Friday, December 28, 2007

Art and Life and Death

Ike Turner died earlier this month. According to ex-wife Tina, he beat her up and abused drugs. He denied the charges. Regardless, he was one of the inventors of rock and roll.

Phil Spector stands accused of murdering Lana Clarkson. According to the State of California, he killed her. The defense called her death by a shotgun blast to the face a suicide. Regardless, he invented the “Wall of Sound.”

Music and art is full of men who are abusive and otherwise despicable. But I’d be a hypocrite if I said their art didn’t make my world a better place; indeed, I’d have to give up all my records and books if I wanted to absent their influence. Many years ago, I recall having a discussion with another feminist about how I could like many of the artists who behaved badly or criminally. How could I like John Lennon, for example, after he wrote “ Run For Your Life” for Rubber Soul:

Well I'd rather see you dead, little girl
Than to be with another man
You better keep your head, little girl
Or I won't know where I am

You better run for your life if you can, little girl
Hide your head in the sand little girl
Catch you with another man
That's the end'a little girl

Well you know that I'm a wicked guy
And I was born with a jealous mind
And I can't spend my whole life
Trying just to make you toe the line

You better run for your life if you can, little girl
Hide your head in the sand little girl
Catch you with another man
That's the end'a little girl

Let this be a sermon
I mean everything I've said
Baby, I'm determined
And I'd rather see you dead

You better run for your life if you can, little girl
Hide your head in the sand little girl
Catch you with another man
That's the end'a little girl

I'd rather see you dead, little girl
Than to be with another man
You better keep your head, little girl
Or you won't know where I am
You better run for your life if you can, little girl
Hide your head in the sand little girl
Catch you with another man
That's the end'a little girl

Pretty scary stuff. Pretty evil. Pretty amazing that the same guy late wrote “Imagine” and was hailed as a peace-loving anti-war hippie. Perhaps Yoko, that bastion of feminist ardor, reformed the bad boy.

It doesn’t matter that Lennon changed his tune. That was up to him, the artist, to do so. Did he make good art apart from “Run For Your Life”? Yes. So did Phil Spector. I’d be a lying if I said I hated Spector’s influence on pop. The same holds true for Ike Turner. I have no doubt he assaulted Tina and abused drugs. But he made some great music. That doesn’t forgive him his trespasses, but music fans should not have to make a choice between good art and a bad person. That’s up to the individual. I’m not about to say I can’t like a record, but I can say I don’t like a person: I don’t ever want to be in a room with Phil Spector let alone have a beer with him.

If you really want to get angry about the war on women— and I do believe one rages—think of this: more women were killed by their spouses than US soldiers were killed in Iraq (see War on Women by Brian Vallee ). One teenage girl died in Toronto as a result of disobeying her father. Hundreds if not thousands of women are murdered by male family members because they “dishonour” the family by refusing to marry against their will. That has nothing to do with culture. That has everything to do with hate.

I read somewhere that women are a little safer now that Ike Turner is dead. What naïve simplistic shit: we are no more safe now than we were yesterday. And we won’t be safe for a very long time. There isn’t one cause that can be rectified to guarantee our safety. It’s complex and wrinkly and multifaceted. Like people.

I believe that Phil Spector killed Lana Clarkson, and he should be found guilty and locked up for life with no chance of parole. I believe that there must be more shelters for women seeking refuge from potentially deadly spouses.

And I believe that good, even great art, can be made by fatally flawed people. And I can still appreciate that art as a part of the human condition.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Dolcet Tones

This morning's Queen streetcar commute nearly rendered me postal before I'd even reached work. I had one of those drivers who just can't shut up. Short of announcing that there's an accident ahead and the car is delayed, or that we've been short turned, there is no further reason to chat up the passengers. Not now that the TTC has installed an automatic public address system that not only displays the next stop on a digital sign, but also announces it on the speaker.

Now before you get all Luddite on my ass, realize that this doesn't mean the driver, in a pique of civil mindedness, doesn't still feel the need to announce (or bloody sing in some cases) not only the stop, but the buses and the local services...within a ten-block radius...with a "time stamp." Who needs to know that the beer store is closed at 8am? If I do, I'm either unemployed or working nights and therefore asleep at home...not on the streetcar. The rest of us are sucking back coffee and thinking of our first proper drink at 5:15pm, thanks.

And so, as I shoved my anti-social iPod in my already hearing-impaired ears, I thought of Emma Clarke, the ex voice of the London tube; she's been sacked. Apparently, she suffered the wrath of an un-civil servant's lack of humour...or lack public transit experience.

From the Mail on Sunday online:

“The thought of being stuck in the Tube with strangers for minutes on end and having to listen to endless repeated messages of my own voice fills me with horror,” she told the paper.

The whole experience reminds me of a scene from the film Croupier starring the very lovely Clive Owen. His character, Jack Manfred, is heading to his new job as a casino blackjack dealer, is packed in a train like one of many sardines, and clinging to a handrail: "I hate public transport."

Wednesday, November 21, 2007


If you're old enough to remember when the Beach Boys (minus Brian Wilson) released this crap single, then you may cotton on to what I mean by it: shit music made by has-been geezers to cash-in on nostalgia. Hawaiian shirts are optional.

Nostalgia is like tequila: fun in small doses, but know when to cut yourself off before it gets ugly. This goes for so-called 80s music as it does for 60s, but Generation X's market share isn't as big as the Baby Boomers', who, it seems can't hold their liquor.

To see that I'm not alone, check out Jon Fine's media column in Business Week where he comments on David Brooks' op-ed piece "The Segmented Society" in the New York Times.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Filled to Bursting

Planning a good ol' fashioned booze up? Well, there's a lot to worry about: cash for the tab, cash for the cab, having mates around to remind you how fucked up you were...oh and remembering to pee.

Yeah, pee. Now for us light-weights, it pretty much happens without any prompting: two pints and I'm racing to the toilet. Then each pint after equals yet another trip. Some would think that was embarrassing, but the Guardian kindly put my mind and weak bladder to rest. You see, binge drinking can lead to...


You think that's funny? Well here's a yummy description:

The mechanics of this gruesome problem are relatively straightforward. Alcohol is diuretic - it makes you urinate more - hence the sight of drunk people urinating in the streets on a Saturday night. Alcohol is also an anaesthetic: it dulls the urge to go. The combination of large volumes of urine, and a dimmed, possibly non-existent urge to pee can result in a seriously over-full bladder.

While most people will just let the urine out one way or another (possibly in their sleep), some will be so "dulled" that they will not feel the urge to "void". If it is not emptied, the bladder will eventually be unable to contain the volume, and - like any over-full bag - can burst apart under the pressure. A minor trauma - say, falling down and bumping your over-full bladder during a drunken binge - can also increase the likelihood of this happening.

According to this article, the 3 to 4 cm rupture is big enough to allow urine poison you from inside.

Makes a person want to jump back on the wagon....ok no it doesn't. Just makes me want to pee.

Monday, November 19, 2007

The Latest Shiny Toy

Joel Johnson from Boing Boing reviews Amazon's Kindle, the latest ebook reader. Apparently, it's got potential. Still, I bet it would really suck if you got beach sand in it, or dropped it on the bus, or it fell in the tub, or your husband/wife tossed to the bedroom floor in the heat of passion.

Meanwhile, sadly, back on the home front, Americans are reading less and getting stupider as a result. In a New York Times story, a study by the National Endowment for the Arts shows that students' grades drop in most disciplines when reading isn't an active part of their lives. That's not just books, that's anything: magazines, newspapers, etc. While some would argue its a condition of income, the NYT reports that
Although some of those results could be attributed to income gaps, Mr. Iyengar noted that students who lived in homes with more than 100 books but whose parents only completed high school scored higher on math tests than those students whose parents held college degrees (and were therefore likely to earn higher incomes) but who lived in homes with fewer than 10 books.

So, in the future, there will be ebook readers but no readers of books?

There May Be Snow on the Roof

From today's International Herald Tribute

"There's a difference between love as it is presented in movies and music as this jazzy sexy thing that involves bikini underwear and what love actually turns out to be," said the psychologist Mary Pipher, whose book "Another Country" looked at the emotional life of the elderly.

"The really interesting script isn't that people like to have sex," she said. "The really interesting script is what people are willing to put up with.

"Young love is about wanting to be happy," she continued. "Old love is about wanting someone else to be happy."

Lovely. Fingers crossed...

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Choke on This

From the Toronto Star:
"During the Leafs' final game at Maple Leaf Gardens on Feb. 13, 1999, team staff collected ice shavings the Zamboni had scooped off the ice between periods. The melted ice was cleaned and purified, and poured into about 2,500 acrylic pucks. Within days, the entire lot had been sold for $50 apiece for a net profit of roughly $125,000."

This from a team that hasn't, and I believe WON'T, ever win a Stanley Cup again. Why should they? They're the most profitable franchise in the NHL. They've been filling seats to capacity since the Ballard days. Now, however, the butts in the chairs are pinstriped; so much for a ticket boycott. Leafs Nation can't afford a passport to the game for which it bleeds blue. And yet fans till buy in.

Ever feel like you've been cheated?

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Movie Version of "The Kite Runner" Delayed

Maybe it's my cold, maybe it's my experience from working in the film business, but something about this story stinks.

From the New York Times:

LOS ANGELES, Oct. 3 — The studio distributing “The Kite Runner,” a tale of childhood betrayal, sexual predation and ethnic tension in Afghanistan, is delaying the film’s release to get its three schoolboy stars out of Kabul — perhaps permanently — in response to fears that they could be attacked for their enactment of a culturally inflammatory rape scene.

... The boys and their relatives are now accusing the filmmakers of mistreatment, and warnings have been relayed to the studio from Afghan and American officials and aid workers that the movie could aggravate simmering enmities between the politically dominant Pashtun and the long-oppressed Hazara.

In an effort to prevent not only a public-relations disaster but also possible violence, studio lawyers and marketing bosses have employed a stranger-than-fiction team of consultants. In August they sent a retired Central Intelligence Agency counterterrorism operative in the region to Kabul to assess the dangers facing the child actors. And on Sunday a Washington-based political adviser flew to the United Arab Emirates to arrange a safe haven for the boys and their relatives.

...In interviews, more than a dozen people involved in the studio’s response described grappling with vexing questions: testing the limits of corporate responsibility, wondering who was exploiting whom and pondering the price of on-screen authenticity.

...The producers dispelled one fear, that the filmmakers would use computer tricks to depict the boy’s genitals in the rape scene. But Ahmad Khan’s parents also pressed for more cash, the producers said.

On the advice of a Kabul television company, the boys had been paid $1,000 to $1,500 a week, far less than the Screen Actors Guild weekly scale of $2,557, but far more than what Afghan actors typically receive.

So what exactly did Hollywood film execs think was going to happen? That filming "authentic" rape scenes of two boys in an Muslim country (in any country)didn't bear consequences? How far in the sand did they bury their heads? This isn't just an American attitude, but also an artistic one; that to produce "good art" one must make it "real". Well, the translation of director Marc Forster's vision was lost, if it was ever properly conveyed at all.

Great spin, though boys. The book will continue to sell and its readers are frothing to see the flick.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Vote for Us....

...and we'll give you a day off! Yes, vote for Dolt McWimpy and he'll promise to consider legislation to think about a holiday in the bleakest month of the year: February.

Could you be more blatant, Mr. Premier?

Well, you could if you were the opposition:"As for the Liberal promise of another statutory holiday, the opposition critics agreed another one is warranted."

So, I guess regardless of how you vote, Ontarians will perhaps likely maybe sort of think about a stat holiday (that's 2.5 x/hour, folks) in February. One hopes. Fingers crossed. God willing. Planets in alignment...

From the Toronto Star

Surprise, Surprise

This is old news in many sad ways. According to Associated Press, a quarter of Americans don't read books. I'm not surprised, but I am disheartened. As may be evident from previous posts, I work in a bookstore where I'm constantly bombarded with the axiom "Well, at least they're reading" in response to purchases of The Secret and chicklit titles. That's like saying "Well, at least they're eating" when someone's diet consists of potato chips.

Some key points:
  • "Of those who did read, women and pensioners were most avid readers, and religious works and popular fiction were the top choices."

  • "Every other genre - including politics, poetry and classical literature - were named by fewer than 5% of readers."

  • "There was even some political variety evident, with Democrats and liberals typically reading slightly more books than Republicans and conservatives."

  • "Book sales in the US have been flat in recent years and are expected to stay that way indefinitely"

Why must people live up to stereotypes? Reading doesn't have to cost money. Libraries are free, and librarians are dedicated advocates for reading and the freedom to do so. So why, in this so-called free country, do people choose NOT to read thereby choosing NOT to express and exchange ideas? What exactly are they afraid of?

From the Guardian

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Criticism of Richard Dawkins

Dominic Lawson pens an amazingly literate piece on Richard Dawkins called "Why Richard Dawkins is right on alternative medicine - but not when it comes to religion" for the Independent.

[Eighteenth-century Scottish atheist David]Hume was perhaps the first to make the point that we cannot derive "ought" from "is". That is to say, we cannot know how the world ought to be, simply from describing how it is - no matter how knowledgeable we are. Hume's point was later defined with more brutal simplicity by men such as Professor A J "Freddie" Ayer: all statements of ethics are factually meaningless, being no more than the expression of the view that we either like or dislike something.

Freddie (my late stepfather, as it happens) was the Richard Dawkins of his day, at least in the sense that he became this country's most celebrated anti-religious proselytiser; but his impeccable Humean logic is now the impenetrable shield that the churches can use to deflect the ideological bullets of his successor. After all, if religion has been forced to become little other than an assembly of ethical opinions - however passionately adhered to and however elegantly housed-- then it cannot actually be depicted as "wrong".

For the entire article, click on the heading.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Tony Wilson Dead

From The Guardian:
Anthony Wilson, the Manchester music impresario who founded Factory Records and the Hacienda nightclub, died last night, aged 57, after a heart attack on Thursday. A leading light in the "Madchester" popular culture boom of the late 1980s and early 90s, he had been battling kidney cancer since early 2006.

The Salford-born journalist brought bands including Joy Division, New Order, the Happy Mondays and James to a wider audience. His record label's pioneering approach to design and architecture also helped kick-start Manchester's transformation into a European cultural centre.

From NME
[Creation Record's Alan McGee]'Factory Records was the template for every indie label with its 50-50 deals [between artist and label] and I can honestly say without Factory there would have been no Creation. In fact if it wasn't for his talk to us in 1985 I might have quit music all together.'

Good books on Wilson and what he did:
Mick Middles,From Joy Division to New Order: The True Story of Anthony H. Wilson and Factory Records, (London: Virgin Books, 2002).

Chris Ott, Unknown Pleasures, (New York: Continuum, 2004).

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Creakings from a Cranky Old Man

American Joe Queenan, who writes for a number of publications including the Guardian, penned an interestingly cranky piece about the Clash, London Calling (song and single), and the emotional hold it has on a generation. In short, he thinks we've been had just like the Boomers before us were, and all of the Clash's anthemic calls to arms were just a marketing ploy.

Ok, it's funny and well put. And in my more cynical "who gives a rat's ass" moods (which occur more and more these days) I would concede. Except he played the Hitler card:
The Clash, including the now deceased Strummer, allowed "London Calling" to be used in a Jaguar TV commercial in 2002. Jaguar is owned by the Ford Motor Company, which was founded by a ferocious anti-semite who invented the assembly line and was admired by Adolf Hitler. Ironically, top-quality airplanes built by the Jew-loathing Henry Ford helped defeat the Nazis and his zombies of death. War was declared. Battle came down. After all this, won't you give me a smile?

For fuck's sake, most popular technology has evil militaristic origins. Did you have to lose us there? I thought you were smarter than that.

Missing the Bus

The province of Ontario proposes to spend $15 million dollars to create green licence plates for environmentally friendly, low-emission cars and trucks. This means that Smart cars, hybrids and the like could park for free and use the carpool lane.

Isn't that missing the point? Leave the trendy car at home and take the bus. Premier Dalton McGuinty ought to dump that money into making the public transit system more efficient. Who told him that free parking will make an SUV driver see the light (through the smog) and switch to a Prius? If said driver was so aware, they wouldn't be spending $1.00/litre every to fill a gas hog.

Throw a toll on the Gardiner and the DVP. London has. It's just as much of a "step" as meaningless special plates.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Radio That Doesn't Suck

Just in case you're online, and you need something to listen to, try BBC Radio 1's Huw Stephens. The Welshman presents fresh new music. Tonight I heard Emmy the Great: Sandy Denny meets Mia Doi Todd.

Failing that, you can always haunt my alma mater: CKCU FM, the mighty 93.1

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

A Third Pint?

Sssh. The secret's getting out. Women don't eat like freakin' birds, and we don't all like fruity drinks either.

Nope. According to this article in theGuardian, real women drink ale. But the thing is the bright guys at the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) reckon we want cute little girly glasses. Thing is, this fancy stemware only holds a third of a pint. (Kind of like our wages being 75 cents to a man's dollar.)

Huh. That's just crazy talk.

Now, if someone had asked me, not only would I have set them straight about how I like my ale/stout/lager/cider/pilsner, but I would have insisted they buy me dinner, preferably a steak (medium, please, with chips, thanks). And I'm not alone in my appetites. The New Times reports that we ladies have gone off rabbit food and like a big ol' plate of protein with our carbs.
Red meat sent a message that she was “unpretentious and down to earth and unneurotic,” she said, “that I’m not obsessed with my weight even though I’m thin, and I don’t have any food issues.” She added, “In terms of the burgers, it said I’m a cheap date, low maintenance.”

So eating properly and drinking heartily are in. About bloody time, too.

Man-Booker Long List

From The Guardian:
The longlist in full

Darkmans by Nicola Barker (Fourth Estate)

Self Help
by Edward Docx (Picador)

The Gift Of Rain
by Tan Twan Eng (Myrmidon)

The Gathering by Anne Enright (Jonathan Cape)

The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid (Hamish Hamilton)

The Welsh Girl
by Peter Ho Davies (Sceptre)

Mister Pip
by Lloyd Jones (John Murray)

by Nikita Lalwani (Viking)

On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan, (Jonathan Cape)

What Was Lost by Catherine O'Flynn (Tindal Street)

Consolation by Michael Redhill (William Heinemann)

Animal's People by Indra Sinha (Simon & Schuster)

Winnie & Wolf by AN Wilson (Hutchinson)

All available at a local independent book shop near you.

Left of the Dial

Just when you were about to give up on radio, that every station blew chunks, sucked ass, and was a big, shiny corporate shill, you swing 'round and 'round, up and down the dial to hear this siren song: "You're listening to KUNT in Wailuku, Maui."

From the Honolulu Star Bulletin:
Alarmingly similar to a word the dictionary says is obscene, the call letters were among a 15-page list of new call letters issued by the Federal Communications Commission and released this week.

However, assignment of call letters actually is an automated process, according to Mary Diamond of the FCC's Office of Media Relations. Broadcasters use the FCC Web site to request and receive call letters with no oversight from Beavis, his partner, or any FCC regulator.

The Code of Federal Regulations allows applicants to request call letters of their choice as long as the combination is available. Further, "objections to the assignment of requested call signs will not be entertained at the FCC," it states.

Other beacons of on-air righteousness include KWTF in Arizona and KCUF in Colorado.

Sigh. It gives one hope, don't it?

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Bad Brains Baggins

This is just wierd:

This is just boss:

via WFMU

Online Dating Can Make You [sic]

I'm at the age where I can count my single female friends one hand, and we have all tried online dating. One meticulous friend has just launched herself into the cyber-abyss and often seeks my war-weary advice. She has written, revised, spell-checked, and double-checked her profile to include her interests and passions: each word carefully chosen, each comma properly placed. And yet she receives emails that show no evidence of having read said profile...or of even knowing how to spell "profile." Are we picky? Are we alone? Apparently not, thank goodness. From Jaime Epstein's "Sentence Sensibility" in the New York Times:
I didn’t realize, however, what a huge boulder I would be rolling uphill — what with my being a “literary person,” a sometime editor of this column, someone whose ear is as tuned to the pitch of language as a cellist’s is to music — until the misplaced modifiers, dyslexic spellings and grievous abuses of syntax started pouring in. One seeker of a woman to call his own allowed that the last book he had read was “Atonement,” which was about to earn him a gold star, Ian McEwan having his own section on my bookshelves, except that he didn’t quit while he was ahead — he had to add that it was written by . . . Ian McGregor! O.K., no big deal, you say, they’re both Brits, it’s hard to keep all the Ians (or, um, Ewans!) straight, you know what/whom he meant and at least he reads something besides Gawker. Well, yeah, but couldn’t he have malapropriated a lesser writer’s name, one whose first and last aren’t tattooed on my forehead, one not sitting on a pedestal in front of my computer? Couldn’t he have checked his sources?

Hold the Phone

Who knew that lack of home-based Internet would make a girl crazy? After exactly a full month of daily chats with the painfully polite tech support in Mumbai, I have given up the phone-line ghost. As of today, I'm all about cable modems. Big thanks to the poor bugger who had to drop a new coaxial cable in the 30+ C heat. And I could do was offer him a glass of water and a spanner.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Under the Sign of Sam

Yonge Street in Toronto will retain its legendary landmark: Sam the Record Man's sign. According to CTV, the city has granted the icon heritage status. The shop is scheduled to close on June 30, 2007. Git yer credit cards ready, kids, there's gonna be a sale.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Holy Crap! China Doesn't Mess Around

The International Herald Tribune today reports that,
The former head of China's top food and drug safety agency was sentenced to death Tuesday after pleading guilty to corruption and accepting bribes, the state-controlled news media reported.

Zheng Xiaoyu, who served as commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration from its founding in 1998 until mid-2005, was detained in February as part of a government investigation into corruption at the agency.

The unusually harsh sentence for the 62-year-old former commissioner came at a time of heightened concern about the quality and safety of China's food and drug system, following a series of scandals here involving tainted food and counterfeit drugs.

This isn't just a bureaucrat accepting C-notes for favours. According to the article Chinese exports have been responsible for the following deaths and sicknesses:
  • pet food recall in North America
  • diethylene glycol, a toxic chemical used to make antifreeze, ended up in cough syrup and toothpaste in Latin America
  • 100 Panamanians dying as a result of injesting cough medicine laced with diethylene glycol
  • Chinese-made toothpaste tainted with diethylene glycol was pulled off store shelves in Panama, the Dominican Republic and Nicaragua
  • Last year 11 people died in China after being treated with an injection tainted by a fake chemical
  • 6 Chinese died and 80 fell ill after taking an antibiotic that was produced with what regulators later said was a "substandard disinfectant"

Zheng is being held ultimately responsible. And they say shit only rolls downhill. Scary.

Thursday, May 24, 2007


I'm adding Irish indie film Once to my to-see list. Why? Well, it looks good, and stars Glen Hansard, he of the film The Commitments and the band The Frames.

Monday, May 14, 2007

I Know, I Know

I'm bad blogger. In fact, I think I hear the sneakered feet of net geeks at my door to pry my keyboard from my cold, sleep-deprived hands. My excuse? Well, six-day work weeks, a promotion and its accompanying work load, and spring. After a whole two months of winter (ok, technically four if you include the grey-and-bleak season) I need out of my bunker. I've begun my wee container garden. I'm up to three containers, all of which contain flowers. Up next: herbs. When I'm not digging in "triple-mix soil," I'm reading for work. Occasionally, I manage to look the boggle box. Or sleep. Which is where I'm headed now. But stay tuned: I have managed to have a life, flag some news articles, and get outraged. Oh, and see Ted Leo and the Pharmacists. Do so, too, if you have the chance.

Over and zzzzz.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

The Reality of "Reality" TV

According to the LA Times, The Writers' Guild is threatening to strike. This means a lot of overtime for all the crew as scripts are stockpiled and shows are shot. This will also likely mean the continuation of crappy reality shows:

Network business affairs executives are combing their libraries to identify which shows they have the rights to rebroadcast and to compile alternative schedules jammed with movies, news programs, reality fare and game shows.

Hit shows such as Fox's "American Idol" are not only hugely popular, but they are also cheaper to produce than scripted programs. And most reality shows aren't covered under the Writers Guild contracts despite efforts by the union to organize the booming sector

And it is for this reason I don't watch "reality" progamming. Writers write better shows.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Give 'em Enough Rope

The Independent reports that legendary record producer Phil Spector said that women deserve a bullet in the brain:
Separately, prosecutors are also attempting to introduce testimony from a former police detective who provided security at a Christmas party held at the home of Joan Rivers in 1995 or 1996 that Mr Spector declared that women "deserve to die. They all deserve a bullet in their... head" while he was being escorted out after a fracas inside.

He's still on trial for the murder of actress Lana Clarkson at his Los Angeles mansion on Febrary 3, 2003.

Keep talkin', Phil. You're doing great.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Words to Keep in Mind

I finished reading Hunter S. Thompson's Hey Rube. The edition I had was murder to my copy-editing eyes, but I've learned (or am trying to learn) to read for content when I'm not on the clock. (When is that exactly? I don't friggen know.) The following is found at the end:
Politics is the art of controlling your environment. That is one of the key things I learned in these years, and I learned it the hard way. Anybody who thinks that "it doesn't matter who's president" has never been drafted and sent off to a fight and die in a vicious, stupid war on the other side of the world---or been beaten and gassed by police for trespassing on public property---or been hounded by the IRS for purely political reasons---or locked up in the Cook County Jail with a broken nose and no phone access and twelve perverts wanting to stomp your ass in the shower. That is when it matters who is president or governor or police chief. That is when you will wish you had voted.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007


Does it mean I have street cred if every school I attended was locked down? Ok, I didn't attend at the time, but still it's weird when your elementary, junior high, and high schools make headlines:

From the Globe and Mail:

Nearly one in seven Toronto public schools was locked down in the past academic year in response to threats or acts of violence on school grounds or nearby.

Lockdowns affected 81 of the Toronto District School Board's 558 schools -- and some principals had to keep their students behind locked classroom doors more than once during the school year.

Education officials frequently point to safety procedures instituted after violent incidents. But the figures, obtained by The Globe and Mail through an access-to-information request, paint a distressing picture of schools not doing enough to deter intruders and, as a result, having to resort to lockdowns.

Not only that, but my local Hell's Angel's clubhouse was closed down by police today. There goes the neighbourhood.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

How to Cure a Head Cold

In a big mug, pour hot water over

1-2 oz whiskey
chamomile tea
1 lemon slice
1-2 cloves
1 cinnamon stick

Best when served with a big, fluffy duvet, a box of Kleenex, and Vanity Fair.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Who Knew, Hoodoo Guru?

Australia's Hoodoo Gurus are back and back it, according to today's Toronto Star:
Twenty-three years after the Hoodoo Gurus broke into the Australian rock arena with the garage/ masterpiece Stoneage Romeos and not heard together since the 1996 release of their unofficial "final statement," the album Blue Cave, the Gurus are among us again, determined to rock on as if they'd never been gone.

"We weren't really gone ... we just didn't play together as the Gurus after Blue Cave," the Gurus' front man and songwriter Dave Faulkner said in a phone interview last week from Austin, Tex., where the band performed four times in two days at the giant SXSW fest.

They play at the Legendary Horseshoe Tavern tomorrow, Friday, March 23 at 11:30. Advance tickets are $20 at Ticketmaster, the club, Rotate This, and Soundscapes. At the door, they're $25.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Are You or Were You Ever a Member?

The Communist Party USA today announced that it was donating its history to New York University. According to the New York Times:
By offering such an inside view, the archives have the potential to revise assumptions on both the left and the right about one of the most contentious subjects in American history, in addition to filling out the story of progressive politics, the labor movement and the civil rights struggles.

“It is one of the most exciting collecting opportunities that has ever presented itself here,” said Michael Nash, the director of New York University’s Tamiment Library, which will announce the donation on Friday.

Liberal and conservative historians, told by The New York Times about the archives, were enthusiastic about the addition of so many original documents to the historical record. No one yet knows whether they can resolve the die-hard disputes about the extent of the links between American subversives and Moscow since, as Mr. Nash said, “it will take us years to catalog.” But what is most exciting, said Mr. Nash and other scholars, is the new areas it opens up for research beyond the homegrown threat to security during the cold war.

Among the various correspondence, newsletters, buttons, and so on are Pete Seeger's lyrics to "Turn, Turn, Turn" and songwriter/poet/activist Joe Hill's handwritten will.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Fashion Weak

Any dictionary will concur: a book launch at a Fashion Week event is ironic. Sex and the City aside, fashionistas are not lit freaks. If it ain’t glossy, it ain’t. That rule holds for people as much as it does for books.

And so I found myself at such a gathering this week. Last Friday, my invitation arrived in my work email. Being a glutton for “material,” I figured I’d go and channel my inner Carrie Bradshaw. Naturally, I spent the weekend agonizing over what to wear. I’m not a clothes horse. I could be. I’d like to be, but working in the arts, particularly in publishing, is not conducive to such equine aspirations.

I settled on a wardrobe, planned on transportation, worked the day, met a friend, and then at 10 p.m., set off with a coworker to the event. Easy peasy.

Not so much. Once through the door, I was made abundantly aware that I was underdressed, under-heeled, under-augmented, and over-aged. Mere glances. That was all that was needed.

I’ve been to film, music, and publishing events. Each has its own pretenses, and while I feel like a bit of an outsider, I’m always able to navigate my way through. At Fashion Week, I felt completely alien, as though I was walking through an air-kissing, lip-glossed, acid-rain cloud about to float away.

When we arrived at our particular section of cloud, things got easier. They always do when you can commiserate with cultural kin. Together, us bookish types could gush, drink, and make quiet fun of our surroundings. We may have been outnumbered, but none of us got off the fucking boat, so we were safe.

Nevertheless, it was weird. I think I met my match. And if the opportunity arose again, and I decided to enter the ring, I’d definitely go shopping first. For the Fashion Weak, clothes will make or break the woman.

Wizard Rock

Ok, I'm all about kids reading. And I absolutely do not begrudge a single mom making a gazillion dollars if she turns reluctant readers into book worms. Turning Harry Potter into a music genre. Well, that goes beyond geek. That's like thinking Dungeons & Dragons will get you girls. And, God willing, you will NEVER be admitted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Sigh. Dear readers, I give you...Wizard Rock. Fuck, man, that sounds like a Jethro Tull--Dantalian's Chariot love child. But it ain't. It's more like emo meets Elmo:
There are more than 100 bands like it in North America, but Harry and the Potters is considered the original wizard rock group. Paul DeGeorge recalls how he began the movement.

He had just finished reading one of the books in J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series in 2002 and began fiddling with his acoustic guitar. He incorporated what he had just read into a song.

There was a makeshift show in his backyard in Norwood, Mass., to an audience of six. More performances followed, MySpace promotion helped to build their fan base and triggered a following of 100 other character-driven bands like Draco and the Malfoys (that riff on Potter's nemesis) and Ginny and the Heartbreakers (based on Potter's crush).


Book As Throw Pillow

Philip Hensher's piece "Great Books and Stupid Readers" from the Independent made the rounds on various lit sites this week. Nothing new or startling, but I'm always amazed by these kinds of findings:
55 per cent, interestingly, admitted to buying books only as decoration, or to look intelligent to their guests - Ulysses was the top choice here.

You scoff, but I can tell you from working in book retail it's true. And publishers bend to this trend. I believe it was Anne-Marie MacDonald's book As the Crow Flies that was available in different coloured jackets. I had a woman buy a specific colour to better match her sofa.

Sex, Drugs, and Recycling

According to the New York Times, there's a movement afoot among more socially concious bands to put on environmentally friendly tours. And there are consultants for hire to help artists do this. From recycling batteries to providing biodegradable cups and plates to biofuelled buses. This is all good, I guess. Chalk it up to "every little bit helps," but I wonder if a couple of tour buses running on fast-food effluent is gonna make as much of a dent as it would if the Rolling Stones would deflate their expectations and run a more fuel efficient tour. I mean, it's all very well and good setting up tents housing Greenpeace to sing to the chior at the latest WhateverPalooza mudfest. It another story altogether to get suburbanites to leave their SUVs at home and take public transit into the city to see a $200 show. Indeed, how will Sting reconcile his rainforest conservation work with the Police megatour? Admittedly, he's an easy target. Pearl Jam are touring this year. They're pretty aware guys. And how about Genesis? It's guys like these that need to run enviromentally friendly tours. Forget about donating proceeds. Too easy. Make an effort. Be an example. That takes more integrity than signing a cheque.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Getting Chilly Again?

Who said the Cold War was over? First, Alexander Litvinenko, now this. From the Independent:

A military correspondent for Russia's top business daily died after falling out of a window and some media alleged yesterday that he might have been killed for his critical reporting.

Ivan Safronov, the military affairs writer for Kommersant, died Friday after falling from a fifth-story window in the stairwell of his apartment building in Moscow, according to officials; his body was found by neighbors shortly after the fall....

...Safronov, who had served as a colonel in the Russian Space Forces before joining Kommersant in 1997, frequently angered authorities with his critical reporting and was repeatedly questioned by the Federal Security Service, the main KGB successor, which suspected him of divulging state secrets.

No charges were filed because Safronov was able to prove his reports were based on open sources, Kommersant said.

Last December, Safronov angered the authorities when he was the first to report the third consecutive launch failure of the new Bulava intercontinental ballistic missile, which President Vladimir Putin hailed as a basis of the nation's nuclear might for years to come. The authorities never acknowledged the launch failure.

For the full story, please click the link in the heading.

Alexei Sayle Alive and Well

Ran across a blast from the past while reading the Independent. Apparently, British comedian Alexei Sayle does an occasional Motoring column for the UK paper. Today, we learn that "Only the mad go carless in LA":
So, in a town where car status is everything, walking throws everybody into confusion because you can't easily rank somebody who's walking. I remember on our first night at the Chateau Marmont we went out for a walk along a deserted Sunset Boulevard and up ahead of us was a single pedestrian. "I bet they're British," I said and when we got up to them, they turned out not only to be British but also to be Billy Bragg.

Not sidesplitting, granted, but it's good to know that he's still kicking around. Sadly, I never got to see him live, but I do remember the video for "Didn't You Kick My Brother":

Want to sing along?
Hey, you. Hey, you. Hey, you, come here. Come here, you. Come here, you. Hey, you, come here. You. I said you. I said you. I said you. I said you. I said you, with the tail. You come here. You. Yes, you. Come here. Go away. Come here. Hey, you, come here. Come here. Come here. Go away. Come here. Go away. Stop. Come here. Come here. Come here. Go away. Go. Come here. Hey, you. I said you. I said you. I said you, mate. I said you. I'm looking at you, mate. I said you, mate. I said, you come here. I said, go away. Didn't you kill my brother?

My sister-in-law was an oak tree, or do I mean a manhole cover?

I've got a brain like a jukebox.

Here, didn't you kill my brother?

I got a job as a petrol pump for the government, undercover.

Come here. I want to talk to you.

Here, didn't you kill my brother?

Didn't ya kill, didn't ya kill, didn't ya kill my brother?

Didn't ya kill, didn't ya kill, didn't ya kill my brother?

(I like a laugh!)

(I like a laugh!)

You're the best pal a girl ever had.

I wouldn't drop you for another.

Give us a pound or I'll kick your teeth in!

Here, didn't you kill my brother?

I like strangling budgies.

(I'm what you'd call an animal lover.)

I like North Korean Sherry.

Here, didn't you kill my brother?

You know, I've only known you for ten minutes. I've only known you for ten minutes, but you're the best pal I've ever had! You're the bestest pal I've ever had! You're my mate! You and me, mate! You're my Here, didn't you kill my brother?

Didn't ya kill, didn't ya kill, didn't ya kill my brother?

Didn't ya kill, didn't ya kill, didn't ya kill my brother?

Didn't ya kill, didn't ya kill, didn't ya kill my brother?

Didn't ya kill, didn't ya kill, didn't ya kill my brother?

(I like a laugh)

(It's a funny old world)

Hello, mate. How you keeping?

Hello, mate. How you keeping?

Hello, mate. How you keeping?

Here, didn't you kill my brother?

I saw ya.

I saw ya.

Didn't you kill my brother?

You bought him a pint of lager, and then you killed him.

You killed my brother.

I saw ya.

I saw ya.

Didn't you kill my brother?

You did a very nice job.

I really must congratulate ya.

Didn't ya kill, didn't ya kill, didn't ya kill my brother?

Didn't ya kill, didn't ya kill, didn't ya kill my brother?

Didn't ya kill, didn't ya kill, didn't ya kill my brother?

Didn't ya kill, didn't ya kill, didn't ya kill my brother?

Didn't ya kill, didn't ya kill, didn't ya kill my brother?

Didn't ya kill, didn't ya kill, didn't ya kill my brother?

(I like a laugh.)

(I like a laugh.)

(I like like like like like a laugh.)

Ah, good stuff, that.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Red Card

I get rules. I understand the need for them. So here's a rule: dumbasses are forbidden to officiate at kids' soccer matches.

According to the Globe and Mail, eleven-year-old Asmahan Mansour was about to play her third game of a tournament in Laval, Quebec, this past Sunday. The referee---who is Muslim (huh?)---pointed at her and then to the bench. The kid had been expelled for wearing a hijab, a Muslim head scarf.
After her expulsion, her coach, Louis Maneiro, was shown a memo from the Quebec Soccer Federation saying the hijab and other religious headgear were forbidden. His team forfeited the game in protest.

Good for the coach and kudos to the team.
Brigitte Frot, executive director of the Quebec federation, said in an interview it wasn't a religious matter and that her organization is just enforcing the laws of FIFA, the sport's Zurich-based world governing body, which bans dangerous equipment.

Uh huh. I saw the World Cup. Heads outta be banned. Ah, but the plot thickens:
However, FIFA officials have been promoting the game in Muslim countries by saying that it is all right for female players to wear the hijab.

The FIFA website even has a 2006 article praising the Iranian women's national team, with a photo of a hijab-wearing player taking a free kick.

And, reached in Zurich, a FIFA official said the game laws allow "non-basic equipment" as long as it isn't dangerous.

"We are bound to FIFA [rules]," Ms. Frot said yesterday, explaining that Quebec officials have in the past ordered the removal of jewellery in piercings and medical bracelets.

The 2006 supplementary FIFA guidelines, aimed at clarifying the game laws for referees, say that "non-basic" gear made with soft, light and padded material is allowed, such as some knee braces or goggles.

While made of fabric, the hijab could still be dangerous because the player could strangle herself, Ms. Frot said.

Amazing. And if you click on the FIFA link above, you'll see a whole team of hijab-wearing footballers! Mind you, they look friggin' warm with the long pants and shirtsleeves...

Apparently, the people who let the girl play two games of the tournament were "at fault." No, mesdames, I think the fault lies elsewhere

And They're Off!

I damn near spit my lunch (a salad) out my nose when I read this from today's Globe and Mail (registration required till I learn how to "share"):
Honda Racing will run a car on the F1 circuit this season that is covered in a map of the Earth rather than a collage of corporate logos. The team formerly was sponsored by a tobacco company

That will make quite an impression at 250+ miles an hour. And it gets better:
In a statement issued at a news conference in London yesterday, the team said that via its website,, "anyone who wishes, will have the opportunity to have their name on the car, make a pledge to make a lifestyle change to improve the environment and make a donation to an environmental charity. Under the concept of 'our car is your car', each name will form a tiny individual pixel, which will help build the image of planet Earth on the car."

Previously, the Honda team was sponsored by a tobacco company.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

You've Come a Long Way, Baby Part 3

Perhaps I should subtitle this: That Ain't Cricket, Mate!

On one hand, the fact that Pakistani women get to go see their much-loved cricket match is a great thing. At least when they show up, they won’t be considered the equivalent of “puck bunnies.” They can yell and cheer as much as they want. Fabulous. The players are all women, too. Good stuff.

But no men are allowed except for player’s families and the officials. This is to be a segregated event.

Ok, but it’s a baby step, right?

"The decision proves that women's cricket is progressing in our country and through this event we would promote a softer and moderate image of Pakistan," said Shamsa Hashmi, secretary of the Pakistan Cricket Board women's wing.

What nonsense! That’s like the no-bodychecking rule in women’s hockey. For crying out loud, women aren’t fragile. If we can push the equivalent of a ten-pound turkey out a hole the size of a loonie, we can handle a little shoving in the rink or on the pitch. And if you think female sports fans are all warm and cuddly, you wait till their side is losing.

Don't get me wrong: support for women's sport is good. But women being allowed to openly attend and support any sport regardless of the gender of the players is better.

Ms. Hashmi, there are far better ways of promoting a “softer and moderate image” of Pakistan.

from Al Jazeera, photo by GALLO/GETTY

Food Fights and Dancing Gorillas

I laughed when I saw the American Association for Retired Persons (AARP) ad featuring the Buzzcocks’ song, “Everybody’s Happy Nowadays.” I don't care anymore that pre-recorded songs are in commercials; indeed, I dare say Pete Shelly and the boys are well within AARP’s fifty-something demographic as are their original fans. But, like Jim DeRogatis, I do despair the lack of catchy jingles written specifically for an ad. They were fun and gave songwriters a good gig between shots at pop-star fame.

The “selling out” argument doesn’t hold for me, but DeRogatis points out a more important element of why this lyrical “editorialization” feels wrong:

The message of the AARP ad is that life will be one big, happy birthday party for retiring Baby Boomers, complete with food fights, balloons and dancing gorillas. But the theme of the Buzzcocks' song is exactly the opposite: The key line that sets up the catchy chorus of "Everybody's Happy Nowadays" is "Life's an illusion, love is the dream." The tune was a bookend to another 1979 single, "I Believe," that made the group's cynical worldview even clearer: "There is no love in this world anymore." In other words, the Buzzcocks are saying "life stinks," and AARP is saying "everything's peachy." But the Orwellian power of advertising and TV are such that ever such black and white distinctions can be obliterated

via Glorious Noise

You've Come a Long Way, Baby Part 2

When I was a girl,Charlie’s Angels and Barbie were going to make us into pliant, barfing, disappointments to the women’s movement. But they didn’t. We played at being Charlie’s Angels at dusk, chasing around in the streets in our torn jeans and grass-stained runners. And Barbie did what ever she wanted to do, when she wanted to, and drove her own van. And we had terrible corrupting teen magazines before we were actually teens (I got a Tiger Beat as part a loot bag from my friend’s tenth birthday. Shaun Cassidy was on the cover. I still have it.) But I have yet the need to check in to a eating disorder clinic.

So what the hell happened?

The Washington Post reports that according to the American Psychological Association's Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls, “Throughout U.S. culture, and particularly in mainstream media, women and girls are depicted in a sexualizing manner," but admits that:
While little research to date has documented the effect of sexualized images specifically on young girls, the APA authors argue it is reasonable to infer harm similar to that shown for those 18 and older; for them, sexualization has been linked to "three of the most common mental health problems of girls and women: eating disorders, low self-esteem and depression."

Said report contributor and psychologist Sharon Lamb: "I don't think because we don't have the research yet on the younger girls that we can ignore that [sexualization is] of harm to them. Common sense would say that, and part of the reason we wrote the report is so we can get funding to prove that."

So this is a hypothesis. Normally, I would think this was just more hysteria, but I look around me and I think otherwise. I see little girls--—pre-pre-pubescent, barely out of Pull-ups—--dressing like little hookers. And they ain’t buying this crap with their allowance. No, parents, usually mothers, are forking over for this gear. Even more stomach churning is that makeup and spa treatments (I wish I was joking) are marketing to little girls. Shit, I wasn’t allowed to tart myself up till I was fourteen, the same year I could bear ear piercing. Sure, my mum and I would battle it out over lipstick, but invariably she won. I was too young and she was right. She was being a parent, not a friend.

Apparently, parents are an endangered species. Or is it worse? Are some actually encouraging their girls to “look good”:
Eight-year-old Maya Williams owns four bracelets, eight necklaces, about 20 pairs of earrings and six rings, an assortment of which she sprinkles on every day. "Sometimes, she'll stand in front of the mirror and ask, ‘Are these pretty, Mommy?’"

Her mom, Gaithersburg tutor Leah Haworth, is fine with Maya's budding interest in beauty. In fact, when Maya "wasn't sure" about getting her ears pierced, says Haworth,"I talked her into it by showing her all the pretty earrings she could wear."
What about all these sexualization allegations? "I don't equate looking good with attracting the opposite sex," Haworth says. Besides, "Maya knows her worth is based on her personality. She knows we love her for who she is."

"Looking good just shows that you care about yourself, care about how you present yourself to the world. People are judged by their appearance. People get better service and are treated better when they look better. That's just the way it is," she says. "I think discouraging children from paying attention to their appearance does them a disservice."

Staggering. So at what age do girls think they have to look presentable? According to the Post,“’A few years ago, it was 6 or 7,’ says Deborah Roffman, a Baltimore-based sex educator. ‘I think it begins by 4 now.’"

To be fair, apparently stores make it difficult to find age-appropriate clothes and accessories for girls. But a quick look at Old Navy’s website rendered the usual modest T-shirts, shorts, and jeans for girls. Nothing particularly risqué there. But then consider that Canada’s La Senza, the women’s lingerie store, has a girls’ shop. And the chain just been bought by Victoria’s Secret. Also, what you see online doesn’t necessarily reflect what you find in stores, or the overwhelmingly pink-glitter swathed malls.

But still, what ever happened to saying no you can’t have that? Ok, I don’t have kids, but I heard that phrase plenty growing up. Are things that different today? And if so, why? And what ever happened to saying no I won’t buy what you’re selling? Are consumers/parents that spineless?

Apparently, Bratz dolls are also culprits in the sexualiztion of girls as they (ahem) provide poor role models. But as the Guardian’s Caroline Bennett points out, reality and its television equivalent aren’t much better:
Meanwhile, the tale of [footballer fiancé] Coleen McLoughlin has been unfolding. Highlights from her life story, appearing simultaneously in the Sun and the Mirror, have explored the transformation from schoolgirl nonentity to international celebrity that pretty Coleen has achieved by the simple expedient of going out with the footballer and former patron of prostitutes, Wayne Rooney. Everywhere, from broadsheet to tabloid, the media celebrates her accomplishments: getting dressed, losing a few pounds, forgetting about Wayne's "auld slapper". How long before her first South Bank Show? Or before the makers of BBC2's The Verdict put in a request for her to play the judge in their next, cutting edge series? At the very least, acclaim for this modern-day Cinderella will, in the words of the task force, provide younger girls with a model "that they can use to fashion their own behaviours, self-concepts and identities".

When you consider the respect accorded to Coleen and her many C-list colleagues for their achievements in shopping and grooming, the Bratz team start to look a bit up themselves. Coleen and Wayne keep busy watching Emmerdale, Coronation Street, EastEnders, then Corrie again. Look on the Bratz website and you will find the dolls have favourite classes (Jade picks chemistry), movies and even, "fave books": "mysteries" for Cloe, and, for Sasha, "biographies of successful people". And what kind of sleazy, disempowering message is that?

But what’s a beleaguered parent to do? Well, look no farther than The Experts! They have all the answers…because common sense isn’t.

Just when you thought we’d progressed two steps forward, we fall four steps back.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Techhead Alert

Curvebender Publishing is a new publisher whose first book is Recording the Beatles, a very detailed document about, um, recording the Beatles. According to DM News:
“There are a lot of books out there on the Beatles, but this is the first one that goes through each and every one of their recording techniques,” said Brian Kehew, co-author of the book and co-president of Curvebender, Los Angeles

But the fun doesn't stop there. Nope, this monster book (which apparently took fifteen years to make) is 540 pages long, and weighs 11 pounds. And "it comes packed in a tape case reminiscent of an old tape-recording storage case that the Beatles recorded on." Too good.

What else is interesting, at least to people in publishing and marketing, is that this hundred-dollar book is only available from the publisher's website.
This news comes from DM News, a magazine targeting "direct, database, and Internet marketing."
Mr. Kehew said that the firm also started a Web site that gave information on the book and an option to subscribe to the book’s mailing list. Once a release date was set, about a year after the site was launched, Curvebender began taking preorders offering the incentive of signed and numbered books to the first 1,000 buyers.

The publisher also targeted Web sites with e-mail links to the book’s site. These included Beatles fan sites, recording forums and sites affiliated with products discussed in the book. As the book neared completion, publicity quotes were gathered from the proofreaders, most of whom had worked with the Beatles.

via Glorious Noise

Friday, February 16, 2007

China Covers Up Detention of AIDS Doctor

Why does this not surprise me?
From the New York Times:
BEIJING, Feb. 15 — The photograph and article in Tuesday’s Henan Daily could have been headlined “Happy Holidays.” Three highranking Henan Province officials, beaming and clapping as if presenting a lottery check, were making an early Lunar New Year visit to the apartment of a renowned AIDS doctor, Gao Yaojie.

They gave her flowers. Dr. Gao, 80, squinted toward the camera, surely understanding that pictures can lie. She was under house arrest to prevent her from getting a visa to accept an honor in Washington. Her detention attracted international attention, and the photo op was a sham, apparently intended to say, “Look, she’s fine and free as a bird.”

On Thursday, Dr. Gao said in a telephone interview, a handful of police officers remained stationed outside her apartment building in the central Chinese city of Zhengzhou.

Year of the Pig, indeed.

Nine Days till Oscar Fashion Night

The Academy Awards are my weakness. It's the one night I can sit and sanctomoniously yell at the TV and know I'm right, especially after a couple of glasses of merlot: "She's had work," or "He'd look hot in a wet paper bag," or "Wow! I had no I idea she was knocked up. Looks good on her." (I think preggers is the new black, by the way.)

Oh, there are the "fil-ums" for our consideration. I happen to love a number of the nominees, which means they'll get one award apiece (like when Charlie Kaufman won the award for best screenplay in 2004 with Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and Sofia Coppola won the same award in 2003 for Lost in Translation). This year the two pictures that I like that are up for best screenpaly are Pan's Labyrinth and Little Miss Sunshine. My money says the former will not win. Fortunately, Guillermo del Toro is up for foreign-language film, for which I believe he is a front runner.

That brings me to the article I say today in the New York Times. Nothing earth-shattering or headline-making, but a decent read:

But as the Academy Award nominees for best picture suggest, it has been a terrific year for films about global politics. The culture clash between Japanese and American soldiers is at the heart of Letters; Babel ranges over several continents and languages to explore the anxiety and violence gripping the world.

And there is another, extraordinary group of Oscar films that grapple with explosive issues. The nominees for best foreign-language film are even more politically charged, and every bit as artistically successful, emotionally touching and accessible as the English-language candidates. Set mostly in the past, these films use a sneaky indirection that allows them to resonate with the most volatile questions of today.

Monday, February 05, 2007

You've Come a Long Way, Baby

From the Independent:
Mecca Laa Laa,20,one of the newly graduated lifeguards,said it would give Australian Muslim women the freedom to enjoy the beach while fulfilling their religious obligations. "The point is to get women active in the water, to encourage them to participate in sporting activities ... and wearing the burqini allows them to do that," she said.

From the Salon's Catherine Price:
On the other hand, it still bothers me that women should have to hide their entire bodies in public.

You and me both, Ms. Price.

Green is the New Black, Dahling

Climate change is getting you down? Musician and writer Rick Moranis gives us some much needed perspective in today's New York Times:
We should penalize S.U.V. idlers outside the building, the way that principal at the 92nd Street Y did. In fact, we should have a simple carbon footprint rating and award system in the building. Maybe the winner gets to miss a month’s maintenance charge. I don’t know. Maybe a plaque. It just seems like such a waste to have drivers waiting outside the building all the time, even in hybrids.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Myth-ing the Facts

Here's a great op-ed by Fergus M. Bordewich, author of Bound for Canaan: The Underground Railroad and the War for the Soul of America, from the New York Times addressing history, mythologizing, and missing the facts:
The larger importance of the Underground Railroad lies not in fanciful legends, but in the diverse history of the men and women, black and white, who made it work and in the far-reaching political and moral consequences of what they did.... Eye-catching quilts and mysterious tunnels satisfy the human penchant for easily digestible history. Myths deliver us the heroes we crave, and submerge the horrific reality of slavery in a gilded haze of uplift. But in claiming to honor the history of African-Americans, they serve only to erase it in a new way.

Lamenting the Mix Tape

I have been the recepient and the creator of mix tapes in the past, and I admit they do work as part of the ritual of wooing. They also work as part of proving you have a way cool record collection. With this in mind, a friend sent this Guardian article to me this week:
As any old-school mix-meister will tell you, compiling a tape takes a rare combination of skills, including instinct, knowledge, patience and, of course,
consummate good taste.

Ahem, Mr. O'Hagen, I would love a copy of that tape.

UK Tribute to Stax Records

From the Independent

In spring 1967 British audiences got the opportunity to experience the Stax Revue for the first time. The 13-date tour boasted a wealth of the label's talent - Otis Redding, Sam and Dave, Arthur Conley, Carla Thomas and Eddie Floyd - performing with the musicians who had recorded dance-floor and jukebox favourites such as "Knock on Wood" and "You Don't Know Like I Know".

In the six years since former country-fiddle-playing bank clerk Jim Stewart and his sister Estelle Axton had renamed their tiny Memphis-based label, Satellite, Stax had come to epitomise Deep Soul. The tour was thus a defining moment for British fans - young mods, future stars, even the Beatles - turned out to hail the visiting emissaries.Some were surprised to discover that the blend of rolling organ, punchy horns, compulsively danceable bass and drums that defined the Stax sound was created by a mix of black (organist Booker T Jones and drummer Al Jackson) and white writer, guitarist and A&R man Steve Cropper and bassist Donald "Duck" Dunn)musicians.

Sounds pretty awesome right?:
'Soul Britannia' starts at 9pm on BBC4 tonight. The Barbican Soul Britannia Concerts take place tonight, tomorrow and Sunday (which features Stax stars Sam Moore and Eddie Floyd). The musical tribute to Stax/Atlantic, 'Sweet Soul Music', begins its UK tour this month

So, brothers and sisters, tune to dial to BBC4, and prepare for the sweet soul music.

Record Labels 101

How to build a record label in the privacy of your own home.

via the Guardian

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

I Read the News Today, Oh Boy

I’m feeling a little cynical these days. Global warming plays no small part in my malaise. The overall stupidity of people and their inability to fully appreciate their noses on their faces flabbergasts me to an appalling degree. I think it all comes down to convenience.

For starters, a local Toronto morning show featured a suburban enterprise that operates a kitchen for people too “busy” to prepare their own meals. Well, sort of. You see, how it works is this company has different counters, each with cooked and/or cut-up ingredients for meals. You just slap the prepared stuff together in plastic containers (enough for about a week) and you’re done. No fuss, no bother. Except for perhaps the driving from work, picking up the kids, driving to the “kitchen,” slapping the shit together, putting it all in your SUV, driving back home, stuffing each meal in the microwave, and then watching some crappy “reality” show together…as a family…or as a couple…or as you eat alone while everyone else is off doing something. Yup. No need to drive a quarter the distance for groceries, thinking about what to feed yourself and your family, spending a few minutes chopping (with your family?), putting it all in the oven, and thirty to forty minutes later dinner is ready. The actual family thing, well, perhaps Dr. Phil or your mum can help you with that.

Next is an article in this month’s Vanity Fair by Michael Wolff called “Billionaires and Broadsheets.” The author details the large corporate buy-ups of major newspapers. The purchasers are old guys (fifty years of age and older) for whom owning a paper still holds Hearstian status:

There are among others music and film impresario David Geffen ($4.6 billion), after the LA Times; supermarket king and Clinton buddy Ron Burkle ($2.5 billion), and real-estate giant Eli Broad ($5.8 billion), bidding for the Tribune Company; America’s most celebrated retired executive, former GE CEO Jack Welch (some $720 million), going for the New York Times–owned Boston Globe; and insurance mogul—roughed up by Eliot Spitzer—Hand Greenburg ($2.8 billion), amassing shares in the New York Times.
However, what Wolff rightfully points out is that fewer and fewer people are actually buying newspapers anymore. He writes that in 1950, 100 per cent of households took one or more daily papers. “Fifty-six years later fewer than half of American homes get one. At the current rate of decline, no homes will get a newspaper in the not-to-distant future.”

Now I admit, I used to subscribe to a daily paper. When I moved, I had to cancel. These days, I buy a weekend Globe and Mail and read parts of the New York Times Sunday print edition at work. Otherwise, I manage to read the headlines of the free online editions of those papers plus the Guardian, the Independent, the Village Voice, and, if time, the Wall Street Journal. Sounds full, right? But it isn’t. Not even close. I find when I read print newspapers, I read most of the articles, plus inserts such as the New York Times magazine. Online, not even close. (Perhaps I’ll expand my New Year’s resolution to include buying a daily paper, too.)

What about others less diligent? What about kids weaned on Internet-only information and MySpace, for whom large swaths of text doesn’t even include vowels let alone analysis of voting records in either the houses of Parliament or Representatives? What then? Once papers go down (and I believe they will) then what regular, reliable news source will people turn to? Or will they? And will they vote?

Which brings me to flying. Noted for this love of things environmental, Prince Charles recently flew to from the UK to the US to receive an award for his advocacy. He drew much criticism from ecologists for the trip as it burnt loads of gas to fly said airplane. Last year at a book launch for WorldChanging: A User’s Guide for the 21st Century, photographer Ed Burtynsky (Manufactured Landscapes) remarked on the environmental damage caused by air travel. I’ve long thought that planes likely burn as much fuel as a football field (or two) of Hummers. So, ok, how does one travel to Europe or Asia or Australia. Or perhaps we don’t. Therein lies the problem, one which musician Peter Gabriel addressed recently at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. While the world-music aficionado sees the need to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions, he worries about what the lack of travel will do to cultural awareness. Our respective worlds could get much smaller, and our ideas much narrower. The Internet can only communicate so much. Code cannot fully appreciate the grandeur of the Alps. Zeros and ones do not equate smells and senses. Second Life isn’t real life.

So there you have it: people driving miles out of their way for convenient dinners they are "too busy" make in their own kitchens, scanning convenient headlines on the Internet, and moaning about foreigners.

Maybe I just need some sunshine-induced vitamin D. Or a good stiff drink.