Tag Archives: Beyoncé

Tea With Chris: B’s Hive and the Medicine Show

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: Beyonce!

Beyonce.

B E Y O N C E

Carl: It pisses Kareem Abdul-Jabbar off that people don’t want him to have opinions about Girls. “How should an aging, black jock like myself know anything about pop culture? Man, I am a living part of pop culture and have been for nearly 50 years. Beyond that, I think pop culture expresses our needs, fears, hopes and whole zeitgeist better than some of the more esoteric and obscure forms of art.”

In evidence thereof, please see Will Sheff of the band Okkervil River, writing about a 39-year-old video of Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show playing German TV. I must confess I like this post better than I like any of Sheff’s songs. And I like his songs. But I love this essay. I won’t spoil it except to say that if you start off thinking it is sarcastic and mean, wait, because it isn’t.

This interview with feminist thinker Drucilla Cornell, on the other hand, is sometimes sarcastic and mean, and always challenging and bracing. I think I disagree with quite a bit of it, except that I am going to need to think about it a lot more before I’d dare say that.

The funny: Latest contenders for best things on the Internet.

The less funny: We all live in the shadow of the drone. (Well, sort of funny if you sing that to the tune of Yellow Submarine.)

Oh, by the way, what’s the purpose of the universe?

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

Tea With Chris: Tila Ascending

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: My friend Steph recorded an EDM track about Tila Tequila transcending our plane of existence: “YOU USED TO BE ON REALITY TV / BUT NOW YOURE SOMEWHERE BEYOND 3D / DARK SECRETS FROM ILLUMINATI / DONT TRUST THEM IS WHAT YOU TAUGHT ME.” And then a Tila Tequila conspiracist commented on the Youtube page.

As an antidote to every lip-synching-related headline from the past week, some swirling parallelism.

I think illustrated tweets appeal to me in part because of how mediated they are, deliberately rendered spontaneity.

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

Teach Me How to Boogie Guest Post: Beyonce vs De Keersmaeker

by Amelia Ehrhardt

In October of 2011, more than a dozen of my Facebook friends posted a video called “Split Screen Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker and Beyonce Knowles”, a video highlighting the similarities between Beyonce’s video for “Countdown” and many of de Keersmaeker’s films. I typically fall into the internet outrage trap easily, and this was an extreme example. I’d studied this film in university – de Keersmaeker is a well-known dance choreographer – and while I initially hesitated about how much Beyonce could have stolen, I realized pretty immediately that the answer was “pretty much everything.”

Rosas Danst Rosas was first choreographed for stage in 1983, when de Keersmaeker was only 23 years old. It was one of de Keersmaeker’s earliest choreographies, one that is still performed by the company. The piece was created in close collaboration with the musicians Thierry de Mey and Peter Vermeersch, and, like much of her earlier work, deals explicitly with female sexuality and experience without necessarily being about feminism. The film version, directed and shot in 1996 (also by Theirry de Mey) expands on the original piece’s choreography and concept. I spent about five minutes while watching it just trying to figure out how the dancers were counting one section of choreography (I finally figured it out as four, five, four, three, five: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zS_kWttptS4).

That same meticulousness exists in the editing: the repeated cutting between shots manages not to be overwhelming or muddy, as the specific movements are matched up frame by frame – each shot follows the one before it, until right after the film’s courtyard scene. The precision that had existed before, in all elements of the work, breaks down here to make space for a surprisingly stark ending.

The work presents a take on women that was striking and risky at the time of its creation. Viewed now, and perhaps even in 1996 when the film was shot, many of its feminist stances could seem kitschy or demoralizing, but the repeated gesture of taking off the shirt, exposing the shoulders, and putting it back on again describes what is to me an important problem in dance around women and women’s bodies. In a field vastly dominated by women, men still hold the majority of leadership positions and are more likely to receive funding: in 2005, the Dancer Transition Resource Centre reported that 71% of professional dancers in Canada were female, yet 10 out of the group’s 15 associated companies were under male artistic directorship. Dance Theatre Workshop in the States notes that “in 2000, of the 18 modern dance choreographers who received grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, 13 were men”. The men received a total of $200 000 with a typical grant of ten grand, and the women received a total of $45 000 with a typical grant of five thousand dollars.

The life and work of a dancer is taxing and difficult, and the problems around the female body in dance are numerous and notorious. With so many men running the show, I have to wonder how much longer we can ignore these issues. Skimpy costumes on women and rampant eating disorders, coupled with lower rates of pay for the same work, paint a depressing picture of women’s complicated place in the dance community, and yet in 1983 de Keersmaeker was presenting work, as a young female choreographer, where women exposed themselves, “exploited” themselves. Suddenly this gesture of exposing the shoulder seems to me pretty radical. This work predates Madonna and riot grrrl, and though it comes after two “waves” of feminism and a number of strong women asserting themselves and their sexuality – Wendy O. Williams and Sylvia Robinson come to mind – not many of the women who took a more aggressive stance reached the point of critical acclaim that Rosas did.

The film version’s resemblance to a music video stands out for me now – I have tried to learn some of the choreography and remembered sections of it in a vocabulary that almost seems more commercial, more hip-hop than anything else. It’s a rare instance in dance when I feel like an all-female cast is a specific choice to say something meaningful about female sexuality or the place of women in the professional dance community, as opposed to just a reflection of available collaborators. Grabbing their own breast, taking off the shoulder of their shirts, and writhing slightly all fit into the larger vocabulary of pedestrian movement, released arms, and a mind-bogglingly precise relaxation. Complicated floorwork and athletic throws are juxtaposed with flirtatious looks from the women.

Despite the commentary the work makes, it isn’t just about gender and sexuality for me. My first reaction to the piece was actually that it must be about anxiety or obsession, based on the preoccupation that seems to have a hold on the dancers throughout. Finding out that this film version was shot and edited by a man, I have to admit, changed things a bit for me, however much I’m keeping myself satisfied by believing that de May, as a longtime collaborator of de Keersmaeker’s, worked with and understands her vision for the work. There’s also, I think, a difference between this male gaze, and the one that follows contemporary female pop singers.

Contemporary pop stars like Beyonce. In 2011, her music video for “Countdown” was released to an immediate fury of online sharing. It didn’t take long for dance nerds everywhere to notice the obvious lifting of choreography, costumes, set, and timing (so pretty much everything) from de Keersmaeker’s work. Beyonce is not new to plagiarism charges – earlier in the same year she was accused of stealing some moves from Lorella Cuccarrini at the Billboard Music Awards. The director of the video for “Countdown,” Adria Petty, claims to have brought different “inspirational sources” to Beyonce to use in the video, and, in her words, “believe it or not, many of them were German modern dance references”.

The distinction between Germany and Belgium notwithstanding, there’s a thin line between inspiration and plagiarism that anybody on the Internet is familiar with. Any 14-year-old with a Mac and Photobooth is capable of creating Warhols. Webcomic creators everywhere are plagued with random Internet users taking frames from strips and using them as Facebook profile pictures, showing how much they identify with the sentiment of “clean all the things”. A million memes of Sgt. Pike pepper-spraying some kids are now floating around the aether, with no sense of who the original creator might be. Does anybody know who created LOLcats?

In this sense, it’s hard to accuse Beyonce of plagiarism – after all, this wonderful modern world makes it easy to “plagiarize” anything. In December 2011 I screened de Keersmaeker’s film with no permission to do so. If you want a copy of the DVD you can download it, just like I did. There’s even evidence to suggest that “borrowing” in dance work is just the reality of what we do – the neurological activity of watching and performing movement is identical, which, coupled with the fact that learned movements patterns are stored in the long-term memory, suggests the possibility of kinesthetic memory triggering at any given moment.

This problem of originality is a sort of obsession for me. I’ve had the call for “original movement vocabulary” shoved down my throat so much in my training as a choreographer that when I actually started reading neurocognitive studies on movement creation and found that “muscle memory” is a real thing, I was thrilled to be free from the burden of making unique stuff. But this doesn’t mean, in my mind, that we can now run around stealing other people’s choreography because our somatic mindbody memory made us do it. Rather, I think of this as more of a call to dance artists everywhere for academic honesty – let’s just acknowledge our training, our prior collaborators, and choreographers we’ve worked for as being the source for all our own movement. Beyonce’s video may be a poor example of this. Somatic mindbody memory doesn’t force you to copy someone’s costumes and sets.

It’s not just the one film that Beyonce ripped here, either. The entire movement vocabulary in “Countdown” is a lift from something else. When asked about the clip, Beyonce is quoted as saying: “Clearly, the ballet Rosas danst Rosas was one of many references for my video ‘Countdown.’ It was one of the inspirations used to bring the feel and look of the song to life…I was also paying tribute to the film Funny Face with the legendary Audrey Hepburn .” She later added: “My biggest inspirations were the ’60s, the ’70s, Brigitte Bardot, Andy Warhol, Twiggy and Diana Ross…I’ve always been fascinated by the way contemporary art uses different elements and references to produce something unique.”

My own perspective on the matter of lifting and inspiration is muddy. I don’t particularly care about originality, and I’m not bothered when I see dance work whose movement vocabulary shows clear influence from another choreographer. I actually think that rules. I draw the line around this when a work of art that’s seminal in its field but little-known outside of it is lifted without any credit or sourcing, in a product that will make someone who is already incredibly successful that much more wealthy. It would’ve been pretty exciting to me if this video had gently referenced de Keersmaeker, or given the occasional subtle nod to Rosas Danst Rosas. I have personally done the exact same thing, with the exact same piece of choreography – I find it hard not to, given its importance. I also know that sampling is integral to the realm of music Beyonce is working in, and often practiced without any reference, citation, or recognition. To be honest, I don’t know how to reconcile that: after all, this video is just another sample.

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List of mostly good things, big and small, that I can remember from the world in 2011 – in order of rememberance

by Margaux Williamson

1. Remembering what a brilliant idea feels like –  Occupy Wall Street

It was a simple and brilliant idea – that people could “occupy” a space in addition to protesting it, that the power and action could be contained and directed inward to make something new, rather than all thrown at an opponent (where it often just falls uselessly at their feet).

It made me think of something that the physicist Lee Smolin wrote in his 2006 book The Trouble with Physics.  In the book he attempts to untangle the genuinely revolutionary ideas in contemporary physics from the ones that might be time-consuming dead-ends. To begin this untangling – and to help identify the promising theories from the dead-end ones – he looks for the commonality and rules that past genuinely revolutionary scientific ideas share.  Some of the rules, for instance, involved simplicity, uniqueness, immediate impact on other related problems and, also, that once you truly understand the genuinely brilliant scientific idea, you can’t (for the life of you) see the world in the old way again.

Coming from the arts, where words like “genius” are flung around just as often in hopeful declarations as in certainty, and where the term avant-garde more often than not describes a genre from the past rather than anything new (or involves an isolated “newness” that doesn’t in the least impact anything else), I had been very attracted to thinking that truly brilliant ideas have a natural order to them and clearly identifiable nature. Because this natural order seemed so comforting when I first read it, I had wanted to apply it (however unwisely) to everything. Though I simultaneously thought that such rules could never apply to something genius like the civil rights movement where the struggle is so long and complicated and where it can take forever to invert people’s world view.

But seeing the simplicity and brilliance of this protest shift on Wall Street made me remember to be more humble in my thinking of what is a truly brilliant idea – that of course in a movement hoping to get somewhere new,  a lot of genuinely revolutionary ideas, thinking and actions are essential along the way.  Maybe it is just easy to forget all of the brilliance because the better the ideas are, the more quickly they become obvious to everyone – as though they had never been invented or discovered in the first place.

I remember awhile ago at a talking tour I had given for Ryan Trecartin’s work at the Power Plant Gallery here in Toronto, I had been asked by someone in the audience (who was skeptical of the brilliance of Trecartin’s work) if the work would still be important in 100 years. I had said – I hope not! I said, I hope it’s such useful work for understanding our time that we’ll completely absorb it into culture and forget that what this artist knew and could express was ever separate from what we knew and what we could express. I said that’s probably why I never thought Picasso was so special – his work probably actually worked, it probably impacted and was absorbed by culture by the time I came around. At which point I was like, duh.

2. Music videos – Beyoncé and The Beastie Boys change things

Beyoncé’s song Run the World (Girls) has given me at least two solid waves of power goosebumps. In the beginning of the song Beyoncé authoritatively sings Girls! we run this motha ___ (yeah!). To me, it sounded like the censors had taken the fucker out of mothafucker and that She is singing Girls! we run this mothafucking (world). You hear this suggested adjective while simultaneously also hearing that it was only ever motha – motha the noun, that the Girls are running the motha (the world). Motha (in a second) suddenly becomes more powerful and crazy than motherfucker ever was or could be. Mothafucker has always been a real challenge – it has such weight. But here Beyoncé brilliantly and effortlessly handed the sinister and seductive weight over to something both more ominous and familiar. Re-appropriation at it’s best. Also (and as usual) the dancing is amazing.

Before watching the 2011 30 minute video written and directed by Adam Yauch Fight For Your Right (Revisited) Full Length (the sequel the Beastie Boys1987 music video (You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (To Party!) I watched the original 1987 music video first. I was surprised at how incredibly slow the original felt. It made me think that things in 1987 must have been ever slower than the video since I had remembered the video as being very exciting.  The new one – inexplicably filled with famous actors and comedians – is weighty and strangely fast-feeling for it’s 30 minute length and heavy use of slow motion. The video takes the original premise (of reckless partiers) and simply makes it more real. A more reality-based representation of destruction and stupidity turns out to be incredibly captivating and frightening. After 30 mintues, it is hard to know where the time went but you want to watch it again – this also happens to be the gist of the narrative.  More movies from Adam Yauch!

*It is worth watching to the end credits – Seth Rogen walking down the street in slow motion as the credits role is somehow better than any cartoon I have ever seen.

3. THE CLOCK, a 24 hour movie in real time constructed by Christian Marclay

Congratulations to Christian Marclay for making a great piece of art that would even move and intellectually simulate aliens with superior minds who might be shamefully ignorant of our small and complicated art world. This 24 hour movie is comprised of clips, taken from a million different movies, that all feature some indication of the actual time. The clips from these other time/spaces correspond exactly to the real time of the audience watching.

If you haven’t seen it, Zadie Smith wrote a beautiful piece on it here, and Jerry Saltz here. It is simple and big and makes you think of the strangeness of time. You can see a little piece of it on Youtube, though for instance, this clip has the thoughtful request: In order to respect the concept of Christian Marclay’s work, spectators are kindly requested to play this video at 4 pm, local time. If time is passed, please wait for tomorrow or another day same time. Thank you.  I hope Marclay puts this work on a 24-hour-moving website soon. This one shouldn’t be hoarded by real space. The aliens need to see this.

4. The Hunger Games – the trilogy by Suzanne Collins

This was recommended to me this year by a lot of tough 12 year old boys. The scenario doesn’t sound exactly promising -“Set in a future where the Capitol selects a boy and girl from the twelve districts to fight to the death on live television” – but the young adult books are very serious and very pleasurable. The story is about how a revolution begins.  In the book, the main instigators for revolution are a tough teenage girl with a bow and arrow, a cool-headed adult fashion designer and a sensitive son-of-a-baker who paints. Of course me and the 12 year old boys loved it.

5. Thank you for television – True Blood and Whale Wars

I was housebound for a good part of 2011 with health problems which led me to watch a lot of television which led me to want to write a letter to the makers of True Blood and thank them – except then I remembered I wasn’t 11 years old. (The houseboundness accounts for my heavy-on-pop-culture list this year). I started watching True Blood after being compelled by a perplexing video that Snoop Dogg (who often shows up in various seemingly random screens around the screen world – maybe to tell us that those screens are real, or that he is real, or simply to help identify that the screens we see him in are from the time of now).

The best thing about True Blood (based on the books by Charlaine Harris and created for television by Alan Ball) is the full insertion of these fantasy characters – vampires, faeries, werewolves – into a reality-based narrative where vampires have to fight for equal rights and where werewolves haven’t yet come out of the closet. This is the only way I can enjoy fantasy, when it is firmly but campily tied to the ground. It is funny when a vampire never lies about being a vampire. The second best thing about the show is that it is more emotionally intelligent than usual,  with bad vampires and good vampires, bad Christians and good Christians. The bad vampires often become good and vice versa. And like life, it is the rule that the best (or at least most tolerable) characters occasionally partake in some healthy self-hatred.

I would alternate between this show and Animal Planet’s Whale Wars  which my friend Steve Kado had brought over. It’s a documentary television show about environmental pirates battling Japanese whaling ships in order to try and save the whales. If you are also sick, I highly recommend watching these shows together – a near real-life (and dream) simulation.

Best single episode of television this year – the Louis episode where he goes to Afghanistan
In this episode of the show Louis, Louis C.K. travels to Afghanistan to perform his comedy act for the American troops. But while there he finds himself to be (for all narratively practical reasons and with the help of an American cheerleader, a group of Afghan locals and a duckling) suddenly a real clown, with actual white face paint, with everyone around him laughing. It was a brilliant shift for what a contemporary comedian can be – far from (but logically connected to) the standard boring shock-talk of cable comedy specials. Thank you Louis C.K. for making everyone laugh and for trying to end a small piece of the violence with some good self-humiliation.

6. Melancholia



Speaking of learning how to see oneself as both good and bad, Lars Von Trier seemed to have opened up like a flower this year to mixed results. He was banned from France’s Cannes Film Festival after a misstep at a press conference. It involved Von Trier’s half hearted and confused attempt to make jokes while also maybe trying to say that it might be just as useful for the world to occasionally identify with a monster as it is to identify with a victim. He was inarticulately crossing into dangerous terrain for the delicate people of earth for sure, but getting banned suddenly made France (or at least the Cannes Film Festival) seem like a television show for children.

In a funny way, it was as though Von Trier was being more confused and open himself – less in wry attack mode and more just trying to survive and communicate.  Or maybe it was that this feeling was very apparent in his latest feature – Melancholia. Often, the stories for his movies involve a darkly funny punch line with the generosity and depth of his vision reserved for the politics of his structural and aesthetic choices – embedded in every inch of his works.

But in Melancholia the story is more searching and seems more like a story he needs to tell himself than he needs to tell to others. This makes Melancholia feel like one of his deepest works – or at least certainly the most generous. What we need to tell ourselves is often more complicated than what we think the world needs to hear. And the story doesn’t suffer for this searching – the small but piercing details that connect together a story here resonate deeper – they are the kind of details from our own lives that we grasp together and attempt to make stories out of. When the main character Justine (Kristen Dunst) says passionately and convincingly – in a conversation she is having with her sister regarding  her wishful certainty that the evil world will end – “I know things”,  we feel both in the heart of the only possible meaning one could find in life and also completely lost. It is the attempt at stories that is heartbreaking here –  the paradox of making meaning while telling a story of meaninglessness.  One of the nicest things that a human could do.

7. Biography & autobiographies big and small

I read a lot of these books this year. They all seemed to fall into one of two categories – feeling very claustrophobic and depressingly small or feeling very big – even when the facts of the lives  presented didn’t seem very different.  The most fun big-feeling one was John Water’s book Shock Value that my friend Lynn Crosbie gave me. I somehow had never read this before even though I love him. The healthy, generous, positive and curious mind evident in this book is a good reminder of where a lot of great art comes from. It’s hilarious to hear him describe how great everyone was during his Mondo Trasho days, from the local priest to the owner’s of the hair salon he accidentally flooded in a film shoot. Clearly, he is a very easy man to get along with.

Sempre Susan, a short and pleasurable book about Susan Sontag written by Sigrid Nunez, also fell into the bigger category – even though I came to it because it was being passed around gleefully on a summer cottage trip after its original owner described it as a high-class gossipy People magazine article. And though this description was true, the book also is also simple and quiet and good with lots of room to move around in and take things in.  The space it allowed me made me think of Sarah Manguso’s book The Two Kinds of Decay  a beautiful memoir detailing a prolonged illness the author suffered. The two books are similar mainly in that both writers were writing about something they were so entwined in without bothering to mention in any great detail their own fraught feelings or inner turmoil, even as their presence was right there next to you the whole time. The resulting powerful intimacy of both books reminds us that for finding love, excessive emotional transparency might not be the way, but you do probably have to get naked.

8. Movie directors waving their hands in front of the camera

I saw Moussa Touré’s Poussieres de ville in a program of short works curated by Jean-Marie Teno called Reframing Africa 1: Representation or Reality?.  In Touré’s movie, we first see young boys wake up in odd positions in various stalls at an empty market. The work is immediately playful and visually compelling which makes it a bit hard to tell off the bat if it is a fiction or a documentary exactly. As the work progresses, questions start to come from behind the camera, asking the boys more specific questions regarding their homelessness. Near the end of this 52 minute work, hands emerge to offer clothes and new backpacks. And then, with even more presence but also more uncertainty, the hands deliver the kids each to separate relations who may or may not look after them. I am very sympathetic to this solution – you do the best you can with the information you have before you.

Documentary movie-making can have some pretty crazy and uptight rules. It was great to see a director allow themselves to be a logical human participant in relation to the complicated subject matter before them, and to react in the best way they knew how – rather than a director who thinks that their objective distance is useful (or even possible). In Poussieres de ville, high-minded silliness was abandoned for deceptively simple thoughtfulness.


Werner Herzog’s engagement with subject came out too in his recent Into the Abyss; A Tale of Death, A Tale of Life . He introduces himself  to a young prisoner on death row before he begins an interview with him. Herzog says to the young man (in essence): I am sympathetic to your situation, I feel for you and your situation – and that doesn’t mean that I have to like you, but I am sympathetic.

This scene made me think of an art movie I had coincidentally watched the day before with my friend Amy Lam at University of Toronto’s Justina M. Barnicke Gallery. It was a work from Dutch artist Renzo Martens called Enjoy Poverty. Enjoy Poverty is comprised of footage from Martens time spent in the Congo. His intentionally simplistic and painfully committed approach – that involved his desire and attempt to help people in poverty by getting them to consider their poverty as a commodity to sell – was conceptually smart and tight. But unfortunately,  the director’s character feels like all cruel fiction (to prove a point) and the world he is engaging with that feels like all fact. So as you see him engage with yet another poor local, saying something intentionally naive and stinging (he is committed!) it very often looks like the local is doing their best not to cry. I am guessing we (the audience) were supposed to feel like villains alongside the director, but we feel like the victims too.

I love art that engages with the reality of the world and that uses persona, specifically the persona of the director, to create a story. Even better, sometimes, if the director generously plays the villain.  But I always think it’s most interesting when there is fact and fiction mixed together in a persona – it is always much less like a cartoon and always more strange. Watching Enjoy Poverty  made me think of a Hollywood comedy that I really understood, Tropic Thunderspecifically a scene where one of the actors playing another actor talks to one of the other actors while they are doing some acting in the jungle. The wiser actor tells the other actor (in regards to winning Oscars), “Everybody knows you never go full retard man. .. never go full retard. You don’t buy that? Go ask Sean Penn 2001, I Am Sam, remember? Went full retard. Went home empty handed.”

Herzog is an expert at being comfortable with (or intrigued by) his subjects’ discomfort on film – and with his booming voice coming from behind the camera, he often doesn’t see so far off from a villain. But in this scene where he introduces himself to the young man, you see the complications and bravery involved in being a real human – even one who is playing.

Apart from all that, Into the Abyss is also deceptively simple and full of enormous depth. Part of its success (apart from the incredible storytelling craft evident in the way the questions were asked and how the editing was done) is in the equal time that Herzog gives to everyone involved in the execution: a sister of one of the murder victims, a brother of the other, the accused murderer’s collaborator, the collaborator’s wife, the minister at the prison, the executioner, etc. The suffering of the executioner was particularly eye opening. The story that emerges from these subjects (especially in relation to the various generations involved) hints at something old and sinister and alive – something even more chilling the calm facade of one psychopath.

9. Helen DeWitt’s Lightning Rods


Helen DeWitt’s novel feels like a Kafka fable written by a friendly can-do American from the future who filled it, using a confident steady-hand, with insane pornography, solid jokes and an optimistic (or chilling) matter-of-factness about dealing with people not as they should be, but as they are. I wish this book was small enough to allow for teenagers to keep it in their back pockets. DeWitt received a lot of accolades for her first novel “The Last Samarui”, but the deceptively simple and strangely clear Lightning Rods is, in my opinion, the real masterpiece.

10. Rise of the Planet of the Apes


Instead of the desert, in this Planet of the Apes, we have the lush and moist San Francisco. That, right off the bat, makes this Planet of the Apes infinitely more watchable. Also the more ape-like and less human-like apes, makes it infinitely less creepy. But the strange and exciting this about this movie, apart from the  AWESOMENESS THAT ONE DESIRES FROM A GREAT HOLLYWOOD MOVIE, is that it’s less a metaphor for human rights than it is actually about animal rights. Sitting in the audience at the multiplex, it seemed suddenly like the first Hollywood blockbuster I had ever seen that dealt seriously with animal rights. These monkeys represented monkeys! It can take awhile, but eventually you’ll get a crazy story right.

11. Songs and paintings

I came across the book 1000 paintings while I was staying at my friends Jean and Mic’s place in Thunder Bay (the book had been a gift). I hadn’t seen anyone in a few weeks and somehow, as a leisure activity, I had a great time looking at every single painting in sequence. This painting from Maruyama Ōkyo was my favourite. True Blood television enriched my love for Neko Case’s song  Wish I was the Moon. It does what most good songs do – makes your bad feelings seem useful.  And Efrim Menuck’s album Plays “High Gospel”, which first caught me with the beautiful song I Am No Longer a Motherless Child, proved to be good company when I went back to work making paintings – a good album if you need to get to a deeper place  fast  – and are too tired to go alone.

ALSO *My boyfriend Misha Glouberman and my best friend Sheila Heti wrote a great book called The Chairs Are Where the People Go – that I am perhaps too close to to add to my year end list, but luckily The New Yorker added it to theirs.

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Filed under books, comedy, dance, literature, margaux williamson, movies, music, TV/video, visual art

Tea With Chris: Oh Baby

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: I would happily watch all zombie-related culture from the past 30 years disappear, but Zora Neale Hurston talking about them? The best.

No, wait, maybe 2:14 of this music video is the best:

Never mind.

Margaux: A refreshingly big picture artist interview that covers class, “the Real” and the boring old art world: Rosemary Heather interviews Ken Lum

Ken Lum, Mirror Maze with 12 Signs of Depression, 2002

Carl: Mark O’Connell published a lovely essay in The Millions about his agnostic adoration of the story of the Fall from the Book of Genesis this week. There are good bits about spider limericks and blowjobs and childhood fears but my favourite passage is this: “I was touched by how the story captures the way in which our alienation from our own nature seems, paradoxically, to be a basic condition of that nature. It expresses, in its simple yet enigmatic way, our enduring sense that it wasn’t meant to be this way, that we must have gone wrong somewhere too far back for anyone to remember. That we lost our innocence somehow, or threw it away, or allowed ourselves to be cheated out of it. That all this — mortality, sickness, misery, evil, boredom, war, drudgery — must surely be some mistake.” Know that feeling?

Speaking of childhood and innocence lost and well-known tales, I also really enjoyed Joshua Ostroff’s piece about his obsession with The Wizard of Oz and his relish in passing it along to his own kid.

I was thrilled and moved by Seth Colter Walls’ sensitive account on The Awl today of what transpired outside Lincoln Center in New York last night – a thematically appropriate encounter between Occupy Wall Street, NYC cops, Lou Reed, Laurie Anderson, Philip Glass and Glass’s opera Satyagraha, which is about Tolstoy, Gandhi, MLK and the tradition of non-violent resistance in general.

I would respectfully disagree with Walls, however, in his Adorno-esque attempt to paint suspicion of cultural elitism at the opera (and like levels of “high” culture) as a propaganda conspiracy by the “titans of corporate pop culture” — certainly there have been movies and TV shows that perpetuate the stereotypes, but I’m afraid they only pander to an already existing popular sentiment. The argument has been mounted much more so by populists right and left (and some more sophisticated left thinkers too). While some of it is simple-minded and anti-intellectual, for sure, at the same time it’s also for good reason.

The fact that there are cheaper seats and that institutions like the Met have made great initiatives to open the work up to a broader public doesn’t mean that there isn’t an accessibility problem in opera, ballet, etc. – accessibility doesn’t amount only to ticket prices, and only someone very comfortable in those environs would imagine otherwise. I’m a middle-class cultural professional and I still feel like a self-conscious plebian, ignorant slob when I go to an opera house. It is intimidating on multiple social levels.

That doesn’t make it automatically politically retrograde, but it’s a factor to be taken into account. Still, that’s only a small part of Walls’ argument. And on his page you get to watch Lou Reed use the human microphone.

Meanwhile, over in Famous Monsters of Realityland territory, the Republicans are working overtime to come up with ways to spin Occupy Wall Street, which veteran strategist Frank Luntz says has him ” frightened to death.” Really? That’s great!

It makes me want to talk about love as a political force with Lauren Berlant and Michael Hardt, although I haven’t gotten around to reading their dialogue yet. Meanwhile, who wants to go to this food court with me?

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Tea With Chris: Slow Discourse

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: A little behind the curve, but my favourite thing I found out about this week was the Occupy Wall Street protesters’ invention of “the human microphone”: Someone speaking calls out, “Mic Check,” and then the crowd repeats back what they are saying, in unison, phrase by phrase.

Here’s Michael Moore using it:

The human microphone is ingenuity responding to necessity: The police have banned real mics, amps and megaphones from the gathering (as someone in the YouTube comments says, this is “free speech” in a society where the courts have ruled that corporations can spend as much as they like amplifying their messages). It’s also culture responding to history – the call-and-response structure directly recalls church, and particularly the African-American gospel tradition, which radiates out through a lot of the greatest American music.

There are additional effects too, hilarious and poignant and challenging ones: First, of course, the technique means that every speech takes at least twice as long. It’s kind of Slow Discourse, on the model of Slow Food and other Slow Movements – with the implication that what each person has to say, and the crowd’s process of (literally) chewing it over, is a higher priority than the efficiency of the communication and decision making. What’s more, in repeating a speaker’s words, the crowd simulates affirming and agreeing with them, which of course the individuals may not, in fact. In that act of repetition they experience what it might be like to agree, probably before they begin to think about disagreeing or critiquing. That’s the reverse of the adversarial debate culture that permeates so much of western politics, a kind of deep-listening technique, and the kind of happy accident that the spontaneity of Occupy Wall Street seems to make possible on many levels.

When my old friend Naomi Klein spoke at the gathering last night, she amusingly began by saying, “I love you” – adding, “I didn’t just say that so that hundreds of you would shout ‘I love you’ back, though that is obviously a bonus feature of the human microphone: Say unto others what you would have them say unto you, only way louder.” But she also meant it. The text of her speech, up on the Nation website, explains why, in a manner that may help skeptics get past their doubts.

(By the way, The Nation also has the best piece about Slutwalk I’ve ever read, for those who are still on the fence about that phenomenon.)

Meanwhile, the week has also seen the rise of #OccupySesameStreet (which I was happy to learn was largely thanks to Patton Oswalt). Because we should not rest while 1% of the monsters consume 99% of the cookies. Don’t allow Mr. Hooper to have died in vain.

Chris: The piping-hot music video for Beyonce’s “Countdown” underlines why a lot of music critics I know are tipping it as the single of the year: formal experimentation rarely feels this joyful,  this confident in its own weirdness. It’s an epic in 3:33. And yet, as the clip amply demonstrates, not self-serious; she mugs in fabulous maternity outfits, channels Audrey Hepburn and Anna Karina (or at least that’s what all the blinking reminded me of), spawns animated GIFs at record speed. Daunting sample size, but between “Countdown” and those music videos with Gaga, I think B might be sexiest when she’s being funny.

Tyler Coates, a genius, refracted the video into this screen-filling multitude of Beyonces.

Someone shot footage of their puppies running around and used Geto Boys’ decidedly non-adorable “Still” (chorus: “DIE MOTHERFUCKERS”) as its soundtrack. Mildly hyperbolic Youtube commenter: “this is the best fucking thing america has given us.”

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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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