Friday, May 30, 2008

Let's balk about sex

“I don’t want to employ the services of a beautiful Chinese call-girl. I’m quite happy to stay ‘out of the game’, thanks very much. I have no desire to act on desire.”

This was the situation 22 I found myself in on another ‘business’ trip to Singapore - if being holed up in an office robot-editing stories for three days can be called corporate travel (and next time I’ll just get up early and do it from home). One evening, the insistence of hospitality ignored anything I’d like to do in favour of checking out the hotel bars where the aprostates roam. When will people realise that we don’t always have to act on our desires, that we don’t always have to serve these needs, that the deed once done returns a gruesome reality to life? I eventually managed to leave this pre-transactional parade, vocalising taut jungle beats down Orchard Road in riposte (and still being offered business).

Super-reality is Singapore’s forte. It is like one long episode of the Apprentice. A city-state sandwiched with British colonial help between Malaysia and Indonesia, it long ago sought economic primacy with culture and society running behind a distant second to discipline and the work ethic. You will all have heard the stereotypes – clean, boring, crime-free, strict, corporate, efficient, it is all these things and not a lot more. In 30° heat, I found the ‘no drinking’ on the mass rapid transit (SMRT) system particularly oppressive.

Yet you head into town on the Smart-link and see perfect advertisements for Cities in the Sky – whole districts chocked full of clean, functioning towerblocks with the requisite infrastructure nearby. There will obviously be isolated resistance to ‘the system’ mainly due to and expressed through Western youth culture, but there’s no way an underclass can develop, so let’s do away with the net. Just as Chinese, Malays and Tamils come together and avoid tension through the lingua franca English, corporate and entertainment culture combine so the business, hotel and resto district is Singapore’s selling point – come and have a look at supersized towers, get a nice meal, let’s talk business. The ‘oldest profession’ is not pushed under the carpet but is legitimised as all part of the service.

An expat band played funky hits as the men roamed and the girls waited until drink absolved any morals or resistance (the ladyboys I’m told were more likely to roam near the airport, by a taxidriver crank credulous of the notion that it’s just “the jews” who run all the businesses!). Europe’s grotty red-light districts have thrust similar stag-tour temptation at me so I was unlikely to say ‘oh sure, get me a whore’ even if there was more of a patina of glamour here, even if, as I was told, they were ‘flocking’ to me. A mid-30 average white boy being slightly higher up the aesthetic food chain than their stock middle-aged sweaty overweight trade. Apparently though it’s fine here as everybody, meaning those sweaty and overweight and the ‘mind on my money and my money on my mind’ call-girls, has been able to reduce it to a pure transaction, the justification you hear everywhere else.

There is no room for the uncanny in Singapore, or an appreciation that culture quite often comes from the margins, and can’t just be slapped on the populace. I found myself longing for a bit of London’s rough around the edges, its faded glamour, its dissolute attitude. Culture is a little more than fine food, wheels even bigger (but of course) than the London eye and impressive neon-lit views of the harbour from a hotel tower (I’d surprised myself by not going bandy after I had been persuaded to go 70 stories up). It is not all about the spectacle and - because you’re worth it - satiating desire (generated by all that work).

But in global capital, the machine needs all the cogs to work for faultless efficiency. And there were lengthy delays at Changi Airport on connecting flights – at last I had time to put on my the walkman and play some tunes. White Denim’s playful rock shapes were an enjoyable way of blotting out the entreaties to enjoy the Changi Airport 'experience' (when culture has been traduced as outlined, it is the same as anything outside the airport has to offer).

When it got delayed again, I had no music to match the fraught mood. I thought I would zone out with Liars’ 30-minute psycho trancer This Dust That Makes Mud, but it beat me about 15 minutes in. Singapore will never be able to degenerate culture this way.
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Wednesday, May 14, 2008


***Update, it turns out MC/r council themselves were only prepared for the pseudo event of celebrating football, etc, and not the reality of 100,000 Rangers fans pissed out of their mind and irate when a) one of the main screens went off b) they lost 2-0 and a significant minority used the city centre site for a rampage., of course, fails to mention this side of the occasion at all in its review.

Don't laugh, the Euroid final between Glasgae Rangers and Zenit St Petersburg was not the first time there has been at atmosphere at Eastlands. It's the seventh. This was also City's final and the whole area was lit up like normally it isn't, the B of the Bang banging and a great overhead of the ground. the gers lost to two good goals from Zenith Peter's Borg and some Russians ran on to the pitch but were briefly dispatched. Rumours have it the Rangers crowd were pissed from town centre booze-offs and this may have been reflected in their non roof-raising noise but took defeat well. From a City Eastlands point of view the coverage was great, although given that the area is normally neglected this showed up the very worst of international capital's veneering of area/event/'experience'*. And where is this 'Manchester' that they say the final is being held at? is it near or have anything to do with Manchester City? or is Eastlands one of United's training grounds or something - Not loving the neutralisation of place in the description.

The coverage did it until the final climax of the trophy lifting, which was timed horrendously by the UEFA colleagues with the release of a Foo Fighters song about 'giving the best of me' or something (actually Best of You), to add to a collective stew that looked/sounded like David Brent at his motivation lecture in Reading, finaling with Tina turner's Simply the Best. When will these mediator bastards realise that one sensation/celebration doesn't need to be excessed with a complimentary overload by another. Leave the music out of it, the atmosphere was sufficient.

(just the addition of a few images here, so i can link to them in the sidebar)

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Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Morphing the munglists

Back to rave last week. Czuk and I landed in some stereotype nu jungle jump-off in ghetto rave venue/pubclub Goldsmiths Tavern, a night made palatable by an enthused local crowd even as the music made a standard out of its own bog. Yes the mood was better there than last time, what with laydeez free and the still-liberating deshackler of the madfast jungle, put on by Kings of the Nu School and with Skibadee representing the only known.

His name ensured an MC-led angle to it. Each tune sped past unremarkable by any other characteristic, this functionality emphasised by the treble seeming to be down on the record to give the chatter its space, siren and riff-free. Each time though the 100ish crowd helped to make each lick seem more vital, more edgy than perhaps either the present-day post-garage or four-beat variants. It’s surely time jungle as a music moved on from its psychedelic concrete heyday but this may be unlikely while the spirit changes it in half-death. Maybe it should roughen up the beats again and take a different reality, like these.

On a personalised and selfish note, because I blog like that, the night emphasised the unfulfilled futility of any nights out when the interdependables are back at home. So schooled now in the metaphorical boat-pushing out and barely able to resist the flow in any case, this was made painfully evident by the need to go relatively early, leaving the 171 bus and home as chief loci for the biscuitworkings. No point in going out if the deshackler can’t be accessed, but it was still a welcome few hours away from corpo-reality.
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