Music Notes May 2013

May 29, 2013 at 11:32 pm (Uncategorized) ()

Last weekend I drove to Montreal. My car doesn’t have an MP3 player and I don’t like to listen with ear buds when I’m driving, so it was to the CD I turned.

Drive up Friday night; drive back Saturday night. Six hours each way. Music selection is very important, and I usually go with a theme. This time, I revisited the music of my youth, English punk (sort of) from 1977 to 1980. (For the purposes of who knows why, I haven’t included anything I’ve written about in this list)

1. The Clash – Clash on Broadway” (disc 1)

The Broadway box set is going to be replaced by a ridiculously expensive Soundsystem later this year, but this is still a fairly representative set (neither box features anything from Cut the Crap). Starting with some demos, the disc runs through the first album and singles from the ferocious “White Riot” right up to the inspiring “(White Man) in Hammersmith Palais, ” arguably the finest thing they ever did.  The disc ends with a live version of the Bobby Fuller Four song “I Fought the Law (a single version of which was actually released after the second album, which is where the second disc comes in). One of punk’s finest moments.

2. Crass- Stations of the Crass

And then there’s Crass. Imagine if the Clash has taken their politics seriously, but instead of deciding to expand their musical canon had kept to a narrow punk ethos. There you have Crass who produced some of the angriest and let it be said thought-provoking music around. The opening song “Mother Earth” was the first Crass song I heard (albeit a John Peel session – included here), and Stations opens with this song about child murderer Myra Hindley. I was shocked to discover I still knew all of the words to this blistering assault.

3. UK Subs – Crash Course

The Subs were one of those bands who found a formula they liked and then stuck to it. They also had the novel idea of naming their albums alphabetically. Crash Course was number 3. After half the band quit, the band released this big noisy live greatest hits package for the fans. I wouldn’t want to listen to the Subs every day, but it’s a great sing along in the car.

4. The Lurkers – The Punk Singles Collection

The Lurkers were unfairly labelled the British Ramones. The band released a flurry of singles culminating with the truly wonderful “New Guitar in Town /Little ole Wine Drinker me. ” Then, three years went by and when a new single was released singer Howard Wall was gone and the band had regressed to a simple, but not unappealing punk sound. You can turn off the CD at that point for the most part. Sometimes you only have one album, maybe two.

999 – The Punk Singles Collection

So you see I have a lot of these records. 999 are actually appreciated better on 45 than on a LP. This one has all the hits, yes, yes “Homicide” is there. The band never really cracked the big time and were never among those punk bands that people copied (a bit like the Lurkers then), but for their 15 minutes of fame, they were quite lovely (a lot like the Lurkers then)

6. The Ruts – Something that I Said

The Ruts were a second generation punk band who really should have been stars. They released a terrific debut called “In a Rut, ” and followed it up with an actual hit single called “Babylon’s Burning.”  More singles followed: driving punk, but also a reggae sensibility. They would have been huge, except for singer Malcolm Owen’s drug problem, which killed him in 1980. The band continued, but it was never the same. A great band, and a real tragedy.

7. The Members – Live at the 1980 Chelsea Nightclub –  The Choice is yours

The Members were a pop-punk band with sing along choruses and a dry wit that produced two hit singles, “The Sound of the Suburbs” and “Offshore  Banking Business.” This record is a compilation of the first two records. Fun, stuff although the album ends with a completely unnecessary version of Larry Wallis’ “Police Car.”

8. Ultravox! – Ha Ha Ha

If you’re ever in a conversation with someone and they rate Midge Ure’s Ultravox over John Foxx’s, walk away. The three albums Foxx recorded, channeling Bowie and Roxy Music are so good… This second album is clearly the transition. Sure it contains punky new wave-like “ROkwrok” (sic.), but it also contains beautiful synth classics like “Hiroshima Mon Amour.” Not punk, but part of that creative maelstrom.

9. Siouxsie and the Banshees – The Scream

Siouxsie of course was one of the punks at the Bill Grundy show, having played her first show at the 100 Club Punk Festival with Marco Pironi and Sid Vicious in the band. But there was always something troubling about the band. Siouxsie’s use of the swastika, the casual anti-Semitism of “Love in a Void” and even “Hong Kong Garden” makes me uneasy. But then there’s this. A simply stunning debut built upon Siouxsie’s demon yelps, and the power duo of John McKay’s guitar and Kenny Morris’ drums. Sorry, but after they quit, the band never had that raw energy. Obsession, anti-fascism (better late than never), mental illness, nicotine addiction and a terrifying cover of  “Helter Skelter.”

10.  The Sex Pistols – The Great Rock & Roll Swindle

Years from now, your kids will ask you, “What about the Sex Pistols?” Swindle isn’t the place to start, but it should be part of your explanation. It’s the good, the bad and the ugly. Those Johnny Rotten demos, the Cook, Jones and Vicious singles and then the weird stuff McLaren put in to rubbish the idea. Download it, burn it, make your own mix with the rubbish thrown out. Ah well.


Bonus: Savages – Silence Yourself

This wasn’t in my CD player on the trip and it doesn’t fit the criteria above, but it’s too good to wait until the end of June. If you found yourself thinking the Palma Violets were too rock ‘n’ roll, this might be the thing. Feminist post-punk. Coming back to Toronto in July, but unfortunately, I’m out-of-town.

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May 27, 2013 at 11:56 pm (Uncategorized) ()

Sometimes I read things in the press ad think, “Wait, did I write this?” This article could have been written by me. Thanks to my friend Lindsey for turning me onto this show. Oh and yeah, I own the t-shirt too.

I Love ‘The Big Bang Theory.’ And You Should, Too


There is probably no more grievous transgression in the current culture wars than being a late adopter, missing the boat, signing on to something that the rest of the plugged-in world absorbed, analyzed, digitized and deleted last year, last month, five minutes ago. Even though the avalanche of movies, TV shows, music, e-books, apps, social media, gadgets, etc., has made it impossible for anyone to be a prescient expert on everything — even everything good.

Such a surplus of options can lead to a kind of cultural snobbery, the denigration of an artist or art form simply because you missed it the first time around. More than one prominent music critic, for instance, didn’t anticipate the fireball that was Adele in 2011 and then, several platinum certifications later, wrote begrudging mea culpas that basically said, “I guess she’s O.K.”

I was guilty of this kind of critical elitism. Until a year and a half ago, I had never seen an episode of “The Big Bang Theory.” Yes, that “Big Bang Theory.”

The show, which seemed to be a fairly traditional sitcom about four scientists at a Pasadena university and their quest to navigate the world from a book-smart yet socially addled perspective, with the help of their street-smart waitress-actress neighbor, had been on the air for four years, and my avoidance of it was textbook snob. It was a prime-time network show, and I hadn’t been beholden to anything prime-time and network since “Seinfeld” ended its run in 1998. And “The Big Bang Theory” was on CBS, long seen as “the old-people network.” Moreover, one of its creators was Chuck Lorre, who was partly responsible for another CBS sitcom, “Two and a Half Men,” that seemed one-jokey and never really held my attention for more than two and a half minutes. When “The Big Bang Theory” appeared in 2007 alongside “Two and a Half Men,” I figured it would be a cheap grab at ratings from the undiscerning set.

Even when Jim Parsons, who plays the Nobel-craving, coitus-avoiding, Purell-packing, sarcasm-challenged, boy-man genius Sheldon Cooper, won an Emmy after the third season, the show still wasn’t generating much buzz in any of the oh-so-hip Web forums I visited or at my weekly happy hour, where more than half the discussion is usually about TV. In the back of my mind I was thinking, Eh, it’s O.K., even though I still had not seen a single episode.

Then Parsons won a second Emmy. The ratings steadily ticked up to the Top 20 from No. 68 in the first season. The show was moved to Thursday night, where it proved stiff competition for “American Idol.” Somebody, or rather, lots of somebodies, knew something was going on. In the fall of 2011, with the show now in inescapable syndication, I decided to actually watch an episode.

It took roughly a week of nightly viewing before I realized how impoverished my life had been for the four years that I was oblivious to “The Big Bang Theory.”

The touchstone, the lodestar, the flypaper for me at first was, predictably, Parsons. In his dervishy nerdiness, he seemed to evoke any number of classic TV neurotics or fussbudgets: Paul Lynde, Tony Randall, Pee-wee Herman. Watching Parsons’s every twitch, wiggle, full-body smirk or social paroxysm — his O.C.D. knocking on friends’ doors (three knocks/name, three knocks/name, three knocks/name), his recurring line about “I’m not crazy, my mother had me tested,” his litany of his “61 mortal enemies,” his continued rebuffing of the advances of his girlfriend, Amy Farrah Fowler (Mayim Bialik) — is alone worth any half-hour spent on the show.

But as the weeks went by, the show’s many other virtues unfurled (by the end of 2011, I had seen almost all the older episodes more than once and started collecting the DVDs; some nights I would wake up after midnight just to watch the most recent episode as soon as it became available on demand). Here was a popular prime-time sitcom in which five of the seven main characters were Ph.D.’s and another had “only” a master’s from M.I.T., a hit show that regularly referenced bosons and derivatives and string theory, a show in which there were running gags about Madame Curie and Schrödinger’s cat.

The real behind-the-scenes heroes, though, are not the science advisers but the geek experts. The accuracy of the nerd oeuvre — the obsession with superheroes, “Star Trek” and “Star Wars” (before their umpteenth viewing of the movie, Howard, the M.I.T. engineer, says to Sheldon, “If we don’t start soon, George Lucas is going to change it again”), comic books and video games — is sometimes so eerie that I feel as if I’m watching a high- (or low-) light reel of my own life. In one episode, Sheldon goes to a computer store and is soon being asked for advice from tech-illiterate customers, to the point where he hacks into the store’s mainframe to check on the availability of an item. (“O.K., we don’t have that in stock,” he says to a customer, “but I can special-order it for you.”) He stops only when a real salesclerk reminds him that he doesn’t actually work there. Change the date to 1971, the computer store to a record store and the item in question to Judy Collins’s version of “Amazing Grace,” and that could have been me.

Beyond any navel-gazing thrill for me or other current or former nerds, the masterminds of the show — Lorre, Bill Prady, the showrunner Steven Molaro and others — have dared to produce a TV program that plays not a whit to the aspirations of its audience. You might laugh at the characters, pity them or love them, but you don’t want to be them (especially because you might already be them). There are a good amount of pre- and postcoital scenes, but they’re not especially sexy. These are not especially pretty people. A friend of mine who’s also a recent convert to the show says that she has a problem with Howard (Simon Helberg), the gnomish, dickie-sporting mama’s boy. “I can’t look at him,” she says. Even Penny (Kaley Cuoco), the bombshell across the hall, often appears rumpled or with a bottle of cheap wine hanging from her like an extra limb.

By the end of the sixth season, which wrapped last week, the characters had started to mature, while remaining true to their essence. Howard has been somewhat redeemed by living the ultimate nerd fantasy — becoming an astronaut — but even more by the love of a good woman, Bernadette (Melissa Rauch), whose oft-remarked-upon “ample bosom” is overshadowed by the fact that she’s smarter than he is and makes more money. Raj (Kunal Nayyar) finally seemed on the verge of a real relationship with a new character named Lucy (until she dumped him in the season finale last week), even as his sublimated love for Howard continues to surface in spontaneous belches. (In Raj and Amy, “The Big Bang Theory” could very well have two bona fide bisexuals among its characters.) Sheldon appears headed for some kind of revelation — either a Nobel-worthy discovery, his first real sexual experience or a nervous breakdown. The on-again-off-again (currently on) romance between Penny and Leonard (Johnny Galecki) may reach some resolution, but it almost certainly won’t have the fairy-tale ending of Ross and Rachel on “Friends” or Carrie and Big on “Sex and the City.” If they ever do marry, Leonard will most likely have one hand on his asthma inhaler at the ceremony and Penny will have one hand on a bottle of chardonnay. (Or a basic physics text; one roadblock to their relationship has been her concern that she’s not smart enough for him.)

The main direction that all of these characters continue to head in, though, is toward one another. With their social “shields” down (as one character puts it), they have direct access to their own and one another’s feelings — and buttons, especially when formulating the perfect insult. The intimacy that they achieve, and the chemistry among the actors, is certainly on a par with that of long-running sitcoms like “Cheers” or “Will and Grace” and is approaching the territory of maybe the greatest TV ensemble cast of all time, from the show about the Minneapolis TV-news producer and her coterie of kooky, lovable friends and co-workers, people whom you didn’t necessarily want to be but whom you always wanted to be around.

Unlike “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” (29 Emmys in its seven years on the air), “The Big Bang Theory” is a bit underdecorated. Parsons has his two Emmys, but he should have easily won a third for his work in the fifth season, if for nothing else than playing the bongos and singing about the subjunctive mood. Galecki and Bialik have received single Emmy nominations, but the show has never won for best comedy series, and its writing and directing have never even been nominated, having most recently run up against the awards juggernaut of “Modern Family,” an altogether hipper, sexier (if not necessarily funnier or smarter) show.

And while my own proselytizing about “The Big Bang Theory” has earned it a few new fans, many of my would-be converts remain unconvinced. When at one happy hour I lauded the guest appearances of Christine Baranski as Leonard’s mother, one of my buddies sneered, “She’s too good for that show.” When I praised the show in passing in a previous column, one of my editors strongly urged me to reconsider (“Replace it with anything else,” he said). And this from my haircutter: “But isn’t it about . . . nerds?” (She eventually came around.) So even though the show has lately been earning its highest ratings (20 million viewers for one episode in January) and has been regularly finishing at No. 1 on the Nielsen list, it has remained something of a guilty pleasure, an affection that you don’t broadcast too loudly. It’s still a little lonely at the top.

For me, though, true validation came last summer when I was on vacation, walking up a darkened hill in the kind of resort town where the smart TV talk veers toward shows like “Girls” and “Mad Men.” I was wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with the word “bazinga,” Sheldon’s self-satisfied exclamation whenever he thinks he’s got the better of one of his pals. A car crept toward me, a window rolled down and my shields went up: Uh-oh, I thought, here comes some snarky comment. Instead the driver just said the word, Sheldon-like, quietly but rascally: “ba-ZING-a,” and then moved on. It was an acknowledgment of a shared secret, a coded utterance of the sentence that some people wait a lifetime to hear: How cool are we!

Twenty million nerds can’t be wrong.

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Victoria Day: Notes on Steampunk

May 20, 2013 at 12:06 pm (Uncategorized) ()

It’s Victoria Day in Canada today (well, English Canada – in Quebec it’s Patriot’s Day). The statutory holiday has been celebrated in Canada in some form or other since 1845, and has been law since Victoria’s death in 1901.

Today, outside of monarchist circles, it’s pretty much recognized as the first long weekend of summer: Victoria’s actual birthday is May 24, so informally it became the May 2-4 weekend (Huh? Oh sorry, you can buy beer in a 24 bottle case here, and for some reason it’s known as a two-four. No, I don’t know why).

The other fun thing is fireworks. Last night onne of our neighbours organized a small firework display at a local park. My family along with some of the other families with children on our block ooo-ed and ahh-ed and I eve got to play with sparklers. That brought back some childhood memories or Guy Fawkes night.

Which in a roundabout way brings me to my topic, Steampunk.

Steampunk. I have to say, I like the idea. On paper. It contains a lot of great elements:

  • Classic Victorian science fiction (Wells, Verne etc.)
  • An imaginative revisionist premise (steam and clocks driving a new technological revolution)
  • Cool clothing
  • subtle insertions into other genres

And it really is a mainstream genre now. From video games to TV and movies (even Halloween costumes), the Victorian era is back. (If you’re in Canada, contact the Steampunk Society of Canada

So, yeah, I was down with the idea – I loved William Gibson and Bruce Sterling’s “The Difference Engine” and I owned a pocket watch before Looper came out ( bought it at Fan Expo last summer along with a nice pair of goggles which fit over my own glasses from Lady Lilleigh’s Little Luxuries.(Also a fan of the bowler hat, but another time)

The trouble is, that, the delivery has been less than satisfying. I liked Gibson’s book, but I’m not really sure that’s a fair test, as I’ve read and enjoyed many of his works.

I heard Moorlock Night by KW Jeter was a good place to begin, as it was Jeter who coined the phrase steam punk. Imagine this, the moorlocks from Wells’ time machine were not the only branch of their species. There were also super-intelligent moorlocks who copy the Time Traveller’s design and use it to invade the past. OK. Now, I found the story a little clunky, but half way through the story abruptly shifts into an Arthurian legend story. Dreadful.

I recently read Kevin Angerson’s Clockwork Angels, which was  based on a short story and later album by Neil Pert, the drummer from Rush. It started off promisingly,  although instead of Victorian England, it was a future society. featuring characters like the Watchwatcher, the Anarchist and the Wreckers. However, about two-thirds of the way through, the novel abruptly switched gears into a Candide-style journey (one of the characters is called Pangloss – admiral not doctor though) laced with Objectivist style lessons (Pert is a fan of Ayn Rand).

And if you’ll forgive me a small digression, I can’t stand Ms. Rand. When I was in university, inspired by the number of times I saw Rand’s volumes on student shelves, I did dip into her works; turgid and didactic as they were. I guess I’ll use this opportunity to quote the famous assessment of her work

“There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old’s life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs.”

John Rogers, Kung Fu Monkey blog

But, back to reality, sort of. Even as I have yet to read what I consider to be the great steampunk novel (and please correct my ignorance!)n check out the editorial from Steampunk Magazine

Steampunk is a re-envisioning of the past with the hypertechnological perceptions of the present.

Unfortunately, most so-called “steampunk” is simply dressed-up, recreationary nostalgia: the stifling tea-rooms of Victorian

imperialists and faded maps of colonial hubris. This kind of sepia-toned yesteryear is more appropriate for Disney and suburban

grandparents than it is for a vibrant and viable philosophy or culture.

First and foremost, steampunk is a non-luddite critique of technology. It rejects the ultra-hip dystopia of the cyberpunks—

black rain and nihilistic posturing—while simultaneously forfeiting the “noble savage” fantasy of the pre-technological era.

It revels in the concrete reality of technology instead of the over-analytical abstractness of cybernetics. Steam technology is the

difference between the nerd and the mad scientist; steampunk machines are real, breathing, coughing, struggling and rumbling

parts of the world. They are not the airy intellectual fairies of algorithmic mathematics but the hulking manifestations of

muscle and mind, the progeny of sweat, blood, tears and delusions. The technology of steampunk is natural; it moves,

lives, ages and even dies.

Steampunk, that mad scientist, refuses to be fenced in by the ever-growing cages of specialization. Leonardo DaVinci is the

steampunker touchstone; a blurring of lines between engineering and art, rendering fashion and function mutually dependent.

Authentic steampunk seeks to take the levers of technology from those technocrats who drain it of both its artistic and real

qualities, who turn the living monsters of technology into the simpering servants of meaningless commodity.

Authentic Steampunk is not an artistic movement but an aesthetic technological movement. The machine must be liberated from efficiency and designed by desire and dreams.

The sleekness of optimal engineering is to be replaced with the necessary ornamentation of true function. Imperfection, chaos,

chance and obsolescence are not to be seen as faults, but as ways of allowing spontaneous liberation from the predictability of


Steampunk overthrows the factory of consciousness by means of beautiful entropy, creating a seamless paradox between

the practical and the fanciful. This living dream of technology is neither slave nor master, but partner in the exploration of

otherwise unknowable territories of both art and science.

Steampunk rejects the myopic, nostalgia-drenched politics so common among “alternative” cultures. Ours is not the culture of Neo-Victorianism and stupefying etiquette, not remotely an escape to gentleman’s clubs and classist rhetoric.

It is the green fairy of delusion and passion unleashed from her bottle, stretched across the glimmering gears of rage.

We seek inspiration in the smog-choked alleys of Victoria’s duskless Empire. We find solidarity and inspiration in the mad

bombers with ink stained cuffs, in whip-wielding women that yield to none, in coughing chimney sweeps who have escaped

the rooftops and joined the circus, and in mutineers who have gone native and have handed the tools of the masters to those

most ready to use them.

We are inflamed by the dockworkers of the Doglands as they set Prince Albert’s Hall ablaze and impassioned by the dark

rituals of the Ordo Templi Orientis. We stand with the traitors of the past as we hatch impossible treasons against our present.

Too much of what passes as steampunk denies the punk, in all of its guises. Punk—the fuse used for lighting cannons.

Punk—the downtrodden and dirty. Punk—the aggressive, do-it-yourself ethic. We stand on the shaky shoulders of opium-

addicts, aesthete dandies, inventors of perpetual motion machines, mutineers, hucksters, gamblers, explorers, madmen

and bluestockings. We laugh at experts and consult moth-eaten tomes of forgotten possibilities. We sneer at utopias

while awaiting the new ruins to reveal themselves. We are a community of mechanical magicians enchanted by the real

world and beholden to the mystery of possibility. We do not have the luxury of niceties or the possession of politeness; we are

rebuilding yesterday to ensure our tomorrow. Our corsets are stitched with safety pins and our top hats hide vicious mohawks.

We are fashion’s jackals running wild in the tailor shop.

It lives! Steampunk lives in the reincarnated collective past of shadows and ignored alleys. It is a historical

wunderkabinet, which promises, like Dr. Caligari’s, to wake the somnambulist of the present to the dream-reality of the future.

We are archeologists of the present, reanimating a hallucinatory history


Not the Empire. Not the social-conservatism. Not what was. What might be: “We stand with the traitors of the past as we hatch impossible treasons against our present.” I like that quite a lot. something to think about this Victoria day.


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Puff Goes the Weasel

May 18, 2013 at 8:28 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , )

In his house at R’lyeh dead Cthulhu waits dreaming

Well, it wasn’t the alignment of the stars that roused me from my slumber, it was the continuing political farce in Canada that is the Senate. For those who don’t know (or care) about such things, in Canada, the Senate is appointed by the governing federal party and essentially, whatever, its pretensions, it serves as a retirement reward for political insiders and party functionaries etc.

Periodically, calls come for the Senate’s abolition (the NDP) or reform (the current Conservative government), but little happens in the Red Chamber.

Currently though, the Senate is a little more interesting. A number of Senators (1 Liberal ad 3 conservatives – all of whom have quit their respective  caucuses) are under investigation for expenses related frauds.

So, you ask, why does this little scandal, which is admittedly juicy, hold interest for a left communist not usually concerned with the intricacies of capitalist corruption? After all, it really doesn’t matter too much which way the capitalist class maintains itself rule (although on a certain bourgeois democratic level, the Canadian senate on paper looks better than the British House of Lords. At least here, you have to grovel to current politics  rather than have had your ancestors do it for you)

Well, the thing that caught my interest wasn’t

1. That Pamela Wallin racked up $375,000 in travel expenses in a period of 2 and a half years (that’s $12,000 a month or over $400 a day if you’re doing the math)

2 That Mike Duffy claimed 90,000 in housing expenses, when he lives in Ottawa (his principle residence is allegedly a cottage in Prince Edward Island where he is currently hiding out)

3 That the money which Duffy still insists he did no wrong to claim was repaid by the Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff  and was in fact a gift (something under which Senate rules, so unclear according to Mr. Duffy, is illegal)

5 That said Prime Minister claims not to know about this although he is notorious as a control freak, but in any event defends his Chief of staff

6. Not even that the aggressively obnoxious Patrick Brazeau, currently charged with domestic assault and sexual assault as well as the expense claims, is going to fight to “clear his name.”

No no, actually as someone who has taken out loans and is still paying a mortgage (the bank and I have  lovely little house together), I’m sure that like many others, I wonder how the fuck I can get a job in the senate. It would be great to have those kind of friends. and I’d be sure not to make those mistakes!

Who was it said, the wealthy and the powerful don’t mind socialism, as long as it’s only for them: the rest of us get capitalism. Tell that to your bank manager, landlord or bill collector next time they come calling.

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Toronto Comic Arts Festival

May 6, 2013 at 10:12 pm (Uncategorized) (, , )

Yes it’s true. Last year, I stood in line for two hours so my son could get an autograph and a picture with the woman who does the voice of Ash Ketchum at Fan Expo. Sure, I love comics. This weekend however is a different end of the comic spectrum. The Toronto Comic Arts Festival takes over the Toronto Reference Library this weekend. Lots of amazing things, so go and have a look

Beguiling Poster 1

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Montreal Anarchist Bookfair 2013

May 5, 2013 at 2:12 pm (Uncategorized)

Coming up soon, the 2013 Montreal Anarchist Bookfair.

Events have already started, but the bookfair is May 25-26 (it’s the weekend after the Victoria Day long weekend).

Notes from Underground will be there will books, pamphlets, new issues of Aufheben and Internationalist Perspective, annd the usual sparkling wit. Seriously, go, you’ll have a great experience.

Montreal 2013

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The Return of the Palma Violets – The Lee’s Palace Review

May 4, 2013 at 10:00 pm (Uncategorized) ()

It’s not often I see the same band twice in a year, but last night I went to see the Palma Violets for the second time. This time promoting ann album and in a bigger venue to boot. I saw the band in January at the Horseshoe Tavern where they played a brief but energetic set to a half full venue. This time it was to the larger Lee’s Palace that the band brought their manic pop thrills.

Still, when we arrived a little before 10, the place seemed pretty empty. Maybe a hundred of so patrons milling around waiting for openers Guards I listened to some of their stuff online, and as sufficiently impressed to want to show up early for their set. Hard to pin down, but a sixties garage influence along with a few other things thrown in. The live set was a bit more free-ranging, and along with those influences there were a few prog-rock freak-outs. It’s been quite a while since I’ve sen a smoke machine used in a club, and by the end of the set it felt as if I had been transported back to the old days were everyone smoked in clubs. Energized, we waited.

11:45 and the Palma Violets took the stage. In many ways the performance wasn’t much different from the Horseshoe gig, except their cockiness had grown and they were playing to a few more people. The band ran through all their songs in about 37 minutes with a two song encore that  reminded me, and this is not a put-down, of a punk rock One Direction: a really together group having a good time doing what they do best. The band’s energy infected the audience and the audience responded animating the band further. Especially during the encore when Guards returned and at least one audience member made it to the stage All this and a cover of “Invasion of the Tribbles” by Calgary’s Hot Nasties (OK, I had to google that!)

I’m not sure if the Palma Violets have a long career in front of them. Sometimes the flame that burns twice as brightly, burns half as long. But, it’s always great to see a band in that initial stage, when they are full of energy playing as if their lives depended upon it.  Maybe they don’t want us to be their girl, but I’m happy to be their best friend.

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Happy May Day 2013

May 1, 2013 at 11:02 pm (Uncategorized) (, , )

International Workers Day. 2013. Gone are the tanks that marked the state-capitalism of eastern Europe. Largely gone are the welfare-statist social democracies of western Europe. What does remain is the dream. A couple of times I’ve been to May-day celebrations organized by the Worker-Communist Parties or Ira n and Iraq (names changed now, but it doesn’t matter) Now I don’t agree with the odd Leninist politics of the group, but the food was good and the evening always had the Internationale  sung in English, Farsi, Arabic, French, Kurdish and probably something else at the same time. Solidarity.

I know some people don’t like this version, and I’m not fond of Bragg’s politics, but at least he tries to look forward in this rendition from the celebration of Pete Seeger’s 90th birthday.

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