18 June 2010

World Cup Songs -- Group of Death Edition

I realize that the number of people who care as much as I do about World Cup songs can be counted on one hand, but do I let that bother me? There are literally hundreds of official and unofficial songs out there on YouTube...England alone has dozens, leading me to believe that the lead-up to the World Cup must have provided quite an economic spark to local English video production houses. As a result, I'm back with more favorites.

1. Ghana: K&Q All Stars, "Ghana Black Stars"

Enjoyed Ghana's performance against Serbia and am hoping they advance. Here's some auto-tuned West African hip-hop to spur them on.

2. England: Rik Mayall's Noble England, "World Cup Anthem 2010"

Yeah, that Rik Mayall. An "official unofficial" song...seems a bit odd but wait for the comic payoff at the end.

3. Australia: John Duffin, "Here Come the Socceroos"

The runner-up in a tv competition for an official song, and much better than the winner. Alcoholism jokes and cheerleaders!

4. Republic of Ireland: The Mighty Stef, "Protest Song With No Name"

One of the great things about football is how long the fans will hold grudges...Brazilians still haven't forgiven their team for losing in the 1950 final to Uruguay. So Ireland "lost" to France in the qualifiers, but only with the help of Thierry Henry's handball. My friend Stefan Murphy, Dublin resident, Ireland supporter and general raconteur, penned this song in protest.

5. England: The Skatoons, "The World Cup's Waiting for You"

A bit naff, as the limeys might say. What can I say, I was really wishing to see a Madness song for the Cup, I guess this will have to do.

10 June 2010

The World Cup of World Cup Songs

If you'll indulge me to go wildly off-topic, you may have heard that the World Cup is upon us. I am very excited, because, well, it's the World Cup. For the next month, you will find me watching television very early in the morning. Every World Cup brings with it official songs for many of the national teams. Most of them are absolutely terrible, which is why I'm obsessed with them. I have watched a lot of them, good, bad and completely forgettable, so you don't have to. These are my favorites (so far) of 2010.

1. South Korea: T-ara, "We Are the One"

First, a peppy little k-pop anthem called "We Are the One" by girl group T-ara:

2. England: Robbie Williams, Russell Brand, Baddiel & Skinner, "Three Lions 2010"

I was skeptical about the lineup here, but it's actually a pretty good song, real "Parklife"-ish Britpop, and readymade for the terraces.

3. Germany: Ikke Hüftgold, "FUSSBALLGÖTTER"

And then there were the Germans. "Football Gods". Really speaks for itself.

4. Nigeria: Paj ft. Tolumide, "Goalaaaso (Inside the Net)"

Another favorite...this is for the Super Eagles of Nigeria. Awesome afroelectro style.

5. Algeria: various, "1 2 3 Viva l'Algerie"

Last, but of course not least, here's an all-star jam a la "We Are the World" featuring the Algerian entertainment world's biggest names. I assume.

01 June 2010

Kultur Takes the Ruhr

Whoops, no posts in the month of May. Sorry about that. I don't know how some people make the time to update their blogs regularly with interesting content. Rest assured, I have not abandoned this thing, I have a few posts I'm working over in my head that should arise in the coming weeks. Patience is a virtue, or so I am told.

I was watching the Deutsche Welle news last week (what, doesn't everybody?) and saw a really interesting piece on the Ruhr Valley's preparations to be one of the European Capitals of Culture 2010 under the theme "Art, Culture & Energy". I've been hoping that the video would go up so I could share it with you lovely people, but so far no dice. So to break it down for you, Germany's Ruhr Valley contains the cities of Essen, Gelsenkirchen, Dortmund and is home to about twelve million people. It was once Germany's industrial and coal mining heartland, though most of the factories have since migrated to cheaper realms in the former East Germany and beyond. The folks in charge of regional planning have apparently been listening quite intently to the likes of Richard Florida and have been busy reinventing the area's image. Where once stood smokestacks, now there are, um, three hundred and eleven luftballons.

The EU's Culture Capital program is ostensibly a chance for cities to showcase their unique character to tourists, which on the surface seems a perfectly reasonable thing to do. But as Andrew Ross has written, it's become little more than a feeding trough for real estate developers at the expense of the displaced working classes. Writing about Glasgow's experience as the Culture Capital for 1990, Ross posits that "the familiar lopsided footprint of neoliberalism made itself visible in a system of labor apartheid that displayed an ever-firmer spatial demarcation between the residences, workplaces, and playgrounds of the ascendant professional service classes and those of the low-wage and unemployed populations at the city margins. From the standpoint of arts practitioners themselves, a 2004 study showed that the progressive legacy of 1990 was widely perceived to have been squandered by the data-focused bureaucracy in charge of cultural policy in the intervening years. An obsession with audience numbers and quotas had inhibited the sustainable growth of jobs in the sector." (Ross 2009; pp 30-32) He goes on to cite a 2007 Demos report by saying "city boosters who followed the model were locked into...a 'cultural arms race,' competing for finite pools of investment resources, cultural workers, audiences, tourist streams, and signature archistectural icons." (Ibid.) As a witness to Chicago's recent failed bid for the Olympics I can relate.

Florida is not without his critics, but his ideas (most of which he amalgamated from other sources, but I digress) are popular among city managers worldwide...and he has made quite a lot of money selling communities his services. But honestly, the way small cities are latching onto this bandwagon is a bit silly. Not to pick on Duluth, Minnesota--I'm sure it's a lovely town for three months out of the year--but does anybody honestly believe that anybody will be drawn there just because the city paints a few bike lanes and cuts tax breaks to art galleries? Don't misunderstand me, those are nice things to have, but the way Florida is selling these ideas as a panacea to dying towns seems a bit disingenuous. It may work for some, and places like Pittsburgh have had success, but the idea that Pittsburgh's revival is reproducible anywhere is preposterous. The much sought-after "creatives" are a limited resource, and most of them tend to be drawn to places that have already reached a critical mass. Large ponds may translate to a lot of small fish, but it also means more ideas being bounced around and more "creativity", however you want to define it. For all of it's qualities, Duluth lacks two critical components to revitalizing a city: connections with the outside world and existing, philanthropic wealth. You need one or the other to get on your way. I'm sure Duluth has it's prominent families that made fortunes from the iron mines, but nothing close to Pittsburgh's collection of Mellons and Heinzes and Scaifes and their associated charitable endowments.