Thursday, 27 August 2015

Ahoy Facebook!

A lot of the writing I send out into the web-sphere is now on Facebook. The thing with that inordinately self-important, narcissistic, inane and self-absorbed social network is that is more interactive. People respond to what you write and you can often start some pretty lively discussions. Blogger is less interactive in that sense. I definitely, definitely 100% prefer Blogger. You can write discursively and have your own column. You might get a lot of visits, but there ain't as much interaction.

Facebook is a sad little place, really. Big place, rather. Very big place. The biggest place in the world, even if it's virtual. Everyone takes an interest in each other's petty little lives. A few people even taken an interest in mine. I don't write about myself though, I write little micro opinion pieces. I say 'micro,' when they're actually some of the longest statuses out there. (Insert rant as to how culture is decadent and dumbed down here.) But it does generate mild interest from some people, mind you.

I have written about some of the topics on this blog here. If haven't, it means that I intend to write about them here time soon. Therefore, it's perfectly reasonable to post these little bits and bobs here.

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The free market is competitive. In fact, that's all it is - competition. The free market also says: if you end up with the best job, earn millions, have a swanky car in your green lawn, you have WON. You have MERIT. You are better than a person living in some shack. The free market is like nature, a constant tug-of-war to be the best. A weakling/weirdo cannot compete because he lacks the confidence and stamina. If you are such a person, you think to yourself - 'fuck it, this is stupid.' You cut off all ties with the other competitors. You go a cabin in the woods to write strange novels and abstruse essays. It might not seem like it but, if you follow their terminology, you have won. Their quest for competition is ephemeral. You, on the other hand, have accomplished what western civilisation has venerated since ancient antiquity: the desire to create an isolated object which might potentially last. It probably won't, but you might as well have a stab at something far nobler than competition: posterity.


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Something I find disturbing about a lot of hard leftists is the way they seem to deflect blame from foreign tyrants and despots. Yes, I do agree that US foreign policy SHOULD be severely criticised. Yes, the war against Iraq DID create a failed state in Iraq whereby Isis could make a lot of ground. But does that in any way absolve Isis' heinous behaviour? And I don't see how EU foreign policy is overly connected with Putin's annexation of Crimea and sending military support to Russian rebels. Yes, perhaps sanctions are not the best strategy. But does that make Putin any less of a repressive despot? Can't we recognise this? Can't we have a more nuanced view of the world whereby we recognise war crimes committed by foreign despots as well as those committed by the US and Europe?

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What pisses me off about contemporary secular humanists is that they assume that science is a force that can provide meaning. It never can and it never will. Science can explain causality, but it can't explain the meaning of causality. Science is now displacing religion and philosophy. If you have psychological problems, you don't turn to a priest nor to a therapist. You turn to a scientist. If you want to know about morality, you turn to a neuroscientist who gives you some bogus statistics saying 'this is morality.' If you want a 'scientific society' with over-inflated claims about what science can do, you only need to take a cursory glance at Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union.

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An injustice: as a teenager you have all the time in the world to write and read when your efforts are sophomoric and immature and you don't have much knowledge. When you're older you mature your style and content, and you broaden your knowledge and interests, but you have no time to exert any of it as you have to work or study!

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Last night I dreamed that I found a book called 'Space, Time and Infinity' in an underground cellar without gravity. I searched for the title online and it so transpires that a book with that title really exists. It's a collection of essays on sci-fi and fantastic literature whereas the title that appeared in my dream was a philosophy book:

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/3141720-space-time-and-infinity?from_search=true&search_version=service

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Ornette Coleman, alto saxophonist and pioneer of free jazz, passed away yesterday. I remember when I was about 14/15 I only had about 20 records I cared about and I spent most of my time listening to them. 'The Shape of Jazz to Come' was among them (alongside Zappa, Miles Davis, Beefheart and a couple of other artists!). I've always loved Ornette's idiosyncratic style on the sax - it is quirky, peculiar and highly expressive. There's a lot more melody than people recognise in all of his records (even 'Free Jazz') and, by the standards of later freestyle jazz, he sounds quite conservative. Sometimes you scratch your head and think - why did some guy smash his saxophone in disgust? Why did he create such an uproar? This stuff's great! 'Lonely Woman' might well be my favourite jazz tune. RIP.


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Idea for a utopian society: all labour, all industry and all aspects of the economy are completed by machines/robots. This creates capital which is evenly distributed to all citizens. All citizens have seminars/discussions on philosophy, the arts, political theory and the sciences. Without the burden of labour, the average individual is free to pursue creative/intellectual inquiry and his individual interests. Everything I wrote above is masturbatory nonsense. Why? Because humans, despite economic and political changes, remain the same - imperfect.

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Political correctness is often desirable. I don't think black people should be called 'niggers,' I don't think gay people should be called 'fags,' I don't think Pakistani people should be called 'pakis' and I don't think think that women should be called 'bitches.' But there are limits. Can't we play around ironically with these stereotypes within fictional or satirical contexts? As soon as any of the words above are uttered, a witch-hunt often ensues. What's more, I don't think anyone should be turned into persona non grata for holding any of these views. (I'm thinking of the scientist who made those 'sexist' remarks and was stripped of his academic role.) If you disagree with him, you should engage in a discussion as to why you find those views repellent. In a democracy, you have discussion. What we have now, in many ways, is a new form of liberal authoritarianism.

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Apparently Jeremy Corbyn is a 'radical leftist.' This just goes to show what a really topsy-turvy world we live in now. None of his policies would have been an iota controversial 35 years ago. Renationalise the railways? Not at all controversial 35 years ago. (In fact, the railways were under public ownership until not so long ago...) Nuclear disarmament? Perfectly normal position to take 35 years ago. Anti-austerity? Again, perfectly normal 35 years ago. I tremble to think what the press would say if any of the rabid socialists and unionists from 1979's winter of discontent were around today. The world has really take a 180 degree turn. The worse thing is that these 'radical leftist' beliefs are shared by rather large proportion of the population.
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John Gray has written that Margaret Thatcher, through her economic policies, would create a truly conservative society that harked back to the 1950s. He writes that she, in fact, did the opposite - she destroyed deference and helped foster irresponsible/loutish behaviour, market individualism and social liberalism. I would go further. What the Conservatives feel so nostalgic about - Gray recognises this, actually - is post-war Labour collectivism. The Conservatives are actually the ones who have done the least for conservatism. The whole feel of that era - prosperity, prim and proper behaviour, the nuclear family - was thanks to social democracy. The people who did the most for conservatism in this country were British socialists.

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Cuando era chico era lector ávido de la historieta 'Barrabases.' Básicamente involucraba los cuentos más absurdos en el mundo: Chile le gana a todos los equipos fácilmente. Chile históricamente ha generalmente sido un equipo tan penoso que a muchos niños les consolaba leer esos comics. Ahora, con esta gran generación, ha transcurrido un partido que podría haber sido un episodio de Barrabases: Chile, de manera aguerrida y heroica, le gana a Argentina en la final de la Copa América. Un sueño.

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Camille Paglia makes for a thoroughly entertaining thinker. Yes, her conclusions a lot of the time are reactionary and simplistic. And yes, her rhetoric is shrill and hyperbolic. But I still have more time for her than most feminist thinkers. This is because 1) she acknowledges basic truths about male sexuality - that it's aggressive and that men inevitably tend to objectify the female form + 2) rejects the silly-assed post-modern idea that there's no difference between gender, which goes against common sense and biology. Still, she can go off the boil when she argues that 1) men historically have enjoyed more privileges because they are 'stronger' and hence get top notch positions for that reason and 2) argues that women shouldn't feel victimised when they get raped once having blatantly flaunted their sexuality. Negative point no.2 is obviously very contentious and somewhat attention-seeking. Nonetheless, it is good to entertain shocking ideas rather than rejecting them on the grounds of 'moral outrage.'


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This typewriter was my birthday present. It finally arrived. Typewriters are sexy but cumbersome things, so I'm unsure if I'll use it that much. The idea for the gift germinated after I mentioned an idea for a PHD thesis. It's just an idea that I'm entertaining, but I that I hope don't get too serious about. The PHD title would be 'The Typewriter as an Agent of Literary Creativity in Film.' I would use David Cronenberg's 'Naked Lunch' and the Coen Brothers' 'Barton Fink' as examples. This would allow me to research and analyse literature as well as film. I would also get to write to write about William Burroughs and, to a lesser extent, William Faulkner (only a minor character in 'Barton Fink'). The reasons why I wouldn't do the PHD are: 1) Most academics and PHD students are a lot more intelligent and knowledgeable than me. That intidimadates me. 2) I don't think that my academic acumen is that, that sky-rocketingly high to do a PHD. 3) It would be stressful and a fuck-load of work. 4) Embarking on this for 3/4 + years mean that I wouldn't get to read all of the books I'm really keen to read nor write my little creative literary projects. However, good reasons to do it are: 1) Most jobs are fucking shit and they do your head in. 2) I'm waaaaaaay too weak to compete in this dog-eat-dog free market economy. 3) I like the idea of being a perpetual student and a perpetual teenager who doesn't have to engage with the real world.

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Very, very encouraged by the election of Tim Farron for the Liberal Democrats and the possible election of Jeremy Corbyn for the Labour party. I have always being stuck by the utter vacuity of arguments given by modernisers. What's the point in mimicking the Conservatives just so as to get elected? What difference does that even make? The election of Blair might well have just been a historical freak. Also, think about it logically. If the electorate are presented with option A which really means what it says and an insincere + ingratiating option B that doesn't mean what it says, then the electorate is going to vote for option A. They're going to vote for the real thing. All political parties should remain true to their principles and to their founding ethos. Otherwise, political discourse degenerates into nothing more than bland sameness.

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I was watching the last minute or so of one of the many Labour leadership debates on the telly. Each candidate finished by summarising their main campaign strategy. Andy Burnham predictably said 'Westminster is an isolated elite common people feel isolated from. Politics is the game of a privileged elite. Yada-yada-yada.' Ok, it's perfectly fine to say that as a general comment. It's nothing earth-shattering. It's a bit banal. It's even a bit of a truism. But how does that amount to a campaign strategy, you stupid idiot?! The more I read and hear about Burnham, the less I find. I think that I may even go for Yvette Cooper as my second choice and I have NEVER liked Yvette Cooper.

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Mark E. Smith's lyrics are usually so cryptic and arcane that when he comes up with something really quite direct, it surprises you. These songs are usually his most moving. (The song 'Bill is Dead' simply has the line 'These are the best days of my life.') What I like about this song is that Smith is acknowledging the fact that most people find him incomprehensible and cranky: 'Trying to get stuff out you is like getting blood out of a stone.' This is like James Joyce in his death bed who, before dying, was heard to say 'does anyone understand me?'


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Arthouse cinemas aren't making as much money because of internet and other digital media. What has their response being? To gentrify them. To go to an arthouse is now like going to the opera house or the theatre. Before you go in, you pay for £10 for a bottle of wine. They charge £10 for the ticket itself. The seats are deluxe with plenty of leg room. What the heck?! This is catering both to the hipster market and to toffs. This is the 'Curzon' aesthetic. Hipsters like these cinemas because they think that they are 'cool' (and they usually have a lot of money). Toffs like them because they are effete and sophisticated. Riff-raff/losers like me, who are obsessed with these films, can't get in all the time because losers by their very nature can't make money. The aesthetic of an arthouse cinema has always being to screen these obscure international films and classics in abandoned warehouses, to project them on a wall with plaster peeling off. Gentrification and money-making enterprises are never a good thing.

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I have a new terrorist project in my mind for people with so-called 'sophisticated' musical taste: 'Avant-Garde Musical Terrorism.' It's just simply a case of frustration and retaliation. I have had enough of being subjected to horrendous synthetic pop. Anywhere I go it is there - very loudly. If we people like us are subjected to this all the time, can't we let other people at least know, fleetingly, how we feel? So, in clothe shops that play horrible music, in clubs that play horrible music, maybe even concerts of horrible music, we send talented musicians there. So, a trombonist marauds into a club and starts playing a dissonant bar of Schoenberg. A cellist starts playing some Webern in a café blaring out some horrid pop whilst we people of supposedly 'good' taste are trying to have conversations or reading the newspaper. In a horrid music concert, a jazz player interrupts the concert by improvising atonally. (This may going a bit too far seeing that we wouldn't usually go to those concerts in the first place.) Enough is enough. Avant-garde music lovers of the world unite!
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What I really think is a positive outcome of the whole 'Corbynmania' thing is that it is making younger people familiar with Labour's history and what they have traditionally stood for. All they really know about is Blair. I really think that if Miliband had articulated some of his arguments more clearly and made more of an effort to get it out to people, that a lot of SNP, Green and even UKIP voters would have voted Labour. I have always voted Labour and I really think that it is the only realistic way for a party of government to effect change and to push for more progressive policies and causes. Corbyn might be a Bennite, and might well represent the most radical faction in the party, but I really think that he has made an effort to attenuate the crazy things about Bennism. Benn called for mass nationalisation. Corbyn's pitch - renationalise the railways and some public utilities, high taxes on the upper crust and big business, more robust market regulation - isn't crazily radical and a lot of normal folk, not crazy lefties, have been calling for these things for a long time.
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I like to read and hear Roger Scruton talk because he will purposefully write a column in a left-of-centre publication to piss off someone like me (i.e. lefty political views and a strong predilection for modernistic art). In many ways, I could be considered the ideal reader he wants to target and say 'everything you believe in is based on a mistake.' I like the fact that we have in public discourse someone who has spent most of his life sequestered in university libraries and who is deeply familiar with philosophy and the classics. I like the fact that he often holds crude reactionary views and uses these as bait against progressives. I also like the fact - and here is where our interests really align - that although he is an analytic philosopher he his drawn to the German idealists and holds their view of their world to be more truthful than the staid worldviews of people like Russell, Ayer, etc. I first encountered him when I bought his fab 'A Very Short Introduction to Kant.'

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Mike Patton's immense popularity in Chile has always bemused somewhat. He is mainstream over there. A lot of people even take an interest in his niche avant-garde projects. At age 16, the height of my obsession with his music, I was thunderstruck to wander the streets of Santiago and to see all these shops selling Fantomas and Mr. Bungle CDs. How many countries in the world have both Mike Patton and Marcelo Bielsa as national treasures?

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Peter Wilby in his little column in the New Statesman more than adequately expresses my feelings about Blair/Blairism: 'Blair's strength, according to John Rentoul, a sympathetic biographer, was his ability to "to pick up and reflect the banality of the majority." David Cameron does that perfectly well. Tony Blair and his supporters have nothing else to offer, and they should shut up.'

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Humanities students

As an undergrad I studied Comparative Literature. I am now doing a masters in Film Studies. I am socially awkward and have never been popular. I never expected this to improve at university. In the end I did manage to make quite a few friendships. I am really glad I did, because I managed to meet some really great people. I have noticed, though, that none of these people are literature students. I never got on good terms with anyone from my Comp Lit course. I didn't make friends with anyone from the English department. As it turned out, curiously enough, most of my friends ended up being from the social sciences - from politics and economics.

This does strike me as a little curious. I tried to think about it a little. I realised that it essentially boils down to this: students from the humanities are essentially competitive. When they found out about me, they often felt threatened. They either thought that I was a juvenile pseud and might have thought that it was beneath them to engage in conversation with me. But then, when you think someone is annoying, you don't simply ignore them, do you? If you think someone is pretentious, you don't get stroppy, avoid them at all costs - and go as far as ignore anything the person says? Without meaning to toot my horn, I was a high flyer on my course and most of my lecturers enjoyed reading my essays. So that can't mean that nothing I said was without value. They otherwise might have thought that I was better than them and felt threatened and thought that whatever I might have said and did might bring them down a peg or two. One or the other. Maybe both.

I am very passionate about all of my interests. When I get together with like-minded people, my instinct is to talk about these interests. This is especially the case if it's something niche and which few people might have heard about. I was overjoyed to find that there were other students who liked some of these niche little things. In some cases, it was the first time I had ever found anyone who did. My instinct would be to, first of all, hug them. Then it would be to establish a friendship and to slowly start to have conversations about the topic. When these people found out that I also liked a lot of this stuff, they seemed indifferent.

Most of the humanties students, I found, formed cliques. I kept going to this creative writing society for two years or so, but in the end stopped. It was very exclusive. In their little publications, they only published each other's stuff. They very rarely wanted to talk about books or authors. Most of the time they wanted to be witty, ruffle their feathers and show how quick-witted and clever they were. They did indeed strike me as very witty and charming to begin with, but that wore off after a couple of months and it became very tiresome. I appreciated some of the feedback I got about my stories. A lot of it could be quite superficial, though. They seemed keen to move on as quickly as possible to more loud banter and edgy-look-how-lewd-my-jokes-are. Most of them couldn't care less about the writings of people on the margins of their clique. On the whole I found most of their fiction and poems to be very edgy - out to be outrageous - and with very little substance and not informed by much wide reading.

I must say that I distrust anyone who dyes their hair blue. Or has a poncey beard. Or wears a hat. Or wears a leather jacket. Most politics/economics students just looked like normal people - and talked like normal people. That was a relief. They would make jokes like most normal people do. I like to bullshit as much as the next person, but they did not do this to draw attention to themselves. 

When people from politics/economics get together, their instinct is to talk about their stuff. They can be very passionate, fierce and can get into some pretty heated debates if need be. They can be friendly and amicable if need be. They welcome anyone into their fold. They are not horrified if you are ignorant about a lot of things - for example. my knowledge of European history is a bit sketchy. But nor do they feel threatened if you know more than them about other things. On the contrary, their instinct is to delve deeper into the issue and find out something about it. I find that they are keen to have a conversation with anyone and about anything. If you say something that they might think is juvenile etc., their instinct isn't to label you a 'tit.'

But then, on the whole, I've never really hang around cliques. Since I was a little kid, I never hung around large groups of people. I prefer to have a few close friends. I prefer to know a few people well and to appreciate their little quirks and for them to appreciate mine. I would rather avoid cliques of trendy people.

Monday, 17 August 2015

Individualism

A true utopia is impossible. Many radicals - not all, granted - recognise this. Still, they argue that, although a perfect utopian society is not realistic, we can still all come together and build one. This kind of idealism can often lead to sectarianism, wars and conflict. From this perspective, if we can't find salvation in a kind of mass collectivisation, we find salvation in a turn inward. We can do this through reflection, self-analysis, the study of literature and a distanced theorising of society. In this sense, I am an individualist.

Unlike the socialist position that man is inherently good, I take the position that man is not inherently good. In the worst cases, his mind is a scrambled mess, ravaged by neuroses, fears and, in the most extreme cases, psychoses. In the best cases, the human mind has overarching moments of serenity and comfort. This can be attributable to a number of extrinsic factors such as economic conditions. I would be quick to rubbish claims that because suicide rates are higher in, say, Denmark, that people are therefore gloomier over there. Denmark apparently has the highest rates of happiness, whatever that means. (How would you even begin to measure such an abstract thing?!) The human mind may be relatively content thanks to marital bliss. Or a satisfying job. Or a satisfying hobby. Etc. In the best case scenario, the human mind may be relatively content, but there are always lingering doubts. Whatever that person's circumstances, he will always vie for even better, or worse, ones! Regarding the latter, it has been a recurrent trope in literature to have a wealthy aristocrat heading over to impoverished and turbulent parts of the world. Think of Marlow in Conrad's Heart of Darkness or D. H. Lawrence's The Woman Who Rode Away, where a bored aristocratic housewife flees her opulent lifestyle to join a North American Indian tribe.

It is true that man will take advantage of power. He will deceive people whenever he can. The Rousseauist belief is that man is born free, but this purity and freedom is debased by the society that conditions him. I would say that we are born largely as we already are now, with an inbuilt desire for freedom which is always denied. This is very Freudian. We are constantly dissatisfied.

From these philosophical theories, people draw political ones which inform policy. There are many people who arrive at the conclusions posited above and reach a laissez-faire/libertarian/free market political position. A common argument given by a free marketeer is that the main reason why socialism doesn't work is that politicians take advantage of their special privileges and wreck the economy as a result. Given man's flawed nature, a person is just as prone to exploit a position of power in a private business as he is in a political position. That's why the complete deregulation of the financial sector is so careless - it lets the devious side of man's nature take advantage of power and to drive financial institutions into bankruptcy. It is these people, truth be told, who wreck economies.

Just because man might be inherently bad does not a priori mean that we can't try to build a better society nor help others. Just because we recognise that we are limited does not mean we should lose our compassion. On the one hand, we should not be slothful and say 'we are flawed - nothing can be done' and plonk ourselves in front of the TV set. On the other, neither should our limitations lead us to put people into 'intellectual castes.' We should not say 'humanity is limited and is doomed to perdition - but we can always we saved by a Superman who transcends these limitations.'

Social democracy creates institutions which actually help support individualism and self-growth. Take a British institution like the BBC. Everyone who wants to watch it has to pay a licence fee. Yet the quality of the programming over the years has done a lot to aid individual intellectual curiosity. Although it is based on the premise of a licence fee, it equally be said that it is there equally as an aid for individual growth as it is for the good of the community and economy. Through institutions which provide services in the creative arts, education, health etc. it helps to build on one's individualism and self-growth whilst also centering itself on an economy based on solidarity and altruism.

There are different kinds of individualism. The market individualism celebrated by laissez-faire economists is extremely shallow. Such economists see absolutely nothing wrong with the insatiable desire for consumer goods, the saturation of mass advertisements and the dog-eat-dog competition where big businesses crush small ones. If this is the only conception people have of individualism, then I would rather have nothing to do with it. Secular liberal democracies also root out religious individualism. Religious individualism leads one to spiritual growth, reflection etc. It does this whilst building itself around a sense of community and ritual. Religious communities are another example of the ways in which individualism can be fostered whilst retaining altruistic and culture-conserving practices. It must be noted that market individualism homogenises culture, depletes hundreds of years of local tradition and turns the entire world into one giant shopping mall.

Thursday, 6 August 2015

Disco Volante

I have been away from this blog for a loooong time. Basically, I've been working full-time in a horrendous sandwich factory/bakery for 2 1/2 months (on a a zero-hour contract). I've been saving up money to help start pay rent and other living expenses for the second year of my masters. (I'm no longer getting any help from the very generous mum and dad bank.) I've saved up enough money to see me through the first couple of months without having to worry too much about money. Whilst I could get a lot of writing done to begin with, and I made quite a lot of progress with my novel, in the end I was left completely drained and didn't do any writing, or any reading, at all. All I had time for in the end was sleep (where I had nightmares about conveyor belts...). The horrors of being a responsible adult! And I'm experiencing this very late on in my mid-twenties! I've stopped working now, so I can get back to doin' what I love. I'll get back to writing my novel and reading books (I have a lot of interesting stuff on my bed-side table). I also want to get back to blogging a lot more. I will be going on a summer holiday in a lovely town near Barcelona for a week (in about five or six hours - without getting much sleep in my system!), so that will be put on hold for a little while. But what a lovely way to get back into blogging than with a lengthy post on Mr. Bungle's brilliant 1995 album Disco Volante! I intended it to be one of my usual punchy/brief posts, but it grew into a much longer piece. (Helped no doubt by track-by-track analysis!) By late September/early October I hope to finish my (first) novel Planet Zhelanie. By then, I will busy with my masters and with another full-time job (I think I'll go for an office job of some sort, not some horrendous mind-numbing menial thing), so I dunno if I'll have time to blog as much. Still, stick around my friend as I'm sure there will be a lot more silly-assed/half-baked writings to come! You seem to care about this stuff! That means the world to me! And I care more about these overgrown adolescent ventures more than anyone else! I never want to grow out of this shit!


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It is not very often that you find in the annals of recorded music a major record label releasing an album as ferociously experimental as Mr. Bungle's Disco Volante. The very same label that released this album, Warner Brothers, released Zappa's late 60s output as well as Beefheart's Trout Mask Replica. (When you read about Beefheart, it is often made out as if back then he was underground. Beefheart was a very popular phenomenon - most vaguely intellectual and vaguely middle-class people who lived at the time can remember him - and Trout Mask made it to 21 in the UK charts.) But back then the avant-garde was marketable. Mainstream publications wrote about avant-garde composers and the counter cultural youth were always sniffing around for the trippiest and most 'out there' thing.

Indeed, not coincidentally, as the global economic model in the late 70s changed and as industry as a whole become more marketised, the music industry was no exception. Even Zappa caved in, albeit in a very sarcastic and mean-spirited manner, by releasing goofy records which sounded vaguely commercial but snidely insulted commercialism. MTV came along and monopolised popular music. Before MTV, pop was a lot more multifarious. There were hundreds of record stations offering different varieties of music.  In the 70s, you could listen to avant-garde jazz, interesting contemporary composers, interesting prog-rock, world music, etc.. This was epitomised by Zappa, a tremendously popular rock star who was essentially an avant-garde composer. Even when punk came along - which, with the Sex Pistols, admittedly had commercial roots and it was a commercial movement - it led to interesting directions. It meant that many young people who were not musically literate and were listening to all this interesting stuff realised that they had in them to make interesting music.

Mr. Bungle were formed in 1985 whilst the band were in high school. They grew up in quite a bohemian town in Los Angeles called Eureka, though they were anything but bohemian. They were eccentric and alienated teenagers who would regularly get beaten up in school. (They named the group after a cheesy educational 1950s video about how to be a responsible and sanitised teenager. The clumsy 'Mr. Bungle' kid featured in the video is the antithesis of what a 1950s kid must follow. When I was a clumsy/weird teen and, sometimes ridiculed for being this weird specimen at school, when I first got into Bungle I could really identify with this. You can watch the video here.)  As with many teenagers/pre-teens who first get into music, and I no doubt count myself as being one of them, they became obsessed with heavy metal. They were steeped in bands like Sodom and Slayer. In fact, when they first formed they were a death metal band. When people get more serious about music and look around for different stuff, they discover new things. The young Bungle members discovered other varieties of pop music as well as jazz and avant-garde classical music. They correctly realised, and this at the time was a very radical, that hard metal and punk are not mutually exclusive from avant-garde classical and jazz. They realised that the more dissonant elements from those genres melded superbly well with the dissonance of metal. When Bungle guitarist Trey Spraunce first heard Stravinsky's Rite of Spring, he immediately made a connection with death metal and thought of the ways he could play metal with the unusual chords and harmonies deployed by Stravinsky. As a 15-year-old kid who had gone from hearing bands like Metallica to listening to composers like Stravinsky and jazz players like Miles Davis, Mr. Bungle were just the kind of thing that I was looking for.

Mr. Bungle soon became a post-modern genre-hopping band which acquired a niche local audience. At the time, they would sometimes vary from concert to concert. If they were confronted with a local punk audience, they would play punk. If they were confronted with a metal audience, they would play metal.  If they were confronted with some gentrified mums and dads, they would switch to something more palatable and play some lounge. Their aesthetic soon became to frenetically alternate from genre to genre within the same song in a matter of minutes or even seconds. South Francisco group Faith No More chanced across a Mr. Bungle demo and offered Mike Patton a chance to be their lead singer. Patton accepted. They recorded The Real Thing and their take on west coast funk-metal proved to be ridiculously popular. They sold millions of records worldwide. Their song 'Epic' became an MTV mega hit and received heavy rotation. FNM played stadiums around the world. Patton, a very handsome chap and very popular among the ladies, became an MTV pin-up. Although his behaviour was very erratic and he got up to some very unusual antics, this may just have been dismissed as irreverent 'rock 'n roll behaviour' and it was inconceivable back then that he would soon choose to stake out a wilfully obscure career in avant-garde music.

All this meant that Mike Patton's very experimental and very weird group Mr. Bungle landed a contract with Warner Brothers. The scene that was pioneering 'post-modern genre-hopping' the most was the New York downtown one. Its leading practitioner was, and still is, John Zorn. Zorn led his his iconic punk-jazz and-everything-else group Naked City at the time. Zorn was really one of the first people to fuse punk with free jazz. Bungle sought him out to produce their record and Zorn and Patton have gone on to collaborate extensively over the years. Zorn served as Patton and Bungle's mentor. The album had very novel ideas and there certainly was nothing like it at the time. (The closest thing to it was Zorn's Naked City group.) They used a lot of odd and distinctive chords called 'tritones.' Still, the material was culled from material they had largely played as teenagers. The lyrics, to put it politely, are juvenile. Whilst listening to 'The Girls of Porn' might well have been exceedingly fun as a teenager, it grates to listen to that track now. The emphasis on ska-funk means that big chunks of the album are pretty dull to revisit for me. At times the album can seem like one big frat party, albeit one played with astonishing musicianship and a keen desire to experiment. (As a result, Bungle managed to annex Zappa's fan base very quickly, though they have never professed any interest in his music.) For all of its creativity and its highly original arrangements, the album influenced some extremely rancid stuff. Nu-metal bands such Korn, Limp Bizkit and Slipknot mystifyingly cited Bungle and this album in particular as an influence (as well as FNM's more left-field outing Angel Dust, where Patton was a lot more involved with the song writing). All of the Mr. Bungle members would feel awkward when this was posed to them and they always insisted that they should not be held in any way responsible for that music.

But it was with their follow-up four years later, Disco Volante, where Bungle really came together. Without doubt it is one my favourite albums. And without doubt, it is my favourite album from the 1990s - in any genre and released either by a major or a small record label. All of the band's both high-brow and low-brow influences are thrown into the mix. All the members had developed their skills having played in a plethora of jazzy and avant projects. Whilst Bungle always had a lot of these influences even as teenagers in the 1980s, they now had the know-how of how to develop the genre-hopping approach into something a little more advanced and sophisticated.

It is clear from the beginning that the band is making no concessions. The opening track 'Everyone I knew From High School is Dead' is deliberately noisy and chaotic. It has a very basic riff that soon degenerates into noisy noodling and crashing cymbals. Patton in this album utilised avant-garde vocal techniques for the first time. Singers such as Yamataka Eye from The Boredoms get very shouty with it and it becomes tedious. But Patton usually uses it purposefully and creatively and he has an extremely versatile vocal range through which to create a whole range of effects. On this track there is a vocal chant which sounds like a crowd of people, but is buried well within the mix of the thundering bass and sludgy guitar.

The next track 'Chemical Marriage' is very influenced by Ennio Moriconne (as if it's taken from some strange sci-fi film that he'd scored), lounge and smooth jazz. It is also embellished with a lot of exotic arabic percussion. It is interspersed with Patton scat-singing. It becomes clear by this track that he won't sing in any normal way - and certainly not within the staid paramaters of verse-chorus-verse.

Though it is with the track 'Carry Stress in the Jaw' that the album really starts to kick in and when it starts to completely blow me away. It is essentially a fusion of free jazz and speed metal. Written by bassist Trevor Dunn, he starts playing a devilishly complex line with the sax player. The track moves onto some sinister synth sounds, a fast though quiet bass line and an equally fast though hushed percussion accompaniment. Patton starts singing in a creepy voice. His lyrics are drawn from an Edgar Allan Poe poem, which adds to the sense of horror and dread. A brief blast of loud metal is followed again by a similar passage. This is followed by a jazz passage where the sax stars improvising atonally. The whole band are very much playing in a jazz idiom, but Trey Spruance storms in with a speed metal riff. The rest of the band joins him and Mike Patton starts shrieking. This again degenerates into some pretty noisy metal as Patton gurgles. This is followed by a line of music played the guitar, drums and keys. In counterpoint to this, the bass and vocals start playing a separate line as Patton continues to recite the Poe poem. This is a convoluted and meandering line of music, which starts to gain more and more urgency, with Patton raising his voice as it develops. This leads to an exhilarating speed metal passage, with Patton raucously screaming. This is followed by the same free jazz, speed metal and 'sinister synth passages' in quick succession, with some virtuosic drum soloing to boot. By the time that's over, it's just four minutes of music and I'm completely blown away.

However, on the same track we have a separate song called 'Secret Song.' Apparently they wrote this song without Trevor Dunn being aware of it and always kept it secret from him. (Patton plays bass on it instead.) Well after the track had already been recorded, Dunn found it and wrote some lyrics as to how 'they've kicked me out of the band.' This plays in to the band's absurdist humour as well as their desire to simply indulge and arse around whilst playing this music. Patton sings the lyrics in a 'Grandpa Simpson' voice which is hilarious. The track is funky and has some surf-music elements. There is a Bond-theme aspect to the guitar-playing. The album title 'Disco Volante' actually references a car in a James Bond film.

And again, just after you thought the album couldn't possibly get any better we get 'Desert Search for Techno Allah.' The track fuses middle eastern music, techno AND metal. If that sounds incongruous,  believe me, it's simply incredible how all those elements are merged into the fold of a very coherent song. There is a middle eastern melody (written by Trey Spruance, who has researched Persian scales and harmonic principles extensively) as well as some arabic percussion. This is in addition to a techno groove. Soon a heavy metal guitar starts playing a chord a few times, creating plenty of feedback. By this point, there are a lot of overdubs and a lot of strands of music. Patton creates sundry unusual vocal effects which are mixed at different volumes and appear at different points in the song.

The next track 'Violenza Domestica' is another favourite. (How many am I allowed?!) This track reveals Patton's penchant for Italian pop and Ennio Moriconne. Patton sings (well, recites, croons, squeals, mutters, whispers and shouts...) the lyrics in Italian. Patton had married an Italian woman and had a house in Italy at this point. The track also features a lot of tango. There are some virtuosic classical cello and piano passages, which lend the track an added veneer of musical sophistication. These are all segued by loud blasts of metal. There are also some unusual percussive noises (such as breaking glass and rustling knives) which may have been influenced by Harry Partch.

'After School Special' is as close as the band get to a straight rock song in the album. You could put this on at a party and no one would storm out of the room. Like the opening track 'Everyone I Knew From High School is Dead,' the lyrics are written by Dunn. It is clear that at this point he still felt bitter about his alienating adolescent experiences and still had not quite managed to move on. (It happens to a lot of us. In many ways, I haven't and still brood about a lot of those experiences.)

The next track 'Phleghmatics' was driven by Trevor Dunn's desire to write a twelve-tone piece for a rock band. There is a serial line of music played by the guitar and sung by Patton. Dunn, meanwhile, plays a stuttering bass line and the drums do plenty of blast beats. This is followed by a slow brooding metal passage played as a backdrop to a serial line of music played by two wind instruments. Soon the metal backdrop stops the wind instruments continue to play the line of music unaccompanied. They soon simply start doing some free jazz shronks and shrieks. Then the metal backdrops returns, the wind instruments play the line of music again, the song gains urgency and is then resolved. The lyrics are about paranoia, insomnia, anxiety and depression. One of the other tracks is called 'The Bends' and, as with the Edgar Allan Poe lyric, there is a really dark streak running throughout the album - in both the lyrics and in the art work.

'Ma Meeshka Mow Skowz' revisits the carnival/circus music aspect found in their self-titled album. There is a very dramatic and a somewhat quasi-Bach line played by an organ that starts the song. A jazzy sax plays the main line of music, which is revisited again and again and mimicked by Patton. The bass and drums are especially frenetic and impatient. Patton maniacally sings in his own made-up language (hence the odd title). As ever, there are plenty of metal chords and Spruance features with some fine guitar soloing.

The track 'The Bends' sees the band exploring avant-garde musique concrete. The track is comprised by  of about six different segments and runs for about nine minutes. In these avant-garde sounds, we hear the influence of Varese, Stockhausen and Penderecki. As stated before,  there is a very dark, brooding and menacing quality running throughout the album and this track in particular.

The next track 'Backstrokin'' is a little more light-hearted and runs just about three minutes. There is a funky bass and and some jazzy keys. The title references Patton's obsessive proclivity for masturbation, which he has not kept secret from anyone. It also reminds us that Bungle have not lost their boyish and cheeky sense of humour. As the song ends, Patton mutters 'fartin,' pissin,' and strokin' my fucking dick.'

The song 'Platypus' is manic and frenetic and may be referencing Patton's interest in cartoon music (which he has touched on in several other projects and has basically derived from Zorn's own obsession with the genre). The song is by and large also a chance for Dunn to highlight his virtuosic bass playing. This track is especially jazzy and there is a section where the whole band starts improving in a jazzy fashion and it becomes increasingly chaotic and it all falls apart. The sax squawks and makes animal noises in a highly Zorn-esque way. The lyrics are all about the animal platypus, which Trevor Dunn developed a peculiar fascination for. There is a quasi-scientific/biological slant to the lyrics and there are times when Patton recites them as if he were a television presenter in a Attenborough-esque nature programme.

The final track 'Merry go Bye Bye' ends the album in an incredibly climactic and overpowering way. The lyrics, written by Spruance (he also wrote all of the music on this track), wistfully and nostalgically evokes people taking telescopes to find in the starry heavens relatives and friends who have passed away. The track starts very powerfully, in a mellow rock fashion. There is nothing that unusual about it until it abruptly moves onto death metal. This section is especially stimulating and Patton showcases his death metal growls. This is followed by some harsh white noise and other avant-garde electronic sounds. Then we get more death metal (!) followed by some ethereal electronic sounds. This is when Bungle bring the emotional element in, without being at all mawkish. They play some arresting chords, with undistorted guitar, and Patton powerfully and beautifully sings as 'to how I will come back to you.' This song ends the album and, after way over an hour of music, we have gone through a lot.

You would have thought that Bungle had wrapped things nicely and in a somewhat more compromised way. This would be expecting too much. There is a hidden track full of hideous noises. They are just arsing around in the studio and they are pissing themselves with laughter. (In the liner notes it is called 'Nothing' and is credited to drummer Danny Heifietz and wind player Theo Lengyel, referencing the fact that neither band member contributed to any of the song writing.) If any case were to be made that Mr. Bungle is nothing more than masturbatory self-indulgence, one could point to this track. But then, the group may not deny it either. By including these noises at the end, the band is subversively recognising the fact that they are pretty much free to do whatever they want on a major record label. They are pretty much telling a mainstream audience 'take this, this is what we do and what we are interested in - lump it or leave it.'

Four years later Mr. Bungle returned after another lengthy hiatus with California. That was a much poppier album where they brought their crazy genre-hopping and avant-garde approach into a more focused song-oriented format. It was another brilliant record. After a supporting tour, the band seems to have acrimoniously broken up in 2000. This disappointed a lot of hardcore fans who were hoping that Patton would focus more on Mr. Bungle after having more time on his hands following the break up of Faith No More in 1998. It seems that a rift developed between Trey Spruance and the rest of the members. The reunion of Faith No More in 2009 raised hopes for a Bungle reunion, but nothing seems to have happened. (Though Spruance and Patton seem to be in good terms after having played a Faith No More concert together in Chile.) Mr. Bungle is without doubt the best and most exciting project for every musician involved. Mike Patton, Trey Spruance and Trevor Dunn have done some brilliant stuff in all of their extensive and eclectic projects. But in Bungle their creative outlooks marry in a wonderful and synergetic way. Patton formed the extreme experimental metal band Fantomas where he has played  some frenetic Zorn/Naked City-derived stuff. This is in addition to collaborating with Zorn himself in a number of projects, most notably the occultist experimental metal band Moonchild. He has played more straight-ahead noise rock with Tomahawk. He has even ventured into synthetic pop music with Peeping Tom (in his own eccentric way, of course). He has done film music. Most recently, he hired an orchestra to perform some Italian pop oldies. The list goes on and on! Trevor Dunn is even busier, with hundreds of credits as side-man in a variety of records. He has become bassist of choice for John Zorn and has featured in most of his endless spate of releases (including the Moonchild group where his bass playing features prominently). He formed his own group Trevor Dunn's Trio-Convulsant, which plays jazz fused with heavy metal and power chords. He plays in a lot of New York jazz groups (where he moved from San Francisco a over a decade ago to ingratiate himself with the Downtown scene). He formed a rock group called Mad Love, citing his neglect of rock music in recent years. He also toured and recorded with the iconic post-punk/grunge/sludge metal group Melvins recently. I would say that Trey Spurance is the one who has had the most interesting career of the three. He has said that the crazy prolificacy of the avant-garde scene worries him and that he prefers to take time out to think through his music. He has said that avant-garde music has become to more market-oriented and that it turns too much attention to its eclectic nature and its careerist musicians instead of focusing on substance. His group Secret Chiefs 3 are an outlet for his interest in ancient Persian/Indian/middle eastern music. (As well as occasionally indulging in some death metal and west coast surf music.) He is a very well-read guy with a deep understanding of music theory and history. But as I said, these three creative individuals create their most earth-shattering stuff when performing together as Mr. Bungle.