Mark E. Smith keeps it real in the new year

There never have been any great years. You get the odd moment here or there, but never a clean year of wonder

Lower your standards for 2012. It will not be a clean year of wonder but maybe, if you are lucky, just maybe you’ll have the odd wonderous moment. It’s all up to you really, innit?

Thanks to Ms Jean for sending me her stupendous Mark E Smith Pocket Zine of Wisdom which inspired this post.

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(mis)Uses and abuses of classical music

I’m sure Pachabel almost certainly had washing machines in mind when he wrote his Canon in D. For f*ck’s sake.

See also this BBC article reporting a school which is playing Mozart to its students during detention as ‘punishment’:

Detentions where pupils are forced to listen to classical music are an effective deterrent against unruly behaviour, a head teacher has found.

A few years back, various train companies decided to weaponize classical music yet again, in another wacky experiment in social control (excellently dissected and ridiculed in this article).

"Is nothing sacred?" from Rushmore

Why is music being used as a threat in this way? Why these particular types of music? Why classical? The people who rubberstamp these ‘deterrents’ have created a vicious circle: they perceive ‘kids’ as hating classical music so they use it as a weapon against them, the result of which is that they grow up hating classical music whilst the rubberstampers have their preconceived notions and biases against young people confirmed and reasserted.

Perhaps there are more pernicious issues behind these baffling decisions: the adults like culture and think the kids are uncultured; the adults like Mozart and Rachmaninov, components of the high culture that they hold in such regard, and assume the kids don’t like high culture such as classical music. To this I respond:
a) stop stereotyping young people
b) stop using culture as a mechanism for social control
c) watch Clockwork Orange for an sarcastic, sardonic vision of what happens at the intersection of youth culture and yer ‘high’ culture.

The music used here is Henry Purcell’s amazing, dignified and dramatic Music for the Funeral of Queen Mary (Z860) (1695), more traditionally rendered here:

Slow words movement

A secret box of letters from underneath my bed

>We all live on the internet. I got a tweet the other day saying something like “remember how your online life was five years ago; and imagine what your online life will be like five years from now”.

A lightbulb went off in my head (PING!) and I went glassy eyed for a second or two: the thought of how online we’ll be in five years time is simultaneously awesome (in the Romantic poet sense, not the early 90s surfer dude sense) and terrifying.

You gotta hand it to the internet though. It seemed, for a while, with the advent of the telephone, that the written word was going to die out. People “telephoned” each other to arrange appointments rather than send a telegram or postcard; rather than getting together to chat, people gossiped at each other on this new ‘telling-bone’ invention. One in every home!

People no doubt wrung their hands in anxiety over the hundreds of years of evolution in the written word seemingly coming to a halt.

But fear not, late 20th century hand-wringers. Then internet was invented, bringing the written word back from its slippery slope into the doldrum world of technologies past (Betamax, 8-tracks, VHS). People emailed to arrange appointments. People chatted in chat rooms. Even telephones got in on it, with a hackneyed version of the email: the text message. Through Facebook and Twitter and email, the written word was a primary form of communication again — albeit in a radically different form to the pre-telephone age.

As the written word resurfaced into people’s everyday lifes, language evolved quickly: LOL, tweets, blog, textspeak, emoticons (for God’s sake!).

Your text message, here

But these are FAST words.

You can’t keep emails in a box under your bed. If you receive, say, a postcard from a far off place the postcard is embued with that tactile wonder of “this thing is really from a far off place and written by someone’s very hands”. It’s an actual relic! Not a series of pixels arranged conveniently to form words (although, granted, text messages are beamed up into space and back down again which is pretty awesome — makes me feel guilty for texting things like “could you get some potatoes on yr way home from work? xxx” and not something of greater import).

Getting stuff in the post is one of life’s great little pleasures. And it’s cheap, relatively speaking. There’s no one in the world who is not delighted to receive a package of zines or a letter or an envelope of little treats in the post (rather than the usual bank letters and junk mail). Join the slow words movement: make a zine! remember you gotta write a letter to get a letter! So get on with it!