the hiroshima yeah! at spon corner, plus bonus musings on gadget enslavement

July 30, 2011 at 8:49 pm | Posted in art, musings, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Amongst the doormat-fodder that greeted our return home from Venice were two welcome and generous parcels containing the gubbins below:

On the left, stuff from the venerable Dr. Adolf Steg of Spon.  On the right, stuff from the honourable Gary Simmons of HY!  Cool, eh?

The parcel from the latter included the usual papery detritus (which I pore over like runes or entrails trying to deduce facts about Gary’s mysterious existence), the latest issue of HY! and the Shy Rights Movement CD-r mentioned below.  I am also in receipt of certain HY! back issues which were originally sent to William Bennett of Whitehouse via Susan Lawly, but which were returned to sender due to troubles the label had with their postal address.  Presumably a curious postie opened a couple of the parcels they were getting and the police were called immediately…  Anyway, being sent Bennett’s cast offs, complete with cap-doffing covering notes, is disproportionately pleasing too.

The content of HY! is split between a) Gary’s gonzo reviews of noise, the nihilistic sneer tussling with obvious love, enthusiasm and an encyclopaedic knowledge of rackets from the Rite of Spring to Cold Spring, and b) Mark’s heartfelt reviews of songs and hypnotically comprehensive, day-long, pint-counting gig reviews.  I read its four-or-five pages ‘cover to cover’ pretty much the moment it arrives.  Did I mention Mark’s misanthropic stories and poetry too?  How about this for a title: “The Slightly Sozzled Thoughts of a Bitter Old Fuck”, first line: “Young people bore me – “.  Heh, heh.  I think anyone who reads this blog regularly should probably check them out too: donbirnam@hotmail.com

The parcel from Adolf included issue 7 of Spon – The Stan Batcow Issue, various small-press comiks from the World of Steg archive, a bunch of Pumf flyers, and a charming laminated membership card for the ‘I Am A Cunt Club’.  He also included the Ceramic Hobs CD-rs mentioned below and an entertaining label sampler of crunchy electronic braindance from Must Die Records.

Those hoping to read Stan’s side of the Ceramic Hobs story will be disappointed, I’m afraid, but not too heartbroken because what you get instead is a terrific double-page tirade titled: ‘The Only Good Mobile Telephone is a Dead One’.  In the interests of full disclosure I must admit to owning a mobile myself but have had this ‘brick’ (referred to by one charmless techno-runt as a ‘refugee phone’) for many years and use it almost exclusively as an alarm clock.  With that confession out of the way, I’d like to nod in vigorous agreement with almost every word of Stan’s article.  He says:

Mobile telephones, as they evolve and develop ever more functions, are regressing the intelligence and capability of the world’s population.  People are becoming more and more dependent upon them, and essential life skills are either being forgotten or simply not learned because ot this dependence

…and later, whilst bemoaning the use of these devices to record and comment on events at which their owners are actually present:

…instead of experiencing life, they’re only experiencing the recording of life and separating themselves from reality … none of them are really at the event – all they’re doing is focussing all their attention on a small electronic device.

Well, exactly.  Stan’s point is not just that we are losing the ability to stride manfully across the glen with nothing but an OS Pathfinder, a compass and an intention to be home in time for tea.  It is more serious than not being able to provide, or act on, directions.  The issue is the creeping infantilisation entailed by the ability to just opt-out of retaining knowledge.  That is: to let your phone do your thinking for you.  The default mode of being for a gadget-enhanced citizen of decadent late-period capitalism seems to be obliviousness, except in the case of their own immediate needs to which, of course, they are hypersensitive.  Like babies.

And not only does it think for you, but it has your fun too.  Fun you might miss at the time it is actually happening but, hey, don’t worry – you’ll be able to upload it to Youtube later.  I vaguely recall seeing a documentary about Madonna in the early 90s in which Warren Beatty says to her “why do anything if it’s not on camera?”  Here was a world famous sex symbol of the not too distant past chiding a currently world famous sex symbol for the casual way in which she was forsaking her privacy.  Part wryly amused, part horrified, it was an interesting comment on the changing nature of celebrity.  Less than twenty years later Mr. Beatty’s question seems, appallingly, almost universally applicable.

I was struck by this phenomenon during our recent holiday.  Venice is by far the most remarkable man-made place I have encountered and, unless you simply do not own a device capable of doing so, taking photographs is irresistible.  We came back with over 100 despite only being there seven days.  However, apart from a few documenting our surprisingly lovely hotel, there are none taken indoors.  Most were views taken once we had sat down somewhere to gather ourselves together, or exteriors of places we had just visited, or pictures taken very early one morning when we left the hotel before breakfast with that purpose in mind.  On several jaunts we left the camera in the hotel, happy to wander and just drink the place in.

This approach was, to say the least, unusual.  Most of our fellow tourists had no qualms about taking photos constantly, within places where it might be considered inappropriate, and prior to actually looking at the thing being photographed.  During the two holidays I have spent in Italy I have noticed, and abided by, the many signs forbidding various activities whilst everyone else, including the immaculately uniformed official posing nearby, pays them no mind at all.  The sign we saw everywhere in Venice read: ‘No Photos’ (or at the very least ‘No Flash Photography’).   By this stage in the blog post you can probably guess how well this injunction was respected.

Picture the scene: we are in the gallery of the Basilica di San Marco and the lights illuminating the gilded Byzantine mosaics have just been turned on.  This is a sight that can make even a scoffing, heathen unbeliever like me quiver with spirituality.  At this very moment a women positions her child immediately to the left of the inevitable sign that reads ‘No Photos, No Videos’ and videos the girl taking a photo…

<author sighs deeply and wishes his current medication allowed the consumption of alcohol.  A lot of alcohol>

Anyway, you should really get hold of Spon 7 from Dr. Steg –  not only in order to read Stan’s whole argument, but also to get the great cover portrait and the unnerving collages that accompany it.

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