Friday, 19 May 2017

No Apologies For The Infinite Radness 1.2.4 - "Me Vs Maradona Vs Elvis" (Brand New)

A song I am ashamed to love.

This might be a good time to talk about guilty pleasures again. To restate my case: fuck guilty pleasures. Not the pleasures themselves, obviously. What I despise is the idea of the guilty pleasure; the smug, self-satisfied insistence of self-appointed gatekeepers that there are some slices of entertainment that you should actively feel bad for enjoying. "Oh, that's so cheesy, you should feel bad for liking it!". "Man, that's so manufactured; don't you feel awful having such fun with it?".  Sod off and hang out with that Portuguese prick who pissed away his Eurovision victory speech on "fake music" rather than the plight of refugees.

Even the phrase itself is terrible. It might not be so bad if it were "embarrassing pleasures"; profoundly uncool songs and shows and movies that you love but would rather not admit that in public. There's still all sorts of issues around the concept of "uncool" that would need unpicking, but at least "embarrassing pleasures" is a more accurate framing. It's about you going against conventional wisdom and public opinion. "Guilty" dare to suggest you're actually doing something wrong.

And the thing is, there really are things you should feel terrible about liking. This song is a case in point. I hate that I love it so much. I think my feels for it say something unpleasant about me as a person. This is after all a song about a man who goes to bars, gets women drunk, lies to get into their underwear, and then sleeps with them when they're on the verge of unconsciousness. If the narrator isn't actually a rapist, he's so close to the line that quibbling over whether he's actually crossed it would be an act of supreme ugliness. This is some full-on Roosh V shit. How could I not feel guilty taking pleasure from this?

I tell myself it's just the music that gets me. And for sure the tune is genuinely wonderful. It's sad and slow and yet still heavy with barely-restrained power. Melody and riff both descend across each line of the verse as the narrator drags unsuspecting drunks down into his "unadmirable plans", making them focus on him instead of the football on the TV or the music on the jukebox.  The instrumental break at 3:21 is rather lovely, and just under a minute later the song stops holding back and finally erupts into a squall of self-loathing, or sex, or probably both.

But that's the problem, isn't it? The song is so cleverly structured around this horrifying tale of a calculating predator that every part of it simply further underscores the ugliness on display. Every part of it is shot through with the vileness of this stalking monster. This would be the best, saddest song on the soundtrack to a Ched Evans biopic, but how much can the quality really matter with something as villainous as this? I know I'm really just describing the idea of a problematical fave, but rarely has something so earned so much of my favour despite being so problematical.

But it works for me. I don't know why. I don't know why, and I'm terrified to interrogate myself on the subject. Better to not know. Better to just shoulder the guilt.

I certainly can't see any argument that says I shouldn't have to.

And now the B-side, which is at least a little less Rape Culture The Movie, if nothing else. It's also interesting to see how Mae builds the song up via changes to the harmony to compensate for not being able to tack on the full-tilt emo ending.

Thursday, 11 May 2017

Infinite Diversity, Finite Combinations 5.1.6

In which Voyager finally does something new, and does it by making use of something old.

Thursday, 4 May 2017

Infinite Diversity, Finite Combinations 4.1.6

Back to the station this week, where we're forced to deal with a most unwelcome visitor.

Thursday, 27 April 2017

Infinite Diversity, Finite Combinations 3.1.6

We're on the Enterprise-D this week, as are a bunch of weird snake-dudes and Gul Dukat pretending to be a dog. No way that can be boring as hell, right?


Geek Syndicate Review: Rebels (These Free And Independent States) #2

In which Brian Wood's frustratingly-titled slice of historical fiction continues to not really know what it wants to say.

Saturday, 22 April 2017

Six Things I Learned In Berlin

1. Berlin Zoo is a good time, especially its collection of big cats. Some of the enclosures are a bit on the small side compared to zoos I've visited elsewhere, but - from my entirely uninformed standpoint - nothing seemed particularly unhappy. It was especially nice to see polar bears having fun; the only other one I've seen was back in Edinburgh years ago and it was clearly suffering. These two bears have about three times the space, and it seems to be doing the job. The biggest concern I heard anyone raise while I was there was the danger of the polar bears catching a cold if their pool wasn't heated, which I guess demonstrates that brain-swivelling stupidity is truly an international concern.

If you're going for the full afternoon, it's well worth getting a combined ticket for the on-site aquarium too. It's filled with a massive array of fish - too many in some tanks, actually, though again what do I know? - but also houses every cold-blooded animal in the zoo, so it's not just aquatic creatures.

They also have a common tern, presumably as a replacement after a much more impressive bird cancelled last minute. I foolishly didn't think to take a picture of the resultant colossal misfire of an exhibit, so I have used the magic of Microsoft Paint to reproduce the effect.

(Original photos (c) Birds of North America Online & Australia Adventure)

2. I'm officially adding nackensteak to my list of tasty German treats. It's meat from the nape of a pig's neck (hence the name) with a taste and texture halfway between a pork chop and well-done bacon, with the faintest hint of crackling. At least in the place where I bought it (a street market on Kurfurstendamm) it's a bit more expensive than sausage, and frankly not quite as good, but if you've already filled up on wurst and want to eat some flatter flesh, this is a fine choice.

3. Trabant wing mirrors come off really easily.

4. U-Bahn construction companies pay for some interesting artwork.

YES! Rock on, gay motorcycle gang members! I'm glad you'll soon find it even easier to get around Berlin.

Um, hi, Mark Wahlberg with a ponytail and also on a pony. I'm... not sure they'll let you take Scottie Gee Gee on the U-bahn, actually, but I'm delighted you're pitching in.

I didn't think this was legal, but maybe King Bear has issued a royal decree about lady-kissing. YOU SLY SCAMP, ROYAL BEAR.


5. Museum Island sounds like a terrible sequel to any one of a dozen horror/monster films, but in fact, it's a rather pretty and awesome grouping of, well, museums. F and I checked out the Pergamon Museum there, and it's filled with some absolutely breathtaking reproductions of ancient locations, including the Ishtar Gate (which makes me wish we hadn't so totally devalued "awesome" as a word) and a section of an ancient market place. The collection also contains a large number of examples of Islamic Art, which is both lovely on its own terms and tremendously satisfying when you think of how many people must be appalled that it even exists.  The place is huge, too; there were three exhibits closed for renovation and it was still three and a half hours before we decided we needed to leave, with maybe another half hour's worth of stuff still to work through.

Two tips: first, if you don't speak German, make sure you borrow one of the (free) audio guides to take round. Only about two thirds of the material has been translated into English, and the translations themselves are occasionally patchy.  Second, make sure to book in advance. We didn't get around to doing so and ended up in a queue for seventy minutes. Considering there's a sign outside the museum marking an average two-hour waiting period, we got lucky, but still.

Oh, and one more tip, actually. Don't touch the handrail around the floor mosaic in the antiquities section. There's a guard there who gets really annoyed if you do. There's no sign or anything asking you not to; they've apparently decided to hire a guy pretty much entirely to whisper "NO! NO!" furiously into your ear if you touch a bar that's at exactly the right height for you to grasp it. I think half the people who went in just took hold out of habit; some Pavlovian response conditioned into us by decades of riding the subway or going up escalators or grabbing for iron coshes when shit goes down.

Anyway, go see this guy if you visit the museum. He'd probably appreciate human contact that isn't handrail-related. Just make sure to engage him in conversation from an angle that allows him to see every inch of his wrought-iron charge. It may not be much of a job, but it's his, and he's very proud of how well he does it.

6. No jokes for this one. The Topographie des Terrors is chilling, and horrifying, and profoundly upsetting, and something everyone really should see. You'll find it hard not to cry and harder still not to punch the giggling American tourists - "I'm touching Gestapo bricks ha ha!" - but the exhibition does excellently at the almost impossible task of rendering the entire story of the Nazi Party and its legacy into something short enough to read in two hours without feeling like anything has been ignored or skirted over.  Every time I read about the Nazis I find some new reason to fucking loathe them - this time it was discovering they would have murdered both my siblings for their medical histories - and every time I find some new way in which the contemporary right is inching towards the same sickening ideas. "Work-shy Reich" sounds like something IDS would suggest after his second whisky.