Wednesday, June 30, 2004 

Terribly worried

I'm as glad as anyone that the Green Party managed to quadruple its support in this election, but some people's post-election comments made me begin to wonder at what cost. One guy in particular was claiming that the NDP could have grabbed another 10-5 seats. I emailed him to ask for details, and he got me some:

"Go take a look at the election results on the CBC web page.

Just looking through the results in BC alone, I counted 8 (!) ridings where the NDP + Green vote would have produced a victory; almost all of those seats went Conservative. There were about 3 more seats where the combined vote would have put the NDP within 1% of the winning total. Just off the top of my head, I can think of Oshawa, Northwest Territories and Trinity Spadina (Toronto) which would have gone NDP but for the Green split. I'm sure there are several more. What was truly amazing is how many seats the NDP lost by a handful of votes. If you distributed an extra 1000 votes among a number of ridings, the NDP would have won a dozen more seats. By contrast, there were only a couple seats that the NDP won by the same razor thin margins.

For all the talk about 'unite the right' in Canada, we now have an increasingly fractioned left. In addition, I'm sure that thousands of NDP voters were scared into voting Liberal because of the fear of a Harper government (which now seems so implausible). I thought that this election was very poorly served by the media, which - much like the US - played up the 'horse race' element of the election over substantive issues. For all the talk of the Conservatives 'surge' in the middle of the election, I didn't see a single poll ever give them more than 34% - which was only about 5 points more than they started the election with (they finished the campaign at 29% - exactly what the polls had them going into the campaign with); the real story wasn't the Conservative gains, but the Liberal fall.

I realize that it is much more speculative to try to attribute Liberal votes to the NDP, but I would guess that there were at least another half dozen or so seats that the NDP was deprived of because of NDP supporters voting Liberal (which may have produced the opposite effect - see some of the close races in Saskatchewan, where it is clear that the Liberal vote was much higher than normal, and which produced Conservative seats).

Anyway, let's hope that the price the NDP demands is proportional representation (which the Liberals would be had pressed to support, since they gain the most in a first past the post system."

And also:

"Sorry to follow up, but my curiosity go the better of me. I counted 2 more seats in Saskatchewan and 3 more seats in Ontario where the Green split cost the NDP seats (that's on top of the ones I already totalled).

That's 16 seats in total.

As I mentioned, it is a lot more problematic to guess the impact of NDP supporters voting Liberal out of fear, but I would venture that at least an extra half dozen seats were lost to the NDP because of this (these are not seats where the Green split would have cost them - I don't want to double count). This includes some seats where the incumbent Liberal won (likely due to NDP support), as well as some where the Conservatives won because enough NDP supporters voted (mistakenly - given the result, since it did the opposite of what was intended) Liberal instead of NDP. Remember, in the last week of the campaign, Martin rather aggressively courted 'progressive' voters using the bogeyman of a Harper government."

Now, I'd be the last person to slate someone for voting Green, especially considering some friends and family of mine probably did, but 35 seats for the NDP certainly would have been nice. I'm aware that you can't actually take 100% of the votes for the Greens and map them onto the NDP, but this is rather distressing information in any case, and it's the sort of thing that should be widely disseminated. Note that "widely disseminated" does NOT equal "used as a stick to beat Green voters over the head with".

Tuesday, June 29, 2004 

Android feline

The new cat (whom I'll let K. formally introduce on her site when she wants) has a meow that is, as K. puts it "half way between a bird and a robot". It's also half way between disconcerting and cute.


Right on

Not only did the election turn out the way I predicted, but the Liberals and NDP got enough seats that the NDP can theoretically be the balance of power for a while. Which is great.

The Conservatives' 99 seats disturbs me, but that's mostly because I have fond memories of the 1993 elections from my childhood, when the then "Progressive" Conservatives were reduced to a mere 2 seats.

Monday, June 28, 2004 

Thank [deity of choice]

Guantanamo is no longer a free-fire zone on civil liberties.


In progress

From CBC:

"Elections Canada says voter turnout for advance polling was almost double what it was in the last general elections in 2000."

Good. I hope everyone has/will be voting; I went for the NDP, myself.


Rhyme the rhyme well

My favorite lines on the new Beastie Boys LP right now are courtesy of Ad-Rock:

"I'm in the lab all day
I Scrabble all night
I got a Bedazzler so my outfit's tight"

But maybe I find a Bedazzler funnier than most.


Copy cat

If Jer's going to do it, so am I. I'm currently reading:

Anarchy for the Masses: The Disinformation Guide to the Invisibles
The Martian Chronicles, Ray Bradbury (a re-read, from long ago)
Discourses, Epictetus

And I'll probably start The Infinitive of Go, by John Brunner, sometime soon.

Sunday, June 27, 2004 

As always

New journal entry up, and something I forgot to mention there: I'm voting tomorrow, and you'd better all be too, dammit.


Wow dept.

I'm a bit drunk, so I'll let this article K. sent me speak for itself:

"What they discovered shocked even themselves: the effort to keep the kids in a good school district when one parent is laid-off is the main factor driving Americans into bankruptcy court, not all those trips to the Niketown store."

Crazy. Note that whenever I link to a Salon article, it's my opinion that you should, in fact, sit through the brief ad so you can view the full article.

Saturday, June 26, 2004 

Empire states

Niall Ferguson is a very silly man, albeit probably brilliant.


Distortion is underrated

Neat article from Nature about why we have a heard time with atonality.

Thursday, June 24, 2004 


Check this shit out: The first, third and fourth listings resulting from a Google search of my name actually lead to me, including one to this here blog. Last time I checked I didn't show up at all.

I know, I'm an egomaniac.


Holy fucking shit dept. part 2

Playful dog defuses shooting spree.

One hesitates to imagine how many people would have died if the dog hadn't been there...


Holy fucking shit dept.

Not yet 5, he can hold seven-pound weights with arms extended, something many adults cannot do. He has muscles twice the size of other kids his age and half their body fat.

DNA testing showed why: The boy has a genetic mutation that boosts muscle growth.. The discovery, reported in Thursday's New England Journal of Medicine, represents the first documented human case of such a mutation.

I'll say it again: Holy fucking shit.



New review by yours truly up at Stylus.


Fair's fair

Since I linked to K.'s post with the picture of the new cat (and that's assuming he gets along with Madeline), here's a picture of our current cat:

Wednesday, June 23, 2004 


In case any of you don't read K.'s blog, or have given up in despair due to a lack of posts [/snark], here is a picture of our probable new cat.


Avant hard

Someone shoud totally sample the sound of the universe starting up and turn it into some weird abstract music. That'd be cool.


Ok, what?

Well, I'm glad the UN has repealed the US' blanket exemption from criminal prosecution from war crimes. But wait a second - they had a blanket exemption from being prosecuted for war crimes? What the holy fuck?

(I know, I need to read more news. Or something.)


Lord can you hear me

I never thought I'd say this, but it may be that what (North) American culture needs is more religious entertainment. Good article, anyway.


It burns

Our whole summer mixtape article is pretty damned cool (and it continues to be updated through the week, so check it out), but I link to it today because my contribution has just been added.

Tuesday, June 22, 2004 

Stupid white men

Sometimes, it feels like a choice between Christopher Hitchens and Michael Moore is no choice at all. And to be clear, I mean after reading that article I don't particularly like either.

Monday, June 21, 2004 


I promise I won't keep excerpting that article I just mentioned, but if this doesn't whet your appetite you are patheticaly apathetic about the whole thing:

"It takes years for Non-Official Covers or NOCs, as they are known, to become really effective. Over time, they become gradually more trusted; they work their way into deeper information access from more sensitive sources. NOCs are generally regarded in the community as among the best and most valuable of all CIA operations officers and the agency goes to great lengths to protect them in what are frequently very risky missions.

By definition, Valerie Plame was an NOC. Yet unlike all other NOCs who fear exposure and torture or death from hostile governments and individual targets who have been judged threats to the United States, she got done in by her own President, whom we also judge to be a domestic enemy of the United States.

Moreover, as we will see below, Valerie Plame may have been one of the most important NOCs the CIA had in the current climate."


Blown wide open

I'm not sure I'm optimistic as this guy is about the results, but this article at From The Wilderness lays out the chain of events and various malfeasences surrounding the Plame affair pretty nicely.

Take with grain of salt, as with everything I link to, but there's some good info there, for example:

"Willing disclosure of the identity of a covert operative is a serious felony under Federal law, punishable by fine and/or imprisonment. The Intelligence Identities Protection Act of 1982 makes it a crime for anyone with access to classified information to intentionally disclose information identifying a covert operative. The penalties get worse for doing it to a deep cover Direcorate of Operations (DO) case officer (as opposed to an undercover DEA Agent)."

This guy specializes in actually doing the research and looking into what's on the books and in the press versus what people say, and the article (while long) is pretty urgent & key.


Why I still read NME

They refer to that new Beastie Boys single as a "broken-brained howl of retarded joy".

...and it's a compliment.


Not as geeky

I'm terribly pleased that I only have one song from this list, and that's the Magnetic Fields' unimpeachable "100,000 Fireflies" (which is even better when done by Superchunk).


So geeky

Ultimate Roleplaying Purity Score
CategoryYour ScoreAverage
Enjoys the occasional head-lopping
Sensitive Roleplaying62.03%
Will talk after everyone important's been killed
GM Experience69.57%
Ran a module once or twice
Systems Knowledge87.15%
Played in a couple of campaigns
Livin' La Vida Dorka66.67%
Goes nuts on the weekends
You are 71.64% pure
Average Score: 68.6%


Broken glass tablets

This fine morning finds my Sixtoo review up at Stylus.


I love updates

Just downloaded Firefox 0.9, as a few people had let me know it was up. It's very shiny.

Sunday, June 20, 2004 

On time and in tune

New journal entry, if you know me you may want to read it (it's got some, whaddayacallem, ramifications).

Saturday, June 19, 2004 

Don't shoot me, please

I've just learned Keanu Reeves is playing the cop/junkie role in the film adaption of Dick's A Scanner Darkly, one of his finest works.

Now, I'm as aghast about Reeves playing John Constantine as anyone, but if directed well, his flatness of affect might actually work for A Scanner Darkly. I'm afraid the movie will probably be horrible anyway, but at least this time it won't be Keanu's fault.

Ooh, looking more deeply it's animated and Richard (Slacker, Waking Life) Linklater is directing and adapting it. This could be quite good, actually - anyone who's seen Linklater's PKD story at the end of Waking Life can tell he's a fan. And if you poke around on the official Philip K. Dick site, it's going to be animated Waking Life style! I take it back! This is awesome!

So now I'm looking forward to two movies next year: Serenity (the Firefly movie) and A Scanner Darkly. Dick's kids say they believe it will be "the very first faithful adaptation of a Philip K. Dick story". Awesome.

Friday, June 18, 2004 

Not a sweet young lady

Reason #1 why I love Nellie McKay, and why you should read this Onion interview with her:

"I just think politics is a form, en masse, of human relations."


Our old singer is a sex criminal

Madonna is changing her name to Esther in an attempt to distance herself from her old antics. Cute.

Thursday, June 17, 2004 

No response necessary

The New York Review of Books has a go at Troy:

"There is nothing at all wrong with toying with Homeric or epic characters and story lines: the classical canon is full of works that do just that... This is why, although Benioff makes some startling innovations to myth as we know it—beginning with the deaths of Menelaus and Ajax during the first major engagement between the Greeks and Trojans, and ending with the murder of Agamemnon during the Sack of Troy, all of which demises wreak havoc with the extant tragic canon—it's pointless to criticize Troy on the grounds that it's not "faithful" to the text of Homer, as so many critics have done...

The real problem with Petersen and Benioff's reductive ideological updating of the epic story they tell is organic, not pedantic: the "realism" they've opted for goes against the grain of the genre they're working in. For one thing, the authors' jettisoning of Homeric codes of behavior makes a hash of much of the characters' actions... A lot of the action of Troy, which blindly follows much of the epic cycle's plot while providing none of the epic motivations, feels similarly hollow."

I'm not looking to start an argument again (no, seriously), but anyone wanting to understand why I thought it was a bad adaption but not because it was "unfaithful" to the plot should read this article.


I love being Canadian

Interesting article about the increase in use of British slang in the US media. The reason it's interesting is that most if not all of the words and phrases mentioned are regularly used up here, and we don't think they're weird at all ("univeristy", "go missing", "called" instead of "named", etc).



I'm not saying everything here is good, but many of us could do far worse than to take a few tip from the Rat Pack.


Wednesday's Emotional Setup: "Heroes"

And you, you can be mean
And I, I'll drink all the time

I recently did the third of my four articles on the Berlin-era Bowie albums. Since this one was on my favorite Bowie album ever, "Heroes" (don't forget the quotation marks, on either album or song), it was remarkably easy to write, and I've had a number of nice comments on it. The best, though, was a lengthy one from a poster called capnandtennile. The article is here if you'd like to read them yourself, but the part of their comment that relates to ""Heroes"" itself is this:

I think Mr. Mathers is right to point out the 'slightly camp spin' on some of the tracks, which certainly hints at glam rock. But what really reveals that "Heroes" is not just a glam record, but in fact the culmination of glam, is how often and how well it confronts the problem and paradox of glam rock: the puzzling simultaneity of authenticity and pretense that we find in both art and life. Everyone who loves pop music knows that even deliberately theatrical songs like 'Time' (from Aladdin Sane) are not only theater. When Bowie sings 'I look at my watch, it says 9:25/and I think oh God! I'm still alive' in the middle of his cabaret act, one can't help think that at that instant theater is only a medium for the expression of emotion; like an opaque membrane that separates us from a bright light, which, at certain points of intensity, becomes momentarily transparent, and allows us to be dazzled by what lies behind it. This, of course, is not to say that this membrane can ever be broken, or that theater can ever actually be done away with. All of this brings us to the title track, which deliberately puts 'heroes' in quotation marks. The song has a tragic and heroic force to it that most listeners don't think to look beyond. But the lyrics suggest that perhaps we shouldn't be taking these 'heroes' (the lovers in the song) very seriously. Bowie has pointed out this too-often-ignored element in interviews: the topic of the song is really a pair of alcoholic lovers. 'Heroes' indeed. The title track, then, walks the line between authenticity and pretense--a line that has become very thin. These alcoholic lovers have no right to talk about dolphins and guns and kings and queens and expect us to think that they're anything more than alcoholic lovers--a fact that they recognize. And yet we still believe the narrator when he says 'we can be heroes'. How can this be? If the quotation marks around 'heroes' are meant to suggest, as Mr. Mathers writes, that Bowie is now 'purely human', we must conclude that this only means that he has a deeper relation to pretense than he ever did when he was playing a role like Ziggy Stardust, Aladdin Sane, or the Thin White Duke; if there is such a thing as the 'purely human', it is a sequence of 'pretense' and 'authenticity' that shakes the division between the two and collapses them into one another: the sublime climax of '"Heroes"'.

What a wonderful piece of writing! As I mention in the comments section, I don't think this is oppositional to what I had already wrote about ""Heroes"", but rather strengthens it. I hadn't realised how much emphasis was to be put on the couplet quoted at the top of this entry, but with that force in place, I think ""Heroes"" demonstrates the effect capnandtennile writes about even more forcefully. I had already had it in my mind, although this was not explored in the article (since I tried to give the songs equal time rather than focusing on the title track too much) that ""Heroes"" itself was a sort of a parody of a love song, and yet the fact remains that the parodic elements do not detract from the crushing force of the emotion of Bowie's performance. Listen to his voice crack at 3:16 of the full version, and try to deny that, drunks aside, ""Heroes"" is a love song, and a sincere one.

[NB. The above challenge is a rhetorical one, and not directed, for example, at capnandtennile - I am sure he/she already knows what is really going on]

And the guns shot above our heads
And we kissed
As though nothing could fall
And the shame was on the other side

I'm not sure how much further I should try to explicate the contrast and bond between the theatrical/parodical and the emotional/genuine sides of ""Heroes""; I get the sense that either you already get it when you hear the song, or no amount of theorizing will suffice. I will say that when in my review I referred to it as "one of the great romantic rock songs of all time", the fact that it walks this careful line and employs Brechtian alienation (for what else can you call the fact that it calls attention to the falseness, the theatricality of its love story in order to improve our aesthetic experience of it?) in such a skillful way is definitely a large part of what I was referring to. The love depicted in ""Heroes"" is doomed on several levels, first of all because it is purely fictional, secondly because even if Bowie was the alcoholic lover of the story, the things he sings about are purely fictional, invented, and lastly because even if neither of these were true, we are not hearing the love, the relationship, we are hearing a moment frozen in time. The song is older than I am, after all.

But let's look a little closer at maybe the two most important lines in the whole song, already excerpted above: "And we kissed / As though nothing could fall". These lines, for those with the liner notes to look over, but without access to the interview in which Bowie reveals that he is intending to depict two alcoholics, point the way into the dual nature of the song (most/all songs have this dual nature, of course, it is merely part of Bowie's particular genius that he exposes it in an artful and affecting fashion).

If you first hear ""Heroes"" out of context, on the radio or something similar, those lines sound like the height of the romantic myth side of the song. It sounds like a positive sentiment, "as though nothing could fall" sounds like a good thing, one of those "nothing can tear down our love" moments.

As soon as you look over the liner notes, note the recording location and read the lyrics, I think your attention will be drawn to the line just before the ones mentioned above: "we were standing by the wall". They are in Berlin. In 1977. It doesn't take much historical knowledge to figure out that they are kssing in front of the Berlin Wall (in fact, that is such an ingrained part of my experience of the song that I was quite surprised to note that "wall" isn't capitalized in the notes, and that people might not realise which wall is being referred to).

So now, "as though nothing could fall" takes on a wholly different feel, becoming a sentiment of despair rather than strength - which is, in a nutshell, how your experience of the rest of the song can change when you realise what is really going on. And then it changes back again, of course, because what's "really going on" doesn't matter in the face of the emotion Bowie puts into his performance, in the fact of that wonderous backing whoosh provided by Fripp, in the face of that crack in Bowie's voice. Which is why that may just be the single best/defining moment in all of Bowie's discography.

I, I will be king
And you, you will be queen
Though nothing will drive them away
We can be Heroes, just for one day
We can be us, just for one day


Wednesday, June 16, 2004 

Maybe I'm cynical but....

Here's something else that probably won't be listened to: No "credible evidence" of link between Iraq and 9/11, US commission says.


News flash

Wow, a bunch of retired generals and diplomats have condemned Bush's foreign policy as "ideological and callously indifferent". What a surprise - but do you think they'll be listened to?

Tuesday, June 15, 2004 

Following up

I mentioned in my last Stylus top ten that I don't like Leo Strauss or his work, but if you're wondering why (or even if not) you need to read this article. Very well done.


Son of wacky spam

Today, this subject line turns up in my junk mail folder: "spencerian courtesan blood". There's no way I can ignore that, so I open it to find it's offering me ways to "unleash the power" of my digital cable (which I don't have), but there's also this block of text at the bottom:

"A few shadows, and dust bunny for fairy to arrive at a state of tea party. A few brides, and earring around cashier to arrive at a state of chess board. Unlike so many bodice rippers who have made their radioactive wheelbarrow to us. Where we can barely conquer our skyscraper. For example, widow inside indicates that living with senator caricature toward bowling ball. Unlike so many fetishists who have made their ghastly piroshki to us.
chorale guyana synergistic shagbark acid"

That's just beautiful.


Get me off the streets

Part 3 of my Bowie extravaganza is now up.

Monday, June 14, 2004 

Legal Eagle

So K. just gave me a call - she's done the LSAT. She says she feels pretty good about how it went, but I think she probably absolutely slaughtered it.


And it's up

New journal entry, ribbed for your pleasure.


Bases loaded

New review by me up at Stylus today, on Royal City. I'm working on a journal entry as we speak.

Sunday, June 13, 2004 


Aaron's been writing a bit about his training today (which I, at least, find pretty fascinating), and he ends off his most recent post with this:

"Which is why it annoys you when someone, upon finding out you 'know karate' raises their fists and maybe even throws a half-hearted punch or kick at you."

Do people actually do that? Are these the same type of people as that asshole who killed Houdini, or what?

Saturday, June 12, 2004 

Man beats horse

In a race, that is. For the first time in 25 years, a human has won the Man versus Horse race in Llanwrtyd Wells, Wales.


Right on

Ron Reagan Jr. would like you to stop comparing Bush to his dad, please. Very good article, worth watching the mandatory ad for. Some highlights:

"My father had decades of experience in public life. He was president of his union, he campaigned for presidential candidates, he served two terms as governor of California -- and that was not a ceremonial office as it is in Texas. And he had already run for president, against Ford in '76, nearly unseating the sitting president in his own party. He knew where he was coming from, he had spent years thinking and speaking about his views. He didn't have to ask Dick Cheney what he thought.

Sure, he wasn't a technocrat like Clinton. But my father was a man -- that's the difference between him and Bush. To paraphrase Jack Palance, my father crapped bigger ones than George Bush."

"Now ignorance is one thing, ignorance can be cured. But many of the Republican leaders opposing [stem-cell] research know better, people like [Senate Majority Leader] Bill Frist, who's a doctor, for God's sake. People like him are blocking it to pander to the 20 percent of their base who are mouth-breathers."

Friday, June 11, 2004 

Before I forget

Last night I headed over to Jer's to watch Brian's copy of the Firefly DVDs, which he had kindly lent Jer. Jacklin managed to head over a little later too.

Now, I was very resistant to the hype for this show. All these geeks running around with frothing mouths masturbating frantically to the very thought of a new Joss Whedon show (NB. none of my friends or people I know personally are to be included in that description) did not exactly make me excited about the show. I figured they were all blowing things out of proportion, until Jer and Brian started talking about how good it was.

And it is. Words fail me. I've only seen the (90 minute) pilot and one other episode, and by half an hour in I knew Fox was insane for mistreating this show so bad. If you like good TV, even if you don't normally like science fiction, westerns, or whatever, you owe it to yourself to check those DVDs out. Whedon and co. could do a lot worse than try some sort of Marillion approach; get us all to pre-order a new DVD and chip in $50 or so each (because we would, once we'd seen the show) to make more content. Something like that needs to happen - at least Homicide got a good run, this one was strangled in its crib.

Thursday, June 10, 2004 

So what?

Morrissey says onstage he wishes Bush had died instead of Reagan and there's controversy? That's kind of sad.

Wednesday, June 09, 2004 

I'm melting

Today at it's height the temperature was 29 degrees, and with humidity it felt more like 39 (not pulling that out of my ass, the weather said it too).

Too. Fucking. Hot. I want cold again.


Get out the vote

Gord (Malicious) sent me over a damn good quiz: go here if you're not sure who to vote here. You shouldn't just vote for the "winner", but it's a start.

Unsurprisingly, I got a score of 100 from the NDP.


And yet I hate the stuff

What Flavour Are You? Buzz buzz, I am Coffee flavoured.Buzz buzz, I am Coffee flavoured.

I am popular in the workplace, even though I am often bitter. I am energetic to the point of being frenetic; buzz buzz, out of my way. I tend to overwork myself and need periods of recovery time. What Flavour Are You?


Legalize pot

Who says so? The Fraser Insitute, a "right-wing think tank". Why? To save money.



The story is one thing, but the headline of one of today's BBC stories goes like this:

Pakistani troops 'kill militants'.

What's with the ''s?

I know they're using them because they're quoting another source, but it just looks weird.


Wednesday's Emotional Setup: Red Stone Sun

Scannerfunk only put out one album. Well, more accurately, Robin Rimbaud (aka Scanner) only used the moniker Scannerfunk for one album, Wave Of Light By Wave Of Light. But it was brilliant - thick, rich techno that balanced perfectly evolution and repetition and only had a few vestiges of his stolen cell-phone conversation past. I recently dug it back out again, and it's just as good if not better than I remember. For whatever reason it's always seemed like more of summer album to me, and I've always had trouble really getting into it when it's cold.

Of course, given that I hate summer these days (I loathe the heat and the humidity), that doesn't say much for the album, but it's great, trust me.

"Red Stone Sun" is a highlight; not quite up there with "Spinique" for headspinning whirl, but very similar in impact up to a point. The dry, busy percussion track that underpins "Red Stone Sun" is similar although slower to the one that drives "Spinique", and is in fact identical to the one used in "Ice That Abandons Me". And yet, I don't care - and this is something that would normally drive me nuts. That's how good the album is. "Red Stone Sun" definitely feels different than either other track, and that has more to do with Rimbaud's skills for arrangement and construction than anything else - I'm pretty sure he could have used the same beat all album and still made a good one.

"Red Stone Sun" opens with a watery, quasi-dub piano(?) bit before the treated/artificial drum loop comes in, while behind it all some woman mutters the words "shiny, shiny". She recurs a couple of times during the track, as does some guy muttering something illegible. Scannerfunk may no longer use the famous scanner, but Rimbaud still excels at dropping in bits of speech (see, from the album, especially "I Am Calm" and "Automatic"). But it's what happens next that really makes the song.

First a low drone putters around the edges of that occasionally stuttering beat, and then at 1:23 the strings come in. They sound off in the distance, the kind of oceanic, mournful mass strings that always sound to me like dark shapes gliding through space, sad but somehow hopeful. Trying to describe them is making me think seriously about trying out this audioblogging thing, so you could just hear them - it'd be far more effective.

In any case, the beat and the dubbed out gurgle in the background keep going as the strings ever so slowly get slightly more prominent until they finally are the focus of the track. Like the beat they don't really change, just flow effortlessly into a looped sequence. If you wanted to pick "Red Stone Sun" apart there wouldn't be much there, just a few repeated parts that are added in and faded out with skill (by 4:15 you suddenly realise that the beat is gone, the piano barely there).

By the song's beatless ending at 5:28, the strings have finally progressed fully into hope and have then slid to a graceful halt, leaving the same watery sound to end the track. As I said, if you pick it apart there's ostensibly not much there - but if you pick it apart, you're missing the point. It's more than the sum of it's parts, as is all of Wave Of Light By Wave Of Light. There's a line from an old NME review of Death In Vegas that often occurs to me when thinking about instrumental songs:

or 'Neptune City''s deceptively sprightly brass-parping finale, a song that says, shakily, as only instrumentals can, "Well we got there in the end, didn't we? And wasn't it bloody marvellous?"

I know what they're talking about, both in terms of "Neptune City" and other songs. "Red Stone Sun" is a bit more sombre than that, but it does get there in the end, and it is bloody marvelous.


Tuesday, June 08, 2004 

Massive oops

I've been meaning to get to this for the last few days, and I'm ahead of myself tonight, so might as well do it now.

Some time ago I made a hasty error, although one that's understandable. Re-reading the quotation from Standing I can't actually disagree with it. What happened was I was reading things into the context of his article that weren't there. How do I know this? He emailed me!


Just thought I'd offer a quick response to your comments on my Butterflies & Wheels article ('A mounted knight attacking a creampuff').

Firstly, I wouldn't say I'm solidly behind B&W either! I find the site interesting, and it's good to find a forum for views contrary to the current academic 'orthodoxy' of postmodernism / poststructuralism, but I think it leans too much towards oversimplification and a naive faith in Enlightenment rationalism. I am with Critical Theory insofar as it unveils the pretentions of those who claim to be speaking with cool objectivity, but I take my leave of it when it moves from what I regard as valid scepticism into an extreme anti- foundationalism - denying a priori all attempts to view objective truth or reality as possible, or denying that there is any requirement to take science seriously when discussing issues such as gender and sexuality (biology must be taken into account).

Secondly, I would like to defend the statement you quote as being perfectly reasonable, not as a moral or ideological comment, but merely as a statement of a logically sound position. I'm not sure what a middle ground between Butler and my argument would be, as my argument in the section quoted has little to do with what Butler has to say on the matter. I was, in this section, specifically referring to Kate Bornstein and Sandy Stone's views, which centre on transsexuality, a topic Butler barely touches upon. The point that I was making here was not that there is anything *wrong* with a relationship between two transsexuals, but that one cannot build a denaturalising critique of gender and sexuality on such a relationship. I'm sure you will agree that the transsexual body is not 'natural' (again, not a value judgement, but a statement of fact), if 'natural' is taken to mean 'given' as opposed to humanly created. The transsexual has a body that has been surgically and hormonally altered into another state than which originally developed. This body is not therefore a 'natural' body, but rather an 'alien' one - it simply would not exist without our humanmade technology. My point here is that queer theory seeks to problematise or denaturalise sexuality, particularly heterosexuality. Some of the queer theory arguments are convincing, others, such as the Bornstein-Stone ones far less, for they use as evidence examples of relationship that could not occur 'naturally'. Same sex sexual attraction challenges the notion that heterosexuality is simply 'natural', but attraction between two humanly (physically) constructed persons does not challenge the idea that the dominant forms of gendered and sexual behaviour
are actually 'natural'.

Thirdly, I note that you speak of my article as an attempt at 'tackling a topic as rich and complex as ... sexuality'. To be fair to my article, it was largely based on critiquing gender theory, not theories of sexuality, although they are of course inseparable.

Right... Now a little background info: I was formerly a great disciple of Butler and her ilk, and enthusiastically embraced queer theory at undergraduate level. Then shortly before undertaking my MA, I read Sokal and Bricmont's book Fashionable Nonsense which led to a far more critical response to postmodern/poststructuralist theory. A term into my MA I wrote the article you now see on B&W (and Sokal and Bricmont's reactionary style had clearly rubbed off on me at that point), but it was at the time an essay for the course. I'm not entirely happy with the tone or scope of the piece, but have become so tired of dubious postmodern theory being credulously accepted as sound scholarship that I decided to offer it to B&W, as I could find nothing of a similar nature on the net (with the exception of Martha Nussbaum's excellent piece on Butler), and wanted to encourage critical thinking primarily at the undergraduate level.

I am ambivalent about having that article on B&W. I naively hoped to provide a critical yet accessible contribution to the queer theory debate, but the piece has so far been championed primarily by conservative and right-wing sites, including, to my shame, Free Republic. I stand diametrically opposed to the Right, yet my piece obviously appeals to them as they think it is a critique by one who agrees with their narrow worldview. If I were to write the piece again, I would use more sober language and make clear that I do not espouse conservatism, homophobia, or any other crap like that, but rather that I am calling for clearer and more critical thinking in gender/sex/sexuality theory.

It may interest you to know that my personal position is actually situated *within* the queer movement. I self-identify as queer (a position in which one denies the fixed nature of sexual desire, akin to bisexuality), but I'm not willing to use silly arguments such as can be found in some Theory circles to back up my philosophical standpoint and sexual 'identity'. I do not completely reject the insights of Butler, Kroker & Kroker et al (they do have *some*!), in fact, ironically, I have made use of some of their work in another, recently published article of mine, but find much of what they say to be intellectually weak. We can't build a countercultural movement against restrictive gender and sexuality norms using easily refuted claims, such as are found criticised in my B&W article.

Anyway, I hope this reponse has been of some interest, and clarified my views and standpoint. If you would be willing to reproduce this reponse to your comments on your blog, that would be most appreciated. If not, I quite understand.

Best wishes,

Edmund Standing"

Not only will I post his email here, but I feel the need for a public apology; he points out where I confused Butler with Kate Bornstein and Sandy Stone (which was just a dumb mistake), but he also lucidly and civilly points out where I have misinterpreted him (as he mentions, I'm far from the first, although I think he over-estimates how disapproving his original article was - I thought it was good if a bit reactionary, which he mentions here). The reason I have put certain sections of the email in bold is because I feel those sections, especially (but also the letter as a whole) are things I have felt myself or agree with to the utmost degree - I literally could not have said them better myself. As it is, once I read this email I figured out pretty early on that the two of us are, as it were, on the same side. I also agree that the Right's contention that there is debate among leftist academics therefore the right is correct is purely sickening. Standing has my condolences at having a good piece of work ill-used. "calling for clearer and more critical thinking in gender/sex/sexuality theory" is what I was trying to do as well, and I'm more than a little shamed that I misunderstood him so badly - his work deserves better than that. I have read B&W before, and have noticed things there tend towards the reactionary/conservative, but it was wrong of me to have allowed that prejudice to colour my reaction to the article.

I urge anyone interested in what we're talking about here to at least check out the Nussbaum link - that essay, "The Professor of Parody", is just excellent. Standing also passed along a link to an abstract of one of his recent articles, which looks really interesting. Apologies again to Edmund for the sloppy misinterpretation (well, this is a fairly casual blog), and to quote my letter back to him, "if every author I have wronged in this fashion bothered to write such a cogent and intelligent clarification without resorting to snideness my world, at least, would be a much better, more interesting place."

Monday, June 07, 2004 

Belated, like always (so is it belated?)

New journal entry up.

Saturday, June 05, 2004 

I want my flying car

But nooooo... instead of jetpacks and monkey butlers, the future brings us invisible pain beams. In the hands of the US military. Great.

Warren Ellis is usually good reading, but as you can see from the fact that he's the one who originally linked to both this story and the dozer one below, today he's on a roll.


Brings back fond memories of Battle Bull

Some guy in Colorado goes crazy, bulldozes most of town's main street. Film at eleven. Actually, the video that the news story links to is worth watching, if only to show how much worse US TV news is than print news.


That's it

Can we please print this out and start distributing it across the US? Sounds like ol' Bush is pulling a Smiler (Aaron and Jer know what I mean). Utterly, utterly terrifying. A sample:

"President George W. Bush’s increasingly erratic behavior and wide mood swings has the halls of the West Wing buzzing lately as aides privately express growing concern over their leader’s state of mind."

Friday, June 04, 2004 

How to create words

New review by yours truly up at Stylus.

Thursday, June 03, 2004 

Right on

I don't know if any of you read my piece on "I Am Trying To Break Your Heart", but Nick Southall's excellent piece on the new Nick Drake odds n' sods collection is a really good look at the type of mythmaking I was talking about.


Fucking disgusting

I'm almost used to the fact that in North America actors, athletes and the like get paid obscenely higher amounts than teachers (that doesn't mean I like it). But now I learn that, in America at least, a second job is a necessity (it's only slightly better up here, I think). If we're paying orthodontists $350,000 a year, why the hell are teachers getting shafted?


Rassum frassum

There was no column yesterday because I forgot/was drinking/couldn't think of anything I wanted to write about. Sorry. Next week it'll be back to normal.

Wednesday, June 02, 2004 

More politics

I'm voting NDP in this election, but it's interesting to watch the numbers start to slide away from the Liberals and towards the new Conservative Party. Stephen Harper has certainly been active recently, and in ways that annoy me far less than the Conservatives tend to. The most effective right-wing leader in Canada in recent memory? Seems that way. It's deeply unhealthy for this country to operate under de facto one-party rule (as we have been for the last decade or more), so I can't say I'm all that upset about the poll numbers, either.


Oh no he didn't

Oh yes he did:

Bush: War on terror 'like WWII'



I'd seen something about the procedure before (probably on Die Puny Humans), but when my bro sent me this article, but the first person not from the Netherlands to get one of these newfangled cosmetic eye implants, I had to post it.

Doesn't mean the concept skeeves me out any less, though. I find it about as disturbing as eyelid piercings. In other words, do whatever you want to your own body, but keep those tools the fuck away from mine.

Tuesday, June 01, 2004 

Stupid ocean

Bands playing Glastonbury this year that I would like to see, copy and pasted from the NME:

* DOGS DIE IN HOT CARS (because of Bill Swygart, obviously)


Don't drink and make music

New review up at Stylus, but the album is really bad.

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial Share Alike 2.5 Canada License.

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.

Contact Me:
imathers at gmail dot com

My profile
Powered by Blogger
and Blogger Templates