Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Antinomies of the Capitalist Libido

"The trouble with the emphasis in conservatism on the market is that it becomes rather boring. You hear it once, you master the idea. The notion of devoting your life to it is horrifying if only because it's so repetitious. It's like sex."

William F. Buckley

Friday, June 13, 2008

The monopoly of violence

"Just what I needed, is a college boy. ... What's your degree? ... Sociology? You'll go far. That's if you live. ... Just don't let your college degree get you killed."

Clint Eastwood as Harry Callahan in Dirty Harry, 1971

[This is the epigram to Cop in the Hood, a sociologist's "participant observation" of the Baltimore police force, part of the bibliography for a co-written piece on The Wire, devaluation and spatio-temporal fixes - hopefully the first installment of a Marxian HBO trilogy alongside Deadwood and primitive accumulation and the Sopranos and... waste management?]

Schopenhauer and the Komodo Dragon, or, The Dark Side of Vitalism

"Yunghalm relates that he saw in Java a plain far as the eye could reach entirely covered with skeletons, and took it for a battlefield; they were, however, merely the skeletons of large turtles, five feet long and three feet broad, and the same height, which come this way out of the sea in order to lay their eggs, and are then attacked by wild dogs (Canis rutilans), who with their united strength lay them on their backs, strip off their lower armour, that is, the small shell of the stomach, and so devour them alive. But often then a tiger pounces upon the dogs. Now all this misery repeats itself thousands and thousands of times, year out, year in. For this, then, these turtles are born. For whose guilt must they suffer this torment ? Where fore the whole scene of horror? To this the only answer is : it is thus that the will to live objectifies itself."

Arthur Schopenhauer, The World as Will and Representation (Vol. 2: Supplements to the Second Book)

Cf. John Vidal, from yesterday's Guardian:

I have seen hell, and it is indisputably on Rinca Island in Indonesia. This Komodo dragon-infested spot is where three British divers who got caught in a rip tide washed up last week. Far from being "misunderstood" reptiles who only "occasionally" attack humans, as my G2 colleague Jon Henley described them afterwards, the Rinca dragons engage in what must be the vilest animal practices ever witnessed by man. I met three particularly nasty ones last year. We had walked past a few harmless-looking dragons sunning themselves in the bush or lurking under the stilts of houses, and were not beyond thinking we could be friends when we reached a water hole. A large buffalo was lying on its side, clearly having been brought down by two 6ft dragons and one that was even larger. The three reptiles were crawling over it, and during the next 24 hours they proceeded to eat it alive.

The first dragon had grabbed it by its testicles and was starting to chew its way into the body from below. The second dragon was slowly forcing the buffalo's head open and was going down its throat. The third was, as they say, going in the back door. To make an already grisly scene far worse, the whole slow-motion kill was being conducted in deep mud. After a few hours all was black - apart from the blood that occasionally bubbled up from the muddy depths, the white saliva that sometimes oozed from the buffalo's mouth and the bright, flickering forked tongues of the three dragons, which were forever darting around. Slippery things slithered slowly over other slippery things until it was hard to tell whose tail was whose, where one body started and another stopped and who was doing what to whom. The smell was fetid, the heat intense. Every so often the buffalo shuddered and tried to rise. Was it really still alive? We watched from a few feet away, our guide armed only with a stick, transfixed and disgusted like us. Our stomachs heaved. The buffalo continued to twitch.

We left and returned several times; each time the horror was more complete. The next day, two Americans told us that the three dragons had got deep inside the buffalo, which was still twitching.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Profondo Rosso (Italian Prog, '68-'78)

Some years ago, reading a somewhat pulpy but rather intriguing chronicle of the Red Brigades, I found out that the kidnapping of Christian Democrat party president Aldo Moro, in 1978, was almost scuppered when one of the kidnappers, an ex-Potere Operaio member by the name of Germano Maccari, left the apartment where they were holding Moro... to sneak into a Santana concert. Ever since, I've been puzzling about the connections between Italy's red decade of movementism, feminism, autonomism and (counter-)terrorism ('68-'78) and music.

The political novelty of French May '68 was famously far ahead of its capacities for cultural, and especially musical innovation, as this Gauche Proletarienne ditty exhaustively proves. The German scene over the same period, on the other hand - whether in Guru Guru's links to the SDS or CAN ("communism, anarchism, nihilism") - seems at least in part to suggest that unmoored from the need to express politics, because steeped in its everyday presence, rock might find other ways of being political, or indeed progressive.

Until recently, my only knowledge of the Italian prog scene amounted to a passion for The Best Italian Band of All Time. Spurred by a drunken chat with the fine post-workerist economist Andrea Fumagalli, who sang their praises, it seems that the Italian band Area (International POPular Group), cut a middle swath between the French populism of content over form and the German eschewal of political message in a transfigured everyday (CAN as 'anarchistic community'). Witness Area's rather twisted fusion rendering of the Internationale to follow on the Tuvan one in the earlier post.

Or their track from their Arbeit Macht Frei album (the Nazi slogan has often been referred to by the autonomist left in Italy to dispute the constitution's declaration that Italy is "a republic founded on work", for the sake of the strategy of refusal of work), on the Palestinian Black September (in the interval between the song their Greek singer Demetrios Stratos declares the need to "abolish the distinction between music and life"):

A more PCI-prone band, Stormy Six, very much liked by the composer Luigi Nono and part of Henry Cow's Rock in Opposition, took a slightly more doctrinaire line with the rousing folk-rock anthem Stalingrado ("a woman of granite lives on a thousand barricades / on the icy roads the crooked cross knows it will find Stalingrad in every city"):


A future post I'm sure will have to deal with Italian post-punk in the counter-revolution of the late 70s and 80s, when bands such as CCCP Fedeli alla Linea (trans. Faithful to the Line) flourished (above: the cover of their seminal album "Affinities and Divergences between Comrade Togliatti and Us: On Reaching Maturity").

Friday, June 06, 2008

Somos todos monos con memes

(Salvador Dalì, Six apparitions of Lenin on a Grand Piano, 1931)

We are all monkeys with memes. This felicitous dubbing of Richard Dawkins for a Spanish TV interview has stayed with me, a comical appendix to his utterly unworkable concept. That said, interpellated by Poetix, to further another such "meme" (or meh-meh, as I like to pronounce it in Spanish) here go my Seven Songs of Spring.

1. The Tuvan Internationale
This throat-sung call for the proletariat of the steppes to rise up against their sedentary oppressors, should accompany every political march. It might, to quote Mario Tronti, "once again make capitalists scared".

2. Geeshie Wiley, "Last Kind Words"

One of the most infinitely, wrenchingly sad blues songs I know, recorded in March 1930. Capable even of instilling in R. Crumb "a love for humanity".

3. Battles, "Leyendecker"

Somehow a band featuring the drummer from Helmet and the son of Anthony Braxton fills a niche. I like its cheery relentlessness.

4. Om, "Pilgrimage"

This is probably a substitute for my fantasy of having the complete Sabbath with the rhythm section alone. Irrationalism writ large of course - wish it had been out when I was in my stoner teens. I might have even appreciated the Song Remains the Same effects on the fire in the video...

5. Madvillain, "Monkey Suite"

Somos todos monos con memes.

6. Jedi Mind Tricks, "Outlive the War"

Just remember, you "get laced with the Luger / If you sympathize with the Hellenization of Judah". From an Islamist Italian-American from Philly (Vinnie Pazienza, great name) and my favourite DJ, the wonderfully named "Stoupe the Enemy of Mankind".

7. Atahualpa Yupanqui, "El Poeta"

A great communist folk-singer from the pampas of Argentina.