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A poor boy: so sorry for himself!
A poor boy: so worried for his health!


"A Poor Boy" [Booker T Washington]
John Fahey on The Transfiguration of Blind Joe Death

Today I am mostly wearing:
a FRIEDRICH NIETZSCHE t shirt, with signature;
altho I doubt frankly that he actually signed it...


"All his life, Albert Einstein has been trouble for women."

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"Strenuous intellectual work and looking at God's nature are the reconciling, fortifying, yet relentlessly strict angels that shall lead me through all of life's troubles ... and yet, what a peculiar way this is to weather the storms of life - in many a lucid moment I appear to myself as an ostrich who buries his head in the desert sand so as not to perceive the danger."

{letter to Pauline Winteler, June 7 1897}

{both: from: Einstein In Love · Dennis Overbye [Bloomsbury]


Big problem round here at the moment with hopped up teen boys {fresh from watching Grand Theft Auto, no doubt} on shiny nu scooters, night riding at top speed like the whole world/community was a people free circuit...

And I thought - what might be a good lateral solution? To warn them off or slow them down? (Before a paw child, or cat, or OAP gets scootered.)

And I thought of the patented Pill Box Situationist Road Sign.
They are made up and printed and positioned like normal highway code road signs, but the slogans would fly differently, something like: ...







Islington Council, are you reading?


In re all the debates {in-re-bates?, 'e'-bates?, norm-bates?} in & around ... what or where the real Real is.

15 year old schoolboy on C4 News last night: no irony, this was a C4 'celebration' of design, not a schlock horror expose of video madness: praising such games as {yep} Grand Theft Auto; his main buzzz-word of praise was "realistic". Yeah it's great coz it's so REALISTIC.

Now this shouldn't be taken too seriously - it's a tic word, as so may words are these days; we're not talking kitchen sink fidelity here. More tic than realist, then.

But I was writing the other day about MY teen years and some of my/our crushes - like Roxy Music and how they prepared the way for imminent Adult interactions {with a strange uncanny tone that was both 'phantasy' and sci fi and arch and yet somehow all too strangely hauntingly real emotionally ... } Now obviously Bowie et Roxy et al were anything BUT socially 'realistic' - but you got the impression {as a PRE-adult} that they conveyed a MOOD of a real adult world's feelings of loss, thrill, abandonment, etc ...

Whereas, with Grand Theft Auto and their ilk - it rather obviously (and rather glibly) begs the Q/: How does a schoolboy know whether or not this IS a 'realistic' representation of drug dealing in Florida (or Peckham)? (You can take this on as few or as many serious/half serious levels as you think it merits ...)

And does it then lead/follow, in some cases, that the 'viewer' of Grand Theft Auto duly attempts to make 'real life' MORE like ... the now-assumed-to-be "realistic" driving/crime/fun of the Game?

{There is an palpable on-going synergy between video game aesthetix (an outlaw science in some respects) - Rap - and that new crop of hugely popular/populist movies that usu. pair a hot young black rapper or comic with a slightly cleaner-cut more boy-ish white star - in a hyper-kinetic cop/car/conspiracy shoot 'em up drive 'em fast cubistic wham bam "vehicle" ... }

My vague argument or speculation back there seems even to me to be heading into dubious Daily Mail stylee territory. {After all, I saw the original Cape Fear at age 6 and Taxi Driver - two nights in succession - at age 16 and ... well, anyway.} But you do have to wonder when you read that "research shows that ... ", exactly what the research is based on. You would need long term & relatively objective [a la nature documentary/anthropology] research - i.e., monitor some young boy/teen who consumes and is consumed by hours of video gaming. And then see how his early adult life works out. And it might be more germane to intvw not simply the Grand Autistic subject - who may anyway give you only the answers he intuits you want to hear - but his girl friends, co workers, long term friends, etc.

The obvious difference between 'ardkore video gaming and my cine examples - cinema was a social public event. You were taken or you went. {I remember going with my Mum to see One Flew Over The Cuckoos Nest!} Cinema is/was a public space: a start and finish Event. (Where video gaming becomes enmeshed in daily life - phantasy & Real ... ) It was severely circumscribed: 90 mins per film, 2 hrs tops. {When I first started going to movies it was still 2x movies on each bill ... something that seems SO exotic/archaic now!}

These are just aimless speculations on my part, but it seems to me that if any progress IS to be made on unwrapping the roots & reflexes of teen male violence/values, etc., then any 'research' would have to include a deeper, Lacanian style structural analysis. Of what and where the Real is ...

I watched Taxi Driver the first time as if in a fever dream.
I recall being disturbed / angry when other viewers LAUGHED at certain vicious scenes.
(This was Norfolk.) I'm thinking particularly of the scene where the delicatessen owner takes a wrecking bar to the already comatose/d.o.a black robber. Altho' in hindsight, it does have a certain narrative justification ... it does also certainly belong in what Manny Farber & Patricia Patterson correctly & astutely identify as SCORSESE's itchy & overweening Other-fear and especially Other-race-as-animal take on things ...
In retrospect I can see I was already identifying with the shadowy & neurotic writer; while my {as I felt} vuglar & quasi-psychotic fellow spectators were probably FAR nearer Scorsese's own P.O.V. ...

The best art - in trad terms - is that which somehow changes & develops as we grow older: not necessarily WITH us tho', and not necessarily in a 'mature' fashion. Rather, it proposes different series of shocks or slippages or insights each time we return to it or it returns to haunt us.

{The first cinematic example which comes to my mind is Hitchcock of all people - Vertigo, Rear Window, Marnie, and especially The Birds - to mention just the more memorable and maybe hi-tone examples ...
Whereas ... I now find Taxi Driver e.g. all but unwatchably adolescent and facile. Something which at one point I couldn't have imagined myself saying; and I might have challenged you to a duel if YOU'D suggested it ...

{On another tip: I tried to listen to one of THE WIRE's recent free CDs, and a few other electronica/cut+click tracks from the past few years... and I found them ALREADY lamentably unplayably DATED ...
Whereas, say, every time I play the first two ROXY LPs [esp. side on Roxy Music and side two of For Your Pleasure] I am STUNNED at how FRESH and powerful they sound, esp for 'art' that was self consciously made as pop art and which therefore by (some) definition[s] ought to be the very opposite of the "timeless art" deal ...

As far as instances of rock culture which has proven - over nearly three decades now - the equal of, I dunno, Bresson or Graham Greene or RB Kitaj, inasmuch as it has given me a series of COMPLETELY different things as I have aged [I won't say "grown"] ... only Bob Dylan, springs immediately & definitely to mind; which is [again, a la Roxy] odd for someone who was once perceived as so radical and alienating and odd.

While I may still love records by Television or Patti Smith or Little Feat or Bootsy or whoever, I don't think, esentially, I love them for particularly different reasons or in a different way than before ...

But then sometimes it IS the oddest, least predictable artists who truly endure; and whose layered shades can ambush you into surprising tears or reflections or leaps of faith or joy or insight. SAM PECKINAPH may be recognisably operatic - even to his detractors; but even I, as a stone believer, have been surprised by how his work has DEEPENED with age, his and mine both - a body of work which truly engages with questions of age and friendship and betrayal and loss and a certain lingering immovable male sorrow ...

There is a seperate and debatable point here, which I will reserve for my proposed review/critique of the IAN McDONALD book The Peoples Music (just HATE that title!) ... but:
In re I. Mac's obsessive analysis of the lyrical minutiae of Nick Drake and Bob Dylan and David Bowie and others ... while I think some of his analyses are on the money, not-necessarily-bonkers and even in some cases utterly EAR opening [his placement of Station to Station in a Kabbalistic context e.g.; and Drake likewise in a Wheel of Destiny/Gurdjieff/Nature Boy type setting] ... I'm not so sure that taken as a whole or a theme this doesn't COMPLETELY miss the point, especially in a book/thesis called The PEOPLES Music.

When I was 14 or 15 and first fell utterly head over heels in enraptured love with "Visions of Johanna", say, there was just no way in the world I knew what was going on in that lyric. Likewise, for millions of girls and boys who bought the Beatles or Bowie - they didn't have a clue that the lyrics meant what I.Mac SEZ they mean - and, here's the more crucial aspect: IT DIDN'T MATTER. We fall for songs, for music, often in a blur: we are seduced, through the ear. We do not piece them together clinically piece by meaningful piece; altho' I kinda get the impression I.Mac finds the latter thought too depressing to countenance or contemplate, you HAVE to. Just because we fall for things in a non-cerebral way doesn't make the matter any less "complex" - the opposite, if anything. Just because we fall for a sonic whole - and may even never get further than that spectral non specific impression - doesn't make the song any less valuable for us. There is a world of slur and swoon and sonic whisper that more properly accounts for how most of us FALL for music.

I. Mac thematically follows the GREIL MARCUS line - but writes like Marcus without a heart. All head. There are times when he could be analysing a voice-free TEXT. But to call Dylan, as I.Mac does, a "largely lyric-based artist" just won't do, I'm afraid. I remain convinced you just can't seperate out lyrics from sonic fibre, cut, grain.

Sorry. Free associated into a detour there.

As far as the ENJOYMENT of music (and movies) goes, I am certainly not proposing the 'eternal verities' template [a la I.Mac] as the only true measure of things. For one thing this would wipe out about 98% of the things I daily enjoy; talking of which ...

GREAT episode of The West Wing last night!

I do like it when
· Toby gets to be Toby;
· the Prez gets to do real chess-move Machiavellian realpolitik stuff;
· CJ gets to say things like "How long do people generally stay your bitch?"


This has been nagging me. No disrespect to k-punk or blissout {I'd hate for them to get, uh, tooled up and come for me 50 Cent or Matrix style ...} but my problem is (and it IS my problem - and what people WANT to READ into either The Clash or the Cabs or anyone whatsoever is fine by me; I only used to get pissed off at the NME cos there was such a CLASH fanboy hegemony - at a certain point they seemed to be the incontrovertible golden ruler everything else was measured against ... altho' oddly, mainly by older middle-class or milder ex-University educated dope smokers rather than speed-twisted young guttersnipes like (uh) myself, which, that is a Bangs-ian rant in itself, and later for that ...} that there is no given link between what music people make - what background they come from - and what they mythologise the making of that music retrospectively into ...

· What I knew of e.g. the Cabs {the Volts?} {thru Paul M and Andy Gill, who both knew them on a personal social level} - they liked their booze n coke n niteclubbing and long legged semi-goth girls like everyone else and were generally a good laugh { ... and MY GOD was Stephen Mallinder a babe magnet!}
· this is ALWAYS the problem once you start trying to index music to some 'real' - in purely musical terms, of course, no one is going to argue the superior 80's aesthetic of e.g. Spandau Ballet shall we say; but if you're going to start indexing MUSIC to notions such as 'class' and 'street' and 'real', then I would have to say the SPANDs have as much rightful claim on class 'authenticity' as anyone else ...
{even if musically speaking they probably DO belong in the UTTERLY IREDEEMABLE* category of Simon's list ... }

Any picture The Clash painted of young guttersnipes in tower blocks and garages [sic] was to a large extent a romanticised middle class REPRESENTATION - this also {in re Punk in general} is where I depart from received history mightily; partly becoz I grew up as a Soul Boy rather than a Rocker (I always had a v. difficult time with Punk as music per se) and I hate to say it, but SPANDAU BALLET were as "real" (if not far more so) a representation of young working class youth as The Clash, as was likewise the whole clubbing / New Romantic / Essex soul boy scene. Far more so, if anything (ditto Northern Soul - which was VERY MUCH the precursor of rave, techno etc - but had no NME, no record company, no Situationist managers a la McLaren, no Lester Bangs or CSM to hype/hymn it ... }

I'll leave it there for the time being; but I will return to it via my proposed 131 series [which I've already started writing] in which I also explore the whole myth that the pre-punk 70s were THE worst musical time in history - which, really, is SUCH rubbish! Just purely on a reggae/soul level (without even going into the whole area of Randy Newman / Van Dyke Parks / Little Feat / Bob Dylan / Todd Rundgren ... et al.)

{*I have to say it is somehow fitting that one of SPANDAU BALLET ended up - or rose up - to make the pinnacle of his career as an actor playing a middle class TV exec's idea of what a naughty/nice East End guttersnipe made good is like ... like, yeah, right, a moneyed stylish working class boy made good who still uses the local grotty old lady launderette!; still uses the local grotty old lady pub twice a day every day!; etc, etc. The working class boys I KNOW who've made very good have mansions in the country, or the nicer parts of S. London or the more exclusive parts of Spain; they'd buy new clothes rather than go to a fucking launderette; have massive and knowledgable WINE CELLARs rather than necking cheap fizzy chemical lager in soul destroyingly depressing pubs; and if they were going to manage a club it wouldn't be for a bunch of spotty market trader twerps & trollops; these people have homes in Florida and personal helicopters for Enron's sake! But East Enders, like The Clash, panders to an essentially middle class vision, and one which symbolically keeps the "guttersnipes" in their PLACE, via 'Romantic' notions of dirt and lager stains and violence and etc, an also essentially homoerotic (albeit heavily dissimulated) frisson underlying all this ... you ask me.

NB ... or PS ... or: is there an apt abbrev. for 'The following is a completely off the wall tangential flight of theoretical fancy but bear with me I think it is related'?
Part of the reason I THINK I find all those worthy Hal Wilner tribute/concept albums all but unlistenable even before I've played them is that they seek or find 'authenticity' only in precious, hi art, 'difficult' circumstance.

I'm looking at one now, which I found yesterday in deep dark receses while looking for something else altogether [Ronnie Hawkins & The Hawks, in fact].
A-n-d, I mean, come on: don't you just KNOW how Tom Waits and Marianne Faithfull and Sting [!?] and Dagmar Krause are going to sound? Exactly?
I mean, wouldn't it be FAR more interesting [& arguably far more apposite & to the political point] - to get, you know, Atomic Kitten and Mariah Carey and Busta Rhymes to apply their madness & glamour & oddness to these songs? For the spark? For the CONFUSION of art & commercial & Real & Imaginary & Proper & Popular ... ?

{OK: quick not-so-bad run-down re Lost In The Stars: the Van Dyke Parks is lovely; the Carla Bley is lovely; the John Zorn is ... not predictable as Weill, but is fairly faintly predictable as Zorn in that predictably unpredictable formalised institutionalised free jazz way which I also sometimes have a bit of trouble with. Some nice whistling tho' but.)


A helpful pawgirl has sent me a tape, a large amount of which is made up of Belle & Sebastian & Arab Strap - who I have previously avoided like SARS mucus.
But holy whistling Lega leaves, it's brill! And, to the point, it is [also] EXACTLY what I always expected/wanted Smiths/Morrissey to be like. {Maybe it's just the CELT in me ... for more on which, see also the forthcoming 131 opus}


For some reason I feel/felt completely listless, edgy, crapped out today.

So, apologies for the sketchy, provisional nature of some of the above speculations;
as well as for the absence of certain subjects I wanted to deal with here today - inc. the wonderful, fascinating Boys Don't Cry (which I finally saw last night - and talk about your constructive confusion of Real, Imaginary & Symbolic!); and Ronnie Hawkins & the proto Band - which I will pick back up tomorrow, hopefully ... sniffle. (WHY am I so close to the edge today ... ?)

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posted by Ian 6/04/2003 02:06:00 AM

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