Burning the Bridge to Nowhere

Doug Stanhope Burning the Bridge to Nowhere
Doug Stanhope does not give a fuck what you think. There’s no sugar with his pill. No lubricant with his dildo. Nothing is sacred during his acerbic assaults on the state of the modern world and all myths must be destroyed, however positive they may seem.

I think it goes without saying that his comedy is not for the easily offended, and if you consider porn and drugs to be society’s sickness you probably won’t like him. He may even make you physically ill. If this sounds like you, you can stop reading this now and save yourself an aneurysm.

But he isn’t provocative for the sake of it (a criticism that could easily be leveled at Frankie Boyle for example). There is a ruthless logic at work, to the point where anyone with a questioning intelligence will find it hard to disagree with him – even when he’s advocating fun with pedophiles, pissed and leering on stage, or vehemently blaming people that have children for climate change – the arguments are watertight. Even the most liberal-minded comedy-lovers may flinch, but his rants make sense, and expose us for our own hypocrisy as a society. And I, for one, find that shit hilarious.

No Refunds is my favourite. The first time I watched it I was pissing myself for hours afterwards. It’s anger and energy is infectious. It came as quite a shock, as I had previously only seen his rather downbeat contributions to Charlie Brooker’s Newswipe. Although they were intelligent and witty they didn’t quite prepare me for the genius of his on-stage performances, which have been compared (incorrectly in my view) to those of Bill Hicks. Anyway, don’t take my word for it, watch this shit:

I was ecstatic when I heard Doug had a new DVD out. But Burning the Bridge to Nowhere is an odd one. Filmed in Oslo with only 36 hours notice, you can see why both the time constraints and the language barrier may have contributed to the slightly stilted delivery of his new material. Maybe it was the lack of alcohol or maybe he was just pissed off – his comic timing doesn’t seem to be up to his usual standard. I don’t want to seem overly-critical though as some of it is really good (parts of it are up there with No Refunds) and he has set himself a very high bar with previous shows. What I would say, is that if you like Stanhope, watch it, and if you don’t yet, watch the others first – you’ll be more forgiving of the bits of it that don’t work quite so well.

Buy it from Amazon

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The Psychedelic Experience

Recommended reading for all psychonauts, Timothy Leary’s The Psychedelic Experience: A Manual Based on the Tibetan Book of The Dead.

Excerpt from the book’s introduction:-

The Tibetan Book of the Dead is ostensibly a book describing the experiences to be expected at the moment of death, during an intermediate phase lasting forty-nine (seven times seven) days, and during rebirth into another bodily frame. This however is merely the exoteric framework which the Tibetan Buddhists used to cloak their mystical teachings. The language and symbolism of death rituals of Bonism, the traditional pre-Buddhist Tibetan religion, were skillfully blended with Buddhist conceptions. The esoteric meaning, as it has been interpreted in this manual, is that it is death of the ego and rebirth that is described, not of the body. Lama Govinda indicates this clearly in his introduction when he writes: “It is a book for the living as well as the dying.” The book’s esoteric meaning is often concealed beneath many layers of symbolism. It was not intended for general reading. It was designed to be understood only by one who was to be initiated personally by a guru into the Buddhist mystical doctrines, into the pre-mortem-death- rebirth experience. These doctrines have been kept a closely guarded secret for many centuries, for fear that naive or careless application would do harm. In translating such an esoteric text, therefore, there are two steps: one, the rendering of the original text into English; and two, the practical interpretation of the text for its uses. In publishing this practical interpretation for use in the psychedelic drug session, we are in a sense breaking with the tradition of secrecy and thus contravening the teachings of the lama-gurus.

However, this step is justified on the grounds that the manual will not be understood by anyone who has not had a consciousness-expanding experience and that there are signs that the lamas themselves, after their recent diaspora, wish to make their teachings available to a wider public.

Strangeloop – ‘Fields’. Out on Brainfeeder 25/07/11

The most recent EP to reach me from Flying Lotus’ essential label Brainfeeder is the epic and beautiful ‘Fields’ by LA based VJ and producer Strangeloop. With an ongoing preoccupation with astral projection, mystical states of consciousness and the trappings of human perception, you can be sure that anything coming from Strangeloop will be deep and questioning, and ‘Fields’ does not disappoint.

Essentially it is a series of detailed sprawling loops and delicate sounds, with minimal beats and gentle bass, which builds up a hypnotic and authentic soundscape. Knowing that the writing of this EP was influenced directly by an experience during an altered state of consciousness gives this EP real depth  – the first movement symbolising birth and constellation, the second death and dissolution, and the third a transcendental union of both. Unfortunately I have no clips to play from the EP, but here’s a Strangeloop track from earlier this year which will at least pass as a good introduction to his music:

And here’s another track which is possibly a better indication of the meditative feel of ‘Fields’:


He’s an interesting and awe-inspiring creative character: making electronic music since the age of 14; drawing, painting, VJing, and the cross-pollination of it all. His avant-sci-fi project “2010: (or) How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Singularity” helped to make him known in the UK electronic music scene with the support of Mary Anne Hobbes. Here’s the edited version of the film and mix he did for her show, which is well worth watching:

There are a load more videos of his live VJing performances and short films / visuals here which I would thoroughly recommend checking out.

‘Fields’ will also take the form of an interactive online AV experience once released, so keep checking back at Brainfeeder to get involved however you can!

Links:

Strangeloop TV
Strangeloop on Vimeo  
Strangeloop on Soundcloud 

MisinforMation Review

MisinforMation DVD
The first time I watched this DVD I was pretty stoned. One of my favourite pastimes is to put on a film, one with great pictures and no dialogue such as Koyaanisqatsi, or some old Buster Keaton movies, skin up a large one, and provide my own soundtrack to the visuals out of my sizable collection of electronic music. As the psychotropic compound hits the cannabinoid receptors in the back of my brain and takes hold, pictures and sounds become one, rhythm becomes serendipitous, and my senses and imagination work together to re-contextualise this information in any way they see fit.
Intracellular signal transduction pathways are activated! I drift off into my own reverie, the images become blurred, the sound becomes muffled, and I pass out on my bean-bag, fully satisfied by this waking dream. With MisinforMation it feels like the Baron Mordant has done much the same thing, except he has managed to stay conscious long enough to write some original music, bespoke for the occasion.

I decided to watch the DVD again, this time with a clear head. The box doesn’t give you much information to be misguided by, though I’ve now worked out that the DVD is a collaboration between the BFI and Mordant Music, edited and re-scored by the latter, using the former’s access to the archives of the Central Office of Information – the UK government’s marketing and communications agency, and producer of public information films.

MisinforMation Screenshot 1
Pressing play you are greeted with a stark looking menu with the cryptic option to view “Spools” or to “Spore All” – I chose the latter. You are flung head-first into a Hitchcockian nightmare-vision of invading magpies, which quickly reveals itself to be a crime prevention commercial, extolling the virtues of Neighbourhood Watch. The sound is synthetic and ominous, the mood disquieting. This sets the tone if not the main themes of MisinforMation from the outset, a work that is as interested in the mechanics and language of film, as it is with the content. Indeed, the frequent use of test cards, countdowns and grainy damaged reels, conveys a love for the textural quality of the medium, and how that can effect the mood and feel of the images, as much as the themes and narratives displayed therein.

The Baron Mordant’s score emphasises this devil in the ambiguous detail. It is his music which becomes the constant thread, tying disparate pieces together. As many of the visual sources are from the 1970s and 80s, the nods to Vangelis and Eno seem highly appropriate – but it isn’t another retro pastiche. The sounds are pulled apart and elongated to form textures and drones. While at times it is Hauntological in the manner of Ghost Box or Boards of Canada, often the synths and effects are more akin to Autechre or Merzbow, noise and ambience are intense and lift the images to another plane. All works well until the Baron attempts a song – a somewhat naive blip on an otherwise flawless electronic score.

All the short films collated here are highly watchable, and interesting historical objects in their own right – but in MisinforMation they are re-purposed, obfuscated and altered – the new interpretation provided by sound alone. They are shown in a new light and this has a big impact on their semantic purpose. This is the main concept behind the project – that with only slight deviations from the original context, the meaning can be completely transformed. Sometimes this works better than others.

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A Dark Social Template is particularly effective.  The new soundtrack casts a bleak re-imagining of our past’s visions for the future, playing on our informed position of knowing exactly how certain ideas would end up failing. The concrete mazes and dungeons of 1960s new builds are underscored by itchy, nervous, analogue bleeps and tones, highlighting the inhumanity of such places – while the original film, blissfully unaware of their future failure, tries to persuade poor sods to up-sticks and move there. Animated sections in the film are rendered surreal, with human behaviour made to look alien and viral, cities emerge like infected wounds on the earth’s skin. A beat-less disco makes the revelers look like absurd maniacs and re-interprets an OAP’s conga-line as some bizarre satanic ritual. The only part of this piece that didn’t capture my imagination was watching the presenters talking without the original audio. It was as if I had turned the sound down on my own TV, and this made it feel a bit amateurish when compared with the perfect wedding of music to picture in the other scenes. This is executed better, later on, by replacing the original voice with another – a much more interesting use of such footage, and more befitting of the title.

Attenuated Shadows is another highlight. This short film about solvent abuse would have been profoundly disturbing without the new score, but the music here goes really well indeed – mournful chords and woozy soundscapes add melancholy to the shock value. The footage looks very real, and yet we’re told at the end of the documentary that the children depicted doing glue, did not inhale. This seems hard to believe – were the COI covering their arses for fear of being labeled exploitative? Was the original misinforming us, or has Mordant Music’s emotive scoring misinformed us into believing the illusion? Maybe we’ll never know. This is MISinformation after all.

Urban nightmares are then replaced by grainy pictures of Stone Henge and picture-book illustrations of early man. Ridyll was the weakest section for me. It didn’t feel as though it had been re-purposed as much as the others, and it did drag a little. However, it does benefit from being an interlude, and in contrast with the other more intense offerings, it paints a quaint picture of Britain’s ancient history. And the music is pretty good too, featuring a Moog wig-out in the style of Bo Hansson.

Elsewhere on the DVD we see the famous AIDS advert (from the 80s) in reverse, a suburban domestic version of Tron where nature fights back, a documentary on Ink Jet technology repurposed to reveal something dark in our nature, strange footage of nematode worms in a lab, and many other more abstract pieces, where music and visual mesh perfectly with no apparent agenda or message to be conveyed. The last film is pure audio-visual pleasure, as beautiful images of the sea and coastline are immaculately scored – the sound and picture relationship here is more precise than anywhere else in the work, with beautiful rhythmic editing and a sense of humour to boot.

In conclusion then, I simply can’t recommend this DVD enough – it is a work of art with very few aspects in need of criticism. It is both thought-provoking, emotive and intelligently complied. What I would say though, is that it is best viewed instinctively, on psychotropics, so your own imagination becomes part of the work, and you get lost in the minutae and subtle inter-relationships that jump-start old memories and lateral ideas. You get lost in it happily. Watched in a sober, more linear fashion, you end up trying to second-guess the creator’s motivations, and I don’t think you get quite as much out of it that way.

Best served with 3.5 grams of “Blue Cheese”.

You can buy the DVD from Boomkat

End the war on drugs

mexican drug war

In 72 hours, we could finally see the beginning of the end of the ‘war on drugs’. This expensive war has completely failed to curb the plague of drug addiction, while costing countless lives, devastating communities, and funneling trillions of dollars into violent organized crime networks.

Experts all agree that the most sensible policy is to regulate, but politicians are afraid to touch the issue. In days, a global commission including former heads of state and foreign policy chiefs of the UN, EU, US, Brazil, Mexico and more will break the taboo and publicly call for new approaches including decriminalization and regulation of drugs.

This could be a once-in-a-generation tipping-point moment — if enough of us call for an end to this madness. Politicians say they understand that the war on drugs has failed, but claim the public isn’t ready for an alternative. Let’s show them we not only accept a sane and humane policy — we demand it. Sign the petition and share with everyone — when we reach 1/2 million, it will be personally delivered to world leaders by the global commission.

Petition

To Ban Ki-moon and all Heads of State:

We call on you to end the war on drugs and the prohibition regime, and move towards a system based on decriminalisation, regulation, public health and education. This 50 year old policy has failed, fuels violent organised crime, devastates lives and is costing billions. It is time for a humane and effective approach.

Click here to sign the Avaaz Petition