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Something to read: Momus speaks to The Quietus, on topics ranging from his past career and future projects to the role of the artist and the value of art in the digital age, and the question of Scottish independence:
I think a common theme is "aggression against normality", from the left wing terrorists in The Happy Family album through the Maoist intellectuals and fake homosexuals of Tender Pervert, the baby-hating, doppelganger-haunted narrators of Ping Pong, right up to the eccentric 'Thunderclown' on the new album, my characters don't accept the world as it is. The corollary is that they respect otherness, and try to model other ways of living: parallel worlds. I think of this as basically a (post-Christian) Calvinist mindset.
While I'm happy to see the Postcard era recognised - it was genuinely a very exciting and magical time - I think the whole problem for pop music now is that it's become paralysed with respect for its past. We're crushed by the archive, and every edition of Mojo magazine (a sad catalogue of the achievements of the geriatric and the dead) makes it harder for the young to break away and create genuinely new forms of popular music. I don't have strong feelings about The Happy Family archive. We weren't as good as Josef K.
I identify as a Scot, very much. When I'm in Japan and they ask where I'm from, I always say "Scotland", not "Britain". I'd like to see Scotland independent, because we have different politics and a different culture from the English. I wouldn't like to see it become twee, navel-gazing and trivial, though. I hope an independent Scotland would really respect its artists. I'd like to see a cosmopolitanism, an orientation towards Europe and Asia rather than the States, and a kind of new Scottish Enlightenment like the one we had in the 18th Century. Adopt the euro, become a republic, dump the royals, embrace socialism fearlessly!In other news, Momus is tutoring an online course in songwriting, starting in April. At £55, it looks like a steal.
Various famous singletons write in the Independent about the joys of being single:
There are great advantages to being single - last night I stayed up all night playing computer games with a mate (and I had no girlfriend to come in and complain), and I know I always have the option of sitting around and eating biscuits all day. I've been single now for a couple of years and the best thing about it is that there are no rules to my life.
Having said that, last year I went on 120 dates as research for one of my shows, and I really enjoyed it. It was crazy but huge fun, and I discovered a love of dating. Even though I emerged from the whole experience still single, I have a far better "single" life now. I think people in Britain don't date properly - we are too scared of dating, and it should be separated from the notion of partner-hunting. It's more fun that way - and an even bigger surprise when you find someone who is right for you.
Today is Hallmark Day, um, Valentine's Day, but tomorrow is the as yet mercifully uncommercialised Singles Awareness Day, for the snarkyalone in all of us.
The goal of Singles Awareness Day is to let singles have celebrations, get-togethers, etc. and to exchange gifts with their single friends. The awareness day was established by single people who were just sick of feeling left out on Valentine's Day, and support of the day is growing every year.
Suggested activities for this day are sending yourself flowers, planning parties for other singles to mix and meet and to participate in some sort of single's event. This is especially recommended if you don't WANT to be single. Of course, for those who kind of like being single it's a blessing and a reason to have some fun!
Originally, most singles referred to February 14 as Single's Awareness Day (acronym: SAD) until it just became too depressing! Choosing the next day allowed single people a chance to turn this into a celebration rather than a festival of self-pity or whatever they were doing before. It seems like a refreshing change of pace to know that you can survive Valentine's Day and move on to YOUR day, doesn't it?(Not to be confused with Shingles Awareness Day.)
Apparently, next week is National Singles Week, an event to highlight the growing proportion of the population that is uncoupled, dispel myths about all singletons being desperately unhappy, and push for the government to reform laws that penalise people for being single. (Note: this is the British government; the Australian government firmly believes in the absolute supremacy of the nuclear family and is as likely to look favourably on alternatives as it is to sign the Kyoto protocol or start inviting controversial art-house filmmakers to screen their wares on its relaxed and comfortable shores.)
About 48 per cent of the adult population is now single, and by 2010 more than 40 per cent of households are expected to be occupied by single people.
(Is this one-person households? Being uncoupled I can understand, though I can't imagine 40% of households in Britain being occupied by people who can afford to live alone. Not unless they redefine bedrooms as separate households or somesuch.)
The survey, timed to coincide with National Singles Week, which begins on Monday, found that 82 per cent of those questioned said that being single gave them "an opportunity to try new life experiences" and 89 per cent said that travelling alone "boosted their confidence" and allowed them to be more spontaneous and adventurous.
"There are disadvantages to being single. Apart from some financial ones, there are social ones as some couples think of single people as predatory and many older single people are lonely," Ms Knowles said.
Just in time for Valentine's Day: virtual girlfriends for sale on eBay; i.e., for a fee, someone will pretend to be your absentee girlfriend, and hopefully make you look and/or feel like less of a pathetic loser. (Because, as everybody knows: having a girlfriend/boyfriend is essential to being a valid human being.) (via TechDirt)
Q: What did Socrates, Charles Darwin, William Butler Yeats and Andy Warhol have in common? A: Asperger's Syndrome or other autism-related conditions, or so Professor Michael Fitzgerald of Dublin's Trinity College claims in a new book.
He said: "Asperger's syndrome provides a plus - it makes people more creative.
"This is typical of people with the condition. They don't fit in, are odd and eccentric and relate poorly with others. Most are bullied at school, as Yeats was." And yet, said the professor, Yeats went on to prove that he had a hugely vivid imagination while remaining socially aloof - both classic signs of Asperger's.
"It proves that we should accept eccentrics and be tolerant of them," he said. "The nation is pushed forward by engineers, mathematicians and scientists."
Several questions arise: (a) how much correlation there is between eccentricity, creativity and autism-related disorders, (b) if the majority of innovators have a certain condition, and do so across all human societies, is it still a "disorder" or "syndrome" or merely a different biological subtype (much like insect castes), perhaps even one that is evolutionarily programmed to appear in a certain proportion of the population (by the expedient that ancestral populations that had the genes for it being so were more successful than ones which didn't)? (via FmH)
A Spiked article on the epiphenomenon of people putting off "growing up"; from twenty- and thirty-somethings dressing as candy-raver kids, collecting stuffed toys and retro playthings and reliving an idealised second-time-around adolescence at institutions like "School Disco", to "boomerang kids" moving back in with their aging parents.
The reinterpretation of personal commitment as a risk represents a health warning to anyone foolish enough to desire passionate engagement. The equation of love with risk is fuelled by a tendency to accommodate to the problems experienced by adults in their relationships. One pragmatic response to this state of affairs is to declare that the expectations that we have of intimate relationships is unrealistic. 'Be careful, you may get hurt' is a message that reflects the temper of our times. The anxieties that surround relationships have encouraged many adults to avoid or at least to postpone thinking about making a commitment to others.
Meanwhile, those who do move out of home are largely choosing to live alone, rather than in de-facto relationships:
The rise of the singleton appears to be a global phenomenon, impacting on industrial societies throughout the world. Back in 1950, about three per cent of the population of Europe and North America lived alone. Since that time, virtually every industrial country has seen a massive rise in the number of single-person households. In Britain, seven million adults live alone - three times as many as 40 years ago. The 2002 edition of Social Trends estimated that by 2020, one-person households will constitute 40 percent of the total number of households.
(I lived with my parents (in
Ferntree Gully the outer darkness) until my mid-20s, using the money I saved to buy music gear, CDs imported books and other extravagances. Then I fled the suburbs, and (other than a brief stint in a sharehouse), have been living by myself. I have yet to meet anyone I fancy enough to want to live with (let alone buy real estate with). I guess this trend means that I'm not weird, just ahead of the curve.)
Some are saying that "extended adolescence" lasts until one turns 35; though if you're over that age, fear not, as you have another 10 years of "middlescence". (And once the hip GenX "middlescents" reach 45, they'll surely come up with another term for 45-to-55s who spend their lives at play.) And TV shows and movies are idealising being young or young-at-heart; being grown-up (at least in a sincere sense) is unhip.
Though is that really so pathological? Should people move out of home at 18, get married and have children in their early 20s, get a serious job, wear their hair at an appropriate length and spend their money on paying off the 5-bedroom suburban dream home as God/Nature/John Howard intended, rather than on PlayStations and backpacking trips to Thailand and Hello Kitty knickknacks and iPods and CDs and Cooper Minis and futurephones and ironic Dangerfield argyle jumpers? Or is the traditional definition of adulthood itself unnatural, a construct of the Industrial Revolution/the Victorian Era/the Calvinist work ethic?
A reportedly brilliant Canadian physicist with bipolar disorder is fighting a court case to prevent psychiatrists from forcibly medicating him. Scott Starson asserts that forcible medication would slow his thinking, dull his inspiration and make him appear disoriented, and that that he would rather be locked up for life than medicated. The psychiatrists, however, don't see it that way. Starson was committed to a mental institution after threatening a neighbour.
"Being 'normal' would be worse than death for me, because I have always considered normal to be a term so boring it would be like death," he remarked bitterly during one hearing.
(Amen to that.)
Mr. Starson, who repeatedly insisted that he be called "Professor Starson" and that the word "if" not be used in questioning him, said he is confident that he will prevail. Breaking off a train of thought involving moon-walking astronauts, his claim to have invented the modular telephone and his plans for a team of 200 lawyers scattered worldwide, Mr. Starson addressed his case: "Here, I'm basically dealing with the bottom of your species," he said. "Your species deals with force so much. Force is not the way science operates. And the worst religion on the planet is psychiatry."
America's last travelling freak show is about to close its doors. While there once were hundreds of sideshows in America, they are now an institution in decline, for various reasons. Retiring attractions are not being replaced as medical technology improves, television and tabloids have taken the place of freak shows in the public eye, and the institutions have also fallen victim of changing public morés (from the political incorrectness of staring at the differently challenged to the fact that you can see "tattooed ladies" and more walking down any street these days). Still, some of the "freaks" lament the passing of this institution, and scorn the desirability of being "normal":
"Thank God as a young boy I saw someone sticking a nail up their nose, or I would have a terrible life,'' said Apocalypse as he pulled a cigarette out of a metal Band-Aid tin. "You want to see a freak show? A guy sitting in a cubicle, staring into a computer all day, typing until he gets carpal tunnel syndrome, with a 'thank God it's Friday' coffee mug sitting on his desk. There's your freak show.''
Amen to that. (via bOING bOING)
Scientists in Sydney have developed a device which increases creativity through magnetic stimulation of the brain. My reactions: (a) I want one, then (b) if it ever makes it to market, it'll probably be banned worldwide; the effects of millions of people becoming unpredictable creatives could be too economically destabilising to allow.
(Insert topical Morrissey lyric here) The institution of marriage, once nigh-mandatory for all not sworn to religious solitude, is in decline; according to Peter McDonald of the Australian National University, one in four young people today will never marry, mostly out of choice. This is partly because of the trend towards postponement of marriage; however, even counting de facto relationships, long-term coupling is also in decline.
Professor McDonald said coupling trends in Australia had changed drastically but had now settled and were expected to stay put. This allowed the ANU to estimate Australia's future marital make-up. "It's extremely unlikely we'll go back to the extremely early marriages that we had in the '50s and '60s, when women were married as teenagers, which is pretty amazing now," he said. "People just got married, very often, to the first person they went out with. They didn't think about it very much. These days, people often have several partners before they get married."
That probably won't stop our back-to-the-1950s federal politicos; how much do you want to bet that tax breaks towards early marriage (i.e., punitive taxation for single people) or some similar social engineering scheme will be floated in Federal Parliament...
Pinkness and horror: Just saw a piece in the local murdoch complaining about the anti-mainstream bias in the media; about how this bias means that much-loved Australian crooner John Farnham gets very little radio play despite topping the sales charts, and how arts correspondents have little to say about Australian national storyteller Bryce Courtenay, whilst presenting lunatic-fringe culture like rap and grunge. I found it amusing.
`Nerverts' redux: The complex interplay between the hacker/geek culture and non-traditional sexuality: (Salon)
[Richard Stallman] says he has never had a monogamous sexual relationship, and he's also observed that programmers tend to favor polyamorous or non-monogamous relationships more than people in other jobs... he recognizes that the unconventional choices he has made as a software engineer are analogous to the choices he's made in his romantic life as well. "I believe in love, but not monogamy," he says plainly.
Deirdre Saoirse, a former employee of Linuxcare and founder of a Bay Area users group for people who use the Python scripting language, feels strongly that people involved in open source can be just as conservative and closed-minded as any other part of the population. "Some of my female and/or queer and/or transgendered friends have felt very out of place in the Linux community," she says emphatically. "I've seen a lot of sexism and not a lot of openness to alternative lifestyles among the community as a whole, even in the Bay Area."
Sounds like the Slashdot locker-room where "gay" is a pejorative they sling at Microsoft. --acb
"Geeks are introverts, we read a lot of science fiction, and we have bizarre socialization," says Muffy Barkocy, a non-monogamous bisexual working with Apache and Perl at Egreetings.com. She believes that a geek's stereotypical lack of socialization encourages a more experimental sexual life. "Because of our lack of socialization, we don't learn about the monogamous imperative. It just doesn't occur to us."
All-too-realistic Onion article: Columbine Jocks Safely Resume Bullying
Cameras were installed on school grounds, enabling authorities to more closely monitor the activities of all students for suspiciously nonconformist behaviors or modes of dress. All entrances to the school are now locked and accessible only by intercom or specially coded key card, preventing the sort of open, comfortable learning environment that might encourage students to express themselves. The soothing presence of armed patrols, coupled with high fences surrounding the grounds, reassures jocks that they can feel free to once again torment the school's geeks as they did before April 20, without fear of reprisal.
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