Monday, October 16, 2006

Up where the air is clear / up in the atmosphere

How I know I’m living in Indonesia:

Flying into Bali yesterday on Air Asia, I, as always, put on the iPod as soon as I sat down and pulled out my book. I don’t need to hear all the verbal warnings, advice and other garbage, and am firmly of the belief that the weather will be what it is at the other end regardless of what I’m told, and in Indonesia that’s always hot; I have no intention of making cellphone calls in flight or lighting up; and, in Indonesia the plane will never arrive on time. Oh, and if it goes down none of that shit they demonstrate will make the blindest bit of difference.

So on goes the iPod, and out comes the heavy and depressing historical tome that I always carry, and off it goes as the plane glides to a halt at the other end. On countless airlines, from the era of the walkman onwards, that’s been a philosophy without a problem. So, it was with some surprise when then lady in the bright red suit asked me to put away my iPod for landing. Apa? I asked, and she said I needed to put it away to land. Nonsense says I, I’ve never done so in the past and don’t see what difference it makes. Its Air Asia policy said she. It wasn’t when I flew with you before I said. It is now she said. Kenapa? said I…because she said…wait for it....if you have your iPod on you might not notice if the plane crashes.

What could I say… can you dispute logic like that.

Then, of course was this recent text message, received by Brigid from a supplier of artefacts for which we were waiting for payment for from an overseas customer. We had given the guy a deposit to hold the items when this SMS arrived:

Sorry Bos, we ar need money tuday because may famili is dead in hospital. Please give me two million before orready deposit two million

This, naturally, was a cause of some concern to us, especially since we were not in Indonesia at the time and there was little we could do. Fortunately another text arrived a short time later and the family had made a miraculous and speedy recovery and now they needed the cash for a feast. Thank heavens for that…..

Sunday, October 15, 2006


General William Westmoreland, US Commander in Vietnam, when asked about Vietnamese civilian casualties:

Yes it’s a Problem but it does deprive the enemy of the population, doesn’t it?

I have to say something about this. I’m almost speechless and I’m not very good at this sort of thing but I have to have my say anyway.

The first thing, once the horror of what has been wrought has subsided a little is how in gods name did we get to this place.

I remember New Years Eve as the millennium turned. There was, and I think it was a global thing, such hope, a tangible feeling at that very moment, that a corner had perhaps been turned. That somehow we were going to be able to put the 20th Century and all the spilt innocent blood, state sponsored as most of it was, it represented, behind us.

But, alas, we reckoned without 9/11, and, worse, we reckoned without George W Bush and his bunch of self serving, bloodthirsty comrades and camp followers. And yet, in retrospect, it was all rather obvious. That Iraq would fall victim, sooner or later to American imperial demands was inevitable, even under the Democrats, as Mrs Clinton's wholesale continuing support for this bloodbath makes clear.

I want to scream lots of four letter words, a litany of fucks and cunts and shits and whatever else comes out mindlessly. Maybe it will help me feel better about the shitty place these pricks have taken us all, and particular the people of Iraq, to.

I listen to the news and I hear Bush dismissing this survey’s results and I want to say, you shitty sleazy prick all over again. What does it matter if its 50,000 or 500,000 dead as a result of your liable actions, how dare you try to lessen what you have done, to make excuses or dismiss these numbers so cruelly. You despicable fucking human being, once again defending the indefensible; writhing and worming your way around your liability. As I said, what does it matter if its 100,000 or 800,000, the blood of each and every one of those people is on your hands.

Then, predictably, there are those who say that most of these deaths are the result of Iraqi on Iraqi violence as if that too lessens the responsibility of the “coalition”, and in particular the USA. That these people would not have died if it had not been for the dishonesty and deceit of the elected government of the United States, with the collective responsibility that democracy and the much touted freedom brings, is without question, and to deny it only deepens the responsibility.

Responsibility is such a big part of this: a responsibility to accept what has been done in your name and accept the responsibility to both make an attempt at a resolution and make some sort of amends, whatever each takes. And that doesn’t involve, as so many Democrats want, washing your hands and walking away. A solution has to be found and if that involves many many billions more of American money so be it. My gut says that the world will never forgive the United States for this, regardless of its governing party, if they don’t. But, I have to be realistic and I don’t hold any out any hope that the US will do the right thing. The country that gave the world the Marshall Plan no longer exists. It’s dead and buried in Fallujah and a thousand other bloody places around the globe, in the hamlets of South Vietnam, and the villages of Guatemala.

So many of us have been accused, in recent years, of being Anti American. I know I have and I’ve strongly and repeatedly denied the accusation. I’d like now to withdraw that withdrawal and proudly state that I’m firmly Anti-American. Not Anti-Americans mind, but strongly and proudly, like it seems so many are now (the chorus of approval for Chavez in NY recently was tangible), Anti-American.

Quite frankly fuck America and all the pain it’s delivered to the planet in the past fifty years, from the death squads in Central America, to the pain of South East Asia to the current Imperial megalomania of the Middle East. How much death can one nation subject the planet to in the name of its damned alleged gift of freedom. Chavez might be a little bit tin pot but I applaud him standing up at the UN and stating what much of the planet is saying. And I also say a big fuck you to the Democrat Congressman from NYC who criticised him for saying what he did, stating that only Americans have the right to criticise Bush. Mr Rangel, your president is a liar, and a murderer of many many non-Americans so take your complicit whinge and stick it somewhere.

So where do we draw the line? When do we say enough and make people accountable. Fifty five years ago in a German city called Nuremburg good people, many of them American, made a bunch of evil people accountable for their actions. Now the American government, elected as they are by the people of the USA, are the bad guys who need to be made accountable for their actions, for their state sanctioned breaches of the boundaries that we try to govern our world by.

My friend Damien Christie warned me about linking the Nazis’ crimes and the Bush administration and I understand the fine point, but disagree. Pure evil is pure evil, especially when perpetrated under the guise of state policy, and Bush, and his lieutenants are as guilty as those Nazis who were strung up in Nuremburg, and indeed Saddam Hussein, currently on trial for heinous crimes in Baghdad of a great and punishable evil. They lied, they continue to lie, they had a reasonable understanding that their actions would bring us to this place, or if they didn’t they are guilty of criminal negligence, and yet they willingly took us, and in particular, the population now subject to their whims, to this place. We have to draw the line somewhere but Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Blair and company walk freely, sleep soundly, increase their net worths, smile as they face the press, and lie and twist without a momentary obvious concern for the hell they have wrought.


And once the troops are home, America will analyse a lot, but mostly forget and in twenty years Bush will have a state funeral. He will be given a get out of jail free card, as Nixon was.

I don’t want to come on as too self righteously naive, but, fuck it all, I despise them for it

Nah Nah Nah Nah

I can’t help feeling that my last post was unduly harsh. You get that when you try to post when terribly jetlagged. I’m not good for at least 24 hours after a long flight, as those close to me will attest.

Not unduly rough on Soto, it deserved every word I wrote, not that they care as they seemed to be printing money if our last visit was evidence.

But a little harsh on Metro Magazine, which has its moments, usually towards the back of the magazine. In particular I’ve always enjoyed Gary Steel’s music reviews. He’s one of that extraordinarily rare breed: a reviewer that looks past the accompanying press release and actually writes about the record. Rare indeed, in fact I can only think of a couple or three others in NZ of whom the same can be said, not least of whom is the affable but very very readable Grant Smithies (most great critics, from experience have a surly, often unpleasant demeanour, Grant runs against the grain, as indeed does Gary, and, another NZ writer of worth, John Russell). I suspect that living in an isolated place such as Nelson, as does Grant; or Whangarei, as does John, gives one a more reasonable, less pressured, perspective on a records style or impact.

Simon Reynolds, he of the essential Rip It Up and Fade Away post punk analysis, wrote quite an interesting piece on the death of the music critic a few months back. There is no direct link, but you can find it here if you dig a little.

I’m a little sad that the era of the great rock’n’roll critics, the likes of Lester Bangs and Nick Kent (whose Dark Stuff is also absolutely essential, even if it only had the Brian Wilson story) is past, but to be honest they were always thin on the ground and for every Charles Shaar Murray there were always a dozen churn em out hacks like Christigau or Marsh, or, for that matter, self absorbed scribblers of pointless verbiage like Paul Morley. The demise of the album (and I mean “the album” as in records deemed to be of great social and artistic import) has, of course, hastened the end. The sixties and seventies were dotted with important “albums” as such, records that still sit on store shelves and crossed all boundaries, defying any sub genre. Indeed sub genres and the sub sub genres are a relatively modern phenomena. The CD and the in the increasing niche-ification of popular music killed any possibility that a record could attain such mass acclaim or esteem. I’m having trouble thinking of the last genre crossing important record in those terms..Thriller maybe? The new Dylan album was hailed as such by a few crusty old souls but you have to have your head stuck in the sand to think that Modern Times has any real presence beyond an aging audience and a bunch of lost critics living twenty years ago. That’s not to say it’s a bad record, but in Blood on the Tracks terms, it ain’t important.

But still, we can all play the critic when we want. I’m no Nick Kent, I know that, but I like to toodle on about the odd record (and I recognise that my taste an be a little odder than most, not many people listen to German minimal techno, British bubblegum or NZ guitar noise within the breadth of three songs but that’s not an unusal mix for me I’m happy to say). So, a toodle we will go…this is what I’m liking a lot this week, both old and new:

Guido Schnieder….Focus On (Poker Flat)….I didn’t pay for this, it arrived in the mail a few weeks back unannounced and got put to one side as I travelled here and there (I’ve done Bali, Bangkok, Auckland and Jakarta this month and it takes it out of you so a little German minimal doesn’t get a look in), so it took a while, but good things etc etc. I love the dense (in a minimal way) dark throbbiness of this a lot. It slips and slides all over the place like the bastard lovechild of Holgar Czukay and Arthur Russell, in his nuttier moments. It’s all disco anyway….

I:Cube ….Acid Tablet…acid lives, still, in the heart of a few French veterans…playing this one over and over and over and that sad?

VariousYou Better Believe It Soul Vol2…(Warner)…I find it mind boggling just how many obscure, not just good, but phenomenal soul and disco records from the sixties, seventies, and eighties, exist in the vaults of the major labels. Warners UK have issued, in the past five years or so, some twenty compilations like this, under various titles with almost no crossover, and almost all are essential purchases. This, like the first in the series, is just a beautifully packaged and annotated collection of sweet soul classics that you’ve probably never heard before. That’s all.

Laurent GarnierRetrospective…(F Comm)…I love just about everything Laurent has done, so its rather special to get a swag of it all tied together rather neatly on one double album, with a bunch of new recordings and unreleased stuff, although it would’ve been rather nice to have had the original recording of Acid Eiffel as well as the new live take, which is nice, but, yknow, its not quite the same..fussy bastard I am. Well wicked….

Giles Peterson and Patrick Forge….Sunday Afternoon at Dingwalls..(Ether)…CD 1 is the wonderfully crazy jazz and CD 2 is the soul….Sunday Afternoons in Bali more like….love the packaging too. Although I wasn’t a part of this scene, I feel an affinity as we were trying to do similar things on the other side of the world at the same time.