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Christine Kelley

Christine Kelley writes about speculative fiction and radical politics from a queer revolutionary perspective. Currently her main project is Nowhere and Back Again, a psychogeography of J. R. R. Tolkien's Middle-earth. Her first project was the now semi-retired blog Dreams of Orgonon, a song-by-song study of Kate Bush. Support Christine on Patreon.


  1. Sleepyscholar
    July 5, 2019 @ 10:06 am

    Fascinating, as ever.

    Personally, I wouldn’t characterise the Fairlight as a ‘classic synth’, given that it was revolutionary in ushering in the age of sampling. I know that it wasn’t just a sampler — and it was pretty famous for its filters — but that was what set it apart from the likes of the Moogs and the Prophet V you mention. I consider Bush and Gabriel, followed by Trevor Horn shortly afterwards, to be the people who demonstrated what this form of music-making could give us.

    Obviously Said looms large over this song. I found Orientalism fascinating, since I read it after coming to Japan, and there’s a weird sort of lacuna in the book regarding Asia. Not that this invalidates a jot of what he says which has to do with Egypt.


  2. Pathetic Review
    July 6, 2019 @ 5:23 am

    Have you actually bothered to watch the video? It’s on YouTube. She contrasts singing about Egypt’s mysteries with video footage of the poverty Egyptians live under which is usually ignored by tourists..

    Spare me the hypocrisy of “cultural appropriation” or, as it should be known as, “we can use anything originated by White Caucasian people, but they can’t use our stuff.”


    • Sleepyscholar
      July 6, 2019 @ 10:53 am

      You seem angry. I wonder why?

      The words ‘cultural appropriation’ don’t appear in this review: you brought them to the party, so any hypocrisy is, er, your own fabrication. There is, however, a reference to the concept of orientalism, which appears in the eponymous book by Edward Said. Familiar with it? If not, rather than weighing in with an openly abusive claim that Christine has not watched the video which she both describes and links to, you might want to maintain a little more discretion about an idea which is rather more sophisticated than ‘cultural appropriation’.

      The video does contain stock footage of ‘the poverty Egyptians live under’. How does that relate to the song? How is it addressed by the lyrics? How is it addressed by Kate dancing in front of it in her ‘red silk veil and billowing robes’? Indeed, you mention that ordinary Egyptians are ‘usually ignored by tourists’. In what way do either the song or video address the issue of tourism in Egypt?

      In fact, is there actually any content to your post other than mere uninformed abuse?


      • Vadron
        July 6, 2019 @ 3:15 pm

        For what it’s worth, I believe Pathetic Review’s idea is that the juxtaposition of the stereotypically orientalist lyrics with the footage of modern-day Egyptian poverty is intended to be seen as ironic.


        • Sleepyscholar
          July 7, 2019 @ 2:48 am

          That’s an interesting get-out. The problem with it is that it declares that the lyrics are stereotypically orientalist. The video was part of a Christmas special seen by a relatively small number of the people who would hear the song (I was into Kate Bush’s music in 1979, and I don'(t remember seeing it). If the ironic juxtaposition of the video’s images is necessary to appreciate the song as something other than stereotypically orientalist… then why is ‘Pathetic Review’ getting so hot under the collar about Christine’s criticism? Especially given the even-handedness of that criticism.


          • Vadron
            July 7, 2019 @ 4:22 pm

            Oh, I have no clue. You and Christine are very probably right. I was just trying to be fair and make what I thought to be Pathetic Review’s argument explicit; I don’t necessarily endorse it myself.

          • Elizabeth Sandifer
            July 7, 2019 @ 4:41 pm

            Don’t do this. Bad faith arguments attacking our contributors for their leftism do not need defending or clarifying. This was an abusive troll comment. It did not deserve defense.

          • Vadron
            July 7, 2019 @ 8:48 pm

            I’ll do my best. The thing is, as you may have noticed (and I’m aware that this is to some extent a bias like any other) I am naturally inclined towards assuming good faith by default, even when most people would think it a stretch, and steelmanning everyone’s arguments. It’s a vice, albeit, I think, a relatively respectable one.

          • Elizabeth Sandifer
            July 7, 2019 @ 9:06 pm

            “Do not validate the arguments of malicious trolls” is not really a “do my best” sort of directive. If you are unable to follow it, this is not a good site for you to post on.

          • Vadron
            July 7, 2019 @ 9:12 pm

            The issue is that I’m not good at telling when people are being malicious. It’s caused me not inconsiderable trouble in real life as well, but it’s not as if it’s something I can just fix by wishing really hard. By definition, trying one’s best is the best one can do at following any given directive…

          • Sleepyscholar
            July 8, 2019 @ 12:16 am

            I’m generally inclined to assume good faith myself.

            In this case, though, it was hardly difficult to spot the truth.

            ‘Have you actually bothered to watch the video’ as an opening salvo?

            ‘Spare me…’ as a follow-up rhetorical device?

            To be honest, I think Elizabeth would be justified in criticizing me for even engaging with the so-and-so at all.

          • Vadron
            July 8, 2019 @ 5:55 am

            Far as I was concerned, that was indicative of rudeness, to be sure, but not necessarily of the argument itself not being in good faith.

          • tachyonspiral
            July 8, 2019 @ 9:28 am

            Even the username is a directed insult, though. It’s clearly drive-by trolling.

            And if it wasn’t, Pathetic Review could surely have elaborated upon their own argument. There was never any need to ‘steelman’, which is really just putting words into another person’s mouth, even with the best intentions.

          • Vadron
            July 8, 2019 @ 1:23 pm

            Well as I said, in hindsight, I can see the “clues” that it was a troll, but the username, for example, I took instead to be a self-deprecating joke from another reviewer, rather than a “title” referring to this particular review.

            Gotta disagree on the value of steelmanning in the general case, though. Responding to someone else’s point, short of the someone else being a master of argumentation, will always involve a measure of distortion; you can only answer to another’s point as best you understand them. So in the spirit of fairness, the best one can do is surely, when one is not sure what was meant, to default to what seems the strongest, most logical meaning those words could’ve had.

            Not, again, that I was right to apply this to someone who I now realize wasn’t trying to take part in a honest debate. I now realize that I wasn’t. I means this last paragraph solely in general.

          • tachyonspiral
            July 8, 2019 @ 2:02 pm

            I’m familiar with the idea, i just think it’s misguided, at least in most applications. The best approach to another person’s argument, imo, is to try to understand what they mean, as best possible, not to construct what one feels to be the most rational possible version of the argument. And you’re right that this can only ever be one’s interpretation, but you can draw conclusions from contextual data and the language used.

            In this specific instance, we had an apparently first-time commenter, striking a hostile tone, using the phrase ‘cultural appropriation’ which is a right-wing cliche that appears nowhere in Christine’s post.

            (This is all incredibly off topic and will be my last comment on this subject.)

          • Vadron
            July 8, 2019 @ 2:55 pm

            That’s good, or else the design of the site would reduce any such further comments to a column of single letters.

            At any rate, I’m too new a reader to have known that this was a first-time commenter, which didn’t help.

        • Sleepyscholar
          July 7, 2019 @ 5:28 am

          I take it back: I did watch that special when it was first broadcast (I remember that piano-only version of Here Comes The Flood which Peter Gabriel did on it). But given that this was before the age of video (2 years before the launch of MTV in the US), I think my point still stands. Certainly I have listened to Egypt many times since without once remembering that video.


        • Elizabeth
          July 8, 2019 @ 4:30 pm

          Vadron, I really don’t think this comment section is a good fit for you, and your involvements in it seem to routinely derail conversations and generally make the place less pleasant. I don’t say this to ascribe any malice on your part; I’m sure you’re operating in good faith according to what you would like online discussion to be. However it is not what I would like online discussion to be, and this is my site, so I am going to have to politely ask you to stop posting here.


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