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Return of the Knave
Drink It Black
Saturday, 13 December 2003
Baptismal font
"Ho hum, another basher of Witnesses" Not at all. In fact I wonder that people categorise Kingdom Hall and Watchtower as manifestations of a cult. I would say quite firmly that the Jehovah's Witness movement is a sect but not a cult.

To my mind a cult departs steeply from the original tenets of the faith it purports to be a part of.
The second holy book and latter day prophets of 'the Mormons' is an example of this. Or the less than savoury example of Moses David, who - despite spending no more thought than necessary on a nom de plume - managed to make 'Christianity' about him and his selfseeking agenda to a selection of the seriously deluded.

Differences in degree but a far cry again from an organisation that attempts a serious (some would say too serious) examination and application of the Lord's Word as layed down in the scripture. All other considerations aside, this would seem to be the primary aim of being Christian: not to do good works, to love thy neighbour, to forego the 'sins of the flesh', but to understand and follow the dictates of the Divine Creator, whatever that might mean. Only a cult could spring from visions, dreams or other forms of message supposedly delivered from on high to some specially favoured individual(s)because, for Christian purposes, the True message is in the Holy Bible and the role of priests no more than to spread the word and do good deeds.

I don't see that anything the Witnesses attempt departs from this goal. That they may be mistaken on certain points does not divert from the earnestness and methodical nature of their enquiry. So I think it is a little lazy and insulting to write them off by latching onto their most 'bizarre' practices. "Oh they're weirdos, they don't take blood transfusions, they don't vote..." It is not - or should not be - the intention of religious enquiry to pick on some vulnerable feature and dismiss the belief system on those grounds, Piers Akerman style. A better measure by far would be to assess just to what extent they are consistent within their ideology and that of the broader context they locate themselves in.

II

If you want to turn your hose on religious callers then that is a matter of personal choice.

I thought it might have been fun to have a spirited satire on the convention where the assembled sixty thousand suddenly have giant sprinklers turned on them, or the guard dogs at Olympic Park stadium are unleashed half way through proceedings.

Posted by berko_wills at 11:05 PM EADT
Updated: Saturday, 13 December 2003 11:44 PM EADT
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This'll keep you, Awake!
Not a dream, not an imaginary story...

Imagine a horde of Jehovah's Witnesses heading your way - they come from all walks of life and from every corner of the globe - and they're converging on Olympic Park for a conference. So it's the early morning train, more crowded than usual, and it's working back to rain just for the weekend. And you get off at Central in the ol' somnambulant state to find, not the odd straggler heading against the wave of passengers getting off, but more JW's than you can shake a stick at

That was my experience this morning. It's not as though I wasn't prepared for it as I'd seen and heard about it beforehand. But I wouldn't want to speculate on the respective scariness of the masses of rugby fans a couple of weeks's back and this more sober procession.

Posted by berko_wills at 3:23 AM EADT
Updated: Saturday, 13 December 2003 3:26 AM EADT
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Sunday, 7 December 2003
Coffee Cup Ring
footnotes
I don't know what a scholarly dissertation would make of song. There must be a reason why theorists are not keen on examining a single song in any exhaustive detail. A typical review is more likely to mention a trend to mawkishness than to do a Walter Benjamin on chorus and verse.

But before I mastered hypertext [chuckle] I did seriously think of putting footnotes on the printed versions of Postmodern Tension and One Vinyl Time. In the first song because I wanted to render it as nerdishly close to the prevailing sentiment it espouses/exposes, and in the second because most of the music acts namechecked were obscure at the time they released records in the late seventies and early eighties i.e. the dying days of vinyl as it was.

Now I like to build multiple meanings into my songs and poems so explaining them would defeat some of that purpose by needlessly telegraphing too much. And, besides, there is a real sense in which the Death of the Author is true. If you craft a piece well then it should lose overt authorial intention and become owned by whoever gives it so much as a sideways glance.

The creator of any piece which possesses something artistic, or is cast in that light, has to know when to give up their baby. They must forego their fears of being hopelessly misunderstood in intention or outcome, or both; of having their best moments overlooked on superfluities or compared unfavorably to artists with whom they feel no kinship. None of this matters compared to the work itself. It has greatness or it does not; it speaks to us or remains dumb. It cries to be released and find both praise and scorn - anything but anonymity.

I never wrote anything good until I learnt how to release the clutch - slowly - how to squeeze the trigger - gently - over time

Didacticism is dull; no matter how worthy the cause or how earnest the speaker. Yet I would not want to bury my message in ellipsis and allusion. Perhaps the message(s) just one part of a larger idea and can be weaved in.

II
So how to describe the process? Here the artist is caught between a concern to explain their work (if not themselves) and to preserve the opportunity for the critic or the puzzled observer to engage with the text (and here if nowhere else I mean text as any semiological construct; anything that projects meaning)

III
More on the process of songwriting, or leastwise lyric writing, to follow (but only if you write in)

Meanwhile a key to One Vinyl Time as a literary text (and many song lyrics work supremely well without being the least bit literary) is to bear in mind that the bands mentioned are just names for the most part:

I don't own any XTC but I share my enthusiasm with those who do. The reference here (apart from being a handy pun) is to the many XTC albums that keep the X section from getting lonely; not to any raving I've done with anyone about how good "Dear God" is or what a great pop act they are.

I've never heard anything by The Lurkers or Human Sexual Response though their use is both relevant and convenient to sentiment and structure.
A musician would not try to rhyme Human Sexual Response - limited rhyming possibilities and untidy syllables.

Of course not even I could wedge Bingo Reg and the Screaming Jeannies into the narrative. And that was despite a few sunny lunchtimes in the park musing this as joggers went by. Turns out they never released anything anyway so they exist only dimly in the memory of a few sozzled punters with a penchant for jolly sounding live acts.

And just as novelists report of characters taking on a life of their own so song stories develop beyond my thoughts on how to control them. It's the happy confluence of rhythm and meaning that makes the writing process such a joy.
It also has the potential for misunderstanding: the irony wasn't apparent, you hid the satirical intent. Maybe it wasn't the idea to work with the primary meaning OR against it but to build in different, conflicting narratives. Here I think you need another guide to tell if it 'works' or not.

I do like One Vinyl Time as a rare example of a song of mine that is not written in first person; it's all observational. And I write my fair share of downcast songwords but have a soft spot for the stuff written in a more positive voice. One Vinyl Time is nothing if not affectionate.

Posted by berko_wills at 10:07 PM EADT
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Thursday, 4 December 2003
One Vinyl Time
Gazing across a sea of black
To the Lurkers at the back
A guy who is so ensconced
He passes over Human Sexual Response
One vinyl time

A piece of the action
Played to satisfaction
A branch of the performing arts
Where everyone plays Darts
One vinyl time

Wiring in to riot and risk
Years before the silver disc
TV Personalities what gives
I know where a Young Marble Giant lives
One vinyl time

Australian Models and British Models
Deconstructed Doll By Doll
Till Talking Heads can take control
Reconstitute your soul
One vinyl time

Posted by berko_wills at 12:22 AM EADT
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Sunday, 30 November 2003
I'll have what she's having
Congratulations to all the intrepid souls who participated in NaNoWriMo - an exercise in writing a fifty thousand word novel in a month - and completed the task. (I don't want to think about what I did or didn't do in November: onward and upward.)

I have a friend's website that I'm trying to get a hosting resolution for now (and the haggling I've been doing at work trying to get a new scanner could help here). I'm tinkering about with my own website though I mainly add links as that is the easiest path to results and, for some daft part of my brain, the most fun.

Not that I'm not pondering over nested tables and stylesheets and CGI script. I'm currently reading Absolute Beginner's Guide To Programming and my particular absorption of the material won't be a threat to my programming friend at IBM but it does help me understand what I'm doing in a way that some of the manuals, that go into detail immediately, do not.

It's quite possible that this latest library book is a ruse on the stubborn part of my brain that doesn't want to get down to it, to stall for time. But I am mainly reading it at those times when I can't be spinning webpages anyway. And it is helping.

I have scaled back on my library borrowing as I used to take out heaps of books at once and have a fragmentary reading experience whereas now the only items I borrow in number are the CDs.

I don't have any sinister plan to rob artists of their copyright. I take out CDs for the same reason I borrow books - because I'm curious as to the content but not necessarily interested in adding this or that piece to my collection. I like a lot of what Midnight Oil did and so of course I wanted to have a listen to The Real Thing disc even though I'd more likely buy 10,9,8,7,6,5,4,3,2,1
And it is handy to listen fully to what an artist produces to see whether you like them. In this way I've decided george and Something For Kate are boring and The Eels are not.

Posted by berko_wills at 11:26 PM EADT
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Saturday, 29 November 2003
But what does it taste like?
I did try to post an entry before I left but the link was down. And I've been away for three days on a retreat; most excellent. It was a series of presentations for university admin staff, an opportunity to network, and a welcome break away.

At one point a presenter said they objected to the term 'non-academic staff'; being defined as not being something else. But this can have its uses>I am a:

non-sports fan I watch Wimbledon sometimes, I laugh at Roy and H.G. sometimes. I'm bemused by the Footy Show and The Fat and even Live'n'Sweaty (despite Andrew Denton being the host). I'd never 'sit and watch the game'. I'm not tempted much by pay TV as I'd never watch the sports channel. And if you want to defeat me in Trivial Pursuit stump me at the end with sports questions.

non-motoring enthusiast I go to two main spots in the newsagent: rock rags and comic books. I've been known to have a browse through writing magazines and current affairs journals. But the racks of car mags do nothing for me. I like the look of old cars but I know I wouldn't be prepared to spend my weekends chasing parts for the Zephyr or the Oldsmobile

non smoker swallowed nicotine poison when I was two (thought it was cordial) and have little tolerance for it

non-handyman I was only handy on the farm because I was physically strong and could put up with going round and round in circles (a major part of farming). But fixing things has never been my forte.

non member of anything. I have joined all kinds of organisations. But I don't stay. PK list is the exception that proves the rule.

non-entrepreneur the one I rail against since I could imagine myself happy pursuing some idiosyncratic goal and profiting from it into the bargain. But it doesn't come naturally.

non conservative for the most part.

nonchalant

nonsensical

non partisan this partly stems from my debating days when I could argue equally well for either side and partly from being Libran.

Posted by berko_wills at 2:51 AM EADT
Updated: Saturday, 29 November 2003 4:39 AM EADT
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Thursday, 20 November 2003
Drink it Freddy!
We would have little hope understanding the language of the future as so much of what we write and speak is predicated on new technology and the adoption of jargon that is deliberately non-inclusive.

Consider what a time traveller from a hundred years ago - even forty years ago - would have made of expressions like 'click your mouse', 'depends on how much ram you've got' or 'do a web search'. Perhaps they would be reassured that we still had a strong connection to animals (a different thing to animism. Thank the all pervading spirit for edit function).

"Prithee fair maiden" features low on the list of chat up lines (I don't know this for a fact but it's a fairly safe bet). Who knows how it would have been received when freshly minted. Language, especially the flowery and overblown kind, can become gauche; grating on our nerves, it wears out its welcome.
And "Gadzooks!" has probably passed being used for comic relief; a sure sign of being archaic.

I don't think, even now, that experts can agree on which words we should fight to preserve, which vulgarisms we should struggle to avoid. Do we permit the portmanteu, accept the acronym, approve the abbreviation? Do we have a choice? We can always bide our time and hope that, say, wicked will return to its wicked ways or that sick will spike a temp

Citizen 2040 won't necessarily have a richer vocabulary. The lingua franca will shrink and grow, meanings will become clearer at times and more muddied at others. Idiomatic expressions will give the denizens of newly created borders the same kind of problems in translation as in the past.

Posted by berko_wills at 1:47 PM EADT
Updated: Saturday, 22 November 2003 5:25 AM EADT
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Tuesday, 18 November 2003
Beba-o preto
Deixe-nos beber a natureza verdadeiramente internacional do Internet e do mundo Correia fotorreceptora larga Deixar nos para levantar nossos vidros elevados a ligar as linguas que nos n?o compreendemos e costumes nos n?o podemos compreender. Beba, beba, meus amigos!



Posted by berko_wills at 12:09 AM EADT
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Sunday, 16 November 2003
One more for the road
Too tasty to resist: a bloody marvellous article on David Bowie and the occult.

Posted by berko_wills at 3:25 AM EADT
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Knocking them back
Just like an argument on religion, this topic seems not to let go. But I did think I should mention that there was a time, not so long ago, when you were defined as either a card carrying Christian or in opposition to this; as an atheist or agnostic. With fledgling multiculturalism in the early seventies, we now have a plethora of nonChristian faiths: Buddhism, Hinduism, Jainism, Bahai, Islam, Judaism...
There's probably even a few Zoroastrians, who are interesting for the many similarities between Zarathusthra and the Christian 'Son of Man'.

Satanists, of course, as with atheists and agnostics, are largely defined in relation to belief in Christ. (We don't think of atheists as 'not believing in Vishnu' after all.)But then Ceremonial Magic and study of the Kaballah are also closely aligned, even if their practices would dismay the average churchgoer.

You didn't think I'd miss an opportunity to post a link to witchcraft did you? Because that is again on the ascendancy. Though jostling with the more costly and trendy New Age.

Having religiously documented all the things I can think of that might see you bowing down, lighting candles, chomping devotionally, or otherwise sitting crosslegged and contemplating the ineffable, I'm done.

Posted by berko_wills at 2:47 AM EADT
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