No One Likes the Dik Van Dykes (But Everyone Likes Stu Smith)

December 31, 2012 at 8:23 pm (Uncategorized)

I thought I was smarted than Thomas Wolfe. Of course you can go home, but everyone is just a little grayer, heavier, etc. Turns out Wolfe was right.

I attended McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario from 1983-1987. During my time there, I worked at the school radio station CFMU hosting a weekly radio show (and was assistant station manager one year). It was a great time. In addition to inflicting my musical tastes on an unsuspecting Hamilton, I got to go to shows and generally hang out with a group of people with similar attitudes and taste in music.

But I was also into politics and by my third year I was a Trotskyist. When I graduated, I moved to Toronto where there was an active branch of the Alliance for Socialist Action the group to which I belonged at the time. I bid farewell to my Hamilton music colleagues, and while I would occasionally  see people at shows, the links faded. It wasn’t so bad though. A week after I moved to Toronto I got a job at the World’s Biggest Bookstore and met the woman I’m now married to.  I also worked for the U of T radio station CIUT for about eight months. (The only parallel with the CFMU years is between 1992-94 when I worked for rock promoter Concert Productions International – another great experience)

And then about a month ago, I ran into a bunch of the Hamilton crew at the Rezillos show at Lee’s Palace. I still see Steve Hoy, who is a some kind of regional manager at HMV periodically, but this was the first time I’d seen him at a show in years: “It’s Stu’s 50th birthday next month, and we’re having a surprise party at the Bovine Sex Club.Interested?”

Now Stu Smith was the drummer for the Dik Van Dykes (more about them in a bit), the co-host of the Stu and Fuzzy radio show,  and a lovely fellow who was part of that CFMU circle I mentioned earlier. I wouldn’t say I knew Stu well, and of course I hadn’t seen him in about 25 years, but hey, I know I good time when I see it. And of course, ten minutes later I ran into Stu at the show.

A few days before the party, Steve, who really deserved kudos for putting all of this together, emailed people the guest list. I spent a while pouring over the list muttering about names from my past.

December 30, I park my car and am buying a ticket for parking when behind me I notice are Dave “Tiger” Simpson and Janice Holden, who have driven up from Hamilton for the party (why, I wonder wasn’t the party in Hamilton? After all, there are plenty of divey bars there). Moments later, we run into Emmett Pearce, another CFMU alum.

A lot of people come out for the show. Over 160 are on the guest list. I’m not sure what the collective age is inside Bovine that night, but it’s high. I run into a few people I knew from the old days, but there’s a lot I don’t know, and a lot I don’t recognize. People change a lot in 25 years. And this is where Wolfe’s aphorism comes in. A lot of the people in attendance are still in Hamilton, still a part of that circle, that social scene. I left. We all changed, for better or for worse, who is to say? I don’t regret that decision, but it was also a little bit sad to see something that you were once a part of, but no more.

When Stu arrived, he was more than a little surprised, but was quickly hustled onto the stage to play drums for the Late Jimmy Marvelous, a garage punk combo featuring Steve  on guitar and his old mate Pat Havoc (of Stu and Fuzzy fame as well as the Wet  Spots) on vocals.  Everyone in attendance got of a copy of their CD – a labour of love with more than a few catchy tunes and a spot-on cover of the Professionals’  “1-2-3. ”

The second band of the night was the Strummeroles (sp?) who played ska-ified Clash covers as well as a few tunes from the Harder They Come soundtrack. Infectious fun. And featuring a certain Stu smith on drums again.

And then, it was the Dik Van Dykes playing their first show together since 1989. I’m not sure just how many times I saw this band in Hamilton, but it was often (and Michael Foley, if you’re reading this, I would like my live at the Gown and Gavel tape back please!)  The  Dykes were a six piece (2 guitars, bass, drums and two back-up singers) who specialized in a punky garage sound and whose song-writing  appeared to be cutting up other people’s songs and stitching them together in new, funnier ways. I mean this as a compliment. I had forgotten just how great they were – and how funny. But before we knew it, they had played their set, inevitably concluding with the Birthday Song – “so it’s your birthday, who gives  a shit?” The band features my old mate Steve on guitar and needless to say, Stu on drums again. There was a final band, but they let Stu enjoy his birthday then.

So a big thanks again to Steve to putting all of this together.  Probably the best present was knowing you could draw that many people to celebrate your day. So Stu, happy 50th.

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Goodbye 2012

December 30, 2012 at 10:32 pm (Uncategorized)

20 things in no particular order that made this year livable (in addition to all of the stuff from previous years – Lester I’m talking about you here)

1. Joss Whedon

There are those who wear t-shirts that read “Joss Whedon is my Master.” I won’t go that far, but I’m more than willing to watch anything Whedon offers. Season 9 of Buffy is much closer to the original spirit of the series (I did like season 8, but…) and I’m still digging the Angel and Faith book. In addition we got two fine cinematic releases. The long overdue Cabin in the Woods and the Avengers. Both thoughtful extremely watchable films in genres not usually noted for either of those qualities. And next year a SHIELD TV series and it’s not on Fox!

2. A Game of Thrones /Song of Fire and Ice

A co-worker told me she and her partner actually stopped the DVD and watched it frame-by-frame just to make sure Ned Stark did die. They couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t either, and I’d already read the book. And then the next, and the next. OK, OK, it’s a sprawling epic which makes more sense if you’ve read Richard III, and it’s great stuff.  A few friends of mine who’ve read it argue that the earlier books are better, but I like the shift away from the war of the five kings to the larger conflict between fire and ice. Winter is coming.

3 The Wire

For some years I’d heard about the Wire, but never got around to seeing it. I’ve now seen the first three seasons, and I understand when people speak of it being the best TV show ever. Like the Sopranos before it, we grow to care about vicious sociopaths cable of tenderness but also savage violence. We despair about cops who seem more interested in their pensions than their job, and we thrill when it all comes together for compelling TV. Onto seasons four and five.

4. Ed Brubaker

There are a few writers that I will read simply because their name id on the thing. Brubaker is one of them. I read his Winter Solider and Criminal stories anyway, but even something the dystopian Deadenders is worth a look. Brubaker writes in a way that is gritty, but at the same time funny.

5. Quebec City – Went there with the kids for a few days in August. My French isn’t very good, but I tried. (I was somewhat dismayed when on one occasion I responded “bonjour” and the person switched to English – was my accent that bad? While the old town is a little tourist-y, it’s truly a beautiful city. But don’t bother going to the Bee Museum.

6. The New Inquiry

Straddling the ground between left liberalism, Marxism, culture and politics, the New Initiative is an on-line journal (you can subscribe for $2 an issue) which has lots of interesting things to read. I like the idea of a monthly magazine (most of the magazines I read come out only once or twice a year). gives me just enough time to read one before the next arrives.

7. Thai One On

The dreadful pun notwithstanding, it’s a pretty good Thai restaurant, and more often than not our Friday night stand-by. It’s gotten to the point where when we call in the order they don’t need to even look at our previous order history  – we always order the same stuff. But for under $20 you get a mountain of excellent food.

8. The Art Gallery of Ontario

I almost put down the Royal Ontario Museum (of which I am a member). Still, i think I’ve been to the AGO more often of later. I saw a fantastic Chagall show, and more recently a terrific Picasso exhibit. Tomorrow, I’m going to see the Frida Kahlo/Diego Rivera  show. A great place to kill a few hours surrounded by the peak of human creativity. The only thing that sucks about the AGO is the restaurant, but never fear, Village by the Grange with its amazing food court, is only steps away.

9. Laser-tag

We took the kids in the summer when cousin and family visited, so for his birthday, my son wanted to go again. Sometimes I think people have kids to relive or try for the first time things from childhood. I’m not keen on paintball, but laser-tag is oodles of fun.

10 Kensington Market

The one in Toronto. I used to live near the market. From approximately 1990 to 1994, I went to the market almost daily to buy fresh fruit and vegetables on my way home from work. But it wasn’t just food. You could buy books, records, used clothing, trinkets, hats and so much more. And there were lots of nice restaurants and more. I live in the suburbs now, and i don’t get downtown as often as I would like, but when I do I still marvel at how the market has changed, yet still retained its character.

11. Chess

My dad taught me to play chess. Now, I was an OK player, never a great one, but this fall, I taught my son to play. And I confess I’d forgotten how much I used to like the game. It’s very absorbing. Now I know Lenin felt he had to put the game aside to concentrate on other matters, but hey, I’m not Lenin am I?

12. The Velvet Underground.

Over 40 years since they broke up, and their music is still thrilling and challenging. I find myself in possession of all of the original albums, but several different mixes of a couple. In addition, the now officially released bootleg of demos, and several live albums of varying quality. The Velvets, I’ve said before, are really like no other band. In most cases, when a band releases their debut, you can listen and say, ah ha, they’ve been listening to X, Y or Z, and hear the influence. With the Velvets they sprang fully formed, sounding like nothing else. There are some who date modern music to that first record. And I’d be hard pressed to name another band which released four albums in four years none of which sound anything like each other (those of you yelling “The Clash” be quiet – with the Clash you can see an evolution. The Velvets savagely mutate).   Stunning.

13.  Pocket watch

Got this at Fan Expo last summer.  When I got this, I immediately realized why the wrist watch was invented. Convenience. But that pocket watch with its chain, its windup screw, it’s case, and its little moving gears is certainly cool. And I had mine before Looper came out.

14. Derby Hat

“The mailman comes in/he’s wearing a derby hat,” sang Bob Dylan in “Outlaw Blues.” I made the trek to Big It Up and now I own one too. It’s funny how a little thing like a hat (I said HAT, not a baseball cap) can make a difference. It makes you feel cool. (Whether I am is another matter). But if you want to make an impression. Wear a hat!

15 Toronto Comic Arts Festival /the Beguiling

I’ve been going to Fan Expo for a couple of years now, but this year was the first time I went to the Toronto Comic Arts Festival co-sponsored by the Beguiling. The Beguiling is a comic book show up near Bloor and Bathurst which seems dedicated to the proposition that comic books need not just be super-heroes, but are a legitimate form of art. No arguments here. At the festival this year I went to the opening night to hear Jeff Smith (Bone) and Gabriel Ba and Fabio Moon speak. Afterwards Smith autographed a copy of Bone for my son adding a lovely doodle. Ba and moon did likewise with their books.  Great event.

16. Trainspotting – Irving Walsh

Watched Shallow Grave again this year. Then Trainspotting. Then got the book. It’s a bit of challenge following Walsh’s prose – his characters speak in thick Scottish accents (and if you think Mike Myers in Shrek, think again), but it’s worth it. The book is funnier than the movie, and uglier too.  It’s not easy in form or content, but it’s worth it.

17 Temple Run

Sure I like Angry Birds, but there’s something about Temple Run. Maybe it’s the Indiana Jones knock off, maybe it’s that there’s no end to it, maybe that it’s that my nine-year old is so much better at it that me. Well, I’ve wasted a lot of time on this one. No regrets here.

18 The Toronto Anarchist Bookfair

This is the third time I’ve done the new Toronto Anarchist bookfair, and although it doesn’t yet rival Montreal, it gets better and better. This year i hosted a workshop with Richard St. Pierre of the Internationalist workers Group on left communism. Sales get better, crowds get larger, conversations more interesting. Cheers!

19 I-pad

Oh, I sneered at my kids increasingly pathetic cries for an i-pad. “don’t need one” I said. Even after we bought the thing, it took me about a week to pick it up. Then gradually, gradually, it won me over. Really, it;s just a quicker way to get on the internet, but therein lies the appeal. Plus all the goofy games and such make it an enjoyable waste of time. Yeah, it won’t run flash, but hey nothing’s perfect. I’m still not getting an I-phone though.

20 The Class Struggle

A fitting quotation from Rosa Luxemburg to end the year.

The leadership has failed. Even so, the leadership can and must be recreated from the masses and out of the masses. The masses are the decisive element, they are the rock on which the final victory of the revolution will be built. The masses were on the heights; they have developed this ‘defeat’ into one of the historical defeats which are the pride and strength of international socialism. And that is why the future victory will bloom from this ‘defeat’.

‘Order reigns in Berlin!’ You stupid henchmen! Your ‘order’ is built on sand. Tomorrow the revolution will already ‘raise itself with a rattle’ and announce with fanfare, to your terror: I was, I am, I will be!

“Order reigns in Berlin”,  Collected Works 4

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Internationalist Perspective online

December 30, 2012 at 1:10 am (Uncategorized)

Internationalist Perspective # 57 is now available as a download from the IP site

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Winter Wonderland (Notes on Being a Dad Part 4)

December 27, 2012 at 8:49 pm (Uncategorized) (, )

The first snow storm of the year hit us last night.

All in all, it wasn’t too bad. Probably about 10-15 CM of snow which made getting out of the driveway a bit difficult, but other than that no real problems.

My little dog Lester was a bit of a different story. Normally if he hears the back door open, he comes barreling from wherever he is through said door; last night, he paused. Sniffed and decided that maybe the snow wasn’t for him. This morning I pushed him out into it. Then he was cool. Have you seen a bichon blitz? They go breakneck, running as if the devil were on their heels. Imagine that through clouds of snow.  On his morning walk, he more or less bounded through the snow doing his best impression of a snow rabbit.

But even though snow is a pain in the arse if you have to go pretty much anywhere, it’s a nice reminder of youth, of winter, of life. And it’s pretty. There’s just something about it that makes you feel alive.The past winter was, well, lame. Not one major snow storm here in Toronto.

I live in Canada. It’s a cold country. It’s a bloody cold country. Or at least it used to be. You still get those bright cold days where the wind seems to sear your face and burns a hole in the centre of your forehead, but it doesn’t seem near as bad as when I was a kid. Why it seems like only 30 years ago when as a mere boy of 18 I waded through snow on the way to school. My kids were beginning to despair that we would ever have snow again. Ah, good times.

Now, I don’t care about hockey (sorry), but snow. that’s essential. and today we pulled out the old plastic snow carpet and me and the boy spent a while going down the small hill behind our house.

It takes a bit of time to build a groove in the snow (the first couple of runs are pretty miserable), but when you have one, it’s a thrill. We went solo; we went together;  we threw snowballs at each other as we went down the hill. And then it was time for hot chocolate. It doesn’t get much better than that, does it?

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Music Notes December 2012

December 27, 2012 at 4:06 pm (Uncategorized)

A few days early for once…

1. Sallie Ford and the Sound Outside – “They told Me”

I’m told you should listen to Sallie Ford wearing clothes from the 1950s. Maybe so. The sound is garage-like, but with a taste of roots and rockabilly thrown in. They’re touring in the new year. Meanwhile you can listen to the record at their site

2. Muddy Waters with the Rolling Stones – Live at the Checkerboard Lounge

OK, so the Stones have been dreadful longer than they were great (OK, that new song is good, but I digress). For me, the last great Stones record was Some Girls in 1978 (yes, I know, people make the case for Emotional Rescue or even Tattoo You, but again, I digress). This amazing blues set dates to 1981, and is pretty much everything you could want and expect from the band and the real star of the show, Muddy Waters. CD + DVD. Been out for a while, so it’s cheap in most places.

3. The Show I’ll Never Forget -various writers

Remember that time you saw the Police at the Horseshoe Tavern in Toronto in 1978? No, neither do I because I didn’t go (I was 14 and living in England). However, I did see the Violent Femmes in a church basement in Hamilton in 1983 at their first Canadian show. And I did sit across the table form Steve Wynn at Lee’s Palace while he played “Brown Eyed Girl” on a acoustic guitar to about 20 people at the end of a poorly attended show. If you go to see live music you have a couple of stories like this. This 2007 collection is just that. Writers telling about that one great show.

4. Led Zeppelin – Celebration Day

And speaking of that, apparently 20 million people applied for the 18,000 tickets for Zeppelin’s 2007 show (can that be right?) As a proud graduate of the class of 77, I never liked Zeppelin. They along with so many other dinosaur bands represented everything I hated about the star system in music. But like so many things, I mellowed with age. I came to respect Zeppelin (and quite actively enjoy Robert Plant’s solo career), and finally to enjoy them. This is simply an amazing document. Lovingly reproduced on CD/DVD/blu-Ray. You really should own this.

5. Have Not Been the Same – various

Mid 80s. Vancouver. Slow. The Can-rock renaissance. Came the book. A decade later, comes the soundtrack. The disc contains astonishing records by such artists as No Means No, the Nils, Jr. Gone Wild, Sloan, A Neon Rome and many others. What did these bands have in common? No much, except they represented a part of an explosion of Canadian talent. If you were there this is a lovely reminder; if you weren’t, it’s a nice entry.

6. The Velvet Underground and Nico

I think I moaned about this a few months back, but never fear, I didn’t splash out for the box-set. Instead I cam across an earlier version – the stereo and mono versions, plus the singles and Nico cuts. The Velvets are really one of those remarkable bands that seem to spring fully formed into existence, and sometimes, we forget just how amazing they are. Shortly after I bought this I was listening to it when a friend came over. About halfway through “European Son” she exclaimed in disapproving tones, “What are we listening to?”  A couple of days later, I was at a bar for the office Christmas party and the same song was playing. Odd, but essential.

7. Graham Parker and the Rumour

Alas, Graham Parker. Slightly too late for the pub-rock scene, but a little too early for punk. Still he was a major influence (Elvis Costello, Joe Jackson say thank you now), even though he never really achieved the kind of success he deserved (Dr. Feelgood, you know what I mean). And now, he’s in a movie. A Judd Apatow movie, This is 40, and has a new record out Three Chords Good (ignore the curious cover – the songs I’ve heard are solid). But, seriously, pick up Squeezing out Sparks, their best record (and try to get the one with the live tracks)

8. Allah-las – Allah-las

OK, I know it’s a pun on the Shangri-las, but it can’t be long before someone proclaims a fatwa on these guys. Which would really be a sham, not least because of the marvellous garage Nuggets flavour of this record.

9. The Lumineers – Crystal Anis The Lumineers

[Argh! Wrote down the wrong album title from a similarly named, but not sounding band – I’ll mention them next month as they are also very fabulous December 28, 2012]]

Folk rockers from Denver with emphasis on the first part of the designation not the second. The songs have that endless, timeless singalong quality to them (to my ears anyway). My new favourite band, and unfortunately, today their site seems to be down. Google it on another day and be delighted.

10. Palma Violets – ” Best of Friends”

Ooh, ooh. Can I have this one mummy?Is this the latest buzz from the UK? Maybe, but it’s a terrific little indie-pop single out on Rough Trade. Go to site, watch video, buy song. Do it now!

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End of the World Blues

December 22, 2012 at 8:37 pm (Uncategorized)

Phew, survived another apocalypse. Maya style. (and for those who know me- yes, pun inteneded).

Actually, I had a bet with my daughter: If the world didn’t end, she would make me breakfast in bed on Saturday. I couldn’t lose. If the world did end, who cares about breakfast?

But seriously, what is it about Doomsday beliefs? Why do people give them so such credence? It’s hard to rememeber now, but 12 years back the year 2000 prompted another round of this sort of thing. And the result. Er, nothing to speak of.

If were lucky next time it’ll be the end of capitalism. Now that would be a nice Christmas present.

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Internationalist Perspective 57

December 16, 2012 at 11:49 pm (Uncategorized) (, , )

The new issue of Internationalist Perspective is now available.

The new issue features

An editorial on the world situation
The Class Struggle
Communization and the Abolition of Value
An appreciation and criticism of Robert Kurz
Internationalist Perspective and the Communist Left

IP now offers free e-subs. If you are interested in receiving IP this way, please get in touch.

The issue should be available at our web site shortly.

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December 16, 2012 at 4:34 pm (Uncategorized) (, , )

After hearing the horrific events of Connecticut on Friday, a guy I know at work summed up pretty much how I feel, “That shit is fucked up.”

If anything, it’s a little mild.

To butcher, there’s no other word here, children with a semi-automatic weapon is fucked up. To kill teachers who sought to protect those children is fucked up. Oh and yeah, to look at this tragedy and think that no it’s not the lack of available treatment for people who suffer from mental illness and the easy access to deadly weapons, but rather that it’s that God has been removed from public schools that’s  to blame (thanks Mike Huckabee for that), that’s fucked up.

On Friday night I watched CNN’s coverage and saw Wolf Blitzer interviewing a former FBI official. Surprisingly, he made some of those same points. Mental illness is not dealt with. Neither is the easy access to weapons, but most chillingly, he calmly asserted it would happen again – no doubt. Actually, it almost happened again the next day. A man walked through a hospital in Alabama. no one was killed except for the gunman, but three people were wounded.

Now, it’s”not appropriate” to discuss the root causes. Later when it is. No one cares anymore.

Commentators will now try to fit the events in to their world view (I suppose I am too). For the religious right like Huckabee, a lack of God was the problem; more God the solution. The NRA and its supporters will likely argue more guns are the solution  – after Columbine, they argued the real problem was teachers weren’t armed so they couldn’t fight back. For Liberals, it will be gun control.

So for me, I look at the general fucked up state of capitalism and think maybe that has something to do with it. This act was deeply irrational, much like the context in which it took place. A society where the profit motive is elevated to the highest principle. Where problems are personalized and resolved only to the extent that the money is there. In my “communist utopia” would tragedies like this never occur? Hard to believe that any society would have no problems, but I like to think that we might try to address those problems in advance.

And yes, I did hug my children a little more tightly that night.

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That’s Entertainment!

December 10, 2012 at 10:35 pm (Uncategorized) ()

I grumble about work a lot on this blog.  Odd though, because I have a job that I like (IMHO, I’m not bad at it either), that pays decently (compared to some), and in working conditions which are more or less OK (there’s the decaying smell of a mouse , but I suppose nothing’s perfect).

Still, come Monday morning, there it is. Malaise. Do you remember that old Peggy Lee song (fabulously reimagined by Christina) “Is that all there is?” Sometimes, sometimes.

I’m still on a Jam kick, and this is one of everyone’s favourites. It’s from Sound Affects, my favourite Jam album. This one has so many clever touches. A deft slice of working class life “Watching the telly and thinking bout your holidays” but also the poetic “two lovers missing the tranquility of solitude.”


A police car and a screaming siren
Pneumatic drill and ripped up concrete
A baby wailing, a stray dog howling
The screech of brakes and lamplights blinking

That’s entertainment, that’s entertainment

A smash of glass and the rumble of boots
An electric train and a ripped up phone booth
Paint splattered walls and the cry of a tom cat
Lights going out and a kick in the balls

I say that’s entertainment, that’s entertainment

Days of speed and slow time Mondays
Pissing down with rain on a boring Wednesday
Watching the news and not eating your tea
A freezing cold flat and damp on the walls

I say that’s entertainment, that’s entertainment

Waking up at 6 a.m. on a cool warm morning
Opening the windows and breathing in petrol
An amateur band rehearse in a nearby yard
Watching the telly and thinking ’bout your holidays

That’s entertainment, that’s entertainment

Waking up from bad dreams and smoking cigarettes
Cuddling a warm girl and smelling stale perfume
A hot summers day and sticky black tarmac
Feeding ducks in the park and wishing you were far away

That’s entertainment, that’s entertainment

Two lovers kissing amongst the scream of midnight
Two lovers missing the tranquillity of solitude
Getting a cab and travelling on buses
Reading the graffiti about slashed seat affairs

I say that’s entertainment, that’s entertainment

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