Sunday 30 November 2014

Field of Dreams.

Contains nothing but spoilers!

There’s lots of impressive things about Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar and to a degree it made me want to go back and re-watch some of his earlier films and think more about his recurring obsession with time (plus the frozen planet is highly reminiscent of his second movie Insomnia, which I hardly remember at all.) It’s certainly all very clever, as you would expect, and technically accomplished but as per usual with Nolan you’re left wondering why the political vision of the film is in comparison so abysmally lacking. 

The earth is running out of food due to The Blight, but despite this armies have been abolished. Oh aye? That seems unlikely. No ongoing resource wars then? No rich people stockpiling grub, no warlords sitting on top of dwindling fresh water supplies? Nope. But there is a benign secret NASA project to get man off the earth, this is despite the seeming loss of the questing American frontier spirit, as embodied by Cooper a last Man among Last Men, and his feisty daughter Murph, who gets into a fistfight over liberal revisionist histories that portray the moon landings as a hoax to sucker the Ruskies into a ruinous space race. Green liberals, here schoolteachers, would have us wallow in the dirt as farmers rather than head for the heavens, worrying all the time about squandering the world’s last precious resources when the earth should really just be viewed as something we use up in order to get out into space, fulfilling our godlike destiny among the stars. So essentially, in this film the world’s environmental problems are just absolutely insoluble but travelling through a wormhole into different dimensions then ultimately transporting the rest of humanity there, perfectly do-able. 

Brand, the head of the NASA project has told a “noble lie” there is no plan to ship earthlings out, but to repopulate the new planet from scratch with some frozen embryos. Brand couldn't tell the humans this, they would never agree to go if it didn't mean rescuing their own loved ones and so have had to be tricked into it, sheeple that they are, though from a genuinely, scientifically disinterested perspective, why is the continued existence of humanity as a species of any importance whatsoever, unless, as the Nolans obviously do, you regard humanity as having some kind of transcendent value, to, in effect, be the meaning of the cosmos itself, not merely the human as the integer of all existence, but specifically the ruggedly individualistic, American male, cornerstone of the divinely ordained American family, with his love for his daughter and his powerful will, embodied in his unbreakable “promise” a force powerful enough to shape and bend all of time space to his ends. Better this than sitting quietly alone, waiting for the end, eh? Ah, man and his pathological sense of dignity! 

 And here lies the heart of Interstellar’s deep conservatism, remorseless natalism and nostalgia. Possibly the reason Cooper is so desperate to get those surviving on earth off planet is so that they can continue the great American project, maintain the sacred order of property, family, and tradition. The first thing Cooper sees on awakening in the space station at journey's end is some kids playing baseball outside his window in a dustless facsimile of 1950's USA. Paradise restored! Who knows, a whole load of awoken embryos might have decided to do it all differently? 

But then again of course, being human, they couldn't. We might plunge through the event horizon and wind up in a five dimensional Tesseract, but that other horizon, a life beyond home and family, beyond the inevitabilities of reproduction, property, the grand kids at your deathbed,  the couple, and that couple best expressed as love between a straight man and woman ( though in this the woman’s love, rather girlish and not to be trusted, leads them almost into doom, whereas Cooper’s love for his daughter is the force that ultimately saves us all), that horizon, internal, genetic, hard wired is impassable, breaching that, unthinkable.

 In this respect Interstellar is just another conservative vision of American Renewal, a highly unlikely prospect that requires all kinds of increasingly epic torsions of time-space to seem faintly credible. One day, on distant stars, we will sit swilling beer on the porch with our robots, secure in the knowledge that there was only ever one way to live, one form of life we were just bound biologically into, which reached its apotheosis and then presumably went out into the Universe like a great cancer, strip mining and devastating everything it found, humanity metastasising identikit McMansions into the cosmos’s deepest folds.

This is almost certainly Elon Musk's favourite film eva.

Thursday 27 November 2014

Radical change is possible and necessary but only if alternative thinking has the courage to move out of the margins. Repeater is committed to bringing the periphery to the centre, taking the underground overground, and publishing books that will bring new ideas to a new public. We know that any encounter with the mainstream risks corrupting the tidiness of untested ideals, but we believe that it is better to get our hands dirty than worry about keeping our souls pure.


Wednesday 29 October 2014

The Stranglers' version of Walk on By voted third best cover of all time.

The stars aligning, the moon entering its fullest phase  ...

Thursday 9 October 2014

Wednesday 23 July 2014

Wednesday 4 June 2014

African Easterly

Before there was the label of “afrobeat” and well in advance of the market for “world music,” you may as well have filed this stuff under ‘Funk.” Given the number of cover version of “Soul Makossa” recorded by American acts in the year following the song’s arrival on U.S. shores, why the hell not?

In the course of searching for some discog info while doing vinyl rips of some early Manu Dibango LPs, I come across the following from Robert Christgau, re Dibango’s Makossa Man album:
"Hate to say this, but what makes Dibango's African dances so much catchier than those of the competition is that he's from a French part of the continent, which means he relates to the Caribbean -- all of it -- rather than to rock. Let's face it, rock's catchiest beats have always come from the Caribbean. Not that ‘catchiest’ is the only superlative I care about."
Cute, but I’m inclined to wave off the Franco-West Indies assertion. If anything, it could be argued that the former colonial territories of Spain and Portugal exerted a more pervasive influence. But in extending “the Dean” of American rock scribes all due courtesy, I guess one could make the Franco-Caribbean connection by way of a soukous kinship. Maybe. If anything, most Western listeners are more likely to hear obvious influences of James Brown, Junior Walker, et al.. Most Americans were introduced to Dibango’s music with “Soul Makossa,” and again with the Atlantic LP of the same name that quickly followed; the latter of which included a couple of tunes that the artists had recorded four year earlier. If anything, there’s plenty of moments when you might be struck by the canny parallel between what Dibango was up to – in terms of electrified rhythmic Afro-Cuban hybridity, and the expansiveness of a groove – and what Carlos Santana and his crew were doing at the exact same time.

And I suppose there’s a lot could be said about the extent of the Santana influence; about he his band inspired countless musicians – be they black, brown, beige or white – during the years of the late 1960s and early 1960s. If anything, there was a timeliness about it all, as if Carlos & crew had come along at exactly the right cultural moment. Mainly because the appearance of those first several Santana albums coincided with the years that the Chicano (Civil Rights) Movement reached peak activity and achieved its highest public recognition. Perhaps something similar could be said of Dibango’s premier on the international stage, corresponding as it did with a brief period when political hopes an urbanizing, post-colonial northern Africa were brightly optimistic.*

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* A personal for-instance: I recall that in the early 1970s, some elementary-school world history textbooks in the U.S. adopted a chapter or two about Africa's emergence on the geo-political stage (particularly focusing on Nigeria, which had – admittedly – at the time only recently emerged from the Biafran War). By the end of the decade, this trend would undergo a reversal – with Africa being once again returned to the margins in most textbooks, if not dropped altogether.

Saturday 4 January 2014

Zoned Out

A couple of photos of the Royal Green Jackets in Belfast, some time pre-1976, from the IWM site:

Fascinating mainly for the overwhelming depiction of entropy - there's nothing in these pictures that doesn't seem to be falling apart. Even the soldiers look shabby, the officer in the foreground in some kind of trance.

How strange, the 20th Century.