July 10, 2010

July 19th, Tokyo, JAPAN

sitting in a retro cafe in Shinjuku. Folk/jazz placs while vintage comics and posters line the walls.
Tokyo=city of eternal youth. middle age men sit on trains reading comic books. school girl uniforms abound on women in mid twenties. bright lights and neon signs. every corner – a vending machine stocking drinks or cigarettes.
casions (rather just rows of pokies with pinball type action) are just like the video game parlour where the train themselves it sit still for hours on end pushing buttons, loading coins to a cacophony of jingles set to peneratrate your mind.
phones are an extension of the wrist. on trains know one talks (signs tell you not to) but all scroll through messages on flip top models.
homeless men litter the space between a cinema and a casion, asleep on cardboard beds.

and who can blame them considering the price you can payfor rent ($45000 US for a month in a three bedroom place). i konw this figure cause it is plastered all over my hostel, where i pay $30 a night to sleep on the floor in a tiny alcove with a wall at either end and some 30 cm to one side to store my lugage. 70cm above a boy sleeps

July 20th
so glad to be back in a world that doesn’t charge for you to urinate. also pleased to be offered the choice of squatting once again.
this time however it is a much more sophisticated operation. paper can be used and flushed – or some water jets can do the job for you.
a sign in my over-signed hostel informs me that i’m both allowed to flush paper, or use bottle of water. this note is directed at ‘persons of religions (i.e. those of the muslim faith)’ that those who ‘can not use paper may use the bootle provided’
why can’t muslims use paper?
in my cafe i find my most scientific toileting experience yet. putting the seat down starts it warming (to what temperature one wonders). on completition, buttons with symbols, brail and japanese writing offer me three types of rinses.
i tried to find a button for drying but failed – i didn’t wish to turn the temperature up accidently

Harajuku, the suburb which gave name to the fashion subcultre of japanese youth who took to wearing elaborate, comic and childish clothing has changed somewhat i’m told by the man selling some sort of cabbage egg pancake/pizza.
walking down the alley it is filled with shoppers. fashionable and youthful, but not dressed to outrageously. shops overflow onto the sidewalk. between those selling cute dresses (and shorts-dresses) and hats (straw bower hats are very in) are ones selling keyrings and other pointless accessories.
most interesting however are photo shops. aimed at tween and teen girls (i am noticeably the only male, only non-asian in the room) and their mums, the room is lined with walls of photos of Japanese celebrities (i hope they’re celebrities not just normal people) doing all sorts of domestic things.
putting on socks, taking off their shirt, playing basketball, playing tennis, chilling with their friends, posing, posing in the street, shopping, singing on stage.
most of the celebrities are androgonous boys. japanese do androgony so much better than anyone else.

moving away from Harajuku high fashion stores emerge. japanese, on the whole, seem a whole lot more stylish than westerners (even old homeless men reinterpret hip-hop culture or where nike caps, a few years out of season though)
waling these a young man dressed in black stops me and asks me if he can speek japanese to me. he is japanese, so i pressume he can, but i tell him i would only understand english.
he says he is a photographer for ‘HUGE’, a fashion magazine, and asks how long i’m in tokyo for. when i say i’m only passing, he asks if i’ll return, and i fill in some forms and he takes some shots of me.

finally being white has made me ‘interesting’


bed fellows

June 16, 2010

In Prague Communism and Capitalism are close bed fellows. The Museum of Communism, a relatively insightful look at communism, the Soviet Block sits behind McDonalds and in the same building as a casino.

i can see capitalism quietly mocking the grand fall of communism

it is strange being in a country with this history. fawlty towers holds true. **don’t mention the war**. generations have passed yet there’s a cold historicity to the events, a dormant past no one mentions.

i wonder where are the tributes to the fallen soliders from germany. they too are the victims of war. men and women who were enlisted, conscripted, lured and hoodwinked to sign up to hurl lead bullets at people they’d never met, who spoke languages they didn’t know, from countries they’d never visited.

i wonder how having such a history impacts on their current political, or political-less status. near p+a’s house is a large round-a-bout type place that serves as the main transit centre for trams, buses and an underground train station. on weekends it turns into the main space for political activism.

young punks in torn black denim with patches of american bands resist fascism (too late perhaps?), racism, capitalism, and other isms.

this weekend the round-a-bout was taken over by turkish people who came to germany after the war to rebuild the country for the germans, and provide them with cheap food for late night munchies (mmm, falafel). they were protesting, i presume from my bad german, against israel’s occupation of palestine [banners i think stating ‘zionism is terrorism’ and ‘freedom for palestine’. it semed, like much politiking in germany, to be a very small minority expressing these views (though, for a pleasant change it was white kids dressed in black, but whole migrant families).

don’t mention the war

i haven’t written for a while. been domestic. baking, eating, cooking, cleaning, sleeping, watching things, bicycle rides. and a trip to berlin. some music making/listening in there too.

it is hard to remember what has happened on the streets i walk during the day. at times you need to make hitler/fascist jokes just to remind yourself of the mass atrocities that occurred in these places within other people’s lifetimes.

nurnberg was the place of some of the main rallies that took place in the lead up to germany’s invasion of poland and the beginning of ‘the war’. hitler made use of the amazing classical greek architecture as a backdrop to his nationalist ‘socialism’ ideology. and the crowds here leached onto his patriotic/nationalistic/racist rhetoric as hope for salvation from the economic crisis (hmm, what sort of patriotic/racists rhetoric is being flaunted in the face of the present GFC?).

but nurnberg’s poor race relations isn’t a thing of recent history. persecution of jews has a long history in nurnberg, as i learnt today at a visit to an old merchant’s house. perhaps it has to do with its reformation heritage. perhaps not. i honestly don’t know.

taking a rather emotionless journey through nurnberg’s role in WWII at the Documentation Centre, including looks at Lennie Reifenstahl’s (in)famous documentary on the nurnberg rallies, was while an intriguing look at war from the perspective of citizens in ‘enemy’ territories, seemed to almost excuse the ignorant masses overwhelmed by all the pomp and ceremony surrounding the nazi party’s parties and the lead figures handsome figure. as if they can be excused for not noticing jewish synagogs being burnt to the ground and windows to shops being smashed.

i’m reminded of william cooper (of whom i taught my students about the last two years) who walked on parliament house following kristallnacht despite probably never having met a Jew, never having been to germany, not being counted a citizen in his own country, not having rights to vote in his own country, and having the invasion of his country celebrated by the oppressors.

however in berlin i was shown different angles to citizen’s approaches to oppression. the extent of secret networks (or, realistic so secret they didn’t even network) supporting jews and gypsies and other oppressed groups, hiding in attics and making brushes was fascinating, and encouraging to see normal people (including people with hitler moustaches – they are not the symbol of evil) risking their lives to safe guard others.

on the topic of people working to support others, i found similarly of interest the role the east berlin churches played under the communist government to publish dissenting newspapers, plays and host peace movement conferences and talks (which i learnt is where the modern usage of the ‘swords to plougshares’ movement got some leverage). but maybe the church was just trying to pull down a system which allowed people to play a lot of naked beach volleyball.

final thought. toys:
probably not related, at least initally, a visit to a toy factory was surprisingly intellectual stimulating, despite an audio guide which is geared toward the lowest common denominator. the means by which humans probably first attempt to recreate, interpret, construct and realise reality. a highly political/social act which can never be looked at neutrally.
it was fascinating to see culturalisation in products aimed at children. questions of creating object which enhance or require imagination and creative versus those which stifle. creating ideas in children of ‘normal’. of gender roles. ideas of race. of beauty. of technology. of career.

and some, not even subvert.

stalin is said to have taught the masses to read so that they could digest his propaganda. the nazi’s made toys (the obvious, SS armies, nazi soldiers, flag wavers) so you didn’t need to be literate.

but most interesting.

monopoly. and anti-monopoly.

it makes you wonder, if monopoly is the board game of free market capitalism, what does the board game of socalism look like, or the board game of anarchistic economics, or of hunter gathering tribal economics, or feudal economics. does fascism have a board game? or all games anti-democracy authoritarian?


side note: i’ve been making lino prints.
have been reading:
Jack Kerouac – On The Road
Paulo Feire – Pedagogy of Hope

Memoirs of a Geisha (Penguin simplified version – it is hard to find english books here – not recommended)
Gabriel García Márquez – 100 Years of Solitude
Christopher Wright – The God I Don’t Understand

too much internet

you’d think with germany’s history [**don’t mention the war**] that they’d have learnt now to be much more polite to minorities, and generally, if in doubt, use PC terms. it seems parts of them have yet to learn, and are still stuck in 1940s america.

while their is a good splattering of anti-nazi/fascist graffiti around the city (predominantly written in english, black pain, print. no graphics or thought to layout), and venues are clear about their booking of only non-sexist, racists, fascist or homophobic groups, and our little outing to the labour day rally featured a german punk-metal band singing refrain in english ‘f*** you, nazis’, music stores still haven’t caught on to the fact it probably isn’t really appropriate to call music made by african americans ‘black music’.

in the 1940s in america they were in a similar position. billboard had two charts. one called ‘pop music’ and one called ‘race music’. stations and clubs too were divided along these lines. which meant that you knew where to go if you wanted more ‘racey’ music. somewhere (around the time of Elvis stealing ‘race’ songs and making them white, i mean ‘pop’) the changed the name to ‘rhythm and blues’ chart.

now we call it urban music. cause that way it brings up connotations of ghettos and fights, when it should bring up images smooth soul like usher or issac hayes.

part too.

i went to a gig. american music. a band called black heart procession, where every song had the word heart in it. either a heavy heart, a broken heart, a beating heart or a square heart.
i should have guessed by the audience that this was more like dad rock than post-gothic rock like i’d hoped.

the band was cleared divided between those ‘in’ the band, and those who were session musos. those in the band (two people) looked llike the crowd. old, white, long hair (in a post-metal, pre-retirement kind of way), ugly hats (porkie pie hats), pudgie bellies. these two people formed the ‘melodic/harmonic’ aspect of the band. the people on stage who were the others stuck out. sorely. they were young, black, hip, with small afros and oversized glasses like Dan Deacon. i thought of TV on The Radio. or Prince. they played the rhythm. drums and bass. and generally made what would have otherwise been moping white music have emotion.
maybe i just jump to conclusions about people, and music, based on their ethnicity.

part three.
having spent the last few days making CD cases, or watching Spicks and Specks or Not Quite Art, art practises was on my mind. braving the 15 degree spring and the rain, i walked towards the river yesterday. on my way, attracted by a sign featuring hand drawn naive art, i participated in an art project.
it cost me 1 euro but i got a private exhibition, in side a circular room in a park of UV lights and strangled stuffed animals, hand painted trees and a huge paper mache snake. the room played music akin to brian eno.

it left me thinking one thing. was it worth 1 euro? but at least for a moment i stayed dry

indian reflections

May 6, 2010

so while travelling through india i kept a journal.  without means of music making, i took to writing poetry/prose/bad raps.

these are attempts at making hip-hop songs from them.  done over the last two or three days, in the living space of my sister’s apartment in nurnberg, using her husband’s guitar, his microphone and headphones.



cultural excursions

May 6, 2010

while being in germany, i feel i’ve been  pretty dormant.  the one sunny day was license for all of  nurnberg to skip school/work and make the most of it, heading to the grassy banks of the river with their small BBQs on the back of their bicycles, strip to their underwear and sun-bake.

every other day is rather cold and overcast, making leaving the house before midday a rarity, so instead i have been filling the mornings with music making, dishes, listening to music, reading (but not as much as i’d like), drinking andrew’s espressos, cooking (paranthas, chapatis, ginger biscuits, curries).

two evenings however have provided uniquely german experiences.

first.  operetta.  having never witnessed opera in its entirety, nor an operetta, i feel incompetent of a full critque.  however: first act good, second act two long…. there.  that is my conclusion.   that and the over-the-top costumes and probably demeaning colonial depictions of Chinese people did make it more humorous and enjoyable.

second. metal. this was actually an american band, from southern lord’s roster (wolves in the throne room), but it felt like a german experience.  beer with a 2euro cover on the bottle in case you use it too glass someone (perhaps they should bring this in in brisbane), everyone dressed in black with band tee-shirts, standing still, or crouched in the corner with their girlfriend, too moved by the music too move, except for me, in my button up, tucked-in shirt with what looks like the outback painted on it, and some guy from a ska/funk/stoner band rocking out and complaining about everyone standing still.  we became friends.

i have three gigs so far in germany.  which is nice