Friday, May 22, 2009

Songs Wot I Likes At Present

Not a very systematic list, just a couple of things that have been pushing my buttons of late. I will arbitrarily mention two things about each song.

Kyla - Do You Mind (Crazy Cousinz Remix)

The first thing that hooked me into this song is Kyla's vocals. They are so fragile. They remind me of the way one of the members of Girls Aloud sings (not sure which one - the one who does the 'Hello / Did you call me?' line in "Whole Lotta History") - there is a thinness, a trepidation - like the singer's words are a cold little birdie who has fallen out of its nest. Trembling and uncertain, yet at the same time, coquettish. Would you mind if I took you home tonight? If I stayed the whole day, would that be okay? Well, duh, of course it would be alright. What a ridiculous question.

The second great thing - the powerful piano stabs which stand out strong against the otherwise busy dancehall groove. It's like someone has melted down handbag house, thrown away all its inessentials, and left us with its most singular aspect - giant piano. It's very statuesque here - puts the 'monument' in monumental.

You can see the video here.

t.A.T.U. - Fly On The Wall

Ok, so you what you do is take the convention of the love song from the perspective of an obsessive stalker - the touchstone being "Every Step You Take" - and give it the unstoppable, crushing relentlessness of GIANT RUSSIAN TANKS. The little-known fact of the post-Soviet situation is that there are no longer displays of nuclear weaponry and mechanized vehicles on May 1st only because this armature has temporarily decamped to t.A.T.u.'s choruses. And what thoroughness is promised by those uncompromising Russian voices! Not just watching you in the shower, but knowledge of every thought in your mind.

The other great thing about this is that it fits into t.A.T.u.'s overarching lesbi-tragedy narrative. Great bands have narratives about the relationships between their members - ABBA, Fleetwood Mac, No Doubt (that last one is a bit tentative). t.A.T.u., being Russia's biggest pop export, has one too. If you listen across their 'Best Of' album, you can see it unfold: forbidden love and ensuing confusion as the girls, through their transgression, are thrust beyond the bounds of the normative ("All The Things She Said"'); the forging of a new revolutionary ethics ("All About Us", "They're Not Gonna Get Us"); yet more confusion as one of the girls falls for a boy ("Loves Me Not"); a Thermidorian inquest into the motives and consequences of the betrayal ("Friend Or Foe"); then finally, the realisation that the only place this utopian society can exist is in space ("Cosmos").

I guess this timeline makes "Fly on the Wall" the pop version of Stalinist totalitarianism. Dealing with break-ups, KGB (or Stasi)-style: surveillance, monitoring, keeping a very close eye on the subject.

(Thanks to Voyou for putting me onto this song.)

You can hear the song here, replete with a fan video mash-up of their other videos that is surprisingly effectual. In fact, if it doesn't receive a screening at the next Queer Film Festival, I will be disappointed.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Twitter vs Facebook

So I'm new to Twitter (as is, er, the world) but have been on Facebook since it reached its 'tipping point' (i.e. sometime in 2007). A few people who use Facebook (that is almost a tautology - 'people who use Facebook') have asked me what it is that Twitter offers that Facebook doesn't. Facebook, after all, has status updates, which only differ from 'tweets' insofar as you can follow the updates of someone you don't know - that is, following tweets is non-consensual, whereas FB is very much built around a (positively-reinforced) mutual control of friends.

Just tonight, however, I had a Twitter 'experience' while watching Q&A. The show spruiks its new media interactivity very heavily - not only can you text questions to the show or post them on the website, but you can also append a Twitter 'hashtag' (#qanda) to your comments. I decided to give this a go.

After the show, I did a search for 'qanda' and found - gasp! - a giant thread (maybe 70-80 pages long within a half an hour of the show finishing) of Q&A-related tweets, much like the ones I had sent into the ether. You can see some of it here (not sure how current this link will remain).

It was a bit like being put in touch with the fact that there are thousands of people shouting at the television, not just you. Some people were posting links to articles that some of the show's panelists had published (e.g. to Greg Sheridan's disavowed views).

It all combined to make you feel part of, well, a trend. A swarm of opinion. And this is, apparently, what this phenomenon is called: 'trending' (not 'swarming', alas).

The #QandA tag was the most popular in the Twitter(-sphere? -verse?) at the time I looked. This bodes well for the ABC I think - I think its new media push is working.

But what the experience made me realise is that this makes Twitter more than FB status updates abstracted from all the other rigmarole of Facebook.

Facebook is like a gated community. You only see your own friends, and everything that you do see (the feeds of what other people are doing) is modulated in such a way that Facebook comes to orbit around your own self-image. The focus of Facebook for each of its millions of users is themselves - other people mainly exist insofar as they have responded to you. Above all, apart from snooping through strangers' wedding photos (as a good 20% of Facebook trawling ultimately does lead to), on Facebook you cannot readily access the opinions of total strangers.

The functionality of Twitter, on the other hand, lends its focus to other peoples' opinions and comments. Twitter is a gadget for exposing you to a flood of other people's comments, wisecracks, links and snipes. It is harder to spend periods of time staring at your own visage, be it verbal or imagistic, on Twitter than it is on Facebook.

This is not to say that Twitter is without narcissistic possibility. It has plenty. It also abets one's proclivity to imagine that celebrities are your actual friends.

But Twitter's borders work in different ways.

If tonight's QandA trend hour is anything to go by, I like it. Time will tell, of course.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009


Kanye West's "Robocop" is really nasty. It is like being at a dinner party with a toxic couple who keep making personal attacks on one another. Worse - the attacks are supposed to be humorous, or at least are delivered with a false mirth that barely hides the seething contempt beneath the jibes. This makes everyone sitting around the table feel awkward.

The lyrics are like this, and yet they are sung to an upbeat, anthemic string background replete with tinkling bells and rat-a-tat marching band snares (with shades of The West Wing's theme music).

Which makes this a glorious chorus about being sick to death of someone. Nastiness wrapped in loveliness.

Sinister yet impressive.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Late-Breaking Discovery


Quite belatedly, I have looked into Kanye West's 808s and Heartbreak. 'Love Lockdown' is jaw-dropping. The zen art of melody writing.

This performance in particular blew my mind.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Read - Write - Blog - Twit

Boiled eggs are pretty marvellous, aren't they. One is boiling now. This gives me some space to write this.

Blogs have changed since I was last writing one very much (andsothisischristmas). A lot of the social function that they held for me has been mopped up by Facebook, and now I am involving myself with the even newer kid on the block, Twitter. So communicating little bits to my friends - this is a realm that blogging no longer monopolizes.

But blogs retain something unpossessed by social networking sites - the possibility of writing at length, of analysis, of giving flesh to thoughts (or rather, producing 'enfleshed thoughts').

This is good, I feel. It is good because I find that accessing the internet - and I do love being connected to the matrix - always involves the risk of being wholly drawn into the orbit of numb-brained reactivity. You know it - refresh this feed aggregator, look at Facebook, check The Age online, look at Twitter again, check email, scroll up, scroll down, refresh, find tidbit, send tidbit, refresh...

Whereas writing a blog gives thought a moment to distill, to coalesce, to become less flimsy than wind. Writing involves a discipline. And certainly, most of the time spent writing is silence, waiting for thoughts to come from 'within', rather than from the matrix. There can be something meditative about this - but also 'ennabling' (to use a disgusting word that makes me sad because I cannot at present find another). I am thinking here of Spinoza - of how what is good for us increases our activity. Social networking sites are inciters of reactive, passive states. Hypnosis is what I am often put in mind of, when spending any time 'on' these sites as opposed to simply 'checking' them.

(Does writing allow thought? Is writing thought? I don't know where thinking happens. Sometimes it happens in the head, perhaps while out walking. But my head isn't very resonant, it isn't sonorous enough to allow thoughts to resound properly. Which is why I feel I need writing, lest everything become conflated and repetitious.)

So this post is a little love note to my favourite blogs. It is also an announcement that I am coming back, slowly, to the world of writing and thought.

What is that line from Nietzsche again - ? Once everyone can write, we will forget how to read? Or is it the other way around?