Monthly Archives: July 2011

Tea With Chris: Here Be Voguers

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: Vintage rules list from the Sound Factory, a.k.a. the New York club where Frankie Knuckles once DJed a string of fantastic parties:

Great moments in Lisa Hanawalt’s cartooning-filled review of Transformers 3: “gabardine,” the Tree of Life joke, a drawing of its female lead grotesque enough to please the shade of Basil Wolverton.

During this week’s inspired 24-hour “citizen filibuster” at City Hall, right-wing councilor and glowering henchman Giorgio Mammoliti claimed to be “a fan of the arts.” So he would love David Balzer’s Canadian Art piece about Caravaggio! “One is beguiled by [his] formal bravado and then inevitably brought to a moment of thematic severity and crisis.” Kind of like what Rob Ford is doing to Toronto, though “beguiled” is not the verb I would use.

Carl: Until about this time yesterday, I was going to post poet poet Dionne Brand’s contribution to Toronto’s budget-cuts debate as the most eloquent and moving public discourse of the week. But the marathon “citizen filibuster” at City Hall that ended at something like 8 this morning equalled (and sometimes quoted) Brand over and over again. While the mayor snorted, dozed off, occasionally called names, and talked about football.

Meanwhile, south of the border, politicians acted even more childishly – or in the President’s case, I’m afraid, timidly. What should he have been saying? Something more like what Robert Reich says here: The whole thing is a sham, holding the country’s economy to ransom until the Republicans get their way, which is the wrong way.

But why why why why why why why why on earth are these things in Toronto and Washington happening? Well, it couldn’t be the inherent contradictions of capitalism, could it? I’m not positive but I do know that this video is the most entertaining and lucid consideration of that thesis that I’ve seen in a long time.

(special thanks to Marianne LeNabat and her Facebook friends)

Now, quick! Stop thinking about that and think about how North Carolina motor lodges have changed since 1950s postcards of them to now. One of my favourite things about that site is that sometimes they’ve hardly changed at all, and other times they’ve totally collapsed into ruin. Sometimes the trees have just gotten bigger.

My other favourite thing about it is that I found it through Wendy Spitzer’s tumblr, The Liminal Hymnal. Which is a tumblr but really a blog. Because Wendy is, as she extensively documents, a systematic person, she is doing a project in which she is blogging, also from North Carolina, every day in July. And every day it is worth reading, a nice awkward-confident tour of a complicated person’s singular mind.

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Friday Pictures – Toronto Mayor Rob Ford’s 24 hour “Who the heck needs a city’s infrastructure?” Executive Committee Meeting Marathon, featuring Mary Trapani Hynes, Kevin Clark, and Adam Vaughan / Toronto City Hall


Mary Trapani Hynes / Toronto City Hall / July 28 2011

Kevin Clark / Toronto City Hall / July 28 2011

Adam Vaughan (click on image for video) / Toronto City Hall / July 28 2011

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Little Boxes #56

(cover of Love & Rockets #21, by Gilbert Hernandez, 1986)

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Tea With Chris: Pokélicious

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: My tea this week is of the chocolate-in-your-peanut-butter variety, though hopefully more appetizing than that sounds. First up, male K-pop idols with Paris is Burning swag, performing their female counterparts’ moves on Korean TV. (Did you know that Paris is Burning is on Vimeo?)

Someone got their allusion to The Wire in a Nickelodeon kids’ show:

And someone else got Pikachu all dolled up in Beyonce drag:

Carl: Is there a tea ritual for mourning? I have two people in mind today, parental figures in different ways. First, there is Elwy Yost, a celebrity I suppose only in Ontario, as the host of several movie-presenting and interview programs on TVO that I and many of my peers grew up with. The very definition of avuncular, Yost was broadly knowledgeable about popular cinema without a scrap of film-snobbery, not even the geeky kind. He was the great popularizer. Most of all I feel indebted to him for Magic Shadows, the weeknightly program on which he’d show movies a half-hour at a time over the course of a week – plus, one night, a chapter of a vintage film serial, the kind you would have seen before the feature in the 1940s and ’50s. The grounding in pop-culture history that provided, especially the way that he made black-and-white and silent films seem as exciting as new ones, affected my cinematic and other cultural tastes for good. It’s hard not to believe that Yost was a part of the root system of Toronto’s passionate, engaged and diverse movie culture, which extends to realms much beyond his own middlebrow tastes. He got to live out his own dreams while devoting his energies to his audience’s service. A beautifully balanced life.

The other farewell is more personal, to the mother of Toronto artist and performer Becky Johnson, Vancouver’s Anne Garber, who died recently at the sadly early age of 64. I got to know Anne when Becky asked me to give a talk about her as part of a special Trampoline Hall show she curated; I chatted on the phone with her for hours, during which she was warm and expansive and open about difficult subjects, including her divorce and other relationships, parenting, self-image and her compulsive shopping-and-hoarding issues, which were an ongoing struggle (though she also turned them to positive ends as a consumer journalist). She had the kind of enormous personality within whose embrace nearly everyone feels at home, and to hear about her death made me feel precisely as if a light had gone out or one of the engines that turns the world had run out of fuel. Deep sympathies to her friends and family.

Speaking both of film and of family, this week I saw the documentary Blank City in its limited Toronto run. It’s a crackling look at the Manhattan independent and Super-8 film scene of the late 1970s and early 1980s, closely bound up with the music and art scenes, the No Wave and Cinema of Transgression etc. But beyond the importance of those movements to the independent film and video that would follow, it’s also just an incredibly evocative portrait of a pack of nervy kids in a desperately poor, dangerous environment (the images of the Lower East Side in the late 1970s are incredible), going for broke and fighting, fucking and filming their way to some kind of grasp at enlightenment and change. It makes you jealous, even though so many of its stories end terribly. And it really makes you want to make art. See it if you can.

In a similar spirit of go-for-broke urban-wilderness and noisemaking, but without the heroin, I am excited this weekend to go see the five new bands that have come out of the first-ever Girls Rock Camp Toronto (at the Tranzac on Saturday at 3 pm), and to play find-that-concert-venue in Wavelength Toronto’s “musical treasure hunt,” Band on the Run. And for a more Canadian spin on underground-scene history, there’s a panel discussion at the Soundscapes record store on College at 4 o’clock Saturday about the new edition of Have Not Been the Same: The Can-Rock Renaissance 1985-1995, featuring co-authors Michael Barclay and Ian Jack, in conversation with Don Pyle (ex-Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet, Phono-Comb, King Cob Steelie), Allison Outhit (ex-Rebecca West, now VP at Factor) and Julie Doiron (ex-Eric’s Trip, now Julie Doiron!).

Remember mashups? This is one of the most uncannily seamless ones I’ve ever heard, based on two fantastic songs:

And this one unites two far-apart genres to compelling effect.

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Little Boxes #55

(from Spotting Deer, by Michael DeForge, 2010)

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Tea With Chris: Holy Halo, Batman

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:

Carl: In a week that felt at once slow and frantic, I found this montage of Robin’s “Holy ____ ” exclamations from the campy 1960s Batman series a kind of giggly meditation vehicle – with a poetic rhythm that reminded me of Allen Ginsberg’s “America” (“America how can I write a holy litany in your silly mood?”) or more directly of this passage in Howl: “The world is holy! The soul is holy! The skin is holy! The nose is holy! The tongue and cock and hand and asshole holy! Everything is holy! everybody’s holy! everywhere is holy! everyday is in eternity! Everyman’s an angel!” Or at least, in this case, Batman is.

The sinister silliness of America and of Toronto this week were best encapsulated, among many commentaries, in a Toronto Standard piece by Ivor Tossell that suggested a perfect name for the style of political sabotage both the Republicans in Congress and the Rob Ford administration here at home are indulging right now: Uncompetence.

Most of Erroll Morris’s films are distinguished, among the documentary field, by not striving for of-the-moment relevance, for what journalists call a “peg,” but taking up subjects that are slightly out of time and have an inherent gravity, an intrinsic fascination. Still, he has to have been tickled, as the Murdoch scandal-sheet empire was going up in flames, for this to be the week that he was releasing a movie called Tabloid.

But is silliness always sinister? Ann Powers on the NPR music blog kicked off a debate this week, not so much about whether the widespread resentment of the Black-Eyed Peas is warranted, but why it is so virulent and out of proportion to the seriousness of the offence. There were a lot of responses but the most thoughtful to me was this one by Chris Burlingame: “When you dismiss a type of music because it doesn’t appeal to people exactly like you, you can resent it more when you find out just how many people out there that aren’t like you (hint: it’s a lot).”

And sometimes of course silliness is sublime. Check out this early, failed pilot by Stephen Fry, Hugh Laurie, Robbie Coltrane and friends (you can skip the prefatory verbiage if you prefer), which manages to send up sci-fi movies, popular science-history TV magazine shows and dystopian fears – with a serious undercurrent about the dangers of genetic engineering. If only I could go back in time through the Crystal Cube – and get more episodes.

Chris: I love this anecdote unreservedly: “The swords were taken down and the desk was in mid-move when Patton flung open the door and walked in. His rage was instant and fearful. He screamed at the top of his voice, ‘What do you think you’re doing, you unspeakable Hollywood bastards!’ This was only the beginning of a flow of invective of which Blackbeard the Pirate would have been proud. George [Cukor] sighed deeply with resignation. He was not at all frightened. Joan Crawford, Norma Shearer, Greta Garbo—he had dealt with tantrums all his life. He walked over to the general, who was now nearing the fortissimo apex of his wrath, and put his arm around the shoulder with the four stars on it. ‘Now, General,’ he said, soft-voiced and persuasive, ‘are we going to be silly about this?’”

Inspired literary remix no. 1: a scientist named Dan Warren carefully edited the audio version of Barack Obama’s Dreams from My Father to create narration for a made-up creation myth.

Inspired literary remix no. 2: Brian Joseph Davis’ Consumed Guide, a long prose poem distilled from 13090 record reviews by Robert Christgau. Like their source and their surgeon, the seven thousand negative words are often scathingly funny, but there’s another pleasure here too: the vivid tactility of Xgau’s descriptions, an overdose of style and verse.

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“Dedication to My Ex (Miss That),” by Lloyd (2011)

by Chris Randle

The cad/gentleman duality is a familiar R&B persona, but I can’t remember the last album that embodied it as fully as King of Hearts does. The second song on Lloyd’s new LP, “Cupid,” exemplifies the latter archetype; over an atypically hard beat, he marvels that, what do you know, the little cherub has done it again! But it’s coming on the heels of this:

“Dedication to My Ex” could be the punk-rock version of Cee-Lo’s “Fuck You,” sanitized radio version and all. (The bowdlerized chorus substitutes “lovin,” though I wish Lloyd had used his most absurd idea, “Lucy.”) It reduces the earlier song’s bereft tantrum to three metaphorical chords of profane neo-soul. Andre 3000’s acidic guest verse has the bilious aftertaste of a John Lydon rant: “Bet your buddy don’t even know you don’t like red / Or was it fuschia? Fuck it, our future is dead.” For a singer so clearly indebted to the sex-terrified Michael Jackson, intoning “pussy” every five seconds is similarly jarring.

Like “Fuck You,” however, the song belies its lyric sheet (perhaps inadvertently). Lloyd doesn’t sound distraught here. He almost seems to be getting off on reminiscence, describing the really good sex he and his lady used to have with a bruised thrill. When he sings “I guess she’s feeling kind of freaky lately,” his tone carries a note of wistfulness. In this light, Lloyd’s weird sexist fantasy that the other man has literally fucked her vagina out of shape is less a sneer than a whimper. His words say pussy in heels, but his voice cries Venus in Furs. Cuckolded self-pity curdles into self-mockery. A jovial “I’m about to kill this bitch” is the one unfunny moment, especially when Chris Brown appears two tracks later, but masochistic and misogynistic have never been mutually exclusive, even among punks.

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