Friday, March 23, 2012

The shins and other stuff

Yeah, I know I haven't written much of late but that's mainly because I've been promoted at work which somehow feels like a demotion. Anyhow, musically I have been considering the new Shins record and I don't feel like I'm ready to write about it. I find the Shins music often sneaks up on you and reveals it's depth and beauty over time rather than being immediately grabbing. It's all very pretty and consumable but I usually find that it's about six months later I have that one song stuck in my head when I wake up at 2:17am. So far, the songs are good but I don't think there's anything as captivating as on their last record but it seems pretty solid. I think a couple more weeks of listening to it will give me a better grip on it. There's been a bunch of other stuff as well but nothing really of note so I'll keep you posted if anything amazing pops up.

PS: Oh yeah, I'm not proud of it but I love that TV show the Amazing Race. I have to admit to a (non)-prejudice, I don't dislike Americans like some people in Australia and the UK do. As a matter of fact, as most of my favourite literature and music comes from there and I've had some amazing friends from the US, I don't buy into the popular image that we're often handed down - like everywhere it has it's charms and obstacles. However, the Amazing Race allows the best and worst of that country to basically hurtle through the world with their cultural insensitivities, Christian values and weird sense of geography and be challenged (in a pressure cooker style) to the pressures of international travel (with a game show element thrown in for good measure). I find it compelling viewing and usually find a couple of teams to root for. Sadly, the latest season is a casting bust with not one team really worthy of getting behind. Strangely, it's filled with all these cops and army guys who are dull and self righteous. I'm not really big on reality shows but I think this could be an excellent case of when reality casting goes wrong... Just saying...



  1. I'm American, yet, I don't particularly like Americans. That's a slightly more complex thought than what it might seem- I don't particularly dislike Americans, either- it's just a statement about American exceptionalism- that Americans are always expecting the conversation to conclude with a thought about them- either how great America is, or how much other people hate Americans- but always about America, because it's a special, special place. Honestly, I think America is just a big, and populous place. There are Americans who are very special, and lots of very plain Americans. Exactly as there some very special Australians, and some extremely special Dutchmen. And Finns. Dear God, there are some special Finns... But the truth is that most people, most places, are essentially the same, and it's only their circumstances that make them seem different from each other. What I mean is that if you were to raise your average child from Burma in exactly the same way as a child from Arkansas- exactly, mind you, you would end up with an impoverished hickoid. Likewise, I'm living proof that you take an average American and raise them in London,Bahrain, Los Angeles and Rotterdam, you won't end up with a typical American.
    (not that I'm special- just my circumstances were )- What I'm getting at is that afford a kid the opportunity to be a wealthy ultra-nationalist, with 24-7 access to pop culture detritus, and blatant disregard for all other humans, and it doesn't matter if the kid was born in Soweto or Savannah- you're going to end up with the same kind of prick. So, if people do loathe Americans, it's not really anything about Americans as individuals, but those circumstances....

  2. I guess what I'm more alluding to is cultural production. In terms of music, film, literature and TV, the US dominates the world in this respect and as such the highs are often overshadowed by the lows. In Australia at least, there is a rampant parochialism which is both endearing and embarrassing but it also leads to dismissing other cultures out of hand. A prime example is a sense that Americans are facile, shallow and uneducated but that's because the largest cultural imports from the US (in terms of profile and news) are things like Jersey Shore and Kim Karhoweverthefuckyouspellit. But I think that prejudice predates these things. I had a very dear friend in the early 90's from the states and the amount of ignorant shit he endured from Aussies was amazing. Part of this was formed from ignorance but that ignorance was shaped by the perception popular culture had given them (to wit: Australian rhyming slang for yank is septic tank). However, if we're talking cultural production, the same country responsible for Snooki is also responsible Hüsker Dü just as the same country which is responsible for the Little River Band is also responsible for Nick Cave. It's a complicated thing and you the further you drill down, the more complicated it gets especially on a personal level as I've met good and bad people from every walk of life. But on a surface level, in Australia there is a dismissal of American culture - not by all but it is borne out of that popular culture perception married with a sense of national pride - probably a product of being a young-ish country which is still slightly embarrassed by itself. If anything, Americans and Australians are very much alike and go travelling, you'll see that - they're generally the people you want to avoid. And in that sense, that's why I love the Amazing race. I have lived for long periods of time in the UK, New Zealand and Australia so I have this strangely neutral sense of national identity but I love good stuff regardless of where it's from (except Canada, fuck Canada! - I joke , I joke).

  3. Well, we can all blame the French- not really, just one transnational guy who led french Armies- without Napoleon, Nationalism doesn't take on the ... erm.... "competitive" nature that is has.
    America as an abstract cultural concept is well aware of how shallow it can be, and revels in the kind of Antipathy you describe- I think it needs that. If everybody loves America, how does America go to war?
    However, just like any other broad characterization, once you Atomize it to individuals ( Kim Kardasisian?- can't spell that Armenian name, either to St Bob Mould) the whole thing falls apart, because (personal opinion, here) Nationalism is predicated upon a lie- that we share a culture. I don't think Americans are unified in cultural matters any more than I think Iraqis are unified.
    A much more immediate example- I'm in Arizona, right now. Here I'm both Alien and somewhat disliked. Why? Well, even though I lived in Arizona for 15 years, the cultural signifiers I'm giving off are all "East Coast Liberal"- exactly the type of person Barry Goldwater, John McCain, and ultimately, Richard Nixon taught them to hate- because I've lived more recently, for the past 11 years, near Washington DC.
    Now, I realize that these things get flattened out. Last time I was in France, I realized that, to many french people, all Americans are Texans, with a fetish for loud things. Likewise, things get so distorted that I get mistaken for a Canadian just because I was born there. (BTW, I no longer denote sarcasm and facetious humour- I reckon you're smart enough to know I'm both)
    So, go easy on your Australian Nationalists- bear in mind that to a percentage of Americans you're all Crocodile Dundee, and as great as paul Hogan may be, I think that's an insult. I'm only marginally better- I hardly think about non-urban Australians, because virtually every Australian I know lives in a City. Intellectually, I know that's wrong, but I have almost no cultural interaction with, say, Longreach, Queensland, so I've little means to correct it- just as my compatriots have little beyond Mel Gibson and Paul Hogan to go on, you see?
    Yes, I agree that both of our former Colonies share a lot of characteristics- in fact I'd say that Australia and America, at least in my experience, are the closest comparison countries possible. We're both made up from the same sort of stock, you see- you're Convicts, we're Puritans, we both trammeled Native rights, built massive cities, have far too many Cars and so forth- so much like brothers in any other sense, it would make sense to me that we'd misunderstand each other frequently.
    So, in closing, we are both urbane, sophisticated men, who are well heeled internationalists, far above any such petty prejudices, united in our brotherhood, and shared desire to see Irishmen eat their own children....