Friday, October 30, 2009

Scare Tactics

Hallowe'en has never been a big deal in Japan. This is largely because of the absence of the entire cultural context (however flimsy & fabricated) for the holiday, but also because there's already more than enough opportunity to apply ghoulish makeup and extravagant costumery. This year, however, appears to be different: paper skeletons & plastic jack-o-laterns are ubiquitous, and every nightclub (as opposed to only the ones that cater to foreigners) is hosting some kind of haunted happening. Granted, I've been absent the past two years, but my friends here confirm that this sudden enthusiasm in All Hallow's Eve has arrived without warning. I'm convinced this is an economic stimulus effort that's helping to resurrect the Japanese economy: hype an accessory-emphatic holiday, pushing everyone to purchase the necessary accoutrement.

I doubt that Hallowe'en will become a staple of the fall season, though. Other countries have had fleeting love affairs with the holiday, only to discard it once the novelty wore off and the candy hangovers kicked in. In the early part of this decade, that bastion of high culture France "went batty" over Hallowe'en, reclaiming their stake in the ancient European celebration while enjoying its New World lunacy. A few years later, of course, the French lived up to their reputation and quickly ditched Hallowe'en like the autumnal fad it was. Now, Hallowe'en is little more than an excuse for an extra ladies' night on a nightclub's event calendar.

Which isn't to say nothing scary happens on Hallowe'en in France. Last year, I witnessed in Paris some of the most ghetto bullshit I've seen since leaving Baltimore. Traveler's Tip: when some drunk steps to you in the 11th arrondissement, let it slide and believe him when he says he makes bank. I don't care about their military history, the French will fuck you up if they have to.

Click on the mix title to download.

Something Wicked This Way Comes

1. Black Sabbath - "Black Sabbath"
2. The Birthday Party - "Release the Bats"
3. Chain & the Gang - "Cemetary Map"
4. Public Image Ltd. - "Graveyard"
5. Wendy Carlos - "The Shining (Main Titles)"
6. The Caretaker - "Haunted Ballroom"
7. The Jesus & Mary Chain - "Nineteen666"
8. Scientist - "The Voodoo Curse"
9. Pete Rugolo - "Finger of Fear"
10. Suicide - "Ghost Rider"
11. Big Lazy - "Just Plain Scared"
12. Johnny Pearson - "Graveyard"
13. The Crazy World of Arthur Brown - "Fire"
14. David Bowie - "Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps)"
15. Teeth Mountain - "Ghost Science"
16. The Bourbons - "A Dark Corner"
17. The Fall - "Mansion"
18. Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds - "Red Right Hand"
19. Lucifer - "Exorcism"
20. Lord Dent & His Invaders - "Wolf Call"
21. Sonic Youth - "Hallowe'en"

Sunday, October 25, 2009

And All Hardcore Fiends Will Die By Me

Not entirely timely, given the past number of days were eaten up by a brief escape from the metro region, but...

I've already had my say about this "grey vampire" nonsense, so all that remains is to dedicate the mixes below to the architects of this ignis fatuus "new orthodoxy."

Still, mind you... I wonder, reading such smug & protective excuses & egotism, if those paralyzed by prolepsis aren't simply exhausting themselves defending bad ideas.

Click on the titles to download.

Righteous Maelstrom (The Autumn Edition)

1. Brian Eno - "No One Receiving"
2. The Flaming Lips - "Convinced of the Hex"
3. Pissed Jeans - "Half Idiot"
4. Wu-Tang Clan - "Shame On a Nigga"
5. Arthur "Big Boy" Crudup - "I'm Gonna Dig Myself a Hole"
6. Big Flame - "Every Conversation"
7. The Jesus Lizard - "Mouthbreather"
8. The Jimi Hendrix Experience - "If 6 Was 9"
9. The Jesus & Mary Chain - "Suck"
10. The Billy Nayer Show - "Only I Can Save the World"
11. Grouper - "Disengaged"
12. Flipper - "Living For the Depression"
13. Busta Rhymes - "Woo Ha!! Got You All In Check"
14. XTC - "Outside World"
15. The Mothers of Invention - "Who Are the Brain Police?"
16. NoMeansNo - "I Am Wrong"

Righteous Maelstrom (The Fall Edition)

1. The Fall - "The Man Whose Head Expanded"
2. The Fall - "Fantastic Life"
3. The Fall - "Mere Pseud Mag. Ed."
4. The Fall - "What You Need"
5. The Fall - "Slates, Slags, Etc." Live
6. The Fall - "Recipe For Fascism"
7. The Fall - "Who Makes the Nazis?"
8. The Fall - "Gut of the Quantifier"
9. The Fall - "New Puritan" Peel Session

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Re-up: Nothing Says Patriotism Like Screaming Like an Idiot

Recently, word from back west came that CBC Radio 2 was hosting a li'l something called the Great Canadian Song Quest, a listener-commissioned swing for the bleachers of immortalising some classically Canuck minutiae in song...

...kinda like what I did four months ago.

Now, I myself am not eligible for the GCSQ: the specific sights/smells/experiences to be enshrined in sound are first voted upon by the public, and then a handful of established Canadian musicians will write the tunes about the elected subjects. The roster of redoubtable artists include everyone from Hawksley Workman & Martha Wainwright to Sloan & Joel Plaskett, so no wonder my phone never rang.

Certainly, the Song Quest is full of noble intent: it's a bit embarrassing that the closest Canada comes to a self-celebratory anthem is the domestic-only hit "At the 100th Meridian" or, uh, "YYZ". Perhaps our famed modesty (at least compared to our noisy neighbours to the south) prohibits us from getting overly patriotic. But hell, if you want to run with the big dogs, your bark has to be as loud as theirs. If you want to compete with "I Love L.A." or "La Marseillaise", then you can't be shy about ceremonialising cultural ephemera or even bloodthirsty jingoism. If you want cops singing your song at wakes for their brothers-in-arms, you've got to aim bigger than bagels and go for heart-rending abstraction like the Pogues did with "Body of an American".

Which is why I spent two-and-a-half minutes hollering like a drunk at the Calgary Stampede about such True Northern staples as Mounties, Trudeau, and (of course) Tim Horton's. Damn the torpedoes! Show some love for the donuts!

For those of y'all interested who haven't already, you can download "A Hesitant Pride" as part of the Breeds With Anything EP for free over at SVC Records.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Sniping (3)

K-Punk's "new orthodoxy" translated into layspeak:
I don't give a fuck how wrong I may be, and I don't give a fuck how vague or amoebic my ambitions may be - I will be Napoleon for a day if only at my own desk!
K-Punk's slide towards self-righteous incoherence has already been noted by myself and others, but what's shocking at this point is that, in seeking "to impose a new orthodoxy in the way that the right did," K-Punk is actually pulling pages from Karl Rove's playbook. Banishing all discourse except sycophantic acquiescence; equating "nuancing" a position with abandoning it; accusing critics of giving comfort to the enemy (or at least of conforming to the enemy's prescriptive narrative); maligning the libidos of those unwilling to charge headlong & blindly into battle... at this rate, it'll won't be long before K-Punk blows Ads Without Products' cover and Dominic Fox accidentally shoots Owen Hatherly in the face.

What's beyond surprising, utterly perplexing in fact, is that anyone would want "to impose a new orthodoxy in the way that the right did." The ultimate result of neoliberal capitalism's utter domination of the past decade has been bloody fucking disaster - not just for the "little people", leftists, and Iraqis, but for the Masters of the Universe as well. The right's politics weren't so much politics as moronic bumper-stickers plastered on a vehicle fueled by psychopathic greed & an insatiable lust for power, which doesn't offer much of a long-term strategy once every house of congress, parliament, and boardroom has been occupied. Given how badly this chapter of our civlization is ending, why should we put our trust in the bulldozer militancy & smoggy philosophizing of a handful of Joy Division fans?

Much as K-Punk may wonder on the "libidindal impulses" of we who'd ask a theorist to bother defending their own ideas before lending them our full faith, I wonder about said impulses of a leftist who'd rather headbutt everyone into submission or sulk in the corner than articulate a position. The more he prattles on about the "punkish demystification" the militant dysphoria enables, the more he sounds like some prat at a rave in denial that the pill he popped was just Tylenol, and the more I wonder if he's just trying to punk us.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Sniping (2)

The esteemed Ms. Hopper asks a question whose time, between the Buju Banton furor and the VA "horrorcore" killings, is ripe:
Should music be moral?
I've already dashed off an initial response, which will be scrubbed & expanded before being reproduced here, but in the meantime it looks as though the question's already been complicated by Jane Dark, who countered Jessica with "the eternal brain burner":
Who gets to decide what morality is?
...which is fair & relevant, though its relativism ain't in line with the "My militant structual Marxism is bigger than your militant structural Marxism" shit she was talking over at Ads Without Products. It's all well & good to pray to Saint Jude while calling someone a sellout, but who gets to decide what's dysphoric accelerationism versus Pyrrhic pseudo-revolutionary role-playing?

Friday, October 02, 2009

The Revolution Will Not Be Twittered

Were you to believe it from a specific cluster of blogs, the single most momentous event of the past two weeks has been the student occupation of various buildings around the University of California Santa Cruz. Too bad no one else thinks so. Granted, the students couldn't have counted on above-the-fold competition from dual disasters in southeast Asia, the polarizing arrest of Roman Polanski, more crotch-grabbing by Ahmadinejad, or the aneurysm-inducing echoplex of phony outrage over Kanyegate.

However, they certainly didn't make it easier on themselves by launching their incursion concurrent to China's "60th birthday" bash and the G20 clusterfuck in Pittsburgh. Doubtlessly, this coincidence was intended to highlight the shortcomings of the post-globalised economic model, but being 2600 miles away from the action in a town often derided as a patchouli-soaked corral for space cadets & pinkos is not the best strategy for scoring headlines, let alone sympathy.

Lest someone think I'm not on the students' side, let me be clear: education is a fundamental right, not a privilege, and the keystone to any society that can even pretend to be free. Distended tuition costs, the erosion of available scholarships, and funding diverted like water from Noah Cross' Los Angeles pose as great (if not a greater) threat than any nebulous group of extremists broadcasting ill-defined grievances from caves.

That being said, a well-funded & equitably accessible secondary education doesn't do shit for a country without a functioning primary education system. Speaking of too many students chasing too few dollars, the only state with a high school graduation rate above 80% that is also among the 20 most populous states is New Jersey, and 26 of the 50 largest school districts see fewer than 60% of their students complete high school. The most dreadful failures are the cities:
  • Chicago (52.2%)
  • Los Angeles (44.2%)
  • New York City (38.9%)
  • Baltimore (38.5%)
  • Detroit (21.7%)
Sorry, bioethics undergrads and comparative lit doctoral candidates, but as long as almost a third of Americans can't parse the 5th-Grade prose of USA Today to read for themselves how fucked the public schools are, you'll have to wait your turn.

Another, more manageable problem facing the UCSC protesters is how they're presenting themselves & their agenda. They're flush with the same spurious romanticism as every placard-waving pseud & bumper-sticker doctrinaire from the past forty years, but because I'm sympathetic to their ends I'd like to offer them a little advice. I first thought it best to address them in their own language - that is, in a needlessly declarative, excessively florid manifesto that's as impalpable & impractical as a Japanese anti-smoking ad. But in the interest of avoiding doublespeak, I've decided to employ the more direct method of a concise list.
  • "Occupation" isn't a term that rings progressive - quite the opposite. It smacks of subjugation & imperialism; just ask any Palestinian or Iraqi. May I suggest "engagement" or "reclamation"?
  • If grad students are going to take anything over, they'd perhaps want to infiltrate an environment that isn't, according to this UCSC spokesman, paid for, operated by, and "used by graduate students for everything from studying to a lounge area." That's like a second-amendment rights rally "occupying" a NASCAR track. City hall, the state legislature, or even the university administrative offices might make for more effectively sensitive targets.
  • For god's sake, don't blast weak-ass reggae over the PA. You'll turn yourself into a South Park stereotype.
  • Speaking of concrete directions, how about making some explicit directives? Its laughable petulance aside, "WE WANT EVERYTHING" is as meaningless a demand as "WE WANT NOTHING" in that it points to nothing as a goal. If what "we" want isn't yet clear, we should at least be able to express what we don't want and issue demands in the negative. Even to demand the impossible is more effective than demanding "everything": again, the impossible at least offers some imaginable (albeit amoebic) ends towards which to work.
  • If you want to be taken seriously, don't cull your slogans from cloying cocaine-nosebleed disco or self-involved emo "anthems"; do not ironically appropriate Bonnie Tyler lyrics; don't make presumptive statements about "the working class" or "proletarian" anyone unless you're damn certain you can count them amongst your ranks; and for crying out loud, don't declare that "we are power hungry." That makes you sound like a bunch of authoritarian thugs.
But beyond that, I wish the UCSC protesters nothing but the best of luck. I'm only asking their bravery match the level of their rhetoric; you can't shake the Devil's hand and say you're only kidding. The reason I don't bandy about "smash the system" hyperbole (anymore) is because I know I'm incapable of following through on the threat. The level of violence - on every level and in every sense of the word - requisite to enact a revolution, any revolution is far beyond the bounds of my own conviction. This doesn't mean there isn't nobility, righteousness, or good within the revolutionary's heart; it does, however, require a certitude found only in True Belief, in fascists, in fundamentalists, and in sub-criminal psychopaths. As I believe the ends don't justify the means, I'll gladly play along until my "counterrevolutionary" skepticism lands me in the gulag, which will serve me as an incredibly shitty, lifelong Told You So.

Below are some tunes dedicated to those fighting to get their learn on; click on the mix title to download.

The Revolutionary Gesture

1. The Birthday Party - "Mutiny In Heaven"
2. Metallica - "For Whom The Bell Tolls"
3. Harvey Milk - "War"
4. Nation Of Ulysses - "Target: U.S.A."
5. GZA - "I Gotcha Back"
6. The Clash - "The Guns of Brixton"
7. Erykah Badu - "Soldier"
8. Hoyt Ming and His Pep Steppers - "Indian War Whoop"
9. Spacemen 3 - "Revolution"
10. Michael Yonkers - "Kill the Enemy"
11. Lungfish - "Black Helicopters"
12. Pelt - "Hippy War Machine"
13. The Stranglers - "No More Heroes"

Updated (Oct. 4): Ads Without Products makes an invaluable expansion upon my last point, regarding the "adolescent insanity" of "toussled-haired hipsters, laptopped and bespectacled," fancying themselves urban guerrillas.