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: Good times before we were born, part 1: Steely Dan’s Donald Fagen posted a remarkably charming reminiscence on his website of what 1950s science-fiction meant to him as an unsuccessfully assimilated Jewish suburban child, “The Cortico-Thalamic Pause” – which along the way revives the memory of a semi-Situationist Polish Count in exile whose premature transhumanist ideas inspired idiots, con men and geniuses (the one whose writings gave Steely Dan its name, for instance).
Good times before we were born, part 2: Meanwhile over on Slate, my music-critic friends Jody Rosen and Ann Powers conducted a conversation about the new Frank Sinatra biography that starts out interesting and then gets fascinating. I think many people of my generation have a two-dimensional image of Sinatra. People of the generation younger may have no sense of Sinatra at all. With Jody’s deep feel for pre-rock popular American music (follow his links!) and Ann’s unerring ability to tease out larger social meanings, especially about sex and gender, wherever she looks and listens, no one could come away from their dialogue without an enlarged understanding (the kind that makes you need special underwear.) And they do it so breezily.
Margaux: David Hoffos’ exhibition “Scenes from the House Dream” (curated by Shirley Madill) is really worth seeing, especially if you don’t know his work. The show is traveling between different museums and will be in Toronto at the MOCCA till December 31. When I saw it with a friend, we had to wait in a line-up in the daylight of the museum’s foyer. When our turn came, we were ushered under a black cloth into the show. It was nearly as exciting as attending my first garage-venue haunted house – complete with the obvious joy involved in making things and, then, in showing them.
On display on the other side of the curtain were dioramas and projections and all of their backstage mechanisms presented in the dark. Looking at everyday (and no so everyday) scenes with such an altered perspective inevitably offers sheer physical pleasure – here as though there is suddenly a mountain in Toronto, but that mountain is being played by the audience. Most of the scenes are as dark and contemplative as the museum space.
The inventive, functional and painterly backstage mechanisms are the other side of a mirror to the high craft and stability of the dioramas’ illusions. This is where the real pleasure is. It is a pretty good day when you leave an art museum trying to remember how again it is that your eyes work.
Waterfront activity for this coming Sunday – Field Trip: Walking with Shawn Micallef! (exclamation point mine). From the Facebook event page: Following The Power Plant gallery’s Sunday Scene tour by Professor Robert Wright, join Shawn Micallef, author of the recently published “Stroll: Psychogeographic Walking Tours of Toronto” for a walking wander of the Harbourfront area. $4 Members, $6 Non-Members (at the door), Free entry with book purchase at the door.
Chris: Nerds, c. 1890:
Speaking of which: I guess Sega decided to promote awareness of hedgehog depopulation (but mostly its new video game) with a staged race? There’s a photo of one critter wearing little red booties at the link, just like everyone’s favourite spiny blue sprinter. That image is uncanny when you began playing Sonic the Hedgehog around kindergarten.
The Paris Review posted a long new interview with Michel Houellebecq. Celine Dion comes up. Even the introduction is bleakly funny: “At the age of thirty-six, he published his first novel, Whatever (1994), about the crushingly boring lives of two computer programmers. The novel attracted a cult following and inspired a group of fans to start Perpendiculaire, a magazine based on a movement they called ‘depressionism.’ (Houellebecq, who accepted an honorary place on the masthead, says he ‘didn’t really understand their theory and, frankly, didn’t care.’)”