Friday, April 18, 2014

Iliad haiku

made up this little haiku sort of thing based on the two lines from The Iliad 2.342-3

For we quarrel over words,
Unable to discover a remedy.

Been here a long time.

pic from here

Sunday, March 16, 2014

They take death as their bride

Wrench-snatched from the rapacious hands of slow to start
Imperial Germany, Imperial England Victorious gave
To ever obedient Australia this tasty morsel of colonial
Land. The Trust Territory of New Guinea.
And Nauru Pleasant Phosphate Island, a second morsel to be savoured
And shared joint exploitation ANZAC & England. Captured, bypassed
Wither on the vine. And abused by the great torn up emptied.
And in 1989 Australia was sued for damages done to the island;

Islands placed in our trust as a token
North East quadrant of sun swaying dreams.
Bird of paradise dancing warriors, emerald snails,
Fruit bats and friar birds. Crystalline
Wave against wave, shore against shore
Ruinous trust curse, for us and our children and
Our children's children.
Bismark blood and Ironbottom sound sea
Not enough, never enough to compensate
Slaughters of Flanders and the Troad.
For the damage done to our desires.

And Little Billy told Wilson and Goerge
and all the rest “
Strategically the northern islands
(such as New Guinea)
Encompass Australia
Like fortresses.
They are as necessary
To Australia
As water to a city. “

And the ruling bourgeoisie more and more seeks salvation in fascism.
And in 1942 when the inevitable war with Imperial Japan came,
A handful of diggers and a radio tower on Manus.
Air raids and bombings and then a landing, and the diggers
Dove into the bush, destroying all the could not carry
Private Coker commented
"A hand-grenade,
and run like hell,
did the trick!"

And fighting the jungle and malaria.
Lieutenant Palmer
(cited for the Military Medal)
“He was unable to walk for several weeks
For severe septic infection on his arms and legs”
“Weakness due to several attacks of malaria.”
They carried him out.
And Lance-Corporal McLean
Took command the four man patrol &
Found the Lutheran Mission firmly
In Japanese hands. So they beat it out of there
Fortuitous, heavy, jungle obscuring rain
And the relentless beating sound
Of rain rain rain pounding covered the retreat.
Through swamp and jungle and cutting grass
And illness and starvation, and then on boats
The sailed the IJN cruised sea
And overland and over mountains
And final hope home Cairns in May.

The ruling bourgeoisie are trying to solve The problem of markets
By enslaving the weak nations,
By intensifying colonial oppression &
Repartitioning the world anew by means of war.

Finally February leap year day 29 1944
Diggers and Doughboys crawling up the Solomons Islands
And the Trust Territories landed Manus Island.
Guadalcanal, Milne Bay, Buna, The Bismark Sea, Lae,
Rabaul, Scarlet Beach, Kokoda. Diggers and Doughboys.
ANZAC sad sack dog faced privates fought with
Bayonet and machine gun and flame thrower and demo charge
And grenade and shovel and cannon and aircraft and bare hand.
And the things they saw and did died
Broke them 1000 yard shell shock stare.

Crawling mud, roaring insect, snake bite green hell jungle.
Pushing back venal bestial racist fascist
Anti-comintern ideology. Rolling back the fascist
Offensive. Manus Island attacked, and shortly recaptured.

Well, now time passed and now it seems.
Everybody's having them dreams.
Everybody sees themselves.
Walking around with no one else.

Dreams of a land without the others, dreams of an end to history
And end to the stresses and uncertainties of capitalism.
Dreams of an obsolete discredited ideology.
Old man old school old timey dreams of controlling the external.
Dreams that somehow it will end differently, that we can close
Our eyes and everything will somehow be all right.
Fearful thoughtless dreams, relaxed and comfortable.

Fascism is a most ferocious attack by capital on the mass of the working people;
Fascism is unbridled chauvinism and predatory war;
Fascism is rabid reaction and counter-revolution;
Fascism is the most vicious enemy of the working class and of all working people.

And now we can imagine on this very same spot -- wild eyed
Dare-death opium and hunger fuelled banzai attack
Shooting from the hip and shouting loud the Japanese Marines
Fall upon the position. Hacking and attacking and striking out
In all directions. Indiscriminate. And after the smoke and noise
Littered broken bodies of empty dreams the result of lies, a cynical
Grab-lust for power. Unbridled chauvinism. Rabid reaction.
Predatory war.

And then, as if a final spitting in our face
Historic irony, it was here, when we almost half-believed
In a new world, in a better world,
In a world that does not resort to war
And endless horror.
It was here on Manus
In 1950 Australia held the last trials
Japanese war criminals.

And did those geebungs and dubbos, did those inner city hooligans
Signing up for adventure, signing up for their first pair of shoes,
In fear and bravado, did they, shivering in their watery slit trenches;
Did they do all this, so much waste and horror, did they liberate
The camps so that now we too can have camps?

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Lovelace & Byron

Ada Lovelace is honoured with a doodle.

I went to see the 2014 MONA FOMA. A action-packed, fun-filled week of music, art and shenanigans. Like all public events, and many privates ones, foma brought forth some of our modern contradictions. And the source of this article being an apparent (let us be polite and say an inadvertent) sexism.

The recent festival included a performance of the Ada Project. The Ada of this project is Ada Lovelace, a Victorian era mathematician who worked with Charles Babbage to design a mechanical general-purpose computer, called the Analytical Engine. As Ada Lovelace died in 1852 this was an amazing intellectual achievement, even if was never realised.

Sadly there is a preoccupation with her famous father, Lord Byron. A father who was disappointed to sire a daughter, and who left Ada and her mother only one month after the child was born. Rushing off to fight for Greek independence, he like so many others soldiers over the generations, died of fever in camp. He never saw the enemy, let alone fire in anger. It is all rather pathetic, and more than a trifle appropriate.

But let us see some examples of this phenomenon:
It’s the first time I’ve seen an industrial robot dance to an opera about Lord Byron’s daughter, who was diagnosed with hysteria as she died of ovarian cancer (The ADA Project)

An industrial robot, inspired by the life and work of Ada Lovelace, gifted mathematician and daughter of Lord Byron. Lovelace predicted computer-generated music 100 years before it eventuated.

The Guardian, if only parenthetically
They are inspired by two things; first the movements of the machine, and secondly the life of Ada Lovelace, a Victorian mathematician (and daughter of Lord Byron) who Shawcross tells us developed a prototype computer called the Difference Engine.

Prepare to be mesmerised by The ADA Project: four musical commissions inspired by the life and work of Ada Lovelace (1815-1852), the gifted (yet troubled) mathematician and daughter of Lord Byron

There is no arguing that Ada Lovelace was in fact the child of Lord Byron. And I understand the use of this sort of short hand, allowing the reader to quickly orient themselves. There is no doubt that Lord Byron is a famous name, full of bad boy intrigue and eroticism. All this does work to quickly frame Ada Lovelace, but it does it seem to me, if not wrong, at least not right. As Byron abandoned the mother and child, he could not be called her father; as being a father is more than spreading one's seed. Indeed Byron was no more than a negative, a hole in the life of Ada Lovelace. Her mother, embittered by the rut and forget policy of the famous poet, gave Ada a rigorous education in mathematics and science. This was a vain attempt to keep her away from poetry, and all romantic ideas. Ada's mother felt poetry to be a source of insanity. Ada developed ideas of poetical science, ideas which allowed her to ask the right questions about the role of the Analytical Engine, and the relationship between the machine, the individual, and society.

Although some historians doubt her contributions and abilities Ada Lovelace is remembered as a great mathematician, one of the best of her generation. She devised, and again some reject these claims, the first computer program, an algorithm for calculating Bernoulli numbers. - - More importantly she was able to contemplate the idea of the general purpose computer. The idea of a Turing complete machine that can solve any equation. This seems like little when it is written down, but this idea is what allows us a computer to generate music, film and all teh other content that goes with it. Lady Lovelace, with Charles Babbage, also conceived of the idea of the stored program. A calculator is a computer, but one that can only do one thing, to get it to read email would require much effort, and modification. The modern computer allows me to write this with my typesetting software, while changing windows to view my email, or to further research Ada Lovelace.

If we were to compare Lord Byron to Lady Lovelace in their relative importance to our modern world, there is no comparison. One wrote a few good, and some very good poems that allow us to see the mindset of England after the Napoleonic Wars, one of them worked to develop ideas that are only now coming to fruition.

As an aside, and with perhaps some irony, the US Defense Department created a language called Ada This language was defined as ANSI/MIL-STD 1815A, but note the numbering -- 1815, the year Ada Lovelace was born.

To get some idea of the achievement of Ada Lovelace and Charles Babbage, we can look at the contradiction that surrounds her unpleasant death. Aged 37 she died from ovarian cancer, her doctors had resorted to blood letting, and came up with theories that too much science her made her hysterical, causing this debilitating disease. Being an aristocrat, Lady Lovelace would have had access to the height of modern medical thought. These are some of the contradictions of a world, still in the infancy of industrialisation, where Ada Lovelace is imaging machines that can create music, while contemporary medical science is still resorting to sympathetic magic, and superstition for cures.

The final word I leave to Ada Lovelace, to allow the reader to get a feel for her visionary imagery and work: "The Analytical Engine weaves algebraic patterns just as the Jacquard loom weaves flowers and leaves."

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

to mix art with activism

In the distance is the city, hidden from view.

K9 moved back into the combat area – Standing now in the Chinese youth sent the resistance message jolting clicking tilting through the pinball machine – Enemy plans exploded in a burst of rapid calculations – Clicking in punch cards of redirected orders – Crackling shortwave static – Bleeeeeeeeeeeeeep – Sound of thinking metal – “Calling partisans of all nations – Word falling – Photo falling – Break through in Grey Room – Pinball led streets – Free doorways – Shift coordinate points –”

Nova Express. Burroughs

As a result, therefore, man (the worker) only feels himself freely active in his animal functions – eating, drinking, procreating, or at most in his dwelling and in dressing-up, etc.; and in his human functions he no longer feels himself to be anything but an animal. What is animal becomes human and what is human becomes animal.

Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844, Estranged Labour. Marx.

My four days of mona foma.

I was fortunate enough to get a festival pass to the 2014 mona foma. And so my thoughts.

Fishing boats high hot summer evening - wave upon wave fractal innumerable myriad. Ole timey working working places. The mystique of the proletariat. Sail boats sailing along the the setting sun wind.

So what did I like about the festival? The bands, the music. While I did not love everything I saw, and while I was not able to see every event, I have to say there was nothing I saw that was terrible; nothing I saw did not deserve to be there.

But the absolute highlights for me had to be Sun Ra Arkestra, The Julie Ruin, and the Ada Project. There were several acts that I was unfamiliar with and I was very glad to have had the exposure. I also greatly enjoyed The Ada Project. So much so that I saw it four times!

There was, as I said, very little I did not like. And the things I did not like, were more my perception as opposed to the music being made. For example I am not a great fan of the techno dance sort of sound. So I tried to understand the acts in what they were trying to do, more than what I would have liked them to do.

It is to the credit of the hundreds of staff that organise these events that very little went wrong. There was a slight hiccup on the first night, when the scanner had difficulties reading my ticket. But on subsequent days there was no issue. I am sure there where a few back stage dramas, but as a viewer I knew nothing of that, and things seemed to flow quite easily from one act to the next. Food and drinks were plentiful if a tad pricey, but not so much that one would think it was out of the ordinary. If one did not care about alcohol, and wanted to get a juice, there was no line and it was easy to purchase. I did notice some very long lines, but as it was not me waiting...

So at best only minor things went wrong, at least from an outsiders point of view, so any complaints are more in the category of quibbles and not complaints. Hats off the the many staff who worked on the stalls, and collected tickets and etc, as much as the musicians, this regiment of staff should be seen as integral to the smooth functioning of the festival. Or as Brecht said in his poem A Worker Reads History, “Caesar beat the Gauls. Was there not even a cook in his army?”

What would I change? I found the MAC Backstage room to be a stuffy, anxiety creating venue. This could have been just me, as the room was often filled with people, digging the music, bopping and having fun. Some people have complained about the ticketing and entry for the Faux Mo nightclub. I admit I did not attend this so I can not comment, but will note it as something I heard.

The smithies, working in the forecourt to create looped beats and a metal sculpture, were a great hit. As much as the work they were doing was interesting in itself, they also provided a focus for the gathering crowd. I was a bit surprised as to how little the forecourt was used by the event. To my mind there seems no reason why it could not be filled with local performers, buskers, fire eaters, spoke word artists and the like. This would provide an outlet for local artists, as well as giving them a bit of encouragement, and would also give spectators more fuel to allow them to speculate, and recharge.

And of course the main change I would make, would be to somehow make the event more woman friendly. I would like to see, in future festivals, something like one day of the four day festival be given over to only female artists. I know that some will say “ Do we have to have this discussion again?” While others can say the exact same thing, but with a slight change in emphasis and so “Do we have to have this discussion again?” But one only has to look at the program and see the overwhelming preponderance of male artists. Well over half were male, or male dominated performances. With only a few breaking this penile mold. The fact that The Julie Ruin was one of the few shows bent towards women proves in a rather ironic way this truth.

I know that such a suggestion would be controversial. But to me any back lash to the idea of creating a more gender balanced event would again prove the truth.

What did the festival make me think about? One thing that jumbled around my brainpan was the idea of the distinction between (for lack of better words) music driven and word driven music. Music driven seems to flow more organically and more freely, more like the proverbial river. With lyrics there seems to be more of an architectural feel, the music is built up around a scaffolding of words. Maybe a thing to do would be to investigate incorporating improvisational lyrics into songs.

I was to a certain extent disappointed with some of the electronic boyz and the sounds they were making. It seems to me, and I am happy to be proven wrong, that with all the computing power at hand, with the vast of array of electronics willing to due the maestro's bidding that something better than a constant pumping 1,2,3,4 beat could be found. It seems to me that we have the ability to make electric music that sounds like angels signing. There is no need for a beat, as the computer will never miss. I want something to dance to that is different. Of course the crowd went wild, so who the hell do I know. I did, for example, like the poly-rhythmic sounds of HIVE, their use of old and new ways to produce music.

In a similar vein the festival made me think and cower in wonder at the process. A puff of air, the vibration of a string or skin, the rush of electrons. More a way things happen, than a thing. Nothing but vibrations. Resonance. And I can not even find the words to describe the flow of images and thoughts that crowded my mind, like the crowded venue floor, surging and swaying. From almost nothing comes music, in the way that a monsoon is little more than warm moist air rising from the ocean, so to the music is simply the vibrations moving through the air. And both the storm and music emerge from the chaos become so much more.

Over the four days of the festival the temperature rose and fell here in Hobart. Dangerous climate conditions caused distress on the mainland. Bushfires burnt up the east coast of the big island.

Daily the news spoke of increasing confrontation in the northern seas. Shots were fired across the bow of ships filled with children.

Compassion is becoming a dirty word. The assault, the counter revolution, is gathering pace. Education and disability care, and education are all in the firing line. Same sex marriage is being brushed aside, howled down in a mocking chorus of convenient morality. The “be excellent to one another” idea of Jesus is being ignored, and in America anyway there is talk to rewriting the bible more in line with tea party politics.

We are trading our freedoms for the idea of an illusionary choice. Are we to control the machines, or are we to be controlled? Are we to simply be an adjunct to the machine, or the machines to liberate us. Computer technology in many ways starkly shows the Marxist idea of alienation, of working people building a productive capacity is which is then used against them. A vast network of control that can constantly monitor citizens. The greatest, never tiring, surveillance network every made. Is this to be our future? Should we not make the machines work for us? Maybe lower the hours of work to only 20 hours a week, allowing more time for creation of life, family, of art.

The PM is off skiing in France, while the media slumbers contently after a long and tiring campaign of social control.

We live in an age of urgencies. We are hurtling headlong into a crisis, into the abyss. I felt that foma missed the opportunity to highlight these urgencies. I did not see all the bands, so I may have missed some important things. Most of the acts I saw at best only hinted at, or spoke indirectly about what is to be done. From what I saw only The Julie Ruin seemed willing to discuss directly the problems we face, and to offer some sort of a solution.

The solution being to mix art with activism, to build community.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Bloody Mainlanders

A physical system can have as many resonant frequencies as it has degrees of freedom; (according to wikipedia)

Kharon: Have you watched the bubbles in the water, gathering and dispersing? And the bubbles gather into foam. Some last for only a short time, some burst as soon as they are born, others a long time. In no other way could it be. So it is with men.

Hermes: You comparison is not inferior to Homer, when he compared men to leaves.

Kharon 19.1 ~ Lucian of Samosata.

Hobart had recovered from the heat and had returned to that raw river front feel that we all know and love and admire. I check the news in the morning to make sure we had not gone to war while I slept.

I had not planned on writing about the Colin Stetson show on the last drab gray Sunday afternoon of 2014 mona foma. But then I read in the Guardian that “his thing seems to be to play, at deafening volume, a few notes over and over, drench them in reverb and the repeat relentlessly for what seemed like hours.”

A little harsh I thought. While Colin plays a few notes (more than a few!) over and over, and while they were drenched in reverb, and while it did repeat relentlessly, to make this criticism is like saying than Jimi Hendrix just played a bunch of notes real fast, or that Bob Dylan writes a bunch of rhymes. True, but missing the depth. And of course I understand that not everyone can like everything.

So if Colin Stetson plays a few notes, adds filter (directly to sax and man), and repeats what can we say about his music. The first thing we most note, is that he meant to bring two saxophones to play, but the bass sax was misplaced coming out of Sydney Airport. Bloody Mainlanders, always trying to sabotage Tasmania! If he had the instruments there would have been more variety.

To me this show captured the mystery and power of music. A puff of air, a vibration, carried by electrickery, waves shaking the thin eardrum film of skin, nerve impulses surge and spread that mass of hot blood loving brain fat. And this puff of air has the power to transport, to transform. This puff of air can recall memories, can inspire dreams and tears, can move one to abandon, can drop one into despair.

For myself I was carried away with this strange, bubble popping sound, this flowing Dantesque soundscape of wailing cries in the distance. I was standing off to one side, and could look behind the performer and see out the industrial windows to the harbour outside. The wild wailing of the sax, the occasional sweeping roaring rush of agony or ecstasy (for at a distance, with no context, they can be confused) released from some sort of unknown depths surrounded me as I watched the birds circle and hover. The birds were reflected back and forth, up and down, darting, sweeping, moving through the air. Like the waves of sound formed from a puff of air, rumbling down the shiny metal tube, glowing yellow red in the false light of radiating waves, the birds split the air and swam in a atmospheric sea of freedom we can only dream about, only for a moment touch.

And he played one tune called “Dream of Water,” and all my dreams of stepping into rivers and the bubbles forming foam fell and tumbled. A sound track to dreams. A column of air. As many resonant frequencies as degrees of freedom. The birds circle and then -- that is all.

Heavy Discipline

With their diseases and orgasm drugs and their sexless parasite life forms—Heavy Metal People of Uranus wrapped in cool blue mist of vaporized bank notes—And The Insect People of Minraud with metal music. Nova Express 112 ~ WSB

Until day four of mona foma I was ignorant as to the existence of Psycroptic. It has been a long time since I have seen a metal band play live. Needless to say I no longer make the scene metal-wise.

But the great thing about festivals, about these sorts of anthology of acts is that one gets to hear things they did not know that wanted to hear. Even though I no longer make the scene, I still enjoy listening to good metal. To me it is one of those types of music that forces you to move. Metal is still the best fuck off to parents and squares everywhere music, to all authority!

The band had just started their set as I walked up the street towards Macquarie Wharf. Louder and louder the music rumbled and echoed, calling to me. I was a bit wary when I walked into old MAC2 warehouse cavern with a tech-death metal playing. But I chose to keep an open mind. I wanted to judge the band on what they are trying to do, not what I would have liked them to do. I am glad I did.

Before the end of the song I had moved my way to the front of the crowd and was, if not head banging, at least grooving in my own way. For after all were not the Sex Pistols a type of metal band?

Psycroptic is a Hobart band, they have released five albums to much acclaim in the metal community and have won an international fan base playing tech-death metal. I know this because after the show I was waiting in line for a coffee and spoke with a fan.

Technical metal refers to the technical ability of the musicians. The Guardian described this type of metal “death metal with complicated bits in the vein of prog rock.” This is not the sort of band where one can recruit a friend because they look the part, one has to be able to play their instruments. If technical ability is the key, then Psycroptic deserve their position as leaders in this type of metal.

Drummer Dave Haley first captured my attention with his relentless, powerful, driving drum work. Brother Joe Haley played guitar, and like his brother he played with a savage power and speed. A replacement bass guitarist was needed for this gig. He was introduced as Sam. Like the rest of the band he was a demon on his instrument. Thumping bass lines and jumping about with the best of them. Lead singer Jason Peppiatt rounded out the band. He strode about the stage exhorting his troops to battle, inspiring frenzy in band and crowd alike. The younger ones in the front rocked hard. Long Lacedaemon hair giving them strength. The singer reminded me a bit of Brad Pitt in the movie Troy. And to my drug addled rock and roll fantasy mind his death metal screams and wails echoed down the ages the screams of the Danaans before the walls of Troy. The angry refusal to follow those who are your inferior. Screaming out the pain, horror and sorrow of ten years of futile war.

Screaming and hollering the rage and energy of working people.

I still have problems with this type of music -- but to have been there, to have been in that moment, I would not have missed it.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

The Julie Ruin

Men make art, Men make music. For women to make art and music is in itself (sadly still true) a political statement. For women to make killer rock and roll with a Smash The State, Smash The Patriarchy power that The Julie Ruin brings to the stage is a revelation, a revaluation, and a revolution.

On the third day of visiting the 2014 MONA FOMA I was lamenting to myself the lack of political engagement of the artists. Sure there were many cool things to see, and hear, and taste, and there were many cool folk to mingle with and to chat. But in terms of anything that faced the urgencies of our time, there was very little.

And I wandered about the auditoriums and court yards and thought of Nietzsche:

This future speaks even now in a hundred signs, this destiny announces itself everywhere; for this music of the future all ears are cocked even now. For some time now, our whole European culture has been moving as toward a catastrophe, with a tortured tension that is growing from decade to decade: restlessly, violently, headlong, like a river that wants to reach the end, that no longer reflects, that is afraid to reflect.

Where was this music? Where was this reflection?

Art is enough singer Kathleen Hanna told the crowd, mix art with activism, with community building she further suggested to the audience. She discussed the need for unity, the need to get over that that false leftie sort of idea that we should be pure, and we should constantly cut down those who; for example, still drink milk in their fair trade tea, as opposed to the purity of soy milk. This is all crap and what is needed at this time is unity.

The band spoke warmly and honestly to the audience, and they were able to engage the usually passive Hobart crowd. Anyone that missed this show, missed a lesson in music and a lesson in politics and most vitally the missed a lesson in how music and politics can be fused as we dance round the grave about Kapital.

On a side note I thought it was of interest that the keyboard player was a bloke, was this a happy coincidence or a statement on the fact that many times there are bands in which the keyboard player is the only woman.

During the final song of the set the crowd was able to witness all the actual nature of class and gender relations in our “ freedom.” Two young women, rock and rollers and full of passion and energy, and desirous of change hurdled the barrier, into that special space between audience and performer, that space reserved for the elite few photographers and their bully boy escorts. Of course the big burly he-men bouncers pounced and man handled the women back into the seething mass, where they obviously belong.

One could see exactly what The Julie Ruin were saying. Any divergence, any deviation of the rules can not be allowed, can not be tolerated. There can be no dancing, save in the nominated places. Much like the horrid free speech areas which are popping up all over the Western World, which do no more than silence dissent.