Monday, October 20, 2008

Flotsam and jetsam

Here's another piece of classic internet effluvia that looking for information on Joy Division yielded - a short clip from a review of the biopic Control:

The line we loved was the opener: "Any biography of a fringe performer with a cult following must give the uninitiated some clue as to what the fuss was about"

Our answer is no. 

Granted, Ray Bennett goes on to argue that such efforts are necessary for the film to move beyond a narrow circle, which is true, but that presupposes a desire to move beyond a narrow circle, as if that were the goal of all film, music, or art. Certainly, Control's lack of effort is in keeping with the music of Joy Division. That same turning your back on fame is echoed in the sentiment behind American Hardcore, where American punks deliberately tried to avoid mainstream success. In fact, somewhere out there is a whole catalogue of deviancy literature on the efforts of subcultures to keep themselves below the radar. 

Who Killed The Electric (Mini) Car

Seriously, it's hard to believe the following news report. BMW is announcing that they are coming out with an electric version on the Mini Cooper - great news to electric car fans. However, we question how many electric car fans have not seen Who Killed The Electric Car. Obviously not BMW. They are still running the electric Mini on the same leasing plan that GM did - at the end of the lease period that cars are to be returned to BMW. You can't be serious.

For an article, click here.

Saturday, October 18, 2008


We'll be honest. After almost a decade of looking at "What Would Jesus Do?" bracelets, the iNietzsche application  for the iPhone with it's  "What Would Nietzsche Say?" function  makes us giggle. After all, when it comes to timely advice, who would not want to turn to a man who said:

"That passion is better than Stoicism and hypocrisy, that being honest in evil is still better than losing oneself to the morality of tradition, that a free human being can be good as well as evil, but that an unfree human being is a blemish upon nature and has no share in any heavenly or earthly comfort; finally, that everyone who wishes to become free must become free through his own endeavour, and that freedom does not fall into any man's lap as a miraculous gift" (Untimely Meditations, 1876)

Friday, October 17, 2008

We're All Marxists Now

Yes, the above is something a common phrase around here, often used to reference Marx's idea that technological change causes economic changes which in turn leads to political change. We are currently finding this notion hard to resist, as computers and the internet represent some pretty major techonological changes, the impact of which is only now starting to be understood.

However, here's a little news headline from Germany (via the UK Guardian) that suggests we're not the only ones thinking this way. Click here.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Election Results

The last week provided a lot of chatter in our office regarding the Canadian Federal Election, and they ranged from the reluctant prediction of a Conservative majority at 157 seats, to almost nothing changing (how right that almost was!) to a Liberal-Conservative tie. It was the prospect of a tie that generated the most controversy, not necessarily because it was wrong (though it was), but because it was based on some troubling long-term trends that last night's voter turnout indicated might in fact be right.

To begin with, we had the suggestion that Canada is in for a string of minority governments, probably for the next seven to ten years. The idea for this is based on demographics. Currently, the most populous demographic in Canada is the aging Baby Boomer generation.  The Boomers and their parents also happen to be the demographic most likely to vite. If you accept the argument that people grow more conservative as they age, then this becomes the premise used to predict a Conservative win.  

The Liberals meanwhile are thought to be favoured by the "middle-classes" and more importantly the so-called Generation X cohort. The suggestion is that this particular group is currently the most frustrated and jaded politically. In part because this was the group most hurt by the Chretien/Martin cuts of the 1990s. Attempts to influence the direction of those policies was blocked by the presence of numerous middle-aged Baby Boomers  who had joined the political process in the late 1960s and early 1970s. This group is therefore leaving the Liberal Party and in many cases the political process altogether. Last night's voter turnout at 59% has the distinction of being the lowest turnout in over a hundred years. Previously, that honour was held by the election that Paul Martin won (two elections ago) in which 60% of the voters showed up and gave Martin a minority. Furthermore, this is complicated by accusations that the "middle-class" is shrinking.

Despite their success last night, the tie scenario predicted the NDP losing seats based on the belief that they are "too much about unions" (indeed, fears about the economy might have helpd them out in Ontario). Union membership is declining, especially amongst youth, who are finding the workplace a radically different place than post-WWII factories. Layton perhaps has sensed this and is trying to transition his party to something else with their green platform - the notion of a tie was based on the Liberal's ability to steal voters away from the NDP.

Which brings us to the environment.

When Canadians are polled the environment is constantly one of the top issues. However this consistently fails to translate at the voting booth. With the prediction of a tie, the premise hear, and indeed the one that further projects a series of minority governments, is that the environment is one of THE major issues of the millenial generation, a generation that is widely suspected of failing to vote by the widest margins. Demographically, it also outnumbers Generation X. Thus, the environment ought to be seen as a kind of bellweather of voter participation. The first election that sees both an uptick of voter participation and votes for environmental policies will signal the entrance of the millenial generation. The next majority government will only occur once the millenials have fully entered the ring.

This is also why the heat is on the NDP. The Greens are nipping at their heels, and have none of the baggage the existing parties have and thus are capable of wooing voters disenchanted with the current political system.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Mako, A Man for Many Seasons

Something we just stumbled upon, and it leaves us shaking our head. Born in Kobe, Japan, Japanese-American actor Kobe (he became a citizen in 1956), started acting in 1962 with an appearance on The Lloyd Bridges show, at the age of 29. Since then, he worked almost continuously until his death in 2006, although his last film Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, where he provided the voice of Splinter, was not released until 2007. Seriously, from 1962 to 2007 (forty-five years), he appeared or contributed to at least one project per year excepting 1985, and 2002 (perhaps needing a break after taking a turn in Pearl Harbour). We are hard-pressed to think of another acting career as consistent and are super-impressed. To check out his full v.c., head on over to his entry at IMDB.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Music Update

Here's a quick rundown on what we've been listening to:

The new Okkervil River, The Stand-Ins, has been on steady play lately, despite it's unexpected polish. The album art makes us think mid-period Social Distortion, but the song-writing belies a much stronger pop sensibility.
The Streets, Everything Is Borrowed, is causing something of a stir, as half the office is finding it a brilliant mixture of self-awareness and retro-style beats. The other half claims it as sappy platitudes over cheesy muzak. Bring on the cage match.

Surprisingly, Sloan's Parallel Play has only managed to get on air twice, as it's polished pop seems somewhat less so when stacked next to Okkervil River. 

Or, perhaps it's because certain elements have fallen in love with the Minutemen and Gang of Four again and are holding our radios hostage. 

There are worse things that could happen, we suppose.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

American Hardcore

Yesterday we took time out of our oh-so-busy schedules to watch the documentary on early American punk, American Hardcore. For perhaps the first time, the historical focus has finally started to shift form the early CBGB days, London, and late 1970s Los Angeles, to the development of hardcore punk in Washington, Southern California and New York. It was odd to watch the documentary with local counterculture historian Sean Marchetto present, as the film seemed to vindicate several points he made in his University of Calgary Masters' Thesis, Tune In, Turn On, Go Punk.

"The conversations I was having with people in 1999 was very different from what people are talking about now. Books like Legs McNeil's Please Kill Me and Clinton Heylin's From The Velvets to the Voidoids were really all that were out there. Hardcore was still to recent, people were still trying to remember the beginnings."

One of the things that Marchetto seemed particularly pleased about were the brief discussions about hardcore punks and their broken homes, "You'd read these early oral histories about people coming to New York or L.A. and there'd be suggestions that they came from broken homes. Rarely would they come out and talk about their family life, though Henry Rollins and Lydia Lunch have been rather upfront, but instead they'd talk about showing up at the bus stop in a particular year. If you took that year and worked backwards from their birthday, or their approximate age in 1999, it turned out a lot of these people were fifteen, sixteen, or seventeen when they started getting involved in what turned out to later to be hardcore.  Groups like Bad Brains and Black Flag were older though, and you could tell that they belonged to that earlier generation of punks because they were the originators."

"There has to be some kind of connection between punk, and the counterculture in general really, and family life. Ideally sociologists and psychologists would find this a fertile area of study."

Driving Through Traffic and Into the Past

As we noted earlier via Twittter, we are currently reading Tom Vanderbilt's Traffic: Why We Drive The Way We Do (and what it says about us). Halfway through, Vanderbilt makes the rather poetic notion that driving in traffic (as opposed simply driving) is driving into the past. He says this based on the observation that each driver is reacting to an event that has occurred in front of them, driving towards the event horizon so to speak, while at the same time the locus of that horizon expands outwards to engulf more and more traffic, much in the manner that the light of stars now reaching our eyes burnt out millions and millions of years ago.