July 30, 2007


One of my fave words.


July 25, 2007


"Modern mass production destroys the sense of art, and the sense of work, in labor: 'We have products; we no longer have works.'" (Curtius, quoted in The Arcades Project (d12a5, p768 in my version)).

We have images; we no longer have works of art. Or perhaps it's just that we have Artists; we no longer have art.

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July 20, 2007

Night Flight

Camarillo, 10pm

10pm, Camarillo airport (Ventura County, outer LA), after a 200 mile drive through the heat of the Valley from Oakland to Sacramento and back, and a two hour flight down in a rented Mooney, I watch The Boys work on 75T in front of the hangar.

Ahead: a two hour formation flight through a smooth dark moonless night over rugged high terrain with Tight Sainthood as the lead pilot and navigator, another way-past-midnight return, a major tremor epicentered beneath Oakland… what else?

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July 19, 2007



"Camarillo Tower, Cirrus 75 Tango, we're going to have to make an immediate return to the airfield. We've got an electrical problem up here…"
"75 Tango, understood. Confirm that's you 5 northwest?"
"Affirmative, 75 Tango."
"75 Tango do you need any assistance or want to declare an emergency?"
"75 Tango… nah, I think we've just lost our alternator. We'll debug it on the ground. If you don't hear us again that'll be the reason."
"75 Tango, understood. If you lose the radios, look for the lightgun."
"75 Tango, will do, and thanks."
"75 Tango, cleared to land 26, wind 240 at 15, traffic on the upwind is a Cessna in the pattern."
"75 Tango, cleared to land 26, traffic in sight."
"75 Tango, exit at Charlie, ground point eight, and, um, good luck!"
"75 Tango, ground point eight, and thanks. I'm sure the owner's going to be thrilled…"

* * *

CH-46 Sea Knight

I watch the LAPD and Ventura County Sheriff's Department cars careering around chasing each other in the shimmering haze out beyond the runway in what's apparently a special car chase training area on the airport. They've been doing this for hours. I've been sitting here in the airport cafe for hours, waiting for The Owner to call back. There's a growing noise of military helicopters and out of nowhere three large grey-painted USMC CH-46 Sea Knights descend in formation into the heat at the far end of the ramp, out beyond the parked airplanes. The noise is deafening. They descend in a cloud of dust and blown-around trash, with all the smaller planes rocking around on the wash, and in a minute or so the loadmasters lower the back ramps and three or four dozen marines in fatigues line up on the ramp. After what looks like a short briefing the marines stroll briskly across the ramp towards the cafe. I ask the cafe owner what's happening. "Oh", she says, "they've just flown in from Edwards. They've reserved the entire front patio. It's Tri-Tip treat day for them!". Cool, I think, as I watch them rush in like excited kids.

No, I've been here a couple of decades and I didn't know what Tri-Tip was either.


(Ch-46 image from the US Navy via Wikipedia).

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July 18, 2007

The Home Of The Homeless

Santa Monica, 7am

Santa Monica Pier

Santa Monica Back Alley, 7.50am

One of the things I've always liked about Santa Monica (and Venice) is the shady, grimy, muggy, truck- and garbage-strewn urban alleys, so much like the back lanes of the inner-city Sydney of my memory. Around the corner, Third Street gets creepier every year, a sort of clean shiny Disneyfied Telegraph Avenue with the homeless sitting in tidy chairs and street crews cleaning up every morning. And there's almost nothing there any more except large chain stores and generic restaurants.

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July 17, 2007



Tight Sainthood does Van Nuys ("One Six Right" territory for the aviation nerds like me Out There).

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Level at 7,000'

Tight Sainthood 7,000' over the Central Valley (dig those classic retro steam gauges! No, TS usually does the glass cockpit thing nowadays…).

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July 15, 2007


In a recent Grauniad Johnathan Freedland mulls rather haplessly over what the web might do to politics and political communities, and concludes that it "risks shattering what was once a collective mass. That could undermine the power of people to act as a counterweight to governments and big corporations. If we are all broken into small units — 'parties of one', as a web guru puts it — we will lose that combined strength".

True enough, in its own way, but it misses the point that what the web does is more radical than that — we don't lose mass movements because of it, we in fact gain mass movements; but they're usually evanescent mass movements based on much less stable alliances and rather different ways of (mis)communicating shared grievances, identities, and ideologies than the old models… and there's several orders of magnitude more of them. Here today, gone tomorrow, flash mob mass politics: this might be unsettling to politics in the Modern mould, but (for good or for bad) thoroughly recognisable to that dated cliche, the Postmodern mind (the net is postmodernity without the twee irony; yes, I've said that before…).

The web doesn't destroy community, it creates the means to belong to an infinite variety of communities, based not so much on location or physical attributes as virtual, arbitrary, or even (quite literally) imaginary attributes; ditto for mass movements. Whether these are real or authentic communities or mass movements is an interesting question for someone, but not a question that's going to get in the way of anything much out there in the real virtual world.

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July 11, 2007

Short Shameful Confession

I'm not a Starbucks kind of guy (except in an emergency), but there's a new Starbucks that's just opened on the edge of the Estuary about ten minutes' walk from my studio. Nothing surprising about that, given the way they've sprouted in even the roughest parts of Oaktown in the last few years, but this one's actually a pleasant place to be: it's right next to the water, in a fairly quiet spot, and you can sit in the sun at the outside tables overlooking the Estuary with your feet up watching the boats go by only a few meters away. Not bad. I may even go there again one day.

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July 07, 2007

Three Genres

I've never been at the cutting edge of music (I've never been at the cutting edge of anything), so I'm always one of the slowest and last to pick up new musical styles or trends. But when I did eventually pick up on them, three genres in particular really affected me: reggae, rap, and western swing.

Reggae hit me at just the right time — the bottom fallen out of punk, and New Wave and post-punk gathering steam. I'd known about (and heard) Bob Marley, of course, but hadn't really listened to it at all — and most of what I heard sounded like just rather pleasant pop ("I Shot The Sheriff"…), and the association with bands like The Clash really didn't help either. And then I heard, in quick succession, Culture, Burning Spear, Toots and the Maytals, Lee "Scratch" Perry, and Peter Tosh. Nothing too hardcore or adventurous, but what got me immediately was the sense of rhythmic and harmonic space — especially obvious in the dub versions — that allowed for so much subtlety and complexity in the background or in little bursts here and there (listen to what's going on in the background of a good Toots album one day…). It's the old story that everyone knows: complex effects through simplicity — but I'm a little slow, so it was a revelation for me. And hearing Sly and Robbie play together so … intuitively … in a way that anchored everyone else in space was another revelation. How could you do so much with space?! I started playing a lot less, and listening for the spaces. I started thinking about rhythm as elision as well as propulsion….

Rap: I remember the first time I heard what I think must have been The Sugar Hill Gang. I wanted to jump up in the air and shout it was so good, so different — shit, how did they do that?! The scratching, the beats, the toasting, the sampling — it both hit me like a wall, and seemed like such an obvious alternative to reggae toasting. I always knew I could never do anything like that, but I always knew it would lodge there in my mind for the rest of my life, even if the genre faded or changed out of all recognition. I suddenly knew what you could do with raw materials, raw sources, I suddenly knew you could work all this stuff into something exciting, I suddenly knew you could do so much musically with basic technology and a driven will… it seemed like punk's basic lessons all over again, ten thousand kilometres away. Someone else had picked up the torch….

Western Swing: I remember doing my engineering homework late one night in Redfern listening to Double Jay when this enthusiastic mixture of Jazz and Country came on. Christ, what the hell was this? A guy fiddling away like Stephane Grappelli over a basic country song while the guitarist noodles around with weird jazz scales and chords behind a hick singing about lost love in Texas? Pedal steel and exuberant horn lines? Country with rhythm? I phoned Double Jay to ask what the hell it was (I used to know several staffers there and thought I'd ask one of them). Mac Cocker himself answered, which was a little like talking to God. "It's Bob Wills and The Texas Playboys — it's called 'Western Swing'". OK, I wrote it down and went back to my homework. Years later I still marvel at how a bunch of Okies and Texas good old boys picked up on the jazz and blues coming out of New Orleans and Memphis and just made it work so naturally with basic country music. Yes, it later underwent a rather twee revival during the 1990's that destroyed it a bit for me, but that crossing of two quite different genres always struck me as one of the better examples of the musical melting pot. Plus for me there's personal resonance in the Oaktown and Bakersfield connections — two cities that have played very different roles in my life over the past fifteen years and that both became Western Swing and Country centres in their own ways.

(Part of Punk (and Later)).

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July 01, 2007

All About Art

There's an amusing (but potentially fairly ugly) little kerfuffle going on in the New York art world between the established (uhuh…) street artists / graffitiists (think "Banksy" and epigones) and a bunch of so-far mostly faceless defacers and disruptors. As reported by that newspaper-with-its-pulse-on-what's-happening-on-the-street, the NYT, "One manifesto declared street art 'a bourgeois-sponsored rebellion,' politically impotent, facilitiating gentrification". (Michael Kimmleman, "Splashing the Art World With Anger and Questions", NYT 30/6/07).

Well, yes. Maybe. Does anyone really think that the street art that's being talked about there is any sort of rebellion, let alone a bourgeois-sponsored rebellion, nowadays? It's an industry, a cog in the production of the Spectacle (it is a spectacle), a product with a carefully-nurtured market and an associated party set.

Later, ending Kimmelman's article: "Minus the incendiary devices, this latest little flap is proof that art can still matter". But it's not about art, is it?

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