Friday, 20 March 2009

Sort-of forgotten, but not exactly

A while ago now, lets say 6 years ago, I saw this picture of the inimitable Diamanda Galas:

When I last looked, the picture wasn't on my hard-drive. I must have seen it online somewhere and always thought it was great. She's so hip and so sinister.

Cross-check it with the photo I used for my profile image... it looks sort-of similar, no? I took that picture of myself a few months ago and always liked it, but couldn't explain why. Now I know why - because I'm kinda pulling the same pose as Galas! I only wish I could look as cool as she does, but at any rate - the image must have been nestling away somewhere in my unconscious but I hadn't made the connection until now.


Thursday, 19 March 2009


I was chatting with a friend today over coffee and we got onto the subject of undressing. It reminded me of an occasion a few years back where I was on a beach in Spain and people could go nude if they wanted to. I opted out, but nearby there was a woman who went topless.

What struck me about this was that it didn't seem like a big deal. She was an attractive woman, but besides the fact it was in a public space, it just didn't really seem to matter or make much of an impression on me. Stranger still - when she got up to leave, she got dressed again and I suddenly felt very voyeuristic and self-conscious seeing her.

My friend pointed out to me that when we visit the Doctor and we have to remove an item of clothing, the Doctor will conventionally draw a curtain and leave you while while you take it off, and then come back in. Strange, no? Shouldn't the taboo be located in how much of your skin they see?

Well. As with the case of the woman on the beach, I suspect that we have a way to conceive of people when they are dressed, and another way when they are undressed. When they are dressed, everything remains hidden and private. When it is no longer private, we quickly get used to it. And yet when you're in the threshold between these two states, something suddenly feels like it is being violated. It's much more intimate. During a sexual encounter, the moment of undressing - the transference from one state to another is something that partners can savor!

It's such a brief, fleeting moment where both states become almost fused. Ah, the mysteries of the human heart....

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Shell Shock & Euphemistic Language

OK. The general thrust of this blog comes from a bit by the late, great George Carlin. This fuses his interest in language with his social conscience in a beautiful way. The basic idea goes thus:

I don't like words that hide the truth or conceal reality. I don't like euphemisms or euphemistic language. If you live in a culture that has a problem with the truth, a soft language is developed in order to protect itself from the truth - and it gets worse with every generation.

An example. There is a condition in combat, when a fighting person's nervous system has been stressed to its absolute limit. The nervous system has either snapped, or is about to snap. This condition went through a series of name-changes over the 20th Century.

Shell Shock: In the first world war, it was called Shell Shock. Simple, honest, direct language. Two syllables - almost sounds like the guns themselves.

Battle Fatigue: Same condition, used a generation later in WW2. Four syllables now, takes a little longer to say, doesn't seem to hurt as much. 'Fatigue' is a nicer word than 'Shock'.

Operational Exhaustion: Used during America's War with Korea in the 1950s. We're up to eight syllables now, and the humanity has been completely squeezed out of the phrase. It's sterile. Sounds like something that might happen to your car.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: This was used during the Vietnam War. Still eight syllables, but it now includes a hyphen! And the pain is completely buried under jargon.

If they continued calling it Shell Shock, some of those veterans who returned from Vietnam might have received the attention they needed at the time.

Monday, 9 March 2009


A friend of mine had a 3-month free trial period with LOVEFiLM which had to be used by someone else, so she kindly gave it to me. I'm definitely a convert! It's re-invigorated my interest in film in quite a surprising way.

There is, of course an abundance of blockbuster titles on their list. But if you want to explore other types of stuff, it's not such a bad selection. Members of LOVEFiLM are invited to put a list together of their favorites for others to browse, so I posted a list of avant-garde movies (predominantly short films) onto the site. There's actually more out there than you might expect.

If you wanna take a look, this is the link:

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Pum Pum: A Quick Formal Breakdown

A friend of mine, Mark Corrin, posted the new video by Lee "Scratch" Perry on Facebook a few weeks ago. I've had the song on repeat ever since, and I'm still not bored by it. If you don't like it at first, be aware that it's better than you think. And if you do like it to begin with, it's still better than you think.

In case you don't already know, Lee Perry is one of the original icons of Reggae and Dub music. He was born in 1936 in Kendal, Jamaica and now lives in Zurich.

I'll just make a string of points about this video:
  • I never thought a man in his 70s would look so cool with silver, sparkling eyeliner
  • The beat is so rocksteady. The bass drum matches the "P" in Pum Pum, so they accentuate one another
  • I'm haunted by the image of Perry wiggling his fingers with all his gold rings at the camera
  • Listen out for all the intricate little sound effects layered into the song. Lots of orgasmic groans, ambient humms, gunshots...
  • He only starts singing about 2mins in. Before that he kind-of speaks the lyrics. I think it's called 'toasting'
  • It's a call and response song that goes through a series of rounds that can be interchanged. There is a beautiful clarity to it. One of them, which subtly plays with expectations goes:
Good vibration (good vibration)
for the good sensation (good vibration)
good vibration, good vibration, good vibration: I say!
  • another round that has a weird, asymmetrical structure goes 8-8-8-5. It seems silly, but there is a cleanliness, and a simple clarity which doesn't come easily to most:
Find a pum pum for my tittie
find a pum pum for my tittie
find a pum pum for my tittie
In New York City
  • Or he will say "look inna Pum Pum", to which a backing singer replies either "sweet Pum Pum, sexy Pum Pum" or "gimme more, gimme more".
  • Later, he picks up on the "gimme more" round, and voices layer on top of one another saying it in different ways
  • At the end, the various rounds inter cut one another
  • It takes a special kind-of guy to invoke a love of Jesus with a love of excess and the erotic so seamlessly
  • The beat cuts out at one point, and a phasing sound comes in on his voice. Today, it's a common trope but Perry was one of the pioneers to do stuff like this with Dub in the 70s
  • After Jesus is mentioned, an 'orchestra hit' enters the song - thus aligning his presence with that sound for the rest of the piece
OK. If nothing else, I hope I've demonstrated that if you think the song is simplistic or formally trite, you're mistaken. Enjoy!