Sunday, 28 February 2010

Input

Reading: Hold On to Your Dreams, Tim Lawrence; Jude: Level 1, Julian Gough

Listening: Autechre; Jaga Jazzist; Parliament; Arthur Russell; Talking Heads; John Zorn

Watching: Shutter Island (2009); M. Hulot’s Holiday (1953); Metropolitan (1990); Breathless (1960)

Pass the peas

More 8tracks malarkey, this time featuring: The J.B.'s ("The Grunt": I hesitated about leading with this as it is one of the most brilliant, exciting things ever recorded and therefore likely to overshadow everything else); Smithstonian; Betty Davis; Ebony Rhythm Band; The Headhunters; Kashmere Stage Band; Mongoose; Parliament. Listen.

Thursday, 25 February 2010

10 rules for writing fiction

1. In 99.9% of cases, don't.

2. Writing in blood will add a much-needed touch of sickening horror to your work; it will also indicate to publishers that you mean business.

3. "When in doubt, have a man come through the door with a meat lovers pizza in his hands." (Chandler)

4. Never use a verb other than "ejaculated" to carry the dialogue, eg. "'I don't really know what to say to you, Ivan Ivanych,' Nastasya Petrovna ejaculated tearfully." (Chekhov)

5. Use as many exclamation points as possible! No! Really! Do!!!

6. Never open a book with the weather. Use your fingers instead.

7. Talk about writing constantly, using the word "craft" whenever you get stuck for words.

8. Writing is 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration, so make sure you wipe down your chair every so often.

9. "Good prose is like a window pane. Bad prose is like a door. No, wait - a chimney! Or maybe a faded armchair with like gummy worn bits on the armrests. Bad prose is definitely like something yuck." (Orwell)

10. Try not to read much, if any, fiction. It'll only give you ideas.

Sunday, 21 February 2010

Inspiration

When recording the solo for "Maggot Brain", George Clinton allegedly told Eddie Hazel to play as if he'd just heard his mother had died.

When recording the solo for "November Rain", Axl Rose allegedly told Slash to play as if he'd just heard his dealer had died.

Input

Watching: The Inbetweeners S01; Contempt (1963)

Reading: Neverland, Simon Crump

Listening: Talking Heads; Parliament; Axiom Funk

Friday, 19 February 2010

Nathan Barley

Nathan Barley, a 2005 comedy from the pen or pens (depending on if they have one each or prefer to share) of Chris Morris and Charlie Brooker, is one of the most impressive tv satires I've seen. It is very much a product of its time: the mid-90s digital media boom, and the concomitant trash-hipster anti-aesthetic it exposed and commercialised. Nathan Barley himself is a magnetic but loathsome creation: a selfish, amoral self-promoter, Barley is, as Wikipedia has it, "fully of the belief that because he has a camera, some knowledge of web publishing and a webspace, that he has a talent". Barley does in fact have talent: he is a master of exploitation, and a genius at passing off jejune pranks and witless "political" statements as the latest in urban cool.

Barley is unique in the pantheon of amoral tv protagonists in that he is given no redeeming qualities whatsoever. No matter how cringe-inducing, vain or psychotic, the modern tv anti-hero is generally rounded. David Brent, Tony Soprano, Alan Partridge, et al, are contemptible specimens yet retain our sympathy through flashes of self-awareness, warmth, or simple tragic humanity. Nathan Barley is the death of affect made flesh, a monster focused solely upon maintaining his place at the top of a dubious heirarchy of inner-city try-hards.

Nathan Barley is as outrageous and hilarious as one would expect from Morris and Brooker; it is also brutal in its attack on the amoral cesspit its characters inhabit. The use of irony as an excuse for immorality is savaged beyond reconstruction. In one episode, a photo shoot for hipster bible Sugar Ape's "Vice Issue" in which over-age models are depicted on camera as under-age models being molested by the magazine's staff becomes a Gordian knot of sophistic "irony":

Rufus: Well the idea, yeah, was to make it look like these models are being molested in a magazine office.
Ned: When actually that's not what was really happening.
Rufus: Yeah, only 'cause they were all in on it, yeah, it isn't.
Ned: 'Cept, 'cause we were actually fucking them, it kind of is.
Nathan: Yeah yeah, I touched two of 'em.

Everything is fodder to these "idiots", as Dan Ashcroft, the show's harried straight man calls them. Ashcroft writes for Sugar Ape (which in the course of the series is renamed several times, from Sugar Ape to SugaRAPE to the über-shocking and thus über-ironic RAPE) but is clear-sighted about Barley and the rest: "The idiots are self-regarding consumer slaves, oblivious to the paradox of their uniform individuality. They sculpt their hair to casual perfection, they wear their waistbands below their balls, they babble into hand-held twit machines about that cool email of the woman being bummed by a wolf. Their cool friend made it. He's an idiot too. Welcome to the age of stupidity. Hail to the rise of the idiots." Yet the idiots adopt Ashcroft as a prophet; his plaint is quickly absorbed into the stupidity-rich atmosphere, where sincerity - and, by extension, yearning, intelligence, humanity - is frowned upon as a downer, if ever contemplated at all. Barley and co. are consumer slaves, but their voraciousness makes them masters. They are what they eat.

Nathan Barley is three hours of bang-on, dark and disturbing satire that is both genuinely funny and disturbing. To my knowledge it has never aired in Australia and I doubt it ever could. Fortunately it is easily obtainable on dvd from the UK, or presumably through "other methods".

The Soldier (1)

The soldier sits with his back against the bole of a pine tree. He wears a hat and a thin moustache; epaulets grace the shoulders of his coat. His legs are stretched before him, his hands are folded neatly in his lap. He appears calm, a smile tickling the corners of his pale lips.

The soldier is dead.

Daniel, running giggling into the clearing, had found the soldier there, watching. Daniel mumbled hello, moved closer, then realised the soldier's eyes were fixed, unblinking. The soldier had a dusky, sepia quality, as if surreptitiously slipped into the present through a scissored slit in the forest floor. Daniel suppressed a cry and ran to find the others.

Now they are gathered around the soldier, seven children armed with impromptu weapons, sticks and bits of shale, in anticipation of the soldier's sudden and presumably blood-thirsty resurrection. Lee pokes with his bit of pine; the soldier's body offers little give or spring. "Dead," Lee announces, and one of the younger children begins to cry.

Daniel has never seen a dead person before. When he imagines corpses - which he does sometimes, usually Christ's but often his own - they retain a certain vitality. The dead in Daniel's conception are not dissimilar to the sleeping: they are kinetic, poised to waken. The soldier, however, is not poised to do anything except remain dead. The starkness of this fact opens a vertiginous space in Daniel's mind.

Beth asks the pressing question:

"What will we do with him?"

As she speaks her waving stick grazes the soldier's boot. Beth buries the stick's tip in the soil as if to purify it.

Thursday, 18 February 2010

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Laswell

New 8tracks mix dedicated to music involving Bill Laswell in some way. Featuring: Herbie Hancock, Jah Wobble, and others. Listen. Go on, my mum says it's really good and if there's one thing my mum knows it is early-80s funk no-wave ambient dub free jazz bass madness.

Saturday, 13 February 2010

My hypomania's writing cheques my depression can't cash

New 8tracks mix starring Aphex Twin, Pere Ubu, The Residents, Severed Heads, Leila, Die Goldenen Zitronen, Matthew Shipp, & with special guest Devin Townsend.

Here.

Input

I gave up on The Pregnant Widow and haven't started reading anything else. Music has been in the background, floating at the edge of consciousness like a fart in a crowded cinema. I did however enjoy this.

Watching: Nathan Barley (more on which later, maybe); The Last Days of Disco (1998); Scarecrow (1973); Alphaville (1965). At the start of the year I made a sort-of-resolution to watch at least fifty movies in 2010 that I hadn't seen before. So far I have seen six, including the three listed above.

Vile

''Ted Baillieu has called Victorians racist,'' Education Minister Bronwyn Pike said. ''I'd like to ask Ted Baillieu to name those racist people, maybe it's my next door neighbour, maybe it's someone's mum and dad, maybe it's somebody's friends.''
Maybe it's the people I overheard today, discussing the Chinese New Year celebrations in Box Hill:

Man: They get the city-bound lane of Whitehorse Road blocked off.

Woman: So nobody runs them over!

Man: Yeah, although they wouldn't miss a few.

Woman (affecting sarcasm): What a shame that would be.

Man: Nobody's going to be scoring any points tonight!

Memeish boy

I invented a Twitter meme. Admittedly there have only been two participants thus far - myself and @spikelynch - but that's hardly the point.

Friday, 12 February 2010

Valentine's Day

We will not be celebrating Valentine's Day, or "Corporate Love Day" as we inner-outer city trendies like to call it. Valentine's Day is little more than a bogus occasion cooked up by florists and greeting card moguls and condom tycoons for the sole purpose of twisting erotic insecurity into big time profits which are then parlayed into still more unsavoury industries like intercontinental ballistic pornos, or fast food restaurants where they stuff roast pigs full of tacos and deep fry them in whale blubber.

The competitive element also rankles. "What are you doing for VD?" a friend asked me around this time last year. I said, "Sailors, I suppose." As my friend performed the International Face Language sign for "aghast", I realised my error. "In fact," I said, laughing, "that was a joke, the kind of straight-faced gag I am renowned for the world over. What I'm doing for Valentine's Day is something so original I can scarcely pronounce it in German and therefore I'll resort to English: breakfast in bed, flowers, lunch, movie, maybe get naked unless we're too tired or there's something on telly. Outstanding, right?"

"Right," said my friend, clearly unimpressed. "Well, I am treating my lady to a six hour full-body massage administered by a black belt in the Oriental art of bone folding, followed by a five course meal at a restaurant that has so many Michelin stars that they had to extend the restaurant just so there was enough frontage to apply the decal, followed by a helicopter ride over the city to the concert hall where my beloved will fulfill her lifelong dream of conducting a full symphony orchestra, followed by a romantic evening of wining, dining and many multiples of orgasms. So, nothing big. I mean, it's only Valentine's Day."

Honestly, is this kind of one-upmanship what love is all about? Doubtless my friend (so-called) and his wife enjoyed their bone-folding and orchestra-conducting and orgasm-having, but was it really about love or was it about seeming to love, a performance put on to convince themselves, and by extension their friends and families, of the depth and feeling of their attachment? Does love need a special day? Surely we ought to cherish our partners every day, not just on some random day on which social and capitalist forces prevail upon us to do so. That's why my beloved and I aren't celebrating Valentine's Day: we don't need to be told when to express our love, not by Hallmark, not by a magistrate, not by anybody. We are abstaining from this expensive and morally impoverished charade as a symbol of our shared wish to transcend the rigid structures of late-capitalist society, to free our love from societal expectations, to live as liberated and content an existence as we dare.

Also, and this is admittedly a significant factor, we've got about $20 between us until next pay day, so what are we going to do, buy each other Flake bars and novelty condoms?

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Great moments in art history #2














Henri Rousseau, Elton John composes The Lion King soundtrack IN HIS DREAMS!
(1897, oil on canvas)

Sunday, 7 February 2010

Input

This week's stuff.

Listening: Talking Heads; Lindstrøm & Christabelle; Arthur Russell; Mission of Burma; Astronautalis.

Reading: Germinal, which I have now finished; The Pregnant Widow, Martin Amis.

Watching: Episodes of Venture Bros. S01 and 30 Rock S03; the rest of The Thick of It S02 (three episodes to a series? That's minimalist, even by the standards of British comedy); In the Loop. Three words: lubricated horse's cock.

Saturday, 6 February 2010

When good neighbours become good fence

















Taken from my forthcoming coffee table book, The Fences of Box Hill. The front cover of each book is an actual piece of Box Hill fence. (Free tetanus booster with every copy sold.)

Friday, 5 February 2010

Golden hits of someone else's youth

More 8tracks frivolity, this time featuring: Kiss My Jazz, Lindstrom & Christabelle, Shriekback, Astronautalis, Baader Meinhof, Mordant Music, Drexciya, Burnt Friedman, Flat Earth Society.

Listen here you!

Thursday, 4 February 2010

Coming up this week on the Guardian Books Blog

* Defensive geek argues that some genre or other is being neglected by the mainstream, which basically means the Booker Prize.

* Five other posts focusing on aspects of the Booker Prize in which our affected cynicism fails to mask our jejune enthrallment.

* Our correspondent read this old book that's meant to be a classic but she reckons it's not.

* Flash fiction: turns out it's not fiction about The Flash. But is it the future?!

* What books do you like to read while paragliding?

* James Joyce was a four-eyed fart-sniffing tosser who couldn't write a Twilight book if he tried, which he didn't. Discuss.

* Isn't it time this antiquated author from a bygone era was rebranded as "relevant" and published in new editions with nice covers and enticing blurbs from contemporary favourites such as Ian McEwan or Nick Hornby? Isn't it?

* Robert McCrum has an opinion on whatever.

* Martin Amis: smelly old loser or ugly talentless wanker or pompous ugly untalented loserish stinkman?

* Plus: our weekly "controversial" link-bait. This week, Lloyd Newman argues that black poets have natural rhythm and enormous penises. Join the inane discussion!

Monday, 1 February 2010

Is it all over my face

New 8tracks mix featuring: Risco Connection, Loose Joints (Arthur Russell), Liquid Liquid, Machine, ESG, Sparks, Material, Tom Tom Club.

Listen here.