Tuesday, September 24, 2019

I'm Your Puppet b/w Now That You're Gone - The Raconteurs (video)

The Raconteurs recording Now That You're Gone and I'm Your Puppet.

Classic stuff even if Mr. No Head Keyboard Hands remains a mystery throughout. I assume it's Dean Fertita.

The beginning of Now That You're Gone is the same as the beginning of You Just Can't Win, isn't it? Not that I'm accusing anyone of plagiarism. It's just a classic guitarist noodle around some common chords. Jack's voice suits the smooth Northern Soul of I'm Your Puppet in a totally unexpected way.

While I'm at it, The Raconteurs' Blue Veins is a minor blues that tempts me every time into trying to add the words to Led Zeppelin's Since I've Been Loving You, a very similar song.

Monday, July 15, 2019

The Dead Weather's Horehound is ten years old

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Human tributaries to the Big South American River

One of the things I learned on our long road trip to see the solar eclipse in 2017 is that way outside of towns that are themselves in the middle of the wilderness, there are Walmarts. And Targets and similar giant stores.

We learned to rely on them, because they encourage RVs to stay overnight in their parking lots, as long as the travelers do not cause problems for the shoppers. It seemed odd at first, a sort of camaraderie of the road, except not between two motorcyclists but between a motorhome and a gigantic warehouse packed with every material thing anyone could ever want, from stone fountains to emu jerky, from wardrobes to surgical trusses.

Embed from Getty Images

And today I learned there's a caste of nomads that live off these stores much as a tribe might live off a herd of migratory buffalo.


They drive from town to town - or from middle of nowhere to middle of other nowhere - hitting the Walmarts for clearance items that they sell to Amazon. They are the "fulfilled by Amazon" people, who fill the Amazon warehouses with...things...that have lodged in the wrong cranny to ever be dislodged by local forces. Only the travelers, armed with apps that tell them what's hot and what's not, can ever pry them out of their Walmarts and shift them back into interstate commerce.

There's something almost transcendentally American about this existence. America has lots of stories that burst with romance and tragedy, for example champion hot dog eating competitions, or tiny tot beauty pageants.  Circus geeks. Chautauquas. Or traveling hellfire preachers. This peculiarly modern variant on the road lifestyle, living in an RV and servicing Amazon - which may as well be God, being as it is all-encompassing and not located in any given point in space, but rather in our hearts and psyches - cries out for more coverage. Perhaps a novel.

Friday, July 05, 2019

Tomorrow Calling (video 1993) Review

Did you know that there is an extant film of William Gibson's Gernsback Continuum, one of his standout early stories?

It's Tomorrow Calling, directed by Tim Leandro, from 1993.

It's a bit literal-minded, except for the completely unexpected Blackpool, UK location.  The short is about the past's conception of the future - Hugo Gernsback-era airships and food pills. A quarter century after the shoot, and forty years after the story was published, I found myself tied up with yesterday's ideas about last week's ideas about their future which is now our past and never happened, instead of yesterday's ideas about their future which is now our present.

For example, the use today's (1993) technology of nowadays almost unavailably outmoded VHS tapes to cure yourself of the future - and their contents, pornography, which now has much more feminist sociology attached now than it did then - overshadows whatever the hell it was supposed to say about the future back in those days.

The Guardian looks at yesterday's futures here: Yesterday’s tomorrow today: what we can learn from past urban visions

The movie is only 11 minutes long and definitely worth a watch.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Monday, April 08, 2019

Jo Ann Kelly, Black Rat Swing (free download)

Archive.org has a collection of free Jo Ann Kelly tracks.

They are worth a listen, and maybe even a download. (These are different from the tracks on Black Rat Swing, of which I have the CD.) For anyone unfamiliar with Jo Ann Kelly, DO NOT LOOK AT HER PICTURE, and just assume she wasn't a schoolteacher from Kent or Sussex or wherever it was, and work under the assumption she was someone who genuinely worried about the levees breaking or how to get to Chicago.
Like most blues singers, her early ones are raw and unfiltered and the later ones are shiny and polished and unremarkable. Though, of course, since she was a schoolteacher from Kent or Sussex or somewhere - oh, I wasn't going to mention that - the early ones probably required more artifice than the later ones. But whatever "authenticity" means, Jo Ann Kelly had it in large quantities. She was a huge figure in the British Blues Boom, and it's sad she was not around longer.

Download here: archive org Jo Ann Kelly

The Raconteurs live at Third Man Records' tenth anniversary bash, April 6th - Tour dates

The Raconteurs (Jack White, Brendan Benson, Patrick Keeler and Little Jack Lawrence) came out with a bang to celebrate Third Man Records' tenth birthday and the release of their first album in ten years.

The "ultra" tickets to the show were offered through the Third Man subscription service, the Vault, and needless to say although I joined the online queue in time, I didn't get any, being 1081st in line.  Pretty popular band. (Although I think the goodie bag, containing things like test pressings and other collectible tat also enticed a fair few of the sign ups. Along with the rare opportunity to see legendary bands like The Gories and The Soledad Brothers.)

Anyway, I wasn't there on April 6th, but surprisingly for a Jack White show, cameras were allowed, and so there are videos.

set list photo by Amanda

Youtube user VideoGremmie uploaded the videos below.

Consolers of the Lonely, with the Racs introduced by Jack's mum

Old Enough

Excellent version of the southern gothic tale Carolina Drama

The tour de force Blue Veins

A cover of the Go track, Trash, along with the Racs' new album cover of Donovan's Hey Gyp

There's at least one video of the whole set floating around and if it goes public, I'll put it here.

Meanwhile, tickets for the Raconteurs' north American shows go on sale tomorrow.

Monday, October 29, 2018

Raconteurs recording new music, October 28th, 2018

Good news! From The Raconteurs' Facebook page:

Raconteurs recording in the studio in Nashville, October 28th, 2018.
Sign up for Third Man Records Vault Package 38, featuring their first NEW MUSIC in ten years, by Wednesday at midnight CT:thirdmanrecords.com/vault
If you have not previously been a member of the Vault, it's Jack White's subscription vinyl service. To get this package you would need to sign up in the next two days. Don't sign up too late because you won't get it. You'll be charged the same amount and get the NEXT package, which hasn't been announced yet and could be anything. Well, any Third Man Records thing worth around $60. 

Raconteurs in the studio, October 28 2018

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Where's the one? Eric Clapton and J.J.

Genesis Publications sent me a pamphlet advertising "Sunshine Of Your Love: The Crossroads Festivals 1999-2013" by Eric Clapton and Friends which is nice of them. I'm unlikely to buy it, but I don't mind mentioning it here for those who are interested.

Genesis have me on their mailing list because I bought the expensive edition of Jimmy Page by Jimmy Page. In fact, I bought the affordable edition as well. They're good quality, well made books.

The Eric Clapton pamphlet had a quote in it that I wanted to reproduce here. Regarding playing with J.J. Cale he says,

We played 'After Midnight' and I didn't recognise it at all. I had no idea what he was playing, and I didn't know where the one was. That's an essential component for musicians like me - I will often ask, 'Where's the one?' In most Western music, there are four beats to the bar: 'one, two, three, four.' If you come in on the two, thinking it's the one, your day is over. So it's quite common for someone in the band to say, usually to the drummer, 'Where's the one?' and he'll indicate it with 'one, two, three, four.'But with J.J. I was getting no slack at all; I was playing up there in another world. I finally heard him say, 'Midnight.'And I realised,'Oh.We're doing "After Midnight"!' and managed to get back on track.
[Reasonably accurate copy of spacing and punctuation, so sic]

And I thought, "You too, Eric?" I thought it was just me.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

The Pretty Things: article in Guardian today (10/25/18)

The Grauniad has a long piece on the Pretty Things today, as it's the 50th anniversary of SF Sorrow and there's an upcoming gig at the O2 on the 13th December.

The Pretty Things are a favorite of this blog.  The Norman Wisdom film, What's Good For The Goose. The Electric Banana album. The various sixties and 1970 videos and more.

The Guardian piece (link at top) is worth a read. I won't reproduce it all here, but I will reproduce the videos and accompanying remarks.

“The Blokker festival,” nods May. “It turned into a riot. The security were hitting the crowd with truncheons. I always think that was the first time the kids kicked off, instead of being knocked about and told to behave. They picked up the fucking crash barriers and charged the security. You could see the looks on the security guards’ faces: this shouldn’t be happening, I’ve just hit you with a truncheon and now you’re fucking smashing me over the head with a barrier.”

drummer John “Twink” Alder does a mime in white face and Napoleon hat, while May shoots him a succession of furious glares. He looks as if he wants to kill him. “Oh God, yeah,” nods May. “We all did. He got completely carried away. It was like: what are you fucking doing? It was his Marcel Marceau period.”

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

ISS passes over Hurricane Michael as it nears landfall

People keep telling me that man was not meant to live in space. It's inhospitable, no atmosphere, deadly etc. etc. Looking down from the ISS to Earth today, it's clear that the atmosphere, while barely thick enough to be breathable half-way up a decent mountain, is quite capable of mounting its own violently lethal bag of tricks. It looks about as hospitable as Jupiter down there and I'm sure the ISS is quite happy to be out of the way of that...weather pattern...it's filming.

Monday, October 08, 2018

SpaceX SAOCOM 1A launch 10/07/18

(Image heavy post)

On Sunday, October 7 at 7:21 p.m.Pacific time, SpaceX launched the SAOCOM 1A satellite from Space Launch Complex 4E at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The rocket flew out over the ocean as it gained height. The satellite was deployed about 12 minutes after liftoff.

The first stage separated from the rocket and landed at SpaceX's Landing Zone 4, also at Vandenberg. It was the first landing on solid ground on the West Coast.

Vandenberg AFB is about 200 miles north west of me in San Juan Capistrano so I wasn't able to hear the liftoff or the sonic booms as the returning stage came in for a landing. I did get a very clear view of the rocket as soon as it lifted clear of the low clouds on the coast. 

I used a cellphone camera. 

Oops. Had the flash on.

Oops. Still had the flash on.

I think the bright planet (in the clear sky above the palm tree and slightly to the left)
is Jupiter. Jupiter, Venus and Mercury were all in pretty much the same
 direction last night but I think Mercury and maybe Venus would have set by then. 

Wednesday, October 03, 2018

Occidentalism: The West in the Eyes of Its Enemies by Ian Buruma and Avishai Margalit (book, review)

Ian Buruma’s 2004 book Occidentalism: The West in the Eyes of Its Enemies told me more about my own culture than its enemies.

There was a recent kerfuffle about Ian Buruma, whose name I had not heard for some years prior. Apparently recently made editor of the New York Review of Books, he intended to publish an article by accused sexual assaulter Jian Ghomeshi. The staff warned against it, but Buruma allegedly insisted, and the resulting rather self-pitying article went down like a lead balloon with the public, culminating in Buruma quitting his post after only a year on the job. (The previous editors started in 1963 and served for 43 years (Richard Epstein) and 54 years (Barbara Silvers) so it’s fair to say the magazine’s editors normally have more staying power.)

His book, A Japanese Mirror, was well thought of in the 80’s, during the Japanese economic miracle. This new spat brought his name back to my attention. I remember once vaguely having believed he was Japanese, and indeed he’s published many books on Japan, though he’s not a native. (I think I mixed his name up with “burakumin” anyway.) On reading more about him, I saw that he’d also co-written the book I’m discussing today with co-author Avishai Margalit.

The brief description I read piqued my interest. It was written shortly after 9/11/2001 when “the West” (as in most Americans) first learned that they had somehow managed to make enemies of…someone. “Why do they hate us?” a colleague memorably asked me at work that morning, and from the press the answer came back, “They hate us for our freedoms.” This book is an attempt to look at this question less jingoistically. Indeed, it betrays traces of having been written in a hurry to supply an answer. Its argument that there is a enemy-culture-wide understanding of “Occidentalism” equivalent to Edward Said’s “Orientalism” falls apart on several occasions. It’s still an interesting book.

Ordinarily, the essay would have to establish that the “Orient” sees the “Occident” as a unified culture, and other than Oriental in ways similar to those established in Said’s famous book. It should establish that “Occidentalism” is a collection of stereotypes tending to dehumanize its enemy so that it can be destroyed without pity. It doesn’t. It looks at some of the flowerings of the Occident – like cities and modernity – and tries to make the case that cities and modernity are sufficiently different in the West than in the East to make them abhorrent. It also fails to make the case that people from the “Orient”, with their criticisms of “modern” life can have conflicts with the West in a way that Westerners themselves do not. It continually undermines its own thesis by situating the early criticisms of modernity in the thoughts of Western thinkers. 

In all fairness the book does spend a little time on actual non-Western thoughts about the West. A section on Japan, which adopted modern western methods early on and raised the ire of Japanese traditionalists; a section on Russia and the Eastern Orthodox Church which I was impressed by (though, knowing nothing about it, I may be too easily impressed) and a section on Islamism, which certainly filled me in on a lot I did not know, though it approached it from the aspect of jahiliyya (religious ignorance, nowadays referring to a species of Western idolatry based on love of material things rather than God) but not so much with the attempt to establish a Caliphate, with which I’m more familiar. Even so, the authors manage to site most of this thinking in Western roots – Communism, Nationalism, National Socialism – rather than endemic, non-Western thought.

In the first section, The Occidental City, the fear of Godless and amoral cities is traced back to the Biblical story of the Tower of Babel. It seems somehow relevant but not…relevant to Occidentalism, The West in the Eyes of Its Enemies. Next up is Juvenal – a Westerner - writing about the iniquity of Rome, the city being a hotbed of lying, robbing and mercantilism. There’s the Goncourt brothers, describing a prostitute in Paris as moving in a mechanical way, literally a soulless whore of the city, of the “machine civilization”. William Blake, who abhorred the Dark Satanic Mills that blighted England’s Green and Pleasant Land. It references T. S. Eliot’s poetry about secularism in city dwellers, comparing the godless to animals.

The book cites Richard Wagner, where Tannhäuser’s Venusberg is “Paris, Europe, the West,” according to the man himself, having more “freedom and alienation” than our “provincial Germany with its comfortable backwardness”.

Another problem with cities is the fluidity of relations that are conducted using money. With money as the medium of exchange, emerging rules about money and the use of money are both godless and conducive to the growth of communities of strangers with no kinship bond or attachment to the soil necessary. Voltaire is cited. Friedrich Engels (also not Oriental) saw something “repulsive” in English cities as there was a mingling of classes without any societal rules, and with indifference leading to “atomization” of individuals pursuing “selfish” interests.

This reduction in the importance of position in the clan and relationship with the feudal lord leads to the newly alienated individuals feeling lost and forgotten when they arrive in the city, and the book talks about movies from India, Thailand and Japan in the 1950s. (It does not name any.) Finding no brothers in the city, the newcomer often turns to violence. The book goes on to say, “It is a universal story, this clash between old and new, authentic culture and metropolitan chicanery and artifice, country and city.” If it’s universal, where is it between Occident and Orient?

Hitler (also notably a Westerner) in one of his Table Talks said membership in a Volk was “organic” while citizenship in England or the US was open to anybody. In another Table Talk Hitler said, “American civilization is of a purely mechanized nature. Without mechanization America would disintegrate more swiftly than India.” Japan may be foreign, he said, “But my feelings against Americanism are feelings of hatred and deep repugnance.” Arthur Moeller van den Bruck also saw Amerikanertum (Americanness) as the society that was changing our way of thinking of the Earth as something we were dependent upon to something we could exploit for our own purposes. Trotsky is said to have described Capitalism as the “victory of town over country”. Johann Gottfried von Herder was a folklorist who “believed that nations were organic communities, which had evolved like trees, rooted in native soil”. “Nature’s children were better off, purer more authentic”, he thought. Buruma and Margalit say that for Romantics, “organic” is a good word and “mechanical” is a bad one (p 80).

The subsequent section, Heroes and Merchants, is about the love of comfort vs. the love of death.

It begins with German, not Oriental, romanticism with Thomas Abbt and his essay “Dying for the Fatherland”. Germany saw itself as different from the West – i.e. the French – typified by Napoleon. Germans loved their Kultur, their roots and Romanticism, which developed into a military culture based on honor. 

Werner Sombart, during WWI, wrote the book Händler und Helden (Heroes and Merchants) describing a battle between two Weltanschauungen (world views), that of shopkeepers like England and that of heroes like Germans. Sombart refers to “Komfortismus” meaning material possessions and living comfortably, as the enemy’s mode of living. In this worldview the bourgeois have a habit of hanging on to life and not dying heroically in order to achieve grand goals. They are happy to be individuals who will not fight for the greater good of a system of ideals. De Tocqueville thought similarly, though he was less hostile towards it. “If your object is not to create heroic virtues but rather tranquil habits…” Ernst Jünger wrote about the “closeness of death” being the rush that real heroes – Germans – craved. His brother Friedrich Georg Jünger fretted that Germany was “part of the west” now that it had internalized Western values including “civilization, freedom and peace.” German thinkers such as Heidegger made a particular enemy of what they called Amerikanismus, the love of America that they saw as sapping the European soul. The slavophile, says the book, believes the Will is superior to reason – and so did the Nazis (p92).

Arthur Moeller van den Bruck said liberal societies allow “everyone the freedom to be a mediocre man”. Preference is given to the everyday, not the exceptional. Examples given in the book are Dutch paintings and English novels which show ordinary life, not heroic, manful, out of the ordinary events. This desire for a quiet life represents a threat to a utopian society as it encourages people to settle for the ordinary, and not fight for an ideal. 

Another dislike of the West is based on its supposed rationality, its reliance on science and logic as opposed to contemplation and prayer. The section called the Mind of the West starts with a quote from Plotinus who differentiated between discursive thought and nondiscursive thought, nowadays referring to soulful contemplation (nondiscursive) and reasoning (discursive). Occidentalism is said to believe that the west is only capable of the latter and allows the spiritual to languish. The authors quip that Occidentalists believe the West can find the “best” way to do things, but not the “right” way to do them (p 76). Herder, the folklorist, thought that the world was frozen by philosophy, meaning the effect of cold reason (p 37.) One of Dostoyevsky’s characters is mentioned as convinced by Crystal Palace (at the Great Exhibition of 1851) that the West was committed to scientism, trying to engineer society in the same way they could engineer the magnificent glass palace. It was a “common Romantic belief”, the authors write, “that excessive rationalism caused the terminal decay of what was once the vital organism of the West. Rationalistic cleverness was held to be a Western disease: cleverness without wisdom.” (p80). 

To me, this dislike of the “Occident” by its enemies began to sound very much like the (Western) Romantic Left’s and the alt-Right’s dislike of “things nowadays”. And the book, which was written well prior to the recent rise of the modern alt-Right, acknowledges this very briefly: “some of the rhetoric now coming from the United States, specifically in neoconservative circles, comes close to this vision.” 

And that’s most of what I got from the book’s long list of western civilization and its discontents. That the Occident’s “modernity” – city living, appeal to science for the best way forward and rules for society that are limited to rules for the flow of money – has had internal enemies from the early days. The Romantic movement, a reaction against the Industrial Revolution and in many respects against the Enlightenment itself, may not have “dehumanized” the West preparatory to attempting to destroy it, but it did call upon the West to be more human and less mechanical, which by inference shows that they thought it was insufficiently human. If non-Westerners saw this critique and adapted it, it’s unsurprising and not a sign that “they” have characterized “us”. (The book is ringingly silent on whether or not a couple of centuries of regime change and carpet bombing may have had something to do with creating a “them and us” situation with the West, or an association of the West with Israel. Israel has become “a prime target of a more general Arab rage against the West, the symbol of idolatrous, hubristic, amoral, colonialist evil, a cancer in the eyes of its enemies that must be expunged by killing,” says the book. (p139) Note that it “has become” – passive tense. Nothing is proposed to have caused it.)

It seems to me that this strain of self-induced Occidentalism, having survived, would explain such disparate matters as the flight from science as a source of knowledge, the embrace of folk remedies, a desire for things which are “natural” and a preference for foods which are “organic”. A rejection of vaccination fits in well as a feeling that science may have found the best way but not the “right” way to deal with epidemic disease.

Of great interest to me was the-then subcurrent, and now fast flowing river, of far-right thought that agrees with this supposedly enemy Occidentalist dislike of godless, atomized, unheroic city dwellers concerned only for their own comfort and increasingly easy mechanisms of mercantile exchange. The book acknowledges this briefly but back then, in 2004, there was little to show what the alt-Right would become. The Dark Enlightenment, Neoreaction and Accelerationism seek to overthrow modern capitalism and undo the Enlightenment, democracy apparently having been a mistake. Happy-go-lucky alt-right fans of Julius Evola’s Revolt Against the Modern World, and Aleksandr Dugin’s dismissal of modernity, such as Steve Bannon, Richard Spencer and Milo Yiannopoulos were just a gleam in the Right Wing’s eye. These modern western “thinkers” seem to fall right in with Buruma’s and Margalit’s statement that “The Romantic always feels that he is at the nadir of the fall, from which he looks up in the hope of redemption. The fall is marked by total fragmentation, estrangement from one’s own true self, alienation from one’s fellow human beings and estrangement from nature (or God).”

I would be interested in an updated look at the issue from Buruma and Margalit, now that they’ve had a little more time to think about who the enemies of the West – and the Enlightenment – may be.


Blog Widget by LinkWithin
I sometimes mention a product on this blog, and I give a URL to Amazon or similar sites. Just to reassure you, I don't get paid to advertise anything here and I don't get any money from your clicks. Everything I say here is because I feel like saying it.