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Archive for October, 2009

Disney studios gives us a distorted view of the story of the Lion King. Simba’s politics are clearly in alignment with its writers – it is well known that history is written by the victors. But what was the true ambition of Simba’s uncle, Scar, and were the ‘Pride Lands’ truly degraded when Simba returned to reclaim the throne? I hope to set things straight in this blog.

Simba’s father, Mufasa, was an arch-conservative who justified order in his kingdom through archaic philosophy. He continually repeated the mantra that, ‘everything has its place’. He used this philosophy to repress the hyenas who were forced to scavenge as outcasts in the unproductive lands of the ‘elephant graveyard’. When Simba asked the reasonable question to his father, ‘why do we eat the antelope?’, Mufasa answered: ‘we eat the antelope to survive, but when we die we become grass and the antelope eats us, thus the circle of life continues’. What he failed to tell Simba is having your throat ripped out by the high-pressure jaw mechanism of a lion is a lot more painful than your decomposed body being masticated in the form of grass.

Scar: a misunderstood visionary.

Scar: a misunderstood visionary.

Scar (actually pronounced Sear) on the other hand was a diplomat; an intellectual who believed in discourse and a more harmonious kingdom where the outcasts, hyenas, would be embraced in a greater Utopian community. Mufasa would never agree to this break in tradition and used his brute strength to keep Scar subjugated. Having no choice, Scar eventually orchestrated the death of Mufasa by organising a stampede of wildebeest that crushed Mufasa. He then banished Simba from the Kingdom when Simba made it clear he would never support his Uncles desire to found a new community based on equality. While this act of murder and banishment is portrayed by Disney as an act of deceit, it was in fact an act of strategic brilliance that was the beginning of a new age of enlightened order in the pride lands.

On taking power Scar immediately invited the banished hyenas into the kingdom. All animals were now able to live as equals within the Pride Lands. Liberated from the conservative rule of Mufasa, some of the herds choose to move on and start their own communities, a move unfairly portrayed in the film as the herds escaping from Scar’s mis-rule. Lionesses were considered equals and were able to hunt for food alongside the males. Herds were encouraged to establish communal gardens in which their own food could be gathered. Dead animals were offered to the carnivores and simultaneously carnivores were encouraged to develop a vegetariain diet.

There were those in the kingdom who were opposed to the revolutionary overturning of the old order and set about undermining Scar’s new order. In particular the baboons, warthogs and meerkats (loyal to the ways of Mufasa) worked as agitators for the old ways and continually undermined Scar’s new utopia in preparation for the return of the exiled king, Simba. It is they who  eventually encouraged the inhabitants of the new order to support Simba’s return, paving the way for the counter-revolution that saw the murder of Scar, the return of the repression of the hyenas and the reestablishment of Mufasa’s conservative rule through his son, Simba.

The Pride Land inhabitants could not cope with the de-centralised utopia achieved by the visionary Scar, and choose instead the order of the old ways where thought and participation were not required. The antelope, it appeared, would prefer to be crushed by the jaws of lions than graze in peace. Of course the Disney account of history presents a land lost to degradation under the leadership of Scar; and the hyenas, in keeping with Mufasa and Simba’s propaganda, are presented as evil rouges. What we are not shown is the brief period of equality and communal living that thrived in the pride lands after the daring revolution instigated by Scar. Instead we are emotionally manipulated by music and imagery that suggests a brief departure from peace and tranquility in the form of Scar’s ‘evil rule’.

It is time the world remembered the extraordinary period of decentralised control and communal living achieved by the work of the visionary, Scar.

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The wild paths of nature.

The wild paths of nature?

The love of Nature in industralised countries is, looked at historically, a bizarre phenomena. We spent centuries (even millenia) being frightened of nature, wary of it and struggling within it to survive. It was only when we had dominated it, repressed it, that we suddenly came to develop a love affair with it. Once we were safely divorced from nature, and her powers had been tamed to such an extent that we could control our own destiny, did we come to love the concept of ‘nature’.We have been locking tracts of nature up into small parcels called parks dominated by human law (fences, signs, boundaries a.k.a. environmental management) for the last 150 years, about the point that the industrial revolution had succeeded in divorcing us from our natural surrounds and encapsulating us in the mechanical life of the machine.

We use nature for two purposes. Firstly, recreation. For some people this means tearing up the ground with 4WD or deafening birds with the roars of motorbikes or disturbing possums with the riotous thump of a rave party. At the other pole it means days of walking alone absorbing the beauty and stillness of wondrous sites. But most people would not enter a park when it has, for example, been raining. I remember a friend who was going walking in the You-Yangs near Melbourne. It was raining and he received a phone call from the organiser to say the walk was canceled. It caused me to think that the group was going for a walk in a park, not ‘nature’, and only when the weather was right. This is a perfect example of the way we have controlled our relationship with nature. It is only in that control that we become comfortable enough to enter it. In effect we have created parks for our pleasure. The wildness of nature is destroyed or at least pushed away to a safe distance.

The other relationship people have with nature is reverential. It has become a kind of religion; ‘she’ is worshiped. Hordes of Green voters plunge through national parks for days on end and come out the other end with a glow you never see in an urban dweller. There is no doubting the power nature has to restore and regenerate those willing to tackle her distances. However this is still a park mentality. We follow paths erected by environmental managers and are safe in the knowledge that several helicopters followed by the media will come to our rescue should any danger befall us. How many people would actually disappear into nature? In the movie ‘Into the Wild‘, based on a true story, we see a man face the reality of living in nature when he truly leaves civilisation behind him. Another rare story is that of the ‘Squatters Arms‘. A couple traveling around Australia on a yacht discovered an isolated part of the bush in the Kimberlys and decided to stay put. They battle with typhoons and hordes of snakes and isolation (and they love it), but these experiences are truly natural, unlike rambling down carved out paths, ready to run back  to the car at the first hint of rain.

In his book ‘The Tuning of the World’, Murray Schafer describes a soundscape survey (conducted in the seventies) where people around the world were asked to respond to different sounds. Here is what he had to say:

As people move away from open-air living into city environments, their attitudes toward natural sounds become benign. Compare Canada, New Zealand and Jamaica. In the two former countries, the sounds of animals were scarcely ever found to be displeasing. But every one of the Jamaicans interviewed disliked one or more animals or birds – particularly at night.

This doesn’t require much explanation. It is suggestive that the further we are from nature the more we romanticise it. Jamaica is now a developed country. I wonder what the survey results would be now?

I love absorbing the power of ‘nature’ and I think it is important lock up tracts of land so other animals have the space to survive and evolve. It is people’s relationship to nature I find fascinating. How can we come to worship something we spent so long escaping from? Or is that we didn’t escape, but were just seduced by a lifestyle that took as further away from the source of our existence? Is our ideation of nature a reflection of our desire to return to it? There are some cultures that remain intact with their natural lifestyles, notably in the Amazon and PNG, but how long can they resist the prying fingers of the Western machine and the allure of the bright lights of civilisation? We had hundreds of years to have our link with nature severed while we got used to locking her wildness away in manageable parks. But true ‘nature’ dwellers who are thrust out of their lives in the modern world have insurmountable challenges to face.

What if civilisation should one day fall, and our buildings crumble and nature slowly swallows our cities? We would be back in nature. Struggling to survive, eking out an existence. There would be little time to walk along paths and gasp at natures beauty then. What would our relationship with nature be like in this scenario?

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Horse Bazaar presents
hiddensounds, Infinite decimals & Bulke.

A night of sonic exploration at Horse Bazaar on Saturday the 7th November from 6pm to 8.30pm.

Hiddensounds (www.hiddensounds.net) is the audio-scrawl exploration of Jordan Lacey. Frequency beats. Buttons holding secrets. Knobs and faders telling lies. Fretted instruments stroked. Silence. Noise. The sounds underneath. Three veg and mash. Happy Accidents. On the night exploring highways, rivers and crowds.

Amplified string duo Infinite Decimals (www.myspace.com/infinitedecimals) [Barnaby Oliver / Don Rogers] produce waves of vertically complex sonic texture filled with phantom melodies and psychoacoustic surprises. Intellectual concentration, anti-rationality and sustained physiological effort obliterate mind-body duality to produce organic and richly detailed auto-compositions.

Bulke (www.myspace.com/bulkesounds)[Pradip Sarkar & Jordan Lacey] is a blend of dub-tech, bassline, and krautrock, geared towards the dancefloor with tracks varying from midtempo electronic ballads to 130 BPM four to the floor beats. The band was built on the basis of a love for the electronic sounds coming out of Berlin. Bulke will be joined by Prem CJ on Electronic Tabla.

Paul Rodgers, a.k.a. Arnold Eye Irons, avant-projectionist & VJ will wave his fingers through all three acts, and DJ post-punk sounds on the in-betweens.

Where: Horse Bazaar
When: Saturday 7th November 2009
Time: 6 – 9.30 pm
Cost: $5

horse bazaar gig

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A scientist at work!

A scientist at work!

I have found a new hero – Grandmaster Flash (GF)! I’ve always appreciated hip-hop and DJing, but never taken it to seriously. Then I read GF’s autobiography, The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash, and was transformed. He was a boy brought up in the Bronx. He learned to love the records his father played in the house and listened to them whenever he could – even when he got a flogging for it. His parents soon discovered that GF had a gift with electronics. He would dismantle his sister’s hair dryer just to see how it worked. They sent him to electronics school and he excelled. He used his new found knowledge to build his first sound system, from items he found on the side of the street. He was introduced to the art of spinning records by DJ Kool Herc who used to hold block parties in the public parks of the Bronx. These block parties would be shut down immediately in this day, but back then the cops loved it as crime stopped for the day. Everyone in town would stop what they were doing and go to the block parties. Gangs that usually fought got their agro out by dancing at each other – the b-boys. GF started to mix his own records and turned it into an art form. He invented the quick-mix method, which allowed him to mix short funky breaks on an album for extended amounts of time. It was during these experiments that he discovered the zuka-zuka sound a record can make – the birth of scratching. He also invented clock theory by marking 12,3,6 and 9 o’clock on the record allowing him to know what was where on a given record. He would place his four fingers on these points and control the records this way. Radical at the time as no self-respecting DJ would touch their vinyl! Due to these discoveries GF is considered the father of hip-hop and turntabilism. He was also the first to encourage MC’s to work with the crowd while he did the sounds. This was the birth of rap and is famously captured in Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five. I have discovered that GF was/is a scientist. He could have gone in any direction with his amazing electronic and analytical skills, and he choose music. Lucky for us. His innovations have resulted in entire genres of music and amazing sounds. Hip-hop is about music, dancing and graffitti, you can’t have one with out the other. And hip-hop GF tells us is about peace and love. Now that I didn’t know!

Here he is at work:

And 30-odd years after inventing it check what some of these guys can do now: Q’bert, considered by many to be the best turntablist kicking around at the moment.

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