October 31, 2004

Rockism

"A rockist isn't just someone who loves rock'n'roll, who goes on and on about Bruce Springsteen, who champions ragged-voiced singer-songwriters no one has ever heard of. A rockist is someone who reduces rock'n'roll to a caricature, then uses that caricature as a weapon. Rockism means idolizing the authentic old legend (or undergound hero) while mocking the latest pop star; lionizing punk while barely tolerating disco; loving the live show and hating the music video; extoling the growling performer while hating the lip-syncher." -- Kelefa Sanneh, "The Rap Against Rockism", today's NYT, Section 2 front page.

I didn't know it had a name, but it's hard to beat the above as a pithy little summary of one of the major bugbears of living a life rooted in British pop sensibilities while surrounded by a California of earnest critics, hardline fans, and tribalist music.

Authenticity is the enemy of the real, Fashion the enemy of style, Devotion the enemy of enjoyment, Acclaim the enemy of the popular, Tribalism the enemy of movements, True the enemy of good, Heroes the enemy of the brave, Slogans the enemy of thought. Oops. I'll shut up now, while I'm still behind.

October 29, 2004

The End Of The Earth

The back page of today's NYT Business Section has a full-page ad from ChevronTexaco stating that they "go to the ends of the earth to find cleaner energy". One of the two ends of the earth pictured is the Sydney Opera House (upside down, natch).

October 27, 2004

Cold Memory

A confused Dreaming of mangroves and warmth, the usual little surfaces of touch and reflection, the tiny myths of intimacy, the narratives of dreams… accents, ripples, inflections. Memory's never cold.

(An obsessogram...).

October 26, 2004

Loud As A Moth

"His voice, as his editor on Picture Post remarked, was 'as loud as a moth'". –- Paul Delany on Bill Brandt in The Grauniad Weekly.

Also: "Brandt quoted Andre Breton's remark that the person in a portrait should be 'an oracle one questions'". (More fully: "Speaking of portraiture, Brandt said in 1948: 'Andre Breton once said that a portrait should not only be an image but an oracle one questions, and that the photographer's aim should be a profound likeness, which physically and morally predicts the subject's entire future.'" in http://previewct.com/gbase/Arts/content.html?oid=oid:14774).

Typically Oracular, I guess, and so typically authoritarian (there's no speaking back here), but we tend to see such photos in retrospect, almost always as an act of postdiction rather than prediction, and the nice image of drawing out the future loses some of its power. And the image itself so often influences the future of the sitter...

October 23, 2004

The Roxy

Glass’s re-recorded “Koyaanisqatsi” soundtrack: I remember walking into the Roxy in Soho one cold evening and watching this with no idea beforehand what it was… (it was just the film du jour that day and I wanted to watch a film, any damn film, to get away from the Presence back home at MH). It took probably five minutes to realise what was happening; I was mesmerised, hooked, flattened; I wanted the film to go on for ever… the music was like nothing I’d ever heard at the time, a beautiful combination of austere slow movements and the (now over-familiar) minimalist Glassendos.

Of course the film for me is self-subverting: some of the most beautiful parts are the cityscapes, the massed ballets of movement…

October 17, 2004

No True Punk.

From Greg Graffin's thoughtful A Punk Manifesto on the Bad Religion website:

PUNK IS: the personal expression of uniqueness that comes from the experiences of growing up in touch with our human ability to reason and ask questions.

PUNK IS: a movement that serves to refute social attitudes that have been perpetuated through willful ignorance of human nature.

PUNK IS: a process of questioning and commitment to understanding that results in self-progress, and through repetition, flowers into social evolution.

PUNK IS: a belief that this world is what we make of it, truth comes from our understanding of the way things are, not from the blind adherence to prescriptions about the way things should be.

PUNK IS: the constant struggle against fear of social repercussions.

What to make of this very earnest, very Californian definition of punk (and how to address the assumptions about human nature and society underlying it)? These definitions are almost unrecognisable to me. Or, rather, all too recognisable -- they could apply to almost any self-proclaimed progressive movement in the past three decades. It's just too damn vague to be useful -- it defines an enormous bunch of conflicting and often warring ideas, practices, movements, and individuals as "punk" or "punks". Which is probably Graffin's polemic point, but it makes the label meaningless, in the same way that labeling every facet of human existence "political" (from the same era...) empties the word "political" of any meaning at all.

And it smells strongly of wishful thinking, historical revisionism, and the old No True Scotsman fallacy. Punk as experienced in London or Sydney was rarely progressive in any sense that Graffin would recognise or admire -- it was often gloriously reactionary, nihilist, tribally exclusionist, an explosion of frustrated politics and energy with almost accidental dimensions of style and music, and a strong hint of authoritarianism in real life. And as currently manifested by 924 Gilman or the punks on Telegraph, it's still a deeply tribal movement, intensely hostile to outsiders (despite the spin from the 924 Gilman website, as any outsider who's actually been there will ruefully admit), and musically deeply claustrophobic, even reactionary.

Punk was never expected to last, at least by those of us who leaped on the bandwagon back then, and it didn't. I can't imagine any of the punks I knew back then reacting with other than laughter or bemusement at Graffin's first point above -- so much nice Californian touchy-feely newagy sociologyspeak. "If you can't get a girl, get a Mod", as the boys in the band used to say. Were they not True Punks?

(Note: I love Bad Religion -- I can't get the damn imagery from "Los Angeles Is Burning" out of my head at the moment -- but ...).

(Part of Punk (and Later)).

October 04, 2004

The Promised Land

California was built on the assumption that natural and Governmental resources are infinite, cheap, and there for the taking, and a lot of this rubs off on even the most hardened communitarian after a while. The state's official motto should probably be William Mulholland's triumphant "There it is. Take it!", shouted at the assembled masses as he opened the gates of the new publicly-funded LA Aqueduct, letting heavily-subsidised fresh water pour down into the LA basin from the now-parched Owens Valley in the 1920's....

When it comes to sharing and conserving limited resources such as water or road space, many Californians are likely to be totally at sea -- for many people, especially older Californians, resources were effectively infinite (the Government just looked after things and made it so), and there's never been any need to notice them, let alone worry about sharing or conserving.

(Part of California).


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