Monthly Archives: April 2011

Little Boxes #41

(from Thimble Theater, by E. C. Segar, 1930s)

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Tea With Chris: Life is Deaf

Tea With Chris is a roundup of recommended links, posted every Friday. Here are a few of our favourite things from the Internet this week:

Chris: Jeet Heer’s fascinating Comics Journal series exploring race and comics (ethnic caricature was routine in early strips) considers Harold Gray, the relatively enlightened, otherwise reactionary creator of Little Orphan Annie. He also notes evidence that contemporary black readers identified with certain atypical comics – Krazy Kat most of all, natch,  but it wasn’t the only one: “In 1928 in Baltimore, there was a ‘Polly and Her Pals Club,’ where African-American dancers wore chic, flapper dresses in the manner of [Cliff] Sterrett’s heroine.”

Someone filmed a Disneyland band inexplicably playing “The Internationale.” Or perhaps it is explicable, since this happened in Paris.

And speaking of strangely compelling mash-ups…

Margaux: Transparent headed fish! – thanks to St. Charles.

Good luck female Walmart empolyees from all over the world.

Speaking of heroes,  QUESTIONS for AYAAN HIRSI ALI, “The Feminist”.

Speaking of religion, How Christian Were the Founders? Good article by Russell Shorto about America’s constitution and educational system. Scary! From Kathy Miller (a witness to curriculum choices, mostly? made in Texas, for American schools): “It is the most crazy-making thing to sit there and watch a dentist and an insurance salesman rewrite curriculum standards in science and history.”

I read a list of movie production names and their origins. I can’t remember where I read it, but the origins for Danny Boyle’s company’s name “Decibel” stuck with me. It comes from the expression “knock hard: life is deaf.” I think it originates with the surrealists.

Carl: This CLICK THE SQUARES thing has reached lots of people before but it only reached me this week, via this link, and then I traced it back here. Essentially you click the squares and suddenly you’re making little kalimba-meets-techno silly symphonies. Pay attention to the math=rhythm, bass=best rules, and try opening multiple screens so you can switch various loops on and off. It lacks a record function, which is both irritating and kind of Zen. You are your own Buddha machine.

Speaking of Buddha, the later works of David Foster Wallace in many ways explore the necessity of those dharmas of detachment and service, particularly as received through the American 12-step movement, but with his own literary spin. Since his tragic death two-and-a-half years ago, more and more information on the place of that movement, addiction and depression in his life has become public, but there has been some sense of decorum, of respecting the feelings of the great writer’s friends and family, and his own dignity. So I have deep feelings of ambivalence about this piece in The Awl, which does the kind of deep literary scholarship on the collection of Wallace’s annotated books and papers at the University of Texas at Austin that normally takes place a generation after a writer’s death, not more-or-less immediately.

The piece is quite beautifully written (even if self-consciously so in places) and it’s really valuable for noticing that Wallace treated popular self-help books with great interest and respect – an insight that I’ve gotten from a couple of the smartest people I know personally (with the same argument: it’s not like you’re the first person with these problems, so why not look at the things that have helped other people?), although I’ve had trouble bringing myself to apply it, in much the same way the Awl documents Wallace having when he first encountered 12-step with his own literary snobbery.

On the other hand, I am put off by the invasive speculations about his very-much-alive mother and other family business, based on stuff I kind of wish they hadn’t had access to at this point – although grateful for the observation that his mom’s book on English grammar is basically the genealogy of his style, including the phrase “howling fantods.” Proceed at your own discretion.

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Filed under carl wilson, chris randle, linkblogging, margaux williamson

Friday Pictures – Whitney Hubbs


Day for Night


Men And Leisure


Men And Work


Day For Night


Day For Night


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Ad Austra

by Chris Randle

I was planning to write a real post this week, I swear. Then one of the people I wanted to interview for it came down with a nasty flu. Instead, like Carl last time round, I’m going to share a B2TW-friendly piece from parts elsewhere – my Toronto Standard interview with Katie Stelmanis. Here’s the intro:

“Many theological, mythological and esoteric traditions suggest that knowing an individual’s true name gives one power over them.

But the ancients never had to agonize over band names. Toronto’s Katie Stelmanis switched her stage moniker to Austra last year, and if that handle is less enigmatic than it seems — it’s just her middle name — the change corresponds with a greater musical one. The distorted keyboards and MIDI effects of her 2008 solo debut Join Us have given way to dark, atmospheric electro-pop on Austra’s upcoming Feel It Break, lushly produced and pledged to rhythm. […]

The final result was a little more formal than I might prefer, but that’s magazines for you, and most of them wouldn’t couple the Q&A with 22 minutes of Austra performing inside an artificial cave. Yes, I’m excited about this Toronto Standard business. Carl will be writing for it too. In the meantime, I leave you with a bonus question, ’cause blogs don’t have no word count:

CR: I know it’s not included on the album, but what drew you to cover that Roy Orbison song, “Crying”?

KS: That song…Whenever I choose cover songs, I always choose songs that are really fun for me to sing. And I think, also, songs that are different from the songs that I write. That song is 100% about the words, and about the melody, and the words are just as strong as the melody. I often don’t listen to words when I listen to music, but in that song they’re so potent and so strong that it’s really enjoyable for me to sing. I feel like I’m telling a story, and it’s…it’s a really emotional and beautiful song, and I always take pleasure in singing songs that are telling a story, because my songs don’t really do that.

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Reframing Africa – curated by Jean-Marie Teno

by Margaux Williamson

Last night at the Images Festival, I saw “Reframing Africa 1: Representation or Reality?”.

Boy, what a relief it was to see such good work. It’s rare to have all of the short works  in a curated program be this full of life, this compelling – to have the story they form together be both so direct and so complicated. It was curated by the African filmmaker Jean-Marie Teno and included the work of 5 other African filmmakers.

Now that I trust Jean-Marie Teno completely,  I can recommend a conversation between him and Deanna Bowen today, April 5th,  at the Gladstone from 3 pm to 4 as well as his second curated program of short works that’s screening tonight (April 5 from 9 pm to 11 pm) at Jackman Hall (AGO) – “Reframing Africa 2: Perspectives in Mambety’s Footsteps.

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Filed under margaux williamson, movies

Little Boxes #40

(from Asterios Polyp, by David Mazzucchelli, 2009)

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Tea With Chris: Vote Oulipo

Tea With Chris is a roundup of recommended links, posted every Friday. Here are a few of our favourite things from the Internet this week:

Chris: Vibe‘s exposé of the venal rap aggregator WorldStarHipHop entertains and depresses at the same time – there are plenty of rich bottom-feeders online, but site founder “Q” must be among the most delusional, attributing his dubious achievement to a mystical revelation. Arianna Huffington would never explain her page views this cynically, though: “9-to-5 people love to see misery. People want to say, ‘I thought I had it bad, but look at these people.’ That’s what sells.”

Florida Republicans love restricting abortion rights, hate unhelpful legislative references to female bodies. So they’ve banned them too. Maybe a GOP representative is vying for Oulipo membership?

Light cones and “quantum financial products.”

Rich Juzwiak reminded me that I really need to read Hot Stuff, Alice Echols’ recent history of disco: “Echols examines gay macho (the 70’s trend that found gay dudes dressing butch to a stereotypical extent) as a mindfuck. Was it a way of balancing society’s expectations with gays’ innate humanity (allowing gayness to be tolerated as long as it wasn’t faggy), or was it more subversive, breaking the association of passivity and femininity with homosexuality, since so many man’s men-seeming dudes were taking it up the butt? Who knows? It’s so complicated! Echols ends the section with a quote from Guy Hocquenghem: ‘Our assholes are revolutionary!’ Yeah, that sounds about right.”

Carl: Margaux didn’t tell us she was working on a book, especially in such an awesome way.

Further afield, it’s sad to see LCD Soundsystem stop (and especially not to see them live this weekend, since I never have), but as Nitsuh Abebe eloquently limns in this New York Magazine piece, they’re doing it to leave the most perfect history behind them. The deftness of that gesture is like everything they have done – working with the ultimately mundane material of scenes and sounds and collector-ness but seeking the exact place in those subjects where they crack and let the whole universe in. Their humour, always double-sided, murmurs, “This would be bullshit, except that it’s my life.” And at that point the specific milieu ceases to matter, because that’s a T-shirt everybody can wear.

In a similar spirit, this is an obvious choice, but there’s nothing gained in clever ways to say goodbye.

Otherwise, if you are in Montreal tonight or any of these places, do whatever you must to catch the current Destroyer tour. (Except try to get in with fake ID when you are actually of age. Events witnessed last night told us that was a dumb idea. Get yourself real ID, okay?) There were people at the show last night who said they came prepared, even wanting, to dislike it, and could not. Freed of the need to play guitar by an eight-piece swirling horns-and-pedals-and-everything band, Dan Bejar becomes a whole other performer – not an extroverted one, quite, but a crooner who exudes relaxation and pleasure in the company of these people and all this sound, not to mention a healthy bang on a tambourine. If he’d done this a decade ago it’s hard to imagine how swish he’d be at it now, but fuck regret, the time has come. Also, the crowd last night was B-A-N-A… y’know what I mean. Gonzo excited. Their ironic moustaches were standing on end. Only one note: Soundmen, please keep keyboardist/vocalist Larissa Loyva’s voice higher in the mix. The duets are important. Not to pick nits. We Destroyer devotees are arrant knaves, all, believe none of us, but go thy ways to a clubbery, posthaste.

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Filed under carl wilson, chris randle, linkblogging, margaux williamson

Friday Pictures – Jennifer Murphy


Butterfly Skull


Jennifer Murphy / Install view of Twenty Pearls with Burgundy God’s Eye (2010), left, and Bird (2010), right

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