June 30, 2005

Mistakes Were Made

"The Police Minister, Carl Scully, said: 'Tactical errors were made and the police response was not as tough as it could have been. Clearly mistakes were made.'" (the SMH, 30/6/05).

Let's translate this out of weaselspeak: "We made tactical errors and our response was not as tough as it could have been. Clearly we made mistakes."

Jeez, Carl, that wasn't so hard, was it?

June 28, 2005

The Warm Valley (Origins On My Mind)

What intrigues me about The Origin Of The World is -- why Courbet? What does this intimately familiar landscape (or, maybe more appropriately, this landscape of the intimately familiar) have in common with, say, The Valley of the Loire? Craftmanship, surely (this is a painstaking work of craft), and maybe "landscape" in its fullest meaning, but what in his work prefigured this?

(For me the Origin is a shiboleth in the original sense, dividing the world into those of us who can conceive of it as an image born of affection or celebration and those of us who can't (or those plodders who see it as, erm, "transgressive"...). Art has nothing to do with it...).

June 25, 2005

Light Relief

"The thing that really makes me want to puke is these [US] artists who feel like they have to go to the South of France because the light is so beautiful. I find that bogus. The light in California is hotter than the light in France." -- Ed Ruscha in an NYT Magazine interview a few weeks ago.

Hotter, maybe (if only in the sense that "hot" used to have for an old Beat like Ed), but more varied, more nuanced, more changeable -- definitely. The quality of light in the Bay Area and California at large -- the late afternoon and evening warm gold rubbing up against the Berkeley and Oakland hills, the hard salt light on the Dumbarton flats, the soft ocean light around the Marin headlands (or the Malibu hills), the intense blues, pinks, and yellows of the Mojave, the smog-browned haze over downtown LA and the Valley, the pastels clinging to the sides of old factories and warehouses in Santa Monica or San Francisco, the snow-blind glare 10,000' up the east face of the Sierra, the weirdly stringent washed-out High Country light around Bridgeport or Fort Jones -- this quality, this changeabilty, this range, is part of what attracted me to California in the first place. It's never been as congenial to me anywhere else as here -- not even Sydney's light, a sort of cross between San Francisco and LA, evokes so much in me or provokes so much seeing in me as the light 'round here. And, of course, London doesn't really have light at all, just varied shades of darkness.

(Part of California).

June 22, 2005

Gilt

Was he guilty? I've no idea (and don't much care). He was rich, and as with OJ, that's what really mattered...

June 19, 2005

On 14th

On 14th next to the building site near the Sutter Hotel, an old black ex-cowboy, thin, tall, large white cowboy hat with a brown band, straight-legged blue jeans, large round cowboy belt buckle (and belt), long brown leather coat, glasses, brown gloves, a mustache, brown leather cowboy boots with shined steel toes, carrying an Andronicos grocery bag under one arm.... About 100 yards down Clay I'm stopped by a matronly white woman, probably in her seventies, immaculately dressed in long black dress, black shoes, a white fur-lined coat, curled white hair, pearl earrings, who asks in a Deep South accent how she could get onto "the hahway" (I keep expecting her to say "any damn highway", she looks so frustrated; she tells me her car (a large old Cadillac no doubt) is "way over there somewhere", pointing at 12th...). I give her directions, she smiles broadly and says "God bless you! Oakland ... it's bigger than I remember..." and strides off past the Federal Buildings.... [April 1997]

(Part of Oaktown).

June 14, 2005

Lunch A La Car

I once drove down to Silicon Valley for the day to attend a seminar on massively-parallel programming in Santa Clara. It was hot outside, but still quite bearable in the shade beneath the trees on campus. At lunchtime the attendees divided naturally into two groups: a bunch of us Berkeley and Stanford types sat around on the benches in the courtyard, eating lunch and talking amongst ourselves; the Silicon Valley regulars were the ones who got into their cars to eat lunch alone while parked in the parking lot with their engines running for 45 minutes so they could keep their car air-conditioners going, insulated from the rest of us...

(Part of California).

June 12, 2005

Blame Canada

Hank Snow's a Canadian. Goddamn! All those years and I didn't suspect...

June 06, 2005

Maaaaaate?

Listen to Midnight Oil's Peter Garrett singing some time -- is that an accent or an affectation? To many Californian ears, it's more the latter, but if it's an accent, what accent is it (bear in mind that few Americans can hear any difference between Australian and British accents)? Phil T has a short riff on Australian accents in pop (a subject close to my (heavily-accented) heart) which asks whether you can tell the nationality of a person just by listening to the vocal sounds they make while singing.

Now listen to Frente!'s cover of Bizarre Love Triangle (the only song of theirs that got much radio play here in California). That's an accent... (Phil's right that it seems much more noticeable with younger Oz female singers. No, I don't know why). But which accent? Again, most Americans would hear it as generically British, but that may be changing. When Live-105 was playing the Frente cover non-stop, K. once said something like: "Hey! She's got an accent... do all Australians sound like that when they sing?". It was the first time she'd noticed a particularly Australian accent in a singer. I don't think it ever occurred to her that an Australian singing voice might have a distinctive accent. And why should it, if your only reference points before this had been bands like Men At Work (that most Australian of American bands...) or AC/DC (god bless their British souls...)? Or The Church. Or The Saints. Or Air Supply, for that matter. Or even the Brothers Gibb.... You can listen to Split Enz or Crowded House for years and not notice anything particularly Antipodean in the singing.

But more tellingly, you can listen to Midnight Oil for years and not notice anything particularly Antipodean in the music -- the lyrics and (maybe) the accent are really the only distinctively Australian thing about the band. But even that's unusual, I think (think local lad and True-Blue Oz nationalist Angry Anderson singing blithely about being locked up in the county jail...). Bands like Radio Birdman or Celibate Rifles (to name a couple I'm way too familiar with) didn't become Legendary Australian Bands by being specifically Australian in any way -- they did it by consciously adopting someone else's musical vocabulary and by sounding, well, not-Australian (at the risk of being shot, I'd call Radio Birdman a Detroit band that just happened to be from Australia...). Especially when singing.

So yes you can tell. Sometimes. But the other question is: can you tell anything about the music (or even the lyrics) from the accent?

(Part of Punk (and Later)).

June 03, 2005

The Eyes Have It

The Eyes of Tammy Faye: the complexities of surface; but who's manipulating who? Some sort of nexus of kitsch, over-emotionalism, sentimentality, dressed-up caked-over manipulation, and the rapidly-changing focus of strong feelings. It's hard not to like (or at least sympathise with) someone who comes across as a bit of an unironic elderly Ru Paul enthusiastically embracing the sort of people almost everything about her background and surroundings would shun as pariahs or worse, but there's that whiff of manipulation again.... Blind faith in ... self, belief.

(Part of Flix).


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