Long Days, Long Months [2]

30 July:
Began watching Who's Afraid of Virginia Wolff? - though the play never amused me much, Mike Nichols made some fine films [sure, there's The Graduate, but most of all Catch-22 and Carnal Knowledge].

Listened to a lot Punk-era British music: Killing Joke, The Cravats, Scritti Politti, Delta 5 - plus San Franciscan group Factrix - all thanks to "sharity" blogs (The Post Punk Progressive Pop Party is an indispensable resource).

31 July:
Finished watching Who's Afraid of Virginia Wolff? - but mostly listened to, and read and wrote about, Punk-era artists for the essay I'm working on. Clinton Heylin's From the Velvets to the Voidoids is essential too. The postlude for the recent edition of the book offers the devastating critique of Legs McNeil that Mr. Punk surely deserves.

Beginning to feel the kind of sensory mental overload these diary entries were supposed to work against. Went to the Salvador Dalí museum, and Haslam's bookstore, both in St. Petersburg. Forget Jack Kerouac, forget Dalí even (since the main attractions of the museum are the "monumental" paintings towering over their human viewers, far different stylistically from his Surrealists works, and exploring different thematic ground as well). Yes, forget. Just constantly forget, over and over again. Try to, at least.

1 August:
Rediscovering my affection for Grand Theft Auto: Vice City. But, as is my wont, "video games" for the most part bore me. The G T A games are an exception because the participant gets to kill and maim, drive crazy, thus killing and maiming more, and so on. The purpose of one's mission is irrelevant if one wants it to be - just kill kill kill. That word - "participant" - brings us back to what doesn't bore me. That term, "video games," is dumb. When digital technology got to the point of games like G T A, the medium became interactive animation. Whereas film is motion photography, making it an interdisciplinary art, mixing the visual with drama - as well, potentially, music - in animation one photographs - at least before digitization - visual art conveying something of literary import. While some refuse aesthetic understandings of games, the narratives are there for you to make of them what you will. Go ahead and imagine the "theory"-mad treatises young dissertators will write regarding.. yes, Interactive Animation. The Twenty-First Century will perhaps end up as fun (and deadly) as the Twentieth.

Earlier "video" games - from the arcade, Atari classics through the end of the century, roughly - did not require as much extensive thought on the part of the participant. They did not present complex recreations of the real world - instead, perhaps, evocative metaphors for life, as in Pong. Games - or, no, perhaps we should call them programs - like World of Warcraft represent Interactive Animation reaching its "Prog Rock" stage. Fitting that Hip Hop, another nascent art of the 1970's with a particular interdisciplinary approach, reached its "Prog Rock" position about at the same time. The task of starting out a new video game usually fills me with as much dread as listening to a 70-minute Hip Hop album, with all those skits and meandering raps filling up space that's already packed enough, idiots. Where're Kraftwerk and Frogger when you need them?

2 August:
While countless discussions of Punk and its aftermath have noted the high number of women artists, many of them singers, all this talk remains as such until you dig deep into the proverbial archives so easily accessible now - via the Post Punk Progressive Pop Party site, or 45 Revolutions, or "sharity" blogs; and via actual albums, purchased (indeed, with money!) - and, in such process, notice that you're hearing many extraordinary artists, who happen to be women, playing Rock music; and that similar surveys of other periods, before and after Punk, would not turn up similar results.

Poly Styrene, of X-Ray Spex, giving us more, better humor than in the rest of straight-up Punk combined. Lora Logic, kicked out of X-Ray Spex only to form a better band, Essential Logic. Jayne Casey, whose piercing voice is what you remember about Big in Japan beyond the mere fact that the band's members went on to other, successful ventures; and who then formed her own act, first called Pink Military Stands Alone, then Pink Military, then Pink Industry, always great. Lesley Woods, vivacious singer of The Au Pairs, with her witty lyrics on themes relating society and sex. Gina Birch, Ana da Silva, and Vicki Aspinall of The Raincoats, who having made one of the best Rock albums of the era (their eponymous debut, with drummer Palmolive) then, with the help of a few friends including Robert Wyatt and Charles Hayward, made one of the best non-Rock albums of the era (Odyshape). Delta 5, with three women and two bassists, taking up where Gang of Four's Entertainment! left off (since Gang of Four had little interest in doing so). Vanessa Briscoe's astounding screams, growls... whatever new words or sound-poetry you want to devise to describe them... driving Pylon deeper into the groove. Ari Up, Viv Albertine, and Tessa Pollitt of The Slits, working with producer Dennis Bovell to draw up a confoundingly-successful Reggae-Punk combination. The No Wave guitarists Lydia Lunch of Teenage Jesus and The Jerks, Conny Burg of Mars, and Pat Place of The Contortions, playing their part alongside the likes of Keith Levene and Neil Young to usher the electric guitar into a new age. Linder Sterling, singer of the Jazz-Punk combo Ludus. Penelope Harris, fronting the Avengers, making the likes of Darby Crash and Joey Ramone and Stiv Bators seem utterly boring. Patti Smith, still doing more than any other singer to figure out just what kind of poetry is possible in a Rock context. Alison Statton of Young Marble Giants, suggesting different avenues for the untutored singer to take.

Who am I forgetting? Probably quite a few...

3 August:
I chafe at the thoughts behind the previous diary entry. Why even conceptualize a strata of art in such a manner - made by women or men? Arab or First American? Thai or Russian? Hindu or Satanist? Granted, sometimes the artists define themselves as such; but we need not heed their self-contextualization.

Nonetheless, living in decidedly non-radical, and therefore non-feminist, times [and, to be fair, non-masculinist also], I appreciate the underdog's perspective, that which suggests sexual, or ethnic, or class imbalances in any sector of society are problems requiring serious intellectual inquiry and practical solutions. The political and social ideals of certain Punk-era artists grate the contemporary listener's ears, and I like most anything most humans consider grating! A sort of "affirmative action" in Rock was once seen as an important facet of a broader sociopolitical ideal the artists involved might willfully pine for, and work toward. Greil Marcus's notion that, after Punk, bands without members of both sexes will seem reactionary, suspicious; or the Black Rock Coalition's hopeful vision of African Americans achieving a status within Rock they hadn't had since Chuck Berry.... they seem like lofty ideals from eons ago. I might not care much for the agendas in question, but I care for their existence.

That said, in the realm of art, ideology is nothing more than... art! Policy and customs too: art! Therefore, those artists who don't involve themselves in such matters owe nothing to society, are not obliged to join any movement or fight any reactionary foe. (If you want a good example of where insistence upon such obligations gets you, see Clive James, who has more autobiographies than he does charming thoughts.) And yet in the political milieu of the top universities and the urban elite during the 1980's, more thought was expended upon Paul de Man's co-operatation with the Nazis who'd conquered his nation than the millions of others who did the same thing. Such is a curious elevation of philosophers, not wished for by the philosophers themselves.