Monthly Archives: January 2005

Gang of Four are back!

Welcome to the 100th post of Infotainment, and good news it is!

The New York Times reports today in "After Postpunk? Post-Postpunk by the Gang of Four" (by Jon Pareles) that the Gang of Four original members have re-united, and are going to be playing shows in the US this year.  The Gang of Four started breaking apart in 1981, first losing bassist Dave Allen then drummer Hugo Burnham.

I saw the original band a couple times, back in 80-81.  The first show I saw them at, and probably one of their earliest in America, was at Rutgers College in New Jersey, in I believe December 1980.  It was a snowy night, and I drove down with a couple friends.  I have to say this was one of the most intense barrages of sound I’d ever heard at that time.   I had eyed their first record at the store a few times before buying (though their record wasn’t quite as scary-looking as The Fall’s Live at the Witch Trials), and could see they were in their own league.

The next summer I saw them at the Ritz in NYC, and my memory of that show was that it was good but didn’t blow me away like the earlier one (note that the opener at the Ritz show was R.E.M.!).

In the article,  Mr. Allen is quoted:

"The goal is to be as incredibly intense as we were the first time around.  What we have to do is leave them with their tongues hanging out again.  If not, we don’t retain our authority in the musical canon.  There’s no excuse that we’re 23 years older."   

Bravo!

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Carse on Belief, Religion & Warfare

Last night was another Long Now event at Fort Mason, this time with James Carse (author of Finite and Infinite Games). While Carse was on the verge of going off on a long lecture, he checked his watch just in time and reined things in nicely. Here are a few of my thoughts on his talk, which revolved around ideas on Belief, Religion and Warfare.

Belief – he put belief in the category of ‘bounded’ ideas – thinking stops, and it is impossible to go to the ‘other side’ of belief. As he put it, belief is not about the ‘long now’ but about ‘right now’ extended indefinitely. Generally there’s some sacred textual basis for belief.

Religion – in contrast, Carse described religion as open-ended, about wonder and wander. The amount of thought on religion is vast, and yet the questions are essentially unanswerable. He described this thinking as dealing with the ‘horizon’ – out there, but you can’t get to it.

Warfare – clearly classic wars are one of Carse’s finite games, with rules and sides and winners and losers. The interesting point here was that Carse described the Iraq war as Bush’s ‘war on uncertainty’ – and yet this seems to be a failure as we are no longer quite sure who the enemy is and whether there is anyone to defeat…

In closing Q&A he made appeal to poets – the ones who ask questions, and help us see that the boundaries we live with are of our own making. Every finite game involves people who agree to be on one side or another, and just maybe people can decide to end some unproductive games (example, the fall of the Soviet Union).

Best of 2004

Yes, it’s time for the ever-popular roundup of wonderful cultural products that I interacted with in 2004. All results final and subject to change. No recounts. No helpful links to Amazon to assist you with a one-click purchase.

Music:

Metal thrum: Just recently found these two items, which rock in a heavyish way without getting too silly.
Isis – “Panopticon”
Mastodon – “Leviathan”

Guitar Pop: these two California bands play good pop tunes, fast enough to keep me awake.
Green Day – “American Idiot”
The Donnas – “Gold Medal”

Never before available gem:
Notekillers – “Notekillers” (a Philadelphia band of the the late 70s/early 80s, whose only output at the time was a single, a record that burned in Thurston Moore’s brain for years, leading to this CD of old tapes)

Other music:
Marianne Faithfull – “Before the Poison” with songs & bands from PJ Harvey and Nick Cave
Tom Waits – “Real Gone” (I learned to love this one during a long plane flight home from London, where I listened to it over and over on Channel 13 of the in-flight audio system)
Brian Wilson – “Smile”
Lucas Ligeti – “Mystery System” (rhythm pieces composed in the last 8 years or so)
The Fiery Furnaces – “Gallowsbird’s Bark” (came out last year, but I only got it recently, and it’s mysterious. The new one I have yet to digest).
Stereolab – “Margarine Eclipse”
The Fall – “The Real New Fall LP”
Sonic Youth – “Sonic Nurse”
The Hang Ups – “It’s all there”
DNA – “DNA on DNA”

Best shows:
P.J. Harvey @ the Warfield, SF.
Blonde Redhead @ Emo’s, Austin, TX.

Books: These books that I read in 2004 are most likely to retain a place in my mind in the future.
“American Woman” by Susan Choi. Fictionalized story of Patty Hearst on the lam, narrated by one of her keepers.
“The Dream Life” by J. Hoberman. Archaeology of sixties and early seventies American film.
“Mind Wide Open” by Steven Johnson. Concerning the brain and mind.
“Magic Circles” by Devin McKinney. Re: the Beatles.
“Ivan Illich in Conversation” by David Cayley. Like talking to someone who died 700 years ago.
“Perdido Street Station” by China Mieville. Memorable imaginings.
“The Executioner’s Song” by Norman Mailer. Gary Gilmore’s life and death, a trainwreck.
“The Future and its Enemies” by Virginia Postrel. An optimistic attack on those who would control things.
“Chronicles, Vol 1” by Bob Dylan. On three turning points where he had to start over.
“On Intelligence” by Jeff Hawkins. Detecting and predicting patterns over time, that’s what it is.

Films & TV. I saw some things, don’t remember much of it. A few things I do remember:
“Six Feet Under” season 1 – Looking at death from many angles (and life too).
“Kinsey”
“Some Kind of Monster” on Metallica & the business of being a big band.