Thursday, June 29, 2006 

Des Serpents Dans L'Avion

K's right: Everything sounds classier in French.


You are number 6

Some guy is building the Village out of Lego.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006 

But I love it when you blink your eyes

Feel good hits of the 28th of June, 2006:

Clinic - "Distortions"
Elvis Costello - "Party Girl"
My Morning Jacket - "Lay Low"
The Smiths - "The Joke Isn't Funny Anymore"
OutKast - "Unhappy"
New Order - "As It Is When It Was"
Crowded House - "Love This Life"
Snow Patrol - "Headlights On Dark Roads"
Tindersticks - "Talk To Me"
Clinic - "Porno"


Tying some threads together

Ha! I bet you all thought I forgotten (Aaron especially)! But I didn't forget, I'm just lazy. In any case, Aaron asked me some questions way back in April (context here):

"But all that this line of thought does is raise more questions in my mind. Where's the line? When does simple writing become art? Can it become art in spite of the author's primary intentions? Or is art more a state of mind, where one work could be 'superior' to an 'actual' work of art in terms of aesthetic value, but still not be art because it wasn't done with the appropriate intentions?"

He was talking about the line I was attempting to establish between criticism (a form of art) and reviews (a form of reporting). Which is where this ties into a recent post where I laud something John Scalzi wrote about video game criticism. That's necessary background here. Go read. His point 3 sums up the whole criticism vs. review thing pretty well, and there's nothing in his piece that I would disagree with off the top of my head (I reserve the right to backtrack on this if someone brings up a good criticism in the comments here).

I like Aaron's questions because they grapple with the whole authorial intention thing in a way other than the boring, easy to grasp way we normally encounter it. For those playing at home: Quite some time ago, academia basically decided that the author's intention, while sometimes helpful/useful/informative, was not the be all and end all. So whether, say, Melville meant Moby Dick to be anything other than a whaling adventure novel (or whether David Bowie really "meant" Station to Station to be an epic portrait of collapse), we can find subtext there. Basically works of art sometimes have things we didn't consciously (or even unconsciously) mean to put in there. Which is, or should be, a pretty noncontroversial assertion at this point; obviously there are limits, but if it works it's valid, basically.

Aaron, though, is asking an aesthetic question: What makes a work of art a work of art? There are a ton of theories on this, of course; my preferred one is that anything that is capable of creating an aesthetic object is a work of art. Without getting into it too much, as that would be another massive post, think of it this way: Take your favourite novel, one you would consider a work of art. The aesthetic object isn't the actual copy you have on your shelf, or some sort of Platonic ideal copy, or the original manuscript. The aesthetic object is what is created between you and the book when you read (experience) it. There are a ton of ramifications and complications of course, but let's move on.

So is "simple writing" capable of becoming "art"? I guess - but I'm not sure there's ever something that's just simple writing. I distinguish reportage from art in that the former does not have as its primary goal art; one of the problems Aaron had with my conception of criticism before we distinguished the two fields is that I feel (pretty strongly) that the latter cannot allow any considerations of audience, usefulness, etc to overshadow its responsability to be, simply, good writing - and the former clearly has other responsabilities as well, even some that are of greater importance. So, can "simple writing" (which I am assuming Aaron is using to refer to reportage among other things) be art? Sure - but that's gravy.

Can it be art even if the author wasn't trying for it? Well, leaving aside how likely that would be, I would say yes. I mean, it wouldn't be that much of a modification to take my above statement and change it to something like "anything that is intended to create an aesthetic object is a work of art." But I do think you start running into all sorts of problems there. As for the last question, I'm sure some people would assert that the deliberately "artistic" is always superior to the accidentally or incidentally so, but those people are probably snobs. Probably. I'm not sure what Aaron means by "one work could be 'superior' to an 'actual' work of art in terms of aesthetic value," since aesthetic value is intrinsically and unavoidably subjective (absolutely, 100%, totally), but I will say the accidentally artistic can certainly triumph over the slaved over work - one of those things that bugs the creative to no end.

Is my definition of art broad, too broad for some? Sure ("But wait," they say, "doesn't that mean nature could be art? Math? Sports? Pretty much anything?" "Sure," I say, not quite understanding the problem). Is it vague? Well, here maybe, but talk to me after sitting down and chatting with me about it for an hour or two. And let me grab my notes to brush up first.

"Our art is a way of being dazzled by the truth."

"Art and Life are different, that's why one is called Art and one is called Life."

Tuesday, June 27, 2006 

Knights who say

When it comes to Monty Python, this guy has a point.


Running late

Not really, but I didn't check Stylus today until much later than I usually do; the singles are up, naturally (although this week you could invert the order and I'd be happier), as well as my review of R. Luke Dubois' extremely interesting Timelapse.

Monday, June 26, 2006 


Pajiba has a great, funny/accurate guide to third date films.


"God doesn’t seem to be doing it"

Fine opinion piece on why better screening of embryos for disease and defects is a good thing, especially when Marrin tackles directly the unfair and unhelpful contention that this sort of thing somehow devalues those currently living with disability; as the mother of a son with muscular dystrophy over in this story puts it, "I love my little boy, I wouldn't be without him, but it does give people the option of not having to watch their son die."


Tiny reminders

This week's A Touching Display is based around tracks from albums I hope everyone remembers when it's time to make year-end lists for 2006. Some of them (Mountains) I'm hopeful at least Stylus will recognize, others (Mates of State) I'm not so sure.


Holy shit dept.

Warren Buffett is worth an estimated $44 billion. He's giving $37 billion of it to charity.

I wish this wasn't as rare and shocking as it is.

Friday, June 23, 2006 

Just the way things are

In the midst of a scathing look at Timothy Leary and the "Greatest Generation" in general, Louis Menand manages to slip in a precise and concise account of the force and problem of Capitalist Realism (emphasis mine):

Psychology in the nineteen-fifties played the role for many people that genetics does today. “It’s all in your head” has the same appeal as “It’s all in the genes”: an explanation for the way things are that does not threaten the way things are. Why should someone feel unhappy or engage in antisocial behavior when that person is living in the freest and most prosperous nation on earth? It can’t be the system! There must be a flaw in the wiring somewhere.


The man whose head expanded

I should never go to the good used book store five minutes from my apartment; I just walked out with William S. Burrough's Exterminator!, The Shifting Realities of Philip K Dick (a collection of his essays and notes), At Swim-Two-Birds by Flann O'Brien and Italo Calvino's If on a Winter's Night a Traveller. Calvino is someone who, like Borges before I finally read him earlier this year, I've been meaning to check out since high school. And if I like this one they've got a bunch more of his stuff in the same, nice editions (remaindered, I gather). Plus, all four came to $34; if new, they would have been $65.

Plus I sold $46 worth of CDs I wanted to get rid of, so it worked out nicely.


Criticism is a reaction as well as an explanation

Absolutely fantastic post by John Scalzi on why there is no Lester Bangs or Pauline Kael of video games - yet. Any of my music criticism writing brethren owe it to themselves to check this out, particularly points 3 (the difference between review and criticism) and 6 (why certain art forms/genres get good criticism; the essentially defensive nature of a lot of it; the origin of rockism) - it's not just the fact that he uses music criticism as an example that makes it relevant. I'm on my way out of the door, but I'll expand on this later.


I'm an addict

Not only does it turn out that figuring out some difficult theory gives our brain a hit of pleasure, but "The same mechanism is involved in the aesthetic experience, Biederman said, providing a neurological explanation for the pleasure we derive from art." Not to mention that Biederman goes on to explain why we like new images - the pleasure we feel from seeing and understanding an image decreases as it's processed. This is both why you shouldn't listen to your favourite album over and over again and why guys keep looking for new porn. In other words, some of this is common sense, but it's nice to see some neurology backing it up.

(via Warren Ellis)


It's all right to shake, to fight, to feel

If you want to hear "warm, considered humanity," you could do a lot worse than to go back and take another listen to Terror Twilight. From "Spit On A Stranger" to "relationships, hey hey hey" to "Ann Don't Cry" to Malkmus' Palestinian nephew in "The Hexx" to "Carrot Rope" - the least wiseass, and perversely enough, funniest album they ever made, as well as their bid for indie classic rock status (seriously, listen to the end of "Cream Of Gold" again). I sort of go back and forth between it and the chillier (somehow Nigel Godrich manages not to turn Terror Twilight in audio Ikea), more oblique Brighten The Corners as my favourite Pavement LP. The early ones and good and justly lionized, and I'll never quite convince myself to get rid of the sloppy-but-wonderful Wowee Zowee, but only their later day stuff really gets played around these parts.

I wonder if Malkmus sticks around long enough, maybe he'll eventually turn into (or finish turning into, or even just be recognized as) a Hilarious Jewish Asshole (NB. No, I haven't the faintest if Malkmus is actually Jewish)?

Thursday, June 22, 2006 

Winter arrives for ever and ever

Iain Forrester notes that JJ72 have broken up; I liked their first two albums, although it was the adolescent quality that Iain mentions as a bit of a negative quality that I thought was striking and interesting about their debut. "Snow" and "Algeria" in particular are so outsized in their emotions that they evoke that "this matters to me more than ANYTHING has EVER mattered to ANYONE," hormone-crazed state. I interviewed Mark Greaney for the Ontarion shortly after it came out and had an interesting talk with him about the teenage quality of most rock and roll, and a bunch of other things (before he left university one of his majors was philosophy). I might have to dig that out when I get home.

And their second album, I To Sky was, as he says, an interesting maturation. "Formulae" was a pretty good extension of that subjectivity they used to such great effect on the debut, and the stronger songs like "I Saw A Prayer" and "7th Wave" were pretty impressively layered. I would have liked to see where they went next. Chalk them up as another band with potential who never got to fulfill it, although I'm glad Greaney is keeping his hand in (he's a nice guy too, or at least was when I talked to him).


"Though some see Canada as cold and remote"

Hey, as The Onion could tell you, at least we're psychologically healthy.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006 

Sexy time explosion

So Borat, the hilarious and offensive character played by Sasha Baron-Cohen, has offended Kazakhstan. No surprise there, I would hope he does! But the daughter of the president of Kazakhstan, who's a politician in her own right, is actually being sensible about the whole thing! Great success!


Television rots your brain

I don't like the two new Tom Verlaine albums, here.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006 

When it's hot I'd like to die

The weather today is quite nice, actually, low 20s and a cool breeze. But my Stylus Summer Jamz mixtape is up today (the second from the top, for future reference), and that's what it's all about.

Also, as customary for Tuesday, the singles jukebox is up. For once I pretty much agree with all the rankings, nothing unjustly high or low.


Secret histories

This is exactly the kind of thing I love.

Monday, June 19, 2006 

"the psychology of the players"

Even if you don't like comics, if you like art and collaboration you should read this interview with Warren Ellis. The part where Ellis is describing how you work with different artists is fascinating, even if Ellis worries he's boring his audience, and there's some good stuff about Philip K. Dick a little further down, too.


Empathising and systemising

I posted a link to the associated quiz a while back, but something elsewhere brought my mind back to this article on brain differences among the sexes. If you haven't read it before, it's definitely worth a look.

(and for those who weren't around the first time, I'm one of the 17% of guys who have a "female" brain)


Make you work hard

Oh god, I am totally powerless in the face of Nelly Furtado/Timbaland's "Maneater"/"Promiscuous". Completely. I really don't get the haters on this one.


Brain leaking out ears

I was up way too late (more on that later today), so I don't have much to say about today's Stycast. But 's good. You should download it. Especially if you're Mallory O'Donnell, since the last track is a bit of a shout-out.


End of an era

So Saturday I attended the aforementioned wedding of Jobe and Amy, which was small, informal (as far as this sort of thing goes) and very lovely. Probably the nicest one I've attended as an adult (no offence to anyone else, and yes there's one coming up I'm sure will be even nicer), and we stayed around for beer and food for a couple of hours afterwards.

After that I went to Aaron and Christa's for a apartmentwarming party, which was a ton of fun. I went home briefly to pick up video games for them, and to change undershirts, but not to change out of the suit - I was rocking it all night long. My only concession to the fact I was now at a party was to untuck the shirt.

So six or seven hours of hockey game, euchre, mario kart and etc. later I walked down to the Shadow (in my suit, sharpest dressed guy downtown I guarantee) and proceded to get nicely smashed with Ben and Wes and at least some of all the people who've come out over the years. This was their last night, and we sent the place out in fine style, with a fez and shots, high fives and a little property destruction. You really had to be there, but it was one of those nights, as they say.

Saturday, June 17, 2006 

Wedding bells.

Naturally enough, on the first day in weeks that the temperature goes above 30 degrees (a projected 39 this afternoon!) I have to wear a suit. And go sit in a church, which I am sure will be massively air conditioned.

Still, congratulations to Jobe and Amy, and I'm happy to be there. I just wish it was colder.

Friday, June 16, 2006 

Material boy

Who just bought Hot Chip's The Warning, Espers' II and a used-but-pristine (so win/win, both new and cheap!) copy of Camera Obscura's Let's Get Out Of The Country? Not you, I bet!

And they say filesharing reduces music sales. Time to delete those three off of my harddrive...



So I guess I like the cold because I'm outgoing?


"Canadian" versus "Canadian-born"

I find it pretty hard to disagree with Heather Mallick here, usual caveats about Holocaust references notwithstanding.

Thursday, June 15, 2006 

World War Z

This is extremely interesting, not just because it's a new zombie movie at some point, but because I had no idea Max Brooks was working on a new book. That's going to be bought ASAP.


Modern drunkard

Today's Doonesbury brings us this quote from Jewel, in their "Say What?" section:

I grew up singing for alcoholics, and it never really seemed like alcohol fixed anything. I was afraid that it would get me. Around 30, I kind of realized that alcohol really does solve all your problems. Whoever said drinking doesn't help lied. You live and you learn.


All the people that I love are drunk

Why is it that every time I get in late and drunk recently I feel compelling to listen to Hot Chip's "Crap Kraft Dinner", one of the few tracks I like from their debut (as opposed to their amazing new album).

"Because it's amazing", while true, is not the answer. Hopefully I'll figure it out at some point.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006 

"people don't change"

Some comments from David Shore, on the next season of House:

Being shot by an angry widower in the season finale won't trigger an epiphany for the cynical and sarcastic master diagnostician... "We're going to go down that road a little bit, but people don't change," David Shore said at the Banff Television Festival.


There were fleeting moments last season when House appeared to show glimmers of humanity and decency. Don't get used to that.

"If we were making him softer, I'm sorry," laughed Shore... "That was a mistake."


"I think in TV that rather than have characters evolve, you want to peel more of the onion away," said Shore.

Oh yeah, I don't have huge alarms going off on my brain right now. On the one hand, I keep feeling chagrined I haven't written the article on House and sequential drama I'm going to do for Stylus; on the other, I'm glad I'll be able to use this. I should get going on that.


Closing the Tickle Trunk

Wow, Mr. Dressup is going off the air on the CBC. I haven't watched it in ages (I do other things at 11 in the morning during the week, these days), but I'm still crushed and oddly depressed by this. Falling ratings - what the hell is wrong with kids these days?


Fight club

I don't think I fit his criteria, but I'd totally get in the ring with Uwe Boll. And I'm pretty sure I'd hurt him.


Don't take your ones to town

Thanks to some Stylus staffers, I now admire Johnny Cash more than ever:

Tuesday, June 13, 2006 


Today, we've got my review of Au Revoir Simone's debut, an On Second Thought about an album no-one but I have ever heard about, and the Singles Jukebox. I managed to get close to 8 hours of sleep last night, but perversely that's only making me more tired this morning.

Monday, June 12, 2006 

If I ever write a sci-fi novel, this guy is going to be the hero

At one of the email addresses at work that I monitor, I just got spam from one "Sardonically E. Avenging" - if you're going to use fake names, this is the way to go, people.

Sunday, June 11, 2006 

Not exactly the wheels of steel

So last night Ben and Wes let Melvin and I take over the DJing duties for a little while (roughly half the night), starting with a very brief detour into rap* in the midst of Punk Night and then continuing until we shut it down around 2 in the morning. Melvin knows a lot more of the catalog than I so I was mostly on CD-swapping duties with the occasional "hey, why don't we play X?" comment. I got a lot of my standards** out which was nice, but Melvin did the lion's share of the actual brain work. A fun night, in any case, although of course when you're figuring out what to play next you're not paying that much attention to the music...

*(consisting in its entirety of Ol' Dirty Bastard's "You Don't Want To Fuck With Me", "Careful (Click, Click)" by the Wu-Tang Clan, "Run" by Ghostface and Jadakiss and then "It's Tricky" by Run-DMC)

**("Bankrobber" by the Clash, "Crack Rock Steady" by Choking Victim, "A Little More For Little You" by the Hives, "Party 'Til You Puke" by Andrew WK, etc)


Bad PR

Of course the suicide of three Guantanamo inmates was "asymmetrical warfare" and "a public relations move." No, there's no way these deaths were motivated by despair, by utter powerlessness. These men couldn't even go on a hunger strike. Suicide is often the last resort of the powerless, and if you seriously think that's not the case, and that this is:

"They are smart. They are creative, they are committed... They have no regard for life, either ours or their own. I believe this was not an act of desperation, but an act of asymmetrical warfare waged against us.”

Then you need a crash course in basic human empathy.

Saturday, June 10, 2006 

The sun's a strange light

So by the time I ventured out of my room to brush my teeth before bed the dawn had broken.

No, I have no idea why I was up that late. I need to stop doing that.


Pillow talk

As a guy who unashamedly owns a copy of His Girl Friday and who just hasn't gotten around to buying Say Anything yet, I can only applaud Allison Gilmor's depiction of the sorry state of the romantic comedy.


Extraordinary Popular Delusions & the Madness of Crowds

Its historical context and influence isn't nearly the first thing that strikes you about the Velvet Underground's debut, even when you're used to it, but there's a perverse pleasure there, in addition to the inherent thrills of the music.

Perverse because the human mind is perverse; if one is inhumanly rational about it, there should be no reason that The Velvet Underground & Nico's status as the LP bought by a thousand people who promptly started bands and routinely lionized even by those who should know better (than hyperbole) should add to the experience of listening to it, but there's something comforting and deeply satisfying to know that not only do you enjoy it, but that everyone else (who counts) does too. That you are smugly with the majority.

(PS. and just in case you think I'm being sarcastic, I do genuinely love the LP, and do experience a kind of comfort in knowing I'm firmly with the crowd on this one)

(PPS. bring on the comments slating the album!)

Friday, June 09, 2006 

The Young Person's Illustrated Primer

Well, not quite, but those cheap, hand-powered laptops I blogged a couple of years ago are actually being made now. This is tremendously exciting for a host of reasons, and I would gladly buy one for $300 at some point.

Thursday, June 08, 2006 


So Jon Stewart spanked Bill Bennett pretty soundly on gay marriage. Shocking. God bless him for having a strong position and refusing to be cowed into being defensive about it, unlike (say) the Democratic Party. Screw ceding ground to the marriage bigots (on which, see here); the issue really is whether you're willing to admit that homosexuality is part of the human condition, which is rather obviously is.



I've already expressed my utter disgust with the Sandi Thom single here and elsewhere, but Popjustice, naturally, do it better. Via Iain F.


(c'mon c'mon)

Won a combined total of two pitchers and a pint at music trivia last night, and that was with what I felt was a dismal showing in the first round (12/20) that still netted us one of the pitchers.

Tuesday the Singles Jukebox went up, as did the associated Stycast (I believe with me in it, I haven't listened yet), and today sees my review of Matthew Herbert's Scale, which I wasn't very impressed with.

I think things are back to normal as far as posting goes. Yesterday I had a day off work for a concert that was cancelled, so I finished something exciting and spent the rest of the night drinking.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006 

I'm tired and lame and available

Feel good hits of the 6th of June, 2006:

The Sycamores - "Biology"
Maximo Park - "Kiss You Better"
The Wedding Present - "Dare"
Camera Obscura - "The False Contender"
The Strokes - "Alone, Together"
Radiohead - "Packt Like Sardines In A Crushed Tin Box"
Pet Shop Boys - "Left To My Own Devices"
Elastica - "Human"
Joe Strummer & The Mescaleros - "Mondo Bongo"
The Sycamores - "Futility, As An Exercise In Futility"

Monday, June 05, 2006 


I was sort of half reading the newest arts feature on CBC, only half-interested, when I ran into something that made me prick up my ears, in the midst of comparing Madeleine Thien's debut to The English Patient:

Ondaatje’s book fits with a postmodern program: the man at the core of the book is a cipher, illustrating the postmodern conceit that we have no identifiable selves, that we’re ever-changing combinations of almost random traits. Thien, whose book has been sold into more than a dozen foreign markets, doesn’t follow in Ondaatje’s footsteps. "[Humans] can understand each other," she says emphatically. "Perhaps not everything, but the real stuff."

I'm not sure why her quotation should resonate that strongly with me (I knew I agreed with her, but not that I apparently care so much), but it does.


Back again it's the incredible

After last week's refreshing pause, A Touching Display is again available for your downloading pleasure. It's another good one (of course), but if somehow you've never heard Slowdive's "Blue Skied An' Clear", you pretty much need to get it just for that.

Sunday, June 04, 2006 

"And I'm going to be HIIIIGH - as a kite - by then"



I knew this was coming, but still, I have a question for the people of the United Kingdoms:


Saturday, June 03, 2006 


Thanks to the indefatigable Katie, I have now heard an awesome acappella version of Belle & Sebastian's "Wrapped Up In Books," here.

Friday, June 02, 2006 

Too late to be this early

Orbax's show last night was really great, as normal, but the free beer may have been a mistake. My review of Space Needle is up, as well as my newest Top Ten; now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to stagger off to work and try not to die.

Thursday, June 01, 2006 

Just bad timing, that's all

I have no real opinion on the merits of the case of the soldier who is suing Michael Moore, not yet; but as the movie came out, oh, four years ago, why sue now?


Live forever

I like Definitely Maybe probably a little more than the next man, in these parts (although I don't think it's perfect); but even so, the idea that it is best album of all time is practically parodic.


"a unique ecosystem that has been sealed off from the world"

Eight new invertebrates have been discovered in Israel. And scientists think those eight are only "the beginning of the story" - cool!

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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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imathers at gmail dot com

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