June 29, 2004

Five Bucks A Gallon

Five Dollars A Gallon: the eventual price of discovering that when everyone wants to live like Americans, no one can live like Americans.

Six Bucks A Gallon

Six Dollars A Gallon: the point at which the US finally adopts the metric system and starts selling gas by the litre.

June 24, 2004

Wilderness

Alan Bennett, in an old LRB (1997?) complains about all the cars and traffic in all the "desolate and far-flung" parts of the North while he's looking for some stone circle or other. But the desolation -- the wilderness -- in England has never been out in the valleys, the dales, the tors, the moors -- places where you’re never more than a kilometre or so from a house or road -- but in the suburbs and city centres. Bradford, Leeds, Staines, Slough. Milton Keynes, Neasden....

I can remember my bewilderment and confusion at the thought that anyone could think something as small and friendly, something as well-trodden, intimately-mapped, and wholly-tamed as (say) Exmoor could be thought "wild".... My horror at the idea that you could be in the centre of what the English call "wilderness" and still see houses... my introduction to the English idea of "wilderness" through Ciaran's characterisation at the City Lit, his image of "something fenced off and overgrown, acres of forest, perhaps; somewhere you wouldn't go...". "Wouldn’t go"?...

June 22, 2004

Dishevelled Autocracies

"In a lawless and consequently weak state, man is defenceless and unfree. The stronger the state, the freer the individual." -- Vladimir Putin, "Open Letter to Russian Voters", 25/2/2000 (quoted in the LRB, 20/5/04).

Somewhere in there -- hiding behind the creepy totalitarian NewSpeak -- he has a point. Successful Western democracies (and the associated freedoms, however limited) typically evolve slowly from dishevelled and unravelling autocracies; they're not imposed, they don't arise spontaneously from revolution or anarchy (anyone who thinks the US "Revolutionary War" was anything much more than a small evolutionary step along a long and interesting road to something like Democracry probably can't quite see the wood for the trees...).

June 20, 2004

Oceans Of Angels

Oceans of angels, oceans of stars... (Malibu, Hole). Then an angel of oceans in a mind of dim stars, the confused tides of desire through a day of fever, the swell of images of skin and darkness; no depth, no shores.

(An Obsessogram).

June 19, 2004

When In Rome...

When in Rome... criticise the Romans.

June 15, 2004

Committee Of Love

Che Guevara: "At the risk of seeming ridiculous, let me say that the true revolutionary is guided by a great feeling of love." (garbled in a recent NYT).

That would indeed be revolutionary (not to say unprecedented). Why does it remind me of all those hateful Christians who claim to be inspired by love, or that empty slogan about hating the sin, loving the sinner? For God so loved the world he created revolutionaries...

June 12, 2004

Diversionary Tactics

Last Year At Marienbad, again (for perhaps the 5th time; this time on DVD): this great Gothic splash of a movie, a film that telegraphs Significance, whose every shot deals (in) cliché; whose every frame, every phrase, draws attention to itself, is self-consciously laden with Sign; whose significance is that you're watching it... its meaning is its Significance, its significance its Meaning. It simultaneously deeply irritates me and draws me in completely... the sort of earnest overwrought effort inevitably described in academic circles as "playful". A series of diversionary tactics....

An obtrusive circus of a score, a sort of mannered laugh track for the intellect. And yet I can't turn away.

June 11, 2004

For A Few Hours

For a few brief hours driving through Oakland and Berkeley today it's possible to fantasize that all those flags flying at half mast are for Ray Charles, authentic American cultural hero...

June 10, 2004

All Was Lost

"'I knew all was lost,' recalls Paul Rothchild, a former producer for the Doors, 'when I saw what used to be the artists' world of drugs and creative exchange in the hands of lawyers and accountants, and when I saw the lawyers doing blow.'" -- quoted in Hal Espen's review of "Can't Find My Way Home" (Martin Torgoff) in the latest NYT Book Review.

Imagine that. You sing the praises of drugs, you press for the democratisation of access to drugs, and -- horror! -- everyone wants them. Everyone's got them. Even the Hoi Polloi -- lawyers or accountants fer chrissakes. Suddenly it's not just for the in-crowd any more. Suddenly drugs are what they are, rather than a fetish or the common currency of the realm of (smug) Hip (why does Leo from That 70's Show come to mind here?!). Or an excuse.

June 08, 2004

Naming Nothing

Those words that name nothing: authenticity, certainty, purity, perfection... or rather, that name everything that sends tremors of fear and revulsion down my spine.

June 06, 2004

What Would the 80's Have Been Without Him?

"My heart and my best intentions still tell me that is true, but the facts and the evidence tell me it is not."

That sunny genial old faker, what would the 80's have been without him? (What would the 2000's have been without him?). In his own way he helped put a smiling face on support for things like death squads and fundamentalism, he helped make the world safer for hypocrisy (our hypocrisy, at least), and (according to so many eulogies in today's press) almost single-handedly won the Cold War. He wanted to be right on the big picture, and he nearly was, but with the little things -- all those inconvenient little facts that make up something approaching reality -- he never quite made it all add up. Not that that would have concerned him much.

It was always hard to dislike him as a person, if only because it was so difficult to work out whether he was a person (rather than a celebrity or cipher).

June 05, 2004

Taschen

Hennessey and Ingalls have a pile of typical Taschen coffee-table glossies called "Living In Sydney" on one of their tables. Needless to say the book could as well have been titled “Living in Buffalo” or “Living In Melbourne” -- apart from a few establishing shots (e.g. the MLC Centre, for some reason) and view shots, there's nothing anywhere in the book's interiors and exteriors that suggests anything remotely unique to Australia, let alone Sydney. And why should there be? It's about Modernism and Postmodernism, those most self-consciously un-locally-rooted ("decentred") of all styles and surfaces. And it's about Australian architectural consumers trying to be Australian -- in a foreign language (or, more accurately, a universal language). Just like Punk all those years ago. (The Utzon book for $50 -- I can't afford these things now...).

June 04, 2004

The Revolution Will Be Televised

The Revolution will be televised -- how else would we know it was real?

June 02, 2004

Don't Mess With Texas

"He arrived in Houston in the same way millions of other rural people did: in search of broader horizons". (Benjamin Moser reviewing Larry McMurtry in the NYRB, 27/5/04). It's hard to imagine moving to Texas -- a place that seems so claustrophobic in its self-image and insecure self-mythologies -- for broader horizons; you move to Houston to embrace -- or be embraced by -- a self-absorbed cocoon of Dynasty-like fantasies of self-made riches or power (or because you have little choice in the matter). You're more likely to find broad horizons in cramped cities like London or New York, or even LA, or in the mind while driving I-5.

"In Texas, art was not made, but bought." (Moser, again). But buying is what makes art, even (especially) in New York or LA. What's so special about Texas?

June 01, 2004

America

A loose grouping of non sequiturs, snappy comebacks to things no one's actually said, and confused observations about the world's favourite punching bag...

For America
Allegiance
Five Bucks A Gallon
Six Bucks A Gallon
Committee of Nine-Year-Olds
She Was An American Girl
Feisty
Proud To Be American
An American Tragedy
Confusion
Rhapsody
The Warrior Waltzes
Self-Discovery, American-Style
Face Off
Rather Ludicrous
Ground Zero
The Polish Dream
J. Orbison LeGrande III
Universal Regard
John Brown's Body
Two Stereotypes


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