Friday, May 17, 2013

Net life

Don't often do this, and to be honest you could do it every week, but here is a round-up of decent stuff off the 'nets in the last week or so. Click 'em up, bookmark them, print them (on recycled paper) for the next bus journey!

Old people like new music, while young people like old music, but convince themselves it sounds fresh. Young people call them 'too old to appreciate new music'; old people worry about a decline in critical standards and a rise in prejudice. Alex Niven crystallises an unseemly row over latest Midlands chuggers Peace (like them if you have to, enjoy their 'moment', just dont claim originality for them).

Coldplay Foldclay. You may not like them, but Phil Knight is right to notice that they are saying something (not especially encouraging) about our condition.

But if you're talking old music that's built to put new music eternally in the shade, Drake's Bryter Layter is a good place to start. Kaptain Kulk shows why, on the advent of its 30th anniversary re-release, it pisses on a whole set of lame singer-songwriter newbies who know not what to take from his oeuvre.

We're Now Here, but this is Where We Were. In an interview about his Bristol rave scene novel, Bert Random deftly explains elements of the rave era and how it is different in a net-led age: "There was a certain amount of post-Cold-War naive optimism in the early 90s ... there was a faint possibility things might actually turn out okay – and that naivety is quite appealing from a distance. Obviously 20 years of grim neoliberal economics and authoritarian politics has screwed that idea into the ground."

And on the rave days, Undeleted talks with cute back-in-the-day detail on rediscovering a few old records by first-gen dons like Beltram and Hawtin. As he suggests, none of it sounds too great now but records like Vortex still impress, offering almost utopia-through-dystopia. If you've lost it to this mind-altering barbarity, you deserve the promised land. Go on then. Have a music break.

A short debate about digital immaterialism, and the dancer-serfs: 'There is a perfect symmetry and social discipline going on in this metronome beat which apes behaviour at all levels of work, rest and play'. Yes, it's by me and an old mate on shifting work and play patterns. Getting sticky with the links here.

And this is excellent from Ashleigh Young on the various perspectives of loneliness on the internet.

Wayne Kasper meanwhile notes the squeezing of all but the most financially valuable immigrant and 'native' poor.

and lastly, 'The future must be cracked open once again' quoth these white, male and deadly serious Accelerationist academics with a manifesto, an event at Goldsmiths and everything. Hurry!

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Tuesday, May 14, 2013

A short debate about digital immaterialism, and the dancer-serfs

"The deluge of music, video, images, and words unleashed by the web has created an environment that is toxic to any kind of underground culture actually developing"
Bert Random

Frank Capri is a former writer-at-large for the long-disbanded Whorecull. Shortly after the Iraq invasion of 2003 he retreated to a Tibetan monastery in order to "karmarize" and "deal with a lot of discordant emotionality". In 2007, karma restored, he joined Lehman Brothers "on an entryist tip". The rest, you might say, is history. The Truth caught up with Frank recently for a think-off in a secret location in London's square mile. The specialist subject du jour: music and work, mediated by meditations on robots.

Frank Capri: I go through phases but I'm gradually convincing my head that the automaton is a device to appropriate time and make workers docile. Take the metronome. It's a metaphor for stupidity; but not in any creative sense. The dancer-workers imagine it's a dialectical thang where stupidity transcends and sublates its conditions of existence in some higher consciousness. Frankly this argument is a cliché that I'm bored of hearing: the idea about "sound" which every bedroom DJ knows off by heart: a stripped down beat, noise, drum roll, more noise, crescendo... followed by some sort of euphoric condensation in which the dancer-workers are given time to take a swig of their Red Bull, before being compelled to start the whole routine from scratch. Or else get the night bus home just in time to get up the next morning for work. Whether the "work" in question be "real" or "virtual" dole-ite subsistence. I'm getting off on Chopin these days, not robot percussion.

S Truth: We are in a world where those funky Apple product ads are pure ideology, and the wider point ur making about barely knowing the conditions of our existence hold true. Not totally sure that an aesthetic swinge to the likes of Chopin can get us out of the immaterialist mire though. I just think western work-life has changed so much with the genuine digital age but we're still using old paradigms to try and define it. Fear of the Rise of the Machines is all a bit Adam Curtis isn't it?

FC: Yeah, maybe, but not machines per se. Let's not go bum up on robots. I did some empirical research some years ago with monkeys. It was all about time travel. [At this point Frank gets up to go to the bathroom and doesn't return for 40 minutes] Where was I?

Truth: You were talking about time travel.

FC: Sure. Which just proves my point.

Truth: Perhaps you could go over that again.

FC: Look. Old paradigms. I'm not big on that kind of scholastic chat. I just think machines are so booted up to human psychology that it's impossible to think around them. But let's get back to my earlier point about the metronome. It seems to me that right now the metronome is perfectly amenable to the use of TV and other digital media in the service of advertising. It might change one day, why not?

Truth. You mean Chopin might one day become more amenable to advertising? How does that square with the metronome beat theory?

FC: OK. Granted. The listener cannot help but be hailed as a worker/consumer by the beat. "Get up!" It's a slogan once the preserve of James Brown, but now embraced by the brands, inducing us to work harder, fitter, stronger and then fuck up, piss up, blow out all the more harder. There's a perfect symmetry and social discipline going on in this metronome beat which apes behaviour at all levels of work, rest and play. Does subculture mean anything anymore, if we accept that we can no longer really distinguish work from leisure? Subculture's supposed to be the preserve of casuals who find spaces of stylistic solidarity – "resistance through rituals" – outside "the factory". But all that's changed. On the dole or in work, where does the factory end and leisure begin nowadays? All this factory discipline being imposed on the unemployed – not just by government but monumentally by the multi-task culture of Linked-in or what not – convinces me that it's one continuum, you never stop being a worker. And so the "bosses" need a universal beat.

ST: Leaving aside the related issue of the unchecked data harvesting of the likes of Google etc with one result being your lifestyle (once considered individualist) algorithmically thrown back at you, your line about subculture meaning nothing as we can't readily distinguish work from leisure is the most important. Subculture does virtually nothing now, or at least something entirely different as to how older generations would have understood it. This is not so much about cultural artefacts appearing ‘new’ or ‘fresh’ as their function – music to make us work and dance and work. This is why we have hipsters as our 'youth cult – little left to represent, nothing left to say, but hey my mate's just set up this bare cool vintage goods shop. Dalston is as much Harry Styles and, more importantly, gentrified spaces as it is scuzzy warehouse dos and independent arts collectives going beyond. So you're right – the role of popular music and the values it embodies are shifting. Little seems to cut it above the commodified techno-society today. It is accepted that brands are exploited for funding by culture operators. Appropriating the appropriators.

Yet most of the immaterialist development has come from the bottom-up as the infinite uses of internet communication have unravelled; problem is as you say that it is so easily co-opted by the management class. We're always-on these days, available for a second opinion, a bit of viral marketing, some (invariably free) work, etc, etc. The culture of delivering intangible goods for nothing easily slips over into the real world, where, for example, qualified interpreters have to boycott police and court work because some great outsourcer tells the MoJ they can do the job with monkeys being paid peanuts. New problems; same old exploitation. We have let our value and worth become degraded.

FC: This goes back to my earlier point about the monkeys. It was a totally safe experiment. But the company sponsoring it decided it would be cheaper to use real people!

ST: One aspect is what seems to be the supine nature of left debate, and therefore the lack of action, if Twitter's any guide. It seems fine minds and potentially powerful activists are addicted to 'the conversation' - no one likes to miss out on any cheap meme at the expense of theorising What Is To Be Done. 'We need a left of the left' - they sarcastically remark. Wrong, we need people who stop labelling themselves left but who do fuck all but sneer at more activist voices. We need people to get off Twitter. Hard sometimes to think Twitter is anything other than a valve where people are allowed to let off steam (and of course have a laugh, and look hip, and talk about food, and cats, and share tracks) to no great effect. Meh to the 'memes'. Both of these issues have the same factor – whatever the reason more and more people can't get off their computer, the smartphone, the tablet (the fucking machines). I do see positive elements to this interconnected autonomy, but people seem to dismiss the negative implications too readily.

FC: I'm hearing you! This is where the technology hasn't gone far enough. We're not enough Linked-in. If we're going to be Linked-in 24/7 then let's learn something on the way to the culture lobotomy clinic. Go beyond work, make knowledge an end in itself. Knowledge is the only answer to the perennial redundancy of human labour and intellect. Set theory, topology, differential calculus. Let's bring the Republic back down to earth through years of compulsory mathematics. Bring me your unskilled laborers – dishwashers, security guards, care workers – and I'll make them Platonists.

ST: An LRB piece by Rebecca Solnit covered the Google and Apple buses that take new San Fran residents out to Silicon Valley and back every day, and how this tech driven culture directly links into the gentrification ossie. These tech workers are destroying the need for cheap, local services as they're not there and only have time to eat out, drive up rents, homogenize the culture (basically they're fine with a latte and a wifi) and are eating away at the Bay area. It’s an elite monoculture that doesn’t care about the poor sods left behind. FC: Let's Platonize the fucks.

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Monday, May 13, 2013

Notes on four days at #MCFC

It began on Friday. Stories leaked of Pellegrini being earmarked as new City boss. Guillem Balague doing his journalistic job to break exclusives of course. But giving fellow Catalonian Roberto Martinez a huge boost. There was a word for it - Destablisation. But this was no conspiracy, just converging circumstances.

City stayed silent - that’s how they ‘conduct their business’, we were told. Why back a condemned man if we’d regressed from last year’s zenith? Mancini had been nudged all year by hacks keen to deliver a fall guy. Abu Dhabi and the Hispanophonic mafia were at least consistent. They never backed him then too.

(The pall actually developed on Wednesday; Fergieout meant another ‘Man U week’. Effusive praise from every area of the sphere – business, tabloids, politicians. Continuity; legacy; doing things the right away. That’s what the Arabs promised. That was what was happening at OT. Our preparation was overshadowed.)

Saturday, and 45,000 plus Blues headed to Wembley in expectation. We came with cans, refusing to pay for every aspect of modern #commerceballs. Having been licked by Budweiser, the FA, the trains, the rest of the sorry bunch. His head gone, Mancini U-turned on playing Pants, who’s going anyway. Joe Hart to start; Cup to be won here.

Something’s not right; complacency against ‘little Wigan’, maybe not enough fight. Squeezed in the middle and shit out wide. Wrong substitutions too. Barry sells Zabaleta short; Zaba dives in recklessly; he walks. Who’s that ginger sub on for them? Ben Watson, about to score the winner. The giant Pants would have got that, or Zaba on the line.

That awful sinking feeling, a missed opportunity, a fucking mess of a managerial situation. #Cupforcockups returns, but the Latics deserved it, definitely. Dave Whelan’s a self-regarding tit but impossible to deny them that. And some of us stayed to clap them off; not every loser would. Sometimes it’s better to go in hope than expectation.

Sunday, Ferguson finale: what? A late OT winner you say! Champions ceremony. They know how to draw the spectacle out, pure brand hype, #tears flow worldwide. Blues switch off and switch back on the gallows humour, still nothing announced. Blues want eras and empires as well as moments too. A 60-year-old can’t build those.

Now it’s Monday 13th May - exactly a year ago, pure reverie could begin. All those Aguero videos; the Yaya-Kolo dance; Makems winding up Reds. Merson’s Lovebites; ‘you’ll never see this again’, so drink it in. That’s Sky talk; as fans we’re helplessly exploited every step of the way. By 11pm Manciniout - decision may be right but circumstances weren't.

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