Thursday, February 26, 2004

Wolf Parade vs. the World, Pt. I

I want to interview the Wolf Parade. They are a great indie rock band from Montreal, Quebec so I don't have the excuse of distance being a problem. I've already seen them play live and danced to their brash raw songs. So why haven't I tracked them down yet?

As I reported in a past entry, they are being courted by major labels and have plans to release an LP sometime in the next couple of months. With one of the members of Modest Mouse genuinely interested in the Wolf Parade sound, they are sure to gain a stunning Pitchfork Review like their fellow Montrealers The Unicorns.

Since the Wolf Parade was kind enough to put some of their MP3's online @ New Music Canada, we can all listen and wait for them to spin their chords into a Canadian Gold record. Upon listening to "Modern World", I was immediately struck by the brooding Blade Runner atmosphere, vaguely paying homage to Thom Yorke and Depeche Mode at the same time. A Casioesque keyboard riff is used to great effect without venturing into frightening atonal territory.

The song "Wits of a Dagger" sounds a lot like what might result if members of Hot Hot Heat formed a supergroup with The Blood Brothers, equipping the whole guitar section with keyboards instead of their Fenders or Les Pauls. I'm still waiting for that one to grow on me. It does take the prize of being the most "avant-garde" song they've posted online to date.

"Secret Knives" sounds like a sort of Heroin blues, or even the overly used term "garage rock"; it jabs at you with wide lefts and uppercut rights, never ceasing with the sonic assault until your head is spinning. "Intangible, Intangible.." sings Dan as the song reaches it's epic plateau. Wolf Parade should definately play a show with Dale Boyle and the Barburners because they often mine gold from the same mountain. That edgy blues, not cutesy like the White Stripes, much more immediate and pure.

I know that the term "post-rock" gets thrown around more than a dinghey in a squall, but for Wolf Parade's song "Dinner Bells", I'd have to request your permission to use it one more time. Building off of a simple keyboard line, Dan's electric guitar begins to sing through a shimmering rhythm section. "I heard all your reasons / I heard all your plans / I have seen seen the seasons / bunched up in your hands" sings Dan, sounding slightly melancholy, as if he is breaking bad news to a friend. "There'll be no more dinner bells / no dinner bells to ring". The guitar gets unruly later in the song, beginning to shriek in response to Dan's warnings of no more seasons. It is a great song and deserves to live inside of a stereo.

The final song "This Heart's on Fire" was recorded from their live show @ La Sala Rossa in January. I was present for that performance and it sounded just as vital and viscious in person. I think this could end up being one of their singles, depending on whether their future label has qualms about releasing some good music into the environment. We have all seen the devastation inflicted by the Boy Band Disasters of the past few years. Luckily, the Wolf Parade are the antithesis of a serial panderer like the White Stripes; Jack White has let the White Blood Cell Fever go to his head and he is writing to push LP's, not to write songs that hold up the sky. The Wolf Parade are sure to enter the pantheon of Great Montreal Bands along with their associates The Arcade Fire and maybe they'll let in The Unicorns just to have someone to bully. The strange thing is that last time I checked, Unicorns weren't real.

The Wolf Parade will be performing live @ Dovercot House in Toronto, Ontario on April 3rd. For more information, contact the Wolf Parade or visit their website.

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

Haiti Probably Wishes it Had Oil

The Haitian rebels may have stopped for the time being, as they wait to see if Aristide will step down, but prospects look bleak for the Haitian people either way. Aristide has many opponents both within and without of his government and international observers noted voting irregularities in the 2000 elections. Popular sentiment has definitely assisted the rebels because they captured Haiti's second largest city Cap-Haitien with only a few thousand troops.

This is making things very difficult for the Haitian police force. They aren't equipped to handle armed rebels and no countries have stepped forward to assist in thwarting the insurgent movement led by Guy Philippe.

The United States has refused to send in any troops until a political entente was reached. This is sort of like a reverse Iraq War, because that involved the US sending troops into a country who's leadership and people didn't want them to invade and now they are keeping troops on the ground until a political entente is reached (ie. a provisional government that will draft a constitution, provided it doesn't base itself on Sharia law).

If Haiti had oil, would the US be more interested in lending a battalion? According to the CIA World Factbook, Haiti has no oil reserves. They aren't sitting on any Texas tea, unlike faraway Iraq. Of course, we went into Iraq to promote democracy, right? And when we sent troops to guard the oil wells and pipelines but ignored guarding the museums and schools, that was also a democratic decision made by the highest levels of the American government.

For now, Haiti will wait for someone brave enough to protect the innocent. I admit that I was caught on the wrong side of the fence a couple of weeks ago, misled by conflicting media reports that depicted Aristide as a monster. Upon further research, I discovered that much of the leadership of the insurgency was involved in human rights violations and previous coup attempts. Aristide and his thugs or Philippe and his thugs? Out of the frying pan and into the flames.

Canada is sending a squad of troops or so to secure our embassy and get out our nationals but we're not leaping to the defense of the Aristide government either. Then again, we don't spend $396.1 billion USD per year on our defense department, and we're already tied up with remnants of the Taliban in Kabul.

This is a perfect example of where the Peacekeepers of the United Nations should be sent. I hope that Kofi Annan sends in the troops, to prevent further bloodshed.

Ralph Nader and the Two-Party System

In two days, Ralph Nader is going to celebrate his 70th birthday. He will spend this occasion on the campaign trail because he is running for President of the United States. Since the Green Party hasn't decided yet whether they will field a national candidate, Nader will be running as an independent. In the 2000 election, he received 2.74 percent of the popular vote across America while his opponents from the two major parties got the other 97.26 percent. Democrats have beat up on Ralph, calling him a "spoiler" and blaming him for "stealing" crucial swing votes in Florida. They say that without Nader in the picture, Al Gore would be sitting in the Whitehouse right now and George W. Bush would be roping steers in Texas.

This view is overly simplistic and ignores many of the facts. According to the "Elect Nader" website, "...a Democratic exit poll showed that Ralph’s votes came 25% from Republicans, 38% from Democrats, and the rest were nonvoters who would have only voted for Ralph." Although some Democrats were obviously wooed by the Green Party, the large majority were either undecided voters or card-carrying Republicans disenchanted with the two-party chokehold on American politics.

Also, we cannot forget that the United States constitution makes no mention of political parties at all. The idea of two opposing mega-parties is a fairly modern idea and doesn't reflect the true spirit of democracy that the Founding Fathers would have held dear.

Ralph Nader isn't the antichrist, no matter what they tell you. America has always been for healthy competition because it enlivens the debate and allows us to choose what we think is best. Having a third party in the mix is a healthy thing for American politics.

Since there are millions of Americans that don't even vote, the Democrats should be focusing on convincing them to get involved. Howard Dean called on the Democratic Party to "enlarge the tent" and he had the right idea. With Dennis Kucinich promoting the Democratic cause, many of the leftist voters may decide not to back Nader this time. Ralph won't pose a threat to the Democrats unless they let him.

Besides, George W. Bush is painting himself into a corner on his own. His latest tactic (pandering to the Religious Right by banning gay marriage constitutionally) will only serve to galvanize opposition against him.

We cannot forget about the elderly and the large voting block that they represent. Alan Greenspan wants to cut their social security and to slash medicare so that he can pay for Bush's tax cuts from the past four years. Since most of the tax cuts impacted the wealthy, people approaching retirement who don't own the Texas Rangers should help to put Bush's furniture on the curb.

Sometimes, you have to listen for silence to get the whole story. The Republicans are holding their tongues because they feel that Nader will only help to sink the Democratic ship. They are obviously hoping that everyone focuses their fury on Ralph because this will gloss over the Bush Administration's record, a jaw-dropping series of gaffes and errors that will take years to correct. As long as Democrats are taking aim at a non-factor like Nader, the Republicans will sleep better at night.

Let's take the debate back to where it belongs instead of crucifying a marginal third-party candidate for his original sin.

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

Ann Coulter Diagnoses Liberalism as a "Mental Defect"

Today, I was reading FrontPage Magazine and found an interview with Ann Coulter, an American writer with a fondness for the Republican party. I am not drawing attention to her because of her political views. No, she has drawn my ire because of a statement she made in an interview with Jamie Glazov.
"FP: Let's move on to discuss your own personal background. Tell us, what influenced you to become a Conservative? Were there some people or events that molded your views in your childhood, youth, etc?
AC: There was an absence of the sort of trauma that would deprive me of normal, instinctual reactions to things. I had happily married parents, a warm and loving family, and a happy childhood with lots of friends. Thus, there were no neurotic incidents to turn me into a liberal.

FP: No neurotic incidents to turn you into a liberal? Would you, then, argue that leftism/liberalism is ultimately, in most cases, the depersonalization and politicization of personal neuroses?

AC: Pause for a moment to consider the probable mental state of Howard Dean and then ask me that question again. Yes, of course liberalism is a mental defect."
(Emphasis in quote courtesy of Jeremy Brendan, otherwise appearing as it was posted.)

I wonder what a real psychologist would diagnose Ann Coulter with. Perhaps projection? According to, "People attribute their own undesirable traits onto others. An individual who unconsciously recognises his or her aggressive tendencies may then see other people acting in an excessively aggressive way." I mean this in jest; there is no way that you can make a psychological diagnosis without hours or even years of studies or therapy. That makes me wonder why Mrs. Coulter decided to diagnose all liberals as "mentally defective".

Liberalism has a fine history and many good things have been accomplished by reformers. How many reformers would call themselves conservative? Aside from Barry Goldwater, it is difficult to find someone who has instituted systemic change who wasn't a liberal, or at least someone who identified with many liberal views.
Plus, last time I checked, liberal meant "Not limited to or by established, traditional, orthodox, or authoritarian attitudes, views, or dogmas; free from bigotry." I can see that Ann Coulter is definately not a liberal!
Being a Canadian citizen, I am happy to say that the party that leads my nation calls itself the "Canadian Liberal Party of Canada". Would Ann Coulter be able to diagnose what caused us to vote Liberal in the last election? Please let me know!

Thursday, February 19, 2004

Dodging Paint-filled Eggs near the Ice Castle

On Tuesday, February 17th, I was sitting on a bus at Concordia University in downtown Montreal. As far as I knew, this was a shuttle bus that would carry me to Loyola Campus where the Journalism department was waiting for my application with their pens set to "stun". The bus was close to full before someone at the front shouted out "This bus is going to Quebec City, not Loyola!". Immediately, half of the bus fled the scene. A couple of CSU members (Con. Student Union) were visibly disappointed.

I stayed on the bus, and within minutes, we were en route to Quebec, the oldest walled city in North America and capitol of our fine province.

You might ask yourself why we were going to protest? Currently, Quebec students enjoy the lowest tuition in Canada, thanks to our frequent injections of cash by our previous Parti-Quebecois governments. For a Quebec citizen, it costs approximately $ 2637.40 to study at Concordia while McGill charges $ 2726.00 per year (approx., including tuition and student fees). Students from other provinces haven't fared so lucky--a year at Queen's in Ontario will set you back a frightening $ 4932.00!

Quebec universities are currently negotiating with the Charest Liberal government. They are complaining that we Quebecers are getting a free ride with our non-life-threatening tuition costs. Heather Monroe-Blum, Principal and Vice Chancellor of McGill University, summed up this attitude in her piece that was published in the Montreal Gazette.

"For Quebec, as a first step, we must set a goal to raise our level of funding of the university system to at least the Canadian average. In the medium to longer term, we should aim to be the Canadian leader."
Not only does she seek to raise tuition in the near future--she wants Quebecers to pay the most, a dubious proposal in the very least! The problem with this type of thinking is obvious, at least to me--it will mean that even fewer Quebecers will have access to a university education and the only ones that will profit will be the Universities themselves. They will be able to reinforce their ivory tower even further, maybe give their administration a raise, and hopefully somehow reduce average class sizes and improve the quality of the education that they provide.

University education is often the stepping stone to a career and we shouldn't punish Quebec students just because the rest of the country doesn't value affordable education! In fact, we should push the government to invest in universities at a federal level, so that everyone can enjoy university if they so choose. (Plus, for the conservatives, every university graduate that gets a good job will be paying 40 percent income tax, so it is good for the government to support higher education).

We arrived at what appeared to be the Université du Québec and began marching towards the capitol buildings. A friendly policeman who had been notified of our peaceful protest was assisting us in disrupting traffic, driving in front of our group and waving motorists to side streets. As we marched, some of the various factions began to make themselves heard. A couple of guys with black scarves over their mouths were carrying anarchist flags. They were walking nearly on the sidewalk because they couldn't accept walking behind the leader of the march, a dynamic Quebecois student wearing a Palestinian shawl around his neck in support of their distant cause.

There were also members of the Quebec Communist Party, waving the red hammer and sickle flag. Their chants of "Gauche, gauche, extreme gauche!" elicited laughs from much of the crowd since most of us aren't seeking to overthrow the government or to bring in a corrupt totalitarian regime like the USSR (whose flag they were waving proudly). The majority of us were just regular students from Quebec universities who are politically active and who want our government to value higher education.

En route, we passed through a CEGEP chanting, "Dans La Rue, Avec Nous!" ("Join us, on the street!") in an attempt to attract more protesters to our cause. Most of them just gawked at us, perhaps being too young to fear university costs (CEGEP tuition is about $175 per year, so their wallet hasn't been stung as of yet). Before long, I was at the front of the march, carrying a black banner that read (translated) "Education is not for sale! Lower tuition costs, don't raise them!"

The banner had been passed off to me by a disappointed protester who disappeared into the crowd. He had been complaining that his arm was getting tired so I grabbed one side and gave the other to a girl who had been standing nearby. She was nice enough to carry the banner with me until the protest was over.

When we arrived at the capitol building, the police were already waiting for us. They were lined up behind a metal barricade that had been lashed together with wire. They were in full riot gear, obviously intimidated by our signs and banners. The front line of police were not wearing gas masks but they had full shields and face masks. Behind them stood several journalists and other police, one wielding a video camera and filming us, others holding tear gas rifles and waiting for a sign from their captain.

At first, we just stood there, shouting various anti-Charest slogans and also a particularly embarassing "Un flic de moins, deux profs de plus!" ("One less cop, two more teachers!"). When the protesters realized that this is how the protest would end, us standing in front of the building but unable to speak to anyone from the government or to make our opinions heard, some of them began to practice some civil disobedience. Two of them had already ripped down a flagpole and were striking the barricade with the Quebec flag, a few feet away from the police line. Others were tossing snowballs at the cops, striking them in the head or in the shield. I turned around after each volley and shouted obscenities at the crowd.

"What do you think this is, the "Guerre des Tuques"? I asked, hoping to appeal to their sense of humour. "La Guerre des Tuques" is a Quebecois movie from the 80's that depicted children tossing snowballs at each other and manning elaborate snow forts. My efforts did nothing to halt the snowballs completely and this was mob rule. Before long, the anarchists and a couple of NoFx fans were throwing paint-filled eggs at the police. Although the officers were getting visibly annoyed through their masks, I must admit that they didn't make a move until the anarchists began to shake the barricade and attempt to cross the police line.

That is when the firing began. My eyes, nose, and lungs were stinging from the tear gas. The police were advancing and the leader of the protest was screaming out "Don't Panic!" Everyone retreated from the front of the capitol buildings and the protest soon dissolved.

Upon returning to Montreal, I went with a couple of Concordians to a small Lebanese restaurant across from the Cock 'n Bull Pub on St. Catherine Street, not far from Guy-Concordia Metro. I ingested my shish-taouk plate as fast as humanly possible before crossing the street to the Cock 'n Bull for a pint or two. I figured I could use a drink, at least to get the tear gas taste out of my mouth.

As I sat at a table in the back of the bar and read George Orwell's "Homage to Catalonia", I wondered if we had made a difference. Orwell was kind enough to provide me with a source of hope: "I believe that it is better even from the point of view of survival to fight and be conquered than to surrender without fighting." Even if our cause doesn't succeed, at least we didn't just sit there and play X-Box in our den as our education system became more inaccessible to future generations. Let's hope that we don't follow in the footsteps of our American cousins, with their $10,000 per year "State schools" that keep out thousands of willing students just because their parents live in a trailer.

Have I jumped the Gun?

After speaking with another journalist who has been studying the situation in Haiti from the beginning, I must concede that I may have been too simplistic in my depiction of the Haitian rebellion. Apparently, it isn't so cut and dry (ie. no good guys vs. bad guys) and the rebellion is not being led by the common people.

According to Amnesty International, Louis Jodel Chamblain is a known abuser of human rights and he is currently leading the resistance to the Aristide government. Although Aristide is not an example of a benevolent leader, I'm beginning to wonder if bringing in a military dictatorship would be an improvement! (Of course, I am against violations of human rights. I'm just attempting to correct my last post which was very skewed towards the rebels...)

It just goes to show that writing isn't just about reading a few articles and spewing out your opinion, whatever it may be. A lot of research must be done, sources must be tracked down, and if you aren't careful, you may end up encouraging a fledgling coup instead of promoting freedom. I still long for a truly democratic Haiti--I'm just beginning to doubt that this uprising is going to help them to gain any real liberty, especially when it is led by "convicted human rights abusers".

Thursday, February 12, 2004

I must offer an apology to the Haitian people. I have spent the past several weeks spewing my personal brand of vitriol versus the American president and neoconservative politics--a noble task, to be sure--but I've totally ignored the resistance movement going on in Haiti right now. Jean Bertrand Aristide, the dictatorial fiend and virtual ruler of the caribbean island, is laying waste to his own people every day and I haven't said a word.

At the risk of venturing into cliché, I feel that by not speaking out, I am implicit in the slaughter. Aristides thugs, known as "Chimeres" according to the Independent (UK), are roaming around beating any suspected demonstrators with baseball bats. The Haitian army is also involved in this horrid business and are wrestling with the rebels who control Gonaives, an important city of strategic value on the island, along with several other villages nearby.

The rebel cause is just and I sincerely hope that they succeed in overthrowing their corrupt government. Since Haiti isn't known for it's oil reserves, don't expect the Bush League to paradrop in and save the day. They will have to battle alone. If only there was a way to supply them with some sort of support. I'm sure they could use more arms, food, and fuel to continue in their noble uprising.

Let us all hope that they win the day and drive Aristide's régime back into the barbaric cave it crawled out of. And to all the other freedom fighters out there, good tidings upon you all. (I'm not referring to terrorists or anyone that seek to limit the freedom of humanity. When I say freedom fighters, I mean insurgents that are fighting for their liberty, not bullies that want to lock us all in cages or fly into our buildings.) 

This morning, I was sifting through a box of horded treasure. I'm not a pirate--it's not like I have crates of bullion stashed away--this box was just full of papers, physical records of my college years. Going through the poems and late-rent notices from my old residence, I felt the mainline thrill of nostalgia kicking in.

Halfway through the box, I found a folded old pamphlet printed in blue and white. It was printed by the Canadian government and I must have picked it up at some point when I was living in Gaspé City. It reads "Se préparer à l'entrevue" (translation: Preparing one's self for an interview). I haven't finished reading it yet but it is chock-full of tips to increase your chances of success with those friendly folks in H.R.

The reason this pamphlet could be my saving grace is because I have a job interview today @ 10:15 AM. It's for the National Bank of Canada, a monolith that gainfully employs over 17,000 of my fellow Canadians. Being one of the largest banks in Canada, getting fat and happy from all those $1 Interac fees and that legalized theft (usury, ie. interest), I'm sure that the NatBank will be able to pay me handsomely (assuming I actually get the job).

Dear reader, I'm sorry that I'm sleeping with the enemy (capitalists). Then again, Fidel Castro hasn't offered to put me through University and I'm not holding my breath. If I am to pay my outstanding debts in a timely fashion, I have to work somewhere. Not to place blame anywhere, but if you guys would just click that "Paypal Donate" button once in awhile, maybe I wouldn't have to resort to such vile tactics as working the phones for a bank.

Let's just agree to disagree. Or better yet, let me get this job and make some money so I can go back to Concordia in the Fall and make something of myself (Journalism or Political Science, depending on the sagacity of the Journ. dept.). Until then, I am your friend and compatriot in the battle versus gingivitis. (Vote NDP in 2004!)

Wednesday, February 11, 2004

Want a reason to vote against Bush in November of 2004? Allow me to introduce Bernard Chazelle, a gifted writer and king among men. He has written a well researched opus entitled "Bush's Desolate Imperium" and I think everyone should read this, at least once, regardless of one's nationality or political beliefs. It holds an unwavering eye up to the excesses and policies of the Bush administration and I think that it is one of the bravest, most powerful pieces of journalism I've ever encountered.

I think that my work here is done. I'll start focusing on Paul Martin and his gang of Liberal bullies. Bernard can handle Bush on his own. (Of course, he needs your help too, American voter! Vote Libertarian or Democratic or even Green, but please don't vote Republican!)

I was a comic book reader as a child and the famed Marvel editor Stan Lee put it best; "'Nuff said."

Tuesday, February 10, 2004

Yesterday, ran an ad in the Washington Post calling for the censure of U.S. President George W. Bush due to his apparent lying about the "imminent threat" posed by Iraq and alleged "weapons of mass destruction" that have never been found. Since David Kay, the Lead Weapons Inspector resigned last week, the call to censure George W. Bush has found many supporters. According to, over 250,000 people have contacted Congress requesting that Bush be removed from public office. If you are an American citizen and you are concerned that you were misled by your President, I would invite you to join the campaign to censure Bush and hold him accountable for his frequent lying and misleading of the American people.

When Bill O'Reilly is taking aim at a Republican incumbent, you know that something out of the ordinary is underway. O'Reilly is a pundit on Fox News, a cable news network that leans more than a little to the right. Today, he admitted that he is "much more skeptical about the Bush administration now..." and that he no longer believes that Iraq posed an "imminent threat" to the United States. This act of non-partisan thought proves that Mr. O'Reilly does have a heart and he cares about the state of the nation enough to actually speak out (even if it is after the fact, ie. over 500 American lives have been lost and hundreds of billions of dollars were wasted).

This may translate well for opponents to the Bush administration, since card-carrying Republicans are not usually wont to criticizing their own. John Kerry is probably enjoying his French fries smothered in Heinz ketchup on an airplane over Tenessee right now, giggling to himself and feeling his newly-smoothed forehead. (Mmm...Botox) The latest poll numbers indicate that Bush's approval rating is in the 50 percent range, which is not uncommon for American presidents near the end of their first term. Let's hope that whoever becomes Democratic candidate doesn't pull an Al Gore in 2004!

Yesterday, I was watching CNN's popular show "Crossfire", where pundits from the Left and from the Right duke it out in one minute freestyle rant sessions. It makes for exciting viewing but I think it takes away from the debate, since evolved and sublime arguments rarely make it to air--instead, we have two grown men screaming their points at each other while a studio audience whoops in the background. Sort of like Jerry Springer, only much less nudity and more politics. Thankfully, we Canadians have the good ol' CBC to rely upon. Our debates are a great substitute for sleeping pills.

If there is any justice in the world, George W. Bush will be censured, Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin will call an election in the spring and the NDP will become the official opposition, and I'll get a job that pays more than eight bucks an hour. Let me tell you that it is difficult to type when your fingers are crossed.

Monday, February 09, 2004

John Kerry hasn't even been nominated yet and President Bush is already shaking in his cowboy boots. Faced with falling approval ratings and a record national deficit (in dollar terms), Bush is on the defensive.

Bush appeared at the SRC Automotive Factory in Springfield, Missouri today and proceeded to blame the past four years of mismanagement and poor fiscal policy on the terrorists.

"We started to recover from the recession, and then we got attacked on September the 11th, 2001. In other words, we had tough economic times to begin with, and then the enemy hit us. And that changed us. It really did. It hurt us economically."

I keep waiting for George W. Bush's nose to grow, at least an inch or two, because he seems incapable of telling the truth. If you look at the figures as many economists and number-crunchers have done, you can see that the majority of the deficit came from the billions of dollars of tax cuts he enacted before September 11th, 2001. Sadly, more than half of these tax cuts went to the wealthiest 1 percent of America, meaning that Bill Gates and his ilk can rest easy that they have a friend in the White House, while ordinary tax-paying Americans get a measly cheque for $300 and a pat on the head.

Frivolous tax cuts that don't benefit the majority of Americans should be a tough sell. Strangely, he continues to spin his web of lies and at least 40 percent of the nation is caught in the sticky threads. ("...a CNN/Time magazine poll out Sunday found that just 44 percent of those queried consider Bush "a leader I can trust.")

Even some Republicans are taking notice of the Bush Administration's questionable economic policies and "spend first, worry about it later" attitude towards government spending. The Heritage Foundation, a traditionally staunch Republican organization, is expressing concern over his fiscal policies and the latest budget for FY2004 will mean a deficit of over 500 billion dollars! This means he is getting criticized by both his own conservative base and the Democratic party simultaneously.

How does Bush escape censure, you might ask? By convincing everyone that the terrorists are responsible! Of course, terrorism is a real threat to every nation, but we shouldn't use it as a catch-all "Get out of Jail Free Card" every time someone brings up the ballooning deficit, the missing weapons of mass destruction, the inquiry into 9/11 that Bush took years to initiate, the severe cuts to Veteran's benefits, the massacre of the EPA as a force for change, and the list goes on.

At the auto factory, he went on to threaten that electing a Democrat would mean *gasp* higher taxes!

"There are some in Washington and they're going to say, let's not make the tax cuts permanent. That means it's going to raise your taxes. When you hear people say, we're not going to make this permanent, that means tax increase. Now is not the time to raise taxes on the American people. This economy is getting better."

He also went on to say:
"...(W)e're growing. The growth is good. New jobs are being created. Interest rates are low. Home ownership in America is at one of the highest levels ever, and that's positive. People are owning their own home. (Applause.)

A lot of it had to do with the fact that we cut your taxes, a lot of the reasons why this economy is growing."

Besides being somewhat of a grammar delinquent, George W. is also veering dangerously close to a circular argument with his "tax cuts=economic growth" statement. Sure, the economy is growing, but "...since President Bush took office, the economy has lost more than 2 million jobs". When your economic performance lags for years, any sign of life is welcomed, but how can the Bush Administration claim that their tax cuts are responsible for the job growth? They were responsible for creating the deficit and allowing the recession to grow in the first place!

The stock market couldn't be happier--last time I checked, the NYSE had broken 10,000--but traders are profit driven, meaning they clap and cheer when a factory closes it's doors and the company that owns it becomes profitable again. Point being, economic growth doesn't always mean higher standards of living for the general population. Who will convince the 2 million unemployed Americans that their nation is on the upswing? What about the millions of Americans who don't earn enough to feed their families? What should we tell them? Maybe they can put their children through college and pay for health insurance with their $300 rebate cheque.

When you are running a deficit, you have two options: either you raise your revenues or you cut your expenditures. There is no money tree. George W. Bush is making it clear that he won't attempt to raise revenues. He will be forced to slash social programs, hitting those in the bottom rung of society hardest. Poverty will spread and the gap between rich and poor will widen. I'm not much of a religious man but this is beginning to sound an awful lot like that chaos they talk about in Revelations!

All kidding aside, I hope that the American people exercise their freedom to vote in November 2004, and that they make the right choice. Otherwise, they will be in for four more years of Bush, four more years of deficits, and four more years of neo-conservative dogma. Pre-emptive warfare, terror alerts, pillaging of the Social Security fund, and further demolition of the Constitution are sure to follow.

Do the right thing, America! Anybody but Bush in 2004!

Monday, February 02, 2004

Arcade Fire Interview

It was a cloudy October night at Club Soda and I was sitting with friends and an unhealthy amount of beer waiting for the Hawksley Workman show to begin. I had read that there was an opening band named The Arcade Fire on the bill but none of us had listened to them before. As they set up on stage, I couldn't help but notice the eclectic multitude of instruments about to be wielded--a stand-up bass, an accordion, an xylophone, a snare drum, and of course an electric guitar. When the drummer kicked his bass drum, the entire band began to sing at the top of their lungs and the whole room was awestruck. Their sound is pure and mystical but totally authentic, like being close enough to the centre of the world that you feel the hum of it's core. Win's frenetic strumming on his electric guitar provided a great counter-balance to Régine's accordion playing. As they ripped through their bold set, I was sitting on the edge of my seat, following time and bopping my head involuntarily. The Arcade Fire know how to rock.

When Will put away his snare drum for the potential hit single "No Cars Go", my brother pointed out how he was drumming on the stage. He was striking his drumsticks on the keyboard stand, on the wall, on the monitor speaker at the front of the stage, keeping time, as the rest of the AF were piloting our ship into starlight. "No Cars Go" features chanting at certain intervals and several powerful hooks that stay in your mind for weeks, on the subway or in your car, until you finally give in and accept it's greatness.

My enthusiam has already been echoed by the underground press in North America. The Arcade Fire has been mentioned in publications such as Chart Attack and The Montreal Mirror and had reviews in Stylus Magazine and Pop Being a member of the acclaimed Secret Society of Critics myself, I feel that the Arcade Fire sound something like a revamped Flaming Lips lineup with a slightly sober Neil Young on vocals, or even a Causey Way/Violent Femmes supergroup with a penchant for blending touching melodies with New Wavish guitar fuzz. Still, I believe that they are the type of band that generates followers, not one that imitates others. They are writing their own history book and I look forward to their greatest hits CD in a decade or so.

On January 21st, I saw the Arcade Fire perform live @ La Sala Rossa and was promised an interview with Win and his wife Régine, who have reportedly written over 100 songs in the past year and are anxious to begin recording a full length LP this spring. Win hails from Texas and met Régine while hunting for a drummer within the halls of McGill. They are a class act and were kind enough to respond to eleven or so of my questions. The interview was conducted via email and appears unedited for your reading pleasure.

Arcade Fire

(Above: A helmet-clad Win Butler with brother Will and wife Régine Chassagne in the background)

Jeremy Brendan:
What do you think of Montreal? What about our music scene? What interplanetary force is keeping the Arcade Fire here on the island of Montreal?

Arcade Fire (Win):
Montreal is a strange and fantastic place. We have never really been part of a music scene per say, but there are more and more fucked up pop bands poking up their heads which is kind of exciting. As long as the government accepts my application of Residency, we will be here for a while.

I have always lived in Montreal (though I grew up on the south shore). Even when I am traveling to other great cities in the world, I still miss it. It is kind of unique in North America.

Do you see the AF going to a major label any time soon? Would you be open to signing with a smaller label (like Sub Pop, etc.)?

There is a sort of lottery mentality imbedded in the major label system. Since many of us in the band are committed to writing and performing music for our life’s work, it doesn’t necessarily make sense to take such a short sided approach. Most of my favorite bands of all time have been on major labels at least at some point, some more successfully than others, but I wouldn’t change lives with any of them, so we will have to find our own path. Sub Pop as I understand it is half owned by Warner which is the second biggest record company in the world… We just wanna take a healthy path, we are open to anything, but we are wary.

Your band has a sound that is difficult for music reviewers to pin down into a neat little package. If you could invent a name for your sound, what would it be? Do you think that classifying bands into genres take away from the music itself?

There are a few music categories I find useful in describing a particular sound (rock and roll, soul music, the Motown sound, gospel, psychedelic) Where it starts getting weak for me is hybrid stuff like folk-rock, or rap-metal, or simply meaningless invented categories like alternative or electroclash. I couldn’t necessarily mind a category to describe what we do, but I bet you 50 dollars it will end up sounding pretty lame.

With file trading being so popular and global record sales in a tailspin for the past couple of years, what is your opinion on MP3's? Will Kazaa et al. mean the end of the music industry as we know it?

Howard said to me that MP3’s have simply made it so that he has bought less shitty records, and I sort of agree. So much crap comes down the pike with some hype behind it (see Arcade Fire), or people saying this is the most amazing thing of all time, and MP3s let me hear the stuff without giving the person my money. I guess its sort of the function the radio used to play, but a lot more problematic for artists trying to make a living. I guess if you just make really good stuff, I believe people will still buy records (at least that is still true for me.)

Have you or any of your band members ever hung out in an arcade feeding tokens into a Tekken II machine until closing time?

No, but Howard owns a pinball machine, and two unnamed members of our band
own fancy video game systems, and have spent years honing their skills.

What have you been listening to lately? Which CD's or tapes are on constant rotation when the Arcade Fire bus is on the road from Maine?

I have been listening to a lot of Bob Dylan (who I tricked Richard into getting really into after years of fighting it) New Order, Echo and the Bunnymen, the first Violent Femmes record, the Smiths, Smokey Robinson. In terms of new stuff at least some of us really like Cass McCombs, the Barmitzvah Brothers, Wolf Parade, the Constantines, the Unicorns, Xiu Xiu, the last Silver Mount Zion record…

On your website, it says that you and your brother Will are both from Texas. How did living in the south influence your musical taste? Do you ever listen to country music (ie. Johnny Cash, Willy Nelson, etc.)?

I love both of those guys, but I’m not sure if its from living in the south (possibly). I don’t think becoming obsessed with the Cure in high school had anything to do with the living in Houston, it is universal to sad kids everywhere.

Are you still an American citizen? If so, do you think you're going to vote for George W. Bush in 2004? If you had to play at an inauguration ceremony, who would you like to see up at the podium as American President?

Yea, these colors don’t run. I am not voting for Bush, but I can’t say much more than that at this point. Lets exhume the body of Abraham Lincoln (it’s hard to believe that used to be the Republican Party).

How do the Arcade Fire relax and unwind after a long day of writing or performing? Do you support the Canadian Liberal government in their decision to decriminalize cannabis?

I think “decriminalizing cannabis” is just a way for cops to be able to give tickets easier, it’s a money grab. I personally am OK with it being illegal, though the situation in a place like California with their 3 strikes and you’re out policy, puts far too many drug users in prison. I’m not sure as a band how we feel about this, I’m sure some disagree.

When can we expect a new album [Ed Note: ie. LP or single] from the Arcade Fire?

You can expect a single in the next couple months. A lot of the big distributors want 3 months from the completion of the record until they release it. That means it will probably finish in early April, and it will officially be out in the states in August, but we may release it sooner in Canada.

If you had to summarize your outlook on life in eleven words or less, what would it be?

Death is real.

February will prove to be a busy month for Win & Régine. On Friday, Febuary 6th, the Arcade Fire will be appearing @ Casa Del Popolo (4873 boul. St-Laurent) with the Wrens. The week after, Friday, February 13th, they will be performing @ PAVILION (1206 boul. St-Laurent) with the Hidden Cameras. Thankfully, both of these shows are on the island of Montreal! You can pick up their self titled EP online @ Cheap Thrills. Visit the Arcade Fire official site for lyrics, MP3s, and the latest news.