Posts from 14th August 2004

Aug 04

Breakfast with the snoots

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Breakfast with the snoots — the Pacific Whey Cafe and Baking Company knows its audience and knows its locale. That’s the well-off and then some crew that lurks not merely in Newport Beach in my neck of the woods, but Corona del Mar and the environs. The coast is right there, the hills hide the rest of the county and by implication the rest of humanity, and I strongly suspect everyone there thinks Bush is an ‘all right guy’ and deplores all those filthy awful taxes. (Then again Laguna Beach is down the road a bit, so maybe there’s more going on than I’m aware of.)

Had never heard of this restaurant before today but a random search among breakfast locations on-line turned it up and made it seem worthy of investigation if allgedly a bit expensive — but then again, I saw where it was and I figured it would know its clientele well, and so it proved. Of the two locations open, I chose the one at ‘Crystal Cove Promenade,’ aka, ‘look Muffy, a mall just for us’ — all the little stores you would need in one place so you wouldn’t have to go anywhere else. (Trader Joe’s? Of course, etc.) So off a friend and I went to it. The sun was starting to emerge, and the beautiful people were out. Some would mock them for their airs, others would envy them their lives, and so forth. Call me lucky enough to have hung around enough variants of this kind of crew to be neither envious nor scornful (well, too much) — they were there and all quite obviously themselves. The teens were beautiful/sullen, the folks in their forties relying on various plastic surgery efforts, the older types being comfortably crusty, and all mostly really really white but thankfully not exclusively so.

And so in the incipient heat of the day, but still cooled by the ocean just enough, thankfully, I merrily devoured a cream cheese danish, fresh orange juice, an omelette with avocado and bacon, potatoes, fresh fruit — really, the kind of mix and presentation that chains like the Corner Bakery make their stock in trade, and this place is definitely setting its sights on becoming some sort of minichain. And it was all pretty good and I suppose, yeah, a little step up from said chains, a pleasant and filling mix and the place itself had the same sorta semi-ramshackle/country/shabby chic charm suitable to its aims, however prefab.

Go again? Well, maybe, I don’t see the immediate need. But it was plenty good for a morning and everyone there obviously is very, very well comfortable with it. It is exactly what they want and need.

My August albums

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My August albums — there are three records that I listen to only at one particular time per year, and that’s an LA summer, smack dab in August. I didn’t get any of them in August to my knowledge, I don’t even think I first heard them in an August, but soon after I got them, they became my own summer albums. They are specifically and almost uniquely nostalgic because they illustrate a definite me from the past, the very late eighties, just starting to work at college radio, hearing a few weird and odd things (to me at least). Part Anglophilic, part American indie, part college, it all works.

The three are XTC’s Skylarking (sorta obvious and overblown to me now, I’m an XTC appreciator more than a regular fan these days, though I have literally everything by them), the Primitive’s Pure (brilliant still, a futzing around of their Blondie/JAMC/’pure pop’ template that has the even more appropriate “August Rain” on it among many other goodies) and the one I’m listening to now, the Dead Milkmen’s still ridiculously brilliant and entertaining debut Big Lizard in My Backyard. All three suggest hot afternoons, dry heat rather than humidity, late evenings, reading and relaxing in the savage torpor, feeling the light around you, and a certain state of mind and of place — it’s 1990 again and somehow I’m making my way through UCLA, not yet twenty years old, wondering what else is out there, making new friends, awkwardly trying to take some things a step further and failing. Playing them brings memories back, sure, but it’s a comfortable one, and one that maintains just enough of a gentle presence — it wasn’t a paradise or perfect but it certainly was pretty good, one of the last little moments before the nineties became The Nineties.

Earlier this year Dead Milkmen member Dave Blood passed on, the first participant in any of these three albums to no longer be in this world. It doesn’t necessarily change the feeling of the album any — not at all, indeed, his bass playing is still the sometimes steady, sometimes frenetic performance that helps hold it all together. But it’s a reminder that my own memories will grow, maybe not dimmer, but more removed, and that the unique relationship that I hold to these three records will only last as long as I. Morbid? Perhaps, but also realistic — and yet for all that, more of a reason to relisten and celebrate now. Because once again, it’s a great August.

It’s not the Space Needle, so what EEES it, man?

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It’s not the Space Needle, so what EEES it, man? — the BT Telecom Tower has always tripped me out a little whenever I’ve seen it around London. I’ll turn a corner or the taxi I’m in will change a lane or something and then there’s this big huge thing towering in the middle distance. What is it? Why is it? Why is it following me and threatening to board my flights home?

The latter, perhaps, is part of the ravings of a diseased imagination, which I won’t discount. Nonetheless despite all that’s said about it — ‘the first purpose-built tower to transmit high frequency radio waves’ and all that — let us not ignore the truth: it looks freakish. But that’s part of the appeal, I’d guess — it DOESN’T ‘belong’ there, so therefore I’m extremely glad it is there. Every last celebration of ‘the preservation of our national heritage’ — stuff like praising chimney sweeps and their swift and easy ability to die in London 1810, so that’s why fireplaces should be maintained to the present day — must surely run up against this thing, run away screaming, and with in a heap somewhere outside an Angus Steak House.

I suspect that to those who have always seen it it’s just part of the skyline that’s as familiar as anything else one encounters around and about London. To me it’s this thing that’s been rammed into the ground and is staffed by robots up there. They burble and wheedle, and clamber around steamy tunnels, and occasionally they come out and polish the dishes, and then go back and download everything into a huge central located in Norwich for some reason. So Norwich rules the world and this big-ass cylinder is what they use to enforce central control on the dupes in the city surrounding it. I knew it.

Atrocity Exhibition as Primetime Drama: Actual Real Surgery on TV pt whatever

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Atrocity Exhibition as Primetime Drama: Actual Real Surgery on TV pt whatever [warning: long post]

The J. G. Ballard interview that I quote a bit of below took place in 1982, and a lot of the rest of it (unquoted) feels a bit dated now, even naive – though actually given that Casualty (which of course pioneered on-screen surgical recreation as part of its general will-to-realism) started broadcasting in 1986 i suspect that Juggy’s breezy analysis was already crumpling slightly, and his adoring US-based interviewers (the RE/Search crew) just didn’t know better – US TV being relatively way more squeamish in the Scalpels and Sliced (Discoloured) Latex Skin dept than UK TV. Anyway, the first ep (on UK terrestrial this last Tue) of Nip/Tuck seemed to me to switch back against this distinction: the black comedy serial abt the ethics of the cosmetic surgery trade in florida featured a bravura stop-motion sequence of a human faced being operated on, complete with all kinds of cuts, peeling back, intrusion of sharp instruments, oozing blood etc etc (I’m not sure if it wz real footage or SFX-recreated; I’m not sure how much the distinction signifies).

Ballard: “The fact is that the medical textbook Crash Injuries does tell the truth, because it’s not primarily interested in the truth, in a sense. The man trying to analyse the difference in facial injuries caused by ’55 Pontiacs as opposed to ’58 Pontiacs in rollover is not primarily interested in anything but what he’s pursuing. He’s not interested in the effects: the damage to the human face or scalp or whatever is incidental, it’s the data he’s after. The point from which he starts, all those figures and comparisons he makes, are going to be on the basis of people who are already damaged in car crashes – they’re taken for granted. So he can leave that; his emotions aren’t aroused by the appalling injuries these people have suffered. He is simply analysing, in a scientific way like a man in a lab, the comparisons between different vehicles, different accident modes or what have you. I think one’s got to approach it in the same sort of spirit – trying, which is often presented quite incidentally.
R/S: We’re trying to rid ourselves of cliche reactions to “atrocities” as part of the overall aim of deciphering the censorship/control process that restricts the imagination and therefore life…
[extract from RE/Search No.8/9, p.20, published 1984]

Of course the risk, in the R/S mode of enquiry, is that – far from exposing and undermining processes of censorship and control – the enquirer is ENABLING them: when a surgeon looks at a traumatised body (before or after his/her own contribution) without “emotional” response, it’s (on the whole) bcz this response has been suppressed or even cauterised. Ditto when we calmly today watch same on entertaining and fitfully insightful cult TV fiction: the somatic effect derives from our own mode of coping with potentially difficult information. Bcz it’s possible to channel-flick from Songs of Praise to Dumb and Dumber, viewers evolve a practical competence in correctly reading and adopting the various modes of address expected of differing modes of TV: like surgeon’s or undertaker’s humour, this too is an internal censorship, a coping suppression, and can be reversed. Simply by being shelved in the SF section surrounded by rockets and aliens, Ballard’s own most extreme books emerged somewhat quarantined – it’s true that the etiquette in certain zones allows such information-segregation to be sidestepped, but the fact that we have to be in these zones to dfo so reinforces the segregation as much as it highlights it. We all start out by organising material we plan to absorb according to received categories, and this is probably where we’re most susceptible to “systems of control” (unless it’s when we’re trying explain our point to non-zone newcomers). (“Systems of control” in scare quotes cz unchallenged paranoia always delivers reactionary politix foax!!)

Meanwhile, in the last five years, to compete with or absorb the lessons and possibilities of the interweb (good and bad), TV has begun routinely to offer something very close to the grisly cut-ups of glamour fused with trauma that the Industrial Culture Mail-Art Dweebs of two decades heretofore believed wd release us all from our lame inhibitions. Co-optation is not defeat: at most it’s deferral. Like most TV shows, as a cut-up Nip/Tuck is a fairly tamely directed collage, funny and naughty and diverting, its underlying moralism fairly mainstream. All you need to contest this is a remote and yr wits abt you: isn’t this what Ballard wz getting at when he rejects the pursuit of a General Socialised Truth for the pursuit of micro-informational projects of one’s own? “The channelisation of desire doesn’t neutralise or negate desire, any more than the channelisation of electricity neutralises or negates electricity. As libraries with books and records, batteries store power. Repetition is what delivers this kind of battery of its powers, like a genie rubbing a lamp.”


Pumpkin PublogPost a comment • 369 views


As I may have mentioned before, I’m less than pleased at Morrison’s takeover of Safeway. This is not to praise the latter chain, it was a mediocre supermarket at best, and horrifically overpriced; and this is also not to say that I’m a big fan of supermarkets either. But leaving aside all the anti-supermarket arguments for a second it’s a sad fact that in some places (such as here in Ormskirk) they’re all you’ve got when it comes to buying wine.

The problem is that, with the honourable exception of waitrose (not a chain in great evidence round these parts) safeway was the only supermarket with an interesting list. Their buyers did a pretty good job, certainly taking far more risks than any of the other major players. It’s the only supermarket I’ve ever seen a Gruner Veltliner on sale in, for example. The aisle at Morrison’s conversely is a depressing affair, stocked almost entirely with heavily discounted brands or worrying 2.99 “Italian Red”‘s. I walked up and down it for a good ten minutes, and didn’t see anything I remotely wanted to buy. The high street just dumbed down a little more, and if I see one more bottle of Wolf Blass whatever, I think I may cry.