Writing in Elsewhere

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KHOMEINI'S GHOST by CON COUGHLIN (2009): The spirit of the departed

10 May 2009  |  4 min read

Within weeks of Ayatollah Khomeini returning to Iran in 1979 after almost 15 years in exile, the Islamic Revolution he had envisioned and agitated for was complete and a ruthless, fundamentalist theocracy had been installed in Tehran. One of the many strictures imposed was the banning of Western music which the clerics saw as a corrupting influence. When asked by an interviewer if that... > Read more

Din Mohammad Zangeshahi: Ya Ghows

ELLIOTT SMITH AND THE BIG NOTHING by BENJAMIN NUGENT: A friend in need is a . . . pain?

30 Apr 2009  |  2 min read  |  1

When American singer-songwriter Smith was found dead in October 2003 at age 34 it hardly came as a surprise to many of his small but loyal following. Smith’s lyrics had been suffused in gloom, and his depressive personality combined with intermittent drug addictions made his early demise seem all but inevitable. What did surprise however was the manner of his death: he was apparently... > Read more

Elliott Smith: Baby Britain

ONLY IN AMERICA by MATT FREI: The country they hate to love

17 Mar 2009  |  4 min read

Recently a well-known New Zealand columnist asked if, given the election of the new and popular president, it was possible to like America again. Perhaps the writer was being witty. But for many -- here, but more especially in Europe -- equating America’s political reach for the amorphous, diverse and often quite extraordinary country that is “America” seems common. Since... > Read more

Jake Shimabukuro: The Stars and Stripes Forever

GOODBYE 20th CENTURY: SONIC YOUTH AND THE RISE OF THE ALTERNATIVE NATION by DAVID BROWNE

4 Mar 2009  |  5 min read

When posting Sonic Youth’s Daydream Nation (1988) as an Essential Elsewhere album last year, I noted that it was as emblematic of its time as the Beatles’ Sgt Pepper’s. But, as with The Velvet Underground’s influential debut album, it also stood diametrically opposed to the prevailing mood of its period. If this was the alternative nation on the rise -- as this... > Read more

Sonic Youth: Renegade Princess (from NYC Ghosts and Flowers)

THE MADNESS OF ADAM AND EVE; HOW SCHIZOPHRENIA SHAPED HUMANITY by DAVID HORROBIN: The rogue within

4 Mar 2009  |  8 min read

The woman on the intercity bus to Seoul wasn't paying much attention to the film flickering on the television screen above the driver's head. It was a distinctly odd choice anyway: Brother Sun, Sister Moon, Franco Zeffirelli's hippie-period life of St Francis of Assisi, with fey music by Donovan. Even dubbed into Korean, it wasn't of much interest. But abruptly she leaned forward and... > Read more

31 SONGS by NICK HORNBY: The witty curmudgeon writes

22 Feb 2009  |  1 min read  |  2

Famous and popular Brit author (High Fidelity, About A Boy, Fever Pitch) Nick Hornby writes about his 31 favourite pop songs. And we should care? But this is actually an extended, digressive, amusingly provocative essay -- and not all the songs and artists are his favourites. Of the earnest Seventies folkies Richard Thompson and his wife Linda, he says they looked like miserablists out of... > Read more

ENEMY COMBATANT by MOAZZAM BEGG

31 Jan 2009  |  2 min read

The impending closure of Guantanamo Bay prison will bring an end to an especially dark chapter in American history and geo-politics . . . But perhaps not to the Orwellian newspeak so many Americans in public life resort to: of the suicides of three detainees at Guantanamo prison in 2006 the American base commander referred to the deaths as “asymmetrical warfare”, a bewildering... > Read more

NIXONLAND: THE RISE OF A PRESIDENT AND THE FRACTURING OF AMERICA by RICK PERLSTEIN reviewed (2008)

18 Jan 2009  |  4 min read

If there is a sense of deja-vu about the current political landscape in the United States it is perhaps less Barack Obama being hailed as the inheritor of the mantle bequeathed by those golden martyrs John F Kennedy and Martin Luther King than it is in the presidency itself. This Bush (“Omega Bush” as some critics call him, as opposed to his father “Alpha Bush“) has... > Read more

DON'T LET ME BE MISUNDERSTOOD by ERIC BURDON

18 Dec 2008  |  4 min read

Eric Burdon -- frontman for Newcastle's ragged r'n'b band the Animals in the 60s -- tells a good story. In fact his life is a series of good stories, and before his New Zealand tour in 2001 he was spinning tales of rock yore down a phoneline from his home in California as if he was sitting at a beer-soaked table in a northern pub. And when he arrived in town to play with yet another line-up... > Read more

WRONG ABOUT JAPAN by PETER CAREY

30 Nov 2008  |  1 min read

The Japanese phenomena of manga (comics) and anime (animated films) have long commanded Westerners‘ attention: they are often violent and sexual graphic, some explore arcane myth, others are hopelessly romantic, and some are social documentaries. There have been numerous attempts at penetrating their layers of meaning (Frederick L Schodt’s Manga! Manga! from the mid 80s is... > Read more

INNOCENT WHEN YOU DREAM; TOM WAITS THE COLLECTED INTERVIEWS (2006) edited by Mac Montandon

30 Nov 2008  |  2 min read

The musical journey of Tom Waits -- from bohemian barfly poet with an affection for the Beat Generation and Raymond Chandler to the clank’n’grind noir-noise of his more recent albums -- has been one of the most rewarding in rock culture. Although immediately that needs qualification: Waits has been of rock culture but never part of it. As Luc Sante of the Village Voice notes... > Read more

SELINA TUSITALA MARSH: Guys Like Gauguin

8 Nov 2008  |  <1 min read

Auckland-based Pasifika poet Marsh has appeared before at Elsewhere and she's always welcome. Her poems are insightful, sometimes deliberately lacking in subtlety (because she can certainly do subtle) and always have something to say. I believe -- I hope -- there is an album coming of her readings. Because here (as with Fast Talking PI previously posted) she makes you listen and think.  > Read more

Selina Tusitala Marsh: Guys Like Gauguin

BLACK SATURDAY: NEW ZEALAND'S TRAGIC BLUNDERS IN SAMOA by MICHAEL FIELD REVIEWED (2006) Blood-stained history

26 Oct 2008  |  2 min read

When Helen Clark offered an official government apology to the people of Samoa in 2002 it was easy to be cynical: there was an election looming (some 115,000 people in New Zealand identify themselves as Samoan), and it came around the same time as she offered apologies to the gay and Chinese communities for historic wrongs. Yet -- as this detailed and compelling account by one of the... > Read more

SOPHIA SCARLET AND OTHER PACIFIC WRITINGS BY ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON reviewed (2008)

25 Oct 2008  |  2 min read

When Robert Louis Stevenson died at 44 in his Samoan home, half a world away from his birthplace of Edinburgh, he left a remarkably diverse body of work. In fewer than two decades he turned out popular romantic novels (among them Kidnapped and Treasure Island), the psycho-drama of The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, numerous poems, insightful travel books, many essays and short stories,... > Read more

WILD CARDS by JOHN DUNMORE, REVIEWED: Mad, bad and dangerous

25 Oct 2008  |  1 min read

Subtitled “eccentric characters from New Zealand’s past” this collection of short biographical articles by Dunmore -- Professor Emeritus of French at Massey, Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit in 2001 -- is considerably more insightful than it looks. To his more than two dozen, diverse subjects -- from ambitious or oddball early settlers through to the singular MP... > Read more

BETWEEN THE LIVES: PARTNERS IN ART edited by DEBORAH SHEPARD REVIEWED (2005): Lives in the margins

23 Oct 2008  |  2 min read

An intimate relationship between creative people may be as volatile and destructive as it can be productive and rewarding. And almost inevitably one partner, for reasons of success or force of personality, can dominate at the expense of the other. This illustrated collection of nine essays (which eschew the obscurantism of much academic writing) looks at relationships between some... > Read more

SPOKEN HERE by MARK ABLEY: It's like, you know, I mean . . .

6 Oct 2008  |  2 min read

When Captain James Cook ran aground on the Great Barrier Reef he spotted an unusual animal and was told by the aboriginal people it was called “kangaroo”. When he sailed home he took a stuffed specimen and the word -- the first aboriginal word to be adopted by the English language -- back to London. Two decades later colonists at Botany Bay pointed to the animal and called it... > Read more

1812: NAPOLEON'S FATAL MARCH ON MOSCOW by ADAM ZAMOYSKI (2006) reviewed

29 Sep 2008  |  1 min read

Few people -- even American Republicans these days -- still believe the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq had much to do with containing terrorism, and various truths about the impetus for these events contend for attention. Doubtless, as with most enormous affairs in world history, time and access to more information from all sides will make things more clear. So don’t expect... > Read more

PRINCES AMONGST MEN: JOURNEYS WITH GYPSY MUSICIANS by GARTH CARTWRIGHT

28 Sep 2008  |  1 min read

London-based author Cartwright made his name in New Zealand in the late 80s/early 90s as an opinionated and often contentious art and music critic, and an award-winning journalist. His pugnacious approach to the art establishment ensured a bad boy image, but Cartwright backed it up with acute and provocative writing, although his star was tarnished by a notorious piece of plagiarism in... > Read more

MAN OVERBOARD by TIM BINDING: Underwater . . . and undercover?

26 Sep 2008  |  1 min read

Novels based on historical characters are always fraught: one weakness in important detail or tone of the period and the whole structure collapses. Binding’s novel therefore treads in dangerous waters: it is based on the 1956 disappearance of Commander Lionel Crabb, a British war hero and frogman who was last seen near Portsmouth where a warship carrying Soviet premier Khrushchev had... > Read more