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Tea With Chris: Mysteriously Enormous

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’m covering the Toronto International Film Festival for the first time right now, and it feels a little like this:

So brevity is better. Via batarde, the only television appearance Georges Bataille ever made:

A D.C. consulting firm is building an unpopulated “test city” in the New Mexico desert.

When he’s hosting the long-running Toronto lecture series Trampoline Hall, our friend Misha Glouberman begins every night with a perpetually witty spiel about how to ask good questions. The New York Times just published a written version of it: “Pay attention to your mental images as the question is occurring to you. When you picture yourself asking the question, are you mysteriously enormous? Are you made of gold? These are signs that you may possibly have a bad question.”

A Luc Sante essay devoted to his uncontrollable library is obviously going to be great, but his nuanced speculation on the physical medium’s future surprised me; he praises Google’s systematic digitization of literature and seems curious about the various e-readers, yet remains eloquently concerned for printed matter: “Many books are screwy, a great many are dull, some are irredeemable, and there are way too many of them, probably, in the world. I hate all the fetishistic twaddle about books promoted by the chain stores and the book clubs, which make books seem as cozy and unthreatening as teacups, instead of the often disputatious and sometimes frightening things they are…I realize that books are not the entire world, even if they sometimes seem to contain it. But I need the stupid things.”

Carl: This book seems screwy, dull, disputatious and the entire world all at once. Of the recent spate of “things” books, though, maybe the most intriguing: The idea that there was once a popular genre of “it narratives” related by inanimate objects, body parts and animals is so delightful; the prose in which it seems to be told looks much less so on quick perusal but I am willing to give it a more slow-paced chance: The Things Things Say is a cool title.

On a similar level this video is too long & not as funny as it wishes but I agree so much with its thesis that I can’t help but endorse it.

Best music journalism on the web of late: Geeta Dayal’s extensive piece on German performance/noise artist and synth-pop (Tangerine Dream, Cluster/Kluster) innovator Conrad Schnitzler; and two less-than-reverent considerations of the intersections of music with 9/11: Maura Johnston and Chris Weingarten’s list of the worst Sept. 11 response songs (which nervily includes both “Empire State of Mind” and a Xiu Xiu song – agreed, and I love Xiu Xiu – along with the usual suspects, – though I would stand up for Alan Jackson’s “Where Were You” despite the wince-worthy Iraq/Iran line, for turning to Christian love as opposed to biblical vengeance as the value it wants to defend); and Hua Hsu’s subtle memoir about how he had an overdue record review that day, which ends up being a sidelong meditation on several virtues that can bring you through trials more reliably than the recent American predilection for demonstrative emotion.

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Tea With Chris: Marinetti as MC

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: Thanks to everyone who attended our 100,000th Word party on Wednesday! We’re going to post transcripts of each conversation soon. Meanwhile, my tea is all-video today. Tyler Coates makes some excellent expressions in this:

“I’m the cat whisperer. I’m here to whisper some fuckin’ secrets to your cats.” Featuring Lizzy Caplan, crush object for at least one-third of B2TW.

I was in L.A. pop-conferencing when it took place during Toronto’s Rhubarb Festival, so I’m very happy that Steph Davidson put the Life of a Craphead performance Please Copy Us Forever on Vimeo.

Carl: A couple of years ago I was pleasantly startled to discover in the pages of The New Yorker a poem that included lines like, “That elk is such a dick. He’s a space tree” and “I translate the Bible into velociraptor” and referenced Buju Banton. This week there’s an interview with the poet, Michael Robbins, in Bomb, the home of great interviews, in which he says this:

“There’s much in my poetry that’s offensive to certain sensibilities, and people are wedded to their offence. Their offence is part of them. So they feel affronted. And, of course, that’s part of what the poetry is designed to illicit. Questions like, What is at stake in our offence? Why do we have such a very unskeptical view of our own offence? And why is it that we’re so willing to rely on our offence and our taste as barometers of . . . anything? Except something about ourselves –because it doesn’t necessarily tell us anything about the world.”

That’s a nice lead-in to this essay by Bethlehem Shoals about the controversial Los Angeles teen shock-rap collective Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All (Odd Future for short), whom Shoals compares not just to Jackass and Dennis Cooper but to Marinetti and Mayakovsky. All of which is valid – I’d also compare them to Harmony Korine, LeRoi Jones and Takashi Miike – but while that may make them artists, it doesn’t make any of the aforementioned not misogynistic at the same time. It seems a little rich after 40 years of feminist cultural criticism to think that one descriptions contradicts – and excuses – the other. (A commenter, Chloe S., wrote yesterday that you could as easily trace Odd Future’s fantasies to the date-rape problem in California skater culture.) But likewise dismissing the stuff because it’s misogynistic fails as both aesthetic and political critique, as Mike Barthel recently pointed out, linking to a 1997 essay by Ann Powers (who was recently catcalled for her attitude to Odd Future at SXSW) that remains a rare primer on thinking about what she calls “violator art.”

Meanwhile to address another kind of offence, here’s Nitsuh Abebe on what he calls “The Robert Palmer Problem” – which you could also call the Elvis or Pat Boone problem – of whether redoing a song from one culture in another context (e.g. R&B into white pop, in the days when they were quite segregated) is properly described as “watering down” or if something more complex is happening. When I put it that way, of course, it’s predictable which one he chooses, but the essay is much richer than that either/or. And part of what occasions it is the new House of Balloons mixtape by Toronto-based “mystery” buzzband The Weeknd, who have some kind of association with Drake (who this weekend’s Junos make an MC-turned-emcee) and seem to involve one Abel Tesfaye on vocals & Jeremy Rose as musician-producer, perhaps with some involvement by Drake producer Noah ’40’ Shebib, though none of that is certain. At first I was a bit wary of the cocktail of trendy sounds The Weeknd seems to swizzle up, but then I heard a couple of songs that couldn’t be reduced to that, like these:

And if you’re in Toronto, may I recommend a weekend activity? Go to the Revue Cinema at 1 p.m. on Saturday and see The Legend of Pale Male, a documentary about a red-tailed hawk’s love affair with midtown Manhattan over several decades. It’s an urban-nature film that manages to be beautiful, amateurish, personal, political, funny and tear-jerking, often simultaneously, with a heroic cameo role played by Mary Tyler Moore. I saw the first screening last weekend and this one’s the last, sponsored by the High Park Nature Centre, our own hawk-watching home base. Love is all around, no need to waste it: C’est la poésie.

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