February 1st, 2005


Night questions

Sometimes, out of the blue (I'm walking through snow, at night, in the countryside in Hokkaido, perhaps, and it's seven below zero) a question comes into my mind. I will discover the answer when I get home, I tell myself, using the internet.

Some typical questions I might be asking:

What is America doing about global warming? Well, when I get home I listen to programme 2 of Climate Wars, a Radio 4 series, which informs me that, although the Bush administration's policy is to reduce 'emissions intensity' by encouraging efficiency, the effect is to allow emissions to grow over the next ten years. But there are coalitions of liberal states on the East and West coasts now forming to devise their own much more responsible emissions standards, apparently.

I'm also asking myself why am I able to live by music and keep releasing records, when someone as brilliant as Howard Devoto has to work a dayjob? According to Paul Morley, in the October 2000 edition of Uncut magazine, '...for the past few years Devoto has worked in a photographic agency organising their systems. "It is only since I've done the job that I have a practical view of the future - and therefore a degree of... well... happiness. It is such a relief not having to rely for my survival on my creativity or lack of it. There is the thing about how - after what I was and what I might have been - I end up doing a job that can be seen as pretty... boring. Well - I could never have worked in the music business. My pride would never have let me. Whatever I feel about not being involved in all that is far outweighed by the relief of not having to perform all the duties you're expected to if you want attention."'

The Magazine website Shot By Both Sides leads me to this beautiful cover by an artist called Forms of Things Unknown of the track Stupid Blood, from Luxuria's great second album 'Beast Box':

'Burn your bridges, burn your boats
Smell the life you never had
That, I'm afraid and I'm not afraid, is that...'

Devoto is the T.S. Eliot of rock lyrics. Perhaps Ministry's mediocre cover of Magazine's 'The Light Pours Out Of Me' will be his 'Cats'.

When I ask myself why people never embraced Mr Devoto, despite the clear superiority of his lyrics, I am never far from asking why 98% of computer users fail to use Apple computers. Farhad Manjoo goes some way towards answering my question in an article in Salon, Hallelujah, the Mac is back:

'[Apple's] share of the world's computer business remains dismal. The company now has about 2 percent of the worldwide computer market; its market share in the United States stands at just above 3 percent, a tenth of the share of the top Windows PC maker, Dell. We won't pause long to chew on the paradox of the Mac -- the mystery over why, so far, the world's best desktop computers are also the world's least popular machines... Windows users don't expect much in the way of quality, beauty or elegance from their machines; if they did, they'd be Mac people. Instead, they expect their PCs to perform a great many tasks, and they've resigned themselves to having to labor over those tasks.'

I sometimes look at myself in the mirror and ask 'Am I Nathan Barley'? Nathan Barley is coming to the UK's Channel 4 on February 11th. Barley is a 90s yuppie fop and 'self-facilitating media node' invented by TV Go Home's Charlie Brooker. Brooker's satirical TV listings made gargoyles of British media formulae. Now, incestuously enough, one of them is about to become real TV. The Nathan Barley series, co-authored by Chris Morris, is based on a recurrent listing called 'Cunt', which proposed that 'Nathan Barley is a worthless, moneyed little shit who deserves to die.' Whenever I used to read about Barley's adventures, back in the 90s, they seemed to match my own. Nathan was listening to drum'n'bass, looking at websites on his Nokia Communicator, or reading an issue of Sleazenation magazine in a Tokyo hotel room. So was I. Brooker observed these foibles with black Nazi bile, though, and condemned Barley to die a thousand ignominious fantasy deaths for them. On the strength of the trailers, the actual TV show looks a lot milder, though funny and promising. Perhaps the sins of the 90s have been exculpated by the much worse excesses of the Naughties.

Finally, I ask myself 'Why does 'Otto Spooky' (the album Nathan Barley never made) look so damn cool, now I've finally got it in my hands?'