Monday, December 22, 2008

Three Final Thoughts

Goodbye, Thank You and Merry Christmas....

Despite what you believe this blog has not been about movie reviews, book criticisms or pop culture inspired rants. Now that I am signing off on it after a long absence I think I can tip my cards and show you what it has been about all along and why I can't sustain it.

Did any of you ever read any of the books, listen to any of the music or laugh at the videos that I spent hours reading, watching, and writing about? It doesn't matter. What you people do on your own time, it the privacy of your own windowless vans or bus shelters is of no concern to me. I didn't do any of this for you weirdos anyway.

I did all of this for one person. It didn't begin that way, but that is what it became and that is how it ends. She read every word from afar even when she had to do so covertly. She took me seriously even when I couldn't. She laughed at my stupid jokes and assured me I was a good writer even when I knew I was a hack. She called and e-mailed and talked about things like Canadian literature and Leonard Cohen. She helped make, and is still making me a better writer -and person- every day.

I don't blog on Infinite Monkeys anymore because I don't need to. I live with this woman now and I will soon marry her. If I want to "impress" her with a witty remark or show her a stupid video I don't have to do it across the interweb anymore. Even though she looks at me sometimes and I wonder if she wouldn't prefer my antics confined to cyberspace again.

Merry Christmas Sheila. This blog, for as long as it exists, is my gift to you. It always belonged to you anyway.


Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Sleepwalking Into The Future

If you listen very closely you can hear it...The spectral chanting in another room of a billion voices counting down to midnight...The abuses visited upon ourselves and the home of our host will not be soon forgotten. The blinding, deafining, orgiastic shamelessness of it all will be the topic of conversation for generations to come...History will remember us, however unkindly.

So stagger over to the bar and grab one last barrel of sweet, light crude. The fossil fuel party is just about over. And there are not enough painkillers on earth to dampen the screaming bitch of a hangover that waits for us all tomorrow...

I don`t normally give myself over to alarmist schools of thought. Generally it is my unshakeable belief that life is pretty damn good and we should strive to make the most of it every day. Occasionally however, someone will come along and piss on my silver lining, undulate my aura of peace and tranquility and pollute my pristine pool of yin with a dark oily abundance of yang. Lately, that someone has been James Howard Kunstler. He`s a plain-speaking intellectual gunslinger of a man with a message that makes the current enviromental movement look like a bunch of kids with their fingers jammed haphazardly into the dyke. Get down on your knees and beg for forgiveness, Al Gore. Kunstler is pulling back the curtain on the most inconvenient truth of them all: Our so-called society is on the brink of collapse and no one -not governments, educators, business leaders or the media- is prepared to do a goddamned thing about it.

Just so you can share in my paranoia, I`ve helpfully included all five parts of his recent interview with the online edition of Orion magazine. If that`s not enough and the obsessive compulsive side of your nature demands more straight talk about where our species is headed if we continue on this narrow road, you can pick up his book: The Long Emergency. You may also want to work on your farming skills. Looks like you`re going to need them.

Monday, January 07, 2008

A Walk Into January

A sodden trip through the memory of snow
Embraces boots,
Exposes roots
And exhales with wet malevolence.

The silver salt lick flash of sky
Brings into sharp relief
The precious scarcity of emerald and the brief
Gasp as summer's fiery pallette lies down to die.

The trail flows through broken bones of trees
The whispering scent of loamy earth
And graveyards marking the brief lives of countless flowers.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

I'm Not There

"Who's going to mind the zoo?"

Whenever someone asks me: "What is your favorite movie?" I have no real answer. I love many different films for several different reasons. It's like picking your favorite kid at the orphanage, or your favorite sunset; it's all subjective. So picking my "favorite" from a lifetime of appreciation has always been an impossible task. Until now....

Say hello to Bob Dylan. Say hello to the outlaw, the poet and the fake. Say goodbye to conventional film making. Goodbye and good riddance. Now here we have a movie that requires some effort on the part of the viewer. Here we have a movie that you MUST watch more than once. You just want to watch stuff get blowed up? You want a moron rubbing pate on his balls and wrestling a pit bull? Keep going. This is a film for people who not only love films. This is a film for people who want to be challenged, uplifted, emotionally shaken and intellectually sucker-punched. This is a direction sign on the road to self-awareness. This is MY FAVORITE MOVIE. There, I told you. Now stop asking me.

I think we can all agree that Bob Dylan is a pretty interesting guy. We watch him perform, listen to his music, dive deeper and deeper into the layers of meaning contained in his songs. We get the impression of a brilliant, often troubled rebel. What we can never get with another human being, however, is an all-access backstage pass to gaze at their most intimate mechanisms. Those things that make us tick, sing, cry, laugh, and get out of bed every day to do something that half the world thinks is useless and the other half doesn't know enough about to care.

If you watch closely, you will see all of this and more. All of the facets of the man's personae take human form, frolic, fuck and fight in the waking dream of his subconscious. Subtle metaphors are around every corner; The perversion of art for corporate gain, the selling off of a country's soul, the reconciliation of what makes us "old" and what makes us "young"....

I could go on about this movie forever, but I won't. I've already wasted enough of your time. Time you could have spent watching one of the best movies to come along in my -and probably your- lifetime.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Some of The Best Music You`ve (Probably) Never Heard

If you don't like spaghetti and have nightmares about forty-story tall fast food mascots chasing you through crowded carnivals while praying for Spiderman to save you....That's okay.

If you've ever had a long, deep conversations with yourself about the nature of DARK MATTER turn into a screaming match while stopped at a red light....You're normal.

If the monsters that live under your bed and in your closet re-arrange your living room furniture while you're putting in a double shift at the meat packing plant according to your specifications...No one is judging you. Even if they break your favorite lamp.

If you watch CNN, Fox News or The Home Shopping Network....We're willing to look the other way.

If, however, you happen to listen to Indie music....That's just not normal. It makes me sick just thinking about it. I mean, COME ON! We're trying to have a society here. You are a worthless animal, sir, and I shall immediately report you to the authorities.

This seems to be the prevailing wisdom when it comes to the consumption of modern music. Well, I'm here to tell you that these well-established nuggets of folk wisdom are not always right. Particularly about music. And Fox News. I think the other three are pretty accurate (I hope).

The holiday season is the perfect time for the uninitiated and veteran fan alike to dig into the fertile grounds of Indie music. End-of-the-year "Top 10-100" lists are popping up everywhere making it fun and easy to discover a new artist. While these retrospectives are often just a chance for media sites like Pitchfork and Rolling Stone to prove that they are edgy and smarter than you by naming obscure, unlistenable albums as the greatest musical achievements of the year, they do a great service for bands that often don't get the attention they deserve.

Here are a few of my personal favorites. No particular order or ranking system here (I don't like the implication that one album is "better" than another. It's a matter of individual taste, after all). Stick one of these in a music lovers stocking this Christmas and then sit back smugly as they praise you for your well-informed taste...

We Were Dead Before The Ship Even Sank
"The first track screams jarring french-sounding curses, the tenth in a heart wrenching ballad with one of the most tear-inducing videos I've EVER seen. These guys do everything right."

Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga
"This album is growing on me like a strange, soft, sweet-smelling fungus."

Reunion Tour
"Tongue-in-cheek, double entendre-laden lyrics rattled perfectly from a vocalist who sounds a lot like Greig Nori from Treble Charger...Great stuff!"

The Meanest of Times
"Their reworking of the traditional 'Johnny I Hardly Knew Ya' into a punk-rock masterpiece is reason enough to buy this album."

"One of my all-time favorites...Folk lightly blended with blues and dashed with country."

Neon Bible
"After listening to this album for the first time, I found it inconceivable that this Montreal-based band wasn't ruling the world and printing their own money...It's fricking TRANSCENDENT."

"Any band that features Lou Reed on an albums first track is a band worth paying attention to."

Trinity Revisited
"A reworking of the iconic 'Trinity Sessions', Margo Timmons proves she still has one of the most hauntingly beautiful voices around and these songs are just as relevant today as they were twenty years ago."

Begin To Hope
"This was actually released in 2006, but I stumbled across her this year, so she's new to ME. Fun, thoughtful lyrics from a refreshing voice that doesn't take itself too seriously."

Icky Thump
"Jack and Meg continue to blur all the lines and re-write all the rules for post-modern rock. And they have a hell of a good time doing it."

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Oh, Seven

We came to Bali to wash the oil from our hands
Absolve ourselves, resolve ourselves. That soft, consoling sound.
Haunted by Kyoto's ghost
With his corpse not yet in the ground.
With the shamelessness of little boys whose dying mother, in all her selfishness
Can no longer afford their toys.

I see Christmas greetings from the troops
These snowstorms are knocking out power
Warnings of lead paint from China
Walmart open for its twenty-fifth hour.....
Great gift ideas under twenty dollars!
Please won't you sponsor a child?
A new Rambo movie in theatres soon!?!
Lines are open for the first three hundred callers.

I've often thought about shutting it off,
Strapping on my shoes and leaving my home
But I'd rather sit in this warm electric light
And witness the Fall of Rome.

Don't lose your temper in a foreign airport
Or march for democracy in Myanmar
Don't violate digital copyright laws
Or smoke with a child inside your car.
Because it's better to be safe than it is to be free
In two thousand and nineteen-eighty four.
While the anatomy of our apathy has born a psychotic dichotomy:
Peace is only possible if we fight an endless, unwinnable war.

Give me more corrupt politicians
And insurgents with improvised explosive devices
More PlayStation threes
Ex-boxes and Wii's
In the back of Humvees
That we can drive to a friend
And tell him we don't comprehend
These ridiculous gasoline prices.

Let's celebrate mediocrity and dance with the stars!
Watch them check out of rehab or thrown behind bars.
Let's open up Facebook
Or Google 'Sudan'
Let's check out that video on YouTube
Of the beheading in Afghanistan.

Because it's 1933 and they're burning books again
Throw a coin in the well and follow it down
The inmates are running things around here, my friend
And the circus never left town.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

The Shock Doctrine Rage

Two things have been preventing me from achieving the calm, relaxed state of "oneness" that Buddhism promises. Actually, make that three things if you take into account that I'm not actually a Buddhist. I like to think of myself as a neo-Buddhist atheist; I'm completely zen about my disbelief in God. But I digress. Those two things have been my steady diet of "revolutionary" media over the past couple of weeks, namely: Naomi Klein's newest book, The Shock Doctrine and the musical stylings of Rage Against The Machine. Not only am I decidedly non-zen lately, I'm ready to start a Che Guevara-style uprising.

Before the local thought police come busting down my door, let me explain. I was a huge fan of Naomi Klein's first book "No Logo" which blew the whistle on out-of-control corporate branding and free-market exploitation. So when I heard that she had a new book hitting the shelves, one that had taken her four years to research and write, I gave it the full J.K. Rowling treatment and camped outside my local bookstore on the day of its release. I snatched the first copy out of the box, rushed home and began reading the intimidating 600-page colossus. This is where things start getting a little scary....

The subject matter of this book and the essence of Ms Klein's argument is what she calls "The Rise of Disaster Capitalism". It is, essentially, the idea that sweeping and unpopular economic and free-market reforms, such as the selling-off of state-run industry to private foreign corporations, can only be imposed on a population following a "shock" such as a natural disaster, terrorist act or bloody military coup. The book treats us to a "behind the scenes" re-telling of modern history, from Pinochet's 1974 iron-fisted military junta in Chile all the way to the current Iraq quagmire. We see the strong-arm extortion tactics used by the IMF and World Bank after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 and the Asian economic crisis a few years later. We see the "selling off" of housing projects to real estate developers intent on building seaside resorts after hurricane Katrina. We see the privatization of modern warfare. All the while the rich and powerful gain more wealth and power and the poor and disenfranchised sink even deeper into the free-market abyss. It's terrifying stuff, and I decided, somewhere towards the mid-point of the book that it would be complimented wonderfully by a little Rage Against The Machine. Songs like "Bombtrack", "Guerrilla Radio" and "Renegades of Funk" became the soundtrack to my reading experience.

In retrospect, perhaps this was a bad idea.

I experienced, and am still suffering from, what I call "SDR" or "Shock Doctrine Rage". A state of extreme passive-aggressive behavior complimented by feelings of global insignificance. My ears also hurt a little bit from all the loud music.

Don't worry, I'm sure I'll be okay. Oddly enough, watching O.J. Simpson take the fall for armed robbery and kidnapping is extremely therapeutic. Now all I need to see is Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld charged with crimes against humanity and my optimism will be fully restored. Or I could just whip up some pancakes. I loves me the pancakes.