Daily Archives: February 7, 2011

Rolling Blackouts

The Go! Team is not that well known. They are an indie collective led by a single musical genius and based in Brighton. They don’t fill stadiums around the world, but perhaps they should. Their music is a mix of samples, double-dutch chants, hip hop, and seventies TV incidental themes.

It’s hard to describe their sound because Ian Parton collects ideas like a magpie – anything he likes goes into the sound. But most of all, their music makes listeners happy. It’s like the MP3 equivalent of Prozac. The chants, the loose drumming, and the upbeat melodies never fail to make me smile. They really deserve a wider audience than European indie fans alone.

Their third album – Rolling Blackouts – just came out a week ago and it continues where they left off… but importantly they have improved their sound. The vocals are more distinct now, whereas they were sometimes lost in the mix, considered to be just one instrument amongst many.

Listening to a track like ‘Ready to go steady’ it is hard to not imagine that Phil Spector produced the album – it’s a Brighton version of the wall of sound. And this feeling is repeated throughout the album – there are so many stand-out moments it’s one of those albums that just goes on repeat.

The traditional instrumental interludes are there too. Tracks like ‘Super Triangle’ even have their own videos up on YouTube now, even though with another band these short instrumental tracks might not be considered as important as the songs.

Go! get it.

Go! Team

भारत में आपका स्वागत है

I finally arrived in India. It feels comfortable and familiar each time I arrive here. I have now been here so often that the routine at the airport and on arrival at the hotel all feel quite welcoming.

I was interested to see that the road immediately outside the international airport here is getting an upper level – there is a huge flyover being constructed that will presumably create a bypass for those cars just going past the airport. There is a very nice Hyatt hotel just outside the international airport and now this flyover is being constructed right in front of their windows – a shame for the guests there as someone up on the sixth floor will just have a view of cars now.

I’m staying in Bandra this time and there is a lot of new construction going on here too – more than I have seen in this part of Mumbai for a couple of years.

I’m surprised really that I feel quite OK today. It’s now Monday and I left São Paulo on Saturday afternoon, so my journey was around 30 hours long. I had a lot of trouble initially because BA was delayed. I was supposed to connect in London and they told me I could not make the connection to India, so they eventually rebooked me onto a Lufthansa flight.

Incredibly Lufthansa managed to find me some good seats (I always try reserving emergency exits or at least an aisle seat when on economy seats – this trip doesn’t have the budget available for business class) and vegetarian food. The crew at the airport and on the plane were really helpful – with one of the cabin crew really taking some time on board to talk about India with me and help to confirm my onward connection at Munich.

Unfortunately a bottle of cachaça that I had stowed in my luggage got broken, so a lot of my clothes ended up smelling of distilled sugar cane. It’s a good thing that laundry doesn’t cost too much in India…
Dharavi slum in Mumbai, India

Eating Animals

During my flight to India I read a book called ‘Eating Animals’ by the novelist Jonathan Safran Foer. It’s an analysis of eating meat, the customs and traditions around meat, and the methods of modern meat production – mainly focusing on the USA.

Though it sounds like a vegetarian manifesto, and the author is indeed vegetarian, he makes an effort to interview ranchers and people from the meat production industry. He even extends admiration to many of them, those who have tried to remember that the meat they are selling comes from animals who deserve some sort of life before death – rather than being considered nothing more than production units.

It made me sit and think a lot about my own vegetarianism.

I haven’t eaten meat for over twenty years now – including fish. And though I started off on that journey through distaste for meat, I matured into having stronger views on the welfare of animals that are bred for food. In particular, the fast food industry has bothered me for a long time because the concept that a McNugget was once a sentient animal is still quite remote.

Like Safran Foer, I’m not a dogmatic vegetarian. I accept that most people eat meat and probably won’t stop just because of people like me. I used to buy meat for my dog, it was the only meat I would ever have in the house. But I would need to be overly strict to enforce vegetarianism on my dog – and I made sure that it was ethically sourced meat direct from a farm producer. My wife eats meat and we have an easy arrangement where we don’t eat meat at home, but she is free to order it whenever we are eating out – it works pretty well for us both, as she doesn’t insist on meat with every meal anyway.

But reading this book made me wonder if it is enough to just refrain from eating meat.

People want cheap food and the food production industry has responded by continuously reducing the cost of food, especially meat. This process has gone so far that animals are no longer treated as living beings anymore. There is no farmer driving cattle to market or tending the flock, caring for their health before taking them to market. Food production has become an intensive industry where animals are born, raised, and killed in a factory environment – usually restrained, with artificial light, and with death coming before adolescence is complete.

Meat production has become entirely removed from any natural idea of farming. As Safran Foer points out, anyone who knows how his or her food is produced would want to change behaviour. They might not want to be a vegetarian because they either like meat too much, or they consider it culturally too much of a change to their life, or they might not be able to afford to choose more ethically sourced meat.

But anyone who sees images of how their meat is produced would almost certainly want to change something about the industry.

There are some small changes we can all make that would humanise the industry – introducing measures that at least allow the animals bred for food to enjoy some kind of life before they end up as burgers or chops. How about the major retailers insisting on an end to battery-farmed eggs? Or huge consumers of low cost meat – such as KFC or McDonald’s – taking over much of the production and slaughter process to ensure industry standards are raised?

Pressure groups like PETA are never going to get the world to go vegan, and this aim is only viable in wealthy developed countries anyway, but if the general population gets more educated about how their food is produced then some small changes could make a big difference. Not only to the lives of the animals, but also improving the food quality and reducing risk to those who eat meat.

Has anyone yet to consider the long-term effect of animals being pre-emptively medicated against disease? In the old days of farms, a sick animal would be treated. Now, all animals are fed antibiotic drugs on a daily basis so they get the drugs before becoming ill. If they do get ill then they are usually discarded. Over a period of decades, these drugs are becoming less and less effective at fighting disease because they are now in the human food chain.

Issues such as this go far beyond the cries of the animal rights activists. There is a crisis in food production waiting to happen. As more people have demanded the right to access good food, prices have dropped and production has increased, but at what point will the general meat-eating public start listening to the vegetarian movement, because their concerns start becoming aligned?

Even if their eating habits are never aligned, I’m guessing their concerns about food provenance will be fairly soon. Safran Foer’s book is a good start because it doesn’t advocate that you need to be vegetarian or concerned about animal rights to want something to change. If the public knew what was happening then surely they would all want it to change… maybe?

Meat is Murder - Lisbon