Archive for November, 2011

Theorising Accelerated Sino Social Friction…ie Revolution

November 30, 2011

As some of my trollish tendencies have been getting a bit over-active on a number of forums lately, it is time to get serious.

(All of my non-Chinese posts have been long in their gestation and I have only been able to get them out of my system by opening this {and its precursor} site. During my stay in China I was blissfully unaware of the Enlish-China blogosphere, and spent my time gorging on cinema. And here I was incredibly fortunate in having access to the best of China’s bootleg dvd market, namely in Fujian Province. High quality stuff from every nationality, sometimes going back to the 1920s and quite often with commentary.

It was bliss and, among other thing, gave me access to one on my major interests, namely Japanese cinema which I have written about on this and the previous site. Finally, after throwing out a metre of dross, I still had about a 1,000 flics which I walked thru Oz customs with only a minor incident. The over-active beagle detected the cashews in my backpack. As they were confiscated (but not the dvds), I went into payback mode and trod on the little bastards foot when its handler was distracted. It was a joyous moment.)

Deleted. Para on lazy blogging and the same viral piece turning up on numerous sites within hours of each other.

Now, to the main course.

As Loawai Times is my blogroll of choice, I did a bit of a flick round yesterday and came across this piece by Sinostand titled Parallels between now and the prelude to Tiananmen which Eric begins thus.

“When haphazard attempts to start a Jasmine Revolution failed comically in Beijing early this year, discussion over whether or not China is ripe for revolution was popular. The conclusion by most was that it’s not. But it seems that in just a few short months the situation has changed somewhat. While an uprising doesn’t look to be imminent, there seems to be many similarities between circumstances unfolding today and those that preceded the Tiananmen Square rebellion of 1989. So I want to look at some key parallels between then and now:”

Read the article on a number of pretty uncontroversial parallels presented in a seamless manner.

My purpose here is to focus on the Concept of Revolution mentioned by Eric, and it is a concept which comes with a lot of historical baggage and interpretation. Lenin, Stalin and Mao with the Party advance elite-guard manhandling the levers of history – representing and speaking for their classes of choice – to effect radical socio-economic and political change across the length and breadth of the social formation. In brief its a holistic concept in both form and content. Nobody escapes; all are involved be they victors or class categories vanquished into the dustbin on history/gulag/loagai.

If social friction reaches a breaking point in China 2011 forward, the traditional notion of class however envisaged – rural versus urban, vox populi versus the Party elite (who are a small percentage of about 80 million paid up members), etc – does not appear to be all that useful. While the Bo Xilai – Wang Yang models bandied around by the media, might have a bit of currency as a way forward within the Politburo, the latter clearly lives within its own echo chamber of empty rhetoric and mish mash of outdated concepts and/or plain silly discourse.

Back to Sinostand, Eric concludes that:

“Given the vast similarities between now and 1989, another go at a revolution seems possible. If history is any indicator, an iron fist can’t succeed by itself if grievances are too great and you have the right catalyst to bring the disenfranchised together quickly“.

I agree that the right catalyst could challenge the iron fist, but would not want to timeline it. The vox populi might be very clear in their collective mind what they are against. However, it is far from clear what they are for, ie being able to articulate a policy platform to replace the existing social order. Such a platform simply does not exist.

More than likely this challenge will be accompanied this a babel of voices and concentric circles of self-interest, beginning with the family the bedrock of Chinese society. This will in turn feed into networks of guanzi and the desire to maintain paid employment. God, the calculations facing bread winners will be endless.

SOEs will rush to shore up their self-defences. Small businesses will go bust. Unemployed graduates will be subject to nationalist rhetoric as noted by Eric. Migrant workers will indulge in non-harmonious behaviour to the all-round condemnation of the urban classes. The State will ramp up its already massive surveillance apparatus and further exacerbate the situation. Foreigners will bolt in droves.

The wealthy will attempt to relocate. The China Daily will publish CCP mea culpas and promise wealth-divide redress, but that won’t wash anymore. Rumour will run riot on social media. Maybe some of the southern/coastal provinces will fall prey to bouts of exceptionalism, and plan to free themselves from Beijing.

Isolated peasant villages will cut down hated cadres, torch their SUVs and seek a local universe free of all government interference, but this will be sporadic and centred around local grievances. Notably, there will be conflicts over the use of water resources…the really big one. Expect the rise of one or two millenarian movements.

In short, this revolution will be shapeless and formless, and lack any unifying themes beyond family self-interest/survival And it won’t replicate past social upheavals, since China is an infinitely more complex society in the 21st century.

And the visual.

The Babel of Self-Interest

Dear Reader. If you have an alternative scenario, lack you own blog and yet wish to see your interpretation in print, please get in touch.

KTs New Comments Policy…The Self Assessment Approach.

November 27, 2011

The medieval version which has more gravitas than the Charlton Heston version

After doing the market research on Peking Duck and Justrecentlys site, I’ve decided to produce my own commenting rules.

Instead of prescribing the types of comments which are acceptable or which are offed from the discussion board, I’m opting for the profiling approach in the belief that if you meet the following criteria, you are more than likely to write comments which are simply unacceptable in my lounge room.

This Self-Assessment Tool, designed to save time all round, places the ownice on you Dear Reader, so here goes:

You are likely to offend my sensibilities, if you:

1. Live in Beijing
2. Have ever owned a Pink Floyd record – cd and vinyl formats
3. Are a teetotaler and/or a Baptist
4. Have not visited South Korea
5. Don’t own and routinely use a paper version of the OED
6. Frequent Starbucks in the belief that they make a decent cup of coffee
7. Resort to foul language
8. Indulge in sexist and/or homophobic remarks
9. Fail to fully reference anything above your pay scale
10. Are Pugster.

No gentle warnings and guidance before the moderation button is exercised.

This is the Bill Bratton broken window zero tolerance approach which is best not tested, that is unless you want a home visit from my Praetorian Guard featured below…..disciplined, but very nasty types.

Gordon Hookey 2009 "Blood on the wattle, blood on the palm"

Manifest Destiny meets the Pacific.

November 20, 2011

Waiting for the lynch mob to descend upon the zhongnanhai can be a bit frustrating, so here goes.

The history of white America was one of Manifest Destiny with genocide, strip mining and dead buffalo. Taking a key theme found in Mike Davis’ City of Quartz (which I’ve enjoyed many times), the founding fathers who laid out the city plans for Los Angeles were proto white supremacist Anglo-Saxons. Lebensraum beside the Pacific.

City of Quartz with the rotten new cover

Barney Hoskyns in his Waiting for the Sun provides a totally white bread history of Californian rock kicking off with the Beach Boys. This mold was broken once only and that was by Sly and The Family Stone. Hoskyns was acutely aware of this contradiction.

Thus his cover.

Very Hispanic with a measure of sexual ambiguity.

Thing got a little strange however, when white folk started entering the Pacific Ocean:

Annette and Frankie

The Gidget fanchise is almost up there with the James Bond royalty stream – sequels, TV shows, etc – surfing being milked by Hollywood for all its worth. Annette and Frankie would have been more at home in the Italian sections of New York. Frankie surfed in front of a moving background, while Mouseketeer Annette got by on her assets.


In the face of decaying technology, lets go to the crux of this post, being my enjoyment of surf art. And where better to begin than with Don Severson’s Ranchland, a water colour which displays a discomforting quality at odds with the innocence found in his main body of work.

Ranchland a water colour which displays a discomforting quality, unlike the innocence of his main body  of work

You can peruse a great selection of Severson’s work HERE, and I just love Discovery #222 which represents the dialectical antithesis of US land-based Manifest Destiny.(The old bastard Hegel has his uses.)

Night Rush by Pamela Neswald

You can see more surf art by Ms Neswald HERE.

In the same vein, Lynn Coleman and other artists are discussed HERE in the LATimes

I’ve barely scratched the surface of surfing’s visual culture, and so shall conclude with the Tony Edwards OZ contribution – Captain Goodvibes “the Pig of Steel” – and shit, he was a challenge to the PC set.

The Goodvibes Manifesto

The George Greenough Twin Fin Revolution

Disco Inferno: The Goodvibes Mix. Sticky Records 1978

And now that I have graduated you to post-graduate surfing qualifications, here is your next challenge, companeros.

Highly recommended reading and the basis for this post.

STOKED! A History of Surf Culture 2001 Drew Kampion. Gibbs Smith.

Rich in brilliant photography, eloquently written and well referenced. I bought my copy from a barrow guy in Shenzhen.

Guest Music Correspondent on Noise Rock

November 17, 2011

By Niubi Cowboy

Apologies to my Guest as I lost some of the formatting and bolding in my cut and paste.

KT’s been kind enough to let me write a short guest column about a musical subject of my choice. So, in order to attract (alienate?) as many people as possible, I’ve chosen to write on noise rock. To me, noise rock encapsulates the outliers of a number of different genres including but not limited to metal, garage, punk and its various offshoots, rock, and yes, even jazz. I’ve always thought that a good way to determine if a band can be lumped into this nebulous category is by putting it to a vote among each genre’s constituency of purists. If the punks say “Oi?”, the metal-heads say “RARGH?”, and the rock and roll bros say “Play Freebird (US)/Khe Sanh (AUS)!”, chances are your band qualifies as noise. Congratulations, you’ve pissed off all of the genre stalwarts!

Because I view this as an introduction of sorts, I’m going to try and link as many accessible tracks as I can. You’ll think me later for sparing your consciousness from the audio onslaught of Lou Reed’s Metal Machine Music, which is more noise than rock, anyway. However, Lou Reed does provide an interesting segway into my first track. As I conceived of this post and pondered a way to begin it, my thoughts kept returning to the Velvet Underground track “Sister Ray,” from their 1968 album White Light/White Heat. Its length, the drone-like repetition of the lyrics, and the rawness of Lou Reed’s guitar all come together to form what is, in my mind, a noise rock masterpiece.

The Velvets, along with other acts like The Stooges and the MC5, were part of what came to be known much later as proto-punk. Their musical innovations served to inspire the younger group of artists that came to form the first wave of punk rock in New York and London. While I’m sure everyone’s familiar with the Ramones, the Talking Heads, and Blondie, lesser known among them were the acts that arose in opposition to the rising tide of New Wave artists. Drawing from a number of different genres and describing themselves as No Wave, groups like DNA, the Theoretical Girls, James Chance, and Teenage Jesus and the Jerks began charting new sonic territory and, in doing so, even managed to piss off fellow fans of underground music.

Within the short-lived movement itself, the music ranges from catchy…

…to what most people would consider to be completely unlistenable.

As punk entered the 80s, the experimentation that characterized much of the first wave of punk gave way to a more homogenized sound that was embodied by acts like the Ramones and the Exploited…who then continued to produce the same music for the next twenty years. Despite all this, however, noise rock could still be found lurking at the edges of the status quo. In the early 80s The Germs were the darlings of the California punk scene with a killer, don’t-give-a-fuck sound aided in part by the don’t-give-a-fuck dumbass frontman, Darby Crash.

Meanwhile, in Texas, hardcore punk was creating big waves. But, Texans being Texans, they insisted on doing it their own way. Enter San Antonio act the Butthole Surfers, who transformed heavy metal anthem “Sweet Leaf” into Texas brand “Sweet Loaf” on their album Locust Abortion Technician (check out the killer artwork on the cover).

Unlike the Ramones and the Exploited, thankfully, most people get tired of playing the same three chords song after song and album after album. The real musicians who stuck around even after their teenage rebellion came to an end at age 30 were bored and ready to make music that defied the conventions of the non-conformist music movements of which they had been part. Noise became the counter-culture to the counter-culture (hardcore) to the counter-culture (punk), I suppose you could say? The seeds were sown and it was once again time for some interesting music to be made. We’ll start with a man whose name must be mentioned in any introduction to noise rock: Steve Albini. He was a founding member of seminal noise rock acts Big Black and Rapeman.

Connections abound among these mid-to-late 80s noise rock bands: first, the drummer in Rapeman was the drummer in Texas hardcore band the Big Boys along with Austin-based noise rock outfit Scratch Acid.

Second, the bass player in Rapeman was the bass player in Scratch Acid as well as noise terrorists The Jesus Lizard.

But, as with everything else, time goes on and the second-hand clothing wearing guys who used to play in abandoned bread factories are now old men who have been replaced by young people wearing $50 t-shirts purchased at Urban Outfitters made to look second-hand AND playing shows in hip, new, gentrified venues (“This place is awesome! I heard it used to be an abandoned bread factory?”). But, kids these days are capable of making good music. In the early 2000s, the Providence noise rock scene was booming. Bands involved included Arab on Radar; its offshoot bands Athletic Automaton, Made in Mexico, and the Chinese Stars; Pink and Brown; Olneyville Sound System; and Daughters. The band I leave you with though? Noise rock legends, drum and bass duo Lightning Bolt (starts at 1:54):

Because I didn’t want to make this too long, I left out a lot of bands that surely deserved to be included. I also tried to follow noise rock through punk rather than through traditional rock and garage outfits. But, in case I don’t do another post, here’s a brief list of honorable mentions of rock pioneers who helped pave the way for future noise acts:


Captain Beefheart (easy-listening)

Captain Beefheart (double-ewe tee eff, in a good way)

Syd Barrett’s Pink Floyd (the ONLY Pink Floyd, depending on who you’re talking to)

The Monks

And, lastly, an unintentional noise rock trio whose debut album is now one of legend. Behold, The Shaggs:

Album Art (?) and extraneous notes.

November 17, 2011

Pretentious title but who cares.

Sailor Capital 1968 Photo: Thomas Weir

Hollow bodied guitars

The music was pretty hopeless, but a cover to die for. Steve Miller turned out an a) or b) side, which said it all about Californian rock in 1968. His first LP Children of the Future concluding with Living in the USA is the perfect ensemble of songs without breaks and with intuitive Continuity.

Before continuing, I better ‘fess up and acknowledge Mike of Loawai Timeshis books and music and stuff page – for copping a couple of his ideas.

The cover reminds me of Guild and Gretch guitars which virtually disappeared in the 70s. Hollowed bodied, large with burnished finishes and lots of metal and levers. Quite unlike SGs and Fenders.

Guild Starfire 1966

I had to fill in time in Kowloon and found Tom Lee’s Music Shop in Tsimshatsui by accident. Apparently Tom Lee is some sort of franchise, but this is one great shop for eye shopping guitars. Trash to serious five figures.

And if your ambition is to join some Beijing/Shanghai rock band – believe me they still exist and have their own net chronicleer – Lee has a range of modern Flying V monstrosities.

Big hair, codpieces and teenage rebellion

The sub-text here is that only Americans, English and Ozlanders know how to play authentic hard rock. Name me an Italian rock band. And talk about the embarrassment of seeing respected economist Michael Pettis captured on telly with beer in hand headbanging nodding to a beyond awful Beijing band, which had the whole empty rock/metal script down pat.

I cringed and went to bed.

This Was Jethro Tull 1969 Reprise. Design: Unknown. Count the hounds

John Berg was the most prolific cover artist for two decades.. Columbia 1976.

Design: Ray Lowry (NME). Photog: Pennie Smith

A brilliant cover for a pretty hopeless band which wore its anti-Thatcherite credentials on its sleeve and everywhere else.

Finally, foregrounding the role of the engineer.

Design: Victor Moscoso. Photog: Waldo Bascom


November 16, 2011

Amid dead and dying technology, here goes.

Following an exchange with Adam Cathcart HERE and Justrecently a few weeks ago.

And I recommend both sites to the Dear Reader.

Snipped out of New Musical Express decades ago.

and I recommend Peter Dale Scott as the final word on this topic.

Dale Scotts strength resides in his strong footnotes and documentation. Don’t be disturbed by his conspiracy hermeneutic.