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I am absolutely knocked-out drug-down in total love with "Ring The Alarm" the thunderous record - but what IS it with Beyonce and her strange robotic increasingly Bad Mime-like video "dancing-acting-signifyin'"? It seems to get worse with each new release. I know she's meant to be, like, "mad", like with her "man" in the song; but here she just looks, like, MAD, like somewhere there is a man in a white coat with a tranquilzer gun and a butterfly net and a clipboard with the name Beyonce on it.

And ... Basic Instinct references? Really? REALLY? Are you SURE that's the best you can do?

Eminem is surely WAY off-base with his silly silly Hannibal Lecter mask in his new video, too. I mean: talk about dated. (Don't these zillionaire RnB stars know you can buy new DVDs off the Interweb?)

Where are Beavis and Butthead when we need them?



thanks to Blackmail Is My Life for the link/idea, BTW.


I'm sure it's only my Old Guy imagination, but at certain crucial parts of "Ring The Alarm" I could swear that Beyonce sings

"We gon' rock the P.F. Sloan!"

And if you don't know who P.F.Sloan is you're probably not a middle aged rock critic with an elephantine memory for trivia...

posted by Ian 12/08/2006 08:19:00 PM

(31) comments



Interesting piece on SLATE about new "reality" shows in the States, whose closing line - "Reality television is out to identify every perversity there is." - made concrete for me something that had been hovering around my enjoyment of Michelle and Andy's Big Day [see below]: it hardly needs saying, but everything that we now call "reality" (on) TV, could just as easily be called "Fantasy" or "Phantasy". And as usual, it's the sort of thing that middlebrow critics will refuse to engage with - or rather, will refuse to engage with today, but will doubtless be forced to catch up with somewhere down the line.

(Michelle and Andy is perplexing precisley because it doesnt appear to want to - or know how to - obey the rules of either 'fantasy' or 'reality' - in however many senses that latter word now carries. Its central plank is "every little girl's ultimate fantasy" - the sort of thing, it is proposeed to us, many or most women have been "planning inside their heads for years", i.e., a kind of OTT fairy tale wedding. But the whole show is like a slow and cruel and painstaking destruction or deconstruction of that very "dream". It shows two people trapped inside the demands of various parallel "real life" or "phantasy" or "fantasy" worlds (pop music, TV, celebrity marketing), whose every personal decision has to involve the thought that A CAMERA MIGHT BE WATCHING. Michelle (= "me...hell"?) even has to transfer her wedding from the lovely little pastoral church where she really wants it to take place, because of the demands of various camera teams and photographers. Her wedding vows have to be - literally, as it turns out - re staged. In short, it shows celebrity/pop, for most of us, would be a living, breathing, Bentham-ite HELL.)

In ARTFORUM, in his Top Ten Movies pick of the year, JOHN WATERS has this to say about JACKASS 2: "Playing on more than three thousand screens, Jackass 2 was the number-one-grossing movie in America on its opening weekend—and the male stars eat shit and drink horse semen for real. They’re nude a lot, too. If this isn’t cultural terrorism, I don’t know what is."

Almost inevitably, one of his other picks is SHORTBUS ... and if mainstream "reality TV", certain bits of mainstream cinema, and certain, shall we say, MURKIER (or, at least, badly lit) bits of the Internet currently have anything in common, it might be covered by this motto: you wanna see it, we'll show it to you.

People are posting the most explicit details of their (sex) lives online for others - anyone, everyone - to pick over. It's the opposite of 'pornography" per se, it's more like a distant relation to Warhol's Factory films, because it is instant, and un re touched, and features real boides in real sexual poses, taking place in real rooms with real decor.

It made me wonder if this isnt all some sort of reaction to SURVEILLANCE SOCIETY. Sort of, get your revenge in first (?) If you can show the world your most intimate nook, cranny, or preferred 'bedtime' activity only a digital clck away - what's the big deal about an eye scan or CCTV in your favourite supermarket?

posted by Ian 12/07/2006 10:39:00 AM

(11) comments



There was almost too much to enjoy - almost feverishly so - in Michelle and Andy's Big Day [ITV2]. The very fact that this is on ITV TWO is a clue to how low down the strata of "celebrity" we are here, and how desperate (and, at times, desperately sad) the actors look.

Michelle is out of Liberty X (who I've always kind of liked), whereas her husband to be, Andy Scott-Lee, is, uh, "famous" (cough cough) for being the um... (writer's head goes blank... Rumblefish type clouds go whizzing by; tumbleweed skip down the empty empty street)... brother of Lisa Scott-Lee... who is "famous" for her hilariously awful "reality" show Totally Scott Lee (before that - it is SUCH a long time ago, now - I think she was in Steps or something)... and Andy also... er... came 19th on a Pop Idol three years ago or something.

The 'hook' here is that they are planning their wedding.

I have to say, I have never seen two people who looked less made for marriage (altho I'm not sure that Michelle's uber Control Freak tendencies make any long lasting marriage that much of a safe bet) - but that's not the point here, as the Vicar soon realised, and was the only person un-sleb enough to articulate, in an Emperor's New Clothes type way. The 'point' is that strange new twilight world of private-life-as-career. The 'point' here was selling photo spreads to OK! magazine, and carving out a Jordan-&-Peter type niche for themselves.

Another reason that this isn't on the main ITV channel at peak viewing time may have something to do with Geordie Girl Michelle's unforgettable catch phrases - which divide pretty equally between "foook off!" and "foook off Andy!" Andy has the look of a young mastodon who has just been told about the coming Ice Age.

The whole thing was, as I say, thoroughly, disgustingly enjoyable (with lots of inadvertant fly-on-the-wall value, as to exactly how such 'careers' are staged and run these days, what sums of money are involved, where it comes from and where it goes to, and, in short, how a whole new industry has grown up around such plankton level celebs. This is the true meaning, for me, of the phrase 'New Labour': this is the proletariat now, this is what they do).

It was only spoiled, for me, by the one ostensibly 'real' moment: Michelle has already told us - apropos of nothing - that she has a "heart problem"*... and "mustn't drink". We then see her drinking for Newcastle on her hen night. We then hear she has had a "blackout" and must have tests: it is SERIOUS. There follows lots of time spent in hospitals, lots of crying and emoting, etc ... although Andy remains strangely waxy and distant and uninvolved, as if not knowing quite how to play his role. (Or, better say - he looked a bit MORE waxy and distant and uninvolved than in the rest of the programme. A cynic might have too quickly concluded Andy's eye here was on the main chance, rather than Michelle's heart ... but then the cynics didnt see how he, uh, well, seemed actually to slowly but definitely recoil from Michelle when she broke down in tears at the heart specialists. Heart warming - really.)

It wasn't til hours later that it struck me: I didnt actually believe a second of this section; there was something about it just a bit ... off. (I mean, I'm not actually saying that the producers, worried that Michelle was shaping up to be the least sympathetic woman ever to appear in a reality show, actually "staged" - or blew up, needlessly dramatised, subtly obfuscated the real nature of what was actually only a drunken fainting fit at most - but ... well, YOU MIGHT WELL BE LEAD TO THINK THAT.

(A recap:
1. Apropos of nothing, Michelle tells us she has a "heart problem" and has been told she shouldn't drink.
2. We see Michelle necking Flaming Zombies as if her contract depended on it.
3. Ridiculously overplayed section in which inconclusive tests lead all to contemplate the awfulness of Michelle having to go down the aisle with a newly installed pacemaker peeping out over her dress strap.
4. Oh - no! Nothing wrong! Just stress! No heart problems!
And thus we have a bit of weepy humanity, in the midst of a programme that otherwise captures Michelle as unrelentingly controlling, moody, shrewish, publicity obsessed, and whatever the absolute diametric opposite of "luvvy duvvy" is. I mean - I myself am one of the least tactile people in the world. And I thought Michelle had 'empathy' problems.)

My mind flashed back to the ur-template for all these shows, really: THE OSBOURNES. And how if you slowed down the credits to that show you would catch various credits for "Script supervisors" and "story arc ideas team" and such like ...

It's saying something when the only two people here who seemed to have their heads screwed on, and gave decent advice, and who recognisably belonged to the human race, were the female vicar, and the head guy from the G.A.Y. club-night.

When a female Church of England vicar, and a hedonistic gay guy have more in common than everyone else you have surrounded yourself with in the name of long term 'career advice' - well, as Michelle might put it, O - FOOK - NO.

*{'Yes-' - most viewers were thinking - 'she hasn't GOT one ..'

posted by Ian 12/06/2006 02:48:00 PM
(5) comments

A decently enough put together PUNK documentary the other night on ITV 4. All the usual suspects: chirpy voiceover by Robert Elms, measured & intelligent enthusiasm from Jon Savage, quotes from various Upstarts, Shams, Damned etc

It was nice to (literally) see who has worn well and who hasn’t; who looks as if they have been on drugs for 25 years and who looks like they have found another passion in life that makes them glow.

Good that due attention was played to New York.

Nice that Mark P was allowed a yarn.

And so on.

But still and all, such programmes make me restless in my very soul. Because the very thing they are supposed to reflect – the life changing spirit of Punk – is notably absent…

Now, that spirit, as so many of the participants were at pains to point out, does not necessarily have anything to do with music, or the length of your career as judged by conventional muse-biz tenets. (Perhaps because if it did … too many of those concerned would look as if Punk actually changed nothing. Mates fall out over money or image or “musical differences”. Mates go broke and stage disturbing and chilly and farcical and shaming and fat trouser’d ‘comeback’ tours. Or, same teetering mates pal up with other junkies and riff-raff together albums of wanly awful rock n sludge that only the French could ever hold to their evil hearts.)

Perhaps the most wonderful thing is when the original 1-2-3-4! legacies remain untouched, perfect in some abrupt and clamorous distillation. The Slits, or The Raincoats for example. (Is this a coincidence, or no coincidence at all – that the women are sensible enough to sense and to say no? That the girls here look like the smart long suffering Marge n Lisas to the fat bellied dim headed Homer n Barts?)

I don’t really know – but it might be nice to speculate.

And that is just my point – that this programme, and these programmes, never did, never do. It doesn’t seem to occur to anyone involved that simply burping ”punk” back up as a lump of lumpy sinewy grisly “History” – and bickering about who was the first to rip a t shirt or rip an acetate, etc – is about the most UN punk thing you could do. There was an uneasy sense here of who was absent – and what their reason might be; and so likewise, for those who “agreed” to be interviewed. Not to put too fine a point on it, about 2/3 of the talking heads (not Talking Heads) here looked like they might not have much else to do. But were in some way or another still “haunted” by some kind of rock n roll role playing or diabolism or addiction or habit or phrase it how you will. Maybe that’s OK. Maybe ending up in far flung pubs playing a rock n role version of the old guys who used to play Dixieland jazz or Elvis-altar type rockingannarollin (and spare tyre hidin') is OK, is even healthy, as some kind of “culture” in which the participants are at least involved, doing it rather than merely consuming it. Although again, I’m not sure, and would – just once – like to hear the toss, so to speak, argued in one of these programmes, rather than just having a parade of now balding thickening unhealthily complexioned 48 year olds repeating the wisdom/banality that still comforts them through long cold nights of life measurement and crisis: “I’d like to think I still AM a punk…” “... that the spirit of Joe 'n' The Clash still DOES flow through me veins…” yadda yadda yeah, gabba gabba bleary blah, that sort of thing.

It would be nice to have a history of “punk” theory maybe, an AFTER to go with the BEFORE of (roughly) Greil Marcus' Lipstick Traces, say.

Or some new perspective.

It occurred to me last night, for instance, that the real “winner” as it were, in terms of subversion and infiltration of the “mainstream”, massively, and imaginatively, and preposterously, and gloriously, and globally… well, take three iconoclasts:

John Lydon
Malcolm McLaren
Vivienne Westwood.

Now, who would YOU say has had the most interesting, the most enlivened, the least predictable career? Who has stuck utterly to her guns? Who hasn’t scrabbled around at the bottom of certain barrels and gone back on her words and sold shoddy half-limp rip-offs of the original mythos?

(The “her”, as they say, isn’t generic, ha ha ha. Ever get the feeling you’ve been pleated?)

Over the years I’ve read so many chummy all-mates-together profiles of McLaren – always written by smitten bloke writers, who duly trot out almost identical anecdotes and characterisations. (A bit like a rock version of Hunter S Thompson, only a bit more Wildean and twinkly, East End not Old West.)
Malcolm is a great night out.
Malcolm is a great yarner. (Yeah: yarn, that is what Malcolm has always sold. Never mind the accuracy, relish the wit ...)
Malcolm could sell ping-pong balls to Bangkok!
Malcolm – o lucky shameless twinkly wicked man! – loves to run out on cheques at restaurants! Which is, you know, just SO punk, man! (Er, can I just say: no it isn’t, it really isn’t at all?)
Malcolm is so well dressed, and even in a muddle Malcolm is the eternal imp and optimist faun and revisionist fun.
Malcolm is the Unreliable Narrator personified.
O, what a great night we had, my new pal Malcolm and me!
And so, blearily, on, blarney upon blarney, shtick leavening shtick, on into the early hours of ... the still empty dawn.*
And I have no doubt all this is true.
But what does it mean to most of us?

The same thing happens with Bono, doesn't it? Otherwise sane and critical male writers of a certain age go off to interview U2 (i.e., Bono) and for some reason their brain turns to mush – because he's so much more intelligent and charming and never stops and full of ideas and so much empathy and yadda yadda. Well, yeah, great. And so are loads of people you or I might know. But … your point is? I tried listening in to various bits of U2 live on C4 and environs at the weekend. I just DO NOT GET IT – U2 in terms of the actual music/sonics. I do not, and never have, and I suspect never will get it. It sounds like the dullest thing on earth to me. And Christ only knows how much more dull they’d be if they'd never had Eno!
(Not to mention the 3 trillion dollars worth of graphics and design and techno techno techno that constitutes their ever more ridiculous stage shows … er, isn’t that a bit of a King Kong carbon footprint you leave there every time you tour Bono?)
Where was I?
O yeah, being all punk drunk and iconoclastic – yeah yeah.

It was better than average, this programme.

Fred Vermorel mentioned the Situationists**, albeit only passingly.

B.P. Fallon mentioned Ian Dury (and how much the whippersnapper Lydon had imbibed from Kilburn and The High Roads gigs, allegedly.)

Someone mentioned Bernie Rhodes (how come… so little is known about him, still, now?)

Ari Up (with a v. fetching Gorgon 'do) and Viv put in vivid appearances, chalk and cheese, although both obviously full of singular and hard won and arduously maintained kinds of 'health' or life force or Eros)

Vivienne got more archive gab time than Malcolm.
(I LOVE the footage of her dancing at that early - St Martin's? - Pistols gig: she looks SO unaffectedly so unselfconsiously happy!)

And then it came to a bit of awkward end (just like in real life?).

Plenty of the interviewees said – 'Yeah, OK, the Man and the Man's monolithic seducing Biz clumped down hard on things the minute they started to look inspirational and insurrectionary and so on ... but the real point was DIY, that you could do it yourself, didn't need to wait for approval or money, that whatever your throw of the dice, be it fashion or music or writing, just go ahead, don't need to learn just do it,' etc.

Which doesn't explain why so many floundered once their record company life support was taken away.

Mark P was still smarting, nearly 30 years on, about The Clash signing to CBS, which he seemed to feel, still, was the Day the Music died, and who's to say he isn't right, in his own way, or little world, or personal dialectic?

And at just such a point as this, wouldn't it be nice to have - instead of the usual footage of ham-fisted Clash smash, maybe a blast of Evan Parker or Derek Bailey, contemporaneous, inspirational and Indie and unsigned and signature free and signature frenzy'd in *their* own way... ? I mean, even a bit of archive of The Fall or ATV wouldn’t go amiss, such things do exist I presume; or also contemporaneous movies, politics, you know, Fassbinder, RAF, the beginnings of Terror, the Mohawk of St Travis, whatever, a bit of contextual (h)air.

Billy Bragg, of all people, was the only one here to at least HINT at certain fault lines and contradictions, such as one of the ones that always got me: to wit, The Clash, I’M SO BORED WIV THE YOU-S-AY, but the minute they turn the corner out of sight of a Camden rehearsal studio or West way reggae shop, they go more American than America, they SWOOON into James Dean and Elvis and Bickle poses and all cockabillet-doux and ICONIC, yes, ICONIC, in the truest (and at the time, I thought, most pathetic) way, as if posing were the first the last the only grasp you had on culture, and it is suddenly all Cadillac fins and monochrome quiffs and oh my yes all those so “iconic” Penny Smith shots, and all those 19 page features by Salewicz and Morley and Bangs and Murray, in fact, I think I may have been the only NME writer who didn’t re-write Thomas Wolfe on the endless American road wiv the lads, instead, I got sent shit in the mail by disgruntled fans when I belched “The Clash are a dying myth,” whatever the hell I meant by that...

Rather, in hindsight, The Clash were definitely DYING INTO MYTH, yes, and making of their falling out & falling asunder a great American myth in 19 essential poses: I fought (rather than thought) the Law and the Imaginary won …

And the same thing with the Pistols, it was the American (m)id-West and its dance of huge empty desert-filled loss and ridiculous stunt gigs pulled by McLaren that betrayed the Pistols up on a plate to the hungry slavering pain-beast of rock n roll a rama lama swan song.

The gates were then open for the LEAST subversive elements to be taken up and flogged to death. The sad canonization of Sid e.g., as Pope of … well, sumfink. Something less than merely mischievous, unfortunately, and more like pure limping burned-out monomaniacal death drive.

Maybe Sid became an unfortunate template – just as Siouxsie and Slits were magnificent and enduring templates that changed the way young women looked at and to and out of themselves and dressed and the momentous way they did their makeup and thought about the stage as a Pandora's Box rather than a Pan's People cage, somewhere to start a ruckus from rather than silently go-go to, a place to reflect upon themselves rather than have other peoples misconceptions beamed back at them to the point of blinding no return –

Maybe Sid became the worst youth icon ever. E.g., I can't really remember, can you, seeing YOUNG beggars on the streets of London before Sid. Can’t remember ever seeing people still in their all-to-live-for teens who so apathetically limply EMBRACED complete self-abnegation as a way of “life” (or slow death, exit, real and true and shattering “alienation”).

Someone glib here (ah, yes, it was Alan McGee) told a silly anecdote about Captain Sensible falling over like a plank, bass in hand, and how this was wonderful; how it (and this was his precise word) showed such wonderful “nihilism”.
But that isn’t nihilism - it’s panto.

Nihilism is dying slowly because you can't think of a reason to live, or a way to live with even half a toe in the mainstream, and your heart like a sail full of some wind or other, even if it's a black wind, a blue and sidereal wind, but some kind of air in your sails each morning. Those who put on leather jacket and chains and slogans like a squaddie's uniform, like some kind of Tenants Extra and downers fuelled ‘national service’ duty, WAS that really rock n roll, or isn’t it rather everything punk or rock n roll or call it what you will was supposed to be against? Wasn’t the NO in No Future and the _____ in Blank Generation supposed to prompt some kind of ornery affirmation?

'Do it yourself' was an invitation to do something, not yourself in.

The subsequent history of an 'iconic' band like The Ramones, say, was not a happy one, in – it seems – any way whatsoever: they didn’t even remain friends. Heroin and greed and stupid ‘loyalty’ to rock as code decimated those who couldn’t see rock n roll as much more than a stylistic and (‘anti’) social straitjacket, arty-ficial lung, a crutch or prop.

Maybe it’s better when things firework and disappear, than when they hang around forever.
E.g. – Riot Grrrl here-and-gone is a zillion times better than Courtney Love's fourteenth 'exclusive' interview this month.
A few DIY 7 inches better than a whole lotta box sets and Mojo 50 greatest lists and so on.

I don’t know for sure.
But like I say – just for once, it would be nice to hear some of this explored – history as contradiction, dance of step and not, this that and antithesis, small and big… rather than a lumpy pudding, pressed into a homogeneity it was never meant to countenance.

And maybe instead of ending on lumpy affable Mani (Angelic Upstarts not upstart Roses) and shamelessly hammy Pursey (always the air, somehow, of a misplaced youth-club activities co-ordinator) and so on, we might have – a few strands of the weeds and thistles that grew, Throbbing Gristle, Daniel at Mute, genuien independence taht DID endure, all the things that have had a long and genuinely subversive effect …

All that isn’t so easily compressed into slogan and icon.
All that wasn't no future, and became this (and that and the other) future.

* {there was also jsut a squeak here, from Rat Scabies I think, about how The Damned were ripped off (at an early stage, on an early stage) by McLaren - and how disillusioned they were by this. And this is actually a constant refrain among people who have had dealings with McLaren - how he waltzes out leaving huge phone bills unpaid, rent upaid, royalties unpaid (which Lydon had to go to court to get, remember). It's one thing to rip off conglomerates - but when it is a pathology, a sneaky steal-and-run tic that you pull even on closes friends ... it feels a little less 'subversive', no?

**{21st Century joke: my Spellcheck blanked there, on 'Situationists', and suggested ... "Seditionists"! 'Ignore All Seditionaires?'}

posted by Ian 12/06/2006 11:29:00 AM
(11) comments
THE BOGUS MAN (a slight return)

his mind
on something
he cared about

I don't really know what THIS is all about, but the little I have read ... oh dear.

How you get from "hauntology" to great long lists of things with the word "ghost" in them is a process beyond my ken. It seems a stripe of literalism worse even than that long-ago vogue for post-Psycho "Freudianism" in which every time someone picked up a pen or pencil the critic immediately speculated that they wanted to draw a picture of themselves fucking their Mother. I.e., it was a pretty good way to advertise to the world JUST HOW MUCH OF FREUD YOU HADN'T READ.

I'm not saying Simon hasn't read very much Derrida* (if any, recently) (how could he, when he is so busy tracking down every last instance of the word "ghost" abroad in secondary media); but there's not much here that would lead anyone to think he has. This isn't me being snotty or snooty. But I have to say it does strike me as a bit irreverent - not to say rather rude, actually - to first borrow, then promote (in the old street sense of that term, like "boost") the word, in a scarifyingly extensive way, then complain that it doesn’t mean what you want it to mean, and is therefore a bit constrictive.

Likewise, it seems a bit muddle-headed to borrow a very specific Derridean notion whose reverberations would seem to work against any totalising encyclopaedics; but to then go ahead and produce great long bloody lists, as though YOU and YOU alone, could work ahead of everyone else to EXHAUST the word/notion; but then, in the very same gesture (just as a discreet "after word", mind) then draw down a veil on it at the same time, with a heavy sigh, saying - 'Well, all this GHOST stuff is OK but it's a bit restrictive and at the same time a bit vague... ', when in fact you were the only person who thought it was about GHOSTS to bloody begin with!

It's not about "haunting" music made by bands with the word "Ghost" in the title - it's about ONTOLOGY. That was always the point.

The only time I can remember bringing this up before was in 2003, I think, when I used the word in a Pill Box piece about Ian MacDonald; as far as I recall, I said that as much as I respected some of his pieces, (and this applies, also, to Greil Marcus, who I also respect but am made uneasy by), it was all riddled a bit with this urge to GROUND everything in certain notions of the "true" or "authentic" or "national spirit", or "spirit of 68" or "real music made by real people", etc, etc; and then I said surely there must be less heavy bottomed, more flexible, more playful more hauntological ways to write about music. And to me, it was always about the writing, rather than the music.

Because if you just reduce it - "hauntology" - to a synonym for "haunting" music then you're already way off course. And if you start to say - here is Music X, which reminds me of Childhood Y, and so is about a straight feedback system of nostalgia - well, I would say you are also already lost, and have missed the point. It would be more apropos to find a piece of music from THEN that seemed to be haunted by NOW, maybe. I.e, that utterly messed with our usual notions of time and reception.

ONE of the points about Derrida is that he started with a set of writings - Marx/Engels - that most of us would think the LEAST 'ghost' like or spectral in the world. A great big whomping sturdy logical rational-project ton-of-treacle encyclopaedics type set of writing, grounded, oh so grounded, in politics and "real" conditions and "real" history. And from there - whether you agree with Derrida's "method" or not - from there he draws out an apparently slender thread, a mere echo, and says, No, at work here is an alterity, an unlikely ghost-logic, un-grounded, following a strange ungraspable logic of its own - a haunt-logic...

I think also of Benjamin's Arcades here, too, perhaps inevitably, as to some extent the 'parallel' but uncanny instance or example. (OK, OK - I know that's not a very Derridean notion; but I'm writing this with my eyes barely open.) Benjamin takes something supposedly trivial and superficial - in classic Marxist terms - something brittle and shiny and mirror-image, and hears every sort of note in the world inside its strange dated echo chamber. Do you see? It's a logics of the hidden, of the non-obvious, of the inessential, the note just below hearing ... It might be a forgotten piece of music that DOESN’T have the word ghost in it, and what it was haunted by would be some FUTURE.

That was always Derrida’s keynote: haunted by a scarcely imaginable future, by all the time yet to come, that could never be reckoned, never sewn up. And I think, speaking only for myself now, that was why the death of Jhon Balance got to me so; because I thought that certain things in Coil gestured toward scarcely imaginable futures, that weren’t just to do with music, or collecting music, or labelling music, but were to with the most tender, and the most terrifying aspects of being alive, and how we relate to one another, or miss one another completely. (It’s also probably one of the reason I’ve found it almost impossible to write about the whole Coil/Jhon thing in any conventional way since his death. So many of Coil’s "records" now seem haunted by an event somewhere in the aether of the future – and do we now decide that that event and J's death were one and the same thing? What kind of event IS music, then, that it might anticipate such things, even "live" them in advance? What kind of "living" (on) IS music?)

And surely a great lumbering encyclopaedics is the least h**nt*l*gic*l project in the world?
Which is what S. does here: he rolls out a great stultifying A-Z ... and then has the cheek to finish the A-Z with an afterword that says - haven't we overdone this a bit? Well - YOU have, sonny Jim! is the obvious rejoinder here.
(The same thing happened with 'deconstruction' didn't it? It became common usage before most people even had a clue what it really invovled. It became part of the time-range of fashionable deployments - oh, that was LAST week's/season's/year's thing: coats with the seams on the outside, or records with the word "Ghost" in them. The same thing: deconstuction must mean what it sounds like; just as "hauntology" must mean something "haunting". Whereas some of us are still trying to fathom the basic repercussions of 'deconstruction' properly understood. Which is not to say that there can't be traffic between the Academy and the popular mainstream - Christ, that would make me le plus grand hypocrite, ha ha! - but let's maintain SOME standards, people.)

If I was a bit more dimestore-shrink I would call it a bit controlling - in this one gesture it looks like S. wants to get the credit for being the person who staked out "hauntology" (with great long "definitive" pieces), but also (thank god, everyone sighs) the person who ended it when it started to get a bit boring, what with all these idiots doing great long "definitive" pieces and stoopid long lists of things with "ghost" in them, who obviously don't have a CLUE what Derrida's original thing was all about AT ALL!

Instead of, how we might find an interesting way to transfer the site-specific notion of "hauntology" to writing ANEW and UNSURE about music, instead of writing about music in one of the same old ways, which - well, which leaves you no way out but (T)HIS way in (to slightly rephrase an old Lacanian saw) ...

*{ - or for that matter, listened to much Coil (seeing as these are the two things that get suspiciously offhand comments, almost as if he resentss them for spoiling his Napoleonic forward march to Definitive Statement). If I were to do a full-blown depth analysis of S's piece, I might pick just the one line, say the one in which he damns Coil as against BoC (I thought he meant Blue Oyster Cult at first, which certainly dates me!), i.e., Boards of Canada - because the latter, apparently, have the 'real' the 'true' 'childlike' capacity or musical tones/parameters of "reverie' or something or other; so then I might look for other occasions when S. had relied upon similar tropes to definitively NAIL some piece or other, notions of the Oceanic, or kindliness or God popping up in unlikely places, 'child-like' wonder, so on, so forth, and see if this was a logic that had operated in his text for quite a while, an unconscious assumption, almost without his knowing it, maybe a scene where he is the child with the most marbles, or the most records, as tho quantity was a big-warm-coat defence against some doubts about quality or something, as tho, if you could only HEAR EVERYTHNG IN ADVANCE, then no one could gainsay your opinions when you make and break epochs and epoches, codify micro genres, round up Best Ofs and all the rest ...



I wrote the above literally first thing when I woke up this morning - and later, I was worried in case I'd gone a bit OTT or been a bit too bitchy rather than objectively and rigorously 'theoretical'. I do apologise if it's a bit rough n ready, but looking at it again I think it's an honest and credible reaction, and so I let its rhetoric stand ...

posted by Ian 12/06/2006 09:05:00 AM

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I started to watch The Culture Show last night – partly just to see through to the grim end their “Greatest Living Icon, British (G.L.I.B.) quest; but I had to turn the sound down before long because it was aggravating me SO much.

I'm sure it's not actually Laura Levene's fault, cos she's just reading a script written by some clueless coked-up trustafarian 21 year old whose parents dinner party with someone in the BBC hierarchy (“handbags have always been ICONIC!” indeed); but this new jokey jokey ‘don't worry we'll make culture silly and un threatening and flirty for you’ tone is REALLY starting to get my iconic faux-Rauschenberg goat. I'm sure who ever is behind it thinks it's ever so "market penetrative" – ‘We want to get that part of the A/B female demographic that wouldn’t normally interact with a multi strand culture mode...’ - but it's really just a different, and MORE patronising, form of Reith-ism. As in: Come here little plebs, and drink at the culture trough. It has items on POP STARS and HANDBAGS – so you won’t be frightened by all the strange words like “symphony” and “ literature” … BAH!

And if I hadn’t already turned it down I would have when that ridiculous 'defend your icon' face off began. So, this is it, is it: Morrissey, David Attenborough and Paul MacCartney. H Jesus fucking Christ. Kate Bush, Kate Moss and Vivienne Westwood all relegated to nowhere land for THIS? Somewhere there is some WANKER with a complete set of MOJO and 'Q' magazines - who has complete DVD sets of all his favourite COMEDIES (he can 'do' the Ricky Gervais dance from The Office) and he has a mate who got him tickets for that recent Noel Gallagher acoustic set and it was "blindin', yeah, he's still got it, yuh," and HE BLOCK VOTED here, didn’t he?

Macca, Attenborough and Mozzer: ‘culture’ as cocoa and slippers.
Exciting icons of the … 60s, 70s and 80s respectively.

The difference between the last series of TCS and this one is staggering.
The last series was pretty OK, above average intelligent on things like architecture and classical music and even a couple of nods in a vaguely 'WIRE' type direction. (It had a great piece on Terry Riley, for instance.) But now some trendy dolt of a producer has obviously been brought in to get the "young" "Saturday night" "demographic" (curse that word/notion) and so therefore only does items on stuff that is already in that demo's "comfort zone" ...as, last night: Rickey Gervais, handbags, Faithless. This is 'culture' as in ‘gun culture’ or 'ladette culture' or 'mall culture' ... i.e. the same grimly dumbed-down pass-notes version of "semiology" that is prevalent all over media land. (And thus why ‘icon’ is everywhere like crab grass. It makes you sound like you know what you’re talking about, without having to do anything more than name a couple of 70s footballers and a porn star or two. I.e., nothing you couldn’t have done watching TV, really.)

Last night's adult-panto and handbag pieces had already been done in The Guardian (and the Gervais/Pilkington thing was just an advert for their Guardian podcast) - which, is there anything more desperate than being later on the scene than the Guardian? (It’s like the researcher was off sick so they just picked up that day’s Grauniad.)

The same thing has happened with G2 since the redesign - there seems to be some kind of INCH PANIC, that means text is split up into smaller and smaller Q&A or boxed off or IDIOTS GUIDE TO type sections and at least FOUR gossipy "personality" COLUMNS every day which will spit weary sarcastic venom at how vapid and trivial it is that all the other newspapers have been covering Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan and Britney ... whilst, of course, also covering Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan and Britney.

The handbag piece (by the egregious Zina Bendybus-Wimoweh) was perhaps the pits. Not because I think fashion doesn’t deserve decent coverage - I think it NEEDS more and better coverage. But this wasn’t it. This was desperation, on a story that is already weeks if not months old. And what IS it doing here? Something to do with "remit" or "demographic". Get in Laura Levene - as opposed to an older, more specialised presenter with a background in, well, arts and culture. Set the programme in a COCKTAIL BAR. (Don’t ask WHY: just do it.) And switch from doing intelligent pieces on slightly more marginal or 'difficult' areas to ... handbags and "icons".

I have to say, I think this ridiculous "Greatest Living Icon" thing has been the most pointless waste of BBC time and resources I've seen for a long time. It seems to concretize the trendified fear-of-thinking attitude at work here, involving an apparently 'democratic' 'viewer participation’ element, that, under a microscope is revealed to be mere sub-focus-group salad dressing. And that is essentially MEANINGLESS. 'Greatest Living Icon.' Meaning what? What do Morrissey, Paul MacCartney and David Attenborough have in common, anyway? (Apart from all being, when you get down to it, part of a comfort-inducing past rather than any unpredictable or frightening or mystifying future?) Nothing. It's not about 'culture', and about taking viewers to new places in culture - it's about COMFINESS. About staying in and pandering to a perceived demographic's COMFORT ZONE. Icon is a real New Labour style weasel word - that can mean everything/anything in any context whilst at base, really, meaning NOTHING WHATSOEVER. Certainly nothing that might "offend" or confuse one perceived "demographic" group or other.

Although a stray comment from Laura Levene (I think, I had the sound half down by this exasperated point) was the only indication here that maybe they were a bit unsettled at TCS by JUST how conservative their viewers choice was – the top 3 “living” icons all white, all male, all middle aged or older. Which means that either there is an even bigger disjunction between who they WISH was watching the show and the age of the people who really ARE; or their supposedly trendy Observer Music Monthly-reading cocktail-drinking "demographic" are as hidebound and blinkered as some old Punch-reading Home Counties ex-Colonial from the 1920s...

I suppose any popular "icon" has to be inoffenseive to some extent if it's going to appeal 'across the board, demographic wise'. But Macca is only really here because Lennon is dead (and he's getting some strange twisted sympathy vote as against the misogynistic tabloid's favourite Female Hate Figure of the moment); and a few years ago, Morrissey was KAPUT wasn't he, a joke figure rather than an icon.

And David Attenborough - well, it's like voting for your Gran, really, isn’t it?
I mean – no offence, he makes great progs n’all, but in what sense is it ‘culture’ in the sense that Schoenberg or Scorsese or Pat Califia, say, are? It’s more ‘culture’ in the sense of red phone boxes and World Cup 66 and … well, Morrissey’s quiff and Macca’s thumb. It’s got nothing to do with culture as inroad or departure, and everything to do with HOLDING ON to some kind of passing and un-difficult Britishness. And I’m not necessarily knocking either Attenborough or anyone’s notion of comforting Britishness – it’s just all such a lumpy doughy hodge-podge and always will be if you stick to EMPTY inoffensive terms like ‘Icon’ which don’t mean anything to anyone when it comes down to it.

It is SO quiescent. It's like DONT EVER UPSET ANYONE EVER. And so the Qs that Levene asks guests - she might as well still be on a Saturday morning The Chart Show. Faithless unplugged? WHY? For god's sake WHY? Because they are so obscure and need the coverage? Because their new record isn’t a live album greatest hits sets - it's a strange new daring departure? No - because IT WON’T OFFEND ANYONE. A little bit dance, a little bit multicultural, a little bit real musicians playing real music ... Christ, it's worse - more contained, more fearful, more limited - than The Old Grey Whistle Test ever was. It REALLY is.

Just keep on filling the space, and never, never ever, ever, even think of asking the question of any subject, "but is this really worth doing?" and "if so, why?"

posted by Ian 12/03/2006 07:01:00 AM
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... and MURKIER ...?

Woke up this morning, no blog: where the Pillbox should have been was just a WHITE OUT.

It was the Russians, I tells ya! They POISONED MY BLOG!

posted by Ian 12/03/2006 06:33:00 AM

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I don't know how trustworthy or unbiased THESE TWO posts on the Litvinenko/Gaidar poisonings are, but along with links arising from this latest Rigorous Intuition post, and a previous one, it certainly does give pause for thought and leads to follow.

It does seem odd, or way too much of a 'coincidence', at the very least, that the whole story of this NEW EXTRADITION TREATY between Russia and the United Kingdom HAS been downplayed, or sidelined, and not mentioned in any of the mainstream reports on Litvinenko's death and Gaidar's "unnatural ... illness". I sure didn't know about the treaty, did you?

I just read the latest Conspiracy Theory: apparently Putin-controlled newspapers in Russia are claiming that "British PR men ordered the sacrifice of Litvinenko to make a noise." They name their prime suspect for the killing as ... Thatcherite golden boy and PR wizard (Sir) Tim Bell (in league with oligarch-in-exile Boris Berezovsky)!!!
Another theory forwarded by the same Putin-friendly publications is that, in fact, Litvinenko KILLED HIMSELF for the same Putin-defaming reason! (I remember with fondness, now, a conspiracy site SPOOF I read once that presented convincing evidence that JFK SHOT HIMSELF ...)

posted by Ian 12/02/2006 01:37:00 PM
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Calling all hauntology fans ...

If you've never actually seen Ken McMullen's Ghost Dance, here, thanks to the portal of wood's lot, are some intermediate links to YouTube excerpts featuring Derrida free-associating on Freud, phantoms, telecomunication(s), and everything under the black sun ...

"Vivre les phantoms!"

+ a seperate link to a clip I hadn't seen before:
Derrida mirror staged;

and an interesting interview with Ken McMullen himself - if, like me, you wondered what he had been up to. (I also interviewed McMullen once, about 15 or 16 years ago, and he was lovely, not at all 'avant garde' dry or dubious, a very articulate, generous and charming man ...)

posted by Ian 12/02/2006 12:59:00 PM

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As someone who sat stony-faced and vaguely disapproving* through the entire two series of Nighty Night, I'm not a viewer you can make laugh simply by saying the unsayable or doing the shouldn't-do-able.

But I have to say: I haven't laughed more at anything ALL YEAR**, than at Karl's moustache-related suicide attempt in PULLING [BBC3] last night. Funnier than the entire two last series of Curb Your Enthusiasm put together - if by funny, of course, you mean something that makes you howl with laughter, rather than grimace with a vague, wishy washy "respect"***.

If I detect a 'theme', it's to do with a lurking and hurting and messy Real under a certain have-it-all notion of swinging-drinking-shagging ladette life. If I forsee a problem, it's the possibility that EVERY SINGLE character is potentially so annoying - including mere incidental characters - it might become a bit airless by, I dunno, episode 5 say. But at the same time you don't want a perversely "nice" huggy this-is-a-moral "change" to interrupt things, either.

Still, to make me laugh as much as they have this far is going some.
*{Not in any "moral" way, you understand: I just thought it was incredibly LAZY.

**{ and yet, I just Googled it, to try and get an interview with the creators or a few pix to use - and NOTHING. A big fat nothing. (O sure - you can probably download the week after next's episode onto the dashboard of your electric car - but I'm talking about FUSS. How come Lead Balloon gets all the groundswell huzzah and this doesn't? (Could it all be a bit Victorian? That drunken single women, like the drug taking 'working classes' of Ideal, aren't quite as culturally presentable as the well-off middle class white guy act of Lead Balloon? Just saying, like, guv'nor...)

***{Is comedy going through a pre-Punk 1970s jazz-rock concept album type phase? In which we all respect the "technique" and whoa!-beyond-imaginative "whackiness" but .. just want an opening chord that makes us jump in the air? Well, Karl's blue face (and moustache) (and attendant boner) were that chord for me. (That would make all those ENDLESS interchangeable news/statistics/celeb "quiz" shows the equivalent of the chummy 1970s solo album with loads of coked-out guest mates.) ((And probably makes the incredibly clever-but-SO-BLOODY-WHAT Green Wing the Tales of Topographic Oceans of this particular cul-de-sac.)

posted by Ian 12/01/2006 07:39:00 AM

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