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.