Saturday, December 23, 2006

Neko Hits #45

Rolling Stone's top-fifty for 2006 is in, and its not a complete steaming pile of crap. In fact, Neko Case made on this year's list. Not too shabby.

Eno Exhibits Latest Talent with Ambitious Art Show

Musician Brian Eno will debut his light and sound project at a British comtemporary art gallery.

The installation,"Constellations (77 Million Paintings)," is the result of Eno working with software experts to create "a computer programme that continually fuses layers of more than 300 of his 'paintings' to create up to 77 million permutations. The paintings are in the form of slides coated with paint which, when dried, are scratched to produce abstract works which are digitised at high resolution."

Apparently he has put Andy Warhol's Empire to shame: "It has been estimated that it would take more than 9,000 years to watch the entire show at the fastest speed available on the software. The images can change within 15 seconds or at the speed of the hour hand of a clock."

from The Independent

Inflation Is Up

I’ve been noticing strange things this season, apart from the West Coast-like climate (which is itself experiencing an Ontario-like December. Sends chills, but I digress.). Inflation is up. Everywhere. And it’s getting weird.

First, a house on my street has a roughly ten-foot snowman on it’s four-foot “lawn.” Ok, I think, cute, but obnoxious. Whatever. Then I’m walking to a party and encounter an inflated merry-go-round featuring Santa, a snowman, and Rudolf. Motorized. Not ok, not cute, and definitely obnoxious.

What the hell?

And it’s not just the east end or just Toronto. This damn scourge has spread across North America! Why? It’s not attractive or funny, and by definition not innovative or creative. And if everyone’s doing it, it’s not cool. So, what motivates someone to put an inflatable anything on their lawn or roof?

Perhaps the New York Times can provide a clue: “The magic of the Airblown is that you buy it, plug it in, and it’s ready to go,” said Sharlene Jenner, the marketing manager for Gemmy, a company that first made its mark six years ago with a wall-mounted singing fish known as Big Mouth Billy Bass, and began making Christmas floats soon after. “You’re going to make a big statement without 20 hours of work. It’s a lot of decoration for the dollar, in other words.”

Ah, it’s all about convenience and “making a statement.” Of course, that statement is the same damn one everyone and their frigging dog is making…but who wants to stand out from the crowd?

From the same Times article: “A grand tour of some of Long Island’s most ambitious Christmas displays suggests that the inflatable decorations are scarce in lower-income neighborhoods, but they are also rare in pricier places, where the culture of understatement seems to rule: white lights twined with fresh evergreen sprigs, etc.”

I would have to agree with the less-is-more school of thought on this one. I’ve seen the simple strings of light on nearby low-income apartments and I think they hold the same beauty as the simple strings of lights and evergreen on neighbouring high-income houses.

And a simple tug on the power cord will resolve the inflated issue for one night.

Now, about the mechanized carol-singing, hip-swinging snowman at the restaurant at the end of my street. Maybe a call to David Lynch is in order…

Wacky Copyrights

The beloved RIAA just loves to dig itself deeper.

In his article for Stereophile, Wes Phillips writes:
In the heated debate over new digital technologies and their impact upon the traditional recording distribution system, we've grown used to intemperate dialog, but an organization now charges that "mechanical royalties currently are out of whack with historical and international rates."

Here's the twist: The group is the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America). And here's the part that won't surprise you: Their solution is to lower the rate they pay music publishers and songwriters for using lyrics and melodies to create sound recordings.

Just keep giving them enough rope...

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Happy Pogues-mas

Only four more pouring days left before Seán Mac Gabhan's (Shane MacGowan) birthday. So belly up to the bar now, buy the lad a pint, and get your sorry ass in court to bear merry tidings:

Once we're on that stage we become the troubadours of old, and we make our joyous noise. Afterwards I continue the far more serious business of holding court: whether backstage or back at the hotel. My birthday's the December 25, so congregations of people coming to praise me this time of year have a fitting

via The Guardian

Monday, December 18, 2006

Music in a Nutshell #1

In the past, I’ve reviewed single records at some length; not bloody great essays, but around 350 words more or less. (I’ll leave the book-length treatises to the 33 1/3 authors.) These days, however, I’ve taken to summing things up, giving my first impression based on a handful of listens. One’s headspace and situation (on the bus or in life) plays a huge role in how one experiences music. So if I hate a record today, I may love it to death in a month. And visa versa. So, what I thought I’d do is provide a nutshell first blush at recent purchases.

November 4, 2006:
I'm actually looking forward to getting Yo La Tengo’s I Am Not Afraid of You and I Will Beat Your Ass and The Shin’s Winching the Night Away. Meanwhile, I've got The Clash's London Calling on repeat. What a fucking great album! One the best ever recorded. Definitely in my top five. Oh, so good...

November 16, 2006:
My self-imposed "exile" of about ten years means that many "indie" bands of the 90s are new to me. This feels good because the members are about my age now; I'm not being sung to by a squeaky kid for whom the 80s is both a genre and retro. I also notice I'm more open to genres I wouldn't have considered in the past, so that's all new to me now, too.

Nostalgia gets twisted when you buy old stuff in a new format with newly found recordings (Clash special editions, Beatles demo recordings). You sort of change a light bulb on an old lamp to shine a new light on things.

So what do I plan to buy this week? I'm reaching back to last year for the second Interpol release. While this sounds ironic (re: my "squeeky kid" comment), I liked that their first record felt more influenced than carbon copied.

Hmm. I guess you could call this a "hipster replacement."

November 18, 2006:
Well, Interpol was absent from my dealer's bin, but my ears pricked to the sweetness emanating from his speakers. Irene's Apple Bay made my toes tap and my face smile on a grim November day, making the purchase a necessity. According to their website, this is their debut. It has hints of the Smiths, Jonathan Richmond, Velvet Underground, and Reindeer Section. The lyrics are odd. At times they're saccharine then turn frank: "Think about the way we used to meet, dear. Think about he way the sunlight kissed our feet, but your got cold feet...Think about the way we used to touch, dear. And think about the way you used to fondle by crotch. But you got cold feet." (from "Cold Feet"). Oh, those wacky Swedes.

December 2, 2006:
One cannot Christmas shop for CDs without treating oneself. Ok, I can’t. Hell, I have a hard time walking past a record store without poking my head in. So, after I visited the jazz department at Sam the Record Man, I meandered down to the regular section whereupon I clapped my eyes on A Christmas Gift for You from Phil Spector. (“For me? Aw, Phil, you shouldn’t have!”) I’ve coveted this record for about a decade. It is definitely in my top ten. Unapologetic, Christmas-y pop goodness. Love me some “Marshmallow World” by Darlene Love. Fabulous stuff!

December 17, 2006:
I picked up Belle and Sebastian's If You're Feeling Sinister (part of my ongoing rebuilding of the backlist). Interesting. A colleague at work calls them "creepy," which I kind of get, but I like nonetheless. This one sounds like a mix of British 60s psychedelia and the Velvets. I'm sure I'll hear more as I spend more time with it.

Movie Review: Down in the Valley

Title: Down in the Valley
Director: David Jacobson
Writer: David Jacobson
Year: 2005 (film), 2006 (DVD)

Every generation of American filmmakers has its idea based on lore about how the West was won. Indeed, the mavericks of western legends range from sheriffs to outlaws, from homesteaders to cowboys. And when the boundaries pushed closer to the Pacific, we can include Oakies and prospectors. With pushers come those who are pushed over: Indians and Mexicans. Down in the Valley takes these characters and flips the genre on its head. The American West was lost. And no one cares.

Ok, one person cares: Harlan Fairfax Carruthers. He misses the old ways. He misses the frontier. And like the cowboy he reinvents for himself, he is alone. Even when he meets the station wagon (covered wagon) full of teens, in particular Tobe. No one understands. And, in keeping with the Western, when the cowboy literally crosses the fence of Tobe’s homestead, there’s hell to pay. Her father, Wade, is the country sheriff. Down in the Valley is rife with these lovely unwitting archetypes.

Writer/director David Jacobson, while not wanting to make a sociological study of his film (see the special features), paints both broad and subtle strokes concerning modernity. The wide vistas sliced by power lines are obvious. But there is a wonderful exchange between Wade and his son Lonnie about gumption:

Lonnie: The meek shall inherit the earth.
Wade: (Laughs) Where did you here
that crap?
Lonnie: Television

All the performances are stellar. Evan Rachel Wood, Rory Caulkin, and David Morse play off each other naturally as a family headed by a single father trying to keep his teenagers out of trouble. Harlan encompasses Edward Norton and moves in his skin with the grace of wind-driven tumbleweed.

The DVD’s special features include a Q&A with Norton and Jacobson with Rolling Stone film critic Peter Travers that give some insight into the writing of the script. The deleted scenes answer niggling questions about some minor plot points, but also raise the question of why were some cut in the first place.

Overall, Down in the Valley adds a fine nuance to a beleaguered genre and reminds us that “money is the root of all confusion.”

Take note of the gorgeous soundtrack featuring Peter Salett, which provides the wonderful backdrop.

Movie Review: Erasurehead

Title: Erasurehead
Director: David Lynch
Writer: David Lynch
Year: 1977 (film), 2002 (DVD)

So Sunday I was able to scratch Erasurehead off my list of movies to see. Despite my appreciation of David Lynch’s films, I’ve been reluctant to view this one; its reputation for weirdness intimidated me. However, one thing I want to do in 2007 is whittle said list down to more of a list and less of a chapter.

The fellow at Film Buff confirmed Erasurehead’s weirdness, but assured me it was worth seeing. My money says most viewers imbibed prior to its screening. Not my style, but I did have a can of Strongbow close at hand. It took me close to two hours to finish, so my reaction is sober.

Many have described Lynch’s debut feature film as a masterpiece. I have a hard time with that; how can one’s first full-length film be one’s best? Certainly, it bespeaks of later cinematic ingenuity, but a masterpiece? I think that’s the acid talking.

Erasurehead feels like a young filmmaker with something to say. It’s definitely over-the-top and chock full of symbolism, be it conscious or no. The director readily admits that his life in Pittsburg informed his film: the industrial environment, the constant mechanical noise, the small communities that spring up amidst the machines. Other things crop up. Filmed in black and white, Erasurehead had a classic 1950s feel to it despite its being shot in the 1970s. The atomic-age Woman in the Radiator seemed somewhat Fellini-esque; indeed, the whole picture appeared to be informed by postwar Italian cinema.

Certainly postwar Italy bore little or no resemblance to postwar America, but what I got from Erasurehead is a comment on the American dream. So in this way, it’s a comment on promises unfulfilled. That the promise of a family, a job, a house, a car, and a stable life is a pipe dream: the pipes in the X’s house, the radiator in the apartment, the pipe-style headboard and footboard. Recall Bill X’s comment, “I remember when this was pastoral, before the pipes.” Admittedly, my analysis is very rudimentary and cliché. Nevertheless, I think it’s borne out.

I don’t think the basis of the film is particularly weird; indeed, I think its actually quite normal. Henry works at a boring job, lives an uneventful life, has a girlfriend, Mary X, who he doesn’t see much, and finds out she’s had his child. He meets the family and makes average conversation. It’s the space between that’s discomforting. Conversation isn’t fluffed up with non sequitors to fill the air. Who hasn’t felt strange “meeting the parents”? Mind you, we don’t all have the same eerie experience with chicken, but the meal never feels right, never tastes the same. People always look a little strange. Lynch merely stretched that sensation out—way out.

So the new parents set up house in Henry’s dire little apartment, and we get glimpse at their child, the one Mrs. X calls “premature” and Mary says, “Doesn’t even look like a baby.” Yup. Looks pretty strange and we recoil. But think about it. How strange does it really look? Don’t most parents (usually fathers) describe their newborns as appearing “alien”? They’re wrinkly and wet and red and cry and demand and get sick... Mary’s frustration and sleep deprivation are hardly weird. Lynch just skews them thus. Makes me wonder if he was, in fact, a new dad at the time. He seemed to nail it just right.

There’s lots of other things going on in Erasurehead: the man on the planet, the pencil machine, losing one’s head, etc. But if you really think about it, David Lynch has merely given form to the various neuroses from which we all suffer, and it makes us uncomfortable. Being uncomfortable is good because it makes us squirm, which makes us move. Otherwise, we are like he morbidly fat man on the couch and become one in the same.

I highly recommend sitting through the “Stories” special feature on the DVD. Lynch has a wonderful speaking style, which is echoed in his films. His new venture, Inland Empire, did the festival circuit in 2006 and appears to have had a limited release. Hopefully, wider screenings are planned for 2007.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Bad Sex Between the Sheets

From today's Guardian:

David Mitchell was no doubt celebrating last night, when it was announced that he was in the running for the £25,000 Costa (formerly Whitbread) novel award with Black Swan Green. He may be less pleased this morning to find out that the same book has won him a place on the shortlist for the Literary Review Bad Sex award.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Book Review: War

Title: War
Author: Gwynne Dyer
Publisher: Random House
Year: 2004
*From Uncorrected Proof

Dr. Gwynne Dyer knows his stuff. The Canadian has served in the Canadian, British and American navies. He earned his Ph.D. in military history from the University of London and taught at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst. He is no slouch.

He also possesses the envious ability to fly among the hawks and doves. War is evidence of this. While he is not neutral, his dovish tendencies are grounded in reality. Dyer demonstrates that war has always been with us; indeed, it may be part of us. The difference is war has evolved in a dangerous key way: now it has the potential to kill us all—not just the warriors, not the just the village, not just the tribe, but the whole damn species.

With open eyes and mind, Dyer takes us from “The Nature of the Beast” right through its theorists down the “The Road of to Mass Warfare” to “A Short History of Nuclear War” to “Guerrillas and Terrorists” to finally “The End of War.” It’s dense like a jungle, full of facts and figures, blood and guts, sweat and tears. Make no mistake. War is hell. And Dyer makes sure we are aware of it.

Gwynne Dyer stands apart, as objectively as he can, to deliver a solid and balanced look at war. Be aware: this is something to sit with and absorb, not dip into on the way to work.

This edition of War is updated and revised from his award-winning original published in 1986. That book accompanied a seven-part documentary, one episode of which was nominated for an Oscar.

Book Review: The Fortress of Solitude

Title: The Fortress of Solitude
Author: Jonathan Lethem
Publisher: Doubleday (US)
Year: 2003

In The Fortress of Solitude, Jonathan Lethem tells the tale of two boys, Dylan Edbus and Mingus Rude, who grow up in Brooklyn. Opening in the 1970s we navigate with them through racial minefields that extend into the 1980s and on to the 90s. And the soundtrack changes with the times. And if that weren’t enough, there’s the issue of superpowers…

This, his sixth novel, is dense and feels very autobiographical. He knows the setting so intimately that you bear the weight Dylan does; you anticipate a yoking when he does; you smell his fear and intimidation. It’s exhausting but you go on; you are simply compelled.

As you and he and Mingus grow up, you feel a certain separation. Indeed, the section set in San Francisco feels disconnected. Perhaps that’s the intent. Maybe Dylan feels disconnected, or wants to feel disconnected, from whence he came. The girlfriend character, Amy, worked in the same manner. She was exceedingly annoying and her dialogue recalled the aimless politically correct circular rhetoric I endured during the same era. Is this good storytelling (meaning the emotional involvement of the reader) or simply cliché? Nevertheless, well evoked, Mr. Letham,

Originally, the Fortress of Solitude was where Superman could hang out and be himself. No pressure. No crime fighting. No girls. Just a room of one’s own, if you will. As one draws to the end, one seeks the fortress, the “middle space,” as Letham calls it, only to find it necessarily fleeting. Finding it in life and in his often poetic novel is decidedly worth the effort

Jonathan Letham’s new novel, You Don’t Love Me Yet, is due out March 2007.
Edward Norton is directing the film version of Motherless Brooklyn, due out next year. Sadly, I only have my hands on the advanced reading copy of the book, not the director of the film.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Iggy Rocks

Or at least someone in his crew does. Smoking Gun (which also rocks) posted Iggy's rider. Too fucking cool, maaaan.

via WFMU

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Freedom to Read Week

September 23 to 30 is Banned Books Week as brought to you by the ACLU! According to the American Librarians Association, the following are the top ten most challenged books of 2006:

It’s Perfectly Normal:Changing Bodies, Growing Up, Sex, and Sexual Health for homosexuality, nudity, sex education, religious viewpoint, abortion and being unsuited to age group;

Forever by Judy Blume for sexual content and offensive language;

The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger for sexual content, offensive language and being unsuited to age group;The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier for sexual content and offensive language;

Whale Talk by Chris Crutcher for racism and offensive language;

Detour for Emmy by Marilyn Reynolds for sexual content;

What My Mother Doesn’t Know by Sonya Sones for sexual content and being unsuited to age group;

Captain Underpants series by Dav Pilkey for anti-family content, being unsuited to age group and violence;

Crazy Lady! by Jane Leslie Conly for offensive language; and

It’s So Amazing! A Book about Eggs, Sperm, Birth, Babies, and Families by Robie H. Harris for sex education and sexual content.

Off the list this year, but on the list for several years past, are the Alice
series of books by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor, Of Mice and Men by John
Steinbeck and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Inside the Box

To my knowledge, Toronto does not contain a Container Store per se. The city does contain a Solutions Store, which solves the problem of not having a Container Store. That problem being a lack of containers, or as some would corporately put it, “organizational tools.” In my mind, however, one using said term is merely describing oneself.

I like lists. I am organized. I have stuff (even George Carlin–type stuff) which is, nine times out of ten, tidily available when I need it. My records are alphabetized as are my books (which are also split into fiction, non-fiction, music, reference, and cooking). People call me anal. Yet I am often the person to whom these people ask about things because I can find the solutions.

These solutions can be found without a large bill from a store purporting to sell me them. I’ve been in the Solutions Store, but alas, I find more problems than solutions. Why do I need pretty empty boxes? More to the point, why do I need stuff to put in those boxes? Perhaps this reflects more on consumerist mentality than it does on the need to be organized in order that information be found.

I admit that as I write this, I’m thinking that I really ought to replace the magazine boxes that house my periodicals. Note, however, that I’m replacing and not adding to a situation based on current and projected needs: Magnet and The Believer are keepers. I have also made notes in them as to the music I want to hear, movies I want to see, and the books I want to read. This marked information makes it on to one or more of my lists.

Buddhism, simplicity, and basics (the idea not the store) wind their ways into mainstream consciousness, and all are valuable concepts. And all have been “leveraged” into marketable commodities—mats, clothes, bags, books, classes, television shows, magazines—flying in the face in the original premise that they share: minimalism, use your resources and make do with what you have. Indeed, why add to your stuff if you cannot handle the stuff you have? For example, how badly do you need a new garlic press when a knife will do? If it’s good enough for Anthony Bourdain, when it’s good enough for me.

On reflection, that last paragraph seems out of place in a essay/rant about a store that sells storage. Hell, I rented my current apartment based on its glorious storage. I kept the original packaging for my computer and other large, expensive items, and it all needs to be stored. It’s all about reduce, reuse, and recycle, and it didn’t cost extra dimes.

Sure I participate as a consumer, but I know when I’m full. And I don’t get all friggin’ anxiety ridden about not having the latest so-handy, purse-sized, pretty-pink, empty box. For one, that anxiety feeds a related market that deserves its very own rant. And two, there are enough “empty boxes” walking around; I’m not in that demographic.

As the Head of Lettuce Crumples

Organizers of fashion week in Madrid have put the kibosh on skinny girls on the catwalk. And they face the wrath of some designers who feel their “artistic vision” is being tampered with. Incredible.

From "When Is Thin Too Thin?", New York Times
The producers of these fashion events have largely dismissed the concerns. On Saturday a British cabinet member, Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell, called for London designers to follow the example of Madrid by banning underweight models. But the British Fashion Council, led by Stuart Rose, the chief executive of Marks & Spencer, said it would not interfere with the designers’ aesthetic. And some designers said it was misleading to equate thinness with being unhealthy and that the standard cited by the organizers in Madrid did not take into account age and puberty, which may cause a model who is unusually tall to appear frighteningly thin.
Um, I get that some girls are skinny, boney even. Perhaps even tall, too. I find it an amazing quirk that these same skinny, tall girls have the other “appropriate” criteria that allows entrance into the great houses of couture. Not a zit among them, which is equally astounding for young models are approaching puberty. So, what are these designers saying? That the girls in their frocks are ten to twelve years old?

From "Like It or Not, This Sells," Globe and Mail (requires login)
[Elmer] Olsen said, "because on a runway, like it or not, thin sells. The pictures turn out better."
Sells to whom? These shows are not marketed to the prêt a porter crowd; indeed, many creators in the industry argue that haute couture is art, and that what they parade on the catwalks is not intended for everyday wear. And I totally buy this argument. There is room in the art world for textiles. Humans are used to exhibit art in most other disciplines (i.e., music, painting, performance). But these art forms see beauty in all types of humans, not merely those that resemble fully-starved gazelles.

British cabinet minister calls for ban on super-thin models,” Globe and Mail (requires login)

So can a government ban or legislate against this practice? Well, yes, technically it can. Certainly, the industry is not going to self-regulate. The issue of sickly stick figures wearing more weight down the aisle than they do naked on a scale is not new. And designers have not seen fit to dress healthy models. Will said ban or legislation have any effect? That remains to be seen. I highly doubt it.

Karen Von Hahn's column, “The Skinny on Self Esteem,” Globe and Mail (requires login)

Yes, girls often want to look like magazine covers and catwalk models. But body weirdness usually starts at about age twelve. Telling kids “it’s what’s inside that counts” works only up to the point when the insides start making appearances outside. Then the brain goes nuts, people that were icky aren’t icky anymore...and it doesn’t stop till menopause.

So, back to the stage. Can healthy be the new black, dahling? Perhaps for a season. It will last as long as faux fur and heroin chic.

PS: One model agent, Ben Barry, is actually making a dent. For more information, you can visit his website.

Is It That Time of the Month?

Or is it just me? Have we entered a Tardis destined for another past era or is the present day manifest of the adage, "The more things change the more they stay the same"?

Exhibit A: The recent curfuffle about death-defyingly thin models versus "artistic vision." Note that many of the artists in question are men.

Exhibit B: The assassination of women's rights activist and provincial director of Afghanastan's Ministry of Women's Affairs, Safia Ama Jan. According to the Times,
As a well known women rights campaigner, she was aware that she was vulnerable
to attack and had asked for official transport and personal bodyguards. The
Afghan Government rejected these requests. It is thought that she was getting
into a taxi on her way to work when she was killed
She was wearing a burqua at the time.

Exhibit C: On a slightly lighter note, Maud Newton posted this amusing advert concerning vaginas and Lysol.How droll! Oh my, how modern we are now. Not a douche to found on the "feminine hygene" shelves these days, no ma'am. But what's this Ms. Newton points out? Slice and dice my glory hole? Sweet Mary Mother of God!

I guess 1970s nostalgia goes further than just aviator shades. Sigh.

Seth in the New York Times

Canadian cartoonist Seth has a serial novel published in the New York Times.

via Quill & Quire

Cory Doctorow on Copyright

I'm home coughing, weezing, and blowing my nose today. Because daytime TV blows chunks, I'm cleaning out my email. I found this posting from Locus Mag by Canadian sci-fi writer Cory Doctorow as part of a digitial copyright list to which I subscribe.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

New on the Tube

Every fall I end up getting suckered into watching at least a few episodes of new television, liking a couple, then one of them gets cancelled, and I forget to watch the rest. Here's this year's picks, why I picked them, and a very quick review:

Show: Standoff
Why: Ron Livingston is hot
Review: Weak writing, but "Burger" is way easy on the eyes. Not sure if this will survive, though.

Show: Weeds
Why: Mary Louise Parker is completely relatable
Review: Good, funny, adult writing. This is cable and not new, but their season was only about six shows long.

Show: Smith
Why: Ray Liotta...I dunno there's something about him. Gotta be the Good Fellas factor
Review: After one show, I want to know if my fearless predictions come true. If I wrote the show, one of his crew would die per episode. The Terence Malik--Thin Red Lineapproach.

Show: Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip
Why: Matthew Perry could do drama
Review: Feels like West Wing goes Hollywood. Could be worse, but the first episode felt stiff. It needs to stretch and gets it's own voice.

Monday, September 18, 2006

A Little Finger Pickin

According to the New York Times ("Who’s This Guy Dylan Who’s Borrowing Lines From Henry Timrod?"), Bob Dylan is doing a little finger pickin' of Henry Timrod's poetry on the nasally one's latest CD, Modern Times:

It seems that many of the lyrics on that album, Mr. Dylan’s first No. 1 album in 30 years (down to No. 3 this week), bear some strong echoes to the poems of Timrod, a Charleston native who wrote poems about the Civil War and died in 1867 at the age of 39.

“More frailer than the flowers, these precious hours,” the 65-year-old Mr. Dylan sings in “When the Deal Goes Down,” one of the songs on “Modern Times.” Compare that to these lines from Timrod’s “Rhapsody of a Southern Winter Night”:

A round of precious hours

Oh! here, where in that summer noon I basked

And strove, with logic frailer than the flowers.

Reactions are mixed. Some fans are disappointed ("Bob really is a thieving little swine."), some scholars are aghast ("Maybe it’s the teacher in me. If I found out that he had done this in a research paper, he’d be in big trouble.” ), and others are just pleased that the poet lauret of the Civil War is even getting read (“If I were Timrod, I would love it.... I would say he’s doing a great honor to Timrod and let’s celebrate that.”)

Some cite folk-music traditions for the borrowing, and copyright isn't an issue:
Because Timrod is long dead and his work has fallen out of copyright — you can find his collected poems on the Internet — there is no legal claim that could be made against Mr. Dylan.

Whew! I bet SonyBMG is glad about that.

Still, it would have been kinda classy to give "influenced by" or some sort of credit to Henry Timrod.

via Quill & Quire


Lenny Kaye on CBGBs and the end of an era:

You had to be there, and if it was a-happening, there you were, though because it was so happening, you weren't thinking or even appreciating it much, just
living in the groove of its moment, not wondering how its movement into legend was influencing and inspiring and creating waves that soon found a CBGB in every major city, each with its own roster of local bands and camp followers.

front the what's left of the Village Voice

You Are What You Eat

Man, this takes the cake...and the chips...and the fizzy drinks. Apparently two English mums are fed up and aren't going to take it any more! Dammit, no health nut like Jaime Oliver is going to stop their little darlins from eating junk food. Poor wee lads and lasses aren't gettin' a proper dinner of fat and sugar so they can get doze off in class be tired enough to fall asleep in front of the telly at night. All this veg and fruit is turnin' 'em into picky eaters and that just won't do.

Sadly, this isn't from the Onion. It's from the former great Britain. Remember, the one that gave us Shakespeare, Jane Austen, Nick Hornby, and The Clash? Well, now it's breeding stupid people who really want their offspring to drop dead early from heart disease and diabetes. Yup. I can understand why my folks left in the first place.

Black Cawfee

While copy editing a book today, I found this caffeine website. Apparently it will take 85.71 cups of brewed coffee to kill me. Presumably, this is all in one day.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Impeach the Rat Bastard

The Globe and Mail reports that "Bush acknowledges secret CIA prisons."

Incredible. The smarmy, smug, lying frat boy actually seems to believe, or wants the American public to believe, that lives were saved. Yeah? So, if this is treatment so legitimate, why the FUCK did the prisons have to be secret and located overseas? This is not legal. The war in Iraq is not legal. His presidency is not legal.

Impeach Bush before he kills again.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Book Review: Lost Joy

I dug this review up after logging Lost Joy in LibraryThing. It was originally published by a long-gone webzine out of Milwaukee, WI, Actionman, for which I also reviewed CDs. Thanks to Michael W. of No Karma Music for hooking me up:

Title: Lost Joy
Author: Camden Joy
Published in 2002 by TNI Books

There is the clichéd scene in High Fidelity where Rob goes through his record collection and rearranges it in order of life’s moments. I’m sure I’m not the only music geek to go home after a big break up and think about doing the same thing. And I’m not the only one to shudder at the idea, turn the stereo up, and cry in her beer. Camden Joy understands. Rock and roll isn’t his hobby, or passion, or new love, or even a religion. His records and CDs aren’t collectables over which to get all alpha male. No. It goes deeper than that. Rock and roll, what it means, where it comes from, where it takes you, how it connects is the physical and psychic make up of Camden Joy and his writing.

Lost Joy is a collection of manifestoes, essays, and other prose that until now have not been available in one volume. Unless you consider the walls and hoarding boards of New York City to be a volume. Then walk the walk and read the talk before the latest soft drink sponsored saviour of rock and roll pastes its face across Joy’s musings. No doubt he will organize his thoughts quick enough to foil the designs of the twenty-first century Svengalis. He made a name for himself as a gonzo rock critic in 1995 and his titles include The Last Rock Star, or Liz Phair: A Rant, Boy Island, Hubcap Diamond Star Halo, Palm Tree 13, and Pan that he co-authored with Colin B. Morton.

Joy ably combines the adamant style of Hunter S. Thompson with the enthusiasm of Jack Kerouac. I wouldn’t burden the author with being a voice of Generation X; certainly there are lessers more deserving of that terrible yoke. Joy does speak to those of us who listen to the song or an artist and recognize more. The story “The Greatest Record Album Ever Told”, a tribute to Frank Black’s Teenager of the Year is a good example. The author weaves his life and thoughts into a passionate review of a record. Real simple, but there are always songs and CDs that hearken back to a time dark, or light, or just overcast. Joy sits us down and lets us in to his experience of Black’s discography.

Lost Joy isn’t all glimpses of Joy’s life, or a fictional facsimile thereof. The opening story, “Dum Dum Boys,” sets the tone of the journey upon which the writer takes us. Coming of an age after the zits have been exfoliated away. He undermines studied cynicism evoking a sadness that gives more foundation for jaded wisdom.


From today's New York Times article "MySpace Music Store Is New Challenge for Big Labels ":

MySpace, the online community site owned by the News Corporation, said on Friday that it would sell music through a partnership with Snocap, a technology company started by the creator of Napster, Shawn Fanning. When the online store opens this fall, it will allow bands andlabels of any size to sell songs online for whatever price they want.

At first glance, I see a number of good things about this:
  1. Poetic justice for the Napster guy
  2. Small, unsigned bands can sell their music; maybe not acutally make a profit since Snocap takes forty-five cents per song. (According to the article, iTunes takes thirty-five cents, but the file is sold in its proprietary format, boosting sales of its device.)
  3. Purchases can be made using PayPal, which includes the teen and twenty-something demographic
  4. It's competition.

Granted, MySpace, as noted in the above quote, is owned by a huge media conglomerate. And EMI are apparently "in talks," so there is a chance the majors will hop on this bandwagon (they'd be characteristically foolish if they didn't). But MySpace offers an option for musicians, and options and choices are always good. Something to keep track of.

Friday, September 01, 2006

How Many... and western singers does it take to change a lightbulb?

Three. One to change the bulb and two to sing about the old one.

Thank you...I'll be appearing all week at Yuk Yuks.

via Never Trust a Hippy

All You Need Is....

...a lawyer. Apparently The Beatles haven't broken up or faded away, but exist as an entity neither animal nor mineral nor Rutle. So with a swipe of Ed Sullivan's arm, here, straight from the UK's Independent, are the Top Ten Beatles Lawsuits (current divorce cases not included):

10 1971: McCartney versus the rest of The Beatles
9 1981: Beatles versus Apple (Round 1)
8 1979: Beatles versus EMI (Round 1)
7 1989: Beatles versus EMI (Round 2)
6 1991: Beatles versus EMI Round 3
5 1989: Beatles versus Apple (Round 2)
4 1995: Beatles versus EMI Round 4
3 1998: Beatles versus Lingasong Music
2 2003: Beatles versus Apple Round 3
1 2005/06: The Beatles versus EMI (Round 5)
And the legal case that wasn't... 2002 Yoko Ono versus Paul McCartney

For all the juicy details, check out "The courtroom hit parade: The Beatles' top ten (lawsuits) "

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Cabin Fever Cure #1

Autumn brings with it the need to start nesting; begin wrapping one's brain around the notion that one may well be stuck inside for a few months. Seeings as I live in a basement apartment, the idea of being six to ten feet underground is daunting. My plan is to make a dent in my "to see" lists of movies and books. However, there is apparently an even more anal method of passing the time: Library Thing. Yes, list-makers and alpha-orderers can revel in this beta version; indeed, I have begun my own database, but due to ISBN snags (likely a user error), I can't seem to list the exact version and cover of the titles in question. Nevertheless, if you care to see what nestles in my bookcases, look up "misscarol." Be aware, LibraryThing is not spouse-safe.

Left Hand, Meet Right Hand

The RIAA is preparing to go back to school with its own "educational video" about copyright. Unfortunately, it can't get its facts straight.

An FAQ-section question asks whether someone who has bought music has the right to ever upload or download music. The RIAA's answer says that it's okay for productive or scholarly works. The video's critics say the response makes no mention of allowable uses for home recordings, even for individual use, which the law allows.

I hear Luba wailing "Break Free" in the background...

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Movie Review: Prairie Home Companion

Prairie Home Companion
Director: Robert Altman
Writer: Garrison Keillor

Ladies and gentlemen, I welcome you to the sepia shadings of Prairie Home Companion, brought to you by the makers of ensemble films, Robert Altman, and homespun tales, Garrison Keillor. This endearing, charming, and disarming film will cure what ails you: loneliness, cynicism, or aching joints.

It is based on the real variety radio show that airs on Minnesota Public Radio, but can also be heard on American Public Media. Reminiscent of a time when radio truly kept people company in rural areas when money was low, the film takes place in the theater that housed the radio show (on WLT) since the beginning. It has been bought by a large corporation that will knock it down for parking. The show that is the movie is the swan song.

Prairie Home Companion waxes nostalgic on days gone by in its old-time format, old-tyme music, and the cast with of Boomers approaching their sixties. Indeed, the singing/acting torch is passed from Meryl Streep to the capable Lindsay Lohan. Another nice touch is the comic relief threaded by the suitably restrained Kevin Kline as Guy Noir.

Altman has comeback from Gosford Park, of which despite two attempts, I could not get through more than half an hour—even with Clive Owen. (Too Upstairs, Downstairs for me.) He structures Prairie Home Companion in this signature style (many stories in a small setting) but Keillor’s down-home feel grounds the film nicely. Pay attention to the details, for everything is not as it seems.

Wartime’s “Greatest Generation” (of which Altman is a member) will get the most from this; I think they will better understand what “theatre of the mind” meant to people, be they city or country dwellers. While Prairie Home Companion is a gentle satire, it reminds us that something is endangered. That we must wake up to homogenization before everything becomes paved corporate.

In the spirit of torch passing, the Internet plays a similar role that radio did: it is a source of information, and way to keep in touch with far-flung family. Echoes a time when grown children left the farm to find work in the cities. Plus ca change.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Book Review: Black Swan Green

Black Swan Green
by David Mitchell
Published by Knopf Canada

Britain’s David Mitchell is a master of structure as he proved with 2004’s Cloud Atlas. His newest novel, Black Swan Green lovingly uses this similar framework to tell the story of young Jason Taylor.

Set in Thatcher’s England, the thirteen-year-old leads us through the episodes of his life: fights, wars, girls, cigarettes, parents, books. There is nothing weird or angst-ridden about them; indeed, they are extraordinarily ordinary. But they are magic. Jaw droppingly so.

No mistake, this isn’t a coming-of-age story. (No doubt someone will dub it so.) Nor is it merely a story. Rather, like Mitchell’s previous Cloud Atlas, and number9dream, Black Swan Green is an intimate spell cast over the seeker who cannot come away unaffected.

I can’t say this enough: David Mitchell is a genius and I have yet to experience a glitch of his wand. Please, read and absorb this book.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

In a Word, #^$%*!

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission, the American version of the Canadian Radio, Telephone and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), while not as dithering, has proven to be just a priggish.

Documentarian Ken Burns has just finished The War, a film about soldiers' experiences in the Second World War. It includes, funnily, some profanities. So, in its infantile wisdom, the FCC has issued a edict on naughty words. In other words, war is (bleep).

The only two ways audience-supported broadcaster PBS can air this show is either 1)bleep out the profanities and digitally obscure the lips (for the benefit of the visually impaired), or 2) air the program after 10pm when Junior is in bed. PBS has chosen option number 2, as reported by the New York Times.
Mr. Burns, perhaps best known for his prize-winning series “The Civil War,” insisted that “The War” would be shown in the preferred time slot of 8 p.m. He said he was “flabbergasted” that FCC policy was being applied to documentaries, particularly when President Bush himself was inadvertently heard using vulgar language, broadcast on some cable newscasts, at the recent Group of Eight summit meeting in St. Petersburg, Russia.

(For those who missed Bush's cuss, it was "shit" as bleeped by the Beeb and revealed by the Ceeb. I, for one, am shocked. Naughty prezzie.)

At first glance, one would think Burns was being unreasonable. Ten o'clock seems like a reasonable hour at which to broadcast The Wars. But it isn't. One audience for documentary is the uninformed, among whom are children. Sure, it's highly unlikely that kids will want to watch this; hell, their parents are more likely to chew their nails over The One than over The National. But the opportunity to watch a program that informs current affairs (i.e., Iraq, Lebanon, Afganistan) is critical.

This also raises the question of why PBS is following FCC guidelines. Well, first it needs a licence. Second, and more important, is funding. While viewers donate money to the station, it must also get funding from the CPB which accounts for 24 per cent of its budget. This is not an insignificant chunk. While there is some foundation and corporate support, PBS relies on what seems to have become a politcally influenced body (See the Washington Post articles and FAIR piece below.)

This leads us to donating. I'll be transparent: while I'd love to give money regularly to my local PBS affliate, WNED, I can't afford to. I have done the equivalent in the past (CKCU, CIUT, WFMU), but those salad days are on hold for now. At some point, I do plan to support the quality programming on PBS...and hope that they will still be there to accept it. I encourage you to watch this great station, and if you can afford to, support it. It serves as a model of what the CBC should be. (More on that later.)

1)Paul Farhi, "PBS Scrutiny Raises Political Antennas," Washington Post, April 22, 2005.

2)Paul Farhi, "Public Broadcasting Targeted by House," Washington Post, June 10, 2005.

3)Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, "CPB Funding Threatened...Again," media advisory, June 8, 2006.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Grow a Brain

So U.S. president George Bush has vetoed a bill for federal support of stem cell research. His rationale?
"This bill would support the taking of innocent human life in the hope of finding medical benefits for others," Mr. Bush said at a White House event where he was surrounded by 18 families who "adopted" frozen embryos not used by other couples, and then used those embryos to have children.

But, it's perfectly ok to drop bombs on them, though. Bush is also quoted as saying:
"These boys and girls are not spare parts," he said.

Just cannon fodder.

from the Globe and Mail

Friday, July 14, 2006

Ach, those Crazy Amish!

You can always, without fail, count on the U.S. Department of Homeland Security for a laugh. Seems buggy-drivin' Amish, retired flea market goers, and petting zoo school groups are on their hit list.

From the New York Times:
In addition to the petting zoo, in Woodville, Ala., and the Mule Day Parade in Columbia, Tenn., the auditors questioned many entries, including “Nix’s Check Cashing,” “Mall at Sears,” “Ice Cream Parlor,” “Tackle Shop,” “Donut Shop,” “Anti-Cruelty Society” and “Bean Fest.” ...

New York City officials, who have questioned the rationale for the reduction in this year’s antiterrorism grants, were similarly blunt.

“Now we know why the Homeland Security grant formula came out as wacky as it was,” Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York, said Tuesday. “This report is the smoking gun that thoroughly indicts the system.”

Honestly, don't take my word for it, read the NYT piece, "Come One, Come All, Join the Terror Target List," for yourself.

Meanwhile, take a good, long look at the chicken on the right:

photo by Bill Johnson/Horse Pix Photography

In the Kitchen at Parties

'Tis summer cocktail party season and if your circle of tipplers are anything like mine, you'll appreciate my love for the July 3, 2006 edition of "Tomorrow" from the Village Voice.

Online Books

The Wall Street Journal reported Rice University's (Houston, Texas) announcement that the school will revive it's press, which has been defunct for a decade. This time 'round, it will be a cyper-press so to speak:

Rice's program, to be launched later this year or early in 2007, could be even more ambitious. The new press plans to publish all of its books online through Connexions, which will essentially absorb the press's editing and transmission costs, says Chuck Henry, a Rice vice-provost who is also the press's new publisher. Readers can freely view the online works under a special online publishing license, though they may be charged a small fee for downloading them to a computer.

What is even more interesting, to me at least, is the ability of authors to revise their books without having to go into reprint---a costly and risky venture for publishers.

Because all books will be in digital form, authors can amend their tomes online, link to multimedia files elsewhere on the Internet, or even chat with readers. Books would never go out of print, and more might be published because of the press's lower cost structure, Rice officials say. Rice officials are also considering asking authors whether they want to allow "derivatives" of their works to be created online. The Connexions site operates under an "open-source" model, letting readers update online course material.

It appears to solve the "publish or perish" dilema faced by young profs whose work must past academic muster to make a monograph about, say post-modern Welsh grammar, worth the hit to the bottom line.

The university's initiative with Connexions likely have a ripple effect for other academic/scholarly and educational publishing houses, at least the small ones. How Rice's model will effect costs and book prices remains to be seen. And I really doubt this will have any effect with trade pushlishers (electricution being a very real consequence of taking a laptop in the tub, sending revenues down the drain). Nevertheless, the move is refreshing.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

This is what you shall do:

Love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to everyone that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence toward the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown or to any man or number of men, go freely with powerful uneducated personas and with the young and with the mothers of families, read these leaves in the open air every season of every year of your life, re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book, dismiss whatever insults your own soul, and your very flesh shall be a poem and have the richest fluency not only in its words but in the silent lines of its lips an face and between the lashes of your eyes and in every motion and joint of your body....

---Walt Whitman, from the Preface to the 1855 Leaves of Grass

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

So close and yet...

The writer of Virigin Suicides hasn't given us a third novel, but, well, read what Publisher's Lunch sent me today:

Pulitzer winner for MIDDLESEX Jeffrey Eugenides' GREATEST LOVE STORIES OF ALL TIME, an anthology of classic love stories, to Jonathan Burnham at Harper, with Jill Schwartzman editing, for co-publication with McSweeney's Books in October 2007, with proceeds going to 826 Chicago, by Lynn Nesbit at Janklow & Nesbit.

Book Review: Transmetropolitan

Transmetropolitan: Back on the Street
Written by Warren Ellis
Illustrated by Darick Robertson
Published by Vertigo

Having tentatively foisted the heavy fire door open and exited the rainy night, I mount the rotting stairs through the stinking, smoky, dubious air. The soles of my boots draw themselves from each print left in the…I’m not sure what, nor do I want to know. I’m up and face another door that meets with my jacket-clad forearm. Each chance taken is something else willingly given up.

I arrived at the party late, but people are still lying about with smiles of conversion and lights of redemption gleaming from their countenance. Thus I associate myself with the world of Spider Jerusalem.

Fashioned after Hunter S. Thompson, Jerusalem is a nasty bastard who hates the world, which hates him back. In fact, the distopian world is pretty hateful. And cynical. And selfish. And expensive. And invasive: bodily, spiritually, and psychically. Turn on CNN and think of a Bush dynasty lasting another decade. Get the picture? Yup. Pretty fucking bleak.

Which is why Ellis and Robertson’s collaboration remains so timely. Originally published in 1997, the Transmetropolitan series has been collected and reissued as a perfect-bound edition. As seemingly miserable Jerusalem is, even his cleverly half-shaded-half-rose-coloured glasses see a glimmer of light. It reminds us that we lunatics aren’t insane, we just haven’t taken over the asylum. But it is possible. And we can, if we want. Just turn on your brain and open your eyes.

These are the end times. It rained cheese last night. The Black Squirrel has been seen has been seen as far afield as Luton…And behold a pale horse, and his name that sat on him was Death…. If anyone in this shithole city gave two tugs of a dead dog’s cock about Truth, this wouldn’t be happening.
---Warren Ellis, from the introduction.

Thursday, June 01, 2006


The June 2006 edition of Harper's is only available at fine independent bookstores and magazines shops in Toronto. So there's no need to enter the giant-purple-people-eater megashop to find it. Heather, it seems, would prefer you to spend your hard-earned bucks elsewhere. This is fine with me. Who needs smelly candles with their freedom of speech? Makes me sneeze.

What caused this tempest in a java-cup? Art Spiegelman's article "The Art of Outrage," which reproduces and discusses the infamous Danish cartoon of the Prophet Mohammed.

This from Quill & Quire:
Chapters/Indigo hearts censorship
If you’re looking for the new issue of Harper’s, don’t head to Indigo or Chapters, ‘cause it ain’t there. The Globe and Mail reported on Saturday that the mega-chain has pulled each and every copy from its 260 stores Canada-wide. The reason? Those pesky Mohammed cartoons again!Indigo is crying foul over an Art Spiegelman article that contains all 12 of the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten's infamous cartoons, along with some new comix, including one penned by Spiegelman and, according to the Globe, “two by Israelis, ‘inspired’ by an Iranian newspaper's call in February for an international Holocaust cartoon contest ‘to test the limits of Western tolerance of free speech’.”The Globe also boasts a leaked e-mail that was sent to Indigo execs, instructing them on how to respond to customer complaints of censorship, which includes the ever-so-natural and spontaneous-sounding "the decision was made based on the fact that the content about to be published has been known to ignite demonstrations around the world. Indigo [and its subsidiaries] Chapters and Coles will not carry this particular issue of the magazine but will continue to carry other issues of this publication in the future.”And the final dash of salt to this wound in free speech's side? Harper’s publisher John MacArthur
chided, “I'd expect an American company to do this, not a Canadian.” Ouch.

The article also links with the Globe and Mail article

And while you're browsing in Pages or Book City or This Ain't the Rosedale, take a gander at the other titles that may not be available in the chain store.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Movie Review: V for Vendetta

V for Vendetta
Director: James McTeigue
Writers: Andy and Larry Wachowski
**Possible spoilers**

V for Vendetta is stylistically executed but is simplistic and flawed. While I don’t expect the answers to life’s big questions to be resolved by a comic book-based movie, when the movie in question purports to provide them, then I do want something. Alas, I left with a steak-less belly and sizzle-speckled specs.

Lead character V (Hugo Weaving) has suffered at the hands of an oppressive government and is out to secure freedom for the masses. The State’s draconian laws have suppressed art, speech, association, and sexuality under the linked guises of security and religion. “Heroine” Evey Hammond (Natalie Portman) is the asker of questions and the executor of answers. The setting is near-future London where we hear about the civil wars in the United States (still the colonies, it seems). Old story, I know.

There were a number of forgivable problems that are given up to willing suspension of disbelief. The eventual posthumous success of Guy Fawkes’ blowing up of Parliament isn’t it. It has been argued that even if the historical saboteur/freedom fighter/terrorist had been successful, nothing would have changed; indeed, things might have gone much worse. The tragedy of 9/11 proves it. What V suggests (the destruction of a symbol to give revolution meaning) is what many terrorists claim; that the World Trade Towers were the symbol, the epitome of selfish, capitalist, Western arrogant hubris. While that may be true, what rose from the ashes was (and is) far more oppressive to far more people and dangerous to all bystanders—innocent or otherwise. The metaphor of “blowing up old institutions” is all very well and good, but what do you replace it with? What has the solidity and the foundation? One must build on something.

In the world of V for Vendetta, somehow a villain gained power. And meanwhile, people sat back and let it happen. Then someone told them it was wrong and they got up and followed the next person. What if both leaders they’re both wrong? Certainly the State was evil in the movie and ought to be overthrown. (Think a mix of Huxley’s Brave New World, Orwell’s 1984, Burgess'/Kubrick’s Clockwork Orange, and Pink Floyd’s The Wall. Ah, but the Brits do authoritarianism so well.) Then what?

There were hints of grey throughout; that perhaps there were a multitude of options other than the two put forth (authoritarianism versus anarchy). Perhaps we were to leave thinking about a third, forth, fifth answer. I’m just not convinced that it was put across successfully.

So is it worth a watch? Sure, I guess. This is James McTeigue’s directorial debut. He’s worked with the Wachowski brothers before, and this is their type of fare (see the Matrix series). There are some nice visual effects about three-quarters in, but don’t expect a lot. And we could have done with out the stupid love scene. V for Vendetta had a lot of potential, but predictably, failed to act on it.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Book Review: A Dirty Job

Title: A Dirty Job
By Christopher Moore
Published by William Morrow
Hardcover: $32.95
(Reviewed from an advanced reading copy)

Have a box of Kleenex near you for A Dirty Job. Again, Christopher Moore engages your brain, your heart, and your funny bone. His research bolsters all this writing (Lamb, Fluke) and this is no exception. Employing myth in its traditional way, he attempts to understand one of the great mysteries. Moore’s life has also informed A Dirty Job, which makes reading his latest such a satisfying experience.

Book Review: Adverbs

By Daniel Handler
Published by HarperCollins
Hardcover $29.95
(Reviewed from an advanced reading copy)

Adverbs is Daniel Handler’s third book for adults. Under his better-known pen name, Lemony Snicket, he fooled me into thinking he was an English author. Adverbs changes that presumption. Handler’s style reminds one of Dave Eggers; its quirky and slightly off-putting. He forces you to pay attention to the moment, to understand the characters as they exist in each short story. Meanwhile, your brain recognizes them from a previous scenario. Engaging and neat for fans of words and structure.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Artists Are Sayin' It for Themselves

This popped into my mailbox this week via a digital-copyright email list I'm on. The likes of Broken Social Scene, Barenaked Ladies, and Avril Lavigne have banded together to form the Canadian Music Creators Coalition.

From their press release:

Suing Our Fans is Destructive and Hypocritical
Artists do not want to sue music fans. The labels have been suing our fans against artists’ will, and laws enabling these suits cannot be justified in artists’ names
For more info, visit the CMCC

Wednesday, March 29, 2006


Just poking my head up from the boxes that remain unpacked. Yes, I moved three weeks ago and I'm still settling in. It's been nearly a month of finding old stuff I need, buying new stuff I need, and realizing I don't have everything I need. Twenty-one days of catching up with missed deadlines, hooking up new phone lines, and figuring out impromptu washing lines. But now that March's lion is succombing to April's lamb, I will find time to spout off on books, movies, and most appropriately, this bullshit that Toronto's going wireless. Till then, I have one more missive to draft, and one more draught to miss.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Freedom of ...

I've been wondering how to address the issue of freedom of speech as it's being terrorized this week. To be honest, I worry. Zealots know no bounds. Zealots have no respect. Zealots have thin skins. And bullets and bombs and rocks render skin shattered, effectively shutting down any speach of the individuals. However, braver souls and publications than I have taken this issue on. I encourage you to visit the following sites:

Get Religion (a very balanced religion journal)
International PEN (an organization defening freedom of expression)

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Out of the Frey-ing pan...

...and into rehab. Apparently being a loud-mouth junkie will get you a sweet book deal. From my e-mail inbox from Publisher's Lunch:

Velvet Revolver front man Scott Weiland's memoir of his rise to the
pinnacle of rock stardom, first with Stone Temple Pilots and later recreating himself as the sober lead singer of Velvet Revolver, to Brant Rumble at
Scribner, by David Vigliano of Vigliano Associates.

Courtney Love's Dirty Blond, journals including never-before-seen intimate
photos and revealing writings about her career, family, and rehab, to Denise
Oswald at Farrar, Straus, for the Faber imprint, by David Vigliano of Vigliano

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Márquez Puts Down His Pen

From The Guardian:

The Nobel Prize-winning novelist, Gabriel García Márquez, has announced that he has given up writing.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Sunday, January 29, 2006

1 Year, 12 Months, 365 days...

Yup, it's Muse Ink's first anniversay this month. My, it just seems like yesterday...In the words of Fred Flintstone and the gang, Happy Anniversary! Thanks for visiting.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Condos, Shmondos

Sadly I must post that Ottawa independent record shop Record Runner is shuttering to make room for condos. Should you reside or visit the nation's capital and need to relieve yourself of much money on worthy CDs, visit the handful of shops mentioned on the link OR drop by Birdman Sound on Bank Street. Owner John Westhaver is one of the most enthusiastic and encylopedic music people I've ever met; taught me everything I love about freeform radio at CKCU.

via PWI

Toolin' with Maiden on the Net

Last week I indulged my inner metalhead and picked up Iron Maiden's The Number of the Beat (one of my top ten of all time) and Tool's Lateralus (both thanks to a Christmas-bonus gift certificate). They have yet to leave my CD player as the smile has yet to leave my face. I bring this only because tonight, having done my homework and house work, I've time to listen to the BBC online while I sort though bank slips. As I type this, Bruce Dickinson, former frontman for Iron Maiden, is hosting his "Rock Show." Nice to see that one can be in a successful metal band, keep your brains, and still be articluate. Lemmy aside...

Thursday, January 19, 2006

RIAA Killed the Satellite Radio Star

I remember an innocent age when I taped music from the radio that I couldn't afford or get my grubby teenaged hands on. It might have been a concert or an interview or just a song. I probably still have them, dust coating the evidence of my illicit, infringing days of yore. Today radio is crap, and I've yet to be convinced to buy a $400 unit + subscription fee. Nevertheless, the new technology is here with the same old cry for regulations hot on its heels.

If Truth Is Beauty...

...and beauty is truth...and beauty is in the eye of the beholder, then cast thine eyes upon this. Cartoonist R. Crumb envisioned science fiction author Phillip K. Dick's visions in Wierdo #17.

via Mixmaster Shecky at Glorious Noise

Fooled Me Once

People are still nattering away about James Frey’s book and what a terrible human being he is for lying, that he’s just a rich, drunk, frat boy etc. Ok. Let’s get past that. He ain’t the first. He ain’t the last. And folks are just pissed that they got taken. Hey, “fooled me once, shame on you. Fooled me twice…”

I found a great article in the New York Times Magazine (Jan 8, 2006) by Stephen J. Dubner and Steven D. Levitt entitled “Hoodwinked?”. The tagline reads: “Does it matter if an activist who exposes the inner workings of the Ku Klux Klan isn’t open about how he got those secrets?”

Dubner and Levitt included in their book, Freakonomics, a chapter about the men in white. This is their lead to the magazine piece that centred on 1940s American activist Stetson Kennedy who is best known for taking on the Klan and wrote a book about it called The Klan Unmasked (originally published in 1954 as I Rode With the Ku Klux Klan). Kennedy described how he infiltrated the organization and helped bring it down a notch or ten. He dutifully archived his notes, letters, and reports.

In 1992 Ben Green began writing a book about a black civil rights advocate and collaborated with Kennedy. Turns out the man who unmasked the KKK didn’t lift the hood alone. He had help. Ok, fine. Except in the book Kennedy claimed to have done a lot of things and spoke to a lot people that he himself didn’t really do at all. This came to light with the publication of Green’s book when The Klan Unmasked was footnoted as a “novelization.”

But it was all for a good cause. Right?

Canadian author Farley Mowat has long been an advocate for the North and the First Nations people who live there. And he has “never the facts get in the way of the truth.” This has brought him as much criticism as adoration. But since it’s all for the right reasons, does it matter?

I ask this because Kennedy and Mowat appear to be forgivable. Their respective foes were reprehensible and genocidal. But rather than fuel the battle with zealotry, I believe one must arm oneself with facts.

But what can you believe? Former New York Times reporter Jayson Blair blew his and the paper’s credibility by stealing articles and inventing quotes. Is he just the one that got caught?

History is mainly written by the winners. We only know what we do about Britannia, for instance, because the invading Romans were literate. Interesting that the culture that introduced coinage to that island didn’t recognize that said coin had two sides.

And so here we are in January 2006. George Bush lied to his country and sent young soldiers on a deadly wild goose chase. And Canada goes to the polls after a winter of discontent and rhetoric.

Frey pales in comparison.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

A Million Little Refunds

James Frey's book (pick a genre any genre) A Million Little Pieces has generated a lot of press. I'm not sure the reason is unprecedented, but it's certainly uncommon. "Misrepesentation" is the bread and butter of showbiz and, let's be honest, much of book publishing is showbusiness.

That said, Frey has certainly moved people with his writing. I haven't read either this or his new one, My Friend Leonard, supposedly based on the headline-making paperback. If A Million Little Pieces was promo'd as a work of fiction none of this would have happened. OR if he included a disclaimer of sorts, like David Eggers did in Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, no one would be "hurt", or at least egos would have remained fully inflated. Question is, would people had liked it as much?

So at the end of day, if you bought the book and are utterly dismayed that the story is mileading, find the receipt (provided you bought it directly from the publisher), read this, and call Random House to try and get your money back. If you liked it for a good yarn and don't give a damn about its veracity, all the better.

As for me, my curiousity is piqued so I'll put a hold on at my local library.

For more information on James Frey by the man himself, visit BigJimIndusries.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Creative Non-Fiction

I take issue with the term "creative non-fiction." Perhaps I'd be happier with the cinematic workaround: "based on a true story." The former implies that the incidents contained within the covers are true, more or less...

And so we have James Frey, author of A Million Little Pieces, and the man who got one over on Oprah. If the usually savvy businesswoman doesn't have factcheckers yet, I suggest she hire some damn soon. Perhaps Smoking Gun has a couple of interns looking for work.

The story was also covered in the New York Times (requires registration, but it's free) and by McSweeny humourist John Warner.

Either Mr. Frey is salivating over the additional sales this "bad" publicity has generated, or he's made a quick call to his lawyer to review the terms publishing contract, you know, just in case.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Book Review: One Hundred Years of Solitude

By Gabriel García Márquez, translated by Gregory Rabassa
Published by Harper Perennial
Trade paper: $18.95

Whenever I mention that I’ve just finished this book, people look at me expectantly and ask, “So, what did you think?”; not in a curious way, but rather in an iconoclastic-expose-the-canon manner.

I have to disappoint, I’m afraid, because I did like this Oprah pick.

Originally published in Spanish in 1967, Márquez is touted as being first to employ “magic realism.” (It could be argued that Lewis Carroll or Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels were be forerunners, but I digress.) “Magic realism” is a strange and wonderful device that weaves the fantastic (in the true sense of the word) into a real story (i.e.: not a whiff if dragon dung to be found). Hence the true reason for me to sign this book out of the library; I’m a big fan of Jeanette Winterson and other writers of her ilk.

To be fair, I’m still mulling over the story. And having returned the book (incurring $2.00 in overdue fines), I cannot provide quotes or exact details. Nevertheless, a synopsis is in order.

One Hundred Years of Solitude takes place in Macondo, an imaginary, isolated, South American town at an indeterminate time in history. Centering on the Buendía family, we follow the sorrows, merriment, tragedy, and frustrations of the clan over a century; from the town’s settlement to its demise. Informed by the politics that Márquez lived through as a journalist and writer, the author ably sweeps away moral judgments to paint flawed human characters.

To compose an adequate essay exploring the themes and nuances the author examines would take not only more time, but a second and third reading, pencil and notebook in hand. An comparative lit major I am not. But as a reader, I found I had to stick this out; I knew Márquez would deliver, resolve, and satisfy the time I invested.

Many who have read One Hundred Years of Solitude hated it. Admittedly, it’s quite lengthy and can be depressing (I think of one particular scene about three quarters of the way through that underscores my sentiment about politics) but the poetic execution and the need to chew the story over make the experience worthwhile. Definitely worth revisiting.

Movie Review: King Kong

Director: Peter Jackson
Writers: Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens (screenplay)
Merian C. Cooper and Edgar Wallace (story)

Remember Saturday-afternoon matinees full of romping, restless kids jacked up on popcorn and pop? Ok, nor do I really, but I do recall the live-action Sinbad movies complete with the sword-fighting skeletons. Not cinematic glory or special-effects milestones, but fun and fulfilling nonetheless. Hollywood spectacles aren’t necessarily about art or meaning or the greater good. Sometimes it’s about chase scenes and treasure islands and scary-larger-than-live monsters. George Lucas once unapologetically described his often-maligned Star Wars series as “popcorn movies.” The Mummy falls into this category and so does King Kong.

Peter Jackson’s latest clocks in at approximately three hours; pretty lengthy even for grown-ups. Indeed, a lot of people have complained about this. Strangely, the length didn’t bother me at all; I was too busy running from dinosaurs to look at my watch. The story divides into four acts: the character introduction in Depression-era New York, the sailing to Skull Island, the adventure on the island, and the return to Gotham with Kong in tow.

Throughout the camera captures plenty of emoting courtesy of Ann Darrow (Naomi Watts), which would normally bug me but I’ll forgive for this picture; it’s in keeping with the ‘30s-era movie-making tone I think Jackson wanted to set. There’s lots of “damsel in distress” stuff happening, but to change that would be to further wrest the movie from the original’s moorings. This occurs often enough without further changing the characterizations. For example, there’s a sweet yet silly scene where Darrow entertains the ape, which I’m not sure actually appeared in the 1933 original. (If somebody knows for sure, please do comment. Otherwise, I’ll need to rent it to find out for myself.) All in good fun, though.

The production and art design are amazing, too. A quick search through the credits on Internet Movie Database confirms that many of the crew also worked on the Lord of the Rings films. So too with the digital effects developers. The scope and fine detail added to the entertainment value.

As far as a message or sub-text goes, King Kong is somewhat confusing. There’s a love story of sorts between a giant gorilla and a woman who later falls into the rescuing arms of writer Jack Driscoll (Adrien Brody). Is this a compassionate thing à la Dian Fosey, something sexually weird, or an overarching allegory for women’s perceived nurturing love of nature supplanted by men’s perceived technologically imperialist pursuit of the almighty entertainment buck? Perhaps this question is best left for the chin-rubbing wags of the film-studies set a part of which I’m not, thankfully.

So cast aside your watches, bring on the popcorn, suck back your soda, and enjoy. Be warned: the eighth wonder is best served on the big screen.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Hi Resolutions

Merry Christmas and Happy 2006!

I've only a few random thoughts since I last had a moment to grace this space. To start, it was an interesting experiment to conciously wish people a "Merry Christmas" than merely "Happy Holidays" or "Seasons Greetings." Some say the latter in an effort to not offend anyone. Strange. I'm not Jewish, but I'd hardly take offence at someone wishing me a Happy Hannukah. It's a blessing of sorts. The CBC news noted that customers actually walked out of stores or refused to patronize shops that used the inoffensive milque toast seasonal saluation. In my recent retail experiment, I wished my customers a merry Christmas and received surprised smiles or shocked recipricals.

Boxing Day reminds me that people really are strange. Exactly three minutes after we opened the shop at eleven a.m., we had a full store. Nuts. Why are thirty-cent books more appealing than those priced at three dollars? How is something a deal if you weren't going to buy it in the first place?

So with all this merrymaking comes resolution drafting. In 2004 I decided to loose weight. I did. Last year I resolved to move up in my career. I did. This brand-spanking new 2006 I'll pay down debt; not sexy but somewhat achieveable, which is the aim of a resolution. I don't smoke and I don't drink heavily, so those traditional sins are nipped in the bud. I thought also I'd try to see more movies; perhaps one a week. And last, I'll endeavor to post my missives more often than once a month. So I resolve to keep you entertained. In twelve months, we'll see how I fared.

To you, yours, and those you have your eye on, have a boistrous and properous new year. May you achieve everything you set out to do and then some.