Goodbye 2016

December 31, 2016 at 5:27 pm (Uncategorized)

I was joking with a friend that maybe this ought to be “Good Riddance 2016,” but seriously…. This was the year we lost Bowie, Alan Rickman, Prince, Elie Wiesel, Alistair MacLeod, Prince Buster, Carrie Fisher, Gary Shandling, Leonard Cohen and many many more, as well as seeing a boorish, vulgar, narcissistic sociopath chosen to be the leader of the most important country in the world. <sigh>  But, if I’m being honest, I’d admit that most other years suck too. Still, there were things that made it worthwhile, along with family, friends and dog, the following made life a little easier.

1 The Mekons

For those who don’t know, the Mekons are one of the last standing of the class of 77, but what’s cool is unlike some, they continue to make great music that sounds fresh and vital. Saw them at the Horseshoe this year, and they were wonderful. If you can find their newest release Existentialism which comprises a live CD,  and a book of essays, poems and art, get it. Great.

2 Neil Gaiman

One of my favourite fantasy authors. In addition to releasing a collection of essays, The View from the Cheap Seats that sent me scurrying to find new books mentioned, there were radio plays of Stardust and How the Marquis got his coat Back, a reading of Poe’s “The Raven,” and the impending TV adaptation of American Gods. Very cool. And to cap it off, my friend Lindsey bought me an American Gods T-shirt for Christmas.

3. Prince Edward County

I know what Marx said about the idiocy of rural life, but you really should see Prince Edward County. About ninety minutes drive from Toronto, it’s a place where time seems to move a little slower. Beautiful to look at, and filled with interesting things to see, and some very nice wine. Apart from an unfortunate allergy related incident while horse-back riding, a very pleasant week.

4. The Sleaford Mods

No less a person than Iggy Pop proclaimed them one of his favourite bands. Who am I to disagree? Imagine Half-Man Half Biscuit with a keyboard, and a lot more swearing. Definitely NSFW, but  absolutely brilliant. Playing Lee’s Palace in Toronto on April 1st. Got my ticket. Get yours because you’ll be sorry when it sells out.

5. The Exorcist 

I read the book when I was a teen, and even though I was an atheist, I was too scared to see the movie. I still haven’t seen it. The TV series obviously doesn’t compare to the book or I suppose the movie (It’s network TV after all), but it’s one of the most creepy and unsettling things on at the moment. The scene in the first episode in the attic with the possessed daughter is skin-crawling. I can’t imagine how scared I would be if I did believe in God.

6. Kim’s Convenience 

A CBC adaptation of a Soul Pepper play makes for a gentle sit-com. The story of convenience store run by Korean immigrants in the Cabbagetown /Regent Park area of Toronto isn’t ground breaking, but it’s a treat each week.

7. The Royal Ontario Museum

Went yesterday to see the Chihuly exhibit. The exhibit is very cool, although it didn’t move me as some have done. Still, leaving aside the Surrealists critique of museums and art galleries, it’s still a remarkable place to hang out.  Got to pet a live lemur too.

8. Lemur Shirt

And while we’re on the subject of lemurs, I bought a very cool (IMHO) lemur shirt from Frank and Oak – relax, it’s not made of lemurs, it just has lemurs on it. Likewise a camel shirt from the same establishment.


9. At the Existentialist Cafe 

When I was in high school, I read a lot of existentialist literature: Sartre, Camus  and even some of the theory – Being and Nothingness did me in though. Sarah Bakewell’s account of the theory and its leading members is a very readable book, and brought back a lot of happy (?) memories for me. She was even nice enough to reply when I sent her a note.

10. Grand Hotel Abyss

I could be wrong, but I get the feeling that it’s going to be increasingly fashionable to mention the Frankfurt School in the same way it was to slip the Situationists into conversation a few years back. I’m currently about half way through Stuart Jeffries’s book, and am enjoying it immensely. The title is from a critical remark  by Lukacs, but not entirely an unpleasant place to spend one’s time.

11. Young Animal

A new imprint by DC comics and curated by former My Chemical Romance singer Gerard Way. If DC’s Vertigo line was horror, Young Animal is surrealism. So far the YA line consists of Cave Carson has a Cybernetic Eye, the Doom Patrol (both written by Way), Mother Panic and my favourite Shade the Changing Girl. Highly recommended.

12. Kensington Market

Between Spadina and Bathurst, and bordered by College and Dundas is Kensington Market, one of my favourite areas of Toronto. Rich ion radical histroy (Emma Goldman lived there, and the Communist Party owned buildings), it’s a fascinating piece of life. Constantly under threat of gentrification, the market continues offering cheap and essential goods often unavailable elsewhere. Yes, some will prefer St. Lawrence, but Kensington has a much more vibrant culture.

13. The Beguiling

The best comic shop in the city and beyond (we can argue about that later). I’ve been a regular at the shop since the 1980’s when it was on Harbourd.  The store is currently moving out of Mirvish Village to make way for condos, but has happily relocated to the Northern border of Kensington which will give me more reasons to spend time there. Haven’t been to the new location yet, but soon…

14. Ms. Anti-Matter Science Wear

OK, their web site is down at the moment, but they have a lot of cool science stuff there. I bought a rather nice caffeine tie from them, and they are regulars at Fan Expo.

15. The Museum of Steam and Technology

Travel down to Hamilton, and you can see this pretty cool place. It’s you’re a steam-punk fan or not, it’s worth a trip to see how the mighty engines of steam worked.

16. The tie clip

You can spend a lot of money on a tie clip, but a cool one attracts conversation (for the record, I usually get them at Kensington Market’s Courage My Love). NEVER use a piece of scotch tape to keep your tie in place. You know who I mean.

17. Endnotes

Time was once my favourite political magazines were Internationalist Perspective, Aufheben and Radical Anthropology. I’m a member of IP,RA seems to have stopped publication, and Aufheben has become leftist in its orientation, but Endnotes is a worthy replacement. The journal is published by former members of Aufheben, and is a dense read (imagine if Conrad wrote political theory), and appears sporadically. I don’t agree with everything in it, but it’s essential reading.

18. Deadpool. 

OK, I had to be convinced to see this one. I didn’t really like the character in the comics, and there’s a lot to dislike about the film: Excessive violence, several ridiculous plot points, the real absence of a plot, questionable C.G.I., and so forth, but for the time Ryan Reynolds is on screen, and he’s on a lot, Deadpool is incredible. Funny as hell. Pure idiot escapism. Can they do it a second time? Probably not, but I can live with that.

19. The Sunshine Grill

My favourite greasy spoon. Apparently, it’s become a chain. I used to go to the one at Yonge and Eglinton, but you can find them across the city and beyond – I took my mum there for Mother’s Day in St. Catharines this year. Cheap, clean and a good selection. And coffee. Lots of coffee.

20. This year’s closing will be short. The final word of Rogue One spoken by Carrie Fisher’s character Princess Leia: “Hope”

Enjoy 2017.




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