« wigged | Main | from the sublime to the ridiculous ... »

June 29, 2005

self [help] portrait [help]


how i feel right now, after being forced to move house at short notice.

originated on provia 100f, normal proc. shot in ferrara, italy, may 2004, while on the road for The Best Job In The World™

more to follow when i get my life back ...

Posted by reuben at June 29, 2005 1:14 PM


Yes but you won't be able stretch out in luxurious despair in your new room - it's far far too small. Possibly a good thing. x.

Posted by: dancin' gal at June 29, 2005 4:53 PM

Wha happened? Hope yr okay... Missing your words and pictures. Looking forward to catching up next month.

Posted by: Patrick Pittman at June 29, 2005 5:58 PM

mm, beautiful portrait. I love the tones, your form, your reflection.

Posted by: jules at July 2, 2005 12:15 AM

Post a comment

Remember Me?

« sigur ros | Main | self [help] portrait [help] »

June 3, 2005


i've been a tireless zealot for this movie for years; bought it as a gift, made people sit through it, secretly fantasised about performing it with a crack rock ensemble somewhere with me in steven trask's role. i'm not gay, you know. but this film nearly makes me wish i was at least a transvestite ... no, the fabulousness is incidental. this film is yet another rearticulation of yeats: "there's more enterprise in walking naked". the context is relationships, and it is the truth. again, this one's a few years old, but i'm being picky...


Hedwig & The Angry Inch
Directed by John Cameron Mitchell
Starring John Cameron Mitchell, Michael Pitt, Miriam Shor

Adapted from the highly successful off-Broadway production of the same name, Hedwig is a riotous and moving treatise on the nature of finding and losing love, and the masks we wear and performances, both literal and metaphorical, we put on to hide the scars of betrayal, told through the eyes of the tortured/fabulous transsexual of the title.

If it all sounds a bit much, that's because it is, and that's partly the point: love and rock are about not doing things by halves. Love is (by its very nature, many might argue) extreme, excessive, and Hedwig - who sports [one] angry inch of penile potential due to botched gender reassignment surgery - is the personification of this approach: to loving, life, music, whatever.

We open with the deliciously sardonic Hedwig holding forth at a Sizzler-esque "Bilgewater" chain buffet, as he travels nationwide in the shadow of his ex-lover and all-round mainstream goth-rock twat/superstar Tommy Gnosis (played by a frighteningly Billy Corganesque Michael Pitt) who is making millions playing in packed stadia everywhere. With songs he stole from Hedwig.

A series of excellently edited and constructed flashbacks and animation sequences courtesy of Emily Hubley (sister of Yo La Tengo's Georgia) and set to some stunning rock songs/live performances provides further exposition. Born a young boy in East Berlin in 1961 - the year the wall went up - the then-named Hansel falls in love with rock and roll after his American GI father is thrown out by his mother. He gravitates towards the crypto-homo icons - Bowie, Iggy, Lou Reed. But it is only later, after an affair with an American GI, that Hansel - in order to be able to leave Berlin and travel to the golden west - opts for a sex change, becoming Hedwig. Of course, upon arriving in the states, Hedwig's GI abandons him for the next toyboy off the rank, and suddenly our hero finds herself adrift. So where does (s)he turn?

To rock, naturally, recruiting the Angry Inch - a wild, kickarse, vaguely East German five piece backing section. It's via a brief detour into Hedwig's first meeting with Tommy Gnosis (nee Speck) - a talentless, socially inept teen malcontent and fundamentalist Christian sociopath in-the-making with whom Hedwig falls in love - that we regroup in the present and understand the 'whys' of the band's present journey.

What makes this film so utterly beautiful is the deft directorial juggling between humour, gravity, wickedly funny costumes and one-liners (not to mention some truly excellent original rock tunes) to constitute a greater whole that explores the themes of separation and attachment, simultaneous loyalty to one's fellows or lovers and one's own goals, and the very nature of the all-consuming, perspective-distorting power of love, the very basic motives behind every human heart - gay, straight or otherwise.

In a manner vastly superior to say, Priscilla, the film manages to bypass the somehow irrelevant issue of sexual identity (which concerns itself with questions of how/who we fuck and 'why') in favour of looking at the more intriguing, and *universally* relevant, question of how and why we love.

One of the best punk-rock queer love-story comedy-musicals you'll ever see (um, maybe the only film to fit that particular permutation ... ) as poignant as it is hysterically funny. You will never look at a car wash in the same way again, honey ...

Posted by reuben at June 3, 2005 2:49 PM


big ups, rubes... i've slugged out the course-work for this semester, & am taking some time off... so expect a call from me shortly, a'ight?


Posted by: marty at June 27, 2005 7:46 PM


sorry, man - all comments go through a moderator process, thus not appearing immediately. just trying to keep away twats selling me viagara i don't need ...

life has been hard and hectic; just moved house and all the dramas that go with that. will call you this weekend.

Posted by: ruby at June 29, 2005 1:06 PM

Post a comment

Remember Me?

« peter singer interview | Main | wigged »

June 2, 2005

sigur ros

these will get more current, for sure - for now, my rationale is 'if they're gonna be out of date, they may as well be quality'. proceed at will.

trivium: i'm seeing these guys for the first time in august! drooool ...


Agaetis Byrjun

For anyone with even a slightly experimental bent, Sigur Ros' sophomore CD Agaetis Byrjun is a landmark album. Now six years old, it marked the arrival of a powerful new musical force, whose esoteric background and approach would see them morph into a quasi-mythical live and listening experience, almost the Kaiser Sose (qv. The Usual Suspects) of indie/ambient rock.

But it is only rock in the sense of its bombast and dynamics. Trying to describe the kind of aural magic this Icelandic trio weave often devolves into a surfeit of superlatives vaguely (and often ineffectively) combining drug references (usually downers), a snatch of LP-esque travelogue about the influence of the trio's volcanic-atoll home linked to their apparent sense of musical 'space' and some lip-service to the brilliant compositional device of singing in an entirely constructed, synthetic language mostly of their own invention.

Which is about as close as you can get, really; Sigur Ros are, depending on your viewpoint, beatific barbiturate lullaby-sculptors whose songs resonate in fictional time and melodic frameworks that evoke ethereal or dreamlike-states, or, less forgivingly, Yanni for the Pitchfork set. For mine, there is no real alternative to gushing when it comes to Sigur Ros - they are grandiose, visionary, perhaps a bit pretentious, but unquestionably amazing.

Imagine Portishead's understanding of beat and chilled groove crossed with Radiohead's use of dynamics and timbres, coupled with celestial, falsetto-driven vocals, droning guitars that sound like Martian whale-creatures crooning their mating songs from under layers of millennial ice ... you're nearly there.

Guitarist/vocalist Jonsi glisses drone-notes from his axe with a cello bow, a la Jimmy Page, but the similarity ends there; the signal is run through so many effects that the resulting sound simply doesn't appear to be coming from a guitar. Or this planet.

Their super high production values warrant further investigation alone: from subbie-wobbling lows (check out the segue between tracks 2 and 3) to the most shimmery high strings and brass, it's all there, gloriously balanced. The various members' backgrounds contribute to the startling sense of chiaroscuro - classical/chamber music, metal, doof/electro sonic palettes - all are reflected in the rococo compositions. Whether employing trad instrumentation or filtering over-compressed drum loops to the point of squelchy obviousness in pro-tools, the Sigur Ros touch is analogous to the meticulous attention of a master painter painstakingly mixing her 17th shade of red to get the subtleties juuuuuust right. Then flinging it with adrenalised abandon at the canvas.

And that fictional language. Referred to as 'Hopelandish' it's an amalgam of an old/faded Icelandic dialect and snatches of synthetic syllables deployed as, primarily, another sound-set or instrument. This approach perfectly complements the music, rendering the lyrics unintelligible to even their countrymen. It's more genius than pretentious in the same way that a mono photo can be more evocative than a colour pic for triggering memory; because detail is missing, a more active investment is required of the listener to 'colour in' the meaning, filling it with a personally-invested significance, making the overall whole more powerfully resonant for the highly individualised interpretations made possible.

Highlights are the thunderous Ny Batteri (New Batteries), the hopelessly addictive Svefn G Englar (Talk And Sleepers) with its mesemerising morphine mantra that sounds oddly like "it's you ..." cyclically, deliciously repeated over a descending bass and organ figure that gets down to subterranean depths, and the majestic, soaring Staralfur. Closer Avalon (no, not the Bryan Ferry track) and the similarly cyclonic Olsen Olsen are pure, strings-driven combustion.

You won't have heard this in any chart, though it might have made up the bed-track for some news piece on the ABC or BBC where some progressive young thing building their production reel got to bring their own music collection into the studio as the sonic backdrop for a story. In fact, keeping with this theme, 'cinematic' is the single adjective that best sums up Sigur Ros' ouevre: when considered in comparison to much of the music about in the noughties, the charts are dog-food jingle-ads next to this Wong Kar Wai epic-romance.

Despite their groundswell of indie-approval in the UK and Europe (they've opened tours for Radiohead, among others - these days their own shows are spoken of in reverential whispers), the only place you're likely to truly hear them is in your pumping, bloody heart.

In fact, if you can't hear the bewitching mystery in the music these guys purvey, you may not even have one.


Posted by reuben at June 2, 2005 12:22 AM


Post a comment

Remember Me?

« vanity fare | Main | sigur ros »

June 1, 2005

peter singer interview

as much as i would love to be able to place all my writing work up here at once, it's gonna have to be piecemeal, mostly due to: exes' psychotic mothers destroying physical copies, romanian thieves in turin stealing laptops (sorin vasily trifanescu, you fucking bastard may you rot in hell, slowly...) inherent personal 'mismanagement' - this is what happens when you do stuff for love rather than in the anticipation of it having some later impact upon your 'career' - and general scatteredness.

i am going to begin with a piece that might seem counterintuitive, as it's four years old and makes it look like i haven't been doing much lately (hahahahaha!), but it was a threshold for me; i'd interviewed tons of musos and such, and it was nice to have a tete a tete with a bona-fide world changer.

they say you should never meet your heroes in real life, as they'll only disappoint you. somehow i'm not surprised rivers cuomo made that true, precious fuck that he was (latest excremental weezer single 'beverly hills' is proof of the creative potential of one's navel ...). but it was lovely to find out that, as always, peter singer broke the mould (and rules) with style, charm and infallible diligence.


How Are We To Live?
An Interview with Professor Peter Singer
First Published: Grok Magazine, Issue 6, 2001

Peter Singer, one of the world's most highly regarded and well known present day philosophers of Ethics, has enjoyed a good 25 years of fame/notoriety, largely due to his outspoken, consistently liberal-humanist views on euthanasia, abortion and - perhaps most notably - the rights of non-human animals. The seminal text Animal Liberation - to the animal rights movement what Germaine Greer's The Female Eunuch was to the second wave (1960s/70s) of feminism - dramatically announced Singer's arrival to an academic pantheon that had, hitherto, consigned the rights of our non-human companions on this planet to the margins as a triviality not worthy of serious philosophical debate. Singer's revolutionary approach spoke of an equality where suffering between one being and another is equal - regardless of species - when figured in the context of that being's level of sentience.

Far from being an overtly sentimental 'animal lover', Singer's championing of the rights of animals or of the terminally ill is founded entirely in the pure philosophy of rigorous logical argument. His similar championing of the right of an incipient mother to abort - by choice - her unborn foetus is supported only in the most ardent logical language, applied in context to our working contextual definitions of 'life', 'quality of life' and sentience.

This is the crux of Singer's brand of compassionate humanism; the only viable utilitarian approach to the 'management' of life on this planet is one that approaches minimising the aggregate amount of suffering endured by the parties concerned. Currently enjoying a ten-year tenure as the Chair of Bioethics at Princeton University, Singer seems ideally positioned to directly overshadow the nascent debates on the moral quality of the emergence of the new and various genetic engineering/cloning experiments and technologies - both commercial and purely scientific - as such material takes on a growing relevance in the knowledge corpus of humanity as a whole.

[NB: This interview was conducted just prior to the release of the anthology Writings On an Ethical Life, published by Harper-Collins through Fourth Estate]

RA: Was the idea to release WOAEL at your behest, or the idea of Fourth Estate?
PS: That was the publisher in New York, that actually has a Princeton connection, so they knew of my appointment at Princeton and the controversy that it caused and had the impression, among a lot of people that he'd talked to, that a lot of them seemed to be strongly for or against my coming to Princeton, even though a lot of them hadn't read much of my work - they were getting it all second-hand from media reports that were not all very accurate ... So it was his idea, essentially, to put together a 'greatest hits', so to speak.

RA: That's a pretty flippant way to refer to some of your writing! I imagine there would be emerging Biotech companies who would pay a crap-load to have an Ethical Considerations/Impact study for, say, a new gene-shearing technique or stem-cell research process authorised by Prof. P. Singer ... why have you chosen to maintain a more or less academically driven career?
PS: Look, I think an academic environment is really an excellent one for having some time to do research and getting the stimulation from your students and your colleagues to give you new ideas and to keep you on top of the field. I think a good university background that doesn't give you so much teaching to do that you're simply exhausted with no time for anything else - is an ideal environment for a thinker in the current world and, obviously, in some ways you're freer and more independent than you would be if you were consulting for a commercial genetics firm or something like that.

RA: You've taught at many different academic institutions around the world. How is it different working in an environment that is very 'prestigious', indeed, many would even say 'elitist'? How does it compare to a more accessible tertiary institution?
PS: Well, comparing Princeton to Australian universities ... Princeton still retains the idea of the Humanities as being important for their own sake, which is rapidly disappearing from Australian universities. There seems to be so much pressure towards things which are vocationally oriented or that 'help the economy'. Princeton is very much focussed on the liberal Arts degree which gives the undergraduate a very good background in a range of different areas and which allows them to do philosophy or history or whatever, purely for the opportunity to learn. And, the university is wealthy enough to be able to employ outstanding academic staff and give them relatively light teaching loads, which means that, for the teaching that you do do, you're obviously more enthusiastic because you're not doing too much of it, and, at the same time keep abreast of your field and keep your research going, which is hard now in the Australian university environment.

RA: How do you feel about the action of more militant animal liberationist groups like PETA, or more accurately, some of their extremist off-shoots? Do they perhaps take some of your principles and and enact them in ways that don't actually conform to a consistent model of ethical behaviour?
PS: Essentially, I'd draw the line at violence. I don't support any animal group that uses violence to attack other people or threaten them. But, short of that, if organizations are using unorthodox tactics or civil disobedience or something like that, in a sincere effort to improve conditions for animals, I think that's something that's a reasonable thing to do, given the way that animals are abused, I can understand people being prepared to do that.

RA: The most noticeable thing about your writing - like a lot of other professional philosophers - is your avoidance of emotive language at almost any cost. You seem to focus strictly on argument consistency in accordance with the rules of logic, as if to super-rigorise a topic that many would argue could easily be sidetracked by digressions into sentimentality ...
PS: Yes, well that's exactly right. I think that's actually - specifically - my contribution to that discussion. There's already plenty of polemical material around on that topic that is essentially building a case and will invoke anything it can find in order to strengthen the case, whether it's emotional appeals or whatever else, different points that might be inconsistent with each other but that might be heading in the same direction ... I think a lot of the time that these discussions need to be thought through a little more coolly, to try and build a consistent, reasoned approach.

RA: Given that the material you deal with is often inherently politicised, what is your explanation for the variance between government or legislated positions on the management of life/suffering between ostensibly similar administrations? I'm thinking specifically of affluent, Western, predominantly middle-class nations like Australia and, say, The Netherlands - who are similar in many ways - yet have radically different approaches to, say, policy on euthanasia?
PS: That's a very good question. It's really difficult to say, in general. In the case of the Netherlands ... for a very long time it's been a country that's put a high value on tolerance. It's always been a country that's been divided, religiously, between Protestants and Catholics and so religious tolerance goes back centuries there as a basic means of holding society together, and I think that tradition has built up and developed. So people there might say, on an issue like that of voluntary euthanasia 'well maybe I don't want voluntary euthanasia, but it's not my business to tell someone else how they should die, that's a question for them to decide themselves'. And the same would be true of their attitude towards abortion and, of course, toward their attitude to drug use, to a large extent. So the Netherlands is a country with a strong emphasis on culture. By contrast, if you look at, say, the US ... although religious tolerance has been important in some sense, there is still a lot of really conservative religious fundamentalism, which basically doesn't exist in Western Europe and doesn't exist in Australia either, and I think that's really changed the nature of the debate in the US on a lot of these issues.

RA: So what would your position be on the so-called 'abortion ship' [operated by Rebecca Grompert, which picked up Irish women wanting abortions, sailed out to International Waters and then performed said abortions in sterile, safe conditions]? Clearly she was acting on her own pro-choice principles, yet she was directly contravening the 'wishes' of the Irish state. Is this ethical?
PS: I think what she was trying to do was to get around the law - rather than contravening it - in those circumstances, by taking the women outside territorial waters and, you know, if that's what the women in question wanted, then I would certainly support that.

RA: So it's a case of 'adhere to the rule of law, because it is the rule of law that binds us all in society' ... but if the law is an ass, then the law is an ass?
PS: ... and, if there are non-violent means of getting around that law, then yes, by all means ... maybe that can be justifiable. You would need to look at each case individually, but with regard to the types of cases that particular project was about, I would say that most of them would have been justifiable.

RA: You are a practicing vegetarian. Do you have any pets?
PS: No, not these days. When the kids were smaller we had a stray cat that needed a home, and a couple of lab rats that needed rescuing.
RA: Yes, it seems you're not known as an 'animal lover' per se, but rather driven by your objective interest in the way humans profess and/or contradict the doctrine of respect for life ...
PS: I have emphasised that idea because so many people see the animal movement as driven by people who are animal lovers - in a sentimental sense - and then think 'well, I don't really love animals so I don't really have to think about this'. But I want people to see that they *ought* to think about it, whatever their emotional attitude toward animals. That doesn't mean I don't have feelings for animals myself.

RA: On an episode of [BBC comedy series] Da Ali G Show, Ali posed the following conundrum to a mixed forum of vegetarians and animal rights activists: he said - 'if I had a chicken here and gave you, a vegetarian, a chicken burger and said "eat this or I'll kill another chicken" what would you do?' What's the correct ethical line to take here?
PS: [laughs] A dilemma you don't want to be in, I guess ... Um, I would be prepared to eat the burger to save the chicken. The burger is a small part of the aggregate suffering and killing of an animal, whereas the chicken's life - in that situation - hangs in the balance, with my actions as the fulcrum, so yeah. I have a greater obligation to the living chicken than the already dead one, I guess [laughs].

RA: And what of the fictional animal in Douglas Adams' H2G2, who consciously, knowingly wants to be eaten? If genetics evolves to the point where such a livestock could be bred ... would we have a moral obligation to eat them, if abstaining from such activities might otherwise cause them frustration or suffering?
PS: If you really could ... if they actually looked forward to it and could demonstrably show they were caused to suffer by your refusal to eat them, then yes, I guess the right thing would be to eat them [laughs]. I don't get cravings to eat meat, though, if that's what you're getting at ...
RA: No.
PS: I know too much about the actual workings of various types of intensive farming practices ...

Posted by reuben at June 1, 2005 11:56 AM


Post a comment

Remember Me?