Sunday, July 29, 2012

This Entire Fucking Battlefield

"And the reality is that there’s a lot of stupid fucking crap about black metal, but it’s not a joke!"

John Gossard, from the band Weakling.

I struggle with black metal.  I really do.  I have this totally aware of its shortcomings but simultaneously utterly, head over heels, outrageously in love with what it does relationship with it.  You're aware of the pomp, the pretentiousness, the at times simply boring passages of music.  You try and explain it to people you respect and you see their eyes glaze over, the nodding of the head becomes rhythmic, trance like, as you discover that in fact they don't care at all about your musings on this music.  You begin to sound, you realise with a sudden rush of anger, just like that guy you hate who talks about Shakespeare in a manner that suggests that you, as the guy who-isn't-that-into-Shakespeare, doesn't really get it.  You awake with a start one night and wonder whether this music that means perhaps too much to you is in fact, perhaps, utter crap, and you have bought into the bullshit, and are so far down the rabbit hole that you can't reach the muddy sides, such is the speed that you're falling.

You think about that indescribable, almost other-worldy tingle down the spine the music gives you, which you want to think is entirely unique to you but you in fact know everyone feels about different kinds of music.  You settle, therefore, for just shrugging your shoulders, and suggesting that other's simply, 'don't get it'.  And so you're back at square one.  You are, it emerges, that guy.

Arguing with Brendan last night, trying to fend of the elitist moniker, I concluded that where punk, for example, is about community, the sharing of ideas, black metal is entirely about the self.  It is intensely private.  That doesn't mean it isn't for everyone...simply that it manifests itself entirely differently for everyone, making it impossible to 'compare notes' so to speak.  

To return to the example from the last post, it's a bit like concepts of pain, or colour.  No matter how sure we are that my pain, and yours, my red and your red, are in fact the very same, there is no way to verify it.  If I point to a red patch and say hey that's red, and someone else agrees with me, for all i know his red is my green, but we both agree that that certain point at which we point is what we call red.  Concepts of colour are entirely private, they are inaccessible to anyone else.

It's the same with black metal.  The very same riffs probably mean something entirely different, perhaps radically different, from person to person.  Go to a black metal show, you'll see a lot of people with their eyes closed.  There is an unwillingness to let anyone else into this world that you yourself have fabricated entirely.  

Most people who like black metal protect themselves by acknowledging the absurd qualities of the music.  They joke along with others about corpse paint, about church burnings, of sacrificial suicide which, by the way, only applies to a a small sub-set of bands.  But here's what Gossard was getting at, when trying to explain his feelings about black metal.  He was in a band called Weakling, with members from The Fucking Champs.  Gossard felt the jokes came too thick and fast from the post punk guys, that perhaps he was a metalhead stuck in the middle of a hipster joke band.  Where he looked for sincerity, he found perhaps a tongue firmly in cheek.

They released Dead As Dreams and in so doing created the blueprint for American black metal for the next ten years.  Was it a joke band to the other members, Gossard wondered?  Was his sincerity being mocked by those who only saw absurd posturing?  Listening to the record, I find it hard to believe the other members were't also caught in the spell.  So transfixing, so other-wordly are the songs, it seems impossible that hipster irony could penetrate the languished wails.

But that's just it.  Despite all the bullshit, black metal isn't a joke.  It touches something in us, or at least some of us.  Something that is inexpressible in words, or at least something that loses all its profundity once vocalised.  

We could wax lyrical about perhaps it being the music touching the infinite, or the soul, but that would be a mistake.  It wouldn't do the music justice.  

A lot of North-West American BM bands, caught up as they are with concepts of humans interaction with the natural world, suggest that their music is perhaps the sound of a long forgotten desire to reunite ourselves with mother nature.  The death rattle, if you will, of our longing to live in harmony with a world we have long since become entirely alienated from.  

I have no idea if this is true.  Maybe it's just pretentious bullshit to sell records to gullible Earth-First hipster kids.  

But what if it's true?  What if the intense, darkly melancholic, yet strangely hopeful mood this music puts me in is in fact, I don't know, somehow taking me somewhere else?  Maybe it is the sound of the infinite.  Maybe it's just the sound of humanities' anguished screams, reverberating around an un-caring, or dying world.

Maybe it's the sound of the dying world.

And there it is.  At the point at which I think, yes, finally, I've got black metal nailed, the crux of why you love this music so fucking's gone.  Nothing but ranting, pseudo philosophy, and a slightly embarrassed, (as in, look what you wrote fuckhead) kid.  All that's left is the music, you, and the World.

But that's just me.  It's probably something entirely different to you.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Consider, Like, The Situation.

My mate Chaz, who for those who don't already know, has a blog here, said the other day, that he didn't read this blog any more because, it "isn't funny".  It should be noted that I completely agree with him.

I kinda miss the days where I ripped off various metal and cycling blogs to brutishly beat a highly stylised and, now that I take the time to think about it, largely false depiction of my life into submission.  These days I have to come to terms with not only my own misgiving about this place, but those of people I respect like Chaz.  Why has this blog become, to put it bluntly and, you know, inyaface, so fucking dull and boring?  

We could, if we wanted to be dull, and follow through with pop psychology, point to the various what we'll call 'shit goings on' in the past two or three years as the insidious force behind the self indulgent, existentially undergraduate rants this blog has seen in the past few years, and especially months.

It might be, I suspect, a little more convoluted than that.  Whilst my existential confusion has been undergraduate, that does not prevent it, unfortunately, from being very puzzling.  Why isn't this blog funny anymore?  Because I see less stuff that is funny.  Instead, I see more stuff that is sad, alienating, disgusting, ugly, and even evil.

Consider the statement, 'I don't know if I am in pain.'  Grammatically sound but, when examined, totally meaningless.  You can't doubt you're in pain.  You either are, or you're not.  It isn't mental, or examinable.  It either is or isn't.  On, or off.

I reckon it's the same as something being funny.  It's kinda meaningless to say 'I don't know if that is funny'.  You either find it funny, instinctively, or you don't.  If I explain a joke to you, that you were at first unsure about, and you then find it funny, it isn't that you weren't sure if it was funny, it's that you didn't understand it in the first place.  It wasn't a comic problem but rather one of comprehension.  You don't know something is funny.  It just is.  The minute you pick it apart, examine it, think about why it's funny, it almost always ceases to be funny.

Maybe I'm less funny, or make less funny jokes in this blog, is because I'm examining, or thinking (albeit clumsily, fumbling in the dark) too much about the things that I once found funny.  Now, I'm more likely to find it sad.  Or perhaps events of the past few years have tinged, overshadowed what has in fact been a comedic frenzy.  Maybe I've just lost my sense of humour.

To give a forced and perhaps dangerous allegory.  The other day I was on the tram.  Opposite me was a family with a toddler of maybe 2-3.  She was flinging her arms around, stamping her feet, making conversation with random people on the tram, and generally being a rad toddler.  As she sat on her mum's lap, pointing at things outside, asking questions, laughing, I found myself smiling along with her.

Maybe, I sat there wondering, the world really is a great place, so long as it's unadulterated by the worries of adult humans.  Maybe we tinge the world, ourselves, with the darkness that lurks at the corners.  I found this thought pretty encouraging.  As I followed the girl's finger, still pointed outside, just near the supermarket on Smith st, I noticed there was a guy, doubled up in the gutter, vomiting what appeared to be blood onto the street.  

The girl didn't notice, but I sure as hell did.  

And that's what i'm trying to get at here, if any of you out there are looking for what we might call a crux of the matter, is that I don't notice funny shit as much anymore.  On The New Timer, it's all cycling lolz, and that's one persona I have, and one that I enjoy, but the crux of the matter is that, when I think about the World now, and where my place is in it, I don't think about funny guys with bikes, or hilarious metal bands that wear tight pants, I think about that guy vomiting blood into the street.  Of misanthropy, of despair, of a sense of loss.  Not loss as in I've lost something, but loss as in I'm at a four way cross roads and fuck knows where I'm going and, besides, I've only got a few litres of petrol left anyway.

So, sorry Chaz, but that's kinda where this blog is at, at the moment.  We can dismiss this is white guy angst and, let's face it, it is.

But there it is.

Maybe I'll sort it out, maybe I won't.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Consciously, Holding Your Hand.

I was feeling down the other day.  That's kind of par for the course at the moment but, on that evening, I decided to do something about it.

I went to hang out with my mates.  Michael and Tim are some of my oldest friends, and Martina, Tim's Italian girlfriend, seems on a fast track to becoming a good friend too.

I had, no doubt naively, assumed I was one of the few in my old high school bunch who was not exactly stoked on day to day life at the moment.  Everyone else seemed to have found jobs, adventures, inspiration, partners, coupled, seemingly, with a positive outlook.

Instead, that night, I found a bunch of young kids totally bummed out.  Tim hates his job.  Martina has been feeling alienated and alone in Australia, unable to find anyone who recognises her engineering degree.  Tim seems unable to come to terms with Martina's sadness.  I watched them both, Martina murmuring about her fears, Tim's face drawn, saying nothing, and I, too, became pretty sad.

Maybe, I reasoned, nursing my beer, it's just part of the territory.  I usually scoff at attempts to landmark periods of life with certain emotions, outlooks.  But, it does seem as if everyone my age is plagued by doubts.  Maybe not ground breaking doubts, maybe just little, pragmatic worries.

But they're worries just the same.

It's almost as if the very first glimmers of the future we all envisioned has begun to become visible.  And, you know, maybe it isn't as shiny as we first imagined.  It's not that it's bad, or unhappy.

It's more that it's not entirely flawless.  There's marks here and there, grimy bits, small chips where the paint has begun to already fade.

It could be just that we're coming to face up to what was always coming.

Thursday, July 19, 2012


Here's the thing.  The part of this song that goes from about 1.30, to about 2.00, has been the kick in the guts I wanted.

I was trying to explain to Brendan the other day that, on first hearing that section, I was overwhelmed by what I'm going to portentously call 'current situation hysteria'.

This kind of entails the panic I sometimes feel when I realise that falling back on "when i grow up" doesn't really cut it anymore.  There's that kick in the guts when you feverishly realise "holy shit, fuck, this is it James." And, to quote, Megadeth, "this is (my) life."

So yeh, listening to that song, and specifically that section, makes me feel sick to the core, because it makes me want to get off my ass and, you know, do something.

Dunno what yet, but.

I'm Feeling Younger, It's Better Than Wiser.

I was going to write a post about Goedel today and how be became so paranoid about being poisoned, that he ceased eating anything not made by his wife.  A bit later, he stopped trusting even his wife.  He died weighing thirty kilos.

Which, you know, makes you wonder what other mathematical theories and problems he might have come up with, if he'd only learnt to cook himself an omelette.

But, problem is, I JUST WANNA PARTY.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Friday, July 13, 2012

Turn On The Radio. Nah, Turn it Off.

Due to a mix up with, you know, which museum my sister and I were headed for this morning, I found myself at the Melbourne Museum's Ancient Mesopotamia exhibit by myself, all hoodie and double denim, clashing obscenely with the kids running around.

Ignoring the soccer mum's suspicious glares, I wandered around for a few hours, the realisation that I knew nothing about Ancient Mesopotamia, becoming increasingly embarrassing.  I'd woken up angry that morning.  Maybe it was a continued hangover from my exploits two nights before, or something in the water, but it was good to to try and calm my initial desire to punch a wall as hard as I could.

Standing in the dimply lit exhibition, learning about the very first appearance of writing in human history, the tower of babel, sweet six thousand year old jewellery, I found my mood relaxing, evening out, to one of mute indifference.  This sounds negative, but for me it's actually quite positive.  It basically entails me realising that nothing that happens to me matters at all in the grand scheme of things.  

Now, as cautious as I am about concepts like grand scheme of things, I still do think that humans learning to write is way cooler than me wanting to punch walls.  I'll call this 'controlled gloom': realising that your life is pointless, which in turn means that nothing can be that bad after all.  

Which, you know, is kinda optimistic.  I think.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Corporal Jigsore Quandary.

My dad was totally enamoured with the romanticism of ‘the road trip’.  This applied only, I should note, to European road trips.  The years I spent in Europe are dotted with dad's attempts to succeed at the holiest of grails: the holiday through France, where no one fights, I didn't punch my sister in the face, and everyone has fun.

During one of the first attempts that I can remember, I found myself particularly bored.  I was seven or so, by sister was about three, and we were bickering.  We’d been in the car for a good deal of time, and the freeway seemed to stretch on forever.  My mum, I realise now, really hated car travel in Europe, and had thus been reduced to a stony silence.  Dad was, of course, jovial. 

I don’t recall the exact logistics of how I was so annoying, but I think it’s a safe bet that it revolved around the incessant and repeated questions: “Are we there yet?”.  I’m not sure whether it was that exact phrase that caused my Dad to put his fist through the front windscreen of the car out of frustration, as we hurtled down the freeway, but if it wasn’t, it was something very similar.  So there we were, hurtling down the freeway at 150kmh, with a huge crack, running diagonally across the front windscreen.  There was a bit of a shocked silence, the only sound coming from a truck downshifting across the lane.

My Mum, who hated any kind of violence, was disgusted at everyone, and displayed this by refusing to admonish me or, for that matter, engage on any level with anyone.  I'm pretty sure I shut the fuck up after that, but maybe I didn't.  I can't remember.

That night, I broke a plate at the hotel restaurant, and I’m pretty sure I caused my dad to have a minor nervous break down.  You could kind of see it, as my omlette splattered across the floor, dad's eyes go a little misty.  I think any noting that this holiday was going to work on any level went out the window at about this point.

I should note that, on our very last family holiday, also in France, in 2005, (I think we had three 'proper' family holidays all up) we actually pulled it off.  Maybe it was because us kids weren't shitheads anymore.  Maybe dad mellowed out.  Maybe there was some notion that there wouldn't be a replay.  

But we fucking nailed it.  I only threw one bottle of soft drink at my sister's head, and it didn't even explode against the wall like last time.