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Top Eleven Albums of 2003

Seeing as I only bought a handful of records this year — a significant percentage of which being compilations of more ‘vintage’ material — the list I am about to present is not so much my top eleven albums of the last twelve months as it is the only albums in my possession that were released this year. However, not having the same access to music as I did in previous years forced me to choose more wisely than usual.
So without further ado I present to you, as selected from albums and compilations heard in their entirety more than once within the previous 12 months, my Top Eleven Albums of 2003:
#1 Rough Trade Shops: Post Punk 01 by Various Artists
#2 New York Noise: Dance Music from the New York Underground 1978-1982 by Various Artists
#3 Burn, Piano Island, Burn! by The Blood Brothers
#4 We Are The Lazer Viking by An Albatross
#5 Cell-Scape by Melt-Banana
#6 Canada Songs by Daughters
#7 Wonderful Rainbow by Lightning Bolt
#8 Tiger Thrush by Ami Yoshida
#9 Echoes by The Rapture
#10 Altered States of America by Agoraphobic Nosebleed
#11 Unloved and Weeded Out by Converge
Over the next few months I’m looking forward to hearing new albums from The Futureheads, Converge, Franz Ferdinand, The Dillinger Escape Plan, Boards of Canada and The Von Bondies, among others. (On the other hand, the aforementioned might turn out to be utter shite, in which case I’m sure there’s a vertiable cornucopia of comfortably credible music that I’ve overlooked — don’t you dare mention the word ‘hipster’, boy.)
Any further suggestions? Did I miss anything truly great this year? I’m sure I have. Feel free to inform me.

Days of Christmas

And so another Christmas is over…

Thank Christ for that!

I don’t know about you, but I’m glad it’s done with, even though this year was a relatively quiet one — almost completely stress free, for a change. And I did get some nice presents, a couple of which can be found here. But nevertheless, I ate far too much, sat through hours of crappy television in a vain attempt to ‘unwind’, and spent virtually every other waking moment getting my computer back in working order.

You see, I installed Panther on Christmas Day. Or rather, I attempted to install Panther. But Panther didn’t like the state of my hard disk, and wouldn’t install using the archive-and-install option, nor the standard upgrade method. The glitch could not be repaired with the OS X Disk Utility, and I wasn’t about to wait a few days to spent over €70 on more powerful disk repair software just to fix one teeny little error. Even though I had backed up all of my vitally important data to CD-ROM a few days before in a sudden burst of inspiration, I really didn’t want to have to wipe the disk and start from scratch. But alas, that was what I had to do.

At least Panther saved me any further headaches by installing smoothly in a matter of minutes. And in a way, wiping the disk was like having a brand new computer to play with again. A few days of uploading and importing all the necessary bits and pieces later, and things are finally getting back to normal around here, with a change or two.

For one, I’m replacing Camino with Safari for my browsing purposes. Not that it’s radically different or significantly better (in fact the lack of bookmark importability is a major drawback — I’m torturing myself by doing it manually) but Safari just happens to look prettier than Camino, particularly using tabbed browsing.

And secondly, with Panther’s improved text smoothing capabilities, I noticed how ugly my site has been looking. I toyed with the idea of a whole new look, but whatever design I could think of would be ripping off someone else’s, and I’m still quite fond of the monochrome thing I’ve got going on. So instead, I made a couple of minor style sheet changes over the weekend. I think it looks slightly more classy now.

And that’s what I’ve been doing with myself for the last week or so (minus the stuff I’m not telling you, that is). Another Christmas done and dusted — how was yours?

Ulysses Update #3

About an hour ago (and a week before the deadline, too) I completed my personal challenge; I can now hold my head high with pride and declare with the greatest confidence that yes, I _have_ read James Joyce’s Ulysses, and I enjoyed every word of it.
Well, maybe not _every_ word. I did find that I had to concentrate a lot more than how I normally read, but perhaps I was just extra cautious and/or determined to get the most out of the experience, due to its reputation.
But anyway. As I promised at the outset, I have beside me a chilled glass of the finest South African wine (rosé), and I shall henceforth repose to reflect upon my great achievement, having scaled this literary Matterhorn.*
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*I would say ‘literary Everest’, but I think Finnegan’s Wake deserves that title, and that’s a mountain I’m just not ready to climb. Maybe some day…

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No, Anti-Zionism is Not Anti-Semitism: Redux

In a further appendix to my recent postings on the anti-Zionism/anti-semitism confusion, here is an opinion piece by Emanuele Ottolenghi which illustrates perfectly the infuriating obstinateness of the right-wing viewpoint on this issue.
As a whole, the article is not much more than a spew of binary oppositions that obscure the reality of the situation. But I have chosen a few particular quotes that would make for a great comedy routine, were it not for the fact that Ottolenghi is deadly serious:
>Many equate Israel to Nazism, claiming that “yesterday’s victims are today’s perpetrators”: last year, Louis de Bernières wrote in the Independent that “Israel has been adopting tactics which are reminiscent of the Nazis”. This equation between victims and murderers denies the Holocaust.
Denies the Holocaust?!? How does drawing a fair parallel between the active treatment of the Jews under Hitler in 1930s Germany and the treatment of Palestinians in the Occupied Territories by the current Israeli administration deny the Holocaust? Someone please tell me, because to me this isn’t even a logically valid conclusion.
>The argument that it is Israel’s behaviour, and Jewish support for it, that invite prejudice sounds hollow at best and sinister at worst. That argument means that sympathy for Jews is conditional on the political views they espouse. This is hardly an expression of tolerance. It singles Jews out. It is anti-semitism.
True, that is anti-semitism. Israel’s behaviour, and Jewish support for it, should not invite prejudice. But prejudice is not synonymous with criticism, as much as Ottolenghi would like it to be, and this is the neon-lit weakness in his shoddy rhetoric.
Sympathy for Jews is not conditional on the political views they espouse. At root, religion has nothing to do with it, but it seems people like Ariel Sharon, and apparently Ottolenghi too, continue to use Judaism, or at least their Jewishness, as a shield to protect their own agenda, which is not representative of Jewish people as a whole. To scratch past the surface, sympathy for the Israeli administration is and should be conditional on the political views they espouse, and the political and military actions they take.
>Israel errs like all other nations: it is normal.
Isn’t it disingenuous to say that Israel merely errs? As if the Israeli administration’s systematic (and on the verge of racist) policies and activities with regard to the Occupied Territories are just boo-boos, and they’re vewy vewy sowwy and they won’t do it again. Sure. The Israeli government doesn’t merely err — it knows exactly what it’s doing. And that’s scary.
Update 22/12: Yet another addition! This here is an interesting piece on avant-garde jazz saxophonist John Zorn regarding his commitment to (what he terms) radical Jewish culture, inspired by a strain of Zionism that most (Zionists and anti-Zionists alike) don’t seem make any distinctions about, which no doubt confuses the situation even more.

Invisible in Osaka

According to a report in today’s Guardian, the corpse of a homeless man lay rotting on a Japanese city street for two months:
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For two months, the body of an elderly man was ignored by passersby as it lay rotting on a street corner in Osaka, a short walk from a department store and a big railway station.

[…]

“I guess the place where the body was found is kind of a blind spot for passersby,” a spokesman for Hankyu department store, Masaaki Takahashi, told Kyodo news agency. “We didn’t receive any inquiries or comments from our customers. There was no big stir among our employees either.”

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My first reaction to reading this piece was the typical ‘How shocking! People there are so ignorant!’ response. But after having a good think about it, it’s surprising that something similar hasn’t yet happened here. The way public attitudes are regressing, it’s only a matter of time.

Ulysses Update #2

Fifteen days in now, and I’m at page 414. The going was great till about page 365, when the text suddenly morphed into early modern English, but I managed to fight my way through it; I didn’t read English at university, so I consider this quite an achievement on my part.
The most important thing to note at this stage is that I have passed the half-way mark, so am well on course to complete my challenge before the month’s end. And oh yes, for the most part, I’m enjoying it too. I’m sure that Joyce would rather I read simply for the pleasure of it, but as far as I’m concerned it’s either this way or not reading it at all. Sorry, James.

No, Anti-Zionism is Not Anti-Semitism

As an appendix to my two recent postings on the subject (here and here) I have unearthed from my blog-fodder links folder this commentary from December 3rd’s Guardian, presenting a liberal Jewish perspective on the Middle East crises:
>We should unite in rejecting racism in all its forms: the Islamophobia that demonises Muslims, as well as the anti-semitic discourse that can infect anti-Zionism and poison the political debate. However, people of goodwill can disagree politically – even to the extent of arguing over Israel’s future as a Jewish state. Equating anti-Zionism with anti-semitism can also, in its own way, poison the political debate.
Makes sense to me; a shame others are too stubborn to see it.

Ulysses Update #1

Nine days into the Ulysses challenge, and my bookmark rests at page 248. And you know what? I’m actually quite enjoying it.
It’s not nearly as difficult to read as I had been lead to believe. I expected Desolation Angels-style impenetrability, but for the most part the story is quite straightforward. Maybe one needs to be a Dubliner to get the most out of it; local geography seems to be a strong motif, and my mind has been active mapping the routes the characters take through the town to my own knowledge of the city.
And as for the stream-of-consciousness prose? Such passages have cropped up regularly, but they’re not too difficult to read, once my brain slips into the right gear. Think about it: reflect upon your own thought processes — we jump from item to item at the drop of a hat, words and images we encounter make sudden connections with our memories and experiences; it’s all a jumble, but we still manage to make sense of it.
If one absorbs Joyce’s almost lyrical stream-of-consciousness in the same manner as one would one’s own thought processes, the prose doesn’t seem quite so cut-up and alien. Maybe not accessible for the average reader, still, but not nearly as foreboding as some might say.
But anyway. Nine days down, twenty-two to go…