Monthly Archives: March 2013

Margaux’s Friday Pictures – Clare Grill


clare grill_when-you-get-that-old

When you get that old



Clare Grill 12_slip




Clare Grill_frannie_v2


Clare Grill 12_afternoon



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Tea With Chris: Vazaleen for Every Stripe of Artistic Devadasi

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

Chris: Michael Comeau, who designed them, has begun uploading posters for Will Munro’s city-altering Vazaleen parties onto Tumblr every day (via). As DeForge says, essential Toronto archiving.

“Comics will break your heart.”

Carl: Whether or not your political align with his, Michael Lind did some useful work this week in his threepart series in Salon of breaking down the current language of economic populism on both sides of the ideological divide, and, one can only hope, restoring the term “rentier class” to our vocabularies.
In another analytical mode, Richard Nash provides a refreshing, historically deep examination of the state of literature and publishing that is an immense relief from the blah-blah-money-blah of the day-in-and-out digital-dread discourse. To spoil the ending for you: “Let’s restore to publishing its true reputation — not as a hedge against the future, not as a bulwark against radical change, not as a citadel amidst the barbarians, but rather as the future at hand, as the radical agent of change, as the barbarian. The business of literature is blowing shit up.”

In that spirit, Emily M. Keeler talks to former jail librarian and author Avi Steinberg about what writing means in prison.

Last week in TWC, I paid tribute to the late Jason Molina. This week his fellow songwriter and friend Will Johnson lays a beautiful mourning cloth over those bones.

This week it is the time to mourn Paul Williams of Crawdaddy! magazine fame, one of the inventors of rock criticism as the barbarian. He started when he was 17, and stopped too soon. May our own maverick wildings someday make up for his lost time.
Also in sequels, in this week’s Tuesday Musics, I presented some discoveries that came courtesy of a talk by Ian Nagoski. Here is one I alluded to but didn’t follow up, the Indian classical singer Kesarbai Kerkar, whose amazing story (itself an epic Indian tale of humiliation, pride, discipline, triumph and withdrawal)  is dwarfed by her actual art. (Thanks to Gabe Levine for the find.)

And for bonus points: Eraserhead-era David Lynch on new-wave public-access TV.

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Carl’s Tuesday Musics: “Zmirneikos Balos” and others by Marika Papagika (1928)

by Carl Wilson

I was fortunate enough this weekend to be present at the revival of Double Double Land in Toronto’s “Talking Songs” series, in which people play recordings for other people and talk about them, featuring a special guest – the independent intellectual, anthologist, vintage 78s collector and “Fonotopia” DJ/podcaster, Ian Nagoski, who regaled us with the sounds and stories of Indian classical singers with disreputable pasts, Lemko-American bands, Carpathian “hillbillies” and the parallels between bluegrass and polka (both urban adaptations of mountain stringband music), the Okeh laughing record (though he didn’t mention the great Tex Avery cartoon that uses it as soundtrack to its second half), canary breeding as a form of musical composition, and much more.

Much beyond collecting for collecting’s sake, Nagoski’s fascination with non-English-language (aka “ethnic” at the time) records made in the U.S. before the Second World War serves him as a lens on ignored or suppressed histories of America, non-canonical views of musical development (in which it doesn’t all culminate in rock) and the confidence games of the American dream.

On that last theme, one person he didn’t play but alluded to is Marika Papagika, a great singer of many styles, including what we today would refer to as rebetika (or often “rembetika” in English). She was a Greek immigrant to New York who, with her husband Costas, made many successful recordings and opened up a nightclub nearby where the Port Authority is today – until they lost it all in the stock-market crash of 1929, just a year after the song above was shellacked. The emotional detail of her singing is spellbinding.

Nagoski has played an important role in reintroducing her to modern (and non-Greek) audiences, by including her music on his compilations Black Mirror: Reflections in Global Musics (1918-1954) and To What Strange Place:The Music Of The Ottoman-American Diaspora (1916-1929) and finally a collection entirely of Papagika songs, The Further the Flame the Worse It Burns MeThe one he’s rhapsodized over the most is below, the even-more-plaintive Smyrneïko Minore, which the Kronos Quartet heard on Black Mirror and arranged and performed it in concert.

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Little Boxes #133: Pale Cow


(from “Death Milks a Cow,” by Connor Willumsen, 2013)

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Margaux’s Friday Pictures – The Porter Family


The Porter Family_black leopard


the porter family_ baby seal in snow


the porter family_ snowleopard

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Tea With Chris: Oh My God, They’re Killing Jan!

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

Chris: Out of every ignorant-white-dude-rap-writer moment some good may come: one prompted Julianne Escobedo Shepherd to reel off a veritable curriculum of critics from different backgrounds, old-school and new-school, many working outside the familiar journalistic venues.

Teen goth melodrama scored by Reversing Falls? I’m into it.

Carl: Some prankster friends of mine this week imagined what happened if a TEDx conference took place on the island where The Wicker Man was set. And then they simulated it in real time on Twitter. More than even the Twitter short-stories and other creative experiments I’ve seen there, this felt like it was in its native environment and breathing in the medium’s oxygen, via the collaborative creation of the illusion. (From what I can tell it didn’t set off any Orson Welles War of the World panics though.)

On a similar reality-or-simulation note, I wish I could be a member of this club. Or that anyone could have been a member of it. Up in the air, in beautiful balloons.

“America still had post-Mandingo dreams, no matter how it looked, which really weren’t getting met by Michael Jackson. I remember a lot of interviews when Prince started catching on where they asked people, ‘Why do you like Prince?,’ and they said, ‘Well, Michael Jackson’s cool, but Prince gives us more sex.’ ”: Questlove’s Prince master class.

Marie does Donny with a Steely Dan:

(Friend of B2TW Misha Glouberman commented: “I remember the 70’s. It was ALL LIKE THAT!”)

RIP Jason Molina.

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We Need to Talk About Kevin (2011) – Directed by Lynn Ramsay, starring Tilda Swinton

by Margaux Williamson


Kevin is a high school student who kills many of his classmates with a bow and arrow in a nightmarish lock-down at the local high school. The movie is mostly about his mother, Eva.

The movie is seductive and strange. Sometimes it seems like a regular indie-drama and sometimes it seems like a horror movie. Part of the narrative is told through non-sequential  flashbacks. These mostly focus on the relationship between Kevin and Eva. The scenes skip around from the morning of the killings to Kevin’s conception to the family’s breakfast table.

There is one scene with Eva participating in a tomato festival somewhere far away. It’s one of the few flashbacks where she is without her family. She’s alone, in a mob, covered, along with the rest of the mob, in the bloody mush of tomatoes. She looks euphoric. It’s a very unusual image – Eva covered in the red pulp, limp and being lifted by strangers. It suggests something sacred – or sinister. It echoes the high school massacre in colour and confusion.

The rest of the scenes take place after the massacre. They mostly involve Eva being villainized by herself and by her community for the horrendous crimes of her son. She doesn’t defend herself; she accepts the assumed punishment – straight to hell.

It still seems to be the most condoned form of misogyny to blame the mother for the sins and deficiencies of ourselves and others. And though it is becoming less fashionable to argue that nurture trumps nature, to defend Freud’s traditional psychotherapy, or to assume woman as the primary nurturers in a family, we, in the early 21st century audience, still understand that it would be outrageous if the mother tried to defend herself. We, and Eva, know there is absolutely no room for that.

So, Eva, ostracized, villainized and terrorized by her community, survives and lives and carries on.

The very exciting part of this movie is that instead of an eventual redemption offered by the arc of a traditional narrative, we are instead offered a more absolute redemption in the form of shifting perspective. It’s as though the director, Lynn Ramsay, managed to create a Gestalt-like optical illusion here in movie form.

In one moment, you are watching a intelligent indie-drama about a mother-son relationship gone terribly wrong; in another, you see a horror movie about a child born evil.

It’s not even that the movie moves back and forth between two different genres – it is just our own eyes deciding which way to see things at any particular moment. In either direction, the vision comes fully formed. The clues for both perspectives are in every scene: an ever-present bottle of wine next to Eva at the dinner table – the dinner table where Kevin gazes at his mother with sadistic eyes that he only lets her see.

As we watch the indie-drama, we see a mother who might have gotten some things wrong, or who might have some wrong things inside herself. As we watch the horror movie, we feel the thrill of the “bad seed” trope being used in the service of a reckless feminist fantasy – or, at least, a counter-misogynistic one: Some babies are just born bad, let us all marvel at the evil, let us remove our persistent gaze from the mother. Lynn Ramsay is the master of the bold and reckless feminist fantasy movie.

The scene of Eva alone at the tomato festival is an interesting one for these alternating visions. When you see the horror movie, you see a successful travel writer’s euphoric connection with the world outside the family – a scene far from trouble and pain.

When your eyes adjust to the indie-drama, you see a woman covered in red, engaged in a bizarre act of self-indulgence or abandon, or an act that maybe comes out of some need, small and twisted inside of her, that makes her seek such unusual forms of euphoria so far away from home; an act that foreshadows, in colour and perversity, her sons horrific crimes.

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Carl’s Tuesday Musics: Michelle McAdorey, “Line Across My Heart” (2013)

by Carl Wilson

Michelle McAdorey was one of the first Toronto artists I ever wrote about, after moving here; I’m very pleased that she has new music out (and reportedly more to come) and that she’s performing again, beginning with a Wavelength show this Thursday (with Iceland’s Valgeir Sigurðsson and Toronto’s Prince Nifty). This song is so pretty it’s almost hard to listen to. You start holding your breath, knowing something is going to break.

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Little Boxes #132: Magnits


(from Thimble Theater, by E. C. Segar, date unknown)

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Tea With Chris: Giant Drag

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

Chris: Michael Deforge’s unsettling “Leather Space Men” strip now has a mix to accompany it, full of obscure Minneapolis Sound jams chosen with fetishistic care.

Carl: You may already have seen this mini-documentary that recently surfaced from the 1990s of 13-year-old “dirty girls” who don’t (mostly) give a fuck what the other kids fucking say. They are very pleasant to get to know and the camera is patient with them. I assume by now they’re less sad, or sad for different reasons.

The mean girls called them dirty girls but they called themselves riot grrls. People remember Bikini Kill and Sleater-Kinney but a lot of the associated bands had less aggressive sounds, like Tsunami, and actually asserted a different kind of gender rebellion that way – an ambiguity that (like some boy-fronted bands such as Beat Happening) didn’t submit to the idea that “heavier” (i.e. mas macho) was cooler. Giant Drag, who haven’t put a record out for a decade, was and is that kind of band. They just released a new one this week, Waking Up Is Hard to Do, and you can listen to it in full.

Kacey Musgraves is that kind of musician too, in her own way, but also not – as her album title has it, Same Trailer, Different Park. And you can listen to it as well, and read Ann Powers’ lovely appreciation, at NPR Music.

Meanwhile, as the NDP’s Thomas Mulcair whispers in Washington the things about pipelines he should be shouting at home, this story struck me as rich with Canadian historical contradiction, starting with the name “HudBay Minerals” alone.

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