Tag Archives: rap

Tea With Chris: Cosignatures

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: Andrew “Noz” Nosnitsky considers the class stratifications in and around rap right now, where a small elite of mainstream stars dispenses favour via cosigns and commercial album sales bear a decreasing correlation (but increasing white-and-middle-class skew) with actual popularity: “It’s a gentrification of taste. Kids with disposable income on the outer perimeters of the culture are dictating its direction because they posses the income to displace the demands of the proverbial hood.” Also, great use of the word “fanute.”

Vladimir Nabokov, yearner for proto-emoticons.

Margaux: Physicists May Have Evidence Universe Is A Computer Simulation –  fun to imagine that the time-based medium of our specific simulacrum is constrained by what typical narratives are always constrained by: time, meaning, conclusion.

Speaking of bad narratives, I’ve been listening to an audio book of Jane McGonigal’s Reality Is Broken. The idea of the book is that video gaming culture makes people feel so vital and engaged that when they stop playing games and return to real life, real life seems broken. The book proposes making the narrative of real life a better story. Or at least that’s what it seems like it’s about so far. Jane McGonigal argues that hard work (in a video game) is more fun than fun. That made me feel pretty smart since I’ve never liked to have fun. It’s pretty hilarious listening to this book on my headphones while walking around town – the book came out last year, but it feels like it came out next year – like bizarre, banal and practical discussions from the not-so-bad, not-so-good near future.

This conversation between liberal actor Alec Baldwin and conservative journalist David Brooks seems way less phony than all this 2012 American presidential debate nonsense. That’s probably because actors are good at making things seem less phony, that’s their number one job. Maybe it should be a rule that only respected or semi-respected actors can become president. Maybe that would make The Movies better.

Speaking of The Movies, I just saw two great ones last night by legendary singer/model/filmmaker Alanis Obomsawin at the Imaginative Film and Media Arts Festival (lots more happening at the festival in Toronto till Oct 21). The first movie was the 1971 short (and Alanis Obomsawin’s first film) Christmas at Moose Factory. The 13 minute film is made from footage of children’s drawings about what Christmas is like at Moose Factory along with the voices of the children talking about their drawings. The structure is smart and simple and captivating. It’s filled with gentleness, curiosity and love. All the good things.

The second movie was Alanis Obomsawin’s most recent The People of the Kattawapiskak River, a documentary about the state of emergency called in Northern Ontario in 2011 by Theresa Spence, the chief of the Attawapiskat First Nation. That is very painful subject matter but the movie has a similar feel to Alanis Obomaswain’s first movie – with love and strength and humour always close at hand. It was interesting to have her oldest movie and her most recent played together. You could see the consistency of her specific way of seeing things, even from movies made 40 years apart.  It was interesting to see that both movies functioned completely as whole works of art  and also as whole works of activism without sacrificing either category. It was good to be reminded that love and patience can be tremendously political.

The Bloor Cinema in Toronto where it was shown was packed with a rowdy and diverse audience. People from all backgrounds cheered and jeered and laughed along with the movie – with tears mostly coming during the moments of impressive strength and optimism.  Even with all the horrible problems they’re having, it was easy to see from the movie that the community featured is a very special one. It was nice to “meet” all the people who passed by on the screen. One of the people was a lawyer who fought in court for the people of the Attawapiskat Nation. I can’t find her name on the internet, but I would fight for her to be president. The movie was in two episodes, like two episodes of a television program. I’m not sure if more are to be made.

During the Q&A, Alanis Obomsawin talked about how, while taking pictures at a construction site in the reserve, she was told repeatedly and by different people that she was in the wrong place, that she needed to leave. She laughed on stage as she talked about how she just smiled and agreed, but didn’t leave until she was finished doing what she needed to do. Maybe it’s that kind of serious playfulness that accounts for the main feeling that the movie left you with – that there is lots to be done, lots of new ways to go about things, that the hardest things are manageable, that everyone can play a part.

Maybe that serious playfulness can be credited for making Alanis Obomsawin appear to be the most beautiful, and youthful, 80 year old I have ever seen. As I was leaving the after party around midnight, I noticed that she was still dancing.

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Filed under carl wilson, chris randle, linkblogging, margaux williamson, movies, visual art

Tea With Chris: Crazy Love

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:

Margaux: Chris and Carl are at the Pop Conference in L.A. this week so I will attempt to cover tea alone.

Mainly – I highly recommend the latest New Yorker magazine. It is action packed.

So far I have just read two articles, the first: An incredibly cautious and thoughtful article on Scientology by Lawrence Wright. The article is framed through the story of a movie director’s eventual descent from Scientology after 35 years as an active member. The most hilarious thing about the article is the lack of nuanced lying, there is a lot of “I wasn’t even in that country!” or “I met no such person!” rather than the more expected, subtle massaging of the truth. This made the hunt for truth seem kind of hilarious. The saddest thing about the article is that, with the collected and convincing evidence mounting, it is appearing very likely that anyone supporting Scientology through services or donations is helping to support (however unwittingly) the continuation of human rights abuses.

The second article: Tiny Fey, who turns out to write a fine New Yorker article, ponders the dilema of either making things a tiny bit better for her family by having another child or making things a tiny bit better for the entertainment industry by staying around long enough so she can make sure older female comedians will continue to be hired rather than continue to be deemed “crazy” and unemployable. As she explains:

“I have a suspicion – and hear me out – that the definition of “crazy” in show business is a woman who keeps talking even after no one wants to fuck her anymore.”

I went, “hahahahahahahahahaha”. Tiny Fey continued:

“The only person I can think of who has escaped the “crazy” moniker is Betty White, which, obviously, is because people still wnat to have sex with her.”

I thought, “True enough”. And then I thought about Betty White. And then I thought about Tina Fey some more.

Chris: Carl and I are indeed in L.A., but here’s some very quick links before I race over to the Pop Conference:

New! Lynda Barry! Interview!

Flannery O’Connor, another secret cartoonist.

The funniest gimmick-Tumblr concerning the British class system you will see this week: http://davidcameronpretendingtobecommon.tumblr.com/

I haven’t actually finished watching this vintage documentary about rap in Toronto yet – Pop Conference papers tend to be written at the last minute – but it looks pretty great:

(Via Noz.)

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

Tea With Chris: The Entire Mediterranean is on Fire

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: For some unknown reason (Al Jazeera addiction?), I felt an urge to make my tea all-Youtube this week. So here’s Fela Kuti and Africa 70 in Berlin circa 1978:

Here’s Glenn Beck raving about Islamic caliphates and an imminent Chinese invasion of New Zealand to the eerily appropriate tune of Godspeed You! Black Emperor:

And here’s an interview with Lex Luger, who produced two of last year’s biggest, beefiest rap singles – “Hard in da Paint” and “Blowin’ Money Fast” – at the scarcely believable age of 19.

Now I have to break my video-only pledge, because I just noticed that the Mountain Goats’ John Darnielle wrote about the NHL All-Star Game. “I don’t think there’s much I can tell you about the promenade that isn’t already covered by the phrase ‘promenade of the mascots,’ but…”

Margaux: Good idea:  “How not to say stupid stuff about Egypt”

“A historical look at the number of times presidents have used selected words in their State of the Union addresses (or analogous speeches) from 1934 to 2011.” Thanks to Kelly Jenkins.

It is nice sometimes to think about the eyeball.

Carl: This week included Groundhog Day, which means nothing to me regarding all the guff about the weather but quite a bit to me because it makes me think about one of the more perfect movies ever made. (Which would be a completely perfect movie if it had a different leading actress, but that’s a whole other argument.)

A friend sent me a link to this very popular blog post, which raises a question I can’t believe I never explicitly considered: How many Groundhog Days, in total, does Bill Murray’s character Phil go through? It comes up with the completely unconvincing answer of 10 years’ worth, based on the supposition that he is somehow using his time quite efficiently in his completely insane-making existential crisis. Director Harold Ramis responded it had to be “more like 30 or 40 years.” But Stephen Tobolowsky (“Ned Ryerson”) says Ramis and the screenwriter told him they actually imagined 10,000 years. Which would make sense of Phil’s eventual claim to be a god: He is one acquainted with eternity.

Harold Ramis, as the aforelinked Toblowsky piece mentions, is a Buddhist, so his myth is less Nietzsche’s Eternal Return than the one about a weak man, a corrupt prince, who makes his way to enlightenment. A Zen priest explains this quite beautifully in this meditation on the Tao of Groundhog Day. By the way, there’s also a good anecdote in that Toblowsky piece about Bill Murray insisting that he be told what he’d be wearing in the final scene and a woman on the crew intervening, which tells you a lot about acting, directing and storytelling: Basically, the assistant set director made sure it remained Groundhog Day and didn’t turn into Sleeping Beauty.

I’m really going to miss this pair. Their breakup this week shouldn’t have been a surprise – they haven’t made a record in four years and played in public once in all that time. I only own one of their albums, mainly because they were always in the air in the ’00s anyway; after 13 years you got used to the idea that they’d be around, and it was a warming, cheering thought. There’s something about Meg, as well as the conceptual apparatus of the White Stripes, that always seemed to stave off the threat that Jack, for all his talent, would just become a typical, arrogant, model-marrying Rock Star. Which is what he is, of course, but always just this side of the barbed wire. On the other hand maybe she has better things to do than keep her ex honest. Let’s just wish them both well.

Speaking of well-wishes, this, at least with its video accompaniment, is the most effective  pop-ballad-to-comfort-teen-outcasts I’ve run across in a long time. If you don’t tear up a bit, I’m suspicious of your claim to have once been a kid. Plus, it’s Tina Majorino, currently being wasted in a thankless role on Big Love but forever in our hearts as Mac. Pink, don’t let Mac be sad! Help her out!

Photo by Sharilyn Johnson

Last weekend I got to see one of my favourite comedians, Maria Bamford, live at the Comedy Bar. She was so uncannily funny/challenging/upsetting it was like going into a whirling cloud of pink confetti and red liquorices that whip you about the brow and temples till you emerge unable to remember any of the details. So I looked around for a memory-jog, and here are a few of the jokes she told. If that leaves you cravey, here’s an hour’s worth.

Also from comedy on TV, this is kind of old but I just saw it – a way of being funny that seems almost physically impossible to pull off on a talk show.

Okay, now stop everything. Yes, that too. Caught you.

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

Tea With Chris: Metaphors, Butchered Ruthlessly

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: Thanks to my Slate Music Club chat-partner Ann Powers, this week I was introduced to the impressive Lana Turner Journal and Lana Turner Blog, where the essays about Kesha and Katy Perry (really, it’s great) or Machete sit contentedly cheek by jowl with those about Godard and Afghanistan. Like n+1 but with a better sense of humour, it just got on my “essentials” list.

Speaking of the Music Club, after I’d finally finished up my best-of-2010 lists there, I discovered the 50 best albums and, especially, the 50 best hip-hop songs lists on Passion of the Weiss, and feel a little like I missed three-quarters of the year. Download the hip-hop mix now.

I’m sure this must do the Internet rounds with some regularity, but I got my first look this week at photos of the Wat Rong Khun Buddhist temple under construction in Thailand, a structure that looks like it’s spun from confectioners’ sugar and hypnagogic fever dreams. The superhero and science-fiction illustrations in the interior kind of make me doubt its earnestness of purpose outside of luring tourists into its sweet-petalled maw and devouring them, though maybe there’s a sound Buddhist-theological explanation?

One person who might know is the spiritually inclined Hamid Drake, one of the best living percussionists in jazz-improv, and I’d feel remiss if I didn’t tell Toronto readers that he’s playing two nights here this weekend, in an Interface with local musicians from AIMToronto. Here’s the Facebook event page and here’s the regular-type web page.

Chris: Back when I was cranking out regular CD reviews for a Toronto alt-weekly, I particularly enjoyed writing a one-star capsule on Katy Perry’s debut album, which lurched between gay-playing and gay-baiting with no more grace than her bellow of a voice. Perry’s 2010 single “Firework” topped the U.S. charts in December. It’s a putative “gay anthem,” with one of those music videos that show two young men kissing for half a second before the cut back to Katy, having just missed her clenched-fist salute. Rich Juzwiak’s year-end essay for the annual Pazz & Jop survey critiques this and other examples of post-“It Gets Better” pandering: “To court us so visibly, explicitly, and successfully…is to take the connoisseurship out of gay taste, to sap the queer from queerness.” If that makes you angry rather than sad, you might prefer the kicking meted out by the good people at the Singles Jukebox. Katherine St Asaph: “Do you ever feel like a metaphor, butchered ruthlessly? A sentient plastic bag?”

This doesn’t feel like that. Bonus K-pop content!

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Tea With Chris: Charity

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: In the 1980s the Cameron House in Toronto was a place where artists from disparate disciplines came together – where the Hummer Sisters ran for mayor, Video Cabaret told the history of Canada, Handsome Ned made his last stand, Prince dropped by to play the piano and Molly Johnson lived upstairs. That’s part of why, in 2001, we started the Trampoline Hall Lecture Series there. As the doorman for the series, I got acquainted with one of the owners, Paul Sanella, a little bit. He seemed like a really nice guy, and I was very sorry to read in NOW this week that he has died. Sympathies to his family, friends and Cameron comrades.

Skip all the mucking about in this video and go straight to about 1m45 to see a crowd of minor British pop stars (and Billy Bragg, who phoned his part in) perform John Cage’s 4’33”. Kinda badly. But I still want to see what happens if the campaign to make it the UK charts’ Xmas #1 succeeds – will it be played on the radio? So far it’s at no. 19. You can buy it online; it’s a bonafide charidee single too, benefiting a suicide hotline called C.A.L.M., the British Tinnitus Association and several music-therapy groups. (I just remembered this column about charidee pop I wrote a half-life ago.)

Margaux: Give the gift of Wikipedia – or – give Wikipedia a gift. They just need your one dollar. http://wikimediafoundation.org/w/index.php?title=WMFJA026/en/CA&utm_source=20101214_JA013A_EN&utm_medium=sitenotice&utm_campaign=20101214JA022&referrer=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Main_Page

Chris: Two bizarre comics-related stories this week, one tragic and the other comic. The latter involves Idris Elba, so good as Stringer Bell on The Wire, who’s playing one of the gods in that upcoming Thor movie. It seems that a few white supremacists are losing what’s left of their minds over the notion of a black Norse deity, starting yet another website for aggrieved nerds: Boycott-Thor.com. Comics Alliance has the story. My favourite part was the discovery that one jowly racist pundit wrote a column called “Shots Fired,” probably not named in tribute to the Jadakiss song / general hip-hop slang.

The other story is a dark one, and as Tom Spurgeon wrote, “there’s not really much to say about something like this that isn’t weird, off-putting or both.” Though it did put me in mind of the original V for Vendetta serial by Alan Moore and David Lloyd. A problematic book, dating back to the period when many British artists believed (with some justification) that Thatcherism would collapse into a fascist nightmare, but a book with moments of strange power at its margins. I went searching online for the text of “Valerie’s letter.” The simple, direct prose still knots my throat:

“I shall die here. Every inch of me shall perish. Except one. An inch. It is small and it’s fragile and it’s the only thing in the world that’s worth having. We must never lose it, or sell it, or give it away. We must never let them take it from us. I don’t know who you are, or whether you’re a man or woman. I may never see you. I will never hug you or cry with you or get drunk with you. But I love you. I hope you escape this place. I hope that the world turns and things get better, and that one day people have roses again. I wish I could kiss you.”

In the 1980s the <a href=”http://www.thecameron.com/” target=”_blank”>Cameron House</a> in Toronto was a place where artists from disparate disciplines came together – where the Hummer Sisters ran for mayor, Video Cabaret told the history of Canada, Handsome Ned made his last stand, Prince dropped by to play the piano and Molly Johnson lived upstairs. That’s part of why, in 2001, we started the <a href=”http://www.tramplinehall.net” target=”_blank”>Trampoline Hall Lecture Series</a> there. As the doorman for the series, I got acquainted with one of the owners, Paul Sanella, a little bit. He seemed like a really nice guy, and I was <a href=”http://www.nowtoronto.com/daily/music/story.cfm?content=178292” target=”_blank”>very sorry to read in NOW this week</a> that he has died. Sympathies to his family, friends and Cameron comrades.

Skip all the mucking about in this video and <a href=”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fPZYyq8LoxA” target=”_blank”>go straight to about 1m45</a> to see a crowd of minor British pop stars (and Billy Bragg, who phoned his part in) perform John Cage’s 4’33”. Kinda badly. But I still want to see what happens if the campaign to make it the UK charts’ Xmas #1 succeeds – will it be played on the radio? So far it’s <a href=http://www.glasswerk.co.uk/news/national/11825/Cage+Against+The+Machine+Enters+The+Top+20 target=”_blank”>at no. 19.</a> You can buy it online; it’s a bonafide charidee single too, benefiting a suicide hotline called C.A.L.M., the British Tinnitus Association and several music-therapy groups. (I just remembered <a href=” http://www.zoilus.com/documents/in_depth/2005/000334.php#more” target=”_blank”>this column about charidee pop</a> I wrote a half-life ago.)

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