Saturday, December 10, 2005

Wilco's Jeff Tweedy on File Sharing

Admittedly, the bulk of this AP interview (from the Mercury News in San Jose, CA) is reporter John Carrucci asking basic band questions of Jeff Tweedy. However, I liked the Wilco frontman's take on file sharing and thought I'd pass it along. It's not long or profound; it won't make you run for your dictionary. Just one very successful musician talking about his craft and it's distribution. Without giving it all away, here's a quick bite:
I think more than anything else it has engendered an enthusiasm for music. It's a no-brainer that it should be embraced, that's kind the whole point of making music, to be heard. The only thing that stands in the way of making sense to most people is greed.
Nicely put.

via Pregnant Without Intercourse who got it from Largehearted Boy...My God, it's like a disease! Quick! Call a Royal Commission!

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Freedom from the Chains

Former Canadian crime reporter Jeremy Mercer has selected his top ten bookshops in the world. He seems to have missed mine, but This Ain't The Rosedale Library made the list, so that's cool. From this article in the Guardian:
Bookstores are sanctuaries. Places to lose yourself, escape the harsh demands of daily life, find new ways to dream and new sources of inspiration. I love all booksellers; anybody who helps spread the word is doing noble work. But my favourite bookstores are the small eccentric independents run by passionate and usually slightly mad book lovers. These are some of the best.

So for those travelling hither and yon, here's a way to unshackle thyself from the chain stores.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Ok Go Say No Go

To be clear, I'm not about theft. I don't condone stealing from hard working artists. I do, however, have a hard time with people screwing around with my computer without my explicit permission. This is why I won't buy Sony/BMG CDs again. And I'm not alone. Damian Kulash Jr., the lead singer for OK Go has a hard time with a large media conglomerate (which also makes money from recording media manufacture) screwing around with a young band's audience. Check out his opinion piece in the New York Times.

Copyright and intellectual property isn't a cut and dry issue. It's about control. Too often the creators of art/inventions/innovations don't have it. This is the true crime.

Via the springy boing boing

Monday, December 05, 2005

Movie Review: The Squid and the Whale

The Squid and the Whale
Director & Writer: Noah Baumbach

I imagine you’ve read and heard everyone rave about this picture. Pay attention. The Squid and the Whale, based on director/writer Noah Baumbach’s boyhood is a poignant story written with honest candour.

Set in 1986 Brooklyn, in the Park Slope neighbourhood, the story bares the pain, anger, and confusion of the Berkman family divorce. The father, Bernard (Jeff Daniels), has seen his literary star dull while he polishes the work of his grad students. Meanwhile, his wife Joan (Laura Linney) is making a dent in the New York world of letters. The boys Frank (Owen Kline) and Walt (Jesse Eisenberg) bear the brunt of adult frustrations and infidelity.

Baumbach’s writing is top notch and scathing. While the characters demand a certain amount of empathy or anger, they are written and played with human complexity thereby failing to deliver cliché. Veterans Daniels and Linney are both great but merely support the heart-wrenchingly sweet performances of Kline and Eisenberg. You cannot take your eyes or ears off of either of them. Boys are definitely boys here; no soft-focus saccharine sentimentality; no purposeful twanging of heartstrings. Both actors will make strong dramatic appearances again, one hopes.

A wonderful film.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Wanna See Someone About a Horse

Patti Smith's Horses is 30 years old and it still kicks the llama's ass. This is a seminal punk record because it didn't mean to be; it happened. Every self-respecting music fan must own this. Don't believe me? Check out Will Hermes' article in the Village Voice.

More from me later...when my eyes are less fried and my brain is more thawed. Unless someone sends me on an all-expense-paid trip to New York to witness Ms.Smith perform...Takers? Anyone?

Monday, October 24, 2005

Something to keep you busy this winter...

Here is Time Magazine's "Top 100 English-Language Novels From 1923 to the Present." How they settled on that year, I have no idea. Now to determine how many I've read...fifteeen. Not bad. Only eighty-five to go. Glad I have a library card.

via Quill & Quire which got it from The Morning News which published some silly reviews from priggish readers who thought it was clever to post their thoughts on Amazon. Jeez, I just thought it was the author's mum who did such things!

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

A Study in Ketchup

Where to begin? Without boring you with too many silly personal details, I’m currently working two jobs while going to school. What can I say? You don’t do publishing for the money.

And Muse Ink isn’t the only thing I’m hustling to catch-up with. I’ve been scratching together my pennies for a few shows and accompanying CDs. So here we go. But first I’ll need to see some ID and check your person for drugs and weapons. No joke.

Oct. 3 2005
The Posies w/ Lou Barlow opening
Lee’s Palace.

It’s been maybe nine years since The Posies graced a stage here in Toronto. Same bar. Worse sound. Big apologies. This time great sound and big rocking show. Much of the set consisted of tracks from Amazing Disgrace with some of their classic early singles (“Suddenly Mary”) thrown in just for me. Relentless.True blessed-blue power pop. More dynamic than their records simply because they can throw themselves around the stage. The grateful audience loved it. And during the last encore, Jon Auer and Ken Stringfellow played in the audience—guitars, mics, and stands—with out bass or drums for much of it. Ah, so good. Just such a great sow.

Lou Barlow’s inclusion on the bill fit surprisingly nicely, too. Accompanied by tape loops, a keyboard, two mics (one with sound-effects), he provided a gentle lovely pop intro. Good songwriting and audience interaction. Quite nice.

CD? The Posies’ Jon Auer worked the merch table and kindly autographed a limited edition (#697) solo record called The Birthday Party. Sounds like he looked himself up to a four track and played acoustic versions of songs some of which I know (“I May Hate You Sometimes”) and others I don’t. Plus, he covers Big Star’s “Thirteen.” Yep, this was a happy surprise and a worthwhile experiment.

So all is right in Posies-land.

Oct. 9, 2005 (Turkey Day-eve)
New Pornographers w/ Immaculate Machine and Destroyer

I’ve seen the New Pornographers twice, each tour supporting each record. Maybe it was me, maybe the muddy sound, but somehow the sparkle was dimmed tonight. No one shook their snow balls (except for drummer Kurt Dahle; someone did something to his snow ball cause he was the most fun). They mentioned something about equipment going missing or getting stolen. Not sure about the story behind that. Maybe it was a bad night; they certainly weren’t mid-tour. Apparently they’re headed across the US then off to Europe. Technically they were great; no false notes. The between song banter was strained, but that happens. Maybe it was me.

I can’t say much about Immaculate Machine as I walked in just as they were wrapping up their set. Check our their Web site for more information about the poppy trio. Things that stood out: solid drumming and the keyboardist later played with New Pornographers.

Destroyer (Dan Bejar’s project—not the KISS cover band) are not my taste, as I soon found out. After hearing so much internet chatter about this band/guy, I was curious. Indulgent. Good guitarist, but inaccessible lyrically. My subjective two cents. Maybe I’ll give him another listen, but I suspect the work I’ll like most are those songs he contributes to New Pornographers.

So, yes, I bought Twin Cinema. Musically its holds up well to Mass Romantic and The Electric Version (the former being my favourite, I confess). There’s something else going on though. I hear a 70s pop sensibility eking through, which is new (“These Are The Fables” and “Sing Me Spanish Techno”). The layered harmonies that are so wonderful are still at work here(“Falling Through Your Clothes”) and there’s a Byrd-ish riff sneaking in “Jackie, Dressed in Cobras.” I wish they’d grace us with lyrics in the liner notes. Next time? Please?

Okay. Fed and watered on the West Coast.

Oct. 17 2005
Son Volt w/ The Fruitbats
Opera House

And so I come full circle to see a “reformed” Son Volt: Jay Farrar (vocal, guitar, piano, harmonica), Dave Bryson (drums), Andrew Duplantis (bass, backing vocal), and Brad Rice (guitar). I say “full circle” because during their heyday in the 90s, I was largely cut off from a lot of new bands (long stupid story, suffice it to say I was in self-imposed exile.) When I saw the listing I penned the date in my daytimer and bought a ticket. I confess to feeling a touch of “Janey-come-lately” guilt. I’m more familiar with Farrar’s solo stuff; indeed, I saw him perform a few years back. But who cares? It’s music and so long as you find out about a band and enjoy their music what does it matter when you start? So back to the show. Son Volt were tight, professional, and didn’t waste time on talk. Almost exactly 120 minutes filled with old, new, and solo (“Barstow”) songs.

Seattle’s Fruitbats opened the show (as they do much of the tour). Just as Son Volt was a band for it’s time, so too are these guys. Sparse enough twang to fit the bill, but don’t mistake them for “alt-(cringe)-country.” Indie pop without being twee. Think Shins with a banjo and lap steel. Don’t think soundtrack (ok, do, but you get my meaning; they won’t be on The OC anytime soon, God willing.)

Despite saving my coin for a Son Volt record, there weren’t any. This freed up fifteen bucks for the Fruitbats’ Spelled in Bones. To be fair, I’m only six tracks into it as I write this. So far so good. Not trendy. Very nice instrumentation, full and lush. No obvious coattails being trod on. But they DO have liner notes. With lyrics. Hey, Carl Newman get a load o’ this!

So that’s it. I’m caught up with live shows and putting a dent in my headphone time. Next is reading. Currently I crawl into bed with Neil Gaiman and his Anansi Boys. Hopefully, I can string something meaningful together soon. I’ve also been reading the paper every day, so beware: I feel a rant coming on.

Till then, thanks for visiting! We love you Richmond, Virginia! Whoo hoo!!

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Called to the Barre

What is it with lawyers and punk bands these days? Boys, boys,'re spoiling the buzz!

From today's Guardian

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Hell Hath No Fury...

Warren Kinsella has extremely thin skin. Poor thing. Apparently Globe & Mail columnist, Carl Wilson didn't like his book, Fury's Hour. Seems we have something in common. If you recall, Wilson and I participated in the "Pregnant Without Intercourse Top Canuck 50" back in the spring.

This exchange of venom starts out from Canadian publishing trade monthly Quill & Quire. From there, you can follow the links to Wilson's Web site and move on to Kinsella's. Or you can just have a laugh, put on a record, pop a cold one, and fuck it all.

Monday, August 29, 2005

That Magic Moment...

For all you loyal readers out there, my apologies for the lack of regularlity. I've recently been promoted and with it comes, well, work. Plus I have a second job. Hey publishing doesn't pay much and I've got debts that no honest gal can pay. All this leaves little time for prose, punditry, or posts; the Fury's Hour piece took goddamn forever to drum up!

Having said that, I've grabbed a pretty decent piece from the Washington Post. It takes some time to read, but so does pouring a Guinness properly and it end, ain't it worth the time?

So, without further ado, here's David Segal and "Memoirs of a Music Man"

via the glorious Glorious Noise.


Book Review: Fury's Hour

Fury’s Hour: a (sort of) punk manifesto
By Warren Kinsella
Published by Random House
Trade paperback
$27.00 CDN
Reviewed as an uncorrected proof. (Meaning, short of a few grammatical changes, my money says the bulk remained unchanged.)

“Is punk dead?” Not an age-old question. In fact, most people couldn’t care less and those who care more are blue in the face. Me, I don’t think it ever went away and started way before Warren Kinsella presumes it did.

Fury’s Hour is the author’s attempt to make youthful angst matter more than just a fashion statement. Like many of us who came of age with “the fury” in our ears, hearts, and minds, we’re getting old and stiff. Yet, unlike the boomers and their millennial spawn, we had more hope than money. Still do; unless you get called to the bar and inhabit the back rooms of the nation’s capital with the prime minister. Then you have money and a questionable rolodex.

I suppose I take issue with someone who on one hand rests back on his greying laurels and pronounces that Johnny Lydon isn’t punk rock and in fact sold out. Yet, on the other dismisses Prime Minister Paul Martin in his book and on his web site kisses Jean Chretien’s ass. Who the fuck are you to decide what is “punk” or who “sold out,” counselor? To underscore this, it’s published by Random House, the largest English-language publisher in the world. Not that that in itself is a bad thing, but if you’re going to espouse the do-it-yourself (DIY) ethos, then, well I’m not sure the media conglomerate is necessarily the way to do it. Then again, that never bothered fellow Random House author, Naomi Klein when she released the hole-filled tome No Logo. Perhaps they wrung their hands together over a wine-spritzer and expensed the lunch.

As a primer on what happened, who happened, what to read, and what to listen to, Kinsella is pretty much on the money. It’s an historical read for kids today. But, as he confesses, so are many others. Indeed, Maximum Rock and Roll still keeps illicit photocopiers humming in drone-filled cubicle factories everywhere. And now there’s this internet thingy.

So what does Fury’s Hour have to offer that these other guys & gals don’t? It’s one of the few that documents what happened in Canada. And a lot did. Also, Kinsella ably draws on his prior investigative reportage on Nazism in this country A chilling reminder that Canada is definitely not a hippie-pot-smoking utopia. Far fucking from it.

On the other side of the zealotry coin, he addresses the splintering of Vancouver’s the Subhumans and the formation of Direct Action. DA were a band of terrorists bent on blowing shit up while trying not to hurt people. They failed. People did get hurt. Kudos to Kinsella for speaking up about this. Too many placards and not enough reason changes nothing.

Having made these salient points, he proceeds to write about feminism and racism and punk. A valiant attempt, but honestly, it sucked. Stick to what you know, sir.

With that, then, we look to the kids. Are they alright? Did we get our point across? Well, sort of, I guess. What was our point exactly? Dress funny? Swear a lot? Yell and scream? Carry placards? Adopt poor grooming habits? To find out for sure, Kinsella got warm and fuzzy with Blink 182 and Good Charlotte—Hey, I saw that! Don’t fuckin’ through the rotten tomato at me, jerkface! I’m not the one reading Billboard to find out what the kids are listening to these days! And if I did, I’d know that Rancid hasn’t made any appearances on that list lately. In MRR, maybe.

So, is punk dead, maaaaaan? No, but Kinsella and I are old farts and should keep our fuckin’ noses out of it. Punk is about energy and hope and urgency and now. Punk is rock and roll. And when you’re past it, you’ll know. No needs to tell you. You start thinking about something you didn’t when you yelled and screamed and thrashed out with energy you had no idea what to do with. You realize there is a future, and you’re not dreaming. The other side isn’t so bad, but living in the past is wrong. Dead wrong. It ain’t punk, Mr. Kinsella. Give it up because the Kids are Alright. They don’t need us.

So, in true BBC/Nick Hornby-style, here are main points again:

10. Warren Kinsella is a Liberal apologist and Chretien cheerleader. If that ain’t enough to get your Canuck blood boiling, then you voted for Teflon Jean.

9. Kinsella makes no apologies for the above and nor should he.

8. I make no apologies for despising the Liberals and Chretien and nor should I.

7. I am not a Conservative. Nor will Liberal door knockers threatening that my NDP vote will put them in power change my mind. So get the gun away from my head.

6. Fury’s Hour is a late-boomer middle-age crisis memoir.

5. Fury’s Hour demonstrates that middle-age crises have definitely changed. But I can still wait for mine…and I do have to wait.

4. Kinsella has clearly read High Fidelity.

3. Fury’s Hour demonstrates that Kinsella and I could not sit down over a pint and talk politics.

2. Fury’s Hour demonstrates that Kinsella and I could sit down over a pint and talk music.

1. In the end, point #2 is all that matters.

Thank you and good night.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Bring a cow... a years worth of frozen coffee.

From the Globe and Mail

“Mr. Chan is also worried cow patties outside the stores could become unsanitary. And he wouldn't want kids petting cows while eating ice cream. 'Hand washing could be an issue for other customers that may be touching or petting a cow at the same time they're consuming a Dairy Queen product,' he said.

But Dairy Queen's Ms. Ponath — ‘a farm girl from way back’ — thinks the concerns are overblown.

‘Cows are vegetarian. If they do poop in your driveway, it's good stuff. And with the cows sticking their heads through the window . . . we'll sanitize the drive-through after, so it's no big deal. ' "

This Vinyl Femme

The paths that are our individual lives are untravelled despite the experiences of others. This is because it is our journey and while others can provide a map, you always feel like John Cabot or Christopher Columbus—the map ain't quite right, but it will do. So it is with my record collection. The songs are expressions of emotion from the artists’ make you feel like you’re comrades in songs. But in the end this complete stranger’s need to write was entirely different than yours. It’s just skewed perception and heightened emotion that makes me believe that Johnette Napolitano, Neko Case, and I all went out with the same guy. My life was turned upside down and inside out over the past five years, little of it resembling what previously existed. This convoluted twist led me straight to my poor neglected record collection. I think it must be the best lover I've ever had and far more loyal. It's always there, always forgiving, and never forgets. Plus you never have to clean up after it.

The film High Fidelity starring John Cusack hit very close to home to the point that when I moved into my new apartment I did a double take on my record collection. Since everything else had changed, why not this? Should I forego the traditional alphabetical and year released strategy of organization which had stood me in good stead for so many years? Or should I shuffle the wax in order of life experience? Almost every record has a story. There’s Jack Elliot’s Muleskinner Blues that I discovered at the library sale for a quarter. There are the unmentionables that my friend thought I ought to own. There’s Joy Division that I bought used since I thought it important to own, played it once, and got so depressed I couldn’t play it again. There’s the Gun Club that I bought for four bucks from a buddy who routinely sold off portions of his record collection only to buy it again. Then, like most musicphiles, there are the albums we’re way too embarrassed to admit to owning, wonder why the hell we bought them, but cannot bring ourselves to sell since they’d probably work well on a mixed tape.

As for life and long players, well, I’ve discovered serious overlap in songs. Case in point: Concrete Blonde’s debut self-titled album. I got this CD as one of the first upon the purchase of my player. Then it became practically the only record I played when my then-boyfriend traveled across the country on an excursion to find himself. He later called me when he found himself covered in second degrees burns and needed to get home! Later, when we split, I played it only to cry my eyes out. Now, I play it to learn the chords.

Then there’s the Replacements’ Let It Be with the gorgeously poignant song “Answering Machine”. That predictably, was the first song I put on my first answering machine that my mum bought for me at the Canadian Tire in downtown Ottawa. Funny, that answering machine died a few months after my relationship did. The record, on the other hand, lingers on.

So what’s my point. Perhaps this is an open letter apology to my long ignored record collection. For too many years its growth has been neglected and when additions were made, they were done in fits and starts. I, like many fans, have an emotional connection to my musical recordings. These aren’t things I give up to easily, but I am eager to share and read about. I take pride in being able to the spot influences and nods to other artists. This artistic expression, this effort of blood, sweat and beers, has spanned time space and neuroses by a mere fraction of a diamond hitting a groove on a flat piece of vinyl. The tortured feelings emanating from a laser hitting a burned surface has driven me to the waiting embrace of Jack Daniels and the comfort of a Kleenex box. It has fired me up and calmed me down.

Now how is this different from anyone else? Apart from being verbose, I find few soulmates among women in this regard. Record collecting appears often the domain of men. Female friends who used to work in record shops found most record buyers albums were male. This has usually been true through the history of rock and roll. Women usually buy singles. This trend doesn’t appear to have changed much at least from my observations of record shops. I am the only XX-chromosomed human intensely perusing the record bins at thrift stores and CD racks at Sam the Record Man. My gender-mates can sometimes be found at the indie shops, but men usually dominate there too.

This must say something about me. My collection certainly does as it does for so many others. One’s personality can’t help but be reflected by it. This is why I designate a certain amount of time to nosing my way through people’s record collections at parties. If nothing else, it’s an icebreaker. Some take it as an insult that my flipping is a comment on the liveliness of the gathering. Others take it as an inspection of their “street cred”. Still others are able to pump their chests at the finding of a rare Maximum Rock and Roll compilation only to be outed by a well worn Olivia Newton John release. I don’t criticize such finds too much – living in glass houses and all.

In fact, such diversity in taste is a good thing. If the art is indeed a reflection of your life, crazy mixed up collections simply make you that much more dynamic and interesting. There may be a few ruts, but I prefer to think of them as grooves. A friend of mine declared recently that her goal in life, before marriage and babies, is owning every song she liked. A worthy goal, I think.

Special treats for me aren’t manicures or clothes or lipsticks. Rather, they are imported CDs from an artist I can’t afford to buy at any other time. Given the current rising price of CDs, however, these treats are becoming few and far between. On the other hand, I like to think of my continued purchases of CDs as cigarettes, except I’ll live long enough to listen to them when I’m old. What a life!

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Happy Mother’s Day

So what makes a great mum? Well, she got excited when she first found out she was pregnant and patted her still flat belly. Then, when we made our presence known to the world, she kept her doctor’s appointments and kept us fed, even if the food was a little weird.

Then she birthed us.

Doesn’t stop there. Mum literally gave of herself to keep us fed. She cleaned us and stayed up nights singing quietly to help us sleep. Mum taught us to talk and walk and read and write. We learned that strained peas came not in jar but on a plane that made strange noises and looked an awful lot like a spoon.

Mum cried and yelled and wondered and shook her head. She picked up and dropped off. Mum called Dad to find where her little darling went with a few local tots only to discover us at the local strip mall attempting to ride the mechanical horse. She learned the map of the discount stores, especially the toy section. And she made her apologies to shop clerks who found a little girl hiding in the racks of ladies apparel.

Then she lived through our teen years. Ahem.

Mum knew when to set conditions when things were unconditional. She knew when to make us pack our bags and get on with our lives. And she knew when doing laundry was the best cure for a broken heart.

She knows when to bite her tongue and when to give us a tongue lashing. And she respects us enough to avoid the m-word and the g-word. She enjoys watching us come to our own conclusion.

A great mum makes us want to be a great mum. And I’d like that very much.

Thanks Mum!

Killing Us Softly

Joe Bender has every right to make a movie. No question. He has the right to think and write and believe whatever he wants. Likewise, I have the right to think and write and believe that he is a sick opportunist with no respect for others Unfortunately, even by expressing my opinion, I’m giving this pornographer publicity.

Bender, director of such memorable hits as Sweet Valley High and The Amazing Race, is a pornographer not for the lack of clothes, but for the lack of conscience. He has exploited the victims of Paul Bernardo and Karla Holmolka and produced Deadly, a biopic about the raping murderous duo.

Recall that the married couple drugged, raped, and murdered Holmolka’s sister Tammy; abducted, drugged, raped, tortured, and murdered Kristen French; and abducted, drugged, raped, tortured, and murdered Leslie Mahaffey. Recall, too, Bernardo was also the notorious “Scarborough Rapist” prevalent in the late 1980s.

Ooh, such tasty fodder for a Hollywood movie maker!

As if there weren’t enough heinous crimes happening in his own hometown, Bender and his producer have to fly up to Toronto, get the court transcriptions, and base a script on it. Nice. Creative. Is this what they taught you in that matchbook film class, buddy? How to take a stomach churning crime that happened in a foreign country make a flick and feed it pack to them? Like choking on your own vomit.

Americans aren’t terribly interested in Canada. I highly doubt any of its citizenry know much less care who Bernardo or Holmolka are. Why will they spend money or time watching a crap-ass movie of the week when there’s narcissists eating leeches on Channel 2?

Global TV aired the exclusive trailer for Deadly during the 11 pm news. I thought I recognized the lead. A quick search on IMDB confirmed that Laura Prepon (AKA: Donna from That 70s Show) plays Karla. Hmm. I wonder how she researched the character? I wonder if she even bothered to search the name on the net? I wonder if she’s hurtin’ for a gig?

Neither Bernard or Holmolka are particularly interesting as people; a rich accountant and a vet’s assistant. Pretty bland and normal. He was into hardcore porn and hardcore capitalism; she was into hardcore diamonds and hardcore boyfriends. Nothing special or story worthy. Just a sick fucked up couple one of whom will never see the light of day and the other a manipulating, cunning bitch that the Crown underestimated and let off with a 12 year jail sentence.

And it’s coming to you soon on DVD complete with it’s own barf bag. Conscience not included.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Best Cellars

I work in an independent book store and very often I’m asked to recommend titles. This can be fun as I can hype my latest favorite book or author and turn a person on to something they’ve never read before. Other times it’s a battle of the stereotypes: guy books, boy books, best sellers = good. My diplomatic attempts to dissuade the customer from limiting themselves to pigeon holes is usually met with blank stares. For the record, I don’t believe there is such a thing as a “guy book” or “boy book”. I do think, however, there is “chick lit” and “women’s lit”; the former being light, insulting and pink and the latter being heavy, depressing, and mauve.

The third stereotype I trip over all the time is the notion that best sellers are good. “I mean, if so many people bought it, it must be good, right?” No. Often I’m accused of being a snob for decrying this idea. Just because it sells a lot, doesn’t make it good; just means it sold. Moreover, as this article from Saturday Night points out, best seller lists (AKA: BS Lists…uh huh you got it) come with an agenda. The numbers are often merely educated speculation on what booksellers would like to see walk out the door. This isn’t new or local. In his book Making the List: A Cultural History of the American Bestseller, 1900-1999, Michael Korda shows how consistent lists have been for as long as they’ve had lists: self-help, religion, blockbusters. Yet, the canon rarely makes “The List”.

This begs the question, what would I put on my Best Seller list. As with music, it really depends on mood. I have to be in the mood for a tome, or science fiction, or feeling chancy, or in dire need of a belly laugh. Right now, David Mitchell’s second book, number9dream, sits by my bed half-way read. I loved his latest, Cloud Atlas, so I scoured the public library for another. He’s a master at structure. Sounds all literary, right? But as my scriptwriting instructor once taught me, every story has a beginning middle and end, but not necessarily in that order. So Mitchell is on my list. Unfortunately, he’s gathering dust on the New Book table at the store.

Jeffrey Eugenides’ Middlesex is on my list. Brilliantly funny and tender. He’s simply a great writer who took me into the head of a kid who turns out to be a hermaphrodite. Smart and human. So naturally I’m eager to read Virgin Suicides which inspired well deserved Oscar winning scriptwriter, Sophia Coppola to direct the film of the same name. Speaking of virgin, both were the respective artists’ debuts. Man, if you’re gonna lose it, what a way to go.

Simon Winchester makes it on my list, particularly The Meaning of Everything. In it, he documents the making of the Oxford English Dictionary. Dry? Not a chance. Funny, detailed, and wholly readable.

Anything by Terry Prachett, Neil Gaiman, Christopher Moore and Jeanette Winterson make it on the list, too. Manda Scott’s Boudica series is a fun read (lots of Roman entrails at the business end of a Celtic sword), so I’ll hold a place for her. Walt Whitman sits high on the list. And my number one spot is reserved for The Bard. With all their talented wordplay, no one holds a candle to Ol’ Willy.

Did they sell tons? Who knows. Better still who cares. An emotional response equals good art. Did you weep? Did you laugh? Did you beg for mercy? Excellent! That’s what matters.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Checkin' In

The last few weeks have been pretty busy, hence the lack of posts. I am still participating in the Canuck Top 50 (see "Muse Ink Gets Pregnant Without Intercourse"), which takes more time than I anticipated when I originally agreed to step in the ring. Thanks and welcome to everyone who visited Muse Ink via that discussion! Stick around; things will freshen up soon. Meanwhile, the Canuck Top 50 and I got mentioned in Toronto's Eye Magazine. Too funny!

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Muse Ink Gets Pregnant Without Intercourse

It’s not what you think!

Honestly, this would not be my preferred distribution forum for such news or personal drama. Besides, pregnant without intercourse? Absolutely no fun at all and not MY preferred means to that end! Rather, I am participating in a very animated online discussion on Canadian music with such columnar luminaries as the Globe & Mail’s Carl Wilson, the National Post’s Aaron Wherry, the Ottawa Citizen’s Peter Simpson, and other music geeks like me. Blame the CBC, if you want to know why. Indeed Fat Citizen, PWI’s host, has kindly laid it all out for you on his site, so check it out. He even has pictures, the technology for which I have yet to master.

Cheers & Happy St. Patrick’s!

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Music Review: Retriever

Title: Retriever
Artist: Ron Sexsmith
Label: Sony
Year: 2004

Retriever is a perfect record. Buy it. Now. Ron Sexsmith is every great pop songwriter distilled into one: Burt Bacharach, Paul McCartney, Matthew Sweet, Elvis Costello, Joe Pernice. No exaggeration. No flag waving. No touting CanCon. The heart wrenching beauty of “Tomorrow in Her Eyes” reigns in enough to save itself from Macca schmaltz. Coy turns of phrase in “Imaginary Friends” rivals Costello, but the latter’s spitting cynicism is tapered by Sexsmith’s grounded gentleness. “Happiness” splits the darkest face into a sunny smile dispelling the myth that great pop must have a dark underbelly. Retriever fails wonderfully on the saccharine front delivering no one to a dentist due to sugary rot. Indeed, it’s the perfect record to deliver the winter weary through the dog ends of the season.

For more music information, visit AMG All Music Guide

Monday, March 14, 2005

The Famous Five 50

So Toronto’s Now Magazine’s John Akpata doesn’t think it’s appropriate to have Emily Murphy on Canada’s fifty dollar bill because she held questionable views with regards to minorities. Murphy, by the way, is one of the “Famous Five” — along with Irene Parlby, Henrietta Muir Edwards, Louise McKinney, Nellie McClung — who fought to have women legally considered persons in the constitution. Up till this point (1930) we weren't. As a result of their success, women could be elected in Parliament and hold seats in the Senate.

Under the pseudonym “Janey Canuck”, Murphy wrote in venerable Canadian publications like Maclean’s hateful articles disparaging Asians, Blacks, Jews and Eastern Europeans who chose to make Alberta home . Of course this is unfortunate, but not without precedent.

The suffragette movement in the states included white women who wanted the vote before black men. Fortunately abolitionists made up a larger part of the movement, but one cannot forget the past. In England, too, the vote for women split the Pankhursts leaving Sylvia to fight for rights of working class women with Labour party leader Keir Harding while her mother and sister campaigned to get the vote for rich conservative white women.

The fight for human and civil rights has never been pretty or pure. It still isn’t.

Akpata agrees that Murphy was a woman of her time. As was Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King who thought Hitler wasn’t such a bad guy and under whose watch Canada returned boatloads of Jews to their doom. Mr. King graces the $50 bill . No campaign to rub that guy out. Just Murphy.

Or what about H.R.H. Queen Elizabeth II, Queen of Canada. Yes, that is one of her many titles. Despite the fact that we are a sovereign nation with our own nationalized constitution, the matron of the family most responsible for atrocities at home and abroad graces not only our bank notes, but our coins and our stamps. Indeed, Akpata sees nothing strange about the Bank of Canada spending tax dollars changing the image of the Queen because some nutcase with a magnifying glass saw the “devil” in her hair.

No. Akpata would rather one of the few women officially acknowledged for furthering women’s rights in our colonial nation erased from official history, which is replete with celebrated and acknowledged drunks, racists, thieves and misogynists.

Mr. Akpata would like to render Mrs. Murphy persona non grata.

Some things never fucking change.

Friday, March 04, 2005

Book Review: A Complicated Kindness

Title: A Complicated Kindness
Author: Marion Toews
Publisher: Knopf Canada
Year: 2004

Where to start. Well, I hate coming of age stories. I’ve read two that I’ve liked: Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations and Jeffrey Eugenides’ Middlesex. There remain only two. Problem is I don’t know to what degree I dislike Winnipeg author Marion Toews third book, A Complicated Kindness.

The narrator, 16 year old Nomi Nickle, tells us her version of her life as a Mennonite girl growing up in rural Manitoba with her family through flashbacks and the present tense; a natural structure. From the outset we learn that sister Tash has left followed by mother Trudie. Her depressed father Ray and Nomi reside together in the family home. The bulk of the book attempts to explain how this situation came to be.

Technically, this is a fine book; it meets all the requirements of how a book ought to be written. A solid resume: Marion, you get the job.

But does it grab me? Was I moved? Was I compelled to crawl into the character’s world when I crawled into bed? No. Even the dark humour that reviewers raved about failed to elicit a chuckle; I laughed once at a reference to Air Supply. Nevertheless, I slogged through to give Canada’s critical and award-wining darling a fair read.

Then rabbits starting appearing out of hats. First it was French horns, then affairs, then blackmailing; it just got ugly and the shunning began. A tidy but complicated ending to a tidy and depressing book.

I really need to read something funny now.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Book Review: Passage

A bit of preamble: Despite the links to Amazon, I encourage you, dear reader, to patronize your local independent book shops.

Title: Passage
Author: Connie Willis
Publisher: Bantam
Year: 2001

Now boarding for the most needlessly longest read I’ve have in a while. Connie Willis’ Passage should have seen another edit before allowed on the lido deck. There’s far too much detail that isn’t used to warrant this amount of paper between two covers.

Briefly, Passages is about a psychologist Dr. Joanna Lander’s research into near death experiences (NDE). She works with a new neurologist, Dr. Richard Wright, who hopes to make a scientific breakthrough by manufacturing the NDE and prove that it is a survival mechanism. Throughout we meet New Age-y colleagues, desperate parents, reticent volunteers, overworked nurses, and critically sick children. Each stereotype is fully documented. To a fault. Thankfully, though, Willis steers clear of overt love subplots.

Willis has an interesting idea, but doesn’t investigate it thoroughly. Lander spends too much time running around avoiding people, pagers, and navigating the hospital’s labyrinth. Willis should have used these themes creatively rather than sacrifice them to sentiment. Despite the so-called “cutting-edge technology” she’s involved with, we witness nary an email nor barely a cell phone. The tools to weave a story about messages, passages, and plane of existence remain simply not used, rendering the fabric weak. As it stands, the books reads like a TV show; I could even place the commercial breaks. Not a good sign.

Long form is not this author’s strength. I’ve also read Doomsday Book which also disappointed. My first exposure to her work was “Even The Queen”, a concise, wry, and smart short story about menstruation which appeared in Impossible Things. I hoped that experience could be replicated; it wasn’t.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Movie Review: Finding Neverland

Finding Neverland
Director: Mark Forster
Writers: Allan Knee (play), David Magee

Fear, information, and control. Parents use all three tactics to raise their kids. Fear has created “play dates”, schedules, filters. The dissemination of information available all day everyday sends parents crazy with fear that they feel they ought to tell their offspring everything in “preparation” for the “real world”. This may well stem from peoples fear of what the neighbours might think as opposed to what their children might think; if they manage that feat at all. So we have a generation of children and teenagers raised by paranoid Boomers ready to be adults, but who haven’t yet been kids.

You remember kids, right? They’re those short people under the age of twelve (when they get weird and all bets are off) who run outside, yell, scream, torture their siblings, skid their knees, dirty their clothes, ring doorbells then run away. Memories of a simpler time when child molesters and ax murders hadn’t been invented yet.


Ok, you caught me. Clever monkey. But what has that got to do with Finding Neverland? Everything. Intentionally or not, Mark Forster (Monsters Ball) has directed a film about the misery of growing up without the magic of being a kid.

The story revolves around play write Sir James Mathew Barrie (Johnny Depp), his friendship with widow Sylvia Llewelyn Davies (Kate Winslet) and her four young sons. The boisterous family serves as his muse for Peter Pan and creative release from his latest theatrical flop. They also serve as contrast to Barrie’s now lifeless marriage to social climbing Mary (Radha Mitchell) and the moneyed patrons that flock to his plays. In turn, Barrie foils attempts made by the children’s grandmother (Julie Christie) at “discipline and order”.

It would be easy to demonize the wife and the grandmother who seem ready to snuff out imagination and whimsy. As the picture progresses, we find that their rigidity is simply a protective wall around what they’re afraid to lose. Unfortunately, walls block out the very nutrients that help things grow: children, imagination, love. In short, sheltering stilts.

Finding Neverland is billed as a “feel good movie” and there’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, its much needed as an antidote to the saccharine pap that usually bears that moniker. Forster ably alternates between reality and fantasy without losing track of either. His images evoke the paintings of
John William Waterhouse who captured a romantic vision of an Arthurian past. Some would argue that this vision never existed and perpetuates a myth. I say Bah! Magic and myth never hurt anyone.

It may be “proper”, “correct”, “adult”, and “realistic” to write off whimsy. It’s not part of the everyday. And that’s the problem. Cutting that out of your imagination makes you old, boring, and dried up. Worse yet, adult.

Now go play outside.

More movie reviews from my deep dark freelance past:

No Man’s Land
A Knights Tale
Captain Corelli’s Mandolin

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

A Rock Fan's Guide to NYC

“So you wanna be a rock and roll star…buy an electric guitar and learn how to play” Too much work for me. Plus, I’m not sure I could handle the whole male groupie thing; it could get tiring after a while. After all my time and money invested in records and CDs, my fate as a rock and roll fan/geek is pretty much sealed by now. Patti Smith can breathe a sigh of relief.

The allure of haunting the ‘hoods of my musical heroes remains. They span the continent, but New York, like it or not, shines the brightest right now spawning the likes of The Strokes and Interpol – darlings of the critical set. Trends come and go, but Lady Liberty always has something up her sleeve. Rock fans know this, of course, but where does one start? There’s a reason why it’s called the Big Apple.

Good walking shoes and street savvy will take you anywhere you want to go safely. New York isn’t that scary when you use common sense. Accommodation can be cheap, clean, and safe at the YMCA
. I stayed at the West Side YMCA (5 63rd Street), steps away from Central Park and only a couple blocks from the Columbus Circle subway stop.

The subway is the best way for getting around town and the best bet for a stay of four days or more is the Metro card. For less than $20 (USD), it gets you on all buses and subways. I would have given my right arm for a “You are here” X to put on the subway map, but that’s part of the charm. You must walk around and pay attention. Don’t be shy – New Yorkers read the map, too. If you’re as lucky as I, you and your fellow passengers will be serenaded by a talented violin playing homeboy. Who needs the Lincoln Center?

Walking is the second best way for gawking at Gotham. Serendipity guided me to a lot of places of rock interest. Starting in my own “neighbourhood”, I explored Central Park. A quick stroll away was Strawberry Fields, the section of the acreage Yoko Ono dedicated to John Lennon’s memory. The tasteful garden orbits the “Imagine” mosaic on the ground. You won’t miss it as there’s always someone taking snapshots. The couple liked to stroll in this area of the park, which is close to the Dakota (W. 72nd Street). As you recall, this was where Lennon was shot and where Ono still resides. Fans discreetly take photos and pay quiet homage in front of this gorgeous building.

Pop music, that yummy sticky confection, got its birth in Tin Pan Alley. This was the area responsible for Gershwin, Hammerstein, and other show tune greats. None were axemen, but the Brill Building should be considered among the Holy Temples of rock music. Located at 1619 Broadway, the unassuming office building housed legendary songwriting teams like Gerry Goffin and Carole King (“Chains”); Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann (“Walking In The Rain”); and Leiber and Stoller (“Jailhouse Rock”). Without these talented folks, there may not have been Elvis, The Beatles, or The Ramones. Trust me - it’s all right there in the liner notes.

Right next door to the Brill Building is the Colony Music Centre housing what appears to be the most comprehensive inventory of Broadway sheet music anywhere
. The store set up shop in 1948 on 52nd Street, which at the time was known as Swing Street. Squeeze through the narrow aisles and you’ll find Beatles and other rock memorabilia locked behind glass cases. Look up and you’ll see the signed guitars of many of the genres’ greats. The store itself has an interesting vibe. As I discreetly wandered around, earnest theatrical hopefuls fingered the sheets looking for that key piece of music that would give them the elusive break - if you can make it here, indeed.

The Chelsea Hotel at 222 W. 23rd Street
remains an authentic bohemian mecca worthy of visiting regardless of any rock notoriety. Sid and Nancy didn’t exactly camp out for the cheap rates. Their checking out was a bit unorthodox, but that’s rock and roll. The gorgeous façade merely hints at the eclectic lobby. Art work from the landmark’s various residents welcome you. It’s the sort of place where you’ll hear muted yet animated discussion on Kant rather than Cats.

Greenwich Village is crammed with cramped, dusty record shops. Since New York is the birth place for so many rock legends, first issues, rare 7-inches, and hard to find pressings grace the walls and bins of many stores. Highlights include Bleeker Street Records (239 Bleeker), Rockit Science, and Underground Records. You’ll pick your pocket clean of green in St. Mark’s Sounds (20 St. Mark’s Place) and Other Music (15 E. 4th St.). Joke all you want – you really are six degrees separated from Lou Reed and regrettably, a few more degrees from Joey Ramone. Dollar for dollar, prices match those in Toronto and more for collectibles. And remember, you’re in New York, so stay away from the ubiquitous chain stores.

The East Village, as it is now known, is undergoing a renaissance. For good or ill, gentrification has hit bringing moneyed tenants and tourists. While this is good for business, the history gets façade-ed away. Bobby Pinn (AKA: Ron Colinear) runs Rock Junket,
“NYC’s original rock and roll walking tour”. For $20 (USD) and two hours, he regales you with tales of legendary rock clubs, the last known residence of rocking residents, and trivia only a geek could love! Originally from Pennsylvania, Pinn followed his rock muse to the Big Apple, “I wasn’t going to see Keith Richards walking the streets of Philly!” The next thirteen years he lived the rock and roll life working for various large and small record companies. The East Village brims with history right before your eyes, you just wouldn’t know if Pinn didn’t point it out. The sites range from Joey Ramone’s last residence, St Mark’ Place; the site of the Fillmore East; the building used for Led Zeppelin’s album Physical Graffiti; Charlie Parker’s home, Gem Spa, where the New York Doll’s shot their first album cover; and Madonna’s first New York apartment. Pinn also points out the cool place to shop for clothes, music, food, and beer. Where rock history spreads across Manhattan, Rock Junket follows with tours planned for the West Village, Central Park, Harlem, and Union Square.

The punk rock pilgrimage must be made to CBGBs (315 Bowery). The venue is divided in two – the club and the gallery. At CB Gallery, you can down cold brew (I recommend Original Sin Cider) and purchase various t-shirts, stickers, and underwear. My acquisition of the LP sized messenger bag was my best ever purchase. At the bar next door, however, is where the real magic happens. The shadows mask the seedy nature of the club. Stickers and posters plaster the latest gigs all over the walls. Cracks inch across the vinyl seats. The band that blasted through the speakers that night hailed from Russia and received polite applause from the thin Sunday crowd. I expected no less, frankly. When the house lights went up, I quickly made my way to the stage. As I snapped away frames of film, I watched while these guys packed away like every rock band in the history of the club. The New York Dolls, the Voidoids, Blondie – before the fame when they had to tear down their own drums, talk to the sweaty fans, and drink the cheap beer. The lack of official memorial is memorial in itself - the continuance of young punk rock hopefuls.

The good, bad, ugly, and just plain weird in rock music has always been captured best on record – be it tape, vinyl or CD. Don’t believe me? Check out the WFMU Record Fair, but make a trip to the ATM first – despite what you see, they don’t take plastic. Running for about X years, the fair is one of a few fundraising endeavors for WFMU FM. Broadcasting from Jersey City, NJ, the freeform radio station
supports itself solely on listener donations. Each year, it holds an on-air funding drive that brings in a bulk of their operating budget. In May and November, WFMU hosts a record fair that has become the largest of its kind on the East Coast, if not North America. Music and program director, Brian Turner says the event attracts vendors from around world. Collectors pay $20 for a weekend long pass or $5/day. Started in the basement of a church, the three day sale has grown to fill the Metropolitan Pavilion (125 W. 18th Street) and attracts about 2,000 people. Although vinyl doesn’t travel well by plane, my discipline wavered when I picked up some novel “gotta haves” – 60s Montreal’s psyche-punk band, The Haunted‘s LP I’m Just Gonna Blow My Little Mind to Bits, a 1956 release called Music to Break a Lease, and Katie Lee’s Songs of Couch and Consultation featuring such hits as “Shrinker Man”, “Repressed Hostility Blues”, and “Stay as Sick as You Are”. Original hits by the original stars, indeed!

After blowing the wad on music, cheap food is next on the list. And, like music, this is New York so steer clear of the Mc-chains; there’s tons of local eateries downtown. Gray’s Papaya (W. 8th St. and 6th Ave.) does franks, only franks and is a great deal. For $2.45 (USD), they serve up two dogs and papaya juice – a match made in heaven and the sweetest dog you’ll ever meet. When wandering through Greenwich Village, set your shopping down for tasty and filling Mexican at Flying Burritos (165 W. 4th St.). I enjoyed the vegetarian Sol Burrito with a frozen margarita. Great punk atmosphere and, in keeping with that ethos, they only take cash.

The clock ticks to 9 pm, you’re fed and watered and ready for live music. Pick up the Village Voice and prepare to be overwhelmed! In the summer free music abounds in festivals hosted at Central Park and South Street Seaport
. Bands generally play multiple nights at multiple clubs in the area; notables are Bowery Ballroom, Mercury Lounge, CBGB’s, Continental, and The Rodeo Bar. Word of advice – get your tickets early as bigger name acts sell out fast regardless of how often they play. Checking Pollstar's New York City listing and buying your tickets on line or over the phone are your best bets. Having friends in town is another!

You many not run into Keith Richards, but veteran punk Richard Hell still walks the streets. Indeed, this is why John Lennon chose to settle here. New York’s electricity runs through your veins and keeps you completely aware. The ordinariness of its status makes your head swim. Like a narcotic, you simply need more of the experience.