Monday, October 31, 2005

"I Need Direction To Perfection"

This National Novel Writing business is going to kill my time. Well, well, whatevs. Linkage? Ran into a trophy mp3 blog out there. Nearly had it shot and stuffed and sent back to my jungle-ranch, but cameras are the new guns, right? So, instead, I took a picture, and you might like to, too. PolloxNiner has some great stuff, including a more-than-sideways glance at an amazing Jens Lekman song. PN appears to be either from NY City, or, possibly, a life-size studio replica of that world-eating town. Plus, blogwise, I should mention Absenter, which has some of the most consistently excellent photography that I've ever seen out there. The archives are deep, too, better than a sandbox. Beautiful, and both sites in my links, now. Linked in my sights?

Party on the week-end, spin the bottle, plenty of open-mouthed kissing. Where were the girls? Male-on-male is cool if you're gay, but I forgot my Darkness Visible eyeliner at home. Also my halloween costume, because I don't believe in glorifying the sulphur-titted lord of the underworld by dressing as one of his horned underlings. But enough about Paul Martin. Boom! Right, that's a bit harsh, I'm sorry. But I was reading the newspapers over the week-end, and got all angry. Stupid politics. Most people say I'm a softie, you know, a bit of a necromantic, but that's just the girls talking foolish talk. Girls are so silly.

Speaking of which, I went picture-taking-driving-walking with one last night. Most regular readers ("Latvia, Laos, Chad, Peru / We need their help, or else we're through") of this site will know her as The Girlfriend. And she pointed out that eminent pic in the top-left corner, as a camera pov par excellence. What an eye. What an eye, girl. I've never really hung around an industrial park before, but this make twice with her, if you count that enormous detour we took off Whyte Ave where we saw that winter-graveyard for old hammerhead cranes. That was a good ride.

Reading: Back in university, back in the classics, I don't even want to be anywhere else. One of the reasons I love the U is this environment. You know what I mean. Where is one supposed to get the motivation to read Dickens these days? Let me tell you, your professor will motivate you. And if he doesn't, his grading system will. But the academic atmosphere seeps into the non-academic, you know? And I start thinking and I contemplate reading Proust again—not that I've ever read the soft-faced M'sieu Proust—I just love the titles of his volumes, French and English. And I start reading poetry again, consistently, and names like Hopkins, Tennyson, Donne, Canning, Emily Brontë, Christina Rossetti, Christopher Smart, Vaughn and Milton appear in the top of the margin. Few of them are quantifiably better than the others. Each has his or her specific and unmatched virtues. Most of all I return to Herbert. The clarity and intelligence, and the harmony between those two virtues, of his verse is unmatched, I believe, in all of English poetic literature. He's a combination of Donne and Hopkins, unmatched by either. Perhaps only the anonymous writer of the medieval lyric so clearly expresses the unity of thought and emotion in physical imagery: "Western wind, when will thou blow / That the small rain down can rain? / Christ, that my love were in my arms, / And I in my bed again." There are no hesitant pauses in Herbert's poetry, unless it be deliberate hesitation, therefore not hesitation at all, but art, and deliberate meaning. There are no vague nouns or diaphonous verbs in the poetry of George Herbert. There are no rootless lines. His book of poetry was named and structured after a church (The Temple). Each poem has its architectural place in the book. Like a cathedral, the poetry is made to evoke admiration toward God ("A verse may find him who a sermon flies"). Therefore, Herbert would probably not appreciate my lavish praise of him or his verse, and, indeed, the parts of himself which he exposed in his verse (and there is great deal of the man carefully inserted into his lines) are put there not to catch our heart's eye with a heavy chime of emotion, but to direct the reader's attention to a similar path to God. Herbert shows that he himself is not important, not in his skill, nor in his experience, but that the experience is what is paramount. Because all men have crises of spiritual drought and heart's depair. And all men may climb out of those dark times—like Herbert, after much struggle, could climb—if they, like Herbert, seek not themselves or their own path, but let their dear desires go. Godsake, that's a hard path, George. That's a damn hard path. But thank-you for writing. Once upon a time, Herbert wrote, "The eyes have one language everywhere". This book is written in that universal language. The Temple + George Herbert

Listening: There is no contest, The Killers are so far the greatest band of the decade (Franz Ferdinand, I'd give you Best Name if it wasn't for Clap Your Hands Say Yeah! or even controller.controller—that lowercase spelling and punctuation kills me everytime). Despite this, the previously-thought-senseless lyric, "I've got soul, but I'm not a soldier", semi-ruined "All These Things That I've Done" for me. That is, until I finally saw the video. This is the best video I've seen all year. First few seconds, I didn't realize they were poking fun at themselves, and merely thought it was bizarre that the film editor hadn't noticed the way the images appeared onscreen. But the way that Brandon Flowers falls slapstick into that puddle, the way the men retreat one step as the women advance a single step, the way each member of the band tries on that undersized burro, well, I don't mind that chorus anymore, I plain love it. They're timid men inside themselves, you see (I finally see), overdressed, tiny-hearted, and know it, too. They wish they were enormous coyboys, apocalyptic, but facts are facts, and burroes aren't horses, and this video, metaphorically, is my ever-loving life. I thought this song was cynical, but now I see it's sincere like I never knew. Plus, that oriental girl is gorgeous. From the back of my broken hand, take a look at "All These Things That I've Done" + The Killers.

There was this story I read when I was a little tyke, all about Greenland. How the king of Norway heard news that the land had been abandoned to the worship of Thor. How brave men were sent to Greenland to find out the truth, and every night they were nearly eaten by grim wolves. How these brave men found only abandoned villages and starving cattle. How not one soul was ever found, only the pagan hammer of Thor inscribed on a single silver cup. Well, not as good a song as The Killers' single (some would slay me, there), and not as intelligent a video, but still blazingly good and with tons of LOTR eye-candy, is Ladytron's enormous single. The director of this video must have read the same story I did, I swear. The video is all frost-giants and living mountains. Magicians or explorers struggle comfortably in a storm. And there is good music, and perverse lyrics. For some reason, I love the camera angles, the change and sweep and stutter of the point-of-view. What beautiful pictures. The "Media" section on their website holds the second of my two favourite videos this year, "Destroy Everything You Touch" + Ladytron

Friday, October 28, 2005

The Rave Scene

Just heard last night that The Raveonettes are coming to town, supposedly on the fifteenth. I was so surprised, I let my goldfish drown. This is a problem. Not the goldfish—I've got others, and with prettier fins, too. See, I've got a smaller budget than the specialty-bird-store down the street (wait—is that right? that doesn't seem right), and I've got old Father Time curb-stomping my skinny schedule just about every week. The news is, and it's old news now, Broken Social Scene is also coming—two days after The Raveonettes! Godsake! This is why you don't offer the kids more than one flavour of ice-cream. Chocolate, and that's it. I've never seen BSS live, but what are the chances of another pair of Danish fashion spreads coming through Edmonton again? Dammit. More news Monday, with a proper-done Reading and Listening.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Every Speed On Our Knees Is Crawling

There is no better venue for music in Edmonton than The Starlite. I love the warped and tilted floor in front of the stage, the dark alley to the door, the pizza parlour slash obvious crack-front just left of the main undoors, the way the mensroom is practically part of that downstairs hallway, the stairs everyone gets stalled on, even the coatcheck girl's shoes (they were red, white, and blue Adidas). It all contributes, you know? And it all contributed to a strong show for Metric at The Starlite last night. There's a massive "but" buried in there, though. But, I was a bit disappointed in The Most Serene Republic. Not that I caught their whole set, but from the little I did catch (a few brief glimpses of their last two songs), they seemed to sound like a typical indie-rock band. Which is fine, but I was hoping for something a bit out of the ordinary from the only non-BSS band on Arts & Crafts. Well, maybe I missed their finer moments on stage. But as I was saying earlier, Metric was tough, a combat baby if there ever was one. Emily Haines' robotic dance moves are casually insane, like your cousin dancing at the family picnic and you never told anyone you thought she was cool and sexy (well, I never did, that's for sure). For the first song, "Empty", she would sing a few lines, keyboarding away, and then the bass would crowd her out, the music crashing down huge. She'd take a step back, put her hands on her waist and jerk her head back and forth like a Barbie doll looking left and right, long blonde hair like circle-knives hiding her face. "Shake your head it's empty / Shake your hips move your feet / Shake your head it's empty / Shake your hips move your feet". And repeat. And repeat. There were those famous little kicks, too, and the quick punk march, even some classic scissor kicks. No wonder that girl is so thin. The sound was muddy at first, or maybe it was where I was standing, but things cleared up about halfway through the set, about the time she started swinging her arms to "Combat Baby". I don't understand why she didn't include "The Police And The Private" (their best song off the new album, I think), but she redeemed the band with a killer extended version of "Dead Disco" in the encore, and "Love Is A Place" finished the night, the lights going out to the line "Nothing but blue skies". I've seen better concerts, yeah, but this is Metric, and this was worth the money. They've been here before, I know, but as long as the bassist keeps wearing pink shirts, as long as the guitarist plays and dodges like someone's shooting at him, as long as that drummer can hold those beats on "Dead Disco", and as long as Emily Haines can keep dancing and singing, I hope they come again.

Reading: There's a lot of crap out there, in The Kingdom Of Books. Someday I hope to contribute. Meanwhile, I sometimes have trouble separating the crap I like from the crap I don't like. Edgar Rice Burroughs good, Alan Dean Foster bad (unless you're talking The Tar-Aiym Krang or that one where all the whales are flying at the end). Roger Zelazny amazing, of course (Lord Of Light, anyone?), Poul Anderson horrible. Note: I also read other genres besides science fiction. I just can't remember what they are. There are books I think are going to be terrific (how bad did The Hobbit suck?) and then there are things, like the Tintin stories, which should suck, but don't. Among books which should blow would be books based on an imaginary feudal Japan, books whose hero would be a young boy, books whose hero would be that young boy being part of a secret clan called The Tribe, books with old-man ninjas who become invisible but never really fight. The book I read contained all of those elements, and does not move very fast, I'll tell you that. Every speed is crawling, here. But the book succeeds. The book succeeds for the same reason those Harry Potter books succeed. Because the author weighs the dice so heavily against her hero, that us readers can't help but cheer for him. I feel so manipulated. But I still went out and bought the sequel to this book (and, btw, this books also comes as a little chap-book in the children's section, wafer-thin Bible-pages crammed with tiny print!), because, after all, ninjas are ninjas, and the writing is very poetic, there's a lot of fairly different characters, everyone's been given a secret agenda, and there's wooden floor that squeaks when an assassin walks across it. Oh, that last one is a gooder, you bet. So is Across The Nightingale Floor + Lian Hearn

Listening: And then there was this band. Which I'm not sure if they're named after the movie, but they remind me in all the best ways of a certain collection of stories, instead, the hilarious and cleverly disastrous redneck hick-adventures of Patrick F. McManus in They Shoot Canoes, Don't They? Described as hillbilly art-rock, and there's a brutal mash for you, they're just plain good. And they've got a crazy-good website. Which seems to be based around a pickle. Although their music, isn't. Based around a pickle, that is. The music is based around the instruments, of course, which include a slide trombone, little used outside of Lawrence Welk circles, and a keyboard. There are drums played by a girl, which is always sexy, and the usual bass and guitar. Such excellent music, this, like Bright Eyes if Connor Oberst listened to Glen Miller and wasn't suicidal. Okay, not like Bright Eyes at all, then, but I don't know where to start. You start first. This is one of their best "Transmitting" + They Shoot Horses, Don't They?

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

The Social Pipeline

I was on the bus, talking about the asinine and unneccessary cameo perpetrated by The Dog Of Steel in Batman: Hush (seriously, The League of Super-Pets? in the DC universe? it just keeps getting worse) and I became aware that I wasn't sittting in the cool group anymore. Was I ever? So I'm thinking about sprouting a crop of acne, maybe joining the chess club. Also, one hears rumours of gamers, and the deliberate misuse of pencils and paper and dice in the halls below Health & Education. Maybe I should join those guys. They sound pretty cool. I want to go somewhere where I know someone who can plug me into the social pipeline. The gamers just may be the answer. Either that or I join the guys in poor-boy blazers who read Rainer Maria Rilke aloud outside of class and keep talking about the social dichotomies between Kerouac and Ginsberg. Yeah. Well, maybe I'll hold off on those guys.

Reading: I have read the opening lines of all his novels. Because the other day, as I was reading George Orwell's paper-mouthed Keep The Aspidistra Flying, I recalled the opening line of his much more famous novel, Nineteen Eighty-Four. Aspidistra opens with a banality: "The clock struck two." Nineteen Eighty-Four opens with a parallel banality, although that opening ends with a sinister twist: "It was a bright cold day in April, and all the clocks were striking thirteen." So I returned to that musty shelf in Rutherford where Orwell rots between authors he would have despised, and pulled Down And Out In Paris And London off the shelf: "The Rue du Coq d'Or, Paris, seven in the morning". This was getting ridiculous. A Clergyman's Daughter, then: "As the alarm clock on the chest of drawers exploded like a horrid little bomb of bell metal"—this is beyond coincidence now, for sure. Coming Up For Air, third sentence: "At about a quarter to eight, I'd nipped out of bed and got into the bathroom just in time to shut the kids out." Burmese Days, second sentence: "It was only half-past eight, but the month was April, and there was a closeness in the air, a threat of the long stifling midday hours." The Road To Wigan Pier opens with the phrase, "The first sound in the morning" and even Animal Farm opens in a timely manner, with the close of the day. Will someone tell me what the blazes is going on? What does this constant reference to Chronos mean? All of this author's books open with the establishment of time. George Orwell is giving me a case of deju vu like I never knew. Everything He Ever Wrote + George Orwell

Listening: This Dan character at Said The Gramaphone has posted a solid mp3. The quality is a little shaky, but as the beggar said at Christmas, half a mug will do. It's the giving, not the getting, that counts. Which is why I'm passing this along. "Unknown Title (Bones Song) (Live)" + Wolf Parade (WP on Myspace, WP on NMC)

Sunday, October 23, 2005

You Want To Talk About Parallels?

Just found out that MM is headed off to India. What? And my dad just landed in Spain, by the way. And A went to England a while back. Even GJ is out there, buried in British Columbia. Hey, New Delhi, Barcelona, London, Abbotsford? Say hello to more people who are not me. Then, Saturday night, S took his girlfriend and looked up Magneta Lane opening for controller.controller. And Saturday night, C saw Cuff The Duke and the Stand Up Firs. And also Saturday night, little G took in Sweatshop Union. Face it, me. You're jealous. Because, parce que au samedi, everywhere was somewhere else to everyone but you. And now you're slipping in a puddle of spilt milk, yes, yes, it's disgusting. And what are you going to do about it? Building bitter shells of envy always ends up boring you. Dammit then, me, let's get vicarious. But fake vicarious, cause that's better.

JSS: Heyo, S. You're not here right now, but that's no problem. Imaginary question for an imaginary conversation. How was controller.controller? Horrible, right?
S: Heck, no! They played that song that mentions vampires. Yes! Like sleeping in a warm cave, and it's dark and winter outside, but the big brown bears out there are buzzing and jumping out of the trees, turning the whole world into a carnivorous blood-red summer.
JSS: That's stupid, You're insane. Don't tell me anymore.
S: [nods] You're jealous. Nevermind, Magneta Lane opened, and they were also solid. Remember how you missed them last time?
JSS: Jealous? Serves me right, talking to my own id. I'm leaving.

Be warned. The whole post probably trails along like this. What can you expect from the gratuitous envy of a sometime hipster? Business is bitter when the stakes are small. I have nothing to comfort me now but self-loathing. And what a very small blanket that is.

JSS: Right, so, Cuff The Duke. Nobody likes them.
C: [hesitates] Well—
JSS: No way!
C: It's okay, honey, I don't really know them. I just saw them cause I knew the guys who opened for them.
JSS: My girlfriend has become a hipster!
C: Well, but The Stand Up Firs are really quite good. I like them.
JSS: [firmly] I'm going to burn all your Roxy shirts.

The argument got quite "heated" after that. Right, so I'm kidding. C also is not here right now, so I just made up that entire exchange. I am a little peeved at myself (yes, peeved) for missing CTD, though, since they were part of the Three Gut stable. I'm telling you right now, if Royal City stumbles into this town, I'm not even taking a washroom break until I'm assured of a spot in the same room as "Bring My Father A Gift". That's right. Let the work of the hospital be known to all.

G: Wow, you should come down to the Plant and see Sweatshop Union, Jay Double Ess.
JSS: Anyways, that sure isn't my style.
G: Yeah, but you're forgetting, they're good.
JSS: Dammit, yes. Yes, they are. I should go.
G: Are you? Will you?
JSS: No, I can't.
G: Oh, wow, I'm never talking to you again. The most happening night in the most happening city, and you're letting your soul rot away in that little town to the north? Good-bye.

Good-bye, little G. I will never know your like on this tangled earth again. Well, so that was my week-end, folks. Oh, the weather was nice, and I won the lottery—wait, no, I didn't—and I drove on a lot of highways and wandered across unfamiliar floors. I worked here, and I worked there, and did a little bit of this homework, and a little bit of that homework. Hey, I ate a yam, too! But I feel I missed out. God, I hate that feeling.

Reading: This book is a bitter little pill, both satire and truth at once. Which is easily seen in the frankly-blasphemous epigram alone—

Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not money, I am become as a sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not money, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not money, it profiteth me nothing. Money suffereth long, and is kind; money envieth not; money vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, doth not behave unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things . . . . And now abideth faith, hope, money, these three; but the greatest of these is money.

I Corinthians xiii (adapted)

George Orwell is a hammer writing this book. The satire is broad and doesn't mess around. But the end of the book is a bit of a surprise, theme-wise. Because what about responsibility? What about kindliness and care? What about love? The world is harsh, and uses money to destroy its souls, this is true. The hero of this novel resents this chain of being. But the end of the novel resents his resentment. Are there not other mouths to feed besides the mouth of the hero? Money, then, besides being the force of the Giant Despair, can also be a force for responsibilty and maturity. Both of these themes, contrasts, paradoxes, what-have-you, are well-highlighted in George Orwell's brilliant and bitter Keep The Aspidistra Flying + George Orwell.

Listening: I was listening to OK Go again, and it struck me how well their maybe-biggest single fits in with the Orwell novel I've been talking about. Just imagine the singer is the despairing hero, resenting his neediness, yearning for the bright house of money—"Oh, you've a million ways to be cruel," he croons. Indeed. "A Million Ways" + OK Go.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

A Bad Egg, A Bad Dog

I bought a Kinder Egg yesterday. I unwrapped it and ate the chocolate shell. The egg had one of those toys inside it, of course. Which is why I bought it. Of course. But the toy was already assembled. So sometimes I get out of bed in the morning, but sometimes I say, "What's the use?"

Reading: Mark Twain's Innocents Abroad kept me awake for pretty much the entire month of July when I was fourteen years old. I reread the thing, all six volumes, when I was nineteen, and laughed all over again, but at different things. I'd missed so much in that first reading: there's only so much a fourteen year old kid can appreciate about the Italian tourism trade or Hawaiian politics, and probably only so much an egotistical nineteen year old can understand, too. But fourteen, I maintain, was still a good time to read Twain's extremely entertaining travelogue. When I was fourteen, there wasn't anything that didn't make a huge impression on me, books least of all. God forbid a good-looking girl should smile at me; I'd smile back at her in my thoughts for days afterward. If a friend cracked a joke, I'd laugh at it for weeks and pass it on to everyone else. Good weather, for crying out loud, could send me up in the boughs for hours, and bad weather made me feel like a Viking. Reading books that were over my head certainly impressed me, maybe not with a sense of the importance of the work, or the great themes at hand, or the humanity of the characters, but certainly with the actual story I was reading. This youthful impressionability, I think, explains why Edgar Allan Poe, for instance, is so enjoyed by every little Gothlit juvenile (and the French) out there. Atmosphere, more than vivid character or startling plot revelation, conveys a lasting impression. I would say that most readers of "The Fall Of The House Of Usher" are drawn to that story by its evocative doom-laden title and the shadowy deathful imagery of that first sentence.

During the whole of a dull, dark, and soundless day in the autumn of the year, when the clouds hung oppressively low in the heavens, I had been passing alone, on horseback, through a singularly dreary tract of country; and at length found myself, as the shades of the evening drew on, within view of the melancholy House of Usher.

Godsake, I'd sell my brother into the white slave trade if it meant I'd be allowed to write like that! And after a sentence like that, can any plot revelation actually be a surprise? Whatever horrible thing happens next will only, at best, bear out the evil omen of those words—and that's part of the pleasure of reading Poe, isn't it? To see if the author can possibly prolong this foggy atmosphere to the end of the story? Many times, Poe fell short of the impressions he raised, but not here, not in this particular tale. Now, it may be that you don't believe me. It may be that you have a sinister double, who whispers at you from the mirror, from around the corner, who lifts your blanket at night and says, "The man is lying. Do not trust him. Wall him up and never trust him. Bury his words beneath the floor." To you doubters and doubles I say, "Read it yourself. You can find it online if you wish, and it's not very long." Go read "The Fall Of The House Of Usher" + Edgar Allan Poe

Listening: This band has a new single out and it's garbage. I loved (I mean LOVED) their first single, and listened to it obsessively, even mentioned it on this blog, but I couldn't download a decent version of it anywhere. So disappointing. Anyway, about a month or so ago, maybe less, I came across some new stuff by them, including this piece. Don't listen to it. I'm not being ironic, here, or all Lemony Snicket. I'm saying the music sucks, the video sucks, and they've totally strayed into industrial dance and don't deserve their name. They look like that party Neo goes to in the first Matrix. And as much as I think "Dragula" is all boyscout and good clean fun, Rob Zombie wears out faster in that scene than me trying be funny, and so does this song. I'm just not that into you, new WRM. You're trash without the euro. I don't like your moves, I don't like your style. Please invite the original sound back. "Alsation" + White Rose Movement

Friday, October 14, 2005

The Twa Corbies (This Headline Is Nonsense)

I just started this new job. I know this girl (that is, know as in "Yeah, I've seen you around, I guess you talked to my brother/sister/friend/cat once, and didn't I once know your brother/sister/friend/dog?"), and she's not the slimmest girl in the world. Not by a long shot. A very long shot. Which is okay, cause even if that's not my fave, there's a billion guys whose fave she definitely is. And now it's starting to sound like I'm calling her a slut, which she very well could be, who knows? I don't. But I do know she's fat. And short. And possibly a slut. But I forgot all that when, just being friendly, she started talking to me, the Do-you-know-this-person conversation.

"You have a girlfriend," she said. "Is she tall and slender?"

"No, she's short and fat," I replied (because I shouldn't be allowed out in public). "I only date the uglies."

Faithful few, is this how to get ahead in a job? Is this how to build a reference-list, a resume? Something tells me I'm not playing my strongest cards. At least, I hope not.

[Edit: A particular person wishes me to inform the passing reader that my girlfriend is neither short nor fat nor ugly. Just for clarification.]

Reading: I don't know my Hegel from my Jewish flatbread. It's a fact. And even though I can reasonably identify a bagel as a bagel, even when it's buried under a load of smells-like-that-baker's-hand poppyseeds, when someone tells me that I should be able to identify Hegel in Kierkegaard, I just shrug my shoulders, freeze them cold with a careless grimace, and casually respond, "Oh, should I?" If the never-ending years of uni and college have taught me anything (and let's not forget nightschool with fifty Filipinos and assorted natives), it's that philosophy, as something other than a good laugh between mouthfuls of helium, is useless. That half-empty cup of pudding I left under my bed for six months is more useful, has greater utility, is more aesthetically functional, than philosophy. But I still read the stuff. See, the trick is to remember that, like fiction, it's just made up! Once you start reading Nietzche like this, for instance, he's funnier than Dave Barry on whatever substances Dave Barry takes. Man, that Dave Barry sure is a funny guy. And so is Nietzche. If The Third Reich had only approached Nietzche like this, there would have been no WWII. See, philopsophy is bad. That's why you've got to read it like fiction. And there's nowhere better to start, my sons and daughters, than Kierkegaard. First of all, he looks great on the bookshelf. Pull down a sturdy volume like Fear And Loathing, for instance, and you'll probably see a little of it in the faces of your peers. Do not, I quickly caution you, actually read any of the text aloud. The ridiculousness of what you read will immediately dispell any serious impressions you were trying to create. And why were you trying to do that anyways> Somtimes, I think you're pathetic, okay? I don't mean to hurt you, I'm just being honest. No, I'm not saying I'm not pathetic. I keep a blog, after all. In which I can write anything I wish, so don't get angry at me. Not about philosophy, at least. Seriously, Kierkegaard is a great writer. Who else (aside from Dan Brown, kind of) would think to bury a philosophic text under a preface saying that the text had been found like buried treasure, secret papers in a secret compartment of an old desk. The writer takes these papers to a romantic spot in the autumn woods and collates them for us there. That was kind of him. I'll tell you, these papers contain many strange sentences:

Why was I not born in Nyboder? Why did I not die in infancy? Then my father would have laid me in a little box, taken it under his arm, carried me out some Sunday afternoon to the grave, thrown the earth upon the casket himself, and softly uttered a few words, intelligible only to himself. It was only in the happy days when the world was young, that men could imagine infants weeping in Elysium, because they had died so early

This, from a book that begins, "What is a poet?" Oh, I think the question is answered. The writer himself is a poet. You could hardly meet with prose like this anywhere outside of Edgar Allan Poe. And the whole book is crammed with gems like these. Go prize a few of them from the crown, if you want. The book is called Either/Or + Søren Kierkegaard

Listening: In the middle of our lives, we came to ourselves in a dark wood, and found that the sleek crows had eaten the trail of crumbs we'd so cleverly left behind us so as not to lose our way. Now we had lost our way. The forest was very grim, and there were a lots of odd black shadows. I was convinced that a tall porcelain man followed us closely, often standing at the edges of clearings before we got there. Someone was singing, with a small-ranging voice (but he knew what to do with it). Well, it turned out to be Corb Lund.

Last night, I went, obviously, to the Corb Lund concert down at The Jube. And, parenthetically, why does a city with a jumping music scene like Edmonton not have a decent venue for anything above two-hundred people? The Starlite and The Sidetrack are it. Don't even talk to me about Red's, all the times I've been pushed behind that stage-blocking pillar, there. Everywhere else, you have to sit down, and God help you if the guy next to you weighs more than you do, because that means he's sitting in his seat AND your seat. And your lap. Which is cool if you're one of the guys down at The Roost, or, let's face it, just plain lonely, but I'm neither (yet), and so I resent it, you see, I resent sitting down to watch music. You don't WATCH music, unless it's seven o'clock on a Friday night and Electric Circus is on. Godsake, I loved that show. And then they'd re-air it again on Saturday morning. I'd cut back to it on the ad-breaks during The Tick and The Mask. I'll tell you what, every time I start thinking I'm ironically cool for being able to reference Rocket Robin Hood, I also remember watching those nubile bodies writhing to Da Rude on Muchmusic and you know what? I wish I was that uncool again. Oh, I'm still uncool, that's right, the choir knows, ok? It was just so much more fun being uncool then than it is now. I'm talking perspective, here, which wasn't all that bad at The Jube. Even though we were on the first balcony (see image of ticket for confirmation, please), I had a good sightline all the way to the spartan stage where Corb Lund was dealing retro-country with his newly-named Hurtin' Albertans. Except that it isn't retro, is it? I've heard it called retro, people saying they love his sound, but his sound is just basically a good blues bar-band sound. With a double bass. You know where the throwback is? It's the songs themselves, I think. Country used to be, "Life is hard, it's not getting better, I'm going to eat it anyways, let's sing". Country now is Garth Brooks singing about rolling thunder. Country now is Jimmy Buffet covering Jimmy Buffet. Country now is getting divorced from Renee Zelleweger. Corb Lund isn't about that. Yet. It's his sentiment that's old country, not his sound. And you put a super tight bar-band behind that sentiment, you'll have everybody listening to that sound. There were entire families of denim there, of course, but lots of valley girls, too (hello, St.Albert!), lots of oldsters out for a country night, lots of drunk guys crammed into billowing bomber-jackets, couple of punks with pink hair and way-too-relaxed attitudes, the odd downtown yuppie here and there, and even a few hipsters in tight sweaters and corduroy. I caught most of the singles, including "Truck Got Stuck", "Roughest Neck Around", "Shine Up My Boots" and a killr (check that Flickr style spelling) rendition of "Expectation And the Blues", but had to leave before they got to "Time To Switch To Whiskey". The band was supertight, the sound a little loud, but over all, well worth the price of the concert. Corbie's playing at The Sidetrack tonight. It can only be better. But if you can't get to The Sidetrack, what about checking out a boatload of his songs? Nearly everything is there, including the new stuff, but I still like, halfway down the page, "The Roughest Neck Around" + The Corb Lund Band

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

"We Better Keep Moving"

The nights are long, the mornings pale and cold. Ruined sunflowers lie in frosted heaps between the trees. Every day I bridle the dark mare and canter along the road. The neighbourhood lies abed and despises my efforts. Sometimes a man will set deadly traps along the way, steel boxes full of teeth. But the mare positively prefers to prance lightly over these devilish boxes, for she hates the icy puddles along the road. She's a good horse, her name is Edwina de Bymingham, and she doesn't mind being tied up at University all day. What can I say? Public transit is expensive and getting to class is a long hard slog. Still, next year, I'm thinking of taking the bus.

Reading: There is very little greater pleasure than a good read. Unless it's alot of good reads. I've read a lot of good books this year, and I've had a good time. All that is behind me. Now I'm on to the crappy reads, the garbage reads, the books-read-just-so-I-can-menion-them-in-this-blog reads. Therefore, no links. Not to these reads. Just yesterday, it seems, I came down from the dark rich firmament that was Robert Louis Stevenson. No more sweet lines, now, no shapely sentences. How soon hath Time, that subtle thief of youth, used books to nick it. You see, last night I read the novelization of King Kong. Is this why my parents dandled me on their knee, teaching me the strange characters of the alphabet? Did they know there was a man out there, a crass man, a crass conglomerate behind him, who would filter out any possible scrap of goodness in the 1976 movie and lard the remainder upon an unsuspecting lad like me? If so, I wish I had never learned to read. My parents have betrayed me. I'm going to go down to the basement now, and sharpen the hunting knives.

Listening: I turn to music for solace. I find comfort in song. I look for salvation in popular hymns. What do I find? That music is a wasteland. Music makes me sick. There is no good music.

Erm. Wait. Wait a bit. Nope. No, it's true. Music is awful. Good-bye.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

That Statue In That Novel

Sometimes you fight, you know? But you love that person, don't you? Stop acting like an ass, then. You, of course, means me. Sometimes I act like an ass. The rest of the time, I'm a jerk. Reality is hard to take, little ones, or hard for me to take, anyways. Must be because I face it so rarely. I recall how Mr. Bennett knew that his own rarely-surfacing shame was good for him, but passed it off lightly, saying (I think he said, or perhaps it was Elizabeth), "For what do we live, but to make sport for our neighbours, and laugh at them in our turn?" I do not want to laugh at my neighbour like this. I do not want to be laughed at in my turn. Amusement is one thing, ridicule another. Most of all, I wish not to appear ridiculous to myself.

Reading: There is this line he wrote in Scribner's Magazine—"And in early years, we take a book for its material, and act as our own artists, keenly realizing that which pleases us, leaving the rest aside"—which makes me realize how unimportant an author can be. But this line also leads me to realize that only certain types of great authors can point themselves toward this unimportance. Dickens, for instance, cannot be separated from his mannerisms, his London, his needy heart. A Dickens novel is Dickens on display. David Copperfield could be retitled The Charles Dickens Museum, and one would buy engraved shackles in the souvenir shop. Not so Robert Louis Stevenson. If RLS was an actor, he would be a character actor, and disappear entirely into his role. Afterwards, certain members of the audience would say, "Was that really him?" Stevenson's books are blocks of marble to his readers, hidden angels looking for the looking reader. If Dickens is a museum, Stevenson is like a park. You will be guided, yes, but only where you want to go, as long as you want to go there. Nothing is to be forced, nothing is to be seen under flourescent lighting.

Stevenson's next notable success after Treasure Island was (I think) a little gargoyle—RLS called it a"gnome"— of a novel called The Strange Case Of Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde. I just reread this novel, and therefore just remembered why certain books are called classics. Because they're excellent, better than breathing, is why! Reading this novel is like chewing through every pseudo-literary Alan Moore script ever. It's like The League Of Extraordinary Gentleman if that comic (pardon me, graphic novel) wasn't sheer pot-black garbage. Right, then, so I guess this novella is nothing like that illustrated abomination. RLS' novel is nearly perfect. It's definitely gothic. And it's flat-out eerie. Reading a Nabokov essay in the back of my edition, I came across a strange coincidence between the author and his work.

[Stevenson] went down to the cellar to fetch a bottle of his favourite burgundy, uncorked it in the kitchen, and suddenly cried out to his wife: what's the matter with me, what is this strangeness, has my face changed?—and fell on the floor. A blood vessel had burst in his brain and it was all over in a couple of hours.

The author, apparently, wrote the first draft in ten days. Then he burned it and rewrote it again, and then heavily edited it, essentially rewriting it a third time. Stevenson dipped his pen and two months later the first pages were falling from the press into the waiting hands of an eager public. Beat that, print on demand! This book has never been out of print, joining the august pantheon of the Bible, the Shakespeare, and The Da Vinci Code. It's the language, you understand, the building sentences. It's the structure of the novel. It's the way the author simply disappears and leaves you to carve your way into this novel on your own, but that's okay, because he left you a chisel on the floor there, and the blade is sharp. This statue is going to be a beauty, I can see it already, something terrible and perfect. The Strange Case Of Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde+ Robert Louis Stevenson

Listening: So the guy sitting next to me (hey, J!) just passed me some music on his headphones, and it's like the bottom of a river, rock solid and gravelly, with warm muddy currents floating above it. Lo and behold, it comes from a blog called Long Sought Home, and this blog is insane (but where in + sane = good). Not mentally unstable because of the music, you understand, but because of the reason for posting the music, which said reason is, " This blog is about music about the afterlife. The idea of longing for the afterlife, in particular, is of interest to me. I hope you enjoy the music." Right. That's a parade I probably won't join, but I'll listen to the marching band, if that's alright. You should, too, especially as one of the tunes is a fervent choir abso-sacred-lutely ripping the lid off of "Farewell, Vain World" + Old Regular Baptists (Indian Bottom Association)

Thursday, October 06, 2005

A Not Unbiased Contemplation Of AF

They were great, it was a spectacle, this is not an unbiased review. I started listening to Arcade Fire via the net way back when. Then, one day, they put out Funeral. I went down to Megatunes and bought that cd the same day. I was bean-headedly fortunate that the cd was released in September. Arcade Fire is for autumn, after all, and darkening nights. I couldn't believe my luck, hearing the band was finally coming to Edmonton. Tickets were bought the morning they went on sale. I love Arcade Fire. This is not an unbiased review.

Wanting to beat the line, I arrived two hours ahead of the people I was supposed to meet, dressed in my best poor-man's-Prada. Most of the hipsters were already there, corduroy blazers sported like uniforms. The blazers fought viciously with the diamond-patterned sweaters, until the dark-haired girls draped in scarves started crying. Well, the guys all looked a little embarrassed after that, and everyone settled down. Then Crystal phoned and said her car had broken down, because God hated her, and so did I, when I answered, "So where are we meeting?" instead of the better boyfriend-like, "Are you okay?". I am a lout. And J didn't arrive until nearly eight o'clock (doors opened at seven), but there were compensations. After all, he was wearing an RCMP parade jacket and looked like a marching band leader in a Norman Rockwell painting. I am not lying. And A couldn't make it, but I met another A and subbed him in for the first one. That worked out okay.

Belle Orchestre was up first. "What's their name?" said the native guy behind the English guy behind me. "I'm James," the English guy said. "No, buddy, the band, the band. I don't care what you're called." The English guy stayed polite and said he didn't know, so I spoke up, and then had to tell the native that Wolf Parade was coming on afterward, and Arcade Fire wasn't till last. What did he expect? The crowd was squeezed fresh off the tree, tight like you wouldn't believe. The native would just have to wait it out like the rest of us if he wanted a half-decent spot from which to see Arcade. Anyways, Belle Orchestre (I refuse to acronymize that name) was strong and kept the crowd silent, which is pretty hard to do when your songs have no words and basically sound like a parade square version of classical, which is not a knock on the Beautiful Orchestra's playing, by the way, because it WAS good. Also, Sarah Neufeld, the violinist, must have arms of brass. The word here is solid. The band was like a thick loaf of music, but, like that loaf, basically plain. Where's the butter, son? Wolf Parade was something else. Brutal feedback on a couple of the songs, and a quick rip through "Dear Sons And Daughters Of Hungry Ghosts" started turning smiles into frowns, but then Spencer Krug got angry, just about ripped his guitar in half and abandoned even that to practically scream the end chorus of "This Heart's On Fire", basically cutting off the audience's collective skull. I loved it. Maybe you were there. And I bet you loved it, too.

Arcade Fire, right? Is there anything left to say? Just read somewhere that Arcade is going to be opening for the next U2 tour. Shutup, Bono, they'll steal the show from you and you can scream bloody Sunday all you want. Arcade Fire was a spectacle, plain and simple. Always on the edge of control, music like chaos but a secret and golden order behind the chords; the drummmer, the percussionist barely keeping their hands inside the car, Richard Perry going simply nuts and through it all that Cajun Gothic couple, Win Butler and Regine Chassagne, singing strongly and with force. The whole audience sang along to "Neighbourhood #2 (Laika)". Later, we all shouted "Lies! Lies!". Oh, it was a good show. It was a bad venue, but it was a good show, a great show, and I'll remember it for a long time, for the way the band paraded through the crowd, for the way they talked to their fans, for the way ordinary people on and off the stage became beautiful, attractive, extraordinary. A lot of other things happened that night, little things, not unimportant. But Arcade Fire sang "Crown Of Love" for the encore. I'll always remember that.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

The Dream-Concert Of Unknown Arcade

There's a pair of tickets in the inside pocket of my brown velvet blazer. Look at those crisp rectangles, those little friends of mine. Printed in 10cpi Courier on that shiny paper, little black letters spell, "Gen Admission All Ages / Doors 7:00 PM Show 8:00 PM". And the line above those ones? Arcade Fire is playing tonight, dear sons and daughters, and so is Wolf Parade. I'm trying to persuade a friend of mine to buy a unitard from AA and go to the show in that and a headscarf. We'd get invited to the afterparty for sure, I know it. At the very least, I could borrow the uni and sing to The Darkness on karaoke night. Can Arcade Fire top that?

Reading: Kuranes looks for Celephais, Iranon sings of Aira, Randolph Carter takes ship for unknown Kadath. What does all this searching for the city mean? There is also another thing. In a different story, the author writes, "We shall see that at which dogs howl in the night, and that at which cats prick up their ears after midnight". And Randolph Carter, now, voyager, is saved from the moon-beasts by a combination of the cats of Ulthar and the canine-faced ghouls. What does this feline and canine salvation mean? By the way, I write "salvation", but the ghouls are referred to as soulless, soullessness being a part of their doglike state. So what salvation? Am I asking the wrong questions? I think there is no meaning in this book. The stories are a puzzle, and so is the author, Howard Phillips Lovecraft. The key to the whole book of stories, I believe, the silver key to Lovecraft, is a throwaway comment in a little story called "The Hound":

I remember how we delved in the ghoul's grave with our spades, and how we thrilled at the picture of ourselves, the grave, the pale watching moon, the horrible shadows, the grotesque trees, the titanic bats, the antique church, the dancing death-fires, the sickening odors, the gently moaning night-wind, and the strange, half-heard directionless baying of whose objective existence we could scarcely be sure.

Lovecraft is sensation, of course, but that is all he is. I'm curious how that new movie of Lovecraft's most famous work will turn out. My guess is that the film will be a series of beautiful pictures, a gothic wet-dream, Tim Burton's mission statement. But it will not be a movie, not after the first twenty minutes of film chew through the script. The action of that story, after all, is not very lengthy, and the plot is spare. And while we're on the topic, did anyone else think how strange it was that AVP had nigh on the same exact plot as At The Mountains Of Madness? I felt like I was taking crazy pills, watching that movie. Right, so it's called a digression, folks, nothing to see here, keep moving. Back to Howard Phillips Lovecraft and Randolph Carter. Lovecraft, I was saying, is sensation. There is no meaning in him. His stories are circles, images on a merry-go-round. Those dog-faced ghouls which saved Carter, for instance, were, earlier in Lovecraft's opus (I'm thinking "Pickman's Model", here), one of the deadliest possible monsters to be encountered. But there is always something worse out there in the night. Earth's gods are terrible to men, but worse than these gods are the Other Gods, and worse than the Other Gods is the crawling chaos Nyarlathotep, but there is an evil over which Nyarlathotep has no power, the faceless night-gaunts, which, however, give authority to an ancient entity called Nodens, who is not yet the most powerful, for there are still the coloured sentient gases from other spheres of existence. You get the idea. Repetition is plot. It's not that the ghouls really save anyone; they've just become part of the pattern, another turn of the engine that moves the story. You recall the first Trek series? Klingons were all evil. Trek Next Generation? Klingons good, Borg and Ferengi bad. Trek Nine? Ferengi good, and in Trek Voyager, Borg good, too. You see where I'm going with this. The threat becomes the stepping stone to the next threat, and thus suspense is maintained even as a universe is created. Behind that veil in Oz, there's a magician who controls the city. Lovecraft's universe, however, is an unending series of veils. There is always a mysterious city. That city is always the creation of the dreamer. And that dreamer is in mortal peril within his dream. There is no authority, no stable point of view, in Lovecraft's tales. There is only the story, a headless And Then which never ends. There is no city, you see. That is, there is no definite solid concrete city which will satisfy the searcher. If that was the case, the story would end. But there are always more stories, more tales, more continuation, another amazing episode. The story cannot end, and that is why Lovecraft's soulless creations provide salvation, rescuing the Randolph Carter, saving him from death. If the story is to continue, Carter must live. Because to die is to stop the story.

Do I sound like I'm criticizing Lovecraft? Well, there is much to criticize, but that doesn't mean these stories don't succeed. Not all of them are successful, sure, but that is due to the fragmentary nature of many of the smaller stories. One of the more successful of Lovecraft's stories, indeed, a very well-written story, tying many of his amazing tales together, is the bizarre novella "The Dream-Quest Of Unknown Kadath" + H. P. Lovecraft

Listening: Look, the reason I check in with all these music blogs is because of a song like this. What a song. What a brilliant song. So flamingly simple, mere seconds long, and beautiful beautiful beautiful. This is one of the reasons New York will never leave the music scene. Ever. This song has messed my vocabulary up. Thanks to Alan Williamson at *Sixeyes for this one, for "Paddy's Gone" + Antony And The Johnsons

Monday, October 03, 2005

Only Connect

What I like is to walk through those revolving doors into that bookstore and find exactly what I'm looking for and then skip onto the bus as it rolls to a stop on Whyte Ave, and then trek down those stairs and escalators underneath HUB in time to catch the LRT, which rolls to a bing-bing stop as I step off the last step of that moving stair, and then climb more steps to find the 202 bus pulling into the lane on its way to Grant Macewan, which is where I went today. Same feeling as flagging every green light on the main drag through St. Albert. Same feeling as putting the ball through the net three times in a row (for me, that's huge). As usual, Browning calls the case, and all's right with the world. Sometimes, I get so happy, I need a little misery just to realize how happy I am.

Reading and Listening in three or four hours. Right, so the only available computer was down for about twelve hours there. Seems a little awkward to post Reading and Listening in this old post, now, specially when I've got newer stuff happening. Who puts new wine in old bottles? I'm just going to move on.