Monday, April 24, 2006

Carpe diem, compadre

Carpe diem, compadre,
Let me take you by the hand,
I’ll show you the wonders of this banal new world,
Alternate Eden in my kingdom of the bland,

Let those po-faced party poopers,
Draw imaginary lines in the virtual sand,
We’ll break out the hats and hooters,
And strike up the emoticon band

Friday, April 21, 2006

Frank Furedi ~ Confronting the New Misanthropy

From Spiked

Discussions about the future increasingly tend to focus on whether humans will survive. According to green author and Gaia theorist James Lovelock, 'before this century is over billions of us will die and the few breeding pairs of people that survive will be kept in the Arctic where the climate remains tolerable.'

More and more books predict there will be an unavoidable global catastrophe; there is James Howard Kunstler's The Long Emergency: Surviving the Converging Catastrophes of the Twenty-First Century, Jared Diamond's Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Survive, and Eugene Linden's The Winds of Change: Weather and the Destruction of Civilisations. Kunstler's book warns that 'this is a much darker time than 1938, the eve of World War II.' In the media there are alarming stories about a mass 'die-off' in the near future and of cities engulfed by rising oceans as a consequence of climate change.

Today we don't just have Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse but an entire cavalry regiment of doom-mongers. It is like a secular version of St John's Revelations, except it is even worse - apparently there is no future for humanity after this predicted apocalypse. Instead of being redeemed, human beings will, it seems, disappear without a trace.
More here

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

The Paradox of Howl


"I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked": Few lines or phrases by any American poet retain the iconic status of those first few clauses of Allen Ginsberg's Howl. Composed in a frenzy (and then painstakingly revised) in 1955, published in 1956, this poem of mental hospitals, jails, secret and overt gay sex, drug-taking, and transcontinental Bohemian fervor gained immediate and lasting notoriety. In Jason Shinder's The Poem That Changed America: "Howl" Fifty Years Later, a compilation of essays and short memoirs, poets, novelists, and essayists as unlike as Mark Doty, Philip Lopate, Robert Pinsky, Andrei Codrescu, Rick Moody, and Eileen Myles admire the poem as liberation, artifact, invitation, and talisman, praising Ginsberg himself as "lusty spiritual comedian" (Mark Doty), "dangerous Beat guru, bearded and druggy" (Sven Birkerts), "authentic made-in-America holy fool" (Vivian Gornick), and simply "an icon" (Luc Sante).

To follow Howl through the commemorative volume is to see how it can be all things to all readers, but also how thoroughly it has come to represent an enduring counterculture, a set of young rebels—the Beats, and then their successors—who dress oddly, speak their own argot, and hold straight, square, and old bourgeois ways in fiery contempt. (Most of the writers in Shinder's collection remember reading Howl when they were themselves teens.) And yet to look hard at the poem itself is to see a paradox: The poem that announced the coming of a new culture, an end to the dead habits of the past, is itself deeply intertwined with that past.

more here

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Harold Pinter on Samuel Beckett: "He left no maggot lonely"

From Toronto Star

He opened the door to what looked like a darkened room and invited us to step inside. Once our eyes grew accustomed to the shadows, we could see things more clearly than ever before.

That's the achievement of author Samuel Beckett, who was born 100 years ago this week.

It was on April 13, 1906; the place was Cooldrinagh in Foxrock, County Dublin, and in a stroke of black humour he would have surely appreciated, the date happened to be both Good Friday and Friday the 13th.

Years later, in his masterwork, Waiting for Godot, he had the tyrannical Pozzo offer a jaundiced view of coming into the world.

"... one day we were born, one day we shall die, the same day, the same second, is that not enough for you? They give birth astride of a grave, the light gleams an instant, then it's night once more."

Beckett has variously been called a minimalist, an absurdist, an existentialist, a nihilist, a pessimist, an anarchist and an atheist, but he would shrug off all those labels, insisting instead "the words, the words, the words — they speak for themselves." One of the few times he was ever lured into categorizing himself was when someone asked him how he would compare himself to James Joyce, his mentor, friend and fellow Irish literary giant.

"James Joyce was a synthesizer, trying to bring in as much as he could," he said. "I am an analyzer, trying to leave out as much as I can."

What he chose to leave out was what the theatre tended to thrive on in the mid 20th-century: elegant settings, sumptuous costumes, twisting plots, and happy endings.

Instead, he gave us such things as a stage bare except for a single tree, occupied by two shabby tramps waiting for someone who never comes.

On that empty stage and in those tattered souls, he offered us a wealth of brutality, compassion, hope and despair.


Harold Pinter summed up the strange power and ugly beauty that Beckett's work still possesses for us when he wrote:

"He is the most courageous, remorseless writer going, and the more he grinds my nose in the shit, the more I am grateful to him.

"He's not fucking me about, he's not leading me up any garden path, he's not slipping me a wink, he's not flogging me a remedy or a path or a revelation or a basinful of breadcrumbs, he's not selling me anything I don't want to buy — he doesn't give a bollock whether I buy or not — he hasn't got his hand over his heart. Well, I'll buy his goods, hook, line and sinker, because he leaves no stone unturned and no maggot lonely. He brings forth a body of beauty."

More here

Friday, April 07, 2006

Morrissey's Mysterious Mexican Connection

From Chloe Veltman's article The Passion of the Morrissey in The Believer
Of Morrissey's most arduous fans today, the southwestern-US-based Latino audience which turned up to see The Sweet & Tender Hooligans that night — as they do on many occasions, regardless of whether it's to see the real Morrissey or an imitation — are undoubtedly the most devout. When the crowd chanted "Mexico! Mexico!" at an off-the-beaten-track Morrissey concert in the desert town of Yuma, Arizona a few years ago, trying to get Morrissey to acknowledge that the majority of the audience was Latino, the singer responded by saying: "I'm going to sing a couple more songs then all of you can go back to Mexicali." The convention center auditorium ricocheted with cheers. "Only one white man in the world — and he's not the Pope — can tell a group of Mexicans in the United States to return to Mexico and not only avert death, but be loved for saying so," wrote journalist Gustavo Arellano in an article about Morrissey's Latino fans in the pop culture 'zine LoopdiLoop.

Morrissey's "Latino connection" has been a source of amusement and confusion to journalists who cannot quite see how this skinny, effete Englander with his oblique references to dank Manchester cemeteries could appeal to the traditionally macho, sun-kissed Latino culture. Nevertheless Morrissey dedicated his 1999 ¡Oye Esteban! tour to these fans, once famously told an audience in Orange County "I wish I was born Mexican," and the singer's new hometown is affectionately referred to as "Moz Angeles" by the local Latino contingent. Of the handful I spoke to at the Totally 80s Convention, all had seen Morrissey perform live at least twice, all had visited the annual The Smiths convention held each year in Los Angeles, and two had even met Moz in person. "Everyone we know has been touched by at least one Morrissey song," said Hernandez. "He's been in our lives for many years."

What's behind this Morrissey-Latino love fest? Arellano draws interesting parallels between Morrissey's music and Mexico's ranchera music tradition:

His trembling falsetto brings to mind the rich, sad voice of Pedro Infante, while his effeminate stage presence makes him a UK version of Juan Gabriel. As in ranchera, Morrissey's lyrics rely on ambiguity, powerful imagery and metaphors. Thematically, the idealization of a simpler life and a rejection of all things bourgeois come from a populist impulse common to ranchera. The most striking similarity, though, is Morrissey's signature beckoning and embrace of the uncertainty of life and love, something that at first glance might seem the opposite of macho Mexican music. But check it out: for all the machismo and virulent existentialism that Mexican music espouses, there is another side — a morbid fascination with getting your heart and dreams broken by others, usually in death. In fact, Morrissey's most famous confession of unrequited love, "There Is a Light That Never Goes Out" ("And if a double-decker bus/Crashes into us/To die by your side/Would be a heavenly way to die"), emulates almost sentiment for sentiment Cuco Sanchez's torch song "Cama de Piedra" ("The day that they kill me/May it be with five bullets/And be close to you").

But this is just part of the story. More immediate a reason for the connection between Morrissey and his Latino fan-base is the link between one misfit with a powerful message about transcendence and a nation of people all trying to transcend the difficulties of a life in a foreign culture. "Morrissey sings to the disaffected, and God knows alienation is part of the assimilation tradition— the equal and opposite reaction of the immigrants drive to blend in," said Arellano. "We ache; Morrissey soothes."
More here

Forget the beautiful corpse, I'll settle for a paradoxical obituary

Much as I'd like to donate a beautiful corpse to posterity, I'm not prepared to do the prison time. I'll settle for a paradoxical obituary.

This was the New York Times' trubute to Susan Sontag, (from The Believer) :
Through four decades, public response to Ms. Sontag remained irreconcilably divided. She was described, variously, as explosive, anticlimactic, original, derivative, naïve, sophisticated, approachable, aloof, condescending, populist, puritanical, sybaritic, sincere, posturing, ascetic, voluptuary, right-wing, left-wing, profound, superficial, ardent, bloodless, dogmatic, ambivalent, tenacious, ecstatic, melancholic, humorous, humorless, deadpan, rhapsodic, cantankerous and clever. No one ever called her dull.
More here

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Graeme Jamieson ~ The Magnificents: Get It Boy

I had the privelege of a preview to the prospective new single from The Magnificents, who, as you may already know, have the potential to become the best band in the empire, in my opinion anyway. It's called 'Get It Boy', and, once they've returned from dropping horses on a European Tour with Mogwai later this month, you should expect to hear this sure-fire hit tune filtering its way through the wires to your wax dunes. In the meantime, here's a constant stream of consciousness, brought about by said sneak peek, while, for those o' you who think talking about music is like dancing to architecture, don't tell me you don't Morris Dance around the Maypole, you bunch of pagan goons...

Growing up in the Stalin-era Soviet Republic, before Perestroika, I would lock myself in the underground fallout shelter whenever I got my hands on something by Pasternak or Voznesensky. During the purges, I had a radio in there, and a radio cassette player, a lamp, and, many years later, I still find myself locked in a room whenever I sniff something artistically seditious or culturally insurrectionist. So, on the 27th of March, here at the offices of Strelyali on the delta of the river Neva, when I got my hands on a concept disc from The Magnificents, I played the first track until my eyes moved three times, and off I popped. Reconvening in the old samizdat studio, which now doubles as the 'Parliament Room', on account of Anatoly's house fire, and his aviarian appetite, I twitched the 40 watt bulb and told the owls to sit tight... as I plugged into the pulse of this distillation, with its contradicting art-dunked stock/funky wind-sock, like a bulletin of Beretta's brought by the British onto the black market, very difficult to trace, buzzcuting the hairs on the back of my face, get-get the new yo-yo, with its pleasant stimulation, new language, dot dom communication, vena cava invasion, violation of the Treaty of Versailles, invective, like Mikhail said: some bands you run from, turn away from, others you can't... I get the impression that any more of this, and they'll be finding their way to every speaker near me, and Mikhail, what the hell's wrong with these owls? Now it's staccato, on the road to mesopote, and it's thrilling, I'm joyous, by way of the zigzag guitar treatment, and a lilting, lifting electronic score with a subito percussion that seems pared back, every word in the chorus is filled with heart and spirit, this is more than exciting, it's obscure, as it detours lyrically, intellectually, as the finish line comes back at you, timing is everything, at least it's everything in this thing, and its whole nine yards of a most polished, complete work, with too many sycophants/coming through the wires/tonight... I can't keep the balls of my feet on floor, it's in the knees now, such kinesis, all the better for the tangential audio, singalong vocal backing, the at-attractive voice on "Boy", what a powerful narrative, delivered so cooly, with the confidence, soul and emotion of a speedway superstar, who's okay if you want him to take control/start invading his privacy, I see signals to andromeda, generational stuff, of an important record, a staging post beneath an analogue trapeze, above the intensity in the voice that belies some satellite coverage, courage, standing on the bonnet of my car as I speed the limit, beautifully divided into three, innit, with its movements made by organisms in response to the intensity rather than the direction of a stimulus, libretto, demanding my attention, and screaming "Notice Me!" Yeah, there's the phat buzz again, like a fearless bee... Oh, wait a minute, is it "collonnade", "collocate", "collimate", or "colligate"? Whatever, it's thrilling, and it captures the disorderly intellectual/menstrual energy, demanding, involving, dicussing the legacies today, paying attention, homage, respect, to that dream-state accent, with it's back track volts, jolts, compelled, dispelled, an august, imposing, refusal to back down, susurrus, sine qua non, I want to learn these words, this boldness, that vengeance, what bravery, how valiant, their swagger, no, their thrillingly, urgently, bravura gait...

Graeme Jamieson

Monday, April 03, 2006

Paul Nachbar ~ Why I Hate Politics

A friend of mine from New York, Paul Nachbar, sent me this poem the other day:

Why I Hate Politics

Socialism is a dream
Democracy a practical joke
Or despite idealists, just a scheme
Propaganda binds this stuff
With its fictions sweet or rough;
When the roller coaster lurches
Call in shrinks, spies, cops or churches.
Communism is extreme
Naziism well the same
Oh alas life's daily swarm:
Fascist thinking IS the NORM
Here there is no exorcism
And to prevent thought and schism:
Dub this mixture Pragmatism.
Nostalgia for those Monarchies..
Not to 'dwell upon' disease.

Paul Nachbar