Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Week One, 2009

On Friday
at work a book was suggested to me, Hold Everything Dear by John Berger. So I bought it on the way to dinner with my brother, Camille and Ben. At the bookshop, I bumped into Colm who is another Stick Together producer, and he made me feel good about the purchase by calling the book "the best thing I read last year". So, no pressure. After dinner in St. Kilda, went to the Prince with my brother and Ben for Fleet Foxes. First support was Sly Hats and friends, and then Luluc. I thought I'd like Luluc more than I did, considering her contribution to Grand Salvo's Death. But, oh well. Fleet Foxes were just LOVELY. Of course they were, yes. But MORE. Because of the geniality. Robin Pecknold especially was adept at managing the strange excited inarticulacies crowd-people sometimes yell at stage-people they adore (and which I could never do, unless "I am quite enjoying this" is the kind of thing talented people want to hear. I'm firmly opposed to trying for wit in such situations). But see, it didn't matter that people didn't manage to express themselves well. Somehow, all the garbled acronym-based best intentions were gently, chuffedly received by the band and then transmitted back as something inclusive and polished, rather than perplexing. Thems got social skills. And pipes. Mykonos was the highlight for me.

On Saturday I watched Milk. I feel the experience is enhanced if you first watch the 1984 documentary, The Times Of Harvey Milk. Well, I found it enhanced things. Not sure if my brother would agree, as I rather annoyed him by repeatedly exclaiming, when watching scenes from the public record like debates, interviews and such, "Dude, that's exactly what he said. In real life. That's really what he said. Exactly." However, some of the film is actually written, and written well. Particularly an argumentative conversation between Dan White and Harvey Milk at Milk's birthday party. It's kind of everything, right there in one scene.

On Sunday we went to Chapter Music's 18th Birthday gig at the Tote. We saw Hit The Jackpot, Lakes, Sleepy Township, Henry Wagons, Primitive Calculators, Minimum Chips, Pikelet, Panel Of Judges, and Crayon Fields. The place was overrun with people I (let's hope, unobtrusively) admire. Now, to some short and not very illuminating recollections:
  • Hit The Jackpot - I really love that King Of The Pool song. Like, a lot.
  • Lakes - never heard/seen him before. I bought the album.
  • Sleepy Township - I liked it best when the drummer sang. He had white hair. It made me think of Daniel Johnston.
  • Henry Wagons - "Here's to Guy Blackman, who I was never less than happy in my dealings with back in the day. Having said that, we've got an album coming out on a different label in April."
  • Primitive Calculators - first gig in 29 years. "I started writing this song in 1977, and I finished it last night. It's called Love. It's about love." There was a third repetition of the word love in that sentence, but I can't remember how he worked it in. Anyway, I also really enjoyed the way he frequently (well, at least twice) yelled, "DENISE!"
  • Minimum Chips - I didn't so much see them, as sat on a couch and heard them in the middle distance. It's been ages since I saw them play, and now they don't, and yet I didn't really make enough of an attempt to 'see' them. What was I thinking? Oh yes, that sitting down is nice.
  • Pikelet - she's always better than the last time, and after a while you begin to wonder how that's actually possible.
  • Panel Of Judges - yay, All This Could Be Yours. Yay, As The Blowflies.
  • The Crayon Fields - only caught about half the set, so maybe missed the newer stuff. Old stuff still good.
On Monday after work I went to see Frost/Nixon at Cinema Nova. Beforehand, between the orecchiette con broccoli and the film, I purchased two Richard Yates books - Revolutionary Road and Eleven Kinds Of Loneliness - because I've been led to believe he's like Mad Men in book form. Over here, via here, however, the film adaptation of Revolutionary Road seems not to have impressed. Anyway, Frost/Nixon was very entertaining. It didn't seem to know how Australian people talk, but, no matter. Sam Rockwell is pretty excellent. For me, though, there was still a problem with the Nixon mea culpa, however cathartic it may have been. See, Nixon gets emotional while talking about how he let down the American people, which I find to be a sorta disingenuous wellspring for his contrition. Maybe my view is coloured because I recently listened to an NPR Fresh Air interview with Bob Woodward, in which I think he made quite a telling point about what - aside from those 18 and a half minutes - was really missing from the Nixon tapes:
On the tapes Nixon regularly orders lying to law enforecement, to the Grand Jury, to use the FBI, the IRS to 'screw' - as he puts it so eloquently or he has another version of that, uh, verb - any of his opponents. Not only is this criminal and abusive - and that is the basic foundation of our government, it is a government that is answerable. And Nixon became unanswerable, he became a power unto himself. Wire-tap, break in - he had the Secret Service wire-tap the telephone of his renegade brother. The list of things that went on that are horrifying doesn't stop. But then you go to the tapes and you listen to the tapes and I've listened to a number of them and I've read transcripts of them. The real nightmare is the dog that doesn't bark on the Nixon tapes. No one says, including Nixon or his innermost aides, 'What would be right? What would be good? What does the country need? What is the high purpose of the presidency that we're - you know, we're here to do good.' It's always about Nixon. And so in the end it's about the smallness of this man.
So as I was watching Frost/Nixon, I was just thinking, "But, dude! You didn't care about the American people. You rarely even thought of them." There's a niggling feeling you get, too, that Nixon casts such a pitiable figure, framed without an especially thorough context of what it was all about - what was undermined by Nixon, what was at stake - that you worry the film might form some pretext for another of those flimsy "What was the big deal anyway?" stories we sometimes get. Again, I submit as partial 'what was it all about', Bob Woodward on Fresh Air:
The real issue is, are we gonna have secret government in this country, or not. And that's where we were headed with Vietnam and Watergate. A level of secrecy and fear and surveillance unheard of. Outside of the constitutional and legal system we have.
I also rather relished the opportunity the film takes to remind people what a loyal Nixon aide Diane Sawyer was. See, I don't like her. I remember when I used to watch the NBC Today Show a lot - I thought Katie Couric was rather good. But I was made aware of the prevailing view that Katie was a lightweight while Diane was serious. Which I didn't understand. Whenever I watched Diane conduct interviews on her show, I felt she was sappy, and didn't strike me as much of a sharp cookie. So I felt the unfairness of this prestige she seemed to have over Katie, with some force (because, as I preferred Katie, I felt it as a slight on my own critical faculties). But HAH. Avenged. History has you on the mean, truth-obscuring side of a battle for the nation's soul. Or, something.

LISTENING Tuesday December 30-Tuesday January 6.
Last.fm says this week was spent in the company of:
Fleet Foxes, Fleet Foxes and Sun Giant EP
Stephen Sondheim, Assassins (2004 Broadway Revival Cast)
Lakes, Lakes
and some The Microphones, Animal Collective, Kes, Bachelorette, Ratatat, Fabulous Diamonds, Tactics, Deerhunter, Vetiver, Teeth & Tongue, Palms, Panel Of Judges, Public Enemy, CocoRosie, Radiohead, Arthur Russell, Nirvana, Meat Puppets, Townes Van Zandt, Grand Salvo, Nick Huggins, Primitive Calculators, M.I.A., Chairlift, NPR Fresh Air, and This American Life.

Today: 3CR Tuesday Breakfast Show
  • Lucy spoke to Sam Pavi, an activist in the Australian Tamil community, about the Sri Lankan government's intensified military campaign against the Tamil Tigers and its impacts on the struggle for an independent Tamil homeland in the north of Sri Lanka.
  • I spoke to Michael Shaik from Australians For Palestine, about Israeli troops entering Gaza over the weekend, the impacts on civilians in Gaza, and the response of the international community. There will be another 'Stop the War on Gaza' rally on Sunday January 18, at 2pm at the Victorian State Library.
  • I spoke to Greens Senator Christine Milne, about yesterday's announcement by Federal Environment Minister Peter Garrett to approve 13 of the 16 environmental assessment modules associated with the proposed Gunns pulp mill in Tasmania. He also gave Gunns a two-year extension for further study into the marine impacts of the proposed mill's effluent.
  • I spoke to Paul Oosting, Pulp Mill Campaigner for the Wilderness Society in Tasmania, also about Peter Garrett's announcement yesterday. The Wilderness Society had marked January 5 as the date that should have signaled the end of the road for the Gunns pulp mill. It called on Peter Garrett to end all approvals of the mill if the full Environmental Impact Management Plan was not approved by yesterday. That didn't happen. Instead, with 13 of the 16 modules approved, Gunns can now go ahead with construction of the mill but will need full approval to begin operating.
Smog - I Feel Like The Mother Of The World - A River Ain't Too Much To Love
Deerhunter - Agoraphobia - Microcastle
M.I.A. - Amazon - Arular
Woods - Military Madness - Some Shame
Nick Huggins - The Sea Adrift - Shipwreck LP

Now I'm going to sit here and watch the new Gossip Girl episode. Yes, it's got a lot to live up to, considering the last one contained the Best Moment of 2008. But I'm fairly sure I'll love it no matter what. And by 'no matter what', I submit, for example, that my favourite character began the show as a near date-rapist. It bothers me sometimes how readily I decided not to think about that.

1 comment:

Guy said...

Excellent - incremental blogging.