Friday, May 30, 2003 

"Heartbreak is in the stars for you this week when the woman of your dreams confesses she cannot love a man with such an unholy appetite for pie." Wow. This week, my horoscope may be right.


"Sometimes, I think this is slowly killing me." Yeah, we didn't get around to reading this weeks' Onion until now. Still good, though.


Jesus, even NME liked Think Tank.


Up to his old tricks.


I'm not a regular reader of Fametracker's forums, but this thread promises to be interesting.


Huh? I like Kutcher well enough, but I can't say he's ever reminded me of Dean Martin.


Agreed; in fact, I wrote about something very similar when I purged the ol' CD collection of stuff I never listened to a while back. That entry is now no longer on the web, but it's on the hard drive somewhere. Anyway, luckily I'm following the article's advice - not to harp on the same album again and again and so forth, but No Cities Left is really a fantastic record. It'll probably be forever associated with the smell of oxidizing steel, though.


Fucking brilliant. Link via TMFTML, and they got it via No Rock And Roll Fun, which is apparantly great and I'd love to check it out (even though it's named after a middling Sleater-Kinney song), but there's that whole time problem. Enjoy anyway.


Josh sings the praises of Alien: Resurrection, an old favorite of mine that I caught the first half an hour of on break at work at the plant. God, that sounds weird. Anyway, he's entirely correct about its merits. Kudos to Josh.


This article is funny, and well done, but it loses a bit when Austin decides on a solution. It's not a bad solution, and it's not like I have a better one sitting around, but I liked the article better before it reared its archaic head.

Thursday, May 29, 2003 

Neil Richardson has, I think, the last word on the whole Sk8ter Boi movie thing. I think we're all hoping for scenario #2.


Is it just me, or is Steve-O beginning to look like Iggy Pop?


Nothing like Up In Flames to relax after a hard night.

Wednesday, May 28, 2003 

Wednesday's Emotional Setup: Permanent Daylight

I woke up late this morning. Or rather, I woke up early, before 9, to the sound of the garbage truck. It's never woken me up before, but then again, tonight the window in our bedroom was open. So I then fell back asleep and didn't wake up until after 11. This is a bad thing.

One thing about the work schedule I now have (3-11, Monday-Friday) is that it places at least some of the rest of my day under certain restraints. I have to do the dishes every day now, whether I want to or not, and I have to make a meal and also make and eat another one before leaving for work. Today I am going into the university with K. to see some people before work, so the time pressure I am under is much worse.

All of which makes me glad I chose Radiohead's 'Permanent Daylight' for this week's WES, and that I didn't do the responsible thing and get it finished the night before.

For a while, somewhere between The Bends and the post-OK Computer EP Airbag, Radiohead specialised in a couple different kinds of songs. One of these was the kind, and this is difficult to sum up in words, that could be easily soundtrack in a video to some white collar drone slowly going insane. In fact, for one of the Airbag tracks, 'Palo Alto', that's basically what the video was. The focus was on white collar in general, but when you're going for a mood of alienation and rejection, why focus on one person?

'Permanent Daylight' is an older b side, from the My Iron Lung EP, and from something I read on a fan site a long, long time ago, when I was just getting into music and Radiohead were the first band I liked, it was a bit of an homage to Sonic Youth. I don't see it myself, then or now. It's short, loud, and Thom Yorke's normally pristine vocals are distorted almost out of existence.

The lyrics are short. In their entirety they read:

The easiest way to sleep at night is to

Carry on believing that I don't exist

The easiest way to sell your soul is to

Carry on believing that we don't exist

It must be hard with your head on backward

As with many of this sort of Radiohead songs they speak of resentment not anger, frustration not despair, sarcasm not hate. Which is not to say that Radiohead would go on to include those latter qualities; their later-period work may not be the same thing at the era that spawned 'Permanent Daylight', but I've so far found no harm in giving it the benefit of the doubt.

This is an old song, and not one that used to be one of my favorites. So why did it pop into my head five minutes into shift yesterday and stay locked there?

The reason is the title. I have had nights where I have been goofing off and looked up and it is dark outside my window and I've thought 'oh, it's night now'. But working in a factory is entirely different. We tend to keep the side doors open so that some fresh air comes in, and I remember looking across at one of them at about 10 pm yesterday and being surpised that it wasn't night. When you're sitting in your apartment the light slowly alters as day draws on; the quality of light in the plant, open 24 hours, never changes. Permanent daylight. It kind of messes with your head.

But also, last night I was bored out of my skull for long stretches of observation. I actually spent part of the night walking in circles, to ease the pain in my feet and to occupy myself. Sure, Radiohead usually framed songs like this with scenes of officebound ennui and stress, but a more industrial setting for them wouldn't have altered the content in the least. And considering I'm going from an easy office job I've done for years to an interesting albeit challenging factory one, right now my mind is more where 'Permanent Daylight' is at.



Almost forgot: New post up at my journal.


So long, shithead. A great goaltender? Yes. A great person? No.


Shit or get off the, well, you know.


No Cities Left is the best album I have had the pleasure to hear since at least Hate, and it may yet overtake that milestone.


Land of the free, home of the summarily executed.

Tuesday, May 27, 2003 

New journal entry up.


I think remakes should be judged on their own merits. And on its own merits, the new version of The In-laws is one unholy turd.

Let no one say that Filthy is not balanced. Another informative evisceration of crap Hollywood product.


Between working at the factory and trying to keep up with everything else, i probably won't be posting terribly much for the next little while (although the next Wednesday's Emotional Setup will be up on time). I will probably get used to the routine at some point, however, so regular service should resume. And if not, I guess we're looking at a holding pattern until late August. I'm sure you're all appalled.


Stylus has another excellent article up, which gets kudos for including the Zero Effect, if nothing else.

Monday, May 26, 2003 

Today I start my new job at the forklift factory (I shit you not), so I won't be posting much until later. Hendy's diary, however, continues to be a source of comfort and amusement.

Sunday, May 25, 2003 



Modern Drunkard has updated again, which is especially noteworthy for the finale of the Clash of the Tightest.


Jesus. Warren wants the ion ray gun, but I'd settle for the minilauncher.


Something's rotten in Russia.

Friday, May 23, 2003 

No worries, Shane, I was making fun of Star Trek.


Okay, I take it back; My comment is that is the most terrifying, most depressing, most fearless, most disgusting, and best writing out there on the net right now. Your mileage may not only vary, but vary drastically.


No comment.

Thursday, May 22, 2003 

Jesus, that was quick.


My friend Josh now has a blog. Everyone's doing it.


The fuck? I'm glad the Streets won, but other than that, what a shitty year for the Ivor Novellos.


I hate you, Milkman Dan!


This just baffles the hell out of me. How long is it going to be before we are finally able to actually have equality between the sexes?


Now I want to read Thomas Berger.


Shane has also linked me. Plus he makes fun of the writers of Enterprise for being stupid, which is a bit like the whole fish/barrel thing, but at least it's entertaining to watch. Personally, aside from Deep Space 9 and most of Next Generation I absolutely loathe Star Trek.


Gord has linked me, as well as one of the funniest chatlogs I've seen in a while. Link is to the side, as per normal.


Neat idea, but the comments below give some idea to why it's tricky. The fact that it's not on all the time helps, though. My girlfriend wants one.


Postscript to the last Wednesday's Emotional Setup:

I woke up this morning with some stuff I wish I'd thought of yesterday and added into the column; here it is.

Belle & Sebastian make outsider music as much as any death metal band does. The outsider each tries to reach is, of course, different; in Belle & Sebastian's case, where men are always boys, women are always girls, and school is always on, their audience is composed of the people who make up the subjects of their songs. Girls who sculpt the Velvet Underground in clay for a high school project; Boys who are hapless and lazy and vaguely artistic and so forth. Indie kids, mostly. Of course, we should keep in mind the couplet I mentioned yesterday: Being a rebel's fine/But you go all the way to being brutal. While not as retiring as, say, the Field Mice, Belle & Sebastian also speak to the meek, the shy, the marginal, the can't-be-arsed.

The band has managed to reap a large audience beyond that, due to the pure beauty of the songs, but those are the people, as a rule, who think that the band speaks to them. Lately they've also begun poking fun at themselves and their audience ('Nice Day For A Sulk' being the prime example). Their audience is often annoying, sometimes even to them, and when the odd burst of action and determination bursts through the restrained loveliness of most of Belle & Sebastian's output, it is both wonderful simply for the contrast and also proves that they can do it when they choose. The wonderful 'La Pastie De La Bourgeosie', from the same series of EPs as 'Lazy Line Painter Jane', is perhaps the most thrilling example of this, but 'Lazy Line Painter Jane' definitely belongs to the same part of Belle & Sebastian's oeuvre. There is a determination here; Jane may be sleeping in bus stops, but she has a resolve often lacking from Belle & Sebastian's songs. She will have a boy tonight, maybe she will have a boy tonight, and she hopes the world will see. But in any case, she's thinking about her name, and not how to live with it, but what she's going to do about it.


Finally all caught up. I'm going to sleep.


Great article at Stylus on Primal Scream.


I really like Joe Panzner. I started feeling this way after reading this.


I'm very interested to see on June 1st what Parish is up to at Toastyfrog. And even if you're not, he's posted the third part of his peerless 'Drum Solo' article on prog rock.


And now... the Pizza Matrix.


Sweet baby Jesus, yes! Now if only it gets released over here...


Sweet baby Jesus, no!




A new additions to my bookmarks, Gigantic, looks to become a place for good, albeit slightly sporadic reviews. Although they, like most sites of their kind, have fallen into the error of pretending that Daydream Nation isn't boring. Yes, it's got all those critical plaudits and so on, but when I've talked to people, even fans of Sonic Youth, every single person admits that they've have listened to all three parts of 'Trilogy' once at most. 'Teenage Riot' is great, but most of the rest of the album is highly dubious.


I've always respected the man, but Fametracker really brings home just how good Al Pacino is.


This just makes me despair.


I must admit to having much love for the H-Dog.


It's not the band I hate, it's their fans. My brother may be a fan of punk music, but he's nothing like this.


This is just awesome.

Wednesday, May 21, 2003 

Yes, more on Blair: "As far as ethical choices," said Mr. Vigliano, "I don’t have a problem repping a guy who made up a few stories... he’s not eating babies, you know?"

When that's what you have to say to justify working with someone, maybe you should be rethinking your position.


Can't say I noticed this when I saw X-Men 2, but I love it anyway.


I don't know whether to laugh or cray. Actually, that's a lie. I'm laughing.


Both Shane and Pete (whose journal is particularly good, I think, but then again I know him) have been trying to spend less time vegging lately. Myself as well. True, some of that vegging is reading the large volume of article and scholarly stuff for school and fun that I do, but I think I need to get out more. Walking is fun. Once I get caught up tonight, I may go for a walk.


Sounds like torture to me. Not that any of the songs are that horrible (it's Sesame Street. I love Sesame Street), but we all know the US would have a shitfit if this happened to their soldiers.


Warren Ellis is obsessed with German cop shows, sumo, and general weirdness. His site has been a lot of fun recently.


'TV watchdog group' is just a sad phrase, period.


The whole Jayson Blair debacle produces it's first thought-provoking article.


Very interesting article on biogenetic manipulation.


I've been a fan of Hunter for years, ever since I read the second Fear And Loathing as a kid. Pretty good article on his new book, even though I usually don't have time for Theroux.


Recently I haven't blogged too much, as the long weekend occupied most of my attention, and a friend dropped by unexpectedly. Also, I was hired on at a factory for the summer, so starting next week blogging during the week may slow down a bit. So tonight I'm going to try to catch up on the backlog - I apologize in advance for anything that's old news.


Wednesday's Emotional Setup: Lazy Line Painter Jane

Recently I wrote briefly about my love for Belle & Sebastian's most recent album, Fold Your Hands Child, You Walk Like A Peasant. As Belle & Sebastian are one of the bands I love but don't listen to terribly often, this sparked a mini-renaissence in my Belle & Sebastian listening. That, combined with the albility of my Minidisc player to put all three of the EPs in the Lazy Line Painter Jane box set into one group*, had me listening to this song again recently.

If I love Belle & Sebastian, then why do I listen to them so rarely? The question could be applied, quite frankly, to vast tracts of my record collection; but the answer would only rarely be the same for different bands. In Belle & Sebastian's case, and this might be one of the more common explanations, I forget the way they make me feel. Some bands just feel right to some people, and Belle & Sebastian became one of those for me right after I heard 'Lazy Line Painter Jane' the first time. There's never that many of them, New Order being the only one that springs to mind right now, and they are precious.

The song itself, of course, is marvelous. It is long, almost six minutes, certainly one of the longer songs in the Belle & Sebastian discography**, but it is one of those rare and precious songs that ends too quickly for me, even with an extended instrumental coda.

'This Is Just A Modern Rock Song' is perhaps a good song to compare 'Lazy Line Painter Jane' to. The former is, even at its height, still melancholy, and it seems to me that its length is to give the song time to stretch out and take flight. 'Lazy Line Painter Jane', on the other hand, is flying from the beginning, and stretches out of pure joy over the pleasure of the song. The lyrics aren't that happy (although Being a rebel's fine/But you go all the way to being brutal is still one of my favorite couplets), but there is confidence in the chorus, and Stuart Murdoch and Monica Queen both infuse You will have a boy tonight/Or you will have a girl tonight with a kind of heedless glee; the possibility that she won't just doesn't occur. And that organ! It hovers and flits in the background behind the band's sixties groove, and finally breaks free at the end, during the instrumental coda, and then the whole song just lifts. There is perhaps no other stretch of music that gives me the same feeling of pure joy as the end section of 'Lazy Line Painter Jane', from Lazy Jane/All the time/Painting lines/You are sleeping at bus stops/Wondering how you got your name/And what you're going to do about it to the end.

Queen deserves at least some of the credit here. Murdoch is the nominal frontman of Belle & Sebastian, but Queen is a bit of an enigma. Her voice is amazing; powerful, throaty and full. I've never heard her anywhere else, and don't really expect to, although I'd love to. Sure, I could Google her, but there's a certain appeal in having that voice remain mysterious.

Any time I put something together where I've decided to try to restrain each band to one song (and Wednesday's Emotional Setup is one of those things, although how will be explained in the future), some bands always frustrate me. Ultimately the song I choose for them will be a stand in for other songs of theirs. On another project I'm working on Belle & Sebastian's stand in is 'This Is Just A Modern Rock Song', but here it's 'Lazy Line Painter Jane'. It is, like some of my other favorite Belle & Sebastian songs, strangely cinematic, both of its time and also timeless, and full of joy. Not the empty, hollow sort of joy that accompanies most 'uplifting' songs (and, sadly, most Christian music; Low is a notable exception), but one that fully recognizes what we often have to fight through to find happiness.


*Living in Canada, my first exposure to those EPs was as a set, and so I persist in thinking of them as such, as almost another album. I did, however, omit 'A Century Of Elvis' from the minidisc version.

**If my memory serves me, only 'The Rollercoaster Ride' and 'This Is Just A Modern Rock Song' are longer.

Monday, May 19, 2003 

Interesting theory on how, once again, the cosmos may actually work.

Sunday, May 18, 2003 

Part of me says that this is probably bad for, for example, the Canadian film industry. The rest of me just says fuckin' a.


I'm not sure why I didn't link to this earlier; it's an amusing review of an old, awful, Richard Burton movie.


So I just discovered that my friend Shane has a blog. And he's got all of the people I know that are online linked - except me. Well, just to prove I'm the better person, I'm going to put him up on my page,and hopefully he'll return the favor at some point.

Saturday, May 17, 2003 

New post at my journal.


Thank you, Something Awful, for pointing us to the BES STORY EVAR!!!1


As much as I don't like some conservatives (Ann Coulter leaps to mind as a typical example), I respect the hell outof those who aren't just irrationally bigoted against the other side. Andrew Sullivan is such a conservative, and a fine writer to boot; in his relatively balanced review of Sidney Blumenthal's new book he points out that, of course, the left wing has such bigots haunting their halls as well.

Friday, May 16, 2003 

"A.R.E. Weapons fire blanks and laugh when people flinch, but it's a risky proposition planning a bank job with replicas. Well, I'm no rent-a-cop: this pistol's loaded with the cold truth, and A.R.E. Weapons aren't getting a dime."

I don't really care if he's right about the band or not, Chris Ott is still an asshole.




Please tell me the goatfucker won't win again.


Totally repugnant. Hey, why not try only hanging around with people you, you know, actually like?


Not much to say except R.I.P. This particular obit was pointed out by TMFTML. My condolences to the family.


After a long hiatus, Tanya Headon and her hate are back.

Thursday, May 15, 2003 

Would you hire him?


This should be interesting, if nothing else.


Good article on 'recovered memory'.

Wednesday, May 14, 2003 

Land of the free, etc, etc. You know, when I decided to start using that for my link to articles about bad craziness in the States, I did it so I wouldn't just splutter profanity. But it's depressing how often it's getting used.


I guess this is a 'told you so' to my girlfriend.


Now, this makes perfect sense to me. I liked Fold Your Hands Child, You Walk Like a Peasant more than most, and honestly didn't (and still don't) understand the more scathing critiques leveled at it. It was far less twee than their previous efforts, which maybe didn't play well, but worked well. 'The Chalet Lines' was fragile, not twee. 'There's Too Much Love' was sarcastic, not twee. 'Nice Day For A Sulk' was, yes, twee, but it was also the first time the band explicitly poked fun at itself. Songs like 'Don't Leave The Light On Baby' show that B&S are finally integrating the classic (not retro, not really) stylings of singles like 'Legal Man' and 'Lazy Line Painter Jane' into their album work. Yes, 'Beyond The Sunrise' is a bit shit (screams b-side to me, at least), but it was portentous, not twee. The other ten songs are uniformly strong and represent a progression in sound, if not necessarily in style. I'm hoping Horn will complete that progression on the new album rather than backsliding(except for 'Big John Shaft', the Storytelling soundtrack wasn't much cop). I love Belle & Sebastian's earlier material, but having them grow up and progress into actual full-fledged pop songwriters seems to me to be a good thing rather than a bad one. Right now, it seems I'm in the minority.


The title of this article just slays me.


Land of the free, home of the brave.


I've been feeling blue

And I don't know what to do

And I never get a thrill

And they threw me out of school

'Cause I swore at all the teachers

Because they never teach us

A thing I want to know

We do Chemistry, Biology and Maths

I want Poetry and Music and some laughs

And I don't think it's an awful lot to ask


The really sad thing about this is that most of the quotes (to repeat: most, not all) are perfectly reasonable. The Katie Couric one especially strikes me as funny; She says "most of the world" "thinks" something, not that she believes it, and that alone is enough to make her anti-American or whatever. Ridiculous.


Interesting take on copyright infringement.


Slow news day; I'm just listening to Singles Going Steady and reading Vonnegut.


Wednesday's Emotional Setup: Out Of Time

It is with some trepidation that I bought Think Tank, Blur's new album. This was tempered with chagrin when I discovered that I could have obtained it for free, from the school paper, had I waited for a few days. I've only listened to it once so far, not nearly enough to have formed an opinion yet. So all I have is 'Out Of Time', the single, which I downloaded a while ago. That alone would not be enough for me to do a column on, but 'Out Of Time' is happily enough one in a long line of my favorite kind of Blur songs, the heartsick ballad, and I've been listening to them a lot recently.

Last week was, for all intents and purposes, my party week. Tuesday night to Friday night, inclusive, I was somewhere that was not my apartment, drinking at least a little, and staying up late. Considering how often I could afford to do this during school (i.e. maybe on the weekends), this was a lot of fun, culminating in a fairly major drunk at the Albion and Underground on Friday. This ended with some of my friends being quite sick, although thankfully I dodged that bullet. I then went home with K. for Mother's Day. Bit of recuperation. The reason for no normal journal entries in the interim is the simple fact that nothing else really happened. I've been lazy.

On Friday, at the Albion, I put on one of my customary Albion jukebox songs, Blur's 'I'm Just A Killer For Your Love'. In its lurching, uneasy guitar line, muttered vocals and vaguely menacing sentiment, it is the perfect song for hunching over a table with a few chums and murdering a pitcher or five. 'I'm Just A Killer For Your Love' comes from Blur's self-titled album, which was the first thing I ever bought by them (and, serindipitously enough, the most recent I bought, after getting rid of it a while ago).

I was not one of the 'Song 2' converts, not really. I'd heard it, and liked it, but this was when I had just started reading NME, and the reviews for Blur's albums were (at the time) uniformly glowing. So I picked it up, and really liked it. Living at the time in a town of 6,000, with only a Radio Shack selling CDs, meant that when said Radio Shack stocked anything I even recognized, I snapped it up. Such was the case with 13, Blur's next album, which was nothing if not a change, but again, I liked it. I didn't have the baggage involved with starting to listen to the band back in the Modern Life Is Rubbish era. I have since picked up The Great Escape (choosing it over Parklife solely because it had 'The Universal' on it).

So, unlike a lot of Blur fans, I don't view each new song and album through the prism of "well, it's not as good as their classic stuff". 'Out Of Time' still appeared at first listen to be rather underwhelming. It's Damon and his acoustic, with various sound effects*. Not as sweeping as 'The Universal' or 'This Is A Low', nor as despondent as 'He Thought Of Cars' (still one of my favorite Blur songs) or 'Yuko And Hiro'. Nevertheless, 'Out Of Time' shares an ancestry with all those songs.

The most notable thing about 'Out Of Time' to me is that it seems like Damon is singing to himself. This is not a criticism, necessarily; if Blur is a great band, as many have contended (including myself on occasion), then it is the sort of great band that have been self-reflexive from the very start. My cursory reading of Think Tank seems to show that Damon is very much over Justine, at least in terms of airing his dirty laundry in public, and so the lines You've been so busy lately, that you haven't found the time/To open up your mind/And watch the world spinning, gently out of time find their most appropriate target in Damon himself. And if 'Out Of Time' is a gentle rebuke to the singer himself rather than grandiose tales of loss that generally inhabit Blur's songs, than this can only point to a more mature outlook from the band, Graham Coxon's departure notwithstanding.

Also note that in most songs by Blur or elsewhere, the "world spinning gently out of time" line would not be a good thing. Not only does the delivery here take away any sort of menace or fear from it, but the world 'gently' would seem an odd juxtaposition if that wasn't the way Damon sang it. But his delivery turns it from some vague disaster into something that sounds natural, peaceful even. There is a reproach here, but it's more rueful than anything else. Later in the song, after these lines he adds Tell me I'm not dreaming/But are we really out of time?, which only reinforce what Damon says in Think Tank's first track, 'Ambulance': No I ain't got nothing to be scared of.

The impression, ultimately, is not one of doom, but of fate. If before Blur Blur had social anxiety (as do all good social critics), and during it and 13 we see the turmoil of a relationship and a band ripping themselves apart (although Blur seem to have survived the amputation successfully), Think Tank finds Blur, and Damon, at peace with themselves for the first time. If that adds a bittersweet tang to the proceedings, it doesn't necessarily have to reduce Blur's effectiveness.

The reason 'He Thought Of Cars' is one of my favorite Blur tracks is, of course, the chorus: He thought of cars and where, where to drive them/And who to drive them with/But there, there was no-one/No-one are some of the saddest lines around in their utter despair - not only have the character's ambitions shrunk to thinking about cars, but even there he is resolutely defeated at every turn. And above and beyond that, Damon's performance is one that must be heard - heartbreaking not for the sadness in his voice, but in the dull, hopeless monotone he adopts, mirroring his subject. Many of Blur's older songs were like this, and while it didn't exactly quiet any fears of Damon cracking up, they were great songs. Now he sounds well-adjusted, and if that's to be devoutly desired on the one hand, on the other there's the question of whether he can still tap into the part of himself that lets him make such great songs. Because 'Out Of Time' is a good song, maybe even a very good one, but not a great one.


*Of course, closer examination reveals 'Out Of Time' is a full band song, albeit a quiet one. It's the impression of minimalism that I'm referring to here, which in itself is interesting, as Blur's ballads generally don't take that tack.

Tuesday, May 13, 2003 

The fuck? And why do I hear about this from the Onion first?


Paging L. Ron Hubbard...


I like wombats.


Yes, pointlesswasteoftime is a parody site, and yes, this is not, to put it mildly, fully serious. But some of the points (especially 12-5) sting nonetheless.


Now on Something Awful: The last thing you'll see before you die, rendered in MS Paint.


If this is as well done as Lewis claims, I'd love to take a look at it. I haven't read the Iliad since high school.


All true.


Dog bites man = Boring news.

Man bites dog = Interesting news.

Badger wounds five, leaving one man requiring skin grafts = Priceless.


So a while ago I decided to get a subscription (Saturdays only) with the Toronto Star, which I have just cancelled. Why? Not a lack of enjoyable content, or anything like that - I have yet to receive a paper. For some reason, no matter how often I corrected the address with the people there, they continued sending it to an address that I have never lived at, and am not even sure it exists. Considering they normally have to negociate the labyrinthine streets of Toronto, I really do wonder why finding my apartment was such a problem for them.


For once, they're getting more like us, rather than vice versa.


Why, it's like cutting off your balls to spite your... Oh, never mind.


And, on a lighter note, weird sex laws.


Here we have two people talking right past each other (Drabble's original article is here). Amiel is an idiot, of course, if she really thinks that there is pervasive leftism in Europe; the relatively uncontroversial nature of Livingston's comments is because everyone (including most conseratives, if you get them off the record), think the man is an idiot. And nowhere in Drabble's article did she say that she somehow preferred Saddam's regime to America. One of the fallacies both sides tend to fall into when discussing this sort of thing is that if someone, say Drabble, doesn't like one country, say the US, they must be rooting for the opposing one, say Iraq under Saddam. Never mind that Drabble was probably, just as with myself, glad to see Saddam go. That doesn't mean we do or should support Bush. And Amiel (who is, as I say, an idiot, and we've been putting up with her up here for long enough to me to be certain about this) never addresses Drabble's most damning charge, that of the 'illegal combatants', who have been detained without due process.


Interesting by flawed article on comic strip and book scholarship. Buhle's contention that comics "[continue] to be conducted mostly in the netherworlds of superhero tripe" gets to the root of the problem here. Yes, early (i.e. pre-superhero) comics and underground comics provide rich material for scholarship, and can be works of art - but saying that all of the superhero genre is 'tripe' is just as fallacious as saying comics as a whole are, or science fiction is, or detective fiction is, and so on. Yes, an awful lot of superhero comics are nothing more than (often enjoyable) tripe. But genres are organised, not around quality, but around theme and tropes and so forth, and once the next generation to grow up on comics, the ones familar with Watchmen and the Invisibles and the Dark Knight Returns and the Authority, gets to academic age, maybe then we can have a non-blinkered appraisal of the superhero genre. This is a form which has been nothing less than modern myths, complete with repetition and symbolism, and when it is approached on its own ground I'm confident that at least some of it will bear fruit as works of art. Disregarding the vast majority of it as superhero tripe is as silly, short-sighted, and ultimately as dangerous as dismissing most music as worthless because it is 'popular tripe'.


Aw, fuck.

Monday, May 12, 2003 

Someone doesn't have a sense of humour. Maybe it's just because I grew up on Weird Al, but this just makes Eminem seem even sillier than he would have been if he just let the video go ahead.


I'm close to finishing Nobody's Perfect, and my brother, my mother, my father and my girlfriend have all taken cracks at it, with verying degrees of delight. I think the reason I've enjoyed it so much, and why Lane is such a good critic, is that he writes with such verve, humanity, clarity and taste that we long for him to be enchanted by the same things we like (I admit that one of my favorite stretches of the book is from T.S. Eliot to Thomas Pynchon). And when it comes to his profiles, who could not wish to be as incisively and as warmly summed up as Shackleton, Sturges, Keaton, and even obituaries are? Part of me wishes to see him try his hand at a more sustained examination of an individual, seeing as how his portraits are so clear and charming, but if he prefers the shorter form we will make do, as his talents certainly flourishes there.


Neil Pollock on the Jayson Blair thing, now with 200% more biting sarcasm.


Some of the webcomics that I read I tend to save up and read in large chunks. Two of my favorites, Fans! (which is one of the best things on the net) and It's Walky!, are having one hell of a crossover. To fully appreciate it, though, you'd have to go back and read the archives. But you should do that anyway, so what's the problem?


Caught both Donnie Darko and Spirited Away on the weekend; both were excellent, and well worth your time. My only complaint is that the DVD we had for Spirited Away didn't seem to have a subtitle track. Which is ridiculous. Just because it's animated does not change the fact that it is a foreign film, and most foreign films I've seen haven't been dubbed over.

Sunday, May 11, 2003 

Land of the free, home of the brave.

Saturday, May 10, 2003 

As long as you know what you're doing, I don't see the harm, myself.


Good story here on the storied history of Stagger Lee.


I've been a bit remiss at updating the ol' blog the last couple of days - I can only blame my own consumption of alcohol and similar substances for the lack. I'd say I'm back, but I'm about to go home for the weekend, and Mother's Day. I should be able to find a few tidbits first, however, starting with an article entitled 'Why it's OK not to like modern art', which is not setting off my knee-jerk detectors as I thought it would. To be honest, I have a fair amount of sympathy for Spalding's idea of what art should do to you.

Thursday, May 08, 2003 

Say it ain't so.


"Once again, it's a bad week for romance in the workplace, but romance has nothing to do with your coworkers taking you from behind while you're Xeroxing."

According to the Onion, that's my horoscope for the week.

Wednesday, May 07, 2003 

I know all I said at the time I blogged it was, essentially, "wow", so here's a better analysis of Pynchon's piece on Orwell, which, it turns out, will be the forward to the new edition.


And what's wrong with King Crimson? Prog-rock as a whole certainly has more than its share of utter crap, but I do own a copy of In The Court Of The Crimson King. And yes, I like it.


Who ever said suicide was painless? There are dumb ways to go, and there are dumb ways to go, but what a dumb way to go.


Land of the free, home of the brave.


Wednesday's Emotional Setup: Dark Hearted Discos

Hefner are an interesting band, and they've gotten a lot more interesting in the last few years. Originally they played the sort of bedsit indie rock that critics and a small fanbase find intoxicating and most other just find annoying, but recently Darren Hayman has revealed a deep love for vintage synthesizers and a willingness to use them. There are two caveats to this, two preemptive responses to possibly unspoken questions: the first is that Dead Media, the album where Hefner first employed their new style, came out back in 2001, and all indications from their making-of dairy indicates that this was no attempt to hitch onto the nascent 'electroclash' bandwagon, and indeed their sound has never really gone in the same direction as, say, Ladytron. The second caveat is to reassure the timid reader that Hayman has not simply bolted some squeaks and squelches to the existing indie chassis; instead Hefner have taken the more interesting turn of putting out full-fledged tracks of what might bear a slight resemblence to synth-pop, where their more traditional output recently has tended more towards the quiet, folkier end of the pre-existing Hefner spectrum.

'Dark Hearted Discos' is an example of the former from 2002's The Hefner Brain EP, and it is remarkable for two reasons. The first is the lyrics, marking a new turn, or maybe the completion of that turn, in Hayman's writing. The other is simply that it is one of the best songs Hefner has produced out of a fertile field, with a chorus that is nigh-irresistable.

The lyrics are phrased basically as advice from Hayman to a younger female (he calls her 'sweetheart', but this being Hayman, that may not mean anything). I once characterised earlier Hefner as being a series of songs in which Hayman is perpetually losing the girl, has lost the girl, or is about to cheat on the girl, but that has gradually faded with age. Early Hefner was touched with adolescence in much the same way as the Buzzcocks, last week's subjects, were. This is not a criticism - much of rock is about adolescent urges or feelings in some sense, and harnessing it creatively can be a powerful thing. In early Hefner the love songs and the lost-love songs are exaggerated with hormones and longing (witness a song as early as 'The Librarian': Her tears have not truly been dried 'til her tears have been dried on his tattered shirt sleeves/Her body has not truly been stripped 'til her clothes have been ripped by his nail bitten fingers; as with most of our adolescent proclamations its patently false and a bit dodgy when written down, but sung it's glorious). One of the functions of rock music, if not the only one, is to glorify that ackwardness, that feeling of separation and specialness, that comes in teenhood.*

It is interesting to note that a sentiment that has recurred twice in recent Hefner songs is that 'life without you is half a life'. while codependancy in music lyrics is far too prevalent, and generally odious, here it is interesting to note that in the past Hayman would be too busy either treating her horribly or projecting his own desires onto her to truly assess what losing her would be like. His realisation that life is, in fact, better with her, and that alone is enough to be happy, mirrors Rob Gordon's progression through "High Fidelity". Neither Gordon nor Hayman (nor any of us, of course), ever fully succeeds, but at least they try.

'Dark Hearted Discos' marks one of the first times that Hayman explicitly puts himself into the role of the older, wiser person. The song starts off with In the 1980s we had dark hearted discos/With dark hearted disco queens. Hayman has often dealt with remembrances of the past, but he has never had any truck with something as facile as nostalgia. As has been often noted, nostalgia colors everything more positively than it actually was, and although Hayman no doubt had some good times in the discos, they weren't good places. I'm sure we've all been to the equivalent of a dark hearted disco, whatever it was called. Those establishments where it seems to be impossible to make friends, with the cold pickup artists playing their intricately simple games and the bad drinks and the girls who you would never, really, want to meet: the dark hearted disco queens. I'm not going to be picking through the song line by line, but it's significant that the most pronounced difference between Hayman's narrator and the girl he's talking to comes soon after, while still talking about the disco queens: Oh sure, I bet you're right, i bet they were unhappy/Oh sweetheart you can be a child, just as long as you want. I don't take the latter line to be reassurance; he's clearly disagreeing with some part of her assertion. On the one hand, he's dismissing the naive belief that since they were unpleasant people, the disco queens must naturally have been/are unhappy - life doesn't work that way, even if it has happened to this time. But he's also, I think, rejecting the idea that we should take pleasure from their pain, or even worry ourselves with whether they are feeling pain. Life is, always, too short. A marked contrast with some of Hayman's older sentiments, for example the blunt statement in 'Another Better Friend' that No matter how you try you'll never be as cheap as me.

Which leads nicely into the advice offered in the chorus: It's only love, don't break your heart/It's only faith, don't push too hard/Cause you've got time and you can start again/It's only sex, you've got to laugh/God don't exist, don't pray too hard/Cause you've got time and you can start again. Here, certainly, is a rejection of nostalgia. But if 'What Do I Get' was the disingenious concealment of knowledge behind an affected pose of ignorance and youth, 'Dark Hearted Discos' is the opposite, Hayman hiding his lack of certainty behind cynical advice. Not that it's bad - any advice to the young that includes the fact that they are going to screw up, but that it's not fatal to do so has got something right. Hayman's ghostly, slightly tired delivery, especially on the you've got to laugh, humanizes the advice; it's not so much the "oh, you know, you've got to laugh" kind of defeatism and a command: to live, you have to laugh.

This is all matched, of course, to a steady disco pulse, reaching the heights of its effectiveness as the chorus is repeated near the end. As with all effective dance music, made in whatever way, it seems to be reaching for some sort of transcendance. And what would you get if the girl follows Hayman's advice? Someone self-contained, certainly, but that's highly underrated in our society. You'd also get someone with humour, a sense of hope, but perhaps a bit too cautious. You could do much worse. Or, as Hayman himself puts it: I am old but not wise and I think you could do better/If you've patience and tolerance


* One of the best recent examples of this was JJ72's self-titled debut. When you have Mark Greaney howling Why won't it snow/Like they said it would you're clearly dealing with either a person in an arrested state of development or a deliberate attempt to capture something. True, the album came out before any of them were 20, but having spoken to Greaney, I can confirm it was the latter. Greaney said he has been trying to sing on that album "as if no-one had ever meant a love song like that before", and he mostly succeeds. The album thrusts you back into the mindset where everything that matters matters completely and utterly and you will always feel the way you do right now. Until the next thing comes along. One of the chief disappointments of I To Sky, their next album, is that it loses that sense of angst, although sonically all elements are in place.

Tuesday, May 06, 2003 

As Pete rightly points out in his May 5th post, the music we used to listen to as teens and lauded for their extremity of sonic assault have become about as threatening as classic rock. Still enjoyable, though.


Another interesting wrinkle to the article just mentioned - if things became as follows: "Pay-for-performance should become the rule of contracting, whether the performance measure is the number of GEDs inmates earn, or the crime- and drug-free status of graduates of the reentry programs that prepare inmates for release", then prisons might actually become more progressive than society at large when dealing with drugs. Today's Obvious Message With No Redeeming Subtlety is as follows: The War on Drugs does not work and is congenitally flawed.


This article has its good and bad points, but the third "criminological fallacy" listed is fallacious in itself. Is it true that it's not helping to assert that someone is not guilty of a crime they actually committed because of their race? Certainly. Does rehabilitation inextricably involve accepting that you've made bad decisions in the past? Again, true. But does any of this disprove or indeed have anything to do with the statement "The criminal justice system is biased against blacks"? It does not. It's a very difficult question to ask to what extent, and in what ways, the system may be biased racially - but we should not take it as a given that it is, incontrovertiably, nor should we glibly reject it based on the arguements in this article. And, of course, even if the system is biased (which I think it is), there are still going to be non-Caucasians in jail who are actually guilty.


Witness the piece that made TMFTML so mad they misspelled a word (no, I'm not mocking them - the piece is pretty much crap. It's just interesting that that post is where they slip up). I'd better start checking my own posts for typos - and for future reference, until the archive link takes hold, it's called "Vanilla Extract".


I'll admit to a minor tinge of anger when this article dubbed IDM "a minor genre", but let's face it, he's right. Good article on Richard D. James, including an interesting perspective on why he might not have wanted to remix Madonna and Bjork.


An idea whose time has come: Modern Drunkard Magazine.


I've been a little worried as to what Think Tank will be like, as I actually really enjoyed Thirteen (although I also share Phares' reservations in the linked review of the latter). Pitchfork gives me hope; I'm a big fan of Lodger, and a lesser one of Combat Rock, but they're interesting places for Blur to go in any case. Here's hoping.


Now from Something Awful: Road signs as seen by idiots.


Know why I love Josh Homme of Queens of the Stone Age? When talking about new material, he refers to it as "sweet enough for the chicks and heavy enough for the dudes". We need more rock stars like that.


"It's the sonic equivalent of going up to someone who's not very bright and asking, "you're not very bright, are you?" and then watching them laugh because they think you're just playing around with them."

Belated kudos for John Scalzi's fine site Indiecrit, which undertakes the reviewing of bands you're probably not going to hear about unless you're dating the drummer or something like that.

Monday, May 05, 2003 

Sign of the times?


Great article by Carlin on, well, the KLF and Metal Machine Music. For future posterity, the link will eventually be here, once the archive settles in. I own The White Room, as it was $4 in the used record store, and while it may very well be merely a pale reflection, having not had access to the source material, it sounds fine to me.


Pynchon on Orwell. How cool is that? Excellent article, excellent analysis.


A note on the previous article: In it, Christopher writes "Cuneo reserves judgment on many matters for which skeptics will see a clear verdict." I do not believe in demonic possession myself, but as someone who is occasionally skeptic (because you simply cannot be skeptical all the time - it is a tool, not a position) I feel the need to point out that skeptics do not see clear verdicts. They withhold judgement, in order to reach a state of peace of mind. This may seem like a minor terminological point, but I feel the same about dogmatists of all stripes, and just because a dogmatism is based on observation rather than scripture does not excuse it. I do find the article interesting as a whole, of course, or else I wouldn't have linked it.


The power of Christ compels you to read this article. Sorry. Couldn't resist the obvious joke.


Interesting conference they're planning.


A bit late, but a lovely remembrance of Nina Simone over at Pitchfork.


Somebody has taken the Matrix, and transcribed all of Keanu Reeve's lines without any intervening acting or special effects. Wow, that's a really great script. Sure, I liked the fight scenes, like every other guy I know, but the rest of the movie pains me.


Another good review of the new X-Men movie at Slate. Referring to them as "raging moderates" is a nice touch, I think.


Note to James Bond enthusiasts: Female scientists working for evil tyrants look like this, not Denise Richards or whoever.


Went to see the second X-Men movie this weekend. While I'm certainly not going to claim that it was some major piece of cinematic art, that was my childhood up there on screen. Lots of fun. Filthy doesn't really agree, but at least he tried to like it.

Saturday, May 03, 2003 

According to Warren Ellis, you can find an entertainingly fucked up novel here. I've read a bit, and so far I agree.


This makes me depressed that I'm in the arts.


"There's a term in the trade for this kind of gambler," says a casino source who has witnessed Bennett at the high-limit slots in the wee hours. "We call them losers."

I'd like to think I'd find this just as bitterly funny if I hadn't always thought Bennett was loathsome, but I probably wouldn't. And as for this defence of him, hey, I thought they should have impeached Clinton for perjury. If you're going to try to convince me that lying under oath is permissable for anyone, especially an elected official, you'd need a better reason than hurting someone's feelings.


As someone who hates squishy bread, I can confirm that yes, the fine art of grocery bagging is a dying one.

Friday, May 02, 2003 

I guess this explains me: My systematizing and empathizing quotients are out of whack. The former is 16 (lower than the average for either gender, which explains why I'm bad at instruction manuals and taxes), and the latter is 54, which explains, I don't know, my social life? In other words, I have a female brain. Or something. Interesting, if nothing else.


Interesting article on Einstein, Newton, and Asperger syndrome. Worth it, if for nothing else, for the clearer explication of Asperger's.


This review pretty much sums up Fake Songs. I was impressed to find some actual songs among the jokes, which I guess kind of makes him the Weird Al version of Guided By Voices. Or something.


This makes me about as mad as the new In-Laws remake makes TMFTML.


I guess I can finally get rid of my "Free ODB" t-shirt, then.


A friend let me know about this, and it's pretty funny. I like the "wordifier", the second button at the bottom. Try putting people's names into it and making up fake speeches!


I love the Galaxy of Fame, and the fact that this is Andrew Ridgely's sole appearance only makes it more special.


"Bryan Adams shot by air-gun." The title really says it all, folks.


I know most stories about Diana Krall and Elvis Costello have been all about the age difference. And now that they're engaged I'm sure it'll just get worse. But, I don't know, they're only 10 year apart. Some good friends of mine are 8 years apart, and it really isn't weird if you know the people involved. So if we're going to criticize Krall and Costello, can it be for her crappy music and his lack of quality control recently, rather than age? Thanks.


Um, yay?


Those scientists, they take the fun out of everything.


Just got Zarathustra's Secret by Joachim Kohler, from, the library. I didn't get it to agree with, and it looks like I won't be. The book's main assertion, based on the preface and introduction, is that Nietzsche was gay, and Nietzsche's philosophy is not only inextricable from that fact (true), but that his repressed homosexuality was ultimately all Nietzsche was about. Which is absurd. The basic form of these arguments always goes like this: He was gay, and his writing was informed by being gay, and so it is not valuable for us as a whole (Nietzsche's case is a little trickier, and I think Kohler would argue that even queer people would not be able to get anything worthwhile from Nietzsche). The problem is that that kind of thinking is basically either prejudical to homosexuals (he was gay, what he says has no revelance to us) or to heterosexuals (we're not gay, we can't understand what he was saying). I agree that Nietzsche's sexuality, whatever it was, had an effect on his mental life. But I reject the idea that his sexuality renders him somehow irrevelant to the rest of us.


Progress! One of the househusbands in the article remarks that "Someone has to know how to wash, iron, clean the house and cook. This is a job that has no sex - it isn't masculine or feminine." You might think, depending on how things are where you are, that this is obvious. It's not, to far too many people, so it's nice to see this happening. Around here we have an agreement: She does the laundry, I do the dishes. Everything else is just sort of done (or not) haphazardly.

Thursday, May 01, 2003 

"40 years later she would tell her son that she had tried to have him aborted"

And we came that close to living in a world without Jack Chick. Pity. (I can't seem to link to the article directly, so get it while it's hot)


Blogger went down for a minute there, so I missed putting up some stuff from the NME: Courtney Love being obnoxious, the saddest con man ever, and the first look at the new Radiohead, which sounds pretty accurate, but which I'll buy anyway. I'm a sucker like that.


Looks interesting (via TMFTML).


It's like the Onion, only with more focus.


The most cheerfully insane Hentai game review yet.


Progress may be slow, but it's nice to hear that it's being made.


Another prime example of why political correctness is often nothing more than nonsensical censoring.


I've mentioned the diary of Stewart from the Delgados before, here's the entry where he taks about the show I saw, in Toronto.

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About me

Ian Mathers is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in Stylus, the Village Voice, Resident Advisor, PopMatters, and elsewhere. He does stuff and it magically appears here.

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