Music Notes August 2012

August 31, 2012 at 10:06 pm (Uncategorized)

OK, the posts of late have been few and far between as I attempt to slip back into wage slavery, but here are the hits…

1. Shut up and Play the Hits

But maybe we don’t do hits… A marvellous documentary of the days leading up to, including, and after LCD Soundsystem’s farewell shows at Madison Square Gardens. Essential if you’re a fan of the band, and well worth seeing even if you’re not. It’s better to burn out than to fade away (or just keep making increasingly crappy records)

2. My Bloody Valentine – EPs 1988-1991

Apparently years in the making, but finally this year released (or re-released I supposed), remastered and expanded versions of MBV’s canon. So far I’ve only picked up the EPs disc, but in addition to the EPs themselves, there’s a second disc of unreleased, expanded and other slabs of melodic feedback laced magic. Essential.

3. M83 – appearance at Fort York Garrison Common

Thanks to the very nice people at Soundscapes Music, I got to see this show for free. The actual contest was for an evening of electronica with JUstice and M83 at the top bands. To be honest, I didn’t know much about any of the bands, but since M83 shows sell out so quickly, it seemed worth a look. Just before M83’s set, the heavens opened and we were treated to a fifteen minute downpour. And then the band played and the crowd were happy. It’s a bit poppy for my taste, but they had energy and the crowd responded in kind. I left before Justice came on due to the fact I was absolutely exhausted and the skies were about to open again. They did; this time longer and heavier.

4. The Velvet Underground and Nico – Unripened

Sometimes, unpeeled. This might be old news, but I’ve been listened to those old Velvet’s demos (even the scratchy alternative versions are fun). Then I heard that they are being officially released later this year. Along with the stereo/mono collection (already available) and some live stuff from the same period.  Yeah, it’s great, but it does feel a lot like milking it too. Just download it. BTW, price tag, Amazon lists it as $77.

5. The (English) Beat – I just Can’t Stop It

Dazzling re-issue. The original album.  A second CD of remixes and BBC sessions, and a DVD of live and Top of the Pops appearances. A stunning set, but after listening /watching several times, I might conclude that you really only need the first record. The extras suffer by comparison, and also from repetition (I think there’s six versions of “Mirror in the Bathroom” – great song, but still…) For the completist, go ahead make your day.

6. Jessica Pare – “Zou Bisou Bisou”

For some reason I checked out of the library, Suck, a rock n roll vampire movie with Malcolm McDowell (who must have spent his money unwisely) and Jessica Pare.   To say the movie was dreadful is a bit of an understatement, but watching it I couldn’t help but remember that groovy song Ms. Pare performed on Madmen at Don’s birthday party. Kitschy sure, but fun.

Oh, and here’s Pare with the Jesus and Mary Chain.

7. Keith Richards – Life

My kids got me this for Christmas, and I read it on holiday. Two things, first fun, it’s a terrific, fascinating, terrifying (feel free to insert more adjectives) read. Second, I don’t really think I’d like to know Keef. True his love of music is a redeeming quality, but he doesn’t really seem like a very nice person. (Don’t waste time looking for charitable words about Brian Jones). And the book doesn’t make him out to be one. Maybe that’s why it comes across as so fresh and honest. Do yourself a favour, even if you don’t care for the Stones.

8. Nina Simone – Anthology

So good little needs to be said. A two-disc 31 song collection of Nina Simone’s greatness.

9. Stereo MCs – Connected

Sometimes when I’m on my way out to the car, I reach for something from the back of the collection. Connected isn’t a CD I play often, but when it’s on, everything seems better. Simple flowing rhymes and great hooks. Remember when we were young?

10. Thea Gilmore – Loft Music

I think the first Thea Gilmore song I heard wasn’t in fact one of hers. It was “I’m Not Down,” a Clash song. Yeah, it’s a great song, but her voice was so much better than Mick Jones’ limited range. Loft Music is a 2003 collection of covers of the Ramones, Paul Westerberg, John Fogerty, Buzzcocks and more. Mostly slowed down and folkified, but for me the lovliest song is Phil Ochs’ “When I’m Gone.” A genuine tearjerker. (Seek out Ochs’ version too)

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One Small Step

August 25, 2012 at 10:51 pm (Uncategorized) (, , )

It seemed like an odd coincidence that I happened to be wearing my treasured Spacemen 3 t-shirt the day Neil Armstrong died. OK, I couldn’t find my Dalek t-shirt and wanted something space-y for today’s  Fan Expo showing, but still…

Obviously it was a big deal. Sure Armstrong botched the line, but it really was a big step (and no, I don’t believe it was all done in a TV studio – Capricorn One anyone?) I have a vague memory of going to my grandmother’s house with the family to watch the moon landing. I don’t know if it was a defining moment for me (I certainly never wanted to be an astronaut), but it marks you. When I talk to people for whom this is history, for me it’s memory.

Though I haven’t hit the half century mark yet, I understand what Trotsky mean when he wrote that old age is the strangest thing that happens to a person.

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September Cold and Grumpy

August 25, 2012 at 7:39 pm (Uncategorized) (, )

With September just a few day in sight, it seems fair to ask why to people seem to get in that protest mood this time of year? Is it that summer’s over and we’re beginning that long stretch to Thanksgiving  (or more substantially Christmas) or maybe, it’s just the days getting shorter and the weather cooler.

In any event, the season starts in Ontario on Tuesday when three of the province’s education unions (CUPE, OSSTF and ETFO) have called a protest rally to, well, protest some rather odious legislation about to be passed by the provincial Liberal government.

Essentially, the Liberals have recently made the discovery that it is overly generous social programmes that are responsible for the deficit and that it is social programmes that will have to pay for it. The liberals proposed to the unions they take a two-year wage freeze (to which the unions agreed) as well as further cutbacks (to which they did not). The position of the government has been then, take this deal or we’ll pass a law imposing it. Hmm. Oh and no strikes either. We’re putting that in the law as well.

I’m quietly expecting the unions somehow find a way to make this wholly unpleasant act palatable to their members. But maybe I’m a cynic.

In any event, the rally is at Queen’s Park in Toronto at noon on August 29.



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Outrage in South Africa

August 19, 2012 at 3:20 pm (Uncategorized) (, )

From a comrade…

On Thursday, South-African police attacked striking mineworkers and killed 38 of them. It was as bad as anything that happened during the Apartheid regime. This time, the police chief was black and the main union, affiliated with the ruling party, the ANC, supported the police because the strike was unauthorized.

This wasn’t a one-time event. Even before this massacre, more than twenty five people have been killed by the police during protests since 2000. Activists have been tortured and assassinated. Movements like the Landless People’s Movement and the Unemployed People’s Movement, have been attacked in the night by armed goons of the ANC. Poor people have been encouraged to attack and kill each other in the name of ethnicity and nationality. There is a war against the poor going on in South-Africa, as elsewhere in the world.

This tragic and outrageous event illustrates why we need to make ‘a society based on human needs, not profit’ our central goal. South-Africa’s racist regime was ended and the ANC was democratically elected to lead the country. But fundamentally, nothing changed. Profit still dictates what happens in South-Africa, where half of the population under 34 years is unemployed, millions are starving and the mines and other companies are still making hefty profits while paying their workers extremely low wages. Of course we need to oppose racism and real democracy is a worthy goal. But that doesn’t go deep enough. As long as profit remains the basic tenet of society, the war on the poor, on the working people, and on human dignity will go on.

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Audio Recording of IP Forum in Seattle

August 17, 2012 at 12:25 pm (Uncategorized)

For anyway who missed the event, here is the audio of IP’s recent forum in Seattle (along with the discussion period)

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Internationalist Perspective Public Meeting in Seattle Tonight!

August 14, 2012 at 12:44 pm (Uncategorized)

Hey, don’t forget, IP has a public meeting tonight in Seattle.

Time: 7 PM
Place: The Wildcat 1105 23rd Ave (between Union St & Spring St) Seattle, WA 98122

It’s going to be massive.

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Just Drive She Said

August 14, 2012 at 12:40 pm (Uncategorized)

I suppose I have only myself to blame – after we went to see The Hunger Games and The Avengers, my son decided he wanted to take archery classes. And so, we signed him up for Knight Camp at the Ontario Centre for Classical Sport. Seemed like a pretty well organized camp, but the only problem was, it was in Mississauga.

Mississauga is a longish drive. The first day of camp was a public holiday,  and it took  me 30 minutes. Tuesday 40, Wednesday 55, and Thursday and Friday 45. Which gave me time to reflect on driving, and in particular highway driving.

I’ve had my licence since I was 19. And in almost 30 years of driving I’ve had two very minor knocks, and one that was a bit more serious, but overall my driving record is clean – never lost a single point. I can’t say I really like driving, but it might be more accurate to say I accept driving as a reality of my everyday life. I enjoy the things that come with it: Freedom most of all (none of this excuses the anti-social aspects of driving, which I will look at below), but I recognize that it comes with risk, anti-social behaviour and environmental consequences.

So, in no particular order, are my top ten peeves in driving.

1. The weavers – people who weave through traffic in the notion that they can beat traffic. Simple physics is the rule here. If you are travelling at a certain speed it will always take you the same time to travel the same distance. Any time you save as a result of threading through will be minimal, and the danger you cause , well, considerable.

2. Those who don’t understand what share means – a special hell ought to be reserved for these people who as you signal to pull into a lane in front of them, speed-up so you can’t get in.

3. Middle of the road drivers  -The people who habitually drive in the centre lane on the highway mostly because they don’t drive fast enough to occupy the left lane, but who don’t enjoy the constant merges from the on-ramps. Thing is, they usually drive slower than the right lane, so traffic is continually forced to spool around them. .

4 No signallers – The people who fail to make any sort of turn signals. Generally when people are making left or right turns, there’s usually a signal, but increasingly people changing lanes do not signal (a refinement on this is signaling when you’re already half into the lane, but I digress)

5 Tailgaters – You could be doing 130 KPH and they’re still 1 metre behind your back bumper. That point about physics mentioned above holds for stopping too. Most people drive as if conditions will not change – that’s rarely true. My personal favourite is when people tailgate you when you’re in the right lane. Ah, isn’t that the “slow” lane?

6 The honkers – I rarely use my horn, but there are some drivers who appear never to stop using it. Now, if I’m sitting behind someone at a red light, and it turns green, I wait patiently…for a bit. However, there are some, you know who I mean, who the second the light turns green are honking. Relax, you’ll probably live longer.

7 The sociopath – Probably the broadest category on my list. The person who simply put seems insane – committing all of the sins on the list and adding a few new ones. I give them a wide berth. Always.

8 The hurry-up-to-slow-down- driver – Wasn’t really sure what to call this one, and I suppose it doesn’t really pose a problem of safety, but I notice a lot of people blast past me and speed up to get into a lane in front of me, than slow down to a crawl. If you were in such a hurry then, why not now?

9 The “distracted” driver –  Oh sure, I drink coffee in the car, and I’ve changed, unassisted, CDs, but I don’t use my cell (illegal where I live) and I don’t text (I don’t on dry land either, so no biggie). I guess I’m with Einstein when he said that if a person is driving in a car with a beautiful woman, he can either drive or talk t o her, but he can’t do both properly.

10 The take-other-drivers-for-granted-driver – When someone lets you in, thank them. It’s just karmic.

Having re-read my list, I realize it’s a bit like George Carlin’s comment that everyone on the road driving slower than you is an idiot, while everyone on the road driving faster than you is a maniac.

I’ve read some pseudo-Marxist critiques of driving which explain that driving is an anti-social activity contrasting it unfavorably to other forms of transportation. Although if you’ve ever taken public transit, it’s not exactly a utopian paradise either – there’s plenty of room for anti-social activity there too!

While motorists bring an arrogance and aggressiveness to the table, pedestrians bring a sort of obliviousness – yes, you may have the right of way, but if the driver trying to cut you off is an idiot, you’ll still be dead. The number of pedestrians who cross in traffic while holding animated cell phone conversations or texting is truly frightening. Cyclists often manifest the same arrogance as drivers, but throw in a large helping of self-righteousness. I’ve seen countless cyclists swear at idiot drivers only to blast through intersections without pause for those who actually had the right of way. Unfortunately for cyclists, as with pedestrians, while right may be on their side, in a collision with a car, you lose. Every time. This is not to excuse the driver, only to point out a certain physical reality.

The question would seem to be, are anti-social people drawn to driving (the isolation of the car, the road warrior ethos) or does driving create anti-social conditions (being determines consciousness and you drive to survive the environment)?

A few years ago Traffic by Tom Vanderbilt was the book to mention in conversation. It seemed you couldn’t open a newspaper without a columnist referring to it.  Vanderbilt mentioned that if you’re not a brain surgeon, driving is one of the most complicated things you will do. Unfortunately, many of us drive while awake (that feeling you get when you reach your destination, but realize you have no conscious memory of having driven there – congratulations you’re on auto-pilot. Most of us drive as if things will not change: it’s OK to drive 1 m behind the car in front you at 130 KPH as long as it does too. If the car stops suddenly, you’re in a lot of trouble. Damn that physics!

I’m fairly certain that neither the Bible, the Koran or any of the Holy texts mention driving. The “rules” of the road are man-made and it seems to me a more, um, cooperative system works better.

But until that time, I’ll leave the last words to an unnamed Indian taxi driver quoted in Vanderbilt’s book. He said to drive in India, though it might be any number of places, you need three things: good horn, good brakes…good luck.

Happy motoring.

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Olympic Fever

August 14, 2012 at 11:56 am (Uncategorized) ()

And so the Olympics are over.

At the last Olympic Games in 2008 I wrote a post of all things Olympic, which I still stand by today. However, during the first week of this year’s games, I was on vacation in Quebec City with the kids. After a long day’s whatever, it’s always nice to sit back and watch TV, but most of the stuff was in French …except the Olympics.

If you can put aside all of the nationalist bullshit, cheating, and poor sportsmanship, (pretty much all the things I criticized last time), you might be able to enjoy the games. I’ll admit more than a passing interest in the women’s soccer competition, and state here that the US v. Canada semi-final was one of the most exciting I’ve seen in years.

It’s easy to get sucked in. (I also kind of liked seeing some of the bands at the finale). Still, given the predominance of all that nationalist bullshit, cheating, poor sportsmanship etc. it’s really impossible to go over wholeheartedly.

But hey, only two years to the World Cup!

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Free Pussy Riot

August 6, 2012 at 3:27 pm (Uncategorized)

For those of you who don’t know the story, Pussy Riot is a feminist-punk collective in Russia currently facing a maximum seven year jail term for performing a protest inside Moscow’s main cathedral.

The collective performs political protests while wearing masks, and cite oi-style punks as well as riot grrl bands like Bikini Kill.

Here’s a clip:

Pussy Riot

In March of this year, members of the collective were arrested and charged with “hooliganism” for staging a protest against Vladimir Putin at the Moscow cathedral in February. (Hooliganism really? When the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty tried to evict Ontario finance Minister Jim Flaherty from his office, they were called terrorists!)

Strangely enough Putin, who is widely thought to be the prime mover against  the group’s prosecution spoke against harsh sentences on Thursday: ” “Nonetheless, I don’t think that they should be judged so harshly for this…I hope the court will come out with the right decision, a well-founded one”

There’s also a site for updates on the trial:  Free Pussy Riot

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Pitfalls for Activists

August 5, 2012 at 3:29 pm (Uncategorized)

A friend wrote this insightful commentary on Occupy Wall Street


It’s not easy, in between periods of upsurge, when there is not much open struggle going on, to keep a group of activists, inspired by the earlier struggle, together; to agree on a common mission and strategy. I believe there are several pitfalls to avoid.


My anti-virus program spotted the following:

ACTIVITIS: The tendency to focus exclusively on actions, on doing things, impatience with talking, even when clarity is sorely lacking. One of the possible outcomes of this tendency may be charity-work. Not to deny its value, but that’s not the function of a political group or movement.

SUBSTITUTIONITIS: The tendency of a political minority to do what really can be done only by the people (or the 99%, even though the percentage is exaggerated, or more precisely, the working (and unemployed) population). To take decisions in its place, to undertake actions in its place, to take power in its place. Revolution can only mean something when it engenders a real democracy, based on the involvement of all, to take over society. Short of that, if a third party or a more left-wing Democratic party takes power in the name of the people, nothing changes. The sheep remain sheep and the wolves remain wolves, promising to be less corrupt than their predecessors. When there is no mass action, the tendency to substitute one’s own actions for the lacking collective struggle is fed by the hope that one’s example will spur others into action. But that’s not how it works. We cannot voluntaristically force events.

IMMEDIATITIS: The understandable desire to see immediate results of our efforts. That may lead to a focus on where immediate change is possible, on small changes (like replacing one politician by another) that have no impact on the big picture. I think Occupy was/is really about the big picture, the larger threath to our future.

These three pitfalls easily combine. They may result in either burn-out or recuperation. Burn-out because after months of efforts in scores of actions with little result to show for, some get exhausted and discouraged and give up. Recuperation because if you want results in the short term, and you want to settle for small, symbolic gains, the existing political system is the way to go. When Occupy is absorbed by the system, working for election and trade-union campaigns, the recuperation will be accomplished. So this is connected to another pitfall:

INCREMENTALITIS. The belief that real change is impossible, that the best that can be hoped for are incremental little reforms that go in the right direction. I think this underestimates the potential acceleration of history. The change of the overall context –the deepening crisis of the socio-economic foundations of society and the obstacles it throws up for human survival- can have a profound effect on the collective mindset and open the possibility of real change. Working for incremental change sucks you right back in the system which will change you, not the other way around. It is based on the belief that our problems are caused by bad leaders, so that they will disappear when we get good leaders instead. This underestimates the internal logic of the system, to which all its participants are forced to obey.

ACADEMICISM: discussing for the sake of discussing, with no desire to outreach to other people. The opposite of that is anti-politics, the disdain for discussion as empty talk, a waste of time. See Activitis.

INDIVIDUALISM: not feeling any responsibility for the collective. Hopping off and on the fence, withdrawing without any explanation like John D did, or being too focused on one’s own specific issues . Of course in this society, nobody can really be immune to that virus; we can only try to be aware of it.

TEACHISM: to see ourselves as teachers, owners of the Truth, who need to educate the people. This is not entirely wrong, as we do have insights that we need to communicate. But, first of all, we need to be more humble: there’s a lot we need to learn ourselves. We need to listen as well as speak. Secondly, what we’re really after, is a different relation between people. There’s a split that runs throughout society that’s based on a division of labor: bosses and workers, politicians and voters, those who make the rules and give orders and those who follow them, those who get richer and those who become poorer, pastors and flocks, union-bureaucrats and rank&filers, jailers and prisoners, teachers and pupils and so on and so on: this relation, based on power and submission, reproduces itself in countless ways, including in sexual and racial discrimination, and cements the status-quo. Occupy movement arose in opposition to this relation and proposed, in its way, an alternative to it, the hope for real change of the content(‘people’s needs in stead of profit’) and the form (direct democracy) of society. So we should not see ourselves as teachers adressing schoolchildren but instead favor collective discussion where it is possible.

COMMISIONITIS: the tendency to keep a movement alive by creating a multitude of working groups and commissions. Here too, burn-out and recuperation are major risks.

FETISHISM: fetishism means attributing (magical) powers to things that in reality don’t have them. People do it all the time, it’s deeply engrained. Examples, in the context of our movement, are:
– a fetishisation of democracy: thinking that direct democracy is some kind of miracle cure that will put everything right; thinking that it’s all about the process (the form) which will make the right content follow automatically;
– a fetishisation of the party: the belief that a political party, under the right leadership, will have the magical power to force change. The consequence is that all efforts go to organisation-building which is then done for its own sake;
-a fetishisation of violence: for instance the belief of black bloc-people that vandalism is a magically powerful message that will raise people’s consciousness;
– a fetishisation of non-violence: thinking that refusing to use violence in all circumstances, even for self-defense, will somehow, magically, convince our opponents to disarm.

I may forget some. But I want to end with a positive statement. What can a movement, or rather, a circle of activists remaining from the last movement and longing for the next one, accomplish? The Occupy movement was the result of the ruling class (not just in the US but worldwide) pushing us down, empoverishing us to keep capital profitable. Occupy was pushing back, that was what was seen elsewhere, that’s why it became so popular. Now things are relatively calm. In part because of the election season. Now is not the time to launch another harsh attack on the common people in this country. But I bet you the next president will do so, whoever wins. The pressure will again increase, and with it, a heady mix of anger and fear and hope…who knows what it will produce? I think it will again create a massive desire to push back. Maybe that movement will go further than OWS. We can’t know. But I think that we should use this lull to prepare ourselves, so that we can make a meaningful contribution to that next wave. In that wave, the same questions will arise as did in OWS. How did we get in this mess? How can it be fixed? What’s the alternative? What unites us is the desire for a society based on people’s needs and on real democracy, not the sham that we live in today. Now we have to say what that means.


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