Music Notes November 2014

November 30, 2014 at 2:16 pm (Uncategorized)

I know I should really be finishing some other writing projects, but still…

1. Ex Hex – Rips

Rips it does. A punk rock glam rock debut of sorts by Mary Timony, formerly of Wild Flag and Helium. Very loveable.

2. The Professionals – I Didn’t See it Coming

After the crack-up of the Pistols, Steve and Paul bummed around for a while before they formed this outfit. And while it’s isn’t the Pistols Mark II, the Professionals were a credible band with catchy songs and singalong choruses. But to be honest, the bonus tracks on this release, mostly singles, work better for me than the album. Fun fact, a while after this album was released, some of the band were involved in a serious auto accident, making the title mildly ironic.

3. The Pop Group – Citizen Zombie

The first released track from the new album. When I was about 16, I bought a copy of the Pop Group’s For How Much Longer Do we Tolerate Mass Murder? It’s a dizzy trip. Punk, funk jazz, even a Last Poets track, and a bunch of posters in the sleeve. This track from the new album doesn’t quite reach those heights, but it’s funky and scary. Have a listen at their site.

4. My Chemical Romance – “Desolation Row”

Re-watched Watchmen the other day. I still prefer the comic book, but the movie is quite, er, watchable (as opposed to some other adaptations of Alan Moore’s work) . My Chemical Romance cover Dylan’s “Desolation Row” over the closing credits (the video is included on the Blu-Ray release). Sure, it’s no Dylan (it’s about a third of the length), but it’s a pleasant punk rock rave up.

5. Bob Dylan and the Band – The Bootleg Series Volume 11: The Complete Basement Tapes

With the advent of downloads, a lot of bands have opted to release live rarities and dodgy demos from their catalogue in order to boost flagging sales. A friend and I keep wondering when Dylan will scrape bottom. This isn’t it. Sure, the 2-CD version will appeal to fans, but a six-CD complete set of the Basement Tapes just in time for Christmas. Wow!

6. Creedence Clearwater Revival – Chronicle volume 2

If you wanted to skip the albums and get all of the singles, Chronicle volume 1 was the one for you. The second volume cherry picks the albums, and in some ways it’s more interesting than the singles collection. Fogerty and co reinterpret blues, country and folk, making for a somewhat different Creedence than you hear on classic rock radio.

7. De La Soul featuring Chuck D – “We the People”

New track available at the De La Soul web site

8. Oxford American – The Music Issue

The annual music issue of the Oxford American is due to be released on Monday, and this year focuses on Texas. It’s a wonderful magazine with an amazingly varied CD. Every year. Need something to read and to listen to this Christmas? Now you know what.

9. Gang of Four – Shrinkwrapped

I was a big Go4 fan when I was a teen. I played and played Entertainment! but never got to see then until a few years back: The original line up playing hits. I don’t usually do reunion tours, but I really wanted to see them. And they were great. They’re touring next year, but it’s only Andy Gill, so I’ll pass. I was digging through some boxes the other day and came across a copy of  1995’s Shrinkwrapped. And while everything the band will ever do will be unfairly compared to that debut, this holds up pretty well. Slashing guitar, anguished call-out vocals and maybe even a hit or two. Cool.

10. One Direction – Four

For a while I thought their 15 minutes was up. My daughter who was a huge 1D fan had drifted to other things, but with the release of Four, just in time for the holidays, she’s back. The songs seem to continually be playing in the house. Is it great stuff? Not to my ears, but it’s perfectly serviceable pop music.

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Questions from a Worker Who Reads

November 24, 2014 at 1:47 am (Uncategorized) ()

I was thumbing through a book of Brecht’s poems today and came across this one. Hadn’t read in a a long time. Worth reprinting. (this from the Marxist International Library)

Who built Thebes of the 7 gates ?
In the books you will read the names of kings.
Did the kings haul up the lumps of rock ?

And Babylon, many times demolished,
Who raised it up so many times ?

In what houses of gold glittering Lima did its builders live ?
Where, the evening that the Great Wall of China was finished, did the masons go?

Great Rome is full of triumphal arches.
Who erected them ?

Over whom did the Caesars triumph ?
Had Byzantium, much praised in song, only palaces for its inhabitants ?

Even in fabled Atlantis, the night that the ocean engulfed it,
The drowning still cried out for their slaves.

The young Alexander conquered India.
Was he alone ?

Caesar defeated the Gauls.
Did he not even have a cook with him ?

Philip of Spain wept when his armada went down.
Was he the only one to weep ?

Frederick the 2nd won the 7 Years War.
Who else won it ?

Every page a victory.
Who cooked the feast for the victors ?

Every 10 years a great man.
Who paid the bill ?

So many reports.

So many questions.

Bertolt Brecht


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New York, You’re Killing Me

November 23, 2014 at 4:32 pm (Uncategorized) ()

When I go to New York, I often talk about the “Curse of New York.” The first time I went to New York was in 1986, and since then I’ve at least a dozen times. And over this time,  I’ve had flights cancelled by storms (we sat on the runway for over two hours), had flights delayed by hours, got caught in a blackout, suffered from serious illness, fallen while alighting from a coach (that’s for all you all Healyites out there), and so on. But I continue to chance my luck.

I went to New york twice this year; not bad. I was in New York for a weekend in June without incident, so maybe I got cocky. About a month after the trip I was talking to my younger sister and discovered she had never been to New York.  My wife and her brother take trips all the time: right, I though. Taking my sister to the Big City.

Friday night, we took a Porter flight into Newark Liberty then a bus into Manhattan. No real problems except that I have a tiny 50s style ray-gun key ring at which airport security frowned. Oh, and the staff at Newark were fairly unhelpful in giving directions to the bus, but I digress.

We stayed in mid-town, and our hotel was a short walk from the Port Authority bus station. My sister thought it would be a good idea to go to the Empire State Building Friday night (it’s around the corner from our hotel), to check one thing off of the list right away. Good idea. I’ve been up the Empire State Building twice, but never at night, and I have to admit the night views pretty impressive. Still, a voice in my head muttered quietly: It’s 11:00 at night and you’re eighty stories above the ground. It’s freezing and you don’t have a hat. Is this wise? In retrospect, I should have listened to that voice.

Saturday morning,  we went uptown to the Guggenheim. We went to see the Zero exhibit. 1050’s European avant-garde artists. It wasn’t exactly what I expected, but a lot of the art and installation were pretty cool.

Then came the best part of the trip, a walk through Central Park. I’ve been to the park on other occasions, but the weather was perfect and the leaves hadn’t dropped yet. A glorious blend of autumn colours  made for a great moment. The old Chinese guy playing the Tennessee Waltz at Belvedere Castle made for another moment too.

But alas, the strains were already starting to tell. When we returned late afternoon to the hotel, I noticed the begging of a cough. Was this the curse of New York? But we persevered. In the evening I fulfilled a long-time goal: a drink in the White Horse Tavern. The White is of course the bar where Dylan Thomas drank his last.

On Sunday, we walked the High Line, and wandered through Chelsea (past the hotel), down through Greenwich Village and headed over toward the Bowery. And then my sister got sick too. We headed back to the hotel, but the tide had turned. I later headed over to Staten Island to meet a friend (sorry JG, I wasn’t exactly well). It’s a not a trip to NY unless you ride the Staten Island Ferry.

And then it was back to Toronto. Two week later, I’m still sick. I missed a number of days at work the following week, and the hacking cough is still with me.  (sorry again JG, I wasn’t as well as I let on later) New York is a great city. It’s my go-to getaway town. Lots of favourite places and shops, but man, do I ever have bad luck whenever I go.

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To Our Readers

November 16, 2014 at 7:12 pm (Uncategorized)

This statement was published recently on the IP website.

In all small political groups, there are occasional episodes of dysfunction; Internationalist Perspective is not immune from this and, indeed at our annual conferences over some years, all of our members have voiced such concerns and we tried to get to the roots of the problems. The dissatisfaction felt about the quality of our collective work is shared and, if we want to suggest a major cause, it is linked to the general difficulty in being able to carry out revolutionary work in the present phase of capitalism’s development. We won’t here go into that general matter, but we do want to describe some recent difficulties.

In International Perspective 57, dated Fall/Winter 2012, we published the first part of a text entitled ‘International Perspective and the Tradition of the Communist Left’ (IP&LCT). It was presented as a draft text and the brief introduction to it declared an intention to adopt such a document at our next conference which was to be held mid-2013. In Internationalist Perspective 58/59, dated Winter 2013/2014, the introduction to parts 2 and 3 of this document stated that:

“In a series of three texts we developed our critique of the Communist Left and, at the same time, spelled out our own views on the questions they confronted and which still confront us today, ranging from theoretical to practical: how can we understand social reality, history, the periodization of capitalism, crisis and revolution. … …

At its conference last summer, IP collectively discussed, amended and approved the three texts. IP does not have a platform, but this series is the most comprehensive exposition of our positions since ‘The world as we see it in IP#27 (1994) (readers who compare the texts will notice our considerable evolution since then).”

However, towards the end of 2013 it became apparent that there were widely disparate views about the status of this work. For some, IP&LCT was a landmark in the exposition of our positions but for others the document constituted only a discussion text. How these two perspectives co-existed for the several years during which time the document was re-drafted by several comrades (and discussed thoroughly at the 2013 conference) is still a mystery to us all – and one we must solve. So, for the avoidance of doubt, we have to say that the statement that this series is a ‘comprehensive expositions of our positions’ is wrong and that IP&LCT cannot be regarded as the view of IP as a whole. So, we continue to discuss. Sadly, one of our comrades has resigned during the period when we were becoming aware of the differences within us.

This difficult situation has brought several repercussions. On the negative side we are no longer capable of producing Internationalist Perspective in two languages – so we shall no longer publish the French review. Perspective Internationaliste 58/59 was the last one. For now. We have, however, decided on some actions to move our work forward:

We have recognised the need to have a reference text to provide a coherent exposition of our shared views. Discussion has begun and we would hope to have it agreed at our next conference mid-2015.

The website will become the principal means of publishing our work. It is currently being rebuilt (long overdue) and we aim to have it live by the end of this year.

We are trying to get to the bottom of the dysfunctions that have affected our work. Although not the underlying cause, our dispersion has created difficulties (we have four native languages and seven time zones between us) and we shall try to be very conscious of the state of our various discussions.

We believe Internationalist Perspective has made a worthwhile contribution to the development of Marxist theory and has endeavoured to intervene in social struggles to the degree we could. All of us in Internationalist Perspective wish to continue with this activity.

Internationalist Perspective

(Agreed unanimously)

October 2014


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Inactivity Update

November 16, 2014 at 7:08 pm (Uncategorized)

A hectic week at work, a quick trip to New York and then a week of illness has meant that I haven’t posted anything in over a fortnight. But, that’s coming to an end, so expect to see things up with a little more regularity now.



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