Friday, February 26, 2010
I have never been good at identifying with a team, understand - especially a team that I wasn't on. The closest I ever came to personally embodying the sort of hysteria one regularly witnesses at sports events was when there was a "battle of the air bands" contest at my high school, in which a group of fellow students "performing" songs by The Who squared off against a kid "performing" as Michael Jackson, whose Thriller! was, back then, a matter of recent experience. I was adamant that The Who win, but not because of any objective assessment of their performance: it was a matter of what they represented - intelligent, passionate, real rock music, versus meaningless commercial pap. Though I was - save for the kids onstage, perhaps - the biggest Who fan in the school, I was hardly alone in feeling that something was at stake; The Who people cheered with such vigor, fury, and abandon that I recall various authority figures looking on, worriedly, which only stoked the fires further. The Michael Jackson people would not be outdone, cheering back even louder for his performances. In the end, as I recall, a tie had to be declared, because anything else would have possibly gotten ugly. The Who vs. Michael Jackson was a competition I could get passionate about: I understood the principles at stake, and righteousness required one side win over the other.
Team Canada vs. __________? Couldn't care less. At the same high school, I also recall the Canucks (aka King Richard's Army) squaring off against the New York Islanders during the big na-na-na-na-hey-hey Stanley Cup game of the 1980's. To prove my indifference, I bet $5 against the Canucks with another kid in my class - in part just to flaunt how unattached I was to the outcome, but in part because I'd actually seen a bit of the games (my father watched sports regularly) and it seemed clear to me on short exposure that the Islanders were the better players, which it grieved me not at all to admit. Since there is no inherent meaning in the act of playing hockey - the question of who skates, shoots, and scores best is a meaningless question, since skating, shooting, and scoring has no value outside itself - the only way I can understand the involvement people feel in such sports is one of regional identification ("our tribe of people from this territory is better than that tribe of people from that territory.") That's a question that in other realms might have resonance for me; I'm not immune to harbouring a certain resentment of the United States, for instance, and enjoy it when Canada one-ups them - say, back when they were sending troops to fight an immoral war in Vietnam while Canada was sheltering draft dodgers - but to construct a meaningless symbolic event to "prove" which country is better makes the whole thing ridiculous. Canada is better than the US - or at least used to be - because of the more progressive social policies we have, the more moderate, rational political climate, the greater value we as a people place on culture, compassion, courtesy and communication over our gun-totin', money-grubbin', flag-wavin' social Darwinist bretheren below, NOT because we skate, shoot, and score better. Even if they skate, shoot, and score better than we do - it doesn't change anything. To the extent that regional differences matter - and pick whatever region you like - I do not agree that we can settle them through sports. It's preferable to WARFARE, natch - but it's still bloody silly.
So: I have no clue how many gold medals Canada has won in the current Olympics; it does not matter to me in the slightest. I gather that Team Canada got gold in some hockey game the other night, and I suppose I'm happy for those people who have made a symbolic investment in the game, since I do realize that for some Canadians hockey is quite important, and it would be embarrassing for them, given that it is perceived as "our sport," for us to lose on our own turf. It'd be like Team Texas losing a chili-making contest in Texas, or Team Russia losing a borscht competition held in Russia. Bully for them, then, that their team won - but personally, I couldn't give less of a damn. SOMEBODY had to win the gold - its the nature of the competition. What difference does it make what territory they came from? Put another way, given all that is good and all that is bad about Canada - what difference does it make that we can produce the best hockey team? It's a silly question, unfitting mature, thinking adults. It changes nothing, proves nothing, resolves no questions beyond itself.
Team Canada won gold in the hockey? I scratch my ass and roll over.
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
Mom gets to laughing as I try to take our picture together...
Sunday, February 21, 2010
It is passing strange to me that this is turning into a repeated experience. It started a few years ago, when Chris Walter - with whom I also have a new interview in The Skinny - at a book signing, mistook me for punker/ fellow writer Ty Stranglehold, since - other than our both being, as Ty himself would later put it when we chuckled at Chris' error at the Cobalt - "white and large," we look pretty much nothing alike. Chris was in the process of inscribing a book to me at the time - I still have it, with "To Ty" crossed out by Chris when I caught him. Since then I have also been mistaken for the guitarist for Aging Youth Gang, back when I had long hair - and while it was nice to be complemented on "my" cool playing, again, I look, to my mind, nothing like that dude - maybe a bit moreso than the other two characters above, but still not really. (Granted, I did kinda mistake that dude for Tad Doyle once, tho' not to his face; and fuggit, that guy LOOKS a lot more like Tad than I do either of them, and they both are guitarists. I think it's a bit more defensible). I seem to dimly recall someone asking me at a concert if I was Alex Varty, once, too. So what the fuck, folks: do you all have a "fat file" in your brain where you dump people with this attribute, sometimes getting them jumbled up?
By the way, Audiopile had an interesting box of records the other day - a damaged collection someone sold them, the covers of which had gotten soaked and thence mildewy. The covers simply must be trashed, but they can easily be replaced with generic sleeves, and what mildew is on the records - with generous applications of record cleaning solution and a groove-sensitive scrub with a chamois or microfibre cloth - can be easily gotten rid of; not all of them even have mildew in the vinyl, which is generally in VG shape. Once the gunk is off, a bit of smell lingers, but the sound is great, and of course, Geoff/Jeff was selling them very cheaply. I pillaged the box for almost every Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen LP I care about. The only one I couldn't snag was a Freewheelin' with one of the misprinted front covers (tho' all the proper songs), which was in fact salvageable enough to be worth selling as a collector's item - which G/J and I both noted; I fully understand his desire to sell it for more. Also scored some Tim Buckley, John Hammond, Sonny Terry, Big Bill Broonzy, a jugband/washboard anthology, and other cool folky stuff that I am very happy to have gotten on the cheap. More significantly for y'all, there were, left behind by me, a few lesser Dylans (including obscure stuff like Self-Portrait), a rare Lenny Breau, and cool albums by Dave Van Ronk, The Fugs (later stuff, as well as a scarce Ed Sanders solo LP), Son House, and more. There was even a Dead Boys album in the box that I passed on, because it was too badly damaged for me (and I'm just not that hungry for Dead Boys vinyl at present). Not likely that you'll find these sorts of things on the cheap anywhere else anytime soon, and as long as it's the music in the grooves that matters, and not having the artifact in the original cover - this is a great opportunity to beef up your collection without goin' broke.
On another note, for people interested in early folk, blues, and folk blues, at Carson Books and Records, on the 3400 block of West Broadway, there are still quite a few records selling - presently at a 30% discount, and modestly priced to begin with - from an extrordinary collection Tim Carson, the proprietor, picked up awhile ago, from which I snagged early Bascom Lamar Lunsford, Reverend Gary Davis, Roscoe Holcomb, and several anthologies on labels like Yazoo, Folkways, and especially Rounder. There's lots left, also including some cool bluegrass, country, and world music; to my recollection, the entirety of a sizable Bill Monroe collection was still on the shelf. Also, sometimes - depending when you go there - you might even be treated to DJ MJB, Al Mader, spinning and selling records (tho' you might want to be there when Tim's there, if you have questions about what else came in with that collection - he has the more authoritative knowledge). I don't know how many followers of this blog are into oldtimey stuff, but while Tim has his 30% off sale going, it's a great opportunity to get your hands on some real gems at a very decent price.
And geez, folks - to return to the original point - can you, like, start mistaking me for Richard Meltzer or Lester Bangs or someone? It would be far more flattering to have "music writer" on my file, rather than "fat dude." And Bangs was kind of chubby, wasn't he?
Wednesday, February 17, 2010
Anyhow, rest assured that I did try to get in touch with you!
I'm still itching to see what your Neil Young Project will bring us, tho'. Since, on your past projects, you are not beneath bowing to utter necessity - like having Tom Waits do "Heigh Ho" or Nick Cave do Blind Willie Johnson's "John The Revelator," both of which are great choices precisely because they are absolutely obvious, Of-Course-It-Hadda-Be choices - I am assuming you will end the night with Lou Reed doing an electric, full band cover of "Cortez The Killer." I mean, I have no idea what to expect; I hope it's not rude to guess; and I'm sure you're not taking requests at this point - but that's what I imagine, in advance, the Maximum Attainable Musical Experience you might offer us might look like. It is very exciting indeed. (Do I gather Elvis Costello is now going to take the stage, too? What Neil Young song could he possibly cover?). The potential for this event (February 18th and 19th at the Q.E., by the by) is so high that I am scared to even let myself hope, lest I be disappointed...
Mind you, I know almost no one else that is going to perform during this project. I've heard a bit of Broken Social Scene and I kinda know a few of the names (Ron Sexsmith, Sun Kil Moon, etc) but I couldn't tell you what they sound like; I mean, I hardly follow pop music that's actually POPULAR these days. I do know the music of James Blood Ulmer; it seems to me that he is no longer mainly into harmolodics, a style of playing developed by Ornette Coleman (and check this clip of him with Don Cherry and Rashied Ali!), but has opted - presumably for career reasons - to tour and record in a more traditional blues style. I saw him do a set of his blues songs at the Yale a couple of years back. It was very easy to listen to - laid back, polished folk blues played effortlessly and engagingly - but was quite a bit less adventuresome than his earlier work with Ornette or his early solo albums, which had a much more challenging take on the form... The Yale audience ate it up, tho', and I was only a wee bit disappointed...
Now what Neil Young song could HE possibly cover? ("Revolution Blues?").
Tuesday, February 16, 2010
Not in the current Bison article - actually an outtake from my previous thing on them - was the question, posed to both Dan and James, of influences. Both immediately mentioned Black Flag, whom James admired for the "crudely political" quality of their songs, which "draw young people to the real base things that were going on - ie., power struggle, living on the fringes of society, fuckin’ cops, the government, mental illness - things like this that later possibly evolve into a more heady political ideal." Other influences on James included "The Descendents who taught me everything I know about girls. And there’s Bad Brains, as well, and Bad Religion," though he would later joke about their tendency to use the same chords over and over again - "which I’m totally fine with," he added, "because I love those three or four chords; you can put them in any shape or form and I will always love them."
Bison's music is anything but three-chord thrash. Though they have moments of sheer joyous guitar interplay - where, heavy and dark as their music can be, their absolute love of what they are doing radiates out through each hot lick - there's often a halting, chugging, jerking quality to their music, alongside a capacity to shift unpredictably, that puts me in mind of The Melvins. Dan And is pleased with the comparison. "I love the Melvins," he tells me. "The Melvins were such a bizarre band to come out of the Seattle scene, or whatever the hell you want to call it, in that they were so experimental and heavy and sludgy and all over the place. I’ve heard people make that kind of comparison before, and that’s, like, the most flattering thing in the world to hear... I would love to be able to write a seven minute song like Soundgarden, kind of head-bobbin’ ‘yeah, cool, groovy metal’ - but I can’t really do that. I just don’t know how to write like that, I get bored really fast, and I think James is the same way. We’re kind of, like, really picky people, and when we’re playing something - unless it has a hypnotic quality on us, we’re like - ‘okay, this part’s way too long, let’s take it in a totally different direction. Though we will have some long repetitive parts, too. It depends on how it grabs us."
And continues, "The punk that I grew up on was, like - Black Flag, Born Against, Rorschach, and I listened to a lot of crusty political punk. And I loved old Metallica, Sepultura, Slayer - that kind of stuff. But there was a lot of crossover too, bands that were kind of punk and kind of metal, like COC. Even Rorschach was pretty metal for that time..." He and James have considerable overlap in tastes.
James, Masa, and Brad by Femke Van Delft, not to be reused without permission
With the release of Bison's previous album, Quiet Earth, on Metal Blade, and the widespread positive reception of that album, I wanted to ask if “success,” such as it is, had changed anything for the band. “When it first kind of happened, I’m sure some people were weirded out,” Dan acknowledges. “But once they talked to you they realized that it changed absolutely nothing, for us - besides that our buddy doesn’t have to go into debt for our record to come out, y’know. I’ll be at the bar sometimes and people will be, like, ‘I can’t believe you’re just hanging out here.’ ‘What the fuck do you think I do?’ Like, ‘Oh, you still have to work a dayjob?’ Yeah! What the fuck...”
Sunday, February 14, 2010
Thursday, February 11, 2010
Meantime, I don't want to just totally delete this entry, since there are a couple of valuable comments below, put up in the last couple of days while the piece was up. Here are, then, some links to cool musical projects in Vancouver that are dealt with in the article, and some photos of the bands, as a teaser to those of you who might want to learn more about our scene. Various music clips of the bands that I wrote about in that article are online here, first off, on the Wire's website.
The bands mentioned in the article are:
Shearing Pinx, no-wavy experimenters who rocked, last I heard in a bit of limbo since their guitarist, Her Jazzer Erin, has moved; the closest Vancouver has come to producing an answer to Sonic Youth - back when Sonic Youth actually had passion for their band.
The Mutators, RIP! Leif Hall of that noisy punk/ no wave spazzband is now in a couple of other bands; I particularly recommend Glaciers, a much more minimal project with Jeffrey Allport and Robert Pedersen.
The Rita - harsh-ish noise guy who was ubiquitous on the scene at the time of my writing)
The Sorrow And The Pity, spazz-jazz punk duo (or spazz-punk jazz duo) whom I still have yet to see cover Nomeansno's "Self Pity."
The all-female, open-ended Her Jazz Noise Collective, who, last I heard, were working on an anthology of their music and organizing new workshops for the city's weird wimmen to attend
BCVCO, an analog-synth band headed by Josh Stevenson, sometimes featuring Black Mountain/ Sinoia Caves keyboardist Jeremy Schmidt. Amazing music - lush improvised psychedelia that might really excite Terry Riley fans, say. For the more historically minded fans of electronic music, you might also want to check out early Buchla experimenter Philip Werren, whose SFU-based synth stuff has been released on Josh's label. (Both Josh and Jeremy of Shearing Pinx/ Fake Jazz were involved in the recent Vancouver/Victoria Jandek shows, by the way).
BCVCO by Femke Van Delft, not to be reused without permission.
Josh Stevenson by Femke Van Delft, not to be reused without permission
The Creaking Planks by Femke Van Delft, not to be reused without permission.
More on the fun side are The Creaking Planks, aka "the jug band of the damned," featuring Lee Shoal, pirate twin to Heather Jean McDermid of Vancouver New Music, a non-profit organizaiton who have put on some of the best shows I've seen of unusual music in this city. The Planks often cover songs by Al “I’m a Lousy Lay” Mader (also known as the Minimalist Jug Band - who will be performing with Sheila Gostick and Petunia at Cafe Montmartre as part of a Valentine's Day show on the 14th). I'm particularly fond of the Planks' arrangement of "Dead Man's Pants." Shoal's other band is Ejaculation Death Rattle - also featuring Dan Kibke of G42, Sean of Noobie Noobinson, and Ross Birdwise of god-knows-what-all-Ross-is-doing-right-now-he-sent-me-a-big-file-but-I-haven't-opened-it-yet. EDR has been on hiatus lately, but will be reuniting for the upcoming Fake Jazz festival.
I also plugged more noisy stuff, like Flatgrey and Sistrenatus; I mentioned the horror movie and metal influences on the latter's music (noise with an industrial tinge), but I didn't really do justice to the more ritualistic elements of his performances. Well worth seeing. I think the main guy in Flatgrey is out of town at the moment, alas. I don't always go for harsher stuff, but he was definitely one of its most interesting proponents.
Ejaculation Death Rattle at the Cobalt by Femke Van Delft, not to be reused without permission.
I also made obligatory references in The Wire piece to Coastal Jazz favourites like Peggy Lee, Ron Samworth, and Dylan van der Schyff, but frankly - speaking a couple of years later, and speaking now solely for myself, since I say none of this in The Wire - I've grown a bit fed up with how every Coastal Jazz event in Vancouver showcases the music of these three (or that of Tony Wilson, or Torsten Muller or Francois Houle or Brad Turner or perhaps two or three other members of the club),while completely ignoring younger, newer improvisers, no matter how talented or hard-working. This may connect with the fact that you rarely see anyone from Coastal Jazz at Fake Jazz or Solder and Sons or below-ground venues (tho' you do catch a couple of the cooler members at the Western Front now and then). I don't want to fault the musicians, mind you - all have done things I've respected and enjoyed over the years (sometimes, admittedly, to my surprise!) - but Coastal Jazz sorely needs some fresh blood, I think, musician-wise (maybe Team Canada and Team Sweden could swap apartments for a few years?). The youthful improv scene around here is creative, varied, and inspiring enough (something apparent to a good many people, including visiting musicians, note) that Coastal Jazz is starting to seem a bit out-of-touch by virtue of not acknowledging it, a club so exclusive they may start seeming irrelevant. (Tho' hm, I see they're bringing Rene Lussier to town... I like Lussier, but do I want to see him play with Peggy Lee, Francois and Vivian Houle, and Dylan Van Der Schyff? Nnnngh. Frankly, I'd rather see him solo with an acoustic guitar, as when he last came here for Vancouver New Music...).
Anyhow, I was happier to include mention of various people I associate with 1067, like Fond of Tigers, Coat Cooke, J.P. Carter, and The Inhabitants. I'm glad that 1067 seems to have survived - I numbered it alongside The Cobalt (RIP) and Richards On Richards as an imperilled venue. It was never really my scene - it feels too much like an abandoned office space, for obvious reasons, and the constantly tentative arrangement of the venue seems to contribute to the fact that about half the time I go there I feel like I'm watching people jamming in their practice space, rather than putting on a planned public show - but it still is a necessary space in a city that has fewer and fewer outlets for creative musicianship, and every fourth or fifth gig I see there is fucking great. Not that I can really go there anymore, now that I live in the suburbs...
The Sorrow And The Pity by Femke Van Delft, not to be reused without permission.
Anyhow, let's call this post a "tourist's primer to experimental music in Vancouver," in case some Olympics attendee was curious about the scene here. If you want to know what else I have to say about any of these bands, or what any of them say about the Olympics - you should buy that backissue of The Wire! Almost everyone on the arts scene in Vancouver that I've spoken to has been either openly hostile to the approach of the Olympics or at best nervous about the effects they may have - which was the case long before all the arts cuts were announced, tho' they're something more likely to affect Coastal Jazzers than Fake Jazzers. Still - happily - a lot of the bands mentioned above are still playing - still in hard-to-find, off-the-map venues, often with little recognition from the local press and only a handful of people attending, with the omnipresent risk of cops shutting down shows. But the scene is surviving. There is no cause for despair. Once we scrape all the Olympics advertising off the surface and send the tourists home, there will still be something real and vibrant and honest happening in the Vancouver arts scene... if you look for it.
See the comments section for more on the upcoming Fake Jazz festival and such...!
"Welcome To Vancouver," by Allan MacInnis. Use it how you like, I don't care.
Wednesday, February 10, 2010
Arguments in favour:
1. I should turn out to be physically present to support the "side" of this whole sorry plight that I THINK I most sympathize with - the people I perceive as the good guys.
2. If things turn ugly - and I am almost certain they will - good people may need my help, and history will need witnesses, since the mainstream media is biased as hell.
3. Part of my disinclination to go stems from laziness, apathy, despair, and a sense of the total pointlessness of the gesture. These are not states of mind I ideally want to base my actions on.
4. We live in an age where real, organic human community is being discouraged and dismantled left and right. People - including myself! - stay in their own little cubicles (apartment, workplace, car, whatever), expressing their need for community and communication to an increasing degree online, through various new technologies that - while they do reinforce your own identity - often do so at the expense of extracting you from the people who are actually physically around you. The various lines out of our cubicle both compensate for our alienation and reinforce it, and because they're gadget-dependent, require participating in the marketplace in a way that getting to know your neighbours simply doesn't. Better yet, thanks to cellphones, laptops and such, you can now bring your cubicle with you everywhere you go - so you can not only ignore your neighbours, but damn near anyone who isn't on your contact list. ...In such a world, there is something fundamentally healthy and pro-social about the idea of getting together with other human beings to work towards a voluntarily shared goal; protest marches can be one such manifestation of this, important in what they do to bring you together with your fellows, even if the cause is long lost. There is catharsis, fellowship, empowerment to be had. Rare things, these days, not to be underestimated.
Mind you, my own personal favourite way of amassing with others is the Zombiewalk; but if you look at that great Zombiewalk photo of me from a couple of years back - if you can read through the fake blood on my shirt - I have "Tombs Not Games" written on it (you might have to take my word for it):
5. Finally, in the event that things happen of some weightiness, I'm not sure I really want to be left out, y'know? ...sitting here in Maple Ridge watching a fuckin' riot on TV...
1. In terms of doing any good for the city itself, it seems a pointless gesture. The Olympics are here. It's a done deal. While protests and actions leading up to the Olympics may have had the effect of encouraging VANOC and the city to tread carefully and be mindful of the Wrath Of The People, at this point, there doesn't seem much that a mass protest can accomplish for this city, ESPECIALLY if it turns ugly. The old "Battle In Seattle" argument was that the protests empowered smaller voices to speak up against things they didn't like in the WTO agenda, but the only thing we'll be able to stop IF we take things to that level are fucking sports events. Big woo.
No: the damage, as I say, has been done. We have a massive debtload, imperilled or cancelled funding for socially-minded or arts-oriented programs, and a divide between the "enfranchised rich" and the disenfranchised average folks/ poor that seems as bad as it's been in my lifetime - tho' I'm thinking of the ideological divide more than the economic one. We have an unrecognizable, mutated Granville Street and an unnecessary rail line to the airport and so forth, screaming as testimony to the misplaced priorities of the city. We have countless unique little businesses and venues closed; never mind my constant weeping about Noize To Go, Richards On Richards, The Cobalt, and other victims of the city's vast greed-driven real estate/ development shakeup that I will forever associate with 2010 - I even miss Macks' Leathers! Not being gay or into bondage, I never once went in there until they had their 'closing out' sign up, but I was well used to bemusedly peering at their constantly kinky window displays. I quite liked knowing that gays into S&M had, basically, a store for them - not many cities in the world do, and Vancouver has now joined the number of cities in the world that don't, making it less unique, less like the Vancouver I knew and loved - which is the case with so many of the changes the city has seen. We also have a plethora of private security guards directly charged to serve the interests of capital, on the one hand, while on the other, we have a miserable and disenfranchised homeless/ mentally ill/ addicted population that are still in many cases not being given the help they need (tho' depending on who you talk to, the situation can be spun as being better or worse now than it's been in the past. My own subjective impression is that there have been a lot fewer people sleeping in doorways this past year than there were in years previous, but maybe they've all been made into Soylent Green?). Like it or not, this is the new Vancouver, wounded deeply and hastily sprayed with thick makeup to keep the bruises from showing. The tourists will never know the difference, but surely those of us with an attachment to the city should be thinking about healing our wounds and rebuilding, not about increasing the costs of the games even further. We're the ones who will be paying them, after all, not the IOC or VANOC or such...
2. So never mind what good demonstrations could do for Vancouver, at this point: not much good CAN be done. But what about showing the IOC and other cities faced with the choice of hosting the games in the future that people won't stand for being pushed aside and gagged? Assuming that's a desirable goal, it seems to me that in order to achieve it, to really make the point, marching in the street isn't enough - as I imagine the disenfranchised anarcho-cheerleaders who have been spraypainting "Riot 2010" around the city would agree. Marches and chants don't merit a minute of media attention, however sincere they may be; count up the number of millions people who marched against the US invasion of Iraq - me included! - and place your total next to the fact that the US is still occupying that country, to see how meaningful marches are. In the current climate, they're a joke, in terms of producing any sort of tangible result; the system has long since figured out how to compensate for whatever inconvenience they cause, through a clever policy of both facilitating them (with police escorts and planned routes and such), and ignoring them (in the media, say). They might make you feel good - and yeah, raising some shit about the Olympics might do my heart a bit of good - but they don't change much, otherwise.
No, if you want to make an impact, if you want the protest to be noticed (for good or bad), you've got to go further than walking the approved route. Seems to me that you have to actually disrupt shit, which I've read in the news is something various activists are for doing with their protests. While I don't advocate this position myself, it seems so self-evident to me that I cannot but imagine it is equally evident to at least some of the people who are coming out on Friday. It is a view the city certainly seems well acquainted with; they seem prepared to get very heavy-handed if they should need to suppress such gestures. And jeez, man, that polarization scares me a lot. I don't want people to get hurt. I don't want an excuse for riot cops with truncheons and tear gas to descend upon a crowd of protestors. I don't want small businesses and private property to get trashed. And I certainly don't want to get clubbed or gassed or trampled or such, if things descend into chaos. Even if it could possibly do some good - even if there is some point to putting our bodies themselves in the path of juggernaut and saying we will not be moved - the price could be very high indeed. It's easier and wiser at this point to just let them have their fucking games. They've won - they won a long time ago. It's fucking depressing, but they are simply stronger than we are, and there's no point in pretending otherwise.
3. Besides, I have my Mom to look out for. If I don't really want to be here in Maple Ridge watching Riot 2010 on TV - I don't much want her watching it on TV and knowing that I'm in the city while it's going on.
4. And there'd be reason for her to worry, because if I were to go - I could seriously see myself getting neck-deep in shit. I have a lot of anger in me at what has been done to our city these last years. I have anger at a lot of things, actually, from the fact that Vancouver city council hasn't made it illegal for landlords not to tell tenants that they're moving into a building with bedbugs, for example, to the fact that the culture that seems most vital to me in Vancouver, the punk and underground culture, is something I can barely ever get paid to write about... A lot of my anger has nothing to do with the Olympics by any stretch - that medical neglect played a role in my father's death of cancer, that I can't find a speech therapist in Maple Ridge to work with my mother, that I'm in debt and single and living in the town where I grew up, and that I had to throw out tons of my stuff for fear of bedbug infestations to get here... If circumstances aligned themselves so that some of my anger could come pouring out, at the moment, I fear what I might do. When I lose my temper lately, it's pretty ugly. It's probably best for me not to attend a demonstration that I fear might turn into a riot.
5. And I'm not even sure a violent protest WOULD do good - or would be the "right" thing to do. In the eyes of the media, if things did get bad, Vancouver's anti-Olympics camp would be portayed as pathological, loonie-left spoilsports and thugs. And as much as I sympathize with the anti-Olympics voices in this city - I'm not sure that there isn't some truth to that portrayal, to be honest. A student of mine once explained a South Korean proverb to me, that translates roughly as "lie on the bed and spit" - meaning, you snipe at the efforts of others from a position of passivity and comfort. We west coasters are a soft, catered-to bunch, given to taking for granted the many bounties nature bestows on us here - the nice warm climate and the lovely scenery - to say nothing of having all the pot we can smoke and, compared to a lot of places in the world, a reasonably tolerant, benevolent, and responsive state (the fact that Vancouver has kept InSite open for so long, against the obvious wishes of the federal government, is testimony to this). I wonder if our relative comfort - along with our maximal disenfranchisement from the European sources of our dominant cultural values, here on the fringes of the great push westwards - has something to do with how bitchy punks like me are? We're lazy, soft creatures on most days, we Vancouverites, and there's nothing that lazy, soft creatures like to do so much as complain. Vancouverites as a whole seem to be anti-progress, anti-development, anti-business, anti-growth. We respond to news of such things with a deeply ingrained knee-jerk cynicism, mistrust, and anger. Nothing has yet pissed me off so much about the Olympics as the fact that I was woken up by the torch coming through Maple Ridge. Maybe that says something about me?
And fuck, who knows... Maybe there's some good side to the Olympics that I'm simply not seeing. It seems so insane to me that any city would consider this orgy of capital and falsehood a desirable thing, at this point, that I clearly have missed some element of their appeal - maybe part of what I'm not getting is essential to appreciating their value? Certainly my ESL students almost unanimously have thought that having the Olympics in Vancouver is just peachy. There are a lot of people who do, who ally themselves with the side of capital and say what's good for them is good for us, that we all will profit from our six billion dollar debtload in the long run. What is it they're seeing, that I'm missing? Maybe the fault is with me?
The last time I went out to a protest was when some lawyer was trying to get Bush arrested as a war criminal when he came into Canada; I have no doubt in my mind that Bush IS a war criminal, so as silly as that movement appeared - since not even AMERICANS have been able to bring that sonofabitch to justice - I got my ass out the door, to show my support. I'm not personally happy with the perceived negative costs of the Olympics, but I'm not quite as convinced of their evil, as an institution, as I was of the evil of the Bush regime. (Their folly, yes, but not their evil). Am I prepared to get clubbed on the principle of decrying the evils of the 2010 Olympics? Am I prepared to take this one to the man?
Maybe if I'd read Five Ring Circus, I'd feel differently, but right now, my inclination is to sit this one out.
Tuesday, February 09, 2010
Monday, February 08, 2010
When I finally get someone on the phone, I am stunned to hear what the explanation is. Apparently it's been going on since 5am. "They're playing music THIS LOUD at seven in the fucking morning?" I half-shout at the person on the line. "This is a fucking noise complaint!"
He blinks and says "Okay."
Friday, February 05, 2010
The Good Mother is worth looking at on several counts: as a melodrama about male-female relationships and parenting; as a query into the state of post-sexual revolution sexuality and female identity in the late 1980's; about a certain hypocrisy that surrounds sexuality in North America; and as a film about how the law can intrude into human relationships. It also has an interesting lesson to be learned about the perils of compromise. It's aged so well that I'm sure a contemporary youthful audience, seeing a character listening to music on headphones, would assume he had an MP3 player in his pocket - not a Sony Walkman, ie., a cassette player, which was still, I imagine, the popular choice for portable music players in 1988 (the discman had only been invented four years previous). The questions it asks are still relevant today, too, since little in the attitudes it documents has changed.
Without revealing too much, the story goes as follows: Diane Keaton is a "good girl" from a family dominated by patriarchal authority. She has lingering memories of a sexually rebellious and independent aunt, who died when she was young; but her own marriage - recently ended, as the main action of the story begins - has been sexless and conservative, and she is by no means a liberated woman. Perhaps in part because she has been denied it herself, she encourages expressivity and uninhibited playfulness in her young daughter, with whom she is very close; there is no question that she is indeed a good mother, and much of the first half of the film is spent getting to see what kind of mother she is. Enter a young and very charismatic Liam Neeson, in one of his first lead roles in Hollywood; he's a sculptor and a bit of a bohemian, and - as can happen in a good relationship - once things get underway, does a great deal to open his partner up sexually. We see her overcome her self-consciousness at dancing, then at what we presume is her first experience of cunnilingus, and from the horny glow that radiates from her whenever she's in his presence - and Keaton can do the horny glow very well - it's clear that she is pleased indeed with what is happening. Gradually, he becomes a part of the life of Keaton and her young daughter, working very hard to win both of their trusts, because, we sense, the relationship is just as important to him; he's a good man in love with a good woman, though their relationship is not without its bumps. In one key scene, he challenges her for not having a passion of her own - just a boring lab job and a mundane paying gig as a piano teacher, rather than something expressive and creative, like him - and she leaps angrily and articulately to her own defence, saying that it is in motherhood she has found her means of self-expression, creativity, her connection to purpose and meaning, and it's a chauvinist male cliche to invalidate that, to think she is somehow lacking because she's not an accomplished artist. He is chastened - but the argument serves a dual purpose for the audience, who come to appreciate, through her passionate, articulate self-defence, how important to her sense of self being a mother is to Keaton.
A very important scene occurs shortly thereafter, though we have no reason to realize its importance at this point: Keaton and Neeson are in bed, on about their lovemaking, when the little girl wakes up - she's had a nightmare - and as children will, she comes into her mother's room and gets in bed, where, after a few soothing words, she falls asleep. Neeson and Keaton don't uncouple, and we can presume that they may well continue their lovemaking - it's not shown, but an attentive audience would no doubt be able to pose the question of whether they might; we discover later - in court - that they did. The scene is interesting in light of what follows; Nimoy has very cleverly seduced us by showing us these images in the context of what seems a wholly healthy, indeed damn near ideal sexual partnership evolving, and I suspect most audiences won't react to these images at all, going along with the story. Even if they do continue their lovemaking, the viewer might feel - it wouldn't really be a bad thing, would it? I mean, I don't know that *I* could be so sexually unselfconscious in that situation - I feel a wee bit uncomfortable having sex if there's a cat or a dog in the room, let alone a sleeping child - but bully for them for being so un-hung-up; the scene presents the moment as normal behaviour between them, and seems not in the slightest damaging or traumatic. It becomes one of two key episodes in a custody battle that ensues, when Keaton's ex-husband gets wind of his wife's new relationship, and the rules by which it is unfolding. The other episode - which again we learn about without seeing, which, for some reason, really got on Ebert's nerves - is best left to viewers to discover, but it is of a piece with the previous - normal, wholesome, if rather uninhibited behaviour that, in later light, comes to look malign and suspect, from the point of view of a jealous ex and a legal establishment dominated by straight, patriarchal, sex-negative values.
The film asks various questions of its audience: what their values in fact are when it comes to the body and sexuality and how these things should (or shouldn't be) represented in front of children. It also asks whether, once we know what are values are, we would have the courage of our convictions to defend them against all comers. I'd as soon not say any more about it, not even to quibble with Ebert's review, since I assume none of my readers have seen this near-forgotten, seldom-heralded film, and such quibbling would be meaningless indeed. One thing I will do is invite Roger Ebert to revisit the film, to watch it with fresh eyes, and to possibly atone for his critical faux pas (it seems more likely that I'll be able to get him to rethink his position on this film than on the original Death Race 2000). Seeing Ebert in error at that time was probably very useful for me, in encouraging attentive viewing of films, so I bear him no ill will. In an odd way, Ebert should be quite proud that 22 years later, his review of this movie still annoys me...
Meantime, cinephiles looking for an interesting, emotionally-charged, provocative melodrama should check The Good Mother out. It's a DVD cheapie, indifferently dumped onto the market with the same terrible art and idiotic tagline that was on the movie poster, without commentary or indeed any extras, at $9.99; it is not widely distributed and probably not even in many specialty rental shops. However, Chapters got it in for me within less than a week, and it's probably easy to order through most chains. There are also some very skilled supporting actors, including Jason Robards and Joe Morton. Diane Keaton is at her sexiest; and its a pleasure to see Liam Neeson at work at so young an age (and to get away with speaking with his own accent, in an American film!). It's damned hard to find films this good on the shelves of most video stores these days (or at least out here in the suburbs!) - so I hope a few of my readers will jump at the invitation to see a really good movie.
I mean, who are you going to trust, me or Roger Ebert?
Wednesday, February 03, 2010
Monday, February 01, 2010
Motorhead in Vancouver, by Femke Van Delft. Not to be reused without permission.