Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Willie Wonka and Colonialism

I haven't seen the movie, and don't really care, but this article on the new Tim Burton adaptation of Roald Dahl is a straightforward political analysis after the manner of Ariel Dorfman, author of How to Read Donald Duck...

Monday, August 29, 2005

Wooden Octopus Skull

I probably won't be going, but there's some really great stuff happening, if you're a noise freak, at the Seattle Wooden Octopus Skull festival , happening from Sept. 8 to 11th -- Fe-mail, with Maja Ratkje, Sun City Girls-related project the Climax Golden Twins, Irr. App. (Ext.), Nurse with Wound, and even former Vancouverites The Haters will all be performing... Speaking of the Haters, they were my first ever noise gig. I saw them when I was a teenager, I think maybe opening up for the Dead Kennedys (link takes you to a related gig poster from the Edmonton date). Or else it was on a bill with Death Sentence, The Spores, and House of Commons (does anyone else out there miss the Spores? I wish I could get Schizofungi on CD). They wore black hoods and made noisy noisy noise with power tools, microphones, and various implements of distruction, completely amusically; most of the audience stood around and booed, and I have to admit, I didn't get much out of it myself, at the time. It was in the mid-1980's -- they were a bit ahead of the game. Strange that there should be whole festivals devoted to this kind of thing now, eh? Who woulda thunk it?

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Zombiewalk Afterparty

The Creaking Planks were fun -- an accordion/banjo/ukelele (or sometimes harmonium) trio who played zombified versions of popular songs, plus Al Mader's marvelous "Dead Man's Pants," one of the funniest lyrics I've heard in awhile (they also did a charming cover of a Randy Newman song about being dead, but not knowing it...). Flat Grey (listed as the Cranberrys, for reasons I am not in on) were like being given a proctological exam with a power tool, but in a surprisingly pleasurable and soothing way. Dan and Harlow, neither G42 nor Sistrenatus, pictured above, provided dark texture and disturbing noise as images from Dawn of the Dead and Fulci's Zombie played in the background, and I fiddled with my camera. By that point, most of the zombies had staggered home, tho' -- apparently zombies don't like noise. The anecdote of the evening, from Heather, the event's organizing force, involved a security guard at the mall frantically trying to lock all the doors to keep out the approaching zombies. Also: Heather had made a brain pinata and forgot to bring it out during the party, so it rode with us back to her apartment; I got to carry her brain for awhile.

See you at Zombiewalk 2006... I might even dress up, then.

Friday, August 26, 2005

More on Torture

Having briefly viewed Znet with skepticism, below, I am delighted to find an article of great value there, dealing with recently declassified documents on discussions of the efficacy of torture.

To quote, briefly:

"Connections to Muslim communities must be based on trust, and such trust is obviously less likely to exist if the threat of detention with torture and without trial is a cornerstone of U.S. policy. It is not a question of Muslims around the world hating Americans, but of Muslims wanting to work with an administration whose policies are built on torture and detention without end or recourse. Underlying any policy of torture in present circumstances, as the writers of the JAG memos recognized even in 2003, is the assumption that it is not worth our while to build real bridges to Muslims (rather than the cosmetic ones envisioned by Karen Hughes, the President's favorite advisor and new undersecretary of state for public diplomacy). As the military lawyers realized two years ago, the Bush administration's recourse to torture policies was a sign that its officials neither trusted, nor put much faith in what once would have been considered basic American values; nor believed our policies to be attractive when compared to the hatred that bonds Islamic fundamentalists together. Just as the JAGs sensed it would, this has proved a losing assumption -- and torture the Achilles heel of administration policy -- based on an exceedingly short-sighted concept of national security."

Again, you can read the whole article here.

Hugo Chavez, Pat Robertson, and Zombies

An interesting article on Hugo Chavez, oil, and Pat Robertson. It disturbs me that Chavez buddies up to Fidel Castro, and I'd like to know more about his own human rights record (which I confess to being ill-informed on). I've been adding more salt to my consumption of anything on Znet; I've long consumed mainstream news with a fair bit of sodium, but the longer I've been reading Znet, the more I've become aware that the site definitely has strong ideological parameters on what can be said on it, and that the leftist vision, while useful, has its blind spots... Still, I've been impressed with some of what I've heard from Chavez, and only ever felt a shudder of revulsion in regard to Pat Robertson... Anyone out there with informed, interesting views on the "bad side" of Chavez is invited to post a comment. Let me know what you think will happen in the future, too -- should we expect another Allende-style coup, and the propping up of a bloody dictator? Or is America stretched too thin to manage that this time around?

I don't think I'm actually going to participate in Zombiewalk. I approve heartily, though, and wish the zombies of the city a pleasant stagger through the streets. I am sorry that, despite the title, I actually fail to make any intellectual connections between Chavez, Robertson, and zombies... I hope none of you are too disappointed.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

The United States assault on the United Nations

John Bolton is GWB's new appointee to the United Nations. See a nice little video of him espousing his vision of the United Nations role in the world here (from a few years ago): his position is that there is no such thing as the United Nations, save when it serves the US' interests. Note his friendly manner.

Here's an article on some of the conflicts of vision between Mr. Bolton, new to his job, and the United Nations, who are approaching an important summit.

Here's a pointed little cartoon.


Monday, August 22, 2005

Zombie Walk 2005, dark afterparty for G42/ Funerary Call fans

As some of you may already be aware, on Saturday, August 27th, various Vancouverites will be dressing as zombies and staggering around the city, we hope without spurring the locals to shoot us in the head. The current information on the ZombieRoute is to be found here.

Also of note: there will be dark music indeed (or so I assume, with good reason) provided by Dan Kibke of G42 and H. McFarlane, formerly of Funerary Call and now of Sistrenatus (hm... the sites look strangely similar) at the Zombiewalk afterparty (along with other bands whose names I do not recognize). The event will take place at Video In (1965 Main Street), starting sometime after 9PM. For fans of dark ambient, industrial electronica, noise, and cattle mutilations. Check it out.

By the way, G42 are now podcasting -- subscribe here, for a taste.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Cheers to Cindy Sheehan

Cheers to Cindy Sheehan, who is the protesting mother whose son was killed in Iraq, now camped outside Bush's Texas ranch for his month-long vacation. She has my support, sympathy and admiration. This article, though, on the local reception to her (and other protesters) is pretty interesting... I suggest you continue reading after the feelings of disgust start to arise (where one normally would tune out) to get a fairly fascinating portrait of the U.S. David Lynch should make a movie about presidential politics, perhaps with a Bret Easton Ellis screenplay...

Gaza Pullout

Did anyone expect this could come to pass, that the Israeli army would be removing settlers from Gaza, when, just a couple of years ago, American peace activists were being run over by bulldozers as they tried to stop the destruction of Palestinian homes and the left were talking about a massacre in the Jenin refugee camp? I didn't. I'm finally impressed with Ariel Sharon -- considered a war criminal for the Sabra and Shatila massacres in Lebanon, now suddenly on the side of the doves (or at least making a move for pragmatic reasons that the doves will much applaud; in any event, it's the right thing to do). I suddenly find myself worrying that he will suffer the same fate as Yitzhak Rabin. It will be a much-needed sign of hope, if this pullout goes smoothly, and if it has the desired affect -- though with America in Iraq, we can't really have recourse to the old formula of "peace in the Middle East."

Tonight's the Night: Hunter S. Thompson, exploding in the sky

Tonight is the night that the ashes of Hunter S. Thomspon are being fired from a cannon, of sorts. There should be some sort of anthem for the crowd to sing, before the launch; and everyone should stand up and salute.

Checking in with Robert Fisk, at the Baghdad Morgue

Reading articles like this, one senses a reality so much in conflict with what we are encouraged to believe that one shakes ones head in confusion. Someone somewhere is deeply delusional, or lying; in ways, it would be more comforting if it were Fisk. Among his critics, Robert Fisk is seen as an hysterical leftist who will commit whopping errors to print. Surely, though, such an article would not run in a paper such as the Independent unless there were some factual basis for it -- if the figures weren't to some extent correct? It's not like we can turn to CNN for confirmation of such a story, though. The best you can do is construct your own reality out of the bits that fit your sense of the real. Not an easy task.

Postscript: another snippet from the Baghdad morgue, here.

Friday, August 19, 2005

HOLY SHIT! Terry Riley! Meredith Monk! Fred Frith!

I am breathless. Fred Frith will be doing a bunch of shows, mostly with Montreal-based artists, throughout Vancouver New Music's upcoming festival at the Scotiabank Dance Centre, beginning on Oct. 19th; Meredith Monk and vocal ensemble perform Nov. 12 at the Chan Centre; and Terry Riley performs (with poet Michael McClure) at the Chan Centre on Jan. 2o. It's like the gods are trying to cheer me up (I've had a bad couple of weeks) and give me something to look forward to. Thank you, gods! Thank you!

I can't wait for the summer to end!

Concerts to Consider

Last year, the summer was the season to be an enthusiast of interesting musics in Vancouver -- Mission of Burma, Supersilent, Paul Dutton, the Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra (who played to a room of uber-enthusiastic Japanese students; I was one of about 20 non-Japanese in attendance at the Commodore) and Diamanda Galas were among some of the things I got pretty darned enthusiastic about. This year, the fall is proving to be the season to wake up for. I've yet to hear what Vancouver New Music has planned, but so far there's plenty to consider -- and I'm not even taking Cinemuerte or the VIFF into account.

An asterix denotes essential musical experiences, by me:

Sept. 13 – Black Mountain @ Richards on Richards (great, narcotized hard rock, but I've seen 'em -- it'll depend on my mood). Other people tell me I should see the Brian Jonestown Massacre... is that on this date, too.

*Sept. 15 – John Oswald (of Plunderphonics) @ Western Front (sample-based weirdness, I think -- a big name, must explore)

*Sept 21 – New Model Army @ Richards on Richards (unconfirmed - gig may not happen! An amazing, underrated, passionate British band with a social conscience and biting, insightful lyrics)

Sept. 22nd -- DOA plays with reinstated original members Randy Rampage and Chuck Biscuits at the Candy Bar and Grill. I might actually have to go to this event.

Sept. 23 – Apocalyptica @ Richards on Richards (European heavy metal cellists: go figure)

Sept. 27, Sigur Ros @ Orpheum (I haven't really explored these guys yet, which I suppose is kind of funny, given they're the most commercially successful band on the list, but... They're from Iceland, and that's enough to make me curious.

*Sept. 28 – Acid Mothers Temple @ Richards on Richards (psychedelic freaks from Japan)

*Oct 14 - Nihilist Spasm Band @ Western Front (seminal Canadian noise pioneers who play instruments they've designed themselves)

*Oct. 15 - Al Neil at Western Front, @VPL Oct 21, @Roundhouse Nov. 10, @VAG Nov 25 (important avant-garde pianist who rarely performs; his LP, Boot and Fog, is noteworthy for having the most fucked up version of "Over the Rainbow" imaginable -- a must-hear. Also a painter.

*Oct. 27 - Tobias Delius 4Tet, @ Ironworks (I've seen this European sax improviser play twice and loved both shows. Will be bringing wildman Han Bennink with him, too. Everyone should see Han Bennink once!)

*Nov. 25 – Eugene Chadbourne @ Western Front (wacky, weird psychedelic hero and guitar improviser with a fondness for covering Roger Miller and Phil Ochs tunes and doing twisted takes on classic rock songs -- or making huge, dangerous noises. Fronted Shockabilly, has played with John Zorn, Derek Bailey, Camper van Beethoven, the Sun City Girls, the Violent Femmes, Evan Johns, Jimmy Carl Black, Jello Biafra, Han Bennink, and far too many other noteworthies to note. YOU MUST ATTEND THIS SHOW. So must I. Assumedly, so must Dr. Chad.

This is pleasant, actually -- as the weather gets greyer, I'll need something to cheer me up.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Freedom to Torture Iraqis?

There it is, folks -- the Operation Iraqi Freedom coffee mug, with the words "Abu Ghraib" on the front. Get yours today -- $4.99 on eBay.


Holy shit, it looks like Eugene Chadbourne is coming, too! (See the last listing on the page). Alas, it doesn't sound like he'll be playing "Georgia in a Jug" with this particular ensemble, but fuggit, it's still a great day! I will presently e-mail Dr. Chad (who knows me as a guy who is most enthusiastic about his "homemade" CD packaging -- I've about 8 of his homemades at present) and confirm that he's coming up this way. Perhaps I can tempt him with some local, uh, greenery...

You know, it's just as well the Flesheaters never tour anymore. We're getting pretty close to the end of the "performers to see before I die" list... The Ex are pretty high up there, too...

Postscript: it's confirmed, folks: Eugene Chadbourne is coming! Our correspondence on the matter began thus:

Me: Dr. Chadbourne!!!

Him: Sir Allan of Couve!

Me: Do I gather that you are going to perform in Vancouver in November?

Him: This is true.

Me: Oh joyous day, if it is so!

Him: Joyous for me, for once I am not unemployed during this gross out American holiday...

Looks like he's going to play two gigs, one here and one in Victoria. I am delighted at the prospect of meeting him. Any Eugene Chadbourne fans out there?

NIHILIST SPASM BAND ARE COMING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I hope you read it hear first, folks: Canada's art-noise cacophaneers are making their way to the west coast -- and will be playing the Western Front, on October 15th. Add this to the list of essential autumn shows, alongside the New Model Army and the Acid Mothers Temple (both play Richards on Richards in September). On bad days, shows like this on the horizon are all I need to get me through; whoever THOUGHT I'd get to see the Nihilist Spasm Band perform live?

Another Difficult Free Cell

11390. It takes a while to figure it out.


I loved Down by Law, my first exposure to Jim Jarmusch; liked Stranger than Paradise and Mystery Train; and I've been glad to see Jarmusch trying to broaden the scope of his filmmaking over the last few years. None of his last few films have impressed me much, though. Coffee and Cigarettes had one truly engaging episode and otherwise meant little to me. Ghost Dog left me flat; the samurai exoticism didn't move me much, the characters seemed more like contrived eccentric sketches of people than real people, and some of Jarmusch's deliberately quirky bits (gangsters talking in deadpan about Indians, say) seemed distracting, annoying, and unnecessary -- seemingly moved by a desire to preserve his reputation as an oddball than by any filmic considerations. Dead Man, too, much as I liked things about it -- it's certainly his most praiseworthy film since Down by Law -- has its share of failed moments, and ends up being subverted by the directors' self-conscious need to maintain a "quirky" reputation -- I mean, Iggy Pop in a dress telling the story of Goldilocks? Such moments leave you questioning whether Jarmusch really knows what he's doing, whether he actually has the control and discipline and insight into his own work to carry out a film as ambitious as Dead Man is without badly fucking up at least 5% of it. I was starting to come to the conclusion that the size of his talent simply didn't match the size of his ambitions, and rather wishing he would attempt to make something a little smaller scale, where his skills lie; I was happy to hear Broken Flowers described as a sort of minimalist mood piece, and I was aware sitting down at the Granville Seven tonight that I wanted badly to like it. I've needed a film to play at a mainstream cinema lately that I could respect and enjoy; it seems like it's been years. I was worried that, even being aware that most of his last few films left me wanting quite a bit more, that my hopes would be too high, and ruin the movie for me.

Turns out I have cause to be relieved and grateful: I was moved by the film and am glad to be able to recommend it (which is all I'm trying to do, here; I have little to say about it, am just pointing to it and saying that you should see it; it's not a film that leaves you overwhelmed with the desire to analyze it, come the end). It still has a few unnecessarily Jarmuschian touches -- the constant invocation of the "Don Juan" theme at the beginning is clumsy and heavy-handed, as if Jarmusch doesn't trust his audience to pick up on such things unless he underlines, italicizes, and boldfaces them; and the animal communication sequence leaves you worried throughout that he'll subvert the mood he's managed to create, too -- its actually a wonder that he doesn't. (As an aside: Jessica Lange is still damned hot, too; how old can she possibly be? She was looking fifty about ten years ago -- and she still does; she just keeps getting sexier, somehow). There is little I can say about the film that will heighten the experience of watching it, and too much chance that I'll subtract from its pleasures by cataloguing them in advance, so that's all I'll say. It's an effective, sad, quiet, gentle, and finely observed film -- basically the only film playing in any commercial cinema in Vancouver that I imagine a thoughtful adult viewer might appreciate.

I think I'll just skip Gus van Sant's Last Days, you know? I saw Gerry. I saw Elephant. I even saw Nirvana in concert, back in the day. I just don't care. It's great that he's imitating Bela Tarr and I hope that it leads to Tarr getting more notice in North America, but my respect just isn't that easily won; after Finding Forrester, it offends me that van Sant has the ego to think he can win credibility for himself through imitation, no matter who he chooses to imitate. I'd respect him more, probably, if he stuck to making well-crafted, hollow commercial films for the masses; there is a point beyond which there is no turning back, and he reached it far too long ago to try to win back the respect of critics and cineastes. Besides, he doesn't really have a whole hell of a lot to say.

Tell me if I'm wrong.

PS: looks like Jessica Lange was born in 1949.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Jazz Fans Note: Sale at Virgin

Some locals might be interested in this... In preparation for the September changeover that will be happening, when Virgin music ceases its Canadian operations and hands over the Megastore to HMV, they've been selling off a lot of their merchandise. Books, at 50% off, are well-picked-over at this point, as are the headphones, accessories, video games, LPs, and so forth; but they've just begun marking down some of their CDs and DVDs, and its in the CD bins that I've found some special items. HMV will be buying a lot of their stock, but apparently not anything on obscure labels or any imports -- I stocked up on free jazz and improvised music, including stuff on Leo, on the British label Emanem (not to be confused with angry white rappers), plus some cool William Parker and Alan Silva discs, and two neat Residents reissues, all at half-price. Given Virgin's tendancy to charge the highest possible price for items, that's really not that much of a discount -- I paid around $18 a CD, once taxes and whatnot were included -- but given how hard some of this stuff is to find, I'm quite happy. There's a bunch of cool stuff left to be picked over, including old folk blues (I spied a Blind Lemon Jefferson CD that tempted me) and trad jazz (including some really cool Count Basie and Duke Ellington discs); and there was even some avant garde stuff I left behind, including Curlew, Roscoe Mitchell, Evan Parker, and Michael Moore releases. Worth your while, if you're into that kind of music.

Nothin' much else to say... The Winks play Wednesday at the Butchershop.

Praying Mantis Kills Hummingbird

This'll surely be making the rounds.

There were praying manti (mantises?) in Japan. They were fascinating creatures, and some were quite large. I recall picking one up from a parking lot and moving it to safety on a bush; I was most unnerved that it could turn its head to look at me.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Jandek on Tour!

As I think I mentioned somewhere below, I have this fantasy that, due to mounting "rebel consumerism" -- as the herd seeks to find new ways to attain access to formerly elitist modes of expression and the ever-flexible tendrils of consumer capitalism find new ways to gratify their needs -- Jandek will become a superstar. I would greatly enjoy this; I don't expect it will ever come to pass, but tis a consummation devoutly to be wish'd... I mean, think on it, none of us old punks ever suspected that bands that any form of "our music" (even a cleaned-up and castrated Sum 41/ Green Day version) would have commercial viability among the sons and daughters of the same beer-drinkin' meatheads who used to beat us up for lookin' funny and listening to music that sucks; now the very seven inches we spent $5 on back-in-the-day are fetching upwards of $500 on eBay, punk nostaligia is at its peak, at least a few old bands are fighting like dogs over the royalties to their back catalogues or and touring again, since they can finally make money at it, and you can even occasionally hear things that remind you of the good old days on the radio (tho' you still won't be hearing the Minutemen, Flesheaters, DOA, the Big Boys or Black Flag. Not even X). He's got a ways to go, but Jandek, once considered an outsider artist, recluse, and possible nut, considered listenable only by the most uuhrm distinguished music snobs out there, as of now has had one DVD and two tribute albums devoted to him, and is set for a mini-tour of North America, the first show of which is sold out. These are steps in the right direction, folks. I think Sony should seriously look at signing him. I want to see Jandek CDs in Zellers, in Future Shop, in K-Mart. I want to hear "Message to the Clerk" on classic rock stations. If anyone deserves to be the next Bob Dylan, it's Jandek.

Does K-Mart still exist?

Monday, August 08, 2005

The Nietzsche Channel

Nietzsche really was a formative influence... I should go back to exploring his writings again, perhaps a bit more cautiously (Nietzsche can get you into trouble). Anyhow, a pretty cool Nietzsche site, here.

Bizarre kick in the head from the God of Snot

Jesus! So here I am, high; I'm writing very Nietzschean things; and I come up with a spontaneous ditty about ploughing fields, while writing about how it is the "evil aristocracy" that usually is society's creative force -- it's a pretty substantial regurgitation of Nietzsche, which is impressive, given how many years its been since I last called myself an Nietzschean (about 13). Suddenly, in my attempts to decorate my blog entry with a quote, I stumble across a quote from Nietzsche about evil, creativity, and so forth, and it explicitly makes a ploughing reference! (See below). Impressed and excited, feeling my intuitions buttressed and encouraged by this synchronity (I mean, I am high) and thinking fondly of "the Big N," I begin composing an email to Dan about him, trying to chase down a quotation from his mad period, to the effect of, "I go here and there in my student's coat, and now and then I slap someone on the back and say, I am the God who has made this joke; are we content?"

...whereupon I stumble upon A BLOG BY THE GOD OF SNOT. What makes it truly a jarring experience is that it is in the EXACT SAME FORMAT AS MY BLOG, such that I become completely disoriented: it LOOKS like my blog, only I DIDN'T WRITE THIS!!! What's happening? Has my browser been hijacked? Who is this God of Snot and why is his format the same as mine????

Of course, it all makes sense after a few minutes, but I am no less terrified to explore this blog, let it turn out that the God of Snot is a former Nietzschean, too. Too many synchronicities make me nervous... you ever get the feeling that something out there is looking for you?

That would be a great line in a horror movie.

Hierarchies, Herds,and Tentacles

(Disclaimer: sometimes, when I smoke a wee bit o' the green, I get excitable and need to rant in writing (or otherwise) about whatever is crossing my mind. It is sometimes interesting, often lucid, but generally stands in need of editing, which I usually don't bother with doing once I've returned to an ordinary mode o' consciousness. Such is the case with the following rant; it is offered for whatever entertainment value it may have, but I make no claims to it's overall coherency or the quality of the prose. Cheers to you if you make it all the way through.)

Good and evil, sure, but relative to whom? Whose good? Whose evil? The notion of God can sometimes be expanded to include animals, plants, creation… but most generally the notion of God is commensurate with the whole of humanity. That is, the Christian God – what Nietzsche called “the Maximum God Attained So Far,” is meant to embrace and “apply to” the whole of humanity, not just the people who worship him (hence missionary work, the need to convert). Other Gods are more local, less ambitious. (Allah, too, is meant to embrace the whole of humanity; when a God is designed for this purpose, from any monotheistic perspective, such Gods are often quite jealous when the tribe encounters other tribes with other Gods; it’s not “one God,” but only for us, but rather, “one God for everyone, only starting with us,” and there will be some degree of intolerance towards anyone who presumes to have a different God). Great album name (has anyone used it yet?): My God is Bigger than Your God.

Anyhow: good and evil are relative to the interests of humanity; “good for people.” An action is good if it helps people, bad when it harms people. To worship God is to treat the whole of creation as sacred, because it is the only known manifestation of God, the only part of God we can affect. Notice that almost all sins against God (except idolatry) are sins that harm human beings.

God as the central uniting theme of the tribe, the “concept” of the tribe, the abstraction and personification of its values, that “protects” the tribe. God as the highest ideals of the tribe, pushed into a mirror and reflected back to us, engraved into our sacred texts and our art to hold all accountable to those ideals, including future generations.

Most of this is Nietzsche. Slave morality, master morality. He speaks of “pathos of distance” – that we need an instinct for rank, an instinct for what is higher or lower in man, in society; that the physical manifestation of this lies in the distance in rank from the aristocrat to the slave; that this distance, this instinct to hierarchy, is the founding principle of all values. The morality of the masters are the values that those with power experience, assert, affirm, embrace; the morality of the slaves – Christianity, primarily, in Nietzsche’s sphere of concern – is the attempt of the “downtrodden masses” to assert a form of power – power of “their” God, as protector of the sheep, over the masters. Morality as a tool by which victims hoodwink victimizers into thinking they shouldn’t do just any old thing they please, regardless of the consequences to others (which is what someone with power might presume is his or her right). Morality as an attempt to undermine the crueller, exploitive values of the masters, who need some reason to think they need to consider others: because they’ll suffer after death. The weak will get revenge on the strong, after death, by means of God, who administers justice. It’s not dissimilar from the reason why people used to fear suicides – the fear of the ghost of the person, coming back to haunt those who did him or her wrong and “caused” the suicide. Instead of killing myself and getting my ghost to beat those rich bastards up, I’ll just stay alive and sic my God on them. Sic ‘em, God.

Has anyone ever named their dog God? Here, God! Beg, God! Fetch, God! Heel, God! Roll over, God! “God, stop licking your balls! We have company!” Sic' em, God!

How strange for this to become the religion of empire – the values of the slaves triumph of the value of the masters; the herd grows stronger and stronger, and the masters grow to accept their judgment; the power of their God is actually the power of the herd itself, whom the masters fear. (Thus does Christianity become the religion of the formerly pagan Roman empire). The story of humanity is actually a story of greater and greater egalitarianism. As our society grows more complex, more sustaining of difference, more pluralistic, the values of the “herd” have become stronger and stronger alongside it; it’s only natural. As we sing in choir, “We are poor little lambs who have lost our way,” those who would sacrifice us weep and fill with remorse, and lay down their knives.

But Nietzsche was an aristocratic tit, of sorts; let’s deglamourize the masters and show a bit of respect to the herd; lets try to see the above in a more objective way, without taking sides quite so much. The message of the story is that the larger, more organized, and more complex the herd gets, the harder and harder it is for our “masters” to hold any sort of power over us. The people united shall never be defeated; it’s easy enough to look at Marx through the eyes of Nietzsche (the will to power is more “basic,” abstract, all-applicable than the class struggle) – but it’s actually more productive to look at Nietzsche through the eyes of Marx, to look at how values and class go hand in hand, and to sympathize not with the aristocrats, whatever their value may be -- but the herd. "Herd" is just another name for our common humanity, after all. The bonds between members of the herd do matter.

The question that actually got me started on this stems from my reflections on reading The Rebel Sell, and discussing my friend Dan’s musical tastes with him, which tend to the darker realm of the spectrum (we focused mostly on Controlled Bleeding, this weekend -- fuckin' Catholics, man). One of the premises of The Rebel Sell is that rebellion is often the privilege of the upper middle classes; that those who wish to destroy – or at least transform – society actually seldom come from the lower classes, but more often are from educated, moneyed classes. This taps into issues of master and slave morality – but why would the masters be more subversive, more disrespectful, towards the values of a society, when they seemingly have the upper hand? When they clearly profit so much from the social order, being on top of it?I mean, it’s because of the way society is organised that they’re rich, right? Shouldn’t they be more protective of social values? Why chop down a tree that you're sitting in?

Yet so often, the aritocrats, the athletes of perception, the Nietzscheans, witness social values we’re speaking as those of the herd, and want to subvert/transcend them. Witness Sade, Foucault, Bataille... I mean, S&M, fetishism, Satanism, avant-garde music/writing/film, “guerrilla theatre,” ecoterrorism, revolution, and other minority “elite” tastes (for the most part, anyhow) are generally the province of wealthy classes. Why? (I mean, sure, there are sadists, Satanists, and musical deviants at every class level, but, I mean, you’re more likely to find kinky freaky people in wealthy lofts in the city than in the suburbs; if someone likes to be tied up and spanked, chances are they read interesting books and have at least a college level education – it’s among the poor that such things are sick and disgusting and sinful. Usually.) To frame the question, then, in terms of the above observations of God, and accepting that “good” generally refers to something that can be tied to the species, some reflection of the human state, we might productively ask:

Why are the rich more evil than the poor?
Why are the poor more conservative than the rich?
Is there anything bad about this, or is it just the way things are?
How do we get the poor to be more revolutionary?
How do we get the rich to be more respectful of the herd?

There’s also the perennial favourite,

How am I implicated in this? Which of my views are really the sustained prejudices of my priviliged position, the artefacts of my class interests?

Also of note, for me, on a more microcosmic level:

Why is Dan’s music so darn evil?
Why does something in me object to it?
Why do I kind of like it, too, though?

The interesting thing for me is that people who THINK they’re rebelling by overthrowing social values, who think they’re changing society for the better, are really just asserting their own privilege. It’s only because society has granted them distance, through wealth, that they have the leisure time to... well, you get the idea.

Though there are other ways of being “distant” from society. You can rent a cabin in the woods, drop out; you can become a lunatic, a religious ascetic, a hermit... Such people seldom have any social power, though; I'm sure there are many deviants in log cabins who are very creative and intelligent, but their ideas don’t have much social force, given their low social stature. I mean, people read all sorts of radical environmentalist stuff and take it seriously, but not the Unabomber manifesto...

Aren’t these privileged few the driving force of social change, though? Artists and revolutionaries? Change comes from the top, and slowly drags the herd with it, slowly diffuses its way through the herd, slowly catches on? It all becomes a game of follow the leader. The rebels, who think they are oppressed by social conformity (=”oppressed by the values of the herd,”) are actually only able to rebel insofar as they are NOT actually oppressed; it is their privilege that drives their rebellion, not their oppression. The poor are the ones who resist change, who cling to securities... In crying out against those who dominate them, are really just looking out for their own interests. Hence they tend to devalue things which threaten social stability, which the lower classes are more dependent on than the upper. (From homosexuality to Communisim to sex-art-magick, these sorts of energies are best tapped by the rich, who can “afford” to explore these things, due to their relative independence from the community). The lower classes need their Christian values and common good manners and common sense and marital ties, need these structuring principles in their lives, because they are weaker, less able to stand on their own, more dependent on the aid of their communities and the sturdiness of communal bonds to get them by.

The wealthy can afford to rebel more than the poor, so they do. The wealthy have more status than the poor, so the poor eventually catch on and ape them. (The more sensitive souls, the artists and musicians and thinkers, usually go first, but how they are initially rejected by the herd!). (And aren’t they usually from the upper middle classes? It’s usually the kids with the parents with the best standard of living who become the freaks and geeks and art-rebels).

Shot from the herd like the turd of a cow
Run through the fields like an oversized plow
Sewing the seeds and calling the tune
Staring in bafflement down from the moon

The wealthy then need to reassert their status by devaluing, denigrating, what used to be cool, “before it became trendy.”

Dan and I did arrive at the conclusion, though, that there are multiple hierarchies… That to simply analyze anything in terms of power relations (or, as they tend to do in The Rebel Sell, economics) is a limited, and therefore, limiting, view. There will be stuff that doesn’t fit the framework, tentacles that reach out from the peripheries and attempt to tear the frame apart, freeing the unquantifiable organism at the center, unlimited, exploding life… There are multiple hierarchies in society… a hierarchy is just a tool we lay on top of social relationships to help us analyze them; like any pattern, it may reflect the rule, but there will always be exceptions, tentacles… So this is a partial analysis…

Uhh… anyhow, some of these thoughts started spinning around in my head, so I thought I'd kinda scribble them down somewhere. Here's a cool quote from Nietzsche's The Gay Science that just popped up, which is apropos:

What is new, however, is always evil, being that which wants to conquer and
overthrow the old boundary markers and the old pieties; and only what is old is
good. The good men are in all ages those who dig the old thoughts, digging deep
and getting them to bear fruit - the farmers of the spirit. But eventually all
land is depleted, and the ploughshare of evil must come again and again.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Great (Sea)Wall of China

I took a stroll through Stanley Park yesterday and contemplated the many Chinese determinedly fishing along the seawall. I had a rather cliched initial response: I wouldn't eat fish from these waters. Then it occured to me: why do I assume that they're catching fish because they're going to eat them? How many of these fish are ending up in supermarkets or Asian restaurants?

After debating the ettiquite of it for awhile, walking along while my curiosity percolated, I approached one man, standing with a fishing rod along my route. He was with someone who I took to be his son, in his 30's. I asked the older man, "Excuse me, I'm curious, but what do you do with the fish?"

He said, "Just bored. Nothing to do!" in a smiling, friendly way, and what it communicated to me was a complete unwillingness to answer the question. I asked another: what do you catch? I fish sometimes myself.

He smiled and said again, "Just bored, nothing to do!" His son, perhaps deciding to humour me, but not looking eager to engage me in discussion, opened a bucket, where two perch-like fish were sitting, one still breathing, at the bottom. The son was operating on a "humour the idiot and he'll go away faster" premise, from his gestures.

I become convinced that they're making money on this, selling the fish, and that I probably have eaten fish that came from these waters. I contemplated this for awhile, and about the odd invisibility, the present-but-separate status, of Chinese in Vancouver. I also managed to make eye contact with a seal, before it ducked under the water. The seals and Chinese compete for the fish (I've seen Chinese fishermen throw things at seals, to scare them away). For awhile, I wondered who I'd root for more, in a seal-vs.-Chinese fisherman scenario.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Fuel to the Fire

...and thus, Britain degenerates into racial tension and violence: the British press is reporting on the possibility of an insurgency, and even a normally left-leaning paper like the Independent is eyeing the Muslim/Middle Eastern/African community with paranoia and mistrust, as the source of a possible insurgency, of which these last bombings are merely the earliest manifestations. I wonder what the British Nationalist Party website looks like this week? I must check it out. Go here and see what I saw, when I finished typing this.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Sony Think They Own Zorro!

Somebody carve a Z into the Sony execs' foreheads for me, okay?

Nap Savaged by Fireworks

I was actually not having very good dreams -- I was having a nightmare that booking problems had forced the New Model Army to cancel their September 21st show at Richards on Richards, actually -- but all the same, I resent being awakened by the loud, semi-rhythmic booming of tonight's fireworks display. Who the hell cares about fireworks anymore, anyhow? Explosions in the sky: woo. Save it for the Land of the Dead (hey, there's a video game on this site... "Loot and Shoot." Hmm -- suddenly my id is tingling). About the only interesting thing about it was that, because there was sort of a "beat," I explained the sound to myself, as I swam up out of sleep, as that of some crazed homeless taiko drummer going at it on a dumpster in my alley...

Post-script: hm. I was ripped apart by zombies pretty much instantaneously, four games in a row. On my fifth game I was able to shoot a few in the head and survive for a couple of minutes, but then I turned a corner and got eaten. I just don't think I can take the excitement right now. At least the fireworks are over.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Monsters in the Meadow

I had no idea that this was happening. Coming out of Stanley Park after a walk with a friend last weekend, we stumbled onto a film screen set up on a grassy stretch with many people, mostly children, sitting in front of it. Images of King Kong and Godzilla, with the logo Monsters in the Meadow, appeared. Turns out that two Fridays in a row, this summer, the Vancouver Parks Board is playing monster movies -- actual films, not video-projection -- in the park. My friend and I sat in the grass for the original, 1933 version of King Kong; the Parks Board even managed to find a trailer for the upcoming Peter Jackson remake, which looked promising indeed -- Jack Black seems perfect as Denham. I've always had a great fondness for King Kong, since, in Grade 4, my elementary school teacher brought the class into the school gym, to show us his very own print of the film. It was amazing to me; I was awed by dinosaurs as a child, and not so spoiled (roundabout 1975, when this happened) by the special effects of the day. The film was pure magic, and it probably made a movie buff out of me, more than any other single film experience, and a horror buff, too -- I probably ended up a fan of Warren magazines and Famous Monsters of Filmland as a result of that experience, which, perhaps with a little help from certain TV shows, in turn probably turned me on to the short stories of Robert Bloch and Harlan Ellison, which ultimately made a reader out of me... It's wonderful that the Parks Board is offering a new generation of kids such an experience, though given how spoiled th' young'uns must be by the special effects of the day, it may not quite work the same magic on them as it did on me...

Anyhow, the good news is, this coming Friday (unless it rains) they plan to show Godzilla. I've just e-mailed them to ask them the two obvious questions that any cineaste would ask of the screening -- even tho' I fully know the answer to the first: 1. Is it dubbed or subtitled? and 2. Is it the restored version with Raymond Burr removed?

No offense to Raymond Burr fans, but I'll be damned excited if he ain't in it.

PS. They just emailed me back. Dubbing, Burr. I might go anyhow...

Justifying vs. Explaining Terrorism

The British have more tact than Americans. After the London terrorist attacks, very few people rushed to the fore to shout, "It's Iraq, stupid!" This sort of thing DID happen in the US after September 11th; once the dust had cleared, it didn't take long for various commentators on the left to leap into the breach saying that the attacks were the result of self-serving, short-sighted, and unpopular American foreign policies in the Middle East. The right then denounced the left, saying that it was in horrible taste to "justify" the attacks. It's been a couple of weeks for the same sort of thing to get cooking in Britain. (Granted, the rather strident John Pilger got his licks in a bit earlier than this, after a mere week's pause -- but frankly, much as I agree that the war in Iraq is and has been a horrifying folly at best and a criminal obscenity at worst, and as often as I've found myself in agreement with Pilger's camp over the last few years, there's something rather revoltingly "See! I was right! Now will you LISTEN?" about this article... Yes, John, we all know that the British government should not have supported Bush in Iraq, but they did; the question is what to do now, not to look for proof of your righteousness among the blood and fragments of your own countrymen... It seems I've come unstuck from the standard leftwing views on these matters, to the extent that I flat-out reject some of what is said in this article as propaganda and bullshit; when I read the Jamail report that "children, the elderly, were shot dead in front of their families, in cold blood," it strikes me as hysterical nonsense and little else.)

To explain suicide bombings, in London or elsewhere, it is inadequate to point solely to one's own country's actions as a cause, but it's probably a natural reaction among people of conscience. This seems to be the crux of the sort of disagreement we see here (between "explaining" and "justifying" terrorism). If a stranger walks up to you and shoots you on the street, it is completely valid to ask yourself, as you lie bleeding, "What did I do to deserve this?" Surely you'll look towards your own actual guilts before you look elsewhere -- one doesn't even have to be a liberal to understand this; even if your own past sins don't seem to merit such a punishment, to make sense of what has happened, you'll try to find something you might have done... One wants to believe the universe is just, and that things make sense; to lie dying in sheer incomprehension, unable to think of a single thing that could possibly have incurred such hatred, would be far worse than to have identified your fault and attempted some sort of psychic atonement. And, really, I mostly agree with Dominic Grieve, in the Independent article first quoted; surely Muslim reaction to British involvement in Iraq (along with local but related grievances, as part of the British support for Bush's war on terror) was 99% of the motive for the crime. Grieve seems like a man of conscience and good intent; and obviously, if Blair had not supported Bush in Iraq, this wouldn't have happened.

There is, unfortuately for us liberals, a fair bit of validity to taking the opposite point of view, though; that terrorism is caused by terrorists, and that (in this case) it is their fanaticism, religious delusion, and disregard for the lives of others that drives their action, as much as any actual grievances they may have. Grieve's opponent in the article, a Ms. Blears, states, "I don't see any justification for people blowing themselves up and murdering hundreds of other people," regardless of British foreign policy errors, and she's got a point, too. It is not particularly acceptible -- is racist, taboo, etc. -- for liberals and "enlightened people" to criticize members of another race or religion for their actions, but there is something to be found in certain strands of Islam that is dangerous, backwards and crazed; that the suicide bombers believed themselves to be committing a virtuous action which would somehow better the world is pathologically confused behaviour. I can almost rationalize the September 11th attacks as a well-thought out strategic move (however evil) on the part of Al Qaeda -- by provoking US overreaction, bin Laden hoped to gain support for his own side, which he was abundantly successful in doing. Given the current situation in Iraq or in the world, though, how blowing up British commuters could possibly serve any strategic ends is beyond me; surely the only sane end anyone could want to serve at this point would be to end this war, not to perpetuate it. If Muslim grievances are at the crux of the matter -- well, they'll have a fair bit more to grieve over, now, as British Muslims everywhere bear the brunt of British government reaction to these crimes. It's not like it's going to make Blair recant his support for the war in Iraq, either; just as Bush gained support after September 11th, Brits will rally around their leader even more, now, entrenching themselves in the Iraq quagmire for years to come. Assumedly this is not what the bombers thought they were achieving. Whatever was in their heads probably has more to do with a craving for glory, the bliss of martyrdom, and the desire for heavenly virgins than any actual political goal they thought they might achieve; there is backwardness, confusion, error, and extremism in all of this, which has as much to do with the London attacks as Blair's policy decisions. The suicide bomber's actions are simply not, however, as Grieve claims, "completely explicable" in terms of Iraq, regardless of how big a crime/blunder/what have you the war there has been. It is not simply our own house that needs cleaning... As one lies bleeding and shot in the street, as natural as it may be to wonder what one may have done to "deserve" it, it might be helpful to also remember that the murder of civilians is a crime, regardless of what one has done.

Unfortunately, I imagine it's a matter of months before similar terrorist actions happen in Canada. I can't say I'm looking forward to it. It all starts to remind me of a rather famous James Joyce quote.

Big, Rotten Cryptid

Look what washed ashore in China...