Sunday, November 27, 2011

SooperLovers: To the Rescue!

Nothing says "forever" quite like being immortalized as an action figure. So when I heard it could be done, I jumped at the chance for Yuko's birthday.

This is Yuko as a rabbit wielding a ninja frying pan and budo sword. Yuko, her mum and her grandma were all born in the Year of the Rabbit. Note the "SL" for "SooperLovers" on her belt buckle.

Here I am as a Canadian hockey guy with a purple light saber and sacred goalie stick.

"The SooperLovers" are ready to do battle against the forces of bad cooking and gross misconducts. You know you've arrived on planet bizarro when confronted by a replicant of yourself. So when in doubt, give the gift of plastics and freak out!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Ondaatje In Edmonton: Cat's Meow

Mr. O signing a personal dedication to Yuko
Michael Ondaatje "played" the Winspear Centre last night in Edmonton and brought the house down. He began with a brief tribute to Robert Kroetsch and then read for about 40 minutes from his new novel, The Cat's Table, including this gorgeous passage:
"I remember still how we moved in that canal, our visibility muted, and those sounds that were messages from shore, and the sleepers on deck missing this panorama of activity. We were on the railing bucking up and down. We could have fallen and lost our ship and begun another fate - as paupers or as princes. 'Uncle!' we shouted, if someone was close enough to distinguish our small figures. 'Hullo, Uncle!' And people would wave, fling us a grin. Everyone who saw us sliding by was an uncle that night. Someone threw us an orange. An orange from the desert!" (p. 129)
The main character, Michael, is an 11-year-old boy aboard a steamship bound for England from Sri Lanka in the 1950s. The ship here has just entered the Suez Canal. Ondaatje said last night that he's not an "ideas man" - the closest he gets is something like an idea of "how to fit a horse into a house." In the passage above, he captures the exuberance of youth and the boundless possibilities that can electrify our surroundings. Those are the types of ideas worth committing a lifetime to.

He then sat down with writer Marina Endicott for an interesting discussion on the nuts and bolts of his writing process. Afterwards, he made himself available to sign books and mug for photos. The line was huge and Yuko and I waited for about 30 minutes. There must have been another hour at least behind us. Yuko went first and Ondaatje took his time asking her name and writing a dedication "To Yuko" into her copy of The English Patient. I was next. He quickly scribbled his name into my brand new copy of The Cat's Table ($23), smiled politely and turned to the next person. No love for me - I'd left my cute hat at home. God, what a flirt that Ondaatje is.

And don't ask me
about my interpretation of "Madame George."
That's a nine-minute song
a two hour story. ~ "Tin Roof"
That's alright. Back in 1999, I attended another Ondaatje reading in Vancouver and brought along Van Morrison's Astral Weeks, which he signed, "To David," after giving me a look as though a were a flaming newt. Thanks for the memories, Mike!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Wild Flag: The Blood Between

We're in the money! - "Racehorse"
The verdict is in: Wild Flag's debut is a corker, easily one of the best guitar albums of the year so far. Slathered together with dirty riffs and scuffed up rhythms, the gals from Sleater-Kinney, Helium & the Minders have concocted a glorious soundtrack for our fetid times.

Imagine Pegasus as a bucking bronco. That's Wild Flag. The songs leap through the morass and spit you out like a pinball in a roller derby. Vocalist Carrie Brownstein is in righteous form, calling to mind both Patti Smith's utopian howl and Geraldine Fibber Carla Bozulich's surly growl. Then the backing vocals on songs like "Endless Talk" bleed through channeling the Go-Gos by way of the Pipettes.

Drummer Janet "Flintstone" Weiss flails like a stonemason from Bedrock, while Rebecca Cole screws in the bass keys and Mary Timony lights up the riffs and vocals. This is a flag music, Black Flag and Pink Flag, merging into a wild cacophony of form and pleasure....and I'm thrilled to be along for the ride.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Occupy Wall Street: Evicted

Under the cover of night, the corporate forces of Wall Street descended on Zuccotti Park — aka Liberty Plaza - and evicted everyone on site. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg is declaring victory as the protesters reassemble to return, albeit without tents. As Glenn Greenwald writes:
"Could #OWS have scripted a more apt antagonist than this living, breathing personification of oligarchy: a Wall Street billionaire who so brazenly purchased his political office, engineered the overturning of a term-limits referendum and then spent more than $100 million of his personal fortune to stay in power, and now resides well above the law?"

Indeed, Bloomberg has become the embodiment of the corrosion eating away at the heart of the American body politic. What happened last night was an assault - a nation at permanent war overseas has turned its military apparatus on its own citizens. Beware the consequences.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Remembering Remembrance: The Right To Dissent

This is my uncle Jack Gallagher who served in the Canadian Scottish Regiment during World War II and landed at Juno Beach, D-Day, June 6, 1944. We're still in touch and he recently sent me a message explaining what all his medals and decorations are, from left to right:
1. 39/45 Star - awarded for service in an active theater of operations;

2. Germany Star - awarded for active service in France or Germany;

3. Defense Medal - awarded to all Canadians serving overseas;

4. War Medal - awarded to all Canadians who served during the war;

5. Canadian Volunteer Service Medal and Clasp - awarded to all Canadians who volunteered for service during the war for at least eighteen months. The clasp was for service out of Canada. It was generally known as the AFM with the Piccadilly Clasp (Away From Mom);

6. CD Canada Decoration - warded for twelve years military service including Militia;

7. COTC Belgian Croix de Guerre; awarded for my contribution on the Leopold Canal and other parts of Belgium;

8. Order of Leopold 11 avec palm - awarded for other service in Belium and Europe."
Jack and his comrades fought for a way of life they believed was worth sacrificing for and in the process, modeled a form of valour that continues to inspire. There's nobility and grace in putting your life on the line for freedom and justice. It's the long view, the same that moves people of conscience to take a stand for the good of future generations.

So it's not surprising to see other veterans like Sgt. Shamar Thomas, the US Marine who gave the New York cops a piece of his mind during an Occupy Wall Street demonstration, defending their right to protest:

Yesterday, Colin Powell expressed a similar view:
"Demonstrating like this is as American as apple pie. We’ve been marching up and down and demonstrating throughout our history...This is something that our political leaders need to think about. It isn’t enough just to scream at our Occupy Wall Street demonstrators — we need our political system to start reflecting this anger back into how do we fix it? How do we get the economy going again?"
The right to dissent is inseparable from the values my uncle Jack and others fought and died for. When I speak out, attend an Occupy event or simply question authority, I'm forever grateful for their sacrifice.

Monday, November 07, 2011

Dory Previn: Doppleganger

"Would you care to stay till sunrise?
It's completely your decision" ~ Dory Previn
Once in a while something leaps out from the shadows to bite you on the ass...if you're lucky. I live for those moments, those rare occurrences of fate and serendipity that produce a new discovery. Enter Dory Previn. Not really new - we already met years ago. My mum was a fan in the early 70s, along with Judy Garland and Helen "I Am Woman" Reddy...

It was during the heyday of the women's liberation movement, Ms. Magazine, Gloria Steinem and the National Organization for Women (NOW). Previn represented the bohemian side of the zeitgeist, sort of a Blonde on Blonde-era Dylan in drag. She was once married to André Previn until Mia Farrow snatched him away, but at least she got a great song out of it: "Beware of Young Girls."

Bob Dylan was a big fan and for a brief time she stood tall among the other songwriting divas of her age like Joni Mitchell, Carole King and Janis Ian. A cross between Harpo Marx and Dorothy Parker, she could slay all and sundry with her vagabond wit and charm the rest with her mythical iguanas....

"Lady With The Braid" has to be the greatest song ever written about the consequences of unfastening a braid...

Yes, it's official - my mother had (has) wicked taste! I remember seeing Previn's Live At Carnegie Hall album kicking around the house when I got older, but I wrote her off as too fey and much too patchouli. She reminded me of my grade 2 teacher with those tinted glasses, hoop earrings and crochet...I wasn't interested. But time changes taste and taste changes everything.

Previn was institutionalized during the mid-60s and like most extreme experiences, it made her songs all the more complex and powerful. "Doppelganger" is a profound meditation on our complicity with evil...not something you'd expect to hear from a pop song, unless you consider the tunes of Bertolt Brecht Top of the Pops material...

I’ve seen him in the headlines, and on the evening news,
I saw him on the sidelines when stones were thrown at Jews,
And marching in Montgomery, pretending that he cared,
I saw him wink, as though some old conspiracy were shared

Last night I found obscenities scrawled across my wall,
I swear I can’t repeat the filthy words that I recall,
And then the most immoral, damned insulting thing of all,
As I read each line
I noticed
his handwriting
was identical
with mine

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Corporate Free Speech: Silencing Dissent

"Every tool is a weapon if you hold it right"~ Ani DiFranco
A tool may come in all shapes and sizes, but no other one can compete when it's money. Payola has been taking over the democratic process in both Canada and the US for some time and corporations have been at the center of it all. Where the big money goes, so too do changes to the political environment that reflect the will of a corporate agenda. Free association? Free speech? A referendum in Greece? Only so far as they don't pose a threat to any benefactors. Government and corporate interests have merged at the expense of the public.

That explains why Herman Cain is being taken seriously by anyone and why a private entity - the National Restaurant Association - can silence speech in a country where the constitution supposedly protects it.

I can see how a mutual agreement might be reached between two parties over whether to litigate or not, but how could any document trump a country's foundational law? How could Cain's accuser be silenced by a payment of any kind from the National Restaurant Association? This is the world our "elites" have constructed to protect themselves and their money. It's also the subject of Glenn Greenwald's new book, With Liberty and Justice for Some: How the Law is Used to Destroy Equality and Protect the Powerful. I can't wait to read it.