Goodbye 2015

December 31, 2015 at 4:40 pm (Uncategorized)

As with most years, 2015 had its share of bleak moments: The bloody, brutal attacks on Paris, the rising of killings by police officers acting with seemingly  limitless impunity, the deaths of such talents as Lemmy, B.B. King, Christopher Lee, Lesley Gore and many more. The list could go on. So, here’s the annual list of things that made life just a little easier (or at least interesting)

1  New York

Seems to be, the city makes the list every year. I was in New York twice this year. In the fall for a political session, and in the summer for a two-day quick trip with my son. There’s something to be said for seeing a great city with someone who has never been. Great city which, no doubt, will continue to appear on this list.

2 Star Wars

Saw this two days ago. Now, it’s not the second coming as some of the reviews would have you believe, but it’s pretty good. Perhaps it was the low bar set by the last three films that made this one so much fun. Maybe it was that J.J. Abrams seemed to tap into the spirit of what made the originals great. Maybe it was the dynamic new leads (Yes Daisy Ridley – thank you!) And was it just me or was Adam Driver channeling Neil Gaiman? Who knows, but it was an extremely pleasant distraction.

3 Walking the dog

You know the story, your kid begs you for a dog promising all the things she will do for it… and you end up walking the thing. OK, I love that dog, so I don’t mind so much. Sure, sure, when it’s snowing or pouring with rain, the idea of walking the dog isn’t so appealing, but in general, that time spent with the dog is very zen. Time to be on my own (No,. I don’t spent it on the phone) with my thoughts. An oasis in the craziness of life. A time to stop and sniff the flowers (or in the dog’s case, the lamp posts)

4 The Scarborough Bluffs

On Canada Day this year, my daughter decided she wanted to take a picture of the dawn at the Scarborough Bluffs. It’s a lovely part of eastern Toronto on the waterfront. So, my daughter. and my wife, my sister-in-law and her daughter got up at 4:30 or so and I drove everyone there. It was dark, but windswept and beautiful. Unfortunately, it was also foggy, and so we could see nothing as the sun rose. When the fog cleared, it was still lovely. Maybe next year.

5 The return of the old

Luna, John Cooper Clarke, the Sonics, the Rezillos. Bands I never thought I’d see, but they all played Toronto this year. Now, my usual rule is not to see bands on the revival circuit, but my exception is that if I never saw the band in their prime, I might go. There are reviews for all of these bands on this blog. It’s nice to remember.  (Caveat: I saw the Rezillos a couple of years back, but I had such a good time, I thought I would break my rule and see them as they toured with a new record. Mistake)

6 Pompeii

Not the actual city or event, but the travelling exhibition. I saw the show at the Royal Ontario Museum in the summer. Incredible artifacts from a city frozen in time (or more accurately volcanic ash)

7 Movember

I grew a mustache in November for “Movember.” Didn’t sign up for sponsorship and almost shaved it off when I heard people calling themselves “Mo-bros,” but I stuck it out. Occasionally I’d look in the mirror and think, “Hey, not bad.” Then look again and realize, “You look ridiculous.” My wife hated it.

8 The Return of the Victorian Era

Penny Dreadful, Ripper Street, the Knick. Lots of cool shows seem to be set in the late Victorian era. Maybe it’s the steampunk lover in me, but it’s that ‘birth of the modern’ coupled with the past (that history BA) that makes it so interesting. Sure, sure, not to idealize the past, but still, I wish for a time when men still wore hats (that’s right  not caps, hats)

9.  Halloween

There are people who argue that Halloween should be a statutory holiday. I disagree. A stat holiday likely would mean people stay home. The purpose of Halloween is to get out and dress up. This year, I bought stage make-up to affect a Chelsea smile (a la the Joker). It disgusted a lot of people. Mission accomplished. Halloween is much more fun that Xmas.

10 The Daily Show

I’m still recovering from Jon Stewart leaving the show, but Trevor Noah is doing a pretty good job. The first couple of weeks were a little wobbly, but Noah is gradually developing his own Daily Show. Can’t be easy following Stewart, but the show is still the funniest part of the day (the world has been kind in gifting him with the Republican clown car though)

11 Alanna Cavanagh- Artist Extraordinaire

Alanna and I used to work at the Village Bookstore in the 1990s. A few years ago we reconnected (and not through Facebook!). Turned out her current partner was an old political sparring partner of mine (fortunately, even though we were in different Trotskyist groups, we got along OK).  At her pre-Xmas open house this year, I ran into a guy I knew in university who I hadn’t seen in almost thirty years, and a woman whose daughter was a classmate of my own daughter. All roads lead to Alanna Cavanagh. Buy her stuff, she’s tremendously talented

12 The Beguiling

Still my favourite comic book shop in the city: Indie publishing, super-heroes, art books, and a bunch of cool other stuff.  Also, the people who put together TCAF. Go, read, feel cool.

13 Ben Sherman Mac

It seems every year there’s an item of clothing on this list. This year, it’s a light coat by Ben Sherman. Sue me.

14. Manga

I’m not a big Manga fan. I read Full Metal Alchemist years ago, but beyond that. I tried to Attack on Titan because everyone said I should, but it didn’t grab me – a bit too violent and the art was poor.  At last year’s TCAF conference, I got a copy of Master Keaton, the story of a part-time professor, insurance investigator archaeologist who was in the SAS. Imagine if the Da Vinci code was a graphic novel and was actually worth reading, and you’d have a sense of this book. Very cool. Also reading Monster and an adaptation of Richard III. There’s always new stuff to discover.

15 Macbeth

It only took me 35 years, but I finally got to see Roman Polanski’s Macbeth. You see we were supposed to see it when we read the book in high school, but the teacher who promised it, never delivered. On a couple of other occasions, I almost saw it, but this year was the year. It’s creepy. It’s bloody. But it does some very clever things too. Ross is elevated to a conspirator but simply by placement rather than changing or adding lines. The film is just filthy. I don’t mean rude, but there’s a layer of dirt that seems to surround everything and marks the film as such. I’m not sure it was worth waiting for (it wasn’t on the bucket list), but it was interesting.

16 Rock Autobiographies

Didn’t like Chrissie Hynde’s. Kim Gordon’s felt slight (like her art writing though). Elvis Costello’s was tremendous. Am reading Patti Smith’s M Train right now and enjoying it immensely. Who was it said that reading is dreaming with your eyes open?

17 PS 4

OK, this is for the boy. We upgraded to the PS 4 this week. Sold the PS3 and all of the games we had. Unfortunately, I didn’t realize that the PS4 operates on HD TVs. I don’t have one. No matter, we’re working on it, and I have no doubt greatness awaits. (Ouch)

18 Pizza Libretto

Commercial plug for a pizzeria on Danforth Avenue in Toronto. Our default celebration pizza place. Great food, great service, great ambiance. we were there most recently for the boy’s birthday.

19 Communicating Vessels

Communicating Vessels is a publication out of Arizona, the 27th issue of which recently appeared. It’s a fantastic zine. Self-published and always packed with interesting articles on art, literature, politics and poetry. No web presence, no email. If you want a copy, write. And send money: CV, PO Box 2048, Tuscon, Arizona, 85702, USA.You won’t be sorry.

20 Quotation

So, given the praise, it seemed appropriate to end with a quotation from the current issue of CV. I don’t share the pessimism of the end, but the spirit of the rest is pretty cool.

But nothing is completely static. that is why the ages have fitted this engraving with different styles of dress. The essence remains largely the same; the clothes are always changing. during the medieval insurrections it was dressed as a peasant. Hundreds of years later, during May 1968 in France, it was garbed in the clothes of a young blouson noir. At the height of the social ferment in 1960s America it came to the scene as a black automobile worker on wildcat strike in Detroit. More than a century before this engraving derived its timely shadows of life and light from English weavers under the moniker of Ned Ludd.

The wish to turn the world upside down as resurfaced again and again throughout history: ties are made between those who have had enough. These ties of solidarity and affinity are eventually broken – and then they suddenly reappear in a different time and place.

We may be losing the battle. But the dream is still there for those who refuse to utterly surrender.

 

Happy 2016

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