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As all that is solid melts to air and everything holy is profaned...

Saturday, April 28, 2012

McCullochs of Galloway family history

Found this detailed (488 pages) McCulloch family history on Scribd.

A History of the Gallowat Families of McCulloch

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Mirrors shatters in formless reflections

This  video uses music taken from Greyfolded, created by  John Oswald based on multiple (51) versions  of Dark Star by the Grateful Dead  recorded over 24 years- between 1968 and 1992. The end result is 105 minutes long. It is magnificent and majestic.

And here is some more...

Saturday, April 21, 2012

The Mob on vinyl 16th July 2012

Original art work for Let the Tribe Increase by The Mob. 

This is latest news from Overground Records:
The Mob 'Let The Tribe Increase' gets a limited edition vinyl release on July 16th. Packed in a gatefold cover it'll feature the original full colour artwork that didn't make it onto the All The Madmen pressing.

I remember sitting in the kitchen at [Kill Your Pet] Puppy Mansions with Mark Wilson of The Mob working out how much it would cost to make an album and jotting down some figures for recording costs, pressing  costs etc. Mark then went to see Rough Trade who said they wold cover the pressing and printing costs if he could find the recording costs. I chipped in some money as did Mick Lugworm... and Let the Tribe Release was born..

UPDATE - just found out that the above pic will be on the inside and the original as released front and back sleeve on the outside. Some text I wrote for the Overground cd re-release will also be included. Which I am rather chuffed about...

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Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Punk Desert Island Discs

I was asked to come up with my Punk Desert Island Discs for the Ripped and Torn [punk fanzine 1976-1979] website.

After going through boxes of old punk singles trying to choose my favourites I tried a different approach- choosing my favourite pre-punk songs, counting down to punk as Year Zero.

You can see my (not-so punk) Desert Island Discs here. 

I had to miss out record minus1which would have been a track by Ozrics Tentacles.

-1. Ozric Tentacles Mescalito from Tantric Obstacles and Erpsongs released in 1984/5.
In late summer/ early autumn 1985 I was living in a field  at Greenlands farm just outside Glastonbury. I had gone there to take part in a meeting to discuss the future of Stonehenge Free Festival. Also on the farm were survivors of the eviction of Molesworth Peace Camp in February 1985 and the Battle of the Beanfield in June 1985. Most of their trucks and buses still bore the scars of the Beanfield. I don’t recall there being many punks there, most of the ‘new-age travellers’ were a few years older and had missed out on punk as they travelled around the free-festival circuit from 1976 onwards. A few were sixties veterans. It was quite an intense experience, such that these days all it takes is a whiff of wood smoke from a camp fire to set off  an altered state of consciousness. One day Ozrics Tentacles turned up and played. Their music looked back to the psychedelic experimentations of the late sixties and early seventies, but a few years later merged smoothly into the more trancey techno styles of acid house dance music. I didn’t hear their music again until recently when I downloaded a few of their albums which I listen to for hours at a time while writing/thinking.

Also Riders on the Storm by The Doors (to represent  listening to pirate radio stations in the sixties/ early seventies and I Can See for Miles by the Who to represent  sixties pop/rock.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Ripped and Torn 1976-1979

I moved to London on 2 January 1979 to work for the London Rubber Company, purveyors of rubber sex wear to the masses, or Durex condoms as they are/were also known. [London Rubber no longer exists, but the Durex brand still does]. I had spent 1977/8 working for the company in Gloucestershire as a very minor clerical cog in the construction of a rubber glove making plant which was being sent out to Malaysia.

LRC as they were called were planning further expansion and I was going to work/ train as a draughtsman in a new Project Engineering department. This was, of course, before the election of Margaret Thatcher. As it turned out, the economic policies of the Thatcher government destroyed a large part of the UK's traditional manufacturing industries. So instead of expansion, there was contraction and the factory I had first started working in was closed in 1981. It was 'The End'...

Engineering department of London Rubber's Lydney, Gloucestershire factory in November 1978. I am  3rd from right in front row. Photo shows the last section of rubber glove plant exported to Malaysia.

Meanwhile [lacking the benefit of corporate hindsight] London Rubber decided I had to be trained as an engineer so was sent on day release and evening classes to Waltham Forest College. I worked 8 to 4 and evening classes started at 6 so I had time to waste in Walthamstow one day a week. While living in Gloucestershire I had started buying my punk singles and albums from Small Wonder of Hoe Street in Walthamstow's notorious red light district. This was only a short distance from the college, so for the next 3 years I haunted Small Wonder for an hour or so every Wednesday evening.[I then moved on to study at Middlesex Polytechnic, now University.]

Eventually, since I was a such a regular customer, I became friendly with Pete and Mari Stennett who ran Small Wonder.As well as an amazing collection of punk, Small Wonder also sold fanzines. Most were pretty dire. One, however, was not. It was called Ripped and Torn. I bought No.17 and read it with extreme enthusiasm. What I did not know at the time was that Tony D who wrote Ripped and Torn had been influenced by influences which had influenced me - as this quote from the R & T website reveals...

But I was thinking further afield and had a heedful of hippy trails and people bumming around Europe. In the basement of the squatted pub in Frestonia there was stored collections of Hippy magazines and in  through 1977 and 1978 I read my way through just about all of the Oz and Its in the place.
Back in 1974, a copy of the infamous School Kids OZ had turned up on the school bus I used to get from Castle Douglas to Kirkcudbright [in ultra rural south-west Scotland] which I acquired for £1...apart from the music of Hawkwind and the Pink Fairies, this was my first contact with the underground. counterculture. Later (summer 1976) I visited London and bought a whole stack of old OZs and ITs and Frendz. Then punk happened and what had seemed so radical so recently became yesterdays news. And yet... however much the sound and fury of punk grabbed me, I was still entranced by the psychedelic politics, radical (green) technology and free festivals of the counterculture.  

Reading Ripped and Torn 17 was a revelation. [I still have my copy somewhere, but it is 1 am and would take an age to extract from 30 years of boxed archives in the cupboard under the stairs...] ...
zero population growth is a phrase I recall, but it was  the style and the feel of the zine which inspired as much as the actual contents. It was punk as a radical underground movement rather than punk as a fleeting youth subculture.

So I returned to my bedsit room in the suburbs [Ilford in Essex] and bashed out a Letter to the Editor on my newly purchased mechanical typewriter and fired it off to R & T c/o Rough Trade (?)...but never got a reply. So instead, after encountering Throbbing Gristle at a gig but on by Pete Stennet's mate Colin Favour, I began corresponding with them (Cosy) via official London Rubber headed stationary...which got me an equally official reprimand when one of Cosy's replies was opened by the Works Engineer's secretary.

I did get to meet  Tony D in late 1979 in a pub next to Conway Hall, Red Lion Square via the Persons Unknown Anarchist Conspiracy Trial Support Group. This was at the same time that he launched a new project called Kill Your pet Puppy. It turned out he had got my letter but it then went astray after the eviction of  the squat [Covent Garden?] he was staying in... So I wrote another letter and it was published in KYPP 2. One thing led to another and I ended up quitting London Rubber in 1983  [although I had advanced to the status of Trainee Project Engineer, thanks to M. Thatcher there were no projects left to train for or engineer  so I ended up in quality control checking condoms and rubber  gloves for holes] to become 'manager' of the Mob's record company All the Madmen.

After further adventures too numerous to mention, in 1997 I moved back to my home town of Castle Douglas and in 2005 started this blog. It was, as the title suggests, meant to be about the Greening of Galloway- windmills and organic farming etc... but the first blog post I wrote 1 March 2005 was 'In the beginning there was punk' - which Mark Wilson of the Mob commented positively on, so I kept going on a punk/ counterculture theme. Two years later Kill Your Pet Puppy went online and I have posted a few articles on that site.

Now, 33 years since I first read R & T, I have been asked to write for the Ripped and Torn online site. But what can I say that I have not said before? Unlike KYPP, R & T was part of the pre-Thatcher era of punk, was part of punk in its primal phase. Part of punk as the antithesis of the late sixties/ early seventies counterculture, part of punk as the shock of the new. It was fierce and dangerous, packed with an explosive  mixture of unresolved contradictions. I was 18 in 1976. This year I will be 54. Even my youngest child is 21,older now than I was then. It will be quite a challenge to re-embrace the spirit of 76. But what is life without challenges? Pretty boring, pretty vacant I guess. In the meantime here is the first punk single I bought.


Thursday, April 12, 2012

Gaelic in Galloway Part One- Expansion

This article has now been published in the Transactions of the Dumfriesshire and Galloway Natural History and Antiquarian Society Third Series Volume 85 (2011)

Gaelic in Galloway Part One 2012

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Organic rationality

Autonomous Terrace by Clifford Harper 1976

The Spectacle of Mineralisation.

Through time, what is rational becomes a reality and what is a reality becomes rational.

The Guardian has just discovered  Society of the Spectacle  45 years after it was first published.

I first read Society of the Spectacle around 1977 and it has been a significant influence on me, but reading the comments on the (3) Guardian pieces, I found I had nothing much to say about it.. Why? Probably because a few years ago  I found  that Debord  had managed to re-cycle a lot of Marx in Soc. Spec.  It is a complicated story, but in essence I found  a connection from local (Galloway. South west Scotland) history to early industrial (1790-1830) Manchester which took me on to Engel’s links to 1840s Manchester then on to Marx and backwards to Hegel.

Finally, at the beginning of this year I read ’Energy and the English  Industrial Revolution’ be E. A. Wrigley  which distinguished between ‘organic’ and ‘mineralised’ economies. By ‘mineralised’ Wrigley means economies which exploit fossil fuels as industrial energy sources. Such economies/ societies are liberated from the constraints which ‘organic’ (human, animal, wood, wind and water powered) economies/ societies operate under. The shift to mineral (coal then oil) sources of energy transformed the political economy of the societies which used these sources of energy. Capitalism was one outcome of this transformation.

Last year I wrote  37 000 words of an ‘outline’ in an attempt to work through the implications. I stopped before reaching a conclusion. There was a lot of repetition in the writing. I would start on a theme but would always end up back at the industrial revolution and mineralisation. The ability to turn coal into mechanical energy changed the world. Changed ourselves. The immense energy released created an explosion of knowledge. The explosion has also ripped the world apart, threatening a catastrophic (as in irreversible) collapse of  the relatively stable climate conditions which have prevailed  for the past 10 000 years. That is, since the end of the last ice age. This period includes  all known human ’civilisations’, all of recorded human history.

A problem is that apocalyptic thinking is usually religious and hence irrational. So although the science of global warming is rational, its findings appear to be irrational and so there is a tendency to discount them. There is conflict between  short-term and long term rationality. It is similar to the personal rationality of our mortality. We all know that we will one day die, but do not let this fact get in the way of living our lives. So we are used to effectively ignoring the actuality of our mortality and so discount the possibility of some dreadful event happening in the future.

Another problem is that to take any effective steps away from the mineralised economy and society involves questioning its purpose. This is politically dangerous since, as Debord suggests, it has no purpose other than its own reproduction. So any break with business as usual brings with it the fear of a breakdown of society. That the modern world  is an empty charade in which most ‘work’ is meaningless labour.

Is there a problem here with rationality?  If religious beliefs are rejected, how do we find some other meanings for our lives around which to structure meaningful - future oriented - societies? This is more difficult than finding purpose and meaning in our individual lives. I think this was the problem Hegel was working on. He saw rationality emerging as we became historically self-conscious and tried to follow this through into a form of rational society. He did this before the effects of mineralisation had become apparent beyond a few regions in Britain. Without mineralisation, the problem would have become more rapidly apparent as existing organic societies reached their economic limits. Mineralisation displaced the problem in a wave of global economic expansion which seemed to have no limits. Societies became focused on ‘growth’ and the irrational (as explained by Marx) belief that everyone would therefore become wealthier.
The purpose of societies therefore became to increase economic activity.

The limits of growth are now being reached and the future will involve an increase in poverty. The most likely prospect is a return to forms of religious superstition and irrationality. The Age of Reason will be over. But is this a rational age? If mineralisation was irrational, then it is not. Or rather, assuming science to be rational, it has harnessed  rationality to irrational (economic) ends. Since Hegel was the product of a still organic society, a future organic society could be rational rather than religious.

To condense Hegel -  Through time, what is rational becomes a reality and what is a reality becomes rational.

There is an evolutionary aspect to this process. Through time, all forms of life have to adapt to what is real; that is to environments which are the product of rational (not created by a god) physical processes. In so doing forms of life affect and influence  their environments. This changes the environments requiring further adaptations. Which in turn affect environments/ eco-systems. Thus once begun, evolution is a continual process. Life itself is a product of physical processes, so they contain its potential.

Since the human species is a form of life, our existence is also contained within the potential of physical processes. Through the many branches of science which have developed over the past 200 years, we know that physical processes can be rationally  understood. They are natural rather than supernatural in origin. The universe we live in is a rational and comprehensible universe.  To the extent that past organic (as in Wrigley’s use of the word) societies were successful, they were rational, adapting themselves to the limits and constraints of their environments. However, to the extent that such adaptations were evolutionary - based on the accumulation of successful random innovations - they were not self-consciously rational. History is littered with extinct civilisations and societies, indications of the limits of human understandings of the world.

The problem seems to be that in the short (on evolutionary/ geological/ universal timescales) run, irrationality can prosper before reality prevails and an empire falls. During the ascent of an empire, questioning its ability to endure seems irrational. In the phase of expansion, previous constraints are overcome and a new reality is imposed. The process of mineralisation has taken this historical observation  beyond all previously imaginable limits. But is it rational to believe that the ability to exploit fossilised sources of concentrated solar energy has ‘liberated’ humanity from the constraints of organic rationality?

No it is not, since the mineral sources of energy which power our world are organic in origin. The constraints of organic rationality have not been overcome, they have simply been displaced into the near future.

To conclude. Debord’s Society of the Spectacle is a re-visioning of Marx’ Society of the Commodity which in turn was based on a turning upside down of Hegel’s Society of the Rational. Marx and Debord lived within a mineralised economy and believed that its rationality had replaced the organic rationality of  the  society Hegel lived in. We can now see that the mineralised economy and the societies it allowed to develop was a temporary rather than permanent reality. Therefore, rather than attempt to address its irrationality , we need to prepare to rationalise/ turn into reality a future organic economy and society.

Since this was the task Hegel set himself, his work is a useful starting point. The future is organic. The future is rational. The future is real.

Monday, April 09, 2012

Osprey eating a fish

Alistair junior  saw the male osprey this morning 9 April 2012 near nest no. 2 We have not seen the female osprey for the past three days.
Male osprey eating near nest no.2  9 April 2012

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Thursday, April 05, 2012

Female osprey back at Threave, Castle Douglas 5 April

Female and male osprey Threave nest, Castle Douglas  5 April
My son saw the female osprey at the Threave castle, Castle Douglas nest this morning, Thursday 5 April 2012.

This is great news, since  we were worried that the male had returned but not the female.

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Monday, April 02, 2012

Osprey in flight Threave, Castle Dougls 2 April 2012

Osprey in flight Threave, Castle Douglas 2 April 2012
 My son took these photos of the Threave/ Castle Douglas osprey flying off from the nest this morning. I was out at the nest site this afternoon but did not see the osprey.
Osprey in flight part 2 Threave, Castle Douglas 2 April

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Sunday, April 01, 2012

Osprey on nest Threave, Castle Douglas 1 April

Osprey stretching wings  Threave, Castle Douglas  1 April 2012.
Went out to Threave early this morning and took more photos of the male osprey on the nest. While I was there three crows came right up to the nest. The crows have been picking up pieces of fish dropped by the osprey when he is feeding.

Three crows and osprey at nest Threave, Castle Douglas 1 April 2012.

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