November 14th, 2005

operesque

A great big bunch of stuff you'll never have time to follow up on

In June 2004 I was writing my Otto Spooky album, and blogging here about it. "Pandas keep popping up on my album," I wrote, "because they're a symbol both of selfishness (I've never seen anything more slobbish than the Giant Panda at Berlin zoo, lying on its back guzzling bamboo) and of the damage wrought by selfishness (they're endangered by our consumerism). We are pandas, but we are also panda-killers. If the pandas were us, they would kill pandas too. I've been trying to find a way to write a song about a panda that just wants to be a dog, to illustrate my idea that those charged with maintaining diversity often just want to be normal too."

Well, I never really wrote that song (although pandas popped up in "Sempreverde" and "Lute Score", only to have their heads shot off), but Jared Alexrod has written a podcast short story around the concept called "Pandas Just Want To Be Dogs". The direct link to the mp3 file is here. Watch out, though, the party scene gets pretty intense!

* Someone else helping save the world by recycling Momus cast-offs is bagrec, who found some limericks inside a promo copy of my first EP, bought from the Record and Tape Exchange in Camden. I'd sent the record to Ivo-Watts Russell, boss of 4AD Records and the man who released my first records, hoping he'd invite me back to the label (I was having trouble getting él Records to scrape up the cash for my first album at the time). The limericks are accompanied by some Edward Lear photocopies, some drawings of mine, and a few new limericks added in the comments section.

* "Some of Roger McGough's poems are slighter than limericks," The Guardian tells us in an interesting interview with the "Merseybeat" poet, now 68. "His early stuff was flippant and apologetic, mainly because he didn't want to be mistaken for a ponce. "If I'd written a serious poem I'd always end up making it funny, to prove to this imagined reader or listener, which would have been a fellow Liverpudlian, that I'm not better than you. It took a while to have the confidence to be serious."

* Ah, the influence of class stigmas on British creative forms! Defensive self-deprecation! The avoidance of the "poncy" higher ground! Rhodri Marsden's radio series "Timewasting" started yesterday on Resonance FM. The programme guide describes it as "lugubrious, self-deprecating commentary". Blow-by-blow accounts from listeners suggest that my fears that Rhodri would use opportunistic irony to turn London's most beard-stroking radio station into a vulgar parade of gimcrack pop were not unfounded: he played a Momus track within the first four minutes.

* If you want refuge from the commercial world, Radio 4's In Our Time this week sorts out the Rosicrucians from the Dominicans and the Franciscans in a guide to the monk cults of the 13th century. Gripping stuff, in a Name of the Rose sort of way.

* Another medieval monk-slash-murderer figure is Osama Bin Laden. In The Observer Peter Preston calls him "a fleeting, romantic horseman of the apocalypse high on some mountain skyline, a prophet in the mists." Reviewing his collected prose, Preston tells us that "bin Laden is a charismatic man of action, an eloquent preacher, a teacher of literature and a resilient, cunning, wonderfully briefed politician." Rather incongruously, he also tells us that his closest equivalent in the West is George W. Bush.

* The Observer has Rachel Cook say of Brian Sewell: "In his drawing room, we perch beside one of those weird fake fires that looks like a flickering bowl of barley sugar." Meanwhile, a much better art critic, Jerry Saltz of the Village Voice, worries that MoMA has become "a madman who thinks it is king. It is telling a story of modern art that only the museum itself believes."

* I don't believe the Durex survey which says that Japan is the industrialised country with the lowest levels of sexual activity. Something is going on in those love hotels. But many of the Tokyo kids interviewed by Japan Today about the survey seem to accept its findings: Chisato, 28, thinks that "people ought to have more sex in their lives. The problem is that many men are not aggressive enough in Japan. They are timid and do not hustle hard enough to get the opposite sex into bed." Kawachan, a cute 19 year-old boy, confirms her fears: "Having sex once a week sounds just about right to me," he says.

* The sap is rising in China, according to Robert Skidelsky in the New York Review of Books:

"The US government helped Asia's rise by embracing a laissez-faire ideology and floating the dollar," Skidelsky thinks. "Entranced by market fundamentalism, American policymakers misunderstood the sources of American innovation. US technological leadership was built not on market forces, but on an unnatural collaboration between defense and government in a "military industrial complex," the product of two world wars. For example, IBM grew on the basis of government grants for the B-52 guidance system. The shift to laissez-faire in the 1980s, followed by the end of the cold war, dissolved this "ecosystem of interrelated companies, universities, government institutions, bankers, and, yes, lawyers." After 1973 Americans stopped worrying about international trade, because they could print as many dollars as they wanted to pay for imports. "We handed China the money they are using to try to buy Unocal," said Prestowitz in a recent interview. Prestowitz's point is that "nobody is taking an interest in the health of the long-term economic structure of the country because America's ideology says it is wrong to do so. So what is to be done? Prestowitz says that the United States must abandon laissez-faire."

* Meanwhile, David Byrne seems to be giving up on democracy after reading a two-part series of articles in the New York Review of Books about President Chavez of Venezuela... and watching some nature documentaries. "But is democracy — the dictatorship of the majority in its purest sense — also natural, in the Darwinian sense?" Byrne asks. "Isn't it part of our nature that the majority will always inevitably strive to overpower the weaker portions of a society? Is what we call “democracy” a mirror of cruel natural processes? Is it inevitable that the poor are exploited whenever possible, and therefore are welfare systems and projects that aim to elevate and give succor to the poor always doomed to failure? Are we as vicious and ruthless as animals often seem to be?"

* Someone else thinking about animals and people is Nobuo Masataka, a primatologist whose book "Monkeys With Mobile Phones" is a huge best-seller in Japan. According to the Mainichi News Masataka "argues that the proliferation of mobile phones has got young Japanese making monkeys of themselves, aping the behavior patterns of chimpanzees. He says that young Japanese have lost the ability to discern between public and private space. He adds that they have formed what he calls the dearuki-zoku (out and about tribe). They get tired going to new places or meeting new people. If they get hungry while they're strolling around, they simply get food by going into a convenience store, buying something and sitting down outside on the curb to eat it. If not that, then they just hang around for hours in fast food joints." The primate specialist says the actions of the dearuki-zoku closely resemble behavior patterns in chimpanzees, which tend to travel in groups, walking around for a long time without going to any specific place, then eating and disposing of their wastes in the same place before bedding down on piles of grass whenever and wherever the inclination takes them."

I look forward to books by mammalian specialists telling us that humans have become almost as worthless as mammals, books by Egyptologists warning us that we are in danger of becoming as savage as the ancient Egyptians, and so on.

* The BBC has just sacked "thinking man's architect" Richard MacCormac from the job of redesigning their flagship building. And, co-incidentally, if you go to the Radio 3 Architecture Archive page, MacCormac's interview is the only one that won't play. Funny, that.

* Chipple informs me that my blog-name iMomus is close to the Japanese word 芋虫, or "imomushi", which means "caterpillar". The film of the same name, directed by Satō Hisayasu, with music by Ōtomo Yoshihide, is the tale of "a dismembered man back from war ...being taken care of by his wife. Very odd love/hate relationship. This one really grossed me out."

* Finally, no entry would be complete without a link to a Momus-Marxy controversy. This time we're debating the new video from retro-80s conceptual dollybird Tommy February 6, and whether its nod to the Beastie Boys "Sabotage" video is pakuri or "glowmo pomo".