Saturday, November 26, 2005

Submitted for Your Consideration

Okay blogosphere (that is the dumbest word ever - scratch that). Okay sundry internet users who are reading my blog - deliberately or by accident - what do you think? This is a pastel sketch I did for a painting I'm going to do for my friend's office. The project's parameters were pretty much the word "bloom" and that it be a painting (as opposed to a sculpture or performance piece or something). So while it's for an office, it's hardly a "please match my couch" type of piece. Thank you Kie for trusting me with that kind of leeway. I've already had a couple really good compliments from people I really respect - so I'm not fishing for anything like that - I just want some honest feedback. This is going to be committed to canvas by the end of the year.
In the meantime controller.controller is revealing layers of beauty amid their punk-disco sound, check them out.

Friday, November 25, 2005

More Book Updates

I haven't done this in a while so here goes:

Life of Pi is going quite well. It's well written, especially when one considers that the plot is nothing more than a boy and a tiger floating around for a long time. My only recommendations to would-be readers is to avoid the sequences where he's killing fish or turtles while you are eating. Maybe they bothered me just on account of my general disgust for seafood, but still...

Actually I'm not sure why I'm advising people on this book, everyone else seems to have read it. At least of the people I know who would read it.

Thursday, November 24, 2005


Post-rock is such a dumb name for a genre. "Post" is supposed to mean "after," is it not? And yet rock is still happening. Moreover rock is probably more vital now than it has been in ten years, so I don't know who came up with this stupid name. It's probably the dumbest genre name since "emo" came along.

All that aside, I do like a number of post-rock bands. Godspeed You! Black Emperor, and Polmo Polpo come to mind. I don't know whether SIANspheric is post-rock or neo-shoegazer or what, but I like them too. I like the big cinematic landscapes of this bands. I like that there are no lyrics. If there were lyrics, people might think it was prog-rock. I suppose so long as we got written promises that the lyrics would not reference science fiction, Lord of the Rings, greek myth, Wagner's operas, fantasy online video games, or anything else like that.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Doing the Franz Ferdinand Dance

Normally I am a hoodie-and-jeans type of guy. That's just what I'm happiest to wear most of the time. Last weekend though I put on this blazer that I had sitting in my closet forever. I was playing bass and I thought, hey I'll make an effort to look nice. Let me tell you, playing in any kind of fancy jacket makes you want to move in that jerky sort of dance that I associate with Franz Ferdinand and all those bands. I thought that maybe that was just my association with dressing up to play music. Neil though was able to provide some independant insight though. In blazers, suit jackets and the like, shoulders become more important to one's physique, and yet more constrained. Neil knows about this kind of thing, so I'll just have to assume that that's correct.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Lost Again

I watched Lost in Translation again tonight. It is just so beautiful and so existential really. For a year after this film came out I had a crush on Scarlett Johansson's character, Charlotte. But watching it this time, I didn't feel like I was in love with Charlotte so much as I felt I am Charlotte. Except of course that I don't think I'd look that hot in a pink wig.

Seriously though, there are so many layers in that film. The subtexts, the little looks between the characters. I wouldn't say I missed them all the first time I saw it, but I will say that I wasn't perhaps conscious of how they were affecting me. Wow. So good.

Monday, November 21, 2005

The Wanderer

U2 did a song called The Wanderer with Johnny Cash on vocals back in 1993. It was a bit incongruous because this song was on Zooropa, widely considered U2's most avant-garde album. Here at the end of this album of futuristic rock is Johnny Cash singing in that thunderous voice of his. But it worked, the song is a hidden gem. Fast-forward to last week, U2 performed The Wanderer as part of a tribute to Cash that was aired on American television. The rendition they did was probably their best TV performance ever. You can see it here, just scroll down.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

I'm So Confused

This has happened to me several times, including today:
For some reason a conversation will strike up between myself and some girl I don't really know about something in which we are mutually interested. On some occasions, when with friends, they insist that said girl is interested in me (in the boy-girl way). They say that, but I have my doubts and this is why:

How in the hell do you determine when someone is expressing interest in the person, and when they are expressing interest in the subject being discussed? I mean surely not every conversation with a member of the opposite sex with whom one is not well acquainted is an expression of interest. I mean some strange girl might just really want to talk about Kraftwerk or The Clash or Joy Division (Why are all these topics actually bands?) with no ulterior motive. But how can you tell? I wish that they would just say, "Look, I'm faking this, I don't give a damn about The Demics or some song they wrote about New York, just ask for my number, mmkay?" Because some of these conversations are innocent, right? Surely this must happen some of the time. I mean I'm right, aren't I?

Friday, November 18, 2005


I just got commissioned to do a large-ish painting for Kie's new office (it's a real office too, no cubicle any more). If I end up doing something that's half-decent, I may even post it here.

In less warm news, the snow is now staying on the ground outside my window (it'll melt soon, I'm sure, but there are white patches out there). I was thinking out loud about this yesterday and it occured to me that if I was looking outside at this snow from a classroom of grade ones, I'd inevitably be swept along by their enthusiasm. The first couple snows each year have got to be one of the biggest thrills in a Toronto childhood.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Something to Make February Bearable

Easily the holiday-free gray waking-death of late-winter Toronto renders February my least favourite month. But at least this is coming:
"The Life Pursuit", released in the UK/Europe on Feb 6th by Rough Trade Records.
Released a day later in the US by our old muckers at Matador Records. Spunk
will be fulfilling Australasian duties as usual, with Trama covering Brazil and
Toshiba in Japan.

The album tracklisting goes a little something like this:

Act Of The Apostle Part 1
Another Sunny Day
White Collar Boy
The Blues Are Still Blue
Dress Up In You
Sukie In The Graveyard
We Are The Sleepyheads
Song For Sunshine
Funny Little Frog
To Be Myself Completely
Act Of The Apostle Part 2
For The Price Of A Cup Of A Tea
Mornington Crescent

The album will be preceded by a single, "Funny Little Frog", on January 16th.
Will it be released in a multitude of bizarre formats? Who knows?

That's right, the Belle & Sebastian album is coming out!

The Aesthetic Possibilities of the Garage

I went to get my brakes done yesterday. To say that this is not the most exciting thing to do with an afternoon is perhaps an understatement. All the same, I have to say that I get some kind of aesthetic pleasure from being in a garage. Not the shiny new ones in car dealerships, I mean the interesting old ones that are owned by the mechanic who will work on your car. I suppose this is natural since I've always had a fascination with mechanical things. I like the unintended aesthetic of industry. In high school I had this photography project where we had to photograph architecture. Everyone did churches and office towers, and frankly, those bored the hell out of me as photo subjects. So I went and shot all these steel mills instead. Steel mills, when looked at the right way, can be beautiful. The same goes for garages in my eye.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Asked in High Fidelity...

"Do I listen to pop music because I'm depressed, or am I depressed because I listen to pop music?"
That's the thought that comes to mind as I listen to Sleep Tonight by the Stars. I can't pick out any of the lyrics or anything, but it's the mood of the song. It's so sad and beautiful and I can't escape the mood it has left me in. I have tried to remove myself from the emotional impact of music at times, but it will always come back to me. It will catch me - I can try to be cold and play the critic. I can try to step back and say, "well from analysis, this music is rather moving, don't you say?" But it will always catch me and sweep me up.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Sunsets in rural Northern Ireland

I was talking to Deb just now and she remarked on the sun setting over the mountains of Morne in the countryside. Apparently it was all pastels, but then things got a little more intense and all of a sudden she remarked, "The pastels outside have turned neon." Perfect.

Edit: Now you can see for yourselves the neon sky of County Down.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

The Electric Guitar for Me

I've been thinking about whether I'd ever want another electric guitar. I can think of good arguments either way. If I did want to get one though, I'm thinking it would be a Telecaster. It's simple and I like the sound of it. And I can be like Belle & Sebastian's Stevie Jackson!

Edit: Okay, I also need some more cool suits and ties to be like Stevie. Man, he's always so sharply dressed.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Random Updates

Last night I picked up The Trial by Franz Kafka. In addition to being able to emulate the cover of If You're Feeling Sinister now (that's a copy of The Trial in the background there), it's some more existentialism to tackle. I also picked up Life of Pi finally, everyone I know who's read it says that they love it. Especially Neil, he was always on about reading it.

I now have a monitor with a 16:9 aspect ratio and let me tell you, this blog looks like hell on it. I guess it looks fine with the standard 4:3 ratio (or whatever it is, I know it's 4:3 in televisions) but now with this thing it's sitting in the middle of page with great seas of black on either side. The problem I have with websites is the precision you need to have in creating them. Whenever I'm some kind of creative mode, I'm just terrible with technical precision. I probably would never have taken much visual art in high school if I had to be really precise about what I was I doing. I guess I was lucky to have lots of teachers that encouraged my abstract expressionist chaos. It's the same in music, I'm always tinkering with what I'm playing. I could never be some kind of classical ensemble where I'd have to play everything as written.

Anyway, I'll take a crack at it. I don't know how I feel about it looking like a narrow strand of text dangling in the middle of the page. So let's go for something else.

On the plus side, all of the text looks far crisper on this screen.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Five Songs

I borrowed this idea from Jen.
THE RULES: List five songs that you are currently loving (ONLY 5!!! I will list songs that I have not already mentioned in previous posts)
OK, let's see:

  • Romantic Comedy | Stars
  • It's All Gonna Break | Broken Social Scene
  • Sing Me Spanish Techno | The New Pornographers
  • Somebody Got Murdered | The Clash
  • Lift Yr. Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven/The Gathering Storm | Godspeed You!Black Emperor
And now what they mean to me and why I love them (I think).

The Stars' song is funny-beautiful-sad all at once. They are good at that sometimes. Actually they are good at that most of the time. And really, I can't wait for their show!

It's All Gonna Break was something that Broken Social Scene did when I saw them live at Harbourfront. I think it was the last song of their set. I remember it being an awesome song, and it has translated well in the studio (sometimes a great live song doesn't do that).

Sing Me Spanish Techno is just too catchy for me not to like, which is sort of what I think about the whole Twin Cinema album.

Somebody Got Murdered has a very new wave-y feel to it. 90% of what commercial radio tells you is "punk" now seems to be a sad caricature of 1977. Just pumped up with studio polish and compressed guitars. The Clash knew it could be something else.

The Godspeed song(s) I mentioned are the first twelve minutes or so of the first disc of the Lift Yr. Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven album. The first time I heard it was on Easter 2004. One of my roommates put it on and I remember how fitting it was. A post-rock resurrection soundtrack. Listen to both parts and tell me what you think. It starts slow and then comes on so strong and so beautiful.

Pillows, Anyone?

Jam found this little plot. Thanks for the tip buddy. Now the question, do you go to join in, or do you go to laugh at others?

Wednesday, November 09, 2005


I have tickets to see the Stars when they play Lee's Palace! Yay me! I've often wondered how they'd translate live. The last album is probably the most live-friendly material they've done. Of course the cover they did of This Charming Man on their debut would also make a lovely live experience. I haven't seen them live before, but I sort of have. By this I mean that I saw Broken Social Scene live, and there is some personnel crossover between the two bands. Amy Millan of Stars and Emily Haines of Metric dueted Anthems for a Seventeen Year-Old Girl when I saw BSS and it was so beautiful. The last lines of that song are:
"Park that car/Drop that phone/Sleep on the floor/Dream about me" repeated over and over again. It's so simple and beautiful and live they drew it out. I can't remember which one, but either Amy or Emily starts out those lines doesn't just launch into the repeated litany (it's almost a secular prayer, those lines), but rather they stick to the first line and draw it out. Paaaaaaaaaaaaark thaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat caaaaaaaaaaaar. Over and over and over, and everyone knew it was coming. They let that line swell up until the final litany burst out. So any show now that involves Amy Millan is exciting for me.


I came up with a great little melody and lyric idea, but now, being that my four track doesn't work, how to preserve it? Argh!!!

In other frustration news, wireless networks are also vexing. I'm terribly vexed!

(Sorry to everyone that thought this would be about !!!, the band.)

A Good Day

Today was my day off, and I think for once I made pretty good use of it. It started slow, but once I got outside things got going. I went downtown and looked at books and CDs mainly. I ended up with new Constantines CD, if you're wondering.

As I was checking out CDs I got a call from Neil, we hadn't seen Jarhead yet and this felt like a good time to do that. In the meantime I went off to Songbird to look at basses and the like. They have one there that's just like the one in the Bedouin Soundclash's video for When the Night Feels My Song. It's cool little instrument, if a bit odd. It's scale is the same as that of a guitar though which, for reasons that involve physics that I don't care to explain in the space I have here, means that it would probably have the perfect tone for a band like Bedouin Soundclash.

Having ogled the instruments, it was time for me to check the movie listings which I did at the Starbucks down the road from Songbird. Flipping through Now, I saw that the Stars were coming to town. I thought, "I cannot miss this! Too many concerts have slipped by me, but not this one!" and so back to Rotate This to get tickets. Then it was off to the Queen Mother Cafe where I had some curry and roti-type thing. Then we were off to see Jarhead, I don't know that it lived up to the hype, but a good film all the same. All told, pretty good for an afternoon and evening where I had no real plans.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005


I am always amazed at how much of my thinking is dominated by analogy. This was very good when I had to write the Miller Analogy Test to get into teachers college (I did very well on it, thank you). I wonder what it would be like if my mind wasn't always seeking out an analogous comparison for everything. I remember Cormac McCarthy claiming in Blood Meridian that Judge Holden was a completely new archetype with no forbear in literature. And then Harold Bloom, when writing about Blood Meridian basically backed him up. This drove me nuts, because I really wanted at least something to which I could compare Judge Holden. Then I realised that you can make a case for Pyotr Verkhovensky from Dostoevsky's Demons being a sort of Holden-like figure. It all makes sense too, because apparently McCarthy admires Dostoevsky.

I just realised that probably no one knows what the hell I'm talking about unless they've read both Demons and Blood Meridian.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Metaphor and Us

There is a Milan Kundera quote I use as a signature on my gmail account:
"Metaphors are not to be trifled with. A single metaphor can give birth to love."
At first I think it was a very unconscious inclusion. I was reading The Unbearable Lightness of Being when I was invited onto gmail and I thought it was just a really cool quote. In the book it is said in the context of Tomas, the libertine professional thinking about Tereza, one of his conquests. She is something of a country innocent and he fancies her floating through the rushes in a basket toward him. A neat little biblical metaphor, and then of course Kundera drops in the above line. There are lots of reasons why Tomas and Tereza are terrible for each other if you tried to commodify their attributes. Yet from the time of Tomas' little metaphor, despite subsequent infidelities and separations, he will never be able to let go of her.

I suppose it's only natural here to make the argument that an author would overplay the value of metaphor or archetype. It's their stock and trade, right? And yet I wonder, how much are we driven by metaphors and archetypes. Can a single metaphor really give birth to love. We have any number of scientific and/or pseudo-scientific ways of measuring who we ought to love. Everyone has ideas about which people belong together in their circle of friends. I know I've been told who I should hook up with. And of course, on paper, all these connections make sense, but often these little intrigues never make it off said page of paper. At the same time, people meet connect in ways that baffle everyone who knows them. Are they just making these choices while drunk at parties? Or are they satisfying some other, metaphorical need? Do we need to construct a narrative for our lives? Why?

I suppose as someone who has tried to thwart the notion that my life has any kind of heroic narrative, it's only natural that I would find all this terribly interesting. I suppose most people don't think about this, they just do it. But others (mostly liberal arts majors I suppose) find it terribly fascinating to contemplate. It seems wrong to say so about something that's so intrinsically human, but is it all a bit vainglorious? Maybe most of us are forgiven, because we don't see, but what if we do see it? I've thought about this enough that I feel terrible conscious of it, and the more conscious of it I feel, the more I want to thwart it. I feel vainglorious trying to concoct my own narrative. But is it worse not to do so? To try and put oneself above the whole universal human experience, that's got to be just about as arrogant.

Do we just let a narrative congeal around us? Multiple narratives (a la Citizen Kane)? These narratives are all constructs of course, but to what extent can we live without them? Can we live our lives without a plot?

Saturday, November 05, 2005

College & Euclid: The Best of a Bad Situation

This weekend I'm stuck working every day. What's worse is that it's every day in the morning. That being the case, any attempt to do anything in the evening this weekend is pretty badly shot up. Case in point: Neil and I wanted to see Jarhead, because everyone said it was quite good. I like Sam Mendes and I like Jake Gyllenhaal, so I figure that this movie has a lot goin for it. Anyway, apparently the hot new trend is terrible show time scheduling. Almost all the theatre times for Jarhead were either at 7pm or after 10pm. 10pm is too late for my early morning tomorrow, and it was already after 7pm when I picked up the paper. Apparently the theatre chains are actively trying to drive away my business.

All that notwithstanding, Neil and I decided to do something anyway, because after all, it's Saturday night. In that vein we managed to get down to College and Euclid to go to Kalendar. Good food, beer, coffee (with Kahlua and something else I forget). Like I said, given the time constraints, going to get a decent meal in Little Italy constitutes a pretty successful evening I'd say. Sure there's more that could've been done, but not on my schedule (or Neil's for that matter, he was pretty much in the same boat). On a positive note, some people recognised Neil from a car and were yelling about how they love his dancing ('cause he's a dancer). It freaked out Neil, but I thought it was cool - he's famous now!

Friday, November 04, 2005

Nick Drake

Today looks and feels like Nick Drake's "From the Morning" off of Pink Moon. I don't know why, but his music always feels like fall to me, and today with the warmth of the sun it does so all that much more.

We covered that tune at a coffeehouse show ("we" being me and some people from work in this case). When you play something, it tends to dull the emotional effect of the song. It's very easy to become a technician. Where's the next change? What feel should it have here? And you miss the beauty that made you want to play music in the first place. But not with this song, all of it's beauty shone through to me.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Party Music

I was flipping through my CDs (yes, I'm old-fashioned) and I realized that I actually have some half-decent party music. Rinocerose, controller.controller, the Sandinista! album by The Clash, M.I.A., some New Order, other new wave fun, lots of old Jamaican bands (Toots & the Maytals, Jimmy Cliff), and a bunch of other stuff. But then I thought, this is what I'd want to hear at a party. I don't know how many other people would. I go to parties (or hear them from the street) and it's always the same two Usher tracks or something. When Jam lived in the city, he could reliably assemble persons of good taste, but now, what to do?

A Coincidence Across Seven Time Zones

So I'm talking to my friend Deb (who is normally in Ireland but currently in Romania) and she randomly works in a quote from Robertson Davies about education being a shield from experience. And I know this quote because it's not just any Davies quote, it's from the book I'm reading right now, World of Wonders. What is the chance of that? That I was reading the book now, and not later, that she remembered a quote from something read in high school, and then that it even came up in the course of conversation.

A Moment of Self-Congratulation

The design changes so far make this thing much more interesting to look at. (Not that I'm dissing people using stock minima black, like I said, I'm just bored with it personally.)

The next thing I want to do is change the link to my blogger profile. I'm thinking of some kind of self-portrait that portrays me as Dostoevsky's underground man (keeping with the blog title). Anyway, it'll be a fun project I'm sure.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Late Night Fantasies

Online tonight, I mused about leaving everything here to go start a farm in India. I think I had the idea that I wouldn't really do a lot of labour, just oversea things and ponder them. I could be the Konstantin Levin of Darjeeling.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Milan Kundera

I don't know why, but this passage from The Unbearable Lightness of Being came into my head over the last couple days.
"Human life occurs only once, and the reason we cannot determine which of our decisions are good and which bad is that in a given situation we can make only one decision; we are not granted a second, third, or fourth life in which to compare various decisions."
Kundera then goes on to point out how the Czechs were defiant in the face of the Austrian emperor in 1618 and the ensuing Thirty Years War led to the near total destruction of the Czech nation. He then asks: "Should the Czechs have shown more caution than courage? The answer may seem simple; it is not."

The answer is complicated by 1938, as Kundera continues,
"Three hundred and twenty years later, after the Munich Conference of 1938, the entire world decided to sacrifice the Czech's country to Hitler. Should the Czechs have tried to stand up to a power eight times their size? In contrast to 1618, they opted for caution. Their capitulation led to the Second World War, which in turn led to the forfeit of their nation's freedom"
What was the best way to act?
What is the best way to act?
We don't get any easy answers.

Chance Encounter

I ran into my grade 13 art teacher today and was mildly surprised that she remembered my name. She also said that I was "really good" and a "bit of a procrastinator." I don't know about the former, but the latter definitely proves that it was me that she remembers. The first comment does make me think that maybe I have legitimate reason to trust my artistic instincts.