I gather some of my readers are Bond enthusiasts. In which case, and with the new film looming, this audio documentary on the various Bond scores - and the long-running dispute over who wrote what - may be of interest. It’s an hour long but stay with it. There’s plenty of period ephemera and some amusing revelations.
For newcomers, three more items from the archives.
Belgian performance artists nail some culture into us.
Sweat is a performance piece by Peter De Cupere, choreographed by Jan Fabre, in which five narcissists spend fourteen minutes rolling about and jumping up and down - naked, obviously - while attempting to fill their transparent plastic overalls with all manner of body odour. “The intention,” we’re told, “is to catch the sweat from the dancers and to distil it. The concrete of the sweat is sprayed on a wall of the dance lab and protected by a glass box. In the glass is a small hole where visitors can smell the sweat.” Yes, you can smell the sweat. If that’s not a good night out, I don’t know what is.
When being callous and vindictive is a badge of feminist virtue.
Male readers should note that - according to Amanda, her admirers and the ladies at Feministing - you have, and can have, no legitimate feelings on the subject of abortion, even if the images above were of something – or someone – you helped create. Except, that is, for the nasty, misogynist, controlling feelings that Amanda and her peers will assign to you, based solely on your gender.
Goa/psytrance is being repressed!
Dr St John’s more recent and even more ambitious project is Dancecult: Journal of Electronic Dance Music Culture. For the heathens among you who don’t already subscribe, and for whom the terms noisecore and bloghouse are just strange and scary words, the Dancecult journal is “a platform for interdisciplinary scholarship on the shifting terrain of electronic dance music cultures (EDMCs) worldwide.” Its concerns are of course numerous and deep. Current gems include Media Studies lecturer Dr Hillegonda Rietveld’s Disco’s Revenge: House Music’s Nomadic Memory, an article rendered lofty by obligatory references to Deleuze, Guattari and de Sade, and which “addresses the role of house music as a nomadic archival institution,” one that is “keeping disco alive through a rhizomic assemblage of its affective memory in the third record of the DJ mix.” Some of you will, I’m sure, feel a strong urge to contribute, thereby helping to expand the boundaries of human knowledge on matters of great and pressing import.
Now pour yourself a stiff one and explore the greatest hits.
A 30-year-old walrus named E.T., weighing in at a trifling 3,500 pounds, demonstrates his delicate and melodious singing voice.
For newcomers, more items from the archives.
“Passive overeating” is a global pandemic, so Guardianistas want the state to stop us eating.
Setting aside the surreal wording and overt authoritarianism, there’s something vaguely unpleasant about a group of richer people – say, left-leaning doctors, columnists and academics - demanding constraints and punitive taxes on proletarian food. Taxes and constraints that would leave themselves largely unaffected.
Guardian hearts Occupier. Said Occupier hearts smashing other people’s stuff.
Prior to smashing windows and hitting police officers with 8 foot long steel pipes, the Occupiers had gathered at an anarchist book fair, where leaflets and workshops promised a softer, fairer, fluffier world. (“Indigenous solidarity event with Native Resistance Network.” “Equal rights for all species.” “Children welcome!”) In this temple of warrior poets and ostentatious empathy, the “activist and educator” Cindy Milstein cooed over Occupy’s “direct democracy and cooperation”: “This compelling and quirky, beautiful and at times messy experimentation has cracked open a window on history, affording us a rare chance to grow these uprisings into the new landscape of a caring, ecological, and egalitarian society.” Occupy, says Milstein, is all about “facilitating a conversation in hopes of better strategizing toward increasingly expansive forms of freedom.” Its participants, we learn, are “non-hierarchical and anti-oppression.” See, it’s all fluff and twinkles. It’s just that some of the twinklers like to wear masks and balaclavas – the universal symbol of friendliness and caring - while trying to shatter glass onto Starbucks customers.
Bettina Camilla Vestergaard creates “an uninhibited space for creative thought and action.” Radical grass-tearing ensues.
Decenter was, we’re told, a place for artists who longed to escape “the choking effects of the market,” and who wished to air their “radical and uncompromising thoughts,” thereby creating “a more humanely oriented society.” You see, these precious flowers are choked by the market, implying as it does a reciprocal arrangement with the rube footing the bill. A parasitic relationship, in which the taxpayer has no say and is essentially irrelevant, is much more liberating.
Now waste your afternoon in the greatest hits.
For newcomers and the nostalgic, three more items from the archives.
The Guardian pines for radical pop stars who “threaten” the establishment. Like the peacenik who bankrolled the IRA.
Lennon also found time to lend his pop star gravitas to the Workers’ Revolutionary Party, a Trotskyist cult apparently financed by those moral colossi Muammar al-Gaddafi and Saddam Hussein, and which entranced such artistic luminaries as Corin and Vanessa Redgrave. The WRP’s ambitions included socialist revolution, the overthrow of private property and the replacement of the police by a “workers militia.” Imagine that. And hey, who wouldn’t feel threatened by a millionaire pop star sprawled on his peace bed high above Manhattan, singing a hymn to global totalitarianism and a world with “no possessions,” while his sidekick Yoko collected fur coats?
Zoe Williams denounces charity fundraiser and spits at people who don’t have “normal salaries.”
Normal salaries won’t of course cut much ice at an Ark Gala, where ticket sales alone raise millions of pounds. Even Zoe, whose former school sends well-heeled little socialists on trips to Rome, Morocco and Barbados, would be out of her league. Still, Zoe’s personal resentments are the important thing and these “obscenely” rich people should stop “creating inequality” while giving money away. Given time, the orphans of Romania will doubtless learn to do without while sharing in Ms Williams’ moral satisfaction.
Diversity hustler Linda Bellos, a thinker for our times.
It’s always good to see moral one-upmanship and complaints of “the same sad old stereotypes” coming from a woman who abandoned her own children to live in a separatist lesbian commune.
There’s more of course in the greatest hits.
John Carpenter’s The Thing, as summarised in song by Frank Sinatra.
From the people who brought you this:
Being as it is the very yardstick of hip and edgy, the Guardian is once again defending criminality and antisocial behaviour. A few weeks ago, it was academic radical Alexander Vasudevan and his enthusiasm for the “seizure and reclamation” of other people’s belongings as “a potent symbol of protest.” Shortly before that, we had Sam Allen telling us that not being agreed with and obeyed amounts to being “silenced,” and that her associates “will act in a way that will ensure they will be heard.” Specifically, by setting fire to Tesco stores and terrifying their neighbours with all-night rioting, and then threatening to do it again unless their demands are met. Such are the privileges of fighting for “social justice.”
Today, Lanre Bakare, recipient of a Scott Trust bursary, is applauding graffiti and its “rising popularity”:
Now graffiti’s more outspoken critics are being drowned out again by fans and supporters, such as academics at the University of Bristol, who want to see Banksy’s work receive listed status… The critics of graffiti and street art will keep saying they have no artistic merit and should be marginalised, not publicly funded. If Banksy’s pieces do get listed status the debate will be opened up again.
Actually, the strongest objections to graffiti generally hinge not on aesthetics, but on a more prosaic detail. Defacing and damaging someone else’s property - just because you can - simply isn’t cool, dude. “Street art” rarely suggests great artistry - more typically the impression given is of territorial scent marking and a kind of moral autism. A belief that something you’d find insulting and aggravating if done to you and your belongings can nonetheless be done to others because… well, because you’re so amazingly radical and important.
The millionaire “anti-capitalist” Banksy would have us believe that “crime against property is not real crime,” though residents and business owners whose property has been defaced and who’ve been left with the cost of cleaning and repair may take a rather different, less sophisticated view. Especially given that such crime tends to affect people who earn considerably less than Banksy. Lest we forget, graffiti, like broken windows, can act as a signal to other vandals and predators. And the residents of graffiti-blighted neighbourhoods, which can subsequently become blighted by other forms of crime, may find little comfort in the notion that their own taxes could soon be funding and legitimising more of the same.
You heard me.
Utah jazz ensemble The New Hot 5 performs for a herd of cows in Autrans, France.
In a now infamous 1994 interview with journalist Michael Ignatieff, the historian was asked if the murder of “15, 20 million people might have been justified” in establishing a Marxist paradise. “Yes,” Mr. Hobsbawm replied. Asked the same question the following year, he reiterated his support for the “sacrifice of millions of lives” in pursuit of a vague egalitarianism. That such comments caused surprise is itself surprising; Mr. Hobsbawm’s lifelong commitment to the Party testified to his approval of the Soviet experience, whatever its crimes. It’s not that he didn’t know what was going on in the dank basements of the Lubyanka and on the frozen steppes of Siberia. It’s that he didn't much care.
Readers of How to Change the World will be treated to explications of synarchism, a dozen mentions of the Russian Narodniks, and countless digressions on justly forgotten Marxist thinkers and politicians. But there is remarkably little discussion of the way communist regimes actually governed. There is virtually nothing on the vast Soviet concentration-camp system, unless one counts a complaint that “Marx was typecast as the inspirer of terror and gulag, and communists as essentially defenders of, if not participators in, terror and the KGB.” Also missing is any mention of the more than 40 million Chinese murdered in Mao’s Great Leap Forward or the almost two million Cambodians murdered by Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge.
KC Johnson on the difficulties of juggling Designated Victim Groups:
The contemporary academic majority worships the trinity of race, class, and gender. Class is clearly the third wheel - unsurprisingly given that most tenured professors are well-off financially and secure in employment, and therefore don’t have a personal connection to the preferred ideological viewpoints on the issue. The competition for primacy between race and gender, however, is less clear-cut. In a matter like the lacrosse case, where the preferred viewpoint on class, race, and gender all dictated a rush to embrace false accuser Crystal Mangum’s wild claims, the result - as we all saw with the Group of 88’s activities - can be vicious. But the rape of Katie Rouse, a white Duke student, by a local black man was met with utter silence from the Group. As I noted at the time, they seemed desperate to avoid making a politically difficult choice.
Armed and Dangerous finds affirmation in a flash mob Bolero:
Ravel could not even have imagined the cellphones the musicians used for coordination; our capacity to transvaluate old forms – and our willingness to do so – is unparalleled in human history. What I saw in that video is that embracing this process of perpetual reinvention is what being “Western” means. We have developed more than any previous or competing civilisation the knack of using our past without being limited by it. I looked at those musicians and that audience, and what I didn’t see was decadence or exhaustion or self-hating multiculturalism. I felt like pumping my fist in the air and yelling “This is my civilisation!” It lives, and it’s beautiful, and it’s worth defending.
And Laban Tall notes a lesson in cultural contrasts:
From time to time, I fly to Stockholm from Manchester. On arriving at Arlanda, I’m greeted by giant posters of Stockholmers saying (in English), “Welcome to my town!” On return to Ringway, I’m greeted by posters warning me not to assault airport staff. A few months ago I flew to Munich for the first time. On arrival I was greeted by a Bluetooth message from BMW, promoting their cars. Returning to Manchester, I was greeted at luggage reclaim by a giant poster offering me a test for chlamydia.
As always, feel free to add your own.
Pulp’s upending of class stereotypes, their anger and their experimentation matter now more than ever, as a government waging naked class war elicits no response at all from our cowed, moribund pop music.
It’s naked class war, see? And only Pulp can save us, armed as they are with a “relentless, uncomfortable attention to class.” I’m not at all sure that pop bands should be taken quite this seriously, but class is clearly a fixation of Mr Hatherley, such that he uses the term no fewer than nineteen times. And the “cowed, moribund pop music” of which he speaks is apparently the result of “a ruling class… having waged successful class war” and our society therefore being insufficiently leftwing:
But with the decimation of the infrastructure that produced them, from access to education to arts council grants to the dole itself, has the British political and pop cultural landscape changed so much that a group like Pulp is now impossible?
Why, it’s the end of music, obviously.
At some point in the 1990s this literary-experimental pop tradition disappeared. Some reasons are structural – workfare schemes meant that claiming the dole as a “musicians’ grant” was less and less practicable, art schools were absorbed by universities, council flats were unobtainable for any but the desperate, and squats became rarer, so the unstable alliance between bohemia and estate was broken.
Making vaguely alternative pop music is, it seems, all but impossible without indefinite subsidy, an Arts Council grant, a subsidised spell at art school and a bohemian squat to call your own. Yes, these young titans of the left need the state to make them edgy and countercultural. And there can be no better use for taxpayers’ money than indulging would-be pop stars while they become “class conscious” and find themselves, musically. However long it takes.
Readers may recall the 2006 Reading Festival being animated by a sing-along music video titled Cunts Are Still Running the World, which had been sent across the English Channel by Pulp’s Jarvis Cocker, along with an appeal to “smash the system.” No doubt Mr Cocker’s admirers could feel the heat of his socialist belly fire all the way from the singer’s second home in Paris.
Readers, it’s time to acquaint yourselves with the work of Dr Graham St John, a Research Associate at the University of Queensland’s Centre for Critical and Cultural Studies and “an anthropologist of electronic dance music cultures, festivals, and movements.” Dr St John’s scholarly projects include Performing the Country: Culture, Identity and a Post-Settler Landscape, “a study of contemporary performative contexts for the (re)production of ‘Australianness’ in the wake of recent historical and ecological re-evaluations,” and Making a Noise, Making a Difference: Techno-Punk and Terra-ism. The latter “charts the convergence of post-punk/post-settler logics in the techno-punk development in Australia” and “provides an entry to punk through an analysis of the concept of hardcore in the context of cultural mobilisations which, following more than two centuries of European colonisation, evince desires to make reparations and forge alliances with Indigenous people and landscape.”
As the texts in question may induce an urge to self-harm, I’ll attempt to convey their profundity with some visual extracts:
Above, a “cultural mobilisation.”
Watch the strings.