Tuesday, 26 February 2008

A Party in Hell

 There's this French party, a party in hell, with hundreds of international kids speaking languages I can't understand. So I'm the Alien.

It's not an aggressive scene or even rowdy but it's loud and pushing through the narrow corridors in this fucking maze of a house—a slithering mass of inebriated students, smoking and drinking and spilling, from the back kitchen and smoke pit, through all these bodies lining the corridor and down the stairs, to the cellar-turned-electro-dancehall. Back and forth, back and forth we go.

The dancehall—dark and sweaty and low ceilings and pillars standing in the way like catatonia and I move my hips and beat my fist on the ceiling to the pulse, the restless rhythm with all the beautiful Spanish. And one, maybe French, pure erotic, the way she sways through her world and twirls around mine and his and hers, pure electric sex ‘n’ slender eyes ‘n’ long legs ‘n’ body ‘n’ hair black as the corner of the cavern and mmmmmmmmmmm

I move on upstairs with another round of exiles, always another end to the mass moving through the mob. Pushing through the smoke, the clanging bottles and all these accents and languages. Get caught up with someone I know along the way. And again. And again. And George the Canadian clangs my bottle, said: “Y’know, if a fire broke out no one would make it alive.” My God! No windows! Two exits! So I move to the back, to the kitchen, across to the smoke pit just for some air. Yet pure oxygen is hard to come by  with the billowing of carcinogenic clouds proliferating about and above the brick walls. Up, towards the row of apartments with lamp -light beaming through closed blinds. Patrick the Polish sees this, and in broken English, warns the pooolice arrh cahming but I brush it off because the English understand parties. Bless your soul, Patrick, but they’d never call the cops, forget it Patrick.

And I go back in to push and slither with the rest and try to talk, maybe converse, but no one understands because they’re French or German or whatever, it doesn’t matter, I’m the Alien. So I move on and on just to do it again because the pushing and the slithering is half the fun…

...until mid-journey and 3:30 am there are two lady officers in neon and silly hats, pigs sliding through the Spanish clogging the corridor. One asks me: “Whose house is this?” and she asks another, and another, and another but nobody knows, of course not! Who would? So the two pushed on, toward the stairs, all official and obtuse in their neon and the leader, the speaker, mumbles into her radio: “We’re in the party. We’re in the party.” She looks down the stairs at all these kids moving on up with matted hair and red eyes and that damned understanding that the neon’s arrived. An officer turns, asks no one in particular: “What’s down here?” “DANCING.” Of course!

The pigs move down and Michael the French—or maybe Spanish?—offers to show them someone who lives at the house. “But what’s the problem?” he asks. “The problem is I need to speak to the owner.” And someone yells “Fuck the police!” like someone always, always will in times like these and when every around goes sssshhhhhhhhhhhhh, shut the fuck up, shut UP! we have no one to thank but NWA.

And before very long I’m outside and eight other cops, men in their hats, are managing the party as it’s spilling outside. And back in, through the corridor, a tall one, a proper pig, is yelling: “Everybody out! Everybody out!” and maybe thinking exactly what I was thinking, maybe, that what a fire hazard this party had become! A windowless maze with cigarette ash mashed into the carpet, burns on the walls, smoke filling all empty space not occupied by human bodies. If ever a fire broke out…

“Everybody out!" 

And so here we are, hundreds out front, an international loitering mess chattering away in all these languages while the pigs search the house for drugs. We’ll all be charged if they find anything illegal, or so says Vlad the Russian. It's nonsense, of course, but I leave anyway before the house has been hollowed. I leave with some Estonians.

Map Assignment

This is a map for an assignment. Yah huh.


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Tuesday, 19 February 2008

Submarine of Love

A friend said he hates the Beatles. I asked why and he sang: “We all live in a yellow submarine.”

And then he said: “What rubbish.”

It's his problem, not mine. I’ve met a few of these nescient buggers and they typically reference “Yellow Submarine” as a testament to the Beatles’ alleged overrated legacy. I argued with my dear friend. I got flustered, red in the face. I questioned how I could be friends with this man to begin with. What a shame! that the Beatles should be remembered for that song by so many of the uninitiated, the world over. Of all the wit and insight and infectious melodies the Beatles brought, of so many (so many!) songs, “Yellow Submarine” is the staple.

On the other hand, Revolver, the 1966 album on which "Yellow Submarine" was originally released, deserves to be remembered as the essential Beatles album. It was arguably their last display as a tight functioning unit, before egos and drugs and money got in the way of all that the love. Revolver was the album that funneled their past, swirled it in Tibeten philosophy and new heartbreak and LSD and a new social consciousness and spewed them forward into their future. I’ve memorized every chord, lyric, hidden sound in the sonic foray of that entire album and the only song I could never fully embrace was “Yellow Submarine.” It’s a silly, childish song…

...and it dawns on me, discussing with my friend, that this exactly why the song is a classic. It's silly! Childish! Juvenile whimsy is what made the Beatles so damned loveable to begin with. Watching those old black and white clips of their first visit to America is like seeing four kid brothers farting around with each with all who were watching. They were in a bubble all their own. Life at that time was like their own private joke.

They could be lyrically downbeat in those early days—remembering lost love, girlfriends being untrue or whatever—but “I’m Down” could have been a far more depressing affair if it weren’t for that potent youngster energy surging through the song. The Beatles had a way of making a broken heart sound so gleeful. They didn’t just write songs, they played with them and “Yellow Submarine” was the apex of that. They were stoned and probably quite giddy when it was written. They had the world hanging by locks of flowing dippy hair in 1966 and they crafted a 2:38 minutes of aural juvenility with which the whole world could sing along.

But the song isn’t representative of the Beatles’ catalogue as a whole. To base one’s attitude of any artist solely on one song or painting or poem is like writing off all ice cream because you don’t like bubblegum. Songs like “Taxman”, “Blackbird”, “I Want to Hold Your Hand” and “A Day in the Life” are incomparable in their sound, in their depth. There’s a thematic and philosophical thread running through these songs and, like "Yellow Submarine," they're important nuggets in the group's oeuvre but they exist on different levels of the band's understanding of their primary subject: that is, love as a governing force. How it affects the human psyche. How it affects the whole of humanity and how we're all in this obnoxiously bright sea vessel of existence together. "All together now... "

This is part of what makes the Beatles so appealing to so many people in so many places. This must also be why certain souls can't latch so easily. Maybe they feel love is at a loss. Or childhood is a pain. Or fun is strictly for weekends. Whayever. If they don't want in on the Yellow Submarine that’s their problem. Not mine.

Tuesday, 12 February 2008

The Warehouse

a)

I felt England this weekend at the Warehouse, Preston’s three-floor testament to alternative culture. It’s a dog’s fart compared to the London scene but that city’s imprint is still undeniable in the North, especially with regards to the hair.

The Hair. Cut to look shaggy but combed and styled to perfection. A man’s hair should never be combed—nature should have its way with his scalp, show the world the beasts we really are. Limited finger manipulation is acceptable and maybe a little product for the truly unfortunate. But these cool kids? With the super slim jeans? What the hell…?

The hipster elitists were there. They’re easy to spot. They want to be. They don’t dance. They sip drinks on the side. They have the Hair and a fine-tooth fashion sense. Expressionless faces. Some wear ties. Cardigans. Flannel. Middle Eastern scarves—the ones everyone wears, the kind I’m wearing now.

I’m no stranger to hipster snobbery—Vancouver is full of it. But back home the ‘cool kids’ model themselves after the British elite. They think it’s original but I know, the outsiders know, and surely the cool kids themselves know, on some level, it’s just hand-me-down chic they pass off as original. But Snooty Bohemian is what they are so they own it. I don’t blame them. Vancouver doesn’t have much that’s its own.

It’s different in the UK. England made this style. They arguably have one up on New York when it comes to fashion. There’s nothing self-conscious about these UK hipsters—they seem to believe they really are the Hot Shit. And maybe they are…to some regulating entity that dictates this kind of thing.

Maybe they feel they’re original or offbeat—and perhaps as individuals they are. But as a mass, they’re only drifting along the same shallow stream of culture like the rest of us. Whether they’re of a different school or class or culture or whatever doesn’t really matter—they’re just like everyone else in that they’re only interested in something. That really doesn’t mean much in terms of our humanity. What sets them apart is that their pretentiousness turns them into assholes in the eyes of everyone else looking in.

I should have been partying or dancing instead of gawking at these hip freaks in their leather jackets, thinking about all this. I was leaning against a wall and wishing I had hair like that.

I sipped my beer. I knew better than that, that proving oneself to the world can only be on our own terms, not on any based on any fashion or music or philosophy. Take from as many different ideas as possible, ideas that are of interest to the I. Not because someone else thinks highly of them but because they suit our individual selves. The foundations of Western culture is based on the individual and yet so many stick to what others have proposed. Fatten up on other ideas. Don’t feed purely off the junk of Pitchfork magazine…

b)

Then again, these people might not read Pitchfork, based on the music they’re dancing to. The ground floor, the busiest floor, spun British indie rock all night and (gasp!) it all sounded the same. Arctic Monkeys what?

I hate to say such a thing more than I hate Hate itself—and as a writer it’s a lazy way to describe anything—but there’s no other way to put it. Clich├ęs have their purpose. "All the music sounded more or less the same." College kids in cardigans and scarves bobbed along and guzzled beer. The women did something that I suppose resembled dancing but in a room full of white folks that never works out. Besides, the music wasn’t exactly danceable…

I’m not ragging on indie rock—whatever that means—or the merit of British music as a whole. This island has provided the templates for great music of all varieties. Radiohead are the King Biscuit in my books, never mind the Beatles or Bowie or British Sea Power.

But right now, there’s very little making its way across the Atlantic that can appeal to the North American taste. There’s desperation for change and a call for progress happening on that side—politically, socially, spiritually and, as a result, artistically. Musically. Leading ‘indie’ acts like Arcade Fire and Animal Collective sound nothing like their peers. There is a template for indie music, of course! whether it's North American, British or whatever, but there’s something progressive happening over there that I now realize to be unique to North America.

Most of what’s passing as indie in the UK is, on the surface at least, quirky riffage, youthful howling and college anthems. Entrails of the zeitgeist. Indie for indie’s sake. There’s a reason the Rascals are popular only in Britain.

This is more or less what I was thinking about watching drunks stumble and sway along the dance floor, sometime between midnight and 2 a.m. Some kid, Dominic Monaghan identical twin brother? kept bouncing along, snarling, shouting along to every word of every song. He was living it. What I r thought then couldn’t have made a difference—nor should have it. My opinions are only mine. Those words and those sounds, that night, were his youth and he was but one in a crowd loving and taking it all. None of my bitching about the scene or anti-social behaviour could ever change that.

I sucked at the bottle and danced to the best I could. A multi-coloured strobe light washed over the crowd, over my face and in my eyes so I ducked out, raised my hand in the air. Another song, “Hey Boys, Hey Girls”…as the lights danced on my hand, on my wrist, washed up my arm. And the beat, it pulsed and I danced and I think I lost my key that night but I didn’t care. I was living youth too that night. I was living England, tragic music and cardigans be damned.

Monday, 11 February 2008

Why so dense?

I can't understand Martin Buber. Not in my room, not in the library, not at Cafe Nero with these two nitwit, horse-faced wenches giggling every 25 seconds. Buber's writing doesn't appeal to my 21st century hunger for bullet paragraphs packed with information. I need it all laid out, fast and clear language. Things may have been different in the mid-20th century but, phooey! excuses are excuses. Why would anyone write in such an opaque language? Isn't the idea to appeal to the most people possible? The widest possible audience?

This has little to do with UK entertainment, I know, I know, except that a great many British writer have bewildered the dim with their long-winded prose. Say what you will about "Heart of Darkness," Conrad never cared about the masses. He had his audience, the snob. Intelligent writers should at least try to appeal to the idiot. They need the most help after all...

Tuesday, 5 February 2008

Missionary!

I have a mission, it seems, to write about entertainment. UK entertainment, to be exact. This is not my preference but my grades depend on it.

I know very little about this subject, beyond the rise of New Rave, the (supposed) superiority of the British version of 'The Office' and Sophie Howard's breasts.

SO! the blog will be more of a discussion and critique of British media as seen by a crusty young North American-cum-visitor as it relates to a crusty young North American-cum-visitor, and thus North America as a whole.

(I know this because God came to me some weeks ago in the form of a burning bush. I thought this strange because it was raining. I was not stoned. He told me my opinions are that of the whole of North America. I told him he must be stoned. He turned me to dust. I apologized. He returned me to human form and said, 'Be gone, young man!' And I was.)

The blog will be used not just to dissect UK media but UK culture as a whole, because media is nothing more than a reflection of a culture's desires, intelligence and history. As I said, I know very little of any of this. So this should be fun...

MY FIRST NOTE:

I can't escape Britney's twat. Slogging through UK entertainment blogs like the Guardian, Yahoo and Mr. Entertainment, I've noticed that over half (!) of all entertainment news in this country is brought from across the Atlantic. Britney needs a mental exam. Lohan's still on drugs. Paris...something, something. Hollywood's PR community is so muscular the whole WORLD can feel it flex.

I'm not sure why this suprises me right now. I've been over on this side before. I've walked through Piccadilly Circus and seen the Hollywood movie banners plastered across buildings and billboards with screaming lights. I've been picked through a Hello! magazine on more than one occaison to find all the pages filled with the same made-up faces I see day in and day out on my mother's coffee-table copies of People Magazine...save for the photo spread of the Beckhams...who now live in America.

I think it's sad, not for England's dwiddling celebrity power--or even the world's lack thereof. I'm sad because I desperately wanted to leave all this garbage back at home, across the pond. But no. There's Britney, in full resolution and crazy as ever.