Goodbye 2013

December 31, 2013 at 7:15 pm (Uncategorized)

Well, 2013 ended with the aftermath of an ice storm. Usually, I complain about weather porn. You know, the tendency of the media to whip up any event into something bigger and grander than it is. But ultimately, it’s a let down. You’re left unsatisfied, just like…well, you know. This time, the ice storm that hit Toronto more than satisfied. We were without power for two days, but some people still don’t have power a week later. Next time I’ll keep my big mouth shut. So, here are a few of things that made the year enjoyable

1. Italy

Hands down the winner. I spent two weeks in Italy this July, mostly in Florence, but a couple of days in Rome and Arezzo. Simply put, the best vacation of my life: Art galleries, museums, food, wine, gelato, friends. I could go on. I will go on. As with any vacation though, I felt as if I’d only scratched the surface. Another time, another time.

2. New Music

Sure, I look forward to new albums by Arcade Fire or Anna Calvi, but there’s a real joy in coming across that first record by a new artist. Artists  like Valerie June, Metz, Arson, the Bare Mutants, Pup and the Strypes made life interesting this year. Looking forward to hearing new sounds from them, and all the other great new bands out there.

3.  Agents of SHIELD

Oh, I know there’s some of you that will call “sell-out” here. That Whedon’s TV project isn’t as sharp as some of his other works, but that’s OK. It’s just sharp, witty and action filled enough. Remember that first season of Dollhouse took its time to find its feet too? Me and the boy spend a lot of time on this one.

4. Riot Fest

I kept meaning to write about this one, but somehow never got around to it. Riot Fest was the two-day punk fest that hit Toronto right at the end of summer. I only caught the second day, but hey, how many times do you get to see Rocket from the Crypt (sorry Chris, I know you weren’t a fan), Dinosaur Jr., Best Coast and Iggy Pop on one bill. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to stay for the Replacements, but that’s OK (saw them years ago). One question, the Weakerthans? Good band, but they stuck out like a sore thumb on the bill.

5. The Daily Show starring Rob Ford

Now here I’m referring to both Jon Stewart’s Daily Show which I began watching again this year, and the Rob Ford circus taking place here in Toronto. Every time I thought Ford couldn’t top his last bit (and let’s face it, fessing up to smoking crack in a drunken stupor with accused drug dealers sets the bar pretty high), Ford outdid himself. I remember watching Ford’s comments about oral sex at work at work with hushed colleagues.  Stewart’s reaction was even better.

6. Giant Boulder of Death

Thank you Lindsey for introducing me to this colossal waste of time to which I am completely addicted (I suspect though it has something to do with the fact that my son has a high score which dwarfs my own)

7.  James Bond

After watching Skyfall last year, I re-acquainted myself with the Bond brand. Yup, reactionary nonsense (especially if you watch the early films), but tremendously enjoyable on another level. I’m gradually working by way through the novels and the Connery years (not sure how I’ll feel when I reach the Roger Moore ones though)

8. Moleskine

Huh. My own little black book. My wife has bought this brand for years. Me? I’m a new convert.

9. Fountain pen

When I was a kid I wrote in pencil until I was about 8 or 9. The kids with the neatest handwriting got ink pens. I was one of the last in the class to get one. Unfortunately, when I did get a pen I discovered that writing with real ink and being left-handed were not exactly a good fit. And like most of the lefties you know, it took me a while to work it out.  This year though, I got a fountain pen for Christmas. So far, it’s been a cool experience.

10. Adventure Time

This was the year I became an Adventure Time nut. It’s an odd show which is adored by 10-year-olds, 20-somethings and people my age as well. And sure my favourites are like every one else’s (Marceline, Ice King and Gunthar). But is it just me or is the show getting weirder? 

11. Arrow

I liked the first season of Arrow, the TV adaptation of DC comics’ Green Arrow, but the second season is really quite outstanding. It’s a clever mix of current day and back story, and I’ve really enjoyed how other DC characters such as  Deathstroke, Deadshot, Count Vertigo, and others have been worked into the story in an original fashion. Looking forward to the Flash spinoff.

12. David Bowie

New album and a retrospective at the AGO! Ooh. I wrote about both, so I won’t repeat myself too much. I liked about half the album, and the AGO show was quite wonderful. It’s the mark of a successful artist when listening to something new by them sends you into a voyage of discovery and also remembrance of their other works.

13. Saga

A newish book by Brian K Vaughan (Y, Ex Machina) and Fiona Staples once described as “Star Wars meets Game of Thrones.”  More like Romeo and Juliet in Space, but despite my lazy characterizations, the weird characters, the witty writing and the fantastic art make this series an ongoing joy.

14. Fatale

Ed Brubaker’s latest series about, a well, demon femme fatale blends Lovecraft with Brubaker’s noir horror style. And like much of Brubaker’s other work, it usually contains an essay by Jesse Nevins at the back. (Check out Velvet too – imagine Ms. Moneypenny was James Bond)

15. Mike Mignola

Met Mignola at Fan Expo this summer. Lovely guy who signed everything I put in front of him. I’m currently reading the adaption of Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser he did with Howard Chaykyn a few decades back. Thanks Mike for some of the best stuff around.

16. Cheese Magic

The best cheese shop in the city. Hi Ping!

17. Canada’s Wonderland

Me and the boy always seem to end up there in the summer. I couldn’t coax the girl this year, so it was just the two of us. Yeah, it’s hot, noisy, the park is overpriced and the line-ups are ridiculous, but it’s still a thrill. (I’m still not brave enough for Leviathan though)

18. Skunks

What? Maybe it doesn’t belong on this list, but I learned a lot about skunks this year when my dog got sprayed. When I caught up with him, he was whimpering and the skunk was advancing on him. I shooed the skunk away and picked up Lester (yes, foolish – I ended up throwing those clothes away). The dog was dripping. I was surprised how thick the skunk juice was and how quickly my house filled it. And for the next few days at work, I was the butt of skunk jokes. I’d like to think it taught the dog something, but I doubt it.

19. Hamilton

Sure, it’s an idealized joy, I know. I lived in Hamilton from 1983 to 1987 when I attended McMaster University. In 1987, I moved to Toronto and have only been back a dozen or so times, usually for a meeting or some such, but whenever I do go, I miss it. It’s living away from the pulse beat which allows a different culture. It’s not Toronto, and it doesn’t want to be.

20 A Quotation

I usually end the year with a quotation about hope or revolution or something like that. I’m re-reading Catcher in the Rye, and this one jumped out.

“I like it when somebody gets excited about something. It’s nice.” – Holden Caulfield

Get excited. Change things.

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Memories of Lives Past: It’s the Return of the Dik Van Dykes

December 30, 2013 at 2:34 pm (Uncategorized) (, )

Ever go to a New Year’s Party, even one a few days early, and realize it’s actually a reunion?  Well, I kind of did that last year at Dik Van Dykes drummer Stu Smith’s 50th birthday party, but this time, this time, it was in Hamilton. Hometown rules.

I’d never been to This Ain’t Hollywood, but it wasn’t hard to find, and damn if it didn’t look like a dozen other grubby bars: Tiny stage at one end, questionable washrooms, a treacherous step in the middle (yes, I nearly fell twice) and hockey on the TV. In other words, the perfect venue to see a band. It bore a striking resemblance to the Corktown Tavern, ( I remember seeing No Means No, Deja Voodoo and Shadowy Men at different times there in the eighties). Greatness awaits.

I should mention too that this was a free show. (“No refunds” read the poster). But along with the price of admission came downloads for the two DVD albums, No One Likes… and Waste Mor Vinyl, posters , coasters, a lanyard and a button. Only the t-shirts cost money (I didn’t buy one and regret it now – someone help me out?).

Like the show at the Bovine last year, memories filled the place. Old friends, closer friends. CFMU royalty (sadly, no Tim Collier), even Forgotten Rebel Mickey DeSadist was there. People I had forgotten introduced themselves to me. I had a couple of experiences where people had forgotten me too. It’s all good.  After a quarter of a century (when I left Hamilton), we’ve all changed a lot, and while Facebook has spoiled a lot of the reasons to go to a reunion, the “road not taken” factor still holds true.  And for someone like me who has trouble keeping up relationships, it was good to see people again. (Even though I’m still not much of a mixer). DVD guitarist Steve Hoy gently chided me a little for sitting at the back. Hey, that was pretty much how I was at university too, and since I had to drive back to Toronto, social lubricants didn’t seem like a good idea. But I moved up for each set.

First up were the, er, marvellous, Late Jimmy Marvelous (one day I’m going to ask someone what that means ). Billed as two DVDs (Steve and Stu) a Wet Spot (the incomparable Pat) and a “cute guy on bass,” the LJM ploughed through songs from their album (which was also free at the merch table), including a lovely version of “Too Fat to Ska.”

The Strummerelos  (spelling right this time!) were next.  Last year their set was drawn exclusively from the Clash, either originals or Clash covers (nothing wrong with that), but this year they drew on wider punk sources including Rancid, the Jam, the Specials and Stiff Little Fingers for the ska-ified versions. The perfect soundtrack for a party. (and there’s lots on You Tube to see )

Third were the Krumones, a tribute to the Ramones who borrow their name from the late, and very great Imants Krumins.  and who played a great selection of Ramones covers.

Finally the Dik Van Dykes at 12:20. The band ambled onto the stage and we all took our places. Just before they began, we noticed what Sarah and Renee were holding. “Silly String ” someone behind me squealed. And Bang! we were into “Lime Green Slime.”

And for the next hour, they thrilled. Missed notes and stumbles. Sure. Did they play everyone’s favourite? Nah. I heard shouts for “Gumby” and the reply “I can’t even remember the words,” but they played so many songs we knew and loved, it didn’t matter.

Not sure how many times I saw the Dik Van Dykes over the years, but they were always pretty much the same.  Equal measures of absurdity, punk and self-deprecating humour. Still can’t sing; still can’t play” went the new song “Oh You” but we didn’t care (though we knew it wasn’t true). They were our band.

Next year, Montreal or St. Catharines?

Set List

1. Lime Green Slime
2. Disneyland
3. Six Feet
4. Law ‘n’ Ornaments
5. Klaus Barbie
6 [oops – can’t read my handwriting – I really should print these things]
7. Curling
8. Harold Snepsts
9. Too much like fun
10. Garage Sale
11. Muskrat Love
12. The Birthday Song
12. Lazlo


Oh You (new Song!!!!)
Auld Lang Syne
Road Warrior

PS: None of my pictures came out and no one seems to have posted their footage on You Tube yet. C’mon get on with it!

PPS: You can get the Dik Van Dykes music on CD Baby (and the Late Jimmy Marvelous) – now what about that Gown and Gavel show?

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Music Notes December 2013

December 29, 2013 at 7:09 pm (Uncategorized)

Post X-mas, here we are.

1. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – Live from KCRW

When I look through my record collection, Nick Cave occupies a significant part of it. This live-in-the-studio set follows and nicely complements Push Away the Sky. It’s a little quieter, but there’s an authenticity, an intimacy that’s really beautiful. Even in the quietest moments.

2. The Housemartins – Now That’s What I Call Quite Good

It’s really quite difficult to find Housemartins stuff these days, so it was nice to come across this set in a used bin (OK, OK, write and tell me how easy it is to find thin sounding MP3s). This 24 song collection misses a few things no doubt, but it has some rarer things too and curiously listings for how many records they sold in New Zealand. Take, Marx, Take Jesus, Take hope!

3. Billie Joe and Norah- Foreverly

I almost bought this last week, and a few hours later a friend gave it to me as a gift (Thank you Mr. Faulkner).  Foreverly is Billie Joe Armstrong from Green Day and Norah Jones from, well, Norah Jones (I was going to say Ravi Shankar, but decided not to – oops) taking on the Everly Brothers 1958 album Songs Our Daddy Taught Us. It’s a charming, faithful version, and if it encourages anyone to seek out the Everlys, that’s a good thing; however, it also begs the question, why do it? A cover really should put a new stamp shouldn’t it? Otherwise stick to the original.

4. The Strypes with Wilko Johnson -“Roxette”

OK, the video and audio are terrible, but it’s Wilko with the Strypes! Oh, you lucky people in Toronto. The Strypes are here in just a few weeks at Lee’s – I’ve got my ticket!

5. The Ramones – End of the Century

As this  album was released in 1980, many reviewers scratched their heads noting it was still two decades till that event. Still, the album was ambitious, trying to create one those great rock n roll albums,  and it was produced by Phil Spector. Unfortunately, it’s a mess. True, there are some great moments (“Danny Says” and “I can’t make it on time”), but a lot of it sounds confused or re-treads (“The Return of Jackie and Judy” and “This ain’t Havana” are sequels!).  On “Baby I Love You” though, Joey proves he can sing pretty much anything and be amazing. And those demos on the remastered album are really worth having.

6. The Oxford American

One of the great things about this season is the new issue of the Oxford American’ s  music issue. This year the magazine focuses on the music of Tennessee and has a 50 song 2 CD set (almost three hours of music!) The songs range from the 1920 to this year and covers pretty much every musical style: jazz, blues, folk, punk, country, soul, you name it. And you get a very cool magazine about the music. Quite indispensable.

7. Velocity Girl – EP

Remember Velocity Girl? No? Too bad. A Maryland sugar-pop band with an amazing name from the 1990s. This six-song EP is actually a collection of singles, but for me, it’s their most perfectly realized record.

8. Sam Cooke – The Hits

15 essential songs. Just because.

9. Eddie Vedder with Jeane Tripplehorn – “Shattered”

Now read what I wrote about Foreverly and see what I mean. This is inspired. Just watch it.

10. No One Likes the Dik Van Dykes / Waste Mor Vinyl

I was in Hamilton, ON last night to see the Dik Van Dykes at a reunion show (full review later). Everyone in attendance got a download card for CD Baby for both albums.  Go here now to hear them. I now the tag is friends don’t let friends like the Dik Van Dykes, but I’m not your friend.

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The NYT and the IWW

December 29, 2013 at 6:28 pm (Uncategorized)

Reading the New York Times this morning, I stumbled across an article about Socialist Alternative’s new councilor in Seattle, Kshama Sawant. Socialist Alternative, for those who either don’t know or wish they didn’t, is the US section of the Committee for a Workers International, founded by Ted Grant in the 1970s. (SA began it’s life as Labor Militant in 1985) . So if you thought Seattle city council meetings were boring in the past…

I was able to ignore the usual nonsense about the significance of this election (the World Socialist Web Site have already written a fairly convincing demolition),  but the identification of the Wobblies as the International Workers of the World rather than Industrial is one of the most consistently irritating newspaper errors for me. Oh, I’m not saying I’m perfect. I’m pretty sure there’s a typo or two in this piece, but then again I don’t employ professional editors and fact checkers. Now, in the interests of fairness, I should note, it’s already been corrected on the web edition and it pales to an earlier times error listing Leonard Cohen as the late Leonard Cohen, but still.

The thing is that this is not an uncommon error, even on the left. For example,  the AK Press edition of Pannekoek’s Workers Councils makes this error. How long before collective memory renames the IWW?

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MHI, IP Public Meeting Video

December 28, 2013 at 9:18 pm (Uncategorized)

Earlier this month, Internationalist Perspective participated in a public meeting with the Marxist-Humanist Initiative. MHI have now posted the video on their web site.

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From the Land of Ice and Snow

December 25, 2013 at 4:05 am (Uncategorized)

Oh I had such dreams of things to finish before Christmas. Posts to be written on music, politics and other interests. PDFs to be added here and there. Links to other sites. Then there was that pesky ice storm that hit Toronto Saturday night and eastern Canada shortly afterward.

Lots of trees down. No power for 48 hours. None of the above got finished. (Oh and my fish all died – froze to death). Probably won’t get to too much done before the weekend now – presents to unwrap, movies to watch, family to visit, Dik Van Dykes to be seen etc.

And so it goes. Merry whatever…

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Hugh Cornwell in Toronto

December 20, 2013 at 3:38 pm (Uncategorized) (, )

Me and the Stranglers go way back. One of the first punk records I heard was “Peaches.” I was listening to the top twenty countdown on Radio 1 and it came on: Whaat? Of course I didn’t understand half of it, but I knew it was nothing like I’d heard on the radio. Ah, the innocence of youth. The following year, Black and White was the first real record I bought, not a greatest hits album, but a real record. Later that year I bought my first copy of the New Musical Express (which I read religiously for the next three years) because the Stranglers were on the cover. Finally, when I went to my first concert, it was the Stranglers on the Raven tour. Yup. They were my favourite band. So, even though I was sick, I dragged myself out to see former Stranglers frontman Hugh Cornwell at Lee’s last Sunday night.

First though, a mention about one of my favourite local bands, Arson. When Arson took the stage about sixty people were hanging out, but the number quickly doubled. The crowd responded energetically as Arson gave their usual journeyman-like  performance; straight ahead punk rock without the frills.  Arson will likely never be millionaires, but it’s just as likely they don’t care. If this sounds like special pleading, it probably is: support local bands; go and buy their album Not Always About You (at the show it was half-price, so you missed out!)

Hugh Cornwell took the stage along with his bass player and drummer at 10:15, announcing that his plan was to play most of his new album Totem and Taboo and a lot of Stranglers songs – “something for everybody.”

The band began with the title track from the new album, and it was quickly evident that Cornwell had continued  with that “Stranglers” sound: Understand lead guitar, muscular bass, and pounding drums. Everything but the keyboards, which had the effect of making the songs sound punkier. Throughout the set, Cornwell alternated between new stuff and old Stranglers songs playing tracks from Black and White,  Rattus Novegicus, The Raven and more. I’ll admit that I had stopped following the Stranglers even before Cornwell left, and apart from Hoover dam, I was pretty much unfamiliar with his solo work; however, a curious thing happened at the show. While I wanted to hear those old Stranglers song, the new stuff was just as interesting.  

Near the start, Cornwell thanked us for coming out on a “school night,” and at the end of the evening we didn’t get detention, but a tasty two song encore: “Grip” and “No More Heroes.”


Totem and Taboo
Nice ‘n’ Sleazy
I want one too
Stuck in Daily Mail Land
Hanging Around
Bad Vibration
Skin Deep
God is a Woman
Golden Brown
God Guns and Gays
Always the Sun
A Street Called Carroll
In the Dead of the Night


(Get a ) Grip (On yourself)
No More Heroes

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The Kills at the Music Hall

December 18, 2013 at 2:47 pm (Uncategorized)

The Kills, Alison Mosshart and Jamie Hince, have been together for over a decade. During this time, they’re released four quite amazing albums. I’d seen the Kills three times already, and the music hall is a great venue. How could I not go to this one?

US Girls opened the show. Actually, Girls is a bit of a misnomer; it’s just Meg Remy who tours with a full band. Looking a lot like the cool aunt that Miley Cyrus stole her ideas from, Remy opened her set with the announcement she had just moved to Toronto and then began with a cover of Sloan’s “underwhelmed.” Throughout her forty minute set, interest built. By the final song, Springsteen’s “Dancing in the Dark” the audience, including me, was won over to her noise. Check out her Bandcamp page.

Then the Kills. If you’ve heard the records, you know they’re a great band. But…it’s nothing compared to the stage show. True, the stage is minimal, just Hince and Mosshart, though these days accompanied by the Black Rooster Drum Corp. to add percussion, but they presence is something else. While Hince stands to one side still, Mosshart never stops moving. With her hair dyed blonde, but with the roots showing, Mosshart stalked the stage spitting out lyrics. For my money, the Kills are one of the best live bands working today.

Complaints? Only two. I was certain, given Lou Reed’s recent passing, that they would play “Pale Blue Eyes” as an encore. They didn’t. (If you haven’t heard this, seek it out – it’s sublime). Two, and this is a real complaint. On the last album, Blood Pressures, the band pulled in different directions – reggae, Hince singing etc, but after two years no new songs in the set. Great stuff to be sure, but, we’re all hoping for a new album (rumoured to be out in 2014 now).


Set List

1. Future Starts slow
2. Heart is a Beating Drum
3. Kissy Kissy
4. U.R. A. Fever
5. Satellite
6. DNA
7. Baby Says
8. Tape Song
9. Black Balloon
10. No wow
11. Pots and Pans
12. Monkey 23


1. The Last Goodbye
2. Last Day of Magic
3. Fried My Little Brains
4. Sour Cherry

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Love in a Cold Climate

December 17, 2013 at 1:15 pm (Uncategorized) ()

Living in Canada can be a challenge. It’s going to snow every year, and it’s going to snow…often. The drive to work this morning was , well, shitty. And every year there’s that moment when you’re walking on a beautiful sunny day, the ground covered with a blanket of freshly fallen snow (sorry, Paul Simon) when the wind hits you in the forehead with the most unimaginable pain. And so it goes.

Getting a dog, I knew would complicate this because I knew it would be me walking him early and late: Find the dog’s coat; put the grease coating on the dog’s paws to protect his feet against the salt; try to stop the dog from licking the stuff off before you get outside, etc.

But after all that. As I walk the dog this morning, it hits me just how beautiful it is. First of all there’s almost no one around. The occasional car drives past. A man shovels his pathway. Another walks her dog. The trees hang heavy with snow, and the snow continues to fall. Surely one of the most beautiful sights is how the snow falls through the street light’s beam.

Many years ago I taught ESL in Calgary. Once a student from Japan asked me the word for the snow when it fell this way. “Dunno,” I replied.”I don’t think we have a word.”

“Oh,” she said. “It looks like angel’s breath.”

It’s at moments like this when despite all the dreadful things which occur in the world there are those rare moments of beauty. It’s when you think, why couldn’t it always be like this?  I’m not going to ruin a reflection with a speech, but it’s a good thought to start the day.

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Toronto Anarchist Bookfair 2013

December 13, 2013 at 10:25 pm (Uncategorized)

Don’t forget this Sunday is the Toronto Anarchist Bookfair, this year at Ryerson University downtown.

The bookfair is from 10 – 7 and more details are available at the Facebook page

The weather is supposed to be crappy tomorrow, so fingers crossed for Sunday.

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