Music Notes February 2013

February 27, 2013 at 11:36 pm (Uncategorized)


1. Palma Violets – 180

It starts very quietly, then in come the drums, the guitar and the organ and the very wonderful “Best Friend” grabs you and won’t let go. Palma Violets sound a lot like other things, but you can’t quite place the steals, and so it sounds completely original or completely nicked. You be the judge. I also rather fond of the eight minute album closer 14.

2. Patti Smith – Banga

Patti Smith will never release another Horses so stop hoping. It’s OK though because Banga is a perfectly fine release. Probably my favourite is the title cut, but it’s sort of interesting to hear the Neil young cover too. I splashed out for the deluxe-book form version with how has nice essay and some cool pictures. Looking forward to the show next week.

3. David Bowie – The Stars  (Are Out Tonight)

I wasn’t thrilled by the first Bowie release from his new album, but I do like this one. Spooky and atmospheric and a great video.

4.Rage Against the Machine – XX

Has it really been twenty years since Rage’s, er, rage-fueled album splashed across the scene? Apparently. The politics still sound are New Leftist as ever, but the music is still amazing. The re-issue has the original album, demos and videos. Worth having to remember how angry we were.

5. Jimmy Page and Robert Plant – No Quarter

Jim, Bob and some friends perform softer Led Zep classics. It took me a few spins to adjust, but it’s worth putting in the time. I’m sure some found this heresy though.

6. Frightened Rabbit – Pedestrian Verse

I saw FR last year and am going to see them again in a couple of weeks. Suffice to say, I think they are a phenomenally talented band. I don’t want to single out tracks because the whole album is outstanding. Breathtaking.

7. Parquet Courts – Light Up Gold

I’ve read a few things about the band, and like the above-mentioned Palma Violets the question is, can they live up to the garage-punk hype? I think so, but listen to this on their wordpress page 

8. Thao and the Get down Stay Down – We The Common

I mentioned the single “Holy Roller” last time, but the album is simply wonderful. It’ll put a smile on your face. Charming folky pop.

9. Blood Red Shoes – Water

I love the duo. the punk rock duo. Seems everyone is doing it now. Blood Red Shoes are coming to Toronto. Listen to their record. Cool.

10. Wilko Johnson

Ending on a sad note. Wilko Johnson guitarist for Dr. Feelgood and a long time solo artist (as well as Ilym Payne on Game of Thrones) announced last month is had inoperable cancer. With less than a year to live. He plays his final show tomorrow night.  A terrific guitarist and by all accounts a really nice fellow.

Dr Feelgood “Back in the Night”

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The Magic of the Movies

February 25, 2013 at 3:00 am (Uncategorized)

Did you win in your office Oscar pool? I’m not even sure if there was one at my workplace this year. To be honest, I paid less attention this year than any time since, well, ever. I

So instead of watching the bloated self-congratulatory mess that is the Academy Awards, I watched Martin Scorsese’s 2011 love letter to the movies, Hugo.  (I could have watched Cinema Paradiso, but this was good too). I cried throughout the movie. It’s lovely.

Do you remember your first movie? Mine was Disney’s Jungle Book.  I went with my dad and my cousin Richard and his dad. I don’t remember much about the actual experience, but it was magical.  In Hugo Jude Law’s character is quoted to the effect that seeing a movie like seeing your dreams when you’re awake. Ain’t it the truth?

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Libcom Article on Socialist Labour Vouchers

February 18, 2013 at 1:44 pm (Uncategorized) ()

Recently read a very interesting article on Libcom dealing with council communism, the GIK, Dauve, Proudhon, labour vouchers and Marx. Spirited discussion follows.

Here’s the link

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Being a Dad Part 5: Who Could that be at this Hour?

February 16, 2013 at 9:32 pm (Uncategorized) ()

A few years back, my daughter and I read Lemony Snicket’s thirteen volume collection, “A Series of Unfortunate Events, ” detailing the lives of the Baudelaire orphans and the villainous Count Olaf. Do not watch the rather sad adaptation of the first three books. Stick to the novels.

Late last year, Mr. Snicket produced a prequel, Who Could that Be at this Hour? which I bought as a Christmas stocking stuffer. Yet, it was my son who ended up reading it. Almost the first words out of his mouth when he finished were, “Is there another one?” Sadly not yet (although three more are in the offing). At time of writing, I confess, I have not read the book.

Anyway, when I discovered Snicket was coming to the Toronto Reference Library for a reading,   I raced to my computer to order tickets, which were free but essential for entrance. As it turned out, the event sold out soon after.

So on a rainy Valentine’s day, the sort of day when a knock at the door or a late-night phone call might well have you asking just that question, the boy and I went downtown to see Mr. Snicket. Alas, it was not to be. Mr. Snicket was unable to attend. Initially, it seemed as if a large block of wood had prevented his attendance, but it was eventually revealed that a vicious and paralyzing bite under the armpit was to blame. Nevertheless, for three-quarters of an hour the audience was entertained by Mr. Snicket’s representative who  sang to us, played the accordion for us, revealed secrets to us, and might even, briefly, have danced the Carioca for us.

At the conclusion of the evening, Mr. Snickert’s representative and Seth, who illustrated the book, signed copies. Seth even contributed a sketch to every edition – watching his create a unique illustration was probably the highpoint of the evening for the boy (although he very much enjoyed the Tim Hortons hot chocolate he had after the show).

Usually, I conclude these little columns with a truism about how being a dad allows you to revisit marvellous moments from your childhood, but in some ways they are better because you see that joy in your child. This time…actually, I think I’ll go with that this time as well.

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Bond, James Bond

February 5, 2013 at 11:32 pm (Uncategorized)

The other weekend, I went down to the Bell TIFF Lightbox Theatre to see the “007: Fifty years of James Bond style or something like that.  The exhibit features bits of bric-a-brac from 50 years of Bond movies (although not from the most recent Skyfall).

First thing, I couldn’t quite believe how popular the exhibit was. When I arrived at opening time, there was already a line up. Still, I didn’t have to wait too long, and it was the final weekend. Maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised; a few weeks ago, I went to see Skyfall, and ended up having to sit in the front row because the theatre was so packed.

What is the enduring popularity of Bond?

Let’s face it, Bond was a murderous womanizer who happened to work as a licenced thug for British imperialism. This aspect of the Bond character makes an appearance in Alan Moore’s  League of Extraordinary gentlemen series in “The Black Dossier.” There he reprises his role as a murder and rapist, cheerfully murdering Emma Peel’s father and Bulldog Drummond on behalf of the CIA. Bond makes a small appearance in part 3 of 1900 in a nursing home syphilitic and senile but kept alive in agony by Emma Peel who has now risen to the rank of M. And then there’s the matter that in the Flemming Bond novels, a disproportionate number of villains seem to be either Jews or Asians. Something I didn’t notice when I read, and loved, the Bond novels as a child.

But I digress. Perhaps it’s the allure of the spy. Wouldn’t it be cool to be a spy? Flashy gadgets and the glamorous women were all written into the script. Alas, the reality is a bit duller: John Le Carre’s Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (recently made into a marvellous film) is likely a lot closer to the truth. As to the nature of Bond, it reminds me of when I used to read the movie reviews in Socialist Worker. The paper would feature any film that had some tenuous connection to a progressive nature, magnify it into “anti-capitalism” and then complain the film didn’t call for socialist revolution. It’s entirely possible to disagree with the politics of a character or a film and still like the art. Life would be very dull indeed if we had to adhere to the party line.

The exhibit itself was really fascinating. Among the items were props such as the Scaramanga’s last remaining original golden gun, Oddjob’s hat (I made the mistake of wearing a derby hat), Jaws’ teeth and Rose Klebb’s dagger shoes. What struck me was how cheesy some of the artifacts looked up close. It’s the magic of the movies that matters.

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The People’s Front of Judea (redux)

February 2, 2013 at 10:45 pm (Uncategorized) ()

Reading the paper this morning, I came across a news item about the Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party-Front, an armed struggle “Marxist-Leninist organization responsible for attacks on U.S. targets in Turkey in the early 1990s. ” In fact, the DHKP/C (to use its Turkish acronym) has been active beyond just attacking U.S. targets, and since 2001 has used suicide bombings in its activities.

Now, my knowledge of the Turkish left is not as complete as I might hope, so it was off to Wikipedia to see what I could find out. (Actually, all levity aside, the ICC has published two good texts on the history of the Turkish left, and there’s a good article on Loren Golder’s site too. )

Turns out the DHKP/C was formed in 1978 as Revolutionary Left, a split from the People’s Libertarion Party-Front of Turkey, itself a split from the Revolutionary Youth Federation. In 1994, the group split with one section becoming the DHKP/C and the other re-taking the name of the People’s Liberation Party-Front of Turkey. And just to clarity, “party” refers to the group’s political wing; front to the military.

Still, you can’t help but be reminded of Life of Brian.

The thing that struck me about this group though was the use of suicide bombers. For the “left” (broadly speaking here), suicide bombings are rare. Sure, there have been numerous leftist organizations, self-declared Marxist and anarchist who have used armed struggle tactics in pursuit of their goals, but suicide bombings are usually the trademark of the religious groups (the nationalist Tamil Tigers being a notable exception)

This then adds another level of problems to the organization. Aside from the hierarchical authoritarian nature of armed struggle, and the fact that most militants end up dead or in jail, thus curtailing their activities while driving their supporters into prison rights campaigns, you need to keep find a willing supply of recruits ready to blow themselves up, not for however many virgins you’re supposed to get, but, er, revolutionary immortality. Hmm.

To end, Life of Brian again:

Suicide Squad Leader: We are the Judean People’s Front crack suicide squad! Suicide squad, attack!

[they all stab themselves]

Suicide Squad Leader: That showed ’em, huh?


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The Persistence of Memory

February 1, 2013 at 7:52 pm (Uncategorized)

Whenever you’re on vacation, there’s a strong sense of being in the moment. Your “real” is forgotten and you simply experience what’s happening around you. But after it’s done, hardly a moment goes by before the memory begins to fade. “Did I really go on vacation?” or was it just a dream?

I changed jobs this week. More accurately, I switched locations. And actually it was back to a location where I had worked in 2011-2012. It felt a bit like coming back from a vacation. It seems as if I never left, and the memories of the other job with all the great relationships I forged now seem to fade.

Moving jobs is usually an ego-boost. People write nice things on cards and say how you will be missed. At the new job, especially if it’s a return people are glad you’re back. (Of course, behind your back, people may say good riddance and your new co-workers may not be so happy to see you again – I’m sure that wasn’t the case.)

So it’s been a bittersweet experience. Goodbye to friends; hello to others. Memory like relationships, like plants I suppose, is a living thing. It needs to be nurtutred…or it dies.

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