Thursday

My satan

My Satan is my hero.

I've known a little about 'modern' satanism for some time, but I've known less than i thought. I always thought of satanism as being like Buddhism, where the character is revered but not worshipped. They are seen as an ideal, as an example, but not as a deity. 

Watching 'Silicon Valley', and the 'I'm a satanist, me' character Gilfoyle, gave me the impetus to get off my arse and do my reading. I was disappointed in what the Levyan Sayanists believe, which ends up in Social Darwinism and self-centred philosophies akin to Ayn Rand. 

I was surprised by this, as that's not my Satan. Mine is the Satan of Milton, who fights tyranny. When the rebels are sent down to hell, the first act is to build a parliament, not a dictatorship. Satan is the embodiment of 'you can do what you like to me, but I'm going to do it anyway' punk. 

My Satan is the Orc of Blake - Jesus in his rebellious spirit, and if Blake thought he wasn't shaping this character from Satan, why would he call him a name meaning 'from hell'? My Satan isn't waiting for anybody else to reward him in the afterlife; he's going to build Jerusalem here. Now. My Satan isn't going to wait for the second (or even first) coming; he is his own messiah.

My Satan fights illegitimate authority. My Satan does not ignore the dispossessed, but fights for them. My Satan is not a social Darwinist - that's the establishment mindset. He's egalitarian.

Thinking back, what this tells me that what Satan is, is a blank slate. I see what I want to see, the Levyans see what they want. We make our own heroes by projecting what we want onto legendary figures. What I have done is no different to the tump voters who bizarrely (to outsiders) see a Christian patriot where there is no such thing.  

There is no Satan; my Satan is just as real as anybody else's. The point is about my Satan, is that it's me.

Which is strange, because 'be your own messiah' or 'be your own role model' are maxims I've had for a while. My role model for 'being your own messiah' was Satan. And hear I am, realising that what I mean is 'be your own Satan.'
In other words, be your own hero.

[some credit must go to the book 'tell me a dragon' for the pluralism in this post]


Sunday

Killing music

Streaming services are killing music

Reissues are killing music

Laptop speakers are killing music.

If anyone wants t-shirts with these slogans, please send me your address.

From an improvised email:

'Reissues are killing music (and they should be illegal)'
I wish there were no reissues/repressing. i wish if you wanted to find that archive record that Mojo magazine had on the cover, you had to get out to a record fair and dig on your hands and knees until you found it (like in that episode of black books), churning up loads of other lost gems in the process.
case in point: I recently acquired an LP of Julie Tipett's record "sunset glow" for the sole reason that it is mentioned in Robert Wyatt's biography as 'a companion to [his magnum opus] Rock Bottom'; perhaps they were written about the same holiday in Tenerife, or just capture the same vibe? Julie tippets seems to have only three mentions in the biography but they appear to have been very close.
According to discogs, the album has only been reissued once during the 90s, and then only on CD. 
The sender included the original inner sleeve, as well a more recent improvement to actually house the disc. It is an utterly excellent record, heavy psychedelic jazz. No-one I know (outside of the bloke in the record shop) has heard of it. It's not on Spotify.

my local record shop is drowning in nostalgic deluxe reissues and carrying very little actual new music. new artists are strangled like by the parasitic vines of their parents' and grand parents' back catalogues. Old records should just https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E54m7vgqXUY. I saw that SFA were putting out a reissue of Radiator, with a 2nd cd of all the bsides. Great, I thought, at last, I could get all the SFA b-sides I always wanted. basketed it. and then... realised I neither needed nor wanted nor deserved it. I decided not to go back, dwell in the past in the familiar warm glow of 90s necrostalgia, but save my money for new and informative experiences. Experiences that make me feel like I'm still alive, rather than that life was something that happened when I was young.

What's more, what you say about the sounds quality is critical, but you forget that 90s records were mastered for 90s stereos and 90s ears. you physically can never hear those records again, even with the unremastered version in your hands. I never heard much of Smashing pumpkins or Manic street preachers at the time; they sound terrible to my new ears now. you can't go back.

CEX have stopped selling CDs. that's how bad things have got. there is such an incredible glut of physical media that it's impossible to even sift through anymore, unless the stock is curated. So reissues are criminal, in a world of landfill-oriented music product.

The same problem in computer games, where backwards compatibiltiy is not remotely a thing; Try to track down Tony Hawk 3 (the best in the series, according to considered opinions); all you can get these days, unless you buy an actual PS2, is the HD remastered collection that grabs bits and bobs from different games (despite this being inferior to TH3). These nintendo things they're bringing out now have an air of completeness, but it's a complete illusion, like the idea that spotify is 'all music ever'. It's not, and it's dangerous to think that it is. it's revisionist necrostalgia. it's how the past gets massaged into an easily digested narrative that ignores the real richness, fertility, of cultural history.

Just don't get me started on streaming music services. They offer all the convenience and none of the support. They are murdering music.

I don't know about Bandcamp. I like what they do, I like what they offer, I like that they stop you freeloading if you try to listen to something more than a few times without paying. But what appended to taking a risk? Buying an album because you liked the singles? I'm inclined to return to an older model with my next release: put up a shareware version, which is the first three-or-so tracks. Buying the record gets you access to the whole thing. This is basically what singles, or radio play, used to function as.

the confounding thing is earache records' "high dynamic range" master series - reissues that are meant to sound as un-compressed as they did back in the day. a brave thing to do in the metal world arms race. 
"what's this? [holds up finger horizontally]"
i don't know..?
"a babymetal waveform".
I think that's actually a very good joke if you visualise it. also it's a reference to a series of jokes in Asterix (where the finger represents a how a very strong man might hammer in a a nail) that might be a bit a obscure.

New standards of revue 2

A few posts ago (about 18 months (at time of writing, many more have passed) I wrote about new ways of looking at reviewing; so i might give a numerator as well as a denominator, to reflect the scope of the art i was reviewing, so that we could give a small mobile game 2/2, which sounds good but limited, compared to giving a terrible film 2/10.

I've a couple more here.

The first is a biggy and has been playing on my mind for awhile; it came up in conversation today when I thought everyone knew I used it, and it involves moving out of just one dimension of quality.

When I'm evaluating something, I've noticed there tends to be three dimensions I judge it on. These are Quality, Fun, and Novelty; and by separating them out, wecan be more precise about exactly where things succeed and where they try to succeed.


This three-mark way of looking at art was inspired by 'school of saatchi', which for its faults, tried to grade different artworks by looking at three criteria, which I cannot find the exact wordings of, but I belive to be technique, originality, and emotional impact. I've adapted them.

Note that I'm not suggesting everything has to have all of these elements every time, but if it doesn't have any, then what you have is simply filler. Something that's only good for dodging the void with.

Quality sounds straightforward, but we need to be careful what elements fall under it; it's a purely technical achievement. So quality is a matter of technique; it's craft, not art, and should be quite objective to measure. Quality is the difference between a record sounding like a demo, and sounding polished and professional. It doesn't affect the content. So beyond just looking professional, this aspect deals with how proficient the craftsmanship, and how many technical skills are on display.

Of course, there can be many dimensions to this; early Billy Bragg recordings are very lo-fi, and 'The milkman of human kindness' wouldn't be improved by adding a 4-minute shredding solo, but they're still well-crafted songs, that are professionally performed. That might unravel this whole sytem, I'm not sure.

Next, how fun is the work?
Is 'fun' subective? It might sound like it, but I think you can quantify the fun in something.
It's not just how many laughs are in a work, but I think it's analogous to how much love the work was made with. This is why I find Bal-sagoth fun, even though they make their music with po-faced seriousness. You can usually spot fun as 'how much fun do the people creating it appear to be having?' An injection of fun should never take away from an overall serious piece; The Wire (more on that later) has elements of humour, without which it would be unbearable. A smattering of humour, of clear love for subject matter, can get you to carry


lastly, how interesting is the work?
Interesting comes in a number of names. Shannon called it 'information' and defined it as how predictable a message is - in other words, what were the chances of sending that exact message?
For me, this is the difference between Art and Craft. Craft is all about technique, about predictability, reproducability. It should do the same thing every time. Building a piano is a craft. Writing a song on a piano is an art, because there's no point in writing the same song twice.

This is exactly why some music, some film, some games, definitely are craft more than art. I've danced to music for half an hour that went nowhere; every bar was the same as the last, and there was no information in the music after the first 10 seconds. That's fine if that's what you want, but its not art, its a workout. Compare this to a well-worked track like, i dunno, 'Sidewalk Serfer girl' by Super furry animals, where every single bar sounds different; every reprise has something different in its production, and you can tell exactly where you are in the song just by hearing one fragment.

Free Jazz has a problem with this, because while like white noise, it is inherently unpredictable, it can end up sounding samey. Even though noise is random on a bit-by-bit basis, it is entirely predictable on a second-by-second basis. So this one might depend on your expertise. And of course, recontextualising something can be an interesting thing to do. that depends on how it is done.


Interestingness is what T. McKenna would have called 'novelty'. How new, how much rich information, how radical, original is the message? These are the works that stick in your head, the ones that change direction or surprise you. I remember exactly where I was when I first heard Ephel Duath's 'the passage'; from the first notes, it did not sound like anything else on the sampler I was listening to, or anything else I'd heard before.

I think this interestingness is what I meant by the 'fuckin ell' test I wrote about last time. So an emotional reaction is also a mark of being interesting.  I mentioned fun, but emotions

The Wire ticks all the boxes like nothing else.

-----------------------------------------------------

Another way of looking at culture: A test.

I had a conversation with a friend some years ago, about (i think) the film 'chronicle': the end result was we wished we'd just watched 'Primer' again.

Today I am faced with the same problem: Do I watch Gilliam's 'Zero Theorem' for the first time, or his classic 'Brazil' for the maybe 5th time? Should I watch 'The Fog', or 'Wild Zero' for the 3rd time?

In this age of having the choice to program our own entertainment, would I get more out of watching a rich, well-loved classic again, and reliving it, or injecting a new and different work?

In the bit above where I talked about the novelty, or interestingness, of a work as one of three strands to its success, it not be obvious that some works are rich enough to give more information on subsequent viewings (for instance), than others on their first view.

This is something you can only know in retrospect. Like the "fuckin' 'ell!" test, it's worth just checking after you've experienced something.

Squid joke paradox

how do you tell the difference between two squid?
You can't, they're itentacle.

But that doesn't quite work, because 'identity' implies they're different, and makes me want to change the joke to the opposite meaning 'check their identity card',  and any way squid don't have teeth so you can't check their dental records. anyway.

Lost in meaning and semantics and etymology.

Thursday

The girls of NausicaƤ

Nausicaa has become one of my favourite films. It's an explicitly Eco-feminist story; at one point a cargo-hold full of refugee mothers pleads with her to stop the men from fighting their idiotic wars. That blunt moment comes at the heart of a thorough examination of war, environmental destruction, and petty nationalism.

I worry that she is a little too perfect. She's an expertly sword fighter, an expert pilot, a botanist, friend to the animals, an ecologist, a lover of everything, a steadfast worker towards peace who holds her principals through thick and thin. In other words, she has the kind of character stats it would be impossible to roll-up. That makes her a little bit less sympathetic. 

She's also built.  I'm not sure how I feel about how 'well drawn' she is. On the one hand, she's a woman, and women have bodies, and to deny her female physique would be to deny her gender.  I think there are a few unnecessary shots of her in the film, but then I hear how my lady tracks about Tom Hardy, an I think 'well, maybe it's ok for a hero to be beautiful'.

All that is a bit vague. I mainly wanted to provoke a discussion About her foil, Kushana, and how she's different in the comic - and which representation is more feminist..?

In the film, Kushana is a pretty straightforward baddie. Having a female baddie is I think an especially good move, because it makes the gender axis more complicated and less black-and-White. Having a female hero and villain shows that women are not one easy-to-define group. Whilst nausicaa is fighting overwhelmingly male forces - both physical and socially - the film puts men and women on both sides of the conflict, and is richer for it.

The comic complicates Kushana's character. In the film, the only excuse for her behaviour offered is that she lost some limbs to an insect when she was young, and this has made her a less empathetic character. On the other hand, In the comic, she has been sent to fight a lost cause and die by her father the emperor and her domineering brothers; she might be the local baddie, but she has been sold out by what can only be described as Patriarchy. This puts her back into the 'smash patriarchy' camp in the story (which i haven't finished reading yet)

 The film works because it sells you a feminist message and gives women screen time on both sides of the conflict. The book works because it provides another example of women being put down by men. So which of these depictions is... Better? 




Wednesday

On watching star wars for the first time

from 2 years ago:

Ez and I watched star wars - the film, that is - and I have much to report.
Watching her watching the film has given me some fresh insights that, over thirty-odd years of exposure to the star wars universe, I have overlooked.

This event was spurred on by meeting her friend Wilfred in the park, who has been eaten by the franchise to the point of running around the park dressed as a storm trooper.

For comparison, the version watched was the rip of the final VHS release, as this is the only way to watch the film as seen in cinemas (even if the quality is not great). I'm currently downloading Harmy's despecialised editions, but we'll have to wait for that.

Firstly, to get out this out of the way, it is a massive honkysausagefest and that's a real shame. Ez found it hard that, despite Leiagh being a princess and kick arse, she does only have about 10 minutes of screen time in the whole film. I plan on channeling his frustration into a song called 'white space conflict'.

Ez - being under 4, at time of watching -'s attention did wander, but always came back and when asked said she wanted to keep it on.

Firstly, it's full of psychobabble that simply wasn't make to make sense. Words are invented in completely throwaway sentences, in quite a method-acty way; we don't know what the words mean, but we totally get what they mean, if you follow. 

An early example:
"This R2 unit has a bad motivator." 

Well, a motivator is easy enough to process, but do we know what an r2 unit is? Well, yes and no. We can infer very quickly, from context, that it's a particular type of robot, and that from this specificity, there must be lots of other types of robots - like all the ones seen in the jawa's land crawler. They probably all have names and manufacturers too. But we don't need to know. It's just a little glimpse, enough to know there is a big detailed universe here, but actually it hasn't been instantiated yet. In fact, you think, when they need to, they will simply procedurally generate more names and information. 

Another example, same scene: uncle Owen is looking for android that speaks the binary language of moisture compactors (or whatever) and Baachi. I have a strong feeling that no one involved with the making of the film knew or cared what Baachi is. They just needed a word, and that was the word. 

More than the odd word, there are whole lines or short scenes of untranslated alien dialogue. Lucas gets a lot of well-deserved stick for the Star Wars holiday special, starting with the half hour of untranslated wookie-speak. But sections of untranslated dialogue are all over the tattooine section of SW - like the droids in the sandcrawler, or the aliens in the pub. In these contexts, it definitely feels method acty, because although we don't understand the specifics, we get the tone, the intention, and the point, and that's really what they're trying to communicate; as well as the confusion itself, the dizzying strangeness of the unknown.

But even then, it's full of nameless images that are great ideas and haven't yet been nailed down. They never use phrases like 'x wing', 'tie fighter', 'star destroyer'. All of that came later. Let me stress this; a tie fighter in SW is simply an 'imperial fighter', described as being 
short range. TIE of course stands for 'twin ion engine', an imaginary method of propulsion of this craft that looks like it could never fly in atmosphere. But that isn't in SW; in SW, it's just a cool looking space ship.

All of this, as well as the spit-&-polish, cardboard-&-sawdust special effects, gives the film a free-wheeling punk feeling. They've got a classic story, but thickly smeared on top of it is a tonne of spontaneous nonsense. In the time since it's release, all the gaps have been filled in, and I think that's a shame. It detracts from the feeling that there wasn't a master plan here at all - it was just crazy random ideas, and that's a good thing. The film, SW, doesn't pander to viewers by explaining what all these things are - it doesn't know either, but every little made up reference and bit of lingo hints at an as-yet non-existent wider universe. The sense you get is that of being lost in this exciting world without a guide - luke skywalker is the closest thing to one, poking at a falcon's console and asking what the buttons do, but even he talks in the invented references of this galaxy. 

I mean, who cares that a parsec is a unit of distance, not of time? I mean, I do, but I love that they didn't know or care. Like I said, punk, but also my often made point that SW is not sci-fi (or even the more general speculative fiction).

It's not all good news though. The violent 'goodies and baddies' script of the film deeply affected the games she began playing, and I didn't like it - I'd go as far as to say the over-simplified, black and white, good vs evil tone of the film is something that should have been left in the fifties and boys-own stories.

It's not that the film is especially violent by modern standards, but it is very much about the good guys shooting and killing the bad guys (even if it's in self defence). All of this fed into ezme's imagination for some time, although I think she's out of that phase now. It's also more evidence that boyish behaviour is a cultural, rather than genetic, phenomenon.


One more up-shoot of this, that really strikes me, is that in SW, Vader is not Luke's father, and he's definitely not Leiah's dad either. He's just a big baddy (and don't forget, Peter Cushing's Grand Moff Tarkin) was billed above Vader at the time). I will be writing up a quick post in future about the differences between reveals, twists, and retcons, as it's something that irks me when people confuse them, but there is nothing to say that in this film, that was the plot line. 

That's part of the joy of watching something that was sequelled into being less good than it was at the time. I plead with you, parents: When your child asks you any questions about this film, don't fill in with knowledge from after the fact, or the prequels, or the expanded universe. Just relish in the joy of being lost in space.


Confusion and partridge-like geek frustration reigned however, when Mum told Ez that Obi Wan was really Luke's dad. That's one we'll have to shake off when I think she's old enough to watch Star Wars 2 (as I am calling Empire).

edit: SW2 scared her and now she doesn't want to watch any of the films anymore. Fine, say I. Just wait until she's old enough for Mononoke.

One final thought: When I wrote this, you saw kids wearing Star Wars Tshirts all of the time; but 9/10 are Lego Star Wars. Now they're  back to wearin greal star wars; but 9/10 of them are plastered with space nazis. It makes me really uncomfortable that they make the baddies look so merchandisable.