Saturday, September 06, 2003
Taste of the 13th century, anyone?
[Yugoslav Childhood]: Childhood Nightmares and Dreams of Revenge
What these cases have in common is the type of childhood they assume. As I have shown in my earlier articles, the writers were born into a culture of common or joint families, known as zadrugas, as the basic family unit. These communal families, characteristic throughout all of former Yugoslavia, except Slovenia, differ significantly from the conjugal families which we are familiar with in most of Europe; they involved several biological families living and working together, with men never leaving their native homes and with the eldest man functioning as the leading authority. Predominant features of this type of family life were therefore enormous resistance to change and fear of innovation. With no private property and no emancipation as we know it - the original meaning of emancipare being the freeing from parental authority - that is a child's gaining maturity, adult status and independence through acquiring property, a home of his or her own, the choice of job and life style, all this was quite different from the state of things in Western nations. In the zadruga culture people could be extravagantly generous and kind, sharing everything with a perfect stranger, but, on the other hand, extremely harsh, brutal and aggressive. In short, as portrayed in the works of many foreign travelers, they offered the bewildering contrast of vast loneliness, of cruelty and indifference to human life, but of indifference to possessions, too, with gusts of personal warmth, generosity and outstanding dignity unlike anything one could experience In Western Europe.
The predominant tone of the images is of infants who are extremely afraid of being attacked and fighting back in every way they can. The interpretation is that the parents of these children (which can be read as all Yugoslav children) are unaware of what effect they have on their children, because of neurotic scotomata, [blind spot -ed] and consequently hurt them mercilessly while not being conscious of what they are doing; this infuriates the grandiose self of the child, who compromises by passivity and given-up, giving-up behavior, while they undertake to have revenge at some stage (usually the war which waits in the wings)... what all fills means is that the group in Yugoslavia is working through feelings that were worked through in Western Europe during the late Middle Ages, except that at this point they are forced to do so under a unified regime and with a minimum of the pressure outlets (such as crusades and all those jolly rape-and-warfare missions of the Knights) available at that time. Thus the feeling of a pressure cooker that is conveyed in the materials... Thus the images from the media reflect all the violent fantasies underlying true melancholia (of the Middle Ages).
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Stunned uneasy Björk puff from salon, as the retrospective DVDs pile up
...Björk remains curiously isolated, her music more loved than influential. Radiohead, probably her closest rival in the intersection of popularity and critical acclaim that makes up at least one definition of greatness, has spawned countless baby Radioheads. Björk has no copycats, no one feeding so obviously off her achievements, because those achievements are so alien. Radiohead is very much of our time, the musical zeitgeist for the millennium, but Björk and her music come from a different time and place. There are two options in placing Björk: Either she is an anomaly, brilliant but finally irrelevant, or she is the most important and forward-looking musician of her generation. In either case, we will need to wait 50 years to really make sense of what she has done, and absorb her influence in any useful way.
Aside from her singing, it's the production on her albums that has garnered Björk the most praise. She is viewed as a true sonic innovator, one who has extended the frontiers of music in general, and electronic music in particular, with each new release. There's no question that the sonic worlds that Björk has created for her albums are entirely distinctive, but there are two qualifications that should be kept in mind. The first is that this element of her work has been deeply collaborative.
She has worked with some of the most innovative producers and programmers in electronic music, including Nellee Hooper, Marius de Vries, Graham Massey, Mark Bell, Tricky, Howie B and Matmos. The second is that, contrary to much of what has been written, her talent is less for creating new sounds than for recombining existing sounds in new ways. On "Homogenic," string octet and accordion are combined with volcanic electronic beats, to create a desolate, apocalyptic soundscape. On "Vespertine" she took the sterile clicks and crackles of Powerbook improvisers, and built them into a comforting cocoon of sound, embellished with music boxes and harps. She has consistently taken sounds from the far fringes of electronic and experimental music and used them in her own music. Rarely has a mainstream artist relied so heavily, and so successfully, on the avant-garde.
While Björk has been, if anything, overappreciated as a sonic innovator, she has been underappreciated as a songwriter. She is the only major songwriter in recent memory for whom the apparently inescapable influence of Bob Dylan is irrelevant. Her lyrics stand out for a simple reason: They don't rhyme. Other songwriters have experimented with nonrhyming lyrics, of course, notably Lou Reed and Radiohead's Thom Yorke, but it remains an unusual technique.
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Friday, September 05, 2003
Disco lights lure turtles to death
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Thursday, September 04, 2003
CDs, video rentals shops days are numbered
Meanwhile, Universal drops CD prices.
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Wednesday, September 03, 2003
Device translates signs from webcam pic with wifi connection
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Cultural References for 18-Year-Olds
20. Computers have always fit in their backpacks.
21. Datsuns have never been made.
22. They have never gotten excited over a telegram, a long distance call, or a fax.
23. The Osmonds are just talk show hosts.
24. College athletes have always been a part of the NBA and NFL draft.
25. They have always "grazed" for food.
44. Yuppies are almost as old as hippies.
45. Rupert Murdoch has always been an American citizen.
46. Strawberry Fields have always been in New York.
47. Rock and Roll has always been a force for social good.
48. Killer bees have always been swarming in the U.S.
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Liberian rebels believed frightwigs and tattered wedding gowns confer invincibility in battle [from Godphoto, which I haven't visited since around 9/11 and has some very neat new photos, though sometimes disturbing]
According to the soldiers themselves, cross-dressing is a military mind game, a tactic that instills fear in their rivals. It also makes the soldiers feel more invincible. This belief is founded on a regional superstition which holds that soldiers can "confuse the enemy's bullets" by assuming two identities simultaneously. Though the accoutrements and garb look bizarre to Western eyes, they are, in a sense, variations on the camouflage uniforms and face paint American soldiers use to bolster their sense of invisibility (and, therefore, immunity) during combat. Since flak jackets or infrared goggles aren't available to the destitute Liberian fighters, they opt for evening gowns and frilly blouses.
The cross-dressing "dual identity" isn't just a source of battlefield bravado, though. Cross-dressing has deep historical roots in West African rites-of-passage rituals involving "medicine men" who would recommend wearing masks, talismans, and bush attire as a means of obtaining mystical powers. Rebels dressed in gowns and wigs and adorned with bones, leaves, and other "forest culture" trappings are practicing a modern variation on this technique of using symbolic "clothing" to access sources of power far stronger than their own. And in common Liberian initiation rituals -- which exist in memory throughout the country, if not always in practice -- a boy's passage to adulthood is symbolically represented by the donning of female garb. He must first pass through a dangerous indeterminate zone between male and female identity before finally becoming a man. A soldier dressed in women's clothes -- or Halloween masks, or shower caps, etc. -- on the battlefield is essentially asserting that he's in a volatile in-between state. The message it sends to other soldiers is, "Don't mess with me, I'm dangerous."
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Coming 11/11: Criterion releases deluxe DVDs of Cronenberg's Naked Lunch (apparently this was only available on DVD in Germany??) and Fellini's La Strada, both with excellent extras, as usual
Just watched the Cronenberg volume of AFI's The Directors series, which was much better than the one on Altman. Put the idea that his film is anything to do with Burroughs' masterpiece, and it's one of his funniest films, and worth a second look.
La Strada I've never gotten all the way through, and this is the time to do it.
Aside: I can't believe Hill's film of Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five is unavailable new on DVD.
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Tuesday, September 02, 2003
New Bill Murray movie might be good
Though I never got through Sofia Coppola's Virgin Suicides...
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Sunday, August 31, 2003
Looks like Pink Bloque have some competition: Lickety Split [Undernews]
It has been about a year since Lickity Split started subverting the all-American tradition of team cheerleading for political ends. They have kept the pompoms and the ear-to-ear saccharin smiles. And they gleefully display lots of flesh. (A little too much, you might say.) But this definitely is not the version of cheerleading you will see on the average college football field or as portrayed in films like American Beauty. Their energies are not going into perpetuating the macho image of the American jock, but rather into voicing anger at the system. Anger at Bush. Anger at homophobia. Anger at war. Anger at whatever.
And while they are the only group in Chicago, Lickity Split are hardly alone in the land. First dreamed up by two sisters in Florida six years ago as a new means of expressing political outrage, Radical Cheerleading is fast becoming a movement all of its own, with an estimated 100 squads trading clenched fists for pompoms in cities all across the United States and Canada. Watch out for them at a street demonstration near you soon. Websites dedicated to advertising the efforts of radical cheerleaders have recently been receiving word from groups coming together in Spain and France.
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File-sharing was legalized in Canada pre-Napster
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