The Obscurer

White Light / White Heat

Chemical weapons is yet another subject on which I have little knowledge. I know they are bad things, and illegal, but that is about it. As a result I have kept out of the debate over the use of white phosphorus in Iraq. If more knowledgeable people (not difficult) defend it’s use by saying that it is an incendiary rather than a chemical weapon, and that its use can be legal, then I have to take that on trust.

What doesn’t seem to be in doubt however is just what an unpleasant substance it is, and what a hideous effect it can have when it comes in contact with skin. For me it seems strange that when pro-war bloggers have defended its use (Scott Burgess at The Daily Ablution in particular has gone into great detail, and has summarised his views at Tech Central Station) there doesn’t appear to have been any disquiet at all in doing so. Rather than tackle the morality of using the ammunition in the way the Pentagon has now admitted, the pro-war commentator have instead picked holes in the opposing arguments. That is fine as far as it goes – to correct errors and deceits, to tackle the moral equivalence of comparing the use of WP with the chemical attack at Halabja – but it doesn’t deal with the principal concern that “our side” has used a weapon that burns the flesh off peoples’ bodies. Just saying that we are not as bad as Saddam doesn’t really cut it with me; it’s not a great defence.

In a strange inversion, and in contrast to the pro-war arguments made in the run up to the war, there has been no plea to the moral high ground on this one; those arguments have been sidelined. Rather we have heard plenty about technical definitions, and a detailed insistence on the weapons legality as enshrined in international conventions. Ironic, really, to compare then with now. Ah well, any port in a storm.


Steve over at Occupied Country looks to have a bit of a meme in the making. Inspired by Word magazine he suggests you set your iPod or MP3 player to shuffle and see what comes out.
The problem in my case is that I don’t have an iPod of my own, rather I have half inched a half gig or so of my wife’s; furthermore, if you were to draw a Venn diagram of our musical tastes you would find only a tiny overlap where it says The Divine Comedy (although with the exception of Pixies and Pavement my wife is generally more tolerant of my music collection than I am of hers). So with that in mind, let’s see how it goes.

1. Joss Stone – You Got Me
One of my wife’s. You probably know this song already, if you know any of Joss Stone’s stuff at all. She can certainly carry a tune and this song follows the usual funky, soulful pattern of her output. It’s alright; I can take it or leave it, but given a choice I would leave it. Next.

2. Robert Johnson – I’m A Steady Rollin’ Man
As promised in this post, I finally bought my Robert Johnson CD and loaded it on the iPod, and the iPod thanked me by putting it second on the shuffle. This song is not one I am that familiar with, but it is instantly recognisable as the great man himself. Sure, most of his songs sound pretty much the same, following the rough and raw 12 bar blues template so beloved, but when the template sounds this good, why muck about with it?

3. David Gray – We’re Not Right
Another one of my wife’s; my heart sank when it popped on the iPod and I anticipated the usual David Gray dirge. I thought about skipping it, but when I saw its running time is less than 3 minutes long I decided to give it a try; and I am glad I did. Gray really seems to sing with feeling on this one, the song fair clips along with a great fuzzy bass line and what even sounds like a theramin solo. Perhaps I’d better give him another chance.

4. Crowded House – Not The Girl You Think You Are
One of “my” bands, but this is really a joint favourite. Their final single, I think, and one of their best, full of melodies reminiscent of Lennon, as usual. It provides many memories for me of the Hole in’t Wall pub in Bowness-on-Windermere which featured this song on its jukebox for many years, and which we played to death whenever we stayed in the Lakes.

5. Eliza Carthy – Willow Tree
Another one of my wife’s choices, but one I really like. Inspired by watching a BBC Four documentary on Martin Carthy and his family, we bought his daughter Eliza’s CD Anglicana and took it down to Cornwall when we holidayed there a few years back. The folky sound of the album was spot on while we stayed in a cottage in the middle of the countryside during a baking hot summer, and this up-tempo track was probably my favourite. There is a downside to listening to this CD however; once it gets into your head it is impossible not to slip into singing made-up-on-the-spot cod folk songs at the drop of a hat.

So perhaps our musical tastes aren’t too incompatible after all. Mind you, the next track up on the iPod was a 10 minute offering from Dido, definitely one of my wife’s choices, and someone who I cannot abide; so perhaps we just struck lucky.

So there you have it; give it a go yourself or don’t bother, as you see fit. It’s up to you.

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