Saturday, December 24, 2005

Gloria in excelsis Deo

Angels we have heard on high—Merry Christmas, C. Merry Christmas, J. Merry Christmas, b. Merry Christmas, S, GH, K. Merry Christmas, M, K, E. Merry Christmas, Mom + Dad. Merry Christmas to the cats, too, Merry Christmas to all and to each and to every breathing living loving thing on this planet. Cranberries, sparkly paper, red wine, turkey dressing, ugly sweaters, "What movie should we rent?", endless stockings, new clothes, old relatives, a sense of a better world come down to this one.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Sometimes You Get The Blue Potato, Sometimes The Blue Potato Gets You

Sometimes life surprises. Because sometimes you get blue potatoes—deep indigo blue potatoes—for dinner. Hey, I went Christmas shopping today and found the perfect present for my brother. It's beautiful, shiny, red, and fits in the palm of your hand. It does not play music, it does not feed the cat, it does not accept a cheque in lieu of cash. "Let the circle be unbroken"—that's my only clue. It's a gooder, though! This was me getting my Christmas shopping done early, by the way. Work keeps calling the house, and on Thursday Friday I'm going to be at both places for a total of fourteen and a half hours. So glad exams are done, yeah?

"Carbon Paper Skies" + Shelley Short There's a certain singing style that is perfection (all styles of song have their perfections, of course). This song by Shelley Short is one of the more obvious examples of such clarity. "Take me down where there's no one else around / Tell me things, tell me things". A man with the strange name of Larry Yes provides the male backing-vocals (don't worry, his voice was made for unremarkable lanes and tall goldenrod). I don't know who sings the female backing. This piece is from her debut album Oh, Say Little Dogies, Why? (2004). This song is a pool of music in a field, and a girl sitting on a fence. Someone was flying a kite not half an hour ago, and the nearest house is over a mile away. Her next album will have maybe one of the best precious titles of the upcoming year—Captain Wildhorse (Rides The Heart Of Tomorrow).

State Of Fear + Michael Crichton Doestoevsky was a pragmatist (I think), but he would probably have forged a strong community of redemption between himself and others before he picked up this book. Thomas Hardy would have frowned mightily and composed a bitter elegy describing how The Implacable English Moorside would never notice either global warming or the hearts of men. Chinua Achebe would merely comment acidly upon the plight of the headstrong Inuit and the refusal of any nation to take responsibilty for the destruction of the atmosphere. Me, I just picked the book up and started reading. The book is junk, of course. Events happen in wildly improbably fashion. Characters believe the stupidest lies. Plot-point follows plot-point. There should be more novelists like this. This book is a great read. Canada, btw, is sprinkled all over this book—Alberta and British Columbia, Montreal and Vancouver. That's just a side-note, though, a drop in the definition of exotic to people who live outside this country. Crichton is a good first-time read. I've never read any of his novels twice, but I've never started one of his books and not finished. Doestoevsky, Hardy, Achebe, they're brilliant. Crichton keeps me turning the pages.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

I'm A Ghost Like Swayze

Keep checking back. With a little luck, this post will be replaced with something better later today, say erotic Battleship or the number 9 ("smell the colour nine") or even live animals!—or not live.

This Narnia business is *B*R*I*L*L*I*A*N*T (via PolloxNiner).

Monday, December 19, 2005

2sday #2

Just came out of a final, another final tomorrow. Can't seem to pass the Monday post without tripping, you know? I might read a half-hour or so of The Small Boat Of Great Sorrows tonight. No, I won't. I work until ten, I won't be home till past eleven. I have a hard time getting around, sometimes. Then there's studying. I'm getting Arrested Development taped this evening. I'll watch it Wednesday morning. U can read my next post tomorrow (always tomorrow)—Tuesday, between the hours of seven and eight in the morning. Good night and good luck, as they say.

Friday, December 16, 2005

What's The Gorilla For?

Newton's Law #9 (previously unknown): the frequency of posting on one's blog is directly linked to the frequency of shifts one works, which is to say, more work equals less blog. Who knew? Also, unrelated, last year's best commercial pop song, Kelly Clarkson's "Since U Been Gone", is also this year's best commercial pop song. New Year's will probably be at The Starlite for Shout Out Out Out Out and similar song-stylings. Plus a black-and-white party back in St. Albert (Capote would be delighted). ION, this house is getting CROWDED, the family coming in for Xmas. I've been banished to the basement (insert DFA79 lyrics). Finals are still not done and I feel like I'm taking crazy pills here. Ping-pong at work will clear my head. What do you guys think about t-shirts decorated with the sickle-and-hammer—ultimate capitalist triumph or post-USSR equivalent of wearing blackface? Have a good week-end. Lucky bugs win prizes.

"Grim Fandango" + Cadence Weapon This is your Friday eye on the local guy. Today's topic will be all about Cadence Weapon. Regular readers of This Old Blog know I'm a fan of the young Weapon, which reminds me, I've got a favourite un-episode to tell. These dudes I know from this band are at this party I went to after a Cadence Weapon show. They saw the so-called "mixtape" that Rollie Pemberton aka CW flings bolo-style at the unsuspecting audience from that backpack of his (I grabbed a copy) and they laid their reverent hands on it, saying, "This is the freshest indie." Something about that description started me laughing and I haven't really stopped since. Anyways, you shouldn't check out Cadence Weapon because he's "the freshest indie", or the Fresh Prince, or just plain refreshing in a dull sea of blathering earnest gangsta hip-hop. You should check out CW because he's GOOD! How many times did I burn the bleeding-perfect "Oliver Square" onto a cd? "He's arrogant," you say (I say) and he nods. "He's cocky," you say (I say) and he nods. You know what? He's not that cocky, not that arrogant. But you know why he's nodding? Because he has every damn right to be as stuck-up and high on himself as anybody outside of a hat trick in the seventh game of the Stanley Cup has a right to be. Because listen to the music. It's that good. And you know what? If Arrested Development doesn't make it to Showtime, it's still going to live on in this mix-master's music (both versions). What's the gorilla for? Anyways, The Weapon's cd came out December 6th, it's called Breaking Kayfabe, be thinking words like solid solid solid. Listen, repetition means This Is Important. Every song is its own piece, and the style is blazing. The cd release here in E-town is the 17th. That's this Saturday. Dance the grim fandango.

Circus + Alistair MacLean The first MacLean novel I ever read was Where Eagles Dare. There was a reason that book was made into a movie (although you'd be hard put to find that same book in that same movie). The way MacLean kept spinning the reader around with double-cross after double-cross was amazing, a brilliant game well-played. MacLean is a hack writer, of course. So was Charles Dickens. I'm not saying MacLean is anywhere near the author of Great Expectations, I'm just saying, is all. Circus is filled with the usual tricks—MacLean is like s strange cross between Dashiel Hammet and Dick Francis and even Dorothy L. Sayers, which sounds terrible on paper (on screen) but works really well on the page. His heroes are always these cardboard cut-outs who could probably out-hunt James Bond, but have way too much heart to do so. They always act fiercely and coldly, but only for sentimental and humanitarian reasons. They're dads, for godsake, every one of them. The hero of Circus is no different. Bruno Wildermann is an American acrobat with a photographic memory who works in an Eastern European circus. A setting, I think, which was once used by the old Mission: Impossible television show. The plot is improbable: keep the anti-matter out of the hands of the bad guys. The world's fate rests in Bruno's hands. This book is ridiculous with death. Everybody dies in amazing ways. Quentin Tarantino should not be refilming Casino Royale, he should be scripting this book and ratcheting out a cast right now. There are so many gotchas! in this book, well, it's not for the ticklish. Even the very last freaking line of this book contains a surprise that cast the whole novel in new light. That's just MacLean's way of writing. The men are all strong here, except the dastardly men. The women are beautiful Amazons, delicate shepherdesses, horrible old brutes. It's good vs evil, and good is so darn clever at getting up from evil's beating that we all laugh and root for more. This is a good book. I'm not saying it's a great novel, I'm saying I wish more great novels were like this, that they gave one a reason to turn the flipping page. I'll flip the page for MacLean any day. Pulp fiction at its best.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

We're Singin' In The Tiki Room / He Ain't Pro

Saturday night, I remember calling G a muffinhead. I do remember that. Also, bumming smokes off a stranger. Also, grabbing my boss' boss' boss and whispering in his ear for five minutes. Also, the shut-up game, where anyone who said anything to me received a "shut-up". Poor anyone. Also, I have this habit, on certain occasions, of grabbing the random people within arms' length and addressing not unkind comments toward them. Also, rye, gin, scotch, red wine, white wine, and something the girl called a mystery shot. I turned around in the car on the way home and saw K and S and GH crammed into the back. How did they get there? The next day was very unpleasant. My longsuffering girlfriend got me to work. I was fifty minutes late for my shift, with about fifty heaving reasons for being so. I found out (today) that there's video evidence of the frolic and speech impediments of the night in question. To all the people who helped me find my inner child, thank-you. I hope to one day witness the same in you. You know, I'm on the invite for an unofficial work party at my other work-place and I'm a bit hesitant about going. Actually, I'm very hesitant.

"The Tiki Tiki Tiki Room" + Hilary Duff I know, I know, I CANNOT BELIEVE I am posting this song. The humanity! BUT—this song is good. And I refuse to allow my own perverse snobbery to get in the way of me listening to good music. And this IS good music. By the way, in the Dad, There's A Little Phrase Called Too Much Information (thank-you, Out Hud) spirit of things, my brother loves loves loves Hilary Duff's "Come Clean / Let The Rain Fall Down". And I used to mock him for his fierce love. And now he can mock me back, if he so wishes. Because I love this Tiki song. I love the chaga-chaga chant, I love how you can practically hear fake bamboo shoots gleaming brightly, the generic wind-up bird-cheeps, the jazz-hands echo to the chorused "Tiki room!", the rattling percussion, the way the audience is addressed throughout the song, the inane rhymes, everything! Please download it. You'll love it, so wonderful.

The Chronicles Of Narnia : The Lion, The Witch, And The Wardrobe Film today. No books for you! Well, there was the usual side-effect to watching this movie. I was so glad I was not there. Imagine facing down a twelve-foot tall two-sworded cavalry officer. I couldn't take a centaur if a Aslan himself was behind me. Or fight against a minotaur whose face is bigger than my entire body? Those horns aren't for me. Unlike this reviewer, I thought the CGI was top-notch, not the equal of LOTR, maybe, but still, top-of-the-pops-notch. On the way out of the theatre, I heard this one guy (clutching his wizard's staff) blare out, "That wasn't nearly as good as Lord Of The Rings." Come on, buddy. I understand they're both fantasies, but neither of them are Krull, either. All three movies are about a bunch of in-over-their-heads characters journeying toward some big-bang conflict that will forever change the universe. LOTR and Narnia are opposite side of the same coin. LOTR is the gothic face-melting humanist side, Narnia is the brightly-coloured religion side. Neither Peter Jackson nor Adam (Shrek this!) Andrewson can help that you like The Cure better than The Go! Team. You probably would have taken the blue pill, right? And the reason you like all the dark shadows so much is that that's the only time you can see your replica orc-sword actually glow. In LOTR, a bunch of humans and elves and those little guys band together. They're going to save the world by destroying the one ring, right? Their salvation lies within if they will only make the effort and work together. In Narnia, a bunch of humans and some beavers band together. They're going to save another human, because that other human has gone and done some foolishness and is suffering for it. In Narnia, rescue comes from outside the group. Like religion, but more feline. In LOTR, rescue comes from within the band. It's like the UN, but with magic! Whatever way you look at it, this movie is a good movie. It's full of bright colours, brave actions, and traitorous deeds shown as, well, not worth the candy. It's like Robin Hood. Evil gets defeated, the poor people get to be kings, and everyone lives happily ever after. And Robin Hood is an enormous lion who doesn't steal, only gives. It's a lion, folks! A lion!

Monday, December 12, 2005


I've been trying to build one house per week, 2700 sq ft, wiring, flooring, all of it. I've succeeded. To date, thirty-four houses. I've been trying to write a novel per month. So far, nine novels. I've looked into world peace, too. Expect to hear much celebration by about Wednesday next. But I just can't seem to stick to a regular blog schedule. Monday's post will be tomorrow, Tuesday. The usual pic, the usual song, the usual book and the usual personal. Oh my sons and daughters, yes, the week-end was very full.

Meanwhile, check out The 16mm Shrine. Ash is putting out the usual top-notch quality. Somebody give him a book-deal. And this kid (I've never met him, but a dude I first saw on the site showed me a picture of the kid) has one of the most intriguing photoblogs I've seen in a while. He's got some good pix of The Wolfnote up right now. Which reminds me (the pix thing) Absenter is still going strong. And a new site, Get Published Or Die Tryin, has some hilarious bits about the MFA process, including the line, "a dolphin punches frank conroy in frank conroy's face". I can live with that line. Also, Oprah is discussed. She's in bar and she's been rejected by the overweight white middle class housewives of the world. When this blog gets specific it doesn't mess around. Lastly, PolloxNiner has a new home, and she brought Feist. There's some new (depending on how you look at it) Vashti Bunyan, too.

Later, aviators.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

I've Written A Piece For Them Called Spider Symphony Number Ten

The thing about crap jobs is that they're crap. You'd think that would be obvious going in, but not so. Whatevs. Plus, I left my cell at work. I HATE that. That's like leaving your best sweater at your friend's before a first-date night x 10! Right now, I'm so tired, I'm not even going to finish this post until tomorrow morning (today, to you, I suppose). I'm taking my black oxfords off, I'm hitting the shower, I'm having tea and kimchi or maybe something else. Maybe I'll give C a call again, maybe I'll read the editorials in the Tuesday Post. Doubtless my cat will sit in the chair across from me while I eat. Good night and good-morning.

"Past, Present, And Future (Live)" + Jens Lekman Morrissey was outdone on this one. Self-pity and pitiless carelessness for the self mashed up by a sixties girl band and covered by a Swedish singing phenom now trying to hack it in suburban LA. This song is the live version—the full applause from the audience at the end of the music is wonderful to hear, especially after Jens has just sung, "But don't try to touch me, don't try to touch me / Cause that will never happen again." Jens Lekman is a sort of genius, I think. His throw-aways are better than many bands' singles. His spider-babies song, for instance—"Boisa-bis-o-boisa"—was a bleeding slice of brilliance, too, say a theme song sung softly by the crow in Alice In Wonderland, or a Neil Gaiman character. Jens has masterpieces out there with "You Are The Light" and "Rocky Dennis' Farewell Song To The Blind Girl" and "Black Cab" and the hugely under-rated "Pocketful Of Money" and—oh, you get the idea. You understand me. This is a guy who wrote and sang and sings, "Oh, I still remember Regulate with Warren G / That would have been back in the sweet summmer of nineteen-ninety-three." Godsake, the Warren G was the unnofficial theme song of this grocery store I worked in back in the day! But it's that big rich voice of Jens, right? Those intricate and clever but also heartfelt lyrics, right? The Stephen Merrit of him, the Morrissey of the man. What I'm hoping, here, is that you are a JL fan. And, if you're not, that you will dl these very minor efforts by a very talented songwriter and say, "Sweet Lord, if these are the crumbs from the table, what's the full-meal-deal taste like?" Oh, I forgot, "F-Word" is better than a masterpiece, it's perfect. Long as you like cats.

[Edit/update: This is horrible news (via Said The Gramaphone). Jens is saying he's giving up the game, at least for a few years. Touring has basically wrecked his life and he's going to look for a day-job. His last show will be in Athens, Greece. Horrible news, that is, for his fans. With any luck, it will end up being good news for Jens. I so wished to hear him, though, and can hardly believe his tour was not a mega-blowout success. Every song he sings is a single. I hope, one day, that I look up from my coffee or cheap shiraz (hell, why not?) to hear the opening notes of "Maple Leaves" and see a mild-looking man playing the piano in the suddenly-brightest corner of the room. Don't give up on music forever, Jens.]

Prester John + John Buchan Remember this? "Look for a small humourous anecdote touching on Thomas Wolfe, a yellow Volkswagon, my Dad's Winchester .303, casting for the upcoming Rocky VI film, and a flourescent purple bikini." I lied. That was just to hook the unsuspecting reader of this blog. The good news is that there's an even better story here, something along the lines of Rider Haggard, but oh so much better. This is Buchan's finest work (and, yes, I've read The Thirty-nine Steps), perhaps only equalled by Buchan's excellent but entirely different Sick Heart River. PJ is the kind of book R.L. Stevenson would have written, if he'd had enough time in his short life. The hero of this novel is the eponymous British lad, the good old boy, the man who makes good, etcetera. The villain is completely out of the ordinary. The Reverend John Laputa is leading the native people of Africa against the colonial powers. He's doing this with the aid of a symbolic/talismanic necklace representing his royal African descent from the legendary Christian Prester John, with the help of a couple of sucker-trash Europeans from the shady side of the Mediterranean, with the charity of the English people he cons on cash-cow tours of Britain and, most importantly, with his own powerful charming force of character. Now, everything in this book is seen from the pov of the protagonist, Davie Burns. There's a lot of casual racism in this book. The kaffir negro is described a pitiful animal-like beggar lucky to be allowed employment in the colonial world of the British Empire. The Dutch do not get off much better. The lone Portuguese man is worse than both combined. John Laputa/Prester John is always clearly a man apart from his brother Africans, an exceptional human being. How much of this racism is the view of the hero as opposed to the view of the author is unclear, but it's there, and there's plenty enough of it. But it becomes part of the terms of the story, this racism; the terms of the large and careless empires which men could establish by sheer force of will—and corruption on every level. The plot of the story is nigh frantic, beginning with an eerie childhood encounter with the young man who will be become the Prester John. Davie Burns is then sent out to Africa, to earn his keep. He encounters very suspicious activity among the native Africans of the back country, and gets caught up in the just-hatching native rebellion to such an extent that at one time he finds himself in a large cave, surrounded by thousands of Africans, pledging enthusiastic heartfelt allegiance to Prester John in the person of John Laputa. The atmosphere of this book is of worlds at stake, of great lion-hearts struggling for expression, of harsh African country-side and the harsh measures by which men live. This book is a book, above all, of atmosphere. Additionally, it's a standout from the normal boy's-own-adventures of its day, because the obstacles which must be removed from the adventurer's path (I'm talking DB, here) are really the pillars and foundation of the adventurer's world. After the rebellion is quashed, there is nothing left for Davie Burns. He is facing a successful retirement at twenty-five years old. He is not displeased with his circumstances, but he is discontent, with less of the whole "no more worlds to conquer" idea and more of the "isn't it a pity" sensation. And the book ends. It's brilliant. Please read and enjoy.

Monday, December 05, 2005

"Nobody Touches Pete's _____."

1) I watched Sky High (thank-you, C) and it was excellent—also, it was excellent because Bruce Campbell is in it. Bruce Campbell is a lousy actor but everyone in the audience (nearly everyone) is a happier person after watching him shout and act stern. It wasn't the trilogy that first made me his fan, though, it was that television series, Brisco County Jr. About other films which are not Bruce Campbell films, I have only this to say. I'll watch any film featuring Charlotte Gainsbourg, even the dreadful ones, even though they're all dreadful ones.

2) There's a ping-pong table set up in the back, now. I love ping-pong. The table is home-made, narrow, corners cut diagonally, net made out of painted cardboard. The paddles are tiny and plastic, matting carefully peeled off of one side. The one ball has a pin-prick hole in it. Work could be fantastic this winter. I like the Chinese grip myself.

3) I might talk a little politics in my next post. There's an election coming, and it looks like a monster.

Sneak-Thief + "Cold Ways (feat Lindsay-J)" The kids in the tight jackets and white pants probably yelled "Italo!" after hitting each other to this shiny-chain-swinging beat. Either that, or they started snapping pics of every flamingo they spotted. I could have helped them out with the photography, but the lingo? I don't know foreign languages. But I do know a solid bassline (who doesn't?), and this bass is solid cubed. I'm not going to try and fool you—yeah, Sneak-Thief aka Michael Morin is local, but he's not that local. Just like The Faunts, but at the opposite end of music, he long ago left the City Of Champions, and he's blazing around Holland and Germany all Peaches-style, where the closest thing they have to a guitar is a poster of Devendra Banhart in the record store. And DB doesn't go down very well on the dance floor. Anyway, this track is off Sneak-Thief's Cold Ways EP (2003), released on Lasergun. What's Lasergun? This is Lasergun, so get your rave on. Sneak-Thief has a website and thirteen tracks on the NMC business. This gold is old but it still gets glitzi.

The Riddle Of The Sands + Erskine Childers His cousin was the First Lord of the British Admiralty, and Childers himself graduated from Trinity College. He was not an unnconnected man. He volunteered for the British in the Boer War and was wounded. He wrote his only novel, a novel which heavily affected the British military, on his way home. Around the outbreak of WWI, he and his American wife were smuggling arms to Irish rebels, but he volunteered for naval service and flew a plane, earning the Distinguished Service Cross in WWI. He served as a member of Irish Parliament (despite his background) and was the father of the fourth president of Ireland. Childers was executed for treason against the British Crown in 1922, court-martialed for illegally carrying an automatic pistol . His last words were, "Take a step or two closer, boys. It will be easier for you." This book is about sailing, and war, and navigation, and ignorance, and so much more. This book is about two men who take a miserable holiday along the dykes and sands of Holland and Germany and Denmark and come to suspect that the Germans are making secret preparations to attack England and establish naval dominion over the northern half of Europe. The language of this book is like crisp poetry. Except for Kipling's Kim and certain sections of Defoe's novels, this would have been the first spy novel in the English language, perhaps in any language. What Childers did in this novel was successfully synthesize the German political stance and attitude into a novel, a novel which said Germany was going to attack England and Europe. The novel was published in 1903. WWI began eleven years later, and this novel reads like a history of the pre-war preparations. Correction: this novel reads like a thriller/adventure/spy novel/mystery/boys-own-adventure of pre-war preparations. It's the setting that dominates this book, though, the shifting sands of the title. The fog is always clearing or thickening, the water always rising or falling, the sands and shoals merging with the wind and water. Everything is temporary, everything is unknown, the enemy might be in the next country or a hundred feet away, who can tell? It's a good book, it's a standout. Look at the author's life. Whatever he did, he threw himself entirely into the effort. How could he not have written a fascinating novel?

Friday, December 02, 2005

Reptile Without A Body

Well, I don't know anymore, I was going to hang out by the big giant disembodied dinosaur head, but all the tourists beat me to it. So now he's got a new bunch of friends. Is this good? Looks like the bodiless reptile exhibit is the coolest kid in class now, which means we never talk anymore because now he doesn't know me. Alright, whatever. The West Edmonton Mall is insane. What happened, WEM? You used to be cool, but now you're crazy, too crazy for me. I can't hang out with the West End Carnivores, I drink milk, I like potatoes, I watch Gilmore Girls. Do you watch Gilmore Girls, WEM? Does Ichabod Rex here watch Rory and Lorelei? Rory has such a big forehead, doesn't she? A walking candy apple, that one. I didn't like her in Sin City. The actress, I mean, not the character. Rory goes to Harvard or Yale or something like that. She met her new boyfriend there. They might be getting serious. Does Harvard have big-headed tiny-eyed lizard-heads populating the halls? Does Yale? I don't think so, WEM. Stop being crazy.

"This Must Be The Place (Naive Melody)" + Arcade Fire Is this as good as the original Talking Heads business? I don't think so (although I LOVE the translated sound, the vibrating guitar lines—plunk, plunk—and are those little taps being made on a xylophone?). Win Butler's voice is as ragged and torn as last year's jeans. And the AF version needs more voice, too. They really like their covers, but I've got mixed feelings. When this band played here, Butler said that he and the rest of the group were coasting toward the edge of crazy doing the same ten tunes over and over. So they played some Springsteen and some New Order. The Springsteen I didn't recognize, but the sound was very muddied on it. Have you heard the AF's cover of "Maps"? The thing is, the Fire don't attack their covers enough. They need more power out there (no puns, please). They need to beat the song up and not stand back and be respectful. Win Butler needs to sing these songs like he sings his own. Whatever, though. This is a solid cover, very decently done.

Note: I took these mp3s off a blog which I can't, for the life of me, recall. Random surfingness. But it was a good blog, I loved every selection on it, and I wish I could pass on the URL. All credit, unknown blog, to thee.

A Journal Of The Plague Year + Daniel Defoe This is a famous book. This book is famous because it is wonderful. This book is what everyone in those sap-headed creative non-fiction classes is trying to write. It's Wisconsin Death Trip but in London, while England is fighting off the Dutch. Shortly, the Great Fire will frost the entire city. Times are incredibly tough. This is a run-on book, a book of lists and figures, a book of anecdotes, a book on economics and politics and religion and superstition. This book is not a novel. This book is true and good. This book is common sense and heart-wrenching confusion and, more than anything, death.

In the first house, there died four persons. A neighbour, hearing the mistress of the first house was sick, went to visit her, and went home and gave the distemper to her family, and died, and all her household. A minister, called to pray with the first sick person in the second house, was said to sicken immediately and die with several more in his house. Then the physicians began to consider.

[Edit: Good God, I said local profiles on Fridays, didn't I? That was Note Number Two in the listening section. Apologies. Check back Monday for an atonement post. Have a good week-end. Lucky bugs win prizes.]

[Edit (Sunday): I found the blog and the blog is Hello Gina and she has the smile-out-loud "Sweet Troubled Soul" up right now, the stellastarr* single, along with the "stellar" James Iha remixplosion. Love the kick when all the instruments—except for that drumbeat—cut out for, like, two seconds, and Christensen belts out the title phrase.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

600 Feet Away, Less

Where I live, the little bits and pieces aren't all bad. Daytripper to university, takes classes in the heart of a million people. And nights, back at home, I watch the old grain elevator shuffling a country-polka across the railway tracks a block from my house. Side of your eye when you look at her, though. Full-on stare and she'll freeze, like a scarlet-horned deer pale in the headlights. The only thing moving will be you in the foreground and that cold blue sky brilliant behind her. Transit-time is forty plus minutes, minimum, between home and university. You think that's a lot of time? I think that's a lot of time. But I try not to mind the distance, or the minutes wheeling by, because what can I do? Remember, also, there's a lot of good things to look at, good people to talk to, good books to read, good essays to write. Yes, sometimes I mind the distance too much, but then I remember this is Alberta, and flat flat land, and long highways, and it doesn't matter whether you're going to heaven or hell—either way, you've got to drive there, and the drive won't be short.

"The Summer Of 98" + Shiney Friend "We were kissing in the rain / Please bring me back the summer again." It's not really a request if you listen closely. The girl's just a means to an end (to the comfort of what was) and the singer seems to know it, too, but this glitched-up request is okay and reasonable, because the song is not titled "The Girl Of 98", after all, not at all. If the girl listens to the singer (really listens, that is), she'll never come close to him again—at least, not in those same clothes. Her return would shatter his summer and every summer-memory. No, he wouldn't thank her. Those old relationships are dense with good moments. To bring back that connection would be to erase those memories. Better to have the song. Two years old, now, this song, two years since it was released. I wish this band (this man, the singer) was available and making music. Is he? I wish his dragged-out sketchy synth was still my shiny friend.

The Unbearable Bassington + Saki The author's note at the beginning of this novel is brutal—"This story has no moral. / If it points out an evil at any rate / It suggests no remedy." Saki's prose is brilliant, his story is better. The novel follows the usual Modernist pattern:1) the irrecoverable fall from a type of paradise, followed by 2) the realization that there never was or will be a paradise, followed by 3) death and crippling grief. Also, this is a very funny book, very wry, amusing, witty, any description of humour you want, really. The good lines are too many to quote, bad lines don't exist, and what at first I considered to be irrelevant scenes in this novel became, as I turned the pages, key exposition, and very emotionally resonant. True to his word, the author ends his novel irremedially unhappily for nearly everyone concerned (two minor characters—one never seen, only reported—are perhaps contentedly married). The selfish title character dies in a lonely fit of petulance, the mother realizes, too late, that her life has been filled with emptiness, and the debutante who quite rightly rejected the protagonist and married another man realizes she that has trapped herself into a type of inescapable hell. But she is resigned to her doom. "It was lame, that was why it was tame."

Very minor thing—a joke gets recycled. It's a very witty joke, brilliant, so the problem is that it stands out when it gets used again. I swear, btw, I've read something like this in Wilde or Benchley, someone like that, somewhere. Chapter Thirteen in this novel, Saki writes "We all know that Prime Ministers are wedded to the truth, but like other wedded couples they sometimes live apart." Earlier, in the fifth chapter, Saki had written, "I'm living so far beyond my income that we may almost be said to be living apart."

Monday, November 28, 2005

At Swim-Two-Birds

From the G Mac campus to the Corona LRT is about four city blocks, I believe, and I walked them in minus ten this morning. Cellphone weather, not at all. Two birds were huddled in a fake tree outside the coffee shop. My hand got so cold. Anyways, snow and all, shiny flakes crystallizing very high above the tall buildings and blowing down the sunny street, and I could hardly see for the brightness in the air. What is life if not beautiful? God, I watched a Hallmark advertisement last night, I must have caught something, and I did, didn't I? It's hard to remember that the world is a vampire when the weather is so clean.

Yeah, the weekend was busy, and time leaked out of my pockets worse than money. Friday night was alright, but Saturday night was for fighting. I mean, moving, the girl's new place. Sunday was all homework, it felt like drowning. There was this one time, years ago, at the Soo Locks, certain areas of the shoreline allowed one to fish in very deep water right off the loosely-gravelled edge of wherever we stood. I buried my third lure in five minutes into a dark old trunk I could dimly see from the shore. That black trunk was no more than four feet below the surface, not more than four feet out, either, and I could spot the feathered lure gleaming like flashy gold through the cloudy grey water. A white t-shirt and some quick-dry shorts, so why not go in, right? I stepped off the edge of the bank and dove into an incredible current pulsing just below the surface, a gale of water pushing me down almost before I became aware of it. Great ships passed slowly far off from me, I could feel the thrum of their propellers firing. I've never felt anything like swimming as hard as possible, shoulder-strokes tumbling me forward as fast as I could move, and watching that trunk fade little by little. But you know what? The homework is not going to beat me. I ploughed against the current harder than I ever knew I could possibly swim, ripped the triple-barbed hook out of the rotten wood and pushed myself back to shore. If I had lost that lure, my dad would have slain me.

Happy Birthday, J. The moustache was maybe a good idea.

Listening: I saw E today and he was wearing a dark grey shirt with a picture of a dark red organ stamped on it. "They were the best band in Edmonton ever," he said, and though I have my reservations, I still nodded. The Operators*780 were certainly one of the better bands in the city, prodigiously talented AND they had an organ. How many ska bands out there had an organ onstage? I've got problems with ska, the same problems that I have with rap and country or Chilean death metal—it's easy for ska to start sounding repetitive after about three songs. No Doubt was amazing, but were they really ska? Back in the A-letter days, maybe, but as GS has proven ever since, growing is changing, and she isn't singing ska anymore. So while I'm sad that The Operators*780 no longer exist as a band, we still have their music, right? And who knows what good things will come out of that band's demise? It better be good, I'll say that much, to make up for losing a band that never forgot ska could sound just as mixed up and twisted as any other genre out there. "Playing With Fire" + The Operators*780

Reading: Speaking of twisted-up genres, I haven't stopped reading Moby Dick , but I've got some other stuff on the side, and it's good. At Swim-Two-Birds is about a third-started and it's crazy. I first read about this novel in Anthony Burgess' list of the ninety-nine best novels in the English language and immediately fell in love with the title. So when I saw that papery little hardback smiling at me from the shelf, I couldn't resist. This book is a swinger and makes genre-switching seem normal. Think Portrait Of The Artist As A Young Man cross-pollinated with Gulliver's Travels: that is this book, an origami novel, always folding itself into some strange new shape. Flann O'Brian is a wonderful author, a man who can make words stand up and shake themselves like a shaggy dog. At Swim-Two-Birds + Flann O'Brian

Friday, November 25, 2005

His Thoughts Were Red Thoughts, His Teeth Were White

I'm from southern and northern Ontario, you know. There are a lot of dark forests and long roads in that province, many wonderful parts, and good cities, but big skies—well, big skies are a prairie particular, where, some evenings, the land is lit up like a warm city night and nobody's home because they're all out singing, like the field-workers with Handel's choruses in seventeen hundred and whenever. That's what a big sky can do to the soul, southern England, northern Alberta, anywhere there's open land, I guess. Everywhere is beautiful, of course, and all times, all people. Alright, most people. I'll believe you're beautiful, too, as long as you don't call me names, or hold my arm behind my back. I prefer to talk, you know? We could look at photographs, or jump against walls (you bring the Blood Brothers album), or maybe we could just stand on the corner and talk and read the ingredients on the junk food we're eating. Pringles for me. Golf courses, in the autumn, are so under-rated. I like to walk across the clean turf and look at the trees. I'll make supper, okay? We can have kimchi in front of the television, or we can have chicken-breast and white rice and green peas on pale-blue plates. You choose.

The Uncas are playing at the Sidetrack tonight, and someone told me it would be their last-ever show there. I took a Modern Lit class with the bass player—it was about a year or so ago and I wonder if he would remember? After work, I'm heading over to the Powerplant. Five O'Clock Charlie will be there, along with the Stand Up Firs. I think. Happy Thanksgiving, Americans. Have a good week-end, all. Lucky bugs win prizes.

Listening: 1) I've been looking around for awhile (do you have a brand new key?), checking out the mp3 hosting, and there's no help for it, and I've finally caved—this is now a Yousendit blog. Songs will now—mostly—be downloadable via the magic of other people hosting them. The dif is, now maybe I can put up a little of what I like instead of waiting for live hosting somewhere else. 2) From now on, the end-of-the-week Listening post will be local. Ish. By which I mean Edmonton. And the surrounding ish. 3) I wanted my first Yousendit song to be perfect. I didn't care if it was old or new, borrowed or blue, obscurity from Denmark or mainstream Marvin Gaye, I just wanted the song to be perfect, to have that fresh green O altitudo of heart and heart. Well, Acid House Kings, of course. We all know them, superstars in Scandinavia, and we all love them. They've been posted and discussed manny times before this. They're ABBA, aren't they? Even if you hate them, there's probably a song you'll like. And even if you still hate them, well, they won't hate you back. They're handclaps, and harmonies, and sailing into sight of land. That a few voices and a few instruments could make a sound this beautiful—how is that possible? Music like this is out of the reach of weakly printed words. I can't describe this song, but, if you've never heard it before, don't worry. Your heart will recognize it right away. "Do What You Wanna Do" + Acid House Kings

Reading: My eye caught Kipling's Just So Stories on the shelf, but was immediately seduced by the cynical glance from a copy of Saki's Not-So-Stories leaning against it. There's a pun buried in that title, too, in addition to the slag against Kipling, because it's a book of short stories, very episodic short stories—in other words, not so story. Saki (Hector Hugh Munro to his family and friends) is so easy to read, the lines of his conversations falling in all the right places. There's no one like him in the literary pantheon, he's one of the top short-story writers out there. And Saki doesn't bother you with novellas or short-stories dressed in long clothes. Episodic means episodic. He likes the two page story just fine, and so will his reader. Saki writes like a combination of Oscar Wilde and George Orwell, a very bitter and witty style is his. Example? '"No one has ever said it," observed Lady Caroline, "but how painfully true it is that the poor have us always with them."' Saki hated women (the aunt who raised him was worse than anything in fairytales), he was extremely anti-Semitic, he always reacted against official authority. He was a very good writer. Any collection of Saki is the best of Saki. His most successfully dramatic story, however (I think), the one found in The Chronicles Of Clovis and found, deservedly, in many anthologies, is the nearly humourless or very black-humoured "Sredni Vashtar". A persecuted boy keeps a ferret in a shed. The ferret's name is Sredni Vashtar. That ferret is a killer. Oh, the story goes terrible after that. "Sredni Vashtar" + Saki

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

L'esprit de l'escalier

Waiting at City Centre yesterday, escalators and stairs criss-crossing each other like whitest contrails, and this woman walks up to me. She's about fifteen years older than sincerely yours, crinkled hair, dark skin, and says, "Do I know you? Did we meet at the bar a few days ago?"

A blonde in a diamond-patterned sweater steps off the nearest escalator, a man is talking loudly on his cellphone behind her. "No," I say, "I don't think so."

"Yeah, you're a welder. You're the welder-guy, aren't you?"

Welder? I'm wearing the usual brown velvet blazer, I've got a leather book-bag slung around my side, grey cords (those Malaysians who work for GAP do such fine stitching with their tiny nine-year old fingers), I'm rail-thin, have dead white skin and shall-we-politely-say-"effeminate" long black hair. I look like a student slash male geisha, okay? Listen, I'm not saying I dislike the way I look, I'm saying—welder? Seriously? Because you look at all those National Geographic specials on industry in the Arctic (there's got to be a couple) or, hell, a Corb Lund video, and, yeah, it's true, you see a lot of dudes with blazers and book-bags doing a bit of casual spot-welding on the rigs, right? Or that guy in the garage with a blowtorch in one hand and a tattered copy of E.M. Forster's Aspects Of The Novel in the other, he's a welder, right? And I'm not saying there's anything wrong with welders, btw, what I'm saying is—welder? I just don't get it. Do any of us match our mental images of ourselves? I, apparently, do not.

Listening: Sometimes, it's just that good. The song, I mean. The first time I ever heard it, "Rent A Wreck" was amazing. And the five-hundredth time I heard it, that song was still amazing. It's been burned on so many mix cds, half the people I know now know it off by heart, and we can all sing "Bur-ning in-fer-no of ba ba ba" with the same accent and emphasis as the singer. I love the soft cynicism in this song. The video for "Rent A Wreck" was charming, too, in that deliberate twee way of most indie efforts. Now there's a new mp3 (or new to me, anyway) up at PolloxNiner by these suburban kids, and while it's not quite as stand-out as the first single by these guys, it's still solid, still worth burning (ordering, I mean!), still worth passing around to all your friends. I love the the way the singer's voice almost trips up but then neatly slides away on the words "loop" and "duplicate". You might love it, too. "Loop Duplicate Your Heart" + Suburban Kids With Biblical Names More mp3s and vids on their label (alphebetized—scroll down), plus, the boys have got a dot blogspot blog, now!

Reading: There're some mild hiccups toward the beginning of Captain Hornblower. The first lieutenant, a man by the name of Bush, has come to know his captain quite well across two years at sea with him. The captain is Hornblower, of course, and has been five years at sea, if I remember the novel correctly (I do not have le livre in front of me, right now). What makes this information a little odd is that Bush and Hornblower came through some damn harrowing adventures together in the Queeg-like Lieutenant Hornblower, the novel which falls chronologically between Midshipman Hornblower and the book I'm reading now. There's the heart of the matter, though, isn't there? Forester, I was not aware, didn't write these novels chronologically. According to the dust-cover of Lieutenant, he wrote the second-in-the-series novel last. This means that the chronologically second and the chronologically third novel don't quite match up. You can see the seams in the planking, is what I'm saying. That's a lot of quibble over a very little, though, and in the end, these things don't matter. Forester is a good-enough story-teller to pull this series off, and if, like me, you're fairly anal over the details, you'll still enjoy this novel. I'm about a third of the way through the novel and the action is starting to really click, and I confidently expect disaster to befall Hornblower at any paragraph. So far in this series, he's survived a deadly duel, a ship sinking under him, capture by the French, Spanish imprisonment, an insane captain, land-warfare in the Caribbean and some murderous colonial politics. I'm sure whatever Forester throws at him, Hornblower will buckle down and plug away at success. That's why I like this guy. He's always discouraged, always doubting, and always using that doubt and discouragement to rise above the worst circumstances that anyone of any responsibility could find themselves in. Captain Horatio Hornblower is actually three novellas, according to the index—"Beat To Quarters", which I'm on right now, "Ship Of the Line", and "Flying Colours". These three novellas form the first-laid foundation for this entire series. Captain Horatio Hornblower + C. S. Forester

Monday, November 21, 2005

Fumito Ueda Has Fallen Into Shadow

First. I now vicariously know how the cat feels around my feet. Like I feel around The Colossi, that's how. This game (check out the footage) is all killer, a true destroyer. Like Conan The Barbarian crossed with the ferry scene in The Ring. Brilliant. We got half-way through. R1 for ever. Second. How about them Leafs, unfans? Better than the Gorillaz, is what they are. But music vs hockey isn't a fair fight. Most times. Sometimes. Leaf-wise, anyway. Third. Octabulist: tells tall stories eight different ways. Fourth. New guy at work, random conversation-ing (you get no context—none needed), "It's like a rap-battle" and "Don't make the cowboys angry". He's gold, he just doesn't know it yet. Fifth. Broken Social Scene, I wasn't there, but everyone else was (seriously—EVERYONE), including, apparently, her. Check her back for more goods, she's got some Shout video, too (bottom of the post) [Edit: Also, she was there, and le google brings up this enthusiastic local.] And, yeah, I know it was the biggest indie show of the year around here, and, yes, very possibly BSS' last album/tour, and, yes, I am now unworthy of wearing corduroy. Denim from here on in. Sixth. Is school killing you? School is killing me. The novel is killing me more, though. Oh, way more. Seventh. Word is, the last word in the Old Testament is a curse. Harsh, harsh, harsh. This post won't be like that. Eighth. The end. The end, dammit. Whoops. Dammit.

Listening: Monday, of course, and that means most of the music blogs have new stuff up, new songs, new links, new commentary. But not this page. Not that I'm a music blog per se (most of my sidebar tracks back to the decidedly bookish, obviously), but I like to think about le musique, you know? Very uplifting. Ish. Nevermind the newest stuff, then. Last week, STG posted a wonderful song I'm still working through, a rough and glittery gem (you've seen those nearly uncut stones in the crowns of the old French kings?) by a band called Hi Lo Trons. This song is like the staff at the local gas station who started singing ABBA one frosty morning, but they only had rough scratchy instruments for the musical bits. Their voices, however, are very good—not unlike the audio equivalent of a tightly-wound Cezanne. This is ridiculous. I'm scrabbling around here, trying to make words out of vowels and awkward consonants like X and Q (but not U). There is no describing this song. The song is good. Listen to it. "Look, Wow" + Hi Lo Trons

Reading: He's got an omelette named after him at The Savoy! Flaked fish and eggs! He was first published in the fin-de-siecle but didn't achieve wide-spread success until around 1908. He was a lot like an Edwardian version of David Lodge, in that he was a well-respected and successful writer whose chief strength (among many) was analyzing other author's books. Like Lodge's often under-rated The Art Of Fiction—which has got to be one of the best analyses of literary construction in the English language—this authors' critiques were often gathered into broadly-themed collections and sold as this book or that. Like Lodge, the man writes so well that the most complex or difficult-to-relate concept becomes simple and easily apprehended. And, like Lodge, though he sits around with the virtuous stars of literature—there's a good story of how he, Joseph Conrad, Thomas Hardy, J.M. Barrie, George Bernard Shaw and John Galsworthy were sitting around a single candle, trying to avoid the zeppelin bombings—he had little patience with the vices that often parallel such company, such as elitist symbolism, rarified vocabulary and/or needlessly complex narratives. His novels were condemned by Virginia Woolf for a lack of realistic characterization, which is odd because his novels, especially his earlier novels such as Anna Of The Five Towns, were clear cases of classic realism populated with strongly individual voices. I was skimming a collection of his newspaper articles the other day and was taken with the final section of the book, "'Fiction' And 'Literature'":

But Messrs. Hutchinson, who are evidently rather proud of having secured Lucas Malet's new long novel, have thought of a new adjective, and the event must be chronicled. They are announcing that Lucas Malet's new novel is "literary"—"the literary novel of the autumn."

Our man is against this new distinction. He sees the art novel over there, like a textual version of the art furniture in Tottenham Court Road, and he sees the regular library novel over there, often passed over as merely an amorphous blob and labelled fiction. The newly-termed literary novel, he thinks, is hinting that it "combines the superior attributes of both" kinds of fiction, and is, in effect, subverting both labels by setting itself up as a superior brand of fiction. Speaking for himself, our man is fed up with these holier-than-thou distinctions.

Personally, I would not permit my publishers to advertise a novel of mine as literary. but on the whole I wouldn't seriously object to the adjective "un-literary."

That's the kind of guy I like. An author who can accept useful distinctions between various kinds of literature, but will not accept a label which raises itself up by denigrating other kinds and classes of text. Oh, he must have been gall to much of the academic world. Books And Persons + Arnold Bennett

Thursday, November 17, 2005

DFA 79 vs The Octagon feat The Locals

DFA 79 opened at Rexall Place last night. In the basement, that's where I'm gonna stay. Somebody, anybody, talk to me. I've got the merch, the music, the mixes (HMV approved, you know—three little-girl staffers at the WEM location told me the mix was "their" music), and I've even punched Sebastien Grainger in the foot. Can you remember when this city was a nice place for waterwings and cannon-balls? There's an email link over there, and it's tap-water, dudes, it's for free. Talk to me.

Elsewhere, beyond the darkness, my girlfriend invented a new word and the word is—octangular. Love it. Not a lot of use for that word out there, but I've already adapted it, myself, and I've decided to write a graphic-novel about an eight-sided bassist who forms a two-man band with a wicked-keen drummer and they rule the world and never get haircuts. All right, the drummer gets a haircut. But the story will be told from the point-of-view of the eight-sided bassist. Because every story should have an octagonist. This word will save us if we don't die young.

Listening: So I'm rappelling down Mount Vesuvius when suddenly I slip. And I'm just falling, terrified, and then I think, "Hey, me, haven't you been listening to DFA 79's remixes on Romance Bloody Romance for six straight days and couldn't some of this maybe be in your mind?" And it was. I was totally fine. I've never even been to Mount Vesuvius. That's what listening this music can do to you. Alters perception, bends spoons, spaghetti on the wall, DUCK! Everything comes at you filtered through the various and variously similar—wait, is that even possible?—remixes on the cash grab DFA 79 put out a while back. Listen, am I wrong, or is that some seriously downgraded imagery on the new cd? This band needs to look after their brand a little tighter. And I need something to clear my eyes, clean out those stubborn rhythms. I'm going local here. Local! And you were probably thinking this paragraph was going to be about my boys, didn't you? Well, Seb and Jesse can go hang. They've cancered me up too much. Let me try my hand a little closer to home here. [Edit: disclosure le full here—I do not actually know these bands, as in Biblically and/or otherwise. I hear a couple of names, I listen to the music, and it happens to be local. Yes, and I have also been known to search online and cut-and-paste these local faces on to cardboard horses and tigers and then engage in ceaseless gladiatorial duellery—a true battle of the bands, if you will—but I haven't done that in over a month]. I've already described Cadence Weapon and SO4 and, back in the day, 7and7is. Let's move on. There's three local bands I want to mention, and I've done all your googling for you.

First of all, these guys. They've been a little silent lately, but that doesn't mean they've gone away. Perhaps the only music you know are the twelve remixes on RBR. In that case, these guys are like a combination of the Erol Alkan Love From Below Re-edit and the Justice Remix. BUT A LOT HARDER. Like a garbage truck was being rolled down a rocky hill at four in the morning louder. This is punk for people who think Blood Brothers are a little too Sarah Slean. Dense like your face sliding off your head, you better believe this noise is loud. Adjust your dial down. Because they play with shapes and somehow make them fit. They've been around for a few years, now, and the music is gradually getting less thrash and more rhythmic. Not that that is a bad thing. Enthusiasm is good, but skill has its advantages, too, right? Put on your favourite dress and maybe start out with one of the lower-volume songs. I'm just saying. "Three Bells" + The Wolfnote

Right, I forgot, I do kind of know these guys. And, no, this picture was never associated with them, but I feel it fits, you know, it fits. Now, if you like the beginning of the "Black History Month (Josh Homme Remix)" or if you like that Final Fantasy verzh of the same song, you might like these guys. Well, that's a horrible comparison. I could do a lot better with this sounds-like game if a toned -down Bright Eyes handled this stuff. Why doesn't Mr. Oberst get on that? Or Mr. Swimmers (I forget Great Lake's name—which, don't let me forget, I was just told that the lead singer for this band is playing with Great Lake Swimmers at the Sidetrack on November 22, so that's all good). Think dandelions in a field, because, well, because that's the logo for this band. Very emotional stuff here, be warned, and the equal of anything coming out of Toronto or Montreal or points in between—I'm thinking the prayers and tears of arthur digby sellers or Royal City (if they're still keeping it together). Soft hearts only, please. No more walking up to your door. These songs are a bit old but still good. "Metaphors, Mythology" + Five O'Clock Charlie

Some of those DFA 79 remixes were a little more to my liking than others, of course. The Girl On Girl business with Owen Pallet is my fav, for sure, and, yeah, that's a bit like these local unacousticals, but right after that, I'm totally liking the traditional club comparison for this band, especially the Marczech Makuziak remix of "Black History Month". But so much better. You stay classy, DFA 79! You can practically hear lasers, listening to this one. So if the OP/FF mix is the one you like, this next local is the hot stuff for you. You'll like the size of their bass. Think Ladytron, think jazzy cleaned-up controller.controller, think handclaps, think small stages and tight lights. This one song (they have a four-song EP) even has a bit (a lot!) of the new Of Montreal sound-styling to it. And who doesn't like Of Montreal? Seriously? Their neighbours, maybe, cause a band like that next door would keep you up all night, for sure, like a raging nymphomaniac. You like it, but, man, you're tired. Also, this band covers Iron Maiden. Come on! Synthesize the hand-claps! Fame, money, the most beautiful lovers, check out their Myspace (because the bandsite is totally out from this end) "Lifestyles Of the Rich And Fabulously Boring" + Frosted Tipz

Reading: And after all that, I still have time to squeeze in a book! Listen, a while ago, my brother was scaring up change to toddle down to Montreal, and that was cool, because he sold a bunch of his books and I bought his Horatio Hornblower set. These books are pure story. Have you noticed something about these naval novels? They're all the same, every one of them. They're like those Oreos. The different colours don't fool me, they're all the same cookie. Patrick O'Brian, Julian Stockwin, these guys are just kitted-out C.S. Forester. Not that there's anything wrong with that. Forester was directly inspired by the real-life adventures of Lord Admiral Thomas Cochrane, a guy whom Napoleon himself nicknamed "The Sea-Wolf". Cochrane's life makes for an ideal book, structurally speaking, because the man was a master of the single-craft idea of warfare. And a novel about one man and one boat is a lot easier to write, I'm assuming, than a novel about one man, his boat, the rest of the squadron under his command and the captains of those boats, too. A lot easier to read, that's for sure. And these books are very easy to read. I watched the two-years-in-the-making Hornblower series with the perfectly-cast Ioan Gruffud on A&E years ago, and loved the in-depth soap-opera of the movies, the politics of the naval-life, and the easy audience-empathy towards the main character. Also, these movies were beautifully shot. The books are the same. I'm just reading the first one, right now, but the visuals are huge, here, clear competent pictures of figures in action and, above all, always the ship. Forester does a great calculated job of burying the hero in our hearts. Outside of Sabatini and Rowling, I've read few more skilful jobs of raising reader sympathy by presenting the battered put-upon hero. Horatio Hornblower is cut no breaks in the first half of this novel, but he triumphs just the same. And I love the skill with which Forester gets around our twenty-first century conciousness of the archaic language and terms used aboard a British frigate in the Napoleonic era. He has Hornblower himself be awkwardly conscious of not-everyday-usual terms like "Aye, aye" and odd pronunciations (and thus spellings) like "forrard' for "forward". Of course, as Hornblower comes to accept these linguistic differences between his early life and present career, so we, too, accept the difference. That's what these books are, then—strange worlds filled with familiar figures. That's why they work. That's why they keep being rewritten. That's why they're still best-sellers. Forester is worthy of being read because he is a skilful storyteller who understands competition and politics and the enjoyment of reward and accomplishment. His vocabulary is simple but always growing. His plots are sometimes nearly invisible, but always rising to some unalterable climax. His protagonist is a one-dimensional teenager who becomes a thoughtful man. This series is going to be a good one, I can tell. I'm already on the second book. Mr. Midshipman Hornblower + C. S. Forester

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Apocalypse Brazil

When I was but the littlest-wee of wee lads, I would often wield a bloody double-sided battle-axe in triumphant murder-marches against the neighbouring castles of my mountainous and gory homeland. Okay, that's completely untrue. What I really mean is, because I was a kid, my mom would take me with her when she went shopping. She didn't want me watching the MTV, you know. Electric Circus! Anyway, sometimes she would go to this little warehouse called Nu 2 U, a squat ugly cellblock brambling around in some very barren gravel-roaded country. It was across the river, where we hardly ever went at all. An old man who may have had a glass eye ran the place from behind an enormous stack of ceramic plates. Bear with me. The entire place was crammed with dinnerware and cutlery and the odd tweazle-haired rocking-horse stashed in the back. Blue-glass saucers piled higher than my Charlie Brown head, random red glasses boxed-up in the darker corners, heap and heaps of pale yellow and pale orange melmac plates, plastic pitchers bigger than the car—the place was a gold mine of discarded dinner dreck. Amazing. I still eat off of some of those old plates, you know? And let me hasten to add that my family was not like some Faulkner clan slash white trash, grubbing in the dirt for food. We grubbed in the dirt for the love of grubbery, pure and simple. Just because it was old or second-hand (or sixteenth-hand) didn't mean we didn't like that stuff in that store. It was gold, nobody else had anything like it—hmmm—and we loved and still love the unique finds we would make in that store. What I mean is, sometimes I just have to talk about stuff that I know you guys have probably heard of before, but I don't care, because I just found out and to me, it's treasure and pirates and swinging from the tops'l with a sword in hand. A sword, for godsakes!

Today, following a random series of links, I fished up against the restaurant at the end of the universe, alternatively known as WFMU's Beware Of The Blog. Which is no surprise, because I always end up at that heap of remainders, anyway. What I found there was something parading around in thirty-year old jungle-zombie gear, a band called Secondos e Molhos, whatever that means. I'll tell you what, I can barely get my head around them. The music is alright, not so much to my taste, but what drives me is the pre-KISS era stylings of this Brazilian group vs the sounds-exactly-like-a-girl lead singer's voice (Coheed and Cambria, you are now rubbish) vs the seventies' style folk-rock—so, I guess, contemporary for their times?—tunes of our heroes. Whatevs, it's the style, mostly. These guys look like gay Apocalypse Now. They look like cannibals on the banks of the great grey green greasy fever-treed Limpopo. Check them out here (there's a lot of links provided). Diablo!

Listening: I finally found a website with the sugar-rock Pelle Carlberg version of The Darkness' hit. I can't get the version on his band's site to work, the usual 404 stuff. I like The Darkness, and I thought (I still think) that their massive hit deserved every second of its fifteen minutes. Also, I haven't seen teeth like that on a lead singer since the last time I saw a Monster Magnet video. Oh, those British. And Dave Wyndorf, too. So sexy with their ugly bodies and carefree attitude. Which is why this version of this song is so good, because it still preserves the best part of the original song, which was the sudden shrug and why-the-hell-not of even singing a line beginning "I believe". This is a good song, but it's on the bottom of the site's page and going fast, so grab it and stuff it in that ugly parka and run. "I Believe In A Thing Called Love" + Edson [Edit: and, gone!]

Reading: Haruki Murakami is like wonderful old wood from the hull of a sailing ship, like heart-of-oak polished by every sea and, like that hull, bringing with it a little of the everything from the everywhere to which he's been. The man can write on nigh-anything and make me willing to ignore the ridiculousness of the situation and believe the emotion, the gravitas, the bloody bells-and-weights of the heart, right there on the page. Pathos, not in a badly-regarded or negative sense, is his forté. Murakami is practically Dickens in this sense-overwhelming method. And because of this talent of his, HM can pretty much bow-tie any emotion he depicts onto any object he decribes, like, oh, say, loneliness and spaghetti. Which sounds terrible, bathetic, ponderous, even. But this short essay/story of his is wonderful, and not to be missed if you're a fan of sweet clean lines, soft humour, sensible sadness. "The Year Of Spaghetti" + Haruki Murakami

Monday, November 14, 2005

The Contradiction Of What I Just Wrote

[Edit: I was wandering through some old-growth files and stumbled across this reminder written about fifteen months ago and filed neatly under "Don't Forget". I'm so precocious, my teeth hurt. Alternately, I may be insane. Anyway, I subbed in the proper links, html'd away and posted it. And, yes, I really do write like this. Later, dudes. I'm going to listen to some Agent Orange.]

These are the cds you want to buy, me! You want to get the "Give It Back" single, from Gaelle. 1) Because she is really really good-looking, and when did that ever make you want anything less? 2) Because the music is low-key, low-key like sitting on a leather couch in an apartment owned by someone of the opposite sex, and you don't really know this person. It's late night, maybe eleven or one o'clock, and through the open window you can hear the lazy cars and warm blur of traffic below. This music is monotonous, BUT—the someone you don't know presses play and Gaelle's chai voice holds you attractively removed high above everything. Listen. She's singing, now. Perfect.

There's this band. They're called The Fiery Furnaces. They make really good music. Yeah, it's way arthouse, but who cares? And you can't help feeling, me, that it gets pretentious here and there, too, but—who cares?—it's in a good way, like in a Robert Browning pretentious way, sort of "I'm a Victorian poet and I'm bloody well interested in everything from modern chemical processes to regional quattrocento history, alright?" Browning somehow makes his readers interested in whatever he's interested in, and The Fiery Furnaces do the same. Me, you like their first cd and you like their second. If there's a third, check it out!

It's called Inches. It's by Les Savy Fav. You love them. You LOVE this cd. It's a singles compilation. Who releases a singles album before they've ever released an album? Seven years in the making, is what this cd took. Joseph had a dream of seven fat years, and then seven lean. If anything is going to get you, me, through the lean, this cd is it. Me, everything here is gold. Even the crap is gold. GET THIS CD!

A.C. Newman of The New Pornographers branches out into his own to put out one of the best of the beautiful things in this world. The Slow Wonder is full of excellent stand-and-look-for-where-the-music-is-coming-from moments. Newman is nearing the top of the pyramid with these lyrics. Where will he go next? He's looking at his own constellation, now, letting us hear what he hears, see what he sees, perfectly capturing the melodic movements of the spheres.

What is it about The Quick Fix Kills that you dislike, me? NOTHING. What is it about their first release that you stamp with your seal of approval? ALL OF IT! Go and buy Saint Something immediately!

Here's one you weren't thinking of, me. It just sort of condensed out of the ethernet like rain out of the clouds. In this case, though, you're talking about a sunny, sunny shower. The only thing dark-edged on this cd would be the humour evident in its title. Hell Is Eux Autres is the excellent release from Eux Autres. It's sunny, it's cheerful, it's full of brambly guitars and cheerful voices going "Whoo!" Good car music, good sun shower music, and the patio full of people. Press play.

The Arcade Fire. Seriously. What? Get your hands on anything.

Now let's talk about Aka "The Hots". Good name. Clear vocals. Catchy rhythms. Good music while you're making sandwiches in the kitchen for your girlfriend, me. If you don't buy their cd for you, me, buy it for her. Get out the cheese-bread and ham, and pile up the lettuce, and put on this Touchy EP. Wait, wait, don't go yet, me. One thing. This band gets really big, say, and gets printed up in ALL the big zines—how does the columnist refer to him? Because A"TH" looks very very awkward, like a bushman of the Kalahari trying to spell in Russian. And let's face it, that's an overdone cliché at the best of times.

[Update: Some of this stuff has serious memories attached, a lot of faces. Then again, I didn't even remember who AKA "The Hots" was/were/are. Lyrics like "I'm a reacher / With chiselled features" don't amuse me anymore. I love me on The Fiery Furnaces—"There's this band"!—and I don't remember where the heck I heard about AF. I bought controller.controller instead of The Quick Fix Kills, at HMV of all things, like, three days after the release! There was something fishy about the vids on the Fav cd, and I watched it in that cold candle-stuffed living-room buried behind Orlando II's. Eux Autres are still bloody marvellous and them and Newman were burned on that disc I took to Jasper and the hotel and the rain and sleeping in the railyard with C. Also, I stand by that Gaelle single. It's sexy-sexy, and adult contemporary never sounded better—and, yes, I realize the contradiction of what I just wrote.]

Something: My friend Monday is a pushy guy and talks with his mouth full, and sometimes I can't handle it. I'm sorry, and feel obliged to überpologize to all of you (both of you), but Listening and Reading will not be on today. Stop by tomorrow morning instead.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Hell And Heaven

World War I (1914-1918), over fifteen million people died worldwide, more than sixty-five thousand Canadians among them, a further one-hundred and seventy thousand-plus Canadians wounded. World War II (1937-1945), over fifty million people died worldwide, forty-five thousand (and more) Canadians among them, a further fifty thousand (and more) Canadians wounded. The lesser number of Canadians who died in WWII was the result of the greater number of Canadians who died in WWI—so very much had the population been depleted, so very much death. Hell and heaven must have been very visible on earth in those days. LWF.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

They Call It Le Parkour

You go out in the morning, and right in the middle of the city, you find the most beautiful spot in the world, and you think, "I wish I had a camera." Never the time and place, and the camera, all together. Sometimes things change, though, and an accident can become enchantment. And I know that's very new age of me, I know, but I'm a slug-abed, and rarely see anything decent in the morning, nevermind a frosted world of Tennyson or Hopkins, or the harmony of the dying season. The pond and the park were like a sober and hopeful hymn this morning—not a hymn, no, but an old French ballad, one of the very old songs without sentiment, only an appreciation of the ways things fall apart. I believe my liberal university education is beginning to unhealthily affect me.

Listening: I've got mixed feeling, but I'm going to unmix them. The new Madonna video actually frightened me, I love it, brilliant, brilliant. I mean, totally derivative tripe, but brilliant. Godsake, how old is that woman? Forty-something, right? It's wicked. And strange (reasonable?) how the best bits of the vid are when she's not in it (all the inside-the-taxi shots are hilarious, the subway stuff, the bus stop, the crazy French-style house-climbing). The beat is insane, of course, which is what anyone gets hooking out ABBA, and that workout costume, seriously, pure positive poison. Half of me loves it, half of me Dresden-bombing disgusted at the first half. End the war! You know what? If this is what kabbalah does for your ass, damn. DAMN. But, no. NO. Man, I just googled it and Madonna was born in 1958. She's forty-seven years old. There are no more words to write. "Hung Up" + Madonna

Reading: There are many books out there which try to be funny, or their authors are trying, anyway. And it's a sad scene. Jasper Fforde is one of the worst offenders right now, and some dude—I can't remember his name—writes books about Jesus or whales that Monty Python would probably have deemed tasteless, which is alright, but I like my tastelessness to be clever and mocking, not unintelligent and lizardy. Which, trust me, this guy whose name I can't remember and you don't know, is. Humour appeals to different individuals differently, though. And now I'm starting to sound like a first-year grad, aren't I? Well, the obvious is easy to write, so humour me, please. Ha! Good one, that. No? Oh, well. What about Patrick F. McManus? He was part of the whole You Might Be A Redneck scene before there ever was such a scene. The different thing about him is, he was a professor of English at Eastern Washington University. See, the clever? Well, maybe. Lines like these, though—"At the time, I was writing for all the big-name, high-paying national magazines. Unfortunately, they never bought anything I wrote"—won me over without breaking a sweat. McManus' books all follow the same format (nearly) and consist of short stories, some of them done in the manner of Hemingway, some of them pinned for humour's sake upon some pretty academic conceits, but all of them are easy to read and easier to understand. Because that's what humour does, doesn't it? It makes things easy to understand. His earlier stories are the best, no question, but one can't really go wrong picking up any of his books. The first collection you read will probably be your favourite collection. I know mine was and is, and that's why I'm rereading it again, a green-backed hardcover of A Fine And Pleasant Misery + Patrick F. McManus

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

We Play Popmusik

I am the only person in the world who didn't know that my main man Peter Gallagher sang a bunch of songs on The O.C. Apparently, he's a singer slash actor and not the other way around, which is really important. Is there anything Peter Gallagher can't do? He even played a guy in a coma once! Or is that every role? Until about six months ago, the only song I had heard off of Green Day's Dookie was "When I Come Around". And it looks like the paragraph engineers failed to build an adequate segue on that one, doesn't it? Let me backtrack. I totally don't mean that a lot of times I'm so far out of the loop, I don't even know there is a Möbius strip tripping round my head. Although that's all true. What I mean is, isn't it nice to be able to do so many things? Mostly, I don't have any time or, more importantly, the opportunity, to do a bazillionth of what I want to do. Time is so ever-loving fleeting and all that crap. And if you don't make the time, when are you ever going to hear anything by Green Day? Or get an opportunity to cut your own cd? If you don't make time to sit in that chair, when are you going to find the time to read? Time to paint? Time to do anything but argue with some-one because you don't have the time to come together. Strange that I always find the time for television, but never for a sit-down supper. Strange that I can find the money for a chocolate bar every day, but I can't find the money to travel outside of Alberta. I'm not going to get the opportunities PG gets. That's okay. What I've got to do, though, is do the same thing as he does, and make the most of the opportunites I do get. And then, maybe, I can start making my own opportunities.

Listening: My seven-way tie under Yeah, They're The Best Band Ever broke down against the weight of genius last night and became an eight player battle royal around 10:30 post meridian. I had to add these guys. I couldn't not—and I stand by my double negative. They've been near the top of all my lists, even the grocery ones—see, right there between "McCain's Frozen Fries" and "small head of cabbage"—and the occasion of their latest release calls for a double round of Dance Dance Revolution plus some random shouting in the elevator, preferably with strangers present. If I was Blanka, I'd do that weird green-grendel-clutching-my-knees-and-jumping-up-and-down thing, and, yes, that's a lot of dashes, but my vocabulary is small and I have to stitch it up as I go along. Okay, and, also, I've been filling out the odd five minutes here, five minutes there with some ancient Street Fighter II, and that may be affecting my vocabulary, too. Damn that Ryu! He's good. He's so good. But, listen, Blanka, we'll get him yet. Oh, we'll get him. Alright, but back to my post. Previous to last night, I'd only ever heard three of their songs, cause I don't do the iTunes thing, and I mostly stay away from Limewire and others, therefore, the music I listen to is found music. Well, it makes for a wide range of taste, I tell you that. But you don't have to like eclectic sounds just to like Christoffer and Klas. They play pop-music, their logo is a heartshine, one of them wears muttonchops, and their latest four-song release is called The Winter Will Take Us All. I've heard five tunes by these guys now (all of which are available as mp3s on their site) and the last two pushed their goodness off the edge of the mountain. "Taxidriver" is still my favourite song—lyrics, anyone?—

But now the taxidriver had gotten so attracted by me
That he couldn't keep his lips off of my cheek
He tried to cuddle up close, he looked into my eyes
And I kissed him back before I knew why

Then I realized he needed someone like me
And I could hurt him so easily
So I closed my eyes and thought it was you
Cause in my mind it's always you

—and little is going to beat out "Prince John Silver And Gold" for sheer force of beauty and rhythm, but that doesn't mean this band's newest stuff isn't good. Compared to most other brashly pop harmonies out there, these songs are gold, and sonic King Croesus would be all over them. How can I make you understand how good this music is? Useless. These songs are dark horses swimming in a lake, or a 2 a.m. light changing from red to green, or a party after the party at the club and the sun is coming up. These songs are works of harmony and style and perfect pop expression. If I could sing, and I can't sing, and if I could play, and I can't play, I would give nearly anything to be able to sing and play like these guys, like this song, like "Please Don't Talk To Me I Fall In Love So Easily" + My Darling YOU!

Reading: Even the chapter-titles to this book can be, among other things, capacious and wonderful—"Of Whales In Paint; In Teeth; In Wood; In Sheet; In Stone; In Mountains; In Stars". And if that isn't a a synthesis of just about half the book right there, will someone come up with a better one? Moby-Dick + Herman Melville

Monday, November 07, 2005

Sunday, November 06, 2005

And Maybe In A Way The Tension Is A Life-support, Too.

There was good music last night, but I don't really want to talk about that, although Luke Doucet's "Broken One" was a hearts-and-knives burner, him thrashing on stage with a Johnny-Cash-on-a-bender look and a big white guitar. Brilliant. Also, Whitey Houston, who I don't like (their sound, I mean) got me going with a new one called "Nineteenth Century Breakdown", which punched them through the bar-band ceiling I thought they were happy playing under. Whatevs, though, cause I'm not talking about them, or The Fembots, who were quite skilled and definitely boring. Because I'm not talking about them, either. By the way, talk about COLD outside last night. Why does it take so ever-loving long to walk to the Plant from anywhere? Nevermind. What I am talking about is Shout Out Out Out Out, who I first heard of through 1) massive word of mouth, 2) Cadence Weapon/Rollie Pemberton/Razorblade Runner (Godsake, you pick the moniker)'s website and 3) every damn upright surface within four kilometres of Uni, because I swear every single one of those solid surfaces is papered with a cheap flyer advising the reader to express himself very loudly—"Shout!—Out Out!—Out Out!" Also, on a side note here, is SOx4, their t-shirt merch, I mean, just The Floor's poster logo but cowbelled? Anyways, the show was insane in the best of ways, Nik Kozub bouncing around like an evil Care Bear and doing kicks like nobody's business. And the drummers took it over the top. The stage was crammed with more machinery than Robocop's garage, band members spread out to either side and almost into the crowd. For the last song of the night (and I say "song" recognizing that half of SOx4's lyrics that night were unintelligible through the electric vox—and it still didn't matter), everyone from all four bands was brought out to jump around and spill their drinks and one guy even passed out drumsticks to the audience so they could hammer the cowbell he was holding. There was lots of dark, neon lighting, some fairly creepy pictures screened behind the band, and the audience couldn't keep still. And I'm sorry to anyone I stepped on. I'd post some pix, but the few I took were crap due to my limitless abundance of untalent and the flourescent screen behind the band. Sometimes, just sometimes, it all works together. Hey, if I was better at taking pictures, I wouldn't bother writing, would I?

Listening: I'm not tough, I'm a wimp. Even my mom agrees, and I'd punch her for it, but she's bigger than me and says that's disrespectful. Dammit. I used to listen to punk to try and make myself feel tougher, but the music hurt my ears and then the tears kept smearing my eyeliner. Dammit! Now I listen to soft-voiced singers and songwriters, cause I think, "Yeah, that's right, I could take you. I could take you all." But some of them are pretty tough, right? David Fridlund. DAMMIT! Now there is one sensitive but stronger-than-axes Scandinavian. The man seems to hate himself so much (in his songs) that, well, I'd really not look forward to getting on the wrong side of that much self-knowledge and self-loathing. That whole heart-swording "April & May" schtick was pretty intense, considering it was just basically him, his fiancée, and a piano. Oh, yes, and the grim spectre of regret and selfish waste clutching an entire audience with deadly lyrics, don't forget that. Don't forget that. Clear piano beginnings, typical. The slow voice rising, heard before. That synthy piano at 3:36, I have no idea what he's running that through, and here come the rest of the lyrics, all desperate: "But I throw myself / At the electric fence / As I think somehow / I will win you back again". It's easy to overdo lyrics and music like this, but DF keeps the balance. There's a line in this song—"Maybe in a way the tension is a life-support, too." That line is the balance, the pull between heart's-ease and Dear Diary, which grounds this song. A little too heavy on the first, and the lyrics to this song are getting carved on the wrists of every successful suicide out there. A little less with too much of the second, and Nickelback is fighting with Evanescence to see who's singing this song on the next Spiderman soundtrack. Yar. I'm late on my Fridlund, here, and he's got newer stuff up on his blog, but why not scroll back to when the internet was young (approx 6 wks ago) and listen (it's in his Links on the right of his site) to "Tears Are In Your Eyes" + David Fridlund

Reading: I'll be reading Moby-Dick for a while, stuffing in odd chapters between this book or that book, or this piece of writing and that shaggy dog story over there. For once, Reading, as opposed to I've Just Read or Read This A While Ago, is the correct title for this section of the post, because I'm always reading Moby-Dick. It's a white bread novel, you understand, and takes the flavour of whatever moment you're reading it in. Which does not mean that the novel itself is colourless, but more like it contains a little of everything. Which is not the freshest observation about this novel, but certainly true. I'm telling you, spread some butter on this novel and you could read it [edit: Read it? Eat it!]. What about large loaves of words like these?

Thus, then, the muffled rollings of a milky sea; the bleak rustlings of the festooned frosts of mountains; the desolate shiftings of the windrowed snows of prairies; all these, to Ishmael, are as the shaking of that buffalo robe to a colt.

Purple prose, and what does it lead to? Three or four sentences after, the author writes "Though in many of its aspects, this visible world seems formed in love, the invisible spheres were formed in fright." Oh, Melville. There'll be no Happily Ever After end to this novel, anyone could tell. The author's visible world, the dominion of love, remember, is bleak and frosted and muffled and shifting. Keeping that in mind, in what unfriendly fires do the souls of his fear-formed spheres burn? Melville—not an optimist, you could say. But it's this large-scale contrast between the visible and invisible, and love and fear, which keeps the tension rope-tight in this lengthy novel, and why I always return to Moby-Dick + Herman Melville