Music Notes: November 2012

November 30, 2012 at 4:39 am (Uncategorized)

Haven’t been out too much this month, but here’s this month’s (reduced) listening treats…

1. Michelle Shocked – Arkansas Traveler

A bit of a curiosity this one. Michelle re-invents the blackface minstrel tradition with lots of famous friends including Taj Mahal, Alison Krause and Uncle Tupelo. Worth having for “come a Long Way” and “Prodigal Daughter.”

2. Sinphonic-Man versus Himself

Ah, someone I lost track of. I saw George Westerholm from Sinphonic when we was in a band called Al and George. Then came to know him through a friend. Seriously cool fellow. This is their second album. A mix of surf, rockabilly, punk and other genres. Lots of fun. Heres Fella From Fortune from this album.

3. The Rezillos – “Out of this World”

Saw the re-formed Rezillos a week back. Marvellous show, but read the read the review why don’t cha.? Picked up this little record at the show. Two versions of the song (I prefer the Glass mix) and a cover of the Pretty Thing’ Roselyn. Quite a bargain.

4. Pretty Things – Come See Me

Mentioned these guys in a previous column, but not this album. A greatest hits package is always a mixed bag, but this is a fairly interesting comp tracing their origins in the R&B boom with bands like the Stones and the Yardbirds to their psychedelic evolution.

5. Led Zeppelin – Celebration Day

Gotta say, I’ve never been what you might call a Led Zep fan. When I was a teen, a lot of my mates were into Zeppelin, but the alure of punk did it for me. It might be accurate to say I respect Zeppelin. I do’t own this, but I’ve heard a couple of cuts here and here. If you’re a fan, you already have it. If you’re not, it won’t make you one, but that’s OK too.

Next month… the year in review

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A Debate on the Crisis

November 29, 2012 at 1:55 pm (Uncategorized)

Written by a member of International Perspective who attended the meeting.

On November 14, the Platypus Collective  organized a well attended debate in New York City. The theme of the meeting was: Radical Interpretations of the Present Crisis and the speakers – Loren Goldner, David Harvey, Andrew Kliman and Paul Mattick jr- were all known for their writings on this subject from a Marxist perspective. That sounded promising, but the actual debate was somewhat disappointing.

One reason was the format. Four speakers were too many for such a complex subject as this. It could only have worked if the moderator had focused on their implicit (and sometimes explicit) differences. Broadly speaking, the panelists shared the same basic outlook: they all situated the cause of the crisis in the value-form, believed there is no solution to the crisis so that it will deepen and lead to devalorisation. But they differed on the role of fictitious capital and financial bubble-formation in the development of the crisis, on the effect (and even the existence) of the decline of wages in the past decades, on the need for theory and political organisation, and on what would become of the value-form in a revolutionary society.  All interesting subjects but they were touched upon only in passing.  Instead of focusing the debate on them, the moderator added new subjects to the mix: the future of ‘neo-liberalism’, American hegemony, etc…subjects interesting enough to debate in their own right, but it made the conversation hop from one topic to another without deepening any of them. 

Some of the blame has to go to the panelists themselves. They did not succeed in effectively connecting their theoretical exposés with the actual life experience of their public; with the worries, hopes, desires and struggles of real people. The tone was mostly observant, detached. As a result, the debate came across as quite academic. This was reinforced by the moderator who adressed the panelists with ‘professor’ or even ‘doctor’. None of them objected. They accepted their roles of ‘doctors’, experts, specialists. Precisely the division of labor that is engrained in capitalism and that must disappear with it. 

Mattick was the most detached. In answer to a question of a young woman, on why the panelists were all older white males, he said Marxist theory is “a hobby for white males, like keeping tropical fish”. Nobody challenged him on that, except for Goldner indirectly, when he defended the need for theory and political organisation, which today, according to him, should take the form of ‘networks’. Harvey centered his talk on the dual nature of the commodity and the insanity of commodity-fetishism. We wanted to applaud him for that, but then he went on to say, the basis of value is social labor and we don’t want to abolish that. Therefore, the issue is to find a material representation that can’t be accumulated. He speculated what that could be and sided with Proudhon in his dispute with Marx on this issue. Only Kliman criticized him on this, making clear that tinkering with money isn’t abolishing the value-form and thus neither abolishing capitalism.
Kliman focused on the fall of the rate of profit, which in his view is the real and only cause of the crisis. To make that point, he argued that financial speculation did not increase vis-a-vis productive investment between 1981 and 2001 and  that profits had not risen at the expense of wages in this period. He said that when the crisis broke out in 2008,  the left blamed it on financialisation and ‘lost a real opportunity’ to explain what it really was about. It wasn’t clear what ‘left’ he was talking about.

Throughout the evening, there was much talk about “the left”, especially by the Platypus-people, without ever making a distinction between the capitalist left and the pro-revolutionary left;, even though that is vital. Know your enemy, especially when he’s disguised. The (capitalist) left did not miss an opportunity when it blamed the crisis on greedy Wall Street bankers, it used an opportunity to advance its state-capitalist agenda.


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This week in Toronto (part 1 ): Anyone for Mayor?

November 27, 2012 at 12:13 am (Uncategorized)

I’m not sure what was more shocking yesterday, the fact the Argos won the Grey Cup (what? a Toronto team wins something – don’t talk about the
Jays, that was 20 years back) or the light dusting of snow the city received – winter is coming.

But all of that was blown away by Rob Ford’s removal as Mayor of Toronto following his breach of conflict of interest rules. Now Toronto’s little Mayoral upset doesn’t come close to Quebec scandals involving mafia style stories of envelopes stuffed with cash. Instead, Ford’s downfall is over a minor matter exclusively of his own making.

When he was a city councilor, Ford solicited money for his charity, a football foundation, using city letterhead. The implication possibly being that giving to the foundation might curry favour at city hall (for a man seemingly obsessed with saving the taxpayer money, Ford often seems unaware of where taxpayer money begins). Letters from the city’s integrity commissioner telling Ford to repay the money were ignored. After Ford became Mayor, council debated the matter. Ford spoke and voted against his repayment.  And here’s where the conflict came in. Although given Ford’s boorish personal style and general contempt for rules he doesn’t like, the action seems more of a calculated “fuck you” to the Integrity Commissioner than anything else.

For those of us who have lived here a while, it seemed all too much like the echo of Mel Lastman’s ghost.

It’s hard to get too excited about this, even as the spectacle is amusing, but there are those who argue that this is the way to go. Years ago, the Bookchinites pushed for involvement in government at the municipal level arguing that municipal government was the most responsive (true, but also the most corrupt). The efforts of Ecology Montreal did not go well. In Toronto, the old Revolutionary Workers League ran candidates for Mayor and I think city council. The fascist Don Andrews also to run for Mayor.

But what about Toronto?Assuming Ford loses the already announced appeal, there will likely be a by-election to choose a new Mayor in which Ford will run, and if he wind will be even more self-righteous. So who will challenge Ford? Olivia Chow, at time of writing a social-democratic MP, is a name being kicked around by many. Now I won’t vote for her, but I do like her. Years ago, I was at an Iraq war rally down by the courthouse of University Avenue with my son. Olivia and her husband Jack Layton came through the crowd. they paused to speak to somebody and Olivia looked down at my son, “so cute” she said. I don’t like her politics, but she has good taste.

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The Rezillos in Toronto – A review

November 25, 2012 at 11:17 pm (Uncategorized) ()

I don’t usually do re-union shows, I really don’t. There’s just something about trying to put that genie back in the bottle, that trying to recapture lost youth, that seems depressing. However…I bought the Rezillos first (and only) studio album Can’t Stand the Rezillos when I was 14 in 1978. It was a great record then; it’s a great record now.

And so to Lee’s Palace it was.

Opening band Arson were everything you could have expected or wanted. A high energy punk rock garage band in the tradition of the MC5, the Dolls, the Stooges, the Heartbreakers etc. No pretensions. Unfortunately, their brand of rock, or perhaps the as then low attendance, didn’t lure anyone other than a photographer onto the dance floor. The guitar player bore a striking resemblance to my old mate Ken White, but that’s another story for another day..

Before the Rezillos came on, I had one of those rare moments of fun where I ran into a group of people who I hadn’t seen for a couple of decades – a group of friends from university days. All of us a little grayer, a little heavier than in those halcyon days of youth, but what the hell?

And the Rezillos too. Featuring orignal members Eugene Reyolds, Fay Fife and Angel Patterson, and new guys Jim Brady and Chris Angew, the band were, well, older, but no less fun (Listen to the live Mission Accomplished: But the Beat Goes On to get the idea). Looking like a cooler version of Dan Dare and a day-glo Mary Quant, the band blasted through a selection of classics from their one album and pulled out a few new songs as well.

In their all too short set, the band had the audience dancing and all of us sang along. A great evening.

Oh, and as a lovely finisher, the band hung around to take pictures with the remaining audience (got mine with Fay) and sign CDs, records etc.

Set List

1. Out of this world
2. Flying Saucer Attack
3. Getting me down
4. Cold Wars
5. Sorry about Tomorrow
6. Mystery Action
7. You’re so Deep
8. It Gets Me
9. Get out of my Face
10.Destination Venus
11. Top of the Pops
12. (My Baby does) Good Sculptures
13. River Deep Mountain High
14. I Can’t Stand My Baby

1. Bad Guy Reaction
2. (Somebody’s Gonna Get their) Head Kicked in Tonight

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Black Sunday

November 25, 2012 at 11:00 pm (Uncategorized)

After the horror of Black Friday, the terror of Grey Cup Sunday, watching Black Sunday again ought to have been a walk in the park.

Black Sunday (AKA The Mask of Satan ) is a 1960 Italian horror film directed by Mario Bava and starring the bewitchingly beautiful Barbara Steele as the witch Asa and her descendant Princess Katia. Made in black and white the film’s first five minutes has one of the most creepy scenes in movies: Asa and her lover are executed for witchcraft, but in a twist on the old iron maiden theme, a mask with spikes on the inside is nailed to Asa’s face! Later when she is resurrected, the marks made by the nails are still visible – they fade as she drains Katia’s life force.

Sure, fifty years later parts of it seem clichéd and even silly, but the look of the film and the omnipresent feeling of menace make it truly spooky. I saw it years ago; it’s still worth seeing.


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New Aufheben

November 15, 2012 at 4:35 pm (Uncategorized)

Just received some more copies of the new Aufheben  – got the first batch back in September. Ah, the vagueness of the international postal system. Drop me a line if you’re interested in a copy.

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The Man in the Corner Shop

November 15, 2012 at 4:32 pm (Uncategorized)

Been listening to the Jam quite a lot these days. In last month’s music notes, I recommended Sound Affects. This song is from this album. 

Puts up the closed sign does the man in the corner shop
Serves his last and says goodbye to him
He knows it is a hard life
But it’s nice to be your own boss really
Walks off home does the last customer
He is jealous of the man in the corner shop
He is sick of working at the factory
Says it must be nice to be your own boss (really)
Sells cigars to the boss from the factory
He is jealous is the man in the corner shop
He is sick of struggling so hard
He says “It must be nice to own a factory”
Go to church do the people from the area
All shapes and classes sit and pray together
For here they are all one
For God created all men equal

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Communicating Vessels #24

November 12, 2012 at 11:55 pm (Uncategorized)

New to my mail box is the latest issue of Communicating Vessels.

The new issue has articles on the US election (well, circus), notions of freedom, and night (yes, night – really very thought-provoking) The issue also has a lively letters sections and reviews of small circulation periodicals and books. All beautifully illustrated.

CV is available by donation from

PO Box 2048
Tucson, Arizona, 85702

No email or web site. Send a few bucks and find out why.

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Why We Love Sociopaths

November 8, 2012 at 2:18 pm (Uncategorized) ()

Just finished the  amazingly good first season of Boardwalk Empire when I found this over at the Relative Autonomy blog (well worth spending some time there ), which in turn drew this piece from The New Inquiry Website  (plenty of interesting material there too)

Why We Love Sociopaths – Adam Kotsko . There’s a book length version too. TV is good isn’t it?

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To Call it a Circus Seems Almost too Kind

November 7, 2012 at 12:22 am (Uncategorized)

[NOTE – Haven’t seen the result yet – don’t spoil it for me, I’m waiting for the movie 🙂 ]

Just thinking about the header, maybe I’m being unkind. After all, circuses usually have more entertainment value.

Anyway, according to the media I’ve absorbed, in a few hours the president of the US (after January I suppose) will either be an elitist Kenyan born Muslim communist, or a plutocratic elitist job-exporting shape-shifter. Huh? Leaving aside the in-authenticity of bourgeois democracy, as usual I find myself thinking, in a population of 300 million and this is the best on offer?

And despite the rhetoric of the Democrats and the Republicans, what is most striking is not the insults or the “differences’, but the similarities between the two candidates. (Remember how the Romney campaign got a boost in the first presidential debate, not by advocating  Tea Party style shock treatment, but by sounding a lot like Obama).

Overall it’s like Coke vs. Pepsi. The package is a little different, and one has a little more sugar, but neither of them are good for you. So my prediction for the US election is that no matter who wins, things will get worse for working people. Safe bet huh? Any takers on a different choice?

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