Thursday, February 26, 2009

Long Story Short

Christopher Marlowe's Doctor Faustus

Faustus: I may not have a soul, but I've got grapes!

The End. 

Wednesday, February 25, 2009


I have my first "gig" ever this week. In less than two days, actually. 

It's nice to be scared witless about something in a good way again, rather than just in the way that makes me not want to eat or sleep, like school does. 

It is late, and I slave over an incredibly dull science textbook (degree requirements, ftw!), but take solace in the excitement of sharing music with friends and Laura Marling's Alas, I Cannot Swim

Hope everything is well with you. Happy Wednesday.

Sunday, February 22, 2009


I mentioned a while ago that I got a really bogus noise complaint slipped under my door in the middle of the night from an anonymous malcontent bent on exacting his/her revenge for my violation of the yuppie-condo code of silence- a claim, which, it turns out, got overturned because it was stupid. Now it's my turn.

The person who lives above me is an elephant on 'riods after one too many Cliff bars. I swear to God, whoever lives up there lifts their furniture over their hulking frame and tosses it around the apartment at all hours of the bloody night. People have suggested that these noises may in fact be the soundtrack to rocking the casbah. For the good of the pelvis of whatever man or woman walks through that door, I sincerely hope this isn't the case. Drawing on my favorite television show (Futurama, duh), I have decided to name and picture my upstairs neighbour-beast The Crushinator. Behold:

The person who lives next to me has the loudest sex in the history of sex. I live in a concrete-construction apartment complex. When this person has sex, every part of my condo moves. I didn't think it physically possible, but this person has actually managed to move concrete with his pelvis. The girl he is sleeping with clearly learned how to have sex from watching porn, as her vocalizing would make a songbird blush. Being in the throwes of passion is one thing, but when I can hear the screaming over my television, dishwasher and vacuum cleaner combined, it's time to call it a day. As if this kind of sex weren't obnoxious enough at night, this couple have now taken to having morning romps. Like...really...really early morning romps. Like...7-7:30 am romps. YOU JUST FINISHED LIKE THREE HOURS AGO. GIVE THE POOR GIRL A REST BEFORE HER VOCAL CORDS (or something else) RUPTURE. 

The man who lives one floor above me and one unit over begins extensive and sprawling telephone conversations on his balcony at around 12:30 am. He usually finishes his chats around 3 am. At which point he commences barbecuing. I shit you not. I live kitty-cornered to a nocturnal Bobby Flay. Barbecuing, for the record, is one of the most conspicuous forms of cooking. He's not slowly braising, he's not gently simmering. No. He is out there at 3 am, scraping the carbonized remains of his last meal off the grill, clicking his shitty lighter for what seems like an eternity, and clanking his stupidly massive metal flipper against his stupidly large metal barbecue. At 3 am. Barbecuing. Once more with feeling: Barbecuing at 3 am. 

I will not report this to the condominium powers at be. I will seethe quietly, living politely among The Crushinator, the Copulators and the Barbecuing Loud Mouth.  

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Wheels on the Bus...

Right off the top: I bought the new Hey Rosetta! album earlier tonight, called Into Your Lungs (and around your heart and on through your blood), and it is stupidly, bafflingly good. I've listened to the whole thing top to bottom about 6 times already. Buy it.

Onto the task at hand:

I know I haven't posted in forever, but this is because things like school, sleeping and booze got in the way of me being productive over the last little while. Nonetheless, I've seen and done things in the past few weeks that have sparked my imagination, despite being in a haze of midterms and remorse. Quite some time ago, I started watching a channel on YouTube called "JustSoFilms" who post videos of independent musicians playing one song, in one take, in the back of a London Black Cab. Among those who have partaken are some of my favorites like Emmy the Great, Laura Marling, Johnny Flynn and Charlie Fink of Noah and the Whale. Black Cab has also featured artists as diverse as St. Vincent, Amanda Palmer of The Dresden Dolls, Death Cab for Cutie, Martha Wainright and Lykke Li. I love the concept of a one-take show with nothing but a couple musicians and some instruments. That's always been my favorite kind of music, and something about making it mobile and public and a part of the real world is really engaging and interesting to me. There's an almost guerilla element to it that transforms the act of making music into a magical event once again. Black Cab has the ability to reinvigorate music by literally putting it on the streets. Busker chic?

A number of other websites offer similar concepts- Handheld Shows keeps it a little more private and a little bit more performance-based while La Blogotheque takes bands outside of even the privacy afforded by a cab and puts them right in the middle of public parks, commuter trains, busy roadways and the like. I think the explosion of these sorts of public performance websites and video services are probably the result of two things:

1. An indie love for all things ironic and mildly awkward and, 
2. A desire to overturn the North American tendency to privatize and dissociate music, art and creative activities from the public sphere

Its probably pretty clear which of these options I'm more inclined to believe. Cultural Studies students love giving meaning to things that don't really have any. I don't think it's any mistake that the vast majority of these services are based in Europe. La Blogotheque (my favorite of the sites mentioned so far-their photography is beautiful) sets most of its "Concerts a Emporter" in the heart of Paris, Just So Films uses the London Black Cab as its studio and Handheld Shows is based in Norway. Most places outside of North America (and certain pockets of North America) have a long and storied history of making music a public, collectivizing experience. The east coast of Canada is infamous for its musical house parties, Central and South America incorporate music into the backdrop of every day life, and in Europe, music has long been a means of story-telling, as well as a site of community rituals and experience. In these kids of communities, music is less a form of performance that it is just a part of a larger landscape of social interaction. There's a great moment in the Noah and the Whale Blogotheque session where an old Parisian man just joins in the singing as he passes the band on the street that illustrates this sort of ease and comfort with music beautifully. In a lot of places around the world, music isn't public by chance or perversion, but by necessity. North America, though, approaches performance much differently. Art is housed in galleries, music is performed on stages inside elaborate concert halls or dive bars, dancing is reserved for ornate staged productions. Art and the pleasure we derive from it is an experience very much separate from every day life for many North Americans. 

I think this is why it's so exciting to watch these "take-away shows." While still based on performativity and  the exhibition of a particular cultural product, they take leaps and bounds towards troubling and questioning the line between private creative effort and public engagement with that creative effort. There's nothing stopping someone singing along on the street, nothing to stop a passer-by walk directly through a shot. This is performance, but situated deeply in the grand, complex and expansive performance of daily rituals- walking the dog, taking the train, buying the groceries. I watch these sessions and come away stupidly inspired. I want to stumble upon people making music for the sake of making music. I want to find a fun fiddle line on the train, a gorgeous harmony in the park, a catchy hook as I walk through downtown. There's something so magical about making music an integral part of our daily rituals that simply cannot be reproduced by ritualizing the performance of music in itself. 

Taking a cue from these wonderful sites, me and some friends were on a bus returning to campus after a few refreshments a week or so ago, and decided that we were going to sing and make music because it felt good. And it did. It felt so awesome, especially when people around us were bobbing along, singing quietly to themselves, trying to hide the fact that they were enjoying it. This experience threw into stark relief  something fundamental about North American views on performance and creation. When I see a woman coyly singing along on the bus, I see someone wanting to overturn the tradition of privatized performance we've established on this continent. When I watch the Noah and the Whale Blogotheque session and see the old man boisterously join in the singing, despite not knowing a single word of the song, I see this desire realized. 

I propose putting the magic back in music. Music shouldn't have to be performed to be experienced. Music should be a part of lived experience that we can't abstract from everyday rituals and duties. Sing with friends on the street, make music with as many people as you can, try to participate instead of always being an observer of a "legitimate" performance. The world will sound better, feel better and (with any luck) get along better, too. 

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Because I Suck at Updating

Just so you know:

I had grand designs on writing a really sweet entry this weekend, but never got around to it.

It's the thought that counts, right? 

New stuff soon. Thank you for being patient.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Further Proof that Natalie Portman is Actually Jesus

So this sketch showed up on SNL a couple years ago and was really, really, really, uncharacteristically funny for SNL. The Lonely Island just released the uncensored version of this song, though, and it's always worth a second listening. For all those who don't wish to ruin the illusion of Natalie Portman's perfection, navigate away from this page now.

"What you need, Natalie?" "TO DRINK AND FIIIIIGHTTT" 

Swear to God, you'll hear me say those words about 100 times in the next week. 

Monday, February 2, 2009

Long Story Short

Sir Philip Sidney's Astrophil and Stella Sequence:

Astrophil: "Oh, Stella! I draggeth my soul over the coals of Hell
For but a glimpse of thine gentle hand. My soul ringeth before my eyes
The swell of your troth, denied mine touch"

Stella: "This is probably why you can't get laid."

The End.