Thursday, December 21, 2006

Gloria In Excelsis Deo

To the readers who didn't stop checking back, thank-you. Specially to that large block from the Indonesia-ish area, and all les habitants from New England. Anonymous to anonymous, thank-you. It has been a long hiatus here in internet-land, but, as you know, or perhaps don't, I have no regular access to a computer. Not for foolishness like a blog, at least. Well, that situation should be fixed after Christmas.

Speaking of Christmas, merry ones all round. Merry Christmas to C, and Merry Christmas to P and L, to mom, and dad, and to The House Of Mirth, and Merry Christmas S and C and S and K and G, and J, too. Merry Christmas to the kitten, and to the picture of QEII on my bedroom wall. Merry Christmas to that cold snap in November, and Merry Christmas to getting my street cleaned of snow. Merry Christmas to going to the movies during the holidays, to strange candy and German pretzels, to good music and laughing under yellow lamps in that little room on 111 Street. Language fails, even Latin fails. Christmas carols for everyone, Merry Christmas to you all.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Father, May I Play With Danger?

My star-pound-number-sign Galaxie 500 died about an hour's drive from home last night, and therefore I did not update the previous post within the time limit I had promised I would. I love that car, but she has caused me nothing but grief this autumn, and, basically, anyone who offers me a foolish enough amount of money can have her. And by foolish, I mean something approaching ten thousand. Not that it was the car's fault—I blame the bitter winter weather, of course, but, most of all, I bitterly blame Canadian Tire for selling me a top-dollar Motomaster car battery. And by top-dollar, I mean a lot of money for a little peformance. Listen, the thing isn't supposed to be a typical relationship, ok? I mean, it's not even three months old, and its dying on me? Tried to start it, but no go, dice, cigar. Worked this morning , though, and tomorrow I'm off to Canadian Tire to get a new battery. So maybe this situation IS like a typical relationship. No prizes for this unlucky bug.

The Four Lads + "Istanbul (Not Constantinople" Their biggest song was something called "Moments to Remember" back in 1955, but, these days, their most famous song, eclipsing even the group themselves, would be this piece. Thanks to the cover by the as-my-wimsey-takes-me They Might Be Giants back in 1990, this song is still fairly well known, and it's a hummer, more catching than anything out there in the rye. This song is pretty much like all the best parts of those television ads shilling for every song ever. Well, maybe not the Jesus Jones ones, or the REO Speedwagon. I'm talking those slightly surreal ads for music by the Andrews Sisters, or Bill Haley & His Comets, or that guy whose voice breaks on "Splish-SPLASH, I was takin' a bath!", the stuff our grandfathers thought was pretty much white lightning—and you listen to some of this stuff, and only a fool would deny the energy, or the gloss, the sheer slick professionalism of these amateur groups with their ridiculous hits, the sheer gladness of the 1950's smiling stright out of a tune. This is a song for the iPod, really, but I wouldn't mind hearing it at a random party, either. I just wouldn't have the energy, the sheer slick professional body-moves, to dance along with it. Damn.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

My Lucky Number Is Four Billion

You know what makes me the same as everyone else? I think I'm special. What, you do, too? Well, I'm not, I know I'm not, but, regardless, I keep on believing that I'm exceptional, and that belief makes me normal, regular, pedestrian, banal, evil. Well, maybe not evil—sorry, I guess that was just the Hannah Arendt leaking out of me. Or do I mean the pretentious?

Also, am I the ONLY chump out there who actually thought The Fountain was going to be based on Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead? This is two weeks old, but I know a guy who says that reading AR will turn you into an asshole for about ten days after reading her, guaranteed. Apparently, it can also turn you into an ignorant bag of claw-hammers for some years afterward, too. Did I say you? Because I meant me.

Hwæt! I'm updating this post in a couple of hours—make that a quadrilogy of hours—and this sentence, and the sentence after it, will disappear into some bleak and arid Google cache. Weaksauce.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

The Smallest Things Are Crushing Me Now

All my room-mates—but especially the flaxen-haired Viking—are in love with the new addition to the household. That would be Church, as in Church-Yard, as in Elegy Written In A Country Church-Yard, the kitten on the right. Gorgeous. She's got all our hearts, and the crush crush crush is so comforting, now. Who doesn't love a kitten? Yeah, Satan, sure, but that particular entity is a Tin Man, oh my sons and daughters, and doesn't have a heart.

Other news: was that show really so long ago and far away? Further seems forever, when it comes to the last Saturday in October. Which was the Sloan show. "Who Taught You To Live Like That?" was the opener, "The Other Man" was a strong third, and "Ill Placed Trust" has to be heard—forget the ugly lyrics, it's a brass buttons sing-a-long for sure. They played plenty of the new (abso-ridicu-lutely loved "Golden Eyes") which is good, because I'm a fan of the new. Come back, Sloan. Everybody wants you.

&now4smthng Completely Diffy: that was a hard vertical drop the sidewalk pulled me into last night. Could have been the vertigo, but I'm thinking it was the Vanilla, as in ice, ice, baby, and so painful. I thought we banned this Kyoto business in Canada—where's my global warming? Have a good week-end, all. Lucky bugs win prizes.

The Cloud Room + "Hey Now Now" First heard this song around two years ago, autumn, crisp orange leaves sparkling across the bright green golf course. Chip shot to birdie the third hole, my first birdie ever, didn't even believe my brother as he stood up there on the sloping green, laughing with pleasure at my expression. I love my brother. Perfect day. A perfect song that day, a perfect song now. Who can resist that chorus?

There's a perfectly excellent everybody-singing-along video, too.

James Hilton + Lost Horizon Then, the year after, Goodbye, Mr. Chips, and, later, Random Harvest. But first, and maybe most famous, there was Lost Horizon. Actually, first there was Catherine Herself, published when Hilton was a mere twenty years old and still an undergraduate at Cambridge. The man wrote twenty-four books in all, besides contributing to stone-cold film classics like Mrs. Miniver and Foreign Correspondent, but it is for those three first-mentioned books that Hilton will always be remembered.

Lost Horizon starts out like every other lost-world adventure, like Rider Haggard's King Solomon's Mines, for example, or Burroughs' At The Earth's Core, or, of course, The Lost World, by Arthur Conan Doyle. Those peculiar events which made up the long journey to and through the lost world are recalled for this or that listener, who kindly passes them on (in a book, no less!) to the reader, who is duly enchanted, enthralled, exhilarated by the new men, strange faces, of which he or she is reading. Or perhaps the reader is just bored. I wasn't bored by this book, but I wasn't blown away, either. And what I require from every book, every author, is to be blown away, lifted up, absolutely delighted. Nevertheless, the book is well-written, well-plotted, and the method by which entry to the lost world of Shangri-La is gained is very spooky, an excellent fully-committed, fire-starting, bridge-burning device on par with the Arctic setting which opens Frankenstein. Once this device has been put in motion—well, the story has got to be told, now, and there will be strong consequences for all characters involved, perhaps even for the reader.

"The whole game's going to pieces," says Barnard, one of the four unwilling travellers to the monastery of Shangri-La. Young hot-headed Mallinson, missionary Miss Brinklow, and the too-unflappable American expat Barnard look to the bronzed and capable Conway to lead them out of the mysterious mountain valley in which they find themselves enclosed. But there is no escape, or the escape is deadly, or the escape is torturous and nearly impossible. The ancient orange-robed lamas of Shangri-La are guarding a secret only Conway comes to suspect. That secret is life and death. But this is not an adventure novel, unlike those novels of Burroughs or Conan Doyle. This is a contemplative novel. Outside the valley, the world is going to pieces. The five captives are literally fleeing an armed rebellion. Inside the valley, all is moderation. Inside the valley, there is life for those who love life, music for those to whom music is needful, the bodies of women for the men who enjoy those bodies. Inside the valley, says the lama who guides the outsiders, "We rule with moderate strictness, and in return we are satisfied with moderate obedience. And I think I can claim that our people are moderately sober, moderately chaste, and moderately honest." The people of the valley treat each other with near-unfailing courtesy. Etiquette, and not the rule of law, is the arbiter of the valley. Moderation is the watchword. But there's a perilous duality at work here—"The vast encircling massif made perfect contrast with the tiny lawns and weedless gardens, the painted tea-houses by the stream, and the frivolously toy-like houses" There is a feeling that it is the very chaos of the outside world which lends value to the hot-house climate of the valley: "But even such vague fears could only enhance the loveliness of the present". And there are other things, disturbing things. All the luxury and amenities of Shangri-La come from the same source of synthetic value as that of the outside world. There is a gold-mine in the valley, and it is this mine which pays for the life of ease enjoyed by the lamas. Technology, too, is catching up with Shangri-La; the new aeroplanes make travel possible almost to the very mouth of that valley. Soon, the little group of outsiders will face a choice. Soon, they must decide to stay in Shangri-La, or make the effort to leave this orderly paradise. If they go, there will be trouble; but should they stay, will there be even more?

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

"It Is The Forgéd Feature Finds Me"

Light is like a wedding ring right now. Gold and harmony, and Henry Purcell ("Let him Oh! with his air of angels then lift me"). My brother was in the city—class at university—and we went for a walk around the block, coffee cups in hand. T-shirt weather, don't you know? Trees standing about like brassy backlit giants, black arms shining in the bright light. People talk about seizing the day, but I'm no dead poet, and I say the day should be enjoyed like simple or complicated music or a favourite friend—just sit back, and enjoy the harpsichord-time of it all, the sweetly dense and intricate beauty of a moment. Am I wrong? I woke up this morning with sunlight on my face and the branches of the lilac tapping against my window. Made my girlfriend breakfast and then went back to bed. How can I describe perfection? Today is a strong unicorn, white-bearded Charlemagne, chariots of angels.

Btw, decent prize to anyone who knows why that horse on the left (my little four-inch bitty horse) is called Veillantif. Clues are in this post.


Andrew WK + "One Brother" Annoyed is what I am, though not at this song, never at this man, may pure-begotten care-bears bless him from their fragrant and magic-laden palaces. I ordered Close Calls With Brick Walls around two months ago and it never showed up—though, to be fair, that remains the only time I've lost money on the mail. Other albums, though, have ALSO failed to make their way to my door or my new address, and that is very frustrating, and makes me think nasty, black-haired thoughts. But the music, right? The music is what is important. Can this song be described with words? Oh, of course not, there is no making words mean music, or, if there was, we would all skip the song and merely read the words. Whatever. My words about this song will be a kind of story, a sort of scene, and, that, hopefully, will show at least a little to you of what this song shows a lot of to me. Why not?

So this song is you running in a tall-grass field beside a dull-roar highway, making the airplane with your arms as you run. The swish swish of the speeding traffic makes you run faster and faster, and, turning your head, you can see through the windows of the spinning minivans, hard-topped SUVs—blank faces blabbing into cellphones, dull children evaporating into DVD players. You and I are glad we are not part of that ghostly host, and we continue to run under a grey sky and beside that droning highway. Because Andrew WK is not the same Andrew WK as that eccentric man who wore white jeans and danced hoarsely in front of a piano, no. This is an older Andrew, tired of fetishizing the rock'n'roll lifestyle—or, at least, there is a part of Andrew which is tired of a part of rock'n'roll. Oh, he still parties hard, he still rocks, and so does this song, rocking harder than a schooner driving toward the Eddystone lighthouse. A strong vocal beginning, and so very few seconds in, the ship crashes through the chords into a full-blown anthem. And that bridge is amazing, la musique de rock performed by a crazy prince of casio. This is an anthem about trusting old friends, familiar waters, about committing to the craft, and not getting lost in the emptiness which merely defining yourself as a star will bring you. But not you and I! You and I, sailing beside that highway, that outwardly-emotionless traffic, we need that emptiness we see in others in order to validate ourselves, in order to draw attention to ourselves, in order to confirm our intention of being gods, all-valuable, all-knowing. Calling these people empty means we are full. Running beside them, craving and scorning their attention, we are lurching towards very dangerous rock. But Andrew asks us why we need to feed off of these others, and tells us we need to party hard with the people we started out with, the people who are a part of us, our originals. The old Andrew is still here, the music remains faithful to the original, but the man is so much richer than that old party-hard chord—the music so much deeper, wider, stronger than before. Those old songs were childrens' furniture, charming and bright. This song is a stone table, a bright lighthouse, a perfect roaring highway of a song. Love it.

This mp3, you should know, was found on I Rock Cleveland. Kudos to Bill and his Lakewood apartment.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

"Frank-hearted Maids Of Rocky Cumberland"

If, for reasons parlous or unknown, you've been wondering whether your favourite black-and-white page (the one with the often-nonsense headlines and randomly posted pix) would EVER be updated or not, wonder no longer. Well, but it has been forever, I know. My visitor count is way down, even among the new faces, other minds. I can only assume that most people expect poison from standing water. My time away from this blog, I would like to assure you, has not been wastefully—er—wasted. True, there was that afternoon—all right, that week of afternoons—spent huffing Febreze in the garage. Did you know if you stare into incandescent lights and then turn your head quickly to stare at the night sky, you'll see a misty mauve fog of swirling stars? This quasi-eerie illusion is called The Purple Sea, which sounds like a Prince song and almost is. Casiotone FTPA will probably come out with a newer, synthier version of that sky for next year.

Seriously, I'm going to put the Febreze away, now. Just one more—ah. Yes.

Mitch Ryder + "When U Were Mine" Because I was talking about Prince. Because I mentioned Casiotone. Because this is like the end credits to all those movies where they freeze the final shot, and the hero has his fist just about breaking out of the frame (that's how high, hard, he is jumping), or the pretty girl just landed or just dumped the right guy, the wrong guy. Airplanes cutting across the sky, contrails in the autumn. A dusty DynoVoice singing sincerely, guitar swinging across the hips. That kind of song. I'm not saying I think it's good (I do), I'm not saying there aren't better covers out there (there are), I'm just saying this one is right for the moment. You should probably drive back to a little home where the lamps are cozy, the television is friendly, there're old magazines beside the couch and a plate of buttered rice or something better on the back of the oven. If you're lucky, like me, you'll even have a dark-haired girlfriend to kiss. This is THAT kind of song.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

81 Rebmetpes: Latsyrc, Yadhtrib Yppah

Scritti Politti + "After Six" The Scritti Politti track which Fluxblog posted today is too good not to share. And, despite the fact that Matthew Perpetua gets 3000+ visitors a day and I average 150, and despite the nameless numberless scribblers who have also shared la musique de SP, I feel compelled to share this exact song—and for the following reasons. 1) Gold is useless, you know ("A piece of bread will buy a bag of gold"), for it cannot be eaten and the smell of the metal is bitter. BUT—if you hide your gold underneath your miserly lap, your nose will grow long and spiny, your fingers will curl in toward your palms, your double-lidded eyes will grow heavy and you'll barely be able to switch your tail as you fall asleep, a gold-hearted man turned a wicked dragon, guarding your secret until the sword of some thief blunts itself on your stony heart. Well, I don't want to be a dragon, you know. That being said, this is a rather small-hearted song—"Please keep your love away from me" or "Truth, shed your light where I can't see". 2) Again, we all saw The Ring. Sharing is survival. For example, Norman Greenbaum lives on forever in the opening few seconds of this track. Which is rather fitting, since "Spirit In The Sky" is also a gospel-inspired song turned on its side. 3) This song makes me happy in a very particular way, in a way which I was previously unaware even existed. A new kind of happiness! Drugs surely pale, religion often reduces, but for every good or pleasing or fitting song, there is a certain and peculiar shade of emotion elicited, which displays itself in the heart, soul, body, like a bird in the sun. And a bird in the sun is worth any amount of silent crows and tuneless jays in the brittle brittle forest.

Happy Birthday, Crystal. We love you. I love you.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

"S-S-S-Sit." And The Dog Says, "What?"

There's your picture. She's shy and doesn't play. Afraid of hurting her paws, likely. Hisses at strangers. Accepting applications for new best friend ever since I left town. Whatever. What's that? No, not much. My time has been pretty evenly divided between Morinville, St. Albert and Edmonton. Not by choice, though. Listen, the mechanic called me up! Yes. Of COURSE about the car. No, this morning. So I went down right? Right. It passed the inspection. Legal to register, insure, drive and crash. Well, took about four hours divvied up between M Town and St. A before I managed to get all the papers in order, and then back to M Town again to pick up the car. Noticed some trouble on the brakes, though. What? No, it passed the inspection. Oh, I took it to the garage about three weeks ago, a little more. Supposed to be just three days. Brake-line was leaking, driver's side. So I get out of the car, right? And the mechanic who inspected the car comes over and notices my brake light is on. No brake fluid in the reservoir. I've seen that before. So he fills up the rez, I pump the brakes, and, just like three weeks ago, the fluid spurts out of the line and onto the floor. Oh, it was only a two-hour bus ride back to Edmonton, no problem. Getting back Sunday night is going to be tough, though. Says it won't be ready till Monday, now, and there's no buses back from M Town on the sabbath.


Thomas H. Raddall + Pride's Fancy Best place at Grandma's house wasn't Grandma's house at all. I'm talking about the greenhouse, of course, way behind the garage. Three large spruce grew beside the front door of that greenhouse, and a middlingly large field, variously full of corn or cabbages or potatoes or sickeningly sweet squash, ran full up to the forest behind. Better inside, though. Blue morning glory bundled up the legs of the potting tables, or crowded and canopied under the large plates of glass. A dusty earthy smell in the air, and a soft-headed garter snake wriggling away between the new tomatoes and old-growth lily-of-the-valley. Grandpa in green rubber boots would vanish for half an hour, coming back from the corner store with a handful of chocolate bars and a thoughtful expression. "Your mother's calling you," he'd say, and we would essentially be booted out of the petunias and cucumbers and dill, and could play in the goldenrod, if we pleased. We were never called away from Grandpa for any real reason, just that Grandma figured four grandchildren rattling around his greenhouse for much more than an hour was enough disturbance for Grandpa. I'd leave the goldenrod early, though, and climb into the garage, where Grandpa had boxes and boxes of books, dusty softcovers smelling of mold and mildew, but the print was still crisp. There I read the Bhagavad Gita, and the poetry of Al Purdy, and over a hundred Harlequins, and Escape From Colditz and also an inelegant hardcover titled Pride's Fancy, which was my introduction to Thomas Raddall and the only novel of his which has stayed with me over the years. His Majesty's Yankees, I remember, was decent; but that is all I remember. Pride's Fancy, though, is still golden for me, covered with a fine ah-those-were-the-days that will never disappear from my heart. But, besides all that, this book, Pride's Fancy, is a decent novel. And that is something. Consider the opening line—

It began on the night we thought all was ended—the night we left Hispaniola for home, with the town of Cap François burning red behind us and the smoke alive with the flicker of the fires, and the darkness wild with shots and cries.

The prose almost swings into poetry there at the end of the line, doesn't it? Wonderful. The story is the usual bildungsroman, with a twist lifted from Wuthering Heights. Whereas that much earlier novel had Heathcliff as the evil genius paired with the novel's early heroine (yes, I realize I'm taking liberties with Heathcliff by relegating him to the role of mere genius, but, listen, it's a blog-post, not an actual essay), Raddall's red-haired hero, Nathan Cain, is paired with the Carribean refugee slash motherless Lia-Marie Dolainde as both are made to feel unwelcome in the heart of the local ruling family, aptly named Pride. Ten years later, the Pride family ships a privateer back to the Caribbean for pirating among the chaos caused by the slave rebellion across Hispaniola and Santo Domingo. Or has the ship really been outfitted to track down the long-buried treasure of the outcast Dolainde family? Nathan Cain knows, and so does Mr. Pride, and maybe Felicity Pride, Nathan's cold paramour, maybe she knows, too. But certainly Lia-Marie, hot and tropical, stowing herself away on the ship called Pride's Fancy, she does not know the real reason these New Brunswickers are heading to the Caribbean. She only wishes to return to the days which will never be again. But there's trouble ahead, I tell you, if they go. Will they go? Will they all go? They are going. There will be trouble.


Tuesday, September 05, 2006

School Starts Tomorrow, So NPTW*

*No post this week.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Horses, Scarcely Better

The lawnmower dies as I ease off the throttle. The last of the grass is finally cut. Eleven o'clock in the morning, the good summer sun sinking heavily into the trees. My brother picks me up on the avenue, and we load the lawnmower into the trunk of the Hyundai. Large patches of damp grass slip from the bottom of the machine onto the floor of the trunk. "Why didn't you clean it off?" my brother says. I shrug. I'll vacuum the car out when we get home. Perhaps not. My brother puts the key in the ignition and leans his head back. "Is that gasoline?" The lawnmower, I realize, is probably dripping gas. We head east, my brother turning left, right, right again, left again, and now we're on the road which will take us back to the town I call home for two more weeks. The trip will take us forty minutes, maybe longer. No turning. "Let's stop at McDonald's," I say. "I'll buy." We get out of the car, and, as he shuts the door, my brother wrinkles his nose and says, loudly, emphatically, "Man, this car smells like grass!"

The man in the truck beside us shakes his head.

Michael Dracula + "Destroy Yourself" I have no idea where to listen to this music. The car? Strictly headphones? Near as I can guess, 1963, in thin black slacks, across from a girl with dark make-up who is earnestly seeking the liberation of les femmes québécoise—that would be most likely-nearly-maybe the fitting place to hear this tune. But never the time and the place, and the music all together.

The band is releasing a debut full-length this October, and you can listen to a demo version of the lead single, "What Can I Do For You?", on the label's site. But this tune, "Destroy Yourself", is a simple tune, easily drummed up on a laptop or a four-track. The signature die-away voice and scattered bits of controller.controller guitar are something else, though, middle-of-the-road registers almost-but-not-quite cutting at the memory. Sounds like, then? Sounds like Tom Waits' favourite contemporary adult euro-pop, is what. Not as bad as you were hoping, not as good as you remember, but something there, always there, to make you listen again.

JFK has just been assassinated, Rigaud Mountain will soon see The Great Train Robber Charles Wilson, and the girl across the table is never going to go to bed with you. You squint through your menthol cigarette at the band in the background and think that if you hadn't gotten your hair cut so atrociously the day before, you might hit on the lead singer after the set. You're WAY out of your league.

Nick Hornby + "How To Read" Hornby writes a few words about words:

But I do not wish to produce prose that draws attention to itself, rather than the world it describes, and I certainly don't have the patience to read it. (I suspect that I'm not alone here. That kind of writing tends to be admired more by critics than by book-buyers, if the best-seller lists can be admitted as evidence: the literary novels that have reached a mass audience over the past decade or so usually ask readers to look through a relatively clear pane of glass at their characters.)

Hornby's influences bear him out—he cites Anne Tyler and Dickens among his greatest authorial inspirations, and if there are two clearer narrators of voice over language, please, show me. Hornby's influences also do NOT bear him out—um, Dickens, again? I mean, if there is a MORE famous scribbler of language for the sake of language, a man who created entire worlds out of words, please, then, show him, show her to me. Bleak House, please, the famous beginning:

LONDON. Michaelmas Term lately over, and the Lord Chancellor sitting in Lincoln's Inn Hall. Implacable November weather. As much mud in the streets as if the waters had but newly retired from the face of the earth, and it would not be wonderful to meet a Megalosaurus, forty feet long or so, waddling like an elephantine lizard up Holborn Hill. Smoke lowering down from chimney-pots, making a soft black drizzle, with flakes of soot in it as big as full-grown snow-flakes—gone into mourning, one might imagine, for the death of the sun. Dogs, undistinguishable in mire. Horses, scarcely better; splashed to their very blinkers. Foot passengers, jostling one another's umbrellas in a general infection of ill-temper, and losing their foot-hold at street-corners, where tens of thousands of other foot passengers have been slipping and sliding since the day broke (if the day ever broke), adding new deposits to the crust upon crust of mud, sticking at those points tenaciously to the pavement, and accumulating at compound interest.

If this is not prose that draws attention to itself, well, what is? The three opening paragraphs of the novel do not contain, between them, a single complete sentence. The place, and not the people, are what make Bleak House so great. The medium and not the message, is what is remembered. Because, sometimes, the paint is also part of the picture. Sure, but was this very wordy Bleak House popular among les peuples? Please. This is Dickens we're talking about. Yes, of course this book was popular: it's still being filmed today!

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Aye, There's The Rubdown

The Wolf Parade show was a bust. Do you think that "bust" is a positive? Let's ignore the obvious one there, please. I'm thinking of To The Moon Or. And Monday night's show at The Starlite didn't go near the White Lady. In fact, you would have thought there was a lunar eclipse. Listen, it was a great set, the sound was good, all the right notes, chords, strings, golden striking of golden guitars. Doors opened at eight. We were there at nine. Carey Mercer's band opened pretty much at eleven. And the Parade didn't hit the stage until midnight. What? Was this a New Year's show? This is not some big stadium concert here, this isn't a once-in-a-lifetime set, what is the fricking deal? Godsake, it was a Monday night! Get on the stage already! Let me put it this way: between the time the doors opened and the first band went on, I could have gone to dinner and watched a movie. Between the doors and Wolf Parade, I could have eaten dinner, watched a movie, gone bowling and STILL been back in time to watch the Parade set up. The music was great, but the show bit it big. Big big bitingness. I've got no use for you, bad show.

"Click Click Click Click" + Bishop Allen We all know the deal by now. One a month, right? To me, however, there was nothing coming close to their earlier efforts. Not in terms of matching up music and words. "Little Black Ache" is something else, after all, perfection of harmony and earnestness. "Things Are What You Make Of Them" still remains my favourite, but barely, barely, because "Click" in the same room as "Things" is like your two best friends at the table having two different conversations and you don't know who to pay attention to the most. Right now, I'm paying more attention to the newest friend.

The rest of the band cutting in at 1:04 is what makes this song, but 1:38 is just beautiful, too, like opening a dark cuboard, warm. Oh, 2:18, did you think I had forgotten you, no, you're the best—no, not the best, but equally elegant. This song deserves to be heard everywhere.

Foucault's Pendulum + Umberto Eco Posit: I read Eco's The Name Of The Rose. Exposit: I own a Penguin softcover of Eco's The Island Of The Day Before and a hardcover copy of his Foucault's Pendulum. Conclusion: Because I own copies of Island and Foucault, I refuse to buy Eco's Baudolino or The Mysterious Flame Of Queen Loana

Umberto Eco's passion for creating lists, if hindsight is anything to go by (and if not, what is?) was pretty much beaten into a corner by the powerful pyramidical plot structure of his first novel, The Name Of The Rose. Everything in that novel, and there is a LOT, is directed toward the conclusion of the story. Rightfully so, since the story is a mystery, unabashedly of the detective genre. I mean, the investigating monk is called William of Baskerville, for crying out loud. Eco not only pays his literary debts, he revels in the paying. But he revels in lists even more. And not one of Eco's novels, not since Rose, has had the neccessary structure to smooth down his hydra-headed digressions. I am on page 291 of Foucault's Pendulum, and I am bored stiff. Nothing has happened. The narrator, in a musuem which houses the titular subject, is recalling how he arrived in his hiding place. He's written a dissertation on the Knights Templar, apparently graduated from university, gone to Brazil and encountered voodoo, and is back in Italy working for a publishing house which wishes to start up a line of books pandering to an audience interested in the occult and conspiracies. Two hundred and ninety-one pages of interminable itemization of the occult and quasi-occult, but where is the plot? This book is the worst, Jerry, simply the worst.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

RIP, Death From Above 1979

"I'm leaving while you turn away / In the basement is where I'm gonna stay". It's over. Heartbreaking.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

The Dirge Of The Ice Tips

Mexico has unofficially declared war on the United States of America. Father Jose Ramalla and several other prominent priests and leaders of The Holy Latin Resistance For God released a media-statement soliciting support from religious citizens of every nation: "Oh, Catholics everywhere, I call on you to fight and become martyrs." Several large paramilitary groups fired rockets across Texas state-lines around five o'clock this morning, twelve of the Ecuadorean-manufactured missiles penetrating as far as Dallas. This open warfare is the inevitable escalation of the last six months of cross-border forays by the Neo-Zapatistas and the HLRFG, whose highly-publicized aim of kidnapping a Texas Ranger was finally achieved twelve hours before the first missile was fired, and six hours after the Texan House of Representatives threatened military reprisal unless the two kidnapped soldiers were returned. While Mexico itself is decrying the actions of its citizens, the president of Mexico, Vicente Fox, refuses to openly condemn the NZ or the HLRFG. Father Ramalla insists that neither his Holy Latin Resistance nor the NZ are going to back down from this conflict, even stating that his men have "surprises" in store for the Texas Defense Force and the United States' armies. The Neo-Zapatistas and the HLRFG repeated their "holy and legitimate claims against the swinish American occupiers" and warned that they were willing to keep sending children, armed with explosives, into "occupied Mexican land" until the United States government returns Texas to the Mexican people who settled it in the early 1800's. Half an hour after the last missile landed in Dallas, the president of the United States issued an order to invade Mexican territory. The Secretary-General of the UN, Kofi Annan, while condemning NZ and the HLRFG for not using official beauracratic channels to effect change, is cautioning Texas and the US on their use of force, finding the Americans' behaviour to be "aggressive" and "out-of-balance". He has placed several UN watch groups among the Mexican paramilitary and has cautioned the US and Texas not to fire on unarmed UN personnel.

"Head Vs Hips" + Frosted Tipz (Myspace)

"I just want to prove that we can do it better than all of these bands that I hate," Ross sneers. "These bands like Metric that I really don't listen to ever, and I can't stand, but people just like to put us in that kind of category. I don't think we do anything like that, but if we're going to do anything like that, I want to do it way better than they can do it."

So, Curtis Ross of the Frosted Tipz can't stand the Metric sound, wants to do it better, and doesn't listen to bands like that anyways? Paradox, anyone? Talk about insecurity. That's the kind of reactionary and desperate childishness I expect from teenage hipsters who, say, condemn any music half-way to popular because liking something somebody else might like means compromising their own feeble personalities. To be fair, the VUE Weekly article on the Frosted Tipz seems to have been written by a half-assed art student with an ear for a laboured allusion and a Bullfinch at his elbow, so who knows how much of the band members' words are actually the band themselves or merely the interviewer backhandedly manipulating quotes, right? Either way, though, the band comes across as fairly uneasy in their skin, which is a shame, because it's a good-looking body of work they've got, very attractive, very accessible. Take any hard rock band, mix with a healthy slosh of controller.controller, top off your glass with some ice-cold Metric (Old World Underground Metric, that is), and, suddenly, you're drinking down a brilliant and unique full-length from an Edmonton four-piece you might never have heard of before, but will definitely want to hear more of from now on.

This song is excellent. It's hard, it's rock, it's full of boppy synth and a sexy guitar solo slash bridge. If I was in a basement with a couple of friends, and there was a couch just right for jumping up and down on, this music would be a serious contender for the first spin of the night. The full-length is available at Megatunes, if you're local, or you can talk to them on their Myspace, above.

And I like their music better than the Metric business. Dance metal!

Monday, July 24, 2006

I Prefer A Shot Of Grape Juice

I have TOO MANY little projects on the go at one time. I'm still messing about with the car, the desk is STILL not done, I have yet to build a stand for the unicorn, and then there is that screen made out of wallpaper samples and trim, which sounds terrible, I know, but trust me, when it's done, it will seem like a piece of classic Augustan furnishing. Then there is the house on 78 Ave, which is going to take some serious work on the painting side, and there's that one bench which J and I are planning to refurbish, and soon enough, moving day. Moving day! I can hardly believe it. And school is starting up again. Try balancing all of that with a blog and a novel—two novels, actually. And my brothers' birthday is this week-end. And, with a little bit of luck, a new job will start up for me. Because I need another casual job, dammit, for gas and rent.

Who else, btw, is going to the Wolf Parade show? This heart's starting to feel the fire. I hope the sound, this time, will not be a problem. Spencer Krug! Dan Boekner! Oh, it will be good.

"A New Law" + Derek Webb She volunteers for things, your one friend, but that's not the important part—you've got tons of friends who volunteer for Oxfam or soup-kitchens or that Fashion 4 Cancer stuff. She doesn't volunteer to make herself feel better, or because volunteering is in vogue, or even because she's a good person and that's what good people do, a good person's duty. She's living in a different place, and in that place, where colours are just a bit more clear-edged, where black and white never bleed into one another, serving is loving, and she is full of love. And she is honest. And clean. And she is always shaping a better, stronger, more durable connection between everyone around her. Well, you don't need to be around her, but when you are, you feel better, cleaner, and, maybe, uncomfortable, too. This song by Derek Webb is like your friend, and she's talking to you. This is a gently bitter song, an emotionally honest song, a song for people who want to be better, but don't want to work very hard to be good. They're satisfied ("them", I say, surely not you or I) with staying in the valley—"I don't wanna know if the answers aren't easy / so just bring it down from the mountain to me"—and life on the surface is a very fine life. No thinking, no sweating, no understanding. Honest ignorance is honest bliss. This song strips away ignorance. This song leaves no excuse for each listener to not work for a better connection with something purer than oneself. With God, alright? This song makes goodness for the sake of goodness nearly irrelevant. There's nothing new, musically, here. Nothing inventive or outstanding. The piano, the guitar, are just a well-framed nest for that slightly-scratchy voice. But the lyrics, for anyone not whole-heartedly striving to better themselves, are a gun against your temple, absolute condemnation. An axe against your roots. I can feel the cold press of the barrel right now, the blade biting deep.

This song is off Derek Webb's 2005 solo release, Mockingbird. Not the easiest album to track down, but well worth the time, the money, the listening.

Bonus dl: "Mockingbird".

The Prestige + Christopher Priest This book is ill-served by the Gollancz reissue cover—a pallid picture of a tuxedoed man adjusting his cravat in front of a mirror out of which looks not his reflection but another man, top-hatted, pleasant, vapid. Done in washed-out grays and pale yellow, no one would pick this book from the shelf based on its cover. Listen, this book has been nominated for a total of five awards and won two. An amazing novel, brilliant construction. This book is all Jekyll and Hyde and The Mystery Of Edwin Drood and Connie-Willis-style science fiction (and, please, if you're unaware of Connie Willis, my God, do yourself the enormous favour of reading To Say Nothing Of The Dog as soon as possible—though Lincoln's Dreams, I must confess, is by far my favourite Willis novel, flawed though it may be). So the cover is not the book, which, strangely, fits the theme of the book very well. Do you want to know the heart of this book? One sentence, then, one sentence: "There had been someone standing inside that chamber, silently, motionlessly, just beyond my line of sight, waiting for me to either enter or retreat." That still sinister space between action and consequence, the idea of something not known, a waiting shape, forms the eerie bias of this book. What is real and what is seen to be real, and the consequences of the miscommunication which arise between the two, form the engine of this novel—and it's a powerful engine, indeed. Two magicians come up with the same trick, a spectacular transposition of the performer's body. He is here, and then he is there. He walks in one door and out another. He disappears in a blaze of electricity and immediately appears elsewhere under a halo of spotlights. There is no solving how either magician works his magic. False images, doppelgangers, scarred doubles, William Wilsons, this novel has them all in spades. Miscommunication is piled upon miscommunication, insult upon insult, deceit upon deceit, until neither magician seems to know who, exactly, he himself really is! So their lives are ruined forever, and the lives of their children after them.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

The Photo Has Been Changed

I'm disappointed, too. Little things, you know? They always disappoint you the most. Well, thankfully. I'd hate for the big things to start Hindenburging down on me. For example (little-things-wise, that is): I have been QUITE excited about the Edgar Rice Burroughs film coming out in the near future. I am, as many previous posts on this blog can testify, a very large Burroughs fan. By Issus! Not literally, that is. My bones are very small, part daschund, really. But my heart, boys and girls, my heart is very big for Burroughs. So when I heard that the director of Sin City had hired Frank Frazetta to be the art director for the John Carter film, I had all kinds of good thoughts. The man had obviously learned from Peter Jackson and was hiring a defining illustrator of the author to illustrate the film based on the author's book! But when I heard that the director had been dismissed, I did not continue thinking such good thoughts. Until I heard that the director of Sky Captain And The World Of Tomorrow had been hired on for the film! A man who clearly understands 1920's pulp fiction. Yay! And dismissed. Oh, no. And now Jon Favreau has taken over the reins of this film. Which will no longer be called A Princess Of Mars, but John Carter Of Mars. Which is actually the title of the last book in Burroughs' series set on Barsoom. They're already changing things, aren't they? And so I fear for this film.

"Der Erlkönig" + Franz Schubert I remember a lot of things about that one music history class I was required to take. I remember avoiding the dread-locked crowd in the back which collectively shouted their love for psychobilly at first-day introductions. Mostly I avoided them because I had said that I was listening to a lot of j-pop and I'd described it as being the exact opposite of psychobilly, which made every pair of black jeans in the back stare very hard. That class, though, overall, was a blast. It taught me to appreciate Henry Purcell all over again (my brother, with his mixes lovingly taped off CBC Radio, was the first to introduce me to Henry P), it taught me the whole thing about "The Lion Sleeps Tonight", and it taught me that while Romantic classical music will forever own a part of my soul, abstract stuff like free jazz and scat simply never will. And one day, on a whim, the professor played Schubert's crushing piece of horrorpop, and it was like a gigantic anvil swinging around the fluorescent room, and the psychobilly crowd and the rest of us were entirely flattened by this enormous-nearly-shrieking presence that was the boy's terror of the elf king in this relentless song. That presence is still, to me, the ultimate inescapable nightmare, and the elf-king its terrible engine. I don't listen to j-pop even half as much as I once did. I still listen the hell out of this song, though.

And be careful. It's a mixtape destroyer, don't burn it. I warned you.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

The Dark Design

I've looked at three thousand plus fonts over the past three days. And the best lettering of them all, as far as I can make out—the cleanest, the kindest, the most careful for clarity, the most stand-tall, most Aslan of them all—was cut by the Romans into their plaques and monuments around two thousand years ago. Arial is a serviceable font and Courier is like mercury, quick and silver, of course. Those Old English recut William Morris types are wonderful and intricate, and anything by William Caslon is a minor masterpiece, and I can only guess at how Mythica (according to Thomas Wharton, the "last typeface from the hand of the master Atlantean engraver whose name did not survive the inundation of that great city") could appear, since, sadly, that font is unavailable. But the greatest of them all, the beast which carries the biggest burden best, I believe, is Roman. Wonderful.

Understand, I think text-tattoos are much more pleasing than the traditional hearts-and-ribbons, the roses, the various crosses, eyes, semi-realistic portraits of the loved one, the Suicide Girls half/quarter/full-sleeve, the line-drawn stars ("Hello, Ashlee!") and phallic cherries which one spots on nearly every part of the anatomy parading up and down Whyte Avenue towards evening. And, yes, I've seen Memento. There is nothing new under the sun.

I found a concrete unicorn, by the way. Not a true unicorn—no goat's beard, lion's tail or cloven hooves. The statue was white and dull. So I painted it. And I took a picture of the painted image of the fabulous one-horned animal. That is all.

lifestyles&vistas + "Go To The Crossroads" Which is the latest song I have fallen in love with, really, and, like all good loves, I cannot tell you precisely why I love this track so much. Where I picked it up, I don't know. Let's take a wild stab and say the internet, shall we? Of course it was the net, but, I'm sorry, I cannot remember where or when I picked it up. The song is wonderful, sure, breezy and slightly menacing, like cubicle air-conditioning on a hot summer's day, and the girls on the sidewalk outside of the office are wearing polka-dotted short shorts and that evening (oh, that evening) the guys will decide to walk the darkening streets outside the well-lit patios. THAT kind of air-conditioning. THAT kind of song [sidenote: le google tells me that I got this song from Fluxblog, OF COURSE, and that this song comes from Asthmatic Kitty, and that the main singer also happens to be the wife of a member of Royal City. So. Just goes to show. Because who doesn't love the RC?].

Edgar Rice Burroughs + The Gods Of Mars Mars, in this sequel to The Princess Of Mars, has more than the red men and green men of the first book. Mars has 1) plant men, with vacuum-like mouths in their palms, and gigantic feet, and long razor-like kangaroo tails and but a single eye which grows upon a thin stalk sprouting from the middle of the forehead, 2) white men, who are bald and wear blond wigs and are fraudulent priests, and eat the red and green men who come to die in the Valley of the Gods, and 3) black men, who are arrogant, and powerful, and live in a sunken world beneath the south-pole-surface of Mars, from which they piratically fly across the Valley of the Gods and make life fairly bitter for the whites, let me tell you. Whenever Burroughs seems to feel his plot flagging, the man invents a new race to terrorize the old, and, in this book, at least, it is a good gimmick. The Galactus-sized irony which makes the white men victims of the black men in the same manner which the regular red and green men of Mars are victims of the whites is well-related, and provides the basic engine of the plot (and Philip José Farmer probably started taking notes for his Riverworld series as soon as he read this novel). John Carter finds himself, once again, on Mars, fighting beside his Best Companion Ever, the gigantic four-armed Tars Tarkas, who has taken the long pilgrimage of death up the River Iss to the Valley of the Gods. The green man should have stayed home. The Valley of the Gods is nothing but a trap to take in every man or woman who dies on Mars, and take them for everything they've got. The white apes in the valley, and the plant men, too, kill every traveler. The white men get the clothes and treasure and the occasional escapee, especially the attractive female ones. Oh, but the irony! Just as all Mars travels up the Iss, so all the white Holy Therns and their wives and daughters travel toward what they also think is paradise but is also actually a clever trap by the Black Pirates of Mars! John Carter, of course, draws a blade and cuts through all the nonsense to where his wife, the lovely Dejah Thoris, is being held captive. Will he find her? Of course he will. But can he rescue her? Only if he can defeat the dastardly politics among his own people!

This is a badly-written book. This does not matter. Also, it is VERY well told.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Six 2 Three (Not Edmonton) + (Photo Taken Down)

No good, I guess, but the team was due for a loss. How many wins in a row was that? Time to sit back a little, then. Selanne and Niedermayer just made it easier to excuse, is all. Did you see N stopping that third-period try? Man is brilliant, a contender. And nobody can stop desperation, so of course the Ducks were going to win. The Oilers go back to The Pond, then, and they'll V For Victory there, mark my words. I called the Thursday loss, and you can trust me on the next game, because it's Edmonton's. Not to lose, not to tuck away on a high shelf, not to toss away or fumble and drop, but to win. You'll see.

In other news, I hate my life. Only sometimes, but now is one of those. Listen, I'm not looking to change the world, I'm not looking for New England. Why is it that pleasing oneself always mean disappointing someone else? I swear, it's a law—it's a law! But Jean Rhys wants to know about the other side. Of course. "A day wasted on others is not wasted on one's self." Oh, Dickens, I cannot deny you.

[What's-up-date: 1) Ignore everything I said about hating my life. Only fools hate their lives. I'll grow a beard, instead, and learn to love red wine. 2) Why are Ryan Smith's ass-cheeks in the above picture so King Kong-mungous? Seriously, Ryan. Seriously. 3) Also, summer is a-coming in, loud sing the birds. Check it. Check it, I did.]

Sam Roberts + "Bridge To Nowhere"
Daniel Bedingfield + "I Gotta Get Through This"

Double up on a strong catch from the warm waters of the mainstream. I loathed "The Gate", Roberts' previous single from Chemical City. I love this one, though, because I hear an updated Paul Simon writing jingles for pharmaceutical companies and LavaLife, and it's a heartbreaking miracle how out of such commercial circumstances comes such beautiful music, such inevitable lyrics. "If this is a race then I hope you come last / You're on a bridge to nowhere and you're gettin' there fast". Oh, the lazy discipline with which the man sings, it's like a small river, I think, or a water-mill. And then I remember I just made those Lava-pharm circumstances up. It's all in my mind, and I'm building imaginary bridges, aren't I? Oh, it's a good song, a sad song, with a bounce in its step that won't be denied, a Charlie Chaplin song. Look at him twirl that cane and cry.

The Bedingfield. Is commercial. Is plastic. Is plus ten. Wilfully ignoring this present darkness, the machine empties its red heart of all emotion and sings in an empty room, a room which lacks doors or windows or any means of leaving or letting go. This is how Autobots lullaby when victory looks, once again, out of hand. This bit is a few years old, now (pretty much pre-WWI in Transformer years) and I hope the Autobots won/are winning.

PS: The Runner is back, flashing some pretty huge Clipse.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

The Word Which Made All Clear

So, the Oilers won on Wednesday, of course, and that is the hugeness. What's Whyte Ave going to be like if they make it to the finals, I ask? Twenty-thousand people Wednesday on Whyte, some say more. Insanity. This city will tear itself apart if the team hits the finals. I'm a Leafs fan (that's thirty-nine years without a cup, by the way) and not an Oilers hick, but I'm bandwagoning Smitty and the gang until the end of the line, no questions asked.

Other news. If the weather holds and it doesn't rain, I shall probably be moving out this autumn/late summer. Sure, before Indian Summer, anyway. A house for five, and it already—sight unseen and over my slight protests—has been christened. Welcome to The House Of Mirth. Which, if you'll recall, is not only the title for Edith Wharton's endlessly grim novel about a gracelessly poor upper-class New Yorker, but also a not-at-all-ominous verse from the KJV: "The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning; but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth". Hrm. But Gillian Anderson is so good-looking!

The Mystery Of Edwin Drood + Charles Dickens This novel blew me away. And it's forever unfinished. Who cares? The opening lines are amazing. Listen, the opening lines are AMAZING:

An ancient English Cathedral Tower? How can the ancient English Cathedral tower be here! The well-known massive gray square tower of its old Cathedral? How can that be here! There is no spike of rusty iron in the air, between the eye and it, from any point of the real prospect. What is the spike that intervenes, and who has set it up? Maybe it is set up by the Sultan's orders for the impaling of a horde of Turkish robbers, one by one. It is so, for cymbals clash, and the Sultan goes by to his palace in long procession. Ten thousand scimitars flash in the sunlight, and thrice ten thousand dancing-girls strew flowers. Then, follow white elephants caparisoned in countless gorgeous colours, and infinite in number and attendants. Still the Cathedral Tower rises in the background, where it cannot be, and still no writhing figure is on the grim spike. Stay! Is the spike so low a thing as the rusty spike on the top of a post of an old bedstead that has tumbled all awry? Some vague period of drowsy laughter must be devoted to the consideration of this possibility.

This scene is from the point of view of John Jasper, undoubtedly the murderer of the titular character. Jasper is drugged out on opium at the time—thus the Turkish connection. He's planning on an act punishable by death—thus the preoccupation with impaling the heads of wrongdoers. He's the choirmaster at the cathedral at Cloisterham—thus the preoccupation with the tower. He's a bad man who looks good and is quickly falling short of the heavenly city reflected in his name—which also feeds into viewing the Cathedral Tower as a grim place of punishment, for heaven will not welcome John Jasper. He's lying in a haze of opium in a grimy bed in London. Charles Dickens places us there. Charles Dickens was a genius. He is so still.

Cagedbaby + "Hello There (Presets Remix)" Don't bother with the Tom Gandey original, this remix is way better, although—just a warning—much more Presets than Cagedbaby. I can't remember where I picked it up, but I've burned it onto about a million mixes by now, and it's perfect, striking the golden chord between 80's banality and eternally interesting. Listen, if they ever do a new film about Edwin Drood , they better do it like a music video, dark, slick, threatening, frightened people running in the dark. Modern music, too. And this would be the first track for the first scene with John Jasper and Rosa Bud, him mantra-monotonous fixated on her, her unwillingly hypnotized by his wicked zeal. Pictures of statues in the garden, too, please. Lock down for the break at 1:05 (or 1:08, if your pc keeps spinning out of control like mine occasionally does), because it's killer, basically turning the dial hard right to sex. That is, the adjective. The noun, the verb, I leave to you. Music can only go so far.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

The Return Of The Yellow Peril

I am BACK, people. I'm so back, I make the rest of them look spineless. I'm so back, baby doesn't got any. I'm so back, I'm practically front. I'm back like nobody knows and what nobody knows is that I'm back.

First! With a shouty voice! Details! This tri-weekly business I was all about before is right OUT! I'll post once a week, just like taking out the coffee grounds and empty bottles. Anything else will be extra cherries in your drink—and, seriously, who likes an extra maraschino in the cocktail? Nobody, that's who, and he doesn't carry a lot of weight around here, so I don't pay much attention to him. That's right, I'm tough. Tough and devilish sly, too.

Second! My sweet lord, I just learned that The Beatles are singing "Frere Jaques" in the back of "Paperback Writer"! I feel cheated, but also glad, like paying the girl in the tent for a kiss. My favourite song, too! Okay, well, no, but close-enough my favourite morning/kitchen/omelette song ever.

"If Looks Could Kill" + Camera Obscura Does this song sound like The Raveonnettes could totally have written it? Well, I sure think so, or—OBVIOUSLY—I would never have made the comparison. I'm not really asking, of course, I'm just being rhetorical in order to air what I feel is significant and interesting about this song. Well, is there anying else which could be considered significant about this litttle three-minute pleasure-fest for your ears? Oh, yes, it's GOOD! Man, is it ever good. It's wonderful, soft sweaters, swirling skirts, burgundy chairs set out at the lodge for the young people, wonderful wonderful wonderful. I loved "Teenager" forever ago, I never heard anything by Camera which came close—and then this. Yes. Surpassed their previous. No question.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Monday, April 24, 2006

The Unexamined Zipper Is Not Worth Riding

I remember my dad took us down the hill to Centennial Park on the bay. Every year, toward the end of July, the carnival would set up on the withered yellow grass beside the marina. There was cotton candy, and a virtual space shuttle, and a long slide which you rode a burlap sack down, and fake tattoos, and enormous badly-sewn teddy-bears and, most importantly, even bigger than the ferris wheel, there was a zipper. Very brightly coloured, gold, red, green, and rust. I pleaded for a ride and convinced my younger brother to come along and my parents gave us a couple of yards worth of pale pink tickets to pass to the guy who pushed the buttons. "Keep your knees straight," the man said, locking the steel mesh door down on us. "See that bar?" he yelled. "Hold onto that!" My brother and I grabbed onto the bar running across our chests and stiffened our knees and the little carton we were in lurched upwards. Please God, I thought, Please don't let this thing turn upside down. And it turned upside down. My jelly knees crumpled and I slumped to the ceiling-now-floor of the little metal box. I became aware that the roaring I could hear was my brother shouting through his gritted teeth. "Shut up! Shut up!" he said, but I could barely hear him over my howling. And then something happened to the damn zipper and we were hung upside down on the top of that ride for what seemed like an hour. My brother still hasn't recovered.

"Ecoutez Bien" + Eux Autres This is walk-away music, sunlight-shining-through-your-windshield music. Remember that scene in The Big Lebowski where The Dude finally gets his car back and everything has gone to hell but that CCR casette is still in the deck? And he pounds the ceiling of the car because it's perfect music and he's driving his car away, yes, PERFECT. That scene is very nearly this song. Also, this song is eating an orange. Slice by slice, beside the hockey rink, outdoors. Where are you going to toss the peel? Also, this song is dark sunglasses and low-income but not-poor suburbs outside of Paris (obviously) and walking at, like, eight o'clock in the morning beside a girl who's wearing high-heels on the crappy sidewalks of those suburbs, because you've both been up all night and where would she have changed her shoes? Oh, you're crazy!

Also, I quit my job at Banana Republic.

"The Five Orange Pips" + Arthur Conan Doyle Just a note to the story, is all. I'm still reeling from reading my big burgundy Conan Doyle. So I was noticing (maybe I'm making to much of too little) a few things. The beginning of this story—and it's not that good a story for a Holmes story, slip-shod, really—lays some pretty fierce groundwork. The sinister equinoctial storm, much more troublesome on sea than land, is washing over London. Watson, reading one of Clark Russell's sea stories, muddles reality with fiction—""the howl of the gale from without seemed to blend with the text". This confusion on Watson's part is both in character and a forethought to the end of this story. The sinister nature of the sea is born out in the death of the client who comes to Holmes in that storm—John Openshaw dies by drowning. He drowns in a canal ouside of London. Holmes solves the mystery, in part to avenge his dead client, but he is too late—a storm takes the murderers of John Openshaw to a very wet grave in the sea when the ship they booked passage on is wrecked in a storm. Thus, although Holmes clears up the mystery, he fails to bring the killers to justice—a very muddled ending to this story, very Watsonish, one could say.

I'm not saying all of Conan Doyle's stories are this dense with symmetry. I'm not even saying this is a particularly good story—Conan Doyle himself ranked it seventh in the collection of twelve it appears in. But what I am saying and what I have noticed is how even in a throw-away piece of Victorian pulp-fiction like this one, Conan Doyle is a very fine writer indeed. And very worthy of critical praise.

Friday, April 21, 2006

X + Chain + Ginseng + Gland + Saïs

There was a time when giants ruled the earth. Not men, not large men with six fingers on each hand, not the sons of angels or the snake-headed men in Egypt who tried to sabotage the unity of the pyramids from a secret lair in the heart of Crocodilopolis, and not, most especially, the large thievish clan called Doone which terrorized parts of Cornwall and Kent, no, not any of these, none of these ruled the earth. But there were giants, pure beings of frost and root, hands like axes, eyes like beating hearts, and there was no stopping them, and they were demons on the land, kings and pure will. Large men were like grasshoppers beside them. But that's all over now. The Toronto Maple Leafs will not be in the Stanley Cup play-offs. I'm still in shock. No Stanley Cup, no surprise, sure, whatever. But no Leafs in the post-season? These are my first words of mourning. They will not be my last. In 2017—anyone who reads this can come—I'll be holding a fifty-years-without-Lord-Stanley party for my favourite hockey team. Still, I'm telling you, the Leafs better be in the play-offs that year.

"A Song Is More Than Just A Song" + Stook Every word of this song is true. It follows, then, that if Weezer went country, this would be a Weezer song—since the lyrics to every Weezer song ever are Midas-touch-true, even the bad lyrics, even the stupid songs. That's why the band is called Weezer. This song is a straight-cop from Music For Robots. They put it up a few days ago and now I'm putting it up. The robot who posted it nattered on about songs like "Hey Jude" and he was entirely correct in his nattering. "Hey Jude" is also a Weezer song, except that Weezer used to be called The Beatles back then. Weezer, country, The Beatles—you should be so lucky to be happily the victim of this song.

The Complete Sherlock Holmes + Arthur Conan Doyle That Chabon novella got me reading Sherlock Holmes again, and those stories are good stories, aren't they? Very good stories. Conan Doyle certainly has the gift. I remember reading the thick Boy's Own hard-cover The White Company years ago, it came to me one summer like a gift from God. I will never have those endless summers again, you know, or those long books full of knights and fair ladies (Oh, Richard Coeur-de-lion! Oh, Rebecca!). Conan Doyle's excellent prequel, Sir Nigel, was nearly as good as The White Company and certainly as good as any of Conan Doyle's Professor Challenger series, a series which puts to shame the entire oeuvre of Jules Verne in, what, four novellas? But all asides aside, there's no question—those short stories and novellas concerning Sherlock Holmes are the best work Conan Doyle ever did. ANALOGY-ISH TIME! Just like Batman Begins does a good job of convincing the viewer that Batman could be real, Conan Doyle did an amazing job making Holmes a believable character. I'm not talking the real-world setting, the name-dropping, etcetera—I'm talking the presentation of Holmes not as some fantastic vampire-mage, but as a vampire-mage who operates by the same rules that normal people use. There was the genius, the shrewd stroke of Conan Doyle! Sherlock Holmes is impossible; Watson is average. The average qualifies the impossible and hey! ho! let's go! everything snaps into focus and Holmes is calmly talking about some giant rat-dude on Sumatra and we're nodding our heads, just like we did in the theatre watching Christian Bale talk about fear and symbolism.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Cigars R Penises R Orchids R Flowers R Vaginas

I like cigars. I like the slim cigarillos Clint deals like aces in his films, and I like the big fat Cubans the mafia-types always seem to be fishing out of their pockets. And to the drunk who asked me about my sexual preferences, I am an English major, sir, and therefore nearly androgynous. And, yes, being an English major, I am strongly aware of a great deal of pop-Freudian theory. Freud, don't you know, is the patron saint of the arts, along with Jung. Did I forget Jung? Oh, and Joseph Campbell, too—godsake, can't forget JC. Not that he was a psychologist, but he did basically write Star Wars, even if he didn't know it. Hey, did you know Campbell and Jung have the same initials (leaving out the whole middle name thing, that is), only reversed? So if JC is a messianic hero with a thousand faces, does that make Carl Jung the devil? Asinine games like that are why I come very close to despising my own discipline. But I still like smoking cigars. If you see me, then, smoking the golden leaf on Whyte Ave this summer—or this Friday—well, reader, cast a cold eye on me and pass by. I've got opinions. And I like cigars. Whatever that means.

****************************************************************************************[ THURSDAY EVENING EDIT + THURSDAY EVENING EDIT + THURSDAY EVENING EDIT + GO! GO! GO! GO! ]

Well, the above is pretty much derangement, isn't it? I'm all for the random, God knows, but this? Also, not impressed with the use of the letter R. Did you know that in my text messages, I nearly always spell out By the way and, also, punch out every letter of Talk to you later?

"Do Impossible Things"+ Jens Lekman This song is so sad, it's like Great Expectations where Pip realizes that everything he ever wanted is empty and worthless dirt, and that everything that was ever good happened by the time he was six years old, and it makes me want to hurt people for Pip, but that's useless, because he is already forever damaged and there is no saving him and he did it to himself, stupid boy, stupid man. I hate you, Pip, and I wish you could be happy.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Half Man, Half ____.

Had I but world enough and time, dear ones, oh, I should post every day. I would probably eat a Bartlett pear every day if I could, too, or one of those russet apples, but it's just not going to happen for me. Life is grim and full of Thomas Hardy, and, the fact is, I don't have enough time or even nearly enough world to post three times a week, never mind every rotation of the earth around that gaseous ball which Isaac Asimov informs me will collapse in nine billion years. And turn into a red dwarf star, increasing the strength of everyone on earth to the power of infinity, giving them laser-eyes, icy breath, flight, and indestructible kiss-curls in the middle of their foreheads, but, also, simultaneously, tragically, turning their society into a drab repressed melange of ill-fitting tunics and V For Vendetta, until one man, whose heart is bigger than his body, in the last dying days of that world, sends his son back in time to alter the course of history and save their parents, progenitors, predecessors—us!

Hey, the semester is over!

Half Man Half Biscuit + "Monmore Hare's Running (Peel Session)" I'm just getting into this band. Wonderful. Lyrics like a literary Timothy Leary if Leary hadn't been such a dickhead. This is one of their more straight-ahead songs, though. To take another, "Prag Vec At The Melkweg", well, pragVEC, it seems, never appeared at The Melkweg, the tune opens up like "Yellow Submarine" and the verses chuck obscure references—I'm told—to old British television at the listener. One review I read compared this band to The Fall, and I think that ref is spot on. For sure, the unpredictable way this band throws spaghetti at the wall to see what sticks strongly resembles Mark E. Smith's band. This song is off Voyage To The Bottom Of the Road (1997) and it is stellar and strong, esepcially the repetition of that last line, droning on like fate, not unkind, but irrevocable. GREAT driving music.

The Final Solution: A Story Of Detection + Michael Chabon I love Michael Chabon's books. Wonder Boys was one of the most enjoyable books I ever read—I even thought the film adaptation was excellent and hilarious. But I think Chabon's Sherlock Holmes unpastiche is a waste of trees. It's a bunch of red herrings arranged to resemble a mystery. The Holmes figure is given an interior point-of-view—ALWAYS a mistake when writing about Holmes. The character loses his near omnipotence, the key to the enduring public fasciantion with this character. It's like breaking Batman's back, for godsake. No excuses, Chabon. Arundathi Roy once said something about an artist allowed to break any rule so long as art was produced. But that this allowance removed the possibility of excuses. God is not allowed to make mistakes. Well, Chabon is certainly not gaining any significance in the pantheon with this cack-handed effort. Where's my wonder boy?

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Grass Preserver #16724, Your Epidermis Is Showing

Friday was by far the busiest day. 1) There was school. 2) There was work. 3) There was the theatre—I am happy to report that She's The Man is stupid and hilarious. 4) There was some guy attacking me at the Strat—"For five years, I thought you were the coolest guy and now I want to kill you"—honestly, I have no idea who he was. 5) There was International Airport at three in morning. 6) But, best of all, before any of this began, there was the driver's license! Two years now, I have been without a license to kill. Damn. That is, drive. For two years, I have been making my brothers drive sometimes more than an hour out of their way merely to ferry me home from work or a late night. For two years, my girlfriend has had to drag me back and forth between her place and mine. Two years now, bumming rides off friends and strangers, or staying overnight in an unknown house because I couldn't get a ride, or paying taxicabs incredible amounts of shinola, or refusing invitation after invitation because, "Well, you'd have to drive me back home, see?" is officially over!

"Colored People" + dc Talk Morrissey would KILL this song, it is so his business. But between calling Canada one of the worst human-rights abusers in history and labelling W another Hitler, he's scarcely got time to look on the positive side of being white and Western—getting to sing songs about racial harmony! Okay, things I learned listening to this song: 1) We live in a painted world. 2) My epidermis was showing. 3) Ignorance is wrong. Okay, so I'm mocking this song, but don't pay attention, that's just a cultural reflex to straight ahead Christian pop. You can say a lot of things about Christianity. You can say it's the foundation of Western culture. Sure, you can say it provides hope for all mankind. But one thing you can't say is that it's cool. People aren't gonna call you The Fonz for giving the thumbs up to Jesus. People aren't going to talk about your chiselled abs and handsome profile if you go around spouting dc Talk, right? Well, none of that matters, because "Colored People" is a great tune. The singer's voice straining on "We are a skin kal-AYE-descope" makes this song, absolutely breaks it. Wonderful.

Yes, and I realize that fully one third of Decent Christian Talk is not caucasian. But they're like Journey, don't you think?—the black guy only makes them whiter.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

This Is The Cow With The Crumpled Horn

Moo! I am having problems uploading pix and links to this blog. Just as frustrating, Error 403 (Forbidden) shows up about half the time I try to access this page. Other stuff, server-related, is happening, too. Perhaps the net is about to implode? I'll keep trying if you keep checking back.

Dammit, maybe I'll just go listen to some Ghostface and read Treasure Island.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Apparently, I Am The Bell Jar

I ran two photos of myself through the works, doing that Find The Celebrity In You thing over at MyHeritage and these are the names, in order, of the great ones I am supposed to resemble: Oscar Wilde, Alexandre Dumas, Henry Mancini, George Harrison, Brigham Young, Felix Mendelsohn, Annette Bening, Guillermo Coria, Maurice Maeterlinck, Paul Klee, J. M. Coetzee, Andie MacDowell, Gabriel Byrne, Mel Gibson, Mira Sorvino, Michael Douglas, and Sylvia Plath.

Never mind MacDowell and Sorvino—or, godsake, Annette Bening! I'm talking about Sylvia Effing Plath here. Are you people absolutely kidding me? Right, so, if I'm a guy, I'm the fattest-faced furbie to ever ponderously grace the earth, while, if I'm a girl, one out of four chances means I miss my bee-loving dad so much I'm going to kill myself. This internet, my desperadoes, is oh-so-cruel.

More words later. Books, today; music, manana.

Why Read The Classics? + Italo Calvino These are not your father's classics. Well, no—actually, a great deal of these thiry-six essays focus on your father's classics, and rightly so, but still, even when the accent is on traditional, it's not all traditional. Essays like "Nezzami's Seven Princesses", or, "The Structure Of The Orlando Furioso" (an obvious easy favourite for me), or "The Book Of Nature In Galileo", or, "The World Is An Artichoke" focus on the more baroque aspects of second-thought classics, and are absolute delights. And these essays are just the right size, too, back to something more Montaigne-intentioned; not neccessarily long, but complete thoughts upon carefully considered pleasures, and not obscure dissertations and erudite showmanship. Calvino does not venture far into modern waters, here—his subject, of course, somewhat hinders him—but does travel downstream as far as Hemingway, Pavese, Francis Ponge, and Raymond Queneau. Listen, academic essays are mostly boring—anything by C.S. Lewis proving the exception—but these are not academic essays, and these are not academic subjects. This book has for its subject the same theme as Casanova writing on women, Jane Grigson on food, Charles Mackay on gullibility, Twain on hypocrisy, or Jane Jacobs on suburbia: the author of the text is concerned, invested, interested, consumed—pick your own damn adjective!—by his or her subject. Laughter is catching, and sad people are not popular; strong emotion is like influenza, travelling from subject to subject, and the only way to avoid it is to bundle up and leave the room. If the author is interested, the reader will probably be interested, too. The subject of Calvino's essay's, like the subject of all good essays, is enjoyment. Calvino enjoys certain books and poems, and tells us why he enjoys them and why we should enjoy them. I don't know how much pleasure I would derive from a close reading of Pliny's Natural History, but I know that I certainly enjoyed Calvino reading it! A good essay, I believe, should fully express the particular state of the heart of its writer toward this or that object. These essays read like reports of appreciative discovery fom some explorer in exotic lands, each essay an expanded "Ozymandias" written for both the author's pleasure and his eagerness to hook others on his enjoyment, a mixtape of essays, if you will. And, as a mixtape, this book certainly succeeds.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Break The Neck Of A Wild Cimmerian Bull Before You Call Yourself Strong

What is best in life? To crush your enemies, to see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentations of their women? Right, maybe not. But it would be something, at least. There are no shows coming up that I want to see. Movies? Please. Listen, my one shoe just finished tearing down the instep. That pair of black trousers has gone missing. My second job wants me to increase my availability from one shift a week to, like, five. I just remembered that my damn library fines are at about a hundred dollars. I am very tired and I am in a black mood. I have been trying to fight with a lot of the kids. I wish the people would insult me so I could have an excuse to attack them. I wished we lived in a world of mud and battle-axes and thunder-smash giants and if I wanted to run into a brick wall over and over again, who would stop me? No one would. To hell with Thulsa Doom and everyone else, I say. I don't want to live forever.

I still like the good-looking girls, though. I can't hate them.

"For Real" + Okkervil River A little farther off than last week, Solomon was sitting through one of those dreary officially-designated court days when any man-jack—or woman, for that matter—can walk up to the king and ask for a decision. And there was a fight in the doorway, women yelling and the calm voice of the porter, until Solomon raised his head and said, "Let them in, already, porter, get them in here, then." So the women came in, a brunette and another brunette, good women, non-smokers both, and the one woman claimed that the other had stolen her child—but there was no way to prove anything either way. Solomon shrugged and said "Whatever. Cut the baby in half and give them each a piece." But the actual for-sure real mother shrieked around a bit and then said, "No, let this woman here have my baby, then. Anything so long as my baby gets to live." And Solomon knew that only the real mother would have spoken like that and he gave the baby back to the real mother and made the other woman pay very heavily for her selfishness. Then he said, "I'm taking a break here," and he walked out the back door to where Okkervil River was playing a set in the garden and he smashed his fist against a wall, just once.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Stupid Foodle, Deadly Cheers

We're in her car—these things are ALWAYS in her car—and my girlfriend abruptly chants, with enthusiasm, "ZOO-dle DOO-dle COO-dle!"

"It's probably Tourettes'," I say. "Let's look into that."


That one made me laugh.

Sometimes you've just got to go with it and enjoy. Blazing—blazing?—noodling away at my next soon-to-be-unfinished novel, I'm going to write in a character called Brigadier James Macrobius Foodle. He will be evil and silly. Somebody, surely, will mutter "Stupid Foodle" over the course of the plot. Because sometimes, you've really got to go with it.

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"There Is A Light" + Arif Sitting in the oak-panelled diner in the quieter part of the city, soft lights streaming here and there as businessmen and their wives sip dark expensive wine, you hear the opening chords of the guitar: solid but not heavy, comfortingly plain. Arif starts singing, nothing fancy, but you can hear the training behind his voice. It's a workmanlike Morrissey cover, and Morrissey would be proud of it, or should be. The waitresses and waiters in their crisp white shirts and black ties accept discreetly large tips, people put their coats on—it's snowing outside—and other diners arrive.

In other news, other music. Yes, it's tripe, junk, derivative, who cares? WRM is climbing my list for favourite pop of the year—their new single, "Girls In The Back", with deadly cheers, is up on their website. Less "Alsation", more "Love Is A Number". Listen, WHITE ROSE MOVEMENT IS SEX. Condoms on your ears, please.

"Morte d'Arthur" + Alfred Tennyson When I was around fourteen years old, I opened a large book crammed with densely-printed columns and read these lines: "So all day long a noise of battle roll'd / Among the mountains by the winter sea." They finished me, those lines; I was hooked on Tennyson from that moment forward. And while I love The Idylls Of The King, especially "Balin And Balan" and "The Holy Grail", and while I think that the redacted version of "Morte d'Arthur" was wonderfully expanded in the last idyll, "The Passing Of Arthur", my first thought, when I think of Arthur fighting with his knights, is not of Malory's story, or Steinbeck's parables, or Tennyson's later Idylls: I think of "Morte d'Arthur" and its slow sad decline, of men fighting without hope in a world of winter, mountains around and a cold cold shore. Why do these men fight, if they fight without hope? Because they fight for their hearts and an image of perfection. Why else should anyone fight?