Tuesday, September 27, 2005
Otherwise, my life is a bit nuts right now and all I want to do is get my laundry done, clean the mildew out of my left boot (it's a long story) and air out the smell of Pine-sol (the cleaning agent in question) from my apartment. When I have extra time, I'm trying to make my way through the film festival guide... I will blog some other time (maybe once the movies start).
Concert update, tho': Jello Biafra is playing the Croatian Cultural Centre with the mighty Melvins on November 3rd. I'd buy tickets for this one early. Haven't seen Jello since the Dead Kennedys brought the Fall of Canada tour to the New York Theatre on Commercial Drive back in 1984. I was 17 and I was mightily impressed, and I don't think I've seen anyone (well -- maybe Iggy. No, not even Iggy. Maybe Eye, back when. Ah, nevermind) put as much energy and enthusiasm into a show as he did. I'm assuming he's slowed down a little -- actually, I'd hope so! -- but I need to see this show. They have two CDs out, Never Breathe What You Can't See and Sieg Howdy!, and both are great (tho' the latter recycles a couple of tracks from the former as "remixes," which seems a bit cheap, but...). Check out the "California Uber Alles" update on the new one ("I am governer Schwarzenegger..."), or the cover version of "Halo of Flies," by far Alice Cooper's best song (but who wants to own an Alice Cooper album? So thanks, guys!).
Wednesday, September 21, 2005
I beg you, noooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo, Kier-la, pleeeeeeeeeease, don't retire the festival!
Anyhow, the disappointment to hear of the plan to let Cinemuerte die is compensated for slightly by the pleasure and anticipation of perusing the schedule for this season. Once again, Kier-la has managed to dig up a bunch of films I don't know but which I'm most eager to see (School of the Holy Beast? Night of the Living Dorks?), along with some really special items that I'm looking forward to seeing again (where/how else could I possibly see Class of 1984 on the big screen???? The best-ever Asphalt Jungle ripoff, and Roddy McDowell is great! -- I'm sure I'll enjoy his performance even more now that I'm actually a teacher...). I can only hope fans either a) pressure Kier-la to keep the beast alive or b) take up the banner themselves -- Cinemuerte is as vital to the fall-winter season in Vancouver as the Jazz Fest and that other film festival that goes on...
Tuesday, September 20, 2005
Monday, September 19, 2005
Saturday, September 17, 2005
Ah... so much has been going on, I'm feeling a bit dizzy; haven't had much time to blog, and I've now seen two very interesting shows that I doubt I can do justice to. John Oswald, of Plunderphonics fame, played a fascinating set at the Western Front last week, meditating on Bach and Glenn Gould, mostly arranged for a high-tech player piano, incorporating glitches, missed notes, and even live imitations of Gould's humming style by Christopher Butterfield (a Vancouver composer and professor who has several MP3s on Ubuweb -- Oswald is involved in these recordings, too). There was also a piece using samples of Gould speaking, the "Gouldberg Variations," by local, I think, composer Michael Vincent, whom Oswald introduced briefly -- an MP3 is available here, and will charm and please you mightily if you like Gould. All told, it was a delightful night, tho' Oswald, tho' obviously an extremely intelligent, perceptive, and dry-humoured man, was given to a muttering, meandering style of delivery as he explained different pieces -- how they were transcribed and "taught" to the piano. It made things a little difficult to follow -- it reminded me of having to take notes off certain tenured professors back when I was finishing my undergrad degree at SFU, and led my friend Dan to conclude that Oswald is "a little uppity" -- but the night was enjoyable no less, and seeing Oswald live served as impetus for me to buy the Plunderphonics 2-disc set, distributed by Negativland's Seeland (since Oswald himself cannot profit from this item). It's an amazing project, if people don't know it -- computer-manipulated, occasionally respectful, often satirical de-and-re-compositions of pop musics, from the Doors to Michael Jackson; there's a truly lovely take on Tim Buckley's music (his name is anagrammized into "A Timely Buck," which is much kinder than the reference to "Sir Jim Moron" for the Doors cut). The liner notes make for a fascinating read, and his mutations of pop tunes are uniformly more interesting than the originals (while still somehow conveying the "pleasures" of listening to pop music, however ground-up and reprocessed it might be); the artificial duet between Carly Simon and Faster Pussycat on "You're So Vain" is particularly hilarious. Oswald pops up in the documentary about Negativland, Sonic Outlaws, which is also worth catching... Someone new for me to be enthusiastic about.
Also: re: the gig, Al Neil, Canadian poet/pianist/novelist/painter, who is soon to perform (edit: or to be celebrated, while not necessarily himself performing) in Vancouver, was in attendance, as were Paul Plimley, the Winks, and my old friend Ian Cochrane, who recently released a CD of ambient soundscapes based on recordings of Vancouver's bridges (the project, Vancouver Bridges: Six Sound Compositions Honoring the Bridges of Vancouver, is available through Ian, and that's about it -- and he has almost no web presence, so if you want one, post a comment and I'll put you in touch...)... Thanks to Oswald, I finally learned that the heavy guy with the beard and glasses I see at almost every cool gig I go to is none other than Alexander Varty...
The other thing I don't have much time to write about is the Mercury Theatre iii presentation at Cathedral Square last week. Really cool environment and visuals (see pic, above -- thanks to Dan Kibke) and a tremendous display of musical, filmic, and even martial arts talent. I scribbled many excited stoned notes during the event, hoping to transcribe them later, comparing the music -- including a theremin! -- to that of Supersilent, Can, and Brian Eno (depending on which phase of the event we're talking about). Alas, I discover now that a great deal of what I wrote, in a state of high super-introspection, had to do with the effects of my relationship with my mother on my romantic life, my need to enter a more "tribal" value system and learn to serve the tribe through art, even if I don't actually have a tribe to serve at the moment (because these people around me are by and large not of my tribe), and other things that aren't particularly useful as a basis for a piece of writing about the show. Mostly, when the notes are lucid and relevant, I meditated on a) how cool it is that the Vancouver Parks Board is putting money towards events like these and b) how much of what is inspiring about seeing art of any sort performed is the display self-discipline it entails -- something the martial arts performers made particularly clear. How is live video manipulation and avant-garde theremin-centered music like a martial arts display, you ask? That was the most interesting question of the night, but you had to be there to really feel the answer. (It helps if you were as high as I was).
The funniest bit of the evening -- since the show was themed around the substation immediately below us, they'd constructed on the grounds some sort of a tent (out of plastic garbage bags) with a billowing fabric "tunnel" (funnel?) to illustrate the design; I only saw the shape of the tunnel briefly and imperfectly, as it moved about due to internal air pressure, and at first thought that it was a couple fucking in a sleeping bag. (Due to the angle I was at, I couldn't see how long the tunnel really was). My second theory was that the tent belonged to a homeless guy, twisting around in spastic discomfort in his garbage-bag tent as the music assaulted him (Dan quipped when I mentioned this theory, "Would you all just please go away?" as a possible expression of said putative homeless guy's response our descent on his turf). It was quite amusing to discover I'd been actually suckered in by art...
Further exciting news: D.B. Boyko at the Western Front confirms that I'm the official Eugene Chadbourne welcoming committee, which news Dr. Chad himself e-mailed me today... I'm so excited...! To get to meet the man whose music was just too scary to all my fellow acidheads, but usually (except for that one bad trip when I was lyin' in Benge's kitchen with a pukebowl in my lap, listening to Chris and Benge speculate on how bad it would be if I died) worked delightfully for me! Ah, joy!
Alas, this is all I have time to write -- a full life, these days. More soon.
Friday, September 16, 2005
Thursday, September 15, 2005
One of the great delights of the last Vancouver International Jazz Festival was seeing Maggie Nicols, Phil Minton, Torsten Muller, and Peggy Lee perform at the Ironworks -- a show I had to cut short to get over to the Subhumans' reunion at the Brickyard, but which I greatly enjoyed. I've known of the work of Phil Minton since my early 20's, when I bought Voice of America, with Fred Frith and Bob Ostertag, a noisy improvised piece themed on Reaganite interventions in Latin America. I was not so familiar, though, with the work of Scottish-born Maggie Nicols , whose work, unlike Mr. Minton's, contains a great deal of "singing," reminding me more of Meredith Monk (at times) and Lauren Newton (at times) than, say, the more sound-poet Paul Dutton-ish types out there. I was delighted by what she did, and by her subsequent performances with the Dedication Orchestra and with Paul Rutherford at the Roundhouse (I missed, alas, her workshop). Since she's more approachable than the serious and intense looking Phil Minton (who, through my long knowledge of his work, has a huge aura, too, which kept me well-back), I approached her, and managed to sneak a five minute interview behind the scenes; it was my first interview for this blog (and this is my first link to my own writing). It was cut short by a pending bus departure, but picked up via e-mail, itself complicated by computer problems on my part and Maggie's own need to settle in after the tour. It proceeds now, though alas, I no longer know what, exactly, my questions to her were -- about early influences and whether she can support herself through her art, apparently:
I am still intending at some point to answer your questions but i seem to be overwhelmed with unanswered correspondance. Vancouver was such a buzz for me.I suppose the singers I've been most influenced by, are Ella Fitzgerald (when I was sixteen) then Annie Ross; so original. I didn't hear Billie till much later but of course I love her. I've always loved soul singers like Aretha Franklin and one of my biggest passions, Otis Redding. I also love Joni Mitchell. There's too many to mention. From 16 onwards, I was very influenced by instrumentalists like Bill Evans, Charlie Parker, John Coltrane (a huge influence) and Scottish trumpeter Jimmy Deuchar who started off my intense love of jazz. I even liked Glen Miller cos I got a crush on James Stewart in the film 'The Glen Miller Story' One of my most favourite musics is Ska. I love dancing and I used to go down all the dives in Soho from the age of 15. They had great sounds on the juke boxes, Ska, Soul, Tamla, Afro Cuban and Jazz. I was very lucky to hear such great music while I was growing up. I suppose I'm answering your second question now. I love so many different kinds of music.I don't listen to music nearly as much as I used to. I love most sounds except warplanes.
Re Q.3 Maybe it's because the human voice is so original without even trying, unless people are trying to imitate, which some singers do but generally if a friend phones etc, you usually recignise their voice immediately. I think there are a lot of instrumentalists too with a personal sound but it's not as pronounced as with the voice maybe.The voice is so intensely personal for all of us, as long as we're not trying to be clones.
Q 4 It's an up and down living. As an improviser I find it easier to live on variable amounts rather than a much bigger but fixed wage or salary. You can get a well paid festival which keeps you going for a while and then a load of badly paid door gigs, then some workshops, then nothing for a while . I don't have to look for work cos I'm a Carer and get a small Carer's Allowance. Over the year, including my Carers Allowance, I earn between five and seven thousand pounds. I'm allowed to earn around £80 a week after work related expenses. It's hard for a lot of musicians otherwise cos there's pressure on them to take any job and be actively seeking work, if they're on state benifits.
Q5 I started as a dancer in a Revue show at The Windmill Theatre when I was 15, then I sang in a strip club at 16 and started meeting musicians who turned me on to jazz. I got into improvisation through John Stevens in the late sixties. I also remember talking in tongues, or what we called gibberish, with my mum when I was a child but that's another story. I didn't intend to answer the questions tonight but it's just as well cos I would have probably left it for ages again. Sorry if it's too late to use, love, maggiex
Thanks, Maggie, for getting back to me. Listening to Les Diaboliques as I type this, actually (the same disc that accompanied poet friend Elizabeth Bachinsky and myself as we drank wine and played with anagrams for "The Wasteland," now published in her book Curio: Grotesques and Satires for the Electronic Age, through Book Thug). I'm focused more on concerts of the future -- I wonder if you listen to Meredith Monk, soon to come to Vancouver? There are moments that remind me of her in your music. But I guess I'll e-mail you that question! Hope you come back here too, someday. I'd be all for it if Coastal Jazz brought back the whole dang Dedication Orchestra next year! Heck, I'll even write' em and suggest it.
Apologies to the site I lifted the pic off... I assume its public domain; the photographer is Ilka Schuster, and since the site is in German, and has no contact link, so...
Wednesday, September 14, 2005
Strange about foreign war, though. However bad it gets, it's still foreign. However bad things get there, I now know that I will still drink Starbucks' Chai (my primary vice -- tho' a bit of pot or alcohol now and then is a pleasant diversion); I will still watch movies (I watched Deliverance again tonight, for the first time in a widescreen format -- thank the Gods of Moviedom for the DVD format -- and grooved on the beauty of the photography, the lovely sound design of the film, and the fascinating aspect of homophobic rite-of-passage to the film; contrary to my previous opinion, there IS a homoerotically charged moment between Lewis and Ed in the film, just as Ed is going to bed, drunk, looking soft, feminine, and vulnerable towards his reclining masculine friend; I thought that Boorman chose to underplay that element of the book, but for the attentive, the moment is there); I will still buy CDs (the new one by Dutch anarcho-avant-punk collective The Ex comes out this week, a singles compilation); and I will still buy DVDs (Roeg's Bad Timing: A Sensual Obsession is being released by Criterion this month). Such is life -- for all my debts, I am affluent and comfortable and very well off, while the unemployed of Baghdad are being blown to bits. Life goes on. I've marched, I've brought the war into my ESL classrooms (and still do so), and I've written online about it. Somehow it seems like it's not enough -- perhaps that's ultimately why some part of me just wants to forget its happening.
Most of North America, I fear, is in a similar state.
The existence of sites like Demonbuster, encountered while I was looking for an interesting Deliverance link, is even harder to contend with, harder to fit into my head, than the latest news from Baghdad. I challenge you -- particularly if you have the sound on -- to actually spend more than two minutes perusing their site. I won't.
Also trivially, the phrase "homoerotic rite of passage" gets 119 hits on Yahoo search; the phrase "homophobic rite of passage" gets none. Yet surely the suppression of homoerotic desire is far more important to the passage from boyhood to adulthood in a generally straight society than its cultivation -- I mean, that's what the high school boy's lockerroom is all about, isn't it? (And I assume most gay-bashings are done by high school boys from outside Vancouver -- like raiding chimps in enemy territory, they're going out to "prove" themselves men by ritually/symbolically overcoming their own homosexuality by projecting it onto, and then assaulting, a token gay man).
Anyhow, as soon as I click "publish," there will be ONE site with the phrase "homophobic rite-of-passage" on it.
Tuesday, September 13, 2005
I saw'em play again at the Butchershop, but it didn't work for me, dunno why -- their energy was different, not as quirky/reflective/something. Mebbe it had something to do with them not facing the audience, I dunno -- I don't want to say anythin' bad about 'em, since I still think they're the most interesting ostensibly-pop-in-an-avant-baroque-kinda-way group in Vancouver; maybe I've just seen 'em too often in recent years. On the other hand, I really like some of the stuff on the new split Winks/Tights CD -- they give a great phrasing to "Cyclops," which was never one of my favourite live songs of theirs, but has suddenly become one of my favourite studio ones. Check out the 7 song medley MP3 on their music page, which kinda randomizes bits from the EP. (Why the use of a drum machine, tho'? That is what it is, right -- or are they havin' Paul play like a drum machine?).
I'm too worn out to write much else -- working two jobs for the last few days, and I am exhausted -- but hey, David Rees (Get Your War On) has posted his commentary on Katrina. It's pretty angry stuff, but it's got a necessary bite.
Come to think of it, I really hate that it has taken this storm to piss Americans off, after all the Bush regime has been doing in the world. (I bet there are more than a few people in Iraq and Afghanistan who feel a bit floored by how SURPRISED people are by the indifference and incompetence of their government). Still, it's nice to see that Bush is publicly "taking responsibility" this time. I don't recall him taking responsibility for much else of anything, before.
PS, Katrina contracts to Halliburton, who last gouged American taxpayers by $60 million plus for their no-bid Iraq contract, and who have a cozy relationship with Dick Cheney, are not open to Homeland Security investigation to make sure funds are properly used this time because they fall under the auspices of a contract a Halliburton subsidiary actually bid for and won in July (long before Katrina hit). I can't decide on which phrase to link the story to, so read about it here.
Saturday, September 10, 2005
Great quote of a quote:
Ron Suskind, in a well-known article for the New York Times
Magazine, wrote that the Bush administration is a "faith-based presidency." He
quoted a senior White House official dismissing journalists and others of "the
reality-based community" and saying "We are an empire now, and when we act, we
create our own reality."
This is the question facing America, it seems -- and, alas, the world.
Friday, September 09, 2005
Another thing about The Devils: it makes me want to find Devils set designer Derek Jarman's Sebastiane (another marytrdom film, but with a highly homoerotic bent -- and it's hot enough that it even gives me an erection). Perhaps I'd watch them back to back -- I could have a martyrdom week, alongside The Passion of Jeanne D'Arc, Bad Lieutenant, and... hell, I'd even stoop to The Passion of the Christ.
If I had a TV station I'd declare it "martyr week."
Thursday, September 08, 2005
The Robson Reading Series offers one free reading a month, ongoing, offering up some of the finest writers that Canada, BC & Vancouver have to offer. The Robson Reading Series would like to thank the generous support of the Canada Council for the Arts.
Wednesday, September 07, 2005
Passed up a book at Carson Books, where I work in the evenings sometimes, today, called September 11th and Karma, written by a westerner-turned-Buddhist. I wonder if there'll be a sequel on Katrina...
Late update: check out this African perspective on the "Third World-ization" of New Orleans!
Monday, September 05, 2005
Sunday, September 04, 2005
I walked through the Virgin Megastore as they made their closing gestures last night, playing Prince songs as the last few shoppers browsed the aisles. After 10 or so years in
What to buy? I've bought my fill of avant-garde jazz lately -- they marked down most of their William Parker, their stuff on Emanem and Eremite, and a ton of European improvisers -- Ab Baars, Michael Moore, Ig Henneman, Available Jelly, Actis Dato; I've already binged on that stuff, and so last night (partly under the influence of Dan) I felt like finding some dark, interesting pop music. I walked up and down, scanning the aisles, thinking of bands to check... There's that overpriced copy of the Gun Club's Fire of Love... and Gang of Four's Entertainment is pretty cheap. Hm. Do they have that early KMFDM album? Blake likes it too. No, apparently not. Did any Residents stuff survive the markdowns? No. How about The Black Rider, by Tom Waits? I’ve been wanting to hear that for awhile, and you’ve been thinking about Burroughs a bit lately -- "The Briar and the Rose" and "Some Lucky Day" are great songs, necessary experiences. I finally put it back -- I can get it easily enough elsewhere -- and settled on White Light/ White Heat, which I don’t believe I’ve owned since I had it on vinyl, deciding I could use a listen to "Sister Ray" tonight.
It’s interesting to me to reflect on the evening, because for all of this time spent over the years, perusing items in the Virgin barn, even managing to occasionally enjoy the experience, not once since it was announced have I felt a flicker of sadness or loss that the store would be changing hands. The corporation has remained just faceless enough that it doesn't feel like anything particularly personal is happening; and HMV likely couldn’t do that much worse a job – with a space that big, they’ll have to fill it with something, and it might well be something somewhat cheaper. Hell, their restocking efforts might actually do us some good... and they're a Canadian company, too! It’s somewhat unfortunate that they will probably look with interest, in deciding what to stock, at the lists of stuff that Virgin marked down and pumped out at $1.99 – I guess you won't be seeing William Parker's back catalogue on their shelves -- but it won’t stop them from making the same predictable mistakes, stocking interesting stuff almost by accident. They’ll most likely do exactly what Virgin did – for example, stocking acts that are coming to the jazz festival, and waiting to see which ones sold (not that all the people listed whose discs I salvaged from the delete bins were jazz festival attendees). So who cares that the name will change? Granted, the kids who worked the tills were often hip, smart, and interesting – I hope some of them will keep their jobs – but other than possible staff changes, my prediction is that the HMV won’t really feel all that different; and even if it does -- if they actually manage to do a worse job than Virgin at bringing interesting stock in -- even so, not much is being lost. Zulu and Scratch will remain the places to look for music, if one actually needs to go to a store. There'll be even more incentive to make the trip there. That's not a bad thing, either.
Interesting to compare these feelings to my reactions to other local losses of late – with the closure of the Granville Book Company last month, for instance. There, I feel I’ve lost a friend, someone I knew, someone who belonged to the community and was respected. Walking down
There are places to shop that belong to the community, and then there are the corporations that feed off it. We might be content to let them feed, if we can gratify our own needs by that process, but they'll never fully be welcome or wanted. Here's wishing Virgin luck in finding a bigger host to salve its appetite... 'Bye.
The contrast with Cuba is interesting, because the benefits that he mentions result from rescuees being drilled like soldiers -- which seems more the result of totalitarian control of the populus than the result of enlightened economic behaviour. Military drills can be seen as a facet of education; in many statist societies they are; perhaps there is value to them. One can't help but note, however, that many of us would have to lose many of our freedoms, in such a world. I'm glad I'm not drilled on a regular basis, anyhow.
Interesting how leaders who arise from the people like this -- I think of Parenti as a sort of populist leader -- often have profound effects on society -- but not always for the better. There is a certain will to power, even in Christ, even in Gandhi; and certainly in Hitler and Stalin. George Carlin has said that "if you think you're part of the solution, you're part of the problem," and it is possible he is right, though wrong not to include himself in his own equation.
In any event: much of what Parenti says seems true, but one feels afraid of embracing the same alternatives he might. Faced with a choice between Bush or Castro, one does a cost/benefit analysis and decides that perhaps one is better off. Still, perhaps many people, perhaps less comfortable than myself, will agree with him that the Cuban model is not so bad. Certainly the free market has failed the city of New Orleans. Or is it mostly the Bush administration to blame?
A less ideologically driven, but no less passionate, account of the failings of the federal government to respond to New Orleans can be found here. Some elements in the Christian community, meanwhile, are likening the hurricane to a biblical punishment, akin to the destruction of Sodom.
I wonder... if from all this chaos in America, a "man of the people" were to arise, what would he do to the country, exactly? It's odd that so few people have taken up guns yet. America is starting to read like a thriller.