News of the Weird #1

June 16, 2019 at 11:53 am (Uncategorized)

Even when I had more free time, I found that if I didn’t write something right away, I didn’t get around to it. So, the idea came just to write short pieces on Sunday noting odd lefty or news stuff for the week. Here’s the first.

1 Trump

Of course Trump to start. He occasionally shocks, but doesn’t surprise anymore. No, what shocks me is his defenders. This week, Trump gave an interview where he more or less said to foreign powers, I really want to win, so if you can help me out, I won’t tell on you. His backers responded by criticizing…Hillary Clinton. How sad has bourgeois democracy become in the US?

2. The Toronto Raptors

I’m not a basketball fan, and when people ask about sports, I’m often dismissive: bread and circuses and all that. Still, when Toronto won the NBA championship this week, it was hard not to notice just how happy people were. A real feeling in the air. Maybe that’s the point.

3. Long Holidays in the Summer

A week back, the Ontario Conservative government announced the summer recess. It started on June 7 and stretches all the way to October 28. (Past the Federal election where the Ontario Conservatives unpopularity is expected to hurt their federal counterparts, but I’m sure that’s a coincidence). That’s almost five months. Premier Ford said it was because they had been working so hard and accomplished so much.. (For fun, try this with your boss, and see what happens).  Next time the government talks about lazy teachers and their summer break, they might get ticketed by the Irony Police. (Sadly no such thing exists or we could pay off a lot of debt)

4. Luxury Communism

I’ve ordered my copy from the public library. Don’t know exactly what the author of Fully Automated Luxury Communism has in mind, but it’s an intriguing title.

5. Will Barnes

Will Barnes was an eccentric communist who died in 2012. Internationalist Perspective ran an obit for him. Except that he didn’t die. He just told his wife to pretend that he did because he was annoyed, frustrated, and who the fuck knows about politics. Apparently he’s published material in Insurgent Notes under a pen name. Under several pen names. one replying to something he wrote.  Now, it’s come out he’s alive. Bizarre.  Some details here.


And we’re off.



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Summer’s Upon Us

June 15, 2019 at 8:32 pm (Uncategorized)

May and June are my busiest moths at work, and that’s been reflective in the activity on this blog – almost nothing.

But as we are not half way through June, I’ve a bit more time to devote to it: Movies to mention, politics to critique. All the fun stuff.

See ya soon.

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Roy Bailey – Curtains of Old Joe’s House

May 22, 2019 at 1:44 am (Uncategorized)

Sometimes this world is harsh. Here’s a  song by the British folk giant Roy Bailey for simple tolerance and fundamental decency.

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Music Notes April 2019

April 30, 2019 at 8:39 pm (Uncategorized)

Here’s some things then

1.  Neu! – Neu

A friend insisted I listen to this 1972 debut from two former members of Kraftwerk.  “Hallogalllo” is an amazing pulsating track perfect for highway driving, and the three-part “Jahresüberblick” is also epic, but some of the ambient noises are going to take a bit longer to appreciate. Certainly worth checking out.

2. Cardi B – Invasion of Privacy

I was listening to this in the car, and my son said, “This isn’t what I imagine you listening to.” He’s right, but sometimes you want to listen to new stuff outside of your usual zone.  Yeah, yeah, “Bodak Yellow,” but also “Best Life” and “Money Bag.” And there were lines that made me laugh out loud. Hear it.

3. Ex-Hex – It’s Real 

Second album by the band. Probably even better than their debut Rips. Still the same driving punk-rock sound, but there’s some classic rock creeping in too – if I learned the band had been listening to Heart, it wouldn’t surprise me. At a recent show at the Horseshoe in Toronto, the band announced their discovery of Kim Mitchell proclaiming “Patio Lanterns” one of the greatest songs ever. Pretty amazing show, and a great set by the opening band Moaning.

4. Better Oblivion Community Center – Better Oblivion Community Center

My new favourite band (this week). Great collaboration by Phoebe Bridgers and Conor Oberst, and it’s everything you’d expect. Sure “Dylan Thomas” is the standout track, but there’s plenty more to enjoy

5. Vintage Rock

The latest issue of the magazine has a special feature on rockabilly, and a free CD. The CD has nothing you can’t live without, but it’s still cool to hear people making these sounds.

6. Holly Gollightly – Truly She is None Other 

Former Thee Headcoatee Holly Golightly puts out another album of originals that sound like covers of classic songs, and classic covers that sound like her songs. Great sixties style tunes. Sit back and listen. And read the liner notes by Jack White

7.  Sleaford Mods – Key Markets

Somehow I missed this one when it came out, but it’s another great slice of bile and keyboards from the lads. Stay angry.

8. Jenny Lewis – Punk Pioneers

Great little coffee table photo album of early LA punk. I don’t know a great deal about this lot, so it was cool to see those early days and bands, along with East Coast types like Blondie (Debbie Harry graces the cover) and the Ramones.

9.  Fatboy Slim – Live on Brighton Beach

Just one great big party record. Play loud

10. “Baby Shark”

My friends with young children tell me that the appeal grows thin pretty quickly. Oh well.


Till next month.

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Stan Lee on Racism

April 30, 2019 at 1:08 am (Uncategorized)

Funny how something written half a century ago can seem so relevant today


Let’s lay it right on the line. Bigotry and racism are among the deadliest social ills plaguing the world today. But, unlike a team of costumed super-villains, they can’t be halted with a punch in the snoot, or a zap from a ray gun. The only way to destroy them is to expose them—to reveal them for the insidious evils they really are. The bigot is an unreasoning hater—one who hates blindly, fanatically, indiscriminately. If his hang-up is black men, he hates ALL black men. If a redhead once offended him, he hates ALL redheads. If some foreigner beat him to a job, he’s down on ALL foreigners. He hates people he’s never seen—people he’s never known—with equal intensity—with equal venom.

Now, we’re not trying to say it’s unreasonable for one human being to bug another. But, although anyone has the right to dislike another individual, it’s totally irrational, patently insane to condemn an entire race—to despise an entire nation—to vilify an entire religion. Sooner or later, we must learn to judge each other on our own merits. Sooner or later, if man is ever to be worthy of his destiny, we must fill out hearts with tolerance. For then, and only then, will we be truly worthy of the concept that man was created in the image of God–a God who calls us ALL—His children.

Pax et Justitia

Stan Lee


PS Abut ten minutes after I posted the above, I came across a piece on Comic Book Resources entitled “Sgt Fury and the Howling Commandos Have no Patience for Any Bigots.” Yes, it’s true that the US army was segregated during the war, but it’s still a cool story published in 1963.



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On the Offering of Condolences

April 30, 2019 at 12:55 am (Uncategorized)

After the massacre in New Zealand, Trump tweeted:

“My warmest sympathy and best wishes goes out to the people of New Zealand after the horrible massacre in the Mosques.”

“Warmest sympathy” ? “Best wishes” ?

I know Trump doesn’t do empathy, but has he never signed a condolences card? Apparently not because after shooting in Poway, Trump offered his “warmest condolences.”

I know there’s so much other shit to be offended by, but getting this right seems like a slam-dunk. It’s not.


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The ISO and James Robertson

April 30, 2019 at 12:42 am (Uncategorized)

No, there’s no connection here, btu a month or so back, the U.S. International Socialist Organization (ISO) dissolved. Then, just a few weeks ago Spartacist League founder James Robertson died.

The ISO might have been the largest ostensible Trotskyist organization in the US, though they would not have used that label. The organization was founded in 1976, the result of a split or expulsion (depending on who you believe) from the International Socialists, a third camp Trotskyist group at one time led by Hal Draper. Earlier splits included the Revolutionary Socialist League which later birth the League for a Revolutionary Party. After the split, the ISO became aligned with the British Internationalist Socialists (who would change their name to the Sociability Workers Party the following year)  and adopted Tony Cliff’s theory of state-capitalism.

I didn’t run into the ISO too often, but they did come up to Toronto periodically for the Canadian International Socialists. During the time I . The impression I got was that the ISO had less tolerance for “sectarians” than their Canadian cousins, and they wondered why the IS put up with us. Eventually I, along with the other members of my group, were later banned from attending IS events.

The ISO and the SWP fell out a few years later, and the ISO went on its own merry way positioning itself as the Marxist/progressive/wing of whatever movement was happening. Its dissolution under circumstances which can be described as murky at best came as a bit of a surprise. Expect some former group of members to refound a little sect, while other appear as leftist ginger groups within the DSA.

The death of Robertson was less of a surprise. He was 90 years old and from all accounts lived a hard life of excess.

Robertson had been a member of the Communist Party and Max Shachtman’s organization before joining the Socialist Workers Party in the late 50s. When the SWP wholeheartedly endorsed the Cuban Revolution, Robertson along with Tim Wohlforth and Shane Mage was part of an opposition  grouping called the Revolutionary Tendency. The grouping split thanks to a maneuver by Wohlforth and both parts were eventually expelled.  Wohlforth went with Gerry Healy and after an abortive conference in London in 1966, Robertson helped to found the Spartacist League.

The history of the Spartacist League is too long to tell, and not one I have much interest in telling. There are already a couple of accounts of Robertson’s career circulating, but I’m waiting for the account in Workers Vampire 

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Music Notes March 2019

March 31, 2019 at 12:50 am (Uncategorized)

1 Jeff Goldblum and the Mildred Snitzer Orchestra – The Capital Studios Sessions 

Sure, sure, Jeff Goldblum is a cool guy, and he’s certainly a snappy dresser, but do I want to hear a record by him? As it turns out, I do. The Capital Studios Sessions is a cocktail jazz collection of standards and Goldblum along with guests like Haley Reinhart, Imelda May, and Sarah Silverman (!) singing duets. Seriously, the version of “Me and My Shadow” with Silverman is a lot of fun. Still, there’s a part of me, that feels, as nice as these are, it’s probably better to seek out earlier versions. On the other hand, no one will complain when you put this on at your next party (Can I come?)

2. Various Artists – Kreaturen der Nacht

Like the Jeff Goldblum record, this one doesn’t sound like something I’d want to listen to, but like that record, I’m glad I did. A crazy collection of what might loosely be called pre and post punk German disco. Now if I say the only person I’d heard of on this collection was Christiane F (yes, that Christiane F), does that interest or repel you? Crazy selection by JD Twitch, and well worth investigation. You might not dig everything, but I’m willing to bet there’s a few things that will strike your fancy.

3. Handsome Ned – The Name is Ned

Handsome Ned was a part of a diverse Queen Street West scene in the mid 1980s that included Blue Rodeo, Jane Sibbery, and the Cowboy Junkies. Playing a more rootsy country than Blue Rodeo, Ned never made the big time. In January 1987, he died of a heroin overdose. Two years later The Ballad of Handsome Ned was released collecting singles and unreleased tracks. It’s a pretty amazing record and includes my favourite of his songs, “In Spite of the Danger” which sounds very much like a cautionary tale about heroin. This two CD set from 2000 collects that first album plus demos and some roughly recorded live tracks. If you’re a completest, you probably need this.

4. Beaches – Late Show

I’m trying to listen to the radio more, but the only time I get to do so is when I’m driving. Beaches’ song “T-Shirt” get a lot of play on indie Canadian radio stations, and with good reason. Great little rocker. The album branches out covering a variety of styles, and I found myself liking the slower ones the best. Funny that. Support local music.

5. The Stray Cats – Runaway Boys: A Retrospective

It’s funny just how many Stray Cats comps don’t feature their greatest song “Runaway Boys.” Never fear, this one does include it (it’s the title of the collection after all). When the Stray Cats appeared in 1980, the rockabilly revival sounded fresh and inspired a cool set of fashion.  This comp has all the hits you know, plus a few interesting covers (“Can’t Hurry love” is not the first choice I’d make). Worth a trip down memory lane.

6. Bauhaus – 5 Albums 

Bauhaus were one of those tremendously influential bands that opened the floodgates for exciting genres and equally innovative bands, along with a tsunami of mediocrity. Bauhaus burst onto the post-punk scene in 1979 wearing their influences (Bowie, Bolan,Roxy) proudly, but their first single displayed a strong dub sound. This clamshell box set is an instant Bauhaus introduction. It contains the four studio albums highlighting their varied influences, but the gem is the fifth CD which boasts the singles. Nice addition to anyone’s collection.

7. Christine and the Queens – Chris

Not really the kind of thing I usually listen to,(Seems to be a lot of that this month) but the dance/disco sound of this one is really seductive – the pop sounds are very nearly perfect.

8. The Rolling Stones – Some Girls

The Stones have been bad longer than they’ve been good. And in my opinion, Some Girls is their last great album (I know some will make an argument for Tattoo You, but that’s another day). It’s the Stones rebuttal to punk, but it’s not a punk record. It’s a rock album, but it’s also country, blues and yeah, maybe a little punky. Worth tracking down the disc with the bonus songs

9. Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet – Dim the Lights and Chill the Ham

Shadowy Men will probably best be known for the song “Having an Average Weekend,” which was later used as the theme for the the Kids in the Hall’s self-titled TV show. This album is their first of surf instrumentals. Some are great, some are forgettable, but they make a great soundtrack to your next cool party. (Along with that Jeff Goldblum record)

10. Cassette – A Documentary Mix Tape

If you’re of a certain age, you spent a lot of time taping songs off of the radio with a cassette player. You also swapped albums on cassettes with your friends. Maybe you made mix-tapes trying to impress girls with your musical taste. Cassette: A Documentary Mix Tape is both a love letter to those early youthful days with commentary by the ubiquitous Thurston Moore and Henry Rollins, but also a broader look at the medium today. Didn’t you know there’s a revival? I’m certainly down with the former, but the latter seems limited. The great advantage of the tape was its portability (not exactly unique in the digital age), and this was great. Still, I do remember the sound was never as great as vinyl or CDs and about the same as MP3s (be honest), but it degraded much more quickly. Plus, despite the claims of its advocates, every single one of us who has used cassettes has lost tapes when they became too hissy, the tape snapped, or the player ate it. (Which happens more than people like to admit) None of this should stop you from watching this film or being charmed by it though.

And that is all.


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The Hunger Games Are Almost Upon Us

March 24, 2019 at 11:00 pm (Uncategorized)

The current Ontario government, the Conservative Party, was elected last summer. They are currently engaging in what they euphemistically call education reform, but it has parents, students and teachers concerned about the future of education in the province.

The last time the Conservative Party was in power in Ontario, among other things, it introduced a literacy test at grade 10. Arguing for a need for a basic literacy standard, the government introduced a mandatory test on which every student in the province needed to score 70 % to pass, and without which they could not graduate from high school. Among the tests of literacy were brief grammar sections (grammar is no longer taught in school), essays (which were never called as such),  and a newspaper report, (presumably because journalism is an expanding career field and this is something students will need) Despite being critical of the test, the opposition Liberals, when they came to power, did nothing to change it.

Pass rates from the test according to EQAO’s own data are in the low 90’s for first-time takers from the academic stream, and in the forties for those in the applied stream. (The applied stream also often includes ESL students for whom the cultural gap is sometimes too wide to bridge). So what happens to those kids who don’t pass? They can take it again, or they can take a credit course version.

But there’s a catch. In order to  take the course, you must first have attempted the test (i.e., tried and failed).

This year’s test is on Wednesday. My son is taking the test, and I have no doubt he’ll pass. But there will be other students at his school, and schools across the province, who will not pass. Many of those kids have been criticized throughout much of their lives by society (and yes, probably by some of their teachers too). Now, they are being asked to write a stressful test, in order to qualify for the chance to take a course. It just seems cruel.


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The Mueller Report – A Brief Take

March 24, 2019 at 10:41 pm (Uncategorized)

Not really a surprise.

After the submission of the Mueller Report and the release of a four page summary by William Barr, Trump tweeted,

No Collusion, No Obstruction, Complete and Total EXONERATION. KEEP AMERICA GREAT!

I’m pretty sure that was the tweet no matter what the report said except that exoneration would have been replaced with the word HOAX

The circus will continue.

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