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Can see what the fuss is about. I saw The Naked and Famous before I went away up on K Road somewhere and liked them a lot, and This Machine has been travelling with me since then. Although I liked that EP a lot too, I thought the songwriting stayed rather too faithful to the post-punk creed of repeating a sequence of notes until the audience just bloody admitted it was a melody, dammit, while the drummer marked time impatiently: hurry up n dance, plz? A germinal recording, in other words, or maybe simply German -- oddly, TNAF reminded me of D.A.F., the little sweethearts. But what The Naked and Famous did have as a group more than made up for what the Yeah Yeah Yeahs lacked when I caught them in London only a few months later. Watching Karen O demand that you love her on the off-beat caused me to remark to my ticket booker (Finn!) that I would have loved to see what The Naked and Famous could have done with the Brixton Academy's sound system, a performance-enhancing technology that was responsible for at least a third of the YYYs' entertainment value.

Maybe that will happen now. Passive Me Aggressive You has perfect timing, chiming as it does with the sparkly Dennis-Wilson-falling-downstairs aspirational visions of what I can only call Baby Prog: Neon Indian, MGMT, School of Seven Bells, Blonde Redhead, Animal Collective et al. Actual songs, babies, from the bedside hush of 'The Sun' to the LCD rush of 'All of This.' When I saw TNAF in Auckland the two singers were passing the baton - your turn, mine - but now they've worked things out; one takes the lead and the other follows up, the sentimental choral touches balancing the rat-a-tat-tat. 'Eyes' is on hi-rotate. 'Young Blood', in context, doesn't even stand out that much: another sign that they have a real album on their hands. And the bv's for 'No Way?' Big hugs.

Anyone with a working set of ears in NZ is raving about this. This is The Naked and Famous's Riverhead / Becoming X moment. Please, Gods of Alt - don't let them fuck it up...

Bedside reading (.epub edition)



I am officially the worst sleeper in the world. When I was three my parents tried giving me sleeping pills (or Mickey Finns, as my father called them) which had no effect. Instead my parents took the pills themselves and left me to it. Which explains far too much.

I'm fascinated by people who can sleep; for me it's like waiting for a parcel that never arrives. Then about once every three weeks I collapse for nine hours and nothing will wake me. I've tried all the tricks (cutting caffeine, etc) but they don't work. Now I just sit up. I get a lot of work done late, and I read, and I've developed an interest in professional poker as a result of watching so much on TV. And working is easier on computers instead of mechanical typewriters - in the old days I'd have to type quietly.

One of the late events I remember staying up for was the telecast of the Apollo 11 moon landing. My older brother and his friend came over to watch, but crashed out: I stayed awake for the whole thing, aged 4 and a bit. NASA are releasing new footage of it now.

Second advantage of being a bad sleeper: lucid dreaming, any time, anywhere.

I almost killed this blog today; I'm not sure why I maintain it. I guess it's largely because people don't email each other anymore. Also finished the dr*ft. Know it's coming to an end because I'm having ideas for the next one. Agitated by London & not sure what I'm doing here. The fiction coming out of this town is terrible and publishing's in a white-faced panic. Music might be looking up, though, and the people are cheerful, although that might have something to do with the drinking... I'm agitated generally. But then again, when am I not? When?


PS. When?



Concrete jungle where dreams are made of

Seriously - best TV ever. Mad Men season four, ep three. Throw it up on a big screen and it'd be what a movie used to be, long ago, when movies were about people: small, crappy, sexy, compromised, doomed, beautiful. Novelists aren't allowed to write like that any more. Novels have to be events whereas TV can be, literally, whatever.

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Uncut interview with the great Tony Visconti:
UNCUT: Low is Generally perceived as David at his most emotionally honest, but most unhappy. Looking back, is this interpretation accurate?

TONY VISCONTI: It wasn't a difficult album to make, we were freewheeling, making our own rules. But David was going through a difficult period professionally and personally. To his credit, he didn't put on a brave face. His music said that he was "low."

Does it still annoy you that some people still think Eno produced the 'Berlin' albums?

Yes. David's set the record straight many times since, and of course my name is in the credits as co-producer with David. How rock journalists continue to make that mistake is beyond me. Come to think of it, I don't recall Brian ever setting the record straight. I know that David and Brian spent some time together before going in the studio with me, but they were writing. Brian spent an average of three weeks on each the Triptych albums recording his bits. He wasn't present for the vocals, lots of other overdubs and the mix.

I've always thought that there's a prevailing mood of hope throughout Low (certainly not a pessimistic album). Do you think that comes through?

I find "Warzawa" very uplifting. Despite a few really bad days we had quite a lot of fun making Low, especially when all the radical ideas were making sense and things were starting to click. I remember after a couple of weeks of recording I made a rough mix of the entire album so far and handed a cassette of it to David. He left the control room waving the cassette over his head and grinned ecstatically saying, "We've got an album, we've got an album."


Some of them are old

I've started writing late at night again, maybe because I need quiet and darkness for the slow stuff, with the TV set flickering in the background and the shot I promise myself when I finish, which I never do, but have anyway.

MaudNewton-dot-com has a great interview with William Gibson in which the novelist discusses the old and secondhand objects that appear in his stories:
I have a kind of vast and half-forgotten library of objects — artifacts, really, because the things that I describe are always man-made. And one of them will be summoned from the library through some unconscious or poetic process when the narrative requires it. I know that sounds precious, but I can’t think of a less precious-sounding way to put it.

I reach instinctively for something without knowing why, and place it in the narrative, and if it strikes a resonant chord with me, I’ll leave it there. There probably are times when the thing that arrives from the library proves to resonate oddly with where the narrative wants to go, and it has to be taken out and replaced with something resonates more in tune with the rest of the structure.
Pictured: my great grandfather, Bill Collard (white suit) and the crew, Waiuku, 1921.


This is the news

The US justice system is revving up to stop Lindsay Lohan having fun. Wish they'd moved to stop her injecting stuff into her lips; the rest is her business, shurely? Anyway. Old Salon interview with David Mamet:
Is the idea of the con game something that appears in all your films?
Yeah, it appears in most of them. I think that film, as opposed to theater, is intrinsically a melodramatic medium. And one of the wonderful categories of melodrama is the confidence thriller.
Elsewhere you mentioned the "light thriller." What is that?
I contrasted the light thriller and film noir. The light thriller is much closer to the tradition of comedy. The film of comedy is such that in every scene, the hero makes a misstep and yet is rescued at the end by the forces of good, or by God, or by a deus ex machina. Tragedy is exactly the opposite. At each step, the hero seems to be doing the correct thing, but at the end of the movie ends up consigned to perdition, or death, or disgrace, because of some internal flaw. So film noir is much closer to tragedy and the light or Hitchcockian thriller is much closer to comedy.
Still the man even after marrying the Pidgeon robot. Kinda like her as well. Am sentimental. And from Jezebel, a short history of film merkins. Sadly they omit Sienna Miller's digital merkin, which was some pimply IT operator's karmic reward.

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Obtain the unobtainable, etc. The irony came back and bit them in the end: there are still people in the City who look like that. Fave tracks: 'Fascist Groove Thing' (oh, how we laughed), 'Play to Win' (ditto), 'Are Everything' (12" version) and the unstoppable 12" mix of 'Who'll Stop The Rain'.


As I lay there in the darkness with a pistol by my side

I can't remember much about The Maid but Resident Evil: Afterlife is memorable, if only because I've seen everything in it before. John Carpenter invented most of the action sequences, from the plane landing on the skyscraper (Escape from New York) to the killer darting across the camera foreground (Halloween) to the dog that splits into a set of jaws (The Thing). Paul WS Anderson moves things forward by landing a plane on a skyscraper surrounded by millions of zombies, or the the killer darting across the camera foreground underwater, or the dog that splits apart into a set of jaws with another set of jaws inside that, dude. You can count the movies inside this movie like Russian dolls but rather than being trapped it's somehow entertaining, mainly because of its innate sense of fair play - it is based on a game, after all. Milla Jovovovovich's (sp) physique almost justifies 3-D. Costumes are by David Cronenburg's sister Denise, video diary aesthetic by William Gibson, there's Crouching Tiger Hidden Bullet Time and the tanker from Waterworld and the staggering-into-the-sunlight kids in white from Logan's Run / THX 1138 / The Island... Oh, the list goes on. Cheap, cheerful and unpretentious. Hard not to like.



White tea is the new thing. Secondhand books finally arrived from Amazon: one for research (France) and one for fun (old crime thing) . Time has a great cover story on the Tea Party. I want to see The American, The Town and The Social Network very much but who knows when they'll open here? Aaron Sorkin talked to New York magazine about his writing style:
"I'm really weak when it comes to plot," he says bluntly—a startling self-assessment from the creator of three television series. "With nothing to stop me, I'll write pages and pages of snappy dialogue that don't add up to anything. So I need big things to help my characters—a really strong intention and a really strong obstacle. Once I have those, I feel I can write."
So yeah, want to see it. I liked Studio 60 a lot - anyone who can use Final Draft formatting as a plot point gets my vote. And also there was Dolphin Girl. Scored a ticket to Bertolucci's BFI appearance in October. And Mad Men is on, even if Burn Notice is ending soon. So no wonder the new draft is clicking. And everything's good, right? How could it not be? Everything is fine.


Now playing

Revisions finished. Typing them up now. The MS breaks down perfectly into 30 chapters, which is a nice sign. Things on my mind so it's all Duffy, all the time. Duffy comes complete with Dusty Hand™.


Crime inc.

Philip Matthews' recent weekend feature article on New Zealand crime fiction is now online at Kiwicrime, thanks to the earthquake-defying efforts of Craig Sisterson.


People who need people

From The New Yorker article on Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook and the Aaron Sorkin (w.) / David Fincher (d.) movie The Social Network:
Sorkin said that creating Zuckerberg's character was a challenge. He added that the college students were "the youngest people I've ever written about." Sorkin, who is forty-nine, says that he knew very little about social networking, and he professes extreme dislike of the blogosphere and social media. "I've heard of Facebook, in the same way I've heard of a carburetor," he told me. "But if I opened the hood of my car I wouldn't know how to find it." He called the film "The Social Network" ironically. Referring to Facebook's creators, Sorkin said, "It's a group of, in one way or another, socially dysfunctional people who created the world's great social-networking site."
I'm interested in Sorkin's comments about his unfamiliarity with the people or the material because the early reviews are raving about the movie and how natural and authentic it feels. Good writing is good writing. I wrote about Sorkin here, and I'm still not on Facebook.


Now playing

The new (since July, anyway) School of Seven Bells album Disconnect from Desire is on hi-rotate at the writing desk. The Brooklyn electronica trio's first LP Alpinisms was the toast of the post-Jedi generation and anyone else who hadn't heard this sort of thing before but Disconnect is a real breakthrough; a sort of Cocteaus-meets-Casio pocket-sized exotica sound that's the right mix of sentiment and bleary whatevs. And unlike the Cocteau Twins every member of Seven Bells really is a twin - yet there are three of them: Benjamin Curtis from Secret Machines and Alejandra and Claudia Deheza of the annoyingly punctuated On! Air! Library! Anyway, way pretty and recommended for that early morning comedown. Check out 'I L U' from the Heart is Strange EP and 'Bye Bye Bye' from Disconnect from Desire.

Thought for the day

From the great John Carpenter:
It's about surviving and lasting. So many talented people that I've known in my life – directors and writers – just haven't made it and haven't had a chance. Some have had a chance and that was it. They got one chance. So, to be able to have some decades of filmmaking, I can't tell you how happy that makes me.
Full interview at Collider.


Does the MENACE grow like a black cloud?

Hit my revising limit of 10pp a day. Spent rest of afternoon looking at Greek vases and lugging the big hairy manuscript around Soho. That part of town is particularly lovely in the afternoons at this time of year.

Google now interrupts my typing like a precocious child. Net neutrality is becoming a political issue. Colonel Wilma Deering is now working as an agent. Michael Moorcock and the very smartly turned out Doc Savage author Lester Dent tell how to write a novel in three days.

AICN has another great interview with Werner Herzog:
Herzog: ...What is significant, and I would like to point it out, in sixty films that I made not a single actor ever got hurt. Not one.
Beaks: Not significantly injured.
Herzog: Not hurt at all. Well, very slightly. A few bruises. Crew members, yes. And I got hurt. But actors were always protected...
Pictured: Barbara Steele. Because you searched for her.


Baby you're the best magazine advice

New season of Mad Men about to start here, which means I can read the internet on Mondays again. Commentators have complained that the Rolling Stone cover looks shopped: don't care. Would upload copy if Blogger let me. Slow morning on the servers, I guess. Me, I'm up early. That's what writing on paper does for you - the laptop seems like a novelty again.

Gizmodo has a good essay on why writers are bypassing publishers and putting their own work online. Although every point they make could also be seen as a negative. With great power comes great responsibility, basically: the time you spend publishing your own work is time you could have spent writing. Still, got my eye on it.

Great essay on Liz Phair's new online album Funstyle at Rock Turtleneck. I still would.


Beaucoup fish

Whacked today. Above, my new favourite thing in the British Museum: a Roman mosaic gifted to a British king or something by a Pope or whatever. I wasn't paying attention to the label. I have other things on my mind.

I'm hacking into the second (third) draft, which feels really good, not least of all because I get to be away from my laptop. If I want to back up I take digital snaps of the ms and upload them to Flickr. It's a small step from there, I was thinking, to a completely graphic JPEG novel, especially if your favourite author has nice handwriting. Stephanie Meyer could scribble the next one on the backs of envelopes to be scanned and uploaded to eager fans.

Didn't watch the Emmys but was curious that 'Born to Run' fitted so smoothly into the Glee format. The song had previously been given three snaps up by Frankie Goes to Hollywood on Welcome to the Pleasuredome. How contrary and daring, we thought at the time, kind of, at least until the Propaganda album came out which was way better. In retrospect Frankie's cover was not that different to the original, and neither was Jimmy Fallon's magic fingers treatment.

I never got Bruce Springsteen. Why him and not Warren Zevon, was my question. Bruce is held up as old school rock'n'roll by people way more knowledgeable than me. He's said he wanted Born to Run to sound like Phil Spector doing Roy Orbison but the result is so quivering and emotional that it sounds more like Spector doing a girl-group: soaring strings, look-at-me flourishes, trilly* keyboard decorations. It's show biz razmatazz rather than Neil Young's For-God's-Sake-Dad-rock. Or to put it another way, camp. Nothing wrong with that: it just ain't what everyone says is on the label.

I'm also disturbed by the lyrics to the single:
Just wrap your legs round these velvet rims
And strap your hands across my engines
- Because the nouns are in the plural. Think about it: how many rims and engines do you have? Not that many, unless you're packing a little something extra.

In the meantime and on an unrelated subject, this is the review of The American that I would like to believe. It chimes with my experience of the novel.

If you would like to watch the terrific 1945 noir Detour you can download it for free here.

* A perfectly cromulent word.

PS. Now listening to Nebraska. Much, much happier.

PPS. The letters and cards are rolling in now. Most votes are for 'Atlantic City' and 'State Trooper.' I'd go with that. Nebraska was the one that changed everyone's mind. When it was released the lo-fi recording seemed deliberately contrary, not unlike the Lindsey Buckingham home-recorded tracks on Tusk. Now the album sounds completely natural - the Cary Grant moment when Bruce, after years of trying, became Bruce.


Some of you have some explaining to do

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