25 November 2006

the mixed tape project finale


well, it’s taken some doing, but i’m finally ready. (martin even beat me to the punch, as his tape is already published.)

there were very few rules that i established for this, but they did help shape what the final product is. first, the tracks had to be able to fit on an actual cassette tape. i gave myself some latitude here- the cassette would be a 100 minute one, rather than the more common 60 or 90, but since 100 minute tapes were at one point widely available, this is still fair play. this rule means that the length of the tracks was somewhat constrained. one track does clock in at just under 11 minutes, but other tracks- notably militia’s “final statement” and swans’ “the sound” came off the list because of time restrictions.

the second rule, in the interests of variety, was that no one could appear twice. so coil and current 93, who could have made up the entire tape by themselves, appear once each. this worked to the disadvantage of a few of artists (swans, brighter death now, the moon lay hidden beneath a cloud) where i couldn’t simply point to one track that meant more to me than the others.

the third rule, which is more like a raison d’etre than a proper rule, was that every track had to be one that i believed was representative of me, or that related to a specific period or experience in my life. as a result, most of the tracks are older, because i have had the time to “bond” with them. in five years, this might be a different list.

this last rule helped me make some difficult decisions. for instance, haus arafna are on the list rather than spk’s “despair” not because i love the track any more, but because i thought that having haus arafna said something more about me than it’s better known competitor.

all that said, while i’m happy with the list, it’s far from complete. as i type this, i’m still editing in my head, thinking of things that i wish were on there. forget five years. in five minutes this might be a different list. (i’m still trying to find a way to fit scott walker’s “farmer in the city” or young gods’ “si tu gardes” on there...)

one note: the death in june track i’m referring to is technically a kapo track and the specific version is on the world serpent compilation “terra serpentes”.

thanks to those of you who sent me your "tapes".

this is me, in music.

laibach :: die liebe
foetus :: butterfly potion
haus arafna :: paranoia
dive :: dead or alive
screamin' jay hawkins :: i put a spell on you
dead kennedys :: moon over marin
novy svet :: en possession de te
cindytalk :: snowkiss
eyeless in gaza :: voice from the tracks
death in june :: only europa knows
severed heads :: guests
legendary pink dots :: casting the runes
scorn :: dreamspace
coil :: ostia
clock dva :: velvet realm
sigillum s :: nella miseria
einsturzende neubauten :: zerstoerte zelle
contrastate :: perhaps it comes out of the black sea
current 93 :: alone
joy division :: atmosphere

20 November 2006

transit nerds, unite!


years ago, when i first moved to montreal, i used to tell people that i wanted to get a job driving the metro. it was a silly ambition, of course, not only because my french wasn't near good enough, but because i would have hated the schedule and because jobs with the stcum (now just the stm) were in high demand from people a lot more qualified than i.

but i still had the idea in my head because i found the whole concept of the subway fascinating. in fact, when i first got a transit pass, i put its unlimited capacity to good use by randomly hopping on and off the metro and finding new neighbourhoods to explore. that's really the beauty of a subway system. you disappear underground and then reappear in a completely new place, with no real idea of how you got there. a little urban adventure.

most of these adventures were very positive experiences for me, discovering little-known corners, pockets of architecture that i liked, etc. some of them, particularly seeing a homeless man, apparently dead, with onlookers and emt's trying to revive him, were somewhat more sobering. but all in all, they form some of my strongest memories of living in montreal.

subways in general appeal to me, and i make a point of seeing them in cities where i travel (not merely as conveniences, but as points of interest). but the montreal subway, with its unique stations and astonishingly quiet trains, is a particular favourite. it may lack the comprehensiveness of new york or paris, but its artistic bent, expressed above all in the uniqueness of its stations and their prominence in the cityscape, still makes it something special.

and apparently, at least one person agrees with me. heck, this guy has even developed a rating system for evaluating the relative merits of each station (and a pretty good one, too)...

to others, it may be just a method of getting from a to b, but for some of us, the few, the proud, the nerds, it's iconic, a reflection of the city itself.

12 November 2006

vote, dammit

if you live in toronto, tomorrow is municipal election day. while it doesn't get the coverage of its national or even provincial siblings, city politics deserves your attention. in fact, it probably deserves more attention than national or provincial politics, because the decisions of city council affect you, the citizen, much more directly. (living where i do, it's also probably the only chance for me to vote for candidates who are likely to win...)

now magazine has done a convenient write-up for progressive types who want to know who's speaking their language. a non-partisan listing is available, along with all the other crucial information at the official election web site.

the gorey end


is there anyone who doesn't love edward gorey's creepy victorian illustrated nursery tales? he seems to appeal to the inner child and halloween fan in everyone, but most of all to those of us who have a slightly morbid bent anyway. who else could laugh at a series of couplets detailing the horrific demise of twenty-six overly curious, neglected or just plain cursed children, each in their own unlikely way?

apparently, the creative types at the thistle project, since they are currently presenting gorey story, a play based on the master's best-known work, the gashlycrumb tinies.

this is not the first time that someone has adapted gorey's work for the stage. in fact, there is something naturally theatrical about his stories and images. but the whole idea of being entertained by the deaths of small children is not going to be everyone's cup of perfectly steeped tea. to hell with those people.

the show is adorable. while a little heavy on the music for my tastes (not generally a fan of "show tunes"), it keeps the atmosphere balanced between the macabre and the absurd. much of the credit for this goes to the sound, a combination of recordings and the actor's voices, which is used to a striking and often hypnotic effect. each line is given with perfect cadence and diction, every breath seems weighted with significance. in the background are voices, strains of music, and bursts of those eerie, unidentifiable sounds that probably kept you awake as a child.

"gorey story" is not a play, so much as a piece of theatre, incorporating various theatrical forms- speaking, singing, dancing- to great effect. the actors are able to generate a remarkable amount of tension with the carefully choreographed motion of their bodies. this is especially true of "death", folding and unfolding in exquisite slow motion, towering above the others (the latter point thanks to a remarkable set of platforms). at times, it seems like what you are watching is a sort of human puppet show- intricate and controlled.

at just over an hour, only the most hyperactive child is going to have their attention wander during the performance. of course, it doesn't take long to figure out what's about to happen (particularly if, like me, you have a great deal of the original committed to memory), but the troupe still manages, of all things, to come up with a surprise ending.

gorey story plays throughout november at the artists play studio theatre. (a word to the wise: the theatre is normally used for dance performances and they are understandably protective of their floor. as a result, you will be asked to remove and check your shoes in the foyer. this is not the place for your 20-hole rangers.)

11 November 2006

boot to the head


ok, so i feel the need to talk about the shoe thing. i make no secret of the fact that, like many women, i like shoes. in fact, i like both shoes and clothes, not simply because i’m a woman, but because i’m an aesthete. in its simplest form, i mean that things that are pleasing to the eye make me happy because i like to have the presence of beauty in the world reinforced. in its more practical form, related to human beings, i equate a certain pride in appearance with a level of self-respect. you want to show the world the beautiful you that you see. or, from another point of view, you believe you’re worthy of beautiful things. (and i’m saying this realizing that it can easily be taken to an unhealthy extreme, like most things.)

aestheticism has gotten a bad wrap in general, because it is associated with vanity and shallowness. the two are not necessarily linked. the other thing that is commonly associated with aestheticism is an unhealthy addiction to consumption. after all, you’re spending money on things, things that you don’t need. i always wonder why this criticism, though, should be limited to those who by products for aesthetic reasons. would it be more tolerable if i wore the same sweat pants and sports shirt for five days but drove an suv?

the image of the slightly braindead woman who owns a lot of shoes and clothes is a convenient handle that people like to attach, because it makes other human beings easier to deal with. it’s a common phenomenon; pick a basic, easy-to-understand trait in someone, something that’s obvious and relatively simple to make light of, work from the assumption that this represents the largest and most important part of their character and do your best to convey this perception to others.

as you might be able to guess, i get very sick of having this mantle foist on me. i spend almost all of my life either voluntarily wearing masks or having them imposed on me by others, but this has to be one of the most objectionable. i’m left with the impression that i could walk into a room, give a dissertation on van gogh, establish peace in the middle east, and design an interstellar craft that is environmentally beneficial and i’d be greeted only with “that’s nice, but don’t you really want to be shopping?”

now, i’m not trying to deny the fact that i enjoy things whose function is entirely aesthetic, but i am uncomfortable with the mentality that takes an existing part of my personality as constituting the whole. after all, it’s that same mentality that makes assumptions about people based on their race or gender or any other handle that means that you don’t have to work to understand someone else. that sort of intellectual laziness and lack of curiosity is an insult to the potential of the grey lump between your ears.

so yes, i really like shoes. and there are a lot of people who think that everyone other than them can be reduced to a simple set of catch phrases and surface-level personality traits. which one of us is shallow again?

08 November 2006

had a bad day?


ok, so it's official (ish), the democrats now hold power in both houses of the american congress. virginia, that bastion of liberal mores, has fallen, which means that the dems now hold 51 seats in the senate, giving them more of an ability to reign in their cowboy-in-chief. (well, that actually counts the two independents who were elected as well. considering that one of those independents is joe lieberman, i wouldn't be counting on a lot of support for a progressive agenda.)

so should we break out the balloons? well, while gwb is one of my least favourite world leaders ever, i'm not exactly bouncing off the walls. after all, the definitive vote came from a state where the candidates were a republican and a former republican. the choice was not exactly overwhelming. in general the spectrum of american political parties runs from despicable to slightly less despicable, with the people being told by their media that the reason there aren't more parties is because they aren't needed or wanted. what a relief that must be to those struggling to hold their nose and place their vote at the same time.

so why doesn't the vote, excite me? well, it's hard to get too happy when you're looking at the initiatives to ban gay marriage getting approved by margins that make hilary clinton's win seem like a nail-biter. (note: these initiatives were not about allowing gay marriage. they were bills that would expressly forbid it, in case gays and lesbians had been lulled into a sense that they were tolerated.) and voters in that right-wing mecca of california said a resounding "no" to funding alternative energy and taxing oil companies to pay for it. bc hydro should try shutting down their power again to see if that jolts some sense into them. (ok, the fact is that it's a little more complicated than i'm making out. you can find arguments for and against and you can even read a conflicted person's dilemma here.)

on the other hand, california did show some good sense and reject the so-called "eminent domain reform", and voters everywhere endorsed initiatives that would raise the minimum wage above it's current "bad joke" level.

we're finally rid of donald rumsfeld, which can only be a good thing. (i wonder if bush realises that it would have won him votes and possibly the senate if he had done this two weeks ago?) and rick santorum, who apparently thinks that homosexuality and bestiality are synonyms, got is uptight whit ass handed to him.

but throw in the ongoing problems with the paperless voting system they are trying to implement and i have to say that i'm fairly ambivalent about the whole thing.

but considering that watching bush get re-elected in 2004 made me want to throw up on my living room area rug, ambivalent isn't a bad place to be.

a lone voice...


...crying in the world wide web wilderness.

voice of korea.

i may have to work dprk into my travel plans in the near future, as i would love to ride the peace bike and attend the capitalist popular music festival.

the highlight of this site, to me, is the english-to-korean-back-to-english translation of gwb's speech after the north korean nuclear test. i even saw that speech live and i didn't notice those comments. on the other hand, is it just possible that these translators skipped the fog of his words and were some how able to mainline his innermost thoughts?

link courtesy of mefi.

06 November 2006

the mixed tape project

ok, if you actually have first hand experience with the making of mixed tapes, you may be too old to use the internet. (or, like me, you may be wallowing in an extended adolescence.) but if you do remember making/ receiving mixed tapes, then i will venture that it's a happy memory. yes, you can now burn cd's in the blink of an eye and they won't come unraveled after you've listened to them forty times, but it never quite feels the same. you can burn a cd so quickly that you don't have a chance to think about it, to develop a relationship with it before handing it off to someone else.

a few months ago, i finally got around to reading nick hornsby's highly entertaining high fidelity (made into an equally entertaining movie.) among other truisms, the book reminded me of the subtle joys of the tape, of its role as a method of communicating something about the person making it and his/ her perception of the person receiving it. for aeons now, i've been meaning to think up an ultimate "kate" mixed tape- something that i think would neatly sum up what there is to know about me in 90 minutes or less.

this is something that should be easy for me, since music generally plays an extraordinarily prominent role in my life, but it is proving challenging to figure out exactly what goes on there.

so this post has two purposes:

1. if i post about it, i'm more likely to actually do it and post the results in the near future.

2. this post gives me the opportunity to ask anyone who's reading it to do the same. come up with a few tracks (i don't need a whole tape's worth) that you think sum YOU up nicely and drop me a line to let me know. i know i'm not the only person who would find this exercise interesting. (drop me an email if you don't want to/ can't post a response in the comments section.)

and now, back to my tape...

04 November 2006

unsolicited opinion #14368

since i don't live there, i try very hard not to care about american politics. i try not to pay too much attention, because i frankly find it depressing. however, with the country's pre-eminent position in the world and given my instinctual interest in the political, i do get caught up some times.

having just returned from a business trip to one of those parts of america that i would otherwise never go, i have just been subjected to a fearsome amount of political "reporting" on their major "news" networks. and what are they talking about? john kerry's stupid comments about (depending on who you believe) george bush or american soldiers.

i'm trying to wrap my head around this. america's economy has slid in the last years and is completely ill-equipped to deal with the realities of global markets of the near future. they are embroiled in a war that is costing them billions of dollars, thousands of lives and whatever international good will they had maintained to date. they have prominent members of their government facing criminal and civil charges. and according to their "news" media, the most important issue in the current electoral campaign is whether or not a failed presidential candidate thinks the people in the nation's army are smart or not?

let me simplify this: prominent u.s. politicians are generally drawn from the upper classes, educated at schools and possessing employment backgrounds that are beyond the dreams of the vast majority of their citizens. they have no direct knowledge of the challenges faced by most of their constituents. they are not representative of the make-up of the country in any sense- economic, racial, gender, anything. so why the big surprise that one of them holds a large class of his own constituents in contempt? does kerry think of the mass of americans- soldiers or not- as proletarian dullards? probably, in his own mind, yes. guess what? so does bush, in all likelihood.

and the most unfortunate thing is that, rather than becoming politically engaged in arenas where they might actually make a difference, most people are content to sit back and keep electing the same over-privileged, out of touch, sanctimonious crowd every two years. and what does that say about the people who are electing them? (and i'm aware that canada isn't a whole lot better.)

anyway, no matter what happens on tuesday, and there seem to be a number of ballot initiatives that deserve attention in different districts, the people who are elected are going to look a lot like the ones who are there now. and until there is some change that starts from the mass of people who politicians represent, american politics is going to continue to be a pretty depressing thing.
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