News of the Weird # 4

July 14, 2019 at 3:36 pm (Uncategorized)

1 Concentration Camps

Looking at the pictures of Mike Pence, Lindsey Graham and other politicians standing in front of asylum seekers in cages made me wonder if Living Marxism were still around, would they proclaim this was another “picture that fooled the world.” Fortunately Trump was around to tweet that the stories were FAKE NEWS and although the cages were crowded they were clean, but full of criminals ( Black is white, night is day, truth is lies, freedom is slavery, etc. etc continued page 94)

2. July 14

Hey Happy Bastille Day. 230 years ago today the French Revolution began. So what if it only held a few prisoners when the crowd stormed it, it was the symbolism. Oh, and the weapons cache probably didn’t hurt either.

3.  Jeremy vs Jeremy

Several people have pointed out that if Jeremy Hunt were to defeat Boris Johnson (unlikely) to become leader of the Conservative Party and thus British PM, the next election would be Jeremy vs. Jeremy. Fairly indicative of the broader farce.

4. As Purely Racist as You Can Get

After reading Trump’s tweet this morning about the unnamed ” ‘Progressive’ Democrat Congresswomen, who originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe, the worst, most corrupt and inept anywhere in the world,” my initial reaction was that Trump is going after his favourite targets (non- white strong women), and this is probably the most nakedly racist thing he’s written. (Also just about as moronic as usual given that 3 of the 4 likely targets were born in the US, and the fourth came as a child – but then Trump is a birther). But, you know, I have a feeling, and this in not to diminish in any way just how racist this tweet was, he’s written a lot of other equally awful shit too.

5. The Doom Patrol

Back in the days when I used to read the Canadian Socialist Worker, one of the most amusing sections was the arts reviews. Socialist Worker would take a pop culture item which had a “progressive” aspect expand this into a broader critique of capitalism that the show clearly wasn’t making, then complain that its failure was it didn’t end in socialist revolution, or joining the I.S. The current issue has a review of the Doom Patrol (which you absolutely should watch) entitled “Doom Patrol: The Superhero Antidote to Trump’s America” (which it really isn’t)  I missed you John Bell.


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News of the Weird #3

July 11, 2019 at 1:03 am (Uncategorized)

1 Trump

When you talk politics, people talk politics to you. So, people at work and other places often ask me, “Is Trump a fascist?” Despite the casual leftist use of the term, I’ve resisted. I’d often joke, “Trump is too lazy to be a fascist.” Yet it’s been clear for a while that the Bannons and the Millers who have surrounded and continue to influence Trump are, if not actual Nazis, then at least white nationalists flirting with darker fascist forces in the US. Trump too has played to this element of his base. His own authoritarian impulses coupled with his seemingly boundless narcissism seem bound for some deeper radical re-imagining of traditional bourgeois democracy in the U.S. Watch out.

2. The Peoples Party of Canada

A year or two back, the Federal Conservative Party chose a new leader to replace defeated Steven Harper. The compromise candidate was the blandly opportunistic Andrew Scheer, the least offensive candidate for all the factions in the party. At this Maxime Bernier, the runner-up, took his ball and ran away, loudly complaining about the lack of principles in the party. He quickly founded the People’s Party of Canada (though it might easily have been called the Maxime Bernier Party of Canada). It’s likely the party will disappear after the upcoming election, but will split the right-wing vote to allow some Liberal candidates to prevail.

Bernier has proclaimed a populist strategy and against any sort of political correctness. So guess who is showing up at his rallies? Two days ago, Bernier posed at the Calgary Stampede with members of the Northern Guard, a Canadian hate group. When confronted, Bernier insisted it was a smear blaming a CBC reporter for raising the issue rather than attempting to distant himself. The mainstreaming of neo-Nazism continues

3. Loren Goldner

On Sunday, July 14th, Loren will be speaking at The Woodbine in Ridgewood, Queens from 5 PM to 7 PM on the Chinese working class. Details at

4. Verso Books

Maybe the largest leftist publisher in the world. Their Beach Reads section is 50% for the next week or so.

5. Birthdays.

Was it Lenin who said woe is a revolutionary over the age of 54? I couldn’t find the quotation, so maybe I’m imagining the whole thing. Trotsky and Engels wrote things about aging too. I turned 55 today. I’ve been in politics since my teens. Briefly a social democrat. A Trotskyist for about a decade, then a left or council communist for two decades and change.  I’ll keep on…


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Music Notes: June 2019

June 30, 2019 at 1:32 pm (Uncategorized)

I missed last month, but here’s June.

1 Endless Boogie

Not going to list any albums because all of them are excellent. Churning, chugging blues-rock jams that just go on until they’re done. Sort of like if John Lee Hooker (from whom the band take their name) was a member of the Velvet Underground when they recorded “Sister Ray.”

2. Thea Gilmore – Small World Turning

I first heard of Thea Gilmore a decade or so back when a friend gave me one of her albums. Very talented English singer-songwriter. Great new record of beautiful songs

3. Aldous Harding – Designer 

OK, New Zealand singer-songwriter. Some might compare to the previous entry on this list, but it’s not at all the same. Excellent songs. Compelling listening.

4. Jon Spencer, CatL and the Layrite Boys at the Horseshoe

The Horseshoe might be my favourite live venue in Toronto, so this turned out to be a wonderful evening with three great bands. The Layrite Boys are a bluegrass duo. Not usually my kind of thing, but they were pretty impressive. CatL are probably my favourite local band. A blues-punk duo who are incredible live. As good as the studio albums are, live is better. And Jon Spencer. Nuff said. Promoting a solo record, Spencer Sings the Hits, and he did.

5. Jon Langford at the Horseshoe

Langford is a founding Mekon, Waco Brother and too many side and solo projects to list. Seeing him play to a small, but appreciative crowd at the Horseshoe was a treat. Always an entertainer!

6. The Heartbreakers – LAMF : The Definitive Edition

Hmm. a 4-CD version of the Heartbreakers’ only album might seem excessive, but it’s still a very cool thing to have. The lost ’77 mixes, the original album cleaned-up, demos and alternative takes, 4 badges and a 44-page booklet all in a clam-shell case. Who wouldn’t want to have this?

7. The White Stripes – The Complete Peel Sessions

Nice live set from the band. Jack’s guitar is outstanding, but Meg’s drums are a little scruffy in the mix. To be honest though, I think my favourite part was hearing John Peel at the start.

8. Here to be Heard – The Story of the Slits 

Terrific documentary on the Slits featuring some amazing early video. Great stuff

9. Richard Thompson – 13 Rivers

Some people only have so many good songs in them. Their first records are great, and then there’s a slow decline punctuated by occasional moments of, “well, that wasn’t so bad.” I’m not talking about Thompson. He is part of that other class of musician who effortlessly creates new and brilliant songs with every record. This is another.

10. The Rolling Thunder Review: A Bob Dylan Story by Martin Scorsese

The key word is “story.” Scorsese takes archival footage and mixes it with a version of what might have been (Sharon Stone’s segment for example) to create a Dylan version (think I’m Not There). Not for the casual Dylan fan, but well worth the two hour length for those who are serious about their Dylan.

And finally. I don’t think I can let this go by  any longer without comment:  The question of Morrissey. I was a big Smiths fan., and I’m not alone. Morrissey’s lyrics, along with Johnny Marr’s music represent the music of a generation. The Queen is Dead might well be the greatest British album of the eighties. Yet Morrissey’s recent statements in favour of the far-right group For Britain and his statements on race cast a shadow over that work. Should it? Morrissey has often favoured and courted controversy around UK and American politics, and his advocacy of animal rights and vegetarianism have often seemed designed to provoke. The endorsement of an explicitly racist organization seems to go down an altogether different path.

The question of whether you can enjoy the work on an artist or performer whose views of behaviour you abhor is not new. From the list above, I can enjoy Johnny Thunders’ work without sharing his views on the use of heroin. I like the Slits without endorsing Ari-Up’s parenting style or her view on cancer treatment. I still listen to Phil Spector’s records. And Ike Turner. Both were horrible human beings. They are not alone in this. I’m still processing Morrissey’s turn. Nick Cave has written a piece on this question which is worth reading. 

Till next time.


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Democratic Debate Drinking Game

June 26, 2019 at 10:04 pm (Uncategorized)

I’m sure I won’t be watching, but for those of you who are., Rolling Stone has provided a guide

The Official Democratic Debate Drinking Game Rules 

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News of the Weird #2

June 24, 2019 at 9:23 pm (Uncategorized)

I’m not altogether sold on this title, but it’ll do for now.

1 Doug Ford, Premier of Ontario

Rob Ford, the crack-smoking late Mayor of Toronto didn’t really care if people liked him, but he really liked people. His brother, current Ontario Premier Doug Ford, is the opposite: He’s rude, brusque , bully, who clearly wants to be loved. It wasn’t a good week: First he was booed at the Raptors’ victory celebration and was likely inadvertently snubbed by  Masai Ujiri. His cabinet shuffle on Thursday demoted several prominent members of his government in an effort to distance himself from unpopular policies, fooling no one. In the recent shuffle, cabinet was expanded by 4 to make almost 40% of the PCs part of the cabinet. His chief of staff, the widely unpopular Dean French, was forced to resign after a friend of French’s son’s and his wife’s second cousin received and then lost plum patronage posts, and finally the also unpopular Lisa MacLeod announced the traditional Canada Day party on the lawn of the legislature would be cancelled in favour of a different celebration  throughout the province (“PCs Cancel Canada Day” read the headlines – true or not, the optics are terrible).  The policies of vindictive incompetence continue …

2. The Raptors

I don’t care for basketball, but it was nice to see the outpouring of support and the seemingly endless numbers who turned out to cheer the team during a parade on Monday. Marred somewhat by a shooting at Nathan Phillips Square downtown: You’re going to a celebration of the first Canadian team to ever win the NBA championship. It’s a time when everyone is happy. Families, school kids and everyday folk are heading down to be a part of this. Why wouldn’t you be packing? Unbelievable.

3. Pride

Yesterday was the culmination of Pride Month in Toronto. Estimates of over one million people attended. It’s a far cry from its origins as a relatively small event populated by members of the community and leftist supporters. While parade was as much protest as celebration, by the end of the eighties, the shift had been to the celebration.  Corporations were not sponsors and as its budget increased, pride became increasingly less-political. At one event, where I was attending as a member of a leftist group selling newspapers, organizers told all of the leftists they were not welcome at “their event.” and we were pushed away.  And so it goes.

4. Trump

It’s a strange world where, due to the influence of Tucker Carlson (!), the President of the US doesn’t indiscriminately slaughter potentially hundreds of foreign citizens, but expects kudos for not performing an act which could have embroiled the region in war

5. History point then

And on this day in 1929, timber workers in Australia  were defeated in a six-month strike which led to the imposition of a 48-hour week.





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On Theory and Practice

June 20, 2019 at 12:42 pm (Uncategorized)

It is not the purpose of the critique of value to furnish direct pointers for immediate action. This refusal often occasions a certain amount of disappointment on the part of those people eager for radical social critique, but who immediately raise the question of what the practical application of this fine theory might be. It is necessary, however, for critique to avoid succumbing to the demand that it always provide concrete immediate solutions. Although it is legitimate to expect that a critique of capitalist society should also be able to reveal a possible praxis  of supersession, there are good reasons to insist on the necessary autonomy of theory. Indeed, were its corollary in immediate action the only thing allowed to govern everything thought or said, the very formulation of radical theory would no longer be possible. The “categorical break” that forms the background to the critique of value cannot be turned instantly into a political strategy, as is the case for example with theories of the “multitude” or of “alter-globalisation”; nor is instantaneous application to one’s personal life within its gift. On the other hand, conceptualising a break with the basic categories of capitalist socialisation, even if such a break cannot be realised in the here and now, enables a focus to be maintained which goes far beyond the countless proposals in this day and age that seek to change the present without having to change anything.

Anselm Jappe

Preface to The Writing on the Wall

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News of the Weird #1

June 16, 2019 at 11:53 am (Uncategorized)

Even when I had more free time, I found that if I didn’t write something right away, I didn’t get around to it. So, the idea came just to write short pieces on Sunday noting odd lefty or news stuff for the week. Here’s the first.

1 Trump

Of course Trump to start. He occasionally shocks, but doesn’t surprise anymore. No, what shocks me is his defenders. This week, Trump gave an interview where he more or less said to foreign powers, I really want to win, so if you can help me out, I won’t tell on you. His backers responded by criticizing…Hillary Clinton. How sad has bourgeois democracy become in the US?

2. The Toronto Raptors

I’m not a basketball fan, and when people ask about sports, I’m often dismissive: bread and circuses and all that. Still, when Toronto won the NBA championship this week, it was hard not to notice just how happy people were. A real feeling in the air. Maybe that’s the point.

3. Long Holidays in the Summer

A week back, the Ontario Conservative government announced the summer recess. It started on June 7 and stretches all the way to October 28. (Past the Federal election where the Ontario Conservatives unpopularity is expected to hurt their federal counterparts, but I’m sure that’s a coincidence). That’s almost five months. Premier Ford said it was because they had been working so hard and accomplished so much.. (For fun, try this with your boss, and see what happens).  Next time the government talks about lazy teachers and their summer break, they might get ticketed by the Irony Police. (Sadly no such thing exists or we could pay off a lot of debt)

4. Luxury Communism

I’ve ordered my copy from the public library. Don’t know exactly what the author of Fully Automated Luxury Communism has in mind, but it’s an intriguing title.

5. Will Barnes

Will Barnes was an eccentric communist who died in 2012. Internationalist Perspective ran an obit for him. Except that he didn’t die. He just told his wife to pretend that he did because he was annoyed, frustrated, and who the fuck knows about politics. Apparently he’s published material in Insurgent Notes under a pen name. Under several pen names. one replying to something he wrote.  Now, it’s come out he’s alive. Bizarre.  Some details here.


And we’re off.


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Summer’s Upon Us

June 15, 2019 at 8:32 pm (Uncategorized)

May and June are my busiest moths at work, and that’s been reflective in the activity on this blog – almost nothing.

But as we are not half way through June, I’ve a bit more time to devote to it: Movies to mention, politics to critique. All the fun stuff.

See ya soon.

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Roy Bailey – Curtains of Old Joe’s House

May 22, 2019 at 1:44 am (Uncategorized)

Sometimes this world is harsh. Here’s a  song by the British folk giant Roy Bailey for simple tolerance and fundamental decency.

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Music Notes April 2019

April 30, 2019 at 8:39 pm (Uncategorized)

Here’s some things then

1.  Neu! – Neu

A friend insisted I listen to this 1972 debut from two former members of Kraftwerk.  “Hallogalllo” is an amazing pulsating track perfect for highway driving, and the three-part “Jahresüberblick” is also epic, but some of the ambient noises are going to take a bit longer to appreciate. Certainly worth checking out.

2. Cardi B – Invasion of Privacy

I was listening to this in the car, and my son said, “This isn’t what I imagine you listening to.” He’s right, but sometimes you want to listen to new stuff outside of your usual zone.  Yeah, yeah, “Bodak Yellow,” but also “Best Life” and “Money Bag.” And there were lines that made me laugh out loud. Hear it.

3. Ex-Hex – It’s Real 

Second album by the band. Probably even better than their debut Rips. Still the same driving punk-rock sound, but there’s some classic rock creeping in too – if I learned the band had been listening to Heart, it wouldn’t surprise me. At a recent show at the Horseshoe in Toronto, the band announced their discovery of Kim Mitchell proclaiming “Patio Lanterns” one of the greatest songs ever. Pretty amazing show, and a great set by the opening band Moaning.

4. Better Oblivion Community Center – Better Oblivion Community Center

My new favourite band (this week). Great collaboration by Phoebe Bridgers and Conor Oberst, and it’s everything you’d expect. Sure “Dylan Thomas” is the standout track, but there’s plenty more to enjoy

5. Vintage Rock

The latest issue of the magazine has a special feature on rockabilly, and a free CD. The CD has nothing you can’t live without, but it’s still cool to hear people making these sounds.

6. Holly Gollightly – Truly She is None Other 

Former Thee Headcoatee Holly Golightly puts out another album of originals that sound like covers of classic songs, and classic covers that sound like her songs. Great sixties style tunes. Sit back and listen. And read the liner notes by Jack White

7.  Sleaford Mods – Key Markets

Somehow I missed this one when it came out, but it’s another great slice of bile and keyboards from the lads. Stay angry.

8. Jenny Lewis – Punk Pioneers

Great little coffee table photo album of early LA punk. I don’t know a great deal about this lot, so it was cool to see those early days and bands, along with East Coast types like Blondie (Debbie Harry graces the cover) and the Ramones.

9.  Fatboy Slim – Live on Brighton Beach

Just one great big party record. Play loud

10. “Baby Shark”

My friends with young children tell me that the appeal grows thin pretty quickly. Oh well.


Till next month.

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