Sunday, June 27, 2010 

I've never read Proust

Someday, I'm sure. Anyways, I've always loved the Proust Questionnaire when it shows up somewhere, and recently some friends have taken really good runs at it. So here is mine, with a sincere attempt not to duplicate the answers Alfred and Hans gave that resonated with me.

1. What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
This. There are situations where I have inadvertantly raised self-defeatingly suffering in silence to an art form. My friends and loved ones would probably tell you all of my feelings are right out there in the open, which kind of proves my point.

2. Where would you like to live?
In the city. It's where the parts of human existence I care the most about come into full bloom. I love to visit the small town where I grew up, I love the country; but only as a change. Some small part of me will probably always wish I grew up in Toronto, or New York, or London.

3. What is your idea of earthly happiness?
Freedom from worry. A lack of urgency. Affection.

4. To what faults do you feel most indulgent?
In myself: Laziness, overenthusiasm, cynicism about everyone but myself's sentimental gestures.
In others: Social awkwardness, mispronouncing my name, good intentions.

5. Who are your favorite heroes of fiction?
Samuel Vimes, Bob Arctor, young Stencil, Hector of Troy, (John Gardner's) Grendel.

6. Who are your favorite heroes of history?
Spinoza, Schopenhauer, Oscar Wilde, Bill Watterson. (I fully admit to distorting the intent of the question here)

7. Who are your favorite heroines of fiction?
Oedipa Maas, Blue Van Der Meer, Cordelia, Beverly O'Meara.

8. Your favorite painters?
Duchamp (circa Nude Descending a Staircase), Braque, Rembrandt, and a ton of ones I've seen in museums and elsewhere whose names I don't recall.

9. Your favorite musicians?
This question might as well be meaningless (the following often show up near the top: Low, Readymade, Talking Heads, Joy Division/New Order, Tindersticks).

10. The qualities you most admire in a man?
The kind of quiet dignity and reserve that I absolutely lack the capacity for. An inquisitive mind. The ability to discern the difference between debate and hostility. A tendency to laugh at my jokes.

11. The qualities you most admire in a woman?
The kind of quiet dignity and reserve that I absolutely lack the capacity for. An inquisitive mind. The ability to discern the difference between debate and hostility. A tendency to laugh at my jokes.

12. Your favorite virtue?

13. Your favorite occupation?
Anything I can do at my own, often digressive, pace.

14. Your most marked characteristics?
Cheerful nosiness, quantity of speech, a certain relentless sardonicism.

15. Your main defects?
Perfectionism, the unavoidable feeling that I am putting others out, and a shameful need for external validation.

16. What natural gift would you most like to possess?
A ridiculously efficient metabolism, or a facility for languages, or the ability to play musical instruments well.

17. What historical and contemporary figures do you most despise?
Descartes, Heidegger, L. Ron Hubbard, Hugo Chavez.

18. What are your favorite names?
Semi-coincidentially, most of them are also the names of people I know; naming them here would make me feel uncomfortable (see also question 15).

19. What is your present state of mind?
Content but naggingly disappointed in my lack of productivity and girlfriend. The usual.

20. What is your motto?
Nobody deserves anything, but it happens anyways.

21. How would you like to die?
With a feeling of accomplishment.

Thursday, June 24, 2010 

iPod + work day = this kind of thing

One of my favourite bits in the live version* of the immortal "Life During Wartime" is when David Byrne starts whooping "burned all my notebooks, what good are notebooks? / they won't help me survive!" Hefner's "Junk," from the underrated (and yes, a little odd) Dead Media, is just about the last song I would think about in comparison with "Life During Wartime." But what's that after the first chorus? "Don't need notebooks, what good are notebooks / they won't help me survive." I only hope that it's a deliberate, left-field homage.

*(from the Special New Edition of Stop Making Sense, of course; I don't hate The Name of This Band Is Talking Heads, but I will never ever understand people who claim it is somehow better)

Tuesday, June 22, 2010 

So what about Tune-Yards?

I respect the hell out of the effort Brandon Stosuy and others put into this, and can absolutely sympathize with the desire to get people to take a clear-eyed look and a band that you really love who don't get a fair shake. I also have no aesthetic dog on either side of his fight. I have heard exactly one CocoRosie song, "Noah's Ark," and I liked it just fine, but not enough to seek out their other work, and nothing I've read (including that post) has made me feel like I'm missing out; at the same time, none of the things I've read accusing the band of being awful seem very compelling either. I may wind up listening to Grey Gardens at some point; I am currently behind on writing and have a backlog of 40-some records from this year I'd like to hear at least once, so it's not likely to be soon.

That being said, why on earth does anyone ever get Antony Hegarty (another artist whose work I respect but have little personal interest in) to write about art? I realize he's not trying to be a critic or anything, but on a page filled with mostly wonderful examples of artists writing movingly and perceptively about CocoRosie (personal favourite: Jamie Stewart, even with the pointless Vampire Weekend dig), he's the only one who accomplishes the exact opposite of what Stosuy intends. He's in turns hectoring and pretentious, disingenuous and elitist. I'm not saying the problems he points out aren't real (and look how wonderfully Annie Clark tackles many of the same issues, albeit with an extended quotation); but as always when you're dealing with someone who assumes that everyone who disdains an artist is acting from prejudice or bad faith, he succumbs to those faults himself. And ultimately, saying that everyone is deliberately forcing themselves to dislike CocoRosie is just as stupid as saying that anyone who likes pop music is faking it.

Has there been some stupid, vicious shit written about this band? Yes, and I applaud people who challenge that. But not every negative review falls into that purview, and I would defend someone's right to dislike CocoRosie's music just as feverently as I would defend Antony's right to think it's great, socially relevent art. I think Stosuy's roundtable is ultimately a good thing; I just wish it didn't lead off with the one piece that doesn't make me want to give Grey Oceans a shot.

Sunday, June 20, 2010 

You can get rid of the blues this way

Walking across about 900 numbers worth of College Street in Toronto on a gorgeously warm and sunny Friday night on my way to a bar to meet up with friends, very few records make me feel as good about myself and my place in the world as Joe Strummer and the Merceleros' Global a Go-Go.

Friday, June 18, 2010 

Total romance forever is boring

Two reviews of mine, of two very good albums, have gone up recent: Los Campesinos! at Blurt (which I expected to adore), and Foals at PopMatters (which I didn't; it's the pleasant surprise of the year for me so far, and an album more people on this side of the ocean should be paying attention to).

Thursday, June 17, 2010 

Because I have been sleeping badly lately

I feel like being at work before 8 am is kind of a sign that you've made some pretty horrible life choices. Ah well.

- This might be old news to you at this point, but I don't care: The reformed Godspeed You! Black Emperor (oh guys, why did you move the exclamation point?) are curating the All Tomorrow's Parties festival (well, the Nightmare Before Christmas branch of it) and they've invited Weird Al to play. It's his first European date ever. The rest of the festival sounds equally incredible if a bit more predictable, but the Weird Al thing just makes me feel good about the world. If I could afford to make it over there...

- I'm a heterosexual male, and so have never been through a lot of the stuff that this article describes. In fact, I have no idea how universal the writer's experience is. But I do know that I felt the queasy ring of truth reading it, and that it puts its finger on something that's been bugging me about Weezer (and Pinkerton) since... well, since I stopped being a teenager, basically. I'll still argue for a certain segment of their work (yeah, really just the green album and Maladroit at this point), but what a difficult band to love.

- I've never read J.D. Salinger. With this essay, Kevin Stephens manages to make me think I should get around to it for the first time.

- I'm not an American and I've never been in the armed forces, but if I ever met Philip Spooner you bet your ass I would stand and salute. That's the kind of video that makes you wonder if you've been doing enough with your life.

- Wondering how the US managed to tie England? The real answer is a split between the increasing failure of the traditional narrative of "soccer powers" and the fact that England's national football team is the World Cup equivalent of the Maple Leafs, but I prefer to believe this.

- My friend Mark is getting more attention for his upside-down tomatoes (although the article also has some interesting stuff on the Ward, where Mark lives and which I used to live on the edge of). I think he's ready for it to die down now (the attention, not his garden).

- Fred Smith, aka Slacktivist, is one of my favourite writers on religion and politics right now. He also happens to be an evangelical Christian, which surprises enough people I know that it surprises me. He's just done a series of posts that sum up perfectly why he's so good, and worth reading whatever your own personal religious convictions are.

- I love the Wedding Present and respect the hell out of David Gedge, but I adore the now-departed Hefner and their still-active frontman Darren Hayman (if he ever makes it to Ontario, I will be there with bells on). So it's nice to hear that the former likes the latter too.

Thursday, June 10, 2010 

"They’re all pretty literal these days."

Today sees my interview with Gareth Campesinos! up at PopMatters. I think it went pretty well; if I have any reservations, it's that there's too much me in it, but hopefully that's just me being self-conscious. It's the first interview I've conducted over gmail chat, and if I could do more interviews that way, I would.

Saturday, June 05, 2010 

And it's okay

At this point, years past the peak of their fame and influence, I can't imagine there's that many people waiting for the new Underworld album with bated breath. But I'm one of them.

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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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