mr. zilla goes to town

Friday, February 27, 2004

travelling on

I'm not sure why this story has come to the front of my mind, with a message that it needed to be told now. Washed in by the sand and salty swimming last weekend perhaps?

Once upon a time in Bougainville there was... still is, for all I know... a man call Patrick Piritam. He's a village chief - but not a paramount (hereditary) chief, and was deputy chair of the local government, the council of elders. Over a number of years, he was a key point of contact for the UN Peace Monitoring Group in his region. Looking back on the relationship we built and the disarmament work we took a few steps toward, I like to think that he and I achieved something, once upon a time.

Once upon a time, Patrick came with the PMG to round up some other chiefs and roll some balls through a local steering committee prior to a centralised major peace and reconciliation forum. Bougainvilleans, in this respect, felt like intuitive bureaucrats. You might have gathered from the above that Patrick was a fairly important and useful chap in the community. He's also a well muscular, quite devout, and now and then, a fiercely malaria-ridden one. Patrick also lived next door to -- and kept tabs on -- his brother in law, who drank heavily and usually kept a stack of shotguns under his bed, often at the same time.

The point is that Patrick had an eldest son whose name was Max. Max was five years old. Patrick and his family lived near the church in Manetai village in West Asikopan. Well, Max came along for the ride that day we went rolling about with Patrick, and we travelled in the PMG's landcruiser monster 4WDs along barely 2km of road down to a seaside village in Torau.

Incidentally, Max has some kind of hearing difficulty, that with the terribly limited health and medical resources on the island, only began to be distinguished during my time in Bougainville. At five years old, that ain't cool.

I can't easily explain the cultural, social, and economic barriers that prevented this from happening earlier. I don't pretend to understand them all. It doesn't matter. Once upon a time in a seaside village in the Torau subdistrict of Bougainville, I watched a five year old boy see the ocean for the very first time.

Monday, February 23, 2004


Unlike our frenzied adventuring through New York at new year's, Suzy and I just spent a very relaxed three days & nights meandering through the hotel bars, cafes, shops and restaurants of the art deco beachfront hamlet called South Beach, Miami. In that, it was more reminiscent of last July's couple of days in New Orleans. Must be the effect of travelling down to a southern lassitude?

I understand it's fairly sweltering back home at the moment but 25C warmth, shirtsleeves and flip flop footwear were a wonderful relief after the coldest-in-10-years DC winter. Every corner of every block in South Beach is a tiny hotel; every tiny foyer is one-third reception and two-thirds loungebar that spills out the front door. As a result, it almost seemed that the solar and mexican coronas were competing to see who could do us the most damage. Fortunately we could fortify ourselves through rediscovering outdoor cafe dining - a sadly missed experience - and occasionally pleasant espresso. (Suzy's pursuit of the long black aka "Americana" was successful after resorting to DIY methodology, best supporting oscar going to the waitress at Jerry's Famous Deli).

There was one reminder that we were in the funky beachfront of a major US city as opposed to, say, Bateman's Bay. Friday night around midnight provided momentary adramaline as multiple police cruisers converged on the opposite side our strolling street to arrest a handgun-wielding chap running from (or to) somewhere important - double parked, perhaps? The first we saw was the apparent guy in question flinging his gun to the ground before the cops converged upon him, guns drawn. Nonetheless -- and unlike the crowd of onlookers that quickly gawped in -- we took momentary pause in a doorway with a 7ft by 5ft SUV engine block between us and the mischief across the street. (They are good for something after all!) I guess I'm still a rube tourist here, but I tend to think if the first stray shot is the one that makes you duck it might be a moment too late. Fortunately it all concluded with no shots fired.

That was only one moment and didn't overshadow a fanastic weekend. We experienced the greatest concept in a music store... that wasn't even primarily a music store. Base in the Lincoln plaza walk has a music bar set on one side of a clothing store, with about 10 stools set before headphone listening stations. Very little music is within reach, but several hundred CDs across a span of ambient, nujazz, lounge and deep house are arrayed upon the wall.

The musicbarkeep skillfully took orders, for example, he had turned and returned, CD in hand, before the woman next to me could finish her question, "I need some music for a mexican TV show I'm producing, do you have anything by that English guy living in Colombia?"

It felt like music served like wine... and if the store had served cocktails with umbrellas as well we might have never left. After sorting the unwooded chardies from the californian quaffers I came away with Turntables on the Hudson Vol 4 - a collection of styles from New York's buroughs, Ocean Driven - Miami Deeper Lounge by Chilly (lush latin flavoured deep house), and the Spam Allstars' Fuacata Live - a mischievous afro-cuban mix of samples, loops and live horns, guitar and percussion that sucked me in with a giggle-snorting spoken intro putatively involving Fidel Castro's sister.

But wait, there's more! Elsewhere on the weekend I also brought under my wing Bird Up - The Charlie Parker Remix project. For fans of this kind of pedigreemixing (you know who you are Gra) it's definitely a worthwhile addition to the field. Thirteen of the Bird's tuned produced and constructed by the likes of the RZA, monkey-loving Dan The Automator, and most intriguingly, Serj Tankian, frontman of cut-me-own-wrists angst-rockers System of a Down. I wouldn't say his track is the best on the disc but after one listen it wasn't the weakest either.

And still more - after getting into the wildly good Jazzanova last year, and their Remixed CD released here in December (featuring remixes of Jazzanova tracks by Madlib, Stereolab, Bugz in the Attic, Beanfield and Kyoto Jazz Massive to name a few), I picked up an invert: a 2CD collection of Jazzanova's own remix work spanning 1997-2000, featuring tracks by Ian Pooley, the Soul Bossa Trio, Karma... it's a little more downtempo, and music that any cafe worth their fair-trade shade-grown salt crystals should have on endless sunday afternoon loop.

Closing the loop musically was our club-hopping venture to Privelege, past the pushy (but somehow needy) Italian-American triangular man-mountain doorbitch, for a couple of hours of really. freakin. damn. good. techno. spun by resident DJ Black, warming up for the night's headliner Sean Cusick.

When these type of tunes are really on the money, it's like a rolling clatter of tuned anvils who have ganged up to hurl the snare drums of the world into a back alley dumpster for showing up to the club in the wrong shoes. DJ Black is a stocky guy who bounced around behind the decks like he was Van Gogh and just discovered his headphones didn't fit so well anymore, I'll be tuning in to him to see what else his tunes have to say about him.

I haven't even started on the sweetly preserved and restored art deco streets of South Beach but that's all for this post. I might see if I can persuade Suzy to guestblog on the architectural streetstyle and throw in links to some of the great pics she took too - they'll be better than the ones on this link.

Wednesday, February 18, 2004

land of hope and gaudy

I'm becoming surprised at the length of the timeframe that neo-classical design held sway in the public monuments of DC. I thought that perhaps it was the reconstruction-era Washington that saw the monumental city take shape, but it turns out that a fair few of city's iconic buildings in this school date to much later (Union Station in 1912, the Supreme Court in 1935 for example). Perhaps I shouldn't be surprised that the idea held fast, as the continental colossus spread its wings into hemispheric hegemony and beyond during that later period. Fostering resonance with the ancient Roman republic may have just been a very comfortable psychological fit.

Still I guess I hoped that with that sense of grandeur in mind they might have actually done the construction with a greater eye to eternity. When you look twice and thrice at some of the monuments, it feels like some were built by a bunch of congressmens' porky young nephews with a ute and a borrowed concrete mixer. For example, the Thomas Jefferson memorial. At least it has ionic capitals - to me more sparing and elegant - than the monotonously Corinthian work spread throughout the rest of the 'vatican' end of the city. Alas about half of the capitals at the top of the 50ft columns are bagged and wired up to prevent cracked and falling statuary from falling on the heads of intrepid patriots who make the walk south around the potomac basin. Inside the monument -- which is open on four sides to salty breezes -- the bronze lettering cries greenly onto its stonework housing, while the domed roof shows haphazard watermarks and stains.

Still... I could forgive the problems of the Jefferson memorial to some degree. It was built during World War Two, and a plaster statue of Jefferson was used until after the war was over because bronze was too important to wartime production. The real wry tragedy is the George Mason memorial, so new that it isn't even on the tourist maps yet - where all the stone benches are cracked, and all the pillars supporting the gazebo are fractured with some strategically placed metal banding to hold them together.

When you're standing on the front porch of the most powerful nation ever known, what kind of message does it send the neighbours to have Uncle Tom patrolling the yard with a shotgun while the prized lawn ornaments fall apart before their first century is out? And how soon do you start to worry about some of the other leading indicators attributed to the fall of that ancient analogue?

Thursday, February 12, 2004

the sound of one hand

If there's a man in the street on a Wednesday night with his cap on the ground playing some hard and heavy hendrix on his air guitar, is he busking or begging? Or just barking? Some nights it's hard to tell. Saturday nights at 2am you'll see the occasional jogger running down the main bar strip in Adams Morgan. Apparently there's just too much freedom in this country for some folks to deal with.

And the winner (despite giving serious consideration to the attractions of Bagdad, Arizona - The Best Copper Town Anywhere!) is Miami, Florida! Congraulations, Miami! You've won a visit from two!

Monday, February 09, 2004

reality programming

Suzy heads home the weekend after next, and with a slight tweak to her airfare we can add in a weekend stopover in just about any city with a major airport in the USA you could care to name.

Given the short timeframe (I will have to be back at work on the following Monday morning), the west coast is out, and we'd like to head south for some weather above freezing, so Chicago is nixed too.

Miami is the plan at the moment, but if you have any good suggestions, please drop them in the comment box below!

Saturday, February 07, 2004

first friday

heard in the alley outside the foundry:

"I'm an LA woman. I live off nicotene and hatred. Of course I'm up for it."

I moved on to the next of the galleries, and refilled my glass...

Friday, February 06, 2004

the trials of Janet

Lord Hutton has been hired to report on whether the 70,000 crowd and world-wide TV audience during the half time interval, in a mostly lacklustre game of football at the recent Superbowl, was intentionally sexed-up by a spontaneous show between Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake.
Having now been dropped from the Grammy awards, it appears that this vile demon temptress must be punished for demonstrating a part of the human anatomy that 50% of the population possess, and 99% of the population have fed from. Yet last year's March Madness balls-to-the-wall 24/7 embedded war porn is tickey boo? That's not just FCC Chairman Michael Powell being scared of his dad Colon, but a thoroughly, culturally, defective perspective. Jar, I think you've got your work cut out to top that.

On a lighter note, this week's Blue Room set went something like this. After a bit of a "sophomore slump" the previous week including two woeful handoffs, this set really gelled and the performance was right on. Typically its the only one we haven't recorded so far.

James Hardway - Shinto
Atlas - Compass Error
Trafik - Kaleidoscope
Avatars of Dub - Sexelevatormuzik
Flytronix - In Too Deep
Fragile State - Song of Departure
Ralph Myerz - Nikita
Wicked Beat Sound System - Can't Give You Up
Shirley Bassey - Where Do I Begin? [Away Team Mix]
Dig Alliance - Rotorvibe
Badan Ali Khan - Black Night [DJ Baba G & Dan the Automator remix]
Sounds from the Ground - Shine
Night Stalker - Mo Chic & Zeidan
Smithmonger - Vodka
Love Tattoo - Drop Some Drums
War - Galaxy [Plump DJ's mix]
Plump DJs - Electric Disco
Underfunk - Bean
Galletly - Slap My Ass

Good lord, did I just suggest up there that 99% of the population have breast fed from Janet Jackson? Maybe that's why Michael is such a freak.