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X isn’t an airport, but we’re announcing our departure

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Over the last couple of months, Freedom News decided to start cutting down involvement with Twitter/X, which has until now been our biggest social media account, while opening a number of speculative alternatives on other social media platforms, including BlueskyInstagramThreadsWhatsapp and TikTok. It’s not big news; however, it’s worth a bit of explanation as to why we a) didn’t do so earlier and b) are doing so now.

Our approach to social media hasn’t been terribly doctrinaire (or planned out, for that matter) over the last decade. Beyond the old bird site, we engaged with Facebook (News | Bookshop | Group) for many years, dipped a toe with YouTube, that sort of thing. All these are companies with decidedly shady records both as employers (1 | 2) and as actors on the world stage. Facebook, in particular, has had a number of pretty nasty scandals, most infamously Cambridge Analytica, but also in its quieter acceptance of far-right and conspiratorial content while stifling the reach of the political left and, on occasion, outright censoring of anarchists. 

Our general take on these latter activities has been that efforts to dissuade us are (correctly) indicative that we’ve had more to gain from posting on mainstream social media than they’ve gotten from our presence – the same logic has seen left groups all over the world do similar, often at the expense of having sites of their own or helping to support alternative open media

Socials are only really concerned with consumption, which anarchists are historically critical of, making our input superfluous, if not actively injurious, to their aims. Mark Zuckerberg has made his hostility to any kind of on-site politics known on the grounds that while it may draw some people in, it also causes headaches (though, in practice, far-right politics do remain pervasive). As such, while we strongly support radical alternatives such as the Fediverse (we have a prominent presence on Kolektiva), we also keep a toehold at commercial sites where more non-anarchists can be found. Where we did draw a line in the sand, it has been primarily pragmatic, where potential audiences are likely to be or are outright hostile to our aims. Parler, Gab, Truth – there’s little point in making an effort to push at a closed door.

Which brings us to “X” 2023, under Elon Musk. 

To be clear, Twitter always had a reputation as a garbage fire. Even before Musk took over, it had gone from the glory days of being used as a first draft of history in the Arab Spring to a site primarily known for its online bullying, permanent state of moral panic and failure to implement clear content moderation policies. But it did remain a place where politics was played out in real time, and revelled in its position as the “town square of the internet,” a space where even anarchists could get a word in edgeways, on occasion.

Musk’s tenure has largely torn down those benefits. From the start, he made it clear what side he was on – and it wasn’t free speech. He booted accounts in the US on the advice of far-right pretend journalist Andy Ngo. He grovelled to the famously open-minded Saudi princes for money to buy it. He silenced critics of Turkish autocrat Erdogan. And he promoted the views of increasingly fringe, unpleasant reactionary figures before his recent forays into supporting outright anti-Semitic content. Prior to that, it had been a smorgasbord of hard-right talking points and “anti-woke” waffling, from the free-speech move of banning the word “cis” to throwing his weight behind swivel-eyed frothers Tucker Carlson and Ron DeSantis.

Musk is, obviously, no outlier in the world of tech-bros. His behaviour is more outlandish than that of Zuckerberg, Gates or Larry Page of “don’t be evil” fame (maybe on a par with Jeff “cringe narcissist” Bezos), but it’s of an order. And they collectively own the bedrock of the internet. It is extremely difficult to avoid putting money in these scumbags’ pockets one way or another, a factor Yanis Varoufakis has gone a bit overboard in describing (catchily) as “techno-feudalism.” Unless you are technically minded enough to set up and run complex, user-unfriendly systems yourself, and most of us aren’t, they force engagement.

But in this case, Musk has shot his own company’s role in the foot. His fall into a far-right conspiracy rabbit hole has increasingly combined with his decision to do away with the equality of voice that Twitter had previously maintained, instead encouraging people to “pay for play” by buying a checkmark that pushes their posts to the front of the queue. Only those who have no other option or who feel comfortable handing him this direct bribe are now able to have their say unimpeded. And given his overt courting of fascists, alongside his hostility to anything left, this has driven a lopsided takeup, with a slurry of hard-right checkmark brigading the top of every viral political post. 

The door is now, in effect, closed at “X”. For our purposes, it offers little to no engagement most of the time, drives minimal traffic (approx 4% of our monthly views, down from 7% last year), and this trend looks likely to continue downwards. The decision is essentially being made for us, as thanks to Musk’s efforts, regardless of political leans, our time can simply be better spent elsewhere.

So, with no moral or practical imperative to stay, we’re out, and that’s why. But there’s still plenty of places to follow us, from all the links above to our irregular newsletter, which we highly recommend if you don’t want to miss the releases of our journals, books and Freedom life updates. We’ll keep the X account up for the sake of posterity (it’s costing Musk rather than us, after all) and may come back very occasionally just to avoid deletion or if we feel it’s worthwhile, but we won’t be doing regular updates or engagement – so you may have to use old-fashioned emails if you want to get hold of us from now on.

Cheerio Twitter, it was … all a bit rubbish tbh. 


Pic by str00p/CC

The post X isn’t an airport, but we’re announcing our departure  appeared first on Freedom News.

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thedimpause
234 days ago
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At last, Hyperion recordings are streamable. We pick some of the standouts

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Classical music was slow to join the streaming revolution, but the range of recordings available on the likes of Spotify and Apple Music has grown steadily year on year and today a large proportion of the recorded repertoire, including a huge amount of historic material, is accessible. But throughout this expansion, one British company, the fiercely independent Hyperion, with its distinctive back catalogue of outstanding recordings and performances, has been conspicuous in its absence. The label had always resolutely refused to allow its discs to be available on streaming services, insisting that the only model to make business sense was to sell physical CDs or allow them to be brought as digital downloads.

Four months ago, however, Hyperion was acquired by Universal Music and became part of a portfolio of labels that also includes Decca Classics and Deutsche Grammophon, both of which are widely streamed. It seemed only a matter of time before Hyperion would follow its stablemates into the fold, and indeed this week a start has been made on making the whole of the Hyperion catalogue available on all the regular streaming platforms.

Quality has got steadily better too - the recently launched Apple Classical is now offering lossless streams, so that even the most discerning audiophile should have few qualms about accessing their music in that way. Though for classical releases there are still some peripheral drawbacks - the unavailability of synopses and librettos for opera recordings perhaps the most obvious one - the advantages of now having virtually the whole of recorded history available in state-of-the-art sound within a few clicks are extraordinary, with the arrival of Hyperion’s catalogue filling one of the few significant remaining gaps.

It’s planned that by spring next year all of the more than 2000 albums that Hyperion has released since the late Ted Perry set up the company in 1980 will be streamable. For now, all new releases will be available immediately, while the initial batch to be made available from the back catalogue consists of 200 recordings that have been chosen to represent not only the range of the label, but also to showcase its most celebrated current artists. Further additions will be made fortnightly from mid September.

Among those now available is the recording that became one of Hyperion’s biggest commercial successes, A Feather on the Breath of God, the Gothic Voices’ disc of spiritual songs composed in the 12th century by Hildegard of Bingen, as well as Marc-André Hamelin’s recording of Morton Feldman’s 75-minute solo-piano For Bunita Marcus, composed in 1985.

These two recordings indicate the sheer historical span of what’s included, but it’s the outstanding recordings of mainstream recitals, chamber music and songs that one thinks of first in connection with Hyperion. Hamelin is just one of the unrivalled roster of pianists the label has assembled over the years, and most of them are accessible now. There’s Stephen Hough’s superb accounts of the complete piano concertos by Rachmaninov and Saint-Saëns, Steven Osborne’s Prokofiev piano sonatas and his unsurpassed version of Messiaen’s Vingt Regards sur l’Enfant-Jésus, very different but equally immaculate performances of Bach’s Goldberg Variations from both Angela Hewitt and Pavel Kolesnikov, as well as more Bach from Hewitt and a delicious compilation of Reynaldo Hahn from Kolesnikov.

Among the half dozen discs newly streamable by the Takács Quartet (exclusive Hyperion artists since the mid 2000s) are their superb Schubert and more recent Mendelssohn; there are discs from the cycle of Robert Simpson’s quartets that the Delmé Quartet recorded in the early 1990s, and it’s good also to have a sample of the much missed Florestan Trio, including their Schumann and Brahms piano trios.

Some of the most significant Hyperion projects have been in the field of 19th-century song. The complete Schubert Lieder edition, masterminded by pianist Graham Johnson, was an obvious choice for early release, though only four of the 40 volumes are available so far, together with a couple of issues in the Schumann edition that followed.

There are solo recital discs by Gerald Finley (including his version of Schumann’s Dichterliebe) and Carolyn Sampson (French baroque) too, and a wide range of the choral music – from Andrew Carwood’s Cardinall’s Musick and the Brabant Ensemble, among others - that is another of the label’s specialities.

There are relatively few orchestral discs in this first instalment of releases, though it’s good to see some of Vernon Handley’s recordings of British music there, including his discs of Granville Bantock, as well as Martyn Brabbins’s Vaughan Williams discs and Thierry Fischer’s outstanding version of Messiaen’s … des Canyons aux Étoiles... both released this year. More of all those conductors will surely follow shortly, but this first selection has enough treasures in all genres to be going on with.

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thedimpause
359 days ago
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The BBC on Mastodon: experimenting with distributed and decentralised social media - BBC R

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thedimpause
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‘I’ve played for 60 years. That’s long enough’: guitar hero Vini Reilly on PTSD, life on the streets and the little girl who saved him

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“There’s no seatbelt. No safety. You may not be making it home,” laughs Bruce Mitchell, picking me up from Manchester train station in a two-seater Austin 7 that was built in 1932.

My legs are squashed against my chest, Mitchell’s hand brushes my thigh with every gear change and a gentle breeze flaps the laminated windows. The 83-year-old is driving me to meet the enigmatic figure behind the Durutti Column, Vini Reilly. As well as playing the drums for him since 1981, Mitchell is also his manager.

It’s been a decade since Reilly last gave an interview, and even before then they were sparse. Seventy next month, he lives a hermit-like existence, rarely leaving the house. In 2010, he had the first of three strokes. His reduced mobility had an effect on his ability to play and perform. He went bankrupt and lost his flat. There have also been periods of severe mental illness. “I was absolutely crackers,” he later tells me. “I probably still am.”

Driving down Palatine Road, once home to the offices of the groundbreaking indie label Factory Records, Mitchell tells me that “Vin’s always been teetering on the edge. But what an astonishing musical talent. I’ve never known anything like it.” And it’s not just his friends and associates. Red Hot Chili Peppers’ John Frusciante called Reilly “the best guitarist in the world”, while Brian Eno once named the Durutti Column album LC his favourite ever record.

The Durutti Column were put together by Factory boss Tony Wilson in 1978, rising from the ashes of of a punk band called Fast Breeder. Reilly, who had previously been the guitarist in another band, Ed Banger and the Nosebleeds, joined up, and the band contributed two tracks to A Factory Sample, a double 7-inch package that also featured Joy Division and Cabaret Voltaire, and which became the first ever release from the label.

From 1980’s debut album The Return of the Durutti Column (released in a sandpaper sleeve designed to scratch any LPs that were placed on either side of it), Reilly would release 20 studio albums as the Durutti Column over the next three decades, with Mitchell and bass and keyboard player Keir Stewart as the band’s nucleus. Eschewing the punk thrash or angular post-punk twang favoured by many players of that era, Reilly favoured a more subtle, tender, emotive and expressive style of playing – he never used a plectrum because he deemed the sound too harsh – blending jazz, classical and flamenco. His sound was sparse yet intricate, technically pristine, and as fiery and fluid as lava oozing down a mountainside.

We arrive at Reilly’s home down a cul-de-sac. He greets us at the door with a soft smile and a gentle handshake, a half lit rollup clasped between darkly nicotine-stained fingers. His big head of hair is still there, albeit flatter and greyer now, sitting on top of his agonisingly thin frame – a lifelong illness linked to post-traumatic stress disorder has meant he has struggled to eat very much.

We sit in the garden, with Reilly on the ground in the somewhat overgrown grass. We’re here to talk about Time Was Gigantic ... When We Were Kids, the 1998 Durutti Column album that has just been reissued, but Reilly is on his current favourite subject: microplastics in the ecosystem and the climate crisis. “We’re doomed,” he murmurs.

Reilly is incredibly softly spoken. Despite my efforts to catch every word, sometimes the gentle gusts of wind whisk them away. At times he speaks so quietly, it’s as if he has swallowed his words before he can let them out. The twittering birds are louder than our conversation but it creates a moment of blissful synchronicity, recalling one of Reilly’s most beloved, enduring and songbird-puctuated pieces of music: Sketch for Summer.

Time Was Gigantic … was the last album Factory Records ever released, meaning that Reilly bookended the label’s illustrious history, one that included New Order, Joy Division, Happy Mondays and more. Wilson, who was Reilly’s manager as well as his label boss, didn’t like the record and discouraged Reilly’s decision to sing on much of it. “I thought: who is he to tell me that?,” says Reilly. “Fuck that. If I have something to say and I want to sing, I’ll do it and stand by it.” Mitchell offers an analogy: “It was like having somebody leaning over the back of Van Gogh and saying: ‘That’s the wrong yellow.’”

Peace was later made. “Tony was a wonderful guy and I loved him; I still do,” says Reilly. It was Wilson, along with Factory Records’ co-founder Alan Erasmus, who convinced Reilly he needed to continue making music after the original full-band incarnation of the Durutti Column collapsed (other members would later go on to play in Simply Red). “It was amazing of them to stick with me,” Reilly says. “I was very depressed and not functioning. Tony was very paternalistic because I was always looking for a father figure.”

Reilly’s father died when he was 16, and amid deteriorating family relations he ended up living on the streets, where he got involved in a world of violence and gangs. In one gunfight, a friend was shot and died in his lap. Tired of his desperate life, Reilly says he deliberately antagonised some Moss Side gangsters in the hope they would kill him. Instead, he got a warning shot by the side of his head, which temporarily deafened him. “I didn’t know I was depressed, as I hadn’t been diagnosed then,” he says today.

Meeting Mitchell was a turning point. “When I met Bruce I was about to kill myself,” he says. “It was the third time I’d tried it.” He says that a faulty trigger on his gun was all that stopped him. “Bruce took me into his home. My depression dissipated because of a very precious little girl [Mitchell’s young daughter]. Suddenly, you’re focusing on her and not going inwards into your own brain. That kept me going. It literally saved my life. I dismantled my gun and threw it in the Mersey.” Reilly doesn’t wish to dwell on this anguished period. “All that stuff is in the past,” he says. “I’ve been through 13 psychiatrists to oversee my recovery from mental illness. So that’s enough of that.”


As a child Reilly had a natural ear for the piano, playing his dad’s keyboard around the house, but his head was turned by the guitar and he became an obsessive player, isolating himself in his bedroom to play endlessly. While peers may have been mimicking guitar heroes from the rock and glam years, a teenage Reilly was magnetised by the sounds of Los Indios Tabajaras, a guitar duo of brothers from Brazil, whose guitar playing Reilly believed to be most poignant he had ever heard.

Following Wilson’s patronage, it was clear to all who witnessed him that Reilly was a genuine guitar great. When Morrissey went solo, he recruited Reilly to play on his 1988 debut Viva Hate, filling the gap left by another master, Johnny Marr. But Reilly dismisses the idea of being a virtuoso. “Go to any bar in Córdoba in Spain and those guys playing there will make me look stupid,” he says. “They’ll never make any albums and no one’s ever heard them but they’re the players, they really are.”

Reilly is dismissive about his own music. “When I listen back to it, it’s boring,” he says. “It’s done. I’ve already expressed everything I needed to when I was playing it.” I tell him that a colleague told me they wanted the 1989 track Otis playing at their funeral. “Give him my apologies,” he laughs, before downplaying the beauty of the track, in which sparkling guitar swirls around dreamy vocal samples from Tracy Chapman and Otis Redding. “It was just messing about.”

Nonetheless, his music continues to resonate today. You’ll hear the Durutti Column in acclaimed TV shows such as Master of None or the second series of The Bear, and he has been streamed tens of millions of times on Spotify. “He’s not interested,” Mitchell tells me later in the pub. “I’ll show him on a laptop, but he’s not fired up – he’s sort of detached.”

While Reilly can’t be drawn on the greatness of his own music, Mitchell is happily forthcoming on his behalf. “I’m in awe of him,” he tells me. “When we would play For Belgian Friends live, I never wanted to play on it because it was like taking a spade to a souffle. I just wanted to watch it in the audience. It was such an astonishing thing. When he played it on his own – a whole room would hold its breath.”

There is YouTube footage from 2020 of Reilly playing in his living room and it’s not the work of a three-time stroke victim you may expect. But it’s still not good enough for Reilly. “I carried on and on after my strokes and I got to a level, but it’s not even close [to where I was],” he says. “I really can’t play guitar. It looks ridiculous. It sounds ridiculous. I’ve got a good excuse to stop now because I’ve got arthritis all down here,” he says, pointing to his hand, while staring down at his long, hardened nails that are shaped into uniformly pristine spear tips for plucking.

Has he made peace with the idea of detaching himself permanently from an instrument that has been a lifelong extension of himself? “Yeah,” he says, breezily. “I’m 71 next year. I began playing when I was 11 – that’s 60 years. That’s long enough. I’m lucky I’ve made it this far and I’ve had an amazing life.”

As Reilly prepares to hang up an instrument that he truly made his own – although Mitchell says he’s still recording from time to time – there does appear to be a faint glimmer of recognition for the beauty he has created. “It expressed something to me,” he says, referring to a rare moment of listening to old Durutti Column tunes recently. “It was quite emotional. There was a sadness to it but not an unpleasant sadness. It was lovely, actually. That’s the first time I’ve ever thought: well, you did something.”

Time Was Gigantic ... When We Were Kids is on London Records.

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thedimpause
368 days ago
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Earth review – Chris Packham steps confidently into David Attenborough’s shoes

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This grand, wise nature epic reveals the fiery terror of prehistoric global warming – plus how Packham has evolved so much that the BBC need no longer rely on Attenborough

No natural history programme can, or should, be made these days without the climate crisis as a looming subtext at the very least. Chris Packham’s confidently grand new series Earth, a guide to “five pivotal moments” in the planet’s history, might look like an exception, since its first episode is set 252 million years ago. But unfathomably distant as that is, it is painfully relevant because of what happened at the close of the Permian period: Earth grew warmer, ending life as it existed then.

A volcanic eruption, a thousand times greater than any ever seen by humans, covered one percent of Earth’s only land mass, Pangea, with liquid fire and released four million cubic kilometres of lava, greenhouse gas and ash. Mass extinction followed: Packham, squatting nimbly by a cliff face, demonstrates it by hammering a lump out of a thin seam of coal, left there when a lot of organic matter died suddenly. Then he chips at the rock above, finding it to be smooth and featureless, a relic of a time when nothing died because not much had survived.

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thedimpause
372 days ago
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Here comes the next phase of Brexit – and it will be bad for our diet, health and wealth

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They keep telling us to move on; to accept that Brexit is done. The problem is, Brexit isn’t done with us. It isn’t a single disabling event. It’s a degenerative disease, and here comes the next stage. On 31 October, after four postponements to get infrastructure in place, the UK will finally introduce checks on fresh and chilled food imports. The EU has already introduced its checks, which come with a vast amount of paperwork and significant costs. The impact on the export of fruit from the UK to the EU has been dramatic, reducing the value from £248.5m in 2021 to £113.8m by 2023, a drop of more than 50%.

Now it’s going to work the other way. EU producers of meat products wishing to export to the UK will have to employ a vet to certify their goods, which will cost up to €700 a time. All sectors will have to employ agents for data entry compliance which could add another €200. They will have to train themselves on the paperwork. Then, come January, there’s the border inspection charge of up to £43 for each consignment regardless of whether it’s physically inspected or not. Faced by all of this, thousands of small producers from across Europe who have kept this country supplied with a fabulously diverse range of quality products will simply decide it’s not worth the trouble. They’ll sell elsewhere. The quality of our lives will be diminished.

Cue the eye-rolling. Why should we care whether you will have less access to artisan sheep’s milk cheeses, or lovingly made charcuterie? Or, as it was put in a sarcastic tweet by Nick Timothy, the ace political strategist who had to resign from Downing Street over his disastrous stewardship of Theresa May’s 2017 election campaign: “Younger voters might not know this but Britain simply didn’t have food before 1973.”

Put aside the fact that Timothy wasn’t born until 1980. He’s missing the point. EU membership vastly improved the quality of our diet and with it, our lives. It allowed unfettered access to a massive market, including the products that underpin the rightly lauded Mediterranean diet. We ate better. Any policy which means we will eat worse, that our lives and opportunities are less good than once they were, is surely a terrible thing.

Of course, there are bigger problems right now. There’s a cost of living crisis, exacerbated by Brexit. The economy is stunted by Brexit. Obscene numbers of people are using food banks. The nation’s physical health is suffering because we don’t have the money to invest in the NHS, partly because of Brexit. But we can hold more than one thought in our head at the same time. We should see all of this as a continuum; as symptoms of a disease eating away at the body, one vital system at a time.

Plus, this issue is not restricted to the deli end of the food market. The Fresh Produce Consortium recently warned that the new border rules would add delays and millions in costs at a time of already acute food inflation. The British Retail Consortium, which represents the supermarkets, agrees. “New checks will add to the various cost pressures retailers are facing at a time when the cost of living is already high.” And for what? The Brexit deal could have included an agreement to recognise each other’s food standards. That’s what lay at the heart of the EU project. But the UK wanted the freedom to do trade deals with third countries, allowing in products with lower standards than the EU permits. Hence, these disastrous checks. Yes, Brexit is done. Yes, it’s happened. But no, I won’t move on. It’s a bloody mess.

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thedimpause
377 days ago
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