Monthly Archives: September 2008

Ed Husain: Muslim hero or government stooge?

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After recently reading Ed Husain’s [controversial] memoir, The Islamist, and then reading its myriad criticisms, I was prepared to throw my own opinion into the pond. Luckily, I came across this blog and realised that there is so much I just don’t know. My stance, however, would have been purely from a sociological perspective, as I know nothing about Islam and am not in a position to argue. Perhaps it would help if people stepped away from their Islamophobia and took this purely for what it is: a social movement of its time. Religious fundamentalism, whether Islamic, Christian or otherwise, is an ideology that grips people not because they are a part of that religion, or are bad people in any way, but because of the power of the situation (O, Zimbardo…).

Or, for a different view, see Human Nature

Notes: identity, group dynamics

I am way too tired to think right now.

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Burlesque, Vintage and the Return to Folk

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Last month, the Institute of Ideas organised a discussion about the recent folk revival. Sadly, the panel didn’t answer any important questions and spent two hours passionately trying to gnaw each others’ heads off, as you do. But the fact that the Institute of Ideas found folk music worthy of a debate has to be worth something.

This is not really the point though. I would love to go into the history of folk music in the 20th century but I don’t have time to do the research. I can only speculate that the appreciation of folk music over the past century has risen and fallen with changing social values, gaining attention and popularity in times of social unrest, and fading into the background in more stable times. As Sixto Rodriguez said not too long ago, ‘When times are good, music goes down, and when times are bad, music goes up, because people need art forms.’ [Dazed & Confused #65] The history of modern American folk begins with the Great Depression, and then peaks again in the 1960s, giving us the likes of Bob Dylan. The most recent revival brings us unlikely chart-climbers like Fleet Foxes, and indie favorties like Tunng, Devendra Banhart, Johnny Flynn and Jenny Owen Youngs. But why now? Could this be the beginnig of the revolution we’ve been waiting for? Maybe it’s just me but for a good decade now I’ve been haunted by the feeling that there is something terribly wrong with the world: People have become apathetic. Unrealistic desires have arisen out of celebrity worship and nobody (myself included) gives a shit about Iraq. Maybe people are finally growing weary of throwaway consumerism, Rihanna and airport security paranoia. With the slowing economy, maybe it’s time to savour what really matters.

This summer also marks the revival of another British folk tradition: music hall. With mixed reviews, Barr’s ‘Wink the Other Eye’ had a short run at Wilton’s Music Hall, the ancient venue’s first music hall show since 1880.

Angus Barr pays earnest homage to the forgotten era of the music hall. Though the somewhat ramshackle nature of the evening is part of its allure-a jaunty singalong here, a roly-poly there, a dramatic re-enactment yonder-the whole enterprise is undermined by poor acoustics, challenging sightlines, a final act that’s 40 minutes too long and a very patchy narrative.
[TimeOut, August 7-13, 2008, No. 1981]

OK, so it’s a shaky revival, but a revival nonetheless. I don’t yet see a way for music hall to make a comeback in its original form. Burlesque, or neo-burlesque, on the other hand is taking the world by storm. Dita von Teese has suddenly become a role model, placed alongside Kate Moss in this month’s issue of Glamour:Old-time glamour has surreptitiously filtered into mainstream women’s glossies as if it had always been there:


I’m also excited to announce that burlesque performer Miss Polly Rae and her Hurly Burly Girlys have been offered a shot at the West End, a notable addition to their residency at the Soho Revue Bar.

I think I got it all out of my system now. It appears as though there’s some kind of unspoken collective desire to revert back to simpler times.