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Blog : Posts from September 2009

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List Post Of The Week

In which we list some bands


This week’s List Post Of The Week: bands scheduled to perform at this year’s End Of The Road Festival, just completed, on the borders of Dorset and Wiltshire:*

The Acorn; Alela Dian; Iain Archer; Sam Baker; Archie Bronson Outfit; Au; Emily Barker and the Red Clay Halo; Bear Driver; Blitzen Trapper; The Boy Least Likely To; Brakes; Peter Broderick; Broken Family Band; David Thomas Broughton; Neko Case; Dirty Projectors; The Dodos; The Duke & The King; Steve Earle; Efterklang; Jess Elva; Esben and the Witch; Explosions In The Sky; First Aid Kit; Fleet Foxes; Get The Blessing; Laura Gibson; Joe Gideon and The Shark; The Hand; The Heavy; Darren Hayman; Herman Dune**; The Hold Steady; The Horrors; Beth Jeans Houghton; Huw M; Lay Low; The Leisure Society; Bob Lind; Bob Log III; Loney Dear; The Low Anthem; Magic Arm; Magnolia Electric Co; Dent May & His Magnificent Ukelele; Dan Michaelson and the Coastguards; Malcolm Middleton; Motel Motel; Mumford & Sons; The Mummers; Ohbiju; Okkervil River; The Pack AD; Charlie Parr; Josh T Pearson; Quack Quack; Richmond Fontaine; Alasdair Roberts; Dan Sartain; She Keeps Bees; Shearwater; The Sliding Rule; Soy Un Caballo; Sparrow & The Workshop; Spokes; Stardeath and White Dwarfs; Stars Of Sunday League; T-Model Ford; The Tallest Man On Earth; The Tenebrous Liar; This Frontier Needs Heroes; Holly Throsby; J Tillman; Tiny Vipers; The Travelling Band; Treecreeper; Twi The Humble Feather; Vetiver; The Week That Was; Whispertown 2000; William Elliot Whitmore; Wildbirds & Peacedrums; Wye Oak; Zun Zun Egui

* Literally so: the gardens and main stage were in Wiltshire, the camp site and other stages in Dorset.

** Formerly “Herman Düne”, of course.

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Filing System

In which it may be a good idea that FP no longer works in a library


Looking at our overstuffed bookshelves the other day, I started idly thinking about more interesting ways to file our books. It’s fairly impossible to come up with an entirely useable filing system, because of the way the shelves are stacked three-deep, so I thought it might be more fun to come up with a hard-to-use but more creative system. Filing by number of syllables in title, for example.

Any project like this, it’s important to do the cataloguing. Here are the books I could spot on our shelves* with one-syllable titles:

Tithe
Stiff
Bonk
Bitch
Lust
Prime
Fludd
and Inga Muscio’s Cu

Regular reader E Shrdlu of Clacton writes: But surely, this isn’t going to work? How are you going to find books you need for research? What about subtitles? What about factual books? I mean, surely, for easy access you’re going to need to have all books on the French Revolution in one place, and all the books on the history of the London & North Eastern Railway in another?

Well interrupted, E Shrdlu. I’m not sure it’s practical enough to be going on with. But all those books would definitely look good on a shelf together, I’d think.

* as I said, they’re stacked three rows deep, so statistics suggests we may well have three times as many

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Apologia

In which we try to justify a one-line description


Talking of Robespierre, I recently said that he was, well, one of the villains of the French Revolution. And – well, he is and he isn’t. He’s also someone who, in many ways, I admire: that’s not really a way you can describe a villain. But, having thought of the handy “for some people he’s a hero, for others he’s a villain” line, I couldn’t bring myself to call him a hero.

“Apologia”, incidentally, doesn’t mean the same as “apology”. It’s something more like “justification”. It’s possible to justify almost anything, of course;* but I think there are good reasons to say that Robespierre couldn’t really be called anyone’s hero.

Admirable, he was. For people who don’t know much about him: he was a fairly dull provincial lawyer who suddenly had a chance to thrust at power. When the King of France decided to call the Estates-General – the closest thing ancien regime France had to a parliament, but lucky to get convened once a century – he strained to get himself elected, then strained to get closer and closer to power on a platform of radical equality and socialism. He wasn’t a typical-looking revolutionary, though: always carefully-dressed, never a sans culotte and refusing to wear the red cap of liberty, he set up a new Deist state religion at the same time as trying to introduce state education. Identifying himself as the revolution personified, he became obsessed with purging France of anyone he considered counter-revolutionary: people could be executed on a rumour that they’d told a joke, with no right to defence. After one final blood-soaked month,** he was purged himself, by the other members of the National Convention, ostensibly on the grounds that he was too lenient to his friends. He was never a dictator, despite his enemies’ claims: if he had been, his death would hardly have happened in the way it did.

So why is he admirable? He started off from a point of principle – particularly, the works of Rousseau – and he never, ever compromised. It caused him problems: he refused to ever admit his mistakes, even when executing someone who had earlier been an ally. But he was the sort of politician who it’s impossible to imagine nowadays: one who said what he believed, who stood by what he believed, and could never consider compromising a policy to further his personal career. His nickname was “the Incorruptible”, and it was used as both a compliment and almost as an insult.

I could never call him a hero, though. Admirable, but not a hero, and for precisely the same reason. Although he was perfectly willing to sacrifice himself for France, he was all too willing to sacrifice other people too. If a friend disagreed with him, however close a friend, then they would end up purged for the good of the country. For the Incorruptible Robespierre, being pure and incorruptible was more important than any personal loyalty; and any form of dissent was seen as treasonable behaviour. Dissent against himself, that is, meaning the same as dissent against the Revolution itself.

Heros, I’d say, should be people you want to adore close-up. Robespierre might be admirable, but he is somebody I’d always want to stay at arms’ length from. He’s not, never could be, a black-and-white person; but if it comes down to hero or villain, then he could never ever be my hero.

* especially if you have access to a word processor.

** during which the guillotine had to be moved further and further from the centre of Paris, as the bloodflow was contaminating the water supply

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