Tag Archives: Polaris Prize

Tea With Chris: Missed Connections

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: The Canadian-music Polaris Prize shortlist was announced this week, and in synchronicity, Sam Sutherland has written an “oral history” of the Polaris, featuring interviews with founders, jurors and past winners. I think it includes anecdotes and reflections that are interesting and funny to non-insiders. I apologize in advance if I am wrong. But it’s good to be keeping some sort of record. (Leonard, sorry you didn’t make the shortlist.)

This is a tough (as in painful to read, but also strong) and complicated essay that goes places you don’t expect.

(On a lighter tangent from the topic, do you think Louis C.K.’s character really wanted to fuck the handsome Cuban lifeguard on his show last week or just appropriate his authenticity?)

In memory of Kitty Wells.

And in memory of Gus Fring, whom we don’t have to kick around any more on this season of Breaking Bad, here is the same actor, Giancarlo Esposito, as a camp counsellor on Sesame Street in 1982. (Dark thought: Was Big Bird the first pollo in Los Pollos Hermanos?)

Chris: “m4w: I burned your documents and in your identification photo you looked so sad”

There are different connections being made in Le1f’s music video for “Wut,” such as ’90s R&B choreography to Dragon Ball Z imagery, and Pikachu to…sexy lethargy? You should really grab his Dark York mixtape.

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Tea With Chris: Disorienting Pleasures

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: B.F. Skinner, the villainized behavioral scientist, is the ghost behind the most recent issue of the Atlantic. I pulled B.F. Skinner’s “Beyond Freedom and Dignity” years ago from a random bookshelf scan because I thought the title was funny. All I knew about B.F. Skinner was that, as an experiment, he put his young daughter in a box. The title seemed appropriate for such a man. Though when I read the book, it was surprisingly thoughtful and interesting, and B.F. Skinner kind of seemed more like a friend than a comical monster. Since then, I’ve always had warm feelings towards Principal Skinner, the good-intentioned principle on The Simpsons who continuously gets abused.

The Atlantic‘s headlining article “The Perfect Self” by David H. Freedman is about how B.F. Skinner’s behavioral science is in the lead for the  figuring-out-how-to-combat-obesity race. David H. Freedman reminds us that B.F. Skinner was strongly against punishment in the area of behaviorial modification and that, to date, the most sinister manifestation of his findings is Weight Watchers.

B.F. Skinner’s main theory: “All organisms tend to do what the world around them rewards them for doing. When an organism is in some way prompted to perform a certain behaviour, and that behavoir is ‘reinforced’ – with a pat on the back, nourishment, comfort, money – the organism is more likely to repeat the behaviour,” is echoed in other neighboring  articles.

It’s a challenge to make your own positive behavioral boxes or to spot the boxes that others have put you in. The Atlantic explores some of these puzzles with an Editor’s Note from James Bennet, a short story on the evils of good students desperate for the right awards by Molly Patterson, “Honors Track”, and a short text on “Dumb Kids’ Class” by Mark Bowden, who discusses the benefits of being underestimated. Mark Bowden himself bounced back between dumb and smart class as did I and probably lots of kids do around the age of eleven – as you try to work out which is your more advantageous option (or your teachers try to work out which is their more advantageous option).

I always love  dumb or stupidity as a subject. Like in some of John Currin’s work,

or in this this exceedingly pleasing 2003 documentary by Albert Nerenberg, Stupidity. You can see the full documentary here. If I remember correctly the best parts of it were short interviews with the very few acedemics in the world who study stupidity – attempting to talk about it still seems to be a curse or a taboo, something that can get you in all sorts of trouble. During the interviews, when the academics made any mistakes in speaking, they would look around slowly and cautiously as though someone was about to accuse them of being a moron. Such disorienting pleasures!

Speaking of disorienting pleasures, I just went to the contemporary museum in Bentonville, Arkansas that Alice Walton of the Walmart family founded, Crystal Bridges.

Carl: I am going to use Natalie Zina Walschots’ prose-poem-like “Postcards from the Polaris Prize” (parts One and Two) to help me decide how to fill the final space on my ballot, because they’re the best things the Polaris ever made happen except for the prize itself.

Maybe I will vote for Fucked Up’s David Comes to Life, because Natalie wrote: “David fires a rock at the forehead of Goliath. David is seventeen feet tall and made of marble. David is willing to send a soldier to his death after watching a woman bathe. David is an award-winning environmentalist and broadcaster. David is sometimes called Ziggy Stardust, sometimes the Goblin King. David is married to a Spice Girl. David has been frozen, buried, and locked in a plexiglass case suspended above the River Thames.” Or maybe Marie-Pierre Arthur’s record, because Nat says, ” In every movie that ever brushes against the narrative of a young woman coming-of-age, there is a scene is which she is sitting in the passenger seat of a car, the window rolled down, holding her hand out in the wind like it is a smooth bird.” Though I think that might be a very subtle insult.

This week I discovered Jenny Woolworth’s Women in Punk Blog, which only has a post every four or five months, but one of those posts is an 86-page including interviews with Alice Bag and Liliput, and other posts are entire mixtapes. So quit yer complaining. Also, this is a good list. And so is this. And the Supreme Court didn’t strike down health-care reform, so Happy Canada and/or America Day, or neither if you prefer.

Chris: I’m always reticient to link to my B2TW comrades here, because it can seem a little too incestuous, but Margaux’s Paris Review advice column response to the misguided query “What books impress a guy? What should I read to seem cool, sexy, and effortlessly smart?” was so impious and wise: “The only way to be cool, sexy and effortlessly smart without just being seemingly so is to build your own stupid house of books. Feel free to use all the wrong books in all the wrong ways, but the house really has to be real and you need to know why the house is there, in that specific location, in that specific configuration.”

“I am going to write a poem about using Meryl Streep’s laugh as a ringtone. / I’ve bookmarked an LA Times article from 1989 / in which her giggle eruptions are explored with great amazement. / I’ve tweeted extensively on the tone and timbre of/ each particular laugh.”

Up here Canada Day shares its 24 hours with Pride, a happy coincidence indeed. I’ll be at Shame, wearing a Will Munro pin, and this week Sarah Liss explained why.

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Tea With Chris: You Don’t Need a Penis

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: I’ve often made half-baked speculations about how younger people are listening to and relating to music, based on limited observations and guesswork, and often in front of people, sometimes for money. It apparently took a former scientist to go out and do some actual research. Her observations, while anecdotal, are intriguing and match things I’d suspected: that for teenagers period doesn’t quite exist any more. Music isn’t generational, and they listen to a lot of older music that they discover via video-game, TV and movie soundtracks, their parents’ collection, YouTube clips shared with friends, and whatever else they stumble across. Their interests are broader, I take it, than most kids’ were when I was that age. They just want to get a broad general knowledge, and what they prioritize is more personal than tribal. I was that sort of listener, in a lot of ways, at that age, but it was a minority approach that required a lot of reading and record-scouting prompted by having read about the blues or jazz or art rock and then searching for it. Now, the Internet has made it a natural approach.

The kids she talked to were becoming much more interested in staying abreast of new music around college age (and she’s in a college town so she can’t generalize about what non-college-bound late teens and early 20s kids are doing). And at no point does anybody listen closely to whole albums. Their listening is a much more impressionistic thing, usually while they are doing other things – texting and using the Internet in various other ways, primarily, plus socializing, doing homework etc. You could argue that in the music beginning to emerge from that generation, you hear both things – an awareness of styles from all kinds of eras, coexisting, layered on top of each other, and a vague fuzziness of attention, free-associating in a bath of sounds. You hear it across a range of genres. It’s so pervasive that I imagine there will be interesting reactions against it.

Prognosticating about musical directions is a futile game, but it’s been a while since there has been a zeitgeist to extrapolate from, so I’m indulging. As Simon Reynolds has been saying in interviews about his new (somewhat cranky-seeming) book, Retromania: “I think a bit of groupthink would be good. It happens in journalism. People are very reluctant to get behind each other’s ideas. I totally got behind David Keenan’s hypnagogic pop idea. I don’t care that he thought of it first; it’s a fantastic idea and I like some of that music a lot. But there’s much more ego value in taking the piss or criticising other people’s stuff. Actually joining together, unifying around things, no one seems to want to do that so much any more.”

Au contraire mon frere. I’m pretty happy with how this whole Polaris Long List thing came out, for example.

Also I have begun using this, which presumes that you want to listen to what other people are listening to, and it’s my favourite new way to hear music. Sometimes I even listen to whole albums.

Finally, it is worth mentioning that you don’t need a penis to disbelieve in God.

Chris: Count me as another person who’s happy with the 2011 Polaris Prize long list. I’m also happy that Spotting Deer, Michael DeForge’s most conceptual comic to date and maybe his best, is now freely available online. A reference text devoted to the titular made-up animal, it simultaneously documents the fictional author’s life-ruining obsession. Plus there’s good jokes about Canada. “Deer stand proud as stalwart champions of our most cherished national values: multigrain, diversity and volunteerism.”

Two circles filled with truth, via Maura.

Margaux: 5 million cheers for the Manal al-Sharif , the Saudi activist who posted to Youtube a videotape of herself driving her own car – an illegal activity for which she was jailed.  Today is the the official start date of the related campaign “Women2Drive”. I think it is going well.




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