Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Another Soul Lost and The World Teeters Closer to the "Homegenic" Abyss

CD in Play: The Arcade Fire, Funeral

No, this is not about Heath Ledger. In fact, this isn’t so much about the passing of a specific person as it is about the end of a language and an era for one of North America’s First Nations. Chief Marie Smith of Cordova, Alaska died at the age of 89 on the 21st. She was the last, official speaker of the Eyak language and the last full-blooded Eyak person on Earth. Udach' Kuqax*a'a'ch (as Smith was known in her native language – it means “a sound that calls people from afar) may not have entertained millions of people on screen, on even distinguished herself on the national political stage – but she is significant.

Not everyone agrees with me or appreciates the diversity of languages we have in the world, but I do. Every language lost is another step towards homogeneity on planet Earth. You may never have heard of the Eyak. You may never have call to use Maori, Xipaya, Lacandón, Tagish, Tahltan, Corsican, Manx, Sami, Breton, Magati Ke, Ainu, Laz, Jalaa, Bete or any of the other 3,000 languages in danger of becoming extinct, but I think they deserve our respect or at least our regard.

It is hard to put it into words why I feel the way I do about endangered languages and cultures, except that I have always had a thing for underdogs. As tired as I get of the politically correct cries for support of cultural diversity (mainly I hate the self-righteousness and smug self-satisfaction that is often attached to those cries) it does make me sad to learn just how much we are going loose in terms of culture, history and identity. Think of it this way, homogeneity is like a whole horde of zombies slowing creeping across the world devouring all human life in its path. Bit instead of undeath, homogeneity bring sameness, conformity.

I couldn’t prove this to you right now, but the thought occurs to me that language is the ultimate sign of a culture’s health. The weaker a language the less resistant it is to cultural assimilation. I don’t know about but I don’t want to live on Planet China, Planet Britannia or Planet USA. Think of it like this, if cultures are like coffee shops then I want more choices than Starbucks, Blenz, Seattle’s Best or Tim Horton’s. This is why the death Udach' Kuqax*a'a'ch (aka Marie Smith) is significant for the people outside of the Eyak Nation.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Insert Obligatory Title Here

CD in Play: Sloan, One Chord to Another.

Reconsidering an Old Album

My friend Glen, the accountant living and working in Qatar, is back in town. We got talking about music and he mentioned picking up Sloan's One Chord to Another (1996) on CD cheaply while in Qatar. It surprised him to find Sloan so far away from the Western market. I was never too keen on this album by Sloan, having always preferred their first two to the rest of their output.

Anyhow, I have been perusing shops looking Kinks albums that I want and also for Arcade Fire material. Good luck on both counts.I tried HMV, Scratch and A&B. While at A&B saw that One Chord to Another was on sale for $7.99. (HMV had it for $9.99) I figured maybe it was time to give it another chance. The album is still as derivative as I first found it to be, but that is less a problem for me right now.

People have, rightly, noted the heavy Beatles influence on the album, but they have overlooked the influence of such bands as The Zombies and The Who. "Everything You've Done Wrong" makes me think of The Zombies song, "Care of Cell 44" (on Odyssey and Oracle) while "Anyone Who's Anyone" reminds me of The Who's "Armenia City" from The Who Sell Out. I know other people who have suggested a Chicago influence as well.

Anyhow it is a catchy album and I am enjoying it more 11-12 years after its release than I did at anytime before. It may not be the "Laika" single or Lola Versus Powerman and the Money-go-round, Part 1, but it'll hold me for a little bit.

* I started writing this entry om he evening of the 18th. I did find the first Arcade Fire album this morning at the HMV in the Loughheed Mall (deep in the suburbs for the non-locals) when I went to buy new shoes. (and my feet love me for it) It is remarkably good and I bemoan that fact that I only know got around to checking it out.

Speaking of Record Stores...

It is depressing to Vancouver's record stores in such a sorry state. I can't include Zulu in this because I have not been there in a long while, but friends tell me it is as good as ever. It is a hassle for me to get to these days, however. But in the downtown core, record stores are a mere shadow of their former glory. Now, I don't particularly buy that iPods and MP3 players are what is driving these stores into such sorry states. There are still lots of people shopping in HMV and Scratch and A&B aren't dead yet. But if you had known what these stores were like in their heyday, you'd be complaining too.

I figure that the death of Sam the Record Man in Vancouver is what began driving record stores in this city down. Sam's couldn't compete with A&B on A&B's terms, since Sams never dealt in equipment. How Sam's in Vancouver distinguished itself was buy operating like a an indie store and an archival store. You could pick up the new Modest Mouse before anyone in town and you could buy obscure older bands like Budgie or The Creation. Sam's sat in between stores like A&B and Scratch. I think Sam's pushed A&B to diversify its own catalogue, keeping it from selling strictly top 40, uber hits.

The Virgin Mega store actually had quite a diversified stock, but never wanted to to engage in the price war that had been such a part of Vancouver life making us one of the cheapest places on Earth to buy CDs and even DVDs. But Virgin sold to HMV, who have a lot of disks in stock but really do seem to lack the diversity in their music departments. (DVDs are another story, mind you) Even Scratch doesn't seem to have quite as much in stock as they once did - the diversity just wasn't what it used to be. Seems I may just have to shop the suburbs just find the albums the suburbanites are less likely to be hip to.

Some of the lack of stock comes down to the record companies, however. Many albums in the The Kinks catalogue have been discontinued - and some interesting ones at that. (some of their worst ones are still being put out however) It is a matter of money and stock that doesn't sell is bound to be eliminated from rotation. Still, if things keep on like this I may have to invest in an iPod/MP3 player and a new computer just to get the music I really want to get.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Getting On the Ball Later and Later

The Arcade Fire, "Laika"

It is true that the older you get the slower you can be about getting into the music that is worth getting into. Trent tried pushing me towards this band and I even remember their bass player from my time in Montreal - nice guy. But, I have been slow about it. I like this song and this video, maybe you will too.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Wild Horses Trampled Sister Morphine on the Moonlight Mile, Or How I Need a New Job and a Holiday to Go Along With It.

CD in Play: The Rolling Stones, Sticky Fingers

This morning, I feel the way Sticky Fingers sounds. Much of that has to do with a current bout of insomnia, but some of it has to do with job fatigue. The job fatigue has to do with not having a had a holiday of any substantial sort since 2002. I had four days off last February to hang out with Geosomin and J. They were a fine four days, but it was only four days.
I'm tired. If you can recall the song sung by Madeline Khan (as Lilly von Schtup) in Blazing Saddles, that is me. At least in tone and pace, if not entirely in content and sentiments. The only bonus of my current assignment is that I have Internet access at work. But I am tired of playing the answer man for people too lazy or too stupid to work things out for themselves. The Beatles may wanna hold your hand, but I do not.
I really have nothing to say and this post is here more the sake of posting something. Oh well, here's to better days.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Huh? Part Something or Other

CD in Play: Soundtrack, The Darjeeling Limited
Note to Self

Magnus, when you find a Kinks album that you have always really wanted - buy the damned thing with no reservations. You know they are always being discontinued and scooped up at the most inappropriate moments. Remember you have been longing to get The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society, Something Else by the Kinks, Percy, Lola versus Powerman and the Moneygoround, Part One and Muswell Hillbillies. DO IT MAN!

Samurai Me

I picked up Miyamoto Musashi's The Book of Five Rings. (Go Rin No Sho) I am finding it interesting. Musashi's philosophy has been discussed in other books and stories that I have read on the age of the Samurai, but this the first time I have read it for myself. Very interesting indeed. Many Westerners read this stuff and then proclaim themselves to be practitioners of some sort of zen philosophy. I am not going to quite make that plunge, but there is much that Musashi discusses that is relevant for my life.
A point a raised with a friend on his blog was one that Musashi made about sword fighting: do not get so caught up in blocking and parrying that you forget to cut. Everyday life often seems like an adversary to me. I get used to anticipating the next blow and begin to live defensively when I should be going on the offensive. There are lessons here that my Dad has tried teaching me, but I had always ignored or approached half-heartedly. He was right, but don't tell him, least he get a swelled head.
And interesting book and must read for people feeling lost in the bustle and fury of Life.
Fun With Republicans
There is always a risk of offending people when you delve into their politics but, personally, I think the GOP is nuts if they don't nominate Rudy Giuliani to lead this election. But it ain't my country so who am I to comment? And any American reading this and nodding in agreement with that sentiment needs to pull their head out of their ass and figure out why people abroad care about who becomes next the President of the United States. Stop being a bad neighbour and start thinking. Do it dumb-ass! (that includes any of you Gibneys I am related to down there in California, Hawaii, Oregon, Idaho or Indiana) Actually, that "dumb-ass" remark is specifically aimed at a couple of people from assorted on-line forums. As for you Democrats, I like Barack Hussein Obama and think that Hilary Clinton is just a baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaad idea. Not because she is woman, so don't take the cheap route.
However, Mike Huckabee has come out of Iowa at the top of the Republican heap. He still has to do well in New Hampshire and things don't look too good for him there - but who knows? Evangelical, ex-Southern Baptist pastor, former Governor of Arkansas, bass playing Huckabee is better known to my fellow Canadians as the man Rick Mercer got to congratulate Canadians for preserving our "national igloo" against global warming. This was on the Talking to Americans segment. I hope that Huckabee was just playing along, but...

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Mike Huckabee congratulates Canadians

This is the video I mention above, of Mr. Huckabee with Rick Mercer. Sometimes I think Rick Mercer should have called himself "Dick".

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

2008 - Things I want to see happen and things I want to see go away

CD in Play: PJ Harvey, White Chalk

Things I Want to See Happen

1. A new job for me. A new job means a new start and the possibility to get on with my life. As it is, I barely make enough to get by. Of course some of the doubts about my current situation are fuelled by my Dad, who is absolutely paranoid and obsessed with financial security. Moving to Saskatchewan with an unsure possibility of a job when getting there is something that scares the hell out of my Dad. Definite steps, secure steps. But maybe he is right, maybe I should wait. But I cannot wait much longer. I need something to happen soon.

2. To be in Saskatchewan by no later than the December of this year.

3. The Conservatives to end up with another minority. I do not trust Stephen Harper and a minority government at least keeps him and his party somewhat in check. Stevie doesn't play well with others, perhaps another minority might force him to become a bit more flexible?
I also do not trust or like Stéphane Dion. He's a weakling: just another foul smelling left over from the previous Liberal era. The only way I might have been able to see my way to supporting the Liberals would have been with a Bob Rae victory as leader. Rae was the only leadership candidate who could have taken on Harper and his new Conservatives. Clearly the new Conservatives felt the same way, hence their campaign to discredit Rae at the Liberal convention.
What about Jack Layton? What about him? I think he's an idiot, an elitist and a great example of how the NDP has lost touch with its working class roots. He's a white collar, lower case "l" liberal who seems a little to in love with himself. Layton seemed focused in the beginning but quickly lost his way and became the exact sort of person that drove me away from the NDP in the first place. What the NDP needs are men like Broadbent, Barrett and Douglas at the helm. Strong men of conviction and character with the moral fibre to stand up for the little guy.
As for the Green Party, their leader does not elicit confidence and neither do many of the people who have run as its candidates locally.

4. I want to see PJ Harvey play in Vancouver before I leave.

Things I Want to See Go Away

1. Spitting. I am sick and tired of all the spitting. Show up at the bus stop and it is covered in the gob of all the people who waited there before you. I just don't get it. People say it is because they smoke, so they need to spit. Yet many ex-smokers contest this. When I was in high school people spat, but they spat out into the street or in the bushes. One thing was to see how far you could spit. But today, you get people standing around spitting at their own feet. If I have to spit, I look for a garbage can or a storm drain, some place where people aren't.

2. Hip-hop "culture". It's old and tired and repetitive. Time for a change.

3. George Bush and Dick Chenney. Pervez Musharraf. Gordon Campbell.

4. Libertarianism.

5. Pot "Culture", and drug cultures in general.