Tag Archives: Music

Sound, sweetheart

Tried seeing delectable Ben Frost at Berghain. Realized two songs in still can’t cope with concert volume. Frustration gnaws. Keep trying — never know if/when it’ll get easier. 5 years later, a constant reminder. Berlin’s a quiet city, lovely in that way; suits me. But at konzerts, the sound, in all its glorious vibration, eats me, my insides, expands ’til it feels like I’ll burst if I don’t hear nothing soon. On the whole I guess it’s gotten better, but sometimes it’s like it’s in reverse, getting worse. A low-fi problem, I know. Barely a problem. More that it takes me back, disorients my sense of self, being here, now. Cried a little on the way home. Slept it off, sound still inside, reverberations of past.

A little girl connects with someone outside.

Can you handle it?

As I watched this video (below) with my jaw half-dropped, I wondered how many girls will look at this without blinking an eye?

When the main words in a song are “video phone,” and there’s a woman — actually, two — writhing around with virtually nothing on, stroking giant, plastic, phallic guns, purring “if you want me, you can tape me on your video phone,” I have to wonder how desensitized North American teens are to this BS — and how many will look up to this ‘superstar’ and want to emulate this crock of crap.

I’m a huge fan of catchy pop tunes, and I love a good dance number as much as anyone, but this is beyond. Utilizing video — perhaps our most powerful medium for conveying information and ideas to the masses — to create epic works of socially constructed, gendered lies is criminal — this is the Male Gaze, personified. (Literally: there are men with video cameras in place of heads.)

I realize that there are SO many videos like this, and ones that are much, much worse; I simply haven’t paid attention to any of them for such a long time, and watching this one today, after several years of cleansing my palate from mainstream junk, set me right off.

Well, onward. It only fuels my fire to move forward with my own aspirations of making video and films filled with conscientious, positive content that lifts women (and men) up, rather than dragging us down to this tickity-tack level of lo-fi kitsch so glaringly deprived of any wit, intelligence, or style — and, ultimately, respect.

The medium is the message. This is merely to say that the personal and social consequences of any medium – that is, of any extension of ourselves – result from the new scale that is introduced into our affairs by each extension of ourselves, or by any new technology.

Marshall McLuhan

Jogging the globe

Jogging is a go-to escape for me whenever I feel down or stressed. Feeling the power of my body, the forward momentum, the fresh – or polluted – outside air… it all adds up to an increase in perspective and personal power.

I almost always make a point to bring my sneakers with me (Asics loyalty forever!) wherever I am. If I feel anxious or out of place, a good jog around my new temporary home immediately gives me a greater sense of connection with my surroundings. These are some of the special places where I’ve pounded the pavement, dirt, cobblestone, and grass over the past year. Smiles n’s sweat…

This is not Huay Tung Tao but another beautiful area outside Chiang Mai. There are really so many lovely spots here...

This is not Huay Tung Tao but another beautiful area outside Chiang Mai. There are really so many lovely spots here…

Chiang Mai. The route around the moat is straightforward enough (hello, I am a square) that it is literally impossible to lose your way. Quite opposite to the twisty sois that lie inside the old city. The city is polluted, hot, sticky. I drive out to Huay Tung Tao lake for car-less, noise-less jogging. Fresh air fills my lungs, natural beauty all around the long ring. Paradise.

Surreal scenery + sunshine = happy times

Surreal scenery + sunshine = happy times

Hampi, southern India. Surreal scenery with giant boulders and expansive fluorescent-green rice paddies surrounding from all angles. Quadrophenia soundtrack in headphones, high heeled sneakers not so much. I’m One, love reign o’er me… Fantastical, yes please. Where am I?

Along the Arabian Sea side

Along the Arabian Sea side, Dahab

I run along the edge of the Arabian Sea in Dahab, Egypt – one of the ways I gain space from the shopkeepers constantly hounding me to buy things, and the general sexual harassment. Turning left out of my guesthouse, the hard paved strip, lined with restaurants, hurts my knees. Finally hit the beach with soft sand beneath my soles. I frequently forget to leave before 5pm at high tide. Dash through the water, soak my socks and shoes, grinning with glee. A quick glance out across the water shows small, precise patches of bright turquoise green standing out among the navy liquid canvas. Further on, the orange desert cliffs become the backdrop, as the odd camel or two trudges along with dog and herder in tow.

Don't run on the cobblestone!

Don’t run on the cobblestone!

Prague is a city I cannot live in long-term for several reasons. A simple one is because it’s sidewalks are covered in cobble-stone. A runner’s nightmare, if they have bad joints and bones. I manage a few spurts along the riverside, entirely idyllic what with the swans floating by, sun setting against the old bridges, lovers strolling along holding hands. Europe, you are too much! A week of this and my knees are shot to the point where I physically can’t walk for a day. My shoes are also gobbled by the cobble.

In Kampala, they say if you drive straight, you're drunk (because there are so many potholes scattered along the roads)...

In Kampala, they say if you drive straight, you’re drunk (because there are so many potholes scattered along the roads)…

Crazy Kampala, Uganda. Cars here, motorcycles there, goats to this side and that, men shouting “muzungu! how are you!”, dogs lying, furniture selling, bananas on heads, lorries whizzing, bicycles rolling, food carts cooking. I wonder if I am the only silly white person to run along these city streets in the heat, in the pollution, the yells, the traffic dodging. Seeing another muzungu jogging by – much faster than I – proves that at least I am not alone. I love the feeling, sun on skin, pounding pavement, headphones in ears. Fuck yes.  Sweat drips, lungs constrict, nostrils flare at the gasoline exhaled by the always passing boda bodas.

And I think… I love to run.

Yangon Calling

A few months ago I wrote an article on the documentary Yangon Calling, a film about punk in Myanmar.

You can read the article via South East Asia backpacker here. Scroll to page 58, under Arts. Here’s a brief excerpt from the interview..

Over the years, hundreds of documentaries have been made on colourful chaotic punk life. The best ones give us a look at the vulnerable, passionate people behind the hard-edged exterior. Penelope Spheeris’ The Decline of Western Civilization does this for LA’s early 80’s hardcore scene, while Joe Strummer: The Future is Unwritten shows an intimate view of the complex person behind one of the most influential punk bands ever. Yangon Calling, a film by German-based filmmakers Alexander Dluzak and Carsten Piefke, now adds to the list, offering a look at the challenges faced by punks living in the capital city of Myanmar. Filmed in 2011, just before the country began undergoing significant socio-political change as it switched to an open economy, the documentary explores this lesser-known side of the country…

Kochi-Muziris Biennale 2012: The Perennial Lates

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So. The Kochi-Muziris Biennale. Yeah. Um.

Hm.

That’s pretty much what the opening was. An unimpressive series of hesitations with the title of the event paraded on signs. Paraded is too active a word. Pictured. M.I.A performed. She is small and vibrant. I think she was a tad tired, though. I can imagine, I’m tired too! Don’t get me up on stage needing to placate a hundred fans who just sat through 4 (yes, four) hours of listening to the Indian heads of committees and chairs of this and that drone on and on.. and on.. and the drummers who were awesome for the first hour and then kept playing for another two and everyone’s ears turned to mush. I remember actually thinking, I’m so happy to not be on stage right now and not have the responsibility of needing to entertain people. I think her music is super-rad (if I may take the liberty that is rightly mine to sound like a teenaged relic from the eighties). It was indeed cool to see her live, for free at that. The sound system – does this go without saying since we’re in India? – was horrific. Atrocious. Her mic wasn’t turned up at all, while the rest of sound –live dj spinning, computer beats – was blaring. It was an experience, a tiring and colourful one. Got to take pictures from right up close too(!). Happy I saw the show. The officially biennale inauguration I could’ve done without.

So, yeah, they –the biennale- got a major act, good on them. But good on her too, since she gets to exhibit. Which of course I missed. Other people were on top of it but somehow I managed to slack off on this. I couldn’t find it! Maybe because there were no maps of the venus. Oh, right. Take your time, India and artists, take your time. No rush, no pressure. No one’s really here yet anyway, except, well, the people who made the effort to show up on time. (Otherwise known as: Us idiots. What were we thinking?!)

The opening was a cacophony of nothingness. Yes, the sound of nothing happening was that incredibly loud. To me, anyway. There were no waste-baskets (to be expected, but still, come on!) on the grounds. Typically Indian, the inauguration consisted of the Indian heads of committees all up on stage sitting in their chairs, going up to the podium one at a time to ramble on about whatever. (I say this as a person who is interested in art and the festival.) The chief minister was 30 minutes late, of course. Half the people sitting on the chairs on the stage were talking away on their cell phones, audibly, while audaciously/hilariously covering their mouths with their hands, as if this making their rudeness less conspicuous rather than more. Oh, but never mind: Half the Indian audience was babbling away on their phones too. Hysterical. Like an SNL routine: Live from Kochi! Dear Hanuman.

In the next few days following the opening night of auspicious 12-12-12: No buzz, no energy. There were a few talks happening, no exhibitions that I saw were actually set up. Now, I could’ve missed ones that were. I did not get around to everywhere. Muziris might’ve been banging. Fort Kochi, however, was very, very sleepy. My guess is that in a few weeks’ time, the place with jumping with energy, very cool shit will be happening. Momentum and press will be gained, things will roll and there will definitely be tons of stuff worth experiencing. I’m just disappointed that I came at the start, nap-time. I didn’t know. I mean, this could’ve been the one time the Perennial Lates of the world – India and artists – pulled their shit together and got it rocking on time, on schedule. But I guess that wouldn’t be very rocking, would it. Slow build, fashionably late.

Well, I’ll be in Hampi, or maybe another country by the time it gets cooking, by the time licks start flying off fingers, so I will settle with some resignation for a free concert, good dates and cinnamon-spiced coffee. (Vasco’s cafe. Yes please, you are so good.) Not too shabby I know, but for an art-lover, a tad on the disappointing side.

Concession: Around Saturday and Sunday, things started happening, things to see-experience. Slow, yes, an amble not a roll. But still. Review of the opening photography exhibition to come. (Hint: I liked it!!)