gigs that impressed me lately

Have been mostly off the music scene for the past year or two. Over the past couple of months have reconnected a little, and seen a few things that impressed jaded me… nice to be reminded of the awesome talents lurking in the underground of this town. Here be some reviews.

Elisabeth DiMaria @ Watusi

How to describe this solo act? Unique captivating storytelling set over laconic beats, repurposing a three wishes/genie motif into a shattered fairytale journey through love, madness and despair, with a dancing costumed anime creature as your guide. Musically, elements of hip hop, ambient atmospherics, trip hop; vaguely Coco Rosie-esque. As performance, it had a vigor and spontaneity all too often sorely lacking live; crazed creative genius fizzing at the seams trying to get out. One suspects that you will never get the same thing twice from this lady.

Beastwars @ SFBH

Slow deep groove metal by some old hands who know what they like. Immediately appealling and familiar yet totally its own thing – like they have internalised heavy music and know what they like and can channel it out in an original form. Led by piercing growls and bass swagger, this beast strikes for and from the belly.

Stif @ Bodega

Three piece (drums gat keys) post-hardcore experimental madness. Very talented and experienced musicians (recognisable: a percussionist from Strike, and a Black Seed) having a blast. Varied between hardout and hardcore, and long slow atmospheric passages, with a range of stuff in between. Good shit. They have gigged maybe three times so far? Well worth catching.

Anthony Milton @ Freds

Experimental music stalwart. Gig was video (with Hilarious subtitles) of his travels in South America, set to music made of sound samples recorded along the way – jungle screeching and indigenous soundscapes, melted into intense building drones and crescendos, with random flute and distorted toy guitar. Inspiring stuff.

filters, part one

Sort of a bulletpoint braindump thinking aloud, to be returned to: general thesis – that in an information age, what becomes vital is how we filter information.

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There is too much information. We cannot possibly attend to everything that is happening. Nor should we want to.

Most available information is irrelevant to us.

How are we to know what is relevant or irrelevant?

For this we both need an internal sense of what is relevant to us, and external means of filtering what is relevant from what is not relevant.

Most important of these is the internal sense of what is relevant. Do you know who you are and what you are doing? Where you are and where you are going and why? And do you know therefore what it is you need to know, and what you need to pay attention to?

Because until you have this internal sense, how can you possibly navigate the flood of information? There is no way to know what is relevant. And there is no shortage of information clamouring for attention.

We do not currently know how to filter our information. This is true both in the sense that we do not know how to physically filter the information coming in, and in the sense that we do not know what we most need to know.

A feature of information that needs to be balanced here:  If we knew it already it would not be information – the fact of being unknown is what gives it its value – but how are we to discern what we don’t know is worth becoming aware of?

Even though we are not aware of how to filter, we must of necessity already be filtering. We are ignoring most of reality in order to focus on whatever it is we are doing. The corollary then is we don’t know what we are doing when we filter information – it is sort of random. This seems non ideal.

We need to become aware of our existing filters, our existing mechanisms to deal with reality, and how we can adapt them to meet our actual needs.

free store

This looks interesting.

38 GHUZNEE ST

OPEN FOR TRADE ON SATURDAY 22ND MAY

CONTRIBUTIONS WELCOME FRIDAY 21ST MAY

Free Store is a free grocery store at 38 Ghuznee Street Wellington, stocking a range of fresh produce and general grocery items. It looks and feels like a small, vibrant and cared for independent business but offers a full range of products for free. How useful is a product to us? How much do we need or want it? How much do we think we deserve it? For producers or suppliers who agree to take part in Free Store participating will challenge and hopefully inspire. The basic economic principle of Free shop is redistribution. Many of the products at Free shop will already have been paid for several times over, every loaf of bread or bag of apples we buy includes the unseen cost of however many are wasted.

reading 2010: vol 3

Went on a tear reading a bunch of very short novels to flush something else through my head after writing the new non-fiction book, then was a bit brain-zonked for a week following the wisdom teeth coming out, so  there’s a general dearth of heavy thinking stuff in this pile…

Change Your Life in Seven Days – Paul McKenna
Picked this up from the library on a whim. Found it mildly surreal that it was basically an extremely cleverly packaged selection of watered down NLP techniques. The hypnosis CD it comes with is pretty epic though. And it made a fascinating counterpoint to the draft I was writing.

Death in Venice – Thomas Mann
Short novel in which an old writer goes to Venice and falls obsessively in love with a young boy. From that literary era which seems to take for granted a complete classical education that no longer exists, and without which it seems a touch futile. I would however quite like to read Mann’s Magic Mountain.

The God Engines – John Scalzi

A short novel. Gave it a go ‘cos it was that guy from that blog. Didn’t think much of the writing or characters, but some of the ideas and delivery were striking, and some parts have stayed with me in a surprising way. Uniquely twisted.

Sun After Dark – Pico Iyer
Almost meta-travel writing, delving into the psychology of places, exploration and travel as much as it focuses on the places he goes. Pretty choice. Beautiful, brilliant, some of the most relevant coming to terms with the modern world going.

Eeeee Eee Eeee – Tao Lin
Extremely minimalist, fairly bizarre exploration of loneliness, depression and pointlessness, with many dolphins and bears. Struck me as the author actually being a bit fucked up and coping through his writing (which it turns out was much how he viewed it on his blog). A fast read. Fun in its own way. Definitely nothing else quite like it.

A Single Man – Christopher Isherwood

Brilliantly observed and realised short novel about a gay man coping with the death of his partner in a socially restricted 60s America. Hard to imagine a film of it, since it is so internal to the character’s head, and so much resides in the descriptions of the narrative voice. My first Isherwood. Won’t be the last.

The City and the City – China Mieville.

Haven’t read anything of his since Perdido St Station, which I remember being a lot of fun. Anyhow, the city… was cool, and probably  deserves the awards it is collecting left right and centre. A straight thriller in a far from straight urban fantasy setting – the tale of two conjoined cities – coexisting in space and time in an otherwise contemporary Europe – which socially and politically cannot acknowledge each other’s existence, to the point that they must Unsee each other. The occasional clunker of a sentence, but the ideas are awesome. The reveal of the Breach was cute. Reflecting on it today, enjoying what it says about the power of the human mind, and what we don’t let ourselves see, and all the unspoken rules that constrain us. Good shit.

The Carpet Makers – Andreas Eschbach

German SF writer. Amusing, heartbreaking, demented; uses a series of tangentially connected short stories to tell a minor tale of an empire beyond appeciable scale. Inventive, fun. Also: best emperor ever.

Was hankering for something for my brain after all that, so started (and am currently most of the way through) the mammoth

Philosophies of India – Heinrich Zimmer

which is pretty much the best conceivable introduction to the subject, and is unspeakably brilliant and amazing. In the course of explaining the philosophy he explains the culture out of which it sprang, since they cannot be separated. Highlights so far are illustrating thousands of years old political philosophy with reference to the then contemporary WWII, and managing to make the practice of suttee (widows throwing themselves on their husband’s funeral pyres) explicable and logically inevitable. Deals with the tangled interrelations of the various streams of Indian philosophy and generally makes everything very intelligible, though it is a certain amount of work. On the whole it is a little hard to grasp how a cultural mindset so different from ours is going to interact with the coming century; a fascinating grounding anyway. Hugely recommended if you want a book on Indian philosophy. And frankly, in general, if you like to think:  the opening line is “We of the Occident are about to arrive at a crossroads that was reached by the thinkers of India some seven hundred years before Christ.”

Somewhere in the middle of it I took a break and read

Song Of Kali – Dan Simmons

A world fantasy award winner from way back; girding that line between fantasy and horror. Tight, gripping, dense with the otherworldiness of India. Couched in terms of the stuff I have read about India, it felt grounded and real. Exotic, nasty, satisfying. Good shit.

Weird to read so much fiction in a burst. Fun but a little empty. HAve ordered some mind-bending stuff off the interwebs though…

the rub

“Changing the world is as easy, and as hard, as just changing the way everyone thinks about their world. The really tough thing is figuring out that no-one really gives a shit.”

– Doktor Sleepless, Warren Ellis.

(Every now and again Ellis really nails something. First time since a couple of lines in Transmetropolitan; that I’ve noticed, anyway.)

Wealth inequality in NZ

(via norightturn)

are you watching the BRIC?

As you know, I have unplugged from the close-following  of world events and hardcore-media-trawling of a few years ago.

The other day at random I clicked on whatdoesitmean, the uber news aggregator (just ignore the articles by the site), for the first time in ages, and came across a couple of things that had escaped my minimal information channels but which seem like they, well, matter.

One was Lula, President of Brazil, announcing that the BRIC (Brazil Russia India China) must create a new world order.

Just read that sentence again. And tell me if that was reported in whatever media you are following.

“We are four large countries with abundant resources, large populations and diverse societies… We aspire for rapid growth for ourselves and for an external environment that is conducive to our development goals,” Singh told the second Summit of the four-nation grouping here in the Brazilian capital.

Contending that the people of the four countries “expect us to work together so as to bring the benefits of inclusive social and economic development to them”, he identified energy and food security as two specific areas where they can work together.

“Our grouping includes two of the largest energy producers and two of the largest consumers in the world. We can cooperate in both upstream and downstream areas, and in the development of new fuels and clean energy technologies,” he said.

The other BRIC related article, which I seem to have lost the link for, was about how they have decided they want to retain their own currencies, and have them be independent. Likewise, this matters.