Archive for August, 2009

Pirate – Party – Propaganda: the Green Party of Canada is Ready For the Big Leagues!

13/08/2009

1: THE PIRATE

I live in an apartment a couple doors down from a very interesting (in every sense of the word) bar called Zemra Lounge. That place gets its ‘interesting’ character directly from its owner: a Croatian pirate. If he’s not actually a pirate, that’s only because the opportunity’s never come up for him. But he embodies all the finest character traits of a pirate (a storybook pirate a la Captain Blood, which is very different from currently-in-vogue Somali pirate type). Qualities:

Complete disregard for authoritarian morality (and any other type of morality); an enormous ego; a suave faux-aristocratic bearing, balanced by frequent episodes of alcoholic depression; …and, most importantly, incredible adaptability and resource in difficult situations. All he’s missing is a parrot and eye patch. But I’m pretty sure he has the requisite sabre and pistol stashed behind the bar.

And this is why, while businesses have been dropping like flies in saki along this street during the past year – which included both the ‘global economic crisis’ and the greatest streetcar track reconstruction fiasco ever attempted by mankind – the Zemra Lounge has thrived.

Our pirate transformed what was a hangout for the upper crust of the local Gino population into an event centre: Music! Magic Acts! Wine Tastings! Birthday Parties! Corporate Events! They all walk the plank at Zemra.

The man’s brilliant and cunning – I admire him. And he’s also a very nice guy. I run into him on the street all the time, typically finding him in furtive conversation with a shady-looking dude parked in a SUV in front of the bar. When he sees me he always breaks off the conversation to pass the time of day and ask how Madeline and Gus are doing, like Robert Frost:

When a friend calls to me from the road
And slows his horse to a meaning walk,
I don’t stand still and look around
On all the hills I haven’t hoed,
And shout from where I am, “What is it?”
No, not as there is a time to talk.
I thrust my hoe in the mellow ground,
Blade-end up and five feet tall,
And plod: I go up to the stone wall
For a friendly visit.

This character sketch has gone on way too far. The point is: he’s started hosting events lately. And today it was a Green Party of Canada local meeting.

The Zemra Bar and Pirate Hideout
the Zemra Bar and Pirate Lair

***
2: THE PARTY
As I walked by Zemra Lounge last night a great crowd of hippies, dotted with shiny suits and pinkshirt businessmen, were milling in and around the place. And at each corner of the patio a dissolute-and-untoothed fellow (members of the fanatical paramilitary wing of the Party) – was stationed, handing out bright blue and green pamphlets. (more…)

Advertisements

Accidental Dignity: Torture Memo no.7 and the Challenge of Maintaining Dishonest Abstraction in the Written Word

10/08/2009

Slept too little to attempt very much on the blog today. So I’ll offer up one of my favourite excerpts from the Torture Memos suite in place of the daily personal reflection:

http://www.parkdalerevolutionaryorchestra.com/tm/memo7.mp3%20

Text:

drawing distinctions
between gradations of pain
is not an easy task.
[oh no]
it’s not an easy task.

– John Yoo

This is definitely my favourite lyric from the whole set (and, coincidently, the shortest). It’s such a striking juxtaposition with the cold, technical belligerence of the rest.

Of course it’s lifted from a section in which Mr.Yoo is attempting to establish pseudoscientific divisions between “acceptable” and “severe” levels of suffering. In this case he’s talking about sleep deprivation and how many days it can “legally” go on for.

Extracting this one line and taking it at face-value suggests the hidden possibility of a deep regret and troubled conscience behind the authorship of the torture memos. Of course it’s hard to believe in that possibility as intentional or, looking at in its actual context, genuinely meaningful.

To the contrary, I think it’s more likely that a degree of dignity and sympathy is inevitably built into written language. Regardless of the unlikely context, zooming into the microscopic details of communication brings out these essential qualities.

So I was glad to notice this fragment and include it in the suite. I find it hopeful to see that, with all the ways human beings contrive to fool themselves and manipulate others, the way we’ve constructed our means of communication interferes with completely dishonest abstractions.

Concert Review: ———- @ the — Gallery, Toronto, August 8 2009

09/08/2009

Concert Review
———- @ the — Gallery, Toronto
August 8 2009

the problem was my preconcert
discussion a block away;
demonstrating the difficulty of being here
with small stones on heads and tables
for the pleasure of the disenfranchised.

the problem with the guitar
with songs about jesus and boo-hoo
is that it’s also difficult to be there
but there aren’t enough stones or heads
around to properly express your feelings.

That Bitch Stole My Recycle Boxes! A Choose Your Own Surreal Adventure:

08/08/2009


The Adventure Begins:

You surge up out of bed at 9:00 this morning when one of your basset hounds decides it’s about time to start giving you CPR. You’re bleary-eyed but less hungover than you deserve to be. The animals have to do their essentials in the park so you stumble about for five minutes trying to assemble pants, shirt, and shoes. Ok: you’re ready to go!

The hounds are plunging back in forth, seething with walkjoy and barely-restrained urine. And you’re standing at the top of the stairs putting their leashes on. You look down the stairs and, through the glazed glass of the door notice a stack of blue and grey shapes: your recycle boxes! Of course! Last night was Friday: Recycle Night!

You vaguely recall lurching out to curb last night, wearing nothing but your sexy zebra-print bathrobe; hideously drunk; barely conscious, to put out the four recycle boxes (including the one illegal recycle box which is just a big plastic tub that happens to be a shade of blue similar to the standard recycle-box colour).

Your Good Neighbor, Graham, must’ve been up early and stacked them up outside for you (like he does every Saturday morning). You notice, with satisfaction, that the Recycle Dudes were duped by your non-regulation box, and you’re proud that your booze-addled brain had the capacity to slip that box into the middle of the row of regulation boxes so the Dudes wouldn’t notice the ugly duckling until it was too late.

You reach down and click the leash onto Augustus Fink-Nottle’s collar and —

— there’s a sudden thud of a closing door from the street and – NO!!! – you look through the glass door to see that half of your recycle boxes have disappeared! They’ve been stolen from right under your nose! Your precious recycle boxes that it’s taken years to assemble: each one lovingly found abandoned on the street or stolen from your neighbors the day before moving house — two of them have vanished!!

But then, as your eyes are transfixed on the pitiful survivors of this massacre: there’s second thud – a fuzzy humanoid figure appears in the doorway – lifts the remaining recycle boxes (including the precious non-regulation box) – and vanishes with thud no.3! And you horror of the situation washes over you:

Holy shit! That was the lady who’s opening the store beneath our apartment! She’s just stolen all my recycle boxes! WTF?!?!

What do you do?

A) Drop the leash, bolt down the stairs, and confront her while she likely has the incriminating recycle boxes in hand. (turn to page 76)

B) Take a moment to grab one of the bizarre ornamental daggers from Pakistan that your grandfather who worked for the U.N. gave you, then run down the stairs and confront her. By then she might have had time to stash the evidence, but at least you’ll have some means of defense against the potentially-violent madness of someone who’d steal recycle boxes from in front of your door in broad daylight. (turn to page 149)

C) Call the cops. This person is clearly psychopathic and, even armed with an ornamental Pakistani dagger, there’s no certain safety in confronting a dangerous lunatic. The police are trained to deal with this sort of situation. (turn to page 14)

D) Overwhelmed by the confusion and potential ramifications of this outrage (losing all the recycle boxes + living above a store run by a nutter), you decide to avoid dealing with it for the moment. Instead you take the dogs out for a walk and use that time to think your options over. (keep reading…)
(more…)

Forward Rocinante!

07/08/2009

Because an absurd action magnifies the absurdity of an absurd institution:

PZ “Don Quixote” Myers and 300 atheist Sancho Panzas jousted with the Creation “Museum” in Kentucky this afternoon. The windmill seems to have taken a beating this time.

There are more pictures at Blag Hag’s Blog.

My Drummer Is A Very Philosophical Guy: The Paradox Of Competence And Generosity.

07/08/2009

My new drummer is a very philosophical guy.

A couple months ago we had our annual drummer-juggling week, which is nowhere near as fun as it sounds. Over the lifetime of the Parkdale Revolutionary Orchestra (three years now?) we’ve had three solid drummers and more fill-ins than I can remember. And each new drummer and I quickly fall into a unique and strangely-intense relationship. This doesn’t happen with the violin and cello players who’ve been in the band. With them, it’s always been a gradually-evolving relationship: professional awkwardness develops to mutual respect and, over the course of many months, slips into a comfortable friendship.

For example, Alex Cheung (our violinist of two years) and I have always liked working together but only became what I’d call “friends” through a year long series of chess-like maneuvers. Alex McMaster (Ms.Cello) and I are still, I think, just a bit shy and cautious with each other. I’m not saying this slow way of learning to enjoy the people who share my creative life is a bad thing – in fact I prefer it in a lot of ways.

But that’s never been an option with our drummers. I’m not sure if it’s something ingrained in the personality of people who become drummers; or if it’s ingrained in the subset of drummers interested in making the sort of music we make; or whether it has to do with my approach to working with drummers… but with each drummer it seems that our relationship is carved in stone by the second rehearsal.

And it’s always different: Rosie was a demon-cupid Mercury of sarcasm, wild creativity, and dissoluteness; Chris Patheiger was a Jupiter, a true gentleman. Very kind, slightly reserved, self-regulating his orbit around the project to exert a solid gravitational pull without committing to a stable trajectory. But our new drummer, David MacDougall, is from Neptune – by far my most troubling planet-archetype.

This discovery came as a shock to me. By nature (and by practice) I’m very pessimistic. I do my best to predict catastrophes as early as possible, and on the most preliminary evidence. So, from the moment that David contacted me out-of-the-blue with “I hear you’re looking for a drummer. I play drums.” I was trying to figure him out by my special (and absurd) process of psycho-statistical analysis.

You must recognize the obvious dilemma: this strange character was immediately and unabashedly enthusiastic about this music; very generous with committing himself to rehearsals; incredibly competent and in-demand as a musician, and yet borderline-diffident in rehearsal. He asks questions about texture and structure. By the second rehearsal it was obvious that he understood the functional language of this music better than anyone else in the band, often including myself.

He’s a balanced professional on stage: he plays hard but never overplays. I’ve yet to see him lose his cool when a performance brushes up against the definite possibility of falling completely apart. Off-stage he’s always been relaxed, with a detached ironical sense of humour, and displays a marked absence of self-indulgence combined with a philosophical sympathy for my own not-infrequent displays of that lousy trait.

So you must see now that bringing David into the band was a shattering concession:

Is it worth abandoning thirty-three years’ worth of hard-earned pessimism – and the insulation against disappointment that comes with it and has sustained me through the past three years – in order to work with a drummer who contributes so much to every aspect of the band’s existence while causing no problems at all?

It’s a catch-22; a paradox; a no-win scenario.

Old Lady Want-to-be Singer/Poets Can Kiss My Ass.

06/08/2009

Somehow, despite the no sleep and no prep., last night’s show was good. After doing this for a couple years, it seems to have suddenly become something that everyone’s comfortable with. Being intensely focused on every moment isn’t sustainable and definitely not much fun. I’m glad we’re figuring this out.

Now here’s the real post:

Old ladies suck. Old lady poets suck. Old lady want-to-be-singer/poets suck. And people without the self-awareness to understand the implicit boundaries between performers and audience suck.

Summary: Old lady want-to-be-singer/poets without the self-awareness to understand the implicit boundaries between performers and audience suck. And they suck a lot.

What am I talking about? Well I was obligated to tell one such Old Lady off last night. Here’s the deal:

We’re soundchecking.

Old Lady near the “stage” (if you’ve ever been to the Tranzac you know why it’s “stage” and not stage).

We play a bit of music to check the levels.

Kristin to audience: “How’s that sound?”

Old Lady: “You’re too loud.”

K: “um, ok.”

OL: “You’ve got to listen while you sing.”

K: “….?”

OL: “I know. I am a singer. That’s what you do when you’re a singer.”

Me: “And what do you do if you’re an obnoxious audience member?”

OL: “boo-hoo.”

Seriously people: whatever you’re doing; wherever you are; whoever you may be: Before you speak, take a moment to check in all your pockets for a clue. If you don’t find one – if you realize that maybe you don’t have a clue, then just shut the fuck up.

A friend of mine told me that this OL is a lousy poet too.

…I Want To Say A Prayer.

05/08/2009

Does it get much crazier than this? Probably not in real life:

That’s from about 2/3rds of the way through the show this past Saturday. About an hour-and-a-half after the stage monitors exploded and twenty seconds before Karl narrowly misses smashing Ian in the head with the mic stand he starts swinging about his head. Or did that happen before this bit?

It’s all a blur.

Karl Mohr Insanity in Burk’s Falls; the Torture Memos Record is Done.

05/08/2009

Insane days. Catastrophic show with Karl Mohr in Burk’s Falls over the weekend, balanced by beautiful nightswimming. Wary of developing the specialization “plays only with weirdass bands”. Not that wouldn’t be true, but I’m wary of it becoming recognized. Planning a three-act opera based on Karl’s on-stage auto de fe.

The Torture Memo record’s done. Fourteen hours at the studio yesterday with James Paul. Gallons of coffee and massive failure in the recent “stop smoking” policy. But excellent results!

And using a rational process for recording and producing was a very important idea. It’s been a past mistake trying to get a complete thing done in a closed time period. This record is done but still malleable, which makes our mistakes less tragic.

Show tonight = will be under-rehearsed.

Torture Memos Cover