Steel Bananas Art Collective Sun, 19 Jul 2015 14:54:29 +0000 en hourly 1 SB Publications Presents… Tue, 28 Feb 2012 00:06:07 +0000 Steel Bananas Rich Text AreaToolbarBold (Ctrl / Alt + Shift + B)Italic (Ctrl / Alt + Shift + I)Strikethrough (Alt + Shift + D)Unordered list (Alt + Shift + U)Ordered list (Alt + Shift + O)Blockquote (Alt + Shift + Q)Align Left (Alt + Shift + L)Align Center (Alt + Shift + C)Align Right (Alt + Shift

SB Publications Presents: Daniel Scott Tysda
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///SB 26: December 2010 Fri, 31 Dec 2010 11:59:03 +0000 Steel Bananas SB26

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//Letter from the Editor: December 2010 Fri, 31 Dec 2010 11:58:40 +0000 Steel Bananas December 29th, 2010 After two years of publishing monthly issues, Steel Bananas is going quarterly. With the editorial staff scattering all over Canada and the U.S. pursuing academic and artistic careers, the monthly format simply didn't suit our busy schedules, or our vision for the content and reach of the zine. So, this is our

December 29th, 2010

After two years of publishing monthly issues, Steel Bananas is going quarterly. With the editorial staff scattering all over Canada and the U.S. pursuing academic and artistic careers, the monthly format simply didn't suit our busy schedules, or our vision for the content and reach of the zine.

So, this is our last issue until March 2011. We're really excited about the new format, which will give us more time to focus on our new chapbook press and events. We've been overwhelmed by the great feedback from our readers and the Canada Council for the Arts, and we want Steel Bananas to continue to publish unique, wack, and interesting work from Canadian writers. Our quarterly issues will be larger, include a poetry and fiction section, and will be available in different formats, including ePub and PDF. We want to make sure that our decrease in publishing frequency will coincide with an increase in publishing quality, something that the monthly format simply can no longer sustain.

Thanks to everyone for your support over the last two years. In late January 2011, we will be releasing a special edition of Steel Bananas in print and ePub with the best articles in Steel Bananas from the last two years, including interviews with Shad, Diamond Rings, Van Dyke Parks, and more, along with essays on philosophy, politics, postmodernism, pop-culture, transit, and performance art. We'll also include photos from our many events, including The Monthly Eggplant Reading Series and The Artichoke Revue, along with excerpts from our special projects GULCH (Tightrope Books, 2009) and our G20 supplement. It has been a pleasure for us to work as part of this rich and diverse art collective, and personally, I couldn't have hoped for more from this tiny zine which spawned a community.

All the best for a happy holiday season, and a 2011 full of prosperity.

Karen Correia Da Silva
Steel Bananas

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Staying Warm in the Studio: Sandro Perri on Collaboration and Isolation Fri, 31 Dec 2010 06:30:32 +0000 Dennis Reynolds It’s one of the first nights of winter. It’s probably not that cold out, but my body is having a tough time adjusting to the newfangled chill. In cases such as these, I’m particularly averse to change. Nevertheless, my over-bundled body continues southward down a deserted Augusta avenue. Tonight I’m checking out a show in

It’s one of the first nights of winter. It’s probably not that cold out, but my body is having a tough time adjusting to the newfangled chill. In cases such as these, I’m particularly averse to change. Nevertheless, my over-bundled body continues southward down a deserted Augusta avenue. Tonight I’m checking out a show in the market at a venue I’ve never heard of. When I arrive at the address of the elusive Double Double Land, I find myself standing in between a fish and chips place and a bakery. There are people all over the sidewalk. Some are chatting in small groups while others enjoy cigarettes alone (‘Enjoy’ might be the wrong word in this weather. When it’s this cold, smokers begin to trade in their careless stance for that shoulders-clenched, incredibly hassled look). In between the fish and chips place and the bakery there is an alley. At the end of this alley there are double doors. Through the double doors there is a dark staircase, which, miraculously, leads me to my destination. Even if there were no show, I feel as though this strange scavenger hunt was worth it. Or something.

It’s fitting that someone like Sandro Perri would be playing an under-publicized set at a hidden venue on a deserted street. Perri is somewhat of a hidden gem in Toronto’s music scene. Despite having released consistently great albums on Constellation Records for a number of years now, Sandro continues to fly just below the radar of the local hype machines. Part of this, I figure, must do with his chameleon-like tendencies as a musician. He’s released records under his own name, under the title Polmo Polpo and contributed to a variety of collaborations including the one-off self-titled disc by Glissandro 70. In addition to his projects’ differences in titles, their musical differences are similarly paramount. When I first thought of the possibility of interviewing Sandro, I wanted to uncover his motivations behind this, (perhaps naively) believing there were profound reasons for his choices. “All the different name stuff is in the tradition of dance and electronic producers, I suppose.” Sandro tells me via e-mail, “Flavouring the perception of the music itself, outside of name recognition. A way to skirt the issue of branding.”

Certainly, branding Perri as any one type of artist would be implausible. Polmo Polpo is a reflection of Sandro’s more electronic loop-laden tendencies, while the work under his own name (most notably 2005’s beautiful Tiny Mirrors) appears to fall more in the full-band, singer-songwriter vein. When I ask Sandro the motivation for such stylistic shifts, he is quick to downplay any notion of the sort. “I don’t really think of it as a stylistic shift.” Perri continues, “I guess there was some sort of genre shift, but that stuff is just a trick. Fodder for creativity. I think of style as the more fundamental thing; what is unique to an individual or a group. If there is some kind of style running through the things I do, whether it’s dance music or noise or songs or whatever, that’s all I can hope for. Genre shifts tend to happen more on the surface, along a lateral plane. The only other thing about the shifts I made is that it feels really good to sing. I think eventually, every musician addresses that. Or they don’t. But it’s always there.”

Tiny Mirrors | Sando Perri

Sandro’s voice is such a central element on Tiny Mirrors that it’s easy to assume all of his previous projects would have featured his delicate falsetto. Then again, when listening to Tiny Mirrors, it’s hard to believe that Sandro was only a few years removed from 2003’s Like Hearts Swelling, one of many vocal-less, sprawling ambient works released as Polmo Polpo. While Tiny Mirrors features Sandro exploring his capabilities as a vocalist and bandleader, his affinity for isolated studio wizardry is clear. “At that time [of Like Hearts Swelling] I just wanted to sit and work on achieving a sound. Didn’t really get to the singing part yet. Definitely a more introverted process. I was making a lot of electronic music so I was warm in the studio. I had lots of pieces sketched out; loops running together and stuff like that. Signal chains I liked to work with. I recorded a few bits of live playing (viola, double bass, accordion, alto sax) to taste and then one track was essentially constructed out of a live improvisation between myself and two others.”

Like Hearts Swelling is a favourite of mine, largely due to the unabashed sonic chaos that runs throughout each of its five tracks (The first time I listened to it on speakers I thought my stereo was breaking down). Yet, in our discussion, I realize that the album is not simply built on a cacophony of kitchen-sink jams, but rather reflective of Sandro’s attention to both aural and compositional detail. “The pieces for Like Hearts Swelling were developed like a dub, where you run tracks through a mixer and build the piece up with faders and processing, basically doing a live mix.” He continues, “Through this process I learned the arc of the pieces; the pacing and the form. For the recording, I rebuilt the songs track by track and mixed them digitally.”

While Like Hearts Swelling is certainly more of an electronic, cerebral journey, Tiny Mirrors, seems more in line with something like Astral Weeks, where more traditional songwriting is combined with live acoustic improvisation performed by a variety of musicians. Given the difference in Tiny Mirrors from his earlier work, I figured Sandro was deliberately attempting to capture that same spirit as found on Van Morrison’s seminal recording. “I hadn’t heard that record until long after I made Tiny Mirrors, so not specifically. But the spirit, I can see what you mean, although maybe it depends on what you mean by spirit. In Van Morrison’s case, I don’t think it was he who chose Richard Davis and the others who made that magic happen. And if what we’ve read is true, he barely spoke to them. Is that true? I don’t know.”

Clearly, Tiny Mirrors was as much about embracing simply playing with others as it was about locating a new sound. As he points out, “I had been playing with a band for a couple of years already, and we had learned the songs and played them many times. And there was friendship there too. We did in fact speak to one another, so I could predict what would happen to some extent. I knew Eric [Chenaux] would make his guitar go “waaaaooouuuhh” at the start of a phrase, I knew how Ryan [Driver]’s voice would blend with mine and that [drummer] Blake Howard would throw a curve ball whenever he got bored. So I chose the players for specific reasons. They added so much to the music. And I wanted the structure of the songs themselves to bend to their instincts as improvisers.”

Yet, despite trading studio seclusion for full-band collaboration, Sandro found himself performing familiar roles during post-production: sorting out the chaos and transforming it into something more defined. “I wanted to step away from the ‘working-in-isolation-and-controlling-everything’ scenario. Although, in the end, the mixing and editing ended up being a fair bit of that.”

Though a guitar-slinging Sandro was armed with both a bass player and drummer at Double Double Land that night, his live set-up avoids a consistent structure. A few years prior, I’d seen Sandro play as a sort of one-man band, with only a kick drum and a guitar. “It mostly comes down to the music I’m writing at the moment.” He explains, “I can’t play it all myself. And it’s always more fun to play with others. But true solo I like too.” While this particular lineup may represent the currently manifestation of Sandro’s writing, it is clear that he is hardly resistant to change. “I am working on one now. It’s got tons of synth on it.”

Sandro plays the Tranzac as part of their New Year’s Eve party on the 31st. Visit for more info.

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NERDVENTURES: Familiar Songs From Distant Worlds Thu, 30 Dec 2010 06:31:49 +0000 King Frankenstein When I went to summer camp, the oldest boy’s dorm and focus point of younger male’s uncool envy would always go underway with spotlighting antics to which their disciples would only aspire to. One of their common flair ups would take place in the mess hall. During any too-dull-to-stand moments or amid any too-hyped-to-ignore cheer

When I went to summer camp, the oldest boy’s dorm and focus point of younger male’s uncool envy would always go underway with spotlighting antics to which their disciples would only aspire to. One of their common flair ups would take place in the mess hall. During any too-dull-to-stand moments or amid any too-hyped-to-ignore cheer offs, they would take it upon themselves to stand on their chairs and in an uncoordinated harmony of vocoded ‘doots’ and ‘deets’ the good old boys would give their try at impersonating the instantly recognizable Super Mario theme. Between the three Game Boy Colours that circulated my padawan dorm, it became clear that this could actually be the second oldest/third youngest crew on camp's chance to shine, and so it was suggested to my counsellor that perhaps we’d ‘back up’ the older males with our own take on the equally classic theme from The Legend of Zelda series. It was shot down. “They wouldn’t get it,” warned our summertime protector, and while I can understand the attempt at protection, between ‘not getting it’ having never stopped us from doing something dumb in the past and the appearances of costume-box made Links appearing at a few themed dinner nights, I was a bit offended.

To a kid, to me the kid, games were important, and frankly the bulk of my cultural sophistication. Before I really branched out between Weird Al and The Offspring, original chip tunes accompanying Donkey Kong, Earthbound and Earthworm Jim really made up the bulk of my age ten top forty. Being told by an elder that Zelda would not be given the chance to supersede lunch session Great Big Sea tapes and tween sing-a-longs of the Spice Girls singles was a pretty damaging bullet to the heart. But times have changed, oh, they’ve changed.

I’m a big boy now. A big boy with a big MP3 player with strange and alienating bands you’ve never heard of scattered throughout. Despite all this maturity and despite the fact peers Al Yankovic and Dexter Holland no longer carry the same personal gravity, if I hear even the first few notes of Stickerbrush Symphony, a weird indescribable comfort from within will try to manifest into tears I’ll fight back. So what gives, me? Is this a nostalgia thing, or is some of this game music as timeless and inspiring no matter the technological limitations? Can these simple tunes transcend their own context? Well, he may be biased, but someone seems to get what I’m talking about.

“Today's fashion is out of date tomorrow,” heeds Final Fantasy composer Nobuo Uematsu, “The music expressed by all one's life is not related to fads.”

Final Fantasy is a unique case, as far as fandom goes. It’s gone through so many metamorphoses through so many years the net of interest it has cast over gamers is nearly incomparable. It’s a game not only defining of a genre, it is a game a genre is constantly associated with. Even in weaker entries, or when certain players find themselves underwhelmed with editions, their ties or relation to another one more than likely balances it all out. But the game itself, the guts and the graphics that compose the pixels and polygons on screen are not even the majority of the story. During the 90s, the series became a force daring to go where most games, obsessive with actions and attention as they were, dared not go, places of emotions. When people think of the series they think not merely of the fun they have had, but moments, characters, feelings and music. One November night, many of these fans gathered at the ex-Hummingbird, now Sony Centre, simply to share presence with Nobuo Uematsu. Titled Distant Worlds, a full orchestra presented material by the famous Uematsu, conducted by Grammy winner Arnie Roth, also a fan of the songs from Final Fantasy. As it happens, he doesn’t even like video games that much.

“Am I a gamer? No. Have I played games? Certainly, years ago.” Instead, Roth’s attention was hooked after SquareEnix held a ‘one night’ performance at the Disney Concert Hall, coincided with E3. “I heard about it as the director and conductor of the Chicagoland Pops Orchestra, and for the fact a friend of mine was trying to interest other orchestras into performing the pieces. All the other orchestras, and this is an interesting thing, weren’t taking interest. Many felt because the original was held in ties to E3 it wouldn’t stand alone outside of a video game conference. They did not believe that it could sell tickets. It was left up to me and I was the only person who decided to take a chance and do the concert. We did it in February of 2005, and it sold out 4,000 seats very quickly. It went on from there that I became the conductor for the little tiny mini-tour of Dear Friends program, I met Nobuo for the first time in Chicago when we brought him in and did a very in-depth study of all the material.”


We’re here, we’re seated. We being me and also Will Perkins. The seats are being filled quickly soon after the doors open after standing in the lobby observing some desperately themed snacks (still not sure what quesadillas have to do with archers... In fact what does Final Fantasy really have to do with archers?) Once you had all the fans in sight, it was hard not to make observations. Mostly young, though sprinkled with older generations. Mostly male, but a tight race for gender, closer than you’d see at many other gaming events. Some dressed up, but not as many I had hoped for. One couple I wasn’t sure if they were ‘cosplaying’, simply donning vogue white attire, could be ‘cosplaying’ Mickey Rourke at the Oscars. “I came for the music,” said one older man sitting next to me when I asked him if he was here for the games or the music. "My son,” a boy who was clutching onto a freshly bought shirt and poster, “came for both.” “Because,” said a former classmate, or at least I have to assume because she recognized me, “I’ve been a fan since I was like, eight.”

Then the orchestra begins to flow in. Players take their seats, and I comment to Will, as the choir files in the back, that the audience will probably lose their shit when they hit One Winged Angel. Arnie comes to the head of the stage, to audience ovation, then gestures his hand to someone expected doing something unexpected. Nobuo Uematsu, the man of the hour, comes out of an exit in the seated section, wearing a bandana that makes him look like Mister Miyagi, darting to the front of the center section taking his seat well among the peons. The audience then engages in the kind of applaud that is as raucous as it is envious, the words “some lucky guy” resonate around me. “He’s very unassuming,” Roth told me of Nobuo, “low key.”

“At that time, no one wanted to compose for games,” Uematsu told me of his origins, “I was thinking this job might not be so popular. That's why an amateur like me could even get at that job. Although the job might be minor, I was happy to be able to live as a music composer. There was no time to feel the technical limitations at that time. It was almost like a game to me to compose using just three channels. That experience affected my basic style of composing, using definitive melody lines. Nowadays, from that experience, I can't believe there are people graduating colleges of music wanting to be composers for games.”

The players warm their hot instruments up, Will chuckles how badly games have brainwashed him, since hearing the brief tuning session alludes him to the PS3 starting up. Then, taking no time to remind those who are here why they are here, in a powerful burst, the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony opens with the battle victory jingle. The audience roars in a way I don’t think is familiar to nights at the symphony. Nobuo told me, “No matter where in the world, I am surprised and impressed to see the fans' passions!”

The crowd probably doesn’t fit the typical symphony archetype. They are dressed either casually, or alternative reality, some donning full anime-inspired wares, others Kingdom Hearts shirts. They are all also, and this was kind of rampant, taking photos and videos. Digital lights infest the seats in front of me, like some sort of Tron-themed-vigil, as people hold steady their cameras, iPhones and in the case of the girl in front of me, the camera built into her Nintendo DS.

“I was shocked by the fan reactions in the beginning, shocked” Said Roth, “It was jaw-dropping. These fans are unbelievable no matter where they are in the world, in Singapore, Vancouver, Taiwan, Stockholm, we have Sydney coming up, Royal Albert Hall. The people who come to these concerts are very much Final Fantasy fans, dedicated. The moment the piece is over, you have them cheering, over the top standing ovations, huge, something you’d never see at a classical performance. They often will be cheering when I call out the next piece. This is the interesting thing, they are very well educated on the subject. I get emails after every concert, comments about the directions I took pieces, the way I handled Aerith’s theme or even on the subject of beats per minute, the metronome marking that I put something at, or an effective extended phrase. They know the music so well they are very qualified to comment on it. Some will go to concerts, travel, fly there, and they had already watched those concerts elsewhere. Lots of people from South America come in, we’ve never performed there, Egypt even. Korea is begging us to play. Fascinating audience, fascinating.”


Don’t want to sound like an advert, but the sound quality in the Sony Centre, Sony being an entertainment related technology company, is awesome. It’s crystal, the performance from the stage snuggles up next to your ear, as clear as if you had it playing to you personally in the comfort of your own listening room. The video which accompanied, well, that’s a bit more contextual. Roth told me ahead of time that Toronto would receive the first jab at HD videos accompanying the performance, presenting sequences that represented the music and the games, though not always the exact sequences of the music. They started with pieces from FFVII and FFVIII, games made during the height of Final Fantasy’s popularity, and the Playstation One’s FMVs were, well, they were doing the best they could. The smudgy cinematics aren’t Money For Nothing, but they haven’t aged as gracefully as nostalgia would fool you.

Some of the pairings, regardless of how nice the feed looked on a giant projection screen, were very clever. One favourite of mine and many others, was the recreation through video and music of the opera sequence from FFVI, which previously didn’t have real vocals because at the time, the SNES couldn’t even give annoying Bubsy Bobcat quips justice. There’s a sequence dedicated to Chocobo, the squeaky yellow bird who’s appeared in just about all the entries, and while the little fan-service mambo isn’t ‘my thing’ it’s impossible to decry it wasn’t well appreciated. One thing harder to defend were performances of songs from the latest entries, FFXIII and FFXIV, since the music was not composed by Nobuo, and while that doesn’t make the music under par, the games they herald from certainly are. FFXIV, an MMO which only came out in the last few months, is so openly abolished SquareEnix is having trouble giving it away for free online.

But like I mentioned before, new tragedies doesn’t scratch fond memories. A sombre Terra’s theme is still as warm and touching as it was over a decade ago, the Jenova music is impeccably epic, and even though I didn’t even like FFX, To Zanarkland, the opening melody, is amazingly effective. They refused to end without playing One Winged Angel, sneakily ‘finishing’ as the crowd literally didn’t budge from their seat until an encore delivered Sephiroth’s diddy. As expected, they lost their shit, uncaging a roar from their voices that overpower any instrument built by human beings. As I left the Sony Centre, unbashingly I’ll admit for drinks and Sheppard’s pie, I couldn’t help but think about all the game music I wished was played. Not the missing Final Fantasy melodies, Roth on stage apologized for an absent Dancing Mad, songs I hold dearly from other distant worlds. Entirely personal and excusable, I'm just a fink for Earthbound, Donkey Kong, Street Fighter, Chrono Trigger (which was also composed by Nobuo) they all feature scores that strike uncanny chords. Nostalgically charged music, as guilty-pleasure-based as they are, offer a unique experience that you’ll find yourself desperate to rediscover through newer music. And if it’s ingeniously composed all the better, be it a string of epic soundtracks for one never final fantasy, or the dirty twee buzzing on tapes of The Adventures of Pete & Pete.  Me and a symphony hall of people agreed, obscure my ass.

"Having the music performed live feels like it's the difference between the same person being naked or fully in makeup."

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Broken Bodies: Phenomenological Fragmentation in Telematic Performance Art Thu, 30 Dec 2010 06:31:48 +0000 Karen Correia Da Silva If representational Modernism, as Linda Nochlin suggests, was constructed out of a sense of loss associated with the fragmented bodies of antiquity (Nochlin 8), the Postmodern is constructed out of the urge to gain from the fragmented bodies of the present. Fragmentation within the paradigm of Postmodernism no longer operates on a sense of lack

If representational Modernism, as Linda Nochlin suggests, was constructed out of a sense of loss associated with the fragmented bodies of antiquity (Nochlin 8), the Postmodern is constructed out of the urge to gain from the fragmented bodies of the present. Fragmentation within the paradigm of Postmodernism no longer operates on a sense of lack or an idealist urge to reconstruct the whole, but rather, on a process of meaning-making contingent upon understanding the fragment as autonomous. When applied to perspectives on the human figure, Postmodern space is seen as “incompatible with representations of the body” (Jameson 34), as it functions on the theoretical and technological fragmentation of humanity’s phenomenological reality. Despite the increasing post-millennium lamentation mourning the loss of physicality in a technologically mediated world, the theoretical fragmentation of the human body precedes the advent of technological augmentation, or even the proliferation of Postmodernism as the dominant cultural paradigm.

The Western understanding of the embodied self exists on the stratum between its physical presence and its image; the body as a representation of both its transcendental qualities, and its phenomenological limitations (Ferguson 27). The body, then, before the development of communication technologies, served to simultaneously represent the individual through its self-referential physical presence, and to offer a singular site wherein this rupture of signification could occur. The development of connective networking technology in the Postmodern era served only to amplify the distinction between physical embodiment and its representations, widening the chasm between the body and its ability to signify outside of itself, or to signify in its absence. Telematic performance – or the body augmented through communication technologies – extends beyond the actions of its self-referential representation into a profusion of signifiers which, in turn, autonomously embody a presence fragmented into a technological representation of space. Telepresence is the means through which the body as a fragment is made meaningful not through its recontextualization into an idealized phenomenological whole, but rather, through the admittance of its inherent fragmentation, limitations, and incompleteness. The amplification of its experimental possibilities extends into augmented physical, or virtual space, which offers a reimagining of the possibilities of signification and phenomenology.

Problematizing Phenomenology:
The Fragmented Body Facilitating Presence

Manifesting through the modalities of telepresence and teleabsence (Kozel 86), telematic performance emphasizes and problematizes the fragmentary distinction between the bodily subject and its objectified representations, that which the project of phenomenology inherently undermines in discussions of the body (Ferguson 54). Contingent upon bodily aspects which are explicitly revealed or concealed, these two modalities enable telematic performance to simultaneously reinstate the fragmentary subject/object distinction upon experiences of the body, while interrogating whether or not a partial representation, rather than a unitary body, can serve as means to knowledge of Being. Phenomenologist Edmund Husserl situates the physical body as the “zero point” (62) of phenomenological experience; the mediator and vehicle of presence. Telematic art undermines this understanding of the physical body as the central figure in phenomenological experience, as technologically externalized bodies engage with physical or virtual space, and other physical or virtual bodies, by rejecting the concept that the bodily representation is always self-referential. Telepresent bodies interacting with physical space can interact in ways the physical body cannot, as the second section of this study will discuss, and, as the third section of this study will analyze, teleabsent bodies interacting with virtual space offer the possibility to fundamentally undermine the phenomenological connection between the body and its ability to signify through presence in space. Situated between these two modalities is the literal fragmentation of the body into interactive pieces, as the fourth part of this study will probelmatize. The fragmented and dispersed presence of the body in these performances suggests a movement beyond the assumption that a fragment is made meaningful only through its connection to a whole, as the fragmentation of presence offers new modes and dimensions of phenomenological experience within technological contexts which undermine our traditional understanding of the body.

In his book Bodies in Technology, Don Inde introduces a structural concept of the fragmented telematic body in two separate entities: the “emotive being-in-the-world” (xi), meaning the complete physical and emotional body in physical space, and the “disembodied over-there body” (6), which can be understood as its externalized representations. The movement between these two separate entities is described by as traversing “the dimension of the technological” (Inde xi); the only phenomenological space wherein such a traversal could occur. Telematic performance is situated within a paradoxical position between the traditionally understood phenomenological physical body, and its ability to signify outside of itself. The traditional phenomenological perspective, then, which uses the body as “the primordial subject matter of thought and the elemental reality of human experience” (Ferguson 54), is subverted by a telematic methodology, which invests the externalized representation, or object, with the phenomenological characteristics of presence. This fragment of the body is imbued with the visual character of the whole, yet contains an autonomous and interactive presence. The result is a fragment that does not represent presence, but facilitates it.

Bodily Extension: Telematic Dreaming

“Virtuality is a verb-space, dynamic, shifting.”
– Susan Kozel

Telematic Dreaming | Paul Sermon and Susan Kozel

An ideal example of the ability for the fragmented body to facilitate presence and inter-subjective experience in physical space is Paul Sermon and Susan Kozel’s 1994 performance installation Telematic Dreaming. As part of the Ik + der Ander (I and the Other) exhibition at the Beurs van Berlage in Amsterdam, the installation utilized video projectors and monitors to project Susan Kozel’s presence in a room upstairs onto a bed in the exhibition. Visitors were then able to sit or lay on the bed in the exhibition, and interact with Kozel. The bed on which Kozel’s physical body moved became a private performance space, whereas the telematic presence of her body in the public exhibition offered an interactive fragment of this presence (Kozel 92).

Though admittedly still physically embodied, Kozel explains that her body took on “an electric state” (Kozel 93), as her movements were contingent upon her response to the video images fed to her isolated bedside. Her performance relied on her physical sense of sight; her only phenomenological relation to the technologically mediated images of her body projected into another space. She explains:

…the virtual space of Telematic Dreaming was not an unqualified amplification of physical space, for in it movement was entirely mediated by sight. […] Sight, hearing, and touch play obvious roles, and taste and smell, although less obviously defined, are still active participants in the whole experience. Removing one of these senses does not bring movement to a grinding halt. However, if I lost sight of the monitors (as happened occasionally since there were only three, leaving one sides of the bed blind), I lost myself as well as the other person: interaction became impossible. When interaction is dependent upon one sense, it becomes inherently fragile.
(Kozel 100)

Sight, for Kozel, was the thread of physical embodiment still tied to the action of the telematic performance. With interaction as the primary goal, the entirety of her telepresence in the installation – though mimicking her remote bodily movements – was contingent upon the accentuated importance of her sense of sight in order to govern her reactive movement. Through the overdetermination of this single sense, Kozel describes the disorientation and taxing emotional effect of rendering her other senses less important in determining action and reaction, which accounts for the fragility of the inter-subjective relation to the embodied viewer on the installation bed (Kozel 100).

The fragility of this interaction amplified its emotional effect, as interaction with Kozel’s telepresent body not only involved patience and trust, but also emotional vulnerability (Kozel 93). This is where the phenomenological aspects of telepresence are most probelmatized. While this telematic performance relies on an extension of the body into physical space using virtual means, the body of the performer is temporarily alienated from his/her physicality, regardless of its inherent complicity in the actions of the event. The result is a performance “that shocked and sometimes disturbed people” (Kozel 94), due to its simultaneous ability to extend the body of the performer, while also highlighting its limitations; its lack of substance. The image of the body as a fragment of its total presence becomes a signifier of its alienation from its physical embodiment; ghost-like, an image and a shadow.

This is precisely what is emphasized in the visual extension of the physical body in Telematic Dreaming: the presence of that which is unrepresentable. Since the physically embodied self “cannot fully be understood as itself a representation” (Ferguson 28), the interactivity of the projected virtual body signals its inherent incomplete presence, yet casts both the image and the shadow of its remote presence on the viewer. Paradoxically, it is both the object and the subject, the image and the shadow, absent and present. These dualities of meaning are jarring not because they subvert a nostalgic or inherent yearning for wholeness, but rather, because they demand the interactive viewer to supply the void of meaning; to invest their corporeality into the fragmented space of lack. As Margot Lovejoy explains in her book Digital Currents: Art in the Electronic Age:

Interactivity deeply entwines the functions of viewer and artist. In the process, the artist’s role changes. This convergence transforms what had been two very different identities of artist and viewer. What interactive art now solicits from the viewer is not simply reception but an independent construction of meaning. In interactively participating, the viewer derives power somewhat parallel with that of the artist: the choose one’s own path and discover one’s insights through the interactive work.
(Lovejoy 167)

The projected virtual representation of Kozel’s body, then, is made meaningful only through its interaction with remote physical bodies. Their attention, movement, and reaction invest the representation of her remote physicality with meaning. Phenomenologically speaking, her body is made meaningful through the direct experience of the viewer’s physical body and range of senses, as her own physicality is fragmented into image and an overdetermination of sight. The result is the discordant effect of phenomenological liminality, simultaneously predicated on extension and limitation, presence and absence, body and sign.

Ferguson, Harvie. Modernity & Subjectivity: Body, Soul, Spirit. Charlottesville, VA: The University Press of Virginia, 2000. Print.

Husserl, Edmund. Ideas Pertaining to a Pure Phenomenology and to a Phenomenological Philosophy: Second Book. Boston, MA: Kluwer, 1989. Print.

Inde, Don. Bodies in Technology. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 2002. Print.

Jameson, Fredric. Postmodernism, or, The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1991. Print

Kozel, Susan. Closer: Performance, Technologies, Phenomenology. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2007. Print

Lovejoy, Margot. Digital Currents: Art in the Electronic Age. New York, NY: Routledge, 2004. Print.

Nochlin, Linda. The Body in Pieces: The Fragment as a Metaphor of Modernity. New York, NY: Thames & Hudson, 2001. Print.

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Floodwaters, Earthquakes and Wars: Western Guilt and the Colonial Literature of Evelyn Waugh Thu, 30 Dec 2010 06:31:48 +0000 Dave Hurlow Central Question: How much of the world can you hold in your mind? I'd bought avocados from Mexico at the No Frills a week earlier, biding my time until they were perfectly ripe. Now, sitting in front of me, was a perfect tuna melt laden with generous slices of the buttery alligator pear. First my

Central Question: How much of the world can you hold in your mind?

I'd bought avocados from Mexico at the No Frills a week earlier, biding my time until they were perfectly ripe. Now, sitting in front of me, was a perfect tuna melt laden with generous slices of the buttery alligator pear. First my mom called, and I can't remember what she wanted but as we were talking the doorbell rang and I said I had to go, so the sandwich just sat there. At the door there was a young a man with a British accent, his name was Colin or Nigel or Edmund or something. He was canvasing for Save the Children. Once when I was young I spent a half hour on the phone completing a survey about milk. How much did I like milk on a scale of one to ten? How did chocolate milk stack up against regular? What kinds of meals did I incorporate milk into? When a complete stranger addresses me in earnest, wanting to know something about me or trying to make a point, I feel compelled to listen. I get this weird warm feeling listening to them talk and participating in the interaction.


So I let Edmund speak and he told me about the children in Africa who are forced to snort cocaine and are then given guns and sharp sticks. He might have mentioned the basic luxuries that him and I take for granted, and all in all was very polite and not too pushy, “We aren't asking for money at the door, but starting in January we're looking for people who could spare a loonie a day to sponsor a child in need,” he said. This is really a creative way of asking for thirty dollars a month, and the generalization caught me off guard as if he might just be a friendly man with a clipboard casually telling me what he's up to these days. “Oh!” I suddenly understood, “you mean me... you're asking if I can spare a loonie a day?"

“Well... starting in January”

“Hmmm, I'm sorry, I just paid first and last months rent on this place and I really don't make very much money, it's just not in my budget.”

There was a pause and then Colin started asking me about my apartment, how much did I pay and how had I found it. He'd just moved to Toronto from England and he'd been subletting but he was looking for a more permanent apartment. I told him what I paid in rent. “That's incredible,” he said “and such a nice neighborhood.” This comment struck me as strange. I love my neighbourhood, but there are shootings and drug addicts and drunken hobos to deal with. I sort of explained this. I never fear for my life, but that's part of the irrational hubris and excitement that goes along with living in a neighbourhood that is in the process of being gentrified. When you're part of the swarm of invading WASPs that is.


Finally Nigel went on his way, perhaps understanding that the addresses he was canvassing were not very well suited to his purpose. I went back inside and sat down at the kitchen table. By some miracle my sandwich was still warm.

The image of children being forced to snort cocaine and then given guns to fight had disturbed me slightly. When presented with this image so matter-of-fact on my front porch in the cold North American winter, I find myself unable to reconcile those words with reality. Never mind that I have no way of verifying if what I'm being told is true, but to actually wrap my head around that reality, the reality of the way that people suffer in some parts of Africa, is impossible.

This is something I've thought quite a lot about this year, because it's one of the first years in my life that I've actually made an attempt to follow current affairs. The shocking narratives that I read in magazines and newspapers and listen to in podcasts slack jawed and full of emotion and fascination are often forgotten the next day. Because there's always some great new intriguing tragedy happening somewhere in the world. Was this year a doozy? Or does it just seem that way because usually I don't pay as much attention to this stuff. Finally I want to ask the question: Does staying up to date on the crises and tragedies of the world make you a better person if you aren't doing anything about it? Or is it better just to live in a bubble of ignorant western comfort?


Here's a list of things I've read or heard about this year in the sphere of global affairs presented to you in the half-understood way that they swim around in my brain.

1.    Haiti: There was an earthquake, people died en masse, homes were destroyed, there was a cholera epidemic, things can never be the same, Wyclef Jean wanted to be president but doesn't understand the corrupt Haitian government system, threats were made against him, he doesn't get to be president, mango farmers are in need of canals and better containers to transport mangoes because western buyers hate bruised mangoes non-government organizations are trying to help but really are they making things worse? There is a specific term for investing time to teach primitive people modern techniques that I can't recall.

2.    India: There is a crazy flood. According the Globe and Mail people have already given all their donation moneys to the Haiti crisis and are hesitant to donate also because there is a greater cultural gap between India and North America. In short, people want to donate to Haiti because its Haiti.

3.    Afghanistan: Canadian and American troops fight the Taliban and try to set up Afghan people up with freedom and democracy. This involves building lots of military bases, driving the Taliban into the hills. Heard an interview on the CBC about a Swiss filmmaker who lived with a Taliban gang for a while, humanized them, described the leader crying when his family and second in command were killed in explosion.

4.    Iraq: Suunis Vs. Shiites. Americans trying to set Iraqis up with freedom and democracy. Most Iraqis furious at American swine for interfering with their culture, similar deal in Afghanistan. Saddam was a Shiite and had holy scriptures written out in his blood. Tension, violence and explosions back and forth between the Suunis and the Shiites. The Taliban and Al Quaeda is not the same thing. Americans maybe vacating now re: Obama.

5.    North Korea: People trying to sneak into China, need to get the fuck out of this country. Many people living here don't even know what the internet is, currency depreciated without warning, people have to watch long boring dance shows dedicated to the glory of Kim Jong Il. At some point some rockets are fired off killing South Korean and Chinese citizens. Somebody needs to intervene. Kim Jong Il finds out that Americans think he's a fat annoying dude via Julian Assange, a fey Australian super hacker who may or may not have committed sex crimes.

Some of this may be inaccurate, some of it is scraps transformed from headlines, articles half forgotten, half read, abbreviated news from the CP24 crawl etc., etc.


There is a recurring character in Evelyn Waugh's novels called Basil Seal, he's very funny and he's a bit of a cad. In the first novel which he appears, Black Mischief, having “retired” from British politics in a scandalous manner, he declares “Every year or so there's one place in the globe worth going to where things are happening. The secret is to find out where and be on the spot in time... history doesn't happen everywhere at once.” Having said this he borrows a great sum of money from the girl who loves him, steals jewelry from his own mother, tries to trick a newspaper mogul named Rex Monomark into sponsoring his trip and sets sail for the fictional east African island of Azania where his chum Seth from Oxford has just been crowned Emperor.
Basil is the type of man whose always going on rackets, drinking too much, getting in fights and generally disappointing his mother.

In Waugh's character classification scheme he is dynamic rather than static, naturally drawn to revolutions, bust-ups, scandals and schemes. In Black Mischief, Basil becomes head of the ministry of modernization of Azania which becomes the butt of several jokes whereby the natives eat the one thousand pairs of army boots that are issued to them and a poster for the upcoming pageant of contraception is thought to be a poster proclaiming a new miracle drug for enhancing virility.
Eventually the natives grow tired of Seth and Basil's crusade for modernity. A fiery revolution occurs, all hell breaks loose and Basil is sent on a great adventure that ends with Seth's body being wrapped in spices and animal skin and burned on a funeral pyre at a cannibal banquet where a young Englishwoman who fancied Basil is the main course. When he returns to London, Basil's friends don't want to hear about all that 'far flung stuff'. “Write a book about it” his friend says, “then we can buy it and leave it about where you'll see and then you'll think we know.”

Many of Evelyn Waugh's novels are based loosely on travels he undertook as a journalist or in the military. Azania, he says, was inspired by Zanzibar, his travels in Abyssinia inspired his later novel Scoop. The recurring message in these novels, dealing with colonialism, is that there is an immovable barrier between the sophisticated European and what an Englishman would refer to as the uncivilized world.


This is my concern, that I've been so conditioned by the luxuries of western living and by a traditional education that the plight of other humans across the globe is lost on me. If I were a character in an Evelyn Waugh novel I would be one of his static characters who remains in London or Oxford all the time. I've only ever travelled in Europe, or, when I was younger to resorts with my family. My introspective sense of bourgeoisie gnaws at me quite often but to translate these feelings into anything positive is quite beyond me.
I play this game very often where I try and see how much of the world I can hold in my mind. I try and think about all the different people in all the different countries; the floodwaters, the earthquakes, the wars and the gambling. Sometimes I succeed and for a few seconds I feel connected to the rest of the world, as if my mind has cut a hole in the ontological fabric, streaming bits and pieces of the planet's life. It's always in bursts, you can only hold big pieces of the world in your mind for seconds at a time.

Two last things:

I was in college, at a bar, and I had become, for a time, a very cynical young man. There was a girl in the International development program at Dalhousie and I was poking fun at her, saying that she was in the business of learning how many people in the world brushed their teeth every day, blank statistics. I thought I was very clever. She was emotional, drunk, perhaps on the brink of tears and could not contain her enthusiasm. “I just care,” she said “I can't help it.”

A couple days ago, talking about the various plights of the various peoples across the globe, she says that people usually talk about world affairs in a pragmatic detached kind of a way. People who regurgitate Economist editorials, who know, just because they like to know. The emphatic experience is rarer, to look at world affairs in an emotional kind of a way. I say about the Russians, about how bad they've had it through history like a bad joke and how that makes me emotional. She's just written a Russian history exam and she tells me in the winter, in the old times, Russians had to vent the smoke from their winter fires into their huts because they couldn't lose the heat, they'd freeze with chimneys, not like the Europeans. They had to keep their livestock, their goats and sheep inside the huts or they'd freeze to death. For a minute we're in this hut with black smoke and its hard to see and were tripping over goats but at least its warm. And then were back in the restaurant eating cornmeal pancakes with blueberry syrup and lamb sausage with poached eggs on white bean stew and we are definitely not in Russia.

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A SPOON, A SPOON, MY KINGDOM FOR A CERAMIC SPOON! Defusing a soup-bomb at Chinese Traditional Bun Thu, 30 Dec 2010 06:03:01 +0000 Ted Killin Chinese Traditional Bun (536 Dundas West) The multivalent face of the international dumpling is astonishing. Each culture invariably has its own variety of dumpling, crafted in any number of ways. People have prepared dumplings steamed, boiled or fried, depending on the tools at their disposal. Dumplings can appear with crimped ridgebacks, or folded and wrapped

Killin Food | Photo by Madd Hattere

Chinese Traditional Bun (536 Dundas West)

The multivalent face of the international dumpling is astonishing. Each culture invariably has its own variety of dumpling, crafted in any number of ways. People have prepared dumplings steamed, boiled or fried, depending on the tools at their disposal. Dumplings can appear with crimped ridgebacks, or folded and wrapped into smooth husked half moons, full moons, orbs, ovals and domes, a list that is only a smattering of the techniques used to create such delicacies as pierogies, knishes, gyoza, ravioli, mantoo and, of course, numerous traditional Chinese varieties. A freshly boiled Chinese dumpling that arrives steaming in its bamboo basket can easily scald the mouth if ingested too quickly, but Chinese Traditional Bun showed me a variant on this timeless fare that I had never encountered before: a dumpling engineered to fire a torrent of molten liquid.

Pay attention to the warning signs as you walk down the stairway into Chinese Traditional Dumpling, a sort of bunker hidden below Dundas West. Each table has been protected in several layers of plastic, but Asian eateries usually use this strategy to quickly clear tables, never as a defense mechanism. When you open the door you'll have to part the slats of a plastic scrim, an additional shield to protect the outside world from the explosive dumplings inside.

The owners will set upon placating you immediately. An older gentleman in an apron stands directly in the entrance and smiles up at you while he rolls dough into long ropes that he coils inside an enormous bowl. The woman behind the cash register welcomes you into the restaurant with a smile and a wide gesture at the remaining tables. You'll let your guard down. There are no clues that you would ever be given a dumpling loaded as a weapon. An evening at Chinese Traditional Bun teaches a valuable lesson to the placid North American eater: diligence is a virtue that transfers into cuisine.

Without knowledge of the dangers within, the warning signs will not even register compared to the straightforward trouble of deciphering the signs on their the menu. The first translation of a string of Chinese symbols reads vaguely Gou-Bu-Li Buns of Tianjin, which emphasizes the geographical area of the dish instead of the ingredients within. With other regional based dishes such as soup filled meat bun of Kaifeng and Crab Pork of Zhen-Jiang, it is wise to ask questions before you commit to a choice. The owners are more than happy to bridge the language barrier, using these peripheral dishes to lull you. While served steaming hot, the pork and green onion buns of Gou-Bu-Li are not dangerous and cool expectantly after a few minutes. Similarly, the red bean paste buns are served soft and puffy, and one out of the four was coyly overturned. Yet other dishes on the menu require more attentiveness. If you order the rolled onion pancake without knowing what it entails, it turns out to be a sort of savoury Yule log.

When the meat-filled soup dumplings of Kaifeng arrive (filled with pork) they look so unassuming. Each pigmented orb has been given a styled coif and imparts the image of nervous young lads about to be sent out on their first date, huddled together for confidence. Cowlicks have been forced upon their heads by doting parents, with a bow tie prominent below each quivering chin. The translucent, lean dough appears as innocent as the man at the entrance that made it, or one of these young boy that has no hidden agenda, for their appearance gives no indication of their true temperature. You may decide to waste little to no time before throwing them into your mouth, pausing briefly for a few superficial cooling breaths. You'll soon inhale quick gusts to dampen the heat, but if you chomp down quickly your dumpling will fulfill its nefarious purpose, sending a triumphant spray of soup into the nearest face. If you are able to seal your lips quickly, the dumpling will burst like a powder keg in your mouth and wash your soft tissue in boiling liquid. It takes a massive effort to swallow down the resulting shriek, harder still with boiling soup dripping down your cheeks.

Killin Food | Photo by Madd Hattere

The owners make soup in advance and freeze the final product before wrapping it in dough, and the center expands in boiling water until it is ready to burst. Here is the proper procedure to approach one of these armed weapons:

Lift the dumping onto a ceramic spoon, allowing the bloated outer curve to flop over the edge.

Killin Food | Photo by Madd Hattere

Use chopsticks to open the top, add whichever sauces are offered on the table and swirl them around. Raise the spoon and bring the dumpling to slowly your lips.

Killin Food | Photo by Madd Hattere

Lightly gnaw on the hanging outer curve to puncture its boundary safely.

Killin Food | Photo by Madd Hattere

Only then can you finally slurp the innards at your own pace.

Killin Food | Photo by Madd Hattere

The soothing guise of the restaurant finally broke down when you asked for a ceramic spoon and are casually told that they don't have one, not a single one in the entire place. They were in on it the whole time! Your mouth may throb indignantly, incensed that they would serve soup dumplings without the proper instruments to successfully neutralize them. The owner smiles and excuses herself by admitting that they had all broken long ago. On subsequent visits order a large metal spoon with the dumplings and make do, or plan in advance and bring your own large ceramic spoon, because disarming a loaded soup dumpling is a task that requires a large surface area and due diligence.


I have returned to the scene of my dumpling defusing to find that they have imported wide plastic spoons to assist in the process. The owners have continued their doting, and disarming soup dumplings has become a safer endeavor than ever before.

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Resolution Ego Diet, or The Joys of Eating Your Self Thu, 30 Dec 2010 06:02:58 +0000 R. Nansen Now that all the festive morsels are nearly digested, it is time to reflect on the true meaning of your unfactioned holiday. No, Virginia, Christmas is not about Christ. It is about transcending yourself through engaging in enjoyment of food, drink, and the company of men. Your sense of self should be transformed by your

Now that all the festive morsels are nearly digested, it is time to reflect on the true meaning of your unfactioned holiday. No, Virginia, Christmas is not about Christ. It is about transcending yourself through engaging in enjoyment of food, drink, and the company of men. Your sense of self should be transformed by your enjoyable experiences, and your ego should be reconstituted in time for the new year. Yet, so often the spirit is lost in mindless pleasures. While mindless pleasure and engaged enjoyment may appear the same externally, the effects in consciousness could not be farther apart. Pleasure, even the most hedonistic, is perfunctory; its transient nature leaves no positive trace on the self, only the lack that propels a body again and again toward the same sensation. Enjoyment is an experience that changes the self. Consciousness of the self, the ego, is lost in the act of enjoyment. When one is truly enjoying something—a game, a meal, a rousing roll-around on a bed—one forgets the problems that plague the ego, and then the ego is lost entirely. Paradoxically, the enjoyable experience changes one's sense of self. A stronger, more aware person comes out of the other end of enjoyment. Pleasurable experiences offer no chance for growth. Pleasure is mundane, while enjoyment is sublime.

Perhaps my introduction has gone on too long. This was supposed to be a routine wrap-up for the year 2010 by an internet non-personality. So... 2010: A good year for statistics. My heaviest back-slaps and fist-bumps go to the statisticians who make the act of pointing out the obvious seem like the drop of a bomb. This year's Big Surprise? Canadians spend more time online than any other country. And who can blame them with websites as great as Steel Bananas?!

It is no shock that the majority of the inhabitants of a geographically massive country with a high standard of living and a moderately terrible climate should spend an average of 42 hours a month chasing the digital dragon. Why not? We devote double that a month to eating, combing our heads, showering, and shitting. Don't even think about sleep. With our death-defying 81-year life expectancy, we Canadians have the luxury of watching kitten video after kitten video without feeling like we are wasting time. Given that we have the most hits on Wikipedia, there is even a slight chance that some of us might be learning while surfing. We can now glow in a sense of patriotic propriety knowing that we have the deepest penetration of internet access. Speaking of penetration, why does the report fail to mention our porn habits?

Porn is the clincher in how we interpret our role as international net addicts. Porn is almost exclusively a substitute for enjoyment. Pleasurable, sure, but with very little capacity for decreating and reconstituting the ego (I'm sure there are plenty of SB readers who would disagree with me). Sex is so enjoyable because you lose your own sense of self in the moment, while your partner loses their ego too. Vibrant energies connect, and new selves are born out of the process. Porn will not cause you to lose your ego, but it might alienate you from it. At best, it is a pleasurable way to stave off despair. But it does not improve quality of life as experienced in consciousness. Only transcendent enjoyment can hit such heights. My definition of pornography is wide; it does not necessarily portray naked people and their holes. No, it can take the form of the aforementioned kitten videos. Porn is anything that distracts one from the work of life. What is the work of life? To extend and strengthen the self by losing the ego.

Now let's talk about that Christmas dinner. Did it put peace in your soul and good will in your heart? Or did you just feed a fuckload of food to your face? And can you do both? Donna Simpson, a New Jersey Olympian going for the coveted title of World's Fattest Woman, ate a 30 000 calorie holiday feast. The statistics on this one are amazing: two 25-pound turkeys, two maple-glazed hams, 15 pounds of potatoes, five loaves of bread, five pounds of stuffing, four pints of gravy, four pints of cranberry sauce, 20 pounds of vegetables, and a marshmallow “salad” to cap it all off. Health risks aside, I'm willing to bet that she had a merrier Christmas than any of us. Everybody’s work is equally important, or so the Levi's ads tell us—not that Mrs. Simpson could fit into a pair of Levi's. Donna Simpson's work is getting fat. When she is eating, she truly loses her self in her work. It is a work from which she receives great enjoyment, more than your everyday pleasure.

All forms of enjoyment are equal. Who can say there is more joy in sex, more achievement in science, more invention in art, more mastery in yoga, more wisdom in scholarship, than in the gargantuan meal of an astoundingly fat woman? Too often is sex dependence, science bias, art compulsion, yoga yuppie, and scholarship indoctrination. If something is truly enjoyed, the ego is overcome, and the self is forever changed. If something is merely pleasurable, the ego is fed and the self gets fatter. It does not matter what you enjoy, just how you enjoy it.

So much time is wasted in the pursuit of pleasure. While it may look the same on the outside, if we all oriented ourselves towards deep enjoyment, we would have more fulfilling lives. It may be as simple as watching a good documentary on youtube, rather than the usual zoo oddities. If we eat a feast, let us allow it to nourish our selves as well as our stomachs. This year is just about devoured, but, with a well-refreshed ego, 2011 may be our best banquet yet.

Let's eat!

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Round Round Get Around: Please Be A Double Agent Thu, 30 Dec 2010 06:02:55 +0000 C.S. Folkers I was wondering who was going to get tapped to succeed "Diamond" Adam Giambrone as TTC Chair at City Hall almost as soon as it was starting to look as though Ol' Robbo had the election locked down in the trunk of his car. I suppose, all things considered, we could have received a lot

This guy!

I was wondering who was going to get tapped to succeed "Diamond" Adam Giambrone as TTC Chair at City Hall almost as soon as it was starting to look as though Ol' Robbo had the election locked down in the trunk of his car. I suppose, all things considered, we could have received a lot worse than Karen Stintz. At the very least, Stintz rides the TTC.

While the fact of the matter remains - and has been discussed to death -  that Mr. Ford chose to further encourage the fires of Downtown/Metro divide (fires that he enthusiastically stoked and then later exploited during election time) by including a grand total of zero downtown coucilors to executive positions. Way to bridge the gap. When questioned, most of the freshly anointed City Hall Bigwigs shrugged off the conspicuousness of Ford's choices with a general "It's our turn" sort of comment, as though that were the point. At least Miller made the effort.

So, while Ford did make a few predictable moves, such as minting fellow Etobicoke resident Doug Holyday as Deputy Mayor and Scarborough's Mike Del Grande as Budget Chief (which, though Del Grande is a staunch Ford loyalist anyway, is actually sort of a sensible choice because he is in fact an accountant by profession), I was somewhat intrigued that in Stintz, Ford chose a fellow conservative for TTC Chair, and did not go for a councilor more likely to push vehemently for his every cost-cuttin', quick-fixin' whim. I was fully expecting Ford to choose a Scarborough councilor determined to see Ford's solitary transit ambition - completion of the Sheppard subway to Scarborough Centre - come into fruition, logic be damned.

Instead we have a TTC Boss from Midtown of all places, a woman who tends to be more Centre-Right than the rest of the Executive and who, in most of her addresses since assuming her title, has toed the line of compromise. At some points - it's very subtle, but it's there - one can detect a slight - ever so slight - deviation from the Mayor's official line in terms of divisive issues such as Transit City. When on December 7th Ford declared that killing Transit City would not require a council vote, Stintz told the Globe and Mail, “It would be my expectation that council would have input and have a vote”. Curious, considering that the vast majority of the Mayor's inner circle wouldn't dream of straying from Ford's official gospel. To this point, the Executive has served as little more than a soundboard for Ford's more coherent opinions.

Maybe I'm just projecting here, or maybe I'm just hearing what I want to hear, but I'm almost inclined to believe that Stintz thinks Ford is full of shit. Or at least that's what I'm hoping. Though, there are some traces of evidence.

Consider the following excerpt from an interview with the Globe and Mail (read the full article here):

How do you square the fact that the mayor and many people on council want to build a subway where the TTC and the other experts say it shouldn’t be?

The TTC and Metrolinx and the province are working very closely to see if subways do make sense, or underground LRT does make sense. In fact, the Eglinton line is already an underground LRT, so there’s no need to review that piece of it. Obviously [we] need to look at costs, timelines, trade-offs, impact.

Is it possible that once all that evaluations have been done, you’ll come to the conclusion that a subway is not viable?

I expect that we would have a report come back to the commission that would be able to answer all of those questions. If there were other questions around funding impact, we would have to get those answered before coming back to council.

She wants to put Transit City to a council vote and she actually seems to give a shit about what experts think! That doesn't sound like the Ford line to me! The Ward 16 (Eglinton-Lawrence) councilor has also spoken on the need for quality transit across the city (as opposed to one part of Scarborough that doesn't even necessarily need it) and expressed a willingness to compromise on the LRT issue.

The only really frightening thing that Stintz has been exhibiting is her continual insistence that because more people voted for Ford and Ford likes subways, that equates to "Everyone likes subways. Everyone who voted for Ford must like subways, otherwise they would not have voted for Ford." In other words, she is a propagator of the Ford mantra that the election was not an election at all, but a referendum on the Transit City issue.

In a mass email sent out by Coucilor Stintz, she writes, "During the last municipal campaign, the voters of Toronto, through their support for Mayor Ford, indicated a preference for below-surface transit."

That kind of logic makes absolutely no sense to me. If you voted for Ford, does that mean you agree with every single aspect of his platform? I'm pretty sure that if you voted for Rob Ford, that means you thought he was the best candidate, end of story. A vote is not a blanket endorsement for everything a candidate campaigns on, nor is it automatic support for anything that candidate wants to do if and after they are elected. I voted for George Smitherman, but I can tell you that I certainly did not agree with most of his platform. In fact, I don't really care for George Smitherman at all, but I voted for him because I thought a vote for him made the most sense, given the competition.

So now we've got Ford and all of his supporters in council spouting off as though Don Cherry swore him in as King. Any criticism thrown His Excellency's way is deflected with a casual, "Well, I did win the election, after all," as though winning an election - not even by majority - gives the winner of said contest carte blanche to carry out any idea that pops into said elected official's under-informed skull.

Maybe most people are in favour of subways. I like the subway. I probably like riding the subway more than I like riding streetcars. I'm not in favour of LRT because I just love being on streetcars - LRT and streetcars aren't even the same thing anyway. As I've said many times, I'm in favour of LRT because it is the plausible, practical choice.

The sooner Karen Stintz figures out that Mandate does not equal Free-For-All, the sooner the TTC in the Ford era will start making sense. Or at least more sense. Stintz seems like a pretty sensible woman, who is probably a very capable politician and councilor, but she has a few things riding against her. First and foremost, she represents a riding that is not only more affluent than most other wards, but is already more well-served by the TTC than most other wards. Sure, she's a transit rider, but as one citizen pointed out to the Star recently, she both lives and works near subway stations, so her commute is probably negligible. If your daily TTC commute involves shooting down the Yonge line from Lawrence to Queen and then walking two blocks, you're pretty much on easy street. The fact of the matter is that the wide, wide, wide majority of transit riders neither live nor work near subway stations or even streetcar lines and have to deal with buses, which is a uniformly worse experience than riding a streetcar. So, it can be pretty hard to take Stintz's "I'm one of you" shtick seriously.

Second, it is becoming increasingly clear that Ford, like our pal Steve, does not tolerate dissent. As a result, if Stintz does indeed as I suspect have a tiny, tiny little voice in her head telling her "This guy's full of shit", she's going to have to keep it buried under miles of PC rhetoric if she wants to keep her job and her reputation as a rising star in council in tact. I have a feeling that His Heftiness is going to get in the habit of backbenching any Executives who don't hold the line. So while, even if she is a closeted dissenter, her ambition is going to tell her to behave.

Overall, I am holding the stance of "It could be worse". Stintz is asking the TTC and Metrolinx to tailor their plans and budgets to meet Ford's schemes, but to me it doesn't seem like her enthusiasm for the Ford Transit Plan goes far beyond, "He's the new mayor and people like him, so that's how it has to be." It could have been so much worse. Stintz isn't great, but I'm holding out for the minute chance that maybe she'll get a little bit bold and then maybe she'll be able to at least take the ball gag off of the Toronto Transit Commission, currently being held hostage by the Ford Administration.

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It’s beginning to look a lot like Krampusnacht! Thu, 30 Dec 2010 06:02:52 +0000 Erika Szabo Photos by Steve Wilson For those unfamiliar with European legend, the Krampus is a mythical creature.  In various regions of the world – particularly Austria and Hungary – it is believed that Krampus accompanies St. Nicholas during the Christmas season, warning and punishing naughty children. While St. Nicholas gives gifts to good children, Krampus is

Artist: Hyein Lee

Photos by Steve Wilson

For those unfamiliar with European legend, the Krampus is a mythical creature.  In various regions of the world – particularly Austria and Hungary – it is believed that Krampus accompanies St. Nicholas during the Christmas season, warning and punishing naughty children. While St. Nicholas gives gifts to good children, Krampus is often depicted carrying them in chains or in a basket to a fiery place below.

Known by many names across the continent, including Knecht Reprecht, Klaubauf, Pelzebock and Schmutzli, Krampus is unmistakably evil. He often appears as a tradition red devil with cloven hooves and goatish horns, but he has also been depicted as a huge, hairy beast that dwells in forests.

Artist Jesse Jacobs

Artist: Jesse Jacobs

Of course this legend was changed once Santa Claus made his way into American culture, but the Krampus is never too far behind lurking in the shadows of sinful deeds. Krampusnacht, or Night of Krampus, is a celebration held on the eve of Santa Claus’ arrival in which adults dress in wild, devilish costumes to scare the children into being good.

To continue this rich tradition, the Resistor Gallery in Toronto, Canada has recently kicked off its 2010 Krampusnacht Art Show featuring over 25 different artists from all around Canada showcasing their interpretation of the sinister saint.

Krampusnacht Opening Party

Krampusnacht Opening Party

Krampusnacht features the following artists:

Andrew Heffron, Aaron Costain, Aaron Leighton, Attila Szanyi, Arv Slabosevicius, Brian McLachlan, Brandon Steen, Clayton Hanmer, Crankbunny, Craig Marshall, Chris Stone, Carey Sookocheff, Drazen Kozjan, Diana McNally, Faez Alidousti, Hyein Lee, Jessica Fortner, Jesse Jacobs, Jeremy Kai, Janice Kun, Jason Bone, Julia Breckenreid, Karen Justl, Katy Dockrill, Luke Ramsey, Mike McDougall, Marek Colek, Matthew Forsythe, Maylynn Quan, Michael Comeau, Michael Wandelmaier, Phil McAndrew, Pat Shewchuk, Prashant Miranda, Hayley Morris, Ron Gervais, Ryan Feely, Randy Knott, Ro Rao, Steve Manale, Steve Wilson, Stephanie Dudley, Sarah Lazarovic and Tomori Nagamoto.

Artist: Hayley Morris

Artist: Hayley Morris

The exhibition will be on from December 2, 2010 to January 10, 2011.

Resistor Gallery is located on 284 College Street E (just west of Spadina), 2nd Floor, Toronto.  Hours are weekdays between 10am-5pm.

Below are more interpretations of this wonderful piece of lore.

Artist: Steve Wilson

Artist: Steve Wilson

Artist: Michael Comeau

Artist: Michael Comeau

Artist: Luke Ramsey

Artist: Luke Ramsey

Artists: Tin Can Forest (Pat Shewchuk and Marek Colek)

Artists: Tin Can Forest (Pat Shewchuk and Marek Colek)

Artist: Michael McDougall

Artist: Michael McDougall

Artists: Maylynn Quan and Andrew Heffron

Artists: Maylynn Quan and Andrew Heffron

Artist: Alex Kurina

Artist: Alex Kurina

Artist: Janice Kun

Artist: Janice Kun

Artist: J Bone

Artist: Jason Bone

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Solo Percussion Free Jazz at its Best: Jerry Granelli’s 1313 Thu, 30 Dec 2010 06:02:04 +0000 C.S. Folkers There is a lot to be said about the state of Jazz today, and most of that lot is far beyond my grasp as a music enthusiast. It is a sort of daunting lark for me to be able to review a Jazz record here, because Jazz is something that I’ve always found, frankly, a

There is a lot to be said about the state of Jazz today, and most of that lot is far beyond my grasp as a music enthusiast. It is a sort of daunting lark for me to be able to review a Jazz record here, because Jazz is something that I’ve always found, frankly, a little daunting. There is something about Jazz that seems so much more legit than anything else going and people that are really into Jazz are just a whole other breed from most of the other music lovers I associate myself with. Sure, we all like to think we’re experts, we’ve mastered Indie-Rock, so conquering Jazz should be a breeze. And, fuck, we’ve all heard A Love Supreme, so that’s got to be, like, half-way there anyway, right?


Photo Courtesy of Divorce Records

Most of the records that get sent to Steel Bananas are from generic indie-rock bands and sensitive male singer-songwriters who are about as much fun to listen to as they are to write about. So, it was certainly a really interesting anomaly when we were sent a package from a Halifax-based record label called Divorce Records, brandishing a solo percussion Free Jazz album courtesy of a long-lost American Jazzman by the name of Jerry Granelli.

I admit it, I had never heard of the guy, but his press release assured me that he was a serious character in the Free Jazz scene and it isn’t tough to see that the man’s pedigree is impressive. Not many people can lay claim to a career that has spanned nearly fifty years, in which Granelli has played with many legendary Jazz players – most notably, Ornette Coleman – all over the world. He witnessed the birth of Free Jazz firsthand, and has been a sought-after session man for years.

1313 is Granelli’s first solo record, and it is unassailably cool, even for someone who has, admittedly, never heard a solo drum record before. The record is basically just Granelli wailing away at whatever percussion instruments happened to be immediately at his disposal at the time of 1313’s recording – the press release boasts that there are almost no overdubs anywhere on the album. However, despite the starkness of the record’s format, there is a sort of playful cohesion here that makes it extremely listenable.

Granelli’s passion for his craft is palpable. Rarely does the idea of a lone white dude erratically bouncing between instruments – all percussion, no less – evoke such a bizarre sense of joy. One immediately gets the feeling that Mr. Jerry is having the time of his life as he pounds recklessly at his drum kit. Granelli’s playing is just so simply emphatic and vigorous that, even when 1313 seems like little more than a chaotic wave of drum sounds, the listener is instantly carried away by the seventy-year old’s almost mischievous love of testing the sonic capacities of his instruments.

1313 flows together so well that its slim 34 minutes breeze by without a single seam in the production – it feels so amorphous that track titles are almost unnecessary here. It is a singular entity that weaves and wraps into and around itself without effort or thought. Much like this year’s electro-jazz space blob, Cosmogramma by Flying Lotus, it is less a collection of tracks than a sound collage that grows, percolates and bubbles independent of any conventional structure. The result is, again, less pretentious than it is playful. Granelli the Jazz Cheshire Cat appears and disappears unexpectedly throughout the record so that even when the record dissolves into silence, Jerry Granelli’s musical grin remains.

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Spotlight: Sarah Clement Thu, 30 Dec 2010 00:27:21 +0000 Sarah Clement I grew up on the West Coast, dividing my time between the big city of Vancouver and the beautiful Sunshine Coast. I wandered around Europe before deciding to attend the Langara College Fine Arts Program. After chiseling away at soapstone, wielding a brush loaded with acrylic paint and soaking metal plates in acid, I found

I grew up on the West Coast, dividing my time between the big city of Vancouver and the beautiful Sunshine Coast. I wandered around Europe before deciding to attend the Langara College Fine Arts Program. After chiseling away at soapstone, wielding a brush loaded with acrylic paint and soaking metal plates in acid, I found that I was most content with simple pen and ink. That being said, the realm of design seemed to beckon me, so I did a year of design at Emily Carr University of Art and Design. A year was enough to realize that something just wasn’t right. I missed drawing, and the tactility and freedom of a piece of paper. So, two years later I graduated with a BFA, discovering along the way that my heart was in illustration.

I love starting out with pencil, then ink, but get most excited about a piece when I start slicing into it with the x-acto knife. Carefully cutting away shapes allows me to experiment with different pieces of collage material (mostly old prints or handmade textures) that I place underneath. It also allows for the manipulation of space, making drawings more 3D. My illustrations always involve delicate lines, cut-outs, and carefully considered colours. It is the poetics of natural forms that make their way into my line work and remind me to find beauty in the details.

My work has been described as balancing “a delicate sensibility with something more bold and iconic.”

After graduating in May 2010, I participated in three group shows in the summer, and just had my first solo exhibition at the Gam Gallery in Vancouver (on until January 18th, 2011).

View more of sarah's work in SB's spotlight gallery, or:




Distill - Sarah Clement

Distill - Sarah Clement

Yep - Sarah Clement

Yep - Sarah Clement

Collapse - Sarah Clement

Collapse - Sarah Clement

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Reflections on an Education (and, a Plea in Favour of Technique) Thu, 30 Dec 2010 04:46:57 +0000 A.M. Standish "Children should learn to draw as they learn to write, and such a mystery should not be made of it."  — An admirable ideal expressed by the American painter, William Morris Hunt (1824-1879). Whenever it comes up in conversation that I went to York University for visual art, the inevitable question follows: "So, what kind

"Children should learn to draw as they learn to write, and such a mystery should not be made of it." 
— An admirable ideal expressed by the American painter, William Morris Hunt (1824-1879).

Whenever it comes up in conversation that I went to York University for visual art, the inevitable question follows: "So, what kind of art do you do? Drawing...painting... sculpture...?" My answer is always more convoluted than I'd like. I wish I could speak of my BFA as a chapter of growth and focus within the greater continuity of my artistic practice. I once thought that I'd go to art school to improve upon a skill set I had already favoured and established drawing and painting captured my heart early on, so surely in university I'd seek to build on these. But, instead, I made a detour through analog photography, a medium in which I initially had zero confidence in my skill, and which most anyone can see is swiftly being squeezed out of practice by way of the dwindling availability of supplies and the bullying push to go digital (as if they were interchangeable media!). A dying art if there ever was one.

Now, six months after graduation, the only photographs I've taken are still latent — one undeveloped roll currently collecting lint in the belly of my bag. Instead, for the first time in two and a half years, I cracked open my old paint box of oils. Oil paint is highly aromatic and certainly isn't appetizing (or remotely good for you, similar to gasoline). Still there are those who find their scent enticing, even pleasurable. Oil paint has an evocative smell and, as I sat there with the box laid open breathing in that back-of-the-throat sharp and vaguely spicy aroma, I couldn't believe I'd put painting aside so easily! But after a moment of nostalgia, my reasons returned to me and in the light of some little hindsight, I wonder about my experiences with university Fine Arts and whether the currents I observed might indicate some rather peculiar ideological contradictions at play in the training of today's young artists.

In my first years at university I took some introductory painting courses, where I found myself in the company of a great many young artists, most of us straining after an education in technique and realism. We wanted to be taught how to express what we saw in life with paint. Our instructors recognized that desire and did their best, but their efforts were blunted. We wanted to built technical skills but the educational objective seems to have had more to do with discourse and critique. Courses were aimed at teaching us how to talk about our work. Improvement of technique was superficially expected, but the structures in the classroom downplayed that expectation in practice.

The critique. The artist statement. These were the skills that were reinforced and emphasized. Even if this talk didn't make or break you in terms of grades, it still made up such a large part of the classroom experience. Each project built up to the critique and took up such a short time frame that the importance of rhetoric was vastly magnified. You could put a positively ghastly painting up on the easel in front of everybody, but leave the critique feeling O.K. if you were able to hold your ground in the discussion. Conversely, you could put a gorgeous thing up for critique, but if you got tongue tied, the ordeal felt like a failure. Class didn't always follow this framework, but it did so enough to teach the shrewd student that the test of their work was in their verbal defence of it.

Draughtsmanship and painting skills are in the same class as dance, music, and the theatre arts: they all require years of hard work and rigourous training to stretch any talent to a professional level, but the myth of complete talent and genius — though contrary to espoused Postmodern views— runs amok when it comes to drawing and painting. "Genius" as a theoretical term may be in the dog house but the hasty, challenge-based structure of each course implicitly reinforced the (erroneous) notion that technique requires little practice and minimal tutoring. (This is why I took refuge in analog photography: you'd have to be a complete imbecile to think talent could supply the necessary technique in this medium!)

Time is very much a central issue here. I was lucky in high school to have an art teacher who let me take about four months for a project that was supposed to be complete in four weeks. This was my first oil painting (a mid-sized still life) and yet at the end of it, I was actually proud of the object. University inverted the situation. Projects were large (a 2'x3'+ canvas or two) and due within 2-3 weeks. Had the painting course been each student's only concern this might have been unproblematic, but given four other courses to contend with, let's just say that my closet is now home to several canvases slated for erasure and re-use.

Drying times make up a major difference between acrylic and oil paints (oil dries in days or weeks vs. acrylics in hours or minutes) and therefore, these projects were more easily accomplished via acrylic paint. But let me be frank about my bias: I loathe acrylic paint. To list small selection of its crimes:

(1) It smells bad. At best, the highest quality acrylics earn the dubious distinction of not smelling like much of anything at all.
(2) The colours yearn toward the artificial. You have to plan your palette like the opening moves in a world-class chess match if you'd rather the end result not resemble a Toys'R'Us aisle or IKEA set-up.
(3) This is painting with glue. Without loads of retarder (an agent that slows down drying times) the paint always seems to dry halfway through the brush stroke.
(4) In the end, it forms an unappetizing skin over the canvas that inescapably looks just like the plastic it is.

Sure, there must be painters in this wide world who love acrylic, who wield it with mastery and poise... but I could happily live without that obstinate muck. Even in works I otherwise would adore, (5) I am always distracted by a nagging failure of the sensuous in acrylic paint. It disappoints me every time, especially in comparison with oils. For instance, how is it that those same pigments become so vibrant, so earthy, so delicious in oils? Oil paint can convey such warmth and luminosity as if echoing its cousin burning away in household lamps not so long ago. Acrylic, however, strikes me as a peculiarly ascetic medium and I suspect that the sensual limits of acrylic paint subtly emphasize the supremacy of the idea over the visual object.

There Is No Dogma Anymore, everybody learns this. But in my experience there is still dogma at play: an invisible, underground ideological current that is enforced not through the content of lectures and classes, but through the structure of the institution. Nobody is being brainwashed, but there is an implicit coercion, a subtle persuasion that the neophyte would be best served to put technical skill on the back-burner. Technique is not the currency of the art world, and to seek after it openly could be considered unimaginative at best.

Painting professors were careful to declare that nothing is anathema, yet structurally the drawing and painting program was an education in ideas. In spite of the prevailing ideals espoused, this was a program and a department that was always rather anxiously on the defence, as if always having to protest its obsolescence. The end result was very much a training in defending oneself, not a training in skilful artistry, and this experience left me far less surprised by the rampant clumsiness of so much contemporary art than I had been before my foray into formal training.

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The Change Toronto Performance Series: Modern Ruin Thu, 30 Dec 2010 03:49:28 +0000 C.S. Folkers Beginning earlier this year with the Police State performance art piece at Dundas Square - in response to what we witnessed during our participation in the G20 protests - Starla Bontecou and I initiated the Change Toronto Performance Series. We recently produced a follow-up piece for this project, turning our focus this time to the historical

Beginning earlier this year with the Police State performance art piece at Dundas Square - in response to what we witnessed during our participation in the G20 protests - Starla Bontecou and I initiated the Change Toronto Performance Series. We recently produced a follow-up piece for this project, turning our focus this time to the historical and ongoing environmental abuse of Lake Ontario. Modern Ruin, the series' second installment, embodies the deterioration of Lake Ontario in performance, calling attention to the effects of our bodies on the body of water.

From Starla:

"Winter again. Lamenting the mounds of halite seeping into the lake, negatively affecting ecosystems, pollution on top of pollution. The storm sewers feed directly into the lake. Toronto’s children will age beside a quickly congealing puddle of toxic sludge. Politicians build mock-lakes in their continuing attempts to rob nature of its dignity. Vive le progrès! The ducks are being replaced with plastic bags. The lake is dying."

Modern Ruin.
Performed at the R. C. Harris Water Treatment Plant in December 2010 by Starla Bontecou and The Gentleman.
Documentation by The Gentleman.

For more information about future performances, contact us.

Modern Ruin | Starla Bontecou and The Gentleman

Modern Ruin | Starla Bontecou and The Gentleman

Modern Ruin | Starla Bontecou and The Gentleman

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Can you stomach Google Jesus? canadian music highlights from 2010 Thu, 30 Dec 2010 02:13:51 +0000 Patrick Grant As 2010 enters it’s death throes, I’d like to take this moment to talk about a few sweet Canadian albums that have come out this year. No hierarchy, no speculations of importance, only sheer unadulterated appreciation. A lot has happened this year, so allow me to take a moment to remove the funnels from my

As 2010 enters it’s death throes, I’d like to take this moment to talk about a few sweet Canadian albums that have come out this year. No hierarchy, no speculations of importance, only sheer unadulterated appreciation. A lot has happened this year, so allow me to take a moment to remove the funnels from my ears and let the sonic jelly ooze into my dull, grey brain-sponge.

Final Fantasy/Owen Pallett – Heartland (Domino)

Heartland | Final Fantasy

With his third full-length release, Heartland sees Owen Pallett officially going by his own name and characteristically playing by his own rules. This is one of my favourite records of the year for many reasons: the complexity of both the rhythmic and string arrangements, the ambitious concept and heart-wrenching lyrics, the strength and proliferation of hooks that that foster immediacy and comfort despite the music’s intrinsic weirdness. The result of combining all of these things is a record that articulates melody through brilliantly constructed grooves and never shies away from its point, sliding its hands across your humanity and pondering what you build your identity against.

“This morning I must get up
to see the world around me.
Right away, what I forgot
In seeing ourselves as words
upon a paper.

The sun is up.
My arms are wide.
I am a good man, I am yours.”

-“What Do You Think Will Happen Now?”

Black Dub – S/T (Jive)

Black Dub

It’s been a pretty eventful year for Daniel Lanois, marked by both injury and accomplishment. In June he got into a pretty serious motorcycle accident that put him in intensive care. The dude is 58! Anyways, despite this he managed that whole Neil Young thing (more on this later) as well as this release, created by his new band with Trixie Whitley, Daryl Johnson and Brian Blade (!!!). The album is pretty stand-alone in terms of sonic genre: Lanois’ ambient-wash guitar beauty wrapped around a fierce and hungry rhythm section that play diversely but typically lean back in fat basslines that reference everything from dub reggae to Sly and the Family Stone. I guess that’s where the dub in the title comes from… and given Lanois’ use of the recording studio as an instrument, it’s fitting that he’d make reference to dub music. (If you’ve any interest, check out his documentary/album Here is what is for some pretty mind-blowing in studio mixing clips, amongst other awesomenesses). The songwriting comes from a million different directions but coheres around good choices and heavy soul. Black Dub is a seriously rewarding listen and one of my favourite albums of the year.

Neil Young – Le Noise (Reprise)

Le Noise | Neil Young

For whatever reason, most of the reviews of Le Noise mentioned the fact that Neil Young’s last few albums haven’t been that good. Did anybody listen to these records? Okay, Living with War was a little ridiculous, but that was the last one that got good reviews. Fork in the Road and especially Chrome Dreams II are fucking brilliant albums on par with Le Noise in terms of songwriting without a doubt. The thing that’s cool about Le Noise is that it’s such a pure collaboration between producer and songwriter. Much like Dylan’s Lanois-produced Oh Mercy from 1989, submerging fragile songwriting in ambient textures pays off large here. Maybe there’s something about putting reflective old men in a big digital cave that appeals to me. And it certainly does help that we find Neil actually reflecting autobiographically, seeming to speak about his life and career in a fairly candid and transparent way on songs like “Love and War” and “The Hitchhiker.” I don’t really know what else to say about this album other than that it’s surprising and delightful that Neil Young is still as musically relevant today as he has been since the 60s. AND he always does whatever the fuck he wants. Is there anyone with more musical longevity? Is there a better role model for the kids?

“I said a lot of things that I can’t take back
but I don’t really know if I want to.
There’s been songs about love,
I sang songs about war
since the back streets of Toronto.
I sang for justice and I hit a bad chord,
but I still try to sing about love and war.”

- “Love and War”

Hawksley Workman – Milk (Isadora)

Milk | Hawksley Workman

While Hawksley tried to do a whole “complimentary albums that inform one another” thing with Meat and Milk, it didn’t really work. That being said, both albums are pretty great for entirely different reasons, mostly having to do with Hawksley seeming comfortable with himself again. The reason why I’ve chosen Milk to be on this list is because it’s so unabashedly weird and different from the rest of his career that it doesn’t even make sense. I like disco Hawksley. Seriously. As much as “Google Jesus” makes me want to stab myself in the eye(s), “Snow Angel” and “Warhol’s Portrait of Gretzky” more than make up for it. Even “Devastating,” which should be titled “Autumn’s Here (again!)” is still pretty awesome despite it’s rehash-edness. His new affinity for vocal processing is weird to say the least, robotifying some really human and (sometimes) deliberately vapid lyrics. The album was apparently released as a series of iTunes singles first, which may account for why it has a very peculiar arc as a whole. Hawk’s love of hip-hop comes out on Milk pretty heavily too. I find it interesting that he constantly references Jay-Z as being brilliant while simultaneously making music with a huge pop sheen over it. I wonder if he’s striving for those dollars in the same way as Jay. Maybe Hawksley, at the helm of Isadora records, is the Canadian Jay-Z. The man who hustles to make huge successful singles and collaborate for success and do things his own way… but never quite becomes the world famous legendary icon because his approach isn’t American enough. And it can’t be. Which is why Hawksley’s music will always be differently compelling than if he were the biggest fucking thing in the world. He’s still reinventing himself over and over again, making new kinds of songs and new kinds of records regardless of whether it’s cool. Or maybe he’s trying to be cool. I don’t even know anymore. I still like “Striptease” better than “Big Pimpin’,” so who really even gives a care.

“Hey there baby,
I sang one of your favourite songs,
at the sound check,
just before the other band came on,
and somewhere between Stephen Morrissey,
and the mind-blowing genius of Jay-Z,
I will sit and wonder,
of career blunders,
and listen to the oldies show…”

– “We Dance to Yesterday”

Drake – Thank Me Later (Young Money, Cash Money, Universal Motown)

Thank Me Later | Drake

Yeah, yeah, yeah. What next, Bieber? Am I going to talk about why “My World (Acoustic)” deals more adequately with the darker themes of JB’s music and as such is more reflective of his Stratford, Ontario upbringing? Nope. The reason Drake appears here is because he makes pretty compelling music that a shitload of people relate to. Drizzy’s genre is essentially ambient emo-rap, a type of music that 14 or 15 year old Patrick Grant would have gone apeshit for. Seriously, sometimes I wonder if Drake has ever heard Atmosphere’s God Loves Ugly. The interesting thing here though is that I think the reason a lot of people my age actually like Drake is because he raps with the grandiose confidence of his contemporaries, but romanticizes the slow-jam and isn’t afraid of his feelings. The centrepiece of the album is a goddamn 7 minute track alongside The-Dream that’s romantic but… well, bleak. The whole record is extremely bleak, even when it’s bangin’. “Fancy,” with it’s big hook and romantigangsterisms is still incredibly placid. Part of me thinks it’s the synth tones, but there’s more to it than that. Drake makes music that knows how vapid it is and gains legitimacy because of it. No matter how sexy, how gangster, how money-heavy the music gets it is always kind of sad. Is it successful because he has big-money support and people can essentially buy fame if they want to? Or is it successful because something about Drake’s outlook appeals to the bleakness in the hearts of young people? Alls I know is that “Thank Me Later” sounds better when the sky is gray.

Shad – TSOL (Black Box Recordings)
Read SB's interview with Shad from Feburuary 2009 here.

TSOL | Shad

So when is Polaris going to stop robbing hip-hop artists? Hmm? Shad is the new Cadence Weapon, you know? Dude should have won. My theory is that it’s because he loves the Lord. Shad’s pretty outspoken about his religious beliefs on TSOL, something that turns off post-post-post-postmodern people because it implies sincere belief in something they see as simplistic and archaic. How can something be a significant artistic achievement in the 21st century if it’s religiously inflected? Or, I guess, genuflected?

All criticism of Polaris aside (because it really is a wonderful thing), TSOL is one of the best hip-hop records of the year, Canadian or otherwise. Shad’s lyricism is both impressive and self-aware. It’s cool because the approach seems to be the same as with Drake (both rappers seem to be reflecting on their actual existence) except that they live completely different lives. Where Drake raps about money, Shad raps about debt, which seems more genuine and down to earth given the world we live in. Oh, and Shad is far and away superior with the word play, even if you want to disagree with what the words say. Musically, the snares cut big time, there’s nice Premier-styled DJ cuts all over the place. The whole effort seems concerned with just making gerat hip-hop rather than re-inventing anything or changing the game. “Yaa I Get It,” the main single, is 4 straight minutes of Shad killing verses without a hook. It’s like Zappa’s “Sexual Harassment in the Workplace”: just a guitar solo, but a fucking amazing song. No games are being played here; this one is for the true heads. I do love me some goooooood backpack rap, though for whatever reason, nobody really associates that label with good music anymore. Just one more thing I don’t understand.

“For me it's hard to hear, that you’re hard of hearin’
Didn't believe I was deaf till some cheques started clearin’
Now that’s a different kind of clarity,
And love for your brother,
That's a different kind of charity
Yeah, I rap fearlessly
But I act carelessly
When I'm busy on my grizzly
I'm a quarter bi-polar bear with me
the rarest breed, nah, I'm just a parakeet
I talk what I hear, I do as they do
And I hate what I fear you see
A simple animal, sin is sincerity
But when I get carried away
You carry me


- “Outro”

Other albums worth thinking about: PS I Love You – Meet Me at the Muster Station; Diamond Rings – Special Affections; Krupke – The Pony You Always Wanted Died Today; Arcade Fire – The Suburbs; Broken Social Scene – Forgiveness Rock Record; Jason Collett – Rat a Tat Tat.

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MANIFESTO, SWAN SONG, PLEDGE: A Suggestion for the Future of our World Mon, 20 Dec 2010 23:25:31 +0000 Colin Fallowfield Lately when I look around me, I see what I can only describe as a desperate world. Oh, the walls, the walls, the walls we build. This month’s assignment: take a walk down the street. Not at Christmastime, with its resurgence of good will toward men, but longer into the New Year. Try January 10th.

Lately when I look around me, I see what I can only describe as a desperate world. Oh, the walls, the walls, the walls we build. This month’s assignment: take a walk down the street. Not at Christmastime, with its resurgence of good will toward men, but longer into the New Year. Try January 10th. What do you see? Friendly faces, painted with the famous Canadian politeness and fraternity? Or do you see faces that seem a bit cold, a bit distant? How many people are walking down the street with headphones on? How many are talking on cell phones, or texting while walking? How about a group of people, each on a cell phone talking to a third party not present? Like horses equipped with blinders, we go about our days disconnected from each other and the world around us.

2010 was a year of retracing steps forward, of back-peddling. With the rise of the Tea Party movement in the United States and the alliance of Sarah Palin/Glenn Beck, we saw an anti-intellectual sentiment grow like a fungus in those citizens who are too short-sighted to realize that they will be the most hurt by conservative policy. With the rise of Rob Ford here in Toronto, we saw a rivalry between the suburbs and the downtown core (which started with amalgamation of the megacity) reach its peak. And guess what? The suburbs won. The war on the car is over, the war on the less fortunate is just beginning. And maybe I’m a lefty, pinko, artsy-fartsy, bike-riding elitist, but to enlightened observers this has to seem a complete halt in the progress our society has made.

Like the squirrel hoarding nuts for the winter, Canadians in general are scrambling for every last penny, creating distrust and a breakdown in civic responsibility. It is natural in times of financial crisis to see a move back to conservatism in politics. What I don’t understand is the parallel regression in society. Should we not take this opportunity to prove our mettle and persevere, continuing toward social change and progress even in times of financial hardship? I understand the need for financial conservatism from government and the public’s desire to control their own money. But what is the cost? The Rob Fords of the world believe that the people should choose how to spend their hard-earned money, campaigning on platforms of over-expenditure and working-class morals. And they do have a point. But what this thinking truly fosters under the surface is an attitude of ‘what’s mine is mine by right’.

As early as kindergarten children are taught about ‘sharing, sharing, sharing’, but at current moment their parents are doing nothing to lead by example with this most basic of social principles. It is not greed, per se, but rather a profound protectionism; it is the squirrel with the nuts, mankind brought down to its most basic instincts of hunter-gatherer mentality where the ones with the most resources are the ones who survive. It will be a long, cold winter, make no mistake about that, but won’t we all come out of it a little fatter if we share our nuts around? The allegory is faltering a bit, but my point is sincere. I would like to think that humanity has by-and-large progressed past the attitude of ‘take what you can, give nothing back’ and into a progressive mindset whereby we help one another if we are in need and know that that help will exist should we ever need it. The social welfare programs that we have in place are already crumbling; without public support they will collapse and leave the most vulnerable of us amid the rubble.

The need for solidarity in the community is greater now than ever. We did this to ourselves; no matter what some Wall St. fat cats may have done to ruin our system, WE assembled mass debt, WE borrowed and spent. This immature ‘blame-game’ attitude is not helping anyone out of the hole we have dug; it is time for everyone to grab a shovel and chip into the digging out. Public money is everyone’s money. The basic principle of democracy is that we put our trust in the leader who seems to best suit the needs of the majority of us. Should we not then deem appropriate their division of our tax dollars? It is an imperfect system, of course, but I for one fail to see the flaw in the principle of putting our money into a pot and using it to fund programs that help out the deserved needy. This is a distillation of a much more complicated issue, but call me an idealist. We help each other. That should be the way it is, and it is our responsibility as a generation to remind each other of that.


Has someone ever interrupted your conversation to answer their cell phone, not excusing themselves but engaging in the new conversation right in front of you? The message is clear: ‘the person on the phone is more important than you’. The more prominent the technology that connects us becomes, the less personal connection I feel with those around me. I appreciate that via the internet I can communicate with people halfway around the world, but what about the person sitting next to me? When was the last time someone struck up a conversation with you on the bus (that wasn’t about Jesus or how JFK is alive and well, running the country with Elvis as VP)? The modern breakdown in basic social skills staggers me every day, as I see people unable to verbally communicate simple ideas to one another. Call me a luddite and interpret the breakdown as simply a change in social communication if you wish, but what good is unlimited digital communication when our own voices no longer serve us?

Sculpture: OMG LOL by Michael Mandiberg | Photo Courtesy of Eyebeam Art + Technology Center Open Studio

Sculpture: OMG LOL by Michael Mandiberg | Photo Courtesy of Eyebeam Art + Technology Center Open Studio

We have become a society preoccupied with ‘something else’; the here and now is not good enough for us and there is too much going on elsewhere to pay attention to. Many of us identify ourselves as great multi-taskers, but this is the great myth of our generation. None of us can multitask. It is impossible for a human being to complete two tasks at the same time. All we can do is divide our attention between a number of tasks, feigning efficiency but completing none of these tasks as thoroughly as if we were focusing on one at a time. We process information quickly, true, but information processed quickly is not retained as well. Our generation’s perceived need to do everything better and faster is what causes the illusion of a short attention span. I do not believe in a short attention span; I believe that if we wanted to, we could slow down and focus. There is nothing in this world making us rush about our lives the way we do; it is simply ourselves

Our preoccupation with the future is a condition of our impetuous nature. Our generation refuses to face its own reality, and we therefore put off the here and now in favour of the yet-to-be. The problem exists in our generation’s selfish attitude and our need for self-worth. How many of you have been depressed when, upon returning home from an outing, found no updates on Facebook or on Twitter to peruse? Have you met all of the people on your so-called ‘Friends’ list? Have you interacted with them? Would you share your feelings and thoughts with them? The superficial quality of friendship to our generation is reflective of the apathy we feel toward one another. It is not a quality original of us, but certainly one that we perpetuate and promote. Vanity, self-centeredness: these are what divide us. Eloquence and thought process are almost eliminated to most of us. In times past, correspondence was a thing of significance. Writing a letter to someone meant finding the right words to express events and thoughts, communicating over vast time and distance the very core of yourself at that moment. Now we get instance updates regarding virtual strangers’ thoughts on everything, often thoughts that have not really been thought-through. Is this communication? Or is it mental exhibitionism?


These things are related; what we are seeing is an increasingly walled-in human experience fueled by fear of what we may do to one another. And granted, people do awful things to one another. We have since the dawn of man. But somehow we’ve managed to get from caves and loincloths to suits and skyscrapers. What propels us through times of crisis is a combination of action and attitude; the true human spirit. Acting upon our core ideas and promoting an attitude of optimism and hope inspires humanity toward a better future. But apathy has permeated our society like a virus, bringing about a world of individualism rather than community.

I call to order a new constituency of courage and character. If we are to bring about change in the world, our generation must first start caring about one another. Shed the shackles of the smartphone, take out your earbuds and listen with open ears to the world! It is there, always waiting for you to join in. We as a people have lost our enthusiasm for life. We must reinvigorate interest in the human condition and adopt an attitude of optimism for the future. If we see bleak, we will get bleak. If we see strife, we will get strife. But is we see hope, if we see progress, we will make that change. I speak not of naiveté, but of a youthful exuberance. Look at the world through young eyes, through your eyes, and you will see the rainbow behind the raincloud. There is work to be done. Let us all bear proudly the calluses of fortitude and toil; let us be honest and faithful in humanity. And in our darkest hour, may we rather come together than fall apart. This is true courage, and I entreat each citizen of the earth to take the pledge with me.

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Videogame Music in Context: An Interview with Jeriaska Thu, 09 Dec 2010 17:24:22 +0000 Erika Szabo Jeriaska, the founder of videogame music news website Nobuooo, has been busy interviewing some amazing figures in the video game industry in order to create Videogame Music in Context, a DVD series examining the artistry of video game music and why it has played such a prominent role for so many worldwide. This DVD series includes


Jeriaska, the founder of videogame music news website Nobuooo, has been busy interviewing some amazing figures in the video game industry in order to create Videogame Music in Context, a DVD series examining the artistry of video game music and why it has played such a prominent role for so many worldwide.

This DVD series includes the following: Videogaming Music in Context in Japan, Independent Videogame Music in Context and Nullsleep Collapsed Desires Tour. Videogame Music in Context features interviews with prominent designers, composers and musicians including Nobuo Uematsu (Final Fantasy), Hip Tanaka (Creatures Inc.), Daisuke Amaya (Cave Story) and Baiyon (PixelJunk Lifelike). And if that isn't enough for you, Jeriaska is also throwing in the PC freeware game, Hydorah, Original and arranged 2-disc soundtrack and remix album.

This project will be funded through Kickstarter so if you are interested in the project and, most importantly, the cause, then please donate!

I had a chance to chat with Jeriaska not long after finding out about his dvd series. I had the pleasure of speaking to him about the creative process behind the project as well as his aspirations for the future.

First off, could you tell me about the process behind making these works and why you decided to make them?

There are various contexts to videogame music. For instance, there is the subjective response to in-game music scores, the reception by audiences of different cultures around the world. In this interview series, I was interested in investigating the creative context. In other words, I wanted to hear from game designers and composers about the motivations underlying their work in interactive media. That's the meaning behind the title. I chose specifically to focus on the Japanese game industry and the independent game scene because that's where I have the most background knowledge.

This process started about six months ago. Back in June I received the go-ahead from the chip music group 8bitpeoples to film Nullsleep's Collapsed Desires tour on its West Coast stops.  Taping started then and continued fairly uninterruptedly until the completion of the Blip Festival event in Tokyo in September. I had in mind this idea of a three DVD combination as an objective, taking a look at music in Japan, the indie scene and chiptunes, but it was the kind of thing that would require independent funding. When I brought it to them, the Kickstarter people and the editors of the websites I write for were supportive of the concept. That was even before prominent game composers like Nobuo Uematsu and Akira Yamaoka offered to be a part of it. With all of that enthusiasm being offered to my idea, it would have been difficult at that point not to commit myself to seeing it through.
Collapsed Desires Flier

Collapsed Desires Flier

As mentioned, your DVD series includes many prominent professionals in the industry. People such as Nobuo Uematsu, Akira Yamaoka, Hip Tanaka, Daisuke Amaya and Dan Paladin must have been pretty difficult to contact, how did you manage?

It helps to be able to communicate the aims of the project in Japanese and to have encountered people at various times at trade shows. It was a surprise to me that game creators with a degree of celebrity, the people you just mentioned, would show such interest in participating. There are also a number of segments I filmed that have yet to be announced, where I'm still working on getting clearance, so the scope was rather ambitious.

What were your biggest challenges in creating this DVD series?

Really the biggest challenge is this period right now, funding the production of the physical product. Without support through Kickstarter, all that footage stays on my external hard drives, untranslated. I've posted three trailers and an excerpt, so it's just a matter of continuing to update the media as best I can over these next three weeks and seeing whether it resonates with people. All of the creative aspects, from filming the interviews and live performances to communicating with Locomalito about what they wanted for the Hydorah remix album, were very enjoyable. I hope that enjoyment comes through in watching the DVDs and listening to the soundtrack.

What are you favourite mainstream and indie games?

Growing up I was very into Final Fantasy. I remember getting the game the first day it came out for the NES and having my imagination fueled by that soundtrack. Today, independent games remind me a lot of those 8-bit NES titles because in both cases the design team is a small, tight-knit group. PixelJunk Eden is among my favorite indies. I'd like for Uematsu and Baiyon to be on the covers of the two DVDs, though it's still up in the air at this point.

Album art for the original Hydorah soundtrack. Remix album art forthcoming

Album art for the original Hydorah soundtrack. Remix album art forthcoming

It seems like  you're a fan of chiptunes as well, right? How did you get into the scene and why do you feel it has created such an impact for fans worldwide? Is it that nostalgic sounded embedded within?

I got into chiptunes by way of 2 Player Productions, the documentary filmmakers behind Reformat the Planet. They demonstrated how there could be this visual corollary to the music in the live space, and that really piqued my interest. Without their videography, a large audience outside of New York never would have been exposed to that scene. I think that as a contribution to gaming culture in general, what they've done is rather remarkable, both in chiptunes and in their Penny Arcade documentaries.

What I find fascinating about chip music is that you are introduced to original compositions created on retro gaming platforms, these audio signatures you grew up with that are kind of unique to your generation. There's a sound to a Famicom, and when it's familiar to you it can be very exciting to see musicians breathe new life into it. There are several chiptune musicians contributing to the Hydorah Arranged album, which is part of the Kickstarter project. As with a previous compilation I helped organize, called the IWADON Hiroyuki Iwatsuki Tribute Album, there are musicians from all over the world participating.

Baiyon (PixelJunk Eden, PixelJunk Lifelike)

Baiyon (PixelJunk Eden, PixelJunk Lifelike)

How did you find out about and what are your thoughts about the site?

My familiarity came with interviewing Andy Baio for Gamasutra on a Kickstarter initiative he created. His project was called Kind of Bloop, and it was a chiptune compilation reinterpreting the Miles Davis album through chip music. I thought it was a brilliant idea. Since then Kickstarter has become this enormous phenomenon with glowing reviews appearing on the New York Times, NRP and Wired. They've been supportive of my project, and with luck I will be doing others in the future.

What's gonna happen if funding isn't met on Kickstarter?  Will the DVD series still be released one way or another?

In that case it might be released in Tokyo without subtitles through a local distributor of art films. I really can't afford to have the translation be less than perfect, so I'm collaborating with several professional translators who are paid for their work. Without funding the footage simply isn't prepared to be burned to disc. For the Kickstarter not to succeed it would basically imply that the specialized work I'm doing does not have an audience to support the costs involved.

The Videogame Music in Context project has been half a year in the making and numerous sacrifices have been made on its behalf, so it would definitely be a bummer if there turns out not to be support for it. With a project this small, every pledge makes a major difference. I'm hoping those that have enjoyed the free service on Nobuooo since 2008 would consider making a $10 pledge simply as an investment to keep the site going. For those that have a personal connection to music in videogames and are in a position to make a more generous pledge, I'm really looking to reward them with something they haven't seen before.

Do you have any other projects in the works or do you at least have any ideas for projects to come?

Depending on how the Kickstarter fundraiser turns out, there's the chance that I'll be contributing to another 8bitpeoples project in the future. This is kind of a crucial three week window in that it will to a certain extent determine what's possible in the future.
Jeriaska is the founder Nobuooo, a website devoted to videogame music news (established in 2008) and is an editor for He also helped organize the free tribute album published by Game Music 4 All at Jeriaska works professionally as a freelance game journalist in the United States and Japan, writing for GameSetWatch and Gamasutra among other web and print publications.

Minimum pledge is $10. Those interested in contributing to the Kickstarter project would probably want to make their way down to Jeriaska's Kickstarter site here.
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//Issue 25: November 2010 Tue, 30 Nov 2010 23:49:00 +0000 Steel Bananas Issue 25: Novembe
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//Letter from the Editor: November 2010 Tue, 30 Nov 2010 04:19:07 +0000 Steel Bananas November 22nd, 2010 From a low-key high-brow performance art festival on last month's cover to. . . Jersey Shore? I don't think I anticipated such a thematic chasm between the latest issues. I also didn't expect to receive a submission from Toronto's favourite pop culture peeper (I mean, critic) Hal Niedzviecki. This month's issue boasts an

November 22nd, 2010

From a low-key high-brow performance art festival on last month's cover to. . . Jersey Shore? I don't think I anticipated such a thematic chasm between the latest issues. I also didn't expect to receive a submission from Toronto's favourite pop culture peeper (I mean, critic) Hal Niedzviecki. This month's issue boasts an imaginative run in between Jersey Shore's Snookie and Boardwalk Empire's Nucky by our friend Hal, full of all the trashy laughs you'd expect from such an encounter.

This issue also boasts a range of articles including work from French-Canadian painter Charline Fallu, a discussion of McGill University's Sustainability Projects Fund (along with an interview with Lilith Wyatt from McGill's Office of Sustainability), a note on the future of transit in Rob Ford's Toronto, an essay on stoicism and Henry Miller, slam poetry by Sarah Beaudin, a discussion emerging from Gamercamp on the position of video games as an artform by our own King Frankenstein, and much more.

We're also pleased to announce that Steel Bananas is starting a chapbook press. Steel Bananas Publications will begin producing and selling chapbooks by Canadian artists in January of 2011. Check back for more details.

Thanks again for supporting SB and making us all feel a little bit warmer as Toronto descends into winter.

Love and love and love,

Karen Correia Da Silva
Steel Banana

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Slamming the Slam: a rant dedicated to the witless man with the mic who ruined my Thursday night Tue, 23 Nov 2010 03:28:56 +0000 Sarah Beaudin As a self-proclaimed "professional vagrant," what the kinder people might call an "aspiring poet," I’ve always been drawn to the performance of poetry. In Toronto there’s no shortage of poetry readings, book launches, and literary events to peak my interest. On weeknights they’re creeping up in every available bar and café that isn’t hosting your

As a self-proclaimed "professional vagrant," what the kinder people might call an "aspiring poet," I’ve always been drawn to the performance of poetry. In Toronto there’s no shortage of poetry readings, book launches, and literary events to peak my interest. On weeknights they’re creeping up in every available bar and café that isn’t hosting your local no-name DJ or drunken karaoke. Late night literary events have even gotten as far as Barrie, a city renowned for having less culture than yogurt (insert shameless plug for “The Society of the Spoken Word” here). In speaking with a fellow literary-enthusiast at one such occasion I’ve found that slam poetry is on the rise again.

Of course, slam poetry is nothing new. The style officially came to light in the 1980s, but the beatniks were performing poetry long before Marc Smith took up the microphone in a Chicago jazz club. Rap and hip hop have been around for just as long, doing the exact same thing with a catchy beat in the background, and stand up comedians have long made a career of blithe comments and witty anecdotes, so what does slam poetry bring to the table?

The sad fact is it’s all about entertainment. A poetry slam consists of participants standing on stage spewing neatly phrased one-liners into a microphone for up to three minutes. Each contestant is judged on their performance (they’re awarded points like divers or figure skaters), and they move on to the next round accordingly. And while “the points are not the point, the poetry is the point,” it seems counter-intuitive to judge art in such a stringent manner. When did poetry become a sport? If the points aren’t the point, then why award them at all? Slam poetry is apparently about “challenging literary authority over poetry,” but what does that even mean? If you remove the literary element in poetry, what do you have left? Ranting? An awkwardly timed speech?

Poetry Slam - Courtesy of

Poetry Slam - Courtesy of

I’m cringing at the thought that this whole anti-intellectualism campaign has seeped its way into literature. Maybe it is the triumph of digital over print culture that has sparked this movement. Maybe it’s because the three minute limit of slam poetry caters to the shorter attention span of the modern age. What happened to art that’s supposed to make you think? Art that is meant to provoke you and not just because it’s racy, but because it force you to think. Slam poetry is the ice cream sundae of poetics. It looks great: it’s got all the fancy toppings. It tastes great: it’s pleasing to the ear. but there is very little substance to it.

I’m not hating on (yes, I just used the phrase “hating on”) all slam poets. I may be a stickler for traditional styles of poetry, but like any art form, when slam is done well its simply impressive. I am a little bit in love with Shane Koyczan, and Tomy Bewyck is a touching poet. But these men are not the majority.

I’m all for making art accessible, but where do we draw the line? Is slam poetry more engaging because it brings the words to life, or is it more engaging simply because the audience does not need to pick up a book? Is easier really better? I’m all for giving voices to the youth, to the oppressed, to the blue collar world, to whoever wants to actually be heard- but don’t ramble at me (with awkward pauses) and tell me it’s poetry.

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Snooki vs. Nookie: Boardwalk Empire on the Jersey Shore Tue, 23 Nov 2010 03:28:52 +0000 Hal Niedzviecki Snooki stirs. She’s lying on the beach, the morning waves gently lapping at her dormant  pouf. She rolls over and pulls herself to a shaky stand. She looks around, confused. The last thing she remembers was doing Jagger shots with The Situation. Then there was this cute guy. Or maybe it was Paulie D. Whatever.


Snooki stirs. She’s lying on the beach, the morning waves gently lapping at her dormant  pouf. She rolls over and pulls herself to a shaky stand. She looks around, confused. The last thing she remembers was doing Jagger shots with The Situation. Then there was this cute guy. Or maybe it was Paulie D. Whatever. She was about to hook up, until Angelina said that Sammi was down by the ocean puking watermelon daiquris and screaming insults at Ronnie who wasn’t even with her! Wait a sec! Angelina tricked her and stole her hook up! From now on she will be on the outcast!

“Whatever,” Snooks says out loud. She yanks her yellow short shorts up, pulls the neck of her tight black ‘Hustler’ tee down, and wanders over to the boardwalk.

What the hell? Where are the high rises, the clubs, the taxis? Where’s the freaking film crew? Snookie shivers. And why’s it so cold? Florida’s, like, warm right? This is outrageous. They can’t treat her like this. Snook is a star!

The boardwalk is all worn wood, and Snooki’s stiletto Steve Maddens keep getting stuck in the gaps. Everything is really old in this part of Miami. Salt water taffy? Are you kidding me? Snooks needs a Jaggerbomb pick-me-up. Shalom!

Ah what’s this? The Ritz-Carleton. That’s more like it! Snooki staggers through the lobby and into the hotel restaurant. She plops herself down at the nearest table.

“Hey!” a sallow-faced man in black tuxedo complete with white bowtie protests. “Who the hell are you?”

Snooki stares at him open-mouthed: “You don’t know who I am?”

“No, I don’t,” the man says, now looking at her cleavage with interest. “Should I?” He extends a genteel, ring encrusted hand. “Nucky Thompson,” he says, “county treasurer.”

“Nookie!” Snooki giggles. “Your name is Nookie.” Snooki pulls a mickey of peach schnaps out of her Dolce and Gabbana handbag and takes a hit. She giggles again and drink comes out her nose.

“Hey!” Nucky says. “Put that away! What are you trying to do, get me arrested?”

“It’s just schnaps!” Snooki screams happily. “You want some?”

“No I don’t want some! I mean,” Nucky lowers his voice, “keep your voice down. How many cases can you get me?”


“Don’t play coy with me Miss…what did you say your name was?”

“Snooki!” Snooks says happily. “Snooki and Nookie!”

“It’s Nucky,” Nucky says. “Not Nookie.”

“Nookie!” Snooki snorts, grabbing a piece of bacon off Nucky’s plate.

“Hey! That’s my bacon!”

“I’d like to see your bacon!” Snooki says, saucily tasting the meat. “I just broke up with my boyfriend. He was too clingy. I mean he was a gorgeous guido, you should have seen his abs, but, he was, like, seriously jealous.”

“Yeah, tell me about it,” Nucky says mournfully.

“You got a Smash Room here?” Snooki says hopefully. “We could hook up.”

“What? A Smash Room? What are you talking about?” Nucky’s getting annoyed.  He wraps a linen napkin around the schnaps and pours a bit into a crystal water goblet. He sips delicately. “That’s fine,” he says, smiling unctuously. “So how many cases can you get me?”

“Well what do we have here?” a gorgeous woman in a slinky green evening dress purrs, sliding into the seat next to Snooki.

“Uh oh,” Nucky mutters under his breath.

“Lucy, this is Miss Snooki. We’re just doing a bit of…business.”

“I bet,” Lucy says, her big eyes flashing at Snooki hatefully.

“Wow,” says Snooki, frantically digging through her purse. “Were you like in a coma or something? I mean, wait a sec, I gotta find my shades. Haven’t you ever heard of spray-on?”

“Uh, Lucy, if you could just give us a minute, we’re….”

“Nucky who let this one out of the cat house? She forgot to get dressed.”

“Listen, Miss Snooki, why don’t we meet up later at my office with my brother, the sheriff, and we can arrange – ”

“Your brother is the sheriff? Does he want to take me to jail?” Snooki puts her hands above her head and grins fetchingly.

“Nucky,” Lucy pouts, “I’m not good enough for you? You need to sleep with whores?”

“Who you calling a whore!” Snooks yells. “Let’s go right now!”

“Go where darling?” Lucy says.

Snooks moves in, flailing her arms, careful to keep her good side facing the cameras. Where are the cameras? Her cleavage heaves. She waits for Vinny, Situation and Ronnie to break up the fight. Lucy slaps at her and they grab each other.

“Stop it! Stop it!” Nucky says excitedly. He doesn’t get up.

“What is going on here?” A prim Irish voice asks. It’s Nucky’s new girl, Margaret.

“Margaret! What are you doing here?” Nucky asks woefully.

“Come on now,” Margaret says, “end this foolishness.”

“You won’t get him either, you mick slut,” Lucy yells. Margaret wades into the fray, pulling hair and throwing punches.

Snooki extricates herself from the battle. She plumps her poof, tucks her breasts back into her shirt and takes a hit from her schnaps.

“So,” Snooki says. “How about it? Are you DTF?”

“Jesus,” Nucky breathes admiringly. “Where did you say you were from?”

“New Joisey,” Snookie proclaims happily as Nucky’s ladies claw at each other.

“Me too,” Nucky says. “Me too.”


Hal Niedzviecki is the author of critically acclaimed fiction and nonfiction, most recently The Peep Diaries: How We’re Learning to Love Watching Ourselves and Our Neighbors. (City Lights Books, 2009)

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The Prodigal Returns!: Porcelain in the works of Shary Boyle and Jessica Harrison Tue, 23 Nov 2010 03:27:43 +0000 A.M. Standish One mid-December afternoon, when I was still gap-toothed and too short to drop my own fare in the collecting box for the subway, I found myself in a dollhouse supply shop with my grandmother and my slightly older cousin, who I thought was the very definition of cool by virtue of the fact that she'd

One mid-December afternoon, when I was still gap-toothed and too short to drop my own fare in the collecting box for the subway, I found myself in a dollhouse supply shop with my grandmother and my slightly older cousin, who I thought was the very definition of cool by virtue of the fact that she'd still play with me sometimes. None of us were into dollhouses but we'd wandered in out of curiosity, and the shopkeeper— perhaps sensing our lack of personal investment in the hobby— had drawn us over to a drawer of tiny porcelain figurines of girls in colourful, old-fashioned dresses with long, swirling skirts and names like Maria, Helen and Alexis — running the gamut from quaint to average. They had one with my cousin's name, and there was even one with mine—though it would have to be special-ordered. I wasn't particularly impressed. I remember wondering why any girl would want to own a tiny porcelain lady with the same name— like a tiny but unsubtle hint at how my cousin and I ought to be when we grew up— but mostly I was annoyed because I  wanted to be the one to give my things their names.


We left the store empty-handed. Whether it was because of my cousin's and my lack of interest, the exorbitant price-tag, or both, I think we dodged a small-caliber bullet that afternoon. Many a girl within the last hundred years has been gifted with a Royal Doulton "Pretty Lady" figurine — the full-sized, 7-inch ones too, no less. Whether the figurine I escaped was a Royal Doulton "Miniature Pretty Lady", the 2-inch versions of the 7-inch figurines, or still tinier versions for doll-house decor I can't be sure; I think it was the latter, but one's sense of scale when thinking back that far is generally unreliable— but still, small enough to hide in a jewellery box when its vapid prettiness got to be too much. Meanwhile, while no doubt many of these squirrel-sized figurines are cherished objects of both sentimental and moderate financial value, a great many more collect dust on shelves next to a childhood alarm clock and the cheesy snow-globe aunt Elsie brought back from her trip to Vancouver, or stare vapidly at the insides of closets because, well, someone near and dear gave it to her, and the thought of discarding or selling something sharing her name comes with a measure of superstitious foreboding. The thing with these "Pretty Ladies" is that they are inherently precious and sentimental — whether the owner even remotely likes them or not.

Though the product line only began in 1913, Royal Doulton's "Pretty Ladies" line of bone china figurines come out of the Victorian bourgeois tradition of Things to plunk down on the mantelpiece and amass in glass-doored cabinets. Things now associated with frumpy great-aunts and with grandmothers and with a kind of rigidly sentimental collector who keeps a bowl of hard, stale candy on the sitting-room table because it looks nice. Porcelain as an art form now connotes fragile, old-fashioned "taking tea"; decorative dolls with hands like little night-sticks and a certain creepy mystique; glossy little pugs and frou-frou figurines with powdered bouffant wigs; Precious Moments; decorative plates.

Rudolf Just, a Czech collector, spent most of his life hiding his Meissen china from the Nazis and then from the communist regime. His progeny suffered under clouds of suspicion and fear, ever under threat of thievery and betrayal because of those pretty, silly things hid under couches and in laundry baskets— but for most of the twentieth century (the collection was only put up for sale in 2000) those silly things were too precious to give up, no matter the grief they brought¹. Since the first Chinese export over a thousand years ago, Porcelain has always been a precious material, right up there with silk — precious enough to be incorporated intimately into religious and social rituals in South East Asia; precious enough for king to build entire palaces to house their collections; precious enough that when the Japanese attacked Korea in 1592 and 1598 — in what are called "the Potters' Wars" —they kidnapped hundreds of Korean potters (who had learned the technique for porcelain from Chinese émigrés) so that the Japanese could establish their own porcelain art². Nowadays, however, the preciousness of porcelain comes with a very different, doily-frilled set of connotations; and the cool kids of art history and fine arts institutions tend to treat it like some embarrassing kid in an ugly sweater who came to play-dates in grade one but seriously we're in high-school now.


Porcelain has been incorporated into contemporary fine art often enough as "found" bits and pieces, but as a sculptural medium, there appears to be little interest on the artists' side. That is, not until Shary Boyle and Jessica Harrison came along. These two artists, rooted and commended in the gallery and academic art spheres, engage and interact with porcelain and its history — and while their work would make your Pretty Lady-collecting great-aunt blanche, they seem to honestly adore the aesthetic capabilities of the medium as much as they make fun of it.

Jessica Harrison graduated with an MFA in Sculpture from the Edinburgh College of Art, and is currently working toward a practice-based PhD in the same subject. It was Harrison's latest work that brought back memories of my childhood brush with kitsch. Her darkly humorous sculptures get inside Royal Doulton Pretty Ladies, quite literally. Helen, lifts a corner of her long blue dress to show the hem of her many white petticoats, her head tilts sweetly to one side— totally empty. A bloody red hole plunges down where her spinal cord once fit, while in stead of the original Helen's quaint basket of flowers, Harrison's version cradles the top half of her own skull, brains still inside. The Royal Doulton Maria stands there vapidly in her poofy-sleeved white dress, her hands held like she has a splinter in one palm, or like she needs something to do. Harrison gives her something to hold: her own coiled intestines, spilling out of a great gaping wound like a shark-bite. The punctum of the piece (if I may steal a term from photography) is in her calm and unemotional face, still staring off into the ladylike distance.

Harrison's sculptures deal grievous injury to the sculptures, and to the ideals they embody and perpetuate. She literally eviscerates the antique ideal of docile, virginal prettiness; and by leaving the figurines' peaceful/vapid faces untouched, she brings to the fore the peculiar lack of personhood and internal, emotional life in these objects that are so obviously (as company press, and the very act of naming these "Ladies" indicates) intended to denote lively people.

Shary Boyle may not have found OCAD to her taste (she left after a year), but the AGO and other major institutions are sitting up and paying her some rapt attention nowadays. Her solo show Shary Boyle: Flesh and Blood (part of her Gershon Iskowitz Prize winnings) took over four of the AGO's European galleries this summer, travelled to Vancouver's Contemporary Art Gallery, and is due at the Galerie de l'UQAM in Montreal this coming January. When Boyle works with porcelain, the results are unfailingly strange objects. Her figures look like characters from the fever dreams of Rudolf Just's collected creatures during their long and stressful nap in the laundry basket. Her 2006 china figurine, Snowball looks like a Royal Doulton Lady modelled by a sculptor in the midst of a severe psychotic episode. Her dress carves a characteristically Doulton silhouette, but it is entirely covered by little white flowers, which run rampant up over her collar and head, leaving the Lady a small window through which to peek and stick out her nose for air. Where a classic Pretty Lady's foot would poke delicately from under her hem, Snowball's field of flowers gives way to a little green lace curtain set-up— like for a puppet-theatre— through which a small, bare foot extends, and its toes are supremely creepy: uneven, segmented yellow and drooping, as if they are morphing into millipedes, or worms.


Boyle's porcelain deals more extensively with the sexual undercurrents and aesthetic and ideological traditions of porcelain than does Harrison. While Harrison has cornered the market on Royal Doulton's collectibles, Boyle takes a Surreal and subversive approach to porcelain's more explicitly allegorical tradition. The Lute Player, a naked girl holding an edgy electric guitar, sitting on a decorative little tree-stump with her square black amp planted out in front, sticks its tongue out at the iconographical staples of musical nymphs and the virginal noblewoman with a lute who graces mantelpieces across Europe, North America and elsewhere. Burden salutes the tradition of mythological and denotatively allegorical subject-matter in porcelain, but in stead of any recognizable story Boyle presents us with a strange tableaux of a woman carrying piggy-back one on top of the other: an albino deer, delicately anthropomorphically suggestive, with curling floralesque thorns; and a childlike, humanoid fish-creature like an eight-year old version of the Creature From the Black Lagoon. Trudging across her round, white china dais, appropriate for a table's centrepiece, the trio looks like it should be a familiar scene out of some story or established symbolic lexicon; but they elude us, opening up conversations on gender, sexuality, anthropomorphism, and so on and on — and yet, an undercurrent always (as all Boyle's and Harrison's work does) harkens back to the simple fact of its existence as an aesthetic, hand-made object.

Porcelain was once called the Pilgrim Art. For centuries it was an efficacious vehicle for the exchange of artistic aesthetics, themes and symbols across cultures. Porcelain historically formed a kind of intercultural conversation in visual terms with an ethic of free and reciprocal exchange and flow of ideas — even simple-seeming developments such as the blue-on-white style, or the iconographical use of lotus-flowers are, on closer study, complex cross-cultural collaborations ². In the last century and a bit, however, porcelain has come to mean something alternately utilitarian and flash-frozen circa the Victorian era. As a commercial art, porcelain looks to enjoy the same (if similarly likely to be relatively brief-lived) upsurge in hipster cachet as needlepoint, rococo painted brooches, and large 70's-esque granny-glasses; but American Apparel Revivals are throw-backs, unearthing old things to revel in them as if they were new— it's no way to kick-start a stalled tradition, or bring a dead and embalmed one back to life. But now Harrison and Boyle, in getting their hands dirty and really working with the medium, may just provide that kick to the pants— that subtle see-saw between talking to history and making something that is very much itself as an object— that porcelain, as an art medium, so desperately needs.

For further eye-candy, see here and/or here.

¹ Shilling, Jane. "Porcelain figurines may seem insignificant, but collections define our lives and invite others to interpret us; Opinion". The Times (London England) Oct. 29, 2001: pg. 7.

²Finlay, Robert. "The Pilgrim Art:The Culture of Porcelain in World History". Journal of World History. Vol. 9, No. 2 (Fall, 1988), pg 141-187.

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The Suburban Militia, The Hipster Brigade: A Note For a Divided Metropolis Tue, 23 Nov 2010 03:27:41 +0000 C.S. Folkers I remember being told during training for some terrible retail job or other that if a customer has a good experience, they’ll tell someone about it; but, if a customer has a bad experience, they’ll tell ten people about it. Holy crap, right? Talk about bad for business. Surely this is a Fun Fact that

I remember being told during training for some terrible retail job or other that if a customer has a good experience, they’ll tell someone about it; but, if a customer has a bad experience, they’ll tell ten people about it. Holy crap, right? Talk about bad for business.

Surely this is a Fun Fact that most people at some point or another must come across, and while I am rolling my eyes just thinking about the bland corporate video that accompanied this slice of wage-slave wisdom, it must be said that complaining about stuff is something that is never going to go out of style.

People love it! Gahh, didn’t you just want to fucking strangle that dude at Starbucks who gave you your latte along with a little extra sass? But, at the same time, wasn’t it so satisfying to tear that douchebag to pieces like the lowly rat he is in front of, like, ten of your friends? What’s a guy gotta do to get some god damn respect in this town? Just who in the hell does he thinks is anyway?

I think that this sort of thinking characterized a lot of people's feelings during this past election - a collective wave of revenge upon that bus driver that wouldn't let you on board an already overflowing 29 bus. That the city's "customer service" may or may not have been entirely up to scratch made everybody just so friggin' mad that they had to go and tell everybody they know about how friggin' terrible everything about living in this city is.

I don’t know, guys, I feel like I’m not alone here when I say that the idea of Retail Politics is kind of horrifying. It’s really weird to think of myself as being a perpetual customer in that, in merely existing in a space, I am participating in a monetary exchange. Thus my rights as a citizen are basically the same as my rights as a customer? On one hand I suppose it is true that in such a big city, it is very easy to feel alienated from the Powers that Be and, yes, maybe it would be nice if local government achieved the improbable by catering to every individual citizen’s needs in a friendly way that made everyone feel like their voice is being heard and that the city that they work for - because in the end we're all government employees in one way or another - is giving something back to them. I suppose that would be alright. On the other hand, I resent having my life homogenized into a perpetual trip to Starbucks.


Photo courtesy of Torontoist

A while back, around the time of the election, one Toronto Star columnist noted that the great recent success of populism in Toronto has been marked by a strong emphasis on Citizen Me over Citizens We. It’s becoming increasingly apparent that Torontonians have little interest in being a city as voters asked of their government “What’s in it for me? What am I getting out of my tax dollars?”, while more or less ignoring completely what might be best for the city as a unified group of people and the fact that your tax dollars are never really yours anyway - they were always going to be tax dollars. Of course, the main lesson that I’ve learned from the election is that the wounds of amalgamation are still smarting pretty hard, and people, both in the downtown core and the suburbs have yet to recover from that painful, cruel, heartless and wicked injustice...

Evidently, the Humber River is not a former border between two municipalities that are now one municipality, but is in fact an indestructible force field that separates two entirely different planes of existence that are – apparently – so distinct that should the boundary (which is entrenched several thousand kilometers into the earth’s core, y'know) be breached, life as we know it would surely collapse into itself. I don’t even want to imagine the chaos.

Even the very thought of recognizing the legal implications of that decision to amalgamate, made well over a decade ago, let alone tearing down the impenetrable ideological fortress that is Victoria Park Avenue sends people on both sides of the border into hysterical fits of rage, the likes of which have rarely been seen in Canada. Everyone was called an “Elitist” (whatever the hell that means), David Miller was tarred and feathered and the West End organized the Local Brigade of Concerned Hipsters who patrolled the area with almost extreme fanaticism, mercilessly beating anyone suspected of being a suburbanite and dripping hot latte foam over the eyes of their many prisoners in order to extract information. Meanwhile, a unit of suburban militia on riding lawnmowers successfully infiltrated and occupied Rosedale for a full four days before Dalton was forced to call in the army.

As far as the elitism thing goes, it is frankly preposterous that during the campaign it became a catch-all term for anyone who was not on the side of the person crying “Elitist!” For more commentary on this phenomenon, read Borna Radnik’s oddly prophetic article on such a topic here.

We’re foaming at the mouth! And what have we learned? I've learned that everybody downtown is an effete streetcar-ridin', cop-hatin' elitist who derives actual physical pleasure from wasteful spending, and that everybody in the 'burbs is a loudmouthed, penny-pinchin' philistine who doesn't give a crap about anything but their right to run over cyclists. The other thing I've learned is that there is no middle ground and every single person within the boundaries of the amalgamated City of Toronto fits exactly into one of these categories without exception. I said without exception.

So, with that in mind, it sort of goes without saying that maybe Toronto needs a little bit of an attitude adjustment. We are city of many great things, but it is becoming increasingly evident that Torontonians are little interested in the city as a whole. Instead both downtowners and suburbanites are all engaged in us v. them scuffles and a truly bizarre ideological rift that threatens to turn Toronto into a national joke. How are we supposed to be a functional, supposedly "Global" city, when the Metro Militia and the Elite Armed Forces, Hipster Division, can't even keep the borders secure?

As though Albertans didn't hate us enough already, they went and inadvertently out-Toronto'd Toronto, while we were fighting about how the plants at city hall get watered.

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Round Round Get Around: A Ford Fantasy Tue, 23 Nov 2010 03:27:40 +0000 C.S. Folkers A while back, I mentioned my intent here to begin studying the notion of “Fantasy Transit” in Toronto – the interesting phenomenon in this city where people are compelled to imagine a beautiful future free of time and money where one can build – inside one’s head, mind you – the city they’ve always wanted

Photo by Matthew Filipowich

A while back, I mentioned my intent here to begin studying the notion of “Fantasy Transit” in Toronto – the interesting phenomenon in this city where people are compelled to imagine a beautiful future free of time and money where one can build – inside one’s head, mind you – the city they’ve always wanted to see. This has always been an appealing notion for me for a number of reasons. First and foremost, it's somewhat uplifting to imagine a perfect Toronto, even if none of the crazy schemes ever come to fruition - no city is without its problems, remember. Second, it's really fun: it's like thinking of the city as a gigantic puzzle that needs solving, and there are a lot of very interesting ways to solve it, each with its own fascinating implications.

I had mentioned that I wanted to discuss my own fantasy transit system, as well as those of other bloggers and transit enthusiasts around town, however, I got really sidetracked by election fever and put my transit column on hold for a couple of months in order to provide commentary on behalf of SB on that topic. So with that in mind, I aim this month to merge these two threads I have been running along in my writing: that's right, this month I'm going to give a brief rundown on our esteemed mayor-elect's  Fantasy Transit System.

Mr. Ford's transit policy, bluntly speaking, revolves generally around quick fixes, oversimplifications and a general misunderstanding of how the TTC actually works. Of course, Mr. Ford would have absolutely no reason whatsoever to know how the TTC works, because, and let's be honest here, Rob Ford's fantasy transit system is about as simple as it gets: abolish transit. More or less, anyway.

Ford has made it more than abundantly clear on countless occasions that if he has ever rode the TTC at any point in his life, it was several lifetimes ago and that he simply cannot see why anyone would ride a streetcar when one could just drive a regular car. Because everyone can afford to drive a car, right?

His contempt for streetcars, bicycles and pedestrians is legendary. In Ford's narrow universe, roads are for cars and nothing but cars - he might let a bus or two slide, as long as they don't get in the way of any cars, especially his own car. He seems to have based his plan for Toronto's infrastructure entirely around making his drive from Etobicoke to city hall as quick and convenient as possible.

And, as a side note, you can forget those scramble intersections that keep cropping up. There is is not one single shred of a chance that there will be any more of those fun little pedestrian-empowering havens installed in the foreseeable future, and if they don't cost more money to take down than they did to put up, the ones that are already in place will be gone with almost alarming speed.

First and foremost on the chopping block, however, is the much debated Transit City Plan. Ford's vehement hatred for David Miller's legacy, as well as streetcars in general is such that he made it a major campaign point to cancel the plan entirely even though the city isn't even paying for most of it. While the province and the federal government are footing most of the bill, Ford seems convinced that he can persuade them to transfer that money to fund his own, more subway-centric plans, which is extremely unlikely. In the likely event that they don't agree to let him use the money for something else, he would send the money back - if such a move could get through council, which is debatable.

On other development fronts, there won't be any new bike lanes built for the next four years anywhere near actual roads and we can expect a whole lot of projects to be tabled that promise to be not particularly helpful to anybody except for Rob Ford because he has basically promised that no transit developments will take place anywhere near where he might need to be at any point.

Here's a look, taken from the man's own transit platform, of what he wants to see happen:

Courtesy of

Courtesy of

As you can see, there's not a whole lot to Mr. Ford's grand scheme: expand the Sheppard subway and merge the Scarborough RT with the Bloor-Danforth subway. Along with the possibility of removing all streetcars from the roads, that's Ford's entire vision for Transit in Toronto. That's the whole plan!

OK, granted, I don't think that there are too many people out there who don't feel that the Sheppard subway is one of Toronto's great disappointments and that if it had to be built in the first place, where most studies say it probably shouldn't have, it should have at least been finished. The problem is, studies have also shown that the Sheppard East corridor simply doesn't require a subway - if it were to be completed, who would ride it? Ford is basically banking on the possibility that people would be more enticed to ride a more expansive Sheppard subway, but the fact of the matter is that even with an increase in ridership along Sheppard, there simply isn't enough demand in ridership to justify the price tag of a subway in that area.

I am, however, in favour of expanding the existing Sheppard line West to Downsview. Like in the East, the rideship is not really there, but in light of the Spadina extension to Vaughan, it would probably be very useful and beneficial to have a direct connection from that new section to Yonge-Sheppard station. In effect, it would help to justify both the York University/York Region extension and also the existing Sheppard line. Though, I must say that placing three stations in between Yonge and Downsview is more than slightly superfluous, as was the original plan in the Lastman days and as is Ford's plan now. All that is needed, in my opinion, is a single station at Bathurst and that can be the end of it.

Further East, is the issue of the Scarborough RT, which is becoming increasingly outdated and dilapidated - it is in need of constant attention and the fleet will soon need to be replaced. The problem is that the technology used for the SRT is so outdated that no companies will built that configuration of rail and cars anymore. The options are to somehow extend the Bloor-Danforth subway line along the same corridor in order to replace the SRT altogether, or to convert SRT to LRT. Ford, naturally, prefers subways, though this is very much a silly idea because even penny-pinching Rob can see that converting SRT to heavy rail would involve the complete and utter reconfiguration of everything that currently exists on the SRT. The stations would have to be completely redone, as would the whole of the track system, resulting in more time and more money spent on a project that could be easily fixed with LRT technology. It would be both faster and less expensive, something that one would think should speak to Ford loud and clear.

The biggest problem with Ford's transit platform, in the end, is the fact that it only addresses two transit corridors in the whole of the city and bills itself as a "Transit Program that Makes Sense for Toronto". It doesn't make sense for Toronto, it makes sense for the five or six people who would take the Sheppard East subway extension and motorists who frequently commute from Etobicoke to the Queen and Bay area.

Say what you will about Transit City, at least it was a plan for the present, one that addressed the city's current transit issues all over Toronto, rather than simply suggesting to place subways in areas that don't need subways. Also, Light Rail is considerably less expensive than Heavy Rail subway technology and takes less time to build - as I've mentioned. Thus, light rail vehicles would have been trolling along Eglinton long before a subway rolls East of Don Mills station, and at less expense to taxpayers.

What this really makes me wonder is whether Rob Ford's hatred for streetcars and bicycles eclipses his hatred for wasteful spending?

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Institutionalizing Change: In Which Steel Bananas Talks to Lilith Wyatt About Changing the World in a Changing World Tue, 23 Nov 2010 03:27:40 +0000 Devon Wong The university as an institution is changing. The sources of this change are wide and varied. For instance, the university is having to cope with the ailing  global economy. In Québec, the government passed Bill 100 this past June requiring that public institutions cut back on expenses, to "do their part" in combatting that demonic

The university as an institution is changing. The sources of this change are wide and varied. For instance, the university is having to cope with the ailing  global economy. In Québec, the government passed Bill 100 this past June requiring that public institutions cut back on expenses, to "do their part" in combatting that demonic debt. Free-market-driven fiscal policy on the part of the federal government is implemented through institutional and organizational policy. Spending is being slashed all over the world... except in China. At universities, like Montréal's McGill University, this means reduction in administrative expenses, a 25 percent reduction in training and travel in one year, less money for grants and scholarships, fewer students being accepted into graduate programs, reduction of general staff through attrition, salary caps, etc.

Such economic turmoil has exacerbated certain tendencies and anxieties regarding other ways in which the university is changing. For example, the liberal arts and humanities find themselves increasingly having to defend their very existence as universities become more and more integrated with the "job market" and our culture begins to emphasize the importance of "usefulness" and to redefine what "usefulness" even means.

But there lies some opportunity in the current existential crisis of the academy. The walls of the ivory tower have never been more insubstantial  than in recent history. The university is increasingly implicated and forced to be aware of its implication in society writ large, just as a near death experience or a diagnosis of some terminal disease may force a person to recognize their own mortality. It is perhaps in part this implication in systems larger than itself that has given a stronger institutional foothold to social movements previously on the fringes of university life. The sustainability movement is one of the foremost among these movements.

In the Global North, environmentalism has  lately taken off as a popular cause. People in Western democracies have developed an unprecedented concern for the environment and environmental issues. These causes have also, of course, become watered down by private interests seeking to capitalize on their potential to create new markets. Thus we get "greenwashing" and other phenomena. These popular manifestations of environmental concern are complex and multifaceted. I'm sure none of this is news to anyone. But in this article we're going to address another side of environmentalism and the sustainability movement. A not particularly glamorous but essential side of the movement. The institutional side of things. In particular, within the changing institution of the university.

At McGill University, this year marked the initiation of a pilot project called the Sustainability Projects Fund. The SPF is essentially a catalyst fund, or a pool of seed money for various projects run by students, staff, and faculty at McGill University that contribute toward a community of sustainability at the university. Some groups that are funded by the SPF include student-run urban farming intiatives, bike collectives, composting projects, farmers markets, and more.

In early October I spoke to the fund's administrator Lilith Wyatt at McGill's office of sustainability in a hijacked conference room overlooking the campus. Before beginning the interview we talked about the incongruity of the fund's new cushy digs and wearing tattered jeans and backpacks in shiny elevators full of professionals in suits with briefcases. Sadly, that interview was lost due to a, urm, technical difficulty with the recorder. So when we sat down to talk for a second time later that month, I'm sure you can imagine redoing the interview was something of an exercise in deja-vu.

Some points from the first interview were lost. Our talk about trying to foster sustainability projects and a sense of community in public schools, as well as integrating these institutions with the community at large no longer exists on record. Our talk about the real nuts-and-bolts, down-and-dirty sustainability movement not being fashionable, or chic, or cool; being about hard work and dirt under your nails  from digging in the garden and grass stains on your jeans and carting tupperware containers everywhere and so on – that also vanished. Instead, we have what follows. An interview both very similar and very different from the first. Some of it deals with the less romantic bureaucratic functions behind the aforementioned concept of "change". But that's how it works. Change ain't no love story.

Sustainability - courtesy of

Sustainability - courtesy of

SB: So we're back again. I guess we'll start with the same first question I asked you last time, but in point form. How did SPF get off the ground? What is it, and what is the history behind it?

Lilith: I find it most useful to answer that question starting with the "why" instead of the "what." I guess it first started because both the students and the administration separately were looking for a way to move toward meaningful change toward sustainability – institutional change toward sustainability – at McGill. The focus on culture was chosen because of how powerful a leverage point it is for that kind of change, as opposed to a traditional focus on say... operations, on physical impact alone. Jim Nicell, the associate vice-principal of university services, was the one who started the process, and three years in a row he approached the SSMU (Students Society of McGill University) executive to propose the idea, and it wasn't until the third year that they were actually receptive and there was enough trust that they could begin a partnership and move forward.

To do that they had to identify first the barriers to the process on each side. For the students, their main barrier was just lack of trust of the administration from a lack of precedent of that kind of genuine partnership.  On the adminstration's side, particularly on the provost's side when they went to him for the approval of the matching fund, he identified that he felt like everything he did was a zero-sum game, that any decision regarding the budget, and maybe this is the definition of a budget, is that it makes somebody happy and somebody unhappy. So that when he actually did do things that were good, he felt that students never gave him proper recognition. And underlying all of that was a deep-seated lack of trust of student groups as well, and bad experiences with some more radical groups who purported some rather dangerous viewpoints, and so he was hesitant to create a structure that he felt could be hijacked by those interests. So the idea of a parity committee moving forward, and this partnership process, was one that took those concerns and built the process around those barriers, so that they weren't just addressed: they were the core focus. I've been to a few different conferences in the past few weeks about institutional change toward sustainability, and through discussions in those forums I've come to see that although the outcome of the fund is very exciting -- having the money, having the projects, and the impact that the projects then go on to have -- is important and central and exciting, the process itself is what I'm most fascinated with in terms of it being this genuine partnership that became a model and a structure for institutional change.

What then happened is last fall there were three referend a that approved a fifty cent per credit student fee up to a maximum of fifteen dollars a year  that generated 400,000 dollars a year that the administration matched to create 800,000 dollars a year  over a three year trial period because constitutionally student referenda can only extend that long  before student body turn-over. And so the what of the fund is having 800,000 dollars a year for three years for projects led by McGill students, faculty, and administration that build a culture of sustainability on campus.

SB: In your mandate you mention sustainability indicators, so I'm wondering what the project's goals are and how progress is measured?

Lilith: As I mentioned, we're focusing on culture, which is a lot less tangible than operations. If the mandate of the fund were to "green" the operations of the university or make the operations more sustainable then changing all the lightbulbs would be something very measurable and the impact of that would also be very measurable. The fact that we're focusing on culture – I think that's very important and it's where effort ought to be focused because it's the difference between changing all the lightbulbs at McGill and engaging the McGill community in such a way that the culture is changed, that peoples' worldviews shift, and that for the rest of their lives, they all – this is the ideal – that they all change their own lighbulbs and every other decision that goes along with a more conscientious view of the world, so the potential impact of focusing on culture is much more significant.

That said, how do you possibly measure whether you've built a culture? Whether you've implemented a change in culture? And we don't have metrics that are prescriptive, so we ask every project what does success look like and how are you going to do that? How are you going to report back to us? But there's no  rubric that we provide to them. And I don't know. I don't know what the best way to do that is. But there is for instance the question of persistance. Or does attendance actually mean anything? Should you survey the people in the projects to see what their views were before and after? Does pre-/post- actually mean anything? Should you stay in touch with them and ask them six months later if they still think that... that workshop on sustainable food was helpful, for instance? And for the kinds of projects where you might not have a direct connection to each person who might be affected, it becomes even harder. It's something I'm interested in thinking more about, but I don't know if I have the best answer. I just hold the conviction that this is the right direction, even if I can't give you a number that proves that right now.

SB: Can you explain how the Working Group operates?

Lilith: The review process when we evaluate the projects [to decide who gets money] is an extension of the parity and partnership that got the fund going, and it's composed of Jim Nicell as the chair, myself as the steward, and Dennis Fortune, the director of sustainability, as a resource member. The eight "voting members", because it's actually concensus-based and there is no voting, are four students who are formally nominated by and representative of the three contributing student unions. And then four administrative representatives who at this time happen to be two staff and two faculty.

It's a working group, not a committee, because the word "committee" conjures ineffectivity in many peoples' minds, so it's a group that actually gets stuff done. It ended up being a huge time-commitment. I don't think anybody anticipated how much of a time-commitment it would be. So they're essentially the body that provides any feedback on all applications to the Sustainability Projects Fund. When people initially apply it comes to me and I provide suggestions that they can take or not, and I can act as a soundboard if they want to talk with me for further advice, but all applications then go to the Working Group and discussion ensues.

We will never provide a "yes" or a "no." The response will be that we regret that this does not align with the mandate of the fund, a request for more information -- maybe but we need to know more about this, or an "approved with suggestions or conditions." So it's trying to promote the sharing of information and building the applicants into the process a lot more than your traditional granting process. It's a lot more time consuming but I think a lot more effective in building a culture of sustainability through every step of the process, not just through the implementation of the projects funded. The way that it works is that they sit down and talk about the merits of the project.

SB: How did you personally get involved in "sustainability" and the idea of a "sustainability movement", and what is that movement for you?

Lilith: Well, I grew up in Kingston and my parents were both total hippies. Not in the way that... They didn't touch any drugs, but we didn't have a T.V. until I was fifteen, we biked to the grocery store, had a big garden. I was raised vegetarian. So was my sister. And my friends still make fun of me because I'd show up to birthday BBQs with a veggie dog in a milk bag. My grandfather was an entomologist who had this absolute awe and wonder for the ingenuity of every aspect of life. We had a cabin north of Kingston and we spent a lot of time there. So I was very lucky to have that kind of space and that kind of guidance.

I went on to study environmental science and international development studies at Dalhousie  University and my thesis explored what kinds of life experiences build a concern for the environment among environmental science professors. And it was at Dalhousie that I got involved in campus sustainability. I went to a Sierra Youth Coalition sustainable campuses conference at UBC. Elizabeth May was the keynote speaker and I went up and told her I was star struck and she gave me a hug. We got bumped up to first class on the way home, so we got tipsy, watched March of the Penguins, cried, and then wrote on a napkin our master plan for a sustainability initiative. We said we'd get Elizabeth to be the keynote for our launch, and we actually did. So my experience at Dalhousie was building a multi-stakeholder process to oversee and guide a cyclic assessment of sustainability on campus looking at curriculum, culture, and operations to create short-term and long-term goals as well as creating a student sustainability office and an administrative sustainability office. That was the beginning of my involvement in campus sustainability. And then my masters in environmental education and communication was definitely very involved, since my focus was on transformative environmental education and transformative learning experiences that engage people in a way that they become more oriented to an ecological world view. Then I accepted this job before I'd finished my thesis in March.

SB: You've talked about institutionalizing change. I was wondering if you could elaborate on what that means and on whether or not you think... what future you can see for the expansion of the institutionalization of change? For instance, projects on municipal, provincial, or federal levels? Or any projects beyond this particular project?

Lilith: I think it's a concept that is second-nature to people working for sustainability, that it needs to be institutionalized. I appreciate the question because I think it's useful to reflect on what exactly that means or looks like at different levels or day to day. And I think the first thing that comes to mind is the characteristic of the community culture. And I should really find better language so I stop using that word so much. But it's really an effort to have it permeate the consciousness and sensibilities, activities and priorities, and really the direction of everything. There's this framework that Donella Meadows [] laid out in an article called "Leverage Points" written in 1999. Might have been in the eighties. And she identifies leverage points for change in any system. And at the very top of that are things like changing incentives or changing the structure of a system, like changing lightbulbs, changing taxes, that sort of thing. As you get further down it becomes more difficult to leverage change, but once you do, it leverages much more significant change. So shifting somebody's worldview for instance. Much more difficult than changing a lightbulb, but with the potential to have a much greater impact. One of the lowest things down that scale is the goal of the sytem... the goal built into what the system is meant to achieve. If any system is constantly moving toward its intended goal, a system needs to be built around a goal we want to be moving toward. I think that re-evaluating what those aspirational guiding questions are, and building those into everything else, like a trickle-down permeating effect, is really important. That doesn't answer what that looks like day-to-day or on different levels, but that's the framework in which I find it useful to think.

And a lot of that is this effort to align the lived experience day-to-day with the intended outcome. A big part of that is simply future-orientation thinking about how we would behave today if we were actually thinking about how we want the world to be in fifty or a hundred years, and most of our systems at every level are not built that way.  In the university, students think week-by-week, faculty think year-by-year, administrators think in terms of building lifespans... and of course it's not integrated. Politicians obviously think in terms of election seasons, money thinks in terms of fiscal years. I think that integrating questions [of futurity] into every person's role in every part of the system is what the idea of institutionalized sustainability is about on all those different levels. That was very nebulous and high level, but...

SB: And what obstacles do you see to that sort of process?

Lilith: Almost all of the incentives today are counter to [a sustainable future]. Our finances are structured by fiscal years, so it requires intention to counter that. And counter to what I'd like to believe, not that many people put intention into reconsidering the underpinnings and reasons behind what we do and the direction in which that's leading us. I really think this idea of transformative experience is necessary. That creating some sort of safe space so that we can reconsider the water in which we swim, our reference points for operating in the world, how we are in the world... That's not a conversation that's commonly had. And somehow finding a way to facilitate those kinds of experiences where people are comfortable and able to reconsider those underpinnings is important to surmount obstacles and finding ways to then make it possible. One of the most exciting things about the Sustainability Projects Fund is that it has been able to unleash all of this latent potential. It was not heavily advertised. It was mentioned in a few presentations and a few emails were sent out, but there was no publicity campaign, and yet the first deadline on April 9th of this year got 39 applications asking for 1.1 million dollars , half of whom were students entering final exams, half of whom were staff who already have their own full time jobs and responsibilities. I think there is a thirst there that just needs to be nurtured and given cohesion so that we can continue to build on it.

SB: We talked about this last time I interviewed you, and I probably phrased the question better then, but... To what extent do you think the sustainability movement is a "Western" middle class movement, and how does it include those of say working class backgrounds without falling into some sort of charity model and without preaching?

Lilith: I think there are two parts to that. One is that it's absolutely an elitist movement right now, by and large. And I have a friend in Vancouver who calls us the sustainability class. The people who have the luxury to muse about this stuff, because most are white upper-middle-class and elite. When I studied international development I traveled a lot to developing countries and came home feeling as though the direction in which I wanted to focus my energy was on changing my own demographic. Exactly that. The white, upper-middle-class, educated... And I think that's why university campuses, because of their position and their unfortunate tendency toward that demographic are the places for promoting that kind of change, because the problem is largely coming from among that class of people. So from the problem end of it, or as one of my professors says, the "opportunity" end of it, I think a lot of the most important change needs to come from that elitist end. The second part is that doesn't mean it's O.K. that the entire movement is designed so that it marginalizes and excludes other classes or other cultures or languages...

Vancouver again is a great example. Everyone in the sustainability movement speaks English and live s downtown while they have hundreds of thousands of recent immigrants in the suburbs or other parts of the city. A huge Cantonese-speaking population. And there's just zero engagement with them. So I think that there really has to be a process of meaningful change defined by shared discovery so that if the intent of any movement is to involve everybody in a way that looks forward to and creates a future that's best for everybody, it needs to be with everyone at the table equally. And there are real logistical issues with that. There are language barriers. Or if you're a single mother working three jobs and someone says, "want to come join our group?", she doesn't have time for that kind of thing. Which is a very real barrier. Like in Northern communities where there's remote access. But I think their voices still need to be heard. They still need to be represented, because those marginalized populations are the ones being hit hardest in terms of the impact resulting from the issues with how the rest of us live. I don't know. I think that the acknowledgement and consideration and trying to build that into the definition of sustainability.

SB: Anything else that we missed?

Lilith: I don't think I really answered your question before about what the sustainability movement means to me, when I went rambling on about my childhood. This is underlying everything I've already said, but I think that it's really important not to have sustainability be seen as an "add-on" and not to have it be seen as an opportunity for financial return. There's a lot of literature around right now about "effective communication of climate change" or "effective environmental communication," and there's a branch of it that looks at framing from a marketing perspective and says you need to meet each individual on their own level and relate directly to a context that means something to them, and that's fair. But when it then becomes, "so, if you're going to a CFO, make a business case," I think that it weakens... it doesn't do justice to the intent of the movement, and there's too much space for compromising the values behind it that I really don't agree with.

I guess when I think about what the sustainability movement means, maybe it needs to have a different name, but it's really just trying to get people to be more conscientious about how they fit into the systems they're implicated within. How do they fit into the fabric of their whole company or organization or community, their generation, or even more broadly, into humanity, and even more broadly than that, which is very difficult, into the rest of nature? You know, the geological, cosmological, interplanetary history of everything. [Laughs.] It's a very difficult conversation when that kind of story, that narrative, isn't a constant companion these days. We're very here-and-now focused. I guess I  see the sustainability movement as trying to get people to step back and think more in terms of systems and connecting cycles, and being able to think more clearly, rationally, honestly about making their decisions through that filter of understanding. It's inspiring them to do so.

SB: And on that note, we conclude. Now how do I turn this recorder off without erasing the interview?

Lilith: Right. That would be good.

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Weird News: I Sing The Body Eclectic Tue, 23 Nov 2010 03:27:16 +0000 Nancy Situ As much as medical advancements fascinate me, I will never back down from my stance that humans aren’t supposed to live that long. I don’t understand other people’s desire for immortality. I don’t want to live to be a century old and I definitely don’t want to live forever. I would possibly reconsider if I

As much as medical advancements fascinate me, I will never back down from my stance that humans aren’t supposed to live that long. I don’t understand other people’s desire for immortality. I don’t want to live to be a century old and I definitely don’t want to live forever. I would possibly reconsider if I could have the option of replacing my body with mechanical parts so I can be RoboWoman with lasers for eyes and guns for hands. I wish we had evolved enough so that humans were just balls of energy because bodies are nothing but trouble. They are always breaking down and getting in the way of things and lusting after other bodies. In this month’s weird news installment, I will attempt to convince you that bodies are just no good and we should all discard of ours as soon as the option to live as floating-brains-in-jars arises.

A shopper in Jersey was charged an extra £5 for her groceries because her vegetables were weighed incorrectly. It turns out that the shopkeeper’s chair was too low and her breasts were resting on the scale. This entire ordeal could have been avoided if she a) wore a better bra or b) we were beings of pure energy floating through space because then no one would have breasts nor would anyone need groceries.

In Kentucky, a man was forced to eat his own beard. I know what you’re thinking and no, Werner Herzog did not lose another bet. One thing led to another when Harvey Westmoreland got into a dispute over the sale of his tractor and things ended with two men cutting off his beard and forcing him to consume it. I’m quite interested in how things escalated to that situation and if such gnarly practices are customary in Kentucky. Maybe they just wanted to ruin Movember for him. The point is, if we weren’t confined to these useless carbon-based lifeforms, Harvey Westmoreland would not have had to eat his own beard.

Harvey Westmoreland: The Man Who Ate His Own Beard - Photo courtesy of

Harvey Westmoreland: The Man Who Ate His Own Beard - Photo courtesy of

One of the worst things about bodies besides their inevitable malfunctioning is how easily they can be deceiving in modern society. For example, a 20-something Asian man from Hong Kong hopped onto an Air Canada flight disguised as a 90-year-old Caucasian man. Other passengers took note of his very youthful hands and how he went into the washroom as an old man and emerged a young one. I think some of the real geriatrics on that plane rushed to the same washroom shortly after. I wish I had a better explanation of what happened but it’s something to do with refugee status. Or gangs. I really don’t know. Just look at the picture. I’m not sure what happened exactly but it wouldn’t have happened if we didn’t have bodies.


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NERDVENTURES: Space Invaders Tue, 23 Nov 2010 03:27:08 +0000 King Frankenstein A fog nestled into the city this month. Some of us embraced it, approaching with a bewildered spectacle of hazy bliss. Some were more reluctant to traverse about, in fear of an obscured pedestrian/fast-machine-on-wheels relationship. Most of us smoked weed in Trinity Bellwoods. But as the fog settled, something latched itself to the surface of

A fog nestled into the city this month. Some of us embraced it, approaching with a bewildered spectacle of hazy bliss. Some were more reluctant to traverse about, in fear of an obscured pedestrian/fast-machine-on-wheels relationship. Most of us smoked weed in Trinity Bellwoods. But as the fog settled, something latched itself to the surface of Toronto, a smiling, glowing alien parasite just outside of culture. For a long time the species had been on the fringes of culture, but the conditions made it tough for the species to find a synchronic link with the rest of the arts community, the ecosystem wasn’t quite right. In a momentary advantage of an elite blindness, the invader struck. We’re probably better off. People should complain less. Play a little bit.

On the 11th of November you could take a pretty thematic stroll. In the window of the Narwhal gallery, a carbonite imprisoned Fox McCloud dangles on display. At Magic Pony, a book launch for Diego Bergia’s LEPOS: The Primary Invasion is underway, a release based around a graffiti/arcade game hybrid character who shoots-em-up lazer style across fond locales. At the Unit Bar, the routine Hand Eye social is pretty sloshed at this point, already gathering up troops for a poutine run. But there’s something different about this week’s social, because there’s something bigger collaborative effort on the horizon.

Art. Game. Play. Three words, concepts, fields with a great history of interacting with each other. In the gaming community the debate over their relationship intensifies with the dedication of the forum. Games are fun, art is fun, games have art, about as boiled as you can talk about it, but boiling deprives flavour. For each individual, their relationship is a little bit more decided.

Photo By King Frankenstein

Photo By King Frankenstein

Game. Play. Art. “I guess maybe you can be the one person who clarifies that LEPOS was never a real prototype game,” explains Bergia, regarding the gallery surrounding his book and what I can only assume frustration over prying game bloggers, “I just tried to create that atmosphere with everything.” It’s an impressive front. Fake flyers, tokens, SNES boxes and cartridge, ads inserted into pages of real EGM issues and standing apart most of all, an arcade cabinet playing a rotating Metal Slug style demo of a LEPOS game, all spread about the space with Galaga bold yellow stripes hugging the walls. The LEPOS book is the culmination of a small cartoon alien invader, who’s been popping up on urban surfaces over the past little while, conceptually based around a video-game-like space invader. “With the project stemming from street art, it was important to mirror that whole mystery and uncertainty and have people question motivation inside a gallery setting.”

Game to play to art. An example that video games influence art, and with Katamari themed galleries popping up across North America, the lines of this general relation has become blurred. Video games having loomed around for decades have been an obvious influence on many lives, rooting itself in contemporary art in many of the ways punk music, horror movies, rap culture and other ‘low forms’ have long proved their importance in a social atmosphere. The reverse relationship however, well, that gets really messy. The whole ‘games as art’ argument has absolutely gone through the wringer. Roger Ebert said a thing, then he said a different thing, then games have their hearing in Supreme Court where Justice Kagan’s fondness for Mortal Kombat of all things appeared to save the day. A quick Google search will find you every obnoxiously exploited opinion on the concept. Games are art, games are not art, games will be art later, and the mind that I subscribe to: this argument is dumb and we shouldn’t really care.

Photo By Ryan Couldrey

Photo By Ryan Couldrey

That’s a sentiment you’ll probably find at Gamercamp. Not because these small developer teams aren’t invested in games being seen as an artistic genre, no, but because these are the kind of people who do not feel they need to prove it. They already know, and they are fine with that. On Saturday the 13th, plenty of these people arrived at the Toronto Underground Cinema to witness a handful of keynotes, demos and in some cases emotionally/accented rants as Mark Rabo and Jaime Woo’s brainchild begins its second run. Starting the day off fresh and slick is a presentation of Sword and Sworcery, an iPod game so heavily anticipated that artist Craig D. Adams has received mail from fans so gung-ho to get their mitts on it one offered up a testicle for the opportunity to playtest the title. It plays akin to a point-n-click adventure, but they describe it as input/output cinema, literally an interactive narrative where poking and prodding turns what could otherwise be a spectator feature into a completely different beast. What has really hooked the interest of the world wide web is the art style, Adam’s, aka Superbrothers, is an illustrator by trade, and his style is best described as worn pixel art colliding aggressively with minimalism. On the screen, it’s gorgeous, lush and fantasy painted in a way you’ve haven’t expected but immediately relate to. Even on the Underground’s silver screen it looks wonderful, despite being intended for a screen that’s a little smaller/bigger than a postcard. “Bigger screen means a lot more art,” explained Adams after being asked about seeing this gem on a console, “We wanted this to be a game you wanted to have in your hands, a microscopic world.” It’s a gesture I appreciate, as I too enjoy the sombre pleasure of playing Link’s Awakening inside a pillow fort.

A particularly interesting keynote came from Jim Zubkavich, a supervisor at art house UDON. He represented strictly the illustration side of things. While that may sound like we were about to be treated to rambling about how sweet it is to draw Morrigan’s boobs for hours on end, it instead offered a more interesting, and surprisingly far reaching angle. He talked about the method to how UDON ended up as the go-to team of illustrators for companies like Capcom, Konami and even Legendary Pictures. They asked. Jim wanted to emphasize how surprisingly welcome the industry can be for those with real talent. How did they manage to score a deal making comic book adaptations of Street Fighter? They pitched it. How did they arrange to release comprehensive art books in the West? They asked. How did they arrange the rights to produce fan tribute compilations? Showed the licence holders that Deviant Art is not an accurate representation of fan art. Jim’s talk began to sound almost too good to be true, a small, local, unassuming team being approached over and over again to create works of fan play  for more and more money. But I guess even at the worst of times there are reasons to stay positive, an ongoing theme of the conference.

One popular speaker also encouraged attendees to stay positive, though if you had only caught 95% of it you might have assumed otherwise. Gamasutra and Edge writer Mathew Kumar was following up a slightly unusual and completely intoxicated appearance made on a popular podcast, screaming that he wanted them to, “shut up about boners, I want to talk about feelings.” Kumar represents the press at this session, and given the amount of time game nerds spend on the internet, game journalism is sort of a mess. There isn’t much of a centralized voice, and those that are on top don’t hold very high standards. Kumar described this quite eloquently as a house covered in shit. That while he and people like himself were trying to scrub off the shit, more and more people seemed compelled to continue shitting up the place. Some of these people got paid to put shit everywhere, and many more saw these people getting handsome reward for shitting all over, so in hopes of earning the same respect they would shit about even harder.  Kumar gave us a breakdown of what he meant, taking a rather popular site and boiled down how much of their daily material he would count as content, news, reviews and updates, compared to brainless clutter, Youtube videos, lists and pictures of pretty girls. On a daily basis this site even establishes that some of the content they report isn’t really ‘news’.  Kumar’s speech proved to be one of the most popular of the day, and agree or disagree with what he has to say, it’s very hard to ignore a passionate Scotsman raving about shit on a stage.

Photo By Ryan Couldrey

Photo By Ryan Couldrey

Game. Art. Play. Later that night an after party would feature music styling from a handful of chip tune artists, one of which has actually found themselves making money. Since we last spoke, Anamanaguchi have found immense success in their score for the Scott Pilgrim video game, which had strong sales on Amazon. They were underway with a world tour, flying to Ireland soon after gracing our town once again. To show Toronto the love for working on a video game based on a movie based on a comic based on our city they played some tracks from the beat-em-up’s soundtrack. Hilariously enough, as if someone from the heavens was inserting quarters into the cosmic machine, a fight did indeed break out during the encore. “Gamercamp has officially had its first fight!” enthusiastic patrons told Mark Rabo, who responded with a good humoured but long-day exhausted thumbs up. The show wrapped up at an early 10:30, so me and some others went to join Anamanaguchi in the green room. Up the stairs I imagined a dorky variation of a backstage rock party. Girls dressed like princesses and boys railing Cheeto dust. When we popped into the room, I immediately spotted a massive party bag of Cheetos on the table and bit my tongue very hard. After departing the Wrong Bar, an anonymous art director verbally debating if rendezvousing with the band, who we knew would be at the Lakeview, would be ‘hanging out’ or ‘stalking.’ We did anyways, which I justified by asking if it was the first time they had seen a fight break out at their show before. It got mixed reactions, Peter Berkman couldn’t recall any other incidents, though Luke Silas and others recalled some tussles. It should be noted that none of the band members even noticed the fist feud in front of them that night.

Dopamine as Shawn McGrath describes is the root of all pleasure, fun. On the second day, with Gamercamp now relocated to George Brown, he elaborates on the brain juice as something that comes dangerously close to boiling every earthly delight into a narcotic, and recalls an experiment where scientists removed a mouse’s ability to limit dopamine from its brain. The result was a dead mouse, as the constant feeling of satisfaction removed its natural desire to eat. Drugs cause pleasure as much as pleasure is a drug. Dopamine is also released into the brain when we learn or feel gratification, such as say, winning or collecting, to which McGrath then compares to a variance of game design, one end with collection and reflex mechanics such as Super Meat Boy and World of Warcraft which triggers a lot of dopamine, the other intensely interactive boardgames that require time, strategy and adaptation to succeed, with a middle ground made up of games like Braid and Ikaruga. It’s a pseudo scientific dissection of how many game companies will liberally treat you like a ‘user’ instead of a ‘player’. Dangling items on a string in front of you, to be found in random enemies across a mass terrain, charging you the whole way through.

Photo By Ryan Couldrey

Photo By Ryan Couldrey

Play. Game. Art. That night gamers were encouraged to return to the Toronto Underground for a double bill sponsored by Dork Shelf and endorsed by Gamercamp. The Wizard and The Last Starfighter, both feature length films about kids who are really good at videogames. The Last Starfighter was a lot better than I remember it, actually a decent space epic if you can get past the heinously outdated CGI. The Wizard is even worse than I remember, chopped full of advertising and some of the most unusual bit characters in cinematic history. Thanks to A&C Games, attendees could try their hands at both The Last Starfighter for the NES, which is completely unlike the game from the film and totally awful, and Rad Racer while using the infamous Power Glove, which as its greatest endorser Lucas Barton says in the film is, “so bad.”

Gamercamp’s second year was a complete success, amping up the content covered, variety of demos, activities and doubling the length. Mark Rabo and Jaime Woo have forged an event that welds the community together to make progress and be positive. We ate Bubble Bobble cupcakes in the afternoon, we had sugary cereal in the morning. We’re members from every corner of the passion, artists, creators, musicians, spectators and all gamers. At times, the subject of video games even felt worn, taboo, and folks would try to steer the conversation to just be healthy socializing, something I can guarantee you would rarely happen at other ‘themed’ events. The game and art banter is still resonating loudly online, but to those who are actively incorporating art into their games, and games into their art, it’s a bit on deaf ears. The two are interacting regardless if you care or are paying attention. You can’t convince someone of an element that’s conceptual at best, and if all you are trying to do is change the mind of those who clearly don’t give a shit then maybe you should reapply your time. Make art. Play games. Make games. Play art.

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The Find: Vintage Identity and Shopping Secondhand Tue, 23 Nov 2010 03:27:02 +0000 Girlofbirthday I must confess that fifteen years ago when wearing vintage pieces bought from flea markets or thrift stores came into the scene, a scavenger was born inside me. Jewelry, trinkets, dresses, jackets, old fur coats and handbags were all collection items that begged for imaginary far-off fantasies, worlds and eras that I tried to connect

I must confess that fifteen years ago when wearing vintage pieces bought from flea markets or thrift stores came into the scene, a scavenger was born inside me. Jewelry, trinkets, dresses, jackets, old fur coats and handbags were all collection items that begged for imaginary far-off fantasies, worlds and eras that I tried to connect with.

Shopping for vintage is always a yo-yo conflict of taste. There’s always the fine line between choosing a garment that’s not old enough to be called vintage, and a garment that is actually time-appropriate and speaks to the cultural trends emerging on the streets. We often find ourselves trying to define what is really considered "vintage" and what is considered "old crap."

I’d like to credit my father for being the biggest contribution to this “vintage” aspect of my life. Perhaps it was because he used to take me to live auction houses that sold used furniture on weekend afternoons. Maybe it was the collection of old black and white photographs of Hong Kong in the 50s that he kept countless albums of. Maybe it was because he used to keep my grandmother’s clothes in the same room she stayed in till her passing, and every time I walked into that room I would be hurled to Narnia.  Nostalgia and memory was my father’s most admirable trait, but on some days it was his biggest curse. My mother was the opposite, and probably the most forward-thinking woman I know. I had no idea as a child that she was already helping me plan ten, twenty years in advance what I would need to eventually, pack up and move to New York on my own.

New York has a much more complex history than Canada, which as a result has a culture that’s subconsciously yielded the fruits of arts, fashion and self-expression over a longer course of time. It has curated a large collection of beautiful costume crap that undoubtedly trumps any long-standing Canadian vintage store. In Edmonton, buying mainstream clothing is the norm, and in Hong Kong fast fashion is popular. Before New York, I had never seen such a large emporium of vintage clothing in one locale, and successful ones at that.

Edith Machinist - Photo courtesy of

Edith Machinist - Photo courtesy of

Edith Machinist in the Lower East Side is not only famous for its vintage boots that are usually in excellent condition, it also has a large selection of retro leather shoulder bags that Philo’s Resort 2011 collection could have easily knocked off of. Daha Vintage, also in LES, carries one of the best sweater, dress and vintage flats collections I could have ever imagined at a decent price that usually ranges from $30 to $150. Antique labels I have never even heard of adorn the back necks of knit sweaters with forest animals on them.

There’s a large crop of designer resale consignment stores in the Upper East Side, usually located on the second-level of a walk-up building on Lexington Ave. My sister snagged a vintage Longchamps shoulder bag (that I’m pretty sure they don’t even manufacture anymore) and a kelly green Marc Jacobs bag at A Second Chance. Ina in Soho and Nolita is probably the most well-known designer resale for their hip downtown/uptown mix of new and traditional designer labels.

You can even smell the aroma of moth balls before you enter Cheap Jack’s, perhaps the largest authentic vintage I’ve ever seen. They had bad leather cowboy jackets with fringe, rhinestone and coloured gem-studded denim jackets (oh yes!), and old prom and wedding dresses. This is more of the place for Halloween costumes or theme parties alike, but one can put their own twist on a good find and call it all their own.

One of the most creative stores in the secondhand clothing business is Buffalo Exchange, which allows people who want fast fashion without the guilty conscience to buy, trade and sell used clothing. On a lucky day, there are great designer shoes at a low range of $20-$30. (The lowest I’ve ever seen were a pair of Roberto Cavalli heels for $25, perhaps because it was slightly beaten up, but never mind). Even the less obviously curated thrift stores in Manhattan have great finds. Housing Works, which is like a mid-range Salvation Army, specializes in used furniture, but has a solid collection of shoes, blouses, jackets and jewellery thanks to the stylish Chelsea bunch who’d rather donate than wait in the long line-ups to trade in clothes at Buffalo Exchange.

That’s not to say that Canadians have never had deep historical, artistic roots and a good wardrobe to back it up. I really enjoy finding the odd sixties dress at Value Village, a good badge or boot at an old military surplus store, or maybe nice jewellery in Jasper Avenue consignment stores like Caprice. But if a culture such as Edmonton never had good designer retail stores, or even mass-market chains till the 70s or 80s, it’s hard for a collection of collectors’ items to grow. The choices that we find in these local flea markets, consignment shops, thrift stores, used item auctions, are all definitive of the era in which the first “aha” excitement for fashion began in this city, thus limiting the range of goods to select from.

Bigger cities in Canada might have more luck. Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal are all major trade and immigration portals, bringing in people who have lived in cities and countries we’d consider culture shocks, which also brings along new ideas, new ways of thinking, new traditions and new clothes.

Of course, the internet changed vintage fashion. Vintage has no longer become location specific, or neighbourhood exclusive, which is one of Canada’s saving graces in the secondhand clothing trend. Noirohio Vintage takes an extra step to hem all your favourite vintage dresses to modern day knee length dresses, and American Archive has a slew of styling photos that look like they came off the pages of Nylon magazine or American Apparel billboards.

Then, there is the ironic and slightly odd existence of certain labels in our North American culture that have basically knocked off vintage pieces verbatim and mass produced them, such as Urban Outfitters. The appeal with the creative direction of this brand is that the perfect vintage shoe design can be yours… and yours, and yours and yours. When more than one person craves a specific style, print, heel or lace, they can each have their own, and the poor girl with the grossly large size 10 feet won’t be stuck with the ugly shoes left on the racks of consignment boutiques.

I wonder if vintage can ever be the same Narnia it was for me when I was a child. This is where the concept of vintage and its association with unique self-identity have become conflicted nowadays. Wearing vintage no longer maintains its exclusive “hipster” label it once had since it’s evolved in so many ways and into the mainstream market. Vintage is personal, and a garment, no matter how old or how designer, is largely dependent on the person wearing the garment. Are you wearing something that is just plain dated, or are you wearing something that represents great standing quality and craftsmanship? What is its appeal to you and what effect does wearing vintage have on the message of your identity?

Vintage is so heavily reliant upon styling that it is the constant continuing self invention of the wearer. For example, I saw a German girl wear a turquoise 80s blazer, a tight knit sweater dress a la Herve Leger by Max Azria, fringed moccasin boots from the 70s and grey lace tights. The amount of fashion timeline confusion in impressive street style outfits such as this one is what reintroduces interest in garments that were once time-specific styles.

So recently I had the itching urge to search high and low for the perfect camel colored jacket this Fall/Winter season. Blame it on the Phoebe Philo effect -- her runway designs always represented to a lot of women the possibility of dressing in an easy sophistication that wasn’t quite exactly confined to a theme or a specific culture. I found a beige linen Talbots version circa 1992 from Housing Works for $10. It was a two-button suit jacket, at a great hip level hem length. I had to take it to the dry cleaners though, since one of the curses of vintage is the unpredictable condition it may come in.

The same night I ordered another camel jacket off of eBay. This time it was a camel colored wool twill jacket with a pencil thin white pinstripe pattern, made in France by Cacharel. The silhouette was boxy and had no buttons, so it must have been from the late 80s. It’ll look so new and chic, absolutely perfect with a pair of black leather shorts.

Horrors. After all these years of runway shows, magazine ads, and hundreds of units produced overseas that were shipped back to our shores, we keep going back to choosing the same things to wear. Has fashion ever really changed in our generation?

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Heather Primerano: Revolutionizing Jazz Pop Nationwide Tue, 23 Nov 2010 03:27:01 +0000 Patrick Grant Every so often, I hear a collection of songs that throws me back to the past while projecting into the future. It’s always a nice feeling, knowing that people are restructuring and making sense of musical history, updating and modifying sounds in a way that’s expressive of their own time and space. Heather Primerano’s Take

Every so often, I hear a collection of songs that throws me back to the past while projecting into the future. It’s always a nice feeling, knowing that people are restructuring and making sense of musical history, updating and modifying sounds in a way that’s expressive of their own time and space.

Heather Primerano’s Take This Heart is just such a collection of songs. At root, the songwriting is incredibly strong; each song would have no problem standing up with just a voice and an acoustic guitar or piano. Primerano’s voice is polarizing, triumphant and fragile at the same time. But what really makes the album stand out as more than a simple singer-songwriter affair is the simple fact that the arrangements on the record are massive: one can easily imagine someone like Carole King or Shirley Bassey singing over the soaring horns and strings that abound. In the same breath, as on a track like “Assimilate,” they’re supported by funk bass and drum machines, which changes the game entirely. So what is Take This Heart? You’ll have to decide for yourself.

Heather is a Torontonian currently living in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, which gives her a unique scope of vision on the current state of Canadian music and culture.

Photo courtesy of CBC 3

Photo courtesy of CBC 3

PG: There's a considerable amount of diversity on Take This Heart for a 4 song EP. That being said, all the songs fit really well together. How long was the whole thing in development for?

HP: Thanks. We tried to get the arc of a full length recording as much as possible.
Including one month of bronchitis (aka, no singing allowed) and after-work sessions each week, it was in development for about three to four months. During these sessions Mike Rocha (Roachmouth Records) and I plotted out arrangements for guitar, bass, keys and drums. Many of the original guitar, bass and keys tracks, played on by Mr. Mike Rocha himself, have survived to the final cut

PG: What are your plans for the EP now that it's finished? Where can people get it?

HP: Well, right now I live a stone's throw from a whole bunch of live music venues in downtown Saskatoon, so part of the plan is to form a band and play the EP live here as well as in Toronto. I'm also looking at placement in TV and film as well as publishing - there are a lot of avenues for it. The EP is available through itunes and most major online retailers, and at shows, of course.

PG: What drives you to make music?

HP: (laughs) Possible mild OCD or melodies and lyrics that get into my head and won't go away until I write them; it's a combination of both of those things, I think, that drives me to write music. About half of the songs on this EP came from a melody I got in my head in the wee hours of the morning and felt I had to get up and write it.

PG: How are the prairies? Are you playing shows there? How does the music scene differ from the Big City? Do you find that people are more or less receptive to your music out there?

HP: The Prairies have been an open, friendly scene so far. As I mentioned I am living right in downtown Saskatoon, which has all the same types of shops and venues as a downtown Toronto within a smaller radius.

I have been here just under two weeks and already I've seen some very cool shows and met some good people. I would say that overall, the music scene feels a bit more open than the Big City, as much as I love Toronto and have lived my whole life there. This could just be because it literally is smaller. As an example, before I got here, I sent out an email to the main independent radio station introducing myself as a musician coming to Saskatoon and within a day or two, received an e-mail back from the station manager saying to stop by anytime and they would be happy to show me around the station. That has been the tone so far, which is lovely. I am going to be stopping by this radio station in the next week, so hopefully Saskatoonians will be hearing me here.


For more information on Heather and her galavantings, her myspace is located here.

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Re-Imagining the Album: Kanye’s Dark Twisted Reality Tue, 23 Nov 2010 03:26:58 +0000 Dennis Reynolds About a year ago, I wrote a piece for Steel Bananas declaring the death of the physical album. I argued that packaged albums were redundant in the digital age. I was an avid record collector at the time I wrote the article, and not much has changed since. Yet, I can’t help but feel that

About a year ago, I wrote a piece for Steel Bananas declaring the death of the physical album. I argued that packaged albums were redundant in the digital age. I was an avid record collector at the time I wrote the article, and not much has changed since. Yet, I can’t help but feel that with digital media dominating the contemporary music trade, physical albums are struggling to maintain their cultural significance. With physical albums becoming increasingly underwhelming, we should embrace those that appeal to more digital sensibilities, such as the hypnotic cover for Animal Collective’s Merriweather Post Pavilion. My argument was not that we should forsake the traditional album altogether, but rather that the possibility exists for an album to maintain its visual counterpart in the digital world.

My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy

My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy

Downloading, once a music industry taboo, is no longer strictly synonymous with piracy. Legal downloading services have emerged as legitimate sources for music and are subsequently vying to dominate a new market and render the old, physical market irrelevant. While services like iTunes may assist in the ideological restructuring of music accumulation, Apple’s rise to prominence has been a slow conversion, rather than an outright revolution. Much of legal downloading’s successes have had as much to do with luring the customer to greener pastures of digital convenience, as much as they’ve been the result of the capitalization of an intensely vulnerable market.

Digital music’s rise to dominance continues to be slow mostly because people do still buy records. I am certain of this. I worked at an HMV last Christmas and I sold boatloads of Michael Jackson CDs. Music fans are not averse to spending, they’ve just been given ample time to muster up enough discontent towards an industry that has spent the last ten years failing to relate to its customers. Services like iTunes were able to create an illusion of superior customer service, simply by liberating the customer from spending an extra few bucks on a jewel case and paper sleeve. By the same token, popular artists began churning out predictable album packages whose most compelling features were a bonus DVD, or worse, the exclusive photobook.

While Jackson’s death certainly sparked the record industry with a sudden jolt of interest, this reinvigoration directly stemmed from our tendency to culturally romanticize dead stars in the immediate short-term. Conversely, retailers wasted no time in ruthlessly capitalizing on the moment. The HMV that briefly employed me, for instance, found very little shame in peddling his merchandise harder than anything in the store. Sure, the industry can survive this way, but these are panic strategies illustrating just how paramount their struggle to promote music has become.

On the upside, Kanye West is not dead, and is preparing to release an album that has the potential to revive album culture in a far less morbid way. Despite performing in an age of hip-hop where the mixtape rules, and even giving away several of his own tracks digitally, Kanye manages to keep anticipation high for his outrageous and self-indulgent masterworks. Rightfully so, I would say. His wildly popular first three albums make up a semi-coherent trilogy, a major accomplishment for an artist in a time when consumer interest in the album sits at an all-time low.

What Happened to A Good-Ass Job

What Happened to "A Good-Ass Job"?

A few weeks ago, Kanye revealed the artwork for his forthcoming record My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy followed by his half-thrilled, half-disappointed reaction to major American retailers, who had already rejected it. The artwork’s resulting controversy was inevitable in today’s image salient, yet morally sensitive culture. As quick as it was made viral, Kanye began to ecstatically rhyme off his defenses, including one in which he drew comparisons between his naked cartoon phoenix and the nude baby from Nirvana’s Nevermind, another barely controversial image that infuriated its capitalist patrons. While Kanye’s rebuttals were fun, backhanded slaps at his censors, he hardly held a candle to Cobain’s comeback in ’94: “If you're offended by this, you must be a closet pedophile.”

But the image of a cartoon Kanye and his naked phoenix will not be the album’s lone cover. The album will consist of five interchangeable covers, all depicting artwork by George Condo within a thick, red border. The artwork calls to mind the Arcade Fire’s recent The Suburbs or Beck’s slightly older Sea Change wherein the artwork is built around a singular visual, consistent with a series of alternating peripherals. There are eight front covers of The Suburbs, each consisting of an empty car parked in differing outdoor scenes. Sea Change, meanwhile, employs a solemn self-portrait of the artist as a canvas upon which varying psychedelic colours are painted across four covers. Kanye’s newest album follows a slightly inverted pattern within which the red border remains consistent, while the visual centerpiece changes between copies. The artwork of each of these records begs a question not previously asked by tangible records – if the visual element of the album admits to having variable characteristics, does it boast any sense of consistent worth? From a Marxist perspective, the major downfall of the tangible album is that it lends itself to commodity fetishism, wherein market exchange defines the album as an alienable object of exchange. Subsequently, this diminishes the album’s worth as an art product and celebrates its existence as an indistinguishable commodity. Yet, with The Suburbs and Sea Change, fetishization is overruled by the proliferation of goods, which distorts the traditional concept that an album is a single, uniform physical product, open to sensational market exploitation.

"My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy" Isn't a Great Title, Despite the Sweet Cover Art

"My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy" Isn't a Great Title, Despite the Sweet Cover Art

Ideally, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy will take this one step further. While Beck and the Arcade Fire insisted on the consistency of their subjects, Kanye’s new album will employ alternating centerpieces. The album will be indefinable by a single cover, yet, defined by its association to a multitude of images. Though viral representation gives us an apt overarching view of the concept (link to this image:, it does not cater to digital communication. In addition, the possibility for fetishization is limited, as the album itself is incapable of being lionized according to a singular image.

Ultimately, what we end up with is a record that reconciles the album’s material properties with the hyper-perspectivism ingrained in our digital outlook on the world. The album is not disappearing into the digital void; it is repopulating itself in the tangible world. The multiple covers, each with its own subject, suggest that the visual importance lies not with the image, but the ability to manipulate an object’s physical features and choose how it is to be perceived. Each copy of My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy will come with all five covers, which the listener will be able to slide in and out of the thick red frame. Even more striking are the image choices: some controversial, others, not at all. Tangibility, in other words, will open the door for multiple narratives, rather than restricting the experience to single representation. Sure, Merriweather may have proven that the digital world demands exploring, yet at the same time, Fantasy keeps one foot in tangible existence, reminding us that there are still many ways we can exercise our agency over physical reality.

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Stage to Screen: Shakespeare on Film Tue, 23 Nov 2010 03:26:57 +0000 Colin Fallowfield We are such stuff as dreams are made on; and our little life is rounded with a sleep.” (The Tempest, 4.1.156-158) With the upcoming release of Julie Taymor’s new film version of The Tempest, I have been thinking lately about Shakespeare and film adaptations. With the widespread adoration of the Bard and his texts, it

We are such stuff as dreams are made on; and our little life is rounded with a sleep.”
(The Tempest, 4.1.156-158)

With the upcoming release of Julie Taymor’s new film version of The Tempest, I have been thinking lately about Shakespeare and film adaptations. With the widespread adoration of the Bard and his texts, it is easy for the theatre establishment and its audience to become precious with these staples of English drama. So precious, in fact, that they often become dull museum pieces, for which everyone politely applauds and says, “well, wasn’t that nice?” I don’t have to tell you how boring that is, nor repeat my belief that the theatre should provoke and inspire, not simply pass the time.

Switching the medium of the text from stage to film is inherently transformative, whether for the better or for the worse. The tendency toward verisimilitude in film takes away the raw edge of the theatre world, presenting unique challenges such as making it plausible that people in the world of the film speak in verse. Still, movie-musicals are a well-loved cinematic genre, and if characters can break out into spontaneous choreographed song-and-dance numbers, then it is certainly plausible to have characters speak in an elevated, rhythmic language. More than anything, film provides an opportunity to bring the world of the text to life more completely and vividly then the stage. Though the atmosphere of the theatre and the immediacy of live performance are lost, larger budgets and special effects technology allow for a level of realism in the audio-visual realm that only film can provide.

The Tempest

The Tempest

Of course realism is not necessarily the desired effect of Shakespeare on film. Australian director Baz Luhrmann’s 1996 Willaim Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet saw Luhrmann bring his own unique flair for the dramatic to the movie, updating the setting and doing considerable dramaturgical work to shorten the piece. The uber-contemporary and ultra-quirky nature of the film made it more accessible to a youth audience and gave the dialogue an authentic and plausible air. The heightened comedy enhanced the tragedy, and the text was brought to life in an exciting way which its audience had not yet seen. Of course purists had their problems, complaining of music drowning out the dialogue and the controversial excluding of the famed “O happy dagger” speech, but something fresh was brought to a text with which almost everyone is familiar, and which had become over-quoted and clichéd.

In the late 1990’s, British windbag and actor Kenneth Branagh stroked his considerable ego by making an epic, four-hour long, uncut version of Hamlet. Four years later, Michael Almereyda made a heavily adapted, modernized version of the same text starring Ethan Hawke. The former included every word of the text, something stage versions hardly ever do, and was done in a classical style featuring a cast of old world-class stars. The latter featured only about half of the text and was cast with a young and edgy cast set in New York City, using devices such as ‘the Denmark corporation’ to make the dialogue feasible. Both of these films were failed experiments. Branagh got caught up in the splendor and pomp and circumstance of his production, adding extraneous scenes and images that make wild assumptions about the meaning in the text. Almereyda at least had a good idea, trying to do something different with a text that is untouchable to purists, but too much was cut and the ragtag cast has trouble finding their way around the Bard’s words.

The Tempest is not Taymor’s first foray into Shakespeare’s work. She directed the acclaimed 1999 film adaptation of Titus Andronicus entitled Titus (starring Anthony Hopkins), a visually striking, bloody and sexually disturbing piece of work that certainly captures the spirit of Shakespeare’s text. I have no reason to suspect that The Tempest will be any different; the trailer featured some impressive images and the film itself boasts an impressive cast. There has been some dissent regarding the sex change that the protagonist has undergone (casting Helen Mirren in the role and changing the character’s name from Prospero to Prospera), and I am not entirely sure what I think of it myself. What I do know is that Taymor is taking chances with a lesser-known text and has a history of innovative filmmaking. I eagerly anticipate the December 10 release of this re-imagined classic.

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Killin Food: A Call to Pierogi Arms in Roncesvalles Tue, 23 Nov 2010 03:26:53 +0000 Ted Killin When Nosh Bistro finally closed after the transit standstill on Dundas had past the month-long mark, I realized the Roncesvalles storefronts were in great peril. I recently attempted to visit Bistro 299 at lunch for a midday plate of pierogi, and instead witnessed a team of men filling the last panel of the entrance, the

Killin Food: Issue 25 | Photos by Madd Hattere

When Nosh Bistro finally closed after the transit standstill on Dundas had past the month-long mark, I realized the Roncesvalles storefronts were in great peril. I recently attempted to visit Bistro 299 at lunch for a midday plate of pierogi, and instead witnessed a team of men filling the last panel of the entrance, the dried outer sidewalk capturing the fresh wet slag dumped from the mixing truck. The foreman whistles to the driver each time he want him to jerk the truck forward to accommodate a new area to be filled, so I asked one of the construction workers nearby how long the Bistro had been closed. He informs me they now only open at night, using their patio entrance instead.

“They’re lucky they have a side entrance”

Luck should not be the factor that saves your shop during a construction effort. The shops that are open have to make use of duckboard bridges to traverse a muddy trench that remains unfilled, not particularly appealing to those on their first visit to the neighbourhood. Think of this article as a call to arms in Roncesvalles: I’ll create arms made of these doughy half-moons, linked together to stretch into the Annex, plucking hapless patrons in order to plunk them down in a Roncesvalles diner for an inexpensive, hearty meal that will more than merit the price of TTC fare (superfluous if I can find a way to craft these arms, although could dough-based chains be strong enough to drag a fully grown human? I doubt it).

Café Polonez, 195 Roncesvalles Avenue:

Sat down at a dark mahogany table with sideboard sporting a metal shelf made of a crossed fork and spoon, supporting a mounted glass vase that displays a coloured corn husk and shoots of green. A break in the peach-coloured wall reveals a contrived exposed brick façade adorned with three sepia eagles. While we look over the menu, we’re given a bread basket with a small sliced loaf and our cutlery.

Photo by Madd Hattere

We eventually ordered two different types of pierogi: cheddar-potato and sauerkraut-mushroom, boiled dumplings served with two plastic canisters, one filled with sour cream and another with fried onion and pork mix. I study the large sepia tapestry at back of Warsovia, a panorama of the Vistula river with the city large in the backdrop. The bar is half exposed brick, half dark wood, and topped with granite, serving Polish beer and five different vodkas. A half order of six pierogi costs $4.50, or twelve pieces for $9.

Photo by Madd Hattere

CHEESE AND POTATO have extraordinarily soft innards that suddenly melt in your mouth. More of a vessel for taste, flavour washes in only as smattering of minced pork rushes over the tongue.

SAUERKRAUT-MUSHROOM: their most savoury thin-skinned dumpling, the shitake mushrooms create a firmer taste, and the pork-onion topping is actually unnecessary, lost in its flavour.

Although they are not listed on the menu, Cafe Polonez offers the option of dessert pierogi with fruit jelly inside, either blueberry or strawberry.

Chopin, 165 Roncesvalles Avenue:

A picture of Pope John Paul II basks in the neon orange glow of a Zywiec sign above the entrance. I sat at a table with plush red chairs, my chair pointed at their big-screen TV. The restaurant splits its style across a middle divide: broken plaster sections cling to a partial red brick wall on one side that mirror the opposing, entirely plaster wall. Large red-shaded drop lights line the right, and small split lights bend out from the left. A lonely piano rests between tables, joined by a small portrait of Chopin. Mysterious dark purple curtain conceal a dark room or hall. Each pierogi dish costs $9.99, topped with shredded dill and a few pieces of fried onion, with a side of tart pickled cabbage coleslaw on a leaf of lettuce garnished with a wedge of tomato, a capped canister of sour cream on the side. Several additional portraits of Chopin glower over darkly lit space, outside of the bright glow of the television.

MEAT: the menu had listed a curiously vague depiction of "meat," but when I ask the server he tells me that they are stuffed with “a seasoned mix of chicken and pork.” Ground into a paste, this dish had the most appealing texture of any of the pierogi thus far.

CABBAGE AND MUSHROOM: Less stalwart than the mushroom with sauerkraut, the cabbage absorbs the taste of the mushrooms rather than allowing them free reign. Chopin deals in a softer, thicker pastry.

Intersteer, 361 Roncesvalles Avenue [listed as Inter-Ster on Google for some reason]:

A narrow multi-level room with stained wood interior. The back of the room is a slightly raised platform contains a few tables and a pool table. Puck lights shine onto a bar surrounded by raised red plush chairs that span the length of the booths in the lower gallery; one older chair with more elaborate wood carving stands out, fit for a duke. Two televisions are playing an old black and white boxing flick.

The bar serves pints or half-pints of beers such as Keith's and Steamwhistle, as well as several vodkas, which they use to make their own shots: I had an apple-pie shot for dessert that starts with a pretzel, followed by a shot of Bison vodka and capped with a slice of apple. The establishment serves several styles of fried pierogi: nacho, poutine, chili, or a non-sauced plate with options of cottage cheese, sauerkraut, or cheddar cheese and potato as filling.

Photo by Madd Hattere

Luckily, we stumbled upon a pierogi special of the day, Korean style dumplings: a circle of fried sauerkraut pierogies surround a mound of ashi pear salad, made with slices of king oyster mushroom, kimchee noodles, green onion, apple, lettuce and carrot, adorned with three perforated lotus chips. These are enough toppings to spread over each pierogi several times over.

I had to return again to try one of their specialties, all much less traditional dishes, and was pleasantly surprised by the poutine pierogi: swirls of mozzarella cheese diffuse through the lake of gravy that fully engulfs the innermost pierogi, filled with potato and cheddar. The fried texture lends itself well to the dish, strands of cheese clinging to the crispy shells, warding off moisture to supply a pleasant crunch that accompanies the thick gravy.

Photo by Madd Hattere

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Spotlight: Charline Fallu Mon, 22 Nov 2010 22:26:46 +0000 Charline Fallu Simili-artiste/étudiante en design de Montréal qui aspire à être une art superstar. Mon atelier, c’est une accumulation de portraits de femmes, de filles, d’androgynes, des émotions autobiographiques, des narrations simples : des joues rouges, des positions candides, les épaules basses, toujours un peu découragées, des rondeurs inspirantes, une pilosité abondante. Bien interprété, c’est la beauté sensible,

Simili-artiste/étudiante en design de Montréal qui aspire à être une art superstar. Mon atelier, c’est une accumulation de portraits de femmes, de filles, d’androgynes, des émotions autobiographiques, des narrations simples : des joues rouges, des positions candides, les épaules basses, toujours un peu découragées, des rondeurs inspirantes, une pilosité abondante.

Bien interprété, c’est la beauté sensible, mais époustouflante de la force sensuelle féminine. Mal interprété, c’est un monstre sans tête, c’est une fille soumise.

Leurs traits exagérés, leur visage déformé par un rire ou un pleur provoquent d’abord un sourire, un rire. Mais bien vite, elles inspirent une fierté ou un dégoût. Fières ou dégoûtées d’être femme.

Contact Charline ici, et voir plus de son travail dans notre Spotlight Gallery.

Charline Fallu

Charline Fallu

Charline Fallu

]]> 1 Stoicism on Self-Conceit and Empathy through the rationality of Henry Miller Tue, 23 Nov 2010 03:26:46 +0000 Ted Killin “WHAT is the first business of one who studies philosophy? To part with self-conceit. For it is impossible for any one to begin to learn what he thinks that he already knows.” - Epictetus Anthony Duff, a philosopher at the University of Stirling in Scotland, lists two factors that define a rational being: intellectual capacity

]]> “WHAT is the first business of one who studies philosophy? To part with self-conceit. For it is impossible for any one to begin to learn what he thinks that he already knows.” - Epictetus

Anthony Duff, a philosopher at the University of Stirling in Scotland, lists two factors that define a rational being: intellectual capacity to reason about empirical features of environment, one’s actions, their consequences; and the capacity to control one’s actions, and resist contrary impulses, in the light of one’s rational purposes. However, I think that to affirm a single, authoritarian definition of rationality is a self-conceit. Duff seems to assert that not recognizing the consequences of your actions manifests itself as an irrational act, but who determines the consequence? Those in a position of power determine the consequences, and these individuals do not always follow a rational course to determine their actions.

This is totally Marcus Aurelius - courtesy of

This is totally Marcus Aurelius - courtesy of

There are people who cannot detach themselves from a very structured, societal sense of action, which allows them to consistently implement a set storage of acceptable responses (acquired through a life of unquestioned social interaction). Duff would assert that these individuals are rational human beings. Yet there are those that remove themselves from this mainstream, empirical attitude and view their life through an estranged lens from that point forward. These people recognize the rational steps of empirical society but view them as folly, as a mask projected by society to attempt to foster a homogeneous norm. Although Duff may claim that these people have forfeited a sense of rationality, since their actions can have fairly severe consequences in the societal eye, does it follow that the procedures of a society strictly follow a rational, community-based goal? Duff’s version of rationalism only truly cashes out if all of the messages and ideals propounded by society would align with a truly beneficial course of action. An example of this societal insincerity behind the facade of rationality shows itself in purposefully deceptive empathy.

Empathy can often be falsified to engender an inflated sense of self-import. In Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer, the protagonist’s friend works at a newspaper and one of their copy editors dies, named Peckover. Although his bosses were overly critical toward him while he was alive, nearly firing him and constantly cursing his existence, once he has died they unearth a sense empathy that they never had while the poor man was living. The protagonist notes, “we didn’t have to put a false front [and] we could laugh about the incident to our heart’s content. We laughed all night about it, and in between times we vented our scorn and disgust for the guys upstairs, the fatheads who were trying to persuade themselves, no doubt, that Peckover was a fine fellow and that his death was a catastrophe […] He was just a nobody, as far as they were concerned, but, now that he was dead, they would all chip in lustily and buy him a huge wreath and they’d put his name in big type in the obituary column. Anything to throw a little reflection on themselves; they’d make him out to be a big shit if they could.”

If the rational actions of mankind can be perceived as fundamentally supported through immoral acts such as this false empathy, that not only uphold external reputation but increase self-esteem through self-conceit, would the psychopath not take whatever means necessary to bring about an alternative rationality? As a result, the irrational psychopath can glean pleasure from destructive, seemingly irrational, certainly immoral acts; sickened by a type of common deception, psychopaths attempt to follow an alternative course of rationality, following their bodily urges. The Stoic on the other hand simply pities the amoral man instead of taking retribution on him, for two reasons: the first is that they believe that in committing harm to another, you incur harm on yourself; in addition, such superfluous harm does not lead the self toward a foundational notion of Good. To properly align with a Stoic attitude, the individual would have to attribute the failings of another as fostering a wrongful temperament toward a situation, instead of attempting to impose a sense of control over the situation. The main difference between Stoic and psychopath: although both notably mark an existence outside of common rationality and empathy, the Stoic centers around a strict set of morals, while the psychopath allows this disconnect from a societal rationality to lead into a pursuit of bodily pleasures, which can lead to killing.

But the problem still remains on how to remove oneself from the common conception of rationality and retain a sense of communal respect, for although society does not always follow the rational ideas that they offer to others, the individual must continue to operate within many of its standards in day-to-day activities, and the agenic self can often find frustration when opportunities are blocked because of these standards. This frustration deepens the rift between the self and others, which can lead the individual to lash out against those around them, even if they have no direct connection to the wrongs they have encountered. Although Henry Miller pointedly does not maintain such a detached view of the self outside of pleasure, as most of the protagonist's exploits center around food and cunt, he still has an answer to avoid frustration, for his attitude toward pride and ambition are extremely Stoic.

“I had to travel precisely all around the world to find just such a comfortable niche as this. It seems incredible almost. How could I have foreseen, in America, with all those firecrackers they put up your ass to give you pep and courage, that the ideal position for a man of my temperament as to look for orthographic mistakes? [...In America] Potentially every man is presidential timber. Here it’s different. Here every man is potentially a zero. If you become something or somebody it is an accident, a miracle” (150).

The Stoics, although they do not instinctively follow societal norms, also do not fully remove themselves from its standards, for Stoics recognize an inherent rationality in a mutual societal good, and follow the necessary steps to align with an ideal existence. However, the Stoics eschew those aspects of society that open an avenue for immoderate pleasure to guide action, that lead the individual away from the Good. For capitalist society, although seemingly rational in many of its values, actually encourages the satiety of temptation, and aggressiveness. There is a engrossed sense of the agenic self as opposed to communal self preached in capitalism; the psychopath recognizes that those with power in society, although preaching the higher values to workers, often operate behind the scenes with selfish, competitive values in mind. The need to stand out among contemporaries is “inherently parasitic,” and this societal pressure to succeed leads to the sort of excesses that psychopaths commonly perpetrate.

The Stoic attitude does not allow a future-extended, competitive self to manifest. Through its maxims, Stoicism trains the individual to seek refuge within the lot they’ve been dealt in life. Although not quite presented as the 'zero' that Henry Miller finds sanctuary in, the Stoic recognizes that the individual’s status in life cannot be forced through the agency of the self, and instead posits a more community-based self that interacts with the multi-faceted sides of nature, recognizes that events often unfold beyond the influence of the self.

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Slam Dunk: a Slam Ode to Dunkaroos at Recess (with apologies to the poets) Tue, 23 Nov 2010 03:26:44 +0000 Sarah Beaudin (Please note: the following should be read with intensity, the occasional William Shatner style pause, and rather acrobatic arm movements) The sun sets on Streetsville- and its about to get real. A meeting of minds and mouths, meticulously masticating and spitting out words, almost unheard over the thundering of their own hearts- and this            

(Please note: the following should be read with intensity, the occasional William Shatner style pause, and rather acrobatic arm movements)

The sun sets on Streetsville-

and its about to get real.

A meeting of minds and mouths, meticulously masticating

and spitting out words, almost unheard

over the thundering of their own hearts-

and this             is where the poetry starts.

There is something                        profound

About                        the way that             slam             poets            talk

All the rhyme and the reason, the in your face teasin’

The quick-footed words, peppered with             awkward            pauses

For            emphasis

It’s like rap for white folks, though we all joke

‘cause you know that shit is racially insensitive.

Throw in a couple more one-liners-

We’d be comics if we lacked the pretension,

Didn’t need the convention, to start

to create art, to get our voices heard:

This is Sarah Slamming

Sarah Beaudin | Photo by Andre Beneteau | MacLaren Arts Center w/ The Society of the Spoken Word for the Carnagie Days Arts Festival

This. Is. Spoken. Word!

We rant about the Suburban tragedy, of what we were meant to be,

And how no one is ever patient enough to wait for car doors to unlock when you’re trying to get in the passenger side-

Baby, life is a ride, and you gotta sloooooooooooow down’

(The irony lost on our tongues

that wag a million miles an hour.)

Still, on our feet, getting sweet, arms swinging wide ‘cause we got nothing to hide.

And we smile at the girl in the front row, tell her things she ought to know,

of our childhood            memories, and impress her             with poems about feelings.

About feelings.


About feeeelings.

Oh if you could see us practicing in front of mirrors

If you could only hear

us, tripping on words, stuttering syllables, uttering profanities,

and getting through with literature of the 21st century-

This is what it’s supposed to be!

And like Springsteen we can squeeze 12 extra syllables into a line if we talk fast enough, squeeze our eyes shut and MOVE our bodies with the sound.

We talk about literary convolutions, smog pollution, and that time some chick broke our heart, the need for art, and politics-

this ain’t no quick fix, Band Aid solution, it’s a tongue in cheek revolution!

A word to the witty and to the wise,

If you don’t memorize, well then I just ain’t spoken word.

And every one of these poems should end with a witty            memorable quip.

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On Ageing and Thomas Mann Tue, 23 Nov 2010 02:29:15 +0000 Dave Hurlow What this essay is about: Bernal Spheres, getting older, weirdness in the YMCA men's locker room, anxiety attacks in the bathtub, Thomas Mann, human brains in robo bodies, The World, The Flesh and The Devil. This is J.D. Bernal, from a book he wrote in 1929: "In a civilized worker the limbs are mere parasites,

What this essay is about: Bernal Spheres, getting older, weirdness in the YMCA men's locker room, anxiety attacks in the bathtub, Thomas Mann, human brains in robo bodies, The World, The Flesh and The Devil.

This is J.D. Bernal, from a book he wrote in 1929:

"In a civilized worker the limbs are mere parasites, demanding nine-tenths of the energy of the food and even a kind of blackmail in the exercise they need to prevent disease, while the bodily organs wear themselves out in supplying their requirements. Sooner or later the useless parts of the body must be given more modern functions or dispensed with altogether, and in their place we must incorporate in the effective body the mechanisms of the new functions."

My birthday starts at midnight on Halloween, so I'm usually incredibly drunk and dressed like a fool. I always spend the first day of the next year of my life a little bit depressed, perhaps mildly ashamed of myself with chocolate, weird hair dye, toilet paper and fake blood stuck to me.

It was my birthday and I was walking on the train tracks, where they go over the ravine near my parent's house. I was completely absorbed in my own thoughts, in that very particular way like when I get stoned and bike home but don't remember the bike ride and then all of a sudden I'm home. Sometimes the world just disappears when I'm wrapped up in my thoughts. When I'm hungover I'm especially introspective, it's an introspection so thick, sometimes I think I can taste it.

On the other side of the bridge, there's a fence. Sometimes I have to jump the fence and its sharp and I'll often cut myself, but then a lot of the time someone has cut the chain link fence and peeled it back. The problem this time was that metal frame of the fence was still standing and I wanged my head right into it, going full tilt. I fell down on my knees and held my head for awhile, couldn't stand up, refused to open my eyes. Slowly I recovered, but I was very unhappy. I had been reading a bleak futuristic comic called Death Day earlier and that along with the hangover and the head wang was creating a wave of apocalyptic anxiety.

Once I'd recovered a little I managed to walk the rest of the way to the barber shop. I paid a man thirty five dollars plus a tip to cut my hair and trim my beard, to blend it with the hair cut. He told me to close my eyes while he trimmed my beard so that I wouldn't get beard hair in my eyes. I thought I was falling into a concussion coma but really I was just falling asleep. The barber said to me 'You have ink in your beard,' I said 'It's fine. Halloween.' It hurt like hell when he dragged the comb across my scalp but I didn't say anything.

Death Day - courtesy of Sam Hiti (

Death Day - courtesy of Sam Hiti (

Later I was reading Death in Venice in the bathtub. The anxiety had gotten really bad and my head was throbbing. Gustav Von Aschenbach had been having a rough time with the Italian weather, but he seemed to be enjoying himself, sitting on the beach reading his letters and watching the children play in the shallow tide. But then I read this:
"The narrow streets were sweltering repulsively; the air was so thick that the smells surging from homes, stores, chophouses, the oily billows, the haze of perfumes, the different vapors hovered in clouds instead of dissipating... His eyes blurred his chest tightened, he was feverish, the blood pounded in his temples."

I was in Venice once, and a low pressure system rolled in. I thought it was the apocalypse, I thought 'Fuck, if it's the apocalypse Venice'll be first to go,' because the whole city is on water, which doesn't seem very safe. There were these blasts of wind and looming death clouds in the sky like nothing I've ever seen and I remember potted plants falling from windows and smashing in the streets, potted plants that could kill a man. Aschenbach's discomfort compounded with the flash back of my own awful experience and I was stricken with a shortness of breath and a massive wave of anxiety.

I'm twenty six years in and what have I accomplished? I'm sitting in the bathtub in my parent's house reading Thomas Mann by candle light and having a fucking panic attack.  There's a lightness in my rib cage and my chest might burst right open, I'm lying in bed and my heart's thumping like a chain gang hammer.

Then there's a week of stone cold sobriety and I'm at the west end Y and I feel a lot better except there's a man's penis right in my face. I've got my work out clothes on and I'm all ready to go and this older dude, my dad's age maybe, comes up next to me stark naked and dripping and he can't get into his locker. At the Y, when you forget your lock, they lend you one and give you an elastic band with the combo attached to it to wear around your wrist. It's basically a dunce cap bracelet that tells the world that you are neither capable of remembering your lock nor remembering a sequence of three numbers between one and forty.

First the naked man tells me to hold the card bearing the numbers up while he carefully works the lock, but it quickly becomes clear that he has no idea how to operate a combination lock. I tell him that I will open it. I notice that his penis is right next to the lock and at the same level and I pray to God that when I lean in to unlock it he will have the tact to move away. Of course a man who reaches the age of fifty without understanding how to work a combination lock is also a man who doesn't understand the simple rules of locker room etiquette. Focusing intently and doing my best to ignore the wet old penis that is so close to my face, I spin the dial, crack the lock and make a beeline towards the rowing machine.

In the gym, I think about how weird it is to see rows of people copulating with machines with white pods in their ears. If these people were generating clean power for the outside world it would make more sense, if gyms were power generators, I mean. Or if humans were slaves to robots that would be another scenario where gyms would seem normal. In modern urban culture, this is what we've come up with as a way to exercise; there's no hunting or gathering outside, just cardio machines and sterile weight rooms peppered with disinfectant spray bottles and towels inside. Humans work out to improve themselves, instead of the outside world.  People at the gym, even this old dude who doesn't understand combination locks, are seeking physical perfection and immortality on some level.

When I was very young I wanted to be an astronaut, not because of the adventure that it might entail but because I wanted to do the most important thing that a person could do: discover unknown galaxies and explore the universe in the name of mankind. Later on I decided I wanted to change the way people think and that led me to writing. Both of these desires are linked to immortality, to ensuring that your name, actions or words ring out through the ages after your death. When I was very young I was terrified of death and spent many a fruitless afternoon grappling with the concept of eternity, I thought I wanted to live forever, or at least for a very long time.

Will I fulfill all of my lifelong ambitions before I die? This is a question that people often ask themselves. Death is really this incredibly motivating factor, the final, ever looming “deadline” (excuse my terrible pun). In a recent episode of Bored to Death, Ted Danson's character George says, “I don't procrastinate, I just do stuff later.” Humans are quite naturally creatures of procrastination, embracing comforts and distractions like ping pong and cigarettes and putting off the hard work that needs to be done, like writing novels and cleaning up the house. In doing so, we constantly avoid exactly what we need to do in order to reach the greatest pleasure of all: a feeling of fulfilment.

Until recently, I had a piece of paper taped to my wall on which I had written COGNITIVE DISSONANCE in big letters. Those words were meant to remind me how often my behaviour ran contrary to my long term happiness and desire for a feeling of real fulfillment in order to make me less of a short term pleasure seeking slob. To remind myself that I should be staying in and reading more, writing more, drinking less and so forth. Socializing and drinking only once or twice a week. This is a regimented formula for happiness that I picked up from JS Mill's essay on utilitarianism. I truly do believe that this formula would work for me, but find it possible to follow consistently. I took the sign down off my wall because for a moment I felt happy and fulfilled like I didn't need it anymore because I had conquered cognitive dissonance. My war with cognitive dissonance is a long series of hard won battles and dreary defeats, and it is by no means over.

All this stress about cognitive dissonance and getting older and not accomplishing enough and copulating with robots at the gym in a vain attempt to achieve some kind of immortality got me thinking about old J.D. Bernal, a British scientist and philosopher who was also a famous socialist. His nickname was Sage because he was such a smart man with lots of wise things to say. He wrote a book called The World, The Flesh and The Devil in 1929.

In this book he takes us on a wild trip into the future where humans have colonized the moon and live in these cool spheres, called Bernal Spheres, and he talks about all kinds of stuff that's really coming true now, like cell phones. The thing that always stuck with me was this bit in the chapter called "The Flesh" where he says that eventually humans will leave their traditional meat sack bodies behind in place of this sort of superhero robot body that can fly through space. You'd be able to see inside of stars and you would understand the organic functions of the tiniest organisms and the movement of the glaciers over thousands of years would be perceived instantaneously. The interior of the earth and the stars, the inmost cells of living things themselves, would be open to consciousness through these angels, and through these angels also the motions of stars and living things could be directed.

Your brain cells would be replaced as they deteriorated so that your stream of consciousness would never be interrupted. Crazy old J.D. Bernal said there'd be a point in history where the humans spent the length of their natural lives in “larval, unspecialized existence,” enjoying the good ol' standbys like poetry, dancing and love making before transforming into star exploring robot angels.

J.D. Bernal's extrapolation on the old 'human head in a robo body' motif gives me hope, it contains within it a sense of scientific realism. I'm no scientist, but Bernal, writing as far back as 1929, makes it sound like this is an actual possibility somewhere down the road. You'll notice in the above quotation that Bernal gets a little carried away and refers to the futuristic space cyborgs as 'angels.' It is interesting to think that in an age where so much of the western world is vaguely atheist the possibility could arise of eternal life through physical transformation and technology. We already grapple with computers and elliptical machines all day trying to look better and get smarter, is it not logical that eventually we would merge with the machines in order to improve our existence?

When I was in college I misread the chapter titled "The Flesh." I thought Bernal was saying that there'd be a point in history where the human brains in robot bodies would leave behind the old school humans, to drink and dance and do the dirty, in search of brighter horizons. I have this image in my head where it's dusk and the hedonistic humans are dancing and drinking wine under canopies in a field surrounded by forest, engaged in the age old distractions. There's a band playing and wine gourds are being passed around and maybe this is the last generation of humans, at the end of traditional human history. The brains in robot bodies are all firing up their rocket boots and flying up into the sky and wondering why the hedonistic humans don't want more for themselves. The brains in robot bodies pity the humans, consider them to be insects really, way lower down on the evolutionary chain. Then they take off, leaving earth behind forever. When I imagine this I'm always with the humans, drinking wine beneath the canopy and watching the sunset.

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//Issue 24: October 2010 Tue, 26 Oct 2010 01:55:46 +0000 Steel Bananas SB24

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Ideas Incarnate: 7a*11d International Festival of Performance Art Descends upon Toronto Mon, 25 Oct 2010 06:39:46 +0000 Karen Correia Da Silva The 7a*11d collective, also known as Gale Allen, Annie Onyi Cheung, Shannon Cochrane, Paul Couillard, Jess Dobkin, Adam Herst, Johanna Householder, and Tanya Mars, are descending upon Toronto for the eighth time with the biennial 7a*11d International Festival of Performance Art. With 30 local and international performance artists in tow, from October 21st to October

The 7a*11d collective, also known as Gale Allen, Annie Onyi Cheung, Shannon Cochrane, Paul Couillard, Jess Dobkin, Adam Herst, Johanna Householder, and Tanya Mars, are descending upon Toronto for the eighth time with the biennial 7a*11d International Festival of Performance Art. With 30 local and international performance artists in tow, from October 21st to October 31st the elusive world of performance -- so often living spontaneously, cryptically, and ephemerally in urban areas across the globe -- is opening itself to Toronto audiences who may or may not be aware that they are stumbling into a world where ideas are incarnate, and bodies transcend traditional norms of performance. If you are not filled with joy and terror, you should be.

Martine Viale | Courtesy of 7a*11d

Martine Viale | Courtesy of 7a*11d

The world of contemporary performance art is typically outside of the usual fine arts crowds of Toronto, straddling the barriers between theatre and installation, text and embodiment. The work of performance artists is to engage crowds with something both visual and interactive, often transcendental, often absurd and conceptual.

The body itself can be used as an art object, as Canada's Karen Elaine Spencer's Sitting suggests, as she kicked off this year's festival performing publicly in Union Station, sitting, perhaps waiting, still in the same seat amidst travellers in transition. Her body is working against the movement of the crowd in flux, her stationary position the antithesis of their motion. I think of the homeless people I see outside of our invisible superstructure. I think of Hardt and Negri's assertion that the only way to subvert globalization is to stop moving. I think of people in waiting rooms, waiting for a loved one, bad news, a cab, a route canal. The body itself becomes a springboard for interpretation, begging us for the scaffolding of cohesion, offering us a sitting body in wait and letting us fill in the gaps. It is performance art at its best, and its intent exists only in autonomous fragments of a body in memory; what each individual subjectivity can take away.

Art object or provocateur, the body can be used to provoke and stir the audience's notions of the finite. As Norway's Stein Henningsen's untitled performance at the Mercer Gallery suggests, the body and its limitations can be used to actively provoke and disturb the viewer. Beneath a four hundred pound block of ice, Henningsen lays with his hands beneath him, ice melting into his body, water pooling on the floor. Labouring to a knife across the room, he crawls onerously and the body's limitations become the viewers' concerns, each breath stinging through the crowd's singular body. This performance is tactile, physical, breathtaking.

The festival has only just begun, and Steel Bananas will be weaving in and out to sample the spontaneous fare of Sylvie Tourangeau, Michael Fernandes, TouVA Collective, Agnes Nedregard, Martine Viale, Étienne Boulanger, and more. The festival is more than worth the two-year wait, as this year's miscellany of artists from all over the globe offer a striking pastiche of perspectives which will surely move audiences to fits of joy, fear, laughter, and tears.

Check out the festival guide here, and we hope to see you there!

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The Pilgrimage of St. Clair: A Testament of Taste Sun, 24 Oct 2010 06:50:45 +0000 Ted Killin and N. Alexander Armstrong Photos by Madd Hattere // Clair was a young Latin American girl born in midtown Toronto, living on St. Clair Avenue West. Reflecting upon the path of Saint Clare of Assisi, considering her namesake, it was understood that Clair would undertake the strict Catholic habits of the Franciscan tradition. From birth, it was clear that

Photo by Madd Hattere

Photos by Madd Hattere //

Clair was a young Latin American girl born in midtown Toronto, living on St. Clair Avenue West. Reflecting upon the path of Saint Clare of Assisi, considering her namesake, it was understood that Clair would undertake the strict Catholic habits of the Franciscan tradition. From birth, it was clear that Clair was to be a servant of God and the Saints.

Saint Clare of Assisi founded the Order of Poor Ladies, a radically strict bunch of nuns who were dangerously pious in their attitudes towards worship and food. These nuns embraced a lifestyle of starvation and poverty, doing their damndest to contradict every bodily drive beyond a modest urination when absolutely necessary. In current times, they would be labeled anorexic.

Clair could not adapt to the teachings of Saint Clare while living and eating in a modern society. Every time she walked down the street she was tempted by food: Canonized Burritos, Communal Nachos, Tomatoes from the Tree of Life.

The call of God continued to bellow, but so did the hunger. One day, in a flash of strong flavour, Clair tasted divine inspiration. The teachings of the Saints were undercooked and it was up to her to finish the leftovers. She realized that she could eat, and also be holy. Clair then set upon a deeply spiritual and deeply delicious pilgrimage. Her trials have been recorded here.

REBOZOS (126 Rogers Road)

Traditionally, the rebozo is a garment created in Mexico when women mixed their cotton shawl with the style of Spanish cloaks. In this context, the rebozo was worn by Clair as she fled the ghost of the vindictive Clare of Assisi. The garment effectively concealed the girl from the disapproving grimace stamped on the Saint's pale visage.

Photo by Madd Hattere

In Toronto, Rebozos is a small, friendly restaurant that specializes in tacos. St. Clair entered to bask in a feeling of warmth and tenderness that the Poor Clare sect cannot abide. Clair sat at a table covered in a red and white checkered cloth, pale yellow walls the backdrop for images of plump watermelon slices and a vibrant red apple, which joined a plethora of Mexican imagery: a tapestry, flag, and illustrated map. A large television at the back of the restaurant was stuck on Telemundo, broadcasting a dating show that revolves around the zodiac. A harpy of a host singled out unworthy candidates based on their performance in an embarrassing mating ritual... this is not what Saint Clare had in mind when she became patron saint of television.

The menu boldly expressed its sentiment regarding the Carnitas: "Oh yeah this is so good!!!" Despite the accolades, Clair had affixed her eye to the enchiladas: Enchiladas Verde and Enchiladas de Mole have tortillas covered by sprinkled mozzarella and zigzag trails of sour cream, and are bordered by puddles of refried beans and piles of orange mexican rice. In the Verde, green onions become mired in the tomatillo, jalepeno, onion, garlic and cilantro sauce that bounds pleasantly along the tongue. The dark Mole sauce permeated the pores of the tortilla with its brusque masculinity; a savoury sweet with deep hints of cacao, the sauce combines plantains, onion, garlic, chili powder, garlic and at least six types of dried pepper, about sixteen ingredients total.

Photo by Madd Hattere

She scarfed her food down with delight, left, and hopped on the bus southbound to St Clair Avenue West. She knew her quest:

To taste a world in the Chorizo,
And a Heaven in a Tortilla,
Hold Infinity in a well-stuffed Burrito
And eternity in a Gordita.

HOY CENA PANCHO (958 St Clair Avenue West)

Clair nearly strolled by the unassuming appearance of the Hoy Cena Pancho restaurant, but was drawn to the painted face of a man with that Chipotle-and-Corona glow, presumably Pancho himself. She stopped and surveyed the storefront display that advertises fare to please both Mexican and Gringo: coffee, tamales, bagels, and several lunch specials competing for recognition. Appropriately, the words "BiBliõ BiBliõ BiBliõ" were written above the door. Clair's Spanish was admittedly not up to snuff to read all this stuff, but she interpreted the inscription above the door as "Books Books Books" and the restaurant's name as "Today Pancho has Dinner." "Maybe so," she thought to herself, "but so does St. Clair."

As she entered, the beef tongue tacos waved to her from an old man's plate. She looked around for a waiter. Instead she saw Mexican flags, woven tablecloths in pink, blue, and green, embroidered with images of sun gods, tiny ten-gallon hats that could hardly hold a quart hanging from the lanterns, strings of chili peppers strung on the wall, an empty baby seat, salt but no pepper, and statues of angels everywhere (this pleased Our Clair). Clair heard the spirited din of friendly conversation coming from the back. She followed. There she found the wait staff, all two of them, perhaps mother and son, stout and happy, looking expectant. Clair looked around for a menu, found none. Was the restaurant's only menu on display in their window? She had forgotten her options and was too shy to ask. "I'll have the special of the day," she said and had a seat, prepared for anything.

Photo by Madd Hattere

Within minutes, the special came. "Steak Milanesa," the friendly server said. "Enjoy it, Sister!" The thinned-out, though substantial steak was breaded and fried, served with salad and rice. She chewed it slowly, deliberately, absorbing its delicious iron and grease. Soon, the server came back with a huge bowl of salsa verde and an even larger bowl of limes. Clair's lithe fingers took the lime and squeezed it indiscriminately over everything. The salsa was poured onto the rice; tangy, citric, and obviously made fresh. Then, to top it off, a pile of hot corn tortillas were brought to Clair in a woven blanket. She ate faster, and faster still. The spices accumulated, the flavours mixed. She finished in a fury, she paid, she left with the taste of hot beef still on her lips. As she walked into the open air, she realized she forgot to tip. A sin. She didn't care.


The next place Clair planned to pledge her patronage was El Palenque Casa Del Mariachi, otherwise known as "that damn good Mexican place near Atlas Avenue." She had been there in the past, the friendly family staff had treated her with respect, even though they were suspect of her ability to handle the hot sauce. Clair held her spice in stride, so she was looking forward to going back for guacamole served in a volcanic rock and half-price tacos on Tuesdays.

Clair entered the front door of the establishment, which exuded an uncanny aura of foreclosure. The tiles were being stripped off the floor, the paintings were removed from the wall, the Karaoke Machine was being dismantled.

That damn good Mexican place was damn near closed forever.

EL RINCON (653 St Clair Avenue West)

Clair was enticed by the soft orange glow coming from a ceramic sun, tempered by the sky-blue walls inside El Rincon Mexicano Restaurant. She noticed that the restaurant was packed as tight as a can of chilis, but she did not notice the unsatisfied customers escaping from the front door. They were muttering, discontented. She went inside.

"You're going to have to wait." She agreed even though she was deathly hungry. There is something about Saint Clair's stomach; no matter how much she stuffs inside it, the void remains. And she craved a Chimichanga.

After a half hour she was seated in the back of the patio. The word patio usually conjures images of summery enjoyment and carefree drunkenness, especially to the Canadian sensibility. El Rincon's patio did not carry such associations. It looked like a junkyard without the junk. Potted plants had no say in what state they were kept. A tree was painted Mexican colours against its will. Clair sat down and immediately found it too cold for her delicate disposition. Admittedly, this was not the fault of the restaurant.

Clair asked to be moved and after 20 minutes she was brought down to a corner in the basement, next to the bathroom (fitting that El Rincon means "The Corner"). Another 30 minutes passed before her order was taken: the Chorizo Burrito Dorado, known in popular imagination as the Chimichanga with sausage.

In an hour or so her food came. It was pretty good: the crispy tortilla, swirls of sour cream striped on the salad, a fluted bowl flooded with refried beans and topped with a chip sail. But was it worth the wait? No, not really.

LA TORTILLERIA (1040 St Clair Avenue West)

Holy and unholy men alike have agreed that to be a Saint you're going to have to go through hardship and some dark nights. Life for Clair was not all salsa and corn. She was regularly accosted by the Three Demons of Burrito Overconsumption: Indigestion, Gas, and No Money. Yet she still hungered for enlightenment in the form of a spicy, cheesy, tomato-based sort of meal which included refried beans. The ultimate test now befell onto our wannabe saint: to make some bitchin' nachos.

She needed supplies, which were kindly offered at a fair price care of your bright yellow neighbours La Tortilleria. These kind folks provide nacho chips and corn tortillas made from scratch; they offer a variety of fresh salsas and guacamole, which are always laid out in a spread of free samples for any customer to try; and they also sell many Mexican imports and hard-to-find food items. Additionally, La Tortilleria has a simple menu of Mexican favourites, although their forte lies in imports. Clair bought herself some chips, salsa, and guac. She took them home to make a nacho platter for a group of guests which included hagiographers, theologians, and an amateur Pope.

Were the nachos any good? Does it matter? No, they were shit actually. She put the oven on broil for too long and set the tray on fire, but the priests agreed that the chips, the salsa and the guac were still pretty good.

Everyone was still hungry, and Clair (not yet sainted) was pretty embarrassed. So they decided to head east. Far, far east...

EL FOGON (543 St Clair Avenue West):

The ghost of Assisi shakes the table in a last-ditch tantrum, but Jorge notices and places a napkin imbued with his Peruvian goodwill to halt St. Clare's feeble effort to restore her dogmatic regime. At this point of the narrative, Clair has realized that her Assisi counterpart only possesses a weak otherworldly magic, nothing compared to the power of the Latin palate. Jorge leaves and returns with a woven basket carrying bread and a strong dip made from hot peppers, coriander and garlic. Clair orders a whopping meal to finally satiate her pilgrimage, for the nacho debacle has ignited the appetite of her priestly guests.

Photo by Madd Hattere

Clair orders a chicha morado, a drink made from purple corn that had a sweet taste quickly overwhelmed in a bitter mid-tongue kick -- although previously homemade and sold by the pitcher, El Fogon now purchases bottles from Chicha Limeña in Peru. A few priests order Inca Kolas, a lightly carbonated soda that tastes of bubblegum and banana popsicles, also hailing from Peru.

Palta rellena de camarones for the appetizer: a horizontal half avocado topped with a dome of creamy potato salad, peas, carrots and tiny orbs of shrimp. A crown of parsley enshrines the avocado basking on its wide bed of lettuce. Jorge recommends a squirt of lemon to bolster the flavour.

Photo by Madd Hattere

Arroz chaufa: fingers of pork coalesced with sprouts, peas, eggs and coils of green onion within this fried rice dish. After asking Clair and the priests if they knew the difference between Chinese and Peruvian fried rice, Jorge answered: "Ours has a Latin touch, you'll see when you try it." When lemon had seeped into the mix, the uniquely Peruvian taste came into play.

Photo by Madd Hattere

Seco de carne con frijoles: the soft, deep-pink innards of the beef are soaked in succulent coriander sauce, saturated fibres willing to separate with nothing but a suggestion of the fork. A wall of potato and slats of sliced carrot created a barrier that separated the refried pinto beans from the field of rice. Green coriander sauce surged through the barrier, irrigating the rice and flowing over the viscous beans, began to float like a thin layer of foam on the surface of the sea.

And for dessert, crema vocteaoa: a raised cylinder of homemade caramel custard surrounded by three light puffs of whipped cream, garnished with two wedges of orange and a sprig of greens. Caramel sauce streamed down the sides of the dish, lapping up dots of powdered sugar scattered over the orange backdrop. A light, frothy confection.

Photo by Madd Hattere

After finishing the food, Clair studied the faces of the council responsible for her canonization. They were all smiling. They were ecstatic about dinner. Her stomach rumbled in holy bliss. She would become a saint after all. But first, she threw her arms up into the air, "Cervezas!"

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Terry Fox, Aspiring Canadian Stoic Sun, 24 Oct 2010 06:39:55 +0000 Ted Killin I am feeling extraordinarily patriotic. Earlier tonight, I joined in a robust chant of "Fox, fox, FOX." If the reader is of Canadian birth and/or upbringing and does not understand the reference above I would be appalled. On September 30th, the annual Terry Fox Run was held in schools across the nation. Terry the Tireless,

I am feeling extraordinarily patriotic. Earlier tonight, I joined in a robust chant of "Fox, fox, FOX."

If the reader is of Canadian birth and/or upbringing and does not understand the reference above I would be appalled.

On September 30th, the annual Terry Fox Run was held in schools across the nation. Terry the Tireless, he ran a marathon practically each day for 143 days on a prosthetic leg after cancer had claimed his original appendage. Terry's run inspired the nation, and millions of dollars towards cancer research are still collected under his name. In the words of one of my chanting cohorts: "He's practically the only hero we've got in Canada." Some may argue for other names such as Frederick Banting and Charles Best, the scientists responsible for isolating insulin, or perhaps a household name like Alexander Graham Bell, inventor of the telephone. Yet the most consistently mentioned, annually celebrated Canadian turned out to be Terry Fox, a young man that pushed the limits of his body to boost Canadian contributions in cancer research.

When I think of the toil Terry willing undertook, I am reminded of the Enchiridion, which translates to 'handbook' in English, a transcription of Greek philosopher Epictetus' lectures that was carried by Roman soldiers to maintain strong minds through any trial. I'll make some parallels between the ideals propounded in this text and the actions taken by Terry Fox.

The Enchiridion wants each individual to steel themself against things that are beyond their scope of influence, for these have the power to hinder the self needlessly.


"There are things which are within our power,
and there are things which are beyond our
power. Within our power are opinion, aim,
desire, aversion, and, in one word, whatever
affairs are our own. Beyond our power are body,
property, reputation, office, and, in one word,
whatever are not properly our own affairs" (1).

Investing energy too heavily in bodily concerns or the reputation one portrays cannot wholly benefit the self. When your body or reputation becomes injured, which will surely happen within your lifetime, your reaction must be perfunctory; the status of your body and reputation can too easily backfire due to events beyond your control, which can consume you in grief if your ego has not mentally prepared to lose its perceived control.  The ability to recognize the role of unalterable nature in our every day lives is an important step to take in securing strong mental health.

"One perfectly instructed [reproaches] neither others nor himself [for his own misfortunes]" (5).

Terry Fox exemplifies the ideal of dealing with misfortunes in a positive or ambivalent manner. Elevating himself beyond a disease that ravaged his body, he decided to use the last vestiges of his strength to conquer the sickness, his will to battle superseding the grief he may have felt from his lost leg. For grief has a way of petrifying its victim, creating a deep mourning that can last indefinitely. A petrified victim is a person that cannot shed a form of responsibility for external events, does not accept an autonomous view of nature. Terry did not passively lament the loss of his leg, for his past hardships did not prevent him from pursuing athletics; he was an all-star in the North American Wheelchair Basketball Association and helped the Canadian national team win three victories before his Marathon of Hope.

Although Epictetus strongly coached the Stoic to reign in his emotions, Terry was in this sense not always the perfect Stoic: he bristled at media slander, yelled at his driving companion and was visibly angry to anyone he saw impeding his run. Yet physically, Terry was every bit Stoic as any heroic historical figure.

"Sickness is an impediment to the body, but not
to the will, unless itself pleases. Lameness is an
impediment to the leg, but not to the will; and
say this to yourself with regard to everything
that happens. For you will find it to be an
impediment to something else, but not truly to
yourself" (9).

Despite deep bone bruises and constant blisters, Terry Fox trained ceaselessly for a marathon in Prince George, BC, and the emotional response he received from his participation galvanized him to tackle the girth of our wide nation. Terry had to reach a similar threshold in his Marathon: after 20 minutes of each run, he reached a level that numbed his body to the searing pain that afflicted his stumped leg. He had no time nor necessity to question the effects of the run on his body or his temperament, but instead committed his energy to the action itself. He said he would crawl every last mile to complete his run if necessary. Leaving concerns about body and reputation behind, Terry allowed his opinion on cancer-research efforts and his desire to change them guide his aim, allowing him to endure a struggle that our populace can appreciate 25 years later.

The maxim above (9) describes the limp that Epictetus suffered his entire life after enduring torture on the rack. He was later to claim, "I was never more free than when I was on the rack." This statement is often used as proof that he had mastered his Stoic attitude, acknowledging that actions beyond him often control his life. I believe that Epictetus was struck by the fact that the pain from his torture had consumed his entire conscious sphere, leaving him no room to competently question the measures being taken against him; a total freedom against the human mind that constantly quests for an answer that can explain its status in life.

While I could continue to type further parallels between the Stoic attitude and Terry, it is important to end on the note that no one can attain the perfect ideal of the Stoic. That is why Terry is an "aspiring Stoic," a person that uses each day of their life in the pursuit of an unattainable goal, realizing that they improve steadily in this pursuit. Terry never finished his run, forces beyond his control stopped him short. When lining up a task to be undertaken, it is extremely beneficial to recognize the risks you are about to confront and understand that nature has a way of upending your goal in a single swoop. Often there is no recourse that you can take, but if you allow the single event to take over your life, allow the memory of the pain to rob you of the will to undertake new action, you discredit the potential of your will. Nature is not a conscious impediment to you or anyone, but your attitude towards its proceedings is within your power to control.

And it certainly helps to have a Canadian figure that expounds these ideals into the foundation of our culture -- use the memory of Terry Fox to lead you into new experiences with a strong will that does not shy away from the inconstancy of nature.

"Do not, therefore, bring with you to the diviner either
desire or aversion, -- else you will approach him
trembling, -- but first clearly understand that
every event is indifferent, and nothing to you, of
whatever sort it may be; for it will be in your
power to make a right use of it, and this no one
can hinder" (32).

Works Cited

Epictetus, Enchiridion. 125CE.

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Cosmic Suicide and the Human Response Sun, 24 Oct 2010 06:39:54 +0000 Patrick Grant DISCLAIMER: I am normally very strongly of the opinion that songs are not necessarily indicative of the songwriter’s mental state. Art can be art without being autobiographical. Nobody assumes that Mickey Rourke is actually a struggling wrestler, thus, nobody should assume that someone who writes a crushingly sad song is actually crushingly sad. “This life

DISCLAIMER: I am normally very strongly of the opinion that songs are not necessarily indicative of the songwriter’s mental state. Art can be art without being autobiographical. Nobody assumes that Mickey Rourke is actually a struggling wrestler, thus, nobody should assume that someone who writes a crushingly sad song is actually crushingly sad.

“This life is not a prison; you are always free to go anytime.” –Kevin Barnes, Of Montreal

This month, I came up with the thoroughly original idea of writing about musician suicide. There are the obvious examples: Elliott Smith, Kurt Cobain, Ian Curtis. In each case, their music seems to take on new significance in light of the fact that they proved themselves legitimate: their depression, previously manifest in their musical output (and thus related to by legions of fans) finally became so intense that it made the unknown worth checking out by checking out of life.

In the case of the three artists mentioned above, their death proved their artistic message to be sincere; death proved they weren’t full of shit. Would this be true in the case of an artist whose music isn’t commonly associated with depression? Allow me to vamp: What if John Lennon had killed himself? Would his sales still be as large if he so publicly disavowed his own message of simple-hearted peace, love and understanding? Though I’ve never fully bought the loving message associated with the Beatles, and though “A Day in the Life” is almost certainly about suicide (among other things), it seems to me that people would blame him for his lack of faith in himself given that they treat him like a Messianic figure. Instead, he was gunned down to atone for the sins of all of us, or something equally glib.

With all of this in consideration, I’d like to talk about Chris Bell. Bell, a founding member of Big Star, co-wrote all of #1 Record and a couple of songs on Radio City. He grappled with clinical depression for much of his life and had what his biographers (namely his brother, in the liner notes of Bell’s reissued solo record I am the Cosmos) would have people believe was a brief stint with heroin. His death is one of those rock star toss-ups: did Hendrix or Bonham mean to overdose? Did Dennis Wilson or Jeff Buckley mean to drown themselves? Are these just freak accidents that happen to people who are depressed and all fucked up on booze/drugs or is there a greater agency behind them?

Whatever the case may be, Bell lost control of his cool little sports car in the middle of the night and smashed into a telephone pole. He died instantly.

For the purposes of this article, I’d like to assume that it was on purpose, which is insensitive, I know, but just give me a second here. Consider these lyrics:

“Every night I tell myself,

‘I am the cosmos, I am the wind’

But that don’t get you back again

Just when I was starting to feel okay

You’re on the phone

I never wanna be alone.”

The implications of asserting one’s cosmic composition in order to soothe depression are pretty far reaching: there’s nothing to be anxious about, you’re just particles. But in being just particles, in the same breath, you’re everything. You are never alone because you are existence itself. In light of this worldview, suicide isn’t a depressing or selfish option. It’s just a reshuffling of one’s constituent elements in order to exist in a way that doesn’t hurt anymore. The awareness of death as a valid option, which it is for all of us, is an assertion of freedom, not an assertion of submission. We are the cosmos:

“My feelings have always been

something I couldn’t hide

I can confide

Don’t know what’s going on inside.”

Snoot: “So true it is that even the feelings apparently most associated with the individual’s personal temperament depend of causes greater than himself! Our very egoism is in large part a product of society” (Durkheim, Suicide 360).

Conversely, in the case of people who produce lasting statements (artists, I guess) are elevated in our culture to a level of an egoistic feedback loop. The second excerpt of lyrics posted above pretty much describes simplistic alienated honest-but-almost-immature feelings in an eloquent way. What I am doing right now, in this article, is asserting my own egoism on the idea I have of Chris Bell as an individual, a creative force of the past (though only a blip on the historical radar). This is pretty much what we do with one another every day, so when someone decides that the world is too much, or not enough, we feel their absence and question our own choices. It’s as if we feel the particles reshuffling. The difference with Chris Bell or any artist (or public figure or athlete or pop culture internet icon in our culture) is that they willfully participate in an exchange for snapshots of their egoism, thus defining ours if we choose to accept it as valid, or more, as a part of our identity.

To oversimplify, I basically just said that we only feel things because we feel things, and we get angry when other people acknowledge the fact that there might be more than feeling nothing after we eliminate the vessel which makes us feel things! It’s a bit of a heaven vs. no heaven argument. The truth is that there is obviously more after-the-fact because here I am reading about Chris Bell and writing about Chris Bell long after he maybe committed suicide. The particle in the social cosmos that is I am the Cosmos has been shuffled around and redescribed so often that it’s impossible to assert that Chris Bell is gone because he is dead. We still feel the gravity and beauty of his music when we listen to it and while we can’t directly feel another person’s feelings, we seek cathartic release from the music that was produced by the feelings. There’s really nothing else to do except to listen and learn and maybe create something to add your card to the deck. Or even if you don’t, you really can’t help but add your card to the deck. We all just get reshuffled and constitute each other in different ways again whether it be through our families or our jobs or any imprint we leave on anyone ever.

I’m not sure I believe the Kevin Barnes quote I began this article with anymore. Maybe this life is not a prison, but it doesn’t seem that we’re free to go because we’re just in a massive cosmic recycling plant. I guess these artists just take the bins out for us.

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NERDVENTURES: Famous Monsters Sun, 24 Oct 2010 06:39:53 +0000 King Frankenstein In the air above, in the sea below, embedded in history and under your bed. Since the campfire was first ignited, monsters have given the word 'haunt' reason, acting as figures of lore that permanently lurk within the shadows and unknown. They've inspired us, and they've inspired those that inspire others. But what is in

In the air above, in the sea below, embedded in history and under your bed. Since the campfire was first ignited, monsters have given the word 'haunt' reason, acting as figures of lore that permanently lurk within the shadows and unknown. They've inspired us, and they've inspired those that inspire others. But what is in a monster? For something that 'does not exist' it raises questions about how, not only the concept managed to litter about global cultural history, but even the same archetypes for some beasts seem ever the globetrotters. Why so many ape-men? Why so many sea monsters? Why so many horses-with-additional-appendages-that-horses-typically-do-not-have? Why all the dragon tattoos? Word travels quickly, sure, but tales of these critters seem more infectious than history's most dastardly plagues. But then again, I guess that's how they earn myths and legend status in the first place.

“Does anybody know what a myth is?” Asks a representative of the Ontario Science Centre. A boy in an orange hoodie, a student of Blessed John XXIII, waves his hand about the air. “It’s a nicer way of saying fake” says the boy, the audience now chuckling and I rolling my eye about just how adorable that passing moment was. Probably the most adorable moment experienced in front of a large fog emitting dragon mock up. At least that I can remember. The kids from Blessed John XXIII are, from what I gather, test subjects for the Science Centre’s new exhibit on mythical creatures. You may have caught glimpse of the Centre’s immensely successful unicorn viral, which while meant for the local affair caught attention abroad (or ‘ablog’.) I was invited for a preview of the exhibit, and what I discovered rewarded me with more than just swag-bag Silly Bandz.


It had actually been a few years since I stepped back into the Science Centre. It was certainly one of my favourite childhood haunts, an intensely more interactive experience for a hands on whippersnapper than the ROM or the Zoo. The Centre has seen some work done, the building’s design will ring familiar but the innards have had some extravagant retooling. I’m proud to say is that the changes that I saw were bothvery  well executed and inoffensive to my precious nostalgia. The Science Centre always made me excited, and even memories of its quieter days strike me with warm feelings. This effect clearly hasn’t worn off, because the children of Blessed John are bouncing in their seats, and we’re just sitting in an entry room with a craft table, podium, a dozen end-of-Raiders looking unopened crates for the upcoming whales exhibit and, well, okay, a big dragon. The speaker promises this exhibit will be the Centre’s most interesting yet. And that’s a bold statement because I remember one Universal Islands of Adventure feature that held me in the palm of its hand.

“This exhibit provides us with a rare opportunity to present the history of science itself.” Science Centre's Vice President and Chief Science Officer, Hooley McLaughlin told me, “In the early days when explorers were traveling through the world, they came back with stories of fabulous beasts and they tended to have some similarities throughout most parts of the world. What this exhibition does is it talks about what I would consider the obvious. People have discovered things like dinosaur bones in early days, of course it was the earliest stages of discovery and the understanding of the history of the natural world was fledgling.”

And that’s just the thing, isn’t it reader? What’s science without imagination? What’s muscling to the abyss without discovering some unforeseen sea creature? What’s the call of space without the bait of some magnificent beyonder above? Back before humanity was such a know-it-all, there was plenty left to know and plenty of ways to misinterpreted them. I’ve always enjoyed monsters for their extraordinary nature and social implications, but even the most grimacing beast have humble beginnings. Cases are presented throughout the exhibit. Divided by land, sea and air, the gallery explores not only the history of these beastly realms, but what social/scientific environments were needed to breed them.


Upon entry, you meet the kraken. When not being released by Liam Neeson, this conventionally reptilian sea dweller was known to sink ships like it had a quota to fill. But this was an age when there were plenty of ships, and even more ways for them to go under. While there is a mock up of the fantasized monster, just right of it is an encased display. Motorized it shows you an example of how closely a family of whales weaving through the violent waves of a storm resemble the extended strong-arm of an unfathomable creature from fathoms below.

“The fact that dragons were conjured up from many different places, which of course stirred the imagination of people and became quite exaggerated at times, never the less, there’s a relationship. Not just between cultures but a relationship to the evidence. You’ve got the evidence of narwhale tusks, lending credibility to unicorns, manatees to mermaids. Not so crazy when you think it through.”

'Not so crazy', it's an argument easily proven throughout the exhibit. While the thought that a manatee is the origin of the mermaid resonates badly with some of your more secret fantasies, a scale model of the dugong does in fact prove that, when squinting, it has some flattering features. A large majestic display of what your gut will tell you is Big Foot is actually a diorama of gigantopithecus, a long extinct ape whose bones were discovered in Asia and is not such a far cry to assume the true inspiration for Harry and the Hendersons. I remember a lecture in my gothic lit class where the prof explained that in origin vampires and werewolve's were just what peasants would describe after encountering mad lepers in the woods. It’s an experiment you don’t need to travel far to experience. Heck, let’s do it right now. Think that the chupacabra, the creepy Latin American critter of lore can be nothing but a goat-blood sucking fiend from beyond? Nothing but? Google ‘world’s ugliest dog’ and get back to me.


“There is some truth to these myths. They had some evidence, they saw bones, the bones were staring them in the face, it stirred the imagination in a really fundamental way. It goes beyond anything we’re capable of thinking of. Who knows what’s out there?!”

Like I had mentioned before, what I always adored about the Science Centre is how shamelessly it would embrace the aggressive curiosity of a child. While many of the more extravagant displays were off reach to hands, there were plenty others to wrap your palms around and clash about, learning everything or nothing, having fun all the same. Among the clattering and flipping of edutainment, I heard a kid enthusiastically scream ‘GODZILLA’ out of the sheer enjoyment of monsters abound. In the dragon’s den, the final section of the exhibit, there’s a dragon aquarium, which lets kids customize their own legendary winged serpent and then release it into an ongoing virtual pen. The displays you can’t harass make it well worth to be seen and not touched. Items and artefacts from European to Asian cultures, showing the history and evolution of this figures will spark the most basic human interest. A lavish and explosively colourful Barong Ket suddenly makes the horse with the horn across the room feel more feasible.

But monsters aren’t done with us, and we’re far from being done with them. We may have debunked sasquatch a hundred times over, but photos of the Mothman still keep Point Pleasant an eerie tourist destination and kids are still daring each other to say ‘Bloody Mary’ in front of the mirror three times. It doesn’t matter how real anything is, the world has no shortage of oddities, and the human imagination is only more infinite.


Before I left, I asked McLaughlin if in a far distant future, historians will be examining our Pokémon dolls trying to piece together the ethics of our civilization. “I think you are probably right, and I have to ask a question. Isn’t this just our own extravagant mythology? When you talk about these toys and characters we create, Ninja Turtles and the like, are they not the embodiment of our belief in the power of strange creatures? We embody them in the shape of fabulous animals, and we associate ourselves with them, we care about our relationships with these imaginary things. There’s nothing wrong with it, the stimulation of curiosity, the excitement that we get around the imaginary creatures is part of the way we think. It’s all just based on real knowledge, just slightly fantastical.”

Frankly I don’t care if there is some otherworldly thing is lurking in the dark. Even if these beasts aren’t real, they exist. They are trophies to our imagination, a triumph of culture’s freakiest nights. And at the end of the day, they’ll be on someone’s tee-shirt.

The exhibit opened to the public last weekend, details and tickets can be found at

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The Power of Print Sun, 24 Oct 2010 06:39:53 +0000 Erika Szabo [The poster] is a means of communication between the seller and the public - somewhat like a telegraph. The poster artist is like a telephone operator; he does not draft messages, he dispatches them. No one asks him what he thinks; all he is asked to do is to communicate clearly, powerfully and precisely. A.M.


[The poster] is a means of communication between the seller and the public - somewhat like a telegraph. The poster artist is like a telephone operator; he does not draft messages, he dispatches them. No one asks him what he thinks; all he is asked to do is to communicate clearly, powerfully and precisely.



Telegramme Prints & Custom Framing (est. 2006), with a new, second location on Lower Ossington, is a one-stop shop for all things art, framing, posters and printing. Without a doubt, it's the premier store for prints and custom framing in Toronto. The staff are friendly and knowledgeable, the art is original and beautiful and the framing options are varied, high quality and look great.

What sets Telegramme apart from other poster venders is that most of the pieces are either lithographs, fine art posters, screenprints, film posters and gig poster for art rental. In addition, all lithographs are numbered sequentially and each come with a certificate of authenticity. It's safe to say you won't find prints like these for sale anywhere else in Canada.

Inside their new store on Ossington, the walls display only a small selection of the art available. They've clearly chosen a careful selection for in-store that demonstrates the different options available to shoppers. Whether it be works by Shepard Ferey (the genius behind OBEY), 1960-70s Cuban film poster art or the iconic Ork Toronto prints by artist Jenny Beokram you'll be sure to find just what you're looking for.


If you're looking for something not available in the store don't fret. Luckily, Telegramme also includes the complete online catalogue in handy, readable colour print-outs making sure that you get to see exactly what they have available and you are able to select the piece that would be best for your home.

Telegramme has supplied artwork to many film and television productions, and has also outfitted a number of corporate clients (i.e. North York General Hospital, Herman Miller, Time Life / Sports Illustrated, Upcountry, etc.) with tonnes of artwork and custom framing and/or mounting services.

Their custom framing services include plaque mounting, canvas stretching, as well as custom jobs. In addition, they also provide restoration, installation and rental services. Telegramme uses conservation framing materials and methods. Plus, their top quality materials are sourced from the best frame suppliers in North America. Prices vary because they offer every type of frame and matte available, as well as custom depending on the size of the piece. They will also frame pretty much anything you bring into the store, not just their own pieces.


Purchases can be made online or in person at Telegramme's two retail locations - 1103 Queen East and 194 Ossington Ave. - but the real collection is online. There you can also order gift certificates, create a wedding registry or just browse the entire collection.

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Weird News: Gobias Industries Sun, 24 Oct 2010 06:39:52 +0000 Nancy Situ Even though I was essentially born a jaded 40-year-old woman, I have always been terrified of growing up. I hate having responsibilities, a job. Anything entertaining or enjoyable is ruined by an obligation to abide by time and quality restraints. I’d love school if nothing was graded and I could hand in stuff whenever I

Even though I was essentially born a jaded 40-year-old woman, I have always been terrified of growing up. I hate having responsibilities, a job. Anything entertaining or enjoyable is ruined by an obligation to abide by time and quality restraints. I’d love school if nothing was graded and I could hand in stuff whenever I wanted to. Although if that were the case, I would probably never submit anything.

But I’d rather get degree after degree than have to find a real job. I don’t think I’ve had one job interview where I wasn’t acting incredibly awkward. I’m pretty sure the interviewers thought I was an alien who was taught social skills by someone with Asperger’s. Apparently, some interviewers will actually use lie detectors (maybe not to check for outer space aliens) which I think is borderline psychological torture. I hope everyone knows that those things are about as reliable as my grandfather’s hearing. A guy applying for the State Control department in Washington knew that he had to undergo the polygraph and bought a book entitled “How to Beat the Lie Detector.” That’s pretty smart, I guess. What was not very smart was leaving the book in plain view in the car that he drove to his interview and parking next to a State Patrol employee who reported her finding. It cost him the job.

If you’re really lucky and/or talented, you can get a cool job like 'rock star' or 'interpretative dancer.' Those jobs are good because if you fuck up, it just adds to your street cred. I’m pretty sure people pay Amy Winehouse extra if she ends up puking on stage. When normal people act out wacky antics on the job, they just got fired. When bands do it, its evidence that they’re 'edgy' and 'innovative.' And sometimes 'arrested.' This band called Imperial Stars (which sounds like a restaurant my parents took me to for dinner and karaoke) decided to pull a stunt and block all but one lane of a busy freeway with a large truck. They were playing their song “Traffic Jam 101” atop the truck. The California Highway Patrol arrested three of them and the guy driving the truck fled.

I guess if you can’t get a cool job and you don’t want to go through the strenuous regular-people-employment-process, you can always fight the man and become a criminal. The movies make it seem so cool. Hell yeah, I’ll rob some casinos with Matt Damon. You just have to make sure that you get all the steps right. For example, to disguise yourself, use something breathable like a stocking or a gas mask, not something that even 5-year-olds know not to put over their heads. A Phoenix robber hit a convenience store while wearing a plastic bag on his head. He started suffocating and had to rip open the bag, revealing his face to everyone there as well as the security cameras.


Sometimes, even if you get everything right and manage to become the owner of a successful company, it ends up biting you in the ass. Just ask Jim Heselden, the British businessman who bought Segway (you know, those things that Gob is always awkwardly manoeuvring). Oh wait, you can’t because he died when he rode a Segway scooter off a cliff and into a river. You win again, Irony.


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As Toronto Holds Its Breath Collectively Sun, 24 Oct 2010 06:39:52 +0000 C.S. Folkers As of the date of publishing for this issue of Steel Bananas (October 15), there are ten days remaining until Election Day. During those ten fearful, fearful notches on the calendar, while all sensible Torontonians will be holding their collective breath in terrified anticipation, it is truly anyone’s guess what asinine shenanigans our esteemed mayoral

As of the date of publishing for this issue of Steel Bananas (October 15), there are ten days remaining until Election Day. During those ten fearful, fearful notches on the calendar, while all sensible Torontonians will be holding their collective breath in terrified anticipation, it is truly anyone’s guess what asinine shenanigans our esteemed mayoral candidates will conjure up for the restless circus audience they assume the electorate to be.

If we can expect anything at all from the pathetic spectacle we are all but guaranteed to receive, we can expect both a fair amount of drama and a fair amount of the same tedious nonsense that has characterized this nerve-wracking and perpetually problematic campaign. A lot has happened since our last issue on the general outrage that is the 2010 Toronto Municipal Election: both Sarah Thomson and Rocco Rossi have thrown in the towel, Rob Ford is now officially facing a lawsuit for libel, and a great many people have jumped on the Anyone-but-Ford bandwagon that has since breathed new life into George Smitherman’s bid for the big office (including, before he officially withdrew, several of Rocco Rossi’s campaign organizers).

Photo Courtesy of the National Post

Photo Courtesy of the National Post

At the same time, however – up until a couple of days ago anyway – what we have been treated to in the past month has been little more than the same petty squabbling, extravagant yet empty campaign stunts and general incompetence that has marked this contest as the sorriest excuse for a political race that I have ever witnessed. What an age we live in.

A big checkmark in the “glimmer of hope” column is the fact that Rob Ford’s iron grip on the electorate has been loosened more than slightly by burgeoning anti-Ford sentiments and he is now fighting a neck and neck race for the prize with Smitherman. Sure enough, people have really started to get the picture that Big Red Rob will become mayor unless his detractors pick and stick with a non-Ford option – and that dubious honour has naturally fallen upon George Smitherman. While, as I had mentioned in my last article, I’m not particularly crazy about George Smitherman as a candidate, I myself have jumped on the “could-be-worse” train. Because, and let’s be honest here, things would be so much worse. Smitherman’s reign as mayor would no doubt be mostly unremarkable, but on the other hand, at least it would almost certainly be stable. Honestly, at this point “stable” is much more appealing than the inevitable purgatorial calamity that would otherwise be in store for our fair city.

Up until recently, both Rocco Rossi and Joe Pantalone were not on board with this notion. Fortunately, however, at Rocco Rossi’s Fantasy Fun Land Where The Fun Never Ends, the fun officially ended. Rossi indignantly threw in the towel Wednesday evening after pulling in an embarrassing four per cent in the most recent Ipsos-Reid poll.

Rossi who was no doubt hoping that Sara Thomson’s withdrawal from the race would be a surefire boost to his own numbers, probably found to his great surprise that in this case, voters are only concerned with one thing: Rob Ford. This election is one hundred per cent a battle of Ford vs. Not-Ford, and Rossi just never had the clout to be Not-Ford. Over the course of Rossi’s ten-month campaign, he was very rarely able to poll over ten per cent and while he did accrue many seemingly devoted followers, he failed to develop a strong rapport with the electorate.

It could very easily be argued that Rossi’s demise is a direct product of the Ford vs. Not-Ford direction that this campaign has taken and that in a less divisive race, he might have stood a better chance. Perhaps. Or, perhaps ludicrous stunts like his now infamous Tunnel idea or those awful posters left a bad taste in people’s mouths.

To give the man credit, though, he did in the last week or so of his doomed bid actually shape himself into a legitimate candidate, rather than a laughable fringe bid with money to burn. Not that I would have ever actually voted for him, but he managed to become infinitely more serious, avoiding extravagant, attention-grabbing stunts and blathering about career politicians. No, Rocco appeared to be a new, slightly more tolerable man. His recently launched financial plan was actually coherent and reasonable (albeit, far from visionary) and while I still think he doesn’t actually know what he’s talking about most of time, he did at least seem to have gained a lot of composure and tact as far as his public appearances were going.

That said it remains to be seen whether Rocco’s bowing out of the race will have any impact on the outcome of the Ford vs. Not-Ford spectacular. Will it be a flash in the pan, or will his piddling four per cent somehow make the difference between Ford’s House of Savings and the Collective Sigh of Relief? Thus marks the end of Rocco “Too Little Too Late” Rossi. Perhaps we’ll meet him again someday.

As for Joe Pantalone, things are a little bit more problematic. Problematic in the sense that Pantalone is actually a competent candidate that would probably make a pretty good mayor. The sad truth of the matter is that he is very unlikely to win, not because people don’t like him, but because he will never be able to reconcile voters that want to see Ford defeated as ignominiously as possible and people who want to see David Miller tarred and feathered. The reasoning behind this statement has been pointed out again and again: Joe Pantalone is David Miller.

That said, I am a supporter of David Miller. Thus, by default, I am a supporter of Joe Pantalone. I think that Pantalone is a fine city councilor and, again, may have made a pretty decent mayor. However, I do think that it is safe to say that Mr. Small Wonder’s Stay-the-Course platform has failed to strike a chord with the electorate. Which is really a shame because Pantalone – as has been addressed many times in the press – is the only candidate left that actually seems to like Toronto. All of the other candidates, both active and withdrawn, are all apparently under the impression that Toronto is a dreary, uninhabitable wasteland that can only be made safe for people by the good graces of their brilliantly convoluted campaign schemes.

Pantalone on the other hand (bless him) thinks everything is just dandy around these parts – and good on him, because for the most part I think so too - and that is why he cannot win. Pantalone’s sunny, everything’s-gonna-be-alright-so-let’s-do-the-Transit-City-mambo tune is doomed to be drowned out by the extremely loud, angry and bitter dirge of Ford’s the-city-is-broken-so-let’s-fix-it-with-savings routine. Anti-Miller sentiment is too strong in the suburbs for him to combat and he’s got very little ground to gain.

There is no need to go into great detail (again) on the myriad shortcomings of Rob Ford’s character because every publication in town including this one has run multiple stories revolving around that very theme. I’m sure you’ve read at least a dozen of them by now. We all understand that Ford’s a blathering idiot who would destroy the city, but for the fact that in order to do so he would have to have the collected support of city council on his side – something he can’t and won’t achieve. Thus, we can now equate four years of Ford with four years of stagnancy. Hurrah. I’m not terribly concerned with Rob Ford driving the city into the ground because the mayor’s vote only counts the same as every other councilor and Ford’s track record clearly illustrates a total unwillingness to work productively with anyone regardless of political affiliation. That said, some progress is always better than no progress.

Not-Ford ahoy!

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Pop Music For the Sake of Pop Music Sun, 24 Oct 2010 06:39:51 +0000 Dennis Reynolds Okay. I’ll admit. I have a bit of a problem. It happens the same way every time. I read about an album I think I’ll dig. I buy it. Before I know it, I’m face down in a dusty record bin looking for an obscure, universally panned late-period Beach Boys record on CD. I tend

Okay. I’ll admit. I have a bit of a problem. It happens the same way every time. I read about an album I think I’ll dig. I buy it. Before I know it, I’m face down in a dusty record bin looking for an obscure, universally panned late-period Beach Boys record on CD. I tend to exercise my appreciation for artists in the form of an all-encompassing obsession. It’s either because I’m as fascinated by the career trajectory of an artist as I am with the music itself, or, I’m just an obsessive-compulsive music fan. I don’t care either way, because the Beach Boys’ 15 Big Ones has a simply irresistible, although massively unnecessary, cover version of “Just Once in My Life,” one of the finest tunes ever written if I do say so myself.

Of course, being this addicted to music manifests itself in some pretty unexpected credentials. For instance, I’m now fully qualified to discuss the overall merit and artistic progression of Bruce Springsteen, The Who and Neil Young among others. Actually, this technically isn’t true. Though I’d like Neil to be on this list, my mission to acquire Neil’s entire catalog has effectively been put on hold due to my inability to decide whether or not Trans is worth purchasing.

Currently, I’ve been on a hot pursuit to acquire the entirety of the Kinks “relevant period” which I think spans from 1964 to somewhere between 1975 and 1977. The Kinks were a strange breed of popular band. Technically, their most famous songs (“Lola” released in 1970; “You Really Got Me” and “All Day and All of the Night,” both released in 1964) bookend their most artistically fertile period in which their most forward-thinking and critically praised albums were released (1968’s 1970’s The Kinks are the Village Green Preservation Society, 1969’s Arthur (Or the Decline and Fall of the British Empire) and 1970’s Lola Versus Powerman and the Moneygoround Part One).


The song “Lola” is a particular shining spot in Davies’ catalogue: a self-conscious, deliberately contrary and remarkably radio-friendly hit single. “Lola” shares the album’s affinity for tongue-in-cheek and sometimes ribald humor. Though the song “Lola” documents the foibles of a relationship between man and transvestite, Lola the album is actually a full-length narrative about the absurdity of the record industry’s measures of success; the narrative is a little loose, but “Lola” the song appears to function as the album’s fictional band’s first number one hit. If this was actually Davies’ intention, the irony that “Lola” became a massive hit must have been striking. While Lola was Davies’ most outright critique of contemporary industry practices, it’s songs remained within the structures of the industry’s pop format. Davies’ goal was never nihilistic. Rather, his music emancipated pop from its commercial restrictions (see: the Monkees) and its artistic pursuit of gaining acceptance in highbrow culture (The Beatles). They were neither striving to maintain the status quo, nor were they spearheading a movement to undermine it. Essentially, they made pop music for the sake of pop music.

The notion of ‘pop music for the sake of pop music’ unconsciously removes the model of an audience based on specific cultural and market qualities, though it still employs a format designed for quick, mass consumption; it engineers itself in these specific ways to mobilize a classless ideal that solidifies pop as an autonomous art form. The elimination of class divisions continues to be a relevant pursuit of musicians striving to deconstruct preconceived notions of popularity and appeal. It is especially evident in the work of composers of the ‘totalist’ movement in the 1980s and 90s whose compositions drew on all sorts of styles, conventions and lyrical traditions as a means of eliminating any perceived class divisions created by genres. A notable figure in this movement, Mikel Rouse, premiered his ‘totalist’ opera Dennis Cleveland in 1996. Rouse figured he could remove opera’s highbrow reputation by constructing a sort of pop culture-friendly talk-show opera starring fictional talk show host Dennis Cleveland, played by Rouse. In addition to the genre shape shifting, the sets included video monitors, bright lights and the sorts of kitschy things typically associated with talk TV.

Rouse’s pursuit is for middlebrow salvation, free from the elitist constraints typically associated with highbrow opera. Yet, attempting to eradicate class divisions by stuffing an opera full of ‘popular’ genres and styles is gluttonous and even naïve. Dennis Cleveland remains an opera in format, albeit one that desperately stresses the lack of formal relationship to its content and its traditional association with highbrow opera connoisseurs. In his article on Music and Musical Practices in Postmodernity, Timothy D. Taylor writes:

In a world in which everything is available in commodity form as never before, the crucial question is: Available to whom? Mikel Rouse and other middle-class musicians are, in a sense, dabblers: playing with juxtaposed sounds and fragmented identities in ways that we might be able to call postmodern in terms of style, but at the end of the day, safe as moderns in their stable subject positions (112).

The difficulty with Rouse’s pursuit of classless mass appeal is that in its integration of the conditions of postmodern accessibility, it comes off as condescending. Sure, in postmodern society we do have access to all kinds of art, music and culture, but this does not mean audiences need to be privy to everything in order to grasp the work’s postmodern pursuit of a classless ideal. If anything, the lack of subtlety discounts the intellectual capacity of the audience, as it assumes that we know nothing about anything and that highbrow art should boast its ability to teach us everything.

Our inability to grasp everything is not based on intellectual shortcomings, but an inability to navigate through the proliferation of diverging voices in contemporary society. As Taylor makes known, Rouse’s pursuit of postmodern clarity ends up coming off as a collection of stable modernisms. The talk show set, the bright lights, the variety of musical styles: these are established, easily identifiable elements of popular culture uniting under a deliberately unrelated format. The end product is a surprising, but entirely decipherable collection of cultural elements that exist in calculated harmony rather than a cacophonous clash. Though its stability in a middlebrow ideal remains intact, it says nothing about why this culture exists, or even how the existence of this new classless, postmodern mega-culture should cope with new art attempting to incorporate everything under pop culture’s roof.

While Rouse’s ‘totalist’ theory adequately outlines contemporary art’s postmodern obstacles, it ultimately discounts how aspects of culture, or more specifically ‘pop music for the sake of pop music,’ continues to reinvent itself according to its own set of guidelines. Certainly, pop culture should be classless and unifying, but this does not mean it must surrender itself to gross postmodern reconstruction, as it does with Dennis Cleveland. If nothing else, Ray Davies’ Village Green, his British Empire, and his Moneygoround all seem to posit the same thing: that we can invest in a stable past, rather than succumb to the inevitability of conflicted memories constructing our future.

A band like Deerhunter functions on this same platform. Their most recent release, Halcyon Digest (released September 28 on 4AD) is full of unapologetic hooks and bursting-at-the-seams three-minute pop tunes. By the same token, these songs also exercise a penchant for indecipherable vocals and fuzzy, incomprehensible instrumental lines. It’s deliberately inaccessible accessible music. Though they’ve dressed the record up in foreign sounds, Deerhunter use their stable footing in the pop song to negotiate how a proliferation of postmodern voices may obscure the product, but can never fully undermine it. Even though it’s only their third official LP, here I am again, deciding whether or not I should purchase their whole catalogue on vinyl or CD.

Works Cited

Postmodern Music / Postmodern Thought. Joseph Henry Auner, Judith Irene Lochhead. Routledge 2002.

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The Theatre of Sport: Immediacy and the Art of the Body Sun, 24 Oct 2010 06:39:50 +0000 Colin Fallowfield As a professor of mine once blithely stated, there are only three things that need to occur for an act of theatre to exist: someone, someone doing something to someone else, and someone watching. That is the basis of all theatre, of all life, if one considers. Variety exists in the tone, mood, setting, character,

As a professor of mine once blithely stated, there are only three things that need to occur for an act of theatre to exist: someone, someone doing something to someone else, and someone watching. That is the basis of all theatre, of all life, if one considers. Variety exists in the tone, mood, setting, character, genre; the dressing of the dish, if you will. But the meat and potatoes, the bare bones of it all, is action. With the baseball post-season coming to a head, football season well underway and hockey season just kicking off, I offer you the hypothesis that sport is one of the greatest acts of theatre one can engage in.

As far back as the history of civilization stretches, there have existed both theatre and sport. Both feature spectators, performers, action, drama, tension and resolution. Both are corporeal exercises. One is considered contest, the other art. But there is considerable art in sport, just as there is considerable competition in theatre.


Bottom of the 9th; 1 out; 2 runners on base; 2 points down. Joe Carter hit a monster home run that night, winning the Toronto Blue Jays their 2nd consecutive World Series title, and a nation rose to its feet. The jubilation of that monumental event, I would wager, rivals the ecstasy the Ancient Greeks experienced after watching gruesome acts in their ancient amphitheatres. For the 50 000 some-odd people watching live at the SkyDome and for the millions of people watching across the country, it was a moment that could have only existed once. History in the making, if you will.

Possibilities of endless replays, opportunities to ‘re-live’ the event are, in essence, empty. For those watching, no replay could ever match the pure emotional state of watching that ball sail over the left-field wall and into the crowd for the first time.

Seeing a piece of theatre for the first time has a similar effect, except for the nagging thought in the back of the spectator’s mind that weeks of rehearsal went into the performance, and that something very much like it has existed before and will exist again. While it is true that no two shows are ever the exact same, I would argue that the immediacy of the event is much more prevalent in sport. While adhering to the same rules and guidelines, each game is entirely unique in every way imaginable.

The ever-increasing popularity of sport and the declining popularity of theatre (and art in general) is a phenomenon that incorporates many factors: corporate sponsorship, regional and national pride, speed, excitement. But at its core it is the once-in-a-lifetime nature of sport that appeals to the general populace, the ability to say, “I was there when…” Does anyone know where they were when, say, ‘Cats’ opened on Broadway? Or when ‘Wicked’ won all of those Tonys? But ask someone over 40 where they were when Paul Henderson scored against the Russians in Game 8 in ’72, they will damn well tell you.

How else can one explain a team like the Toronto Maple Leafs, with a continuous losing record, a five-year playoff drought and the longest streak of championship-free seasons by a previous winner in pro sports history? How can they still sell out every home game of every season? Are Toronto hockey fans just idiots? While I am inclined to say yes (and I’m one of them), it goes far deeper. With hockey being such a huge part of our current determined national cultural identity as Canadians, and with Toronto being an Original Six team in a hockey-focused town, how can we not support our Leafs? Of course, behind the veneer of sell-out crowds lie the corporate seats which account for a vast percentage of ticket purchases at Toronto hockey games, for which the ass in the seat rarely shells out any dough. Maybe we would see this level of corporate and public interest if the arts were as much a part of the Canadian identity as hockey is.

Any live event that can arouse the kind of passion in a populace that competitive sport does deserves to at least be called drama, if not theatre. The immediacy of the event, the unprecedented nature, the spontaneity of it is certainly the stuff of the best kind of theatre. If only the Canadian theatre could acquire some of the stuff of sport, perhaps there would be greater support for the arts in our country. But hey, we can’t all be the Leafs.

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This is the Thing, Well, it’s Almost the Thing… I Think. Sun, 24 Oct 2010 06:39:50 +0000 Sarah Beaudin We’re surrounded by one-man shows. Episodes of self-involvement have always plagued Toronto, and in election time it is especially present. Although a team of people are behind the political campaigns and speeches, it’s only ever one man we are drawn to. It is always just one man that the audience subjects itself to and we

We’re surrounded by one-man shows. Episodes of self-involvement have always plagued Toronto, and in election time it is especially present. Although a team of people are behind the political campaigns and speeches, it’s only ever one man we are drawn to. It is always just one man that the audience subjects itself to and we expect him to teach us, to lead us, and of course, to entertain us. But I’ll start with a candid admission: I’m not a fan of the one-man show. It tends to be story-less, masturbatory, and I can’t help but feel I’m paying good money simply to support someone else’s therapy. Jeff Jones’ latest show This is the Thing is no different… but it is… it’s surprisingly good. This stuttering, rambling story of one man’s struggle to understand his own life is strangely appealing.

It’s Charcoal Sketch’s second run of the show since it premiered in the 2009 Toronto Fringe Festival. Directed once again by Megan Pooley, This is the Thing proves there is a life after Fringe. It also proves that dirty jokes have their uses. Like all one-man shows, it draws on timeless clichés, like the reliance on shock value, the gimmick of playing an instrument on stage, and moments of over-dramatic physical theatre. But somehow that doesn’t make it bad.


It’s certainly not the best written show, but what it lacks in suave dialogue it makes up for in heart. Instead of using flowery language, Jones explores the appeal of using colloquial terms and a more natural presentation. Its not that it’s dumbed down, it’s just more accessible, which is important when you’re tackling intangible philosophy. His mantra, “It can’t be. It is. It makes no sense. It does,” is repeated constantly throughout the show. It’s a stilted and simple thought that applies to most complexities in life. And it makes sense: it isn’t a mantra, and it can’t quite be the soul basis of a play…

And yet it is. Through emotional connection instead of verbal intellect, Jones expresses the inexpressible. The “thing” is such a genuine way of describing the indescribable. It sounds cheesy, and it is… but it’s also true.

Jones has been compared to Daniel McIvor, and though he’s a far cry from McIvor’s twisted genius, he’s onto something. That’s the thing, like the title itself, he’s grasping something but never quite getting there. Tackling the ever elusive concepts of Truth and Beauty, Jones brings a fresh perspective to the ideas of human connection.

The whole show seems to be taking theatre in a newer, more honest direction. Jones is helping to take theatre out off the stage and into the heart; making it accessible for an audience too caught up in their own problems to dwell on irrelevant philosophies. For better or worse Jones takes theatre down a few pegs, removing the stigma of “fine” or “high” art and making it just about connection. A sharing of half-formed ideas, because maybe intention counts more than the production.

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Why Be A Sheep When You Can Be A Bison Sun, 24 Oct 2010 06:39:47 +0000 Girlofbirthday It has been eight years and counting for Nokomis. That’s a true mark of fashion retail success, especially for an independent women’s clothing store on Edmonton's Whyte Avenue. Showcasing an exclusive collection of clothing and product by Canadian designers, Nokomis was one of the first of its kind in Edmonton to offer unique clothing that’s

It has been eight years and counting for Nokomis. That’s a true mark of fashion retail success, especially for an independent women’s clothing store on Edmonton's Whyte Avenue. Showcasing an exclusive collection of clothing and product by Canadian designers, Nokomis was one of the first of its kind in Edmonton to offer unique clothing that’s not internationally outsourced, especially in a city famous for its big mall. Canada has seen a growth in its own fashion industry, evident in the large crop of young students interested in attending design schools and fashion colleges in the last few years. However, as the recession drags on longer and longer, the outlook of long-term financial success for young companies appears more and more bleak. That isn’t to say that it’s impossible for little Canadian fairy-tales to happen. Jessica Kennedy, owner of Nokomis, doesn’t follow trends, but the little company that could is still undeniably a leader in the Edmonton fashion community. She discusses with Steel Bananas how she has successfully made hip, independent fashion commercially viable enough to withstand the recession.

Photo courtesy of Nokomis Clothing

Photo courtesy of Nokomis Clothing

Your line says that you focus on showcasing the best of Canadian talent. What do you think Canadian fashion designers have that makes them different from other designers in the US or Europe?

I think Canadian designers really show their personality and independence. They’re not too worried about pleasing other people and when they design it’s something they do for themselves. When they make clothes, they make it for love, and it comes across with their branding, fabrics, colours and styles. There’s always a personal kind of touch to their clothes. Canadian labels are not necessarily caught up with the pressure of having big collections -- they’re okay being the size that they are, their bills are being paid -- there isn’t a big take-over-the-world mentality. Granted, some labels are household names, but it’s in a humble sense and they’re just happy to make this their career because they’re doing what they love.

There are a lot of fashion and business graduates today that want to follow your footsteps in becoming an independent entrepreneur. Since you’re also the buyer, how do you forecast what clothes or trends will be marketable for the upcoming season and decide which products to carry?

I have failed a few times, but generally I look at everyone’s collections and select the pieces that I love. If I love it, I know there’s someone else out there that loves it. Everything in Nokomis is handpicked by me and there is a curated feel to the store. I have a customer in mind, and I’ll try to relate my selections to these customers and these people. I don’t necessarily follow big trends or big colors. I really trust the designers that the pieces they have in their collection are saleable and wearable. I don’t have a mission to find certain trends, cuts and colors each season because I leave that to the designers. I follow that mission of loving certain items. Some pieces I buy are just irresistible and not as wearable, but they’re great for press. But my primary concern is that I need to know there’s a client out there that will wear the clothes if I decide to carry it.

In a world where fast-fashion and constant sales are needed to stay competitive in the industry, how do you think it affects Canada’s fashion industry, and the types of challenges faced especially by independent designers?

It’s tough for independent designers because it is fast-fashion they’re competing against, and there’s a lot of disposable fashion out there. As for their challenge, it comes down to re-educating the consumer and letting them understand how it’s better to spend more on one piece that’s well made and ethically made than something that’s made for the mall and that’s hot for now, but is going to fall apart. It’s about educating people in that sense that there’s a different way to consume and to consume with conscious ethics and morals. At Nokomis, we do need to stay competitive, so I make sure the clothes we bring in are made well and at a high quality and standard. It’s been a big challenge for us because when we first opened we had to give designers constant feedback. We worked with designers throughout the years to meet all our challenges on the sales floor and give the customers what they want.

Photo courtesy of Nokomis Clothing

Photo courtesy of Nokomis Clothing

How does Nokomis adapt to the changing economic climate to give their clients what they need, artistically and in a business sense?

It’s a tough balance for sure. Designers are aware that there is a recession going on, so it’s been a struggle for boutiques. Artistically, what we’re trying to do is work together with the designers and their product out there. Some designers are trying to have a more classic feel, classic pieces. What I’ve also been trying to do is use a lot of prints this season. They’re so irresistible. Everyone has black, so it’s nice to have some special prints this season. Designers are trying to make classic pieces, but we’re trying to mix old and new, and have a few special printed pieces for a woman so that she doesn’t need to reinvent her wardrobe. In a business sense, we’ve been promoting ourselves through the blog and Facebook.

As a buyer and someone who deals directly with customers on the sales floor, you obviously have a very good understanding of what women want to wear. What kinds of suggestions can you give to other young local designers who are hoping to catch a retailer’s attention to carry their designs?

I encourage designers to get feedback. Sometimes when you’re designing alone in a bedroom you don’t have an outsider’s perspective. Some local designers have friends over to look over their collection and point out some things the designer might not have noticed. Also, if you have an opportunity, go to a craft market so you can deal with the customer one on one. There are some beautiful designs out there but they’re just not practical, because they make your butt look big, or you can’t wear a bra with it -- it’s all about processing and fine tuning your collection and running it by a lot of people because that helps. What happens for designers is they’ll design for their body type but it has to be designed in a broader sense.

You’ve recently branched out your product line and started carrying small housewares and beautiful stationary. What else do you plan on branching Nokomis out to? Any future businees ventures or ideas?

I like the idea of having a department store feel where clients can come here and pick up cards and housewares, which is why we started carrying small housewares and stationary. I want to extend our price points -- we have cards for $4 and dresses for $400. If you follow our blog, we’re also moving towards other housewares such as pillows, aprons, and tea towels. No big plans to take over the world! We’ve had a tough couple of years like everyone, but I look forward to the day when everyone is back on their solid feet again. I know it won’t be the same as before, but at least we won’t be on our toes all the time.

Photo courtesy of Nokomis Clothing

Photo courtesy of Nokomis Clothing

What do you think inspires the look of the Nokomis woman?

I think she’s inspired by the art scene. Our customer is a bit more nerdy, and she doesn’t necessarily worry about fashion with the capital “F,” just the small “f.”  She loves good food, the farmer’s market, going to the movie theatres around Whyte Ave. She’s also really ethically and socially aware, and appreciates the independent groove of our Canadian store.

I remember Nokomis used to have a Men’s line. With the growing interest in men’s fashion nowadays, do you think you’ll bring Men’s products back?

NEVER! I love our men customers, they’re very lovely people. But it’s a struggle to find Canadian produced men’s clothing. I know how to buy for women more because I can relate. With men, it’s a guessing game. Also, I know there are men out there that shop, but the men that I know are replacement shoppers -- I have a hole in my jean, so I’ll go buy a new pair of jeans. There are great fashionable men out there, but I don’t want to give out a rack of clothing when women want their full rack!

Now some more fun questions! If you had to choose a favourite trend of the season, what is it?

What I am loving is that there are a lot of great colors out there! The mustards and purples are fantastic. Also, all the patterns: stripes, prints, and florals… I have so many striped tops! It’s a nice way to give a punch to your wardrobe.

Most inspirational movie for the Fall?

I really want to see the Joan Rivers A Piece of Work movie. I bet it would be good. I bet I would put that one down if I saw it.

What is the Nokomis Fall soundtrack? Any song suggestions?

I like Provincial Archives a lot. They’re a local Edmonton band and they’re fantastic. The new album is beautiful. I really want to make Edmonton a place to live -- there are lots of great talented people here and we need to support each other.

What kind of animal would you want to be?

I think this season we would be the bison. They’re sturdy and strong and withstand the cooooold winters, and during harsh times they persevere and that’s what I want to be!

What is the most popular item at Nokomis?

The “Miss Ellie” sweater from Preloved. I’ve already sold out and had to re-order more. It’s a cardigan with a shawl collar and two little pockets on the side. It’s a fitted, beautiful sweater; most sweaters are big and bulky so it’s nice to have a fitted piece that’s also fashionable. The best thing about it is you get to choose which “Miss Ellie” sweater is best suited to you because they’re all one of a kind.

As for my favourite item, I would have to say my Eve Gravel “Leave Me Alone” leggings, I wear them all the time. They have a texture to them on top of the navy leopard spots and they’re ruched at the ankles. They’re great for building on top of something else.

Photo courtesy of Nokomis Clothing

Photo courtesy of Nokomis Clothing

What is the one item in your store right now that you think the smart, intellectual, literature nut, social activist, film buff, Steel Bananas-reading woman should have?

She’s right up our ally. She should come shop here! She might like the legging! You can throw them on with any dress or top. We also have a beautiful Eve Gravel dress called “The Edgy Kate Dress” that has a vintage feel to it, but is still modern. It’s a beautiful print, has ruffles and buttons down the front, and has a braided belt to go with it. It’s still classic, and a full sleeved dress is so hard to come by! It’s nice to wear a beautiful dress while doing a normal thing, like going to the movies, or going to a bookstore. I love when you can incorporate a beautiful dress into everyday.

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Essential and Easy Recipes: Hummus Sun, 24 Oct 2010 06:39:46 +0000 Devon Wong Some say it was invented by Saladin. This is a vile piece of propaganda. I don't know when this lie started, but I'd cut the throat of any man who dared expectorate such filth. It is much older. In fact, it was not invented at all. At least, not by any living man. This was

Some say it was invented by Saladin. This is a vile piece of propaganda. I don't know when this lie started, but I'd cut the throat of any man who dared expectorate such filth. It is much older. In fact, it was not invented at all. At least, not by any living man. This was in the Nile valley before the pharaohs, before the Badari even. There was a child who became lost in the dessert, having wandered from her hut following a soft, lilting sound like a woman's voice in song that only the child could hear. Her parents searched for her nine days and nine nights before giving up hope. Years passed before the child returned. She appeared one night outside her parents' hut holding a large glazed urn. But her parents and brothers and sisters drove her away, for they thought her an evil spirit. You see, she had not aged a day while her parents had grown old and wrinkled and her siblings had conceived and birthed children of their own. The child returned again the next night, and again her family chased her out into the dessert. This went on for nine nights, until on the morning after the ninth night, having settled back down uneasily to sleep, the child's parents found the urn their daughter had been carrying left at the opening of their hut. Inside the urn they found curious soft stones, some of which had begun to sprout. The family shared this gift with other families, and soon someone, or perhaps several someones, had begun to grind hummus into a paste and to flavor it so it was not so bland.

True story.

Photo courtesy of

Photo courtesy of

Hummus is literally Arabic for chick pea, and I'm always somewhat appalled at the price grocery stores of all stripes seem to charge for hummus, one of the simplest foods to prepare.  It's also considered one of the oldest prepared foods in human history. For the price you pay at the grocery store to buy a tub you could make several times the amount on your own.  The other great thing about preparing your own hummus is that you can customize the taste. Everyone has their own preference when it comes to the proportions of certain ingredients in hummus. Some like a bit more lemon, a bit less tahini, variant amounts of garlic, various additional sources of spice. Every person's preferred hummus is unique. What I'm providing here is just a basic hummus recipe to be altered as you see fit. I like to fry up some onions and red peppers to mix in, or eggplant if I have one on hand. Experiment and come up with your own variations.


- 1 to 2 cloves of garlic

- 1 lemon

- 1 tbsp of tahini (tahini is sesame paste, kind of like peanut butter... but from sesame seeds)

- 1 can of chickpeas, white or brown (or 400 grams of dried chickpeas soaked in water overnight and then boiled until soft)

- olive oil to preferred texture

- salt to taste


- a blender


1) Before draining chick peas, save 1/3 of a cup of the liquid. If you are cooking dried chick peas, keep some of the water you boiled them in and you may need to add a little more salt to taste.

2) Drain rest of liquid. Add the 1/3 cup liquid and chickpeas to the blender. Squeeze in the juice of half the lemon. Save the other half. Add the garlic, tahini, and olive oil to the blender. Start with a small amount of olive oil, maybe 2 tablespoons. You can always add more later if you want the hummus smoother.

3) Blend. Taste. If you want more lemon squeeze the other half in. If you want the texture smoother add more oil. If it needs salt, add salt. Feel free to mix in extras and/or to serve it with an extra drizzle of unmixed olive oil on top.

Told you it was easy.

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//Letter from the Editor: October 2010 Sat, 23 Oct 2010 02:34:31 +0000 Steel Bananas October 23rd, 2010 This month's cover features Canadian performance artist Karen Elaine Spencer in fragments peeling onions atop a ladder. If you're in Toronto this week, you can see her sitting in Union Station, offering an antithesis to the movement of the crowds as part of this year's 7a*11d International Festival of Performance Art. This festival

October 23rd, 2010

This month's cover features Canadian performance artist Karen Elaine Spencer in fragments peeling onions atop a ladder. If you're in Toronto this week, you can see her sitting in Union Station, offering an antithesis to the movement of the crowds as part of this year's 7a*11d International Festival of Performance Art. This festival is typically outside of most Torontonians' radar, so we're hoping to convince you all to come with us to this one, considering it's biennal and we won't have a chance to take you on another conceptual performance art festival date in Toronto for a while. Would it help if we offered you corsages?

Of course, we don't think it will take much to convince you to come, considering that many of the events are free and beyond breathtaking. It's the kind of festival which descends upon us every two years to remind us we have bodies, we're finite, and that politics still matter. In light of the mayoral race and the spike in political apathy among the new generation of technologically augmented adults, this festival feels so well timed, so well oriented with spontaneity and absurdity that it just might open or break all of your hearts. It's already creeping into ours.

This issue boasts a culinary pilgrimage on St. Clair with St. Clair, a music meditation on Pop for Pop's sake, an exploration of the theatre of sport, a review of the facsimile journal Werewolves: A Journal of Transformation from indie publisher Chronicle Books, and more.

Oh, and sorry we were so late. Life kicks you in the gut really fast sometimes and you just need a couple of days to catch your breath.

Thanks for reading. We love you all.

Karen Correia Da Silva
Steel Bananas

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Forger’s Art: Werewolves (A Review) Fri, 22 Oct 2010 04:41:14 +0000 A.M. Standish Werewolves: A Journal of Transformation by Alice Carr is not actually by Alice Carr. Of course the back cover blurb claims that the contents of Werewolves faithfully reproduce those of a journal found by hikers on the outskirts of Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Ohio. In place of the usual author's blurb, a "publisher's note" details

Werewolves: A Journal of Transformation by Alice Carr is not actually by Alice Carr. Of course the back cover blurb claims that the contents of Werewolves faithfully reproduce those of a journal found by hikers on the outskirts of Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Ohio. In place of the usual author's blurb, a "publisher's note" details a somewhat tentative connection between Alice Carr, diarist, and an Alice Carr who disappeared from Fairview High School in Maple Heights, Ohio, along with her brother Mark. But meanwhile, the inside front page with copyright, publisher information and ISBN subtly admits that the large, slim journal "reproduction" was written by Paul Jessup and illustrated by Allyson Haller.

Following Zombies: A Record of the Year of Infection "Field Notes by Dr. Robert Twombly" (by Don Ruff and Chris Lane), Werwolves is the second and latest book in a new series of facsimile journals orchestrated by indie publisher Chronicle Books — the selfsame publishing house responsible for surprise success gimmick, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.


Werewolves is a grisly tip of the hat to Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, where rather than follow the white rabbit, Alice Carr — brand-new lycanthrope and now ex-vegetarian — wakes up the morning after her first full moon with a fair lot of said rabbit smeared across her face. The book covers April 12th to May 8th, from Alice and Mark's altercation in the woods with "a pack of wild dogs" to their inclusion in a werewolf pack led by the shady, yet charismatic Tomas. In spite of being the "omega" of the pack Mark, a heretofore social misfit, takes to werewolf life like your average dog takes to tummy rubs; Alice, however, is not so keen. To top it all off, at every turn she keeps on running into the affable yet sinister "hunters" Bob and Dave, whose toolkits include enough silver to buy any ordinary hunter that backyard jacuzzi they've been hankering after for years.

Werewolves is a fairly tidy contribution to the werewolf genre, braiding material from the cinema and from folklore together with aspects of real-life wolf behaviour¹, but the most fascinating and most frustrating aspects of the book are due to its format. Every page of diary entry is paired with a page or more of Haller's moody, energetic drawings, and these illustrations are what sets Werewolves apart from the familiar literary genre of books (such as Go Ask Alice) in which a claim to mere transcription (as opposed to authorship) and the conceit of a "found text" corsets the first-person narration.

Whether Werewolves can be called a graphic novel is unclear. The text would be crippled and malnourished without its accompanying imagery and vice versa — this inseparability suggests that the book is by definition a kind of graphic novel. By definition, yes, but whether it fits in is another question; after all, I could argue that "graphic novel" is merely an elevating term for novel-length comic book. Given comics' origins and loyalties to sequential art, Werewolves' (and Zombies') only true immediate relative on bookstore shelves may very well be the singular Lady Cottington's Pressed Fairy Book by Brian Froud.

For a whole genre's worth of relatives, however, we must look to the "found footage" genre of film, movies such as The Blair Witch Project and Cloverfield. Thankfully, books are generally exempt from the motion-sickness suffered by that unhappy portion of a "found footage" film's audience, but where the problem of that found-seeming quality in film is easily (if queasily) solved by handing the camera over to an actor, facsimile books face a slew of other difficulties in convincing readers that they were in fact "found."

The artful forgery is a dynamic construct that continually refers back to its own construction. It is effectively theatrical — in its way, calling for a form of theatre's "suspension of disbelief." The medium becomes both a stage set and an actor in its own right, and above all highly visible. The book as a whole becomes also a visual object. The process of learning to read is in part the process of making conventional text invisible (or at least making it translucent, so to speak). It's about learning to read the meanings of patterns instead of really seeing the forms of letter against page. Conversely, artful forgery and facsimile draws attention to the form and substance of the book, pushing the text toward opaque, making it visible and an independent object of attention. When successful, the facsimile text's form supports and reinforces its meaning — therein lies the thrill when it is successful and utter frustration when it does not.

Werewolves is only partly successful on the typographical front. Granted there must be a balance between clarity and style, but clarity comes on too strong. The diary entries are printed with an obvious font that strands the page halfway between the opaque facsimile and conventionally translucent text, and so it stands there, knee-deep, making vague hand-waving motions toward the artwork on the opposite page in the hope that the reader will end up so engrossed in Haller's drawing that they'll forget to really look at the text. The "fonty-ness" dilemma attenuates the cohesion of words and images, abrading the premise illusion that the author and illustrator are a single person both drawing and writing in medias res.

Meanwhile, Haller's illustrations are nearly perfect. They are loose, sketchy, and they "pop" with dribbly washes of water-colour. They are some of her most visually effective work. Alternately naive and astute, these illustrations are at a near-believable skill level for an artistically talented high-schooler. It's too bad that with the text so fonty and set apart from the imagery, Werewolves starts to feel a little like one of those group projects in which everyone divided up the assignment and went home each with their own little part to be brought back and pasted together over lunch, just before the class in which the project is due.

Ultimately, it's no Lady Cottington, but Werewolves remains a fun, satisfying read, and a tasty visual treat.

More of Allyson Haller's work can be found at her website:

Paul Jessup's main site is his blog, here:

¹ Albeit the behaviour of non-familial wolves thrown together in captivity, in the wild the terms alpha and omega can be eschewed in favour of the less poetic, but more descriptive terms "parent" and "annoying kid brother/sister" respectively. But I digress, and when it comes to an ad-hoc werewolf pack, wolf social behaviour under artificial conditions outside the family is in fact totally appropriate for reference's sake.

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Spotlight: Tiffany Muñoz Thu, 21 Oct 2010 23:38:30 +0000 Tiffany Munoz Tiffany Muñoz is a Vancouver based artist/illustrator.  She was born in Kamloops and raised from Salmon Arm to the backward suburbs of Vancouver.  She is mostly a self-taught artist.  This past year, Tiffany completed foundation studies in Interdisciplinary Design at Kwantlen Polytechnic University.  Her preferred media is a traditional hands-on love for pencils, pens, watercolours,

Tiffany Muñoz is a Vancouver based artist/illustrator.  She was born in Kamloops and raised from Salmon Arm to the backward suburbs of Vancouver.  She is mostly a self-taught artist.  This past year, Tiffany completed foundation studies in Interdisciplinary Design at Kwantlen Polytechnic University.  Her preferred media is a traditional hands-on love for pencils, pens, watercolours, etc.  Her preferred inspirations come from both the natural and supernatural worlds.

Some of Tiffany's work has already been featured in apparel collaborations, publications, and shown regularly in local art exhibitions.  In the near future she hopes to pursue a degree in Illustration/Graphic Design, with the IDEA program at Capilano University.  Furthermore, she would like to do commissions, see more illustrations appear in print, and collaborate with other artists.

Tangled Orchard - Tiffany Munoz

Tangled Orchard - Tiffany Muñoz

3 - Tiffany Muñoz

3 - Tiffany Muñoz

In My Arms - Tiffany Muñoz

In My Arms - Tiffany Muñoz

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//Issue 23: September 2010 Thu, 16 Sep 2010 18:44:37 +0000 Steel Bananas SB 23 | September 2010

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Visual Matters, Or, How Come Children Hog the Pictures? Wed, 15 Sep 2010 23:45:06 +0000 A.M. Standish Most everyone starts learning to read with books in which pictures vastly outnumber words. As we become more comfortable with the alphabet and its myriad combined forms, we edge our way through wordier, less illustrated books until the ratio of words to pictures is reversed, and we are ready to graduate into "chapter books." Not

Most everyone starts learning to read with books in which pictures vastly outnumber words. As we become more comfortable with the alphabet and its myriad combined forms, we edge our way through wordier, less illustrated books until the ratio of words to pictures is reversed, and we are ready to graduate into "chapter books." Not that all of these large font, downsized-vocabulary scale models of the modern novel eschew visual aides ― rather they seem to take the position that young readers need to be gently weaned off their illustration dependency, and leave a handful of images scattered throughout like rewards for having stared at solely letters for so long at a stretch.

An intermediary period follows (see: any Chapters/Indigo "9-12" section) in which brazenly illustrated books such as those by Roald Dahl and Lemony Snicket may sit at ease next to the entirely pictureless (Canadian & UK edition) Harry Potter series. True adult literacy, however, is measured in pure text. Those literary classics (and "classics") that high school English teachers are so delighted to find a few of their students reading are door-stoppers with miniscule fonts and boring covers, sporting some painting from a B-list art gallery in Denmark or maybe just the name of the novel and author in a classy font ― books like War and Peace or The Fountainhead, and who would dream of inserting illustrations into them? This exclusive priority of text is nakedly apparent in the curious strategy of teaching students Shakespeare by having them read his plays, albeit with the occasional field trip to a production of Hamlet as a sort of tip of the hat to The Bard's eccentric tendency to stage his plays rather than publish them. In this way, we are taught that literature of quality has nothing to do with any visual component, that such additions are extraneous, distracting even, and certainly not needed. And if, unlike children, we do not need illustrations to understand and enjoy our literature, then why on earth would we want anything to do with them?

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Adult Version and Children's Version, Photo Courtesy of

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Adult Version and Children's Version, Photo Courtesy of

Picture-books are for kids, and adults read pure text ― this division is as commonly presumed and ingrained as the associations of pink with girls and blue for boys. It is also about as recent. The Victorians, for one, thought it obvious that pink (as a shade of red) is a manly colour, and therefore suitable for boys, while the more demure blue would be well worn by girls. The same era is also generally credited with the invention of Children's literature (and sometimes even of "childhood"). However the distinction between adult and children's literature on the basis of visual content only dates back to the 1930s. The Victorians, meanwhile, illustrated fiction for all ages like mad ― so much so that by the turn of the twentieth century, op-ed pieces were appearing in papers such as The New York Times, wondering whether perhaps book publishers had gone too far and maybe not every book needed illustrations shoehorned in at regular intervals.

A great many classic novels from the Victorian era were first published as illustrated volumes, or (as in much of Dickens' work, Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories, and Thackeray's Vanity Fair) by way of serial installments in illustrated literary magazines. Nonetheless, the vast majority of modern editions of these classics currently sitting on bookstore shelves are uninterrupted text. The exception, of course, is children's literature. Andrew Lang's colour Fairy Book volumes retain their original plates. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass are difficult to imagine without illustration ― and those illustrations, by Tenniel, Rackham and (to a much lesser extent) others are just as famous, have as much cultural impact as Carroll's narrative.

Lately, however, I've started noticing that when it comes to contemporary books that cross ages lines and are marketed to both adults and older kids, the adults usually miss out. It's not just book covers that get tweaked to appeal to different demographics; the insides get a bit of a dressing-down as well. To use an ubiquitous example, take the American editions of the Harry Potter series. The children's edition of ... and the Sorcerer's Stone is embellished with tiny drawings at each chapter heading. Meanwhile, in the General Fiction* section, the equivalent volume is jacketed in sober black and, inside, those charming little embellishments are nowhere to be found. Now arguably this elision is too small to merit irritation, but there are other cases where anyone who buys the "adult" edition is cutting themself a very raw deal indeed.

Abarat is Clive Barker's ongoing Neuschwanstein-esque quintet about the adventures of Candy Quackenbush in the fantastical, bizarre, and at times grotesque Abarat archipelago in which each island resides solely in a single hour of the day. The series is peppered with hundreds of Barker's own naive yet compelling paintings, some of which directly illustrate the narrative but many others that depict scenes and creatures not otherwise mentioned, fleshing out an already teeming and complex alternate universe. These illustrations are a joy in and of themselves, yet still they are essential to the books as a whole. They draw meaning from the text, and in turn the text is enlivened and energized by regular splashes of dramatic, visceral, even gaudy form and colour. Perhaps it's the colour that so offends ― but I've gotten ahead of myself. The case is that, under "B" on the Fiction shelves, you can find a paperback edition of Abarat books 1 and 2 that have been stripped of all visual elements, while the illustrated editions are filed under "ages 9-12." What have current adult generations ever done to deserve such ascetic treatment?

The likely case is that it all circles around to what sells. Return for a moment to the 1830s, when the illustrated novel really took off: the technology for cheaply reproducing images with at least reasonable accuracy had just been developed. Suddenly, narratives spiced with visuals were accessible to the general (literate) public ― they were something exciting and peerless, and they sold. Illustrations sold books and publishing companies latched on to that maxim like a male angler fish who's just bumped into his first (and likely only) female in the vast black of the deepest ocean. In spite of the occasional purists, curmudgeons and naysayers, it held true until film caught on as entertainment for the masses.

The story is that film bumped illustrated fiction out of its cultural niche ― replaced it, as it were. That once film had found its groove, it mostly satisfied the need for visual narrative, and allowed those who read and write novels to devote themselves to the pure art of letters. Or rather, against the flash and dazzle of MGM, illustrations stopped selling books, therefore publishers more or less stopped bothering. To rationalize it all away came a sly paradigm shift into thinking that only those who need visuals ought to have them; if any otherwise fully literate person should read something illustrated, they are clearly stooping to below their level.

Well, I think that stinks of a dour, utilitarian approach to the imagination and to reading in general.

That said, I am not arguing for a return to some fancied Golden Age of illustrated fiction. I have great sympathy for those who bemoaned the glut of imagery in books of the early twentieth century. After all, those images were wielded by publishing houses to drive sales ― they were equivalent to today's book cover, and it takes neither a great stretch of the imagination nor a detailed survey of current book jacket designs to grasp how that would be very hit-and-miss on the fronts of taste and quality. Rather, I am interested in what appears to be a nascent trend towards a more nuanced and deliberate approach toward illustrated fiction.

Thus far I've described the boundaries between illustrated fiction and an adult readership, but based on a few promising examples, I anticipate a near future in which the market is open to illustrated fiction as something that need not be classed as juvenile, and which can be ―text and image together― greater than the sum of its parts.

There is, for example Susana Clarke's debut Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, albeit which relies heavily on a kind of antiqued retro style to support Portia Rosenberg's smoky illustrations. More recently, The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet by Reif Larsen has followed the path cut first by Lawrence Sterne's Tristram Shandy, and later by Douglas Coupland, in which the images are utilitarian, providing information that the text does not or cannot offer on its own. Meanwhile, Marisha Pessle's Special Topics in Calamity Physics treads a fine line between traditional plate illustrations and Sandyesque utilitarianism by way of a metatextual reflex, effectively incorporating the "visual aides" into the first-person narrative voice. And, of course, Michael Chabon has been slipping image plates into his taken-very-seriously novels (it's amazing what you can get away with when you win a Pulitzer!)

Further down the aisle, the Sci-fi/Fantasy section may be notorious for its gaudy, embarrassing covers, but it's arguable that a great many developments in General Fiction started out here. Fantasy has a reputation as a kind of stepping stone, or sideways track somewhere between children's lit and Literature― and while such a reputation can serve as a ball and chain, it is also a wedge fulcrum to ease book illustrations back into the mainstream. For instance, Brom's latest book The Child Thief is a lavishly illustrated revision of the Peter Pan story ― and while it may not be one for this century's classics, its very presence in the grown-ups section of the store gives me hope; and helps me imagine a very near future in which the illustrated book is again a destigmatized, viable, and accessible hybrid art form.

*As for how Harry Potter won a ticket to General Fiction rather than being lumped in with his Sci-Fi/Fantasy brethren― well, that's a rant for another day...

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Lay Me Down Softly: The Art of Bloodletting Wed, 15 Sep 2010 23:44:36 +0000 Erika Szabo Amanda Nedham - "The Hunger Artist II" Yellow bile, black bile, phlegm and blood: for thousands of years the art of bloodletting was sought to balance the four humours of which the human body is composed. Greek, Roman and later Muslim and Western European medical establishments that adopted and adapted classical medical philosophy believed that

Amanda Nedham - "The Hunger Artist II"

Amanda Nedham - "The Hunger Artist II"

Yellow bile, black bile, phlegm and blood: for thousands of years the art of bloodletting was sought to balance the four humours of which the human body is composed. Greek, Roman and later Muslim and Western European medical establishments that adopted and adapted classical medical philosophy believed that each of these humours would wax and wane in the body, depending on diet and activity. When a patient was suffering from a surplus or imbalance of one fluid, then his or her personality and physical health would be affected. All diseases and disabilities resulted from an excess or deficit of one of these four humors so oftentimes bloodletting was used to expel the harmful surplus. Dubbed by modern medicine as medieval, mythical, or even magical, the term now serves as metaphor for artistic practice or creative release -- free from traditional social or moral constraints.

Toronto's LE Gallery experiments with the idea of bloodletting in three diverse and intimate practices in Bloodletting, their group exhibition featuring some of today's most prolific artists: Katie Pretti, Sarah Clifford-Rashotte and Amanda Nedham. Bound by a mutual interest in exploring the definitions and interpretations of bloodletting throughout history, all three artists present a unique reflection.

Katie Pretti - "Illegitimate Children 2"

Katie Pretti - "Illegitimate Children 2"

Bloodletting serves as an interesting entry point into the world of uninhibited emotion - the familiar yet unknown aspects of human nature. And perhaps the most appealing aspect of uninhibited emotion is our constant familiarity and never-ending bind with these emotions. The escape into one's true self.

Katie Pretti is a Toronto based artist who is interested in the ability to employ the formal concerns of line and colour to achieve narrative in semi-abstracted form. A rising star in the contemporary Canadian art world, Pretti’s ability to harness the visceral impact of emotions is reflected in her frenetic style of markmaking on both paper and canvas. Informed by a rich history of predecessors in the field of abstract expressionism, Pretti adds her distinct exploration of human experience and emotions through her studio practice.

Her work has been featured in Elle Canada, Fashion Magazine and Canadian House and Home, and was included as a feature artist in a Hudson’s Bay Company campaign during the 2008 Toronto International Film Festival.

Through drawing and mark making, Sarah Clifford-Rashotte employs a highly intuitive approach to cataloguing her cultural experience that is both detached and deeply personal. Frenetic in pace but calculated in composition Clifford-Rashotte’s work reflects a collision of contemporary themes of excess relating to the female persona and issues of desexualization.

Sarah Clifford-Rashotte - "First Facepunch"

Sarah Clifford-Rashotte - "First Facepunch"

Primarily concerned with the various taxonomic functions of history, Amanda Nedham’s works of paper exhibit a technical proficiency and enamoured exploration of natural history’s complex and overlapping structures. Through a process of abstraction based on the collaging of drawings, largely from television and internet sources, she attempts to focus on those moments that create tension as they challenge the governing voice of history.

Nedham is the winner of the Ontario College of Art and Design’s Printmaking Medal. Her work has been exhibited in Toronto, Florence, and New York.

Bloodletting will be on display from September 10 to October 3, 2010. LE Gallery is located on 1183 Dundas St. W. Hours are Wednesday through Sunday from 12-6.

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Desert Islands In the Stream: Living and Dying with Your Favourite Records Wed, 15 Sep 2010 23:44:19 +0000 Dennis Reynolds You’ve been asked this question before: You’re going to be stranded on a desert island for the rest of your life. For whatever reason, you’re able to take three albums with you. Which do you choose? The scenario itself is obviously absurd. But answering this strange query is always enticing. It’s ever simply about just

You’ve been asked this question before: You’re going to be stranded on a desert island for the rest of your life. For whatever reason, you’re able to take three albums with you. Which do you choose? The scenario itself is obviously absurd. But answering this strange query is always enticing. It’s ever simply about just your favourite records, it’s heavier than that. The desert island is a listening sanctuary, a setting free from distraction. You’d want something that consistently pleases, something that would never let you down. Maybe it’s too much to ask of a piece of music. But this is a unique situation, and one in which music might be all you have.

The desert island question does not desire an answer based on artistic merit, or even personal taste, but the acknowledgment that our enjoyment of music is always situational, and often firmly bound to circumstance. Certain albums may act as a constant reminder of the situation with which it was first heard, while others may provide the perfect soundtrack for unique, and personal moments. But we do not only like music because of our ability to assert our own meaning to it. Surely, it is pleasurable to imagine that our favourite music was made for us and us alone. Yet, albums remain alienable objects – even more so in their existence as commodities open to exchange. The desert island question allows us to hypothetically isolate our favourite records from the traditional systems of use and exchange value that often restricts music from becoming our own. The question, then, reconciles the situational conditions of enjoying music by conceptualizing a make-believe ideal setting within which the listener assumes all control.

Rock critic Robert Christgau developed his famous ‘consumer guide’ in the 1960’s. The idea was that the proliferation of popular music required some sort of intelligent authority able to sift through contemporary low art and separate the superlative from the shitty. Christgau’s method incorporated letter grades as its primary means of demonstrating worth. His argument was entirely reasonable: with so many albums available for purchase, the consumer should have some sort of a guide in understanding what is actually worthwhile.

It’s no surprise that Christgau’s authority has waned over the years. It’s not because Christgau is any less of a writer, or that his sensibilities are tirelessly out of date, it’s that his consumer guide simply has no bearing anymore. Consumer patterns have become more frivolous and more digital. When Christgau was first writing, he was one of a few individuals whom labels sent advance copies, and subsequently, was one of a few with barrier-free access to any music he desired. Such was certainly enough to give Christgau autonomous authority on the subject. Obviously, this is no longer the case, as evidenced by the current abundance of Internet publications currently applying ratings, stars, percentages and whatever else to new music.

My point about Christgau is that in limiting his critical methods to the transaction, he excludes the possibility for any other criterion of judgment. Making purchasing advice through letter grades is a compelling value assessment, albeit one that limits the enjoyment of music to specific, market-bound circumstances. But for Christgau, popular music and the market facilitate one another and ultimately, benefit one another. In his case, it would be invalid to judge popular music without acknowledging the principles of its creation, distribution and reception. The Beatles did not necessarily make the finest music ever recorded. They did, however, make some of the most innovative and forward-thinking art within the constraints of a concentrated radio and album dominated market system.

I suppose this is our fascination with the desert island question. It liberates our music judgments from its external factors and gives us principal control of the circumstances of our appreciation. It doesn’t matter if it’s worth buying, worth recommending, or whatever. What matters is the individual in the ultimate state of reception: the isolated, serene and unmistakably beautiful desert island. These conditions, however, expose all that is particularly unnerving about the desert island scenario. Underneath the promises of undisturbed reception, there lies the unmistakable presence of death. Rarely does being stranded on a desert island translate into the enjoyment of an extended life. It is a powerfully dire situation that inadvertently reveals how personal our appreciation for our favourite music often is, and how willing we are to intertwine our most personal experiences with music.

One of my favourite albums of all time is Nick Drake’s Pink Moon. I’ve never had a conversation, nor have I read a review of this record that did not mention the incredibly depressing conditions of its conception and release. The famous tale goes something like this: Drake, a struggling and disenfranchised folk singer records his third album during two midnight sessions in October, 1971. Unlike his two previous albums, Pink Moon is a remarkably stripped down affair featuring only Drake, his acoustic guitar and a single piano overdub on the album’s opening number. (I just want to mention that this piano overdub is quite possibly one of the most beautiful moments in the history of recorded music. If you haven’t already heard it, please find it somewhere and listen to it immediately.) Shortly after the album’s quick recording, Drake retreats to his mother’s home, overdoses on pills and dies at age 26. Pink Moon is not an overtly sad record. In fact, in many ways it’s Drake’s most beautifully honest recording. It is, however, inseparable from the conditions of its deeply personal creation. Pink Moon’s close connection to death makes it one of the most haunting and painfully authentic listening experiences to exist.

Nick Drake - Photo Courtesy of the Daily Mail UK

Nick Drake - Photo Courtesy of the Daily Mail UK

Pink Moon has garnered such a wide, faithful audience over the years because it evokes the realization of death that is remarkably universal. While records like Pink Moon may give us a glimpse of such a scenario, the album’s circumstantial qualities belong firmly to the artist. Though we can certainly empathize with this experience, we remain the distant onlooker, attempting to dissect the moment and understand its unique conditions. However, on the desert island, we’re able to place ourselves within a conceptualization of our looming death in hopes of achieving a perspective on art that regular living simply cannot provide. Ultimately, it grants us the ability to assess our musical tastes on both a personal level and according to death’s universal conditions.

Considering our frivolous patterns of music consumption in the digital era, it’s no wonder that Pink Moon has developed such a profound following over the last several years. Similarly, it’s no wonder it failed so astronomically at the time of its Christgau-era release. I feel like it’s the sort of record in which it would be totally perverse to attempt to quantify according to market conditions. Pink Moon is too candid, too exposed, too human. In Christgau’s record guide of the 70’s, he opens his blurb about Drake’s work with an honest disclaimer: “I'm not inclined to revere suicides.” It’s easy to understand where he’s coming from. For Christgau, the audience and the consumer are one in the same. While he eventually does discuss his appreciation for Drake’s brand of jazzy folk-rock, his tentativeness demonstrates an unwillingness to remove the conditions of the market from his criterion of judgment. The post-Christgau Internet generation, on the other hand, has certainly found no trouble in doing this. Yet, the lack of an economic market has only led to a proliferation of ratings systems and best-of lists that harbour no traditional bearing at all. Though Christgau could so easily see his readers as a homogenous group of like-minded consumers, the reality now is that audiences consist of individuals whose consumption patterns are much more difficult to mobilize. And now that collective taste is finally meaningless, intensely personal records like Pink Moon are beginning to fully realize themselves.

Fittingly, the desert island remains an oasis of appreciation. The mission of its query is uncomfortably personal. Yet, it exposes why we like music in the first place. Even when you remove all its external circumstances – the conditions of the market, the moment of acquisition, its critical credentials – your favourite music will still resonate as heavily as the first time you heard it. And as you look out onto the desert island’s hypothetical ocean, you’ll be happy that it sounds just as good hearing it for the very last time.

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How to stage an Anti-Rob Ford Parody Performance Piece Wed, 15 Sep 2010 23:44:17 +0000 Karen Correia Da Silva Recent performance art in Toronto often favours heteronomous platitudes rather than tackling lofty political subjects. If art can still be viewed as means to accessing truth, performance artists must direct their often jarringly absurd practices at Viagra soft tab no prescription those who enable and subsequently disable the art community from thriving. For those readers

Recent performance art in Toronto often favours heteronomous platitudes rather than tackling lofty political subjects. If art can still be viewed as means to accessing truth, performance artists must direct their often jarringly absurd practices at

those who enable and subsequently disable the art community from thriving. For those readers who, perhaps, have never tested the waves of public performance art, below is a short guide to staging an Anti-Ford performance piece. These same directions can be reused to disrespect politicians of all levels of government, or any person in power for whom legitimate contempt is warranted.

Rob Ford | Photo courtesy of

Rob Ford | Photo courtesy of

1. Prepare signs

Nothing says "Screw Rob Ford" like a sign saying "Screw Rob Ford." Though I urge you to be more articulate and pointed in your message, the importance of signage is paramount. A combination of signs denouncing dirty politics or Rob Ford's personal character, as well as signs quoting embarrassing Ford-isms or past legal transgressions will round out the message for your audience.

2. Choose a high-traffic location

While performance art in a gallery is a fun intellectual exercise for gallery goers, the marginal art community in Toronto is far too apathetic to care about local politics. With this in mind, choose a high traffic location like a subway, mall, or busy street to spread your message to a wide variety of people. (See Figure 1 of Starla Bontecou and the Gentleman's "POLICE STATE", an anti-G20 performance art protest piece at Dundas Square in Toronto).

Starla Bontecou and The Gentleman | POLICE STATE | G20 Protest Performance Piece | Dundas Square, Toronto | June 28th, 2010

Figure 1 | Starla Bontecou and The Gentleman present "POLICE STATE" | Dundas Square, Toronto | June 28th, 2010

3. Rent a fat suit

The operative word here is "rent." Purchasing a fat suit can be extremely expensive, and could prove to be impulsive and frivolous. In order to portray Rob Ford in his grotesque reality, however, the fat suit is necessary. Smearing your face with ketchup or mustard can also add to the effect. If you are heavy set, the fat suit will only help to bolster your message. The fatter the better. Wear an undersized suit over the fat suit to emphasize the ungodly girth.

4. Get into character

As Rob Ford, it will be your job to scream irrelevant self-serving remarks at anyone who tries to question you. Pay quite a bit of attention to expressing hatred for streetcars and cyclists, and proposition minors for drugs. Stay true to the character of Rob Ford by holding a football under your arm and a gram of marijuana in your pocket.

5. Repeat

With your friends holding incriminating signage and your impersonation in place, move around the city to different spots and venues to facilitate maximum exposure to your performance. This is also relevant with other political figures, or generally contemptible evil-doers. When parodying, always aim for the furthest reaches of hyperbole, and make sure to paint the most grotesque picture your mind can fathom.

Happy performing!

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Barking Arms and Logical Fantasies: An Interview with Michael Winter Wed, 15 Sep 2010 23:44:11 +0000 Dave Hurlow I met Michael Winter at a bar on Ronscevalles at noon on a Sunday. We sat on the rain drenched patio sipping Polish beers out of large bottles. The beer was called Zywiec. In Poland W's are pronounced with what us North American's think of as a 'V' sound. The barkeeper gently corrected my pronunciation.

I met Michael Winter at a bar on Ronscevalles at noon on a Sunday. We sat on the rain drenched patio sipping Polish beers out of large bottles. The beer was called Zywiec. In Poland W's are pronounced with what us North American's think of as a 'V' sound. The barkeeper gently corrected my pronunciation. Michael Winter knew just how to pronounce it. But he would, wouldn't he? He said he'd had some practice because he lives around the corner.

The bar we met at serves as a setting where two friends sit sipping beer in his second most recent novel, The Architects Are Here. This fact gave the meeting a supremely surreal quality, however, the original Intersteer tavern, he informed me, where that scene took place, was next door. This new place is triple A; the last one, the original romantic place, was a rough C.

Michael Winter has authored some of the finest Canadian novels of the past couple decades. His slack approach to grammar and narrative conventions paired with his ability to pen jaw droppingly gorgeous sentences in a unique voice make his work a joy to read. He has won some awards and been short and long listed for some other awards. His new book, The Death of Donna Whalen, is a fascinating work of experimental fiction, crafted almost entirely from court transcripts of a controversial murder trial that took place in St. John's, NF in the early 90s. It was released on August 31st with Hamish Hamilton Press.

Photo by Ryan Langer

Photo by Ryan Langer

In person he is animated, anectodal and very tall. Some strange mix of British ancestry and Newfoundland-ish upbringing, it is not difficult to get him talking and gesturing and so forth. Winter still spends his summers in Newfoundland, and arrived back in Toronto four days before the interview. He took the Clara & Joseph Smallwood ferry, which bears some resemblance to a bad hospital on the ocean, he told me, from the island to the mainland, where he proceeded to drive down a two lane highway all through the night. We are happy to have him home safe.

Michael Winter: If you take the longer route, which is closer to St. John's, fourteen hours. But I was on it for thirty, during Hurricane Earl. Thirty to forty foot waves, I had this guy in the bunk above me, in the dorm, sleepers, snored for nineteen hours straight. People were throwing money at him, pinching him. After nineteen hours he got out of his bunk and we all applauded. He must have been a trucker who hadn't been to sleep for a week or something. So I've just gotten back after that.

Dave Hurlow: You're new book (The Death of Donna Whalen) just came out. Has this been in the works for a long time? In the introduction you make it seem like it's been a passion project over the years.

MW: Yeah. I've had it for a long time on a simmer, not knowing how to present it, 'cause it's based on a true story. It's based on a murder trial, it happened in the 90s when I was living in St. John's. I got hold of the court transcripts, and that's like, five feet of text, ten thousand pages of the year and a half trial. And just reading through them was gripping, because everybody who testifies at a murder trial will tell you everything about their lives. Every blemish, every bad thing they've done, as long as you don't implicate them in the murder. So they're confessing to everything. It's an amazing sort of snap shot of  the society, of all these people telling the truth of their lives. Some people lying a bit, and one woman going a bit demented as the trial goes on, starts ghosts and things.

So I thought, I've never really seen a novel that has this kind of a voice in it. For a long time I tried to write it like a Truman Capote novel, y'nkow, like In Cold Blood, try to dramatize it, like “here's me, let me tell you about this story that I know that happened.” And I didn't like it, I didn't like being in it, I didn't like taking credit for it. I didn't like saying “look, reader, look at what I found. Isn't it great of me to show you this stuff?” That's how I came to the decision not to write a word. I wasn't gonna write a word, I was just gonna use the court documents and select the best words out of ten thousand pages, three million words, and just write a little novel out of the best things I could see that kind of stitched together to make a story about a community.

DH: How did you get involved with that subject in the first place?

MW: I was in St. John's when the murder happened, so it was on the news-

DH: This is in the early 90s

MW: yeah, this is '93

DH: What point in your life were you at?

MW: I've written one book, I'm finishing the second one. I'm living in a house with three room mates. Great house, had these windows overlooking the harbour, the whole down town of the city you could see from the windows. So I sort of felt like the light keeper to the city, just watching everything going on. I was like 'o yeah, the murder happened down there, in that house right there, there's the police cars, there's the police tape, better go see what happened. And St. John's being a small place, like any small place, you go into a bar and there's the best painters, the best lawyers, and also the best criminals in the city all in the same bar. I'll be talking to somebody who's a magistrate, havin' a beer, and a guy'll come in and lift up his shirt and there'll be a Styrofoam package of steaks in his waist pants, and “anybody want to buy a steak?” He just shoplifted them, right? From the Dominion, and he's off duty like “no, no it's alright, just keep going.”

The guy across the street from me, he had garbage bags in his hallway, full of hundred dollar bills, and if you wanted to buy a hundred dollar bill, you had to give him five bucks and he'd you give you a hundred dollar bill. They weren't very good counterfeit bills, but if you needed it, it was there.

I'd be at that same bar, and this one night, the night went really long and I started drinking White Russians, 'cause this guy was buying me White Russians and a friend of mine tapped me on the shoulder and said “Mike, you're drinkin' with Hook the Crook from Corner Brook.” And I didn't know who Hook the Crook was, right? But I realized from that sinister tone that I should just step away from the table now. He wasn't an intimidating figure, he was like a big kind of a soft guy, but what I learned later is that he knows how to hurt you in the places on your body that are the soft parts, he knew how to go for the eyes, the armpits, the groin and he'd just tear you apart. Little things like that, you're always close to the criminal element in a small town.

My first job out of university, this is the late eighties, I worked for a place called Public Legal Information. They hired me on to write radio scripts. The in-house lawyer at Public Legal, he was on the CBC regional radio, talking about legal issues that affect us all, y'know, day to day life, what to do with a speeding ticket, what to do if you suspect a family of domestic violence, just stuff like that, just plain language, having the CBC radio announcer and our lawyer talking as if they're making it up on the spot, but they're actually reading our script that we've written. That was my first writing job, but it was also a legal job and we had to go to the court house and see how law was performed.

I remember going down there and seeing this guy on the stand, he was being charged with stealing a car. He was like “your honour, I didn't steal the car. What happened was, there was this Cutlass down on Horsechops Lane, and I got a Cutlass, your honour, it's the same year as mine, and I needed a driver door, so I went down to Horsechops Lane and I just took the driver door off that car that's the stolen car. So I have the door off the stolen car, but it's on my car, I didn't steal the car your honour, they took the VIN number off the side of the driver door. If the police got it together your honour, and went down to Horsechops Lane, they'd find that car.” The thing is I believed him, I thought 'that's possible!' But I could see the judge up there, feeling his temple, just kind of about to explode, waiting for him to finish and then, very patiently and slowly he destroyed his entire alibi. And I realize "O my God, this guys been lying through his teeth, he stole that car, what a guy!" I was blown away by people being able to lie so forthrightly and so honestly and so convincingly, right to my face, I'd never witnessed that before. And I realized, when you're involved in that side of the law, you have to convince yourself that you're honest and true and everything you do is perfectly legit.

So I guess, that job, and then the murder and knowing people in the law who could tell me their opinions about what was going on, with the trial, and police officers too, who I knew... I just got really involved in the case. And also then, getting the transcripts, realizing 'I haven't read anything quite like this before, is there a way to use this material?' That's how I got hooked into it early on.

DH: So it's been a slow burn, over the years.

MW: I didn't even look at it for about ten years, because, as I said, I was trying to write it like a dramatized novel, and I was waking up feeling awful, feeling like I'm profiting from this woman's death. She was a real person. She's dead, her family's alive. I don't want to add to their misery by saying “look, I just wrote a novel all about your dead daughter. So I thought, if I'm going to use this material, the only way I can use it is to step back and say, "look, this is public domain, this happens in every court in the land, these stories, these people, these testimonies." Isn't it kind of wild? Isn't it kind of better.. than fiction? These true stories. And if I just cut them and shape them, the monotony- I mean, court transcripts are mind numbingly boring, it's like
“Where were you on the night of the fourth?”
“I was at Trapper John's”
“Who were you with?”
“I was with Fred and his girlfriend”
“What time did you leave?”
It goes on like that, so I thought, what if I convert all of that into a third person summary: “on the night of the fourth he was at Trapper John's with Fred and his girlfriend.” That makes it into a story, and yet I haven't a added a word or changed any of the testimony, but it can read in a gripping way.

DH: What you're depicting seems to be a very specific kind of culture, the seedy, petty crimes culture of Newfoundland, which is very unique. In your last novel, The Architects Are Here, there was the Hurley clan, and then it's the Troke clan in this one. It seems like there's this kind of family that's the incompetent Newfoundland mafia, which is sort of fascinating. Can you explain a bit about the clan and the incompetent mafia thing?

MW: I'm not sure about the incompetent part, cause they're very crafty and they're very successful, but they're very small time. They're involved in robbing pharmacies and splitting apart pills and getting the Oxycodone out of them and selling it on the street. There's a market for that kind of thing, and there's a bit of money in it, but not much money. The risk of getting caught is so high that the payoff is meagre for the amount of risk that you're taking. But at the same time, these families do exist and they do hold a grip on the communities. The Troke Clan, in St. John's, they've kind of gone to seed now, like a Dandelion clock that's blown it's- they're older now and the younger generation isn't involved in it the way the older ones were.

DH: Troke is a fictional name you've given to a real family, right?

MW: That's right. In Corner Brook, where I grew up, the Hurley, that's the name I use in The Architects Are Here, that was based on another Hook the Crook form Corner Brook group - and of course family is not always blood related, like the mafia it's like “here's my brother” but he's not really related, or “here's my cousin,” that sort of thing. Yeah that goes on. And it goes on even to like, very small towns. We have a little place in Conception Bay, where I've just come from, from the summer, and we're trying  to buy a little piece of land next to us, to widen our property. You gotta be careful who you buy land off, 'cause nobody has deeds to the land and there's this family down the road who has sold, over and over, the same bits off land to different people, and it's land that they don't own. But if you go down there looking for a piece of land, they'll sell it to you, they'll have no trouble selling it to you. You do up all the documents and all that and you finally go to the court house and register your deed and all this stuff and then the Catholic Church comes down and says “that's our land. I don't know what you're doing but stop pouring the foundation for your house, that's our land,” so that goes on.

It's a similar thing, a hundred and fifty years ago - the great thing about Newfoundland families is, because they're so rooted in a place, it's all online now, the generations of who lived where and when and the census taking is very thorough. So you can go back a hundred and fifty years and say oh yeah, that family actually did own all this land out here, but there was an incompetent generation that sold it all, or drank it all, and the next generation feels like they've been short shrifted. So it's like “that's still our land. They might've sold it, but it's still our land, so we're gonna sell it again.” So it's true that there's a little family in each community that you've gotta look out for. We live there right, you can't fight against them, you have to work with them.

DH: Because they're so embedded in society.

MW: That's right. And also, because we're not there for eight months of the year, it's easy for them to have a couple of these (indicating his beer) and go “those fellers now, lets take our bic lighters over there and a gallon of gasoline and we'll get rid of them.” That's all it takes right, is one loopy night and we're outta there. So we're very careful what we do and say around there.

DH: In your novels, there's very palpable divide between native Newfoundlanders and mainlanders. As someone who lives most of the year here in Toronto, but coming from Newfoundland do you feel like you occupy a sort of unique role, of a mainlander slash Newfoundlander go between?

MW: O yeah. I mean, the other thing too David is that I wasn't born there, I was born in England and moved there when I was three. So, the physiognomy of my profile is not of a typical Irish peasant Catholic look. I don't have the Newfoundland look, of being five foot eight and stout and barrel chested. My whole life, even growing up in Newfoundland, people will say “Where are you from?” And when I say, “I was born in England,” and they'll say “Oh okay, now I know who you are.” There's actually a merchant family in St. John's named Winter, who have pots of money, but I'm not related to them. People are like “Oh, you're a Winter are ya? Cha-ching,”  and I'm like “Ah - no actually I'm not related to them.”

DH: “I'm a writer”

Photo by Ryan Langer

Photo by Ryan Langer

MW: Yeah, “I'm broke.” We bought the house that we have, it's a hundred years old, from this woman who just died, she was ninety nine. They built the house, and then they had her, in the house, and she lived in it her entire life, and we bought it off her when she was ninety three, she'd just moved into a home. Until the age of ninety three she lived in that house. No running water, no electricity and no insulation. We bought it, we went there in the spring and almost perished from the cold. We went to visit her and I said “Nelly, where did you go for water?” She said, “We'd always go to the brook.” So I went to the brook with two buckets, and almost didn't make it back, and this is in the summer time! In the middle of winter, she went there, kicked a hole through the ice, and filled up her two buckets with water, but lived to be ninety nine because of it, it hardened her. So living here, I've softened up, I can't do the Newfoundland life anymore. I would perish. I would get bronchitis and die, in March.

DH: So you moved from England, through Newfoundland and gradually west again to more convenient living.

MW: Yeah, a more civilized landscape. I just did a reading in Collingwood, north of Barrie, and my God, I mean, there's no place like that anywhere near Newfoundland. Just the pristine land and the beauty and the lushness of it, and the speedboats and luxuries. Any boat in Newfoundland is a fishing boat. People don't have speedboats, they don't have that sort of thing. I was sort of like 'wow, what a life people are living, it's like heaven. Why can't a little bit of this exist in Newfoundland?

DH: With The Death of Donna Whalen, death is the main theme, there's a feeling of foreboding surrounding the whole thing. There's a long dramatic scene that ends in death in The Big Why, some death in The Architects Are Here. There's often a sense of foreboding when these native Newfoundland families or personages are undertaking activities that are very deadly, where you're sort of on the edge of your seat and it feels like someone's about to die all the time... as opposed to the people in Collingwood who are drinking fancy wine and water-skiing.

MW: You're absolutely right, after a day in Collingwood I felt like the beauty of the place was like living in a swimming pool, whereas living in Newfoundland is like living in the ocean. Both places are water, but the swimming pool is contained, there's no shark that's gonna get ya, there's no wildlife under the water, whereas in Newfoundland, you put your goggles on and you look under water and it's like a jungle down there, and the hurricane'll come and get ya at the same time. For a novelist, that Newfoundland extreme, of contrast, is great for creating modulation between “okay everything's gonna be alright/ Oh, everything's gonna be a disaster!/ Oh, everything's okay again,” that modulation back and forth, crests and troughs of dramatic tension, is great for storytelling. So I'm blessed with that material, to avoid the boredom of content being pretty good, but with no highs and lows.

DH: You're last novel was set largely in Toronto and then moved towards a dramatic climax in Newfoundland, this novel deals with a specific culture in Newfoundland and delves quite deep into that. I don't mean to put you on the spot, but I was curious to know if there' another direction that you're headed in. Especially because, as you said, you've taken yourself completely out of this new novel, whereas you seem to be ever present in your past novels. Where do you go from here?

MW: This is not something that I consciously do, but in hindsight, you're right. I wrote a novel that was all in present tense, a journal novel, This All Happened, and then I wrote a historical novel, set in the past, and then I wrote a contemporary novel set in Toronto and Newfoundland and now this book, which is very much not of me, but I've curated a book, of texts that already exist and turned it into a novel. So what's next, I have a sense of- do you know the novels of John Wyndham? He wrote Day of the Triffids and The Midwich Cuckoos.

DH: I've read Day of the Triffids.

MW: People call his work science fiction, but he said it wasn't, he said it was very much realistic. He was a realist writer and everything in his novels he said was based on fact and truth of the modern world, except for one little thing that he would change. So he called his novels logical fantasies.

DH: He couldn't call it speculative fiction, he had to come up with his own special-

MW: That's right, it was logical fantasy. And The Day of the Triffids, if you read it, and I don't know if you're familiar with Jose Saramago's Blindness.

DH: I've seen the film.

MW: The books fantastic. The premise is exactly the same as Day of the Triffids, everyone goes blind and then all hell breaks loose. So I thought, what if I try that? What if I try writing, okay, the world is as it is except for one thing which is different and then what would extrapolate from that, how would the world be? In that way, I'm writing a completely different genre of book then I've written in the past and yet I'm keeping to... people say- of my works that I've written in the past, prior to this work, that it's autobiographical, that I use things that have happened to me and I turn them into fiction.

A lot of writers, when they hear that, their shoulders go back and they say “oh no, this isn't really my life.” But if anybody ever says that to me, I think, in my head, “I got you, you really thought that happened to me, I convinced you of it. I know it's completely different, but I wanted you to believe it.” I want the voice to say, “look, I've got this story, that happened to me.” I want to be that guy on the jury stand, convincing the judge that my story is true.

DH: There's this thing that I notice comes up a few times in your writing, and you spoke about it at the Luminato festival as well, this thing with the island. The island that's on a pond on an island that's on a lake on the island of Newfoundland, which is an island on the Atlantic ocean.

MW: It's something my father told me. We have a cabin on the west coast of Newfoundland. Just a few miles south of us was Glover Island there's a pond and on that pond there's an island. My father told me that when I was a kid. My father would do things like, as we were driving back from the cabin he was making up questions like “what's the largest number in the world?” and me and brother and my sister were trying to guess it. On the condensation on the windshield he would draw a sideways eight, the number for infinity and it was like “wow, it's a sideways eight, its infinity, wow,” it blew us away. Then he would tell us there's an island on a pond on an island on pond and then the island of Newfoundland and there's only one other place in the world like that and it's in Sumatra and if you had a little globe and you put one finger here and one finger on the other side, they'd be on the opposite sides of the earth. There's just something mystical about that. It was always just down the lake from us, this sacred little space, of a centre spot. It rang as an interesting metaphor for all sorts of things like  no man is an island, but what about pond and the island on the pond on the island of Newfoundland, maybe that's what we are.

Also, my parents are English and in a perfect world - when my parents emigrated, my mother would have loved to have lived in New York City, that's where she would have gone, New York City, bang, big city , and my father would have lived on that little island, that's where he would want to be. The compromise was Corner Brook, Newfoundland. I don't know who one that compromise. That was sort of it, he'd be on that island, my father and part of me would be there too, 'cause I'm part of  him. But I'm also part of my mother so I'm in New York  City too. I think we're all a bit like that, “Solitude” and then “People!”

DH: What are your thoughts on New York City?

MW: I love New York City, it's great, it's fascinating. Toronto's fascinating too, just Ronscesvalles, seeing how people walk and live and do things and put out the garbage. If you sit alone too long, stewing in your own thoughts, its hard to make things up. You see somebody, a woman standing in a telephone booth and the bottom of her dress is billowing out of the payphone and her dress is down the street and she doesn't know. And I'm on the subway and I see these two friends talking and one of them gets off, and then she's like, remembered something and I'm looking at her and she's trying to get her friend's attention, but her friend's forgotten her, she's doing something else and she's waving, then she sees me and I see her and I'm like (sympathetically) “yeah” through the closing doors, and there we go. I've received a little communication from her about “shit, I tried to get that thing to my friend, but I can't, but you know what it's like.” Those little thinks, those kinds of moments are really beautiful human things that I love to write about and to see. A man crosses the street and his arms are folded, but his arms are barking. His arms are barking?

DH: His arms are barking.

MW: Yeah. And then I see a little set of ears, he's got a little dog. Then I write in my journal “a man had a little dog in his arms and the dog was barking.” And then I realize, no, that's not what happened, that's not what happened, what happened was, a man was crossing the street and his arms were barking, cause that's what I thought I saw. And trying to remember how the world really is, as you experience it, rather than as you know it to be after some hindsight, and writing it that way in fiction, the way you first saw it, that whole thing is really exciting to me. And that comes from living in a big city.

Ryan: You can't get that from  -

MW: You can't get that from living in Newfoundland because it's like a big movie here, in Newfoundland you gotta make the movie, cause there's nothing happening, you've gotta exert yourself on the land. Which is a great life, I love that too, but it's really nice to relax sometimes and watch the world go past.

DH: The Death of Donna Whalen seems like it was a labour of love, something that you felt compelled to do regardless of necessarily pleasing an audience. The Architects are Here is a novel that incorporated more modern themes and told a more cohesive, novelistic. One thing that for whatever reason stuck in my mind from Architects is David Twombly's Pebble, his little device. I wanted to ask about the incorporation of technology and modern communications devices, because we live in this hyper accelerated culture that more and more you have to add these details and themes into your novel especially as a novelist in a time where novels are not selling like they used to.

MW: It's an interesting thing, like the Pebble issue was a difficult one  to figure out. I'm involved in realism, and I remember painting a picture, I dabble in painting, I like to paint things that are in front of me, making compositions and stuff. In the center of this painting was a computer, just because it was in the centre of the room, and a friend of mine said “Oh it's nice but, couldn't you just paint out the computer and put a cat? I don't want to see a computer in the middle of the thing there. “I thought about it and I thought, but that's what was there, the computer's there and that's document of the modern world and I'm not gonna paint it out and put a cat there. It would be prettier, but this is truer. And the trouble is, okay, I'm gonna write a novel, and it's 1978, and wow, there's an A-Track player, y'know, and you put an A-Track in and it fades out after one channel, comes back up again and it's the new technology. You read that now and people will laugh, they'll laugh at how fascinated you are with a big old piece of plastic that you stick into a machine to play music . So how do you use modern elements of society without quickly dating your book and making it hilariously funny in a way that you hadn't intended. So the Pebble is an invention-

DH: A literary invention.

MW: Yeah, and I was intentionally vague about its powers and description.

DH: Can you explain what the Pebble is.

MW: A communication device, some kind of cell phone, music box, it connected to the web... And it actually ran from the heat of your hand, it turned body heat into power. And it was personal to the user, it knew the pulse from the hand of the user, it wouldn't work if you stole it off me. It had a couple Star Trekky elements like that to it. But at the same time, pretty soon, that device will exist, like, wow, the long playing record, how much do I want to describe the LP for an audience that's going “wow, why's this guy going on and on about this thing, that's an old, dated piece of equipment there.” So there was that. And I think it's important in realism to try to trap how people talk about – Christopher Dewdney talks a lot about this, about the merging of whatever was human and the machine, and being some kind of mix of that, a hybrid, which i guess is inevitable. We're gonna be partly computerized and partly made of plastic and we're gonna have chips in our brains, and I mean, that's gonna happen pretty quickly. But how much of that do you want to devote to your novel, versus other elements like “I'm heartbroken, I'm ecstatically in love.” Those universal things... o yeah, but I also have this chip in my brain. It has to be- for me anyways- a subordinate clause to the grander modern world, which is the universal one , of love and death and passion and distance, coldness. Those things I'm interested in.

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A Bumper Sticker Says a Thousand Words: Ford Fever Sweeps Over Rexdale Wed, 15 Sep 2010 23:44:03 +0000 Dennis Reynolds Most of my travels typically begin with a long, scenic stroll through the winding streets of my neighbourhood. In between my house’s front steps and the closest Southbound stop for the 45 Kipling bus, cars quickly whiz underneath the towering trees that overlook these otherwise quiet streets. Despite having lived here my whole life (save

Most of my travels typically begin with a long, scenic stroll through the winding streets of my neighbourhood. In between my house’s front steps and the closest Southbound stop for the 45 Kipling bus, cars quickly whiz underneath the towering trees that overlook these otherwise quiet streets. Despite having lived here my whole life (save for the few years I was in university), I don’t spend much time in Rexdale anymore. Outside my house, the time I spend here consists primarily of the walks from my house to the local library or the nearest bus stop. I’m no longer afflicted by the repression of suburban entrapment I began to feel as a barely-aware teenager first hitting high school. Instead, I find myself harbouring the sort of enduring, yet harmonious disagreement people tend to develop with their old neighbourhoods. I hate it here, but I’ll never be able to shake those unmistakable hometown sentiments.

Rexdale is a peculiar part of Toronto that largely goes unnoticed to anyone not from the community. It lies in the city’s northwest corner and a stone’s throw from the border communities of Malton and Mississauga. Rexdale’s unofficial boundaries stretch from Dixon Rd. to Steeles Ave. W. and from Islington Ave. and Highway 427. It is one of the city’s small pockets that, in the wake of the megacity merger, has struggled to maintain any sense of local identity. Founded by real-estate developer Rex Heslop in the late 1950s, Rexdale began as a carefully planned suburb of Toronto, consisting mostly of upper-middle class post-war homes. Like most of Toronto’s inner-city suburban communities, Rexdale became victim of the so-called benefits of urban sprawl. Now gregariously overpopulated with town homes and high-rise apartment complexes, Rexdale continues to face problems regarding high levels of poverty and unemployment, not to mention the proliferation of gang activity and gun violence.

In terms of municipal political boundaries, Rexdale spans two districts. Ward 1 starts from the city’s northwestern-most corner to just east of Kipling Ave., with a north-south boundary of a jagged parallel line running between Albion Rd. and Rexdale Blvd. Though densely overpopulated, Ward 1 boasted a 33% voter turnout in the last municipal election, the lowest in the entire city. Ward 2 sits neatly underneath and reaches Rexdale's southern border at Dixon Rd. In the last municipal election, a respectable 40% of voters participated in the election, though two thirds of voters cast their ballot for Rob Ford.

Photo Courtesy of National Post

Photo Courtesy of National Post

Rexdale’s most notable features pander to the thrill of escape: Pearson Airport offers a literal escape, while the Woodbine Racetrack provides its superficial escape through gambling. A few weeks ago the Queen herself was in the area for the annual Queen’s Plate, the most celebrated thoroughbred horse race in Canada, a sort of Canadian Kentucky Derby. Though prestigious races seem to happen here on a regular basis, the Woodbine Racetrack remains painfully insecure about what it actually is: a gambling epicenter in one of Toronto’s most underprivileged nooks. The racetrack is a strange, local oasis that sits just west of Highway 27 on Rexdale Blvd. It is a monumental building with spectacularly illuminated signage. Yet, in its immediate, less majestic surroundings, remnants of the last attempt to transform the area into a local entertainment hub remain. The Woodbine Centre sits directly across the street, a relatively deserted shopping mall that now consists of a Rainbow Cinema and a collection of struggling local merchants. The mall’s greatest feature, its indoor amusement park, only ever gets dusted off when summer camp activities are rained out.

As I stand waiting for my unreliable TTC steed to deliver me to Kipling station, fleets of cars pass me with FORD FOR MAYOR bumper stickers. Ford Fever is in full effect in Ward 2. From the moment Ford was elected as city councilor in 2000, citizens quickly embraced the possibility of an outspoken councilor speaking on behalf of a soft-spoken community. Ford’s image, too, appealed to the neighbourhood’s underdog values: he was a local high school football coach and a shameless penny-pincher. To Rexdale’s suburban dwellers, Ford was a strong-willed figure happy to rumble with the highbrow politicians downtown.

When Ford ran for re-election in 2006, his canvassers hit the ground with unquestionable fervour, spreading the benefits of a Ford-run community. When my mother refused to speak to Ford’s canvassers at our home on that same trail, Ford arrived at our house a few moments later to plead for public support. His abrasive persistence was jarring and not unlike a disgruntled child desperate for attention. Yet, compared to the other councilors in the running (Cadigia Ali, Mike McKenna, Kevin Mark, Bueller?), Ford’s tactics could have been mistaken as pro-active and attentive to detail. Though I’m sure Ford generated countless new supporters through depicting himself as the lone committed and dedicated candidate in a crowd of indifferent colleagues, he was the only one crass enough to adopt manipulative publicity methods as a means of drumming up support.

Recently, both the Toronto Star and Globe & Mail ran features interviewing Ford supporters about the nature of their views. The constant within these testimonials was that Ford seems like a down-to-earth guy, or, that he’s got nothing to hide. Certainly, Ford does not confine himself to his office, nor does he attempt to carefully engineer the facets of his public image (no sweater vests!). To the typical hard-working middle-class Ford supporter, his unabashed honesty is perhaps endearing. He’s not perfect and neither are we. But a candidate’s genuine buffoonery should not be mistaken for admirable qualities. Just because a candidate is not afraid to censor himself, it doesn’t mean he’s courageous. Similarly, when a candidate glaringly screws up in his public relations, it doesn’t mean he’s fearless. While Ford’s politically incorrect behaviour shouldn’t be representative of his abilities as a politician, they shouldn’t be celebrated in terms of their frankness and lack of pretense, either.

Watching Ford’s rise to public prominence has surely been exciting for his dedicated Ward 2 supporters. Up until Ford first declared his candidacy, Rexdale found itself with little ability to rise above its troubled reputation. But Ford has given his supporters the opportunity to see itself in the public eye for something other than its harsh realities. Sadly though, Ford’s values are hardly representative of the community at large. For one, Rexdale boasts a massive immigrant community (According to a 2006 census, 53% of the population is made up of immigrants, with 50.6% of the immigrant population arriving between 1991 and 2006). Hearing Ford’s anti-immigration comments should have been repulsive to his Ward 2 supporters, but for whatever reason, everyone seemed to turn a blind eye to his bigotry. Whether they agreed, or continue to be intoxicated by his barefaced outspokenness, I’m not quite sure. Whatever the reason, it proved Ford to be glaringly out of touch with his community, and his faithful supporters even more out of touch with their own neighbours. Then again, with most of Rexdale’s low-income immigrant workers relegated to public transportation, they’d have no use for his bumper stickers anyway.

So what happens if Ford wins? This will most certainly be an unmitigated disaster for the future of the city. Sure, Ford’s skills as a micromanager won him support in his suburban riding, but Toronto is a much larger, uncontrollable beast. It’s a city that requires much more than the promises of a few tax cuts. And if he loses? Ford Fever will dissolve, the bumper stickers will come down and dedicated Ford supporters will hopelessly retreat to their suburban dwellings. Rexdale, meanwhile, will slide uncomfortably back into the city’s forgotten corner, quietly and unnoticed. Although Woodbine is preparing to undergo a state-of-the-art refurbishment project that hopes to revitalize the area with an entertainment complex and casino, the plan is contingent on the unlikely success of a suburban gambling centre in one of the city’s most impoverished neighbourhoods. Yes, it’s certainly a long shot, but this is the reality of Rexdale’s waning optimism in megacity Toronto: sometimes you just have to bet on what you’ve got and hope it turns things around, even if it means wagering it all on a clumsy councilor and a deserted racetrack.

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Super Sad True Travel Story, or: Dystopian Dream Girl and Le Monstre Wed, 15 Sep 2010 23:43:53 +0000 Dave Hurlow Spoiler Alert: This annoying thing happens to me every time I read a Russian Classic. Whoever the asshole is who writes the synopsis for the back of the book reveals a death, a plot twist, or the tragic nature of the finale of a one thousand page novel. I should probably stop reading these synopses,

Spoiler Alert: This annoying thing happens to me every time I read a Russian Classic. Whoever the asshole is who writes the synopsis for the back of the book reveals a death, a plot twist, or the tragic nature of the finale of a one thousand page novel. I should probably stop reading these synopses, but I'm the kind of reader whose eyes instinctively jump to the end of the next page to find out what happens. This essay contains plot spoilers for the novel Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngart.

Gary Shteyngart is clearly versed in the Russian literary tradition. Born in Leningrad in 1972, he moved to America seven years later. Lenny Abramov, the protagonist of Shteyngart's new novel, is the first generation, only child of his Russian immigrant parents who fled from a land that was “built on corpses.” With this in mind it is difficult to avoid reading parts of the novel as autobiographical. At the same time, mistaking the novel for thinly veiled reality is impossible since Shteyngart has set his story in an absurdly comical yet unsettling near future in which America has been reduced to a financially destitute, near totalitarian state. It seems as though Shteyngart, who as far as I can tell resembles Lenny in every way, sent a fictional version of himself into the not so distant future of an alternate world to test the weather.

What comes back is a novel that can be euphorically funny and hopeful, or nausea inducing and soul crushingly painful depending on which passage you are reading. Throughout all the literary crystal ball gazing and futuristic bells and whistles, Shteyngart holds it down in terms of telling a beautiful tragedy complete with a stunning Dostoevskian finale (reminiscent of The Idiot but not nearly as brutal). You can call me an asshole for hinting at the ending, or you could consider the fact that unlike his Russian predecessors, Shteyngart lays it out for you in big fat letters, right on the cover, four times over: Super Sad True Love Story.

Super Sad True Love Story

Super Sad True Love Story

You might get halfway through the novel and wonder why Shteyngart has given his novel such a literal, dry title, a title that fails to represent the zaniness and pseudo-sci-fi themes that give the novel its form. Something like “Dystopian Dream Girl” (this is stolen from Built to Spill) or “The Pursuit of Immortality in a Dying America” (given, this one's not so snappy) might have been more appropriate. But when we focus on Lenny Abramov for a second, the stubborn old world transplant in a strange, strange land, we realize that it's really his show, that the fictional world around him, glossy on the outside but decaying on the inside, is part of an alluring sleight of hand trick. For much of the novel we are programmed to pity Lenny with his old crappy äppärät (“sweet fucking Christ, what is that an iPhone?” a colleague asks in disbelief at one point), who is publicly mocked for reading smelly media artifacts (books), can't afford dechronification treatments (to reverse aging), cries often, and doesn't understand about breathable fabrics or how to brush his teeth. Unlike the fickle world around him, which eventually comes crumbling down, Lenny is consistent. He is strong and genetically endowed with the ability to survive catastrophe. I like to read him as an overly emotional girly man version of Tolstoy's character Levin from Anna Karenina, a character who, like Lenny, leads us to revelation.

Throughout the novel, tensions rise between the national guard and dissatisfied immigrants and vagrants classified as LNWI's (Low Net Worth Individuals). Camps of LNWI's in Central Park and Tompkins Square are eventually shot at, blown up and killed. As the paranoid climate of a nation that has gone completely broke reaches its peak, as America lies prostrate at the feet of its sceptical Chinese creditors, the basic human rights of American citizens - New Yorkers no less - are violated.

When visiting New York City recently, SSTLS was the only book I brought with me. As I explored New York city, riding the L train from Bushwick in Brooklyn and scaling the massive urban island of Manhattan, I found myself drawn towards locations used in the novel, trying to discover the mythological source of Shteyngart's settings.

Cedar Hill is located on the east side of Central Park between 76th and 79th street, just below the MET. On August 31st (Western New Year as I call it), my travelling companion and I stumbled around Central Park carrying a bottle of champagne, walking in a circle and ending up back at something called the “Wolfman Rink” which to my mind evokes the image of a gladiatorial arena where werewolves fight. Eventually, past midnight (September 1st now), we made our way out of the labyrinth of paths, gates, ponds, miniature baseball diamonds (what is it with all the baseball diamonds) into the pastoral setting of cedar hill.

In SSTLS, Cedar Hill smacks of significance. It is a place where Lenny likes to sit and read and think, part of his old world behaviour. Cedar Hill is where he brings Eunice Park (the object of his rabid affection) as soon as she arrives in Manhattan. It is where they share their first kiss and where they witness the sight of the first controversial LNWI - an out of work bus driver named Aziz - camped out in Central Park, living in a hut equipped only with crappy old computers that you can actually hear working. Other than the fact that its adorned with big shaggy cedars, Cedar Hill bears some resemblance to Mt. Royal in Montreal, Dolores Park in San Francisco and, let's say, Citadel Hill in Halifax. It is a hilly green area where people can go on a sunny day to tan, read and exchange furtive flirty glances. Shteyngart first romanticizes Cedar Park as the origin place of love and revolution, then later on makes it ground zero of a bloody civil conflict. When the shooting begins, Lenny and his pals are drinking at a hipster bar in Staten island where everyone is streaming the developments on their äppäräts.

Tompkins Square Park is way further down, north of the lower east side and east of Greenwich Village. This is where the LNWI's, now dubbed Aziz's Army, set up camp after they are driven from central park. The level of organization is increased as American soldiers who fought in Venezuela (the nation of choice for Shteyngart's fictional colonial war) and aren't being paid their pensions join the LNWI's. The fiery Eunice Park meets a young marine named David here (a minor, but well realized character) and finds herself volunteering, securing supplies and generally helping out around the camp.

I wandered through TSP a couple of times before I even recognized its name from the novel. It makes sense that this area would be used as an impromptu bunker of sorts. Not that I know anything about military tactics, but there were lots of iron gates, thick bushes and trees to provide cover and winding unpredictable paths. A lot of vagrants and down on their luck artist types already hang around the park drinking on benches, LNWI's in Shteyngart-speak.

There is a bloody conflict here as well, much worse than Cedar Hill, in which David is halfway blown up and badly injured. Lenny and Eunice watch on their äppäräts in horror from a pregnancy announcement party in Staten Island.

My travel companion and I had this thing where every time a significant chunk of the city skyline revealed itself, we would point and cry out “Le Monstre!” which is French for “The Monster.” The idea behind this joke was that the massive urban landscape was utterly monstrous in the overwhelming feeling of sheer awe that it inspired. On a clear morning, we walked across the Brooklyn bridge, on the bike path rather than the pedestrian path, ignorant tourists getting cussed out by die hard cyclists. From the bridge we witnessed the true magnitude of Le Monstre, which was ungraspable to my mind. How far down does Brooklyn go? you can't see the bottom part! Which bridge is which? there are like a million bridges. Where's Staten Island? Can I see New Jersey from here? These may sound like stupid questions to someone who knows but to an ignorant visitor, the borders and topographical details of the veritable nation city is completely baffling. Manhattan curves up and around, but I never saw the end of it.

The last night before I left New York I saw Built to Spill play on a ship called the temptress that cruised around the harbour while a group of scruffy indie bros and lady dudes enjoyed a set of blistering, whiny, overdriven 90s rock. At various points in the cruise I would go out on the deck or poke my head out the window to have a look at Le Monstre. Aside from a surreal moment when we cruised by the Statue of Liberty, a landmark so iconic and picturesque that it seemed fake, I couldn't make out any distinct features of Le Monstre. The variance in depth of field between all of the buildings plays tricks on eyes, what I could make out from the boat was a brightly lit, homogeneous testament to urbanity.

When Lenny and Eunice are scrambling to get back to Manhattan from Staten Island, as the fighting in Tompkins Square reaches its climax and the immigrant population begins rioting, setting credit poles on fire and clashing with the guard, there's a real motherfucker of an image that Shteyngart hits us with. There's a ferry fully of innocent folks going from Staten Island to Manhattan. A military helicopter flies out over the water and drops a missile on it, lights the ship up, destroying it. This image is incredibly disturbing for about a thousand reasons and obviously setting plays a huge part in this. A ship of civilians being murdered right in the middle of NYC, between Staten Island, Manhattan and Brooklyn; Skycrapers, Brownstones and Industrial buildings rising up all around, symbols of American achievement.

When I visit the land of the free, I find it very liberating, no joke. Maybe its because liquor is basically free and you can buy a Budweiser out of any corner store fridge for a buck, but it also has to do with the heavy concentration of of things you can eat and do and see in the major cities, all the old signs and stuff piled on top of all the other stuff and the little things that make America different from Canada. When you look at the Toronto skyline from Center Island, it's manageable. The Toronto skyline doesn't break your brain and you can always use the CN Tower as a point of reference if you get lost. In Canada, we live in a land of ample, vacant space, a young country.

Lenny Abramov is a guy who likes to amble down Grand Street in his old man getup. He likes to eat large plates of pork dumplings in China town and drink whiskey until he cries or gets into a fist fight with a fellow Rusky. In short, he's a man who takes  great pleasure in the smaller freedoms available to Americans. As we witness the frightening spectacle of America as a tanking ship, bankrupt and growing violent, Lenny emerges as a reliable life boat to cling to. If people still care about reading gym sock smelling media artifacts in the future, he might just emerge as one of the most memorable characters from this era's literature.

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THE DEVIL AND REV. JONES: The Saddest Saga of the Season So Far Wed, 15 Sep 2010 23:43:40 +0000 Colin Fallowfield One of the most well-known concepts in theatre involves the ancient notion of the ‘well-made play’. This concept dates back to the ancient Greeks, a mode of theatre that is defined by a clear beginning, middle and end separated by interludes and all taking place in one location and in real time. That being said,

One of the most well-known concepts in theatre involves the ancient notion of the ‘well-made play’. This concept dates back to the ancient Greeks, a mode of theatre that is defined by a clear beginning, middle and end separated by interludes and all taking place in one location and in real time. That being said, one of these well-made plays unfolded on the international stage over the last few weeks, and it was all orchestrated by someone I can only describe as a master playmaker. The tension, the drama, the subtle comedy of it all can be only attributed to the Rev. Terry Jones and the brilliant script he chiseled out with an equally brilliant marketing campaign and a surprise ending that would have M. Night Shayamalan remarking: “What a twist!”

The Reverend Terry Jones - Photo Courtesy of CBS News

The Reverend Terry Jones - Photo Courtesy of CBS News

Act 1 in which the Rev. Jones announces to his small Florida congregation an international day of Qu’ran burning in honour of the 9th anniversary of September 11.

Act 2 in which an unprecedented international backlash is unleashed upon the small parish, drawing criticism from governments, religious leaders and Muslim communities. Complete with burning effigies, burning American flags, burning lots of things in general and condemnations from prominent world leaders including Barack “the Rock” Obama himself, a dialogue about the appropriate marking of tragedies is incited. Canadian Military officials voice concerns over targeting of Coalition Forces as rebuttal over the insulting acts to be perpetrated.

Act 3 in which it is revealed that (*gasp!*) the Qu’ran burning is cancelled hours before it is set to begin, with the revelation that (*gasp!*) Manhattan Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf has tentatively agreed to move the site for the Ground Zero Mosque, a controversial project which would have had a Muslim place of worship featured in the remains of the World Trade Centre.

Epilogue in which it is revealed two days later that (*gasp!*) there never was a meeting to take place and the Imam had agreed to nothing. Jones discovers that he has f@#$ed his mom and killed his dad, so he gouges out his eyes with his hanged wife’s toga brooches and is sent out into exile (which has not yet happened, but that train is never late!).

As the central player in this piece, Rev. Jones executed his role perfectly, in all areas of writing, direction and performance. He showed great command of his cast and himself in the execution of his performance, displaying subtle professionalism and carrying out his role as religious extremist with full fervor and the utmost conviction. It is often tempting in these pieces to present both sides of a complex character, revealing the conflicting human being behind all of the faithful devotion. Rev. Jones showed great courage in his portrayal of a two-dimensional, Bible-spewing, God-obsessed patriarch bringing his followers on a journey that ultimately results in the questioning of the nature of religious extremism from the ‘good guys’ of the world. His script seriously asked the question, “in this world of fear of Muslim extremism, how dangerous are the extremists here at home, that live in our nation or down the street?”

In the aftermath of this performance, it will be interesting to see the global debate surrounding the ideas of Christian extremism versus Islamic extremism, and the inherent problems surrounding the public perception of each. With his clever progression of events, Rev. Jones has forced us all to look at the very idea of religious fundamentalism and has drawn international attention to the brand of extremism that exists in the American heartland, and years removed from the event, how much anti-Islamic sentiment still exists in the American subconscious to this day. Though the supporting cast was weak – Obama being trite ion his condemnation, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper taking his sweet time in his own response – Rev. Jones message of the necessity of tolerance was not lost. Indeed, one of the most effective supporting performances came from David Patraeus, the US general in charge of the mission in Afghanistan. As the moral centre of the play, his voice of reason and speaking out against the absurd ‘holiday’ proposed by the Rev. Jones stated the true hypothesis of the events. A tad didactic, perhaps, but the message of Rev. Jones’ script is an urgent one and cannot be marred by subtlety.

Since there’s only so far sarcasm can go, I will mercifully stop. Suffice it to say, I am outraged by what has transpired over the last few weeks. This has been the most rampant display of Islamophobia and xenophobia since the months following the event itself nine years ago, and the choice by Rev. Jones to mark an obscure (9th? really?) anniversary of the tragedy only speaks to the self-righteous egocentrism of the pastor. Now I’m sure that this is not an original thought by any stretch, so I apologize in advance to the several journalists and civilians out there, but I ask: is there any rational person paying attention to this story who thinks that the Rev. Jones declared this absurd and offensive holiday as anything other than a rampant publicity stunt?

I will admit that it was a clever P.R. game that the reverend played, masking his protest of the proposed Ground Zero Mosque as a patriotic anti-extremist symbol. But drumming up support by means of international incident (resulting in the deaths of two Afghan protesters) for an argument that was ridiculous to begin with has brought nothing but shame upon the Christian community and had exactly the opposite effect that the Rev. would seem to have hoped for. Amid all this controversy and idealism, however, sits the Reverend himself, a man so self-righteous and attention-seeking that he would risk the lives of countless soldiers and civilians simply to publicly weigh in on an issue that already had plenty of support on both sides. I ask the Reverend: in the end, was the result worth the cost?

Images have recently surfaced of the Reverend working away in his Parish office, proudly displaying a fully loaded semi-automatic pistol at the ready by his left hand, acting as a paper weight. I may have a disdain for the Reverend, but I would never suggest that, for the good of mankind, he turn that proudly-born pistol on himself.

Oops. Just did.

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That’s Some Pretty Heavy Music Journalism (Part Infinity): Go Forth and Be Cosmic Wed, 15 Sep 2010 23:43:34 +0000 Patrick Grant Way back in February (what is this, Ru?), I embarked on an idealistic journey in which I attempted to funnel the relationship between music production and consumption into a sense-making scheme in order to say something, though I wasn’t sure what, about its affect on our lives. I proceeded with a basic scientific method-styled creation

Way back in February (what is this, Ru?), I embarked on an idealistic journey in which I attempted to funnel the relationship between music production and consumption into a sense-making scheme in order to say something, though I wasn’t sure what, about its affect on our lives. I proceeded with a basic scientific method-styled creation of hypotheses and proceeded to test them by listening and thinking and reading and writing. The difference therein was that I didn’t make statements at the beginning, really - I just made a bunch of question clusters and wrote wherever the wind and words and music took me.


I can’t say really whether my endeavours have been successful or not. I guess if the goal of the whole shebang was to come out this end feeling satisfied and fulfilled in my simplification of the essential problem of “Why is art important?” then it can’t be said that I’ve done very well. I’m not even sure it’s possible to have done well at all, or whether the question is even one worth asking. The answer is obvious now as it should have been in February and should always be. Art is important because it is and will be whether or not we consciously create it. It’s like asking, “Why is breathing important?"

Let me take a few steps back, otherwise this whole thing is going to be pretty short. Lately I’ve been cutting back what can be traditionally regarded as my music consumption. I’m listening to fewer albums, I’m spending less travel time with my headphones on and I’m generally happier for it. Right now, as I write this in my living room, all exhausted and sick and dizzying in the middle of the night, there is no record spinning on my turntable, no sound radiating from my speakers, but music is still here. There are two computers breathing in the room. My fingers on the keys tap complex rhythms just by virtue of my needing to type. People move around in the apartment above mine and add their own notes to the symphony completely without awareness of their audacious expression. On the street, the bottle collectors search through recycling bins humming tuneless melodies to themselves and gesticulating in wild crescendos when they make a good find. A car honks and cymbals crash. On the corner, the guy at Brothers' Convenience overcharges a drunk and the cash register rings on the 1 and slams on the 4, only to find an indefinite rest on the next measure of its chart. Just on the periphery, the piccicatto plucking of a stray cat gingerly crossing the dark pavement. The colour of the sheets; her body in the dark. Quantum mechanics.

My question areas dealt loosely with these areas: format, locality, tradition, message and the individual artist. Reading back over them, they say some stuff that I generally still agree with. The concerns begin from pettiness and eventually conclude in the cosmos.

I think Hildegard of Bingen, whom I have recently been reading, has probably implanted in my brain that the conclusion of this series may well be that Music, discussed as broadly and all-importantly as I’ve been approaching it, is the constituent fabric of the universe. Or at least of human perception. Or perhaps it is the aspect of the cosmos’ constitution that we most easily access and work within, intentionally or otherwise. It is contained, or expressed by, all of our senses. It comes in waves, it moves in steps, it turns at angles and disappears, only to reappear in totally different forms and pieces and songs to intrigue us again. Being as such is expressed musically in our emotions and motions and ions. It radiates from within us and without us. It is the vast cosmic imagination expressed in all things, in everything, in everyone. I waxed philosophic about vinyls and lyrics and Courtney Love; forget about all of that. The articles themselves are just articulations about different aspects of my own relationship with Music and the hurdles I encounter in my own consumption. They in no way adequately express the picture, but by virtue of existing, they’re a part of the picture. As are you. As is everything. Am I repeating myself?

“A Rope of Sand,” the very first article in this series, concludes with the statement:

"Over the next few months I will be considering these question clusters one by one and attempting to constructively strive towards expressing something worthwhile about the experience of consuming music and attempting to reconcile the effect it has on our identities and relationships with the seemingly inescapable fact that all of this is just soloing into the void."

How bleak! How intentioned! Who is the sad-faced young hypocrite who posited that we were soloing into the void? We’re not soloing! Even if we live and die alone in a phenomenological Hegelian kind of way, even if all this reality is wish-wash and fantasy, it’s certainly very expressive! It certainly does a good many things, does it not? At the very least we’re probably all hallucinating on a plane together, unless solipsism is your thing (which it would have to be!) Where is this void? Beyond the knowable? Isn’t the implication therein that there’s more than can be known and not nothingness beyond what can be known? Music is unaVOIDable! Music contains the void, consumes it by constituting it, every note a new word to speak without saying, the radiating thing-ness of all things and nothing.

So, let get to it: “How does a piece of music attempt, whether acknowledged or not, to express Being as such and contribute to the already vast bridge of sound being constructed between us and ourselves?” (Me, 7 Months ago) What a silly question. A piece of music doesn’t attempt to do anything. It merely is by being and does by doing. People attempt to do with music exactly what they do all the time. I’m reminded of Wilco’s “The Late-Greats,” in which Monsieur Tweedy ruminates on the idea that the best things in life are never experienced. Whether or not the greatest band of all time ever makes it on the radio, or ever even plays a show, their music redefines their own identities, their relationships, and affects the music they make when they put their instruments down. Hell, they probably don’t exist but they’re already informing a song on a massively distributed record AND this meagre article, not to mention their effect of legions of Wilco fans. Can you imagine what they’d accomplish if they did exist? To write a song is to consciously hone experience: writing a chorus is like learning how to make a smoothie really well or make your lover climax. Un petit mort, un petit vie. The cycle continues, the imagination expands, and Music is still everything and everywhere. You ride the groove whether you choose to hear it or not.

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NERDVENTURES: Christmas In July In August Wed, 15 Sep 2010 23:43:31 +0000 King Frankenstein I remember the Sega-CD. Not through embraced slow YouTube nights, but actual Toys R’ Us demo stands and the on-again off-again cohorts who actually shelled out for the system. It was the child of a simple but common rhetoric in games and technology. A dangerous one. The future must be now. The better the ‘graphics’

I remember the Sega-CD. Not through embraced slow YouTube nights, but actual Toys R’ Us demo stands and the on-again off-again cohorts who actually shelled out for the system. It was the child of a simple but common rhetoric in games and technology. A dangerous one. The future must be now. The better the ‘graphics’ the better the game, and the best measure to these graphics is how it looks side by side with a photograph. Long before we even brushed up against the glossy uncanny valley of stiff face models and awkwardly over-gestured arms, the obvious strategy to this goal was to skip the whole graphics thing altogether and just make the game comprised of the real. And now we know where things went from there.

Night Trap, Crime Patrol, Sewer Shark, Corpse Killer and Wirehead. An infamous library of our attempt at the future. Games comprised of campy FMVs, adventures that had you perform nothing more than changing the channel on the world’s most unusually rigid broadcast signals. It was over a decade since Dragon’s Lair had hit arcades, but here was a new army of games that were essentially re-skins at best. Even with titles like Sonic CD, Silpheed and Snatcher, the full package is still remembered with sore sentiments. Their goal was honourable (or at least seemingly profitable) but it was just one of the many missteps that would lead to a general distrust of Sega and their addiction to new platforms. Lessons gladly made in the past.

Oh, and for those who have lives, don’t forget, the Sega-CD and the Sega Saturn are two different systems that both used CDs.

So why am I talking about the future in the past? Those who forget history are doomed to repeat it, and those who want to make that point are doomed to repeat that idiom. Today, systems really rule. Graphical capabilities update themselves gradually enough to keep us constantly impressed. Our addiction to ‘realism’ has been watered down by effectiveness through style. They play in HD on HD screens. They can go online and connect with millions of players around the world in an instant. You don’t even have to leave the house to buy the newest games. While from a consumer standpoint it feels like bliss, I’m sure the business of ‘getting it right’ isn’t as profitable as it is noble. The consumer market isn’t ready for a new system, we’ve just paid for the most expensive batch in our generation and their staying power seems to be the longest in console history. Oh, and that recession thing that is making employment a real bitch right now. Which leads us to a question that’s been toying with the dreams of every marketer in the industry. Where to next?

Some will say the idea came from Lawnmower Man or that Tekken body scanner thing at Playdium. Anyone but corporate representatives will affirm that it originated from the success of Ninendo’s Wii. Sure, the Wii is very, very far from realistically representing one to one gestures, but it’s simple you-do-this screen-do-that attitude managed to infect gamers, parents, children and demographics in between into welcoming the little white brick into their living rooms. There’s been none-such subtlety in recent years that this is a success desired by Nintendo’s competition, Sony and Microsoft. Mid-August, Microsoft held a holiday preview event, letting invited guests take shots at every major title between now and the new year. And take shots at the bar. The wonderful open bar.


Photo by King Frankenstein

All game, no filler (aside from delightful sliders.) The new Fable, the new Halo, the new Call of Duty, new Rock Band and, what the hell, Sonic the Hedgehog too. This wasn’t an event that was going to hold anything from us, though with Call of Duty snuggled off into one isolated room and the dessert table strategically placed next to a particular elevated display booth, the clear star-child was Kinect. Kinect is Microsoft’s answer to motion control. While the PS3’s Move offers a wand/camera combination, Kinect is more of an obvious advancement. I had always been more interested in Kinect, something truly unique to the fray, even if the fray itself is following another’s steps. Kinect puts forward the idea of gaming without any use of a controller, asking, or even forcing gamers to humour standing up. If you move your hand, something happens. You move your legs, something happens. You jump, you stomp, you wave and bob, the idea is that interacting with the game may longer be limited to the number of buttons available.

But is this just another upcoming addition to our addiction with the future? Can it be so easy?

The first game I played was Kinect Adventures. Working towards being the flagship sports/activity that every motion device heralds, Adventures at the very least, isn’t overestimating the staying power of archery. Taking place in what is easily the most obscenely unlikely to exist summer camp, Adventures offers a rafting game, an obstacle course game, a Breakout meets dodgeball game and a wave your arms around cause apparently that’s dancing non-game. This seemed like a demo compilation of ‘things this thing can do,’ though what we were playing itself could have very well just been a demo copy regardless. And was it fun? Well, it’s a little rough. The rafting and obstacle course seemed to have a hard time synching itself to our actions and is even more annoying than when the audio track on a video is off by a second or two. Jumping, ducking and sliding always seemed to need some time to figure itself out and while the games didn’t ask for split second timing, it still felt like the relationship between person and device wasn’t singing in full harmony.

The entire top floor was a Kinect exclusive affair. A highly draped and set up flat/patio combo, almost dream-like, with TWO bars that made whiskey sours in TWO different ways. The second way being the bar tender mixed whatever he could find with whiskey because he ran out of sour juice. It was interesting, I inspired another dude to challenge the drink master to a combination, his turned out better because of a hint of ginger ale. I should make a note of that. I guess this is a note of that. What was I writing about? Can I just write about whiskey? Sweet whiskey? Fine. Killjoy. The top floor had a slightly more overwhelmed employee-to-press ratio. You could tell who was who, because the employees and representatives who had been demonstrating their products all day were the only ones who didn’t look like stiff idiots while playing. This was all probably because knowledge of this floor and the service elevator you needed to access this floor was a little more obscure. That said, the result was a far more relaxing, sombre, almost perfect summer sunbeam atmosphere, that better encouraged attendees to relax and drunk dare their friends to play Kinect games. And drunk daring there was.

Our own Erika decided to give the nu-age Tamagotchi, Kinectimals, a little pat. The infamous Skittles wasn’t on screen, instead a just-as-unbearably adorable lion cub that wouldn’t wipe the smug impossible animal smile from its digital little face. We stood about awkwardly trying to figure out how to get the fake animal to do something. Without a controller to lean on, we found ourselves at a loss. Eventually a demo head came back and showed us the activity we could play with the lion, a small obstacle course. The player as the lion went up and down platforms, through little tubes, and one obstacle even just had you stop moving altogether until it said otherwise.

There was a Sonic game, re-appearances by Adventures, and fitness games, oh yes, the fitness games there were. But one game had substantially more attention and interest than all the others. One that didn’t feel like a pushy tech demo, and a game that could become the unquestioned king and lord of all future drunk dares. Harmonix’s Dance Central.


Photo by King Frankenstein

“This is going to sell” everyone agreed. No one specified if that meant the title specifically or the device it promoted, but everyone agreed that Dance Central would find many easy homes. It, unlike all the other Kinect titles, felt like a complete, coherent experience, comparable to many praised titles you see today. Smartly designed and ingeniously handled, there was really no fair comparison between it and the others there. While playing Rock Band may not bring you any closer to being a rock star, and Dance Central may not bring you any closer to impressing any b-boys, it will get you and others moving your bodies without checking each other’s face for awkward approval.

While I felt my grip on the motion controls of many of the other demos to be floaty, the ease of using the menu screen on Dance Central, done by motioning your hand up and down and swiping to select, was a good omen of the confidence to come. That was the first thing I noticed, the second was the song selection. While it was a demo-sized roster of songs, it did show that they are well on their way to pinning every kind of taste. Lady Gaga, Bell Biv DeVoe and M.I.A. foreshadows of something that will cover a lot of ground. I chose Beastie Boy’s Body Movin’, which the demo host warned was the most difficult track available. But listen, if I’m going to look white in public, I am going to do it with no grace and dignity at all. The dance segments are basically broken into a number of micro routines, unique to the song, which you can familiarize yourself with in a practice mode or just run into it face first and arms a flobbling. During the actual game, the on-screen avatar, which everyone will first assume is mirroring your moves, is utilized a little bit more cleverly. The avatar’s motions are what you should be doing instead of what you are, and when you are performing an action incorrectly the game will highlight the part on the avatar’s body which represents what you could be doing better. Halfway through the song, you will be given a freestyle segment, when the screen becomes a trippy blur and you can see the shadow of your body become a psychedelic montage monster. The game is also taking photos of you, which will be highlighted soon after. A cruel gag you’ll only fall for once, hopefully.

It’s not as if the Kinect doesn’t work, or doesn’t have potential. It just feels as if this relationship is elevating at a rate I’m a little bit too uncomfortable with. It’s as if everyone needs to be at the same competitive place at the same competitive time, and the risk of you public image being ‘behind’ is more severe than the risk of a lukewarm product launch. I want Kinect to work, and I want Move to be worth Sony’s time. But as a veteran gamer the memory of industry ‘future crush’ is still too hard to shake. The Sega CD wanted to embrace technology that was still a little bit too deep in infancy to support an entire major new product, and the product suffered for it. Sure, Kinect isn’t a fully immersed holographic cyber simulation where you can lull yourself in hopeless escapism and a harem of ninja babes, but its ambition is advanced enough to make its own dreams a harmful one.

At the end of the preview event, the titles I felt most warmest about were Vanquish, DJ Hero 2, Fallout: New Vegas and Mortal Kombat (oh man, you guys are really going to like Mortal Kombat.) Sure, they eased on the side of traditional, or at least the current, but I’m fine with current. Hell, I’m fine with the past. The future? The future’s all perspective until it becomes the present. Then it becomes perspective again.

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Spotlight: Chih Chen Wed, 15 Sep 2010 23:43:31 +0000 Chih Chen I'm a recent graduate from McMaster where I majored in anthropology. I started teaching myself photography with the help of a very expensive and very awful digital camera when I was thirteen - all digital cameras were expensive then. Presently I'm more interested in analog photography. I love the entire process of rationing film and

I'm a recent graduate from McMaster where I majored in anthropology. I started teaching myself photography with the help of a very expensive and very awful digital camera when I was thirteen - all digital cameras were expensive then. Presently I'm more interested in analog photography. I love the entire process of rationing film and really trying to make every picture worthwhile, which rarely happens. With that said, I think beautiful things come out of snapshots and accidents. I spend a lot of time looking at photographs on the internet that I wish I had taken. I'm most inspired by quiet pictures that make me think, "I see this all the time but I never saw it like this." I like photography because sometimes it helps me overcome my shyness in situations where I can be that girl who takes pictures.





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September’s Cubist News: They Were Not Amputated! Wed, 15 Sep 2010 23:43:30 +0000 N. Alexander Armstrong Illustration by C.S. Folkers The Good Man, The Bad Man, The Boys, and The Train. The Boys were blankly hip and they were grabbed by The Bad Man. Tragic. They got their images pushed in front of The Train and mid-length Dufferin cameras caught them. I knew a fellow, his description was 5-foot-8 and wearing

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Illustration by C.S. Folkers

The Good Man,
The Bad Man,
The Boys, and The Train.

The Boys were blankly hip
and they were grabbed by
The Bad Man. Tragic.

They got their images pushed
in front of The Train and
mid-length Dufferin cameras caught them.

I knew a fellow,
his description was 5-foot-8
and wearing leather.

Toques don't make a man a criminal,
neither does his transit beard,
but nudged freaking dragging youth does.

Four witnesses saw the push
and identified the defendant.
They grabbed at his buttons.

He was not in need of surgery.
He tossed some kids off the platform
and then left the station.

He was touching the boy's leg.
He took off his jacket.
The Boys could have been electrocuted.

"At Subway!" he pushed the both of them
and under Portuguese mothers the backbone
exasperated the subway car

The Train Entering Station.
He only had a minute,
He slid Asaf horrified out of the way

of gate straggly, court of death,
subway synch assault
scuffled Shargall.

The train descended in front of the kids.
Guys chased cellphone pals gangly.
"He pushed them in front of the train!"

The Boys that he left responsible scampered away.
The Boys came crashing down
heroic with sweeping weeps

"Oh that's exactly how you do it,"
said the TTC safety voice,
"Nice peeled 600-watt gallop-jog."

Jacob caught the T-shirt.
The operator was of an unknown background.
He strangled the duffering train.

Even the public dispatcher
ate paintballs as he walked
up the stairs.

The 59-year-old lawyer was flailing
and snorting the stuff,
asking "whodunit whodunit?"

huffing to the cross-examination
when he remembered the woman
sitting breathless on the bus.

Parental unit heard a story about
Adenir the Criminally Insane.
His hands crushed them.

Loose-Hanging Homeward-Bound Labour Man,
interpreter of Christmas,
got the look of Meanwhile.

He chased the pusher.
In pursuit under rumbling stations,
face-to-face with the criminal.

A long wait for the trial. For now, sodas.
Over pizza and fear the tale recounted
and astonishing the boy on his 15th birthday.

On the edge of his hair
the play-by-play repeats the outcome,
the brake-screeching teetering boys came out alive.

The witnesses remember seeing the crime in the station,
that the immigrant was stocky,
and all the spilled children.

“He pushed two kids in front of a subway!’’
The Good Man repeats with urgency.
“Please hurry.’’

Dispatcher says “We’re coming.’’
Good Man, strangled for breath and exasperated,
“You know what? So’s Christmas, buddy.’’

Not half an hour after the trial
began, he ran under the covers
and tossed himself off the platform

like he pushed all those boys
and pretended to have a disorder,
as if it knocked him off balance.

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Steel Bananas Grudgingly Supports George Smitherman Wed, 15 Sep 2010 23:43:20 +0000 C.S. Folkers “If you want to analyze the polls, Rob Ford’s not leading the polls. David Miller is.” - David Miller At this point we all know, without even having to refer to the wonderful assistance of Ipsos-Reid, that if David Miller were to seek re-election for a third term as Mayor of Toronto he would win

“If you want to analyze the polls, Rob Ford’s not leading the polls. David Miller is.”
- David Miller

At this point we all know, without even having to refer to the wonderful assistance of Ipsos-Reid, that if David Miller were to seek re-election for a third term as Mayor of Toronto he would win handily.

David Miller was an excellent mayor (NOW even did a spread about him being the greatest mayor a few months back), with a bold vision for the city and the political chops to back it up. He is destined, unfortunately, to be one of those figures whose reign will be looked upon as the golden age, despite his being heavily maligned and criticized during that time. A lot of people really hated David Miller and most of those people sure are going to be sorry that he left in a year or two when Toronto is (perhaps literally) run straight into the ground.

Not only are we faced with the very distinct possibility that the blundering, penny-pinching twelve-year-old-boy-in-a-fat-man's-body that is Rob Ford could very easily be Miller’s successor, but also that now, with candidate registration officially closed, there isn’t really any one miracle candidate that can stop him. The biggest problem that voters this year are faced with is that while Rob Ford may be the least intelligent (and least intelligible) person ever to run for mayor anywhere, none of the other candidates are particularly promising either. Mr. Ford is almost certainly the greatest of five evils, but with a little over a month to go before Election Day, it is becoming increasingly difficult to determine just who is the least.

Photo Courtesy of Globe and Mail

Photo Courtesy of Globe and Mail

Now that it is impossible for Miller to make a dramatic last-minute bid for re-election, effectively saving us all from certain doom, the only thing left for us to do is ponder just how exactly the Ford Inevitability can be stopped. Ford has almost no clout in the downtown core. The vast bulk of support for his vast bulk comes from suburban Etobicoke, North York and Scarborough. Meanwhile downtown voters remain perhaps irrevocably split between the four other major candidates George Smitherman, Joe Pantalone, Rocco Rosssi and Sarah Thompson.

Worst-Case Scenario: Big Red Rob cruises to victory on the heels of almost criminal vote-splitting because while everyone agrees that Ford is the worst option, no one can agree on who is the best.

Slightly Less Bad But Still Really Bad Scenario: Ford wins outright after a hard-fought battle with a candidate with a decent shot of winning. Voters soothe themselves with the knowledge that Ford will almost certainly not be re-elected.

Best-Case Scenario: Downtown voters unite around a single candidate and Rob Ford is defeated, preferably as ignominiously as possible.

Of course, the downside of a Ford defeat is in the event of said demise, Ford has announced that he will seek election in the provincial government as a Conservative in his riding of North Etobicoke, effectively handing the Tories their first seat in the City of Toronto in decades. But for now, that’s neither here nor there.

Let’s get down to some facts: Rob Ford is not a smart man, even in the slightest. His campaign has up to this point consisted primarily of semi-coherent blatherings about responsible government and cost-cutting, all the while demonstrating his almost fanatical determination to not understand even a little bit how anything works at all. Every once in a while he comes up with a grand, eye-catching scheme to revolutionize the city which usually does little more than to illustrate a little more clearly his spectacular buffoonery.

For example, Ford’s Transportation Plan, which may as well have been written as a project for a ninth-grade social studies class, describes a so-called “war on cars” that is tearing the city apart and how Rob Ford is the only person capable of saving the city from that Wolf David Miller’s calamitous devotion to public transit. He plans to take the money allocated for Transit City and invest it instead in a subway from Don Mills to Scarborough Town Centre, which is all well and good aside from the fact that his team has severely underestimated how much building ten kilometers of subway will cost as well as how long such a project will take. Ford has also here overlooked the fact that most of the money for Transit City has been provided by the Provincial Government for a specific purpose and McGuinty will sooner take all of the money back than let Ford just keep it to do with as he pleases.

This is one of many of the myriad misinformed oversights that have marred Ford’s campaign. He has continually demonstrated his utter unwillingness to think like a realistic person, instead insisting on existing in Ford’s Fantasy Funland where cutting costs is the solution to any and all problems, nothing costs as much as it actually does anyway and one doesn’t have to know anything about anything to be elected mayor of one of the largest cities in an industrialized nation.

And yet, despite his glaringly obvious ineptitudes, despite his now routine blunderings which should have had him out of the race weeks ago, and despite his generally unpleasant and objectively repulsive character, people love him. He has that “straight-shooter” quality that voters always seem to appreciate, that “guy-you-could-just-grab-a-beer-with” persona that got Bush Jr. elected in the first place and is the very reason why Michael Ignatieff will never be Prime Minister. Ford presents himself as the Salt-of-the-Earth-No-Nonsense-Regular-Joe candidate and despite his having shot himself in the foot repeatedly, voters continue to buy his shtick in bulk.

It’s becoming more apparent as this campaign drags on that persona may just be the difference in who is elected mayor, and as much as I’ve slandered Rob Ford on this very page, it must be admitted that his persona is as big as his already generous paunch. This is something that none of the other candidates can boast.

So, what’s a city to do?

Well, if Ford wins come next month, we can all beg David Miller to run against him in the next election, provided we are spared the happy possibility of Ford’s having disgraced himself into resigning. In the meantime, we voters who consider the possibility of Mayor Ford a horrifying atrocity need to recognize the fact that by arguing over which of the other candidates is better at this point is a waste of time and that vote-splitting will hand the election to Ford. So, to save everyone a lot of time, I’m going to settle this debate once and for all.

We’re all going to vote for George Smitherman.

He isn’t even my first choice. Unfortunately, outgoing Deputy Mayor Joe Pantalone unfortunately hasn’t got a prayer. If he has any sense at all he should withdraw from the race today and throw his support behind Smitherman. While Miller’s sidekick may have made a fine successor to the big office, Pantalone’s soft-spoken manner has had a very difficult time winning people over, a trend that does not appear to be changing any time in the near future. As far as the other candidates are concerned, Sarah Thompson is too green behind the ears to be taken seriously and Rocco Rossi has officially put himself out of his own misery with his “Toronto Tunnel” idea, a scheme so desperate and so misinformed that Rossi might even drum up a few pity votes.

I think we can all agree that Smitherman wouldn’t be a terrible mayor, and as bad as it might be to say it, “not awful” is about as good as we can hope for in a mayor in an election rife with mediocrity. Smitherman is the only candidate who possesses both the experience and the aptitude for running the largest city in the country in addition the ability and influence to defeat the Ford Machine. This combination puts Smitherman ahead of Pantalone who has ability but no clout, Rossi who has clout but no ability and Thompson who has neither. So with that I will inform our readers that Steel Bananas is placing its grudging endorsement for mayor behind Furious George Smitherman.

Come election day, let us all be saved.

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Killin Food Tentatively Explores the Canadian National Exhibition Wed, 15 Sep 2010 23:42:36 +0000 Ted Killin HRMPH. I hrmph Purchase cialis soft tabs the contemporary Canadian National Exhibition. Far from the days when organizers would reveal cutting-edge technology and giant redwoods, perhaps one enters compelled to ride one of the many inane, regurgitated rides? Patrons can also enjoy the multiple gambling booths and large casino, take a gander at the the

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the contemporary Canadian National Exhibition.

Far from the days when organizers would reveal cutting-edge technology and giant redwoods, perhaps one enters compelled to ride one of the many inane, regurgitated rides? Patrons can also enjoy the multiple gambling booths and large casino, take a gander at the the masses of crafts and gimmick-laden booths, or simply save their cash. The only aspect of the Ex that I pine for is the Food Building and its web of vendors, but last year this favourite haunt of mine had fallen so low that I could not bring myself to scribble a single passing mention on these pages -- three Pizza Novas in the food building alone was gasp-worthy. But this year, new booths attempt their own particular cuisine designed to drive the masses mad; this year, there have been some unique additions that deserve attention.

In the Food Building, there are several waffle houses, at least four shwarma houses and about twice that many pan-Asian cuisineries, shouldering their way between the popular chains that stake their claim well in advance, of course: Mr. Greek; both Subway and Mr. Sub competing for fare; the Caribbean Island Foods; Pita Pit; one of those expensive lemonade bubbles; and only one Pizza Nova, a far step from the three of yesteryear. Coca-Cola has inhabited a large corner booth, selling 32oz collectible jugs for five dollars.

Food Building

Yet there are many alternatives to these corporate giants: a Montreal deli; a cheesecakery that serves a great cup-o-joe, competing with other coffee-only stands; a Memphis bbq that serves racks of smoked ribs; and a Foods of Canada section that serves stereotypical Canuck dishes like peameal bacon sandwiches, buffalo burgers and poutines.

Perogies, originally an eastern-European dish, have captured the mouths of many Canadians, and the The Perogy Chef has become a well-honoured Toronto favourite. I order their 'healthy choice' item, the kobassa burger with fried onions and mozzarella cheese laid on top, and as I do a man approaches to order a plate of perogies, asking for the owner: "I always come here to see the old man, where is he?" The widow informs her customer that her husband died in November and she now runs the booth. Her husband Boris Hirniak manned the booth for 22 years, representing the company Naleway Food that owns the Downsview-based factory. He enjoyed making the butter, onion and dill perogy so much that he continued to run the booth for years after laid off his position at the company.

Another day, rather than wait in the lineup for a Bouchard's Poutine, I succumb to one of several bright yellow-signed outlets of Maggie's selling footlong hot dogs for $1.50, boasting the lowest the price point of the Ex by a considerable margin. There are two Bouchard Poutine outlets in attendance and when I shout past the long lines to ask one of the vendors how he felt about the multitude of Smoke's Poutineries sprouting up in the downtown core, he winces and replies,

Food Building

"What in the hell is Smoke's?"

I'm unsure whether he was playing dumb or preferred to ignore Smoke's existence altogether, but while their menus are similar Bouchard's sells (if you can believe it) a signature taco-in-a-bag, which is a small bag of Dorito chips filled with seasoned ground beef, tomatoes, lettuce, onions, ketchup and mustard -- would probably be enjoyable until your stomach starts screaming at your mouth, asking what the fuck it thinks it's masticating.

The best option for the Food Building this year turned out to be a first-year trial run from Michelle Mo-Persia and her brother opening a Mac and Cheesery, requiring three booths for its large store front. Geared to serve a long lineup throughout the day, not only did they prepare a well-toasted menu, but created a double-feature festival menu: one side of the menu is devoted to the mac & cheese creations, while the other is a sandwich menu prepared with Texas toast and ample slices of cheddar.

Tempted to taste the Italian sandwich with basil pesto, provolone and pepper salami, I decide to stay patriotic and grab a Canadian with bacon, tomato, and two slices of thick cheddar, served on a bed of chips and garnished with a dill pickle. The thick toast absorbs the juices of the toppings while retaining its toasty crunch, bolstered by the phenomenal quality of the cheddar. When I wanted to try the cheese woven through their top-grade elbow macaroni, I considered the cheeseburger mac & cheese loaded with ground beef, but I went with a 'classic mac' to get a full taste of their signature recipe. Cheese is laid on top of the dish before each aluminum bowl passes through a conveyor-belt toaster, ensuring the cheese traverses the layers all the way to the bottom.

But then I catch wind of the infamous new treat served at the Exhibition that nearly caused a city-wide stir:

Deep-fried butter balls... as it turns out, people are extraordinarily into these gastronomic disasters.

Tiny bulbs of butter affixed on skewers, rolled into funnelcake batter and lightly stirred in hot oil until they float -- a prolonged bobbing ensures the butter melts to the outsides, creating an enclosed nugget for the fair-goer to gnash. Although some reviews have claimed that the inside became hollow after batter eagerly soaks the butter, that did not stop the booth from selling over thirty-thousand of these treats to a lineup that wound around midway games in a crowded effort to imbibe these hyped treats. A four-ball order runs $5 with drizzled toppings of chocolate, caramel, strawberry or vanilla, but are certainly not worth a minimum twenty-minute wait.

Although competing with butter ball mania is nigh impossible, all other food vendors must vie for space on the midway or in the Direct Energy Centre, but I wouldn't want to spend my time picking through all of these flab-slinging vendors to find something worthwhile. Around the CNE grounds, the snack I prefer is a dozen of Tiny Tom's donuts, which occupy nearly every corner and are of much better quality than the annoying no-name mini donut vendor that replays a voice loop of Homer Simpson craving donuts throughout the day, to no one in particular. Since my childhood, no trip to the Exhibition is complete without Tom's apple-cinnamon dusted donuts, which I grab on my way out.

And the gavel falls on my final verdict: I will continue to only attend the Exhibition for the express purpose of employment every year -- if you ever find yourself herded through the CNE entrance, peruse the Food Building briefly and turn around. A festival designed to empty your bank account can only succeed if you are a willing participant in its buffoonery, so this is my warning to be sparing with your money and avoid the butter balls unless compelled to inject fat directly into that pipe feeding your stomach.

Deep Fried Butter from Lucas Richarz on Vimeo.

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If You Don’t Want To Be Nude, Wear A Suit Wed, 15 Sep 2010 23:41:00 +0000 Girlofbirthday I was trying to find some interesting inspiration for my window shopping blog when I stopped in front of the Yves Saint Laurent store between Fifth and Madison and took a double take of the mannequins. To the left of the main entrance was an absolutely perfectly tailored women’s jumpsuit, and to the right, a

I was trying to find some interesting inspiration for my window shopping blog when I stopped in front of the Yves Saint Laurent store between Fifth and Madison and took a double take of the mannequins. To the left of the main entrance was an absolutely perfectly tailored women’s jumpsuit, and to the right, a men’s suit jacket and pants of the same level of respectable quality.


Photo by Girlofbirthday

In common practice, one would glance at these windows for a mere second and pass right by, because for most people who aren't interested in fashion, a suit is a suit. If the garment on display in the window does not contain stimulating colours, novel silhouettes, or intricate embellishment, it’s difficult to keep our attention. Alas, the suit is probably our most pragmatic garment in the course of a lifetime.

Upon my closer inspection, both suits had neat “double” lapels, if you will: the white jumpsuit has a shawl collar with a separate seamed lapel to give the impression of two collars, and the grey suit has a lapel has been slashed from the notch point and folded inwards, also creating the illusion of a double lapel. Often, it’s the subtle details in constructed tailored garments that are the most challenging to engineer. And since suits are like a blank canvas, the sewing must be excellent and spectacular at the same time because no embellishment is present to act as a safety net to conceal mistakes.


Photo by Girlofbirthday

Most women find that a man in a suit can be just as attractive as a man that is nude. Take George Clooney for example, and how about all those attractive men sitting front row at the Calvin Klein Men’s Collection shows? I believe the fetish works the other way around as well. The scene in Morocco (1930) where Marlene Dietrich walks out onto the stage in a black suit and top hat holds the same level of eroticism for a man. Perhaps it is the age-old concept that wearing a suit leaves everything to the imagination. Although, I don’t recall anyone finding Russian ponevas very sexy, so that can’t be it.

No garment quite obscures and showcases the human form at such extreme measures of the spectrum as a suit. At once, it can be designed made-to-measure, but can also fool the eye by changing the body’s silhouette through the size of shoulder pads, the size of lapels, the jacket length, single- or double- breasted, the sleeve or pant flare… I could go on and on.

A suit is like an ice-sculpture, if you will, the angles keeping the silhouette of your body frozen in time. The solid form and traditional design often obscures obvious biological distinctions that define social genders between the male and the female. Is it the fascination with androgyny, or is it the fascination of the satisfaction derived from releasing oneself from inhibition?

So, wait. We all know that a nude woman or man is erotic. A woman dressed as a man in a suit can be equally erotic as a man dressed as a… well… man, but a man dressed in a woman’s dress does not quite give off the same level of publicly admitted feelings of eroticism. This entirely throws off Laura Mulvey’s concept of the male gaze and its sexual objectification of women, because if a suit is historically known to be a man’s uniform, then it is possible to conclude that men, or symbols relating to men, can be likewise objectified. Especially when one considers the increasing homosexual content in art, music, literature, and even politics, being explored within the past decade. Gender theories can be so anachronistic, can’t they?


Photo Courtesy of

Every season, Stefano Pilati, the vanguard Creative Director of YSL, teams up with famous photographers and art house film directors to create short films to debut his men’s collections. Pilati, who has long been committed to using film “as a means of presenting fashion” (WWD, Emilie Marsh, “Men on Film: Cinema Inspired Fashion”, March 15, 2010), often uses the theme of male vanity in these film shorts.

For Autumn/Winter 2010 Homme, fashion photographer Bruce Weber joined the team and created a neat little men’s video titled “Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing,” which I personally hope will get Rob Ford antsy in his panties if he ever watches it. (If you need a quick downlow on Weber’s past work, think of the black and white still shots used in Calvin Klein and Abercrombie & Fitch print ads.)


The seven-minute film is narrated by Bruce Weber himself, who questions in a satiric, low-tone, slow-mode voice that must’ve been groomed somewhere in the pornography industry of the 70s why most male and female models are so doubtful when it comes to getting nude in front of the camera. Why are they so prude about getting nude if it’s not lude?

The film is compiled with a series of short shots of male models (sometimes alone but mostly with their friendly male companions) dancing in what looks like an underground studio, and dressed in none other than Yves Saint Laurent. The men dance and roughhouse in a fun aggressiveness that complements the masculine charm of a suit. Marvin Gaye’s song of the same title acts as the score to the background. As the film progresses, shots of the same male models are now completely nude and climbing a… uh… cliff by a forest pond.

The shots of the men are interjected by a 50s film clip of Bunny Jaeger halfway through the film. Jaeger tries to convince a comely young lady to take nude photographs that are classy. Eventually, shots of the male models become entwined with clips of Bunny Jaeger’s naked female models, and the discourse between the state of men’s dress (and eventual undress) and the state of women’s undress is revealed.

We all know that Bruce Weber is slightly a perv, but the homoerotic content of this film short is transgressive, even if the men in the film don’t dress in that sense. Sexual identity is a way of being natural to one’s true self, and could be, but does not have to be, directly linked to how one chooses to express his/her gender identity.

In the men’s fashion world of skinny ties, skinny pants, floral prints, and black eyeliner, Pilati takes on a different but romantic point of view. He believes men are sexy dressed in suits, and men are sexy naked, but rarely is anything in between attractive. This is evident in the designs of his men’s collections. In his A/W 2010 collection, Pilati’s suits are still traditional in their construction and silhouette of broad shoulders, and loose pants, grey flannel, which perhaps connotes to the black and white cinematography, the muffled sound of actors, and the Marvin Gaye soundtrack. However, the play on technical construction, the twists on details such as a lapel, makes YSL men’s, and women’s suits, feel current and still modern. The realms of confinement always birth space for creativity.

Now Isengart, he’s just special. When I was lining up outside Bergdorf Goodman on Fashion’s Night Out, beautifully androgynous Daniel Isengart provided some live cabaret entertainment in one of their world-renowned Fifth Avenue windows. Described as a “hustler striking Marlene Dietrich poses in an Amsterdam window” by Time Out New York Magazine, he seems to always straddle the fine line between being nude and wearing a suit.

You can check out the YSL Homme A/W 2010 Bruce Weber video here.

You can check out a clip of Isengart’s Bergdorf Goodman cabaret singing here.

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Weird News: Doctor Dooms Wed, 15 Sep 2010 23:40:02 +0000 Nancy Situ This month’s weird news is inspired by my own incompetent healthcare practitioner. I’m typing this in bed right now – sick and skipping my 9:30am class. My parents want to take me to my hairy-eared doctor but it’s the morning and he doesn’t get into the office until the late afternoon. I don’t want to

This month’s weird news is inspired by my own incompetent healthcare practitioner. I’m typing this in bed right now – sick and skipping my 9:30am class. My parents want to take me to my hairy-eared doctor but it’s the morning and he doesn’t get into the office until the late afternoon. I don’t want to go to him anyway because he is the worst doctor ever. When I was twelve, he told me that I had cold sores because I sometimes got cracks in the corner of my lips. For almost five years, I was convinced that I had herpes despite the fact that I never really had sores, just raw spots. Eventually, I turned to google and discovered that I had Angular cheilitis which is a symptom of vitamin B deficiency. My doctor knew I had vitamin B deficiency! Worst doctor ever.

I got a physical last month because apparently, you’re supposed to get those every year. He didn’t want to give me one because he said there was nothing wrong with me. I had to make up some ambiguous symptom just so that he would order the blood tests. A week later, he called to say that I had significantly low levels of vitamin D and that my liver might be failing. I’m pretty sure I will drop dead at any moment.

On top of his medical shortcomings, my doctor is also kind of a creep. Whenever I go in complaining about various ailments, he just gives me a belly rub and sends me on my way. He made me lie down to examine my knees once. I’m fairly sure he was just looking up my skirt. I would really like a new family doctor. Seriously, if anyone in the GTA knows a good GP who is taking new patients, email me.

Quackery - Photo Courtesy of

Quackery - Photo Courtesy of

Believe it or not, there are physicians out there who are more stupid than my quack of a doctor. In Italy, two doctors started a fist fight in the delivery room of a woman about to give birth. One of them grabbed the other by the neck while he retaliated by punching and shattering a window. As a result, the woman had her uterus removed and her baby suffered heart problems and possible brain damage.

In Bakersfield, California, Dr. Jacquelyn Kotarac really desperately wanted some booty. She first tried to get into her on-again off-again boyfriend’s house with a shovel. When that didn’t work, the 49-year-old MD climbed a ladder onto the roof, removed the chimney cap, and slid feet first down the shaft. Her decomposing body was found three days later when a housesitter noticed a stench and fluids coming down from the fireplace. It took five hours to dismantle the chimney to extract her corpse. While she was breaking into the house, her boyfriend slipped out the backdoor to “avoid a confrontation” with her.


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//Letter from the Editor: September 2010 Wed, 15 Sep 2010 06:40:51 +0000 Steel Bananas September 15, 2010 Greetings Voters, It's getting chilly out, schools everywhere are bustling with startin' up festivities and just about everyone I know is pretty much booked up until November with Stuff To Do. Busy As Hell is the mantra of the month as we all settle in to what I've heard numerous people refer

September 15, 2010

Greetings Voters,

It's getting chilly out, schools everywhere are bustling with startin' up festivities and just about everyone I know is pretty much booked up until November with Stuff To Do. Busy As Hell is the mantra of the month as we all settle in to what I've heard numerous people refer to as "the real New Year". On top of all of our respective schooling and other personal business that insists on piling higher and higher, there is an election upon us, the result of which is going to have quite the effect on this fair city of ours, most likely for the worst.

Our options are decidedly limited as far as this thing goes. We've been offered the wonderful choice between an overweight penny-pincher determined to run the city directly into a state of profound disorder, a pair of political "outsiders" (read: newbs) whose fantastical schemes sound more like science fiction than campaign platforms, a contradictory career politician who spends more time attacking his opponents than saying anything particularly meaningful and the current mayor's sidekick, whose stay-the-course platform is having trouble raising waves against the increasingly ludicrous promises and pipe dreams of his competitors.

We are living in a city very much divided and in this case we had better down a pint of that good old fashioned unity real quick, otherwise we will be faced with at least four years of Big Red Rob screwing up absolutely everything that is good about Toronto. Believe me when I say that no one will be spared his incompetence. You can find more on this horrifying prospect in the Urban Culture Section.

In addition to election coverage, we also have an interview with novelist Michael Winter, a very thoughtful discussion of novel illustrations and cover art by A.M. Standish as well as the thrilling conclusion to Patrick Grant's That's Some Pretty Heavy Music Journalism series.

If this is to be the end of an era - that is, the end of Toronto being a nice place to be - at least we're putting up a fuss. On the other hand, screw Rob Ford, he's not going to ruin this city for me. Try though he surely will.

C.S. Folkers
Associate Editor
Steel Bananas

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SB 23 : Under Construction Wed, 15 Sep 2010 00:45:29 +0000 Steel Bananas SB 23 | Under Construction

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//Issue 22: August 2010 Tue, 31 Aug 2010 17:28:13 +0000 Steel Bananas SBB 22: August 2010

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TIMELAND | Alberta’s 2010 Biennial of Contemporary Art: The Einstein’s Brain Project Presents The Shapes of Thought Mon, 16 Aug 2010 22:31:25 +0000 Karen Correia Da Silva We had quite a bit of trouble categorizing this review of The Shapes of Thought by The Einstein's Brain Project, a joint venture between two Calgary artists, Alan Dunning and Paul Woodrow, and Morley Hollenberg, a professor in the Department of Physiology & Pharmacology at the University of Calgary. The project straddles the lines between

The Einstein's Brain Project | The Shapes of Thought | Courtesy of the University of Calgary

We had quite a bit of trouble categorizing this review of The Shapes of Thought by The Einstein's Brain Project, a joint venture between two Calgary artists, Alan Dunning and Paul Woodrow, and Morley Hollenberg, a professor in the Department of Physiology & Pharmacology at the University of Calgary. The project straddles the lines between performance and film, as well as science and poetics, using Electroencephalography (EEG) devices to visually represent brain activity by measuring the active firing of neurons in the brain. The result is a projection of colourful and amorphous shapes which represent the abstract movement of thought. The trouble came in considering it performance, visual art, or science. Could the scientific measurement and virtual respresentation of the spontaneous movement of brain matter be all three? The Einstein's Brain Project is arguing that it can.

As part of TIMELAND at the Art Gallery of Alberta, The Einstein's Brain Project's Shapes of Thought is a brilliant interdisciplinary performance study of the movements of the mind. With artists Dunning and Woodrow as the art objects, their emotions are rendered virtually in shapes and colour. On the project website, the emotional aspect of this project is emphasized, as they explain, "Participants were monitored by EEG and EKG sensors and asked to recall traumatic events from their past. Participants agreed to undergo hypnosis to aid in the recollection and reliving of events in which they were deeply affected by anger, fear, joy, or other primary emotions." The result is a virtual visual representation of trauma, contrasted in the two separate thinkers depending on the particulars of their recollection. It is, in effect, the abstract yet entirely mathematical representation of emotion.

This project is an interesting counterpoint to the Xenotext project by fellow University of Calgary avant-science poet Christian Bök, which intends to insert poetry in the form of a genetic sequence to a strain of bacteria called Deinococcus radiodurans. He describes the project as " a literary exercise that explores the aesthetic potential of genetics in the modern milieu, doing so in order to make literal the renowned aphorism of William S. Burroughs, who declared the word is now a virus."1 Constrasted with the The Shapes of Thought, the Xenotext project aspires to create poetry and abstraction which can grow outside of the human mind, while the EBP is concerned with the mathematical and mystical representations of abstraction. The approach of the artist in the former is that of a god-like figure capable of creation, while the latter is the mathematically generated representation of psychic deconstruction.

Taken together as two interdisciplinary works spawning from the same academic institution, this obsession with the intersection between mathematically generated variables and the abstraction of thought and existence has begun to characterize the interdisciplinary artistic work in Alberta.

In the context of the 2010 Alberta Biennial of Contemporary Art, the work of the Einstein's Brain Project suggests a new era in poetics and aesthetics; that of a complicity with the simultaneously mathematical and mystical world of science. By integrating an understanding of the abstractions of human bodies and minds with technological advancements which accurately measure the spontaneous chemical reactions both inside and outside the body, artists can look forward to a paradoxically progressive new perspective on aesthetics, which turns the gaze back to the cavernous mysteries of the human body in attempt to map new horizons.

1C Bök , "The Xenotext Experiment", (2008) 5:2 SCRIPTed 227

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NERDVENTURES: Beyond Terribledome Mon, 16 Aug 2010 22:30:11 +0000 King Frankenstein She’s known as Future Schlock. As arranged by texting, I’m meeting her at Black Dog Video, which she noticed on her way into town. It has coffee, wifi, and of course videos, all of which fills her checklist for a decent place to spend time. She’s from the internet, and I’m trying not to rest

She’s known as Future Schlock. As arranged by texting, I’m meeting her at Black Dog Video, which she noticed on her way into town. It has coffee, wifi, and of course videos, all of which fills her checklist for a decent place to spend time. She’s from the internet, and I’m trying not to rest my arm on the table because it’s kind of unbalanced and the coffee next to her MacBook makes me nervous. She, and her groovy troupe, are on day two of their Toronto visit along a tour promoting their magical new DVD, a collaborative compilation of a year’s worth of material arranged in a thoughtful and provocative way. And what material is this? Where does it come from? Why is that woman massaging a cat? Why is that robot preaching the Bible? Why is that Rastafarian chicken reminding me to breathe? Where did that kid learn those cool dance moves? Should we be afraid? I’m very afraid? If I cry, will you still respect me? What happens next?

“We stick our magic crystals into the treasure chest, then we turn the lock then the magical gate wishes itself open. Then we ride dragons into space.”

They are Everything is Terrible.

Everything they do is wonderful. You should already know that.



We’re exhausting through media at a rapid pace. It seems that even the most potently entertaining viral video withstands a shelf life of a little over a week. From there it will then disintegrate into the forgotten favourite folders of infinite accounts. We used to cherish these values. I made serious consideration on which Power Rangers tapes had to be taken on family vacations for repeat viewings on the itty bitty travel TV. Now? We’ve all become circumstantially ADD, taking everything for granted. We’re too fast for ourselves, discarding entertainment at a rate that it could fool your instincts to believe it’s yet another resource we’re squandering irresponsibly, like if it’s gone it won’t come back. After all, that’s how it used to be. Somewhere in-between YouTube and Dailymotion, it’s easy to forget that not everything can be found on the internet. Some things are still gems. Some things have been forgotten. The hunt for the illusive may be illusive itself, but that’s where we meet the bravest hunters.

“We don’t upload anything digital, we have a strict rule. We are not allowed to use anything we’ve found on the internet. It has to be from a VHS tape... Decaying thrift stores and crappy areas of town are the best place to find them. Mom and pop video stores going out of business are the most fertile grounds for hunting... It’s surprising how many there are. We never fail to find them. One thing that sucks is that they are starting to go up in price. We were at the thrift store the other day and they were two dollars apiece, TWO DOLLARS!”

Along with Future Schlock are Commodore Gilgamesh and Yonder Vittles. It’s hard to tell but under the elaborate outfits they are basically a Scooby-Doo gang made entirely up of Shaggys and Velma, investigating spooky and disturbing ghouls of American culture, then ensnaring them in a fisherman’s net. They met at Ohio University, united by a love for bad videos but later separated by destiny. The website, Everything is Terrible, was created as a way to share their preciously awful finds with each other, and as their editing skills became more refined, the world.

“It just sort of happened organically, BoingBoing linked us along with popular blogs. Videogum and Gawker reposted our stuff. We would get hits from there, but it’s become that now people follow us. We are a source.”

Future Schlock told me the others left to meet up with some local video artists, while also cycling a tour of the town. From then until the performance, I critically viewed every group of cyclists that I crossed paths with in and about Trinity Bellwoods (which, of course, is a lot.) I paid more attention to it than I should have, but my judgement held true. Group after group, “No, not them,” I told myself, “they don’t look weird enough.” Eventually at Queen and Ossington, three cool looking guys sharing two rental bikes came to a stop. I angled my head forward, gestured my hand and asked, “You guys wouldn’t happen to be from the internet, would you?” Yonder Vittles’ head turned my way, slowly. His eyes began to bulge like they were loading arks. “HOW DID YOU KNOW THAT” he demanded. I told him, truthfully, that it was a slightly informed guess. We both seemed to hope that interaction would have had a more dramatic conclusion. While at the same time not hoping to kill each other, it was a moment.



“It’s really cool, like, I really love what’s happening on the tour.” Said Vittles, “People will come up to us and have a bunch of very eager questions and bring us cupcakes and VHS tapes, it’s nice to meet people as sick as you are, and are really into these weird tapes.”

While Schlock, Vittles and the others certainly enjoyed the dedicated pastime, both felt there was a much greater purpose to the exercise.

“We were always disenfranchised with TV, and it’s fun just creating your own channel.” Said Vittles, “That’s really my exposure to popular culture in many ways, popular culture that’s marinated for twenty years. We can use it now, ready for harvest... Something we get approached with all the time is, ‘Boy you guys are doing a really good job catching up with this early 90s nostalgia business’ but that’s not at all what we’re doing. It’s archiving things from this post-media shift that happened. After that shift happened, there’s a similar dynamic that’s happening with YouTube, where anyone who can get their hand on a VHS camera can do a car commercial. There’s just this mountain of crap that existed there, it was so sad for us to see these tapes just get lost in history.”

While people definitely see YouTube as a feasible launch pad, it will never match the tragic legitimacy average Jane and Joes saw within the confines of the tiny VHS cassette. “The beauty of VHS is that it’s just like YouTube or DVDs now.” Said Schlock, “There was this point in the late 80s and early 90s where suddenly VHS equipment was cheap enough to access and then cheap enough to mass produce. People who worked in the ‘industry’ so to speak put out these videos. The market became extremely glutted with not only these shotty b-movies but instructional things and religious programming. Everyone was convinced that this was the way to reach the public... I think in the sense that we’re archiving material that no other archive would touch, that there’s a social historic value in that. I’m pretty sure if we had not put Dwayne out there, Dwayne would have been forgotten. That would have been a tragedy. We want to find Dwayne so bad, but his last name doesn’t appear on the video, and no, no one knows. It would be amazing if Brad Pitt was actually Dwayne.”

Dwayne, for the philistines, is a fashion savvy boy who in a tween VHS dance program. He grabbed the spotlight, squeezed it for all it’s worth, and unleashed a dance move so smooth it slices through all conventional rhetoric like a prepubescent shank. He is but one of the many idols, characters, that have gained infamy on the EIT service. While every video is special, some videos are extra special, with characters so memorable you’ll roll restless in your bed at night, furiously trying to shake them from your thought. One of the other favourites of the team is Colby. A robot who sings and dances when read passages from the bible by children.

“Kids will watch anything and even worse, parents will show anything to their kids.” Said Vittles, “I always have this conversation about how disconcerting and icky we feel about these. Do parents watch it or do they buy it, much like how we shop for videos, looking for the really radical cover with super cool graphics, that is probably terrible, and I guess that hits in the parents mind as well, thinking, ‘sweet let’s buy it, they’ll leave us the fuck alone for a while!’ Parents will just trust it, kind of like how you’ll trust the news. Usually it comes in the Trojan horse of educational or silly moral values for kids. They’re just absurd or ridiculous things, and so Colby was born. They have the Colby program that would run the polished show, and then churches throughout the country could purchase psalm books and tapes and instruction booklets to put on your own Colby production. We ran into the coo of coos and found a tape from a small church, the Calvary Temple in suburban Chicago that put on a Colby production on their own with a cardboard Colby. The Christians are much more prolific with this, we get emails asking us why we hit the Christians so hard and the easy answer is, well, they make a lot of shit.  I would totally like to get more faiths into it. I have a couple Jewish tapes, one is like a puppet Passover at Bhuuba’s. I haven’t posted it yet, still trying to figure out how I’m going to use it.”

Colby also has a follow up pal, Psalty, the singing, dancing, camping psalm book.

“We couldn’t bring Colby on tour because, unfortunately,” said Schlock, “Colby took up half the van. He’s huge, like, nine feet tall. Our friend Davey K makes puppets for a show called Food Party, he’s a really talented puppet maker. He made us a life-sized Colby costume. We do a Colby skit on stage where he apologizes to the children for programming them, they all hug, the children say, ‘It’s okay Colby, we’re still friends’ and then Colby gets assassinated by a disgruntled ex-Colby kid. Wish we could have brought him but we had to decide between suitcases or Colby.”

Which finally brings us to the show, the sort of endeavour one troupe would tour to perform. Vittles and I had an extensive and frankly really depressing discussion about the state of politics that’s too severe of a downer to bother transcribing, so instead I’ll tell you about the Sega Genesis games I got at the pawn shop down the street while the others prepared for the show. I got Mortal Kombat II, I got NBA Jam (Tournament Edition), I got Sonic Spinball, and then I people watched at the Mr. Sub across the street while an older, heavier man talked about how rigged the World Cup was over his turkey bacon club. Then I hopped back to the Drake, ordered up a whiskey sour, took my seat and awaited some magic.



People sat down, as some oldies but goodies played on several screens around us. Raps about milk, puppet shows about wishing trolls, headphone commandos, creepy hug doll dimensions, the works. Then a freak hype man came out and wanted to give us everything if we’d do the same for him. He wore a grey suit, a blue headset and had a disfigured bleeding face somewhere in between Freddy Kruger and a species Doctor Who would outwit. He wanted our affection, and for it gave us his jacket, then his shirt, pants and eventually his hair. He was the icebreaker.

Soon after, ‘they’ came. Now in ceremonial garb, the EIT crew went from human beings to radioactive creatures from the internet. They had glowing owl eyes, fantastic fangs and tusks, wore golden VHS tapes around their neck, bedazzling jewellery around their elastic long arms. These beings were the train collision concoction of a cancelled Saturday morning cartoon, a Jodorowsky nightmare and the freebies they hand out at Bar Mitzvahs. They danced and shook about, welcoming us, warning us, asked if we were having a good time, we said we were, because, well, we were. They wanted to show us a vision of a future we would never comprehend otherwise. They hit play on the feature length that grant us such foresight. A hazy montage of computer made graphics, rainbows and Pat Morita led into this treasure.


“The DVDs are very different from the website.” Said Schlock, “We didn’t do a very good job explaining that in the past, so people when they see them they get overwhelmed. We’ve heard some people say, not everyone, that they can’t watch it all in one sitting, because it’s just really really fast. Every year, we take every single source video we’ve used that year, divide them up, kind of thematically, and then we cut those into little essays on a topic and this time we tried to make a story arc. Make a single movie out of around 150. We chopped them up, sample them, little bits from each source video, string them all together into sort of a narrative. Not the traditional narrative, more of a mix tape. The website is kind of silly and funny, while the DVD is more of an experimental video. Still funny, just more avant-garde. I just said something in French! You hear that Canada? I said something in French!”

It was a lucid sunrise of VHS infection. A just-woke-up barrage of clips and footage strung together in such a method that no one in the Drake could keep their laughter in for more than a couple seconds, if that. Some clips you’ve seen from EIT before, some you haven’t, all arranged n a way you’d never expect, leap frogging from theme to theme. Warning us that strolling down a path of vanity, faith, greed, celebrity sex secrets and kids inexplicably dressed like Adolph Hitler would result in nothing less than a cataclysmic and sorta awesome apocalypse. I felt like I learned a lesson, that’s not a fact, just a feeling. I also feel if I told you this lesson, someone would try and hurt me bad. It was not simply 'bad' footage, it was a celebration of rotten culture, the real North America and its bargain bin mentality.

It ended like it began. The internet beings came out to wish us safety, danced around the floor, barefoot, even though some guy in the front just broke his glass. The legendary Dwayne, the savior, even came out to bust a move. After it was done, I had to say goodbye to my weird new internet friends. I bought a marvelous poster and couldn’t help but notice an incredibly expensive copy of Jerry Maguire on VHS for sale, running any attendee around eighty bucks. They only offered them for sport, as Schlock described, they secretly wanted to hoard them all. “Someday we want to open a video store that has nothing but Jerry Maguire in it. Because that would be the funniest thing in the entire world. ‘Uhm, do you have The Road?’ ‘We have Jerry Maguire.’ ‘Do you have Gone With The Wind?’ ‘We have Jerry Maguire.’ ‘Do you have Jerry Maguire?’ ‘Would you like a copy of Jerry Maguire?’ ‘Sure, do you have it on DVD?’ ‘No, sorry. Just VHS’ We do have a couple Jerry Maguire Laserdiscs.”



While the road of VHS garbage seems infinite, nothing is without finite realities. EIT is more about the spirit than the limits of physical formats. “People are always asking us what will happen when the VHS run out,” said Schlock, “we’ll just move on to DVD. As long as people keep making stupid bad stuff we’ll be there.”

“Some people like the smell of their own farts.” Said Vittles, “I enjoy thinking about the why. Why did you build a dragon costume, a rabbit costume and a bridge over the rainbow river? Why do all of this? Thinking about what their motivation is an interesting psychological exercise. That’s why I like it. I can’t speak for why John Q Darryl likes it. It’s interesting to watch people’s personalities, to struggle to come up with something that appears to be polished, because you’re making something for your basket bedazzling company starting up in Dayton Ohio, and you want to make it polished, it’s very sincere and all about this basket company. You see how professional it looks on TV, so you want it to appear to be like that. But that’s not who you are. It’s a really great example of our contemporary fascination with popular media.”

You can't edit culture. No matter how sophisticated you are, the reality is that under you, above you and around you are those who don't 'get' your ways and honestly don't give a shit. I'm not saying rednecks, I'm not saying outsiders, not even saying small towns, just others. These others have thier share of the culture bowl, and even though coffee table books about pinnacle social landmarks won't give them a glossy photo, it's no excuse to say they never existed. EIT is doing the world an important service, in a highly entertaining way they're documenting vantages of strange reality you'll never participate in, which may be the most important of them all. Things can be forgotten, just pray to Dwayne they aren't.

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The Flaneur Renaissance 101 Mon, 16 Aug 2010 22:29:53 +0000 Dave Hurlow Artists and personages discussed: Marcel Proust, Shawn Micallef, Charles Baudelaire, Walter Benjamin, Elliot Smith, Jack Dylan, Fucked Up, Fyodor Dostoevsky. Photo courtesy of 1. We are Introduced to The Flaneur: The word caught my eye for the first time a few months ago. There was a write up on BlogTO featuring Shawn Micallef, about

Artists and personages discussed: Marcel Proust, Shawn Micallef, Charles Baudelaire, Walter Benjamin, Elliot Smith, Jack Dylan, Fucked Up, Fyodor Dostoevsky.

Photo Courtesy of Jackdylan.comPhoto courtesy of

1. We are Introduced to The Flaneur:

The word caught my eye for the first time a few months ago. There was a write up on BlogTO featuring Shawn Micallef, about a book he'd just published with Coach House Books called Stroll: Psychogeographic Walking Tours of Toronto. In the write up, Micallef is referred to as Toronto's most prominent flaneur. Micallef is, most notably, a senior editor at Spacing Magazine. This new book of his is a sleek map laden serialization of his consistently fascinating psychogeography column in EYE Weekly.

Wanting to support a local author, publishing house and book store, I stopped by the now defunct This Ain't the Rosedale Library and picked up a copy. Micallef gives a brief history of the flaneur in his introduction titled “A Flaneur's Manifesto”. The French word basically means "lazy walker", as far as I can make out, somebody who goes for a stroll with no particular destination or purpose in mind. What happens, in the 19th century, is that Charles Baudelaire takes this word and attaches artistic and philosophical meaning to it. The flaneur becomes absorbed by the city in the act of wandering and mindfully observing and as a result their ability to understand modern urban culture, to portray, critique, or simply be inspired by its myriad of phenomena, is enhanced.

An intellectual friend of mine, when I brought up Baudelaire and flaneurism, tried to convince me that all this really meant was that Baudelaire liked to wander around Paris high on Opium, lost in psychedelic reveries, killing time between getting blown by whores in alleyways. While a brief look at Baudelaire's biography suggests that this may well be true, nonetheless his appropriation of this word for inclusion in the vocabulary of philosophers is a valuable gift.

Photo COurtesy of Coach House Books

Photo Courtesy of Coach House Books

2. The Casual Flaneur

Micallef's manifesto is prefaced by a poetic Walter Benjamin quote describing "...the magnetism of the next streetcorner, of a distant mass of foliage, of a street name."  The idea of flaneurism was picked up with great zeal in the 20th century by Benjamin, a Jewish German master of insight and cultural criticism. His massively ambitious, never completed Arcades Project chronicles Parisian street life in the 19th century (seemingly the golden nexus of flaneurism) with special attention given to the numerous glass and iron arcades (the natural habitat of the classic flaneur) strewn throughout Paris during the time.

From here, Micallef gives a brief narration of the past several years he's spent strolling Toronto, taking notes, practising psychogeography. Psychogeography, he tells us, is a term invented by Guy Debord and the Situanionists, a pack of anti-capitalist radical thinkers who, in the 1950s, tried to navigate Paris with a map of London. Although Micallef borrowed the term from the Situationists, his aim is much simpler: to get people excited about Toronto, a city that seems to be taken for granted by the people who live in it. He makes a good point when he writes, "Over and over, we're told that Toronto is not Paris, New York, London or Tokyo. We've been trained to be underwhelmed." In the eyes of many Canadians, including Torontonians, Toronto represents "the big city", a cold, faceless, concrete heap of skyscrapers, subway trains, traffic jams and smog clouds. But to explore its deeper character, to treat it as a unique and varied space, in short, to approach it as a flaneur, can yield surprisingly delightful results.

Since Micallef started practising flaneurism several years ago, he seems to have accrued a small following. A while back, I saw him at Yonge and St. Claire, an intersection near my home that I consider to be bland and useless, surrounded by a small group. I knew him as the psychogeography guy from his picture in EYE and wondered if he was in fact the head of some urban exploration club. I didn't stop to ask, I was on my way somewhere to do something, the anti-flaneur. In retrospect, however, I really respect what he is doing, bringing the word to the people and the people to the streets. As far as I'm concerned, if you can make the intersection of Yonge and St. Claire interesting, you can pretty much do anything.

Photo Courtesy of Toronto Life

Photo Courtesy of Toronto Life

3. The Flaneur as Artist

A quotation from Elliot Smith that I found in the liner notes of his New Moon LP:

"For a long time I made up most songs walking around at night, just 'cause I like walking around at night."

A few months after being exposed to the idea of flaneurism for the first time, I came across it again, this time as a central idea in the work of a young Canadian artist by the name of Jack Dylan.  You've probably seen Jack Dylan's work, whether or not you know it. His illustrations recently graced the cover of Toronto Life, and he's also done some work for The New Yorker, The Walrus, and The Globe and Mail. Before that he was illustrating about a poster a week for indie bands in the burgeoning Montreal music scene.  Perhaps you've seen them before, through blurred vision after one Steamwhistle too many, plastered on the bathroom walls of Toronto's own (though also now defunct) Whippersnapper Gallery.

At the season finale of Late Night in the Bedroom, a free internet talk and variety show that features local artists, musicians and such, I witnessed Dylan projected on the screen of the Toronto Underground Cinema in a pre-recorded interview.  Dylan sits on a park bench and describes the figure of the flaneur. The way Dylan explains it, the flaneur wanders the streets in search of details with which he can bring his art to life. The specific kind of artistic flaneur that Dylan describes sits not necessarily in opposition to the casual flaneur I have discussed earlier, but he seems to be of a different breed. While the casual flaneur strolls as a form of hobby, or therapeutic exercise, as an act of leisure, the artistic flaneur strolls to feed his art.  He strolls to absorb and to become absorbed in the particular feelings of the city and chronicle the stories of its citizens.

We can see in Dylan's work for Toronto Life a sort of voyeuristic tendency. This tendency is also apparent in his show posters (which comprise the majority of his body of work), which have a contemporary, indie-rock Norman Rockwell quality, depicting tender, relatable, often comical moments for a generation of sensitive, pop culture obsessed art-music geeks. Dylan, a confident but simultaneously self-deprecating character, re-assured the audience that he was not a pretentious artist in the live interview that followed, admitting that his entire knowledge of flaneurism came from its Wikipedia entry. Dylan's loose understanding of the term is indicative of its accessibility. To be a flaneur all you need is the ability to walk around a city. Once grasped (and it really is one of the simpler philosophical ideas to grasp), it is difficult to let go; walk for fun, be mindful of your surroundings, see what happens next.

Photo Courtesy of Kill Rock Stars

Photo Courtesy of Kill Rock Stars

4. Flaneur Lit from the Golden Age

If flaneurism provides endless subject matter for visual artists, it is an equally fruitful activity for the writer in search of raw materials. The best flaneur literature that I can think of, off the top of my head, comes from Fyofor Dostoevsky and Marcel Proust (both writing in the golden age of flaneurism) who set their characters loose on the streets of Paris and St. Petersburg to wander in passionate confusion, contemplating love, murder, jealousy, ecstasy and death. Here's a passage from Dostoevky's Crime and Punishment in which Raskolnikov overcomes his guilt in a moment of rapture as he stands on a bridge above the Neva river observing a Petersburg cathedral:

"An inexplicable chill always breathed on him from this splendid panorama; for him the magnificent picture was filled with a mute and deaf spirit... He marveled each time at this gloomy and mysterious impression, and, mistrusting himself, put off the unriddling of it to some future time."

This rapture that overtakes Raskolnikov, temporarily replacing his angst and guilt, is the effect that the flaneur seeks: the forgetting oneself in the details of a skyline during sunset. Dostoevsky is often at his best when his lead characters weave through the city retreating into their thoughts in one passage, re-emerging in a dusty marketplace or in a bar drinking champagne in the next. His characters are caught off guard by the surroundings of the city as they materialize block by block. One can't help but draw a parallel between these characters and the novelist, who wanders the street piecing together his plot and dialogue, caught up in the act of creation, while the elements of the city are engaged in their own act of spontaneous creation around him.

Flaneur informed literature, in my way of thinking, amounts to literature that recreates the sensuous experience of walking through a city and incorporates places as living things that characters knock up against and react to. In this respect Marcel Proust is probably unmatched Proust, who was able to go out in public less and less as he grew older, spent a great deal of time strolling in the Bois de Boulogne and on the Champs Elyse in his younger days. He was thus well versed in the art of the voyeuristic flaneur,  His characters are, quite famously, often several personages compounded into one or a single personage split into several characters.

Proust would also include many dramatic occurrences from his own life and the lives of those inhabiting the decadent social sphere of which he was a member.  According to Edmund White, in his biography of the author, Proust would habitually bribe the butler of the prominent Comte Henri Greffhule to find out which prominent members of the Paris aristocracy had attended his balls, and what had been said. All in the name of art.

Photo Courtesy of Matador Records

Photo Courtesy of Matador Records

5. This Manhattanhenge Thing and a Few Final Notes

The cover of Fucked Up's 2008 Polaris Prize-winning album The Chemistry of Common Life depicts something that is popularly known as Manhattanhenge (though I've heard it referred to as the Light Corridor, which I think is a much better name). I listened to the album a couple of times and didn't much care for it, but the title and the album art stuck with me. Later on, someone told me about the semi-annual phenomenon in which the setting sun lines up with the east-west streets on the main street grid in Manhattan: a holy grail to the dedicated flaneur.

Apparently this also occurs in Toronto and a couple of other cities with uniform street grids. While I'm already anticipating the next occurrence of Torontohenge in late October, I feel as though I'm familiar with the awe inspiring effect that it is likely to have on me, the overwhelming sensation of the chemistry of common life. It happens downtown at sunset, with the haze that falls over the city, cabs honking, businessmen striding with a purpose, bike couriers dodging in and out of traffic.   It all seems so big that it makes it easier to forget yourself, experiencing the unquantifiable rapture of the flaneur.
Recently, I was standing on the northwest corner of Avenue and Bloor (a superior location from which to observe the Toronto light corridor I'm told), just idling really, killing time. You see the ROM, which seems like a really old building, except that it looks like this big awkward spaceship made of crystal has crashed into the side of this old building and got stuck, and inside the spaceship there are dinosaur skeletons. Behind me is the Hyatt, off to the the west next to the jutting spaceship is a big ochre building, home to the Royal Conservatory of Music. To south is Queen's Park and you can see the top of the Provincial Legislature building poking out on the horizon and right next to me there's Lobby, a hilarious rich person bar that seems out of place in the context of it's neighbours: a Gabby's and a McDonald's.

It's amazing that standing on the ground here, you can see so much. A view like this is nothing more than background to most, and this fact, that most people move through their surroundings as if they were part of it, as if all this were normal, is what makes the position of the flaneur so sublime.

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A Meditation on E-Readers, the Perilous Condition Known as Compulsive Book Buying Disorder, and Other Quandaries Mon, 16 Aug 2010 22:29:37 +0000 Devon Wong A few days ago I began to pack all my possessions away into boxes. In about a week's time I'll be loading those boxes into a rented van and driving them up to Montréal where I shall be residing for at least the next twelve months. Photo Courtesy of It is a queer thing,

A few days ago I began to pack all my possessions away into boxes. In about a week's time I'll be loading those boxes into a rented van and driving them up to Montréal where I shall be residing for at least the next twelve months.

Photo Courtesy of
Photo Courtesy of

It is a queer thing, a room stripped bare. It is almost as if an essential layer of my very identity has been removed. It never ceases to amaze me, the extent to which what we own defines who we are, at least within the cultural mileux into which I was born and of which I am an enmeshed part and whole. Nor does it amaze me that the display of said objects is also an extension of my self-definition. There is something about walls stuffed with books and music that tickles my aesthetic pleasure-centre. A schizophrenic "part of me" thinks myself rather pathetic for locating so much of my self in the objects that I own. This me wishes it could assert with existential surety that "No! I am not that which I own. I am no mere consumer. I am a human being dammit!" At which point I pound my fist upon a hard surface. I strip off my branded clothing. I flee naked into the wild forest. I live off berries and nuts. Right, I'm being hyperbolic. I apologize.

I suppose this pleasure in display is a manifestation of what Thornsten Veblen called "conspicuous consumption". However, instead of seeking to display my possession of monetary capital via the purchasing of fancy clothes, cars, tech, bling, etc., it is cultural capital that I flaunt. Even my dropping of Thornsten Veblen's name is an example of this. I need you, the reader, to know that I know who Thornsten Veblen is, because it shows you how smart I am, how culturally sophisticated, how well-read. It doesn't just validate my point. It validates me. It fuels my insecurity. For indeed, it is insecurity that is the dynamo, the thumbprint of God, the driving hunger at the heart of the consumer (me). Financial insecurity, social insecurity, cultural insecurity, personal insecurity, intellectual insecurity, emotional insecurity, physical insecurity, mental insecurity, physiological insecurity, existential insecurity. My motivation for writing this is precisely that: insecurity. Is such an admission somehow genuine? I do not know. I only admit it out of insecurity. But for now, we should get back to concrete matters, or concrete matter, as it were.

Crude wordplay. See, there's that insecurity again. Oh, and be forewarned, "scare" quotes are abundant in this article. Though I prefer to think of them as "think" quotes.

Right, so we were talking about packing things for the move. These "things" were mostly books, vinyl, and cds. I did not realize how many such cultural artifacts I actually owned until I was making repeat trips to my local No Frills grocery store for more boxes. The reason for this, of course, is that I cannot enter a book store or music store without purchasing something. And don't get me started on how much cultural media I download. There never seems to be enough bandwidth. What's more, I purchase and "steal" said cultural media at a far faster rate than I could ever hope to consume it. And though I am an aspiring writer and thus somewhat obliged to consume the products of my trade, at least when it comes to the books, I am incredibly self-conscious of this process. Self-conscious in both a critical and insecure way, if one can really separate the two. Perhaps this notion of "thinking critically" is another manifestation of insecurity. What, after all, is the difference between thinking critically and simply thinking?

Anyhow, all of this got me thinking... about the Kindle. If you frequent or .ca or or what have you, I'm sure you've seen the ads for the newest model of the Kindle poised for release at the end of this month. A $139 Wi-Fi version and a $189 3G version. Leaner, meaner, and more "affordable" than ever before. "Is this the future?" I ask myself, considering the dozens of heavy book boxes I'll soon be carting north-eastward. And if e-readers do change the way we consume texts, what does that mean? What would it look like? Is it good or bad? On what terrain and over which issues would the cultural and textual battles of the future be fought?

The benefits to some – resulting in the pollution of culture and dissolution of social bonds to others –  of a device like the Kindle are obvious, and we've already seen the impacts of portable digital tech with regard to other media like music and film. Instead of keeping a massive collection of books, there would be one device that contains your entire collection. In short, it's convenient. No need to go to a book store. You can yoink books out of thin air anywhere at any time. The Kindle lets you take more complex and substantative notes than margins would allow. It's small and lightweight. It reduces the amount of paper we use and is thus, so its advocates claim, more sustainable and environmentally friendly. There is the potential to make rare and out-of-print books easier to get a hold of when you don't need to sell an entire print run, if distributors should choose to make this any sort of priority. And I'm sure there are other potential benefits that I've missed. We may even see a re-emergence of some version of hypertext as a medium, when artists start creating specifically and exclusively for e-readers.

The e-reader may be another landmark in the rapid digitization culture, changing how we in the global north live our lives. The e-reader, like the portable music player before it, and like the "smart" phone, is more than just another toy. The e-reader, in whatever form it assumes, has the potential to contribute to a drastic change of our psychological, cultural, social, and physical landscapes.

Such change, of course, does have an underside.

In July of 2009 you may have heard the news that Kindle users woke to find that two texts had inexplicably vanished from their Kindles. There was no announcement from Amazon. Due to a dispute with the publisher – Amazon having sold the books without permission – Amazon had decided to delete all versions of the disputed books from all Kindles and to quietly reimburse Kindle users. But money wasn't the issue here. The issue was that Kindle users thought their purchases were final. They thought that once a text was on their Kindle, they owned it as they would a physical book. What was revealed by this move by Amazon was that Amazon had the potential ability to retract e-purchases. The issue was not that Amazon had mishandled the situation as much of the mainstream media framed it, though they had, but that the latent potential for censorship and surveillance is inherent in the technology itself. It became imaginable to Kindle users that e-book distributors, or some future third party, could potentially control what texts were available and when, not to mention that reading habits could easily be monitored, at the very least for data mining, and of course policed. Sound paranoid? Well, that's to be expected considering the books in question were Animal Farm and 1984 by George Orwell.

Censorship and surveillance are certainly legitimate concerns with regard to any method of centralized distribution as demonstrated by the monopolizing practices of large-scale corporations. And with regard to e-books, the battle for such monopolies has begun. Ray Zhang, chief strategist for Hanwang Technology, China's largest producer of e-readers, has likened "China's burgeoning e-book market to the fragmented Warring States period of Chinese history before the country was united" (Mozur, Network World). The same comparison would apply to e-book markets worldwide. As in most markets, a select few large corporations are doing battle for market shares in e-book sales. In the U.S., the big players are Amazon's proprietary Kindle, Barnes and Noble with its "non-proprietary" sales model and Nook e-reader, Sony with its Sony e-reader, and Apple, which has just entered the e-book market with the iPad. In Canada we have the Kobo through Indigo Books, which is now being pushed in the U.S. market by Barnes and Noble's major competitor Borders. Meanwhile, in China, the e-book market is dominated by the Hanwang e-reader, which is said to control 66% of the Chinese market. Numbers vary according to sources, but the most consistent figures I've been able to find with regard to the U.S. market are as follows: Amazon controls approximately 61% of the e-book market in the U.S., while Barnes and Noble controls 20%, Sony 5%, and Apple less than 5%. The remaining market share being divided amongst the numerous smaller fish in the ocean, like the Kobo. I haven't been able to track down any figures on the Canadian or U.K. markets yet, but one would presume them to be similar, sans Barnes and Noble.

And these figures will no doubt fluctuate in the coming years as more and more people make the "inevitable" shift from books to e-books. Compare this to Apple's iTunes which now sells over 25% of America's music (Walmart being in second place) and controls 70% of all digital music sales worldwide. Again, Canadian or U.K. figures are hard to come by. Toss in the exponential growth of the e-book market, and it's clear that the battles being fought between these corporations for control of the e-book market and the resulting cultural and legal fallout are too important to be ignored. In the U.S., e-book sales grew from 2009's figure of 1.5% of all book sales to 5% of all book sales in 2010's first quarter. E-book sales are growing at an even faster rate in China. It is also important to note, as industry analysts have, that most of those making the switch are of upper classes, and marketeers are now brainstorming ways to "solve this problem" to make e-books "accessible" to the lower classes. Is such growth sustainable? Only time will tell. But as generations raised in a world of physicality give way to generations raised in the e-thereal realm of digital media, the answer is likely yes, whether us "old fogeys" like it or not.

Book publishers, of course, have no idea what to make of this. As book sales steadily make the e-shift, debates that plagued the music industry a few years ago are now entering the book industry. Most of these "debates" boil down to how publishers and distributors can maintain control over textual property and earn profits. Indeed, different e-book sales models will result in different cultural outcomes. For instance, compare the Kindle to, well, most other e-readers. Amazon follows a proprietary model, wanting exclusive control over the sale of books on Kindle readers, while, say, Barnes and Noble sells its own e-reader but also sells its e-books in formats it doesn't own, thus allowing them to be accessed through other devices, hoping to compete by offering greater flexibility. Of course, companies are already imposing restrictions on how many devices upon which a "single" e-book is allowed to exist. Such restrictions are entirely artificial and hackers will of course find ways to circumvent them

We could probably get a good idea of what will happen to distributors of physical books by looking at what's happening to the music industry, especially as book "piracy" becomes more prevalent. A number of small booksellers will go out of business as the market tightens its belt. Sales of physical books will drop significantly. They won't vanish. There will likely always be a market for physical books, even centuries from now if the human race survives that long, if only as a niche collectible market. Major booksellers like Amazon and Barnes and Noble and Indigo will likely shift their entire marketing schemes slowly from the sale of physical books to predominantly the sale of e-books via proprietary and/or non-proprietary e-readers. This will likely mean a slow, whittling reduction in physical retail outlets. The full impact may not be felt until a few generations have passed and we reach that aforementioned group of people raised on digital distribution with views of cultural property completely alien to our own. Certainly newspapers and magazines would be the first to go, considering the newspaper and magazine industries are already on their last legs. And most important as far as I'm concerned, the Creative Commons movement will be able to achieve a stronger foothold and greater relevance in the realm of text.

The difference between e-book, or more appropriately e-text, distribution and digital music distribution, at least initially, may be glimpsed in the histories of artistic production within those media. These histories affect the cultural attitudes and thus legal attitudes toward the cultural products of respective media. Music, for instance, has set various precedents that made digital distribution less drastic a cultural shift. Authors are a much more conservative lot than musicians when it comes to proprietary law. Musical genres like hip-hop are already rooted in remixing and appropriation. Texts don't have any popular equivalent to hip hop and other forms of sample-based music. Furthermore, the e-reader is not just a new way of getting books to people, it is a replacement of books with e-books, which are substantively different media.

Already in the early stages of e-culture, books had begun the move into the realm of free culture like music and video via torrents and streaming, however, the move with regard to texts has been slower, considering few people want to read texts from a computer screen. With e-readers, this will likely soon change. But free texts raise questions qualitatively unique to textual media. For instance, what will happen to libraries? If they don't cease to exist altogether, their function will certainly experience a drastic change. Already libraries are making huge strides toward digital collections, cutting librarian pay, benefits, and positions, whilst archiving or purging the physical stacks. With the mass cultural shift to e-texts, this process will accelerate.

But will distributors like Amazon even allow public libraries to continue functioning, considering that the convenience of simply accessing free texts on demand would cut into their profits and "impede free trade"? One could say the same about physical books, but by rendering libraries digital, you're removing the difference between borrowing and owning a text. Lending times only exist to give people equal opportunity to access books because the physical number is limited. The library only owns, say, two copies of a given book, thus only two people can read it at a time, and the library needs the books back in order to continue lending them. Not to mention that an e-library removes the task of actually going to the library. Furthermore, the library is limited in the number of physical books it may purchase by its budget and by the physical space it has to house those books. With e-texts, books are infinitely reproducible at virtually no cost and infinite copies require no physical space, aside from server space if the storage is centralized, but you get the point. The difference between text and music or video here is that culturally most "developed" do view it as the democratic right of all people to have free public access to texts via libraries, whilst music and video has only recently entered the library. When file sharing began to become popular, we heard digital utopians talk of a universal music and video library free and accessible to anyone, which is technologically and logistically quite possible, though within a free market economy non-feasible. However, now that e-texts are becoming popular, we face a conflict. A library is not "feasible" either in a free market economy unless artificial scarcity is imposed through copyright law and government-funded public subscription services and simulated lending limits. In other words, the practical considerations that made such public services expensive and limited are quickly evaporating, thus artificial limitations will be derived by corporations to preserve free markets.

Such free market considerations will also negate the potential environmental benefit of e-readers.

For instance, e-readers will be designed and built for planned obsolescence. New markets must constantly be generated before old markets stagnate, which means new versions of e-readers must be pumped out. While we have seen announcements of Kindle recycling programs, what percentage of the material is able to be recycled? What are the costs of recycling programs? Are these readers not built from non-renewable resources? Do they not require energy? Furthermore, what disparities will result between "first-world" and "third-world" nations when "developed" countries make the shift to e-text leaving "developing" countries "behind"? These are questions we need to consider. One thing that is clear is that free market models of digital culture cannot result in sustainability. Sustainability requires technological longevity and a slow, intelligently managed cultural transition, which is contrary to free market requirements.

As for me and my walls of books and music... What happens to conspicuous cultural consumption? It turns into a number in a digital library. It doesn't go away, it's just abstracted... unless it's not so much abstracted as reduced to a more refined version of what it was all along, an idea slowly fulfilling itself, reaching toward an idea of itself. I'm not sure if that's a good or bad thing. I do know I fear we will plunge into this new cultural model too quickly and without thinking how it might be intelligently planned and executed. I do suspect that there are many important cultural battles to be fought on this new terrain and that the winners will determine the shape of the future of texts and beyond. There are many angles to consider. Many more than I was able to talk about here. What we need to do now is to stop, take a breath, consider them, and debate them instead of letting "the markets" dictate our collective behaviour. Will that happen? I'm doubtful. More likely we'll bumble into this newfangled world blindly and then scratch our heads in wonder when problems arise.

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Tiny Kitten Teeth: Retro Cute with Some Odd Drinking Habits Mon, 16 Aug 2010 22:29:36 +0000 A.M. Standish The other day, while pawing absent-mindedly through an old cardboard box of miscellanea, I happened upon a treasure trove of Children's Record Guild 78s. Dressed in garish, dog-eared sleeves, and bearing titles like, Mendelssohn's... A Midsummer Night's Dream, Swing Your Partner, and Said the Piano to the Harpsichord, the actual records themselves are no great

The other day, while pawing absent-mindedly through an old cardboard box of miscellanea, I happened upon a treasure trove of Children's Record Guild 78s. Dressed in garish, dog-eared sleeves, and bearing titles like, Mendelssohn's... A Midsummer Night's Dream, Swing Your Partner, and Said the Piano to the Harpsichord, the actual records themselves are no great find — all vaguely familiar, though the last time I'd heard any of them I'd been too short to reach the ice cream in the freezer without the assistance of a chair, and even then it was old home-made re-recordings on tape.

Children's Record Guild - "Pussycat's Christmas"

The Children's Record Guild Presents "Pussycat's Christmas"

The hidden value of these sexagenarians lies in the flat, geometric illustrations screen-printed on the sleeves. My father's collection comprises a yet-unfaded time-capsule from an era of illustration that, while iconic in its own right, cedes much of its influence on today's visual media to its own Cubist and Surrealist parents. Discoveries such as these are supremely charming, and rare. Thus it is quite a find to stumble upon some new treasure that still manages to convey the retro charm that these CRG records so embodied. Tiny Kitten Teeth is such a find.

Tiny Kitten Teeth is a New Zealand-based webcomic hand-painted by Becky Dreistadt, and written by Frank Gibson. This ambitious project has been online since January of 2009, and in the time since it has garnered a fair share of praise — featured on and, the creative duo have also done guest strips for established webcomics such as Penny Arcade and Pictures for Sad Children.

The main story follows Mewsli, a blue, anthropomorphized tomcat recently moved to Owltown, an odd, rather roaring-twenties-esque metropolis built around its august and hoity-toity arts college where Mewsli is to be enrolled. From the moment he steps off the bus, suitcase in hand, Mewsli is caught up in the dubious and financially ill-advised adventures of self-appointed "welcoming committee": Hootenanny, Regal Beagle & friends. This fast-talking hipster crowd of anthropomorphized animals ushers the newcomer through a series of awkward social gauntlets and it is far from clear whether these new self-elected friends mean to keep Mewsli in or out of trouble. Interspersed at regular interludes throughout is a second, not entirely unrelated comic, Tigerbuttah; picture-caption one-shots in which a pun-loving tiger cub makes friends, plays dress-up, and gets into all kinds of mischief (protecting flowers from the sharp beaks of hummingbirds by way of band-aids, for instance).

Tiny Kitten Teeth - Episode 1

Tiny Kitten Teeth - Episode 1

Visually, it's a real treat. Tiny Kitten Teeth blends the flat geometry and saturated colours of the 1950s with some of the more feeling textures and brushstrokes of Simon and Schuster's Little Golden Books (1942). The influence of old Disney animations, like Toot, Whistle, Plunk And Boom (1953) and illustrators such as Mary Blair (also of that era) is deftly manipulated. Dreistadt's guache paintings are dizzying, almost claustrophobic jigsaws of saturated, unearthly colour and bold, even brazen form. She does not subscribe to colour-based perspective strategies (or necessarily any perspective strategies at all), so at moments of narrative intensity, frames and pages often crowd up to a two-dimensional plane, flattened by a background of hot red or neon-electric blue. The cumulative effect is intense, and discombobulating. The brashness of the art nicely offsets the TKT's self-conscious quaintness and tendency toward preciousness, preventing the webcomic from drowning in the nearby dread Swamp of Tweenish Squeals.

It's a kitschy, quirky series — downright odd, in fact. Tiny Kitten Teeth is funny in that other sense of the word that most webcomics aren't. I mean, funny like a cod & chocolate icing sandwich, as opposed to funny "ha-ha." There are laughs to be had, of course, but they come mostly by way of puns and sly visual gags, scattered like Easter eggs for those who take the time to peruse a panel in all of its hyper-stylized complexity: bottles of alcohol come with pirate ships inside, mescal worms as serpents; Mewsi's book collection consists mostly of Pogo, Garfield, and Winnie The Pooh; a roguish, lowbrow horse is named Rapstallion; the ghost of George Washington flutters up out of a crushed dollar bill. In short, the jokes are there, even if they don't immediately rush in to shake your hand and introduce themselves. These are gags which cannot, nor are they meant to carry the reader from page to page; and those who approach TKT expecting gag-a-day humour with regular punchlines will likely wander off in short order, stymied and confused as if they'd just taken a swig of wine from a bottle marked "Welches." But don't let me put you off — if Tiny Kitten Teeth was literally a cod & chocolate icing sandwich then I for one would be packing such a delectable for lunch regularly.

I wouldn't trade in TKT's aggressive and contrary aesthetic for anything, but if Dreistadt and Gibson have a weakness it's in letting that confrontational, off-kilter strategy take over the whole narrative style. Tigerbuttah isn't troubled by this, as each page is one shot only tenuously connected to previous and subsequent pages, but the Mewsli storyline suffers from severely delayed exposition and clarity of context. In other words, TKT takes too long to provide key bits of information, such as Mewsli's reason for moving to Owltown in the first place. This might not be a problem in a printed format, but keep the reader in the dark too long online, with so many other distractions singing siren songs, such long waits between each page update making it even more difficult to keep the narrative thread intact, and one runs the risk of alienating and losing readers.

I'm not without hope that Tiny Kitten Teeth may find its way into print some day, once enough story has been covered for a proper volume — after all, Dreistadt and Gibson are no strangers to print, though their acquaintance is through unconventional channels. Tigerbuttah lately got his very own Golden Book-type story book (currently available for children and inner-children alike through Tiny Kitten Teeth's Topatoco store). The interesting part, from a webcomic/publishing interface perspective, is in Dreistadt and Gibson's use of crowd funding.

Crowd funding (a.k.a. "crowd sourced capital," a.k.a. "crowd financing") happens when a group of people collectively co-operate, usually over the internet, to pool their money towards the effort of some other person or organization. Combined with a threshold pledge system, in which donations are held in escrow until a goal amount has been made, crowd funding is one of the more promising avenues by which to connect creatives with the largest numbers and greatest variety of investors in the internet age. It is not a new way of doing business, but it is one that has the potential to really thrive now that so many of us (and our bank accounts) are online.

Tigerbuttah's book found its funds in this way, via, a social networking site that uses Amazon Payments to manage the escrow and transfer of funds. This forward-thinking website takes pledges from anywhere, but at this time only entrepreneurs in the United States may apply (thanks to certain details about the aforementioned Amazon Payments system). Crowd funding is already old-hat with charities, but when it comes to peculiar webcomics with wide readerships and high odds of alienating publishers, networks like Kickstarter hold some serious potential; though Canada is presently excluded, creators like Dreistadt and Gibson are paving the way, proving it possible, and perhaps sometime soon their strategy can be old hat for artists everywhere.

The Tiny Kitten Teeth main event updates a couple times a week.

More of Becky Dreisdadt's art.

News and other updates on the creative duo can be followed on their livejournal.

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Meditation on Monuments: Eine Berufung auf Karl Dönitz Mon, 16 Aug 2010 22:29:25 +0000 Frau Qué Karl Dönitz, ich bin so glücklich, du hast keine 300 mehr Unterseeboots bin, es macht mich wollen lernen, Deutsch zu sprechen. Im Moment kann ich nur zufällig Beitrag in Übersetzern, die mehr oder weniger falsch sind, bieten aber die Freude, sofortige Befriedigung. Ist das nordamerikanischen von mir? Glaubst du, dass wenn Sie hatte 300 mehr

Is all art necessarily a monument to an action?

Karl Dönitz, ich bin so glücklich, du hast keine 300 mehr Unterseeboots bin, es macht mich wollen lernen, Deutsch zu sprechen. Im Moment kann ich nur zufällig Beitrag in Übersetzern, die mehr oder weniger falsch sind, bieten aber die Freude, sofortige Befriedigung. Ist das nordamerikanischen von mir?

Glaubst du, dass wenn Sie hatte 300 mehr Unterseeboots, dass Sie noch die letzte Präsident der Bundesrepublik Deutschland geworden wäre? Wurden Ihre Finger geschnitten, wenn Sie aus dem Wasser heraus, völlig unversehrt?

Can I keep this as a monument to touch?

Ich sehe deine Hände in kleinen Apfel Fäusten und Ihrem Mund eine Kirsche. Deine Haut so weiß und glänzend und leider ausgenutzt. Kann ich Sie anrufen aus meiner kleinen kanadischen Stadt am See, wo Sie alle leben wie Gespenster in historischen Barling Stimme aus meinem Radio?

Ich habe noch nie einen Soundclip eines U oder von Ihnen gehört Karl Dönitz. Ich frage mich, wenn du böse waren, und ich möchte annehmen, dass Sie nicht.

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Spotlight: Andrea Wan Mon, 16 Aug 2010 22:28:12 +0000 Andrea Wan Andrea Wan is a visual artist and illustrator based in Vancouver, BC. She went to Emily Carr University of Art and Design where she received a degree in Film, Video and Integrated Media. With a strong passion in storytelling and image making, she went on to study illustration and design at Designskolen Kolding, Denmark. Since

Andrea Wan is a visual artist and illustrator based in Vancouver, BC. She went to Emily Carr University of Art and Design where she received a degree in Film, Video and Integrated Media. With a strong passion in storytelling and image making, she went on to study illustration and design at Designskolen Kolding, Denmark. Since starting her career in illustration last year, she has worked with various local and international clients including publications, fashion labels and record companies.

Hippie Love

Hippie Love

Fairy Tale

Fairy Tale



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Infinity Dome: A Look Inside Phantasmagoria Mon, 16 Aug 2010 22:27:39 +0000 Erika Szabo Viewers take a look at the works, with Mars-1's Tulpa 2 on the main wall "Phantasmagoria" refers to a procession of ever-changing and often fantastical imagery. This sequence of imagery, haphazard and associative, is not something we would see on an everyday basis. A surreal passage through time. The transition from waking to dreaming. The

Phantasmagoria2Viewers take a look at the works, with Mars-1's Tulpa 2 on the main wall

"Phantasmagoria" refers to a procession of ever-changing and often fantastical imagery. This sequence of imagery, haphazard and associative, is not something we would see on an everyday basis. A surreal passage through time. The transition from waking to dreaming. The unknown plays a large role in phantasmagoria since what we see in dreams is never clearly rationalized and always appears somewhat alien to our waking consciousness. Because of this, phantasmagoria, or more generally the unknown, has become a popular artistic theme as there is no clear definition or reason behind it – the search for reason is what drives people to explore the unknown, but often the journey proves to be more "fulfilling" than the destination.

While there are artists who depict what they see in waking, there are others who challenge the borders between the conscious and the subconscious.

Cathie Bleck - The Shaman's Inheritance

Cathie Bleck - "The Shaman's Inheritance"

Toronto’s Meta Gallery embraces these surreal yet familiar visions in Phantasmagoria, their summer group exhibition featuring works by many of today’s boldest and brightest contemporary pioneers including Cathie Bleck (Cleveland, OH), Ray Caesar (Toronto, ON), Dean Chamberlain (Venice, CA), Andrew Jones (San Francisco, CA), Kris Kuksi (Hayes, KS), Paul Laffoley (Boston, MA) and Mars-1 (San Francisco, CA).

Phantasmagoria serves as an appropriate entry point into the wild and imaginative realms explored by each artist. In the dark and hauntingly beautiful works of Ray Caesar, feminine surrealist Victoriana plays a large role in evaluating images of fantasy as they merge between realism and surrealism.  However, at the core, Caesar’s works express the many faces of identity and how they can merge with one another and form a collective identity.

Ray Caesar - Ecstasy

Ray Caesar - "Ecstasy"

Andrew Jones is finely tuned to the dark emanations of the human spirit. His seemingly science fiction works express the notion that everything in life can be fantastical, constantly evolving, expanding and growing in abundance. Jones clearly strives towards an emotional connection with the viewer. Experimentation, chaos, and pushing human boundaries are what propel Jones forward in his search for his form of transcendence.

Cathie Bleck’s themes of nature, sensuality and symbiotic relationships resonate with a worldwide audience. Known for her use of Kaolin clay, ink, clayboard, and scratchboard, Bleck uses mythic images to explore the process of art in its most natural state. Her fluid and often poetic works question the connection between reality and fantasy through visual storytelling.

Mars-1 - Tulpa 2

Mars-1 - "Tulpa 2"

San Francisco-based Mario Martinez, better known as Mars-1, creates works that portray an otherworldly, science fiction charm while also invoking a personal, subconscious experience – a perfect mix of the alien and the familiar. Through the process, he also explores the abstract nature of reality and challenges the idea of collective understanding. Mars-1’s free-flowing, ever-expanding pieces consequently mimic the process of understanding and the idea of infinite perspectives.

Dean Chamberlain takes portraiture to new heights with his luminous and ethereal light painting technique, which he developed in 1977. Using a flashlight and coloured gels, he illuminates each individual element in a composition in order to explore the more fantastical aspects of everyday life. Chamberlain’s photographs are hardly just images – they are living, breathing concoctions.

Kris Kuksi - Churchtank Type 8 with Artillery Flak

Kris Kuksi - "Churchtank Type 8 with Artillery Flak"

Kris Kuksi’s wildly unpredictable surrealism and rich gothic and baroque imagery allow him to explore and portray the complexities of the unknown. The images he conjures are obscure and grotesque, but each stands the test of time as it questions the very heart of our existence while also revealing the ambiguous and creative nature of life oftentimes shrouded by fear.

Paul Laffoley's idiosyncratic paintings meld both the Dionysian (the purely emotional) with the Apollonian (the purely rational) – a seemingly impossible feat. Most of Laffoley's pieces are painted on large canvases and combine words and imagery to depict a spiritual architecture of explanation, tackling concepts like dimensionality, time travel through hacking relativity, connecting conceptual threads shared by philosophers through the millennia, and theories about the cosmic origins of mankind.

Phantasmagoria will be on display from July 9 to August 25, 2010. Meta Gallery is located on 124 Ossington Ave. Hours are Wednesday through Saturday from 12-6 and Sunday from 12-5.

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Mortal Coil Performance Society’s magical Horse Women at Edmonton Folk Fest Mon, 16 Aug 2010 03:42:42 +0000 Karen Correia Da Silva Mortal Coil Performance Society | Photo by Curran Folkers "Three stilt-walking equine women in white, red and black emerge from nowhere. Amidst fluttering manes and floating silk draperies, the crowd is transported to a world between worlds." Artist Statement | Mortal Coil Performance Society Oddly enough, experiencing Mortial Coil Performance Society's Horse Women is exactly

Mortal Coil Performance Group | Photo by Curran FolkersMortal Coil Performance Society | Photo by Curran Folkers

"Three stilt-walking equine women in white, red and black emerge from nowhere. Amidst fluttering manes and floating silk draperies, the crowd is transported to a world between worlds."

Artist Statement | Mortal Coil Performance Society

Oddly enough, experiencing Mortial Coil Performance Society's Horse Women is exactly like they claim it is: three horse women somehow sprouted out of the Edmonton Folk Fest crowds, danced in unison, bent down to touch the heads and hands of passing crowd members, and made the whole sunlit, candle-toting sit-in a tiny bit more magical than it already was. It was the kind of performance that towered over children on parents' shoulders who reached to touch the elaborate masks, or enthralled visitors like myself, who felt as though they had stumbled upon something quite special in this unfamiliar valley, just south of the North Saskatchewan River.

With the intent to bring "magic and myth" to audiences, the elaborate spectacles erected by Vancouver-based Mortal Coil Performance Society utilize stilts, uniform costuming, and elaborate art objects — like the beautiful horse masks seen in the pictures above and below — to confront and capture audiences with dream-like scenarios. As one of eleven costumed performances under their Chix on Stix public performance series, Horse Women was a beautiful addition to the Edmonton Folk Music Festival's powerful and connective atmosphere, with men and women of all ages sharing the music and the hillside under the gaze of these ethereal characters, and a sweltering sky.

Mortal Coil Performance Society | Edmonton Folk Music Festival 2010 | Photo by Curran FolkersMortal Coil Performance Society | Photo by Curran Folkers

As a performance society, their practice spans site-specific performances, workshops, lectures, and demonstrations, as well as community programs like Ultimate High, a community-based performance program for street-engaged youth, which uses the physical discipline of stilt-walking paired with the creativity of costume-making and performance to positively influence the lives of marginalized adolescents. They're virtually as magical and wholesome as you could possibly imagine colourful horse women to be, all while offering an absurd facet to the festival of music and humanity that is the Edmonton Folk Fest.

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“It takes that devotion:” Van Dyke Parks at Edmonton Folk Fest 2010 Mon, 16 Aug 2010 00:18:57 +0000 Patrick Grant Van Dyke Parks is one of the most brilliant but generally unsung American songwriters, arrangers and lyricists of all time. Best known for his work with Brian Wilson on the Smile Project, he’s also responsible for a myriad of other stellar musical endeavours, including, but not limited to launching Rufus Wainwright’s career, a brief stint

Van Dyke Parks is one of the most brilliant but generally unsung American songwriters, arrangers and lyricists of all time. Best known for his work with Brian Wilson on the Smile Project, he’s also responsible for a myriad of other stellar musical endeavours, including, but not limited to launching Rufus Wainwright’s career, a brief stint in the Mothers of Invention, arranging strings for Joanna Newsom’s Ys, his own incredible solo work as well as, most recently, the Mississippi Sheiks Tribute Project (Black Hen, 2010). I had the honour and privilege of speaking with him for a while at the Edmonton Folk Fest. I initially wanted to write it into some kind of article, but I felt like it would be a disservice to the interview, which speaks for itself. Enjoy.

Van Dyke Parks and His Band

Van Dyke Parks (Second From Left) and His Band

PG: How did you get involved with the Mississippi Sheiks Tribute Project?

VDP: Well, it’s totally rational that I be involved with it because I was born in Mississippi, although I don’t think Steve Dawson knew that. I first came into it because of the fine singer Oh Susanna. She’s a folk singer from Canada and she wanted me to do a string arrangement. I do string arrangements for a living. I was not doing anything at that particular time and so I did an arrangement for her. Steve decided to use it, recorded it, and put it in the album for the Mississippi Sheiks…which is a wonderful resurrection of some music that should migrate to another generation of listeners. And that’s what it’s done.

PG: You said on stage that song writing is, I don’t know if these were the exact words, but that song writing is an involuntary process for you and that you just sort of let the madness take you wherever it will. Would you mind elaborating on that a little bit?

VDP: There’s nothing really beyond that that modifies it in any way because it’s the truth! A song becomes itself without too much conscious intervention, usually. Now, for example, I’m working on a song now in which I had to wipe out about three days work because I didn’t have the geographical fix on the song that I wanted. It’s an epiphany; it’s a process of illumination. Now, if you know what you’re going to do, that’s great, I salute you. Maybe you’re a Presbyterian. Maybe you know where you’re going to be for breakfast tomorrow. Maybe you have some dogma or philosophy or opinion about predestination that completely eludes me. I kind of agree with Beethoven, who said, and I love to refer to a great musician…Beethoven replied to someone who flattered him for his prescience, his ability to know what he was doing, in glowing and unctuous terms, and Beethoven said, “Horse shit!” Or something to that effect. A vulgarism came out of his mouth. He said, “Nobody knows the future.” Basically, nobody knows nothing! I think you have to be able to adopt that humility when you’re doing something creative. You must allow yourself to fail. You must reserve the right to fail. You must let it take you somewhere. In spite of, or because of your obsessions, you bring a lot of baggage when you write a song. Maybe the truck blew up or you lost your girlfriend. Well, songs like that don’t interest me that much, they’re first world problems and I don’t live in the first world! I live in sympathy with the undeveloped world, with the third world. I try to throw my lot in with people who don’t have nothing, who need to hear something in music that will likely refer to them, opening the hearts of that first world!

PG: Something that I’ve noticed in a lot of the music that you’ve been involved with is that sort re-imagining of the American landscape…and also in your arrangements there’s always an undercurrent of uneasiness and dissonance beneath even the more straightforward pieces.

VDP: I think that it’s important to try to agitate curiosity, to affect people with unexpected events, whether it be of a dissonant nature or a harmonic nature…I think it’s important to work hard to attract the casual observer. In this age of magazine formats, a shuffle mentality, the public is pretty hard pressed to want to go along with an exposition. Now an exposition in a song... usually the song form is standardized to be 2 to 5 minutes. It’s not that long! It doesn’t really require that much, and yet it’s hard to find a complicit listener, someone who will go through that and see what a song does to develop. I work hard at that.

Van Dyke Parks

Van Dyke Parks

PG: It seems that much of the music you work with doesn’t really fit into that 2 to 5 minute radio format. You did all the string arrangements on Ys by Joanna Newsom, right? That album is magnificent but none of the songs fit into that format.

VDP: No no no, she’s against that. There’s another one that I really love and that’s a recent project with the same orchestra, same composition in the orchestra, and that’s a record by Inara George, Lowell George’s daughter. It’s called An Invitation, I hope you will get it. But that’s using songs that are shorter. But all of arranging, we’re talking about arranging now, it all reacts to the evidence in front of it, which is usually a basic track. In Joanna’s case, a voice and harp only. In Inara’s case, a voice and guitar only. Everything else follows from those two things. What the words were in the song. What that music was at any particular moment. Both of them, in spite of the fact that Joanna is more expansive in her use of poetic licence… Inara less, Inara is more strictured in what a song is supposed to do… but both of them share a sense of anecdote. I think you get that even in the shorter works that I do. I love anecdote: small phrases that are evocative of that emotions being expressed in the song. I’m highly responsive to that and a lot of my favourite writers employ that in their works with writers and arrangers and such. My favourite songwriter/arranger of all time, or of my lifetime anyway, is Paolo Conte, his album called… oh, it begins with an R. [Reveries, 2003]. It’s on Nonesuch. He’s the greatest of all the songwriters alive to me, by far, for many reasons. Multi-talented, he does everything that I want to be able to do and shows that it can be done without any loss in quality between all these particulars that are so important in supporting the communication of a song as a recording. That includes the melody, rhythms, pianistic ability, arranging skill, mixing, a degree of invention and power, the absolute mastery of the lyrics, the lyrical form and an imagination that is absolutely unsquelched, a sense of optimism that could not be more thoroughly informed and yet defiantly confirmational. Out of all of his works you get this sense that it is possible to go on. A sense of comedy, sometimes inappropriate, when you feel like laughing at something that is really funereal. To be able to laugh at man in crisis, realizing that the singer himself is in crisis, as is his song, and that’s Paolo Conte, that’s the guy who does this. I just thought I would let you know. I hold a high standard of what can be done in songwriting and arranging.

PG: I think some people would say that you do all of those things too.

VDP: I’m working on it, I’m working on it! I’m always trying to improve and become more accessible. I think it’s safe to say that I made all of my mistakes on my first record, it was 1968 (Song Cycle). I enjoy being able to do that.

PG: How would you say that when you’re conducting yourself in your own song writing it differs from when you collaborate with somebody else? You work as a collaborator in so many different ways.

VDP: Well, I’ve endeavoured both. I’ve endeavoured to stand on my own two feet and do what I think is right in the presentation of the song. I’ve tried to imbue it with stuff that might somehow alter consciousness in a way, illuminate…but ultimately satisfy. When I’m working for someone else, often I have to go beyond what is all together reasonable in obeying.  So the idea is that it’s a very very difficult social opportunity, working in the arts, even with the beneficent dictator that artists sometimes become. It’s happened in all of it’s forms, all of them insulatory and distracting… Usually I find myself going… in arranging, when I’m making musical literature to support a song where people have to sit down and play something that’s written, so that they all stop playing at the end at the same time? That requires writing things down. That requires premeditation. So what happens is, a song might erupt however unpremeditated or extemporaneous, with that enthusiasm…and then, beyond that big bang, that first rush, often a lot of work needs to be applied to somehow frame it, to give it a proscenium, to draw people in somehow. In the case of a song, a singer, who is saying things and having thoughts. All that needs to be addressed! And in fact, there is no committee capable of handling that challenge.

Arranging or orchestrating, is a monastic process that requires absolute privacy it is so concentrated. Very difficult. I spend up to a week on average, on an arrangement. Whether that means I’m working 24/7 or, to be fair, 12 or 14 hours a day generally hovering around the arrangement. Whether that is for 3 players or for 60. Whatever that is, it doesn’t change. It doesn’t mean that the more populous events, that is, the orchestras, are any more difficult than the smaller ones. In fact, the small arrangements have been seen in cases…we mentioned Beethoven before. Beethoven did his best work in trios, trio music, and some of the string quartets are really amazing. Those are the ones that really get me! The fewer the instruments, absolutely without a doubt, the more difficult the process of writing.

I love the ensemble that I came up with for Inara and Joanna’s records. I use basically the same approach with Rufus Wainwright… and other people… U2. I mean, I’ve seen an orchestra develop which I see as fit for the frugal gourmet. A sonic frugal gourmet because I get the irreducible number of strings, the irreducible number of woodwinds, vibe, to accompany those strings, which are highly divided. They have both rhythm and held notes… I divide the strings, there are three parts for the violins, two parts for the violas, one cello line, one bass line… that all is to serve a purpose. That is, that the strings are numerous enough to start to offer a transparency. That transparency, of course, into the soul of the singer. Stay out of the way! Be unheard… but more felt than heard. Strings need to be numerous. I use 17. Minimus. That’s the smallest number that will successfully start to evaporate and do their job.

PG: What about in the case of when you’re writing lyrics for someone, as you are in your work with Brian Wilson? It’s a very different role to be playing.

VDP: Well, it’s always changing. Lyrics, inevitably, lyrics must follow the music. That’s the way I look at it. I would have a hard time, well, with Shakespearean sonnets. I would do okay, even with… like in one Opera that I was working on with Art Spiegelman, the great cartoonist. We were writing an opera together about the history of comics. There was a lot of work that needed to be done recetiti, that is, just as it was heard at some Senate Subcommittee hearings. I had a great time arranging music, with singing, that followed the exact testimony from the Senate Subcommittee hearings from when they were investigating communism in comics.

So, it’s not without exception, but it is generally the rule that the music comes first. Then a lyricist is brought in sometimes. In the case of Brian Wilson, someone comes in to tell him what he’s thinking. What he’s feeling. Tell him, in words, what he was thinking or feeling. A lyricist could come in and ask the melodian to change just one or two notes. I have never done that. Never change a single syllable. Case in point would be “Heroes and Villains.” “I’ve been in this town so long that back in the city I’ve been taken for lost and gone and unknown for a long, long time.” Not one syllable was dropped. There was no lapse or gap in the probable cause of the melody’s exposition. The first thing you’ve got to do is reverence the melody; melody is everything to me. A lot of people don’t think so. People who have good hair days, who can survive a mosh pit and a sawtooth guitar at a painful level. There are people like that who don’t need the melody. Well, I need the melody!

Before I was in the Mothers of Invention, way back when, when I was a brunette, when I was a student. I studied music, which was called Row Music. It was music that was so dismal, so intelligent, so important, so serious, and being taught in the conservatories. And yet when you walk out of a room after the performance, you have no melody with you, nothing you can possess from the performance! No melody! No rhythm, no meter to sustain a sense of memorabilia. You had nothing to take with you! That music disgusted me. I felt I was wasting my time with it. I sought the physicality of lowbrow music and hoped that I could bring order to it with my intervention, bring purpose to it and make it, rather than a fleeting excellence, something that would be durable. Durable was… is my aim.

That’s what I think you should be doing. Those jobs have to change. Whether it’s writing lyrics for somebody as wonderful as Brian Wilson, or being subservient, or just being alone, which is equally frightening to me. It’s all frightening. Every bit of it is to get up there and throw the sword against the Hydras!

(Woman passes on the street in a wheelchair with a dog pulling her. Both look very happy.)

VDP: Oh, that’s most excellent. Look at that! She should be so happy!

PG: That is excellent…so how did you end up touring material again? Do you always tour?

VDP: No, no, I’m 67 years old. I’ve never done one of these shows. I’ve never played at a folk festival. I don’t feel like my music is out of hand here; that it has a reason for being in this environment that it would not have in a rock arena. This is, to me, what I try to do. If there’s anybody here who has a healthy regard for what has brought us here, it’s me.

I was very frightened to come. Fright would be the best word, the most accurate word, because in any generic driven musical gathering, people think about genre. There is a certain amount of intolerance based on people’s expectations about how much things are allowed to change. I didn’t know if I would get through the performance with people sitting there. But I did.

PG: And it was pretty magnificent.

VDP: It was a beginning; it was a fine “how do you do?” I felt.

PG: How much have you played with these musicians?

VDP: Once before, on the Mississippi Sheiks Project. This is the first time we played these songs together. Aren't I lucky? Lucky to have that degree of devotion? And that’s what it takes, it takes that devotion.

PG: Is there anything else that you want to say? You’ve already given me so much more than I was expecting.

VDP: Well, I think we basically did everything except provide an answer to cancer! But the arts, you see, are where it’s at. We will not find our answers in science alone. Otherwise we would not have seen such a problem with Canadian, British and American collusionary oil interests. We would have cleaned up the gulf before the dispersants contaminated the shrimp we may yet eat. We have a singular collective opportunity here. That is through the arts, to change things. They can only be changed through the arts. That’s what’s going to keep us from getting softball journalism, which is owned by the corporate interests. We need the artists to stand aside and remind the world what its ethical obligation is. That’s what I feel the song form allows. A potent force for remedy of what it is that may ail us.

-Van Dyke Parks will be playing at the Music Gallery in Toronto on September 29th. See you there.

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A Gathering of Goodness: The Culture of the Western Canadian Folk Music Festival Mon, 16 Aug 2010 00:17:39 +0000 C.S. Folkers Charging bluegrass screams majestically over the hills of Gallagher Park calling revelers of all ages back to their home tarps. The individual experiences that exist in traversing from side stage to side stage have now ended and now the communal experience of the main stage that will last for the remainder of the evening begins

Charging bluegrass screams majestically over the hills of Gallagher Park calling revelers of all ages back to their home tarps. The individual experiences that exist in traversing from side stage to side stage have now ended and now the communal experience of the main stage that will last for the remainder of the evening begins with a dramatic clamour. Go be with your friends.

I have been sitting high atop the hill watching the goings on at Stage 2, a Latin female singer whose name I never did ascertain is singing about how extremely excellent world peace would be. I’m sitting there more for the spectacular view than anything, having wandered away from my friends to gaze upon the wonders of Edmonton’s river valley and distant downtown core from the top of the natural amphitheater that houses the annual Edmonton Folk Music Festival.


It’s day four of the five-day event and I have been pinballing from stage to stage, sampling the myriad sounds for the better part of seven hours. Indian, Arabic, blues, gospel, rock and roll, throat singing, classical guitar, zydeco, Quebecois folk and country have passed through my ears thus far and I have little idea what is in store for me on the main stage at night. I can only be in one place at a time and there are as many as seven stages operating simultaneously on the all-day Saturday and Sunday shows (Wednesday, Thursday and Friday are evenings only).

At the close of this singer’s set, I pause for a few minutes to soak in the atmosphere, the buzz that is circulating through this place. It is a gathering of goodness. Happiness radiates off of every single person in attendance as we are gathered to experience something truly fantastic: the Western Canadian Folk Festival. There are a few such events in Eastern Canada, but these are all small and region-specific; the folk festivals that occur in the West are by and large much more widely attended and almost every town in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba has one, big or small. If you wanted to, you could spend an entire summer traveling around Western Canada and attend a different festival every weekend. As it turns out, there are a lot of people who do exactly that.


From the performers for whom these festivals are the proverbial bread and butter, to the artisans who sell their wares in festival craft tents across the prairies, to volunteers who are liable to volunteer at multiple festivals just to continually partake in the atmosphere while pitching in, to admission-paying patrons who simply spend their summer vacations traveling from Folk Fest to Folk Fest, there is something in the air at these events that makes people not only want to experience the Folk Festival in many different cities, but also keep doing it every year. I met a woman in Edmonton who told me that she had been attending the Edmonton Folk Music Festival every year since it began in 1980. I walked around the festival grounds asking people how many years they have been coming to the festival for. The average response was seven. Only two people questioned told me it was their first year.

This year’s installment was my fifth Edmonton Folk Music Festival. I first attended in 2004, but unfortunately was unable to make it in 2007 and 2008. A good friend of mine has been attending for as long as he can remember, his mother being one of the aforementioned craftspeople, spending many years selling her handmade hats at various folk festivals in the summer. To Drew, not going to the Folk Festival isn’t even a consideration; the festival has been a summer ritual since he was a small child.

People in Toronto tend to be very surprised when I tell them that this is a music festival that isn’t completely dominated by young people and I can never tell whether or not the young people here think of the idea of attending a music festival where people of literally every age can be found as being extremely novel or just plain strange.


There are seniors, teenagers, young families, middle-aged people, you name it, and they are almost all repeat visitors partaking in the extremely inclusive positivity that radiates from ordinary people reveling in the music of celebrating being. Of course, by “Folk”, the implication is quite simply “People”, which is why the term “Folk Music” is stretched far beyond the guy-with-acoustic-guitar-singing-his-diary definition that is generally associated with folk singers. Hip-Hop groups, rock bands and electronic artists have been known to grace the stages of Gallagher Park in addition to the singer-songwriters and blues, country and world music acts one might expect. In the terms of the Folk Music Festival, to play “Folk Music” is simply to express who you are and where you come from. It is an earnest celebration of diversity and humanity.

According to Northrop Frye, there is only one story possible in literature and indeed art by extension: it is an attempt to answer the question “Who am I?”, it is the search for identity. This is the central thesis of the Western Canadian Folk Festival, a gathering of artists earnestly displaying themselves, simply attempting to convey to an ageless audience who they are, where in the world they come from, what they’ve seen and what’s informed them as both artists and people. Naturally, given that this is the nature of all art, it could easily be argued that this is the case with any gathering of artists, however, rarely is it so explicitly stated, rarely is that simple statement so plainly and sincerely shown. The festival is for everybody, because it is about everybody.

Nowhere else in such a large gathering of people will you see the same level of respect, decency and courteousness for other people. The unfortunate inconveniences of jockeying for a good spot, worrying about your things being stolen and people just generally being jerks are totally evaporated upon entering the festival grounds. You pick your spot on the main stage hill at the beginning of the day and once you’ve claimed said spot – usually with a tarp no bigger than 8’X10’ – it’s yours for the rest of the day. If you don’t get a good spot, it’s because you didn’t make it early enough and that is one hundred per cent your fault.


There is a great feeling of understanding amongst the attendees that everyone is here to have a good time, so nothing should be done to impede upon anyone else’s good time when they have every right to have the same good time that you are having. You don’t move someone else’s tarp, you touch anything left on an unattended tarp, when an artist is playing you shut the hell up, if you want to stand up, make sure you’re not in anyone’s way. Generally, just don’t be a dick and you’ll have the best time ever. Never in five years have I seen or heard of anyone breaking these rules at the Folk Festival and given the sheer volume of perennial attendees, it doesn’t seem like these things will be changing any time soon. It’s a breath of fresh air for humanity, frankly, a little bit of reprieve from 359 days of road rage, scheming, cheating, cutting lines, being angry at people in the service industry and impatience. People seem to relax.

Booming off in the distance, I hear a twangy Southern accent calling out to the as yet unassembled masses wandering around lazily from stage to stage. I can’t see the Main Stage from where I am, but I can hear everything this American stranger is saying.

“I wonder if y’all like bluegrass? Do y’all like bluegrass? We’re Dailey & Vincent and that’s exactly what we’re here to do. C’mon boys, let’s pick one!”


And just like that, sweet, earnest and oh-so-joyful bluegrass comes thundering around the festival grounds and through the river valley beckoning everyone back to the tarps that they laid down at the beginning of the day, back to their families and friends. My ears perk up in bewilderment and excitement: I did not know they were getting a bluegrass band to open the Saturday concert, let alone one this good. Immediately I bound down the slopes with a tremendous grin stapled onto my face that I fully expect to last forever. This is the best possible thing that could have happened to me on this already beyond-description day. I’m running down the hill so fast, I could slip at any second. I have to be as nimble as the most fearless mountain goat to avoid stepping on anyone’s things or messing up any tarp arrangements. Not only do I want to get a closer look at this insanely talented band that I had no idea existed until this moment, but I suddenly have the profound desire to watch them with my friends.

Some of my people are already there and we all greet each other with enthusiastic cries of “Are you hearing this!?” More friends arrive and we all greet each other with enthusiastic cries of “Are you hearing this!?” followed by discussions of where everyone has been and what everyone has seen. Again, with seven stages operating and thousands of people milling about all day, the odds of you and all of your people being at all of the same places all day is extremely slim. So, on the Saturday and Sunday when the festival runs all day, everyone has been off seeing different artists, doing different things and as a result, they probably have seen something amazing that they want to tell you about. So while the afternoons of these days are spent lazing about the park, when the evening concert on the main stage begins at 6 PM and you are being ushered to you tarp by, in this case, an amazing bluegrass band, it gets you excited for the evening but it is also a call back to earth. It is bringing people together to share in what each individual has seen and done, even over the course of an afternoon. This moment is a microcosm for the entire festival.


Later that evening, I met a man named Keith who was sitting on the next tarp over from me. After striking up a conversation, he told me that he was an electrician and that his work took him all over the country because it is the sort of profession where one must go where the work actually is. He then told me that for about the past fifteen years, he has been taking his summers off to roam around Western Canada and going to Folk Festivals. Just this year he’s been to the Folk Festivals in Edmonton, Calgary, Winnipeg, Canmore, Regina as well as some of the festivals that happen in the smaller towns around the prairies. Keith rhapsodized in earnest and in detail on all of the specific differences between all of the festivals that he’s been to, even down to seemingly trivial elements such as the quality of the festival program book, the champion of such category according to Keith is the Winnipeg Folk Festival because of its extreme user-friendliness.

Keith also told me about the recently founded Ottawa Folk Music Festival, which he informed me is a good festival considering how young it was and that it has a lot to learn from festivals such as Edmonton and Winnipeg (the two biggest festivals). Indeed, he said, it seemed that judging by the second time he attended the Ottawa festival, the organizers had taken many cues from the more well established Western events. “I’ve been meaning to get around to seeing Europe and all of those places, but I just really love Canada,” he says.

Of course, the number one reason why people keep returning to these festivals is obviously the incredible music. Just as when people in Toronto seem bewildered when I tell them that the festival that I rave about constantly is also a favourite destination of families with small children and the elderly, they also seem generally perplexed when I show them the artist lineup. “I haven’t heard of any of these people,” they usually say. “That’s sort of the point,” I usually reply. While the Edmonton Folk Festival generally draws a fair amount of big name draws ranging from legendary old favourites to popular young acts, that’s really a clever ploy to get you in the door. Van Morrison, Levon Helm, Calexico, Patrick Watson are all great, but the amount of new music that you have never heard of going in but by the time you leave you are totally in love with is unprecedented. Every year I discover many artists that I would never have even heard of otherwise and even just attending a Folk Festival once would provide anyone a much-needed, enriching jolt to one’s musical landscape.

This would not be possible were it not for people like Terry Wickham, the Edmonton Folk Festival’s extremely savvy Festival Director. In the years he’s directed the festival, he’s been able to turn it from a small, grassroots mini-event to a summer ritual and cultural institution. His prowess as a curator, bringing both big ticket artists, obscure world music gems and other brilliant musicians from just about any background imaginable is matched by his prodigious business savvy that has made the festival not only incredible year after year, but also affordable.

Unfortunately, two years ago, the Government of Canada cut funding from the Edmonton Folk Festival where it usually received upwards of a half million dollars per year in tourism funding. Rather than bump up ticket prices, Wickham added a fifth night to the traditionally four-day festival in order to subsidize ticket prices and keep the festival going at the same pace. A four-day pass costs about $150, and there are no five-day passes. The four-day pass is good from Thursday-Sunday. A ticket to this year’s Wednesday night endowment concert featuring Van Morrison ran $89. Most of the people at the Wednesday night concert were not in attendance for the rest of the festival and vice-versa. This seems strange, but it’s actually quite brilliant. The endowment concert is good for the festival in three primary ways. A. It adds a fifth day to the festival, which no one would ever complain about. B. Because admission to the Wednesday night concert is not included in the four-day pass, most of the ticket-buyers for the Wednesday are not regular festival goers: it draws in new people C. Unsuspecting purchasers of the Wednesday night ticket are completely responsible for the low ticket prices of the four-day pass. Purcahsers of the four-day pass are able to enjoy an entire weekend of amazing music more or less on the dime of the people who don’t even know what they’re subsidizing.

What they don’t know is that they’re missing out on the best thing that anyone could ever do in the city of Edmonton. You leave the festival grounds on Sunday night with a heart full to burst and a head full of songs you never thought you would ever hear. The combination of incredible music and people just being nice to each other for a change is completely intoxicating, so it is no wonder that people come back every year and it is no wonder that people spend as much time as they can trying to soak up as much of that Canadian goodness and they possibly can.

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Edmonton Folk Music Festival 2010: A Few of the Highlights Mon, 16 Aug 2010 00:16:04 +0000 C.S. Folkers -Van Morrison - Wednesday 8:30 PM, Main Stage Obviously. I'm about 90% certain that Van Morrison is one of the music's all time jerk-asses. Maybe it's the alleged stage fright that he still hasn't been able to shake, even after forty-plus years of touring, but it seemed pretty clear to me that he didn't really

-Van Morrison - Wednesday 8:30 PM, Main Stage


I'm about 90% certain that Van Morrison is one of the music's all time jerk-asses. Maybe it's the alleged stage fright that he still hasn't been able to shake, even after forty-plus years of touring, but it seemed pretty clear to me that he didn't really want to be there. That said, Van the Man can still sing like no white man should be able to sing and his band is little short of divine. His Opening Night performance as part of the festival's endowment drive was grudgingly incredible on both sides of the stage - Morrison mercilessly pummeling the audience with old favourites and recent album cuts despite the very glaring feeling that he would rather be removing his own eyelids with rusty desk scissors, and the audience utterly riveted to Morrison and Co.'s every note, despite Morrison's more or less absolute contempt for everything going on around him, occasionally including his own band.

Nevertheless, the man puts on one hell of a show. After getting "Brown-Eyed Girl" out of the way very early in the set, Morrison was free to embark on several jazz odysseys and even an unexpected rendition of "Ballerina" along with his - and I can't stress this enough - totally ridiculous band. Great way to kick off the festival.

-Gord Downie - Thursday 8:00 PM, Main Stage

"The Hip would be so much better if they didn't have Gord Downie ruining everything they do. I hate that guy, man." So says Keith, the guy sitting on the next tarp over from us on Saturday night as we discuss our respective favourite performances of the festival to that point. Me, I like the guy. I think that not only is he a great songwriter, but that he is also one of the best stand-up comedians I've ever seen. And he exhibits both of these talents at the same time.

Downie's Thursday night set, accompanied by his band, The Country of Miracles, featuring Julie Doiron and Death Cab For Cutie's Chris Walla (who, as it transpires, is also responsible for the production of Downie's latest solo album, The Grand Bounce) was at once riotous, hysterical, strange and extremely off-putting. Renowned for his bizarre stage banter - highlight quips at this performance included "I imagine a sabretooth tiger up to its tits in eternity, "How are you with things that disappear," "I was there when she [Doiron] fell into a hole that was at least sixteen feet deep" and "When this guitar comes off its strap, it's going to make a disagreeable noise, and you'll ask for your money back and [festival director] Terry Wickham will have to rob a bank." - Downie seemed to go out of his way to make the all-ages crowd, complete with seniors and small children, as uncomfortable as possible as he lead his band in gratingly dissonant extended jams, attempted unsuccessfully to engage the audience in characteristically strange chants and made jokes about the G20 Summit in Toronto that no one seemed to get.

I had a great time.

-Session: Natacha Atlas, Calexico, Tom Russell, Tanya Tagaq & Celina Kalluk - Friday, 6:00 PM, Stage 6

One of the coolest things about the Edmonton Folk Music Festival is the sessions, wherein several of the festival performers are grouped together in the same time slot to showcase each other's songs and mix and mingle the distinct sounds and styles that have come together. It functions positively in several ways, most notably in that when the artists in question mesh really well together, the sounds produced can be more or less totally incredible and it also gives smaller artists an opportunity to exploit a larger artist's pull, thus gaining more exposure than they might have. For example, the first of the sessions that I attended at this year's festival I stumbled upon because I wanted to see the enduringly popular Calexico and ended up discovering Natacha Atlas and Tanya Tagaq in the ensuing bruhaha. Natacha Atlas is an Egyptian-born, Britain-based artist who sings primarily in Arabic, but will switch to English or French in a pinch - she is fabulous and her band, again, is extremely excellent, particularly her pianist and violinist. Tanya Tagaq is a throat singer from Nunuvat, who accompanied by her cousin Celina Kalluk, can do extraordinary things with her voice.

Together with Calexico's Mariachi-flavoured alt-country/indie-folk, the three acts produced some spectacular sounds that were both unexpected and brilliant. Arabic alt-country with Mexican horns and throat singing? Excuse me? Yeah, I saw that and it was insane.

Tom Russell was a guy who sang a weird song about his having a degree in criminology and contributed very little to the sublimity that was occurring all around him. Still, though.

-The Levon Helm Band - Friday, 9:00 PM, Main Stage

At last year's EFMF, the Wailers (formerly Bob Marley & the) performed to what was, by the end of their set, a largely unenthusiastic Gallagher Park. For one thing, there was only one original member of the Wailers actually in the band, for another, they played what basically amounted to Bob Marley's Greatest Hits with a young singer who was so far out of his league he may as well have been singing karaoke.

I was concerned that Levon Helm's performance might have a similar effect, with the aging drummer playing all of the Band's most well-known songs more or less totally unchanged and with sub-par vocalists as Helm is unable to sing very much at all due to throat surgery.

Nope. It was awesome.

As has been a theme with the festival this year, Helm's band was pretty much insane and when they did play Band songs, they were fun and slightly re-arranged rather than stale and gimmicky as was the case with the lackluster carcass of the once mighty Wailers. After opening with "Ophelia"  - as it turned out, the only song Helm sang in full by himself, the group ran through a small run of Band songs before launching into a string of tunes from Helm's recent solo work as well as song very tasteful covers, all the while rotating vocalists and demonstrating the formidible prowess of each member of Helm's fabulous band. The sound was tremendous, the atmosphere was exciting and fun and true to rumour, Helm rarely lost his beaming grin throughout the set.

Even the Band songs that they did play weren't necessarily the most obvious choices (though, as was to be expected, they closed with "The Weight") - I certainly wasn't expecting "Chest Fever" to come up. Though he's lost much of his voice, the man is still a fantastic drummer, a wonderful performer and a class act all the way.

-Debashish Bhattacharya, John Boutte, John Hammond - Saturday, 12:30 PM, Stage 3

Debashish Bhattacharya

Debashish Bhattacharya

As far as the sessions go, there are usually two outcomes from the unusual pairings that occur. First, as evidenced above, the artists weave in and out of each other's songs, flowing into extended jams and adding elements to each other's respective sounds that make the experience truly unique. The other outcome is a little more volatile in its successful execution and that is that each artist respectfully keeps quiet while the artists that they have been paired with have their time and simply wait their turn to play. This can be potentially very dull.

Not in this case. While the three artists featured here, largely stuck to their own songs, respectfully keeping silent and giving their counterparts their turn, the meshing of the three artists here provided enough excitement so that an elaborate jam session would have been welcome, but not necessarily essential. Between Boutte, a New Orleans gospel singer, blues encyclopedia John Hammond and Indian mad scientist Bhattacharya - a man who invented the instrument that he then mastered, which is a hybrid guitar/sitar gave enough excitement in their trading off of sounds that any intermingling might have caused the world to implode because a gospel raga might have just been too much for mortal ears to comprehend.

Just the same, Hammond howled mercilessly as he traded between obscure cuts by blues legends and his own classic sound, pounding his already battered guitar into dust, Boutte turned out to have one of the more relentlessly soulful voices around and Bhattacharya was predictably virtuosic. I think they did us all a favour.

-Dailey & Vincent - Saturday, 6:00 PM, Main Stage

Probably one of the most crowd-pleasingly charming performances I've ever witnessed, this seven-piece bluegrass band was, to put it bluntly, simply phenomenal. If you're the sort that can easily get into bluegrass, Dailey & Vincent are pretty much the best I've seen, though by no means do I consider myself an aficionado. Alternating effortlessly between traditional standards, more contemporary country numbers and their own predictably down-home wholesome originals - not to mention a segment where the band morphed into a barbershop quartet - and coupled with their almost cartoonish country charm, Dailey & Vincent were perhaps the perfect way to begin Saturday night on the main stage.

Though technically the brainchild of the titular Jamie Dailey and Darrin Vincent, the whole band deserves credit for this fantastic performance that had all of Gallagher Park bouncing with excitement, particularly one Christian Davis, who handled bass vocals and guitar, a man who is in possession of quite possibly the clearest and deepest voice of all time. I would have liked to have seen him perform with Tanya Tagaq as, again, the things that that man could do with his voice were quite astonishing.

There's not really much I can say here, if you're the sort of person that might like some good bluegrass, once again, I can recommend little better than this.

-Vieux Farka Toure - Saturday 7:30 PM, Main Stage

"He rides music like a steed."
-Patrick Grant


To put it bluntly, Mali's Vieux Farka Toure is a testosterone factory and he basically emasculated every single y-chromosome on the hill Saturday night. It was at once scary, breathtaking and slightly humiliating. And I felt a little bit dirty afterward.

Basically no one can play the electric guitar like Vieux Farka Toure, so everyone should just stop playing the electric guitar right now. You must sign the waiver provided to you at the beginning of a Vieux Farka Toure show that by listening to his music, you expressly consent to the fact that you are now his bitch forever.

Vieux Farka Toure's set consisted mainly of him soloing on his electric guitar like no person has ever soloed on an electric guitar ever over an absurdly tight African band complete with nerdy white drummer who could only ever have stumbled into this band by playing drums like John Bonham's lovechild with Zeus (probably disguised as a moose or something). And as it turns out, that's pretty much exactly how he plays the drums.

After every song, Toure would, in place of stage banter, simply say "OK!" in a slightly bewildered, impatient, but ultimately indifferent manner and then continue his utter domination of the instrument. He plays as though he isn't doing anything particularly interesting at all, aloofly commanding riffs as though they were his whims as his body seethed hot, sticky machismo. Brings new meaning to the term "wanking".

To sooth the aching libidos of ten thousand manned-out revellers following Vieuz Farka Toure, the festival brought out for a two song cameo, one Kate Reid who sings tremendously bland singer-songwriter-y tunes, all of which are about being a lesbian to the point where it is obvious that she is making her sexuality a gimmick due to her unironic and extremely liberal use of lesbian stereotypes in her lyrics. It was kind of like a punchline.

-Van Dyke Parks - Sunday 12:00 PM, Stage 1

I'm not going to dwell too much on this one, because you can read a whole conversation that Steel Bananas' Patrick Grant had with Van Dyke Parks right here. Nevertheless, I will say that the man is a character, an original and one hell of a musician. His set on Sunday afternoon was excellent and it was nothing short of an absolute treat to witness one of America's greatest and most unheralded songwriters.

-Ian Tyson - Sunday 3:00 PM, Stage 6

Ian Tyson

Ian Tyson

"This is a song about a dream I had, about walking down an electric highway through a desert of glass with a scorpion."
-Me as Ian Tyson, as described to my mother

Canada's favourite singing cowboy. My Grandmother is a huge fan. Easily one of the best performances I saw at this years EFMF. Accompanied by a second acoustic guitar and an electric bass, Tyson, whose music I had relatively little familiarity with, was nothing less than charming in that mysterious cowboy sort of way that is exactly what you want to see of your country singers and to boot he is a great performer, a fantastic singer and pretty weird dude to cap it off. Playing songs primarily from his most recent album, 2008's Yellowhead to Yellowstone, and dressed in a red Hawaiian shirt and cowboy hat (gay guys, big fat party animals, country singers), Tyson played to a memorized Stage 6 his harrowing tales of life on the desert and the songs of his desolate, lonely dreams.

It was kind of like in that episode of The Simpsons when Homer eats the chili pepper that acts like mescalin and gets led around a haunted desert dreamworld by a coyote voiced by Johnny Cash. I feel like all of Ian Tyson's songs exist in that dreamworld of impossible shapes and tough but fair spirits who always have a lesson to teach. His lyrics are extremely evocative, powerful and soulful and his voice sounds like a more gravelly, haunting Johnny Cash - or rather, a Johnny Cash who spends more time thinking about his own soul rather than that of the American working man. Ian Tyson is a legend, and yet to most people my age he is a ghost. Probably fitting.

-John Prine - Sunday 9:30 PM, Main Stage

Closing the festival this year was John Prine, who I also saw at the 2005 EFMF, to as far as I was concerned, mixed results. I didn't really get what John Prine was all about the first time around, but the second time, this year, it was darn near close to magical. Seriously. John Prine is really good.

Like a Dylan who never got over his country phase, or like a sober Willie Nelson, Prine's simple folk songs about, you guessed it, life in middle America, were exactly what the doctor ordered when it came to bringing yet another smashing success of a festival to a close. Prine, whose voice is reedy and occasionally thin, but unfailingly earnest and almost always commanding, is a man who carries himself with a relative ease for singers of his age and genre. Considerably less weathered and broken than his contemporaries, Prine's affable manner, gentle humour and wholly sincere, surprisingly jazz-inflected songwriting proved to be extremely winning.

"Father forgive us for what we must do
You forgive us and we'll forgive you
We'll forgive each other until we've both turned blue
Then we'll whistle and go fishing in heaven."

That about sums it up.

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Edmonton Folk Fest presents: And the hillside disappeared! Mon, 16 Aug 2010 00:15:40 +0000 Patrick Grant It’s not very often you get to see a bunch of fantastic musicians, most of whom you’ve never heard of but are actually world famous, jamming. It is difficult for me to count the number of times I had this exact experience at the Edmonton Folk Fest. It was outrageous. The way the festival is

It’s not very often you get to see a bunch of fantastic musicians, most of whom you’ve never heard of but are actually world famous, jamming. It is difficult for me to count the number of times I had this exact experience at the Edmonton Folk Fest. It was outrageous.

The way the festival is structured gives equal credence to complete sets by artists and scheduled jam sessions. It’s very easy to see Patrick Watson jamming with kids from Alberta, or Calexico jamming with throat singers. Just for a few weird examples. You know?

Okay, so after that preamble, it’s sweet anecdote time. On Saturday afternoon, after the very awesome Alejandro Escovedo and the Sensitive Boys blew up the main stage, the whole SB crew toddled off to Natacha Atlas’ set. Her arabic jazz band are seriously freaky and it was exactly the tip we were looking for after a severe rocking. I especially have a crush on the dextrous fingers of her pianist (That’s what she said.)


Stage 6 With Muttart Conservatory

After an amazing set featuring a stunning rendition of Nina Simone’s “Black is the Colour of My True Love’s Hair,” we split and went in two directions. I don’t know what Curran and Karen did, but Ted Killin and I marched our unsuspecting asses over to Stage 6 to see gospel powerhouse John Boutté jam with Ray Bonneville, Vieux Farka Touré, Bassekou Kouyate and Ngoni Ba.

We chose ourselves a spot in the centre of hill and everything began slowly. Each artist did a song by themselves. But then… there was the magical moment where everbody joined in together on a Ray Bonneville song. And then on a John Boutte gumbo soul tune. And then, as they announced, a Desmond Dekker cover.

Unfortunately, the audience had already been blown to smithereens. The sheer combination of Malian virtuosic guitaristry and southern soul and blues had reduced us to our constituent particles and left us just sort of vibrating to the groove. On the horizon lay the Edmonton skyline. One pile of hovering particles behind me, or what was left of me, commented, “Look at that. Zurich ain’t got shit on Edmonton.” And it’s true. The glowing purple pyramids of the Muttart Conservatory, owned and operated by the city, mounted by a treacherous blue sky dotted with cumulus puffballs served as the backdrop for this human apocalypse.

When they finished playing and all of the matter kind of settled back into it’s regularity, it occurred to me that it was unlikely that anyone had been recording the performance or that it would ever happen again in quite the same way. I can’t even find the set list anywhere.

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Lifting the Veil: Revealing the Ruby Spirit Mon, 16 Aug 2010 00:13:03 +0000 Patrick Grant “Born Under A Veil is just kind of calling out to everyone to be more aware, to be awakened if they can. Just tap into some of the feelings that they should be experiencing. A lot of people are very passive and don’t let their feelings get the best or the worst of them. A

Born Under A Veil is just kind of calling out to everyone to be more aware, to be awakened if they can. Just tap into some of the feelings that they should be experiencing. A lot of people are very passive and don’t let their feelings get the best or the worst of them. A lot of people are born under a veil a stay under it.” –Paige Boy, The Ruby Spirit

A couple weeks ago the universe turned serendipitous on me. A friend of mine took me out to see Friendly Rich and the Lollipop People at the Tranzac and when the show ended early, I was debatably looking for something to do. I called one of my sturdy friendforces and he informed me that there was a big crazy band party taking place at his house and that I was a fool if I didn’t come. I almost went home to bed.

But I didn’t! A higher force powered me that night, my friends. I skipped and jumped the distance to the loft and entered, only to discover that the band going on stage was none other than the lovely, the punishing, the glamorous, the romantic, the fucking sonic swordsmen (and women!) known as The Ruby Spirit.

Photo Courtesy of the Ruby Spirit

Photo Courtesy of the Ruby Spirit

A couple months previously, I’d met Alex Pulec at the Krupke CD release party and asked him if he wanted to do an interview at some point. What followed was communication catastrophe and every opportunity we would ever have to speak would fall away for a number of reasons. He’d even invited me to the very same loft party I was mentioning in the previous paragraph and I’d forgotten about it entirely. BUT THE UNIVERSE INTERVENED, I TELL YOU. FORCES DELIVERED THIS AWESOME BAND INTO MY LAP.

I totally played it cool, too. And they proceeded to rock the face off the space, if spaces can be said to have faces. The people therein were certainly covered in liquidy melted face after the set was complete. And glitter. But not beer, because the kegs ran out.

And we organized some shit! I went by the sweet apartment of co-songwriters Paige Boy and the previously mentioned Alex Pulec and we had a chat, you dig? Like, a conversation…not a cat en français.

While the Ruby Spirit are operating under a new name and new sound, their voices and forms are no strangers to the Toronto scene. Formerly known as Sadie May Crash, The Ruby Spirit has been a band for nearly 5 years, finally culminating in an EP’s birth, a newness:

Alex: It’s been a lot of years in development. It’s the first body of work that we’ve done where we’ve been writing the music we want to write and the vision in clear. Now we have enough people in the band to perform what we’ve been hearing. We’ve always been a four piece for a long time, so now we can add that extra dimension on. That record took 6 months to record. WE used a lot of…

Paige: ..renegade ways of getting it done!

Alex: We had no money so we pretty much really got creative and experimental in the way we had to finish it.

Paige: We had no money but we didn’t want it to sound like we had no money. Tony [Malone], the producer was great because he was just never satisfied. He would find the perfect mic for me to sing through for a certain song with the perfect effect and then, when he was tweaking it, he’d be like “You know what, Paige, I hate to do this to you, but I found a better mic and you’re going to have to do it again. It’s going to be worth it.” And then you have to gather the performance again inside yourself, you know? When you’re recording something and you’ve decided a certain chunk of something is finished, it can be difficult to get yourself back into that same space…but it was never about going back. It was more like I would challenge myself to do something even better than the last time.

Alex: We really all stepped up as a band in general.

In fact, the band stepped up so heavily that they added a fifth member, pianistic aficionado Julianna Eye, who is the executor of Born Under a Veil’s infectious keyboards. And the record is certainly great. It’s a mash of carnivalesque organs and noisy guitars, heavy backbeats and stunning vocal work that’s both streamlined and modern while throwing back to a late 60’s aesthetic that so many attempt but few successfully capture. Its official release date is September 4th, 2010 at the Great Hall at Queen and Dovercourt. You’d be an absolute jackass not to come.

Paige: We were talking about the live shows and we’ve played sometimes at the Phoenix where there’s really good sound and it’s really large or we can play at the loft party where everybody’s in our face. We were talking about that show and how much fun it was. Yeah, it was a great group of people, but for the most part everyone just let go. They didn’t know the songs, they didn’t know us as a band, but they just got into it and let their guard down. When we’re presented up on this big stage at the Phoenix and it’s this major production and there’s lights and everything, people just kind of stand there and stare at us. And I think they’re enjoying themselves. But they end up just trying to figure us out. Where is this band from? Why do they sound this way?

Alex: The best way to enjoy it is just to let go. We are different because we come from so many different places that we’re kind of an odd fit as a band. That loft party really opened up our eyes because it was less about figuring us out than appreciating us for what we can give. It’s sort of a waste of time to pigeonhole us…or, if someone is going to pigeonhole us, we’d rather they pigeonhole us as sounding like Ruby Spirit, that’s all.

Paige: Before we had Julianna I was like Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins or something, you know, with the big kick drum and hi-hat and harmonica all in one. It was a lot of work. Now I have my hands free and it’s easier for the theatrical show….I decided to become this bride of Frankenstein human sacrifice lady.

Alex: Now that Paige is free it’s easier for her to give it to the audience rather than being trapped behind a keyboard.

Paige: A circus needs a ringleader, you know?

And the circus is traveling. Anything could happen. They could get swept into interstellar groove combat with a comparable band from another galaxy. As sometimes tends to be the case with touring. Sometimes.

Paige: After the release we’re going to start on the east coast. Then we’ve got some shows in New York State and we’ve got some shows in New York City. We’ve done the Toronto Circuit a lot, and it’s great, but I think we’re ready to chew off a bigger piece, so we’re going to New York pretty soon.

The band’s myspace can be found here.

As previously mentioned, the CD release is at the Great Hall on September 4th.

Dig it hot and heavy, babies.

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Springsteen and the Arcade Fire: Doing and Doing Nothing at All Mon, 16 Aug 2010 00:12:40 +0000 Dennis Reynolds The first time I saw Bruce Springsteen live it was last spring at the height of my Bruce fandom. Having already played Born to Run to death, I was now fully mesmerized by the passion exhibited in both The Wild, the Innocent & the E Street Shuffle and The River. On record, Bruce is near

The first time I saw Bruce Springsteen live it was last spring at the height of my Bruce fandom. Having already played Born to Run to death, I was now fully mesmerized by the passion exhibited in both The Wild, the Innocent & the E Street Shuffle and The River. On record, Bruce is near perfect. There’s no other artist who achieves the degree of natural energy quite like him. His band, always at his fingertips, consistently sounds ready to break, like a strong elastic band stretched to its greatest possible point. Sure, his lyrics are over-the-top, and sometimes terribly over-dramatic. Yet, the conviction with which he delivers them is so positively undeniable that you want nothing else but to believe every word.

A Bruce Springsteen show is not really like any other concert you’ve ever been to. The types of people who go to Springsteen shows are the types of people who only go to Springsteen shows. They love the Boss unconditionally, and thus, they find little reason to love anyone else. I’m always skeptical of live acts that have these sorts of audiences. I feel this way because bands with such devout followings usually end up becoming over-rehearsed shades of their former selves, listlessly regurgitating the hits for hungry audiences. I wanted Springsteen to be different, but I doubted that he could be. When you’ve performed "Born to Run" every single night for thirty-five years it must start to get a little tired. After all these years, surely you’ve started to lose touch with why you wrote those words in the first place. At what point do you stop feeling that same magic you felt when you first wrote the tune?

On this night, Bruce and the E Street Band saved "Born to Run" for the encore. Of course, they absolutely nailed it. Right around the time they kicked into the song’s epic breakdown, I began to understand why Bruce still plays this song, night after night: its because performing this song is what he does, and his consciously embracing the act of doing this is what makes Bruce such a dynamic performer. The joy us concertgoers get from seeing Bruce live comes from an almost spiritual belief that it is not performance we are witnessing, but the true expression of an individual’s authentic self. If anything, the manner with which Bruce carries himself onstage bears more resemblance to a preacher than it does a rock n’ roll singer. His music is not the vehicle through which he engages in performance; rather, it is the manifestation of the powerful faith he has in rock n’ roll as a communicative act. Much like a preacher charismatically illustrating the commitment to his vocation, Bruce’s onstage prowess lets us know that rock n’ roll was not his choice, it was chosen for him.

Photo Courtesy of

Photo Courtesy of

In Performance Studies, Richard Schechner describes the four states of performance: being, doing, showing doing, and explaining showing doing. ‘Being’ refers to existence itself. ‘Doing’ is the act of one’s ‘being’ expressing his or her authentic self through performance. ‘Showing doing’ is the act of performance that refers to the process of ‘doing’ by highlighting the separation between ‘being’ and performance. ‘Showing doing’ is probably the most prominent state, as it refers to the individual who knowingly adopts a foreign persona for the sake of performance. Stage actors, for instance, are always ‘showing doing.’ Whenever dramatic performances are particularly enthralling, it is because the performer is acting so convincingly unlike their actual ‘being.’ Finally, Schechner identifies ‘explaining showing doing’ as “a reflexive effort to comprehend the world of performance and the world as performance.” (22) In other words, ‘explaining showing doing’ is neither the act of one’s ‘being’ expressing oneself, nor is it the act of one’s ‘being’ performing in spite of one’s self. ‘Explaining showing doing’ reflects a state of performance that is more about the performative environment that is enacted.

With performers who are ‘doing’, Schechner is referring to those whose performance illustrates an extension of one’s ‘being.’ Thus, there exists the expectation that the performer is not embodying an external ‘being’, but positioning their authentic ‘being’ in the realm of live experience. What makes the Bruce Springsteen live experience so palatable is being in the presence of his ‘doing’. His persona is that of the American everyman, the rugged kid from Jersey who never abandoned his roots. The assumption is that this cultural position grants him a credible perspective on American life with which he translates to live audiences. Springsteen need not adopt a foreign guise in order to mobilize audiences, for it is the process of his ‘doing’ that allows his performance to thrive.

Of course, you could argue that since Springsteen is now wildly past his heyday, Springsteen is no longer Springsteen being himself, but a performer projecting his former authentic self onto contemporary audiences. Yet, this argument seems unreasonable considering how remarkably unlikable Bruce was throughout the 1990’s. While likely the result of a middle-aged image crisis, ‘90’s Bruce faced a drastic decline in popularity that ultimately signified a personal shift from ‘doing’ to ‘showing doing’. Following the massive success of 1984’s Born in the USA, Bruce began to lose touch with the authentic self that propelled him into mega-stardom in the first place. Instead, he spent most of the 1990’s striving to maintain this mega-stardom by performing as a heavily calculated, rock-star version of himself. He was, essentially, performing Bruce rather than simply being Bruce. When nobody bought it, he returned to what made him successful in the first place: he reunited his hometown band and returned to performing in his more natural and spontaneous manner. Post-1990’s Springsteen performs on his own terms, which includes demonstrating an unwillingness to let his ‘being’ succumb to the external demands of show business.

Schechner outlines that the act of ‘showing doing’ is ‘pointing to, underlining, and displaying doing.’ Springsteen alienated audiences in the 90’s because he was no longer ‘doing’ nor was he even properly ‘showing doing’. He continued to confidently perform under a hyper-real rock star guise but failed to recognize that he no longer actually was this person. His resulting performances were the products of obvious overcompensation: overtly masculine, conventionally rock n’ roll, and fully representative of a performer painfully out of touch with himself. At the time, meaningful performances constantly eluded Bruce, as he found himself unable to clarify his being in the process of performing. When you think of performers like Ziggy Stardust-era David Bowie, or Alice Cooper, ‘showing doing’ is the vehicle for creating a spectacle out of the differentiation between performer and ‘being’. Ziggy Stardust, for instance, functioned as an adopted persona designed to evoke the absence of Bowie’s ‘being’ in favour of performative icon.

The sort of unparalleled excitement seen at Springsteen shows is a lot like how concertgoers react to seeing the Arcade Fire live. The last time I saw them live, there was a constant degree of undeniable energy in the room, likely the result of their reputation of excellence, but also that sort of nervousness that comes from knowing you might be about to witness something great. Arcade Fire shows, however, are very much unlike Bruce in their functionality and presentation. For one, the band consistently performs in uniform attire (whether this be their traditional black and whites, or their more recent western wardrobe), an obviously conspicuous choice designed to signify a formal shift from separate individuals to a collective performance unit. Their wildly energetic over-the-top performances do everything short of shaking you by the shoulders and scream “YOU ARE WATCHING A ROCK BAND.” (This is, of course, unless each band member completes all menial off-stage tasks with the same overwhelming determination and excitement - which part of me wishes they did). The show’s visual absurdity is crucial to the Arcade Fire experience because it evokes that passion commonly associated with ‘doing’. Yet, by dawning uniform garb and dressing the stage up with deliberately engaging over-the-top antics, it is easy to recognize that this is not a band trying to present their authentic beings through ‘doing’, but one that is addressing the appealing nature of individuals performing in their most impassioned state.

But this is not necessarily ‘showing doing’, either. For the band to be ‘showing doing’, they would have to be consciously addressing the divide between their performative spectacle and their authentic selves. Their spectacle, however, is not dependent on ‘being’ at all. The Arcade Fire use performance not to highlight the existence or the absence of ‘being’, but to establish a performance spectacle devoid of ‘being’ altogether. In the process, they expose how calculated ‘doing’ and ‘showing doing’ actually is, and how contemporary audiences are often able to harbour a heightened awareness of performative ‘being’ that often renders both ‘doing’ and ‘showing doing’ boring and uninteresting. The Arcade Fire’s method of performance instead functions as a very simple, yet constant reminder that we are, in fact, watching a rock band.

On the Neon Bible tour, the band performed inside a semicircle of tall horizontal light posts at the stage’s forefront and a curved row of small, circular video screens displaying grainy show footage and an array of graphics and video snippets. The setup placed symbolic restraint on the band, keeping them contained within the view of the audience’s gaze. Their relative confinement further signified the context of their existence as performers: On stage, they, the performers, served only the purpose of performing a live spectacle for audiences. The use of video screens augmented this notion, as they equated the band with objects that suspend the viewer in observation rather than ones designed to simply enhance the performance. The entire setup was a conspicuous nod to the fact that a performance was taking place and that concertgoers were also performing their role as the audience. Rather than dominating the audience’s gaze, the band performed within it, positioning themselves in such a way that facilitated the act of ‘explaining showing doing’.

Fans love Arcade Fire shows because they exist without pretense, they engage with the communicative functionality of the spectacle rather than pretending to avoid it. In the process they remain gloriously rock n’ roll yet entirely aware that they are so. As a result, they’re neither striving for irony nor are they cringingly earnest. The Arcade Fire achieve a revelatory sort of honesty that postmodern culture often considers unattainable in an age of heightened cultural awareness. Even when singer Win Butler steps off stage to sing with the audience, as he does most nights, it is not to extend his authority and shove microphones in people’s faces. His destruction of the fourth wall is a jubilant renegotiation of authority that actively posits the concert spectacle as total performance of both performers and spectators alike. He yells and screams and points his fists to the sky, but he never seems to get sick of doing this. Why? Because he doesn’t have to ‘do’ anything at all. That’s our job as audience members, just as long as we don’t get sick of it.

Works cited

Performance Studies. Richard Schechner. Routledge 2002.

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// Letter From the Editor: September 2010 Sun, 15 Aug 2010 23:03:47 +0000 Steel Bananas August 15, 2010 When I told people that the best weekend of the year invariably happens for me in my hometown at the Edmonton Folk Music Festival, I didn't honestly expect that anyone would actually want to make the trip. This year, as things went, three of my fellow SB staffers made the long pilgrimage

August 15, 2010

When I told people that the best weekend of the year invariably happens for me in my hometown at the Edmonton Folk Music Festival, I didn't honestly expect that anyone would actually want to make the trip. This year, as things went, three of my fellow SB staffers made the long pilgrimage across three provinces to the vast fields and valleys of Alberta to take in a few sights and partake in quite possibly one of the greatest examples of the Canadian spirit that I could ever think of. Having been there for a few weeks already, I was well settled back into the habits of inhabiting the city in which I dwelled for my first nineteen years and never since I had moved to Toronto had anyone ever wanted to come to Edmonton of all places to scope out the scene. I was really surprised to see how much they enjoyed the place. The level of enthusiasm that Karen, Ted and Patrick showed for the sixth-largest city in the country was unprecedented and upon re-emerging in Toronto earlier this week, they have spoken of little else.

Steel Bananas has always been a thoroughly Toronto-centric publication, if only because we are based in Toronto and it is where all of our writers live. We write what we see, and most of what we see happens to be things in Toronto. Last month, after I wrote in my transit column, "Round Round Get Around" about the current state of the Edmonton transit system (simply because that happened to be what I was seeing at the time, on account of that's where I was), I actually received a comment reading "woah. a piece on SB that isn't Toronto-centric. I darn near stroked out!" Consider this issue something of a response to our reader, Refreshed.

This issue is full of content on the Edmonton Folk Music Festival, including an interview by Patrick Grant with the legendary Van Dyke Parks and an exposé on the food of the festival. We also have several comments upon the 2010 Art Gallery of Alberta Biennial of Contemporary Alberta Art, which is quite an amazing exhibit for the new renovated provincial gallery. We're branching out a little bit, but that doesn't mean we've forgotten about our apparently notorious Toronto bias. We've got a reintroduction to the 19th century Flaneur in Toronto and an interview with local indie-rock band the Ruby Spirit.

We've headed west and we made it back to tell the tale. Here's the tale. Scattered throughout our pages.


C.S. Folkers
Associate Editor
Steel Bananas

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TIMELAND | Alberta’s 2010 Biennial of Contemporary Art: Ken Buera’s Ghost Sun, 15 Aug 2010 20:37:47 +0000 Karen Correia Da Silva “The +15 is the term for a network of indoor Calgary walkways that allow downtown workers to commute from building to building sheltered from the weather. Ghost is a 22-second looped video shot in the +15 at a location where The Glenbow Museum is connected by a bridge to the EPCOR Centre for the Performing

Still from Ken Buera's "Ghost" | 2004 | Courtesy of the Art gallery of Alberta

“The +15 is the term for a network of indoor Calgary walkways that allow downtown workers to commute from building to building sheltered from the weather. Ghost is a 22-second looped video shot in the +15 at a location where The Glenbow Museum is connected by a bridge to the EPCOR Centre for the Performing Arts. It was a failed music video that explores the relationship between urban culture and the institutions that direct our cultural practices. The venue is a specific corner that once had been a safe place for street people to congregate. Cameras were installed to deter loitering and the system has been successful in maintaining a surveillance method that lets pedestrians know who is around the corner. Ghost represents a simultaneous before and after look at the space and becomes an exploration of formal aesthetics, layers and lines.”

- Ken Buera, Artist Statement on Ghost

Tucked away at the end of the Art Gallery of Alberta's 2010 Biennial of Contemporary Art, Calgary artist Ken Buera's 22-second looped film is a concise and startling piece of contemporary Canadian social commentary. With intersecting footage of a hip-hop jumper passing over and through day-to-day walkway users, the urban spirit of the +15 walkway infrastructure in Calgary is evoked as the phantom in the concrete; passing through unnoticed, jumping in a relentless and dizzying loop before disappearing completely. The practical uses of the walkway are juxtaposed with the aggressive movement of the jumper, whose leaps both invade and evade space in an attempt to reclaim the area's sense of humanity.

Though only 22 seconds in length, the effect of this loop is startlingly aggressive. Guest Curator Richard Rhodes describes the film as an expression of a "failed social contract"1, as the pedestrians in the walkway move entirely unimpeded and unaware of the ghosts climbing out of the walls. The film, through repetition, becomes the cycle of power and control over public infrastructure and the stifled spirit of urban artists, commenting on the separation between class and culture in a burgeoning Canadian city like Calgary.

What the video suggested to me, in its incessant and aggressive loop, was a lament spurred by public apathy toward surveillance and control. The pedestrians are not only ignorant to the spirit of urbanity leaping from the walls, but also to their surveillance within the concrete infrastructure of Canadian industry. It underscored the sense of disconnect between middle-class Canadians and the thinly veiled subculture of Canadian art, despite the fact that they can, and do, share the same social spaces.

I stood glued to the screen for several minutes as the loop seemed to intensify with my understanding. This simple "failed music video"2 unearthed a problem plaguing contemporary Canadians both within the walls of the +15, and without. Cultural apathy, along with the marginalization of artistic subcultures (cultivated by both the subculture itself and the dominant cultural paradigms) have created a divide in traditional ideals of tolerance and understanding that have always been a part of the Canadian cultural fabric. Surveillance and control of public spaces has made phantoms of the carriers of artistic cultural difference, and alienated creativity from public infrastructure.

Though quite scathing in its critique, Ken Buera's film Ghost is an astute commentary on contemporary Canadian urban life. As part of the Art gallery of Alberta's 2010 Biennial of Contemporary Art, it represents the social state of contemporary Canadian art in Alberta while paying homage to the spirit lurking within the walls of the most seemingly innocuous public places.

1 Richard Rhodes' commentary in TIMELAND: 2010 Alberta Biennial of Contemporary Art Catalogue. Published by the Art Gallery of Alberta in Edmonton.

2 Ken Buera's artist statement in TIMELAND: 2010 Alberta Biennial of Contemporary Art Catalogue. Published by the Art Gallery of Alberta in Edmonton.

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The Toronto After Dark Film Festival: A note on the festival medium Sun, 15 Aug 2010 18:29:30 +0000 C.S. Folkers By the time this article is published, the Toronto After Dark Film Festival will already have been underway at the Bloor Cinema for a few days. However, I would like to take this opportunity to say a few words about the nature of alternative film festivals and their place in both the city's cultural landscape,

By the time this article is published, the Toronto After Dark Film Festival will already have been underway at the Bloor Cinema for a few days. However, I would like to take this opportunity to say a few words about the nature of alternative film festivals and their place in both the city's cultural landscape, as well as in the film world in general.

The nature of the arts festival is indeed prickly at best, the criteria for what makes for a necessarily "good" festival is, like anything, extremely dim and I always wonder whether or not the fundamental difference between a film festival like TIFF and a smaller event like Toronto After Dark or Hot Docs is merely the fact that Brad Pitt might show up for one and not the other. But it is very tough to say, naturally. TIFF is generally a breeding ground for tabloid stories, a chance to see all of the latest Oscar-baiting epics with the slight chance of sitting behind Morgan Freeman as an added excitement. I've always felt as though TIFF was more of a celebrity spectacle than anything, which is why I've never been surprised when the event passes and Steel Bananas never bothered to try and grab some press passes.

Bloor Cinema - Photo Courtesy of Toronto After Dark Film Festival

Bloor Cinema - Photo Courtesy of Toronto After Dark Film Festival

Just as is the case with music festivals, for many artists with a smaller draw, the festival is one of the best ways to drum up new interest in one's work. However, just like in music festivals, if the festival organizers can't convince a few big-ticket names to at least attend, the risk is run that no one will even show up. For documentary filmmakers who almost invariably garner middling audiences at best (probably on account of the fact that most docs have relatively few explosions and/or car chases), an event like Hot Docs or other like-minded festival with a half-decent draw is one of the few options left to get people to see that filmmaker's work.

Which is why Toronto After Dark is such a curious beast. For one thing, I've already heard that Eli Roth will be making an appearance (fingers crossed!), so people will, you know, have a reason to show up. The thing is, is that Toronto After Dark fills exactly the kind of niche that if it weren't so young a festival, given time could propel its own draw without the help of B-grade filmmakers who happen to be friends with Mr. Quentin. If you are the sort of person that is into horror movies, the idea of a horror movie festival is probably going to appeal to you regardless of starpower for a number of reasons. First of all, big name movie stars rarely appear in horror films because horror movies don't win Academy Awards. Second, Toronto's biggest filmmaking export, David Cronenberg, is amongst the few and greatest of internationally recognized horror auteurs - it's just that kind of town. Lastly, one sees a horror movie for the sake of seeing a horror movie, the idea of several horror movies in one place, to a fan, will be instantly appealing. Once Toronto After Dark carves itself a permanent place in the city's calendar - which I'm guessing it will given a few more years of exposure - I am predicting that it will be one of the last bastions of niche art in Toronto that won't require a legion of limos to remain successful and sustainable for a long time to come.

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Killin Food Munches on Folk and Bison Sun, 15 Aug 2010 18:07:04 +0000 Ted Killin The first pulsing resonance each day at Edmonton Folk Fest fills the air in front of the main stage with a time-honoured clack-a-lack-clack of hammers knocking in tarp-pegs. A raffle system gives those fortunate enough to be drawn the opportunity to claim a prime location, and patrons line up in droves in hopes of being

Killin Food

The first pulsing resonance each day at Edmonton Folk Fest fills the air in front of the main stage with a time-honoured clack-a-lack-clack of hammers knocking in tarp-pegs. A raffle system gives those fortunate enough to be drawn the opportunity to claim a prime location, and patrons line up in droves in hopes of being the first to receive a ticket. Tent pegs in hand, the eager shuffle quick as they can toward the out-of-season ski hill that acts as grandstand -- running was banned a few years ago due to over-eagers spilling spectacularly down the hill.

I some-crazy-how found a way to tear my eyes away from both the blistering action from one of the more epic afternoon jam sessions on stage six (Vieux Farka Touré and Bassekou Kouyate & Ngoni Ba) and the omni-alluring Muttart Conservatory pyramids to note that many volunteers were clamouring into a large tent set up outside of the festival grounds. I had heard rumours circulating that all the volunteers were getting fed like Medieval dukes and I swore to find out if 'twere true.

While waiting for confirmation of my kitchen appointment, fate decided I should slake my pre-appetite by heading over to CORNSTARS, an establishment serving huge onion blossoms de-cored straight out of their oil bath, filling the now-gaping center with a dipping sauce made from horseradish, cayenne peppers, sour cream, chili peppers and Srirachi. Unfortunately, I hoovered the entire unclenched, deep-fried onion into my face, and within twenty seconds of my last bite the media tent called me over to my kitchen interview. Rushing off with thoughts of another potential meal, I willed myself to digest diligently.

I met my guides at the media tent and, heading out in a private golf cart, was able to unearth the extent of Dukedom offered to the volunteers: not just fed while on the job, all volunteers are free to enter on days when they do not work and continue to reap the benefits of the massive meals. One of the volunteers quips, "The food is why some of us volunteer in the first place."

My guides are introduced to me as none other than Glenda Dennis and Elisa Zenari, a mother-daughter force at the festival. These ladies are busily organizing staff and station, given the modest title of 'kitchen assistants', taking a brief break enough to show me around the tent at the tail end of peak hours. Glenda herself has been working in the festival since 1998, but not always in the kitchen: she initially sold and coordinated all the advertising in the program book. Working the kitchen first in 2008, Elisa took over in 2009 following several administration positions these last seven years, and now both work the 'kitchen assistant' title together.

The ladies began their operations mid-July to give themselves ample time to set up one of the largest mobile kitchens in all of North America. For these first few weeks, they can expect to feed anywhere from 60-150 staff out of a small trailer, a miniscule side kitchen that lasts the duration of the time it takes to spread out and paint the oriented strand board floor, construct the walkways, and erect the 7000 square foot tent. This amount of tent space may seem massive, but traffic per meal could be anywhere up to 2100 volunteers, which turns out to be approximately three square feet per volunteer (excluding the space allotted to necessary kitchen equipment). With two of eight large ovens given to dessert duty, as well as operating all of the other equipment, beverages and a serving area, there is not much room for a planning error. Four large trucks, two of which are refrigerated, hold all of the cooking supplies. A 'Commissary Crew' cart these products back and forth when needed and they are only a small section of the volunteers involved in the kitchen, jostling for space among groups designated for Beverages, Desserts, Main Courses, Platters, Serving Line (which includes a take-out crew for those unable to squeeze in a regular dinner time), and finally Salad.

"It is not uncommon to see fifteen tubs of salad ready for the serving line," says Glenda.

Festival Food

Festival Food

These women cannot laud their volunteers enough, for they are a responsive bunch that do not take these meal privileges for granted. Elisa relates a tale from two years ago: during a freezer crisis in one of the storage trucks, the volunteers were among the first to assist the transfer of food before spoilage set in.

"They were just like worker bees, helping out with no questions asked."

They inform me that they feed these helpers two meals per day, failing initially to mention that the meal times are 11am-2pm for lunch and 5pm-8pm for dinner; including time for preparation, these are long, arduous days. Stephane Levesque has commanded the 'kitchen manager-cum-chef' position these last two years and his menus are superb: I ate a plate stacked with two salads (Daikon slaw and noodle salad with a lime-chili vinaigrette), Basmati rice, cauliflower, peas, turnips, and a roasted chipotle chicken, flavoured with smoked paprika. Each dinner includes a round of dessert but, much to my chagrin, I could not possibly eat his sticky toffee pudding cake on top everything else I'd downed. Every meal included a vegetarian option (a beet/walnut loaf during my visit), with varying local meats and sides that appeal to a wide range of taste; I wish I had been asked for access on the day of the red curry chicken pineapple pot pie.

Glenda and Elisa have made notable strides to be environmentally aware: not only is the water sponsor Earth Water (a company that siphons all its profits into the United Nations World Food Programme to provide clean water to thousands), but the Festival also aims to minimize its waste as much as humanly possible, a heavy task when faced with a crowd exceeding 100 000 over five days. All volunteer staff bring their own containers for the drink station, as the use of recyclable plastic cups is reserved for guests and artists, and the entire festival is compost conscious: all cutlery, drinking cups and disposable items were completely compostable, with zealous volunteers backing it up. I once threw out a fork and, much to my surprise, a volunteer whipped his head around and lightly admonished me.

"No man! We're composting everything this year." Plucking the fork from the garbage, placing it in the proper receptacle, "Here, let me scrape off your plate so you can go get your deposit."

Folky Food For Folky Folks

Folky Food For Folky Folks

Any vendor vying to participate at the festival must agree to its eco-plating policy, purchasing reusable plates for $2. The plate-cycle completely reimburses the vendor, as they charge each patron an extra $2 at the point of purchase, who in turn receive their deposit with a clean plate from a washing station. Thus, no paper plates were harmed in the entirety of the Folk Fest. This system amusingly spawns a clan of children that take up the business of collecting plates for profit, referred to earnestly as plate-urchins. I overheard one tenacious boy bragging that he had made $104, which means he somehow convinced 52 people that they were too lazy to collect their $2.

Surrounding the plate tent on all sides were independent food vendors, part of a caravan of tents that yawned around the back end of stage one. While traditional carnival confectioneries were sold, there were many unique, reasonably priced food vendors that deserve mention:

The INDIA PALACE RESTAURANT served delicious Chicken Bhuna and Butter Chicken, always with steaming hot naan bread atop the dish, but an Indian performer explicitly mentioned that his culture had more to offer than these few popularized dishes which caused me slight Western guilt.

IRIE FOOD served a wonderful Jerk chicken, whose thick sauce ran through the black bean rice, well-basted chicken falling off the bone having been gently nursed by my incisors.

HOMEFIRE GRILL boasts a contemporary-Canadiana Native-style fusion menu which served Bison (yes, the Woolly Sovereign of its majestic plains) in the form of a burger that made the entire lineup salivate instantly -- a dollop Saskatoon berry relish on top (a berry they also use in tarts) adding moisture to a slightly drier meat. Also on the menu: a savoury, caramelized pulled chicken sandwich.

THE TASTE OF MONGOLIA, while actually serving several dishes, forewent their name and stamped "Green Onion Cake" atop their tent, a dish called "our local love" by Elisa. This popular, inexpensive snack laced with green onions has a soft, denser-than-naan exterior and the customer has three options of sauce:
- soya sauce, for fans of salty and moist
- sour cream, as a smoother accent
- Sriracha hot sauce, adding a latent tickle
I found the hot sauce was not enough of bolster on its own, preferring a combination of all three, using of all three corners of the triangular bread as spades to dig into the separate flavours, biting off each corner in a single mouthful.

This "local love" certainly underscores the entire Festival, transcending the boundaries of their favourite snack. 2400 volunteers concerned with local events and taking care of their environment valorizes the massive effort that ensured every attendee left satiated. Although in hindsight I wish I had unlimited access to Stephen's menus, the fare offered were hand picked as local businesses, blunting any attempt at a corporate presence -- a gleeful departure from GTA events. Glenda and Elisa have given up more than a month of their summer, dedicating themselves to the organization of the kitchen, a commitment that both women undertake ardently; without them and their crews, the festival would have many mouths to feed without the proper provisions.

Thanking the women, I let them get back to their duties as I waddled back toward the main stage, tottering with an overblown stomach, but with a smile emanating from every surface of my body.

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August’s Cubist News: Rob Ford Wore a Hole in His Sweatpants Sun, 15 Aug 2010 18:05:39 +0000 N. Alexander Armstrong Crass Drawings For Crass Dudes - Illustration by C.S. Folkers "I noticed the lack of light in my front room. All I could see was FORD!" —A Toronto Woman Rob Ford squatting in sweat-soaked chambers, dreaming of eating skin, Oriental-flavoured, if elected he will force the “frickin' homeless” to “work like dogs for trash” he


Crass Drawings For Crass Dudes - Illustration by C.S. Folkers

Crass Drawings For Crass Dudes - Illustration by C.S. Folkers

"I noticed the lack of light in my front room.
All I could see was FORD!"
—A Toronto Woman

Rob Ford squatting in sweat-soaked chambers,
dreaming of eating skin, Oriental-flavoured,

if elected he will force the “frickin' homeless”
to “work like dogs for trash”

he states in press-release via sauna
“This living is never worth it without Ford!”

His opponents build a bridge across his website
and ride bikes all over it, against bylaws.

“What low people!” “Cease and resist!”
Ford squelches in a nearly-inaudible hum.

He slowly vomits sausages
and hilarious YouTube highlights.

Trucks and cars (human-driven)
run over the dissenting cyclists.

The trucks probably were not sent by Ford,
he would have to jog to make it happen so fast.

Half-elected and killed,
the bicyclists flop over.

A pack of retarded gay immigrant homeless doctors
form a chorus of dirty decisions.

They send human postcards
c/o R. Ford to 680News.

Ford melts in outrage.
“Even all the bacon in this city will not stop me!”

Ford feels crotch area urges. He says,
“My corruption glistening appears to have a chubby.”

Ford laughs too hard,
the machine generating his heart

beat stops for a second.
He bleeds a little bit.

“I personally feel sorry for him...
he needs help... he needs something.”

Dear Rob Ford, I am tired
of wearing signs around my neck.

As ward councillor you promised
to grease what needs greasing.

Get your hands out of your crotch,
your lead widens the size of a city block.

Your campaign pricks like needles and shotguns,
scrubs the city OxyClean, whitened and glazed.

The city is running out of time.

“I’ll bet my life I won’t be able to help you out ...
because I’ve never done this kind of s—t.”

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Weird News: Dog Eat Dog, Man Eat Cat Sun, 15 Aug 2010 18:04:36 +0000 Nancy Situ I remember reading a Jacob Two-Two (or something along those lines) book as a child where he couldn’t believe that his classmate ate raw fish and thought she was making it up. This made me roll my eyes. Not only was my 7-year-old self well-accustomed to sushi, I had also grown up eating frog legs,

I remember reading a Jacob Two-Two (or something along those lines) book as a child where he couldn’t believe that his classmate ate raw fish and thought she was making it up. This made me roll my eyes. Not only was my 7-year-old self well-accustomed to sushi, I had also grown up eating frog legs, snails, turtle, eel, rabbit, snake, and whatever other creatures my ancestors deemed socially acceptable to eat. So really, few dishes weird me out enough to write an article about them.

For the record, I’ve never tried monkey brain or brains of any kind. I’ll save that for when I inevitably become a zombie. I’ve also never eaten dogs or cats because I’m afraid of dogs and really like cats. You also can’t really legally buy a dog or cat to eat anywhere besides rural Asia.

Sometimes that doesn’t stop people though. A few days ago 51-year-old Gary Korkuc of Cheektowaga was found marinating a live cat in the trunk of his car. Police stopped the man after he ran a stop sign and found poor 4-year-old Navarro covered in oil and chilli peppers. He has been rescued and put up for adoption. Korkuc was charged with animal cruelty for planning to cook his cat. He also said that Navarro, a neutered male cat, was pregnant.

HE'S OK! Photo courtesy of MSNBC

HE'S OK! Photo courtesy of MSNBC

Maybe Korkuc thought this was a dog-eat-dog... or rather cat-eat-human-eat-cat world and that if he didn’t eat his cat, his cat would eventually eat him. He would be right if he had pet maggots. A paralyzed Austrian man was eaten to death by maggots in late July while his partner slept beside him. The 61-year-old died in an ambulance after maggots devoured part of his back. He apparently had not been washed in a long time. I can think of few less horrific ways to die. Maybe having all my organs harvested while alive and forced to watch Jersey Girl.

And now to end off on a lighter mood, police found a naked man bathing in the washroom of a library with four pounds of stolen Parmesan cheese. He also had a knife, two razors, and two DVDs that were probably stolen as well. I’m going to take an educated guess and say that he was a contestant on Project Runway and creating a high fashion garment out of cheese that he had to model himself.


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Round Round Get Around Presents: Fantasy Transit Part One, A Brief Introduction Sun, 15 Aug 2010 18:00:10 +0000 C.S. Folkers Photo by Matthew Filipowich Some people play fantasy basketball. Not me. I make fantasy maps and how I started doing this, I could never in my life say. Specifically, the fantasy maps that I have been known to occasionally make are TTC maps, things I'd like to see implemented, things that will never happen, things

Photo by Matthew Filipowich
Photo by Matthew Filipowich

Some people play fantasy basketball. Not me. I make fantasy maps and how I started doing this, I could never in my life say.

Specifically, the fantasy maps that I have been known to occasionally make are TTC maps, things I'd like to see implemented, things that will never happen, things that should happen and things that may even be downright impossible.

It's obscenely cool.

And, as it so happens, I'm not the only person to suffer from this strange, strange affliction.

Every once in a while on Torontoist, BlogTO or Spacing, an intricate, spectacular and bold new vision for the future of Toronto's transit network appears in the form of a fantasy map - these are almost always infinitely more impressive than the ones I've made - invariably crafted by some Photoshop whiz with a penchant for urban design strategies. Nerds all.

It is at once a spectacular display of profound geekiness and a silly, irreverent and odd exercise in civil involvement. People with absolutely no authority whatsoever crafting in silent and without consideration for money or cost an ideal city to live in. What's really cool about it, but also not all that surprising is that while all maintain a handful of elements that are common - everyone, for example, wants to see an Eglinton subway - the minute differences people come up with, for a transit nerd are rather intriguing. It doesn't take a member of city council to know what might be good for the city and in designing what could be, we are looking optimistically forward for the future of Toronto and sending a message to other citizens that ours is a city of possibility rather than the bleakness painted to us by our municipal government and, more recently, major mayoral candidates. And, it's actually pretty fun to do, you know, like the Toronto is a puzzle or something.

So, I'm taking this opportunity to use this space as a sort of preamble for what I plan on doing with Round Round Get Around over the next three or four months. Specifically I will be talking about Toronto's Transit Nerds in detail, including myself; what our respective visions have in common, how they differ, how feasible are these plans in reality, viewing transportation as a puzzle and why thinking about this sort of thing isn't actually as lame as I'm making it out to be here.

Next month I will offer you my own ultimate TTC fantasy and describe in detail its in and outs. It's true that the time and money that would be needed to be put in to projects such as these would be on the shorter side of infinite, but my aim here is less so to offer you ludicrous schemes for things that will never happen, but to illustrate that the more people start thinking to themselves about how we can make the transit system we all complain about better, the better it will actually become, as well as to show Toronto as the endlessly exciting city that it really is, full of possibility.

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//Issue 21: July 2010 Sat, 17 Jul 2010 01:27:13 +0000 Steel Bananas Issue 21: July 2010

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//Letter From the Editor: July 2010 Fri, 16 Jul 2010 20:22:30 +0000 Steel Bananas July 15, 2010 The July 2009 issue of Steel Bananas, last year's NXNE/Fringe issue, represented what is still our most significant jump in readership to date. For one reason or another, with the publicati buy cheap cialis on of that issue we saw our readership double and we haven't slowed down since. Maybe people were

July 15, 2010

The July 2009 issue of Steel Bananas, last year's NXNE/Fringe issue, represented what is still our most significant jump in readership to date. For one reason or another, with the publicati

on of that issue we saw our readership double and we haven't slowed down since. Maybe people were really into reading about NXNE, maybe that was just the time that the SB team really found their stride and people caught on, or maybe people just couldn't steer clear of cover boy John O'Regan's handsome face.

Either way, we're still here today and more and more people seem to think we're doing some interesting things. Or at least that's my assumption, because otherwise we wouldn't have been able to keep growing like we have. So, thanks everybody. You're the best.

This July, we're still really into NXNE and we're still really into the Toronto Fringe Festival. NXNE was nice enough to give us a whopping seven press passes (that's almost half of our staff!) and as a result our coverage is nothing short of robust. We've got interviews with P.S. I Love You, Anamanaguchi, Surfer Blood and A Horse and His Boy, an essay about lo-fi aesthetics at the Friday night show at Lee's Palace and a whole slew of show reviews and personal notes from the SB staff who each spent the weekend wandering where their whims took them.

We also have a whirlwind trip through multifaceted San Francisco with our resident travel writer Dave Hurlow, a gushing discussion of the work of marvelously talented and hilarious Canadian webcomic artist Kate Beaton, a trip to Woofstock with King Frankenstein and an interview with the hosts of online cooking show Hot Plate.

Of course, being a Toronto-based publication, it would be entirely perverse to not have any coverage of the G20 summit and it's tragic events and aftermath. Which is why we worked extra hard this month to produce an entire supplement to our regular issue devoted entirely to G20-related content. In it you'll find interviews with Canadian citizens, peaceful protesters subjected to the horrifying conditions of the Eastern Avenue Detention Centre, representatives of the Canadian Civil Liberties Union as well as thoughts and reactions from many SB staff members and affiliates.

As you were,

C.S. Folkers
Associate Editor
Steel Bananas

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Killin Food Makes Use of This Hot Plate to Avoid an Actual Hot Plate Fri, 16 Jul 2010 06:14:40 +0000 Ted Killin photos by Madd Hattere It’s four o’clock in the morning in Montreal at a dive restaurant down the street from a student residence, where you go for the most drunken drunk food of your life. They're closed, but someone's in there, so a woman starts to bang on the door with six of her friends

Hot Plate

photos by Madd Hattere

It’s four o’clock in the morning in Montreal at a dive restaurant down the street from a student residence, where you go for the most drunken drunk food of your life.

They're closed, but someone's in there, so a woman starts to bang on the door with six of her friends until they let them in. She demands a pizza, but they remain unswayed: "We're not doing it, we're closed."

"Well I'll do it"

A blur of speed causes them to blink, and now the owners can only account for five girls in front of them -- as they look back to the kitchen, the ringleader has already begun gathering ingredients to make pizzas.

Exasperated, they plea: "You have to take this to go!"

She’s laid back, speaking with a slight slur: "Totally fine man, don't worry about it."

She finishes and even pays for the pizzas, receiving one order free because the owners take a picture with all the girls in the pizza kitchen. The group, now endowed with pizza, walks back home and sits at her home until 6:40 in the morning bawling, for this is her last night in Montreal.

“…and that's not the first time I've been known to make my own pizza at a pizza joint in Montreal. There have been a few... instances...”


This rogue late-night chef is Amanda Garbutt. The Ottawa resident moved to Montreal for schooling in Sociology, but has since completely shifted priorities due to the media force that is her friend.

After growing up in Toronto, April Engelberg was granted internships for CNN in New York and Al Jazeera in Washington after becoming involved with TV McGill; the idea of becoming an official cooking personality would have never occurred to Amanda without April’s background in television. When initially approached with the idea of hosting a cooking show, Amanda's first response was real surprise.

APRIL: "Basically, in second year when everyone moved out of residence, people would tell me they went to Amanda's and instead of going for dinner she made, she actually taught them how to make dinner and they made it together. Then I went over one time and it kind of dawned upon me that I should do the show. Then Amanda laughed really hard for a while, and I had to assure her I was serious."

AMANDA: "It took her a year to convince me."

APRIL: "I started second year, and at the beginning of third year she was still saying 'Yeah, maybe,' and I had to tell her 'I am totally, totally serious,' because she had never done any TV before."

AMANDA: "My first day on camera was the first day of shooting for the Hot Plate. My family isn't even a camera family, so literally no video camera has ever seen my body until this."

Now that the camera has shifted focus to Toronto, the ladies are looking to continue expanding their market. The proud recipients of the Dobson Cup, Amanda and April have decided upon a full commitment to the show.

AMANDA: "Originally when I was moving to Toronto it was to be in the same city as April, so we could pursue the Hot Plate on the side. I had arranged this whole marketing job, I had everything lined up and I said to April: 'You know that if we really want to do the Hot Plate I can't take this job.' She left me alone to think for a few days and then I called her to tell her I quit the job.

[April was thrilled]: "Yeah you did!"

The Dobson Cup is an award given to budding entrepreneurs. Looking at the competition for the Hot Plate, the closest runners-up seem intense: WOODSTREAM, a company that makes their own wood-plastic composites as an alternative to mainstream oil-based plastics, and BestSPEC, integrating robots into the inspection and maintenance of wood turbines. Up against extremely business-oriented competition, the Hot Plate found themselves at the top of the podium with their own plans of expansion.

APRIL: "A lot of people ask us 'Oh, so do you want to be on TV?' Basically, we're really happy with the way everything has gone, and we owe a lot to fans on Facebook and YouTube for how well we've done so far. Our goal for the next year is to keep it as a web series, to put out 25-30 episodes in the year, provide a video for each episode that profiles a recipe in the upcoming book that show our audience how to [prepare the recipes], then maybe reevaluate our position from there."

Their upcoming cookbook will transcend the static pages of print-only publication; no longer confined to the old, yellowed pages of your grandmother’s cake book, the Hot Plate fully supports online supplements. Amanda actually taught herself how to improve her knife strokes watching videos on YouTube.

AMANDA: "The new website coming out is a lot more streamlined for people to go get video tips. The glossary of the cookbook is going to be supported virally with 10-15 second video clips. What's going to separate this cookbook from other cookbooks is that we're trying to support the digital age; new cookbooks should have supporting features online for free."

Although currently tackling twelve-hour editing days, before getting into cookbook production April and Amanda became more involved in the Montreal community: after an article from the Montreal Gazette drew the attention of the Loblaw’s Cooking School in Montreal, Amanda taught four classes there between April and May, and while the Loblaw’s classes attract middle-aged women for the most part, a few younger pupils were starting to tiptoe in. After the classes were done, Amanda kept in contact with some of these older women over Facebook, which allows her to continue to coach her followers.

AMANDA: "We want to offer lots of details on how to properly use the book [and website], and how to use the leftovers from the recipes. They're all written for a family of four, but if one person wants to make the full recipe there are tips on how to freeze, save or turn it into an entirely new dish."

The focus of the Hot Plate has become increasingly more interactive: April runs the Facebook and Twitter accounts and offers prizes, such as Amanda’s cookies, in contests for those willing to try their hand at creating picturesque dishes. She’s recently received video entries as well, but my personal favourite is a zealous entry for their Ultimate Egg Competition. A fan plated a portrait of himself with a ham face, mushroom nose, scrambled egg hair and a tangerine smile, and for the eyes: avocado sclera, hard boiled egg iris, blueberry pupils.

The encouragement for ingenuity in these online contests gives viewers an outlet to hone their hands-on cooking beyond the basics of their every day routine. Amanda wants an audience that responds well to new ingredients, and can take her initial instruction to create something new and different.

AMANDA: "Your beginning recipes are your safety net, they're your guideline. [I want people to] get comfortable with them and then push themselves, try new things, experiment, it doesn't matter. You're in here to watch me make this recipe, and I am going to make a version of this recipe, but I'm never going to take a teaspoon measure out. I'll work with a new ingredient and want to know more about it -- I might know how to cook certain things but I'll want to know where the ingredients come from, what happens to them while they cook, and some of the chemistry behind it. While I continuously learn more about food, I have by no means an authoritative stance on everything. I just like to impart what I've learned onto other people."

In the upcoming cookbook, a certain portion of recipes have been chosen to appeal to everyone's dietary needs, such as vegetarian, vegan, or Kosher -- meat and cheese aren't always combined, as much as Amanda may want that to be the case.

AMANDA: "Bacon isn't wrapped around... cereal. We are making a book accessible to everybody's palate. You don't want to exclude anybody, but for some of the recipes I literally have to have a comment at the bottom to say: 'You can leave out the bacon, but you don't have to, and I wouldn't suggest it.' Bacon and I are kindred spirits. When I come back in another life, it will be as bacon."

MADD: "It'll be a short life"

AMANDA: "Yeah, but it'll be tasty."

I've finally met a carnivore after my own heart, one that selects a short-lived reincarnation in the name of a single bacon strip rather than redo the whole human fiasco. Make sure to peruse the Hot Plate, which April and Amanda will continue to spread throughout Toronto. Not only do they support the growth of BYOB restaurants in Toronto (everyone should), but they have recently been adding local guests to their repertoire -- winning their next contest could be your chance to get into the kitchen with Amanda, keep an eye on their Facebook page for all the details. And stream one of their new episodes below for the lowdown on some serious peanut butter and chocolate chip cookies.

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NXNE 2010: On the Back of a Flying Space Lion, It’s P.S. I Love You Fri, 16 Jul 2010 06:14:23 +0000 C.S. Folkers “I usually just have an unamplified electric guitar handy and I write a lot of songs, or at least riffs on the guitar while watching bad movies and TV shows. For some reason, that’s just where the magic happens.” If you are in a two-piece band, particularly a two-piece band with the standard guitar/drums setup

“I usually just have an unamplified electric guitar handy and I write a lot of songs, or at least riffs on the guitar while watching bad movies and TV shows. For some reason, that’s just where the magic happens.”

If you are in a two-piece band, particularly a two-piece band with the standard guitar/drums setup and you happen to occupy the guitar spot in that setup, you had better be concerned about your tone more so than just about anything else. Sloppy sound will ruin your two-piece band immediately; your tone should be immaculate, awesome in the biblical sense. You are a guitar animal, you’ve got nothing to back you up but the percussionist behind you who is generally going to be playing as punishingly loud as possible, so you had better shred riffs so mighty and godlike that lightning bolts spray forth from your fingertips and that your audience becomes giddy from the cloud of serious, unheard-of tone emanating from your amplifier. Yes.


Photo by Scott Thomas Moroz

Kingston’s P.S. I Love You are the sort of two-piece band that are calculatedly loud. Their sound is enormous, especially for two guys, but the musicianship and obvious attention to sound quality bring their music well out of the realm of loud for the sake of loud. Recently, I spoke to P.S. I Love You singer/guitarist/bass-organ-pedal-er/tone-master Paul Saulnier about totally badass tone, amongst other things.

“I want my guitar to sound hot. Or in a way that is not totally piercing to the ears but cuts through a lot of other sounds. I play a Telecaster, and with the help of Gordon from the Kingston Guitar Shop I’ve made some modifications to it to give it a higher output in the treble range. Hopefully this isn’t too nerdy and boring… My guitar amp is a 65 watt Music Man 2X10 combo – it’s a really sweet-sounding amp from the early seventies. That said, I honestly put every knob on ten and it sounds great.”

Behind Saulier on the drums is his accomplice Benjamin Nelson, who joined what had been strictly a solo project for Saulnier. Nelson’s drumming can be described as landing in a strange middle ground somewhere between a drum machine and a tornado. On stage, he is both ferocious and restrained at once, his deliberate chaos fits well with Saulnier’s controlled loud.

“We expanded to a duo mostly because I was playing in another band with Benjamin and I was playing solo shows as well as shows with that band. I realized that instead of using a drum machine, P.S. I Love You would be better if Benjamin was the drummer, mostly because I think that his drumbeats are drum machine-esque. He’s really solid and tight and it both expanded and simplified the sound because when I would play solo shows I would have more gear than a four-piece band.”

Photo by Scott Thomas Moroz

Photo by Scott Thomas Moroz

Notably, amongst the gear that Saulnier is still lugging around is the infamous bass pedal organ, which has now become one of the band’s trademarks and adds a quality to P.S. I Love You’s sound that is both extremely uncommon and very much befitting of everything else that is happening within their music. As Saulnier explains, the bass pedal, which is essentially an oversized partial keyboard that one plays with the feet, has been in the band longer than Nelson has, essential to P.S. I Love You’s sound with its ominous, synthetic tones. His particular instrument was made in Italy in the late sixties and he has been using it regularly for over ten years.

P.S. I Love You’s strange, haunting, and abrasive-yet-completely-accessible brand of indie rock, which can be compared to anything from The Cure and Guided By Voices to Constantines and Modest Mouse, has been garnering attention all over the province as well as the internet. Later this fall they will embark on a Canadian tour with like-minded Vancouver two-piece Japandroids as well as Victoria art-rockers, Frog Eyes. In addition to the tour, this fall should also see the release of P.S. I Love You’s first proper album after a self-released EP and a handful of singles. The label for this record is yet to be determined, however judging from the group’s healthy dose of buzz, one wouldn’t be surprised if P.S. I Love You joined the roster of a very reputable indie-rock purveyor.

Furthermore, the self-titled, self-released EP that Saulnier recorded when he was a solo act is now available for the first time digitally, which if you haven’t heard it yet, will surely be able to hold you over until the album proper becomes available later in the year. As far as the new release itself goes, Saulnier had this to say about it:

“We’ve been recording it over the past year or so, with the help of a couple friends who have recording equipment and knowledge. We rent a small room in a big warehouse here in Kingston and that’s where we rehearse and write songs, so we just recorded everything in there… we ended up getting a pretty decent sound out of a concrete room when it was freezing cold. It definitely has a heavier sound [than the EP]. There’s a new version of a song from the EP called “Scattered” which is now faster and I guess more rocking, for lack of a better term. It’s ten songs, and if you’ve seen us play recently, we’ve basically just been playing the whole album.”

Photo by Scott Thomas Moroz

Photo by Scott Thomas Moroz

Of course, there aren’t too many indie-rock bands who can get away with being totally ferocious and excellent in the music department while lacking when it comes to lyrical content, however, Saulnier's lyrics are heartbreaking and hilarious; wildly clever, he writes quirky, intelligent and poignant lyrics to accompany brilliantly his band’s ominous, intricate music.

“I write about a lot of things, mostly love and relationships and how they’re always going wrong, but it’s kind of funny and awesome at the same time. I try to be funny in my lyrics, but it’s only jokes that I think are funny. I write a lot of songs about how much I hate my job or romance gone wrong, everything is doomed. That sort of stuff.”

For a long time, up until recently, for the group’s live performances Saulnier was often seen donning a strange stage persona that consisted of either facepaint or a mask that took in both cases the form of a dark cloud over the forehead and a lightning bolt over each cheek. It was always an unusual sight, and like most things, Saulnier seems to have approached this as well with his dark brand of humour. Although the costume has more or less become discontinued, there could be more costumes and stage personas from P.S. I Love You in the future.

“I started doing it when I was a solo act and I thought that the more stuff I could do to make the stage show more interesting and crazy the better. So I designed this face makeup mostly to look like I was a glam rock god who was horribly depressed. I thought that was really funny. If you could see David Bowie or Ace Frehly with their makeup representing how sad they were on the inside - I thought that was really funny so I had lightning bolts coming out of my eyes and a storm cloud where my brain would be. Kind of showing that I’m a brooding monster but with a sense of humour.”

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Kate Beaton and The History of Awesome Fri, 16 Jul 2010 06:14:22 +0000 A.M. Standish Kate Beaton is the kind of artist that makes my job difficult. You see — she's awesome. So much so that it's difficult to write anything at all about her work without merely waxing poetical about said awesomeness ad nauseum. That is, without descending into a fangirlish quagmire so thick with praise and adoration that

Kate Beaton is the kind of artist that makes my job difficult. You see — she's awesome. So much so that it's difficult to write anything at all about her work without merely waxing poetical about said awesomeness ad nauseum. That is, without descending into a fangirlish quagmire so thick with praise and adoration that maybe I should just cut the pretence and write her a love letter. But in the interests of not creeping anybody out, I'll cut the excess hosannahs, and suffice it to say: Kate Beaton— I think your work is just swell!

Beaton came onto the webcomic scene in 2007, when her friends pushed her to start publishing her growing stack of very silly comics online. Smart friends, I say with a tip of the hat. Thus was Hark, A Vagrant launched, and in the subsequent three years, this semi-weekly webcomic has garnered tens of thousands of regular readers and fans, while Beaton has been repeatedly nominated for a Joe Schuster Award, lauded in Wired and Macleans, published in The National Post, and has had illustrations accepted by The New Yorker. There's no doubt that Beaton has become something of a heavy-hitter in the eclectic world of webcomics.

Courtesy of kate Beaton

Courtesy of kate Beaton

Raised in Mabou, Nova Scotia (on Cape Breton Island), this self-proclaimed Maritimer began her comics career in grade 6, collaborating with a friend on a series of cutting and juvenile cartoons that made their teacher (the comics' subject-matter) cry¹. Since then, it is safe to say that she has honed her wit and craft while still keeping alive that kind of intensely energetic, grade-school glee that goes with singing "Joy to the world, the teacher's dead...." Not that she's out to make anybody cry these days — after all, the vast majority of her Hark, A Vagrant subjects have been mouldering in their graves for a minimum of several decades. Hark A Vagrant, though in no way exclusively concerned with historical material, has gained a reputation for comic strips on history — even one of the site's first major surges in popularity can be traced to a certain comic about Tesla and the ladies, and it is these history comics on which I'll be focusing.

Beaton's educational background (a degree in History and Anthropology from New Brunswick's Mount Allison University) and her employment at museums in several Canadian provinces all certainly provide a foundation for Hark, A Vagrant's material. This webcomic is a gem for history buffs — but the real story is in its appeal to a much wider audience. Beaton's success is one of those myriad ripple-effects out of the invention and growth of the internet. Twenty years ago, the kind of information that is required to appreciate Beaton's more historically-rooted jokes just wasn't ubiquitous or accessible enough for Hark, A Vagrant to have gained a following outside of history departments and anthropological societies — may not have even been accessible enough for Beaton to build these jokes in the first place. I for one, though I've long had an appetite for nifty tidbits from times past, freely admit to having needed to put on my figurative research cap to properly get several Hark, A Vagrant jokes but (and here's the key) in each instance I needed only don it but briefly. Anything you need to know to make a Beaton joke click, you can find within five to ten minutes of an internet search. That's little enough time to make the payoff worthwhile, and oftentimes an obscure lead from Hark, A Vagrant plays the white rabbit, with its fluffy white tail of a joke luring the curious down curiouser research bunny-holes that ultimately provide entertainments all their own. It may very well be this sort of Wikipedia-effect that has helped Hark, A Vagrant to gain such a following down in the States whilst Beaton's Can-con proportions have remained at levels that could make even the CBC proud.

Courtesy of Kate Beaton

Courtesy of Kate Beaton

When it comes to craft, she's no slouch. Her style is deceptively simple, almost lackadaisical and doodle-like, yet her lines are spot-on where it matters most. Scribbling is not difficult per se, but to make that scribble express and emote like a Beaton character takes some true-blue talent. More importantly, this doodle-like aspect functions as more than just an aesthetic mode; there is a self-deprecatory factor in Beaton's loose, hurried style that reinforces her flavour of humour. Her flavour is, in many ways, distinctly Canadian: her self-deprecation is wry in tone, and cheekily self-aware (as in comic strip 81: "Kate Beaton Stop Being So Hard On Yourself") and makes a delightful and volatile concoction when twinned with the pomp and bombast of, say, King Henry VIII, Hatshepsut or a vengeful pirate captain. Hark, A Vagrant plays with a silly, self-lampooning grandiosity that somehow — with all its flagrant anachronism, self-reflexive ridicule and nonsense — makes the cast of history lectures seem more people-like than ever.

All that said, I'm stuck wondering, where were you Kate Beaton, where were you when I was suffering Canadian History in school? I remember the mood in that class, like an hour-long yawn, and I recall those hardcover text books, filled with literary stick-figures and slightly patronizing question-bubbles (and that heavy magazine paper, I swear the makers of Clue could have added that text book in betwixt the Wrench and Revolver), but I don't recall much of what I was supposed to have learned. Sure, we covered John A. and all the rest, but the material was such a fine-ground dust of refined information that it sieved its way out through pores and hair follicles once the unit test was done with.

Courtesy of Kate Beaton

Courtesy of Kate Beaton

My strongest memory from any history class was in grade seven, when my teacher wandered off on a tangent about Louis Riel's messiah complex. It was a flash of eccentric nonsense throwing a wrench in the otherwise well-oiled narrative of historical cause and effect which (given its intense distillation for grade school lessons) is frankly inhuman. My teacher gave us a flash of character in the drear wasteland of overly simplified plot. Beaton's history comics remind me of that unusual lesson, only funnier.

In the traditional bifurcation between character and plot-driven narratives, grade and high-school textbooks dig trenches through the chalk landscapes of Plot, whereas Beaton has built herself a carnival driven by Character, and it makes all the difference. Stuff like Beaton's work can whet the intellectual appetite, pique interest and build a memorable foundation for the drier details. Any high-school textbook writers out there? Call Kate Beaton. Seriously. History is bursting at the seams with character, wit, and incongruity, so what's with the curriculum guys? Everybody knows it's easier to eat celery with a little peanut-butter on top³, and, socially speaking, a solid education in History is as necessary as your daily quantity of dietary fibre.

Beaton has a book titled Never Learn Anything From History, available through Beaton's TopatoCo store. For anyone in or heading out to L.A., she'll be participating in her first art show down at Galley Meltdown, These are Their Stories, in which each piece is an artist's take on a one-line episode summary from "Law & Order". You can see a few at the show's website.

Hark, A Vagrant resides here and updates weekly, sort of.


² Assuming no peanut allergies of course. I just couldn't bring myself to say Cheese Whiz; seriously, what is that stuff? It looks like some kind of goo that serves as blood for the villainous extraterrestrial from a 1950s monster movie that never was....

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NERDVENTURES: Oh My Dog Fri, 16 Jul 2010 06:14:22 +0000 King Frankenstein The human being reacts to emotional stimuli, the easiest way to trigger such a reaction is between two beings. Gathering, celebrating, eating, lazing about just looking at something on the wall. For causes or for nothing, we’ll go anywhere for any reason, drawn to company by a leash. The dog on an actual leash, on

The human being reacts to emotional stimuli, the easiest way to trigger such a reaction is between two beings. Gathering, celebrating, eating, lazing about just looking at something on the wall. For causes or for nothing, we’ll go anywhere for any reason, drawn to company by a leash. The dog on an actual leash, on the other hand, is usually just along for the ride. To pick up chicks, to spruce up a boring Saturday afternoon stroll, see if it can strike up conversation with Keifer Sutherland (it happens) and, from time to time, the reason itself could actually be the dog. As summer began so passed another triumphant Woofstock, Toronto’s outdoor dog appreciation mecca. As the festival went on, so did the hyperbole estimation of canine attendance. The hundreds, the thousands, the hundred thousands, the millions, the uncountable. They smiled, panted, trotted, barked and sniffed about a lovely urban park, adored by those who brought them to adore and adore.


Photo by King Frankenstein

“No, I’m not being dragged by my wife or anything, but it was her idea.” Not that I asked, but a male attendee answered, “we just heard about it, lived in the area and had to walk our dog anyways.” Many "lived in the area" to the casual poll of icebreakers, acting like being there was some secret pleasure or glorious drug. Some weren’t so blushed, one family had told me they were in from Ohio, and the fact they had their dog on them was strangely no more than a coincidence. Why was I there? Honestly, I don’t think anyone needs much reason to embrace nature’s happiest hype device, digging two hands into their wavy fur, and honestly I’m embarrassed to say that my actual excuse was, in all honesty, profit.

Now now, don’t hiss. It’s true, I was there for the skrillz, true, and I don’t even own my own dog. I do love the scruffy buds, I just have this philosophy that the true joy is not had by owning a dog, just surrounding yourself with those that do. My dad’s company made an investment into dog clothes under the inspiration of my aunt, and while it wasn’t a bad idea, their eyes were wider than the stomachs at the buffet, so to speak, and an overwhelming back stock was starting to smother the other fluffy merchandise their services provide. We decided to take the product to the people, the people who’d like it most, and boy their stomachs were larger. It was like hopping from the hunger of a tapas patron to an Applebee’s regular. We gave em tiny jackets, tiny sweaters, tiny vests and kimonos for four dollars apiece so the people came in bulk. Where this put me, however, was in a prime spot to snuggle every medium to XXsmall doggie dog dragged by their owner into our merchandise tent.


Photo by King Frankenstein

A dog took a dump in front of our booth. It was the greatest threat to our mental health next to the elderly woman who spent forty five minutes hunting for the bomber jacket in her dog’s size that didn’t exist. The owner of the lil’ pooper was also having a panic attack. Caught off guard by her pup’s digestive system, she didn’t have a bag to clean up the mess. She frantically called her boyfriend while meandering pedestrians stepped in the slushy landmine. By the time a bag finally came, what was once a mound was just a smear on the pavement. We took some water from the jug we brought and just washed the mess away.

Dogs in sweaters, dogs in biker jackets, dogs in goggles, dogs in hats, dogs in soccer jerseys for teams they don’t know are being rooted for in the World Cup. And while some dogs were much more elaborately garbed, it didn’t mean the owners were not also dressed to impress. Almost every dog/pop-culture pun imaginable was on display, like a moving gallery of the least subtle in-jokes in the world. All except for one, anyways, as one man wore a black tee that read “Beware of Frog” which meant he was either at the wrong event or dabbling in echelons of humour most are too pure to touch.


Photo by King Frankenstein

While I’ve been to many conventions, some of which I’ve written about, this is probably the only one where the object of appreciation is as alive as the fans. If not more. Celebrations that celebrate bring out odd philosophies, as well as drastic rivalries. While at, say, comicon, you’ll encounter bucking between comic, manga and gamer fiends if not full rivalries between those umbrella trees. There were certainly classes of separations, each breed came with their own fan clubs, upon clubs upon clubs. Rescue clubs, breeding clubs and even just photography clubs had shirts, cards, and booths revolving around the centrifuge of Shopsy’s sausages and whatever the hell a ‘potato omelette’ is. But there isn’t that rivalry, this isn’t about chest beating or pet petting. No one was trying to one up another species with size (cause some dogs did look like horses), colour (cause some dogs were painted) or celebrity (because some were look-a-likes). This was just about loving the lovable. A comic can’t love you back, most of the time.

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Spotlight: Patricio Betteo Fri, 16 Jul 2010 06:14:20 +0000 Patricio Betteo Patricio Betteo, son of South American parents, was born in Mexico City in the late 70’s. He studied  graphic design at the National School of Arts  but dropped out three years later because he wanted much more than that. So he started a big pursuit for comics (as an aspiration) and eventually he felt more

Patricio Betteo, son of South American parents, was born in Mexico City in the late 70’s. He studied  graphic design at the National School of Arts  but dropped out three years later because he wanted much more than that. So he started a big pursuit for comics (as an aspiration) and eventually he felt more comfortable at the illustration field (as a profession): "It's more profitable, goes better with my skills and last but not least, fits the publishing reality of my country"- he could say today- "And it's 100% creative fun".

Nowadays he still does some comics and publishes lots of personal images (freely and happily at the web) while he tries to please his clients so he can pay his bills. By the way, his drawing and painting techniques are "tradigital".

His illustrations have appeared in hundreds of magazines, dozens of children’s books  (within mexican borders) and in comic compilations around the globe. He has also made concept design and background art for videogames and animation. In 2008 he made "Gris à travers les automnes" (swiss graphic novel); he published his first sketchbook "Mirador" (Mex)  and a color artbook, "Never Ever After" (NY).

Some shows: Bandée Desinée Mexicaine (Paris ‘02),  Consecuencias (Madrid '05) and Tecnopolis Comics Festival (Solo exhibit, Athens '09).


Mister Nice Guy




Sea of Eggs

]]> 0 NXNE 2010: Say A Thing With King Frankenstein And Anamanaguchi Fri, 16 Jul 2010 06:13:46 +0000 King Frankenstein I don't know if you've caught on to this by now, but gee-whiz I like video games. I will buy video games for systems I don't even own because I like the cover art. I lose sleep wondering how great a new 7th Guest would be. Well, golly, I love everything about entertainment's most time

]]> I don't know if you've caught on to this by now, but gee-whiz I like video games. I will buy video games for systems I don't even own because I like the cover art. I lose sleep wondering how great a new 7th Guest would be. Well, golly, I love everything about entertainment's most time consuming variant, and I hope you do too. As it has long since past infiltrated our culture, it's seen in movies (poorly) written about (awkwardly) and talked about (hopelessly). But did you know there's entire genres of music that sound like Duck Tales for the NES? It's true! On top of forcing you to do a Popeye impersonation upon utterance, Anamanaguchi is one of the most popular chiptune bands there is. Coming from New York, they've enchanted music snob and game dork alike with their furiously addictive brand of chip punk. Visiting The Whippersnapper for NXNE, and recently completing the score to the Scott Pilgrim video game coming out later this summer, I had a few things to ask members Peter Berkman and Ary Warnaar when not being distracted by Little Italy's attractive pizza smells.

Alright we need to lay down some ground rules.

- Ground rules?

Yeah, so first, no Portal references, none, and like a maximum of oh, say, three YouTube allusions.

Peter - No Portal references will be easy, three YouTube videos max will be difficult.


Photo by Aaron Bernstein

How’d this ensemble start?

Peter - The ‘assembly,’ as we pronounce it in America, actually had a couple of 'begannings.'  In December of 2003, I was a ‘fefteen’ year old boy and I stumbled upon this backend ‘wabsite’ where I ‘doonloaded’ a program called NerdTracker 2. It turned out it was a DOS program where you could ‘proogram’ Nintendo stuff and write NSF, which is sweet! Man I’m doing a bad job at this. Okay, here’s the abridged version. I found this FUCKING program and then I started making music that sounded just like video game music. Then I started to make music that I was writing with my actual band on the Nintendo and it was kind of like rock music, then I added some guitars in it and said, “Woah dude, this is the exact music I want to be making.” I went to college, I met Ary, then we were FOUR GUYS IN A BAND!

Cool! I hear bands have four guys.

Peter - Bands usually have four guys, actually in the States there’s this program where you can get some tax breaks if you are a band with four guys. It’s the four-guy-band-clause. Prop 4Guy. It was introduced by Gerald Ford.

I actually just took apart my own NES. My aunt dropped off a box cause she used to have one, I think these things multiply because there were two in the box.

Peter - That happens, I have six now.

I basically Frankensteined it because some parts worked better than others. There are a lot of chips, prongs, it was very intimidating, this was outside my jurisdiction. So looking at what I somehow manage to do, looking at what you can do, where’s a good place to start in actually doing something with this box of chips?

Peter - For me, the actual challenge comes from programming and the actual software stuff. Basically, the software hacking I just do off tutorials that other people do, Swedish people who know magic and stuff, who can actually make a tutorial so you don’t fuck it up because we’re all stupid. The hardest stuff is really the software, programming new sounds, good sounds, sounds that sound new. That’s my party jam.

For chiptunes as a musical genre, how prominent is the nostalgia factor?

Peter - There’s a lot to be said about that. Anything that you grow up with is going to become art. Anything you experience is only going to be filtered through yourself, soon you are going to want to make something about it, or, with it. For me, I have fun with my friends playing video games, when I had the chance to make my own shit, I was excited about it, that was the initial draw. It’s different for everyone.

Ary - I actually wasn’t allowed video games when I grew up, but electronic music was a big part of my life. I got very sick of all the modern programs, people putting shit together in Garage Band all got really boring. I wanted to find a more primitive, more basic yet at the same time complex form of electronic music. Chiptune music allows that.

Is this, say, somehow in the same lieu of low-fi?

Ary - I think of it more like the punk side of electronic music. You sort of have stuff like trance, compare it to 80s metal, over produced. Then ask yourself if you can take it back to basics. “What’s the best song I can do with one chord?” I have one very simple chip that I have to work with.


A wild pizza party breaks loose - Photo by King Frankenstein

This is something that’s been messing with my head a little bit. You guys are making the soundtrack to the Scott Pilgrim video game. That makes you a chiptune band, which is based off video game soundtracks, doing a soundtrack for a real video game. Does this retroactively cause every video game soundtrack to become chiptune music or vice versa?

Peter - Well, no, I think. There are so many, like, post-modern layers to what’s going on here, it’s scary, it’s awesome.

You’ve opened Pandora’s box.

Peter - This isn’t a Portal reference, but we’ve opened a portal.

I’ll accept that.

Ary - We’ve managed to write music for a video game without making video game music.

Peter - We all composed for this game, it was a really collaborative effort. For one song, I was like, “Hey Luke, write a Hot Water Music/Alkaline Trio song for this level.” And he did, and it’s really sweet. Basically this is just a synthesis of all our influences. What we think would work, if we were scoring a movie it would just be the same thing. There’s this part where you are fighting robots n’ shit at a party, obviously, Ary said, “I’m totally going to write a Daft Punky song.” And he did, and it’s really sweet.


Photo by Aaron Bernstein

You guys were sort of... How to say it... Ambushed by nerds in there. Some nice, others worse. Is this a problem, or do you just have to appreciate it? Are you concerned about this evolving?

Peter - No! I think the evolution of this will lead to something magic. I think that the world is crassly divided. People in America, and the world, and in Canada I guess, always see culture as this kind of divide, say like, nerds and hipsters.

I think that guy at the show saw the divide.

Peter - Which guy?

The one who kept insisting he was a hipster and then hammered you with Scott Pilgrim trivia.

Peter - I think that that guy is an example of how it’s the same thing. Nerds and hipsters are just the same thing.

Ary -
Both are awesome and suck for the exact same reasons.

Peter - From where we’re coming from, I never viewed the kind of shit that I love, like say Tim and Eric or Scott Pilgrim to be either nerdy or hip. They lie on the same continuum. Something like Scott Pilgrim is a perfect example. The nerds go, “Oh it’s fuck-n’ hipster shit,” and hipsters go, “Oh this is fuck-n’ nerdy,” and I’m going, “Hey fuck you man.” There’s a group of people better aware of this stuff and just choose not to care. They are having the best time.

You suggest that we move on from this.

Peter - Oh, yes. Please. I think the less that we label our shit the better our lives will be.

You can play Gears of War and listen to Animal Collective!

Peter - Exactly!

Ary - I know this guy who goes to every DIY show and drinks PBR but also is a coding god, he knows every language of it. You can do both and it’s fine.

Peter - When I was a kid I would play Yoshi’s Island and listen to Minor Threat. It doesn’t get any more ridiculous than that. I never feel ambushed, but I feel like what this could lead to is something better. Ambush is just a dirty word.

Ary - If anything we’re just hyped that we’re in the same room.

Last question!

Peter - Oh man, pressure’s on...

Do you guys think you’ll ever upgrade to Sega Genesis?

Peter - Actually, that’s an interesting question. If you were to make it more general, like, are we going to use different platforms, then yeah. Ary is using a new program called LSDJ, a Swedish program, I’ve already started using Game Boy sounds as well as some expansion chips on Nintendo that Konami made in Japan that gives you extra channels. The point is we’ll use whatever tools to make whatever needs to be made. The Sega Genesis is actually becoming usable, and there is some excellent music being made with it. It’s an FM Synth, like a DX7 or something. Hopefully I’ll be smart enough to finish it out, until then. Those bell sounds are really lush.

Photos by Aaron Bernstein.

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Back to Where We Started: A Case of Inexplicable Property Handling Fri, 16 Jul 2010 06:13:39 +0000 Isaac Mills Maybe you haven’t had enough time to keep up with comics, or comic based cartoon series for the past twelve years, but that’s okay That’s what I’m here for. I’m here to help. So I wanted to bring you up to speed with a little bit of back and forth we’ve had for that said

Maybe you haven’t had enough time to keep up with comics, or comic based cartoon series for the past twelve years, but that’s okay That’s what I’m here for. I’m here to help. So I wanted to bring you up to speed with a little bit of back and forth we’ve had for that said twelve years.

June of 1998 was the first appearance of a fan favourite book called Young Justice which followed the adventures of the teen heroes of the DC comic universe. The entirety of its regular series, issues 1-56 (plus various special issues), was written by Peter David, a prolific comic book and novel writer, with a special twist. It was funny.

Instead of nonstop drama, we were given wordplay denouncing such expectations, goofy villains, and often times equally goofy heroes at a time when there was very little else like that around. It worked, and it was popular - not every comic can last to 56 issues. In fact, most don’t.

As the comic series was winding down in 2003 a couple of things happened. First was the creation of the Teen Titans cartoon show, again featuring teen heroes of the DC comic universe (though none were the same characters used in Young Justice) in a fun and usually kid-centric show. Its series finale aired in 2006 after 5 seasons and 65 episodes, which isn’t any length of time to sneeze at. While Teen Titans could certainly get very dark and serious (“The Prophecy” was an episode about how one of the heroes was destined to end the world, it’s a downer), my favourite episode is about a guy saving the world via driving around on a moped and capturing sentient tofu. Pretty crazy.

Courtesy of Dark Horse Comics

Young Justice | Courtesy of Dark Horse Comics

And the second thing to start at the end of Young Justice was a new Teen Titans comic book. Was this an example of the clever utilization of synergy between a new cartoon show and new comic book? Not at all. Half of the characters appearing had the same name and appearance as those in the cartoon and, while still being wildly different characters, the other half were leftover members of the Young Justice cast, with a very different tone.

One could almost say that the narrative was rebelling against ever having been subjugated to the role of “being funny” as expertly demonstrated when one character Kid Flash (formerly called Impulse), far and away the most fun guy in Young Justice, the only character trying to hold on to that lighter atmosphere in this new Teen Titans book, has his kneecap shot in the first story arc.

Fast forward to the present and the only thing still on the market is that Teen Titans comic, for some reason. I don’t know who’s buying it, I can assure you I stopped a long time ago. But I don’t know, maybe people like it, the book has managed to stick around for 80+ issues, and it doesn’t sound like they have any intention of canceling it.

However after all this time there will be something else new on the horizon: it has been revealed that come this fall there will be a new cartoon starring, you guessed it, the teen heroes of the DC universe. There’s a teaser poster readily available online, and the designs look pretty good, though a little serious. Why should looking serious make a difference, you ask, when the last man standing among all the merchandise I’ve talked about is the serious Teen Titans comic? Well, I’ll tell you. It makes a difference because this upcoming cartoon will be called Young Justice. You know, after that series that hasn’t been around for seven years.

Obviously I’m nonplussed by the timing of the guys in charge - where was the Young Justice cartoon seven years ago? Maybe it takes seven years for a fanboy to ascend to the position of a corporate bigwig that gets to approve comic based projects they enjoyed in years past. I should mark my calendar now.

Although I’m wary of this new show, it seems to have a pretty impressive pedigree: produced by Sam Register, who did the Teen Titans cartoon I enjoyed so much, as well as Greg Weisman, who did the recent Spectacular Spider-Man cartoon. Between the two of them, there has to be a fair balance between humour and the more serious stories, as well as a lot of respect for the source material. As a result I am, like many other Saturday morning kid-at-heart show lovers (in spirit if nothing else), cautiously optimistic. It’s still a weird move as far as I’m concerned.

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Toronto Fringe Festival 2010: Flash-Fringe-ing Out and About Fri, 16 Jul 2010 06:13:39 +0000 Colin Fallowfield Electing to mercifully skip my year-old diatribe about how wonderful theatre festivals are, I will begin with a message to those of you who only recently starting reading me: I love theatre festivals. They are concentrated awesome. cheapest viagra uk They are where theatre begins; the hits of tomorrow, today. They are rugged, simple, and


Electing to mercifully skip my year-old diatribe about how wonderful theatre festivals are, I will begin with a message to those of you who only recently starting reading me: I love theatre festivals. They are concentrated awesome.

They are where theatre begins; the hits of tomorrow, today. They are rugged, simple, and stripped down, which in the world of the relentless commoditisation of art, is a welcome change. This year’s Toronto Fringe Festival consisted of 150 shows spread over nearly two dozen venues, some fixed and some roving. Box office grosses go directly to the individual artists involved, a very rare and refreshing concept in the industry. In essence, it is theatre at its absolute bare-bones, and there is something to be said for the immediacy of that notion.

Of course with so many shows, and most in the hour-long one-act neighbourhood, there can be only so many good’uns. Think of it like a classroom: 5 kids are smart, 5 are dumb, and the rest are in the middle. So I ventured out one scorching summer day for a veritable marathon of theatre: 7 shows in twelve hours and four venues to separate the wheat from the chafe. And by chafe I mean crap.

Courtesy of Toronto Fringe Festival

Courtesy of Toronto Fringe Festival

NEW TALENT by Brian Morton
My first stop of the day was a stirring piece about a young Hamiltonian woman pushed by circumstance into the seedy "Escort" profession. Capably written and generally well-performed, the piece succeeded in bringing a level of detail to the Escort industry of which the general public is rarely afforded a glimpse. An extremely awkward first encounter between the protagonist and her john is a convincing piece of theatre, the audience sucked right into the tension between them. A clunky and unnecessary vocal narration succeeded in disrupting key expository scenes, however, and the overall effect of the piece is sabotaged by the slightly didactic ending.
Third overall in ranking of pieces I saw that day.

METRO by Linette Doherty
I’m not a dance critic, but I can tell when a dance show is bad. This one was bad. Claiming to explore the relationships people share on public transit in a major city, this show instead felt like a dance recital, featuring no clear narrative or thematic structure. Instead, dance numbers were separated by several minutes of blue-bathed stage and set changes before the lights would come up again and a dance would begin, very much like the one that had come before. The three featured dancers were quite good, with plenty of ‘hey-look-at-me’ moments, but all those acrobatics meant nothing in the face of a vacuous show. They even trucked out two little kids in tutus at one moment, causing the audience to ‘awww...’ and forget the shit they were watching for a moment. Most confusing, however, was a two-song-long dance sequence in honour of Barack Obama. And here I’d forgotten the impact that he had on the TTC.
Dead last in ranking of pieces I saw that day.

BARFLY ON THE WALL by James Gangl & Carmine Lucarelli
Described as ‘Play-Comedy’ in the Fringe Guide, I was surprised to find an improv show waiting for me in the cozy Passe Muraille backspace. Improv is one tetchy beast: catch the wrong show and you think they suck. I caught a maudlin’ show, but I thought the guys were really quite funny. The Passe Muraille back is not air-conditioned, and 40-degree temps were cooking all twelve of us in the tiny space. The feedback they got from the audience upon which to base their performance was awfully uninteresting, and the guys were having a hard time not melting on stage. Still, they brought a frenetic energy to the space and delivered which such Canadian-ness that I was that annoying ‘only-guy-in-the-room-laughing’ for most of the 50 minutes. What? I thought they were pretty funny.
Sixth but could have been higher in ranking of the pieces I saw that day.

THE NAKED BALLERINA by Sarah Murphy-Dyson
There’s a lot of craft that goes into making a one-person show. It’s hard to entertain a group of people for an hour with no one on stage but yourself. Murphy-Dyson really managed to pull it off. The story of the pain that goes on behind the scenes in a dancer’s life, this show was touching, moving, heart wrenching, hilarious and thought-provoking all at the same time. Murphy-Dyson’s writing was fantastic, seamlessly switching from the allegorical to the literal without losing moment. Her performance was strong, through variety in her left-handed tactics would have been appreciated; her default was just to break down crying. There are lots of kinds of hurt, you know. Much credit is due to her director and Romeo, Wes Berger; it felt like he imposed a good deal of restraint on the writing and helped to shape the piece into the effective beast that it was.
Certainly the second-best in ranking of the pieces I saw that day.

Based on one of my fave tunes (being "38 Years Old" by the Tragically Hip), this one-act-er centres around a family torn apart by murder and faced with the return of their escaped-convict oldest son. It didn’t quite accomplish in an hour what the song took three minutes to accomplish, but there were flashes of great writing and great performances here. Biggest problems involved falling into the trap of being a stereotypically Canadian "kitchen-sink" drama, all action taking place in the kitchen; this is something that our theatre really needs to get past, as there are other interesting rooms in people’s houses. The direction lacked focus and failed to find a characters through which to tell the story, only presenting the events with seeming disconnect and ambiguity. Lots of potential here, needs more workshopping.
The ‘missed-the-podium-by-that-much’ fourth in ranking of the pieces I saw that day.

From the Hip to Coldplay, this retrospective tells the story of a young man’s short and ordinary life as a fatal bullet makes its way through his head. The retrospective thing didn’t really make sense, as the play was not presented as a flashback until the end, but some solid performances (especially portrayal of age of the protagonist’s younger brother) and an effective colour pallet made the show engaging enough to watch in spite of an odd sense of amateurism. Having a brother myself, I especially appreciated the sibling rivalry present in the piece, and the overwhelming regret at past mistakes that can tear a relationship apart.
An appreciative fifth in ranking of the pieces I saw that day.

TRUDEAUTOPIA by Glyn Bowerman
“Save the best for last” they say, and so do I. Bowerman’s script is one of the most engaging pieces of theatre writing I have witnessed in some time. Telling parallel narratives surrounding the events of the October Crisis and the days of the FLQ, the piece was also a reflection on power and those who wield it. It was also a reflection on the state of arts in Canada. It was also a reflection on a playwright’s right to sway his audience’s opinion with hyperbolized narratives regarding historical events. Each layer, as it was peeled back and interwoven with the others, turned out to be as provocative and well-executed as the last. The sparse design only served to heighten the tension onstage, allowing the generously-sized cast freedom of movement and preventing bunching and crowding, even with a full stage. The one weak link in this chain was (VERY unfortunately) the performance of the protagonist. Unlike the convincing portrayals provided by the other various cast members, the main character was inaudible, inexpressive and unconvincing. That certainly did not ruin the brilliance of the show, however, and it was the perfect way to end my marathon day of theatre.
Very obviously best and first in ranking of the pieces I saw that day.

My day was a microcosm of what theatre festivals represent: the good, the bad, and the ugly of what Canadian art has to offer. Not every show can be a winner, but cheap ticket prices (to the tune of $10/ticket) and an environment of accessibility keep throngs of people returning to the city year after year. Some of these shows could go on to success. And next year it will happen all over again. Gotta love those odds.

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July’s Cubist News: The Terrifying Seafood Activity Fri, 16 Jul 2010 06:13:38 +0000 N. Alexander Armstrong There is no news worth reporting if it is not devastating. With all the news today, only the dead are determined heroic. The Terrifying Seafood Activity For Tien Pham death in black a dozen wounds no killer found there has been a shooting in a Toronto restaurant at a Cantonese eatery on Spadina the evidence

There is no news worth reporting if it is not devastating.
With all the news today, only the dead are determined heroic.

Illustration by C.S. Folkers

Illustration by C.S. Folkers

The Terrifying Seafood Activity

For Tien Pham

death in black a dozen wounds no killer found

there has been a shooting in a Toronto restaurant
at a Cantonese eatery on Spadina
the evidence has been tightly wound into video
the details of the killer were ascertained from forward angles

the friends there calculated a code
“Wear a hoodie” was the prescription

perhaps his kitchen run-ins described paint in the a.m.
after the killer had fled Chinatown
walking briskly down Now Ave.
to act out his “deliberate” pain

every Det.-Sgt. was “devastated”
at the seafood shortage in Toronto

the criminal killer shaved
using the screen of a camera
reviewing the video
of early teenaged dining

the killer used a handgun
he is now known as Exodus Slim

a gang walks into the Cantonese kitchen
dying images are appealing to hooded thugs
Police code produces handguns pointed at a dozen heads
Police trying to find out whether the gang ate there beforehand

if the 17-year-old hand held a motive along with the pistol
if they shot at the family range over the weekend
if the gunman really was 5-foot-7
if he was as dark-coloured as the gun

the kitchen had potential
gangs appreciate good cooks

the Det.-Sgt. hides in his room
labyrinthine images are sewn into his uniform
his head and assisted video death
are too close to Chinatown Monday

This news affects the restaurant directly

“Absolutely any attempt to enter the kitchen will be rejected”
Police described his escape in inches
a shot at the entrance terrorized a family at the back
the killer must hide on this tall Saturday

17-year-old kids appealing to help Det.-Sgt.
find patrons of a known range
there are many with a motive
even more who could assist

the gunshot which ended his youth
suggests that the victim was exposed to a bullet
locals have identified the gunshot as fatal
the boy will not recover

the food for once is not suspect
the cooperation of criminal activity leads
the Terrified Toronto Front to believe
the crime is gang-related

although no student investigator wants to touch the case
they will not eat seafood until it is solved

the Police are seated in the restaurant right now
they ordered the egg rolls
it was excellent evidence
crispy and hot

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SF: A Week of Taco Tourism in the Star Warsiest City in America Fri, 16 Jul 2010 06:13:34 +0000 Dave Hurlow Photos: Patrick Moody-Grigsby Food Consultant: Michael Stacey Warning to the reader: Although this story should emerge top to bottom in chronological order (the higher up on the page something appears, the earlier it happened), the first person narrative bits are written in the present tense, while the conversation between Michael and myself refers to events

Photos: Patrick Moody-Grigsby
Food Consultant: Michael Stacey

Warning to the reader: Although this story should emerge top to bottom in chronological order (the higher up on the page something appears, the earlier it happened), the first person narrative bits are written in the present tense, while the conversation between Michael and myself refers to events in the past tense. Switching between tenses may cause something akin to vertigo in the reader and possibly mild frustration. This is almost certainly intentional.

Let's start with this story about my friend Stu:

It's Stu's last day in New York before he flies to Bermuda. He goes to the East village, to Porqueta, a tiny little sandwich shop run by a woman who roasts porquetas and nothing but porquetas. He walks in and the place is so small, he's at the counter where there's just two seats and he's facing a wall of glistening pork. Stu eats pork fat, pork skin, all different kinds of pork meat, in a sandwich. Then Stu goes to the East Village Motorino; the porqueta was only a snack. He eats a whole Filetti Pie at Motorino, baked with fresh mozzarella, tiny little cherry tomatoes and thyme in Anthony Mangieri's famous pizza oven, allegedly the best pizza oven in North America. The pie is amazing, it's got a super flexible crust that you can poke and immediately returns to its original shape. With the pie he drinks a glass of gragnano, semi sparkling Neapolitan wine. He leaves Motorino and he's feeling pretty fine, he's had two lunches now and only one of them was a sit down lunch. He goes from there to Momofuku milk bar, which is the bakery associated with David Chang's Momofuku Ssam bar. At Momofuku you get can cereal milk ice cream: milk that has had cereal soaking in it transformed into soft serve ice cream, so that it tastes like the milk at the bottom of your cereal. Here Stu eats a banana cake and drinks a bottle of strawberry milk. Think Nutella, banana bread, then Nutella icing with a crunchy praline layer somewhere in there.

After two lunches, one giant piece of cake and a bottle of strawberry milk, he's walking down the street, on his way now to JFK airport, and a funny feeling comes over him. Stu starts feeling pops and shivers inside of him and he's shaking, sweating, his heart is beating fast. He's wondering if anyone's ever had a heart attack from immediate overeating. He wonders for a little while if he's going to pass out, and then, his body drifts for a while until eventually he's slammed back into reality. He's awake, he's still alive, he goes to JFK and gets on a plane and flies to Bermuda.

Here's what he has to say about this:

Stu: It's important to get the most out of your travel food eating time, there's no point in thinking of food as sustenance when you're trying to experience all the good flavours a city has to offer in a limited amount of time. Any respectable city has enough food that you could die from caloric intake if you're working with a limited amount of time. You're never going to have eaten enough. And so you need to be willing to suffer.

San Francisco

San Francisco

Mark Ibold, the bass player for Pavement and Sonic Youth, is on our flight from Newark. I stare at him awkwardly and at one point during the flight I go over to his seat to talk to him but he is sleeping. At the luggage carousel I call out, "Hey Mark!" He signs my copy of Evelyn Waugh's Vile Bodies and tells me that the Toronto Island Concert was in the top five shows of the Pavement reunion tour.

We arrive in San Francisco, meet a third friend and go to a bar called Doc's clock. There's a hand shuffle board table, maybe you know the kind, with the sawdust on it to provide traction for the tiny pucks. I recognize the bartender's Yeasayer shirt, a brightly coloured base with a black psychedelic houndstooth hand on it. He was on tour with Yeasayer one time, he says. He feeds us cheap shots of whiskey and pints of PBR. "Liquor is so cheap it's basically free in America," I think, "even at bars."

We go down the street to Farolitos and order the Al Pastor Super Burritos, with beans and avocado. It is the greatest, greasiest, burrito that I have ever eaten. Shockingly delicious and a challenge to finish. I soak the golden prize in multiple sauces from the salsa bar and almost weep for joy.

At the MOMA SF I walk through a wall of golden beads, realizing that I find modern art sexually arousing.

Bourbon and Branch:

A cheesy speakeasy style cocktail bar. The host gestures for us to come in out of the freezing weather; it is ten degrees celsius and misty. Everyone is wearing a fedora. "Some people," I think, "should never wear a fedora." The host leads us to a book shelf where he pulls at the spine of a book and spins us into a separate room. It's supposed to be this secret chamber outside of reality and there is a cool icicle-like chandelier hanging from the ceiling, but people keep opening the door to reality and ruining the mood. I drink a Sazerac for the first time, the oldest American cocktail in existence, born in New Orleans. The glasses are washed in absinthe and the Sazerac makes me feel like a wobbly newborn.

In the Mission we stop at a bar called the 500 hundred club with a giant lit up champagne glass for a sign. I punch in a bunch of Neko Case songs on the juke box, but we leave before they come one. Outside it is misty and cool, but the palm trees make me feel like I should be wearing sandals.


Appetizers: Panisse Frites (Chickpea fries) with lemon aioli, chicken patte.

Stu: The chickpea fries had this super crisp exterior and then the crazy fluffiness of the hummus in the middle, a perfect window pane of deep friedness that you cracked through with your teeth and then suddenly you were swimming in a pool of chick pea mud. When you dipped it in mayonaise it was like goo, window pane and then more different goo on the inside... two layers of garlicky goo separated by an aquarium.

Entrees: Tender pink lamb, Crepe Cannaloni with melted leeks.

Stu: Pat had some kind of bird it wasn't a chicken, it was um.....

Dave: Safe to say it was some kind of game.

Stu: Well, I don't know if they'd actually shot it.

Dessert: we shared the Bittersweet chocolate pot du creme with cherries.

Stu: It was like the same texture as the chicken patte. Everything was just so buttery smooth. It was like the restaurant of buttery smoothnesses, this made it a very feminine restaurant.

Dave: There were cultured homosexuals there, it was run by women.

Stu: It seemed super San Franciscan, right? Things you've had before but easier to digest. There was nothing edgy about it at all, it was almost like pablum.

We met a South American girl on the plane who'd been living in San Francisco. We go to meet her at a bar for her friend's birthday but she stands us up. I go over to some girls and start a conversation, "I'm an artist" one of them says "I make my own clothes and I sell jewelry. I've been reading a lot of Timothy Leary lately and I believe that acid is truth. Jack Kerouac is my favourite author."

"For Chrissake!" I think, but Moody and Stu are coming over and start talking to the other friend and here we are stuck like this for at least fifteen more minutes.


General impressions: Hyper butteriness of the ham croissants, the Croque monsieurs are soaked in sauce and topped with great ingredients: asparagus and tiny little buttony mushrooms, in addition to the cheese.

Dave: A very liberal interpretation of the traditional croque monsieur

Stu: Mhmm, usually its on bread sliced from a loaf, this was a rounded loaf, a big oval shaped piece, thick cut, maybe it was sourdough bread even.

Battle of the Ice Creams

Bi-rite Creamery:

Stu and Moody buy salted caramel ice cream and even though I'm stuffed with croissant and croque monsieur, I want to steal their ice cream it is so delicious.

Humphrey Slocum:

After a taco crawl we hit Humphrey Slocum which has more attention to detail in decor (A taxidermied double cow head graces the wall) and hip clever names like Rosemary's Baby or Harvey Milk and Honey Graham Cracker.

Winner: Bi-Rite.

Columbus Avenue

Columbus Avenue

We visit the MH de Young Museum and pay to enter an exhibit of famous Impressionist paintings that the Musee D'Orsay has leant to SF while they're undergoing renovations. I fall in love a little bit with a steamy Monet train station, but mostly I'm just working hard to stay on my feet.

We take the BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) under the water and come out in Oakland. Apparently George Lucas was inspired by the architecture of the Bay Area when he was working on his model designs for the original Star Wars Trilogy. The most obvious evidence of this are the huge four legged cranes in downtown Oakland that resemble Imperial AT-AT's (All Terrain Armoured Transport) - those giant vehicles that roam Hoth, the ice planet, in search of a rebel base to destroy. Second only to the cranes is the Trans-America Pyramid in downtown San Francisco, which strongly resembles an imperial star destroyer. The traces of Star Wars architecture are randomly scattered around the area, so that walking about in the sunny, liberal west coast paradise that is San Francisco one can suddenly find themselves staring, head cocked to the side, at a giant relic of science fiction lore.

MH de Young Museum

MH de Young Museum

Pizzaiolo (Oakland):

List of Pies: Tomato sauce with meatballs, white pizzas with majorum, broccoli, rapini and sausage, one with wild nettles and pecorino romano.

Stu: The one with tomato sauce was really good, the meatballs were so smooth. The coolest thing is that we ate the pizzas in a dive bar, instead of the restaurant itself, which was kind of fancy and stylized to look like something in the south of France

Dave: O yeah! It was a real hole in the wall Oakland bar that served cheap jugs of PBR and Jack and cokes with barely any coke in them.

Stu: When I asked if we could bring in the pizzas, the bartender was like "we already got potatoes 'n cheese," or like "rice 'n cheese" or like "Mashed potatoes and gravy... 'n cheese" some gross side dish that everyone at the bar was slopping into their mouths.

We go to see Pavement at UC Berkeley's Greek theatre. We buy eight dollar MGD's served in a plastic safety bottle and watch from the coliseum style stone seats. For the encore Pavement's original drummer Gary Young comes out to play a bunch of Slanted Enchanted with the band. His rhythm is sloppy but damn can he drum fill.

Later we're at a bar called...


Stu: If you wanted to compare it to bars in Toronto, it's kind of like a combination of Ronnie's and the Brunswick house. A hipster bar for frat boys, or a frat boy bar for hipsters.

Dave: The kind of bar you could blast Band of Horses at.

Stu: I still don't know what Band of Horses is but I know you think they suck.

We've met up with our friend from the plane (we'll call her Dorothia) at this point as we sit down to eat more giant golden salsa soaked burritos at a place called Cancun. Her boyfriend passes us all beers from a corner store which we accept hesitantly, but hey everybody's doing it and if it's okay to take outside food into a bar in California, maybe you can bring outside beer into burrito joints too.

Stu: Dorothia had a wealth of practical knowledge of what you literally could and could not do. But I don't think she knew much about what you technically couldn't do.

The Ferry Building:

A general rundown from Stu: Lots of fancy food places that don't have other locations, that just exist in the ferry building. Like a farmer's market where the booths are open all the time, plus there was extra farmer's market stuff because it was Saturday. I knew it was an old terminal or something, I guess it still is a ferry terminal?

Dave: I have no idea!

I was hungover and a bit stoned on headache medicine so I ended up laying on a slab of wood in the sun deliriously napping and looking out on the bay while Stu and Moody navigated the Ferry Building. Here's what they ate there:

1. Cone of Meats and sandwiches with Testa (Italian face meat) from Boccalone, whose slogan is "Tasty Salted Pig Parts."

2. American Bahn Mi (Vietnamese Sub).

3. Grass fed Hamburger.

4. Porqueta Sandwich from Roli Roti: a truck that a Swiss master butcher has converted into a rotisserie showcasing glistening twisting porqueta.

5. Two Oysters.

6. Jellowy Linnaean candy-cot from the Linnaen candy-cot man who had been developing this delicious apricot for fifteen years.

7. A soda carbonated using all natural milk whey.

Roli Roti

Roli Roti

Stu: (describing porqueta and the Roli Roti experience) You take pieces of a pig wrapped in a pig's skin and roast them for a million hours with herbs and spices, then you slice it and you chop it up into fine pieces and put it on a bun with some kind of greens and some salt. You have a mixture of different pork textures, some of it's really mushy and fatty, some of it is gooey gelatinous, some of it is crispy, like hard candy crispy. Like the last bite when you get to the end of the tootsie pop. This was better than the porqueta sandwiches at Porqueta in New York. It's not like a roti at all... roti is French for roasted I guess.


Cocktails: White Manhattan, Pisco Sour with Eggwhites

Apps: A Goat Cheese Dip, little fried anchovies with mayonnaise, salad with olive oil poached sea bass.

Stu: The goat cheese toast rounds were perfect. It was like a classy version of a superbowl dip, like you were eating a bowl of cheese salsa. Those anchovies were insane, we ate them head and everything.

Entrees: Pork Chop, Grass Fed Hamburger, Tagliatelle with peas and cream sauce.

Stu: Pork Chop was cooked in a wood oven, it was a little smoky, crispy exterior, lots of pieces of melting fat. Tasted a bit like barbecue. There were a few apricots. Think about a big salt hit from the pork, a lot of smoke, this smooth bacon-y ham texture, with beautiful apricot jam on it

Dave: Eating two or three bites of that cheeseburger changed my life. While I was chewing I closed my eyes and was transported to a better place.

Stu: I always think that the key to a good cheeseburger is to make it thick enough that you have a textural contrast between a burnt caramelized crispy brown outside and the super moist, almost cool, beef tartarish pink or purpleness of the inside. You really can't fuck up a burger if it has that gradation.

Dave: So the recurring theme here is crunchy exterior, soft interior.

Stu: O yeah! Food's about the play of contrasts!

Dessert: Soppapillas (a type of fried pastry) with spiced chocolate sauce.

Stu: Moody was licking the chocolate off the spoon, he looked like he was going to pass out. He'd stopped talking to any of us, he didn't ask if this was okay, this was a communal spoon. He was putting it into his mouth really slowly, in slow motion... it looked like he was nursing.

Dave: In his defense, we had gone from heavy cocktails to proseco, to California red, and we were passing around the straw dogs at this point.

Stu: You mean the white dogs (American whiskey moon shine). The server brought us three different kinds and she was like "can't you tell how different they are?" and I was like "I have no idea!" Moody said he'd had to put his hand up on the wall in the bathroom for support.

Dave: At that point I thought we'd all had that experience, 'cause we agreed that it was the drunkest any of us had ever been in a restaurant. That was the night we ended up at that block party where they were playing "Dancing in the Streets." I caught last call at the liquor store and got a thing of Wild Turkey, we went back to that girls house and I threw up that whole meal meal in her bathroom. Well, not the whole thing... a third of it maybe.

Taco crawl in the Mission:

Al Pastor Taco

Al Pastor Taco

The next day we stumble over to the mission and embark on a taco crawl. Argentina and Mexico are playing in the World Cup so the mood is especially exuberant in the taco joints.

Dave: What do you look for in a down and dirty Al Pastor Taco?

Stu: Like most meats on a spit you want the combination of crispy outside, smooth fatty inside. Then I want crunchy onion, a little bit of herbal kick from the cilantro and then the vinegar and spice that comes from the salsa. Corn tortillas are quite flavourful, there's a lot of suppleness, there's almost something kind of creamy about them, they're sweet. There so much nicer than the papery, cardboard tortillas we get in Toronto, even at respected places.

Dave: I found that with foods that are kind of a cultural signature, like the taco or the Halifax donair, there's a special way to eat it that you have to figure out.

Stu: Right, because they give you two layered tacos beneath the meat and you have to split it up.

Dave: It's like the three shells (see Demolition Man), except it was the two tacos. How do you split it up without ruining the taco? They were very sparing with napkins.

Stu: It was hard to find napkins.

Dave: They wanted you to know how to do it, or to figure it out.

Stu: It was definitely a lot of meat piled up on those tortillas, it was not neatly wrapped or anything. There were not a lot of concessions made to the taco neophyte.

Elixir: (Make your own Bloody Mary Sunday)

Stu: I think that bar's been open since the 1890s or something crazy.

Dave: We put bacon in the Bloody Marys. Like cold pieces of bacon out of a pint glass. We couldn't figure out if the bartender was messing with us.

Stu: I knew he wasn't messing with us, I'd heard about the Bloody Mary bacon on the internet. There was an incredible selection of hot sauces. and then spice mixes, a pickle drawer.

Dave: It really helped me to understand how difficult it is to make a properly seasoned Caesar. It took me a long time of putting a lot of stuff in my drink to make it taste right.

Stu: It gave you a chance to try a complex Caesar though because you mixed a million things into it. Horseradish! Don't forget about the horseradish, it gives it a cocktail sauce flavour and makes it more meaty and spicy. The Horseradish tastes good with clam juice probably, right? That seafoody spice combo.

After applying the Caesar hangover glaze we walk in a hungover daze to Dolores park and meet up with Dorothia and some of her friends. It's so sunny, the Pride parade is going on downtown and I notice in this park that the divide between hippy and hipster is less accentuated on the west coast. Hippies and hipsters are actually friends. "Where can I find someone to smoke pot with?" I ask Dorothia.

"I dunno, walk ten steps in one direction and ask."

I walk around the entire park and everyone is smoking cigarettes which is frustrating and I think that's so weird because we're in California and everyone should be smoking pot. I get back to our little encampment looking forlorn but we all smell pot and there are some dudes hitting a joint ten steps away from us in one direction.

"Are you a cop?" the guy asks.

"Yeah, this beard is fake, you're all under arrest." I say, which is maybe kind of a stupid thing to say.

"I've known cops with beards. If you're a cop you legally have to tell me or else it's entrapment. Are you a cop?"

These dudes are real pot nerds and I learn that in Oakland, if you acquire the proper licenses, you can legally grow more marijuana than anywhere else in North America. It's sunny and 75 degrees Fahrenheit. In Toronto, I learn, there's a giant thunder storm and everyone's under arrest.

The next day we all wake up hungry for double cheeseburger.

Red's Java House:

Java House

Java House

Dave: I thought that the pier itself eclipsed the meal. Where we were sitting seemed like a cross between a setting in Scorsese movie and an F. Scott Fitzgerald novel. The Sheer Americanness of eating a double cheeseburger with a coke on a pier... it felt so right.

Stu: You felt like cops would eat there, from cop movies right? You could imagine McNulty or Bunk (see The Wire) going there. Or the cops from The Departed... or Serpico.

It's so sunny and hot that we decide to take the bus to the beach, to see the pacific ocean proper. We're foiled by the microclimates of the west coast and once we've travelled the distance from downtown to the beach we're walking through a cool mist. On the beach I'm intermittently struck by warm swathes of air emerging from the cool. I find a wooden beach horn and start waving it out towards the ocean, chanting "yo-papa, yo-papa," inventing a tribal water worshiping religion as we walk. Further down we all lie down on the warm sand where the swathes of heat are plentiful, and here I fall asleep for half an hour.

Hog Island Oyster Bar:

Happy Hour

5:00-7:00 Every Monday and Thursday at the Ferry Building.

$1 Oysters and $3.50 pints.

Stu: It was crowded as shit and we had to wait, but eventually we did get to eat twenty oysters. My one regret is that we didn't eat forty oysters, Jesus, shit, we could have had so many oysters. They were good little guys, very creamy. Hog Island has their own oyster farms.

Final thoughts, differences between Toronto and SF:

Stu: The quality of restaurants in a place is probably determined by the expectations of the market. In Toronto, people will wait to get tacos from El Asador, and the tacos from El Asador... are objectively bad. You get dried out meats, you get tortillas that taste like... cardboard is too kind, they taste like they're made out of wood.

Dave: You could get a taco on some street corner in the Mission and it would be superior to any Toronto taco?

Stu: I assume that any taco truck in San Francisco is way better than El Asador. Of course in San Francisco they're going to have better tacos, they have a much longer taco tradition.

Dave: What about the correlation between the amazing ingredients that are available in the Bay area and the restaurants that prepare the food?

Stu: I think what's more important is people's expectations. It's not like we have bad ingredients in Ontario, we have good ingredients. And it's not like those taco places were buying their tacos from any kind of fancy artisan purveyors. They were getting it from Industrial Meatland USA. When people have really high expectations it makes the food way better. I don't know why people in Toronto don't have higher expectations. We have pretty high expectations for Chinese food. There should be more competition here, Toronto has like four million people, the Bay area has far fewer than that. But San Francisco is close to L.A. California has a massive economy, there's probably a lot of restaurant dollars to go around. California's got a lot more money to spend on food. Toronto's got some pretty good stuff though too, that didn't we see in San Francisco: I didn't see much West Indian food, much middle eastern food... SF is supposed to have really good Vietnamese Thai, and famous Burmese restaurants.

Dave: I don't even know what Burmese food is.

Stu: They make a salad with tea leaves, it's supposed to be delicious.

Dave: What's Burma called now?

Stu: Myanmar, but I don't think anyone calls it Myanmarese food.

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The Surfer Does Not Conquer The Wave: A Kairotic Approach To Culture Fri, 16 Jul 2010 06:13:29 +0000 Devon Wong Sometimes I wonder if there is any hope for a real, tangible, practical, and effective movement that might take us beyond the logic of late capitalism into a more egalitarian and just society. Christine Harold's book OurSpace: Resisting the Corp viagra online canada orate Control of Culture, published in 2007 by the University of Minnesota

Sometimes I wonder if there is any hope for a real, tangible, practical, and effective movement that might take us beyond the logic of late capitalism into a more egalitarian and just society. Christine Harold's book OurSpace: Resisting the Corp

orate Control of Culture, published in 2007 by the University of Minnesota Press, offers signs of such hope. For anyone interested in the Creative Commons movement, the history of culture jamming, or civic politics and the creation and definition of publics, OurSpace is a must.


It's telling that the book already appears dated only three years after publication, as Harold opens by discussing the social networking revolution that is/was MySpace. If the book had been written today, we likely would have instead seen a discussion of Facebook and Twitter. Contemporary culture, much of it now digitally mediated, moves fast on the surface. If you blink you miss it. And yet, the logic beneath such surfaces shifts ever so slowly. If epiphenomena like MySpace and Facebook are like earthquakes, cultural logic functions like the movement of the tectonic plates over the liquid stone even deeper beneath. Harold is one of a number of contemporary thinkers able to see beneath those surface epiphenomena to the logic that shapes and is shaped by culture.

Any book that opens with a quote from William Gibson and a line from a Sonic Youth song is bound to get my attention. And OurSpace doesn't disappoint. Bringing together the ideas of such diverse figures as Gilles Deleuze and George Clinton, Neal Stephenson and Lawrence Lessig, Harold writes a book of true, honest, and critical insights. The only thing that bugs me about the book is that Harold, who champions the cause of the Creative Commons, did not have the book itself published under a Creative Commons license as authors like Toronto's own Creative Commons guru and sf writer Cory Doctorow has done with his work.

What marks the Creative Commons movement as different from many social movements and theory of recent history (i.e. Adorno and the critical theorists) is its inherent practical optimism, and this optimism is infused throughout OurSpace in which Harold, to riff off the critical theorists, "refuses" to dichotomize publics against markets. She does not make the common argument that publics are dissolving in markets, an argument that bemoans the emergence of "consumer publics". Nor does she advocate for said flaky "consumer publics". Instead, Harold makes the argument that "publics are everywhere" (xxvii) and that adversity can potentially make them stronger.

In OurSpace, Harold traces the history of media-centered resistance to neoliberal logic, differentiating between what she sees as three different types of strategy: sabotage, appropriation, and intensification. The Creative Commons falls under the third category.

According to Harold, activism must evolve with the times. Drawing from Deleuze's thought, Harold says that the shift from a disciplinary society to a control society requires new forms of resistance and new definitions of activism. She thus advances the Creative Commons or "Copyleft" movement as one that provides fertile ground from which true cultural change may grow, not in opposition to the logic of late capitalism but as an organic process that reconfigures this logic into a new and healthier logic.

OurSpace begins by trotting through the history of the Situationist International and their Dada-inspired resistance against the Charles de Gaulle government in the 1960s. Situationist thinker and activist Guy Debord, ironically famous for his influential book Society of the Spectacle, discusses a process parallel to the shift from discipline to control; a process of cultural degradation from being to having to appearing. The society of the spectacle no longer sells products but images, as Naomi Klein would later echo in No Logo. Harold identifies the Situationists as the precursors to contemporary culture jammers and makes the argument that while the tactics of the Situationists were appropriate and indeed necessary for their time, rendering the logic of the spectacle visible, forcing us to become aware of the water in which we swim, these tactics of negation do not go anywhere. While Harold is careful to maintain their necessity, she argues that a sustainable movement that actually reforms culture cannot come out of such strategies in a control society. As rebellion is appropriated by the culture industry, such rebellion must continue to "negate the [prior] negation". The rebel must always stay one step ahead of the culture industry. The rebel must ever be on the hunt for something new. Something authentic. The next best thing. This, of course, is the same logic that propels capitalism and fuels the spectacle itself. As Harold writes, "business is amassing great sums by charging admission to the ritual simulation of its own lynching" (62).

In OurSpace, Harold discusses sabotage through parody, pranks, hoaxes, and rumours, in turns praising and critiquing groups like Adbusters known for circulating scathing parody ads, the Biotic Baking Brigade who threw pies in the faces of neoliberal figureheads and promoters like Milton Friedman and Bill Gates, and the Yes Men who impersonated WTO representatives and delivered hyperbolic speeches on the WTO's behalf, among others. In these groups, Harold recognizes a generation of media savvy activists taking activism beyond the strategies popularized in the 60s, and she discusses the strengths and weaknesses of such strategies, which are largely consistent with those of the Situationist International, but amplified by their anachronism. Such strategies are eventually rendered by the culture industry as an enfeebled "no".

With regard to appropriation, Harold argues that the hero of appropriation, the pirate thief who steals from the rich to give to the poor, in fact reinforces the logic of property relations. Such figures unwittingly reinforce an image of scarcity, and as we are living in a society of spectacle, image is reality. Such a vision of the rebel hero presumes that publics and markets are separate and in opposition to one another. Furthermore, for such rebel heroes, the game is rigged against them. Harold argues that we need to take stealing out of the equation. We need to change how culture perceives appropriation so that appropriation -- in other words, the very process of creation -- is no longer considered "stealing".

Harold thus resists an Enlightenment conception of authorship, which she argues is both promoted by the culture industry and by the myth of the rebel auteur. In an attempt to shake off the myth of independence promoted by our current cultural logic in favour of a logic of interdependence, Harold turns to the Greek concept of "kairos" (propriety) as an alternative to a cultural logic with "property" at its heart. A logic of kairos, unlike the logic of capitalism, promotes a unity of "public ethos" and "private self", for which, as Cicero once argued, "a speaker and his or her words [are] inseparable" (126). According to Harold, we need to change the ethics of our culture to one that "promotes voluntary obligation and responsibility to one's community, not fear of punitive legal action" (148). This notion might even be taken beyond the mere creation of art to a broader definition of culture in general.

The last third of OurSpace is devoted to a brief history and discussion of intellectual property, which is indeed a contemporary phenomenon, and which perhaps deserves discussion at length in a future steelbananas article, especially with regard to the copyrighting of life. There's a reason that in America's early days Thomas Jefferson made explicit the danger of private interests owning ideas.

While recognizing that intellectual property law is "increasingly deployed ideologically" to shut down dissent (119), among other things, Harold's answer to this is not de-regulation but the redefinition of regulation as represented by the Creative Commons movement. For Harold, the way to open cultural content is through a "'flexible layer' of regulatory options" (149). The Creative Commons movement, as Harold explains, emerged out of the open source movement in the software world. Open source means that code is free, as in it costs no money and may be copied, learned from, distributed, appropriated, and played with under the assumption that ideas cannot belong to any one person and that ideas are in fact healthier when allowed to circulate and disseminate. Anyone who runs a computer on a Linux operating system has some knowledge of the power of open source and the creative possibilities that it allows and the curious interdependent publics that emerge. Creative Commons licences work in a similar fashion within the realm of intellectual property in general, particularly in the art world, allowing artists to define which rights are reserved on their work. So far, four licensing conditions exist to allow for more copyright flexibility:

"attribution" -- a copyright holder can require they be given credit for the portion of their work used; "noncommercial" -- a copyright holder can require their work not be used in commercial works without permission; "no derivative works" -- allows others to copy and distribute copyrighted material if they agree not to alter it in any way; and "share alike" -- one can use copyrighted material only if they agree to make the resulting work available under the same conditions determined by the original Creative Commons license (144).

With the ability to use these conditions in any combination with each other as the licence holder sees fit, Harold argues that the Creative Commons movement is a powerful step towards a more welcoming and human social order.

She challenges the notion, however, that such a commons exists as an "empty space," arguing that this reinforces the notion of an Enlightenment "subject" who "creates" in a vacuum, who fills a void, who owns collective creations. For Harold, "The rhetorical subject is less the origin than a coproduct of a rhetorical situation, of a kairotic encounter" (152), and thus creation relies upon a buzzing, complicated, and crowded field of discourses, as well as constraints and obstacles to be creatively overcome. There is hope in Harold's vision, for the more the society of control attempts to control, the more creative the resistance to control becomes in order to overcome that control. As Harold also notes, invention is not possible without obstacles and constraints. Or as the old adage would have it, adversity makes us stronger.

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NXNE 2010: Say A Thing With King Frankenstein And Surfer Blood Fri, 16 Jul 2010 06:12:45 +0000 King Frankenstein When the world sucks we'd like to go to music, even if we leave nothing behind in the process. Musi buy cheap kamagra uk c is a healer, a gate into feelings just out of reach. When Florida band Surfer Blood breached the scene, music fans were ensnared by their addictive indie surf and unique

When the world sucks we'd like to go to music, even if we leave nothing behind in the process. Musi

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c is a healer, a gate into feelings just out of reach. When Florida band Surfer Blood breached the scene, music fans were ensnared by their addictive indie surf and unique echoing aesthetic. The music instills a warm fantasy, but not necessarily an escape from the ordinary. From the beauty of the surf (not a far cry to those along the actual coast) to the sublime of watching David Lynch on the couch with friends. While there are plenty of new surf bands fresh out of the water, Blood is easily my top choice and Astro Coast is a must own for the year. I met up with lead singer John Paul Pitts after he played Wrongbar for NXNE. Also, local pals Jane's Party were there because, y'know, why not?

Do you have any questions for Jane’s Party?

Geez dude is that a Detroit Tigers shirt?

Jane's Party - This one or the undershirt?

I don’t even know!

Jane's Party - I’m a Toronto Blue Jays fan.

Who’s your team of choice?

I’m a Braves fan.

Starting simple, how did the band get started?

Well the drummer and myself have known each other for a long time. We met when we were both going to college in Orlando, dicking around. We both hated school, we both played instruments, liked a lot of the same bands. It was pretty magic the first few times we jammed, but we could never find the right people to play with. We were always switching out people who we played shows with, here and there as a favour. Then one day we were in Miami for the Ultra music festival, not playing it just hanging with some friends, when we went to this crazy after party and Tom and Brian were there. Tom came up to me, told me he heard some of our recordings, thought they were awesome and wanted to play in the band. I told him if he was serious to call me. Called the next day, cancelled his plans to move to Miami, I cancelled my plans to go back to school, he quit his job. We wanted to do this band and that was it.


Photo by King Frankenstein

Why did you decide to go with this style, this sort of like Brian Wilson down a hallway? It’s both reflective but distant from a lot of the stuff we’re hearing and I’m curious as to how it developed.

Naturally and organically. That’s the way it should. I guess at first I was singing loud, high pitched things because at first we were playing in rooms with shitty PAs, so I had to scream to get over most of the stuff. I have a bad habit of writing really acrobatic vocal melodies that I can never execute live. In the studio it’s wonderful, because I can double-track it, live it’s just kind of melted. We’ve always been guitar driven, melodic indie rock music, the bands that influenced us were Built to Spill, Modest Mouse, Pavement kind of stuff.

Your first album really took off, what’s it like to hit the ground running like that, is it nerve-wracking, wonderful?

It’s wonderful. I get to see the world, I get to play in front of a lot of people. A lot of people like our music and relate to it. It’s nerve-wracking because everyone’s looking to tear you down for any stupid reason. I’m sure I’ll find a blog somewhere about the red, white and blue shirt I’m wearing tonight.

I saw Wussy last night and one of them was wearing American striped pants.

That’s awesome.

You have nothing to worry about, you’re subtle.

There’s a lot of backlash when a band gets a lot of attention really fast. Haters gunna hate, players gunna play.

Is that not just part of the scene cycle, to love and then hate?

The hype cycle is exactly what you think it is. People build you up and tear you down, the best way is to just not get emotionally invested into that. Keep playing shows, keep writing good songs, your fans will be your fans and be at your shows no matter what some blogger says.

This might be hard for us Toronto locals to understand, but it’s hard not to see the sudden popularity of ‘the surf’ in new music, any insight into that?

Well, we’re from Florida so we come by that theme honestly, there’s a lot of bands that are also keying in on that imagery. Best Coast is playing tonight, Beach Fossils, Beach House. We of drew upon that idea, not because of those bands, we had no idea that people would want to listen to that beach theme. It’s kind of unexpected, also kind of annoying.

It just seems so coordinated.

I promise it isn’t. Great minds think alike.

Jane's Party - Where did you get the name Surfer Blood from? It’s a great name.

We were taking a trip to Gainesville, we were really hung over, we were going to a show. We woke up late, we were in a rush, TJ took some kind of surfer backpack, I’m like, “Dude, that’s so gnarly man.” I was ragging on him really hard. Somehow we came up with the name Surfer Blood, and we liked it because it takes the classic image but also fucks with it a little bit. A youthful, invulnerable in-your-face attitude. Surfers never die.

Jane's Party - Unless there’s a shark in the water.

Do you think this desire for the surf is a form of escapism?

Oh it’s totally escapism. Real life is scary. Current times are shitty. Politics are messed up. People are really irresponsible and fuck up their oil rigs, messing up our earth and there’s not a whole lot we can do about that. So there is some escapism. But for us it was kind of an aesthetic choice, and I don’t think aestheticism is escapism by any means.

Should music be escapism?

No, not at all. If Minor Threat was an escapist band I’d be pretty bummed. If Fugazi were an escapist band I’d be pretty bummed. Music is whatever works for you and whatever you want to go for.

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Sea Therapy Fri, 16 Jul 2010 06:12:23 +0000 Girlofbirthday Photos Courtesy of It is the calm after the thunderstorm. Fashion spent a 2010 Fall/Winter season worshiping Balmain’s party-girl aesthetic with studded handbags, navy sequined cropped jackets, body-con dresses and strappy four-inch gladiator heels that soared above the ground. Men and women raged the nightclub scene in disco colours like fuschia, orange, and purple.

Photos Courtesy of

It is the calm after the thunderstorm.

Fashion spent a 2010 Fall/Winter season worshiping Balmain’s party-girl aesthetic with studded handbags, navy sequined cropped jackets, body-con dresses and strappy four-inch gladiator heels that soared above the ground. Men and women raged the nightclub scene in disco colours like fuschia, orange, and purple. Nars’s Schiap nail polish was a popular choice, named after surrealist fashion designer Elsa Schiaparelli. Sweaters with broad, beaded shoulders and marching band jackets were a salute to the King of Pop’s death.

One fashion year later, that memory is bittersweet. Michael Jackson hits no longer tremble through the speakers in stores. I recently heard a salesgirl chat so loudly with another about her weekend plans that she drowned out a faintly played, radio station tribute of “The Girl is Mine”.

After the rain comes sun, and the summer heat is like a Sunday morning hangover. On the dog days of summer where it’s over 37 degrees Celcius, I can only think of one thing to cool me down, and that’s to be on the water. Quite frankly, the beach wouldn’t be the right cure to those throbbing UV rays, especially with the effects of global warming strutting before the melted eyeshadow on our eyes. Instead of transporting us to tropical island excursions this season, several new designers have taken inspiration from boating trips and sailing voyages for their Resort 2011 and Spring/Summer collections. Being on a sailboat is much cooler anyways.

For some designers, sailing voyages remind them of impressionist artists who took their rowboats into nature and painted abstract flowers. In the impressionist art movement, spontaneity was the drive, and the blurring between lines was an important element that exemplified the feminine and romantic spirit of those days. On the runway, small, multicoloured florals were the predominant print of the season. The floral prints look less Renaissance and more Impressionist in their execution - less Italian and more French in their cultural references. Dresses, blouses, pants, shorts, sailor shorts, scarves, jackets and everything you can possibly imagine down to the ankle socks on your feet were printed in small abstract flowers. Some flowers even bled into the colours of others. These new textile designers give Monet a run for his money. Cacharel and Balenciaga even styled separates together in head-to-toe floral prints, making it hard for the eye to differentiate where the blouse ends and the pant waistband begins. At Jason Wu, long bias-cut dresses with ruffles were given a further Parisian touch with confectionery colours.

Courtesy of

Left to Right: Cacharel Resort 2011, Balenciaga Resort 2011, Jason Wu Resort 2011, Jill Stuart Resort 2011 - Courtesy of

And while florals are not a new Spring trend we haven’t seen before, their enthusiastic whimsy this season are made current by designers blurring the boundaries between the feminine and masculine. The femininity of the printed frocks is juxtaposed with dandy, masculine elements and southern garcon flair, seen through finishing details and accessories. The straw porkpie hat is a popular fashion accessory on the runway, with references to gender pushing artists such as Mary Cassatt, or in the case of the Dior men’s show, Buster Keaton. For women, neck bows and French jabots are worn with tailored men’s shirts or military cargo jackets; tight tops are paired with slouchy pants; exaggerated glasses balance serious shifts; gingham plaid patterns turn up in chain handbags; and high-waisted ankle pants come in waist-to-toe flower prints. I can see the girls on the street pairing these pants with Sperry top-sider boat shoes.

Even men have adopted a creative outlet through their appearance as much as women. Cream coloured suits were splattered with watercolor flower motifs at Kenzo; Lanvin creates a men’s embossed brocade suit; John Galliano has a Degas moment, putting his male models in satin ballet point shoes with jute soles.

Left to right: John Galliano S/S 2011, Kenzo S/S 2011, Lanvin Homme S/S 2011 - Courtesy of

Left to right: John Galliano S/S 2011, Kenzo S/S 2011, Lanvin Homme S/S 2011 - Courtesy of

In some cases, the soft, romantic boating motifs for summer were contrasted by mod silhouettes in Technicolor and nautical brass accessories, as if taken straight out of the Godard classic Pierrot Le Fou, set in the Mediterranean Sea. Junya Watanabe’s Men’s show had jackets in all the primary colors taken straight out of  Jean-Paul Belmondo’s closet. Jil Sander did an entire collection of solid neon basics. Men exposed their ankles in flood pants by rolling up the hems, which proves to be a recession-proof technique that avoids taking your slacks to the tailor. Marc Jacob’s women’s Resort collection was also quirky, whimsical and nautical at the same time. Retro colour-blocked dresses and exaggerated straw boaters reminded me of Anna Karina’s baby blue sweaters and bright red dresses. Prada went overboard in Technicolor accessories, which ranged from ankle socks in fun colors to bracelets that reminded me of the stacked ring toys I used to play with when I was a kid.

Left to Right: Junya Watanabe S/S 2011, Marc Jacobs Resort 2011, Jil Sander S/S 2011, Prada Resort 2011 - Courtesy of

Left to Right: Junya Watanabe S/S 2011, Marc Jacobs Resort 2011, Jil Sander S/S 2011, Prada Resort 2011 - Courtesy of

How is it that fashion has taken inspiration from such opposite eras of our timeline? Although it’s hard to dissect how Renoir’s “Dejuner-Canotiers/The Boating Party” could be reincarnated on the runway, or how designers figure that women and men want to buy clothes that pay tribute to New Wave French cinema, both ideas seem to merge together this season to form the perfect outfits for a summer voyage.

I recently went to a public park screening of Godard’s A Woman is a Woman in the Lower East Side of New York. It was my friend Isabel’s idea -- even if the movie was still trippy after two glasses of wine, we could at least take pleasure in the colours, the costumes, and the art direction. There were hundreds of young neighbourhood intellectuals and artsy fartsies there that night, absorbing the artistic inspiration from this period, while smirking at the crappy, confusing dialogue. They probably would have done just the same in the sixties. The experience was retro, but still fresh.

Perhaps it has to do with the resurgence of existentialism in the air, and that dressing in this eclectic manner is an expression of freedom to live one’s life as passionately as possible. Maybe it’s an ironic commentary on the social divides created by commercial mass market corporations -- screw the gender rules created by the patriarchal society, I want to wear FLOWERS! Maybe women and men just prefer to wear clothes where they don’t have to take themselves too seriously, especially on vacation. Whatever it all means, the beauty of summer is knowing that any day is an opportune moment for an expedition, and a sailing one at that. After a hard year of being bombarded with work, school, papers, numbers, and bills to name a few, it’s nice to relax and play, no?

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Toronto Fringe Festival 2010: Reviews by Sarah Beaudin Fri, 16 Jul 2010 06:11:47 +0000 Sarah Beaudin Rochdale: Livin' the Dream Everyone’s heard tales of Rochdale College, Toronto’s infamous free-thinking, free-spirited, tuition-free college of the 60s. Residing in an 18-storey apartment building, it was Canada largest co-op housing program and a place for artistic exploration, political discussions, and guerilla academics. Trying to capture all that in a short Fringe show seems an

Rochdale: Livin' the Dream

Everyone’s heard tales of Rochdale College, Toronto’s infamous free-thinking, free-spirited, tuition-free college of the 60s. Residing in an 18-storey apartment building, it was Canada largest co-op housing program and a place for artistic exploration, political discussions, and guerilla academics. Trying to capture all that in a short Fringe show seems an impossible task.

Still, Rochdale: Livin’ the Dream puts in a valiant effort. Written by the Breanne Ritchie, Christopher Rodriguez, and Scott Cavalheiro this show is a lot like the college itself: based on good intentions that fizzled out in the end. It’s a fun reminder of our Torontonian roots in community culture and idealist thinking, but as a play it struggles.

None of the performances were particularly stunning, though Cavalheiro (who plays the Prez, Robert Hilton) is certainly dedicated to his role. Baring his heart (and body!) much to the audience’s amusement. The DJ, Terry “Tallboy” Tunstein (Shamier Anderson) was great, but it’s too bad the credibility of his character disappeared as he tried to put 45s on a turntable without an adapter. Maybe that’s my sound production nerdiness creeping in as a bias, but the whole set was lacking the genuineness that their story called for. It pays homage to the Unknown Student sculpture outside, but the rest of the art representations are purely speculative. The set lacked the psychedelic tones of the original art, the very lifeblood of the college, but you did still get the free-spirited idea of the space.

The true pity is that there is so much history and life in Rochdale’s tale that never got touched on. Instead, as is often the pitfall of young playwrights, the play surrounded a story of drugs and partying, and the inevitable terror of when it all goes wrong. I wouldn’t classify it as an after school special, but it certainly crosses that line at times. It’s a difficult topic to write about well, and it does take some gall to tackle a project of this scale. I look forward to seeing what Ritchie, Rodriquez and Cavalheiro do in the future because I’m betting they can do better. If Rochdale was proof of anything, it’s that good things can come of messy situations. After all, Theatre Passe Muraille is just one of the many successes that emerged from the co-op.

Toronto Fringe Festival

Photo courtesy of

Wedding Night in Canada

A comedy in the surest form, this play opens with the biggest joke of all: that the Leafs could ever land a chance at the Stanley Cup. Wedding Night in Canada, written by Francine Dick and directed by Victoria Shepherd, combines this impossible hilarity and the antics of a bridezilla for an evening of warmhearted chuckles and a sincerity not often found in Fringe.

Heddy, the bride (played by Esther Jaciuk), is furious when her wedding reception is taken over by giant screen TVs and hockey fever. To her dismay, the guests seem more interested in watching the playoffs than enjoying her perfectly planned day and in the temper tantrum of the century, she locks herself in a storeroom. Jaciuk plays a bridezilla with alarming authenticity - you’ve got to wonder what her own wedding day would be like! Flamboyant best man Karim (Adrian Rebucas) is sent in to rally morale. Rebucas, in his Fringe premiere, rallies the entire audience’s morale, stealing the show with his absurd facial expressions and charming physical humour. The groom, John Rowe, makes an entrance of course, but barely manages to win over his bride or the audience.

The design was simple, making it the perfect set up for a fringe show. The actors were in the spotlight, so the audience never once missed a witty joke or an inappropriately placed hand… I have it on good authority that the blocking notes were something akin to softcore porn. (Rest assured, nothing too explicit, just enough to make poor Karim hilariously uncomfortable with the newlyweds). Dick hoped her show will offer a “fun and lighthearted time,” and it does just that.

Overall Wedding Night in Canada is an endearing piece sure to be loved by any woman who’s ever planned an event, dealt with Stanley Cup or Super Bowl party… and every man who fantasizes about the Leafs finally winning something.

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Round Round Get Around: This Just Makes Me Want To Puke All Over Your Head, Sir Fri, 16 Jul 2010 06:11:41 +0000 C.S. Folkers Contrary to my typical time/space arrangement, I do not currently exist in Toronto – and thus at Eastern Standard Time. Rather, as of last week I have temporarily returned to my roots: Western Canada, Edmonton to be exact, and will be here visiting family and such for the next few weeks. It’s been pretty good

Photo by Matthew Filipowich

Photo by Matthew Filipowich

Contrary to my typical time/space arrangement, I do not currently exist in Toronto – and thus at Eastern Standard Time. Rather, as of last week I have temporarily returned to my roots: Western Canada, Edmonton to be exact, and will be here visiting family and such for the next few weeks. It’s been pretty good thus far.

So, those of you familiar with this column will surely know that I’ve lost my faith a little bit with regards to the TTC, as well as Toronto’s capacity to give a shit about infrastructure. G20 certainly didn’t help, either. In addition to my overwhelming desire to vomit all over Dalton McGuinty’s best suit, I crave little more than to suckerpunch David Miller when his bodyguards aren’t looking and then take him out for coffee where I will apologize for clocking him and explain the best strategy for going about growing a pair. This is of course without even getting into the unnatural, obscene things I’d like to see done to the Fuhrer. But that’s all actually not at all what I wanted to talk about here. I just wanted to briefly remind everyone that those guys are chumps.

Infrastructure is getting to be a pretty prickly issue in Toronto, even more so than usual. Mostly because getting anything accomplished in this city is – you guessed it – more time consuming and costly than the average person’s logic would suggest. As I’ve mentioned in previous columns, I’m often prone to saying that the majority of Toronto’s infrastructure problems are more or less universal as far as larger cities go. Name me a city with over a half million citizens that doesn’t have a tighter-than-reasonable budget and a whole whack of problems that need a-solvin’ and fast.

While far from the utopian Magic City of Efficient Infrastructure that is forever haunting my dreams with its glorious promise – not to mention that it will forever live in the shadows of much greater Canadian cities – I was surprised to find when I arrived in Edmonton, that the city was being developed in many positive directions and with seeming haste. Weird. Usually Alberta is a hot, sweaty breeding ground for politicians of the tax-slashing, surplus-enjoying sort – not to mention Western Separatists – who enjoy little more than giving cities a hard time. Strangely though, there seems to be a lot going on around here when it comes to transit and urban development.

I lived in Edmonton until I was nineteen and at no point was transit even remotely a priority for anyone. I’m the only person I can think of around here who doesn’t know how to drive, so who cares about the ETS (Edmonton Transit System)? This is first and foremost, above and beyond, irrevocably, interminably and staunchly a motorist’s city. Up until recently, I would rank the ETS down with the atrocious mess that is Mississauga Transit. For some reason, though, city council seems to be concerned that people might actually like to enjoy the city they live in.

Seriously, guys, this is some completely unheard of stuff.

Courtesy of the City of Edmonton

Courtesy of the City of Edmonton

Edmonton doesn’t have a subway in the sense that Toronto has a subway. Toronto’s subway (apart from the SRT) is heavy rail, almost entirely underground, and of course it’s much larger. Edmonton’s rapid transit system consists of a single light rail line (LRT) that runs from the northeast corner of the city to the south-central edge with a grand total of fifteen stations end to end. This seems pretty unimpressive, until you consider that one third of the line has been built in the past four years after having being stuck at a measly ten stations since 1992. The two latest additions to the Southern extension project, Southgate and Century Park stations, were just opened earlier this year. I ventured down that way – which given the location of my parents’ place in relation to the extension was no short trip – and was surprised to find that the new stations are operating as though they’ve always been there, integrated flawlessly at street level. I was impressed.

Now it seems as though Edmonton City Council is going transit crazy, with plans to extend the LRT in just about every direction possible, including the construction of a second line to serve the city’s two stranded-yet-primary education centers: the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology and Grant MacEwan University (the University of Alberta is already served by three separate stations in the existing network). Not only do the plans for these projects exist, but the city is already finding inroads for funding them and is giving them an extremely liberal timeline for completion.

Of course, there are many differences between TTC and ETS, Toronto and Edmonton. The most obvious of which is that Toronto is a much bigger city with about three times the population in the city proper and almost five times bigger as a metropolitan area. Also, Alberta is typically viewed as a province with money to throw around. Sure. Fine. Personally, I am of the mind that when it comes to budget, infrastructure, etc, everything is proportional. Toronto has three times as many people, it should have three times the budget and three times the demand for infrastructure initiatives. We’re still talking about the same country, so costs should realistically be in the same ballpark. There’s a lot of things to take into account, and there will never be a clear cut answer of which city is necessarily “ahead”.

However, there are a few things that I would like to draw attention to that make Edmonton Transit interesting when compared to the TTC:

  1. Edmonton transit, in terms of both subways and buses is one hundred per cent wheelchair accessible. The TTC is not even close to that.
  2. Edmonton sets unrealistic timelines. This seems like a bad thing, but in this case I’m inclined to believe that it’s much more irritating to hear in 2010 that something is going to take until 2020 than it is in 2010 to hear that something is going to take until 2014 and then takes until 2020. At the very least it makes projects palpable to citizens and then they can complain about how something that they know about is coming is taking so long, rather than how this thing that probably isn’t going to happen still isn’t happening.
  3. This is the big one for me: staggered openings. I don’t understand why the TTC feels that it is necessary to wait until an entire line is built before considering it open. With the Southern expansion of the LRT, Edmonton Transit opened a station in 2006, two in 2009 and two more in 2010. Again, citizens are more content when things are palpable to them. It makes it at least appear as though things are happening. In Toronto, the TTC expects to open the Yonge-University-Spadina extension to York University/Vaughn to open all at once allegedly in 2014, but more realistically 2016-18. But with all of the budget cuts and skyrocketing costs, not to mention the time it takes to get projects off of the ground at all, even projects like this that have been assured to be a done deal are looking less plausible by the second. Why don’t we stagger the station openings over the course of a few years rather than waiting until their all finished? Sheppard West and Finch West in 2012, York University and Steeles West in 2014 and Highway 7 and Vaughn Corporate Center in 2016. Everybody’s happy-ish. The only realistic downside to this is, as we’ve seen with the Sheppard subway, when this happens, governments tend to see opportunities to pack in the project early and halt development because “hey, this should be good enough.”

Finally, much bigger cities are expanding at a much faster rate, including some of the largest rapid transit systems in the world. New York’s subway is expanding, London’s underground is expanding, Paris’ Metro is expanding. Even Edmonton’s comparatively measly LRT is expanding at a much faster rate than Toronto’s subways or light rail transit. There’s a reason I haven’t touched vodka in years: I was saving it for Dalton.

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NXNE 2010: Something About A Horse and His Boy Fri, 16 Jul 2010 06:11:23 +0000 C.S. Folkers London's A Horse and His Boy are a band that I first caught wind of while attending the CD release show of last month's cover band, Krupke. They were the opening band on that bill and I managed to catch some of their set, though for reasons which require far more explanation than I am

London's A Horse and His Boy are a band that I first caught wind of while attending the CD release show of last month's cover band, Krupke. They were the opening band on that bill and I managed to catch some of their set, though for reasons which require far more explanation than I am willing to give at this point, I didn't really receive the brunt of the A Horse and His Boy experience. The following week it's NXNE and I'm at the Gladstone Hotel to see Rock Plaza Central. My friends and I decide to stick around afterward mostly because the Gladstone is the closest NXNE venue to my house and A Horse and His Boy are playing later in the evening. "Are they any good?" someone asks, to which I reply "If I remember correctly, they're pretty deece."

Well, A Horse and His Boy, I'm sorry for mildly underestimating you, because after seeing you the second time, you have been officially promoted from "pretty deece" to "totally rad." Nice!

Photo by Sara Froese, Courtesy of A Horse and His Boy

Photo by Sara Froese, Courtesy of A Horse and His Boy

A Horse and His Boy are of an interesting breed. They play a strange blend of sample/synth-heavy post-rock/electro with lots of screaming. It's really weird and completely excellent.

"When people try to describe our music by using other bands, they always use completely different bands," says keyboardist and co-lead vocalist Nathan Noble, "I think Bauhaus is the only one I've head twice."

"Mostly late seventies art-rock bands," concurs sampler and co-lead vocalist, Aaron Simmons.

I'm going to say think of a Canadian Fuck Buttons with post-punk-ish vocals.

Last year, A Horse and His Boy released their first album on their own label, Open House - or, OH! as it's displayed, which is actually an arts collective that the band has started with other London-based musicians and artists. The record is a five track, thirty-minute intense trip through expansive ambient soundscapes, bizarre synth samples and endless, blissful noise. Their live set is equally as intense, as A Horse and His Boy, who are just about the most mismatched looking group of all time, make an unholy racket, punishing sound systems with the sheer level of noise, which by the time their songs peak is simply mind-boggling.

Aaron: "It's our first record, so it took a long time to evolve. It initially started out as a solo project for me and some of those songs and samples were used in that. Then Nathan and Sam joined and we evolved the songs more and then the other two joined and we evolved the songs more. And then we recorded it. It came out last September, we had been recording it for six months and writing it for about a year before that... It was recorded at a studio in London, a recording school, actually."

Nathan: "Ontarion Institute of Audio Recording Technology."

Aaron: "We worked with one of the interns there, so we got a pretty good deal to use an amazing studio."

Photo by Andrew Colvin, Courtesy of A Horse and His Boy

Photo by Andrew Colvin, Courtesy of A Horse and His Boy

A Horse and His Boy are just one of a lot of rock bands working today that makes liberal use of a sampler, which as Aaron and Nathan tell me, is a device essential to shaping the group's sound in many ways from songwriting, to recording to the band's live performances.

Aaron: "Usually, I'll just have some samples kicking around on my sampler and so when we feel like jamming we'll just turn one of those on and just write it there in the room, jam on it. Within a few takes of the song we'll have a pretty good structure for it."

Nathan: "There's not a whole lot of planning, the songs just kind of happen. The songs seem to come easily to us, not a lot of hangups, not a lot of disagreement..."

Aaron: "Most of the samples that we use are just things that I've made. When I started out I was using all sorts of different records, but now I will usually just come up with something on my synth and just sample that, have it looping because I am terrible at performing live music."

Nathan: "It's just easier."

Aaron: "Yeah, I wouldn't be able to sing if I was just sitting there trying to play those parts."

Nathan: "The head-pat tummy-rub is pretty difficult for both of us. There's a part in one of the new songs that I can't play and sing at the same time so I just stop playing, but on the recording I am still playing.

Aaron: "It allows you to do a lot of things you wouldn't be able to do live, get a lot of sounds you can't get live..."

Nathan: "So samples are kind of our crutch, but crutches aren't bad..."

I approached Nathan after the band's set at the Gladstone and he expressed to me some frustration with playing in a city like Toronto that the band isn't used to, where they don't have as much of a following as they do in their hometown, London. He told me that he felt a lot of strain in going from London where the band is liable to play for crowds of hundreds to Toronto where the audiences are much less numerous. Of course, the more a band plays in a city, the more of a following they'll get and I'm fairly certain that a group as interesting and unique as A Horse and His Boy should have no trouble in indie-rock crazy Toronto, given a little more exposure and a few more gigs.

"It's pretty easy to get noticed in a place like London," says Aaron.

A Horse and His Boy are a serious, serious band. After their set at the Gladstone, I was officially a convert, I even found their Narnia-referencing name to be charming and appropriate. Their music rides that very fine line between outright experimentation and total accessibility that we all enjoy so much and I personally hope to see them around town more often.

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Weird News @ShrodingerCat: Hey pal howsit goin? Fri, 16 Jul 2010 06:11:21 +0000 Nancy Situ I would say that people enjoy the conveniences of technology only slightly more than they fear a robot-infested apocalypse. I’m starting to think that when old people are reluctant to adapt to new technology, they’re not just befuddled by the complexity of some trendy new gadget. They’re actually sort of afraid that a gentle voice

I would say that people enjoy the conveniences of technology only slightly more than they fear a robot-infested apocalypse. I’m starting to think that when old people are reluctant to adapt to new technology, they’re not just befuddled by the complexity of some trendy new gadget. They’re actually sort of afraid that a gentle voice will be saying “Just what do you think you’re doing, Dave?” shortly after switching to the latest Blackberry. I’m saying this because I’m getting old and I’ve given up on trying new crap. I don’t have a twitter or tumblr or smartphone and my iPod is older than Justin Bieber. I’m still a little wary of touchscreens and the facial recognition thing this computer comes with is fucking scary. I’m pretty sure I’m going to be one of those old people using the most outdated technology because I’m afraid aliens will read my mind with crazy government brain scanners that they’ll probably have in the future.

My conspiracy theorist fears are not completely unwarranted. Just last month, a man was infected by a computer virus. Okay, it is not as wacky as it sounds. Mark Gasson, a University of Reader researcher, had a chip implanted in his hand and deliberately infected it with a virus from a laboratory computer. He was testing how simple radio-frequency identification chips like those used to track pets and other animals can carry computer viruses. As implantable bionic devices, like pacemakers, cochlear implants and “deep brain stimulators” become more complex, they will also have the potential to be infected by technological viruses. Imagine how terrifying The Matrix would have been if Agent Smith could control you from the inside. And then he could spread himself to anything you touch because everyone has wi-fi these days.

Courtesy of Maximum PC

Courtesy of Maximum PC

But seriously, even animals are more hip than I am. Cats are using Twitter via a lifelogging device equipped with a camera, acceleration sensor, and a GPS. The device detects the activities of what the cat is doing and posts comments on Twitter like “this tastes good” when the cat is eating something or “on a walk” when the kitty is taking a stroll. The reason I never got a Twitter is because I don’t think anyone would be care so much about my daily activities that they’d read updates on me taking the bus or something. Apparently cats are more interesting than I am.

No one I knew got an iPad because they’re just glorified iPod Touches and no one wants to carry around what sounds like an electronic “feminine sanitary napkin”. I really think Apple made a boo-boo on that one but at least dolphins are into it. They’re using iPads to teach dolphins to communicate with us. They can touch their noses (beaks) to a wide assortment of symbols on the screen and tell us when they’re sad or when they’re planning to enslave the human race with the help of Tweeting kittens and our brain pacemakers.

Ars Technica
Maximum PC

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NXNE 2010: A Lo-Fi Journey Fri, 16 Jul 2010 06:10:47 +0000 Dennis Reynolds When the guitars first appear at the beginning of Guided by Voices’ Bee Thousand, they sound like a collection of car engines struggling to get started. It’s an alarming sound, albeit a perversely inviting one. Bee Thousand was rec cialis for sale orded almost entirely on four-track tape recorders in garages in suburban Ohio. The

When the guitars first appear at the beginning of Guided by Voices’ Bee Thousand, they sound like a collection of car engines struggling to get started. It’s an alarming sound, albeit a perversely inviting one. Bee Thousand was rec

orded almost entirely on four-track tape recorders in garages in suburban Ohio. The sound is warm yet harsh, and sloppy but endearing. Bee Thousand falls into the loosely defined sub-genre of lo-fi music in which typically unwelcome low fidelity recording techniques are embraced. There is an inherent degree of irony to lo-fi music as a result of attempting to generate appeal by directly challenging the popular ethos of the recording arts. Bee Thousand, in particular, boasts all of the characteristics of a classic rock n’ roll record (ferocious guitars, monstrous hooks, scattershot yet memorable lyrics) and filters these established, conventional genre characteristics through the deliberately oppositional lo-fi guise.

Though Bee Thousand is entirely serious about its rock n’ roll content, its lo-fi medium strives to assert a more humorous and flippant tone. This disparity between Bee Thousand’s audible manifestation and tone of its content creates the central territory in which irony locates itself. While it’s lo-fi medium seems like it should express something scrappier and entirely less serious, GBV’s emphatic use of its sonic convention suggests that despite its shortcomings, it is able to express as much, if not more, than the traditionally comprehensible, high budget rock n’ roll medium. The appeal of lo-fi, then, is not in our appreciation for imperfection, but in the ironic appreciation we develop for art that demonstrates one thing, yet says something entirely different. Without establishing these oppositional qualities, lo-fi is nothing more than an aesthetic choice that struggles to translate into more than the novelty of its medium.

Photo by Scott Thomas Moroz

Photo by Scott Thomas Moroz

Lo-fi music is a lot like contemporary film intentionally filmed in black and white. What makes it interesting is not its intrinsic black and white qualities, but its intentional lack of colour in an age of advanced filmmaking technology. Once the audience is able to surpass the film’s technological shortcomings, the expectation is that they will locate the ironic disparity between the contemporary film and its seemingly out-of-date medium. A good example of this is Clerks, the Kevin Smith film about the unspectacular nuances of having the seemingly dead-end position of running a New Jersey convenience store. Clerks, released in 1994 and filmed entirely in black and white, is based on a period in Smith’s life in which he actually worked at a New Jersey convenience store. Though Clerks is designed to resemble a recent real life period, its black and white presentation prevents us from assuming that this is so. Rather than immersing us in the more lifelike world of colour, Clerks suspends us in a black and white classic-film gaze that acts as a constant reminder that what we see is distinctly less real than what is actually happening. Had Clerks been filmed in regular colour, it likely would have been less of a spectacularly ironic depiction of boring life and more of simply an unspectacular depiction of boring life.

With Bee Thousand as its primary catalyst, lo-fi has become less of a novelty and far more of a credible medium since the album’s release, also in 1994. While it’s certainly not the first example of a popular lo-fi recording (Springsteen’s Nebraska probably deserves this accolade), Bee Thousand unquestionably stands as the genre’s most celebrated artistic achievement. This, I would argue, has less to do with the songs themselves than it does with the album’s overall flawless mobilization of irony. But just as Bee Thousand exemplified a genre’s core cultural sensibility, it deluded the potential for future artists to achieve the same level of unparalleled spontaneity. In other words, lo-fi is now certainly more of a calculated expression and far less of a creative risk. This is less anybody’s fault than it is the natural progression of cutting-edge art gradually becoming more homogeneous as the medium becomes more commonplace. It’s probably worth noting that in 1999 Guided by Voices traded in their lo-fi sound for a much safer recording endeavor with the Cars’ Ric Ocasek. The resulting album, Do the Collapse, was a colossal flop. Strangely, lo-fi’s growth in credibility seemed to have a backwards effect on GBV. The band broke up in 2004 with frontman Robert Pollard embarking on a relatively successful solo career. It’s probably also worth noting that in 2005 Pollard released a comedy record titled Relaxation of the Asshole. While this is in no way significant to the rest of this article, it’s very much completely awesome.

Though lo-fi continues to become a more palatable term to throw around when describing bands, it remains massively underqualified in describing their live show. Frustratingly enough, this is central to my limited knowledge of both Wavves and Japandroids, the two bands I would be seeing on Friday night of this year’s NXNE festival. I have no choice but to make do, and hope that these artists’ lo-fi tendencies are about more than just an affinity for cheap, novel recording choices. (Wavves were preceded by a set from a band called The Happy Hollows, a ruthlessly energetic band from Los Angeles. I caught half of their set and actually wished I’d been able to see it all.)

A band’s lo-fi aesthetic should be representative of more than just their manifest sound qualities. If this were the case lo-fi would be an entirely superficial descriptor, failing to address the ironic appeal central to lo-fi as a communicative medium. For instance, Guided by Voices, an understandably lo-fi band, would often employ an array of rock n’ roll theatrics in their live shows, including excessive drinking, smoking, windmill guitar strums and Roger Daltrey-esque microphone-swings. At the time of Bee Thousand’s release, frontman Pollard was nearly forty-years old and just recently out of his job as an elementary schoolteacher. Not your typical rock n’ roll band. Yet, the fact that their live show was so unapologetically rock n’ roll seemed like adequate compensation for their remarkably un-rock n’ roll personas. Having a group of middle-aged suburban dudes act like classic rock royalty was not simply mere novelty, but the perfect extension of Bee Thousand’s ironic lo-fi expression.

Wavves, on the other hand, are a young, much-hyped band from San Diego, California. Lead singer Nathan Williams writes hook-heavy, pop-punk songs and records them directly into his Macbook’s internal microphone. Their resulting lo-fi recordings ooze heavy doses of both destructiveness and exuberance. I figured the live show would be a lot like their lo-fi recordings – exciting, energetic and rough around the edges. Even before they’ve played a note, I was already mesmerized by the eight-foot-tall cardboard cutouts of green ghouls they’ve placed on each side of the stage. I did, however, figure this to be a strange choice. Their live show already seemed a lot less accidental than their supposedly spontaneous and haphazard recordings.

By the time their scheduled eleven o’clock start time rolled around, the band was still soundchecking. Williams was demanding more reverb in his microphone while the drummer told mostly unfunny jokes akin to late-90s Blink-182 stage banter. By the time the band finally kicked into a tune, the energy was high and the room got pretty raucous. Despite finally riding some momentum, Wavves brought everything to a halt after the first song, and subsequently every song after that, and continued sharing their grating humour with us. This frustrated me, primarily because their live show seemed to lack all the overexcited qualities that made their lo-fi recorded output so appealing. Instead, the guys just came off looking like a bunch of brats trying to piss everyone off. Constantly toggling room dynamics is an admirable slacker-rock strategy if you allow your songs to set an unchallengeable tone. Unfortunately, Wavves were clinging to their banter as though it were the primary spectacle, therefore marginalizing the strength of their actual songs.

Based on their recordings alone, lo-fi seems like the adequate vehicle for Wavves to emphasize their youthful energy and destructiveness. By pitting their firepower against seemingly oppositional recording circumstances, Wavves come across as a powerfully urgent force on record. Their live show, however, suggests their whole aesthetic is little more than novel choice. That is because on stage, Wavves strive to distance themselves from a room of could-be supporters rather than use their songs to whip everyone into an absolute frenzy. Ultimately, their lo-fi sound is less indicative of urgency and instead painfully symbolic of a band perfectly content with alienating themselves as a means of reaffirming their self-appointed superiority. Rather than using lo-fi as a means of highlighting greater ironic subtext, Wavves’ lo-fi expression appears shallowly fun and self-absorbed.

Japandroids - Photo by Scott Thomas Moroz

Japandroids - Photo by Scott Thomas Moroz

For Japandroids to follow up Wavves intentionally staggered and inconsistent spectacle was a lot like a major league batter expecting a series of hard curveballs and instead seeing only lofty softballs. I’d listened to Japandroids’ Post-Nothing a few times before the show and couldn’t help but feel that its heavy dose of earnest garage-rock was exactly what this room needed. Yet, I certainly remained dubious. What I loved about Post-Nothing is how it made Japandroids’ guitar and drum combo appear as full and large as a regular-sized band. Part of this I figured to be due to the album’s limited sonic scope. The instrumental and vocal production is consistently raw, and engineered to peak whenever lead singer Brian King decides scream his face off. Whatever Post-Nothing lacks in sonic perfection it makes up for in sheer attitude and tone of delivery. Despite sounding like a dirty party record, Post-Nothing is desperately sincere in its discussion of adolescent uncertainty and the tribulations of being young, bored and jaded in your hometown. In many ways its attitude/presentation dichotomy is similar to that of Bee Thousand, wherein the limited sonic scope enhances the album’s content by developing an appealing degree of irony.

When Japandroids assembled on stage around midnight, King quickly identified himself, his bandmate (drummer David Prowse), their collective moniker and their hometown. Introduction over. No bullshit (softball already sailing into left-center bleachers). It was hard to tell if his charisma was natural or the result of non-stop touring. Either way, his blistering urgency cleared the air of whatever frustration remained in the room. Clearly, I was no longer doubtful. Japandroids sounded similar on stage to how they sound on record – bleedingly loud and ready to push the limits of their medium to the brink. King spent most of the show hammering out open chords in front of a curiously giant wall of amps. While constantly spitting all over the stage, he frantically leapt on and off a conspicuously placed riser in front of Prowse’s kickdrum. While Post-Nothing thrives by having you believe Japandroids’ overwhelming energy is merely the result of a loud band pinned against a lo-fi guise, their live show operates as a means of proving otherwise. Japandroids’ rock n’ roll presence is positively undeniable. This, of course, only enhances Post-Nothing as an ironic depiction of a very powerful and perfectly capable rock n’ roll band choosing to deliver their content through an intentionally underqualified lo-fi medium. While Post-Nothing or Bee Thousand may appear novel on the surface, it is their careful use of irony that encourage us to look beyond what we normally want to perceive as imperfections.

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Kicks: A Guide To Football, Culture and Fandom Fri, 16 Jul 2010 06:10:21 +0000 Alex Nicol Editor's note: As you will no doubt ascertain, this article was written before the FIFA World Cup Tournament began. For the average North American sports fan, the month of June is full of excitement. Why? The NHL and NBA finals are being fought over, the new season of Major League Baseball is well under way,

Editor's note: As you will no doubt ascertain, this article was written before the FIFA World Cup Tournament began.

For the average North American sports fan, the month of June is full of excitement. Why? The NHL and NBA finals are being fought over, the new season of Major League Baseball is well under way, and the CFL and NFL begin preseason training camp shortly. Suffice to say, the evenings and weekends are jam packed with excitement throughout the bars, living rooms and bedrooms of the nation. However, there is a glaring exception from this list: football. On June 11th, the World Cup finals tournament will begin South Africa, and the whole world will watch. Or will they?

Historically, the American tradition revolves around three sports: baseball, basketball and football. The same way hockey reflects Canadian culture and attitude