Monday, October 23, 2006


"I don't mean to sound bitter, cold, or cruel, but I am, so that's how it comes out."

Bill Hicks 1961-1994

I don't have any heroes; pretty short on role models too. This is the curse/blessing that comes of belonging to the blank generation. Cynicism is so hard-wired it's impossible to revere a fellow Earth bound organism and only just possible to believe in God or extraterrestrial benevolence if you submit to voluntary lobotomy.

But if I had heroes Bill Hicks would be one of them. Hicks was the most sacriligeous preacher, the most irresponsible social commentator, the noblest man to drag the human race's nose in its own turds. Smell this you little shit. Whack and don't do it again. There should be more like him, but sadly that's extremely unlikely. How many people in the world could get up on a stage and demonstrate George Bush giving Satan head. How many would think of it? Bill Hicks the best kind of American. The avatar of the democratic chaotic genius of that country. Fuck my bullshit let's hear the gospel of American defence policy according to St. Bill:

"We're like Jack Palance in the movie Shane, throwing the pistol at the sheep herder's feet:
'Pick it up.'
'I don't wanna pick it up mister, you'll shoot me.'
'Pick up the gun.'
'Mister, I don't want no trouble, huh. I just came down town here to get some hard rock candy for my kids, some gingham for my wife. I don't even know what gingham is, but she goes through about 10 rolls a week of that stuff. I ain't looking for no trouble, mister.'
'Pick up the gun."
[Boom, boom!!]
'You all saw him. He had a gun.'"

There's a lot of comics out there riling likewise (eg Jon Stewart). A lot of 'em do a good job. Sadly Hicks died before George the second came to power. Sad for us not for him, he was pissed off enough at the first Gulf War. That at least had some kind of justification. Iraq made the first move but this...

I wonder what he'd say. What would his take on September 11, the War on (of) Terror be? Would he riff on conspiracy? I couldn't say. His mind was his own. He had a knack of raving on like a soapbox jockey and pulling back with the most irreverent and disrectful quip. Take his barbs at the 'pro-life' movement:

"If you're so pro-life and you're so pro-child, then adopt one that's already here, that's very unwanted and very alone and needs someone to take care of it to get it out of a horrible situation. Okay? People say, 'Why don't you do that?' And I say, 'Because I hate fucking kids and couldn't care less.'"

When he finally quit smoking this is the guy that said every cigarette looked "like it was made by God, rolled by Jesus and moistened shut with Claudia Schiffer's pussy." He was an old-fashioned antiestablishment libertarian. Libertarian these days, especially in the States tends to bring to mind some Republican suburbanite who supports your right to sniff cocaine and keep Mexican slave labour. Sure P.J. O'Rourke's a funny guy but it just ain't the same. And the left mostly just aren't funny. They're good at making George W. the dumb arsehole jokes but none of them would bring up Claudia Schiffer's pussy.

He was one of the last people to speak unafraid of the consequences, the ratings, the opinion polls. Fuck all that. Bill didn't just tell political jokes or make fun of religious dickheads. He was a philosopher; a psychadelic preacher. He had a vision that the human race could be more than just a skanky bunch of fat-arsed monkeys hell-bent on blowing each other to meat scraps.

"All our beliefs are being challenged now, and rightfully so – they're stupid."

No qualifications, none of the limitations that come with writing a 'serious' book about the geo-political situation or the distribution of wealth. Not the half-arsed, completely mislead bigotry that spews out of talk back radio or the 'readers' comment section of a right-wing blog. That shit ain't worth two cents, this was priceless.

The beauty of stand-up is it's litmus test is to make people laugh. People laugh it works. Say anything you want. Of course to make people really laugh you've got to really piss a lot of people off. Bill was good at that. Born again types (showing how much they learned from Jesus) beat him up and broke his ribs, networks banned him, there's even a rumour that Bush had something to do with his death. Who knows. Whatever, he's badly missed. If you've never had the pleasure check out Sane Man or Rant in E-Minor and get the real religion.

And finally a reading from the gospel accordingly:

"By the way, if anyone here is in advertising or marketing, kill yourself. Just a little thought. I'm just trying to plant seeds. Maybe one day, they'll take root. I don't know. You try. You do what you can. Kill yourself.

"Seriously, though. If you are, do. No, really. There's no rationalisation for what you do, and you are Satan's little helpers, okay? Kill yourself. Seriously. You are the ruiner of all things good, seriously. No, this is not a joke, if you're going: "There's going to be a joke coming." There's no fucking joke coming. You are Satan's spawn, filling the world with bile and garbage. You are fucked, and you are fucking us. Kill yourself, it's the only way to save your fucking soul. Kill yourself. Planting seeds.

"I know all the marketing people are going: 'He's doing a joke.' There's no joke here whatsoever. Suck a tail-pipe, fucking hang yourself, borrow a gun from a Yank friend – I don't care how you do it. Rid the world of your evil fucking machinations.

I know what all the marketing people are thinking right now too. 'Oh, you know what Bill's doing? He's going for that anti-marketing dollar. That's a good market, he's very smart.' Oh man. I am not doing that, you fucking evil scumbags! 'Oh, you know what Bill's doing now? He's going for the righteous indignation dollar. That's a big dollar. Lot of people are feeling that indignation, we've done research. Huge market. He's doing a good thing.'

God damn it, I'm not doing that, you scumbags. Quit putting a goddamn dollar sign on every fucking thing on this planet! "


Friday, October 13, 2006


Today a conservative coloumnist, who shall go unnamed, made some bogus, simple-minded connection between Kim Jong-Il's regime and some hypothetical student stereotypes he addressed as 'you, yes you in the Che Guevara t-shirt' .

Now Ernesto Guevara was probably not a saint. Cuba is a one party state and one party states - wherever they position themselves, whatever they say - tend to abuse the rights of their own people, indulge the ruling elites in disproportional luxury and swim in corruption. A one party system is like having a job you can never be fired from. No incentive exists to actively hold on to the position. It's yours and taken for granted. But the wearing of Che t-shirts is most often not a display of support for Guevara, Cuba, Castro's government or anything like it. I think it's completely otherwise.

The 'Che' t-shirt phenomena is a simulacrum. It's not 'Che' so much as this one specific image of him taken by Alberto Korda at a funeral. You don't see people sporting other images of Che. No Che smoking cigar photos; no Che on the slab. Just this one cropped Korda photo endlessly replicated as a basic, bold-coloured print.

It fits that the poster style was early rendered on the image by Andy Warhol, the artist who best represent the spirit of consumer culture. It's the icon of romantic individualism, the personal ethos of the consumer culture. In this culture everyone desires to be an individual, to be special and unique. Ironically everyone attempts this by purchasing the same items thought generally to connote this quality. If you want to be a good looking rebel, a glamorous law unto oneself don't actually be one. You'll get arrested. Buy a Che t-shirt. It's what you feel inside.

The original photograph is intense and stark. It brings to mind 1960s European art-house flicks full of existensial angst and rage. But this is rarely seen. The gaudy-coloured copy everyone's familiar wth comes straight from 1960s ads for Coke. The only commentary the image makes about 'socialism' is that it made money for everyone but the guy who took it. It's only a political image in the sense that the Rolling Stones were a political band. Of course inside Cuba the photograph is something different a propoaganda symbol of the regime. Outside even amongst 'revolutionary socialists' it's what Warhol made it.

And this goes double for the G20 protestors.

Anti-globalisation protesting is an oxymoron. The movement so-named is a phenomenon of the very processes it supposedly opposes. At it's heart the movement is an amalgamation of various groups who for different reasons want to disrupt the corporate-governmental elites who 'plan' globalisation. It's kind of a grass roots counter-call to the suits. I doubt if a significant percentage of anti-globalisation protestors know exactly what the agenda of G20 participants actually is. For the summiteers many, notably Tony Blair, respond in disbelief that they are doing exactly what the protestors demand should be done: ie ending poverty.

This is met all round with understandable skepticism. Corporations whose products are made in factory sweatshops staffed by persons who receive a fraction of the very low local cost of living don't exactly seem likely to voluntarily improve the disgraceful conditions they've helped create. Developing nations like China who's economic edge is exactly the capacity to keep labourers in such low-paid circumstances without pesky trade union activism are unlikely to rock the boat. 'Developed' countries like Australia who's edge is their lucky lolly shop of natural resources added to the cultural capital of Anglo-Saxon nations won't want to disrupt their populations' artifically high standards of living. Ditto Indonesia and Canada respectively. The G20 is certainly more representative of the world, thus more inclusive, but it's not like the poorer countries are getting a look-see. Apart from South-Africa there are no nations from that continent. Also no Peru, no Vietnam, no Fiji: no intention of letting the poor folks of the world in on the action.

The G20 is a club for G7 wannabees organizing better the getting rich process. Well what's wrong with that? Nothing provided it's open to the world in general and doesn't result in the planet becoming a wasteland trash pile in record time. And this is what the G20 protestors have in common, not an objection to 'globalisation' per se rather an objection to riches at the expense of entrenched poverty, prosperity at the expense of future generations and free markets at the expense of free people.

G20 members are all defined as market economies regardless of their political systems which seem irrellevant. China and Saudi Arabia are definitely not democracies. Indonesia, Turkey and Russia all have dodgy human rights records. The rest of us would score pretty badly if you added economic elements to human rights: the Unted States' large impoverished population, the indigenous people in Australia, the mass slums in Brazil.

Still in my opinion the stiching up of a global economic nexus will probably, long term, aid the process by which the entire human race can escape the shackles of short-brutish, disease ridden lives. The moral disposition of persons participating in this process is not as relevant as the placard wavers think. But the placard wavers are not as irrellevant as the suits think either.

The economy is not the entire story in the success of an civilization. Economic 'prosperity' if restricted to an elite few is not progress. The short, brutish life continues for most whilst the few enjoy comfort, good nutrition and the benefits of medical science. It's a continuation of medieval society with airplanes and TV. And the placard wavers serve to deliver a message to the number-crunching lords; and to the rest of the world.

What message?

I met a girl on a train years in November of the year 2000. At the time September the 11th brought to mind the furious anti-globalisation protests that'd occured a few months earlier in Melbourne. There was a lot of bullshit, unecessary violence on both sides of the picket line. But this young woman hadn't gone there to scream at Bill Gates or punch a cop. I asked her why she went. "To change those people's reality", she said. I think that's the message. The world is not a conference room in a luxury hotel. It's not filled with ample arses in tailor made suits. The world is out here.

And what you people in there do affects us out here, remember that.

The protestors are partbof the chaos inherent in the system. Che t-shirts here do not signify North Korea or Cuba or any other dictatorship because what they do signify is not allowed in such places. The Che t-shirts signify something beyond words although words like dissent, colour, chaos, freedom, kick, poetry and madness might be compatible. The irony of the simulacram is that it brings to heart so many things that Guevara was not himself and would never approve of. The Che icon is a symbol of capitalism and against it, one and the same time. It's the emblem of a precious lack of order at the genius core of modern civilization

Tuesday, October 10, 2006


"Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity,
and I'm not sure about the former."
-Albert Einstein

"My fellow Americans, I've signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever.
We will begin bombing in five minutes."
-Ronald Reagen

The 80s are back!! The pastle jock/goth dichotomy is the dominant high school fashion code, mindless consumerism is the 'rational' compulsory lifestyle 'choice' and the world is about to blow itself up. Again.

I remember the 80s, I was in school. Mostly people ignored the ‘issues’. They drank West Coast Cooler, watched Hey Hey It’s Saturday Night and went to Westfield Shoppingtown Thursday nights to hang ‘round McDonalds.

Beneath our ultra-conformist, two-dimensional exteriors lay a deep distrust of all authority figures: parents, teachers, police, government, the United States etc. The whole 60s thing had discredited activism. Politics was a nerdy game losers played. Cool people didn’t read anything more sophisticated than a style mag’s table of contents; didn’t talk about anything deeper than a 12 inch single.

Like the generation following the Russian Decemberists: we didn’t like the system, but we didn’t think it we could beat it either. There wasn’t any point doing anything, so we didn’t. We preferred to think of the 60s as just a game show or a fashion riff to be played when the mall got boring. The 60s was just history’s biggest party. The 80s weren’t; that’s why we remember the 80s.

The world was close to nuclear war, the American president cracked jokes about it. But it was beyond our control so why bother. All the shots were called by old men. They’d had their jollies and looked forward to loss of bowel control. Us kids, green-haired and glue sniffing, needed WW3. A character building exercise I suppose. We’d thank them for it later.

That was the 80s, and the 80s are back with slight amendments.

Russia’s ‘democratic’ now. Not that things like freedom of speech have improved much, but Russian kids can hang at McDonalds too. Sure the U.S.A. and Russia still have tons of bombs, still strapped to missiles, still aimed at each other. But they aren’t really thinking of firing them.

So thank the lord there’s a new bogeyman: Islamic fundamentalism. Nothing like a mutual enemy to turn the nagging questions off. Yesterday North Korea, not Muslim but in business with same, exploded its first bomb. The world went ballistic. Blogs crammed full of charming little comments like “blow ‘em back to the stone age”.

The commentary whilst slamming NK for being a Stalinist oppressive state want everyone in the ‘free’ world to act like they live in a Stalinist oppressive state: no questions, no argument, no criticism. Just blind adherence to the U.S. regardless of its blunders, its abuses and its hypocrisy. Sure I’d rather live in a modern liberal democracy than in a starving military dictatorship run by a God-king in a bad pants suit. But sue me if I don’t actually want to live in a democracy and not a fascist sham pretending to be one.

North Korea has a bomb but as Mercutio said: ‘tis enough, ‘twill serve. Even small nukes kill big. Not to be outdone the U.S. is spending big on a new program of nukes: 6.5 billion in 2004 by itself. Seasonally adjusted of course Bush’s spending more money than the whole cold war. Smart nukes, nukes that drill holes in the ground first. Presumably the neutron bomb’s back on the drawing board. Wouldn’t want to destroy private property unnecessarily would we.

This is part of the Project For A New American Century, the neo-conservative think tank with its foreign policy hooks in the White House. The basic idea is that the yanks should stop being Mr Nice Guy (mission accomplished) and simply beat up everybody who challenges their authority. An empire by any other name would break your legs just as bad. When so many American voters are also adherents of the rapture its easy to push this insanity through the decrepit corpse of the American state.

Today for the first time in twenty years I had a look at the Bulletin for Atomic Scientistsdoomsday clock. Not quite as close as it was then but closer than it has been in a while. And the North Korea bomb hasn’t registered so next month it might be closer still. Things are different: I downloaded the clock from the net, didn’t have to go to the library. Also I found another version of the doomsday clock: the fundamentalist version.

The Armageddon clock features a longer range countdown with more factors featured: the establishment of Israel, the formation of the E.U., the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls and cyclone activity increases. The Atomic scientists’ clock moves closer to and farther away from nuclear conflict depending on the geo-political situation. The Armageddon clock goes one way straight to the big ka-Boom.

They don’t mind though, looking forward to it actually. Going up in the Rapture they are.

This isn’t to say all American Christians are nuts. They aren’t. Hopefully it’s this type of Christianity, the type that y’know actually takes what Christ said into account that are predominant. Still considering the anti-democratic tactics of the conservatives, their cohorts in the Supreme Court and the surprisingly little fuss the whole thing’s caused; the so-called will of the people is probably irrelevant.

If this sounds a little childish, it is. The 80s are back. If everyone else’s going back I might as well. What use is being an adult anyway? I can’t exercise anything remotely like ‘citizenship’. It’s an irrelevant concept. Hanging on to it’s like dreaming about the middle ages on a nineteenth century steamship: a romantic reaction to modern inevitability.

I’ll just kick back in my wayfarers, crank the equalizer up, dance to some old time rock n’ roll: The Smiths and New Order and...


I’m an intellectual! Sort of. I should be standing up, being counted, making sure the relevant agencies file my name, track my reading habits and Google searches. That’ll show ‘em. I’ll write an essay about how we’re all a princess, a brain, a freak, a jock and a criminal.


Go hang down the Mall, get drunk on West Coast Cooler. Who cares if the North Koreans are Stalinist? They could be fascist-anarchists for all I care. It still wouldn’t change the fact: I don’t have a car!

Monday, October 02, 2006


Last month I discussed the 'movement' seeking to demonstrate that the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon were possibly not what the official story says they were.

I did not then and do not now advocate any conspiracy theory.

I merely drew attention to an article by the physicist Steven Jones that posits thirteen reasons to be skeptical about the official report re. the collapse of the World Trade Centre towers and the adjacent WTC7 building. I said at the time that I had yet to read any considered response to all thirteen points although I did cite an article on eSkeptic by Alex Mole that, while making some good criticism of Jones's hypothesis, did not address all of his points.

A somewhat better job has been done by yet another academic publication - The Journal of Debunking 9/11 Conspiracy Theories. This includes exhaustive scientific evidence contradicting the 'conspiracy theorists' contradiction of the official theory which is itself a conspiracy theory. One of the papers, Mike King's Good Science and 9/11 Demolition Theories does cover most of Jones's ground. And it's here where getting at the 'truth' gets very tricky.

One basis for Jones's hypothesis is the yellow-red colour of molten metal at the base of the three WTC buildings. The National Institute of Science and Technology report states that this metal was aluminium. Reason being that the temperatures required to melt steel were not created by the jet collisions with the twin towers. Those required to melt aluminium were. However as Jones states aluminium does not glow yellow in daylight as the molten metal at ground zero clearly did. It glows a greyish silver. The observed liquid metal he believes is steel. And since the jet collisions did not produce the temperatures required to melt steel something else must have. His conclusion: demolition explosives.

King's attempt to debunk this doesn't entirely do away with Jones's doubts. His argument rests mainly on ruling out thermite (Jones's hypothetical explosive). The molten metal does not support the thermite theory "because thermite in its conventional form is useless in demolition: it is slow-burning, with unpredictable time to melt, and can only be used in direct contact with horizontal unclad steel beams/components." King counters Jones's ruling out aluminium as the molten metal calling it: "poor science, because we don’t know what the temperatures were in the impact zone, while we do know that many metric tonnes of aluminium constituting the plane were in the area just above the outflow of molten metal."

His arguments against thermite may or may not be sound. I'm not a chemist. The difficulty of ascertaining the veracity of 9/11 claims and counter-claims is that you need to be a scientific specialist to understand the debate. But King fails to explain, in contradiction both of Jones and of the NIST report, why estimates of the temperatures inside the WTC cannot be confirmed. Further he says that because we don't know what the temperatures were in the impact zone ruling out aluminium is bad science !!!

No-one has suggested that the temperatures were not hot enough to melt aluminium (they were). Jones's argument is that they were not hot enough to melt steel and that melted steel is suggested by the colour of the liquid metal at ground zero. King does not address this. And whilst he implies that the molten metal is aluminium from the planes he doesn't explain the quantity of the metal nor how the presence of molten metal at the base of the WTC7 building which was not hit by a jet.

Jones also objects to NIST's tweaking of computer models until the desired results (ie the buildings' collapse) were acheieved. King maintains that that although NIST tweaked the models the perimeters were consistent with physical reality. Jones's report suggest that model was tweaked to make the World Trade Centre heavier and less stable than it actually was. The question here of course is: was the 'physical reality' in the models the same as the physical reality on September 11th.

Lastly - the eye-witness statement from William Rodriguez who worked at the WTC and gave the following testimony:

“My basis was, like I told the Commission, there was an explosion that came from under our feet, we were pushed upwards lightly by the effect, I was on basement level 1 and it sounded that it came from B2 and B3 level. Rapidly after that we heard the impact far away at the top.”

King astutely observes that if there was a basement demolition explosion the building would've collapsed from the bottom instead of from the point of impact. Alright but what about the basement explosion? King cites the NIST explantion: the basement explosions were caused by the "fuel-air mix [that] was propelled down the shafts in the core of the building." Neither he nor NIST seem to want to explain how Rodriguez heard the jet hitting the building afterward.

I can't judge the truth of any of this I haven't the expertese or the evidence. In fact no-one has the evidence anymore. The steel from the WTC cannot be checked for traces of explosive because it's been sold for scrap. All we have are competing viewpoints some scientifically based, most not.

Google "9/11 Comspiracy" and you will get 1 310 000 hits. Some, like Jones, have enough credibility to deserve an answer. Less credible are the ex-MI5 spies who believe the jets observed colliding with the twin towers were missiles disguised by hologram! This seems like an attempt to discredit the 9/11 conspiracy movement from within. Surely anyone intelligent enough to be employed by MI5 would know how preposterous such an idea sounds. And surely they would at least bite their tongues until they had something like evidence.

Who knows? Still there's enough talk to fuel doubt for a long time to come. Consider Morgan Reynolds: emeritus professor at A&M University and by the sounds of it a pretty right-wing sort of fellow. He catalogues a whole list of conspiracy friendly circumstances: the fact that Stratesec the security company contracted to guard the twin towers and Dulles airport was directed by President Bush's brother and cousin; the gag order on all NYC firefighters preventing them mentioning the explosions they heard on Sep. 11; the fact that FEMA (run by one of Bush's friends) was already strongly present in NYC for an exercise the previous day; the swiftness with which NYC authorities carted the rubble (evidence) away from the scene etc etc etc. But Reynolds is also one of the chief advocates of the hologram theory.

Tired yet?

No-one has the time or energy to wade through literally millions of pages of evidence, opinion, theory and criticism that surround this issue. Very few people not employed in the higher echelons of special military or espionage services could begin to satisfactorally explain how such a conspiracy could be carried out. No-one outside the hypothetical conspirators themselves could put together any kind of case that would find its way into a court. In short the truth, supposing the conspiracy theorists are fundamentally correct, is lost.

But the truth has already been lost because so few believe in its relevance. Newspapers, television, magazines and radio are crammed with viewpoint/opinion orientated content with little or no critical reflection. This is not just a problem for the right either. Michael Moore is hardly a conservative but he is very much a partisan populist. Fight fire with fire perhaps. It's most amusing to read Murdoch media columnists like Andrew Bolt wax hostile at Moore for skewing the truth. But when you step back and look at the large picture it's fucking scary!!!

The sheer volume of facts as portrayed in the media seems to shrink like words in the Newspeak dictionary. All that's left is rhetoric based on what people choose to believe. You don't like Bush and think the government is screwing you: 9/11 is a conspiracy. You like him and think that people who criticize the war on terror border on treason: the conspiracy theorists are a bunch of crazies. Even people who believe in 'reason' fall into this trap bending over backwards to prove there's no conspiracy because such things are associated with unreasonable crackpots. In each case people decide on the basis of their feelings and beliefs, then look at the evidence.

In a scenario like this the truth can be right in front of you but you won't recognize it. It's like being surrounded by a thousand women dressed as Carmelite nuns when only one really is. Which one is it? How can you tell?

That's how to obscure truth in a democracy. Allow everyone to speak their mind without equipping them with the ability to think. Whatever truth there might be is swamped in a river of bullshit. In theory every political system works. The problems are caused by those aspects which are unrealistic in the face of human nature. In liberal democracy's case it's the principle of enlightened self-interest. We have plenty of self-interest, not much enlightenment.

WE LOVE VIOLENCE: A Clockwork Orange

Over years I used to see A Clockwork Orange at arthouse cinemas. It was a midnight favourite. I saw it every time it was screened and everytime came away with the same revulsion. I hated it. And when it was rescreened I'd go see it again. Like a junkie not strong enough to shake the addiction. A fascination shot through with guilt.

I'd read the book of course. The intellectual distance between reader and text doesn't exist in film. Cinema surrounds you. It's galactic imagery and soundtrack flood the senses. A film enters your psyche at a sub-mental level like a dream. You can only think critically about it after the emotional effects have waned. So watching Alex inflict damage assaults you in a way that reading about it does not.

There are many much more violent pictures. The late 60s and early 70s period (to which A Clockwork Orange belongs featured a series of films which intentionally did away with the Hayes code era of prohibition on violence. How violent a picture is, is subjective. How to measure it? By the number of violent scenes? By the quantity of blood? By this criteria A Clockwork Orange would rank behind many a b-grade horror.

What sets it apart?

Most violent films have the good guy, the bad guy. The good guy deals out punishment, the bad guy starts it. That's how it goes. The violence is morally authorized. You are allowed to enjoy watching Bruce Willis throw Alan Rickman off a tall building at the end of Die Hard because Rickman is a bad guy; a terrorist. He hijacked a Christmas party, threatened Bruce's wife, he has it coming.

In an interview with Bernard Weinraub for the New York Times Kubrick said: “Alex is a character who by every logical and rational consideration should be completely unsympathetic, and possibly even abhorrent to the audience... yet in the same way that Richard III gradually undermines your disapproval of his evil ways, Alex does the same thing and draws the audience into his own vision of life. This is the phenomenon of the story that produced the most enjoyable and surprising artistic illumination in the minds of an audience."

Before he's caught by the cops Alex perpetrates four separate violent acts. Only one of which is 'morally justified'. This is the second episode where Alex and his droogs confront another juvenile gang getting ready to gang rape a girl. Rescue has nothing to do with it. He fights because he wants to. Within minutes he's getting set to rape someone else, famously 'singing in the rain'.

It's fun.

The reason for the fascination and the revulsion: Alex likes violence. So do we. That's it. But whatever social controls are instilled in most of us are absent in Alex. He enjoys violence; sexual and otherwise. There's a complete absence of empathy. We usually watch violent movies without any moral uneasiness precisely because the story sets up a situation in which the hero is compelled to act violently for the greater good. This excuses us the bad feeling in enjoying bloodshed. A Clockwork Orange does not give us this out. Our hero's all charm but no virtue. He's cool, but he's no good guy. He goes around will he nil he inflicting damage and we enjoy watching it. At the same time, aware that everything that's happening is bad, we feel profoundly guilty. The paradox of A Clockwork Orange in respect to the standard violent movie is that it does not let our bloodlust off the hook. We can't pretend it's anything else.

First Alex perpetuates his crimes, then he's caught and becomes the chaplain's protégé. Then he submits to the Ludovico Treatment which renders him 'good by being paradoxically compelled toward evil'. Every time he wants to hit someone he gets sick. And he's released where, confronted by his former victims he is beaten and almost killed.

Humans are violent. The Darwinian point of view is prevalent here. Young primates are known across species to attack older males in packs; witness the beating of the drunk and the writer. This behaviour is sexually motivated; witness the corresponding rapes. Then there is the religious thing: free choice between heaven and hell. But religion itself is awash with violence, Alex reading the Bible is not inspired toward heaven. He's ‘kept going’ by the gratuitous violence particularly of the Old Testament.

Think of the ‘dancing Jesuses’ sequence in Alex’s bedroom early in the film. A chorus line of post-crucifixion Christs dance to the second movement of Beethoven’s ninth inspiring Alex with ‘lovely pictures’ of death, disaster and mayhem. Many dislike this sequence: not it’s violence but its black humour and blasphemy. It’s simply a matter of attitude. Devout Catholics everywhere hang realistic statues of the crucifixion in their bedrooms, living rooms; in the rooms of their children. An horrific way to die on display. No-one objects as they might object to a similarly positioned depiction of death by electrocution or guillotine.

When Alex chooses to submit to the Ludovico Treatment he's instilled with an aversion to anti-social behaviour by programmed association between witnessed violence and drug-induced illness. This, as the government minister responsible says, works. The chaplain objects that the 'boy has no real choice' and indeed he doesn't. But I wonder if the religious spectrum of heavenly rewards for the virtuous and hellish punishment for the wicked is real moral choice. Is a life lived according to scriptural prescription truly good? Or is it just a long range form of self-interest; like a rich man who gives generously to charity and advertises the fact?

As Nietzsche and others have stated justice is an elaboration on vengeance. That recent innovation of human systems of punishment and crime control - rehabilitation - is perfectly realised in the Ludovico Treatment. Take violent offenders, condition them, they cease to be violent. But the punishment element is erased. Alex is released cured but not forgiven. He must face his victims: the drunk, his droogs, the writer who's wife he raped. None of them hesitate to inflict violence on Alex and he is unable to defend himself. The treatment, supposedly advanced, brings us back to square one. Instead of an impersonal governmental apparatus designed to rationally determine guilt and distribute punishment, we simply set up a perpetrator to be the ideal target for revenge.

There is punishment in A Clockwork Orange. Alex's one saving grace is his taste in music, particularly Beethoven. This is partially spoiled for him because one of the films he has to watch undergoing treatment is soundtracked by the ninth symphony's fourth movement: The Ode to Joy. Delicious irony. Alex piteously and strenuously objects and the treatment's supervisor Dr. Brodsky mutters "here's the punishment element perhaps".

This I think is the film’s larger message. Beethoven’s music is wild. He was the Rolling Stones of his day and his music is massively Dionysian. Many hate Wendy Carlos’s moog synthesizer recital of the work for the same reasons that people hate contemporary-set Shakespeare. I loved it. For the sci-fi scenery it was perfect. And, as the anti-modern Shakespeare purist dolts keep failing to realise, it makes the classics new to younger generations, perpetuating them.

But enough, Beethoven’s music is wild, dangerous. As is Alex. There is a link between the demonic impulses that lead Alex to destructive behaviour and those that create music like lovely, lovely Ludwig van’s. Is it possible to have one without the other? Imagine all great works of art and take the sex, violence, darkness out of them. Try to re-imagine them. What’s left? Disneyland?

The last chapter of Burgess’s book has Alex slowing down. He switches from Beethoven to easy listening, too tired to go out for the old ultra-violence. This chapter has been omitted in many editions of the book. Kubrick himself thought the author obliged to insert it by the publishers. However the last scene of A Clockwork Orange does in some ways go the same way.

Alex, appeased by the government with a good job (interesting comment on political ‘morality’ that) is presented with massive speakers blaring the ninth’s final bars. Alex imagines what many critics have mistakenly called a rape scene. The scene is not rape or even violent. It depicts Alex having sex with a girl (on top0. She’s definitely in control. A social circle resembling a wedding party look on and applaud. This scene seems to signify that Alex has been civilized after all. His sexual instincts are re-instated but they are socially adjusted. Perhaps Kubrick’s suggesting that old chestnut – marriage: the solution to male aggression.

A Clockwork Orange has been vilified, banned, condemned on artistic grounds and yet it survives. Easily one of Kubrick’s most popular pictures. Why? Scan the blogs and you’ll find it among many a favourite film listing, boys, girls both. Why? It’s well liked is why. We like it, we love it. It’s in our fibre, it’s part of who we are. That’s what it says: we love violence, by itself, for its own sake. Deal with it.