Thursday, December 31, 2009


2009: nearly over. It's time once again to relay much thanks for all the great comments and nice messages - always love to hear from you. 2010: hope you thoroughly enjoy what's there.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009


2009 draws to a close, as does another decade. Here are the year's favourite things, which have formed the backdrop, on a personal level, to the happiest of times.

The deliveries sourced from Amazon and Biblio are still arriving thick and fast. Now having renewed a taste for rare out-of-print works, the cost for this regular literary fulfilment has at times been considerable, but so so worth it when referring to classic works such as Albert Goldman's Disco, David King's The Commissar Vanishes, and Helen Hazen's Endless Rapture.

Apart from the predictably sublime pleasure that the ever-reliable Saw franchise delivered with VI, there are three films that for me stand out. The knowingly neo-Bergmanesque Daisy Diamond by Danish director Simon Staho; the scandalously fun popcorn horror of Orphan featuring Esther, one of the most badass characters in memory; and the marvellously satisfying Swedish horror Let The Right One In - let's pray there's never a Hollywood remake.

Despite being an unreformed Sony fanboy, and despite having an instinctive hostility against Apple and Microsoft (along with several other hardware manufacturers), I have to confess to finding my iPhone 3GS a true marvel. But even that doesn't compare to the scandalous magic of the SpiderBox 9000HD.

The ferociously, sadistically, unforgiving time sink from Japan that goes by the name of Demon's Souls (PS3) is not only the best game in 2009, but of this decade. Play it to death.

Too many incredible memories to choose from: Whitehouse at OutFest in Portugal, Cut Hands concerts in Germany and Poland (not to mention dear Auld Reekie), Benetti at Cocadisco and Bloc 2009, are but a few of the highlights. Thanks to everyone who made these shows possible, and thanks to everyone who came along, I hope you also had an amazing time.

The undeniable excellence of Cologne's Ludwig Museum was trumped only by the visit to Wellcome Trust's exhibits in the history of medicine at the Science Museum in London.

And yes, I'm sparing you the restaurant reviews this time around.


Monkey Portraits - Jill Greenberg
Owl - Desmond Morris
The Whisperers - Orlando Figes
Freakshow - Albert Goldman

Familial Readings - Luke Fowler + Toshiya Tsunoda
From The Hip - Ischio Romantico
Emmanuelle OST - Pierre Bachelet
The Monster Of Florence - Douglas Preston

Louis Theroux Behind Bars
Louis Theroux At The Brothel



Collapse (***)
Ruppert is great value until he gets too emotionally carried away with his insights, introducing a dubious moral tone to the otherwise intriguing diatribes

An Education (*)
laughably amateurish UK production

World's Greatest Dad (**)
the balance between black comedy and drama is never coherently reconciled, and as it proceeds through a series of incongruent implausibilities and painfully self-conscious witticisms, the result is a hammy one-dimensional mess

The Silence (*****)
Bergman masterpiece - devastatingly resonant and meaningfully potent: a surrealism that Lynch can only ever dream about

La Marge (*****)
Borowczyk's most underrated work - possibly owing to the common misinterpretation of the deceptive nature of its plot, a psychosexual journey exploring love after bereavement

Der Liebessch├╝ler (**)
this 1974 curiosity is part sex comedy, and also part Austrian absurdist play thanks to screenplay by Wolfgang Bauer; a real treat for us vintage Sylvia Kristel fans

Jennifer's Body (****)
smart, sexy, delightfully misandrous black comedy with a brilliantly maintained balance between satire and horror - memorable turns by Megan Fox and Amanda Seyfried as best female friends; unrated version is a must

Big River Man (**)
Martin Strel, seemingly separated at birth from deadringer Sleazy Christophersen, is a fascinating character: a fat alcoholic swimming-obsesssed madman from Slovenia - unfortunately, this clumsily edited documentary about Strel's Amazon attempt is ruined by his careerist son, who, entrusted to do the filming, can't resist upstaging his dad and superimposing his own weedy environmentalist agenda

Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans (*)
you get everything you deserve by seeing anything starring Nicolas 'Coppola' Cage, however this is dire by even his legendary hammy standards - Herzog should be feeling thoroughly ashamed of himself

Extract (**)
gentle comedy by Mike Judge that certainly has a few stand-out funny moments, especially where drug-taking is involved; a star has been docked for allowing that wanker Gene Simmons to shoehorn himself a role

The Countess (**)
a film that probably needed to be twice as long to do justice to the subject matter; as it is, despite much to like, there is little chemistry between the protagonists, some silly postmodern sexual stereotyping, and an incoherent narrative that exaggeratedly buys into the Jesuit myths about a Bathory bathing in virgins' blood as an allegory of female vanity, followed by an ending that questions whether what you've just been shown really happened

Friday, December 18, 2009


The Nature Of Facebook/Twitter Updates

Ana's simple question, so disarmingly articulated, rendered me speechless. It happened about twenty years ago during a chat over coffee, and I would have been effusively babbling on about my day. After listening politely, she hit me with charming directness.

"William, why are you telling me all this?"

Initially seemingly unanswerable
, I contemplated upon it for many months, whilst, at times painfully, reevaluating almost every subsequent utterance I, and others, made. Ostensibly, I'd been telling her about my day, and yet what purpose did that serve her or me? What was behind this communication, for that matter any conversational communication?

Eventually, I came to the conclusion that it's little more than a need to be heard.

A need to be heard for existential validation. And to successfully realise this mutual need we: allow for conversational reciprocity; employ rhetorical devices to make our chatter entertaining (e.g. through humour), or intriguing (through common themes of interest); exploit status differences to be heard (e.g. teachers, leaders, priests, etc.); use devices to elicit sympathy; and so on.

It was with this increased sensitivity to the hidden whys of communication that I initiated a fascination with the modern phenomenon of our Facebook/Twitter/MySpace updates. They have two curiously unique features: first, the communication is made to nobody in particular, as if to an unknown second person, to an unspecific you; second, there is a severely tight numerical word restriction.

On the face of it, these updates are just small chunks of trivia, with little depth or meaning. Or are they?

There's an old joke of the apprentice Trappist monk who is permitted two spoken words at the end of each initial twelve months' training in silent contemplation; at the end of year one, he tells the abbot, 'bed hard'; after the second, 'food horrible'; and the third and final, 'go home; to which the abbot exclaims, 'well, thank God for that because you've done nought but complain since you got here!!'.

Paradoxically, it seems the more restricted our opportunities to communicate, and the more remote and less defined the second person is (the you), the more meaningful the utterances become. 'Meaningful' I define here as more revelatory of our identity, along with our illusion of identity. In the case of ostensibly glib online status updates, through the application of dietrological analysis, much can be inferred.

Accepting and bearing in mind this need to be heard to be validated, below is a suggested hierarchy of factors for measuring that need.

- use of first person pronouns (I, me, my, mine etc.)
- frequency of first person pronouns
- proximity of first person pronouns to the beginning (e.g. commencing with 'I')
- use of active or passive voice
- expressions of opinion (an implicit or explicit 'I think that...')
- ratio of factual detail (times, places, names etc.) over process language (feelings)
- degree of assumption of second person interest
- pseudo-attempts to engage (e.g. throwing out a question, attention-seeking, sympathy-seeking)
- enigmatic, in-jokes

The feeling of validation from conversation comes with verbal and nonverbal responses to our utterances which we've already established as often not being a reliable indicator of chemistry or rapport owing to the invisible effects of, for example, our choice of language patterns. This is even more the case here.

coming soon:
DIETROLOGY : What Are Movie Credits For?


Thursday, December 17, 2009


The Collateral Damage Of Everyday Conversation

Within academia there is a punishment/reward structure that heavily favours a language register that can be generalised in two ways: firstly, emphasis on the precise use of specialised lexis and labels (often of Latin/Greek origin, an historical hangover from the relationship between learning and the clergy); in other words lots of long words, which in turn has triggered a certain inverted snobbery from non-academics. And secondly, the language of detail is preferred to that of feelings and emotions.

This goes some way to explaining why so many lecturers, teachers, and postgraduates evolve programmed into such crashing bores. That said, it's pretty obvious when we are bored with someone: perhaps you lean your head on your hands, perhaps an impatient check of the watch or mobile phone, or perhaps a tactfully stifled yawn. My god, is that the time?

However, what is loosely, but not inaccurately, termed as the 'chemistry' between people is mostly happening imperceptibly - both in terms of the responses, and the specific triggers for such responses. For example, the arbitrary angles we might approach a person we wish to communicate with is a factor that we rarely consider, and yet, critically, a frontal 45 degree approach angle is experienced by the other party as friendly, whereas one from directly in front as hostile; or worse still from the side or behind. What if you passed or failed that job interview based on that fact alone? And without being aware of such a factor, it's easy to see how superstitious explanations for the outcomes of personal interaction predominate.

Academic overemphasis on content language is as ironic as it's misguided: it's from having an acuter awareness of the tiny, oft-ignored words, and the simple patterns to which they belong, that offer far more rhetorical expressiveness and control of desired responses, and therefore chemistry. When we like or dislike somebody, we may have all sorts of superstitious 'I think...' beliefs about what we like or dislike, but they are far more likely to be rationalisations for unconscious biological and chemical responses.

Some of the effects of language usage have been touched on in previous postings (cf. SIGNFICANCES, METASIGNIFICANCES). One of whose number which seems to exist in most languages is the extraordinarily common 'yes, but...' conversational pattern (variants being 'I agree (with you), but....', 'that's true, but....', and so on). This, invisibly, causes enormous collateral damage to rapport owing to its deadly subtext of 'what I'm about to say is more important than what you've said' - in fact, amazingly, outright disagreement causes less collateral damage than this murky use of 'but'. The negative effect can easily be repaired by substituting the word 'but' with 'and', the subtext then being one of friendly corroboration - even when going on to disagree with the original statement in otherwise exactly the same way.

This is a simple example of how the use of two tiny words in a language pattern can have, psycholinguistically speaking, contrasting polar responses of critical importance. Simple, but not easy. Schools and universities might reward your deployment of all kinds of polysyllabic goodliness and convoluted subordinate clauses within the discussion of various hypotheses, but thanks to an historically ingrained institutional ignorance, you won't find out about the really good stuff like 'and'. There's so much more to learn.

DIETROLOGY : The Nature Of Facebook/Twitter Updates
(text coming soon)

DIETROLOGY : What Are Movie Credits For?
(text coming soon)


Friday, December 11, 2009



You wouldn't believe the size of the mug of Americano in front of me in this Cologne coffee shop. Total mondo. Not to impress you, it's to help get this tricky post finished.

Dietrology. For quite some time now, I've sought a word to conceptually unite many personal ideas and recent theories within a single domain. For that purpose, I've brazenly co-opted dietrologia (from the Italian 'dietro' - behind). It is, therefore, the study or analysis of the perceptually invisible, of what lies behind language, events, actions, processes, and behaviours.

It's clear we all have a natural tendency to posit instant opinions about subtexts, prefaced explicitly or implicitly with languaging such as 'I think....' - something I prefer to classify under the umbrella of superstition. The other tendency, related, is to assume that that which does not makes sense to us is nonsense; exemplified by the etymological origin of barbarian derived from the ancient Greek term for 'foreign', a derogatory
onomatopoeic reference to the sound non-Greeks seemed to make. Another example is represented by patronising Western attitudes towards African music and art with terms such as 'primitive', or even 'world' or 'ethnic'.

The first lesson of dietrological analysis is to recognise that something that doesn't make sense to us may very well have complex sense, or indeed, may have no sense whatsoever. The directly perceptual is not enough to make the assumption one way or another. The second lesson is relative: the quantity and quality of the perceptually invisible is not measurable.

However, the third and most critical, is that dietrology differs from opinion and superstition in that it represents an inquiry into the heart of the matter, that which is factual. And in an illustrative way, the study of atomic particles, just as they cannot be seen with the naked eye (with or without the aid of microscopes) owing to their being hundreds of times smaller than the smallest light waves, is a form of dietrological analysis.

Anyway, enough dry talk already. Let's launch a few introductory sub-articles for the series; as always, comments highly appreciated.

DIETROLOGY : The Collateral Damage Of Everyday Conversation
(text coming soon)

DIETROLOGY : The Nature Of Facebook/Twitter Updates
(text coming soon)

DIETROLOGY : What Are Movie Credits For?
(text coming soon)

Saturday, December 05, 2009


Random bits and pieces and comments from the week's goings-on.

Ryuichi Sakamoto concert at Queen's Hall
I surely didn't like the fact that Sakamoto's piano playing is essentially a mime, so much being streamed off computers hidden in the wings, but I hated the moralistic Helvetica'd climate change lecture on the fuzzy back projection; I walked out after 5 songs

Amanda Knox is innocent
you can't trust justice and its corrupt players in any of the world's courtrooms, let alone the highly suspect Italian judiciary, and I for one certainly don't trust this guilty verdict in the case of the death of Meredith Kercher; OK, all I have to go on is all the newspaper reports, but I can't see any reliable proof whatsoever that isn't just the usual bullshit demonisation, or coercion, of the young accused

DJ Benetti buttons
thanks to Marta, I have a small handful of the cute Cocadisco badges specially made for Saturday's fab extravaganza at Brixton; if you'd like one, just send me something for the postage

Cut Hands update
so listed below are the tracks completed for the project, several are being featured in the forthcoming Vice documentary on Liberia, and there'll be a few more too before long

Cut Hands - Who No Know Go Knows 4:08 (written and performed by W.Bennett, 2009)
Cut Hands - Who No Know Go Knows (percussion) 4:07 (written and performed by W.Bennett, 2009)
Cut Hands - Rain Washes Over Chaff 4:11 (written and performed by W.Bennett, 2009)
Cut Hands - Rain Washes Over Chaff (ambience) 2:38 (written and performed by W.Bennett, 2009)
Cut Hands - Rain Washes Over Chaff (percussion) 4:07 (written and performed by W.Bennett, 2009)
Cut Hands - Munkisi Munkondi 5:09 (written and performed by W.Bennett, 2003)
Cut Hands - Nzambi Ia Lufua 2:44 (written and performed by W.Bennett, 2006)
Cut Hands - Bia Mintatu 6:57 (written and performed by W.Bennett, 2007)
Cut Hands - ++++ (Four Crosses) 2:57 (written and performed by W.Bennett, 2009)
Cut Hands - Impassion 2:59 (written and performed by W.Bennett, 2009)
Cut Hands - Backlash 1:53 (written and performed by W.Bennett, 2009)
Cut Hands - Backlash (percussion) 1:52 (written and performed by W.Bennett, 2009)

Tuesday, December 01, 2009


We can't blame Nina Garcia for this brief update, and yet the streets seem to be awash with devotees of the latest, quite frankly, repellent examples of celebrity-led tack sold as 'essential' by the ubiquitous paparazzi magazines. At least some 80s and 90s fashion looked good for a season or two. Didn't it?
  • Gladiators: thumbs down for this heinously, mythologically ugly footwear - as emperor, I decree that all transgressors should be rounded up and fed to the lions in the Colosseum
  • Cropped Tuxedos: there are still way too many stuffy male sommeliers in upmarket metropolitan restaurants, don't you agree? it's high time to counter the imbalance, £180 at Karen Millen buys the uniform
  • PeachyBody Pants: these repulsive monstrosities, similar to the laughably named (yet shockingly popular) Scala Bio-Fir range, are designed to have that orange-peel cellulite magically 'melt' away like fog on a sunny hillside; they claim that to achieve the desired effect you should have to wear them for 8 hours a day for 3 weeks - nasty
  • Studs In Everything: please make a serious assessment of all those ageing 70s Iron Maiden and AC/DC fans still sporting their studded wristbands and jean jackets
  • Crop Trousers: notice how every single one of the otherwise attractive models in Exhibit A looks like she's being forced at gunpoint to wear these things in front of a camera
  • Footless Tights: the fugliest of fugly anti-trollwear make the legs of even the young and beautiful look short, stumpy, mumsy, and misshapen whilst simultaneously allowing greater public awareness of corn and bunion issues
  • Oversized Sunglasses: Exhibit B
  • Oversized Handbags: when a handbag is big enough for you to hide in, then I think we can safely declare that the rubicon that runs between functionality and ridicularseness has irrevocably been crossed