Monthly Archives: October 2011

Review: Dry the River

Rosie Wilson suggests the band are worth your attention

Dry The River, who supported Bombay Bicycle Club at the O2 on Cowley Road on Tues 11th, are a band on the brink of big things. They’ve already supported Johnny Flynn and Stornoway, and this most recent performance has shown that they deserve to be supported rather than supporting.

The five-piece form a formidable stage presence – they may have a violin, but they make Mumford and Sons look positively weedy (not a particularly mean feat, it’s true – but in any case, there are many more tattoos and far fewer plaid shirts). Their songs combine delicate harmonies with a harsher edge that even inspired a bit of moshing nearer the front. The stand-out songs were ‘New Ceremony’ and ‘Lion’s Den’ with both forming the culmination of their set.

The former is a grandiose affair, with a driving rhythm that gives it an anthem-like quality. ‘Lion’s Den’ was accompanied by a deranged lighting display (thrashing white beams) that toughened up the rather earnest lyrics (‘Night descended/Like a blanket on the house/Where I miss you, like a limb’). The ferocity of the final few riffs seemed to be borne out of a real intensity, provoking well-earned approval from the audience. Highly recommended.

4/5

Designer Profile – Louise Gray

Who?
Louise Gray is one of a number of young Scottish designers who stormed the runways of London Fashion Week this year. She has an academic background in textile design and fashion studies, having achieved a BA in Textile Design at the  Glasgow School of Art and then an MA in this field at Central Saint Martins. After graduating she threw herself into the world of fashion and was recruited by Fashion East, where she met her ‘fairy godmother’ and mentor Lulu Kennedy. Her collections have received both international and mainstream acclaim, and she was recently invited to create a jewellery line for Asos Inc. Gray made her Fashion Week debut in February earlier this year and has already been tipped for great success, especially following the critical response to her S/S 2012 collection, entitled ‘Trust Me’.

Key Design Features
- clashing colours and prints
– rich textures
– maximalism
– hints of and references to Scotland
– a playful approach to size and realism

Musical Equivalent
Girl Unit or Sleigh Bells – a riot of colour, print, personality and pattern

High-Street Equivalent
Desigual meets Urban Outfitters

She says…
‘Everything matches if you like it.’

We say…
We love how Louise Gray makes what should be hideous and jarring just work – from brocade and frills on shrunken jackets to oversized bows adorning ringleted hair to frilly ankle socks with platforms. There’s a certain daring and playfulness in her designs; something which is a breath of fresh air in an industry which can sometimes be a bit po-faced.

Kindle-ing an online publishing revolution?

“Hermione Hermione” it was Draco calling her from behind. She turned around and saw him standing there in from of him. She suddenly felt a shiver down her spine and went bright red; her knees felt wobbly and before she knew it she has collapsed onto her knees. She quickly got back up again.

Reading the majority of online fiction, it is perhaps not surprising that it isn’t held in the highest esteem.  But in amongst the Snape/Lily erotica, 9/11 conspiro-dramas and emo poetry, there are hints that the publishing world might be approaching something of a revolution.

Any aspiring novelist will know that it is astoundingly hard to get a foot on the publishing ladder.  Top publishing houses will only take writers who have secured representation from an agent, and top agents reject almost 99% of the approaches they receive.  It’s no wonder that writers are seeking to get published online.

Traditionally, ‘vanity presses’ required the author to pay the full costs of publishing, leaving them the preserve of the rich and the vain.  However the internet has changed everything, with online services ranging from massive fan-fiction platforms to webshops that print and deliver hard copies of books as and when they are ordered.

With all these possibilities, it’s unsurprising that this new market caters for a large range of different writers.  Local historians whose work only appeals to a very small market; precocious teens with sprawling fantasy epics; middle-aged English graduates desperate to restart their creative flow: all are embracing the online publishing revolution.

And with the intervention of Kindle Direct Publishing, it’s now becoming possible to use the internet to turn a profit.  American John Locke has caused a stir by publishing his CIA Thrillers via Kindle, and soaring up the charts. At one point last year he simultaneously held four of the top 10 spots on the Amazon/Kindle chart, and has sold over a million e-books in total.  His unique selling point is price: he sells his books for just $0.99 allowing him to compete with chart-toppers such as One Day and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.  Picking up only 35 cents per copy, his earnings are now well into six figures.

Of course, for every success story there are literally hundreds of failures.  One online author told us her experiences of the industry.  “Online publishing is a bit of a lottery – while there are occasional diamonds, you have to sift through thousands of books which range from a travesty to simply horrendous.”  She added she was keen to make the leap across to a more conventional publishing route.

Clearly big publishing houses have a prestige, and there is certainly still a sense that self-publishing is a second-best option for those who would otherwise be in a reject pile.  Nonetheless in a literary marketplace that is often criticised for becoming increasingly generic, maybe breaking the traditional publishing mould might not be such a bad thing.  Who knows, maybe somewhere amongst the Draco/Ginny shippers is the next J.K. Rowling.

[Photo: skarpiagirl]

Is “Occupy Wall Street” a meaningful protest?

Andrew Rhodes: Occupy Wall Street is incoherent

We are the 99 percent. That’s the message of Occupy Wall Street. Thousands of individuals are currently camped out on Wall Street, and the protest has sparked imitators in over 70 cities. Over 700 people have already been arrested so far.

What are they are angry about? The message is one of resentment at corporate greed when everyone else is suffering. They are angry at the $700 billion dollar bailout which the US government gave to leading banks to prevent the collapse of the world economy. They are angry there is no remorse among those they see as responsible for the recession.

What are their demands? This part is less clear. Some slogans appear like “no more bailouts”. Other demands are a mixture of unconnected things. There’s a viral video going round the internet of an Occupy Wall Street protestor calling for the end of the Federal Reserve, and a return to the gold standard. I asked a group of people involved in the Occupy the London Stock Exchange protests, what they want to change. In addition to the predictable “End capitalism” there were demands to bring back the gold standard, leave the EU and end corporate personhood. They lack a real plan for political change. They are angry at the status quo, but without a coherent alternative.

Rejecting established political processes means few options for implementing changes they want. To compare, two years ago, the Tea Party were a group of angry white men. Only when their focus shifted into electoral politics, winning control of Congress with Tea Party backed Republican candidates, and later Tea Party courting presidential nominees, did anyone take notice. The Occupy Wall Street protests seem intent on painting the political system as corrupt, with politicians in the pockets of big business. This may be true, but if you want financial reform, being angry and showing up isn’t enough. You have to pass laws, meaning a political party willing to put those laws into place.

The “Occupy” protestors have legitimate grievances at a time when everyone is suffering except the financial sector. But unless they can translate these grievances into proposals for reform, and find political parties willing to push for such reforms, they risk being ignored.

- Andrew Rhodes

April Pierce: Occupy Wall Street highlights very real problems

Wall Street profits increased by 720% between 2007-2009. At the same time, unemployment in the US increased by 102%, and home equity dropped by a startling 35%. The divide between the wealthy and the working class has been repeatedly endorsed by the organizers of Occupy Wall Street as the central theme of its public protests.

Income disparity has long been a source of quiet frustration in the United States, and this disparity has been exacerbated by the irresponsible and politically unchecked lending patterns of banks, which have lead to financial ruin and job loss for thousands of families over the last five years. But perhaps income disparity alone is not enough to explain the OWS movement. It is not just that banks have wildly lent and then withheld funds from businesses; nobody has held them responsible for their errors. Campaign finance corruption, lobbying corruption, and political trepidation concerning financial reform can all be blamed as detrimental to the health of the middle class in America.

When a protestor says “money is not speech” or “we are the 99%” their message may be targeted at “the system” but maybe that’s precisely where the problem is. Recent policy debates about corporate personhood and union rights highlight a growing concern that government is no longer a reliable avenue between the average working citizen and the resources they need to represent or even sustain themselves. Despite campaigning on the idea of political transparency and lobbying curtailment, the Obama administration has not made good on these original promises. Government, in fact, continues to rely heavily on corporate profit to finance political success.

Looking at the specific causes of income disparity, influential political and legal figures have already started to tackle the possibility of constitutional or finance reform to help bolster an ailing middle class. Lawrence Lessig, a progressive left-leaning Harvard law professor and Mark Meckler, one of the founders of the Tea Party movement, have met publicly to consider the possibility of a Constitutional Convention. Clinton’s Global Initiative has begun addressing the concern that banks are not lending despite profits. The Obama administration has recognized the concerns of the protestors as valid.

Though the measurable outcomes of the OWS movement have yet to be seen, their presence is not without significant political consequence, and their message is relevant and necessary.

-April Pierce

PHOTO/David Shankbone

Brothers and sisters unite! Literally

It is currently illegal in the United Kingdom for consenting adults who are close family members to have sex. This is absurd; we should legalise incest. Simply put: the state has no right, under any circumstances, to punish two consenting adults for having sex. And thus, to lay it in layman’s terms, I demand the right to screw my mum (or, indeed, my dad).

By far the greyest issue here is that of procreation. If two adults choose to have sex, that’s their own affair, but do they have the right to risk the health of their children? That’s a hefty gamble to take with someone else’s life. As such, there is some justification to the idea that a closely-related couple should be legally prohibited, not from having sex, but from having children.

What is simply unjustifiable is that it is not illegal for people with serious heritable diseases to procreate, which is exactly the same thing. Yet how many of you would be comfortable making it illegal for an epileptic or haemophiliac to have children? That strays dangerously close to eugenics, but if that’s your position, fine. However, you can’t have it both ways: either legalise incestuous procreation, or criminalise procreation for those with hereditary diseases.

But in cases without procreation, the issue could not possibly be more clear-cut: we have no right to put consenting adults in jail for humping.

The sole, single, solitary argument against this is almost painfully bad: “Yuck.” The thought of family members doing it disturbs me. Make it illegal.

The refutation of this argument is reassuringly simple: “Screw you.” (And I mean this very precisely.) What do you or your feelings have to do with it? The Law is not there to prevent you being disgusted. The State is not there to give you a warm, fuzzy sensation inside. The Lord Chief Justice is not a bloody teddy bear. It is not illegal to blaspheme. It is not illegal to make dead baby jokes. And, thank God, it has recently been resolved that a man having sex with another man is also not illegal, no matter how icky a thought that might be to most of you. So why on earth should consensual incest be illegal?

But why, you may ask, does this matter? This is not a personal issue – I am not campaigning to overturn my hypothetical prison sentence for porking the sister I never had, and my mum is not my type (still less my dad). Neither is it a truly pressing human rights issue – there are people in jail, unjustly, because they had sex with consenting relatives, but their cause is considerably less important than, say, the struggle against global poverty.

This issue is simply that of taking morality seriously. We tolerate too many of our society’s injustices. People starve. The greedy are rewarded for their excesses. And that’s because we have this uncanny ability to turn off unpleasant thoughts, especially when they demand that we do what’s right.

But the truth is that morality is deeply, deeply unpleasant. It demands things of us we really, really don’t want. And you know what? Morality is right, and we are wrong. If something is morally unjustifiable, and we know it is morally unjustifiable, it is simply not OK to turn your back on it, even if, especially if, it makes you feel a little squeamish. And consensual incest is a case in point: all our most deeply-held beliefs of personal freedom and an impartial State demand its legalisation; the only thing that stands against them is our complacency and our cowardice.

-David Leon

The Oxford Student

One Step Ahead Since 1991