Monday, September 20, 2004
It's been a while.
There's been New Zealand. And Fiji.
And a failed attempt to get to the US.
And other people's broken legs, pleurisy, death, coming out (or not), etc.
Saturday, February 07, 2004
On the other hand knowing something's name = having power over it
Having the power to choose your own name - and not to give it to others:
13 Moses said to God, "Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, 'The God of your fathers has sent me to you,' and they ask me, 'What is his name?' Then what shall I tell them?"
14 God said to Moses, "I am who I am .  This is what you are to say to the Israelites: 'I AM has sent me to you.' "
Tuesday, January 13, 2004
Currently on heavy rotation chez me: Sean Paul's Dutty Rock. Altho I can't seem to get past track 5. hmmmmm.
"Is this Shaggy?" enquiries a housemate.
"Sean Paul" I reply.
"Is that Shaggy's real name, then?" he further probes.
"Well, he sounds like Shaggy"
"They are both ragga singers"
"Yes, ragga or dancehall. From Jamaica"
Ah ha! I (30, librarian) am momentarily cooler than my housemate (35, acountant). I even have as Greensleeves sampler somewhere.
'Ear me now, rude bwoy!
I arrived back on Saturday. I had about 400 emails awaiting me to trawl thru so I wimped out and went to the cinema to see "Return of the King". Bad move.
Why it didn't work for me
- It's long. I don't think I have ever had the urge to leave the cinema before a film is over (except for that one time when I was seven I ran out a showing of The Black Hole coz it was too damn scary) but at the 2 hour mark I was looking at watch going "enough already, i could murder some sorbet".
- It's nothing to do with my life. The characters are all noble and heroic - or evil. And the goodies fight the baddies and win and most of them live happily ever after. Hooray. But their heroism (basically twatting people in battle) wouldn't last them five minutes here. And I look at my box of emails with its tangle of relationships and half-truths and compromises and, frankly, facing a bunch of orks seems preferable sometimes. Coz most of us aren't chosen for "destiny". Just life, geezer.
So I spend 5 days sitting on various Gilli islands and not doing very much. A tropical island with friendly natives and a ready supply of coconut juice. I suppose this is paradise. It says so on the tin. Maybe I saw too many Bounty Bar commercials as a child.
Gilli Air around 7 pm. The sun is going down beind the trees which are a sumptious green. To the West, the water looks like beaten copper stretching into an ultramarine blue (is it just my brain or does the water actually glow?). The full moon has risen and there is a trickle of silver on the water. In the distance, the mountains of Lombok reflect the last of the sun and a rainbow stretches from the crags into the clouds hovering above them.
This Beauty. My greedy eyes strain to take it all in. My heart breaks.
Thursday, January 08, 2004
Apparently I slept thru an earthquake on the morning of Jan 2nd. About a 6 on Richter scale so I'm told.
Wednesday, December 31, 2003
Happy Birthday, Dear Bruvva
My bruv is working towards his black belt in jujitsu and he rocks! With mighty fists of steel.
This is going to have to wait until I get home. But it will be fun. Oh yeah.
The Story of Ganesh
Once upon a time, there was a god called Shiva. His nickname may give you some idea of his character - "The Destroyer". And he had a wife called Pavarti. Now Pavarti was pregnant with their child. When the time of delivery came, Shiva wasn't there. He was off fighting demons - or so he claimed. More likely he was sinking a couple of schooners of soma with Vishnu. Anyway, Pavarti gave birth to beautiful boy, who being a god was born fully formed (not an easy birth but that's gods for you).
Anyway, Shiva came back tired and emotional from "fighting demons" and what happened next is not really clear. Some say that Shiva walked in a found Pavarti in bed with a strange young man (her son) and went wild with jealousy (and possiby a little guilt), drew his sword and cut the luckless lad's head clean off. Shiva then kicked the severed extremity over the horizon. Others say that this is sub-Freudian bollocks and that what really happened was that the young man was standing guard at the door whilst his mother rested when he was accosted by a strange, three-eyed gentleman wearing a snake as belt who demanded to see Pavarti. The lad demurred whereupon the furious god unshealthed his blade and decapitated the object of his wrath. Either way, the baby deva was without a bonce. Pavarti was furious. "Not only were you absent from the birth, Shiva, but you have just beheaded our child. Get him a head. Now."
Despite being called the Destroyer, Shiva was a good husband and aghast at what he had done. So he rushed out and, lo and behold, the first animal he should encounter was an elephant. He pleaded with the animal for its head. The elephant informed Shiva that it needed its head at least as much as he did but that seeing Shiva was a god and all, it would help him out. Shiva returned with the pachyderm's head and attached it to the lad's body. And that is why Ganesh has the head of an elephant.
Why do I like this story so much? Coz if you go into any Hindu home, you'll probably find a statue of Ganesh there. They call him the Remover of Obstacles and the Lord of Boundaries. If you want something sorting out, Mr G may be able to give you a hand. Coz if you have the head of an elephant due to parental decapitation then everything else must seem like pretty small potatoes. There's always a way out but it may not be the obvious one.
Overpaid, oversexed and over here
"Bule (Western) women are just about OK. They can be reformed. Bule men are beyond the pale however. Probably all drug-addicted sex maniacs. Most of the Bule guys have trouble getting a relationship here without an imediate promise of commitment. Some of the office girls were told by their parents not to talk to the English teachers. They were terrified of us."
I have to say that on the whole, the Javanese are some of the most helpful people I have ever met. If you look lost, people will come up to you in the street, take you to the place you want to go and even work out itineraries for you on the spot (you should go here at this time coz you get the best views and then go there coz there are fewer people around and be sure to avoid there coz its full of touts and so on) with no outside agenda of their own. How lovely.
Solo vs Jogja
These 2 central Javanese cities apparently have a long-standing rivalry going on as to who is the real home of Javanese cultural. Soloeans say they have the better Gamelan players, the better artists and dancers but they get poached by better-known, fly-by-night Jogja. They mutter darkly that this wouldn't have been the case if the Sultan of Solo hadn't supported the Dutch in the battle for Independence. The Jogjeans say this is all sour grapes. But then they would say that.
Solo has 2 Kratons (royal palaces). In one they have museum with pretty much everything the royal family has ever owned (including chastity belts based on the principle of magic rather than locks/keys).
I imagined everything I had ever owned being put on public display. It wouldn't really amount to much. A few hundred tapes and CDs. Some books and clothing. A 1983 vintage Raleigh BMX burner.
That's about it really.
Big up James! I spent the first half of last week in Solo staying at his place. J teaches English to bored Chinese-Indo young people and is good vaue. For Christmas we went to Jogja and staying with Ker and Odie - who also rock.
Many thanks to you all for your hospitality.
Happy New Year to you all. I went to Kuta, Bali for NYE. Now, I can see all you hardcore travellers at the back turning your noses up - "But.. but... it's a tacky beach resort." Korrectamundo. And therefore has good restaurants, nice shops and a fair few scantily-clad young people.
As 2003 became 2004, I stood surrounded on a beach by people blowing paper trumpets (these are de rigeur on NYE in Indonesia and have been on sale for weeks) with a bunch of guys drumming for their lives and young tykes letting off extremely powerful fireworks all around me.
Tuesday, December 30, 2003
There is a monkey forest in Ubud. At the end of Monkey Forest Road oddly enough. And it's full of monkeys. With mohicans and bad attitudes - so punk monkeys in fact. And around them there are statues of monkeys - one notable one with a big grin on his face. Whythe grin - well, maybe the large erection he's holding in one prehensile fist is reason enough.
And thru some odd, associative train of thought I remembered Monkey Mafia. In 1998, they released their only album "Shoot The Boss". They were lumped in with yer FatBoy Slims and yer Chemical Bros at the time, but MM didn't do so well and disappeared shortly after this.
Shoot The Boss is not a Big Beat album - if anything it's the estranged half-brother of Basement Jaxx's Remedy.
Clue: Packaging. Open up FatBoy Slim's #1 album and you get a pair of tits. Open up StB and you get pictures of the Watts riots. the vibe is militant from the get-go. Somehow, Jon Carter has been possessed by the rudeboy spirit of Jamaica. Rather than make some awful roots reggae record like all the other whiteboys, he's gone dancehall instead. The opening three tracks ("Jah Music", "Blow the Whole Joint Up" and "I am Fresh") smash into you like the bullbars on an SUV. The version of "Lion in the Hall" isn't as good as the one off "15 Steps", and we'll skip Steppa's Ball. And I have to take a cold shower after listening to "Work Mi Body". Then it all gets a bit weird. Ward 10 has seen something nasty in the dancehall, the Whore of Babylon is an evil electro nightmare and Metro Love sounds like a nervous breakdown. Things look rather bleak at this point but the 7th Cavalry appear in the raggatastic Healing Of The Nation. The last two tracks are gorgeous. Retreat Wicked Man is an exorcism of the preceding nastiness. The organ glows like raindrops in the afternoon sun and the sampled vocals make you happy to be alive. As Long As I Can See The Light is a Credence Clearwater Revival cover. And is a blinking lovely.
Coz StB is a redemption album, a Pilgrim's Progess/Divine Comedy in slack dancehall clothes.
Who would thunk it?
It is dark. It is raining. And worse, it is 4.30am. I have left the hotel at the crater's edge and slowly navigate my way downwards with the aid of a torch. I do not know where I am going. The path is steep but soon ends on a flat plain. Where do I go now? There is a light in the distance. "Go towards the light I think". There aren't mainly other options. I trudge on. The sky is getting lighter. Thru the murk, a man on horseback gradually appears. It's all rather like Lawrence of Arabia - but set in Whitby rather than, er, Arabia. "Transport?" he says. I decline the horse. I've walked this far and dammit I'll continue on foot. I pass a temple shrouded in mist and reach an encampment at the foot of a hill. I follow a crowd of Javans up the hill. I am wearing Timberland boots, they have flipflops. I feel like a big Western wuss. The hill is not a hill. It is the caldera of a dormant volcano, belching sulfur into the sky. The sun rises over one side of the volcano and the rain stops. The walking and rain have been worth it - and how. Trying to capture the view in words would be futile. I walk round the rim of caldera. The surprising thing is how soft the cone is - it's all volcanic ash which melts away when presure is applied.
Bromo. Cool as.
Friday, December 26, 2003
I spent Christmas Day cooking pasta for Javanese skate punks.
My list of top Christmas treats:
1. Bread fried in bacon fat.
2. The doll-based video for Sum 41's Hell Song.
3. Garlic potatoes.
4. Bribing security guards with alcohol.
5. Watching toodlers fight with dogs (no betting took place unfortunately).
I Say, I Say, I Say
Just as the speed of light is constant in a vauum, so watching person A kick person B up the arse on stage is universally funny. For want of something to do last Saturday I went to a Javanese music hall night. Well, it was free and out of the rain. The band were gamelan and after a bit of floaty dancing a middle-aged man and woman duo took to the stage (and to the kicking also). I had a vague feeling of deja-vu. The action then moved to a Javanese royal court where the bickering couple reappeared and the slapstick repetoire was expanded to include hitting each other with shoes. I'd like to tell you what happened next but I went home to bed. Sorry.
I have been in the waiting room for an hour - only three more to go before the train has come. It's not so bad, the air-con and MTV Asia are keeping my spirits up. My idyll is shattered as three of the campest Javanese men I have ever seen enter the room. One of them speaks English and we get to talking. He's a pharmacist turned barman (just moving from one form of pain relief to another kids). We talk a lot. Then he tells me a secret - he's bisexual. I am too exhausted to feign surprise. I assure him he's far too well-dressed to be straight and catch the sleeper train.
Javanese overnight trains are rubbish and I hide in my corner until the train pulls into Surabaya at 5.30am.
so I'm in this minibus with a middle-aged dutch bloke called bill and bill's violently sick and blames it on my face and i tell him it's his own fault for being an old man and with this spirit of bonhomie he asks me if i want to check out this hotel run by a dutch couple that's been recommended to him and i go along for want of anything better to do then go down the beach which is about an inch wide and covered in grey sand i meet bill and he begs me to save him from the other dutch people apparently they all sit around and talk about the state of the roads back home so we go to the hot springs where dragons puke green, sulphurous water on your head and then we hunt for dolphins in tiny boats but THE DOLPHINS ARE TOO FREAKIN' CLEVER then we hide from netherlanders in bar deserted except for javanese idol wannabees and then i get the hell off bali in search of punctuation
Monday, December 22, 2003
Ubud is where you go for a bit a kulcha on Bali. You can get to see various forms of Balinese dance: including the Legong, the Barong/Rangda amd Kecak.
Legong dances are essentially the dances of the Hindu Balinese/Javanese royal courts. Like most aristocratic types, they are elegant and extremely neurotic. Posture and expression are everything.
The Barong (yay!) is a big cuddly thing somewhere between a chinese dragon and a pantomime horse in appearance. The Barong is symbolic of all that is good in the universe. The Rangda (boo! hiss!) is an evil witch that does battle with the Barong.
For my money, the Kecak is the best. Dancers performing the Ramayana are accompanied by a 50-strong chorus of men who provide a hypnotic rhythmic accompaniment.
Sunday, December 14, 2003
Thursday, December 11, 2003
I didn't know what to do for Christmas until a few weeks ago. I was sitting in a hotel bar in Double Bay gossiping with a colleague when all of a sudden it hit me: I loathe Christmas.
Now Christmas is fine if you are a kid. It may even be bearable if you have kids but as a single man with no offspring, it offers little in the way of pleasure. Everywhere is shut and everything has tinsel wrapped round it.
Having reached this epiphany, others swiftly followed: I had 4 weeks of holiday left to take by the end of Jan 2004. It might be best to spend Christmas in a non-Christian country. The nearest such country is Indonesia.
Two days later I had a return ticket to Bali (leave on Saturday) and a replenished stock of imodium.
I have spent the last month irritating the hell out of my friends and colleagues about this trip.
As this trip was paid for by somebody else, I was staying in plush hotels rather than the dives I normally frequent. The whole experience is rather underwhelming. It's nice having somebody fold yer towels for you and getting to open a fresh sachet of soap every day - but apart from that? Nah - gimme back the sleaze.
Korea used to have its own monarchy. Who lived in palaces. Then the Japanese came and did away with that in the early years of last century. The palaces are now shells of their former selves - and altho simple and beautful, have a melancholic air about them. In the National Museum next to the main palace, there are two large scale models of the palace - one before and one after Japanese occupation. A big sign said all but said: "Look what you did, you Jap bastards, look, just f***ing look!!!!"
Seoul was actually quite interesting. It's 40km to the DMZ with North Korea. So on a day off, I went there.
It was cold and pissing down with rain - appropriate Cold War whether. I was on a tourist bus with a bunch of Hyundai workers from Alabama. Apparently this was a month long training course / holiday for them - although most had elected to go home early.
The best bit was the tunnel. You get to go down the tunnel in a little car like a rollercoaster for midgets. You then walk along the tunnel - which ends abruptly before the DMZ.
"I know guys, we'll build a tunnel under the DMZ and send our glorious troops through. The running dogs of capitalism will never suspect a thing!" [cue much evil, manical laughter]
I know it's supposed to be serious, but it's kinda hard to take the whole thing seriously.
Japan and Korea
I spent a hectic week visiting Tokyo and Seoul at someone else's expense. However, I don't have that much to say except that I ran a course with a Vietnam vet who roadied for Sly Stone.
Oh and this guy writes about Japan in a very funny way.
I learnt to drive when I was 17. The instructress was this Hyacinth Bucket-type woman who slapped the dashboard to make rhetorical points, almost causing me to crash. For one reason and another (mainly laziness) I haven't been behind the wheel of a car for nearly a decade. As most of Australia is only visitable by car, I decided it was time to get a vehicle. But not wanting to kill the innocent, I got some lessons first.
My new instructor was a talkative, pendantic pom of whom I grew strangely fond over time. Apparently I have problems looking attentatively at the road. It is a good measure of my inattention that it took me over month to notice that he only had one leg. Eventually I steered the conversation round to enquire how he lost said limb.
"In a car crash", he replied.
I asked him how he felt about the loss of his leg. "Best thing that ever happened to me", he said before outlining the benefits that had accrued to him since.
Gotta admit that I like his attitude.
Sunday, October 05, 2003
The Yarra Valley
Beautiful countryside filled with heaps and heaps of wine. What were they thinking?
Went to some fringe stuff. Got told off for heckling one of the comedians - and his audience.
I dunno - I can't help it.
After the Gold Rush
Melbourne is a nice city. The centre is grid - ordered, sane. Lots of cafes and restaurants. Lots of rain and wind as well apparently.
Sunday, September 21, 2003
I Think I'm In Love
Matters of the heart crop up all the time in pop songs. Yearning, satisfied, pure, lustful, before, after. But in most songs, there's little room for doubt. You love somebody or you don't. You're in love or you're out of love.
Of course, things aren't that simple in real life. People may know what their feelings about someone or something are (although even this is tenuous) but we sure as hell can't always rely on knowing what the feelings of others are. We live in a world of perpetual uncertainty. We navigate it as best we can but there are no guarantees.
Ladies And Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space is an album shot through with doubt and distrust. Nothing and nobody can be depended on.
So ITIIL is the third song on the album. The music is wistful. Humming away into a sweet buzz of disorientation. The sound track to an Indian Summer afternoon as the light dies. Jason Pierce's lyrics begin as standard-issue junkie crap - and then comes:
"But I don't care 'bout you
And I've got nothing to do"
A childish, petulant come back. I'm so over you... I'm gonna shoot up. Ah, that didn't work, did it? And then the strange call-and-response dialogue starts up. Jason is talking to himself. The effect is like Woody Allen gone gospel:
"Think my name is on your lips (probably complaining)"
The song fizzes away like an alka seltzer. Neurotic self-absorption turned inward, fitfully eating itself away. Drug delirium as a metaphor for romantic delusion.
It may be one of the best songs about love (as opposed to love songs) and its various side effects ever written.
Saturday, September 20, 2003
Jesus and Mary Chain - yes, they are painful. That's the point. You Trip Me Up or In A Hole are meant to leave scars on your ears in the best possible way.
And as for humidity - yeah, Bummed always smelt of dry ice and sweat to me. The whole album disappears in a haze. Pills 'n' Thrills was definite and well-behaved and dry in comparison. Or rather it felt rusty and corroded - like the years of hedonism on the inside and Manc precipitation on the outside had finally compromised the industrial infrastructure of the Hacienda.
London (and Dizzy Rascal)
I went into a shop today and asked after the Dizzy Rascal CD as others had raved about it. It left me cold. Literally. I was shivering in Sydney spring sunshine. It's defintely got a lotta garidge in there. The sub-bass pressure drops, the asymetric drum patterns. The sheer naked aggression of the thing. It triggered a weird flashback to life in London. Screwfacef***youbodyarmourdontcomenearme.
It reminded me why I don't live there now. But I didn't need reminding often enough to buy the goddamn thing.
This week is Glebe Week (courtesy of the Glebe Chamber of Commerce).
Tomorrow we have the Blessing of the Pets at Glebe Estate Community Church. If i had a pet, you can bet ya caboose I'd be down there ensuring it was blessed.
A Home and a Castle
We moved offices at the end of August. They didn't have enough space in the new building so a whole slew of us were told to work from home. I have been adjusting to this situation. Contrary to others' expectations I do make an effort in my teleworking - washing, wearing clothers, even shaving. But the change is requiring some adjustment, especially around ethical practice.
The early indicators are:
- Working from home is fine, provided you find alternative ways of keeping touch with colleagues
- The urge to get out of the house during the evenings is pretty overpowering
- Sitting out in the sun drinking tea in the backyard whilst doing business on the mobile is kinda cool
When do they put WiFi in pubs?
Sunday, August 24, 2003
You can't see out of the windows. Not that there is much to see - just an enormous McDonalds and the Parramtta Road traffic. It is mandatory for all lower-league rock venues to an airless black box where everything is coated with stale beer and fag ash. Drinks are served in plastic glasses. Don't get the wrong idea - this is not a place most people would go to hang out. No - you have come here with a purpose. And that purpose is to ROCK. But not only is the venue conspiring against you, so is the first act. I have nothing against men in dresses. Indeed, I spent Wednesday evening watching Vanessa Wagner's talent / talk show at the Columbian. I have nothing against individuals acting like they have tourette's syndrome. I even nothing against people lacking talent. I just want none of these individuals on stage in front of me. Anyway, moving swiftly on anyone remember Transvision Vamp? No? Well, 16DD are a bit like that. Accentuate the positive - Slant Six look like they really want to be in 50s American. But they do rock.
But not as much as Zombie Ghost Train who put on a show. They're kinda the opposite of "indie" bands like Coldplay and Radiohead. Indie bands are/were notorious for their lack of showmanship. Four blokes on stage who could just have walked out of the audience by chance. All earnest about the importance of their music and their art and all that crap. ZGT have no budget but put on pure theatre - staged tableaux, gymnastics, patter, costumes and make-up. They don't just invite, they insist the audience has a good time.
Does my heart good.
But probably not my liver.
Monday, August 18, 2003
Until a month ago, all Ian Penman meant to me was a name in Cure curio Desperate Journalist. And now he's spilling his heart out in html. Ian's gone TV cold turkey.
Ah TV - so much cheaper and socially acceptable than heroin, so much less disruptive to the lifestyle than alcohol abuse.
Kpunk picks up on Paul Morley's article.
My take on this is a bit skewed. Coz I wasn't allowed vinyl records as a child. My parents believed that I would break/scratch them - as I broke everything else they gave me. I wasn't violent - just unbelievably clumsy (but, hey, you knew that from my prose style no?).
So I had a tape recorder instead. First, one of those enormous reel-to-reel jobs like something a FBI surveilence dude would have in an unmarked van parked outside Gene Hackman's house. Then a cassette number. I owned a record player for about 6 months at Uni 10 years ago (a family friend donated it to me) and I own about 20 records tops. So vinyl has no aura for me.
Now cassettes are different matter. A despised format - both by afficionados and the industry ("home taping is killing music") - but a necessary one.
The cassette experience is far more linear/sequential than the record - you can't drop the needle any where you wish but must scroll backwards and forwards to find the tracks you want. The recording is viscous and tactile. Time is felt.
Cassttes made music ubiquitous - car tape decks and walkmans desacralized the listening experience.
And cassettes are also mutable - you can record your own compilations - making the music your own in some key way.
Records are objections of adoration - sensuously stroked by the stylus to croon out their melodies. Cassettes are components to be plugged into a machine.
Sunday, August 17, 2003
Can I just say how much swimming rocks? The resistance of the water against your limbs. The sense of being suspended - cheating gravity?
And can I also content that yoga rocks with mighty fists of steel?
Friday, August 15, 2003
Today is Indonesian Independence Day. The smoke from dozens of barbeques drifts across Sydney University and a student bands knocks out that old Javan favourite "When I Saw Her Standing There".
The Australian relationship with Indonesian is rather complex. Both are essentially European colonial creations. One is an archipeligo of 2000 islands and 200 million people (mainly Muslim) held together by a marginally democratic government and a repressive army in Jakarta. The other is a continent with a tenth of population but vastly wealthier and nominally Christian.
Potential allies, rivals and enemies both. And don't even get me started on East Timor.
Thursday, August 14, 2003
"I hate my job."
"Come to our place. Do you have much experience with Brazilian waxes?"
"Not technically, but I do tear strips off c***s all day."
Tuesday, August 05, 2003
Thursday, July 31, 2003
A Time For Fear and K-punk delirial/derailed.
When I was 9 an early experiment with DIY connected me briefly to the mains electricity supply. The energy poured through. It was exhilarating. Wonderful. But reluctantly I knew it had to stop or else I'd die.
Breathe deeply. In. Out. Forget the world. Forget the farawayvisions in the corner of the room. Forget the people around you. There's no one here. Forget the future. Forget the past. How did you get here? It doesn't matter. Where will you go? It doesn't matter. Breathe.
Your diaphragmatic and intercostal muscles contract, the negative pressure draws the air outside through your mouth, down your windpipe and into your lungs. Oxygen is absorbed by the tiny capillaries in your alveoli. Bound with iron (haemoglobin), it voyages through your body before its metabolized with organic compounds - traded for energy and carbon dioxide.
The carbon dioxide is traded for fresh oxygen at the border of the lungs. The carbon was once part of you. And now its being pushed up your windpipe, expelled into the big wide world. Diffusing into the atmosphere.
Breathe. You are connected to the outside world whether you like it or not. You can't cut yourself off. Make yourself invincible. Disengage. The only way would be stop breathing.
I can't tell you anything about the divine or the inhuman or even AFL.
I just remember the electricity.
I'm still breathing.
Tuesday, July 29, 2003
What exactly does inhuman mean? And if music can awaken the inhuman within us then how can it be inhuman if it's part of us already?
You've caught me at a bad time, so why don't you piss off
Currently caning this on my headphones whilst I receive emails with "God Bless American" signatures.
It's partly coz the music is both forlorn and cheerful. But mainly coz Barney Sumner has truly absymal voice that with any other backing would drive you to rip your ears off. But it works here.
In much the same way that Ian Brown's off-key warbling complemented John Squire's string vest guitar.
Monday, July 28, 2003
Ridicule is nothing to be scared of
Agree with K-punk on this one. An ironic approach to culture means never having to say you love something. Never making yourself vulnerable to the critical judgements of others. Never taking a gamble. Flatlined.
I kinda have issues with The Carpenters at the moment (see below). But I think ABBA are great. Dancing Queen and Gimme Gimme Gimme are ProgDisco. Their ambition was incredible - and more incredibly on occasion they pulled it off.
When I was a child, I was brought up in the Evangelical Christian Church. The Divine was a weekly occurence (speaking in tongues, healing, exorcisms, prophecy) along with Grandstand and Sunday Roasts. It took be quite a while to realise that human beings made the divine rather than the other way round. And then I was cast out of the Garden. I tried other gates, other ways in - but could find only one: music. Music is my last contact with the divine, with a god who is already dead. And the divine only makes sense if you give yourself to it utterly, abjectly. It might be ABBA, or Human Resources, or Donna Summer, or The Pixies or even the fcking Birdie Song. It doesn't matter.
You got to lose it to use it.
No Recuperation, Only Feedback
Most of this paper strikes me as irrelevant however the following is quite interesting:
"The very desire of Ubiquitous computing to become embedded or pervasive technology serves to render space and time invisible; it quite simply seeks to go anywhere and be everywhere. But theories of everyday life as flow and transduction suggest that Ubicomp cannot actually be anywhere and everywhere, it must be somewhere and sometime"
Will consider and respond.
Am I alone in finding Stelarc bloody annoying?
"Look, look - I have shoved a DVD player up my arse. Marvel at my post-humanity!!!"
A Jim Rose Circus Side Show for the academic lecture arts circuit, most of his posturing misses the point. Our bodies and the everyday life we experience through them are being reconfigured by technology. But this technological transformation is incremental and mundane - the drama is absent.
How you make these changes visible? How do you make the undramatic involving?
I am not convinced by Stelarc's answer but do not have a counter-suggestion of my own.
Just received a press release about this event:
"Thomas A. Stewart, the all powerful editor of the Harvard Business Review and one of the world’s 50 most influential management thinkers as voted by The Financial Times"
All powerful, eh? Well at least I can stop worrying about world poverty now, Tom be praised!
Somebody needs to have the "hyperbole" function disabled on their word processor.
Friday, July 25, 2003
The character and fate of Sisypheus are similar to Loki. In both cases, their punishment is eternal and somehow circular. But then, they'd been very naughty boys. And we can't have people pulling tricks and getting away with them, can we.
On Wednesday, I took a late lunch and contemplated leaving Australia, never to return. To backpack and learn Spanish in South America may be. Or possibly a Buddhist monastery in Thailand. Anything but continue my Sisyphean office routine.
That's not going happen. Maybe I feel better today.
K-punk reaches out with an undead claw...
"It's true, what I was interested in, when I started the blog, was (re)covering the (lost) Futures of Pop - Partly a genealogical exercise"
Any escape into the past (e.g. a past where you are saddled with Joan Collins) implies the present can't that great. The lost futures are resuscitated as the present future ain't up to scratch?
Are the dead not being reanimated here (which is never pretty)?
The impact of alternative history doesn't lie in swerves in the grand narrative sweep of empires and war but in the unheimlich sensations induced when you realise that your everyday life is built on contingencies. In "High Castle" it's the little things (the I-Ching) that are important. If pop has alternative futures (and why the hell not?), then why should we be interested unless we can hum them on the bus?
Mark - all that said, I do read your blog and hope you continue it.
Friday, July 18, 2003
Monbiot sells out
George Monbiot is the Hugh Grant of the anti-globalisation movement. Noam Chomsky with a better hairdresser. An engaging public speaker with some ambitious ideas for the future of global democracy.
Oh and I got into a argument with someone from here and someone from here outside the event. Apparently everybody needs to join a union. Party like it's 1926!
Thursday, July 10, 2003
"She had a baby on your bathroom floor? You lived with her, didn't you notice she was pregnant?"
"Well, she didn't so how were we supposed to?"
Rich Americans discipline their kids
Western corporations outsource industrial production (and increasingly services) to countries with low labour costs and lax regulations. Why shouldn't Western families do the same with activities such as parenting?
Tuesday, July 08, 2003
"Don't dress in a manner which attracts attention to your body"
Camoflage possibly? Or maybe a disguise (e.g. animal costume)?
So easy mock.
Which is why I am doing so.
Let's keep these foreigners away at any cost.
Oh unless they're sponsored by multinational technology companies of course.
'Why did you come to the Blue Mountains if you suffer from vertigo?"
"I didn't think we'd go near the edges."
One of my flatmates said: "You listen to a lot of angry music."
And he was right. And I don't think it's helping my mood. So I went to "Dirt Cheap CDs" on Pitt Street (this is Australia, if a desert is great and sandy, it gets called the Great Sandy Desert) and bought a bumper 60-song pack of reggae and this.
"You should get involved with the Big Sister Big Brother programme. They're crying out for responsible male role models."
"When I become a responsible male, I'll let you know."
Saturday, July 05, 2003
"How do you find out about a person's character?"
"By slips of the tongue. What they say or don't say, I suppose."
"I disagree. Action reveals character. People lie all the time, especially to themselves."
"Well Denial is a good place to live. Its plains are rich and fertile."
"But treacherous. The plains are prone to flooding."
Question from audience: What do you think of frequent commercial use of your father's image in the West?
Che's Daughter (via translator): I hear that in Australia you use my father's image to sell ice cream. I am not happy about that. But some of those who wear Che's picture on a T-shirt must wonder who he was. And a few of those will read his words. And one or two may act of them. Recently, an Argentinian child was shown on a news broadcast, waving a flag of Che at a protest. When asked why he did this, he answered: 'Che's struggle is our struggle."
Thursday, July 03, 2003
Dayglo: what this Mirror article about David Beckham misses is the I-Ching reference. And there's a fascinating reference to Morse Code.
"Splitting Apart" - could this refer to Beck's effect on the opposition? Or on his move from his native country? Or maybe his marriage?
Or is it just that Michael Jordan had the same number?
The writing around Po (Earth below the Mountain) reminds me of The Tower.
Phrases to add to budget requests in the futile hope that they'll get approved:
- "Implementation will drive shareholder value"
- "Significant impact on both revenue and cost drivers"
- "You can use my children as little knife-throwing acrobats"
- "For God sake, do you know how many hours of my life I wasted on the 30 pages you've just consigned to the shredder? Do you? I'll never get them back... never...."
And therefore good.
NSW Forum where we were presented with a tag-team presentation by Sydney Catchment Authority and CSC Australia on Social Network Analysis. A fascinating technique that maps interactions between people.
The applications of this are potentially endless - and also disturbing. A fear for many is that people are talking behind their backs, or even worse, having a better time socially than them. SNA could provide empirical evidence to prove that, yes, you have no mates and nobody likes you.
Goodbye to Tim Kannegeiter who leaves Standards Australia for Fonterra across the Tasman. Where apparently he'll be doing everything.
Wednesday, July 02, 2003
Tuesday, July 01, 2003
A conversation at work triggered a memory of the following:
The trick, he said, was to ignore what other people said, whoever they might be, and just deal with the person in front of you, and what they said and did in the time you spent together. Otherwise, he said, you’d constantly be behaving as if the other person was an asshole, and only notice when they did asshole stuff. Since adopting this blatantly manipulative approach, twisting what well meaning people had told him about others, he said, he’d met much fewer assholes in the course of his work, and in the rest of his life.
As I recall, Mr Reynolds also has a damn fine meditation exercise involving Homer Simpson.
Monday, June 30, 2003
I'll be attending this launch of a compilation of Che Guevara's writing this Friday.
Go Che! Revolutionary and T-Shirt Salesman!
I have a new locker at work. I do not have a key for said locker. The lockers (and therefore their keys) are not made in Australia. They are in fact made in Italy. Hence the key to my locker will have to be shipped over from Italy.
Well at least I'll have one Italian accessory in my wardrobe.
When we think of love, we think of flowers. There are good reasons for this. They are beautiful and perfumed (as, by implication, is the object of our affection). It is the job of flowers is to be attractive - to insects. The seduction of people is an unintended by-product. Subconsciously many of us know that flowers are vegetable reproductive organs but most of are too polite to mention this.
But there's a problem. Flowers don't feel like love. Love is about the ties that bind people together: emotional, physical, financial and social. The links of dependency. With their cut stems, flowers are the very model of (doomed) independence. Love seems more like Kikuyu. A weed that spreads above and below the surface. That's difficult to root out once established. That binds and breeds.
But what do I know about gardening?
Baran - love amongst the scaffolding on an Iranian building site.
Igby Goes Down - hey rich people are as messed up as regular folks - but they have better interior design and more erudite dialogue.
Release The Bats
I fell asleep in the park for 5 minutes. When I awoke the tree in front of me was full of bats. Hundreds of them, like black, leathery fruit hanging from the branches. Fantastic.
Sunday, June 29, 2003
You may have come across the excreable show TV's Funniest Bloopers. It revisits the screw-ups and mis-takes that you never normally see on the box. "Ha ha - look there's a local news presenter being savaged by rabid dog!!! That'll have him foaming at the mouth - d'ya geddit? Foaming!! At the Mouth!!!!"
Anyway, depression has its own version of this show. Only in this case it's called: "You Are Crap". Every instance that you've screwed up, screwed someone else over or been screwed over yourself is run on loop. And it corrodes your self-confidence and energy. Why should you do anything when you'll just mess it up? And hurt other people in the process? Back under the blankets with you. Is your journey really necessary? In fact, is your existence really necessary?
I'm not currently screening this show - coz if I was I wouldn't be posting about it.
"Are you making a difference?"
"Oh yes. I'm raising the CO2 levels in this room even as we speak."
Thursday, June 26, 2003
Tuesday, June 24, 2003
Monday, June 23, 2003
Lost my wallet on Friday. Should be returning to me shortly. Basically it meant that I had $20 for Saturday and Sunday. An insightful and unpleasant experience. You think: "Hmmm, could really do with a coffee now. Ah there's a coffee house! I know I go in and get a coffee and... oh."
This may be karmic payback as I haven't been giving money to charity in the last few months.
Sunday, June 22, 2003
Saturday, June 21, 2003
The Only Explanation I Can Find
I'm have this recurring nightmare where I'm in a kareoke bar with Karen Carpenter. We're on top of the world, looking down on creation. And we're given a menu covered in plastic. Each entry is for a song and an item of food. We both have to sing a song then the one with the better voice gets the item of food in the menu. We begin and by the time we hit a swing-tempo "Highway to Hell" it has become apparent that the contest is hopelessly mismatched. Karen is thrashing me hollow. But the more she eats, the thinner she gets. Just as I am limping through a skiffle version of "No Woman No Cry", the waiter comes in and announces they have run out of food. Karen (by now skeletal) turns round and starts eyeing my leg. She's going to eat me alive - whilst crooning a medley of Radiohead songs.
It wouldn't be so bad but the screaming is starting to annoy my flatmates.
David Weinberger says: "We are bodies. Flesh rulz."
And he's read lots of Heidigger and written books and stuff - so he must be right.
Coz some of us sometimes forget that. Ya have to love ya body. And treat it right.
"I'm saving myself"
"You're not spent yet"
Luke and Jacqui attempted to persuade me last nite that Frank N Furter is a classical Shakespearian hero brought low by his own flaws. I blame the chocolate margaritas they had been consuming.
Go Luke! Go Jacqui!
Alister: ex-music journo, script writer, techie, charming coffee companion and knowledge manager. Go Alister!
Krista has just become the proud mother of two twin baby boys. Go Krista! Go Isaac! Go Logan! Go Jonas! Go Noah!
Thursday, June 19, 2003
The knight sat at the bus stop, his shield resting on his knees and his armour glittering in the street lights.
"Do you think he's lost his horse?"
Wednesday, June 18, 2003
Dayglo was a Rodeo.
1. Hang on
2. We're right behind you. But that's only because riders are thrown forwards.
My favorite metaphor for the rough patches of life remains Ocean Kayaking. You start on the shore, two to a kayak. You get in the kayak (easy). You then attempt to paddle through the impact zone. You the faster you go and the more perpendicular you are to the incoming waves the less likely you are to be knocked off. But you almost certainly will be knocked off. So you get back in again. Then you're past the impact zone and floating on the ocean like a match stick. Riding in on waves is pretty cool. You wait for a biggie to form a 100 yeards from you, then you paddle like buggery and if you're lucky it catches you and you cruise into shore. Again you have to be perpendicular or the wave will tear the kayak from under you and send you spinning like an ant in a washing machine.
Of course, to pursue this metaphor to its logical conclusion, I'd have to fit in the bit about having an enormous German guy in the back of the kayak doing all the work while I whinged.
Yes, that is very much like life my child.
"Ya used to tell the truth
But now ya clever."
Thief. Addict. Casualty. Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you...
"Get in the lift please, I have a plane to catch."
He stands by the lift's controls, jabbing at the close button with a woodpecker thumb.
"This life is going to stop on every floor", he grumbles as people exhibit the temerity to get in.
The lift descends. He motions everyone to stand clear of the doors and stands as close as possible in front of them. I cock my hand like a starting pistol.
The lift stops.
The doors open.
He exits, stalking down the corridor.
The doors close.
I turn to my fellow descendants: "Hang on, hasn't he just got off on the wrong floor? The one with no exits?"
"Yes he has. What a shame."
"Here, mate, mate, OI mate..."
"My mate's seen you around and she really fancies you. Can I get your phone number?"
"I'm terribly sorry I don't have a phone."
"What not even a land line?"
"No, I'm allergic to them you see."
"Well can I give you her phone number then?"
"Well no, because I couldn't ring her, could I?"
I received this message from the FCO:
The vast majority of visits to Australia are trouble?free. The risk from terrorism is low."
Thanks for sharing that. You've really set my mind at rest.
Monday, June 16, 2003
The Queens of the Stone Age vs. Bjork
1993: The second song on Debut is Crying.
It's a song about longing, about being separated from someone you love. The percussion starts twitchy and awkward. Unable to relax because it's distracted, its thoughts are elsewhere.
"there's no-one here,
and people everywhere"
These two lines sum up the feeling of isolation when no one else will do but the person who is not there. They are vulnerable and charming.
2003: Better Living Through Chemistry, the fifth track on Rated R made me double take. The chorus is a direct lift from Crying. Except the meaning of the words has completely changed. Bjork sounds open and human - all too sensitive to the world around her. By contrast Josh Homme is completely desensitized. The music is techtonic hard rock shot through a psychadelic prism. Drug paranoia and dreams of apocalyptic vengence seep out into the earspace of the listener.
"There's no one here
And people everywhere,
you're all alone"
The addition of the final line is important. Bjork's lyrics are a pain in heart put into words. Homme's the accusation/temptation offered to a psychotic.
In their own ways, they both confront loneliness. The fact that we are all disconnected from each other. And yet, as social animals we are bound to try to overcome that. The solution QOTSA offer on "Rated R" is to disconnect completely - and relish it. Although "relish" is not really the word to describe this sour older brother of Ladies and Gentlemen, We Are Floating In Space ("Yeah kid, drugs mess you up but love won't redeem you. It's just a rationalization for sex - which'll mess you up even more"). You're all alone. Deal.
I'm not sure whether Bjork offers a solution or not. She just is (emoting/emotional). It's difficult to imagine her ever wanting to give up on humanity entirely (despite the unpredictability of "Human Behaviour", the dangers of being "Violently Happy" or the "Anchor Song"s temptation to remain under the sea). The pleasures and pains of love, sensuality and contact with others are too intense and real for that. You have to try or it's not worth it.
I kinda prefer Bjork's vision, much as I like QOTSA's RAWK attack. And it seems they might do too. The two singles from Songs For The Deaf offer worldviews gradually recovering from jaundice. 'No One Knows" may refer to a person or a drug but its bouncy/dreamy demeanour suggests some search for happiness - it's not all lost yet. "Go with the Flow" is a different kettle of wolverines altogether. The music is pedal-to-the-metal ramalama and Homme's voice is yearning. For once, he gives a shit.
"But I want something good to die for
To make it beautiful to live."
Bjork would approve.
What is it about explanatory frameworks of human behaviour (e.g. astrology, MBTI, Belbin) that means they have categories between 7-20? A cynic would say that such a number is large enough to give the appearance of rigour (unlike the comments such as Sgt Hartman's to Pvt Cowboy)without being overwhelming (as say the 821 classifications of SOC).
Lives and Stories
In the spirit of "confession" that I outlined below, time for some critiquing of the Myers-Briggs concept and my engagement with it.
I test as an INTx - sometimes INTJ, sometimes INTP . This bothered me. I am annoyed that this should bother me. Why could my nature not be fitted comfortably in a behaviouristic box? This explanation (if you leave out the author's obsession with classical music and science fiction) comes close.
The main problem that some of the more devoted (even rigorous) followers of the MBTI have is that they assume type sits on top of a repeatable mental architecture (see the lengthy INTP profile again). Freud made the claim that all our psychic life stories are the same (Oedipus Complex yadda, yadda). MBTI tries to split them up into 16 life stories. Astrology gives us 12.
And here's where it breaks down. People's lives flood over these boundaries and form unique patterns. The best these explanatory frameworks can provide is some thematic structure to the narrative. Of course, any narrative worth its salt has to play with its own conventions (even if only a little before returning to standard ending for reader satisfaction).
Saturday, June 14, 2003
Another current obsession: Process / decision mapping and flow charts. There is nothing in life that cannot be turned into a process map. And they certainly offer the illusion of understanding and control.
yesterday, i attempted to process map buying some trousers (is colour suitable? if no select another pair, if yes then do they fit?)
i never got round to buying the trousers.
i need help.
"Do you like chocolate or jelly?"
"No, that's impossible."
"You must be Libra. Librans are indecisive."
"I'm on the cusp - which is may be another indication of my indecisiveness. I'm a Scorpio."
"So am I, my birthday is November 1st."
"All Saints' Day."
'What, that doesn't sound very Scorpio-ish!"
"It's a church holiday. Hallow'een is shortened from All Hallows' Eve. It means the day before Saints' Day. The day after is All Souls Day. So I guess that makes you a saint."
Can you tell who it is yet?
This is my current obsession.It has its origins in the psychology of Jung and is very widely used in the business world. Here are some cogent criticisms of it.
"I ask managers whether they are planning to pay people to be likable or to do a good job"
Because the two are obviously incompatible. "Work harder, you scum!!!"
At its best MBTI provides a neutral framework, that allows people to talk about who they are (how they think, what motivates them and how they interact with others). It's simple and appealing.
There is always a danger in categorizing people that you pigeon-hole them. Nobody is just 4 letters. And nobody knows just how damn complicated anybody else is. Therefore some maturity and insight is required.
Altho type-spotting is fun if done subtly. But don't take it too seriously.
Monday, June 09, 2003
Wanting to complete some work last night, I went our Sydney offices. A woman was entering the door just in front and I ambled in after here. She turned round and I flashed my ID to indicate I worked here too. By a coincidence, she walked to the same lifts as me and pressed the request button. On the arrival of said life, she didn't get in. Noticing my puzzled expression, a look of extreme discomfort crossed her face.
Ah. I look like a mugger/rapist/murderer (hey, like that's news).
I got out out of the lift, said I understood and said I'd take another one. Situation solved.
I kinda understand why she did it. A deserted building late at night (altho with security guards and cameras). A single male in proximity. Maybe a bad experience in the past.
Except I don't really understand what she felt. I've rarely felt scared in urban environments at night (as I don't walk around carrying drugs, weapons or large amounts of cash, I don't attract the wrong sort of attention).
I don't what it feels like to be anyone else.
I was accosted on Sunday nite by 2 kids jabding out flyers. On closer inspection these turned out to be religious tracts, with people telling me how Jesus had made their (and indeed our) lives better by dying (Jesus is quite like his followers in this respect). Born and bred on bad religion, I reacted quite badly to this. Before I could work myself up into the requisite psychotic lather, they merrily skipped off saying "read your Bible and pray to God, that'll solve everything".
Yeah, I got "issues". My basic problem with Christianity is that it starts from the assumption that the only good things in human beings come from a nebulous external source prone to vengence and apocalytic acts of destruction. Well, thanks for that.
Despite my earlier comments, I love and respect a lot of people who identify as Christians ("hey, some of my best friends go to church"). There was term they used to bandy about: 'Loving the sinner, hating the sin." Which seemed to translate as: "I despise your choices and opinions and expect to see you tormented for eternity for them. No offence."
Right back at ya, brothers and sisters.
On Sunday I did make it to Bondi for some work with Conservation Australia. Which was a miracle coz I'd spent Saturday moshing like a beast (an unfit, ungainly beast mind) to these dixie-fried fools.
The Booth And The Baseball Bat
There are (at least) two models of what a confession is.
1. Catholic. You confess your sins, repent and receive absolution. If that was the model here, then what I'd want from you was simply a chuck on the arm and a "you're alright mate" - in lieu of 10 hail marys and 10 how's ya fathers. Ah, that's better. Except it isn't. Simply saying the truth does not make you free. Admitting you've done wrong may be the start of a "road to recovery", but all too often the work afterwards is ignored. "Getting it off your chest" does not drive it from your heart.
2. Judicial. In the police interview the experienced offender will lie, dissemble and distract. The confession comes at the end of the process rather than the beginning. The confession is a result of examination and possibly brutality. There is a risk it may not even be true. Once the confession is signed, the judicial process can then grind on - with others testing its validity.
These pages have more in common with a show trial than a psychiatrist's couch.
Friday, June 06, 2003
I am going to dive into the murky waters of professional activities here.
Last night, I attended NSW KM Forum. Adam from Ribbit gave a very passionate presentation on the impact of the online gaming community on the future of business.
Adam's basic premise is that those involved in online game development and playing are the entrepreneurs and employees of the future. What they are doing now will impact work patterns in 10 years time (if not right here, right now).
The gamers will be completely comfortable with virtual collaboration and project management and demanding of rich media environments.
Oh yeah, and we all discussed knowledge mapping (facilitated by James) for an hour before visiting the pub.
Thursday, June 05, 2003
Somewhat surprised when I went for lunch with a friend and they bought a crackpipe on the way home.
That's not my idea of dessert.
Tuesday, June 03, 2003
Ah, a footnote on confession from the followers of St Michel by way of Dayglo.
"People are taught that their liberation requires them to "tell the truth," to confess it to someone who is more powerful (a priest, a psychoanalyst), and this truth telling will somehow set them free"
Am I free because I tell the truth? Or do I tell the truth because I am free?
We could go into that whole "What is Truth?", "Are We Free?" crapshoot - but really wouldn't you rather have an armani-clad Larry Fishburn do that for you?
More on confession tomorrow.
And why good music makes me want to smear myself in blood.
Though not yours.
I have to take issue with this:
"Writer of pop music crit shouldn't *ever* apologise for its subject. Those who feel the need to do so should fuck off and write about something that doesn't leave mud on their boots..."
Dayglo: I absolutely agree. Reynolds does do this on occasion (c.f. the patronising label "avant-lumpen' for hardcore) - but mostly he loves what he writes about. It may be an occasionally guilty, shameful love. But still love.
He loves it enough to wrestle and argue with it - which precious few music journalists do.
Sunday, June 01, 2003
So then, George, these Weapons of Mass Destruction. Where are they? Come on, you've been talking about them for months.
What's that Tony? Secret proof you say. Well, that's alright then. I'm convinced.
As you were.
Notice a theme emerging here? We fear change. And run from it. And reject it. Tear up its reminders and calling cards. Erase its entries in our calendars.
But it is implacable.
There's been a lot of change in my 9to5 since Easter. Almost more than I can manage. Almost. I just have to hang onto my paddle. That's all.
In the tarot deck, Death symbolises change, rebirth, transformation. Everything is dying continuously - a torrent of "little deaths". We shed skin and blood. We shed the people we've known and loved. We sweat money and desire.
Don't die just yet.
Confession Time 3
Grant Morrison is a prick. Discuss.
Grant Morrison is a genius. Discuss.
Who cares? Maybe at one point I did. Again, back in 99, when my CCRU infatuation was peaking, I resurrected my interest in The Invisibles. A comic book. A sick, twisted, brilliant comic book.
You had a Mardi Gras of violence, black magick, kinky sex, inhuman technology, and ideas. Most of these ideas had be nicked from Philip K Dick, Robert Anton Wilson, and bunch of other hippies that took too many drugs in the 60s, but again, so what? They were good ideas anyway.
Then I found this. A internet board full of geeks? Oh yes. I eventually met with some of them as my circle of friends at the time were (and are) very sweet but something was missing. Something weird. And these guys provided that in spades.
Indirectly, they were one of the two main factors encouraging me to leave the UK. In a good way. Oh, and Barbelith indirectly led to imminent marriage of one of my best friends.
But I can't stand the place now.
Confession Time 2
Later. Much later. After I had finished my research into information broking and ebusiness for the MSc and moved to London, something else happened. I was holding down 2 jobs. For the first one I sold numbers and annoyed people. Selling numbers: a bank would ring the office up and we'd have to find the number of dry cleaners in Europe in the next 2 hours OR THE WORLD WOULD END!!! Annoying people: Telephone-based market research. Second job was running the LSE library at night, supervising a staff more intelligent and experienced than myself but lacking the requisite paper qualifications. This situation has coloured my view of managers ever since.
Why am I telling you all this? Isn't it boring? Well, yes, it is boring. And it was boring. You have to understand this or what I'll tell you next won't make sense.
I began to look elsewhere for kicks. Intellectual kicks. Weird kicks.
I encountered Cybernetic Culture Research Unit. They came out of Warwick University (a place I had worked at briefly in the mid-90s), had been created by Sadie Plant, a "media academic" (in both senses of that term) who has written about Situationists, Cyberfeminism, Drugs and mobile phones.
Also involved was Nick Land. Whereas Plant's writing is accessible (despite its origins in Continental Philosophy) in accordance with her media-friendly image, Land's is deliberately obscure. That which the lay reader does comprehend seems to go out of its way to shock and abuse. Once you realise that Land's heroes are Nietzsche and Bataille (two great wind-up merchants of European Thought), a lot of his posturing seemed as threatening as the man himself - a tawny haze of desert boots and camel lights. Land may now be in either Singapore. Or Birmingham.
CCRU seems to have grown out of a combination of 90s rave and jungle, 70s French philosophy (Foucault, Deleuze, Guattari, Virilo), cyberpunk science fiction, and later, Crowley-esque black magick and Lovecraftian bollox. They were a beautiful mess.
I attended the Syzygy events in London in 99 (by which time Plant was long gone - all those Radio 4 interviews to prepare for) - when my jobs allowed. The events were kinda fun in a self-consciously arty, "multi-media" fashion. Kodwo Eshun spun a few discs - awe-inspiring writer, average DJ. CCRU themselves seemed at once precious and playful - but hard to engage with. In their heads (and in their writing) they were counter-culture titans at the cutting edge of Cyberculture (this was 99 remember, before the dot.com bust). In reality, they seemed like a bunch of postgrads, bereft of their academic home, adrift in world where the best you can hope for is an Arts Council grant and maybe a spot at the ICA.
The only two that appear above the radar now are Mark Fisher and Simon Goodman.
Fisher writes about k-punk. Ditching all the stuff about the future, and escaping into the post-punk past. Retrenchment during tough times?
Goodman has run a UK garidge web site for the last few years and DJs regularly around the world. The site itself is a treasure trove of goodies. But most of it is journalism, lacking the incisive and disorienting (vampire) bite of CCRU.
I never knew these people (altho I have drunkenly harangued at least 2 of them at one point or another). But I loved their ideas. And not forgetting Matt Fuller's.
But that was then. Everything dies.
To use the appropriately Deleuzian term, CCRU seem to have been Reterritorialized. Or may be they split over "Theoretical Differences".
In the early 90s, I read NME and Melody every week. I didn't necessarily buy it every week - which used to piss the newsagents off no end.Anyway, most of the writing was appalling - posturing, self-righteous crap. One guy was... different.
Simon Reynolds - a theory-influenced cleverclogs in the mold of 80s types like Paul Morley and Ian Penman, SR would write about the likes of My Bloody Valentine, dreampop, avant-rock, 90s rave, jungle, hip hop. The music I grew to like but couldn't really explain. And he was obviously overeducated, just like me. Only far more articulate and interesting and stuff. I lapped up his articles and later, the books: Blissed Out, Energy Flash and The Sex Revolts (written with his wife, Joy Press). More than any other writer, SR shaped not so much the way I listened to music, but the way I contextualised and talked about it to others.
On occasion, I have parroted a Reynoldsian analysis of, say, happy hardcore to a luckless friend (usually Phil - almost always Phil - sorry Phil). But most of the time I agreed with him. No one else wrote about the music I loved with such passion and rigour - except maybe Chuck Eddy and too often he was just bloody annoying with his sodding jug bands and goth eurodisco.
So it was with first disbelief then despair that I saw SR fall away from doing what he did best - engaging with futuristic pop music. 2001 was the year that everything went pear-shaped (in so many ways). SR became disillusioned with the UK dance music scene and so decided to escape, like most discontents of the present, into the past. Not the future, where he belonged, but the past. Articles about 70s/80s post-punk began to appear. He seemed to only review re-releases of ACR or 23 Skidoo. What Tha F***?
Now, I have no insights into SR's personal life beyond what he posts/writes in public. But much of his disengagement seemed to stem from changes in him as much changes in da chunes. Moving to NYC, becoming a dad, nearing 40 - I dunno, like I say, I don't know the bastard.
Anyway, Cilla, the story has a kinda happy ending - coz now he has a blog. And there's heaps of good stuff on there. I no longer know most of the stuff he's writing about, but that doesn't matter, it's both yesterday AND today AND tomorrow.
We don't have to bury him yet.
Red pill, blue pill or hormone pill?
Now you know why the Matrix's main female character has wears leather catsuits.
"I want people to know the truth," he says. "When Larry walked down that red carpet with my wife he was probably wearing a bra and panties under his suit."
With Friends Like This
A few months back I signed up for this. I have had a client for about a month. I can't tell you anymore really.
I made this
Back when I was in Kolkata, I wrote and constructed this site.
It took them a year to put it up - I imagine they were too busy tending the sick and teaching the young. Priorities, eh?
I have agreed to be the Australian contact for CR. Trying to set an Australian branch of this organisation has been a side project of mine. And it's tough. Coz to be a "proper" charity in Australia, you need DGR status. To get DGR if you intend to send the money overseas (i.e. to Kolkata), you need:
- 2 years audited accounts
- 100 voting members
- other stuff that we don't have
CR Australia ain't gonna get that soon. So we have to be creative. And clever.
...And the crusties shall inherit the earth
2. The Matrix 2. It rocks. Yes, the dialogue is woeful, the characterisation marginal and the plot plodding but, dude, the special effects!
That can't actually make Keanu act, but they can cunningly distract you with some lovely fight scenes.
Now some twats will tell you the Matrix is philosophical. Philosophy in M2 boils down to:
"We have free will."
"No, we don't."
"Don- ah screw it! Let's try to kill each other!!!!"
Of course, what M2 is all about is the growing convergence between movies and video games.
Enter The Matrix includes unseen movie footage and links directly into M2's plotlines (such as they are).
Now most video games have the same plot structure - they're quests. You are the hero (or anti-hero in the case of GTA) and you have a set of tasks to achieve. M2 has a "quest" storyline as well. Which presumably means more and more films will take on the narrative structure of video games.
Good or bad thing?
And while you're thinking of that read this Seussian Matrix
It is well-known that rather than discuss their subjective feelings, men prefer to express themselves through "objective" topics such as sport, cars, and music. So, I'll kick off with the following:
Went on a film binge yesterday.
1. Secretary. Having played some truly pervy characters before, James Spader has the comparatively straight-forward role of a sadistic lawyer embarking on a dom/sub-style relationship with his self-mutilating secretary, played by the talented Maggie G.
I wish I could say I was sickened and digusted by this degenerate filth. But I kinda liked it. Well acted. Reasonably well written and directed.
I'm not really into BDSM. The "fetish" aspects that surround (leather, restraints, instruments of torture, PVC) come across as cheesy and naff rather than sexy. The only aspect that does interest me is "mindgames" bit. How much do you trust someone? How far would you let them go - and how far would they let you?
Or to put it another way, what challenges us most when we see examples of real torture is the physical brutality and destruction.But the physical scars are only a means to an end - the point of torture is destruction of the will. You could argue some kind of logic of both physical torture and meditation. The body becomes a conduit to transform the mind - build or break.
Thursday, May 01, 2003
I'm back! Life is finally interesting enough to squirt across your monitors again.
Where is everybody?
Oh, that's right, they were never here in the first place.
Saturday, November 09, 2002
It's patently obviously this page is going no where for the moment. So both this site and its evil twin are going on ice indefinitely.
Thursday, October 31, 2002
Taking a year out? Living in Oz? Working for a management consulting firm? Becoming a bit of self-obsessed prat while you're away? Engaging in geeky conversation with a closely knit circle of friends? Debating the role of religious belief in modern society? References to friends with suspected testicular cancer? Nearing 30?
I want more information on this Richard Herring and where he gets his ludicrous, unbelieveable stories from.
Playing Hide And Seek With Jesus
I turn away from the shops and fish-and-stalls as the bus pulls away. Ahead of me is fine white sand. A young mother sits with toddlers near the surf, wiping mouths and priming the eyes in the back of her head. The sun blazes in the sky, scrambling my DNA. The elderly swim back and forth in the artifical pools by the rocks, leathery turtles safe from predatory currents. In the sea, fleas in wet suits cling to their boards as the swell sends them up and down. The moon pulls the water of the Earth into useful shapes for pleasure. I look at the ocean. Big. Blue. Pacific. No gills. No fins or scales. I cannot go home.
I turn away from the shops and fish-and-stalls as the bus pulls away. Ahead of me is fine white sand. A young mother sits with toddlers near the surf, wiping mouths and priming the eyes in the back of her head. The sun blazes in the sky, scrambling my DNA. The elderly swim back and forth in the artifical pools by the rocks, leathery turtles safe from predatory currents. In the sea, fleas in wet suits cling to their boards as the swell sends them up and down. The moon pulls the water of the Earth into useful shapes for pleasure. I look at the ocean. Big. Blue. - posted by Daniel @ 4:01 AM
OK. I am living at a very quiet hostel in Glebe. Which is kinda like a shabbier Hampstead/Highgate for all you Lahndahnas out there.
And this job in Oz thing is moving apace. Still in the interview stages but I want to pre-empt any need to rush decisions. So I emailed loads of people asking for advice. Looking for different viewpoints and inspiration rather than a simple "yes/no" formulation. So far 10 responses. Including lots of interesting gossip (some funny, some sad but all appreciated). If this is the response generated, I must have potentially life changing decisions thrust upon me more often.
Tuesday, October 29, 2002
Sunday night we went the casino. I've never been into gambling. Largely because I don't get it. There is no pleasure for me in throwing money to the winds of chance. Possibly because I'm a rationalistic tight-ass. But I'm also a little bit scared. Scared that if I get a taste for it I can kiss any kind of future good bye.
But what part of life doesn't involve a gamble?
What have I been doing recently?
1. Turning 29. I'm old but not that old.
2. Played Mahjong with Bron and John. It's poker for the poetic. Shuffling the tiles is known as "the twittering of the birds".
3. Trying to get part time work. So far: Failure. I was all set to leave Syndey and and maybe engage in some WWOOFing. Then I get a mysterious message about a job. In Sydney. Long term (i.e. 1 year+). Doing pretty much what I was doing in London.
I don't know. Stick, Twist or Burn?
Monday, October 21, 2002
Went to Livid on Sunday.
What's Hot in my Head: International Noise Conspiracy, Machine Gun Fellatio, Mogwai, Mercury Rev.
I think I may have fallen out of love with pop music.
Thursday, October 17, 2002
Doubtless you have heard about the nightmare in Bali. Horrendous. Still checking with the people I know in that neck of the woods. Most seem to be OK, but there's one I can't get in touch with.
Monday, October 14, 2002
Last Wednesday I was paid to fire tennis balls at a professor of physics from sydney university.
Allow me to explain.
The hostel I was staying is approached by local entrepreneurs requiring 'flexible' labour. A couple of weeks ago, I was woken up and asked if I wanted to do some work on some guy's boat with another lad from the hostel. To this I said yes - as I was somewhat lacking in cashflow. We worked on the boat (a small number that had seen better days) for two days until a miscalculation with some epoxy resin abruptly terminated that line of work. The boat owner had made his money in astroturf. He then asked us to work in factory producing artificial grass. No worries. As his machines began to seize up, we were 'let go'. Only to be called back the next day to work with the professor. He was testing the 'bounce' speed on the artificial courts produced by the astroturf factory. And we were to act as his little helpers. Money for old rope - or indeed artificial turf. Sadly soon after this we were returned to the factory.
Abseiling. Canyoning. Wet suits. These are not words normally associated with me. But three of us decided to give it a go in the Blue Mountains on Saturday.
The abseiling rocked with fists of steel. Even tho we only did 14 metres max.
The canyoning would have been more fun if it hadn't involved 1.5 hours of wading and swimming thru freezing water.
Instructor: Everybody OK?
Me: (Unable to control chattering teeth as body goes into shock): Bbbbbrrrrrrrrrrrr.
Instructor: Stop winging mate, it's supposed to be cold.
The wet suit wasn't as arousing as I thought it would be.
The Blue Mountains
Bron says the Blue Mountains are blue because of gases given out by eucalyptes. John and myself view this explanation with scepticism. But she organised the four day weekend and did most of the driving. So she must be given some latitude. I did most of the sleeping and eating.
Perhaps that comment deserves some explanation: Last weekend was a Looonnggg Weekend in Australia. So we went to Ku Ring Gai Chase National Park. Lots of beautiful nature.
Monday, October 07, 2002
Sunday, October 06, 2002
Respect Due: Dylan and Michelle at Modern Health for generously donating money to John Buddha.
Respect Due: Krista. She may - or may not - be some kind of hippy. But it was lovely to meet her and Isaac and Logan (who I will refrain from calling 'lil' or 'cute' on pain of death) in Thailand.
Friday, September 27, 2002
Angkor wat is 'awesome' (in the sense of inspiring terror and wonder simultaneously). The product of hundreds of years of megalomaniacal feudal kingship, local stone and slave labour. In particular the Bayon's multitude of smiling boddhisattva heads gazing over a kingdom eaten by the jungle and eclipsed by the rise of the thai and the vietnamese. as david chandler points out, both s21 and angkor wat are examples of unchecked power exercised over crushed human bodies and minds. and both in their odd little ways are now tourist attractions.
Phnom Penh. Saw the killing fields and s21.
at the killing fields, the first thing you see is the top of a wat. as you walk closer, you see that the wat is full of human skulls. Thousands of them. then there are the mass graves. it's unnerving how small a mass grave can be. the air is full of dragon flies. and the river is close by. it's a quiet place. and utterly horrific.
s21 used to be a school. then it became a prison and mass torture chamber. now it's a genocide museum.
after these 2 sights, our moto drivers asked us if we wanted to fire some weapons at the shooting range. we declined. there's something about the remnants of mass murder that put you off guns. that night the other guys went off to a girlie bar. i got bolloxed in the hostel and fell asleep instead.
Went here. They had a seminar on Working in Australia and New Zealand. There were five presenters. And four audience members. they all introduced themselves and then they asked us punters to do the same. I went first.
Me: Hi, I'm mate. I'm interested in IT training and business research and analysis.
Them: Er, thanks for that. How about bar work? Bar work's really fun. And the pay's great.
Now, they actually have a point. But. I've been on the road for 8 months and I REALLY need to get my brain working again or else I'm toast. I DO actually wanna do a bit of bar work - whilst lazing round on the beach, and maybe fruitpicking or labouring. But right now, I wanna get my mental motor back in shape b4 it seizes up completely.
OK, I'm now in Sydney, Australia. After a few days staying with the hospitable B and her family (B is the fiancee of a friend - and a friend in her own right I suppose), I have moved into a cheap hostel in central Sydney. Which is a dive. But like I say, cheap. the following conversation should have rung some alarm bells.
Dave the hostel doorman: So, where ya from, mate?
Me: Bognor Regis, it's a little town on the South...
Dave: No way mate. Ya gotta be shitting me! I was there a few months back. A guy stayed here from Bognor for 18 months. Damien i think his name was. Do you know him...
Dave:... nevermind. Next time he rings up I'll put you on...
Dave:...Do you know Sheiks*?
And so on.
*Sheiks = the kinda place you may as well bottle yerself before going in as it'll save time.
Saturday, September 07, 2002
Why you no buy from me?
The Hmong girls in Sa Pa are merciless. Most are between 10 and 16. They hang around on street corners. They learn your name. And assault you. With handicrafts. But most will miraculously turn from selling machines to fun-loving children on presentation of a small magic trick or game.
Sometimes people can't help being human.
Yes, we have no writing. Why? I haven't been arsed for two weeks. And thinking it's time to resurrect True Facts. There are two further pieces on India - that you will never see. I think "I Can't Explain" summed it all up really. And I have something developing around this.
Friday, August 30, 2002
Border between Hekou and Lao Cai. The Chinese border is shiny and new and obviously had lots of cash poured into it. The Vietnam side had lots of dust poured into it. Which wasn't wuaite the same. the moment we crossed the border, a school of moto-riding sharks surrounded us. We eneded up taking a Russian jeep to Sa Pa:
"Shall we install suspension on our glorious Soviet troop carriers?"
"Nyet comrade, such bourgeois luxuries will weaken the resolve of our great Red Army".
The seats were uncomfortable but the views were amazing.
Tuesday, August 27, 2002
Arriving in Kunming, I was presented with an enormous queue at the railway station. I needed a ticket Hekou. I had been told I could get one from the main station. So I waded in with my elbows and waited. About 45 minutes later, I was nearly at the front when the man in front of me produced an little red book (no, not that one). This elicited some anger from the woman at the counter. So riled did she become that she had to calm herself by counting change for 20 mins and blocking out all contact with the queue. Finally the red book was returned and I was next. "Hekou, Train L933" I said. "No", came the reply. I redoubled by efforts, writing down the destination and train number. She wrote down "Bus 23". But I didn't want a bus. I wanted a train. An English-speaking member of staff was summoned and I was told to take bus 23 to the smaller railway station north side of town - where I could get a ticket to Hekou.
So I went to the north railway station. It was deserted. Some yelling and a faked epileptic eventually provoked some service. "Hekou", I said. "No", she said. "Hekou", I repeated. She rummaged around behind her desk, produced a paper with English and Chinese writing and directed me to this:
English Lesson No. 7
1. "There has been an accident on the line. The train has been cancelled for a month."
Ah. No train to Kunming then.
1. Chinese hard sleeper train carriages are very comfortable. You get a comfortable bed and they turn the lights out at 10pm on the dot. You also get small kids who find your phrase book then play The Guessing Game. The Game is simple. They say a Chinese word. You have to guess what it is by miming it out. This was quite fun for the first two hours but after that my enjoyment waned. I was saved (or so i thought) by an carriage attendant who wanted to practice his English. He tried out all his known phrases on me. And as he had a radio at home tuned to the World Service, he had a lot of them. Fortunately, my journey only had a mere three hours left.
2. Vietnamese hard sleeper trains are a different proposition. Putting the 'hard' into 'hard sleeper' you get a formica shelf, a straw mat - and that's it. Sweet dreams.
Horse Trekking: Sichuan borders Tibet and Songpan has a very Tibetan looking population. And the main thing to do their is saddle up and git on out thar. My first horse had a attitude problem. Not to me but to other horses. So he was demoted to carrying bags of food and I was a given a more placid beast. Up the hills we went. Down the hills we went. The waterfalls were beatuiful. The guides plied us with lethal local grog and dodgy home-cooking around a roaring campfire. And the Americans kept on falling of their horses. So much for the cowboys.