mercoledì, giugno 23, 2010

Men Who Stare at Boston

In a naughty world, I take perfection where I find it, and Boston's "More Than a Feeling" is perfect. Of all the genres of music I dislike yacht rock is probably close to the top, and of all the instrumental conceits I dislike big, jerk-off guitar solos are certainly on top, I honestly can't think of anything that annoys me more. Earlier this week I was trying to listen to Ritual de lo Habitual again and kept getting annoyed with the solos, and considering when it comes to Jane's Addiction you're either listening to the whiniest voice in rock or the guitar solos, that's fatal. But I actually really like the big jerk-off guitar solo in "More Than a Feeling" and I can't think of another that doesn't turn me off, although that probably has more to do with marijuana brain than another not existing.

Anyways. It is a fucking ace song. I can't think of another pre-1980 song that is so meticulous and tidy, up to true true yacht rock standards, while still having some sort of emotional effect and aesthetic beauty, outside of Motown properties. Or that window of time when the Beatles had figured out how to play their instruments and work with good producers but hadn't started taking all those sloppy lovely drugs yet. I've hitherto resisted loving it because of the horrible wankery of the yacht rock era, which I feel it paved the way for. But that's like hating on Van Gogh and Gauguin for all the art school dweebs who think just because those two weren't great technical painters they don't have to learn a damn thing about formal composition.

Also I have a weakness for dedicated autocratic fruitcakes and it looks like Tom Scholz fits the bill.

The song resurfaced on my consciousness due to watching Men Who Stare at Goats, one of about ten films I sat through on the way to Shanghai and back. Probably the best of the bunch. Guy Ritchie's Sherlock Holmes was in there too and that was kind of dumb though Robert Downey Jr is a real testament to how the drugs keep some of us young, and, erm, what else? It's Complicated . . . that was pretty shitty . . . some kung fu movie about Wind and Rain and Old Uncle Pervert, or something . . . well anyways, it just goes to show you how memorable it all wasn't. Oh yeah, there was another George Clooney film, Up in the Air, that was also kind of shitty. Men Who Stare at Goats was at least cute . . but facile, I thought . . . begging for the Coen brothers really, and considering they've been begging for some decent material it's a pity they missed each other. Also, why does Ewen McGregor keep getting wasted by his directors? I'm not just talking about the schlong not being got out. I totally remember him being this super-good actor a decade or so ago and he keeps failing to convince, these days.

martedì, giugno 22, 2010

Red herrings, red rubber and a fucking Wallonian idiot

In between other things recently I re-read Heart of Darkness. I made myself read it more slowly than usual, really sinking my teeth into each sentence. As the F-word says, it's an epic book, an epic in less than a hundred pages. I'm not confident that I'd given it that sort of treatment sufficiently in the past. Of all the books where not a single word is wasted!

To me now of course it's a book about Belgium: I honestly believe that Conrad had in mind to write a book about how much Belgium sucks. But naturally after I've spent three years here that's how I read it, and I'm sure in another year or two I'll read it in a completely different way. And if I could travel back in time to me when I was 15, and read that book for the first time, and say, "Little Miss La Spliffe, this is a book about how Joseph Conrad thought Belgians blew, and you will understand that after you've spent three years with the fuckers," I think I would have given myself a very funny look indeed.

But the thing was, what Belgians did in the Congo was a hecatomb. As an achievement of debasement, the Congo Free State is right up there with the Holocaust - so many millions dead in such a short period of time. I'd even argue that in a sense it was a much greater acheivement of debasement than the Holocaust: first because it was all managed without gas chambers, railroads or massive race paranoia, and secondly because the world's collective response to its repurcussions has been an almighty shrug of the shoulders about how those Congolese can't manage to stop murdering each other, instead of the sort of enduring efforts at popular reparation that let the Israeli army shoot Americans in international waters with a minimum of popular fuss.

The way Antwerp has gone on being an international diamond trading centre for no good reason and the fact that small arms manufacture is the only productive industry left in Wallonia - those things just slip under the radar. It would be like if Germany managed to just slip under the radar as the world's leading producer of striped pyjamas and blue tattoo ink. It would be like they had lost the second world war, had to apologize, but were allowed - no - encouraged, ordered by the rest of the world to keep the Jews, Gypsies and gay people working at the labour camps for another half-century . . .

But yeah - one mustn't make that comparison, must one? Part of the reason I'm feeling Heart of Darkness is a work of classic literature about how Belgians suck is because Belgians are still sucking. Hard. A la Louis Michel, sadly not just some fucking crank on the street, but an ex-EU commissioner whose work focused on the Congo, and who remains significant in post-colonial affairs. I understand that the Nazis had a genocidal philosophy and that the Belgians didn't, as Michel insisted, but that is the red herring of all time. It's a common Belgian defence when the Congo comes up, and a feature of the African museum's only updated exhibit here - minimizing the slaughter by arguing successfully what no serious historians disputes - that the Congo Free State was not an effort at genocide.

However, the fact the Germans murdered millions of people with a plan and the Belgians did it because they didn't give any sort of fuck about whether black people lived or died whilst they were being brutally exploited doesn't incline me one way or the other in terms of who out-evils who. Really just encourages me once more to think of the Belgian history in the Congo as a truly supreme example of debasement: they committed or facilitated all those murders in a psychopathic, unthinking fashion, when you'd think that sort of damage would need to be carried out by calculating sociopaths.

All of which is a long way to say I hope this goes somewhere. There have been apologies; there was the almighty stink a century ago occasioned by Casement and Conrad and Mark Twain and a bunch of other people who worked out the horror of what was going on, maybe one of the first such stinks. But has there been any accountability? I saw Leopold II's sarcophagus the other week, he sleeps soundly with all the other dead kings in an empty white room, where a sarcophagus lies waiting for the present king, with no splash of colour except a security guard making sure visitors don't take a shit on anything. And the post-period - the entire Belgian Congo - the population here has no more idea on that one then what they get out of Tin-Fucking-Tin (though it's nice to know that eventually Herge felt bad about all the hunting scenes in that book).

I'd been wondering how I'm going to accept living in a country like Australia, where it's much easier to argue that genocide did take place with no repurcussions to the population that did the cleansing, and insufficient compensation to them as have been cleansed. Trust a nice spot of upper-class Wallonian idiotic surreality to persuade me it'll probably be an improvement on here. Thanks Louis Michel, you fucking twat.

domenica, giugno 20, 2010


Still not sure how, though I believe it had something to do with completely ignoring the World Cup*, but this weekend magically managed to pull some extra hours out of my ass and make some things - moisturizing lotion and kim chi.

The lotion was the easy part. I seem to be trying to extend my food ethics - the 'don't eat anything you wouldn't kill yourself' - into my cosmetics ethics - 'don't put anything on your skin you couldn't eat if you were starving'. And it's dead easy to make a really lovely light cream with all the special treats you want once you have an emulsifying wax you're happy with. It's also somewhat necessary in our household, as the F-word, despite looking butch as all hell, has slightly fussy skin.

What is problematic - the only problem - is the preservatives issue. I'd rather just do without, make small batches, refrigerate, and use fast, both because of the abstract extension of my food ethics into my cosmetics ethics and because of the F-word's fussy skin. Which is for the best. Do a quick Google of all the 'make-your-own' etc. sites and it gets heated when it comes to preservatives, I think because people try to sell their own products and feel shoe-horned into using them. And I have to admit, the possibility of selling has presented itself to me too, because what I make is so damn lovely and wholesome. But I don't suppose I could do it without adding preservatives, and suddenly it's not so edible anymore . . .

Anyways, so that was fun, I always like making cosmetics, it's an excuse for me to mess around with beakers if nothing else, and since I haven't done that since OAC science about 14 years ago that's a thrill. Also the fussy little kitchen scale, which makes me feel like a low-level drug dealer.

The kim chi was the more difficult part, since it was a first effort and since it's still a work in progress, as it needs to finish fermenting. Also I think I burnt my right hand blending in the chili pepper but if it works it will be utterly, utterly worth it. When I was in Shanghai I had a few lovely cabbage dishes which were either pickled or fermented, and coming back here, to this barren land of overcooked European dishes, I realized I can't just hold out until I get to Australia - I need some fucking kim chi now. Patience, tummy, patience, soon you'll be filled with delicious spicy beneficial bacteria. Mwa ha ha.

*On Sunday morning after our guests scarpered, while the sound of Aussie Rules football filled the apartment while we vegged, I was absurdly proud to be one of the maybe 3 households in Benelux watching a different sport . . .