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.