Monthly Archives: February 2013

Review: My Bloody Valentine – m b v

mbvIt’s not unusual for artists to take a break between projects, especially those studious ones obsessed with perfecting their art.  Bowie has just returned after a ten year hiatus.  The wonderful Scott Walker is notorious for Kubrickian interludes between albums.  Then there were the likes of New Order and Portishead, who buggered around for a decade before resuming output.  But there are no musical artists quite in the league of Irish band My Bloody Valentine, whom we last heard of in 1991.  That’s right, my girlfriend wasn’t even born when they last released an album, the fantastic Loveless.

For all the plebs who know nothing about this wonderful band, My Bloody Valentine sound like nobody else on the planet.  Essentially, they make a form of ambient music with ridiculously loud guitars and strangely soft, indecipherable vocals.  It is overwhelming, Wagnerian, beautiful, and meant to be played with the volume at 11.  And 21 years later, they still sound like the future.

mbvoldThe new album, m b v, it has to be said, sounds relatively similar to Loveless, especially on the earlier tracks.  It is only later in the album that the band start to vary from that formula, with success.  The song New You lays off the heavy for a bit and almost sounds like an intelligible pop song.  It then gives way to In Another Way, the album’s best track, a sonic cathedral which sucks you inside with sheer decibelic power before tickling you with its subtle melodies and demisemitonal modulations.  It’s not a giant leap from 21 years before, but it still sounds fresh – like nothing else being released today.  Nothing Is is the most impenetrable track – it sounds like a stuck CD player, but gradually you hear the background rhythms power through.

my_bloody_valentineCritics are giving the new album five star reviews, and I don’t blame them, not because My Bloody Valentine have released anything too divergent from what they were doing a generation ago, but because that blueprint still sounds fresh, vital and amazing all these years later.  If you’re sick of hipster indie pop and all it represents in 2013, m b v is the antidote.  Download it, feed it through some big freakin’ speakers, dim the lights and crank it up.  It’ll blow your mind 😉

Ten Reasons Why Texas is Better Than New Zealand

Colin Espiner’s recent posting Ten Reasons Why We’re Better Than Australia, and some of the surrounding discussion, were very interesting, given the constant exodus of New Zealanders toward the Lucky Country.  I really have no ability to judge anything in Australia, since I’ve only spent three days in Sydney once, and that was in 1997.  But I liked a lot of what he said about why New Zealand was better, and I thought it might be interesting to go through his points one by one and look at how New Zealand compared to Texas.  I could write vast swathes of material on this subject – probably even a separate blog – but Espiner’s ten reasons are as good a place as any to start.  So here goes:

1. We’re more friendly. Everyone comments on this. It starts the moment you get off the plane, and continues every time you walk into a store, sit down for a coffee, or pass someone on the street. In Sydney, you don’t acknowledge anyone you might meet unless you already know them. Even smiling at a stranger is considered odd. Here, you’re practically smothered with affection.

Friendliness is a tough one to gauge.  New Zealanders are a lot shier than Texans, so it may be about quality over quantity.  But Texans are definitely more willing to engage you, give you a smile, talk to you, even if sometimes it’s a bit superficial.  There’s definitely a politeness and a deference in Texas that is absent in New Zealand.  I’m giving this one to Texas.

2. Small is beautiful. Australia is every bit as beautiful as New Zealand. It’s just a shame you have to travel thousands of kilometres between sights. Take it from someone who drove 23,000kms in four months – and that was only between Sydney and Perth. Here, you only have to pop round the corner for the scenery to change.

No contest, New Zealand wins this one.  While Texas has some fine beaches, and the Hill Country can be spectacular in places, you can’t beat the Kiwi scenery.  Can anyone?

3. Our houses are cheaper. OK, there are people in some Auckland suburbs who may disagree with this, but for the most part, it’s cheaper to buy a home here than it is in Australia. Sydney is unbelievably expensive. Anyone who isn’t a millionaire or a major CEO can’t afford to buy an actual house unless it’s some 80km west of the CBD. And forget about a garden unless you earn well into six figures.

Texas wins this one hands down.  You can buy a perfectly decent home in most Texas cities for $150k.  Prices in Auckland, by contrast, are insane.  Who would dream of owning a house in Auckland?

4. Our food and drink is better. Yes, a big call I know. Australia markets itself very effectively as a gourmand’s paradise. But for my money, our produce is fresher, our meat tastier, our ice cream creamier and our fish, er, fishier. If you’re a beer connoisseur you’ll be sadly disappointed in Australia unless you’re a fan of freezing cold, mass-produced lager. Granted, they make a decent drop of red, but their white wine is rubbish. And we’ve got way better lollies.

I really need to drink some more Texas wine to judge, but I know the quality of the craft beer available here probably edges out the Kiwi stuff.  Something about the body of the malt just makes it tastier, even if they go a bit nuts on the hops.  Texas sausages and beef leave their NZ counterparts for dead.  Yes, if you want fine dining restaurants with flea-sized portions, New Zealand is your place, but if you want a proper feed, it’s Texas all the way.

New Zealand has better fish, better chocolate, better Indian curries, and probably better wine, but for anything else you’ll want to be in Texas.

5. We love our indigenous culture. You’ve got to leave New Zealand to fully appreciate this, but our Maori heritage is an immense asset. I’m as white as the driven snow, but I treasure what Maoridom and Pacific Island culture has done for New Zealand. It makes us proud, strong, independent, and interesting. By contrast white Australia all but ignores its Aboriginal roots.

This one is tough to judge.  In Texas, “indigenous culture” really is Hispanic culture, and especially here in South Texas it is more than celebrated – it’s the dominant majority culture.  Tex-Mex cuisine especially makes Texas such a distinctive and wonderful place to live.  I’ll call this one a draw.

6. We’re not so uptight. Big-city Australians are wound as tight as watch springs. Out in the bush it’s better, but Kiwis are world-beaters at laconic, she’ll be right laid-backness. And she normally is right. No point having a heart attack, is there?

I think it is easier to relax and be relaxed in New Zealand.  Americans are always paranoid about one thing or another, and that’s something that Kiwis just don’t have.  But I am not sure New Zealanders are less uptight than Texans.  As I say, there is a politeness and a sereneness to Texans – it’s a cowboy thing.  Nobody really wigs out and loses their rag in Texas in quite the same way that you will see a New Zealander do.  Another win for Texas.

7. We’re more entrepreneurial. Australia may have a bigger economy, but we’re lighter on our feet. Because we have a small, educated, enthusiastic population of early adopters, New Zealand is a great place to start a business, further your career, or do something different from the herd. And because there’s only 4.5 million of us, it’s easier for our voice to be heard. Hardly surprising that we’ve invented so much more stuff than the Aussies ever have.

The equivalent of the entire population of New Zealand moved to Texas in the last ten years.  Whatever opportunities New Zealand has, Texas has them tenfold.  Texas wins.

8. There’s fewer things that can hurt or kill you. Don’t underestimate this. Australia is home to all ten species of the world’s most poisonous snakes. Then there’s spiders the size of your hand, sharks cruising the beaches, scorpions, sting-rays … oh yes, and the world’s most dangerous reptile, the crocodile. We’ve got, um, stinging nettle. And wekas can give you a nasty peck.

You might get a rattler out west, but not much that will harm you in Texas either, especially if you’re packing.  Murders aside, the crime rate in Texas is half that of New Zealand, so unless you’re black and dealing drugs, Texas will be a lot safer for you.  Another one for Texas.

9.  Our TV’s better. Hard to believe, I know, but it’s true. We may all grumble about the box, but Aussie television is truly dire. Between The Block, The Project, Bondi Vet and Border Patrol, there’s Lara Bingle!, The Shire, and re-runs of Prisoner. It’s just a shame they export most of those shows over here. Next to this lot, Seven Sharp looks like hard-hitting current affairs. Plus, we’ve got John Campbell.

Yeah… John Campbell… that and 60 channels of basic cable says Texas rules and New Zealand drools.  The only thing you can’t get on TV here is cricket, but you can’t have everything.

10. The weather. Australia’s either too hot, too cold, or too wet. Thanks to climate change, Sydney alternates between floods and bush fires. Queensland suffers increasingly volatile storms. The Outback and Western Australia simply fries. We enjoy a temperate climate with plenty of sunshine and rain.

Texas has 10 months of summer and almost no rain – what more could you want?

Seems to me that Texas is a much better place to live.  Visiting New Zealand again recently, this was confirmed.  New Zealand is pretty, and has very few fat people causing visual pollution, but it is, alas, an insanely expensive place.  I never wanted to come to Texas, but now I have made it my home, I feel very fortunate.

People Say the Stupidest Things…

Take Chris Rock, for example:

chrisrock

Mulholland Drive predicts that at some point during the rest of this presidential term we will reach a critical mass of fawning stupidity over Mr Obama, sending shockwaves through the cultural universe and producing as yet unknown catastrophic outcomes.  Chris Rock has just brought that day ever so slightly closer.

Paul Holmes: Good Riddance

paulholmesThere’s been a lot of ridiculous eulogising of Mr Holmes in the media following his untimely passing.  Let me offer a rebuttal:

Paul Holmes destroyed current affairs television in New Zealand.  He trivialised it to the point where it meant nothing.  He took it from a place where reporters investigated stories to one where it became about “human interest”, feelings over facts, and cats up trees.  He was all style and no substance.  Worst of all, he made the stories about him, rather than finding out what was really going on.  While it has to be said that this formed part of a general worldwide trend in journalism, he was the one that spearheaded it in New Zealand.

The worst aspect of his show was that he had no clue how to interview a subject.  Invariably his “questions” would involve him talking at length, explaining the situation to viewers as he saw it, then asking the interviewee if he or she agreed.  Most of the time these people would be embarrassed enough to bloviate a little.  Occasionally, someone would call Holmes out on his bullshit and simply give a yes or no answer, leaving awkward dead air and a shuffling of desk papers as Holmes ambled back on through the silence in his classic, egotistical style.  The end result was that one was normally left knowing less about the interview subject and more about Mr Holmes.

Apparently enough people found this entertaining such that it kept his show on air.  Personally, I never understood his appeal.

On the other hand, it has to be said that he was an excellent talkback host, and one of the pioneers of that field in New Zealand.  It’s a shame he didn’t stay with what he was good at.  He was also one of the few media figures who tended to veer right, at least on some issues.  So there were some positive aspects to him.  But these do not merit the ridiculous fawning and slobbering over his corpse which has taken place in recent days.  The likes of which may be his ultimate legacy – the media are simply following that dreadful blueprint left behind by the departed.

“Where’s the Outrage?” David Horowitz on How Republicans Can Win

This guy gets it.  In fact, this is probably the best essay on political strategy I have ever read.  Mr Horowitz has put his finger on the problem.

One of my former ACT Party colleagues likes to say that “you should never get emotional in politics, and once you do, you’ve lost”.  But politics is all about emotions.  If it was about facts and rationality, the Left would never get anyone elected.

Progressives’ hatred for conservatives is thus not a reaction to a particular issue, or a particular slip of the tongue. It is a hatred for what conservatives are. Conservatives are people who believe in limited government. By its very nature, limited government means the death of progressive dreams. In progressive eyes, conservatives and Republicans actually are anti-woman, anti-minority, and anti-poor. Republicans oppose the very idea that government should function as a social savior.

Republicans are reactionary and hateful because they stand in the way of a society that can and should care for every man, woman and child from cradle to grave. Republicans take a view of politics that is fundamentally different. Republicans do not aspire to change the world. They want to repair systems that are broken. They are not missionaries, and they are not selling a land of dreams. Such practical agendas do not inspire them to despise their opponents or regard them as evil. Republicans think of their opponents as mistaken about how to fix particular problems.

Because Republicans are mindful of the past, they are uncertain about the future, and therefore wary of impossible dreams. They hope for a future better than the present but they are mindful that things could be even worse. Many problems are intractable and will not go away. Because this is their attitude, conservative emotions can never be as inflamed as their progressive opponents’.

Their instinct is to come up with practical plans and explain how specific problems might be solved. That is why they reach for facts and arguments, and spend a lot of time explaining things to voters. But voters have already been told not to trust their arguments because they are the arguments of enemies of women, children, minorities and the middle class.

The only way to confront the emotional campaign that Democrats wage in every election is through an equally emotional campaign that puts the aggressors on the defensive; that attacks them in the same moral language, identifying them as the bad guys, the oppressors of women, children, minorities and the middle class, that takes away from them the moral high ground which they now occupy. You can’t confront an emotionally based moral argument with an intellectual analysis. Yet this is basically and almost exclusively what Republicans do.

At the end of the day Leftists just don’t make us mad enough.  They should.  I’ve always hated most of those fuckers for how they destroy countries and livelihoods and call it “moral”, and with them the establishment media who refuse to call them out.  And if you are any kind of political activist with any care for the working poor then you should too.  We need to go mediaeval on their asses.

ADDED:  I should say that the Republicans used to be really good at this stuff.  They used to push the buttons in the right way.  When Bush won in 2004, and Newt and co took congress in 1994, it was because they ran a “heart” campaign based on pushing “hope and fear”, and pigeon-holing their opponents.  What happened?  It seems like those lessons were lost.  They need to be relearned.