Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Christmas Kino

There's nothing like gathering around the ol'yule log the day before Christmas with a group of friends, all the hectic Christmas shopping and baking done, to enjoy a lazy afternoon of classic Christmas cinema, like Tony Jaa's heartwarming tale of a boy and his elephant, Tom Yum Goong.

Alright, yes, we're being a wee facetious here, but The Protector (as it was known here) offers stunning martial arts sequences, brought to you by the same people who helped choreograph Ong-Bak, as well as elements of District B13 and Casino Royale. Granted the following is a bit like admitting one buys Playboy for the articles, but one of the things that we rather enjoyed about The Protector, was the way it built a theme established in Ong-Bak, namely the modernization of Thailand. While we don't mean to suggest that director Prachya Pinkaew has his finger on the pulse of a Thai generation, but he nevertheless appears to be building up slowly a body of work documenting some of the transition problems Thailand is going through.

In Ong-Bak, who's plot we found rather confusing, these elements are limited to rural vs. urban, with Tony Jaa's character trying to adjust to life in the city after leaving his rural home to find his village's religious relic. Here, "modern" urban life is presented with all of its vices, gambling, drugs, prostitution, and the abandonment of religious values. In The Protector, this theme of decadence is taken one step further, as Jaa's character travels from "pre-modern" Thai village, to "modern" Thai city, and then to the global ("post-modern?) city of Sydeny, Australia featuring a transexual crime lord.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Nights of the New Republik

We're living in the past while the kids step into a brand new era.

The Republik hosted one of its first events last night, a Junior Boys DJ set.

Our friend Mike Bell has a story about the nightclub sitting at a generational crossroads as he talks to club owner Victor Choy.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Booked Up For The Holidays

As most of us came through the Calgary Exhibition & Stampede Parking Deptartment, a strange institution around which to form an intellectual coterie for sure, we were naturally attracted to Simon Henley' The Architecture of Parking. Henley shares our love of parking structures, but while ours exists in a more philosophical, abstract manner, for Henley, the parkade in its numerous forms offers examples of alternative architectural frameworks, composed on an altogether different scale from most of the buildings that surround us. Comprised largely of short essays and photo-investigations, Henly explores the development of the car park over the last century, looking at changes in design, use, materials, and forms, dipping into the rival conceptualizations of car park as urban hub, blight, or reluctant necessity.

Two other books that are working their way through our office are Benjamin Barber's book on consumption patterns in developed capitalist economy. The title and subtitle pretty say it all: Consumed: How Markets Corrupt Children, Infantilize Adults, and Swallow Citizens Whole. We're still too early into it to offer any critical insights, but it is riveting, and one of our fellow readers, Sean Marchetto claims it has already helped him firm up ideas of the post-WWII visual culture that he talks about at www.explodingbeakers.blogspot.com.

The other book, Steven Pinker's The Stuff of Thought, has us a little bogged down in the meaty subject of grammer construction. Pinker promises to reveal how language shapes our thoughts and conceptualizations of reality, but without relying on the arguments of Wittgenstein, or the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis. We suspect he might be a closet Chomskyite, but will have to see, for The Stuff of Thought has offered many fascinating insights into the construction of language, it has yet to wrap things up into a big picture framework of reality.

As the holidays rapidly approach, and we look at the other books lining our reading shelves, we can only hope that Santa, or somone, leaves us some fiction beneath our Christmas tree, or perhaps a little poetry in our stockings.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

New Days For The Old Republik?

We first started to wonder when we saw someone downtown wearing what looked like a brand new t-shirt with the logo for the old Republik night club. A staple of the 1990s music scene, many of us cut our teeth in the converted maison-cum-rock-mecca, with it's gutted concrete basement and built-over garage, turned into a stage. Outside, around back, the rear of the house sometimes functione as an after-hours/informal nightclub, the Delux a precursor to the Embassy.

The t-shirt was soon followed by rumours that the Republik was re-opening, and a full-page ad in this week's edition of Fast Forward confirmed everything. No date was given for the opening, but something should surface soon.

Friday, December 07, 2007

The Good German

Perhaps we've been hanging out with too many math folks lately, but we felt naturally inclined to express our views of the George Clooney/Cate Blanchett "The Good German":

f'(The Good German): S(Chinatown + The Third Man)

Fusion Infusion?

Despite our well-earned reputation as espresso lovers, we have been known to poke our heads around the local tea shops to investigate what's brewing. Quite often, as we stare at the loose tea leaves, we imagine packing them into our espresso machines to see what would happen. Obviously, certain teas, such as green and white tea, require a temperature range below that which our espresso machines operate, but perhaps some sort of herbal concoction might work? We've never been brave to work, but part of the allure is the supposed properties of many herbal teas.

Recently, a B.C. based coffee company has apparently been wondering the same thing, though in a slightly different way. Fusion Coffee infuses their beans with some of the same herbs that show up in teas. This week, The Daily Wenzel has been test driving their "Extreme Blend", that contains extracts of ginseng, yerba matte, and guarana, for added boosts of clarity, energy, and concentration (all this plus caffeine). Sadly, we report no insanely creative bursts of anything, though we suspect the recent sub-zero weather, dark skies, and occassional flurries may have more to do with our unusuallyt high degree of lethargy. Tastewise, the coffee is a somewhat lighter roast than our usual espresso flare, definitely sweeter, and took a little work to find the right degree of grind, but even without any supposed benefits, it is a satisfying taste alternative.

Monday, December 03, 2007

A Strong Wind A-Comin'?

The UN Convention on Climate Change starts today in Bali, a two week process searching for a successor to the Kyoto Accord. As with the opening of other such conventions, there seems to be an expectant hush as the world hopes that this time something will happen. Meetings this year, such as those of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, have brought public opinion one step closer to accepting the need for some kind of dramatic change.

Things began optimistically today, with Australia announcing that they would sign on to the Kyoto Accord, a tacit announcement that they are rejoining the world community. Canada meanwhile is showing it's increasing reluctance to remain a part of this group.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Music, Music, Everywhere

It's been a long time since we talked music here, and a lot of musical water has passed under the bridge. A few of the notable discs that have stayed resolutely in our players include Feist's The Reminder, alternating as it does between dirgy tunes like "Brandy Alexander" and poppier masterpieces like "1234" (available on seemingly every Apple commercial). A rough and tumble live album, recorded by Tokyo Police Club at the Chicago Lollapalooza stopover, has sparked our enthusiasm for their Saddle Creek full-length, duo out early next year. Similarly, Bassano del Grappa gets voluably excited everytime Stars' In Our Bedroom After the War comes on, speaking passionately about some kind of Dr. Zhivago-esque grand romance movie script locked up inside his head. Apparently only Stars hold the key.

Other noteworthy releases include Radiohead's In Rainbows (see earlier post). We finally got around to listening to Bright Eyes' Casadegga to only lukewarm response, but the Broken Social Scene's Introducing Keven Drew has grown somewhat on us.

A charming little surprise came to us in the form of New York anti-folketeer Jeffrey Lewis' acoustic covers of Crass songs entitled, surprising, 12 Crass Songs. Stripped of the screaming vocals, and buzzing guitars, couched in softer tones for more suburban surrounds, Lewis helps us think of a time when we were better (and poorer and more radical) people. Generally we solve this problem by listening to Nico's Chelsea Girls, and just descending into a deeply morose spiral best counter-balanced by more uplifting fare, like Tokyo Police Club.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Tokyo Driftin'

A few days ago we managed to secure a trio of Seijun Suzuki films, Youth of the Beast, Tokyo Drifter, and Branded to Kill, that made us swoon with cinematic delight. Filmed in Japan during the 1960s, these yakuza-centred movies ooze a sense of style that make them veritable pop art in an of themselves. Coupled with soundtracks that combine acid jazz and vibrant colours schemes amidst elaborate stage backdrops, Seijun was routinely at odds with his production studio over his films' "incomprehensibility". His response was always vowing to "play it straight" on the next, until ultimately Branded to Kill, released in 1968 was hailed by critics as a cinematic masterpiece, and a maddening failure by the studio, leading directly to his firing.

While the storylines often play second fiddle to the films' visual appeal, they nevertheless tackle themes of modern alienation and existential angst in a way that other contemporary gangster films, such as The Godfather, never did.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Joy Divsion - Control

Most of us here at The Daily Wenzel did not encounter Joy Division until we were well into our teenage years, often in the context of our more morose friends and fans of bands like The Smiths and The Cult. Even though "Digital" became one of our favourite songs, it certainly seemed at odds with the dour sonic atmosphere provided by other Joy Division classics like "She's Lost Control". Until viewing the new Ian Curtis biopic, Control, we never would have imagined that Joy Division could have passed themselves off as a dance band, though obviously the groundwork for New Order's dance-friendly sensibilities had to come from somewhere.

Control follows Curtis from his high school days in Manchester, where we are introduced to his prolific creativity, through to the rise of Joy Division, and Curtis' subsequent bouts of epilepsy, depression, and severe medication. There is much in Control that dovetails nicely with 24 Hour Party People, the biography of recently deceased Factory records head, Tony Wilson. Including scenes where Curtis accosts Wilson for not putting Joy Division on his show, or later, when Wilson signs the band's Factory Records contract in his own blood before passing out at the pub.

Given Wilson's own famous encounter with the British National Health Service during his bout with renal cancer (though his passing this summer was due to heart failure) it is sad to be reminded of the role that drugs potentially played in Curtis' suicide.

In the end, all we have is the music, and the Control images of Ian Curtis dancing and singing to "Digital" and others, helps to demonstrate that Joy Division was aptly named, despite all that came after.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Positively Unemployed

Like many Canadian youths aged 18-30, most of us here at The Daily Wenzel spent much of the 1990s underemployed at barely above minimum wage. Those days seem almost a lifetime removed from the current wage experience where high school and college students are being tempted to drop-out or delay graduation with the promise of high wages and plentiful overtime. One of the side-effects of this underemployment was a severe disconnect between working and identity; a common pop cultural theme in movies such as Clerks, or songs such as Gas Huffer's "You Are Not Your Job". It was also one of the touchstone's to Wilco's breakthrough Being There. Many of us would sit through the six and half minutes of ambient guitar feedback layed over a roots structure, just to hear Jeff Tweedy whisper the line "positively unemployed" because that's how we viewed ourselves. Overeducated, underskilled, and underemployed, developing hobbies and interests that filled up the vast amount of time we weren't in school or working. Many of these hobbies had creative manifestations that offered their own credible answer to that most boring of cocktail parties, "What do you do?". Did we park cars for a living or were we unpublished writers, artists, and musicans, bolstered by our formal membership in a conceptual arts organization?

We were paid to park cars, but we lived for other things.

Thus, Ivan Illitch's The Right to Useful Unemployment attracted us even before we knew his history as a radical educational thinker, questioning the roles of schools in society (see his most famous work, De-Schooling Society). Illitch's sense of "useful unemployment" mirrors our own, in that he calls for a more convivial way of life, in which wealth, income, and technological advancements, do not prejudice the enjoyment of basic living. His example here is the car. The prevalence of automobiles means that it is increasingly difficult to walk to all the destinations one needs to accomplish daily tasks. Anyone living as a victim of urban sprawl in Calgary will understand this.

However, this has more to do with notions of relative poverty, and Illitch links this somewhat weakly to the idea of "unemployment". In the second half, where he develops his idea of useful unemployment more fully, we find that it is more the professional classes that he takes argument with. Echoing the work of Michel Foucault and, to a lesser extent, Guy Debord, Illitch rails against the way the establishment of professions, doctors, teachers, even certified mechanics, allows for the creation of a priveleged body of experts free to set the agenda within their relative domains. They alone (or in conjunction with government and industry) decide on proper proceedures, adequate structures and precautions, necessary curricula, etc. In Illitch's mind forming a College of university-trained and government licensed teachers or doctors, renders the informally trained, or folk-trained, versions not only illegal, but unemployed.

Originally published in 1973, we are left wondering the extent to which the current information revolution, with info-on-demand, as well as the growing post-modern accomdation with Foucault's power/knowledge argument, has changed some of the basic structure's of Illitch's argument.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Sunday Matinee

The best music is evocative - it conjures within our minds some kind of mental image, whether it is a deeply personal moment of our lives, or else a specific impression of the particular time and place where the music was created. That's why people often don't agree on what constitutes "good music", because the same song does not evoke the same memory or feelings for everyone. Thus, when the Ipod shuffled Urban Waste's "Public Opinion" onto the stereo this morning, some of us in the Daily Wenzel offices, chugged along as if we were twenty years younger, chanting "I'm not into punk rock/ I'm not into hardcore", while others just stared dumbfoundedly.

Taken from Sunday Matinee, a 1994 compilation celebrating over ten years of all ages punk shows at CBGB's, it took us back to the all ages shows around town where we spent many of wasted weekend afternoon. Ahhh. . .

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Like a wolf at the door with a big bowl of milk.

We are listening to Radiohead. In Rainbows. 'Nuff said?

There seems to be dozens of blogs with song by song accounts and reviews of the album, so start with the fine folk at Pitchfork and google away. For whatever reason, we've never been able to decipher the metaphors of Radiohead albums or songs as quickly or easily as others. When Ok Computer was named one of the most important albums of the twentieth century according to one magazine poll, we were rather caught off guard (we would have been fine with "best" or "popular", but "important" forced some re-evaluation). So, for that reason, we won't talk about what the songs mean, since we never seemed to be really good at that anyways. It's like a giant blind spot in our cultural analysis apparatus. Perhaps we're too close to the fire on this one, since Radiohead has always had the uncanny ability to stand two paces away from where we wanted to be at any given moment.

In Rainbows catches your attention right off the mark by being far more listener-friendly and pop-oriented than anything Radiohead has put out in a long time. It probably falls squarely between Ok Computer and Kid A, but coming after the "difficult" and "challenging" Hail to the Thief, it sounds like a breath of fresh air. It also sounds like the band is having fun again for the first time in years. In fact, our first thoughts were to wonder to what extent Radiohead had already envisioned the delivery method of In Rainbows back when they were recording Hail to the Thief. It would be easy to imagine that they could have decided to make their last contractually obligated album excessively experimental, in order to facillitate a parting of the ways with their record company. Other artists have travelled that root. Of course, if this were true it probably wouldn't have taken four years for In Rainbows to be released.

Instead, it seems like the album finds Radiohead comfortable with its position in the world, and intent on glancing back at where they've been. Others have pointed out that there are a lot of older songs here, some which were considered for inclusion on Ok Computer. It seems that perhaps everyone is finally on the same page again, if one reflects on the stories of tension and miscommunication that emerged during the Kid A/Amnesiac sessions. Jonny Greenwood, for instance, thought that they were going to enter the studios to record a return to the three-minute guitar-driven pop song following the "experimentalism" of Ok Computer. Thom Yorke meanwhile was looking at the upcoming sessions as an outlet for his emerging interest in electronic music. The pressure to follow-up on their newfound status as musical innovators likely played a determining role in the shape of Hail to the Thief.

Four years removed now, and Radiohead is free to re-establish their musical identity and In Rainbows can be seen as a celebration of where they've been. Let's just hope that the songs aren't intended to be a pot of gold at the end of the Radiohead road, but rather prepping for a new stage in the band's development.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Get Joost.

Several months back we signed up to beta test Joost an online provider of television programming. At the time, we were intrigued by their rather extensive list of channels, but saddened to discover that, apart from MuchMusic, MTV Canada, and a couple of extreme sports channels, there did not seem to be much that could be licensed for broadcast in Canada. Now, as Joost has announced this weekend that they are officially open to the public, the list of channels seems far greater, including numerous animation and film options. We are sufficiently interested to be willing to return and explore more of what Joost has to offer.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Music Update

Awhile ago we intimated that despite all of the music that has come our way lately, not a lot of it is any good. Or rather, since most music is suited for a particular time and place, with intended to be listened to with a specific mind set, we just haven't been there. Such lukewarmly received albums include Wax Mannequin, Oxbow, Hex Static, Klute, Cobblestone Jazz, Kings of Electro, and even, the latest from Winnipeg, The Details (let's be honest, we're all waiting for the Weakerthans to arrive). Truth be told, even the new Broken Social Scene left us a little non-plussed at first.

Instead, our attention has been captivated by the new Stars album, the digital reissue of Suicide's first album, a tribute to David Bowie released by French record label, Naive Records. The album is stellar, but then, we've been Bowie fans all along, which makes it easy, anyways. Devendra Banhart has also enjoyed relatively frequent plays, but also encouraged us to find a digitial version of the lone A Bullet For Fidel album - a record that we only had, once, on vinyl and since lost. Oddly, another blast from the past that has been spending much time in our player has been The Rolling Stones' Let It Bleed. Finally, we've have been pleased and surprised by how much we've enjoyed the 1970s inspired retro pop of Saddle Creeek's Georgie James.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

For those keeping score at home . . .

Hot on the heels of our economic prediction turning out to be reasonably true, the Calgary Foundation released its report on Calgary living conditions today, barely passing the city. Chief among their criticisms was the increasing gap between the rich and the poor, made all the more complicated by the ongoing housing crisis. You can check out our original post on the subject: "Is The Boom Over?" .

All of this neither new, nor original, and stems from deliberate decisions to cut spending on social services and infrastructure starting back in the early 1990s. The corollation to this though, is that if Calgarians are serious about the complaints that they have, if Calgary is truly unlivable, as the Calgary Herald and the Calgary Foundation seem to be saying, then the political leaders who were part of the past decision making teams, clearly must go, regardless of whether their name is Ed Stelmach or Dave Bronconnier.

Local Cafe Spotlight

So, in-between our month long retrospective of French New Wave cinemas, we've been spending a considerable amout of time at Blends Cafe. Located on Edmoton Trail between 12th and 13th Avenue NE in a converted house, very reminescent of one of the houses we used to rent in Bridgeland during our college days. With rather sparse decor, though an abudance of art deco prints celebrating espresso, the true attraction to Blends is the outdoor backyard patio, and the fact that Blends roasts their own beans (plus they have wifi). Their espresso beans are some of the darkest we've seen with a captivating flavour, low acidity, and hints of nuts and chocolate.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Score one for Voodoo!

For those of you keeping score at home, we'd like to point out that we called both the American subprime mortgage disaster that dominated the economic news this summer, AND a Canadian dollar at par, back LAST summer in our posting "The Curious Case of Canada's Currency".

Generally speaking we do not hold much truck with economics or political science, at one point one of our members actually declared that economics as a science had as much validity as voodoo.

I guess we have to give our props to voodoo now.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Where did all the cream go?

In a conversation with Spook Country author, William Gibson, we asked Gibson what he thought about when he read books. He replied quite frankly, why he was continuing to read whatever it was he was reading not doing something else, like going for a walk outside.

Recently, while listening to the new Cobblestone Jazz CD, from the stalwart electronica label, k7!, we experienced that same sensation. It has been months since anything related to music has graced the digital pages of The Daily Wenzel, but for the most part its because a lot of the new music we've come across just hasn't been that stellar. Perhaps our favourite new release of the summer was simply a dub remix version of some African Herbsman era Bob Marley. In fact, we were probably more excited about the reissue of the Germs' I #?@! Your Mom, and Suicide's classic debut albums in mp3 format than anything else. You can easily imagine us with Arturo Vega's droning keyboards turned up loud, chanting along to "Ghost Rider".

The one truly bright spot though has been the new Stars' album, In Our Bedroom After the War. "The Night Starts Here" has proven to be one of our favourite songs for these cool September nights. Similarly, "Take Me to the Right" bounces along with an infectious pop-edge that makes it relentlessly catchy.

Better musical news is on the horizon however, as we are waiting for the new Beirut, and the new Broken Social Scene discs to make their way to the office. We'll keep you posted.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

We Are In A Spooky Country

Granted it's late and the late night screening here is showing the horribly mis-cast, mis-directed, yet somehow still endearing, Scorpion King, although truth be told, people are mingling and shuffling around, preparing to head out somewhere else on the town. It certainly pales when compared to Deepa Mehta's Water, and intimate and highly moving portrayal of the state of widows in Gandhian India.

The real inspiration here however was William Gibson's latest novel, Spook Country. Picking up from threads left dangling at the end of Pattern Recognition, Gibson charts the courses of several characters searching for unifying pieces of information to a mysterious cargo container. More thrilling perhaps than his quick-moving prose, is the fact that Gibson sets a portion of Spook Country in his home city of Vancouver, and in many ways, he too captures the same sense of movement and promise (though in a far better manner, and with the benefit of being able to give a backstory to particular locations) that we had picked up in, on an early post back in June (see Vancouver, City on the Edge of Tomorrow).

For the record, here's to hoping for further posts, now that fall is underway. Perhaps the Calgary International Film Festival will inspire us.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Autumn in New York

As the mercury starts to fall and the leaves change into their faded reds and oranges, a young man's thought turns to tennis. How could we possibly avoid the opportunity provided by the U.S. Open of watching our favourite, Marat Safin play Canadian wunderkid Frank Dancevic. Dancevic, having made it to the finals at Indianapolis, and taken Nadal to three hard-fought sets in Montreal, has managed to clear the qualifiying round had is becoming something of a fan favourite of local New Yorkers who love a hot hand.

Meanwhile, later this evening, Maria Elena Camerin, sweetheart of our own Bassano del Grappa will be facing off against Serena Williams. Although she won her opening round match, her prospects are not good. del Grappa might be praying to the Madonna of Mt. Grappa and all the saints of the Veneto for assistance, we are quietly taking bets as to Camerin's over/under.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Excuses and Expectations

Maybe we just should have announced we were taking the summer off, since our publication rate has been below what we were expecting. That is not to say that we have been slacking off, it just seems that we have been enjoying our "researches" a little more than we've enjoyed writing about them. Our afternoon Kino Matinee count is almost at forty movies since the end of June, far too many to update one and all on, though perhaps we might be able to offer some sort of summary nearer the end of the month. A similar story exists in music, where a flood of mediocre new releases has seen us retreat into some stellar archives.

But for now, we are preparing ourselves (and our drinks) for the highly anticipated tennis match-up of Marat Safin and Rafael Nadal at the Rogers' Cup in Montreal. How we wish we were there, watching perhaps from some patio along St. Laurent our Sherbrooke.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Gimmee That Ol'Time Religion

It's not often that you will hear us espouse on religious matters, but recent announcements coming out of the Vatican have left us a little perplexed.

Several weeks ago the Pope announced that congregations wishing to use latin during mass would be free to do so. This comes as part of the general conservative trend that seeks to undermine and roll back the clock on certain liberal efforts of recent popes such John Paul II. In fact, Pope Benedict XIV's endorsement of last year's book by Archbishop Augustino Marchetto deliberately downplays the importance of the Second Vatican Council, almost as if the popular mid-twentieth century conference on religious reforms never happened the way the public imagined it: you know, no more meatless Fridays, no more priests disappearing behind screens during mass to whisper in languages people no longer spoke, and host of other things.

In fact, our own Marchetto, has suggested that it was the popularity of Vatican II that kept many Catholics out of the counterculture of the 1960s. Our Marchetto (Sean), working off a survey done in the 1960s by Kenneth Kenniston that showed Catholics made up 5% of the "hippie" population, supposes that involvement in a counterculture can be viewed as a measure of dissatisfaction within a particular religious community. The achievements of Vatican II, coming out during the late 1950s and early 1960s satisfied the needs of Catholics for change and modernisation. Now it would seem, the pontiff is suggesting that modernisation is not what the members of the Universal Church are looking for, and perhaps this is true - maybe we are simply assuming that the rapidly growing non-Western populations want the same as their Western counterparts, or, perhaps we are assuming that today's kids, who are flocking to organized religion at surprisingly high rates want a religion with more structure and tradition. As we said, we are perplexed and intrigued.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

What we do is secret

We first heard about this last year, as The Bronx, one of our summer faves, had been reported to play Black Flag in this biopic about Germs frontman Darby Crash. The film has Shane West (the rock n' roll doc from ER) playing Darby, and Rick Gonzalez as Pat Smear. Bijou Phillips rounds out the band as Lorna Doom. Trailers for the film, What We Do Is Secret, are available here.

While we were never terrible fans of the Germs, we do find the early L.A. punk scene fascinating. The contributions of hardcore, to punk and the counterculture in general, are mostly underappreciated. A lot of histories and narratives basically say "Things were cool until Black Flag and the hardcore kids showed up". Yes, bands like Black Flag and the Germs marked a dramatic change, not only in terms of musical style (less garage rock camp, more UK noise) but also in terms of audiences, drawing a crowd that was a lot younger and less educated than the former college scenesters.

Supposedly the movie opened in L.A. a few days ago, but no word on when it is going to be making it our way in Calgary. You can be sure that it will make one of our Kino Matinees!

Monday, July 23, 2007

Espresso Update

One of our local coffee haunts was clearing out some inventory, and knowing of our love of testing different coffee brands, tossed a bag of Saquella's premium espresso roast, along with one of Moak. While the Moak is a recent fave, the Saquella was something of an unknown quantity - but no longer! Over the last week we have given our test buds a work-out on it's fairly robust favour. Lurking somewhere in the background however, has been an unusual aftertaste, as if we had added shots of grappa to every cup (without the alcoholic buzz). At first we checked the expiry date and then cleaned out our espresso machines. Granted, the aftertaste was less noticable in the Gran Gaggia, but only because that one has been running too hot, making the espresso somewhat acidic. In the end, we can only assume that the quinine-style notes are part of Saquella's charm.

In related thoughts, under the recent heat wave in Calgary, our office thermometer has registered a few forty degree afternoons, causing our thoughts to turn to our southern Italian friend, Kimbo.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Early Books of Summer

We freely admit that the last few weeks have seen a decided slow down in book circulation through our offices, perhaps because the lack of cool air circulation makes reading indoors in well-lighted areas uncomfortable. However, a few pages have found their way to our fingers, most notably Jon Savage's history of adolescence, Teenage. As Savage notes, it is very easy to forget that the idea of the teenager is a relatively recent creation and looks back at the early, turn of the century work of G. Stanley Hall, a leading figure in the identification of adolescence as a formative period of personal development. While many earlier writers, such as the Enlightenment author Jean-Jacques Rousseau, had described adolescence, Hall was one of the first to analyze it on a wider scale and suggest that it was as much a social construction and a psychological one. What follows then is a look at the role played by youth in the emerging developments of mass culture consumerism, subcultures, and political movements over the sixty year period of 1890-1950. As keen followers of the development of "sub" and "counter" cultures, we have found Savage's work to be fascinating.

In a similar, but considerably lighter vein, The Art of the Band T-Shirt by Amber Easby & Henry Oliver, is precisely what you'd expect. A short history of the t-shirt in the United States is followed by a quick photo survey of samples from almost forty years of rock and roll fashion. Some key moments include a look at the history of the Rolling Stones iconic lips logo, as well as the backstory of the infamous "This Is Not a Fugazi T-Shirt".

Also, speaking of rock and roll subcultures, we are particularly enjoying Brad Warner's Sit Down and Shut Up. Warner, a member of the early 1980s Akron, Ohio hardcore band Zero Defects, spent his post-hardcore life becoming increasingly involved in Zen Buddhism (not unusual, as resident punk historian Sean Marchetto points out, though Krishna consciousness was also a big draw for straight-edgers looking to go the next step). Eventually relocating to Japan to indulge in his love of sci-fi monster movies, Warner deepened his committment to Buddhism, becoming ordained as a priest. Sit Down and Shut Up is his second book on buddhism, a follow-up to Hardcore Zen, and is an introductory level explanation of the Shobogenzu, a work by a medeival Zen Buddhist. Unlike many other books aimed at a religious, philosophical, or new age crowd, Warner specifically aims at his fellow punks, making this especially enjoyable.

Finally, we have recently completed Continuum Books' indepth look at Sonic Youth's Daydream Nation, as part of their expanding "33 1/3" collection of critical essays on popular albums. Perhaps a little too reminiscent of an English Lit graduate seminar, we are neverthless looking to track down the other twenty-five titles.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

As the dust settles . . .

Finally, with a long-awaited thunderstorm beckoning on the horizon, the Calgary Exhibition and Stampede draws slowly to its close for another year. The ten day event with a tendancy to polarize locals, attract hundreds of thousands of visitors to the city, and boost beer sales into the stratosphere is just about over.

With our long and varied relationships to the Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth, we here at The Daily Wenzel, tend to try and avoid the Stampede, but even we have been interested in a few Stampede events:

1. The suspension of all downtown construction - granted, this is a bit of an unconfirmed rumour since we haven't actually ventured outside of Bridgeland for the last two weeks, but people sometimes forget how strong an economic pull the Stampede has for Calgary. The Stampede is much more than just a rodeo, and with its recent mixed use expansion plans, its attempting to be much more than just an entertainment destination. If the many construction projects were in fact halted, then it would be more evidence that what the Stampede wants, the Stampede gets.

2. We loved the reports from the tourists about the growing disparity of wealth in Calgary. This is something that's been painfully obvioius from the types of news stories certain television media outlets have been trying to pass off as news (instead of lifestyle hyperconsumerism), but never has it really been presented as something to be ashamed of - as if all this talk of a homeless, and unaffordable housing problem, has been happening somewhere else.

Monday, July 09, 2007

When Rafael Nadal advanced to centre court yesterday, the rivalry that everyone in tennis had hoped for, finally arrived. Nadal has been dogging Federer's steps for the last three years, but last year at Wimbledon Federer made it known that Nadal may be the King of the Clay Court Sandbox, but Roger still ruled the playground. His convincing dismantling of Rafa seemed to indicate that Federer was still peerless on three of four major surfaces.

Not so this morning.

Nadal's stunning early play in the first and second sets demonstrated that play on grass was no longer a mystery to the Mallorcan. How much playing six straight days on grass benefited or hurt his game we may never know, but the way he rushed the net and deftly delivered half-volleys took everyone, including Federer, by surprise. The Swiss maestro was clearly undone in the fourth set, as much by his surprise at Nadal's play, as by Hawkeye, the electronic line review system.

Easily one of the best matches of the last seven years, it signals the arrival of a rivalry that has been long if the offing. No longer is Roger Federer the default favourite, nor is the No.1 ranking without doubt. There is a very real possibility that Nadal could take the U.S. Open, as there was the moment when it looked like Wimbledon was in his grasp - you could see it plainly on Federer's face.

This fall, Flushing Meadows will be a very interesting place.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Federer vs Safin

We are unapologetic Safin fans, drawn to him like moths to a flame. For us, this is perhaps the most anticipated match up of Wimbledon, though really, we think our headline ought to be Marat vs Safin, because in our estimation Federer, majestic as he may be, could very well be relegated to by-stander status, overshadowed by the internal character drama that Safin can bring to the match. A Federer/Safin match is unusual for Safin, of whom one commentator remarked "He displays more talent falling out of bed than most players show in their whole careers." As the chronic underachiever, it is not that often that Safin is faced with a player obviously of equal or greater calibre than himself. Getting psyched up for this match should not be a problem for Safin. Maintaining composure may be, after all, Marat is something of a Doesteyosky novel played out on a tennis court.

IfMarat Safin shows up ready to play, then we may have a repeat of the last match-up of these two, in Australia 2005, where Safin eventually went on to win it, after beating Federer in the semi-finals, and the level of play provided one of the most fascinating games of recent years.

Monday, June 25, 2007

The Best Bar In The World

In one of our rare spare moments we came across this somewhat blurry photo from our SXSW sojourn earlier this year and it caused us to reflect on just what it is that we would look for in a drinking establishment. In the photo, we are outside in an alleyway, next to the stage where Cursive is about to play. The fellow with the white bucket in the centre of the picture has just set up a bar in the alleyway, and it strikes us that this is just what we want.
Despite our democratic tendencies and our belief in liberty, fraternity, and the whole egalite thing, sometimes we just want to be alone. Or rather, almost alone save for a few friends in some small dark hole in the wall. This little bar set-up, in this tight corner of the world, captured for a moment the whole transistory dream-like quality of a night out in the demi-monde, offering the opportunity that everyone longs for: this bar might never be here again, and this night will never be experienced again, yet for those select few who were there, it provides a shared moment in a rather exclusive secret.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Is The Boom Over?

The newspapers were awash with predictions from the provincial Finance Minister that the decade of unbridled oil wealth is coming to a close. Sure, Lyle Oberg admitted, the provincial surplus from oil revenues was the second highest in provinicial history, but a sharp decline is coming. This announcement follows recent reports that the summer months could bring with them much labour strife, as hundreds of provincial unions have contracts that expire. This fact makes Oberg's news seem very likely to be a bit of posturing to help prepare the public for the government's position on holding down wages. However, casual conversations heard on the street, in shops, and even in grocery store check-out lines, speak to the feeling that new oil discoveries are becoming harder and harder to find, lending some credence to Oberg's stance.

More interesting though, are stories of more and more people leaving Calgary, either disillusioned with their inability to find adequate housing, or that the promises of good pay cannot match the ever-increasing cost of living in Calgary and Edmonton. As well, a number of educated, middle-class bureaucrats are also checking out of the major urban centres, cashing in on the real estate boom as they move back to the cheaper climes of Saskatchewan or Nova Scotia.

Is the boom really over then?

The last fifteen years have perhaps done significant damage to the social infrastructure of the city. First, the nation-wide recession of the early 1990s inhibited all sorts of growth, while encouraging youths to enter post-secondary education (since fewer and fewer out-of-high school jobs were available). Unfortunately, the glut of university graduates produced during the period of 1992-1997 infamously saw degree-holders mired in entry-level service sector jobs, that did little to encourage any form of social stability, and in fact increased worker mobility (ie, I can just as easily get a crappy job elsewhere as here). This transience delayed marriages, home-purchasing, and even child-rearing. Without significant income, this population remained part of the renting class and very few were able to take advantage of the subsequent dramatic rise in real estate values that began in the late 1990s and approach significant levels in recent years. More recent graduates however, have had something of an easier time finding post-university careers and are enjoying a larger degree of prosperity than those five to ten years older.

One wonders if we are not something of a lost generation, but the pain has not been limited to the university education. Residential values in working class neighbourhoods remained flat throughout the 1990s, only recently increasingly significantly. This contributed to the sharpening division in Calgary between the rich and poor. Those who were barely surviving in 1991, continue to barely survive, while those who were even somewhat ahead are now tremendously further afield.

Furthermore, the recession, coupled with the budget slashing of the deficit fighting years prevented much necessary infrastructure work from occuring. The social services, designed to adequately cope with a population of approximately 650,000 were reduced by ministerial order, even as the population began to rocket towards a million. Many of the major projects that are currently causing traffic chaos, are projects first designed in the last decade, some even longer.

The wealth generated in this province, very little of which has been used to deal with these problems in a sustainable or constructive manner makes things all the more frustating.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Paul Virilio vs. Facebook

Having recently finished Paul Virilio's 1998 text on the nature of science in the age of the Internet, The Information Bomb, as well joining Facebook, we could not help our Facebook experience inform our reading of Virillio, nor could we prevent Virillio from colouring our views of Facebook, for the two make an interesting pairing.

On one hand, and at the simplest level, Facebook does nothing that email does not, except that Facebook would be an email program that allows one to search other people's address book as well as letting you spy on other people's notes to each other. The increasing popularity of the social networking site, however, has led to the development of numerous applets and widgets that people can use to customize their Facebook pages. In this sense, Facebook appears to be more of a synthesis of many singular aspects of the Internet. They've even added a marketplace option.

The Information Bomb, while not necessarily easy to follow, nor concise in it's thinking, was the French philosopher's take on the whole Internet experience. Given the apparent failure of various space exploration endeavours of the 1990s, Virilio became convinced that we were entering a period of internal colonisation. He was also concerned that the American government had not abandoned all of its designs for the military origin and applications of the Internet. Indeed, this is where the title comes from, for he ominously suggests in the closing pages of his book, that perhaps the marketing campaign and push for publicizing the Internet was just another avenue to ensare the citizens of the globe in an American net. As soon as one established an online presence and became dependent on it for access or exchange of information, one became vulnerable to any American attempt to disrupt or limit service.

However, there is also an intriguing sort of sidebar story to The Information Bomb that Facebook clearly illustrates. Virillio was somewhat fascinated with the introduction of webcams and declared that the ability to peer at live events any where in the world marked the collapse of "local time". Many earlier commentators have mentioned how the rise of the twenty-four news channels had shrunk the world, but for Virillio the web cams were something different. First of all, they were incredibly mundane, but more importantly, the user/viewer had more control over what to watch. One did not have to wait for a particular point in the news cycle to find out what was going on, one simply went online and watched it live.

With Facebook, we find out instantly what is happening among our friends and family. Where Virilio talked about the telescoping effect of technology, we can see that the sixteen hours and thousands of kilometers between Calgary, Canada and Sydney, Australia, are no barriers to the immediate flow of information. We can find out instantly what is going on anywhere in the world provided we have a Facebook friend online. Granted, Facebook does not seem to have to capacity for live video (yet), but with the ability to post immediate photos and captured video, it's pretty close.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Early Morning History in the Making

It has almost become a ritual, a match-up we all wait for Nadal vs. Federer, Roland Garros. One of these two men will make history this morning, but it remains to be seen just how large of scale, that history will be. Will it be Nadal, becoming the first man in over twenty years to win three consecutive French Open titles? Or will Federer become well and truly on his way to winning the first Grand Slam in men's tennis since the 1960s?

These two met a few weeks ago at the finals of the Hamburg clay courts, and Federer dismantled the young Spaniard with authority, ending his impressive clay court unbeaten streak. It was the first time that Federer beat Nadal on clay, and it could not have come at a better time. Federer wants the Grand Slam, having won everything else tennis has to offer, but as Bud Collins said, Roland Garros is the gateway to the slam, and Nadal is Cerberus.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

The G8 and the Future of Canada

We have spent the last two weeks or so watching and reading reports coming out of Germany predicting and the reporting on Canada's behaviour at the recent G8 meeting, asking ourselves, what need for commentary is there? The Harper government's position has been abundantly clear on the issue of climate change, and even the rumours that Canada was attempting to block or delay an aid package to Africa was not as surprising as it might have seen on the surface, given the government's own treatment of minorities and disadvantaged groups at home.

Upon reflection though, what is becoming increasingly surprising is the rapid change that the Harper government is bringing to the international Canadian identity. For quite some time now, Canada has been active in the international arena, acting as something of an intercessor, or go-between for developing nations seeking access to other members of the G8. That role, along with a host of other international roles that Canada has played, seem now to be over.

It is no longer surprising, but perhaps becoming alarming, the degree to which the international Canadian position is changing. If you consider the issues that dominated the last Canadian election, where Harper eked out his minority government in January 2006, there was very little debate over internationalism. There was discussion over the Canadian role in Afghanistan, which as moved now from a more "traditionallly Canadaian" peacekeeping role, to something more aggressive under NATO auspices, as well as debate over Kyoto which the majority of Canadians continue to report they agree with, at least in principle, and the Harper government has effectively walked away from. Now, to peacekeeping and a history of pushing environmental causes (the CFC ban in Montreal 1976, Mulroney's role at the Rio Summit), the Harper government is shifting Canada's role in the developing world.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Vancouver, City on the Edge of Tomorrow

(Alright, so we've stolen another title again, though props to whoever knows where this one's from!)

For quite a few of us here at The Daily Wenzel, Vancouver is like a home away from home, though in recent years we have not been able to spend as much time there as we would wish. With the city speckled with friends and relations, we always manage to find a welcome as warm as the summer days. However, as we said, the last few years have found us making only periodic trips, every other year or so. This somewhat spotty record has caused the recent construction boom in Vancouver to hit home hard. Our last visit came in 2005, after Vancouver had been awarded the 2010 Olympics, and already the construction crews were at work, converting old homes into row townhomes, such as we had seen in Calgary and Montreal. This time, office and apartment towers were sprining up along the banks of False Creek, while the suburbs of Burnaby, New Westminister, and such, were in the process of growing proper downtown cores of their own, anchored by the now ubiquitous office/condo tower complex.

With all this building, traffic in the City With No Left Turn Lanes has grown almost interminable, as rush hour no stretches unalleviated throughout the day. One of our enduring images from this trip was flying over the Lower Mainland early in the morning and seeing the long lines of cars already slowing down the main arteries. At three hours behind the eastern stock markets, businessmen begin their commute by six o'clock, starting a day that ends early in the afternoon. To capitalize on this rush, the city's numerous coffee workers also move out onto the streets to welcome the captains of industry with a warm cup of java. Flex-time workers in involved in national organizations and shuffle between home and office, also awake early to see how the rest of the world has unfolded, before making there own way into the downtown cores of their respective conurbations by mid-morning. All of these staggered arrivals and departures means that the streets of Vancouver have very few moments of respite.

Speaking of streets, we were very happy to spend time on one of our favourite strips in Canada, Commercial Drive, whose development we have enjoyed greatly over the last fifteen years, including one moment in time where it housed some twenty-seven coffee houses in nine blocks.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

The Information Economy, Update

A few weeks ago, we posted our thoughts on the meaning of the information economy, where products are imbued with a stories, or detailed information. In a bygone era, products were often viewed as elements of status, with goods designed in, or designed to mimic luxury materials. But in our current age, the luxury is not material, but temporal - time is the new gold standard, and having excess time, or rather the illusion of it, is the new status symbol. Products geared for consumption in this economy come with excess amounts of details, so that their owners can draw upon a wealth of product information, as if they personally had the time to investigate every aspect of the product.

This is no more obvious than in the May 2007 issue of Wallpaper. In "Score Draw", Nick Compton (who has given us economic inspiration before) interviews Jolyon fenwick and Marcus Husselby of the Internet luxury goods distributer 20ltd. On speaking about the origins of the company, Fenwick states "And we thought it a pity that luxury goods were only ever sold by identity marketing, the promise that if you buy this, you will be like this. It was also becoming less effective. And we knew that people were becoming more interested in the product stories." Elsewhere, Fenwick highlights the importance of product story or "surplus information" (insteasd of value), saying "When people look back at our time, all they will see of our luxury product is Kate Moss. There is nothing said about the design or the way things are made. That is wrong."

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Late, late night kino

With the temperatures in town remaining high well into the night, the Daily Wenzel office has been running showings of Dean Martin's satirical espionage series, Matt Helm. While based on the hard-edged novels by Donald Hamilton, Martin & Co. brought a decidely lighter atmosphere, infusing them with the same pop sensibilities as Adam West's Batman. Likewise, just as one can only watch so much Batman, four nights of Matt Helm left a few of us longing for weighty fare.

However, aside from acting as a license to break out the cocktails and 1960s loungewear, Matt Helm also provided a window to some particular behaviours that we would often like to think we have outgrown. For starters Dean Martin and friends were widely known as rampant alocholics, and often played up this angle during performances. Thus, Martin, as Helm, is constantly drinking, frequently while driving. While this is obvious meant as self-parody, given our current attitudes towards drunk driving, we wonder if these scenes would even be allowed. Another rather startling facet of the Matt Helm movies is the blatant objectification of women as sex objects. Again, parody is a function here, as the movies are filmed during the heyday of feminism and are meant to lampoon the womanizing of James Bond, altough Martin's own reputation as a member of the doll-chasing Rat Pack, highlights the aspect of self-parody.

In case our ramblings have you thinking that we were taking things a little too serious, the Matt Helm movies, with Dean Martin as the womanizing fashion photographer turned superspy, was of course the inspiration for Austin Powers, with Mike Myers effectively capturing the tongue-in-cheek whimsy of the original.

Turning Pages

Never talk politics or religion at the dinner table, goes the old adage, but that doesn't stop us from swapping literary opinions on the topics. For starters, we were very pleased with Chantal Hebert's French Kiss: Stephen Harper's Blind Date With Quebec. Hebert, who writes for Le Devoir and the Globe and Mail, echoed our earlier election analysis, highlighting the importance that Quebec played as she focuses on the factors that led not only to the (heavily predicted) collapse of the Liberal party, but also the complaceny within the Bloc Quebecois that prevented it from successfully warding off the Conservatives' late surge. While her focus is Quebec, Hebert is able to construct a national context for Harper's victory and compares it to the coalition of diverse interests that allowed Mulroney to maintain power in the 1980s.

The differences between Mulroney and Harper though are perhaps best illustrated by Linda McQuaig, and her new book Holding the Bully's Coat. McQuaig's book on Canadian complicity in post-9/11 American military adventurism has been passed rather quickly through our office. Sean Marchetto even had the pleasure of sharing a cup of coffee with McQuaig on the patio of our favourite coffee shop, Higher Ground. McQuaig's concern with the increasing Americanization of Canadian political and social elites, long documented in her other works, extends here to argue that our history of peacekeeping and reputation as an honest broker, have been placed in jeapordy by the Harper government's eagerness to expand their military roke in the Middle-East. Once the key points to McQuaig's book was the Harper government's permissive attitude towards the torture of Afghan detainee's, a subject that's been all over the Canadian media in recent days.

On a lighter note, we have discovered Continuum Books 33 1/3 series of album reviews and are currently reading Daydream Nation and look forward to the many others they have published over the last few years.

Music Update

Our musical taste of late have run decidedly electronic. In addition to a resurgent taste for the Beastie Boys ouvre (we're stuck on Paul's Boutique), we've been giving the latest albums from Dj Vadim and Armand van Helden sound fairly constant attention. Soundcatcher, Vadim's latest, is one of the best downtempo albums of the last few years, combining a dense sonic landscape with poignant guest appearances, reflecting the anti-Bush/Blair atmosphere prevalent in particular London neighbourhoods. The globe-trotting musical influences that Vadim displayed with his "band" One Self have settled down a bit into dub and Asian influences.

If Vadim's is a slow expansive, somewhat serious and international style, then van Helden's Ghettoblaster is an out-an-out party album. More than a little tongue-in-cheek, the record is thoroughly evocative of early eighties Brooklyn beat-rock, even before the samples calling for the return of "old school New York hiphop" kick out the speakers.

Also on the stereo, but not quite finding a home, is the two disc best of Antoine Clamaran. Perhaps it's the all-too-adequate lighting and the lack of mirrorballs, but the current French House master is simply failing to register, although we were rather interested in his inclusion of samples for use by the home DJ set.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Toxix Nation Update

Just a quick little something that caught our attention this weekend.

Earlier in the year we had reported on a suggestion by Health Canada to monitor a sample of women and children for chemical exposure. At the time we announced our support for the idea and called for its expansions, something the House of Commons reported on Friday might be a good idea.

While we realize that some may be afraid of such a wide-ranging and potentially invasive measure, we ultimately feel that our unprecedented exposure to chemicals of unknown long-term effect, certainly justifies the governments plans (though an initial volunteer stage would be ideal).

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Environmental Fallout

According to a recent Decima poll, the Federal Conservatives and Liberals are tied in the court of public opinion. Negative reaction to the Conservatives climate change plan has further distanced their more "liberal" wing, while the once-staunch supporters in Alberta are beginning to question their favourite party. What is more troubling for the ruling federal party is that their support in Quebec, among the most pro-Kyoto of the provinces has fallen to below 20% while the Liberals are cruising at 34%. Given that the Conservatives election success was the result of stealing seats from the Liberals in Quebec, the Conservatives are in real trouble should an election happen soon. The trouble could be especially dire if the Liberals were to steal a seat or two from the Conservatives in the Western provinces.

Elsewhere, the Premiers met to discuss "best practices" regarding climate change, and expressed their own disappointment with the Conservative Climate Change plan. Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach was the lone voice to support the "intensity targets", but found himself in good company when he dismissed a potential suggestion for emission trading among the provinces. Stelmach said, "I’m not one that looks forward to issuing licenses allowing to pollute more," he told reporters. "Especially if we’re going to be trading with other countries."

We find the statement curious, given Stelmach's support for intensity targets, a strategy that would allow total emissions to rise. Perhaps Stelmach simply does not like to issue licenses - this would be consistent with his lack of desire to regulate the oil sands. Furthermore, in refering to other countries, perhaps Stelmach feels that it would be too difficult to devise a made-Canada plan that would be compatible with international standards which are often more strict than those suggested by both the Stelmach and Harper governments. Ultimately though, the biggest barrier to foreign trade in emissions is Environmental Minister Baird's own dismissal of the idea.

In a story that really ought to be getting more coverage than it is, the Alberta government is set to considered a motion to use nuclear energy in the oil sands. Currently, natural gas is used to convert three barrels of water to steam needed to produce one barrel of oil. In order to cut down emissions, the government wants to consider replacing the gas with emissions.

We are, quite frankly, aghast that our leaders would consider nuclear waste as a solution to help clean up the oil sands.

Monday, April 30, 2007

Yann Martel

After spending the weekend thinking about Guy Debord's statement that, in a society of the spectacle the economy has grown to encompass all spheres of daily life, it was quite refresing to stumble across the following quote by Yann Martel, author of The Life of Pi. Martel was explaining his rationale for vowing to deliver Prime Minister Harper a book every two weeks as long as Harper is in office to help raise awareness for the arts.

"It goes way beyond dollars and cents. It's a question of waking up the prime minister to the fact that we're not just economic beings, we're full beings. Quality of life is not just an economic matter — it has to do with the environment, with art and culture."

We also loved that the first book was Animal Farm. Read it for yourself online here.

For more on the story, click here.

Climate Change Potshots

It seems people are lining up to dump on the Federal Conservatives plan for dealing with Climate Change. At a time when the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is convening to discuss and evaluate proposed measures to deal with the problem, Yves de Boer, the UN's Executive Secretary for the Framework Convention on Climate Change took time to criticise the Tories plans. For starters, he echoed many concerns that intensity targets do not offer any real guarantee of reducing emissions since they do not place any restrictions on production.

Secondly, de Boer stopped short of calling Environmental Minister John Baird a liar when Baird claimed his plan was the most aggressive in the world.

“The Europeans have put a proposal on the table to reduce their emissions by 20 to 30 per cent vis-a-vis 1990 levels, this new proposal is certainly less ambitious than that,” de Boer said.
“California has made a proposal to reduce its emissions by 25 per cent from where it is at the moment. This is also less ambitious than that.”

For more, click here.

We are curious to hear what the IPCC decides and how it compares to both the Alberta and Federal proposals. For more on that, click here.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

The Information Economy

This idea came out of our concluding thoughts on the Lavazza coffee pods in our last post and echoes some ideas mentioned in earlier posts.

The idea that a cup of espresso represents a blend of coffee beans naturally makes us curious about the percentage and interactions of the various beans. With the recent trends in single-estate chocolate causing a rapid escalation in gourmet chocolate prices, the coffee industry is ideally posied to follow suit in the realm of region identitified branding. To certain extent, we all ready have such labelling and marketing, but on really broad scales.

A move towards providing more information about the coffee beans, such as location, processing method, date of processing, commercial venture type (Fair Trade, etc.) would also be in keeping with certain aspects of the "new economy". While there is much talk about our being in an "information age" the "information economy" gets very little attention.

The ability to find information almost at a whim, creates a demand for more information. Marketers have responded to this by highlighting particular pieces of information regarding their products, creating a story about them, if you will. Thus, purchasing the product also allows you to purchase and retell the story. This was one of the ideas that David Brooks relates in Bobos In Paradise, the bourgeois bohemians, or new yuppies, have a story to tell about every object they purchase, whether it was hand-dyed cloth from a remote Andean village's women's collective raising funds for a daycare centre, or that it was a pair jeans made in Japan on 1940s' Levis technology left behind after the troops went home.

In many cases, the story is part of the allure and creates a demand for the uniqueness of the object. A cup of coffee is a cup of coffee. But how much would you be willing to pay if the coffee was organic and fair trade? Now, what if they told you that it was harvested every other year during a specific three week window by a particualr monastic order? And that the monastics claim that soil nutrients impart certain curative powers to the coffee?

For many, the story is the sell. In the information economy people want to know information about the products they buy, even if they don't necessarily understand what the information is telling them. Is it really important that we know exactly where and in what percentage the beans in our coffee are from? Probably, but only in the same sense that knowing the mineral content of the water we use is.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

A Good Cup of Kimbo

It's been a while since we've actually talked about the daily staple near and dear to our hearts, namely espresso - ever since we discovered the Illy pods our carefree experimentation and variety-filled days have fallen into a routine and a steady supply of Illy Black. However, we were pleased to discover a box of Kimbo pods at Lina's Italian Market. Rushing back to the office, we set our Nancy a-go and soon were sipping back delightful cups of espresso. Full-bodied and robust, with a slight hint of bitterness (reminiscent of dark chocolate) it reminded us of Sophia Loren, who was recently featured as the covergirl of the Pirelli calender at the tender age of 72, along with the likes of Penelope Cruz and Naomi Watts.

The appearance of the Kimbo pods made us wonder where were the Lavazza pods? Typically, as one of the highest sellers of espresso by volume, Lavazza leads the way in technical developments, even going so far as inventing the frozen espresso - named by Time as one of the inventions of the year for 2006. A quick search on the web found them, along with a description of the Lavazza pods as being a blend of South American beans, with a hint of Asian varieties for fragrance, as well as some African beans.

While this hardly amounts to a full disclosure on the sourcing of the beans, it nevertheless intrigued us. We would like to see coffee producers/marketers label the area of origin of their beans, in much the same way wineries do. Our perfect label would not only denote whether the coffee is Fair Trade, Organic, Clean Hands, etc., but would also go beyond simply listing the country of origin of beans (this in and of itself would be a big step for some producers/marketers).

Friday, April 27, 2007

Music Update

It's been quite awhile since we last talked about the music gracing the office airwaves of The Daily Wenzel, but lot's of music has come and gone.

First starters, a couple of EPs have caught our attention at the end of march, notably Tokyo Police Club's A Lesson in Crime. This Newmarket, Ontario band has generated a lot of buzz, through their constant touring and appearance at SXSW. They're currently scheduled to appear at Sasquatch later in May. The beauty and grace of The Good, The Bad, and The Queen's live EP kept us mesmorized for a week or two, as did the range of guitarwork displayed by The Ponys on their most recent full length, Turn Out the Lights.

Perhaps somewhat strangely, we have also been listening to Jose Serebrier and the London Philharmonic. Our leader, Elvis Bonaparte, noticed that Serebrier's Fantasia topped the eMusic.com top downloads the week it was released and brought it. It fits in quite nicely with the Storm and Stress self-titled debut and Sonic Youth's Goodbye 20th Century.

More significantly thought,

Two men enter, one man leaves

In an encounter we would have paid good money to see, noted environmentalist Dr. David Suzuki confronted environmental minister John Baird over his new proposal to address climate change today. Suzuki's main comment was that the proposal amounted to a disappointment - Baird had promised significant action and yet delivered very little, in Suzuki's view. Suzuki, echoing The Daily Wenzel's own criticism, argued that the Conservatives have demonstrated very little growth in their thinking, as the emission intensities were fundamental to the much-criticized Clean Air Bill.

CBC has the story but we'd love to see some video.

Our two cents

We're still looking for a copy of the actual bill proposal, so our opinions may change, but here is a quick synopsis of The Daily Wenzel take on the Conservative Federal Government's proposed climate change bill.

Firstly, we are hearing things that the auto industry is treated lightly if at all. To us, this raises questions about the government's willingness to make foreign industries comply with their climate change policies. Certainly our inability or our unwillingess to create stricter emissions control on an industry dominated by the United States raises some serious questions.

Secondly, while the bill represents a vast philosophic improvement over the Clean Air Bill, it actually does very little to guarantee a reduction in emissions as it still speaks the language of "intensity targets". What we want to see is whether,in any of the projections for emissions reductions, the government posits a stable or increasing rate of production. For example, if the amount of emissions related to the production of a barrell of oil in the oil sands is reduced, but the actual number of barrells produced is allowed to increase dratically, then their will be no net decline in emissions. Instead emissions will actually increases as the oil produced increases.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Politics as Spectacle

While we are pleased to hear that the federal government announced today that it would support the phasing out of incandescent light bulbs as part of its strategies to cut greenhouse emissions, we were more disappointed by the coverage that the new climate change proposal received. Granted, the proposal officially comes out tomorrow, but nevertheless, it reminds us of the importance of Guy Debord's Society of the Spectacle (see right-hand side link).

One of the key aspects to Debord's work was that in a society dominated by mass culture, that is a culture where goods are created and mass-prodeced solely for their commercial, as opposed to folk or cultural, value people live vicariously through their consumption. As the economy grows to dominate all aspects of everyday life, more daily events are turned into spectacles to be consumed passively by an audience. Increasingly, critics have argued that mass media is displaying more and more of these tendencies, specifically when it comes to politics. We hear less of the issues involved, and more on how the issues help politicians jockey for power. Thus, today the news focuses not on the government's new cliamte change policy, but on the circumstances that led to its being leaked prematurely.

Now we admit that The Daily Wenzel engages in its own fair share of speculative opinions, but we do try to provide links to the actual players or documents involved so that our readers can make up their own minds. However, that ought not to diminish the strength of our arguments. So, witness the coverage provided by CanWest/Global with that of the CBC, which does a slightly better job an explaining the proposal, but concentrates more on positioning the reaction of various interest groups.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Adios, Howdy! Adios, Heidi!

We here at The Daily Wenzel freely admit that we have a love/hate relationship with the City of Calgary and find their recent decision to retire Heidi and Howdy, the cartoon polar bear mascots of the 1988 Winter Olympics, sad and frustrating. You will not find us waxing rhapsodic for these two lovable characters that for only a few more short days will grace the entrance to Calgary, via Highway 1. Our problem is not so much with the nostolgia of the pair, but rather that the decision is symptomatic of larger, underlying issues with Calgary.

The official reason for the removal of the Olympic Mascots is that they are inconsistent with the official branding and logo of the city. While their removal has been decided, their fate as not, as some want to keep the two, and others are simply content to have them recycled.

Our problem with the situation is Calgary's decided ahistorical nature. The Winter Olympics, of which Heidi and Howdy are part of the enduring symbol, was a key aspect of our city's emergence on the international scene. It was used to demonstrate that Calgary, a metropolis of less than thirty five years, deserved to be treated on the same scale as the other major cities of the world. That this event did not find some recognition in the new "brand" of Calgary becomes problematic. Furthermore, the potential destruction of Heidi and Howdy is consistent with a city that routinely bulldozes historical landmarks. When the signature lions on the Centre Street bridge fell into disrepair and the City wanted to remove them, it took a fair amount of public pressure to have the lions replaced and the originals preserved at the Glenbow Museum. Surely there is room for Heidi and Howdy at the Olympic Museum at Canada Olympic Park?

Calgary as a muncipality is over 100 years old and it is extremely difficult to find a building that pre-dates incorporation. The population of Calgary was quite small, so this is perhaps understandable. But should it be almost equally as difficult to find a pre-WWII building?Heidi and Howdy are not alone, simply joining and increasing number of historic neighbourhoods and buildings being converted into offices and condos.

A ridiculous proposal?

After being front page news last week that a serious attempt by Canadians to meet their Kyoto targets would cost $195/tonne in carbon taxes, this little article seemed to have slipped by. As we mentioned, the government's arguments rest on assumptions, and we were happy to see that UK economist Phillipe Crabbe pointed out that the government's price is contingent on it's time frame. Meeting Kyoto goals by 2008 would lead to excessive costs, but phasing in aspects of a climate change programme over several years would still allow Canada to meet its emissions targets while keeping any carbon tax cost to under $50 US/tonne.

Again then, we have a federal government looking to obfuscate and delay on an issue they claim to be concerned about.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Good Grief, Lucy!

We'd like to take a moment to welcome a new blog to the scene, and wish our sports correspondent Alana Marchetto well. Responsible for most of our insightful tennis coverage she has decided to launch her own blog, Good Grief Lucy (based on her resemblance to the Charles Schultz character - making us Peanuts) combining her love of crotchet and knitting, with her incisive knowledge of sports. While we hope she'll still come around to offer her valued opinions during the big tournies, her new home gives her greater scope to cover all of her favourite sports.

While you're there, check out the photos of her great knitting and crotchet projects.

Lust for Life

Perhaps to the surprise of all, Iggy Pop turned 60 today, celebrating forty years as an artist. Responsible, in part, for birthing punk. Iggy once commented that it was seeing a really bad Doors concert, in which Jim Morrison, drunk and bloated, displaying obvious contempt for his audience, that inspired the creation of the Stooges and the confrontational persona of Iggy Pop. To have survived, let alone continue to make music and perform live with an intensity rarely equaled by performers half his age (we saw him at SXSW this year) is astonishing in and of itself, but to consider that he created music within a context of self-destruction, alcoholism and drug abuse, elevates that success to another level entirely.

For the record, "The Passenger" is one of our favourite Pop tunes of all time (that, and virtually anything of Raw Power), since it provided the soundtrack of our meeting our good Bassano del Grappa. On a student summer tour of Europe, backpacking through northern Italy, a few of us were enjoying some gelato at a local gelateria, when "The Passenger" came over the speakers. Perking up, we caught the attention of del Grappa who explained that we were listening to a cover version performed by some friends of his, and that they would be headlining a small outdoor concert later that night in the piazza. del Grappa offered to show us and around, arrange tickets, and find us a place to crash, and the evening ended up being one of the highlights of the trip, as afterwards, del Grappa and his friends dragged us through the back streets and drinking holes to celebrate the successful show. "The Passenger" had been their finale, and the song's stranger in a strange land atmosphere became very real for us.

Friday, April 20, 2007

A Tale of Two Governments

Both the Canadian Federal Government and the Alberta Provincial government made major announcements yesterday and the results could not have been more different from two Conservative governments.

First, provincial Premier Ed Stelmach announced his inaugural budget which contains $33B in spending. This is perhaps one of the largest public expenditures in Alberta for quite some time and sounds good to a public waiting to hear that the Tories are going to reinvest the provincial surplusses back into the social infrastructure. Granted, a significant amount of the money is simply a restatement of already declared projects, or cost-overrun allocations (themselves problematic and a seperate issue for the government to deal with). But in light of recent movesw to back away from such options as rent controls, releasing nearly half a billion dollars to deal with the housing crunch sounds like the governemnt is interested in solving the problem. What Albertans are looking for is evidence of a vision for the province that is going to reward the sacrifices of the 1990s. Stelmach's budget, while admittedly not containing a lot that is new, nevertheless represents significant spending and an indication that the governemnt is taking a small step in the right direction.

The Federal Government meanwhile, announced it's vision for the environment, or rather failed to do so, instead appeared content to offer a nightmarish interpretation of someone else's. Environment Minister Baird's comment's that Kyoto was a "risky" and "reckless" proposition that threatened 275,000 jobs jeapordizing the Canadian economy with recession. Several critics have pointed out some flaws with the underlying assumptions of the government's report, but at The Daily Wenzel we also noticed the difference between this report and the one the UK releases at the end of summer that attempted to calculate the relative costs of not doing anything regarding climate change. Admittedly this is a much harder task, but even conservative economic estimates would mitigate some of the costs projected by the government. For example, should provincial governments go through with tentative proposals to ban incadescent light bulbs, then certain jobs and revenues would be lost to the economy, however the increase in sales and demand for compact flourescent bulbs would lessen, if not surpass those numbers - certainly this is a very simplistic example, but recognizing the potential economic spin-offs of pro-Kyoto technologies and developments ought to have been incorporated, a feature not reported so far. Also, any projected costs associated with meeting or not meeting Kyoto measures woudl have to include estimations of the economic impact that changing conditions would have on crops and livestock patterns, it could very well be, as the UK report suggested, that the costs of not meeting Kyoto targets or some other significant cliamte change attempt, well outweigh the costs of doing nothing, or very little.

Waiting somewhere in limbo is the government's own Clean Air Bill, which is supposedly in the process of beign revised based on the earlier criticisms. Many Canadians support moves to deal with climate change effectively, and it is widely thought to be one of the leadding, if not the leading issue for the next election. Quebec, as a province, is pro-Kyoto, and yesterday's announcement is unlikely to earn the Conservatives more support in a provine that they need to either expand or maintain support in. Similarly, the disaffected Liberals who voted for the Conservatives in the last election are unlikely to be comforted either, this move simply yet another reminder of the ideological differences between the two parties.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

The Charter of Rights and Freedoms

Today marked the 25th Anniversary of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in Canada, a document that came into being with the patriation of the Canadian Constitution in 1982. The Charter guaranteed Canadians freedom from persecution or discrimination on the grounds of race, sex, religion, and language. It has also been used to extend these rights in to many other realms by the courts, earning it the scorn of conservatives who have long felt that it has allowed the judiciary to make laws, instead of simply interpreting them. That this is still the feeling today was evidenced by the silence coming out of Stephen Harper's government today. Left-leaning and liberal Canadians will argue that it was the reluctance of conservatives to implement the Charter, or avoid dealing with its implications in areas such as sexual orientation that forced the Canadian courts into their current role.

The patriation of the constitution also saw Quebec remain aloof from Federation, creating a constitutional crisis that led to the failures of the Meech Lake and Charlottetown Accords, as well as the second Quebec Sovereignty Referendum. Ironically, former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau had envisioned the patriation of the constitution as the first step in taking the institutions of the Canadian government into the 20th century. Charter of Rights and Freedoms
was meant to deal with the lingering 19th century antagonisms between Canada's French and English populations. While individual rights have certainly flourished, Canada is no further down the road Trudeau and hoped for than we were twenty-five years ago.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

From One Anniversary . . .

It was sixty years ago today, Sgt. Pepper taught the band to play - if you believe such things, but at any rate, this week mark's the fortieth anniversary of the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, widely thought to be the greatest, most important, and/or influential album of all time. While many articles and tributes will be written to attest to how great the songs were, how iconic the album was (true, true), we'd like to focus on something that we here at The Daily Wenzel feel is the album's true accomplishment.

We forget sometimes that rock and roll was barely ten years ago when Sgt. Pepper was released. Furthermore, the concept of an album as a single piece of vinyl was less than twenty. Throughout much of the 1940s, an album was a collection of 78s or 45s packaged together. The notion that you could listen to four or five songs continuously was still new. The crowning achievement of Sgt. Pepper was that it was the first concept album, where a theme linked every song together (even if the link was pretty tenuous in some cases). The rise of the concept album became a potent weapon in the rock arsenal during the psychedelic era. It also led many artists to move away from the creation of a radio-friendly single because the Beatles had demonstrated that rock and roll could be a piece of art. These albums quickly found a happy home own the emerging FM band which was licensed by the FCC to be album-oriented so as not to compete with the highly commercialized AM band.

Second influential aspect of Sgt. Pepper was that it was also the first album in which the artists adopted a persona, the Lonely Hearts Club Band, performed not as themselves, but as their alter egos. Without Sgt. Pepper, where would David Bowie and his legion of followers be? Similarly, hip hop is also indebted to the Beatles for the freedom to experiment that they initiated.

Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band stands out as one of the great rock albums of all time for a lot of reasons. These are just two that we like.

. . . to Another

An anniversary that we're much more interested in celebrating, or at least generates far more whistful nostalgia, is the tenth anniversary of the first self-titled Storm and Stress album. While we cannot say that the album burst onto the scene in 1997, it nevertheless quickly achieved cult status. Those of us who liked it found it's atonal meanderings remarkably fresh, a dramatic break from the verse-chorus-verse song structure. Blake Butler, of emusic.com, called it a "garbled cacophony of untamed genius" a phrase we whole-heartedly endorse. Elvis Bonaparte recalls eagerly talking up the album to others who had admited to listening to it.

"I was so excited," Bonaparte says, "It was like nothing I'd ever heard. When people would say to me things like, I can't get past that first song [We write threnodies. We write explosions.], I'd eagerly agree, saying 'Yeah, neither can I, it's just so good' and the other person would just stare at me and I'd realize that they were one of the many who just didn't get."

"Back when I was hosting Radio Free Nowhere during CJSW's drive home slot, I remember playing it one day and someone called in and asked if these guys were going to finish tuning up," laughs Sean Marchetto. "Man, I loved that song. I've kicked myself forever for missing them when they were in town. I think they played to twelve people."

"Somebody gave it to me as an example of what rock should be," recalls Bassano del Grappa. "I never really thought of them as a rock band. They were always a form of sonic art to me. Somehow managing to capture that whole New York no wave thing from the early 1980s, but merging it with the Chicago sound that Tortoise was just starting to get a lot of traction from."

Storm and Stress were Ian Williams (guitar) of Don Cabellero, Erich Ehm (bass), and Kevin Shea (drums). Their first album was produced by Steve Albini, and their second, Under Thunder & Flourescent Lights, recorded in 1999, but released in 2000, by Jim O'Rourke. The Touch & Go promo paragraph for the first album captured our fin-de-siecle sentiments exactly, but the band, with such a jarring break from the prevailing musical landscape seemed to offer a way out, however brief.

Bassano del Grappa

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Enviro Update

Longtime Daily Wenzel readers may have noticed that we've been rather quiet on the environmental front these last few weeks. Despite some major announcements by the federal government, and the official opposition party regarding their green policies, we have refrained from commenting. In large part it is because we do not consider this news. Very little substance is being discussed in these reports, and then policies themselves are merely consistent with established frameworks. Even what we would have considered the most interesting piece of news, which occurred some two weeks ago, namely Baird's announcement that Canada would not take part in any international carbon trading scheme - a proposal publicly mused over by his predecessor Rona Ambrose, is in keeping with the Conservative move to retreat from the international stage (peacekeeping not withstanding).

However, we would like to share the following newsbit, as it shows that our feelings are shared elsewhere. The failure to fund new research into climate change only supports the public perception that Stephen Harper and his government are not concerned with climate change, but are simply reacting to immediate developments, in much the same way Harper recognized the Quebec nation to stave off a similar BQ move. Similarly, just as that political powerplay is likely to come back to haunt Canadians, we can only imagine how these environmental moves (or lack thereof) will affect us down the road.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

The Table of Elements

It was a large grin that Il Professore, Sean Marchetto was wearing today (truth be told, Marchetto does not like to be called "The Professor", a trend started by Bassano del Grappa when del Grappa discovered that Marchetto was a school teacher with three university degrees, one of which being an advanced degree in American history, but only a Masters' not a PhD as Marchetto tries to point out, though "professor" is the Italian equivalent of high school teacher). Too many times to mention, when our conversations turn to hiphop, Marchetto will reference the "four elements of hiphop" as outlined by some bygone rapper, and all of us will stare at him blankly. Today, Marchetto appeared in The Daily Wenzel office wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with "The Four Elements of Hiphop" done up in the style of a Periodic Table of the Elements, something that Marchetto, as a chemistry teacher, would be quite familiar with. We don't know where he found it, but his was a look of vindication.

So, what are the four elements of hiphop? The emcee, the DJ, the B-Boy, and grafitti - all four post-modern forms of communication - literature, music, dance, and art. More than this we cannot say - we'll have to entice the Professor to give us a lecture, only this time we'll take notes.

The Stuff of Legends

So we had heard from FFWD/Exclaim! writer Aubrey MacInnis that fellow Calgarian Chad van Gaalen had missed his SXSW show because of an argument he had had at the border with US Customs Agents. In further conversations with MacInnis and later, back at the Calgary Airport, with members of the AA Sound System, the story goes that the Customs Agents started searching through vanGaalen's bags, prompting the musician to become irritated and defensive, calling one of the agents a "douchebag", at which point he was denied entry to the US. Rather than simply fill his spot at the SXSW music conference with another artist, the organizers instead helped to arrange a closed circuit broadcast of Chad vanGaalen from his home in Calgary.

How much of this story we do not know, like we suggested though, it is the stuff of legend. Click here to watch the YouTube version of the closed circuit broadcast.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Reliving the Moment

Someone brought in the new iTunes Live in Soho EP of The Good, The Bad, and The Queen and it did what all live albums are supposed to do, evoking for us memories of their live set at SXSW. As good as Damon Albarn's songwriting is, and as much as it makes us what to be young and British and railing against the remnants of Empire, what we cannot escape is Paul Simonon's magnificent bass-playing. Back at Stubb's in Austin, we were captivated by his stylish looks and movement on-stage, but listening to the live EP we began to appreciate his work more and wondered at how much involvement this ex-member of the Clash had in the the evolution of the musical landscape created by The Good, The Bad, and The Queen.

Since Tuesday I think it's been played a dozen times, and something everybody wants to hear once the stereo is turned on.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Turnin' Pages - Book Update

March was a busy month in terms of book reading. In addition to Douglas Coupland's Jpod, which was quickly passed around the office, quite a few other books made their way through our fingers.

John Sellers' auto-biographical essay, Perfect from Now On: How Indie Rock Saved My Life, caused much chuckling, for his insights into the nature of the indie rock fan (any fan really) were quite funny and many of us could see ourselves reflected in his work at different points. Barbara Ehrenreich's Dancing in the Streets was something of a different story however. Ehrenreich attempted to tackle the sublimation of desire that has taken place in most Western nations, she sees the rise of Protestantism and mass industrialization as working to rid daily life of passion and ecstasy. This is not a new argument, though it is one that we tacitly support, however not for any reasons that Ehrenreich gives. For a child of the Sixties, Ehrenreich really ought to be able to do a better job. Numerous books from the Sixties speak to this same topic, from the writings on sexual repression of Wilhem Reich, to the expressions of free love of Charles A. Reich and Norman Brown. Even Theodore Roszak's The Making of a Counter-culture covers the same ground. It's hard to believe that Ehrenreich never came across any of these authors. By the same token, she devotes a chapter to rock n'roll and later mentions Guy Debord and the role of the Spectacle, but never talks about Greil Marcus' Lipstick Traces, a book that served as an introduction to the Situationists for many a rock fan, and even has the same topic for its thesis.

If you've never read any of the above, then Dancing in the Streets may make for a good introduction to a topic that has seen much more written about it than Barbara Ehrenreich would have you know.

Elsewhere, the graphic arts ruled. First through Tara MacPherson's lovely collection of work, Lonely Heart, comprising her first series of paintings, posters, sketches, and concert posters. Playful yet full of gothic brooding, we were instant fans. Second, Susie J. Horgan's earliest photographs have been released in Punk Love, documenting the early days of the D.C. hardcore scene. Horgan was responsible for taking the Teen Idle's album cover of the boy with the x's on his hands, as well as the legendary picture of Alex MacKaye (brother of Ian) sitting at the bottom of some steps with his head in his hands - the image thta was later used for the Minor Threat cover. Horgan's pictures include scenes from the early Minor Threat shows, shots of Ian MacKaye skateboarding, and images of Ian MacKaye and an equally young Henry Rollins goofing around in Rollins' ice cream shop. Finally, Hilly Kristal's photo-collection documenting over thirty years of CBGBs turned up on our desks. How do we rank this? Yes, CBGB's is/was an institution, though we all have our own CBGB's in our own neighbourhoods. Filled with photos of people who have performed or visited the club and interspersed with quotes, CBGB & OMFUG is a good afternoon of reminiscing. A lot of the early photos are available elsewhere, though it is handy to have them all in one collection. The best part perhaps is David Byrne's essay on the nature of the interaction between club and community.