Tag Archives: K-pop

Tea With Chris: Don’t Go To (Private) School

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: While I’m impressed with Quebec’s CLASSE for continuing on from their limited victory to a wider goal, ultimately the education problem in North America isn’t mainly at colleges and universities. When I was in New Orleans earlier this year I was shocked to discover that ever since Louisiana schools were desegregated in the early 1960s, most white people there abandoned the public school system altogether, and with them went the state legislature’s financial support for the most part. Now we have the Chicago teacher’s strikes and the recent Ontario law preventing teachers here from striking. Elite disinvestment in public schooling is part of each of these stories. It’s not as bad in Canada remotely as south of the border, but it’s not headed in the right direction. I was surprised to find on Gawker, of all places, a straight-argument for something that used to be a fundamental progressive stance but has come to seem weird and radical: Abolishing private schools.

Early this month I mentioned here that I’d had my first election-season argument with a leftist friend over whether there is a significant difference between Republicans and Democrats, whether voting matters, etc. (This led some people to call me as a Democrat, which a bit odd since, a., I’m not even an American, and b., as a Canadian think the NDP is too conservative.) The author Rebecca Solnit has apparently had that conversation a few too many times. If you’ve ever read her brilliant “Men Explain Things to Me” (the ur-source on mansplaining), meet its sequel, subtitled “Leftists Explain Things to Me.” A highlight:

“I don’t love electoral politics, particularly the national variety. I generally find such elections depressing and look for real hope to the people-powered movements around the globe and subtler social and imaginative shifts toward more compassion and more creativity. Still, every four years we are asked if we want to have our foot trod upon or sawed off at the ankle without anesthetic. The usual reply on the left is that there’s no difference between the two experiences and they prefer that Che Guevara give them a spa pedicure. Now, the Che pedicure is not actually one of the available options, though surely in heaven we will all have our toenails painted camo green by El Jefe.”

All that said, I do wish Barack Obama would say a few of these things (again). Tell Mitt Romney, “Sorry ass motherfucker ain’t got nothin on me!”

N+1 has done a fine service in rounding up these memories of the late radical feminist pioneer Shulamith Firestone.

Ok, enough politics. Jody Rosen introduced me to the most compelling new voice in country music, Kacey Musgraves. And with Taylor Swift seeming to regress rather than progress into adulthood, Musgraves has arrived just in time.

Five videos by Yoko Ono. Thanks, P4K.

Gram Parsons’ notebook.

This is for fans only, really, but the great songwriter (ex-American Music Club) and mesmerizing Oscar-Wilde-as-a-gloomy-slacker performer Mark Eitzel, having recovered from a heart attack last year, has a funny series of trailers for his upcoming album, Don’t Be a Stranger, in which for example he meets with Lady Gaga’s style consultant.

And I couldn’t finish without mentioning this. I had nothing to do with it, I swear.

Chris: Maddie (from indispensable K-pop blog My First Love Story) is visiting South Korea for the first time, imagining herself as the white protagonist in the Wes Anderson film and reflecting on what she’s heard in public, from snippets of “Gangnam Style” to mass Wonder Girls karaoke.

Margaux: I love this chart of specific words and phrases used at the U.S. national convention by the Republicans and Democrats. The only phrase present that Democrats don’t use: Red tape, the one Republicans don’t use: Millionaires.

Speaking of charts, this periodic table is much better than usual. Also from Brain Pickings, John Steinbeck gives some falling in love advice. Would be good section in Rookie next to “Ask a grown man”. Could be “Ask a dead man”.  And hell, why we’re there, why don’t we let Richard Feynman Explain Where Trees Come From.

Just what I’ve always suspected – hash is not so helpful for the artistic process

I’ve got this Bob Dylan song in my head today.

And also this Rihanna song, but my head only knew that chorus.

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4Minute, “Volume Up” (2012)

by Chris Randle

Last month I moved for the first time in several years, to Toronto’s Koreatown. I did it because a room in a friend’s place opened up, but there were secondary considerations. The neighbourhood is unsurprisingly full of cheap, satisfying Korean food – three locals recently vowed to eat-critique their way through every restaurant on the strip, including its Subway and lone pizza place – and I’ve found myself sampling a lot of it over the past few weeks, because who wants to cook or do anything else that requires sentience when the temperature gets above 30 degrees?

So lately my dinner is often accompanied by Korean music, some of it in styles very different from the K-pop I’ve become so enamoured with. Traditional court music, folk tunes, the proto-K-pop of trot, they’re playing whether I want it or not. Certain restaurants make their own mixes while others seem to be using satellite radio, but in either case it curtails the xenophilic pop fan’s quasi-colonial ability to sequence whichever global jams they like best. That’s a piquant corrective.

When I heard this track over bulgogi, for a moment I forgot that I already knew it. You don’t come across much alto sax in K-pop – it could’ve been the intro to some old trot single, or indeed a Western one. But confounding expectations is what “Volume Up” does. Before now I mostly associated the five-member girl group 4Minute with standardized electrobosh like “Muzik,” and stampeding trance synths do make a return appearance here. Yet they crescendo just as the saxophone does, producing noises not unlike the whine of straining metal. By the almost-end, during the bridge, those horns are little more than a staccato pulse, yoked to the beat. A sonic symbol of “organic” “sophistication” has been made to sound thrillingly synthetic. I want Dan Bejar to hear it.

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Tea With Chris: The Poet is a 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:

Carl: I should have mentioned here that I was speaking at this play about Celine Dion, celebrity, self-sacrifice and child abuse last week. However, it’s not too late for those in Toronto to see this fascinating staging of Bliss, by the Quebec playwright Olivier Choinière, translated by Caryl Churchill. I really do recommend it – as The Globe and Mail said, “A disturbing tale about the powerless and the power of love.” Meanwhile, back in Quebec, Choinière has been up to more mischief, which I would call a very exciting bit of parasitic meta-theatre, but which his unwitting and unwilling collaborator called “theatrical rape.” What do you think?

The complicated matter of being the Other Seeger. And that’s even only superficially getting into the contradictions of class and slumming and noblesse oblige.

Here’s a nice account of that Pop Conference thing Chris & I were at last week.

Finally, if that’s just too much human business for you, turn instead to the ursine peoples: 1. Bear on trial. 2. Bear gettin jiggy.

Chris: Speaking of the Pop Conference, reading Jonathan Bogart’s paper about “Urban Romanticism in Latin American Music Between the Wars” may make you wish you’d been there (the panel, the gathering, the city).

Speaking of New York, Edith Zimmerman interviewed one of its great adoptees, Eileen Myles: “To decide to do ‘this’ as a living is to invite barbs that generally pile up around gender and power. The poet is a fag, the poet is a drag, the poet is righteous. But really I think people resent our freedom. Our choice to keep doing something they may have done badly when they were younger and were full of feeling and to keep doing something that supposedly anyone can do – making something out of something as practical and mundane as language is to brand oneself as a lifelong fool rather than merely a fool in her youth. People feel sad about what they disavowed to become who they are now.”

Speaking of people who made art in the 1970s, my friend Sarah Nicole Prickett uses Cindy Sherman’s big Guggenheim retrospective as an opportunity to consider Francesca Woodman’s photographs, mercurial identity as survival strategy and why it will “never not be physiologically and psychologically harder to be female.”

Not speaking at all, just pressing a drum machine into the robotically funky patterns of ’80s Prince, look at the debut jam by aforementioned Korean/Chinese boy band EXO.

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Driving Freely Through the World: Cosmopolitanism in K-pop

by Chris Randle

[This essay was first presented as a paper at last month’s 2012 Pop Conference, which accounts for the Frankfurt School citations.]

During the summer of 2010, as one or two billion people learned to pronounce and sometimes dread the word “vuvuzela,” I was taking part in a parallel spectacle. The British music critic Tom Ewing had organized a competition called the Pop World Cup, little different from its gargantuan namesake, only played with singles instead of feet. I volunteered for the tournament, and my randomly determined team ended up being South Korea. Despite a fleeting teenage infatuation with J-pop, I’d never knowingly heard any Korean songs before. I conducted the usual recondite research – asking for Youtube links on Twitter – and my friend Maddie Lee recommended a bunch of tracks. This was one of them:

It’s the 2009 single “Gee,” by Girls’ Generation (also known as SNSD), and although that Korean squad would lose in the quarterfinals by a single reader vote, my fascination soon developed into committed fandom. At first I only paid attention to several familiar sources, such as Maddie’s critical K-pop blog, semi-ironically called My First Love Story. But over time my affection grew increasingly unrestrained, and I was searching for hangul-inflected Mediafire links or learning relevant slang like oppas and jimseungdol. My RSS feed now features dozens of posts a day from Omona They Didn’t!, East Asia’s rough equivalent of the gossipy Livejournal community Oh No They Didn’t! (“Omona” means “oh my gosh” in Korean.) Listening to the multilingual lyrics of these ultra-modern songs, I began to wonder how their cosmopolitanism intersected with their place of origin. The World Cup is a planetary celebration that happens to provide an arena for the most reflexive tribalism, enriching a corrupt organization in the process. Another irony: the international qualities of K-pop and its idols reflect Seoul as a city, yet that openness has often been coerced from outside.

In his 2006 book Cosmopolitanism, philosopher Kwame Appiah notes that said word dates back to the Cynics of the fourth century BCE, though it’s a distinctly un-cynical phrasing: “citizen of the universe.” They meant to sound paradoxical, as cosmopolitanism sometimes is. For its self-isolation and resistance to imperial entreaties, 19th century Westerners called dynastic Korea “the hermit kingdom,” but its eventual engagement with the world wasn’t exactly voluntary: after beginning to modernize in the 1890s, it was annexed by the Japanese Empire, which accelerated the process. Politically and culturally, Japanese rule was no less oppressive than that of a typical European power, but unlike, say, Belgians in the Congo, the colonizers encouraged Korean education and economic development, perhaps realizing that assimilated consumers would prove to be more lucrative subjects than illiterate peasants.

By 1930, of the 200-plus factories on the peninsula employing more than 50 workers, a fifth were Korean-owned. Seven years later, 52 000 Japanese bureaucrats were there, fifteen times the number of French colonial officials in Vietnam. Jonathan Krieckhaus’ book Dictating Development uses this and other data to argue that the Korean state is an international construction, doubly shaped by foreign rulers; while occupying the country after World War II, the United States actually wanted Japanese advisors to stay on and run its government, but settled for recommendations of “acceptable Korean replacements” following the local outrage. Well into the 1960s, majorities of high-ranking civil servants and police officers – including the dictator Park Chung Hee – were former Japanese collaborators. There’s a loaded Korean phrase about toadying to outside powers, sadaechuui, which dates back to the era of Chinese influence: “serving the great.”

Like Japan, the U.S. saw Korean economic success as an important part of its geopolitical strategy, and sent huge amounts of aid to its new southern ally after the peninsula’s division. The money was certainly needed. Conservative estimates suggest that half of Seoul’s buildings were destroyed during the Korean War, making modernity inescapable there. Today the city’s skyline is dominated by towering headquarters of the chaebol, family-controlled multinationals like Samsung and Hyundai – these corporations employ roughly 10 percent of the South Korean population, but their outsized influence and prestige make them loom over competitive university entrance exams. The three companies releasing most K-pop, which go by the confusingly generic names of SM Entertainment, YG Entertainment and JYP Entertainment, are relative upstarts. They were all founded in the mid-‘90s, after the fall of South Korea’s military junta, and none is a subsidiary of some larger conglomerate, unlike the remaining major labels that North Americans know. In a recent Omona They Didn’t! thread, “netizens” discussed the Seoul home bases of each record company, noting how ordinary they looked.

The K-pop production model parallels another city known for its cars. Marxist theorists characterized the labour-dividing ethos of Detroit’s assembly lines as “Fordism,” but one could equally call it Gordyism. Motown’s success was built on clear sonic templates, top-down control over a group’s name, image or lineup, and unyielding specialization: “Artists performed, writers wrote, producers produced,” as the Temptations’ Otis Williams put it in his autobiography. This rigidly efficient process frustrated the artistic ambitions of people like Marvin Gaye; it also churned out sublime pop songs by the hundreds. SM, YG and JYP have made the Gordyist model even more systematic and all-encompassing, on an international scale. In a Spin magazine article this year, David Bevan described the dormitory-like facilities for YG’s young trainees: “Walk down a few flights and you’re met with an assortment of plush recording studios, available to producers both in-house and imported. There’s a fully outfitted gym manned by a celebrity fitness guru. The cafeteria serves home-style Korean fare and boutique coffee until late into the night. And of course, there are those practice spaces…”

The relative diversity of these musical rosters probably exceeds that of Seoul proper, which is over 95% Korean. Where its factories were once obliged to labour for the benefit of imperial rulers, K-pop companies now court foreign listeners by choice, albeit an imperative one: unlike Japan or the U.S., their domestic market isn’t large enough to make much money from alone. So singles combine Korean verses with rapped breaks and slogan-scaled English choruses, even re-recording entire albums in Japanese or Chinese, while A&R reps search for potential idols throughout East Asia and beyond. In David Bevan’s Spin piece, a JYP PR manager describes one trainee as “post-Nichkhun,” referring to a member of the boy band 2PM. His family came from Thailand and China, he grew up in California, and he’s apparently changed the way millions of young Koreans see entire countries. Bevan quotes the American-born head of a Korean creative agency, who says that Thailand “has gone from mysterious to fabulous.”

The labels have begun taking cosmopolitanism to high-concept extremes: one new group sounds like some sort of fantastical superhero team. The 12-member EXO will apparently split into two separate boy bands, one ethnically Korean and one Chinese, and tour their respective countries before reuniting for climactic crossover shows. Extra-large configurations are common in K-pop – SNSD have nine members, and Super Junior once extended to 13 – and a canny elaboration on the Gordyist model, since they give fans more idols to potentially identify with while diluting the power of any individual star. A sudden lineup change isn’t the only questionable practice favoured by the major music companies: fans, journalists and courts alike have decried “slave contracts,” the agreements that lock a teenage trainee down for 10 or 12 years without offering any access to the huge profits they might later earn. Given this track record of exploitation, the labels’ recent forays into America feel less like sudden experiments and more like a foreseeable pursuit of similar corporations. Speaking of competitive ruthlessness, here’s the music video for “I Am the Best,” by 2NE1:

Punkishly attired in Jeremy Scott and committing enough gleeful property destruction to impress Ke$ha, they don’t seem to be working under the influence of American pop so much as they’re determined to outdo it. I especially like how the intonation of “best” sounds just enough like “bitch” to slip past any censors. Covering 2NE1’s New York City debut several months ago for the Village Voice, Brad Nelson wrote: “the crowd roared at this sudden, television-sized affirmation of their identity, inextricably tied up in this Korean group, obscure to others but approaching visibility.” The overtures haven’t always been received with such intense sympathy. SNSD embarked on their own media rounds this year after headlining a K-pop show at Madison Square Garden last fall, making this glorious photo possible. When they performed on Live! With Kelly, Howie Mandel (who I unfortunately share a passport with) elected to display some serious ignorance. In his book about cosmopolitanism, Kwame Appiah wryly demonstrates the many ways a “cultural dialogue” can fail to end in happy consensus, arguing against “those who imagine that prejudice derives only from ignorance, that intimacy must breed amity.”

Misunderstandings wreak ruptures in multiple directions, too. Last month, a young black woman with the handle IFUASKEDMETO published an Oh No They Didn’t! post called “K-pop or KKK-pop?”, compiling several recent instances of Korean stars using blackface or other racist caricatures. Without a history of white supremacy, these offenses appear less calculatedly malicious than they would in a Western context, but their tangle of perverse cultural affection and cruel mockery bears an ashen resemblance to traditional American minstrelsy. Though still a miniscule proportion of the city as a whole, Seoul has one of the largest black populations in East Asia (after the major Chinese port Guangzhou), including many U.S. soldiers stationed at Yongsan Garrison. Unlike other such installations around the region, the military base – first built as a headquarters for the Imperial Japanese Army – is located at the capital’s heart, a symbol of foreign occupation that countless thousands walk past every day. If it seems inexplicable that K-pop groups would incorporate rap with such enthusiasm while blithely reiterating imported racial stereotypes, that only reflects the tortured ambiguity of their own urbanity, both entrepôt and fortress.

It should be noted that, at least on Omona They Didn’t!, most K-pop fans are reacting to these blackface routines with conspicuous side-eyes and angry disappointment. And not all stars have used diversity as a punchline – or been portrayed as a fetishistic representation of it, as with Chocolat, the rookie quintet whose publicity focused on their three biracial members. There’s a South Korean reality show called Hello Baby that gives idol groups an adorable toddler to take care of for a while, albeit while facing totally unrealistic scripted challenges. My friend Maddie recently watched the latest season, which entrusted boy band MBLAQ with three pancake-devouring children, all of mixed heritage: one’s dad French, another’s mother Vietnamese. On her blog, she wrote: “Being Korean/Chinese-Canadian myself, I felt a Lacanian sense of fascination and kinship at the presence of a Vietnamese/Korean child, in the same way that I’m fascinated by Canadians in K-pop. I’m not mixed-race, but I’m mixed-culture, and I’ve never thought that was something others could relate to, nor did I know anyone who was in a similar situation of having two (equally diluted) ethno-cultural influences in her life. Though I’m not pleased that Canadian = white as far as this show goes, I am pleased that the approach is a multicultural one.”

In another post, about the common practice of drag in K-pop, Maddie noted: “Some female North American K-pop fans idealize South Korean culture because “it’s okay for men to act feminine”, using conservative North American conceptions of masculinity and femininity as the benchmark…But male idols who are known for frequently dressing in drag are just as frequently asked to defend (or maintain) their heterosexuality in interviews.” This hints at an important theme in Appiah’s book: universalist ideas, such as the conservative Protestantism that an influential minority of South Koreans adheres to, aren’t necessarily cosmopolitan or pluralist. They can be downright reactionary when it comes to the most fundamental differences. Over the past few years, 2000-plus songs have been banned in some form by South Korean censors, including Hyuna’s brilliant 2011 single “Bubble Pop.”

The censors weren’t concerned about the sonic radicalism of Hyuna’s onomatopoeic beats. They went after that music video because its sexualized choreography might be “hazardous.” Women now earn half of South Korea’s master’s degrees; they wield ever-increasing economic power. As manifested in song, traditional roles and female abandon sometimes collide at absurd speed. The bridge at 2:30 or so is what happens when you try to recapitulate gender norms in a moving vehicle. Such tensions existed before the music I’m discussing did; in the early ‘90s, after a media panic, governments cracked down on the sensual nightlife of Seoul’s Kangnam district. But the idea of “the club” has become increasingly central to American and Korean pop alike, and yet, looking at sites like undergroundseoul.tumblr.com, Seoul’s real discotheques only seem more hedonistic than a typical music video set there. Still, the prudish edicts haven’t gone unopposed: at http://feministkpopbloggerdirectory.tumblr.com/, the list of writers keeps growing. Feminist organizers are taking to the streets, too: there was a Slutwalk in Korea last summer.

Looking at the contradictions and complications of K-pop, some observers suggest rejecting it entirely. In 2005, Cho Han Hye-Jeong of Yonsei University argued: “South Korean popular cultural products are nothing but a South Korean version of American popular culture, and the Hallyu [‘Korean wave’] phenomenon is nothing but South Korea’s export-oriented industrial system extended into the popular cultural sector.” It’s true that certain officials and executives discuss Hallyu in a dubiously nationalistic tone; after the North Korean torpedo attack two years ago, Southern military brass installed loudspeakers at 11 locations along the DMZ, blasting K-pop across the border as sonic propaganda. But it’s also true that Hallyu itself is a Chinese term. Even a fraught, compromised expression of cosmopolitanism, exported from an occupied city by an exploitative industry, can dissolve old enmities and bear radical ideas.

To resume those sports analogies: organized by a corrupt entity, the World Cup siphons billions of dollars in public money for the benefit of corporate sponsors and TV networks, and encourages the most lizard-brained forms of nationalism. That doesn’t make the quadrennial encounters of so many fans from so many countries less meaningful. A famous aphorism in Adorno’s Minima Moralia states: “Love is the power to see similarity in the dissimilar.” Less famously, he went on to argue that “the strongest argument of the apologists for film is the crudest, its massive consumption.” One needn’t rise to defend an entire medium, but they’re both right, in a sense. I don’t think I would have fallen this hard for K-pop if it wasn’t brash mass culture, able to sing of the universal while illuminating parochial differences. Unwittingly echoing those Korean censors and their “hazardous cultural materials,” Kwame Appiah praises “contamination,” idiosyncratic reworkings of common global touchstones. And why not embrace it, striving only to maintain an identity amidst impurity? To breathe is to be contaminated.

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Tea With Chris: In Love Like a Motherfucker

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: Big Boi’s Kate Bush fandom is so charming: “The album, to me, is just very somber and very chill…It’s almost like a scene from her diary – she seems to be in love like a motherfucker. Really, really, really in love.” Someone please get these two into a recording studio.

Two pieces about UK dance music: Julianne Escobedo Shepherd follows the fluorescent slime trail of the vital Night Slugs label, while Angus Finlayson critiques a disturbing misogynistic tendency among certain journalists and producers.

It only has a wall of light, not sound, but Wonder Girls’ new music video is worthy of the “Be My Baby” name.

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Tea With Chris: Extended Shelf Life

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: There’s a kind of cosmic logic to someone named Dr. Chevalier Jackson bequeathing a 2000-piece collection of “Foreign Bodies Removed from the Food and Air Passages.”

I haven’t linked to a great K-pop music video for two whole months, and everything but the bridge in this one definitely qualifies, so here you go:

At the Cold War’s height, the very jowly Canadian prime minister John Diefenbaker authorized a series of nuclear bunkers, meant to house the last remnants of government after ballistic missiles started flying. Someone on Tumblr recently linked to a set of contemporary photos taken inside one of the preserved facilities:

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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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