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Showing posts with label Guest Blog. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Guest Blog. Show all posts

Sunday, October 15, 2006


J-pop band Zone

The appeal of ZONE isn't difficult to explain: girls with guitars. This simple, retardedly awesome premise lies behind much of the popularity of Shonen Knife, the 5 6 7 8's, and uh...in a different genre, Sleater-Kinney and L7. But the one thing uniting those fairly disparate bands is that they're all - to a greater or lesser extent - PUNK.*

Friday, October 13, 2006

John Fowles - The French Lieutenant's Woman

Book cover of French Lieutenant's Woman
I'm not a fan of Victorian fiction. I find the obsessive, minute focus on provincial social conventions to be both myopic and irrelevant, the prose ponderous, and the structures pat and formulaic. Some people like this sort of thing; they're often the same sort who think James Ivory was a significant director. I could argue that much modern interest in Victorian fiction is as much a genre-interest as something like Tolkien-derivative fantasy (and indeed, both genres in their prime rely on three-volume works, the Victorian three-decker novel and the modern-fantasy trilogy), but I'll try to stay on topic. So, I have to hand it to John Fowles - in this book, he makes the Victorian era seem interesting and exciting. True, there's the completely idle upper-class toffs, servants and 'upstairs-downstairs' drama, and depressing Anglocentrism that generally produce reader despair, but Fowles looks on all this with a cocked (if often nostalgic) eye. And, his writing is incredibly technically strong - not only in the prose itself, but in his sense of construction, the way he points at the seams of his own novel - but not to excuse any rips in them, rather to keep you paying attention.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

The Mars Volta

When I was in my late teens, casting around for new music to listen to (this was the golden age of Napster, when you could find anything, and people's tastes were expanding), I started getting into 70's progressive rock. Now, prog has a bad reputation - it's considered uncool and unlistenable by the mainstream media, appreciable only ironically. But my average mix tape contains Norwegian black metal, Japanese girl-pop, Chinese rap, and underground U.S. noise bands, so I could give a fuck less what the mainstream media thinks. The prog bands looked serious, like they cared enough to give their music unconventional themes, arrangements, time signatures, and song titles. They wrote multi-part suites, invented the concept album (as a distinct entity, not a vague muddle like Sgt. Pepper), brought in orchestras (ELO), dabbled in jazz, maxed out the solos. They had outside influences, like film and literature and fantasy and technology. In short, they were trying to keep it new.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Morning Musume: Tool of Nationalism?

Morning Musume

So I was catching up on my 1930's Japanese history the other day and something struck me: 'Morning Daughters' sounds suspiciously like one of the wartime Patriotic Women's groups that sent their sons and young husbands off to the front for the glory of the Yamato race.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Donald Barthelme - '60 Stories'

Book cover of Sixty Stories by Donald Barthelme

Donald Barthelme is not afraid to be stupid. If you're expecting to open this book, read it from start to finish, and for there to be recognizeable characters and epiphanies and 'human dilemmas' and other sorts of things you've come to expect from 'literary fiction', then you're going in with the wrong mindset. No, serious. It's not just nonlinearity. Sometimes Barthelme's writing is retarded. You can see it trying to be funny and failing, or just plain showing off, dropping names. But then, just as you're about to put the book aside, Barthelme will toss off some random, memorable line or image.

Let me give you an example, from the story "The Party" :

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Malice Mizer

Malice Mizer

I have to give Malice Mizer* credit: they pulled off something that, while derivative in certain respects, still manages to be a singularity in J-music. Even given the existence of visual-kei like Dir en grey, Pierrot, and the rest, Malice Mizer still feel significant, untouchable. At their best, there's not much like them musically, and their sense of style is unmatched. Given that most J-artists can be at least given Western touchstones if not outright counterparts (ex. Kim Wilde for Nanase Aikawa, Madonna for Ayu, any R&B ever for Amuro), Malice Mizer actually come off better than anything in their genre in the West; better at embodying, ironically enough, traditionally Western Romantic elements.

Now, this might seem like a contentious statement. A bunch of dragged-up doom kids in monk's robes, dresses, and powdered wigs? An androgynous vocalist and mute guitarist? French song titles? 'Classical' instrumentation? Videos shot in churches, filled with crosses, naked women, and comedy blood and gore? On paper, it sounds a few amps short of a Spinal Tap joke. This is, after all, the kind of band who namecheck the Illuminati and dress their bassist in lederhosen.

But a closer look - especially at the music - reveals greater complexity. Sure, they're gothic. But in what manner? Are they like Joy Division? The Cure? Cradle of Filth? Bauhaus? Cabaret Voltaire? X-Japan? (God help us) AFI? The answer is both none and all of the above, because Malice Mizer managed that rare thing: they pulled off a successful synthesis while simultaneously not quite resembling anything that had gone before, in either East or West.

Friday, September 01, 2006

World Guide to Japanese Literature

Maybe I'm asking too much of Salon.com, but I hoped for something more in their literary guide to Japan. I shouldn't have been surprised, really, to find the entire article consisting of cliches:

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Nanase Aikawa

Old school action. Nanase Aikawa was big in the mid-90's; she had kind of a 'tough' reputation (okay, this is relative 'tough' for what we're talking about here) and considered herself a serious rock singer. Marty Friedman from Megadeth also joined her crew and wrote a bunch of wanky guitar solos for her. (Remember him from the 'Rust in Peace' album? With that Hangar 18 song? No? Uhh...well...)

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Moon Kana ムーン香奈

"KANA is a fairy that lives in the forest, sings about humans, and makes stuffed animals and clothes. The forest is in space, on Saturn. Her hair color changes depending on the season and her mood. "

Friday, August 11, 2006

Yumiko Kurahashi's The Woman With The Flying Head and Other Stories

This message is an urgent one, to alert you of something you, and the world, needs to know about:

A writer of great importance and originality, as yet more or less unknown -

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Screaming Fields of Sonic Love

I was lucky enough to see Sonic Youth live when they came to Fremantle two years ago, and me, my friend Tim, and about a hundred other people were able to witness the legendary New York band's characteristic mix of songcraft and noise. SY was one of the bands that during my high school years showed me that you could do a lot more with guitars than just produce generic riffs and chord changes, a revelation which inspired me to form my own band. Following their example (and that of Big Black, Xiu Xiu, Mogwai, and numerous others) I soon became obsessed with wringing as many kinds of noise and feedback from anything I could find, be it guitar, bass, turntables, or even found objects and improvised instruments.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Monday, June 05, 2006

Singapore Airlines

Well, Swifty has failed massively in his efforts to update this blog. There hasn't been new material for what, two weeks or so? Sensing this dire situation, I am taking it upon myself to post whatever I damn well please. Instead of trying to form my thoughts into coherent-theme-based entries, I will post whatever comes to my mind. For example, drugs are awesome and all orthodox religious traditions are stupid.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

20th Century Japanese Literature in Grade School Terms

20th Century Japanese Literature is often considered an impenetrable morass of nature poetry, vague description, and suicidal authors. In order to improve on this reputation and open these works up to a wider audience, we undertook an intensive program - and after months of study, we discovered that the most prominent authors (including two Nobel Prize winners) could best be understood in terms of a grade school class. This intensive research has infallibly determined that all of the writers mentioned below pretty much conform to the simplistic stereotypes I’ve reduced them to, both physically and in terms of their writing.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

The Obscure Cynical-Idealist reviews Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell in Swifty's absence

Now that the Great Swifty has briefly left the midst of our blogosphere, it is my duty to follow after the Great Kamigoroshi's footsteps and guestblog on the Great Swifty's online abode.

Oh, but who am I to speaketh on the gloriously beautiful pages of this blog?

I, am none other than the ever humble fencetop lover, the one who has gladly sunk into obscurity in search of inner peace, the one and only Cynical-Idealist.

Okay, flowery language aside, I'm not here to spam this blog and whore mine, although my link is up there just in case no one remembers me. I've come to sing praises of a book.

I've just finished reading Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, Susanna Clarke's first ever novel and currently a well-acclaimed bestseller. I've had such a delightful time reading it that I've decided to kickstart my guestblogging here by reviewing this book.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

The Bumper Book of Completely Useless Japanese Inventions

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It's not often that I feel a book is important enough to give it above-the-line review status. Some of my favorite novels of recent times didn't make it, so I couldn't think of what else would. But that was before I read The Bumper Book of unUseless Japanese Inventions.

Monday, November 14, 2005


Hello, my name is Michael Peterson, and I was invited to guestblog here at "The Great Swifty Speaketh," because Justin and Swifty have both sold out, making them irrelevant in the internet community. Because on the internet, we value things that are INDY. If you didn"t like them before they were cool, then your opinion is without merit! Only conforming to Ape Law will let you live amongst the tribe! I have been brought in to save this site from its Timberlake-lovin" self. "Bring me 50 cc"s of Patchwork," Swifty said, and I was rushed in on a makeshift crash cart, still in my bath robe.

See, I am still INDY. I have known Justin since long before he was cool – he was, in fact, a slack-jawed convenience store employee who walked amongst the internet unwashed, like Christ in his early years. What"s more, you know for a fact that I am truly INDY because I shun the love of women. Right, Indy Rock Pete?