Last Days of Turner at the AGO

January 30, 2016 at 4:44 pm (Uncategorized)

Received a text from my wife this morning. She’s at the Art Gallery of Ontario to see the J.M.W.  Turner exhibition which closes tomorrow. Crazy busy. I went a couple of weeks back. The watercolours in this set are breathtakingly beautiful.  Watercolours are a particular favourite. There’s just something about the fluidity of the images created which attracts.

If you have the chance, see it.

The World Socialist Web Site ran a thoughtful appreciation of the exhibition this week, which you can find here.

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Music Notes – February 2016

January 30, 2016 at 4:37 pm (Uncategorized)

Nothing new this month. Old things, that have been sitting around for a while, but sadly were never mentioned…unytil now.

1 Keith Richards – Cross-eyed Heart

An album that grew on me quite a bit. It’s not an exceptional set, but a solid collection of “classic” rock tune without a lot of the excess. A record by someone who clearly just likes making music.

2 METZ- II

Like Killing Joke’s first two albums. No, like Big Black. No Jesus Lizard. It’s a shade under thirty minutes (like their first) of punishing guitar noise. Song titles? Who knows, who cares? Play it first thing in the morning and screw up your entire day.

3. Julia Kent – Asperities

Kent also writes music for films, and there’s a lot of that here. As you listen you can imagine hearing this or that part as soundtrack. Cello-driven (if that’s a thing), eerie and beautiful although a couple of tracks do ramp up the volume and the intensity.Well worth investigating.

4. Julia Holter –Loud City Song

Holter is one of those artists who has been in my peripheral vision, but until this album someone I’d never heard. This album, not her most recent, is a collection of different styles. The first couple  of songs, which seems to be introduced by noise, I hated the first time, but repeated plays made me understand the context. Not an easy record, but patience is rewarding.

5. Lianne La Havas – Blood

Funky stuff. For the car, for a party. Get everyone dancing (try that with the latter, not the former)

6. Bob Dylan – Another Self Portrait

Self-Portrait is the first Dylan album I didn’t buy. When I got into Dylan, I devoured his work, but when a friend played me this, it felt he’d lost his way.  This addition to Dylan’s Bootleg series, makes me think I should dig out the old album. The first disc is outtakes and alternative versions of low-key country folk. And it’s compelling. The second CD I like less as it relies on live versions which always smell like filler to me.  Still, it shows another layer to the mystery that is Dylan.

7. Die Antwoord – Donker Mag

OK, I admit it. I watched Chappie, which featured Ninja and Yolandi Visser, and thought “OK, I’ll give it a listen.” Yeah. Some thrilling beats admittedly, but overall, no, not for me. A lot of swearing (sorry, but if you use “fuck” in every rhyme, it lessens the effect) and endless boasting. Reminds me of that Atilla the Stockbroker line : “You rap about your chains and you rap about your car/ you rap about what good rappers you are.”Uh huh.

8. Grimes – Visions

Again, not the most recent record, but a great disc of SF pop. worth a listen.

9. V/A – The Rough Guide to Desert Blues

Mmm. Desert blues. I don’t know what they’re singing about, but it sounds great. Found this sampler a little while back, and it’s a constant favourite in the car. Amazing.

10. Cowboy Junkies – Studio

Favourite memory of the Cowboy Junkies is sitting near the front at Clinton’s sometime in the early 90s watching the band, and the couple I was with were talking louder than the band. OK, the distraction was not the best part, but the music just cast a spell. This is a nice comp featuring a lot of the “hits.” Best to dig out the full albums though.

Till next time.

 

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A Strange Day in Toronto

January 26, 2016 at 10:18 pm (Uncategorized)

A strange thing happened yesterday. But before I get to that, it’s  necessary to go back and explain the context.

In the early hours of July 27, 2013, 18 year old Sammy Yatim stands alone on a Toronto streetcar brandishing a knife. Passengers have fled earlier when Yatim exposes himself, and at one point swings at a passenger with the knife. Police surround the vehicle and argue with Yatim. Officer James Forcillo tells Yatim if he takes another step, he’ll shoot him. Still far away at the top of the steps, Yatim moves and Forcillo who has curiously placed himself near to the doors shoots him three times dropping him to the ground. He pauses and fires a further six shots.  For good measure, a colleague of Forcillo’s tases the prone Yatim.

Strange thing number 1. Rather than the usual inquiry followed by non-filing of charges as so often happens, Forcillo is charged with second degree murder and attempted murder. During the long trial, Forcillo and his lawyer argue self-defence maintaining that the second volley of shots was the result of Yatim sitting up to continue the attack. Video revealed this did not take place. One of Forcillo’s earlier shots had already paralyzed Yatim.

Strange thing number 2. Forcillo is acquitted of second degree murder, but convicted of attempted murder. (Since these were two separate charges, it was possible for Forcillo to be guilty of trying to murder a man he had just killed) . In case after case in the US and in Canada too, cops have operated with impunity killing with little fear of consequences.  Cops are seldom charged even under dubious circumstances, and juries are reluctant to convict, giving the police the benefit of the doubt (“it’s a hard job,” “he did have a knife” etc)  Watching those videos of the scene captured by smart phones and TTC surveillance, it seemed so clear what Forcillo had done, but so often so often, what I see as crystal clear is not the way it plays out.

Forcillo’s lawyer, who had earlier tried unsuccessfully tried to introduce the theory of suicide by cop, immediately argued for a stay (basically the judge ignores the verdict and dismisses the case), arguing that he was trained and licenced by the state and that civilians had no authority here. Further that Forcillo had no fair trial; trial-by-You-Tube had demonized the cop. (Without those terrifying videos, there would likely have been no trial Maybe trial because of You-Tube is more accurate ). My favourite comment though was by Bill McCormack head of the thuggish Toronto Police Association who said he was shocked by the verdict and it sent a “chilling message” to cops. That you can’t shoot people with no consequences? That’s a chilling message? Uh huh.

Is this a victory? Better than nothing, but not by much, many will say. Is this justice? Hardly. Can justice be given under this system? Don’t hold your breath. But in a world where the Tamir Rices, the Michael Browns, the Eric Garners are blamed for their own murders, their families libelled and slandered, it seemed like a big deal that someone could charged and then convicted.

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Work is for Bad your Health

January 26, 2016 at 9:24 pm (Uncategorized)

Driving to work the other day when I heard a news report on C.B.C. that indicated we would be far healthier if we didn’t have to work: More time to relax, hit the gym, eat healthier, de-stress etc. But unfortunately, bills to be paid.

This morning I had a doctor’s appointment, so I took the morning off. Slept in for an extra hour, worked a little in the afternoon. I feel pretty good. Great day overall.

I’m not so optimistic about tomorrow though…

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On Labour Coupons

January 23, 2016 at 9:34 pm (Uncategorized)

Raoul Victor, a comrade from France, has written an interesting critique of the old GIK position on labour vouchers, a scheme that pops up occasionally in discussion about post-revolutionary society. The piece is posted at the Internationalist Perspective web site.

 

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Chess

January 23, 2016 at 9:30 pm (Uncategorized)

My dad taught me to play chess. I was never a great player, but I do like the game. I taught my son to play. He;s not great, but he likes the game too. It’s a thinking game. It’s a game of strategy.

Imagine my surprise when I read of a Saudi cleric’s “ruling”against chess as un-Islamic and a tool of the devil akin to gambling. And there was me thinking that the modern version of chess owes its origins to Islamic countries. But after I did a little looking into this, I found lots of Christian web site which frowned on chess as well.

Sometimes I wonder if the fundamentalists of all stripes just sit around all day looking for things to pronounce against. In the case of the Saudi cleric, if the didn’t frown on music too, I’d wonder if he wasn’t taking those Chris de Burgh records a little too literally.

 

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Alan Rickman

January 18, 2016 at 6:03 pm (Uncategorized)

Too many appreciations to write thee days. The best thing to do to mark the passing of a great actor like Alan Rickman is to watch his work. Yes,  you could watch the Harry Potter series or Die Hard, but I’d make the case for the following:

Love Actually – In many ways Rickman’s least sympathetic role. it’s hard to root for a gut who hurt’s Emma Thompson’s character so cruelly.

An Awfully Big Adventure – Not Rickman’s biggest role, perhaps because of the unsettling revelation in it, But still a great performance.

Truly, Madly Deeply. – Ghost for grown ups. If you do not cry, it’s possible you have no soul.

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Studied Melancholia

January 17, 2016 at 4:07 pm (Uncategorized)

Nick Dyer-Witheford, who wrote Cyber-Marx, has a new book out called Cyber-Proletariat. I haven’t read either book, but it’s on one or other list of things to read now. I noticed the other day, he’s giving a talk at the Toronto Reference Library in March, so I thought I might go, but first needed to read up.  I came across an interview with Viewpoint Magazine in which he talks about autonomist Marxism and communization theory. Dyer-Witheford refers to the chronic optimism of autonomist Marxism, but describes communization as having a “very studied melancholia.” Love that line.

Hope he uses it during the talk.

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Oh, Canada?

January 17, 2016 at 4:00 pm (Uncategorized)

I’m not a nationalist at all, but given the fact that I’ve lived most of my life in Canada, I can’t help but read articles written outside of the country about it. (As I read this over before publishing, I realize it might seem like it’s nationalist, but really it’s not) . The last major interest was probably when Halifax, Nova Scotia was touted as being the next Seattle, but maybe I’m missing something.

But when I opened up today’s New York Times, the lead article in the style section was about the rise of Justin Trudeau and Canada’s new cool. So quick were the editors to try to get ahead of this they included Gilda Radner and Andrea Martin in the list – both Americans, but hey, it’s cool.  (the online edition of the story omitted their names from the list). I remember a CBC show in the mid-eighties called “The Canadian Conspiracy” showing all of the Canadians in the US entertainment industry and wondering was this a …co-incidence? Actually, a lot of Canadian comedians do come from Hamilton, Ontario, and I can be seen very briefly in a crowd scene filmed at McMaster University as I trudge through the snow (how Canadian!) on the way to class.

Anyway, it’s an absurd piece as you might expect.A bit like after years of stereotyping Soviet women as overweight lumpy style less creatures, the media suddenly discovered stunning, stylish beauties after “the Fall of Communism.”  At least when Stephen Colbert called Canadians “moose-munching ice-holes” he was kidding 🙂

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Bowie

January 17, 2016 at 1:09 am (Uncategorized)

It took me a number of attempts to write this post. Every time I had an idea, I’d listen to another Bowie record and change my mind about what I wanted to say. That and besides my dog hurting his leg, and the other deaths this week, it’s just hard to write sometimes.

I didn’t really start to listen to Bowie until the end of what I consider his brilliant phase. If that doesn’t really make sense, let me explain. I grew up in England in the 1970s. Bowie was all over the radio – the singles. For me though, he always lurked in the background. Punk was my formative musical style, and Bowie always had a curious relationship to punk. He was never rejected in the way many of the “old guard” were, but he was never quite a part of it either. And then there were those remarks about Hitler being the first superstar which along with Eric Clapton’s ravings led to the Anti-Nazi League and Rock against Racism.  So, he wasn’t the top of my list.

No, it wasn’t until I moved to Canada that I started to take note of Bowie in a serious way. A friend was heavily into Bowie and Dylan and  that pulled me into that orbit as well. My favourite records? Ziggy Stardust, Hunky Dory and Heroes.

It’s often been fashionable to call Bowie a chameleon, someone who was always reinventing himself. There’s some truth in that. Bowie seldom sat still, and while some performers would have been content to rest on their laurels and churn out more of the same, Bowie kept moving,. Looking for new thins. It’s didn’t always work. His eighties work after Let’s Dance (which isn’t one of my favourites though it has its moments) went seriously off of the rails. But you have to admire the effort.  And while the debate will rage on as to whether Bowie was helping or exploiting other musicians, there’s no denying that Lou Reed, Iggy Pop and Mot the Hoople all benefited from working with him.

It was a shock to hear the news last week. When Lemmy died it was also a shock because we all thought he would live forever; yet, at the same time, we were all amazed he lasted so long. Bowie was a total surprise. I haven’t listened to Blackstar yet. I will. I don’t know if I’ll like it, but I have no doubt I’ll respect it. And that’s a good thing.

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