Saturday, May 31, 2003

Love makes you do the wacky

Wow, just stayed up to catch a few minutes of the live overnight feed of Big Brother, and it was so riveting I watched for almost the full two hours! Saxon, it turns out, is madly smitten with Joanne, and spent most of the time using elaborate rhetorical devices to convey same without declaring it ("if only I could say what I really what to say," etc., and it only got more involuted than that). Joanne's other puppy, Vincent, was elsewhere for most of this but he walked in near the end and...well, one senses tension on the horizon, let's put it that way. Meanwhile Ben is hovering around like Endora on Bewitched, lapping up the mayhem. All of which is of course so much more exciting when you catch it live.

Sigh, yes, my life is rather empty at the moment, why do you ask?

Friday, May 30, 2003

Luciano Berio RIP

ILM is possibly the only music forum in the world where you will find threads devoted to serious contemplation of the work of both Britney Spears and Luciano Berio, one of my favourite contemporary composers, who I'm sad to learn has just died.

Thursday, May 29, 2003

Aptest typo ever!

The Webflicks entry for Woody Allen's The Curse of the Jade Scorpion calls it The Curse of the Jaded Scorpion, which is not only a pretty appropriate name for this (almost unwatchable) movie, but a rather choice metaphor for Woody's career at this point, don't you think?

Wednesday, May 28, 2003


Watched O Brother, Where Art Thou? on DVD. I'm always frightfully disdainful of Americans who say they find Northern English, Scottish etc. accents impossible to understand, but damn me if I didn't find this film's version of a depression-era Mississippi accent, coupled with the Coen Brothers' rapid-fire witticisms, so near impenetrable that I turned the subtitles on. The shame!


Massive, earth-shattering developments on Big Brother. Firstly, Ben seems to be engaged on a campaign to become the most hated housemate of all time. He'll be evicted on Sunday by a record margin, mark my words. Meanwhile, though, I've just caught a few minutes of the overnight feed and Belinda has walked out of the house! Amazing stuff.

But on a more contemplative note, something Leah said on Sunday has stuck with me. (She's become one of those people I warm to after they've been evicted.) She said that she'd managed to convince herself (with substantial goading from Ben, of course) that she "saw through" the other housemates, that she was wise to their deceptions and dissimulations, that she knew they were "playing the game." But she ultimately decided that she was wrong, that it was her confidence that nobody was fooling her that was actually naïve.

This strikes me as, on the one hand, a fairly profound realisation for an eighteen-year-old to make (I know eighteen-year-olds, I've taught lots of them, and while they have lots of good qualities, an awareness of the limitations of their own imperviousness to spin is not, as a rule, one of them). But it also seems to me to be a fairly apt metaphor for the attitude of people who consider themselves "above" Big Brother, who claim--loudly and volubly--that its pleasures are fraudulent and the people who watch it are the dupes of late-capitalist ideology. As Lacan once punned, Les non-dupes errent, the non-duped err. You think you've tunnelled through to the surface of ideology, only to find yourself clinging for dear life to its slippery carapace. Or, to put it differently from that rather unpleasant metaphor, here's Ian Penman recently on the subject of both Big Brother and that other recent combination of cultural spectacle and philosophical heuristic:

Thus, the matrix spreads - and, just like its hick cousin Big Brother, its success primarily consists in making us think that even ignoring it is a priori a form of 'coming to terms' with its omnipresence.

You are already playing the game.

Sunday, May 25, 2003

Ring, ring, why don't you give me a call?

Saw Phone Booth today in what has been a bit of a Big Hollywood Binge for me lately. Well, the arthouse/Unamerican fare has been pretty uninspiring--I still should see Whale Rider some time which has been recommended by Plasmo among others, but the trouble is uplifting films tend to annoy me when I'm in a sour mood myself.

So, anyway, Phone Booth. Loads of fun. A delightful if obvious little fable about the inverse relationship between communication and the technologies that are supposed to enable it. The many implausibilities are entirely beside the point. How nice for once to see a Hollywood film that doesn't think it's better or bigger than it is. (I'm looking at you, Matrix Regurgitated.)

Saturday, May 24, 2003

Small victories [warning: this post contains intellectual snobbery]

The Saturday Review section in The Guardian used to introduce John Mullan's "Book Club" column with the rubric "John Mullan deconstructs [insert standard book club fodder of choice]," thereby setting on edge the teeth of those of us who, while perhaps we're not the greatest fans of Jacques Derrida or Paul de Man, don't like to see their vocabulary taken in vain. Lately, I notice, they've changed it to "John Mullan analyses...". Perhaps he'd gotten one too many disapproving looks from his UCL colleagues. Perhaps John Sutherland had a quiet word. In any case, although I realise that on the scale of current world events this is a rather trivial matter, it's still nice to know that sometimes the forces of good can carry the day.


One of the most consistently funny bits in Private Eye is the "Polly Filler" column, which captures the inanity of chick-lit pseudo-feminism with almost frightening accuracy:

The pictures on the television of the battered and looted city of Baghdad tell the tragic story of a nation on the brink. With law and order collapsing, typhoid breaking out and religious fundamentalism on the rise, how on earth can sanity prevail? Well, to anyone looking at the scenes of all those men behaving badly(!), the solution is glaringly obvious. Put a woman in charge! And not just any woman, but the sort of busy career woman who is already juggling her work and her home life, her job and her family. Any woman who can organise a football birthday cake for the toddler, whilst paying off the Barclaycard bill and taking a conference call from the boss can easily handle something as simple as restoring normality to Iraq.
As the heroine of my best-selling novel Mummy For Old Rope, Jilly Fuller, puts it, “If a job’s worth doing, it’s worth getting a woman to do it properly.”

I haven't seen Down with Love, which just opened in the US, but one point the reviews I've read don't seem to be making is that the Doris Day/Rock Hudson films of the 1950s are a relevant thing to satirise precisely because their rhetoric (the reactionary masked as the unthreateningly progressive) has had such a notable revival in the recent popular discourse about gender. I wonder if that means the movie is actually more interesting than the critics seem to think?

Thursday, May 22, 2003

At-ten-tion! Ré-sis-tez et vous ser-ez ex-ter-min-és!

That, in case you're wondering, is a French dalek. Amazing what you pick up from watching the special features on Doctor Who DVDs. Do you know what else, though? Working on Doctor Who must have been quite simply the most fun ever, tight budgets, shaky sets and everything. Everyone they dig up to interview or commentate has such unforced affection for the show. (Of course, maybe they've just passed over the "My Doctor Who Hell" people, but I doubt it.)

She saved the world a lot (and then she saved it a bit more)

So it's official...Buffy the Vampire Slayer is over. The Americans have now seen the final episode, and we'll be getting it in a couple of months' time. Now, Buffy is unquestionably my favourite television show ever, so at this point I should be feeling at least some anticipatory mourning...but really, if I'm honest, I'm not. Why? Well, for one thing I'm just grateful that the show finished before it went into terminal decline (I refuse to use that other phrase, you know the one). At the basest level, Buffy is perfectly amenable to the kind of formulaic automation that could have seen season after season being churned out well after it had lost any vestige of its soul, like the now absolutely unwatchable Simpsons. (Talking of losing your soul, I'm all for bringing back Angelus, but shouldn't he be a bit...scarier?) Of course, some people would say Buffy lost its way long ago, but although my memories are always going to be fondest about the second half of Season 2, all of Season 3 and the odd episode of Season 4, good Lord the writers are still capable of pulling one out of the bag. Loved last night's twist in which it was revealed that Principal Wood was the son of the infamous Spike-victim subway slayer! (Complete with cute reference to the last scene of "Hush," one for the fans.)

Anyway, I think I've decided over the last year or so that I just don't have the energy to be a really, really proper fan, the kind that would be donning the sackcloth and ashes about now.

But maybe you should ask me again in a couple of months' time.

Monday, May 19, 2003

It just clicks

I've listened to enormous amounts of the genre called microhouse or click-house or glitch-house or minimal house or minimal techno or about a thousand other things since I "discovered" it earlier this year. Given that it's a genre devoted to stripped-down grooves and tiny, incremental variations, it's perhaps understandable that I'm almost on the verge of being bored with it. But then I listen to Farben's album Textstar (Klang), as I'm doing right now (confession: I downloaded it, I didn't buy it), and it all makes sense. It's really a stunning piece of work: a meticulous attention to texture, including the use of "glitches" and "clicks" (basically regularised vinyl blips) that characterises the more experimental, pretentious, Mille Plateaux end of the genre, but combined with a deep, deep Herbert-like love of jazzy grooves (why can I like jazz in this context but not in the context of say, actual jazz?), so that the end result sounds almost spontaneous and improvised, but not quite: it's the kind of unpredictability that emerges from extremely complex mathematical patterns, rather than the ordinary "human" kind.

One thing, though: this really is headphone music. It gains immensely from the illusion that it's being generated within your eardrums. Is there something a bit perverse about dance music being headphone music? Is there something about it that I officially don't approve of? Yes and yes, but what the hell, it's making me happy.

On another topic: Carlo evicted! Yet again the Australian public enacts its revenge on the most entertaining housemate. I'm quite glad he had the integrity to be visibly pissed off.

Sunday, May 18, 2003

It's all about the coat

I did what felt a bit like my duty today and saw The Matrix Reloaded. Can't quite decide what to think of it. I mean yes, it looked terrific and the fight scenes were amazing (I guess) and Keanu looked very cool in that weird coat thing they had him in, but did the dialogue really have to be quite so earnest and ponderous? Also, did it have to sound quite so much like what people think clever people talk like? If they want their characters' banter to sound like hip postmodern philosophy, why not get a hip postmodern philosopher to write it? I'm sure Zizek would be up for it.

And another thing...I hate to sound like a very old person, and I like noise, I really do, but it seems like the volume level at screenings of action pictures has just gone completely over the top in the last year or so. In the scene with the after-church social, or whatever it was, it really felt like being in a nightclub, which was good I guess, but on the other hand you don't want to feel like your eardrums are going to burst every time a character exhales too zealously. (Incidentally, it seems like progressive house is the eschatological party music of choice for the inhabitants of Zion, which is a bit strange.)

Anyway, there seemed to be a lot of rather pointless plot developments that will maybe all come together in the third movie, who knows, but for now I'm underwhelmed. Except for that coat.

Saturday, May 17, 2003


Alexis Petridis in The Guardian, reviewing Tricky's new album, predictably doesn't pass up the opportunity to stick the boot into dance music for failing to live up to the rockist trajectory envisaged for it by him and his ilk:

With Britpop's memory kept alive by books and documentary films, it's easy to forget that the mid-1990s were also a high-water mark for dance music. It saw the rise of a series of artists who seemed capable of transforming club music from something ephemeral into an album- and concert-based genre that made sense even if you weren't on drugs. High expectations were placed upon Underworld, Orbital, Goldie, Portishead and Leftfield. Perhaps too high: each one faded rather quicker than expected. Dance music skulked back into the clubs, ephemeral once more.

Even once we've ignored the artificial but now traditional grafting of Tricky (and for that matter Portishead) onto club-based dance music, as if they were in any way part of the same project, I really don't know how to begin counting the number of ways I disagree with that paragraph. ("Made sense even if you weren't on drugs"? Fuck off!) But really, the image of an entire genre, especially this one, "skulking" back into the clubs (skulking!) is absurd enough that perhaps no further comment is required.

Something worthwhile

My brother Dan has a blog. It's beautifully designed, and much more thoughtful and less trivial than mine. Highly recommended if you want something actually thought-provoking.

As opposed to...

Well, this is definitely shaping up as a fascinating Big Brother, after the slight disappointment of last year's blandness. Not only do we have people spilling secrets on national TV about their jailbird relatives, there are also several genuinely watchable characters, from the almost impossibly down-to-earth Regina to the lovely Chrissie, who is an inner-Melbourne girl through and through, more like someone I might know than any previous BB housemates I can think of. It's true that they have been a bit heavy on the gimmicks--such as this week's palaver of making two people from each house swap to the other one and then evicting one of the four tonight (poor dear Jaime, who was just coming into his own). But once the two houses are "merged" next Monday hopefully they will have run out of coups de théatre and we can start concentrating on just getting to know the people, which is what I've always liked best about BB, whatever lingering doubts I may have about its pandering to my psychological voyeurism. (My, not "our"--how I loathe that journalistic projection of disavowed emotions onto a rhetorical first person plural which is never really a first person at all..."our declining standards," "our appetite for sleaze"...for "our" read "their," it's as simple as that.)

Tuesday, May 13, 2003

Being found

Ah, my poor little blog, how I've neglected you. I've been sick and stuff, but since this isn't a LiveJournal I won't go into excruciating detail about it.

If you haven't already done so, have a look at the comments from this post. How very internet to mention someone you've never met in a blog entry, then have them stumble across it! It was lovely to hear from Stilgherrian. Especially since I said something nice about him! I hope Dougray Scott never googles his name...

Let's see, culture. Big Brother 3 has started in Australia. The big gimmick is that it's divided into two houses. I'm hooked on it of course, I always am, but this year there's been a disturbing amount of meta-coverage, including something of a surfeit of the official Big Brother psychologist. We don't need to be told what role each of the housemates is there to play; we can work that out for ourselves, and it's like a magician revealing secrets. Previously unseen in Australian BB, at least this early in the series: outright enmity between housemates. Bring it on!

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