Monday, June 30, 2003

Why the Big Brother house is not a panopticon

Thanks to John for taking the bait and asking me to expand on this! (Clears throat.)

OK, well, from my memories of Foucault's Discipline and Punish, which admittedly I haven't read for a few years, the original panopticon was Jeremy Bentham's hypothetical prison in which all the prisoners would be constantly visible from a central surveillance area, but--and this is crucial--they couldn't themselves see whether they were being watched. The idea was that knowing they might be being watched would be enough to make them "behave," whether or not they were actually being watched at any given moment.

Now, I don't think there were ever actually any panopticons built--at least not "pure" Benthamite ones, although there were certainly quasi-panoptic structures in places like boarding school dormitories. (Hmm, I wonder why?) But Foucault takes the panopticon as a metaphor (actually a far from flawless metaphor but it's the one that's stuck) for the way in which the modern subject of "discipline" works--we believe that we are always potentially being "watched" or kept track of by authority figures and institutions, so we internalise this potential surveillance to the point where discipline is something that 99% of the time we end up imposing on ourselves. We keep our papers in order just in case. But it's actually crucial to Foucault's argument that (a) most of the time we actually aren't being watched, and (b) we know this. The vast majority of the time, disciplinary power is exercised "latently", which means that in a sense it's not really exercised at all, it's on autopilot. (As an aside, I've been thinking lately that "latency" might end up being a concept that binds together practically all my intellectual interests...perhaps I'll expand on that at some point.)

This is the bit of Foucault that "undergraduates" tend to miss (I'm using scare quotes because it's not just undergraduates, in fact it's plenty of academics too). The idea of the panopticon conjures up for people the Orwellian idea of Big Brother, and thus it tends to be assumed that "discipline" is something people experience in their everyday lives as oppressive and weighty, whereas in fact it's not just something people take for granted, it's the means by which they understand themselves as subjects. Without my place in the bureaucratic apparatus, I'm nothing. It doesn't (just) imprison me; it enables me to experience this thing we call a self.

This is also why Foucault, despite superficial affinities, has no truck with conspiracy-theory paranoia, which is the belief not just that you may be being watched, but that you are at every moment being watched. From a Foucauldian point of view there's a certain conceitedness about this kind of paranoia, since to believe that you're being watched you have to believe that you're "special," that you have somehow made the powers that be break out in a sweat. (Cf. all those sixties student radicals who were pleased or disappointed to discover that they were or weren't the subjects of ASIO or FBI or MI5 dossiers. Cf. also The Matrix, which turns paranoia into a condition of heroic action--you are being watched, therefore you are "The One.")

So, what about Big Brother then? Well, for one thing, the Big Brother house isn't a panopticon because the housemates don't just know that they may be being watched, they know that they are in fact being watched at every moment. (They are like justified paranoiacs in that sense.) This entirely modifies, and arguably even negates, the intended effect of panoptic surveillance, which is to make the subject internalise disciplinary norms; instead, the housemates' relationship to "Big Brother" becomes in effect a parody of the ancien régime, in which the primary mode was not discipline but exemplary and public punishment (in this case the "three strikes" rule).

The other reason why the BB house is not a panopticon is of course that it's not a prison, not even the kind of quasi-prison that (according to the more depressing versions of Foucauldian thought) we inhabit in our everyday lives. In this context it is actually important that this is a TV show, it's not everyday life, the normal rules of disciplinary subjecthood are suspended. The housemates aren't expected to be "useful" or to "improve" themselves in any way; apart from the odd rudimentary and half-serious "task" they can do whatever they like. And they've all taken time off work to go into the house, it's scandalous! Hardly the sort of thing an obedient bureaucratic subject would do.

I'm afraid, then, that Big Brother has absolutely nothing to teach us about the operation of modern discipline and surveillance, about people's relationships to institutions. What is has a lot to teach us about is people's relationships to each other, which are not rendered meaningless--if anything, the reverse--by the apparatus of being part of a TV show, any more than they would be rendered meaningless by occurring in (for example) a highjacked plane or a submarine or any other atypical or highly stressful situation. The notion that people on Big Brother spend all their time "playing up to the cameras," even if it were true, does not make their actions uninteresting from a psychological point of view. Just ask a psychologist.

What is really frustrating is the consistency with which people get this the wrong way round; on the one hand they really believe that Big Brother is genuinely symptomatic of some Orwellian/Foucauldian/Benthamite trend in contemporary society, but on the other hand they reject absolutely the idea that there is any genuine human interaction going on at all! Thus what is most unreal about the show is taken for real, and vice versa. It's curious.

Big Brother in Crossover Shocker!

OK, first things first, Jamie evicted…um, why? I mean, granted, he was a bit of a twat at times this week, but people, you left Vincent there! You were supposed to evict him last week but he survived by, like two SMS votes or something (courtesy of his extended family no doubt)…why weren't you shocked into action? We're now left with a ratio of two boring useless bland game-players to three delightful interesting human beings, which is certainly not the worst BB has ever had, but still, what might have been…

In other, er, "exciting" news, there's going to be an Aussie/UK Big Brother crossover! Ex-UK housemate Anushka (sp?) is going into the Aussie BB house, I gather just for an evening. Now, I'm certainly curious about this because I've talked so much about BB with my UK friends, but I wonder if this won't just be a big yawn for the vast majority of Aussies who don't actually care about the UK show? We'll see. I'm also wondering if there's going to be a reciprocal intrusion on the UK show. Who could we possibly send them? Irena? Nah, too boring. Ben? Would certainly stir things up, but he's an ugly fat bloke as well as a bastard, and we can't have that. Carlo??? The mind boggles. (Actually, the perfect choice would be Leah.)


Ian Penman usefully invokes Foucault's History of Sexuality a propos BB (obvious innit? and not just because diary room = confession box--they know it does, of course--but on a less self-conscious level the incitement to discourse is everywhere. On the other hand, no, the BB house is not a panopticon, ask me why.) Penman (and for that matter Foucault) would get a kick out of the Aussie "BB Uncut" show (there's no British equivalent, if I'm not mistaken)…talk about "transforming your desire, your every desire, into discourse"…discourse is in fact is the only outlet for desire that's available to the poor dears! (Wanking aside, but apparently they don't even do that, although I find that hard to comprehend or imagine.)


Talking of Penman, I love him, but he's not half an old grump sometimes. Does it not occur to him that the reason he's so depressed about pop music is that he's looking for "the underground" in all the wrong places? And as for his rant about Nu-Blogger, does he really think Blogger was OK the way it was?

(Do remind me, though, never to compose an entire lengthy post in the Blogger posting window ever, ever again! I just lost the majority of this one and had to rewrite it. Idiot! The first version was much better, too, there was this elaborate metaphor about undergraduates adding the word "panopticon" to their spell-check dictionaries which I couldn't quite be bothered to repeat.)

Sunday, June 29, 2003


Went clubbing last night for the first time in ages, to Deep Chord, a monthly minimal house night. I met Plasmo and Helen there; I think they were surprised to see me, since I had been making "maybe-I-will-maybe-I-won't" noises, which in my case almost always means I actually won't. But I'm really glad I did go…they were playing the kind of music I've been endlessly enthusing over here lately, and I've been curious to hear how it would sound in a club environment. I was slightly doubtful, to tell you the truth; I thought the effect might be rather wimpy, but as it turns out, every beautifully textured minimal groove contains a monster bassline just waiting to be liberated by a decent PA! What struck me, too, was the sheer variety of sounds that come under this broad heading, especially in Damien Laird's set, which took in everything from Trapez-style high-sheen tech-house to Kompakt "shuffle" (of which more later) to Metro Area-ish stripped down disco-funk to the unmistakable sound of Perlon (at once the weirdest and the funkiest music of the night). "Minimal" house is really a misnomer; perhaps "intimate" house would be more appropriate, and it certainly is music for an intimate venue…upstairs at Pony was perfect, a really comfortable space, no more than 50 or so people (possibly would have been more if the official website hadn't got the address of the bar wrong! some sort of underground litmus test? fortunately I was clued in), very laid-back crowd, and a small, actually fairly half-hearted dancefloor, which took some getting used to (although it almost filled up once or twice, especially for Michael Mayer's extraordinary shuffle version of "Love is Stronger than Pride"…OK, that's enough trainspotting for one post). All in all, the best clubbing night I've had for ages. I'll be back.


OK, that Beyoncé record then. I've now heard about 2/3 of it, and as a result the wow factor of the first four tracks has been slightly diluted by some rather ordinary ballads--including, as Jon of the excellent Astronaut's Notepad points out, a truly excruciating Luther Vandross collaboration, the only good thing about which is that it serves as a salutary reminder of how rubbish R&B used to be. (One of the ballads is in 3/4, incidentally! But it's not good enough to displace Aaliyah. Best of the ballads so far is the bizarre, glitched-up "Yes.") Still, it's like Justin's similarly front-loaded Justified; anything would seem banal after those first four tracks, so let's just take a minute to appreciate them…

We begin with the Jay-Z collaboration "Crazy in Love," which is currently duking it out in my brain with P!nk's "Feel Good Time" for the title of, er, feel good single of the year so far. Pure, horn-drenched joy; but what this really brings home to me is the extent to which, in post-Timbaland R&B (did Timba actually produce this album? I really should check), the human voice (whether rapping or singing) is so integrated with the beat that it almost becomes a percussion instrument. (The beatboxing revival is the most obvious example of this. Is there a beatboxing revival or am I just inventing one based on Justin's work on "Rock Your Body"? Let's ask the audience.)

We then move on to the Bhangrified "Naughty Girl." I know Bollywood sounds are everywhere at the moment, but…well, just stop and think about that for a minute! What kind of bizarre pop moment are we living through when sitars and tablas are actually a cliché? And people say pop music is boring these days, honestly I dunno. Anyway, the great thing about this track is that it shows off what the ultra-crisp-n-shiny Destiny's Child hits often disguised, that is, the fact that Beyoncé simply has a brilliant voice. That breathy but perfectly controlled upper register is pure sex; quite reminiscent in fact of Donna Summer, which is why when Beyoncé extrudes the hookline of "Love to Love You, Baby" at the start of this it doesn't seem like sacrilege.

Then, "Baby Boy" with Sean Paul (yep, it's a duet-intensive record, like all other R&B records I guess)…a bhangra dancehall track! It doesn't get any more zeitgeisty than this. Bloody good, though.

Then "Hip Hop Star" comes on, featuring two guest rappers I haven't heard of, and…oh my God it's shuffle-beat!. Let me explain. Shuffle (or Schäffel) is an obscure sub-genre of minimal techno, pioneered by Cologne label Kompakt, the defining feature of which is that each beat is divided into three rather than the usual two (or four or six); in other words, it's a triplet rhythm, the most unexpected thing you could possibly hear in dance music, as witnessed by the fact that people actually laugh out loud when one of these tracks comes on (it's true, I saw it happen last night), and take a few minutes working out exactly how they're supposed to dance to it. It has a strangely gauche, almost oom-pah sound to it, like techno for the Oktoberfest set, but somehow when it's done right it works. Anyway, this is what I can only describe as shuffle hip-hop! And it's terrific.

Sigh…if only R&B artists made EPs.

Saturday, June 28, 2003

Let's Waltz!

As promised, here's the provisional tracklisting for my compilation CD, "La valse à mille temps: 21 songs in 3/4 time." Credits for suggestions/contributions in square brackets:

  1. The Avalanches - Two Hearts in 3/4 Time
  2. Dusty Springfield - Sunny
  3. John Coltrane - My Favorite Things, Part 1 [John]*
  4. The Smiths - Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want [John]
  5. Japan - Night Porter
  6. Mathias Schaffhäuser - Some Kind Of
  7. Pizzicato Five - Sweet Thursday [Erin]
  8. Aimee Mann - Amateur [Fiona]
  9. Serge Gainsbourg - Valse de Melody
  10. Aaliyah - I Care 4 U
  11. John Barry - The Persuaders theme [John]
  12. Natalie Imbruglia - That Day [Dan]
  13. Crowded House - Pineapple Head [Fiona]
  14. Jimi Hendrix - Manic Depression [John]
  15. Tom Jones - What's New, Pussycat?
  16. Elvis Costello - New Amsterdam [John]
  17. Dave Brubeck - It's a Raggy Waltz [Hec]
  18. Tom Waits - In the Neighborhood [John]
  19. Elliott Smith - Waltz #1 [Lyra Jane]**
  20. kd lang - Outside Myself
  21. Jacques Brel - La Valse à mille temps
* Not, sadly, the full fourteen-minute version, but a three-minute chunk which I believe was released as a 7" single. Still, better than nothing.

**Actually, Lyra Jane suggested the same artist's "Waltz #2," but #1 is even better!

As I said, I'll wait a while before sending this one out; in the meantime, suggestions are still welcome. I could afford to lose a jangly guitar pop number or two. (I'll have to make a copy to take up to Sydney for John next week, though, given the truly heroic nature of his contribution! I've only used about a third of his suggestions, too…). Oh, and you know I hate to brag, but that Brel number is the best closing song of any compilation ever.


Weird thing: I got unsolicited e-mail from a drug company yesterday, advertising a new drug for Crohn's disease. Which means that somehow, they've managed to get hold of (1) my e-mail address, and (2) the fact that I have Crohn's. I'm pretty sure I've never signed up for any Crohn's stuff on-line; how on Earth do they know about me? Has some "helpful" person submitted my details to them? It's all a bit creepy.

Friday, June 27, 2003

Dead metaphor alert

Heard tonight on a commercial: "Unfortunately, in real life we can't turn back the clock." Er, correct me if I'm wrong, but surely in real life we can turn back the clock? Quite easily, in fact. We do it every year when daylight savings ends!


Thanks to those who've contributed suggestions for songs in 3/4. I've now got more than enough to make a compilation CD, and have had a lot of fun devising a playlist, which I'll post in the next day or so (although I'll probably wait a while before offering the CD to the general public, since I've only just sent one out)...in the meantime, suggestions are still welcome. I can say with confidence, though, that this will be the indie-est compilation I ever make!

(I haven't got a single double bass suggestion, so I suspect that idea is dead in the water. May at some point put together a more limited compilation of electronic music with double bass though.)

Then again...

...even repeating one's own jokes puts one fairly firmly in Brent territory, doesn't it?

O strange new blog

I didn't have to change the template, but Nu-Blogger fucked up the way my old template handled block quotes (which I was never terribly happy with anyway), so what the hell, in for a penny. Richard has already alerted me to a problem with the fonts, which I think I've fixed by switching to our old friend, Verdana, but please let me know if it looks crappy on your browser for any reason. (Especially if you're an expert at tweaking Blogger templates, which is a bit of a pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey exercise for me.)

My favourite thing about Nu-Blogger: not only do the archives seem to actually work, but you can change the date format to an Unamerican one, hurrah!


I seem to have created a meme with my comment on the US Supreme Court's decision that the Texas anti-sodomy law is unconstitutional. My offhand reply on Buffistas was: "WOO-HOO! Just to celebrate, I feel like going to Texas and fucking some cowboy up the ass." So far, one (straight) guy says he's been repeating this all over his workplace; I've seen it appear on one of my friends' LiveJournals; and apparently a friend of this friend wants to use it as a .sig file! So I want it on the record that I invented the anal sex with cowboy joke, OK?

(Not to go all David Brent and analyse my own humour, but "cowboy," which was an afterthought, really is the crucial word there isn't it?)

Thursday, June 26, 2003

My LiveJournal Hell

Thanks to prodding from Shawn, I've finally taken the plunge and got a LiveJournal account. Don't worry, I haven't switched teams; I'll still be doing all my blogging here, especially since I've finally been upgraded to Nu-Blogger and it actually seems to work! (Unlike some of the horror stories I've read.) Although perhaps I'll use my LiveJournal if I'm ever inspired to post about my pets' diseases, or my results in the "What Hobbit Are You?" quiz, or the Friday Five...

No, I really must stop, I have lots of wonderful friends who write perfectly interesting LiveJournals, and in fact that's why I've joined, so that I can keep track of them all more easily and leave comments for them without being rudely classified as "anonymous," as LJ does to any non-LJ person. (Not to mention the fact that LJers can ban non-LJers from posting comments altogether.)

But whatever your feelings about LiveJournal, you have to admit that the Friends page, where you can catch up on everyone's updates at once, is pretty handy, even if it removes the flexibility of a blog proper, as well as the feeling of being open to the rest of the world, which is what I really want. Now I just have to get my "friend of" quota up, since it's looking pretty sparse at the moment...oh, I see DXMachina has just added me, bless him! (It must be really making a statement on LJ when you remove someone from your friends list, huh?)

My Definition of House (and Techno and Trance and…) Music

Some unsuspecting person on Buffistas asked for a definition of the different types of dance music, which naturally I couldn't resist, so that's what I've been doing for the past hour! I think I'll just post it here (who knows, someone might find it helpful) instead of my planned post on the new Beyoncé record (which I've only heard four tracks from, but what a four tracks…anyway, I'll save my superlatives for another day). Apologies for any crass generalisations. (Any prog. house fans reading will hunt me down after this):

OK, dance music genres: the most basic and easy-to-hear division is between genres that use a 4/4 beat (which doesn't actually refer to the time signature--since almost all dance music is in 4/4 time--but the nature of the beat which is "four on the floor", ie every beat in the bar is heavily accented with a kickdrum beat, ie the "doof doof doof doof" beat of stereotype; any syncopation that happens is internal to the beat) or a breakbeat (ie a syncopated beat as in hip-hop, which is usually sampled from a classic soul or funk track). Of the 4/4 genres, the most common are house, techno and trance (each of which has about a thousand subgenres); of the breakbeat genres (other than hip-hop which I presume you know about) the most common are jungle (aka drum'n'bass) and the genre usually just called "breaks" (or sometimes "nu-school breaks"). Then there are genres which kind of fall in between 4/4 and breakbeat, namely electro and UK garage. Now, some definitions (bear in mind that these are debatable):

House began in Chicago in the late 80s (at a club called the Warehouse, hence the name) and it's essentially the direct descendant of disco. The earliest house tracks were very simple and stripped down, looped vocals over a 4/4 beat, but house has diversified so much over the years that it's really impossible to pin down…what separates it from techno is, notionally, that it's more "human" and "soulful" (and often a bit slower), its themes can be summed up as (1) love will save the day, and (2) dancing is a lot of fun; it's less self-consciously futuristic than techno, but there's a lot of crossover.

Techno--in the sense of a specific genre rather than an umbrella term for dance music (a usage which most techno lovers, including me, dislike!)--was born in Detroit around the same time as house, but as well as disco the music of people like Kraftwerk and 80s synth pop was an enormous influence, so the sound is much more synth-driven, often "harder" (especially in its later incarnations in places like Belgium), the rhetoric is all about technology and the future and science fictiony stuff, there are hardly any vocals, and to a newcomer it can sound very alienating and (famously) repetitive. Actually, for a history of techno you could do a lot worse than look at the site Plasmo helped set up: Sounds Like Techno.

Trance This started as an offshoot of techno in the early 90s in Europe, but has become very much its own genre, known for big, emotive, often rather cheesy "melodic" synths, and breakdowns (ie the bits where you stand around on the dance floor wondering what to do) that go on for ever (particularly accelerating snare rolls). The word "uplifting" gets thrown around a lot. The 4/4 beat is usually very basic, just a kickdrum thud alternating with a hi-hat. "Progressive house"--an example of which is that dreary Paul Oakenfold track they use for the after-church social in The Matrix Reloaded--is quite similar to trance (only a bit slower and less "euphoric"). In Europe trance is the default mode for pop-dance at the moment, esp. for cover versions (eg DJ Sammy's version of, gulp, Bryan Adams' "Heaven"), but I don't know whether you would ever hear this "pop-trance" stuff in the US.

Jungle/drum'n'bass Grew out of early-90s rave culture in the UK ("rave music" began as essentially techno but mutated into a number of different things, the most important of which was jungle). Once you've heard jungle, it's instantly recognisible: extremely fast breakbeats, so fast that at first you can't imagine anyone actually being able to dance to them, and usually very big, speaker-shaking basslines. There are also lots of reggae and hip-hop influences in jungle. It's usually thought to be past its prime as a genre nowadays, although some would disagree.

"Breaks" Plasmo is the one to ask about this! It's breakbeat music, slower than jungle but still retaining its influence, other than that I don't really know how to describe it and it doesn't really exist as a scene in the US anyway so it's probably not important. What does exist in the US is the slightly different genre known as "big beat"--ie breakbeats with rock samples, a la Chemical Brothers and Fat Boy Slim. This is probably the music that most people thing of as "techno"! (Sadly.)

Electro Electro was a genre from the 80s that has been having a revival lately--in its pure form it's a kind of techno characterised by more complex beats and particular kinds of analog-like synth sounds, but to a lay person it's probably completely indistinguishable from techno. But it shades over into poppier territory with the likes of Fischerspooner and that dreaded word "electroclash", which is basically anything that sounds like it might come from the 80s, with lyrics about taking cocaine and having sex with robots.

UK garage I'm really unqualified to talk about this, but what jungle was to the mid-90s, UK garage (or "UKG") is to the late 90s/early 00s. Garage was originally a term for a particular style of vocal house, but UK garage has little in common with house any more. Like jungle, it grew out of the London pirate radio scene. In its early form it was associated with "2-step" beats (ie fast, skittering breakbeats) and vocals that recalled R&B. The only UKG acts to really break in the US have been Craig David (but only his earlier stuff like "Rewind" and "Fill me in" is strictly UKG, he's more or less R&B now) and The Streets (Mike Skinner is really a genre of his own, but the beats he uses are basically UK garage beats). The latest thing in UK garage, however, has been the emergence of a harder, more rap-based style known as "garage rap" or "gutter garage"--the most hyped exponent of which is the brilliant 17-year-old MC/producer Dizzee Rascal; quick, jump on the bandwagon while there's still time!

Bloody hell, I don't know if that's helpful at all (and I haven't even got around to IDM, nu-jazz, psy-trance, broken beat, glitchtronica, drill'n'bass, happy hardcore…) the most important thing is that genres don't just refer to a sound, they also refer to a particular scene and culture (like rock genres, of course)…also, although I'm not a genre-phobe, you shouldn't really worry too much about them, because no two people will agree on the genre of a given track anyway! I'd just be happy if people stopped referring to Fatboy Slim as "techno"…

Oh, and a useful site is Groovetech, a dance music store which meticulously classifies its records by genre and has sound files so you can actually listen to what stuff sounds like!

Tuesday, June 24, 2003

Better stand back, here's an age attack! Peace out!

I know this has been linked absolutely everywhere, but I can't resist: Andrew Motion's poems for Wills' 21st. Not only is further comment unnecessary, it's also, in this case, quite impossible. I'm lost for words.


Maybe it's just me, but I feel like there's a bit of a Renaissance going on over at B.org at the moment. A few weeks ago I was seriously wondering whether it was worth the effort; I would read page after page just thinking to myself "Oh shut up you bunch of idiots!" But lately I've had lots of great conversations there, even in the Natter thread. True, I did get into a heated argument about Narnia (with specific reference to the Platonic eschatology of The Last Battle and the fate of Susan) that I've not only had before but had with the same people before, but I guess that's the price you pay.


I do like that Marcello Carlin piece on Dizzee Rascal I referred to yesterday, but as several people on other blogs and forums have pointed out, he makes one claim that is so bizarrely counterfactual that it makes you wonder if he's actually listened to the record at all: "this album demonstrates no humour whatsoever or wheresoever." Huh???

"Hulk skin tone look atrocious!"

Funniest thing I've read for--oh, days: on excellent-blog-despite-being-named-after-a-Leonard-Cohen-lyric, The Minor Fall, The Major Lift, a review of the new Hulk movie by the Hulk himself.

(Being a Movable Type blog, that permalink actually works, too! What is this, a conspiracy to make me change platforms?)

Monday, June 23, 2003

More Canadian-bashing; I'll stop soon, I promise

Sorry to harp on the Violent Femmes, but over the past few years a surefire sign of terminal musical naffness has appeared: you really know you're crap when one of your songs gets picked up for one of those toe-curling Mitsubishi singalong commercials. I mean, so far we've had The New Radicals' "You Get What You Give" (which used to be a bit of a guilty pleasure for me, I admit, a breath of neo-Supertrampish fresh air among all the glum indie and metal videos on Rage--ah, Rage programming, that's a rant for another day--anyway, it turns out not to be one of those songs that sounds just as fresh the 1,395th time you hear it); The Barenaked Ladies' "One Day" (God this is excruciating; they're Canadian too, enough said); Deni Hines's "That Word Love" (or whatever it's called, it's like the winner of a competition to write the blandest nu-soul song possible, the idea that anyone would sing along with it is frankly terrifying); and finally, on the special four wheel drive, leaning out of the window as you're driving along the beach and singing along edition, the Violent Femmes' "Blister in the Sun" (and isn't that song really about nuclear war anyway?...or drug addiction?...actually I don't have a clue what it's about but songs usually turn out to be about one of those two things). Those have been the songs in Australia anyway, and a sorry lineup it is…I believe the same idea has been used in other countries with different songs, can anyone confirm?

Meanwhile, things could so easily have been different. If only they had chosen a certain other Violent Femmes song as the twenty-first century anthem for four wheel drive owners everywhere, then not only would this have been the best ad campaign of all time, the Violent Femmes would have been the coolest band of all time merely by association. I think you know the song I'm talking about. (All together now, children…)


It's not often I have a kind word for John Howard, but I really must congratulate him on the choice of Major-General Michael Jeffery as our next Governor General.

After the Hollingworth affair, the most important thing was of course to select someone who could by no possible stretch of the imagination turn out to have concealed a sexual scandal that occurred under his leadership. In retrospect, the Prime Minister's mistake the first time around was choosing a candidate who came from an institution renowned for resistance to change, sweeping things under the carpet, and egregiously outdated attitudes to sexuality and gender relations. This time, in a complete about-face, he has selected a high-ranking member of the defence forces. It's good to see he's learnt his lesson.


3/4 update: John, via e-mail, helpfully provides that list of Smiths songs in 3/4: "That Joke Isn't Funny Any More", "Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me", "Back To The Old House", "I Know It's Over", and "Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want". He also made an intriguing but terse remark about musicians from Manchester and Liverpool really being "Irish" (hence the preponderance of 3/4 time). I'd love him to expand on that, either in my comments or in his own blog. How about it, John?

More obvious candidates: "What the World Needs Now," "You Light Up My Life," "What's New, Pussycat?", "Delilah." I'm also convinced that there must be at least one Prince song in 3/4.

I Luv Pooh

Indeed, much of this record could be considered as poignant a lament for expired childhood as the staggering final chapter of The House At Pooh Corner.
You've just gotta love Marcello Carlin. Who else would find a latent affinity between Dizzee Rascal and A. A. Milne? (Meanwhile, the anticipation for the album just grows and grows...)


My comments are down at the moment, so in reply to John, no, it's definitely not just dance music in 3/4 I'm looking for! It's anything in 3/4 (anything non-folk that is...and non-classical, and non-music theatre while we're at it; I want "pop music", but I might just stretch the category to include that one Miles Davis track--is it "All Blues"?--to make up for my egregious snubbing of jazz in the double bass category...because pop people are supposed to love Miles, it's a rule). And yes, saying 3/4 was "vanishingly rare" was an exaggeration, but it's still unusual enough to be interesting (to me). John tantalisingly comments that The Smiths "often" used 3/4...when? Tell me! Remember, I know nothing!


Kim and Saxon evicted! I'm sorry, but this is just the worst possible result. We now have two people out of six in the house who are absolute dead weight (Vincent and Patrick), and two of the people who have been most consistently entertaining, intriguing and--ultimately--endearing are now gone. I'm not surprised about Kim, but Saxon! Evidently he just nudged out the next candidate, presumably Vincent. Well, this is proof, if it were ever needed, that the votes aren't rigged. Thank God there has been such an unusually interesting group of people overall this year; we do still have Chrissie, Reggie and Dan, and Jamie has the potential to get interesting. But just let me take this opportunity, in the immortal words of Comic Book Guy, to register my disgust throughout the world.


Now, I know what you're all thinking: surely there's a song out there somewhere that is in 3/4 time and has a double bass. Well, wonder no more, because I've found it: "Once Around the Block" by Badly Drawn Boy.

In fact, there's also "Sweet Thursday" by Pizzicato Five, but I've finally decided to refine my criteria so that as well as no jazz, only songs with at least one non-acoustic element will qualify, so the Pizzicatos are out. (They'll still go in the 3/4 list though.) So there must be an electric guitar (as in BDB's case), a synth, a drum machine, sampling, whatever. (Songs with Fender Rhodes keyboards will be judged on a case-by-case basis.) That way, you see, I get to leave out the Femmes! As for the jazz exclusion, though, I may abandon the idea of excluding tracks that aren't jazz but "bring jazz to mind," because in reality those electronic tracks I'm listing are no doubt sampling their basslines from old jazz tracks, so it's a bit wishful to claim they don't bring jazz to mind!

Incidentally, the above tracks come from two compilation CDs sent to me by Erinaceous (of Buffista and lexicographic fame), which also contain two more 3/4 tracks! ("Dream of Wednesday" by The Flavor Channel and "Long, Long Day" by Paul Simon--one of the compilations has a theme, guess what it is! Is that Paul Simon track folk though?) Either Erin really has a thing for 3/4 time or there is a lot more of it around than I realised.

I'm coming to realise, meanwhile, that listing double bass songs is going to involve listing the entire output of several bands who just happen to have a double bassist in their lineup. You'll have to forgive a person whose view of pop music is so producer-centric that he forgets that there are these entities called "rock bands" that essentially consist of a fixed group of people who limit themselves to playing, more or less, the same instruments for each song, rather than just picking up or sampling whichever instrument or synth preset happens to be appropriate for the soundworld of the song in question. Quaint, isn't it? Anyway, in the case of such charmingly anachronistic collectives, I'll just pick the song in which the double bass is heard to its best advantage, OK?


Funny/interesting current thread titles from ILM. My interpolations in square brackets:

Sunday, June 22, 2003

Pre-emptive strike

Re: double bass. Yes, yes, I know, I know, the Violent Femmes. Damn, I can't stand them either. I don't want them on my list. Maybe I need to stipulate another exclusion: irritating Canadian ex-buskers.

(Is it just me, or is Canada second only to Ireland in its track record of producing pop music that makes you want to slap people?)

Hints for drug-dealing morons in uniform

Tonight on The Bill there was a plot development that struck me as totally implausible, but one I've seen in one form or another at least three times on TV in the past year, including once previously on The Bill itself. I'm referring to a scenario whereby prescription drugs seized by police from a dealer are traced back to the original prescribee (or prescribing doctor) because they're still in their original packaging, with the little sticker from the chemist on it.

Now, my life experience of the drug trade is more limited than you might think, but just speaking logically, don't you think that if you were supplying prescription drugs to a dealer, you might take the precaution of removing them from the bottle they came in, or at least peeling off the label with your name on it? Especially if, as was the case tonight, you are yourself a serving member of the Metropolitan Police. Am I wrong?


I'm serious about compiling that list of songs with funky acoustic basslines, so any suggestions from readers are more than welcome. I'm really interested in pop music (in the widest sense) that uses double bass ("live" or sampled) but isn't jazz, and doesn't bring jazz immediately to mind. Not, of course, because I have any objection to jazz double bass (hi Dan!), but because if I didn't make that exclusion the exercise would consist of "list every jazz song ever." What I've come up with so far is all house/minimal electronic stuff, namely:

Hmm, just had a thought, there's also the entire genre of "swing house," ie house that samples old big band music. (It's not as dodgy as it sounds, honest!) No, on second thoughts that had better fall under the "jazz" exclusion.

So how about it? Break me out of my dance music ghetto!

Oh, and I'm also compiling a list of pop songs in 3/4 time…just because I can! This time, the exclusion will have to be "folk," because the very first three folk songs I could think of off the top of my head are all in 3/4 (that "alive, alive-oh" one, "The Times They Are a Changin'," "And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda"--obviously! although have you ever noticed that "Waltzing Matilda" itself is not in 3/4 time?--oh, and I've just thought of another one, Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah"), whereas in every other kind of pop, anything non-4/4 is vanishingly rare. The list so far:

So, there you go, a little project!


Everyone's doing it! Check out my Dad's new blog. "Family ridicule" indeed…where on earth would he get an idea like that?

Saturday, June 21, 2003

Double bass alert

Little things that songs can do to make me like them, #1: have a funky, swaggering bassline played on (or sampled from) an actual acoustic double bass. Current example: "Tupperware" by weird-ass experimental dance-pop outfit 8 Doogymoto (from their album Minimalistico on Matthew Herbert's Soundslike label for the benefit of any trainspotters). Actually, it sounds like they use double bass on several of the tracks. I may have to start keeping a list; I feel a themed compilation coming on.


This week's Canonical Movie I Shamefully Hadn't Seen Before was Taxi Driver. I was struck by the very different "look" of the climactic shooting spree compared to the rest of the film: it looked somehow grainier or lighter, almost overexposed. I was quite impressed with this little expressionistic touch, reflecting (or so I thought) the dreamlike mental state of the protagonist. Then I watched the making-of documentary (almost as long as the film itself!) and found out that, far from being an aesthetic choice, it was actually something the censors had stipulated; the colour had to be "desaturated" because the sight of all that crimson was supposedly just too disturbing. The cinematographer is bitter to this day. So, two interesting things: (1) How far will I go to attribute an aesthetic motive, even for things that look wrong or strange, to a director I admire? Would I still think Gangs of New York was underappreciated, for example, if it wasn't a Scorsese film? (2) I've never heard of censoring the colour palette of a film before! Is this actually a common practice?

Buddy me up

Feeling singularly uninspired today, so I'll just report that I've finally got around to installing AIM, so please add my username (angusgmelb) to your Buddy List (vile Americanism! We Australians should have a Mates List), and engage me in pointless chit-chat any time you feel so moved. Both functions can also be performed using the gizmo in the right hand column. (Which will probably make this page take even longer to load, but that's life.)

Friday, June 20, 2003

Nobody deserves haiku, Buffy

Thanks to Richard for alerting me to the existence of D-Squared Digest. (Although since Richard has repeatedly refused to start his own blog, it's really the least he can do to act as a conduit to the best of other people's.) I wouldn't have wanted to miss this priceless (and spot-on) piece of haiku rage. (NB: that link, like all Blogger permalinks, doesn't actually work. Just go to the main page and scroll down if necessary.)

Thursday, June 19, 2003

Frequent flyer farrago

I feel a bit like John giving travellers' tips here, but as a service to my readers, can I issue the following plea: if you are checking the availability of Frequent Flyer award flights on the Qantas website, and you see a flight that you want, snap the fucker up! Don't wait a few hours, don't even wait a few minutes. Hit "add this flight to your itinerary" and then don't even breathe until you have the confirmation code in your sweaty hand.

Life teaches us lessons sometimes, and this lesson was brought home by trying this evening to book a ticket for my sister Miriam, who is using her points to bring our friend Keturah from Adelaide up to Sydney for a holiday and to see her perform (I was doing the booking for her because her own computer/internet access isn't working). We ended up having to book (a) business class tickets--that is, costing more points--with (b) a two-hour stopover in Melbourne on the return flight, on (c) completely different days than we wanted. One flight we wanted actually vanished before our eyes in the space of two minutes, while we were vainly checking if there were better flights on other days! (Yeah, as if. Another hint: there are never better flights on other days.) And yet, apparently there was a perfect set of flights available earlier in the afternoon.


I should put on record that I have totally changed my position on Kim. She's great! She's exactly what the house needed, and she does make the others (minus Reggie) look like a pack of childish, neurotic private school snobs at times. Unfortunately, she'll probably be evicted on Sunday. (We're having a double eviction, with all housemates nominated.) If only people could be sensible and just evict the two most boring housemates, namely Patrick and Vincent. Fat chance.

Oh. My. GOD.

Single of the year so far (apart perhaps from the epoch-making "I Luv U" by Dizzee Rascal): "Feel-Good Time" by P!nk, from the Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle soundtrack. This is just inexpressibly brilliant. The template (impossibly catchy power-pop riffs combined with 80s-ish dance beats) is perhaps not a million miles from "Get this Party Started" or whatever it was called, but in terms of pure invention and joy this is in a totally different league. Just listen to that totally strange, almost mediaeval-sounding a capella intro! And the video game sounds! (Secret affinity with Dizzee.) I defy anyone not to love this.

How academic is this shit?

Semi-interesting article in The Australian today about academic bloggers. (Not available online, and anyway it was syndicated from the Chronicle of Higher Education which is subscription-only access...bloody Old Media!) It made me wonder whether I consider this an "academic" blog...or rather, why I don't consider this an academic blog. (Apart from the obvious, ie posts about the likes of "Chrissie and Janice: separated at birth?")

I do consider myself an academic, albeit an unemployed one; I certainly feel more comfortable with that rather bureaucratic identity than the more romantic "intellectual." And although this has become more or less a blog about my own tastes, which isn't really an academic topic as such, it's fairly obvious that at the axiomatic level my tastes have been deeply informed by the academic contexts I've been part of, namely literary studies and cultural studies. Literary studies these days is of course notorious for having ditched the traditional functions of evaluation and canon formation, and that has been precisely its most profound influence on me: it's taught me that "is this good or bad?" is sometimes the least interesting thing you can ask about something. And along similar lines, cultural studies has taught me to be suspicious of ways of thinking that put entire areas of daily life beyond the pale of intellectual discourse; that there's no reason to think a priori that Big Brother (to pick the most obvious example) is not a potential source of interest, insight, and complexity, as well as pleasure.

But an academic blog? Nah, the thought makes me cringe actually. Although I quite like the idea of this stuff being published after my death in a volume of Occasional Writings by some university press--perhaps, for poetry's sake, one of the two that rejected my first book. That's Duke and California if you're keeping score. (Suggested blurb quote: "A rare glimpse of one of our most important thinkers at work and play"--Gayatri Spivak.)

Wednesday, June 18, 2003


Congratulations to John Horner, who has just notched up Post No 700 at his bespoke hand-coded Blog. (John is the kind of person who keeps track of such things.) 700 posts, that's really quite remarkable when you think about it, isn't it? And no filler, either. Well, very little. (I think I did catch him doing the Friday Five once, but he did it...reflectively, or something. No, scratch that, there's no excuse for doing the Friday Five. Anyway, mostly no filler!)

Amazingly, I didn't even realise John had a blog until about a month ago, even though I can quite clearly recall conversations we've had about blogging in the past. Anyway, I'm now a devoted reader, and you should be too.

Tuesday, June 17, 2003

Keep an eye on that one: the minute your back is turned she'll steal your false leg

Don't get me wrong, I absolutely adore Chrissie. Of all the Big Brother housemates, she's the most like someone I would have as a friend in real life. She's funny, thoughtful, empathetic and strong, and if it weren't for Reggie I'd put money on her winning the whole thing.

BUT. Am I the only person who has noticed an uncanny resemblance between our Chrissie and Janice Soprano? It was particularly disturbing last night to switch from The Sopranos, in which Janice has lately been offering conspicuous comfort to the recently bereaved Bobby "Bacala" Baccilieri, to the Big Brother live feed, in which Chrissie was to be seen offering conspicuous comfort to the, er, recently bereaved Saxon. (Not that Saxon and Bobby Bacala superficially have much in common, admittedly.)

Not only that, but Chrissie was having a conversation with Dan about Christian rock! (Which, you'll recall, is also a recent career move of Janice's.) It's all a bit worrying.

Monday, June 16, 2003

We'll take Manhattan

For instance, when you meet me, you will only see the Prada and the whitened teeth and the celebrity friends. What you won't see is my past. You won't ever know that when I was very poor and young and new in New York City that, and let me put this delicately, I once was paid $150.00 to insert a very large glass bottle in a Vietnam vet while dressed in a hockey mask and a toga. Don't ever forget that you don't know that, Paul. That 150 bucks lasted me two weeks. Now I take more than that out of the ATM every day. I lose that much at poker every other week. I think there's surely a lesson in that, don't you?

If there's a funnier blogger out there than Choire Sicha, I'll eat my toga. Check him out.

No comment necessary

The Observer interviews Bernard-Henry Lévy:

But, I ask, would he say he was interested in fashion? He sighs. 'I was interested once, 15 years ago, in one designer, about whom I wrote one or two pages, and whose name was Yves Saint Laurent. But what interested me about him was the semiology of his draughtsmanship.'

Pacey in a coma

Went to see Rose Troche's film The Safety of Objects (2001, according to IMDB! only just released here though) with my friend Jonathan. (Who might look me up, so if so, hi Jono!) Very nice little film, some clunky moments, but generally its kind-of Carveresque, or Carver-via-Altmanesque narrative of four interlocking suburban melodramas worked well I thought. It's nice to keep up with the films from that Christine Vachon/Todd Haynes/Rose Troche nexus; it's particularly interesting to see what they do with heterosexual (or rather, family-oriented) stories, and nice to see that neither Haynes nor Troche has taken up the safe queer option of "Familles! je vous haïs!" Joshua Jackson spent most of the film in a coma, but we also got him to see him in flashback, getting it together with an older woman (which seems to be a speciality of his). And Jessica Campbell (who played the bolshie lesbian schoolgirl with braces in Election) was magnificent (sans braces) as his sister. Good performances all round in fact, perhaps the best being Mary Kay Place as a...well, a sexually frustrated housewife actually, but more interesting than that makes it sound. The most intriguing story in the film, though, was about a young boy who has a Barbie-like doll he talks to (the doll actually moved and talked and stuff--homage to Haynes's Superstar?). It was a beautiful little illustration of the slipperiness of the desire/identification threshold--would have liked to have worked it retrospectively into my thesis! (Of course I could still work it into the book but I think I need a moratorium on new stuff.)


Joanne evicted by 86%! Is there an expression for retrospective guilt at having been part of a lynch mob? Because I think that's what I'm feeling. (Not that I voted, but I did barrack.)

Sunday, June 15, 2003

Knock me down with a feather

I just went to a party where this American guy who I've met a couple of times before was talking about his teenage clubbing days. It took me a few minutes to realise that he was talking about going clubbing in Chicago, and that the particular club he was talking about was a little joint known as The Warehouse. As in The Warehouse! As in The 'House! As in House Music! As in "Frankie Knuckles is in the House!" If you can imagine Billy Graham finding out that a casual acquaintance was a guest at the Last Supper, you might have some inkling of my reaction to this news.

At the some party I found out that some real life friends of mine have found this blog and are regular readers. Which is a tiny bit of a shock but, hey, everyone's welcome. So, er, hi, regular readers! I know who you are! Don't be shy, leave a comment!

Saturday, June 14, 2003

Funny thing

I'm not normally a fan of geek humour, but this is hilarious: The Gettysburg address as a Powerpoint presentation. (Link courtesy of Gar at Buffistas.)

Julian, draw a bath for this young man

Finally saw A Clockwork Orange on DVD this evening. Somehow, after having made it through three decades without ever having seen a Kubrick film, I've seen three in the last few months (2001 and Spartacus being the others.) Kubrick really is a director people know for his set-pieces isn't he; everyone knows about the HAL scenes or the "I am Spartacus" scene, and everyone knows about the aversion therapy scenes in Clockwork; it actually comes as a surprise when you watch the films to find that these moments do actually fit into a (more or less) coherent narrative. As for the film, well yes, shocking, provocative, makes you think dunnit etc etc, but is it wrong of me to just intensely covet the furniture? (I want the furniture in 2001 as well. If I could live in an apartment decorated like one of those spacecraft, I would be a happy man.)


Amazing stuff from the EG section in The Age today: they actually reviewed the new Moodymann album and the Audio Bullys album! That's two house records in one week! Almost makes up for them calling Radiohead "the most inventive rock band in the world" or some such preposterous rubbish.


Oh, and I've decided what music they should have had for the after-church social in The Matrix Reheated, instead of that boring piece of bog-prog shite, which unsurprisingly turns out to be the work of Paul Oakenfold. It should have been the Phylyps Trak, on the astonishing and legendary Berlin dub techno label Basic Channel, because it really is music that sounds like it comes pulsating out of the very depths of the earth.

Friday, June 13, 2003

Ride like the wind

I was daydreaming today, trying to imagine the most boring and pointless cultural studies project imaginable, and I settled on A Cultural History of Windsurfing. I mean, there can hardly be a more aesthetically bankrupt and socially hollow cultural practice than windsurfing, right? (Chillout music comes a distant second.)

But then I got to thinking, well, windsurfing is after all a hybrid form of activity, and maybe it therefore generates interestingly hybrid forms of social being. Isn't there perhaps a fundamental ambivalence about the fact that it draws (however distantly and deratively) on two apparently opposed cultural locations: surfing (youth-focused, "rebellious," hedonistic, countercultural) and sailing (adult-focused, establishment, careerist, conservative)? My father, for instance, who was a sailor, always referred to the "sport" as "boardsailing," and the thing itself as a "sailboard," during the brief fling with it that he (and as a result the rest of us) had during the eighties. Is that nicety of usage relevant? Is there a case for "windsurfing" vs "boardsailing" as a micro-struggle between the revolutionary and the reactionary in the arena of self-representation?

Any analysis along these lines would of course involve a detailed consideration of the character played by Tom Burlinson in the film Windrider (1986), an example of the extremely shortlived and unlucrative genre, the windsurfing flick (windsploitation?). As you may remember, Tom is a successful businessman whose real passion is windsurfing. The resulting internal class conflict can be seen most vividly in Tom's adoption of the powder blue suit as his everyday business wear: pastels may have been standard dress for Miami detectives in the 1980s, but only the most daring and creative Australian businessmen (advertising guys, essentially) would have risked them. I can't actually remember anything else about the film except that it also starred a young Nicole Kidman, but I imagine the struggle between the plutocratic and the hedonistic elements of Tom's weltanshauung is a rich source of insight into the commerce/counterculture dialectic, especially in the context of a decade when the very idea of a counterculture seemed to be played out and arguably could only make these kinds of sporadic, hybridised, commodified reappearances. You get the feeling that if windsurfing hadn't existed, the eighties would have invented it anyway. (For that matter, does anyone windsurf anymore?)

Ah, cultural studies, it's like riding a bike isn't it.


Speaking of which, here's how you do it properly: Slavoj Zizek, brilliant as ever, on The Matrix Reloaded. (Thanks to Misha for the link.)

Wednesday, June 11, 2003


I had a revelation today...someone needs to do a pop-trance cover of Kasey Chambers' "Not Pretty Enough." Imagine those heartfelt country yelps replaced by teflon-coated Cher-tastic autotune magic! No boring old guitars, just keyboards doing that DJ Sammy-style "daa daa da-da-daa, da-da-daa, da-da-daa, da-da-daa" thing...the uplifting chord changes are already there! Add an accelerating snare roll or two and bob's your uncle! [Cackles malevolently.]

Actually, the chances are about three in four that someone's already done this and it's playing in gay clubs the length and breadth of the land.


Marcello Carlin likes !!! too, it turns out. Well, "likes" is an understatement. You know why I could never be a pop critic? Because I tend to forget that songs have lyrics, and that the lyrics might actually be about things. A post-9/11 record, who knew? Those lyrics he quotes are great. I'll have to try to listen to them next time.

Hungry hungry hippo

One of the effects of being on quite a high dose of steroids is that you always, always feel hungry. No matter how much you eat, you feel like you could fit more in. I'd actually be quite curious, in a way, to see how far this goes, how much food I can stuff in before I hit satiety point. Anyone care to sponsor me? $5 per 100 calories consumed, perhaps?

Tuesday, June 10, 2003

OK, I know we're meant to be in the midst of an old-skool revival but this is getting ridiculous

I'm probably the only person who'll find this funny, but I just noticed this in the Juno Records new releases mailout:

GURU JOSH: Infinity (reissue) (S12)
12": Infinity ("1990's Time For The Guru" mix, "Sane" mix) (S12DJ 086)

Brace yourselves, that saxophone riff will soon be everywhere!

!!!...??? (Second thoughts)

OK, I gave that b-side, which rejoices in the name of "Intensifieder Sunracapellectroshit Mix 03," a proper listen, and, um, no, it's not "even better." It is in fact quite appalling, or at least it starts off that way, with some of the crappiest vocals you will ever hear mewling "Can you feel it…INTENSIFY!" over and over again, and of course there's no more tragic lyric than "can you feel it" when you're really not feeling it, is there? (Crappy vocals are naturally part of the whole dance-punk project, as they are of any respectable enterprise containing the word "punk", but there are good crappy vocals--The Rapture, Electric Six--and then there's this…) But after a few minutes (this is another nine-minute job…brevity is one aspect of punk that !!! have left behind) it does get really good, promise! The vocals settle down, some wonderful, euphoric acidy synth washes kick in, and it just builds and builds, and then we get a cheekily devastating instance of the oldest and cheesiest production effect in the book--namely, the sound cuts completely out and in again in razor-fast rhythmic stutters. Really, this hardly deserves to be called a "production effect" at all, does it, I mean the most unskilled DJ can do it…scrub that, you can do it on your home stereo, and you probably have done it; I know I have. Well, that's what makes it charming! Anyway, this track would work wonderfully as a change-up track in a house/electro set, but I'm willing to bet any DJ who played it would start halfway through! (And "Giuliani" is still great, all the way through.)


In other news of world-historical moment, I coloured my hair last night, unbelievably the first time I've tried doing this at home. My God, it's really easy! And it looks great! I think I'd always assumed that hair colouring was some arcane art best left to professionals, which was why I'd been shelling out $60 every couple of months to have it done by my hairdresser. Well, it's the $15 pack of Feria from now on, I can tell you (that is, assuming my hair doesn't turn green at some point in the next week). Also, the Feria doesn't burn my scalp like the stuff my hairdresser uses does…I thought that was supposed to happen!


So, the new housemates were immune from nomination tonight! That means we have to endure Kim for another two weeks! Shit! I actually heard the notorious "joke" she told which got broadcast on the live feed…it really was extremely dodgy and unfunny; she is skating on very thin ice. (Although it is interesting to see class as a overt factor in Aussie Big Brother, possibly for the first time.)

Classic Stockholm Sydrome moment from Saxon in tonight's live feed: "Beebs [ie Big Brother], is like our father while we're in here, and fathers don't hurt their children." Woah!

Saw Igby Goes Down today. I loved it, but then, I have a thing for leftfield black comedies about fucked-up rich people: The Royal Tenenbaums, Metropolitan, La Règle du jeu, I lap 'em up. Because rich people deserve to be miserable, and we deserve to look at nice things!

Sunday, June 08, 2003


Am I the only person whose mnemonic for remembering which one is the pestle and which one is the mortar is "penis" and, er, "minge" respectively? [Lengthy pause.] All right, just me then.

And doesn't this just sum up the sad state of contemporary "literary" culture: the Guardian Saturday Review has a fucking weekly column about fucking cooking by fucking Julian Barnes! Mind you, it's quite a good column, actually one of the few bits I read, but still, you know what I'm getting at, don't you?

Current listening: the 2002 album Cardiology by Detroit producer Recloose, a gorgeous and ever-surprising mixture of house, techno, hip-hop and jazz grooves, all thrown into a blender to produce eleven immaculate little cocktails of weirdness. It gives you what the kids nowadays call a "context of abundance": so many little pleasures that you almost wonder whether one day you might listen to it and it might all just seem a bit fussy. (Cf. Der Rosenkavalier.) You know what, though, it would really help the cause of all those people who are trying to demythologise Detroit if people from Detroit stopped releasing dance music that was so much better than everyone else's, huh?

Saturday, June 07, 2003

Today or tomorrow (but not today)

It's the dying moments of the first act of Der Rosenkavalier, and the middle-aged Marschallin has just finished telling her young lover, Octavian, that one day soon--"today or tomorrow"--he will fall in love with someone younger and leave her. Brushing aside his protests, she sings the following words, accompanied by the most heartbreaking music in the whole opera:

You must go now, Quinquin, you must leave me.
I am going to church now and later I shall drive to Uncle Greifenklau, who is old and crippled, and dine with him; that pleases the old man.
And in the afternoon I shall send a messenger to you, Quinquin, to tell you whether I am going to the Prater.
And if I go and you so wish, you may come to the Prater too and ride by my carriage…
Now be good and do as I say.

I must admit that I've often failed to see what the big deal is about librettists. I mean, the words in opera are mostly fairly ordinary and functional, aren't they? A mere coathanger for the music, workmanlike expository dramatic dialogue with the occasional purple lyric outburst. Certainly a libretto by Da Ponte or Boito or Hofmannsthal may accomplish this better, more tidily, less lugubriously than one by a lesser writer, but the rest of it, the fact that these three are talked of in the same breath as the composers they wrote for, I mostly don't get. It's not, after all, as if they're virtuousos with words in the same way a popular lyricist might be--a Cole Porter or Lorenz Hart or Ira Gershwin, the adulation of which I totally understand, even if my own taste in popular lyrics tends more towards the anonymous (or, even better, the absent).

But watching Rosenkavalier on DVD over the past couple of days, and listening to what Strauss and Hofmannsthal accomplish together in this scene, for a moment I get it. The genius of the words, of course, is what they don't say; the retreat from the lyrical to the blankly expository is a verbal parallel to the Marschallin's preparation for her own retreat from love. But she's not yet ready to make that retreat complete, so, in the desperate request hidden behind layers of courtly "if"s, she makes the familiar bargain with imminence: the catastrophe will come soon, "today or tomorrow," but surely our clearsightedness in recognising that earns us a temporary reprieve. Today or tomorrow: in other words, not today, please not today. Of course, the Marschallin doesn't know that fate will cruelly take her at her word and will literally bring the catastrophe tomorrow. We know this, of course; at least, we do if we've seen the opera before or read the synopsis or have the slightest clue about the way opera narrative works. But, and this is a rare thing in opera, our foreknowledge doesn't rob the Marschallin of the dignity of her renunciation--and maybe this is why her eventual, improbable Act Three entry seems like a kind of triumph.

Friday, June 06, 2003

A Paranoid Android With a View

Critical coup de théatre of the year: Sasha Frere-Jones calls Radiohead "the Merchant Ivory of rock". A bit unfair, perhaps, but I laughed.

Thursday, June 05, 2003

Big up to the Oxford Massive! (That's young people's lingo, grandma)

Nice to see that Jim has finally started a blog. Here's hoping he keeps it up, although I'm not quite sure about the nakedly acquisitive spirit he's shown so far. Posting his birthday list indeed! (I want that Dizzee Rascal record too though.)

Jim's also anticipated me by posting about Marcello Carlin's lengthy and often brilliant disquisition on UK Big Brother. I still have an entry coming up about this, I think, but maybe not today. One of the themes, though, will be the interesting differences that seem to be discernible between the UK and Australian shows, and the difficulty of knowing how much the differences are down to, respectively, the format, the participants and the viewers. Difficult because I've never seen UK BB, most British people I know haven't seen ours, and even those who have seen both aren't necessarily reliable witnesses. (Namely Ben Elton, who wrote a book allegedly drawing on both, which I've read, and hey I was sick at the time and a friend brought it to me in hospital, so lay off, OK?)

Anyway, let's see if I'm still capable of writing about something other than BB...It may be the most precious song title ever, and it may be by the most archly named band on the most pretentious record label in the world, but I've downloaded "Me and Giuliani Down By the Schoolyard (A True Story)" by !!! (on Warp Records, if you need to ask), and it's absolutely brilliant! A nine minute disco-punk epic, everything great about the early eighties squeezed into one song...very New York and very Now. The B-side is even better! This must be the most purely fun record Warp have released for...well, I'm no expert on the Warp back catalogue, but surely ever!

Wednesday, June 04, 2003

On the other hand

None of the previous post's chastisements, of course, apply to Sarah and Mark's wonderful Eastenders updates, which have several qualities sadly lacking in Certain Other Websites...namely, they are (1) brief, (2) unpretentious, (3) actually funny, and (4) devoid of naff buzzwords. (1) in particular shouldn't be underestimated; have you seen those TWoP recaps, they take longer to read than actually watching the bloody programme!

Anyway, BB update: two new housemates! I actually caught a glimpse of them last night on the live feed before they were "officially" introduced tonight, which felt a bit illicit somehow. Anyway, Jamie, gay, from Melbourne, totally gorgeous and he knows it, works in a men's boutique on Little Collins St which means he's probably served me at some time in the past (that's served me you dirty-minded scoundrels!), is also a law student, seems all right if a bit obsessed with fitness (yawn, but I guess it's something to bond with Saxon over); and Kim, from Armidale (country NSW), haidresser (another one!), total bogan, might have hidden depths, but we already have a Reggie (and what a magnificent Reggie she is) so she may turn out to be surplus to requirements.

Didn't get a chance to mention this at the time, but Gretel's grilling of Ben on the eviction show last Sunday was some of the best television ever. If anyone has ever been less than certain that Gretel is a total star and an inspiration, surely this would have laid all doubts to rest. "When you say 'stir things up,' you really mean 'hurt people,' don't you?" Classic!

Tuesday, June 03, 2003

Love is stronger than snark

So, a new name. Partly because I've decided that including your name in the name of your blog is a bit naff, partly because "Angus's Way" was starting to set my teeth on edge. I don't tolerate facile Proustianisms in others, so why should I have different standards for myself? (Of course, it was supposed to be an arch parody of a facile Proustianism, but that particular nuance loses something when you've been staring at the bloody thing for months on end.)

Anyway, it's "I Feel Love" not only in honour of my favourite song ever (at least according to the Desert Island Discs list I drew up on Buffistas a while ago) but also because at the moment I'm all about feeling the love, culturally speaking. Having dinner with John and Plasmo the other night I made the not entirely unhypocritical statement that I was sick of seeing people go on and on about television shows on the internet. I think what I was awkwardly trying to say was that I'm tiring of the tyranny of snark, the MBTV-isation of telly talk on the web, the way people with really quite mediocre senses of humour think that they're cutting wits because they've mastered a certain line in deprecation, or that they're perceptive media critics because they can throw around completely dumb words or "anvil" or "exposition bunny" or whatever. So from now on, it's all love, no snark!

(Disclaimer: love is not entirely incompatible with the gentle or even vigorous articulation of faults in the loved object. Just for the record!)

(Oh, and sorry to all those hundreds of you who will have to update your links lists. C'est la vie...)

(Unsurprisingly, there's already at least one other blog called "I Feel Love." But since it's in Portuguese and hasn't been updated since February 2002, I don't suppose there's too much danger of people getting us confused. But respect to those that came first!)

Sunday, June 01, 2003

Pills, thrills and bellyaches

As you know, I don't like to get too personal here, but I know that this is the main way some of you catch up on what's going on in my life, so I'll just mention that, since I've yet again been having abdominal symptoms that seem to be caused by my Crohn's Disease, I've been put yet again on steroids, which will hopefully make me feel better, but will also almost certainly have the fun extra benefits of mood swings and weight gain, and might not work properly in the long term anyway. As you can imagine this makes me very happy indeed.

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