Category Archives: carl wilson

Tea With Chris: Canadian Heroes

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: Having been a puling newborn when the momentous 1988 Supreme Court decision striking down Canada’s abortion law was achieved, I have less to say about its namesake Dr. Henry Morgentaler, who died yesterday, than Carl might. I would only urge you to read about his extraordinary 90 years: a man who withstood both the Holocaust and zealots’ cruder fires yet philandered out of needy insecurity, a man who lived, in every sense, for women.

This is my cow, Johnny Football.

“Let the mountains collapse into dust and the oceans all boil, but give me brands.”

Margaux: The beautiful and dangerous mind of Marie Calloway is coming soon. tonight! if you’re in New York.

Carl: Canada lost a bona-fide hero this week, Dr. Henry Morgentaler. I liked this appreciation for its more intimate view.

Another Canadian hero, our friend Shary Boyle, is in Venice dazzling people’s motherfuckin’ eyes out. Before she went, she had this nice conversation.

Ask for advice from Maria Bamford’s mom! (As played by Maria Bamford.)

An interview with Marker Starling, aka Toronto musician Chris Cummings (formerly Mantler): “The thing I guess that bugs me about the easy listening label, and this has to do with the dismissive attitude toward a band like the High Llamas, is that people seem to perceive it as music you don’t have to take seriously. To be taken seriously music has to have an element of ‘danger,’ and easy listening, from its name on down, embodies the opposite of danger. It’s safe. But it’s possible to be ‘safe’ and thrilling, melodic, and rhythmically compelling at the same time, and have beautiful melodies and harmonies. If you listen closely to it – take an album like Look Around by Sergio Mendes and Brasil ’66 – it’s some of the most thrilling music ever. And I always try to incorporate something that thrills me in my own music, to put some kind of profound beauty into it. I’m not always successful but I try.”

Josh Kun’s project Songs in the Key of L.A., which previously showed us some pretty fantastic sheet-music covers of songs about the city and/or California from bygone years, is going one further and getting current L.A. artists to perform the songs, including Julia Holter and Aloe Blacc.

A gallery of fairy-tale, Seussian places you could actually go, like bamboo forests, floral tunnels, ice caves and pink lakes. What a world.

I really like Fence Books, but I never expected to see them covered by Vice. Although it makes sense now that I think of it.

Mike McGonigal pointed out this beautiful animated story of an encounter with the music collector, artist, antiquarian and much more, Harry Smith:

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Tea With Chris: Informative Rob Ford

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: Not to make TWC all-Moroder all the time or anything, but this little story is the most charming moment of gear nerdiness I’ve seen in a while.

Sheila E, 1985, playing lead percussion upright and singing “The Glamorous Life” simultaneously. Then somebody drapes a fur coat on her.

Margaux: Good news for atheists brought to you by Pope Francis

Bad news for fictional female characters in television – TV executives not so comfortable with mothers who “work too hard” at their “away” jobs (NPR)

Good news from Banksy

This is a beautiful thing that happened: Balpreet Kaur & a douchebag demonstrate strength of character on the internet (Jezebel)

Informative Rob Ford video from the young Torontonians (teenagers / Globe & Mail)

Other things happening in Toronto this weekend:

Wednesday Lupypciw & FAG & Christie Pits Park bring you QUEER NOISE SOLIDARITY followed by No Pants No Problem afterparty

Prince Nifty album release party at Holy Oak

and HOMOPHILIA w/ DJs Chris Randle and Alex Ostroff at the Yukon

Carl: This interview with Lawrence Wright packs an advanced degree’s worth of non-fiction writing tips into a very short space.

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Tea With Chris: ‘Help! I Ate My Own Vagina!’

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: After the wan enervation of their last album, Elysium, the new Pet Shop Boys single “Axis” comes on like somebody jolting up from sleep: relentlessly propulsive, a coruscating pulse, with only the merest vocal presence from Neil Tennant himself. More singing would just complicate the sensation. “Why don’t I use the synthesizer, which is the sound of the future?”

“Because you are a woman, and you feel feelings, you must draw some giant, oversimplified conclusion. You must have blandly down-to-earth protagonists, you must have lovable mommies hugging lost kittens, you must have rainbows and sunbeams spewing out of your ass. They’re going to coach you into writing something you’re not entirely sure about, something you would never in a million fucking years read yourself (if you had free will, which it sometimes seems like you don’t), and they’re going to tell you it’s pure genius. And even though you still might see your piece or essay or snippet of prose as “literary,” they’re going to stick an incendiary headline on it (‘Help! I Ate My Own Vagina!’) and it’s going to be an internet sensation, and you’re going to feel Bad with a capital B about it.”

Carl: I was recently in the Andalusian province of Sevilla, but didn’t visit (or then know about) the town there that is apparently its own small-scale experiment in utopianism that recalls the anarchist hopes of the Spanish Civil War. Compared to the unemployment-ridden Spanish economy in general, it seems like it’s thriving, although the comments on this story throw not-unexpected doubt on the mayor’s domineering style and perhaps cronyism. Still, any such real-life testing of social potentials and economic alternatives is exciting in a world so ahistorically convinced that one model fits all.

For a hilarious illustration of said model’s deep contradictions, you could do no better than Kathleen Phillips’s character monologue as a high-school guidance counselor who sees her job as an excuse to do “sweet fuck-all.” 

The luminous writer Paul LaFarge brings a similar mixture of laughter and queasy undertones, but a lot more fucking, to these “scenes left out of Henry James’s The Ambassadors.” I thought it was really funny at first, and then it started to wear thin, and then it became unexpectedly meaningful. I haven’t read The Ambassadors, so that’s not a prerequisite, but you likely have to have swallowed your share of James one way or another. Oh dear, that last part sounded like a line from the story.

And finally something for which I’ve been lobbying for years: The Experience Music Project in Seattle has got a bunch of videos online of lectures from this year’s mini-Pop Conference. Douglas Wolk’s talk on very, very short songs is one not to miss:

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Carl’s Tuesday Musics: “Money (Dollar Bill Y’All)”, Jimmy Spicer

I discovered this old-school jam via Douglas Wolk’s genealogy-of-the-Gatsby-soundtrack post on MTV today, and my ears can’t quite stop gobbling it up. Plus, I am in work-related negotiations this week, so it’s a useful mnemonic. $avour it!

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Tea With Chris: Sous les pavés, le thé

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.

Carl: Well, I’m sure we’ll talk more about this in five years, or else when Mad Men deals with it, but it’s been 45 years since May ’68, and that deserves a little somethin’ somethin’. Enjoy Bomblog’s roundup of soixante-huitarded materials, including René Viénet’s detourned kung-fu action movie Can Dialectics Break Bricks? Then read David Graeber smashing some masonry with a Baffler essay that goes from the Bastille to Occupy and the Debt Jubilee via May ’68, A Practical Utopian’s Guide to the Coming CollapseAnd Rhizome does a “cavalier” interview with Situationist historian McKenzie Wark.

And speaking of movements that bowl over the essential logic of their social foundations: My new favourite podcast, Hardcore History with Dan Carlin, has a four-hour episode on the Anabaptist rebellion and the siege of Munster during the Protestant Reformation that makes fascinating listening, especially if you remember the parts of Greil Marcus’s Lipstick Traces about John of Leyden (not to be confused with John Lyden, unless you’re Greil Marcus of course).

The second (or millionth) time as farce: Radical feminism as horror villain in this ace Jezebel find.

By contrast, extraordinary clear-minded feminism from former kidnap victim Elizabeth Smart. I hope the women who were freed from sexual captivity in Cleveland this week get the chance to speak to her.

This story by a writer who tracked down the cast members of Harmony Korine and Larry Clark’s Kids twenty years later turned out to be one of the most compelling and moving things about chosen families, fame and loss.

I’ve never been as big a fan of webcomic artist Allie Brosh as many are, but her autobiographical post this week about depression is among the more powerful and illuminating things you could read on the subject. Many will identify. Many others might grasp for the first time how unhelpful it can be to say, “Why can’t you just make your fish alive again?”

But if we could make things alive again, I would like to nominate Taylor Mead.

Finally, it’s ridiculous how excited I am that friend of B2TW and scarily drily funny comedian David Heti has a podcast. I haven’t had a chance to listen to I Have a Problem, With David Heti yet and I am still recommending it to you. That’s excitertainment.

Chris: I’m deep into preparations for the Toronto Comic Arts Festival, so all I have for you this week is a looped Nate Dogg / Kyary mashup, which if not revolutionary will at least annoy any patriarchal figures around.

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Carl’s Tuesday Musics: “King Kong” by Daniel Johnston (and cover by Tom Waits)

Hollywood special-effects magician Ray Harryhausen died this week at 93, recalling an era of cinematic creatures that were not just built out of zeroes and ones and were at once cheesier and more captivating because of it. Harryhausen in his turn was inspired by the original King Kong movie, with its stop-motion animation by Willis H. O’Brien.

In the song above, Daniel Johnston retells the tale of Kong, O’Brien and Harryhausen in an a capella recitation vaguely smelling of the blues. In the version below, Tom Waits pays tribute to Johnston but also fulfills the song’s potential by bringing the full blues ape-stank, just as R.H. built upon W.H.O’B.

When I was a kid I thought King Kong was pretty much the saddest movie ever, so I preferred the later Mighty Joe Young, which O’Brien also designed, but which gives the ape a happy ending.

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Tea With Chris: Dead Stars

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:

Margaux: Here is a video of Agnes Varda and Susan Sontag being “interviewed” by Newsweek film critic Jack Kroll. Jack Kroll seems to insist on the position of being the devil’s advocate in opposition to whatever position Varda and Sontage happen to be in by their nature of existing – a position he seems to be taking both in defense of an imagined and offended American audience, and in condescension to one. Sometimes in playing the devil’s advocate,  you  help to make the devil real. (link thanks to movie maker Elisabeth Subrin)

Speaking of intellectual superstars – Janelle Monáe and Erykah Badu.

Speaking of men

Speaking of ghosts – I mean stars – here’s an image taken 600 years after the death of an unstable progenitor star.

Chris: Somebody built a brutalist edifice for nuns to live inside and then decided, you know what, that’s not quite unnerving enough, we’ll have to call it “Motherhouse.”

“What a ridiculous clusterfuck of totally uncool jokers.”

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Tea With Chris: Led Every Life

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: Half of this book is murals created by Sun Ra, half is photographs of Ra himself in Afrofuturist garb, another extra 10% or so is the introduction by Glenn Ligon, and I want to see all of them.

He may have written better songs (certainly more successful ones), but I can’t think of a finer document of George Jones’ voice than this early performance, recorded not long after he chose to abandon rockabilly. It was one of the few auspicious personal decisions he’d make for a long time. R.I.P. to a man who, as Carl put it elsewhere, “never seemed to know much peace.”

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Tea With Chris: Robin’s Egg Blue

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: As a Brad Paisley fan who took part in the rampant mockery of his fascinatingly ill-advised single “Accidental Racist,” I feel like I should mention Jody Rosen and Eric Weisbard’s attempts to figure out where the country star was coming from.

“It’s 2009. I should be getting over it by now, and I’m trying, I really am, but then my third book, Hell Is Other Parents, a collection of personal essays, is published with a pink cover and placed in the parenting section. Prior to publication, I try changing the color to robin’s egg blue, the classification to memoir, and the title to Screwing in the Marital Bed, the title of one of the essays, which I think better encapsulates the thrust of the book. I am told, for the third time, that I have no say in the matter.”

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Carl’s Tuesday Musics (on Monday): “Empire of the Senseless,” The Mekons (1989)

by Carl Wilson

If this week has given us anything so far, it’s that a lot of people have learned about the great British anti-Thatcher songs of the 1980s and 1990s. (Although anyone who thinks, like Slate’s David Wiegel, that “we Americans had nothing like this” really wasn’t paying attention.) Elvis Costello’s Tramp the Dirt Down would be the great anthem specifically looking forward to Thatcher’s death (rivaled by Hefner’s The Day That Thatcher Dies and Morrissey’s Margaret on the Guillotine) but one I haven’t seen mentioned is this song from one of my favourite albums, The Mekons’ 1989 Rock’n’Roll.

It doesn’t call out Maggie by name (though it does mention “the hard lady”); in fact the only political figure name-dropped is an American, Oliver North (“Boring Ollie North down in the subway dealing drugs and guns/ turning little liars into heroes, it’s what they’ve always done” – and this was decades before North became a Fox News pundit). Instead it’s about a whole suite of Thatcherite policies, in the “culture wars” ambience of censorship and intolerance of the ’80s.

What I like best is its demonstration of the particular, peculiar sense of humour you develop when you spend a decade being near-continuously pissed off.

The now-odd-sounding lines, “This song promotes homosexuality/ It’s in a pretended family relationship/ with the others on this record/ And on the charts and on the jukebox/ And on the radio” refer to Thatcher’s family-values legislation Section 28, while the earlier, “These lines are all individuals/ And there’s no such thing as a song” parodies Thatcher’s famous claim that “there is no such thing as society.” (Man, she was a piece of work.) “Even the silent are now guilty” refers to legislation her government passed saying that while accused people would retain the right to remain silent, judges and juries would be free to interpret their silence as an admission of guilt. The line “turning journalists into heroes takes some doing” is a joke about the popularity of Charter 88, a petition protesting Thatcher’s restrictions on press freedom. And finally, the closing lines take off from Thatcher’s notorious line on immigration that “people are really rather afraid that this country might be swamped” – turned around to say “people are really rather afraid of being swamped by selfishness and greed.”

I’m sure there are other references I’m missing. The title is of course borrowed from Kathy Acker’s then-new, excoriating novel, which in turn I guess was playing on the title of Nagisa Oshima’s classic Japanese S&M art film, which in France was called L’Empire des sens, “empire of the senses,” itself a play on Roland Barthes’s book about Japan, The Empire of Signs …

“All unacceptable gropings have been removed from the screen. Only eyes full of unspeakable thoughts remain.”


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