Author: Matthew Barlow

Captain Charles Boycott and the First Boycott

Last week I wrote a post about the conundrum we face in dealing with President Trump, hockey rumours, and global warming.  The basic problem is the response of us as individuals, and our feelings of powerlessness, vs. the fact that we can band together to form interest groups in response.  In the case of the latter, I always think of the original boycott. The original boycott occurred in 1880 in County Mayo, Ireland.  Captain Charles Boycott lent his name to a campaign against him by the Irish Land League.  The Land League was a political organization in late 19th century Ireland with the goal of alleviating the plight of poor Irish tenant famers.  The League’s ultimate goal was to abolish the great landowners of Ireland to allow these poor tenant farmers to own the land they worked.  The Irish Land League was a central component in the radicalization of Catholic/Nationalist Ireland in the second half of the 19th century, following its mobilization by Daniel O’Connell in the first half of the century.  And this radicalization, of course, led ultimately to the Irish Revolution and Irish independence in the early 20th century. In 1880, Boycott was the land agent for Lord Erne in Lough Mask, Co. Mayo.  He became the object of ire of the Land League due to his enthusiasm for evicting the poor tenant farmers of Erne’s land....

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The Best Music of 2017, Part II

This is the second part of my completely subjective list of the best music of 2017.  Part I was published on Tuesday. As I noted in Part I, 2017 was a dumpster fire of a year in many ways, but there was also some brilliant music.  I don’t know about all y’all, but, for me, music is an essential component of the good life.  It is almost always playing in our house. Right now I’m listening to Kelly Lee Owens’ most excellent eponymous debut (more on that below).  Then there’s the guitars in the house.  I told a friend of mine this week that I generally do my serious music listening in the car, though.  And in 2017, I drove a lot.  I drove from our (now former home) in Southeastern Tennessee to Vancouver via New Mexico and the Southwest.  Then I drove home from Vancouver along the northern route, Idaho, Wyoming, Nebraska. It was epic.  Then we moved from Southeastern Tennessee back to Western Massachusetts.  I drove that as well. So there was a lot of time to listen to good music.  So, without further ado: Rainer Maria, S/T (Polyvinyl)  I don’t know how I never listened to Rainer Maria in their first go-round in the 00s.  But my buddy Karl got all excited about this new one on Facebook, so generally respecting his opinion (and his taste in hockey...

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The Power of the Media

Last week I posted this to Facebook, thinking it made a good point about corporate behaviour as opposed to individual behaviour.  I immediately got lambasted by several friends who argued that it is we as individuals who make change and that corporations and the media respond to us.  As far as I’m concerned this is hogwash and the height of American liberalism.  No.  We don’t control corporations.  We don’t control the  media.  We are conditioned not to. We are conditioned to purchase new things, to listen to our media.  And, sure, we can boycott. One friend lives in rural Tennessee and is doing her best to live a life of simplicity with minimal consumption.  I salute that.  I personally do not shop at Walmart due to its odious corporate behaviour vis-à-vis downtown cores around this country.  But Lydia’s actions and mine are small, a drop in the ocean.  And, yes, certainly, if we are joined in our attempts to make the world better in this sense, it would make a difference.  But, until we are numerous enough to make Walmart stop gutting the downtowns of small-town America, for example, I think we need to both carry on keeping on keeping on, but also holding the nose of corporations to the stink they create. Today, I looked briefly on Twitter and got depressed.  Trump, Trump, and more Trump.  Some of...

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The Best Music of 2017, Part I

Over New Year’s, we gathered with friends, decompressed, and tried to be optimistic.  We started referring to 2017 as a dumpster fire.  That dumpster fire followed 2016’s tire fire.  It’s been a rough couple of years, starting with the elephant in the room.  And ending with that same elephant.  We lost a lot of musicians in 2017, too.  From Chris Cornell to Chester Bennington, we also lost Chuck Berry, the rapper Prodigy, Glen Campbell, Gregg Allman, Malcolm Young, Fats Domino, and Tom Petty. And, Canada lost its de facto poet laureate, Tragically Hip frontman Gord Downie.  For a good Canadian lad like myself, losing Downie hurts.  And I hadn’t got over losing my hometown boy Leonard Cohen in 2016. But, in all of this, 2017 left behind some great music.  This is Part I of my completely subjective list of great 2017 music, though it also includes some 2016 music because I didn’t come across it until 2017.  This list is also in no particular order. Indian Handcrafts, Creeps (Sargent House)  A stoner rock duo from Brampton, Ontario, Indian Handcraft’s 2012 album, Civil Disobedience for Losers, has remained on constant play around here for the past 5 years.  Creeps continues on their formula of heavy, sludgy, melodic heavy stoner rock.  Highly recommended. Slow Season, Mountains (Riding Easy Records)  A devastating collection of hard rocking, hard hitting rawk music.  Best suited to pissing off the...

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Fake News, Lies, Worldviews and Liberal Smugness

A good friend of mine, Audie, is back home in Trump Country for the holidays. In this case, Trump Country is in southern Kentucky, about an hour from Nashville. He reports that all his buddies back home think that the Flynn Affair is all just Fake News. Audie used to be a tea partyer. In fact, that’s how I met him. We began with an argument on Twitter, but, instead of the usual name-calling and talking past each other, we had a real discussion within the limits of the old 140 character maximum. From that, when I moved to the US the following year, 2012, I got the idea to do a research project examining the far right of the US political spectrum and its view of US history, most notably the Revolution and Civil War. I was living just outside of Boston at the time and I was struck by how different the tea party’s view of the Revolution was from mine, as a professor of American history. In the process of the research, which I did via social media (primarily Twitter, Facebook, and Reddit), I got to meet some truly fascinating people. This includes birthers, un-Reconstructed Southerners, conspiracy theorists, libertarians who felt all tax was theft. I met a doctor-cum-businessman in Texas who claimed to understand both the Scriptures in Aramaic and Hebrew, as well as the...

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