Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The Manchurian Incident and the Alien Act

Eighty-one years ago today, a Japanese Lieutenant set a dynamite charge on the tracks of a Japanese-controlled railway in Manchuria, in Northern China.  The act, blamed on the Chinese, was a successful attempt to initiate sino-Japanese war by the Japanese Kwantung Army.  The army had to an extent gone rogue, engaging in militant acts intended to provoke a Chinese response, and was about to be disciplined by the leadership from Tokyo when it chose to take matters into its own hands by manufacturing Chinese resistance.  This is known as the Manchurian Incident or the Mukden Incident.  What followed was more than a decade of Japanese occupation of and violence against China, including the most brutal single incident in all of World War II, the Rape of Nanking.

Note that I say Nanking was singular in its brutality, not in the number of people it killed.  The statistical honors might go to the Holocaust of eastern European Jewry, or to the atomic bombs dropped on Japan by the United States, or maybe even to the firebombing of Dresden by the English.  What's remarkable about Nanking, and what it shares with the Mukden incident that paved the way for it, is the completely uncontrolled and undisciplined nature of Japanese military action.

Perhaps this is the real threat Mukden and Nanking hold for Japanese popular imagination, the reason there has yet to be a collective national reconciliation with the legacy of the war, nearly a full century and several generations later - a phenomenon whose very narrow manifestations in popular music I've documented.   Perhaps it's not the evil of these acts that's so threatening, but the fact that they are out of character.  Certainly, the Germans killed all those Jews, but they did it with a characteristic German efficiency that can be recouped - they may have done something wrong, but they were still German.

Japan's war crimes, though, defied every treasured stereotype of Japanese unity, the concepts so often propagated, not just in the West but within Japan itself, of a 'hive-like' 'oriental' mentality, of collectivism, self-sacrifice, and humility.  In Mukden, low-ranking officers took it up on themselves to undermine the plans of their leaders, including implicitly the Emperor.  In Nanking, enlisted men ran wild, raping, pillaging, and murdering in endlessly creative ways.  These were not strong Japanese collective actions gone awry - they were actions deriving from some other root, something alien and awry, something that, whether deeply human or deeply perverse, were surely not 'Japanese.'  They cannot be recouped, explained, or folded into a narrative of evolution.  For those who believe in the uniqueness of the Japanese spirit, they can only be denied, repressed, dismissed.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Announcing New Student Travel Award, NCA, Human Communication and Technology Division

Via Bree McEwan, Western Illinois University:

The Human Communication and Technology Division is pleased to announce an opportunity for two (possibly three) graduate student travel scholarships ($200-$250) for travel to the National Communication Association 2012 convention in Orlando, FL. Interested communication graduate students are invited to send a cover letter and vitae requesting support by October 5, 2012. Requests will be evaluated by officers of the HCTD according to the following criteria: 1) Current enrollment as a graduate student in a recognized communication program in higher education; 2) Acceptance of a paper on technology and communication for presentation at the 2012 NCA; 3) Evidence of ongoing scholarly engagement with technology and communication issues; and 4) Travel distance to Orlando, FL. Students receiving the awards will be notified before the Convention, but award checks will be issued either during or after the Convention. Officers of the HCTD are ineligible for this travel scholarship. Please e-mail requests to Bree McEwan at HCTDofNCA@gmail.com on or before October 5, 2012.

Michelle Goldberg on Paul Ryan

"The modern right's combination of economic libertarianism and social authoritarianism only makes sense if, every time you hear the word 'individual,' you substitute 'individual white male.'"

-(from this interview: http://soundcloud.com/fun-2-know-1/pacifica-radios-behind-the)

Friday, September 14, 2012

State of Place

An interesting thing I spotted - a geographer (by trade, though I'm not sure of her degree/background) who left the academy to start a 'space consulting' small business, called State of Place, to advise cities and urban planners.  Someone needs to get her to come to Tampa and do a Hell's Kitchen-style intervention on the sprawling disaster of this city.


Thursday, September 13, 2012

IT'S OUT! Blown Horizonz: Incidental Notes on Psychedelic Noise, Abstract Rap, and Other Music That Will End Your Mind

Note: I'm now blogging at Blownhorizonz.com.  It's more attractive, and it focuses more on cool stuff like music and fiction.  Check it out!

It's coming, it's coming, it's hereCollecting over a decade worth of writing about mind-boggling sound, Blown Horizonz strips away the insignificant fuzz and takes you to the deep dark places where music can remake you, remake us, remake our whole society into something bigger, weirder, and more free.

I feel like out of all of the press I've received for this record, that your review is the first one to truly understand where I was coming from and what I was trying to accomplish.
-Dylan Ettinger

Enclosed please find a check representing the payment for your piece selected for Best Music Writing 2010. On behalf of Daphne Carr and all of us at Da Capo, I want to express our deep regret that necessity unfortunately required that your piece be cut from the collection.
-Jonathan Crowe, Editor, Da Capo Press.

Noise is the imperfection that shows us that the world doesn’t have to be the way anyone tells us. Because what is perfect is dead - If some bit of studio-processed pop manages to have a spark of actual artistic life, it is a fluke, a monstrosity, an inexplicable anomaly. The sunzabitches even managed eventually to get the vibrational frequency of ‘grunge’ into a studio processing unit and started making songs in which the distortion sounded careful and clean. It always happens, capitalism recouping some pretty and successful version of a chaotic failure that initially captured attention by being spectacularly WRONG and exciting everyone thereby.

I have witnessed on record and in life an ethical noise, an aesthetic refusal of what we are told to call ourselves, new tribes traveling nomadic routes that short-circuit convention. They were able to do what they wanted and face uncertainty and not panic, which to me seemed as magical and unlikely as Clint Eastwood gunslingers facing down imminent murder without blinking. As much as I’d looked for the darkness, I still carried with me and maybe always will a certain suburban-normal fear of instability, and I looked at the way they lived and I envied it but didn’t feel it was mine to have. I imagined into them some sort of purer unmediated relationship with experience and desire. I wanted that noise to enter the substance of my life, but I could not let go of what was clean and safe.

When something appears simple and clear we are easily deceived into thinking we understand it, and as soon as we are thus deceived we might as well be dead. Confidence and clarity are the end of change and possibility. Noise presents us with an impenetrable barrier and tells us only that we must confront that blank wall and make sense of it ourselves. What we find when we truly face the irrational is inevitably some version of ourselves and what we believe and what we want, truer than what we ever could have seen if we’d been staring at a crystalline Technicolor projection of another person’s dream.

Noise is the sound of not knowing the future, of not needing or wanting anything. Noise takes us to Interzone, to interrogate the black meat, to ask questions about just what is this world we live in, and how can we or should we change it. It forces us to think about change because it shows us that anything Anything ANYTHING is possible. When we confront the blank barrier of the unknowable, the absence of order and meaning, we can admit that we know nothing.

Blown Horizonz is available FREE in a variety of formats from Smashwords for the next week (9/13-9/20). 

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Sneak Peek: Blown Horizonz Cover

This is preliminary (and I'm hoping it'll be eventually replace by something done by an actual professional) but I'd say for now it's looking pretty solid.  Feedback welcome!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

At In Media Res: Sonoda Kenji's The Sakura of Madness

This week, as part of hip hop cinema week at In Media Res, I've curated a few clips from the infinitely interesting Japanese film Kyouki no Sakura.  You can catch the clips and my commentary here.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Beall's List of Predatory, Open-Access Publishers

There was a time when you just got solicitations for turning your master's thesis into a poorly-edited vanity press book.  Now you can get trolled for a conference presentation and bait-and-switched into a page fee in the several hundred dollar range.  This list of predatory journals might help you avoid a serious waste of time . . .

Beall's List

Mass Media: Enemy or Tool? Workshop video from Food Not Bombs World Gathering

Enjoy the lush view of my backside as I talk about media structure and how opposition media workers can use it for their own ends.  Things get interesting towards the end when Vermin Supreme drops by!

Monday, September 3, 2012