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.