September 29, 2009

This is a new low, probably.

I've never been into hockey pools (or any other pro-sports pool, for that matter), not because it's a form of gambling I should probably condemn, nor because I its so trivial and doesn't amount to anything (unless you win the $20 pot!). There's a draft and everyone takes turns choosing their players, keeping in mind al l the minute details regarding injuries, playing time, etc. A friend and I have developed the same sort of thing for Pitchfork's list of the "best" albums from the past decade, which is already well underway (pissing people off). We take turns picking albums until we each have ten and the one who has the best ranking with his select albums in P4K's top 20 wins something. The only problem is we already both know who's taking home the top spot.

It will be a major upset if Radiohead's Kid A isn't number one, especially considering how the site has hailed it as the "Last Album" (just read their review of the reissue) and how unabashedly they love all things RH. That said, P4K is known to make stupid ranking decisions just to throw people off and show themselves to be a step above the predictions of common folk. We can also safely assume that Outkast, Animal Collective, TV on the Radio, Arcade Fire, The Knife, M.I.A, Modest Mouse, LCD Soundsystem, Jay-Z, Interpol, the Books, and Sufjan Stevens will clean up. I also expect to see the White Stripes, despite the fact that almost all of their albums have been written off and panned by P4K writers. Kid A deserves to take this thing home. We all know how this should end. My list is in the works and you'd better believe Kid A/Amnesiac will be leading things off not with a bang, but a whimper.

September 22, 2009

For some odd reason I've joined a curling team. Our first practice is tonight. Only one of my teammates has curled before. But I do have a pretty wicked collection of sweaters that I'll be showing off every game. I've never really understood why some people have such a deep love for curling, but I've been told that our rink has a very affordable bar. You can drink beer while you huck rocks down the ice at other rocks. I also recently discovered that you can drink beer while you play golf. It was a revelation. What most of us consider boring, lazy sports (usually involving middle-aged white men) often involve alcohol consumption (not simply after the game, but during!). This is slowly starting to make sense.

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Lately, I've started reading the theologian Paul J. Griffiths' blog, which is updated with suprising regularity. His reflections may be brief but they're never short on insight. Griffiths is the Warren Chair of Catholic Theology at Duke. I became aware of him when he gave the 2005 J.J. Theissen lectures at CMU. Later published by CMU Press, The Vice of Curiosity: An Essay on Intellectual Appetite remains the best lecture series I've attended, not to mention the strongest book of theology CMU Press has published. A staunch Augustinian, Griffiths, in a recent post, approaches the current debate in American politics over universal access to healthcare in this way:
Faced, then, with a proposal to reform healthcare in the USA, you will advocate what you advocate and oppose what you oppose not because of calculations about outcome, but because of beauty. On this ground, everything is clear: access to healthcare is a right, a condition for human flourishing; a system that makes access contingent upon features extraneous to being human — such as having paid work — is ugly. Attempts to redress the ugliness by insurance compound it: insurance is part of the ugliness, not part of the beauty. The proper solution, the one to advocate with passion, is universal free access. That is the starting point.
Well put. I'd like to see Obama try using this argument.

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So Chad VanGaalen didn't win the Polaris Prize. Well, it's likely he'll be nominated again for his next album so I'm not too torn up about it. Instead Fucked Up, a harcore-punk band from Toronto walked away with $20000. They've said they'll be donating the money to a charity that spreads awareness about missing aboriginal women. Read more.

September 18, 2009

the modern prometheus

The Immanent Frame has just posted an interview with Terry Eagleton.
Music critic Carl Wilson weighs in on the Polaris Prize and the Canadian music scene more generally.
Everybody seems to be going ape-shit over Wednesday's announcement of a Pavement reunion, but I almost feel a bit disappointed. They're probably my favourite band, but I'm just so sick of reunion tours that its been difficult to celebrate. I've always thought Malkmus wouldn't fall into that trap, but the band's status (much like the Pixies, who reunited back in 2004 and, in contrast, toured through cities as neglected as Winnipeg) has ballooned since indie culture carved out a mainstream niche. The Pixies milked their recent surge in popularity, so why not Pavement?
I'm currently reading Mary Shelly's Frankenstein for an honours course in Victorian literature and trying to decide whether to focus on Renaissance or Victorian literature as I prepare to apply for graduate studies in English. Decisions, decisions.

September 16, 2009

go chad go!

More incredible goodies from the man who doesn't quit:

  • interview excerpt in which we discuss the Polaris Prize
  • free downloadable EP of b-sides from 2008's Soft Airplane (!)
  • new music video for "Metal Spiderwebs" from his newly released instrumental side project, Snow Blindness is Crystal Antz, from his electronic alter-ego, Black Mold

Black Mold: Metal Spiderwebs from Flemish Eye on Vimeo.

September 10, 2009

why Chad VanGaalen should win the Polaris Prize

Today I got to talk to one of my favourite musicians. The interview is scheduled to appear in the next issue of Stylus, which should be out in the coming month. Here's the intro/teaser:
Chad VanGaalen may be many things to many people, but one thing is certain: he embodies the do-it-yourself aesthetic at nearly every level. From self-production and designing his album artwork to building instruments and animating his own music videos, it’s difficult to think of something that VanGaalen isn’t good at. Now after three diverse albums of homespun folk rock, the Polaris Prize nominated Albertan has released his electronic side project, Snow Blindness is Crystal Antz, under the moniker Black Mold (on the Calgary-based label Flemish Eye). Stylus caught up with Chad VanGaalen to discuss his musical alter-ego, his artwork, and why it's unlikely that he'll be invited back to perform at the Winnipeg Folk Festival any time soon.
Intrigued? Of course you are. Who get's banned from Folk Fest? Well, you'll have to wait and see. All I'm going to say for now is that it has something to do with "corpse porn."

We also spent five or so minutes discussing the Polaris Prize, for which Chad's third album, 2008's Soft Airplane, is nominated. Now, I realize pretty biased, but I do not see how any of the other nominees (save Fucked Up's The Chemistry of Common Life) should even stand a chance against such a strong, engrossing album from an artist who is (arguably) Canada's best and most original young songwriter. Chad was also nominated for 2006's Skelliconnection, which should have won instead of Patrick Watson's crappy Close To Paradise. Besides, Mr. VanGaalen has also produced one of last year's best records (Women's self-titled debut) and is at work recording their follow up.

Best of all, I recently discovered that Chad VanGaalen was once a guest on David Letterman, but not as a musician. His performance here fits into a segment called "Stupid Human Tricks." Unfortunately, you'll have to wait until 2:34 in the clip until he appears, but, trust me, it's worth it.

September 8, 2009

"Consider a man riding a bicycle. Whoever he is, we can say three things about him. We know he got on the bicycle and started to move. We know that at some point he will stop and get off. Most important of all, we know that if at any point between the beginning and the end of his journey he stops moving and does not get off the bicycle he will fall off it. That is a metaphor for the journey through life of any living thing, and I think of any society of living things." ~William Golding

September 3, 2009

“As a dog returns to its vomit, so a fool repeats his folly.” (Proverbs 26:11)
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Just read a fantastic piece in the New York Times on money, faith, and the economic crisis by the British philosopher Simon Critchley. He writes:
It is an understandable misunderstanding of capitalism to declare that it is a materialism that consists of a voracious desire for things. I would argue that we love the money that enables us to buy those things for it reaffirms our faith and restores the only theological basis we have for our trust in the world. Money is our metaphysics. In that God we trust. And when trust breaks down, as it has done so dramatically in the last year, then people experience something close to a crisis of faith.

Understandably missing from Critchley's argument is a proper acknowledgment of the Biblical condemnation of the love of money. We live in a time of rampant idolatry. As Critchley notes, in the Western mind, religion and economics are inseparable. Despite the opinions of dewey-eyed skeptics, religion is still alive and well, but its content has noticably changed for the worse. We like to think of public (i.e. secular) space in which faith and superstition have been evacuated, but something entirely different is going on:
it is not so much that the money-changers have desecrated the temple, but that the only temples where we can worship are places where money changes hands in some perverse parody of a religious service.
It makes me wonder whether Critchley has every visited a mega-church, where often as not there isn't much room for parody.
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And finally, I must share another electrifying tv appearance from St. Vincent, who performs "Marrow" (from her brilliant new album Actor) live on Jimmy Kimmel.