Thursday, October 30, 2008

Many of you have accepted the situation of your imprisonment and will die here like rotten cabbages...

I'm going to be otherwise detained between now and next week, but rather than leave this blog as blank as a blink, I wanted to just share a few words of discouragement about an event over which I have no tangible control and probably won't have another chance to comment on before it comes to pass. *Ahem*

Anyone who votes for McCain & Palin has decided that the accessibly ideal leaders of the global power-locus nation are a hypocritical crank & rent-boy to Wall Street whose greatest claim to fame is dropping napalm on men, women, and children; and a psychotic millenarian separatist with a double-digit IQ who couldn't successfully manage a Gap store if her life fucking depended on it.

Anyone who votes for McCain & Palin is an irredeemably selfish & myopic cunt who, by all standards, will have proven themselves unfit to participate responsibly in a legitimate democracy (not that America is such a thing).

Anyone who votes for McCain & Palin is a poster-child for forced sterilization who ought to be ineligible for a driver's license or passport, and is a psychic sponsor of a budding sociopath strapping on a suicide bomb.

America, if you vote for (or if SCOTUS installs) McCain & Palin, the next time anything bad happens to your damned county, the extent of international sympathy will make Stockhausen's reaction to 9/11 look as syrupy-sweet as a Hallmark card.

For those of us powerless to prevent this potential disaster, we can always turn to Patrick McGoohan for comfort - that is, if this 40-year-old TV episode weren't so depressingly prescient.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Modern Militarism

This one's for you, Owen!

(All moving images public domain, courtesy of populuxe, the automakers of America, and US military hegemony past & present.)

Amid all the claptrap about xenoeconomics & accelerationism (I'm catching up, but househusbandry takes precedence over blogging), K-Punk blithely tossed off a response to Splintering Bone Ash's indictment of hauntology that was as helpful & illuminating as a do-it-yourself lobotomy:
...a terminus, perhaps temporarily, has been reached - "that there is nothing else, (at this moment in time at least) that nothing else is possible". Much as I with [sic] it weren't the case, it isn't possible to bring back modernism by force of will alone.
Boo to that. What a bunch of lazy bollocks. If someone's idea of cultural progress is "to bring back modernism," that speaks more to their own limited sense of aesthetic possibility than a real dead-end. Yes, I know he doesn't mean "modernism" strictly as the historicised aesthetic philosophy with a midcentury heyday, but the very reliance on the term speaks of a self-satisfied defeatism, or at least a languid incuriosity. Anyway, if I recall my adolescence with any accuracy, isn't having burned back through modernism already what got us onto this nostalgic hamster wheel in the first place? Or are we waiting until a new -ism has been codified before we stop complaining and get off our fat asses to join in the artistic adventure?

I've long been convinced that *ahem* structurally efficient art - minimalism, noise, ambient, hauntology, post-whatever - sponges up such critical adulation because it's a palimpsest upon which the higher-minded members of audience can graffiti their own assumptions. This is why SunnO))) have been readily embraced by the art world: their black-matte fogginess is tastefully obtuse set-dressing, allowing plenty of elbow-room for an individual's imaginative ramblings without betraying the truth that they're actually just two dudes who wanna fuckin' rawk. The problem therein is that, when left such generous margins to fill in with our own fantasies, the art becomes a feedback loop that merely reaffirms what (we think) we already know; it reflects only what we show it, without refraction, transformation, or challenge. And, shit, before you know it, you'll be so far up your own mollycoddled ass you'll be lauding the "milky, watercolour diffuseness" of Coldplay - isn't that right, Mark?

If knowing nothing about art while attempting to create is like the old monkeys-at-a-typewriter axiom, then allowing cultural parameters to be defined by people who aren't artists themselves is like asking a 40-year-old virgin addicted to internet porn about sex.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

NO Music, NO Life...

Sure, we're kinda crap at distribution, what with four albums (and counting) collecting dust, and we may be temporarily splintered across continents, but we're TCB on the A/V front.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Post-Millenium Tension

Here's what I don't quite understand about blogging: how does anyone get around to writing anything whilst wading in this swamp of digital distractions? (And I mean writing, not this blockquoted, hyperlinked juggling of other people's words as a substitute for content generation.) By now, I should have been done this post three days ago, nevermind folding the laundry and scoring a trailer. But how the hell am I supposed to ignore Onion-worthy headlines like "People run for lives as flames explode around them"? Or this Ed Wood-worthy non-sequitor that was so gloriously awkward, I actually rented the movie to see how bad that shit was? I mean, even the really good flotsam in this horizonless sea of 0s and 1s is keeping me from some real-world responsibility.

In a similar spirit, though it's a little late for thanks by now, big up to Carl for pointing everyone in the direction of this fine (though apparently abandoned) blog. Right off the bat, I was taken by the incisive stance Alex adopts whilst pissing on graves:
Hauntology's ghostly audio is seen as form of good postmodernism, as set against the bad PoMo of a rampaging retroism. Beached as it seems we are at the end of (cultural) history, it is certainly a seductive argument... link[ed] to a mood of melancholic defeatism in Western left wing politics.
This is an idea I've stewed in until my hands got pruney and my hair stank of chlorine, but never really got around to writing about. I'm grateful someone finally put it publicly with such immediacy.

As many savory sounds have been channeled via this necrocultural seance (I especially like the notion of "ghost genres"), the obvious term that no one has so far applied to hauntological music is Dead End. The overarching message seems to be, "Give up. Sounds are neither created nor destroyed, they simply change form. Everything's already been done - probably by Eno*." This hasn't sat well with everyone: almost two years have already passed since this suicide of the imagination and insistence on being bored was ruefully dubbed "Transcendental Miserablism" over at Hyperstition. But if the Fukuyaman "End of History" proved patently false in the political realm, why can it not be an equally invalid prognosis for culture?

Where hauntology is as bankrupt as any other stripe of post-modernism is: can a creative philosophy be called such when it lacks the essential act of creation? There's obviously a creative aspect to reconstitution, translation, and deconstruction, but nothing that crackles with the shock of the new. As I've touched on before, part of the blame has to do with the available tools: the focus has shifted from hardware - between the instrument and the amplifier - to software; consequently, sounds are less created now than they are reformatted, simulated, and sampled. Sounds that are not born of air technically do not exist - they are undead, bastard vibrations exiled from their essential medium. This orphaned, unphysical quality is essential to most hauntological music, (re)constructed as it is from ashy samples & decayed soundwaves**, but it also requires hauntological music to be trapped in some bereaved fantasy of "utopias that never were***, or which are now unreachable, a retreat into childhood/youth, just as trapped in the endless re-iterative mechanistics of the postmodern as the lowest form of retroism." In this regard, hauntology is less a meditation on one's own scars than some sadomasochistic chimera about the fresh, stinking-meat wound that produced someone else's scars.

Am I selling short the opportunities offered by music software? I don't think so. Once the novelty of time-stretching and pitch-correcting wore off, the digital domain didn't actually epxand the sonic palette by much. Random-access, nondestructive editing is undeniably convenient, but how much further can nanosecond splicing be pushed beyond "Windowlicker"? (Don't answer that.) In fact, I'd be hard pressed to think of an unheard-of sound produced since the digitally-elongated bellow at the heart of "Come To Daddy".

I wonder if the pervasive pre-millenium tension of the previous decade hasn't led to a serious case of apocalyptic blue-balls. Amid the growing din of millenarian fundamentalists, technophobic survivalists, numerological fruitcakes, and rubbernecking cynics, it was impossible not to anticipate - with some degree of excitement - the systemic aneurysm & subsequent pandemonium of Y2K. It possibly came as a greater shock that nothing happened. The lights stayed on, nothing exploded, and computers only crashed if they were running Windows 98 (and so was par for the course). Since then, people have been desperate to declare every new disaster as the Day the World Changed Forever. Granted, the mere seven years of the new century have already accrued an impressive catalogue of catastrophes: September 11, the Iraq War, Katrina, and the current economic meltdown. But as of yet, very little has fundamentally changed about the way the world works. Hell, Bill Hicks could rise from the grave and (much to his apopleptic chagrin, I imagine) do a verbatim rehash of his early-'90s routines. Could it be that we're all just a bit... disappointed?

(*) - I'm a bit surprised that no one's cited the "Eno mix" of Massive Attack's "Protection" as an obvious precursor to Burial's diffuse, stray-transmission aesthetic.

(**) - Some artists who've been lumped under the hauntology banner, like SunnO))), are a little ill-suited to the "genre," given that they actually originate sounds by tangible means. In this regard, they're better suited to the "post-" (i.e. reductio ad absurdum minimalist deconstruction) prefix.

(***) - Need we be reminded that Burial himself is "too young to have ever gone to a warehouse rave."

Non-sequitorial postscript: Oh, Marnie... Marnie, Marnie, Marnie, I hear you, I dig what you're saying, I can relate, and you're a motherfucker of a guitar player, but... goddamit, just stop singing in that fuckin' cat-in-heat bleat and we can hang, okay? Please?

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Something Has Gone Horribly Wrong

I'm DJ'ing a wedding today.

Don't quite know how it happened, but at least the happy couple have uncommonly good taste in music, so I can't get away with any jive bullshit. Chuck Brown, Archie Bell, and Slim Gaillard for all! Anyway, that's my excuse (well, that and getting distracted by those 9/11 fruitloops) for not having been too bloggy this week. I've got a couple o' things on the boil for next week, so hang tight.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Is This Not Ideology At Its Purest?

I gotta stop doing this: taking the bait on someone else's blog by responding to someone far over my political horizon, hijacking the comments thread and generally being a bloviating bore. But man, did I blow it this time - I raised the hackles of a 9/11 Truth evangelist. Yeah, one of these guys. And now my keyboard is paying for it in exponential wear 'n' tear.

I've never thought the narrative offered by the US government was entirely satisfactory; I'll even hazard there was actionable intelligence about the terrorist plot that was deliberately neglected by the Machiavellian vampires in PNAC. (Condi could probably back up such a claim.) But every alternate telling of the event - including though not limited to controlled demolition, squibs, stand-down orders, missiles, remote-controlled drones, and, of course, the Jews did it - is equally pockmarked by inconsistency, pseudoscience, and circumstantial evidence. Not that this dulls the fervor of the 9/11 Truth crowd, no sir! The great irony of the "Truthers" is that, as much cross-examination to which they subject the official account, they never betray the slightest doubt about their own conclusions. The last time I saw someone so brassbound of his own convictions, it was, uh... that retarded cowboy fellow who's been running the country for the past eight years.

I can't discuss the 9/11 Truth movement without hearing Slavoj Žižek's de facto motto ringing in my ears: Is that not ideology at its purest? The 9/11 Truth weltanschaaung is a meticulously fantastic, all-encompassing construction to which exceptions or contradictions only prove the rule, which in turn denies the exceptions or contradictions as being such. It's as impregnable and self-affirming as any other ideology, from Adorno's miserablist Marxism to Catholicism to Scientology. In short, it's fucking impossible to entrust with even a modicum of self-skepticism.

So why am I giving more airtime to this armchair-CSI lunacy? Well, I originally intended to use this space to continue the demagogic ping-pong match without co-opting any more of Jodi Dean's comment thread. But I'll save my breath and instead refer you to the article that kicked off this whole melee: the Biblically-long debate between Matt Taibbi and David Ray Griffin hosted by Alternet. Grab a cup of coffee, 'cuz it's over thirty pages long (though the fur doesn't really start flying until Part II). Almost any argument that was made at Dean's blog (or could be made here) is covered somewhere within the article, so give at least a little of your time.

I'll admit my bias out of the gate: Taibbi is one of the most thorough and viciously funny journalists on the beat, though his increasingly frenzied, nouveau-gonzo style reveals (as Tim Krieder noted) "a man whom coverage of national politics has driven to the brink of utter and irredeemable loathing of mankind." But I also have to give Griffin his due: he presented himself as diplomatic, patient, and attentive, ditching histrionics for investigative scrutiny. This is in stark contrast to the usual spittle-hail and witch-hunt hysterics through which Truthers deliver their arguments. Perhaps the 9/11 Truth community might make more headway if their massaged their PR a bit. The hectoring tone, juvenile monitions to "wake the fuck up!", and smug sighing over having to thanklessly point out "the blindingly obvious" aren't exactly endearing.

The mistake Truthers make is like confusing Bush with Batman: the forensic microscopy and fanciful dot-connecting ignores the complete picture. The day the WTC was destroyed, that very afternoon, I was already more terrified about what Bush's response would be. I'll borrow some words from Žižek to avoid sounding monstrously callous:
The U.S. just got the taste of what goes on around the world on a daily basis, from Sarajevo to Grozny, from Rwanda and Congo to Sierra Leone. If one adds to the situation in New York snipers and gang rapes, one gets an idea about what Sarajevo was a decade ago.
The attacks were like punching a gorilla in the nose: an irrationally bold gesture of defiance that would temporarily stun the beast, but then set its blood to boil. Run to the hills, motherfuckers.

Bringing this back to my initial point on Jodi Dean's blog, it's not as though any of the various 9/11 conspiracy theories need be proven true to indict the Bush (and Blair) administrations for their heinous offenses. The whole of the American & British cabinets could be dragged into the Hague right now and receive the same charge dispensed at the Nuremberg Trials: planning, initiating and waging wars of aggression and other crimes against peace. This is without considering the plethora of other disgusting transgressions that are sufficiently well-documented that I needn't recount them all here.

The question might become one of priorities: do we want BushCo. punished for being the amoral, imperialist hegemons they are, or do we want to bicker endlessly over incomplete and corrupt evidence? From a legal standpoint, a 9/11 Truth prosecution of the Bush Administration is unfeasible: in the Taibbi/Griffin article, Griffin's courtroom analogy posits himself as a defense attorney, who needs only establish the shadow of a doubt, which the official 9/11 narrative is certainly not beyond. But then neither is the 9/11 Truth version of the event.

Dismayingly, I suspect the real question at the root of this interminably dull argument is: what do we care about more, 2751 dead in New York City, or (as of today) 4180 Americans, 314 other coalition members, and an estimated 1,273,378 Iraqis? Do we care more about our fellow middle-class Starbucks customers, or a bunch of gun-toting pseudo-barbarians fighting over a beige wasteland? Are we more disturbed by a traumatic schism in our quotidian Western comfort, which we must fill with whatever fragmented fantasy we can possibly cobble together from material scraps, or by an ongoing, slow-burning slaughter of colossal scale that nonetheless is out of our empathic view?

I don't particularly want the answer to those questions - but then, that's probably exactly what a 9/11 Truther would've said about me anyway.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Burning Down the House

Well, it's like three in the morning here, so I ain't got time to comment on this right now, but it's worth bringing to your attention expediently so we can all have a nice little chat about 3rd-degree burns on nether* regions in the near future.

By the way, did you notice that Osaka police are calling this a suicide attempt? Talk about going out in a blaze of glory. Surely any effort to off yourself that includes your pants around your ankles is just one o' them Cries For Help. Of course, considering the circumstances, yeah, this guy obviously had nothing going for him.

Anyway, this is a good excuse to post a li'l video hat-tip to Jodi Dean, but foregoing my original selection of "Life During Wartime", this seems like a more a propos selection...

(*) - Did I mention I'm going to Amsterdam this weekend? It's gonna be a hot time... in the ol' town too-nite...


Could someone please explain to me what exactly Robert Christgau enjoys about music? And how the fuck did this joyless hackademic secure his tenure as The Dean? Can we just guillotine him, mount his head on a handsome teak slab above a plaque that says "B+ Means Never Having To Say You're Sorry," and be done with it?

(H/T to Anthony via Marc)