Tuesday, December 26, 2006 

Good will to all

(First, and foremost - RIP, James Brown. Whatever the man's personal failings, musically he was a giant of almost incalculable importance, and he will be missed. I'll be listening to this when I get home.)

On the one hand, it suggests the wrong emphasis to mention the presents you got for Christmas; on the other, what else are you supposed to mention? Yes, both of the Christmases this year were wonderful (even more than normally, actually). And while I got some really great stuff (thankfully as we get older the emphasis switches from quantity to quality). But I really only want to mention the media; perhaps unsurprisingly this year was more books and DVDs than music, although my little sister did get me Hell Hath No Fury and the superb early-days R.E.M. compilation And I Feel Fine, which I'm listening to right now. But other than that I got the Leonard Cohen movie I'm Your Man (looking forward to that, I've never seen it), the second season of House and the first two seasons of Grey's Anatomy. Plus, in addition to the new Adrian Mole (a series I've been addicted to since I was very, very young), I got a very nice book on Hiroshige's 100 Famous Views of Edo, the third and final part of Stephenson's Baroque Cycle, Gravity's Rainbow by Pynchon (not to mention Against the Day, his new one, from Kiernan) and serendipitously enough This is Your Brain on Music by Daniel J. Levitin, which I first heard of here, saw in a bookstore in Ithaca and almost bought.

Not to mention, at long last, a new wallet and coat, both of which I've had since high school (well, in the wallet's case, grade 7!). Is any of this as important as the family and friends I've been able to see? Not even slightly. But it's still pretty cool. Now if only I had time to watch/read it all in the near future...

Whoever reads this, and whatever you're celebrating (or not), I hope you've had a good day, and I hope you have some time off work to relax in the near future. We are all in this together, after all, even if we may only really think about that during the holidays.

Friday, December 22, 2006 

"Remember that 'nothing happens' is, grammatically speaking, a positive statement"

For some reason my internet has been wonky ever since I got home. Some sites (Stylus, email, bloglines) have been working fine, and some, including any Blogger sites, have been refusing to load. My connection seems to be fine, and I can post stuff to my blog, I just can't see my blog. Anyone else experiencing something like this?

Anyways, a few things: Although of course I don't like every record in it, I am tickled pink by our top three albums this year. I didn't vote for Ghostface or the Clipse because voting for the only two rap albums I heard all year had the whiff of the illegitimate to me, but I do love Fishscale.

Mark k-punk has another fantastic post on hauntology up, and as I'm planning on submitting something to Perforations upcoming hauntology issue on Joy Division and absence I've been thinking about the subject. The best bit:

My claim was that, in hauntology, there is the possibility of a positive alternative to postmodernity. Against the disavowed revivalism of postmodernity's 'nostalgia mode', there are the spectres of lost futures. The 'spectre that haunted Europe' was not, after all, a returning revenant, but the avatar of the new...

The ghost embodies dyschronia (it is the apparition of his father's spectre, of course, which causes Hamlet to declare that the 'time is out of joint'), even as it calls for revenge, reparation, for things to be set right (and for its raison d'etre to disappear). Yet hauntology must be about the enjoyment of dyschronia, about the unwillingness to set time back into joint. Ten years ago, the most apt image of dyschronia - in either its traumatic or its ecstatic modes, and these are not always extricable - would have been the future invading the past. Perhaps now, though, dyschronia is most strikingly encountered in the persistent traces of that which has never arrived, but which will never go away.

Wow. Just wow. Of course, I won't be spending all semester on that, and as I am going to be the TA for the Philosophy of Art course I look forward to thinking way too much about aesthetics during the winter, although maybe also trying to sneak a little of this in there too.

Warren Ellis linked to a fantastic set of warning signs for the future; I link to that particular example because, like the first commenter, I think it'd make an awesome tattoo.

Mike Powell has been on fire recently, but the second part of his year end musings is particularly strong. Mike articulates something important about boredom, something I recall trying to get across to another student one night but was too drunk to do so. Being bored /= something bad, not necessarily. I've certainly missed boredom this semester.

Speaking of which, I just checked my marks - I got an INP in the pass/fail MA seminar ("interim pass," I assume, as we still have a semester to go), an 87 on the Spinoza/Kant/Nietzsche course (I had an 84 going in to the finals!), and an 88 on the Plato class, the one I hadn't gotten any marks back in previously! I might just do okay in grad school after all. That's certainly higher than my marks in undergrad, although the bar is higher too (I get the impression that if we get less than 80s, we might as well not bother, you know?).

I mostly just slept, ate, talked and watched a bunch of movies/TV shows in Ithaca, but one thing that did come out of it is that I now actually do want a Mac laptop (after borrowing Kiernan's for the whole visit). I don't need one, not even slightly, so I won't be getting one. But if I won the lottery? Oh yes.

I finished my Christmas shopping last night, and today we're making our way down to Kincardine, so my year-end stuff (which will go up here and also at the FF7) may have to wait a while. I'll have free time, sure, but I'll be spending it with family. I hope everyone is enjoying the holidays as much as I am, because this year I really appreciate them.

Thursday, December 21, 2006 

I look down at my hands, like they were mirrors

The bus actually took less time on the way back than it was supposed to - instead of 10:40 I got into Guelph at 9:15. Sweet. So Aaron and I tried to go see the new Rocky (the first Rocky movie I've wanted to see, and given how well it worked out with the first Bond movie I wanted to see...) but it was sold out. Perhaps unsurprisingly given the length, I had some really great musical moments on the way back:

- driving through endless wheeling flocks of birds during the second half of the Mountain Goats' "New Monster Avenue," one of those wordlessly perfect marriages of sound and image; the birds didn't take off until the song started, and they were all gone once it finished

- the approach to Niagara Falls, with all the barren deciduous trees covered in lights (a surprisingly gorgeous and strange effect) to Alfie's "Manor House Farm" and then the actual, always-stunning Falls at night, lit with coloured lights, to "Montevideo" by the same band - at one point the lights were changing colour in time with the soothing synthesizer tone that runs through the song

- hearing Songs: Ohia's "The Black Crow" for the very first time (I found The Lioness in a used record store for $5 in Ithaca) on an elevated highway above St. Catherines, Jason Molina singing "I look down / and see the whole world / and it's fading" as lights slowly turn off and on

Definitely a better trip than the one down there, and thanks again to K for putting me up (and putting up with me). Ithaca has at least one thing over Guelph; I have rarely eaten as well as I did while I was on vacation, and although this has little to do with the city I also have never relaxed so hard. I'm going to hit the sack now, postponing actual substantial blogging until later (and there are thing to be mentioned, oh yes), but I am more well rested than I have been in months.

Saturday, December 16, 2006 

Yunisleysis, Osdaylys, Jessenias

I really like this short story, by one of the contributors to the fine A Grand Illusion. You should probably vote for it. I've certainly had nights that remind me of it a little.

Friday, December 15, 2006 

In one piece

So posting here will be light or non-existent until next Wednesday or Thursday; I made my perilous way down to Ithaca today, perilous because instead of sleeping last night I hit the Albion with Nate and Brynna and danced my ass off. Surprisingly, being in a swaying, jolting bus the next day is not the best thing for your stomach. But I slept from Toronto to Buffalo, managed to avoid puking on the customs people (who seemed deeply amused that I'm visiting an ex), had a nap when I got here and just got back from eating delicious Latin American food (I got some sort of green pepper thing stuffed with beef and rice and wrapped in scrambled eggs), so I feel sufficiently human now.

My second blurb for the singles list is up (#6), and this week coming up I'll have a blurb for our albums list as well. For now, it's time to go have a beer and watch a movie or two.

Thursday, December 14, 2006 

You've laughed in my mouth too

I guess it went up yesterday, but I just saw the very special 900th Dinosaur Comic right now. The last panel is a perfect example (in context) of how Ryan North even uses punctuation or a lack thereof to increase the funny.

(also, mny first blurb on the singles list is up - #17)


"We follow Mr. Santa to the end"

The Knife have a Christmas song.

That is all.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006 

I'd like to believe this

See, I don't just sleep late for no reason - I'm creative!

(although, really, it's just one more study - and stuff like this makes me remember how dubious I think psychology can get: "Being in a situation which diverges from conventional habit — nocturnal types often experience this situation — may encourage the development of a non-conventional spirit and of the ability to find alternative and original solutions")


And it hurts with every heartbeat

It's not often I stumble on new blogs - and far rare that I stumble on blogs I instantly love, but Voyou Desœvré (via Mark) is one of the best things I've read all year. The fact that they have extremely cogent and entertaining things to say about House and sad songs only sweetens the pot; the latter in particular is germane enough to my taste in music (and possible upcoming posts on my year-end list) that I feel the need to post the good bit here:

Talking to a friend a while ago, he expressed surprise when I said that I found, in sad music, not tears and catharsis, but an odd sort of strength, or even cheer. “But listen to Miles Davis playing Concierto de Aranjuez,” he said; “how can you not feel the bleakness, the absolute despair in that record?” But what stops it short of being absolute despair is precisely the fact that it is a record. It’s not simply the bleak fact of despair, but a representation of despair; hence proof that something can be done with sadness. This kind of sublimation is not a theodicy, at least not in the traditional sense. The brute fact of suffering is not justified by the brute fact of redemption, rather, redemption, or the closest we can get to it, comes through the fact that suffering can be interpreted, that the fact that we suffer never determines what we then do with that suffering.

Yes. Just Yes.



Ian Penman is unmistakably gifted, although occasionally a bit hard to get through; but this post on Paris Hilton is a joy to read whether you agree with him or not (extra fun in the comments!).


Warm and fuzzy

I've never actually used Craigslist, but this makes me like them quite a lot.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006 

And I'm all hooked up

You know, if someone had told me earlier that Broken Social Scene sounded so very different (as in, from a different band) from the crappy You Forgot It In People, I would have checked it out earlier.

(NB. I had plenty of evidence I should have given it a chance when it came out, that's not the point - it was the wrong kind of evidence!)



Forgot to mention this week's singles are up, with a whopping three blurbs from me. I can't believe Lily fucking Allen nearly won.


In the morning

Still up marking, albeit after a three hour nap. I'm mostly done and have a couple more hours to finish. I don't think I ever really appreciated prolonged sleep deprivation before; it really does make your life seem unreal in a way that no drug I've tried can manage.

Today my On Second Thought of Joe Strummer's Global A Go-Go is up; there are records I like or listen to more, but few that inspire more affection in me.

Monday, December 11, 2006 

Busy day

All of my academic obligations for the semester are discharged, except for marking 73 final exams (that's for tonight, and then I'm free!). I've been so busy that I've been neglecting the internet, but there's a couple of things I've been meaning to mention...

- Just picked up my physical copy of Jason Molina's Let Me Go Let Me Go Let Me Go today, and it's gorgeously packaged for the most part. The strength of the music itself isn't in question; Molina's chronicle of "depression without a fight and depression with a fight" is easily one of the records of the year for me, one that I am livid I forgot to vote for over at Stylus. But the actual record is interesting: it "only" comes on vinyl, and tucked inside that is the CD copy. While I'm more than happy to buy the vinyl version, I would have loved it if the stuff to make a proper CD album was in there - not a jewel case, just art to put in a jewel case. With a thin paper sleeve, how the hell is this supposed to go on my shelf? I'm probably going to be listening often enough that it'd be nice to have some ease of access.

- I meant to mention this a week ago when I found it out, but Out Hud's S.T.R.E.E.T.D.A.D. is by some significant margin the best cooking album I have ever heard. Maybe I just got lucky - the peaks tended to hit just as the interesting/demanding parts of the process did - but I tend to think the way it made lengthy interludes of stirring and waiting fly by is both repeatedable and one of the more purely enjoyable experiences I've had with music in a while.

- Pole's 2 is either really awful or really great party music. I'm glad I brought it, in either case.

- Joy and Brynna dragged me out to see The Holiday last Friday, and lo and behold the damn thing was actually pretty good; but, as realistic as it may or may not be, could they have skipped Kate Winslet's character rocking out to "Jet"? I really liked her otherwise.

- I'm heading down to scenic Ithaca this Friday, to rest and relax. Be back Wednesday. Won't necessarily blog while I'm gone. I'm sure my legions of fans will miss me.


Yes, even the Fray

It's that time of the year again; today marks the first installment of Stylus' Top 50 Singles of 2006. I know some of my readers like music, and trust me when I saw that if you care about pop music you owe it to yourself to read all five installments this week; not only will you be entertained by the writing, but you'll probably discover a lot of songs you're going to want to hear. Just ignore the comments; its always been a circle jerk in there, but lately it's gotten worse.

Saturday, December 09, 2006 

Motion picture soundtrack

I've been (surprise, surprise) busy, but all of my papers for the semester are now done, although I've still got a little work to do. Not to mention Stylus and Ontarion stuff. So for now, a musical-type survey, if they ever decided to make a movie of my life...

(yoinked from here)

1. Open your library (iTunes, Winamp, Media Player, iPod, etc).
2. Put it on shuffle.
3. Press play.
4. For every question, type the song that's playing.
5. When you go to a new question, press the next button.
6. DON'T LIE! That's not cool!

Opening Credits: "Box Elder" - Pavement
I could see that working. Although "It was the way that you smiled / Made me know at once / That I had to get the fuck out of this town" is a bit negative.

Waking Up: "Home" - King Cobb Steelie
Ooh, I quite like that. I kind of like how random songs suggest how the scene might be shot. There are definitely mornings I've had where this song would make sense.

First Day of School: "She's the One" - Beta Band
Uh... pity this one wasn't saved for a couple of the later slots. Beautiful song, but kind of random for first day of school. I guess "grabbing at straws so the holes don't slow me down / Coming up next, the lizard in the text" make a certain kind of Dada sense.

Falling in Love: "The Magician" - Clinic
I'm picturing that opening clarion clarinet as being the first moment I see her. And I guess starting the song with "Back with the living, no you're back on your feet" kind of fits. Still, apparently the love story is going to be weird.

Fight Song: "Don't Get Your Back Up" - Sarah Harmer
Hahahahahahahahaha perfect.

Breaking Up: "I Will Follow You Into the Dark" - Death Cab For Cutie
And I guess we break up on Opposite Day? Or I really regret it?

Prom: "I Gotta Know" - Teenage Fanclub
God, I feel old. Haven't thought about prom in quite a while. This would make a good slow dance, though. Totally anachronistic, but cool.

Life: "Sarah Alice" - the Boats
What did this category mean, again? I haven't listened to much of this album since I reviewed it, but this is nice and mellow and would work for some sort of life montage. Assuming I have a happy, peaceful life. Which I'd like.

Mental Breakdown: "This Is Our Sound" - Ladytron
"I can't seem to take you anywhere" - no kidding. Suitably menacing and aloof.

Flashback: "Tired and Beholden" - Paul Duncan
This works very nicely - dreamy and flowing, with vaguely past-evoking lyrics.

Getting Back Together: "King of Nails" - Sparklehorse
I guess we get back together pretty passionately. Can't see how else this would work - "sleep in the fire / with snakes I have sired / to sink or to shine / the nails are all mine" - so we'll have to rely on the sheer fuzzy drive of the thing.

Wedding: "My Sharona" - the Knack
Hahahahahahahahaha if not for the jailbait connotations of this song I'd say it means I'm having a good night. As it is, this is a little creepy.

Birth of a Child: "Stand By My Man" - the Research
Not a cover:

"Okay, put your knuckles on the table
and I'll play dead again
Someday I'll cage that sparrow
And brave the supermarket
I keep bumping into things
I can't pay for all those apples
I need to tell someone what happeened
I keep falling down the stairs
Will you help me with my makeup?
Will you be here when I wake up?
I hope there's nothing they can do to put me back together
For as long as I can stand
I'm gonna stand by my man
For as long as I can sing
I'm gonna love him with everything"

I have no idea how you'd fit a kid being born in here. Great, terrifying song, but not really suited.

Final Battle: "Tombstone Blues" - Bob Dylan
HELLS yes. Whoever I'm fighting, I'm gonna kick their ass. The sun is not yellow, it's chicken!

Death Scene: "Round" - Sunny Day Real Estate
Apparently I'm going to die badly.

Funeral Song: "The House Wins" - Ok Go
I'm really not that much of a pessimist. Still, this is kind of an awesome "choice" for a funeral. "You don't have to be alone to be lonely, you might as well give in / You don't have to be sick to be dying, you might as well give in." Morbid!

End Credits: "Sine Wave" - Mogwai
Ooh, cinematic! This might be my favourite random selection.

Thursday, December 07, 2006 

Lucky pot

So last night I spent part of the evening (after spending far too long writing my second Plato paper, which I finished off today) with my lovely fellow MA Seminar students. We just sort of informally decided to get the nine of us together and have a pot luck, which was easily the best one I've ever attended (in terms of food). I had assumed we'd be ending things pretty early, but things were so entertaining I didn't get in until around 4. The menu, of which everything was astoundingly delicious:

Greek salad
Chicken and vegetable and almond and mushroom curry (this was me)
Pesto with tofu, sundried tomatos, artichokes and mushrooms
Homemade pizza
Non-homemade pizza with fancier stuff on it
Macaroni and cheese
Scalloped potatoes

and for dessert:

Chocolate shells filled with mousse (chocolate or vanilla), covered in ice cream and with Bailey's and chocolate liqueur poured over it
More ice cream

I had a couple of beers with dinner, but it was about 1 am after a couple of the guys had left when Nate, our host, broke out the bottle of port which we subsequently polished off that I figured I'd just stay until everybody left. I am extraordinarily lucky in terms of who's in the program with me this year; they're an exceptional bunch, a hell of a lot of fun to hang out with, and I think I'm having them all over to my place next week.

(and if you're on Facebook, there are some pictures here)

Tuesday, December 05, 2006 

Unsurprisingly, I am the only one who likes that Damien Rice song

A very satisfying Jukebox this week - my blurb for it didn't make it in, but Nelly Furtado justly wins on the back of two superb singles in a row. This a not a sentence I thought I'd be typing, even after "Promiscuous," but now that I've heard 6 tracks from Loose and loved them all, I might need to search out a used copy.

Monday, December 04, 2006 

6th level Spinozan

Admittedly my brain is a little muddled by hours of marking at this point, but how much do I wish this game existed?

Sunday, December 03, 2006 

It's like an echo in my head

If you told me when I was a kid that the girl who sang the excrable "Show Me Love" would go on to make one of my favourite albums of 2005, I would have laughed at you. If you'd told me she'd be able to do this, I don't even know what my reaction would be:

You can dislike this song, of course. But it kind of makes you an asshole.


I'm not dead yet

Yeah, so I guess I've been a little busy recently. Still pounding out the papers, so excruciatingly slowly, plenty of marking to do this weekend, but aside from being holed up here doing work I did find time to attend a talk given by Professor Ronald De Sousa from U of T here at Guelph, and then later the department's year-end social at Professor Houle's house, which was massive amounts of fun (although my legs are still a little sore - Nate and I decided at one point to jump up and down for the length of "Rebellion (Lies)", which was quite the calf workout) and tonight to slip away and see Casino Royale, again. I am going to buy that movie.

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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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