Wednesday, August 06, 2003

Goodbye to all that 

As some of you know, for the past few weeks I've been beta-testing TypePad, the new combined blogging and hosting service from the Movable Type people. Well, I liked it so much that I bought the company. Er, no, not really, but I have signed up as a paying customer and I'm ready to unveil the new, pretty, banner-ad-free, comments-always-working version of...


So please come and check me out, and update your links if you feel so moved, because I'm giving this place the arse.

And suddenly I'm feeling wistful...

Tuesday, August 05, 2003

Oh grow up! 

I've never quite understood the appeal of "adulthood" as a selling point. I don't mean "adult entertainment," which of course is frequently delightful if it's the right kind. What I mean is adulthood in its non-euphemistic sense: whenever a movie, book or record is described to me as being "for grown-ups," my first thought is, in that case it's probably not for me. On the other hand, whenever a movie, book or record is derided as being "for teenagers," I'm inclined to at least give it a chance.

No doubt this means I have a big old Peter Pan complex and I'm a hopeless nostalgic, but aesthetically...well, put it this way, we teenagers get Justin Timberlake, you adults get Badly Drawn Boy, you be the judge!


I love this piece by Marcello Carlin--in uncharacteristically lighthearted mode, but still sharp as ever--on what you should be paying for every album in the current (UK) top 40. On the White Stripes' Elephant: "Recommended Price: 19s 11d – if you want it to be 1963, charge 1963 prices!"

Monday, August 04, 2003

Exposed: Redundancy in Text of Undignified McDonalds Promotion 

The new, sexed-up version of the Big Mac Chant bizarrely promises "cheese made with cheddar and milk" as one of the ingredients of a Big Mac. So that would be cheese made with both a type of cheese and the base ingredient of all cheese, would it? Thanks for clearing that up.

Also, those new "5 star burgers" are rubbish. There, I've said it!

(Incidentally, and I'm afraid I'm breaking a promise never to write about her, but my flatmate winningly announced the other day that she actually knew the old version--the "two all-beef patties special sauce lettuce cheese pickles onions on a sesame seed bun" one--off by heart! I had to break it to the poor dear that everybody in our generation knows this off by heart, so much so that it's used with Gen Xers as a standard test for concussion..."who's the Prime Minister? Who won last year's Grand Final? Can you recite that Big Mac jingle thing?")

Sunday, August 03, 2003

Into orbit 

Once the Doctor is exterminated, I shall build a new race of Daleks. They will be even more deadly! And I, Davros, shall be their leader!! This time we shall triumph!!! My Daleks shall once more become THE SUPREME BEING!!!!

Now that I've got that off my chest...

Today at the Film Festival it was Chris Petit's London Orbital, based on the book about the M25 by Iain Sinclair. Like Mark, I'm a bit ambivalent about Sinclair's writing (although I've only read bits of it, mainly in the LRB), but I actually found it worked better on film, its fulgurous succession of metaphors, digressions and tangents counterpointed with what seemed like an endless loop of the almost entirely featureless M25 as seen from a car windscreen--it wasn't really a loop I don't think, it was actually continuous footage, but how could you tell? This footage in turn was often reduced to one side of a split screen, the other showing scenes of one of the M25's real or symbolic tributaries, which in Sinclair's conjuror's mind range from Bram Stoker's Dracula (Dracula's English pied à terre is located close to the present-day motorway) to Ballardian ideas about consumerist landscapes and the "transcendental boredom" they invoke (Ballard himself appears in the film) to conspiracy theories and the omnipresence of camera surveillance on and around the motorway. (The single most compelling sequence of the film for me was some apparently authentic footage from a motion-sensitive surveillance camera which followed two people--perfectly innocent, as far as one could tell--across a car park until it lost them behind a building. It lasted for minutes and was completely chilling.)


"So: is the PoMo ironist seeking to protect himself - from irony?" Yes yes yes yes yes yes yes! (Yes!) That's exactly it.

Still being ironic 

I'm probably exhuming the corpse of a dead discussion here, but what the hell, it's better than getting into the whole "good bad writing vs bad good writing" debate, so just let me say a word or two in defence of our old friend irony.

Because what struck me in the recent mini-discussion on the topic was that nobody popped up to defend the idea of "liking something ironically"; everyone was in furious agreement that it was always and in every way a bad thing, which (a) makes me wonder whether we were attacking a straw man in the first place (I actually don't think so, because you can see the cultural effects of this idea everywhere, it's just that nowadays no-one wants to own up to it); and (b) makes me want to play devil's advocate and defend irony, or at least defend a kind of irony. As I said before, the concept of irony needs to be rescued from its postmodern vicissitudes (so, arguably, does the concept of postmodernism).

So anyway, first of all, let's not get too precious about the purity of our aesthetic preferences and their motivations; I'm sure we're all capable at times of liking things even though we also think they're not actually all that good, and there are lots of quite legitimate (as well as a host of illegitimate) reasons for doing this--the whole madeleine thing being one of them; you can be fond of something just because it takes you back to some point in your past, without necessarily thinking it's particularly great in its own right, or at least without wanting to defend it as objectively great, and that's perfectly fine. The problems start when liking things because they're "bad" becomes an aesthetic gesture in its own right, because (as people have pointed out) this is invariably a form of bet-hedging and plausible deniability, it's a way of defending yourself against the tastes of other people by making only equivocal investments in your own tastes. And that's daft.

But irony doesn't only operate along the axis of value. If we give up the idea of "liking things ironically"--as we surely should--that doesn't mean our aesthetics are suddenly irony-free. (To claim this would be as silly as all those pundits saying that irony was dead post-9/11.) Because irony can also refer to other kinds of incongruity, can't it? Like for instance incongruities of reception, the fact that you like a track for certain reasons which are quite different from what its makers "intended," you like something that in some sense isn't really for you. (Yeah, I know, intentional fallacy, but I think that's pretty unavoidable in music, pop at least.) Take for instance an adult who really, honestly likes the music of The Wiggles...there's a certain irony there, isn't there? Or imagine if the St Matthew Passion was Richard Dawkins's favourite piece of music (plausible enough--scientists go for Bach); a militant atheist loving a work written to glorify God, that sounds pretty ironic to me. Or think again of the fact that everybody nowadays loves The Carpenters, but we almost inevitably listen to them through the prism of Karen's illness and death, thus reading all these cheerful songs as melancholy and masochistic and self-abnegating "underneath." (Not that that stuff isn't actually there, but was it ever meant to be heard so explicitly?)

An acknowledgement of these kinds of ironies--if "irony" is even the right word, but I can't think of a better one--saves us from a position which is even less defensible than "liking things ironically", that is, the false universalism that says "it's all just music." The trouble with this latter position is that it is really a kind of solipsism, it involves seeing yourself as the ideal audience of all music, erasing the ways in which it functions differently for different people. And of course the "ironies" I'm talking about aren't in any way negative; on the contrary, many of the most interesting things about music revolve around them, from Dizzee Rascal bigging up Kurt Cobain to the notorious "30-year old white music critics" bigging up Dizzee Rascal.

So, kids, go ahead and be ironic if you want to! The backlash to the backlash starts here!

Saturday, August 02, 2003

Transgender robots 

In the near future, everyone in San Francisco will be carried by transgender robots across the busy intersections for maximum safety.
Ah, Choire Sicha...he's even funnier when he's all bitter and broken-hearted. Not that that's a good thing, mind.

(Incidentally, did you know that someone got to this page via a Google search for "Mormon Tabernacle Choire"?)

Despatch from the black skivvy trenches 

Two more movies today! I swear this Film Festival business is exhausting...

First was A Cold Summer, which I saw mainly because I felt morally obliged to see at least one Australian film, and this looked like the most appetising of a fairly dull bunch. (There was also one with Ben Lee, which looked OK if one could stomach Ben Lee, which unfortunately one can't.) This was patchy but overall quite rewarding, a love triangle film with lots of dialogue that sounded improvised, giving at times the impression of a third-year impro class at NIDA, and also at times going the typical indie cinema route of using confrontation, shouting and general nastiness as an attempted short-cut to emotional authenticity, but the characters and their stories were quite interesting and unusual, the performances were good--especially from the actor who played "Phaedra" (!)--and I particularly liked the score by Claire Jordan, a Bartok-y/Janacek-y string quartet thing that worked very well.

Then a quick dash from the Capitol to the glorious Forum to catch The Sea, which I think I can safely say is the only Icelandic film I've ever seen, a family melodrama about a Lear-like patriarch calling his children home to decide the future of the family firm (a fish processing plant). At times quite overwrought--Icelandic people being passionate, fancy that!--this was very watchable and (shallowness alert!) the scenery was pretty. Best of all I ran into a very close friend who I haven't seen for a couple of years, which is the kind of thing you're always expecting to happen at the festival but in fact it rarely does.


Very good new-ish blog at It's All In Your Mind. In the couple of days since I first visited, though, the title seems to have been changed; it was a quote from Ulysses. What's wrong, Peter? I don't think "Ineluctable Modality of the Visible" was a pretentious title at all!...

(PS Peter: it would be nice to have permalinks on individual posts, and also where's your e-mail address? Don't you want people to write to you and tell you how great you are?)

[Update: also, Peter, apparently the underscore in your blog URL is an "illegal character" and prevents some people from loading the page...see the comments to this post.]

Friday, August 01, 2003


Tonight's Film Festival session was the Korean noir sci-fi thriller Yesterday, which I saw with some friends, and I must admit we all left the cinema scratching our heads. Some very nice Blade Runner-ish design, but the plot was completely indecipherable, something to do with genetic manipulation, cloning, secret government projects and paternity, but...er, yeah. It didn't help my concentration that I realised about half an hour into the film that I'd forgotten to set the video to tape the Angel season finale, either.

Thursday, July 31, 2003

The Ugh Effect 

Sometimes, there's just one particular small thing that makes it simply inconceivable that you could ever like something, no matter how much your friends insist it's the best thing ever. Some examples:

I wish I knew why there have been about twenty different Google searches for my name resulting in visits to this site over the past couple of days. Is someone checking up on me? Does someone want to offer me a job? (Yes please, don't be shy, even if you work for a right-wing think tank or something…I can produce position papers on why hip-hop is ruining black people's lives, anything you like!) You know who you are, spill!

Wednesday, July 30, 2003

Bad links? 

Apparently the links on my sidebar aren't working for Ian Penman. Is anyone else having this problem? They work OK for me.

And if they don't work for you, do you have the same problem with Philip Shelburne's blog, which uses the same template? Just so I can narrow down to a Blogger problem vs a me problem...

[Update: The problem seems to be Mozilla-related and should now be fixed, thanks to John. If anyone is still having problems, let me know.]

Consider the feeling pushed on 

Mark in the same post I linked to yesterday also had some mean things to say about Kylie, which I'll largely ignore, because my love for her goes beyond such banal considerations as "talent" and "looks."

But I will say that I never quite understood the fuss about "Can't Get You Out of My Head"-- its eponymous claim is true enough I suppose, but when I first heard it it sounded to me like just another one of the thousand or so tracks that nicked that particular three-or-four-note-staccato-melody-on-sort-of-Rhodesy-sounding-keyboards thing from the Nightcrawlers' "Push the Feeling On." (Since I'm not a dance music archivist, I couldn't swear that the Nightcrawlers themselves didn't steal the sound from someone else, but I seem to remember that track sounding quite novel when it first came out, almost like the house equivalent of pop-trance, with its focus on simple simple simple melody above all else). So to me "Head" sounds a bit like a throwback to the mid-90s, which would be fine except that (in common with the other tracks I've heard from the Fever album) it also lacks any real melodic inspiration of the kind that would compensate for its lack of sonic innovation. (I know what you're thinking, but a song that lacks melodic inspiration can too be impossible to get out of your head.) Is "Head" just celebrated for being the tune that broke Kylie in the US? In any case, I actually think that Dannii Minogue is currently putting out better songs than her sister…and it's nice to have an opportunity to big up Dannii, since she only just missed out on both my top 10 singles and albums lists.

Anyway, that Nightcrawlers track brings to mind something which Mark talks about in his reply to my reply: what he calls "the anti-madeleine effect," or "records so eternally on replay that they attain a Timeless Presence." In dance music I suspect it's less a question of particular records than particular sounds--that "Nightcrawler" sound for example, or the famous "Mentasm" stab that now just sounds totally ordinary, to the extent that it's actually difficult to hear Joey Beltram's "Mentasm" as a stand-out track in any sense. (Definitely not true of his "Energy Flash" incidentally, which still sends shivers etc after all these etc.) The paradigm case of the anti-madeleine effect in dance music would, you would think, be the 303 acid squelch, except strangely I think that of all sounds in dance music that one actually retains its ability to estrange. Maybe acidy squelchiness is just eternally interesting and renewable?

Oh and Mark is so right it hurts about "irony." (The concept of "irony" itself needs rescuing from its postmodern vicissitudes of course, but I'm hardly the first person to make this observation.) Can you believe there are still people who think my Buffy love is in some sense "ironic"? Would you credit it?


I do like that new Jamie Oliver show, but I have what you might call issues with the way Channel 10 has been promoting it. "Jamie Oliver risks everything to give these jobless gits the chance of a lifetime." Jobless gits??? That's certainly not how Jamie thinks of them! And what's so great about your job, arsehole, you do voiceovers for a TV station, it's hardly rocket science is it? (Just how difficult is rocket science, incidentally? Is it much harder than other kinds of science?)

Tuesday, July 29, 2003


In a post on some UK Channel Four program about the Top 100 British Singles, which he delightfully describes as "a madeleine-free experience," Mark at k-punk takes the opportunity to vent some spleen in Tom Jones's direction:
…The William Shatner of Pop, with the same unfailing knack of sledgehammering any trace of subtlety out of anything he comes into hollering distance of. And the comebacks are even worse than anything he produced in his 60s heyday. The grotesquerie of the 'Kiss' cover - how to turn something butterfly's-wing-precious and rare into a cheap, nasty, garish, 1000-storey-Shopping Mall: a three-minute summation of everything that was bad about the 80s.
On the whole I completely agree, especially about the comebacks (he was essentially a Trojan horse for that whole risible notion of people being "ironically hip," which forces those of us who really do love, say, The Carpenters, to constantly explain that we like them because they're bloody good, not because some rubbish indie band guest-programmed one of their songs on Rage…). And oh yes, that "Kiss" cover with that awful, awful mid-80s proto-big-beat production that those of us with no access to anything outside mainstream rock lapped up at the time because it was the nearest we could find to an actual beat that you could dance to (see also, speaking of sledgehammering, Peter Gabriel's "Sledgehammer" and the entire Simply Red catalogue).

But…I do have to make an exception for "What's New, Pussycat?" and perhaps one or two other songs from Jones's "classic" era. "Pussycat" is itself such an over-the-top parody of lewdness (I mean, come on…"I'll soon be kissing your sweet little pussy-[ahem]-cat lips") that it can only really be sung by a walking, breathing, sweating cliché like Tom, and indeed it's one of the few Bacharach songs that seems inextricably wedded to a particular voice, almost to the point where you can't imagine anyone else singing it. ("The Look of Love" would be another.) Having said that, according to AMG it's been covered by everyone from Barbra Streisand to Bob Marley, but oh well the point is you think of the song and you hear Tom's version, don't you? (It's also a candidate for the best blog title ever, incidentally.) And of course "Pussycat" is on my 3/4 compilation, nestled nicely in there just after Jimi Hendrix's "Manic Depression." (Speaking of 3/4, how did I manage to forget Herbert's remix of "Street Lullaby" by Two Banks of Four? That's definitely going in the final version, now I just have to work out who to ditch, Elvis Costello perhaps, but I digress…)

I wonder, would we actually look back more fondly on Tom's older stuff if he had never had a later, irritating pseudo-hipster incarnation? I'm reminded of another Welsh singer for whom undersinging a song is about as likely as Saddam Hussein going in for some minimal Bauhaus-influenced interior design in one of his palaces. And yet no-one ever has a bad word to say about Shirley Bassey, do they?


Tonight's Film Festival session was Taste of Cherry, my second Kiarostami film. Fortunately, after Chrisopher's experiences with Homework, this film was actually screened! Pretty slow going but ultimately extremely moving. Kiarostami, who is fast emerging as an absolute sweetie and total non-diva, introduced the film with a quote from E. M. Cioran, "Had it not been for the possibility of suicide I would have killed myself a long time ago," which gives you a good idea both of the subject matter of the film and of the grim (Iranian? or just Kiarostamian?) humour that runs through it.


Something you have to get used to about the Film Festival is spending a lot of time standing outdoors in long queues (big theatres, capacity sessions, small foyers, late starts). One fact has been repeatedly brought home to me as I notice the strange looks we festivalgoers get from passersby: people in queues always look silly. I mean it! When you see people lining up for something, especially outdoors, especially in inclement weather, isn't your immediate reaction "what's so bloody important? You're wasting your lives, morons!" Or is that just me?

Sunday, July 27, 2003

Ships that pass in the night 

It was vaguely on the cards that I could have met no fewer than three of my fellow bloggers yesterday (separately, I mean); the actual number ended up being zero but that's cool, it's nice to know I have potential new friends in any case.

Anyway, I've been to three more Film Festival sessions. First up was Abbas Kiarostami's Ten, part of a Kiarostami retrospective at the festival. I'd never seen any of his films before and it was guilt as much as anything that made me go to this one, but I was totally overwhelmed by it. I won't repeat Christopher's excellent description, I'll just encourage you to see it if you ever get the chance. The performances are absolutely astonishing, especially from the actors playing the main protagonist and her son, and (although it somehow sounds wrong to praise a film for this, but whatever) you do get a unique insight into the lives of modern Iranian women. But can I take a moment to diss the festival program: did the person who wrote that the film was made up of "10 separate sequences, all of varying lengths and without cuts" actually watch it, or just have it described to them? Because there were plenty of cuts in virtually every scene, sometimes between two cameras, sometimes jump cuts, but all of them noticeable.

Then last night was New Zealand director Gaylene Preston's Perfect Strangers, which I admit I went to mainly out of curiosity to see if Sam Neill was really as charismatic in real life as he seems on screen. Sadly, Sam wasn't there, despite being promised to us in the program, but there was a message from him shown on screen. Poor substitute! The film itself (this was in fact the world premiere) was an odd thing, a thriller that changed halfway into a very warped romantic comedy. It was one of those films that aims to be shocking and perverse and unsettling but somehow contrives not to leave much of an impression at all. Good performances from Sam and the lovely Rachael Blake (not making any attempt at a Kiwi accent, incidentally), but I didn't love it. And could that title be any more banal and obvious?

Today it was Catherine Breillat's Sex is Comedy. Another black mark for the program here, it wasn't a pseudo-documentary for Christ's sake! It was a film about film-making, sure, but would you call a pseudo-documentary? No, I didn't think so. Anyway, I found this a delight; if anything it seemed too close a fit with the preoccupations of gender studies and film studies (it's no doubt being added to a hundred syllabuses as we speak), lots of really interesting stuff about the visual representation of sex acts, and a frank demystification (which might have also been an arch remystification) of the actor-director relationship. Good stuff.

Anyway, must go, Australian Idol awaits!

[Update: On second thoughts, I realise that people who write film festival copy often haven't seen the films they're writing about, and are relying on second- or third-hand information. So let's just say I'm pointing out the mistakes as a public service, without necessarily apportioning blame...]

Saturday, July 26, 2003

A lot of animals were harmed in the making of this picture. We mean it, loads. 

Just back from my first Film Festival screening, Le temps du loup at the Capitol. I'm reminded again of how much I love that theatre; I don't think I've ever been so amazed on first walking into a building. (I mean, obviously St Paul's is nice, but I expected it to be nice.)

Anyway, the film was a gay post-apocalyptic survivalist romp from France, except not so much of a gay romp as all that. Pretty harrowing actually, but cinematically quite amazing, only natural light used as far as I could tell, lots of shots at night lit only by the moon or a fire, and some absolutely amazing scenes captured in pre-dawn near-darkness. Reminded me of school camps actually, both the light (I always used to wake up early in my sleeping bag, which would be all dewy, and it would always be freezing cold) and the cruel, atavistic state-of-nature milieu.

What struck me thinking back on the film was that I don't think a single animal appeared in it that didn't end up dead. And often you would see it being killed, too, and I mean actually killed in front of you.

But don't let that put you off! Lots of people--vegetarians, perhaps--left before the end, but they really should have stayed because the final scene was breathtaking.

Friday, July 25, 2003

Please, someone suggest a title other than "The Day the Muzik Died" 

It's a pity that Muzik is closing. As Scott at somedisco says, it was just starting to get interesting, and I'd just started buying it, and it was a pleasant read with enjoyably juvenile humour. Now I suppose I'll have to seek out Jockey Slut, which is almost impossible to find in Australia--I've only seen it twice I think, and even then it's covered in plastic so you can't actually sneak a read of it in the newsagent. Boo! (UK readers will be amused to know that it's actually easier to find Careless Talk Costs Lives in Australian newsagents than Jockey Slut. For real!)

There are still several dance music magazines left, of course, but none of them (apart perhaps from the elusive Slut) are what one wants: there's the drugs'n'clubs, how-I-got-trashed-in-Ibiza glossies, with pictures on the cover of sheilas in that state of blank-eyed ennui meant to subtly suggest that they are on drugs and having lots of fun (Mixmag and--the absolute nadir--Ministry), and then there are the worthy but dull magazines for DJs, with about 5,000,000 ten-word vinyl 12" reviews in every issue and a big section at the back about "gear" (this time actually referring to equipment), and pictures of DJs looking awkward and, let's face it, none too pretty on the cover (DJ Magazine and International DJ--it took me ages to work out that these are actually completely different magazines!).

No, it's been said before, but what's really needed is for the best of the music bloggers and the ILM people to band together and sweep all before them, whether it's dance music or pop in general we're talking about…although in reality that project is much more likely to be realised on the web, hopefully in the form of the revamped Freaky Trigger.


Now, I realise that I should be probably be cultivating a more aloof blogging persona, trying to be one of the tough kids smoking behind the bike sheds like Ingram, instead of squealing like an excitable convent girl every time someone notices me. But when in the space of 24 hours you've had your pigtails pulled by both Tim Finney (the brilliant young prefect who everyone's got a crush on) and Ian Penman (Head Girl), I think you're allowed at least a tasteful, ladylike gasp.

My urbane life, continued 

Also, after "Ten" and "Perfect Strangers" on Saturday night I'll be heading over to Deep Chord for some minimal grooves, and it would be even better to see people there...

Thursday, July 24, 2003

All MIFFed up 

Well, I've booked all my tickets for the Melbourne International Film Festival. This is no small achievement: reading the brochure, working out what films you want to see, and trying to fit them into a logistically feasible schedule, is a bit like playing chess against Deep Blue, and then there's the always-joyfully(ahem)-chaotic MIFF box office to negotiate; oh well, it's all part of the charm, and now I'm sorted I'm looking forward to it. Here's what I'm seeing; if any Melbourne readers are going to the same sessions and would like to meet up, let me know!

Wednesday, July 23, 2003


What is it about Felix da Housecat's tracks, in particular the ones that use Miss Kittin's vocals, that inspires remixers to respond to them by producing extraordinary, emotionally cathartic tours de force? The originals hardly seem promising for the purpose: dry, laconic, with a studied affectlessness and a sly, swaggering, 80s-inspired robotic groove. (Let me make it clear, lest that seem ambivalent, that I love the originals.) And yet, when remixers take hold of them…well, we have Jacques Lu Cont's string-laden Thin White Duke remix of "Silver Screen," possibly the lushest, most unashamedly "epic" product of the entire electroclash movement. Then Tiga adds his own vocals to "Madame Hollywood," in the process revealing the maw of spiritual yearning that lies beneath the material aspirations of all the world's Which? queens. (Well, yunno, maybe.) Finally, there's Röyksopp's "Follow the Sun" mix of "What Does it Feel Like," which takes Miss Kittin's monotone Eurotrash patter and turns it, via lovely twinkly glocky bleeps (like the ones in all Röyksopp's other tracks), into a big warm hug.

You know who should remix him next? Ewan Pearson! He's doing everyone this year, and he can match emotionally cathartic tours de force with the best of 'em.


As you may have noticed, Enetation, my comments service, has been having one of its turns for the past few days. The comments themselves are working, but the number of comments displayed in the link isn't being updated, so some posts look like they have no comments at all, whereas in fact epic discussions have been taking place there, absolute sagas, lasting for days, cross-referencing each other and being referred to endlessly on other blogs. We are assured that the old girl--Enetation, that is--will be back on her feet in no time.

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