in which the naked chimp is unmasked, his machines debugged, and his bugbears debunked

Thursday, May 31, 2007

For those about to go on a gender-bender? (we salute you) [The Tripitaka Moment]

We’ve all been there. You think you know all there is to know about the crying game, but nothing can prepare you for the feeling when it hits. I’m talking about the Tripitaka moment. Oh yeah, that’s right girlyboys and manladies, remember Masako Natsume? She was the actress who played Tripitaka in Monkey Magic – and she is wholly responsible for scrambling the minds of a whole generation of Australian youths who were exposed to her ambiguous charms.

The character of Tripitaka effected a three-way headfuck: the story said she was a prince; she was dressed in tights and robes; and the woman who over-dubbed her voice had a sexy gravel in it that was suspended dangerously between either of the assigned genders. It wasn’t just that Masako Natsume was an attractive woman playing a prince, or that she had a shaved head – it was that she was also convincingly Tripitaka, the young prince, who was… hot. Go to Tonga and see the Fafafinas; watch the filmclip for Von Südenfed’s ‘Fledermaus can’t get it’; hire out Priscilla and see Terrence Stamp’s cock in a frock on a rock – none of them can pull enough wool over their frog’s eyes to hide the shadow of the man, and they don’t really try to. Tripitaka’s character wasn’t drag, no siree, it was something far more disquieting, the figure of a person who was attractively male and female simultaneously – not either/or, not androgynous, but somehow both male and female. You ‘knew’ she was she, but somehow, you also felt that she was he. It was thoroughly and disagreeably uncanny. And it was good.

But it was also something that (for me as a boy) was a permissible perversion that never forced me to beg any deeper questions about the angle of my dangle, and this is where you can catch your own brain fooling you. You know how it is, it happens at the gym, on the dancefloor, in a dark room – you catch sight of a neck, a leg, the curve of a buttock – straight or gay, your brain matches and fits the visual information against a catalog of ‘hot’ or ‘not’, ‘permissable’ or ‘impossible’. I sprung myself the other day, riding through traffic behind a cyclist in lycra. We stopped at the lights, I realised she was a woman, and then I gave myself persmission to find her ass attractive.

The flipside of this is something like your own personal equivalent of the Aphex Twin’s ‘Windowlicker’ filmclip. You’re at the beach, you see a girl in a bikini and think, ‘she’s hot’… but she turns around and it’s your mum, your sister, or Richard D. James. I can’t imagine what life must be like for the vision impaired – how much longer would they have to squint and doubt before the awful truth turkey slaps into focus? In all these fanny-packing, bush-whacking instances, the common factor is not attraction, but what you let yourself be attracted to – not that admitting this makes the ‘moment’ itself any less disturbing. The only thing I can suggest when the moment hits? Enjoy your symptom! Tripitaka’s character was trying to seek enlightenment – but the ‘Tripitaka moment’ can likewise teach us all something about ourselves.

© Peter Chambers 2007

Friday, May 25, 2007

I’ve had fun (and it wasn’t all that)

‘Watcha gonna do when you get outta jail?’
‘I’m gonna have some fun.’
‘What do you consider fun?’
‘Fun, natural fun!

Listening to the Tom Tom Club lit the synapses. Ah, memories... remember fun? Once upon a time, fun was one of the most enjoyable of all the three letter words. Better than bat, stickier than bun, more valuable than oil. Fun could be anything, and eveything was fun. That was then. I just don’t feel the same way about fun as I used to. Ever since... Oh God, it was heartbreaking. I came home from the disco, and there on the couch, copping it the ol’ fashioned way from the law of diminishing returns, was my most beloved concept.

Why fun, why?

Fun’s been sleeping on the couch it so sordidly soiled ever since, and although we’re on speaking terms, it’s only so I can call fun horrible names. Here goes:

Fun, you’re a limp, stale crumpet, a shrivelled abstraction - and a lousy root.

It’s a crisis that’s taken a while to come to a head. I should have read the signs. Some people have even told me that it serves me right for attempting to have a meaningful relationship with a concept. But I don’t care what they think, ‘cos the truth is that fun just isn’t as much fun as it used to be, hasn’t been for a long time. And fun doesn’t seem to wanna have fun with me anymore, or when I wanna have fun, fun has a headache (and vice versa).

It’s me, too, I think I bear some responsibility. I’ve changed. I began having my doubts, and spent many a sigh-filled languid afternoon tootling around from amusement to amusement, jealous of the kiddies down the local park or disco with their bouncey balls and their unbridled, shrieking joys. I began to feel sorry for myself and my creeping numbness, caused by the deadening weight of carrying around that growing shitlist of things I can no longer enjoy. The heaviest addition to the list was only three loved letters long.

I miss fun, I do. Fun was my main squeeze, my big banana, my ripe, rosy tomato. But now there’s no juice in the fruit (aint it pithy). And meanwhile, fun doesn’t have any time for leisure, being too busy earning its keep. You don’t want to know how it earns its bickies...
... And that smile that used to be a joke, that I found so endearing, now it just reminds me of synchronised swimmers. Fun’s whole repertoire is wan and calloused, and its formeerly charming patter holds nothing of value or charm, just the laboured, grunting humourlessness of porno. Like all XXX these days, it’s all so horribly earnest. With all the mystery gone, and us just going through the motions, it was a matter of time before one of us either ended up dumped, or even worse, dumped on.

So I’ve left fun, trapped in its rigor mortis of cool and forever trying for happiness, and started seeing other concepts. Not for good, but for play. Yes, rather than focussing on squeezing the last drops of juice from those saggy old fruits, I’ve decided to take up juggling them, or planting their seeds where something might grow. I’m not talking about uphill gardening or running away with the circus, but I am playing with play again, and I’m loving it. Me and my old pirennially pert sweetheart of yore. It’s a beautiful thing. Play likes to experiment, fool around. Play focuses on the act, rather than the outcome. Play, leading me to the floor, says, ‘Fuck art, let’s dance!’ Play even reminds me of all the things I liked about fun, but it doesn’t take itself too seriously or demand that I spend all my money and time on it. Play, I love you!
To whoever of you is with fun now, my sympathies, and the best of luck. Just be honest with yourself, and don’t forget for a moment what fun is, and what it will always be.
I just don’t want you to get hurt.

© Peter Chambers 2005 (from the archives)

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Who’s the Dogg? (Snoop shows Ruddock the pound)

You know what? You’re wrong about Snoop Dogg. Sure, he’s an ex-crim and a misogynist thug, but these things are all relative. Woman-hating asshole? Compared to whom? That’s worth asking. Well, what about compared to Isaac Hayes and Tim Buckley, two of electric ladyland’s most beloved rakes? We could say there are a lot of other mitigating qualities, too, maybe ones that flip the script in favour of forgiving either the scalp-wax abusing Scientologist pants technician or the junkie honeyman. But that’s neither here nor there. The point is simple: Snoop Dogg’s hateful attitude toward women possesses a rare honesty and a willingness to take responsibility for his mind-set and actions, two qualities that Hayes and Buckley lack.

Cop a load of Hayes on ‘One Woman’. The guy drives home, kisses his wife, then gets up in the morning and drives back through gridlocked traffic… to have breakfast with his mistress. There’s nothing in the song that suggests any discomfort or remorse (just the fear of getting sprung with yolk on his cuff and the pain of having to choose once he’s busted double-dipping). Not only that, but Hayes manages to twist the situation around so that it’s both women’s fault somehow: ‘One woman’s making my home/ while the other woman’s making me do wrong/ I didn’t intend to let it get that strong/ Now I’ve got to decide where I belong’ Note the use of the expression ‘making me’, as if the women have Alan keys and claw hammers, and he’s a piece of Ikea furniture. Hayes reckons he’s having the whole situation ‘done to’ him – he’s as passive as a Rohypnolled mormon copping a love shampooing from a shaft-strapping widow with cruel intentions. Now that’s a mouthful.

Exhibit two in this atrocity exhibition, Mr ‘Crooner’ Buckley the first, is no better. You wanna know why he cheated on you? It’s the classic ‘Neanderthal defence’ – cop this: I’m a predator, baby, and, frankly, you wouldn’t let give you one a là Backstreet Boys. And honey, ‘I want it that way’. In his own words (‘Sweet Surrender’): ‘Well I had to be a hunter again/ This little man had to try/ To make love feel new again/ ‘Cause there’s just a few things, honey/I’m not old enough to do for you/ And there just the kind of things/You just never care to show me.’ Again, it’s the same pattern, one that says, ‘Hey, I sure screwed the pooch, didn’t I, but after all, I can’t control myself… and you don’t satisfy my needs… biyatch.’

Compared to this, Snoop comes up smelling like (suspiciously musky) roses. From the get go, he lays it on the line – I’m a total dogg, with no respect for women at all. If you ‘step into the ring’, you’re gonna lose your halo, baby. And if you come with me, knowing what a vicious cad I am, well, maybe you don’t respect yo’self either. From ‘Aint no Fun (if the homies can’t have none)’: ‘When I met you last night baby/ Before you opened up your gap/ I had respect for ya, lady/ But now I take it all back/ Cause you gave me all your pussy/And ya even licked my balls/ Leave your number on the cabin/ And I promise baby, I'll give ‘ya a call/ Next time I'm feelin’ kinda horny/ You can come on over, and I'll break you off/ And if you can't fuck, that day, baby/ Just lay back, and open your mouth/ ‘Cause I have never met a girl/ That I love/ in the whole wide world’. The lyrics show utter contempt for ‘her’, but at the same time, there’s four counteracting gestures: Snoop is honest about his bastardry, up front about his needs, willing to takes responsibility for the consequences and he’s conscious enough to mourn the fact that he can’t relate to women. By every measure, the Dogg is a more sensitive, responsible and mature adult than both Hayes and Buckley, who (like children), want to make a mess, not have to clean it up, and blame the other person for the scat lodged in the teeth of the fan. My mess, your fault… biyatch.

Now, compare Snoop to Phillip Ruddock, a man prepared not only to defend Snoop’s ban from Oz, but also to abandon David Hicks to five years of solitary confinement and torture, blame Hicks for his own predicament, then bend over and cop the $500,000 charge the US government wants to shaft Australian taxpayers with for flying the jihadi-tourist home, on the same day that he issues a statement saying he’s happy Hicks is home, and that he never really supported the US anyway. Yeah right. Nobody knows (and has approvingly enjoyed) the hilt of US power more than Ruddock. ‘Oooh, Bushie, what a fat, throbbing sword of Damocles you have. It’s so glistening, so… evil. Oooh, yeah, dangle it above our heads. Ooh, yeah, I like that.’ His disgusting little press conference was more or less the Liberal party equivalent of saying, ‘Aww, shit, pimpin’ ain’t easy… biyatch’. I’m gonna call it – Snoop Dogg, for all his pimping, dealing and hateful views, is a more humane and responsible adult than Hayes, Buckley or Ruddock – let him in, give him citizenship. Hell, give him a job… hey, maybe we can swap him for Ruddock? I’d like to see that – Snoop at the airport in a pimp suit giving a press conference, like ‘Yo, we had enough o’ this biyatch, fo’ shizzle’. And Ruddock in orange overalls, being herded onto a waiting plane full of CIA thugs, all eager to show him their extra special Dogg pound, the one with no windows. Oh dear, I think I’ve just gone too far.

© Peter Chambers 2007

Monday, May 14, 2007

The Errorist Disorganisation (versus the functional, preventative, security organization)

With all this talk of terrorism, it’s easy to forget that there are actually other, far more subversive, subtle and less destructive ways of fucking with people to get your point across. Ways that will blow them away, without ripping them apart. That will mess with their heads, without making a mess of their heads. In a world with so much destructive violence and confrontation, it’s important to try to think different. And that’s why it’s time to introduce the errorist.

What is an errorist?

Simple: an errorist is someone who uses error to get their message across. Think about the typical spaces where there are high concentrations of people: airports, train stations, nightclubs, shopping malls. In all these spaces, surveillance and security is used to pre-empt you. ‘No alarms and no surprises’ isn’t just the chorus to a sadsack Radiohead song, it’s also the new motto of security. When you go to a night club, they really were expecting you, you know? But it aint hospitality, lads and ladies. The whole structure of the nightclub is designed to anticipate any kind of misbehaviour –it forces you to behave a certain way by preventing you from behaving freely, at pain of bouncer, of staircase, and of footpath. That’s why most nightclubs are actually incredibly conservative, conformist places – try getting naked, try getting up on the speaker stack – you’ll be ejected. They’re not spaces of free expression, they’re spaces of permissive repression. The fact that a man was shot at the Viper Room and no-one noticed does not diminish the point. I’m talking about places where humans go. And this is where the errorist comes in.

Because any successful errorist understands that if you create direct, visible confrontation, then the goons will spot, block and toss you. Look at what happens every time the Chaser tries one of their corporate lobby appearances. The system knows how to deal with disturbances that directly confront it. But what the system can’t deal with is noise, error. That’s why you’re not allowed to joke about the contents at your luggage at the airport check-in counter. And that’s why it’s important to keep cracking that very joke. But not just that joke. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, should be to introduce errorism into every space where you can hear the melody to ‘No Surprises’ playing. Anywhere you see people being ‘alert, but not alarmed’, muck with their heads. Scramble them. But do it subtly. It doesn’t have to be ‘I’m Brian and so’s my wife’ to get the message across. Example: blokes, wear a skirt. Just a skirt. No no, I mean – with all your other regular clothes. You would be amazed how much this ruins people’s heads. Or women's perfume. Or sunglasses. You can think of better examples, be creative. The point in every case is not to create direct confrontation, just to make 'noise', create that wonderful cognitive dissonance. Do a redundance. Never ‘identify yourself’ – straddle the identifications. Get under their radar. Get up their skirt – but do it gently. Spray on the scene, like a glitchin' machine. Make them wonder whether it’s you, or just a tickling breeze, an ocean spray. In this day and age, with more and more of our shared spaces becoming infected with this whole bullshit security mentality, this gentle art is our best weapon.

Friday, May 11, 2007

I believe the children are our future (Jagerbomb them well and let them lead the way)

I promised myself I’d never let this one slip out, but it’s too good. I have this idea for a book, you see (followed by a film after I’ve sold the rights for millions). You bastards better not bite this one. The idea goes like this: two blokes sit down to nut out a better way to ‘do’ terrorism. Explosions? How very last year. Thinking backwards, the duo think about the ‘evil doers’, then wonder about how to find a method of destroying them, and only then – maximising the impact whilst minimising ‘collateral damage’. The idea they hit upon is genius (if I do say so myself). Poison the cocaine supply. But not just any poison either, ‘cos if it took effect immediately, the offending gear could be binned before any more than a few lusty nostrils became the dust-bringer of doom. No, this stuff would have a delayed effect, say, six months. Imagine who would fall victim…

But behind the fascinating victim list that would result from this calamity would be a simple motivating the idea that drove my two terrorists, namely that ‘bad people’ would be slain and ‘good people’ spared. It’s hardly a new thought – read through the book of Revelation and you’ll see: the apocalypse is basically a nightclub queue.
‘Sorry lads, private function tonight…’
‘Nah, I’m on Papa’s list… plus one’
‘How do you spell that?’
‘P-A-P-A… The Bishop assured me tha-’
‘Sorry mate, no papa here… I’ve never heard of the Bishit or whoever…’
‘Mate, I don’t wanna hear it. Don’t make this difficult…’

It’s exactly this idea, of sorting the ‘goodies’ from the ‘baddies’ which was behind the recent foiled attempt by a groups of zealots to blow up Ministry of Sound. As Jawad Akbar said of his thwarted plan, “No-one could turn around and say, ‘oh, they were innocent’, those slags dancing around.” Even London’s chief of police said more or less the same thing in a responding press conference: "If you have 2,000 'decadent' Western youngsters in a dance club on a Saturday night; drinking, drugs and sex are all in there," the London police chief told defence journal Janes Magazine in January 2005. "If some sort of organisation wants to target a location, what better place to put a bomb?" he warned.

But the question that hit me straight away was: are they the guilty ones? Can they even be guilty? What does it take to be guilty, guilty enough to be judged and killed? Well, in most places, you have to be an adult, and of sound mind and body. Only Americans in some states kill people with mental disabilities, and Rumsfeld’s controversial plan to torture and publicly electrocute ‘young punks’ as young as ten never made it past the first round of discussions. But aside from the violent, sadistic excesses of some US states, if you’re a child, if you’re intellectually handicapped, or if you’re criminally insane, it diminishes your responsibility. It’s not to say that you ‘didn’t do it’, just that you have less control over your actions, and punishment is adjusted (or waived) accordingly.

Now think about what it means to be in the Ministry of Sound. Really think. Could you honestly be considered a ‘responsible adult’ and even want to go there? I’m not just being flippant, I mean it: in a very real way, there’s no way you can say that you’re acting and behaving as a responsible adult AND be wanting to wiggle at the MoS. This becomes true from the age of eighteen, but it is also a truth which intensifies as the years roll by. We’ve seen the sad-cases with our own eyes: a forty year-old who’s at Revolver on a Sunday could be said to be in every way infinitely more childish than a twenty year old taking their first tentative steps into the world of ‘slags’, ‘fags’ and amphetamine-enhanced folly. Hasn’t our generation witnessed the final collapse of child and adult into a juvenile heap? Children are becoming more adult, true, but adults are also becoming more childish, more childlike. Our whole culture is infantilised, we are all ‘his majesty the baby’ turning our lives into a series of impossible demands, tantrums and endless attempts to defer responsibility, defer adulthood, pretend we’re still carefree and that there are no consequences to our actions. Adults? Show me one. I don’t know any under the age of fifty. Basically, it’s as simple as this: where there are Jagerbombs, there are no adults. So how could you bomb them?

Friday, May 04, 2007

The Rebirth of Fool (Foolsies: a user’s guide)

“Beware,” I tell you, “he’s a foolsie.”
A foolsie is not an idiot. Foolsie is unto fool as ‘tricksies’ is unto Gollum, geddit? Foolsies can infiltrate friendship groups, spoil relationships, ruin lives and defile bed linen. If foolsies sound awful, well, that’s ‘cos they are – but you can stop a foolsie, if you know how to spot one. But how can you spot one? Basically, a foolsie is your typical male chauvinist pig, or at least, these remain his core values. The difference between a foolsie and a fool is in the veneer – like the superior shapeshifting ‘T-1000’ in Terminator 2, foolsies are clever enough to have developed elaborate ‘cloaking devices’, and can thus blend in. At the bar, in polite conversation, the foolsie always seems like ‘one of us’, no matter who that ‘us’ might be. He might wear Nudie downpipes, vintage Wayfarers (real vintage, not retro!), a Ksubi t-shirt and a ‘Make Poverty History’ bracelet. He might use ‘product’ and be able to tell you about his cleansing, toning and moisturising regime in lurid detail. He might be au fait with being recognised as outwardly metrosexual, or even pleasingly ‘just gay enough’. But make no mistake, none of these things are an expression of his being sensitive and in tune with himself and the needs of women. Beneath all the skin and jewellery, he’s the same asshole he always was. He might appear at home in his own skin, but that’s only ever because he wants a piece of yours (and not just any piece, either). This guy doesn’t just want a pound of flesh, or to pound the flesh – the punchline rolls in three years later, three years too late, when you realise that he set out with no intention but to fool you. Had you, didn’t he? That’s it, you see – everything, the whole elaborate routine – just to fool you. The joy of utter contempt. Not just to pull the wool over your eyes, but to deal you and your self-esteem the mental equivalent of a turkey slap. To the foolsie, the mindfuck is the sweetest of all sweets.

Foolsies are necessarily difficult to spot. Unlike vampires (and their nocturnal habits) or witches (with their wigs and spit), foolsies could be anyone. Hell, maybe your dad’s one… but never fear, in some cases there are telltale signs. Some foolsies emerge from a background they’re trying to define themselves against – meet his friends and family and you might see what I mean. Or when you say something ‘off the cuff’ and you glimpse deep, magmatic violence flashing across his eyes, cross-reference that against the Saturday you met his ‘mates’ and remember how they talked about other people to each other – when you weren’t supposed to be listening. Investigate. The way he laughs, really laughs (high-pitched devilish laughter) while watching the Footy Show. His garage, full of free weights, FHM, Jessica Simpson posters and a collection of bowie knives… But no – the most terrifying fact for any of you out on the town looking for love is that only the most careless foolsie will leave his toys lying around, or let you hear how his boys talk about you when you’re not there. And actually, a lot of foolsies are characterised by the fact that, well, there’s nothing exceptional or unusual about them. They’re just your average pig. They really are. You’ve just got to see through the stage props, people – ‘cos if there’s one thing a foolsie can’t operate without, it’s his ruse. See past the ‘stuff’ and you’ve spotted the dick. That’s all you’ve got to do. Remember, a pig who moisturises is no less a pig for having soft, supple skin.

The Author

[almost nothing] about me

My photo
PC is an animal of the antipodes believed to be related to a gibbon.