Sunday, February 13, 2011

Roll, Dream, Roll, Dream

Although I'm enjoying it, I'm also finding Patti Smith's Just Kids slightly saddening. Although part of it is that I once saw her play live with someone I regret not knowing as well as I did then, it's more than that. What was so wonderful about seeing her play live is the enthusiasm she is able to pass undiluted and to the crowd as a whole for the possibilities of what is basically fairly uncomplicated rock music. You hear Because The Night, and not just that, and you're fiercely certain and celebratory of your joys and your entitlements to them, all of you all together all at once. I saw Rage Against The Machine at the height of their powers and my vulnerability to that kind of thing, I saw The Pixies play when I thought my chance had been and gone nearly a decade before I knew I was missing it, but Patti Smith on the site of a derelict steelworks by the shores of the Mediterreanan is I think easily the best gig I've ever been to.

What's clear from the book is that the sense of the world's openness to youth and energy and a commitment to them she manages to invoke in and with her audiences has structured her whole life. She went to New York and slept rough because that's where she wanted to be and was sure it'd work out in the end; she worked shit jobs in shit places and didn't eat to buy art supplies; she upped sticks and moved into the Chelsea Hotel with Robert Mapplethorpe when he was sick having no idea how they'd pay the rent. It's not that she's sure that the world'll accommodate itself to her - far from it - but rather that she's sure that she can bear the costs of whatever battles she has to fight and that they'll be worth bearing. In the end, the capacity of a kind of democratic, egalitarian wonder at the world to make something beautiful of the sacrifices it has to make in order to win out give it a real courage and resilience. Its openness makes it almost unbreakable. The sad thing about that, of course, is how difficult it is to replicate.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Religion As A Lifestyle Choice

Despite being well aware that Italy is Italy and that not all observant Catholics observe all the parts of Catholic doctrine, this is still pretty shocking. Not that the case against Berlusconi for paying an underage prostitute and then abusing his authority to cover it up is being fast-tracked: crusading magistrates are a familiar part of the Italian political scene, though you might worry about the sustainability of their attempts to constrain the efficacy of popular decisions about who rules. Rather, and related to the concern about the clash between legal and more directly democratic procedures, it's that a

survey by the weekly Famiglia Cristiana showed only half of observant Roman Catholics were critical of his behaviour.

This isn't a little bit of marital breakdown where sympathy for those who've at least tried to make a go of it might soften judgments, nor is it all Italians, many of whom might describe themselves as Catholic without really ever attending mass. This is observant Catholics making judgments on - and this is only the sexual behaviour - orgies with hookers. Is there some part of orgies with hookers they didn't understand?

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Pretty Straight Guys

Apparently, the head of an authoritarian, corrupt, torturing regime which happens to be useful to us is no longer a sonofabitch, but our sonofabitch. Instead, they are "immensely courageous and a force for good". I suppose it's typical of Blair's massive solipsism that he cannot differentiate between what is on the most charitable reading, the very unfortunately necessary evil of Hosni Mubarak, and the individuals willing to sacrifice everything in order to bring an injustice to light you would typically describe as 'immensely courageous'. It's not as if ordering your security services to shoot unarmed protestors against your autocratic rule displays the same sort of deep commitment to human dignity that, say, protesting against that regime, knowing the risks you're running, does. Everyone has a tendency to claim that what they want is in fact what's morally required, but in Blair it seems to have been elevated to a principle of statecraft.