The web was a neighbourhood more efficiently lonely than the one it replaced. Its solitude was bigger and faster. (p 9 in the Abacus edition) Not the limits of that expectorant Low German dialect? [That’s Dutch, folks] An orthography to write home about. And crikey! How do you deal with that syntax? An even by native speakers not until the ultimate grammatical arrival capable of being unravelled word order that one’s brain in ever more excruciatingly elaborate cortical knots trivially can tie. (18). Age lurches in fits and starts, like a failing refrigerator compressor. Like a gawky, grand mal-adroit adolescent on ancient roller skates, navigating a stretch of worn sidewalk in a subduction zone. (57) I was supposed to redeem the sad disaster Dad had made of life. (61) Gnomic is in. We just have to push ‘privilege’ and ‘reify’ up to the middle of the verb frequency lists and retrain. (91) The elaborate seduction of the already attained. (105) In this clasp, the couple graduated to inseparable, mutual foreigners. Love is the feedback cycle of longing, belonging, loss. (152) Intelligence meant the systematic eradication of information. (156) She gave me a look, bafflement routed slowly by inference. That she could unpack, decode, index, retrieve and interpret my reference at all was an unmodelable miracle. More miraculous still, I could watch her grin of understanding unfold in less than hundredth-millimetre increments, in split seconds. (182) Linguistic training bras. (195) Inside, Helen was singing. (198) It occurred to me: awareness no more permitted its own description than life allowed you a seat at your own funeral. Awareness trapped inside itself. The function of consciousness must be in part to dummy up and shape a coherence from all the competing, conflicting subsystems that processed experience. By nature, it lied. (217-218) [cf. DFW] Hers was the purest cynicism: hope concealing itself from itself (267) The life we lead is our only maybe. The tale we tell is the must that we make by living it (313) [… and the universe between words and experience… the place of fear in memory-laying… the discrete limitation of intelligence and perception vis. language… the perpetual suffering]
David Gilmour in Concert, DVD
Brave solo acoustic rendition of Shine On. The two versions of Comfortably Numb (verses sung by Robert Wyatt / Bob Geldoff) illustrate the special character and heavy sarcasm that only a Roger Waters can bring to them. The second version has better solos and guitar tone. Rather flaking throughout, mild and middle aged — problems of song selection (with exceptions: Je Crois Entendre Encore and Syd's Dominoes) and Rick Wright’s rather pedestrian song of positivity. But Dave’s voice is incredibly well preserved, he reaches all the high notes. The extended scenes of pure fretwork in the extras are a godsend for learners tuning into this gentleman guitarist for the first time. The patent simplicity of bluesy pentatonics. The bassist was a tosser. But my new guitar fetish is the Gretsch Duo Jet. What a great tone he gets from it. Truly old school warmth and 50s purity.
In brief review, brevity bites: Kill Bill, vol 1 — QT explicitly proving his action mettle with another pastiche work. A complete filmic fantasy indulgence. Dialogue so stilted and crap it’d look absurd even in text bubbles — action heroes don’t spout like this, not even in their video dreams, though the Texan hicks were a nice touch. In fact, I don’t think there was any dialogue in the true sense at all, even less dialogic causality & believability, considering the way critics rave about his ear. But as television (with frequent ad breaks) it’ll do. QT makes ten films when two or three would do. The blood gushers were hilarious. Carradine’s voice sounded garbled with drugs. QT has some thing for feet now. And though his playing with large time frames is good and glib, his complete antipathy to natural segues between sets and scenes turns KB1 into a stitching of stages. I mean, the model planes and flightpaths were fun, but there was a distinct absence of meaningful or suggestive transition throughout, glaring somehow, but that’s the point eh, complete disreality? Even the big fight scene breaks down into smaller set pieces — the silhouette version particularly effective. And the quiet scene between jousts in the snow garden, with the water pitcher tipping repetitively was magical. But the panpipes were wrong and cheesy with holes, desperately trying to reforge the link between samurai and western flicks, for idiots. A film crafted around several key songs, not the other way around. Unnecessarily excessive in its contrived pastiche. I was mentally counting the explicatory ‘Okay?’s from QT as he lays down the referential laws of cinematic homage. That is, any film that is totally dependent on the director’s comments is a piece of shit, if you need them to ‘get’ the film completely. If you want Asian Action, then go out and WATCH Asian Action, folks. This is little more than a grandiose fetishisation of killing and slashing, done by a teenager hopped up on video references and staged action.
The Necks, live at the Bank of Ireland Arts Centre, Dublin
I consider it my patriotic duty to pay witness to the greatest Australian band (in the field of improv) whenever I can. After more than five years of fandom, I should get frequent Necking points, or maybe even a sunhat. It was a piece of luck that I heard about the gig — there is a small centre devoted to improv music here after all — heartening. The tickets were just raffle stubs. I tried to get some colleagues excited and inarested to no avail. But the music, the music. I was kinda keen at one point to catch the opinion of the Germans sitting behind us, but I stopped caring. What’s the point when you’re listening to the sound of creation? The format hasn’t changed much (still in the mode of the last studio and live albums); the improv is startlingly unique every time though actually quite consistent in range: Lloyd’s looping 4/4 riffs, Mr Abraham’s asynchronous drones bordering on mental despair at the top of your head, and the superlative percussion work of Tony Buck — probably the greatest percussionist in his field. You tend to forget there’s more to rhythm and percussion than just hitting things. Tony scrapes, scratches, taps, tickles and trawls an astounding variety of sounds from a limited kit. First cymbals, then a ratchet ‘round the snare rim, a hand (or suspended, or China) cymbal running over the floor tom to make a crusty old machinic sound, a brush of tindersticks tightly packed, now agitating a bunch of brass bells with his foot as though crockery’s being stacked somewhere in the distance — all the while pacing and slowly evolving the pattern and the syncopated growth. The total percussionist as artist, he is. It’s amazing to see a band who not only have immense respect for each other’s musical space, but who take an almost infinite care with the texture of improvisation. I sat three metres away from Mr Buck in humble thrall. If only writing could be like this, I asked a mind thrown back on itself and I answered It is, it already is when you consider the creation of it. It’s in the care and attention to detail, the controlled permutation. That tension of control and freedom chaos, the seeming freedom which obscures a complex ability. The joy of ordered play in seeming-chaos — so refreshing compared to the at-times wilful chaos of Dublin. And that charmingly off-guard surprise and casual bewilderment as they walk offstage to the cheering and totally tuned audience. Jubilance at shared creation. Chuffed smiles.
Anthony Summers and Robbyn Swan, The Arrogance of Power: The Secret World of Richard Nixon
All good politicians are pretty much alike and pedestrian, but all bad political regimes are Machiavellian in their own unique way.
How can you sum up the madness of Nixon in power? The dirty, dirty politics. The complete undermining of basic rights and abuses of privilege. The tapes and bugging and dirty election tactics, the shit files. The opportunistic baiting and pursuit of Communists and all dissenters. The blithe continuation of break-ins well after the Watergate busts; the derailment of the 1968 (Democrat) peace process in Vietnam for purely selfish aims; the political abuse of bombing power to achieve hollow victories (and the unnecessary continuation of the war) (and the suspicion of an ever-present and shape-shifting enemy… my how times change); the illegal funds and campaign contributions and associations with known hoods and Howard Hughes and dictatorial allsorts; the contempt and the tantrums and the drugs and paranoia, lunacy and delusion and the incoherent rambling drug fugues and deranged regressions and dubious mental health. The cronies and shadowy side-players and scapegoats and criminals. But above all, the lies and dissembling, the spin and falsification and distortion and censorships and slander-smears… right from page one. That man lied through his entire life, never lived an honest day. A pure politician, addicted to power: corrupt and pliable and conservative and utterly deranged in his beliefs and assumptions. A warning. A destroyer of faith in politics and executive ability.
It appears Nixon had a thing for Dilantin and alcohol, that he beat Pat and that he had loads of dirty money stashed in Swiss bank accounts. He was in on the earliest plans to kill off the Beard and a driving force behind the Bay of Pigs debacle; knew enough to topple him from power if it was revealed earlier. He was corrupt through and through but hid it cleverly, like a Mafioso chain of command. And tried to pretty everything up in his memoirs. And there was something familiar about the way he went after political enemies and non-compliant media after winning his second term, dismissing almost his entire domestic staff, drawing up lists of enemies; think of the current CIA bowling alley and the ascent of Condoleezza to head crony on foreign policy. As we say around here, Jebus is in the White House! All hail King Jebus! Jebus will lead his land and people to victory, his land of the Republican Red Centre.
There’s some fine journalistic triangulations of the truth and extensive cross-interviewing. A veritable army of researchers was employed. There is no way the reputation and estate of Nixon can hide from the dirty reality he was. And yet, that funeral… Bill Clinton and all the others testifying his greatness as a peacemaker… the unbridled political cynicism and attempted historical correction — this is the biggest contrasting riddle posed by the book, and insufficiently explained. Why would everyone try to justify this crook? Why even consider him a great man?
Some notable quotes:
An unprecedented examination of a president whose personality embraced both political brilliance and criminal vindictiveness… The pattern that emerges is of a man driven by a lifelong addiction to intrigue and power, a man whose subversion of democracy during Watergate was merely the culmination of years of cynical manipulation of the political system. [For once, the flap copy is spot on. But the book does focus on the build-up and antecedents to Watergate at the expense of domestic policy and daily affairs]
Adlai Stevenson characterised “Nixonland” as a ‘land of slander and scare, of shy innuendo, of poison pen and anonymous phone call and bustling, pushing, shoving — the land of smash and grab and anything to win. (p136, and this is before RN even became president)
Norman Redlich… read the Checkers speech as a ‘handbook for Demagogues’ based on low precepts… Create your own ethical standards and then point out how rigidly you adhere to them… And if the people are really as dumb as you think they are, you may someday be president of the United States. (ibid.)
[On the Madman stunt:] Kissinger… instructed Len Garment, about to leave on a trip to Moscow, to give the Soviets “The impression that Nixon is somewhat ‘crazy’ — immensely intelligent, well organised and experienced to be sure, but at moments of stress or personal challenge unpredictable and capable of the bloodiest brutality.” Garment carried out the mission, telling a senior Brezhnev adviser that Nixon was “a dramatically disjointed personality… more than a little paranoid… when necessary, a cold-hearted butcher.” The irony, the former aid reflected ruefully in 1997, was that everything he had told the Russians turned out to be “more or less true.” (p296)
[Or this Gestapo scheme, ringing bells:] “With Presidential authority, the intelligence community could at will intercept and transcribe the communications of Americans… eavesdrop from near or far on anyone deemed to be a ‘threat to international security,’ read the mail of citizens, break into the homes of anyone tagged as a security threat.” (p345)
A website by Liddy included an ad for the ‘G.Gordon Liddy Stacked and Packed Calendar Featuring America’s Most beautiful Women Heavily Armed.’ This was the man who, in 1971, became field operations coordinator for the President’s special unit [the Plumbers] [this guy is daft]. (p389)
As I said, what’s more disturbing, worrying is the attempt to exonerate and eulogise Nixon as a hero in death (when, like Hunter S directed, his corpse should’ve been tossed onto a hill of trash and shit); take this speech by Bob Dole at the funeral, revelatory of how badly the Americans need a Jebus in Charge:
I believe the second half of the 20th Century will be known as the age of Nixon. Why was he the most durable public figure of our time? Not because he gave the most eloquent speeches, but because he provided the most effective leadership. Not because he won every battle, but because he always embodied the deepest feelings of the people he led.
To tens of millions of his countrymen, Richard Nixon was an American hero, a hero who shared and honored their belief in working hard, worshiping God, loving their families and saluting the flag. He called them the silent majority. Like them, they valued accomplishment more than ideology. They wanted their government to do the decent thing, but not to bankrupt them in the process.
They wanted his protection in a dangerous world, but they also wanted creative statesmanship in achieving a genuine peace with honor. These were the people from whom he had come and who have come to Yorba Linda these past few days by the tens of thousands — no longer silent in their grief. The American people love a fighter. And in Dick Nixon, they found a gallant one.
I mean, is this real? Is that you, John Wayne? Has that new Red Centre of American Republicanism finally found its Jebus?
And then, in the quoting spirit, I chanced on this grab from a George Carlin sleeve:
We must view with profound respect the infinite capacity of the human mind to resist the introduction of useful knowledge. – TR Lounsbury
It’s been a while before I could get my mits around this; and no commercial broadcaster here would play something whose time-dated relevance has already expired, but this is still a highly interesting and slightly disturbing look at the chaotic miasma and flashing hypermedia of the modern pop success phenomenon. I realised that musically (I mean guitar-song-ability wise) Radiohead aren’t the most sophisticated or accomplished band (indeed, that would kinda go against the grain of pop music and guitar bands generally) but they were fundamentally adept at expressing the certain alienation and cultural estrangement/powerlessness of the late 90s, expressing it subjectively. That by combination of Thom’s voice, the laconic lyrics and slightly dissociated, whining singing style (quite apparent here) over a chordal approach already distinctly Radiohead (musically, OK Computer is already pre-empted by The Bends) which taps right into that ennui/hopelessness of a certain mood and disenfranchisement with the world, pop music and modern ironic culture generally, all that pre-millennial shit (which reminds me: where did it all go? Surely Brittney didn’t fill the vacuous gap?). All that unavoidable irony which binds everything into a pit of repetitive sludge and mediated spin-perspective. I liked the deliberate fragmentation and cross-mediation and scenic shots and the visual commas and stops and the motorways and tramlines. Never has a concert film concentrated so much on the back stage, behind the scenes mood of a band about to make it behemoth-big. Never has the true human, dazzled and dazed side of celebrity and media onslaught been rendered with such honest confusion. I liked the performance of the b-sides, from sound check to mediation. I like the despairing monotony of the journalist questioning (even Richie Kingsmill comes across like a tired hack). And it was fun to see the fans, and the concert which I think I attended many many years ago in Sydney. And also, well, not really fun, but disturbing to witness: the growing disenchantment with the whole media push / interview process: at first engaging with the interviewers in a basic way, eye contact and dialogue; and by the end completely stun mulleted and absent, reticent and platitudinous, completely unengaged body-wise, almost babbling in a monologue what seems like emotional venting and discussion of the world and music in a way people won’t understand anyway: above all the emotional fatigue and over-demandedness and all the bollocks of media stardom. At times the sound is truly hopeless, and guff that sounds like it could become the big statement of the movie ends up truncated or lo-fi’d down to meaninglessness. The band don’t have answers, that much is clear, and the movie doesn’t provide any (like Kearney says: ‘Hey, we’re complex’). The band is totally stunned by the weirdness of new reality and often seem incoherent in their attempts to hold on to the scraps of truth they are at least certain of. As they record the 200th radio promo in a row. There was something almost perversely whorish about the way the media demands its answers, in its treatment of celebrity. There’s a sense that the band uses music to crawl away into and sanctuarise the soul (I’d like to know what Thom had on his cans (boom boom)). And the slow pace of studio recording was nicely accentuated by the disembodied voice over a mixing board and studio window. And the film clip outtakes, all the cutting room footage. A study in reaction and modern alienation. No answers, just experience. And a great emotional-contextual lead-in for the Amnesiac and Kid A.
Sean Walsh, Bloom
Oh what a sad adaptation. Great detail in clothes, and er, an interesting carryover of Ulysses-themes, but holy shite and onions, what a torrent of swill. Everyone’s going to be disappointed with this: the inner monologues are drab and crumpled, the dramatic effort low and unfulfilled (and I mean really, really lo-grade), the settings don’t in any way suggest a Hibernian metropolis full of people and talk… and the greatest opportunity yet to put a Joyce-look-alike in as Mc’Intosh totally wasted. Molly comes across OK by virtue of the monologue and all its smut — she actually made me smile once or twice. The film is hung up on fluids and liquids of all sorts, and gruff sex in shifts and plomping bogs and at least three issues of urine, one of gas, several of semen (unseen). Dublin doesn’t even look cheap or dirty. The wrong tower was used. Buck was just too plump. Absolute disregard for narrative contiguity and causality — new scene, character walks in. New scene, same. Lots of liberties (occasional imaginings especially) but just not the right balance with what it does take. Rudy, Stephen’s mammie; the farcically pathetic Circe scene, and not a scrap of Ithaca. Stephen (Hugh O'Conor, suspiciously clean) was deplorably acted; I can’t recall ever being so turned off by a performance, so tepid, uninspired, amateur-board-treading. The library scene was couched with despair. And if you’ve ever wondered how starchy ‘Ineluctable modality of the visible’ sounds on screen, watch it. Awesomely bad. I can understand that interior monologue is difficult to film and montage effectively with facial thinking scenes, but this was tiring. Bloom (Stephen Rea ) was better in looks but too soft, quiet, unscientific and lacking spunk or presence. Some occasional poetry but lots of poor nuance and over-softening and a-rhythmical couching, lumpen. Just scraps sewn together with a wink to those who might know the book and hence make a better quilt from these innocuous patches. Incoherent, devoid of inner life, uncontextual but mildly successful in some ways. Not enough puns or errors or trams or music (give the button his speaking role!). Not enough to cover the rental charge. Forget you ever wanted to. Keep with the text.
I’ve got a new structural theory of modern cohesion: the Chaos Coefficient. No, not like this guy whose equation involves pets and kids — my theory is almost single-handedly inspired by the peculiar chaos of Irish society. And in its simplest form, it is this: how much chaos a societal system can absorb and withstand before becoming incoherent, scattered and completely thrown into disarray. How much madness and confusion it takes to completely unhinge a nation or culture — at which point it’ll tip into sheer idiocy. Cohesive and highly organised civilisations like Germany have a high coefficient: it takes more than a few tardy trains and economic crises to shake it up. Low coefficient countries like Ireland fare worse: one minor incident in the train/DART grid throws the entire transport system into disarray. No buses to take up the slack, no advance warning or planning and anticipation, and surprisingly little complaint. The more cohesive a society, the more interdependent and qualitative its services, the more people are aware and involved in the system’s running well: the daily train disasters of Ireland are absorbed by a docile and apathetic community who expect no better and who aren’t in the habit of complaining or lobbying for improvement. The two depend on each other. The lower the coefficient, the higher the imbibing of alcohol to deaden the senses and deal with the idiocy. The higher the coefficient, the greater the sense of democratic ownership and pragmatic intelligence, the higher the ability to deal with economic punches. I’ve got a nary feeling that Ireland’s dodgy wealth distribution, nepotistic streak and fragile economics will be unable to deal with hard core economic adjustments and EU demands and other external factors. A little bit of tax reform (especially for foreign companies enjoying the tax-free ride) and property/real estate restructuring and everything would just crumble from inside. And I’m working on a social side-effect sub-theory of this.
You need a commander like a hole in the head,
Some faith-based promises and a righteous stead,
A foreign policy of doctrin’d hate
Smearing the line of church and state.
Swagger guff and arrogant pomp,
NeoCon crony and oilmoney pump
Enemy myth and exaggeration
Keep the cows scared, scare the whole nation.
Just killing in the name of God;
And cows need their cowboy.
Bovine, bovine America,
Your burgers will save you
Like tax benefits screwing the nation
And blowing the rich.
What ruminant votes for a baboon
Because he cheerleads in prayer?
You truly believe hypocrisy,
You buy into spin-propaganda?
Is there a need for hubris and lies?
Make you feel better about country and self?
Your country craves reform but up until then
You got the government you deserve.
[Yes, I was getting into the rhyme for a bit there]
On another note, I’ve started noticing a disturbing tendency and tactic in a lot of my readings and observations of late, from Fisk’s Beirut coverage to Blair and Bush and the spin on Al-Qaeda and the dirty bomb campaign, and even Nixon baiting and fishing for Reds in the 50s — a tendency to grossly exaggerate the organisation and capability of an enemy, an enemy all too often imagined/projected on the basis of a worse-case scenario, and which ultimately (despite bending the truth) serves a purely political purpose… And that for this day of dirty politics and ideological gap/voter apathy and the need to be lead like some über-managers of a nation’s fears and nightmares, and be protected from the whole negative picture they build, this serves as the basis or co-conceptual arm for what’s being called the paradigm of pre-emption. Overstate the potential threat and the threat will become real and prevalent enough; keep the threat current through your speeches and media appearances and a cowed populace and supportive industry will inversely maintain your power. Then act on the threat unilaterally wherever you believe the problem resides, whichever enemy state suits the bill. Create the fear and then ride the wave of your own protective powers — and above all, believe it to the hilt yourself. Now, how close is this to the coercion of fascist states, except without the militias and killings and disappearings?
"World" is a musical categorisation that often radically generalises the particularities of the thousand folk cultures existent today, and hence should be avoided at all cost if it didn't typify so well the myriad types of environmentalists, dreadlocked backpackers, and middle-ages New Age seekers (thrice divorced but still seeking salvation) who constitute the mass of world-culture fandom and the audience that night. They had me worried a little, these lumpen allsorts.
Again, I’m not sure if I still believe everything I wrote, in fact I’m not even sure it was me who really wrote it. That whole safe interpretative tone isn’t really me. And there’s a few dud phrases in there. But I guess it’s a good discipline to have to go through, and maybe one day I can talk about syndication YEAH RIGHT.
I’m not really doing my blogga-playa bit for the US elections, but I am reading up on political dirt and lying tactics in the Arrogance of Power by Anthony Summers. If you want political low-brows and sweaty, stumbling dissembling, you gotta go right to the source. I’ve read Hunter S. Thompson and Philip Roth on Nixon, and I thought to go for the legitimate biographical source. And how remarkably close that is to the fictional approach! It starts with the lies right on page one. And it keeps on getting crazier, dirtier, deluded and deranged as it goes along. Fascinating.
It’s not very often that a remix album sounds better than the original; it ain’t very often that I listen to remix albums with high expectations; in fact I hardly ever bother seeking them out at all. Producer’s and DJ’s cash-ins, I always thought, with of course certain marginal and mainstream exceptions — the Cure Mixed Up, or whenever my hero Brian Eno does a mix. To my ear, all them remixes end up sounding like disco, marrying whatever temporal shade of techno rules the dance floor to an attitude of cutting-edge ultra-hip chic marketing, and extended endlessly into tripe variation and boom-boom. It’s musical barrel-scraping within (what used to be) 12 inches, the kind of bottom-dollar trendification that drives the music industry, just like Sinatra descended to the Twist and Disco (yes) in addition to Budweiser commercials. The tired adherence to commercial pan-flashes and teenage demographics. They’re all clichés because the clichés are true. But then, I’ve always had a weakness for Dub. Simply because it’s never been a seasonal trend driven by dancing teens. Dub was always darker in its interpretation of (initially, reggae) music, riddled with ghosts and shadowy echoes and a deeper rhythm. Starker, crazier, rawer in its approach. Everything that DJs think sets them apart and above real musicians today was first developed and explored by the mad producers: Lee Perry, King Tubby et al. It was also one of the first true studio-based musical modes, the first instances of how we now define “remix”. The album in question here is Spacemonkeyz versus Gorillaz – Laika Come Home. It’s good. It sounds like original analogue dub (though not as dirty and fuzzy). It’s far more interesting than the Gorillaz source album, it’s far removed. It doesn’t sound digitally tinny and disguises its ProTools very well. It’s got real instruments. It’s got some warped and dope effects. It’s a little nuts. It’s got acres of bottom. It’s consistent.