Friday, June 26, 2009

Botox-addled Extraterrestrial Approximation of White Woman Dead

Whoops! Wrong pic. Just a sec...

Damn! Sorry, I know I've got it around here somewhere...

Oh, fuck it.

Meanwhile, Iran is on the precipice of a revolution, eight people died in Iraq on Thursday, Kim Jong-Il is still totally batshit, and China arrested Liu Xiaobo. Until that zombie is poppin' and lockin' on my street, there are bigger fish to fry.

But with the various rumours or doctors, criminals investigations, and chronic addiction to synthetic opiods, I'm calling it right now: assisted suicide. Any takers?

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

One More Spin Around the Sun

Now that Facebook is whupping its ass, MySpace is returning to its roots as a spam generator: the front page is an obnoxious overlay of banner ads that almost make Shibuya look modest, with gurning pseudolebrities tying products into a Moebius-like infotainment bow. Recently, there was an ad informing me that the chick from the Harry Potter movies is the "new face of Burberry" - which I thought was specific pattern of tartan and shows how much I know about fashion.

Anyway, the point is that I glanced at the pic, glanced again, and thought, "Christ, she's actually kind of a knockout." I then smacked myself across the face because she's the chick from the Harry Potter movies. Gah! Graying though my hair may be, I'm far too bloody young to be an ODB yet. Hell, I'm not even close to old enough to be her father - not even her uncle. Some cold comfort came from a Google search, which confirmed that she is (in the most crass of terms) "legal" and, besides, considering a 19-year-old walking study in cosmetic construction & public-image topiary attractive is hardly perverse.

Still... what with the event of a new Potter film semi-annually for the past decade, the girl's grown up in public. Consequently, my mental image of her is of a blurry pan-adolescent, at once every age between 10 and 20 and all the more grotesque as a result. But Christ, if it's that confusing for me, I can't fathom how confusing it is for her.

One of my sisters told me she always thinks of me as 23, even though she's past that herself. Then on the other hand, I've been nicknamed The Old Man by friends and foes alike since high school. This mantle I wear rather comfortably, if only because I haven't felt like a child (or even a kid) since I could swear in front of my parents without reprimand. Living now in Tokyo does nothing to dissuade viewing myself as a premature curmudgeon: dermatologically gifted as they are, Japanese people invariably look ten years younger than their age, which leads them to assume comparatively that I'm somewhere between 35 and 45 years old.

That said, I sure as shit am not an adult. I'm not even a grown-up. My C.V. would barely be impressive if I were just out of university; what honed skills I do possess are better suited to busking than gainful employment; I'm shackled by no long-term commitments, neither financial, legal, nor logistical. For all I've seen, done, said, and eaten, I still feel very much the way I did when I first struck out on my own in my eighteenth year - though now, my teeth are a bit worse and I can grow a proper moustache.

As it should be, I suppose. Until I've earned a wealth of tried-and-true wisdom and I can beatifically recline and drop knowledge on whoever will listen to an old man, I'm perfectly happy just being... some guy. So my career path looks more like a gravel road to nowhere than a driveway alongside a picket fence - you know what they say about the road less traveled. For most of my life, I'd suspected that much of the métier of adulthood was amassing lots o' needlessly expensive accoutrement & shiny crap, and that the "stoic resolve" of adults was largely a head-in-the-sand disavowal of the panic realized by, well, being alive.

The same sister who imagines me permanently at 23 once made the distinction between most grown-ups - that is, taller, fatter, hairier children with drinking problems - and Real Adults. There are indeed some who carry with themselves a veteran stillness or wizened grit, who seemingly sprang from the womb a fully-formed 40-year-old, balding or with nicotine-stained teeth. These are the people, my sister said, whose seasoned, weathered voice you'd want to explain what shit is hitting which fan and when; whose steady hand you'd trust to chart a course through choppy waters. My sister's archetypal Real Adult was the Don of Canadian broadcast journalism, Peter Mansbridge. My personal exemplar would be someone closer to Tom Waits.

I'd like to think I possess at least some small measure of such worldly acumen and certitude of self. But as I said, for now I'm happy knowing that everyone is basically winging it every day of their existence. Perhaps the highest-karat kernel of knowledge I receive from my parents was when I, at 14 and upset over something undoubtedly more trivial than I could tell, asked my mother if "it ever gets any easier." Without a moment's hesitation and not one hint of melancholy, she said, "No." She didn't even look up from the sink as she said it.

What a lot of drama & worry that one word has saved me. Here's to another year on planet earth.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

What Lessons Not To Learn From Iran

Between the increasing horror in the streets and the clampdown on broadcast media, trying to make heads or tails of the post-"election" chaos in Iran is no mean feat. Needless to say, there've been a lot of bunk conclusions drawn and errant dots connected, so let's take a moment to cut the crap out of the discourse.

Myth: Islam and Democracy are incompatible
This is an understandable fear, given that the line in the sand appears to pit democracy squarely against conservative Shi'ites. Moussavi himself has expressed concern that his nation's faith may be fundamentally antipathetic to democracy. Obviously, Islam is not the enemy of democracy: conservative Islam is the enemy of democracy, much in the same way that any intransigent orthodoxy is the enemy of democracy. No matter which monotheistic mania, putting anyone with an unshakable belief in a supreme being in charge of a country is a bad bloody idea, to which the United States is a living testament. Let's also not forget how prominent strident nationalism is amongst Ahmadinejad's rhetoric and supporters. Nationalism, fascism, capitalism (including state capitalism), religious fundamentalism - pick your -ism and odds are it ain't particularly nonsectarian.

Uh, yeah, well - we did that already, remember? And look what it got us last time: twenty-six years of a garish & irresponsible puppet dictator who was dramatically deposed by the original Mr. Fire-And-Brimstone-Upon-America, Ayatollah Khomeini, whose ascent readied the US (to one extent or another) for the rise of Khomeini's Occidental doppelganger Ronald Reagan (and we know how that worked out). Leaving the fate of Iran in the hands of its own people - whether they're clutching ballots or Molotov cocktails - at least allows the country a chance of escaping either an appointed despot or clerical strongman.

Lousy Analogy: Iranians and Republicans in a photo finish at the Oppression Olympics
Are we fucking joking. Speaking of learning the wrong lesson, apparently Republicans have decided that they lost the last election not because they're cryptofascistic spooks, but because they aren't millenarian/imperialist/batshit enough: aside from attempting to resurrect the ol' Cold War standby of Socialist boogeyman and whipping neo-Nazis into a bloodlustful froth, the Republicans are comparing their minority status to being disenfranchised, clubbed, tear-gassed, and shot by Ahmadinejad's thugs. Jon Stewart extended the analogy to its logical conclusion:
And I wonder if the lack of choice in the congressional cafeteria isn't just a little bit like Auschwitz.
But hey, to be fair, perhaps this is actually a kind of political performance art, a metapolitically ironic gesture on the part of the Republicans that manages to both undermine a Democratically elected leader at home, while bolstering a tyrannical theocracy abroad. That'd be heavy, bro.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Who's the responsible citizenry fighting for the survival of their democracy now, bitches?

Bush steals an election (or two):

Ahmadinejad steals an election:

Non-Sequitorial Postscript: Since when did Qaddafi start dressing himself as the missing link between Michael Jackson and Prince? Or is he just taking a cue from *Godwin Alert!* and attempting to make himself more likeable by patterning his appearance after one of the leading stars of the day - in this case, Kanye West?

Friday, June 12, 2009

The Satire of Death

Living abroad, the small-talk niche usually occupied by the weather or local sports team is filled by two questions:
  • "So what brought you to [Name of Country]?"
  • "When do you think you'll be moving home?"
Though initially an exciting chance for some minor self-exposition, these eventually become as rote & dull an anecdote as talking about, well, the weather or local sports team. People develop routine replies that can be rattled off in a single sentence and earn a few laughs while they're at it. My stock wisecrack involved a global prognosis so doomy that I would never move back to the States, if only because when the shit really hit the fan, I didn't want to be in a country where everyone was armed to the teeth.

Which is all well & good as a gag in casual conversation, but is chillingly underscored & stripped of any satirical overtones by the disturbing events of the past couple of weeks - doubly so because this is The Inevitable we've been waiting for. Now those with blood on their hands and a well-publicised bloodlust are somehow claiming not only that they've been painted red by their nemeses, but that their hands are clean. This is the sociocultural equivalent of "fixing" the financial crisis by pouring what little money remains back into the corrupt corporations who fucked us over in the first place.

They say that amateurs discuss tactics while professionals debate logistics, but the answer isn't simply a matter of gun control. There is, for example, an arguable link between gun ownership in the US (50%) and Canada (29%) and their murder rates (8.40 and 5.45 per 100,000 respectively). But this correlation isn't consistent: Finland has more guns per capita than any other European nation, yet their murder rate is a blessedly miniscule 1.98 per 100,000. Russia, meanwhile, has a only handful of firearms but a murder rate exceeded only by (in ascending order) Venezuela, Jamaica, South Africa, and Colombia.

So from whence spills this violence in the American character? Is it inherent, founded as it was by a genocidal venture capitalists and religious fanatics? Is America, in the words of National Lampoon's Vacation, "all fucked in the head"?

Fears Of Gun

1. Fumio Hayasaka - "Stray Dog"
2. Jimpson & Group - "The Murderer's Home"
3. Scientist - "Blood On His Lips"
4. The Clash - "Guns of Brixton"
5. Lungfish - "Oppress Yourself"
6. Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds - "The Curse of Millhaven"
7. Michael Yonkers - "Kill the Enemy"
8. Butthole Surfers - "Graveyard"
9. El-P - "Deep Space 9mm"
10. Brainbombs - "Stupid & Weak"
11. The Birthday Party - "Hamlet (Pow, Pow, Pow)" (Live)
12. Swans - "Beautiful Child"
13. Grails - "More Extinction"

Update: I'm not the only one to have noted that it's just been a spiky, unpleasant kinda week...

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Enjoy the Kneejerk

This is the funniest, deflating album review I've read in a long goddamn time. Someone at the Onion A/V Club give this cat a job!

Monday, June 08, 2009

The Death of Satire, Pt. ∞

With even the porn industry falling on *ahem* hard times, is there no corner of the global economy that isn't suffering? (Aside from the booming Armed & Racist sector, that is.) Well, according to no less a reputable source than TIME Magazine, DJ instructional classes & schools are packed to the gills - with Wall Street refugees and prospectless business school grads.

Sound like the setup to a vaguely familiar joke? That's because the inimitable Ian Svenonius already indelibly linked DJ culture to trade-oriented finance in his typically ingenious essay, "The Mix-Master Race":
The DJ-as-artist echoes the new role of the bourgeois as stockbroker/trader; designator of worth and handler of commodities. With the exportation of industrialism the third world and the new role of the imperialist as loan shark/investor, the grooming of the DJ as high priest/star-artist of the culture is a necessary part of ensuring the culture's aggrandization of the broker and the subsequent denigration of the actual manufacturer.

...The ruling class in the USA no longer produces, but merely moves money through stocks and speculation; they are the designators of worth. The DJ is their star. A preposterous poseur, once an adjunct to wedding parties, he is now exalted, featured in advertisements and lavished with wealth and fame. Like the rulers on Wall Street, he has no actual talent except to play with other people's labor. His talent is his impeccable taste and his ability to turn junk into gold, like his stockbroking masters.
Certainly, the most horrifying thing about the TIME article is the glimpse it offers into the snarled mindset of former Masters of the Universe, boldly underlining Svenonius' link between Wall Street and the wheels of steel. Witness, for example, the driving motivation of one Bay Area DJ:
You can control everyone.
Yowza. If that doesn't sound like the coke-fueled glee of conspiratorial stockbrokers out for a drink after a day working on Canary Wharf, I don't know what does. Even more disturbing, though, are the words of Ms. Koma Gandy. A textbook example of a financial crisis casualty, Gandy is a Harvard undergrad with an MBA from Georgetown University who used to manage hedge funds and now dreams of getting booties moving on the dancefloor. But the Wizard of Oz allusion she makes to describe her fascination with DJ culture could just as easily be used to describe the deluded faith in self-interested voodoo that blew all that hot air up the economy's ass over the past decade:
You go out to this party and the deejay is this mysterious entity behind a wall, where all this magic happened. I've always wanted to see how the magic was constructed.
These are the people who were handling our money: starry-eyed and conceited, overgrown children just desperate to be showered in whatever fairy dust was being blown around the VIP booth. And yet we still wonder exactly how we got into this mess in the first place?

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

The Son of: When Mates Release Records

To jack a theme from Sir Reynolds...

For those of you who've been derelict in clicking around the links to the right, may I draw your attention to the boutique label with the best roster in Blighty, SVC Records. The label bloomed from the fine music blog Spoilt Victorian Child when maitre d' Simon decided to evangelise more actively on behalf of (whom he saw as) criminally underappreciated artists - including fuzzbox enthusiasts Ringo Deathstarr and The Vandelles, bedroom pop alchemists The Harvey Girls, and, uh, myself. For this, I owe Simon a huge debt of gratitude. (But happily, not a huge literal debt - recoupment achieved, baby!)

But Simon doesn't just release records - he makes 'em too.

The Chasms is Simon's collaboration with Richard Quirk and the prolific Mike Seed. Their debut EP (recorded au naturel in a barn) will scrub your eardrums like steel wool dipped in Oxycontin. Packed with pythonic drones and primitive percussion, the seven songs sound like a young Jack Rose, in full hippie-war-machine-mode, and the sultan of sub Jah Wobble jamming on some Jesus And Mary Chain. Radiant and immersive, radioactive and absorbing, Advance Paranoia, Advance is best soaked in under the scorching summer skies. And since the whole shebang can be enjoyed for free at their website, I suggest you go cop that right now before the season gets any older.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

The Justice Dept. Hates Lawyers As Much As The Rest Of Us

The 9/11 Conspiracies. Chemtrails. Obama's birth certificate. The North American Union. The moon landing "hoax". The 2008 Sichuan earthquake caused by geoclimatic control devices. RFID tracking chips. The Illuminati. The Parallax Corporation. Sleeper cells against which Jack Bauer is our only hope. Elvis & JFK fighting a soul-sucking mummy somewhere in the deep south.

Any American busy cherry-picking factoids to fit their carefully-tailored blueprint of metareality might want to stop and smell the Sixth Amendment going up in flames.

Tell it to the judge:
The Supreme Court on Tuesday overturned a long-standing ruling that stopped police from initiating questions unless a defendant's lawyer was present, a move that will make it easier for prosecutors to interrogate suspects.

The high court, in a 5-4 ruling, overturned the 1986 Michigan v. Jackson ruling, which said police may not initiate questioning of a defendant who has a lawyer or has asked for one unless the attorney is present. The Michigan ruling applied even to defendants who agreed to talk to the authorities without their lawyers.
Lest I neglect to mention: this is the ruling the Obama administration requested. Though anyone who honestly expected "change" is probably too naive to be considered a Responsible Voter, Obama's quiet continuation of some of Bush's most profane policies is an electrode to the nutsack of anyone who thought civilisation could at least collapse with its dignity intact. But now, not only does America not care how certain information was procured from foreign captives and "enemy combatants", it could give a fuck how its own citizens are left to fend at hands of criminal inquisitors.

As Crooks & Liars pointed out, "criminals are rarely intelligent and they're often easily coerced. You know that bit on cop shows where they use a copy machine as a 'lie detector'?"

"Some cops actually do that."

Any fan of prime-time cop dramas is familiar with arsenal of mind games & psych-outs detectives can deploy against witnesses & suspects. The one bulwark against this bullying was always to lawyer up - "I want my attorney." But now those four words are as ineffective a protection as any other four words strung together in an interrogation; you might as well be saying, "More braised cuttlefish, please." Whether a suspect or a defendant, just in for a chat or being charged with a crime, you are at the mercy of the police in the room and whatever means they see fit to ply you with, from semantic sleight-of-hand to physical intimidation - just like the lads down in Gitmo. However "unjustified" it may be (in the words of Justice Scalia's decision) "to presume that a defendant's consent to police-initiated interrogation was involuntary or coerced", there is absolutely no guarantee that it wasn't.