Thursday, March 29, 2007
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I meant to go to the Don Mills Heritage Celebration thingy at the Don Mills library a few weeks back but I was busy coughing up phlegm. The Don Mills Centre campaign people have a photo album up, as well as a number of other updates. Original DM planner Macklin Hancock is now on board, as well as architects Henry Fliess and Douglas Lee.
This fellah has also signed up and has a number of posts on topic, including this particularly interesting one re Don Mills architecture.
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A Jesus sighting. Well I'll be.
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If you want to call King Bhumibol a humourless asshole, don't do it in Thailand.
Tuesday, March 27, 2007
Thursday, March 22, 2007
Full report here.
I found page 19 particularly insightful. I'd always understood that income-contingent loan repayment schemes were incompatible with the ends of social justice, but apparently, it's a freedom of religious practice issue!
One of the Task Force panelists is Wahida Chisht Valiante, National Veep of the Canadian Islamic Congress, who are headed up as you may recall by Mohamed "Electric Jello/Legitimate Targets" Elmasry.
The Muslim Canadian Congress wasn't represented, but then they might have had other things on their plate.
Update: a moderate Irish-Catholic reader rightly chides me for my cynicism:
Actually, I have no problem with the recommendations of the Task Force on Muslim Students. So long as certain other measures are taken, in the interests of diversity and equity, as in:
A shebeen and an adjoining chapel on every floor of every building, which is to say multiple shebeens "for easy access from all points" on campus where I can drink myself into a stupor with my mates and listen to the Dropkick Murphys at maximum volume and never be more than 50 paces from a confession booth staffed by a Franciscan, round the clock, and never be more than 100 paces from a properly-consecrated building where I can pray the stations of the cross whenever I fucking want.
Gigantic murals of JFK and the Pope and the Blessed Virgin and Gerry Adams on every wall of every university building. A no-Protestant rule in the gym from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesdays. A no-Protestant rule in the pool from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Thursdays. The abolition of all pro-choice propaganda from campus and any other such material or activity that could be construed as creating a "chilly climate" for my people and a regularly-audited campus-wide plan to ensure that every course and every book on campus is expunged of any content that might be perceived as giving offence to the magisterium of Rome.
Wednesday, March 21, 2007
Tuesday, March 20, 2007
I'd like to find a birthday card that is NOT about:
- Obese women sitting on Chihuahuas
- Limp dicks/Saggy tits (arguably, this is a sub-genre of sex jokes)
Is it really so much to ask--a birthday card that's not tasteless? You wouldn't think it would be difficult to find, but increasingly, it is. It would be nice if the card were witty too. Hell, even a corny pun would suffice.
Furthermore, I don't want to have to fall back on Hallmark-type "you're a special person" cards, complete with blurry photographs of ponds and copperplate script. The other option is blank art cards, which means I have to write the message myself. These will do in a pinch, except it's hard to think of anything creative to say, so the card usually reads: "Ted, Happy Birthday." (Even when it's not for Ted.)
Monday, March 19, 2007
The Memory Band: Apron Strings-- the first proper-band album from the mellow Brit folkies led by one Stephen Cracknell, erstwhile electronic-folk artist, Badly Drawn Boy touring bassist and Brian Eno sound-alike. The influence of electronica is there more in the ambiance than the instrumentation, which is predominantly acoustic guitars, bass and violin/viola, with some gentle metronomic percussion throw in. The Pogues this ain't: I counted one proper crescendo on the entire disc (on the traditional "I Wish I Wish," which not coincidentally is also the only instance of the drums being hit with any force). Dynamically, Apron Strings is about as static as you can get. Some of the cover material, including one quite nice track that I assume is by Chic, and another, a zombified rendering of "Want You To Know" by psych-soul band Rotary Connection, is decidedly non-traditional.
Like Cracknell's former paycheque, this is stuff that's very underwritten and underpowered, but very listenable, coming as it does with an undeniably nice vibe, a gentle earnestness and no grandiose pretensions. Instrumentally, the bowed strings take centre stage most often, and get to cut loose on traditionals "Blackwaterside" and, particularly, "I Wish I Wish." Female lead Nancy Wallace has a very attractive, slightly fragile voice which features nicely on both the presumed Chic cover "Why" and the traditional "Green Grows The Laurel." Cracknell original "Come Write Me Down" is pretty in a '70s folk-pop kind of way. His instrumental pieces are pleasant but don't light the house on fire.
A decent disc for after-dinner listening. 7.2 blissed-out beardie weirdos out of 10.
mp3: The Memory Band--"Come Write Me Down" (from Apron Strings)
mp3: The Memory Band--"Why" (from Apron Strings)
The Fratellis: Costello Music--debut album by the jock-rock three-piece. Franz Ferdinand ("Henrietta") and/or The Strokes ("Flathead") without any arty pretensions, The Fratellis (the band members have all taken the last name, Ramones-like) are unabashedly retro-reactionary, not to mention kitschy, with foot-stomps 'n' hand-claps, obvious Beatleisms ("Baby Fratelli") and Music Hall aesthetics ("Whistle For The Choir") all making their appearances, but they're also energetic, up-tempo and for the most part fun. The lyrical persona is a cartoonish working-class, featuring a curious mixture of antique rock templates and vulgarity.
It's not an album that you're going to listen to for the finer points. The playing gets the job done but no more, the production's pretty non-descript, and the songwriting, which works about 3/4 of the time, gets you from A to B with minimal diversion. Better tracks include "Henrietta," the single "Flathead," the twangy "Vince The Loveable Stoner" and the Beatley "Everybody Knows You Cried Last Night." "Chelsea Dagger" is a bit silly, and the last few songs aren't so hot, but by then The Fratellis have said about all that they're going to say. Frankly, once you hit track six or seven on Costello Music, you won't be expecting any subsequent reinventions of the wheel.
The wife likes it 'cos they play tunes.
Good for parties and drunken sing-alongs when you can only remember 1/4 of the words. 7.5 pieces of greasy haddock out of 10.
mp3: The Fratellis--"Henrietta" (from Costello Music)
mp3: The Fratellis--"Whistle For The Choir" (from Costello Music)
Deerhunter: Cryptograms--not coming soon to a chart near you is the second long-play by these Atlanta noise-sculptors, and their first for Kranky, the label that brought you Montreal's masters of the melodramatic (de)crescendo Godspeed You Black Emperor!
Here is Pitchfork's near-fellation of the record. Here's what the band, on its MySpace page, has wittily put in its "Sounds Like" blurb:
Actual Testimony: "Tonight I saw your group in Nashville. Please, STOP MAKING (what might be concieved as) MUSIC! You have no melodies, there was no songwriting skills involved, lack of chord structures, AND your songs are pathetically too long.
It doesn't get better.
Naturally, The Truth (copyright me, 2007) lies somewhere between these two views, but I have to admit I do kinda like this one despite some initial misgivings. But I can understand why some people wouldn't. The album's actually a combination of two separate and quite different-sounding sessions.
The second is comprised of self-contained songs and is considerably more upbeat. The Velvets inheritance predominates through its intermediaries, in this case the drone-like pulsing of early Stereolab and the aural screeching of Sonic Youth. "Heatherwood" and "Strange Lights" are very sunny, "Hazel Street" pretty lame and "Spring Hall Convert," a succession of deliberate gear-changes of rising intensity, probably the best. And that is apparently a guy singing on that one.
The first and longer part, which predates the second, is basically a continuous alternation between ambient/experimental tracks and "songs" and is to my ear more interesting. Others may well find it more annoying. The song side of things, particularly as exemplified by the title track, owes a big debt to Joy Division and often features distorted and monotone vocals (can't find a lyrics sheet anywhere, so no clue what they're on about). The experimental pieces are usually built up from tape-loops and are quite varied. "Providence" is all guitars (backwards and forwards, acoustic and electric) and sounds almost pastoral in its big rich chord build-up, but others like "Intro" and "White Ink" use whatever instrumentation to create pulses, swells and urban-environmental-type sounds. I walked by a condo construction site the other day while listening to the album and honestly couldn't tell which sounds were coming from the headphones. Cool.
The playing is rudimentary to say the least, which lets the side down here and there ("Octet"), and there's a couple of duff bits, like the aforementioned "Hazel Street" and the charmless "Lake Somerset," but otherwise I found Cryptograms' overall vibe very appealing. 8.0 industrial boring tools out of 10 (margin of error +/- 0.5).
The wife doesn't like it 'cos they don't play tunes.
mp3: Deerhunter--"Cryptograms" (from Cryptograms)
mp3: Deerhunter--"Providence" (from Cryptograms)
mp3: Deerhunter--"Spring Hall Convert" (from Cryptograms)
Saturday, March 17, 2007
Thursday, March 15, 2007
- Good art is very hard to do.
- Great art is splendooferously hard to do.
- An artistic failure or partial-failure isn't a crime, nor does it necessarily produce uninteresting results.
- Good/great art requires, by definition, a good/great, engaged and knowledgeable audience.
- Any music, e.g., that requires you be a scenester or "club member" in order to fully appreciate its brilliance and/or fiendishly clever intricacies isn't worth bothering with.
- Following on from 5, any music, e.g., that relies too heavily on extra-musical concerns should be treated with suspicion.
- allmusic has it bang-on correct re EJ, 1968-1976.
Wednesday, March 14, 2007
Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destoyer? is the nth album by Of Montreal, the vehicle of Athens, Georgia pop eccentric Kevin Barnes, who seldom manages to go a calendar year without an album release. Barnes is an incredibly hyperactive musical personality—allmusic refers to his style as “euphoric pop,” which is as good a single-word description as any—with a particular obsession with '60s stuff: Beatles obviously, but there’s other things in there as well, often filtered through early-'80s electronic sounds and aesthetics. He’s magpie-like rather than organic in his songwriting methods, but weirdly enough it does seem to translate into a quick-witted style all his own. Lyrics are often laugh-out-loud funny, even as they are here painfully autobiographical. Some of OM’s albums have been full- or partial-band, but this one’s pretty much Barnes with some added help.
I’ve never heard more than bits and pieces of the band previously, but the miracle of modern technology means that even the physically and intellectually laziest of us can easily do a little background research. My impressions: Hissing Fauna is pretty outlandish, even for an Of Montreal album. Its general sound-world certainly has similarities to that of 2005's Sunlandic Twins, but it's a much more extreme version of, with lots of weird synth sounds and samples, jarring, oddly-produced and mixed drum beats, and garish multi-part backing vocals. Sonic contrast and disturbance, more than ever before, is at the heart of the thing. Perhaps fittingly, HF lurches all over the place on the songwriting front, drawing ironic inspiration not only from the usual '60s sources but also disco, funk and electronics-heavy new wave. The overall impression is very different from that of the highly-regarded The Gay Parade (1999), a fluid, whimsical, Beatley concept album, or even the tougher, straight-ahead pop of 2004's Satanic Panic In The Attic. If I had to generalize, I'd describe the overall atmosphere as one of benign claustrophobia.
Hardcore fans of the band are of course welcome to set me straight, but I get the feeling that Hissing Fauna, while impressively put together, isn't OM's finest hour. As the album progresses, it loses the plot somewhat in a tangle of self-indulgence and plain weirdness. Barnes has always been extremely clever and no mistake, but it's the kind of cleverness that hits you over the head with a spiked club rather than sidling up beside you. And during those times when his self-restraint is lacking, well, let's just put it this way: you're glad for his sake that he's not in the room.
The first half of the album is extremely good in terms of both material and flow, the latter being no mean feat with songs as diverse as this lot. "Heimdalsgate Like A Promethean Curse" channels early OMD (manic version) and is the most immediately appealing of the outright pop songs; it's all keyboards, drum machine and sudden changes. Opener "Suffer For Fashion" is also extremely catchy and one of the few guitar-based songs on the record. "A Sentence Of Sorts in Konigsvinger" (yes, Barnes' ex-wife is Norwegian) has a ridiculous funky-disco chorus that reminds me of "Rock The Boat"--one of those songs that would surely suck if it wasn't so charming. "Sink The Seine" and "Cato As A Pun" are effective chorus-free asides that help to lend the album an episodic feel.
It's the latter half where things start to come unglued. The spoken-sung "The Past Is A Grotesque Animal" starts out very well, like a faster-paced New Order, but the thing goes on as a repetitive dance groove for 12 frickin' minutes, the last 6 or 7 with tres irritating ooh-ooh-ooh backing vocals. Listen to the first 2:45, then fast-forward. "Faberge Falls For Shuggie" and "Labyrinthian Pomp" are both cases where Barnes' genre-quotational style sounds more like a piss-take, the sort of thing you'd expect from someone like Ween (admittedly, this isn't the first time similarities between the two bands have arisen: see, e.g., the arch "Forecast Fascist Future" from Sunlandic Twins). The same kind of thing can be heard in the vocal delivery on the much better death-disco-ey "She's a Rejecter" as well as "Bunny Ain't No Kind Of Rider," the album's hilarious comic highlight.
Despite the reservations, there's a lot to like about Hissing Fauna, and the album certainly encourages me to explore Of Montreal's back catalogue more thoroughly. An uneven but always surprising listen. Recommendation: 40% impressive, 40% fun, 20% irritating.
mp3: Of Montreal--"Heimdalsgate Like A Promethean Curse" (from Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer?)
mp3: Of Montreal--"Faberge Falls For Shuggie" (from Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer?)
Tuesday, March 13, 2007
Monday, March 12, 2007
The missus ran the house like a time-and-motion professional, which I guess is what you'd have to do. Why you'd want your home life to be exactly like a for-pay job is beyond me.
I'm suspicious that the doc tarted things up a bit (we saw a version repackaged for U.S. tv, sans the presence of an interviewer). The father is only a modest earner, so it's hard to understand how they can afford grocery bills of 200+ pounds/week and a family vacation that cost over 5000; at least, not without supplementary income or going massively into debt. Their decent-sized house also looked extremely well decked out, with high-end kitchen apps, and furnishings that appeared to be umlaut-free.
Morrison would have been nothing without the other three to back him up. He wins the award for worst lyrics ever (check out "Riders on the Storm" to see what I mean; I cannot bring myself to reproduce such lame words).
Of all the pompous, self-important '60s bands--and there are many--The Doors win. Please, no more Doors!
Sunday, March 11, 2007
We took a trip on the Bloor-Danforth line yesterday in order to have a glimpse at the famed Lower Bay station, visible for a couple of months due to a ttc rerouting. It wasn't spooky-ass or interesting, and looked like a dirty version of its upper-level namesake.
No C.H.U.D., subterranean dirt people or giant lizards either.
Guess we should have watched the vid first.
Some info on "secret" ttc stations here.
mp3: Robyn Hitchcock--"I Often Dream Of Trains" (from album of that title)
Saturday, March 10, 2007
Watching 300, the new stylized blood-'n'-guts film retelling of the Battle of Thermopylae (based on a graphic novel by Frank Miller), causes the usually reliable Globe reviewer Rick Groen to blow a headpipe.
Off-put by the gorefest's "neocon message" and its "peddl[ing] the gospel of freedom in the garb of the warrior," RG concludes the piece with deep thoughts on the History of Empire, or something:
On it goes, then, as the ferocious band of Spartan brothers, with their unflagging camaraderie and their Marine Corps bellowing, hack through vast chunks of the Persian millions. This prompts an annoyed appearance from Xerxes himself (Rodrigo Santoro), looking rather charismatic in his multiple body-piercings and acres of bling (think of a cross between Mr. T and a back-alley fetishist). In a one-on-one powwow with his opposite number, Xerxes offers our beleaguered hero a final chance to cut-and-run, which gives Leonidas a golden chance to steal a line from the Little Bush book of inflated rhetoric: “The world will know that free men stood against a tyrant.”
Of course, thanks to Herodotus, the world also knows that these particular free men were eventually done in by the traitor Ephialtes, personified here as a wickedly deformed hunchback — his breach of national security rendered literally ugly. Happily, back on the home front, the Queen has successfully lobbied for a troop surge, and the rest, more or less, is history. Athenian democracy gets preserved, safe to give birth to its many worthy successors — you know, those shining examples in Rome, in France, in Britain, in America; all with their same warrior codes and their shared trail of blood; all fighting heroically to keep themselves free, even when it meant keeping others enslaved.
Yes, as visual extravaganza go, 300 is woefully stingy, but there's no denying the timeliness of its pro patria mori sermonette. I'm half expecting a still shot of Leonidas to show up on Coach's Corner, with the pugnacious Don fighting a quiver in his voice to extol “such a fine broth of a lad.” A second of hushed silence, then cut to a commercial — preferably that slick recruitment ad for our very own Spartans.
mp3: The Fall--"Theme From Sparta F.C." (from The Real New Fall L.P.)
Thursday, March 8, 2007
Don't rush us, we're Anglicans. Reform-minded B.C. bishop Michael Ingham:
"Today we have a better understanding of homosexuality as a basic and natural orientation experienced by some members of the human community, just as we find the same thing among some animal species, and in Christian terms we must come to think of this as not only natural but also God-given and good.
"But these developments in the social sciences and therefore in popular understanding are still relatively new -- since about the 19th century. They have not yet penetrated the church's thinking except at the edges of its consciousness and greatly against its will."
Tuesday, March 6, 2007
Claro, 39, has pleaded not guilty to two counts of sex assault and one of sexual exploitation against [an] underage teen, and not guilty to three counts of sex assault against an 18-year-old female.
The two teens have testified that he caressed and groped them on several occasions in 2005. Claro did not testify.
In that trial, which is in its final stages at Old City Hall provincial court, Crown prosecutor Kim Walker has argued that one of the ways Claro exercised control over the 16-year-old girl was by telling her that he wanted to let cobras loose in houses.
A "trouser snake" joke at this point would be too obvious, even for me.
Or would it?
Monday, March 5, 2007
Saturday, March 3, 2007
The only way it could have been any later is if it had happened during the flight home.
Janssen received a piddling three-game suspension.
Both Don Cherry and Sportsnet analyst/former crap goaltender John Garrett opined today that Kaberle had plenty of time to prepare to take the hit. Classy.
Friday, March 2, 2007
A high school in The Beach's production of West Side Story is back on after a drama teacher briefly pulled the plug, citing roadblocks levelled by the board and a trades' union over safety concerns and the fact that students -- not union workers --constructed a stage.
The musical's potential cancellation prompted more than 100 Malvern Collegiate Institute students to demand the show be resurrected during an emotional, impromptu assembly in the school's auditorium yesterday.
The musical's near-death experience began when the play's director, drama teacher Erich Lehrer, decided to build an ambitious new stage from scratch in the centre of the auditorium for three shows March 29, 30 and 31.
The idea, Mr. Lehrer said, was to create a "theatre-in-the-round" experience with the audience circling the stage.
A crew of student volunteers led by a former-student-turned-carpenter came into the school on a recent Saturday to unfasten 174 chairs bolted to the auditorium floor and to construct most of the stage.
Shortly afterward, a member of the Maintenance, Construction & Skilled Trades' Council -- which represents plumbers, electricians, carpenters and other tradespeople contracted by the Toronto District School Board -- came into Malvern to do some work and noticed the new stage. The worker reported it to his union.
Jimmy Hazel, the council's president, said his chief concern was that the stage had been built without a permit, proper designs or the supervision of a union carpenter.