Thursday, May 31, 2007 

She couldn't take on any more late fees

My review of the fine debut by Ola Podrida is up at Stylus today.



I had fond memories of logic puzzles of various sorts from my childhood, and I went searching them out. And what do I find? Enough nonograms to keep me busy for weeks.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007 

Always Low Prices. Always.

In the course of finding this story again for my wonderful fighting-for-the-little-guy ex (labour law: it's awesome) I figured I should actually post it, since I originally read it in the print Atlantic and really enjoyed it. So, ever though of the US using Wal-Mart to get health care?

Tuesday, May 29, 2007 

The ginge

Both my brother and my father have it, have for years. But it's not until I didn't shave for a full week or so that I confirmed what I suspected ever since my brother decided to go for facial hear: I, too, am half redhead. The line starts about halfway down my ears, and everything south of that comes in ginger. I thought about keeping it going but it's summer and I'm not a huge fan of how long it takes Ben or I to grow a respectable beard so I shaved it all off today. And boy, does it look red once it's lying there in the sink.

Monday, May 28, 2007 

Every old sock needs an old shoe

Feel good hits of the 28th of May, 2007:

Kate Bush - "Moments of Pleasure"
I Am Robot and Proud - "Eyes Closed Hopefully"
Spoon - "The Ghost of You Lingers"
Aarktica - "Nostalgia = Distortion"
Jarvis Cocker - "Black Magic"
The Go-Betweens - "Heart and Home"
Camera Obscura - "Razzle Dazzle Rose"
The Ventures - "Walk, Don't Run"
Alfie - "Montevideo"
Gui Boratto - "Beautiful Life"


In reverse

White Ninja can be pretty messed up.


Oh shit

Good ol' sodium benzoate, one of many ingredients in pop that we used to joke would wind up killing us all, actually switches off parts of your DNA. I don't drink as much pop as some people I know, but this article is still more than a little terrifying. I don't think I'm going to be having any for a while.

Sunday, May 27, 2007 

The phatic function

Given some of the conversations I've had with friends about Facebook recently, I found this post about "Ambient Intimacy" interesting. They're talking about Flickr and Twitter, which is different, but there's still some conceptual crossover. The stuff on low-content text messaging later on is really interesting.


Every k over is a killer

I don't speed much at all, certainly not in populated areas, but damn Australia takes this shit seriously, as it should.


Fuck yeah

It's Free Hamburger Day at Harvey's today, the finest of the burger chains. I understand they'll even give you a veggie one, should you swing that way.


"What is here is dangerous and repulsive to us."

Very interesting article about how to ensure no-one digs up radioactive waste in 10,000 years here.

Saturday, May 26, 2007 

Going to Seaforth

While I wouldn't want to do it every Saturday, or even most Saturdays (and not just because that means everyone I know is leaving town), every so often pretty much the most satisfying way you can spend an afternoon is helping a friend move. I am in an excessively good mood, and not just because of that; the weather yesterday and today has been flat out gorgeous (if it was like that through August, I'd love summer), and walking back to my place from Aaron's old apartment reminded me of how much I like my neighbourhood. Sure, my building faces onto downtown, which isn't really a neighbourhood; but the area behind us is great. Quiet, green, filled with nice, small and relatively old houses that don't look identical; exactly the sort of place I like to live.


The Great Indoor Fight

When it comes to Achewood I adore Roast Beef, and I love Cornelius (who, as yesterday's alt-text points out, "has had it figured out since Presidents smoked on TV"), so it's no surprise that I loved Friday's comic. For pete's sake, Beef, stop fighting happiness!

Friday, May 25, 2007 

Gets me to the church on time

Feel good hits of the 24th of May, 2007 (special "impromptu 80s night at the Albion" edition):

David Bowie - "Modern Love"
Erasure - "A Little Respect"
Pet Shop Boys - "Always On My Mind"
New Order - "Blue Monday"
Talking Heads - "Life During Wartime (Live)"
Hot Chip - "And I Was a Boy From School"
Peter, Bjorn & John - "Young Folks"
Phoenix - "Consolation Prizes"
Goldfrapp - "Strict Machine (Sasha's We Are Glitter Mix)"
The Radio Dept. - "The Worst Taste in Music"

Thursday, May 24, 2007 

I started, I jumped up

When I was a wee boy of 16 or 17 and R.E.M.'s Up came out, I remember liking "Sad Professor" but feeling sorry for the narrator. Every year when summer hits my thoughts turn to the song thanks to the line "Late afternoon, the house is hot" and this year for the first time I didn't feel pity with the guy - I identified with him. And yet at the same time I also don't feel sorry for him, or for myself. I don't know what it means, but it's a profoundly weird feeling.

(this is also the first year that it's occurred to me that despite the academic references the title could refer to one who professes - which just gives more depth to the line "everyone hates a sad professor," for both Stipe and myself)


"Good at chess usually means bad at life."

Until I watched it again tonight, I'd forgotten how much I like Stephen Frears' Dirty Pretty Things. Strong performances from both leads, yeah, and I'm a fan of Frears' stuff in general, but something of the idea of looking at the London that exists at a slight remove from the "real" one, the one we'd tend to think about, is tremendously appealing to me. And although Okwe, our protaganist, is maybe a bit too morally upstanding to be believable. Or not - his stiffness and inability to speak much of the time comes hand-in-hand with his seeming inability as opposed to reluctance to do the wrong thing, or compromise in any other fashion. Tautou does a good job, but it's really alllllll Ejiofor's movie, as it should be. That his friends (the hospital porter, the prostitute) are funny and casual is odd but somehow realistic.

And this is the funniest, most perversely compelling thing I've seen in weeks. Poke around it for a bit, and avoid the friggin' manticore.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007 

This is nothing like it was in my room

So I was listening to Boxer (again) and this time when I was curious about a lyric the internet had them up. But I'm a bit disappointed, as I always am; I thought the line in "Brainy"'s chorus was "Come on let me call you 'love,' brainy brainy brainy." So it was a snarky but sincere song about falling for an imperiously intelligent woman who doesn't have much time for you (while that's not something that's ever happened to me, I can definitely see the appeal, even with the last bit). But it's really "Come home in the car you love, brainy brainy brainy," and it sounds like the song is actually being snarky but sincere about a stalker.

Still love the album.


Accidental manifesto

While looking up some stuff for today's post on my Low blog, I stumbled upon this utterly fantastic interview with glenn mcdonald, one of my music writing heroes. It's very old, but (depressingly?) still relevant:

Far too much criticism tries to be an arbiter of value, in addition to, or even instead of, describing the music and letting the reader/listener supply their own response. Witness the grades and star-ratings nearly everybody puts on their reviews. There's no such thing as "a B+ album" or a three-and-a-half-star album or whatever. Value is not an internal property of a work of art, so to me grading a record is not just inane and offensive, it demonstrates a profound misunderstanding about how people react to art. An album could be an A+ to one person, on one particular day, because it delivers a completely perfect encapsulation of everything they're currently asking for from music, but to somebody else, with different needs and prejudices, the same album could be absolutely awful. To the same person who loves it today, it could be merely mediocre three years from now. Real responses to art are complicated and mutable, with all kinds of dependencies and ambivalences and reservations. If you think your job, as a listener or as a critic, is to stamp a C on something, or an A for that matter, all you've succeeded in doing is impoverishing your own experience of the music, or if you're unlucky enough to be influential about it, impoverishing some other people's experiences of it, as well.

Of course, there's still the other traditional role of the "critic" (as opposed to the "reviewer"), which is to try to place the work in some sort of larger context, and/or analyze it in a deeper way than a casual, under-informed listener is prepared or willing to, and thus get at some notion of artistic merit, which at least in theory is separate from the question of how valuable it is or isn't to any particular audience. This can be done with music, but a) almost no popular music criticism actually amounts to this, and b) I don't even think it would be very interesting if it did. It's probably possible, for example, for a group of reasonable, knowledgeable people to agree that
The Joshua Tree is a work of high artistic merit. It's a technically proficient implementation of a distinctive and influential aesthetic with a complex and intriguing heritage. But so what? It still may be too slow for you, or too pretentious, or not sexy enough, or any of a hundred other things that mean when you listen to it, your skin crawls, or your attention wanders.

So what's left? Why write about music at all? I think the worthwhile thing you can still do, and on a good week this is what I'm intending to do in my column, whether I succeed or not, is write about how music moves you, about the ways you find to connect with it, and how you contrive to allow it to affect your understanding of the world, or yourself, or break-ups or gender-politics or the Civil War or
something. You can be an object lesson in how to have a more rewarding relationship with music.

Truer words were seldom written. I don't claim to succeed fully in what he's talking about, but I'd like to think sometimes I come close (ditto for most or all of Stylus). And at least that's where I'm aiming. Also of note is the War Against Silence #500, "A Truce", which was the perfect way to end that regular operation of that column. I miss it, but I don't, if you know what I mean.


You're dumbstruck, baby

Feel good hits of the 22nd of May, 2007 (special "not getting any work done" edition):

The National - "Racing Like a Pro"
The Delgados - "Sink or Swim"
Royal City - "At Rush Hour the Cars"
Pavement - "Fin"
Wilco - "Sunken Treasure"
Mint Royale - "Don't Falter"
Tindersticks - "Chilitetime"
Death in Vegas - "Lever Street"
Clinic - "Porno"
Low - "Shame"

Monday, May 21, 2007 

Please note

1. Low have a couple new videos up at their site; the one for the "Optimimi" version of "Hatchet" is kind of cool in that it's an extended, funky, very different version of the song. But while I like the groove, it also makes me appreciate that they went with the version of the song they did on Drums and Guns, as this one would stick out like a sore thumb. The video for "Belarus," meanwhile, reminds me how much I love cross country skiing (which I haven't done in... a decade?) and is easily my favourite of the Drums and Guns videos so far. I love that they're doing all of them.

2. Who has the best crowd in North American football? We do. I need a season pass for next year.


Having a laugh

As much as I love their other stuff, there are times I wish Underworld had made a record at some point where every song sounded something like Winjer. It's also one of the songs (along with "Jumbo") that makes me wish Beaucoup Fish was better than it is.

Friday, May 18, 2007 

A life on the internet and the road

Is it sad that this sounds like a fucking awesome way to live to me? I'm not in a band, and the creative stuff I actually do isn't terribly conducive to what the article is talking about, but still.

Thursday, May 17, 2007 

Kicking a dead pig

Okay, I'm going to stop after this unless something really juicy comes up, but this is just too good to pass up:

Whatever my problems with Hitchens sometimes, I sure am glad he's influential enough to get on CNN and tell the truth about this.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007 

A bigot, a reactionary, a liar, and a fool

I've actually seen people online asking who Jerry Falwell is; for those wondering, or wanting a refresher, or just looking to be reminded why this is the rare occasion where I'm glad someone has died, Slate has you covered.


Too perfect

Fred Phelps is going to picket Falwell's funeral.


My most imaginary friend

I get the impression Evan Dando is (or was) a pretty big shithead, but this is a gorgeous song:

Tuesday, May 15, 2007 

We will laugh, the day that Thatcher Falwell dies

If I believed in Hell, I'd say that hypocritical, evil asshole was burning in it right now.


Politely terrorizing

Good times, good times.

I'm going to go see that movie tonight, I hope it's not a let down.

Monday, May 14, 2007 


So five or six weeks in I was ready to give up on Heroes, and now as it steamrolls towards the conclusion of the first season it's one of my favourite shows on TV. Next week's finale is going to be a barn-burner, I think - and if Sylar doesn't get put down like a mad dog I'm going to be upset. This week's was fantastic; the show really sunk its hooks in me around the middle of the season, and it wasn't until the masterfully done episode about Mr. Bennett ("Company Man," part 17 of 23) that I was fully addicted. Now I'm just eager to see what happens next.

Global mentioned the fact that the writing staff of the show is divided up, with each writer taking a hero. I love that idea, and I wonder if it's been done before; if not, then I may effectively be watching the most expensive role-playing game ever made.



I love articles like this, not only because it's inspiring and just a good way to live; it also reminds me of some of the possible subcultures depicted in, say, Neal Stephenson's work. I don't know if I'd have the discipline to form those habits on my own, but I wouldn't be adverse to being trained to do so.


Lots of fluids

You know, I've been sick on and off for a week now... nothing that's been impeding my normal life too much, but my throat has been killing me when I wake up and the like. I thought I was just about over it, but I guess spending 16 hours in a car over the weekend didn't help. I felt awful when I woke up (and and early by my standards, 10 in the morning!), and it's only now I'm realising I feel crappy enough that I'm just not going to do the errands I had planned. Hopefully I'll still get some reading done.


I may have done something rash

So I've been really enjoying the recent spate of blogs devoted to examining the work of a given band, song-by-song (started by Matthew). And, since I don't have enough ways to waste time, I've gone there myself: Say hello to Too Many Words, Too Many Words. It's about Low, naturally - lots of songs to keep me going for a while, nearly all of which I'm already familiar with, but not so many I'll be doing it forever. Hopefully. We'll see, I'm doing it for fun, so if it doesn't go well... I've added it to the sidebar, but for the most part I won't be linking to it unless an entry is noteworthy in some extra way, so if you want to read my blathering on about a band at length over the next months, check the link out now. Should be entertaining.

Friday, May 11, 2007 

Squalor Victoria

Okay, so I've already talked up the new record by the National, Boxer, which comes out end of May. But J. Edward Keyes sums it up just beautifully here:

Obviously one of the best records of the year, and a record for people as old as me, feeling everything I’m feeling right now. Moreover, it’s subtle; I’ve been burned out with big bands who make Big! Points! Loud! And! Often! With Big! Choruses! And obvious concepts. The National are the right kind of fuck-you, small and quiet and unassuming. I’ve loved them since their first record, and I didn’t quite get this record until the fifth time through — which is the exact kind of experience I want to have with records. The phrase “half awake in our fake empire” is the best description of New York I’ve heard in years, and I love that Berninger can take a nonsensical phrase — like “showered and blue blazered/ fill yourself with quarters” — and sing it so I know exactly what he’s getting at. Boxer just keeps on giving.

This articulates parts of my reaction to the record so accurately it hurts.

Thursday, May 10, 2007 

“It seems to just be a list of rape and incest jokes”

Along with Andrew Unterberger, Dom Passantino is one of the Stylus people I most wish would write more (or at least, write more where I'm reading). Thankfully he again has a blog, and it's pure gold so far. I hope it outlasts his two-week prediction.

Mind you, prudes may need to take some smelling salts until they get used to his style.


How to love yourself

I've known for years I would probably love the Red House Painters, but their intimidatingly long song/album times and inaccessibility here in Guelph meant I never investigated. Then one day Songs For a Blue Guitar popped up in my local used record shop, and now I'm rapidly speeding towards needing everything Mark Kozelek has ever done.

A big part of the process, and one of the most personally important songs I've heard since starting grad school, is "Have You Forgotten," the first track from that album. Today my Seconds on it goes up at Stylus, and it is probably one of the better things I've ever written for the site. I am exceptionally pleased that I could go some way towards doing the song justice, in a minor attempt to pay back all the good things that the song does to me, to paraphrase it.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007 

"Good music gives you a lot of own pictures in your head"

Ten days of perfect tunes

I love these guys so much. I'm actually eagerly anticipating times ahead when I'll find out where they and Hot Chip are both going, because there are such ridiculous amounts of potential there right now.


Cultural prisms

Interestingly enough, after a lengthy conversation that touched on this tonight, I run into an article on how culture may literally effect how we see things. As per normal, the effect isn't as dramatic as the headline (or my description) makes it sound, and it's basically another case of conditioning (not exactly a new thing), but it's still pretty neat.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007 

I hope you die; I hope we both die

So what was my knee-jerk reaction to this?

Ohfuckohfuckohfuckohfuckthis is going to be AWESOME.

My more consider response is more "wow, I can't think of a more perfect match, I hope Mike keeps it going and productive for a long long time, and that it brings him fame and wealth."


I have tried, in my way, to be free

I never write something for the purpose of generating hate mail, but I also don't pretend to have orthodox opinions when I don't; and if the mini-storm it touched off among Stylus staff is any indication, my re-evaluation of Leonard Cohen's first three records is going to cause some nasty comments. If it gets even one person to check out Songs of Love and Hate, I don't mind one bit.

Monday, May 07, 2007 

The three Rs

Also, I have a new CD-playing alarm clock, since I kept sleeping through my old one. I actually bought it a few weeks ago with tax money, but I've been so unfocused I didn't read the instructions until last night. I put in the first disc of 50,000 Fall Fans Can't Be Wrong and set the alarm for early (for me, especially as I was up late working), and then forgot about it.

Until I was awoken by Mark E. Smith yelling "RIGHT, NOISE!" directly in my ear at far too loud a volume. Genuinely one of the more terrifying moments I've ever experienced (lucky me, I know), especially when waking. I turned the volume down a bit, but I also think I'm going to switch CDs.


Getting back into gear (slightly)

A day spent procrastinating tends to crumple around you, shrinking into one dense, white-hot singularity of nervous boredom as your lack of application is represented by... I dunno, looking stuff up on Wikipedia or something. But I can genuinely say that I've gotten work done yesterday and today and if I'm not back up to the speed I need to be yet, we're at least getting there. And I've still got all evening.

Still, as leaving the house to buy food feels like even worse slacking than just sitting there not working and as I still don't have a job the pantry is getting awfully slim. My breakfast/lunch today consisted of the last hotdog, some Stoned Wheat Thins and an apple. That's okay, as in times of privation and academic stress I tend to shut down as far as eating goes. We've got an unopened package of baloney and a bottle of mustard; as soon as I grab a loaf of bread and a few more apples I'm set for a while.

So what have I been doing? Well, among other things, some singles blurbs.


And he puts on his dark glasses and he shows you where to hit

Feel good hits of the 6th of May, 2007 (special "writing about Leonard Cohen all weekend" edition):

Leonard Cohen - "Dress Rehearsal Rag"
Leonard Cohen - "Memories"
Leonard Cohen - "Suzanne"
Leonard Cohen - "The Partisan"
Leonard Cohen - "Anthem"
Leonard Cohen - "So Long, Marianne"
Leonard Cohen - "Diamonds in the Mine"
Leonard Cohen - "Lover Lover Lover"
Leonard Cohen - "Don't Go Home With Your Hard-On"
Leonard Cohen - "Famous Blue Raincoat"

Saturday, May 05, 2007 

Time spirals around the "Originator."

I've been listening to Excepter a lot again, partly thanks to Mike R. Powell's completely fantastic (in both senses) chat with John Fell Ryan, partly because now thanks to Mike I have Self-Destruction as well as Alternation to listen to (to say nothing of the STREAMS), partly because it's just been that kind of life, you know? While looking up some of their live stuff I stumbled upon a link to this Desert Island Discs list that John Fell Ryan did for Dusted, and it is the best example of the form ever.

All musicians should feel content only to play variations on one song. The wise know this and everyone else just learns from them.


Multiple schools of science should be devoted to decoding the groove in this jam, it's like another universe, another dimension, no comparison to other music or audible realities. In fact, society dropped the ball on James. He warned us... I'm not exactly sure myself what Mr. Brown has planned for us to get involved in, but it sounds something like dousing ourselves in kerosene, strapping a load of dynamite across our chests and letting her rip. It's not really dancing music, unless the dancing somehow involves severed hands and feet bouncing off the walls. The West puts this kind of activity down, but we desert-dwellers have to get serious if we're going to get off this dump. As quantum physics comics will tell you, if you need to escape imprisonment, you have to go up a level.

Friday, May 04, 2007 

There's a right way to be stupid

I haven't seen it in years, I don't hate rap, and I hated Guns 'n' Roses in the 90s, but other than that this is pretty on point. And hilarious.

Thursday, May 03, 2007 

You really cannot make this shit up

"Loyalty Day," eh?


I don't care where, just far

Feel good hits of the 3rd of May, 2007:

Deftones - "Be Quiet and Drive (Far Away)"
Tindersticks - "Dying Slowly"
Paul Simon - "She Moves On"
The Clientele - "Joseph Cornell"
Neko Case - "Tightly"
Kate Bush - "Moments of Pleasure"
Marsen Jules - "De La Mort D'un Cygne"
Noxagt - "Mek It Burn"
New Order - "Cries and Whispers"
Otis Redding - "You Left the Water Running"



Oh man, I jumped the gun; of course the day after I link a Dinosaur Comics strip Ryan North does one that made me fall out of my chair. Way to fake me out, North.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007 

"I'm probably going as a pretty pretty princess"

Today's Dinosaur Comics offers some much needed (by me) cheering up - as well as ULTIMATE TERROR. I hope I haven't broken the internet by sharing it.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007 


I just discovered I am slightly more internet famous than I previously assumed; I may not have a wikipedia entry, but I am cited in Mono's entry (last paragraph of "History"). A friend noticed it randomly, which is kind of cool. It really doesn't make much of a difference, but it is neat.

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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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