Halloween 2016

October 31, 2016 at 11:10 pm (Uncategorized)

Just finished carving the pumpkins and hanging the fake spider-web outside the house for Halloween. My mad scientist costume for work still needs a little fine tuning, but I’m getting there. I love Halloween. Still, there’s a couple of things…

My kids attend Toronto District School Board high schools, and while my kids don’t go trick-or-treating anymore, they do bring out the costumes for school. But if you read the Board’s home page, there’s an article on “Hallowe’en” which documents a sixth grader’s observation that while costume shopping he noticed culturally insensitive costumes. No kidding.

the Boy and I went to one of those pop-up Halloween stores last wek looking for a lab coat for his mad scientist costume. “Dad, what’s that smell in here?” he asked as we entede the bulding. “Ah, it’s probably plastic mixed with fear because everyone is keenly aware that if you put an open flame anywhere near this place, it would be engulfed in flames in seconds. And if the flames didn’t kill you, the toxins in the plastic surely would.”

And on we searched. Successfully. As we searched I noted a wig ensemble called “Jamaican Joe.” A Rastafarian hat with fake dreadlocks worn by a white guy. Culturally insensitive? Uh yeah.  At least there weren’t selling blackface gear.

When we found the lab coat, the Boy asked me, “Dad, are all the girls costumes – ”

“Yes, they are.”

Sexy nurse, sexy treasure hunter, sexy goth, sexy teacher, sexy vampire etc (strangely no sexy hooker though). I think the one that wigged him out the most was “sexy nun.” I really wanted to say, well some of them have bad habits, but I restrained myself. I’m not sure what any of this has to do with Halloween.

Still, the plan is after the kids have stopped coming for candy, I’m going to  watch The Exorcist. I read the book when I was younger, and even though I was an atheist then, I was still too scared to see the film.

Happy Halloween

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Hinds Rock the Adelaide Hall

October 30, 2016 at 7:42 pm (Uncategorized)

I’m getting too old for this. No, not too old to go to see a band on a school night; not too old to stay right until the very end (C’mon – you’ve made the decision to go out, you might as well see the whole show). No, I’m too old to see the whole show. I usually try to get there just before the main band comes on. I’ve lost the patience to sit (or worse stand) through opening bands, I’ve never heard of and will likely never again. Of course, there’s  the inherent danger that I will lose bragging rights should they actually become famous(“Oh yeah, I saw the Wardrobes when they opened for Jackie O’s Hat at the Horseshoe in 2008” – upcoming musicians, I give you freedom to steal those names) , but it’s a risk I’m prepared to take.

As it happened, I arrived at the Adelaide Hall 15 minutes before Spanish garage-rockers Hinds took the stage. I can’t help but note every time I go to the Adelaide Hall what a risk I’m taking. The club is in the basement, and it always strikes me that in the event of an emergency, I would likely die down there. Every time I go, I scan for emergency exits, but no luck so far. “He gave his life for rock n roll,” my tombstone will read.  But, nothing happened, and I live to rock again.

Hinds are from Madrid, and I believe this was their first appearance in Canada. I’d streamed a few tracks from their early singles, and they seemed to be that lovable  garage sound which is so entertaining on first releases. Two songs into their set though, I began to wonder if I’d come to see a different Hinds. They were funky pop stars albeit still with a gloriously amateurish over-wash. The band was delightful, and the audience responded appropriately. Then, halfway through their set, the band became the band I had expected, a sort of ramshackle Spanish version of Thee Headcoatees (especially appropriator was their last song cover of the band’s “Davy Crockett”). And we loved them even more. A short set, but when you only have one album, what can you expect?

Great show. Even with the possibility of death. I’m going back to the Adelaide Hall November 5 (ominously Guy Fawkes night for Lydia Loveless)

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Music Notes: October 2016

October 30, 2016 at 6:49 pm (Uncategorized)

And here we go…

1 Bob Dylan’s Nobel Prize

OK, let’s say that again. Bob Dylan’s Nobel Prize. A couple of things to unpack here. First of all, all award, although they pretend to be objective are more or less subjective. The Nobel Prize Committee may have a higher standing that say, the Golden Globes, but still… Having said that, I love Dylan;s early work: up to Nashville Skyline, he’s untouchable. After that, less so. Chronicles is fantastic, but Tarantula, try it for yourself. Still, a great honour for a man who undoubtedly changed writing (or songwriting). Dylan, of course, said nothing for over two weeks before he acknowledged the award.

2. Prophets of Rage – The Party’s Over EP

OK, shake your fist in the air and pretend it’s 1993 again! Three-quarters of Rage Against the Machine, Chuck D and his DJ, and B-Real from Cypress Hill. Yeah, it’s fun, especially the reworking of the Beasties’ “No Sleep Till Brooklyn” and Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power.”

3. Cypress Hill – Essential

So after listening to Prophets, I dug back into the Cypress Hill file. The Essentials comps are usually interesting as the meaning of Essentials varies quite a bit. While there’s a few things of interest here on this 2 CD set, you’d really be better off sticking to the first two Hill records; the self-titled and Black Sunday.

4. Bob Mould – Patch the Sky

I’ve followed Bob Mould’s career intermittently. I like late-period Husker Du, didn’t bother with the solo stuff, back again with Sugar and then not much after. This latest record is more melodic punk. Makes me thing I should go to check out more of the solo records.

5. Son House – The Original Delta Blues

Yeah, I know that “Monster Mash” is the Halloween song, but if you want to be scared, it’s “John the Revelator” you need to hear. THere’s a couple of good Son House comps around. This is one of them. A blues legend.

6. Various artists – The Girls Want the Boys: Sweden’s Beat Girls 1964-1970

OK, I haven’t listened to this yet, but it’s going to the top of the list to seek out. Agnetha Fältskog has a pre-ABBA track on this. What’s not to want?

7. Various artists – Ghost Brothers of Darkland County

I came across this by accident at my local public library. A musical by John Mellancamp later released as a CD featuring Elvis Costello, the Alvin Brothers, Taj Mahal, T Bone Burnett, Neko Case and more. Southern Gothic on record.

8. Green on Red – No Free Lunch

And speaking of Southern Gothic, Green on Red were part of the paisley underground, but who went into a weird country-roots format. This is my favourite of their albums. “No Free Lunch” and “Time ain’t Nothing” being the standouts, but the whole thing is pretty good.

9. The Everly Brothers- “Dream”

Driving yesterday, I was listening to a 50s comp in the car. “Dream” came on. Once upon a few time, it was one of the few songs I could play on guitar (it’s only a couple of chords, until the bridge, which I never really mastered). I listened to it three times. It’s so beautiful. Then it struck me, this isn’t a song about heroin is it?

10. Mojo Lou Reed tribute

And just a quick mention for this one. The latest issue of Mojo has a free Lou Reed CD which picks from some of the lesser known and less obvious cuts in Lou’s career. Hey, it’s likely the only time you’ll want to listen to Metal Machine Music.

Till next time.

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Trump Unbound!

October 16, 2016 at 9:52 pm (Uncategorized)

Or is it unhinged?

With Trump’s announcement last week following the release of his lewd schoolboy tape, a second disastrous debate and the spectre of the Republican Party ‘s disintegration,  that he was glad because he would no longer be shackled, and was free to be himself, I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who though, fuck, do you mean he was holding himself back at this point?

In the week or so since then, Trump has reacted in characteristic ignoring polls he doesn’t like, lashing out on Twitter at his usual targets (which has been expand to included the Republican party itself), promoting the idea that he is winning and that the election is going to be stolen from a vast liberal-globalist conspiracy against him. It isn’t really helping that as Trump accuses the women who have come toward about his sexual harassment of being liars (gee, I wonder why they didn’t come forward earlier?) , he’s also argued they aren’t pretty enough for him to assault. Circle the wagons and shoot inward boys.

So as buffoonish, misogynist, racist, homophobic… (add the rest, the list is too long) as Trump is, you have to wonder then why he has remained in contention for so long. Now it might be true that the contest between Clinton and Trump is the only election either of them could win, but how is it that Trump draws such support from people from whom he has spent his life trying to create distance?  In other words, how much of a factor will Trumpism continue to be after Trump has likely gone down in flames on November 28th or whenever he thinks the election is?

My guess is that Trump himself will not stick around, and his “movement” (which on many levels is nothing more than a tribute to his own narcissism) will immediately splinter.I can’t wait to see  Trump lose (he really is a vile bully) because I really want to see the Twitter tirade of sour grapes that follows (hell, it’s already started).  but Hilary Clinton will be no alternative.

The following editorial from the online newsletter Insurgent Notes was written before the campaign started to implode, makes some interesting points.


President Trump?

It just might happen. What seemed, a year ago, like a laughingstock candidacy is now a plausible winner in the wildest political year (and there is still the forthcoming “October surprise”) since 1968. No matter what happens, the old US party system is broken. Donald Trump is like no major candidate in living memory. Just as one had to reach back to Eugene Debs to find a candidate as seemingly radical as Bernie Sanders, finding a serious precursor to Trump is even more difficult. The quiet eclipse of Sanders in August guaranteed that many of his ex-supporters will stay home or vote for the Green Party. Respectable official society, including a good swath of the Republican establishment and even the normally “apolitical” military, is either in withdrawal or openly supporting Clinton. Generals, diplomats, foreign policy wonks and the New York Times all agree that a Trump presidency will be a disaster. The Financial Times sheds tears over the possible demise of the “internationalist” (read: US-dominated) world order in place since 1945. Such declarations make no difference; if anything, they only add to Trump’s “anti-establishment” credentials and panache.

The situation shows important parallels to the Brexit vote in Britain in June; there, the entire political and academic establishment, “left” or “right,” came out to “remain” in the European Union, and something like a class vote (albeit mixed with other less savory elements) came back with a big middle finger. That is what is brewing in the United States. What is occurring is nothing less than a (very) skewed referendum on the past 45 years of American politics and society, and those who feel they got the short end of “free trade” and “globalization” think they have finally found a voice, even as Trump’s economic program, such as it is, is a chimera. Just as in France or in Britain, the new right-wing populism does not make its inroads in the wired yuppie metropolitan centers of Paris or London, but rather in the passed-over middle and small towns, including towns where gentrification has forced the former urban working class to relocate. So it is in the United States, where Trump does not play well in the San Francisco Bay Area or in New York City, but in the medium, small-town and rural preserves of the “unnecessariat.” We might also see the rise of Trump-style authoritarian populism in a disturbing global context, one that includes the ongoing advances of the far right in western Europe (France, Scandinavia, Austria and now Germany), in eastern Europe led by Hungary and Poland, along with Putin’s Russia, Erdogan’s Turkey and, most recently, Duterte in the Philippines.

It is perhaps remarkable that, in America’s supposedly “middle class” society, the white working class is being discussed and catered to as the ultimate arbiter of this election. So unprecedented are the politics of 2016 that mainstream ideology suddenly feels the need to talk openly about the working class it previously disappeared or took for granted. UAW bureaucrats and AFL-CIO blowhard president Richard Trumka scurry hither and thither to convince the union rank and file not to vote for Trump.

Trump, for his part, when able to stay “on message,” has made disarmingly lucid speeches about what has happened to workers in the decimated former heartland of mass industry, the key “swing states” of the Midwest. The hard-scrabble white working class of the former mass furniture industry in Virginia and North Carolina is also easy pickings for Trump, not to mention the West Virginia miners and ex-miners turned off by Clinton’s “green” agenda. And why should we be surprised, when the main surprising thing is that for the first time a candidate of a major party has bothered to talk directly to such workers about what has happened to them in the past decades, in contrast to the feel-good rhetoric of the Walter Mondales and Bill Clintons and now of Hillary Clinton? Saying “America never stopped being great,” as Hillary Clinton and the Democrats do, is already ideology run amok, and is even colder comfort to ex-industrial workers in the heartland, to a large swath of black people north and south, or to poor whites in Appalachia and elsewhere, currently subject to the highest death rates in the country by suicide, drugs and alcohol. We should not overlook, when identifying the class fractures at work, the role of identity politics, so rife in the metropolitan centers, in fueling the rise of Trump. Identity politics always had and has an explicit or implicit “suspicion” of workers qua workers, just as they have been supremely indifferent to the dismantling of the old industrial heartlands, which ravaged communities of white, black and brown workers alike. The rise of Trump is in part payback for the decades of condescension and barely concealed contempt for, or at best indifference to, the fate of ordinary working people rife in elite academia, the corporate media and the higher-end publishing world of the New York Times and posh journals of the chattering classes. Trump is a racist, you say? A misogynist? An immigrant and China basher? Yes, he is all those things, but these accusations from the garden-variety left and liberals do not get to the heart of his appeal as an “anti-establishment” figure. His apparent base does also have the highest per capita income of the major candidates and ex-candidates (Clinton and Sanders), indicating that he has forged a coalition of middle-and upper-class whites with some white workers and poor whites, itself rather unprecedented. All these groups have in common a conviction that the older America they knew is being replaced by an America with a blacker and browner working class, and multiple immigrant groups from East and South Asia, and from Latin America. Last but not least, Trump has indeed brought many elements of the far right, the David Dukes and gun-show crowd, into broad daylight, allowing them to emerge from the dark corners of the alt-right, and “freed their tongues,” as one of them put it, from the dominant “politically correct” atmosphere. Whether Trump wins or loses, such forces will not be going quietly back into their previous relative obscurity. To conclude, these advances of the far right and authoritarian populism around the world are the mirror of the failure of the moderate “left” which has collapsed into the happy family of center-right/center-left consensus of the past 45 years, led by the Tony Blairs, Francois Mitterands and Gerhard Schroeders in Europe and by the Jimmy Carters, Bill Clintons and Barack Obamas in the United States, and now joined by Hillary Clinton. Such forces are no stop-gap barrier, as many “lesser evil” theorists would have us believe, to the ascending right, but rather feed it, making it and not a serious left, of the type Insurgent Notes aims to help bring into existence, the apparent “anti-establishment” alternative to the status quo.


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Allah-Las: A Very brief Review

October 1, 2016 at 6:32 pm (Uncategorized)

The Allah-Las are from Los Angeles. And it’s a California sound, albeit filtered through the sensibilities of Nuggets and the third Velvet Underground album.

I arrived late at their Lee’s Palace show last week after a fairly nightmarish drive, just in time to catch the last song of the opening act. Lee’s was packed, and an already hot night was hotter still within the venue. The only respite was when people exited to smoke on the sidewalk.

The Allah-Las came on stage around 10:30. The band didn’t really present a lot of frills. No real stage moves, minimal conversation with the audience, just concentrating on the sound. And pretty good it was. It’s often a cliché to say all of a band’s songs sound the same, but for the Allah-Las, it’s kind of true. Some fast, some slow, but all with a slightly psychedelic garage flavour over-laden with a Velvets drone.  I quite forgot how hot it was.

Hot night; hot band; good show.

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