Tuesday, October 17, 2006

North Korea's statement in response to unilateral UN sanctions after their nuclear tests is pretty downright scary, particularly this bit:

We will fulfil our duty to denuclearize the Korean peninsula as we have already declared, but if anyone tries to infringe on our
sovereignty and our right to existence, even a bit, under the signboard of the UN Security Council resolution, we will unsparingly launch a merciless strike. We will watch out for any move by the United States, and will take appropriate measures accordingly.

What constitutes infringing on their sovereignty just "even a bit"? Taunting Kim Jong-il from across the river in full view of the guards on the border between China and N.Korea? Actually, it'd be difficult for the guards to see you as they'll be in darkness, judging from this article.

Indeed, while Kim Jong-il parties away with his cognac, and bottles of wine that cost more than what a North Korean worker makes in a year, his country only has a couple of hours of electricity a day. The contrasts from space with South Korea and Japan are pretty telling when you look at this composite picture of the Earth at night from space, as well as the close-up image above.

More on the practice of 'Wyatting'...

From K-Punk's blog in the July archives - this is a heavy one, and involves some serious class analysis!


I think we can gain another insight the big Other from ‘Wyatting’. I remain deeply ambivalent about the phenomenon, but I’m more sympathetic to the motives of some of those involved after reading Carl Neville’s account of participating in it. Carl’s attack on ‘that horribly sentimentalized middle class viewpoint that its horrendous to sneer at "normal" people and disrupt their "normal" perfectly harmless Friday nights out etc,’ gets to the heart of what is wrong with Popism and its academic twin, Cult Studs. There’s an awful poignancy to Carl’s description of he and his fellow Wyatters’

love/hate relationship with the class that we were always estranged from but for which none the less we continue to nurture a kind of angry hope..we are appallingly conflicted ourselves.. there is for us a particular heightened poignancy in, for example, putting on card-carrying-Commie Robert Wyatt's exquisite version of "Red Flag" in a pub full of pissed-up Proles and watching them pull faces and shout to have it turned off... a particularly bitter amusement, compounded of many emotions...

The question Carl poses at the end - ‘how do you Wyatt a bar full of Resonance FM listeners.... a bar full of super eclectic, super ironic Fashionistas (I'm guessing M-People's " Elegant Slumming", is pretty much the key.)’ – makes it clear that what constitutes Noise is structural position rather than any inherent features of the sound itself. Wyatting can be seen as one response to the impasse that Simon described in his piece on Noise in Blissed Out: without a big Other who can be annoyed and scandalized, Noise loses it cache.

The fact that the site for Wyatting is pubs is also revelatory, especially in a week in which Top of the Pops is finally limping to its inglorious end. Part of the thrill we got from performances by the likes of Japan and the Associates on Top of the Pops came from the fact that they we knew they were being broadcast into so-called ‘normal’ living rooms. The ‘normal’ context of the show itself - the hopelessly out-of-touch pre-Yoof Radio 1 presenters and the mediocrity of the surrounding bands - added to the intensity. But those bizarre incongruities were features of Old Media broadcasting, elminated by the proliferation of niche marketed narrowcast digital channels. The only site you will be able to reach anything like a general audience now is, indeed, pubs, so it is here that digitial hyper-choice can come into tension with ‘normality’. It is difficult, though, to see that tension generating anything but pointless rancour and/ or bemused incomprehension. British people will defend, sometimes literally to the death, their absolute right to reality-confirming convalescent oblivion. The game was up when breweries managed to successfully market pubs as anything other than places in which the defeated and the dejected - old men and (pre-Cool) Coronation Street characters - shuffled off into the sidings of life. The Rover's Return: Britain's popcultural answer to Waiting for Godot: a confirmation that 'no-one moves', that any attempt to escape ends up in the same drab familiarity. Pubs, like universities, are unredeemable; nothing can ever happen in them. That is what they are for: to suck everything into a black hole of vegetative inertia…


I guess there's an underlying theme of nostalgia here for the days of Top of the Pops at 7pm, and when there was no internet radio or cable to offer dazzling choice. In other words, it was a kind of 'special' moment when your favourite indie band appeared on TOTP/The Tube/The Old Grey Whistle Test, or when John Peel played Half Man Half Biscuit, etc because it was like a rare gateway into a more exciting universe of left-field music before the program just put on some bland tosh again (which would have been dreadful power-pop in the mid 80's - Deacon Blue, Wet Wet Wet, Level 42, that sort of thing). Whereas now, you can just go on YouTube and get footage of the band you want straight away, or buy a DVD of the band's performances. Music has become decentralised.

Merzbow photograph courtesy of Under City Lights

Wolf Eyes interview up

Writing that article made me think about the whole 'noise' scene and how Simon Reynolds exposes in the book Rip It Up and Start Again just how dodgy the politics of some of those bands were - Whitehouse, in particular, were practically a parody of fascism. In The Wire, free-jazz drummer Chris Corsano makes the point that Whitehouse live were so OTT that it's 'supercamp', as he puts it, with two blokes in their 40s onstage shouting lyrics about various sadists and mass murderers throughout history. Nonetheless, as a spectacle, the sheer sonic assault of Whitehouse live when I saw them took some beating.

Goying beyond the confrontational approach of some of its acts, noise remains a fascinating genre, with's its incredibly prolific releases (Merzbow (above) has released something like 350 albums, including the legendary one that came soldered into a car's ignition) and uncompromising stance. Stubbornly avant-garade, noise remains the genre most untainted by commercial success, and has a kind of purity about it as a result (though some would translate it as elitism), both in aesthetics and in the visceral drone of the music. No-one becomes a noise artist with even the slightest hope that they might actually make some money.

Following on from this, Reynolds has also mentioned in his blog about the practice of hip music fans christened 'Wyatting', which basically involves going into a pub with a fiver and putting on deliberately the most unlistenable music on the jukebox all night, thereby rendering the chav's attempts at chatting up members of the opposite sex nullified by the fact that it will be to a soundtrack of punishing industrial power electronics white noise.

Amazingly, it's been picked up by The Guardian, who've provided a succint explanation of the act here. But Reynolds' blog below is far more entertaining.

From Simon Reynolds blog 2006-01-06

There’s A Wyatt Going On

Further to the Thursday Afternoon prankster story, two correspondents write to tell me how this is becoming a burgeoning cruel sport among hipsters--square-baiting-- or perhaps, in a more charitable reading, a desperate intifada-like resistance to the tyranny of Pop and/or Indie Middlebrow...

A Guy Called Danny says he did “this exact same thing (right down to using Thursday Afternoon as the polite nuisance) in a bar in Brighton mostly frequented by metalheads about a year ago. Those "infinite jukebox" thingies are an unlimited source of fun: Another favourite trick was to go to a fashionable indie pose-pub and cue up all four sides of Metal Machine Music, then watch as the customers' carefully cultivated cool slowly crumbled. How we smirked! Looking back, it probably wasn't worth the four quid I had to put in the jukebox, though.”

while Carl Neville says “this particular use/abuse of pub Jukeboxes is something of a ritual now, at least it is for me and a couple of mates.. . there's a bar in Ramsgate... with one of these massive database jukeboxes installed, and once a month when i visit family and friends we go " Wyatting" (the cowardly white muso boys anonymous attempt at provocation and civil disobedience, term coined after our inital experiment with playing the whole of Dondestan one Friday evening, to general be/amusement). Now we like to get down there nice and early with twenty quid each, get a good four or five hours worth of Dark Magus and On the Corner or the complete works of The Mahavishnu Orchestra on, nicely topped off with a bit of Neubauten or Coil, maybe a smattering of "Frankie Teardrop", a soupcon of Merzbow and a pinch of No Pussyfooting as the locals try to go through the ritual Friday night lad/laddette motions to a soundtrack of nails down blackboard feedback and thirty two minute Evan Parker clarinet solos. Naturally you have to try to look like as if your not enjoying it much either, even complain vociferously if required....though thus far no one has ever demanded its turned off.. which maybe an interesting brit/yank diifference.. they just tend to complain to each other and get on with the business of suffering through ( ahhh, the stoical, masochistic, stiff upper lip Brit!) any number of auditory abominations.....naturally the more inappropriate the pub the greater the delight in "Wyatting".. we've enjoyed it so much down on the coast i'm thinking of exporting the practice to London ( no doubt I'm well behind the times and there are already embattled enclaves of "Urban(e) Wyatters" doing the rounds here, i've just yet to hook up with them) perhaps blissblog could help to promote this childish, futile, but finally hilarious practice (death of the political and all that, eh?) by forming a "Wyatt Squad" in New York and generally helping to boost its profile on an international scale...

“It’s already becoming a competitive sport!."I Wyatted the Wifebeater's Arms in Castleford with three solid hours of Diamanda Galas last Friday, mate what you been up to.. oh yeah, Pauline Oliviros???.....Cambridge....??? is that the best you can manage?"I guess the music biz and the pubs that have installed them have no idea what a demographic busting, commercially suicidal innovation this one is... it only takes twenty or so commited, strategically deployed Whitehouse fans to bring entire national chains crumbling to the ground... endless loops of "shitfun" and " I'm coming up your ass" of a sunday morning as the punters tuck into the pub lunch..... and so Kapital sows the seeds of its own destruction through hammy Eighties PowerElectronics... fancy twenty five minutes of Sutcliffe Jugend with that Full English love?... two pints of Stella, a pickled egg and could you turn the Smell and Quim track down a bit mate, its given one of the kids a nosebleed....just wait till the video version o f this jukebox becomes available, no doubt in conjuction with youtube.. come that glorious day comrade it's gonna be wall to wall live G.G. Allin footage down Laurence Llewelyn Bowen's poxy Inc bar, i'll tell you that much... !"

Pockets of resistance inside the City of Music, using the technology against itself--a design flaw in the machines unspotted by the manufacturers? Or just the Wire-reader/ Resonance FM-listener as audio-bully?


Now that you have 'internet jukeboxes' theoretically you could have any track that's ever been released at your fingertips, but surely it's only a smattering of pubs that have these new-fangled things set up? I mean, the majority of pubs patently have 'traditional' jukeboxes which most certainly don't have Whitehouse or Merzbow or Dimanda Gallas (never mind if it's in Margate), surely? You'd have to be a pretty clued-up (or loony) pub owner. The closest I can think of is T
he Strongrooms in Shoreditch, which has My Bloody Valentine's Loveless or Spiritualized's Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space - the latter of which had the 17-minute free-jazz freakout of Cop Shoot Cop, which I was sorely tempted to put on. But come on, 32 minute Evan Parker clarinet solos or Swans' Public Castration is a Good Idea, or Foetus' Scraping a Foetus Off a Wheel? No pub with a traditional jukebox is going to have that.
Reynolds has also managed to find other stuff about Wyatting here.

Following on from my earlier post about the probe to Pluto, it now emerges that Pluto may not actually be a planet anymore. The debate is getting serious, with exciting - well, sort of exciting, anyway - news emerging of punch-ups among experts at the International Astronomical Union's conference in Prague. This bit made me laugh:

Stern said like-minded astronomers had begun a petition to get Pluto reinstated. Car bumper stickers compelling motorists to "Honk if Pluto is still a planet" have gone on sale over the internet

Strange to think that a lump of rock millions of miles away in space is causing consternation among grown professionals. In the next hundred years, there will no doubt be endless discoveries of planets such as 2003UB313 in our solar system, which are actually bigger than Pluto. What are the school text books going to look like then?

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

This New Scientist front cover from a couple of months back takes some beating. Cripes, as Steve Irwin once said when he was still alive. Puts things into perspective when watching X-Factor, anyway.

Monday, October 09, 2006

I have been joined in the world of blogging by none other than Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, whose set up his own website-cum-blog. In a country that has serious restrictions and censorship when it comes to cyberspace, Ahmadinejad has shown that he's keeping up with the modern times.

His site is in four languages - English, French, Farsi and Arabic, with English denoted by a rather bizarre hybrid flag that combines the stars of stripes with the cross of England (whither the Union Jack these days? Perhaps he has inexplicable greivances against Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland - not that the Wales flag is in the Union Jack of course, but I digress). There's also a frankly scary poll in which we are asked to vote on: "Do you think that the US and Israeli intention and goal by attacking Lebanon is pulling the trigger for another word war?" It's nice to know that Ahmadinejad wants to ponder these questions with us. Maybe there will be one next where we can vote as to whether North Korea really wanted to bomb Alaska.
While not busy threatening Israel with scary remarks about Zionism, the President has decided to share this thought with us:

I had to start working in a shop- that made certain parts for cooling system of buildings- to make some money to cover a portion of my family’s expenses and also my educational costs. Even though I was very playful those days, but was aware of my school & education. I was a distinguished student.

Apart from the bad grammar, you have to wonder what he means by "I was very playful". Woah, was Mahmoud a bit of a hell-raiser? Things get more surreal with this:

Although these terrorist groups are still under the protection and shameful support of Great Satan USA, however, the slap that these groups have received from the brave nation of Iran will never be forgotten by them.

Yeah, they got a slap on the bottom. Great Satan USA sounds like an awesome title for a psychedelic rock song, by the way. A bit like Rocket USA by Suicide but, erm, not. Maybe Ahmadinejad is a fan of Suicide's classic first, self-titled album. Then again, maybe not.

I will continue this topic later on as it took long in the beginning. From now onwards, I will try to make it shorter and simpler. With hope in God, I intend to wholeheartedly complete my talk in future with allotted fifteen minutes.

Why fifteen minutes, exactly? Anyway, we've been promised some future gems while he's off. His blog will no doubt get 5 billion more hits than mine, and is in four languages. But in every other way, mine is better. I wonder if I should post my blog address at the bottom of his webpage? It can only be a matter of time now before his mate, dear old Kim Jong-il of North Korea, does a blog about his favourite films in his vast DVD collection (he has reportedly the biggest hi-fi/stereo system in the world). There must be a lot of porn in there, I reckon. After that, keep your eyes peeled for Robert Mugabe's imminent appearance on Myspace.

Went to the above, rather strange warehouse party, in which Shoreditch in excelsis promoter Sean McLusky has attempted a rather bizzare 'new craze' at the moment (or maybe it's just syle magazines talking bollocks) of revisiting early 90's rave and rave-rock with bands like the Klaxons...this was nothing like those cheesy 'Ibiza 89 classic hardcore revisited' type nights full of Essex boys with ponytails though, as the audience was your typical Brick Lane trendy fashionista people. The world is truly becoming a surreal place when the 'indie' scene - or at least the trendy, Trash-visiting indie/electroclash/post-punk etc. crowd - starts venerating something that it was traditionally always diametrically opposed to fifteen years ago. I used to go to raves in the 90's, in both squat parties and in warehouses, and a weird sense of deja vu from the first time around pervaded. Yet at the same time it felt like a weird simulacrum, for while it felt like a proper early 90's squat rave - replete with endless graffiti, some goon with glo-sticks, glow-in-the-dark clothes, and pilled up people in the chill out areas away from the music - the fact that it's more than ten years on from all that led to a surreal atmosphere. I seem to remember them playing classic tracks by Phuture ('Acid Trax', maybe?) and others.
It's another example of how music seems to go in cycles and repeats itself, just as post-punk rehashed the late 70's/early 80's and electroclash the mid 80's - but also of our endless diet for nostalgia, that's ever-present in people's obsessions with Star Wars, The A-Team, and all those sodding remakes being made in Hollywood at the moment.
So is the next step to rehash the early 90's rave scene, even within the 'indie' circles (whatever 'indie' is these days)? I've heard that the Klaxons latest single has been a regular at indie clubs lately (you know you're getting old when you only hear about the new de rigeur tracks being played at indie clubs rather than actually being there).
That means that chronologically the next movement could eventually gravitate towards a dreadful version of Britpop, ten years on....God, what a horrible thought, and that's when I'll feel really old...in mitigation, maybe they'll rediscover that period around '93 that had a whole load of interesting bands (Ecstasy of Saint Theresa, Bark Psychosis, Flying Saucer Attack, Seefel, and the tail end of shogazing).

Great Independent front covers of our time (I)

It struck me on the 10th August walking to work that all was not it seemed - the traffic and pedestrians walking down the street were there as usual, but there was an eerie, distinct silence too. Then I realised - the constant noise emanating from planes flying past every hour of the day wasn't there for once. I've become so used to the sound that it seems almost like an anomaly not to hear the familar roar of those jets.... Perhaps the front cover of the Independent captured the despondent, neurotic mood of the nation best after the suspected plot to blow up passenger planes, which led to mass cancellations at UK airports.

If this continual threat of terrorism continues, it's not long off before those ID cards discussed by the Government are made compulsory - a depressing thought indeed, and one that would stoke an Orwellian, paranoid state. In a sense, even though the plot was foiled, the terrorists will have won if it gets to that point...how did it get to this?

I've just had a horrible moment of clarity.
There I was following this exciting - well, exciting to geeky space-following nerds, anyway - probe mission to Pluto and the Kuiper belt, in which it will orbit the far corners of our solar system for the first ever time. It will encircle mysterious Pluto and it's moon Charon. and then on to negotiate huge rocks orbiting the Sun from way out in a 'belt' which marks the edge of our solar system (well, sort of anyway). But then I realised with a horrible dawning that I will be 37 when it 'arrives' there....Christ, what a thought...I feel like I was only about 23 yesterday. Well, obviously I wasn't, and objectively I'm talking crap, but you know what I mean, etc. Reading about space exploration always has a way of making you feel really old...
Edit: apparently, Pluto and Charon and in fact a double planet set rather than one planet and it's moon...