The "burn those heels! " post

Today, I actually did my usual walk to uni (well, half way there since I catch a bus part of the way) in a pair of shoes with actual, proper heels. If yous are interested in seeing what they were like, go here*

That meant I had them on all day.

During the course of the day, I managed to (literally) bump into practically everyone I know at TUWSNBN, was late to teach so had to detour through a floor I usually don't walk on (and tripped and almost fell on my way out a door) and actually did fall backwards while climbing stairs. The last could have been nasty but I was prevented from falling all the way to the floor by a rather helpful kid.**

I do have more classroom stories to share but am now sat at home, recovering from the shoes of horror so yous will have to wait till tomorrow.

* No, those are not the actual shoes I had on--mine were not "open-toed" and actually have lower heels. Still, for me, they were not low enough.

** Who commented, "I was scared you were going to fall on me"--well, so was I.

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what's the deal with this robert cox fellow?

I'm grading papers at the TUWSNBN's pitiful excuse for a PhD office. I'm also listening to some of the freshers discuss Critical Theory as they prepare for their presentation for IR Theory.

A couple of points: the ongoing debate about whether a "discussion of Marxism" is necessary when describing Critical Theory

and, "this is absolutely great. I love it. I want to know it inside out"* followed by "did anyone criticise this? I mean, how can they--there's nothing to say"

* Somewhere, many Critical Theorists (those who are still alive) are jumping about in joy.

For me, it's rather interesting just how much these people seem to know compared to how little I knew that stage. Perhaps that is why I am still here, even after all these years, plodding away at this whole dissertating/teaching gig.

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"we" the people of wherever...

A round-up of a few things since I don't have time for much else:

1. The class is going okay. I wouldn't say (write) it's going brilliantly but it's not going too badly. Another instructor and I had a long talk a few days ago and we both agreed that we hated the text book but we have been dealing with it in different ways. I have used it as a "reference" and assigned articles to the kids. He is using the book and realising it is not ideal. Hah.

The thing we both are having issues with is: how much is enough? Or, when I get one class session of just over an hour to cover "terrorism", what do I talk about? The problem I've been having (and my colleague agreed) was that we both tend to think we should cover a set amount of stuff and we end up talking too much. It's bloody frustrating.

2. Life: Life is not going okay. I mean, it's going but it's not great. I'm sure yous don't need to read all about that here so I'll save it until I see/meet some/all of yous in Real Life (if I do).

3. Midterms: I'm actually amazed that almost all the kids seemed to have understood most of the concepts well and can apply them on various occasions. The most popular section was my "self-made" section, in which I gave them two assignments.

In the first, they had to read a "foreign" newspaper for 5 days and answer a list of questions based on what they read. Then, they had to discuss how that country's "interests" were defined and communicated and, finally, relate what they read to concerns here in the United States.

In the second assignment, I proposed that Iran "was actively seeking to improve its nuclear capabilities" and then asked what different actors would do, in such a case. I then listed a few questions (Including: "Where would Iran acquire nuclear material from? Justify your answer" and "how would daily life for Iranians be affected--provide evidence from online sources")

For both these questions, the students spent a lot of time speculating on various actors, the differences among various actors and a few of them even proposed elaborate plans for what would happen. I enjoyed reading these.

Things I didn't enjoy reading? Well, the many, many common grammar mistakes that native English speakers made. During my undergrad, there was a class called "Effective Writing" which all students had to take. Most of my students here would greatly benefit from a similar class instead of some of the classes they are required to take.

The highlight (as a learning experience for me, too!) so far? One of my essay question asks: "Is democracy-promotion a policy worth pursuing? Why or why not?"

Almost half my students answered this question, including some international students. All the American students answered it as "Should WE (i.e. the United States) promote democracy?" but without specifying this. They then used "we" liberally throughout their answers. None of the international students did so.

I wonder why? I've noticed that I, too, don't talk about "We" (the Nepalis). Even when the discussion is about Nepal, I say (and write), "they" or "the Nepalese people".

Saying "we" automatically gives a kind of legitimacy to what is being said especially in view of the person speaking being part of the "we". It is difficult to argue against statements like "we believe in democracy-promotion". Though, does "we" have a place in an academic essay? I say No. Not just because it's "unacademic" (whatever that may be) but because it is unreflexive.

But, I think it needs a different person than me* to explain the relations of power-knowledge inherent in identifying oneself with the dominant global power. Or, behind using terms such as "we" and "we promote democracy" while blithely unaware of the assumptions underlying such usage.

Right. Off to grade some more midterms. Hopefully it won't be a week before yous have to read all about my oh-so-exciting life again.

* Again, an "effective writing" course, which discusses issues of power (as mine did!) and the concept of reflexivity would be fantastic.

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the week so far (or, how I learnt to stop whingeing and love grading)

Monday: Finished grading one section of a graduate-level course I'm TA-ing for. Happened at 4am. Slept.

Tuesday: Got up at 7am. Thought that there was something that I needed to do. Ah yes, the lecture for my own class. Contemplated calling in sick. Realised it was "security" day and decided to ad lib.

Class went surprisingly well. We talked about issues of "traditional" security and "human" security.

Wednesday: Ditched the Dalai Lama to have lunch with two out of three dissertation committee members and a rather nice globalisation scholar (NGS). Wore a proper shirt (with jeans and a pair of red shoes) as a concession to formality only to find NGS was one of those typically-casual and amusing European types who wouldn't have cared if students had shown up in flip-flops. Joined 3 other TUWSNBN's PhD-ers in listening to said scholar's talk. It was all about how the state is now obsolete.

Felt rather miserable since my dissertation is all about the state. Wondered how to inform it that it was irrelevant and useless as various "transboundary" stuff was going on.

Graded. Unendingly. Still haven't gotten to my own class's grades yet. Slight panic.

Thursday: Only day off. Threw some more stuff at the floor, messed up the desktop even more and spent much of the day (you know what's coming up by now) grading. Still not even half-way done for the graduate class. Panic increased.

Decided to quell disaster by wandering off to the Verizon Centre to watch the Caps. It was "Student Rush" day (hence cheap tickets) but the Caps lost (as they tend to do when I watch). Displeased.

More grading. More last-minute lecture-writing. Realised that "following the text book" would have made for a much easier class. Instead, read the articles on "Security on Film", cobbled together a quick lecture (with a few pictures) and started off class discussion with this question:

"Why are we quite happy to celebrate the Dalai Lama and give him medals while worrying about Islamic theocracies?"

Got dirty looks for being a Conservative nutter type. Was informed the DL was "all about peace" and "looked harmless" (good way to get into issues of representation here)

Then, asked them whether the US would see it as a security threat if Gov. Arnold decided that California should secede from the United States and then establish his own "Terminatorland" where everyone would have to follow some odd religion*. Got them to think about this for a while...then discussed representations and contexts.

Finished up with a (slightly militant) commentary on representations replicating power relations in the world. Talked about the film Bridge on the River Kwai (which was mentioned in their reading) and about media ownership (Rupert Murdoch).

Not quite sure how all this went--was too tired to think. Went home, graded some more.

Blogged. Just to show how incredibly dreary and without-much-spare-time the life of a postgrad student/teacher is.

* One student yelled out "Jedi" at this point--led to another tangent about quite a lot of people picking "Jedi" as their religion in the last British census and speculation about the outcome of a fight between the Terminator and a Jedi.

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Oh, New Zealand!

NO, I'm not about to talk of rugby but of this: "New Zealand police hold 17 in terror raids".

Read the article further and you'll realise the operation was "reportedly targeting Maori sovereignty and environmental activists - not foreign groups".


"The North Island raids were the first use of the country's Terrorism Suppression Act"

The reason why I find this interesting?* Well, take a look at what I've put up--this is the first time the Anti-terror law has been used and its been used against citizens rather than foreigners.

Keep in mind that New Zealand has, traditionally, been represented as a small power state in the international system which cares more for socioeconomic development and environmental concerns, provides foreign aid to regional countries (including Nepal) rather than for its military activities. In fact, most military activities rely upon joint alliances with Australia and the United States. Its Prime Minister is a former anti-war campaigner (during the Vietnam war) and fought against establishing foreign military bases in New Zealand.

New Zealand was seen to be in the forefront of economic growth, strong relations with Asia-Pacific, forward-looking immigration policies and, compared to other Western countries, fairly good relations with its indigenous community.

Now, this. I'm not saying these people weren't planning whatever it is they were supposed to be planning when practising during their "military-style training exercise". Merely that the use of Anti-terror laws and the identification of local people as terrorists is likely to lead to a dangerous area where the state can label any group they do not like as "terrorists". I guess my concern is this usage of "terrorism"--why weren't they arrested for "setting up military-style camps" (if that is illegal in New Zealand) or for "acquiring firearms"? Why weren't they (merely) criminalised instead of being called terrorist? Aren't we expanding the definition of terrorism to incorporate any and all types of illegal activities by doing this?

And, yes, getting back to the personal--it's New Zealand. A country of sheep and friendly people and a love of sports. Not terrorists. But, then, I thought the same thing about Nepal (well, apart from the sheep bit--we have mountain goats and yaks).

* apart from the purely personal reason of LilSis1 living in the country--in one of the cities where they carried out the raids.

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The 9:30 Club: Still Awesome

I'm thinking of turning this "academics should have hobbies" thing into a series. This time? A little DC live music review.

Even if they're getting a slightly wider variety of acts in these days, it's still absolutely worthwhile to head down and see a show at the 9:30 Club. I wasn't overly pleased with finding out that Josh Ritter wouldn't take the stage until 10:00, but between the bar and the crowd-watching, we managed to keep entertained.

Not the sort to sit around on the balcony, we scoped out a space on the right side of the stage, a few feet from the dreaded speaker towers. I work on the assumption that if you can't feel the bass in your sternum, you might as well stay home.

Old School Freight Train, the openers, had an alt-country/rockabilly set that was impressively well done. They played like a band used to much smaller venues, sticking to the center of the stage, and not really playing to the balcony at all. But they sounded good, and seemed to be having fun. There's not much more you can ask of an opening act.

Well, that and a fiddle player who clearly thinks he's the cool one of the group.

But this is where my first irritated observation of the night comes in--how hard is it to stop and listen to a 45 minute set? We had no trouble with it even without knowing the band, and yet during every song break the dull hum of conversation was clear. If, as an audience member, you're planning to hang out and chat until the headliner goes on, wouldn't it make more sense to grab a seat at one of the local restaurants until 9:45 or so?

Still 10:00 rolled around, and we had a small debate about whether the crowd was bigger than the last Josh Ritter show we saw, in February at the Birchmere. (Turned out it was--Josh said it was his biggest crowd stateside, which earned him a lengthy round of cheering.)

The last tour was acoustic, and if the change in openers hadn't clued us in, the first set of songs would have--"Moons" and then a lot of other new stuff, broken up with older favorites like "Girl in the War" and "Harrisburg." The new album is fantastic, different from his old stuff and really well suited to the livelier crowd that was there to hear it.

Well. Most of the crowd, which is where we come to my second complaint of the night. I have a little problem with people coming in late and pushing to the front of the crowd. But I put up with it, figuring that I'm easily tall enough to see over, and if somebody loves the music enough to be seriously rude and push in front of people, I can cut them some slack.

But when four girls, all dressed for a dance club rather than a concert, push themselves and their drinks through the crowd to the front and then proceed to text message and talk for most of the show, I find myself strangely unperturbed by the knowledge that in ten years they'll probably be deaf from standing directly in front of the speakers.

Seriously. It was rude to the audience, it was rude to the band, and that little hair-flip thing? Did not endear them to anyone. Nor did the random efforts at dancing, which seemed to involve trying to strike down anyone nearby with a well-placed (if unrelated to the current song) back-and-forth shove of the shoulders.

Given the situation, I felt absolutely no guilt about screaming in the nearest one's ear at every opportunity. Or about singing, probably off-key. Given that none of them knew any of the songs, I doubt it did much to lessen their concert experience.

(And although, yes, I am a music snob, in this case I feel justified. On three distinct occasions, I heard one of them point out that they didn't know what was going on, didn't know why certain bits of patter were funny, and didn't know the songs. Just...if you have to be ignorant about something, try to pretend to care about what you're hearing. It's not difficult. It involves standing there and keeping your mouth shut. And not having your phone out to send text messages during the set.)

Anyway. Despite the minor annoyance, the show was brilliant. Josh seemed to really be having fun, feeding off the energy of most of the crowd and the harder sound of the new record (which is wonderful. Have I mentioned that? Because it is and you should go buy it right now) and the band. His stories were just as wandering as ever, funny and a little odd, and the love for what he does was obvious.

His bafflement at the presence of actual people from North Dakota was sweet, and he gave a quick reference to the live webcast of the show on NPR. After that, it was mostly music, from the rock beats of "Rumors" to a rousing rendition of "Kathleen."

And the encore, which featured an acoustic song and then a quick joint number with Old School Freight Train (both of which I really ought to be able to pin down, but it's late and I'm tired and my brain has decided to call it a night) was a great way to round out the evening. All in all, every time I see him in concert I like Josh Ritter more, and this was no exception. He seems comfortable with the new songs, and although he was lovely to meet last time he came through and charming in a completely different way, he just seemed to be having more fun this time around.

And now I just have to remember to buy a ticket for The Academy Is... next week. They sound nothing like Josh Ritter, but it's looking to be a great show nonetheless.

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the Daily Show, "Dark Liquid" and details of a field trip

is the Daily Show "borrowing" Dark Liquid off us?

Or is it all a coincidence that Mr Riggle's fake film script on a charismatic leader who established a private army had the same (fake) name as the place-I-visited (and wrote extensively about) last year?

Does this mean I can have an alternative career as a writer/presenter for the Daily Show (they do need more women, in my view).

The PhD gig is not going too well--call me, please Mr. Stewart.

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of ancient Scottish doctors and modern dark lagoons

Talking to (one of) my sibling(s) just now, I was informed that one of the required books in her pre-19th Century English literature class is Tobias Smollett's The Expedition of Humphry Clinker.

Since I'd never heard of Tobias Smollett, I asked Wiki for help. It turns out Dr. Smollett was a (Scottish) doctor who ran off to London to become a dramatist. Not just any dramatist but he wanted to write tragedies. Unfortunately, he turned out to be better at comedies so he wrote a few, travelled around Europe, ended up in Jamaica (after being the ship's doctor for a trading vessel headed there) and married a rich Jamaican heiress once he returned to Britain.

Why is this relevant to anything, yous ask? It isn't really. But I felt I should share it anyway.

And, to show that this post's not all about eccentric Scotsmen, here are a couple of links for you:

The Daily Show with a brief history of Blackwater and what happens when you ("we"?) have people running about overseas--people who don't answer to American or overseas laws.

And no one predicted this could be a problem? Sometimes the absolute utter nonsense of the world we live in is astounding.

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Academics should have hobbies, part two.

The cool part about punk rock is that the songs are short, so you can get through fifteen of them in well under an hour. Also, they’re fast (except when they aren’t), angry (except when they’re happy), and heavily political (except when they’re about sex or something else entirely).

Do bear in mind that the following was also the era of glam, of folksy melodies, and of disco. Saturday Night Fever was released the same year as The Clash. We’re all lucky that the world didn’t come to an end.

Anyway. Moving on from protopunk (not without regret for the bands we skipped, but you all know how to use Google. I’d start with T. Rex, The Kingsmen, MC5, and The Bay City Rollers, personally) to the birth of punk as a genre and a movement. In this installment, we’re going to cover three continents, twelve bands, and four years: the first wave of punk.

As always, I encourage you to spend some of your hard-earned salary on the albums and bands found here. Really. Punk is all about DIY, and that requires a certain amount of audience commitment.

(xx to tt; download and unzip. 15 tracks, 50mb total)

The Songs

“Born to Run” Bruce Springsteen (1975)

in the day we sweat it out on the streets of a runaway american dream
at night we ride through mansions of glory in suicide machines

The first wave of punk rock was initially a scene, not a movement. Punk was the music produced by a group of artists who played in the same area (New York City), knew each other (including swapping tracks and filling in during concerts), and created music that fed off a limited number of other bands. CBGB’s wasn’t just a place that happened to get a lot of punk bands—for a while in the late 70s, it was the scene. It was how punk defined itself. Punk rock was a conversation, and the conversation didn’t require that everyone sound the same.

And so Bruce Springsteen sounds little like the Clash. But before the Clash, he was called punk. And maybe he still should be.

“I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend” The Ramones (1976)

do you love me back what do you say
do you love me back what can i say

The Ramones. Possibly the first obvious “punk” band on the list, or at least the first one to be generally recognized as being part of the punk movement by people who didn’t care that much about it.

So they were definitely Punk. And stayed that way for a long time. And they’re absolutely necessary for understanding punk rock (more about that in a minute) but in this particular track, there’s something else going on.

The funny thing about the Ramones (well, one of them, anyway. Honestly, if the antics of artists freak you out, don’t ever research the lives of punk musicians) is that while a lot of the songs from their first LP sounded like punk, the ones that didn’t sounded like something out of a 60s girl group. This track, for instance.

“Blitzkrieg Bop” The Ramones (1975)

they’re forming in a straight line they’re going through a tight wind
the kids are losing their minds the blitzkrieg bop

This is the first single by the Ramones. It didn’t do so well, but everybody knows it now. Really. Give it to 0:22, and then sing along.

“Today Your Love, Tomorrow The World” The Ramones (1976)

i’m a shock trooper in a stupor yes I am
i’m a nazi schatze you know i fight for the fatherland

Okay, this may not be the greatest Ramones songs ever. But it has a few things of note. First, there's the 1-2-3-4 count at the start, which was central to Ramones live shows for over twenty years (and shows up again in a lot of the bands that came after them).

Second, there’s a certain difficulty in pinning down punk music to any particular political stance. And that difficulty starts right here, with a group using imagery for shock value and humor. In punk rock, you can’t take anything at face value, you need to assume that somebody’s trying to yank your chain, and the bands? Usually smarter than they seem.

This does, in fact, have to do with the initial reason for this series. So keep it in mind.

Does everyone get it? Given the airplay this track didn’t get, and the real existence of Nazi punk, I’m thinking no.

Third…well, there isn’t a third. But Ramones is a great album, the extended version has some interesting added demos and such, and when you’re finished buying that, go out and find some stuff by Television.

“Because The Night” The Patti Smith Group (1978)

take me now baby here as i am
pul me close try and understand

Horses was one of the first albums definitively labeled as punk. This song is not off that album. And it doesn’t sound the way people expect punk to sound.

It is, quite possibly, my favorite track by Patti Smith. And it was written by Bruce Springsteen for his own album. Didn’t work out, but in the exchange of tracks and samples between the band (they were recording at the same studio) it turned out that it did work for Patti Smith.

“Heart of Glass” Blondie (1978)

lost inside adorable illusion and i cannot hide
i'm the one you're using please don't push me aside.

Last one from the early New York scene; again, it doesn’t sound like early UK punk. But like everything, punk came from something else—glam, and garage rock, and a dozen other influences. The first wave wasn’t about who you sounded like, it was about who you knew and what you thought the point of music was. I actually sort of really dislike Blondie. A lot. But here it is anyway, one of their tracks from the late 70s.

The thing to remember is that punk music came from somewhere, and was going somewhere else. Right. Now let’s talk about what happened when the earliest punk bands started to spread.

“Let The Kids Dance” Radio Birdman (1977)

told grandpa just last year
watch out man she’s gonna strip your gears

Radio Birdman is a hard group to classify. On the one hand, they were influenced by MC5 and the Stooges, just like a lot of early punk bands. On the other, they were in Sydney and had a lot more influence on Australian indie rock than they did on later punk bands. So here’s a live track, and I’ll let you make up your own minds. Just don’t get used to it.

“Peaches” The Stranglers (1977)

strolling along minding my own business
well there goes a girl and a half

The Stranglers opened with the Ramones on their first UK tour. Both bands opened for the Flamin’ Groovies, who were most assuredly not a punk band by any definition of the term.

The Stranglers were…not quite punk, but not really anything else, either. They were close enough for the musicians who would later become the UK’s first punk rock wave, even though their lyrics were more intellectual and sexual than political and a lot of their hooks were slowed down.

This is not the radio edit. And it is not the sort of thing that was played in polite company. It is meant to piss people off. Fair warning.

“New Rose [Live]” The Damned (1976)

see the sun see the sun it shines
don’t get too close or it’ll burn your eyes

“New Rose” was the very first single by a British punk group. This is where it started in the UK, at least when it comes to selling records. And even though most of the music by The Damned isn’t quite this close to traditional punk (Dave Vanian actually likes to sing most of the time, and various incarnations of the band went on inspire the West Coast hardcore movement and play goth rock) it’s an important milestone.

This particular track is a live version of the song. In case you were wondering what a concert sounded like.

“Anarchy In The UK” Sex Pistols (1976)

i am an antichrist i am an anarchist
don’t know what i want but i know how to get it

Okay. We had to get there eventually. Here you go, the Sex Pistols, with the second UK punk single. And keep in mind that this was an alternative to synth rock and folk music and it wasn’t the way everyone sounded. When this came out, it had only been five months since the Ramones played London. This was new, and it sounded like something that was going to change the world.

And, although I’ve been avoiding the topic, as this goes on it’s going to be harder to ignore that punk rock was also the center of a political standpoint, a claim about the way the world worked and the ways that the political and social system failed people. It was a system of identity as much as a musical innovation.

(Also, please note that despite the unfounded assumptions of many people who criticized the punk movement, the Sex Pistols could play their instruments just fine. So could The Clash, and any number of other bands. As with any other genre, you just have to stop and listen to figure that out.)

“White Riot” The Clash (1977)

all the power in the hands of people rich enough to buy it
while we walk the street too chicken to even try it

Let’s talk about The Clash. Third out of four bands on the ill-fated Anarchy Tour, The Clash are another of the big names of punk rock, a band everyone knows and to some extent recognizes. They played their first gig (opening for the Sex Pistols) on the same night the Ramones opened in London. They saw a later show from the same tour, and this track, their first single, owes a lot to the Ramones and the music played in the early years of punk.

The Clash are important to understanding punk, and this is where they start. Class and race and fast, hard beats. And, although this is the 1979 re-recording that was released in the US, you should still get the idea.

“Police & Thieves” The Clash (1977)

police and thieves in the street
fighting the nation with their guns and ammunition

Right from the start, The Clash were doing interesting stuff—sampling reggae, stretching the boundaries of punk, pissing people off at every available opportunity. They were also quoting Ramones lyrics, but that’s not so surprising.

The key thing about the UK punk movement is that it had a generally accepted political intent, a point of view that worked, almost as must as the musical style itself, to identify the members of the scene. The Clash were actually less revolutionary than most, and as punk became more popular (due in large part to The Clash and bands like them) this political identity started to fracture. The first wave of UK punk was about as cohesive as punk rock got. And more than anything else, that unity may be why thirty years later it’s these two years of punk rock that people identify as the core of it all.

“Orgasm Addict” Buzzcocks (1978)

sneaking in the backdoor with dirty magazines
and your mother wants to know ‘what are those stains on your jeans’

Oh, the Buzzcocks. I sort of think of them as my ultimate first wave punk band. Because they weren’t as overwhelmingly popular as the Sex Pistols, or The Clash, and they were having fun with the music in addition to playing politics. Pushing boundaries, and putting out some really strong rock and punk beats, all while thumbing their noses at most of the mainstream music scene and a substantial chunk of their fellow punk rockers.

Seriously, do not talk to me about the mind-blowing originality of NIN. These guys have them beat when it comes to pissing people off by talking about sex.

“Overground” Siouxsie & the Banshees (1978)

this limbo is no place to be a digit in another space
in another crowd i’m nameless bound

This is not the punk version of “Overground.” It’s the post-punk, orchestral, years later re-recorded version, because we’re about to hit the second wave of punk, when it all splintered into dozens of smaller movements and everything got confusing.

No, really. This has been the simple part. Siouxsie and the Banshees were one of the last of the first wave punk bands, and they were one of the few who made a transition into other genres successfully.

I’ve left out a ton of great bands, and some fantastic songs. But I think you probably get the idea from what I have included.

”Shadowplay” Joy Division (1979)

i did everything everything i wanted to
i let them use you for their own ends

Joy Division. Um. Okay, sticking to the musical points: play this, and then replay “Born to Run” or “Blitzkrieg Bop.” Because within four years, this is how far punk came. From a group of New York bands that had the sort of underground, incestuous musical experience that starts almost every real breakthrough, to a band that was on the forefront of an international, popular, rapidly splintering new genre.

Joy Division were the start of the post-punk movement, and we’re going to talk about them again. For the moment, let’s leave it at this song, which is one of their more traditionally punk tracks.

Next time: the second wave of US punk. Along with some other stuff.

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this is probably the only time i'll talk about this

This evening, I hung out with a couple of people and we (all foreigners) watched that all-American of all sports: baseball.

Actually, we watched a team which, in polite circles, would not actually be credited for having the most politically-correct of symbols beat the (alleged) "Evil Empire" with a lot of help from a swarm of midges.

Sometimes, you can't make real life up.

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the master and the sandman (and me)

So, it's not just us normal people who get all silent and tongue-tied and speak in languages unknown to humans or beasts when we run across people we admire.

From Mr. Gaiman's blog (he's writing about attending the premiere of Stardust in London):

So I'm going to tell you my favourite part of the evening, which was talking to Kate Magowan about Una (which is the part she plays in the film), and her calling over her husband to meet me, a husband who turned out to be John Simm, who interrupted my stumbling burbles of "ulp Life on Mars erk The Master" with his own starry-eyed "glunk The Sandman!" and pointed out that that meant he'd been a fan of mine for much longer than I'd been a fan of his so hahah and there you go.

On an academic note, I'm off to BigNameConference in San Francisco next year, all going well. All the warnings about needing to organise a panel or have VeryImportantPerson in said panel were not spot on at all (to put it politely) since I sent in my (usual) last-minute proposal and it's in! I'm feeling rather well-pleased with myself, for once. This academic gig is sometimes easier than it's made out to be.

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dealing with terroristic vegetables can be more difficult than you think

So, a couple of nights ago, I made Nam Phrik Pao and had it with rice and finished off the meal with sticky rice and mangoes. The house still smells (a bit) of my efforts though said efforts were much appreciated by my fellow residents.*

Apparently the Thai Cottage restaurant in London had a similar idea (except, of course, it wanted to feed others, not feed itself since restaurants--as a norm--do not need food. But, as always, I digress).

In its case, there was a bioterror alert, police closed off the area and houses were evacuated.

A neighbour says, "I was sitting in the office when me and my chief start coughing and I said this was something really dodgy."

But, instead of going to investigate, people called the police to report "noxious smoke".

The more amusing thing is that the people producing the suspected bioterror agent had no idea what was going on. In the words of the manager of Thai Cottage:

My boss rang me and said I had to get out of the building because of a chemical attack. Then she adds:

Because we're Thai, we're used to the smell of chillies.

The story is frustratingly vague--does this mean the neighbours were not used to the smell of Thai chillies? After all, it's used in almost every Thai dish. How long has this restaurant been located there that these people didn't know what the smell was?

It would be interesting to see how community relations pan out after this. But, for now, the final words go to a Scotland Yard spokesman:

The street was closed off for three hours while we were trying to discover the source of the odour.

Really. And no one bothered to ask. Oh, and hadn't they ever had Thai food before? Presumably the gas masks they had on prevented them from actually smelling the smoke and so it took them 3 hours to figure all this out.

Soon, it'll be like the tale of the boy who cried wolf. When terroristic chillies do take over London, there will be no one to care. Mark my words, people.

* or so they said. I, as a wuss, was unable to actually eat much since, despite having grown up in South-east Asia, my tolerance for spicy food is remarkably low. My 76-year old landlady turned out to be better at coping with Thai spices than me. Loads of Asians are probably rolling around in their graves (except they'd have been burnt to a crisp at death and hence unable to roll--though I guess coffins don't facilitate rolling either. Again--tangent. Sorry).

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A post about music. Because academics need hobbies.

I was going to do a post on Fall Out Boy.

But it turns out that my post on FOB doesn’t make any sense if I don’t first talk about punk rock, and the history of a whole series of punk subgenres, and the way that the current Chicago hardcore scene developed out of a whole bunch of bands from DC and Minneapolis and LA and Boston. Because FOB (who are neither punk nor hardcore nor emo) came out of that scene. So then I was going to do a post on the history of punk.

Only…forty years is a lot of musical ground to cover in one post. And the 1300+ songs that I have from which to choose are a bit daunting all at once.

And so I’m going to do a short series on punk music. With a little culture thrown in. And some politics. Ready? Good.

A temporary link for these tracks:
hxxp://www.sendspace.com/file/bkv33b (31mb, change xx to tt and unzip)

There’s a term in punk history, now that it’s been around long enough to have a history, that gets used to describe the huge variety of bands that were said to be the foundations of the punk movement, the influences that became, in the 1970s, the source for a new musical movement. Protopunk bands run from garage rock to glam, and the only things they have in common are a certain “fuck the system” attitude and having been mentioned at some point by a punk rocker as an influence.

A lot of them played gritty music about subjects that weren’t for polite consumption. Except for the ones who didn’t. And so, the following is a playlist of tracks by frequently-mentioned protopunk bands. It’s not the full list, but it’s a decent selection of the groups punk rockers talk about.

They are not necessarily the most “punk” sounding songs by each band, because the point of this is not to cherry pick the songs that sound the most like later stuff. These are tracks that are either a) well-known, or b) my favorites.

“You Really Got Me,” The Kinks (1964)

This is the first single by the Kinks that actually went anywhere. It’s got the harsh guitars that later showed up in British punk, and the band wore leather capes and boots for concerts. They were also known for the sometimes violent fights the band members would have onstage, behavior which, let’s face it, is sort of the gold standard for any decent punk rocker.

The Kinks are referenced all the time by punk bands, and their influence and the chord structure they popularized remain sort of all-pervading.

“96 Tears,” ? And the Mysterians (1966)

Welcome to the garage rock that birthed American punk. Some key points about ? and the Mysterians: they were one of the first Latino bands to chart in the mainstream US music scene, the lead singer was crazycakes (there’s this thing about martians, and another about dinosaurs, and also, you know, he calls himself Question Mark), and this was their first hit.

In 1971, they were probably the first band to be called punk rock by a critic.

They’re from Flint, Michigan, and still playing shows. Which is sort of awesome, if you ask me.

“Oh! Sweet Nuthin',” The Velvet Underground (1970)

It would probably be shorter to talk about which bands and genres weren’t influenced by The Velvet Underground. Seriously. Lou Reed is like the patron saint of kids who want to start a band. And members of Velvet Underground were crucial for developing all kinds of later punk bands, both by producing and by filling in on various albums and tracks.

Their original drummer quit because they took some cash for a gig and he was in it for the Art. So it’s because they were sellouts that they ended up with one of the most interesting girl drummers ever.

This is not one of their toughest tunes. It’s not even the hardest rock from Loaded. But I love it, and so it’s the one you get.

“Baba O'Riley,” The Who (1971)

Right. Back across to the UK, this time to one of the biggest rock bands of all time. This, like the previous track, is not the most “punk” of their songs. In fact, it’s more about “Look! Synthesizer!” than disaffected youth. But that makes it the exception, and there are a ton of other songs and albums they did that had an impact on the development of punk all over the world.

Still. Beloved album, much-covered song, not actually called “Teenage Wasteland.”

"Raw Power," Iggy & the Stooges (1973)

Strictly speaking, I should probably have gone with “T.V. Eye” because of the whole Henry Rollins, Kurt Cobain, Jack White thing. But I’ve always liked “Raw Power” better, and this is the album that gets talked about the most.

The Stooges came about because MC5 originated in Detroit. And if you get a chance, MC5 has some tracks which have held up well, and they too are considered to be protopunk. I just don’t have any of their tracks in digital form, and I’m far too lazy to convert them this week.

Reasons that the Stooges are important:

1. Stagediving.
2. Covers by every punk band ever, practically.
3. Hamburger, peanut butter, broken glass, Iggy Pop’s stage show.
4. The Godfather of Punk. ‘Nuff said.

“Frankenstein,” New York Dolls (1973)

The New York Dolls were influenced by MC5 and the Stooges. They took it and ran, inventing glam punk along the way.

I actually started listening to them because I love Joy Division. It’s a bit of a long story, but my main argument is this: if you want to know where the Ramones came from? You need to know the Dolls.

“Never Gonna Kill Myself Again,” Rocket From The Tombs (1974)

It was this or Devo, folks. (Yes, (that Devo. They were a garage band before they got the keytars and funny hats.)

Cleveland protopunk, a band that was only around a year, and then…well. They’re on a couple of Playstation games, sampled by the Beastie Boys, their bootlegs were common right up until somebody finally collected them for a real album in 2002. They also inspired a later punk rock band, Rocket from the Crypt, and directly spawned two more bands, Dead Boys and Pere Ubu.

Oh, and in case you still aren’t convinced? Some of you have heard of a little Canadian film called Hard Core Logo, right? “Sonic Reducer” is a cover. Well, actually a cover of a cover, since Dead Boys played it after Rocket from the Tombs split up. Still. It started in Cleveland, back when this band was the entire punk scene.

So don’t ever say I never taught you anything. RFFT kicked ass.

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