Thursday, April 27, 2006


Fortunately the augmentin blitzed the sinus infection and I'm feeling sprightly. One week in India with three more to go. I've been in Ahmedabad in Gujarat for a week. Not as hot as feared but still smokin'. Gets to about 40 degrees between 2 and 3 in the afternoon. I'm up by 6 am, then jog around a 400 metre dirt track that belongs to Gujarat University. 5 circuits alongside pudgy Gujjus in various callisthenic poses. The weirdest press ups I've ever seen. Some cute couples strolling, jogging and lingering. The young women here have beautiful long hair. Then back home and a short walk with my in-laws in the gullies of the local 'societies' and gardens, tea, muesli, bath and reading.

I'm working apace through Alexander Weheliye's Phonographies: Grooves in Sonic Afro-Modernity. I've had this book since last August because I've been preparing a piece for the journal Science Fiction Studies on Afrofuturism as critical discourse about music technology. Hadn't got around to the book earlier though. I knew it would be good because I use a 2002 Weheliye article (from Social Text) on R & B and posthuman black voices in my graduate Media, Sound and Music course. So far it's really excellent and more profoundly paradigm shifting in terms of its arguments about technology, identity/subjectivity and blackness than some of the reviews (including the one linked above) concede. Will report on it more in the (Afro) future.

I had started another good US book on music--Josh Kun's Audiotopia: music, race and America--but had to abort after the first chapter for return to the library before my departure from New Zealand.

In Ahmedabad, I've already been to Crossword books a couple of times and the local academic store Granthaghar (House of Books). The former is a chain, the latter an independent with 10% discount and an incredibly friendly and supportive owner and assistant. Indian books are really cheap compared to their US & UK editions. So I've already gotten into the Sage and Oxford University Press catalogue of new releases on Indian media, film and cultural studies.

As ever I'm thoroughly enjoying the food, though much care of the self and discipline is needed to not go overboard. Everything from the 15 rupee aloo-double chutney sandwich to fish tikka and variously pickled chillies have passed my palette and I'm looking forward to a lot more.

Slight guilty feeling because the first week of each India trip is consumerist heaven. This is where I do all my clothes shopping. I kid you not, even the boxers and socks. I've already bought about 12 shirts, one pair of chinos and a couple of long kurtas.

It's a blessing to be relieved of domestic chores for a few weeks and have justification for a daily siesta. Not that I need that much rationalization for a nap.

More later. Slow internet connection. Making plenty of playlists on iTunes while catching up with tracks I forgot I had or haven't listened to much. Betty Swann's soul is high on the most played list and there's something about Dusty in Memphis that for the last two visits here has made it my preferred listening when drifting off to sleep in the afternoon with the AC set to Super Cool and the fan crunking away above.

Monday, April 17, 2006


Went to a really warm spirited and enjoyable Easter luncheon yesterday in Point Chev. This was a heartening break from sitting or lying in bed with antibiotics. Our host made a succulent roast leggalamb and an amazing chocolate tort. There were many other scrumptious offerings in between. Before we ate some of us had a recurrent but nonetheless overdue moan about the state of the press in this country. This was brought on by the clichéd coverage of the Rolling Stones ('Lock up your grannies'). I gave up regularly reading the NZ Herald in my first year here, 1997.

I can be a whingeing pom, I'll admit, but why do you think we whine. There's no way around it: NZ mainstream media lack worldliness and style. There are few if any public intellectuals that regularly contribute to the newspapers. Kim Hill and Linda Clark are considered media intellectuals. The press and TV put most energy into sport, celebrities and anyone caught sucking the teets of the system that week. The coverage of food fares better than that of the visual arts. With few exceptions, the music writing is either banal or designed for catalogue shopping. Reviews and features are beholden to the record company press pack or what the British and American papers have already said many times. NZ music feature writers don't bother to think about the contradictions in a recording artist's work. What the music says about the broader world is rarely examined beyond the throwaway 'issue' soundbite. Kerry Buchanan is a rare exception. For the most part it's all about hyping the latest CD. The visit of foreign noteworthies always brings out the worst in our media. The snivelling reporters want them to sign up for NZ Tourism & Export. 'Oh please, let them like us, so that we know we are worthy, even though we're not so sure ourselves'. Thank God Above, that we were spared the visit of U2.

At home on Linwood last night, I could hear the roars of the Western Springs crowd and the hum of the amps. The park is only a ten-minute walk away. When I stepped into the back garden for a while and sat on the steps of the deck, I could see a triplet of Nuremberg spotlights pointing up to the sky as the band crashed into 'Let's Spend The Night Together'. Then I went to the front steps of the house as the band kicked off 'Jumping Jack Flash'.

Don't get me wrong. I like some of the Stones' songs. Though I prefer The Beatles. Sympathy For The Devil warrants serious respect. But in most cases, I'd rather listen to the covers than the originals: Otis Redding, The Residents and Devo versions of Satisfaction, for example. The Flying Burrito Brothers with Wild Horses. Laibach on Sympathy for the Devil. Better still, Germania with their version featuring Mick's voice after their hell's angels bouncers went a-killing at Altamont. I like serious deconstructions like Fennesz's Paint It Black. Let's hope that Cat Power covers 'Miss You' one day.

My favourite depictions of the group that once dreamed it was Muddy Waters' band at Chess appear in a succession of paintings by Guy Peellaert in his book Rock Dreams with Nik Cohn. Here the Stones of the 1960s are leather queens and Nazi paedophiles. In the latter vision, Keith still manages to sip a cup of tea like a proper English gent. No wonder these dudes once owned the film rights to Anthony Burgess' novel A Clockwork Orange. Can't you just viddy them as droogs.

Sunday, April 16, 2006


No, I'm not quoting M.I.A. or Jimi.

Feeling a little foggy. On Friday I began a 5-day course of antibiotics (3 huge Augmentin pills per day). I'm depriving some cattle somewhere. That's why the doctor makes you go aaaaaggghhhhh with an open mouth. His ice cream stick is for checking if your throat's wide enough for the tablet.

Plus dropping some of the dreaded anti-inflammatory Voltaren which comes deceptively in little pink diamond shapes that turn your bowels to custard.

And then regular Panadol to keep the temperature down.

One is enough. Every 4 hours.

The effects of the Voltaren initiated my only exercise in the last few days.

Also woke up with 101 degrees plus this morning and the shivers for about an hour. Shuchi added a razzaai on top of the duvet and heating pad. Thanks to her and Nan for ministering to me for the last days.

All these drugs are engaged in a molecular insurgency to annihilate a bacterial invasion that resulted from chronic sinusitis. On Thursday I thought I just had an allergy headache.

The V is there to alleviate the aches and pains due to muscle infection.

I do not engage in pharmaceutical blitzes very often. Usually forced to it when about to travel.
I should be free of the wretched weakness before we fly to India on Wednesday.

Aeroplanes & Sinuses. I feel a suitably bunged-up compilation coming on.

Monday, April 03, 2006


Just heard today that Gnarl's Barkley's single 'Crazy' (recorded by Danger Mouse & Cee-Lo, pictured above in A Clockwork Orange chic) has become the first single to go to No. 1 in the UK charts based only on legal downloads--31,000 MP3s in the UK. It comes out as a 'hard copy' CD this week. The hype's been generated by an ad for BBC radio DJ Zane Lowe's show. This event does seem significant as a marker for the shift in the chart protocol and for the importance of internet music. I downloaded it without legal fanfare through P2P with no fuss almost two months ago. The hype around 'Crazy' is The Music Biz's attempt to make us buy 'legal downloads', the big push in 2006, so I'm ambivalent about the song's success. I'll admit it's a great single with the verve of a sixties soul record for Northern soul dancers. Reach for the talcum powder! There is also something special about a good record that gets to number one immediately. That kind of thing usually happens with novelty shite or Elton John singles about royalty. Crazy's success reminds me of The Jam hitting number one in the first week of release in 1980 with 'Going Underground'. We felt it was an 'event' to have something brilliant and different and not all 'happy happy la-la-la' prick the charts and actually hit the top of the banal mainstream pyramid in one sweep. As a producer Danger Mouse is certainly 'on fire' as my friend Nick put it the other day after I played Crazy again on The Basement. DM's sound on the Dirty Harry track by The Gorillaz is great--those electropopping effects in the last quarter of the record just leap out of the speakers and pummel you all over. I haven't heard any Gorillaz album so can't comment on the rest of the record. The DangerDoom collaboration The Mouse & The Mask with genius MF Doom was my favourite hip hop album of last year for its surreal rhymes, animation vs. pop skits and the wide palette of breaks. I really love The Bush Boys Are Coming on DM & Gemini's album Ghetto Pop Life for its paranoia about pater and son and the middle eastern (oud) samples. The Grey Album which really brought DM to people's attention had a few captivating moments but was more important for just messing with the sacred Beatles legacy and for its deployment in the politics around copyright and intellectual property at a time of corporate lockdown. Copyright is the frontline! The Grey Album (the acapellas from Jay Z's Black Album mixed with The Beatles' White Album) was released online, pissing off EMI and living Beatles, on 24 February 2004 AKA Grey Tuesday. Then it's all the more ironic--well, predictable I suppose--that the pirates become turncoats once they're in the belly of the beast rather than snapping at its limbs. Now Danger Mouse is a playah in the industry. The Gnarls Barkley CDs were sent out with copyright protection. Check out Sasha Frere Jones blog entry with its photo of a watermarked promo copy of the album and Jones acute and ironic observation that 'music is a medium for asserting ownership, silly rabbit'. The subcultural cred of copyright violation has certainly helped DM's career. So let's look forward to more downloads of Crazy and lots of people sampling Cee-Lo's desperate vocals or that woo-ooh-ooh backing hum for their own tracks. I'm sure DM won't mind. The lucre will be flowing in if it isn't already, so no need to tell him you're doing it.