Monday, October 16, 2006

Madonna, rapping in "American Life":
I got a lawyer and a manager
An agent and a chef
Three nannies, an assistant
And a driver and a jet
A trainer and a butler
And a bodyguard or five
A gardener and a stylist
Do you think I'm satisfied?
Obviously this was the problem. Three nannies, five bodyguards - but only one lawyer. Perhaps if Madonna had handled her staffing properly, there would have been someone to check up on the adoption laws in Malawi before this circus ensued:
Malawian law prohibits adoptions by non-residents, but officials are granting an exemption or waiver to Madonna, who has confirmed her intention to adopt the child, who lives in a dilapidated orphanage near the Zambian border.


Eye of the Child, the leading child advocacy group in Malawi, said the request for an injunction would be filed in a magistrates court in the capital Lilongwe on behalf of about five dozen non-governmental organisations.

Oh Madge.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Work Blogging

part 3

While filling in time at work, you've really got to fight if you don't want to turn into a passive, empty-brained vessel, don't you? Customer after customer coming in: one is already in a largely reactive mode, responding to demands - but this results in more of a nervous strung-out feeling after finishing a shift. Not bloat brain.

For when there is time to be filled in, it is easiest to go the other way. To idly internet browse, to zone-out, to flick through magazines. Constant stimulation. Looking at the clock, eating another biscuit. Clicking through to another blog. Everything has to come from outside: you cannot engage yourself with the world, but must rather be engaged.

The same logic applies with at-home procrastination, of course. The short-term pleasure principle constanty satiated, devouring more, one more Youtube clip, one more article, one more check to see what's been updated since you last checked (2 minutes previously). At the end, one has under one's belt what? A big bloated brain, a big bloated belly, a sense of guilt (safely repressed) - but a brain that has as much sharpness or solidity as a soggy facewasher.

Reminding us of what, boys and girls? Well, that inertia breeds only inertia. Lying about only leads to more lying about. The less you do, the less you feel able to do anything.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Justin Timberlake - Man or Machine?

Proof: Justin Timberlake is a robot. He is a machine!

Also be sure to check out the clip for "My Love". High concept, black and white, featuring formation dancing, slow-mo emblems from the song tumbling towards the screen ... and an elastic band stretched between a woman's shoe and a man's arm. I'm sorry to gush, but all my buttons have just been pressed.


We are in the hands of a master, ladies and gentlemen.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

The Nobility of Pop

Christian Falk ft. Robyn and Ola Salo - "Dream On"

A simple pop song that seems to lift its text from one of Jesus' sermons on the mount. It addresses itself to thugs, bad men, punks, thieves, pigs, snitches, junkies - tells them that for one night they won't be persecuted, double-crossed, lying in a gutter. The percussion lopes gently and puts me in mind of an orchestra of spoons mixed with gentle pops. Quite extraordinary. Supported by warm synthesiser notes that see-saw across the octaves, decorated with dreamy treble-y burbles. A beautiful promise of hope.

Monday, October 09, 2006

No Sleep Makes You Stupid

No sleep makes you stupid. The mode of the world's interaction with you? Assault. By clock.

(How did you miss that tram stop? How did you misread that roster? Twice? And again? Are you on your way yet? Just calling to see where you're up to. No that's fine, take your time, no rush. How come you seem so out of it? How could you leave it there?)

Rest, the only response to buffeting. Buffeting, which always ensues when you rest.

Interesting piece by Robert Manne in The Age today, "In Search of Howard's End". These remarks seemed particularly pertinent:

"In comparison with the security and serenity of citizens in the postwar boom, what is unusual about our own time is the curious combination of well-being and anxiety. Very many Australians are aware that they have never had it so good. Because of the unprecedented levels of private indebtedness, however, the high vulnerability to interest rate rises and the increasing levels of job insecurity, many are far from convinced that the good times will last.

The preoccupation of large numbers of citizens is now individual and familial well-being. The main aspiration is to acquire, or at least to hold on to what has been gained. Politics is accordingly even more thoroughly reduced than usual to judgements about the economic competence of governments."

It struck me that this paradoxical combination of contentment and anxiety - a happiness that is too reflexive, too aware of what factors have gone into producing our materially comfortable life, bristlingly sensitive at its edges, where it touches the fear that all this may be gone tomorrow - links to the phenomenon I discussed in passing, rationalised contentment. As I described it at the time, this is the sort of compulsion that is found in reflections on our current mode of life to state again and again that we are happy. A suspicious statement to make and reassert, as I mentioned my linked post.

I think Manne's comments on middle-class Australia's hyper-awareness of 'how good we have it' provides some insights into the material preconditions of this paranoid rhetorical mode. Rather than feeling of truly prosperous and abundant, we have these constant reminders of our precarious situation thrust at us from all sides.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

I've posted this before but it's time again to post this poem by Charles Baudelaire. It is... appropriate, shall we say.

The Clock ("L'Horloge")

The Clock! a sinister, impassive god
Whose threatening finger says to us: 'Remember!
Soon in your anguished heart, as in a target,
Quivering shafts of Grief will plant themselves;

Vaporous Joy glides over the horizon
The way a slyphid flits into the wings;
Each instant eats a piece of the delight
A man is granted for his earthly season.

Three thousand and six hundred times an hour
The Second sighs, Remember! - Suddenly
That droning insect Now says: I am Past
And I have sucked your life into my nostril!

Esto memor! Remember! Souviens-toi!
(My metal throat speaks out in every language)
Don't let the minutes, prodigal, be wasted-
They are the ore you must refine for gold!

Remember, Time is greedy at the game
And wins on every roll! perfectly legal.
The day runs down; the night comes on: remember!
The water-clock bleeds into the abyss.

Soon sounds the hour when Chance the heavenly,
When Virtue the august, eternal virgin,
When even (oh! your last retreat) Repentance,
Will tell you: Die old coward! it's too late!'

Monday, October 02, 2006

[Part Two. You can find Part One here.]

In lieu of everything else that can, should or could be written tonight, I want to proclaim the eternal truths present in that piece of pop confection, Jessica Simpson's "A Public Affair". I keep putting off writing about this song. Indeed, in some ways, perhaps it would be best if I never wrote a piece about it at all, for how else would be best to get at the article of faith at its core: 'Tonight, the world does not exist' ?

The singer seeks a happiness that comes from renunciation, from an escape. This is not a Nietzschean embrace of the world: this is not I have willed all of this, but rather the hopeless grasp for an exception, a halt, a pause, a cessation in time. And so, how joyless Jessica Simpson sounds as she runs through the motions - All night, let's rock, the party don't stop... Catch-phrases spilled out without any real conviction at all. Chanted like a room full of lapsed Catholics would drone the "Our Father".

Interestingly, what makes the exception - what is out of the box - is the public eye. The cameras. Others watching on. This is what can sublimate the banal pain of the daily grind: becoming a spectacle. Thus the magical-sparkle of synthesiser bubbles in the song's opening bars. We are lifting away from the real world.

Nevermind how heavy and laboured that "Holiday"-esque guitar riff sounds.

Regardless of all the contradiction: the implied importance of getting the official green light to have fun, wholly undercut by the denial - who cares...

(Answer? The singer, obviously, much as she attempts to effect euphoria as a panacea for the ache within...)

The song is a most polished, paradoxical mix of the joyful and the joyless. It envisages pleasure that could only come from people and emotions staying away: the central, broken down insistence to her girls: Give me room / To shake, shake, shake... Don't touch me! in other words.

Which puts me in mind of Marcello Carlin's words about Saint Etienne's "Stars Above Us":
even the temporary rooftop relief of "Stars Above Us" is tempered by the knowledge that, 14 years after "Nothing Can Stop Us," the reassuring reflex is now "nothing can touch us." The fear of being touched ("Side Streets" is remarkable; music by Tom Jobim, lyrical plot by "Robert De Niro's Waiting." The not-particularly-hidden deathwish of "Maybe I'll get it tomorrow") means that no one can touch you;