Archive for the ‘The Psychology Of The Individual’ Category

What’s All This Then?! — The Podcast is Back!

24/11/2009

My co-host Guitar Drone XPT101196.4 and I are happy to announce that the What’s All This Then?! Podcast is back! We’re going with a weekly show that’ll come out every Saturday. So if you’ve dropped it from your list of podcasts on iTunes because of the lack of anything new – resubscribe!

What’s All This Then?! on iTunes

As it’s now a weekly show it’ll be a lot shorter: we’re going to try to keep it under 15 minutes. It’ll still include thoughtful interviews with interesting musicians, lots of great music, show listings, and occasional forays into epic intergalactic adventure.

The first show in the new format is available now. It addresses some of Guitar Drone’s deep philosophical concepts. Gigs to check out in the next couple days: Tonight’s Drumheller show @ the Tranzac and the AIMToronto Interface series this weekend with Gino Robair.

What’s All This Then?! No.15 – November 24 2009:

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…)

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.