I’ve been fairly disaffected by writing lately, all the usual frustrations about the medium and the boredom of endless reading and rewriting, and what better way to complain than in writing. Honestly, all I want is to be like my hero Balzac. I want to get away with sloppiness, prolixity and all the other problems that both create the need for editors and which afflicts them with ulcers. And I’m starting to think the only way to do that effectively is in fiction, in first person fiction to be precise. To bang off stories that entertain me alone, not because I don’t heed the reader from habit, or because nothing should be so dumbed down that everyone is clear about my meaning, but because I like stories with ideas that are expressed through ideas, which retain reader brains. Because I love tangents and complex ideas cut with unique phraseology. I’d like to have some kind of regular audience feeling, some kind of strong affirmation which holds my hand like a Nick Drake song and builds my faith in dialogue, the dialogue of faith, the communicative goal of writing and literature at large and the truest basis for helpful criticism, growth.
I can’t think of a lonelier sport than writing. The image of Joyce in his room at night, laughing maniacally. Some anonymous collaboration with the future, for him. And for all those lessers without same genius or perversity, a bitter relation with silence, distance and punning. Every writer is pushed into jeremiad-mode eventually. All have to push and confront their own expectation and secret demands of it. The real dialogue of writing is with the self and has to be exposed to be explored.
But, I did want to post a link for Adam and Andrew, Gabriel Kolko’s take on the future of alliances and American foreign policy. Appeared in the SMH this Tuesday last. Prof. Kolko points out
The one-party US political system and how Clinton was not much better vis. Defence spending;
The technologist justification for defence budgets and hence international power;
And the (possibly) positive disbanding of alliances with the US should GWB gain a second term, forcing other national governments to think of protecting themselves and not aligning their foreign policies with America’s. And that Kerry would most likely reinstate these alliances, and their manifest failures, vis Nato etc. These alliances (most nakedly in WW1) are one of the main causes of wars.
I don’t agree with everything but I think it a line worth considering. Again, it begs arguing over a future-vision, which is the realm of idealist squabbling. I’m finding myself more and more taking the pacifist/humanitarian line. I want none of wartalk. More empathy please.
Plugged Padma Lakshmi into Google’s image search and got some er, interesting results. That man Rushdie, with his trophy wife… is he going all out for the Arthur Miller Middle-Aged Mayhem Award? Maybe Fury was the wrong word. Does her model’s body insurance policy cover acts of terrorism and assassination threats? I speculate.
‘Tis the season for war documentaries, methinks. It might be my recent viewing of late, it might be Fisk’s Pity the Nation (review to come: it’s an immense work demanding complete attention), it might be the general mood of things. After the war push, the case-building and UN-skirting, the blatant lies and most blatant rhetoric and spin, after the battles were meant to be ended, the media criticism and analysis of what actually happened sets in. Propaganda cannot be analysed in the actual it seems, one needs the benefit of at least a little water under the bridge before one can plumb its depraved depths.
So, first cab: The Control Room. Jehane Noujaim’s brilliant, casual look behind the scenes at Al Jazeera during the latest Gulf War. A sympathetic and broad look at the people involved, at the corporate subtlety of the media massagers at CentCom, at the rage and arrogance of media spin and Rumsfeld’s insanely incorrect baiting, at the need to show images of the dying and dead of both sides, of the difficulty of the ‘fair & balanced’ approach, about maintaining objectivity in a hopelessly charged situation (and how, as Fisk says, the strict bipartisan approach often muddies the urgent need to spell out the truth in strong language). A look at the emergence of Arab nationalism not as a political tack but as an emerging media consciousness, more like a global player (which it is). This film is an antidote to the baited view of Arabs one inherits from Western media — these people (the supposed propagandists for terrorism) are humane, humorous despite trauma and insurrection and invasion, they are proud and above all they are sensitive. They are more attuned to the reality of media representation and balance than any other media entity I can think of. And of how the American Admin is perversely pushing everything the wrong way in the Mid East. And for what end. One of the more memorable opinions came from a translator who said that from now on you won’t hear those people who talk quietly, gently like him; instead you’ll only hear the loud extremists and their declamations. The thrust of the film runs on interviews with journos and executives, and most relevantly, it runs on journalist’s off-camera analysis and reactions as they happen, so there’s the CNN talking head and a host of others deploring the way CentCom leads them with premeditated and circumscribed news (like the Deck of Cards issue). Their frustration is contrasted with the slick, clean and dumbed-down version as they file their dispatch via satellite. But the film ultimately compounds the cynicism engendered by the US administration and its media machine. It’s their (the Admin's) abuse of the media that makes the world so much more unsafer, not just for Arabs per sé. The film doesn’t leave much hope. Like one executive said, he’s going to send his children to the best schools in the States so they can hopefully affect that system from within.
Second: Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch's War on Journalism. (see IMDb and Outfoxed.org) . I’m deliberately filing this one under war docos because the Fox network is a direct arm of the Republican administration, and since Bush is a ‘war President’ and Rupert supports all wars... well, ‘nuff said. Subject-wise, this is far more frightening material. A right-wing Conservative nightmare. Violently partial news. Shameless leading and abuse of dialogue. Abuse of every guest. Cronyism, arse-kissing the Republican cause, dishonourable in every sense. Exploitive, biased in the extreme, insulting, crass and glib. And above all, as Fox continually reminds its viewers, ‘Fair & Balanced’. It’s amazing how far Rupert can push the gap between lowest common denominator journalism (or fear-mongering) and legal/representative accountability. And continually get away with it. This channel should be sued on a daily basis for so unfairly representing and maligning people. Yet he claims a balance of left and right-wing commentators (although heavily outnumbered), he claims this is cap J journalism, whilst lowering the standard for everyone, lowering the quality other media aspire to, lowering the methods and commercial propriety of all other channels. Obviously there’s a compliant, top-down climate of non-accountability which allows him to function this way and acquire more media. It’s a tide of cynical hatred, is Fox, shamelessly milking people’s base need for obvious opponents and righteous heroes and shameless feel-good self-congratulation because we’re all voting Bush, aren’t we. Shameless put-downs and cut-offs (“Shut up! Just shut up!”), as though protecting the idiot public from hearing opinions which might make them think and ponder or stray from the Bush flock. Sick, sick, sick. The body of film commentaries come mostly from ex-Fox staffers who lay bare the channel’s methods and coercions. Even the octogenarian Walter Cronkite gets a word in. Media analysts (with a look of near-surprise at how easy it is to debunk Fox) roll out the statistics and angles. But maybe the real star are the little executive memos telling all key Fox staff the day’s angle. In this age of leading media, these little notes read like stage-management cues from a Stalin hiding in the wings of the theatre, directing the action as the show trial proceeds. They so obviously come direct from Rupert’s Room as it coordinates the media’s war-effort along Republican lines; you can see the stupidity trail extending from the journalists (who are clearly lead) on down to the viewing public. A trail which directly supports the Bush Junta, which in fact called Bush’s illegitimate victory. ‘Keeping them stupid’ should be the motto. Here’s more sports. Watch my swing. The only negative quality of the film is that it’s just as rapid fire and quick-cut as Fox news at times — an unavoidable consequence considering the raw footage. But as an example of simple grass-roots media critique, it’s an essential picture of our times. This and the Control Room will, in future media studies courses, form the set-reading backbone in understanding the state of our media and the forces that control it. I was tempted to draw parallels with Manufacturing Consent, but they are already so obvious and clear-cut (the parallels) that I’d instead point to the necessity of restrictive media ownership laws (vis. the Clear Channel effect), because this film offers direct proof of the negative side of limited content sourcing/consolidation and control. And also, bless the Internet: I got this DVD on a whim — I got the word from a trusted site (thismodernworld.com), entered my data at the main site and within I think about five working days had the film in the mail. So that I could spread the word.
The big conclusion of these doco’s so far (and I’d hoped to squeeze in The Fog of War as well): how easily, connivingly the Bush junta use the media as an extension of its power to mislead, misrepresent and lead the US populace and the world at large, and how condescendingly it really treats people’s basic right to know, question and differ. With implacable image management, PR and spin control: the envy of any warring administration.
I was then prompted by that theory of behaviour (Robert Wright, The Moral Animal) which says that deliberate personal misrepresentation and self-delusion are occasionally essential to surviving psychologically in a complex world. Only — extend this idea a little, when you have on the one hand a president blissfully deluded about the state of the world and his god-given mission in it (or rather, who lets himself be lead to believe such things) and an administration willing to spread this arrogance of self-delusion (and condescendingly at that); and on the other hand an electorate equally in denial about the reality of their leaders and the world situation because they’d rather identify with heroes who ‘tell it like it is’ (Fox-Bush election slogan), wear jump suits and vaguely fulfil some Hollywood ideal of ‘commander in chief’ who makes them feel better about themselves — what happens when the self-deluded let themselves be ruled by the self-deluded and the cynical? (I am of course speaking of the Bush-boosting portion of Bovine America, not all of it). How is it that the only group which can hold Bush accountable, the voting public, has failed? Can the mythical US system of ticks & balances really stand up to the attacks on the rights of its people and the partisan abuse of its media? This problem of the populace is also a media problem.
One of the journos/executives of Al Jazeera mentioned his channel as acting like a wake-up call for the broader Arab world. But which media power is going to demand the US populace wake up? Who’s going to be the Anti-Murdoch? The average American mind needs to be rescued. Michael Moore isn’t quite up to it. Things will have to get a lot worse before the delusion-bubble bursts. The apathy has to be canned.
The only vaguely positive conclusion about the state of America, when taking all this in, is that the land and its political administration are in desperate need of reform. And I’m thinking major reform, economic-grade reform, electoral reform, democratic reform. And as soon as that thought became text I pictured some secondary but shadowy NeoCon think-tank already on the case, blue-printing their own Cultural Revolution for America and its interests as soon as GWB wins his second term. Dark times. A society that can sustain the most blatant contradictions and illogicality (“Fair & Balanced”) is in serious need of revisioning.
Instead, give them plenty of entertainment and Brittney and the Olsens and MTV and Wil Smith and Jessica Lynch and Oprah and Leno and plenty of Coors Light. Plenty of iPods. Plenty of 21” rims. Propatainment. Enterganda. Keep them feeling good.
In all honesty, and I blame Andrew (as well as a televisual synergy) for prompting me to this, but I have come to the rather dishonourable conclusion, after watching the warmth and dryly bemused humour of the Al Jazeera journalists in The Control Room, and the insanely obvious stage management of the media and news events by CentCom in Iraq, and the doco’s rather sobering but truthful conclusion (among many conclusive points) that the war achieved the pressing need for a sense of victory like a very familiar Hollywood action plot — indeed, that that was the operating narrative adapted by CentCom — I have come to the conclusion that this skewed logic should be extended to its rightful extreme by sending in Steven Seagal to clean up the mess in Iraq. He would get the job done. He would identify the correct enemy. He would patiently, calmly destroy every set — I mean, residence and restaurant — that he walks through. He would invoke the most appropriate airy Buddhist cliché about the cessation of suffering (choice line from The Glimmer Man : ‘You are one mysterious motherfucker’). He would remain calm in the face of emotional and tribal extremism. He would be our archetypal/comicbook/unflappable hero. Send in Steven.
I think my plan is as hysterically appropriate as the Bush junta is hubristic.
You know, I was listening to some Yusef Lateef and thinking Swing is Timeless. I’ve been saying that a lot these days, because exciting rhythm musics all wind up pointing back to Africa. But that is the fact of the matter: African music is truly timeless. Always contemporary; always primal in the sense of musical source, always refreshing. And this most clearly in cases of literal crossover: I’m thinking Bootsy-era James Brown getting the higher-grade funk from Fela; and even the likes of Paul Simon liberally absorbing African sounds to boost his own career. I mean, before Graceland, imagine pitching an African crossover album to an 80s record chief. So, in listening to early rock and roll, to much of jazz, when the focus isn’t on interpreting or ripping the blues, then it’s the swing-focus on rhythm that drives the music, the swing that keeps the rhythm pure, alive, and moving, which truly makes the performance. And this is the same source or resource — played with intuitive finesse and rigorous ease — that makes the funk so strong, the dance so vital, the swing of Kind of Blue so subtle and refined. It’s Africa.
On the viewing list: the original Solaris. Long, meditative and ruminative (quite possibly vegetarian), Tarkovsky’s effort is of course miles ahead of Soderbergh’s rather truncated and unspeculative version. At least in the conclusion stakes, the former is far more satisfying and consistent qua narrative setup. Tark works in his familiar themes of Home, Father and the Ideal Mother, which ultimately don’t make it that much a better movie; sniffs of Nostalgia here and there, the reach for heavy natural symbolism, the homecoming etc. A ‘personal’ film indeed.
I guess one should feel despair and insecurity over the picture of the world and its scientists which the book paints; of a humanity profoundly conflicted and lacking all cosmic sense. Alas there wasn’t much paranoia or angst in the film. Nothing smacking of cosmic insignificance. Bored cosmonauts who hate each other. No real pain. But at least Russian is a superb language for rendering bureaucratic and officious difficulty, for vocal monotony. (That said, I had trouble turning off the default dubbing and subtitling). The original Russian is deliciously flat. Just like the planet.
Natalya Bondarchuk is a wonder to look at, the personal highlight of the film for me. The other characterisations were extremely flat — for such an inner space movie, I was just annoyed with the two scientists pouting their grubby faces. Kelvin plods along from set to set, I didn’t get any sense of volitional motivation, of character-based cause and effect. Which made me think that Clooney could’ve done so much more. Given it psychological action. At least the film is incredibly true to the book, true to its explanations. Also a good if overstretched use of monochrome scenes. That guy driving his car over an Asian expressway for ten minutes of blue and B&W… what was all that about? It looked great though. It slotted in with the near-poetry of some colour scenes, water flowing over weeds, mist in the trees, a single horse etc.
Also, L’Homme du Train. Time wasted really, because only later did I realise I’d done my usual confusion of directors (I was thinking of Claude Sautet, and got Patrice Leconte instead). This has been happening an awful lot lately (must be an age thing). So I got a fairly bland two-tone film, of dual lives yearning to swap. A few gags here and there, a lame what-if conclusion, a nice contrast of wordy and reticent, landed and roaming, safe and criminal. And of classics on the one hand and vaguely Yankee slide guitar, music wise, on the other, to connote the staid and the cowboy. Contrast, get it? Not enough gags though to keep my going.
Also, Last Tango in Paris, again. Though this one must’ve been a recut. I distinctly remember Marron getting hisself runover when I saw it many, many years ago. Marron is Marron and Maria Schneider is the tits. I don’t care about Bertolucci ‘exploring cinema’s possibilities’ because really the film goes nowhere. Marron hates hisself, and he’s the one we really don’t get to know at all. He’s rambling pathetically half the time, all pseudo-biographical in parts, all antsy emotion and jumpy the next. His best is the churlish stage-Briton, sauntering up to Schneider with his smoothest tack (‘I apologise for intruding on you, but I was struck by your beauty…’ or such) and then hottailing it outta the tango joint with his drawers down. Great comedy. Berto finds great Parisian sets (or rather, vehicles for his tracking and dolly shots), but that whole second line with the idiot-director filming his squeeze and then proposing to her was so, so childish I just curdled. Running around the rain, like what, representing the modern youth? Framing everything with his hands? Making film out of reality? Oh dear. Erotic? Blah. Depair? Nah. The ex-lover with his identical dressing gown had more character than the lot of them.
Also, I finally got my mits around Tobias Wolff’s Old School. Great stuff. One of the best books about writing, point. Particularly of the adolescent period which wants so much and knows so little. Tobias is a prose master, point. Great tension between not wanting to use the pale biographical facts of a writer’s life for narrative ends (cheapening it by making neat endings etc) but in the end turning it all into greater narrative cohesion, a life-like resolution. Finding the right depth. I loved the subtle but decisive shredding of Ayn Rand — as the narrator’s means of entry into understanding Hemingway. I loved the study of the humanity behind school formality (especially the teachers), and the sheer love of private school. The humane psychology of Dean Makepeace. The measured growth in sensitivity and fullness in the narrator, of conscience in the broadest sense; a key point in which is the association of conscience / self-consciousness with the Fall, and hence with the Father. And of how reality is really a lot of suffering, kept out of the school at all costs but colouring it nonetheless. How subtly the romantic dreams of the writer are dispelled by the near-feminist writer who gave it up. All the changes and strong bodies that alter one’s course to becoming writer. The strong, bearded models to aspire to. The motivations laid bare by maturity etc. But essentially a story of the growth of sensitivity: class-, interpersonal, and heritage-wise. Sterling prose. Great, occasional, subtle infusion of imaginative tangents. Loved the way the first chapter sets everything up, completes the tone and scope, drops in enough detail for later unmasking.
For the writer there is no such thing as an exemplary life… the life that produces writing can’t be written about [point: it’s important that this be stated, novel or criticism-wise. Biographers beware]. It is a life carried on without the knowledge even of the writer, below the mind’s business and noise [great phrase, that], in deep unlit shafts where phantom messengers struggle toward us, killing one another along the way [I think, definition-wise, that even Dennett would be happy with that as a basic definition for the process of conscious thought]; and when a few survivors break through to our attention they are received as blandly as waiters bringing more coffee. (p 156)
And also one of the finest hardbacks I’ve handled for a while. Great typesetting (Goudy), binding and coverwork, great paper. The US edition differs but looks fine too. I had an orange UK hardcover version, not this one or this one but this duotone job by Bloomsbury. The complete package.
I believe I can say with conviction and pseudo-psychologic certainty, that I am obsessed with music.
Talking Heads, Remain in Light. Amazingly futuristic (for 1980!) white grooves (point: Africa=timeless). Great frenetic, aggressively rapid, darting rhythms. Full tilt. Though I hesitate to bring out the review-friendly ‘polyrhythmic’; I don’t think it’s quite as syncopated or interlocking as that term suggests. I like the little identity stories like Houses in Motion, Seen and Not Seen — in many ways, nerd-rock on a plane much higher than Pulp. I mean, a song with concepts like ‘There was a line/There was a formula… Facts cut a hole in us/Facts are useless in an emergency’ is just brimming with too much intelligence. Which is good. All nerd rock should be this driven, this funky. Though Byrne’s singing/songwriting has improved a lot since these early declamatory days. Less arty-statement tryin-ta-makeya-think gawky. He’s even giving French lyrics and pseudo-opera a burl nowadays. The Great Curve is the highlight of the album of course (followed by Crosseyed and Painless, then Once in a Lifetime) — it’s highly relevant, noteworthy, pointed, that this triumph of white groove is also a triumph of backing vocals — they take over the song almost. Obviously a pet Eno theme. Once in a Lifetime is surprisingly simple: just two notes and no chord progression. All you really need is a killer hook/chorus et voila. Subtle drumming, clever double cymbal crash. There’s a bit of a further anecdote to this song: back in high school one of our more ‘travelled’ friends had an American boyfriend who came over once and did the waffle about literature (mostly Slaughterhouse 5, if I remember precisely; I wasn’t invited of course) and who experienced a moment of synergy whilst reading Hesse’s Siddhartha (theme: sitting by the river) when this song came on the radio (theme: water flowing). It was neat. Still, this is music for New York jungles and wasteland steppes. Slots in nicely with My Life in the Bush of Ghosts. And I am, of course, deeply jealous. I wanna make this kinda shit.
Have been listening to music from other rooms a lot lately. It’s a handy method of filtration, a bit like reverse-mixing, trimming the sound down to its essential basics. Sigur Ros’ ágætis byrjun – with deep reverb and powerful use of the major third (not fully exploited since I saw Verve live) sounds even better from the next room. I should pre-empt a lot of faux-arty flack by saying: yes, but. It’s decidedly arty, yet it all sounds fine to me. It’s not consistently great, but it’s roomy and spacey and atmospheric enough to keep me happy. Remember, I’m a big fan of the early Verve; I like long meandering soundscapes within a pop sensibility. I like drums mixed way back with lotsa reverb. I like slowness and ride cymbals. I like dreamy affect and a somewhat sadness. But ultimately, the net effect of ágætis is well worth it. The vehicle is good, the personnel worthy, the destination clear though blurry and the dominant mood is melancholic. What’s not to like? When listening from the next room, enough of a suggestion of space is left for the mind to project new reactive melodies onto it. A real landscape sounds like it’s happening. Ultimately, it’s not far removed from the Mogwai EP. I find I can tap right into its melancholy. I don’t get any sense of posturing or arch statement-making, nothing wearingly ironic or smug or pathetically small-minded and clever. It’s not about context. Of course the (made-up) language helps that. But if something like this came out of my home town(s) (Enkhuizen/Brisbane/Sydney) then I’d be an advocate of them too, just like I’m an unpaid travelling advocate for the Necks.
The Best of Chet Baker Sings, from the balcony with the windows closed, so only the voice filters through like a foggy French horn. I’ve been meaning to write more about Chet, about his closeness to the mike and all the resultant soft-intimacy of his technique, carving out a small but effective frame in which to sing. His is a very particular range; studio-specific rather than bandstand broad and loud: the near opposite of voice-projection. His zone of intimacy extends to about 20 centimetres around his head, it’s like someone whispering with an agreeably swinging soundtrack. A voice of perpetual 20s, a voice (and low 20s at that) which knew its particular range and theme and plied with enough alcohol and drugs to keep it feeling that way. But also a subtle love of the standards and balladeering. Funny that I haven’t owned any Chet till now. Friends always had him in spades.
[end the next-room effect]
Nina Simone, House of the Rising Sun – live on the Best of the Colpix Years album. Brilliant interpretation. Almost folk-like, haunted and dusty all at once. The doors are open, people sticking their heads in, checking the scene. Nina does her act, shuffling across the stage, the flirt-strut.
Ravi Shankar, Friar Park from the boxset. Speechless. Short, sculpted, crafted yet immense in affect. I have a weakness for music built on drones; it always sounds like an expansion of sound from within, a thinking growth of inner space and melody. The music within the melody.
The Rolling Stones, Fingerprint File. Terrifically cheesy, Jagger trying on his best black pimp routine. As though everyone was making a blaxploitation track, trying to get that slick street sound, just like everyone went disco a few years later. Suppose it’s understated how Jagger could inflect his voice for different settings or character, white bluesy how-how one minute and then hicksville Faraway Eyes the next.
Cannonball Adderley, Fun (on Mercy Mercy Mercy). Hi-grade bopfunk right off the get-go. Hard cooking swing. Loud, urgent immediate jazz right up the mike and into the audience.
David Bowie, I’m afraid of Americans — with the neat lyric ‘God is an American’. Eno said the title left a lot to be desired, but I think it’s perfect. Perfect for our times with that right edge of Bowienoia, if we can such call his particular alienation. My source at Yahoo/Launch tells me that this EP has 6 versions. Some scratchy, badly remixed or tripped up, not quite close to the power of the main version on the double-disc greatest hits, but sufficiently out there. The fun of the song is not to cross one’s arms and say well it’s just an aggressive baiting of Americans, innit? — but instead to think of the mindset or emotional landscapes within which these tracks have their home. Sounding like Eno again.
The original backing track for Wouldn’t it be Nice, offa the Pet Sounds Session box (and in stereo). Pure music realised in under three minutes, unsquashed by mono or vocal layers. Amazing sense of timing and song-sculpturing. And yet all the pieces fit with the vocals on top. Purest envy to work with someone who could hear and write music so completely.
Jimmy Scott, Heaven. My man’s voice is piped down live from heaven. Or at least, though nothing ever happens there, some place like heaven, a state of mind. But Jimmy makes conversions. For heartbreak. For hope. Also, Dream, which seems to waver slightly when Jimmy sings straight blues, interestingly. But more upbeat than the sublime All The Way. And with the legendary Milt Jackson on some of the tracks. Deeply humane music.
Double/dual Oblivion review (there should be more dual-reviewing – better chance at broader perspective). Quotable:
How then to tell stories when the language you must use is so thoroughly
inflected by artificial discourses, however authentically you manage to portray
The second review (The Nature of the Container) is more pertinent I believe, but both offer fair reactions to the work. I might have to put my bland language/greater characterisation angle up online; am I the only one with this angle?
Time for more generic quotes:
The Great Hyperlobic Omni-Cognate Neuron Wrangler,’ said Deep Thought thoroughly rolling the rs, ‘could talk all four legs off an Arcturan Mega-Donkey — but only I could persuade it to go for a walk afterwards.’ (Douglas Adams)
‘I don’t know why, I call him Gerald’ (Syd Barrett)
‘I went down to the beach and saw Kiki She was like all "ehhhh" And I was like "whatever!"’ (Liam Lynch) (I don’t know why but I like it)
William Gibson, Idoru
The obsessive, ad-absurdism of future celebrity manufacture and dismantling; the universal data collection and marketing mass of future internet (data protection and privacy take on way new meaning); the equally absurd reductio of a culture steeped in image-fascination-über alles. Way beyond brand fetish. Gibson draws together streams of contemporary technology (for eg internet meetings, chat culture, wirelessness and GPS) and skilfully plugs in his own future take, getting ever closer, one feels, to a reasonably accurate view of how our future will function and appear – the prescient feeling is then that at some point Gibson’s narrative technology and current reality will intersect and merge indifferent. Gibson’s futuristic pulp is honing in on our future with precise acuity; far more advanced than any other near-future sci-fi writer I can think of (because I haven’t read many), focusing the earlier Neuromancer-scope, filtering it down through the lens of a rebuilt-but-familiar Tokyo. The band Lo/Rez occasionally, disturbingly, reminded me of the duo in Rushdie’s lame Ground Beneath Her Feet (tangent topic: the difficulty of effectively representing music and bands in contemporary literature). Nice use of sub aqua tropes, occasional ghosts or nodes in the machine. Nice mystery/street thriller feel, nice and pulpy-bendy paperback, nice inner-city hyper-hipness. List: gadget-mania, retro-mania, image-context-mania, media/celebrity-mania, virtuality-mania. That peculiar techno-alienation mixed with media-saturated ennui. The peculiar chaos of hyper-modernity, rendered highly-readable.
Some lightweight thinking. No apologies for incoherence.
Differences in language, indeed all unique language development, has always been fostered by distance. Communities might stem from the same single gene pool but separate them by several miles and they’ll grow into divergent cultures. Then, along comes globalism. Communications technology makes every world-corner accessible. The entire populace can potentially engage in the same cultural products at any time. The tendency then is to de-differentiate, to limit or smooth out cultural peculiarities by adopting a shared language, say like English. Remove the distance and then homogenise the means of exchange. But then the peculiarities become worth fighting for: all the local colour and quirks that typify nationality, local languages etc. Folk musics and dialects become politically loaded again. Maintain the distance of peculiarity.
But this dual action doesn’t happen on the meme level. Or maybe, all the resistant elements (all the unique qualities proudly maintained) function in the same way, colouring all ‘foreign’ ideas as outsiders or distantly (ir)relevant views. Only particular ideas, it seems, are shared easily (sewerage plumbing, say). Our memepool doesn’t yet have that broadly shared base. To which the wide appeal of Buddhism is an exception, as is the popularity of self-help books. Or maybe ‘the West’ is that shared idea, and a big can of worms.
From a memetic longevity POV, the best system should also last the longest, be the most stable — and maybe here the familial culture of China and the caste-system of India (cunningly designed for hierarchy-longevity) might be of note. The big excitement and also the vaguest gray-area of globalism is that few have considered its long term affect and projection. Like Montin says, a big change in thinking is required here. Longevity-thinking only tends to become appealing in middle age, for first-time parents and for cultural movements as well. By which time much of their energy is dispersed. So, groundwork is needed. Not new business and power paradigms.
I know, I'm turning into a bit of a standard blogger these days, posting links and quotes and not really presenting the quality public with quality content, which I know they deserve (the operative word is always Content); but since I'm reading Fisk's Pity the Nation and I'm a reasonably sane and sober supporter of the Fisker and his journalistic acumen (and btw, has Malkovich yet apologised for that impossibly prejudiced remark a year and a half ago?), I thought to do the grab and quote of his brief recent stint in Iraq, Iraq on verge of implode.
What, indeed, are we to make of a war that is turned into a fantasy by those who started it? As foreign workers pour out of Iraq for fear of their lives, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell tells a press conference that hostage taking is having an "effect" on reconstruction. Effect! Oil pipeline explosions are now as regular as power cuts. In parts of Baghdad now, they have only four hours of electricity a day; the streets swarm with foreign mercenaries, guns poking from windows, shouting abusively at Iraqis who don't clear the way for them. This is the "safer" Iraq that Blair was boasting of the other day.
Ads, this note's for you: a new DFW essay called Consider the Lobster. Amazing how quickly these things spread on the blog community. There's nothing left but for DFW to make his own blog, footnoted.com or something.
This quote/footnote's from Rakesprogress: intranational tourism: "...radically constricting, and humbling in the hardest way--hostile to my fantasy of being a real individual, of living somehow outside and above it all...[t]o be a mass tourist, for me, is to become a pure late-date American: alien, ignorant, greedy for something you cannot ever have, disappointed in a way you can never admit. It is to spoil, by way of sheer ontology, the very unspoiledness you are there to experience...[a]s a tourist, you become economically significant but existentially loathsome, an insect on a dead thing." TingleAlley also has a quote which some bastard's already commented on.
This madness has to stop, and the fastest way of doing that is to elect John Kerry, not because he will be different but because in most key areas—Iraq, the "war on drugs," Israel/Palestine, free trade, corporate taxes—he will be just as bad. The main difference will be that as Kerry pursues these brutal policies, he will come off as intelligent, sane and blissfully dull. That's why I've joined the Anybody But Bush camp: Only with a bore like Kerry at the helm will we finally be able to put an end to the presidential pathologizing and focus on the issues again.
It’s business as usual for American politics in these election times (stand by for universally broad analogy): the choice of the lesser of two evils. At least the new team of hawks might be slightly less… ugly. Steve Bell is, as usual, right on the money.
Oh, further to Moore’s grubby sense of humour (and remember, his entire funny sensibility peaked with The Awful Truthon TV) : Fahrenheit has possibly the funniest exploitation of Shiny Happy People yet.
Saw Fahrenheit 9/11 Finally. Wasn't in a hurry to see it; and frankly it's pretty much in the same Moore-Mode as Bowling. Same approach to gags and soundtrack. The most impressive/relevant trope of the film was the pre-broadcast footage of all the hawks being powdered and puffed, rolling their eyes, sucking their combs. Playing the good actor in political media, reading their lines. More than the various grievings and naked scenes of carnage, rendered abruptly and often completely without context (like flippin' channels), more than the baboonish Ape himself (and I'm talking about Bush, slightly non-sequiturishly), I thought these scenes of make-up and sheer flippancy the most powerful. The film is haphazard, at times incoherently joined and cartoonishly funny; but in its net effect (over its errors and clear leading) it will be successful in combating the greater enemy which is the obstinate and extremist ignorance of broad America. Even a halfwit of similar intelligence to Bush would get the message. Anti-propaganda; nakedly anti-Bush when it should've been more anti-Hawk, anti-Hawk-organ-grinder. How many soldier's honest opinions have been screened on TV? How many would admit to videogame jollies as they line up victims to deathmetal? And yet look how many companies are getting in on the good vibrations. Again, some easy target there, but that's the nature of transparent business interests. The best comic moment was Bush out in the field hawking the Alliance of the Willing line, all ready to fight terrrrrsm with us, all tough talk and then "Now watch my drive" as he swings his club.
Am sure I'll get the full analysis in continued discussion in print or mail, and I'm sure Andrew doesn't like it's more blatant bending of truth and context, but I think the net effect of the film (despite Moore's continued earnings from the system he lampoons) is that it'll help ditch what Naomi Klein called the Distraction in Chief. That's the single greatest virtue of the film.
And it reminded of the times when people had to go to the cinema to get a real sense of visual news. But it was regettably televisual.
Also, on the other blog (for length), part of a longer piece picking at the bio.
"There is of course as much truth in biographies as there is in novels, except the latter doesn’t exploit the semblance so fraudulently. The thin categorical difference separating the two is merely for the convenience of bookstores — the difference no longer exists in the reality of the works. But for all intents we act like it does."