Monday, May 31, 2004 

Weirder and weirder

The spam that gets through my filter (which isn't much, thankfully), is using increasingly weird tactics to try to get me to read it, although it very rarely works. Saw a good one tonight: For some reason Jesus Winkler(!) is emailing me about "underground teen rectum ballets". It's the "ballets" that really through the whole subject out of the realm of merely dirty and into the wonderfully absurd.

Sunday, May 30, 2004 

Just barely

But I did update the journal Sunday night. Technically.


So very special

I updated my staff profile at Stylus, now including handy hints on how to pronoune my name.


Damn dirty zombies

Passed on by my little sister:

They can get their *own* damn brains to eat!

What pisses you off?

Created by ptocheia

Saturday, May 29, 2004 

As nature made him

I remember reading about the case in Rolling Stone years ago, but now after he's dead, here's the sad story of David Reimer. Some things, it seems, are determined biologically.

Friday, May 28, 2004 

"Nerve gas is not funny."

Jer found this, and it's hilarious:

The 213 SPC Schwarz is no longer allowed to do in the US Army.



I kept hearing all sorts of hype about Ratatat's self titled debut, so I downloaded some of it. I'd expected something more frantic, but the slower tracks (especially "Cherry") are perfect for sitting around on a sunny afternoon with a cat in your lap.


Like that song from Footloose

Last night Jer, Aaron and I watched my brother's pirated copy of Hero. As it was pirated, it didn't have English subtitles (or at least, the menus were all in Chinese, so if there were subtitles, we couldn't find them). Even reading a bit of the synopsis on IMDB clears up a lot of stuff, but it was kind of fun watching it even without knowing what was going on. Absolutely gorgeous cinematography and fight scenes - all three of us will catching it in theatres without a doubt.

Thursday, May 27, 2004 

'Cause you're still my only one

I know, I know - I always post links to my Stylus stuff. But seriously, read this one. One of my favorite pieces, and if nothing else, check it out for the title image Todd Burns whipped up (which I absolutely love).

Wednesday, May 26, 2004 

Kafka vs. the Onion


Every day I naively think I'm not going to see anything that makes me think the world is swiftly descending to Orwellian hell in a handbasket. Most days, I'm wrong.


Wednesday's Emotional Setup: Sweet Virginia

Boy, do a lot of people sure hate Gomez. For example, witness the NME giving them a going over. Now, I know the NME isn't exactly the most level-headed of publications (that's why we all love the thing when we're teenagers), but although that's a relatively severe example, it's far from solitary.

The first thing I ever heard by Gomez was In Our Gun, and although I resisted (having only heard horrible things about them), I liked it. I liked it a lot, actually - I wound up giving it to a friend but if I hadn't been asked for it I probably would have kept it, and am now looking 'round for another copy. There's not really a bad song on it (although a few are definitely "album tracks", if you know what I mean), and the good stuff is great - "Shot Shot", the first three minutes of "In Our Gun", "Army Dub", "Miles End" and especially "The Ballad Of Nice & Easy", which has surprisingly matured into one of my favorite album-enders.

I missed grabbing a promo copy of the Beta Band's newest at the Ontarion, but Gomez's new one, Split The Difference was in so I grabbed that.

It's longer and not as good as In Our Gun, but it's still pretty strong. The first ten tracks range from okay to great ("Me, You And Everybody" and "Chicken Out" are especially good). Even their cover of Junior Kimbrough's "Meet Me In The City" is good. The reason it's not as good as In Our Gun, in my opinion, is that this album sees Gomez backing off on some of the new territory they explored a few years ago. I don't have much time for Gomez's first two albums, as they're pretty stultifyingly worthy (with a few exceptions - "We Haven't Turned Around" and "Get Myself Arrested" in particular). Those albums are the reasons you had people saying things like this about Gomez:

"The problem has always been more their apparent unwillingness to wring some kind of emotional intensity from the damn things - a slackness of focus, music for music's sake, the sweetly subjective smell of your own farts."

But in addition to sprucing up the songs with all sorts of flourishes, In Our Gun actually sounds fully engaged. They're not emo or anything, but plenty of bands with worse lyrics than you find on Gomez's last couple of albums get off scot-free, sometimes even praised. Gomez made the mistake of coming across, initially, as perilously rockist, and then they went on to win the Mercury Music Prize, and there are few things the music press (especially in the UK) hates worse than success that they think is undeserved.

It only makes thing worse that Gomez has three good vocalists, one of whom had the sheer temerity to have at a young age a voice that sounds vaguely like Gregg Allman post-tragedy and drugs and so on. And even worse, they're not terribly difficult. They're a rock band. They make rock songs. Many of them are bluesy or rootsy (which is interpreted by mags like the NME as automatically fake, as if such sounds could only be "authentically" made by some people (and don't get me going on the crock that is "authenticity" in rock music)), and most importantly, Gomez are good at making them catchy. They tend to have good choruses. Horror of horrors.

The other reason that Split The Difference is a bit disappointing, and is going to be sold off, is the last three tracks. If the hata-baitin' "Chicken Out" had been the last track, Split The Difference would have been a ballsy 37 minute gem, and probably one of my favorite albums of the year. Instead we get the absolutely awful "Extra Special Guy" and two more tracks that are more aggresively okay than anything else here. The thought of owning an album whose last three tracks I always skip doesn't appeal to me, but I am keeping 7-8 of the other ones.

One I'm definitely keeping, and one that certainly sees Gomez "wringing some kind of emotional intensity from the damn thing", is "Sweet Virginia". It's the longest song on the album, at just over six minutes, and it's an absolutely gorgeous, aching ballad. It starts with a muted bass figure before someone (Ian Ball, I think) starts singing and the drums and guitar start shuffling along. Then, during the pre-chorus bit (a fine example of the form, whose purpose is to inform even the first-time listener the chorus is coming), a few strings sweep in while the guitar jangles underneath and Ball and company sing out,

If you know how to run, sweet Virginia
You should run
If you know how to play, sweet Virginia
You should play
If you know how to sing, sweet Virginia
You should sing
If you know how to be, be without me
You should be

It's a fine, fine vocal performance, rich with grief. I fell for it the first time I heard "Sweet Virginia" and have been coming back for more since. The song is good enough that when it goes into a standard extended outro for the last minute and a half, something I usually hate, I don't mind it a bit. The chorus is sweet enough you simply have to hear it - although each Wednesday's Emotional Setup consists of stuff I think people should hear, in this case I will be more explicit: Download this song.

Gomez aren't particularly difficult or challenging, but there are times where some of us just want to pop on an album of accomplished, interesting recent rock. I have yet to hear anything by them that convinces me they should be hated.




Reading the Pitchfork review of The Difference Between Me And You Is That I'm Not On Fire (up today) makes me think Sam Ubi may have read my review (up on the 20th), particularly in the last paragraph.

No, I'm not seriously accusing Ubi of any wrongdoing, I just think it's interesting we came to the same conclusions.


Bankrupt of vision

Because, after all, if the US was to listen to Amnesty International, the terrorists win.

Tuesday, May 25, 2004 

News flash

Downloading music leads to less returned CDs. Which is good for business. Not that you hear the RIAA mentioning it...


Minimalist crowds

They get Time every week at the Ontarion, and I just got ahold of the May 24 issue (Canadian edition). It's got a plethora of good stuff, but I'll only link to two stories: a book review on the surprising intelligence of crowds and a pretty kick-ass piece on the two major exhibitions of Minimalist art in the US right now; as mentioned previously, I've been to the one at the Guggenheim in NYC and loved it. The piece is noteworthy, if for nothing else, for giving the only good explanation of the difference between Minimalist and post-Minimalist art I've ever read:

"But to make Minimalism something more than a philosophical pleasure, most artists had to go outside its orthodoxies. For Rainbow Pickett, Judy Chicago made a variation on Morris' plain beams but painted each one a different pastel color, which immediately sets off associations with femininity that the pure Minimalist object is expected to forego. It was that kind of thing that a later generation of Postminimalists would do — keep the language of simplified impersonal forms but restore associations to the outside world."

Pity the online version doesn't have photos, though.


"We have to radically change the whole structure of how the game is played."

I don't want to get all misty-eyed and nostalgic here, but reading articles like this one, in which Nintendo decries the current fashion for more and more pointless complexity and graphical flash in games and points out that unless they remain actually fun and accessible, people will get bored, makes me vaguely proud that I've only ever owned Nintendo systems. Their games may not always be absolute top of the line, but they've always had a unique commitment to trying out intersting things (not always successful, of course) to make gaming fun.


Those kilometers and the red lights

My classic review of Bowie's Low is up for your perusal.

Monday, May 24, 2004 

Take me out

Whether you agree with him or not, I've got to give "Dr. David Thorpe" credit for exactly two things:

Sneaking actual music criticism onto Something Awful sporadically.

Writing stuff like this, on why Avril Lavigne has every right to be called punk, and actually doing a pretty good job of it.


Intention & value

And people wonder why I got out of English so fast.

[Edit: Just to make clear, I like this article particularly because it emphasizes the growing gap between the academic study of various forms of art, in this case writing, and aesthetics. The fact that this gap exists, let alone that it is so large, is ridiculous.]


DIY creation

Neat little article at Slate on a possible origin of the universe.


Sweet monkey Jesus

You have got to be kidding me. K. thinks that this won't go through. I hope she's right.


"To live the cubist way would mean to be alive to the texture, weight and fragmentary beauty of the world."

Really, really excellent article at the Guardian about the philosophical implications of Cubism and thus why it is still so bracing and uncomforting today.

Sunday, May 23, 2004 

On time, for once.

New journal entry up.


Favours in the beetroot fields

I just learned a possible title for British Sea Power's first album (which is, as you may have heard elsewhere, quite good) was "Landscape & Memory". I wish they'd gone with that one - it fits the album even better than The Decline Of British Sea Power does.

Saturday, May 22, 2004 

So close

Gomez' Split The Difference would be near-perfect if they'd just stopped the album after track 10. Pity.

Friday, May 21, 2004 

Note to self:

Coldplay circa "Shiver" were actually quite good.


Black day

Last night I wound up staying up terribly late to finish The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time. I don't particularly want to talk about it, as you should all read it and I don't want to spoil anything, but I will say three words:

Uttterly. Fucking. Heartbreaking.

I'm not sure if that was supposed to be a happy ending, but it sure was an effective one.

[Edit: Durr, I forgot to put the link in. Thanks to Gord for pointing it out.]


"Murderers, murderers, we are not the same as you"

Excellent, disturbing article here rounding up a number of books that point out that if we comfort ourselves by thinking of Hitler as "an inadequate yokel, a barbaric bumpkin, a monumental fraud" so that we can "separate Hitler from ourselves in all things", we are fooling ourselves.


Mr. Fiscally Responsible

This may shock some (my brother and my parents, for example), but I finally opened a savings account. Now I can funnel parts of my paychecks there and don't have to worry about keeping track of how much in my chequing account I can't spend.


Moldy oldie

There's this cool kind of music-related quiz I stole from Nat a while back I keep meaning to fill out. And I'm finally getting around to it now, since I haven't done much today.


xx.Do you enjoy depressing music?

If it's good, yes. I don't enjoy music that depresses me, of course, but good depressing music doesn't do that (although it may make you sad; that's different).

xx.What makes you sigh?

A lack of oxygen.

xx.How many hours a day, on average, do you spend feeling sorry for yourself?

0.01 The occasional bad day brings the average up.

xx.Who or what always brings you down?

Bills, bills bills.

xx.Do you wear glasses?


xx.What frightens you?

Things that aren't real.

xx.Do you wear sweaters all the time?

I don't think I own an actual "sweater", to tell the truth.

xx.How many times has your heart been broken?

It's been cracked a few times, but it's pretty resilient.

xx.What do you think of Dashboard Confessional?

I appreciate that's it's good/helpful/meaningful to some people, and I respect that, but to me it verges on self-parody.

xx.Do you have a girlfriend/boyfriend?


xx. Why not?

Hey, I didn't say I was emo.

xx. A crush?

Every so often.

xx. Why dont you tell her/him?

See three questions above this one. Momentary attraction does not warrant dumping someone in my books.

xx.Tell me about that time you broke that law:

I doing it right now.

xx.What or who pisses you off?

Too many to list.

xx.Sex or drugs or breaking stuff?

Awww, yeah. Assuming it's not my stuff.

xx.The Clash or The Ramones?

I love Joey and all, but the Clash were, are, and always will be The Only Band That Matters.

xx.What do you think about Anarchy?

Nice idea, shame about human nature.

xx.Tell me about a prank you played:

Are you saying I'm boring?

xx.Do you do things that are "bad for your body"?

I try not to. But nobody's perfect.

xx.How many times have/were you kicked out of your house?


xx.Are you in trouble all the time?

Only in my own mind.


xx.Do you want to die?

No. Wanting to die is either tragic (if it's beyond your control) or asinine.

xx.What do you think about graveyards?

Through no fault of their own, sad. Can be a good place to go if you want solitude, but that's a bit morbid. And you risk interrupting grieving families.

xx.Do you write poetry often?

Nope. And more importantly, I never try to.

xx.How much black clothing do you own?

About 1/3-1/2 of my t-shirts.

xx.What type of makeup do you wear?

That wacky nonexistent type.

xx.What do you think about pain?

To quote myself (I know, I know): "Attempting to avoid pain is impossible, ridiculous and, since it eventually leads to pain, counterproductive." It's not pleasant, but it is helpful. Assuming you listen to it.

xx.Masochism or sadism?

Flip a coin, I guess.

xx.How do you feel about the rest of the world?

Lady, I haven't even met the rest of the world, and you want me to tell you how I feel about it?

xx.Do you cry often?

No. That's really beyond my conscious control, though, eh?

xx.What do you think about vampires?

They don't exist, but thematically etc. they're pretty interesting. "It's not the band I hate, it's their fans" - Sloan.

xx.How messy are you in general?

Relatively so. But I'm not dirty.

xx.Do you bang your head on things repeatedly?

... no.

xx.What do you think of mullets?


xx.When did you start drinking alchohol?

When I was 18. I started late.

xx.Do you go to concerts often?

As often as I can.

xx.What bands rock your pants off?

Right now, to pick five: Zeebee, Clinic, Scott Walker, Audio Bullys, David Bowie.

xx.What do you think about violence?

Fake violence is interesting in all sorts of ways when used in art. The real stuff should be minimized as much as possible, but it's naive, I think, to think we'll ever rid ourselves of it.

xx.Who or what makes you homicidal?

Haven't killed anyone yet.

xx.Worship Satan or practice black magic?

Why would I do that? Neither exist, at least not in the form their practictioners tend to imagine.

xx.How wild are you in general?

How could I possibly answer this?


xx.Are you wearing any clean clothes right now?


xx.How often do you do the laundry, anyway?

We have a deal: I do the dishes, she does the laundry.

xx.Do you wear flannel shirts a lot?

Don't own any.

xx.When was the last time you showered?

Today. Twice.

xx.Do you speak clearly?

Unless I'm going too fast, yeah.

xx.Are you a lazy person?

Par excellence.

xx.Do you play any instruments?

I wish.

xxWho or what do you rant about a lot?

Music, philosophy, politics, art, random stuff.

xx.What do you think about Nirvana?

No music is worth that.


xx.What makes you different from the rest of them?

Same thing that makes them different from the rest of me.

xx.Who or what makes you bitter?

Surprisingly few things, these days.

xx.What was the last big decision you made?

You never notice them.

xx.Are you a happy-go-lucky type of person?

Probably not, although I'd love to be.

xx.What do you think about conformity?

The most simultaneously over- and under-valued character trait in the world.

xx.How hard do you work to get what you want?

Probably not hard enough.

xx.What do you resent?

Given enough time, everything.

xx.Why might some people consider you to be an asshole?

Because I'm loud and blunt.

And sometimes an asshole.

xx.Do you trust others?


xx.Are you a loyal friend?



xx.Do you live in the ghetto?


xx.Have you ever even held a gun before?

Not a real one.

xx.How much bling do you own?


xx.Would you rather have your best friend be a wangsta or a wigga?

Neither of those are likely to come up.

xx.Would you rather be bustin' caps or rollin' joints?

I'd rather someone else be rollin' my joints for me.

xx.Big butts or big boobs?

Big butts. Big boobs are the second most over-valued physical characteristic in Western society. Number one: Boniness.

xx.What's your best pickup line?

"Do you want to get some coffee or something sometime?"

What are these pickup lines you mortals speak of?

xx."Fo' Sho" or "Yeah, son"?

Fo' shizzle, ma nizzle.

xx.Ever been to prison?

No, not even to visit.


xx.Who or what makes you so excited you piss your pants?

It changes on a daily basis.

xx.Prep or Yuppie?

Uh.... I'm not a class warrior, but...

xx.How much money do you spend on bad music?

What a ridiculous question. Who buys music they think is bad?

xx.Justin Timberlake or Nick Carter?

How old is this quiz? Justin Timberlake's singles were pretty cool.

xx.How many of your friends still listen to NKOTB?

I haven't asked.

xx.Do you like mainstream music?

I'm praying for any singles this year to be as good as Lumidee's "Uh Oh".

xx.Do you want to be a pop diva?


xx.How many times, on average, do you say "like" in a sentence?

I've never counted.


Like, gag me with a spoon.

xx.Ditsy or just plain stupid?


Thursday, May 20, 2004 

Kkkitchens, what were you thinking?

My review of the new Mclusky is up at Stylus. The record is disappointing mostly, I'm guessing, because I had such high hopes for it.

Wednesday, May 19, 2004 

Wednesday's Emotional Setup: 2/4

Normally by the time Wednesday rolls around, I know what I'm doing for WES. I at least have some idea, and if that idea gets usurped, big deal. Probably for the better.

Today, I woke up and had no idea what to do. I hadn't forgotten, I'd just been working so hard on various things (the older I get, the less free time I seem to have), and so I left it until now.

Then Todd Hutlock emails me about, among other things, Clinic. Clinic are many things: one of my favorite bands, my biggest concert regret, a CD I've called at Stylus.

In order:

I love Walking With Thee to distraction, it was my favorite album of the year and I think all th reviews either complaining that it wasn't rockin' enough or that it "sounded the same" as Internal Wrangler are insane (espeically the latter - not since Elastica's The Menace have I been so astounded that people can't seem to notice major stylistic differences). The upcoming Winchester Cathedral is set to possibly solidify my high opinion of Clinic, maybe even (cross fingers) making them one of my favorite bands ever. If it's as great a leap from Walking With Thee as that album was from Internal Wrangler, it'll be my favorite album of the year.

I had tickets to see Clinic (with the Apples In Stereo opening, oddly enough) a few years ago, K. was going to go with me (she likes Walking With Thee too, which is kind of surprising to me as it's seems like such an odd album). Something came up (Easter or something), and we wound up not being able to go. For the first and so far only time in my life, I bought tickets to a concert I never used. It hurts me deep inside that this is true. Todd was emailing to say that they'd been to Cleveland, had they come up to Toronto? Thank God they hadn't, or the prospect of having missed them again might have killed me.

I've called dibs on Winchester Cathedral for Stylus. I did this at the same time as I called Mclusky's The Difference Between Me And You Is That I'm Not On Fire. I just wrote the review for that album yesterday. I felt about Mclusky Do Dallas kind of how I do towards Walking With Thee, and although much of the new Mclusky is great, it was a disappointment. Considering these are the two albums I've been most looking forward to, and I called them at the same time, I feel kind of like they're linked. So now I'm a bit nervous about Winchester Cathedral.

"2/4" is actually off of Internal Wrangler. While at work today I got a Clinic song stuck in my head, and once I panicked over Todd's email and spend ten minutes trying to hunt down any Canadian dates, I decided I should write about that one.

Only problem: It's not, as far as I can tell once I got home, a real Clinic song. I quickly went through both albums and all of my MP3s, and it bears some relation to "2nd Foot Stomp" and "T.K.", but it's not a real song.

This is not the first time this has happened. And I'm pretty sure this quasi-imaginary Clinic song was the same both times. Next time it happens I'm going to try to write down some lyrics.

Anyway, going through Internal Wrangler reminded me of how much I love "2/4", so I thought I'd do that instead. It's a short (2 1/2 minute) stomper, featuring this fucking insane fuzzed out organ part that reminds me of, now that I've heard of them, Oneida, "Treasure Plane" or something.

The funny thing is, I cleared Winamp of anything else when I started this, put in the "2/4" MP3, set it to repeat, and at this point I've heard it maybe 100 times. I'm stretching this out so I can hear it more often. Listening to it so many times in a row is awesome, I couldn't tell you where in the song I am at any given moment. The drum hits, the organ blurts, Ade Blackburn's baby-pterodactyl voice, the static hum - it's all brilliant. That crazy fuzzed out organ riff has played probably 300 times now, and each time it hits the button in my brain that makes me all happy. How cool is this song? Too coo for school.

And listening to it several dozen times in a row is really where it's at. My neck is sore from head bobbing, my legs are twitching, and I haven't even had a drink. Nothing else on Internal Wrangler gives me this sort of visceral thrill (I mean, yeah, "Distortions" is the best song there, but that's a whole 'nother kind of thrill, and the fact I've put it on so many CDs for friends is probably pretty perverse).

I have no idea what I originally intended to say about "2/4", the insanely catchy repetition has fried my brain. This is fun. I think I'll leave it playing for a few more hours...



For future notice

Apparantly radicals can even think C.S. Lewis is unholy and evil. Haven't read this yet (at work), need to when I get home.


Fucking terrifying

Kudos to Jer for finding this account of the latest in US high-school censorship.

Do you know what chilled me the most, though? What the fuck is a (civilian, presumably; they only mention it's the "largest public high school in New Mexico") high school doing with a military liaison?

I mean, really, what the fuck?


My favorite album of the year, so far

And it was a random promo from a miniscule Austrian label. I love it when that shit happens.

Tuesday, May 18, 2004 

Jyo, Kyu and Iyo

From a book called Architecture and Body that I'm working with for Jeff:

"Things of Iyu [roughly, playfulness] are described with the word Omoshiro (interesting). In Japan being interesting dominates being right. The value scale is thus

to be beautiful (Jyo)
to be true (Kyo)
to be interesting (Iyu)
to be right."

What a wonderful idea!


Death to Status: Q

It's true that The Invisibles is one of the staggering achievements of our age (try reading it all at once, I dare you), but having just obtained the collected version and read it all at once I would direct those curious about Grant Morrison to The Filth, which is at least as brilliant and is shorter, to boot. I've got two copies of the series now (individual issues and the trade) and I regret nothing.

Now if DC can only reissue Morrison's Doom Patrol and Flex Mentallo, I'll be happy. Of course, since DC almost got sued over Flex, that may never happen. Sigh.

In ny cse, The Filth just stunning, assuming you can keep your head together enough to get through all thirteen issues. The interview linked to above is good reading - few (if any) spoilers but some good clarifications from Morrison, particularly about The Filth and its contrasts with The Invisibles.

Monday, May 17, 2004 


Something Positive is usually pretty mean-spirited (that's why we read it), but this one is just sweet.


And that's why I go to you for the news.

Go download the song "At Rush Hour The Cars" by Royal City (from Guelph, incidentially) right now. Right. Now. No arguing. Go. It's gorgeous.

You are the sun in my eyes...

Sunday, May 16, 2004 

Love Vigilantes the name of the song currently playing on my Winamp. More importantly, there's a new journal entry up.


"Just because it's made up doesn't mean it can't harm you."

I believe I've mentioned recently that the Brown Wedge is on a roll: Here we have one of those great reviews that makes me want to run out and buy the book in question right now. Not that I will.


Three things

"Because I'm comfortable with the way they've updated the myth for modern audiences."


They haven't updated the myth. They have created a new myth, and are passing it off as the old - or at least that's the effect it's going to have. They can disingeniuously use the term "inspired by" instead, but that's only going to make a difference for a minority of the audience.

"Just that I think Troy works."

I don't think Troy works, actually. It's just not a terribly good script, separate entirely from the Iliad. It's a fun movie to watch (once) because the horribly shitty cliche bits at least don't get in the way of the action, and because the actors work above the level the script requires (especially Bana, who was good enough I think he deserved to be in a better movie). But even if I'd never read Homer and didn't give a shit about him, I would still think it's a bad script, and a bad movie. Just intermittently enjoyable.

"Does this mean that Homer's interpretation of the myth of Troy is sacred and that none should dare trying to update the myth unless they preserve the spirit of his work? Come on. Homer doesn't own the myth."

So fidelity to your source material is a horrible, horrible thing to have? If you don't want to preserve the spirit of your source, if you want to create something new, why do you want to work with a source in the first place? Why not just, you know, create something new? I'm not being facetious, I'm genuinely curious about the rationale behind this.

The point is ultimately this:

You can update the myth/story/legend/whatever (and I'm talking generally here, not just about the Iliad) without violating what makes it work. You don't owe Homer (or any other author) that respect, but you owe it to the work. Homer doesn't own the myth, of course, but when an artist makes the decision to update or work with a piece of art, they have a responsability to that art. Doesn't mean you can't or shouldn't change things (there were many, many changes in the movie I didn't mind, that I thought worked, etc), but you absolutely should not violate the integrity of the work, especially to make yet another blockbuster movie. Benioff and Peterson have failed in this respect. That's what upset me. There are good adaptions and bad adaptions, and this is a bad adaption. No "inspired by" cop out can plaster over that. Sure, the pundits you'll see talking about the film all over the internet (such as, erm, us) will know the difference. But most of the audience won't. And yes, that is important.



Fascinating review here about the origins and manifestations of the idea of God. Best bit:

"To suppose that the importance of the Bible depends on its historical truth is to argue like a fundamentalist. What matters and what has preserved it is its function as scripts for a drama. It offers stories that everyone can take part in. It provides a stage where we can find ourselves. But who we find depends to a large extent on our imaginations, and these are shaped by technology."


As you can tell, I love a good argument

"What I said is that someone who reads 'inspired by' and thinks 'faithful interpretation' doesn't understand the terms. I did not say that I trust people to know the difference. In other words, I don't care if they do or not. The movie is clearly labeled as not being the Illiad. If people don't understand the labels, there is no damage done to Homer's work."

Good lord, man. So what people think of a work has no effect, good or bad, on the work? Are you joking? Does it make the Iliad itself any less (or any more)? Of course not. But for a work of art, especially one as old (and in some ways as alien) as Homer's epics to survive, they must be remembered. Every person who misinterprets that "inspired by" obfuscates the Iliad that much more. And, furthermore, while they may not think "faithful interpretation", they are pretty unlikely to guess that, for example, Paris is the biggest villain of the piece, or that Helen goes to Troy against her will, or that Priam isn't an idiot for trusting in Apollo. Among enormous amounts of others. These are not small things. Hector not taking Achilles' golden armor from Patroclus' corpse (thus further enraging Achilles) is a minor, believeable, even laudable change; back then that was just what you did, and doesn't make Hector any less of a hero. But how do you tell a contemporary film audience that? Given that they were presenting Hector in the most favorable light (and in both versions, Hector is easily the most sympathetic character), having Hector take the armor would have seemed ghoulish to our sensibilities. That's updating the myth in the way Christa was talking about.

So change it. Fine! You're preserving the spirit of the piece. Turning Paris into a hero distorts the spirit of the work so severely you can't really say it's the same thing. And I don't think a mere "inspired by" credit will clue people in to that. That's giving people a grossly misinformed idea of what was going on.

Plus, I will be very surprised if (assuming we both live to a ripe old age) this film is not used as a teaching aid, some time, some where during our lifetimes. I've seen similarly inaccurate films used (and not as guides to errors). That's not doing damage?

Remember, there are many older works (my normal reference, Spinoza, springs to mind) that are near impossible for laypeople to read today because what people thought they were about were obscured over time. If you seriously think this couldn't happen to Homer, well, great, but neither of us are likely to be around 500 years from now to debate; I'd prefer to err on the side of caution.

That said, I don't think Troy is the end of civilization, or even Homer. I do think it's a damn shame that a pretty good Hollywood popcorn movie had to obscure one of the greatest works of art we, as a species, have produced to give us our cheap thrills. Yes, I do think they could have made a good, actiony movie that preserved the spirit of the work. I'd rather watch Spiderman 2.

"For Homer's work to be damaged, Troy would have had to have made it impossible for people to understand the Illiad. Troy doesn't have the power to do that and if Ian is crediting it with that much power, I disagree."

I'm not crediting it with that much power, so we're not in disagreement there at all. But Homer's work doesn't need to be made illegible by Troy for it to be damaging. He just has to be obscured. "Making more difficult" is not as bad as "making impossible", but that doesn't suddenly make it harmless.

Saturday, May 15, 2004 


My evil (unintentional) plan of confusion is working.


Woah, hoss

Wait a second, here. Firstly, contrary to what you might have heard elsewhere, my second post on here wasn't in response to his comment elsewhere, it was in response to his much earlier post on his own blog. Also, "Missed point" was meant first as a bad pun on some of the turns of phrase the translation of the Iliad I first read had (they mention the points of spears several hundred times or thereabouts, and that's also why my initial post was called "Bite The Dust") and secondly because I know there has been and will be tons of discussion about the lack of fidelity to its source material. And I think many people are going to cavalierly wave off very valid concerns with "ahh, it's a fun movie". Which, yes, does annoy me. But the title wasn't particularly directed at Jacklin.

As far as historical accuracy - hell, the Iliad itself isn't! I would have gladly settled for some aesthetic accuracy. I'm honestly not the sort to care about the small stuff (I didn't at, for example, Spiderman) but this was big, big stuff. This was the feel of the entire thing.

Might as well just quote Aaron here a few times:

"If your point was that a movie like Troy causes irreparable damage to its source material, you didn't make it. You said the problem with the movie is that most people would be left thinking that's what Homer is like. And you might be right. But, they do say 'inspired by.' Anyone who reads that in the credits and then assumes it's a faithful interpretation does not understand what the terms mean."

Well, jeeze, that's like saying people should know that whoever writes the editorial for the Ontarion doesn't necessary represent the rest of us. Of course they should have - the rest of us still took steps. I'm not faulting Aaron for believing the above, but I will say he has a lot more faith in human nature than I do.

"And anyone who is interested enough in the story after seeing the movie to go back and read the Illiad will quickly find that Homer's work is something else altogether. I don't see the damage."

Of course, those people I'm not worried about. But, think of it this way: Of the (admittedly possibly fairly sizable) minority who go pick up the Iliad, how far do you think most of them will get? Again, maybe I just don't have that much faith in people when it comes to this. I would love to be wrong.

"They didn't call it the same story. First, they called it Troy, not the Illiad. Second, they didn't claim the movie was based on it, they claimed it was inspired by it. While they used other sources, the Illiad was the primary one and credited it with an 'inspired by' tag. If that wasn't enough, what would have been?"

How many people before reading about Troy do you think had ever even heard of the Iliad? I was more referring to the fact that, for example, the characters of Paris & Briseis in the movie and the poem are so different that they really should have had different names. So, for that matter, was Achilles. My bad for not being more clear.

And yes, I know market forces means they never in a hundred years would have changed the names: I don't care. If they'd done that and said "inspired by" that would be one thing.

I do apologize for the offence; God knows I'm not worried about Aaron reacting to the movie in a damaging way. And I think I should point out that I feel the same way about Life Is Beautiful, although that movie was a far worse travesty than Troy. In any case, those posts weren't particularly directed at him, although they were spurred on by comments he'd made.

I should also note I've only read his blog, so off I go to see what kind of trouble I've caused elsewhere...


I hate my generation

It's sad that this probably represents, between the two viewpoints, most of North America.


Missed point

Ah, Aaron, we don't hate movies like Troy because they "get it wrong". We hate them for the irreparable damage they do, unthinkingly, to their source material. Was it a good story? Yes, except for a few dodgy lines. The battle between Hector and Achilles almost had the resonance it should have had, and was magnificent.

But given how much was changed, why must Hollywood insist on calling it the same story? Why not admit they've invented a new, valid story? It's that kind of aesthetic cowardice, and again, the harm done to the original, that raises our hackles.


Alright, now I'm pissed off

Not at people, but at that movie.

I wrote this in response to this post at Christa's blog (which is going in my links as soon as I update them):

"Oh, but Aaron, the movie did far, far more than that. I think Christa is entirely correct about the possible uses of myth, but Troy doesn't just change some details of the Homeric epic, the movie rips out its still beating heart (and if you doubt it still beats, read a good translation) and shows a profound ignorance towards the very real forces that shaped the way the Greeks and Trojans thought.

The reason the Iliad and the Odyssey have survived in something at least trying to approximate their ancient forms is that there is still something there that is significant and moving and powerful, and "Troy" slaughtered it.

Which isn't a big deal, except that for most of the population, that's what they're going to think Homer is like. And that is a damned shame.

I mean, K. and I enjoyed the movie as pure cheese, but it was also the movie I've most enjoyed hating in recent memory."

(modified for html and to remove a typo)


Fucking hell

Memo to celebrities:


Thank you.

(poor "Apple Blythe Alison Martin"!)


Winning streak

Las Vegas = America. An interesting thesis, if nothing else. What then do we make of the recent promotions that tell us "What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas"? They already seemed kind of sinister...



Oh, and one other benefit to watching Troy: I desperately want to read the Iliad again. Now there's a story. Also, I definitely wouldn't mind seeing Sean Bean playing Odysseus again if they could somehow turn that into a movie (pull a Kill Bill, maybe?).

Friday, May 14, 2004 

Bite the dust

Saw Troy with K., Aaron and his housemate Shokes. Not a great movie, but fun for long stretches (and Eric Bana plays a good Hector).

The script... let's just say that I would have loved a movie that had any grasp of the psychology of the ancient Greeks, and could gladly spend hours here listing everything that was wrong. It'd even be fun.

But I've got other stuff to do. So I'll focus on a good bit: While Hector fights Achilles, near the beginning, when it's not clear at all who will win, they cut briefly to Peter O'Toole's Priam. The look of utter, crushing sadness of his face was the one indelible image from that film that will probably stay with me for weeks.



Maybe I'm being overly cynical, but do you think it's possible that this has some connection to the fact that Simmons is Jewish?


"this refusal to recognize the transcendance of flesh"

The most weirdly uplifting thing about the whole abhorrant US-run prisons in Iraq fiasco has been that it's begun to trigger the first serious discussion of aesthetics and their implications in the public sphere in recent memory. This post on the Brown Wedge, for example (and that blog has been top-notch recently) is an absolutely riveting account of the confluence between the pictures of the prisoners, pornography and "something you can see at the Lincoln Center for an NEA grant".

There's a few spelling mistakes, but who cares? What has happened is horrible, but if out of it we can muster honest, rigorous debate about the increasingly fucked-up aesthetics of the First World (which would, of course, require us to (a) think about it in the first place and (b) acknowledge that maybe aesthetics is of more than merely academic concern) and (possibly) leverage Bush out of power, at least what happened will not have happened in total vain.


Know when to walk away

Huh? Poker is cool again? I would never have guessed.


Merit badges

Interesting article by Christopher Hitchens on Baden-Powell and the Scouts.

Thursday, May 13, 2004 

First we take Picassos...

Great post at The Brown Wedge about the relative cost of art.


"The photographer was the abuser"

Very, very good article at the BBC by photographer David Modell on the particularly horrific impact due to the pictorial nature of the evidence of US abuse in Iraqi prisons.


West end girls

Interesting article here comparing and contrasting Jessica Lynch and Lynndie England. It's scary to note that one of the inhabitents of England's home town still clings to the belief that Iraq was somehow involved in the September 11th attacks.



Just... just go read this Scary Go Round, will you?


Roger wilco

Read the piece at Stylus that Todd Burns said was very good.


Not so useless after all

So, sperm does more than just provide DNA when you're makin' babies.


The infamous Nuremberg defense

Oh, you were just following orders?

Oh, that's okay then. On your way.


I prefer bottlecaps to Simoleans, myself

Excellent article at The Walrus on the virtual economies of online video games. More compelling than I expected.

Wednesday, May 12, 2004 

Wednesday's Emotional Setup: First We Take Manhatten

So I've been working on a mix for Aaron, to commemorate our mutual shitty year at the Ontarion. Last night I stayed up way too late trying to find more tracks on Winamp (or, if you prefer, listening to music) and playing FreeCell.

I'm pretty sure I've got a solid core of songs (definite inclusions are songs by
Fugazi, Lupine Howl, The Shins, The Fall, Bob Dylan, Readymade, Bright Eyes, King Cobb Steelie and the Rolling Stones), and I'm planning something a little different for the packaging, but it was also kind of disappointing. I ran into a bunch of songs I would love to include, only they don't fit the theme enough.

Chief among these songs that almost made me bend my own rules due to sheer coolness is Leonard Cohen's immortal "First We Take Manhatten", from 1988's I'm Your Man. Yes, I was young when I first heard it, and it sank its hooks deep, but I think it's great even beyond that, hinting at prophecy and terror.

Cohen's vocal performance here is one of his best; cavernous and magesterial, hissing and sinister, with the chuckle after the line "I thank you for those items that you sent me" being particularly captivating. And the lyrics are, of course, both great in execution and endlessly quotable (read them here), as is usually true of Cohen.

But the real reason for my enduring love of the song, I think, is Cohen's extremely nuanced writing and delivery. Are we supposed to empathize with the narrator, or not? There's ample evidence on each side.

"They sentenced me to twenty years of boredom / For trying to change the system from within"
"I don't like your fashion business mister / And I don't like these drugs that keep you thin / I don't like what happened to my sister"

"But you see that line there moving through the station? / I told you, I told you, told you, I was one of those / Ah you loved me as a loser, but now you're worried that I just might win / You know the way to stop me, but you don't have the discipline / How many nights I prayed for this, to let my work begin / First we take Manhattan, then we take Berlin"

Of course, the evidence on both sides is less than absolute but Cohen's protrayal of the narrator s enough to have me, at least, wavering back and forth. What I do know is that no popular musician since Elvis Costello has so skillfully and scarily merged together fascist imagry with emotional concerns, making it both plausible and somewhat terrifying.

Enhancing all this is the fact that by '88 Cohen's vocals had begun to acquire a hint of a rasp (which would weaken them in the the future, and indeed in The Future, but at this point just added character), and you've got possibly the creepiest synthpop song ever; that the refrain is sung is bright backup singers led by Jennifer Warnes only heightens the impact.

Oh, and the reasons I considered putting it in the mix for Aaron? The "20 years of boredom" and "...but you don't have the discipline" lines. Too tenuous, I think.


Go Flames

Sure, les Habs and the Leafs may be out, but at this rate we may see the Stanley Cup back in the hands of a Canadian team yet.

Tuesday, May 11, 2004 

It came from Canada Post

So now I own six CD copies of The Dramatic Balanced By in total, and four copies of the vinyl single for "The Block Alone" (b/w a cover of Bark Psychosis' "All Different Things"). That's the most I've ever owned of anything (barring obvious stuff like socks, etc).


Pavement ist rad

And I've got a Playing God on Wowee Zowee up right now.

Monday, May 10, 2004 

Urgent and key

Edit: Combined all three posts into one uberpost.

In almost all large-scale epidemiological studies, little or no correlation between weight and health can be found for a large majority of the population - and indeed what correlation does exist suggests that it is more dangerous to be just a few pounds "underweight" than dozens of pounds "overweight"...

Several recent studies indicate that the key to avoiding Type 2 diabetes is not to try to lose weight (indeed, there is much evidence that dieters are far more prone to the disease than average), but rather to make lifestyle changes in regard to activity levels and dietary content that greatly reduce the risk of contracting the disease, whether or not such changes lead to any weight loss...

In other words: Eat healthy and exercise, but don't obsess over whether it's going to cause you to lose ten pounds or not.

Over the past 20 years, scientists have gathered a wealth of evidence indicating that cardiovascular and metabolic fitness, and the activity levels that promote such fitness, are far more important predictors of both overall health and mortality risk than weight. Yet none of the studies most often cited for the proposition that fat kills makes any serious attempt to control for these variables.

The most extensive work of this sort has been carried out by Steven Blair and his colleagues at Dallas's Cooper Institute, involving more than 70,000 people. What they have discovered is that, quite simply, when researchers take into account the activity levels and resulting fitness of the people being studied, body mass appears to have no relevance to health whatsoever. In Blair's studies, obese people who engage in at least moderate levels of physical activity have around one half the mortality rate of sedentary people who maintain supposedly ideal weight levels.

Similarly, a 1999 Cooper Institute study involving 22,000 men found the highest death rate among sedentary men with waist measurements under 34 inches, while the lowest death rate was found among fit men with waist measurements of 40 inches or more. A 1995 Blair study found that improved fitness (ie, going from "unfit" to "fit"), with the latter requiring a level of exercise equivalent to going for a brisk half-hour walk four or five times per week, reduced subsequent mortality rates by 50%. As Blair himself puts it, Americans have "a misdirected obsession with weight and weight loss. The focus is all wrong. It's fitness that is the key."

I'm a big fan of Michael Campos, debunker of the current North American assumption that skinny = healthy. He's given some space at the Guardian to defend his views, and I think he does an excellent job. If you're only going to read one thing I link to this month, make it this article (there's plenty more I didn't quote).


Moving sideways in the world

So I'm now the research assistant for the acting, acting chair of the department of philosophy. Weird.


Catching up

A journal entry went up late last night, and this morning there's a new review by yours truly up at Stylus.

Saturday, May 08, 2004 

Monkey see, monkey do

News flash: Our brains aren't that hot shit after all.


I feel fragile today

Y'know, I wasn't going to mention this here, but seeing as how Aaron was also sick as a dog this morning, I feel a lot less embarrassed about it.

Jer's No Pants Party was a rousing success, and normally the amount I drank (three drinks, two shots) would have been enough to upset my stomach slightly, but that's all. But yesterday, all I'd had to eat before drinking was some crackers and cheese.

Never. Doing. That. Again.

Friday, May 07, 2004 

Took the words right out of my mouth

Whatever you think of the rest of this post on the Stylus blog, there's one utterly crucial sentence near the end:

"At times these wordless stirrings are able to better communicate than words".

Exactly. I wish I'd said something similar in this week's WES.


Top ten

It's philosophy day at Stylus.


Do you know what day it is?

That's right - No Pants day!

I wish you all a happy, pantsless Friday.


No funny title here, either

Profile of the woman in that famous photo of the Iraqi prisoner.

Thursday, May 06, 2004 

I'm so shallow

I've been an REM fan since my childhood, so I'll probably pick up this new album that's coming out at some point, but there's a small sticking point in this story about it. Most of the songs sound cool from the titles, but then at the end of the list... 'I'm Gonna DJ'? That's pretty dumb.


No funny title here

Excellent article here at the Washington Post about the recent US abuses of Iraqi prisoners.


Wednesday's Emotional Setup: Fog

Or, a short Discourse on Will (with Reference to Schopenhauer) and Ineffability

11:08 pm.

I think all creative people, or at least the good ones, are fairly aware of their themes. Well, themes, motifs, recurring phrases, etc. The more I explore my love of music (1), the more I notice these tiny bits of theory, and the more I'm convinced they connect up in some way.

The latest recurring theme I've noticed, popping up in either the written works themselves or at least my thoughts around them, is the idea of yearning. Something I read recently, and I cunningly didn't keep this in my quotation file even though I remember thinking I should, said something I believe to be very true, something to the effect of "love is not the fulfillment of yearning". Very true.

Which brings us to the will. Schopenhauer, in a move that Nietzsche prompty co-opted decades later, said that the essential structure of what we are is will. In fact, for Schopenhauer (2), will is quite literally all there is. Well, will and representation.

See, if you think about will for a second, you realise that if that's all there is there must be something else going on as well. In order for will to exist, it must be thwarted. Willing does not lie in having something but in getting or (more to the point here) wanting it. If I will my hand to pick up that sandwich, my will in this case ends as soon as I've got it. I can't will to obtain it anymore - it's happened.

So for Schopenhauer, will doubles back on itself as representation (i.e. what we consider the real world) to keep itself in check and so existing. Of course, Schopenhauer was a bit of a pessimist (or was he? I'm not sure, but he at least seems that way to many of us now), so from there he points out that this constant snuffing of the fulfillment of will, and thus desire, is why we're so miserable: that's the structure of existence!

But leaving aside Schopenhauer for the moment, this is why love could never be the fulfillment of yearning. Yearning lies not in having or even getting something, but in that desired object's absence, even (in more powerful, complex and what I would say are higher forms or yearning) the knowledge that possession of the yearned-for is impossible. Love is not the fulfillment of this lack and the knowing of this lack, but the obviation of it. Love consists of a negation of yearning. If you yearn for someone (or something) and you then get it, most people very quickly cannot remember what the yearning is like. It is just not no longer present, it erases itself from you.

On some level to say that a love song or similar song of desire is yearning is almost tautological. The performance of the song or suitable simulacrum thereof will never coincide with the obviation of yearning. It may be, in very rare cases (like, say, the end of Say Anything) that such a performance may lead to the desired result, but what difference does this make to the song? None at all. Although it is theoretically possible for the lovesong (3) to fulfill the desires of others, even if it could have those desires in any meaningful way.

At the same time, even if the song could avoid this problem, there is the question of the simulacra of the performance (4). It's stuck in time, just as any given performance of the song is stuck in the time it's performed in. Even if the song was going to otherwise somehow achieve the resolution it craves, it would still be stuck having the result happen outside of it and not to it. Even if such a result was to happen in the middle of a performance or playback of the song, it wouldn't happen to the song, it would either disrupt or ignore the song.

But this is on the ontological level. One the aesthetic/text/subtext levels, of course, a given song may be more or less yearning that others to sometimes huge degrees. Although I do bring up the ontological "yearningness" or your average song (5) because I do believe it's important, it's this other level of feeling I'm referring to in most reviews.

I do think songs that exhibit yearning on this more emotional level are (done right, of course) pretty important. I think that quality of unfulfilledness is a basic structure of our existence, as well as art's, and so I think it's powerful when we experience art that projects that back at us.

Take, for example (and at long last), the subject of today's entry, the radiohead (6) b-side 'Fog' (from the 'Knives Out'). The more I write about music, the more I despair of describing it in words, but here's my try:

It's four minutes and two seconds long and starts with a low digitised rumble. These weird sticky electronic percussion and a calm bass part and a twinkling barely-there keyboard come in. They maintain for a minute, and Thom Yorke sings for a while. When the second verse starts, a particularly fragile tambourine and some slow drumming starts. It builds to the refrain, when the guitar comes in. After the singing and the refrain stops, the song goes on for another eighty seconds, beautifully. The lyrics are as follows:

There's a little child
Running round this house
And he never leaves
He will never leave
And the fog comes up
From the sewers
And glows in the dark

Baby alligators
In the sewers
Grow up fast
Grow up fast
Anything you want
It can be done
Did you go bad?
Did you go bad?
Did you go bad?
Some things will never wash away
Did you go bad?
Did you go bad?

As with many of the best yearning songs I've heard recently (funnilty enough, a song called 'Cockeyed Cookie Pusher' by a one-man band called, heh, Fog, is the other one that springs to mind), the lyrics don't really read like the sort of thing you might imagine after reading my description. But again, the magic is in the delivery; Yorke's delicate vocals and the regret and want in the did you go bads is absolutely beautiful. And the How / How is, of course, crucial. I like most of the b-sides of this era, but this one in particular should have been on an album. 'Fog' isn't just one of my favorite radiohead songs, it is in my opinion one of the best songs ever. I don't particularly expect others to agree, but my own faith on this point is currently unwavering and the repeated listens it's taken to write this column haven't dulled it any.

And of course, its true impact is ineffable. Moreso than some other recent songs I've called yearning, I can at least point in the direction of what 'Fog' might yearn for (innocence? certainty? revenge?), but I can't tell you it. The fact that before I looked up the lyrics there were times I thought he sang did you go back or would you go bad or any combination of those permutations only heightens the ineffable part of this song.

And now, as promised, a brief word on that term (although I am getting close to done, promise):

Far too many people, I think, take ineffable to mean inexpressible. Well, obviously not - obviously what I get out of this song is expressible, or I wouldn't be getting it. Even the definition at is a bit lacking, I think:

"Incapable of being expressed; indescribable or unutterable."

The post-semicolon part, certainly. But to make this definition true, all it would take would be to add "in language" to the first sentence. The second part fits even better with that. But modern Western sensabilities are so used at this point to expression, and even though, being confined to language that it is assumed that if something is extralingual it is somehow less, and somehow incapable of transmission.

Now, I'm not saying everyone else is getting what I get out of 'Fog', but I am saying it's possible. It also doesn't matter, as since it is ineffable unless we discovered some means of communicating without language, or at the least _above and beyond_ language.

Ah, but this is what music (and other art) does. There is something extralingual in 'Fog', and every other song, that I get. As with the meaning of the linguistic part of the song, we may get different things out of it, but no-one doubts that the text exists - why doubt the other? I know when I hear music there is something else going on. It is being communicated to me in an ineffable way. But since I can't tell you what it is, it often gets discounted.

I feel like I'm replowing the same ground here, so I'll stop. That probably needs some clarification, but that must wait until another time.


(1) Which is the same thing as saying "the more I write about music".
(2) I'm doing this off the top of my head, so apologies for any violence I'm doing to his position.
(3) Keeping in mind that we here use that term to identify many songs that do not have to do with "love" in the conventional sense, as songs about God, or drugs, or many other topic work in the same way.
(4) Note that I'm not arguing here that the live performance is the song in some way the recorded is not, or vice versa. I think the truth is more complex than that, so complex that I can't really answer what part of the song is the work of art.
(5) I say "average" because although I think this ontological structure applies to all songs, I am willing to concede exceptions if people can come up with them. To believe that this occurs in all songs regardless of narrative/"feel"/whatever, of course, requires the presupposition that all songs are lacking something in some way. Right now, that's a belief I'm happy to suscribe to, and would extend outwards to all art.
(6) I keep meaning to clarify this somewhere, and here's as good as any: Some bands like having irregular capitalization. Most I ignore, preferring to have my Winamp playlist look pretty uniform. There are exactly two bands I leave the capital first letter off, as they do in much/most of their art: radiohead and low. radiohead because they were my first love, and low because it fits them too well (and they are one of my great musical loves, of course). Now, of course, both bands have been using capitals with greater frequency, but I'm keeping it this way for a while yet.

Wednesday, May 05, 2004 

He said "hummer". Hee hee!

Of course, so am I.


Bearsuit? Bearsuit!

William B. Swygart is all up in this shit.


O solo mio

Opera at Glastonbury. You've got to admit, waking up on Sunday morning to Wagner is pretty fucking cool.


"It appears he slipped and fired into his skull."

Six nails in the head, and this guy's still alive. The human body can do strange things, sometimes.



It seems we're having similar problems with vaccines that we have with antibiotics.

Tuesday, May 04, 2004 

And you call yourself a leftist

Aaron winds up having supper a few meters away from Mike Harris, and he didn't throw stuff?


For the love of God

Kevin Hilts of Readymade says this may be your last chance to buy The Dramatic Balanced By, and it's only $8 ($5 if you're a Yankee). Plus, 'Bloomsbury Boxcutter' and the incomparable 'Hamburg' are free MP3 downloads. Go! Buy!

Edit: I just bought five copies, myself. I'm dead serious.

Monday, May 03, 2004 

I love Windows 98

Reasons to run an archaic operating system, if you don't have the time to switch to a non-Windows OS, no. 16: Viruses tend to target newer versions of Windows.


Best yet

The country descriptions for NationStates change kind of quasi-randomly, so I want to preserve what they're saying about the Commonwealth of Scientia Intuitiva right now:

"Tourists from around the world come to visit the country's famous rainforests, people reciting Shakespeare have become a common sight, all forms of advertising are banned, and there have been reports of people marrying housepets. Crime is totally unknown."

Pretty sweet, eh?


I have spooky powers

From Aaron:

"I laughed because I had been thinking about Christa, wishing she had been there. Maybe Ian can read minds. Or expressions. Or maybe he was thinking about Kiernan. I don't know."

The truth, my friends, is all three.

PS: Re: the rye and coke question: Yes.


A mounted knight attacking a creampuff

To continue in the slightly highbrow vein of the last post, we have Butterflies and Wheels. As much as I find many aspects of academic postmodernism (as contrasted with aesthetic postmodernism) deeply silly, I can't say I'm solidly behind B&W either. Surely when you're tackling a topic as rich and complex as, say, sexuality, there's a middle ground between Judith Butler and people who say things like "such a sexual partnership [between two transsexuals] is arguably so far from the experience of the vast majority that it offers no plausible challenge to mainstream cultural presentations and expressions of sexuality, and none at all to questions of the natural, because through its patently 'unnatural' status (the union of two individuals whose bodies have been artificially constructed through surgery and hormone injections) it only serves to reinforce the natural status of the dominant form of sexual behaviour, heterosexuality."

Which is too bad, as both Butler and her ilk and Standing (the author of the article) and his ilk have valuable things to say on the subject.


Category error

This article, while making a few good points, seems to me to have gotten fascism all wrong. To say something like "Conservatives believe in God, tradition, the monarchy, civilisation and the individual, whereas fascists are pagan, primitivist, collectivist state-worshippers who prefer jackboots to crowns" is to make a deep error in categorization, especially when the author of the review goes on to say "Paxton wisely renounces the attempt to isolate an 'essence' of fascism". As mentioned here before, Umberto Eco has pretty much the best set of working definitions for this particular ideological disease.



If you go to the journal you'll see a new entry up; if you look at the date and time you'll see it's been up for a while. So I didn't forget to update it, I just forgot to mention it.


Instant nostalgia - just add water

Part one of I Love 1992 is up today, parts to follow all week.

Sunday, May 02, 2004 


I've been reading the Jack Reacher books, by Lee Child. Aaron's been lending them to me, and they're quite good, far above average... I don't know what to call them. "Thriller"s? In any case, just ran into a line I really like:

"People live, and then they die, and as long as they do both things properly, there's nothing much to regret."


White whale

I knew that this was pretty rare, but until Hutlock told me, I didn't realise that it's completely out of print and impossible to find. It vexes me and I will have it! Would someone reissue it, please?

Saturday, May 01, 2004 


I've been told my brother expects to see a link to the Drunks On Wheels site here, as if I wouldn't have put that up anyway when I finally remembered. If you're wondering what it is, go visit - Uncle Benny (aka my bro) even has a profile you can click on.


Dissent is never simple

Assuming Lucas' books lines up the way Aaronovitch says it does, I have to agree with what he says here.


"How will I know?"

I don't normally remember my dreams, but I do remember one this morning. And it's possibly the most unsettling one I've ever had.

I'm in this house, see, and elements of it (like the big screen TV) have been lifted from the house of a friend of Shane who kindly let us hang out there one weekend. But there's a long (infinite? you know how dreams go) hallway, filled with doors. And behind each of those doors sits one of my friends, past or present.

And they're all sad. I don't know how else to describe it to you. I sit in the living room playing video games until finally somthing makes me get up and start walking down the hallway. I want to go into the rooms and help my friends in whatever way I can, comfort them in some way, but something stops me; in that weird logic we know in dreams I know that if I knock on the doors they'll tell me to go away.

And again, with dream logic, those "go away"s carry with them an undercurrent of resentment, of "you can't possibly help me", maybe even of accusation, as if I had some part in causing their current state.

Now, in real life, I do like to help my friends when they're having troubles or feeling bad. I see someone I like in distress, I want to talk with them about it until they feel better. But I've learned over the years that sometimes intervention isn't wanted or helpful, and that talking about it sometimes is counterproductive (at least for the moment). I've gotten better at getting across the idea that I want to help them but if the help they need is solitude, I can do that too. And I've gotten better at, y'know, actually leaving people alone.

But I'm sure it's that insecurity, that I'm somehow making things worse and that my attempts at help result in nothing but strife and contempt, that underlies the dream. What makes it weirder is that as far as I know none of my friends are having any problems that would make them as crushingly sad as they were in my dream. I don't really believe in premonitions, but I wanted to email everyone who appeared in the dream when I woke up and ask if they were doing okay.

But on the other hand, I know when I find out I've been in someone else's dream I always think it's a little bit weird. So I'm not going to do that. I hope if any of them do have problems I can help, though. People (myself included, of course) often don't communicate with others when they could use help, and I think that's for the worse.

Oh, and my dream had a soundtrack, a repeated bit from the middle of an old Pavement b-side. It's got the incredibly silly title of 'Mussle Rock (Is A Horse In Transition)', but it's one of the most heartwrenchingly yearning songs I've heard recently. The part I was hearing, over and over again, door to door, consisted on some sturdy electric-Neil-Young style backing, and Scott Kannberg repeating the same refrain over and over again. I'm still a little bit weirded out over the dream, and the song, right now.

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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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