18 September 2007

the pundit is in

i always do love to comment on recent canadian political developments. i don't think that there's any great mystery as to my general political stand, and those who know me have heard me get into specifics on many occasions.

but these latest developments sort of have me divided. of course, i'm pleased to see the ndp get a toehold (it's not big enough to be a foothold) in quebec. the victory has nothing to do, of course, with the party and everything to do with the fact that thmoas mulcair was a charismatic and effective municipal politician for years. however, you could certainly see a quiet endorsement of federal leader jack layton's emphasis on making gains in urban areas (recruiting successful municipal politicians being part of that strategy).

what divides me is that i'm sort of overcome with waves of sympathy for stephane dion. unlike any liberal party leader in my lifetime (since trudeau had become cynical by the time i was around to remember him), i like dion. well, i don't know him, but from what i've seen, he's a very intelligent and decent person (leaving aside which of his policies you agree or disagree with). i dislike the fact that his awkwardness in front of the press (which i understand to be a refreshing lack of concern with his public image) and his refusal to be the only public face of the party (which i would interpret as the ability to delegate) is constantly derided. it seems uncomfortably like he is not being accepted because he fails to fulfill the expectations of a national politician. not something that makes me hopeful for the future, i must say.

12 September 2007

afraid of what?

solid article on the rise of a new form of capitalist in the wake of the terrorist attacks on american soil in 2001.

probably the key point for me is the distinction to be drawn between the stated goals in the "war on terror" and the actual goals of those contracted to keep americans (and their allies) safe. these contractors and their government champions can talk all they want about increasing security, but the economics of the situation speaks for itself: those companies are in business for one reason, which is to make money. anything that increases their profits and the return to stockholders (for those that are publicly held) is, by definition, good.

but good economics does not necessarily make for good defence. leaving aside, for a moment, the question of whether or not the american state's foreign policy has increased or decreased the threat of a terrorist attack, look for a moment at the programs they have pursued at home. or, more specifically, the programs they haven't.

for instance, the current administration has cut funding to programs designed to improve security on the country's railways and public transit (what could possibly go wrong?). as well, the government has never moved forward on any legislation that would regulate the inspection of chemical facilities (i wish i were making this up). so while we all get to take our shoes off going through airport security and have our facial cleanser confiscated if it's in a container that holds more than 100ml, so that we have a visual reference to tell us that we are more secure, the truth is rather sadly removed.

08 September 2007

earthly paradise


music review :: o paradis :: cuando el tiempo sopla :: punch records

i'm not sure why o paradis get lumped in with the whole "neo-folk" movement. other than the combination of acoustic instruments and electronics (which is cutting a pretty broad swath), and a tendency towards a "softer" tone, there isn't much to link them. really, o paradis is part of a much more interesting group of artists (including ait!, novy svet, mushroom's patience and a few others) who have established a new sort of sound with elements of traditional, cabaret/ lounge, and experimental music that is as geographically rooted in southern europe as pure noise is in japan, coldwave is in germany or power electronics is in england.

of this group of artists, o paradis stands out as the most lyrical and the most emotional. this isn't the sort of contrived melancholy one gets from many artists, at times raw and unflinching enough to be uncomfortable, but moving in its complete honesty.

"cuando.." is o paradis' most experimental album to date, with the production and atmospheric sounds taking a more prominent place than previously, but it still falls back on the same key element: sole proprietor demian is a superb songwriter. that's a greater accomplishment than you might think, since it's fairly easy to dress up mediocre songwriting with effects and trickery and, if you're reading this blog, chances are that not everything in your music collection relies on the fragile mix of melody and harmony.

the fact that there is a greater range of elements at play here makes this a more diverse work than previous albums and allows it to float effortlessly between the world of reality and the world of dream. (nowhere is this established more clearly than on the first track, where the blissful intro dissipates into a rhythmic morass of industrial noises and finally into the sound of an alarm clock.)

fans of this school of music will recognise the hyper-distinctive vocals of jurgen weber (novy svet) and tairy ceron (ait!) and there are contributions on vocals and instrumentation from a few others, but, at the end, this is a one man show- deeply personal, exquisitely executed and exuding romance in all senses of the word.

01 September 2007

everything's bigger in texas

i thought i'd heard it all.

airlines are becoming increasingly alarmed about overweight passengers, as the increase in average weight is throwing off their fuel usage calculations and potentially endangering lives by weighing the plane down with a greater load than it was intended to carry.

funeral homes are running into problems because super-sized, uh, customers are not fitting within the confines of the usual repositories.

but this story from houston may take the cake (which could be part of the problem).

there is nothing that i am going to say that will add any meaningful insights into our morbid and obsessive relationship with consumption. while i have theories as to why this is becoming so prevalent, they really aren't groundbreaking.

still, stories like this, with their hints of the tragic and the absurd, never fail to fascinate and appall me. as someone who's had some pretty up-close experiences with various types of eating disorders, i know that food has moved well beyond its role as necessary sustenance and has become emblematic of many other things.
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