Friday, July 31, 2015

Singles Going Steady

PopMatters has launched a new feature this week called "Singles Going Steady" and I've decided to participate, dipping my toes back into music writing.

I've got blurbies on today's singles by

Duran Duran ft. Janelle Monae

Josh Ritter

and The Chills

Personable- "Snore"

aka M Geddes Gendras

Verbal Kent feat Freddie Gibbs- "Suitcase Switch"

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Is It Impossible to Make an Anti-War on Women Film?

Reading this dialogue between Mark Fisher and Amber Jacobs on Black Swan, originally published in Film Quarterly, and can't help thinking that I agree with both sides of the argument.  On the one hand, I, like Mark, originally saw the film and accepted its artifice, found it deeply moving, and thought it to be a deeply feminist film in the ways it portrayed women's bodies as this battleground for male design/male pleasure.  The body horror aspects- particularly the quasi-foot-binding- were particularly striking and have stuck with me through the years, even though I've only watched the film one other time since seeing it in the theaters. However, to Jacobs's point, the way the film presents itself as a film about the way women are pitted against one another does not leave room for departure, and entrenches the film in the rules and stereotypes it seems to be critiquing.  This makes it a horror film about, by, and within patriarchy, even if one considers the negativity of the angles it focuses on to frame it more against than for.

It makes me think about the old adage (attributed to Truffaut) about how you can never truly make an anti-war film, because every film about war must reinforce the notion that war is exciting and thrilling.  In a similar way, I wonder if you can ever make a film about the limitations of patriarchy, particularly as a male storyteller, without affirming its allegedly innate authority.   Natalie Portman's Nina in Black Swan is a character that is completely invested in the patriarchal model of womanhood, and certainly women who are meek, overwhelmed, and unstable (I'd stop short of saying "hysterical" as Jacobs suggests- I think she's drawn a touch more three-dimensionally than that) do exist.  One of the reasons I found the film compelling was because it contained a protagonist you don't often see on the screen.  But can you choose a protagonist like this, whose entire value system is defined within the horror of patriarchy, without making said central figure become an allegorical emblem of womanhood?

 In Black Swan, I believe Mila Kunis's Lily was designed to be a foil to this, but all of what we know of Lily is told from Nina's decidedly skewed perspective.  Nina believes Lily is after her role, because that seems to the rules of engagement, but there are several moments in which Lily couldn't seem to care less.  Nina sees in Lily her own expiration date, but she also desires the way in which Lily may just be free of concern about the patriarchal rules- that is, if this isn't just an act, an elaborate ruse to sneak her way into Nina's ballet shoes.  The film doesn't let us see Lily in just one way though.  It makes us want to believe the best since Nina is clearly crazy, but also makes us complicit in the lie that all women are catty and manipulative at their core.

Entrepreneurial Spirit


"The saintly Alan recently gave a talk to newspaper editors in the US. He spoke passionately about the miracles of the market, the wonders bought by consumer choice and so on. He also gave some examples: the Internet, computers, information processing, lasers, satellites, transistors.28 It's an interesting list: these are textbook examples of creativity and production in the public sector. In the case of the Internet, for thirty years it was designed, developed, and funded primarily in the public sector, mostly the Pentagon, then the National Science Foundation, that's most of the hardware, the software, new ideas, technology and so on. In just the last couple of years it has been handed over to people like Bill Gates who, at least, you have to admire for his honesty: he attributes his success to his ability to 'embrace and extend' the ideas of others, commonly others in the public sector.29 In the case of the Internet, consumer choice was close to zero, and during the crucial development stages the same is true of computers, information processing, and all the rest, unless by 'consumer' you mean the government; that is, public subsidy.
"In fact, of all the examples that Greenspan gives, the only one that rises maybe to the level of a joke is transistors, and they are an interesting case. Transistors, in fact, were developed in a private laboratory - Bell Telephone Laboratories of AT&T - which also made major contributions to solar cells, radio astronomy, information theory, and lots of other important things. But what is the role of markets and consumer choice in that? Well again, it turns out, zero. AT&T was a government supported monopoly, so there was no consumer choice, and as a monopoly they could charge high prices: in effect, a tax on the public which they could use for institutions like Bell Laboratories where they could do all of this work. So again, it's publicly subsidised. As if to demonstrate the point, as soon as the industry was deregulated Bell Labs went out of existence, because the public wasn't paying for it any more: its successors work mostly on short-term applied projects. But that's only the beginning of the story. True, Bell Labs invented transistors, but they used wartime technology which, again, was publicly subsidised and state-initiated. Furthermore there was nobody to buy transistors at that time, because they were very expensive to produce.
"So, for ten years the government was the major procurer, particularly for high-performance transistors. In 1958 the Bell Telephone supplier, Western Electric, was producing hundreds of thousands of these, but solely for military applications. Government procurement provided entrepreneurial initiatives and guided the development of the technology, which could then be disseminated to industry. That's 'consumer choice' and the 'miracle of the market' in the one case that you can even look at without ridicule. And in fact that story generalises, even the most ignorant economist must know this. The dynamic sectors of the economy rely crucially on massive public subsidy, innovation and creativity; the examples that Greenspan gave are mostly some of the most dramatic cases of this. It's a revealing set of choices. A lot of this is masked as defence, but that's not all, the same is true in biotechnology, pharmaceuticals and so on.
Naturally, business is delighted with all of this: the public pays the costs, assumes the risks (a kind of 'socialism for the rich'); and profit and power are privatised -- that's really existing market theory. It goes back for centuries, but it is dramatically true now.
"Particular cases make it even more dramatic. Take the leader of the conservative revolution in Congress, Newt Gingrich. He is a fount of very impressive rhetoric about the work ethic, and getting off the cycle of dependency, how seven-year-old children have to learn responsibility and that sort of thing. But, year after year, he holds the championship in bringing home federal subsidies to his rich constituents, in a sector of Georgia where the economy is even more dependent on federal subsidies than in most places.30 His favourite cash-cow is Lockheed-Martin. There is a two-hundred-dollar annual Lockheed-Martin tax per capita in the US"

- Noam Chomsky, Power in the Global Area, 1998

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

No Cars Go

"The DEA program collects data about vehicle movements, including time, direction and location, from high-tech cameras placed strategically on major highways. Many devices also record visual images of drivers and passengers, which are sometimes clear enough for investigators to confirm identities, according to DEA documents and people familiar with the program.

The documents show that the DEA also uses license-plate readers operated by state, local and federal law-enforcement agencies to feed into its own network and create a far-reaching, constantly updating database of electronic eyes scanning traffic on the roads to steer police toward suspects.

The law-enforcement scanners are different from those used to collect tolls.

By 2011, the DEA had about 100 cameras feeding into the database, the documents show. On Interstate 95 in New Jersey, license-plate readers feed data to the DEA—giving law-enforcement personnel around the country the ability to search for a suspect vehicle on one of the country’s busiest highways. One undated internal document shows the program also gathers data from license-plate readers in Florida and Georgia.

“Any database that collects detailed location information about Americans not suspected of crimes raises very serious privacy questions,’’ said Jay Stanley, a senior policy analyst at the ACLU. “It’s unconscionable that technology with such far-reaching potential would be deployed in such secrecy. People might disagree about exactly how we should use such powerful surveillance technologies, but it should be democratically decided, it shouldn’t be done in secret.’’

- Devlin Barrett, U.S. Spies on Millions of Drivers, Wall Street Journal

Against Slow Cinema

"So my overall sense is that the Contemplative Cinema Canon doesn’t even give us a very good sense of what’s most interesting and most powerful in contemporary international art cinema today. But I think there’s more. Great works of art can be created in profoundly retrograde styles, and almost completely detached from contemporary concerns. And I think the best works of the Contemplative Cinema Canon may in fact be described in such a way. But I still think that, even at its best, Slow-Cinema-As-Default-International-Style is profoundly nostalgic and regressive — and I think that this is a bad thing. It’s a way of simulating older cinematic styles, and giving them a new appearance of  life (or more precisely, a new zombified life-in-death), as a way of flattering classicist cinephiles, and of simply ignoring everything that has happened, socially, politically, and technologically, in the last 30 years. It’s a way of saying No to mainstream Hollywood’s current fast-edit, post-continuity, highly digital style, simply by pretending that it doesn’t even exist. And I agree with Nick James that this simply isn’t enough."- Steven Shaviro, Slow Cinema vs Fast Cinema

Nearly every art/indie film I watch these days is so fucking dull, you guys.  Nearly as bad as the superhero films.  Above, a great example- the infinitely dull Somewhere directed by Sofia Copolla, which was followed up by the far "faster" and incredibly superior, prescient and entertaining The Bling Ring.

Dreamcrusher- "Youth Problem"

Friday, July 24, 2015

DJ Orange Julius ft DJ Mastercard- "Gangs"

Yearning Kru- "Multipass"


“I refused to legitimize police violence against people by telling them that if they behave differently, maybe they won’t die,” Hill insisted. “Harry said maybe you won’t end up on the ground. Yes, there are strategies we can use to survive. But the fact that we live in a world where we have to deploy strategies not to be murdered or killed or assaulted by police unlawfully is absurd.”

“What Harry is calling arrogance, I’m calling dignity,” Hill declared. “Black people have a right to assert their dignity in public. And just because it doesn’t cohere with what police want doesn’t mean they are being arrogant or dismissive.”

"How long must we be open public targets while quiet loners and cops target us?  How many must be dragged out of their vehicles to sacrifice to the culture of death?  Who will be the last to die seated in a quiet theater so that insecure white men can continue to feel the comforting potential to murder at any instant?"- The electorate

"All men must die"- The elected

Emily Hall- "Mantra"

Mouth Music

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Glammier Glamour: A 555 Enterprises Mix

1. Cockney Rebel - Mr. Soft
2. The Sweet - Fox On The Run
3. Death - Keep On Knocking
4. Funkadelic - Alice In My Fantasies
5. Patti Smith - Piss Factory
6.. David Bowie - Win
7. Dana Gillespie - Andy Warhol
8. Mick Ronson - White Light/White Heat
9. New York Dolls - Chatterbox
10. Rubettes - I Can Do It
11. Alice Cooper - Only Women Bleed
12. John Cale - Heartbreak Hotel
13. dancer - Hate Generator
14. Thin Lizzy - Showdown
15. Elton John - Street Kids
16. Ted Nugent & The Amboy Dukes - Sweet Revenge
17. Aerosmith - Toys in the Attic
18. Brian Eno - Third Uncle

Everything Is In the News Today

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Painful to Pretend: What Mr. Robot Does That Is Actually Like Nothing on Television

For weeks before the season premiere, the ads for Mr. Robot were unremitting. I listen to a lot of music at work via Youtube, where the incessant monotonous hum of skippable ads hammer at every conceivable interval between playlist tracks.  Mr. Robot’s campaign administered itself into this regimen.  The algorithim that wiggled and rigged these promos in front of me seemed targeted, an equation of websites visited, songs purchased, petitions signed, articles liked, twitter follows, et al., which is part of what made me skeptical.  The world Mr. Robot’s protagonist seemed to be targeting was the one that was producing it. 

It’s well-established that the culture industry produces interpassive modes of resistance that allow us to simulate rebellion without actuating it.  A show about a hacker fighting the 1% seemed destined to only be told in the circular language of existing tropes, resistance to the spectacle told in its native tongue.  We already know the one about the solitary hero who lives his* life thinking that something is off, but can’t quite place it; who through chance or a fateful step outside his comfort zone finds a pre-prepared underground whose existence forms the epiphany that helps him take on an authoritarian power structure filled with impossibly uncaring evil tyrants**.  We’ve seen that flick a million times before and Mr. Robot knows it.

In a way, Mr. Robot flirts with these genre conventions as it tries to subvert them. Four episodes in, the show has teetered on the edge of greatness, but it remains poised to spoil the good graces it has earned by tipping the scale back to the favor of the familiar at any given moment.   There’s plenty of writing out there right now on why this show is the surprise success of the season, so I want to focus briefly on why the show’s anti-capitalist bent, even if performative, does a number of things right, or at least in a way that television was seemingly never “allowed” to do prior to this show.

Shows with politics central to the plot tend to dilute any specific aims in an attempt to diversify their audience.  Like good democrats, studios don’t mind alienating passionate and fiery progressives in favor of satiating the middlebrow middle class.  As such, Mr. Robot’s narrative lead in Elliot, played by a masterful Rami Malek, is alarmingly acute in his gripes.  Rather than rage broadly against the machine, Elliot actually names names.  And not just when he calls out giant corporations like Eli Lily or Monsanto by name (the main target on the show is eCorp, whose logo is a not-so-subtle facsimile of Enron but whose brand encompasses BoA, General Electric, Google, Apple, you name it- essentially a stand-in for all conglomerated capital).  He targets exactly the performative aspects of popular culture that we liberals are sanctioned to enjoy- the biography of Steve Jobs, The Hunger Games, Marvel movies, nerd culture, et al.   A more winking show might have implicated the Mr. Robot brand itself in this list.  Yet, when the show attempts to throw a cheap jab against a character whose Facebook likes include “Transformers 2”, “Josh Groban”, and “George Bush’s Decision Points”, Elliot retreats, admitting that said douche is still not that bad a guy, careful to separate institutions from their unwilling control subjects, and cautious to delineate that people are not the sum of all they consume.  Still, fuck that guy.

Elliot is a contradictory character, an outsider who longs for acceptance, but also an extreme narcissist, which is a dangerous thing to be in a first-person narrative show.  Within the first ten minutes of the show, he has “destroyed a man’s life, his existence, I deleted him”, the latter being a child pornographer hosting websites routed through servers in his franchised coffeehouses that contained Wi-fi too good to be true.  Elliot can’t socialize with actual humans and instead snoops around online, collecting information via every available channel***. He considers himself to be extremely perceptive, but fails to notice that his boss is gay and misinterprets half of what his childhood friend seems to be communicating at any given point.  He outs a cheating boyfriend to dispossess his psychiatrist of her trustworthy nature, but fails to open up to her about what’s irking him on a day-to-day basis.  He creeps like a creep in the shadows, placing no value on what others perceive to be safe spaces, exposing those portals as the insecure hubs they are.  While playing a hero, he assumes the pose of a predator, and unlike our current crop of superhero films, Mr. Robot is upfront about how problematic this thin veneer is.

The show walks a tightrope around Elliot’s moral gray areas.  On the one hand, it expects us to be sympathetic to his crusader efforts against eCorp.  I don’t anticipate that the show will eventually turn him into some kind of Walter White style villain, but by making him the singular focus it does veer the narrative towards his loner/lonely perspective in a very Notes from the Underground way.   Elliot is a self-avowed pessimist who sees and expects the worst in people and is often right.  His antisocial online activity stems from a place of male privilege, where intentionality is always the white horse even if the methods he uses to track his psychiatrist and his best friend mirror abusive behaviors women face daily from cyberbullies (the likes of which appear later in the show in the form of a hacker group trying to extort a couple in a revenge-porn like scheme). Elliot attempts to be chivalrous standing up for a female colleague in a boardroom meeting, but actually ends up just humiliating her and re-affirming the institutional sexism of the executives he’s speaking with.   Mr. Robot is smart in presenting Elliot as an unreliable narrator, often as much a product of the world he’s dismissing as those he writes off, but it’s also subtle in ways that may be lost on potential audiences looking to ride out his corporate takedown on Elliot’s terms alone.

What’s interesting and unique about Elliot’s issues is how the show clearly implicates capitalism in his malaise, and not just because his father suffered from Leukemia brought on by radiation he was exposed to as an employee at eCorp.  His loneliness, insularity, anxiety, and depression are all augmented by the barriers of neoliberal ontology, specifically how late capitalist society does not allow a space for people like him to exist.  In the pilot’s opening scene, Elliot attempts to identify with the child pornographer; “I know what it’s like to be different.  I’m very different too.”  Capitalism treats both of them as equals, the hacktivist and the black market sexual predator, the Arab kid too awkward for most gainful employment and the small business owner too perverse to be satisfied with what’s on the market.  The massive ethical divide between the two doesn’t really make a difference to the reigns of control.  If Elliot is caught, he will likely face as much jail time as the child pornographer, if not more.   

Elliot’s too shy to create the kind of Pinterest dream life he sees his friends and coworkers enjoying, too disenfranchised to consume away his troubles with anything but narcotics and cheap thrills from hacking personal accounts.  And even though he knows this is all fantasy, that none of us actually live the lives we’re expected to simulate online, he still desires it. He longs to live there, a “bug-free life”. 

“What are you thinking about?” asks Elliot’s psychiatrist at one point in the pilot. “Nothing”, he replies. On the one hand, this is just an accurate portrayal of living with anxiety or depression. When there’s so much weighing on you at any given time and the vastness of it so great that language fails.  Or perhaps you just don’t feel like sharing. Elliot mentions at one point that he isn’t on Facebook.  On the other hand, there’s the desolate feeling of complete ontological isolation that comes from living in a world that seems fundamentally unjust, governed by hierarchies that benefit so few and cause great suffering to so many.  You walk around and see the wiring, the artificiality everywhere, but it persists with the consent of everyone around you.  “We voted for this,” Elliot remarks at one point.  Speaking up about this is a constant, often futile struggle when so many seem to either willfully ignore it or, worse, be just fine with it.  This cripples Elliot. 

Mark Fisher described the inner voice of depression as an “internalised expression of actual social forces, some of which have a vested interest indenying any connection between depression and politics.”  Elliot’s feelings of self-worth most definitely have a political dimension to them, which is something television never shows.  He simultaneously thinks he is too good and not good enough for his peer group and the divide is largely ideological.  In the third episode, he compares the way he and others are guided by outside forces to daemons, background programs that run an operating system without direct input from a user ( a term which also has some obvious religious overtones as well).   

“There’s a saying- the devil’s at his strongest while we’re looking the other way. Like a program running in the background, silently- while we’re busing doing other shit.  Daemons, they call them.  They perform action without human interaction. Monitoring, logging, notifications- primal urges, repressed memories, unconscious habits- they’re always there, always active...We can try to be right.  We can try to be good. We can try to make a difference.  But it’s all bullshit.  Because intentions are irrelevant.  They don’t drive us. Daemons do.”

“I think you secretly hate it here”, his longtime friend and colleague says to him.  “No, I love it here.”  Here is the workplace no film or show would ever show- a place where people fight for jobs they hate because they’re terrified of what would happen if they didn’t go there every day with a smile on their face.  A place where people lie to their coworkers in order to confirm something that no one believes.  “It’s painful not to pretend”, Elliot intones in his dry, affectless monotone. 

Television is wont to always portray the liars as the bad guys and the truth-tellers as the good guys, but in actuality we all lie, regularly, in service of nothing more than the status quo.  We lie because lies are reinforced by the gatekeepers, and the penalty for not lying could be severe, painful even.   Even Elliot’s pivotal turn, an act that spins him from a cybersecurity tech curmudgeon into a would-be revolutionary is enacted because of a personal, rather than political qualm.  Had his friend not been insulted, he would have gladly handed over the hacktivists of fSociety to his corporate overlords on a silver platter.  Because even though he hated his job and everything about the corporate world he found himself trapped in, it would be too painful not to pretend that the wage security was a best case scenario for a misfit like him.

Mr. Robot breaks from the old lefty lie of the dignity of labor, the liberation of work, as if full employment would be some heroic end to the age of austerity.  Show creator Sam Esmail, an Egyptian, said he wrote the pilot as a film after witnessing friends and relatives experience firsthand the events of the Arab Spring, suggesting that an equivalent uprising may be coming for the west.  Mr. Robot may be the first real post-recession show, one that acknowledges that things are not shaping up to be business as usual, nor should they be, that the ground has shifted.  That the recent recession is not, as Elliot calls his fSociety stint in a moment of despair, “a glitch in the otherwise neat reality…created over the years.”

*Always his. Never her.

**In this scenario, authority is generally depoliticized into a kind of strict despotism with no actual strategic goals.  A stand-in father figure that must be removed as part of the adolescent fantasy of replacing one’s parents

***The show makes it clear just how many pathways into human experience exist in explorable online outlets. The candyland of online information permits him to be a virtual NSA or information-gathering

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

I Never Had a Job Because I Never Wanted One

"Let’s imagine all of our reforms are enacted. Even with guaranteed paid leave, universal and high-quality childcare, and other reforms that improve the workplace for women, even if all women who were willing and able flooded into the labor force, could we say that we had truly liberated women under the capitalist system?

Capitalism, after all, does not ascribe value for the work that gets done inside the home. In pre-capitalist societies, women were certainly subjugated and oppressed, but because all work was done to sustain the lives of the people who did it, plowing a field or baking a loaf of bread were equally essential. Under capitalism, work done outside the home can be sold for wages to capital; work done inside the home can’t create more capital for the capitalists."

- Bryce Covert, Is There Room for Women Workers Under Capitalism? , The Nation

Ramona Lisa- "Arcadia"

Interfaces of Death

"The videographic afterimage of a real event is always peculiar. When the event is a homicide, it can cross over into the uncanny: the sudden, unjust and irrevocable end of the long story of what one person was, whom he loved, all she hoped, all he achieved, all she didn’t, becomes available for viewing and reviewing. A month after I went to North Charleston, back in Brooklyn and writing about the shooting, I find a direct approach difficult.

I write about Holbein’s “Pictures of Death,” and about Robert Capa’s photograph and Eddie Adams’s. I write about “The Two Drovers,” about Robin tramping through the borderlands intent on murder. I write about my morning in North Charleston, the gloomy drive there and back and the wilted flowers on the chain-link fence on Craig Road. If you set enough tangents around a circle, you begin to recreate the shape of the circle itself. Finally, I start to watch footage of Scott’s last moments. It’s the third time, and it makes me uneasy and unhappy. The video begins with the man holding the camera racing toward the fence. A few seconds later, Walter Scott breaks away from Michael Slager. Slager plants his feet and raises his gun. There is still time. He shoots once, then thrice in quick succession. Scott continues to run. There is still time. "

- Teju Cole, Death in the Browser Tab, New York Times 

Nozinja-"Baby Do U Feel Me?"

Dieter Moebius: A Primer

An immense loss of an extraordinary talent.  Moebius and Roedelius, after making a couple of brutal proto-industrial albums that would make Blixa Bargeld pee himself, invented Kosmische and took us all to outer space, inner space, and beyond.  RIP to this great talent.

Played piano and assisted in writing with Eno on this

My Review of Harmonia 76's Tracks and Traces
My Review of Moebius's Blue Moon OST
My Review of Moebius's Tonspuren

Monday, July 20, 2015

A Crack in the Cosmic Egg

I cannot deny biology! I am still a person!  I still sweat! Still bleed!  I sweat and bleed for revolution, but I sweat and bleed no less!

Sheldon, frustrated, twists the iron into Leonard's forearm, but Leonard doesn't scream.  Sheldon's eyes widen.


- Kaleb Horton's unfilmed spec script for The Big Bang Theory

Friday, July 17, 2015

Dignity is a Negotiation With Culture

With all the news about innocent black men and women being mercilessly slaughtered by uniformed government officials and black places of worship burning carefree in the streets while white people pat themselves on the back about disliking a dissolved confederacy, it's interesting to reflect on this interview with Kerry Noble of the Covenant, the Sword, and the Arm of the Lord.  CSA was part of the Christian Identity Movement of the 1980s and an avowed domestic terrorist/white supremacist group. Noble was at one time the #2 of this highly militarized group that believed the federal government was trying to eliminate Christian thought.  The group trained and planned for a massive violent revolution against the federal government, as well as against the Jewish, black, and gay communities, a notion that thankfully never came to fruition.

In the interview, Noble is sedate and affable when describing the siege.  He even praises the way the SWAT forces handled it, noting that many of the agents pulled them aside and expressed sympathy to their beliefs (whether that is eschatological Christianity or white supremacy remains to be seen, but it's easy to imagine both).  It was a perfect arrest amongst perfect gentlemen.  The special forces were even careful to respect their property, treating these white supremacist terrorists with full dignity.  Nobody killed and left to rot in the street.  No one caught in a crossfire or taken for a rough ride or found hanged in a cell or choked to death for sass.

I'm not saying that the CSA arrest is not the best case scenario of how a situation like this should go down, but it's a massive riposte to the determinism that preaches that we should expect aggression and violence from law enforcement officers who feel threatened by the public.  There were likely hundreds of opportunities for this siege against frothing white racists to turn into a bloodbath, and yet it didn't.  One can't help but wonder how much skin color was the deciding factor in that.   And you can't chalk this up to a sign of the times either; this incident took place 30 years ago at the height of the war on drugs when brown-skinned men across the country were having their doors busted, homes invaded, bodies broken, lives taken, and personhood erased, often when there weren't even any drugs in the house.

It should be noted that Noble did a complete 180 in terms of his personal views after his arrest on weapons charges.  Before that, he had planned to orchestrate a massacre of 50 or so LGBTQ men and women in a gay church in Kansas City but had a change of heart partway into the ceremony when he saw how devout and serious the gay parishioners were in their worship.  He now occasionally speaks on hate groups on behalf of human rights organizations.

Florian Kupfer- "Explora (Slave)"

Obey City ft. Kelela- "Airy"

This is probably the best thing Kelela has been involved in yet.  I think her challenge with the producers she chooses to work with is significant, but thus far she has really not shown herself to be up to the challenge.  I find myself wishing that they'd screwed with her vocs more or just provided an instrumental on most tracks.  I'm glad more R&B vocalists are veering into the art-pop route with avant-garde sounds, but it's rare to find someone whose voice can match the demands of the sonics  (Dawn Richard is probably the best example of someone who makes it work).

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Forcefeel- "Blvergen"

R.I.P. Susumu Yokota

If you haven't heard it yet, drop everything and go listen to his album Sakura now.  It's stunning.  As are scores of moments from his extensive back catalogue. Sad to lose such an immense talent.

"When Susumu Yokota is not making music, he’s making more music. So, there’s perhaps no one more deserving of this fitting primer (compiled by Chiller Cabinet’s Ben Eshmade) on the intimidating back catalogue of the often brilliant electronic genius. Those coming to this album in a wintry climate will not be disappointed. I can attest to the fact that the warm and inviting melodies perform perfect room tone for staring into the fireplace or out the window on a snowy day. Yokota’s compositions here assimilate the pastoral into the technological with deftness and considerable charm. Traditional Eastern instruments meet with Aphexy otherworldly atmospherics, haiku-like melodies, and the occasional wonderfully lost bottom-of-a-canyon/ top-of-a-mountain/ trapped in a dream echo vocal. Most impressive of all, Eshmade assembles Yokota’s work so it sounds like a continuum, from the deep space droning of Laputa‘s Labradford-esque “Iconic Air” to the Debussy remix “Purple Rose Minuet” off Yokota’s 2005 album Symbol to the youthful sugar high breakbeat bounce of “Illusion River”. Yokota fulfills the kind of utopian fantasy of Japan as alien grace and wonderment energy dome that Sofia Copolla’s Lost in Translation waxed all awed mute about. You can never be more than a tourist, a passenger at best, on his journey, but you’ll be thinking about the trip for years to come.."- Entry in PopMatters' Best Reissues of 2008

My review of Mother

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Ben Zimmerman- "Pausebreak pt. 1"

Retro-fetishization, part a zillion. Zimmerman made the sounds on his new album The Baltika Years (on Daniel Lopatin's Software label) in a painfully slow manner throughout the 90s on a Tandy Deskmate computer.  An interesting look at that process in the film below.

Flatliner- "Blasted Highway"

Tuesday, July 7, 2015


It looks like the translation of Pikkety's coversation with Die Ziet at Medium has been (hopefully temporarily) been taken down over a copyright issue, but I've pulled some choice quotes from other parts of the web

"What struck me while I was writing is that Germany is really the single best example of a country that, throughout its history, has never repaid its external debt. Neither after the First nor the Second World War. However, it has frequently made other nations pay up, such as after the Franco-Prussian War of 1870, when it demanded massive reparations from France and indeed received them. The French state suffered for decades under this debt. The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice."

"...The first lesson that we can take from the history of government debt is that we are not facing a brand new problem. There have been many ways to repay debts, and not just one, which is what Berlin and Paris would have the Greeks believe."

 "Think about the London Debt Agreement of 1953, where 60% of German foreign debt was cancelled and its internal debts were restructured.

"ZEIT: That happened because people recognized that the high reparations demanded of Germany after World War I were one of the causes of the Second World War. People wanted to forgive Germany’s sins this time!

"Piketty: Nonsense! This had nothing to do with moral clarity; it was a rational political and economic decision. They correctly recognized that, after large crises that created huge debt loads, at some point people need to look toward the future. We cannot demand that new generations must pay for decades for the mistakes of their parents. The Greeks have, without a doubt, made big mistakes. Until 2009, the government in Athens forged its books. But despite this, the younger generation of Greeks carries no more responsibility for the mistakes of its elders than the younger generation of Germans did in the 1950s and 1960s. We need to look ahead. Europe was founded on debt forgiveness and investment in the future. Not on the idea of endless penance. We need to remember this. 

Undiscussed: The fact that the journalist from Die Zeit thinks it's more appropriate that people forgive debt spent on a genocidal purge of unwanted populations than country in the midst of impoverishing defaults explicitly caused by the imposed austerity measures demanded by its creditors.  In other words, massacring people for the sport of war is all good, but trying to keep your country from collectively starving to death is no reason not to immediately reimburse the Eurozone elite.  The mental gymnastics of Capitalist realism are incredible sometimes.

Panda Bear- "Mr Noah (Container Mix)"

Live from inside a neural network's dreams

Lee Bannon- "Artifical Stasis"

Artificial Stasis a far more aware, slightly less comfortable version of hyperstasis

Monday, July 6, 2015

Haunter- "Temps Perdu (édition de ténèbres)"

Haunter is an artist from out of Iowa City who contacted me a few years back about doing a show on the East Coast.  It never wound materializing, but it turns out he is still making some stunning music.  He has a new album out right now at bandcamp that everyone should check out.

RIP Charanjit Singh

Charanjit Singh wrote hundreds of Bollywood film scores and recorded a bunch of other material, but in the west he'll probably always be best known for Ten Ragas to a Disco Beat, an album he recorded in 1982 that is infamous for sounding peculiarly similar to what dance music would sound like by decade's end.  It's interesting to see how over these past 5 years the narrative has distorted from "listen to how ahead of the curve this guy was" to "he invented acid house".   I think it's important not to subscribe to any of this false narratives because:

  1. Acid house definitely arose out of a time/place, there's context and complexity into how it came to be at its specific historical moment  
  2. It's unlikely any of the actual acid house pioneers ever heard Ten Ragas to a Disco Beat and thus it bears no real influence on the music or the scene.  Synchronicity is not a substitute for history 
and most importantly

3. Not being the guru of acid house music in no way diminishes the achievement Singh accomplished.  It's a reflection of historicity, not aesthetics.  Ten Ragas is a stunning album no matter what vacuum or what context it came out of. 

Dego and Kaidi- "Black is Key"

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Economic Violence

"Economic violence is the critical issue of our day. When plants close on workers without notice, and leave them without jobs or training for new jobs -- that's economic violence. When three to five million Americans are on the streets and homeless -- that's economic violence. When merger maniacs make windfall profits and top management is given excessive bonuses, golden parachutes to aid a soft landing, while workers are asked to take a wage cut, a benefit cut and a job loss, a crash landing -- that's economic violence. When our children are victimized with poor health care, poor education, poor housing, poor diets and more -- that's economic violence against our children."- Jesse Jackson, announcing his presidential campaign in 1987

Saw this quoted recently and thought it was a nice sentiment, worth saving, but perhaps more shocking is the paragraph that precedes in in his speech, seen below:

Jackson couldn't really think, in '87 no less, that legalized racial violence was over? Certainly, the subject was at least being addressed, but as this year's track record of police brutality and murder attest, talk of purely economic violence ignores what a large component skin color still is in much state-sanctioned acts of terror. Was this sloganeering or a genuine movement towards re-positioning classism as the next frontier?

DOS X Machina- "111"

America needs to chillout

Thursday, July 2, 2015

$10 Trillion on the Table

"Let me pause here once again to be clear about what the point of this extended historical comparison is and is not. Comparisons to slavery are generally considered rhetorically out of bounds, and for good reason. We are walking on treacherous terrain. The point here is not to associate modern fossil fuel companies with the moral bankruptcy of the slaveholders of yore, or the politicians who defended slavery with those who defend fossil fuels today.
In fact, the parallel I want to highlight is between the opponents of slavery and the opponents of fossil fuels. Because the abolitionists were ultimately successful, it's all too easy to lose sight of just how radical their demand was at the time: that some of the wealthiest people in the country would have to give up their wealth. That liquidation of private wealth is the only precedent for what today's climate justice movement is rightly demanding: that trillions of dollars of fossil fuel stay in the ground. It is an audacious demand, and those making it should be clear-eyed about just what they're asking. They should also recognize that, like the abolitionists of yore, their task may be as much instigation and disruption as it is persuasion. There is no way around conflict with this much money on the line, no available solution that makes everyone happy. No use trying to persuade people otherwise."
- Chris Hayes, The New Abolitionism 

Outstanding essay from a year or so back on the economic cost of fighting climate change, making apt but understandably careful comparisons to slavery/  

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Scatological Skewers

Speaking of bodies as battlegrounds, I happened upon both of these recently.  The first is the new track from electroclash icon Peaches, who proclaims that she has "so much beauty coming out of my ass" and there's "light in places you didn't know could shine", a sentiment the track literalizes by showing an acrobatic dancer with something the end credits are calling a "laser buttplug". Reminds one a bit of the famous Kurt Schwitters sentiment on his Merzbaus creation that "everything the artist shits is art" (which Manzoni then took literally).

Simple and direct, not miles away from other teaches of Peaches.  The 2nd video is from Naomi Elizabeth, an artist who came up in the noise scene and now seems to be working in the viral video realm, making video that skirt that Lana Del Rey line between commentary on and reinforcement of sexist tropes.  "The Topic is Ass" immediately strikes you on first listen as pure novelty, but there's something to the phrasing that makes it sound like an intervention.  "We're here to talk about...again, again. Don't change the subject, my friend".  "If...were here, what would you say?" "If you think I'm joking, fix your priorities".  The melancholy loops in the backdrop also add a slight bit of extra gravity to it, as if the intervention may indeed on patriarchal assumptions or objectification itself- after all "Ass" is often a synedoche of "women"- but then purposefully undercuts itself by being highly silly.

And while Elizabeth is no doubt sexualized in the video, there's little actual "ass".  Her jerky movements belie hesitation more than horniness.  In fact, there's a voyeuristic way she's lit, her half-arched porn star grimace coming across forced and functional, not like someone in the thralls of desire.  Elswhere, she stands in front of an island vista, but totally surrogate from out.  She's a cut-out, literally a two-dimensional tool for some unseen (re:male) designer clicking away and creating this fantasy.  It's likely him that the intervention is for, but by song's end he continues to be in control.  The world is still his.

Man Ray, Monument to D.A.F. de Sade

Punish the Character, Punish the Story, Punish the Audience

Barbara Kruger- Your Body is a Battleground

"Half the time, people can’t even seem to figure out how to define rape, let alone portray it in responsible ways. Indeed, one of the most baffling things about so many rape scenes in popular culture is that the people who scripted them felt qualified to do so, despite seemingly knowing nothing about rape except that it exists and it is bad. In short, anyone canwrite a rape scene—but should they? Chances are, the answer is no."- Laura Hudson, Rape Scenes Aren't Just Awful, They're Lazy Writing

Wholeheartedly seconded this whole piece.  You'd think that with the amount of women out there experiencing this, one of their shitty boyfriend screenwriters (or god forbid, a woman screenwriter herself) might get it right, but there's almost always some lazy shortcut in TV/Hollywood rape scenes.  The more offensive thing is, of course, the way it trivializes a serious issue, but goddamn if as a writer you aren't allowed to take some level of offense as well  

The Wolf in PC Clothing

I cannot recommend Sarah Ahmed's piece "Against Students" in the New Inquiry enough. Far too much good stuff to quote here, but a few tastes:

"The figure of the consuming subject who wants the wrong things, a student who is found wanting, is hard at work. She is how an idea of universal knowledge or universal culture can be so thinly disguised as a critique of neoliberalism and managerialism. She is how an academic world can be idealised in being mourned as a lost object; a world where dons get to decide things; a world imagined as democracy, as untroubled by the whims and wishes of generations to come.

We have an understanding of how, when students are being critical of what we are doing, when they contest what is being taught, they can be treated and dismissed as acting like consumers. In other words it is when students are not satisfied that they are understood as treating our delivery as a product. Critique as such can be “swept away” by the charge of consumerism. Students become the problem when what they want is not in accordance with what academics want or what academics want them to want. Students become willful when what they will is not what academics will or not what academics will them to will.  What seems to be in place here is what Paulo Freire called the “bank model” of education, in which teachers deposit knowledge into the bodies of students like money into a machine. Rather ironically, students are more likely to be judged as acting like consumers when they refuse to be banks.

...Another figure comes up, rather quickly, at this point, often lurking behind the censoring student. This is the over-sensitive student: the one who responds to events or potential events with hurt feelings. She also comes up as someone who stops things from happening. I could refer here to a number of recent pieces that I read as a moral panic about moral panics. Many of these pieces refer to US college campuses specifically and are concerned with the introduction of safe spaces and trigger warnings.

The figure of the over-sensitive student is invested with power. The story goes: because students have become too sensitive, we cannot even talk about difficult issues in the classroom; because of their feelings we (critical academics) cannot address questions of power and violence, and so on. A typical example of this kind of rhetoric: “No one can rebut feelings, and so the only thing left to do is shut down the things that cause distress — no argument, no discussion, just hit the mute button and pretend eliminating discomfort is the same as effecting actual change.” Or another: “While keeping college-level discussions ‘safe’ may feel good to the hypersensitive, it’s bad for them and for everyone else. People ought to go to college to sharpen their wits and broaden their field of vision.” Here safety is about feeling good, or not feeling bad. We sense what is being feared: students will become warm with dull edges, not sharp enough in wit or wisdom.

The moral panic around trigger warnings is a very good pedagogic tool: we learn from it. Trigger warnings are assumed to be about being safe or warm or cuddled. I would describe trigger warnings as a partial and necessarily inadequate measure to enable some people to stay in the room so that “difficult issues” can be discussed. The assumption that trigger warnings are themselves about safe spaces is a working assumption (by this I mean: it is achieving something). The assumption that safe spaces are themselves about deflecting attention from difficult issues is another working assumption. Safe spaces are another technique for dealing with the consequences of histories that are not over (a response to a history that is not over is necessarily inadequate because that history is not over). The real purpose of these mechanisms is to enable conversations about difficult issues to happen. So often those conversations do not happen because the difficulties people wish to talk about end up being re-enacted within discussion spaces, which is how they are not talked about. For example, conversations about racism are very hard to have when white people become defensive about racism. Those conversations end up being about those defences rather than about racism. We have safe spaces so we can talk about racism, not so we can avoid talking about racism!

The very techniques introduced to enable the opening up of conversations can be used as evidence of interlopers closing down conversations. Anyone with a background in Women’s Studies will be familiar with this; we come up against stereotypes of feminists spaces as soft, cozy, easy, which are the exact same sexist stereotypes that make Women’s Studies necessary as a feminist space. The very perception of some spaces as being too soft might even be related to the harshness of the worlds we are organizing to challenge."

Kendrick Lamar- "Alright" directed by Colin Tilley