Thursday, August 26, 2010 

Stuck in some bardo


Seriously, though. I know I don't use this blog much (if ever?) to point out upcoming events, but if you're in/near Toronto for the fourth of September you could do a lot worse than head over to the Drake Underground to see Sam Amidon, who regular readers may recall made my favourite album of the last decade (his new one is excellent too, if on my short but distressingly old list of things I need to find time to review). He's quite good live, and I believe this is his first solo Canadian show.

Speaking of music (don't expect me to keep making transitions, though), I've been listening to the Magnetic Fields' 69 Love Songs a little obsessively lately. I still think the run on the second disc from "Very Funny" to "World Love" is the best sustained section of the album ("All My Little Words" is my sentimental pick for favourite song, which might be perverse; "Busby Berkeley Dreams" into "I'm Sorry I Love You" my favourite transition), but listening to the whole shebang two or three times a day really clarifies how many hidden gems the whole thing has. The exercise has sent me back to glenn mcdonald's wonderful summation on The War Against Silence, which includes this immortal litany:

"My attempts to summarize what I think it is this album achieves read like acrostic clues, like I can't possibly mean them as single thoughts: Three minutes each of any style that can be played sober; the Yellow Pages for a quarantined city of derelict clowns; a West Side Story for the doomed courtship between anoraks and apartment radiators; every introvert's heroes sitting quietly in one junkstruck room; a shut-in's extrapolation of the Anthology of American Folk Music from catalog blurbs; proof that all cynicism is heartbreak under its make-up; an unlabeled cassette library of PixelVision sunsets; the picket line demanding that the Island of Lost Toys also admit metaphors; Leonard Cohen's eulogy for Dr. Seuss."

Someone took a Justin Bieber song (not even a big hit, as far as I know), and slowed it down eight times over. The result is about half an hour, and in the words of a commenter "It's what vuvuzelas sound like in the stadiums of heaven." Pretty great, even if it makes me wonder what more music sounds like given the Inception treatment.

If you only follow one link in this post and read everything there, please make it this one. Barring one misplaced possible dig at Darwin near the end, Akst really nails something here. I'm not a loner, I certainly have plenty of friends, but an awful lot of my really close friends of the type he describes don't live in town any more, and as you get older it's harder to replace that kind of friendship. There are people I miss terribly, and you can't really asuage that with a phone call or an online chat, and it's difficult to make more of that kind of friend (and sometimes hard to feel like you want to).

I don't really write fiction (yet?), but Tim O'Brien's wonderful essay on telling tales is solid advice nonetheless, and very enjoyable (and not just for the nods to my beloved Borges). I highly recommend it to anyone who is writing fiction.

A little while back (not enough time to blog in a timely fashion, sorry), Matthew Perpetua of Fluxblog posted an interview with Rob Sheffield over the course of a week. It's a very good interview, even when I don't agree with them, but this (from the fifth part) was probably my favourite bit (and another reason to like Lady Gaga):

"Something fascinating about Lady Gaga is how little she cares about straight men. She concedes absolutely nothing to the straight-boy gaze, and that’s part of what makes her so badass. When you see Madonna live, you have this sense that being watched by straight men is somewhere in the Top 20 of things she cares about, if only because she wants that to impress the gay men watching (who might be #1 on that list), but Gaga doesn’t care whether the straight boys in the house come, stay, lay or pray. I’ve never seen an arena show where straight men were more beside the point. And I’ve seen a Debbie Gibson arena show."

One of the many things to love about the AV Club is the quality of their interviews, and for anyone who grew up watching The Kids in the Hall like we did, this one with the great Kevin McDonald (always my favourite of the Kids, and based on this interview a really sweet guy to boot), studded with clips of the sketches under discussion, hits a very sweet spot.

I'm a fan of getting food from places around where you live; it just seems sensible. But so does this, a welcome dose of common sense for times when you're falling too far into the trap of thinking there's a simple solution to the problems local food sourcing is supposed to solve.

If all I did here was repost things from Slacktivist that I love and support, this blog would probably be more active than it actually is; as it is, I can't resist mentioning this post, which is truly lovely and important. I may not be a Christian, but Fred is one of the best writers on current social and political issues of any faith or party.

Lastly, because I enjoy making people cry, watch this video. Just incredibly moving.

Monday, August 16, 2010 

It's been a long one

After a day that began in vomiting and ended with me trying to salvage a working day out of the evening (mostly successfully!), I'm in a perfect mood to appreciate the funny translator, which plays a game of secret whispers with up to 56 languages. You put in something like "I wish to change my order" - which makes perfect sense to native English speakers but is actually quite ambiguous - and you get back "The situation might change." Even just putting in "I am happy" gets you "I am so glad I found you, not me."

Thursday, August 12, 2010 


I was already a fan of Michael Emerson, but I really like what he has to say here:

"What did you think of the negative reactions to the finale?
It surprised me a bit because a lot of people who were unhappy had been misunderstanding the show for a long time, so why were they still watching it if they’d mixed up what they were seeing? But I guess that’s the deal: It works magically for all sorts of people at all different levels of understanding."

Monday, August 09, 2010 

(Within you)

By happy coincidence, I've been listening to a lot of Clinic recently, and then Matthew Perpetua posts this compilation. Clinic are one of my favourite bands and Matthew is dead-on in terms of how underrated they are (and why); if you haven't heard them, I urge you to download the compilation and start getting caught up on one of the great unheralded bands of the last decade.

Weirdly enough, the last thing to put some Clinic songs in my head was last night's second viewing of Inception (which holds together beautifully; some elements that seemed baffling or undercooked made perfect sense the second time around); I wouldn't say Clinic are dreamlike, but they can be a little nightmarish (and to be fair, it's probably Marion Cotillard's magnificently creepy performance that made me think of the songs).

Friday, August 06, 2010 

Maybe I should get a Tumblr instead

- Not only does k-punk make me wish that there was a North American release of Artemis 81, he provides an excellent succinct explanation of the force of a lot of things he and I both like (Sapphire and Steel chief among them):

As all the kids who watched Artemis 81 and who have never forgotten it will attest, there's an enjoyment to be had from being thrown into the middle of things which you cannot understand and being forced to make a kind of sense out of them.
I agree absolutely with Phillip Challinor when he writes that "
Artemis 81 stands as a brilliant example of the way in which interesting pretentiousness can be a good deal more satisfactory than solid professionalism and good old-fashioned storytelling."

- Obligatory (and semi-related) Grant Morrison link. Best part? "We've already got the real world. Why would you want fiction to be like the real world? Fiction can do anything, so why do people always want to say, 'Let's ground this' or 'Let's make this realistic.' You can't make it realistic because it's not. So basically Batman is 75 years old, and Robin is 74 years old. They don't grow old because they're different from us. They're paper people."

- Todd VanDerWerff's excellent takedown of the really odious-sounding Plain Jane is well worth reading, and is both deeply laudable and awfully funny. If not for the damage to Todd's psyche, I'd hope that they cover it every week until they run it off the air.

- I haven't seen much of Gaspar Noe's work, and what I have seen I haven't always found easy to stomach, but this sounds incredible. The moral of the story: mushrooms for everybody!

- Killing the Buddha is basically the best web site about religion right now, and has been for a while. There's tons of good stuff over there, but I want to link to an essay that's slightly older, because it's so excellent. Whatever you think about the Five Percenters in general (and I have to admit, finding out a bit more gives me a whole new respect for the Wu-Tang Clan), Knight's point near the end about the proper use and function of religion in a person's life is a very crucial and well-stated one.

- This dude apparently ran the San Francisco half-marathon while drinking a beer a mile. His disregard for his own health is your entertainment!

- When I was reading Rolling Stone in high school, I didn't always like Rob Sheffield; sometimes he could be too jokey. But this interview is lovely (and hopefully not too inside baseball for non-critics), and it reminds me why I got into the form in the first place, and why I'd like to make more time for it again. I really need to read the copy of Love Is a Mix Tape I'm borrowing from a friend.

- Los Campesinos! have a new acoustic(ish?) EP out. If it sounds like this, then I'm happy.

- I think this is a really good/interesting idea on a couple of levels, although I don't care one way or another about Dear's music. If CDs and physical media in general are/are becoming obsolete, why not have your music collection, the parts you really care about, instantiated around your house as unique physical objects?

- My friend Erik pointed me towards this fairly amazing article. Multiple dinosaur species were actually different stages of one species! That's very cool, and 10-year-old-me is really excited right now.

Thursday, August 05, 2010 

You got to know your place on the food chain

Feel good hits of... well, the last couple of months, really.

Fujiya & Miyagi - In One Ear & Out the Other
Cocteau Twins - Iceblink Luck
Neil Young - Don't Be Denied
Smog - Dress Sexy At My Funeral1
New Order - Love Vigilantes

The Grapes of Wrath - All the Things I Wasn't2
The Antlers - Bear3
The National - Lucky You
Yeah Yeah Yeahs - Little Shadow
Stars - Elevator Love Letter4

Electric Six - I Buy the Drugs5
Sparklehorse - King of Nails6
The Killers - Smile Like You Mean It
Maximo Park - The Coast Is Always Changing
Blur - Trimm Trabb

1Sadly, this one came to mind during the funeral of an old friend. He would have appreciated the sentiment, I think.
2For a song I loved when it was a single (I was 8), this sure has held up well. In fact, listening to it now I'm only beginning to realize that there's a whole strain of my favourite music that's descended from this song (in terms of my personal chronology, anyway; we're talking anything from Nick Drake to Horse Feathers in terms of actual chronology). I still love that cello.
3So far this is the only part of Hospice that I love rather than respect; they were good live, though.
4Seeing them play this live at Hillside was definitely a highlight of the weekend.
5I know some (most?) people will always resist their brilliance, but Electric Six are a truly great band. This is because Dick Valentine lives in and writes about a world that is simultaneously incredibly awesome and incredibly horrible. That world is called America, and Valentine refuses to give either side of it short shrift.
6I'm not a massive Sparklehorse fan (just this album, really), but "King of Nails" is one of my favourite songs by anyone ever.

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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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