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Friday, July 1, 2011
A Free Man?

There can be little doubt that the year 1967 was a turning point in many ways - as proof, you can put together a random (or seemingly random) bunch of songs on an album and inevitably those from this year will stand out as the strangest, most seductive, hypnotic and alluring ones there. As violent and unrelenting as they were, this year of the 60s had a come-hither undertow as well that was all part of what made it what they was - and many times it was the suggestiveness that was in the end more enduring than the actual events that followed.

This is all ripe ground of course for anyone who wanted to bring something in undercover (so to...speak) to any media - be it art, music, movies, or tv. And latterly it was 1967 that brought the seductive and hallucinatory series The Prisoner to the public. It stands with all other great works from that year in being elusive, colourful, playful and yet also deadly serious in its ways, a brother of sorts to Sgt. Pepper (notoriously The Beatles appear...or do they...in the last episode, while "All You Need Is Love" plays in the cave's jukeboxes). And as always there is a mystery - what the heck is "Fall Out" about? McGoohan suffered from the public's near-riotous reaction to this episode, but liked the idea of folks trying to hash it out. I can only go at it with what I have in my toolbox here, but as someone born in 1967 I feel it incumbent upon me to do what I can.

What I have noticed in the series is the place of the woman - either as fellow prisoner or warder - gradually fades away, to become nothing more than a baddie in fairy tale at the end, a negative Athena too attached to her father to see anything for what it is. (Yes, I'm going to get mythological here; apologies to anyone allergic to Greek or Roman thinking.) Number 6 is engaged, apparently, and so has no interest in any other women and seems either repulsed by them or at best rather amused in a wry way. He will avenge a woman's death, however, which is only appropriate as he sees himself as a heroic figure and dammit, that's what a hero does; maybe even what a superhero does. But the obvious discomfort around women he has cannot really be explained by his being engaged (and I have to say the episode wherein we learn this seems a bit...forced...it is hard to see him as a "jugged hare" kind of guy, asking for permission to marry his beloved in a garden...if he's super formal as he is supposed to be he would not do it while someone's taking care of their rhododendrons, for instance)...

...and now I have to look at the end of the series and note the total lack of women altogether. Are women a distraction in The Prisoner, mere plot devices? The answer seems to be yes, unfortunately. The end is resolutely male and centers (not that the last Number 2 seems all that interested, really) in Number 6's problems with his father and his distrust of authority figures. (Seeing as how many of the Number 2s he had to deal with that were ineffectual and/or cruel you can see he's got a point.) In "Once Upon A Time" Number 6 is regressed but the crucial moment where something clicks is either not found or is glossed over; the overwhelming need to know why he resigned is also pretty much neglected, so much so that when it comes out it's passed over like so much chopped liver. Number 6 in turn comes out of his regression and finds it easy to break Number 2 (as always) and thus gains his freedom to meet Number 1...

...and as we all know, Number 1 is his own damn self, the self that thinks more of himself and less of others...his Id, leaping about and irrepressible. That Number 1 runs off and hides from him - that he doesn't go to him to wrestle him down in some way...because unfortunately there's a lot of what look like US National Guard types to fight who are there to keep the peace, so to speak. The crystal ball (inherited from Citizen Kane, no doubt; McGoohan had worked with and admired Orson Welles) smashes on the floor, the masks are ripped off, the animal inside the man is revealed and the animal flees...

...but what about the feminine? What about the yin, the anima, the passive? That is never really engaged with save for one crucial episode, "The Schizoid Man." Here we have a woman - who crucially has a name. Alison - and she is seemingly able to read the Prisoner's mind, which some may think is a particularly intimate thing to do (they'd be right). I won't say much more but that she is a plant (but of course) who later rues deceiving him. Her attachment to him (and thus, his to hers) seems natural, unlike the artificially-created "love" that happens in " Checkmate " (what woman would *need* to be hypnotized into being attracted to the Prisoner? This is what makes this episode dubious to me). McGoohan's well-known aversion to as much as touching any woman in an affectionate way onscreen is one thing, but chemistry is chemistry and happens even if two people aren't physically near each other. Alison's ability to accurately read his thoughts is a weapon used by The Man plc of course, but as it is introduced in medias res in the show it seems to be natural, not just a trick or good luck. That she regrets deceiving him in the end - when he thinks he is about to escape - shows how truly attached she is to him, how sympathetic and maybe even empathetic she is. But can he understand or comprehend her? I would say yes; they are attuned to each other and that that bond is broken is ultimately sad, as she seems to be the one woman in the series who would, conceivably, be able to help him get to know himself better - be able to change his awareness of himself, and thus maybe unite the shadow side with the public one...

...because in the end The Prisoner is not just a critique of modern life but a look at what happens to a man who is divided (just where does that rocket go in the end?) and cut off from his feminine side. He cannot dance, he cannot touch, only in another man's body (Nigel Stock) can he even kiss his beloved, in an episode that is so unbelievable that at the end I doubted its reality all together - Janet Portland, debutante of 1952, staunch Radio Two listener, his fiancee? Oh COME ON. The only way that is possible is if the Prisoner truly is a square-biz-jack kind of guy, and while he is, in many ways he isn't. He is too much...in love is the wrong term...but attached to being what he is, fundamentally, to ever really be attached emotionally to anyone else. Their engagement almost seems like a pre-ordained arranged marriage, on observation, than a body-and-soul relationship. Alison could get close to him, in time; certainly she could get to know him better than any Number Two could, but would he let this happen? Does he know about the animus and the anima? At the end, when the other two go their ways, he is still the Prisoner...but of what? Of himself, this seems obvious, but until he knows his shadow side and more importantly his real anima (definitely not Janet - isn't it odd how he escapes and yet doesn't call her first thing? Yet another proof that he's not truly attached to her...) he will be stuck with the butler, the automatically opening door and who knows what else, until something breaks him down.

That nothing does break him down in the end makes him - our titular 'hero' - into something a little too cold and too remote to love, but as a flawed hero is his almost too perfect. He fights, he plots, he connives, he hypnotizes a woman into declaring Number Two to be 'unmutual' (she has been drugged already and is gathering flowers - she is Flower Power incarnate - for Number Two, which kind of makes the Prisoner a radical campus leader in "A Change of Mind"; the Prisoner himself is immune to drugs, no matter what they are). He is, as they say in the UK, just so damn hard that he cannot let anyone in, cannot accept anyone's help, has no way out and ultimately the joke is on him; he cannot escape himself, cannot ultimately therefore devote himself to anyone but...himself.

This is ultimately what makes the show prophetic of the 'me' decade to come, sure, but this is and always has been the human condition, whether the person is a spy who has resigned or not. That is is unwilling to explore his anima, his female side, is ultimately what gets him caught up. He cannot see himself in any fundamental way and while he knows himself enough to endure whatever The Man plc inflicts on him, his true freedom is within, where he will not or cannot go. He is Apollo, forever logical and sun-like, dragged into Dionysian darkness to emerge smart-mouthy and indestructable each time; the giddy Pan within him escapes, he literally loses part of himself in the escape and (is it just me?) seems two-dimensional back in London. The furore after "Fall Out" aired was due in part to people not enjoying this revelation of self, that it was him all along - they expected a real villain for him to fight and defeat - not the elusive shadow that is laughing, crazy maybe, but vital to keeping him...whole. There we were, thinking he had it all together, but his aversion to women showed his flaw long before the last episode. Perhaps I am sentimental here, but a man must know his whole self before conquering his inner self, or at least making peace with it. It's the eternal and final question in a way, but to simply win over your external foes is one thing; something The Prisoner still has to learn, as he drives off into the chill of 1968.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008
Oh The Irony: Pink Floyd:

Well folks, it is about time I wrote here - the last time I will, most likely, before I move to London. I have much to wrap up right now, literally and figuratively too. My visa will be in the mail tomorrow, my tutoring program is done, I am even almost finished buying cds here in Toronto!

Not all these endings that I am dealing with are that welcome, however. Recently, I have had to reluctantly leave the site Popular - not because of anything that happened to me directly, exactly, but due to the fact that my husband, Marcello, was banned from posting after having posted on October 13th. If you read his piece carefully, you can see that he mentions my post which is to come. I read him, wrote my post, then when I tried to submit it was told that the comments box was closed. I waited for it to open, and waited, and waited...

...and by the time it was reopened, a week had passed and it was clear that the ban was solid, not temporary. I didn't know what to do, quite. So I sat (so to speak) on my posting, and then figured it may as well appear here. The song in question is by Pink Floyd's "Another Brick In The Wall (Part 2)," one of the most unlikely #1 singles, and yet a transatlantic one. In this posting I try to explain the U.S. experience, the U.K. one being already talked about on the site.

From my American perspective, this didn't become a #1 song until March of 1980 - unfortunately I don't have the Billboard charts to hand so I can't say how long it stayed in the chart, but I can give you an idea of the climate in which The Wall appeared...which is kind of a long story (I will try to keep it short).

1979 - ah, 1979. Disco was at its peak. In Popstrology, the year belonged to Donna Summer, who led the female army of disco - which included other forthright women such as Gloria Gaynor, Amii Stewart, Anita Ward...you could even count Debbie Harry in this list, and why not? Their first US #1 was "Heart of Glass" after all. But for me even greater than all these was Chic, whose voices by 1979 were Alfa Anderson and Luci Martin (Norma Jean Wright having left the band for a legally-entangled solo career).

This golden period (my favorite Donna Summer song of the time was "On The Radio" as I certainly counted my radio as a good friend) was happening at the same time as a growing discontent with disco symbolized by two things - "Do You Think I'm Disco?," a parody of the Rod Stewart song, and the infamous Disco Demolition Night - both done by a young Chicago DJ who was looking to make a name for himself and to destroy disco, however he could. What happened next was, to put it mildly, interesting. (There are many ironies here, some of which have only become apparent over time, of course. It was also the first time I had heard of anyone hating disco, the sort of thing that would eventually be given a name by a young man from Liverpool. But I am getting ahead of the times here.)

By no means did this event 'kill' disco; indeed the best & most important & sublime & OH SUCH A SUBLIME RESPONSE "Good Times" was the next #1 song after the event. I don't want to say too much about this song except that if it had been discussed here I would have given it an 11, no questions asked. Again, over time the importance of the song would be evident, and it would help to start an underground movement go overground in a huge way, not to mention inspire other groups to write their own versions/tributes.

However, in the U.S. #1s list the positive avalanche of greatness begins to recede - only Michael Jackson's electrical irresistable "Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough" shows disco still does indeed rule; suddenly Styx and The Knack and (grr) Rupert Holmes appear, none of them loved by me; only "Pop Muzik" (a song based on a DJ telling people what to do - you see, the ironies are already appearing) was a welcome relief. Only the combined forces of Donna Summer and Barbra Striesand could get to #1, with a defiant tone (almost as if Barbra is well tired of not getting any flowers from Neil). Even if the year did end with KC & The Sunshine Band's oh-so-appropriately titled "Please Don't Go," there was a sense that disco was indeed on its way out, though not exactly out the door just yet.

So far I have not said a thing about Pink Floyd, I know! However, in late 1979 they appear, seemingly out of nowhere for a lot of people, the album considered (by the L.A. FM station I listened to the most) to be an instant classic. I have no idea when this was released as a single, or should I say unleashed; as a girl about to enter my teen years, I had never heard any punk and wasn't very adventurous in my radio listening - and here was a protest song, with kids maybe just a bit older than me in the chorus, sung by a man who was clearly possessed by something (Waters is diplomatically called 'dominant' in the group by now), all set to something like disco, but not quite. (At wiki this is called 'funk rock' of all things.)


I just realized something here. This song is using disco (bless Canadian Bob Ezrin for doing this) as a weapon against the anti-disco forces! As in: hey guys, I just got the new Pink Floyd album, the single's really great, and it's a song using a discoish beat that's anti-authoritarian ("thought control" and "dark sarcasm" being crushingly appropriate here for any number of reasons). It's not as if Pink Floyd did this deliberately, and the stoners who hated disco were probably too baked to notice, but I think Ezrin must have, as the beat wasn't originally there. No doubt, the band must have thought of the song as a blues number (hence the guitar solo, the pace, the shared misery of the lyrics), main character Pink hallucinating that his whole class stands up to the teacher, presumably walking out in the end, but in reality he's in a classroom full of students who don't/can't rebel. Naturally this was catnip to anyone still in school and definitely not enjoying the experience (my own Grade 8 was up and down, according to the class; I had no teachers that were truly awful, however, until Grade 10).

So then - we have the golden era of disco, an attack on said era that was loathesome and then Pink Floyd arrive, with a kind of blues/disco hybrid all their own, springing out of an album about alienation, with this song going to #1 between Queen and Blondie, solemnly up there for a month. Was it kind of downer? Well, yes. Was it listened to as a whole by PF-friendly stoners? Of course! The Popstrology shorthand for this song is on-target: "Greatness lies beneath your surface, but you'll have to get off the sofa to unleash it" and "your Birthstar imbued you with a willingness to make late-night snack runs and thoughts that are sometimes deeper than mere sequences of words can articulate." Was it welcomed because of the times, which were less than good? I think so. (I had no idea about Syd Barrett at the time, so the album's hidden or maybe not-so-hidden references to him were invisible to me.) This was the first time I'd heard of Pink Floyd - perhaps on FM radio I had heard "Time" or "Money" but it was thoroughly dominated by The Eagles, Fleetwood Mac, Steely Dan, Linda Ronstadt, etc. and so I suspect that I hadn't heard them much. This song and album were the beginning then, to understanding the group and what they were about, namely a protest against oppressiveness and ultimately a call to look within yourself for true liberation (I'm pretty sure the same kinds of themes are in Kate Bush's "The Ninth Wave" section of Hounds of Love, which samples a bit from The Wall). Eventually I would catch up with The Clash and The Sex Pistols and hear the same things, done and said in different ways, but I can't help but think that this was perhaps one of the most ironic U.S. #1s of all time, right up there with the fact that the 1979 World Series was won by a team that had "We Are Family" as their theme song, and it wasn't one of the teams at play on that night. Disco was to mutate and grow, rap music was born, and Pink Floyd (un)wittingly made a huge statement on the whole event. What times!

Tuesday, January 1, 2008
Become What You Are

I, the errant blogeuse of Carrot Rope, would like to wish you, the rare and special reader of said blog, a very happy new year. It is in large part because of this blog that I got married just over a month ago, so I will keep writing here, mostly about music but also about other things. I don't consider myself a music writer per se, as I have neither the time nor the inclination to be one; I am content to pitch in here and there when I can. However, I do not resent (consciously or unconsciously) the mass of music out there that I have yet to hear, unlike some people who approach music like a chore and instead of being excited, are content to be ignorant. If you don't really care for something, just don't care for it and let that be that. Read, watch, listen and admire what you want, when you want. That is my advice to you, for 2008 - and don't mistake bliss for ignorance, ignorance for bliss.

Saturday, December 8, 2007
Back To Regularly Irregular Service

Well, well, it's about time I wrote here, isn't it? This here blog is, after all, where the personal time of Marcello & I began, way back in August 2003; he wrote, I blogged, I later asked for his email address...and so on. Two weeks ago we were married right here in the building where I live, in the 'party room' - renamed by my mom for the day the 'wedding room' - right on the dancefloor! November 24, 2007...and you may call me whatever you wish, I have yet to change my name legally however (and probably won't, once I think about it) as I have a small matter of packing up and moving to London to join him in a shortish while. I'd be doing this already, but my mom broke her hip and is still in hospital, and so I have been doing a lot of errand-running and had my own day surgery as well last week. But things are looking good and by the time I reach Fulham, all will be right...

...so that is why I haven't been posting here! I certainly have opinions, but the energy to race over here and point to good things (Adam Phillips' review of Ted Hughes' Letters for example) and not-so-good things (the Guardian's endless and frustrating list of albums to listen to before you die; for every one album worth hearing, there's two or three which are either obvious [canonical choices that appear on every list i.e. A Love Supreme] or wrong [asking people to buy a boxed set of Bob Dylan instead of telling them they should hear Nashville Skyline, for instance.])

Other good things include Rotate This on a Sunday afternoon, the Baldwin Inn, Chippy's, Only Everything and Mary, Queen of Scots, and this - scroll down and you'll find Marcello's piece on the late Stockhausen, a composer and thinker who has influenced modern music right up to whatever strange yet emotionally overwhelming thing you've heard lately.

Monday, November 19, 2007
In Which The Guardian Explains Why Their 1000 Albums List Is The Way It Is

"Don't mistake overexposure for lack of talent.

Broken Social Scene? Like some of the stuff, but I think that's a classic example of a band that got some buzz behind them, but actually there's not much there. I will wholeheartedly except Anthems For A Seventeen-Year-Old Girl, which is one of the best songs of the past five years.

Jacques Brel ... think laterally. He will come up. Just not in his own name."

(MHann, Guardian music editor)

I am not exactly sure where to start here. There is an entire world, a galaxy, inside Broken Social Scene; I can only really feel pity that the collective (ha!) heads at the Guardian can't comprehend that (please note that not one artist even vaguely associated with BSS have made the list so far, including Apostle of Hustle, Jason Collett, The Dears, Do Make Say Think, Kevin Drew, Feist, Godspeed You Black Emperor, Emily Haines & Soft Skeleton, The Hidden Cameras, KO-S, Metric, Amy Millan, Most Serene Republic...nor do I expect Raising The Fawn, Stars, Young Galaxy...the entire collective renaissance is being ignored. (May I say once more how damn excited I am about the BSS Presents: Brendan Canning album due next year?) In the end I have to feel sorry for them, get more Resonance radio time and play nothing but Canadian music. Again. (Please note: it's not just the A&C family that is being ignored - outside of Arcade Fire, almost all contemporary Canadian music is being ignored, and The Band didn't make it which perhaps shows their initial mistake in understanding Canadian music in the first place.)

Also, if they have to go at Brel laterally, I'm not sure they really get him.

Sunday, November 11, 2007
The Best News David Cameron's Going To Get All Day Dept.

Compared to her bandmates, Girls Aloud's baby is less gobbily bubbly, less inclined towards small talk, and while on duty is hilariously - and, I say, revolutionarily - reluctant to beam 100-watt smiles like wot pop stars are meant to do. In a band of enthusiastic swearers, Nicola's the fookin' boss.

But when she does speak, she does with some force. Ask her about David Cameron's reported enthusiasm for Girls Aloud and she replies: 'David Cameron - that's not bad. It's not as bad as wotsisname being a fan. Gordon Brown. I'd rather David Cameron be a fan than him. Why? 'Cause Gordon Brown's like a little toad who talks shite, isn't he?'

Nicola would prefer a Tory government. 'I don't wanna be seen like I'm fookin' trying to talk about politics all the time. But I personally - this is not the band's opinion - would like to see a change. That's me argument.'

This interview also made me strangely sympathetic to Lily Allen, who of course they hate because she is a Londoner. (They don't say so, but as Northerners, I can't imagine they like anyone from the South.)

Friday, November 9, 2007
Hint: It's A Woman

Late-breaking news: Marcello's passport arrived two weeks ago and so... Things are much more relaxed here at "The Bride" Arms. Flights and bed & breakfasts and even future accommodation have been secured; a minister and a best man have been found; and the dress is being made. So I am much happier and am happy to post this - I will let you guess who it is doing the talking...

I’m afraid I’m going to come out with the stock answer of anyone who’s ever been in a band and throw a tantrum about being labelled as part of a ‘scene.’ Britpop? I remember Blur hated Oasis and Oasis hated Blur. And that Blur won the battle but Oasis won the war. But then later Oasis won the battle and Blur won the war. Several people embarrassed themselves by shaking hands with Tony Blair. I think our contribution was to stand at the sidelines (being ignored) with stunned bemusement at this desperate attempt to create an advertisable brand of Britishness that seemed to represent a minuscule stereotyped sector of the U.K.

The answer and more delightfully straightforward talk can be found here.

Friday, October 19, 2007
My Contempt Outdoes Your Withering Scorn

Hey there, sorry I haven't been able to post here lately BUT...

...I had an ultrasound, a Women's Unit appointment, a root canal and a huge book sale to contend with, not to mention exhaustion due to rolling my eyes too much at inane commentary at The New Yorker and elsewhere.

The UC Book Sale is over - I got my usual quotient of this and that, walking around at the very end thinking, this is the end and feeling...okay about it. I worked hard on my larger-than-ever section (I had nearly 2,000 books all told) and it sold very well. I got three novels from my table - Small Island, I Capture The Castle and Jemima J.. Plus a lot of books about London and Britain in general, because I want to understand my new home. (Please note - I am still waiting for MC to arrive here, so we can get married & then I can finally move to London.) I am acclimating myself now so when I hear such-and-such about Gordon Brown, I won't think/say, "Huh?"

Of course, there are certain things that make me say "Huh?" right now, and one of them is quotes like this:

"I didn't want this to be a music nerd book ... I wanted this to be something different," he adds.

OH man, the NERDS! Aren't they just the worst? Always insisting that things change! Having the gall to disagree with djs! Being obsessive packrats who keep used music stores in business the world over! OH woe betide anyone who knows less than them!...

Sigh. This is one of those things that doesn't make me at all sad about leaving Canada. I don't even want to defend the term 'music nerd' because it is so inherently stupid. Music is an incredibly fluid thing and yet people want to put up so many barriers, freeze it into so many cubes. Guess what, folks? Nerds like the same music that you do. Really. Go over to ILM and read all about it. NEXT.

(The resident blogeuse is impatient for Her Majesty to give MC his passport, thus the tetchiness.)

Tuesday, September 25, 2007
A&C & So Much More

As most of the world knows by now, the Polaris Prize was won by Patrick Watson for their album Close To Paradise last night. Bravo to them, and to all the musicians who were nominated.

I wonder how many of next year's nominees will be from the Arts & Crafts label - BSS/Kevin Drew's Spirit If... and Stars' In Our Bedroom After The War are already out and albums from Jason Collett, BSS/Brendan Canning (AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH MUST GET) and The Constantines are only a few months away...and yet the Polaris Prize doesn't even need to have half of these. That's how strong the scene is these days.

Friday, September 21, 2007
Mike Osborne, RIP 1941-2007

Another great jazz performer has passed away - soon, too soon after Max Roach, Art Davis and Paul Rutherford - the British alto saxophonist Mike Osborne. Official obituary here, much more impassioned and keenly intelligent tribute here. If you are unfamiliar with his work, you ought to catch up on him, starting with the song Marcello Carlin mentions, available on this album, which will blow your mind, trust me.

Monday, September 17, 2007
New Blog Alert!

The Blue In The Air is a new blog by Marcello Carlin, all about great songs. The first one is "Abergavenny" by Marty Wilde; there will be many more to come.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007
Go Canada Go!

Reasons to be cheerful include new albums from the Weakerthans, Constantines, Stars, New Pornographers, Kevin Drew, Matthew Good, Joni Mitchell even...not forgetting Hot Hot Heat, Paperbacks, that new Emily Haines ep, the Russian Futurists compilation and so on...maybe I should open a tiny music shop in London that sells nothing but Canadian music...

Wednesday, September 12, 2007
Luciano Pavarotti 1935-2007 RIP

Hey there everyone!

Sorry I haven't been here lately but the laptop I use was rather wonky last month, plus I have been going to the doctor/clinic some more for what I laughingly call my big fat non-Greek uterus, and then there's my wedding preparations...

...and so I must catch up here, starting with this delightful memory of Pavarotti at Slate - short, but it is a reminder that great men often have great senses of humor. I imagine Tony Wilson would have gotten along famously with him, and now, perhaps, they are meeting at last...

Friday, August 10, 2007
Anthony H. Wilson, 1950-2007 R.I.P.

A great man, Tony Wilson, has died. I wish I could say something more coherent than this: my friend Patrick, Mancunian born and bred, said his local was Tony's local and I always thought I'd get to go there and see both of them one day.

My condolences to all who were touched by what he made possible.

Update: To work is human, to play, divine.

Thursday, August 9, 2007
And If I Had To Pick A Beatles Song, It Would Be "And Your Bird Can Sing"

OOOH, I have a top ten for these guys!

(No Gallagher or Weller songs, of course)

Everything That Touches You - The Association

Wuthering Heights - Kate Bush

Let The Wind Blow - The Beach Boys

Rockaway Beach - The Ramones

Avenue - Saint Etienne

Voodoo Chile (Slight Return) - Jimi Hendrix Experience

Sugartune - Sloan

1,000,000 - R.E.M.

Do You Love What You Feel - Inner City

Chicago - Sufjan Stevens

I am sure I would fail horribly, but, in that case, yay!

Thursday, July 19, 2007
Not Even ITV Can Help Some Publishers

"Still, Northanger Abbey is not seen as one of Austen's great books, so next he sent off Persuasion, under the title The Watsons. Again the letters of rejection flooded in. JK Rowling's agents, Christopher Little, were among those who turned it down, saying they were "not confident" of being able to place it.

Then he played his trump card, sending off Pride and Prejudice, calling it First Impressions, again an early title Austen had used for it. The names of the main characters and places were changed, but with no great guile.

Mr Bennet became Mr Barnett while the estate Netherfield becomes Weatherfield, the fictional setting for the TV soap Coronation Street.

And he did not change the opening line, one of the most famous in world literature: "It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife."

Still the deception was not spotted and the rejection letters thudded on to Mr Lassman's doormat, most notably one from Penguin. Its letter read: "Thank you for your recent letter and chapters from your book First Impressions. It seems like a really original and interesting read."

The mind boggles, but it's most puzzling that Penguin, of all publishers, should not pick up on this purposeful hoax right away. Only one did, which gives me pause about the first readers and what they have read (let alone what is acceptable for 'lists').

Thursday, July 19, 2007
The Muggles Can't Bust Your Literature

My interest in the Harry Potter books is medium-strong at best - I am square in the middle between those who proudly know nothing and those who are getting dressed up to wait in line tomorrow evening to buy the last book in the series - but really, do we need reviews of the book before it's even officially public? The books sell themselves and what critics say about them (from Harold Bloom on down to two Canadian children's book authors I heard on the CBC recently who were very snobby about her) means nothing to the many, many fans, children, teenagers and adults alike, who are happily geeky and are hoping for something between a normal happy ending and some kind of near-psychedelic/action movie complex web of intrigue that will demand re-reading of the last few books to really understand. As for spoilers...the most fun is thinking of your own plot, kids.

For what promises to be a good look at the book itself, Slate have already started a book club for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

Monday, July 16, 2007
Not Just Gauze on the Lens Anymore

In case you are like me and only have a vague idea as to what is possible in altering photographs, take a look at the before-and-after pictures of Faith Hill here. Hill is 40, but on the cover of Redbook, she is...30 at the most? (Insert lament over the beauty industry, fear of aging, life in general, etc.) I'm not so much shocked as tired of this; and tired of the Posh Spices of the world who buy into this whole thing, and then end up being 'improved' for magazine covers anyway.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007
Polaris=Indie, Mes Amis

The Polaris Prize nominees are as follows:

Arcade Fire, Neon Bible

The Besnard Lakes, The Besnard Lakes Are The Dark Horse

The Dears, Gang of Losers

Julie Doiron, Woke Myself Up

Feist, The Reminder

Junior Boys, So This Is Goodbye

Miracle Fortress, Five Roses

Joel Plaskett Emergency, Ashtray Rock

Chad Vangaalen, Skelliconnection

Patrick Watson, Close To Paradise

Not a bad list, though it's hard to believe that the judges listened to anything besides alternative rock in making up their lists - I mean, I'm disappointed that Emily Haines and Sloan aren't here, but I'm even more disappointed that K-os (or indeed any hip hop) isn't here, and there is, unless I am wrong, nothing en francais, including Daniel Belanger, mais oui. Still, I'm glad Arcade Fire are on the list, same with Feist, Patrick Watson and Julie Doiron.

Sunday, July 8, 2007
Some Thoughts on Good Girl Gone Bad

Marcello (he's been on a real tear recently; from Bjork to Dizzee Rascal, Natasha Bedingfield to Brotherhood of Breath) wrote me saying he'd listened to Good Girl Gone Bad and couldn't (beyond "Umbrella") get into it, and this is what I wrote in response...

"...as I write I'm watching Rihanna (she's in Tokyo) and I know what you mean about the album - it does take some time, but I always remember that it is an appropriate album for a 19-year-old to make...even if the people writing the songs are older. The last two songs - where she questions existing (or, if you like, existence) and where good girls go bad, they are gone (die) forever - are just right. "Breakin' Dishes" sees her being a bit demented and adolescent (Beyonce rings the alarm to get the cops; Rihanna fights the man directly, pushing *him* to call the cops - she's in a mood to fight and doesn't even have proof of any wrongdoing!), and her duet about not wanting to love someone as much as she does - also adolescent, verging on grown-up. "Lemme Get That" is so utterly cold rationalist that I can't help but think it's a parody of a gold-digging woman - I mean, furniture? - isn't a woman supposed to ask for bling? - unless there's some new trend in asking besotted young men for dining room sets...

..."Don't Stop The Music" I will always associate with being at Sam's but I think the background noise/thumping makes it sound like you're in her head hearing her think as she is actually hearing something else...

..."Say It" and "Push Up On It" also fit in - as does "Shut Up and Drive" - she has enough experience to know when the attraction's real, that there is something else going on - she knows better than to be a tease, but then is it right to reward a guy for his emotional honesty with sex?...I see "Shut Up and Drive" as a *very* late retort to "Little Red Corvette" - she knows she's fine, she's fast - the car crash at the end is like an editorial - slow down, girl! But she doesn't care (again, adolescent)..."Rehab" is easily the most awkward song, but I blame one J. Timberlake for that...:-)...

"Umbrella" in all this is really the most grown-up song of all - "took an oath, gonna stick it out 'til the end" - it also has a bigness that I think she needs. Her voice is unconventional and needs odd tempos and words to go with it. When I was out shopping I heard a disco-type remix of the song and it's not nearly so affecting - it needs that stop-start-stop for her voice to soar over. It's almost like architecture, if you know what I mean!

The whole album seems to rest on "I don't know who you think I am" and "Who am I living for?" Does she know herself? Sort of...sometimes...but who can she trust? Can she trust herself? She has yet to ask that, but if she is any good she will next time.

("Good Girl Gone Bad" is another version of "Breakin' Dishes" - you don't get mad, you just leave, though as the song shows, it is sad when a good girl gets drunk in a nasty dress - her life was good, she was good...is it better to do that or stay and fight? Another problem to work out...)

That's how I see the album, anyway. "Umbrella" coming first throws it off, I think...it almost works better as the last song...

Thursday, July 5, 2007
Hmm, I'm Moving To A Place Where Radiohead Is A Supermarket Band...

"If Radiohead brought an album out 5 years ago, I'd know that I'd need 1,500 copies to last me a month," he says. "We'd sell that many copies. But if Radiohead brought an album out tomorrow, I reckon 50 would last a couple of weeks, and that's because they're now a supermarket band. I'd sell more copies of a Sunn0))) album, but we are still here, so we must be doing something right, and we're still positive and buying more deletions and putting stuff in front of people that they can't get anywhere else."

However, a Central Line trip to Brick Lane in east London finds the most optimistic view of the independent record store. This is where Rough Trade will open its ambitious superstore later this month, after closing its minuscule Covent Garden branch. The 5,000 sq ft space will incorporate a coffee shop, a "snug" (in other words a lounging area, with free wi-fi) and a performance space. The aim, says store director Stephen Godfroy, is to "rediscover the joy of browsing" - connecting retail with the overall music experience, and attracting en masse the sort of fans who will pay a premium for this kind of service and recommendation.

"The point of an independent retailer is to pass the baton on," he adds. "As soon as a band hits the mainstream then they are no longer your market - the role of the independent is to break new acts. This is what is so important about this store, you'll discover the artists that even labels are yet to find out about. The back catalogue is important but breaking new artists is the most important thing and that is done face to face over the counter."

Ah yes, the joy of browsing - I just hope the people at Rough Trade will be friendly enough so I'll have one of those across-the-counter discussions, as opposed to being called "Madame" and so on (which happened to me at HMV here in Toronto!) Oh, and Prince? Downhill ever since he had the need to tell us he was funky, but he's no fool...more here on him as well as the Fopp Facebook Army.

Thursday, July 5, 2007
Here Come The 60s, Part One

If you were like me in 1984 (I doubt you were, but, anyway), one of the best movies you saw that year was...the 20th anniversary re-release of A Hard Day's Night. Here are some fine behind-the-scenes photos from the making of the movie, including heartwarming ones of fans, young and old...

Wednesday, June 27, 2007
Gadzooks, Odd's Bodkins, Tally-Ho, Etc.

"Archer paused again. He drew a circle in the sand, and continued. "Some business about share certificates, and loans, and promissory notes. I won't bore you with the details. Take my advice, never trust a lawyer and especially not a judge. I now know the prisons are full of innocent men who have been tripped up by the law."

"How awful," said Blair, shaking his head. "And the real criminals go scot-free."

"When they let me out, I travelled here and decided to stay. And how about you? I heard about the Mesopotamia business."

"I was innocent too," said Blair. "But I managed to stay one step ahead of the lawyers. The way I see it, you have to follow God and your conscience. Veritas prevalebit. What counts is knowing, deep down inside, that you're doing the right thing."

"Good for you, old chap," said Archer. "I tried to do that. Of course, I wasn't religious like you. But at least I never got anyone killed."

Blair was unsure what Archer meant by this, but decided to change the subject. "Did you ever get that novel published?" he asked.

"Not yet. Publishers are such duffers. But I'm going to persevere."

"I might try writing a novel some day. The dear old mater always said I was good at making things up.""

Yes, it's an excerpt from a boy's own story by James Morrison about the newly private Anthony Blair. Excitement! Attacks from surly natives! This is like the street party no one is having, the commemorative tea towels no one has bought, the...well, you know what I mean. Meanwhile, a yay for Gordon Brown, who I expected to have a stronger Scottish accent than he actually has.

Sunday, June 17, 2007
The Only Thing That's Missing Is the Sam's Sign

Whoa, hello there! It is about time I let you know what I've been doing. Currently I am tutoring French, looking for a new family to nanny for, doing some work for the family I have been working for and going to Sam the Record Man nearly every day finding bargains galore as they prepare to shut down this month. All of these take time and energy, as you might expect, so that's why things have been so choppy. I hope to get a position soon so I can post here on a more regular basis. Sounds Like Canada on CBC Radio One had a long drawn-out Seven Wonders of Canada search & the public nominated a ton of places and things, with three judges deciding on the final seven a little while ago. In anticipation of Canada's 140th birthday, here is a little photo album of the Seven Wonders - some natural, some man-made, but all quintessentially Canadian.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007
And Though She Feels She's In A Play - She Is Anyway

"For the last dream, Number 6's drug dose is doubled; even though Number 2 realises that this is potentially fatal, he is by now desperate to find out what, if anything, he was selling. Now the sixties party scene is grotesquely distorted, all Third Man angular cameras, dissonant music, Number 6 yelling out incoherent blurts; gazing like a maniac into a twisted mirror, he turns it as though steering a sinking ship and sets it straight. "C" turns out to be Engadine, the party's hostess, and together they exit from the party to be driven to the point of "no turning back" - in other words, his defection. But the journey, even given ITC's budget constraints, is strangely artificial; the garden gates close automatically, like a set of theatre curtains or the door of Number 6's house, the urban back projection as they sit in the car seems to be deliberately inflated, and the square where they eventually arrive resembles a stage set, complete with creaking floorboards where the ground should be.

A masked man emerges; Number 14 suggests that he could be considered "D." Meanwhile, Number 2 is practically having an orgasm at this previously entirely unknown prospect. But Number 6 remains stalwartly cynical; striding towards the man, he demands to see his face, and then, in one of the most chilling scenes ever to play on British television, he turns towards the camera, towards his captors, and indeed towards us, as he intones with heavy irony, "We mustn't disappoint them" - a miniscule but shattering movement of eyes towards camera - "...the people who are watching," rips the mask off "D" and turns him brutally towards the camera; it is Number 2's terrified face. "I knew, of course," says Number 6. "Now - show THEM!" Both men gaze directly at the viewer. "SEE?" he taunts."

What does this have to do with Sgt. Pepper and The Beatles in general? Read on and see!

Monday, June 4, 2007
A Chord, A Country, A Club

"Lennon's songs are inevitably the more shaded and desperate. "Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds," though far too long, is drenched with distended, filtered remembrances addressed to no one in particular. "Being For The Benefit Of Mr Kite" is the hard bottom to the springy surface of Barrett's "Bike" - and while it is not, strictly speaking, essential that you do so, let me say that it is impossible to reach a full understanding of Sgt Pepper without having full awareness (more so, arguably, than SMiLE across the ocean) of the album being recorded in the studio next door; an album, moreover, which did a better and funnier job of stretching out the atoms of pop and turning them into rock than Pepper managed (since the latter's radical implications are all in the words and appearance rather than the music). "Carnival Of Light" was until very late in the day earmarked for inclusion on Pepper, was the Beatles' clearest response to the Floyd capable of "Interstellar Overdrive" and perhaps the group should have been brave enough to include it (had the CD been in existence in 1967, no doubt they would have done, let alone "It's Only A Northern Song" or for that matter "Strawberry Fields" and "Penny Lane") - but maybe its reputation is protected by its failure to appear on any legal Beatles release; would hearing its fourteen minutes now prove as tiresome a letdown as "What's The New, Mary Jane?" was when it finally saw the light of day on Anthology 3? Both Lennon and Barrett were drawn back to the dusky attics of childhood, extracting and liquefying the wonderment to be found in those old trunks, the webs of intrigue; and to a roughly equivalent degree (but in radically different manifestations) they never managed to get out of that attic."

40 years ago today, something profound began, but maybe not what you think. Marcello Carlin investigates just what it was. Even if you hate Sgt. Pepper, it's worth reading.

Monday, June 4, 2007
A Chord, A Country, A Club

"Lennon's songs are inevitably the more shaded and desperate. "Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds," though far too long, is drenched with distended, filtered remembrances addressed to no one in particular. "Being For The Benefit Of Mr Kite" is the hard bottom to the springy surface of Barrett's "Bike" - and while it is not, strictly speaking, essential that you do so, let me say that it is impossible to reach a full understanding of Sgt Pepper without having full awareness (more so, arguably, than SMiLE across the ocean) of the album being recorded in the studio next door; an album, moreover, which did a better and funnier job of stretching out the atoms of pop and turning them into rock than Pepper managed (since the latter's radical implications are all in the words and appearance rather than the music). "Carnival Of Light" was until very late in the day earmarked for inclusion on Pepper, was the Beatles' clearest response to the Floyd capable of "Interstellar Overdrive" and perhaps the group should have been brave enough to include it (had the CD been in existence in 1967, no doubt they would have done, let alone "It's Only A Northern Song" or for that matter "Strawberry Fields" and "Penny Lane") - but maybe its reputation is protected by its failure to appear on any legal Beatles release; would hearing its fourteen minutes now prove as tiresome a letdown as "What's The New, Mary Jane?" was when it finally saw the light of day on Anthology 3? Both Lennon and Barrett were drawn back to the dusky attics of childhood, extracting and liquefying the wonderment to be found in those old trunks, the webs of intrigue; and to a roughly equivalent degree (but in radically different manifestations) they never managed to get out of that attic."

40 years ago today, something profound began, but maybe not what you think. Marcello Carlin investigates just what it was. Even if you hate Sgt. Pepper, it's worth reading.

Monday, May 21, 2007
Jezebel, Female Rebel

"4) THE AFFIRMATION CRAP LIE If women's magazines have done their job, if they have kept your attention and your subscriptions and you have devoted precious hours to consuming it, you are probably unlovable. You wonder whether Mischa Barton is skinny-fat, and whether you, too, might be skinny-fat (or simply fat!) You are insecure about things you probably didn't know it was possible to be insecure about. (Are you an effective cuddler? Find out in June's Cosmo, page 132!) (No, actually really! It's a real story!) You fret that your lipstick is bleeding and your fine lines are deepening and that during oral sex you might not be handling his balls correctly, and most of all, that you aren't projecting enough confidence, probably because your posture is bad. Is it any wonder that you now need affirmation that you are worth loving at all? Incessant reminders of what a goddess you really are? And that he is never going to love you if you don't love yourself. But wait, why should you love yourself? These magazines have made you boring as fuck!

5) AND FINALLY, THE BIG META LIE. is that this is one big postmodern joke on which we are all in. The big lie is that we even know what the fuck postmodern means, and we've all read all the Beckett plays and seen Zizek speak, that we know how to pronounce Zizek, not to mention Nicholas Ghesquiere, that Everything Bad Is Good For You (and that you actually read that book, too). And that all the surreality and celebphemera and retail therapy is harmless escapism, that it has always been this way, that it is not symptomatic of some sort of larger societal cancer. The big lie is that we haven't let the norms of the celebrity-sartorial complex seep into the way we see everything in the world, perpetuating the notion that all of life is high school, and the pretty people are the only ones worth your attention, and that alpha girls are entitled to act cruel and inhuman towards their subordinates, and that all the world would be that way anyway. Because it wouldn't. And though we've found women's magazines to be a fairly trusty engine of hilarious tidbits, it is not all one big joke."

Only a day old, and yet sassy as hell: World, meet Jezebel. You have been warned.

Saturday, May 12, 2007
And Don't Get Her That New Michael Buble Album, Either

"Diet books: Please. "Happy Mother's Day. You're fat." Why it is that books like this are billed as Mother's Day fare is beyond me. Ditto for the makeover books and the You-dress-like-Gollum books. New dads, a warning: Buying the book about how your ravaged and sleep-deprived partner might regain the scorching body of her youth for her first-ever Mother's Day is the worst idea you've ever had. Go with the stretchy pants or the hedge clippers instead."

"Microscopic books: For some unknown reason, publishers believe that what moms really want for Mother's Day are books that measure a single square inch with fonts the size of dust motes. Books like the itsy-bitsy In Praise of Moms or the mini version of It's a Mom Thing seem like a great idea. They are, after all, on the Just for Mom table. They have the word mom in the title. But know this about the teeny books: If your mom spends the better part of her days sorting through microscopic socks and well-nigh-on-invisible Lego pieces, the last thing she really wants to do at the end of the day is crawl into a great big bubble bath and squint at a "gift" the size of a tortilla chip. Go the other way: Give her an enormous book. A Shakespeare concordance or a King James Bible. Something improbably permanent in a universe teeming with tiny plastic things that cannot be found when needed and are invariably underfoot when not."

Slate's Dahlia Lithwick knows what books moms want, and they have nothing to do with being moms.

Monday, May 7, 2007
When Genres Collide, Pt. 94

It isn't just Leonard Cohen, it isn't just Sonny Rollins, but it's them together doing "Who By Fire" - note the slight amusement on Cohen's face towards the end...

Thursday, April 26, 2007
'To Say You Know When You Know, And To Say You Do Not Know When You Do Not, That Is Knowledge'

I am reluctant, as ever, to point out the continued existence of one Mr. Hitchens, his ranting here reminded me of Confucius, who said, "To attack a task from the wrong end can do nothing but harm." Atheists who do nothing but rant about how 'religion poisons everything' are indeed attacking their task, whatever it is, from the wrong, wrong end.

Thursday, April 26, 2007
'To Say You Know When You Know, And To Say You Do Not Know When You Do Not, That Is Knowledge'

I am reluctant, as ever, to point out the continued existence of one Mr. Hitchens, his ranting here reminded me of Confucius, who said, "To attack a task from the wrong end can do nothing but harm." Atheists who do nothing but rant about how 'religion poisons everything' are indeed attacking their task, whatever it is, from the wrong, wrong end.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007
An Improvising Robin on the Roof

It's Kate Bush week over at Stylus - they have inducted her into their hall of fame! Lots of fine writing on her, including the introductory essay by Marcello Carlin, and lots of raw and not-so-raw reactions to her music are being posted all this week. If you haven't gotten Aerial yet then I strongly encourage you to do so - take it slowly, the way it was made, and you'll be fine.

Friday, April 13, 2007
London, Hub of the Universe

"Oh, Routemasters look charming on the postcards, but for anyone who actually uses them - especially if carrying anything larger than a small box of fudge or cursed with offspring, wheeled or otherwise - they're hopeless, and I can't help feeling that those who want to preserve them (a) rarely go on them and (b) are the same people who insist their local "classic caff" continues serving them cups of watery Nescafe for 50p, even if the owner then has to work a 16-hour shift just to cover the rent while his adoring clientele jump in taxis and head off to 40K jobs in the media, writing features on classic caffs and Routemasters for the colour supplements." [Bus Of The Month - Matt Haynes]

This is but a small sample of the fine writing found in a small magazine called Smoke: a London peculiar, a regularly irregular look at the buses, statues, parks, streets and public life of London. It is immensely funny, readable and perhaps only possible in a city as old, big and worth celebrating & mocking as London obviously is...much better than So London, more intimate than Time Out, and ideal for reading on (yes) a bus, even one with girls singing in the back to their mp3s/cellphones because they can.

Thursday, April 12, 2007
George Eliot Wields The Whip

"Why do girls love these big, epically long, boring books? Anyway, I've set myself to my purpose and I am currently flagellating myself through it. I've done 150 pages so far. I'm just waiting for it to hot up." Thus opines Boris Johnson, in this month's Easy Living magazine.

Hmm. So why do we girls (or, as we might prefer to style ourselves if we are in fact old enough to read Middlemarch, women) love these big, epically long, boring books? Perhaps because where men like Boris see vast acres of impedimenta to plot and purpose, we see nuanced description, the subtle and elegant construction of character, the careful dissection of social niceties and moral ambiguities, all of which seems at least as satisfying and as worthwhile a reward for reading as does simply jumping from plot point to plot point like Wodehouse's chamois with his crags.

Big, bountiful Victorian novels are all going to appear - to anyone whose primary interests are Latin, Greek and politics - as giant, sprawling, unwieldy messes with too much "extraneous" detail to fit them either for relaxation or adding in an efficient manner to the sum of human knowledge. They require the kind of mind that is used to detail and to dealing with sprawling, messy businesses like real life and real relationships and which likes to see something of their infinite complexities reflected in the book it reads."

Sack up, Boris. If Stephen Malkmus could read it and like it, so can you. And yes, it does 'hot up' though you are going to have to wait. Sigh...

Tuesday, March 27, 2007
Hello Mr. Mackenzie

Yesterday I had a dream. I was outdoors, in a largish park (it was too well-groomed to be sheer wilderness). The sun was shining, the sky was clear, the grass was vibrantly green, the soil underneath dark and damp with recent rain; the trees just coming into bloom. Yes, it was spring, spring all across the nearly-flat land...

...and who should appear, walking his dogs and singing to them, to himself, but Billy Mackenzie? Not that he said anything to me, in particular, but he was friendly enough, and his whippets (his spirit animal, if you will) were friendly too. In this dream I wore black, with crystal earrings and necklace, as if I was in mourning, only not quite; not all the way.

Billy Mackenzie was born in Dundee fifty years ago this day. It is hard for me to do justice to him - to his voice - to his unforced and immediate joys and profound and quiet sorrows. Years ago Marcello Carlin wrote about this Top of the Pops appearance, which I linked to here at Carrot Rope, thus starting the most important non-familial relationship of my life, just hours before the big blackout of 2003. So in a way I have the Associates, and thus Billy, to thank. And yet he is not here, thus my dream. I think - I hope - he would be touched & amused by this, and maybe he would be pleased that he was remembered with such intense affection and admiration, that what may have seemed to him to be a short period of fame could have such an impact.

To continue this thread, I link again to Marcello, to a Church of Me piece on his later work, on one song in particular - "Beyond the Sun." I totally agree that Billy gave everything when he sang (just as intensely as Orbison, Curtis, Springfield) - and in his perfectionism there was a great fear of failure. I may be very late in saying this (he died, by his own hand, ten years ago): Billy, you did not fail us. In my dream I mourned you, yet you were not dead, nor were you unhappy. And I know you are happy, wherever you are...

Sunday, March 25, 2007
Presumably The Original Version, Not The Clooney One

Alert reader Brent Murphy has kindly informed me that if you listen to the new album by The Lightning Bug Situation and watch Solaris (with the audio off, obv.) then you will have quite the experience. So for those of you tired of listening to Kid A while watching Dracula...and I know you're out there...consider yourself informed.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007
When In Doubt, Blame It On The Girls

Post-grunge outfits like Nickelback and Hinder continue to be popular - or wreak havoc, whatever your opinion - in part because they appeal to the estrogen set, said Craig Marks, editor in chief of Blender magazine. A "slightly hipper band" will sell more albums to guys than girls, he said.

"They're selling a lot of records to very casual music fans who don't buy a lot of CDs," Marks said. "When you're selling 5 million albums like Nickelback or 2 1/2 million like Hinder, and especially when you're making your mark with big ballads that are kind of wedding songs, then you're selling records to both males and females. And that's often how you get from selling 1 1/2 million records to selling 4 or 5 million records."

When "teenage girls or tween girls like an artist, that's often a sign that ... the artist isn't cool," said Marks, who also gives Spears as an example. "You know, `My little sister likes them.'"

And thus rock critics are stopped dead by annoying little sisters around the world. And they don't even need to buy The Secret!

Of course, I cannot end this without quoting Ron Sparks from Video on Trial: "If I tried to put my thumbs down any further, I would mess my pants. And then my pants would be full of Hinder."

Thursday, March 15, 2007
Night Lights

"It seems beyond the realms of credulity to me that the emotional truthfulness and awesome generosity repeatedly demonstrated throughout Neon Bible can somehow be interpreted as "insincere" or hardening up and producing what they think their audience wants. Perhaps it's simply that too many people remain scared of true bigness in music, need to traduce it to levels compatible with their own tunnelled eyes. Anyone who listened to the Islands and Final Fantasy albums last year won't need convincing of that, or the Arcade Fire's continued importance as the not-so-distant Quebecois conscience of the Canadian music world as it beautifully stands in 2007. However, it needs to be faced; Neon Bible was never going to be another Funeral - these are desperate times which require slightly harder remedies, and if we can grasp with our own ample resources of generosity the hymns, the pleas that Win Butler and his group are making on behalf of those who continue to be ruled out of the ghastly white heat of Thatcherism/Reaganism Mk II, who want to fly high in their own souls rather than in an anonymous and unforgiving market, who seek not to tread on everyone else but to be able to stand by themselves..."

Marcello Carlin guides you through the pages of the Neon Bible - essential reading, as ever. He has also recently written up an intensely compassionate (but not sentimental) review of Judee Sill's albums and life - I can't think of a better place to start for understanding her, outside of listening to her yourself...

Thursday, March 15, 2007
Recreation Is Our Destination

"The behaviour of women in the public eye still has extraordinary power to spread panic and alarm, especially when it appears to veer slightly out of control. Too much food, too much drink, too much sex, too many opinions, too many ideas, too much talent . . . It all seems to make some observers rather uncomfortable. You might be safe if you stick to the script, keep slim, keep smiling, keep your eyelashes glued on and your stomach sucked in. But even Sarah Harding, star of the slickest product of the pop music machine, Girls Aloud, gets it in the neck on an almost daily basis because she has committed the daring sins of liking vodka and dancing and good-looking men and hot nightclubs on cold nights. Real women behave like this - but in tabloid-land they shouldn't.

What makes people most anxious about these "bad" girls of pop is the deep-down knowledge that Winehouse, Allen, Stone et al are not transgressive but actually hugely representative. That women, just like anyone, can be obnoxious and messy and embarrassing and loud and confrontational. At a time when it would seem that the major indexes of female success are waist size, number of designer handbags owned and how many men want to date you, that is a challenging notion. But there is more to women than that, and it needs to be let out. They tried to make Britney Spears play the part and look how that turned out.

I can easily prevent my heart from bleeding too much over the individual causes at stake here. The women in question are successful and talented and rich enough to cultivate a thick skin when it comes to vapid, bitchy remarks about their personal conduct. But what we say about them does matter on a much larger scale: by saying that these women should be self-contained and unobtrusive and endeavour at every moment to be pleasing to all eyes and ears, we are saying that all women need to do that."

This is nothing new, sadly. It reminds me of a quote by a famous English novelist: "If I am a wild Beast, I cannot help it." (24 May 1813)...Or as Mel & Kim sang it 20 years ago...

Sunday, March 11, 2007
Green Never Caused Anyone's Death in a Video

Bad news first: my pitch to write a book on Scritti Politti's Cupid & Psyche 85 has been, sadly, turned down. I have been listening to it again this afternoon and I'm honestly sorry that I didn't get picked, as it's a hell of an album, and I know there's people out there dying to read about it.

On a lighter note, here's an excellent Idolator piece on the criminal actions of one Mr. Timberlake in that very drawn-out video of his.

Friday, March 9, 2007
"Can Anything Be Done About It?"

It seems that 2007 will be yet another year for Jane Austen; three of her novels are going to be on British tv soon (Northanger Abbey, Mansfield Park and Persuasion (trailer here) and the new movie about her, Becoming Jane looks pretty good, even if it's not 100% accurate...I hope I can catch up on the tv shows somehow, in reruns...

Meanwhile, the Guardian would like you all to remember that the heroines of Austen's fiction were (with the exception of Emma, cough) tedious, bothersome creatures who drove their elders and betters crazy by refusing the first person who wanted to marry them. Hah!

Wednesday, March 7, 2007
Technorati, Meet Carrot Rope...

Oh, and just to show I am somewhat up-to-date, I just joined the almighty Technorati ProfileTechnorati army and am hereby claiming this modest blog to be, indeed mine. Whoo-hoo!

If you are also part of the Technorati posse, by all means link to me, and I will link you back in kind. Thanks!

Wednesday, March 7, 2007
Ruby Slipper Time

Firstly, yes I am still recuperating, which means I am sometimes tired, in pain (such is the case today)...which also means I get a lot more writing done in my head than here, for example, or over at Stereogirl.

Have any of you ever taken the Luscher Colour Test? It measures your psychological state by your choice of colors in sequence. It's rather cool and I did it just the other day, and unsurprisingly got a rather 'rare' result - I chose the color red first. Red means "passionate and vibrant" as you might expect, and it also means that I "desire for (my) actions to bring about powerful experiences." (I say the word 'rare' as I found out just before my operation that I have a rare blood type. Hah!)

I like the color red as it's bright, warm, friendly, sexy...it is not passive; it does not just sit there. Perhaps this is why Bono & Co. chose it for their Product Red campaign. On the face of it, it makes sense: red catches the eye, it's sensual, and you can use it to end so many verbs and make them adjectives! Oh yes, there is little the color and word itself cannot do.

Except, apparently, sell stuff. You know: t-shirts, iPods, cellphones, etc. Stuff that apparently everyone needs, wants, desires. The Product Red campaign was designed to raise awareness and funds to help fight the scourge of AIDS in Africa, and yet and yet...it does not seem to be working.

Now, I am not sure how much marketing money went into this - millions upon millions of dollars apparently - but to my morbidly sensitive eye, one awfully big factor in the multi-level-corporate-capitalism-is-the-new-punk-rock that has been forgotten is that if the color of something is wrong, people will not buy something. Red is a warm, friendly color as I stated, but (to my eye) they chose the wrong version of it. You might think this is splitting aesthetic hairs, but really, is it an attractive red they chose? No, it isn't. It is a shade of red, meaning they added black to it to make it more 'serious' and 'important' and 'boring'. It is not a color that says "Oh God yes buy me now now NOW!" but rather "I am quite important and deserve your admiration and maybe, just maybe, your money, you peon. And by the way, compare me to a sauteed raspberry and not tomato paste and I may actually look good on you." That is exactly what it says. Who chose this color? Perhaps Bono did, while looking at it through whatever tint of glasses he was wearing that day - purple, perhaps. Eighteen million dollars is nothing to sneeze at, to be sure, but it's probably what the Gap and its many stores makes in what, a week?

Of course, there are other reasons. The measly percentage on the rather hefty credit card is a sore point: kind of like John Malkovich as Valmont handing out coins to the poor, methinks. But I digress...

...because clearly Product Red isn't doing as well as it should because it, they, have not read/seen The Secret, the newest in a very long line of 'believing and think and it shall be so' magical thinking that Americans are so prone to falling for whenever anything goes wrong. Now, I have nothing against thinking or believing as such, but if they are not backed up by some kind of action, they are as good as dreams, evaporating in the air. Oprah, as you may know, is a big believer in this sort of thing herself, and doesn't believe, so to speak, in much else. Positive vibrations bring positive results; negative, negative. You can see the terrible and stupid consequences of this, and how blind she is to fall for this: this is a woman who had Elie Wiesel, for crying out loud, for her book club. She talked to Katrina survivors. And so on. But no; but no; I can already see her glaring at me as if I was James Frey and saying I have no right to write this. Well too bad, I just did.

Wish upon a lucky star, avert your eyes when anyone/thing 'ugly' or fat or unfortunate goes by, treat the universe as if it was one big catalogue delivered to your door - if you do not have the guts and compassion to see that nothing changes without actions, actions that include listening, critical thinking, and just plain hard work, then nothing will improve. And if you don't, as the Beastie Boys once put it, check your head, you may have all kinds of material goods, but you will have a diminished soul, and you will no longer be able to tell what is truly beautiful - truly worth one's time and yes, money.

Friday, February 23, 2007
And She Fell in Love and Decided To Stay There?

Usually I just add links to Carrot Rope and don't bother announcing them (there's new ones in the food section, for instance); but I thought I should point this one out, as it is useful, particularly if you are trying to find a book - not to buy, just to identify.

What's That Book is a free and friendly place that will help you figure out just what you read, based on the smallest of details - it covers fiction and non-fiction alike, and yes, you can help them out by going over queries and contributing knowledge! I have yet to post mine - "young woman in 70s America looks in mirror and goes back a century" (anyone?) - this site should be the cause of fewer headaches and sleepless nights, which can only be a good thing.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007
Front Page Malcolm

Nice Canadians are totally stumped by Malcolm X; in rememberance, for the show and for the man. (I will talk about the living soon, don't worry!)

Tuesday, February 20, 2007
Pretty Songs

Forty years ago, today, this was set in motion... In other news: staples are out (not too painful), winter is winding down and it's Mardi Gras, so live it up while you can (if you are, indeed, giving something up for Lent).

Friday, February 16, 2007
This Request Is Justified

Well hello there! Sorry I have not been posting more, but having an operation will do that to you - just slightly under a week (by one hour!) I had a laparotomy done, and am now at home resting up - my staples are to be removed on Monday, which will be nice, and relatively painless, I hope... In the meantime, the good people at 33 1/3 books have graciously accepted my proposal...and over 200 others...and will be milling over them until late March to decide whose is worth pursuing. (I pitched Scritti Politti; very relieved, I must say, to see I was the only one!) I don't envy their having to read and absorb and then decide, and of course I want to be chosen - there was almost no New Pop pitched this year (besides me there's one for Soft Cell, two Pet Shop Boys pitches and, er, Kraftwerk, if you want to count them in, and hey, why not?) and none published so far, and I know there are people out there who are tired of the same-old same-old being written about YET AGAIN while things that are a bit different are ignored...and please, do not get me started on the lack of female authors/subjects... ...but it is a fascinating list, almost a sociological map of what critics want to write about, which seems to go from what you would expect to what you would never even consider. Good job, everyone!

Saturday, February 3, 2007
Penguins On The Loose!

If you ever wanted to work on a novel with a whole bunch of people you don't know, as opposed to laboring over one by yourself - now is your chance to join in on A Million Penguins. It is a 'wiki-novel' and yes, it does have moderators and an obvious publisher behind it; whether the novel itself will work in the end is up to those who contribute. (Years ago I contributed to a group novel, which had few guidelines other than commonsense and a shared sense of humor. It worked about as well as you think it would. I can't remember whether this was the one we all wrote backwards, or what...)

Health Update: I'm going to be spending some time at Mount Sinai Hospital soon; virtual and for that matter real cards, flowers, hugs, Little Thinkers dolls and so on are not expected, but are always welcome. After the 9th (the date of my operation) I'm going to be (of course) posting here even more rarely than usual, so I will try to get a few more things here that are at least compelling, if not useful. Such as LibraryThing, the place to catalogue books; I am there, under my address name here. It's free and worth joining, if only to see who else is around...

Sunday, January 28, 2007
Twin Towers, Two Americas

Adam Sobolak of the Omnitechtural Forum has come to the conclusion of his unparalled series on the events of 9/11 and the months after, "Total Destruction and then Transcendence." One day (in my imagination, but hey) hipsters will be buying this at Book City (it will be one of those small books at the cash, right next to Chomsky) and then making mix cds of Britney, Xtina and Peter Frampton, not to mention Cassetteboy, Death From Above 1979, etc.

(Please note: I know hipsters is a pejorative to some, but I really mean truly hip people, as opposed to those who only do things if a magazine tells them to do them. Or a website, for that matter.)

Of course, being an American, I think it's always been ugly, but beauty keeps coming up through the cracks; the next few years will determine a lot, at least politically. (Something's going to happen; something always does.)

Monday, January 8, 2007
As It States Elsewhere, I've Got the Funk (and John Harris Can't Have It)

I know someone who, if you mention two film actors, will be able to do a 'six degrees of separation' and join them up, no matter how seemingly impossible it was, at first - he likes challenges, but if you give him something not so difficult, he'll smile and and say, "Well, what do you want me to do? Do the scenic route or just go ahead?"

This is what I thought when I read this piece on the house that JB built. Oh, where to start? So, so many places. Since I am not a resident of my hometown just yet, it is a good idea for me to get some notion of what my fellow future neighbors think - in this case, about funk.

As it turns out, at least with this guy, it's pretty embarrassing.

Oh - and insulting. And wrong? Yes, and wrong. The tour guide in Clarksdale was wrong too, of course, but Harris is even more wrong for repeating that nonsense, fun as it is to parody. (By the way, claiming that this was a piece written in jest or ironically or any of that is also incorrect, as a) I don't really see much that makes that too damn obvious and b) it doesn't have that beery thwack-to-the-back-of-the-head obviousness which I grew warily used to reading the British music press back in the 80s.)

As an American, the idea of the blues being killed by funk is so silly as to be insane. Slap-bass is not the enemy. Six-hour concerts (hello Wagner, hello church services) are parties, ceremonies, experiences - not just concerts. James Brown and his influence are everywhere, and to pick on one style of music - poison it, if you will - mucks up the whole system...

For example, here's one scenic route - Blur records "Girls and Boys" which is then remixed by the Pet Shop Boys, who were inspired by the sounds of "Planet Rock" (which I discovered reading...the Guardian) which in turn was a mix of Kraftwerk's "Numbers" and "Trans-Europe Express" and guess what, Kraftwerk were directly learning from and doing their own take on...James Brown. Which would lead me to point out that "Girls and Boys" is pretty funky all by itself. (For those who don't know, Harris wrote a book about Britpop and that's why I'm talking about Blur.)

(I love it when I see the word "demise" in a book title - dude, you're no Edward Gibbon, c'mon...)

I am trying really hard not to go all Gordon Ramsay on this writer, because in my hapless idealism I think he can learn. (I also don't want to come across as a grouch, unnecessarily.) As a future resident I hope I don't have to keep posting about how incredibly, willfully uniformed people are about my native land, its music and its people. And I've got to say how happy I am to see the intense backlash against this article, short and pathetic as it is. I recently filled out a survey for this paper and at the end, pleaded with them to get better music writers. Now you know why.

Saturday, January 6, 2007
Just Trying To Keep Up Here

"Ariel Sharon was still alive, and war erupted between Hezbollah and Israel. Authorities in the United Kingdom announced the discovery of a terrorist plot to blow up as many as ten passenger planes in the air. Riots over blasphemous cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad broke out in India, Indonesia, Kashmir, Palestine, Thailand, the autonomous Somali region of Puntland, and Afghanistan. Yanni was arrested for allegedly hitting his girlfriend, and Keith Richards fell out of a coconut tree. Coretta Scott King, Gordon Parks, Octavia Butler, Stanislaw Lem, James Brown, Don Knotts, Syd Barrett, Betty Friedan, Milton Friedman, John Kenneth Galbraith, Slobodan Milosevic, Abu Mussab Al Zarqawi, Kenneth Lay, Gerald Ford, and "Grandpa" Al Lewis died. The Massachusetts legislature voted to make health insurance mandatory for all state residents by July 2007, and a whistleblower accused AT&T of providing the National Security Agency with full access to customer phone calls and Internet usage records. Polls found that while only 36 percent of Americans worry a great deal about global warming, 90 percent were prepared to fight its effects by caulking. Twenty percent of U.S. teenagers admitted to huffing household products in order to get high. SAT scores in the United States showed the largest decline in 31 years, and after 15,000 tries a California scientist was able to teach starlings some grammar. At least 2.5 million American children were taking antipsychotic drugs; the same number of Kenyans were close to starvation. The United Nations said that 1,200 people were dying in Congo each day, and Zimbabwe faced an acute tampon shortage. At a zoo in the Netherlands three bears ate a monkey."

Darn bears! Well, that's part of the Harper's Yearly, which as you might guess happens but once a year.

Friday, January 5, 2007
In the Air Now (But Not On The Lists)

I will be ladylike here in stating that the Jackin' Pop critics, save for one, slept like narcoleptics off their medication on one album, an album that (yes) came straight outta Toronto and was perhaps even forgotten here as it had a January release: Planets Conspire by the Meligrove Band. I will go out on a very short limb here and say it's better than Ron Sexsmith, Matt Mays & El Torpedo, Natalie McMaster, The Tragically Hip...who all made the list. If you need more convincing, read this, and then go buy it. You won't be disappointed.

Wednesday, January 3, 2007
Master of the Rhythm

"Of course, JB's grooves only sound unadorned and minimalist to outsiders. The key to the greatness and radicalism of his music lies in his inverse and decidedly non-Western approach to song construction; despite his unapologetic worship and reclamation of capitalism (which to the black society of the late '60s onwards, shaken to its core, was more than enough), Brown built his music from the rhythm upwards, as opposed to the melody downwards, as everyone from the Gershwins to the Beatles did. An early instructive comparison would be to play his Live At The Apollo Vol 1, side-by-side with Coltrane's contemporaneous Live At The Village Vanguard; in both records, note how any concept of melody is systematically deconstructed until every voice, every instrument, is a drum (just as "Chasin' The Trane" burns to its essence of tenor and drums alone)."

Somewhere I read Chrissie Hynde say that there should be a statue of James Brown in every city in America. Marcello Carlin explains why.

Monday, January 1, 2007
What Is Romance?

First, all apologies that I have not been posting here as of late - but I am ill, it is the holiday season and I have been less than moved by much of what passed for ye olde culture this last year. (HAPPY NEW YEAR!) Whether it is celebrity marriages, celebrity divorces or celebrities apologizing (if you ask me, they shouldn't wait until they do something hellaciously dumb to apologize at times)...well, I do take notice but my thoughts, I fear, are not exactly original - as in, well, what did you think? Just because you can release an album, Miss Hilton, should you? (And if that question offends you, just substitute away.) This year I have changed so utterly that the comings and goings of the rich and famous, while still interesting, hold less and less fascination for me. It is, oddly, like my taste for chocolate - I can still eat milk chocolate quite happily, but it does little for me. But give me something more intense, right up to 99%, and I am...transported. (There are some people who are the same way with hot food, chilies and curries and such; it takes some getting used to, but WOAH...)

The point of all this is to note this man's folly in the past year, and how wrong-headed he is...in claiming that if things had worked out, he would be smug. Because on the basis of what he's written, it never could have worked out. He has, amusingly, no perspective on how unromantic his supposed romantic gesture is; his experience doesn't even seem to have depressed him, which is proof his feelings for this woman were not that deep (well, you can see that from the beginning of the story anyway). He is already smug, thinking of shorter flights and maybe it would work if he showed up with flowers next time.

I hate to break it to this man, but a successful relationship needs obstacles, particularly at the start. They give depth, intensity, value, priceless worth...and of course they are tough, so tough that once you overcome them, you have no smugness left, just a powerful happiness and humility. But you cannot go looking for difficulties first; you must find the person first (believe me, the problems will follow)...the other thing is time. The more time, the better; it is as simple as that. One day? Try a year; two years; three years. That time won't be all suffering, more a kind of proofing (a bit like making bread) - some of it patient hapless waiting, some feeling punched & kneaded by circumstances, and some sweet humming rising happiness. Yes, it is much like that; it is not what this man did at all. If I have any advice to you, my dear readers, it is to avoid what he did - God knows I have my version from the past - and resist anything superficial or shallow, in matters of the heart. Be brave; be willing to work to build a bridge; appreciate what you have done, and then move forward. It will not be easy, but it will be beyond any worth or price, at the end.

Friday, December 15, 2006
A Literary Note, For A Change

It seems like an awfully long time since I've written here about anything literary, so, here goes:

There's going to be a huge conference on the work of Sylvia Plath in time for her 75th birthday next year at Oxford University. By that time I should be living in England, though whether I will be able to attend is uncertain; I have much on the go right now and will have a lot more once I am well...I may just submit something and see if they want me; if not, I won't mind too much. It's hard for me to say now what I will propose to speak about, but it will probably be something avant garde, Plathwise...updates as they are warranted...

Wednesday, December 13, 2006
Name That Band

"The band are anti-war but broadly Labour and favour higher, hypothecated taxation. "You'd happily pay taxes if you thought, I'm paying them so a fireman or a nurse can have a decent wage," said Walsh. "People just want to know it's going to the right people."

On education Cole, believes: "You can't help the fact that some kids are just not going to be as bright as others ... They should definitely bring back grammar schools. Then you can say to low achievers: you can get there if you work hard."

Cole seems irritated by David Cameron's recent answer to a question about who he fancied most. "Politicians know that we get listened to by more young fans than they do. That's why David Cameron said he fancied me. He was just trying to be cool ... Do I fancy him? No! Politicians should stop trying to be cool and get on with running the country."

Friday, December 8, 2006
Looking For That Last Song

A really good article on the soon-to-be lost art of the compilation tape, for yourself or much more importantly, for your Other...

...and I forgot to mention in the post just below that McGee had the chance to sign Sloan to his label but didn't; one of the reasons Never Hear The End of It is unavailable in the UK is due to folks like him...sigh...

Wednesday, December 6, 2006
Enough Already!

A day of infamy...okay, I exaggerate...I had my final blood test today, meaning three vials of blood were taken for the near-exhaustive testing being done on me. Oh, if only they made e-cards for "Hope you feel okay after having your blood tested for the third time!" BUT they don't; as soon as I find out my operation date, however, I will let you all know...


"This doesn't seem such an unreasonable point until you reflect that they have had fifty years to rake in billions from The Beatles. Also, the notion of the back catalogue acting as crutch to fund new talent seems to imply that more contemporary acts have brought home peanuts. This would be very sad indeed if it were anywhere near the truth.

To me, the 50 years, during which both company and artists have had full opportunity to reap the lucrative benefits of their work, seem more than ample. It strikes me as natural that after such a time (in which several lifetimes of wealth have been generated) this music should move into the public domain.

But this is where the industry summons the most "fearful" scenario: the music of The Beatles could be packaged and used by anybody! We could be flooded with cash-in, novelty records that tamper with the original songs!

Overlooking the fact that the latter can clearly happen regardless of who owns the rights, I have two main objections to this concept. First, the music entering the public domain would open a world of creative possibilities and could be just as likely to lead to The Beatles' music and others enduring and growing in significance from things like the sample culture, where DJ hip hop street mixes turned out by Dangermouse reinvented the Beatles on the Grey Album, or Cherrystones morphing forgotten 60s records into contemporary breaks'n'beats classics."

So says Alan McGee - yes, that one - (Cherrystones is on the PopTones label) is basically telling me that it's okay for Oasis to do Beatles covers. No, it's not.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006
No, Record Store Clerk Guy Who's Older Than Me, I Don't Need Your Help

Yesterday as I looked for a certain unavailable cd in four different stores I heard four different kinds of music as I walked in; fully three of the four were appealing in some way to the 'older' demographic. Now, I'm not exactly a spring chicken, but this explains why that is, and why that beside-the-point Generation X feeling still lingers, 15 years after the book first appeared. Will we, as a generation, go to shows with wine tastings and dinners beforehand? Who will be left to sing to us? All the people I can think of that I'd like to see are either recluses, not going to be around when I'm that old, or dead already.

Thursday, November 23, 2006
Alton Brown, You Have Been Outnerded

"Pizza took me to Naples. Here I was slightly disturbed to find that the San Marzano tomato has declined a little in quality au naturel and only retains its flavour when canned, but I was heartened to discover that the Neapolitans are not using Manitoba flour, which has been poor this year. Water is also a much misunderstood ingredient in pizza making; only H2O with a pH level of 900 microsiemens should be used.

1. Build oven capable of reaching temperatures of 2,000,000C.

2. Get gnarled old Italian peasant to knead dough for 47 years.

3. Cook for 93 nanoseconds.

Only pigs with an IQ of more than 140 should be considered when making sausages. I know there has been much debate about cultural relativism in pig IQ testing, but I've always found that asking a pig what spices it prefers to be cooked with sorts out the Gloucestershire Old Spots from the Tamworths. Maris Pipers make the best mash, but beware of potatoes grown at a depth of more than 14.72cms as they have too much dry matter.

1. Push entire pig through a sieve.

2. Add lark's embryo to taste.

3. Steamroller potatoes.

The best steak in the world is Peter Luger's Porterhouse Brown which conveniently enables me to skip off for a week's holiday in New York. The secret to the perfect steak lies in the length of time the carcass has been hung; my preference is for the Egyptian Longhorn, which is mummified.

1. Slice a 4kg fillet diagonally in two.

2. Cover with napalm.

3. Torch for 17 seconds with flamethrower.

The British have ruined fish and chips by using inferior species, such as cod. Experience has taught me that turbot caught 273 miles off the coast of Aberdeen produces the finest flavours. Chips should be fried in vodka to get the best texture.

1. Put on diving gear.

2. Take turbot back underwater to a depth of 311m to rebalance its oxygen levels.

3. Place element in its mouth and cook slowly at 84C while you return to surface.

4. Add depleted uranium.

5. Sear in nuclear reactor for 2 seconds."

Or so the Guardian's Digested (ho) Read says is in Blumenthal's book.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006
Show Us What You're Made Of, Baby

Updatey updateness: I am feeling fine, but still not out of the woods healthwise: I have yet to hear from Mount Sinai and no doubt will call them again on Friday to see what's going on. In the meantime, I've been busy writing about Scritti Politti's Cupid & Psyche '85 over at Stereogirl; all the writing is in raw form, to be expanded and edited. Ideally I want it to be a book for the 33 1/3 series, as I've said before...reaction to it is good so far, which is nice, but I still have a ways to go... I am also busy posting & reading at Popular, which is fun - even if I don't always know the singles. (This is, I trust, a good thing.) Because I've been in hapless limbo, I am too nervous to be really reading anything, though I am trying to get through Fowler's The Jane Austen Book Club which is good writing so far...though how its disparate characters are going to really come together is beyond me.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006
The 2000s: A Great Period for Anthologies, Says TIME

I think - no, I know that this list was done just to irritate people like me, but really, does it have to be so predictable and offensive? Then again, this is TIME magazine here...

In other news: I am currently awaiting a test, in a kind of tiresome holding pattern; I have enough energy to get through the day, but not enough to really get anything done. I try to think, but the thoughts don't stay; I can't read very much, and feel rather mindless. People tell me I look well but I don't feel well, of course. I want to write and work and plan but I end up over at amazon constructing an ever-more quixotic wishlist, and sleeping, or wishing I could sleep. I want to write a 33 1/3 book on Scritti Politti's Cupid & Psyche '85 but besides writing to the general editor I have no idea about it. What I do know is that there is no course or degree in writing about music; I just try to read the best people and think, when I can, about everything and anything to do with it. Oh, and no, I didn't see them when they came to Toronto, as that was the day I went to emergency and I was much too tired to attend...

Tuesday, November 7, 2006

For once, I'm not going to be apologetic: I haven't been posting here as I've been ill (emergency on Saturday, MRI tomorrow, operation soon after that I hope) and while not in much pain, I am definitely less energetic in all ways than usual. I will post here when I know my operation's going to take place, so any real or virtual gifts/flowers/hugs can arrive at the right time...

...meanwhile, join me in wishing Chris Murphy of Sloan a very happy birthday! Here are some lyrics of his I like a lot, and that I would sing to myself on certain days...

"Marcus Said"

Halloween The night the artist caused a scene The night I heard about his queen I'm just glad my clock was clean

Hit the road Hit the ceiling, hit my friends And watch while it ends

Harder harder hardest I am the artist That makes it easy for you To paint you in a corner

Marcus said Or at least he might have said I know what it is to be sad You should see what I once had

Eighty-three Man that's where I'd like to be God help me

Harder harder hardest I am the artist That makes it easy for you To paint you in a corner

Alcoholic alchemy Write a song for me I can turn lead into gold Just don't let me get old La la la...

What I find Is I can drink until I'm blind But I don't mind

Have a heart Just take one look at my art It should give me amnesty It means everything to me

Harder harder hardest I am the artist That makes it easy for you To paint you in a corner

Alcoholic alchemy Write a song for me I have turned lead into gold How did I get old

Wednesday, November 1, 2006
Autumn Reading

Sorry for the interruption, but I've got so many bees in my figurative bonnet I may as well have a hive on my head. However, there is the new Plath poem to ponder - "Ennui"; a new version of the shy redhead from Mantua's epic to read; and if you live in Toronto then by all means read Marc Weisblott's blog over at the Globe & Mail, Campaign Bubble.

One place I've been spending a lot of time is Librarything; it's nice to see all my books at once, sure, but looking at someone else's shelves is just as cool. I only wish there were pictures for all of them...currently I'm reading Bronte's The Professor and the Grossmiths' Diary of a Nobody, two halves of the same coin I figure...

Wednesday, October 25, 2006
RIP Sandy West 1959-2006

"Being so young and musically raw - West was the best musician - lent an edge to the group. Yet Fowley was known for hyping gimmicky acts, and his outspoken pronouncements meant many in the music industry dismissed the album. There was also the stage image of a lingerie-clad Currie, confirming suspicions that the band were being marketed as "jailbait on the run."

Yet the songs told something else: Cherry Bomb, Is it Day or Night, You Drive Me Wild are hard rocking, melodic and memorably direct. Young women singing of adolescent desire and alienation, getting high and casual sex, shocked many, and US radio stations refused to play them. Male critics dismissed the band with misogynistic loathing. "These bitches suck," declared Creem, while the liberal Village Voice dismissed them as "bimbos."

I loved the Runaways as a semi-badassed teenager and it's a truism that most bands are only as good as their drummer, and Ms. West was one hell of a drummer for a 15-year-old (notice I'm not saying girl, let alone 'bitch' or 'bimbo.') Despite the heavy hand of Fowley (get a copy, if you can, of We Got the Neutron Bomb to read about that) they were all eager musicians who seemed manufactured but actually weren't; West began drumming as soon as she could just as Jett began guitar very early. Practically every all-female group owes a debt to them, and it's a shame that their home country never understood them in the first place.

Rest in peace, indeed.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006
It's All True!

"The mid-month tally for U.S. troops killed in Iraq was 79, making October the deadliest month this year for American soldiers. The first Eskimo was killed in the Iraq war; it took 20 men a full day to dig his grave through the permafrost in a town 350 miles north of the Arctic Circle. The Maine National Guard has been offering "Flat Daddies" and "Flat Mommies," life-size cardboard cutouts of deployed service members, to spouses, children, and relatives waiting for them to return. A Gypsy pressure group filed suit to stop British comedian Sacha Baron Cohen's latest film from being shown in Germany. The group accuses him of antiziganism, or hostility to gypsies; Cohen's fictional alter-ego Borat claimed that Gypsies had molested his horse. During a debate with his Democratic rival, Senator Conrad Burns of Montana said that President Bush (who this week compared Iraq to Vietnam) has a secret plan for winning the war, but that Bush is not going to share his plan with the world. White House press secretary Tony Snow compared the President to "one of those guys at the gym who plays about 40 chessboards at once."
And he wins all the matches...right? Right?

In other news...I'm done with the UC Book Sale, I've been to the Trinity one and have St. Mike's to look forward to real soon. Many books, many crouching-downs-to-go-through-a-box, lots of Penguin Classics (I don't collect them, I just like them; this is what I tell myself) and other publishers too...no response from my open letter recipient yet, but then I never did expect one...I wonder how long it will take him to get to Sloan (Never Hear The End of It is amazing)...

Sunday, October 15, 2006
Open Letter to Bill Drummond

"I decided I needed a day I could set aside to listen to no music whatsoever. Instead, I would be thinking about what I wanted and what I didn't want from music. Not to blindly - or should that be deafly - consume what was on offer. A day where I could develop ideas. This day I would call No Music Day.

St Cecilia is the patron saint of music. I have no idea why and I am not interested in finding out. But her Saint's Day is on 22 November. This is the day we are supposed to celebrate music, thank God for its existence. I decided that No Music Day should be on the day before St Cecilia's Day, using the same principles as having Halloween the day before All Saints' Day or Mardi Gras on the day before Lent kicks in.

I registered the domain name nomusicday.com and then put together one of the posters I do. The website was up and live a couple of weeks before 21 November 2005. Its format is simple. It exists mainly as a place where people can register that they will be observing No Music Day and to document how, and why, they will be doing so. I did next to nothing to promote the site, but it seemed to hit a nerve and a few thousand people stumbled upon it and many left their comments. This year I wanted to raise awareness a notch. I approached the art radio station ResonanceFM (resonancefm.com) to see if they would observe it. They were eager for the challenge. The other thing I've done is to write this text you are reading."

Dear Bill Drummond,

You know, this is not a bad idea, but as it happens, I cannot stop listening to music. Or rather, even when I am not listening to music (I have no portable device, Walkman, iPod, whatever) sounds of the city or suburbia remind me of songs that I know. The beeping signal of a truck backing up or one beeping direction signal of pedestrian flow at Yonge & Dundas currently remind me of Pink Floyd; "See Emily Play" has the same steady heartiness. When I walk through a store or even by one, a song or piece of music can elevate me into another plane of existence, because it reminds me of him so strongly; in some cases, it means he is with me. Music does not benefit by rationalist-cum-random methods. It is like water and will seek the lowest spot, the humblest spot. It soothes babies and the ill of spirit, it sneaks and swerves into the oddest of places.

Too much of something can make you want to leave it alone for a while; but even your fantasy of a year zero for music is scary. It reminds me of when he thought, that awful day, of destroying all the music he owned (thank God he didn't) and then, more moderately, listening to one album as he numbly made his way back into some semblance of life.

However, good luck with your project, but I am afraid I can't observe your day, as to me it would cut off a vital source of happiness and I am still going through all the cds I bought when I visited England this summer.

Yours sincerely,


PS There's lots on St. Cecilia here.

Saturday, October 14, 2006
I Often Dream of Books

Whoa there, didn't mean to be gone so long...as you may have figured out, I am busy. This week: The almighty, if-we-don't-have-it-you-don't-need-it UC Book Sale, where I manage the quality paperbacks section, and happily boss around others when and if needed. The sale started yesterday and continues until Tuesday night, so come on down and I may have something for you in one of my special boxes...

...and yes, I was at the Victoria College Book Sale and will no doubt go to the Trinity one, and St. Mike's...once the cold winds start to blow my incipient Penguin paperbacks lust returns - I now have (big breath) Dickens' American Notes for General Circulation, Gaskell's North and South and Wives and Daughters, Hardy's Far From the Madding Crowd and their big book of Thomas Browne. To be fair, I saved a few of them in my special boxes, because I know I am not the only one with this, um, condition - I only wish I had more copies of other books for my customers (yes, I do hang around my table & talk with them) because I only ever get to display the one & then it's gone - Catch 22 and To Kill a Mockingbird come to mind, though anyone wanting Margaret Atwood's Oryx & Crake will have to wait until tomorrow when the one copy will appear, hopefully for the right person...

Tuesday, September 26, 2006
And If Not That Jennifer, Then Probably Another One

"A survey showed that rap music fans are unlikely to recycle. Businessman Richard Branson pledged to donate $3 billion to alternative energy development, Paris Hilton gave a homeless man $100, andMichael Jackson was considering opening a leprechaun-themed amusement park in Ireland. Television sets outnumbered people in American homes. Katelyn Kampf, 19, of Yarmouth, Maine, accused her parents of hog-tying and gagging her, forcing her into a car, and taking her to New York for an emergency abortion. Anousheh Ansari, a communications entrepreneur from Texas, became the world's first female Muslim space tourist. Big box retail stores were employing anthropologists to help sell their products. A poll conducted by the American Academy of Cosmetic Surgery found that 46 percent of American women wanted to be surgically altered to resemble Jennifer Aniston. A pedigree bull mastiff deefer from Nottingham, England, underwent emergency surgery to have two pairs of ladies' underwear removed from his small intestine, and scientists announced that breakfast may not be the most important meal of the day."

More goodness, if you wish to interpret it that way, from Harper's.

Sorry for the lack of updates here; a rogue tooth has set me back, not to mention about a billion other things. I will be volunteering at the UC Book Sale as usual (October 13th - 17th) and I'll be there on the weekend, most likely.

General opinions: The new Sloan album is great. The Iraq war will have to be scaled back because the government doesn't have enough money. There ought to be a blue plaque in Cambridge for where Syd Barrett grew up. Roasting a head of garlic is easier than you think. The Globe is soon going to have a certain blogger on its hands, and I hope that they treat him well...

Wednesday, September 20, 2006
Whistling and Flying

I am very pleased to announce that Marcello's posting at Said the Gramophone is now up and I'm of course very fond of it, and just as happy with what Sean said in his introduction...go there now and listen to some of 'our' music...maybe not what you'd expect...

Tuesday, September 19, 2006
Who Killed Huw?

""Hello, Mr Halley," said the gateman, looking me in the eye. It was good that people no longer stared at my prosthetic arm, even though I still felt the need to mention it every 10 pages. "Lord Enstone wants to see you." I made my way up to the private boxes, passing George Lochs, the sinister multi-millionaire Johnny who ran an online betting firm, on the way, before being summoned into his Lordship's presence. "I want you to investigate rumours that my trainer, Bill Burton, and the jockey Huw Walker are stopping my horses."

A shot rang out and, despite the limitations of my prosthetic arm, I ran to find Walker lying dead from gunshot wounds. Something clicked at the back of my brain. Hadn't Huw left a desperate message on my answering machine the previous night?

My mobile rang. It was Bill Burton. "The police think I killed Huw after a row about race-fixing. But we were only arguing about him sleeping with my wife. I swear I never killed him."

I arrived at Burton's house to find the police already there. "What's going on?" I asked Juliet, the assistant trainer. "Bill's committed suicide," she sobbed, laying her Armani jacket on the chair.

"Looks like it's case closed," said Lord Enstone. I wasn't so sure. Bill wasn't the type to kill himself. Or Huw. I searched the crime scene and found a second bullet in a fire bucket. So it was murder. But how could I prove it?

"I'm going to make the killers come after me by telling everyone that I know who did it," I told the rear admiral.

"Be careful," said Charles, grimly. "Everyone knows you can't be intimidated because of your prosthetic arm, so they might go for your nearest and dearest instead."

I sat watching Marina hovering between life and death as blood poured from a bullet wound in her femoral artery. If only she had had a prosthetic leg. For several chapters I lay wracked with guilt until the surgeon entered the room. She was going to live after all! I must buy her a new dress."

I didn't even know Dick Francis was still alive, to tell the truth....

Tuesday, September 12, 2006
Not That I Expect Anyone To Ask Me...

...and not that I have any time, either, but gosh, just thinking about writing a 33 1/3 book sounds like fun; like getting on a trampoline of music, or diving into a pool of sound, or or or...

Ah, but what albums to write about? That's the tough one. Just because I love something doesn't necessarily mean I can be coherent about it. (So it's just as well that Loveless is taken, as is Pet Sounds.) My automatic answer is Scritti Politti's Cupid & Psyche '85 - so much there, so much to discuss...You Forgot It In People by Broken Social Scene of course, and hey, what about Heaven Up Here by Echo and The Bunnymen or Beauty and the Beat or Pretenders or Bad Reputation?...

Well, it's fun to think about, in any case.

Monday, September 11, 2006
Home Because It's Mine, Mine Because It's Home

A very nice appreciation of "American Tune" by Simon & Garfunkel in this week's Tomato Nation. They played this on Saturday on CHFI, as well as "59th Street Bridge Song" which is the other side, still, of life in NYC...

Saturday, September 9, 2006
Anything But Numb

First, let me say...that I am still so damn happy to be engaged to Marcello Carlin! YEAH! No, there are no specific plans as of yet, but it looks as though I will be moving to London, so readers (if there are any - I can't even say "Hi Mom" because she doesn't read me) beware, Carrot Rope is bound to get more 'European' over time, I almost linked to an article about how Spanish authorities are banning models that are too thin from appearing in fashion shows...

...but instead, here's a list of arts & letters types talking about works of art that have helped them in understanding the events of just under five years ago; I don't know why it rankles me that some of them point to works of their own, but anyway....typically Harold Bloom is down on everything, claiming that culture is "numb" - he must be a closet Q107 fan or something. ("Comfortably Numb" was the #1 song on their Labor Day weekend countdown.) One reaction to the events of that day has been linked here for some time, though I don't know if anyone has noticed it, so here it is: I doubt if there is anything else even close to it around, even on blogs that are cold rationalist like K-Punk or Woebot...it may shock you, annoy you, but "Total Destruction and then Transcendence" by Adam Sobolak is unique and vivid, to say the least.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006
Playlist for Resonance FM 24 August

I don't know if you, my illustrious readers, got to hear the show Marcello and I did for Resonance. We (if I may say so) did a very good job, including/despite the facts that we had to go back home during rush hour to get the cds, deal with the stairs, the rather distracted engineer (I don't know, if you're a Resonance person please don't take this personally but next time we're going to engineer ourselves) and the lack of a script, unnecessary as the story we were telling was so well-known to us - namely, ours!

So here's how it went down, as Tim Westwood would say...

"Shine a Light" Constantines ("All a man can build is his vision/And I love my man for trying")

"Black History Month" Death From Above 1979 ("Hold on, hold on children...") "B-Boy Stance" KOS ("It's getting so hard to remain authentic these days...I'm just a servant of rap hoping to bring it back.")

"Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)" Arcade Fire ("You ain't fooling no one...when the lights are out!" - "Take it from your heart, put it in your hand.")

"Mushaboom" Feist ("Meanwhile I've got it hard/Second floor living without a yard")

"Windsurfing Nation" Broken Social Scene ("All we want is our freedom" "C'mon, c'mon!")

"Ending Start" Metric ("This is how endings start...")

"Grasshoppers in Honey" ("Oooh I love the way that you love me" "OH please listen to my pleas!")

"I Will Appear For You" The Bicycles (obvious quote!)

There were other cds we could have played but had no time, others we knew we would like to have in there but didn't fit, etc. Sarah Harmer, The Deadly Snakes, Most Serene Republic, Wolf Parade, New Pornographers, controller.controller, Stars, and of course more songs from the ones we did get to play, as well.

One of the ironies of doing this show is that Resonance is an 'arts' station and a lot of what we played would be seen by them as too "common" or well-known (the Feist song's in an ad, for instance) and yet according to Marcello it could very well be that I am the first person to play KOS in the UK, which boggles my mind completely, though it is of course cool. So, on a station that considers itself subversive, we in turn were subverting things, which is most gratifying...

Thursday, August 24, 2006
The Big News From London (Tell Everyone You Know)

I am currently in London which is why I have not been able to post here much (a different excuse, at least). It is my intense privilege to be able to announce my engagement to (drumroll please) Marcello Carlin, of whom my loyal readers know I first posted about here in 2003; and have been a constant reader of ever since. Well...it is a long story to go through, but suffice it to say I am happy (happiest I have ever been) and so is he, I daresay; when Marc Weisblott (read him! paved.ca should be back soon) told me (ordered me) to start this blog in April 2003, he could not have possibly imagined its outcome...and at that time, neither could I. I was just a girl with a little blog that seemed insignificant and to this day I doubt if many people read me; but the right person did read me, and now we are together, and that is beyond the cliches in songs or stories or even the usual "I met my boyfriend through LavaLife" hooey that is what I always have to steer people away from in explaining us; I sometimes feel as if the world was a big party and we (read) each other across a very very large room and slowly, wonderfully we grew closer, we became each other's worlds and now, the closeness is completed and it's the end of the beginning, towards an even bigger beginning...

If you are in England or are going to visit, and wish to know where it happened and visit and (God willing) feel the good vibes still lingering in the air, please go to Marine Ices in Chalk Farm and have some ice cream and share in our joy, which is as sweet as that ice cream but permanent...

Thursday, August 17, 2006
Ladies and Gentlemen, and All The Ships At Sea

Whoa there, sorry I haven't posted in a little while but I have been busy - busy surviving the heat, busy getting ready to go to England, and busy getting ready for... ...a radio show! Yes, yours truly is going to host (along with Marcello Carlin) a show next week - a week from today...on Resonance fm straight out of London. The original broadcast, which I know will be good (not because of me, but because of my co-host - as far as I'm concerned, as long as I don't swear or freeze up I should be okay) is on August 24 at 7 pm; and I note that there will be a rebroadcast of the show, though just when I am not sure...the next morning? In any case, if you don't live in London you can listen online and if you can't do that I will be giving the rundown on what we played here, so you can reconstruct it on your own, if you like. Canadian music on British airwaves! Don't say I didn't warn you!

Thursday, August 3, 2006
Music Appreciation Is Hard Work!

"The next day, I set off for London, where I hope I might find a copy of the 1971 album Lick My Decals Off, Baby, suggested by Gary Lucas as the logical next step after Clear Spot, but unavailable on CD. At Notting Hill's Record & Tape Exchange, I meet Michael, a Beefheart enthusiast who is very knowledgeable and helpful, though - perhaps because he works in a shop like this - his advice comes with the whiff of gentle one-upmanship, particularly when I ask him how many plays it took him to crack Trout Mask.

"I got it the first time," he says. "I like free jazz, you see." This makes me feel like a member of McFly. On the train home, I defiantly keep my Beefheart CDs in their cases and listen instead to Wings.

But fair play to Michael. As it turns out, the LP he sold me is in the same prickly vein as Trout Mask, but it's a little bit more bass-heavy, and free of the air of desperation that puts me off some of Beefheart's supposedly seminal work. Listening to a song called Wow-Is-Uh-Me-Bop, everything coheres, and I actually start to get it. I thus go back to Trout Mask, and despite the fact that the really difficult stuff is still vexing me, it palpably begins to open up. I now understand: it is not about verse-chorus-verse or any of that prosaic nonsense. At its most extreme, I am not sure I even like it as music. What matters is the fact that it pulses with energy and ideas, the strange way the spluttering instruments meld together, and those lyrics."

Folks, he also had advice from Andy Partridge and Alex Kapranos and he still isn't sure by the end. But at least he's trying - right? Right? You want to start on Trout Mask Replica, buy it and then read this.

Monday, July 31, 2006
...But Can He Bake a Cherry Pie?

"Three months later, Mario gave me a nod. It was time for me to work the pasta station. I began by making orrechiette and blisters formed on blisters as the boiling water took its toll. But I was hungry for more. I wanted to make the tortellini. Most of all, I wanted to know when the Italians started putting egg in their pasta. "I have to go to Italy for three months," I announced. Mario shrugged with manly compassion, intuitively understanding my visceral need. I found a stable in the hilltop village of Poretta; by day I would study the art of pasta fresca with Betta, the 97-year-old nonna, by night I would lie in a manger, reading medieval works of Italian cuisine.

"It was Latini, the semi-literate forerunner to Marco Pierre White who introduced eggs," I gabbled to Marco on my return. He yawned, feigning a homoerotic disinterest. "You can now have a go at cooking the meats," he sighed.

Vitello, bistecca: the orders were piling up. My ass was on the line and Alejandro just stood and watched. He was determined to bust my balls. I thrust my arms under the furnace of the grill - third degree burns erupting in huge welts across my wrists. I refused to give in, my eyes blackening with smoke and pain, and I didn't miss a service. Alejandro held out his hand and we arm-wrestled in a mandala of mutual respect.

In all truth, I'm pretty sure this book is okay; he's going to France next, though, so he'd better get ready for some hardcore butter action. (Cough.)

About a month ago I saw one episode of something called French Leave; a show about a British chef who had moved to the south of France with his family and in said episode his mother-in-law was going to visit; he in the meantime was obsessed with bread and the wood-burning ovens they were baked in, specifically what kinds of trees were chopped up and used for specific flavors and so on. I'm sure he's an okay chef but his intolerance for his mother-in-law was grating, especially his tirade (there's always an element of acting in these shows, no matter how 'real' they are) against all the chocolate she brought; that didn't have to be acted at all. I immediately disliked him and never watched the show again. Batali, on the other hand, would take the Cadbury bars and make a chocolate fruit dessert of some sort and all would be well...

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

My beloved Constantines have a new video out for their song "Working Full-Time" and what can I say? They bring the rock (literally!)

Monday, July 24, 2006
Plus, There's Room For Your Legs (Countdown to London pt. 2)

"The Londonites are a polite people. In fact, being around Londoners all day made me feel like a rude slob. All my life I have talked like I talk, and now suddenly I sounded to myself like I was the one with the accent, and was dumber and cruder than everyone around me! Even the cab drivers are polite. In America, it is not unusual for your cab driver, after dropping you at your destination, to kill and eat you. That is, if you can even find a cab. In many of the smaller American cities, if you want to be driven somewhere, then killed and eaten, you have to hire a limo service. But in London, not only are there plenty of cabs, and the drivers do not kill and eat you, but the drivers are given a special test in which they are quizzed on all sorts of difficult things, such as London streets and world history and even calculus. So it is really something - you jump in a cab, say, "Briefly explain the theory of the calculus", and next thing you know you are in Soho, and the driver is wrapping up his explanation of calculus on a small chalkboard supplied in every single cab."

Not that I plan on taking a cab, but I did last time...George Saunders on all things English.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006
Up to Code Pt. Two:

In case you were wondering (or for that matter, worrying) what on earth happened to the links, fear not: in one form or another they will return. Here's the situation: last week I changed one letter (one letter!) as I was updating a link and the whole right column disappeared... ...so now my excellent designer is working on a way to redo this blog so I can keep all the links fresh and working without losing anything. Thanks for your patience in this matter!

Thursday, July 13, 2006
Duck, Here Comes Another Important Album List!

Fair warning:

"In a couple of weeks, the UK albums chart will be 50 years old. To mark the occasion, and celebrate one of the defining art forms of our time, we on Observer Review have put together a list of 50 albums which we think changed everything.

Are these the best 50 albums ever made? Not really. The biggest-selling? No, not quite. They are the ones that we reckon tilted the planet's axis just a tad, reinvented pop music, and made the last five decades that little bit more interesting..."

Again: you've been warned...

Update: The list is here; I hope to post my own retort to it soon. In the meantime, here's another list: the shortlist for this year's Mercury Music prize, not to be confused with the Polaris Music prize.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006
Float On A River, Forever and Ever...

There is always one redeeming thing I remember about a certain broadcast journalist I once knew: he did a show with Jay Ferguson (Sloan) and had the good sense to agree with him that "See Emily Play" was simply one of the best songs ever. The man who wrote that song, and many others, Syd Barrett, has died, and yet he will most certainly live on, for anyone that has an interest in good music. (And yes, I thought he was going to outlive them all. RIP, indeed...)

For a better and warmer remembrance and perspective on Barrett than the obit you probably have already read, please read Marcello Carlin's latest posting.

Monday, July 3, 2006
"That's Okay, Time Doesn't Exist"

It doesn't seem that long ago, but the 15th anniversary of Richard Linklater's breakthrough movie Slacker is upon us. I've only seen it once (appropriately, in a friend's basement) but I love it and would love to see it again some time...it has tons of great quotes ("Withdrawing in disgust is not the same thing as apathy") but this is wisdom from the Old Man: "When young, we mourn for one woman... as we grow old, for women in general. The tragedy of life is that man is never free yet strives for what he can never be. The thing most feared in secret always happens. My life, my loves, where are they now? But the more the pain grows, the more this instinct for life somehow asserts itself. The necessary beauty in life is in giving yourself to it completely. Only later will it clarify itself and become coherent."

Thursday, June 29, 2006
Warm Fruits, Yellow Coats

As usual I am a bit late with this, but all of the Fruitopia ads that Kate Bush did are up at youtube; here is my favorite, celebrating the summer solstice. Pagan rituals, indeed...

And in case you were wondering, yes, the video for "Carrot Rope" is there too...(not in sync, but genial nonetheless...)

Thursday, June 29, 2006
Put Him in a Hot Box and He Still Won't Give Up

This is even better than The Bridge on the River Kwai, though that is a pretty damn fine movie (and I'm not one for war movies, for the most part). It's the Geneva Convention, people; live it, learn it, love it.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006
Arif Mardin R.I.P.

I listened to "Absolute (Version)" today in honor of this man; but there are dozens of songs, nay albums, that are equally worth your time. He will be missed.

Thursday, June 22, 2006
Up to Code

In case anyone out there was wondering why whole chunks of links have been missing lately, that is because the designer of this here blog has taken up the noble and fun cause of updating the old code. Schmutzie is truly the Mike Holmes of web designers. Brava, Schmutzie!

Oh, how do you like the new look? Let me know...

Thursday, June 22, 2006
Christopher Wren 1 - Millenium Project 0 (Countdown to London pt. one)

"But never mind. Once you've stepped into one of those glassy pods, you're going to forget the investment in time and money and enjoy the "thrilling experience of a flight on the Eye", as British Airways puts it. Except of course it's not a flight. You go up, and you come down half an hour later, exactly where you started. And because the revolution is so grindingly slow, each minute lasts about half an hour in child-time. There are only so many times you can say: "Look at Big Ben down there!" in wonderment before it loses some of its novelty value.

So 10 minutes in, the children are slumped listless and bored on the bench in the centre of the overheated pod, asking: "Are we nearly there yet?"

Now compare that to Christopher Wren's marvellous monument to the Great Fire of London, a little way down river. It's £2 for adults, £1 for children, and at 202ft has similarly fantastic views, plus 311 childexhausting steps up, 311 down. Sorted."

Because, as we all know, exhausting children is the point of a daytrip. Cough. Also pilloried: Haworth, Edinburgh Castle, Hampton Court and Madame Tussauds, the only place I've been to on this list.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006
No There There

"And, as Levy argues convincingly, if your only form of sexual expression is inauthentic to you, is something that you have copied from strippers and porn stars - people who are, after all, paid to depict pleasure - then your chance of finding true intimacy, connection, even love, is grossly diminished. That's perhaps the saddest part of all. Levy quotes that ultimate raunch icon, Paris Hilton: "My boyfriends always tell me I'm not sexual. Sexy, but not sexual." Hilton may flash on the red carpet, may affect sexiness at all times, but her sex video apparently shows her answering her mobile during intercourse and looking fundamentally bored.

"To me," Levy writes, " 'sexy' is based on the inexplicable overlap of character and chemicals that happens between people . . . the odd sense that you have something primal in common with another person whom you may love, or you may barely even like, that can only be expressed through the physical and psychological exchange that is sex." It was that sense of the "primal" that powered the original free-love era in the late 1960s and early 1970s, a sense that sex was too important, too exciting, too liberating to be bound by the strict confines of marriage. In our current sexual era, though, the primal seems to have been replaced by performance, pheromones by perfume, body hair by depilation. Genuine passion sometimes seems to be going the way of the dodo, or, to be more accurate, the hippy."

Well then call me a hippy, people! Am I the only one who is beyond tired by anything and everything associated with Playboy? How well I remember hanging out with some friends when I was...way too young and some no doubt well-meaning parent, a mom or older sister, giving us a pile of them to help us (how, I don't know) become sexual sophisticates. Ha.

Friday, June 16, 2006
I Believe in Miracles

Sorry for the lack of updates: astute readers may have also noticed that a lot of my fun & games section has gone mysteriously missing - the links are still there, just not showing up. I hope they return soon!

So, then...I've got my plane tickets (or will have them soon), my PR card application's in the mail, and who knows, perhaps some vital mail from overseas will show up soon. Or not. Considering I live in a basement in Scarborough, I don't expect Canada Post to always swing my way - but things could be worse. He could live in Australia...

And in the meantime, it's hot and summer's almost here; time for something silly like this.

Thursday, June 8, 2006
Turn Up the Good, Turn Down the Suck

I've been thinking a lot about this since I've read it and wondering how to respond. I agree with everything Marcello Carlin has to say in reply, of course; I am glad he said it, as those who read Reynolds are far, far more likely to read him than to read me. However, if I may borrow from Jane Eyre, this blog is "poor, obscure, plain and little" - which means hardly anyone cares what I write here in the world of music criticism, so I feel free to write as I wish.

My mind boggles at the sneering, bothersome, soul-deadened people who would presume to irritate others with music. It strikes me that all this is being done (there have been updates since, and yes I'll get to Robert Wyatt in a minute) in places where people are looking to feel safe and happy, to have a respite in the world, which I don't need to tell you, can be a cold and heartless place: a pub, a bookstore, even at home...to be 'charitable' to what is essentially anything from a nuisance (if the person hearing it leaves immediately) to what I would call sonic rape (making someone listen to something they don't want to for hours on end, with no chance of escape). Why so harsh? Because the attitude behind it is equally harsh. These people, these aural ignoramuses - let's make them listen to real music for a change! Oh, for a bit of payback for having to hear (oh, the torture) popular music wherever you go! (For purposes of this discussion, popular music means anything that is well-known, regardless of anything else.) We'll take some Diamanda Galas down to the local and show them what for and laugh like hyenas on the way home!

In the meantime, these people did nothing to deserve this; they of average tastes, average budgets, the sort of people who actually like classic rock stations or easy listening stations or anything that gets up these people's noses; whether they are teenage girls or middle-aged accountants, the musical pranksters (oh, they wish they were so much fun) probably think they are backhandedly doing a service to their victims; showing them the light, the way...or am I now being too charitable. The viciousness behind this (and no, I don't want to hear any punk rock philosophical crap attached to it either) overwhelms any genuine impulses to get people to open their ears and listen to something different. That would take real guts, diplomacy, humility: something these people lack.

Oh, and about Robert Wyatt: how he ever got caught up in this I don't know. Somehow I doubt a man who had a hit with his cover of "I'm A Believer" would endorse any of this for a second. (Neither would The Old Soul, who have a song named after him which I hope he likes, if he ever hears it.)

That is my main statement on this. But the more I think about music and how it is criticized and blogged about, the more I want almost all music bloggers to come out of their burrows and forget who they are for half a second and just listen to music and write about it, period, in particular music they love. Open the window and let the air blow in roughly, forget isms and jargon, to feel the music, essentially, in their hearts and souls as much as between their ears. Is this possible? I hope so...

(Even something like this is better than a lot of what's out there...)

Thursday, June 1, 2006
One Day, Bitches

As an addendum to the TTC mess of this week, here's a much nicer idea: Miguel (Transit Toronto, from whence I got this link, doesn't give him a last name) imagines the subway system as it could be, and really, as it should be. The new stations in the hinterlands (such as my own would-be station, Warden North) don't have to be spectacular, just functioning and clean. That's all anyone really needs, right?

Monday, May 29, 2006
I Am Not Your Broom

A day of helpless nothingness. Woke up nice and early to find there was no TTC and eventually found out that no, the family upstairs can't help me, so out the door I went and after waving at two cabs (the drivers with their stony faces, me being unable to tell if they were already on call or not), I walked down a little on Warden, stood facing north and VERY luckily got a cab. (I had tried to phone at home, but it was like New Year's Eve: busy signal city.) Nearly two hours later (with a good driver who was seemingly allergic to the concept of air conditioning, but, oh well), I was downtown so I could do some emergency nannying - the call having come while I was nearly asleep last night. The day went well, and the wildcat strike was done by rush hour, but the whole system won't be in operation until tomorrow and the workers all broke the law, which means the next bus driver I encounter had better say thank you to me, for once. I am staying downtown. It has been a bitchingly hot & smoggy day and I am tired. Back up to the hinterlands tomorrow...

Thursday, May 25, 2006
What Is a Power Lunch, Anyway?

"There has been much debate over Dan Brown’s novel ever since it was published, in 2003, but no question has been more contentious than this: if a person of sound mind begins reading the book at ten o’clock in the morning, at what time will he or she come to the realization that it is unmitigated junk? The answer, in my case, was 10:00.03, shortly after I read the opening sentence: “Renowned curator Jacques Saunière staggered through the vaulted archway of the museum’s Grand Gallery.” With that one word, “renowned,” Brown proves that he hails from the school of elbow-joggers—nervy, worrisome authors who can’t stop shoving us along with jabs of information and opinion that we don’t yet require. (Buried far below this tic is an author’s fear that his command of basic, unadorned English will not do the job; in the case of Brown, he’s right.) You could dismiss that first stumble as a blip, but consider this, discovered on a random skim through the book: “Prominent New York editor Jonas Faukman tugged nervously at his goatee.” What is more, he does so over “a half-eaten power lunch,” one of the saddest phrases I have ever heard."

Oh, and the movie's bad too. Whenever I see a certain poster for it, it looks as if Hanks and Tautou have just realized this and are determined to get out of it, at all costs.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006
Seeing Red

No Rock 'n' Roll Fun takes on Bono and his Red campaign and no, it's not pretty. And may I say that I listened to Indie City AND Soul II Soul at around the same time and have no idea what listening to either says about my ideas on what makes for responsible capitalism? Thanks.

Monday, May 22, 2006
Like A Venus Fly-Trap, Only With Books And Less Smelly...

Once again I am going to be at University College in the JCR selling books to hapless Doors Open visitors this Saturday. If you want to see me by all means, come along! In other news: after a cold Victoria Day weekend, it is supposed to be heating up this week - we shall see. I am downtown for now and figuring out my PR application. I tried to use a cd burner here but something in the system's screwed up, alas...

Monday, May 22, 2006
Babies These Days

Why can't I be the Brangelina baby? The first thing many kids want to know about the Brangelina baby is, "Why not me?" Research indicates that children as young as 3 months old are sensitive to their own status. And even the dimmest children know that the Brangelina baby is receiving a lot of attention and praise. Older kids might look at the photos of the Brangelina baby and wonder why they were featured on so few magazine covers or news reports at the time of their birth.

Parents should patiently explain that all babies are special. The Brangelina baby might seem like the most important baby in the world, but it wasn't so long ago that everyone was talking about Violet Affleck, Sean Preston Federline, Apple Martin, or what's her name, Brian Benben and Madeline Stowe's kid. Make sure children understand that they are special, too, albeit in a much more narrowcast market sort of way. Not every baby needs to be on the cover of OK!, but if your child feels excluded, experts suggest using computer-imaging software to mock up "pretend" magazine covers featuring your kids. Eye-catching cover lines like, "America's Favorite Plate Cleaner Comes Clean: 'I Love Broccoli!' " will help stifle any anxiety.

Is the Brangelina baby better than me? The only way to answer this is directly and honestly. Tell them: Yes, the Brangelina baby is better than you. But Mommy and Daddy, Grandma and Grandpa all love you very, very much. Less than they love the Brangelina baby, but with as much of their hearts still available.

I hate the Brangelina baby! You'll hear this one a lot. While jealousy is a natural feeling for children, parents should discourage outright hatred of the Brangelina baby. If anger persists, impose a short "timeout." Experts recommend at least two days—no talking, no instant messaging, no blogging.

Can I be friends with the Brangelina baby? No. He/she doesn't care about you. You cannot even look directly at the Brangelina baby. Explain that photos of the Brangelina baby are shot through special lenses, and that prolonged exposure to the Brangelina baby will make your child go blind.

Slate makes up for the FIGHT! and BABY! and maybe even one day BABY FIGHT! headlines.

Thursday, May 18, 2006
You Could Easily Picture This In The Current Top Ten

So now, what is new? I am busy figuring out how to fill out my Permanent Residence application, worse than Sudoku but a billion times more necessary; I have RoseCassis, the new Body Shop scent and yes, it's good; I won Oomalama and Dreamcake and am patiently waiting to see how much they will cost, altogether. The Victoria Day long weekend is approaching and much sleeping, laundry and music-listening beckon. For those of you who have not read it already, please read Marcello Carlin's excellent piece on Scott Walker's new album, The Drift. I have yet to hear the album, but I believe it is the most startling writing on anything I've seen this year, and while he stresses that it is his own interpretation of Walker's album, and probably nothing like what Walker intended...well, doesn't everyone interpret music in their own way? And when an album shakes you to your core, it is a hard thing to figure out why, and then when you do...just read it, you'll see what I mean.

Thursday, May 11, 2006
Bear Up Bison

First, the bad news: it's raining here all day and probably most of tomorrow too. But, but...

The good news: I am still getting over my cold but am feeling much better. I'm starting to fill out my application forms for my PR card and in doing research discovered that a certain month and year reverberates very strongly between me and him, to the point where I just stare in disbelief at the old yellow sheet stapled to my passport in near awe. I won Finisterre on ebay and Let's Knife too, without getting into actual back-and-forth bidding...and apart from Aristophanes, whom I am sure I would have hated on sight, Plato's Symposium is pretty good so far.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006
That's A Big Gulp

"The rockist-poptimist polarity is often false, and even when it's not, must we choose sides? The overriding sentiment in those corners of the Internet where music nuts gather to discuss such issues is: I want both kinds of music, I want all kinds of music—and then some. Thanks to new technology we can gorge ourselves on the stuff like never before, and thanks to the shuffle feature all the old categories and genre distinctions start to look silly and melt into the digital haze. I shivered slightly the other day when I realized the song count on my iTunes had topped 11,000, but there's still plenty of room left on my 60 GB gadget, and I intend to fill it. Maybe the real guilty pleasure in 2006 is gluttony. As I reach for the mouse and click download again, I'm reminded of a song by ABBA, those capital-P pop wizards we have learned to love without apology: Gimme, Gimme, Gimme."

(Hmm, must be an American critic.) The other day I was in Sam's and a man said his iPod had crashed and he had lost 6,500 songs. I don't even think I know that many. As a non-iPod owner, however, I don't have to worry about these things, and after a while numbers become meaningless, the way they usually do.

Total complete digression - anyone know what TMFTML is up to these days? I am beginning to get worried about him.

Tuesday, May 9, 2006
It Takes Every Kind of People

"Scientists in Korea revealed a new, attractive female robot that understands 400 words and can blink. "We are working," said one roboticist, "on upgrading the android with the aim of making it move its legs by the end of this year." An Australian painter named Tim Patch unveiled a portrait of Prime Minister John Howard that he had painted with his penis, and the head of the Iranian Physical Education Organization banned effeminate-looking athletes. In Hungary construction workers renovating a house discovered, and drank, a barrel of rum; when the barrel was empty they found that it contained a pickled human corpse. In Valparaiso, Indiana, a deaf man got into a fight with a man with two prosthetic legs; police later arrested the deaf man via a note. Scientists in Colorado said that the ozone layer was recovering, Qatar announced $60 million in aid for New Orleans, and Kansas raised its minimum marriage age to 15."

They would not write it if it wasn't true: the unblinking eyes of Harper's observe all.

Friday, May 5, 2006
Architecture and Morality

"5. If engineering cannot tell us what is beautiful, how do we escape the sterile relativism, which suggests that to label one building more aesthetically pleasing is to be undemocratic? By lapsing into an equally sterile relativistic debate about cultural and moral values contingent on architecture.

6. Buildings and objects can convey meaning with a single line or an elaborate flourish. They are the repository of ideas and ideals. I once walked from McDonald's in Victoria to Westminster Cathedral, a journey of only a few yards for ordinary people but a marathon expedition into the soul for someone of my sensitivity and intellect.

7. I seem to be running out of things to say, so let me talk about art for a while. Who cannot admire the sadness in a painting by Pieter de Hooch without coming close to tears? You may feel your eyes welling up as you read; these, though, are tears of boredom."

Alain de Botton should be allowed to write one book per decade, but unfortunately that is not happening. Oh, and if you go to the Guardian, please avoid the article on Scott Walker as there is, I promise, a much better one in the works elsewhere.

I sincerely apologize for my lack of updates here as of late; ironically I have a cold now so I can post in the middle of the night. Bleah. I hope things will improve next week.

Saturday, April 15, 2006
Muriel Spark, 1918-2006

One of my favorite novelists, Muriel Spark, died this past week. I remember going to Britnell's to order The Girls of Slender Means and the nice woman saying that she hadn't seen it around for a while; the main character makes her money in the semi-dubious "world of books" and likes chocolate and has wide hips, so of course I identified with her, (another character led me to read & love Hopkins) but Spark had a way of making me like all her characters, or at least understanding them; and she had a unique way of being funny, dry and light without losing any sense of deeper meaning. She made the big heavyweights from everywhere look like windbags to me, to put it mildly. She also wrote about places as vividly as people, and while few of her works have been made into movies or television programs, they don't need to - she puts you right there, amongst the elderly (Memento Mori) or a girl's school in 30s Edinburgh (The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie) or even a truly weird mansion (Not to Disturb). She was also a good critic and short story writer, to boot. She will be missed.

Friday, April 14, 2006
Rebirth, Unity, Spring

"As much as Jefferson and Emerson, Wills wants to protect Jesus from the priests, bishops, and popes who have claimed privileged access to him. Where he departs from Jefferson and Emerson, as well as from Tabor, is in reasserting the power of sin to subvert our best efforts to follow Jesus. It's not just the churches that keep crucifying Christ. Believers do, too. Contrary to Emerson's notion of an open-ended human "divinity," Wills believes it is in the fallen nature of human beings to sin. Judas, according to Wills, taught this lesson powerfully. "I have sinned in turning over this innocent man" (Matthew 27:4). That "act of contrition," writes Wills, "redeems him, makes him a kind of comrade for all of us who have betrayed Jesus. He is our patron. Saint Judas." Wills thus anticipates the recent flurry of interest in the noncanonical Gospel of Judas. But rather than seeing Judas as a hero wrongly blamed for betraying Jesus, Wills takes Judas as a sinner who repents for what he himself considers an act of betrayal.

What Jesus Meant, one of Wills' most personal books, features several memorable reflections on Gospel passages, all of them his own beautiful translations from the Greek. In his meditation on the atonement, Wills suggests taking the sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross as the commiseration of a loving Creator, who chooses to suffer alongside foundering human creatures. An experience with his young son brought home to Wills the wisdom of this viewpoint. A nun at school had told his son that all sinners would end up in hell. Naturally he experienced a gruesome nightmare and asked his father, "Am I going to hell?" "There is not an ounce of heroism in my nature," Wills writes, "but I instantly answered what any father would: 'All I can say is that if you're going there, I'm going with you.' "


Slate on the many ways to view Jesus, about whom we have heard so much lately. A happy long weekend to you, whatever you celebrate.

(I would be posting here more often if I had access at work, but I don't, for the most part, so sorry if you keep coming here upset that nothing much has changed. The weather is beautiful here in Toronto now, but beyond saying "Daffodils and crocus and hedges and NO ICE, oh thank you thank you" I don't really have much to say. Except that 20-month-year-olds will eat anything, so watch it, or rather, them.)

Friday, April 7, 2006
The Oxford Files

Back in 1998/9 I had a short but nice email correspondence with a guy at Oxford (unwitting foreshadowing abounded back then, trust me) and in fact he wrote to me because I wrote positively about Henry Green (yet another Oxford guy!) at amazon. His name was Matthew Skelton and he was frighfully bright and clearly bound for good things; and if I am not horribly mistaken, he is the same man mentioned here as a new children's author to watch out for and remember. Good luck, Matthew!

In other book news, I still don't care about Dan Brown.

Friday, April 7, 2006
Kevin Drew to Canadian Idol: Drop Dead

"Broken Social Scene consider themselves a big family, which is good because it looks like they just picked a feud with another big clan — the Canadian Idol family.

Social Scene singer Kevin Drew had nothing good to say about the Idols backstage after Sunday's Juno Awards.

"I feel really sorry for those kids in Canadian Idol because they're going absolutely nowhere," he said.

The BSS crew took home their second best alternative album Juno this year. Their adversaries amongst the Idol alumni, however, were shut out despite a collected eight nominations split among Rex Goudie, Kalan Porter, Theresa Sokyrka and Hedley.

"It's a Canadian music industry downfall because in three years no one is going to remember them," said Drew.

Drew had been on a bit of a political mission all weekend. On top of specifically calling out Canadian Idol, he closed out his band's televised performance on the awards show with a scream/sung plea for music listeners to support better artists.

Among the better artists he cited specifically for attention were The Dears, The Stills, Arcade Fire, Black Mountain, The New Pornographers, Stars, Do Make Say Think, Metric, Constantines, Hidden Cameras, Fembots, Raising The Fawn, Final Fantasy, The Old Soul, K-OS, The Two Koreas and Apostle Of Hustle, before adding that there are "many more."

Alpha BSS songstress Leslie Feist was less cutting in her Idol comments. She just wants them to get out on the road and prove themselves — to get bloody for rock 'n' roll perhaps.

"Collectively we probably have 200 years worth of gig experience," Feist said, as comparison. "I feel only empathy for the kids that are put in that position before they have those road scars.""

Yeah, doing a Christmas pantomime show (as several of them did) isn't exactly rock, but then these kids need to find something, right? Right? And Melissa O'Neill and Rex Goudie did play the venerable Massey Hall last month (I walked by as the doors were just opening, and yes, the audience was mostly teenage girls and their moms...) To each their own, I think, but yeah, when I have to listen to either Radio Three at some ungodly hour (or to The Indie Hour on The Edge) to hear anything other than Nickleback/Theory of a Deadman/Our Lady Peace, Drew's got a point. (The Old Soul, btw, have a good song called "Robert Wyatt.")

Friday, April 7, 2006
Kevin Drew to Canadian Idol: Drop Dead

"Broken Social Scene consider themselves a big family, which is good because it looks like they just picked a feud with another big clan — the Canadian Idol family.

Social Scene singer Kevin Drew had nothing good to say about the Idols backstage after Sunday's Juno Awards.

"I feel really sorry for those kids in Canadian Idol because they're going absolutely nowhere," he said.

The BSS crew took home their second best alternative album Juno this year. Their adversaries amongst the Idol alumni, however, were shut out despite a collected eight nominations split among Rex Goudie, Kalan Porter, Theresa Sokyrka and Hedley.

"It's a Canadian music industry downfall because in three years no one is going to remember them," said Drew.

Drew had been on a bit of a political mission all weekend. On top of specifically calling out Canadian Idol, he closed out his band's televised performance on the awards show with a scream/sung plea for music listeners to support better artists.

Among the better artists he cited specifically for attention were The Dears, The Stills, Arcade Fire, Black Mountain, The New Pornographers, Stars, Do Make Say Think, Metric, Constantines, Hidden Cameras, Fembots, Raising The Fawn, Final Fantasy, The Old Soul, K-OS, The Two Koreas and Apostle Of Hustle, before adding that there are "many more."

Alpha BSS songstress Leslie Feist was less cutting in her Idol comments. She just wants them to get out on the road and prove themselves — to get bloody for rock 'n' roll perhaps.

"Collectively we probably have 200 years worth of gig experience," Feist said, as comparison. "I feel only empathy for the kids that are put in that position before they have those road scars.""

Yeah, doing a Christmas pantomime show (as several of them did) isn't exactly rock, but then these kids need to find something, right? Right? And Melissa O'Neill and Rex Goudie did play the venerable Massey Hall last month (I walked by as the doors were just opening, and yes, the audience was mostly teenage girls and their moms...) To each their own, I think, but yeah, when I have to listen to either Radio Three at some ungodly hour (or to The Indie Hour on The Edge) to hear anything other than Nickleback/Theory of a Deadman/Our Lady Peace, Drew's got a point. (The Old Soul, btw, have a good song called "Robert Wyatt.")

Saturday, April 1, 2006
Howling Wolves

In a non-coincidental coincidence, Wolf Parade's song "Shine a Light" is on the National Playlist this week, and if you want to vote to keep it on (I certainly will) then please do so. Thanks!

Sorry for the lack of updates here - but yay for spring, for growing souls, for BSS playing live at the Junos and weird things - a walnut, whole, on the church steps, red tulip petals strewn on the sidewalk, skateboarders and robins and fountains and the longed for spring is here...my new work schedule may mean I have to go to the Bibliotheque St Laurent to update and so on, but such is life. Salut!

Thursday, March 23, 2006
Floating on the Sea of Music

As I was wandering around Sonic Boom yesterday (a big used cd store that immediately confused me as they also sell new cds, mostly independent Canadian stuff) I thanked God I made a list - not that I followed it, but it helped me along, so I didn't get totally lost. (I ended up buying the first Autour de Lucie cd, on the principles that it was hard to find and I love them; good enough for me.) (Good for me too that I didn't give in and go into CD Replay afterwards, despite their attempting to lure me in with cheap cds upfront.) Anyway, I as usual felt a bit hapless not knowing half of what I was looking at - and trying to imagine what everything is like is sonically like trying to swallow the ocean. So, this service ain't perfect, but if you are like me and think, if "I like such-and-such, what else is out there that I might like?" it will do.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

If you are in the Toronto area anytime soon (or live here, for that matter), I strongly suggest you head over to Gallery 201 Queen East for their 'Defrost' show; lovely stuff, all based on the ideas of liberation, spring, brilliance...I went to the opening & got to talk to the artists, who are all very nice; Gabriel Dawe's work in particular struck me as the kind of work I'd love to own (sigh...) but really? It's all great. Go see it!

Saturday, March 18, 2006
Manchester Will Eat Itself

On Joy Division: "They were always incredibly boring. Yet as soon as Ian died, the usual thing happened."

Yep, that's Morrissey. As Snoopy once so memorably thought, "My mind reels with sarcastic replies."

Thursday, March 16, 2006
An Engima Wrapped in a Riddle Poured Down Your Throat While Being Dragged on to the Floor

"But it's not so simple. Architecture is only one element of what Guinness has branded the "Irish Pub Concept." The concept outlines some simple steps to achieve "Irishness": You'll want to add Irish music, traditional grub, and "bric-a-brac" such as reproductions of antique spinning wheels, cast irons, and flagons. Authentic employees are also a must. "Although it is possible to recreate the feel of a true Irish pub without Irish staff—we don't recommend it. No Irish pub is complete without the friendly warmth, humor and advice of a true Irish bartender." If there aren't any affable Irish in your town, rest assured, Guinness will put you in touch with employment agencies.

When you're ready to open, your pub will need a name. The concept is not properly served by joke names like McSwiggins or Filthy McNasty's, but it will thrive with a Gaelic phrase (Dún na nór or An Cruiscín Lán) or one of the hundreds of standard family names provided on the concept site. (A helpful hint: "To create the illusion of history, '& Sons' can be added to the name.") Authenticity, apparently, is key. In answer to the question, "Why is authenticity important?" the concept states that "Sales per square foot in current authentic pubs are exceeding the U.S. average by a factor of two." The Irish Pub Company's stance on this issue is even more enigmatic: "The authenticity of the Irish pub concept stands up to scrutiny—the deeper you dig, the more interesting and attractive it becomes."

I think I'd rather buy some St. Patrick's Day-themed cupcakes than drink anything in an "authentic" "Irish" pub, where they'd shun me anyway, because I don't drink Guinness. If I want a meal, I'll eat it.

That said, I do like St. Patrick, though getting drunk in his honor still doesn't make sense to me.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006
Does This Dress Make Me Look Like The Song "Hotel" or What?

There are some days when I feel a bit sorry for myself - not in a big way, but nevertheless...hmm, maybe it's more impatience. Right now I'm watching one of those home design shows where someone has a room in their place redone, and it's Brendan Canning's parlor! (Sigh. I want to live somewhere with more natural light. Actually, I just want spring.) Anyway, it's a nice place and Brendan is as sweet as a bag of sugar; just as I thought he would be. It was breezy, cold and somewhat sunny here today, with only a few moments of snow, nothing noticeable; I got two new dresses but nothing summery yet (grr) and as usual I am down on myself after one too many dresses that in theory (ha) should fit, but because they are the wrong fabric and/or cut, don't. Amazingly I do like what I found, and even found something too big (?!) for me - no, I don't have shoulders like a linebacker. Thanks.

Speaking of Broken Social Scene - the most amazing writing on them is somewhere on the web, but modesty prevents me from telling you who wrote it. Though if you've read this for any amount of time, you should be able to tell...

Tuesday, March 14, 2006
Does This Dress Make Me Look Like The Song "Hotel" or What?

There are some days when I feel a bit sorry for myself - not in a big way, but nevertheless...hmm, maybe it's more impatience. Right now I'm watching one of those home design shows where someone has a room in their place redone, and it's Brendan Canning's parlor! (Sigh. I want to live somewhere with more natural light. Actually, I just want spring.) Anyway, it's a nice place and Brendan is as sweet as a bag of sugar; just as I thought he would be. It was breezy, cold and somewhat sunny here today, with only a few moments of snow, nothing noticeable; I got two new dresses but nothing summery yet (grr) and as usual I am down on myself after one too many dresses that in theory (ha) should fit, but because they are the wrong fabric and/or cut, don't. Amazingly I do like what I found, and even found something too big (?!) for me - no, I don't have shoulders like a linebacker. Thanks.

Speaking of Broken Social Scene - the most amazing writing on them is somewhere on the web, but modesty prevents me from telling you who wrote it. Though if you've read this for any amount of time, you should be able to tell...

Thursday, March 9, 2006
Black and White, But the Grays Matter Most

There's a beautiful series of photographs up at Slate today by Erich Hartmann called The London of Virginia Woolf. I like the one with the cat, though he has a good eye for more formal structures too.

Tuesday, March 7, 2006
The Department of Not Getting It Department/What I Do Love

"I've noticed that quite a few Americans are resistant to the idea that there's any connection between, say, the agit-funk of Gang of Four and the glam-disco of ABC."

Well, one's from Leeds and the other's from Sheffield. Um, next? I'm willing to be schooled on this, but, uh, not by him.

In other news: I should have posted on this last month, but in case you were wondering, why aren't there more postings here - my mother's partner died last month and so I have been busy and when I'm not busy I am tired, etc. Nevertheless I am continuing to enjoy things (as much as I can), including the following: The Meligrove Band, budding trees, the end of winter, Autour de Lucie, people writing asking to be linked here, Jon Stewart/Stephen Colbert, walnuts, tutoring, hearing Cal say "Boo" and "Moo," Murphy & Ferguson on CBC Radio Three overnight on the weekend, orange popsicles, wild honey perfume and much else, including oceans of love.

Monday, February 27, 2006
May the Metal Bees Hanging From My Ears Make Honey For You

"In your presence even my shadow acquires the sensation of touch."

"Timepieces could not know your age."

"Your raw sensuality flusters me as the dog sneezes into the ventilation fan."

I don't always understand them (not all are in English!) but why not give someone a Surrealist Compliment this Mardi Gras?

Thursday, February 23, 2006
99 Chive Fan Station, 99, Chive Fan Station

If the truth of things is revealed in anagrams, then this map of the TTC tells the world so much more about Toronto than any usual ones. (For extra fun, you can pretend it's in Quebec and translate them all into French - either these or the originals. To think my station back in the 90s was Boisvert!)

Oh, and of course there is one for the London Underground.

Update: The creators of the above maps have been asked to take them down; my only response is that parodies of subway maps should be the very least of their problems. And with that, I give you the delightful (in oh so many ways) DC Metro map. And for those of you who love Stephen Malkmus, he appears to have renamed all the stations in Portland (conveniently, where he lives.)

Sunday, February 19, 2006
Can the Knights

Why are award shows so awful? Why do people keep getting excited over them? Why are some of them proof positive that time has, indeed, stopped?

Wednesday, February 15, 2006
Alone at the Microphone

The art of pop singing is primarily about projecting emotion and personality, not technical proficiency. Bing Crosby's singing conveyed masculine assurance and effortless cool—the voice of the hip dad we all wish we had. Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan,* and Mel Tormé used the standards as their personal playthings, launching pads for spectacular vocal improvisations. Billie Holiday and the self-proclaimed "18-carat manic-depressive" Frank Sinatra were pop existentialists who found giddy highs and soul-rending deep-blue lows in even the dopiest material. It just isn't enough to drag out the Rodgers and Hart songbook, hire an orchestra, and cobble together some "classy" arrangements. There's a reason that pop singers were once called "vocal interpreters": A singer must engage his material, tease out the drama in the lyric, and wring the right emotion from the melody. As great as "My Funny Valentine" is, the song falls flat if, like Rod Stewart, you ooze through it without an ounce of genuine feeling.

Stewart, Manilow, and company are clearly cowed by the standards—they treat them with too much respect. You can hear that reverence in their careful emoting, and see it on their album covers, where they pose stuffed into double-breasted suits and ballroom gowns, as if headed to a very fancy gala event. They view the standards as something old-fashioned and refined, museum pieces to be handled with the utmost delicacy and deliberation. And nearly all of these records worship at the altar of Sinatra's 1950s recordings for Capitol, transparently modeling their sound on the styles of famous Sinatra arrangers like Nelson Riddle and Billy May.

If you're looking for traditionalist readings of standards, there are plenty of terrific working musicians who will deliver the goods: Jimmy Scott, Blossom Dearie, Annie Ross, and many others. These people are pros, and they're still out there on the cabaret circuit. And as long as Andy Bey is recording albums like American Song, future volumes of Stewart's Great American Songbook series—believe me, they're coming—will be superfluous, to say the least.

Slate on the slew of old-school singers doing songs from when they were kids, and older.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006
I Take These Words...I Scatter Them

Toronto is full of love. It's on the walls! Happy Valentine's Day from Carrot Rope.

Saturday, February 11, 2006
Simple Gifts

"A spiritual reawakening within a community already drawn taut by spiritual aspiration must have created a strenuous atmosphere. Visions and ghosts came down, and the Shakers, chiefly women and young girls, made “gift drawings”: the drawings were gifts from above, not gifts to another. For the most part, they are conventional folk art—except for several by a Shaker woman named Hannah Cohoon, who lived in the Hancock community, and who was a kind of Emily Dickinson of drawing. Her four surviving signed drawings show a concentration on a single form rather than a chatty, anecdotal all-overness, quite outside the normal round of folk art. One of them, “A Little Basket Full of Beautiful Apples” (1856), is among the key drawings in American art, with a tonic sense of abundance—all the apples just alike, each with its rub-on of rouge, like blush applied by an adolescent girl—allied to obsessive order. Another, the famous “Tree of Light or Blazing Tree” (1845), shows us a vision seen in a dream: a tree with each leaf embroidered with fire, part of the normal Shaker iconography of the tree of life but also alarming in its overcharged richness. Cohoon’s intensity was concentrated not on transcendental images of saints or God but on homely American objects, picnic tables and baskets of apples."

Gopnik on the Shakers and the things they made.

Saturday, February 11, 2006
A Strong Word

"We were dealing with a culture that was placing an increasing premium on controlling emotion, particularly anger," he says. The hippies in the 1960s used the word to "promote the notion that they were relaxed and not angry."

Since then, he says, the expression has lost some of its vigor because of overuse. "When we say somebody's looking cool, we don't have as much sense of meaning as we did 40 years ago," he says. "Now we just mean he's looking good."

Thompson says there is no reason to believe that cool will ever go the way of linguistic dinosaurs like "bad" (meaning good), or "chill" (meaning cool off) or "groovy," which sounds so "Brady Bunch."

"Cool is already firmly ensconced in several generations," he says. "It's got street cred. And it had street cred before we even used the word `street cred.'"

It even survives Gwen Stefani pretending she's Marilyn Monroe in a video. That could kill other words, but not this one.

Monday, February 6, 2006
Think Pink

Betty Friedan has died. She wrote The Feminine Mystique, a book I read not because I was brought up in a 'feminist' household (not overtly, anyway) but because it was, along with The Bell Jar, one of the best books to diagnose what was wrong with 50s/60s thinking about women, particularly American women. It is still readable and came from her own practical experience and research, a good model for any writing. She won't be forgotten.

Friday, February 3, 2006

In case you were wondering why Cindy Sheehan was arrested just before the State of the Union address, her story is here.

Monday, January 30, 2006
Art Vs. Life, part two

"The only writer who has refused to go along with Oprah's way of seeing things, having been invited to be part of the redemption club, is Jonathan Franzen whose wonderful novel The Corrections was chosen as a featured book in 2001. Franzen's book is an immensely humane and powerful family drama concerning a father's decline and death from Parkinson's disease. It was, as Oprah was aware, loosely based on the author's own experience. She therefore dispatched Franzen with a film crew to his home town to sit and look mournful where his father's ashes were scattered and to invade the family home that he had vowed not to return to. Franzen went along with it for a while, assuming versions of the emotions that the cameraman expected Oprah - and America - might want, emotions that he had spent eight years trying to craft into the subtleties of his fiction. Eventually he withdrew from the charade, throwing away, it seemed, his bestseller in the process. The collected wrath of the media came down on him for being so 'spoilt' and 'ungrateful' and 'elitist'. Oprah denounced him as 'clearly having issues'.

Looking back, Franzen's story is one of the few occasions in recent years when an advocate of real life, complex and nuanced and difficult, has stood up against 'real life', manufactured and marketed and manipulative. He was, it is clear, fighting a losing battle."

I know this isn't news, exactly, but it's a good example of how to write, how to deal with Oprah and just how to live that Mr. Frey might want to look into, one day.

Monday, January 23, 2006
All Hopped Up

"As in any hostage situation, the wait in line is a revealing test of character. It's like a Type-A Disney World, an endless queue of toddlers enjoying quality time with Mommy's or Daddy's Blackberry. We once stood next to a high-ranking official who had sent a deputy to stand in line for her for an hour, then fumed when she and her son had to wait another hour after they arrived. "They don't understand how important I am," she complained."

Believe it or not, this is about the Easter festivities at the White House. Don't these people have lawns of their own? (For your information, Mardi Gras is on February 28th; Easter isn't until April.)

Monday, January 16, 2006
Happy Birthday

Yes, it is my birthday (thank you, thank you); but more importantly, it is Dr. King's birthday (ok technically yesterday but the holiday's today). Slate has a good slideshow of photos, including one with a highly ironic movie marquee; damn the defiant, indeed.

For a timeline of this holiday - it has had a rather rocky road - go here. There are two different looks at Dr. King that I highly recommend - one being Marshall Frady's Penguin Lives book and the other Ho Che Anderson's graphic novel. And finally, Salon has some good audio here.

Friday, January 13, 2006
Of Mice and Artists

"A man in Fort Sumner, New Mexico, caught a mouse and threw it into a pile of burning leaves; the mouse, on fire, ran back into the man's house, which then burned down. A woman in Vancouver, British Columbia, pleaded guilty to poisoning the trees in front of her condominium to improve her view of the ocean. A 76-year-old performance artist was in trouble for chipping Marcel Duchamp's "Fountain," a urinal valued at $3.6 million, with a hammer. In 1993 the same performance artist was arrested for urinating into the artwork."

I think that mouse is a reincarnation of Duchamp, or close to it. From Harper's, naturellement.

Monday, January 9, 2006

One of the worst books I've ever read a page of out loud - The DaVinci Code (so bad it made me laugh) - is coming out in paperback, why I don't know - oh yeah, there's a movie coming out.

Monday, January 9, 2006
Because There's No Such Thing As Too Much Music

In case you don't have enough albums to choose from, Slate gives you ten more albums that may be worthy of your consideration, even if, like me, you like lists but can never make them. Or remember them, for that matter. (Sufjan Stevens isn't overrated, it's just that he's so cute. And he's not Franz Ferdinand.) Not to beat a dead horse around here, but it looks like Slate's still sleeping on the The Constantines. Oh, America...

Tuesday, January 3, 2006
Hours, Minutes, Years

Thanks to fate, destiny or whatever, I am now a proud owner of a Virginia Woolf doll. And yes, I want the Jane Austen one too. I need as much inspiration as I can get around here.

In other news: cool, cloudy weather, and I am working on my essay, which means re-reading a lot and ordering new books, which means phoning bookstores only to be told I have to phone two of them, as apparently they are incapable of calling each other. In any case, Camera Lucida will soon be mine.

Sunday, December 25, 2005
Silence in the Night

"To perceive Christmas through its wrapping becomes more difficult with every year. There was a little device we noticed in one of the sporting-goods stores—a trumpet that hunters hold to their ears so that they can hear the distant music of the hounds. Something of the sort is needed now to hear the incredibly distant sound of Christmas in these times, through the dark, material woods that surround it. “Silent Night,” canned and distributed in thundering repetition in the department stores, has become one of the greatest of all noisemakers, almost like the rattles and whistles of Election Night. We rode down on an escalator the other morning through the silent-nighting of the loudspeakers, and the man just in front of us was singing, “I’m gonna wash this store right outa my hair, I’m gonna wash this store . . . ”

E.B. White, the Brendan Canning of The New Yorker, as he perceived Christmas in 1949. Joyeux Noel, everyone!

Wednesday, December 21, 2005
Claim to Lame

"So the British Library is now to abolish pens from its reading rooms. This is an interesting development. They were always banned from the Rare Books room, in case you absent-mindedly doodled on an ancient Shakespeare manuscript, which is fair enough; of course, I always forgot to bring in a pencil, and would have to buy a British Library pencil from its bookshop. As these are fetching and not too pricey, and ready-sharpened to boot, I never minded. But this latest step goes a little too far, and seems to be part of some kind of weird mission to alienate its users.

The Times Literary Supplement, a publication that could accurately be said to have the best interests of readers at heart, has lately been much exasperated by what looks very much like the BL's war against scholarship. It passes on to us, from time to time, choice extracts from the latest "action plans" released by the library's PR department. These rarely, if ever, mention the word "book". Instead they say, "helping people advance knowledge to enrich lives", or "promoting ready access to our collection through integrated services which are increasingly time and space independent". They also are keen on "Developing Strategy" as in: "Strategic Priority 1: Enrich the user's experience", or, stirringly, "Strategic Priority 6: Complete the first year of the corporate Balanced Scorecard to enable the Library to measure performance against targets for 31 key corporate metrics". But the TLS never foresaw the banning of pens."

Wow, looks like I'm going to have to use all my skills, such as they are, to keep my temper AND make it through the obstacles put in place against independent scholars like me from looking at a mere piece of paper. And I'll bring my own mechanical pencils, okay?

Also, on a totally unrelated note: Aerial isn't 'politely pretentious.' (Sigh. He probably wouldn't like Tournament of Hearts either, though they go together really well, to me anyway. Example: "Let us feel the air/Under the clothes that we wear/Try to find ghosts behind/The buildings in our lives" - "Draw Us Lines")

Thursday, December 15, 2005
This One...Leads the Way

I know I'm more than a little bit late with this, but I LOVE the K-OS song/video for "B-Boy Stance" - if I had a series, Reasons to Love Toronto, this would be way up there. And it makes me dance, though not as well as the people in the video...

Wednesday, December 14, 2005
Not Quite the I Ching...

AND THE OLD MAN SAYS: "Patience is a castle."

AND THE OLD MAN SAYS: "Never too late to meadow."

AND THE OLD MAN SAYS: "All the world loves a beast."

The Random Proverbs man may be old, but he seems to know things.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005
New Pop - Don't Call It a Comeback

'It’s an extraordinary courageous admission to make on a 2005 pop record, that somehow "pop" and "sex" in themselves are not enough, that immediacy does not lead to happiness. As the couple stroll off benignly into the New Order sunset of "It’s Magic" that couple is unmistakably Beatrice and Benedick, united, with nothing to prove, in bed or otherwise. Rationalism has prevailed, and emotion more hard won, and therefore more valuable and concrete when it emerges, as a result (as Plato pointed out, rationalism and emotion are so necessarily intertwined that the former can only realistically arise after extensive first-hand experience of the latter)."

That is just part of Marcello Carlin's amazing posting on the new Girls Aloud album, Chemistry.

Thursday, December 8, 2005
Chaos, Creation

It seems kind of inappropriate to post on John Lennon today; I am sure you have heard & seen enough; here in Toronto we (I can't believe I'm using the we there, but there it is) have our own special link to the man, of course. At Slate there's a oh-no-not-again review of a big big bio of the Beatles that turns into a thoughtful review of McCartney's newest album, wherein John and George are there, somehow, even if they aren't.

Friday, December 2, 2005
Vote for Kate!

There is a new show on CBC Radio One - The National Playlist - wherein the participants pitch songs and the public gets to vote for the ones that should stay on the list - and this week, Kate Bush's "King of the Mountain" is up for your consideration. Please vote for her, as it will be the first time she's been on the radio here for a loooong time.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005
Keep on Shopping in the Free World

"Violent shopping incidents occurred in Hamilton County, New Jersey; Elkton, Maryland; Grand Rapids, Michigan; Orlando, Florida; and Sunrise, Florida, where a 72-year-old woman was trampled. At the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, the M&M's Chocolate Candies balloon knocked parts of a street lamp onto a woman and child. Both were briefly hospitalized. "We should be thankful," said New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, "none were more seriously hurt." Ruth M. Siems, who invented Stove Top Stuffing (U.S. patent no. 3,870,803), died of a heart attack at 74. President Bush issued pardons to two turkeys, which were then sent to Disneyland to serve as grand marshals at a parade. "The granting of the turkey pardon," said the President, "is not a responsibility that I take lightly." The turkeys, Marshmallow and Yam, earned their pardons when they beat out Democracy and Freedom in an online poll. A Vermont teacher was in trouble for testing students with liberal vocabulary questions. "I wish Bush," read one question, "would be (coherent, eschewed) for once during a speech, but there are theories that his everyday diction charms the below-average mind, hence insuring him Republican votes."

I only wish I could be making some of this up. In the meantime, Parliament here dissolved itself (needlessly, in my view) and there's going to be a vote next January. The only way I can see this as a good thing is if it gets more salt on the icy sidewalks.

Monday, November 28, 2005
Up on the Roof

The wait is over! Marcello Carlin is back at The Church of Me, writing about (recently) Kate Bush and just now on Rachel Stevens, and of course about so many other people along the way. He even quotes from Virginia Woolf and disses Madonna - what more could you possibly want?

Friday, November 18, 2005
Yeah, I'm Lucky. I Got the Message, Okay?

Updates: I think I am now over that Franz Ferdinand thing, not because I finally heard it so I knew the lyrics, but it reminds me too much of, um, the Bay City Rollers and, uh, they were better.

Instead, I love Metric - no guilt there. "Monster Hospital" is the new anti-war song and it's from right here in Toronto. Yes! When Emily Haines sings, "I've been bad, I've been bad...." and then sings it again, only in shocked surprise - it's like a riot in your radio. Okay, that's a naff phrase. But if you hear it, you'll know what I mean...

Otherwise: It's snowing here today. I have to read Mimesis for a tiny (me & one other person) book club and I'm looking forward to that, as well as other writing, a chance to get a flu shot, a party and so much else. I saw the moon, just beyond full, in the misty clouds this morning, high up, a counterfeit sun, which amused me no end. Ack, I'm blathering.

Saturday, November 12, 2005
In Dissensus, No One Can Hear You Scream

There are some discussion boards that defeat me. There I was, a trusting, naive independent scholar, thinking - "Surely these people can help me - they can tell me about books on British modern history, because hey - they're British!" Well, it's been two months now and not one reply, so I put in a sarcastic one myself (one that not everyone will get, and yes, that was on purpose). How over 150 people could read my question and not answer it is beyond me. Either they are ignorant or snobs, or maybe even both. Maybe if I had asked a question about grime, or philosophy, or the philosophy of grime, I would have sparked a discussion. But no. So it is back to the library for me, and I am inclined to log out of there and let them howl if they read this.

Wednesday, November 9, 2005
Go 'Round the Roses

"You've never listened to anything like Marsha Gee. No hard sell for this girl. She makes a few stabs at pushing out a raunchy soul growl, but mostly she's content to hang back, too cool or too bored, ending each line in a husk of breathy exhaustion that sounds like someone who's got a good buzz on and isn't about to disturb it. You want a rave-up? Go make it your damn self—that is, until the last 45 seconds of the song. Vamping to pad the number out to an acceptable length for a single, Marsha takes off, snorting and yelling and jabbering: "Quack, quack, quackgiggy, quackgiggy, brrrrrrrrr, quack, quack, giggy, giggy, gi-gi-gi-giggy-gooma, gi-gi-gi-gi-gi quackgiggy, quackgiggy, gi-gig-goom, gi-gig-goom, gi-gig-goom-goom"...

When I was a teenager I read a certain book [now, sadly, out of print] about girl groups over and over as a kind of backgrounder as to where The Go-Go's and Bananarama came from; this article at Slate on a fine box set of more obscure girl group songs looks pretty damn good.

Monday, October 31, 2005
You Could Hear It Much Better (With a Louder Radio)

Ok, I'll admit it; Franz Ferdinand are a guilty pleasure of mine. I'm not supposed to like them, but I do, and never moreso than when I don't quite understand what Alex is singing - I mean, what's wrong with "here we are at the translation party, I love your friends, they're all so hearty, oh yeah!"? Except that it's wrong. More mondegreens here, some considerably dirtier than that.

Thursday, October 27, 2005
The Centre of the Universe

My UC Book Sale work has delayed this message but no more - if you want the lowdown on sex, guns, drugs, politics and the general mayhem of the usually orderly city of Toronto (it has been an interesting time here, as of late) - then go to Marc Weisblott's newest blog Paved and dig in. (No, I don't know where the title comes from either.)

Thursday, October 27, 2005
And The Girls, Who Try to Look Well-Read

""The latest literary pressure is keeping up with the rest of your fellow travellers and commuters. Bookshelf contents are fast becoming as studied and planned as outfits as a way to impress others. Books shortlisted for prestigious literary panel awards are becoming 'de rigueur' reading for many."

Yet the results indicate that "reading" is a relative term. When asked about specific titles, only one in 25 people turn out to have read the novel chosen as the best in the Booker prize's 25-year history, Salman Rushdie's Midnight's Children - and half these had failed to finish it."

Well, at least they tried to read it. Didn't Charles Lamb talk about this centuries ago, lamenting people who tried to read novels that were clearly harder than they could fathom, but kept on going anyway? Hmm. Maybe this is some new flirting system for certain people, I don't know.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005
Either That or People Are Actually Watching the News

I usually don't post about Iraq here because I can barely keep track of what is happening, but it seems that (finally) the people of America have realized that hey, maybe it wasn't such a good idea and that hey, maybe we should leave, as things don't seem to be improving. I don't know if repeated viewings of "Holiday" and "Wake Me Up When September Ends" videos all year are to be credited, but I can't help but think that the guys from Green Day are the de facto anti-war voice out there, catchy as hell and yet not that preachy. The representatives from California have the floor, indeed.

Thursday, October 20, 2005
All These Things I've Done (Actually Just the One Thing)

Good God, it's been nearly a month since I last updated!

Still alive yes - just done with the massive UC Book Sale, which ate up all of my time and energy, but I got some nice books and hung out with some really nice people, and my tables did well to boot.

Regular updates on disasters, nature, books, etc. to resume shortly...

Monday, September 26, 2005
The Song Remains the Same (Sigh)

"Nostalgia is also sentimental and thus meshes well with the machinery of mass culture, which, as Dwight Macdonald wrote years ago, tends to produce prepackaged cultural artifacts not dissimilar from chewing gum. More than any individual historians or critics, it's the leveling tendencies of mass culture that are really to blame for perpetuating our flattened, idealized images of the 1960s. We've been drenched for so long in so much mass-produced 1960s kitsch that our Pavlovian responses to the music, words, and images of the time override critical assessments of it. And at bottom, today's cultural climate doesn't much distinguish between history and nostalgia. (Billy Joel once explained the genesis of his song "We Didn't Start the Fire"—the one that reels off proper nouns from the postwar years, as in "Joe McCarthy, Richard Nixon, Studebaker, television/North Korea, South Korea, Marilyn Monroe"—by saying that he had always been interested in "history.") So, maybe we have to resign ourselves to accepting "the 1960s" as it's purveyed in mass culture—and to concede, with the postmodernists, that ultimately there's no real way to separate the 1960s from our myths of it."

(Slate strikes again.)

Example: this article at the Guardian. I don't even know if he's a Boomer or not, though I think he is. As part of the no-longer-discussed Generation X, I can only repeat: not until the last boomer is dead will we be able to look at the decade with anything approaching freshness. Yeah, that's drastic, but for now, it stands...

Thursday, September 15, 2005
Turn It Upside Down and It Doesn't Even Move

"The Slurpee, like so many great innovations and perfectly nice human beings, was an accident. In the late '50s, a Kansas Dairy Queen owner named Omar Knedlik found his soda machine was on the fritz. He tossed some bottles of pop in the freezer and discovered people went into conniptions for the slushy texture that resulted when the soda partially froze. Wheels turned. He invented a machine to slushify water, CO2, and flavored syrup. In 1965, 7-Eleven bought the machines from Knedlik, hired an ad copywriter to coin an irresistible name, and the Slurpee was born. Back then it cost a dime. Four decades on there have been more than 200 flavors, ranging from the earnestly goofball of yesteryear (Blue Blunder Berry) to the quasi-classy of today (Mochaccino). Michael Jackson reportedly plunked down $75.62 to install a Slurpee machine at Neverland Ranch. Eleven million Slurpees are sold each month and hit the eager palate at a cryogenic 28 degrees. In total some 6 billion brains have been frozen since the dawn of the Slurpee. Here in the United States the drink is most beloved in Detroit, but, curiously, it's up in the Winnipeg tundra where the Slurpee is most popular—further evidence, at least to this patriotic-when-convenient mind, that Canadians really just want to be Americans."

Actually, it's proof that people in Winnipeg have an extremely ironic sense of humor. (Oh Slate, when will you ever learn?)

Friday, September 9, 2005
Laugh Because It's Funny...

The commentary on Katrina is rabid and omnipresent, so I'll just mention this and go on...

Okay, I'll say this: if the South doesn't go Democratic over this, then they never will.

Tooth Update: The root canal went well and now I'm just dealing with a bit of post-dentistry infection that I hope goes away real soon.

Weisblott Update: 50 Most Toronto is out for T-Dot characters and weirdness. I hope to contribute, one way or another.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005
Things Are Tough All Over

"Hurricane Katrina killed 11 people in Florida, and more than a million homes and businesses lost power. Katrina then crossed over the Gulf of Mexico and went ashore east of New Orleans, becoming a Category 5 storm along the way. "PERSONS . . . PETS . . . AND LIVESTOCK EXPOSED TO THE WINDS," said the National Weather Service, "WILL FACE CERTAIN DEATH IF STRUCK . . . WATER SHORTAGES WILL MAKE HUMAN SUFFERING INCREDIBLE BY MODERN STANDARDS." "The hurricane eventually weakened to a tropical storm; winds tore off parts of the roof of the Superdome, where thousands of poor people sought shelter, and at least 55 people were killed in Mississippi. Oil prices reached $70.80 a barrel. Many Iraqis were hoping to be selected for a new reality television show, called "Labor and Materials," in which a construction crew shows up unannounced and rebuilds a family's bombed-out home. Three thousand people have applied in Baghdad alone." I can barely comprehend the damage, but the South will rise again. A bit different looking, perhaps, but it will return... Health Update: Dentist's appointment next Tuesday (darn holiday weekend) and no pain as of yet. My mom and her guy are fine. I have been taking my medicine for so long I feel like I'm engaged to it, sans fancy ring.

Friday, August 19, 2005
Someone's Happy Tonight - Peace! / Radio Silence

That's what a big hippie kid said to me as I walked past World's Biggest Bookstore - I was smiling because they were playing Arcade Fire (there are two speakers on either side of the entrance) - "Wake Up," specifically the Motown/Northern Soul dance part it so graciously breaks into - and yeah, I'm happy whenever I hear it.

I can't wait for the CBC to get back to normal, if only because they don't understand the concept of 'morning music'. It is cheerful, it is loud, it is not the blues or Molly Johnson twice or anything else SLOW. The idea is to stay awake; unless they really think no one is listening to them, which for all I know is the case. It's been like this all week and there's no end in sight.

On the other hand, a radio station (I forget the call numbers but they seem to be in Whitby/Oshawa) has David Marsden on Thursday and Friday nights, so it's like old-school CFNY and he played Orange Juice last night! I stared at my radio agog. He also plays Simple Minds and Comsat Angels, besides. If only I could stay awake to hear the whole thing...

Saturday, August 13, 2005
Cruel and Unusual Punishment

"We start talking about my book. None of them confesses to hating it, which is almost certainly a tribute to their politeness, but which I inevitably took to be a testament to my genius. Every time they relate a character or a scene to something from their own experience, I want to interrupt the discussion to ask them questions about their lives and crimes, but I'm not sure what the boundaries are and, to my later regret, I restrict myself to talking about books and writing."

Guess the author! Oh, the humanity. Being in prison is bad enough...

Saturday, August 13, 2005
I Predict an Upstaging

"A good reason to buy a U2 ticket, and, equally, a great reason to leave early and miss the clusterbuggage at the Car Park: The Arcade Fire will be supporting U2 at the following Canadian shows:

11/25 Corel Centre - Ottawa, ON
11/26 Bell Centre - Montreal, QC
11/28 Bell Centre - Montreal, QC

The Arcade Fire deserve better..." (No Rock & Roll Fun)

Not only that, but U2 have been using "Wake Up" as their whoo-hoo look we're going to appear on stage/we're on stage now music for who knows how long. I'm not even from Montreal and I want to protect Arcade Fire from the big groups who keep pushing them & mentioning them. (Oh well, at least Broken Social Scene are safe...for now...)

Wednesday, August 3, 2005
Collect Enough Data and You Can Prove Anything

"If morality is the way we would like the world to work, then economics is how it actually does work. Freakonomics works on a number of premises. 1) Incentives are the cornerstone of modern life. 2) Conventional wisdom is often wrong. 3) Experts use their informational advantage to serve their own agenda. 4) Readers' gullibility should never be underestimated.

Levitt is a noetic butterfly that no one has pinned down, but is claimed by all.

What do schoolteachers and sumo wrestlers have in common? They all cheat. I know this will come as a terrible shock but dreary data proves it is true.

Levitt is one of the most caring men in the universe."

The dismal science is still dismal no matter how you dress it. From the Guardian, can't be doing this for their health.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005
I Don't Think He Jumped Out of the Cake, But What Do I Know?

"Investigations into the expenses of former Tyco executive Dennis Kozlowski revealed that Kozlowski had once held an extravagant bachelor party for his son-in-law. "It wasn't like a three-ring circus," said the son-in-law's father. "It was a nice party. There was only one dwarf."

I just hope the dwarf was paid well. From Harper's, don't you know.

Friday, July 15, 2005
And If You Skip the Obligatory Quidditch Chapter, It Goes By Even Faster

"I feel I must decry this senseless urge to speed read and be first with a review. Not everything in life is meant to be consumed at breakneck speed. Book reviewing is not an Olympic sport. Furthermore, reviewing a book that everyone will buy anyway seems like an exercise in futility.

You'll give yourself indigestion. Why not sit up all night reviewing something the majority of your readers might not already know about?"

Clearly Rob doesn't know that there are regular bookreaders and there are people who are rabid and have been living in suspense for two years now. Not since people ran down to the docks in NYC to find out what happened to Little Nell, folks.

Monday, July 11, 2005
Art Vs. Life: Round One

"The world is smashed and broken, with millions dead, but here’s our Tom, with his undeniable sincerity, his mastiff determination, and his limited interest as an actor, and we are asked to concern ourselves with nothing but his journey to maturity."

And I don't even know if Denby was trying to be meta, or what.

Saturday, July 9, 2005
A Prayer

And the power's out in the heart of man,
take it from your heart put in your hand.
And there's something wrong in the heart of man,
you take it from your heart and put it in your hand!

Where'd you go?!

"Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)"

These lyrics are what spring to mind when I read a list of the missing. (No matter where I look I get the same lyrics, though I think it ends "Yeah, that's the plan!")

Friday, July 8, 2005
In Need of Medical Attention

It's been a hell of a week, hasn't it? While I am sure - indeed, it's inevitable - that others have brilliant commentary on Live8/G8/Olympics/London bombings...while I helped my mom this week with her operation - and went with her on visits to her partner as he is also in hospital. My mom is fine (it was a cataract operation) but her partner's health is much more dubious. I am bearing up well but have been too tired/distracted to do much of anything, unfortunately. I am supporting them, as best I can. It's exhausting sometimes, but in times like this (as Londoners know) you find reserves of strength you didn't know you had. Updates on this as the situation warrants, but I hope to get back to being a proper blogueuse soon...

Sunday, July 3, 2005
Hot, In the City

"Thank God for that, really. Thank God for the come-as-you-are mentality when it's gross out, because I don't do well in the heat and I don't do well at pretending otherwise, and sometimes I feel like everyone else in the city is cool and composed and put together, arching their climate-controlled eyebrows at me as I frantically (and vainly) fan myself with a copy of The American Prospect and a rivulet of sweat heads from my scalp to my butt crack without so much as a swerve, and when I feel like it's just my thighs sticking to the seats on the R and it's just me who thinks carrying a teeny tiny battery-operated fan is an awesome idea instead of, you know, amusingly tacky…it's even more uncomfortable. But when everyone slept on the fire escape wrapped in wet towels? When other people grumble, to nobody in particular but also not caring if anyone hears, "Damn, this is a legendary case of swamp-ass"? When that happens, it's still disgustingly hot, but then it's also a truth universally acknowledged. Nobody's giving you any "it's not that bad today" or "I honestly don't smell it, no." Everyone's sticky, everyone's frizzy, everyone's walking past reeking garbage with their arms over their noses, and everyone's all, "If they fire me for wearing flip-flops to work, so be it." It's just easier to cope with when everyone's on the same page -- the page where, awesomely, old women buy plant misters and totally mist themselves while shopping. Old women, the younger women standing downwind salute you." Sars on hot hot heat.

It's been hot here lately, so sorry for the slow-down in postings. I hope everyone had a fine July 1st and will have, if you are celebrating it, a fine Glorious Fourth.

Friday, June 24, 2005
Coward! Bastard! Coward!

Of all the links here that have, effectively, stopped being active, the one I miss the most is Lore's Book of Ratings - wherein anything & everything was written about and graded. Here is one of several classics; lovers of pesto will especially enjoy it.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005
One Day...

I wish someone would design a map of the Toronto subway system to look like the one at this I Love Everything thread for L.A.'s Metro system. Isn't it beautiful? Sometimes I miss my hometown, and if I could get around on the subway maybe I wouldn't need a car...

In the meantime, the TTC is continuing to show that it has something unpleasant stuck up its behind w/r/t publicity that it doesn't generate itself. First it turned down the genius buttons idea, and now it has stopped the fine people at TTC Rider from doing their guerrilla celebration for their most excellent Efficiency Guide. Personally, I wish the TTC had more parties - with candy stations, cupcakes, balloons, music, pony rides - okay, maybe I'm expecting too much, but the whole service is a bit lacking in fun. When the most lively thing I can think of is the cheery classical music they play in the bus waiting area at Warden Station, then I think something's gone horribly wrong.

Monday, June 20, 2005
Thumpety-Thumpety Thump

"And here’s the hook: I guess it could be worse,
But—brace yourself—the whole damn thing’s in verse.
Rhyming couplets, five-stress lines, the lot:
A Michael Bay production this is not.
“Do make yourself at home. Come; sit by me,
Something to drink? Perhaps you’d like some tea.”
You may get off on this enthralling stuff,
But after half an hour I’d had enough.
I have a secret hunch that Potter knows
Her tale is skimpy; that is why she goes
For multiple dissolves, CCTV,
And endless slo-mo: all the devilry
That smart directors use to fill the time—
Think George Lucas, minus droids, plus rhyme.

Or as some people would put it, "New Yorker says "No" to "Yes."

Saturday, June 18, 2005
But Will He Buy Her A Wall?

Okay, I give: Free Katie is fine by me. (Yes, I did watch Dawson's Creek for a few years, so sue me.)

Update: Slate discusses how the TomKat whirlwind of romance makes the celebrity mags gnash their teeth in despair. (So, they're good for something.)

Tuesday, June 14, 2005
I Acted Like a Man (And Not Because I Have a Man's Name)

"Giving interviews afterwards, I was asked more than once, "When you won, were you surprised?" By then I was getting impatient with my own girly impulses. "No," I said. And then I made a wrong answer worse by adding, "It's a good book." Later I came across a quote on-line: Lionel Shriver confessing to a "sneaky, subterranean suspicion" beforehand that she would win. Even to my own ears, the assertion sounded unseemly. Other readers must have encountered that quote and thought, "Typical American arrogance. Who does she think she is, the bitch." Nevertheless, I was being honest (always a mistake). I think - I think - that somewhere deep inside I had a premonition that We Need to Talk About Kevin would prevail."

Actually, the main point of the whole thing is that a man wouldn't even write an article like this in the first place.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005
Pronounced "Four"

"I'm nine years old and I'm an inventor, computer consultant, astronomer, historian, lepidopterist, and I write to Stephen Hawking. I'm no ordinary boy, but the creation of a writer who's trying too hard. That's why you'll find doodles, photographs, pages with just a few words on them, blank pages and very small print littered throughout the text."

I'm sure Windows on the World is better, and not just because it's French. The Guardian attempts to digest JSF's new novel.

Friday, June 10, 2005
My Sister, My Wife, My Daughter

"When the picture finally appeared in the Cedar Rapids Gazette, real Iowa farmers and their wives were not amused. To them, the painting looked like a nasty caricature, portraying Midwestern farmers as pinched, grim-faced, puritanical Bible-thumpers. One Iowa farmwife told Wood he should have his "head bashed in." Another threatened to bite off his ear. Stung by the criticism, Wood declared himself a "loyal Iowan" and insisted that the figures were not intended to be farmers but small-town folk, not Iowans but generic Americans. His sister Nan, perhaps embarrassed about being depicted as the wife of a man twice her age, started telling people that Wood had envisioned the couple as father and daughter, not husband and wife. (Wood himself remained vague on this point.)"

Oh, so that's why it's "Gothic". Why do I get the idea that David Lynch starts here?

Friday, June 3, 2005
Blind, Lost, and Shirtless

If only romance novels were like these, I'd be happy to sort them for the UC Book Sale...(that said, who is Dorothy Dunnett and why are we getting so many books of hers all of a sudden?)

Friday, June 3, 2005
One Syllable More & I'm Slamming You into the Boards

I like haiku and Geist does too - the difference: these are about hockey. They have a contest going too, if you want to write brief, profound poems about zambonis (3 syllables) or Don Cherry (ditto).

Tuesday, May 31, 2005
If You'll Admit That You're Wrong, We'll Admit That We're Right

Dear Douglas Wolk:

If you want sneering, please go listen to Oasis. You're welcome!


The World.

Tuesday, May 31, 2005
Fifth Door, First Car

If you're like me and you have an extreme female brain & therefore can never remember spatial anything, then you obviously should take a map with you (I mean, if you can read a map; I can, thank God) wherever you go; and if you live in Toronto and take the subway a lot, you know that the whole north-south/east-west problem is a perpetual one, since the TTC is full of little quirks, multiple exits and so on. Just in the past week I found myself waaaay on the wrong end of a couple of trains, once at Spadina & once at Yonge. So naturally I am thankful that Sean Lerner and his many assistants over at TTC Rider have put together a guide for the many stairs, escalators and elevators leading from and to all stations, and indicators of the streets & connections they all lead to, if necessary. The TTC Subway Rider Efficiency Guide is a non-TTC related product, by the way; you'd think the TTC would have produced one by now, but perhaps they are too busy working on their budgets.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

If you've never visited University College during Doors Open, well, now you have an extra incentive! I will be involved this year, selling books (what else) in the JCR, the last stop of the tour. So come by on Saturday afternoon and say hi to the gargoyles, stained glass windows and marvel at the maze that is UC.

Friday, May 20, 2005
You May Be With the Force

"Anakin keeps having problems with his dark side, in the way that you or I might suffer from tennis elbow, but Yoda, whose reptilian smugness we have been encouraged to mistake for wisdom, has the answer. “Train yourself to let go of everything you fear to lose,?he says. Hold on, Kermit, run that past me one more time. If you ever got laid (admittedly a long shot, unless we can dig you up some undiscerning alien hottie with a name like Jar Jar Gabor), and spawned a brood of Yodettes, are you saying that you’d leave them behind at the first sniff of danger? Also, while we’re here, what’s with the screwy syntax? Deepest mind in the galaxy, apparently, and you still express yourself like a day-tripper with a dog-eared phrase book. “I hope right you are.?Break me a fucking give."

Revenge of the Lane.

If you wonder if you could be a Jedi Knight, here's a test from the Guardian. (I got a 5, so you've been warned.)

This made me laugh: Store Wars.

Update: Sars gives her review - if you fell in love with Vader and not Luke in the original, then this one's for you.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005
A Number, A Free Man

While you weren't looking, Marc Weisblott has snuck back online. And not just to prove he's still alive either. Read him, and then click on to the Toronto Star's Antonia Zerbisias, just so the TorStarCorp. can finally see blogging works & has a purpose.

Thursday, May 12, 2005
The New Gangs of New York

Todd at Tremble on the new gangs:

The Opposite of Goods

The Negative Attitudes

The Insolent Dicks

The Hard Ones

The Super Street Fighter III's

The Shitty Faces

The Untucked Shirts Despite Several Increasingly Desperate Entreaties to Tuck In Shirts Because We Are Going To Church

The Stabbingers

The Aloof Kittens

The Kerbangers

and the proverbial more.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005
So It Really Is 618, Neighbour of the Beast

"A papyrologist at Oxford University announced that new techniques in spectral imaging, which make it possible to decipher previously illegible ink on papyrus fragments, have yielded parts of a lost tragedy by Sophocles, a novel by Lucian, and an epic poem by Archilochos; researchers also applied the technique to third- and fourth-century manuscripts of the Revelation of Saint John and discovered that the number of the beast, contrary to popular belief, is 616, the area code of Grand Rapids, Michigan."

Make of this what you will, Michigan. From the beloved Harper's weekly update.

Monday, May 9, 2005
Ride the High Lyrics

What if Orpheus,
confident in the hard-
found mastery,
should go down into Hell?
Out of the clean light down?
And then, surrounded
by the closing beasts
and readying his lyre,
should notice, suddenly,
they had no ears?

This is a telling historical document as well as an effectively simple lyric poem. In it, Gilbert succinctly pits Orpheus' "hard-found mastery" against the ribald forces of Greenwich Village modernity. Yet even as the speaker identifies with Orpheus, he is unwilling to declare his wholesale antipathy to the "closing beasts." Throughout Views of Jeopardy, one can detect a subterranean anxiety: A generation earlier, a poet like Wallace Stevens might have worried that he wasn't European enough. Gilbert, it seems, had the opposite concern: He was worried that he wasn't American enough. That, due to his temperament, he would not be able to keep riding the tide of what was happening stateside; he was a high lyricist, not a yawper.

More on Jack Gilbert here. No, I'd never heard of him, either.

Monday, May 2, 2005
Same Goes For Music, Right?

"We talk a bit about books. One teacher asks if he thinks it's appropriate for children to study Shakespeare as part of the national curriculum. Hornby's answer is the most belligerent I've heard all day. No, he says. Shakespeare is a wonderful poet, but so many pupils can't begin to understand his language, so what is the point? When he was teaching, he says, another teacher told him to teach Macbeth by getting the children to draw pictures of witches. "I couldn't understand how that was teaching Shakespeare; that was allowing them to draw pictures of witches. I think part of the reason I became the writer I became is because of teaching in a school, and you're always looking for this stuff that is really intelligent but really simple and everyone can understand it. I always thought Of Mice And Men was such a perfect book because there's nothing not to understand, but it's still really clever and moving and complicated, but everybody understands the complication. It doesn't leave anybody out. I think that's what books should be like."

Gosh, this explains a lot. I wish I could say more about Hornby's new book, A Long Way Down, I think there are others out there more qualified to talk about it. I will say that I somehow got through High Fidelity but have read nothing else by him. (All I can remember is him dissing Simple Minds at one point, which I didn't like.)

Update: Here's the fast-food version of the new book, courtesy of the Guardian.

Update: What TMFTML said.

Monday, May 2, 2005
Nike, Goddess of Neighborhoods

"And note how they're all neighbourhoods that have been yuppified beyond recognition. Queen St. "Yonge and Eg". College St. Leslieville. Riverdale. I guess they couldn't come up with any good slogans for St James Town, Moss Park, Parkdale and Jane and Finch. "Hey St James Town, Dodging gunfire doesn't count as exercise - Lawrence Park". "Yo Parkdale, Stop streetwalking and start street running! - Yonge and Eg". "Moss Park, Put down the crackpipe and pick up your feet! - Rosedale".

Jen at Cellar Dweller hits it on Nike's 10k run ads.

Thursday, April 28, 2005
Nightmare on Elms Street

"On leaving the LSE, I became a music journalist; this was the frontline in the war against bourgeois oppression. Very quickly I became recognised as a figurehead for the New Romantics: I dreamed up the name for Spandau Ballet on a visit to East Germany and I still believe my article in the Face on the importance of vintage denim was instrumental in bringing down Thatcher."

Sorry for that pun, but hey, there's so much log-rolling going on here I can barely keep up. (And the author started it, anyway.)

Tuesday, April 26, 2005
He Was Never Poet Laureate, Either

"These days Cummings is rarely mentioned. He has become the inhabitant of the ghost houses of anthologies and claustrophobic seminar room discussions. His typographical experimentation might be seen to have come alive again in the kind of postmodern experiments practiced by Dave Eggers and Jonathan Safran Foer, not to mention the coded text-messaging of American teenagers. But the eccentric use of the spatial page that accounted for Cummings' notoriety must be seen in the end as the same reason for the apparent transience of his reputation. No list of major 20th-century poets can do without him, yet his poems spend nearly all of their time in the darkness of closed books, not in the light of the window or the reading lamp." Oh, what edward estlin could have done with a cellphone.

Monday, April 25, 2005

I can't quite believe I'm nominated for an award - let alone the Blogs by Women's Best Arts & Entertainment blog award! If you like Carrot Rope (and I'm guessing you do), please go here and exercise your franchise. Thanks!

Friday, April 22, 2005
Now He Knows How Bono Feels

More Daily Show goodness courtesy of One Good Move. On the day of the successful vote, I was going home when I heard the pleasant sound of bells ringing, from the south and the north, though it's quiet enough where I live that it was dreamlike, more like the idea of bells. I got home and sure enough, it was him.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005
Broken Social Scene: Because They Can

A short article from chartattack on Broken Social Scene: Three albums! Two studios! Montreal's where it's at now, but look out, Toronto's coming back. I want them to get the key to the city, even more than I want Leonard Cohen to get the Nobel Prize.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005
Two Years?!

I can't quite believe that this blog has being going for two years. Now that the links problem has been fixed, I hope to continue doing whatever it is that keeps my readers - such kind people, whoever they are - here. (The other day I was amused to see that this site was listed at Blogshares. I guess there's another permalink for me.)

One place I've been spending a bit of time at is Popular. (I am forever reminded of the Nada Surf song "Popular" when I think about it, though that song has not and will never be mentioned there.) Briefly, Popular is Tom Ewing's site wherein he talks about every British #1 song ever chronologically - he buys the songs, he listens to them, he even gives them a rating out of 10. I like his commentaries and those of his readers - I learn a lot about how others see/hear these songs in a lot of ways, and of course now that he's reached the mid-60s, more people, including me, are commenting. Indeed, the caliber of those already commenting is so high, I keep thinking I am a fifth wheel or serving wench or something - nice, but not all that necessary. In any case, it is a site worth checking out. (By the way, no songs have scored higher than '9' so far, though Ewing did say some '10' ones were coming up...)

Tuesday, April 12, 2005
A Pause for Station Identification

Hello, hello. I am working on trying to figure out why some links here show up on non-iMac computers and some don't - I have asked someone much more tech-knowledgable than me to look into it, to see if something can be done. More later...

Update: Well, I can't see many links and I'm on an iMac! I hope to get this fixed up soon, and thanks for bearing with me.

Final Update: Thanks to my techno-savvy friend Ron, Carrot Rope has been brought back to its usual linkadelic grooviness. Thanks Ron!

Friday, April 8, 2005
As Usual, I Like the Nerd the Most

After being ye old little old lady about literature (alliteration: it is your friend) lately, I would like to say that Patricia at Booklust's strip on the cartoonization of novels is genius, and for once I am glad Candace Bushnell exists.

Wednesday, April 6, 2005
Let Yeats be Yeats

This is the interview the estimable Bookslut did with Camille Paglia. She doesn't get Heaney (no, he's not Yeats, he's Heaney: go read North, will you?), Bishop and of courses misses it on Plath. And "Woodstock"? And while I don't want to say there's no Moore, if there's no Hopkins then it ain't a poetry book.

Thursday, March 31, 2005
I Shag on Your Grave (Not)

This day marks the 150th anniversary of the death of Charlotte Bronte. In the Guardian Tanya Gold attempts the impossible - trying to change the reader's mind about an author by going on about how much she...liked guys! Hated kids and Jane Austen! Was ambitious and so on! Which is all true, I'm not denying it, but...Austen is still my favorite, and biographers are always going to alter their subjects to suit themselves. (As a Plath scholar, I can say that Mrs. Gaskell has nothing on Anne Stevenson or, going the other way, Paul Alexander.) As for tourism - I have never been to Haworth, and would like to go. It sounds kind of commercialized, but that's because...the Brontes are popular. (As Napoleon Dynamite would say, "Gosh.")

Thursday, March 24, 2005
Oh, The Irony, Pt. 500

"Of all the years in the popstrological era, there is none -- not even during the depths of 1980s Reaganrock -- that goes as deeply to the root of a powerful and vaguely disappointing fact of human nature: that we seem to care less about truth than we do about pleasure. But artificial though the year's Dominant Star might have been, there was nothing even a little bit fake about their appeal. You would be hard-pressed to find an honest person who can claim immunity to the pop gems written for the Monkees by some of the greatest songwriting talents of their day, but is the fact that an army of talented professionals lifted the Monkees into the constellation Regifted proof of the Monkees' illegitimacy, or is it an illustration of the American genius for division of labor and mass production? Very different answers to that question are likely to be heard from the children of 1967, for their popstrological legacy marks them as a generation likely to struggle mightily with questions over their own legitimacy."

It could have been worse...to check your fate (or doom, if you prefer), click here.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

I couldn't love Jon Stewart more right now if I tried. (Link from One Good Move, who do this sort of thing regularly.)

Monday, March 21, 2005
I Pulled a Muscle

Well, slate would call a Canadian song the 'nadir' of 1974, but really, I must say that's not fair. "Having My Baby" (see link below) was and is the nadir. Besides, has this guy never heard the version by Squirrel, which speeds up to become "The Hustle"? Guess not.

Thursday, March 17, 2005
Vote Early, Vote Often

So, the results of the 50 Tracks shows are in - I wish I could be more enthusiastic, but I wish there was more diversity. In listening to the shows I got this uneasy sense that this was the CBC's way of getting their audience to reflect its idea of "Canada" back to the CBC - and the audience is, if I may say so, rather stodgy. Every time anything newish was played, it didn't make it on the list. (I mean new as in something the average CBC listener didn't know already.) I wanted The Nils and The Demics or something besides a not-very-good D.O.A. song (which I am predicting won't do well) to represent the underground, but no. And no one even nominated: The Weakerthans, Broken Social Scene (and all associated groups), 54-40, Buck 65, Nelly Furtado (so much better than Alanis, if you want my opinion), Matthew Good, Dream Warriors, Kid Koala, Arcade Fire. Sigh. If you want to vote, please vote for Sloan ("Coax Me" is worthy of a Carlinesque analysis) and whoever else makes you want to turn up your radio.

Thursday, March 10, 2005
Perfumers, Working Hard For You

"One morning, Ellena and his companions went for a trip on the Nile in an aged wooden motorboat; ancient ruins on the surrounding rock cliffs loomed over them as Ellena steered the party upstream. The Nile has an opalescent black hue that, in shallow depths, becomes transparent. It has a fresh smell. They motored past wild reeds and feluccas—narrow boats with tall triangular sails—until they reached a small island. Walking ashore, they began following a street that led to a Nubian village. It was during this stroll that Ellena saw, hanging low in the trees that lined the street, plump green mangoes.

The fruit has a complex, authentically exotic smell: it is rich and fresh simultaneously, a rare combination. The scent is also ephemeral. The fruit exudes an odor only when it is on the tree. Once you pick it, the smell deteriorates; within sixty seconds, it is essentially gone. Ellena was beguiled by this elusive fragrance. Green mango, he suggested to his companions, could form the base of Nil.

Dubrule pressed her nose into the branches, finding a hint of apricot and grapefruit. At one point, Gautier frowned; she detected the smell of nail-polish remover. Indeed, green mango contains acetone, the solvent’s active ingredient.

“You will, above all, not put nail-polish remover in the perfume!” Dubrule later commanded Ellena.

“Above all!” Gautier concurred.

For more on Nil and the scent of green mangoes, read on.

Thursday, March 10, 2005
My Heart Has Been, And Always Will Be, Yours

I got 12 out of 18 on this Jane Austen quiz over at the Guardian. Not bad, I guess - though I did see Ang Lee's great Sense & Sensibility this weekend, checking to see if I still sympathize with Marianne more than Elinor.

But of course.

I also realized that two of my favorite writers - Austen and Euripides - have more in common than I thought. I am translating one of his plays right now - with a lot more understanding of the feelings rather than knowledge - and all the notes and commentary about the insinuations and dry wit etc. are perfectly Austenesque. I hope to actually translate the whole play and maybe get it staged. But I digress...

Monday, March 7, 2005
Welcome to OOOOOOOOklahoma

These signs made me laugh - more than anything I've seen in the New Yorker lately...yay Heaneyland!

Monday, March 7, 2005
You're So Cool But You Know That

I can't help it - I love Sloan and I'm so so happy that their album Twice Removed has been voted (again!) as the greatest Canadian album of all time - my opinion, obviously, but also that of those polled for Chart's big list. I love this album so much that I could write about it in great detail, though I have already talked about it w/r/t Nirvana's In Utero elsewhere - and as usual, I would rather have people just listen to it rather than have them read me for pages about the glories of Ferguson, Murphy, Pentland and Scott.

Update:Sloan are interviewed in Chart about Twice Removed and how they basically made the record themselves, under the aegis of Geffen.

Sunday, March 6, 2005
Male Noise, Female Noise

Instead of giving a run-down of the newest 50 Tracks week, I want to reflect on the gender divide that was amply displayed by the show this week - namely, the three female panellists were not at all impressed by the male host's enthusiasm for The Tragically Hip. It was interesting to hear their polite boredom/impatience with the band (for the song "Courage") and it made me wonder if indeed there is such a thing as male music vs. female music - sounds that would inherently appeal to one gender more than the other. I don't know; I do know that Sarah McLachlan's song "Possession" didn't make the list either, mainly because the host was too busy trying to get Alanis Morrisette's song on the list instead (Jian seems to be obsessed by "You Oughta Know" - he brought it to the first 50 Tracks show too). For the record I don't mind "Courage" or "Possession" but when I hear them I can definitely feel the difference (and if I was a musically-trained person I could really chart it out) between the Hip's way of going around a song and then McLachlan's method, which (because I am not musically trained) may be similar, but different in some crucial way. All I know is that if you played these songs sans vocal for someone who never heard them, they would be able to tell the male from the female. Or would they?

In any case, Sloan's "Coax Me" made the list and there's another week to go, so I hope someone at least mentions Kid Koala, The Weakerthans and Broken Social Scene.

Thursday, March 3, 2005
Two Syllables, River in Russia

If you are in the position of wanting to name your soon-to-be born baby but don't know what to name it and would like to know how popular it is, then Baby Name Wizard is for you - or even if you just want to know where your own name stands (or falls, or doesn't appear at all). The popularity of names can be seen on the hypnotic graphs for each name, with some names looking like mountain ranges, others like gaping crevasses, and then ones like mine, which look something like the mountains as seen from the prairies. The time period covers the entire 20th century, with the latest stats from 2003.

Thursday, March 3, 2005

"We are not over the worst just yet. We could get temperatures as low as minus 7C [19F] or even minus 10C [14F] on Thursday night and then there is a real possibility of snow in the south. There could even be some snow showers in the second half of Saturday. Next week looks like seeing the end of the snow but it will stay cold," a PA WeatherCentre spokesman said."

If there is anyone in England who wants to know what it's like in Canada all the time, just go outside. There, now you know. (Seriously, if I have any British readers at all, bundle up, have some soup and be of good cheer. Winter's almost over.)

Monday, February 28, 2005
And She Would Have Dressed Better, Too

"You know how people talk about how Hollywood today seems to lack glamour? They can't quite define why -- but somehow the whole movie industry just doesn't seem as magic as it once was? Some say it was dreamlike quality of the black and white film, while others blame the tabloid culture for tearing down our idols. Still others say it's just our own tendency toward nostalgia. But the fact is, it's because Audrey Hepburn would never have waved off the orchestra so she could tack on a big shout-out to her publicist at the end of an Oscar speech. Nope. Wouldn't have happened."

Fametracker, as usual.

Saturday, February 26, 2005

"A poll found that Americans believe Ronald Reagan to be the greatest president in history, and Hunter S. Thompson killed himself with a shotgun." These facts are both rather distressing, but the one does seem to influence the other, unfortunately.

Thursday, February 24, 2005
Past vs. Future

I haven't written in here about the Canada Reads competition that will crown its 2005 winner tomorrow morning, mainly because I don't have the urgent sense that the winner (either Rockbound or Oryx and Crake) simply must be read. Neither side is persuading me, and neither of them is my kind book, in the first place - I'd much rather support Sinclair Ross or Ernest Buckler, Marian Engel or Martha Ostenso. Or Hugh MacLennan, for that matter. Sentimentally though, it would be nice for Rockbound to win, if only because it came back into print because of its being nominated, and Atwood's book is still fresh on the shelves.

Update: Let me pat myself on the back and say for once: I got it right! Rockbound has indeed conquered the Canada Reads mountain (or should I say weathered its gale) and will be read by book clubs and anyone else interested in old Canadian literature, here and elsewhere. I am going to give it a shot and let you know what I think. I am also working on a dream list of books and panelists, who will all be charming and will champion books I love. This never happens, but I can dream, right?

Thursday, February 24, 2005
Far Away in Time

50 Tracks, 80s Style: Well, another week has passed and the nominees are even more all-over-the-map than usual - everything from Ron Hynes to The Sattalites, Bryan Adams to Leonard Cohen, Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet (sigh - no words, so great, but I doubt if it will make the list) to Bruce Cockburn. The persistent pleading from a nation got "Echo Beach" on (finally!) and mercifully The Tragically Hip were put aside for the 90s, where they belong. In the meantime, Neil Young's on the list for "Rockin' in the Free World" (so much for The Nils...sigh) and no mention yet of rap. Also, unfortunately, Vancouver has been shut out, but perhaps someone will nominate Matthew Good next week. (Well, I would, but that's just me.) My 90s picks, by the way, are Sloan and The Dream Warriors.

80s Update: Well, the 80s are over and done right: Leonard Cohen and Bryan Adams, Bruce Cockburn and Martha and the Muffins. All along I wanted "Tower of Song" to be on the list, and so it is. I expect nothing but greatness from the next week, despite a certain Globe and Mail columnist's presence. Is it too early to start demanding Broken Social Scene? I don't think so.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005
TV Guide

Todd Levin has watched some television lately and it's not pretty. (Mysteriously he passes on Lost [I call it Karma Island] and Desperate Housewives [I can't be the only person to call it What Up, Bitch?]) I trust him on everything else, though.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005
Where Irony Breaks Down

"I own Celine's albums (only four, though ; she has released 50). I have seen Whitney Houston in concert. Toni Braxton's 'Unbreak my Heart' is an all-time favourite. Drunk or sober (but especially drunk), I am happy to rise in spirited defence - and indeed imitation - of the much-maligned Mariah Carey multi-note voicewobble. Five years ago as the guests at my wedding disappeared, cringing, into the night, I roared my appreciation as the DJ cranked up Tina Turner's 'Simply the Best' as his farewell track. My car radio is permanently tuned to Heart 106.2 and Magic. In short, musically speaking, I plough a lone furrow." I can only applaud someone willing to be direct and unapologetic about her music preferences.

Monday, February 7, 2005
She's Back

First, an explanation - I am currently without computer, so must post on the fly, so to speak - surely a metaphor Camille Paglia would love, and I am hereby giving the world notice - she is back, whether you like her or not, praising 43 love poems in Break, Blow, Burn - where her modest, retiring and well-thought-out ideas on everyone from Shakespeare to Joni Mitchell will be explored. Like I said, you have been warned. (Well, at least she isn't on the cover....)

Thursday, January 27, 2005
I Swear It Was in Self-Defence

"Those interweaving guitar lines on "Layla" sound like tantric sex; too high to be coming from guitars as such, and they don't even sound as if they're being played on guitars, even slide or dobro ones. They sound unearthly, like angels first bickering and then fucking."

This is the most praise Clapton gets. For now, anyway. For those of you who think criticism has no point, well, this does.

Monday, January 24, 2005
Melody, Hooks, Lyrics, Maple Syrup

I should have mentioned it last week, but the CBC has another round of 50 Tracks on the go - this time, the songs are all Canadian (just two songs from the previous show ended up being Canadian, which was really the least of the show's problems). So far the first half of the 20th century has been dealt with - this week sees the heady 60s come into play. Considering the mess they made of the 60s last time, I hope this next two weeks is better and more inclusive. The process is more democratic now, with the public being able to vote online for the song they liked which didn't make the cut; for me it's "Sh-Boom" but you may like "It Doesn't Matter Anymore" by Buddy Holly (written by Paul Anka - yes, the CanCon rules are in full effect) more.

Update: This week has seen the nominations of everything from Leonard Cohen to Chad Allen & The Expressions, with Joni Mitchell, Ian & Sylvia and The Band all in there too. Already rabid (by definition) Stan Rogers fans have been proclaiming Gordon Lightfoot to be overrated, and some want the theme song to "Hockey Night in Canada" to count, though it has no words. Steppenwolf have inexplicably been nominated again even though they appeared on the original list, presumably because baby boomers (CBC listeners by definition) love the song. I just want to know, will anyone nominate The Diodes's "Tired of Waking Up Tired" when its time comes around? Or Martha & The Muffins's "Echo Beach"?

70s Update: The Diodes were indeed mentioned, though have yet to make it to the uber-list: they are currently up against Stompin' Tom Connors's "The Hockey Song" which the illustrious panel rejected. Winnipeg (Guess Who, BTO, Neil Young) has been thoroughly approved of, now it's the rest of the country's turn to qualify - so far Gordon Lightfoot and Rush have been nominated in the 2nd week, and April Wine, Anne Murray and The Demics have yet to be mentioned, let alone Stan Rogers, though his "Barratt's Privateers" was played last week - not the live version though, which is of course the best.

Monday, January 24, 2005
Worst Day Ever?

According to this dandy Guardian article, today is theworst day of the year. Meaning, the most depressing. Perhaps for the English, but for those who are just emerging from their umpteenth blizzard, well, they may have a different idea. The list at the end is nice, but the U.S. public holiday was last Monday, folks. Better you fly to Australia, at this point...

Friday, January 21, 2005
Another Look at the Bear

"But, of course, Paddington is English - or learning to be. He's halfway there, with his instinctive politeness and his fondness for marmalade. And while he may have arrived in 1958, the mood in the books, by Bond's own account, is very much pre-war. Yet, weirdly, Paddington's London has not dated that much. There are still antique shops in the Portobello Road; and there are still officious shop assistants or tube workers, pompous actors who need to be taken down a peg or two by a frank, disingenuous stare. ("Paddington had a very persistent stare when he cared to use it. It was a very powerful stare. One which his Aunt Lucy had taught him and which he kept for special occasions.")" Paddington was the first major work of English literature I ever read, and when I went to London years later, you bet I went to Portobello Road, though I didn't sit on a horsehair couch. (I'm just over a cold now, so postings should be more frequent.)

Monday, January 10, 2005
Classics are for Everyone

"On company time, and a half-mile below the surface, Nottinghamshire collier G. A. W. Tomlinson (b. 1872) read The Canterbury Tales, Lamb's Essays, The Origin of Species, and Oscar Wilde's The Ballad of Reading Gaol. Admittedly, that could be an occupational hazard: once, when he should have been minding a set of rail switches, he was so absorbed in Goldsmith's The Deserted Village that he allowed tubs full of coal to crash into empties. The foreman (quite rightly) clouted him and snatched the volume away. He returned it at the end of the shift and offered a few poetry books of his own—"BUT IF THA BRINGS 'EM DARN T'PIT I'LL KNOCK THI BLOCK OFF." Tomlinson tried to write his own verses and concealed them from his workmates, until one of them picked up a page he had dropped and read it: "No good, lad. Tha wants ter read Shelley's stuff. That's poetry!" One of the newer editions to the list on the left is One Good Move, who in turn got this from City Journal. Ah dead authors, they're always the best....

Tuesday, January 4, 2005
Alcoholic Alchemy, Write a Song for Me

Against what seem like improbable odds, (esp. given the time of year), TMFTML is back. For how long it's too soon to say, but he is as spot on as ever.

Monday, January 3, 2005
The Year in Rebuke

Okay, so I stole that from Harry Shearer's Le Show, but the look back at last year over at Better Living Centre deserves the comparison. And it's not like anything else you will have read, anywhere.

Thursday, December 30, 2004
Susan Sontag 1933-2004

I have been looking around on the web for something better than what Ron aka The Corsair (of the cat-like moves, averted gazes and gentlemanly mien) has written, but it's not there. So: here is his tribute to the great woman, whose work I was introduced to in a backhanded complimentary way when I read "Notes on Trick" by Fran Leibowitz back in the early 80s in her book Metropolitan Life.

Monday, December 27, 2004
Savor Each Sensation

"The irony is that, as visual habits go, there is none more threadbare than this brand of subterranean gothic, at once fussy and lumpen, with its frankly unhygienic mixture of lingerie and dungeons. It reminds us that “The Phantom of the Opera” is a period piece, and that the period in question is not 1870 but 1986, when Lloyd Webber first presented his production to the world. We should not be surprised, then, if this bellowing beast of a movie looks and sounds like the extended special-edition remix of a Duran Duran video."

Oh, you know who it is. He also takes on, with more sympathy, "The Merchant of Venice."

Monday, December 27, 2004
On the Beach

The massive earthquake and subsequent tsunamis seem to defy description, but here are some eyewitness accounts as to what happened.

If you want to help, click here.

Monday, December 20, 2004
A Ton of Penguins Is Better Than This

""Nerf is funding terrorists to create environmental catastrophes to reinforce their message," warned Kenner. "We have to stop them."

A day later, Sarah and Peter crawled out of a crevasse. They were bruised and bloodied, but at least they had prevented a huge piece of the ice-shelf from being calved off into the ocean.

Two days after that, Sarah and Peter crawled out of a mudslide in Arizona. They were bruised and bloodied, but at least they had prevented another disaster.

"Just the Solomon Islands to go," yelled Drake."

TheGuardian continues to brave the literary world and give us the gist. I only wish all the penguins currently endangered by a huge honking iceberg had the energy to kick Michael Crichton's ass, but they are too busy doing otherwise.

Thursday, December 16, 2004
Austen. Jane Austen.

Happy Birthday Jane! I can't help it - I love, love, love Jane Austen. I don't love her so much to be able to score perfectly at the Guardian's quiz, but then who could? (Maybe the folks here.) Though I apparently am a black sheep in the Austen-loving crowds in that Pride & Prejudice is not my favorite novel of hers. (That would be a knock-down dragout fight - ladylike, of course - between Sense & Sensibility and Emma.) However there are many women who (aided & abetted by mad crushes on Colin Firth, who is okay but has never floated my boat) are crazy about P & P.

Austen is such a solid writer that her novels can be turned into television series, modern movies, period movies, movies that take liberties and those that don't, and they all more or less work. (The worst by far is a BBC TV version of Northanger Abbey from the 80s - ugh. Avoid it, though that's easy enough to do.) Helen Fielding made her name by modernizing two of Austen's titles and that worked fine, but this year she tanked by trying to write a spy thriller, Olivia Joules and the Overactive Imagination - but then it's rather difficult to take a weight-obsessed thirtysomething and put her into Mansfield Park. Perhaps she realized there is already a franchise out there of novels where Jane herself is a detective?

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

"In Basile's retelling, once again it is a splinter of flax that causes the heroine Talia to fall into a sleep, one so deep that when a king out hunting discovers her, rapes her and impregnates her, she doesn't even stir. Even giving birth to a twin son and daughter fails to rouse her, and it is only when the children are looking for her nipple to feed and latch on to her finger by mistake, so sucking out the flax from under her nail, that she awakes. The king, having apparently entirely forgotten about Talia, suddenly remembers her and returns to discover her and her twin children who she calls Sun and Moon. He is delighted by this instant family, and takes Talia and the children back to his palace where his barren wife is not, perhaps understandably, half so thrilled to see them. She sets about trying to eat the children."

If you don't know the story of Sleeping Beauty, there are worse places to start than this Guardian article on the fairy tale (plus you'll learn the ending).

Tuesday, December 14, 2004
Insult and Injury

His new novel is getting crap reviews everywhere, but now Tom Wolfe can brag - if he likes - that he has just won the Literary Review'sBad Sex Award. If you are wondering what that word he uses means, the definition is here. Wolfe is in Toronto tonight, being interviewed by Ian Brown, who may or may not mention this accolade.

Monday, December 6, 2004
He Knows When You're Awake - WTF?

"And do not remake "Little Drummer Boy." I detest that song. What kind of maroon plays the DRUMS for a SLEEPING NEWBORN? That kid shows up at my barn with his kit after I've just given birth and asks shall he play for me, I am not nodding -- is Mary insane? "I'm exhausted from the donkey ride and the labor and whatnot, and I probably have sepsis because I had to deliver Our Lord into a mangy hay bale -- what better time to hear from the rhythm section"? Say it with flowers, Little Drummer Boy! God!" Sars takes on the season's sonic offenders. I sort of helped out with this one, as she asked her readers for song suggestions - points if you can guess which ones she mentions (note: not the above - I actually like it, perversely).

Saturday, December 4, 2004
Real Attics with Imaginary Madwomen in Them

""It is such a sad room," said Lady Graham. "It has such a tragic feel about it. It is in a cul-de-sac in the attic, very awkward to reach. It is north-facing with a small gable window. It's infinitely depressing. Most people don't want to stay there. It's creepy. However rational, they feel a weight on them." The real-life inspiration for the place of residence of the first Mrs. Rochester has been found.

Monday, November 29, 2004
A Place to Status, A Place to Quo

The goverment of Ontario wants the people of this fine province to give them ideas on how to improve their two big palaces of fun and education, Ontario Place (directly on the lake) and the Canadian National Exhibition aka The Ex (just to the north of OP). A cursory glance at their very names will tell you that the Ex has been around for a long time and is seasonal, whereas Ontario Place was built, it seems, in the post-Montreal Expo 1967 haze of general grooviness, which meant pods and a big IMAX cinesphere (more history here). And it's open year round for IMAX fans (they must exist), students and people who enjoy being down by the lake any time of year. (Now they have a big winter carnival taking place, even though it hasn't snowed yet.) Even though it's called Ontario Place (and the CNE is well, the CNE), I very much doubt if either appeals to anyone outside the Metro area reachable by public transit - TTC or the GO train system - and even then, I feel that's pushing it. The idea (mentioned in the press release) of merging the two seems absurd, a kind of May-December wedding. Clearly the person who is going, say, to the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair at the Ex is not going to feed the lambs and avoid being pecked by geese one hour and run down to see a movie on a multi-story screen about dolphins the next - the Ex is a sensual, tactile place - I went to a police horse competition once and enjoyed it immensely, but seeing obedient and not-so-obedient horsies go through their crowd-controlled paces is way different from going to see a The Matrix and wig out or a rock show at the Molson Amphitheatre or just paddle about in a small boat. If they are having problems getting people to come down, make transit to the places more frequent, make the attractions more, well, attractive and don't mistake one audience for another.

Monday, November 29, 2004
Tongue of Fire

"In the meantime, Stone has been forced to fill his days with sissy little chamber pieces such as “Natural Born Killers,” “Born on the Fourth of July,” and “Platoon.” Now, at last, the hour has come, or, to be specific, the two hours and fifty minutes. That’s a long haul, but then Alexander, whose idea of a brisk after-lunch walk was to march a hundred thousand men and their supporting retinue across the Hindu Kush, covered a lot of ground." A relatively gentle review of the movie "Alexander," courtesy of Anthony Lane.

Monday, November 29, 2004
He Was Tom Wolfe

After hearing an episode of Talking Books about it (wherein host Ian Brown tried to defend Wolfe, to little avail), I can say that the Guardian's digested version of I Am Charlotte Simmons is pretty accurate, and while I never read Clarissa, I am sure Wolfe would love to be compared to him. To which the Talking Books panel (including Heather Mallick, who thinks all young girls should read this book before heading off to college, and who also namechecked jeans labels her daughters wore - God, does she never give it a rest?) said, basically, no, not in your lifetime. Sorry, Tom.

Saturday, November 27, 2004
The Old School

"The book's publication comes, coincidentally, as France experiences a surge of popular nostalgia for the apparently carefree post-war era and the educational values of the 1950s. The year's most successful film so far has been Les Choristes ( The Chorus ) a story of redemption inside a draconian reform school, set in that era. The most popular series of the autumn was a reality television programme that sent teenagers back to study at a repressive 1950s boarding school. Trying to ride on this popular wave, the education minister has since announced he is in favour of restoring traditional teaching methods and authority at school."

Can you guess which book this is? It's one I never knew about, until I started to work at the UC Book Sale, where the woman who puts the French table together mentions it with great fondness. Hint: not Le Petit Prince.

Thursday, November 25, 2004
Books Are Heavy

Once upon I time I used to go to Harbourfront a lot to attend their Reading Series; it was a lot of fun and I like to hear people read and discuss their writing and get some other measure of them - find out what the author is like, or at least if they are funny. Greg Gatenby usually introduced the authors and he always seemed to be a rather tense man, sort of an obsessive who had found his niche but had continued to be an obsessive anyway, because, as a friend's mother might say, "that's the kind of hairpin he is." Gatenby worked at Harbourfront for a long time, making the festival of authors a big deal and was something of a tough, notorious figure - but he left last year and is now back, and wants to get rid of a lot of the books he accumulated over his time at Harbourfront. Which is fine, but why doesn't he just give them to the...oh, the University College Book Sale, for example? He seems obsessed (that word again) with the collection all going to one place, and that seems to smack a little of "I am so great." Call me a skeptic, but are these thousands of books all worth keeping together? Perhaps if he was older and really needed to get them out of the house I would understand, but his reasons sound rather...superficial to me. Would a real book lover ever get rid of any books, including their first Ondaatje?

Saturday, November 20, 2004
The Next Step

Hello, hello. Well, what to do next? There's a new multi-author blog, This Is Not Over, started by Sars of Tomato Nation fame, that looks at the election, the war and other more domestic issues with a heads-up, I'm-not-down sense of purpose. Why it took her so long to start I don't know, but it's about time. From what I can tell (an abortion clause in a spending bill?), there's going to be a lot to post, and once the comments function works, a lot of ass-kicking ahead.

Sunday, November 14, 2004
Not a Greeting Card, A Free Man

Oh God help me, but Hal Niedzviecki has a new book out - I listened to his wee sales pitch last night on CBC Radio 3 (for that's what it was, more or less, omitting the 'published by Penguin and available at better bookstores everywhere' bit at the end). It's called Hello I'm Special and invariably has just what you think it has on the cover. In this precis he mentioned a birthday card, one which I myself also got a couple of years ago: "Conformity: Proudly Serving Painfully Boring People Since Time Began" - the difference being, the person who gave me the card acknowledged inside that conformity was inevitable, that everyone has a whole series of numbers and facts attached to them that are part of modern life and so on. Hal's parents gave him this card and then he had a problem - can you be a non-conformist if Hallmark is abstractly saying, yeah, you go, you nonconformists! And don't forget to use your points card when you buy me!

The paradox of individuality is not a new subject, methinks. If I knew my philosophers better I'd be able to name some who discussed it at length, but, whatever. Everyone is special, unique, by merely existing. Isn't that enough? Ugh.

Saturday, November 13, 2004
Strawberry Blonde Tawdry Hussy

"Early on, librarians condemned the syndicate’s series as tawdry, sensationalist work taking children away from books of moral or instructional value. Decades later, some educators began to argue that the books were a stepping-stone to more sophisticated literature, a way to get kids reading in the first place. (Television was now the real problem.) In either case, librarians seemed uncomfortable with the idea of reading as pure entertainment. Nancy Drew was long banned from many public libraries." The New Yorker looks at La Drew and her history.

Saturday, November 13, 2004
To Be or, What

Well, yeah. In case you were wondering why it's been rather eerily quiet around here lately - I moved! Into a basement apartment, no less, and have been busy fixing up everything, including a crossed-lines problem, not to mention the cold, dry air problem. (If anyone out there has experience in the world of basement living, any & all advice is welcome.) Right, back to the vote. I voted and two out of three of the people won, so...although I would have preferred a Democratic win, life is life and vote counts are vote counts, more or less. Time to sit back, rethink things, reorganize and then go after all those people who voted Republican because they saw no reason to vote otherwise.

Friday, October 29, 2004
'Til the Break of Dawn

"We are going to prove what must be proven. And not just in the morning, not just in the afternoon, not just in the late afternoon, or in the twilight, when that big yellow sun goes down, sometimes changing to orange or red before it dips below the horizon. We're going to prove it all night. Prove it all night. Or, if we can't prove it all night, certainly for the lion's share of the night."

Part of the fine John Kerry, Rockstar at Slate.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004
The People United

I know it is a truism to say that politics makes strange bedfellows (ah, so to speak...as it were...) but it was odd, to say the least, to read the very reluctant endorsement of Kerry by Christopher Hitchens at Slate and then watch the new Eminem video, "Mosh," and realize he was for Kerry too. In related news: a new Get Your War On has been posted, with the ultimate question: "Sooo...What do you wear to a civil war anyway?" (If the vid's anything to go by, a black hoodie.)

Tuesday, October 26, 2004
John Peel, 1939-2004

Though I never got to hear his show, I always knew, through reading the British music press, that John Peel was more than just a guy on the BBC; he was one of the greatest record-spinners around period (I became aware of him via reading obsessively about The Wedding Present, who, if I am right, are getting back together again). I suppose the closest thing the CBC has here is David Wisdom, who once had a show, Nightlines, that did much the same thing - he would play anything he liked, and had/has an especial love for The Fall. My condolences go out to anyone who loved John Peel, a truly influential figure in a medium that needs as many good people as it can get.

Here's Chart's Top 10 Reasons John Peel Was Cool list - the first I know of done for a non-musician.

Read Marcello Carlin's memoir of Peel here.

Monday, October 25, 2004
Slacker Rights, Pretty Soon - No, Really

Hibernation Day: an international duvet day for the world

There has been something of a laziness renaissance in the past few years, and we've covered research that says that idleness is the key to longer life, power-napping projects in schools and a campaign for greater slacking rights (which was predictably low-key and lethargic). This idea is very much in the same vein, although I like this one particularly for its sheer ambition: that around the world, "no businesses, schools, restaurants or shopping areas would be permitted to open" on the day. A little dogmatic for a chilled-out idea, perhaps, but who wouldn't be ready to join in?

Nick Temple at the Guardian lists a few more good ideas, though they all take more energy than this one, though really, any idea would.

Thursday, October 21, 2004
Exercise Your Franchise

I am currently starting to prepare for a move, just having finished my work at the UC Book Sale (thanks to all who came out!), so posts here will be light, for now. However, Sars at Tomato Nation has a great column on the importance of voting, with lots of good links in her Cherry Tomatoes section. Personally, I don't care how you vote, just make sure you do, and make sure it's counted.

Also, what Mechaieh said. It ain't over 'til it's over, folks. Just ask the Red Sox.

Monday, October 11, 2004
Thar She Blows

The long long wait is over: Moby Lives is back as of today. Spread the news!

Monday, October 11, 2004
Derrida, 1930-2004

"What was important was that deconstruction held that no text was above analysis or closed to alternative interpretation. It is no coincidence that it came into vogue in the 1960s and 1970s, when many cultural and social institutions were being challenged. As a result, Derrida became popular among those willing to question the sterile idea of a "western canon" who wanted to expand literary discourse so that writers such as Mary Elizabeth Braddon could sit alongside the Brontes. Thanks to Derrida, many new voices were heard."

The Guardian's obit actually cites Scritti Politti, which is nice. Green met Derrida once and discovered that the king of deconstruction was a jazz fan, which only makes sense.

Monday, October 11, 2004
Pigs in Space

"Space rubbish is not a new phenomenon. The astronaut Edward White lost a glove during the first American spacewalk in 1965. But the space around the earth is getting increasingly congested." Hmmm. Shouldn't there be a way to make a big net to catch all the debris? It would have to be satellite-friendly, though.

Sunday, October 10, 2004
Tomorrow's Books Today

"In addition to the aforementioned vogue for books about war, pestilence and not eating crisps, for example, there is an alleged boom in writing about the iPod. At the Frankfurter Hof, I run into the London-based American agent Ed Victor. He's keen to tell me about one of his books: a Nick Hornby-esque volume by Dylan Jones, the editor of GQ , entitled iPod Therefore I Am." I felt obliged to post this, if only as a warning that one day you will come across it. And people wonder why I only read old books. Speaking of which, the University College Book Sale is this next weekend, so come on down and see me, if you can. It starts on the 15th at noon, and goes until the 19th, and the way things look, I'll be there every day. (This is also why posting has slowed down here, though I will try to catch up today & tomorrow.)

Sunday, October 3, 2004
Black Ink, White Paper

I am likely the last blogeuse to link to them, but if you have yet to read Goodbye, Chunky Rice or Blankets, then I heartily recommend them, as well as this interview with the genius behind them, Craig Thompson. On a related note, the first of many Peanuts anthologies, The Complete Peanuts 1950-1952, designed by the always-great Seth and introduced inimitably by Garrison Keillor, is also available now and is a revelation of sorts - Peanuts as a rebellious strip? Yes.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004
Living in a Box

"Why am I writing like this? Why are there loads of italics and arbitrary breaks in the text?

Who cares when you're on the Granta best British novelist list?"

The Guardian digests, with no great relish, Clear by Nicola Barker, which is about, yes, David Blaine's time spent in a clear box suspended above mostly unamused Londoners. Cough.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004
While the Sun Shines

"In Italy, an old woman was killed by a falling crucifix, and the company that makes Hostess Twinkies and Wonder Bread went bankrupt. New research concluded that low-birthweight babies are twice as likely to commit suicide. It was discovered that Israeli traffic fatalities rise by 35 percent in the days following a terrorist attack. Scientists said that over the last 15 years several glaciers in Antarctica have increased the rate at which they are sliding into the sea. The discovery that methane and water vapor are concentrated together on Mars suggested that methane-producing bacteria may be present on the planet. A group of Australian scientists developed a vaccine to cut down on the methane emitted by sheep when they belch and fart. China opened its first Formula One raceway. American researchers developed a device that uses spinach to generate electricity, and scientists were hoping to use rat brainwaves to find people buried by earthquakes. California banned necrophilia." You see? Lots more than that war going on. Go to Harper's if you want to know, or indeed need to know more.  

Thursday, September 23, 2004
1974 - No Sellout

""You're having my baby!" sighs a contented Anka, like a chaise longue lion having consumed his eighth missionary of the day."

Writing about pop music does not get any better than Marcello Carlin, my friends. With TMFTML on what I think could best be called "indefinite hiatus," (wish him well, won't you?) nature has once again proven that she hates a void, on the web or otherwise. Also featured in the first installment of 1974 - the Beginning of the End of the Beginning (my own name for it, there) are ABBA, the voice of Paul Carrack, Charles Aznavour and more.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004
Beyond Mon Petit Chou

"(When two Americans lapse into French, it is usually for the purpose of flirting.)" Looks like I'm going to have to work on my French.

Saturday, September 18, 2004
Finding His Vibe

Leonard Cohen: "When Alberta Hunter was singing many years ago, at 82, I came to New York just to listen to her. When she said 'God bless you', you really felt that you had been blessed. It's wonderful to hear a 20-year-old speaking about love. As the Talmud says, there's good wine in every generation. But I love to hear an old singer lay it out. And I'd like to be one of them." In honor of his upcoming 70th birthday, the Guardian has a list of facts and quotes from the great man.

Friday, September 17, 2004
No Sexy Political Ghosts For You

"In order to get in with CEPA, one-third of your cast has to be mainland actors, and you have to have a mainland production partner. OK, but then, you have to submit your script to the Chinese censorship guy. And you submit your film after you make it. They have rules: You can't make movies about ghosts. You can't have sex. Forget about politics. And bad guys always have to lose; good guys must always win." Necessity is the mother of invention in Hong Kong. But really, no sex or ghosts? The hell?

Friday, September 17, 2004
Over Your Shoulder

If you live in the US and you like the idea of being able to buy a book or take one out of your local library without anyone keeping records on it, well, you may already know about this petition to help keep things nice and private, and for that matter, constitutional.

Thursday, September 16, 2004
It's Just Logic

Whoa, sorry about the service interruption there. Not technically caused, just late-summer-book-madness caused. And I'm not even reading new, "hot" "hip" or even still-in-print books, in some cases. Ah well. Aside from being slightly amused that Martha Stewart believes you can book time in a jail as you would in a spa, the current news leaves me either unmoved or so agitated that writing about it here in this quiet, muddy peaceful backwater would be kind of awkward. To say the least. Nevertheless... I'm not sure how this works, but it had me clocked. (Link via The Corsair.)

Monday, September 6, 2004
Sit There And Do Something

Today is International Blog about Sudan Day (yes, it's Labor Day as well, but you knew that already). If you are like me then you know that something bad is happening there but have little historical context: this short history of the "Land of Blacks" is fairly good, as far as I know. The BBC News information site has a good overview of current conditions and basic facts. Amnesty International is always worth a visit, though for some reason their page on Darfur is slow (perhaps it's just my iMac?) And yes, Get Your War On has something to say too. If you want more irony, please visit the otherwise interesting Sudan Net.

Thursday, September 2, 2004
Click Click Click

Words are pretty much failing me here, though I can only assume the wife doesn't knit:

"The baroque, frequently impenetrable language was typical of the emails - by turns combative, funny, and sometimes plain weird - which I received from Black during the three years I spent making a documentary about him. I wrote back, questioning his use of the word tricoteuses. His reply came the following day:

Dear Debbie, I was using tricoteuses in the sense of Carlyle and other commentators on the French Revolution, as the ghastly, wretched, morbid women who knitted while the victims were steadily conveyed to the guillotine and executed. I have always attracted such people and their presence is a badge of honour and my unvarying ability to disappoint them is one of life's pleasures, though ranking well behind wholesome sex and chocolate cake. Regards, CONRAD BLACK"

(If you want to read more, go here. You may have to register, but it's a one-time deal, and worth it.)

Wednesday, September 1, 2004

Dig it: a really good blog and it's about Toronto. Wonders never cease, and it's fresh every day. Check it out at Better Living Centre, and give Marc & Brett some encouragement, while you're there.

Monday, August 30, 2004
One Way To Go Home

"I was taken to a warehouse before being loaded into the first cargo plane. I now realise I was lucky to have been placed in a pressurised hold. I had called three times to tell them I was shipping expensive computer equipment and didn't want any of the microchips to go bad but I later discovered the information they gave me was for a commercial airline, not a cargo plane, so I could have been placed in a non-pressurised hold. I could have died." The things Texans will do to get out of New York City. And I bet you he's never even heard of Trois Couleurs: Blanc.

Monday, August 30, 2004
One Way To Go Home

"I was taken to a warehouse before being loaded into the first cargo plane. I now realise I was lucky to have been placed in a pressurised hold. I had called three times to tell them I was shipping expensive computer equipment and didn't want any of the microchips to go bad but I later discovered the information they gave me was for a commercial airline, not a cargo plane, so I could have been placed in a non-pressurised hold. I could have died." The things Texans will do to get out of New York City. And I bet you he's never even heard of Trois Couleurs: Blanc.

Sunday, August 29, 2004
College Dropout

Reading about the Electoral College may seem as dull as dry toast, but the fundamentals of democracy are too important to ignore. (The same problems occur in Canada, of course, where things are even hairier because there are more parties in contention.) I am lucky, for instance, to vote out of Berkeley as a Democrat, but what if I was voting out of Wyoming or Texas as one (never mind Florida)? This is what the New York Times says:

"The arcane rules governing the Electoral College have the potential to create havoc if things go wrong. Electors are not required to vote for the candidates they are pledged to, and if the vote is close in the Electoral College, a losing candidate might well be able to persuade a small number of electors to switch sides. Because there are an even number of electors - one for every senator and House member of the states, and three for the District of Columbia - the Electoral College vote can end in a tie. There are several plausible situations in which a 269-269 tie could occur this year. In the case of a tie, the election goes to the House of Representatives, where each state delegation gets one vote - one for Wyoming's 500,000 residents and one for California's 35.5 million."

Cough. The editorial also points out the charming fact that because the swing states are so important, vast numbers of citizens are ignored and therefore feel they don't count, which makes things even worse. Is it any wonder so many don't vote?

Friday, August 27, 2004
For the Grown-Ups

Just in time for the RNC, a new Get Your War On strip is up, and there's a new book out, as well.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

The funny thing is, the digested version of the new Kinsella, Shopaholic & Sister is still too long. I salute whoever wrote this for their stunning ability to first read the book and then summarize it without, presumably, losing his or (more likely) her mind. Am I right in thinking there are now enough books about shopping in high-end stores to constitiute a 'trend'? Ugh. (For more fun, here's the one for Bergdorf Blondes by Plum Sykes.)

Monday, August 23, 2004
Meeting of Minds

If there's one interview I'd love to read, it's John Berger talking with Michael Moore. Here's Berger's view on Fahrenheit 9/11 - nothing new, but written eloquently and plainly, as usual.

Monday, August 23, 2004
Near the Throne

This is an interesting list, to say the least: the Forbes 100 Most Powerful Women in the world - some who got there for their work, and some who got there for marrying men who happened to gain power, and still others born into power. Another example, I suppose, of the various ways women have of gaining power, much like the wonderful variety of shoes women have available to them. Also: where is J.K. Rowling?

Update: Ros Taylor at the Guardian comments on the list: "Cosy rhetoric is one thing. Self-delusion is another. But what made Forbes put Cherie, whom it egregiously describes as "Britain's first lady", at number 12? To her credit - and, indeed, to that of the Queen - she rarely plays the female empowerment card. The British public simply wouldn't let her."

Monday, August 23, 2004
Thirteen Hundred Days Is A Lot To Spend With Someone

Ah, bless the New Yorker for keeping us ex-pats up to speed on things. Previous quizzes are linked on the page, in case one is simply not enough.

1. Three of these statements were made by George W. Bush. Which one was made by Senator Rick Santorum (R-Pa.)?

(a) “Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we.”

(b) “Tribal sovereignty means that it’s sovereign. You’re a—you’ve been given sovereignty and you’re viewed as a sovereign entity.”

(c) “Iraqis are sick of foreign people coming in their country and trying to destabilize their country, and we will help them rid Iraq of these killers.”

(d) “Isn’t that the ultimate homeland security—standing up and defending marriage?”

Sunday, August 22, 2004
Together, We're Groovy

"The Polyphonic Spree's odd personnel decisions would seem even more unusual if it weren't for the fact that a host of similar ensembles have formed in the last few years, including some of independent music's most successful up-and-coming groups. A modern rock band from Toronto called Broken Social Scene contains upward of 11 members. Omaha's Bright Eyes, led by the folk-rock songwriter Conor Oberst, has toured in iterations of 15 or so. A Sacramento octet called !!! (pronounced chick chick chick) specializes in dubby, repetitive funk and off-kilter political statements. (Last year, reflecting half the band's move to New York, it released "Me and Giuliani Down by the School Yard," a nine-minute single inspired by the city's restrictive, anti-dance cabaret laws.) Two interrelated Montreal groups, Godspeed You Black Emperor! and the Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra, feature 7 to 15 members and make instrumental music that's been likened to an enigmatic film soundtrack." The Times profiles The Polyphonic Spree, but is nice enough to step back and notice the trend - collectives of one kind or another getting together to make music. Throw in The Hidden Cameras, New Pornographers and some other groups, and I'd say we've got a new definition of 'rock band' (hell, with all four members as independent singer/songwriters, Sloan would almost qualify, except there's only four of them). Ah, but when will this all translate into, say, winning the Pazz & Jop poll at the Village Voice? Or is that not such an important thing to win, anymore?

Saturday, August 21, 2004
I'm Pretty Sure It Was Him

How did he die? Why? If you like Tom Thomson, then you will want to read this. If you don't know what all the fuss is about, then go here and look around (no direct link, sadly to the Thomsons at the AGO but some of his best work is there).

Friday, August 20, 2004
Cherub Rock

"Furthermore, Ezekiel explains that they have four wings and four faces; those of a person, an ox, an eagle, and a lion. And yet somehow hundreds of years later this becomes a celestial Pampers ad, with chubby little happy angel babies making people fall in love. That's a real shame. If Valentine's Day cards featured mutated four-faced animal-beings with fiery death swords, I'd be a much cheerier guy." Lore rates the entire angel hierarchy.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004
The Roots of Goth

I am not the biggest fan of Gothic literature but if I was to read any, it would be the old-school stuff, from this list in the Guardian. Question: who will direct the next version of Dracula?

Monday, August 16, 2004
Scary Picnic

"The brutes in “The Village” are a good eight feet tall, robed in red, with dagger-length talons in front and a bushel of don’t-mess-with-me spines sprouting out at the back. If a porcupine got a little too friendly with a cardinal in the Roman Catholic Church, this is what you’d end up with." Just in case you wanted to know, Anthony Lane gives Shyamalan's latest a fair shake; why it took so long, I don't know. The ways of the New Yorker are, as ever, mysterious.

Friday, August 13, 2004
Kitchen Wisdom

The most famous female chef of the 20th century, Julia Child, died today - here's her diary in slate from a few years ago.

Thursday, August 12, 2004
She Looks Straight Ahead

The newest link here (on the suddenly very short page - sorry if the change was abrupt, but there's a link for the old stuff on the lower left side) is Urban Dictionary, a place for all the slang you hear on the street. Naturally I wanted to see if my name was slang yet, and hey, it is! I will be combing it for more cool terms, especially since The Word Spy seems to be on hiatus. In semi-related news, Moby Lives is still in a coma. Perhaps once all the fall books start to appear, it will resurface. I can only hope...

Thursday, August 12, 2004
Rolling Rolling Rolling

I am thrilled to report that over 3,500 people have signed the Coach House Press petition so far and more are adding their names all the time, from neighbors to U of T people and beyond, across the world. If anyone out there knows Don McKellar, could you get him to sign it? Or John K. Samson? Please?

Thursday, August 12, 2004
Propah Litrachah

I can't say anything about the book itself - what with there being over 4,000 holds for it at the library and all - but I think this defense of this bestseller's popularity is a bit much: "And The Da Vinci Code, with its patina of learning and pretensions to grandeur, is clearly in danger of crossing some dangerous boundaries." Folks, it's a book, okay?

Thursday, August 12, 2004
No Frosting Required

If you like carrot muffins, you will like this. If you like plums, so much the better.