Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Dons... donkey dongs

Everything can be bought, we know that, except if we fight it, our hearts. No one will ever love the Milton Keynes Dons. How could they?

It is a sad thing that when they cannot buy our hearts, they break them.

I do not know how the fans of the Brooklyn Dodgers can stand that their team plays in LA. Is it that Americans can more readily be bought? Are their hearts for sale?

It seems to me that they believe -- I'm generalising -- that money is the measure of all things. I often see it in those I correspond with. They seem dissatisfied with unrewarded sharing or effort that does not lead to the dollar, and overly excited by the idea that what should have meaning inside can be paid for. I don't mean they cannot, or will not, do voluntary work, or help their neighbours. I'm sure they do.

Maybe we have all become Americans in this way. Am I really part of a dwindling band who believe it is worth trying to create for its own sake? Are there only few who believe that it can be worth the world without being worth a cent?


I have been reading You shall know our velocity. I am very disappointed. If you'd paid attention to the hype, you'd think Eggers really was the new Bellow. Well, he's not. He can write -- I mean, he can put words together in sentences one after the other -- but it is arsenumbingly pretentious writing. Ultimately, his characters are such dull arsewipes that you simply don't care for them. I could not be bothered turning the page to find out what happened to them.

I've said it before. All the pretty writing in the world is worth nothing if it's yoked to emptyheaded spifferings. Eggers spiffers. He doesn't have much of anything to say but he is clever enough to look like he does.

It infuriated me that he gave his characters silly names. It doubly infuriated me that he made them such twats. I couldn't help it. I don't have to sympathise with a character to love them (who doesn't love Raskolnikov or Pecksniff?) but they do have to not bore me rigid.

I wanted to like it. Eggers cuts a figure on the internetweb. As we all do, I love McSweeney's and would kill your mother to be published in it. He does good things for kids. He genuinely loves writing. I did want his novel not to suck donkeys.

So, anyone who wants a barely used copy of YSKOV...

Thursday, July 22, 2004

Easy as ABC

People won't stop fucking.

Although some feel there is something grossly immoral about it, this is not the majority view. Most of us accept it is just something we do. There have always been wowsers, mostly men afraid of their own and women's bodies (more so the latter -- the sheer hatred of many "pro-life" men for women is frightening). These smallminded creeps feel it is their business what others do behind closed doors. These are generally the same people who do not feel there is any reason for a person to take an interest in his neighbours' wellbeing, and who do not believe there is any such thing as community, which is a curious disconnect.

Abstinence works as a preventive measure for sexual disease and pregnancy. No doubt about it. But it doesn't work in a much more real sense. It doesn't work as a policy. Teens ignore the propaganda. When they are taught that the only option for safe sex is not to have any, they plump for the unsafe version. Who among us would not? Sex is wonderful. It is central to our lives. It is how we are, how we will be when we're gone, a way we express ourselves, great fun and a pastime that per dollar brings the most enjoyment (the most bang for buck, you might say). Lack of it can drive us mad, turn us into monsters.

Condoms prevent the spread of sexual disease. They are not as effective as abstinence, but their use is a matter of life and death. Denying access to them condemns many to death.

You can argue that the rich world need not care for the poor. You can argue that it need not care for the problems of the rest of the world, that it has no responsibility. You can even argue that those people could just stop fucking.

But there will be millions of children without parents, millions of families without fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, millions of lives lost to a disease that we can stop easily. What moral code can think it is better to die than to fuck someone you are not married to? What kind of person truly does not understand that not everyone has the choice, even? Who would let millions die for the lack of a piece of latex?

Who votes for these people? Who empowers them? Whoever you are, hang your heads in shame.

Bush the Prophet

God says murder thousands of Arabs?

Well, I suppose Bush's gahd might. Apparently,
he's been dictating US policy of late.

Where's my Calgacus quote? I need it yet again.

These hounds pervert the words we use for what is good about us. They twist them into curious, ugly reflections that quickly become unrecognisable.

How can it be godly to pursue the deaths of thousands to enrich your peers? How can you be prosecuting a "war on terror" when you are the guy who is causing the terror?

I'm just hoping God doesn't start suggesting the nuclearising of Brisbane. You never know. There are quite a few Arabs here.


This is your just war.

This is the liberation we offer.

It does not cease to be terrorism because you are wearing a uniform. I thought that was shown at Nuremburg. Did we not remove that defence? If Hamas had B52s, would that make them moral?

The uranium lie

The conservative nutters, Ann Coulter as usual to the fore, are busy smearing Joseph Wilson, who helped expose Bush's lie in the State of the Union address about Iraq's trying to buy uranium from Niger.

What these people ignore is that the claim was false, and Bush was told that it was dubious. The White House is falling back on the usual defence. It's not up to Bush to find out what the truth is. It was someone else's fault.

The State department told the White House that it was dubious that Saddam was seeking to build nuclear weapons. We know it did because it was reported at the time that it did. It was widely reported that a group of advisers to Bush was suppressing contrary evidence.

Surely, if there was doubt, we shouldn't have been invading another nation? We should have checked it out first, no?

The melting pot speaks

I found this quite astonishing. America has a worldwide reputation as the home mostly of stupid fat white people, but of course it is bigger and broader than that. This map goes some way to showing how much broader.

It would be wonderful to see the same map for the whole world. It would also be interesting to know why so many people in Southern California speak Korean!

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Sorry, we lied

I missed this when it came out (the truth does not get much airing in the Australian press). Looks like the rightwing lie that Saddam's regime killed hundreds of thousands is untrue. Blair has admitted he lied when he repeatedly claimed there were 400 000 bodies in Iraqi mass graves.

Now, 5000 is a lot of dead guys, and I'm not lessening the horror of the loss to their families and communities, but I simply ask, how many have we done in since the conflict began?

Looks like at least 11 000.

And they've truly fucked the place up. Saddam might have been a bad guy, but he at least kept the place peaceable.

Still, who says Yanks can't do irony? W is putting himself forward as the peace president.

A couple of weeks ago, he claimed he was "defending the peace, protecting the peace and extending the peace -- for nearly three years".

Well, dude, my definition of "extending peace" does not include bombing the shit out of Arabs who pose no threat to you. This kind of thinking would have had Hitler awarded the Nobel prize for his work in extending peace in central Europe (which was certainly reasonable peaceful for a couple of years in the 40s until those naughty Russians liberated it -- mostly because the Germans had shot all the opposition).

These people are not bringing peace. They are bringing war. They are bringing death and lots of it. Their apologists are getting more desperate as their lies are uncovered.

It's time to stop. I agree with Oliver Miles. It's time to get our boys out of there. We've done enough harm. We're starting to look like the Romans as described by Calgacus:

"Brigands of the world, they have exhausted the land by their indiscriminate plunder and now they ransack the sea. The wealth of an enemy excites their cupidity, his poverty their lust of power. East and West have failed to glut their maw. They are unique in being as violently tempted to attack the poor as the wealthy. Robbery, butchery, rapine, with false names they call Empire; and they make a wilderness and call it peace."

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Lies and the lying liars who lie them

How were our governments able to lie to us so successfully that they are still engaged in an illegal war in a sovereign country that they invaded without a UN mandate?

Even in the UK, where the press is not as compliant as in the States, it seems newspapers were far too keen to parrot government lies.

Those lies are still being told. It seems that the right believes they become true with repetition. The only antidote to them is the truth.

The war is still illegal. It is still all about oil and geopolitics and nothing to do with 9/11. It is still being waged primarily against civilians.

They are still fucking liars and we should not trust another word any of them utters. We have each other. We have the truth. It is out there, even if a great deal of effort goes into hiding it.

"A spirit fierce"

There will be a little less truth in the world after today. A man who has fiercely campaigned against liars and the lies they tell has died and the world will be poorer for it.

Paul Foot was a scion of the elite, but took up the socialist cudgels (as is often the wont of those types -- England's favourite cuddly uncle Trot, Tony Benn, was a viscount). His credentials are unquestionable, though. He never wavered. In a world where pollies flip and flop day on day, where saying what people want to hear is considered a virtue rather than the worst of vices in a public figure, he kept on telling the truth, sticking always to his guns. And what makes his work most special is that it did have results: for the ordinary readers of the Mirror, for many falsely convicted who eventually found justice even when all bar Foot had abandoned them, for some of the crooks who he helped rob of their place to hide.

This obituary is capped by describing Foot as a "spirit fierce", like Shelley's west wind (as I do, Foot idolised Shelley, a true icon of English writing). I don't think there's any better label for a man in this world and I cannot better it.

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Two Billies

I love the name Billy. Not William, Will, Bill or any other thing but Billy.

Why, I think is clear to me. Two Billies have been dear to me, others less than dear but positive enough, and I never have known a Billy I couldn't live with.

The less than dear Billies, which still I hold dear enough, are Billy T, an older boy, who, when I was a child, forgave me my grammar schooling and foreignness and took me under his wing. And Puffing Billy. I don't know where I heard it but I have always loved steam engines and steam trains (am I alone in thinking that we have made our trains faster and more wonderful but by no means better looking? There is something majestic and astonishing about a steam loco but the squat, electric sausages of CityRail are just ways to get from A to B).

And need I say anything about Billy Goat Gruff, the king of fairy stories?

But the Billies I adored are one of my childhood, one of my youth. Billy Bremner was the epitome of football for me. The captain of Leeds when I first came to love them, the man who led them through the glory years. He was a fiery mix of skill and crunching tackling, feisty, murderous sometimes. He would never back down, always giving all he had to the cause. If you could ever love a footballer, he was it.

The other is Billy Mackenzie. A brilliantly talented singer, who had enormous musical vision and what appealed to me most, an idiosyncratic, wildly different way of using words to articulate his view of the world, he reached a place in a young man's heart that his contemporaries simply couldn't. He will always be for me the guy who, on his first appearance on Top of the Pops, caused my dad to say "If you buy that record, I'm putting it straight on the fire". I bought it the next day, of course.

Mackenzie never had the success I wanted for him. He was just too bright a star for a world that likes its glitter in the packaging rather than the product.

The tragedy of my Billies is that both died in 1997. Bremner died young and Mackenzie younger, by his own hand. I don't know why -- I know that he had been a depressive, but very little more than that, because I prefer to allow my stars to be voices without lives as far as possible.
I think I loved them because each had a talent that I wish I had but do not. I never was much more than an enthusiastic but poor footballer, and I cannot sing although I would dearly love to be able to. And each brought beauty into a poor boy's life -- Billy a precise pass that opened up a game like a knife flipping apart an oyster shell, Billy a stunning high note stretched for, reached, made a piece of aural honey that sings his name forever.

Ghostly trails

Finals blew, I barely knew
my graduation speech
and with college out of reach
if I can't find a job it's down to Dad
and Myrtle Beach

So, I'm bailing this town-or
tearing it down-or
probably more like
hanging around,
hanging around

Everyone I know is acting weird
or way too cool
they hang out by the pool
so I just read a lot and ride my bike
around the school
Aimee Mann -- Ghost world

This post on the wonderful UV's blog made me think of Aimee Mann's Ghost world, a sublime hymn to the directionless teen, of which I was (and in many ways still am) one, although I didn't fail to graduate.

Aimee Mann is a tremendous observer of the little human things (which are, in their way, the match in importance of the big things). If you don't like her, you are either:

A teen.

If you're deaf, you have my commiseration. If you're a teen, at least you might grow out of it.

I didn't quite end up in Myrtle Beach (although I get the feeling the places Mann was singing about are not a million miles from suburban Brisbane) but I certainly wanted to get out of the small town I lived in as a teen. I wonder what Mann would have made of rural Gloucestershire, which is where I finished high school. It's pretty but what good is pretty to a 17yo kid who is all cock and spite? I thought uni would put me right.

More fool me. My disaffection ran far deeper and I was never able to overcome it. I'm not whining about it. I think it's one of my best qualities; it's the same thing that drives me to want to know about the world and the things in it, the thing that makes me jealous of others' knowledge, determined to make my head an encyclopaedia.

Or is that a best quality? Perhaps not. There have been more than a few times in my life when I've wished I were more able to be contented with less.

Of course you think a lot about these things when you have kids, particularly when you have new ones (because they are a fresh start, and you haven't yet fucked them up even a little). I think I would rather mine did not grow up directionless.

Aimee Mann goes on to sing:
And all that I need now
is someone with the brains
and the know-how
to tell me what I want...

I used to think it was a bad thing to want things for your kids, you know, to want them to be doctors, lawyers, what have you. But I've grown to learn that it's worse not to want anything for them. You help condemn them to becoming, like you, ghosts of the people they could be.

Monday, July 12, 2004

Krasner puts the boot in

When Krasner's krew took over Leeds towards the end of last season, cynics suggested that the several property developers in his consortium pointed to a sale of the ground, Leeds' greatest asset. Krasner denied it, of course.

Reading about the players we have cheered being flogged one by one hurts. It's like finding out your partner has been fucking around. Each name is a kick in the balls.

When those names are Smith and Milner, you know that not only have they robbed your team of today, but they are ridding it of tomorrow too. These are not guys who love your team, but guys who only worship the dollar.

Now the truth is out. It's the ground they wanted.

You just don't realise how much football can hurt you until they bury your team.

Worse still is happening. Krasner says the team must be "fitted out" for first division football. Yes, we agree, so we must buy the best of young, cheap talent, no? Or at least some unsung but useful Scandies?

No. We must re-sign Brian Fucking Deane! Ah well, you think, one bad choice, one old head, I can live with that. But Craig Hignett? What's that about? Some sort of bizarre role reversal? Middlesbrough used to be completely shit and had Hignett, and we were good and had Viduka. So now they have Viduka and we are accepting that we will never rise again?

Don't even mention Steve Guppy. I might not be able to restrain myself and there are children present.

They buried our fucking team and now they're making it into a zombie, a terrifying shabby stumbling rotten thing, doomed to wander the lower divisions whispering in a ghastly tone... we once played in the semis of the Champions League.

Friday, July 09, 2004


Ryan is a cousin of my wife's without blood. I don't know how else you'd describe him. His mother is close to my wife's family and he is a stranger, but one who could walk through our door and be part of our lives anytime he chose.

He makes coffee art. I'd never heard of it until my wife mentioned he did it. In rich countries people run out of things to spend their money on, I suppose. If that seems pretentious, check his blog. It's very clever, but I don't think a lot of it is quite true.

It is age, I think, that teaches us that cleverness without insight is as useless and ephemeral as sculpted foam on a cappa. I don't mean to be cynical, but I see it so often: men -- nearly always men, because women don't need to wish to be seen as sensitive -- who think the smart gesture is what counts. Writers who deploy broken, twisted metaphors that do not illuminate; artists who think it is enough to speak, and forget that the art lies in having something to say; musicians who chase the unlistenable edge and lose all sight of the heart, without which music is nothing.

Clever is easy. That is what these boys do not know. Anyone with an IQ in three figures and a quick mind can do clever.

What good does it do me to say this, though? What good does it do to know it? The world rewards clever sometimes, because the world is full of people who are waiting to be told how dumb they are -- so wrongly! If only they had the faith in themselves that I believe they merit. But wishing a beautiful world will not build one and telling people that they are not so dumb and the clever not so clever never did make happy work.

Sunday, July 04, 2004

Trees in the key of Z

If like me you find it hard to keep your subgenres of techno straight and confuse Goa trance with ambient breakbeat hardcore jungle, this guide (Ishkur's guide to electronic dance music) is what you need. It must have taken the guy months to make. Even if you don't care for this stuff, you have to take your hat off to the guy for effort.

It's a bit hard to read the writeups, which are very opinionated, but the examples give you a good feel for the different genres of dance music. It's a nostalgia trip for lovers of music propelled by rhythmic beats (or in the case of Autechre, dissonant clanking noises).

I love stuff like this. I used to be a big fan of those rock family tree things, not because I cared who had been a drummer in the Mamas and Papas or once made the tea for the Troggs, but because the diagrams made music, my passion, seem as grand as the aristocracy, worth the effort a guy had put into researching who was who, and who did what with who.

Saturday, July 03, 2004

Doing it for free

While searching for a way to turn big Quicktime files into smaller, compressible Mpegs (a search that continues because I ran out of patience long before I ran out of possible pages to look at), I stumbled on Irfan View.

For a free graphics viewer, it's a really nice piece of software. Given how many piccies I'll be processing in the next few weeks, it'll come in handy.

It's quite incredible how much effort a guy will put into free software. I use Modtracker to make music and the sophistication of it astonishes me.

Tracking is the poor man's MIDI. It allows no-hopers like me to have fun with music. Nearly all the tools used in tracking are freeware, created by fellow enthusiasts.

Trackers often use futuristic nyms -- they'll call themselves Syko or Mr Vybe. Being an impressionable sort, I decided, when I started exploring the tracker community, I needed a nym for my music. So I started being Dr Zen and now I can't stop.

In case you were wondering -- I do give too. Sometimes the guys I'm giving to don't realise it, but hey, that's their problem.