to back universal suffrage rather then the Sexist and classist policies of their Liberal and Conservative counterparts including a number of women's suffrage groups tied to them) women even in the "civilised" liberal west still face a lot of abuse both personal and systematic?

Anyway hope everyone had a good womens/pancake day and that Daniel Craig was at least able to raise a bit of awareness whilst giving the internet loonies a bit of a chuckle.

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Shame on You

Just a quick post to break in the new month. Captain SKA the group behind the excellent Liar Liar have released another musical rebuttal to the ConDems dishonest preaching of fiscal responsibility. For me the song isn't as good musically as Liar Liar but then my musical tastes are extremely random as clicking on the Music tag below will show. As such I'm not the best judge of musical quality, however I will say this I can listen to it from start to finish it isn't bad and it clearly gets its points across, and that is after all the most important thing a political oriented musician(s) can hope to achieve, and on that front Shame on you is a big success, I hope it and many other songs like it do well.

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