Hardcore for Nerds

"Why sneer at the intellectuals?"*
punk music, left politics, and cultural history - previously found here.
contact: gabbaweeks[at]gmail.com (sorry, no promos/submissions, thanks) or ask
Dublin, Ireland. 27, history, politics & law graduate
HFN | Best New Punk | HFN 2012 2011 2010 2009 | HRO 2k9 | Hoover Genealogy Project | @HC4N
*from the title of a review of Arthur Koestler's Arrival and Departure by Michael Foot, Evening Standard, Nov. 26, 1943.
Mar 04
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The chaos of a Tubby mix - the unexpected dropouts and surges and distortions - is indeed analogous to the political chaos outside those studio doors. But the real metaphor embedded in those dubs is embodied by the image of a man locked inside behind a mixing board as the bullets fly outside, his studio a neutral zone where you made your own laws. You can’t unfire a gun. The act of firing it is like a one-take live-in-the-studio recording. You live or die with what you get, and you can’t remix the past. Late at night at Tubby’s, you could imagine a better world, one where you had complete control - a place where even if the bullet had been fired long ago, you had an eternity to decide its trajectory.

Greg Milner, Perfecting Sound Forever (‘Tubby’s Ghost’)

Another brilliant passage which calls back to this one. My heart sank a little reading it at first, because ‘white American journalist using Jamaican political violence to make philosophical point’ is not usually a good look, but he kinda pulls it off here? This is where I can see the political speechwriter history coming through - maybe if he’d worked for Michael Manley things would have been happier (that’s if you believe in the power of rhetoric to subvert structural politics, which in the post-Obamania age is a tough bet). That’s what I like so much about the book - jumping through history to tell breezy anecdotes can be such a hokey element of these kind of ‘popular’ science/culture books, but he seems to nearly always do it well. Here it’s the story of how Tubby “began the Pro Tooling of the world by turning his tiny studio into a musical instrument”.

The image, however, directly contradicts an even more powerful one from the end of Camus’ 1951 The Rebel, his essay on existentialism, and a humanity torn between warring totalitarianisms:

“Each tells the other he is not God; this is the end of romanticism. At this moment, when each of us must fit an arrow to his bow and enter the lists anew, to reconquer, within history and in spite of it, that which he owns already, the thin yield of his fields, the brief love of this earth, at this moment when at last a man is born, it is time to forsake our age and its adolescent rages. The bow bends; the wood complains. At the moment of supreme tension, there will leap into flight an unswerving arrow, a shaft that is inflexible and free.”

'Complete control' is as the 20th century demonstrated a political impossibility, and dangerous to attempt (the 21st century suggests increasing control by, or of, the individual, depending on one's view of technology; and an accelerating lack of control at the environmental level). But Perfecting Sound Forever is patently not about the ‘end of the romanticism’: it is the continuation of it, such as with the mystique of analogue sound in which Milner indulges fairly heavily, and it is admittedly a rather petit-bourgeois romanticism. We will listen to our sonic experiments encoded onto petroleum and/or transmitted through electricity and plastic, while the world burns and others starve, but we shall be free? Or can we transmute our adolescent rages into art with revolutionary potential, become the arrow of self-determination and not the targeted consumer?

perfecting sound forever politics HFN hitler runoff camus dub
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Feb 03
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I wanted to be a Man of Tao, who watches the clouds and lets history rage beneath (something which is no longer allowed after Mao & Camus?) (that’ll be the day)

Jack Kerouac, Desolation Angels, Passing Through Mexico

The Rebel (1951)

kerouac camus
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Jan 30
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"Albert Camus famously wrote: "There is but one truly serious philosophical problem, and that is suicide." Maybe he was right. For the ultimate question has to be whether and why and how life is worth living. For some, this question never arises. Perhaps they are the lucky ones. For others the answer is God or the love of someone special or outright hedonism or the struggle to make the world a better place, thus to answer the question practically. But despite the obvious significance of Camus’s question, I remain deeply uncomfortable with the fact that he makes the whole life-or-death thing seem so appealingly dramatic – a drama in which you are always cast as the star. No, if suicide is on your mind, forget the existentialists and the poets. Phone the Samaritans. Go and see your GP. Talk to friends. Stop drinking. Misery is survivable. And hold fast to the belief that a brighter day will dawn."

There’s no shame in suicide. And there’s no glory, either | Giles Fraser | Comment is free | The Guardian

suicide mental health camus
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Feb 11
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intellectualvalentinesday:

Albert Camus: Myth of Sisyphus (1942)

“My greatest act of revolt against this meaningless world is the happiness I feel because of you.”

ok, this one made me throw up a little.

but just because reading the final pages of The Rebel was one of the more profound experiences of my lifetime:

"Each tells the other he is not God; this is the end of romanticism. At this moment, when each of us must fit an arrow to his bow and enter the lists anew, to reconquer, within history and in spite of it, that which he owns already, the thin yield of his fields, the brief love of this earth, at this moment when at last a man is born, it is time to forsake our age and its adolescent rages. The bow bends; the wood complains. At the moment of supreme tension, there will leap into flight an unswerving arrow, a shaft that is inflexible and free."

camus philosophy
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Sep 11
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The contradiction is this: man rejects the world as it is, without accepting the necessity of escaping it. In fact, men cling to the world and by far the greater majority do not want to abandon it. Far from always wanting to forget it, they suffer, on the contrary, from not being able to possess it completely enough, strangers to the world they live in and exiled from their own country. Except for vivid moments of fulfilment, all reality for them is incomplete. Their actions escape them in the form of other actions, return, in unexpected guises, to judge them and disappear like the water Tantalus longed to drink, into some still undiscovered orifice. To know the whereabouts of the orifice, to control the course of the river, to understand life, at last, as destiny – these are their true aspirations.

Albert Camus, The Rebel

I wasn’t going to write anything about 9/11, since I’m not American (yet I instinctively give it its very American name) and any thoughts I do have are conflicted between respecting a national, public tragedy - albeit with its regional and private emphases - and representing the global effect of the reaction to it, the external consequences of American insularity. What does this one event, or small set of events, measure against a decade of destruction with its epicentre in the Middle East, not Manhattan? What does the fact that roughly the same number of people died over three decades of the Troubles in Northern Ireland as died in one day in New York mean for our relative understandings of terrorism? That the war on terror is a war on the proxy for war, which is itself a proxy for politics. That there are no easy answers; less so when it involves standing up to jingoism or insane ideology, than when it involves bridging the gap between personal hurt and a global callousness, a national self-image and a remaking of the world in that image, a premium of suffering and a deficit of understanding or sympathy - all of which we’re all guilty of in the West, and to arguably equal extents, but some of us suffer some of the pain, some of us look on in despair, while others suffer greatly. That 9/11 is both a local tragedy and a global one, at the same time.    

What changed my mind was seeing the quote above again, which I had previously noted for other, more philosophical, reasons - Buddhist ideas of grasping and karmic causality - but this time I was struck by the resemblance of the description of the waters of Tantalus to the “large voids” of the pools in the 'Reflecting Absence' memorial at the World Trade Center site, where water endlessly cascades into the negative shape of the towers. I doubt they were meant to be considered ‘tantalising’, but as “open and visible reminders of the absence” they are designed to keep a memory present and, in a way, incomplete. Which makes sense - it is, as one Irish poet remarked after political zealots took over key buildings in Dublin in quasi-terroristic act resulting in the destruction of large parts of the city centre, a “terrible beauty” - not to give complete closure, for not only are bodies still unidentified and the threat of terrorism uneradicated (and uneradicable), but there are psychological and political effects still rippling out from New York and America and across the world. It’s also important to point out that what Camus describes above is not karma in the commonly understood sense of retribution or poetic justice, but rather an unpredictable and all-encompassing interconnectedness. Incompleteness, in turn, brings us closer to closure, as we cannot hang on to a moment forever. As Camus says on the next page,

"Perhaps, in this insatiable need for perpetuation, we should better understand human suffering, if we knew that it was eternal. It appears that great minds are, sometimes, less horrified by suffering than by the fact that it does not endure. In default of inexhaustible happiness, eternal suffering would at least give us a destiny. But we do not even have that consolation, and our worst agonies come to an end one day."

The implication is that destiny - whether manifest or otherwise - is false. Our desire for it, often painfully, is not; but one day, like any other, we may be able to overcome it and live like human beings in the present. I don’t often agree with what my nation’s leader says, but Enda Kenny gets it right here:

"New York, the world, endured. Today, we remember and we honour. I suppose in the best way we can, simply by living as mindfully, kindly as we can."

Reflecting on the absence left by 9/11 allows us not to see into the ‘orifice’ of history, but into the incompleteness of human life - which is the closest thing we have to a destiny, and which should be taken as a reason for encouragement, for living happily and to our fullest, rather than despair. 

9/11 art camus politics NO PAST
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Sep 01
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Total negation only justifies the concept of a totality that must be conquered. But the affirmation of a limit, a dignity, and a beauty common to all men only entails the necessity of extending this value to embrace everything and everyone and of advancing towards unity without denying the origins of rebellion. In this sense rebellion, in its primary aspect of authenticity, does not justify any purely historic concept.

Albert Camus explaining punk rock (in The Rebel, of course). Followed by ‘Rebellion and Art’:

"In every rebellion is to be found the metaphysical demand for unity, the impossibility of capturing it and the construction of a substitute universe. Rebellion, from this point of view, is a fabricator of universes. This also defines art. The demands of rebellion are really, in part, aesthetic demands. All rebel thought, as we have seen, is either expressed in rhetoric or in a closed universe."

"Who looked at the hands of the executioner during the Flaggelation and the olive trees on the way to the Cross? But here we see them represented, transfigured by the incessant movement of the Passion and the agony of Christ, imprisoned in images of violence and beauty, cries out again, each day, in the cold rooms of museums. A painter’s style lies in this blending of Nature and history, in this stability imposed on incessant change."

NO PAST camus philosophy punk art odd future
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Aug 21
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If the mind is only a reflection of events, it cannot anticipate their progress, except by hypothesis. If Marxist theory is determined by economics, it can describe the past history of production, and not the future which remains in the realms of probability. The task of historical materialism can only be to establish a method of criticism of contemporary society; it is only capable of making suppositions, unless it abandons its scientific attitude, about the society of the future.

Albert Camus, The Rebel

"How could a so-called scientific socialism conflict, to such a point, with facts? The answer is easy: it was not scientific. On the contrary, its defeat resulted from a method ambiguous enough to wish to be simultaneously determinist and prophetic, dialectic and dogmatic […] Moreover, is it not for this reason that its most important work is called Capital and not Revolution? Marx and the Marxists allowed themselves to prophesy the future and the triumph of communism to the detriment of their postulates and of their scientific method.”

cf. (on psychology/Freud)

NO PAST history politics socialism camus books
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Jul 19
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I know I wish sometimes so I could just explain things
I wish that every time he touched me left a mark

EMA - ‘Marked’

"Sade was executed in effigy; he, too, only killed in his imagination. Prometheus ends his days as Onan."

Albert Camus, The Rebel

What’s most right about Mark Richardson’s Resonant Frequency column about this song and EMA is how he’s only half right when he says “one of the things that’s most fun about writing about music is figuring it out and trying to render those elusive feelings into words to see if anyone else might understand what you mean”. And it’s not because the striking line above is both unavoidably abusive in its overtones and, it often seems to me, surprisingly and profoundly romantic. It’s that such understanding, or communication, or reconciliation, is always, in the final analysis, destined to be elusive; the physical can never be entirely encoded in the mental or spiritual, if only because both are imperfect realities (or approximations thereof.)

EMA PLMS camus
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Jul 16
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They say love turns to rot but I’m gonna give him all I got;
My arms they are a see through plastic
My arms are a secret bloodless, skinless mass

EMA - Coda, Marked

"Intelligence in chains loses in lucidity what it gains in intensity. The only logic known to Sade was the logic of his feelings. He did not create a philosophy, he pursued a monstrous dream of revenge."

Albert Camus, The Rebel

EMA PLMS camus
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Mar 30
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velveteenrabbit:

fyexistentialism:

Camus died on 4 January 1960 at the age of 46 in a car accident near Sens, in a place named Le Grand Fossard in the small town of Villeblevin. In his coat pocket lay an unused train ticket. He had planned to travel by train with his wife and children, but at the last minute accepted his publisher’s proposal to travel with him.

i have never seen that picture before.
holy fuck.

yesterday’s news. I didn’t even know Combat kept publishing until the 1970s, though I probably should have. also, cool story, bro.

velveteenrabbit:

fyexistentialism:

Camus died on 4 January 1960 at the age of 46 in a car accident near Sens, in a place named Le Grand Fossard in the small town of Villeblevin. In his coat pocket lay an unused train ticket. He had planned to travel by train with his wife and children, but at the last minute accepted his publisher’s proposal to travel with him.

i have never seen that picture before.

holy fuck.

yesterday’s news. I didn’t even know Combat kept publishing until the 1970s, though I probably should have. also, cool story, bro.

camus french history
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