Thursday, November 29, 2007 

Look up

1. No Country For Old Men is even better than the reviews suggest. Go see it. Javier Bardem terrifies me.

2. My last tutorial, yesterday, went really well (I think). I actually managed to explain to the how Nozick's libertarianism arises not from stupidity or venality but from a set of intelligent, coherent, good-faith principles. He's still dramatically wrong, of course (and I get the impression the students were with me on that one), but I had them nodding their heads as I pointed out how he got there. Strangely satisfying. Oh, if only I had enough teachables to teach high school...

3. The tuition situation is in hand, although a continued source of stress. Still no TAship, applying for bursaries, parents are helping out (I think). This certainly isn't making me like grad school any more.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007 

Communications down

Feel good hits of the 27th of November, 2007:

Rival Schools - "Travel By Telephone"
Death In Vegas - "Dirge"
Minus the Bear - "Absinthe Party At The Fly Honey Warehouse"
The Magnetic Fields - "Grand Canyon"
Supergrass - "Richard III"
Magnetophone - "So Much As Hold My Hand"
Susumu Yokota - "Genshi"
Aphex Twin - "Next Heap With"
Hefner - "I Love Only You"
Calla - "Televised"

Tuesday, November 27, 2007 

Financial ruin

I (and least some, maybe all of my classmates from the MA Seminar) didn't get a TAship for next semester. It's pretty unexpected, and I figure it's about 80% likely I'll have to withdraw for at least a semester.


Sunday, November 25, 2007 

You're no doubt wondering

I will never play World of Warcraft, but this is the funniest ad I've seen in a long, long time. William Shatner is an incredible guy.


At last

I've been idly wondering what k-punk thinks of Spinoza for as long as I've been reading him, and I'm delighted to find that he understands Spinoza in a way most people I've encountered fail to (the rest of the post is up to his ridiculously high standards, too).

Also, the Church of Me has finally, joyously, come to the best possible conclusion. The best to Marcello and Lena, may they never need it.



If you're drinking a pitcher of beer by yourself (well, with friends, but you've all got your own pitchers), partly because they were $9, does it really make sense to get a cup? I mean, a pitcher is basically a giant cup, right?

Friday, November 23, 2007 

Probably the last one

IMP member (and ex-Stylus comments goon) Meatbreak has written a lovely little obit for the site over at the IMP.

Thursday, November 22, 2007 

"I have always been a storm"

In addition to cleaning my room, I'm listening to Tusk again. I'm the kind of minor Buckingham-and-Nicks era Fleetwood Mac fan that nearly everybody is; occasionally I'll sing "Dreams" in the shower or enjoy hearing "Go Your Own Way" on the radio, and when coworkers played Rumours a few months back I was surprised but not displeased that I recognized every single song, but I've never felt the urge to investigate further. But when the incredible Tal Rosenberg explained to me why Tusk is in his opinion the best album of all time (or his favourite, or something similar - apologies to Tal, a truly lovely guy, if I'm getting him wrong here), he did so in such a convincing manner that I knew I had to hear the behemoth-esque follow-up to Rumours, a record I hadn't previously heard a single note of (although how my hometown, soft-rock loving radio station had missed out on the Go-Betweens-quality track "Think About Me," I have no idea). And Tal wasn't the only one urging Tusk on me; the equally esteemed Alfred Soto has been on to me to write something about my reaction to the album.

I'd been putting it off, not because I enjoy taunting Alfred, but because I had the worst possible response at first: a completely inarticulate one. Not because I was amazed or disgusted, mind you; on first listen Tusk was lovely, strangely familial (given the situation, I never would have guessed on so many group vocals, or the way all three major voices occur on almost every song to some degree), overly long, kind of patchwork and full of potential. I liked "That's All For Everyone" (the obvious precursor to the New Pornographers' great "Falling Through Your Clothes," a similar kind of slow-motion kaleidoscope), "Think About Me," "Storms" (if nothing else, Tusk marks where I finally have to admit a grudging respect for the these-days-self-caricatured Stevie Nicks), and especially "Walk a Thin Line," still probably my favourite track on the album. I didn't think much of the album's attempts to 'rock' ("Not That Funny," "I Know I'm Not Wrong," "What Makes You Think You're the One"), all perpetuated by Buckingham. "Tusk" itself was kind of neat. I didn't hear the psychosis, the selfishness, I'd been lead to expect.

I still don't hear it, at least not the way I thought I would, but I've been thinking about the way Tal described the selfishness that is very much here (he'd be doing the internet a favour if he wrote about that on his blog, hint hint...) and it's made Tusk and especially the perverse, pervasive harmony/domesticity of the arrangements that much more powerful. The whole damn thing has started to gel in my mind and ears at last, so that "What Makes You Think You're the One" coming right after "Sara" makes sense - and have you heard the drums on "Sara"? They're the ones that started getting me to notice the drums on the rest, including "Walk a Thin Line" - they just might be some of my favourite drums in popular music, at least in terms of how they sound (the line from "Atrocity Exhibition" to "Tusk" in terms of percussion sound = much, much shorter than you might think).

That's the kind of thing that makes me worry that I might wind up obsessing over the sprawling Tusk the way friends like Tal do; because it is big enough, and brash enough, and varied enough (three songwriters helps) that you could convince yourself all of (popular) music is contained therein. Well, maybe worry is too strong; would that really be such a bad thing? After all, Mike Powell managed to transmit his queasy obsession with Death of a Ladies' Man and Gaucho to me and I survived just fine (and actually, Tusk makes for a surprisingly fitting triptych with those two...). For now I'll settle for finally beginning to appreciate relative oddities like the homespun, plaintively stomping "Save Me a Place" and marveling at how "Never Make Me Cry" officially confirms that Christine McVie has my favourite voice of the three (literally, not figuratively). And also trying to avoid the kind of analysis part of my wants to get into (did you know, of the twenty tracks only seven songs are longer than four minutes, and all five of Nicks' contributions are in that group?). And putting in a reserve for myself, so I get next crack at a copy of Tusk at work.


Could it be me?

So I'm cleaning my room, and going through an old box of stuff I find two papers I wrote in March, 2004 (that'd be the fourth and penultimate year of my BA). I got an A- for "Metaphysical Nothing and Logical Nothing: An Investigation of Heidegger's Conception of Nothingness," and an A for "Bad Faith and the Despairing Self: Conflicts Between Sarte's Anguish and Kierkegaard's Despair" (no number grade for either, at least on the papers). The comments from both professors are very flattering, especially in retrospect. I remember both papers, and although certainly writing them was kind of a pain in the butt (as writing any paper for school is), my overriding impression of them is how much I enjoyed them, and how smoothly they came out.

This is actually pretty depressing, considering how much doing philosophy work has felt like pulling teeth the last year or so. I used to love this stuff! Reading over the papers, I still love this stuff! Why has it gotten so hard? Do philosophy and I need to break up for a while?


Gelatinous bastards

"Billions" of small jellyfish have destroyed the only fish farm in the UK. The whole thing sounds horrific:

Billions of small jellyfish, known as Mauve Stingers, flooded into the cages about a mile into the Irish Sea, off Glenarm Bay and Cushendun.

The jellyfish covered an area of up to 10 square miles and a depth of 35 feet. Rescuers tried to reach the cages but the density of fish made it impossible.

Managing director John Russell said he had never seen anything like this in 30 years in the business. "The sea was red with these jellyfish and there was nothing we could do about, it, absolutely nothing," he said.

(NB. to Alfred: I'll write about Tusk soon, I promise.)

Tuesday, November 20, 2007 

Happy anniversary

Blogger tells me this is the 4,000th post I've made to Fractionals. Next February the 18th, incidentally, will mark the fifth year of this blog's existence. Not bad.


Holy crap

Scientists can make stem cells out of skin cells. That doesn't excuse the cowardly, misguided and stupid backlash against stem cell research in the States, but it's still incredible. Better than a jetpack, possibly.


Why couldn't they combine all three, though?

These are kind of awesome; I can honestly say that even if I ran into the "my sources say no" ones I wouldn't be too disappointed.

Monday, November 19, 2007 

It is possible to love everything more than everything else.

This sort of thing is why I usually refer to glenn mcdonald as my favourite music writer.


Vast stores of knowledge

We've been headed this way since the invention of writing, really, but it does seem to be approaching a critical point; who else out there keeps half their brain on a computer?

Sunday, November 18, 2007 

So many arms reach from my memories

So when I don't have much else to say and am acutely conscious I haven't updated in a little while, I tend to throw on a music video. This one, for Tindersticks' "Can We Start Again?" is a favourite of mine recently for a bunch of reasons. I've been thinking about Tindersticks, and Simple Pleasure specifically, because two friends have had bafflingly (to me) negative reactions to that album, which is not only one of my favourites but I thought a pretty palatable start with the band. I mean, some of the comments made me think I would have been better off getting them going with the second self-titled record, but that seems pretty counter-intuitive. And in any case, Tindersticks come close enough to summarising (or exemplifying) a lot of the tendancies in my listening life these days that I'm not sure how to react when someone is nonplussed or downright put off by them (not that I hold it against either friend, mind you).

The video is one of the rare cases where I didn't actually love the song until I saw it; it helped me make sense of the song in a way I just wasn't before, and it's now a highlight of the album for me. Maybe it's the conflation of Girl and Film (after all, everybody I know fictionalizes their crushes), or the way the opening shot of movie ratings reminds me of "This Is Hardcore" (one of the greatest music videos ever made). But I think it's also the way the band is sitting in the theatre looking at the footage of the procession of women the other band members intone softly behind Stuart Staples' rich vibrato. The avidity mixed with (poorly hidden) pain, boredom, or in Staples case a rich mix of anxiety and fear is palpable, and I love how Staples isn't singing when we first see him gazing up at the image, mouth slightly ajar. At one point he breathes in and almost licks his lips; I can't decide if he's staring at the breasts taking up most of the cinema screen at the time, or if he's nerving himself up to assay the attempt at reconciliation the song depicts. Or both.

The first line he sings along to is "If you were here now," and crucially it's also the first line where he's answered by his (female) backing vocalists: "You couldn't change / you wouldn't understand." He doesn't attempt to ignore the fact that they might be right (he almost seems excited as he sings "but it's so ugly now," about the two of them), but he keeps protesting: "Are you ready now?" "Hey, I'm ready now." And yet it's only the females that start up the repetition of "Can we start again, we start again?" They're not asking if they're allowed to, but if it's possible. Staples' lurch forward in his seat at "and I'll show you how" is almost menacing in context, and yet the song, and his demeanour in the video, are almost sweet. By the end of the song, it sounds as if he's convinced them (and it is them, not her); they sing "wheel's turning round" and he sings it back, relieved. But the thing about Tindersticks, a band that maybe more than any other embodies the quasi-bullshit heterosexual male fear that Man can only be bad for, only soil, Woman, is that they probably shouldn't trust Staples. By the time Simple Pleasure gets to "Can We Start Again"'s dark inverse, "I Know That Loving," he can only respond to their wounded recitation of all the things they don't have with Staples ("Like feet that have never been walked on / Hands that never held no blame / Eyes that have never cried angry tears / A face that never felt that shame") with an anguished "I know that, I know that" and then a closing, faux fatalistic "Well that's my heart / It's calling out your name." The closing, even more shattering (in context) "CF GF" has him pledging "I won't make you cry / Tell you lies / Never say goodbye" over and over, the way liars do.

I've wandered a bit far afield, but I guess the point is that the real reason I love the video for "Can We Start Again?" is because you can see two crucial things: That Staples (or rather, his character, to be fair) is or is trying to be a good guy, that like most he's not setting out to hurt anybody, and certainly not his girl. And that he's going to fail miserably, in part because he thinks he's doomed to. The closing image, of a woman from the neck down in a laundromat, appearing to be loitering, a man (probably not Staples) walks past, she may look after him; maybe she doesn't fall for it after all.

PS. It's interesting to note that Six By Seven's great "Ready For You Now" is probably the perfect inverse of "Can We Start Again."

Wednesday, November 14, 2007 

A lovely singing voice

Pajiba has an excellent, really well written list of movie villains up. By a Canadian, too.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007 

'Till I no more can

Feel good hits of the 13th of November, 2007:

Phosphorescent - "My Dove, My Lamb"
Spacemen 3 - "Starship"
Monkey Swallows the Universe - "Gravestones"
Outkast - "Behold a Lady"
The Fall - "No Bulbs"
Jesu - "You Wear Their Masks"
Burial - "Etched Headplate"
Fleetwood Mac - "That's All For Everyone"
The New Pornographers - "Falling Through Your Clothes"
Deacon Blue - "Born in a Storm"

Monday, November 12, 2007 

The six month rule

So weirdly enough, I still get promo emails from people all the time, even a few that seem to reflect the fact that Stylus is kaput. So apparently people still want to send me stuff, which is nice. I can't say that fact alone is enough to get me to post any of it, but while procrastinating tonight I checked out Park Bench and found it pretty amusing. The one that was specifically sent to me, "Tested," is one of the better ones: It's not that all guys are stupid, it's more that I've seen/known plenty of guys who are stupid in that sort of way. It's good enough I'm keeping it around for future work nights, in any case.



As brought to attention by my brother: The language is a little biased (look at the name of the website!), but this is heartening nonetheless; Canadian cops realise they have better things to do than hassle individuals grabbing that new album by their favourite band before it hits the racks. Partly, as they note, because those people will probably buy it anyway.


Requiescat in pace

I certainly didn't forget about Remembrance Day (although I did work a 7 hour shift, during which I got the impression all of our customers had); I just forgot to post an entry about it, as I usually do every year. A large part of that, as mentioned, was the fact that I worked Remembrance Day for the first time; however much you'd like to pause and reflect on the realities of war, and what it costs us all, having to cope with the Sunday Rush makes that near impossible. I hope others had a better, more thoughtful Remembrance Day than I did.

Sunday, November 11, 2007 

Doom. Da-Doom. Crash!

Warren Ellis has a pretty amazing column up on "Be My Baby" (which I love), Phil Spector, Martin Hannett, drum sounds, and history. More impressionistic than explicit, but I like that.

Saturday, November 10, 2007 

Give a hoot

So via the BBC I was made aware of FreeRice, which assuming it does what it says on the tin (and I have no reason to doubt that), then I'm both improving my word knowledge and donating some rice. Which is neat.

Also, if you get bored of naming words, rap in chart form. So them are just meh, but the good ones are awesome.


Doctor my eyes

So my dad came up today to buy me new glasses, which was wonderful of him (he's getting half reimbursed by the school). I've got new glasses for the first time in about 10 years, which means the headaches I get should stop, but is also truly bizarre just from a visual standpoint; I've been told it will take my eyes a week or two to stop overcompensating for my old, overly strong prescription. I really like the new glasses, and I hear they look good. It's hard for me to tell, after living with the same frames for a decade.

He also bought me new shoes and lunch (the lunch special at the Bombay Cafe; it rotates, but today it was butter chicken, potato and eggplant curry and some form of vegetable pakora curry, with rice and paratha and some sort of orange sugary dessert, all for $6.99), which was awesome. But I think I have a problem: I finally tried the hot curry at the Bombay and it wasn't hot enough. I think I've turned into some sort of spice junkie.

No, not like Dune.

Also, I bought my first bottle of scotch (nothing expensive, but one my dad pointed to as being both fairly good and cheap); I like having beer and gin in the house, but sometimes you don't feel like beer and don't have any mix/don't want a mixed drink. Then you need something you can just drink on its own. We'll have to see when that gets broken out.

Thursday, November 08, 2007 

Catching up


1. The Last Ever Stylus Ice Cream Social in NYC last weekend was fantastic; I met so many incredibly great people and got to see some other incredibly great people again. It's so nice to pretend for four days that your only responsibilities in life are walking, shopping, drinking, eating incredibly well and having fascinating conversations. I can only imagine it's what being rich is like. Some of the guys have blogs up now (Tal Rosenberg, Dan Weiss, and others who are already in my blogroll; I'll hopefully get around to overhauling my links soon, as they need to be properly acknowledged), but it and email and the occasional phonecall are poor substitutes. We need to do this again next year (I know I'm not the only one who agrees), not to talk about our old website but because it's so much fun. Thanks again to the ever-esteemed Todd Burns (how much do I owe that guy) for letting me and the wonderful Theon Weber crash on his couch (and thanks to his girlfriend, too). I've been busy catching up ever since (and still am), but this was absolutely, completely worth it.

2. Too Many Words, Too Many Words is indeed updating again; I refuse to be one of the many oeuvrebloggers who fall down on the job. (Hell, the great More Than Ten is done already!) It's never stopped being fun, I just got really better. Now, instead of using Stylus to procrastinate from thesis work, I'll use this.

3. Does anyone need a four-year veteran music writer right now? I'm looking to work. Most of which I'll do by actually emailing editors and the like, but just in case anyone who reads here has any hook-ups for me...


Writers Guarantee Audiences

Didn't mean to let this go dormant for so long, but busy.... as always. You guys know about the writer's strike, right? I mean, I hope so. Via Brian of 8-bit Theatre, here are some tips if you support the WGA (and if you don't, I certainly hope you're not a friend of mine/a writer killed your puppy once):

1. Write- write your newspaper, write a major newspaper/magazine, call into a radio show, and say what you think. The media conglomerates that the writers are striking AGAINST are the ones who control the news... guess the coverage they are getting.

2. Postpone your DVD purchases, iTunes downloads, movie going experiences until AFTER the strike is settled. Find the other stuff to do, (say, buy and read a book- THOSE writers get something...)

3. Kinda like #1 - write in your webspaces- got a Myspace page? Post a blog about it. GOt a blog? Well, this one is pretty self-explanatory... Other messageboards you visit, let them know! Post a YouTube video... You get the gist, (no spamming though- we know that's a quickie backfire)

4. Let people know- the news coverage this is getting is insulting- most of the reports are so biased that the presidential coverage on Fox looks fair and balanced in comparison... When you hear random person 6 talking about how the writers are greedy fraks, let them know the truth, about how little they are asking for, (a quarter of a percent for "new media" residuals), instead of the talking points the conglomerates are putting out on their news-mouthpieces...

5. DON'T watch their online versions- those ads, the ones you can't fast forward through, are the cashey-money they "aren't" getting to pay the writers... Yeah, let's NOT give them more free money like that.

6. WRITE the writers on your favorite shows- let them know you support them and appreciate the work they do, (heck, that'd make their day anyways, you know?)

7. WRITE (and/or phone) the networks/studios/conglomerates- tell them you support the union, that they should settle & BARGAIN IN GOOD FAITH, and that you're boycotting them (and in the conglomerate's cases, feel free to add in their other divisions...)

8. Revise your Holiday plans/shopping lists to reflect #7 & #2...

9. Print a little "Support the WGA" sign and stick it on your officespace/window... Maybe with a sheet elaborating on the demands of the WGA, (helps promote #4)

10. Write the sponsors & boycott them as well.

11. Contact Nick Counter at the AMPTP (Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers) with your complaints about the strike, and where you stand and that you WILL be boycotting them and their sponsors. BUT KEEP IT CLEAN, if firm...

Nick Counter
15503 Ventura Boulevard
Encino, CA 91436

(818) 995-3600. (Call them when your cell minutes are free if need be- voicemail)

LA & NYC people...

A. THIS in the BIG ONE- IF YOU CAN DO IT, BIG PROPS- COME to a picket line and join- they've got extra signs at most any picket, and welcome supporters. If you've got picket experience, for the love of the Lords, come down- they NEED it...

B. Bring some grub... the little picket I marched at most of today, we got chili dogs from John Wayne's grandson- if that doesn't say Hollywood, nothing does- donuts, pizza, water, soda... just make sure it can be one-hand eating food usually- salad, fried rice, not as good.

C. HONK! Honk you're horn in support when you see the people with the signs!!! (Especially at the lines where there are the corporate offices, like the big black Universal tower- causing a helluva ruckus for the executives, apparently) Man, people out here need lessons in that...

I'm going to be doing one or two of these, for sure, despite being in Canada (we consume plenty of American media, of course). A small part (5%, maybe?) of my reaction here might be because I'm a writer myself, but honestly most of it is just because the whole thing is just so manifestly unjust. If you're not sure what this is about, this is what you need to read. And even if you do know the score, John Rogers is incredibly entertaining/inspiring on the subject, as always.

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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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