mr. zilla goes to town

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

tsunami relief

(source: Wikimedia)

I know I don't need to rehash or link to the news from south and southeast Asia of the appalling scale of the disaster. Please give what you can to assist the urgent humanitarian relief efforts.

One way to help in Australia is by donating through Oxfam/Community Aid Abroad's International Crisis Fund. In the US there is the Red Cross's Disaster Relief fund. Both of these you can donate immediately online and it takes about 1 minute.

I hope that one day the world gets to a state where all six billion of us -- even the poorest people/provinces/places -- can be made safer from disasters like this.

christmas cheer

Boxing Day I threw together a new 55 minute mix of cheery, cocklewarming tunes to take the edge off the dim days here.

Right click to "Save As..." the 50MB mp3 of Cynan's Christmas Cheer, or if you want to stream the mix live you can do that too!

Here's the tracklist:

1. Introduction feat. Peter Sellers as Major Dennis Bloodnok
2. The Avalanches - Undersea Community
3. Whitest Boy Alive - Inflation
4. Skeewiff - O Skeewiff Where Art Thou? (Man of constant sorrow remix)
5. Royksopp - Eple
6. Bebel Gilberto - Sem Contencao (Truby Trio remix)
7. Mateo & Matos - That Afro Rhythm
8. Jazztronik feat. Sandhii - An Occasional Man
9. Mint Royale - Don't Falter (Mint mix)
10. Cornershop - Brim Full of Asha (Fatboy Slim remix) [zilla's goonful of asha edit]
11. City Lights - Phat Dope Shit
12. Monday Michiru - Sunshine After Rain (Masters At Work remix)
13. Nuspirit Helsinki - Seis Por Ocho (Original Jazz Session Mix)

Sunday, December 26, 2004

it's a wonderful life

It's been a lovely lazy stay at home Xmas for just the two of us here in Oxford. We spent half the day cooking and the other half eating, with a brief intermission of wandering around the parks beneath a faint dusting of snowfall.

With less than 8 hours sunlight at the moment thoughts easily turn to nocturnal activities... like what kind of plans to make for NYE.

Hybrid and Dave Seaman @ The Cross for £35? Nah, seen DS this year.

Layo&Bushwacka! @ The End for £35? Nahh, bit pricey.

Four hours of EBTG's Ben Watt @ Neighbourhood for £22? Yeah, that might be a goer.

Friday, December 24, 2004

ho ho ho

Merry Christmas everyone!

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

your call is important to us

I may have mentioned previously that Oxford works at a slightly different pace to the big city bustle of DC. Technical issues with the internet connection at home (via the College ethernet) are preventing concerted blogging at the moment. And unfortunately the tech support guy has gone home for Christmas. Which is a shame, I've got lots of pictures to post and a couple of good yarns to tell. For example, the other night I was dressed up as a 400 pound penguin watching Elvis get married.

Please stay on the line.

PS In the meantime I notice that crustaceous Canberran Nick has nominated this blog in the 'best overseas' category of the 2004 Australian blog awards. Way to go Nick, thanks! (And watch out Tim D, Surfdom doesn't stand a chance against mzgtt's 37 discerning readers)

Thursday, December 16, 2004

compare and contrast, part II

On a more serious note to the borderline behaviour of anglospherical ministers, which turntable am I gonna buy next? While I'm about 20 years hard work away from skratch piklz' skillz, its still money I'd like to spend, and sensibly.

(Oh yeah, if comparing and contrasting turntables bores you, stop reading now and just go look at the kick arse work on display by Jon Cruz AKA DJ Shortkut in the above link. Freakin' wild.)

So in the blue corner is the Technics 1200MK2 (or 1210, if you prefer black). What does it have going for it? It's the industry standard. No bells, no whistles, just the genuine tried and true rock solid performer.

In the red corner is the Stanton STR8-100. It has better torque (2.2kg to the Technics' 1.5) and a quicker startup. Also has quartz (ie pitch) lock - and therefore the potential to make good use of the extended switchable pitch ranges out to 8/16/25%. Another nice feature is the digital output, which makes possible recording high quality vinyl samples into the laptop, something I'm looking at in the medium term. Also plays in reverse.

Bang for buck the Stanton wins hands down as well: the best local prices for brand new units I can find are 325 quid for the Technics and 225 quid for the Stanton, a not insignificant difference.

So what am I missing here? Is the 1200s price just brand name markup? Should I be looking in a third corner at the (also pricey) Vestax PDX2000 Mk2? Noting that some of the highest grade audiophile tonearms are straight, do the straight or standard (curved) tonearms factor in at all? (I doubt it, but still...)

Decisions, decisions.

compare and contrast, part I

I've been following the story back home of the rogue-back-in-the-fold nutter MP from deep north Queensland, De-Anne Kelly.

Last week, Mrs Kelly confirmed that she approved a $1.2 million grant to a Queensland milk company that one of her staff members, Ken Crooke, had previously acted as a consultant to. This week, Mrs Kelly blamed a clerical oversight for letters announcing new regional projects funding being mailed out last week, five weeks after she switched portfolios.

...On Thursday, she admitted breaching Mr Howard's code of ministerial responsibility.

...Mr Howard defended his decision not to sack her for the breach. "I am satisfied there was no intent by her as veterans affairs minister to exercise the authority she previously had as parliamentary secretary."

Meanwhile, in these parts, the storm around Home Secretary David Blunkett has come to a different conclusion:

David Blunkett resigned last night over allegations that he helped the nanny of his former lover Kimberly Quinn obtain a visa, and said he had "sacrificed" his political career for the love of their two-year-old son.

The Home Secretary judged that he would have to quit on Tuesday when Sir Alan Budd, who is conducting the inquiry, told him he had uncovered an exchange of faxes and e-mails between Mr Blunkett's office and the Immigration and Nationality Department after Ms Casalme was told her application could take a year to process. It was later approved in only 19 days. Mr Blunkett insisted that he had no personal recollection of dealing with the matter and predicted he would be cleared by Sir Alan.

But he said he would not "hide behind" civil servants and accepted full responsibility himself for any "perception" that the application had been speeded up. He admitted a memo was sent back to the Home Office that said "no favours, but slightly quicker".

What a contrast. On the one hand, with an election here only months away, one of Tony Blair's strongest ministers and allies in Cabinet falls on his sword for his office's speeding of a single visa application claim. Back home, the Rodent falls back on the spurious defence of his certain knowledge of De-Anne Kelly's intent in a matter reeking of spoiled, corrupted pork. The line between murder and manslaughter is one of intent too, but you won't see people walking scot free from the latter. What a shameless bunch the Howard mob makes us colonials appear.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

the horror, the horror (episode 1,037)

There appears to be an almost endless supply of fighters willing to die for their cause in Iraq. Suicide bombers have routinely struck U.N. buildings, hotels, and checkpoints since the end of major combat in the country.

But it also appears that not all of the bombers are willing participants. U.S. military officials have found body parts in vehicles used in suicide bombings — left by the frantic people who were trapped inside, unable to flee.

"What we've found in a number of places are hands chained to a steering wheel," Custer said. "We found a foot roped into the car unable to escape."

He said in some cases, it appeared that men were forced to carry out suicide bombers because their families were being held hostage.

"We've seen a number of incidents where — wives [and] children kidnapped — [the] fathers forced to drive a car, even so far as to have a car following it with a remote," Custer said.

Monday, December 13, 2004

of mice and mental investigation

While I’m waiting on a couple of attempts at gainful employment to work their way through the Oxford University bureaucracy, to pass the time this afternoon I donned a hairy white coat, prosthetic tail and a slightly toothy Groucho Marx-style disguise to become a lab rat down in the maze of the Department of Experimental Psychology on St Cross Road.

The particular experiment I was subjected to involved sitting in a pitch dark room with four speakers arrayed in a square a couple of feet in front of me, two to the left and right of my head, two above and below. Next to each speaker was also mounted a bright flashing light. In the dark with only a tiny red diode in the centre of the square to focus upon, either the top two or bottom two speakers would sound off a burst of sound in turn. The activity was to indicate whether the sounds came in the order left-right or right-left. Here’s where it gets tricky: at the same time, two of the lights would strobe at you in turn. Sometimes the flashes corresponded to what the sound was doing, sometimes they didn’t. The question the Cross-modal group researcher was attempting to discern was the degree of inter-sensory interference going on between the subject’s visual and aural observations.

Now... can you think of any other circumstance I might have been in on a semi regular basis lately with lights strobing in front of me while I’m trying to listen independently to what’s going on in each ear and determine which sound is coming first? I’ve been DJing for a little while now and having a whale of a time with it, but I never thought the skills involved would actually turn out to be useful for anything, like, ya know, advancing the sum total of scientific human knowledge. Giddyup!

So as a result it turns out I did fairly well on the task. Apparently the usual ‘interference’ when the simultaneous visual flashes don’t match the sound is about a 40% decline in the subject's accuracy, compared to when they do match. My accuracy was 100% when the sound and light matched and only dropped off 12% when they didn’t. I'm such a serial high achiever...

I thought about asking the nice D.Phil student to recreate more realistic conditions in the laboratory, by continuing the test while simultaneously passing me a longneck of Kirin-Ichiban and bantering about the merits of Royksopp versus Gavin Froome and having a mate come over and request something by Swayzak. But the glint in his eye told me my disguise had perhaps been too effective and he was considering handing me over to the vivisectionists in the animal research lab for something nefariously appropriate across the street. Either to them, or to the police standing guard outside the lab keeping an eye on the nine animal liberationists making their weekly High Court-injuncted bit o’noise out the front.

So like a good rat I took my five pound piece of cheese (redeemable at Borders’ Bookstore) and scurried from the room, to fight another day. Stay tuned for the next episode of gonzopsqueakology, as mister zilla goes to oxygen-deprivation town!

Sunday, December 12, 2004

town vs gown

While there's still some odd malarkey going on around town here these days, its easy to get the idea that the local newspaper at times comes up a little short of fiesty copy that leaps off the pages.

However as you walk around the town here, its hard to ignore the high outer walls of many of the old colleges and ponder the origins of such architecture. And with a minimum of factual ferreting you can learn that student life in Oxford used to be quite a riot, literally.

The best known tussle in the lore of the local derby occured on the feast-day of St Scholastica in 1354, an event that this pious virgin sister of St Benedict would hardly have approved:

Walter de Springheuse, Roger de Chesterfield, and other clerks, swaggered into the Swyndlestock tavern in Carfax, began to speak ill of John de Croydon's wine, and ended by pitching the tankard at the head of that vintner. In ten minutes the town bell at St. Martin's was rung, and the most terrible of all Town-and-Gown rows began. The Chancellor could do no less than bid St. Mary's bell reply to St. Martin's, and shooting commenced.

Note to self, if ordering a bottle of wine when out, just smile and enjoy it even if balsamic vinegar comes to the table by mistake. The resultant brawling, looting, and setting fire to property went on unabated for two days and nights. On the third day, two thousand or so country people joined in on the side of the townsmen, crying "Havoc! Havoc! Smyt fast, give gode knocks!", and things really began to get nasty. By the time the riot had died down, 63 scholars had been killed, as well as nearly half that number of townspeople.

Now the King interceded to settle the matter - decisively in the favour of the University and its bevy of lawyers, incidentally - and the St Scholastica riot's hatchet was once and for all officially buried back the 1950s, a mere 600 years after the quarrel began over a cup of wine. Nonetheless some folks still admirably strive to uphold the old traditions. The town vs gown ice hockey match we saw last weekend didn't quite live up to the linked match report from Febuary's game, but it wasn't far off it in the third period either. And it's not like the root causes of the disturbance have ever really gone away. Radiohead's Thom Yorke, an Oxford local, on the town and gown:

...I was embarrassed to be a student [in Oxford] because of the what the little fuckers got up to. Walking down the street to be confronted by puke and shopping trolleys and police bollards. Fucking hell. I used to think, no wonder they hate us. If I was going to throw up I did it in the privacy of my own room. It was the same in Oxford seeing these fuckers walking around in their ball gowns, throwing up on the streets, being obnoxious to the population. The little guys in the bowler hats [would] clear up their puke and make their beds for them every night. They don't know they're born and they're going to run the country. It's scary. Of all the towns in the country it's one of the most obvious examples of a class divide.

There's certainly no shortage of loud and drunk eighteen year olds out on the street - the same as around any university really. I think what makes the distinction so sharp that Thom mentions is that the college buildings are completely integrated into the tight space of the inner town. Compounding that you have barely legal teenagers doing exactly what they do when they're away from home and family for the first time, although in tune with the storied traditions in this town it's often in ballgowns and dinner jackets, which amplifies the disparity of their impulses and the expectations upon them. Aye, there's the rub.

Indeed it reminds me of the second night I was here there were some marvellous hijinks, what, as some youngsters nipped out an upper floor window of the pub, across a rooftop and over a wall into a nearby college and returned with a rather large wicker basket. Capital, capital, that Yorke fellow needs a dose of salts!

It all takes me back to my younger days in the Punjab, he says downing another whiskey in the overstuffed armchair by the fireplace, but this time around there was a fortunate escape for the gel in question. You see
the wicketkeeper from the second XI, marvellous chap, remembered both the tiger balm and Hodgkin's old trick of knowing exactly where to apply it to the monstrous creature to make its eyes water and have it turn tail. Remarkable really, considering we were, of course, very, very drunk).

Thursday, December 09, 2004

action figure

Normally you roll your eyes at smelly gimboids waving "bu$hitler" signs in protests, but here's a pretty restrained, but disconcerting post over at mykeru which I'm going to excerpt at length:

What the fuck is [this] all about? Yes, I know that presidents past have showed up in front of the military wearing windbreakers emblazoned with military patches or the name of whatever aircraft carrier they are visiting, but this is something else. Bush is wearing the commander-in-chief's own uniform complete with epaulets and a color-coordinated beige-toned flag on his sleeve. Last time around during his "mission accomplished" phase he was dressed up as a pilot, now during the "for faith and fatherland" second term he's Der Fuhrer himself.'s a conscious decision to dress Bush up in faux military trappings, to emphasize his role as military leader, rather than the traditional role of commander-in-chief retaining a civilian tone.

Presidents like Jimmy Carter had far more military experience than bush and never played dress-up. Even Eisenhower, who was not only commander-in-chief during his presidency, but was also a general during his military career and Supreme Allied Commander during World War II, couldn't be found in anything but a suit.

The only historical model Bush can draw on is, of course, appointed dictators.

texture streamJs

Its cheering to know from looking at the stats page that 130 lucky, lucky people out there have downloaded the new blue room mixset over there linked on the left.

If you're not one of them cos downloading whoppin great mp3s isn't your style, now you can easily stream the very same goodness! Just follow this link over to demostreams and click 'open player'.

Now, ummm, lets see, how can I generate a bunch more traffic for this post? it seems like every second search engine querier that comes in here is after the pics in Harajuku in Tokyo I posted up back in April, so what the hell... download mp3 free download mp3 hentai mp3 hot sexy hot hot sexy harajuku pineapples download free crack 420 420 warez warez cherries (phwoarrrrr kiwifruit wink wink) britney naked jenna breast wardrobe malfunction webcam whoopsadasie major what's that underneath your banana and custard free willy webcam hot hot peachy keen spanky spanky hot potato?

six degrees of occupation

When you're as skeptical and jaundiced over television news reporting as I am to the point that you don't bother actually having a teev in the house any more, the laptop screen and everything in it becomes the primary daily portal to the world outside the local hamlet. (The secondary portal here is the cosy Teddy Hall Middle Common Room, to which I have been kindly invited into as a guest member, with its six daily British newspapers, plethora of literary supplements, and occasional sherry, what what.)

If Vietnam was the first televised war, and the 1991 Iraq/Kuwait War the first conflict to go live to air on CNN, perhaps the Iraq War of 2003-200? will be remembered as the war of realtime multiplicity of perspectives. The preponderant view certainly comes from what might be called the military-entertainment complex, that is the military talking heads embedded in the US media and US media embedded in the US military. However there were and are a growing list of alternative interpretations of the conflict and its consequences; from the less mediated photologs, to the sickening habit of beheadings-as-press-release by the insurgents, to the slightly more stomachable diaries from the regular joes of baghdad and surrounds, like riverbend.

Perhaps perhaps the most famous (and best leveraged) throughout the early days of the conflict was Salam Pax. Well Salam eventually found his friend Raed who also has his own blog. I hadn't checked back on Raed in a while and it seems that most of Raed's family is now in on the act. The translated entries of Raed's mother Faiza at A Family In Baghdad are worthwhile reading, by turns contemplative, angry, humorous and sad, but ever so human:

Bush and the Alawwi Government are working with the most possible force to control the situation…and with all legal and illegal methods. And those who oppose them are also working with the utmost potential to keep on the confrontations and fights…by methods legal, and illegal.
And the people are in great pain and frustration.
We want peace and security.
We want reconstruction, and the vision of a new future to our children. We have had enough of this daily revolt, violence, and hatred.
Who will be able to help us??

Most days I open my eyes before 7 o’clock in the morning, listening to the noises of far-away gunshots, and explosions…and I whisper to myself: Oh GOD our Savior…there are dead people, and blood spilled since morning…
All my life I loved the morning…I find it the suitable time for the remembrance of GOD, to check on the garden and walk around it, and feel refreshed by the morning coolness, and the street quietness…but now, it became a meaning of attacks and assassinations…. May GOD curse whoever deformed our life…whoever he might be.

I don't take any pleasure at all in reading about the suffering of Iraq and its people which I fear is only going to interminably continue. But I can't look away.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

i am a river to my penne

Someone - I'm not saying who because she made me hot chocolate and she's sitting next to me - made me take the below quiz and post the result up here.

I sense trouble ahead for this poor blog...

the tower of bebel

If you like your music saucy and bossy - and dare I say it, discerning - I feel I have to bring to your immediate attention the wonderfulness of one of my recent loves, brazilian babe Bebel Gilberto. For an introduction from Bebel herself have a listen to her chatting and performing live in the NPR studios in July this year.

Her first album Tanto Tempo in 2000 deservedly sold over a million copies, and the following year's Tanto Tempo Remixes - with production work by Rae & Christian, the Peter Kruder half of Kruder & Dorfmeister, Faze Action and 4Hero to name a few - is an absolute gem. Although the genres of re-production are really in no way parallel it puts me in mind of Sarah McLachlan Remixed, except of a more consistently high quality throughout.

There are also three other remixes lurking here on calabash for, lets see, about 50p each that I think I'll have to get a hold of. Her 2004 album (titled simply Bebel Gilberto) is ferreted away somewhere amongst the four score-and-fifteen gigabytes of tunes on my backup hard disk and I'm going to have to give it a whirl very soon.

one small step for man

Due mostly to some ancient regulations on the heights of buildings, and passably integrated public transport infrastructure dreamed up in the 1960s, the District of Colombia retains the core of a city conceived and built on a human scale. Nonetheless it usually seemed that its dominant lifeform was the motor vehicle, no doubt due to the ever-expanding girth of metropolia sprawled about it in front of the television.

With a lifespan beginning many centuries earlier, Oxford is a town that through the clustered commere and colleges in the town proper remains a place of pedestrian amblissance, despite some local whinges about traffic. We live a whole fifteen minutes walk from the centre of town so with the to-ing and fro-ing I'm still doing to settle in most days there's easily an hour's walking about the town.

A town in which I'm still occasionally getting lost in, despite its middling size. DC with its numerized, alphabetized street grid allows even the most blushing urban navigator to rapidly orient and correct errors of direction. Here, as a result of streets that bend (what a concept!) and a sky without a sun for the subconscious orientation, I'm often arse about and walking the wrong way. Not that this is too troublesome, with time on my hands and enough curiousity to shorten the lifespan of the soggy white moggy that occasionally wanders along the garden fence outside the window. It has lead to some salivating finds in fact.

Nonetheless today I set my feet in the opposite direction and at a different pace towards the nearby paddocks, sports fields and the canal between. On a day where the moisture is hanging in the air, bringing a glimpse of teeth to the chill and gloom to the sky, I've been out for a run.

This is a pretty cheering achievement. About ten weeks ago I broke a bone down in my left ankle and more problematically did some nasty work to the ligaments. After about three weeks on crutches and in fibreglass casts to stabilize I was shakily returned to two feet and daily wear of a cunningly devised brace for stability and support. With all the walking around here I took the brace off a week ago and in the following couple of days could immediately feel the extra strengthening going on in the collar of flesh around my ankle. Chuffed with the improvement and recent endurance I bravely went for a jog through the spongy fields of the mother country, heroically dodging dozens of mole holes that must give the cricketers conniptions and their groundsmen gastric.

Anyway about twenty mintes at a go was about all that the ankle would put up with even on the soft ground, but its a good start and a happy day in the recuperation process. Now since this damage seems more or less on the road to rehab, does this mean I can clear the decks and start on a new vice? Any suggestions?

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

a stand-up guy

Via The New Republic, we discover that Bush's second term agenda includes Steven Wright-like deadpan comedy hours in the Oval Office:

One of the interesting lessons that the world can look at is Pakistan. You see, there are some in the world who do not believe that a Muslim society can self-govern. Some believe that the only solution for government in parts of the world is for there to be tyranny or despotism. I don't believe that. The Pakistan people have proven that those cynics are wrong. And where President Musharraf can help in world peace is to help remind people what is possible.

Fair suck of the sav, guvnor. Granted Musharraf is doing some admirable work: on the odd days of the month he avoids assassination attempts, on the even days he keeps the command and control of his nuclear-armed state out of the hands of bug-eyed fundamentalists and doesn't launch said nukes at New Delhi. However about the best you could say of Musharraf is that he has a relationship with democracy similar to Winston Churchill's with the church:

"I could hardly be called a pillar of the Church; I am more in the nature of a buttress, for I support it from the outside.”

Update. Did I say that Musharraf occasionally did some admirable work? Via Road To Surfdom we can see he sure doesn't have the White House writing his talking points like some other people we could name:

BLITZER: Was the U.S. justified to go to war and remove Saddam Hussein?

MUSHARRAF: Well, we were against it initially. Pakistan was against going into Iraq. And now, with hindsight, one can say that we've landed ourselves into additional problems.

But having said that, I would like to say that Saddam Hussein was certainly not a person who was loved in Iraq. He was a hated man. He was very cruel. Those are the realities.

But when we go inside and when we are now inside as foreigners, people at the lower level don't like the visibility of foreign troops ruling their country.

BLITZER: So the bottom line, is the world safer today as a result of the removal, the invasion of Iraq, or is the world less safe?

MUSHARRAF: Oh, I think it's less safe, certainly. We are...

BLITZER: So it was a mistake for President Bush to order this invasion, with hindsight?

MUSHARRAF: Yes, with hindsight, yes. We have landed ourselves in more problems, yes.

template tweakin

I've had some new carpet put in. Let me know if the tradesmen left any packs of ciggies beneath the underlay that your browsers are tripping over and need hammering down...

Monday, December 06, 2004

an embarrasment of riches

Due to an interesting and potentially profitable invite to the Wolfson college Christmas Ball this Friday night, looks like we might be passing on heading down to Fabric in London to see the half decent lineup on offer for ten quid: the Plump DJs, Timo Maas, DJ Icey, Freq Nasty, Ali B, the Freestylers, Stanton Warriors, Infusion (Live), Santos, Hyper, Krafty Kuts, PFN, Joe Ransom, Evil Nine and Annie Nightingale.

And we're gonna have to wait a whole month for this kind of line up to be on down there again. Oh, woe. My grief is inconsolable.

Friday, December 03, 2004

you're sorry? you're welcome

In response to American apologies for the election result, the world accepts the apologies. Although not all the hearts bleed quite so freely as the one above.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

iraq around the clock

It's pretty easy to make the case for Iraq as a military disaster. By now, the only people who won't admit it are the ones who think God personally ordered us to invade. I'm not sure where in the Bible they get that from. After all those years of sweating through Sunday morning Children's Service, I don't remember anything about how some kid from Oregon has to lose his leg to an IED in Ramadi. Maybe He was speaking in tongues at the time.

The question is, how big a disaster is Iraq? Just a stubbed toe for us, or a long fall down the cliff?'s War Nerd takes an irreverent tour of the last four hundred years - with special attention on the last fourteen - to come up with a winner in the 2004 Iraq vs Chechnya Quagmire Bowl.

Meanwhile, some other whackers have suggested that the US government needs to pull its head out of its backside (some imagery unfortunately turning into a repeating theme on this blog at present, for which I apologize) and deal with the declining credibility of the US throughout the world:

"Finally, Muslims see Americans as strangely narcissistic -- namely, that the war is all about us. As the Muslims see it, everything about the war is -- for Americans -- really no more than an extension of American domestic politics and its great game. This perception is of course necessarily heightened by election-year atmospherics, but nonetheless sustains their impression that when Americans talk to Muslims they are really just talking to themselves."

This isn't your regular pissant punditry but a conclusion of the Report of the Defense Science Board Task Force on Strategic Communication, the product of a Pentagon advisory panel, delivered in September. Ex-Clintonista Sidney Blumenthal writes in Salon today that:

[t]he task force discovered more than a chaotic vacuum, a government sector "in crisis," though it found that, too: "Missing are strong leadership, strategic direction, adequate coordination, sufficient resources, and a culture of measurement and evaluation." Inevitably, as it journeyed deeper into the recesses of the Bush administration's foreign policy, the task force documented the unparalleled failure of its fundamental premises. "America's negative image in world opinion and diminished ability to persuade are consequences of factors other than the failure to implement communications strategies," the report declares. What emerges in this new Pentagon paper is a scathing indictment of an expanding and unmitigated disaster based on stubborn ignorance of the world and failed concepts that bear little relation to empirical reality except insofar as they confirm and incite gathering hatred among Muslims.

The White House is yet to respond to the report. Perhaps with Tom Ridge gone the presidential motorcade is stuck at the traffic lights at 16th and Pennsylvania...

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

toasting genres

I'm finding it difficult to start this post, because there are so many possible 90 degree prevaricating prefaces to the actual point that I'm in danger of my head disappearing up my own arse before I even begin.

Take the term "electronic music" for starters. Or, for a change, don't take it. If you give the nod to German pioneers Kraftwerk as the signpost in the road marking the beginning of the electronic genre, not an unreasonable thing to do, what do you make of their electrically-powered, electronically distorted/flanged/tweaked contemporaries with guitars slung about their necks? Why exclude the [electronic] production tricknowledgy initially pioneered by groups like ABBA to distinctualize their vocal sound, and imitated by a hundred half-as-hollow throated eighties poppers? If its the purity in artificial production that makes music electronic, how do you situate a live drum'n'bass outfit or today's producers pulling in real live musicians to their work both live and in the studio?

The point is, whether at the macro or micro level: genres, right, what's the point of having em? (I told you the head would go dangerously arsewards.) There's only a point to them if they're a shorthand communication that has meaning to both the speaker/writer and the receiver. (Gawd, does it show I've been reading one of ms. zilla's linguistic texts today?) But put three electronic *cough* music trainspotters in a room where the walls and chest cavities are thumping and you may just get three opinions on what the hell is going on around them. Four if one is a descendant of John Maynard Keynes.

Even in a world where internet radio and peer-to-peer transmission vectors make the sonic world almost borderless, competing genre labels for similar sounds seem to crop up in geographically tight production communities. Your German nujazz breaks bread with the west London brokenbeat. In the states the former term seemed to carry greater currency while unsurprisingly the latter is more on the cards here. As terms, genres are both competitive and cooperative constructions. If only we could appoint a tribunal to sort it all out for us. The dear departed John Peel would have been a gimme to head the panel and Frankfurt's Michael Rutten from Compost radio would be a good inclusion too.

But since accurate and authoritative categorization would kill the cat - not to mention put out of work a lot of music industry reporters and record store clerks - perhaps electronic music (which is neither synonymous with electro nor electronica) and its mushrooming profusion of subcategories will remain to us more like obscene pornography - at least the way that US Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart saw it in 1964:
"I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced . . . [b]ut I know it when I see it . . . "

Anyway, under cover of darkness last night - not difficult with sunset around 5pm - your correspondent and his Lady Penelope reconnoitered a number of local venues to zero in on places conducive to the abovementioned d'n'b-on-chardonnay genre(s) I like to spin. The population of Oxford isn't that significant but the ratio of undergrad students to humans is, and therefore so is the ratio of clubs to humans. We had some success there, got some contact details for some promoters too, so I'll let you know later if that pans out. But the most highly amusing part of the night was reading on handbills and promo posters of a completely new genre, one that seems to be defiantly, belligerently, sardonically adopted. It would be funny if only it didn't appear to be in too many otherwise very acceptable venues. Actually that's not true: its still funny, its just a crying shame.


Yep, cheese.

It communicates... you know what to expect... meaning is exchanged between speaker and listener... what the hell, why not?

Techno on toast, anyone?

the evil of banality

Sunday Nov 14th 2004

Well back from anchorage and it was an okay trip. I got kinda sick but oh well

Did shopping, played v-ball (got 5th, bah), and that's about it. Not much to tell, well I got these incredibly awesome boots that go up to my knees, I absolutely love them. will post pic later

So said 16 year old Alaskan live-journaller Rachelle Waterman, shortly after she had just succeeded in her plan to have two ex-boyfriends abduct and murder her mother. (Via Glassdog & Barista).