Archive for Category ‘bla bla bla‘

1. THC: Sticky Filth + Hideously Disfigured + Nefarious (maybe) + Other bands whose names I don’t recall, New Plymouth (1994)

On today’s installment we take you back to when Taranaki Hard Core wasn’t just a bumper sticker for bogans, but a thriving music scene with a sweet coded weed reference built right in.
Spotswood College Music Room. A Monday in 1995.

Fade in to band practice, your narrator one of 4 or 5 smelly, knock-kneed 14 year old boys that made up the newly minted (and never, to my knowledge, subsequently repeated) ‘classical guitar’ section of the 4th form band. We spent all our time learning to be terrible at Nirvana songs* so we never got around to being terrible at playing Mozart, but as we were unamplified we didn’t even register against the backdrop of ineptly played brass and woodwind (Oboes still cause me to shudder involuntarily).

The teacher who lead the band** was one of those jerks who could pick up any instrument, and make it sound like the world’s finest stradivarius or the equivalent in whatever instrument you’re imagining this guy playing right now. Even the warped, dead-stringed hunks of balsa the school called guitars were no match for the sheer force of his musical will. Fairly sure he viewed  the guitar group as a fond pet-project with a solid line in predictable underachieving and mild disappointment.

But still, he tried.

I tune in from a far more important conversation about whether one of the clouds in the Lion King spelled a sex word, to hear:

“…and that, is why you NEVER strum a bass guitar”

That’s on its own line because it’s important to events later in this story. It’s called foreshadowing.

This was just one of his many attempts at helping us out of the primordial ooze of power chords and into some kind of appreciation of actual music. Perhaps, if we worked hard and practiced frequently, we might actually one day be considered ‘musicians’, or at the very least, we wouldn’t embarrass him at the upcoming all-guitar recital of Minuet. (Spoiler: We most definitely did embarrass him, I most definitely did not become a musician).

 

Spotswood College Music Room. A Monday in 1995. (Possibly the same one, but later on.)

“Sticky Filth, Hideously Disfigured, Nefarious***, other bands the names of which I don’t recall. All Ages”

“What kind of music is it?”

“I dunno, like metal? Look at those names bro.”

“So, what, like, anyone can go?”

“Yeah. Well it says “All Ages”. Dick.”

“Fuck you dick. But like, ALL Ages?”

“Yeah. ALL AGES.”

“Should we go?”

“Na.”

 

New Plymouth Senior Citizen’s Hall. A Friday in 1995. For the sake of narrative continuity it was the Friday following the Monday conversation above that almost certainly never actually happened.

Facilities: Capacity 180, kitchen, stove, crockery, tables and chairs piano. Two halls.

Contact: Gerald Tubby or visit the office on Fridays between 9.30am and 3.00pm

We stood at the doorway of the Senior Citizen’s Hall, 3 of us, 14 years old, full of fear, giddy anticipation, and, in the hands of a better writer, probably some kind of really powerful metaphor about leaving childhood behind and entering adulthood.

I had amoured myself in what I believed to be my most HardCore shirt, which was this: https://www.flickr.com/photos/fxphotoblog/2226308349/ that I got when my parents won $200 on Lotto a couple months earlier. I felt vincible. Extremely vincible. A strong gust of wind would’ve vinced me right over.

Would they let us in? Would there be other kids our age?  Would the older kids laugh at us, or just cut straight to beating the shit out of us?

We entered.

The Senior Citizen’s Hall.

And maybe adulthood. Just a little bit.

Inside was a scene straight out of a David Attenborough documentary, large ungulates galloping across the savannah at each other, smashing heads and locking horns in attempt to demonstrate their genetic fitness.

Except the savannah was a sticky wooden floor, the dulcet tones of Sir Dave were a wall of feedback and screaming, and the ungulates were a bunch of the local skinhead kids, smashing heads and locking horns in an attempt to demonstrate their genetic fitness.

We pressed ourselves as far into the back wall as we possibly could, aware that if those guys out there were Wildebeests, we were grass, leaves or whatever it is that Wildebeests eat. This metaphor would work better if I’d made them Lions or something.

A lull in the chaos. One of the herd broke off and approached us where we were attempting to become one with the wallpaper. In my memory he was a 7 foot tall neo-Nazi, his bald head emblazoned with a rampant eagle that had Mein Kampf in one claw and was batting away Chinese migrants with the other, glaring at us with baleful, cruel intensity. In reality he was probably a spotty 16 year old, with an easily hideable from mum pick and poke tattoo that kinda looked like a swastika from certain angles, eyes dulled by whatever rocket fuel he’d been able to make out of the less noticeable spirits in the back of his parent’s liquor cabinet (white spirits are a no-no, too obvious. Anything with ‘schnapps’ in the title is all good).

“Huh. Cool shirt.” he says****.

“Uh… yeah. Thanks.” I probably didn’t say in return.

He sniffed the air, pawed the ground, turned, went back to the heard. We’d survived the first test. The next band was starting. Every sphincter in my body relaxed enough that I could breathe again.

The next band started. Let’s say it was Sticky Filth because I’m pretty sure they were on the bill but it’s not really important. What’s important is that it was the loudest fastest scariest most exhilarating thing I’d ever seen. What’s important is that up front was insert the name of lead singer of whatever band it was, emanating lightning bright rock n’ roll fuckrays out of every pore, his body a conduit for some weird magic that I desperately wanted in on.

What’s important is that  he was strumming the living shit out of that bass guitar.

Strike one embodied voice of authority.

POSTCRIPT: A couple of years later I was volunteering on the Smokefree Rockquest when it came through town. The bassist from Hideously Disfigured who was playing the role of Guitar Tech/Roadie/Hired Muscle was telling us all how we needed to quit school immediately and sign up for the Certificate in Roadying that he was putting together at Taranaki Polytechnic.

I did not.

Sticky Filth – Weep Woman Weep

 

Hideously Disfigured – Capital Hardcore.

Important notes on this:

a) This was two Maori guys playing rap metal to angry small town racists (back before whitey was into rap) which is pretty hardcore.

b) One of them went on to be in the Goat Fucking Nun Rapers which is a band that can pretty legitimately claim to have no interest in selling out, ever.

c) I forgot that they were basically a Body Count ripoff (they actually say “Body Count” at one point, just to drive the message home)

d) Now you know what it’s like to drive into my home town from SH1.

 

 

*Pearl Jam songs.

**not to be confused with the guy who officially TAUGHT band, most famous for taking any opportunity to remind everyone that he was distantly related to Lord Byron “People always made fun of his terrible club foot, and look at what he achieved!”. What Lord Byron certainly did not achieve was the slightest bit of recognition amongst a bunch of spotty tweens who were more fascinated by how it was humanly possible that a man could have such seemingly indelible sweat stains on his armpits.

***(maybe)

****In hindsight he was probably more interested in the Viking imagery than the ‘Zep. Nazi’s love that shit right?

 

Pacific Rim vs the Bechdel Test

Disclaimer: What follows is of course all based on a thing that made me go ‘heh’ in my brain as I rode my bicycle to work this morning and is in no way meant to suggest that Pacific Rim is a richly drawn portrait of the female lived experience, past present or future; or that it is anything other than a movie where a robot whacks a giant lizard with a boat even though the robot has a perfectly good chain sword that doesn’t get busted out till the very end when everyone else is dead.

For those of you that aren’t aware, the Bechdel* test is named for American cartoonist Alison Bechdel (she attributes its creation to a friend) and evaluates the degree of female characterization in a film (or other work). Basically your film passes the test if :

1.    It has at least two women in it,

2.    who talk to each other,

3.    about something besides a man.

A fourth point is sometimes added about the women having names. Most people would probably agree that that’s a fairly minimal standard for a work to meet if it’s attempting to portray reality in any way, and most people would probably not be that surprised that most films fail to meet this test (think of one, right now. Not Clueless).

For those of you that are further not aware (I’m amazed you managed to find the internet), Pacific Rim is a film about monsters coming out of the ocean (via a thing) and getting punched by robots with people in them.

If you haven’t seen it there are probably fairly major spoilers below.

So, on first blush, Pacific Rim is a pretty obvious fail on the Bechdel front. The three female characters I can remember are:

1.    Cartoonishly coquetteish Japanese pilot lady who is shown to be entirely capable of kicking ass then not really allowed to do so very much to allow the plot to have hero man save her.

2.    Russian pilot lady who is possibly the woman from Roxette who doesn’t really have anything to do except “look at things in a Russian manner” and “spout techno-babble before dying herio(ne)cally”.

3.    Hong Kong lady who yells at Charlie in the shelter.

There are others but they’re basically scenery.

To the scoring then:

1.    It has at least two women in it - just barely

2.    who talk to each other – never ever

3.    about something besides a man – see above

Not good. In fact the movie actively goes out of its way to avoid female relationships and be laden down with father figures and father/son – older brother/younger brother – Chinese triplet basketball dude dynamics. Sites such as the Jezebel have written on this at some length.

But.

But.

Here’s a thing:

Perhaps in our rush to condemn what is certainly a very ‘old fashioned’ movie that we rather liked in spite of it’s ‘get out of my way emotionally unstable dames/Australians! American man is here to save your honour/the day! with punching/ Nucular weapons! Cause they’re analogue!’ we may be forgetting one thing, in fact, more than one thing, a dozen or so things -

The Kaiju**

Which are female.

Well, at least one is, and they’re all clones so: while it’s not impossible to imagine that a malevolent alien race bent on stripping the earth of it’s natural resources by way of a handy inter-dimensional portal and a giant monster invasion could change the gender of said giant monsters at will, on the evidence at hand (one is pregnant with monster baby) it’s not unreasonable to assume that they’re all female.

But are they women?

Uh, no.

Obviously. Read the bit above dingus, they’re giant monsters from beyond the stars who came out of a hole in the ocean. But again – BUT. We are supposed to identify them as the antagonist characters of the piece, and they are at least somewhat identifiably humanoid (except the lobster one). There is ongoing debate within the Bechdel testing community (sure it’s a thing) as to whether non-human but humanly characterised characters count (see for example the heated My Little Pony debate). Some formulations of the test even state test 1. as ‘female characters’ as opposed to ‘women’ specifically. So let’s give that one a “yeah not really buying it Ben but I’ve read this far so let’s see where you’re going”.

Do they talk about things that aren’t men?

Well for one, they don’t talk. I guess they roar a bit? There’s spitting, that could be communicative. They do however have some kind of poorly explained brain meld plot McGuffin that means they’re all communicating with each other ALL OF THE TIME. It’s pretty unlikely that ALL of these conversations are about how hot Idris Alba is or how they need to lick Charlie for some reason. I mean two of them hang out around the bottom of the ocean for forty-five minutes just waiting for the plot to allow sufficient time for young Aussie to say goodbye to dad Aussie. Surely there’s some strategising going on? Some bemoaning of the fact that they already used the EMP thing and the acid thing so now they just have to be like fast? And big?

So to sum up – more than 2 alien monsters that may or may not be female (and/or dinosaurs) might be assumed in their telepathic communiques to have telephathsised on some subject other than the dudes, so long as we assume that the nominal gender of the robots wasn’t male. I’m not saying that this passes the Bechdel test. I am saying that maybe the conditions of the Bechdel test need to be revisited in the light of our ability to make movies where all the talky human characters are just exposition spewers between insane Gorilla Lizard on Ned Kellybot action.***

And they all definitely had names. Silly ones.

———-

*I always end up googling béchamel test but I usually end up in the right place (The béchamel test is to ensure it doesn’t taste floury. You don’t want that.)

**Kaiju are the monsters. Seriously, how do you even own a computer. Are you reading this in a library?

***This obviously excludes any scene involving Ron Perlman and/or Charlie Day.

 

We feel the matter has been adequately dealt with in accordance with policy.

Dear Sir/Madam

We are writing to inform you that your child (insert student name here) was caught on Turner Elementary School premises in possession of prohibited items. The item(s) in question were: approx. 60 x bags of heroin_______________.

You will note that approx. 60 x bags of heroin is not allowed on school property without a permission slip or doctor’s note. Please refer to schedule 4(a) of the school’s Prohibited Items and Contraband Policy for further information on what students may or may not bring onto school premises.

We are further concerned that (insert student name here) was seen to distribute approx. 60 x bags of heroin amongst class mates. This constitutes unacceptable behaviour as outlined in schedules 1 – 7 of the school’s Rules and Disciplinary Procedures document.

We would like to arrange a meeting with you, (insert student name here), the headmaster and the District Attorney’s Office at the earliest convenient opportunity to discuss this behaviour with you.

Please acknowledge receipt of this letter.

Yours in education,

Turner Elementary School

Context: http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5jGAkQxvayPjRzGCibgnXslnJWwBwD9F37SMO0

It’s so hard to get good coverage these days

I know that the denizens of the United States are currently facing the prospect of promising their first-born in exchange for back-alley dialysis performed by some guy with a siphon hose, a foot pump and a discarded water cooler, but I feel that these reasonable compromises in the name of free enterprise are nothing on the dire situation that I find myself in with my new health insurance.

This clause in particular puts quite a damper on things:

Health Insurance

Lessons learnt, poolside

The old “sneak up behind the guy threatening to push the girl into the pool and push them BOTH into the pool” bit is a lot less fun when you consider that everybody carries a thousand dollars worth of electrical equipment on their person at all times these days.

Things I did tonight instead of writing this blog post

1. stayed late at work to attend a staff meeting
2. ate delicious vegan hot dogs with salsa.
3. ate turkey jerkey thus rather defeating the purpose of the above.
4. played Lego Star Wars for about an hour (or two)
5. went to the gym
6. Avoided looking at the pile of marking sitting on my desk.
7. wrote THIS blog post.

Normal programming will resume soon.

This made me chuckle

Because I’m very, very tired.

From the label of the bottle of whiteboard cleaner upon my desk:

“Strong” White board Cleaner spray type.

this product is made and refined from natural, eatable sea salt and fresh cocos. Nc harm in human’s skin, chemical-free ingredient is the Most ideal and multi-fuctional cleaning fluid for environment protection. Abilities of anti-rust and resolving dirty part strongly and Rapidly.

Yih Thank

And who hasn’t wanted their dirty part resolved strongly and rapidly at one time or another.

Ten Superman comic plots I’ve thought of, that have probably already been done.

1. Superman gets a puppy. The puppy is made of Kryptonite.

2. Lex Luthor injects Superman with nanobots. Which are made of Kryptonite.

3. Lex Luthor puts a lump of Kryptonite in a pillow case and totally goes to town on Superman with it.

4. Superman breaks a fluroescent lightbulb, flooding the room with Krypton gas. He panics momentarily until he realises that actually Krypton gas has no relation to Kryptonite which is totally made up.

5. Lex Luthor sends Clark Kent an anonymous bunch of super-flowers, with a return address. Clark sends a thankyou note to the address, but Lex, knowing Clark’s movements, replaces the mailbox with one made of Kryptonite.

6. Lex Luthor gives Superman some candy. Or Kandy. Because its made of Kryptonite. This gives Superman a Kavity. When he goes to the dentist to have it filled, the dentist is actually Lex Luthor and fills his tooth with Kryptonite.

7. Although deadly in large quantities, Superman realises that a small dose of Kryptonite, cut with a base mineral such as biKarbonate Soda, actually makes him feel ‘kinda funny and cool’. What begins as a recreational flirtation with Kryptonite intoxication (or “greening”) soon becomes an addiction. In no time at all Superman is starting each super-day by smoking unrefined Kryptonite off tin-foil, just to feel ‘normal’. After waking up in an alleyway with a nose bleed and soaked in super-urine (with a vague recollection of destroying Wayne Manor with his heat vision), Superman enrols in a 12 step program. Unfortunately it is run by Lexcorp and the 12th step is Kryptonite.

8. Superman ruthlessly slaughters scores of Crytpozoologists, before realising that the word is spelled with a C and has nothing to do with nefarious schemes to breed a race of super-strong Kryptonite imbued Gorilla warriors. His misdirected murder spree distracts him for long enough for Lex Luthor to breed a race of super-strong Kryptonite imbued Gorilla warriors

9. Superman specifically asks the pizza place not to put any Kryptonite on his pizza. When his pizza arrives, it totally has fucking Kryptonite all over it. The delivery guy tells him to stop being such a pussy and just pick it off.

10. Superman spends an entire comic book sitting in his fortress of solitude, grappling with his deep seated feelings of abandonment for being sent into space by his parents. Then something happens involving Kryptonite.

Dubai(ous)

Apologies for the terrible pun thing. I am planning on getting a lot of mileage out of it.

Anywhoo, tomorrow I’m off to Dubai for the weekend, to attend a course on behaviour management. Should be a hoot. There’ll be tales to tell I’m sure. With pictures even.

Dubai has a kind of mystique these days, a tiny, fabulously rich desert kingdom where which is reinventing itself as a cross between Michael Jackson’s Neverland and the world’s largest shopping mall. Those are supposed to be analogies but actually it already has the latter, and it may be going the way of the former.

When I tell people I live in Bahrain, Dubai is often the nearest touchstone.

“Don’t they have like a 3rd of all the cranes in the world there?” Probably

“I heard you can ski in one of the malls” Yep

“Aren’t the building [insert as appropriate] an airconditioned beach/a series of islands that look like a world map/the world’s biggest phallic symbol/a theme park twice the size of Disney World (Dubai Land) etc” Most Certainly. And more besides.

All of this in a country that has practically no natural resources (oil accounts for a mere 6% of GDP and isn’t expected to last more than 20 more years), where the native population is out numbered 20 to 1 by foreign workers, and where not even 30 years ago you would’ve been hard pressed to find a paved road and the tallest constructions were minarets.

How could a place like this possibly exist?

Only briefly, unsustainably and perhaps soon catastropically failurely.

I’ve been meaning to write about this for a while, but it turns out that other people have done a much better job than I, so I will turn you over to them:

This guy sums it up pretty well:

Short of opening a Radio Shack in an Amish town, Dubai is the world’s worst business idea, and there isn’t even any oil. Imagine proposing to build Vegas in a place where sex and drugs and rock and roll are an anathema. This is effectively the proposition that created Dubai – it was a stupid idea before the crash, and now it is dangerous.[smashingtelly.com]

The New York times wrote a piece about the mass exodus of expat workers

And the inimitable Johann Hari followed up with some of that  Olde Time Investigative Journalisme.

With this guy providing some valid counterpoints to what’s in danger of becoming fashionable “Dubai Bashing” and Hari’s somewhat hyperbolic style.

So go forth, educate thyself.

All this stuff does make me appreciate that, despite suffering from many of the same foibles as Dubai (wholesale environmental destruction, exploitation of 3rd world labour, restrictions on speech and where I can get a beer) Bahrain at least has a vision for the future that amounts to more than “we’re gonna have the biggest shit”. There is a genuine desire and drive towards weening the country off the rapidly drying oil teat and bringing home the realisation that they won’t always be able to throw money at nameless filipino or sub-continental folks to do all the jobs they don’t like doing. The country has a self-improvement plan on the books, but it remains to be seen whether it will be able to deliver on it.

Bleh.

I didn’t proof read this. Its 11.30pm and I haven’t packed yet.

Going down?

Like many people, I find myself, at times, thinking about things. Also stuff.  Surprising I know.

One of the things I have recently spent precious energy on neuralising (converting my body’s stored chemical potential energy into heat, thus increasing the amount of entropy in the universe and hastening our march towards eventual cosmic heat-death in accordance with the laws of thermodynamics) was elevators.

I did the bulk of this thinking whilst standing in the harsh fluroescent non-bience (I invented that word just now) that exists outside my apartment door, that mysterious land of dropped cigarette butts and hushed midnight conversations (with bonus giggling and/or crying),  watching the numbers tick closer and closer to the target floor (mine) and then right past. And then sitting on G for a while. And then going up again. And then rapidly vacillating between the 15th and 16th floor for no apparent reason. This is what the elevators in my building do.

Anyway this got me to thinking that somebody somewhere must be in the business of designing the algorithms that govern elevator movement; when to send a car up, when to send one down, when to introduce that phantom 9 year old kid that pushes all the buttons and then mysteriously disappears just before you get in (leaving only a faintly unpleasant sulphurous odour).

It just so happened that my elevator car’s brownian motion brought it to my floor before I could crack the mystery of elevator behavioural science (eventual conclusion: whoever designed the control software for my building is either incredibly incompetent, or a sadist) but, in one of those funny little coincidences that people like to attribute to various imaginary friends, I happend to stumble upon this article not long after:

Up and Then Down – The lives of elevators.

Which, if you managed to parse those ridiculously convulted sentences and realise that I was talking about elevators, and you happened to be a person who found such things interesting, is a good read.

About elevators.

7 days of this kind of rambling. How exciting for you.