Saturday, July 31, 2004 


"Vatican attacks radical feminism"

You really only need to read that headline to know it's gonna be bad. And it is.

Friday, July 30, 2004 


Oh man, you want to talk about canonization of music? Talk to this guy, brought to us by A&L Daily. Man, he just does. Not. Get. It.

I mean, yes, I too like albums and concerts and listening to music in what this guy would call the "proper" context. But just because that's a good way to listen to music it does not follow (at all) that any other way is bad. I'm sorry classical music is doing bad and all (and the Walkman may well have contributed), but that doesn't mean portable, relatively lo fi music is bad. Jeeze. Anyone who says "I shall mourn an art that was ripped from its rightful place and reduced in moral worth" is,in my humble opinion, talking out of their ass.


The Floating World: Slippery People

There is probably no greater mistake (and if I'm about to beat a dead horse, well, we all have to start somewhere) commonly made by people who write about art than the assumption of a canon. I think this is true for people writing about any form of art (which we can call "critics", although that's problematic for its own reasons), and I think it's true for general reasons that can be mapped out to each form, but I want to focus just on the art form that I would rank highest and thus prefer to write about: music.

One thing that music enthusiasts do often, whether they write about it or not, is react badly when they find someone they like/love/respect/want to impress hasn't heard a particular album, song or artist. Such a reaction can come from the very basest motives we can assign such a person (their assumption that to "properly" appreciate or talk about a given subset of music we must first hear a given work) or from the very best; of course, I prefer to believe that the actions of myself and people I like stem from the latter (and let me emphasize that such statements are not j'accuse so much as je m'accuse, if you'll pardon my French; typically the only way I understand a failing well enough to criticize it is to have indulged in it myself at times).

In this case, rather than a sense of propriety or self-righteousness (because if there is anything such a person feels while becoming outraged that you haven't heard _____, or worse still, that you have and that you don't agree with them, it is that poisonously enjoyable sensation of moral superiority and ineluctable correctness that can only provide temporary pleasure and lasting shame), the fan in question is temporarily struck dumb not out of a feeling of ghastliness, of something wrong with the natural order, but rather a feeling of excitement. You want to grab the person by the hand and drag them to the nearest stereo or computer so that they, as well, can partake in this wonderful sound you've found and loved. It is no less dissappointing in those cases when the lucky recipient simply isn't moved as you are (and I've been on both sides of this equation more than I'd like), but hopefully most of us have the grace not to take it personally.

But why does it sting? What is actually happening when you pull someone along in your wake, and throw on (say) Stop Making Sense (the proper version, with 17 tracks) and skip right to "Slippery People"? For "Slippery People" is not only the first time on the record that Talking Heads slip fully into what we might call their funk mode, but it boasts the records first (only?) moment of what you might call punctum; that astonishing moment, just before the end, where the sound levels go way up, a single colossal massed percussion thump halts the band, and David Byrne, Lynn Mabry and Ednah Holt scream out, similarly overamped, "ALL RIGHT!"

Listening to the album for the first time, on headphones, and unwarned, you might actually be scared by the explosion for a second; it sounds as if the song is going to continue to rise precipitously in volume and rage until it swallows you. Instead, even though the three continue to chant out half of the call-and-response of the chorus and continue to be announced by a single drum stomp, the volume subsides back to its previous levels immediately after that one line.

What does it sound like? It sounds like David Byrne has seen the future, has seen that the non-American music he loves will continue to be co-opted (as, yes, Byrne himself and Talking Heads have done), as if he already regrets making My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts despite its excellence, because it will forever remain the record that helped spur on the "safe" way for white boys (and girls) to listen to foreign ideas, defanged (not so much in Byrne's work, but that way lies Graceland and much worse) and declawed, as if Byrne can already see the collapse of whatever ambitions he may have harboured to usher in a new age.

Of course, that's just how it sounds to me; the more I write, the more I think what I've said in my piece on "I Am Trying To Break Your Heart" (the first section in particular) is a kind of Rosetta Stone that should be applied to all my work.

So this version of "Slippery People" is exciting, whatever interpretation you put on it, but what does it mean to me when I drag you into my room and hit play?

Even more so than when exposing someone to a record out of a sense of rectitude, when you play someone a record you love out of pure joy (which, of course, prefers company as much as misery does), you are hoping that they feel the same way that you do. This is a very personal thing, and so no matter how tactfully your subject may choose to frame it, it can be hard not to experience their differance of opinion as a form of rejection. And as a culture, we are not terribly good at rejection.

I don't think any of that is particularly profound or insightful, but I also don't think we've progressed to the point where reasserting the obvious is necessarily a waste of time. I do want to draw a connection here to canonicity, though.

If there is a canon, then rejection of your self via rejection of the art you love is a non-issue (it already partially is, since in many cases this is only imagined to be going on rather than actually occurring). Instead of a judgement being passed on you, there is now a judgement being passed on the person who is being exposed to the music, or who hasn't been for their lack of exposure. There is now a standard of right and wrong, and you clearly are on the correct side of the line (after all, how many conscious or unconscious believers in the canon believe they're on the wrong side of it?). You can safely dismiss those who cannot see "reason" as merely wrong, with as much or as little malice as you'd like.

Which brings us to Chris Ott. Or rather, it doesn't, not quite. Ott has been a hobbyhorse of mine ever since his A.R.E. Weapons review (complete with the sentiment that "there's definitely bad music"), which might generously be called a tad unfair. But, wait - Ott isn't another canon builder trying to shore up the critical line on his favorite records (although an obsession with finding some sort of objective truth about the music he writes about does stream through his work); he's a good fucking writer with some muddled ideas. And even worse, even though I have a few of the songs from that disc and enjoy them, Ott can't just be shrugged off (he never can); he's located too precisely the problematic aspects of A.R.E. Weapons and this album. He's taking it far too personally (Vonnegut's famous line about a mounted knight attacking a cream puff comes to mind again), and he's, I think, neglecting to really examine whether the songs are any good above and beyond these other issues, but he's not just disappearing up his own arse.

In fact, when Ott gets savage, you can see sparks fly. It's good writing with, to be crude, bad thought behind it, because Ott is primarily concerned with judgement. For this same reason, his positive reviews (particularly nearer the extreme edge of the spectrum) feel either vaguely empty or strangely negative; I'm not doubting the sincerity of his commitment to the music he loves, but without something to tear down, Ott's writing rings slightly hollow. He's a slippery person himself; it's possible to read him while simultaneously marvelling at how entertaining he is and wishing he'd get over his own style.

But if I'm right, if that desire to pass judgement is what's holding him back (and again, the reason Ott is worth reading and writing about and the many, many writers out there who are superficially similar to him are not is because of his skill and verve, whereas most canon defenders are at best boring when writing about music (yes, yes, Nick Hornby, although to be fair his novels have their moments)), then what do we do? What does a record critic (I told you the title was problematic) do if not criticize?

My response, perhaps unsurprisingly, is to quote somebody. In this case, Anthony Lane, who's Nobody's Perfect I am re-reading right now. He's talking about movies, but I think it's got much wider implications than that. It's possible that there's a better critic than Lane, about anything, but if so I haven't read them:

Of all the duties required of the professional critic, perhaps the least important - definitely the least enduring - is the delivery of a verdict. I am always sorry to hear that readers were personally offended, even scandalized, that my opinion of a film diverged from theirs. I wish I could convince them that I am merely starting an argument, as everyone does after dinner, or in a crowded bar, after going to see a film, and that their freedom to disagree is part of the fun. The primary task of the critic... is the recreation of texture - not telling moviegoers what they should see, which is entirely their prerogative, but filing a sensory report on the kind of experience into which they will be wading, or plunging, should they decide to risk a ticket.

I'm sure the parallels to music are clear. In both arts, of course, these days you don't necessarily have to risk money to experience them, but who has the time to experience it all? I believe criticism has a function above and beyond just recommending given works, believe that when written well enough it becomes art in its own right, but I don't deny that reading a good piece of criticism should clue you in to whether you will like it.

Not, crucially, whether you should like it. And that's where, for me, Ott fails - I can count on his work being entertaining, fascinating, even exciting at times, but he tries so hard to pass judgment that it winds up being useless for me as an evaluative tool. I can tell what he thinks, but there's no room to figure out what I might think.

Which doesn't mean, of course, that we can in any practical fashion write our reviews with a vocabulary that avoids judgement, nor should we want this. But both writer and reader should have it firmly in mind that however much the task of evaluating art gives the illusion of canon building, there is such a multiplicity of works - and thus multiplicity of canons, in practical terms - that if there really was one "real" canon no one human being could ever grasp it - and we shouldn't pretend we have. All of our judgements are up for revision, whether ours or others. Whether writers or fans, we pick and choose which records to give our time too, and the fact that we can never get them all shouldn't worry us. Oh, it sends some to despair and others into acquisitive frenzy, but for the rest of us, just finding some works that really resonate, that fulfill certain functions in our life, should be enough. The goal of criticism is to attempt to both express how this happens to you, and to try to help others in their pursuit of this sort of fulfillment; but if you get out of someone else what I get out of Talking Heads, or you get out of Low what I get out of "Heroes", who cares? That just means each work is ripe for good, human(e) writing done by someone who truly loves it, and that for me is the finest type to read, and to write.

Thursday, July 29, 2004 

Almost forgot

My Pink Grease review went up today.


Say it ain't so

The War Against Silence has four weeks left. I hope Glenn chooses to continue to write about music, or anything else, in a public forum, but I'll understand if he doesn't. There's over nine years of archives, I've read them all, and all are worthy of your attention.



Reading the new, highly valuable post from Marcello, I was initially leery that I might be one of his case studies. But, you know, I'd have to write about music first.



I am eating the most delicious thing ever right now, for supper. I baked up a pre-made spicy breaded chicken breast, then put it in a whole-wheat bun with thick slabs of five-year-old cheddar from Clifford and some mustard. With pink lemonade. It is unbelieveably good.

Wednesday, July 28, 2004 

It's funny 'cuz it's (not?) true

Great article at The Onion about what hopefully will never happen to me.


Reminder: Must steal this

Todd Burns' blog is pretty rad all around, but in this post he mentions something Jon Dale said that is just killer:

"Jon accurately terms him [Luke Vibert] one of the 'Four Smugmen of the IDMalypse' ([Richard D.] James, [Tom] Jenkinson and [Mike] Paradinas being the others)."

Oh, and I pretty much agree with Todd on Vibert, too.


Small stories

I think Derek Kim has gotten a pretty respectable amount of good press online for his webcomics, but he should get more: He's goooood. Try Same Difference to start; Anyone interested in good writing (Jer, I'm thinking of you, but there are others) should go read it without delay.


Zoe! ZoeZoeZoeZoeZoe!

I think I've mentioned my (Dad's) dog, Zoe, before. Well, courtesy of K., here she is.

Tuesday, July 27, 2004 

Best Song Ever (As of This Minute) Dept.

Big & Rich - "Save A Horse (Ride A Cowboy)"

"Country music without prejudice" indeed. The world needs more singles like this, and by "like this" I mean "not necessarily sounding at all the same, but with the same sense of fun".


I love _____

Excellent post on NYLPM about popism. I guess posited that way I'm a popist, although admittedly an awful lot of my leisure listening is in some way "rock".

Semi-related postscript: As much as I love his writing, I feel each time I read Marcello that if he does read this blog he must absolutely revile my taste - I'm linked there, but I have no idea what that means. Not that I feel bad about what I like (how ridiculous) or feel that he's particularly judgemental, just that an awful lot of what I like he probably thinks is crap. Which brings up an interesting problem; it may very well be true that I'd like a lot of the stuff he talks about (most of the stuff I've heard that he's mentioned I love as well, the Audio Bullys record being a prime example, although of course not for the same reasons necessarily), but how to get ahold of it? I'm not willing to spend much more money or time downloading on this sort of thing, but I still feel I'm missing something.

Of course, given how much music is out there, I'm likely to feel that way anyway.


Speaker needs food badly

There is exactly one good thing, on mitigating factor, to the fact that one of my computer speakers seems to have died for good: Black Rebel Motorcycle Club's "Rise Or Fall" sounds even trashier and thus better on just one crappy little speaker.

Still, I have no money - how will I listen to music now?

Monday, July 26, 2004 

Memory hole Dept.

Why did I never hear about what happened in Gujarat in 2002? Even if you had heard, the linked article is a pretty good exploration of what was going on.



Should have posted this on the weekend, I guess, but it wasn't until talking with K. today I remembered it; A&L Daily linked to an excellent article about "dyspraxia" and the shitty teaching in English public (ie private) schools.


Me wanty

So Alien Hominid is going to be available for all console platforms soon, eh? And it's multiplayer? Ben, you should take a look at this. Jer too.



New journal entry up. It's been a week, I tell you.

Sunday, July 25, 2004 


It struck me, while reading a recent post on the Turntable (the Stylus blog) and then following links there to read Josh Love's new blog (which is, unsurprisingly so far, excellent; Mr. Love is a damned good writer and hopefully he'll be updating this regularly), that my blog is very different from most of the ones by Stylus staff.

Let's go down the list, shall we? Music blog, online portfolio, quasi-personal blog (so, sort of like this one), music blog, mostly-music blog, music/academic articles, music blog, me, music blog, music blog, "Review WCW blog" (I don't know how else to describe it), music blog, music blog.

I feel I'm letting the side down a bit, but meh. I find the difference more interesting than anything else.

(NB: The blogs linked to from the Turntable are uniformly quite good, you should read them. Even if they are different than this one.)


Black and white

Excellent, compellingly written article here on the biggest, most tragic split the American left ever experienced - in 1964. The moral, I suppose, is shit or get off the pot - instead the Democrats compromised, and lost both groups at risk.

Friday, July 23, 2004 

I concur

Jer's right - this Alan Moore interview is well worth sitting through an ad for.

Thursday, July 22, 2004 

Academic misconduct

So Duke is claiming it's giving iPods to freshmen next year for school purposes (they'll have the academic calender on them and all that). Uh huh. And no student is going to misuse them, of course not.

If I was a second-year student at Duke I'd be really pissed about this.



Robert Wyatt is officially the best Mercury Music Prize contestent ever.


Correlation does not imply causation

Not even with file sharing. I'll keep saying it as long as people are confused about it...


Waves are universal

My Rachel Goswell review is up at Stylus.



Between visiting hours at Windsor today, K. and Ben and Caitlin and I all went out for some fresh air, and wound up at Casino Windsor (K. and I spent $1 between the two of us). I'd never been in one before, and there was something I didn't expect - the sound.

I wish I'd had a tape recorder, because a prolonged field recording of walking around the casino (the songs of the machines blurring and melding together, the clink of cash, the roar of the articifical waterfall) was pretty fucking awesome.


Good news

(have a few things to post, wasn't sure whether important thing should go first, or at top - it went first)

My maternal grandmother, contrary to what we all expected, pulled through. She's still on life support and heavily sedated, (K. and Ben and I went down to Windsor today, got back at 12:30), but she got through the operation and already some of her vitals look better. We don't want to get our hopes up too much, but it was the best news we could have gotten.

Tuesday, July 20, 2004 

The Floating World: Nite And Fog

My maternal grandmother is very badly injured right now (stable but critical, last I heard). She had a pretty awful fall on Monday night, and tomorrow K. and Ben and I are driving down to Windsor to be with the rest of the family. All five of my grandmother's kids are in the same place for only the third time in about thirty years. That's how serious this is.

Now, this Floating World is one I had planned to do since before the inaugural column (I wanted to have a few ideas on reserve), but I had a really productive day today and need to do something so I don't get too upset, and this one feels strangely appropriate right now. I'll be mostly sticking to my original point, but if I wander a bit, or get sentimental, I'm sure you understand.

I love every Mercury Rev album I own unreservedly, except for All Is Dream. I own all of them but See You On The Other Side. There are some great songs on All Is Dream, and I'm still not sure if I want to get rid of it, but something always bugged me about it. I only figured it out recently: I hate the first four songs on it.

"The Dark Is Rising" is a fine song in isolation, if a bit bathetic, but the way the beginning of All Is Dream goes from that despair to the insanity and depression of "Tides Of The Moon" and "Chains", and then especially "Lincoln's Eyes", repels me. I hate the spectral falsetto Jonathan Donahue adopts for those last three songs. I hate the air of helplessness, of mental instability that pervades them because I don't want to validate or participate in them. I don't want this to happen to Jonathan, basically

Yes, Jonathan has always been a bit fraught (Deserter's Songs got their first airing to a wall because Jonathan didn't think anyone else would be interested in what he'd written), but the beginning of All Is Dream felt too much like a capitulation. Jonathan's given in, lost it, gone over the edge to Syd-Barrett-Land and is never coming back.

But then something happens. The sun comes out. And the sun, funnily enough, is called "Nite And Fog".

After the psychodrama of "Lincoln's Eyes" and the quiescent, bowed-saw interlude between tracks, this gentle keyboard part starts up, some form of instrument (a clarinet?) plays, and Joanthan sings:

If God moves across the water
The girl moves in other ways
And I'm losing sight of either
Night and fog are my days

You cannot believe what a smile this puts on my face. Now, the lyrics in a latter-day Mercury Rev song aren't nearly as important as the delivery. Yes, "Nite And Fog" is a tale of an extremely muddled man (Jonathan of course) admitting his problems, but he finally sounds okay. He sounds happy, the track burbles along happily, there's a great chorus (and just listen to the joy in his voice as he sings "But you want it all!" each time). The feeling that pervades, crucial after the incredibly troubling opening run of All Is Dream is that everything is going to be okay. Jonathan sounds healthy again. Note the last verse:

I hope you see your ship come in
May it find you and never lose its way
But I would make a poor captain
Night and fog are my days

He's saying, yes, I know I'm not all here all the time, I know I'm fragile and I'm working on it - it's okay. Don't rely on me - I'll be fine, and you'll be fine too.

Afterwards, and this is the reason I might keep All Is Dream, things stay basically that way. Yes, "Little Rhymes" and "Spiders And Flies" are more timid than the rest of the second half of the album, but you've got "A Drop In Time" ("Let the music play like you want it to / Let the sunshine light in your hair / Let the moonlight play at your feet like a babe / And softly linger there") and "Hercules" (a powerful enough end to require separate discussion) to counteract it. Crucially, even when he's sad again, Jonathan sounds like he's got it under control, like he's aware it's not some sort of defect or flaw and that it's not always like this. The beginning of the record made me fear the first time that I was witnessing a man lose his mind on record, but if he had a period like that (which is perfectly likely, and Jonathan did once say that the making of this record was filled with snakes), he's clearly recovered again, sanity and perspective intact.

I love "Nite And Fog" all on its own, it's a beautiful example of the gorgeous pop the latter-day Rev can make, but I love it most of all for its role on the album. Every time I play All Is Dream I sit through the songs I hate, because "Nite And Fog" has that much more impact. That powerful, purely emotional kind of reassurance is a beautiful thing. Jonathan's mental states are of course conjecture on my part, but if I'm right about anything I hope it's that the sense of well-being pervading "Nite And Fog" is real.


Project cancelled

My piece on Bowie's Lodger is up at Stylus. I'm done with writing about Bowie for a while (it was fun, but those four albums are all I really have much to say about).



So apparantly your morning cup of coffee may make you forgetful:

"Valerie Lesk, of the International School for Advanced Studies in Italy, believes caffeine improves alertness by shutting down other brain pathways."

Man, I'm glad I don't like the stuff.

Monday, July 19, 2004 

Better luck next time

The fact that Germany is officially celebrating the 60th anniversary of the closest-to-successful assassination attempt on Hitler is pretty cool.


Tired. Go bed now

New journal entry up, though. Oh, and I Love 1994 starts today.

Saturday, July 17, 2004 

Fahrenheit 9/11

So I'm sitting in the workshop at my mom's place (hey, an earwig just ran up one of the computer cables!), where the PC has been temporarily relocated whilst renovations occur inside.  Tonight K., Mom and I went into town and saw Fahrenheit 9/11, which was better in some ways (i.e. mostly not as exploitative as Bowling For Columbine) than I expected, but mostly about par for the course.
What I like about the film is that is rescues all sorts of interesting facts from the memory hole that is the contemporary American press; seriously, words cannot express the contempt that the past few years have inculcated in me towards Fox as a network.  As a piece of persuasive filmmaking (and yes, that is as distinct from propaganda) it's extremely well made and affecting.  It's not going to convince the hardliners, and there were a few off moments:  Most importantly, when the mother of a dead American solider serving in Iraq is told to "Blame Al-Qaeda", no-one, not even Moore, points out that it is not Al-Qaeda who is currently fighting troops in Iraq.  Given how confused the American public is about the distinction between various Arab groups/countries/etc, this is a point we should be emphasizing more.
In any case, I still don't like Moore as a person that much (and he really needs to stop squabbling with rock stars), but he's made quite a good film, and one I can actually see Cannes awarding for artistic merit rather than just political (persuasive art is still art). Most of the debate around the film is pretty meaningless - see it for yourself and do some research. Both Mom and K. were surprised by a good 80% of the facts (and I do mean facts, not opinions presented as such, which were also thick on the ground). And neither of them are particularly unengaged with the world today.

Friday, July 16, 2004 

New boots & panties

The irreplacable Allmusic guide (see link at right) has unergone a revamp.  It happened a little while ago, but of course it was shaky at first.  Seems to be stable now, though.  All in all I think it's an improvement, except that it doesn't work with Firefox. How dumb is that?


"Monsters" of nature

Wow, they've found really big raindrops. That's kind of cool, I guess.

Wednesday, July 14, 2004 

It's true

There's a new scandal afoot at various universities - I hope it doesn't spread here.


Differences of opinion

So I'm reading this week's Time (maybe next week's newstand edition - the Ontarion has a subscription), and the letters are mostly about Clinton and his new book. Its interesting how neatly they divide along a philosophical rather than political point; you have those who believe that "transgression, suffering and humility" (to quote one letter) is how human beings mature, grow and improve, and those that believe that everything you've ever done wrong is proof that you are not a good person. Or, those that believe in the mutability of the essential self, and those who believe it's constant.

My sympathies are with the former group, and I do think Clinton did a mostly good job, but in my opinion if you are the leader of a country and you perjure yourself (even if the court in question shouldn't be asking about the subject in the first place), you should be impeached. Period.


Live from the Grad Lounge

A couple of quick links while waiting for my curry:

U.S. Senate rejects Constitutional gay marriage ban (not surprising, but still welcome)

Blair accepts responsability for Iraq intelligence failure (but, and this is why he's slightly better than Bush, the commission has found that his government didn't deliberately distort the information for political means; or, in other words, they were sloppy as opposed to malicious)


Ain't wasting time no more

My review of the recent Allman Brothers Band live album is up at Stylus.


Holy fucking shit dept.

So K. and I are watching Family Guy, and all of a sudden the thunderstorm that's been going for the past hour lets go right next to our building. No, seriously - I didn't just see the flash through our window, I saw the bolt. It's moving away now, but jeeze. How cool is that?

Tuesday, July 13, 2004 

Read what I read

This guy has written just an excellent review of Achewood (my favorite online comic? It's up there, at least). He's really nailed it.



In addition to Marcello's new blog I've also, as you may see, added the new-ish blog of my friend, the esteemable Joy, to the links. She's back in Canada now, so it only seems fair.



Also, go to K.'s site (from the sidebar, obviously), and check out of the photos. Some ones of our trip have been put up, but they're all good. Ignore any pictures with me in them - I look horrible.


Always the last to know

Continuing in the "I am dumb" vein, I did think it was odd that Marcello Carlin wasn't updating his blog that much, but it happens. Well, in this case, it's because he got a new one, and it is great. Durrr.

Monday, July 12, 2004 

Ha ha ha I suck

Yeah, so I updated the journal yesterday, but then I totally forgot to mention it here. Oops.

Sunday, July 11, 2004 

He's losing it

Apparantly now if you protest Bush, he just gives you the finger. At least he doesn't have you shot.

Friday, July 09, 2004 

Thin white duke

So David Bowie though he had a shoulder injury, turns out he needed heart surgery. He's recovering well though, thank goodness.


Read, damnit

No, seriously. Yes, it's a study about the States rather than Canada, but I doubt it's much better up here.


Best thing ever dept.

Spiderman vs. Doctor Octopus - Lego style.

Wednesday, July 07, 2004 

The horrible truth about Burma

My Mission of Burma review is up today.


Tangled up in goo

Partly excellent article about wars of attrition here. Partly because the point Peters is making, that the only real way to win wars is to kill more people than the opponent, is 100% true and people have tended to act as if this isn't true recent.

HOWEVER, a few huge caveats need to be added in here. First of all, just because I think what he's saying is correct does not mean in any way that I like it. I do think that as long as our societies continue to engage in warfare, we should be honest about what that entails. That doesn't mean I think it's a sustainable (or laudable) model.

Also, Peter's analysis of the "War on Terrorism" etc, etc, is severely skewed in a way that I, at least, don't agree with. So take those bits with several grains of salt.

Tuesday, July 06, 2004 


So I just went and watched the trailer for this new version of The Manchurian Candidate online (it looks pretty good, and this is certainly the time for it), and they had me watch an ad first. The ad was for the U.S. Army. Quite the coincidence.


The Floating World: I Against I

So, here we are. I've finally got the free time and the energy to start this thing up, over two weeks from when I said it'd be happening soon. This comes as a surprise to very few, I'd guess.

As you can tell by the top of this page, I've picked the name for the replacement for WES. I first encountered the term "floating world" in the context of Ukiyo-e, a type of art that flourished during the Tokugawa period of Japan. I mostly picked it because this column will be, as mentioned, "floating", with updates when I feel like it. But if this isn't claiming too much, I'd also like to try and replicate one of the aspects of Ukiyo-e, the fact that "although Ukiyo-e was initially considered 'low' art, by and for the non-elite classes, its artistic and technical caliber is consistently remarkable". I'm not trying to write "technically" or in some fashion that'll bamboozle those who don't read and think about music as much as I do, but I'd like it to be good stuff nonethless. This aspect of the title is mentioned with tongue firmly in cheek though, as I think I'd be flattering myself if I achieved that sort of goal consistently.

Now, having said that, I'm going to proceed with the inaugural entry, which promptly dives into what may be for some of you hopelessly obscure territory. You can see why I say the name is more of a goal than a claim...

Oh, and a procedural note: I fully expect some/all of the few readers of this blog to not be interested at all in these entries, which is fine; but those who are going to actually read them really should get ahold of the song in question if at all possible first. Soulseek is a good place to start, and if you feel guilty about downloading music, you can always delete it later...


"I Against I", a one-off collaraboration between Massive Attack and rapper Mos Def, was unfortunately part of the generally poorly executed Blade II soundtrack. A series of team-ups between big names in techno and rap, most of the songs are clearly the product of two acts wanting a nice paycheck. But for whatever reason (possibly Massive Attack's ludicrously high levels of quality control, which means that although Blue Lines and 100th Window sound like two different bands, they're both incredible), "I Against I" wound up being not only the highlight of the soundtrack but one of the very best latter-day Massive Attack tracks, worthy for inclusion on a best-of if one ever gets put together.

Although much of the verses suffer slightly from conforming pretty closely to the world of the movie, mostly they're just battle rhymes, Mos spitting out all sorts of doggerel to convince the other to back down. That, combined with 3D's (was Daddy G still involved at this point? If you have no idea what I'm on about, go have a quick look at their biography before continuing) spinning, darkly fuzzy soundscape could have resulted in a merely excellent track, the dry thumping drums and vaguely Joy Division-esque keyboard part meeting over the thick digital bassline.

But instead, due to the customary musical alchemy Massive Attack perform and some interesting lyrical tactics in the chorus, we get what could be (if necessary) the perfect soundtrack to long stretches of Grant Morrison's The Invisibles.

The musical aspect of this I can't really discuss, you really should just find the track; there are so many great bits, from the dry digitized drums that start the song to the way it's hard to tell whether the music was molded around the vocals or vice versa. Long story short, it is (as most good music is) more than the sum of it's parts.

And the chorus; well, first for those feeling flippant note how Mos Def doesn't just say "I against I", he repeats the first "I" and adds a bit more to it, so it sounds like "Ia", leading those of us who've read Lovecraft to thinking about the ol' "Ia Cthulhu Ia!" chant of various mad cultists. But that's an aside, it's the other stuff that's interesting:

Flesh of my flesh

Conventional enough, leading us to assume (separate from the movie, which is how you should be listening to "I Against I") that the narrator is referring to a relative or (pardon the pun) "blood brother". But then we have

And mind of my mind

Now this is new. If "flesh of my flesh" is usually someone of the same descent as you, what is this? Can people share mind the same way they do "flesh"? I don't want to get too much into this, just keep this line in mind.

Two of a kind but one won't survive

One interpretation of the "mind of my mind" line that occurred to me initially was that in fact there must only be one mind between the narrator and his opponent (which isn't exactly a happy thought either), but this seems to disavow that. Those who've read The Invisibles should be thinking at this point about the Christian fish symbol and Universes A and B (which, as those who've finished the series may remember, are two entry-points into the same universe).

My images reflect in the enemy's eye
And his images reflect in mine the same time

What Massive Attack, and specifically 3D, have specialized in at least since Mezzanine is a version of purely existential/metaphysical terror. Think of the creeping dread of the normal life in "Inertia Creeps", the dull fear of the night watchmen in "Group Four", the living nightmare that is much of 100th Window (and, importantly, remember the Horace Andy line from "Everywhen": You think you know / Everything / You think you know). "I Against I" is plowing a similar furrow here, but in this case it is the horror of, to paraphrase Walt Kelly, seeing the enemy and realising it is us. There are no sides, there is only Flesh of my flesh / Mind of my mind. The abyss gazes also, and etc.

It's not the Invisibles versus the Archons, it's that the Invisibles and the Archons are two aspects of the same thing (the realisation that the principle of individuation* is a falsehood) viewed from different cultural/psychological/emotional contexts. The harder Mos Def rails against the enemy in "I Against I" (the title, in addition to being a reference to the phrase "I and I", is completely deliberate; think for a second what it means to be I against I, and then consider whether "I" is a real thing anyway), the stronger the enemy gets, and in the chorus he admits this.

All of this is pretty far out for most people, and my apologies for same, but hopefully this is made up for by the fact that as well as "I Against I" works as an analogy exploring some relatively obscure truths, it's also (as mentioned) one hell of a song. Would that all lessons be so entertaining.

*The principle of individuation is the idea that we are separate from things around us, much as Cartesian duality attempts to hack mind and body apart into two separate substances. Both are, at least in my view (and Morrison's too, I'd wager large amounts of money), equally false.

Monday, July 05, 2004 


Reasons I like Glenn McDonald, no. 4987530 (from his current article, about Alanis Morrissette):

"I believe that sometimes you have to make huge changes in your rules and environment in order to progress, but I also believe that huge changes for their own sake are as much an evasion as complacency, and in a way the real soul of progress is how you spend the days in which you're just trying to be an infinitesimally better version of the same person you were the day before."

The number of little synchronicities that pop up in his work and my reading of his work is only one of many reasons I keep reading.


That's all right

Today is apparantly the 50th anniversary of the first rock and roll single. Neat.



Excelent article from openDemocracy about the necessity of Michael Moore.

Sunday, July 04, 2004 

What if?

Tony sent me this, and it's quite cool: This Day In Alternate History. There's a page that sums up each recurring timeline for you so you can catch up easily, too.


Me am forgetful

I think I might have neglected this the last couple of times, but there's a new journal entry up.

Thursday, July 01, 2004 


We were kind of down there for a bit, but Stylus is back in full effect. My Plankton review is also up.



Obviously, happy Canada Day. It might not be much, but it's a pretty damned good country.


It's good for you

Alcohol may help protect your bones. So drink up.

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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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