Wildcat (1)

November 30, 2009 at 2:16 am (Uncategorized)

I was going through a box of old pamphlets today when I happened across The Factory Songs of Mr. Toad by my friend Martin Glaberman. This one is my favourite.

A most practical cat.

Walking silently on padded feet
 Unseen, unheard
Power concentrated
in a compact body

Lean, lithe, less in appearance
Than the explosive leap,
periodic culmination
of growing power
of growing hunger

Amber, black, mottled, gold.
All colors help to hide
its invisible path

Slowly it climbs and waits
on limb
on cliff
on overhang

All right, Buddy

Let’s not get romantic. Shut her down and let’s go

A most practical cat

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Crisis in California

November 29, 2009 at 7:14 pm (Uncategorized)

IDP Editions have produced a new 16-page pamphlet called Crisis in California.  Subtitled “everything touched by Capital turns toxic,” the pamphlet  deals with the effects of the collapse of the housing boom, as well as ecologically destructive agribusiness practices. It’s going to be published by Mute Magazine . It’s a bit long to post the PDF here, but you can contact IDP  directly, or here.

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Photos from China

November 26, 2009 at 1:27 am (Uncategorized)

 Ospop, for those of you who don’t know is a company which sells Chinese- made shoes that are actually worn by people in China.  Wait, that didn’t come out right. The shoes aren’t second hand…

Yesterday, I got an email from the company with a link to a collection of photographs by Cheng Jiagang. Many of the photos are of stylish women juxtaposed against fairly grim landscapes. OK, but there are some incredible shots of how capitalism continues to reshape China’s natural beauty. Many of the shots resemble the Detroit pictures of Andrew Moore I mentioned a few days back. Oh, and by the way, when I write China is being reshaped by capitalism, I mean the newest phase of that reshaping. I don’t regard Maoist China as any kind of socialism; merely state-capitalism.

View the pictures here

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Music Notes November 2009

November 25, 2009 at 2:22 am (Uncategorized)

This month’s music related round-up.

1. Nirvana – Bleach (20th anniversary Edition)

I have to admit a little fear about the latest wave of Nirvana releases, Bleach and the Reading Festival CD/DVD. In their short life, nirvana released three studio albums and the singles/rarities collection Incesticide. Now the posthumous releases, and that’s not including compilations, outnumber the living. I live in terror of recording being discovered and having new music added to them in order to squeeze the last few dollars out of the band.

All that aside, Bleach is a pretty good record. Not bad for a record that cost a couple of hundred bucks to make.  Twenty years later, Bleach is available in a shiny new edition with a 52-page book and a live concert from Portland dating to 1990. It’s not my favourite Nirvana recording, but it’s a fascinating snapshot of what was about to be.

2. The 5,6,7,8’s  Bomb the Twist

If Shonen Knife hadn’t wanted to be the Ramones, but instead, oh I don’t know, the Rock-a-Teens or Thee Headcoatees, they might sound a little like the 5,6,7,8’s. Most famous for their appearance in Tarrentino’s Kill Bill (yes, that song is included here), it’s worth a listen. But maybe not repeated plays.

3. The XX

Take one part Young Marble Giants, one part joy Division… seriously, if you can get beyond the hype, the XX are really worth a listen. Slow, serious music with great vocals. Watch videos on their site and get a remixed MP3 for signing up to their mailing list.

4. Nick Cave – The Death of Bunny Monroe

I like Nick Cave, I really do.  I’ve bought most of his records. I seen him play live several times. I bought the lyric/poem collections, and loved his first novel And the Ass Saw the Angel.  So…it really pains me to say how disappointed I was by this book. It’s the story of a sex-obsessed salesman dealing with life in the aftermath of his wife’s suicide:  A post-modern porno death of a salesman? Not really, just a bit dull. Page after page of sex-related comments and profanity is not particularly interesting. That said, the final chapters of the book show just how talented Cave is. There’s the clever wordplay and lyricism that fill his albums. A shame the rest of the book wasn’t more like that.  

5. Elijah Wald – How the Beatles Destroyed rock ‘n’ Roll

I wrote about this book last month, but hadn’t actually read it then. Ooh, not what I expected. I thought it might be about how the Beatles fueled the birth of classic rock radio – the totalitarian music form that presents a very selective view of sixties rock.

It isn’t. It’s a history of neglected American music forms. Fascinating stuff. If you’ve read Wald’s book on Robert Johnson, you know what you’re in for. Wald is a thorough and informed writer, but he’s also a fan of the music he describes. But, this isn’t about the Beatles. As such, the book is just this side of being dishonest in its title. I guess you can’t judge a book by its cover.

6. Greg Kot- Ripped

Kot is a Chicago music critic, and has written a thoroughly entertaining and informative book about the revolution in distribution in the music industry in the last ten years. It’s been quite a while since EMI manufactured blank cassettes and then complained that people used them to tape records. Now cassettes seem quaint and old hat. Like 8-tracks. The CD, the CD burner and then the internet made for much more efficient mass distribution. Kot’s book tells the stroy of how musicians and the music industry responded.

7. Massive Attack – Splitting the Atom

New EP released this summer as a warm up for the new album, due sometime in 2010. I’m not sure they’ll ever top Mezzanine, and on first listen this one doesn’t come close. But it’s a grower.

8. Charlotte Gainsbourg

If your parents are Serge Gainsbourg and Jane Birkin, is it possible that you not be cool? I’m not talking about the music here. If you watch movies or videos with Charlotte, she projects a kind of effortless cool (I suppose that’s unnecessary – cool is always effortless).   

Her new record is IRM  and is produced by Beck. you can get a free download of the single by signing up for her mailing list on her website.  There’s also a fun video for Heaven Can Wait, a track featuring Beck.

9 Erma Franklin – Piece of Her Heart

A compilation from the Epic and Shout years from Aretha’s sister. Erma is most famous for her original version of the song Janis Joplin made her signature tune, and heresy, Franklin’s is better. The rest of the album is pretty cool too.

10. Are show tunes cool again? So, I bought, unashamedly, the Glee soundtrack, and I can’t seem to get the show tunes out of my head. I read Wicked, didn’t see the muscial, but Defying Gravity is wedged there. Oh, and Don’t stop Believing. Sigh.

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New Radical Publications – november 2009

November 25, 2009 at 1:58 am (Uncategorized)

Fall is well and truly here. And that means a few new radical publications.

First up is the new Aufheben. Probably the most influential of the big “ultra left” magazines (a categorization they’d reject). I always take extra copies and it’s a big seller at the Montreal Anarchist bookfair. I  haven’t seen the new issue yet, but I’m informed it has articles on the economic crisis (naturally), the state debate and struggles in the UK. Aufheben are now set up to handle paypal accounts and you can order it here.

Another favourite is Radical Anthropology. The third issue is now out, and it can be downloaded as a PDF here  RA is another popular choice at the bookfair. The issue has articles on Darwinism and motherhood, green capitalism, language, why anthropology hasn’t changed the world and lots more. Well worth downloading, and well worth buying.

The International Communist Party (or at least one of them) have been sending me their journal Internationalist Papers for a couple of years. The ICP are sometimes called Bordigists after their historic leader Amadeo Bordiga. altogether to Leninist for me with a worldview that has remained somewhat static (to say the least). Nevertheless, it’s sometimes worth a look, if only because it’s a view not often available in English.

Apparently, there is a new Communicating Vessels out, but I haven’t received a copy yet. Will post when it arrives.

A new Endnotes should be out by the end of the year.

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Travels in 2009: New York

November 24, 2009 at 1:56 am (Uncategorized)

Who was it said, if you’re tired of London, you’re tired of life? It’s certainly true of New York. Whenever I visit New York, I always feel as if I’ve only scratched the surface of the city.

I recently made my annual pilgrimage to the city.

The day started with a stroll along the waterfront on Staten Island, where I usually stay when I got ot the city. Note to self : try the Sri Lankan restaurant near where my friends live.

Then it’s the Staten Island ferry into Manhattan. It’s not really New york unless you ride the ferry. A 25 minute trip from the terminal on Staten Island to Battery Park in Manhattan. Past the Statue of liberty and a great view as your approach the city.

From there it was up Wall Street, pausing at Bowling Green, the smallest park in New York. They say you can spot the tourists in New York: they’re the ones looking up. OK, but it’s worth looking up sometimes just to see the magnificent architecture. As you travel up broadway, just before city hall, there’s the incredible Woolworth’s building. Amazing gothic architecture.

Just above city hall, I head east into China town. I’m not sure about it, but it’s like China town everywhere. Crowds of people and food and goods spilling out onto the streets. I take a quick look onto Doyers Street. It’s a crooked L shaped street, so designed to prevent ghosts following people (apparently ghosts like to walk in straight lines).

I head north up Bowery, past the former CBGBs to Joey Ramone place on East 2nd Street, a quick stop at St. Mark’s Bookstore.   

From there back toward the centre. I went to Forbidden Planet and the Strand. Forbidden Planet is a nice comic book shop near Union Square, but to my mind it’s really no better than some of the ones in Toronto. The Strand however, is the biggest used book store in the world. Always something good there -I got a Doc Savage reprint and a Nick Hornby hardcover.

Lunch in a nice Indian restaurant and then more exploration.

I went down to Evolution. It’s  a store which specializes in animal products. I had planned to pick up a few things from the kids, but I realized the kids might be a little creeped out – too many bones and creepy-crawlies!   I also kept wondering where they obtained all of this stuff. Still, I bought a few bones and some cool rocks.

Then, I needed to meet up with my friends, so naturally I got lost. New York has the habit of changing names of its streets (I guess every city does this, but you notice it more when you’re looking for a street that doesn’t exist!)  I began to walk north. Past Waverly place, but I didn’t see any wizards

In the evening I felt like a real somebody. I went to two separate art gallery openings. The first was a group of Belgian artists, but the second was the one that really impressed me. Andrew Moore has taken a series of pictures of Detroit in decay. Detroit was the motor city. It was the place African-Americans fled to escape the brutal racism of the south. It was a city that paid ‘decent’ wages, and had a high degree of working class militancy. Anyone who hasn’t read Detroit I Do Mind Dying should head directly to their local leftie bookseller or public library right now.

But no more. Detroit looks today as if it was hit by an atomic bomb. It’s a scene fresh out of the Road Warrior or some other dystopian fantasy. The question viewing Moore’s photographs of post-apocalyptic Detroit is “why?” It’s not a an accident; it was deliberate. Watch for a book volume of Moore’s work.  

And after that, a taxi ride back to the ferry.

And that’s where things started to go wrong. As I was getting off the bus, I tripped and fell giving me a nasty sprain (it still aches three weeks later), and reducing the rest of the trip ot a hobble. My New York adventures always seem to meet with some catastrophe. A flight was cancelled in 2002. The blackout in 2003. More delays in 2004. A nasty flu virus in 2007. It seems as if the only time when I go without incident is when the family come with me (note to self about this).

But it’s still a great city, and as they used to say in the middle ages, the city air makes you free.

PS. I made a New york CD for the friends I stayed with. The liked it apart form the last track, which they loathed!

Here’s the track listing:

  1. LCD Soundsystem – New York, I love you, but you’re bringing me down
  2. The Last Poets – New York, New York
  3. Lou Reed – Dirty Blvd.
  4. The New york Dolls – Subway Train
  5. The Kills – What New York used to be
  6. The Raveonettes – New York was Great
  7. The Demics – New York City
  8. The Sex Pistols – New York
  9. Wire – New York City
  10. The Ramones – Rockaway Beach
  11. Cub – New York City
  12. Ryan Adams – New York, New York
  13. The Florida Razors – New York Screaming
  14. The Ad-Libs – The Boy from New York City
  15. Bob Dylan – Talking New York
  16. The Clash –Broadway
  17. Leonard Cohen – Chelsea Hotel no. 2
  18. Frank Sinatra – Theme from New York New York  

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For the football, er, Trotsky fan in your life…

November 22, 2009 at 1:35 am (Uncategorized)

Well for those of you not shopping at the Gap because of its participation in the war on Christmas (just kidding), here’s an idea.  
The quoation is slightly doctored (boxing is mentioned before football), but it’s still good; viewed ironically of course. Trotskyism is long behind me.   
The revolution will inevitably awaken in the British working class the deepest passions which have been diverted along artificial channels with the aid of football.”

Leon Trotsky

 Every team needs a fourth international, though expect plenty of red cards for dissent. The quote is genuine, taken from Trotsky’s 1925 Where is Britain Going? the original can be found here though his prediction of an impending British revolution hasn’t proved exactly prescient! Available in sizes small (36inch chest/90cms), medium (40inch/100cms), large (44inch/110cms), x-large (48inch/120cms) and xx-large (52inch/130cms).

CHRISTMAS GIFT-WRAPPING. With exclusive Philosophy Football paper and gift tag. To add message to tag type into ‘special instructions’ box on the payment page.


XX-Large s/s (20.99)X-large s/s (20.99)Small s/s (20.99)Medium s/s (20.99)Large s/s (20.99)Christmas gift-wrap service (1.95)




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A new kind of Veteran

November 19, 2009 at 3:49 am (Uncategorized)

A friend of mine wrote this while travelling back home.

I saw something today at Sea-Tac airport that I had not seen before, and that I found to be a little startling. I was waiting for my flight to Vancouver in the waiting area by the gate for my plane (until it was cancelled). I saw a couple sit down across from me and over a bit, the woman looking to be in her fifties, and the man seemed to me to probably be in his forties. I saw he had on one of those veteran’s baseball caps with the eagle and something else in the middle, and writing above and below curving around them. I didn’t give them much notice at first, except that the guy didn’t seem to be very happy saying whatever it was he was saying to her. But a while later I looked over at him again, and I decided I would read what the writing on his cap actually said. Expecting to see … well, you can guess, if you’ve ever seen one of these, and if you’re like me, you’ve seen quite a few of them over the years. I think they usually mention their regiment or whatever, maybe a base location or something like that. I never really gave it much mind, typically dismissing them as “proud” veterans displaying their “credentials”, and thus as reactionary moron warriors. But I was genuinely startled when I read what I saw on this guy’s cap. It said above the middle symbol “Dysfunctional Veteran”, and below it was “Leave me alone”. I almost wanted to say something to him, but since he clearly wanted to be left alone and considering his unpleasant mood then, I decided to forget that. But I won’t forget what I saw then. I wonder if there are any more caps like that around? I can’t believe that only one like that exists. Maybe they will become slightly popular among the “new” veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan/Pakistan wars.

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Communism in Turkey

November 14, 2009 at 3:30 pm (Uncategorized)

Recently, I saw my friend Loren Goldner. Loren gave a short presentation on a new article he has written and which is published on his web site.

Socialism in One Country Before Stalin and the Origins of Reactionary Anti-Imperialism: The Case of Turkey 1917-1925 

The article details moments in the early life of the Turkish communist party, and the role of the Bolsheviks.  (For additional information, the Turkish group EKS published two pamphlets on communism in Turkey before they joined the ICC  – both are available from the ICC

For people who don’t know Loren, he is well worth getting to know. I know few people who can digest information and write printable copy so quickly.  Loren has self-published a few books, and is working on a new one on Korea.

If you haven’t seen it, Loren’s book on Melville is incredible. Contact me for details – you can also order it from Amazon.

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Thatcher not Dead Shock!

November 14, 2009 at 3:15 pm (Uncategorized)

A mildly amusing tale which no doubt briefly cheered up millions whose lives were ruined by the faithful servant of capital. Earlier this week, Canadian Federal Transportation Minister John Baird sent a note to a friend to announce Thatcher was dead. The friend forwarded the message, and the story grew. Eventually the Canadian government called London to confirm. Turns out it wasn’t   Margaret Thatcher. It was Baird’s 16-year-old cat named for the aging despot.

Perhaps a trip over to Pete Wylie’s myspace page is what’s needed for a quick blast of The Day Margaret Thatcher Dies.

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