Tuesday, December 23, 2008
Winnipeg's Paper Moon have a new EP out in advance of a forthcoming long-player due in the new year. The album will be Only During Thunderstorms, the EP is What Are You Going To Do With Me? and it's available, like, now at the Endearing online store. EP includes this rad cover of everyone's favourite Hot Little Rocket song.
mp3: "Down With Safe" by Paper Moon
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
Thursday, December 04, 2008
Short term, well, good for Harper. Long term, what's the strategy? He's burnt his bridges with the Liberals and NDP, and he's done even worse with the Bloc, which otherwise would be his only chance of getting a budget passed.
The highlight of the morning, though, was Don Newman talking to John Baird, Minister of Transport in the House of Commons. Baird laid out a bunch of the typical "separatist coalition" party line, and Newman called him on it every time, saying Baird either hadn't read or hadn't understood the coalition accord. Baird continued saying blatantly unfactual things, and Newman called him on it every time. Even the Newsworld anchors seemed unsettled at how many bald-face untruths came out of Baird's mouth. It was nice to see the media holding politicians accountable for what they say. Feels like it's been a while.
mp3: "Rats' Revenge, Part 2" by the Rats
Wednesday, December 03, 2008
Meanwhile, Harper booster Stephen Taylor says, "not a single person voted for a coalition government." Is it just me, or did half the country just forget what a Parliamentary system entails? This is what it's all about folks. Stephen Harper was elected with a minority mandate, which means the will of the Canadian electorate was that the Conservative Party work with the Opposition parties to run the nation. When Harper, Flaherty and Flanagan tried to put their collective loafer to the Liberal Party's financial throat under the flimsy flag of dealing with the economic downturn, they showed nothing but contempt for that expressed will of the people. They had a chance to govern, and they blew it. Big time.
A coalition government, right now, is the best possible outcome for Canadians. The current members of Parliament have been elected and it's time to let them do their jobs. Whether or not the Liberals and NDP will be able to keep it together long enough to actually pass a bill is another question, but the Conservatives have abused their opportunity to govern and deserve to lose it.
In happier news, here's a vid of Brian Borcherdt covering Kim Mitchell. And here's a track from Borcherdt's swell new EP, Coyotes.
mp3: "While I Was Asleep" by Brian Borcherdt
Monday, December 01, 2008
Saturday, November 29, 2008
Martha Wainwright: very good. Great voice, great energy, great band. Biggest surprise of the show: Opener Brian Borcherdt (whose myspace profile pic does him no favours--unless he wants to look like Jared Leto in a Star Wars fanfilm???), best known as one of the founders of T.O. electro-skronk instrumentalists Holy Fuck, has a really great singing voice. He played songs from his new album Coyotes and closed with a sweet Kim Mitchell cover. I've long and loudly argued for a critical second look at Kim Mitchell, so was especially glad to see/hear my cause has found adherents. RIYL: Jason Molina, Chad Vangaalen
mp3: "Easy to Tame" by Kim Mitchell
Friday, November 28, 2008
For more LOLZ-Harper, Paul Wells at Macleans laid it on solid yesterday, with bonus awesome photo that will be my new desktop.
Meanwhile, there's a boatload of shows in Vancouver tonight, in case we need something to take our minds of the best political intrigue this country's seen since Gerda Munsinger.
We got AC/DC at GM Place, the Neins Circa at the Western Front, and Martha Wainwright at the Commodore. I'll be at the MW show with my sister, cuz that's the point of having a sister.
mp3: "This Life" by Martha Wainwright
mp3: "Factory" by Martha Wainwright
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
Worse: Harper's Conservatives are going to sell it as if it's some altruistic belt-tightening in the face of the economic crisis that they're not really ready to admit exists (maybe it has something to do with their fear of science), as if the $30 million savings to taxpayers does anything but pale beside the BILLIONS and BILLIONS Harper & Pals have given to the banks. And hey, banks, while I've got your attention, if you didn't set any money aside for a rainy day during the last decade of constant record-breaking banking profits amid the near annihilation of banking jobs, then fuck you. You deserve nothing. If you can't make ends meet between ATM fees and interest--not to mention those shitty calculators you try to sell me when all I want to do is order new cheques--you don't deserve to call yourselves banks. You're just a bunch of ugly buildings with nice chairs that no one wants to sit on because they're afraid to be comfortable around you.
Worsenator: Of course Harper's Tories are going to make this a Confidence Vote, which means either the Liberals will have to vote in favour of getting shafted bigtime or they'll have to pull the plug on a Parliament that's barely had the chance to make ass-prints in its chairs.
mp3: "All The Money I Had Is Gone" by the Deep Dark Woods
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
I like to think that my career as a reviewer was notable more for my appetite than for my taste, which was and is constantly under development.
I didn't keep any souvenirs of those days, aside from the hundreds of CDs that keep the north wall of my living room up. That's really enough, I guess. More than enough, for sure. Every now and then, when I'm about to cook or do dishes or whatever else I do in the kitchen, I grab a CD from the wall that I haven't played for a while and give it a listen to see if it's worth keeping around. This is what I found last night.
Let It Mellow
This is one of those groups (not a dude) that I know next to nothing about. The liner notes list a bunch of first names and feature a vintage map of Woodstock, Ont. Production was done by Dale Morningstar and Andy Magoffin, which means these dudes are probably at least decently known within Toronto's rock scene. And Wayne Omaha sounds like a Toronto rock band. There's that 416/905 blend of Neil Young & Velvet Underground influences that you used to hear in 13 Engines, Lowest of the Low, Rheostatics, whatever. Which is not to say that Wayne Omaha is just another T.O. rocker combo, even though they kinda are. But they're waaaaay looser--which sets them apart. Sometimes it sounds like they're gonna fall apart, but they hold it together, just barely, with melodica and caulking bought on sale with Canadian Tire Money. It's rugged, ragged and far from right, but it sounds good.
mp3: "It's All Right" by Wayne Omaha
mp3: "OK You Win All Right" by Wayne Omaha
Monday, November 17, 2008
But if your pregnancy is healthy and problem-free? You owe it to yourself and your community to go with a midwife, or more likely, a group of midwives.
Midwifery has been legal and regulated in BC since 1998, and as such it's covered by the BC Medical Services Plan, which reduces the costs and other strains on the provincial healthcare system. Our team at Westside Midwives has been awesome at providing care and information in a very relaxed and calming way. I've been known to be high strung and super-cynical, especially about so-called alternative healthcare*, but the midwives we've dealt with have allayed all my anxieties and not once caused me to roll my eyes. Admittedly, I'm not the patient in this situation, but they've never treated me as though I shouldn't be there or as if I'm not part of the pregnancy (which some of the So-You've-Decided-To-Become-A-Father books have warned against--Question for discussion at another time: Why do 60-to-80% of all fathering books/websites/resources/etc come across as being created by unbalanced men who own more than three firearms?).
mp3: "Rock the Cradle Alone" by Nimrod Workman
* Don't get me started.
Jesse, if you say it all fancy-like, sounds like French for "I know". Which is what you can say now if someone asks you where Jesse is playing tonight.
My other brother, who lives in Toronto will be there too, which makes me the other brother right now.
mp3: "Nothing at All" by Jesse Matheson
Sunday, November 16, 2008
But it got me thinking, I might have a higher tolerance--or even preference for folks who don't sing right. Off tune, off beat, oh yeah, give it to me! And truthfully, there's a case to be made that these singers who aren't blessed with a naturally redolent voice are actually better singers than the ones who were mellifluous to begin with. To create something aesthetically pleasing out of something unpleasant is true craftsmanship, and I'll roll my eyes at anyone who says otherwise.
All of which is just preamble to praise Andre Ethier, who sometimes sounds so much like Bob Dylan that you almost think he's trying to be Leonard Cohen.
Last summer, when I was in Regina, Dave and I were catching up on good records that had come out since last we spoke, and Andre Ethier's On Blue Fog album was one of them. Any Andre Ethier album is a good one and will definitely scratch yr nu-Dillung fever, but still give you a lot more. An Andre Ethier album you might not know about, unless you live in Peterborough (which sounds like a made-up place--I've never met anyone from there), is Dear Stranger, which is actually a Silver Hearts album. The Silver Hearts are a big folk/country band from Ptrbrgh (it looks more authentic w/o vowels) who have made some albums of note (I do remember hearing about that Rain Dogs remake), but seemingly have not toured beyond their little corner of the country, despite playing country/western music. Go figure.
mp3: "Nothing Is Written In Stone" by Andre Ethier
mp3: "Last Real Poet" by the Silver Hearts
EDIT/UPDATE: mp3 link fixed
bonus mp3: "Last Days of Chez Nous" by the Silver Hearts (not an Ethier tune, but 100% worthwhile if you love cruel honkytonk break-up songs)
Friday, November 14, 2008
Vancouver: Take your mayoral pick: A dude who skimps on transit fare or a dude who put his personal ambition ahead of his own party's welfare in a way that would even make Paul Martin embarrassed.
The 2010 Olympics want to control your entire life. And not in a good way. Next up: mass evacuation of all Vancouverites who don't work for official Olympic sponsors?The Danks play at the Biltmore tonight with Two Hours Traffic. But me? I'll be at Louis CK.
mp3: "I Mean, Come On" by the Danks
Thursday, November 13, 2008
Further says the CP, "The company will also cut the physical size of some newspapers to reduce costs and focus efforts on expanding digital media operations."
That sounds dismal and calls to mind CanWest's failed Dose commuter tabloid, the horridness of commuter tabloids in general, and usually awful programming on so-called specialty cable.
Commuter tabloids are generally barely worth what you pay for them, unless it's raining and you need something to put between your dry pants and a wet bench on the bus. And don't get me started on their columnists--all of them--but, hey, I like to imagine that since they write for a publication that's handed out for free, the columnists are probably writing on a volunteer-basis, and so I try to cut them a bit of slack.
CanWest has never really had a good grasp on what makes a good newspaper, though the full blame for the National Post can't really be laid entirely at their feet. What people want in a local newspaper, meanwhile, seems so obvious: quality local content. And yet that's what always seems to go on the chopping block whenever convergence rears its head. There are hundreds of places to get national and international news, but there will always be demand for a good local daily newspaper--even in the digital age. With the whole planet at our fingertips online, communities need to know about and see themselves that much more.
Case in point: the two federal elections this fall. Okay, fair enough, the US election was genuinely exciting and historic on a number of levels. But I was appalled at how little heat the Canadian election generated (and obviously, that was part of Harper's gameplan in calling the vote amid the billion-dollar fervour of the US campaign) among Canadians. This shit matters. A lot more than Tina Fey in a bad blazer. But the media seemed just as disinterested in the Canadian election as, well, the nearly 41% of Canadians who didn't even bother voting.
mp3: "Folksong Oblivion" by the Phantom Band
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
Having spent not quite as much time as I'd like lately engrossed in Lee Henderson's The Man Game, a wrasslin' epic set in an alternate universe 1880s Vancouver, I kinda thought there might be some ridiculous reason going back to frontier times. Back in Regina, my go-to-guy on weird and interesting civic/historical factoids was Will Chabun, a veritible warehouse of Saskploitative arcana. But if Will has a Vancouver counterpart, I've yet to meet him or her. So I asked Frances Bula, longtime Vancouver reporter and probably the best blogger on civic issues around. Even the execrable Alex G. Tsukamis reads her blog! Maybe I didn't phrase the question enticingly enough, or maybe I'm the only one who finds this interesting, but here's the complete reply I got from Bula:
Not sure why it is Saturday, but it's been that way forever. Third Saturday in November, written right into the legislation.
At least it's in the fall, and not the spring, like BC's provincial elections.
Saturday or not, we still gotta vote, and to be honest, I've barely got a clue who to vote for, and I'm actually interested in this stuff!
mp3: "The Bank" by Louis CK
mp3: "End of Bank" by Louis CK
P.S. Louis CK is in Vancouver on Friday at the Vogue.
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
Josh Reichmann/Oracle Band is in Vancouver tomorrow night, Nov. 11, at the Media Club.
mp3: "Great Shadows" by Josh Reichmann/Oracle Band
mp3: "Bones to Match the Heart" by Tangiers (from their middle album, Never Bring You Pleasure)
I haven't heard of any of the other performers, and a lot of them seem to be a little outside of my particular tastes in music, but in terms of live music settings, Vancouver City Limits is one of the best venues.
Monday, November 10, 2008
Eventually, I got pretty good. As a writer. I'm not so foolish that I don't recognize the progress I've made, and I'm not so smug and condescending that I'll pretend otherwise. But I don't think I was ever that good as a reviewer. I don't know that a reviewer who glommed on to Richard Meltzer so early in their career ever really had a chance. I was only just starting to make a little coin from the hustle when Meltzer told me, "I think a lot of work has to be done in ignoring the immensity of it and writing about any little particle of it. It's a big monster, rock. And it exists for certain pre-ordained reasons that were not part of the package once. Part of what it's there for is to make people stupid. To make people cease to resist. It's crowd control."
mp3: "Goodbye Pork Pie Cravat" by Richard Meltzer (last known sighting)
So I pretty much started off wrong. I mean, aside from Meltzer, I barely read any music writing before I started doing it. I had no idea what I was doing, and I didn't really care, just as long as I was doing. Along the way, though, I did start reading other rock-write, and along with the Hemingway, Brautigan, Kerouac, Thompson (both Jim and Hunter S.), Richler, Tosches, and Doestoevsky I was reading back when I was still soft and malleable, it creeped into my own writing and I eventually started to recognize my stuff as actual rock-write, or at least wrock-rite. And then I started doing interviews and profiles and the odd feature (like when I was Santa!), but record reviews were always my bread and free CDs were my butter.
I pretty quickly got to the point where I was getting about 10x more CDs every week than I could ever hope to review, never mind listen to. Most of the time I selected which CD would get the honour of 150 of my words by no less arbitrary means than do I have a good joke I could hang around the album?
I had a lot of good jokes, and probably would've been better off writing record reviews disguised as comedy routines than vice versa, but no one was offering me 10-to-25 cents/word for comedy routines four-to-eight times a month. Do the math, in Regina, in the early 2000s, you could almost pay your rent on that. You couldn't eat or turn on the lights, but you could pay your rent. Wait a minute, I just did the math, you couldn't pay your rent on record reviews, but you could probably pay one bill. Like maybe your phone bill, if you didn't have any friends.
Anyway, good times. I wrote for dailies, weeklies, bi-weeklies, monthlies, bi-monthlies, and I even did one assignment for a quarterly, though I never got paid for it, even though the peice ran (minus my byline, which is why I missed it for over a year, which kinda makes it my fault for not getting paid--well no, it's still Mr. Campbell's fault, and I'd still like the money). And for all the money I wasn't making from my writing (or a variety of dayjobs), I always had a giant box of CDs to sell at the end of the month.
But I also had an ever-growing number of boxes full of CDs that I hadn't yet reviewed for whatever reason, but still loved and intended to review someday.
SOMEDAY = TODAY!
Joel RL Phelps The Downer Trio
Phelps used to be in Silkworm, who may have opened for Shellac in Regina in 1999. But at the time Customs came out, I kept getting Silkworm and Spoon mixed up, so don't count on it. Phelps left the band, moved to the Kootenays or somewhere, and started the Downer Trio. Which is exactly what it sounds like, ie, not a band for your wedding. I mentioned Shellac earlier and now I'm gonna call back to that, because they are/were(?) also a trio that specialized in downers with monstrous percussion. So if you like that, you'll like this. But if you prefer the brutally exposed emotional honesty of the Mountain Goats, you will also like Customs. Phelps treads both the power-rocker and the troubadour (seriously, there's some non-hyphenated folk troubadour stuff on this alb) paths, usually at the same time, and usually with a sense of macho grace that thoroughly distinguishes him from either of the bands I just compared him to.
Customs, like the rest of Phelps's Downer Trio stuff, is currently out of print, which is a fucking shame. Phelps seems to have disappeared from the music bizz altogether in the last four years, which, y'know, good for him/bad for us.
mp3: "From Up Here" by Joel RL Phelps Downer Trio - This is the first cut, and it starts off so tough and crunchy, but then a steel drum comes in doesn't change the tone or tenor, but gives it something unexpected, something perfect.
mp3: "Kelly Grand Forks" by Joel RL Phelps Downer Trio - My parents lived in Grand Forks, BC before I was born. Then, after I was born, I lived not all that far from Grand Forks, ND, though I never went there. This song also features amazing percussion, but I like it even more for the cutting lyrics like "you can freeze your faith and loyalty because that's what winter's for".
*You too can write a country & western hit!
Friday, November 07, 2008
Of course, the last thing I need right now is $50 collection of comics from the 60s. But a boy can dream, can't he?
mp3: "Sweatshirt Cowboy" by the Woodsmen
mp3: "I Been Rich All My Life" by the Woodsmen
A little over a month ago I went to a party. I know, bad idea. It was mostly okay, work-related, lotsa people I actually like, etc. But somehow I got cornered into a conversation with a fella who seemed intent on impressing me with the fact that he works in "Web 2.0, you know what that is?"
"Um, that means you're on Facebook?"
I spent the next 25 minutes in the year 2006. And yeah, basically the dude sets up Facebook accounts for businesses. Which is fine, but the guy had that evangelical zeal for "interactive online community" that inevitably trumps content or even function. Which is, like, at the corner of Nowhere Street and Whocares Avenue. My unwelcome Ajax tutorial finally ended when I admitted to having a blog but not having a solid SEO strategy.
Tuesday, November 04, 2008
But the Neins Circa themselves were out on tour across the country all fall, so the CD release show hasn't even happened yet!
You can be a part of the magic on Friday, November 28 at the Western Front, 303 E. 8th. Word around town is that the Ripper himself will be there and will be a solo set. NICE.
mp3: "Little Chris" by the Neins Circa
Friday, October 31, 2008
The spookiest day of the year is here, and since there's no upcoming Batman movie to hype (yet), I'm gonna recommend a novel. Richard Brautigan's The Hawkline Monster: A Gothic Western is not necessarily more spooky than Trout Fishing in America or Sombrero Fallout, but if you've recently read Ray Bradbury's The Halloween Tree, why not? It's as much a Western as it is a Horror novel, but it's not really either in anyway that fevered fans of either genre will recognize. Mostly it's a Brautigan novel, and it's one I no longer have a copy of--haven't for a dozen years. Someday I'll build a nice library of Brautigan volumes, but I'm gonna wait until I have a big house to haunt with shelves and nooks and secret passages.
mp3: "Be the Last to Stay in a Haunted House" by the Howling Hex
Thursday, October 30, 2008
mp3: Live in Toronto, 1997 by Bluebeard
Tonight they're playing with the also excellent Octoberman, who I've never seen live, but I think I interviewed him/them at one point (which is a safe bet for any CanRock outfit who operated between 1997 and 2006).
mp3: "Good Days" by FemBots
mp3: "Run from Safety" by Octoberman
Friday, October 24, 2008
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
SHAZHMMM... - An extremely likable comic review site with a winning he said/she said thing going on. It's like Siskel & Ebert but you read it. And it's about comics. But, y'know, two intelligent, articulate people with broad tastes discussing new releases (and sometimes older stuff).
Areas of My Expertise - You know John Hodgman. But did you know he wrote a book? But did you know he wrote another?
mp3: "Wallace Stevens" by Vic Chesnutt
mp3: "Shelter" by Bedouin Soundclash
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
The Pacific Northwest US in the fall is a lot like the lower mainland in the fall. Only with more Giant Sand. Same amount of Chad Vangaalen, though.
But they were both in the same spot on Sunday night, the Triple Door. It's a reformed supper club on Union Street with a tasty menu and excellent sightlines.
C-van-G was up first, just him and his drummer. "Our bass player left," he said. Mostly C-van-G played one of those electronic electric guitars like Lou Reed played on the Velvets reunion, which is a good guitar to play if you don't have a bass player, because it gives a big sound. Vangaalen & drums played really well, as we noshed on green beans and papaya salad. The only thing was C-van-G sang all of his songs in his falsetto-y voice, which is cool, especially on songs like "Willow Tree" and "City of Electric Light", but I know he has more range than that.
Giant Sand, which is Howe Gelb and three Danes these days, was something else, man. "So," Gelb gravelled, "did you enjoy dinner? Are we dessert? Are we desert? Are we dez-zert?"
They mostly played from proVISIONS, the new Giant Sand alb, but also culled from other rekkids, including Gelb's 'Sno Angel Like You--maybe the greatest record ever. Gelb played a lot of guitar, but also played some piano--both keys and strings. Sometimes he'd start in one song, and then finish in another. And they skipped all my favourite songs, like "Out There" and "Well Enough Alone" from the new album, but did play a real fine take on "Ain't Misbehavin'" and encored with "Shiver".
Howe bemoaned the malfunction, and the ramifications thereof, of his blue effects pedal, but rejoiced in the ultra-reverb of his yellow pedal. He lit feedback cherrybombs under the soft-cushioned seats of the dinner club crowd, myself included, who'd maybe become a little too comfortable amid the fine food, luxury and sophisticated Americana leanings. It was kinda monstrous, kinda beautiful, all at the same time. Just like America.
We got tunes today from Seattle cowboy band who wear masks. Brent Amaker & the Rodeo's new album Howdy Do! is expected in November, and they'll spend the rest of the year playing shows in the US of A.
mp3: "When Love Gets to a Man" by Brent Amaker & the Rodeo
mp3: "Girls Are Good For Lots of Things" by Brent Amaker & the Rodeo
Sunday, October 19, 2008
While Harper's Tories have gained a substantial number of new seats, their gains in the popular vote were marginal. The difference between popular vote and seats won is pretty striking in general, especially comparing the numbers of both for the Bloc versus the Greens. No wonder the Greens are such big fans of proportional representation.
As I write, Dion is probably drafting his resignation speech. Which means that Harper--who has now failed to win a majority government twice in less than three years and faced zero public criticism from within his own party--will get a free ride in Parliament for at least another year as the Grits deal with their internal issues at the expense of the majority of Canadians. You know, the ones who didn't vote for Harper and do not want to him to have a de facto majority government, which is what he gets when the Liberals prop up his minority by abstaining from voting in Parliament because they're still unprepared to face the electorate.
The Liberals' bullshit head-in-the-sand technique not only makes them look ineffective and gives Harper the power to do as he pleases, it also gives the NDP room to posture and position themselves as English-speaking Canada's official opposition without fear that they'll trigger yet another election.
Can the federal Liberals even survive another two years in the wilderness? It will be next spring at the earliest before they elect a new leader. But will another struggle between Bob Rae and Michael Ignatieff strengthen the beleaguered party, or will it just enflame the grudges between the various Liberal factions who did a terrible job of pretending to present a united front during this fall's campaign?
There will be much made of Stephane Dion's disgraceful position of being only the second leader of the federal Liberals in history not to wear the Right-Honourable title of Prime Minister (who was the other? who cares?), and Dion has earned that ignoble distinction for failing to galvanize his own party, never mind the Canadian people. But these fancy-pants Liberal Insiders we keep hearing about, who have been whispering off the record about their dislike for Dion for the last 24 months, surely must bear the weight of perpetuating the image of a party so smugly convinced it is "The Natural Ruling Party" of Canada that it ignores its Parliamentary duty, ignores the electorate who voted for it, and even ignore the basic political necessity of effectively criticizing the competition.
It's this last one that bothers me the most. Harper's first term in government was so obviously sleazy and contemptible that it should have been a slam-dunk to turf his daycare-killing, climate-change-denying ass. But nobody called him on it. He didn't have to run on his record, he didn't even have to run on a platform. The Liberals effectively handed Harper this election, and if they don't get their shit together and learn how to be the Official Opposition they were elected as, they certainly won't find their way back to Government in another two years, when Harper calls his next snap election.
mp3: "City of Electric Light" by Chad VanGaalen
Friday, October 10, 2008
Things to think about when you vote on Tuesday:
"Dead people don't detox." There are approximately 4,700 injection-drug users (PDF) in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside. Vancouver Coastal Health has 316 detox beds (PDF). So even if everybody woke up tomorrow morning ready to take that step toward recovery, the support isn't there for them all. In the meantime, we as a society can do something to reduce the harm (PDF) drug addiction creates for both addicts and the public. In Vancouver, we have a Supervised Injection Site that helps prevent overdose deaths, the transmission of HIV and Hep C, connects users with health care treatment and increases their chances of entering detox and recovery. Stephen Harper's Tories want to shut it down and send drug addicts to prison. Prison, it turns out, doesn't help addicts kick. Go figure.
Climate Change is gonna hurt. What's going on now with the economy is a lot like what's happening with the environment. We've been living beyond our means and the payment's coming due. Some things are still manageable, some are gone for good. It's time to grow the fuck up and deal with this.
Good luck, Canada. Hopefully Quebec will pull through for us. See you in ten days or so.
mp3: "Start Your Own Country" by the Parkas
Thursday, October 09, 2008
You Don't Know From Hurt doles out oracle-like opinions on comics before they even come out! They read, or plan to read, a lot of the same comics I plan to read and share a lot of my conflicted feelings on being a grown-ass man reading funnybooks.
Four-Colour Words (note the U) is hosted by The Walrus (again, note the U), and is therefore a little more, um, Seth-positive.
mp3: "Intentions Alone" by the Olympic Symphonium
Wednesday, October 08, 2008
mp3: "Going Out Tonight" by Andrew Vincent
Monday, October 06, 2008
I've put a bunch more stuff up for sale. Some of it colossally good, some of it abysmally awful. You can decide for yourself which is which. I've still got a tonne more, and finally figured out a sensible plan for moving product (Showcase Presents volumes don't travel well, it's like sticking a phonebook in the mail), so I'll be listing more as the week progresses. Shop soon, shop often, I am always glad to take your money.
mp3: "Stop the Pusher" by Bo Diddley
Oh sure, payday is a good time to be a man, so's when you have to use the bathroom in a nightclub, or if you'd like to be a Member of Parliament. But skipping out on the rigours of pregancy, well, it kinda makes me want to belch a sigh of manly relief. We get to be a part of Life's Greatest MiracleTM without gaining 30 lbs, suffering wild mood swings, peeing every twenty minutes or losing our taste for green beans (though I suspect Nicole never really liked my green beans and is just using pregnancy as an excuse to put the kibosh on them without hurting my feelings). We're never kicked in the bladder from within, never have to take a break to catch our breath going up the front stairs. All we have to do is raise our game a little bit, be a little quicker to offer foot rubs, pick up a few more household chores, eat two servings of green beans, whatever. Oh yeah, and not brag or complain about how we're a larger portion of the daily things that make life go by--especially when we're doing a terrible job at keeping up with the larger projects like clearing out the clutter (ie, 25 yrs of comics) from the eventual baby room.
Where you run into trouble, though, as an expectant father, is when you're out in public alone. When you're out with your baby mama, at least, people know. Things are going on in your life and you're afforded certain niceties. You can smile at young children with impunity. You can marvel at the souped up Peg Perego travel system and no one bats an eye. Other couples out and about with infants make eye contact and transmit warnings of fatigue--joyous fatigue, but fatigue, don't kid yourself, man. And a pregnant woman alone...forget about it. Nicole has regaled me with stories of walking home (a whole four blocks) with two bags of groceries. Everyone who passed her by looked on with concern and pity. If I'm walking down the street weighed down by cans of refried beans and split pea soup, I better not show any strain or I'll get shanked passing by the D&D store.
It's a sunny afternoon in early September and I'm sitting in the park, alone, reading Dan Fesperman's first novel and drinking a pretty lousy Americano, because Beans is closed on Monday. Despite the sun, I've got a Sarajevo funk on from spending all day with Lie In The Dark. I'm identifying more with Vlado Petric this time around (he's also the lead in Fesperman's second novel, Small Boat of Great Sorrows), because I'm starting to see myself as a father. Like Vlado, I've been separated from my wife and child. He, because they've fled Sarajevo for an indifferent Berlin; me, because I work the nightshift and miss too much time with my growing family. Okay, so it's not really the the same. Not even close. But, y'know, on a metaphoric level... And there's the whole business of how the parts of my family that are not are still contained within a single unit, like a Vancouver Special.
So there's me, Vlado, and hell, why not Rebus? Sitting alone in the park with our inadequate coffee, spending a rare nice day with a book full of gray. Quietly, shamefully, more at home in our morose solitude, in our weird otherness. In my fifth-dimensional imagination, writing is the same as sleuthing, and so my brow is always furrowed with the waves of mystery.
But now it's October, and I'm not on the nightshift anymore. Now the days are gray and wet, though my nights are clear. It's a tradeoff, but it's worth it. Now I'm home when it matters to be home, when home is home and not a bunch of rooms full of books and comics that I can't figure out what to do with.
And I've got next week off, which means I'll be out of the country when the election results come in. With any luck, I'll be somewhere without access to the election results. I'll be in some cabin by the ocean, reading by the shine of a lighthouse.
But first, I'll be in Seattle, watching Giant Sand (and Chad Van Gaalen) with my wife and fetus. I think I've already mentioned how my life is nearly perfect.mp3: "Belly Full of Fire" by Giant Sand
mp3: "Well Enough Alone" by Giant Sand
Friday, October 03, 2008
First of all, both the NDP and Liberals have very strong candidates running against the Tories' Ray Boughen. The NDP, with the support of 35.7% of decided voters are running Don Mitchell, who, like Boughen, is a former mayor of Moose Jaw. Mitchell's got a long history of political and social activism in the Em-Jay of Ess-Kay (he's also the brother of Ken Mitchell, who once wrote a rock opera with Humphrey and the Dumptrucks) going back to when political and social activism meant something. The Liberals, with the support of a disappointing 17.3%, have a star candidate in former Regina police chief Cal Johnston. I had hopes in the early days of this election of Johnston as Justice Minister, but it's sadly obvious that won't happening soon. Johnston surely has better ideas for improving the justice system than Harper's Fresh Meat approach.
At first it seems strange that a riding that includes my sentimental favourite part of Regina is being dominated by Moose Javians. But then, Regina has never really been much of a breeding ground for politicians who "matter". Provincially, most of our best pols have traditionally been either rural, or from Saskatoon. And federally, well, what can we say about Ralph Goodale anyway? Municipally, well, fuck, that's depressing.
What makes Boughen's not-quite-insurmountable lead--along with the likelihood of another near-sweep for the Tories in Saskatchewan--all the more depressing, though, is how shitty the Conservative Party presence has been in Saskatchewan lately. Mostly, the Saskatchewan Tory Candidates are doing their best to stay out of public view, as Murray Mandryk tells us. From Gerry Ritz to Tom Lukiwski to Michelle Hunter, Saskatchewan Conservative candidates have decided that their best strategy for election or re-election is to make themselves scarce.
Sadly, it seems like a winning strategy. It seems like only Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Danny Williams is the only person on the federal scene willing to call the Harper government on their broken deals with Saskatchewan.
Maybe the drubbing Potash Corp. has taken on the markets this week will give my dear Saskatchewan second thoughts about the blank cheque they're about to write Harper.
mp3: "Summertime" by Feuermusik
Thursday, October 02, 2008
Wednesday, October 01, 2008
highlights from pmharper:
- Tonight I attended my high school reunion in Toronto. It was great to see old friends. 06:44 PM September 27, 2008
- Great rally in Rockland, Ontario. Photos at http://tinyurl.com/4q9ne5 05:29 PM September 19, 2008
- Attended a campaign rally in Chicoutimi, Québec. 04:29 PM September 17, 2008
highlights from jacklayton:
- FACTCHECK: Oil companies did benefit from Harper's economic policies: http://www.ndp.ca/page/7113 about 2 hours ago
- getting ready for tonight's debate in french, tomorrow's in english... about 14 hours ago
- Getting ready for the debates... French language debate’s tomorrow night. 02:26 PM September 30, 2008
highlights from liberaltour:
- Stéphane Dion won decisively! He clearly demonstrated that he is the only leader with a credible plan for Canada's economy! about 1 hour ago
- Dion does what Harper refuses: to talk with ordinary Canadians. Today, Stéphane went to Algonquin College and met with students and staff. 11:17 AM September 29, 2008
- "Nervous energy gets my adrenaline flowing" was how Stéphane answered a question about the debates next week. More Dion unplugged to come. 12:24 PM September 27, 2008
I can't help but believe that Harper feeds his own Twitter. It has that terse, unreflective tone of a guy who can't hug his kids in public. The whole Politics 2.0 remains kinda forced and more than a little skeevy. It's a Catch-22. If you're running for Parliament, and you don't have Facebook profile, people will think you're a hopelessly out-of-touch fuddy-duddy. If you do have a Facebook profile, they'll know that you are.
mp3: "Cheap Wine Time" by RTX (courtesy Drag City, get it while it's up)
Tuesday, September 30, 2008
I was on Carrall Street, taking the first part of the dinner break of my last nightshift. I missed most of the art, but there was still some lingering around, mixing in with the panhandlers, nightclubbers and other Gastown regulars. He was in a closed circle of conversation. I was eating streetza (which has mysteriously dropped back down to a dollar a slice, after rising to $1.25 last January and then peaking at $1.50 this summer). I thought about going over and introducing myself, but then I saw some coworkers and decided to make awkward smalltalk with them instead.
It's the second time Henderson crept into my life today. I woke up sometime before noon to Jian Ghomeshi promoting tomorrow's episode of Q, where Henderson will argue the relevancy of The Catcher In The Rye.
I first read Catcher in the ninth grade, during my one-year stint at Evan Hardy. Henderson was in Grade 12 that year, and was one of the editors of Crampl, the school's literary and art annual that published at least one of my poems and a pencil drawing of Sting(who I had seen in concert the summer before) I may have traced. Probably not though, as I was drawing a lot that year, mostly copying off Keith Giffen's Legion of Super-Heroes art. I borrowed the book from the school library, which makes it entirely possible that Henderson and I both read The Catcher In The Rye for the first time from the same volume. Which is interesting and isn't. I dunno, it's interesting to me.
Henderson's got a new book out called The Man Game. It looks good. It looks real good. My current moratorium on new books is really hard to uphold. I reviewed his book of short stories, The Broken Record Technique, for the P-Dog way back when. And also interviewed him via email, which is more like exchanging emails and less like interviewing.
On Sunday, I saw him read at the Word on the Street fair downtown. I laughed a little at a part no one else laughed at, more an appreciative laugh at a fine turn of words than a laugh-at-a-joke laugh. I think he looked at me, but I was way in the back.
About a month ago, co-worker Ryan--the man I've spent nearly every single night with for the last year--told me that I look just like Neal Henderson, "you know, the writer?"
What did he write?
"The Man Game."
This was before the book had even been reviewed by the Globe & Mail.
Oh, you mean Lee Henderson.
"Yeah, whatever. You look just like him. We were riding the bus the other day, and this girl was had his book, and she was talking on her cell. She was saying that the book was kind of boring, but she had to read it for a class or something. And Neal I mean Lee was right there. I asked him how that made him feel, and he...."
And then Ryan shrugged his shoulders.
When I got back from my walkabout tonight, I looked in the mirror. I tried to see what Ryan was talking about. Sure, both Henderson and I wear glasses. And we are both wearing checked button-up shirts tonight, just as we both were on Sunday. That's when I noticed a small patch of stubble I missed when I shaved this afternoon. I looked at the shadows under my eyes, the result of two years of working nights. Two years of being underslept and malnourished and missing out on spending time with my wife (who's only been my wife for two months, but, y'know). That all comes to an end tonight. This is my last night shift. I should be commemorating it somehow, but instead I'm thinking about how close Lee Henderson's shave looked tonight. I'm thinking that he doesn't drowsily scrub his face with an electric razor once every couple of days like some character in a Rebus novel. I'm thinking that he takes the time, uses a hot towel and everything. Maybe even eucalyptus. I bet he uses a straightblade, an antique, with something ruggedly arcane on the celluloid handle. Something like a lighthouse with a sea serpent wrapped around it, or well, probably something that looks like an early Marcel Dzama drawing. (Dzama illustrated The Broken Record Technique, so, like, go figure.)
video: "Shiver" by Giant Sand
Monday, September 29, 2008
mp3: "Going Out of My Mind Sale" by Johnny Adams
Saturday, September 27, 2008
In some jurisdictions, someone illegally employing nearly two dozen underage workers might be looking at criminal charges. But not in Brad Wall's Saskatchewan.
mp3: "Done Got Old" by the Heartless Bastards
Thursday, September 25, 2008
My life is insanely great right now. It's not perfect, not by a long shot. But stepping back and looking at the big picture, things have never been better. I could list them all, but that'd just be cocky, and would probably jinx all the great things that are right around the corner.
mp3: "I Believe In You" by Lambchop
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
And there's no bigger secret elite the rockers of Saskatoon. They're so secret, hardly anyone's ever even of heard of them, let alone heard 'em. So consider yourself priveliged. You're about to get Saved By Saskatoon, which is the name of a brand new compilation from Saved By Radio/Saved By Vinyl, a Calgary record label that puts out some of the finest CanRock this side of the Canadian Sheild.
mp3: "Class Action Lawsuit" by Junior Pantherz
mp3: "My Ghost Your Ghost" by Pearson
Monday, September 22, 2008
The Rock & Roll equivalent of the Patriot Act, an album called Going Steady, meanwhile, was released in Regina over the weekend. The mighty Rah Rah, a conglomerate of kids born in an era when jowled titans like John Crosbie and Joe Clark roamed the earth. They write beautiful songs about the ugly things, and they live in Regina--where there's a lot of ugly things to write about. I'm still waiting for a song about the old Superstore building where Downtown meets North Central, where the city shrugs its shoulders and claims no responsibility. While I wait, though, here's a song that mentions good ol' Dave Batters, the beleagured outgoing Tory MP for Palliser. Immortalized in song! That oughtta raise his spirits.
mp3: "The Innocent One" by Rah Rah
Saturday, September 20, 2008
Thursday, September 18, 2008
It's become painfully obvious to me that my heroes have always been either shitheels or schmucks--and occasionally a little of both. My favourite writers are generally the worst of the lot, a trainwreck of drunks, creeps, and the odd anti-semite. My favourite fictional characters don't fare much better, from crypto-fascists to workaholic louts. As always, the literary world has let me down.
Jazzbos shine a little brighter in the character department, but their names tend towards being so common their significance would be lost. So scratch Ken, Diz, or Albert. There's a certain amount of cachet in using jazzers' last names as first names, but that's problematic too. Mingus is a great name for a cat, but a kid? Dolphy, meanwhile has two knocks against it. A) I'd really hate for someone to think it's short for Adolph. B) Who the hell wants to go through third grade named Dolphy?
Names is hard. Hard like math. But the Theater Fire is easy. Last we heard from the Fort Worth, TX octet, they were travelling undercover as the Howling Hex on You Can't Beat Tomorrow, both the album and the variety show. They've got a new album, Matter and Light, not coming out until December (lotsa fun stuff happening this December! Can't wait!), but were kind enough to send a teaser, which is absolutely the best thing I've heard all year (sorry, everyone else). "Swashbuckler Blues", heard below, recalls Muswell Hillbillies + I dunno, Calexico x just about everything I like in music right now. Watch this space for more on the
Theatre Fire in coming weeks.
mp3: "Swashbuckler Blues" by The Theater Fire
* I have long ago made peace with my first name and come to not only like, but to revel in it.
EDIT: for about 45 minutes, I accidentally had the wrong song linked above. Just long enough for the Hype Machine to pick up on it. Oops. The above song is now corrected, and if you're looking for a hot track from the upcoming Rah Rah album, check back soon!
Monday, September 15, 2008
Thursday, September 11, 2008
What led me to write was two things. One, Ebert's review of Gus Van Sant's Gerry. The movie that hadn't even been on my radar, but by 2003 I had figured out how read Ebert's copy on the L-P sked in advance of publication and did so often. Two, a friend of my brother told me that his mom was a fan of my writing. They had recently seen me walking down 13th and Jesse's pal pointed me out to his mom. She was surprised at my appearance, she told her son. From the way I wrote, she always thought I would look like Roger Ebert. "I took this," I closed my letter to Ebert with, "as a compliment."
I wouldn't have even known there was anything wrong with my letter if Ebert wasn't a classy enough guy to write back. "From the sounds of it, you do," was his entire missive. What the hell was that supposed to mean? Then I read back over my original. Instead writing that my brother's friend's mom thought I would look like Ebert, I left out look, which made me look like a dumb jerk.
I remember considering writing Ebert again to explain my typo, but finally decided that the best thing to do was not draw more attention to my dumb ass.
Moral: proofread, proofread, proofread
The point of posting this now: Ebert sums up GOP vice-prez wannabe Sarah Palin. While I admire his movie writing to no end, and they more often than not offer up meditations on meatbag existence in general, I sure the hell enjoy it when he steps outside the theatre.
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
Speaking of trees, mainly what I'm doing is getting rid of books. I love books. I love buying them, I love reading them, I love looking at 'em. Some of my fondest childhood memories are spending what felt like entire afternoons scouring the shelves of the Mayfair Branch of the Saskatoon Public Library, or on special occasions the awesome main branch downtown--whose children's section was the stuff of legend, especially Pooh Corner, which I remember as being accessible only by a tunnel too small for adults to fit. Mainly I was interested in the Hardy Boys series, the old blue hardcovers, which had a strange smell about them I would come to associate with books. For my birthday, maybe my 6th or 7th, I got The Hardy Boys Detective Handbook, which was the most mind-bending piece of literature I'd seen since The Empire Strikes Back Book-on-Record.
A few times, my ambition would get the better of my reading level. I once checked out an Albert Einstein biography that was beyond me, but luckily my mom took a break from the Narnia and Madeleine L'Engle books that were the staples of bedtime to read it to me. Whatever I gleaned from having the book read to me is now forever intermingled with dim memories of the Yahoo Serious movie. Einstein's afterlife, however, I'm much more clear on.
Anyway, the baby room. My books. I've got too many. I need to get rid of some. Right. Because supposedly a baby and a mountain of books can't co-exist. So this afternoon I filled my biggest backpack full of books and trudged over to my favourite used book store on Main Street. It's the place I would go to find the books I have to get rid of if I hadn't already read them. It's curious the way the dynamic changes when the clerk realizes you're in there to get rid of books rather than buy them. When I'm buying books there, there's plenty of chat and small talk, what we in the business like to call relationship-building. When I'm trying to lighten my literary load, on the other hand, it's polite but terse. No small talk. At all.
So the clerk is going through my pile of books. He examines the books and divides them into two piles. With every new volume he rifles through, I have to resist a growing urge to snatch the books back and run down the street screaming, "NEVER! You'll never get my books! They're mine! All mine!"
But really, rationally, what do I need with my old copy of Kerouac's Big Sur? Am I going to read it again? Not a chance. I'd sooner reread Desolation Angels or Dr. Sax anyday. Which is why I'm keeping them. Just in case. I have an unreasonable fantasy that I'm going to reread all my favourite books--not when I'm old, but, like, this weekend. Yeah, fat chance. I get it. So let them take my books. Let someone else carry that weight.
The clerk takes a second look at my run of early 00s Best American Crime Writing anthologies, and suddenly I decide that those are the most indispensible books I've ever owned. Now they're going to be gone forever! I can feel a panic attack coming. The clerk shifts them over to the pile closest to me. "These ones," he says, pointing at that pile of books, "thanks, but no thanks." A wave of relief. Although I'm shocked and a little saddened he didn't want my copy of The Last Honest Man.
The clerk makes me a very reasonable offer on store credit for a little over half the books I lugged in, and I take it. I should take cash, but you get less, and who am I kidding, I'm going to buy more books. Maybe not today, and maybe not tomorrow, but Friday. Friday, I'm definitely going to buy more books. I've already eyed-up a copy of the recent Houdini biography on the shelf at the front of the store. Sorry, Nicole.mp3: "Television" by Robyn Hitchcock
mp3: "Television Man" by Man...Or Astro-man?