29/12/2012

come the end of knowledge

Death of Knowledge; book, Cut, death, knife, knowledge, stab
Eric Smith (2007)

If, in some cataclysm, all of scientific knowledge were to be destroyed, and only one sentence passed on to the next generation of creatures, what statement would contain the most information in the fewest words? I believe it is the atomic hypothesis that all things are made of atoms - little particles that move around in perpetual motion, attracting each other when they are a little distance apart, but repelling on being squeezed into one another. In that one sentence, you will see, there is an enormous amount of information about the world, if just a little imagination and thinking are applied.
- Richard Feynman


Asked some mates what single piece of information they would pass on were all modern knowledge destroyed. Was hoping their answers would reveal something essential about them, but I did expect some trolling too - which can anyway also be essential. (JH: "Careful now that swan could break your arm".)

CW: "Eat lots of veg."

RM: "Either that the Earth is spherical and 4.5 billion years old [cheat!] or that all people are descended from a common ancestor and any genetic difference between them is superficial. I'm not sure which would do more good."

CR: "Wear sunscreen"

SS: "π is an irrational number. Don't worry about finishing it."

JM: "I'd tell them directions to a place. We would rebuild there. It would be like Thunderdome."

MR: "Dunno. What I've been told: hold your beliefs lightly."

NM: "Maybe I would pass on that there is a large hairy humanoid in the North American forests. And from then on, Bigfoot would be considered factual and hard to disbelieve as there are very many similar species that are proven to exist. Furthermore I would say to them that weed is a fine herbal medicinal remedy. Which in many ways it is!"

JMcL: "Desiderata".


I love the existential ones, but would probably opt for something practical like "Invisibly tiny creatures cause most disease, and soap kills them." or "Rotate your fucking crops, guys!"

*************************************************


CW and BC wondered what was so great about Feynman's pick (charged atomic theory). I agree it's not obvious or instantly practical (atomism only became useful in like 1803 in our timeline, after all.) But the wee qualitative sentence above implies reductionism, which attitude eventually gets you proper quant chemistry, medicine, engineering. And there's a few things you could deduce without much apparatus, like Boyle's law, Proust's law etc. So it maybe saves them a few thousand years.

Of course, you can then question whether getting ourselves massive instrumental power all over again is necessarily the safest move, given that the bulk of the lethal global risks we face comes from our own activity...


***********************************************


BC: "Always back up your work."


houmous and a handful of pills


An update on the old better-living-through-chemistry regimen. I now take 12 pills -mostly just nutrients, but still enough to unnerve people. It freaks them out less when I mention the red wine, green tea, and chocolate that form the core of the therapy first. (Not coincidentally, those are three quite intense foods.) Folk find the mere daily regularity of it all about as unsettling as its unnatural substance.

I have to take these jitters seriously because I'm not in the business of making veganism look hard, and thereby letting people off: all any vegan needs to thrive is B12 fortified food and a very varied diet. The rest, below, is a hobby, a nerdy attempt at optimising my shiz. For the incorrigible hippies amongst you, I've given wholefood alternatives where they exist.

In a day, then:

FOOD
  • 100ml matcha green tea (10x the polyphenols of ordinary green tea. Shitloads of catechins, 140mg caffeine, 100mg theanine). What for? There's a raft of weak results: cholesterol down, metabolism up, diabetes risk down, breast and prostate cancer down. But the nootropic effect is very well established (especially when one tweaks the natural order with an extra 150mg theanine).
  • 50g of 85% cocoa chocolate (for flavanols). What for? Strong evidence that flavanols prevent heart disease, and some indication that it's nootropic.
  • 50g brazil nuts once a week (for selenium)
  • 200g of kale twice a week (for calcium, iron, vit A)
  • Wine, vegan red. What for? Fun. Also a toast to the idea of resveratrol.

NUTRIENTS
  • 25µg Vitamin D. Fun fact: perhaps half the world is deficient. What for? If some studies are to be believed, it's for everything. Bone health, anti-cancer, "all-cause mortality", and, strangest, stopping old people from falling over.
    (Hippies: move somewhere sunny.)
  • 0.1mg vitamin B12. Classic. What for? As well as stopping one from dying, there's been some buzz around it being neuroprotective and anti-Alzheimer's.
    (Hippies: Nutritional yeast.)
  • 1g omega-3 (EPA & DHA). All the linseed I'd been eating was missing the point: it supplies only the smallest omega-3, ALA. Luckily a vegan source of the better, larger ones was invented recently. What for? Take it for mood, heart disease, and nerve function, rather than the trumped-up IQ business of yesteryear.
    (Hippies: there's no wholefood source except one specific kind of algae - which this is)
  • 1g Acetyl l-carnitine. Vegists are in relative deficiency (perhaps 1/4 of omnivore levels).
    What for? Protein and fat metabolism? Some evidence of nootropic effect.
    (Hippies: Nope, fraid not.)
  • 1g choline. Another essential nutrient, but, as a kind of fat, it's unfashionable. What for?
    (Hippies: lots of cauliflower will do you.)
  • 5g creatine. Yup, the bodybuilder's nonsense. We only get about half our needs de novo.
    What for? Muscular integrity and endurance. Vegists get a distinct mental/affective boost off it.
    (Hippies: Nope, fraid not.)

NON-NUTRIENT
  • 250mg Rhodiola rosea. A herb, a so-called "adaptogen", but one with some science to it. It apparently tackles the chemical causes (cortisol) of stress and related fatigue.
  • 500mg Bacopa monnieri. Along with green tea and rhodiola, here's one more (rare) vindication for traditional medicine. (Ancient Indian, in this case). Solid double-blind reports of remarkable effects on long-term memory.
  • 5mg selegiline. Rather a different beast from those ye olde herbes!



All together now:

MORATORIUM!

(Though if I keep reading David Pearce essays who knows where I'll end up?)

cheap mental health

my people are as they are
because they shrink from those
small sources of cheap mental health
that are available to things like us:

exercise, stupid art,
bold conjectures, pissing outside,
uppers, group affiliation,
coupling, writing about yourself,
laughter, early nights,
framing one's pain as the small pain it is,
eating right, and embodying your morals.

(all otherwise called
participation)




obloquy


a tragedy [is] a human interaction in which both antagonists are,
arguably, in the right
.
- David Mamet

for justice harden your heart.
hurry away; hang the dj.
this town we've shorn of innocence.

take turns for injustice,
that how it works?
in this town the shit clings readily.

the definite fire, the ridden tiger,
doggy shame in my dog soul
in this town I'm shamed and unashamed

(but then again, too few to mention)

I disappoint; please
imagine the depth of my disappointment with you
this town soon shot of me.

*

so the sad sadden,
the bitter embitter,
the stressed bestow distress.

but the inspired do inspire
and at least half of the time
love does not strangle!




Poem inscribed on some Undies

[Right cup]
You are my wild orchids;
you were my deep confusion.
you soothe and, better, kill
the prude, the prig and puritan I am.
you dance though asleep,
off line in lieu.


[Left cup]
I bear the happy cross self-expression;
I welcome piercing - but shy from mother's mind,
pert haptics & most people most times.
I fill finery because nothing
else makes sense, or rings out
so sweetly above the racket of time.


[Briefs]
I am what goes beneath,
closer to the middle
of an unpretending life -
and, in our instance,
closer even to the heart.
right in the thicket of it.

no man is a AAA nation

I should like distinguish myself & Scotland. But can I?
Seems easy: he, Scotland, is thirty-thousand miles big
& likes oil, bankers, and distorting history;
I, Nemo, am a hundred percent nothing
& like sunlight, empiricism and meat-free things.
But I am belched forth from him,
filled with his faults and his smells I cannot smell,
and we both say we crave independence,
(though mine's from Britain and Scotland both).





27/12/2012

LISTEN: 'Chop My Money' (2011), by P-square, feat. Akon & May D


 
Sexual corruption - cos I'd kill anyone for your time."


God, how deliriously unpleasant is this? 'Chop My Money' distils all the helplessly evil symbolism from our club hits, delivers it concentrated. Things indirectly championed in R&B (the blaming and objectification of women; the naked materialism and unbridled egoism) are here openly endorsed, with a smile, ten hooks, and a ready-made irresistible dance move.

On first listen you could mistake it for a lovely Beatlesy theme - "oh, just take the money - I don't care about it...only you." The actual story: "you, girl, are desired by many. Go out with me; I have more money than them. I have so much money that it doesn't matter that you are a grasping she-devil; I am confident my balance will soak up your avarice. Again: I don't care ...cos I gettin plenty."

I took the line at 1:40 to be the baffling, terrifying: "You know dem believers gonna die, die-e-i..." - which made the song's nihilism a more general and inspired sort, as if the narrator's lust and materialism had turned antitheistic - but it turns out to be much less interesting than that ("You no gon' believe, this girl na die, die-e-i..."). Still such smiling brutality!

The Marxian theory of marriage (that monogamous couples are constructions for maximising productivity, subordinating women, and ensuring property rights; that wives have generally been domestic slaves and a socially acceptable kind of prostitute) sounds strange at first. But don't P-square give us here a direct expression of it? "Even though I make real dough, you're the reason there'll be more." (There's also a charming money-sex identity at the end of May D's slightly naff bolt-on verse: "And when I’m done, done / Tell me if you want some more baby.")

I like May D's Yoruba bit: "Farabale ko ma lo le / Omo ele I get pepper / Je n ba e soro, kilon sele", but it's just more of the same "Relax! Baby, I earn money" stuff.
I really hope the phrase "Chop My Money" is just a nonsense idiom they've invented (Nigeria being one of the main sites where Global English dies and is reborn). I don't want to think about anyone ever saying it to their lover sincerely, in disquotation.
 
********************************
 
I probably wouldn't care so much were it less catchy. A lot of contemporary Afropop (and globalised pop in general) shares its nasty worldview, but only a few songs speak the universal language Crossover Hook Magic. ('Chop My Money' was pretty big in the UK for a couple of weeks last year.) It sucks to force one's feet to think again, but the alternative is not on.

25/10/2012

and thence fall into jobs that feed the bourgeois nation-state


We must laugh at our anger and still be angry.
- Carl Hancock Rux

Hey! hark at their coming, oi! quake at their bells:
it's those dastardly jobs that feed the Bourgeois Nation-State.

what dyou think you are doing! where do you think your work goes!
all clocked hours, all leisures feed the Bourgeois Nation-State.

it'll eat all progression, it'll use up your every ounce,
that repressively tolerant Bourgeois Nation-State.

o profane your enjoyments, o racist roundabout;
orgiastic job creation for the Bourgeois Nation-State.

o resist them do deny them please, Buy Nothing and bite back,
say boo to all its agents and flash them your arsecrack;

but o sweet cultural studies, o countercultural airs,
o student with that One Idea and intentions fair,

does your garden grow purely, organic, and innate?
does your ignored critique starve out the Bourgeois Nation-State?




15/10/2012

Eternal Sofa Surf Blues



...only the one enduring the experience of being deprived of a home can offer hospitality.
- Jacques Derrida

And best of all, we don't pay council tax!
- Max & Paddy


We don't think of rent as consumption spending. But it is. (This year I'm going to live without an address - circulating, instead, around the sofas of a kind and bohemian group of friends.) Pardon? A year of bourgeois homelessness?

  • How?

Now, I'm a stubborn man, and I enjoy running experiments on myself, but it remains to be seen how long I can last at this, owing to 1) my long-established need of long solitude, 2) the burden it places on my relationships, and 3) my poor back.

Also since we're after much more than warmth and storage space for our bed when we sign a lease. You purchase privacy; you obtain the possibility of giving hospitality (and the possibility of refusing it); and perhaps even the possibility of dignity. In fact, Derrida talks about being homed as a condition of being a complete person. (The epigram up there isn't self-aggrandising; it refers to the way that offering hospitality is sort of like temporarily losing your home, letting someone in your circle by breaking the circle.)

So you need a home if you want a certain basic individualism. People round my end often use 'individualism' as if it were to blame for all social evils. Well, my 2013 is to be a fully communal year. And I bet you it will be unenviable, and that I won't repeat it.

You could maybe spin this positively (another philosophy in a different kitchen): "By choosing no home, you are removing one mediator between your being and Being. You go through a life without punctuation. You are forced into contact with a public and mostly uncontrollable world: and this is just more authentic." Being a weird young person, the bricks-and-mortar life holds a horror for me. To do without chunks of Capital this large feels like freedom. It's a weird practice, but it's not that weird an idea: "home is where the heart is..."

Anyway 'homelessness' is too strong a word for the zany-voluntary hot-shower university-educated free-internet privileged bonhomie I can expect. (The inclusion of 'voluntary' alone makes the claim absurd.) I'm hardly Diogenes. I'm hardly Orwell. I'm hardly Anthony from Jam. I'm hardly even Danny Wallace.


Pardon? A year of bourgeois homelessness?

  • Why?

Well. My general taste for pissing about with my life aside, the idea stemmed from realising that I could save money for a postgrad like dead fast if I only didn't live somewhere. (The savings bit of the plan is now excised, because it is tasteless [not because it is un-Kantian].) Instead I'll give the saved rent to charity. Accountability is cool, kids. Though I'd rather give to meta-charity, they don't have JustGiving yet. So CARE it is (one of the more open big names).

10/10/2012

having just graduated

having 'just' graduated I'm just
a ghoul on campus, a drunk who's lost a bet, and
happy, though just
an upturned Transit just spinning its wheels through long air guitar miles.

see some other dregs, just
magnetic years giving structure to
the idle existentialist, the hopeless arriviste,
the butch mens sana, and I, tiny colossus.

each just a graduate, just
straining to hear a song just stopped,
in this bright young world entirely
unchanged by us.




26/09/2012

Some Kihaya Vocabulary


Mwaa, ebitoke enmeli: agandi mbi muno!


Kihaya is a Bantu language spoken by about a million people around Tanzanian Lake Victoria. Despite being one of the larger surviving tribal tongues - with as many mother-tongue speakers as the mighty Kiswahili - at time of writing this, there were no resources online for it, and only one academic text in forty years.*

I was taught by several people, young and old, and they conflicted over basic meaning ("omushana" is used for 'afternoon' and 'rainy season' supposedly without homophony, for instance). I suppose this is to be expected in real, unliterary, unacademic languages. Anyway Kihaya shares a great deal of vocabulary and structure with Kiswahili, and the orthography I've used is its - 'e' for 'ay' and so on. It loans a lot less from English than Kiswa does: I only found two cognates in the 200 or so words I learned ('ebegi' - bag and 'etoche' - torch). Note the loans from Arabic, though - e.g. "kitab" for book, "ekyai" for tea.

Stress is almost always on the second-last syllable of each word. Adjectives, adverbs and intensifiers are placed after their nouns (e.g. very bad = 'mbi muno'); otherwise its grammar is forgiving and subject-verb-object. Pronouns are almost never necessary; you just say the verb and imply the subject.

I really recommend learning some if you plan on spending any amount of time in Kagera: it sounds great (really hard vowels), it's not going away, and any mzungu who speaks even a token amount is greeted with warmth and lower prices. So:

  • Ego = Yes   ("aygo")
  • Che = No    ("chay")
  • Inga = Nothing
    [also used as 'no']
  • Ota? = How [are you]?
  • Tata olailota = Good morning [man I respect]
  • Mama olailota = Good morning [woman I respect]
  • Agasi bao = Good morning [peer]
  • Masibota = Good day [woman I respect]
  • Tasibota = Good day [man I respect]
  • Wasibiota = Hello again [peer/child]
  • Agandi? = How are you? [lit.: News?]
  • Orige? = How are you?
    [Conventional reply: 'Ndige!']
  • Waguma? = Alright?
    [Conventional: 'Naguma!']
  • Wabonake? = Any problems?
    [Conventional: 'Inga!']

    [Jennifer Clark writes to point out the more specific response "tinabonakantu" - I see no problems before me.]

  • Ogumile ge? = How is your endeavour? [Formal]
    [Conventional: 'Ngumile!']
  • Shumara mwaitu? = Morning [married man].**


My favourite Kihaya word of all is a greeting:
  • wayokayo. (Roughly, "You look well upon your return")


Most of the above greetings can be answered merely with 'Ego' - yes. Inject a little joy and you'll get away with it.
  • Nyegera! = Welcome!
  • Mpao = Goodbye.
  • Mpore = Sorry / regrets
  • Garungi = Good
  • Garembe = Fine
  • Ndungi = Great
  • Mbi = Bad
  • Ulio = OK [lit: I am present]
  • Muno = very [used as affix e.g: "garungi muno"]
  • Nganyila = please [rare: a begging measure]
  • Wakora = Thankyou
  • Kasinge = Thankyou [only during day?]
  • Inye = I/me
  • Yange = My/mine [possessing objects]
  • Bange = My/mine [possessing abstracts like friendships]
  • Iwe = You***
  • Ichwe = We

'Tinku-' is a general negation prefix. Works with both nouns and verbs. "Ge?" is a particle indicating a question, but it isn't mostly necessary.
  • Namanya = [I] know
  • Tinkumanya = [I] Don't know
  • Nog ya Kamachumu = [I am] Going to Kamachumu.


The rules for pluralising are obscure to me:
  • Omzungu = Foreigner
  • Abazungu = Bunch of foreigners
  • Munywanyi = Friend
  • Banywanyi = Friends
  • Dada/kaka/mama = [as in Kiswahili]
  • Tata = Father
  • Mae = Paternal grandmother
  • Mwana = Child
  • Mwaa = Now
  • Anunku = Here
  • Nyenkya = Tomorrow
  • Bwankya = Morning
  • Omushana = Afternoon
  • Bwaigoro = Evening
  • Omkiro = Night (after sunset)

"E-" is a general prefix for a noun; "Eki-" is a general prefix for an artefact (literally: craft-thing). "Ebi" is for plural artefacts (e.g. 'ekitabu', book, and 'ebitabu', books). "Ama-" and "En-" are for foods.

  • Ebegi yange = My bag
  • Ekitebe = Chair
  • Ekitanda = Bed
  • Ekiratwa = Shoe
  • Ekitabu = Book
  • Ekidonge = Pill
  • Etara = Light
  • Etoche = Torch
  • Egras = Glass
  • Omuswaki = Toothbrush
  • Emiwani = Spectacles
  • Ebitoke = Plantain
  • Enfulu = Fish (mostly for tilapia)
  • Ente = Cow
  • Embuzi = Goat
  • Enjangwa = Cat
  • Enyama = Beef
  • Enfuma = Sweet potato
  • Amanumbu = Potato
  • Amauli = Egg
  • Ekyai = Chai
  • Enjura = rainwater


Finally, and most importantly:
  • Ompungulizemu ebei! = Lower that price!
  • Nganyila, tinku ebitoke ya omkiro! = I beg you, not plaintain tonight!



* Recently found a World Bank Swahili-Haya translation with lots of relevant terms (p.4 onward)...

** I got this one a lot. (I think they were being sarky.)

*** This will get shouted at you a lot. Try not to hate the shouter: after, all, by using it they've refrained from calling you Mzungu.


29/05/2012

sentimental graduate, 22, seeks desperately to instrumentalise himself


...there is an internal ethical urge that demands that each of us serve justice as much as he or she can. But beyond the immediate attention that he rightly pays hungry mouths, child soldiers, or raped civilians, there are more complex and more widespread problems: serious problems of governance, of infrastructure, of democracy, and of law and order. These problems are neither simple in themselves nor are they reducible to slogans. Such problems are both intricate and intensely local...
- Teju Cole

Specialisation is for insects.
- Heinlein's Lazarus Long


Turns out that a degree - even one limited to 'real world' topics like, supposedly, economics - isn't a skill. Isn't really much to do with much. This is galling, because I have bottled action in me and have failed to get moral hydraulics to steer it.

Is that too reductive? I might not have such a quantity of good intentions without my years among the humanities; they only suck for obtaining hard skills. And 'hydraulics' means just narrow technical skills. To have those is to be able to instrumentalise oneself: to have the option of production. (More often, you're made to get credentials that imply you are productive.)

What spiritual costs does this instrumentalisation levy? I was at a conference the other day where people were banging on in the Frankfurt way about 'instrumentalisation'. I do sympathise with their background theory - which attributes modern atrocity and mental illness to the reign of scientism and the cult of practicality - but not in the uncritical, almost superstitious, way it gets invoked. Useful things are abhorrent to a certain mindset. Since they following Horkheimer who followed Kant, what I've read of Cultural Studies tends to bear an awful, watery stance, where an agent or project's being problematic implies that it's taboo, irredeemable, a moral medusa.

In discussing the 'white saviour complex', one speaker implied that objectifying someone you are trying to help is such an evil process that it negates any good your action might cause. (Teju Cole gives a more righteous treatment: "From the colonial project to Out of Africa to The Constant Gardener and Kony 2012, Africa has provided a space onto which white egos can conveniently be projected ... The banality of evil transmutes into the banality of sentimentality. 'The world is nothing but a problem to be solved by enthusiasm'.")

This conflict leads to condemning the attempts of all kinds of liberal structures (welfare state, NGOs, the UN), and from there, passivity. Because they rightly probe the mixed motives and identify unconscious power structures in do-gooders, the scholar can feel satisfied in holy inaction. This is the accidental turn of the 'New' Left ; reading is not only political, but political enough. The only labour you owe to the disadvantaged is your intellectual labour; since everything else you might try is tainted.

But as long as it is chosen, as long as it's not the only thing you get to be, there's little wrong with objectification and instrumentalisation. The trick is to retain your radical dispositions even with a prosaic, professional, instrumentalised exterior.

(Case in point: East Africa is chronically, catastrophically short of Quantity Surveyors. Apparently.)

Long story short; let's go make ourselves useful:

  • Knots (1 week; £minimal)
  • First aid (1 month; £minimal)
  • Driving (4 months; £400)
  • Databasing. (a month or so; £2000)
  • PGDE (1 year)
  • MA African Studies in Nairobi or Makerere (1 year; £1000)
  • MSc Maths, Open University (takes 2 years part-time; £2500)
  • MSc Dietetics, QMU (2 years pt; £4000)
  • SVQ Mechanicking (just motorbikes, probably; 2 years pt; £1000)
  • ACA Chartered Accountant (for NGOs, taking the ICAEW qualification, 2 years pt)
  • Chinese (3 years in-country - cf. TEFL; -£2000)


2025, maybe:
  • PhD in Irrationality (designing cognitive bias education programmes)
  • or Development (new metrics and meta-analysis for aid dependency)
  • or Animal rights law
  • or Nutrition/Biochemistry (on the prospects of nootropics)
  • or Transhumanism in general (on theodicy and the love of suffering)
  • or Epistemology (radical scepticism's influence on contemporary philosophy)
  • or Gender (the most recent backlash against feminism, and the term)
  • or Poetry (contemporary developments, or lack thereof)
  • or Metaethics (on problems with Humean sentimentalism)
  • or Intellectual history (on pomophobia)
  • or Nationalism (the idea of a national 'mentality' esp. Scottish)
  • or Economic methodology (statistical/empirical tests of the most sophisticated models of fiscal impact)
  • or Econophysics, University of Houston


25/05/2012

Perth / Dundee

hard, dark
and hardly started

crap, familiar
bus distorting our demesne

Perth? Dundee?
I should know but know you don't know

frantic, the
yellow-spot-road, and vague places past it

note: ticket
includes each other on tap

but legroom
and peace aren't included

we cargo
are silent, hummed and whined and shook from sleep

lesson: no
lesson, I just wanted you to know




she who gradually wasn't

First she lost her beepcard
(so beepdoors didn't know her)

then she lost her licence
(the road no longer hers)

next she lost her passport
(was trapped inside one border)

and she lost her phone
(and distant friends went mute)

losing then the wallet
(goods and comfort blanked her)

she went and lost her cloud
(the past, what would've come)

then she lost her throat-chords
(couldn't invoke absent things)

her breasts and other jumbles
(she was proclaimed unsexed)

and last lost all her body
(so sat godlike, and vexed)




23/05/2012

to the bigot beat

















[Trigger Warning: Everything.]

















"Interviewer: What does the "Bitch Magnet" [next to] Dave Riley's name on the back cover of Atomizer mean?

Steve Albini: Bitch magnet! That just means bitch magnet. Whenever we go anywhere, Dave has all these women just follow him.

I: But are they all bitches?

A: Well, no. Bitch is just a generic term.

I: You're a feminist, eh?

A: Well, I don't believe you have to be completely dogmatic and pure in your language to think reasonably. Certainly none of the band are sexist in the traditional sexist notions, or have sexist leanings, right? But because that's understood, we don't have to keep haranguing on it, to keep reaffirming to ourselves that we believe what we believe ... A lot of people, they're very careful not to say things that might offend certain people or do anything that might be misinterpreted. But what they don't realize is that the point of all this is to change the way you live your life, not the way you speak. The substance is what matters.


Devirginized with my knife, internally bleeding vagina,
secreting her blood-wet pussy
I am eating on her guts, I am feeding
Mutilated with a machete I fucked her dead body, the first and last;
your life's only romance
.
- Cannibal Corpse


I don't fuckin' care if people know I had sex with my brother or my dog.
- GG Allin


Music's dead nasty sometimes. How can we stand this, let alone enjoy it? How about this for an answer: we do not run from problematic things! We do not plug our ears and hide from bigotry! ...but that doesn't work; cos I love the Misfits and NWA - who are deeply sexist and like talking about violence. I enjoy them despite their cruelty. How do I reconcile this with wanting to not be an awful person?

First, distinguish between types of nasty music:

  1. Bigoted music made by bigots - e.g. lynching songs, the later Skrewdriver, GG Allin

  2. Musician's a bigot, but their music is neutral - e.g. Burzum, Ted Nugent

  3. Transgression
    a. Theatrical bigotry - e.g. Iggy, Eminem, Albini, Mountain Goats, this
    b. Violence art - e.g. Pantera, Napalm Death, Penderecki

These might be wrong to support in a few ways: they might actually make the world worse by altering your attitude or even behaviour toward the thing they're bigoting; they might upset people who don't warrant it; or they might be tasteless and crudifying in less morally weighty ways. The first and third of these strike me as overcautious and unwarranted. The second is of course not up to me to decide. Frank Zappa said little of interest, but he nailed the symbolic paranoia of the first: "There are more love songs than anything else. If songs could make you do something, we'd all love one another."

So how does one handle bigoted, bigot-made or bigot-sounding music? Part of the answer is simple: one doesn't pay for or apologise for types 1 or 2. Enjoying type 1 is also tasteless. Since we all finally got the Marquis de Sade's point (in the mid-1980s), 3 has not been too hard to justify - though the line between 1 and 3 is often vaguely placed. The world is extreme, sometimes; thus it can be shown. Nothing is above ridicule; there is nothing that cannot be said if you have thought hard about saying it. But you need a reason. Allin justified his pathetic extremism with talk of his independence and art-novelty. Not good enough. Why take me to new lows?

(Wagner is an interesting anomaly - he thought he was type 1, that his music and aesthetics were profoundly anti-Jewish. He is of course actually type 2 because that's complete bullshit.)



Albini just manages to make his work grotesque and conceptual, I think. NWA just do not: the evil characters they play have verisimilitude. But most metal is too ridiculous to be threatening, and so with Eminem too. I mention Darnielle in the chart because this well-meaning but lazy smear got me riled.
Note that I agree that offence is in the eye of the beholder; not intending to offend someone does not cancel the offence. But it does significantly change its nature, or should. Offence can be a healthy, democratic thing (when it's sought out, and questioning rather than attacking).

Note also that there's little value in shock value: we owe no especial respect to people setting the apocalypse to music, making the aural equivalent of cutting off my toes. The ordinary is often glorious enough. I do respect experiment, naturalism, surrealism - but not for its own sake, as is often the case with metal and noise. There's a lot of childish, self-fullfilling misanthropy and subpolitical contrariness in it, which they mask as or mistake for aesthetic and personal independence.

...I'm avoiding the question again, amn't I? It's not "Can we listen to this?" not "Should we ban this?" but: "How can you enjoy these things?" I suppose the answer's just that I fail to be a good puritan. The standard view of taste - that one must be like what one likes - is not for me. I don't want the CD tower's tawdry self-aggrandising self-representation. Our relation to artworks is more complicated than either bloody HEAR HEAR validation or absolute boycott. We can disassociate work from worker sometimes, and this world is made up of many worlds. Many of them suck. This is water.



Compromise: when these bands come up in conversation, I tag them as what they are; problematise em. In doing so I problematise myself too, since a fan of sexists cannot escape scrutiny for sexism. kewl.




************************************************************************


The point of Satanic rock was to scare the Normals while fucking with the minds of its pimple-faced, predominantly male (nerdoid) audience, who needed to create a counter-world, with counter-morals and counter-aesthetics, to empower the nerdoids against the cooler, more successful jocks. But metal had its rivals for the hopelessly angry nerdoid: punk, hardcore and metal’s own competing mutations. The competition forced metal’s leading edge to metamorphose into harder, faster and more violent forms...

...frankly, who’s to say that metalheads were lower or lamer than punks? One thing that’s hard to argue with the Black Metalists about is why many of them chose metal over punk: For them, punk copped out. Punk started off going for the throat of Normal Society, but in the game of chicken it didn’t have the nerve to go all the way, snagglepussing safely leftward or detouring into kitsch
..."
- Mark Ames



There are these guys that I used to know in high school, in Montana they just really got off on going to the slaughterhouse for entertainment. Just go to the slaughterhouse and watch the cows get killed. That was like TV for them. It was that or go home in the trailer park and get drunk. Sniff glue. There was nothing else to do. One time I remember specifically this guy telling me about this guy who let him drag a cow into the stall. The way they do it is pretty cool: they take a pressurized gun and drive a bolt through the snout of a cow, and they clip a cable to either side of the bolt. And then there's this winch that hauls the cow into the stall, and then there's a compression hammer that crushes the cow's skull. This guy thought this was just about the coolest process - all this machinery and technology. It's just another example of what people do for fun. "
- Steve Albini


"Interviewer: What kind of music do you like?
Dizzee Rascal (quickasaflash): I like songs about sex and violence."



Enjoying violence in art needs less justification. Though, at the same time we assert the talent of the human mind to receive without endorsing, and even enjoy without endorsing, we have to remember that sometimes this culture produces things like this terrifying asshole:




26/04/2012

Economic Satires


"Social Reform", (c) George Cruikshank (1819)


GIANT BLACK PISSING GUILLOTINE:

"I'm a-coming! I'm a-coming! I shall have you! And though I'm at your heels now, I'll be at your heads presently."


The best way to begin learning anything is to read satires of it; this is because satire will present the field's cliches concisely and criticise them memorably, as a part of the gig. However, most economists cannot write, and most writers have naive economic views, so economics is short of this source of instruction, deflation and self-consciousness. Here are some corkers:


  • "A Modest Proposal"(1729) by Swift

    The original: "solve poverty; make 'em eat their kids." Swift was targeting the treatment of labourers as commodities found over hundreds of years of mainstream economic thought (the Malthusians before Malthus, Walrasians before Walras). Callous scientism is still around in places. It was quite hard to spot the satire at the time: the description of Irish people as animals was fairly commonplace well into the C19th. In proper Classical style Swift includes his actual view, backwards:
    "Therefore let no man talk to me of other expedients: Of taxing our absentees at five shillings a pound: Of using neither clothes, nor household furniture, except what is of our own growth and manufacture: Of utterly rejecting the materials and instruments that promote foreign luxury: Of curing the expensiveness of pride, vanity, idleness, and gaming in our women: Of introducing a vein of parsimony, prudence and temperance: Of learning to love our country, wherein we differ even from Laplanders, and the inhabitants of Topinamboo: Of quitting our animosities and factions ... 'till he hath at least some glympse of hope, that there will ever be some hearty and sincere attempt to put them into practice."


  • Southey's Colloquies on Society (1830) by Thomas Macaulay

    This is good and mean. The poet Southey had weighed in on matters Macaulay judged ill-befitting a poet. So most of this is just basic philosophy couched in snark about how poets can't think:
    "He does not seem to know what an argument is. He never uses arguments himself. He never troubles himself to answer the arguments of his opponents."

    "Government is to Mr. Southey one of the fine arts. He judges of a theory, of a public measure, of a religious or a political party, of a peace or a war, as men judge of a picture or a statue, by the effect produced on his imagination
    ."


  • "A Petition" (1845) by Frederic Bastiat

    The book this is from, Economic Sophisms, captures the energetic, snarky side of laissez-faire better than anything else. Depending on yr ideology, this will delight or enrage, obviously. Here's his send-up of trade barriers (which, by the way, no economy ever has gotten started without):
    We are suffering from the ruinous competition of a foreign rival who apparently works under conditions so far superior to our own for the production of light that he is flooding the domestic market with it at an incredibly low price; for the moment he appears, our sales cease, all the consumers turn to him, and a branch of French industry whose ramifications are innumerable is all at once reduced to complete stagnation. This rival, which is none other than the sun...


  • "Pictures of the Socialistic Future" (1891) by Eugene Richter

    Propaganda of the consequences of vanguardist revolutionary Communism which now looks like Cassandra forecasting for the Soviet case. Depicts mass exodus, draconian border controls and internal monitoring, police brutality, military escalation, unfree labour, ubiquitous corruption - but there's too much triumph in Richter's arc, and not enough mercy. (His message: "Socialism started off bad with bad people who got worse as their powers multiplied.") In its haste to declaim, to derail the gulag train, it can't really empathise with idealists betrayed . No jokes either: satire only in the sense of a Juvenalian jeremiad.



  • "The Theory of the Leisure Class" (1899) by Thorstein Veblen
  • The quasi-peaceable gentleman of leisure, then, not only consumes of the staff of life beyond the minimum required for subsistence and physical efficiency, but his consumption also undergoes a specialisation as regards the quality of the goods consumed. He consumes freely and of the best, in food, drink, narcotics, shelter, services, ornaments, apparel, weapons and accoutrements, amusements, amulets, and idols or divinities.

    Only quasi-satirical: he is deadly serious about capitalism being frivolous barbarism. Satire usually has to be a lighter-written, but Veblen rides the edge: he's as verbose as stylish prose can get (if not more). The Theory was an attempt to get economists to address the massive socio-cultural factors properly - but we've come barely any further since, so it was the sociologists that seized upon him instead.




  • "The Cuandine Trilogy" (1926) by Eimar O’Duffy
  • "If there were no incentive to such people to save and invest their money, there would be no employment for anybody. We should simply stand around with our hands in our pockets and starve. That was what actually happened in primitive times. There were no capitalists to employ the people so they just sat down and died.

    "A science-fiction exploration of Social Credit themes". Ignore that programme though; this is really funny and humane stuff from a neglected member of Ireland's incredible artistic modernist blurt.



  • "Report From Iron Mountain" (1967) by Leonard Lewin (probably)

    More than a hoax. Deadpan black comedy capturing the scientific savagery of think-tanks, very early on in that format's history. Also pushed the military-industrial complex thesis, now almost a truism.
    ...even in the unlikely event that a lasting peace should prove 'attainable', it would almost surely be undesirable. The "war system" is essential to the functioning of a stable society: until adequate replacement for it might be developed, wars and an "optimum" annual number of war deaths must be methodically planned and budgeted.

    The economic analysis isn't actually any good, though that could be the point. Lewin eventually confessed, and got this wonderful barb out of the confession: "The charade is over, whatever is left of it. For the satirical conceit of Iron Mountain, like so many others, has been overtaken by the political phenomena it attacked. I’m referring to those other documents -real ones, and verifiable - that have appeared in print. The Pentagon Papers were not written by someone like me. Neither was the Defense Department’s Pax Americana study (how to take over Latin America). Nor was the script of Mr. Kissinger’s Special Action Group reported by Jack Anderson (how to help Pakistan against India while pretending to be neutral)." See also.




  • "Life Among The Econ" (1973) by Axel Leijonhufvud

    Anthropological study of academic economists. Captures the thing's cerebral machismo, which remains despite feminist and pluralist gains, and the 'fall' of ISLM general equilibrium. (Where by 'fall', read 'rise to almost entirety of undergraduate programme'.)
    The facts (a) that the Econ are highly status-motivated, (b) that status is only to be achieved by making “modls,” and (c) that most of these “modls” seem to be of little or no practical use, probably accounts for the backwardness and abject cultural poverty of the tribe. Both the tight linkage between status in the tribe and modlmaking and the trend toward making modls more for ceremonial than for practical purposes appear, moreover, to be fairly recent developments, something which has led many observers to express pessimism for the viability of the Econ culture.




  • "Lean Brain Management" (2006) by Gunter Dueck

    Curious German book satirising business selfhelp fluff and squashing consultancy. "Economize on intelligence!"




  • Hammer And Tickle" (2009) by Ben Lewis
    When Russian tanks rolled into Prague in 1968, the population fought back with wit. Every night graffiti appeared in Wenceslas Square with lines like “Soviet State Circus back in town! New attractions!” and “Soviet School for Special Needs Children—End-of-Term Outing.” People cracked jokes: Why is Czechoslovakia the most neutral country in the world? Because it doesn’t even interfere in its own internal affairs. And: Are the Russians our brothers or our friends? Our brothers—we can choose our friends.
  • Actually a nice and narrow history book, and poignant as anything. Could so easily have been an shallow racialist mess, but instead captures the anxieties and desparate humanity of it. But a joke could be told about Stalin, or by Stalin:

    "Stalin gets a visit from a Georgian delegation: They come, they talk to Stalin, and then they go, heading off down the Kremlin’s corridors. Stalin starts looking for his pipe. He can’t find it. He calls in Beria, the dreaded head of his secret police. “Go after the delegation, and find out which one took my pipe,” he says. Beria scuttles off down the corridor. Five minutes later Stalin finds his pipe under a pile of papers. He calls Beria— "Look, I’ve found my pipe." “It’s too late,” Beria says, "half the delegation admitted they took your pipe, and the other half died during questioning."" (But according to Lewis, under Stalin, 200,000 people were imprisoned for telling such jokes.)



  • "Blacklisted Economics Professor Found Dead" (2011) by Yves Smith

    Incredibly well-conceived piece in which Outis Philalithopoulos ("Nobody, Son of Loves-Stones") explains his theory of academia - one in which the cynicism of economic method is applied to explain the output of economists. He's then cast out for breaking ranks and endangering their sweet racket. Smith is comparable to Veblen here, commenting as she is on the self-satisified imperialism of economic method. For instance Public Choice theory ("politicians just hawk policies for votes"), or Becker's 'On the Interaction between the Quantity and Quality of Children' (1973).
    Consider the following seven propositions. All of them have been effectively promoted and publicized by academic economists ... As a bright high school student like yourself can clearly see, the list consists entirely of statements that are obviously wrong, and several of them are internally inconsistent. If economists were simply confused, we would expect to find no pattern in these statements. Instead, as predicted by Academic Choice, statements P1-P7 all directly enable rent-seeking by certain influential minorities (financial sector employees and corporate executives). Moreover, P1-P7 have also helped to generate market discontinuities with significant public costs, among which the recent global financial crisis.

balance sheet for doing philosophy


+

1. It matters
2. It lasts
3. It transforms
4. It can be useful in any context
5. It's inescapable*
6. It's cheap
7. Sensitises you to bullshit


-

1. Sensitises you to bullshit
2. It's interminable
3. It can feed arrogance
4. It can feed madness
5. It can make you unlikeable.
6. It forces you to listen



6 < 7.

Win.
 
 
 
 
 
 
* Yeah yeah Wittgenstein, keep talking.

15/04/2012

L'immobiliare

In Italy they call estate agents
immobilisers
and so they are,
wormed deep as they are
into the unspoken plan path
of almost everyone.

It is not mostly via vices
or secrets that they get us
but by our dreams.




14/04/2012

"critically"

Come, please, do! I am open to critique!
Truth is my first wife, ho ho!
(But queue yourselves,
and come slowly,
along my line of sight,
and wait for the nod,
and punch with your hand closed,
on limbs that were anyway gangrenous
and do not smile.)




11/04/2012

degrees of Inglourious Basterds

This is my 'bunch of guys on a mission' movie. You’ve got to make a movie about something, and I’m a film guy, so I think in terms of genres. - Quentin Tarantino

Ways to see it:
  1. As sheer or mere sensation. It's a diabolically entertaining thing. "Hurr. Oh-hoh no! Eee! Hahaha! Ooooooh. (Christ this music's loud.)" It is easy to treat it as if its violence were its content and purpose.
  2. As perfect token of a style. "Hmm. Revenge is the sole motivating logic; there are many converging plot threads; the 'good' guys are psychotic; the 'bad' guy is utterly charming; protagonists are massacred in deadpan fashion. I wonder who the director is?" All of his films are (or contain) simplistic on-a-mission plots; it's the various subversions that elevate them. This one's obv the Dirty Dozen subverted with blaxploitation, Spaghetti Western, and modern spoof ingredients.
  3. As comedy at the extremes. Sensationalism and the baiting of film archetypes are the first things - who's the director again? - but the sheer giddy humour of the thing shouldn't be passed over. The maximal irony - 'Italian' hand gestures; Christoph Waltz' eyebrow control; the 'STIGLITZ' cheese; that pipe - make this Tarantino's funniest film. (Who else could distill British class awkwardness out of a typical Mike Myers cartoon?) The Shosanna scenes lack this humour; QT's appetite for Female Revenge Fantasy fills them with tension instead.
  4. As deconstructive. "Once upon a time in Nazi-occupied France..." IB has a heavy postmodern overlay, e.g. its title, taken from an Italian film with which it has almost no connection; the abrupt Samuel L Jackson voiceovers, lecturing the audience on plot devices (the Stiglitz flashback, the inflammability of nitrate film); tooltips names floating over obscure Nazi ministers; and a general 1970s aesthetic by which to approach the 1940s (David Bowie on the soundtrack, and, again, "STIGLITZ"). This is so slickly integrated that you have to scramble to realise it happening. It is easy to see this as not about war, not even about revenge.

    4.1. As moral. A number of scenes (such as the scalpings of relatively blameless rank-and-file Germans, or the total pulping, by machinegun, of Hitler's face) are so excessive, they actually suggest a moralistic QT observing us. His tittering audience. As if to say: "I have made a very enjoyable film; how dare you enjoy this?" This is righteous, because to revel in the murder of Nazis, even the representation of the murder of Nazis, is to display exactly the same lack of human sense as them.
    A challenging dynamic is the Marx-Brothers-meets-torture-porn antics of the Basterds. In particular, recall Eli Roth's and Omar Doom's Jewish characters, the ones that remain in the burning cinema. They don't even stop to remove the exploding dynamite strapped around their legs, instead gleefully gunning down the trapped Nazi sympathisers - who are doomed anyway. They're more fanatical and inhuman than any of the Nazis portrayed here. But the music is behind them, as is Action Movie Rule #1: revenge justifies anything, so never mind, eh?
    (Note that the Shosanna scenes lack irony as well as humour. This could be construed as a kind of tact on QT's part, sincerity being required for the Jewish . Again: they are refilled with a different kind of schlock.)
  5. As comment on contemporary Jewish masculinity. "So all I want to say is that testosterone has become a very big deal in some corners of modern Jewish culture, for reasons that are not hard to reconstruct, and you could think of Inglourious Basterds as playing into this, by projecting an IDF-style masculinity back into the 1940s." - Christian Thorne
  6. As grand self-parody. One delicious symbol: the climactic scene takes place in a cinema showing a gory and self-important film, and is interrupted by the detonation of the cinema and the slaying of the whole audience by a film-maker. Anyone who criticises the film as a sick appropriation of unimaginable tragedy, or as an inexcusably aestheticised picture of the least funny period in human history might benefit from seeing Tarantino's critique of himself and his audience within it. "You know something, Utivich? I think this might just be my masterpiece."
  7. As scholar's film. Wanted: nerdy, frame-by-frame analysis of his homages and allusions, the technical and visual puns. (A group of 300 people once spent four days doing this to Pulp Fiction(!) This twenty-five part blog is no doubt representative.) If only one had a working knowledge of the film theory of GW Pabst...

29/03/2012

Epicurus is not Dionysian!



...our court, infected with their manners
Shows like a riotous inn: epicurism and lust
Make it more like a tavern or a brothel
Than a grac’d palace
.

- Goneril, King Lear (1606)


Such a view of life is the meanest form of selfishness, leading in general to vice ... If sincerely embraced and consistently carried out, it undermined all that was chivalrous and heroic...

- New Advent Encyclopaedia (1913)



(In which I complain that the word 'epicurean' is really misleading - and accuse Christians, Jews, and rocknroll. There could be snakes in here: addressing your marginal concerns with excessive urgency since 2010.)


*********************************************************


I like Epicurus for his lack of melodrama. (Which he manages to have despite living in a melodramatic culture - Hellas - inset in a melodramatic species - us.) Unlike the trendy philosophies of the last 200 years, Epicureanism is able to include and dignify everyday things. (One synopsis of his philosophy is just four lines imploring us to not worry, to not make such a fuss. "The universe doesn't take notice of us - and that's good news; death is beyond us; if you demand less you'll be happier sooner; bad things are usually not as bad as we imagine.") It's therapeutic and minimal: for Epicurus, the most that people like us can aim for are the twin goods freedom from anxiety & absence of pain, ataraxia & aponia. In direct opposition to his Judaeo-Christian reputation, he insists that excess keeps us suffering and fearful, that the pleasure to seek is long-term, serene, and reflective.

And yet the noun and adjective "epicurean" primarily means aesthete, gourmet, hedonist, un-Epicurean, melodramatic devotion to sensuality! This grew partly out of a misunderstanding his claims that 'pleasure is the ultimate good' and that we must 'live while we are alive' - but there's active slander in it too. (The word for heretic in Judaism is "apikoros", transliterated expressly after him; a smear campaign against him was part of the seizure of Europe's intellectual space by the Patristic Christians. It lasted, and still lasts.)

When we say that pleasure is the end and aim, we do not mean the pleasures of the prodigal, or the pleasures of sensuality, as we are understood to do by some, through ignorance, prejudice or willful misrepresentation ... It is impossible to live the pleasant life without also living sensibly, nobly and justly - nor can we live sensibly, nobly, and justly without living pleasantly."

- Epicurus



"[Epicurus points out that] You can transcend the horror of the world through moderate delight in ordinary things. It may seem an obvious and trite insight - but genuine profundity is just that: honest, trite and profound.

- Peter Brooks


Dionysus - pretty things, fun mental states, wild self-expression, abandonment of responsibility - is not enough. And the rest is Stoic; Epicureanism is stoic utilitarianism, theology without the metaphysical melodrama. It is also quietist. So it goes.


************************************************************


Dionysus in Camden





I guess I just lost my husband
I don't know where he went
So I'm gonna drink my money...
So what - I'm still a rock star!

- P!nk



Lemma: there are nine metal bands named "Dionysus". (As ever, historical talk is not really about the past, or ideas. It is about us.) Who was Epicurus' opposite, I wonder? The properly melodramatic precursor to Byron; Rimbaud; Kerouac; Keiths Moon and Richards; Richard Hell; Chris McCandless - a tradition which gets called Epicurean by arch fans (but which should be called Gothic hedonism). Was it that fascist fool Homer? Are Achilles and Ajax the first rock and roll heroes?

We, alternative first-world youth, have homogenous stances to the world, despite our individualist posture. What shall we call our standard ideology? "Carpism"? (after bloody carpe diem) "Rockism"? (after its largest source of imagery and cultural momentum) Gothic hedonism?

As the above tradition I just made up suggests, it runs through Romanticism, Modernism, the Beats, the hippies, cyperpunk - making successive generations of hipsters make themselves sad.

The bad bits:
  • The aim is to lose control. Whether to a consuming love, or intoxication, or the Beat. Thus anti-intellectual and thus really a way of ducking your problems, making them into things that happen to you. When we medicalise unhappiness, we are submitting to rockist ethics. Epicurus is diametric to this: your peace of mind is up to you to attain.

  • Contempt for the ordinary. We are such special snowflakes in such corrupt surroundings that it is an affront that we should have to queue, or file, or work. The extremes of life are arbitrarily taken to be the real bits. The spontaneous too.

  • Utterly dilute dregs of Marxism, Nietzscheanism, critical theory, held as superstitions are. Result is loud nihilism - since if you tear down old-style Morality without M or N's moral sense...

  • Individualism for its own sake.

  • Bohemia, that is, the attempt to change the world through art, instead of y'know politics or work. Result is accidental conservatism / quietism.


Rockism wouldn't be so bad if it was not also monomanaical, dividing the whole world into squares and cognoscenti. An aggressive overcompensation against 'normality', it uses style, immorality and recklessness as bludgeons.

And in pop. The deep similarity between (e.g.) thug-hop and metal is that they are each Gothic forms founded on the rule that only the rawest is real. In case you needed telling, that's fake as hell, and it leaves them unable to mention ordinary emotions, ordinary actions, ordinary sights: almost the lived world in its lovely bland entirety.

This all ties in with the most idiotic remant of Sixties culture: fun as social protest. This kind of radicalism is decidedly safe in most social groups under, say, 25. In some circles it is not safe to not seem dangerous. Hence nerds (blessed be their unrock authenticity).

21/03/2012

anti matters

"A thing is a hole in a thing it is not."
– Carl Andre

hairdressers sell negative hair;
sculptors negate stone.
cleaners mess with mess,
prostitutes try and siphon lust;
judge hurls negative freedom.
priest spits fear and negative fear.
killer sells negative life,
musician, negative death.




19/03/2012

Self Hacking (self-mythologising songs)


The idea that we teach in the Gospel of Hip Hop is self-creation - that hip hop gives us the ability to self-create... A new kind of creative visualization. A new kind of way to notice God, in that sense."

- KRS-One (...)

music allows even the most grave of performers to become wildly eccentric extrapolations of their own self-perception...

- James


What's Pop got to do with reality? It is ubiquitous ghetto fabulous candy-flipping phantasy - its lack of realism is why it's popular in the first place - it sprays righteous fiction over our lives. The population of pop with aggressive personalities is not (just) driven by the egos of performers: we do so like to have gods before us.

Hip-hop is completely obviously founded upon The Front, The Show, The Braggadocio Exaggeration Extravaganza, but it is far from the first. Its 'realness' never measured authenticity, so much as how much the schmuck lived up to racist myths about blackness. (If realness were about reality, the likes of DMX would have to put out Proustian albums examining e.g. what it feels to wake up alone at 2pm with the runs after a heavy night out ballin')

Anyway: this leaving room for world as will and representation is what unites the warring families of pop. Take metal and thug-hop - two playgrounds usually held apart: they are both about the transformation of the self, in usually Gothic permutations. Now, simple self-reference (MY NAME IS) is the cheapest way of inflating yourself, but this blog is after more than just self-reference. Sometimes addressing the fourth wall doesn't dispel the fantasy, but gives it a car-battery-to-genitals boost, all the while holding your gaze. Let swing the songs of self-expansion:


Listen easily here

BOOTSTRAPPING ICONS

1. Man In Black - Johnny Cash
("We're doing mighty fine I do suppose
In our streak-of-lightning cars and fancy clothes
But just so we're reminded of the ones who are held back
Up front there ought to be a man in black
.")

(This was pure magical thinking: wearing yourself into a folk symbol. Note that emphasising outlaw mystique always has a human cost - cf. all thug-hop. The real shame is that Cash's hard wildness was only ever one of his sides: Cash the devotional, Cash the romantic, Cash the just, Cash the square, and Cash the daft have fallen by the wayside, mostly cos of Mercury and Def American's promotional schtick and our callow rockism.)



2. My Name is Prince - Prince
("Til I get your daughter, I won't leave this town
...I put my foot in the ass of Jim Crow...")


(skip to 1:30)



3. No Omega - Eric B & Rakim
("I'm the Alpha, with no Omega...

You know, with a mic, I'm a black Michaelangelo...
You need more light cos yours got dim,
Then you get sparked by the Lord Rakim...
I ain't a soloist, I'm an arsonist.")

(it begins)



4. We Are Motorhead - Motorhead
("We are the first and we just still might be the last
We are Motorhead: born to kick your ass...
We are the future, baby, used to be the past
We are Motorhead and we don't have no class
...
We fight authority, we glorify free will...")




5. Bo Diddley - Bo Diddley

(So mad. He did this exact thing on a dozen songs!)



6. Charlie Mingus' career

Every-other album title bears his surname - culminating in Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus - but he isn't anywhere as self-obsessed as he seems. Mingus Ah Um is really a tribute album to the people who formed him - and there's also 'Jump Monk', Duke Ellington's Sound of Love', 'Open Letter to Duke', 'Jelly Roll', 'Theme for Lester Young', 'Roland Kirk's Message', 'Eulogy for Rudy Williams'...

But also two after himself: 'Mingus Fingus No. 2' and 'Mingus Blues'. God knows what they represent. He is iconic enough in his silence.



7. Protect Ya Neck - Wu-Tang Clan (RZA)
("Feelin' mad hostile, ran the apostle
Stroll with the holy-roll then attack the globe
with the buckus style the ruckus,
ten times ten men committing mad sin
Turn the other cheek and I'll break your fucking chin
...
My clan increase like black unemployment.")

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GCZrz8siv4Q



8. R.A.M.O.N.E.S. - Ramones
("CJ now, hit the gas
Hear Marky kick your ass
Go, Johnny, go, go, go
Go Tommy, o-way-o
")

Twee as anything - and yet written by big hairy Northerners.




9. T.H.E.H.I.V.E.S - Hives
("You're looking at black and white / Seeing our name in lights
Make you feel alright / Baby we're here all night
We rule the world, this is our world.
We rule the world, this is our world
")


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5eRXTNjCkDs

The most charming recent rock braggadocio. "If The Beatles could make a ‘White Album’ and Metallica could make a ‘Black Album’, there was only one band who could make a record twice as good as those two combined..."




10. Freezepop Forever - Freezepop
"Updated F-Pop.net today. Got all dressed up to come and play ...
Synthesizer playing is my trade. I have the IQ of someone in second grade...
The Duke of Candied Apples is my name, making blippy beats that will put yours to shame..."

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R7L9Z1C97Kw



11. Who the Fuck Are Arctic Monkeys - Arctic Monkeys
("But we'll stick to the guns
Don't care if it's marketing suicidal
Won't crack or compromise
Your do-rights or individes
Will never unhinge us
.")

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oFeuKVkau6U




12. Kings of Metal - Manowar
("Manowar, Manowar, living on the road
When we're in town, speakers explode!
We don't attract wimps cause we're too loud
Just True Metal people that's Manowar's crowd.")

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QMrDoIHkOdY




13. Monk Time - The Monks
("Why do you kill all those kids over there in Vietnam?
Mad Viet Cong. My brother died in Vietnam
!
...You're a monk, I'm a monk, we're all monks!")

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4MmSl0xu0ec




14. Izzo (H.O.V.A) - Jay-Z
("...he who does not feel me
Is not real to me, therefore he doesn't exist
So poof! -- vamoose, son of a bitch!
...So you know I seen it all before
I've seen Hoop Dreams deflate like a true fiend's weight
To try and to fail: the two things I hate.
")

(That's 'Jayhova' o course, as in היהוה)



15. Future Generation - Auteurs
(The future generation will take me by the hand
To the common in my home ground; this is the story of the band
...")




16. Jocko Homo - Devo
("Are We Not Men? We Are Devo!
I must repeat: D.E.V.O
...")

(also 'Devo Have Feelings Too' and 'Devo Corporate Anthem')



17. Konichiwa Bitches - Robyn

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fdTucUya9YE

(this is also great)



18. Crap Rap 2 - Fall
("We are Northern white crap that talks back
We are The Fall we were spinning we were stepping
Cop out, cop out as in from heaven
The difference between you and us is that we have brains...
")

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G-aTQHnpdHk



19. Mommy, What's A Funkadelic?
("I am Funkadelic
Dedicated to the feeling of good
And baby, I'm good at being good
")



(Also: "Shonen Knife", "Julian H Cope", "We Are The Pipettes", "Wilco (The Song)", "Antmusic", "Hey Hey We're the Monkees", "Clash City Rockers", "They might Be Giants", "Bob Dylan's 115th Dream", "Baby Bird", "Dicks Hate the Police" "Give it to the Soft Boys", "Van Dyke Parks", the entire first Tenacious D album. But this page has enough of your bandwidth already.)




ORIGIN MYTHS

21. History Lesson - Part 2 - Minutemen
("We learned punk rock in Hollywood,
Drove up from Pedro.
We were fucking corn dogs
We'd go drink and pogo
.")

(So full of divinity! Who can say it's not beautiful?)


22. The Story of Them - Them
("Who or what are Them?
I think they're all a little bit touched
...
Wild, crude, sweaty, ugly and mad
And sometimes just a little bit sad
.")




23. Saturday Gigs - Mott the Hoople
("In Seventy-two we was born to lose
We slipped down snakes into yesterday's news
I was ready to quit
But then we went to Croydon
...")

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=priGudub_OE



24. Creeque Alley - Mamas and the Papas
("John and Mitchy were gettin' kind of itchy
Just to leave the folk music behind
.")

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZLC2bf4jfPE
Also mythologises everyone else they knew.




26. Family Tradition - Hank Williams Jr
("Lord I have loved some ladies
and I have loved Jim Beam
and they both tried to kill me in 1973.
When that doctor asked me
'Son how did you get in this condition?'
I said, Hey sawbones, I'm just carrying on an ole family tradition
.")
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n4m26XgjdA4



(Also, "Manowar", "Range Life", "Josh Freese Is Ready", "The Creation", 'Ballad of Mott the Hoople' - and the Kinks' awful "The Road" which has this great line: 'The motorways all over this land - far away places like Wigan and Birmingham...')



SELF-SURREALISM

27. My Name is Skrillex - Skrillex
("My name is Skrillex. My name is Skrillex.")






28. GWAR Theme - GWAR
"Cause we are GWAR and we'll go far
We've got guitars, we'll eat your car...
GWAR GWAR GWAR GWAR
"




29. Braggadocio - MC Frontalot
("I stand 77 feet tall, I got eight balls
and all o' y'all are subject to my thrall.
I act appalled when in receipt of less than the highest honor

Some day I'll be both revered and passé like Madonna.
I'm all in effect, people tend to genuflect
when I enter rooms, 'cause all dopeness is subsumed.")




30. Glass Onion - The Beatles
("Well here's another clue for you all -
The Walrus was Paul.")




31. Ox Out The Cage - Cannibal Ox
("I grab the mic like, "Are You Experienced?"
But I don't play the guitar, I play my cadence
And If I exhaled arguments only to hold my breath
I would die and I ain't talking hair color
I'm talkin about the reality with my mother's eye-water
The author with a papermate spittin paperweights")


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MYLtoclNYQ4



32. Formed A Band - Art Brut
("...We're gonna be the band that writes the song
that makes Israel and Palestine get along
.")






ANTI-MYTHOLOGY

33. No Direction- Bad Religion
("NO BAD RELIGION SONG WILL MAKE YOUR LIFE COMPLETE")



34. My Name Is - Eminem
(...God sent me to piss the world off!
...My English teacher wanted to flunk me in Junior High
- Thanks a lot; next semester I'll be thirty-five
...I haven't had a woman in years, my palms are too hairy to hide")



Lord Hereford's Knob - Half Man Half Biscuit

("All of our songs sound the same
Tonight he’ll be sitting on top of Lord Hereford’s Knob
I’m keeping Two Chevrons Apart
Tonight he’ll be sitting on top of Lord Hereford’s Knob
You’re the reason why paradise lost
Tonight he’ll be sitting on top of Lord Hereford’s Knob
")



I'm not the same as when I began...
The public image belongs to me:
It's my entrance, my own creation
My grand finale, my goodbye
."
- Public Image Ltd