From Despair to where … ?

March 13, 2010 at 11:43 pm (Uncategorized)

The SPGB apparently.  Sorry to report that the From Despair to Where blog is no more.  (update your links boys and girls)

A good blog, but everything has its time limit. Good luck to the authors in future endeavors.

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Mark Linkous R.I.P.

March 7, 2010 at 10:13 pm (Uncategorized)

I read today with sadness that Mark Linkous of Sparklehorse committed suicide on March 6, 2010. He was 47 years old.

I saw the band open for Son Volt at the Horseshoe Tavern in Toronto in the mid 90s. Great show. Bought their first album, Vivadixiesubmarinetransmissionplot a little while after: Whispered vocals, haunting country flavoured songs, occasional rockers. Great album.

Hadn’t listened to it in years, but I felt a need to dig out the album today. Still good.

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Jump! A look at Math

March 7, 2010 at 9:13 pm (Uncategorized)

I’m not really a math person. That’s a telling statement isn’t it? If I wrote, I’m not really a reading, or even, I’m not really a writing person, people would look down on me as some kind of intellectual inferior. Yet, lack of math skills is held up as a kind of virtue in some circles.

A  few years back, I read a book called Innumeracy about mathematical illiteracy. The author mentions watching TV with friends when the weather report came on. The announcer noted there was a prediction of a 50% chance of rain on Saturday, and a 50% chance of rain of Sunday. He concluded there was a 100% chance of rain that weekend. The author’s friends who earlier in the evening had droned on about some or other grammar point remained silent.

If you’re my age, (mid-40s), you probably remember sitting in a math class doing times tables drills. 1 x 1 = 1,  1 x 2 = 2 and on it went. Dreary to be sure, but I still know my times tables. Today, well no, there’s the calculator for that isn’t there. But it’s the same problem with writing, something I’m quite passionate about. (and yes, I know some grammar teachers tell you never to end a sentence with a preposition): if you don’t know the rule, how can you know the mistake?   

On Friday I went to the Jump math conference in Toronto. Jump is a non-profit organization which argues there is a myth of math ability: everyone can do math. I few years ago, I bought and read Jump founder John Mighton’s book, The Myth of Ability about the jump philosophy. Very interesting and convincing book. The basic thesis is that math can always be broken down  into smaller steps and you shouldn’t move onto the next step until you’ve mastered the current one.

Hardly revolutionary, but they’ve had great success with it (and of course some failures as nothing is automatic). They publish a series of workbooks you can buy from Amazon and other places, but if you register at the site, there are plenty of free downloads.

The conference consisted of a panel discussion, workshops, and a featured speaker (and a nice lunch!). I have no political agenda here, but I do like this program. Have a look.

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Tinariwen in Toronto – A Review

March 6, 2010 at 8:01 pm (Uncategorized)

I’ve been going to see live music for over thirty years. The first one was the Stranglers in September 1979 on The Raven Tour. There’s just something about being in the audience that a record never really captures.

So on Thursday last, I made my way down to the Phoenix concert theatre in Toronto to see Tinariwen. I mentioned in last month’s Music Notes that I discovered this band on a Mojo compilation and immediately fell in love with them.

I admit I really had no idea of who would be there. When I first started to see bands, I was younger than the performers. then the same age, now older. Audiences too. Still, at this show there were quite a few people older than me (quite a few younger as well). I saw little advertising for this, but the show looked sold out to me. And as an interesting side now, Toronto’s Now which presents itself as a hipper than thou  sensitive to other sounds etc, did nothing to promote this. Sure it took a few ads, but no interview. Not even a mention in the not to be missed column, although hilariously it’s in the club listing as recommended. Really, but you? You’d never know.

Tinariwen formed in Mali in 1979, and to date they have released four albums: The Radio Tisdale Sessions, Amassakoul, Aman Iman and Imidiwan.

 The band took the stage about 9:30: Four men and a women in traditional North African clothing. Two guitars, bass, drums. No stage set to speak of.

  And then it began. What sound to my ears to be African sounds, but with a bluesy guitar as well. The combination is irresistable.Strangely though at different times it sounded as though all the members were playing different songs. No, no, I don’t mean it was a mess, but it was something I was unused to.

But at about the 15 minute mark, just as they were joined by Ibrahim Ag Alhabib, they upped their game. The sounds blended into one hypnotic stew. A friend of mine maintains that the moment you look at your watch is the moment the concert is over. I didn’t look at mine until the final song ninety minutes into their set (they also played a 15 minute encore).

Stunning.

Check out this clip

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Post script

I just discovered this review, which has amazing photos and the set list.

http://www.musicvice.com/reviews/live/tinariwen-at-the-phoenix-toronto-050310

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