“…technology has been marshalled, if anything, to figure out ways to make us all work more. Huge swathes of people, in Europe and North America in particular, spend their entire working lives performing tasks they believe to be unnecessary. The moral and spiritual damage that comes from this situation is profound. It is a scar across our collective soul. Yet virtually no one talks about it.”
Dave Graeber, On the Phenomenon of Bullshit Jobs
Boy it was cold Thursday night. It’s not the kind of night you want to be standing outside the venue just so you can get in first to secure a prime spot. Especially since the Great Hall guarantees good sight lines not matter where you stand.
We arrived at the show around 10:00 missing opening band Oh Pep! Once upon a time, when I went to shows, I would be among those first arrivals, catching every support band and sometimes being rewarded with bragging rights years later (my first date with my wife saw the Flaming Lips open for the Butthole Surfers). Times, change. I listened to a couple of their songs before the show, but decided that I would chance missing out. Time will tell.
According to all sources, the show was sold out, but it certainly felt roomier than many sold out shows I’ve attended. (I remember seeing Sonic Youth there and they oversold the show – that was capacity!) S’OK, more room to dance.
Valerie June came onstage about 10:15 in what can only be described as a space-age disco suit, all sparkles. And sparkle she did. June played a selection from her brilliant breakout album Pushin Against a Stone as well as songs from her about to be released The Order of Time. During the forty-five minute set, June switched instruments as she charmed the crowd with philosophy, jokes, a few somewhat rambling stories, and great, great music. If you’ve never seen or heard Valerie June, Pushin is the place to start. There’s a rawness, an honesty about that record that carries into the live show. Coupled with her distinctive voice (not to mention the Medusa like dreads) and it’s an unforgettable show.
She returned with her band to play a three-song encore. And off we went into the cold.
“It takes people for what they are: genuine children of today’s standardised mass culture who have been robbed to a great extent of their autonomy and spontaneity.”
And furthermore, the Fuhrer must be a “Great little man” who poses “as a composite of King Kong and the suburban barber”
Lots off stuff, so let’s get to it.
1 Teenage Fanclub – Here
Their first album in six years, and it’s lovely. Effortless pop music.
2 Angel Olsen – My Woman
2014’s Burn Your Fire for No Witness stunningly good: Ballads and crunchy rockers galore. My Woman is quieter, though the odd rocker is there, but no less intense. A terrific album.
3. Lou Reed Coney Island Baby
After the debacle/artistic triumph of Metal Machine Music (you be the judge), Coney Island Baby was a massive change in pace. and both a critical and commercial hit. Lovely extended cuts like “She’s my Best Friend” and the title song on this lend an effortlessness to the album. . On this edition, there are half a dozen demos or alternative mixes, but you can see why they were not selected. The final versions are superior.
4 The Chills – Kaleidoscope World
Must be something in that New Zealand water; another slice of NZ pop-psychedelia. Kaleidoscope World was a 1986 compilation, expanded by 10 songs on CD and finally as a 2 CD set. Clever little pop classics. Worth finding.
5. The Undertones – “Get over you” (Kevin Shields Remix)
OK, I have to admit to being vaguely disappointed by this. I might have expected a My Bloody Valentinification of the Undertones second single, and while it’s certainly more of a garage sound, it’s just OK. (In other words excellent) That said, any excuse to hear the Undertones…
6. Anton Corbijn -1,2,3, 4
A collection of mostly black and white rock photographs by Corbijn. Lots of Stones, U2, Depeche Mode, Nick Cave, REM and Siouxsie Sioux. There’s also a section on the Slits touring America. Very cool.
7. Various artists – C86
C86 began life as an NME mail-in. Now it’s a 3-CD box set with a rather cool essay attached. 72 songs on this comp ranging from indie pop to more avant-garde sounds. Very nice.
8. John Parrish and Polly Jean Harvey – Dance Hall at Louse Point
A bluesier Polly Jane. But three songs in, you know it’s her. Fantastic except for the somewhat disappointing cover of Peggy Lee’s “Is that all there is.”
9. A Tribe Called Quest – We’ll Take it from Here
15 years is too long between Tribe Called Quest albums. Just listen to the thing.
10. Viv Albertine – Clothes, Music, Boys
Rather cool autobiography by longtime Slits guitar player. Great read.
Till next time.
“The ideologies of the rulers are by their nature more changeable than the ideas of the oppressed. …For not only must they, like the ideas of the latter, adapt each time to the situation of social conflict, but they must glorify that situation as fundamentally harmonious.”
Walter Benjamin, The Arcades Project
Oops. Should have mentioned this a while back.
IP has a new site. We’re making an effort to have a more interactive site than the old one. This will allow readers to comment directly on articles as opposed to writing to us or putting something on the blog. The new site also has all of the back issues; something we’ve been promising to do for years (mea culpa!)
So point your browsers to Internationalist Perspective’s new site
The old site is still functional and will remain for for an undecided period of time. Go now.
Hmm. It feels as if this should be something more profound, being the one thousandth post and all, but this is what it is.
After I wrapped up Red & Black Notes when I joined Internationalist Perspective, I still felt a need to write something. Sure I wrote articles for IP, but sometimes you want to write things that wouldn’t fit there. Notes from Underground is the name of a story by Dostoevsky, btu I think I got the idea during a conversation with Loren Goldner. Just liked the sound of it.
While there are about 30 subscribers to this blog (the number fluctuates), the number of daily “hits” is down from a few years back. The peak was around 30, but not it’s about 10 – 20 a day. Most popular post? My reprinting of Margaret Atwood’s “Song of the Worms.” Followed by an essay I wrote on Goya, and then a reflection on Orwell’s “Politics and the English Language. ”
So that’s a thousand. A new issue of IP will likely be coming along, and that will generate some posts. I also have Netflix now (Daredevil and Jessica Jones are taking up increasingly large chunks of my free time) and I’m sure Trump’s reign of error will provoke something.
First post of the year.
I’ll be honest, I’m not much for social media. Sure, I’ve run this blog for a while, but beyond that…I had a Face Book account for a while, but I almost never updated it and had no friends. My reasoning was that there was probably a reason I was no longer friends with people I went to high school with. Occasionally I used the account to enter contests, or to promote an article or review I written here, but it never really grabbed me. After a year or so, I deleted it.
I do have a Linked-in account though (the boring business version of Face Book). A few years back, I ran into an old girlfriend from university at a show. We talked, exchanged email addresses (followed one a single ‘how are you doing’ email), but a few days later, I received a request to add her to my Linked-in network. The novelty of it intrigued me, so I created an account. It’s pretty much dormant though I do update it now and then. What is interesting is the “are you friends with” suggestions. Man, some people use inappropriate pictures – this is a business site after all! A guy I was friends with as a teenager in England did look at my page a while back, so I checked his. He’s a cop now.
In November, my old cell phone died. The screen went black. It was eight years old, and it had a good life. So, I upgraded to a smart phone. the new phone came with a bunch of fun things including Twitter. After some hesitation i activated that account. Initially, I just followed celebrities I liked (and then unfollowed just as quickly), but after a while, I began to tweet: Observations, announcements, pictures, re-tweets. Nothing profound, and to a very limited audience. Still, when you click on the app. and “See new Tweets” pops up, it’s exciting. There’s a thrill when someone retweets you, likes your tweet or follows you, along with a sense of disappointment when someone unfollows. Terrifying.
I’m not on instagram or snapchat and it seems unlikely that I will join. Still, here’s a thing. A friend of mine was able to track down a person who works in a store within minutes just by using social media discovering all sorts of details about their life. suddenly the warm and fuzzy aspect takes on a potentially sinister side. Especially when you hear the stories of cyber-stalking, cyber-bullying courtesy of some of the loathsome trolls on the net. When I was in school, bullies could be avoided by careful strategies and simply by going home. Social media means that the bullies can follow you home.
A few years back, a friend of mine was convinced that the next waves of struggles could be coordinated by social media and was very much enamored by the flash mob phenomenon. Well, the allure faded. But maybe, we can use the master’s tools. And not just to continue a streak.
I was joking with a friend that maybe this ought to be “Good Riddance 2016,” but seriously…. This was the year we lost Bowie, Alan Rickman, Prince, Elie Wiesel, Alistair MacLeod, Prince Buster, Carrie Fisher, Gary Shandling, Leonard Cohen and many many more, as well as seeing a boorish, vulgar, narcissistic sociopath chosen to be the leader of the most important country in the world. <sigh> But, if I’m being honest, I’d admit that most other years suck too. Still, there were things that made it worthwhile, along with family, friends and dog, the following made life a little easier.
1 The Mekons
For those who don’t know, the Mekons are one of the last standing of the class of 77, but what’s cool is unlike some, they continue to make great music that sounds fresh and vital. Saw them at the Horseshoe this year, and they were wonderful. If you can find their newest release Existentialism which comprises a live CD, and a book of essays, poems and art, get it. Great.
2 Neil Gaiman
One of my favourite
fantasy authors. In addition to releasing a collection of essays, The View from the Cheap Seats that sent me scurrying to find new books mentioned, there were radio plays of Stardust and How the Marquis got his coat Back, a reading of Poe’s “The Raven,” and the impending TV adaptation of American Gods. Very cool. And to cap it off, my friend Lindsey bought me an American Gods T-shirt for Christmas.
3. Prince Edward County
I know what Marx said about the idiocy of rural life, but you really should see Prince Edward County. About ninety minutes drive from Toronto, it’s a place where time seems to move a little slower. Beautiful to look at, and filled with interesting things to see, and some very nice wine. Apart from an unfortunate allergy related incident while horse-back riding, a very pleasant week.
4. The Sleaford Mods
No less a person than Iggy Pop proclaimed them one of his favourite bands. Who am I to disagree? Imagine Half-Man Half Biscuit with a keyboard, and a lot more swearing. Definitely NSFW, but absolutely brilliant. Playing Lee’s Palace in Toronto on April 1st. Got my ticket. Get yours because you’ll be sorry when it sells out.
5. The Exorcist
I read the book when I was a teen, and even though I was an atheist, I was too scared to see the movie. I still haven’t seen it. The TV series obviously doesn’t compare to the book or I suppose the movie (It’s network TV after all), but it’s one of the most creepy and unsettling things on at the moment. The scene in the first episode in the attic with the possessed daughter is skin-crawling. I can’t imagine how scared I would be if I did believe in God.
6. Kim’s Convenience
A CBC adaptation of a Soul Pepper play makes for a gentle sit-com. The story of convenience store run by Korean immigrants in the Cabbagetown /Regent Park area of Toronto isn’t ground breaking, but it’s a treat each week.
7. The Royal Ontario Museum
Went yesterday to see the Chihuly exhibit. The exhibit is very cool, although it didn’t move me as some have done. Still, leaving aside the Surrealists critique of museums and art galleries, it’s still a remarkable place to hang out. Got to pet a live lemur too.
8. Lemur Shirt
And while we’re on the subject of lemurs, I bought a very cool (IMHO) lemur shirt from Frank and Oak – relax, it’s not made of lemurs, it just has lemurs on it. Likewise a camel shirt from the same establishment.
9. At the Existentialist Cafe
When I was in high school, I read a lot of existentialist literature: Sartre, Camus and even some of the theory – Being and Nothingness did me in though. Sarah Bakewell’s account of the theory and its leading members is a very readable book, and brought back a lot of happy (?) memories for me. She was even nice enough to reply when I sent her a note.
10. Grand Hotel Abyss
I could be wrong, but I get the feeling that it’s going to be increasingly fashionable to mention the Frankfurt School in the same way it was to slip the Situationists into conversation a few years back. I’m currently about half way through Stuart Jeffries’s book, and am enjoying it immensely. The title is from a critical remark by Lukacs, but not entirely an unpleasant place to spend one’s time.
11. Young Animal
A new imprint by DC comics and curated by former My Chemical Romance singer Gerard Way. If DC’s Vertigo line was horror, Young Animal is surrealism. So far the YA line consists of Cave Carson has a Cybernetic Eye, the Doom Patrol (both written by Way), Mother Panic and my favourite Shade the Changing Girl. Highly recommended.
12. Kensington Market
Between Spadina and Bathurst, and bordered by College and Dundas is Kensington Market, one of my favourite areas of Toronto. Rich ion radical histroy (Emma Goldman lived there, and the Communist Party owned buildings), it’s a fascinating piece of life. Constantly under threat of gentrification, the market continues offering cheap and essential goods often unavailable elsewhere. Yes, some will prefer St. Lawrence, but Kensington has a much more vibrant culture.
13. The Beguiling
The best comic shop in the city and beyond (we can argue about that later). I’ve been a regular at the shop since the 1980’s when it was on Harbourd. The store is currently moving out of Mirvish Village to make way for condos, but has happily relocated to the Northern border of Kensington which will give me more reasons to spend time there. Haven’t been to the new location yet, but soon…
14. Ms. Anti-Matter Science Wear
OK, their web site is down at the moment, but they have a lot of cool science stuff there. I bought a rather nice caffeine tie from them, and they are regulars at Fan Expo.
15. The Museum of Steam and Technology
Travel down to Hamilton, and you can see this pretty cool place. It’s you’re a steam-punk fan or not, it’s worth a trip to see how the mighty engines of steam worked.
16. The tie clip
You can spend a lot of money on a tie clip, but a cool one attracts conversation (for the record, I usually get them at Kensington Market’s Courage My Love). NEVER use a piece of scotch tape to keep your tie in place. You know who I mean.
Time was once my favourite political magazines were Internationalist Perspective, Aufheben and Radical Anthropology. I’m a member of IP,RA seems to have stopped publication, and Aufheben has become leftist in its orientation, but Endnotes is a worthy replacement. The journal is published by former members of Aufheben, and is a dense read (imagine if Conrad wrote political theory), and appears sporadically. I don’t agree with everything in it, but it’s essential reading.
OK, I had to be convinced to see this one. I didn’t really like the character in the comics, and there’s a lot to dislike about the film: Excessive violence, several ridiculous plot points, the real absence of a plot, questionable C.G.I., and so forth, but for the time Ryan Reynolds is on screen, and he’s on a lot, Deadpool is incredible. Funny as hell. Pure idiot escapism. Can they do it a second time? Probably not, but I can live with that.
19. The Sunshine Grill
My favourite greasy spoon. Apparently, it’s become a chain. I used to go to the one at Yonge and Eglinton, but you can find them across the city and beyond – I took my mum there for Mother’s Day in St. Catharines this year. Cheap, clean and a good selection. And coffee. Lots of coffee.
20. This year’s closing will be short. The final word of Rogue One spoken by Carrie Fisher’s character Princess Leia: “Hope”
The final notes of the year,a little early. Here goes.
1 Various artists – Sharon Signs to Cherry Red
A magnificent 2 CD set of indie pop, but that’s way too much of an understatement. Over fifty tracks of obscure, often amateurish female singers and bands, and no less wonderful for it. Punk, country, sixties pop. If your grandma gives you some cash for Christmas, use it on this.
2. The Oxford American Music Issue
and if you’ve money left over, this should be your other purchase. A magazine of music writing and a really terrific CD to go along with it.
3. Cate Le Bon – Crab Day
Poppy, but weird. I know that’s not much if an insight, but Le Bon is a singular talent that’s best appreciated by experiencing rather than reading what I could say about her.
4. Valerie June – “Astral Plane”
New track from Ms. June. New album in the new year, and she’s coming to Toronto in February. Hear it on SoundCloud.
5. PJ Harvey at Massey Hall
I almost missed out on this one. Ms. Harvey will play Massey Hall in April. I can’t tell you how excited I am about this show.
6. Lydia Loveless
Saw her at the Adelaide Hall in November, and I never did write a proper review. Loveless did a solo acoustic set of her own stuff with a few choice covers (Elvis Costello, Justin Bieber) thrown in. An intimate country roots atmosphere. One to watch.
7. Brian Eno – Here Cine The Warm Jets
Eno’s first post Roxy Music album sounds a lot like…Roxy Music. Not entirely surprising as apart from Bryan Ferry, the while band play on it. Still, the more experimental stuff creeps in too. Well worrying seeking out.
8. The Velvet Underground – loaded
Listen to the fully loaded edition on a recent drive to my parents. It seems inconceivable that three years earlier this band made White Light White Heat. Not to diss Loaded but just to note. Still Loaded is a great rock n roll record and you can see why the band broke up when it wasn’t a hit
9. John Critchley – crooked mile
Critchley was the singer and songwriter in 13 Engines a brilliant Toronto band. I believe this was his only solo release. The first half is also brilliant pop rock. Well worth a listen
10. The grim reaper refuses to slow down
In a year where we lost Bowie, Prince and Leonard Cohen, you’d think that would be enough. Rick Parfitt of Status Quo and yesterday George Michael. Who was the wag who wrote about the only good thing to happen this year was that Keith Richards didn’t die?
Back in a couple of days with some other stuff from the year in review.