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Return of the Knave
Drink It Black
Sunday, 26 October 2003
On the heist horse
What does all this mean to the practicing writer? Well while I was at uni I managed to be at loggerheads with both a lecturer who loved the play of po-mo AND one who bore the post-sense sense of 'post' some ill will. I've put this down to a number of possible causes:
my Libran tendencies sped up so that I'm deliberating out loud, if you will, about which way I'm going to jump on any issue;
it's my fondness for playing Devil's Advocate, sometimes to my own detriment;
I was a hick writer who had to learn me a few things about Lyn Hejinian and ilk e like
I was an elitist prick;
I didn't know shit from clay in those days;
it was Freud's principle of fort da operating - ever since I've learnt that wretched (not to say obscure) theory of Sigmund's I have been cursed to play it out. Without getting too circular, the idea seems to be that we are compelled to send things - even things that are good for us - away;

well, you get the idea. And if I can fashion so many possible plausible explanations for something I "should know" then perhaps I was wrong and should surrender to the multiplicities at once.

Posted by berko_wills at 4:57 PM EADT
Updated: Thursday, 6 November 2003 1:38 PM EADT
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On a hire horse
If you waltz into the halls of academe with the attitude displayed in that last post then you're cruisin' for a bruisin' because English studies has fully embraced Fredric Jameson, Gayatri Spivak, Jean-Francois Lyotard and Jean Baudrillard.

This is fair as far as it goes and I would be more suspicious of a discipline that chose to ignore or reject the prevailing theorists. There might have been critics of F.R. Leavis's Close Reading too. But they had to wait their turn.

Neither are critical theorists like Julia Kristeva or Edward Said left out of the debate. There would seem to be a nod to all the major twentieth century theories so long as they are not at complete variance with the dominant thinking.
In short, any theory needs to trace its lineage to Ferdinand de Saussure's structuralist theory rather than that of opposing semiotician C.S. Peirce. This then flows nicely down through Roland Barthes and the poststructuralists, picking up anthropology and psychoanalysis along the way till it arguably reaches its most radical with Jacques Derrida and Deconstruction, and Paul de Man.

Posted by berko_wills at 4:33 PM EADT
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Saturday, 25 October 2003
On a high, hoarse
The following was originally posted on the old Mobius Infinity boards:

["But isn't everybody post-modern?" "Yeah, but we're 22!"]

The title of this thread is particularly apt as it is the conceit of postmodernists that irks me the most. I read some poetics where these PM dudes were criticising poets for differentiating themselves from postmodernism. As if that was not valid because 'hey you're postmodernist whether you think so or not.'

Well here's another poet who does NOT identify himself as postmodernist. I am not against the theory per se. I love some of the programs that play with the dice such as The Simpsons, Roseanne (except for the last series which went too far with Jackie's imaginary prince and what have you). But I find it more useful as a tool to differentiate from other cultural and literary theories: marxism, phenomenology, etc. Why should it arrogate itself into a position of all inclusiveness?

My main beef with postmodernism, however, is the way that it "opens up all possibilities". I feel cheated and robbed as a poet when I see people spewing out any old crap and insisting that it be called poetry. I have practiced and polished my craft for more twenty five years yet, in current thinking, my work has no more claim to legitimacy than some abject hack who wouldn't know his asshole from his assonance.

It is probably the artists' fault that we have placed what we do on such a pedestal. If the poet was considered in the same light as the cabinetmaker then we might have a go at quantifying/qualifying the standard of what we produce. The inheritors of the Gertrude Stein school of poetics are the equivalent of the guy who goes crazy with a nailgun and insists he's a tradesman. "What's a dovetail joint, man?"

Posted by berko_wills at 1:15 AM NZT
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Monday, 20 October 2003
Take your medicine
Some people have creative blocks. Not me, I churn out stuff. But I've got blocks; blocks going round the block, blocks enough to make me do my block, a veritable tower of blocks. And I've finally decided to do something about it.

It was simple really. I remember reading in an ancient selfhelp book where the author describes a faulty light switch that he put up with for literally years. The damn thing annoyed him something chronic and when he did finally get it fixed he realized what a tremendous burden had been lifted from his shoulders - all for something that was easy and inexpensive to fix.

So I looked it up on the Internet under 'clearing blocks' and, as I suspected, the way to go is in such healthy alternatives as reflexology and Reiki. So I'm booking an appointment following next payday and getting healed. I'm sick of having big ambitions thwarted by nasties that have burrowed down in my unconscious and, if left unchecked, will see me an old man gazing ruefully out the window of my bedsit at what might have been.

Posted by berko_wills at 3:54 PM NZT
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Saturday, 18 October 2003
While reading the local paper
The neighbours don't read the local rag. Perhaps they once did and decided that it was depressing news of council waste - of incomplete swimming pools and shafted charettes; maybe they have limited tolerance for the coverage of dog doings and elderly emergencies; the puff pieces on shops and schools in the area. Whatever their lack of interest, they do miss some lively material.

Now I'm not one to pick up on every little thing that the Channel Nine news or the Daily Telegraph reports. What would be the point of that? But the provincial press is another matter. Once you weed out articles on identities unknown outside the area of circulation, there can be some real gems viz

Last weekend six Mountainlink buses were covered in graffitti, a car was covered in white paint in Carrington Avenue and another car's bonnet was scratched in the same street, a letterbox was thrown at a house in Parke Street, a rock smashed through the front door window of a house in Victoria Street, a blue question mark was spray painted on a car in Leichhardt Street, a letterbox was blown up in Barton Street, and the front window of Fantastic Aussie Tours was smashed. And that was just in Katoomba.

And I thought this was such a nice area! The natural environs are lovely but the humans are fucked.
If I was one of the godbotherers who regularly appear in the letter column I'd be praying that God grant the vandals self-awareness so they can realise what a horrible waste of space they are.

They share the paper with murderers, thieves, drink drivers and other dangerous idiots, miscellaneous thugs.. But I guess you get them everywhere.

And then there's the developers who are thankfully getting a caning for a hideous abomination on the highway above Leura Village called the Spires. There isn't a week that goes by that someone doesn't comment on its ugliness and unsuitability, but this classified ad for a garage sale provides the best commentary on what a true lack of vision it is:

The Goodbye to the uninSpires' Moving Sale
Come One, Come All
We are moving out after 25 years. We have enough junk to keep your shed going for the next three council clean-ups, including an Emmalunga pram, queen size bed base and all sorts of stuff our friends, with little or no taste, gave us as gifts in the 1970s.
It's all waiting for you at 164 Megalong St, Leura, from 9am, Saturday, 18th October. Everything must go... including us. No antiques and no earlybirds.
We're moving somewhere where we can erect a three storey brick construction that looks something like a cross between a Rooty Hill Shopping Mall and the Lithgow Maximum Security Prison block. Given what council has recently approved at the top of Leura Mall we are expecting it to be approved without dissent.

Posted by berko_wills at 5:55 AM NZT
Updated: Saturday, 25 October 2003 9:04 PM EADT
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Thursday, 16 October 2003
My cup runneth over
Normally I try to keep this blog at a tempo where it could be of general interest if you lived in Western Samoa but it was my birthday yesterday so I think I'll be a little more personally reflective this go round.

I went to work as I'd had the day before off, trying to organize a few things, and that turned out alright as I got a cake and a rendition of the Happy Birthday chant that probably opened a crack in the earth and unleashed a horde of leather-winged demons somewhere in the world. I had a yummy roast dinner, which was very welcome as my own cooking is somewhat perfunctory for the most part, got tickets to see Jimmy Little and got to chat for ages to someone very special, who celebrated their own birthday recently.

All in all, though I wasn't showered with gifts or thrown a huge party, a good day.

Posted by berko_wills at 12:33 AM NZT
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Saturday, 11 October 2003
Cracked cup, chipped saucer (or verse vicer)
Time out from memories; they can work against the here and now if they dominate. Not that I'd get all cultish and privelege the art of 'being there' over daydreaming and reminiscing either. I fail to see the intrinsic value of focusing utterly on what may be a featureless landscape of the familiar.

We seem to be able to snap out of our reverie if the situation warrants it, in any case.

Speaking of overlong sentences: a commentary on Prong

Parental guidance before you venture to the band list on Death (no, this isn't a memory trick; you wouldn't want to commit this list to memory).

It's a bit rigid, pardon the pun. And black metal seems to be a Nordic thing chiefly; a harking back to pagan roots.

You might wonder why the sudden fascination with different types of metal. It's true; I found heavy metal in the main to be ponderous and showy; clamouring over what was little more than whimsy. The fast jaunty pop stuff with the political or social edge was what got me going and I 'graduated onto the harder stuff'. But never HM - I would listen to The Swans or Flipper in preference to David Coverdale's Whitesnake.

I like a bit of blistering speed in my music at times, which is why Paranoid by Black Sabbath and Ace of Spades by Motorhead are such faves. But that doesn't explain Flipper or The Swans or the Butthole Surfers, who can all be slower than wading through molasses.

Posted by berko_wills at 4:33 AM NZT
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Monday, 6 October 2003
Knight CAPS
reCAPS even.
Notice in previous posts when I'm wacking on about Acka-Dacka how the proceedings get weighed down. That's because the second sentence of the paragraph runs on to thirty eight words, many of them long words to start with.

I can't find a reference to a fogging index for some reason but suffice to say that this sentence would set one off big time. And if you're battling to digest a bite of information at the time you're reading it then there is next to no chance that you'll commit it to memory.

So break the whole thing into smaller phrases and clauses; reduce it all to dotpoints.

And as much as that might be distasteful to academics - I've seen quite a bit of anti-Powerpoint rhetoric recently - ready made lists are the easiest to recall this way. There is no necessary connection between the points so they are more capable of providing the 'spikes' in any memory exercise you engage in.

In the D.R.I. example there are problems unique to discographies: we have the obligatory live album and the referential Thrash Zone, a kind of generic marker that we see across the board in such titles as Real Folk Blues and Punk's Not Dead. They can't be left out obviously but they're not as hard to manage as 'Wonderful World of..', '...Sings the Classics', 'Very Best Of..' and can be weaved clumsily into the mnemonic. You're not after a winning narrative; as long as it serves as a useful memory aid.

It goes without saying that there is nothing about the 'Dirty Rotten' narrative that implies that I don't bathe regularly or that you as the reader are less than kind to small furry creatures. It's worth remarking though because the use of first person - even where that is contradictory from poem to poem or song to song, story to story - is often assumed to mean that it is the author whose feelings or thoughts are being represented. Seeing something bunged together like this makes that clear.

Attempting this exercise doesn't require a knowledge of skate culture or thrash and the person doing the imagining need never have gotten into a discussion with people who wear, play or listen to metal.

I know the exercise I based my example on tells you to choose a familiar environment but I'd imagine mental role-playing like this would be a boost. I've really designed it on the fly to help remember the sequence. The protagonist moves through the hastily constructed landscape in a set order and there has to be something about the props and examples used that ties them as much as possible to the required article and not some rough approximation. For instance, I lit on the booze bottle as I thought thumping someone for littering wasn't sufficiently 'passive' enough; the booze bottle tucked into the coat to meet the bully's fist brings the right mix into play. And it enables a more active 'Dealing With The Situation' to follow.

It isn't failproof as I've found myself thinking of zebra crossings at 'Crossover' point but that gets picked up by having thrash and metal on opposite sides of the street thus reinforcing the musical sense of a crossover. The '4 Of A Kind' could probably do with some image of the numeral 4 for reinforcement. The 'D for Definition' reference is to remind of the word by being silly - it would normally be 'T for Thrash Zone', the example definition - and by repetition. It also segues into 'D.R.I. Live'. The smartass references to the punctuation marks is nothing more than a reminder that that is how their name is spelt (possibly so they don't end up being called 'dry') and the end of the narrative with the four of a kind left trailing in [your] wake signals also that this is the end of the mnemonic. We finish on 'Full Speed Ahead'. Note that no attempt has been made to recall the year of release. I think that would be almost impossible to incorporate.

Posted by berko_wills at 11:34 PM NZT
Updated: Tuesday, 7 October 2003 12:01 AM NZT
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Saturday, 4 October 2003
DRInk, DRI Inc
There is nothing specifically linking the items in a band's back catalogue to help in remembering their names and the order in which they were released. At least not in the visualisation exercise I'm thinking of.

This one was probably designed for remembering shopping lists and it consisted of visualising a favourite room and strategically placing the things around the room. You then had to enter the room where you would see the bunch of lettuce on top of the computer, the two medium tomatoes on the mantle, a block of Bega cheese in the closed-off fireplace and so on. You are encouraged to exaggerate the characteristics of each object or cluster you encounter to make it more memorable.

This might be a tad tedious when conjuring tacos ingredients but the problems in recalling a discography are different again:

ABBA had too many compilations and Arrival and Voulos Vous lost among them. This was de rigeur for the most successful artists though, which is why you really have to think about whether you want High Tides and Green Grass if you've got Rolled Gold. The upside is that there are those obscure Creedence tracks that were NOT anthologised that I can look forward to hearing one day on community radio, or when I stumble on an a treasure at some record mart.

The AC/DC page I went to helpfully listed all their releases in alphabetical order. I'm enamoured enough of Angus to look this up in the first place but the thought of Brian Johnson is enough to make me look elsewhere after a first attempt to get a chronological listing of original recordings.

I get to D.R.I. website and find a good page with all their releases listed in the order I want them in, with accompanying album covers and track listing that makes the page far longer than any webpage design instructor would allow (but that's alright).

So I should be satisfied right?! Well the problem is I hadn't counted on the abstract nature of many album titles.
(I'm not using HTML to list them as that'll fuck up my font like it did last time)
Thrash metal exponents D.R.I. (a pain typing those punctuation marks!)have released in order:
Dirty Rotten (1982)
Violent Pacification EP (1984)
Dealing With It (1985)
Crossover (1987)
4 Of A Kind (1988)
Thrash Zone (1989)
Definition (1992)
D.R.I. Live (1994)
Full Speed Ahead (1995)

It's not insurmountable. If I was using this method I'd imagine myself as being Dirty Rotten, I am responsible for Violent Pacification as my booze bottle is strategically placed to break when an approaching thug attempts to punch me in the gut. I insist on Dealing With It by wrapping a filthy bandage around the cut and hurriedly making a Crossover when I hear the approaching sirens.
On the other side I encounter 4 Of A Kind, the members of a metal band in identical clobber who are keen to hear to hear my story. I point back across the road and they nod and murmur "Thrash Zone" and that makes me feel better. I thumb into my sticky little black book and with my chewed pencil stub scrawl this Definition; when I open up the book to D for Definition I see an entry for D.R.I. Live (and I remember how much lead those dots have used) and remember the gig tonight. "Full Speed Ahead" I cry, leaving the bewildered bad boys trailing in my wake.

Posted by berko_wills at 5:49 PM NZT
Updated: Saturday, 4 October 2003 5:58 PM NZT
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David Lee Roth needed 21 stitches to his head while practising a 15th century samurai martial arts workout and hit himself with a staff.

I'm still laughing. Not even Spinal Tap could match that.

In other news..

Advertisements to soak up the lifestyle of New Hampshire could get interesting.

Posted by berko_wills at 3:40 AM NZT
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