October 31, 2006

Number 8 With A Bullet!

It's (semi) official: after a few off years, Oakland is once again gunning to be top dog in the violence stakes. We're now number 8 on the list of the US's most dangerous cities, behind St. Louis, Detroit, Flint (Michigan), Compton (Los Angeles), Camden (New Jersey), and sundry others. We do even better when judged purely on murder rates per capita….

October 28, 2006

Slumped

Delayed again -- Jimmy Little at La Guardia

Jimmy Little at LaGuardia Airport. A three hour delay (snowstorms in Denver, my interim destination), no empty seats in the terminal, bad food, corrosive coffee, crying kids, cheery clerks, surly guards…

October 27, 2006

Slang Who

Slang Who

A raw wind, West 15th.

October 26, 2006

Recognition

7th at 21st

7th Avenue at about 21st, one of my fave little daily views this week.

October 24, 2006

Chelsea

Chelsea, 7th at 20th

Just the Usual: West 17th at 7th, working out of a cramped twelth-floor office in a beautiful old building with glimpses of the Hudson and New Jersey, grand views of the West Side, the massive old Port Authority building and Gehry's new thing for Barry Diller (not much to write home about from this distance); slow elevators, brownstones, bricks, raw cold, tree-lined side streets and peeling tenements, crowds, faces, sirens, yapdogs on leashes, pawn shops and leather goods, fresh vegetables on sidewalk stands, rotting food in abandonned storefronts — all the powerful images you remember or know from films and TV. What you never know from a distance, without experiencing it first hand, is the sheer volume and power of the noise on the streets, a fast-flowing river that overflows and swamps the streets and avenues, something quite unlike any other city I've lived or worked in….

October 23, 2006

A List

California, Nevada, Utah, Colarado, Nebraska, the Flyover States, Pennsylvania, New Jersey … LaGuardia, Astoria, the 59th Street Bridge, Midtown, 2nd Avenue, West 23rd, the Empire State glimpsed in the raw night from the sidewalk on 7th…. I've done this trip maybe a dozen times one way another over the years but it never gets old, I never quite lose the sense of oddness that a Woy Woy boy should feel at being in the back of a cab on W23rd and not feeling odd.

October 15, 2006

With An Iron Fist, We Will Lead Humanity To Happiness!

Applebaum (in "Gulag: A History") notes that Gulag prisoners were not even allowed to have the otherwise-omnipresent portraits of Stalin on their camp or barracks walls. What depresses me most about this is that for some small proportion of prisoners this was apparently a real punishment.

October 08, 2006

Guided By The Beauty Of Our Weapons

It's Fleet Week, and both the Blue Angels and the Red Bull Air Race are in town. It's hard not to be seduced by the spectacle of the Blue Angels practicing twice a day over downtown San Francisco and Fishermens Wharf (and I mean over — a lot of the maneuvers are done above the City rather than over the Bay), and passing a few hundred metres away from the building I work in, a few hundred feet above the ground, silhouetted against the buildings… (it's aerobatics paradise to someone who's had enough aerobatics training to know what G-LOC grey-out means first-hand). And the sound's astonishing, it's loud enough to occasionally set off car alarms in the streets around us, it reverberates in the canyons between the buildings, it creeps up on you suddenly in the back alleys. That distinctive dopplered shrieking roar is the loudest thing most of us will hear for weeks.

But we're supposed to know better, to try hard not to forget that for many people in the world that distinctive sound means only terror, death, invasion, supression. And that's true as hell, and there's something deeply troubling or unnerving in just how thrilling a lot of the sight and sound is, how effective the seduction is at short-circuiting the empathy. Those chills down your spine are aesthetic, not terror. It's one of those dirty little secrets some here have trouble openly admitting to.

(Low-flying military jets are so much a part of the Californian landscape for me, whether over the Bay or on the ramp at Stockton, or above the Trona road in the Panamint Valley or deep in the desert heat of Saline Valley. I've watched F-14s or F-18s come straight up the canyon at me at Big Pine or next to Mt Ubehebe in the middle of nowhere north of Death Valley, I've had them buzz me on the road to Darwin or along US 395 in the snow. You never hear them until they're already past you, you see them first out of the corner of your eye or as glinting shadows against the desert floor and in a few seconds there are these terrifyingly-beautiful dark sharp-edged shapes arcing silently towards you only a few hundred feet above ground (if that). And then the noise, the dust…).

October 05, 2006

First Rain

It rained last night and this morning. No big deal, you'd think, but 'round here where we get no rain at all during the six to nine month dry season (and not much more during the "wet" season), it's a significant event, the first rain since (maybe) April. It's the earliest first rain I can remember; it's more commonly around late October or even late November. Predictably, in this most self-absorbed part of the world, the rain was the first story on nearly all TV newscasts last night, with banner headlines using words like "Stormwatch" or "StormTracker". There was no storm. There never is, just a mild Pacific disturbance that moves slowly east towards the Sierra….

October 02, 2006

Next Door




(Images by KTVU).

What I woke up to at about 4 this morning… quoted from local TV station KTVU: A fast-moving five-alarm fire ravaged several Oakland businesses early Monday, sending smoke and flames soaring into the Oakland skies as it consumed a metal plating company, music recording studio and carpet store warehouse...

First the murder, now this, all within a few hundred metres of home (this was literally just around the corner). This one hit home hard: nice buildings, nice businesses, nice people, all gone or homeless (no one died, amazingly enough). Click here to see my earlier photo of the same building from my Jingletown series.






Excelsior

[Since the place this should go, the Tactics MySpace page, still isn't up to it (come on, guys!), I guess we're just going to have to put the reviews of the recent reunion gig here. Thanks to the fabulous CupTime CakeModulator for writing it up (no, of course I wasn't there, in disguise or not...) and originally submitting this as a comment elsewhere on Tight Sainthood, and thanks to Anonymous (aka Stephen H.) for the pic:]

David and Ingrid

Out of the haze of memory comes a night from the Tardis (well two, actually, 23 & 25 September 2006): Tactics reformed, playing lots from My Houdini and bits from Glebe at what seemed the last pub in Sydney willing to host a post-punk micro-reunion, the Excelsior in Foveaux St, across from ye olde Trade Union Club and the neversleeping antheap of the underground taxi base.

A gig mag conspired to deplete the faithful by pointing them to the other Excelsior in nearby Glebe, and I couldn't drag the 15 year old punkette from home along... but there were still enough of us for critical mass, including your very own A Squared and Anonymous (sound engineers on second and first records respectively, with A Squared on the mixdesk again on the second night, and Anonymous down from the country for 12 hours), the serious sisters Astrid, Madeleine and Ingrid (she on stage), and a bizarre cast of aging dinosaurs and cupcake princess types the rest.

I was under the influence of nostalgia and memory, the first for that distant near-forgotten milieu suddenly revived in the flesh (with the help of these pages), and the second for the soundscapes and aural promises swirling in the mix on My Houdini (the only album I was really familiar with, not heard in years but embedded in deep strata ready for the trigger).

The real sounds of the live band came to me overlayed with the special effects and sonic conceits of the remembered studio album (was there ever a more studio album than my Houdini?!) - a deleriously great result, as if the work of a psychic remix engineer with the latest post-neural FX box - perhaps the late Martin B down the aether, playing with yet another techtoy? Not sure if anyone else had the same reception, pity if not.

Unlike the decidely patchy (OK, shockingly awful in parts) Monday gig, the Saturday gig was one long UP escalator, culminating in the encore one of the earliest songs, Standing by the Window, the words of which I'd earlier found myself muttering under my breath during the long night drive into town from the SeaChange hut. (Someone commented on the ludicrousness of Dave Studdert singing 'I couldn't think of what to say, couldn't think of what to say' - the wild lyrics and startling images bursting again out of that breaking sound wave belied this claim of a tied tongue.)

It was a real thrill to be in a tiny, capacity crowd (top marks for the micro venue, felt packed and sweaty) roaring aloud along with the choruses on anthems like New York Reel and Second Language. Amazing how many people knew the words, or at least the loud bits.

Did I say anthems? What had in the past on vinyl sometimes sounded like disjointed sketches or scratchy dead-ends here came into their own, full-bodied rolling stock, rattling along the rails with urgent momentum and thundering mass. Great to dance to, the supremely excessive drummisms suddenly making a lot more sense, and the plunging bass making you want to take up that axe again.

Dave's vocals were less screechy than at their worst, but still carried the implied menace of a nicely tuned angle grinder creeping too close to one's extremities, the ideal clear vehicle for his lyrics and vision.

Speaking of 'down the aether', new guitarist (whose name escaped me, sorry) did a ripper job of channeling Angus' angular guitar. Angus, who is recuperating in the North, was remembered from on stage, as were your correspondents Anonymous, A Squared and even Jimmy Little (names decrypted of course).

Ingrid's alternately delicate and urgent keyboards were just right, though memory had to add in some of the effects from the studio sound. The noise from the boys behind her seemed a bit distracting at times for her, though I reassured her later that the loudness actually made a lot of sense and worked (easy to say from off stage).

Can you tell I thought it was a truly great gig? Even Monday, which recovered from a classic punkoid dwarl in mid set (capped by DS' out of tune guitar just as the exploratory lines from Glebe deflated all drive and urgency) to finish if anything better at its best than Saturday. Enough to restore your faith in the whole damn thing, to give the early Tactics songs a setting where they all made musical and sonic sense (some for the first time), and to restate Tactics' claim to their place in the first rank of original Oz bands of that era (and this one too for that matter, because I'd rather listen to this stuff than most of the formulaic dross that seems to infest the live dives today.)

Will we hear its like again? There's some talk of Dave being able to make it back from London again next year - let's hope so.

— "CupTime CakeModulator".

(Part of both A History Of The Sky and Punk (and Later)).


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