Aug 26, 2010
May 7, 2010
I hate when I have those nights when the only thing I want to listen to is Coldplay. Those are the worst nights.
Feb 10, 2010
The other night I went to the world’s worst hip hop show. I need to believe it was the worst, though it likely wasn’t, because if this city can do worse than this, I’m giving up on all hope right here and right now.
I’m not going to get into how fucked it is for a hip hop show to consist of white boys in dreadlocks rapping to an almost exclusively white audience (including one guy in a do-rag), because others have written about that phenomenon more intelligently and less crassly than I could. But there were some details specific to the show that I’d like to believe were unique.
One of the rappers wore a fur tail (fake, I’m hoping) pinned to his bottom; he never explained why. He and his partner performed a song about how they got his sister off pads and onto menstrual cups; he used the word “temple” at one point, but I can’t remember the exact reference because I’m mostly suppressing the memory.
During the intermission the MC said, “I don’t know why anarchists haven’t taken over hip hop,” which made me swallow my drink the wrong way, setting my trachea on fire. I nearly hacked to death.
Perhaps less surprising (given the show was billed to an activist community), but no less gagworthy, was when the rappers called on their soundcheck person to do an impromptu performance — only because she was female. That kind of unselfconscious tokenism around gender dovetails beautifully with how resistance in hip hop music and cultures gets co-opted by white anarchists who think screeching “Fuck the system!” ten times makes for an acceptable hook.
There’s a lot of discussion around the larger phenomenon of young white men co-opting rap and adopting its assumed culture (no matter that that stereotype gets constantly teased by current mainstream black musicians), but there’s something more specific to how white activists co-opt these things. My sense is that their self-identification as “activists” is precisely the mechanism by which they allow themselves to be this ludicrously oblivious to the racial politics that they’re fooling around with. In other words, the problems of entitlement and self-awareness not only do not become less pressing within activist and/or anarchist communities, but in fact are re-entrenched through this notion that by being activist we’re all necessarily beyond this kind of petty squabbling over the ever-fraught intersections of art and history.
So it’s nice to come home to songs and videos like The Remnant’s “Know This“. The lyrics are cheesy as hell (will boys ever, ever get off the woman-as-muse hack), but the boys are pretty and have style, and the filming is so cute (I wish I’d filmed it). And, for the P&P aficionados among you, there’s a Jane Austen reference in there (or so he says, someone else run a check).
I want to get old, grow a gut that I suck in when I’m next to you. Sixty odd years old and still trying to impress you.
Nov 17, 2008
I decided I might as well write this here, since I don’t know if you check your email address anymore, or if you even remember your own password. And anyway, in light of everything, this space seems fitting.
I picked it up at the post office and it was wrapped in official Canada Post shrinkwrap and that was enough to make me smile, the self-importance of all that government-approved wrapping. That box could have been empty and I’d have been happy enough for the postage. Anyway, I was on my way to school, or I was on my way to some randomly chosen street, or I was going to the beach, or I was about to see someone for lunch, or any one of a number of or’s – the point is that I was going somewhere that morning and so, after signing the necessary forms, I put the package in my bag without opening it. I waited for the bus and I got on the bus and I took my favourite seat at the very back of the bus, where the seats are just high enough that my toes don’t quite touch the ground. That was also the day I got an anonymous postcard in the mail – through the mailslot, no pickup required – and so I pulled that out of my bag first and read that first, carefully, all three handwritten lines.
I waited for one stop to pass, and then the next, and then I took it out of my bag. There was the shrinkwrap to go through, then the ribbon to untie, then your choice in font to identify and consider, then the box to untape, and then — and I was expecting a book, or maybe fudge — I pulled it out and said oh my god and startled the girl next to me, and then I put it back in its box and I didn’t open it again for at least another week.
It still scares me, a little. You may have seen me without it, in which case I hope you weren’t offended. I was working my way up to it, but in all honesty, a part of me just wanted to frame it and hang it on my wall, but that would be strange, I think. Also, I was waiting for the right moment. That moment took three and a half months in coming.
I have trouble accepting gifts, especially of this magnitude, especially when I have no way of returning the gesture. It’s … educational, not having a choice in the matter.
& take care,
PS: It’s just as well that my building has only 18 floors, else I’d have never gotten it.
Jun 5, 2008
There’s a boy, he’s new here, who’s replaced the man who used to perform at Pape. A white kid, about my age, maybe a few years younger, with blonde hair cropped close to his scalp and a cleanshaven and quiet, very quiet face. He’s dressed in a nondescript white sweater and dark, baggy jeans. He plays an electric guitar and he plays it like it’s a violin. I’ve only seen him twice now. The first night, I walked by him and then every step got slower, with the people going home spilling around me, until I had to stop just around the corner, where I knew he couldn’t see me, though it also struck me that he played like he didn’t care who stopped to listen or if anyone even did, seated on his stool, bent over his guitar, eyes on the grimy floor.
I turned back after a few moments, dropped some change in his open case, and walked back out to the buses without looking at him. He has a face that isn’t just quiet, but almost sullen, that in its silence turns in only on itself, an absolute reserve, unbroken. He doesn’t sing as he plays, for which I’m grateful, because that first night I remembered again how much I love the guitar, the way the strings from a lone guitar played well and slowly can hold you, how that solitary sound can slide under your diaphragm and determine the rhythm of your breath.
And he plays it like it’s a violin – a part of me doubles back to note that I probably don’t know what I’m talking about when I say that, because as much as I love music, I love it uncritically and mercurially, by turns guided by prejudice and by whim. Occasionally even by guilt and embarrassment. So I couldn’t tell you, really, what distinguishes a man’s playing a violin from his playing a guitar, since I’ve never paid close enough attention. Except the thing is that I also never thought an electric guitar could sound the way that boy made it sing. It made my breath catch a while in that dark subway. I would have liked to have heard it again today.
I love music. I think if it weren’t for the fact that so much of my self is already invested in words and I possess limited heartspace, I’d love music more consciously, more coherently. I make it sound like work, I know, when music for most people is something you do for fun, easily and without self-consciousness. It’s true that I make everything out to require more effort than anything ever really does, but however much I do love music, I don’t think I give it the attention it’s due.
Mar 10, 2008
I love Nina Simone. My god but I love her and with an awestruck kind of love. It’s not just about her voice, but the confidence that carries through it, something bordering on arrogance. There’s this self-sufficiency in her songs, even when she sings about being in love, that I can’t find in most other places. Generally things this good depress me, but Simone never has that effect. The music is so self-contained, so unyielding, so aware of its rights unto itself, that it has seems to have nothing to do with me. It’s soothing being that utterly external to anything. At some level I can delude myself into thinking that Simone in these songs is having a conversation only with herself, is absolutely uninterested in my presence; which is amazing, because for the length of those songs I don’t need to pretend to know me.
I would like to one day write something of that measure. To put down in words something with the raw need of “Sinnerman” or the assurance of “Aint Got No, I’ve Got Life.” And then, having written it, actually recognise it for its own worth. And after that – I don’t know; things could only go downhill after that. But I think the inevitable depression would be worth it, worth that one writing.
In the meantime, I will content myself with half-assed essays and embarrassingly angsty blogposts.