The half-yearly list: condition stable

Wednesday 29 November 2006

I am happy to report that for once there have been no additions to The List of People Or Things I Have Been Mistaken For, Or Allegedly Physically Resemble, In Increasing Order Of Ridiculousness, in the past six months.

Filler by Proxy XLII: I just spent fifty pounds to stand around in some godforsaken town freezing my arse off pointlessly arguing with someone.

Monday 27 November 2006

Via Straight From The Tated . If he’s anything like me, God has Prince Charles, Camilla Parker-Bowles, a Chinese man in an ambulance, and Elizabeth Montgomery on His fridge.

What do people do all day?

Wednesday 22 November 2006

In Köln, every office worker sits impassively regarding a slimline computer monitor at an otherwise empty desk.

A quarter of a million people sitting at home watching TV

Wednesday 22 November 2006

I’ve added a few more photos to the Looking at People Looking at Art group on Flickr. These are from the launch of Raum 2810, a new art space in Bonn, which opened with an exhibition and collaborative performance by Michael Graeve and Christoph Dahlhausen.
I was over there for a weekend, to catch up with an old friend. The girlfriend is still thanking me for making her spend the weekend at an abandoned factory in a dormitory suburb on the outskirts of a dull, provincial town in one of the drabber corners of Germany.
Actually, the exhibition and opening were very pleasant; the people were friendly and invited us to stay on afterward for an enormous buffet and copious amounts of Australian shiraz cabernet. All very good, even though one of the dishes was a salad of onion rings and pineapple chunks in mustard sauce.
The old city centre of Bonn was bustling with crowds on Saturday, particularly with crowds of drunk people in silly costumes: it was the first day of Karneval. Yes, this part of the Rhineland starts its pre-lenten festivities in November. But then at night, and on Sunday, the city is deserted: it’s quite a job just finding somewhere to grab a coffee. After 10pm it’s possible to walk through the central streets utterly alone. It was uncannily like being back in Adelaide on a Saturday afternoon.
The girlfriend tried to amuse herself by photographing everything in town with the name “Beethoven” arbitrarily plastered over it, but her camera only had a 512 MB memory card. Nothing was named Schumann, despite both Robert and Clara being buried there, having lived at Endenich, which is now a suburb.
Even the toilets in the bars were hung with posters advertising the next piano recital at the Beethoven Konzerthaus, along with ads for Vicky Leandros’ christmas concert. Sadly, I think I’ll have to miss that.

Another London Pilgrimage: Wyndham Lewis

Sunday 19 November 2006

This jolly building is No. 4 Percy Street, Fitzrovia (“it would be called Soho by a careless guide”), sometime home of Wyndham Lewis at the time he was writing Tarr. No blue plaque marks the site, although Charles Laughton and Coventry Patmore have plaques on the same block. Appropriately, the ground floor is now a boutique called “Almost Famous”, and the first floor houses a “brand development” company.
(In fact, Lewis does have a blue plaque, but at one of his later residences, in Kensington.)

A little further south, across Oxford Street, is Soho Square, where T.E. Hulme once hung Lewis from the railings after an argument got a little out of hand. “I never see the summer house in its centre without remembering how I saw it upside down.” According to Humphrey Carpenter’s biography of Pound, the dispute was about which man had bonking rights over Kate Lechmere, but I haven’t found corroboration for this anywhere else, and Carpenter had a habit of ascribing motivations to his subjects based on nothing more than his distaste for them.
The statue is of Charles II. Despite his presence, there are no pelicans to keep down the rampant pigeon population.
Soho Square is also the place where Hulme was once apprehended by the law for urinating in public, in broad daylight. Hulme was indignant: “Do you realise you’re addressing a member of the middle class?” The policeman apologised and went away. I looked, but couldn’t find a plaque to commemorate the event.

Masons in Distress!

Wednesday 15 November 2006

(Somewhere between Bonn and Bristol. Back in a few days. There are comments on the posts below to tide you over.)

London: City of Disappearances

Friday 10 November 2006

As part of my recurring curiosity about London’s psychogeography, I went to the launch of the book London: City of Disappearances in Bishopsgate. Bishopsgate was an appropriate location for the launch: the City’s frontier, the line of the old city wall acting as a threshhold where the establishment’s corporate bastions give way to the rapidly redeveloping East End. All around the Bishopsgate Institute’s Great Hall are new cafes and bistros built over what was formerly bohemian squalour, and before that working class and immigrant enclaves.
My own place in Hackney is on a similar border, but between two manifestations of the same economic weather. To the west, gentrification and property speculation encroaches, as the housing estates gradually disappear, one by one. Just to the east lies Olympic territory, the Hackney Marshes destined for wholsesale reconstruction by 2012.
The book, a collective repository of memories from the famous and unknown alike, solicited from an open call for contributions, was edited by Iain Sinclair, whom I have discussed several times before. He spoke of the intertwining of history and myth, of the city as a tissue of ephemera related from one individual to the next, its identity made or lost through what someone remembers or forgets.
“Every appearance is a disappearance,” we were reminded, thinking of the construction sites that surrounded us. It was not a necessary injunction. As a newcomer, I knew that arriving in a city entails always being reminded of how much you have already missed. As for Londoners, they are so preoccupied with memories, with conservation and preservation, that every change in the city is regarded as a loss. The preservationist urge is so strong in most Western cities today that the population’s response to the cityscape is almost entirely reactive, focussed exclusively on what is to be destroyed, with no deep consideration of what is to replace it. Really, it would be more instructive to remind ourselves that every disappearance is an appearance, for ill or good.
Sinclair himself has been guilty of this kind of barbaric nostalgia – who, not knowing what is of value, hoards everything – reacting to every alteration and relocation with an innate fear and mistrust. Transported back to Victorian times he would have doubtless been dismayed by the excavation of the sewers. His attitude has become more enlightened lately, having explored further afield into the suburbs, and learning from J.G. Ballard how to appreciate the new city that has sprung up in the Docklands.
Someone asked how he knew that all the stories collected are true. “I don’t.” Everyone invents their own world, and so each London described cannot help but bear a greater or lesser resemblance to the city you or I would recognise. Some of the collected memoirs are likely fabrications; some flatly contradict each other. (Two ageing anarchists in the book claim to have been working in the same Charing Cross Road bookshop at the same time, and each vociferously denies that the other was there.)
The book will not give a definitive overview or coherent mapping of a city plainly seen, but hopefully in its omissions, repetitions, dead ends and contradictions, its confusion will make a truer reflaction. As someone who prefers to play the hunter-gatherer of used and remaindered books, it will again be a portrait partly eclipsed by time when I get around to reading it.

Magic 693: The Listening Test

Wednesday 8 November 2006

Over at Sarsaparilla there has been a discussion about whether or not Magic 693 is the haven of awesomeness I described, or a high-rotation hell of the more obvious chestnuts. In the interests of objectivity I listened for an hour or so and wrote down their playlist, reproduced below. Songs with that ineffable “Magic” quality are marked with an asterisk; two asterisks mean a particularly “Magic” segue.
  • Olivia Newton-John: Twist of Fate* (Mis-announced as “Second Time Around”)
  • Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass: Tijuana Taxi**
  • Charlie Rich: Behind Closed Doors
  • The Diamonds: Little Darlin’
  • Peter, Paul and Mary: Leaving on a Jet Plane*
  • Stevie Wonder: For Once in My Life
  • Dr Hook: Sharing the Night Together
  • Gene Pitney: Mecca*
  • ABBA: SOS
  • The Walker Bros: The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine
  • Julio Iglesias: Drive (lame Cars cover, not a lame REM cover)

After this low point comes a sustained passage of brilliance which makes Magic so special:

  • Normie Rowe: Ooh La La*
  • Lobo: Don’t Expect Me to Be Your Friend*
  • Ned Miller: Invisible Tears*
  • Herb Ohta: Song for Anna*
  • The Bee Gees: World*
  • Christopher Cross: Arthur’s Theme (Best That You Can Do) (back announced with the comment “great lyrics!”)
  • Astrud Gilberto and Stan Getz: The Girl from Ipanema (yes, the announcer remembered to name-drop Stan Getz)
  • Tom T. Hall: Old Dogs, Children, and Watermelon Wine**
  • Simon and Garfunkel: The Sounds of Silence
  • Lulu: To Sir With Love
  • Foster and Allen: I Will Love You All My Life
  • Bruce Channel: Hey! Baby*
  • Bobby Goldsboro: Summer (The First Time)**
  • Peter and Gordon: I Go To Pieces
  • Rod Stewart: That’s All (Sigh. Rod Stewart covers creaky old standards: the aural equivalent of Patterson’s Curse.)
  • Mary Hopkin: Those Were The Days
  • George Baker Selection: La Paloma Blanca*
  • Bobby Vinton: Blue on Blue
  • Billie Jo Spears: Blanket on the Ground**
  • The Beatles: Michelle
  • Dan Hill: Sometimes When We Touch
  • Lonnie Lee: Starlight Starbright*
  • Kevin Johnson: Rock & Roll (I Gave You the Best Years of My Life)*
And then I switched it off. I think this vindicates my opinion, don’t you? Ads included two rival Jayco caravan salesman, a shop that sells those self-lifting recliner rockers, Australian Pensioner Funerals, Ian Reid Vendor Advocacy (“Go on, ring us!”), Bayside Skin Cancer Clinic, Tyabb Packing House Antiques (“Need a new sideboard?”), and Leafbusters. Strangely, nothing from either Bargain National Tiles or OzKnits (“Love your cardigan! Paris?” “No! OzKnits at Ringwood!”)
I know it’s hard to imagine a station that plays “La Paloma Blanca” for serious, but look at their song choices for ONJ, Gene Pitney, and the Bee Gees! All that’s missing is Gary Puckett, and not spinning in either “Goodbye” or “Tema Harbour” for Mary Hopkin, but these are equally likely to happen at any hour of the day.
Also, Lonnie Lee has recorded a musical tribute to Steve Irwin, available for download! Lyrics printed for singalong with your kiddies, or anyone else’s kiddies.

Filler by Proxy XLI: Don’t you just fucking hate them?

Tuesday 7 November 2006

It’s been a while since we all enjoyed a really hostile review, so please enjoy Heart On A Stick’s reaction to seeing a gig by indie wannabe-darlings Ra Ra Riot:
The world would be better off if they hailed from someplace like, oh, Chernobyl. There, people recognize tragedy when they see it. I imagine a bunch of concertgoing Chernoblians (sure, why not) in a post-show huddle, wondering just how quickly they could build another reactor and cause that to melt down.
I admire the heroicism of the Ukrainian people….
The guys on stage hopped about like indie clichés with tiny bladders filled with pissed-down Red Bull. There was the guy in the bad hat. The virgin in the ringer-T who desperately wanted to be Richard Reed Parry. The music-bleeding lead who’s probably never laughed in his life, not at the Three Stooges, not at the government, and definitely not at himself….
It’s empty music from empty people for empty people who can’t bear to think of filling their lives with anything more than emptiness. It’s for people who can’t tell the difference between sincerity and honesty…. It’s an insult to anyone who’s ever been passionate about anything, an insult to the concept of passion itself.
Stand back, he’s just warming up.

The Girlfriend is Learning Italian

Saturday 4 November 2006

The Night We Burned Down Bimbo Deluxe

Thursday 2 November 2006

“This is it! This is the new music!”
What do you do when your hard drive gets clogged with “temporary” files that never go away? You play them through a sound editor to hear what they sound like. One day I hope to record some music which takes less time to make than listen to: this piece gets pretty close to that goal.
This unedited file was subjected to four types of randomised filtering through parametric equalisers in Ross Bencina’s fine program AudioMulch, and then mixed by rapid, randomised crossfading between each of the four outputs.
So what does playing with 21st century technology get me? Maybe it’s the low quality of the sound from the original data file, or maybe it’s because I’m fifty years behind the times, but the piece sounds uncannily like the sort of tape music coming out of the Westdeutscher Rundfunk studios in Köln in the 1950s. In keeping with this sound, the title refers to the human phenomenon of futile longing for a vanished world.
It’s 4 Meg, it’s 4 minutes long. It’s noisy. Please download and enjoy The Night We Burned Down Bimbo Deluxe.
Part of the slightly revamped Boring Like A Drill Hit Parade!