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.