vostoklake: (punch)
... the point I'm making, for the terminally dim, is that religious belief is IRRELEVANT to whether you are actually concretely making the world a better place. People do good things while holding irrational belief systems and vice versa, as anyone who's actually involved in the social justice movements knows. Sometimes they do good because of those irrational belief systems. For example, those of you who believe that the Catholic Church is an "unmitigated" force of evil (as Prof Dawkins might say) might want to check out these guys.

Belief systems don't determine behaviour. If they did, small cults of the self-declared "enlightened" wouldn't have such a bad name, and you really could make the world a better place by wiping out the "bad" ideologies. All the evidence of history, on the other hand, indicates that this is bullshit. Belief systems grow out of existing patterns of behaviour, and existing patterns of behaviour exist because they make sense for survival in concrete socio-economic conditions. "Memes" only select between options of behaviour made possible by such conditions. Most of the time, belief systems (religious or otherwise) do nothing but provide excuses for patterns of behaviour which have already been determined by cultural and socio-economic forces.

This is, I believe, an impeccably materialist way to understand religion. Dawkinsite atheism which talks about religious "memes" as if they were independent living organisms - "mind viruses", if you will - that need to be wiped out like smallpox strikes me as nothing but rank superstition. Beliefs are nothing but cultural/psychological crystallisation of behaviour patterns which have a material basis. All beliefs, religious or otherwise, can go along with good and evil behaviour. Only by studying the material effects of such behaviour can you declare "good" or "evil", as I think a carpenter from Nazareth said.

(This rant inspired by recent atheist drama, or, to be more precise, people being shocked and appalled that atheists can act like sexist assholes, just like those nasty religionists.)
vostoklake: (punch)

A shameless troll

Michael Laws

Seriously, why do people give this arsehole the oxygen of any attention? You can just imagine that guy sitting in his masturbation lair in Whanganui, giggling inanely and muttering "PROBLEM PARAPLEGICS?" to himself, over and over again.
vostoklake: (joss)
The original Tron + the Matrix (probably the second part of the trilogy). Visually stunning - Daft Punk got turned up louder than Wendy Carlos in the original. Some thought-provoking philosophical themes that I liked - one major plot hole that I didn't. Also, needed moar Bruce Boxleitner (did they blow all the "artificial youthening" budget on Jeff Bridges?)
vostoklake: (commie)
One of the saddest things that has happened in this country for the last 25 years is the "touristification" of the national consciousness. We have made ourselves a country which grovels and capers so that rich foreigners will throw us money. I can't stand the NZ of docile waiters, bungie jump operators, and cheap labour for foreign films... I love the NZ of the #8 wire mentality, of Split Enz and Flying Nun, and yes, of "Bad Taste" and "Meet The Feebles". (And of course the material basis of that reality was a country with heavy import controls and huge state-funded Railways workshops and the like, where ingenuity was forced-fed on a very lack of resources and foreign investment.)

I can't stand the NZ where, on one hand, we're supposed to agonize over the fact that Australians make much more money than us; and, on the other hand, a foaming hysteria is building up against teachers, doctors, and yes, actors who actually want higher wages and better conditions and are trying, howsoever unsuccessfully, to fight for them. So that can only mean one thing - we must want working NZers to get poorer so that rich NZers can make more money. Like the Teabaggers in the USA, we are prepared to impoverish ourselves so that other people can live a fantasy life which we can then vicariously share.

Is your national pride and personal identity so freakin' dependent on living in a country which is some tourists' fantasy vision of Middle Earth? (Prof. Tolkien would be spinning, of course, because his fantasy world was designed to be quintessentially English and the Shire is actually Warwickshire/Oxfordshire, not freakin' Matamata.) In fact, that's what I have so many issues with tourists to this country. They come here for the scenery. They avoid the actual lived experience of the people - except in so far as we're serving them coffee, of course.

But I do not base my personal identity on living in a country where big-budget fantasy films (even very good ones, based on books I love) are made. Nor do I resent any group of workers, anywhere, anytime, trying their best to get a fair deal, although I might disagree with their tactics. I remember when I worked at a university during an industrial dispute, and students were actually talking about getting together fascist-style squads to bust our picket lines. Is there deep down an actual hatred of organised workers in this country? Why is it "jealousy" or "tall poppy syndrome" to be skeptical of how "Sir Peter" (or Terry Serepisos, for that matter) makes his money, but perfectly okay to unleash our negativity on groups of working people just trying to get a better deal?
vostoklake: (KATE)
This may amaze some of you. It certainly amazed a woman with whom I had an appointment this morning. "??? Gale-force wind and sudden downpours?" Me: "The rain alternates with brilliant sunshine, and as for the wind, bitch, please, I'm a Wellingtonian." Although I may have spoke too soon, considering I was actually blown off my bike on Williamson Ave and the Silver Machine will have to visit the repairman on Tuesday. But she was due anyway.

Biked slowly down Ponsonby Road for the markets. Mainly people watching, although I did drop $40 that I didn't think I could afford at the Women's Bookstore. Turns out that my AECT dividend had arrived and I could afford it after all. As I can afford my trip to SaveMart in Onehunga tomorrow - on the brand shiny new Onehunga train. :D

After that, tomorrow, hope to see the Phoenix murderise the Melbourne Heart (aka the Jam Tards, in reference to their red strip and to distinguish them from the Melbourne Victory who are simply the Tards) before khaniqah, at which I'm told there'll be a big ol' Persian-style feast.

Finally finished reading Adventures in Kate Bush and Theory. It was actually better than I was expecting. The author kept the self-indulgent verbal masturbation to a minimum - always a bonus in the field of cultural studies - and only seemed stupid when she argued that it was "cultural appropriation" to use Madagascarian instruments on "Eat the Music". (It's cultural appropriation to play rock music at all, since it comes from the blues which was lifted wholesale from African-Americans.) And her arguments about the "Bushian Feminine Subjectivity", its flirtations with nationalism and boy-drag, its shamanic journey in "The Ninth Wave", and its self-dissolution in the birdsong and light of "A Sky of Honey" seemed spot on.

Even better, it made me think... a lot of this stuff could be said about Small Group Psychosis. Maybe what I'm doing really is bringing something back from The Better World after all. I kind of feel like being a witch, or perhaps a shamanka, again, but only to the extent that it doesn't interfere with my Sufi practice which is working very well right now, thank you.
vostoklake: (sputnik)
I happily posted on Facebook the other day about my appreciation of Shock Treatment, especially the songs thereof. Many Rocky Horror fans rushed to disagree. Heartily.

Here are my thoughts on the subject:

1) Of course we all know that Shocky has problems as a film. Many of these are caused by the fact that the studio was hit by strike action during filming, leading to the abandonment of all exterior locations and setting the entire thing in a soundstage. This lends, I feel, a kind of "claustrophobic", even paranoid feel to the film - appropriate for the subject matter, but very far from the kind of universal, liberatory dynamic of RHPS.

2) I have read according to at least one source that many of the songs for Shocky were recycled from an abandoned RHPS sequel - in particular "Thank God I'm a Man" and "Looking For Trade". A project put together from bits of another project is never red hot on the score of coherency.

3) You do realise, don't you, that Shocky accurately predicted reality TV fifteen years in advance?

4) RHPS has the advantage, as far as longevity goes, of having been "retro" right from the start - looking back to the already-campy world of cheesy 50s rock'n'roll and even cheesier scifi-horror films. Shocky is so 80's it hurts. The only way it could have been more 80s is if the soundtrack had been entirely composed on a Yamaha DX7 and a Linn drum machine. But thankfully Shocky leans closer to the New Wave / "power pop" of the time. (The thudding drums of the title track and "Duel Duet" seem to owe a lot to the Burundi beat of Bow Wow Wow or Adam and the Ants. I like it.)

5) Barry Humphries, Rik Mayall and Ruby Wax in the same film? What's not to like?

6) Charles Gray, he's okay, but he's got no fuckin' neck shouldn't have been allowed to "sing".

June 2018



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