Archive for August, 2010

SOUNDTRACK: PEARL JAM-Halifax, Nova Scotia, Metro Centre, September 22, 2005 (2005).

This show came as a free download if you purchased Pearl Jam’s Backspacer CD.

Pearl Jam live shows really showcase the band’s strengths.  And no shows are better than when they go to a place for the first time.  This was their first trip to “Halifax to the Max” and the band sounds fantastic.

Even when Eddie Vedder forgets the words in the first verse of a song “Breath” (which he says they don’t normally play and hadn’t yet played in on the tour) and just shouts “FUCK!” the band continues and the songs starts again as if nothing happened (the crowd wildly supportive of course).

There’s also some surprise treats, like the often overlooked “Glorified G” (not anywhere close to being one of their best songs, but fun in a live setting).  I especially liked the snippet of Sleater-Kinney’s “Modern Girl” that the toss in at the end of “Not for You.”  Although the inclusion of “Bow wow wow yippe yp yippe yea” in “Blood” is certainly odd.

Eddie in particular has a lot of fun with the locals when he demands that they bring him a can of Keefe’s Irish Stout.  He gets sillier and sillier with them (describing what he assumes the beer must be like) until one is finally procured for him.  And the bit about “fetch me a new guitar, I shan’t be playing this one” was a great set up for a joke.

The only complaint is that my downloaded version ends with Bu$hleaguer but the setlist suggests that there should be two more songs (“Fortunate Son & Rockin’ in the Free World”).  Bummer, although I’ve heard those songs on enough bootlegs to not really miss them.  (New comments added February 26, 2011).

[READ: August 26, 2010] Echo: 23 & 24

The series continues to grow in intensity and depth.  After something of a cul de sac in episodes 21 & 22, number 23 burst forth with new excitement.

The biggest news (ha ha) is that the alloy is making Julie grow.  The revelation is done rather humorously because, as we knew already, she needed clothes.  And when Ivy buys her her normal size, the clothes are simply too small (which Ivy has a mocking field day with).  [The whole of Issue 23 is devoted to some female fighting.  Terry seems to have an ear for this sort of fighting because it sounds very believable. Although it did make me uncomfortable that his two main characters, both of whom are female devolve into this sort of sniping, at least it didn’t get really ugly.] (more…)


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SOUNDTRACK: SINÉAD O’CONNOR-The Lion and the Cobra (1987).

I was tempted to say that this album came before all of the controversy.  But then, she’s always had controversy around her.  Just the fact that she had her head shaved was enough to incite some people to alarm (not to mention, we never received this more fierce looking album cover).

But before all of the success of “Nothing Compared 2 U,” she released this amazing, empassioned debut album.

I’ve no idea what the first track is about, but there’s something about her voice on the “oh’s” in particular that still gives me chills.  “Mandinka” has a great guitar sound (seemingly destined for hit radio) that seems very out of place on this disc (again, I’m lost on the lyrics here, too).

The album comes into its own with the really odd but delightful “Jerusalem.”  Musically it’s got a sort of funk base which resolves itself into a very winning chorus.  And, once again, her voice sounds otherworldly.  It’s followed by the largely acoustic “Just Like U Said it Would B” (Prince fan much?).  It’s a  fairly simple song (with interesting arrangement–I like the flute) that builds to a strong climax.

“Never Get Old” opens with some spoken Irish (and features future star Enya), but it’s “Troy” that is the absolute breakthrough on this disc.  From the occasionall string swells, to the eerie silences to the incredible heights that she reaches (and the notes that she can hold) it’s really tremendous.

“I Want Your Hands on Me” seems like another grab for a single.  The single version featured a bizarre little rap from MC Lyte.  In the pantheon of silly rap lyrics, I’ve alwys kept this near the top: “I’m not the kind of girl to put on a show coz when I say no, yo I mean no.”  Sentiment and good intentions aside, it’s very clumsy.   Not my favoite track.

The final two, “Drink Before the War” and “Just Call Me Joe” are interesting denouements after the pop of “Hands.”  “Drink is a slow paced, somewhat quiet track, until the chorus really blasts off.  And “Joe” sounds like a demo: a raw electric guitar, cranked way up (but mixed quietly) accompanying Sinéad’s instructions to just call her Joe.

In some ways this album is less subtle, and by that reckoning, less sophisticated, than the bajillion-selling follow up, but I find the naked passion on this disc to be even more amazing.

[READ: Week of August 30, 2010] Ulysses: Episodes 18

The final chapter of Ulysses is all about Molly.  It enters her head and doesn’t leave.  It doesn’t even pause for punctuation (there’s none in the entire chapter except for the final period).  There are paragraph breaks, which means that there are eight sentences in total.

The Episode is crass and sexual, beautiful and moving, personal and insightful and it seems incredibly forward thinking coming from a male writer.  And although it gets a lot more press as a stream of consciouness piece, it’s not that far removed from Stephen’s or Bloom’s pieces, [except that she doesn’t actually intearct with anyone to interrupt her thoughts].

The Epsiode reflects upon what we’ve learned in the day.  It inadvenrtanetly corrects some misperceptions (regarding Molly’s past infidelities–she didn’t have any–), but it also shows some pretty poor judgments on Molly’s part (mostly regarding Stephen).  And there’s just so much going on in the episode that it’s hard to catalog it all.   But it is certainly full of a lot of sexual thoughts. (more…)

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[WATCHED: August 26, 2010] Everything’s Gone Green

I’m including this film because it was written by Douglas Coupland (and he’s one of those writers that I read a lot).

Everything’s Gone Green is a story of suburban life in Vancouver.  As the film opens the main character gets dumped by his girlfriend and loses his job.  And he hasn’t won the lottery (this sequence with his family is hilarious).  However, calling the BC Win line (is this what you do when you win the lottery?) gets him a job at the BC lottery.  [This entire job and company absolutely fascinated me.  It was an excellent location for a film].

From there the movie settled into Douglas Coupland territory: scenes from Vancouver, working in a cubicle, scenes from Vancouver, unattainable love, scenes from Vancouver, the Asian community of BC, and more scenes from Vancouver.

We had recently watched the TV series of JPod (based on his book).  Steph Song from JPod is in this film (and it’s nice to see her with a different type of character).  But what’s surprising (or maybe it’s not?) is how much of this film he recycled into JPod (or actually, they seem to be written concurrently, so I’m not sure which came first). (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: A HOUSE-“More Endless Art” (1991).

Lar, my encyclopedia of music, pointed me to this second version of “Endless Art” by A House.  The original was all male artists.  This follow-up is all female artists.

I enjoyed this version very much, and it made me realize that I was tired of the original song because of the lyrics, not the music (listening to spoken word bits over and over can be exhausting). So, now I get a new version of the song with brand new lyrics to think about.

The video doesn’t go anywhere near the conceptual peak that the first one achieved, I’m not even sure who made it.

Watch it below, or look for the “Endless Art” single.

[READ: August 21,. 2010] “A Brush”

I read John Berger’s Ways of Seeing back in graduate school.  It’s a group of essays about perception and art.  I had no idea that he wrote anything else, and promptly forgot about him.  So, imagine my surprise to see this piece of fiction written by John Berger (and a little research indicating that it is the same guy).  I liked Ways of Seeing but it didn’t impact my life in any major way, this was all just an interesting (to me) coincidence.

I wasn’t really sure what to think of this story as it opened.  It talks of a paint brush.  And the wording of it was a bit odd, I felt:

I want to tell you the story of how I gave away this Sho Japanese brush.

But it’s the description of the brush that I found so compelling:

I drew often with it. It was made of the hairs of horse and sheep. These hairs once grew out of a skin. Maybe this is why when gathered together into a brush with a bamboo handle they transmit sensations so vividly. When I drew with it I had the impression that it and my fingers loosely holding it were touching not paper but a skin. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: PETE SEEGER-Greatest Hits (2002).

Like Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger has been singing for the common man since forever.  Unlike Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger is alive and well and still kicking up a fuss.

This collection of his songs is fascinating in that it shows a certain aspect of Pete’s music: his songs are designed for “folks.”  His songs almost demand audience participation.  And so, he has albums for kids (that are weird but wonderful) and other, grown up songs that kids also know, which people have been singing for generations.

And so this disc features more than “studio tracks.”  It opens with “Little Boxes” a wonderful song which features some awesome lyrics including this verse:

And the people in the houses
All went to the university,
Where they were put in boxes
And they came out all the same,
And there’s doctors and lawyers,
And business executives,
And they’re all made out of ticky tacky
And they all look just the same.

But in addition, you get some classic tracks that define rebellious folk: “Which Side Are You On?” “We Shall Overcome” and “Waist Deep in the Big Muddy.”   It also has songs like “Wimoweh (The Lion Sleeps Tonight)” and “Abiyoyo.”

And of course, it features, “Where Have All the Flowers Gone” and “Turn Turn Turn” songs which I’ve known since I was a little kid, but whose lyrics never meant anything to me until I became an adult.  There’s even “If I Had a Hammer” with the final verse:

It’s the hammer of justice;
It’s the bell of freedom;
It’s the song about love between my brothers and my sisters;
All over this land

For a really comprehensive collection of his “studio work” the ideal disc is If I Had a Hammer: Songs of Hope and Struggle (where he sets the tune of “Battle Hymn of the Republic” to a song called “Solidarity Forever” (Solidarity forever, Solidarity forever, Solidarity forever, For the union makes us strong.)

Pete Seeger is indeed a national treasure, and a man who fights in his own way for each of us.

[READ: August 23, 2010] Social Anarchism or Lifestyle Anarchism: An Unbridgeable Chasm

After reading Letters of Insurgents, I felt the need for a palate cleanser.  Melissa suggested this title.  And it really did wonders for me.

All along while I was reading Insurgents, I felt like everyone in the book was misguided about their role in society and, frankly about their ability to undermine the world.  I never understood the idea that people were “making” them work.  They didn’t have to work.  They could have lived off the grid somewhere and eaten berries.  What else is the point of a strike than to improve working conditions, not to abolish work altogether (that whole apart about the plants’ foreign offices plugging along despite their big lockdown was particularly hilariously naive).

In many ways I felt like their opinions were on par with what I thought anarchism was, and yet their opinions were nothing I wanted to be a part of.  Bookchin argues that their attitudes are examples of Lifestyle Anarchism (this article does not address the book at all, but you can see the characters in what he’s describing.) (more…)

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This is an EP that came out just after I Am the Greatest.  Released only in the UK, I found it used at Amoeba Records (I must have been on an A House binge at the time).

The EP has 6 tracks.  The opener sounds like a slightly remixed version of “You’re Too Young.”  And “Take It Easy on Me” also sounds remixed (the wah wah seems downplayed somewhat, although the song is still strong).

The other tracks are good songs from this experimental period of A House.

But for me the highlight is “When I Last Saw You,” the 5 minute version of “When I First Saw You” from Greatest.  I’d always liked the album versions’ fascinating concision and almost a capella feel.  This version tacks on a proper song, and it changes the song in wonderful ways.  I will always enjoy that short version, but this EP version is really great.

What’s interesting is that there’s virtually no record of this disc on the web.  Even though the A House homepage is known as ZOP.  The site, sadly, has not been updated for two years.  Although it does answer the question of what Dave Couse has been up to since the late 1990s.

[READ: August 22, 2010] Bloom County: Vol. 2: 1982-1984

This volume of the collection covers a lot of the comics that I know very well.  There are a number of strips that I drew (not traced) and hung in my locker in high school (I wasn’t about to cut up Loose Tales, was ?).  It also covers what I think of as my first era of social and political awareness.

I know I wasn’t totally aware of what was going on, but, via punk music mostly, I became aware of criticisms of Reagan.  And to a lesser degree, so does Bloom County.  I’m actually surprised at how apolitical it seems in retrospect.  My recollection was that it was a massively political strip.   And yes, there are a lot of political references, but for the most part it’s sort of political pop culture jokes.  Reagan gets teased a bit (although again less than you might expect), but it’s not the raging left-wingedness that I fondly recall. (That said, the strip is imbued with leftie political ideas, but they’re sort of mellow compared to now).

Rather, the political jokes are aimed at politicians as a class.  And there are commentaries about political events (couched in terms of local politicians, or, more often, in terms of Bloom County’s nonsensical “scandals” that are based on what really happened (although often the real scandals seem as absurd as the Bloom County ones). (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: A HOUSE-I Want Too Much (1990).

I Want Too Much saw a bit of a stylistic shift from the sort of generic indie rock of the first album.  Dave Couse’s voice begins to really come into its own with a lot of yelping and higher notes.

The album overall is more experimental, a good stepping stone towards I Am the Greatest.  This is probably the last A House record I bought (from Amoeba Records!).  And again, had I bought it in 1990, I think I would have loved it.

As it is, it reminds me, once again, of the era (in fact, this album reminds me a lot of James circa 1990).  The lyrics are slightly more deep than on the first disc, but I honestly can’t say that the songs really stick out for me.

I may have come to the party too late for this one.

[READ: August 20, 2010] “Los Malos”

This was something of a banner issue of Harper’s for me.  I’d been kind of down on the magazine over the last several months as I felt the really good stuff just hadn’t been here.  But this issue was packed with great articles.

I was keenly interested in this article because I have recently read Roberto Bolaños’ 2666.  That novel is concerned with the senseless and random killings of so many women around Juarez, Mexico.  That news story seemed to be just catching on in the mainstream press when it was supplanted by this new horror story that border cities in Mexico are hotbeds of drug-related murders (of men and women).  Strangely, I don’t know if the Juarez situation has calmed down or if this is a concurrent mass murder scenario along the border. (more…)

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