Saturday, December 31, 2005 

Wakey wakey

Nothing like your little sister having a full volume phone conversation (not even an attempt to speak quietly!) ten feet and no walls from my head to start the day right.

I love my family, but at times like this I can see how that might be hard to discern.



Oddly enough, being woken really early by a phone call doesn't make me feel tired until after I look at a clock.



I find it pretty hard to argue with n+1 when they talk about how the response to the current "Reading Crisis" is manifestly unpleasent and counterproductive (the link is to their front page, where the piece is currently up - I don't know for how long). And not just because I'm biased towards their opinion of criticism. Anyone who points out that wanting to write in order to be rich and famous is not a good or sufficient motivation should come across as obvious, but sadly these days it's a little novel.

I don't read books as much as I did as a child, but I certainly read more, every day - I'm not sure whether those words are on a printed page or a screen matters much. If the lament is that long-form fiction is dying, well, I don't think it's going to go away (although we may see, or already be seeing, a bit of a slight return to the days of serialization). I'm always going to want the ability to sit down with a volume and do nothing but read, although I also want a single physical "book" that can hold all of my library in one volume, with different texts being loaded in at appropriate times and etc (we're closer than you probably think). The actual editions, as nice as they are, don't mean that much to me - which is kind of weird when you consider how adamant I am about having a large CD collection. The two differences, I'd imagine, are that books take up more physical space than CDs, and that text takes up less memory space than music.

Friday, December 30, 2005 

Got me so down, I got me a headache

Back in Kincardine for (at least part of) the New Year's festivities; the ride down was the first real testdrive of my new iPod Nano, a Christmas present from the parents. 2 gig, black naturally; "I used to be disgusted/Now I try to be amused" engraved on the back thanks to my dad, being both of course lines from the great "(The Angels Wanna Wear My) Red Shoes" by Elvis Costello and also something I try to live up to.

It worked flawlessly, especially now that I've got a silicone sleeve to cover it (I kind of like the way it makes the iPod all chunky and rubbery on the outside). In addition to a folder called "Exercise" with around 280 songs for use at the gym I've got these albums stored on it right now:

Elbow - Asleep At The Back
Hefner - Breaking God's Heart
The Shins - Chutes Too Narrow
Rachel Stevens - Come And Get It*
Mercury Rev - Deserter's Songs**
Animal Collective - Feels
Joe Strummer & The Mescaleros - Global A Go-Go
Mogwai - Happy Songs For Happy People
Jesu - Jesu
Low - Long Division
The Sex Pistols - Never Mind The Bullocks, Here's The Sex Pistols
Hood - Outside Closer
New Order - Power, Corruption And Lies
Spiritualized - Pure Phase
Constantines - Tournament Of Hearts
Luomo - Vocalcity
Magnolia Electric Co - What Comes After The Blues

*(great, great pop album - anyone who hasn't heard "Negociate With Love", "Nothing Good About This Goodbye" or "Dumb Dumb" needs to email me now)
**(As nature should have intended it; 9 tracks, minus the dumbass ending, the extra minutes of nothing on "Delta Sun Bottleneck Stomp" and all of the daft instrumentals except "Pick Up If You're There", because "Pick Up If You're There" is awesome)

Any way you slice it, that's a lot of music. I listened to Come And Get It first, in my dad's van, and it was great - if Amazon had gotten it to me in November when I ordered it, it would have definitely hit my top twenty, and I'm more than a little chagrined it didn't. From there I went to Vocalcity once we switched to my sister's car, and I was kind of surprised how "Market" felt very similar to some of the productions on Steven's album, albeit decompressed and without a strong vocal presence until many minutes in.

Unfortunately then my siblings decided to crank Meat Loaf's "I Would Do Anything For Love (But I Won't Do That)" and singing along like idiots, and while that's one of his better songs I wasn't in the mood. Ultimately Jesu at full blast was the only thing that would wall out that, Mr. Big's "To Be With You", Afroman (not even "Because I Got High", fer chrissake!), and my brother getting crunk to "Get Low", and it was hot and sludgy like my incipient rage (for a record with so much self-deprecation in its lyrics, Justin Broadrick sure yells them in a satisfyingly cathartic fashion).

Then we all got out of the very cramped car (which wasn't helping) and I felt in a much better mood immediately - just got back from delicious and enjoyable bar dinner with the siblings and am now listening to the Shins and doing crosswords. Out of the iPod hooked up to the computer of course - I may never carry CDs with me again.



Right, because the problem is that the US government doesn't spend enough time punishing "indecency".



Does it bother anyone else that Bush's government spends more time and effort investigating whistleblowers than, you know, actually governing? Including governing in such a manner so that whistleblowers have nothing to report?

Scratch that, we all know it bothers other people; here, for example.



In general this is a fine review, and its subject sounds like an interesting book. But anything that talks of Spinoza's "outspoken atheism and materialism" goes so far wide of the mark as to make me doubt the validity of both. I wonder if that's the sort of thing Stewart writes in the book, or if it's just Kirsch's review that's off.

Thursday, December 29, 2005 

Old Glory Insurance

Protect yourself from robots before it's too late!


Equipment failure

So last night I get home and walk into my room - and the light turns off. Not the bulb dying, but the light turns off. And my computer won't turn on, nor will my clock radio.

This happened in the front room and part of the kitchen before - the building is so old that the wiring just failed, and an electrician came in and wired up some new stuff. He's due in to fix my room sometime today or tomorrow. In the interim I've got my lamp and my computer (including the modem Ben needs for his connection) hooked up to an extension cord that runs into the kitchen. It seemed simpler than temporarily moving everything into the living room.

Sunday, December 25, 2005 

Reason #987 why I love the CBC

Santa escorted by jet into Canadian airspace

Merry Christmas/happy holidays, everybody.

Friday, December 23, 2005 

I am the best seventeen-year-old ever

Just listened to The Meadowlands while wrapping presents (if you don't know about it already, Ryan Schrieber actually got it right, except for futzing up some song titles, and I don't say that very often), and I maintain that anyone who listens to "She Sends Kisses" or "13 Months In 6 Minutes" (with liners in hand so you can make out what Charles is singing) and is capable of not tearing up a little is a monster.

But also, while reshelving the album I noticed for the very first time that the back has an interesting typo. Although the song title inside and in the lyrics are both correct, on the back "Everyone Choose Sides" is called "Everyone Chooses Sides".

I wouldn't change the song itself one iota, but I kind of wish that was what it was actually called. It feels significant, for whatever reason.


Delicate balance

Interesting article over at the BBC on the reasons Saddam's trial is proceeding as it is.



David Rees on The Minutemen. Quite good.

Thursday, December 22, 2005 

Work radio dept.

We've switched stations; right now, "Stay Fly" is playing. A marked improvement, I think.


Ego war

My review of the new Audio Bullys (sic) is up at Stylus. I wasn't very impressed, which was a shame because I love their first record.


Sudden revelation, part two

Rather than listening to Plans, why not just finally get around to tracking down that old American Analog Set album?


Expect delay

I was going to take a crack at getting (at least part of) the albums list up tonight, but I'm too busy. I think it'll probably go up after I'm back home from Christmas (so the 28th or later).

Wednesday, December 21, 2005 

Sudden revelation

The article, on the recent re-release of Horses (and Jessica Hopper's first work for the CBC) is fine, but check out that picture at the top: Finally, the wellspring of the Strokes' satorial habits, hairstyles and even facial expressions (Julian Casablancas is Patti Smith! Nick Valensi is the guy with the scarf! Albert Hammond Jr. is the smoking guy in a suit!) is revealed.


Breaking legs and picking pockets

This story was the first I'd heard over the two "swinger" cases, but it's gratifying to see the Supreme Court of Canada do the right thing:

Clubs that allow group sex and partner swapping do not harm Canadian society and should not be considered criminal, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled Wednesday... The judges, in a 7-2 ruling, said the test for indecency is the harm it causes, and not simply community standards.

Absolutely. It's so nice to see our highest court being adult about this sort of thing.

Edit: John Rogers again brings the knowledge. Choice quotation:

...the top court threw out the conviction of a Montreal man who ran a club where members could have group sex in a private room behind locked doors. “Consensual conduct behind code-locked doors can hardly be supposed to jeopardize a society as vigorous and tolerant as Canadian society,” said the opinion of the seven-to-two majority, written by Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin.

Go Canada. The only way you get a society this vigorous and tolerant is by not handholding your populace all the time.


Show us our homes

The Stylus album list continues apace, and today my blurb is up (number 27).



A film version of Watchmen is apparently back on again. If they'd just gone ahead and made a brilliant/crappy/whatever version when they said they were going to, that'd be fine (I have no expectations for the project either way, although I'd definitely see it if it looked good). But this repeated will-they-or-won't-they got old decades ago.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005 

The scene ends badly, as you might imagine

I finally got to see the video for the Mountain Goats' "This Year" over at AOL Music (the last time I checked, they didn't have it), and it's genuinely a relief to see that John Darnielle hasn't checked any of the intensity and exuburence of his performance style for the video. A great song, of course, but the video is worth it for the priceless moment when one of his captors brings Darnielle a soda alone.


Work radio dept.

Why has our local station seemingly decided that James Rhyming Slang's "You're Beautiful" is a Christmas song? (and if they haven't, could they please stop playing it all the time?)


One party state

I may not always like Christopher Hitchens, and I certainly don't hate Christmas the way he proudly does, but his column on why the public celebration of it is so grating is very, very enjoyable and more than a little apt this time of the year.

(the work radio has been bombarding us with Christmas treats from no less than Bon Jovi and Glass Tiger, incidentally)


Entertaining, too

I hate to just regurgitate what John Rogers says, but he keeps getting it so right. So, we have a summation of what's wrong with the President's explanation of his "monitoring" activities (follow that first link too, it's a doozy), and then as almost an afterthought a devastating rebuttal of the "but we're at war" mentality. Also via Rogers we have an extremely satisfying excerpt from the decision in Dover, where the judge rules (among other things) that "ID cannot uncouple itself from its creationist, and thus religious, antecedents".

Monday, December 19, 2005 

Humbug to you too

Complaining about crappy Christmas music? Fair enough. But to lump in the sublime, the wonderful "Fairytale Of New York" with all the crap on that list is practically criminal!

(then again, I would say that)


Back again, it's the incredible

A fairly busy day for me over at Stylus; A Touching Display is back, complete with new title font (which was a surprise), my review of the new Cadence Weapon is up, and although my contribution hasn't gone up yet, our albums list (which, as always, will satisfy no-one except maybe me) has begun.

Sunday, December 18, 2005 

Early presents

It's the time of year when we all greedily devour our favourites' lists of favourites, but the one I look forward to the most is Marcello's, and due to time constraints he's pitched all 100 records(!) up, 50 reissues or older albums and 50 new ones. Worth it alone for his brief summation of ABBA in the very first blurb, but the rest is equally wonderful (and I practically fainted with gratitude after reading his Souvlaki appreciation), especially the links to some of the best of his Koons Really Does Think He's Michaelangelo writing.


"They're intelligently designed"

When talking about evolution, I've pointed out to people the fact that the theory behind it underlies and makes possible an awful lot of our current science, which usually gets a skeptical response. I never expected Doonesbury to have such a concise (and funny) example of the idea.


But where's Ray from Achewood?

Forbes has done up a "Fictional 15" of the richest fictional characters out there. I love this kind of thing.


Wakey wakey, part two

...and this morning I awoke at 9:30. I went to bed at 3, but I had the Buddha Machine going all night, and I could swear I didn't sleep much. That wasn't the intent of turning on the machine, I was trying to block out the noises from the rest of the apartment, but I'll take it. I feel strangely rested, and hopefully this means I'll crash early (for me) tonight.

Saturday, December 17, 2005 

Why bother

This article is so hard to read, so frustrating, because it begs the question in an extremely infuriating manner. Positing modern higher education (hell, most of modern culture) as "post-faith and post-reason" as well as "post-moral, post-religious" and claiming that the "existential consequence" of neuroscience is that "the soul and free will are illusions" and thus meaning is dead, etc, etc, is ridiculous. The whole essay is a scared conservative's version of postmodernism, of Nietszche, of practically everything they discuss. It's extremely tempting to fisk the whole thing, to go through and explore the hasty assumptions, the unjustified conclusions and the outright confusion that the authors exhibit. But really, it's not worth it, especially on Saturday night.


Wakey wakey

I have got to start going to sleep earlier. I just woke up and it's after 2.

Friday, December 16, 2005 

As soon as the law becomes inconvenient...

I thought about posting something about Bush being caught breaking the law (again) this morning, but I figured if I waited someone would put it better than I'd be able to. Surprise, surprise, John Rogers does just that. And for a bonus, he's got another post in which he (justly) wishes he knew a stronger word that disgust.


Less than half ain't really much of nothing

I'm just getting around to really comparing the two now, but Ewan Pearson's "Glass Half Full Remix of Röyksopp's "49 Percent" (with Chelonis R. Jones, who I am now officially interested in hearing more from) stomps all over the original. Which means if you count that version, there's a full five tracks on The Understanding which are good. But those five are really good.

Thursday, December 15, 2005 


So not only do I discover that Steven Brust, one of my favourite authors ever, has a Livejournal, but I read on it that he's writing a Firefly novel.

That whistling sound you hear is Excitement Steam leaking from my ears.


Work radio dept.

Re: Primitive Radio Gods' "Standing Outside A Broken Phonebooth With Money In My Hand":

I love this song more than is probably healthy. A great, great one-off on a par with (actually, probably even better than) White Town's "Your Woman".


Stage magic

This post makes me intrigued about Frank Kogan's new book Real Punks Don't Wear Black (although really, the title alone would probably be enough for me to check it out), but it gets even better once it drops this interesting little thought:

In stage magic, pretending that it's all for real (i.e. that you actually possess supernatural powers) is seen as vulgar or a cheat; showing the wires is also frowned upon. A magic performance, in other words, is an idea that refuses - or cannot survive - a follow-through. Somewhere in the tangle of the article I'm suggesting a similar thing about manufactured pop.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005 

2005 singles

I've got a big whopping post, with several Stylus shoutouts, over at my other webspace, to avoid cluttering up here too much. I will post the list here, but blurbs are through the link.

My top twenty:

01. The Futureheads – “Hounds Of Love”
02. Robyn - “Be Mine”
03. Three 6 Mafia - “Stay Fly”
04. Sweet Billy Pilgrim – “Stars Spill Out Of Cups”
05. Slim Thug – “I Ain’t Heard Of That”
06. Snoop Dogg – “Signs”
07. My Chemical Romance – “Helena”
08. Ciara – “Oh”
09. Relient K – “Be My Escape”
10. The Bravery – “An Honest Mistake”
11. The Game / 50 Cent – “Hate It Or Love It”
12. Ok Go - “A Million Ways”
13. Richard Hawley - “The Ocean”
14. Mike Jones – “Still Tippin’”
15. Juliet – “Avalon”
16. T-Pain - “I'm Sprung”
17. Jamie Lidell – “Multiply”
18. Mattafix - “Big City Life”
19. !!! - “Take Ecstasy With Me”/”Get Up”
20. The Music – “Breakin’”

Tuesday, December 13, 2005 

"I, Jon Stewart, hate Christmas"

I saw Jon Stewart's dismembering of Bill O'Reilly's "War On Christmas" idiocy the day it aired, but if you missed it the transcript and clip are online here. It's quite funny, as well as pointing out the real reason people use "Happy Holidays" (hint: it has nothing to do with political correctness, although does it really hurt us to acknowledge that some people have other holidays?).


What have I done to deserve this?

The radio at work should play the Pet Shop Boys more often.


A sense, not an idea

Like most polemics, this article is a bit lacking in balance, but it's one I can unabashedly get behind:

Literary criticism no longer aims to appreciate aesthetics — to study how human beings respond to art. Do you get dizzy when you look at a Turner painting of a storm at sea? Do certain buildings make you feel insignificant while others make you feel just the right size? Without understanding that intensely physical reaction, scholarship about the arts can no longer enlarge the soul.

I think there's definitely room for the hermeneutic approach (as Waters puts it), for various political and ideological avenues of thinking about art. But if we adopt those approaches totally and start leaving out aesthetics, we're in trouble. This is actually one of the big reasons I switched to Philosophy from English; as much as I think the post-Colonialist viewpoint is an important one to devote some time to, I refuse to study English only from that viewpoint, and that seemed to be what the English program wanted. We spent all of our time on politics and ideologies, and none of it on art. Less meaning, more feeling, please (but not all feeling, of course - that would be just as silly).


Hey there, Mr. Blue

So I just had my interview for the job I was doing all semester... I of course don't know how well I did, nor how well everyone else did, but I did have the Delgados superior version of "Mr. Blue Sky" playing in my head as I left the room.

(to be clear - the happy, jaunty part, not the gloomy part)

Monday, December 12, 2005 


Guy has cops bust into his house, unannounced and sporting paramilitary gear, looking for a criminal. Guy is not the criminal, has no criminal record, is guilty of no crime. To defend self and daughter from the mysterious armed men, guy shoots one of the cops; he dies later.

Guy is up for execution. Now, you may be reading my extremely simplified version of events and going "maybe the details make it less clear, maybe this was just murder", but if you read what Rogers has up on the case, or especially check out the source he links in his entry, it gets worse the more you find out. Let's hope something gets done to say this guy from getting killed.


Mail call

So today my package from Forced Exposure finally slipped through Customs and came to rest at my door; nestled inside, under several kilometers of packing tape, were my long-awaited copy of Paavoharju's Yhä Hämärää ("Continually Dark", it's in my top ten for the year), which is great to get in a "hey, I can finally delete it off of my hard drive" kind of way (music sharing = me spending more money on Finnish music I will never find in Guelph), and even more excitingly my Buddha Machine (I got a red one), which I'm listening to right now.

It was listed as a "music box" on the customs form, and I guess that works - I've been listening to it for about 70 minutes now, and I think I've gone through all nine loops. It's kind of neat - instead of selecting which one you want, you just flick and switch and it goes to the next one; flick the switch back and you get the one after that, and so on. The sound quality isn't great, so a couple of the loops have fairly intense static as the loop brushes agains the upper limit of the fidelty on the chip/speaker, which I love. It's a pretty trippy experience, and the idea of leaving it on for a day at a time is a strangely tempting one.

Sunday, December 11, 2005 

Palm meet forehead

Single I'm now kicking myself for leaving off of my list: Depeche Mode's "Precious". I mean, I've never heard enough to be a fan (my other experience only covers "Just Can't Get Enough", "Master And Servent", "Personal Jesus" and "Dream On"), but this single is just incredibly great. It sounded great on my computer, it sounded great out at the bar, and it even sounded great in McDonalds (I guess it's getting radio play?). And yet I completely blanked on it when putting together my list. Peter Parrish is so ashamed of me right now (especially after he wrote such a good review of the album).


Oh, those crazy Russians

You truly haven't lived unless you've seen three of your male friends get up on a raised stage at a club/bar and proceed to dance properly to Boney M's "Rasputin" (including faux-Cossack dancing on the middle 8).

I haven't laughed so hard in a long time, especially given that this was laughter of pure joy, not laughter directed at the dancers.

Saturday, December 10, 2005 

Sometimes I forget I'm still awake

I've just read in Blender that "An Honest Mistake" is apparently Sam Endicott's attempt to apologize for some misguided post 9/11 "terror booty" with a good (now ex?) friend.

This only makes me like it more - I'm actually flat out amazed that I'm the only person at Stylus to vote for it in the singles poll. Sure the album sucked and the band makes you use adjectives like "slappable", they still get to have their 3:40 of New Order-biting glory.

Friday, December 09, 2005 

"mirrors and copulation are abominable, since they both multiply the numbers of man"

(for Mike Powell)

In every work of genius we recognize our own rejected thoughts; they come back to us with a certain alienated majesty.
Ralph Waldo Emerson

I have thought for what must be feels like years now that one of the sufficient but not necessary components of great art is a particular feeling of shock. Not the tedious obscenities that ruffle our mores and feathers but the shock of coming around a corner and suddenly seeing yourself, that intense feeling of denial and unreality and estrangement that only deepens as the appearance of the other sinks into your eyes and it becomes more and more apparent that you were not mistaken, that it is yourself in front of you; but just as that last clause does not, cannot make any sense so the shock doesn't lessen but spreads throughout your body and thickens like cold.

There are three basic varieties of this strange recognition: the first, least powerful and most common variety consists of seeing your words come from another, without quotation. The line separating trivial examples of this from those that make you pause for a second is watery and shifting constantly; this is the sort of thing that makes people faux-bond at parties over drinks. Maybe it's about something unimportant, like politics or sports teams or the weather. Usually there is very little to give you pause, your reaction is more "hey, that's what I think!" than "...what the hell?"

The second consists of hearing your own thoughts (not words) reflected back by another, but perfected; maybe it's something you yourself were struggling to articulate, piecemeal, suddenly emerging fully formed and beaming from the pen of another. It's easier to spot in writing than in talking, and when you do spot it the world tilts on its axis for a moment. It's a (mostly) pleasant sensation, one of the strongest you're likely to feel just by reading something; the statement in question just feels right, ineffably so, something that you yourself believe to your very core. But it's not coming from your mind. You exist for a brief interval outside of your body, where we all assume we're located (Damien Hirst: "I remember once getting really terrified that I could only see out of my eyes. Two little fucking holes. I got really terrified by it."), and the vertigo is deafening. It's not actually so weird when you think about it for someone else to have the same opinion as you do, but this phenomenon is more than that, or at least feels that way. Sometimes it is something you might have eventually said yourself, sometimes something you probably wouldn't have been able to articulate this way, for whatever reason. In either case, you no longer feel like just a person. I've had this happen a number of times with other Stylus writers, one of many reasons I'm glad I write there and not elsewhere; in their reviews or on the message board the other staff consistently make me feel like someone's reading sharing my mind.

Some superstitious part of me feels that when I stumble onto something that affects me so powerfully, that takes me out of myself and only lets me back in with the knowledge that someone else out there is existing at least partially the same way I do (the central tragedy of solipsism: Every human being at some point forgets that someone else has felt the exact way they do), that surely the other party can feel... something. Someone "walking over their grave", or anything. Which I'm sure isn't true, but the thought keeps creeping in. Whether or not this ever happens, the fact is that this kind of great art reminds us that the notion of a self is an illusion (thank you Bhagavad Gita, thank you Parmenides, thank you always Spinoza, thank you Schopenhauer, thank you eternally recurring Nietzsche, thank you Borges!), much as another kind of great art reminds us of and consoles us with our mortality. People tend to find this kind of anti-solipsism either terrifying or blissful, but the fact is that every time you read or hear someone completing your thoughts this way, that vertigo you feel is accompanied by the eternal presence of unity and that shock is partly at the way Being intrudes into our existence.

Great art often leaves you gasping; like a gut-punch, like a kiss, like a stiff wind. The kind of art that knocks us out of ourselves, no matter how transiently, can leave you feeling weak and fetal and breathing for the first time, lungs still damp with amniotic fluid. But the third kind of this branch of great art is even more powerful, and one I've only really experienced once: Again, our thoughts are articulated and perfected by others, but this time it's a thought you did not have, did not realise you could have, until you saw it elsewhere.

All of this may sound a bit over-serious to discuss what is, ultimately, Mike Powell talking about his conflicted feelings about loving the Clipse. But what he did there, completely without knowing he was doing it or meaning to do it, was to say something true about me that I didn't know was true until he said it, something I wasn't even beginning to fumble towards, something that sets my own thoughts about the topic (how do I reconcile my love for some rap with the contents of the music?) on a completely different path. It was as if Mike and I had sat down over a couple of beers and he had intently and adroitly drawn out of me a long conversation on the topic, circumspectly gathering information on how I actually felt, aware of it or not, only to finally spring his trap and say "aha, this is why you feel this way!" Only we never had that conversation.

The impact of this sort of art, then, is just the same as the second, only it is coupled with an epiphany (An epiphany: When you have an intellectual revelation and an emotional revelation about the same thing at the same time.). Mike and I come at music from wholly different contexts, we have broadly different tastes, and yet there is something about our loves which is unified enough that he can unwittingly divine a hidden quality in myself as well as in himself this easily:

I want to palm the nut without art or nuance; I want to crack the nut without remorse. I watch Scarface and like it fine, but why did it take me so long to realize that enjoying We Got it 4 Cheap is basically the same thing? Am I dense? Do I really have that much faith in music? Why does music polarize me on moral grounds before I can always let the art of it seep in?

My question shouldn't, can't be "why do I hold rap to a higher moral standard than rock?" (especially since I've never been convinced I do), but rather "why do I hold music to a higher standard than movies, or literature?", and I almost certainly would have never realised that without Mike or someone like him coming along. It always takes you aback when someone sees deeply into you and, seemingly ex nihilo, says something that sums up a piece of your self; when someone does it accidentally while talking about their self, the jolt is intensified and multiplied in on itself.

There is the same trauma of estrangement from your self here that there was with the second type of art discussed here, but coupled with it is a shift in your mind once you return and begin tentatively trusting in your individuality again. This type of writing manages to combine, for you (because really, you can't expect this sort of thing to be repeatable), the revelation and seismic change that occurs when someone else spurs your mind into a new angle with the bodiless shock of recognizing yourself in the other, and so recognizing (however fleetingly) the falsity of the self and the other. On the one hand, it again makes sense that someone else would happen to write something that has this effect on you, but on the other the human lust for miracles arises again, insists that coincidence alone cannot supply this kind of power, this kind of revelation (GK Chesterton: "Coincidences are spiritual puns"). But that first sad, sober assessment which would deny the power of these moments neglects to notice that whether the impact of this kind of art is down to coincidence or not, it exists. It exists, and that is enough; enough to read and experience everything you can to catch it again, enough to forever remember that moment at work when you clicked on what was just another link and the truth hit your eyes from miles and minds away.

This felicitous supposition declared that there is only one Individual, and that this indivisible Individual is every one of the separate beings in the universe, and that these beings are the instruments and masks of divinity itself.
Jorge Luis Borges, "Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius"

A comprehended God is not God.
John Chrysostom

As I regained consciousness I felt so sorry I had a body and a mind suddenly realizing I didn't even have a body and a mind and nothing had ever happened and everything is alright forever and forever and forever, O thank you thank you thank you.
Jack Kerouac, The Scripture Of The Golden Eternity


Dark sided

This is the most purely terrifying thing I've seen in recent memory. My stomach hurts now and I feel a little shakey - I was going to try to write something a little later, but now I'm not sure I can. I can't actually explain why I'm so strongly disturbed by it, but I am. Maybe the way her youngest two children are looking at her. Maybe the way the father looks. Maybe the ending. I'm going to go drink a glass of water, put on Mountains' self-titled debut and lie down for a moment.

(by the way, any of my Christian readers can rest assured that I don't think this woman is representative of your religion)


One for the quote file

Whenever I read this aphorism of Michael F Gill's, I can't help thinking of Jens Lekman.


Lions and witches and wardrobes, oh my

There's a pretty good review of the new Narna movie up at the CBC; even if you don't like the rest of it, the review is worth it for precisely describing why Tilda Swinton never quite works in films set in the modern day: "it’s like bumping into the Faerie Queene at the Gap".

One thing the review mentions in passing is Philip Pullman's acidic disdain for the series. I've never read His Dark Materials, but Pullman's conduct isn't making me eager to do so. This article sketches out and refutes Pullman's arguments, and although the author is too easy on Lewis, unless the quotations from Pullman's books are wildly out of context I'm not so sure I want to read him. Viciously dogmatic atheists are just as unpleasent to read as viciously dogmatic Christians. The article is very well argued, but I'm mostly glad I read it for a great line from Lewis ("When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness") and the fact that Nelson includes pretty much all of Peter's fight with Maugrim the wolf from The Lion, The Witch And The Wardobe, which is extremely well done:

Peter did not feel very brave; he felt he was going to be sick... Then came a horrible, confused moment like something in a nightmare. He was tugging and pulling and the Wolf seemed neither alive nor dead, and its bared teeth knocked against his forehead, and everything was blood and heat and hair.

Re-reading the book recently, that passage was one of the few that lived up to my memory of the series from my childhood.


Small mercies

Colm Tóibín begins his article on the The Ferns Report with an account of his time at St Peter’s College (a seminary and boarding school) which at first seems of questionable relevance but soon modulates into the realm of nightmarish.



These pictures from the International Snow and Ice Sculpture Festival are incredibly cool looking (sorry), especially three, four and eight. I wish I could see more.


That time again

Hey, it's Fuck You Friday! It's been too long since the last go round.



Not only have they made a colour-changing fabric, they've made one that adapts to what you wear.


Double-you tee eff

I haven't seen the movie, and I haven't played the game in years, so why did I dream I was trapped in Doom last night, and why did I dream I lost an arm to monstrous acid?

I know we don't really get to understand our subconsciousnesses, but if mine could be a bit less baffling (or even less full of people in shitty rubber costumes), that'd be great.


That time of the month

This month's mix, complete with descriptions, is up at the regular locale (or here, if you're lazy).

Thursday, December 08, 2005 

Wu-Tang is for the children

Mike Powell has an excellent post up over on his blog talking about music and morals; the part I respond to most strongly, though, if where he talks about the way we can't seem to distance ourselves from music the way we do from cinema, literature, and etc.

(I say "we" because, although I'm not exactly Mike, I do recognize myself in what he's written with a not-quite-unfamiliar shock - there's something bigger lurking here about Eternal Recurrance and how one of the attributes of the best writing is coming suddenly upon something that makes you realise the writer has felt something that you thought was real but pricate, only existing for you - but it deserves a bit more attention than I can give it now, stealing keyboard time between calls at work)


Are you speaking in tongues?

I'm not sure why all the really good stories on Low keep showing up at the Onion's AV Club, but I sure am appreciative. They've got an excellent interview with Alan Sparhawk up which is both very informative and more than a little reassuring for us fans.


Partway there

Since I was complaining about the US government refusing to say anything definitive abot the non-existence of "black sites", it'd be a bit unfair for me not to note that Rice has made a somewhat loophole free statement on America's non-use of torture. The CBC article points out a couple of spaces for wiggle room but hey, progress is progress.

Note that in Scott McLellan's response there is ample evidence that he's still a dick.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005 

Work radio dept.

I dislike Donna Lewis' "I Love You Always Forever" a lot less than I used to, although I still wish it stayed with the low key burbling feel of the first half of the song; the second half does nothing for me. I'm glad she didn't throw any extraneous punctuation into the song title, too.


Funny time of year

Things are so busy in the music-writing world in December I keep forgetting to mention things, like fellow Up-lover J. Edward Keyes' excellent year-end rundown (starting here), which is excellent and features a song from each album to boot. I may have to copy that feature when I get around to throwing mine up sometime soon.


Taste has no system

I don't like "My Humps" any more than Hua Hsu does, but I still don't like his article on it. Starting with a great Susan Sontag quotation which he precedes to completely ignore, he never actually lays out any really compelling reasons why the song is so bad, in fact so offensively lazy in its performance - it's more like he's assuming we all agree with him, almost always a fatal trap for the critic to fall into. I'm sure some of the mass downloading/buying/listening of "My Humps" is driven by people laughing out loud at the absurdity of it all, but the fact it's been so massively successful indicates that plenty of people like it beyond that (yes, I know some people who fall into that group). Hsu argues briefly (but not convincingly) for conceiving of things as "objectively" bad again (ignoring the fact that outside of what we laughingly call the critical community, people do this all the time), but never gives any real reasons for "My Lumps" fitting into that category. His argumentative effort is almost as lazy as the lyrics of the song he's trying to castigate.


She would have to be a philosophy major, wouldn't she?

Why is this person being paid (paid!) to express her opinion, when it amounts to, and I quote:

I don’t think I will vote, however. Like I said, in the last three years, I’ve been paying attention, but I still feel like I don’t know my arse from my elbow when it comes to politics.

It’s still too complicated, still too boring to work out the various nuances. The more I learn about it, the less sense it makes, and again, I can’t work out what apparent relevance it has in my life. Most of all, I don’t see how voting affects social justice.

(emphasis mine)

I could go into some detail why I find this kind of thinking odious and ridiculous, but from the fact that all of the comments on that article are expressing different kinds of annoyance with her facile claims, and the fact that the people who read here are smart, I don't think I need to.

Still, it's not absolutely 100% her fault - clearly the education system in Canada has failed to instill in her the reasons why one of your duties as a citizen is to educate yourself you can vote in an informed fashion, let alone the fact that voting is vital. Look, I don't like democracy any more than any of you might, but it's what we've got, so until that changes we need to work together on this.


Hello cowgirl in the sand

Spurred on by a bit of backhanded prose over at the latest entry at Jeff Worrell's excellent Ka`lei´do`phon CD a day project/blog, I've been listening to Neil Young's Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere. It's easily one of the best studio albums Young's ever managed to produce (although Tonight's The Night and a few others rival it, and I like the live Time Fades Away more) and I loved it just as much this time as I normally do, but I was struck at how different the extended guitar parts on the two epic tracks are from what you might expect.

Especially "Down By The River", where a dead simple drum beat and an easy up-and-down bass part slowly keep pace for Danny Whitten and Young to scrawl out a series of increasingly small scale and intricate guitar licks. I'm used to thinking of these sections as more conventionally (for some value of "conventionally") rockin', probably from hearing live versions on things like Weld (except, after checking it, neither song is on Weld, so I'm not sure if I'm just thinking of that kind of sound or if I've heard these songs in a different context somewhere else). Rather than thick, blustery distortion the sound is lean and almost wiry, vicious guitar jabs curling into certain productively blind alleys and then hitting the same note over and over again.

They sound great, sure, but what surprises me listening to them again now is how much more like say, Marquee Moon or even some of the songs on early Talking Heads albums these sound like. I'm not sure how much of this is a product of Young and David Briggs' production or the remastering on the bog standard edition of EKTIN I own. Both songs have passages of billowing distortion closer to how I think of them when I'm not actually listening to the record, but there are long stretches where the sound is enticingly clean and thin and almost mean. If a good remaster would take that element out, I'm not sure I need one.

The songs themselves are great, of course - the part where the band roars back in with the chorus on "Down By The River" after Neil and Whitten have been fucking around in the wilderness for five minutes always gives me chills.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005 

Well, it was part of my childhood.

So. X-Men 3. It's directed by Brett Ratner rather than Bryan Singer, and that concerns me (sure, Ratner was involved with the tremendously well-done potboiler Prison Break, but as a direct he's not exactly up there with Singer). The teaser trailer is a little promising, but we don't really get to see much.

One thing is sure, though: Kelsey Grammar is perfect for Beast. I may now hear his voice whenever I read something with Henry McCoy in it from now on.


Plus, you know, assault charges

As much as Warren Ellis' instructions for today make me chuckle, I don't think I'll be following them. But it's nothing personal; after all, as much as I love Girls Are Pretty, I don't follow those instructions either.


"My Humps", though? Seriously?

As much as I don't like exactly the same stuff he does, Anthony Miccio's year-end singles rundown on his blog (starting here) is incredibly fun and worth your time. I have been remiss in not mentioning it before.

Monday, December 05, 2005 


The US denies shipping people to other countries to be tortured, all usual qualifiers in place. But check out the first line of the article:

The United States Secretary of State is refusing to say outright that the U.S. does not operate secret prisons in Europe for the purpose of questioning suspected terrorists.

If they didn't exist, how hard would it be to just come out and say they didn't exist? What exactly could be holding Rice back, other than the existence of these "black sites"?

How dumb do they think their own citizens are (to say nothing of the rest of us)?


It begins

So today you'll find the first installment of our Top 50 Singles of the Year article, which is shaping up to be the best yet. I've seen the full list, and it's easily my favourite so far. I was going to do the blurb for one of our top ten, but I passed it on to someone (in my opinion) more qualified and who quite frankly I'd rather read on this particular song than me.

Also today, your customary dose of non-yearly singles. I'm really surprised I'm the only one of this week's group to like the Natasha Bedingfield single.

Mike Powell, however, wins for his line about Coldplay and ocean-going testicles.



I have an "unsorted" folder where I put all the songs I download/rip/somehow acquire before I decide to keep them or delete them. Over the past week or two I've actually focused on listening to my "unsorted" playlist when I'm not listening to something else I'm writing about, and I've gotten rid of hundreds of MP3s. I'm now down to around 650.

Clearly, I was letting them pile up for far too long. I've also been trying to sell some CDs, but when I went to the Beat Goes On today I wound up walking out with Public Image Ltd.'s first record, the new Johnny Cash best-of (which is the first one disc collection that at least looks promising) and Hangedup's Kicker in Tow, because it was $8 and I'm a sucker for the viola (not to mention the cello).

Someday I will get ahead of my collections.

Sunday, December 04, 2005 

That's a bad hat, Harry

After sitting through it tonight, mostly because nothing else was on and we were all talking over it, Ben and Lila and myself are in agreement that the best thing about The War At Home is the little "Ac-meee!" voice during the end card for Acme Productions (or whatever it's called). The show is crap, but that voice is adorable.

Saturday, December 03, 2005 

Bad law

Not only is Harper's drug rhetoric empty fear-mongering, he's proposing mandatory minimums, aka one of the worst things to happen to America's justice system. If mandatory minimums made sense, we wouldn't need human judges and juries, we could use have a machine adjudicate. An essential component of our court system is that humans review each crime and adjust our response as appropriate. Mandatory minimums are a huge over-compensation (especially for drugs) that are being cynically introduced by Harper's Conservatives in an effort into scare the suburbs into voting for him.


They used to float through like leaves

Apparently apples come from an area of Kazakhstan, and they're trying to rejuvenate the area. It's a pretty fascinating story for a few reasons (and I'd love to try an aport, especially the "grapefruit-sized monster-apple" kind), but the best part is this:

The place of apples in the city's history seems at times almost mythical.

Mr Alexeyev described how as a boy in the 1960s he used to fish apples, which had apparently floated down from the orchards, out of the ditches which run at the side of the city's sloping streets.

"They used to float through like leaves," he said. "We never even had to buy them at the market." This unusual source of nourishment dried up when Almaty was modernised in the early 1970s.


(but with Jesus)

Some proposals for randomly making movies more Christian (link obtained via Respectful Insolence). My favourite is probably "The Silence of The Lambs (But With Jesus)".



I'd forgotten that Stylus is updating on Saturday this week, as technical difficulties prevented us from doing so on Monday; it confused the hell out of me at first, but in any case my review of the new Jens Lekman compilation (which is great) is up. He really is one of our more lovable songwriters (and by "our" I mean "the world's").



I've been too busy to keep up with Arts & Letters Daily the last few days, but there's been some really good stuff linked from there: a book about Christian dieting, a hugely entertaining article by Umberto Eco against the commercialism of Christmas, Philip Hensher writes about endings, and Christopher Hitchens is, well, Hitchens; he's correct often enough you're tempted to just gloss over all of those inferences and insinuations that, if we made them about him, he would deem grossly uncharitable.


"Gail, the key to getting where you want to go is the choices you make."

So I just got back from watching all but the last two episodes of Profit at Wes' place. I had seen three of the four episodes that originally aired on Fox back in 1996, but we got through six of the eight that were filmed.

It's a pretty horrifying series - after all, it's about a viciously immoral business man with a... close relationship with his step-mother and a sharklike drive for power. There's plenty of black humour and it's very tightly plotted (while mostly keeping on the right side of the line between intricate and confusing), but ultimately I think the most fascinating thing about it is the way it exploits the power of the narrator (there may be some official technical term for this, but I don't know it).

Despite the fact that he's fairly unambiguously horrible, everyone who watches the show (and doesn't instantly recoil) winds up rooting for Jim Profit, at least a little. And not because he had an awful childhood, either - you see things from his perspective and its his projects that you're put into the position of wanting to see succeed. Despite the fact that in real life you'd be desperate for Jeffrey Sykes and Joanne Meltzer to nail him to the wall, he's so entertaining (albeit occasionally queasily so) that you hope they keep screwing up. It doesn't help that Sykes takes seemingly as much joy from the pure game of cut-and-thrust that they play as Profit does.

My favourite of the episodes we watched was the last one, "Chinese Box". Profit's assistant Gail (whom he blackmailed into helping him before he even started this job and has had an interesting working relationship with since) has been slowly getting more and more into helping her boss, partly because he always looks out for her but also, you get the sense, just because it always works out. He's been kind of, sort of grooming her for "better" things for quite a while at this point, and over the course of the episode he tests her quite a bit. And the result is more than a little disturbing; not because she starts enjoying it, that would be a bit too easy, just because she visibly becomes more used to doing the sort of thing Profit would do. Every time there's a little less hesitation, even as she retains fully the knowledge that it's wrong.

Gail is one of my favourite characters, mostly due to the excellent job Lisa Darr did playing her, and the way she handles the events of "Chinese Box" makes it incredibly compelling, especially if you watch the episodes in order. This one story alone says more about the seductive ease of evil than a hundred rigourous, complicated texts have.

I should point out too that Adrian Pasdar is responsible for a good bit of the success of the show thanks to his performance as Jim Profit. The best part is probably the way he allows just enough doubt, surprise and concern show on his face so that you can tell Profit isn't actually as smart as he thinks he is, or as he's made others think he is; he just reacts fast enough and ruthlessly enough that he cons everyone into thinking he's a bit of a genius, even himself.

Friday, December 02, 2005 

Listening and reading

Apropos of picking up my own cute little comment troll, I should probably link to Theon Weber's superb exploration of music and memory - I wouldn't recommend the comments, though, they go downhill fast. Also good today is Matt Sheardown on the Death From Above 1979 remix album, about which we seem to be in near-total agreement.

(although I'm not convinced "Black History Month" is "optmistically nostalgic")

On a more personal note, the fourteenth edition of "A Touching Display" is available for your listening pleasure, unless you don't like crazed one-man-band versions of "Get Rhythm" or something, in which case we probably wouldn't get along well anyways.



There's a pretty good article on Ayn Rand up at the London Review of Books (although really, it's not nearly critical enough of her), but of particular interest to me was a line from the end:

But it’s not just capitalism that Rand makes ridiculous by her worship. It’s also the mystique of Modernism, the idea that ‘good’ taste in aesthetic matters equates, somehow, with ‘good’ morals.

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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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