A little more on the anti G-20 actions in toronto

July 31, 2010 at 8:41 pm (Uncategorized)

While looking at Wikipedia a couple of days ago, I came across the term Confirmation Bias. In brief, the term refers to the notion that when people are forming an opinion, they tend to accept information from sources that confirm their already existing beliefs.

No real surprises there, but it’s useful to see how this plays out in terms of the anti-G20 actions in Toronto in June.  In the days and weeks after the events of June 26, a wide range of opinions and analyses have been offered to explain what happened, so, let’s take an example in relation to confirmation bias. 

At its heart, social democracy sees nothing beyond the capitalist state; a kindler, gentler capitalist state not obviously bound by market forces. Perhaps a Sweden with an even better welfare state…capitalism.  

Therefore, when they marched on June 26, the goal was to draw attention to all number of good causes, which in their opinion, can be , but currently aren’t, a priority for capital: Money spent on human needs not arms war greed etc.  As if capitalism really could make its decisions on those priorities. When the Black Bloc broke from the larger loosely social democratic march and violated the protocols by engaging in its conception of anti-capitalism, the social democrats saw this as endangering their arguments and recoiled, arguing that the police hadn’t done their job properly! (In a sense, they were right about message as the focus became the destruction of property. Unfortunately, the Black Bloc failed to articulate any alternatives beyond sloganeering)

Likewise, the Black Block supporters. I’ve read piece after piece by Black Block supporters arguing that there was class war in Toronto on June 26.  day. “G20 Capitalism is attacked in Toronto”  was the title of one blog post. It’s still unclear to me how smashing a few windows and burning a cop car or two is attacking capitalism, especially when some made the argument that the attacks were only against corporate targets – small and family businesses were spared, suggesting not all capitalism is evil. this might seem like splitting hairs, but it points to a larger problem in methodology.

If your conception of anti-capitalism means the destruction of capital’s symbols, then here was ample proof that class war was being waged. The Black Bloc certainly proved elusive and extremely difficult to pin down, and it  made some for some spectacular  news coverage. There’s still a few questions about those burning police cars and just how they came to be abandoned that aren’t really clear to any one, but never mind.  Naomi Klein ought to have been proud so many people read No Logo, but instead she was in the first group moaning about the police not policing properly

The International Socialists , who are not by any stretch of the imagination Black Bloc supporters published a fairly “orthodox” statement on July 3,  making the point that ultimately it will take the moment of the class to make a real difference, not little vanguardist groups like the Black Bloc. Of course the IS see that movement as being through “official” organizations like the unions or ultimately through their so-called revolutionary party. 

The Sketchy Thoughts blog from Montreal does a nice job of laying out some of the positions of the various groups who participated in the actions, and summing up their attitudes in relation to the Black Bloc’s.    

I don’t mean to conclude by suggesting in a post-modern style that no objective truth can be deduced, and that every reality only reflects the biases of the observer.  It’s unlikely a consensus will emerge, but further discussion is healthy.

Post Script

And as an afterthought, for my money,  the winner for most horrible leftist argument about June 26 and after was that of Fightback, the Canadian representatives of the International Marxist Tendency. But then look at their history.

In the famous poll tax riot in London in 1990, the Militant tendency, the UK relatives of Fightback, initially offered to assist the police in identifying those demonstrators engaged in the violence. Militant later “clarified”  their stance to explain they hadn’t really meant that at all. Uh huh.

On June 30, Fightback  issued a statement arguing that the Black Bloc were not part of “our moment,” there was no difference between the Bloc and agent provocateurs, and that some of the Bloc were likely cops. It’s a particularly loathsome tactic, and one offered without any evidence:. Don’t like someone? Suggest they’re a cop.

Fightback also distinguishes itself on the left by arguing that cops are part of the working class.  But hold on, if cops are workers in uniform, and the Black Bloc were cops, then the Black Bloc were workers out of uniform … no, wait, I’m confused. Dreadful, simply dreadful.

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Music Notes July 2010

July 25, 2010 at 7:28 pm (Uncategorized)

 July’s round-up of good things to listen to.

1. M.I.A. – Maya

The third album by M.I.A. risked being overshadowed by the New York Times fiasco: Times reporter Lynn Hirschberg wrote an article highlighting M.I.A.’s talents but suggesting she was also a bit of a spoilt rock star especially when it came to her uncritical boosting of the LTTE. Unfortunately, M.I.A.’s response was to  post Hirschberg’s cell number, and engage in childish name-calling, coming off as… a spoilt rock star. So forget that. The third album Maya is still pretty good, even if it’s not as adventurous as her previous two efforts. The world beat vibe is downplayed, and instead a crunchy electronica  comes to the front. Rather than rapping, M.I.A. sings on a few songs (although some of the vocals have an auto-tune sound to them). The problem with creating something wonderful and unique, as the earlier records were, is you have to keep moving or people lose interest. This third record gives a reason to still be interested.   

2. Sleigh Bells Treats

Ooh, I missed the boat on this one. Sleigh Bells were in Toronto last week for a long sold out show at the Phoenix. But the album is still worth picking up. Imagine Fuck Buttons with a singer and more guitar. Treats will no doubt annoy some since the songs pretty much all sound the same, but it is a pleasant sound. You can pick up demos for the album here . Signed to M.I.A.’s label too.

3. Mary Weiss – Dangerous Game

The singer for the Shangri-las with a solo album. Nuff said? Mary Weiss backed by garage band The Reigning Sound on Norton records. Why don’t you own this yet? 

4. Our Noise: The Story of Merge Records, the indie label that got big and stayed small – John Cook, Mac McCaughan and Laura Ballance.

What do Arcade Fire, Superchunk, the Magnetic Fields, Buzzcocks, Seaweed, Butterglory, She & Him (to name only a few) have in common? They have all released records on Durham, NC’s Merge records. This book is that story. A marvellous read that will enchant anyone who loves music and/or loves the underdog. The book is an account of the history of the label interspersed with comments from many of the bands who recorded for Merge. Some pretty cool pictures too.  

5. Superchunk  – Incidental Music 1991-95

It’s a tribute to Superchunk’s songwriting that they can release singles collections and rarities and they are very bit as good as their regular releases. Too often when a band re-issues a record and puts on outtakes, you realize why they didn’t appear on the album in the first place. not so this collection. Every bit as good as their previous singles collection tossing Seed with some great originals and covers (Motorhead and Magnetic Fields) thrown in. Perfect summer listening.

6. Best Coast -Crazy for You

It doesn’t come out until Tuesday, but you can stream it all over the net including at Urban Outfitters ! Hmm, garage, pop, gospel,lo-fi, take your pick. Judging by comment boards here and there you either hate this (“manufactured”, “dull” etc) or you love it. I’m in the latter group. Garage pop. Give it a listen. They seem to tour constantly and will be back in Toronto in September.

7. Wilko Johnson – Best of

An old compilation, but good to have. Wilko was the original guitarist and main songwriter in Dr. Feelgood. A good selection of songs from his career here. Check out this version of Roxette from the Old Grey Whistle Test, with the Feelgood.

8. Bo Diddley is a Songwriter

Not the first and probably not the last Bo Diddley covers collection. This one features many of the usual suspects: The Pretty Things, the Downliners Sect, the Animals, the New York Dolls and many more. Tending more toward 60s bands and it misses on Mo Tucker’s terrific version of “Crackin up” the collection has no misfires and it boasts lovely sleeve notes. Pick it up, but then seek out the originals. Ace records.

9. Jon Spencer Blues Explosion

It’s not often I see the same band twice in a year. Saw Heavy Trash back in April, now Spencer is touring with his blues band to promote a greatest hits package. Opening for them is CatL, one of the best local bands around. Go see both at Lee’s Palace. July 31. C’m0n, it’s Saturday night.

10. The Avengers

“Opened for the Sex Pistols at their last show.” It’s not a bad thing to have on your resume. The Avengers belong to that unfortunately too large group of ‘could have been, should have been bigger’ bands, Their first album was released after they split, and even today their records are not overly easy to track down. Worth the search thought. All this would be historically interesting, but you should know they’re touring again. The Horseshoe Tavern August 2nd. $14 advance. C’mon, what else are you going to be doing on a Monday night?

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The Conqueror Worm by Edgar Allen Poe

July 23, 2010 at 4:59 pm (Uncategorized)

Hmm, was re-reading the Hellboy story that takes its title from this poem,  and decided to look at the full version of the piece. Originally published for the January 1843 issue of Graham’s Magazine.

         LO! ‘t is a gala night
        Within the lonesome latter years!
    An angel throng, bewinged, bedight
        In veils, and drowned in tears,
    Sit in a theatre, to see
        A play of hopes and fears,
    While the orchestra breathes fitfully
        The music of the spheres.

    Mimes, in the form of God on high,
        Mutter and mumble low,
    And hither and thither fly—
        Mere puppets they, who come and go
    At bidding of vast formless things
        That shift the scenery to and fro,
    Flapping from out their Condor wings
        Invisible Woe!

    That motley drama!—oh, be sure
        It shall not be forgot!
    With its Phantom chased for evermore,
        By a crowd that seize it not,
    Through a circle that ever returneth in
        To the self-same spot,
    And much of Madness, and more of Sin
        And Horror the soul of the plot.

    But see, amid the mimic rout,
        A crawling shape intrude!
    A blood-red thing that writhes from out
        The scenic solitude!
    It writhes!—it writhes!—with mortal pangs
        The mimes become its food,
    And the angels sob at vermin fangs
        In human gore imbued.

    Out—out are the lights—out all!
        And over each quivering form,
    The curtain, a funeral pall,
        Comes down with the rush of a storm,
    And the angels, all pallid and wan,
        Uprising, unveiling, affirm
    That the play is the tragedy “Man,”
        And its hero the Conqueror Worm.

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The Dead Zone – TV in the Summer

July 23, 2010 at 1:17 pm (Uncategorized)

Summertime was traditionally down time for the major networks. Afterall, who wants to stay inside in the warm weather? (we get so little anyway) But TV has its own pleasures  regardless of the time of year, and thanks to cable and the shifting perceptions of TV execs, the summer is a little more interesting now.

I guess, if none of this appeals to you, and you can’t find anything else to do, you could always go outside.

1. Mad Men

Season four  starts on Sunday on AMC. If you’ve never watched Mad Men, it’s a remarkable but jarring experience. Set in the early 1960s (season four opens Thanksgiving Weekend 1964), the show not only uses the historical events of the era but recreates the attitudes and morales: Men smoke nad drink with abandon, women are subordinate, African-Americans are invisible etc.  At the end of the last season, the lead characters of Sterling-Cooper had fled the firm to create a new one. At the same time Dan Draper’s marriage had crumbled as Betty finally left him. For a man whose entire life has been an act of recreation, Draper must start again.      

2. Dr. Who  

I grew up watching Doctor Who (the Jon Pertwee and Tom Baker versions) . Like many people, I was extremely nervous about Matt Smith. I loved David Tennant as the Doctor, and my only previous experience of Smith had been in the adaptations of the Sally Lockhart mysteries The Ruby in the Smoke and The Shadow of the North.  Not that he was bad, but I just wasn’t sure. Wrong. He’s great. Quirky, cynical, slightly madcap, irreverent, lovely. And who doesn’t love Amy Pond? Season finale in Canada tomorrow night.

3. Haven

Based on a Stephen King crime story, the Colorado Kid, Haven is the story of an FBI officer who comes to this small New England town in search of an escaped criminal, but stays for the mystery. And there are many, not least a newspaper photo from three decades ago of a woman who looks exactly like her. I have to admit, so far I’ve been disappointed. THe characters seem a little stiff, and the  story lines have been resolved a little too quickly. Still, only two episodes have aired so far, so there’s still time. On Syfy in the US, Showcase in Canada)

4. Midsomer Murders

Who ever said the countryside was peaceful? Midsomer Murders is the story of Chief Inspector Tom Barnaby of the fictional Midsomer county. Midsomer, and Causton, the main town, has an extremely high crime rate averaging at least two murders per episode. Not mentally taxing, but the crimes are interesting, the characters well written, and unlike some police dramas, I don’t feel insulted watching it. There’s a certain human quality that makes it appealing. The most recent episode aired in 2010 in the UK, but TVO is only up to 2007.

5. Misfits

A  nod to Inveresk Street Ingrate for bringing this UK show to my attention. A group of teenagers on community service are caught in a mysterious storm which gives them all super powers, just not very useful ones: Selective telepathy, sex pheromone  acceleration (?), limited time manipulation, invisibility and immortality. (OK, that last one might come in handy). Thing in, none of the characters are very likeable. They all have massive chips on their shoulders, a huge sense of self entitlement, and a general lack of responsibility for any of their actions. The first season was only six episodes, and a second will be filmed later in the year.

6. Hex

Another UK show. Set in a fancy school, it’s the story of possession, demons, witchcraft, ghosts and fallen angels. Sometimes spooky, sometimes silly.  Owing more than a little to Buffy, the outsider as powerful  savior and school is hell motifs are employed here, but it’s not all derivative. The mystery is engaging, even though the chief demon is not particularly frightening. Worth more than a casual glance.  

7. Billy the Exterminator

I mentioned this one in a previous post. Billy, the titular exterminator, is a pest control officer. He lives nad works in Louisiana for his family’s firm, and is possessed of an incredible punk-mullet. Each week, Billy controls pests which run to the difficult: Snakes, alligators, wasp infestations etc. I guess the charming part of the show, is that Billy’s goal for the most part is not extermination, but re-location (this is not usually true for inspects). He;s also honest. There’s a an episode where they’re searching for a snake in a waterlogged boat. When they come across the snake in a corner of the boat, they turn and run. So much TV of this sort is forced and unnatural; this one has na authentic note (my daughter loves this show too, but she’ll only watch it with me)  

8. The Sweeney

Sweeney Todd, Flying Squad. Remember John Thaw as the cultured, cerebral Inspector Morse, not this one. Thaw, as Jack Regan, is gritty and violent. Loved this show when I was a kids. Now you can get it on DVD (well, Tuesday). The review in the Globe this morning, quotes Regan’s first words on the show, spoken to a criminal: “Get your trousers on, you’re nicked.”  

9. The Daily Show with Jon Stewart

I don’t usually have time to watch this for most of the year, but occasionally in the summer, I manage to squeeze it into my busy schedule. Nice to see after all these years, Stewart is still on top of things and is still vert funny.

10 Rome

OK, this one is old. My parents lent me the DVD for Season 1 of Rome about three years ago. We finally got around to watching it last week, and devoured it in a couple of days. The first season covers the years from Caesar’s defeat of Gaul in 52 BC to his assassination in 44 BC. Blending real characters and events with a fictional narrative, Rome is a bit like the Sopranos in togas (and that’s a compliment)  Sex, murder, foul language, intrigue, philosophy, betrayal, class struggle, and much much more. The best thing I’ve seen this year. Now I have to borrow season two. (HBO)

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Tuli Kupferberg and George Steinbrenner

July 20, 2010 at 12:26 pm (Uncategorized)

An excerpt from Dean Wareham’s blog. Wareham is one of my favourite musicians and it’s a good investment to pick up music from any part of his career, be it Galaxy 500, Luna or as a solo artists with Britta Phillips.

Tuli Kupferberg, singer with the Fugs, poet, cartoonist and long-time peace activist, passed away last week at age 86. Kramer produced  and released an album (Tuli & Friends) with him on Shimmy Disc in 1989, and Kramer liked to say that Tuli was the wisest person he had ever met. My last contact with Mr.  Kupferberg was a couple of years ago when I called him about reprinting the lyrics for his amusing anti-war song “Kill For Peace” in Black Postcards. Luna had performed this song at the Knitting Factory on the night that the Iraq invasion commenced. About a month earlier (March 2003), Kupferberg and I had both performed at Joe’s Pub, part of an evening titled “Songs of the Vietnam Songbook.” The Iraq War had not yet started, but everyone in the room knew it was coming. I remember Tuli predicting that “the war against Iraq will be a short war, but the war against the United States will go on for a long time.” It seems he was mistaken with the first part of that equation; the war in Iraq has now been going on for eight long years. Maybe he wasn’t anticipating that the initial shock and awe would be followed by a disastrous occupation. Or perhaps he was only observing that what looks at first like a quick and easy war turns into something else. It seems a fundamental truth of the modern world that  most people will no longer tolerate foreign occupiers — no matter what their supposed intentions. In the 19th century European powers could control vast colonies without facing much resistance, as historian Eric Hobsbawm has observed. It doesn’t work that way any more. But enough history, here is Tuli reciting a poem about a superior billy club (this from his 1966 LP “No Deposit, No Return.”

Because the wars are ongoing, they still play “God Bless America” at Yankee Stadium during the 7th-inning stretch (in addition to the “Star-Spangled Banner” at the start of the game). Yankees’ owner George Steinbrenner died this week, the day after Kupferberg, and the eulogizing has not stopped — they even observed a moment of silence at Fenway Park. “George is a great guy,” Lou Piniella once said, “unless you have to work for him.” Steinbrenner, who was convicted of making illegal contributions to Richard Nixon’s re-election campaign, and was forced out of major league baseball in the early ’90s for hiring a gambler to dig up dirt on Dave Winfield, had started playing “God Bless America” at the Stadium after 9-11, and many other cities followed suit. But after 10 years of war, the only stadiums still playing the song are Yankee Stadium and Dodger Stadium. In 2008 one Red Sox fan tried to go to the bathroom during the singing of “God Bless America”, but was detained and then ejected from Yankee stadium by two members of the NYPD. He sued Yankee stadium, and won (with the help of the NYCLU); now we are all allowed to go to the bathroom whenever we like.
Here’s another of Tuli’s songs, from Tuli & Friends, a re-recording of the Fugs’ “Morning, Morning”, certainly the prettiest song he ever wrote.

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Grey Gardens – A Review

July 19, 2010 at 2:20 pm (Uncategorized)

A few days ago, a friend of mine forwarded an old essay by Jared Diamond entitled “The Worst Mistake in the History of the Human Race.” The mistake in question is agriculture. In the essay, Diamond,  the author of the best-selling Guns, Germs and Steel and Collapse, argues that the notion of  uninterrupted progress in human society is quite inaccurate, and casts doubts over whether or not agriculture meant an unqualified improvement over hunter-gatherer societies.

This argument is not new, and you don’t have to be a  primitivist to accept parts of it.  Diamond doesn’t overly idealize hunter-gatherer society, but he does point out one important negative aspect of the development of agriculture, namely class society. With the development of agriculture comes surplus, and the allowance of segments of the population who do not work. Of course, socialized  control of  that surplus is the basis for a very different type of society.

As luck would have it,  the same day I read diamond’s essay, I watched the 1975 documentary Grey Gardens. The film focuses on Edith “Big Edie” Bouvier Beale and her daughter Edith “Little Edie” Bouvier Beale,  the aunt and cousin of Jackie Kennedy. Once upon a time,  the Beales lived  connected glamorous lives, but now they existed in a broken-down house (the titular Grey Gardens), overrun with cats and raccoons  in East Hampton, New York in fairly squalid conditions.

It would be easy to see them as parasites. If you’ve seen Angels and Insects, you’re familiar with the notion of the aristocracy as a doomed branch of the evolutionary tree having no social purpose, and thus no ultimate reason for continued existence. Big and Little Edie  certainly fit this bill.

However, as you watch the movie, it’s increasingly difficult to sustain this opinion. The two characters are easy to dislike, but ultimately their social existence and detachment from any sort of reality lead us to feel pity for them. 

Big Edie had been an amateur singer known for eccentric behaviour. When she was 36, she separated from her husband Phelan Beale, receiving no alimony, but some child support and Grey Gardens.  Her daughter Little Edie was a model, socialite and singer who aspired to a movie career.  However, in her thirties, she returned to Grey Gardens to live with her mother.

The two women spend their days in almost total isolation from  the outside world. Groceries are delivered, but save for two employees, a gardener named Brooks and a handyman named Jerry, they seem to have little contact with the outside world , except for its presence in their memories.

They spend their days singing, reminiscing and fighting. Little Edie reproaches her mother for holding her back, while her mother alternates between normality and senility. As I watched the film, I couldn’t help but flash back to Norma Desmond , Baby Jane Hudson, Charlotte Hollis and various Hollywood characters living a similar existence. The level of denial is extremely high in this film. Both mother and daughter seem unaware of the squalid existence of their lives. Big Edith spends a great deal of time in bed mumbling over her memories and singing, while her daughter wallows in self-pity over missed opportunities, perhaps channeling Terry Malloy too.  

In the early 1970s, the local authorities inspected the house nd condemned it. Luckily cousin Jackie and her sister Liza came up with funds to fix the place up sufficiently to reverse the court order (I can’t imagine the condition, but reportedly when the filmmakers first visited the house they wore flea collars on their necks and ankles), and big Edie’s sons, who had unsuccessfully tried to persuade her to sell the house, paid the back taxes.  

Big Edith died in 1977, and two years after that, Little Edith sold the house, on condition that it not be razed, to Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee. Little Edith . She died in 2002 aged 84.

It’s a bleak film; difficult to watch, but also compelling. And it’s hard not to wonder what kind of society produces things like this. But of course, we all know the answer to that one.

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Comic Links III

July 15, 2010 at 7:08 pm (Uncategorized)

Ready for some summer time reading? Too lazy to try serious literature? These might be too hard as well, but at least they have pictures.

1. American Vampire (Vertigo)

My favourite book at the moment. AV features two stories per issue. The lead story by Scott Snyder is about a 1920s Hollywood wanna-be actress who becomes one of a new breed of vampire. The second written by Stephen King is the back story to the American Vampire.  

2. Cages

Originally published between 1990 and 1996, Cages is Dave McKean’s graphic novel. McKean is a long time collaborator with Neil Gaiman, and also drew Grant Morrison’s Arkham Asylum. This is a beautiful solo project; dreamy art with mediations of freedom, existence and  creativity.

3, Eerie Volume 1 (Dark horse)

The first issue of Eerie was published in 1966 by Warren (who later published Creepy and Vampirella) . Eerie featured originally monster and horror stories drawn by artists who would become legends (Frank Frazetta, Gene Colan, Wally Wood and many more) The good people at Dark Horse have thoughtfully packaged the first half-dozen issues into a lovely hardcover book. Don’t read it at midnight!

4. Buffy the Vampire Slayer (Dark Horse)

Arrghh. I have to say I’m not altogether, um, liking, the comic book. (It probably doesn’t help that I’m re-watching Season 3 right now). The Twilight Story line was interesting, but the denouement is a bit daft. That and the fact that pretty much every character from the Buffyverse has returned makes it feels forced.

5. Angel (IDW)

On the other hand… I liked the Los Angeles in Hell story line, but again the ending seemed weak (the equivalent of ‘and then I woke up it was all a dream). For the next haf dozen issues, the story seemed lost.And then, Bill Willingham (of Fables), stepped in. The dialogue is crisper, the stories tighter. A good direction.

X-Men Noir

I love detective stories, I love film noir, and I love comic books. So put them all together and I’m sure to be happy. Take the X-Men and transpose them to the 1930s, add a murder story, and reinvent the characters. Eg., Unus the Untouchable as a crime lord, professor X as a psychiatrist, Magneto as the chief of Police with Sebastian Shaw the real power behind the city. Reminded me a lot of the Fallen Angel series, and that’s a compliment. The 4-issue series also comes with a faux-pulp fiction story about the Sentinals and the morlocks. Who could resist?

7. Hellblazer: Pandemonium

I don’t read Hellblazer regularly, but whenever I go through a collection, I wonder why. This original graphic novel is written by Jamie Delano, who penned the first fifty issues, and takes Constantine to the middle east to duel with genies and devils against the backdrop of the conflict in Iraq. Highly recommended.

8. From Hell – Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell

Many, many years ago, I started reading Alan Moore’s Jack the Ripper story. I bought the first four chapters, then for some inexplicable reason not the rest. A few years back, the whole series was packaged into one massive volume. Never bought that either, but last week I discovered it in a book store for $15. Worth every penny. Moore’s account blends fact and fiction, but the real treasure is the ample footnotes at the back of the book where Moore explains his sources. It may not solve the mystery, but it’s one hell of a story.

9. Witchfinder

I’ve stopped reading Mike Mignola in single issue format. Instead, I usually wait for the TPBs to come out. It’s just more satisfying to read them this way (plus Mike usually throws in lots of desirable extras) I just got Witchfinder last week. It’s the story of Queen Victoria’s occult investigator. After you’ve read this, you should check out Carnacki, the occult detective.

10. Power Girl

Last year a friend of mine went to a comic convention and brough me back some swag. One was a catalogue for action figures and statues. Couldn’t help but notice the model of Power Girl. For those who don’t know, Power Girl is Superman’s cousin for Earth 2 (the equivalent of Supergirl on Earth 1). Looking at her rather ample proportions, I wonder if he main super power is the ability to stand up straight without back strain. I guess we’ve all teenage boys at heart.

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From the Streets of Cleveland: Harvey Pekar R.I.P.

July 12, 2010 at 11:33 pm (Uncategorized)

Oh, a great one passed away today.

Harvey Pekar, the creator of American Splendor  died today aged 70.

American Splendor detailed Pekar’s life through a series of usually short vignettes and stories. Pekar didn’t draw, and so his comics were illustrated by the cream of the comics world. I first read Pekar’s comics in the late 1980s, probably after reading about him in The Comics Journal.  Then it became necessary to trawl through the comic shops around the city to pick up back issues.

The stories were rough, uncompromising, touching, and much, much more. Pekar’s first exposure to a larger audience came through David Letterman when he hosted The Late Show.  Letterman obviously got a kick out of Pekar’s curmudgeon persona and invited him back several times. (Pekar details his experiences with Letterman in  American Splendor.

Pekar’s emergence into mass culture came  in 2003 with  the movie American Splendor starring Paul Giamatti as Pekar and Hope Davis as his wife Joyce Brabner. The movie was partly based on the graphic novel Our Cancer Year.

In addition to his work in comics, Pekar wrote music reviews, and also a graphic novel history of the IWW (with Paul Buhle) and one on the beats amongst other projects.

A truly great artist, and the best way to remember him is to read his work.

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Can you hear the vuvuzelas blowing – Notes on the World Cup 2010

July 11, 2010 at 9:51 pm (Uncategorized)

And after a lovely goal by Andreas Iniesta in the final minutes of Extra Time, Spain defeated the Netherlands 1-0 to win the 2010 World Cup.

It wasn’t the best cup final. The match was marked by scrappy play, a large number of fouls, 14 yellow cards, and one red card (for the Netherlands’ John Heitinga). The game could easily have gone either way, and both countries had  moments which should have, but didn’t, produce goals. But in the end it was the Spanish who prevailed.

So what makes this the beautiful game?

I played knock-about football when I was a kid. I was never good enough to make the school teams, but I loved to play. Not a fanatic, when I moved to Canada I lost interest as politics and music began to take over my interests. My appreciation for soccer now is pretty much confined to watching the big tournaments like the World Cup.

“Will you be cheering for England?” people asked me. “Briefly,” I would reply. Of course, I cheer for England, but they never seem to make it past the quarter finals.

Work meant I didn’t see too much of the opening round, but I did watch all of the quarter-finals and the semis, only missing the 3rd place play-off due to that Wonderland committment yesterday. 

So I thrilled at some of the goals, the bad sportsmanship, the cheating and the heart breaks (much of which could be contained in the Ghana-Uruguay game). fortunately, this final was not decided on penalty kicks.

Football of course is more than the ninety minutes on the pitch .For many, it’s big business; for others a sub-culture. I read pieces in the papers this time out arguing how soccer was increasing and decreasing national unity, racism, world peace, etc.

For a quick introduction to some of the other issues about soccer, Richard Turner’s In the Blood is not a bad place to start. Bill Buford’s Among the Thugs deals with football hooligans. The June 2010 issue of Capital and Class has an article entitled “Towards Marxist Political Economy of football Supporters.”  Lastly, Globe and Mail columnist John Doyle also has a book called The World is a Ball, which looks interesting.  

Lots to see and do even after the final whistle has been blown.

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Growing Older, but not necessarily wiser

July 10, 2010 at 11:29 pm (Uncategorized)

I’ve heard that  in France people say, if you’re not a communist by the time you’re 21, you have no heart. Makes sense. When you’re young , you’re full of fire, and often a burning desire to change the world.

Of course, the other part of the adage is that if you’re still a communist by the time you’re 30, you have no brains. (Ha ha ha) So with heavy heart, I turned 46 today.

Well, actually not so heavy (although the politics are impossible to get rid of now.).

I probably should have gone downtown to the G-20 follow-up demonstration to protest the police actions during the summit, but if you read yesterday’s post, you know I owed the kids a trip to Canada’s Wonderland.

It’s always fun, in a completely artificial sort of way. Never mind the crowds and the lining up (I’m fairly amazed about how generally good-natured people are about waiting), the rides are kind of fun. I’m not a thrill jockey, but I did ride one level 5 ride (the wild beast) which rattled my dental work and my brains somewhat. 

Birthdays are not really a big deal for me. I know a lot of people like to make a big show, and I can recall a big argument with someone at work about the importance of them. Me, I like them quiet. My daughter made me a card, my son gave me a hug. My wife “bought” (I picked up she reimbursed) me a copy of Alan Moore’s From Hell. I have beer in the fridge. There’s a new episode of Doctor Who on tonight, and I have a couple of episodes of Rome season 1 to watch. Starbucks even gave me a free cup of coffee.

The best birthday I’ve had in years. Hope yours is as good.

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