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Thursday, August 28, 2003
  in response to Philip's call for shelter (you don't need a link. Just cast your eyes down. Yes, there.)

There are two types

of music lover. There are those who love music; they hear music and instinctively complete the correct response in the stimulus-response exercise that can be roughly paraphrased as

creative act » appreciation of creative act

and there are those who call themselves music lovers, but are in fact music haters. These people, afraid of their own tastes, hide behind petty tokens such as singers writing their own songs.

A n d! While I think of it... Do they want singers to write their own songs so that they can identify with the narrator of the song? How cute! Do they also want Justin to actually cry a real river too?

okay, calm down.

  Gimme sheeeeeltaaaaah

Ok ok, reeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeally late here, and I know this has been picked over here there any everywhere, but it seems to me that a significant point has been missed. Slate article, and its list of crimes committed in the name of Rockism... but if any crime has been committed by either side, is it simply one of labelling?

What Beatles and Radiohead yadda yadda records have in common is that the multiple authors of each work are represented by a name, a logo, which includes them all in the ownership of the song.

While it is clearly foolish to suggest that people like Timberlake, Beyonce etc are just puppets mouthing lyrics provided for them, to tunes they did not write; the difference is in the presentation. 'Justified' is a Justin Timberlake album, his name on the sleeve indicates his ownership and origination of the songs within.

In contrast, bands such as Radiohead or whoever else you care to mention invite us to explicitly see the multiple contributions of band members under the umbrella of the band name.

Clearly this has no impact on the actual value of the material within, but hey, if we never bitched about presentation, we'd have nothing to talk about... 
  house of shaolin lovers

speaking of cowbells and tinnitus (i was, just down there, look!), i hope we are all hearing and enjoying this weird new thing, mark ronson feat. ghostface and nate dogg, 'ohh wee' apparently it's called, kiss are playing it a bit. every time it comes on in the office someone complains because, at office-radio volume levels all you can basically hear is ghostface rabbiting on and this cowbell chiming away, which does not for a productive working atmosphere make. anyway. it's alright too, mid-tempo disco house, mainly interesting for the opportunity it affords to hear tony starks on daytime radio.

but isn't it deliriously wonderful that now, with this, after 'got your money,' and 'gravel pit', wu-tang are in various ways responsible for some of the best hip-house tracks the last few years? how the fuck?! 
  molly's chamber, a dank low-ceilinged cell

everything getting easier to like. i listen to the top 40 these days and, more or less, i like, or at least don't in any way object to, pretty much every song on it. my tastes are dissolving. the last barriers to fall, euro trance-pop and the nu-rock (i haf been enjoying recent singles by, oh god, the libertines, the cooper temple clause, kings of leon ((oh god oh god please no))) have gone and now, as we say, it's all good.

kings of leon is a good example. utterly wrong-headed in every way, they can not possibly contribute anything interesting or positive or worthwhile (but 'worthwhile'...such a rockist concept!) to the world, except, except, the song comes on the radio, i tap my foot, simple as that. this is the built in dynamics-reflex simon reynolds talks about in this post, scroll down for the best description of listening to the white stripes i've ever seen, can also be applied to the kings of leon. it is not simply refried boogie rock or whatever it gets called, it couldn't possilby be, because this is 2003, and not 1973, and kings of leon don't sound like lynryd skynyrd, that's so lazy!, they sound like lynyrd skynyrd in 2003, and it's an important difference. lynyrd skynyrd would not sound as good on modern pop radio as kings of leon do. enjoying the kings of leon single is interesting, you know, just because it is, i'm thinking, something to do with the coming-together, the narrowing maybe, or maybe it's richening, of pop, the acceptability of it, the way that everything in the top 40 sounds good, everything - euro-trance to nu-metal to indie-rock to r'n'b - sounds 'right' to us.

i think what i mean is, the reason i enjoy the kings of leon single, on any level, is connected to what Is This It? and Discovery have in common, which is, no doubt, a lot.  
  bassdrum cowbell saxophone yelp

went to see the Rapture's free in-store gig at fopp last nite (also got tickets to the gig at Heaven in september, nice). cramped little underground caverns, low ceilings, bare walls dripped with sweat and damp, this is where you want to be seeing the Rapture (ie basically that one image, the cover of 'House of Jealous Lovers,' defines how you will always hear them.

/#***% stutter
there are sporadic ILM threads about 'albums that sound like their cover art,' and i always think, surely more interesting would be 'albums that don't', i mean personally i think the artwork for every album i've ever heard has probably influenced the way i've heard it, the images sparked by the visuals are only always confirmed by the images in the sounds, it's like hearing a new word for the first time then suddenly hearing it everywhere; if you're trying to hear something you'll hear it. artwork is not accidental. this is why bands and record labels employ designers. what would 'loveless' sound like if it's cover was that of 'the beta band.'? what would 'the blueprint' sound like if it's cover was that of 'illmatic'?
\@```+=and we're back on track

the band yelping away in some dank nyc club. at glastonbury they were good but it was pretty wrong, them dwarfed by the stage's superstructure, sending out dark lines of bass and metallic clang that wafted briefly over our heads before getting caught in the west country winds, rising out of reach, drifting aimlessly and dissipating somewhere over the stone circle. ie it sounded good, but the sound wasn't good. what this band want is confined space and darkness. they want narrow walls that bounce the boom back at them the moment it booms. they want it to bounce around inside your head (your head = a low ceilinged damp cavern) with nowhere to go to except back on itself. the impact depends on the inescapable thump of the bass drum and the tinnitus ring of the guitar stabs, and the way that both echo (nb also the 2 voices, echoing each other, half-repeating each other's phrases) over themselves (and, yes, ladies'n'gennelmen, the rapture's album is of course called 'echoes')

e c h o e s

do you hear echoes of gang of four? the contortions? duran duran? yes. did any of them have this bass drum? no. those people were getting to grips with disco. the rapture have had 25 years longer to think about it, what's more they've had house helpfully showing them the way, and they've got it. they see







kick boom. and what's weird is, why haven't more people got it? why aren't there a million people doing what the rapture do? why isn't it top of the pops? what is it that people want from rock music that isn't provided here? melody? pffft! 

Further to k-punk's various riffs on the i-pod of (very) late...
I think they will eventually bring about the end of the world. Somewhere there is a kabbalist sect speaking every character of the Torah into an i-pod, one track at a time. Subsequently this machine will be set on permanent random play, and eventually the secret name of G-d will be spoken, thus heralding the end times. 
Monday, August 25, 2003
  I went to France. When it was too hot to go outside, I spent a lot of time in a French barn, drinking French wine and being bitten by French insects. And this is what I thought:


Part one: Abandoning the facts.

Flight into Camden (David Storey, 1960) reads like a kind of late 1950s English Northern working-class Fight Club. That the novel’s Angry Young Man doesn’t have a cellar full of like-minded refuseniks to bash the shit out of only serves to infuse the text with uncommon bitterness. Its writing is coal fired and searing, and this intensity of emotion looms over the novel like a conscience:

‘We sensed him, as if his feelings burnt like a furnace in the next room.’

Howarth leaves his wife for Margaret, and they flee the old moral certainty of Yorkshire for the shaky panacea of London. But to caricature the book as a simple tale of love in difficult circumstance would be to do it a great injustice: Storey describes with chilling premonition how the death of an era would be survived by entrenched loyalties of custom and biology, whose native power would prove equally potent in alienation. And, like Fight Club, Flight into Camden is morbidly pessimistic about the relation of the sexes in this new age.

As it turns out, London destroys our couple. Its unique rendering of the contradictions of the age resembles from afar a haven of freedom and optimism, but up close it is unmasked as crude and brutal:

‘But I didn’t believe in the Nash terraces. They seemed only a façade to the seething ugliness behind.’

London is the humid bell-jar in which optimism struggles for air; its intensity of presence magnified to grotesque proportions not just in its architecture, but in its poverty of nature. It is a place without bonds, ever a place people go to rather than come from. Margaret’s father pleads in vain:

“Here? But what sort of life is here, pray?”


In light of all this perhaps Billy Fisher, Keith Waterhouse’s Suburban Hamlet, had a narrow escape (Billy Liar, 1962). London for Billy holds not just the bright glitzy appeal of Downtown, but in his imagination it takes on an exotic, almost Deep South, romanticism. He fantasises about starving on the Embankment (a word abounding with mystical suggestion) - an aesthete in his proper setting, rather than working an office job amid suburban mediocrity. However, his inertia leaves us with only London by The Smiths to warn us of what might happen were we to answer the call of the metropolis:

“and you think they’re sad because you’re leaving / but did you see the jealousy in the eyes / of the ones who had to stay behind?…”

Morrissey’s fixation with Billy’s humdrum town is not only the source of some of his most finely wrought lyrics, but it betrays a shared fascination with Billy’s secret life of maps. Interviewed for a South Bank Show documentary in 1987, Morrissey says of The Smiths, “I think the Smiths create their world…and you can either say ‘yes, that’s for me,’ or you can say ‘no, I’ll take Diana Ross instead’”. (Oh Moza, can we not have both?) Billy Liar also created his own world, Ambrosia, to compensate for the drab reality of Stradhoughton - itself a masterful pastiche of English smalltown vapidity:

“Lying in bed, I abandoned the facts and was back in Ambrosia.”

And it’s in this sort of creative cartography that pop culture’s dishonest relationship with the capital begins.


[coming soon: Punk and Britpop; Garage and Hip Hop.]

Friday, August 22, 2003
  Scott's mother demonstrating impeccable taste in matters of female singer/songwriters... 
Wednesday, August 20, 2003
  There is a piece of Graffiti in Southampton. It reads simply:


Great Stuff. And good on them too - graffiti is something I don't do enough of anymore. And really, the 'B woz ere's and 'fuck the system's of my tender years dont count for much. Making statements of territorial claim or broad political disaffection when you're twelve isn't very surprising; you don't own anything and you don't have any power. And to be honest, you don't really expect to.

But when you're all grown up you learn to expect more of both. Now there's a lot of bollocks talked about graffiti (a lot of it by me), but I can broadly express my feelings on the subject with three questions

(working on the basis that questions are always more important than flawed answers)

1) When is creativity illegal?
2) Who owns outer space?
3) Is alienation something that can be expressed in
(a) a university, or
(b) an art gallery?

I can barely describe how sorely tempted I am now to write three enormous chapters on each. It would be a masterpiece! My opinions on everything - my angst, my pride, my loathing; I'd never need to post anything ever again.

Instead I'm going to go out and buy some paint.

It'd take a fuck of a lot of paint to explain these thoughts, but then graffiti was never really about explaining things. Tomorrow the town centre will be daubed indiscriminately, hundreds of properties, roadsigns and posters obliterated with one symbol:

A giant question mark.

Tuesday, August 19, 2003
  In the wee small hours of the morning...

I just finished watching the series two finale of Six Feet Under, and have to announce to the world what an hour-and-a-bit of beautiful, excoriating television it was... 
Monday, August 18, 2003
  Teenage suicide... (don't do it)

The world has already seen reality tv murder.

Watching hopeless hopeful after hopeful on Pop Idol I was struck by how manic most of them seemed. How at such an early age their entire future path was set, there was only one allowable destination. Gareth Gates' fat talentless sister shimmied into the room in a vile satin sack, one boot exposed bizarrely, so that I thought for a moment she might have a prosthetic leg or something, but no, silvery cow-girl affectation alone.

Then came the ringer, the golden jacketed psychopath that had so obviously been planted there that if he'd publically shat himself you'd have thought it was nothing more than fertilizer. But here's the rub... he was just an extravagance, a grand guignol artiste capering about among the real thing.

For every kid who left with their fist clenched pumping the air in triumph there were several who left in tears. For every producer recruited Sylvia Young-psycho, there were a few whose quietness spoke of that same performed rage, only this time genuine, sublimated... uncomprehending of the idea that anyone might callously stand in the way of their dream, or perhaps more dangerously, finally comprehending of the fact that the dream will NEVER be a reality.

What better way to go, than with your brains speckling Davina McCall's Marc Jacobs dress, or your blood cascading silkily down the sheer slope of Cat Deeley's Julien MacDonald slip... now that would be genuine fame, lasting fame... and as more of the borderline insane are paraded with all their insecurities and their evanescent dreams for the entertainment of millions, how far away can the first reality tv suicide be? 
  bomb me baby one more time

this season the nicely turned out young revolutionary will not be seen dead (or dying, bloodied, blown up) without these simply delightful pop art togs: Onwards Britney!, brought to you by the civic-minded people at Antipopper.

thought for the week

under my bed at the weekend i found a piece of paper (actually an old envelope) which must have been there for quite a while and i'd written on it "dance always no-one who matters will think anything bad." is that right? i don't know. i think so. i'm not sure.
made me think of paul, the old hippy (i say old, i guess he was early 40s) i met on the last nite at glastonbury by the teepees, i was a bit lost and confused, we had a chat about the teepees, he could tell i wasn't very enthusiastic about any of it, i mean i was totally exhausted, drained, seratonin starved, so he said 'i hope you dance,' i said yes, he said, 'i don't mean, do you dance, i mean, i hope you have dance in your life,' and he was about to walk away so i stopped him and ranted at him for a bit about dance and dancing and what it means and why it matters, and he gave me a massage and kissed me, and off he went, and i went and had a dance.


good to have you back b.! but what's this madness: Wannabe sounds as perfect now as it ever did, tsk!

Sunday, August 17, 2003
  She said ‘because the Spice Girls are crap!’

The answer to most of life’s questions? I put the first album on, something in me wanting to mock my pretensions to eclecticism - ‘so you like all music huh?!’

Wannabe’s opening bars always have the same effect. They’re like the intro to Baby one more time, only English; less urgent, less slick, attempting glamour and sassiness and not quite pulling it off. My masochism satisfied I look around for something to throw at the CD player. I’m not really concentrating - I notice absently that I need to put a load of washing on; my mind wanders, and at that moment something strange happens. It’s subtle, but there’s a familiar presence in the room.

The verse. Into the vacuum float Ginger, Posh, Baby, Sporty… as we all know them. The lyrics are all of a sudden dripping with personal memories. The media saturation that the spice girls achieved means we all know not just who they are, but a lot else besides. We also know about the breakup, the failing solo careers, the tacky relaunches. They’re a part of us, as irritating and indelible as the FA cup theme tune or the Wombles.

In the light of everything that happened, Wannabe seems such a quaint and almost amateurish offering. Is this really the song that launched a quest for global domination, with its cringing rap middle eight and under-produced vocals? More so than on any of their later records, they seem like a bunch of hapless naïve girls, cruelly misled by some unscrupulous svengali to believe that their cheesy posturing will bring fame and fortune.

So how were we all fooled? I think part of the secret of the Spice Girls’ success was that despite all their efforts, they never entirely shook off that image of being somehow flawed, somehow a bit ordinary - girls with faces made up from a how-to in a teen magazine, dancing in front of the mirror. Their styling was so cack-handed it seemed their roles had been selected at random; the best thing you can say about Posh Spice is that she is anything but posh. And there’s something about the honesty and down-to-earthness with which she pursues her (career?) objectives that seems to endear her to people. We might not like her singing, and God knows she probably doesn’t have any other talents, but you can’t really hate her for wanting to get on, to make something of herself.

English pop history is littered with acts aspiring to stateside sophistication, but falling short by being too… English. And it’s often in their peculiar failings that we see our own - we feel an affinity with the star’s awkwardness, their discomfort in the lamé. More than ironic jesters like Jarvis, I think of David Essex - not quite charismatic enough, not quite good looking enough perhaps; Spandau Ballet, Boy George, East 17. All equally repellent save for their put together in a hurry charm.

By the end, Wannabe’s beginning to sound like a half decent record, but track 2 (Say you’ll be there) is disappointing, so I switch it off and start gathering my laundry.

Perhaps I’ll put it on in another five years.
  Josh Blog has a few things to say about my carping on Hulk. I accept that occasionally, The Hulk considers his actions and refrains from indiscriminate harm (to Betty, to his Father), however, whether this is just a brief puncturing of the curtain of rage by Banner's non-Hulk consciousness, or whether it is merely meant to draw us again to the all-powerful ties of family banged on about through the course of the film, I don't really know. I suppose my only problem is that of motivation: the Hulk is propelled through the movie by his reactions to others; the military, his father, Betty Ross... he doesn't really want anything, there's no thought or detail - he's a tool of rage (there we go with the cock jokes again), a bulldozer demolishing digital scenery. It just isn't interesting. It's a facile thing to say I know... but occasionally boredom is the only plea you can make.

As for what the Hulk represents, I didn't necessarily mean that in a cod-psychology way; after all, he blatantly does 'represent' something. What I mean is that he is purposeless; in the grand tradition of hero narratives, they generally want to achieve something other than the saving of their own skin and the slaking of some smash-lust.

A useful comparison I suppose is the character of Wolverine. Both are sketched outside the traditional boundaries of self-less superherodom; they are outsiders (I stand by the Hulk as a big green Littlest Hobo - he just keeps movin' on)... both are dominated by rage (Wolverine's berserk episode in X2 being one of the best fight sequences I've seen in a long time), yet Wolverine is still a conscious figure, still capable of balacing right and wrong. Yeah, its all about moral culpability folks...  
Friday, August 15, 2003
  Tom at NYLPM has picked up on the Auden/Rilke thing, and very wisely opened it up to the question of pop... I don't have much to add, other than to state that scientists have demonstrated that the warm shiver that possesses me when I hear the first trebly plangent chords of Claire de Lune is exactly the same subtle sideways movement of my atoms I experience when I hear the first verse reprise in God Only Knows
Thursday, August 14, 2003
  I know Ray Mears is a one man survival machine, but if you were to set a few sadistic commandos to hunt him down in a forest somewhere, would that push him far enough to turn nasty, and go all John Rambo on them with attendant six-packs of whoop-ass? He could then make attractive but above all functional crockery out of their skulls and limbs. 
  Build a bonfire, build a bonfire, put the fuzzbox on the top...

Tangential though it is to the main discussion here about the achievements of Punk and post-Punk, I'd like to address a pretty nifty point Mark makes about the failure of modern indie. He says that its great collapse has been to return to musicianship at the expense of vision, alertness and rage... to have sheltered from the admittedly dangerous squall of experimentation in the cozy harbour of musical competence. This is in part a solid analysis: many bands like the Smiths, Echo and the Bunnymen who prospered briefly in the post-punk fall-out owed more to the chiming arpeggios and suspended chords of bands like the Byrds than they did to the sharp gravelly assault of punk... to me these bands are redeemed by the combination of edgeless music, arranged with contempt for straight lines and sharp edges, and arch elliptical lyrics, every bit as deflecting as the solid 4/4 guitar/bass/drums underpinning of every single song. (If you want an architectural comparison, think NY Guggenheim as opposed to Bilbao Getty)

No, to me the failure of modern indie is in a sense the bastard child of the attitude of punk, and the shiny artistry of that brief Byzantine age of British guitar pop. Modern indie stinks not because it has returned to musicianship, but because it pretends it has returned to musicianship without any of its major proponents actually being any good. Reverence for the masters of old is chanted, sloganed, in the same way that aggression and progress were once proclaimed... but as before it is proclamation without action - empty, for show. The plodding one-handed piano accompaniments of Starsailor, Coldplay... the restrung guitars of Turin Brakes or whoever else has done well enough with their breakthrough and broken-down single this week - these are all mirages of ability, promised oases of well-constructed middle-eights and acutely layered harmony, but get up close to them and there is nothing there, still three chords and no truth.

Maybe it is the critical poverty of the majority of listeners that enables this confidence trick to be perpetrated so effectively, but let us make no mistake, there has been no return to musicianship, just a proliferation in sales of the Emperor's New Guitar.

What I can't disagree with though is that on occasion the sheer enthusiastic abrasiveness of punk et al did create a new way of listening, of being involved. I'm not familiar with the Pop Group (embarrassing admissions ahoy m'hearties) but Mark's vivid description of their soul-thumping noise fair convinces me that there's something there, and it's something worth taking note of. But are they exception or rule? Is it not the case that Three Chord Thrash (trademark that now) is the accepted norm, the blue striped economy brand, found on every shelf, in every store... For every sincere band, there were countless posers for whom shock and controversy were product, rather than by-product... just as slick urban grooves sell khaki pants, didn't crackling guitars and whelped lyrics sell bondage tops?

He's absolutely right, its not about style or template or how many guitarists you have in your band. It's not necessarily even about how well you play (sorry anyone who read this far), after all the funk ruckus of 'To Hell With Poverty' is so tight you couldn't shove a needle between the snaking bass and the tongue-flicking guitar... it is about vision, expression, balls, guts, blood and ouns etc etc etc But a final thought... when everyone around you is wallowing in luddite self-satisfaction at how easy it has all become, isn't it perhaps the most radical thing of all to step up and embrace the infinite potential that technique has to articulate those new worlds of sound?
  Watching a tee-hee 'dogumentary' (Lars von Trier runs out of the tv festival with even more money) about the 2002 World Cup (channel 4 11.45)... called 'England is Mine' (that man gets everywhere). Two observations seem important:

1) The Japanese have the most amazing trains in the world, they appear to be very fast moving hotel rooms.
2) I don't have a patriotic bone in my body. I don't understand why people have pride enough to commit acts of violence based solely on geography. As a general rule I try and avoid thinking about my parents having sex... I have no desire to celebrate (celibate?) the locale in which they did so. 
Wednesday, August 13, 2003
  Ok Luke, you asked for it...

Verlaine is greater than Rimbaud
Rundgren is greater than Lennon OR McCartney
Celan is greater than Eliot
Borges is greater than Joyce
x is greater than y 
  Well thanks Mark not least for doubling the readership of our blog overnight. I'll give more attention to the punk/musicality/aesthetic/politics debate later, but in the meantime I just want to respond to the celebreality/democra-tv idea (neologism is fun)... Anyway, I suppose the subtext of my argument, which I should have made clearer is that we as viewers of these shows engage into a nasty little pact, whereby we accept the creation of a whole new facsimile stardom, which has been willed into being by Cowell, Lythgoe et al for the sole purpose of tapping this bottomless well of Schadenfreude.

We don't think about the graduates of reality tv as stars in the same way we think about people who have emerged via more traditional methods of exposure. We didn't own a piece of Take That, we didn't have any claim on the success of Wham or whoever... It's celebrity doublethink; we pretend that the pop idols and the fame academics are stars in the formal traditional sense, because otherwise the experience of watching them on tv become slightly too illusory, but in the end it is just sleight of thought, legerdebrain.

This is bulk-buy fame, produced only to be entertainingly wasted. 
  Auden, Rilke... its all fairly immaterial as no one is going to read one or the other depending on what I say... but I do love the Borgesian flippancy of describing one person as greater than another... the thrill of so blatantly transgressing intellectually, but knowing instinctively that it is right to do so. 
Tuesday, August 12, 2003
  Has anyone seen the new film with Johnny Depp and Orlando Bloom about skeletal fitness instructors???

It's called Pilates of the Caribbean.

Boom boom. 
Monday, August 11, 2003
  Yeah I get it, poetry isn't there to be thought about as much as it is there to be felt... the only line from Briggflats I really love is, 'Follow the clue patiently and you will understand nothing'
Rilke is hard to talk about without sounding like Young Werther, the tawdry teen heronbone conjures so nicely... but there are two kinds of poetry readers, there are those that read because it makes them feel clever, and those than read because it makes them feel. Rilke may cycle through boredom (though I don't get that), longing (clearly I do) and rapture (ditto and I agree non-christian but definitely theistic all the same)... its the leap from that typical experience to weep-worthy words that make the whole thing worth thinking about after you put the book down...

Comfortably greater than Auden, but why? Why is 'he read braille for traces of her feet' a more accurate description of grief than 'stop the clocks'... because looking at death is banal, but experiencing death is not. The arch queasy middling-English desire to break down heightened experience into a procession of cliches about dogs barking and bells ringing, topped off with a coup de grace of ever-so-slightly hat-tipping transcendence doesn't ring true, it isn't honest... its so honest it has in fact become dishonest. Death, love, longing whatever other experiences you want to add to the list, they belong in Rilke for the very reason that to be totally less-deceived you have to accept that although you get older you are still capable of feeling exactly the same way as you did when you were young, you're capable of losing proportion... of believing the world is different when you think about it, or observe it; believing that God actually talks to you, singles you out.

What Bunting was getting at was the idea that like beauty, simplicity is hard. A unified theory if ever found will be a single equation that describes the Universe, a single unbroken stream of letters and numbers and functions that encapsulate the almost infinite complexity of all that exists... it will be simple but it will contain everything that is difficult and troubling

Thursday, August 07, 2003
  Alert alert, inadvisably honest response to poetry ahead

Why if it’s possible to spend our little span of existence
As laurel slightly darker than all the other greens
With tiny waves on each leaf’s rim (like a wind’s smile)
-why then still insist on being human
and shrinking from fate, long for it too?…

Rilke – Ninth Duino Elegy

The Santa Claus of loneliness Auden called him… benevolently standing on a rock in Trieste calling on Angels or God or whoever to explain, and when they don’t sitting back down and telling us what it’s like.

A secular reader comes across Rilke and asks what is the point of fearing that God is not listening – God doesn’t exist. There are no Angelic Orders to hear you, so crying to them is no good… they aren’t terrible, they aren’t merciful, they aren’t there. The isolation of Rilke is superficially not our isolation, it is not wilful, it is not sought even indirectly – it is a product of sin, on the part of the poet, on the part of the world. He envies a world without change, where gnats are born in air, and have no conception that their state before birth and their state before death are any different. We want change, don’t we… stagnation is the only thing worth fearing as everything else is achievable, but not for him.

The poems are about our limited capacity to sustain ourselves – how love briefly gives us the impression that an effort of will can create something less ephemeral, not subject to the usual laws of mutability. Art is to blame for the propagation of these myths, inadequate art, performance. Heroes, young lovers, innocent children, artists themselves, only exist in Art, are performed and because they are performed they deceive a few for a while and pass out of existence. Like attempting to write genius, inspiration or to sit at a desk with a pencil and paper and think of something worthwhile that has never been thought before – these attempts are doomed to failure and is that not what tortures those who are unsatisfied enough to try?

There’s nowhere, my love the world can exist, except within.
Our lives are used up in transformations and what’s outside us
Always diminishing, vanishes. Where a solid house
Once stood, a wholly fictitious image cuts in

-Seventh Elegy

I’m not sure I can really make it make sense. What Rilke says to me is that there is only one way of feeling, that it’s inevitably cannot be escaped, only masked. I remember reading Kenneth William’s diaries, in the months before his death he asked for a biography of Rilke as a present, and I thought how perfectly Williams is predicted by Rilke – how he longed to be taken seriously, for a transcendent seriousness that he really should have known was impossible, and instead was given the opposite – motley fame that haunted him to his suicide.

I can’t believe in God, but I can understand the desire to call on him, and that is why the unique Universe-spanning loneliness of Rilke fits so well.

If I cried out who would hear me up there among the Angelic orders?

-First Elegy

The problem is that the abiding banality of loneliness or sadness can only be encapsulated in poetry, or music. If you overhear yourself talking like that without the blanket of metre or rhythm the warning shots ring out, rationality slides down the fire-pole and promptly reminds you that you aren’t dying, there’s no famine. There is indulgence, it may or may not be true, but there is only one way to escape with thinking it and that is by wandering down the street and braving the ghetto of poetry.
  the good thing about global warming is, we'll be dead before it kills us...
last nite we went to Club Freaky Trigger which was fun....the first part of the evening played like that list of nice 2002 singles down there! later on i enjoyed hearing scooter and wham and the love unlimited orchestra in particular. oh yeah and dizzee of course. we left fairly early (no-one was dancing! and tho yeah normally i'm more than happy to be the only person dancing the dancefloor at the bar last nite had a weird bullring look to it ie you'd basically be dancing in people's faces which makes the whole 'lost in a reverie yes i've got the music in me' aspect of solitary dancing a bit harder to maintain, you know, when you're tripping over people's knees...you get me).

reduced to tears by advertising: (ok this happens fairly often) the new clark shoes advert with the little girl dancing at the wedding. the latest generation of clark's adverts have been all great of course: the kid dancing with the robot. the 'life's a catwalk' one. beautiful in concept and execution, all of them. this new one is interesting: it's a touch more naturalistic, more 'live.' just a girl dancing, no frills. 'yes sir i can boogie.' dancing alone, for the purposes of the advert i guess we're kind of supposed to think it's her perfectly-fitted, ultra-pretty little boots that have compelled her to dance. but obviously no-one believes that's the full story, least of all the advertiser themselves. advert is about music and its power. music and youth in fact. the adults sit at the tables, not dancing of course, they're not even watching her. she is in a different universe. dancing with no partner, no audience, no reason at all apart from the irresistible inner fire she HAS to dance she HAS no choice what could be more wonderful more perfect she is thinking what else can i possibly do but dance except it's not even that understood she has hit the dancefloor and none of this has gone thru her mind she's just there, it's not a thought process it's a compulsion. well i welled up anyway. ok i'm very susceptible to getting emotional where young children are involved but this advert is a beautiful thing and so are the people who made it.


after leaving the bar we broke into lincoln's inn fields, it's remarkably easy you know, i don't know why that place isn't packed with post-pub smokers and layabouts every night, sat under a tree bare-chested and enjoyed the weather. i had a cigarette because i actually do now honestly prefer them to spliff. the multi-nationals have got me. my lungs hate me. smoking weed is not compatible with a successful professional life you know whereas cigarettes are 100% compliant in fact they even give you something to do in your breaks, something to look forward to while you work, an easy way to bond with co-workers have you got a light mate?

  Competing in the ratings this week with Ulrika Jonsson's 'Restoration' program will be David Starkey's revisionist analysis of Stan Collymore's cock. 
Wednesday, August 06, 2003
  The comments are coming a-ho a-ho

Yes thats right. There's now an even easier way to slag us off than old-fashioned e-mail! And you don't even have to put up with Shane Ritchie appearing on your doorstep to try it out today! 

'Bloody hot,' as the heir to the thrown has pointed out. 
Tuesday, August 05, 2003

Plunge in late, the water’s usually emptier anyway.
Fame Academy, Pop Idol, BB… these aren’t about fame. They aren’t about us debasing the concept of celebrity or becoming anaesthetised to the idea of cultural integrity or worth or whatever loaded phrase we want to chase around the streets today. They are about revenge.
Celeb-reality tv contestants are like precocious children. I suppose I must’ve been a fairly precocious child, but that doesn’t stop we wanting every smart arse toddler with John Updike’s reading age to fail miserably at everything they do. C’mon, think about it, schadenfreude is without doubt the most pleasurable of guilts, and we all indulge in it every day. That is what this particular brand of democra-tv does, it allows us to take revenge on people who sing marginally better than us, dance marginally better than us. Ok maybe their version of ‘Midnight Train to Georgia’ is shitty and was sung better by Sandra Bernhard and Grace on that recent episode of ‘Will and Grace’ but, y’know, I can’t even sing the first line in tune, so no-go me.
The lack of idiosyncrasy is the medium’s genius; we all know in advance the career trajectory of the winner – one hit single, either self-penned or a cover of an evergreen of dubious popularity, then a decline speedy even by the standards of modern disposability – so we don’t care who wins. What we care about is who fails, and how they fail.
For me the perfect illustration of the phenomenon was the recruitment of Kym Marsh’s replacement in the now defunct HearSay – I have no idea who the guy was, I just remember what he looked like, and I am sure that he is the progenitor of every male contestant on every one of these programs aside from darlings Gareth and Will who were clearly conceived near a radioactive source and have unfortunately mutated into lounge versions of their father’s butch open-necked shirt wearing bravura. Daddy was all singing and all dancing, but he only lasted one video before the silk shirts went back in the suitcase and he joined the queue for the next audition.
We all want to see their hopes trashed, because they aren’t hopes we share. I don’t want to sing easy-listening classics to a national tv audience (unless they let me sing Bobby Goldsboro’s ‘Me Japanese Boy I Love You’). There is something about the blissful arrogance that says ‘let me entertain you’ and shimmies across the stage (in the style of Norman Wisdom my mother always says) that makes me want to observe, to catalogue, to REVEL in the inevitable downfall.
“And we who always think of happiness rising
Would feel the emotion that almost startles us
When a happy thing falls.”
Thanks to Rilke and to David Young for translating that, and its got fuck all to do with celebrity or ambition or whatever, but rip it out of context and it means what I want it to mean. The celeb-creation myth works not because our appetite for cascading waves of fame has increased and we have no interest in the sea, just the incoming tide – it has never been about novelty, about newness, just the sweet flavour of a hopeful fool’s failure.
Monday, August 04, 2003
  Hulk smash

My problem with the Hulk goes deeper than Lee's irritatingly fiddly interpretation. As the good people at k-punk have already stated, the film is a disappointment; crassly beholden to studio execs who probably still enjoy primal scream therapy and blame their fathers for the fact that they have to employ someone to hit their wives.
Anyway, as I was saying, its deeper than that... I'll come right out and say it. The Hulk is fucking boring. He's the littlest hobo of superheroes but without the cute red and white hanky tied around his neck. He has no purpose, he smashes, he gets angry, he calls humans puny and occasionally he inadvertantly beats a baddie even nastier than the military who are always buzzing around his ankles.
He doesn't do anything, he is unthinking, and yay hooray for emotional literalism and punching our weight, but I don't need a CGI jolly green pissant to tell me that its good to get in touch with my feelings. Superman represents the fear and potential of the immigrant, Spiderman the fear and potential of the awakening pubescent youth... thanks again K-Punk, but you're right, what does the Hulk represent beyond a clenched fist and an engorged cock?
And as for the villains... otherwise an intriguing failure, the only thing that Unbreakable got right was the absolute necessity of a co-dependent relationship between hero and villain. You can turn around and say that the real enemy in Hulk is what lies within Banner himself, but when he is the Hulk he is devoid of moral responsibility. He admits that he sees what he is doing, but that it feels like a dream. Now I'm not going to hand myself in to the police because last night I dreamed I shot a man in Reno, just to watch him die, so likewise its hardly Bruce's fault that he swats down neat whizzy helicopters while the rest of us dream about torturing Sadie Frost (or is that just me)...
A hero without a reason for being a hero has no resonance...  

I love Six Feet Under. Ok so it has now lost its esoteric chic as every Thomas, Richard and Henry worth his liberal education worships at the altar of HBO original programming, but what the hell, good acting, great writing and fucking unbelievable photography aren’t diminished whether its just me watching in a darkened room or whether half the TVs in Hampshire blare it out of a Sunday evening. So the show is great, the second series admittedly less focussed, but not in the way that 24 has become a ludicrous parody of itself (though not really any less enjoyable for that if I’m honest), and even with the imperfections of sophomore seasons of American dramas, they still piddle all over British efforts from a great height.
My only problem with the program is the character of Brenda. I have tried really hard to understand why she has been written the way she has, but it fails me. She seems to have flown in from Dawson’s Creek; all cheesy evocation of a kind of brilliance that is impossible to write because if you really were that brilliant you’d realise that writing tv is pointless and would be off achieving nirvana on a hill somewhere. That is the problem, Brenda is a character of supposedly staggering intellectual powers, a proper uber-wench, but it is beyond even the script of SFU to demonstrate it. Her every utterance is a tedious compilation of the kind of thing you might have thought when you were about 14 (which makes her an interesting comparison to the character of Claire who also has this same peculiar angst but for more believably adolescent reasons). Every week there is an epiphany, and every week without fail it turns out to be more banal than the last.
The aphorism has really killed the intellect; like Emerson said, don’t give me quotation, give me what you know. A pithy phrase is armoured, as if the economy of the expression itself should be justification enough that it requires no support, no expansive exterior logic that can be called upon if the assertion is – god forbid – questioned. This is the mode of Brenda’s discourse, she pronounces, and we the viewer are invited to revel in her genius, slack jawed yokels standing gazing at the statue of her independence. At one point early on in the first season, she asserts that ‘everything is random’… yeah fight the power and down with squares n’stuff, but for fuck’s sake, give us something better than this. The world has randomness programmed into it - on a basic level mutation is a random occurrence, but the success of a mutation within its environment is not. This is not merely true for phenotypic progress, but with our own actions too. There is reason at work. When Brenda and Nate are unfaithful to each other, it is not random emotion that makes them feel guilty or confused. It may or may not be that the initiation of an action is a random event (ok ok, you’ve got me I don’t think it is, but I have to offer the benefit of the doubt somewhere), but the consequences are certainly not random. I know this, you know this… but damaged wunderkind Brenda simply grasps onto a clumsy understanding of ‘randomness’ and rides off into town on it.
So she may be the child that therapy built, and unfortunately in terms of my ability to criticise, but fortunately in terms of the mental stability of my childhood, I can’t really say if the psychological representation of her is accurate as I’ve never had therapy. Her parents are squarely to blame, and her kerayzee brother is held up as a shining example of what happens when psychotherapists attack. The lazy Larkin dictum that ‘They fuck you up, your mum and dad’ is played out, as we get flashbacks of the young Brenda watching strangers screw in her front room while her mother and father (off-screen as latex only adds, it can never subtract) argue over whether stumbling into the pot-hazed fuckathon will have damaged her. Maybe that’s why her response to early-thirties malaise is to indulge in lots of unfaithful risky sex. Maybe its because she operates on a higher mental plain than the rest of us and fidelity is indeed ‘just a line in our heads’. Maybe she’s just spoiled and selfish and incapable of existing at the side of her own life, even for a second…
Like a roving free-radical buzzing around the program, she really does ruin SFU. It is a sad day when your response to a supposedly complex character in a cleverly woven drama is to think… fuck if only someone had slapped her in the face when she was a kid and told her to belt up, we wouldn’t be having this problem now.
  the links effect

me and phil don't know how to put those nice links down the side that everyone else has, and until b., the technical genius behind this operation, gets back from holiday we won't be able to either. so in the meantime in the spirit of post-media back-scratchery here are sum lovely linx. these are among my favouritest blogs right now:

the pill box
the church of me

required daily/weekly (ok monthly in blissblog's case) reading!

it's all luv round here. 
  communers VS. commuters

oh look it's not like that. i'm in a good mood today. i don't have any negative feelings towards commuters at all, please don't get me wrong, i kind of love them actually. i mean look at them (me), they (i) have families, dogs, barbecues at the weekend, friends, relatives, hobbies, fetishes, cars, i mean, what's not to love? yeah i think i do love them but it's not just general feelings of positivity, you know, it's more a kind of bug-eyed love. i mean, i'm one of them, you know, one of them...

  welcum 2 tha week

"look at them. the commuters. look at them. they're worker ants aren't they? they're like machines. the rise of the robots. they all look exactly the same. suits, cases, shoes, trousers, spectacles. i of course look completely different. my job allows me to wear trainers. i am at least 20 years different to them. that's a lot of distance. a lot of ground to cover. we have a lot to get thru this morning so let's crack on shall we? highlight the important passages with a highlighter. you just stop thinking and the train goes thru the tunnel and on the other side it's london victoria. when i step down from the train onto the platform it's quite a gap and each time i land i want my mummy. these violent fantasies. grenades detonating in packed carriages. machine gun strafes the concourse. get out of my fucking way. [ed.'s note: not only in 'billy liar' does this fantasy of extreme unwarranted violence against the crowd turn up: see also celine's 'death on the installment plan,' which the author has not read, but has seen referred to in 'slaughterhouse 5,' which he has, and which he likes because, like him, it is built out of 2nd-hand knowledge. also see 'number 9 dream' which pete is reading at the moment and which he is enjoying and in which he noted the point when, in an alienating saturday night crowd of couples and good haircuts [[tokyo = soho]], the hero wishes he had a rocket launcher with which to destroy the passers-by; see also the most famous publically expressed wish to destroy passers by, you know what i mean, nudge, wink]"

(excerpt from forthcoming industry bible 'i kissd your sister on the 7.25' by reginald perrin)

absolutely no time whatsoever. heronbone is righter than right. stop the madness. overstimulation. hypersignificance. actually beyond hyper-, beyond the powers of science to measure. a chaos of signifiers. i told you what the answer is you have to head for the hills. go commune style. opt out. modern life is rubbish you know. no-one's ever gonna agree with you anyway! (not many people anyway.)


in other news this weekend i bought the lumidee single. it didn't get to number 1!i listened to it a thousand times on sunday. someone said her voice is out of tune (the tune being the bass pulse apparently). this person this point-maker has weirdly managed to 'have a point' while at the same time completely missing 'the point'! funny eh?!



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