December 29, 2004

The Unspeakable

The front page of yesterday's NYT has an unbearable full-colour photo taken from above of a Tamil woman crouching in agony on a floor full of dead children and babies. A couple of inches away on the same page, a headline: "That Line at the Ferrari Dealer? It's Bonus Season on Wall Street".

It's sometimes best to say nothing. Sometimes there's just nothing to say...

December 26, 2004


A few hints from my past (Tactics: Robert ("Rover") Whittle, David Studdert, Geoff Marsh, Angus Douglas; Darlinghurst, 1979 or 1980, I suspect). Photographer unknown.

(Part of Punk (and Later)).

December 25, 2004

Speak Truth To Power

"We are not against freedom of speech, but there's no right to offend." -- Harmander Singh, spokesman for the advocacy group Sikhs in England, commenting on the kerfuffle surrounding "Behzti", in today's NYT Arts Section.

But what is freedom of speech if not the freedom to offend -- to offend power, to offend privilege, to offend common sense, to offend Truth? Speak truth (hopefully not Truth) to power, and all that (the trouble here, of course, is that the "Behzti" situation is more about speaking truth to powerlessness).

December 20, 2004

Not Irony

Don't try self-deprecation in California, that capital of Self. Years ago, in my first serious relationship with a Californian woman, a mildly self-deprecating remark slipped out from behind the mask.

She looked up at me with an earnest look of pity and concern: "You know, Therapy can really help with that sort of self-esteem problem. Do you want me to recommend someone?".

(Part of California).

December 15, 2004


My first contact with the confusions of race and ethnicity in the US: A., B., and I each had to fill out an employment form here in the late 1980's. At the foot of the form it asked us for our "race". The choices were: Caucasian, African-American, Asian, Latino, Pacific Islander, Native American, and "other" (or some such typical collection). All three of us were baffled: me, I knew I wasn’t from the Caucases (I didn’t know Americans mean "white" when they use the term "Caucasian" -- I was still a while away from learning that oddity), but I wasn’t anything else there either except perhaps "other" (I wondered whether they were implying that white anglos like me had no race...). A., a black Londoner born in the Caribbean but as English as they come, obviously wasn’t anything other than "other", either. B. -- London-born, with Bengali parents -- felt "Asian" (covering a very diverse 2/3 of humanity in this usage) wasn’t quite the ticket either.... In the end we all three put down "other" in bewildered exasperation.

December 12, 2004


There are none so blind as those with Vision.

December 11, 2004

My Generation

"My generation, which overhauled civil rights, shoved a president from office and stopped the war in Vietnam, was full of a sense of our own power." -- Carol Pogash in today's NYT Arts pages, reviewing Robert Stone's "Guerrilla: The Taking of Patty Hearst".

Full of a sense of self-importance, too, I'll bet, not to mention self-righteousness (and here I was thinking the Kennedy / Johnson "generation" also had something to do with overhauling civil rights. My bad). And didn't My Generation actually invent peace, love, and understanding? Or am I wrong here, too?

"My generation" (not quite mine, though), also started a war or two in Iraq, no?

December 08, 2004

Punk Was.

What was punk?

Punk was an excuse. Punk was a self-negating movement. Punk was an enthusiasm. Punk was a flair. Punk was a cargo cult. Punk was, to steal a title used by some possible precursors, the passage of a few people through a rather brief moment in time. Punk was the stepping stone for a life very different from anything I might have imagined when I was (say) 15. Punk just was.

Punk, post-punk, and the various successors have inhabited me one way or another since 1977:

No True Punk — Los Angeles Is Burning. But what's that got to do with punk?!
Rockism — I didn't know it had a name…
Sadly — retrospective authenticity (urgh…).
Nostalgia — a few hints of a past…
The State Oppres(s)es — a memento of something that probably never happened…
In But Not Of — Stumbling into a scene… (Sydney post-punk)
Room For Rent — such a wondrous town, London…
Compare and Contrast — not everybody loves Dylan…
Maaaaaate? — is that an accent or an affectation?
Born To Drive — The Boss, on the Street and out of context.
A History Of The Sky — Tactics at the Royal, the start of something different…
Brush With Fame — a trip to LA.
Nihilistic Narcissism — what happens when real punks turn up…
Six Years After The Fair... — notes from when the future seemed bright…
DIY — my heroes had feet of gold…
Making My Houdini — a Triumph Of The Will, sort of…
Glebenot My Houdini MKII…
Crossing Cleveland Street — the great cultural divide…
Second Language — a second life for a bit of capital-A Art…
Excelsior — a gig I missed…
The Sound Of The Sound — My Houdini and Glebe, re-released…
Three Genres — I've never been at the cutting edge…

Footnote: this thread originally focused only on my experience of Sydney Punk and post-Punk, but it's inevitably also evolving into a broader set of notes on my relationship to music in general, spanning Sydney, London, and California.

December 03, 2004

Information Bombs

Virilio's "The Information Bomb" (Verso, natch): unkindly, it reads like one of those dedicated and persistent not-even-wrong Usenet sci.physics or sci.math crank postings with its odd word emphasis, the fractured sentences and the meandering deltas of thought, its unexamined premises, its sometimes folksy appeal to common sense ("Everyone agrees that .."), its addiction to neologisms and wordplays (and its rather touching and very sixties and seventies belief that wordplay and puns and such are somehow deeply revealing and meaningful in themselves), its appeal to a sort of romanticism that deftly mixes the glamour of the exotic and new with the illusion of depth from impenetrability. An enjoyable read, though.

www Tight Sainthood