Photo: El Flautista de Hangzhou, by Javi Prieto
2 hours ago
"The worst are full of passionate intensity" - W.B. YeatsFrance has banned the niqāb and burqa, the garments worn by Muslim women that cover their faces. A few reasons are being bandied about and one (surprise!) has to do with security. No one knows exactly what's underneath - could be a Frank Zappa or something even worse. Another insists the law protects women from being forced to wear the niqāb against their will. Both reasons are ludicrous. The law subjugates women because it takes away their right to choose for themselves. I don't deny there are women who are forced to wear it, but that shouldn't justify the state prohibiting others a right to freely choose.
"Truth is about life before death"David Foster Wallace has just released a new novel, The Pale King, two and half years after his suicide. Much credit goes to his editor, Michael Pietsch, for piecing it together from formal drafts and abandoned scraps that Wallace left lying around his studio in Claremont, California. I haven't read it, but by all accounts it succeeds in making boredom exciting and extending his pursuit of a meaningful existence in the face of oppressive monotony.
"I may have a kind of pessimistic view of it, but it seems to me that the situation, the environment which nervous systems receive these communications [novels] is vastly more complicated, difficult, cynical and over-hyped than it used to be..."Wallace felt acutely that our epoch was far more complex than others. He set out to match it by composing works of Wittgenstein-inspired prose that left his contemporaries tangled in his accordion sentences and infinite subtexts.
“The limits of my language mean the limits of my world” - WittgensteinIn his short-story collection, Girl With Curious Hair, Wallace illuminates the struggle to transcend the soul-crushing systems that permeate our culture. As he said in his 2005 commencement speech at Kenyon College, "It is unimaginably hard to do this, to stay conscious and alive, day in and day out." In the story, "Luckily the Account Representative Knew CPR," it takes a heart attack to blast away the shackles that keep two executives bound to their isolated complacency.
"Bent to what two lives required, below everything, he called for help again and again."The tragedy is that Wallace couldn't sustain his own consciousness and do what life requires to stay alive. Thankfully, his work achieves that and endures.
"The only thing I knew how to do*Updated below*
Was to keep on keepin’ on like a bird that flew"
May your heart always be joyfulThe last time Bob played here in 1994 he closed with "Blowin' In The Wind." He didn't even play it last night, despite the banshee screaming for it at stage right. Bob can't please them all, it's true, and his voice isn't everyone's cup of meat, but who cares? It's Bob Dylan...in fucking China! Well, technically the SAR, but that doesn't sound quite as novel. Lucky for us, he wasn't resting on any laurels. He gave an inspiring performance, smiling like a prancing dandy behind his keyboard, while his band smoldered or blazed through unexpected nuggets like "Señor (Tales Of Yankee Power)" and "Blind Willie McTell."
May your song always be sung
May you stay, forever young
Einstein, disguised as Robin Hood
With his memories in a trunk
Passed this way an hour ago
With his friend, a jealous monk
He looked so immaculately frightful
As he bummed a cigarette
Then he went off sniffing drainpipes
And reciting the alphabet
(via SCMP)His band - Tony Garnier on bass, George Recile on drums, Stu Kimball on rhythm guitar, Donnie Herron on banjo, electric mandolin, pedal steel, lap steel, and Charlie Sexton on lead guitar - were white hot, nailing the tightest rhythm and sweetest flourishes to the good ship Bob. Sexton played at least six different guitars, my favourite being the Gretsch White Falcon, as fat as a Cadillac, that he pulled out for "Highway 61 Revisited." At the end of the gig, Bob gathered the band around him as a farewell and disappeared, leaving his golden Oscar behind to watch over the hallowed stage as we reluctantly drifted for the exits. Yup, it was that good...AND he played over half of Highway 61 Revisited, too.
1. Change My Way Of Thinking
2. Señor (Tales Of Yankee Power)
3. Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues
4. Tangled Up In Blue
5. Honest With You
6. Simple Twist Of Fate
7. Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum
8. Blind Willie McTell
10. Desolation Row
11. Highway 61 Revisited
12. Spirit On The Water
13. My Wife's Home Town
14. Thunder On The Mountain
15. Ballad Of A Thin Man
16. Like A Rolling Stone
17. Forever Young
"I’m here to create the new imperial empireTomorrow night, Bob Dylan, or "Baobo Dilun" (鲍勃迪伦) as the Chinese say, will be playing Hong Kong for the second time in his career. His current Asian tour has been inspiring rapturous reviews from Beijing to Ho Chi Minh City, but also an undercurrent of criticism from the likes of Human Rights Watch and the New York Times' Maureen Dowd. As Gawker's Max Read put it, they're mad that Bob didn’t overthrow the Chinese government. It's ridiculous and much of it is based on unsubstantiated reports that authorities vetted his playlist, even going so far as censoring such subversive manifestos as "Blowin' In The Wind" and "The Times They Are A-Changin'."
I’m going to do whatever circumstances require" - Honest With Me
(via CNN)I don't know about any of that, but I do know he got away with this:
Now you see this one-eyed midget shouting the word "NOW!"I also know he's been playing more piano than guitar, which is a very good sign. Bob can play - he's got chops and soul:
And you say, "For what reason?"
And he says, "How?"
And you say, "What does this mean?"
And he screams back, "You're a cow!
Give me some milk or else go home!"
"I really don't dare believe that in this society, even love for the future can disappear" - anonymous Internet postSince Ai Weiwei was detained on April 3rd, his name has been banned, deleted, erased, wacked, clubbed - whatever - by the Internet police in a futile attempt to prevent people from typing what everyone already knows. As a result, netizens have adapted and are using different variants of his name. Ai Weiwei - 艾未未 - can be read/pronounced as "ai weilai" or "love the future" and several people have been using it. It's a beautiful turn of phrase that suggests Ai is the future of China, regardless of what the government might wish.
Ai with one of his "crimes" - a name list of the more than 5,000 children who perished in the May 12, 2008 Sichuan EarthquakeAfter the Sichuan Earthquake, Ai helped launch a "Citizens' Investigation" that uncovered evidence of a corruption scandal involving shoddy construction of what became known as "tofu" schools. In August 2009, while trying to testify for his friend, Tan Zuoren, he was attacked by police in his Chengdu hotel room in the middle of the night. A month later in Munich, he underwent emergency brain surgery to stop internal bleeding. From October 2009 to January 2010, his Munich exhibition, "So Sorry," included an installation made up of 9000 children's backpacks spelling out, "She lived happily for seven years in this world," a quote from a mother whose child died in the earthquake. Ai has also tweeted the names of the victims on their birthdays, using the hashtag #512birthday.
"Take me back to beautiful EnglandPolly Jean Harvey has done her research, dug up the past and uncovered some chilling artifacts. With her latest, Let England Shake, the bones of the dead have been given breath and their tongues drip with ghoulish tales. Harvey has sifted through the mud and blood of her native land and its soil can be heard beneath the ghostly strums of her new weapon of choice - the autoharp.
And the grey, damp filthiness of ages"
(Photo by Cat Stevens)This is cadaver music played by a band of harpies and it's harrowing. That isn't a criticism, but a compliment about Harvey's protean ability to shape-shift from an indie queen into a powerful evoker of dangerous memory. Let England Shake's core trio - John Parish, Mick Harvey, and PJ - sound like Macbeth's three "wyrd" sisters grasping for vision amid all the "bubble, bubble toil and trouble" of our violent epoch. And like the wars England and the U.S. so effortlessly pursue, Let England Shake is both sinister and demonic, conjuring the slaughter of the battlefield with vespertine horror.
"The Nightmare Life-in-Death was she,Released in February, the album has been generally well-received with a few notable exceptions, specifically New Yorker pop critic, Sasha Frere-Jones. In his review, he implies that Harvey is out of her depth, or more precisely, in the wrong waters:
Who thicks man's blood with cold " - S.T. Coleridge
"But the album’s mood is impossible to characterize, because there are so many voices and attempts to find a comfortable position."Frere-Jones' inability to place the music is understandable. Its precedents aren't to be found anywhere in pop and lie elsewhere in the folk traditions of John Jacob Niles and in one of England's finest vocalists, June Tabor. But when he goes on to criticize the high register of Harvey's voice ("not a lovely sound") and dismisses “The Glorious Land" as a "thunderously obvious protest song" he loses credibility:
"How is our glorious country ploughed?Let England Shake isn't a protest against war any more than Bob Dylan's Blood On The Tracks is a protest against love. Frere-Jones fails to grasp that one role of the artist is to bear witness.
Not by iron ploughs
Our land is ploughed by tanks and feet, feet marching"