Zoilus by Carl Wilson

Archive for July, 2004

The Only Thing I’m Saying About U.S. Democratic Politics This Week Is

July 29th, 2004

that Barak Obama’s theme music is a unique combination of unintentionally hilarious and sincerely moving.

The chorus (are you listening yet? get to it) is especially clever as 1. a chant-along political rallying thing and 2. a subtle solution to the problem that most of your constituents can’t figure out how to pronounce your candidate’s name. It’s ‘Hooked on Senatorial Phonics’!

“Ba-RAK! …. Barak o-BA-MA!”

And because it’s too kitschy for its own entry: The Interweb is prone to overrating things like William Shatner Reciting Pulp’s Common People As A Bad Audition Monologue, I’m well aware. And for the most part the comic effect is shortlived and the irritation factor high; it mostly reminds you how fine the original was. But there is one moment that makes it entirely worthwhile, which is the split second when Joe Jackson enters on the closing chorus and it’s so seamlessly done that your ear is fooled for a second into thinking it is Shatner himself suddenly roaring into song, which turns this whole exercise inside out like some cosmic testimony to music. And without all of the anti-musicality and tedium of the track up until then, it could never work. Possibly the best moment in Joe Jackson’s career since … wow, 1986.

Also, a belated thanks to Mr. Jackson for his little salvo last year in the battle for common degeneracy. History is of course against us, and ought to be, but there is no reason not to maintain our totally unviable positional identities for the sake of the decaying culture museums of the unconscious.


The Mad Hatter & Me

July 29th, 2004

Ears be burnin’. Last night’s Tin TiN TIN is the talk of 20hz.ca. Find out why…

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Note to Self…

July 29th, 2004

… when you’re swamped with other assignments and have a show to run, an imaginary mixtape is always a good quickie column format.

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Fuschia Alert! 8 Hours to Tin

July 28th, 2004

A quick reminder that this week’s All! Summer! Fun! edition of TIN TIN TIN
is TONIGHT at the Drake.

Here are the set times:

* McFALCON-L: 10:00 (electro-improv-pop!)
* VIGILANTE JUSTICE - 10:40 (a capella techno music!)
* DO DEEP DUB SPIDERMEN - 11:20 (indie-rock meets dub-reggae meets ambient horns!)

and then

Tin Tin Tin is the monthly (except August) music-community mash-up, mash-on, mash-out!
The Drake is at 1150 Queen West at Beaconsfield. The show is in the basement.
Price is Pay What You Can but between $10 and $5 is suggested.
Artastickness by Margaux Williamson.
Drinks are there for the drinking. Dances are there for the dancing.

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Blues for Langston Hughes

July 26th, 2004

hughes.jpg“Portrait of Langston Hughes” by Carl Van Vechten, 1936.

Off-topic, strictly speaking, though Hughes’ poetry was certainly closely bound to music. But I think this response to the idiot wind of Timothy Noah in Slate today deserves a public airing. Noah’s basic gripe is that John Kerry shouldn’t be using Hughes’ line “Let America Be America Again” as a campaign slogan because (a) it arguably oversimplifies the ironic, not nostalgic sense in which Hughes meant it - let America be the America it’s never been for a black man; and (b) Hughes was a Communist: “Toil good, private ownership bad, etc. … the future Hughes imagined for America when he wrote those words probably looked a lot like Stalinist Russia.” Noah claims that he “brings all this up not to bash Hughes … but to warn Kerry that this particular Hughes poem comes with baggage he would best do without.” As opposed to what? Maybe Dreams Deferred?: “What happens to a dream deferred? .. Maybe it just sags/ like a heavy load./ Or does it explode?”

Dear Mr. Noah,
I almost never write letters to my fellow journalists, but your campaign against Langston Hughes is one of the most absurd abuses of the pulpit I have seen in ages.

As you say yourself, “Hughes … was hardly the only serious artist who swooned over the Soviet experiment during the 1930s.” However, that does not mean that all the work those artists produced in that troubled time was Stalinist propaganda. Sorry for the inconvenience, but you cannot wish away all politically engaged American art so easily.

The finest of these artists were responding to the conditions of their own lives, in their own country. If in hindsight we disagree with the solutions they were attracted to, that does not invalidate the questions they asked. To infer from the poem that Hughes was stumping for a Soviet-style command economy and dictatorship of the proletariat is to impute far more to the words than are there. Whatever he might have endorsed for that short interval, his poetry was not making policy proposals.

It was not that American artists in the 1930s fell in love with the gulag and then fell out of love with it, but that they did not know about the gulag and were disillusioned when they discovered it. In particular, many black Americans at the time found that the Communist party was the only white political organization in America that sought them out and vocally supported their full enfranchisement and civil rights, not some charity-minded compromise. The Communists were opportunistic, yes, but there it was.

These artists briefly imagined that the fair and cooperative society they yearned for was being built in Russia. It was not, of course. But that does not mean that their dream itself was evil - nor that they went on to abandon it. It is a dream that reasonable people around the world hold dear. To many people it is the unrealized American dream - not socialism, but a broader sense of democracy.

It would include the concept that the privileged should not monopolize the governance of a society, and even that there should be some mechanism to redistribute parts of their hoarded resources to the needy. (We wild-eyed radicals call it progressive taxation.)

Perhaps in his heart John Kerry believes that too. I hope so.

Hughes’ poem does not say the American promise is “hooey.” It says that it has been repeatedly betrayed, yet still might be honoured. That paradox still resonates with millions of people now, reflecting their own experiences of America, not just within your own borders but around the world, most sharply right now in Iraq.

It is heartening that Kerry is aware enough of Hughes’ legacy - one of the earliest notable literary achievements in black American culture - to quote him and even introduce a collection of his poems. Why don’t you ask the sitting president if he even knows who Hughes was? What a relief to see a candidate who has some grasp of the cultural history of the country he proposes to govern.

For you to respond with Red-baiting, point-scoring guff, using Langston Hughes as your whipping boy, is an offence to literature, to black culture in particular, and to your readers’ intelligence. The likes of you spat on him while he was alive. I beg of you: Must you also spit on his grave?

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Blog Attacked! And Emily Haines Attacked Too

July 26th, 2004

Some robot somewhere has been comment-bombing me - this morning at least 8 new spam comments appeared on every entry on this site, to a total of thousands. Any Jack the Robot Killers out there with tips on cleanup and prevention, they’re appreciated. (It’s movable type if that’s not obvs.)

In other news - at the El Mocambo this weekend, Emily Haines of Metric hits the stage blindfolded and feels her way to a piano in the dark, then proceeds to play 45 minutes’ worth of slow creepy music with her back almost turned to the crowd. Frank and Graig have radically different reactions, so much so that their reviews are documentary evidence that there is no such thing as objective aesthetic assessment. I’m so bo-o-ored with crit-i-cal con-sen-sus and add-a-line debate, that I’m drawn to the way total disagreements crack open discursive/wu-li-masters-dancing-mind space.

I wasn’t in attendance but from what they say I suspect that I’d be on the pro-slow-creepy-Emily side - I could take or leave every aspect of Metric except her pipes and the theatrical way she uses them, and those qualities would probably be in the black-light spotlight in this kind of show.

(As much as I like big huge showmanship - as at Friday’s Hidden Cameras show, which would have been stupendous if there had been better sound (it was bad) and if there had been more between-pews room for dancing (the church up the street is better) - I also like aggressive anti-showmanship like Emily’s back-turned grammar here. That slack shit in-between that you get from the other 90 per cent? Hmph.)

Much to talk about from Saturday’s alternative-black-music gabfest at Harbourfront with the likes of K-Os and Shawn Hewitt and Graph Nobel and James Spooner and Kandia Crazy Horse - for instance, one of the last statements of the day was that all music critics should just be killed off, hmmm - but sadly no time right now. Dontcha worry, it’ll come back to haunt us/ like the ghost of Pocahontas.


Wednesday! Drake! Uh-Huh! Summer Lovin’!

July 23rd, 2004

Here’s the lineup for Tin Tin Tin this month. More details to follow.


live music community mash-out

McFALCON-L - mn-l (guitar) + David McCallum (electronics) + members of Calgary’s Falconhawk (synthpop)

VIGILANTE JUSTICE - Ninja High School + friends doing 90s house-techno classix a capella!!

DUB/ROCK - guitars, horns, drums, bass bass bass, by members of Mean Red Spiders + Resinators + Do Make Say Think + Deep Dark United + Lullabye Orchestra Speedway.

DOORS 9 pm SHOW 10 pm
PWYC ($5-$10 sugg.)

Dancing music by Global Pop Conspiracy
Interior design by Margaux Williamson
Presented by Carl Wilson
Info: Zoilus

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The Comfort Brief, Impure and Sweet

July 22nd, 2004

Excited about the Hidden Cameras show tomorrow? Me too. Think you’ll get in, since all tickets are at the door? Me neither.

I am unusually happy about today’s column, though. Best route to good writing: Have something else you really ought to be writing instead. (Something that days later I am still not finished, even though it is not so huge.)

The mind, my friends, is a perverse organ.

Speaking of which, I’ve never thought about the terms “Entry Body” and “Extended Entry” on the editing template quite this way before.

But one other important note (to be made official in next week’s column): I used the term “Salivation Army Marching Band” in print today all too loosely. The Salivation Army is a project solely by Scott Treleaven and doesn’t have any affiliation with the Hidden Cameras except mutual respect and affection. I was thinking about their artistic affinities, but they aren’t the same entity by any means and I didn’t mean to confuse that issue.

Comfort Brief, Impure and Sweet">2 Comments

A Bamboo Needle on a Shellac of Chopin

July 20th, 2004

Contrasting views on Il Sogno, Elvis Costello’s foray into orchestral music, from Alex Ross (con) and Terry Teachout (pro). They both seem to be agreed that he’s good at the orchestrations, which shouldn’t be so suprising as he has been orchestrating on his pop albums for years. Otherwise, total split opinion.

Sorry for the lack of posting action after I got you all het up last week. Deadline-crazed week. More substance soon.

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Bull Market In Death Metal?

July 16th, 2004

If Dan Baum’s powerful New Yorker feature “The Price of Valor” this week is any indication, Iraq-war veterans could have a surprising effect on the pop-music industry - less Kylie Minogue, more Necrosis and Rotting Christ:

ìWe killed a lot of people,î [Carl] said as we ate. [...] Debbie watched the waitress clear our plates, then she leaned forward to tell about a night in July, after Carlís return, when they went with some friends to the Afterhours Enlisted Club at Fort Benning. Carl had a few drinks, Debbie said, and started railing at the disk jockey, shouting, ìI want to hear music about people blowing peopleís brains out, cutting peopleís throats!î Debbie continued, ìI said, ëCarl. Shut up.í He said, ëNo, I want to hear music about shit Iíve seen!íî Carl listened to Debbieís story with a loving smile, as though she were telling about him losing his car keys. ìI donít remember that,î he said, laughing. Debbie said, ìThat was the first time I heard him say stuff about seeing peopleís brains blown out. Other times, he just has flashbacksólike, he sits still and stares.î Carl laughed again. ìReally, though, Iím fine,î he said. Beside him in the booth, Debbie shook her head without taking her eyes from mine and exaggeratedly mouthed, ìNot fine. Not fine.î

The point here is not actually the gleaming future fan-base prospects for Amon Amarth, Bloodgasm, Children Of Bodom and Cannibal Corpse, but that apparently, all the military and Veterans’ Affairs shrinks in America have never once stopped to consider that perhaps, along with other forms of battlefield trauma, soldiers may occasionally feel a twinge of moral discomfort about having, well, you know, shot people in cold blood. Baum explains why Iraq is a particularly troublesome case, with a lot of close-range fighting and wildly disproportionate firepower between the two sides.

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