The Eurovision Song Contest

I’m at a gig this Saturday, so I’ll be missing the Eurovision Song Contest. But here’s Lithuania’s entry for 2006, the same year as Lordi won for Finland.

The brief instrumental break with the dancing William Hague look-a-like is the best bit.

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First World Problems

Terrible lunchtime news in London, where a fire in Charlton savaged Sainsbury’s sandwich supplies in London.

There were scenes of misery across the city.

A Sainsbury’s shopper told News Shopper: “When I went there at lunchtime for a sandwich there was nothing, nothing at all, the shelves were empty like they’d been cleaned out.

“It was me and a small crowd of people, all standing there, disappointed and confused.

“When I asked one of the staff what had happened she said it was because there had been a fire at the depot.

“It was quite sad, how can one fire bring everything to a standstill?

“It might sound ridiculous but it ruined my day a bit, I had to go to Morrisons but they don’t have a £3 meal deal.”

If there is ever a zombie apocalypse, these people are not going to survive….

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Panic Room confirm Dave Foster as permanent guitarist

Dave Foster of Panic Room at Bilston Robon 2

After the successful “Wildfire” tour, Panic Room have now confirmed that Dave Foster is joining the band as a full-time member.

Panic Room had not previously appointed a permanent replacement for founder member Paul Davies, who had left the band at the end of 2012.  Morpheus Rising’s Pete Harwood stood in on a temporary basis for the tour in Spring 2013, and Adam O’Sullivan performed with the band throughout 2014 as well as playing lead on the band’s fourth album “Incarnate”.

Dave Foster, who also plays with Mr So and So and The Steve Rothery Band, had previously been announced as playing with the band for 2015, contributing to the soon-to-be-released acoustic album and playing live on the Spring tour. The band had decided to wait until after the tour before making a final decision for the longer term.

Anyone who saw the recent tour will have seen how well he fits into the band. Not only was he adept at playing all of Panic Room’s varied styles from sophisticated jazz-flavoured sounds ro classy hard rock, but just as importantly the chemistry was right. In the end it can’t have been that hard a decision to make.

The band are now planning further tours in Autumn 2015 and Spring 2016, and will be working on a new studio album in the second half of this year.

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White Males Behaving Badly

Nigel Sad-HaircutA reminder that when it comes to stupid bigotry, it’s difficult for anyone to beat conservative white men. Meet Professor Nigel Piercy of Swansea University.

Professor Piercy, whose time at Swansea has been marked by a series of conflicts with staff and students, had written that among those “claiming the right to censor and veto” academics’ pronouncements were “unpleasant and grubby little people, who purport to represent others because they have persuaded a tiny number of people to elect them to office in trades unions and the like”.

Such “creepy little people” were “usually distinguished only by their sad haircuts, grubby, chewed fingernails and failed careers”, he wrote. Another characteristic was “straggly beards”, “half-way between designer stubble and a real beard” and “probably indicative of a hormone deficiency”.

When the university’s pro-chancellor has to apologise for the bollocks he’s been spounting, you wonder if he should move to Goldsmiths College in London. I’m sure he and Bahar Mustafa would get on really, really well….

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Culture Wars Battle of the Week

Bahar MustafaThis week’s social media outrage is all about Bahar Mustafa, the Diversity Officer for the Student Union of Goldsmiths College in London. First there was some controversy surrounding a diversity event from which white men were excluded, which quite probably got blown up out of all proportion. Then there were some allegedly offensive posts on Twitter using the #KillAllWhiteMen hashtag.

Now it’s all over the media, and she could end up losing her job.

Her defence of her behaviour isn’t helping.

She then defended her position on camera, saying ethnic minority women cannot be racist as they “do not stand to gain” from inequality.

Now I know that the American-originated Critical Race Theory redefines racism as “prejudice plus power”. But that not what the word means in common everyday usage in the wider world. Not only that, Britain’s laws on racial discrimination use the older and more widely understood definition.

But she added the uses of hashtags such as “kill all white men” on her personal account were “in-jokes and ways that many people in the queer feminist community express ourselves”.

Ah yes, the old “It’s just banter” defence. That worked so well when used by racist footballers. My own use of social media follows the principle “Never say on Twitter what you can’t justify to your employer or your mum”. That would have been good advice for Bahar Mustafa, or indeed anyone in a highly visible public position.

At this point it would be easy to paint Bahar Mustafa as a bad actor in the same vein as Lutfur Rahman or Benjanun Sriduangkaew. But a more charitable explanation might be that she simply lacks the self-awareness to realise how her remarks could be interpreted outside the self-referential bubble of academic leftism.

If there is a genuine need for so-called “safe spaces” for minorities at Goldsmiths College, then surely it ought to possible to articulate the reasons for them without using risible canards that play into the hands of white racism.

On the other hand you do wonder whether the middle-class identity politics that constantly casts white men rather than the wealthy elites as the villains actually achieves much when it comes to tackling serious structural inequality. When taken out of academia into the real world, it certainly won’t be terribly effective at winning over the traditional working-class vote that progressive forces need if they are ever to win elections and form governments.

Still, calls for Bahar Mustafa to be prosecuted are utterly ridiculous. As to whether she gets to keep her job is a matter for her employer, Goldsmiths College Student’s Union, not a mob of random people on the internet with virtual torches and pitchforks.

And nobody deserves death threats, no matter who they offend.

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Zero She Flies – Small Mercies

Zero She Flies new single is now released as a download from Bandcamp, CDBaby and Amazon.

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There are some questions for which “Ziltoid the Omniscient” is the only possible answer. Because bonkers prog-metal sci-fi concept album about the daydreams of a bored barista.

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Marc Atkinson leaves Ghost Community

Ghost Community LogoGhost Community is a progressive rock supergroup comprising of former and current members of The Reasoning, Riversea, Also Eden and Godsticks, currently working on their début album.

Unfortunately, as announced on the band’s Facebook page, Riversea’s Marc Atkinson is withdrawing from the project because of time commitments.

“It’s with a heavy heart that I had to bow out of my position as lead vocalist for GHOST COMMUNITY. When I first got involved with the project I was expecting it more to be an ‘album based/recording’ outfit rather than a band that was going to be gigging too heavily so I thought I’d be able to juggle the recording work and a few gigs here and there with my already busy and booked solo acoustic live work. As time went on, however, I began to realise that I wouldn’t be able to play as many live shows as the rest of the guys were hoping to perform. I knew that if I stayed with the project I’d eventually be in a position where I’d be letting the rest of the band down and holding them back as far as live work was concerned. So I decided it was in the band’s best interest if I pulled out of the project before we got any further down the creative route. I hope to be still involved with the band in a smaller capacity by helping out with backing vocals for the album and I’m also pleased to hear the group will be hopefully using a few of the vocal melodies I wrote during the initial song writing sessions. I greatly enjoyed my brief time working with the guys in GHOST COMMUNITY and wish them nothing but success for the future… We’re all in this together…”

His replacement will be John Paul Vaughan, who had previously worked with Matt Cohen in the 1990s in a band called Unbroken Spirit.

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RPG theory is a load of cobblers.

PolyhedralsSome recent attempts by one or two outspoken and polarising game designers to rewrite history has brought up an old post from 2009 chronicling the rise and fall of RPG Theory.

In short, RPG theory is a load of cobblers.

It started out with a handful of uncontroversial truths. It’s true that specific game mechanics encouraging certain styles of play. And having setting and rule elements that reinforce one another tends to result in a better game; we can all name plenty of games that failed due to a mismatch between the game mechanics and the setting. And baroque cruft-ridden complexity in either rules or setting is not a good thing.

But Ron Edwards and The Forge took it way beyond that, building a massive pseudo-intellectual house of cards out of incomprehensible jargon and undisguised contempt both for the vast majority of successful games and the people who actually enjoyed playing them. They styled themselves as the RPG equivalent of the punk movement in music, overthrowing what they considered as the pompous and overblown games of the generation before. But it was a punk movement without the equivalent of any three minute bursts of stripped-down primal rock’n'roll, which was ultimately the only good thing about Punk. Imagine no “Anarchy in the UK”, but keeping Sounds’ infamous one-star review of Pink Floyd’s “The Wall” and the iconoclastic bloviating of Julie Burchill and Tony Parsons. That was The Forge.

Saying that, I own and have played a few of the small-press games that came out of The Forge, and there were some enjoyable one-shot games of Inspectres and Primetime Adventures at Stabcons. But when you look at what actually happened in the game sessions the play experience wasn’t radically different from many a more traditional game. But none of these games really gave the impression they had the depth needed to sustain a satisfying long-term campaign, and more importantly none of them ever seemed to be much more that fifteen-minute wonders. Are there still people playing “Dogs in the Vineyard” in 2015?

A decade on it’s an open question as to the lasting influence of The Forge. Did Ron Edwards’ notoriety obscure more subtle influences on following generations of games? Or was The Forge largely irrelevant to people who make and play games rather than just talk about them on the internet? Certainly many have suggested the success of the fifth edition of Dungeons & Dragons was down to their purging of Forgeist taint that had allegedly ruined the fourth edition. I’m not entirely convinced of that one myself. But do other successful games like FATE or Cortex Plus rely some of the “narrativist” ideas, or did they just develop independently?

And who was responsible for killing off GURPS?

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IOEarth – New World

She was lost in the forest, when suddenly…. A prog band started playing. IOEarth’s long-awaited third album “New World” is now available for pre-order.

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