Music Notes November 2015

November 30, 2015 at 4:21 pm (Uncategorized)

And here we are again.

1 Elvis Costello – Unfaithful Music and Disappearing Ink

I’ve read too many rock autobiographies this year which disappoint (Chrissie Hynde, Kim Gordon). this doesn’t. Costello is a marvellous storyteller, and this slightly fractured narrative is entertaining throughout. Costello discusses family, his career and most interesting the genesis of songs and songwriting. Great.

2. Jeremy Reed – Waiting for the Man: The Life and Music of Lou Reed

As prep for Howard Sounes new controversial biography of Lou Reed, I read Jeremy Reed’s book. A quick read with lots of interesting details, but here too, Lou comes across as a bit of a dick.

3. Chris Isaak – First Comes the Night

Chris Isaak is best whenever he channels the spirits. Much as I loved his versions of the classics on Beyond the Sun, his own work holds up. This one, his 12th, is a solid collection of hurtin’ songs which as with the best of Isaak’s work seem timeless.

4. Bob Dylan – Best of the Cutting Edge 

Every time a new “bootleg” is released, I feel as if I’m reading  Juliet, Naked again. I was certain I didn’t need the 17 (or was it 18?) disc collection which featured everything from these sessions, but what’s left is pretty amazing: alternative takes, demos, radically stripped down versions. I’ll say that I consider Blonde on Blonde, Dylan’s first rock album. To my ears Bringing it all Back Home and Highway 61 are still folk records with electric backing. BOB is a new thing. And it is a revelation to hear those early version of the songs. Amazing.

5. Kurt Cobain – Montage of Heck OST

Which brings us to this. I’ve heard this described as Cobain’s solo album. It isn’t. It’s a collection of demos, good ideas, jokes, and things which should never have seen the light of day. Sure, sure, Cobain’s version of “And I love here” is absolutely worth hearing , but too much of this collection is simply half-finished musings. It doesn’t add to the legacy, it cheapens it.

6. David Bowie – “Blackstar”

Hmm. The title track from the forthcoming album. The video feels like the soundtrack to a Dr. Who episode, I’m just not sure if that’s a compliment or not. Haunting vocals and percussion driven, it’s not exactly standard (it’s also ten minutes long). It’s worth investigating just because it’s Bowie, but it’s more than that too.

7.  Oxford American –  The Music Issue

One of the annual pleasures. Oxford America’s “Southern music issue” focuses on Georgia this year. Fantastic essays on Janelle Monae, the Athens’ music scene, Sharon Jones, the Indigo Girls, Blind Willie McTell, and more; a free CD and James Brown on the cover. A stocking stuffer for the music fan in your life.

8. Nenah Cherry and the Circuit – “Dead Come Alive”

A “lost” On-U recording coming a few years before “Buffalo Stance.” Funky electronica.

9. One Direction – Made in the A.M.

OK Sam, I listened to the record. Um, I like their earlier, funnier stuff. Seriously, the transition away from the poppy boy band sound to a more mature, what we used to call either MOR or AOR rock sound doesn’t grab me.  My daughter likes the record, but it’s never going to be the mass cult of a few years back.

10.  Beach Boys – Party: Uncovered and Unplugged

Way back when, the band recorded this as a stopgap to get their label off of their backs. The label added crowd sounds and such. This is the original album stripped but with all the demos and extras added. 81 tracks in total. Not sure if the casual fan needs it, but it’s worth a listen.

December music notes will be in about two weeks.


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Great moments in Leftism

November 30, 2015 at 4:09 pm (Uncategorized)

Ah yes…

Forgot to identify the source of the picture I posted yesterday.

It’s from Great Moments in Leftism (now added to my blogroll). Cartoons about the  left. Some hysterical, some OK, but the effort is most definitely to be applauded.


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On My Christmas List…

November 29, 2015 at 4:54 pm (Uncategorized)

Hey, I think I’m still on the “nice” list, but who can tell these days?

(and no, that’s not me in the picture)

left comm


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Starbucks vs. Christmas (the Silly Season is Here)

November 29, 2015 at 4:46 pm (Uncategorized)

With a little snowfall here in Toronto last week, and the weather getting colder, you can’t help but notice that it’s almost Christmas. as a kid, I usedto get so excited. I’d run to the front door on Christmas morning and yell, “Mum, Dad, it’s Christmas. You have to let me in now!” OK, sorry.

Still, if it is the holiday season, it wouldn’t be complete without the usual nonsesne:  The War on Christmas.

The one I’m still chuckling over, even though is was a week or so back, is Starbucks.  Josh Fuerstein “American evangelist, Internet and social Media Personality” (no, no, it’s too easy to mock that one) posted a video about Starbucks’ new red coffee cups which sported no Christmas greetings. He suggested people engage in a campaign to put the holiday back into Starbucks

My general sense is that people are reacting in three ways:

  1. Starbucks hates Christmas
  2. Are you insane? It’s just a fucking cup that you’re going to throw away.
  3. Mmm.. I think I’ll go to Starbucks

(Put me down for options 2 and 3)

In his video post,  Fueurstein boasted he had “tricked” Starbucks into saying “Merry Christmas” by claiming his name was “Merry Christmas” and having them write it on his drink order. Erm, Josh, you know they only write that on the drink order they have to make. you know, the ones that run to $4 or $5. And you’re encouraging all of your friends to do the same? Yeah, I’m sure Starbucks is pretty unhappy you tricked them.

Expect more. Oh and shortly after I started to write this piece, I came across Esquire’s The 12 Days of the War on Christmas. Check it out.

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Down With These Flags !

November 22, 2015 at 8:38 pm (Uncategorized)

A statement by Internationalist Perspective

“Allons enfants de la patrie, le jour de gloire est arrivé…”

(“Let’s go, children of the fatherland, the day of glory has arrived…” –the opening of the ‘Marseillaise, the French national anthem)

The Marseillaise is popular again. The bloodthirsty song rises again from thousands of throats on French squares, before sport events and concerts, in the Sorbonne and in the parliament: “Amour sacré de la patrie, conduis, soutiens nos bras vengeurs!” (“Sacred love of the fatherland, lead, support our vengeful arms!”) On Facebook a campaign was started to exhort users all over the world to change their profile in the colors of the French national flag.

Do not sing the Marseillaise.

Do not change your FB profile into the colors of the French national flag.

Do not fall in the trap of the war-mongering media.

The terrorist attacks in Paris were horrific and repulsive. But nationalism is not the answer; it spreads the poison further. It may be true that most people who now sing the Marseillaise, or change their FB-profile into the French colors, only want to express their solidarity with the victims. But at a moment like this, it is important to know what the symbols, around which we are asked to close ranks, represent. Under the French tricolor, millions were sent to their death, in wars for worse than nothing. Under this banner, atrocities were committed (in Algeria and elsewhere) that were even worse than those of ISIS, while singing the Marseillaise: “Qu’un sang impur abreuve nos sillons!” (“May their impure blood water our furrows!”)

We don’t want to single out France: other national flags and anthems are equally blood-drenched. ISIS itself is not a religious movement; it simply uses religion as a flag and anthem to recruit cannon-fodder for its real goal: to control territory, to gain power, to amass capital. It seizes opportunities arising in the context of war and economic crisis in the Middle East to establish its own state. A state at war, and in war, as the history of France, the US, Germany and just about any other country illustrates: all is permitted.

What did ISIS have to gain from the attacks in Paris? Continuous recruitment is essential for the so-called Islamic state, it needs it to wage war and to control its territory. The attacks favor its recruitment in two ways: first, as a demonstration of power, which increases its appeal for young people who feel angry and powerless. Secondly, the attacks fan the hatred of Muslims and thus the ill treatment of Muslims, pushing more of them into the tentacles of ISIS. Furthermore, ISIS needs to stop the exodus of refugees out of Syria. It cannot permit the emptying of the territory it controls or wants to conquer. Contrary to what’s often claimed, it does not get its main income from oil-exports or from Saudi subsidies but from the exploitation, in various ways, of the population in the areas it controls. So those who use the attacks to fan hatred for Islam and to keep the refugees out, do exactly what ISIS hoped they would do.

The problem is not Islam. The global system is in crisis and this crisis creates situations in which waging war becomes very profitable. The warring parties feed on each other. The civilian casualties of drones and missiles feed the Islamist propaganda; the Islamist atrocities feed the belligerent, nationalist, anti-other ideologies in the West which prepare the way for more war.

The first thing president Hollande did after the attacks was to send planes to bombard Raqqa, a large city that is said to be the capital of the IS. One wonders: had these planes “clean” military targets for what became the largest bombardment of Raqqa so far? If so, why weren’t they hit before? And if they were not, how many civilians were killed in Raqqa? Will the media tell us? Will there be a campaign on Facebook to put the flag of ISIS on our profile, in solidarity with the innocent victims that fell on its territory? Or will the mangled corpses only be seen on the Islamist social media?

Revenge. Reprisal. Retaliation. The deeper the crisis becomes, the more we risk to see of it. The wars, the terrorist attacks, the massive unemployment and uncertainty, the ecological catastrophes, the swelling stream of refugees, all show that the systemic, global crisis of capitalism brings with it ever more social disruption, violence and destruction. The real problem is in society’s foundations and as long as they remain intact –as long as capitalism survives- the spiral will only widen.

Changing the foundations , changing the purpose and means of human relations, ending capitalism, can only come as a result of massive collective struggle, which does not exist today. Nobody knows what the future will bring. But we do know it’s not written yet. What we do or don’t matters. It matters that we don’t passively accept the logic of capital. It matters that we refuse to sing the national anthem together with those who exploit and oppress us. It matters that we stand in solidarity with the victims of wars and terrorist attacks, whether they are French or Turk, Arab or Jew, black or white, without embracing any of the war-making parties. It matters that we raise our voices against the calls to close borders, erect walls, keep out refugees, and engage in more war. It matters that we say no! to more control, more police violence, more austerity in the name of national security. It matters that we refuse to help dig our own graves. It matters that we demonstrate that none of the problems facing society can be solved within capitalism. It matters that we speak, in the rivulets of revolt, of the power of the stream they could become.


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On the Attacks in France

November 22, 2015 at 8:36 pm (Uncategorized)

Here is a text sent by a friend in France shorty after the terrorist attacks this past Friday, in English translation and the French original. Its class opposition to the calls for “national unity” is striking!

Internationalist Perspective


130 dead and countless wounded traumatized for life by the Parisian night of horror they experienced last Friday, November 13, 2015. That night of horror took place a few hundred meters from the newspaper Charlie Hebdo, where the cartoonists, Cabu, Charb, Wolinski, Honoré and Tignous had been murdered. It followed after 240 Russian tourists had been blown up by Al Qaeda or Daech over the Sinai.

This is not “artisanal” terrorism, but a guerrilla war behind the fronts between different capitalist states, large or small, whatever their ideology, jihadist, “democratic”, “totalitarian” “pan-Turkish” or “pan-Arab”.

This is not a war between the Islamic State (Daech) and the West, still less a clash of civilizations, and certainly not a new religious war on a global scale, mediated in macabre staging shots (beheadings, blasting the site of Palmyra, and the crucifixion of its archaeologist).

The war is now a given in a globally ubiquitous system in crisis: economic crisis, ecological crisis of the capitalist environment, mass migrations (driven by war or environmental disasters), decomposition of weaker states, civil wars repeatedly in the Middle East, Africa, Central Asia (Afghanistan, Chinese Turkestan).

The new drawing of borders in the Near and Middle East after the US intervention in Iraq in 2003 is ongoing, punctuated by suicide bombings, the “sabers” of jihad, of aerial bombardments (Turkish, Russian, Western, in Syria and Iraq, Saudi in Yemen) and drone attacks, as well as military engagements on land, where yesterday’s enemies (Iranians, Russians, American commandos) are jumbled together.

This is no longer a war where the “theater of operations”, are far away, that expression dear to all the general staffs deciding whether to kill or destroy the few actors or the entire ‘theater’.

This war exists everywhere on this whole planet living through a veritable death agony. And all are responsible: States large and small, or in gestation, whatever their ideology, all hiding their war aims under a religious phraseology of “holy war”, “democratic” war against “terrorism” or even – ” Please do not laugh! “- “humanitarian “war” against “terrorism” (from Putin Iranian Ayatollahs, whose emblem is the hangman).

Death exists now everywhere, not just in Paris, South Beirut, over the Sinai. There is no corner of this planet that in the coming decade cannot become a “theater of operations” of a capitalism spewing death.

The victory of terrorism and “democracies” or capitalist dictatorships (China, Russia) would be to present these attacks, including those in Paris, as just appetizers as in an ideological war. All these states, big, small or emerging (like Daech) are capitalist states. Their goal is to preserve, strengthen or develop through war their national Capital. Behind their Bible or Koran, there are the tablets of capitalist law: you kill until you have eliminated all your adversaries or competitors; you shall love your enemies as yourself once they have adopted or prostrated before the Mecca’s of Capital, adopting the holy laws of capital (private property, a commodity economy, creation-destruction of Nature as a commodity).

After the attacks, the speeches are, just as at the time of the attack against Charlie Hebdo, all about “national unity”, the “sacred union” [union sacrée].

The proletariat, which is by definition the anti-national, the universal class, (“proletarians have no fatherland”) can give only one answer: class war against all forms of capitalism, regardless of their labels on all class fronts against capital and its bourgeois, large and small, whether they wear the garb of the City or of Jihad.

Only the rapid awakening of the international proletariat can prevent the triumph of national unity on all the war fronts, which would lead to only one outcome: repeated local wars leading to a generalized conflict.

Acceptance of national union, in France or elsewhere, is acceptance of a programmed capitalist death. Those who adhere like sheep ready to deliver themselves to the sacrificial knife of capital would be better to buy their coffin in advance. Sales promotions under capitalism are a particularly good buy ….




130 morts et d’innombrables blessés traumatisés à vie par la nuit d’horreur parisienne qu’ils ont vécue hier vendredi 13 novembre 2015. Cette nuit d’horreur s’est déroulée à quelques centaines de mètres du journal Charlie Hebdo, où périrent les caricaturistes Cabu, Charb, Wolinski, Honoré et Tignous. Elle survient quelque temps après que 240 touristes russes eurent été explosés par Al Qaida ou Daech au-dessus du Sinaï.

Il ne s’agit plus d’un terrorisme artisanal, mais d’une guerre de guérilla menée sur les arrières des fronts entre les différents États capitalistes, petits ou grands, quelle que soit leur idéologie : djihadiste, «démocratique», «totalitaire», «panturque» ou «panarabe».

Il ne s’agit pas d’une guerre entre l’État islamique (Daech) et l’Occident, encore moins d’un conflit de civilisations, et certainement pas d’une nouvelle guerre de religion à l’échelle planétaire, médiatisée à coups de macabres mises en scène (décapitations, dynamitage du site de Palmyre et crucifixion de son archéologue).

La guerre est maintenant une donnée omniprésente dans un système mondialement en crise : crise économique, crise écologique de l’environnement capitaliste, migrations massives (entraînées par la guerre ou les désastres écologiques), décomposition des États les plus faibles, guerres civiles à répétition au Moyen Orient, Afrique, en Asie centrale (Afghanistan, Turkestan chinois).

Le nouveau dessin des frontières au Proche et au Moyen-Orient après l’intervention américaine en Irak de 2003 est en cours d’exécution, à coups de ceintures explosives, de «sabres» du djihad, de bombardements (turcs, russes, occidentaux en Syrie et en Irak, saoudiens au Yémen) et de drones, d’engagements militaires au sol où sont mêlés les ennemis d’hier (Iraniens, Russes, commandos américains).

Il ne s’agit plus d’une guerre sur un «théâtre d’opération» éloigné, cette expression chère aux étatsmajors de tous bords décidant s’il faut tuer quelques acteurs ou détruire le «théâtre» tout entier.

La guerre rode partout sur l’ensemble de cette planète vivant une véritable agonie. Et tous sont responsables : les États petits et grands, ou en gestation, quelle que soit leur idéologie, tous camouflant leurs buts de guerre sous une phraséologie religieuse de « guerre sainte», «démocratique» contre le «terrorisme», ou même – « Prière de ne pas rire ! » – «humanitaire» contre le terrorisme (de Poutine aux ayatollahs iraniens, dont l’emblème est la grue de pendaison).

La mort rode maintenant partout, et pas seulement à Paris, à Beyrouth-Sud, au-dessus du Sinaï. Il n’y a aucun coin de cette planète qui ne devienne dans la décennie à venir un « théâtre d’opération » d’un capitalisme à l’agonie.

La victoire du terrorisme et des « démocraties » ou dictatures capitalistes (Chine, Russie) serait de présenter ces attentats dont ceux de Paris ne sont qu’un hors-d’œuvre comme une guerre


d’idéologie. Tous ces Etats, petits ou grands ou en gestation (comme Daech) sont des Etats capitalistes. Leur but est de préserver, de renforcer ou de développer par la guerre leur Capital national. Derrière leur Bible ou leur Coran, il y a les tables de la loi capitaliste : tu tueras jusqu’à ce que tu aies éliminé tous tes concurrents ou adversaires; tu aimeras tes ennemis comme toi-même dès qu’ils auront adopté ou se seront prosternés en direction des mecques du Capital, adoptant les saintes lois du capital (propriété privée, économie mercantile, création-destruction de la NatureMarchandise).

Après ces attentats, le discours est, comme au moment de l’attentat contre Charlie Hebdo, l’«union nationale», l’«union sacrée ».

Le prolétariat, qui est la classe universelle antinationale par définition (« les prolétaires n’ont pas de patrie») ne peut donner qu’une seule réponse : guerre de classe contre tous les capitalismes, quelle que soit leurs étiquettes sur tous les fronts de classe contre le capital et ses bourgeois, grands ou petits, en costume de la City ou du Djihad.

Seul le réveil rapide du prolétariat international peut empêcher que le triomphe de l’unité nationale sur tous les fronts de la guerre mène à une seule issue : l’embrasement généralisé de guerres locales à répétition vers un conflit généralisé.

L’acceptation de l’union nationale, en France ou ailleurs est l’acceptation d’un mort capitaliste programmée. Ceux qui y adhèrent comme des moutons prêts à se livrer au couteau sacrificiel du capital feraient mieux d’acheter leur cercueil d’avance. Les promotions commerciales sous le capitalisme sont particulièrement avantageuses…


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Phil Taylor: 1954-2015

November 13, 2015 at 6:07 pm (Uncategorized)

The second concert I went to was Motorhead. It must have been late 1979 on the Bomber tour. The show featured a bomber-like structure as part of the stage set. Lemmy was great. Fast Eddie Clarke was great. And Philthy “Animal” Taylor was great. I saw the band again the following year on the Ace of Spades tour (I still have my autographed programme). The next year, I moved to Canada, and didn’t follow Motorhead as much. Eddie Clarke left. And in 1984 Taylor did too. (He rejoined from 1987-92).

Taylor died yesterday after a long illness at the age of 61. Great drummer.

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Tis the Season for Giving…

November 9, 2015 at 2:17 am (Uncategorized)

I’ve been in the same workplace the past three Christmases, and every year there’s a charity “shoe box” drive.  Thing is, this charity contains a catch.

Open up the box, and there’s a pamphlet inside which explains that when the children receive this box, it will contain the greatest gift a child could receive: the word of God. “Here kid. Jesus wants you to eat this Bible.”  Uh, huh. I don’t support religious charities.

Now here’s the thing. The same day as the shoe box appeal began, the Guardian published a very interesting report about a study in the UK with children. It seemed the more religious the children were, the meaner and more judgmental they were. Don’t take my word. read the story.

And let me be the first to wish you Merry Nothing.

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Denise Mina

November 7, 2015 at 11:14 pm (Uncategorized)

I’m a big fan of crime fiction. I like the old pulp novels and some of the modern stuff (my wife is a huge fan, and completely obsessed with Swedish crime fiction).

Anyway, we went to see Denise Mina speak on a panel on crime fiction at the International Festival of Authors in Toronto a few weeks back. Mina is a Scottish writer who is the author of the Garnethill Trilogy, the Paddy Meghan novels and is currently writing the Alex Morrow novels. Mina has also written Hellblazer comics for DC and published a graphic novel A Sickness in the Family for Vertigo. (that’s the one I got signed).

I’ve never been a fiction writer (a few poems notwithstanding), so it’s fascinating to hear how people get their ideas, the process of writing, and the frustrations and successes involved with that.  Very cool stuff.

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Thinking of Splitting from Your Grouplet…?

November 3, 2015 at 12:15 am (Uncategorized)

Don’t, before you check the Communist Party Generator for inspiration. (Thanks J for the heads-up on this one)

I liked it very much . But just to confirm comrades, I’m not thinking of splitting. However, it would be a shame if no one ever used “the Progressive International Refoundation of Liberated Swansea (Anime Marxist). ” I might make it Toronto, but…

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