Friday, April 30, 2004

Up in Smoke: Canadians Don't Fear the Reefer!

It's at least 20 degrees Celsius outside but the sun is piercing through a dense layer of clouds, almost like a halogen lamp covered in a bedsheet. Weather.ca has predicted that Montreal will be a balmy 24 degrees C tomorrow with only a 40 percent chance of showers.

Looking for something to do on a sunny Saturday? Bring your rollies and a small personal amount of cannabis to show support for legalization of Her Royal Highness, Mary Jane, at the following location:

Chez Marijane (coffee shop)
74 Rachel St. East
Montreal, Quebec

Saturday, May 1st
For more information, contact Marc-Boris St. Maurice @ blocpot@blocpot.qc.ca or Hugo St-Onge @
(514) 842-4900.
I attended the Pro-Pot March last year and was amazed at how kind and non-threatening the Montreal Police were to the crowds of stoners. They didn't arrest anyone as long as they weren't selling and it felt really good to be smoking a joint in front of the police without having to keep your lawyer's number on the speed-dial.

It is really fascinating when you consider that the United States government's War on Drugs costs the American taxpayer $600 USD per second, 365 days a year ($19.179 billion USD in 2003). The recent Auditor-General's report indicated that Canada spent about $500 million dollars to try and thwart the spread of illicit drug use, with most of the money being spent on tracking down cannabis users. Granted, many drugs are harmful to human beings and I'm not endorsing anything hard or synthetic. I just want to be able to come home from work, pull out my stash of green "Freezeland" (or indoor M39, whichever is available) and smoke a joint without fear of a home invasion by my own government.

Marc-Boris St. Maurice, bass player from the now defunct Quebec punk group "Grim Skunk", has been the leader of the Canadian Marijuana Party since it's inception in 1997. The CMP only has one platform (legalization of cannabis) and they received 0.5 percent of the popular vote in the 2000 Election. Even though over 7 percent of Canadians smoke cannabis regularly, people are very loyal to their political parties and it has been difficult for the Marijuana Party to gain a solid footing. Still, they doubled their results compared to 1996, so they are obviously on the upswing as a political force.

Mr. St. Maurice is going to be running in Lasalle-Ville Emard in the upcoming Canadian Federal Election and he chose this riding for a reason: it is Paul Martin's home Riding and he hopes that this will give him the opportunity to spread his message and attract media attention. I wouldn't bet my life savings on his chances of winning a seat, but I appreciate his solidarity to the noble cause of Herbal Rights.

Cigarette Warning Label

Of course, all the major parties have to do is to support legalization and the Marjiuana Party would have no reason to exist. Their ultimate aim isn't really to get elected--it's to create a public discourse about changing legislation that affects a large number of our fellow citizens. Canada is fairly divided over the issue, with approximately 47 percent of Canadians supporting outright legalization of cannabis and 70 percent supporting some form of decriminalization for cannabis offenses.

The difference between legalization and decriminalization is that decriminalization is a half-solution. It doesn't make it legal to sell or cultivate marijuana but it removes the crime for possession, replacing it with a fine of a few hundred dollars. This might be considered a form of taxation that would increase the government coffers without actually taking a stand for marijuana. The Liberal government under Jean Chretien was talking openly about decriminalization but the legislation has stalled since Paul Martin came into office.

Since our friends in America have a vested interest in keeping everyone sober and ready for war, they are strongly against legalization or any modification of the Drug Laws. They have warned that if we change our position on ganga, it will mean longer lines at the border and other nefarious, thinly-veiled threats. Paul Martin has been trying to curry favour with the Bush Administration so don't expect him to lead the charge to legalize the Sacred Herb.

Imagine if it became legalized? The revenue incurred by actually selling pot could finance billions of dollars worth of education, environmental initiatives, enhanced health care, or anything else worthwhile. The question is, would we prefer that the bikers keep all of this money? We're always talking about tax relief so how about we actually do something that could reduce the tax burden? The matter has been handed to you. Shall you accept the toke of knowledge?

Visit MarijuanaParty.com to make a tax-deductible donation or for more information about the Million Marijuana March which will occur on Saturday, May 1st. (We won't have a million people marching in the streets of Montreal, but you know how stoners count? "1...2...where's that joint?...3...aw, shucks, there's about a million people here!")

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Buchanan Slams Neoconservative Agenda

"With the situation in Iraq deteriorating, the neocon agenda is to widen the war into Syria, Iran and perhaps Saudi Arabia, and convert it into 'World War IV,' the war of their dreams, a war of civilizations, an Armageddon, with America and Israel on one side and Islam on the other.

Exiting Iraq with honor and avoiding the wider war for which the neocons are even now scheming is the first duty of patriots."
Pat Buchanan, WorldNet Daily


Yes, you read that correctly. Pat Buchanan is joining the fight versus the Neoconservatives. If you listen really closely, you can hear George W. Bush sobbing from here.

I once took issue with one of Mr. Buchanan's statements when he appeared on Sunday Morning, a CBC Television political program. He was defending Jean-Marie Le Pen, the Neo-fascist who had been running for office in France. Buchanan praised Le Pen for his stand against immigration and tried to blame immigrants for increased crime and terrorism. I called in to criticize this myopic viewpoint and ended up appearing in a 20 second spot (which I haven't seen to this day. I missed the show and my little brother had to tape the Simpsons over my parent's copy, you see.)

I don't mean to pretend that Pat Buchanan is a friend of the Progressive Liberal Movement--he is Pro-NRA, anti-abortion, and Pro-Capital Punishment--but he does still hold some sway over the Republican Party, especially among the traditional GOP supporters. Even though he claims to support Bush in the 2004 election, Buchanan's criticism of the neoconservative agenda could hurt Bush in the Fall. This is a good thing, even if we wouldn't want Buchanan to win either.

In the same article, Buchanan tars and feathers the neocons with a surprising amount of vitriol.

"In times like this, character comes through. By turning on the men they persuaded to go to war, by fabricating alibis and inventing excuses to absolve themselves of culpability for what they labored to create, they have revealed themselves for what they are: hustlers and opportunists devoid of principle, driven by an ideology of power and a passionate attachment to a nation not their own."

Excuse me for using this expression (it's tired and needs to be put out of it's misery), but "Politics makes for strange bedfellows". Kind of reminds me of when the Sicilian Mafia joined forces with the American Army to throw Mussolini's Fascists out of Italy. We can use all the help we can get but it still feels strange to have a member of the other team trying to put the puck in their own net. Vote John Kerry in 2004! (Unless you're Canadian. In that case, vote for Jack Layton!)

Monday, April 26, 2004

'Lachine Canal' Poem & Coming Up This Week on JB

Dashboard sunset gone orange
Glow for me?
Water tossing itself through abandoned locks
Lost but found by my Evil Eye
Mount Royal kneels at my feet
All of the planes are leaving
The birds can call out
The sun is still on the water
A single flag (Maple Leaf) flutters saucily
Doesn't it know we're in Quebec?
That cloud looks suspicious
as if someone intelligent
painted it on the sky
Whoever is responsible,
I must applaud.

Jeremy Brendan--"Lachine Canal"

Admittedly, I was half drunk on Johnny Walker Red when I wrote that poem. I'm not sure if it is utter tripe or not.

Coming Up This Week on JB:


  • Beatallica Inteview

  • Kill Bill Vol. II Review

  • Five Reasons not to Smash your Television

The New American Empire: Perpetual War & Organized Deception

"But in maintaining armed men there in place of colonies one spends much more, having to consume on the garrison all the income from the state, so that the acquisition turns into a loss, and many more are exasperated, because the whole state is injured; through the shifting of the garrison up and down all become acquainted with hardship, and all become hostile, and they are enemies who, whilst beaten on their own ground, are yet able to do hurt. For every reason, therefore, such guards are as useless as a colony is useful."
Machiavelli, "The Prince"

If only the Bush Administration had read more Machiavelli and less Leo Strauss, perhaps Iraqi soil wouldn't be covered in so much blood. Dr. Shadia Drury is a professor at the University of Regina in Political Science and has written some interesting material concerning American Neoconservative ideology and it's philosophical basis. She was recently interviewed by Danny Postel at Open Democracy.net and discussed the influence of Strauss's texts on contemporary American policy.

Leo Strauss was a an early 20th century writer who believed that Platonic philosophy could be used to justify rule of the weak by the strong. He was a renowned Atheist and had no qualms about morality because he didn't believe that it existed. He advocated the use of lies and deception to accomplish the aims of the ruling elite, no matter what the consequences, as long as the status quo was maintained and the masses were kept docile and powerless. As Dr. Drury pointed out in the interview,

"The effect of Strauss's teaching is to convince his acolytes that they are the natural ruling elite and the persecuted few. And it does not take much intelligence for them to surmise that they are in a situation of great danger, especially in a world devoted to the modern ideas of equal rights and freedoms. Now more than ever, the wise few must proceed cautiously and with circumspection. So, they come to the conclusion that they have a moral justification to lie in order to avoid persecution. Strauss goes so far as to say that dissembling and deception--in effect, a culture of lies--is the peculiar justice of the wise."
According to Dr. Drury, Irving Kristol, the self-admitted "godfather" of modern neoconservative thought, was a devoted follower of Straussian political theory. George W. Bush awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2002 as a reward for his tireless service to the neo-con cause.

Kristol believes that patriotic fervour should be encouraged because this "is a natural and healthy sentiment". Of course, patriotism means always cheering for the Home team, ensuring that any dissenters who reject expansion of the American Empire will labelled as "unpatriotic". This almost sounds like the McCarthyist environment that dominated America during the Fifties at the height of the Cold War. During those dark years, either you loved your country or you were a "pinko", a "commie" in bed with Stalin.

Kristol also fears a "World Government" which he equates with tyranny. For this reason, he frowns upon international institutions and doesn't feel that America should adhere to their standards or demands. Could this be why the Bush Administration has proven to be solidly against international efforts again and again? (Rejecting the Kyoto Protocol, the International Criminal Court, and the worldwide ban on land mines; ignoring the will of the United Nations consistently since 2001; invading two nations despite the illegality of occupying a nation without declaring war; the list goes on)

In an essay published on the American Enterprise Institute's website, he warns that "statesmen should, above all, have the ability to distinguish friends from enemies." This is a fairly simplistic viewpoint, tantamount to Bush's famous statement that "You're either with us, or against us." This primitive, cops vs. robbers mentality has no basis in the real world. Wasn't Iraq a trusted friend of America during the 1980's? Saddam Hussein was in power during that time and he has already had lunch with Donald Rumsfeld (sent by Bush Sr. as an envoy) but now he's considered a brutal tyrant. Why the change? Political expediency? Obviously, for the modern neoconservative, it isn't so easy to tell apart your friends from your foes.

Perhaps the most frightening thing that Irving Kristol has to say is his analysis of "national interest".

"(F)or a great power, the "national interest" is not a geographical term, except for fairly prosaic matters like trade and environmental regulation. A smaller nation might appropriately feel that its national interest begins and ends at its borders, so that its foreign policy is almost always in a defensive mode. A larger nation has more extensive interests."
Based on this analysis, one can assume that since America is a fairly large nation, it must remain in "offensive mode" if it is to retain it's influence over global events. Kristol is giving an ideological basis to the notion of "perpetual war", because if you are always on the offensive, there are only two options: either you continue to expand your reach, or you retreat into defensive mode and decline like "Old Europe". He also states a "fact": America's military might is unrivalled and must be wielded on a global scale.
"With power come responsibilities, whether sought or not, whether welcome or not. And it is a fact that if you have the kind of power we now have, either you will find opportunities to use it or the world will discover them for you."
It would seem that the Bush Administration has taken the teachings of Strauss and Kristol to heart. In his definition of neoconservativism, Kristol charges that neo-cons "tend to be more interested in history than economics or sociology". Their main goal is to make history, and anyone who's ever read a history book knows that this is achieved by conquest. The War on Terror will never end because once they've roped and hog-tied the last Al-Qaeda operative, the American Empire have to begin sorting the rest of us out. Will they decide that we're friendly? One can only hope so.

Friday, April 23, 2004

Wolf Parade Interview & GO RIN DO Loft Party Review

Wolves have never thrived as solitary creatures. They are at their best when they are in a pack, surrounding their prey and then savagely tearing into it's flesh. On Saturday, April 17th, a pack of thirsty Montrealers crammed into a St. Laurent Blvd. Loft (dubbed GO RIN DO), listened to a trio of fine local bands, and drank enough beer to inebriate a small German town in the process. Happily, no animals were harmed.

About 70 lucky locals and a couple of high-profile guests turned out to see Wolf Parade and friends. In the crowd, I recognized a couple of pals from Concordia. A photographer from a local weekly was also snapping shots during the final set with his digital camera. He promised me some shots to accompany this review but I haven't been able to reach him yet.

Before any of the bands took the stage, I managed to corner Dan, the lead singer and guitarist from Wolf Parade. He was kind enough to answer some of my questions, as you can see in the interview below. [Ed Note: For a song-by-song analysis, check out this other piece on the WP. Enjoy.]

First up was Naomi Watts (a guitar/drummer duo, not the actress) who shredded it's way through some stark, nearly Scandanavian metal. Their sound almost resembled early Sepultura but without a bass player and with no singing. As spare as it was, their performance got some heads banging to and fro. Both musicians were definately technically gifted so I think it's just a question of finding a bass player and a singer.

After a brief intermission, Spencer from Wolf Parade surprised about 42 percent of the crowd by sitting down at the keyboard with a drumstick in one hand and the keys in the other. (When he plays alone, he calls his one-man band Sunset Rubdown). The kick drum was in position just close enough to the keyboard so that he could keep a beat while playing various chords simultaneously.

Spencer's music was hypnotic, droning on a bit at times, but interesting just the same. I would almost venture to say that it sounded like experimental jazz, except for the slightly precocious singing. Spencer's vocals were excited and emphatic, almost like he was trying to compensate for the jarring keyboard sound, which can grate on the nerves after awhile. Still, most of the crowd enjoyed the set and he proved that he is ambidextrous.

After the Rubdown was over, while I was waiting for Wolf Parade to begin, I spoke with Win & RĂ©gine of the Arcade Fire who were looking happy and healthy despite a grueling American tour with the Unicorns. Win mentioned that the Boston show was plagued by a poor sound system but the Philadelphia show was a great success. RĂ©gine pointed out that the Philly show was in a church basement and the old wooden walls were great for the acoustics. They said they were tired of being on the road but were looking forward to releasing their first LP--they've just recently finished recording it and now they're getting it mixed. (A friend of mine also mentioned that it looks like they're going to sign with Alien8 Records, the same label as the Unicorns. I'll keep you posted!)

Eventually, Wolf Parade took the stage. After a bit of calibration by Hadji on an Apple iBook, the WP darted into a bold first set. Dan's raw, authentic guitar style complements Spencer's keyboard perfectly and Arlen was pounding the drums quite handily. Hadji's bleeps were buried in the mix somewhere on most tracks but he added a couple of tangential sounds that made the tunes complete. The crowd stood transfixed, some in wide-eyed wonder and others moshing or pogoing. A red light (at least I think it was red, or is that just my memory playing tricks on me?) was shining on the band as they played on the makeshift stage to raucous applause. Everyone was in accordance... the Wolf Parade rock.

Montreal police interrupted the show sometime after 1 AM because of a noise complaint from a neighbour. They ordered that the show be shut down. After sweet-talking the cops and promising the party was over, Dan returned to the stage and announced that he would play four more songs. He warned us that the "Boys in Blue" would be back any minute but wished us a good night as a group, and then kicked straight into a four-song set that eclipsed every local show I've ever seen. Except for one faulty start due to a broken string, WP were nearly flawless. The last song, "This Heart's on Fire", caused a massive cheer to erupt from the crowd. (Potential first single for their new LP?)
Below is the interview I conducted with Dan. It appears unedited except for the occasional clarification (in brackets).

++


Wolf Parade Interview



JB: What sort of direction are you guys moving in musically or in terms of the local scene?

Dan: I can only really say musically because the local scene here is so fragmented and weird. I mean, you probably know from going out to shows and stuff? Musically, I think... We started out as just me and Spencer, the keyboard player... putting together songs in his bedroom, basically. And then, uh, I guess we just worked out this thing where we do fifty/fifty song writing and I think the songs we have been writing now are a lot more open, a lot weirder. Spencer and I have completely different approaches to writing songs. I just fucking love like pop music, basically... I really like Old 60's R & B like Otis Redding and stuff like that and I'm just hardwired to write chord changes like that (laughs). Spencer is more like Prog Rock basically, not that he listens to it... but he's just really musically talented and he's always kind of pushing things to not be standard chords. I think my shit is getting more refined and his stuff is too, and it's melding together better.

JB: Becoming more cohesive?

Dan: Yeah... both are moving in their own direction but Spencer is learning to play straight up pop stuff more and the parts I'm writing for his songs are more in line with what he's doing.

JB: This summer, do you have any festivals or tour dates planned?

Dan: No, that's the weird thing. After the show, we're going to take a break for two months. Our electronics guy Hadji is going tree planting in bug-infested British Columbia... he does it every year. He stands to make a ton of money so would be dumb for him not to go.

JB: You haven't thought of trying to find someone to fill his position?

Dan: Nobody could do what Hadji does. I can't think of one fucking person that would be able to pull off what he does. He's just really good with sound and the parts he comes up with are, you know... he's not working from a "schooled musician" point of view, he's just interested in manipulating sound.

JB: Does he contribute to the music or is he sort of the "sound guy"?

Dan: He totally contributes to the music with analog synth programs on the laptop. He's got this fucking huge box of old analog filters...one is like a theremin. He'll control it with his hand and play the keyboard with the other one. When we started, he wasn't in the band and now he's so integral that we're at the point where we don't want to play without him in the band. It would sound empty without him. It would just be bad to try and replace him to play shows. I think what we're going to do this summer is I'm going to work on writing some more songs and Spencer is going to write some and we're going on tour after July.

JB: Have you thought of doing any more shows with the Arcade Fire? I know they've did a show recently down in Boston with the the Unicorns.

Dan: Actually I talked to Tim and Win... I used to play bass in the AF. I think maybe eventually we'll do shows but right now, as much as I love that band, maybe it's better that as bands we play separate shows. Maybe in four months, after we've built our own following... Then, we can go on a short tour together. To be able to access that... if we go play a show supporting AF there will be kids that haven't heard of us and vice versa. And they were really great with us when we started, they were already sort of established. We had our first show ever with them so that was really nice... we just sort of traded people.

JB: And the Bell Orchestre as well, right?

Dan: They're not so much a rock band. They're schooled musicians. McGill music school sort of, they've got classical training... they're all really good at their instruments. I'm not necessarily really great at playing guitar and I know that as amazing a song writer as Win is, he's not like a virtuoso guitar player. I think there's a weird difference between those bands. (The Bell Orchestre) improvise and I don't think they're coming aesthetically from the same place. But I'm so tired, I'm kind of losing the plot.

JB: That's o.k. man, we're both playing it by ear and we both have a few beers in us so it's all good.

Dan: I've got a real problem with the booze, man.

JB: Same here. How do you deal with that, actually? Is your band a party band, like the atypical 80's kind of rock... any booze, women and drugs, or are you guys a sort of more modern version of that?

Dan: I don't really do drugs anymore. I used to do a lot of drugs and I can't really do 'em. We're just a bunch of drunks. We're all from Victoria. Victoria is kind of the Australia of Canada. It's a really weird isolated island community and people out there like to get fucked up.

JB: You guys are all from Victoria, B.C.?

Dan: One way or another, we've all lived or played in bands there.

JB: Is that where you met?

Dan: I met all those kids in Victoria separately and then we all hooked up out here. Spencer used to play in a band called Frog Eyes that are really good. They're coming out here on tour with Destroyer.

JB: Dan Bejar's band? The guy from the New Pornographers?

Dan: Destroyer is fucking amazing. Frog Eyes is actually his backup band for this tour so they're doing this weird thing where it's Frog Eyes, and then Frog Eyes backing up Destroyer but Spencer used to play keyboard in Frog Eyes and co-wrote a lot of the songs from their first record along with Carey, their lead singer. And I used to play in a band called Atlas Strategic and we went on tour a lot and then broke up.

JB: What kind of style was that? More punk?

Dan: It was a lot more fucked up, it was like crazy Talking Heads style stuff but with Sun Ra organ. We had this huge Hammond organ and this dude who played organ and synth and bass pedals all at the same time. We didn't have a bass player in the band. We were just two guitars, a giant organ and drums and lots of weird metal percussion bits... super rock!

JB: Something like Robby Krieger but updated, kind of? Like the bass player being the keyboardist?

Dan: Yeah, totally, like an amphetamine Tom Waits pretty much summed it up. That band was totally doomed from the start. We were dealing with Sub Pop and we went on tour with Modest Mouse a couple of times and then when we came back the last time, the band completely disintegrated because I think we all hated each other. Well, not hated each other but we were all too neurotic to be in a band together, too flaky. I had some really shitty personal family stuff happen and I moved out here because I just couldn't handle it. And I told Sub Pop basically that the band didn't exist anymore.

JB: The contract is void!

Dan: Yeah, I didn't call them for a year. They were interested in the band and when I got home... my mom died about a year and a half ago. It was right after the tour, and I just went completely nuts and didn't bother calling them.

JB: They got the message?

Dan: Yeah, we had a really bad reputation for not making it to shows and being total fuckups. We all knew each other in Victoria and its nice to play with people that you're comfortable with.

JB: When I went and saw you guys play with AF and Bell Orchestre at Salla Rossa, I noticed that some of the songs, especially the ones that had a keyboard feel to them... it sort of made me think of a cross between Hot Hot Heat and the Blood Brothers. I'm wondering if you've ever listened to either of those two bands?

Dan: Actually, that's funny, man. I've heard the Blood Brothers before, once or twice. But Hot Hot Heat, we all grew up with them. Arlen and Hadji both played in bands with Dustin (Hot Hot Heat's bassist).

JB: So you're from the same Victoria scene?

Dan: But I think... Hot Hot Heat, man (laughs)... those guys... (sighs audibly)

JB: A little too cloying for you?

Dan: Well, they used to be this hipster San Diego-style punk band, the San Diego sound... like Nation of Ulysees and that whole "tight pants" thing, a lot of screaming, really bratty singing.

JB: Really hardcore?

Dan: And they kicked their lead singer out and the keyboard player became the singer. When they were a punk band, I used to go to their shows and heckle them all the time. I just did it in fun, you know? But something happened when they blew up so big. It was just kind of depressing in a way. The music that they're making is for 14 year old girls, it's not for me... it's not really for any of their friends. A lot of times, it sounds like they're not throwing a lot of personal stuff into it... which is totally understandable considering the amount of fucking money they got from Sub Pop and then Warner, eventually. I'm worried about them now because I really like the drummer in that band... he's a super nice guy, the guitar player too. And they're in the shit-ass position where they put out this one record that was moderately successful... it did well in Los Angeles and they had videos on MuchMusic and all that shit. Now that they're exclusively the property of Warner, I think the label expects them to produce a fucking pop record because Warner has been shoving Hot Hot Heat up everyone's ass. NME in England has been Hot Hot Heat this and that.

JB: They're raving over them.

Dan: Yeah, it's the "new rock hype", like Franz Ferdinand or the Strokes were a couple of years ago and I don't know if Hot Hot Heat has it in them to do it.

JB: To go the long haul?

Dan: Or to produce a record that will be that inanely commercial and catchy. I wouldn't put it past them but I'm just worried that they won't be able to deliver, so...

JB: Speaking of Franz Ferdinand, you gotta respect a band that starts from a squat!

Dan: From a squat? (Smiles)

JB: They actually began in Glasgow, Scotland and they were squatting at a loft in this abandoned warehouse. After a month of searching, the cops tracked them down because they had been playing sort-of illegal shows without a liquor license. The Scottish cops said "We're happy we caught you because we've been looking for a month!"

Dan: That's fucking hilarious! It's wicked that they're not crusty punks, you know like...straight up, Tennessee-style, dreadlocked, Crass-listening crappy punks. I used to live in a semi-squat in Vancouver and we had some bands that played there from time to time.


This is when my Panasonic digital recorder ran out of space. (Damned SP/LP/SLP conspiracy!) Undeterred, we went on talking about various things including some good news--Isaac Brock, Modest Mouse's vocalist/guitarist, would be producing their upcoming album. A superb musician, Brock has already produced several critically acclaimed albums, including the 1997 MM release "Lonesome Crowded West" and also "Everywhere and His Nasty Parlor Tricks" in 2001.

This should help WP gain some attention in indie rock circles all across North America. As soon as college radio gets a taste of WP in the form of a full length LP, they'll probably sink their teeth right in! Tours with Modest Mouse might soon follow.

Interestingly, I spoke to three audience members who claimed to work for Sub Pop. One of them said that the show was incredible and that they had flown all the way from Seattle just to see Wolf Parade play. The alleged A & R execs sounded believable enough and didn't really give me the impression that they were Montrealers.

Perhaps the WP will join the Sub Pop family? It wouldn't surprise me, especially since Dan's former band Atlas Strategic was signed to the Seattle record label. Personally, I think Sub Pop is a great label since they were the former home of two of my all-time musical faves (Nirvana and Eric's Trip).

As Dan mentioned in the interview, the WP won't be playing any shows until July. I'll post any show dates as soon as they are available. Visit Wolf Parade's Official Site for audio clips and the latest WP news. You can also purchase their Untitled E.P. @ Cheap Thrills or other fine stores.


Thursday, April 22, 2004

Al Qaeda Not Incorporated in Delaware

"If al Qaeda were a board of directors, the chairman and vice chairman might still be out there, but the middle management is gone." -- George W. Bush speaking to the Associated Press Luncheon, Wednesday April 21st.
Sadly, Mr. Bush, Al Qaeda is not a hierarchical organization in the sense of Halliburton or General Electric; they resemble an anarchist movement more than a corporation and this is one of their greatest strengths. They are like cancer cells swarming around the globe and striking whenever they find a soft target, as the CIA call civilian population centers like nightclubs or shopping malls. You can't cut the head off a group that has several thousand of them. Cruise missiles won't work against nefarious terrorists like Al Qaeda because every military victory against them (and the subsequent civilian casualties) results in an upsurge in membership to their cells.

Also, their religious doctrine ensures that they are willing to die for their cause and if someone is willing to be consumed in a reaction like octane in a gasoline explosion, there isn't much you can do to stop them, unless you address the root cause of their anger. You can't kill an idea by killing a man but you can by speaking to the people where the terrorists originate from and trying to change their minds. If these disenfranchised, angry citizens are willing to die just to inflict harm on the Western world, we should try to help them by pressuring their governments to give them a voice. When people's mouths are sewn shut, they pick up arms and attack whoever has been watching them suffer.

Oddly enough, Saudi Arabians produced 9/11 and then Afghanistan got bombed for it. If Bush is so concerned with speading democracy in the Middle East, why aren't we threatening the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, where strict Sharia law keeps everyone in a state of perpetual fear? Instead, he's rattling his massive saber at Iran, a Theocratic state that has some level of democratic representation. We should be patting Iran on the back, not scolding them for trying to get a nuclear bomb. After all, Israel has about 300 of them and the U.S. has another 32,000 nukes ready to vaporize any nation that nips at American heels. I am against nuclear war but as long as we have the weapons, other nations will seek to gain equality with us.

Bush's comparison between Al Qaeda and a corporation doesn't hold water and I would venture to say that it's because he doesn't really care. I've seen more nuanced arguments for war in Marvel comic books. He wants Americans to feel that he and his Administration are doing the "right things" and keeping the homeland secure. It doesn't matter if he's oversimplifying the War on Terror because that allows him to lead the debate and make it appear that the Good Guys are winning. It is an election year and Bush polls well regarding the War on Terror, virtually his only strength in the battle for the Whitehouse.

He also seems very certain that America will be attacked before the election. Perhaps he's received another one of those famous alerts, like before 9/11 when he received a report warning labelled "Islamic Extremist Learning to Fly". Maybe this is just a means of keeping his citizens in a state of perpetual fear so that they'll support his doctrine of perpetual war. What's next? Perpetual Presidencies? There is a way to reduce terror in the world and it's not by threatening Iran for trying to join the Nuclear club. The answer lies with the American populace. They must vote for John Kerry in the fall, or all is lost.

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

Ratatat Find a Home

XL Recordings, the U.K. label who's current roster of bands is virtually unrivaled--they've got Basement Jaxx, Dizzee Rascal, Peaches and the White Stripes, etc.--have now signed Ratatat, a dance-rock band from Brooklyn, NY. (They've already done shows as "Cherry" as well.) Pitchfork Media has already given their reputation a shot of adrenaline by naming them as a "Band to Watch in 2004" and this was months ago, before they had even released a record. If you're a natural skeptic, or just plain afraid of needles (as you should be), visit the Ratatat site for a free MP3 of their single "17 Years".
Ratatat in a field

Ratatat is made up of two members, Mike Stroud and Evan Mast. Stroud is an accomplished guitarist and he's toured with both Ben Kweller and Dashboard Confessional. We won't hold the Dashboard thing against him. Mast is apparently the techno wizard behind the beatbox hardware and he has been releasing music for the past few years under the name E*Vax. He also has his own label (Audio Dregs Records) but couldn't resist the tantalizing lure of XL Recordings and their limitless supply of cash.

Ratatat is proud to straddle the border between Rock City and Technoburg, that thin expanse of land formerly inhabited by the Depeche Modists and New Orderlies of the 80's. According to their freshly-coded XL Recordings band site, "(w)hile dance music is trying to re-invent itself and rock is returning to it's roots, Ratatat seem to make a happy mess in both fields." I wouldn't call it a mess, more like a blender chopping up some classic guitar licks and a couple of house records into a tasty mishmash.

Their self-titled CD hit the store shelves today (4/20, the Universal Toker's Holiday) and they have a frightening amount of shows planned in the near future. (Touring with Clinic in a used ambulance! That will be one hell of a wild voyage)


4/21/04 - bowery ballroom, NYC w/ tortoise, beans
4/23/04 - record release show @ opening ceremony, NYC
5/1/04 - vassar college, w/ RJD2

RATATAT SPRING TOUR 2004
5/8/04 - southpaw, brooklyn, NY w/ clinic
5/9/04 - black cat, washington DC w/ clinic
5/10/04 - grog shop, cleveland, NY w/ clinic
5/11/04 - magic stick, detroit, MI w/ clinic
5/12/04 - wexner arts center, colombus, OH w/ clinic
5/13/04 - southgate house, newport, KY w/ clinic
5/14/04 - the abbey pup, chicago, IL w/ clinic
5/15/04 - blue note, colombia, MO w/ clinic
5/17/04 - bottleneck, lawrence, KS w/ clinic
5/18/04 - rocketbar, st. louis, MO w/ constantines
5/19/04 - uncle pleasant's, louisville, KY
5/20/04 - garfield artworks, pittsburg, PA
5/21/04 - north six, brooklyn, NY

5/28/04 - DJ set: APT, new york, NY

Below: Ratatat opening for Montreal favourite sons The Stills @ Bowery Ballroom in NYC (01/2004). Photos courtesy of Ebru Yildiz.
Ratatat at Bowery Ballroom

Monday, April 19, 2004

Coming Up This Week on JB

  • Wolf Parade Show/Interview with Dan from WP

  • Latest Album Releases of note

  • Montreal Bar o' the Week, Part I.

  • Kill Bill Vol. II film review


These articles are in the works but please excuse the delay (in the meantime, read some of Noam Chomsky's blog for your political fix, or Pitchforkmedia for music reviews and the latest headlines.) Now, I must take care of a Joint Session in progress. Cheers!

Saturday, April 17, 2004

Poultry Webcam a Sure Sign of the Impending Apocalypse

You'd best start reading up on your Biblical Revelations because I'm ninety percent sure that we're approaching the Rapture (in the traditional sense, not the mod dancepunk band responsible for "House of Jealous Lovers"). The garden of Eden is occupied by the world's most powerful army and my generation is obsessed with dancing to vaguely-discoesque breakbeats while chowing down on Presumably Speed (because it usually ends up being a mix of three or four narcotic substances, usually PCP and other naughty shit). For further evidence of the impending apocalypse, visit Subservient Chicken.com.

Part of a Burger King ad campaign dedicated to promoting their new chicken sandwich, it is a particularly bizarre cross between a peep show and a burger commercial. I can't imagine where they got the idea for this strange endeavour but it appears to be working according to Wired News, at least in terms of drawing millions of web surfer eyeballs--between 15 and 20 million hits up to this point. What does this tell us about our culture? Are we barbarians who long to watch others commit foul and depraved acts over broadband pipes? We've all seen at least one reality show in our lives by now so I suppose we're all a tiny bit guilty. Plus, we can't forget the Internet's main reason for creation: dissemination of pornography (unless you count the Geek Speak of the Arpanet days before the 90's).

At least the chicken in question is not really performing live. Instead, certain keywords will produce the desired dance move (my request for the YMCA dance worked perfectly) while others have been blocked out so as not to offend the prudish minority that would probably sue BK for millions if they got the chance.

Perhaps this is just a sign that advertisers are running out of ways to drag us into their outlet stores. Just like my belly button is no longer a source of tickling due to my many years of vigilant attention, Madison Avenue has lost it's Jedi Mind Trickery, their God-like power to influence purchases and "grow market share". Also, brand recognition is starting to become a sort of Custer's Last Stand for companies, with certain behemoths sure to lose out to smaller, lankier rivals. (American Apparel is a great example of this. Worker owned and operated, they pay a living wage and offer great benefits, as opposed to Nike, which has done nothing to earn our love besides paying Jordan more than it's whole workforce earns in twenty years of sewing).

Realizing that they've already tried seducing us, frightening us out of our wits, and mocking the establishment to curry our favour, the ad agencies are beginning to seek desperate measures, ie. guerrilla marketing concepts. In other words, dress up some poor sap in a yellow bird outfit and force him to contort his limbs on computer screens around the world. Maybe that will make them buy our sandwich.

I've already devoted too much time to this "Man Bites Dog" story but visit Subservient Chicken.com and see for yourself if the heavens will be raining fire in the near future.

Tuesday, April 13, 2004

Turn those Lemons into Lemonade

Today, I'm choosing to follow Elliott Smith's advice of "fighting problems / with bigger problems". Since I am feeble and the wicked world is too heavy for my shoulders, I'm going to cop out and give up, only for today. I've uncorked a bottle of red wine and this dry-mouth afternoon is barely over. The sun didn't bother showing up today so the clouds are my only witness, the rain my only visitor. I will swallow this wine and wait for tomorrow because today is off the list.

Elliott Smith - Baby Britain (from 1998 Release "X/O"):

Baby Britain feels the best / floating over a sea of vodka
separated from the rest / fights problems with bigger problems
sees the ocean fall and rise / counts the waves that somehow didn't hit her
Water pouring from her eyes /alcoholic and very bitter
For someone half as smart / you'd be a work of art
You put yourself apart / and I can't help until you start
We knocked another couple back /the dead soldiers lined up on the table
Still prepared for an attack / they didn't know they'd been disabled
Felt a wave, a rush of blood / you won't be happy 'til the bottle's broken
and you're out swimming in the flood / you kept back you kept unspoken
For someone half as smart/ you'd be a work of art
You put yourself apart / and I can't help until you start


You got a look in your eye
When you're saying goodbye
Like you wanna say hi


The light was on but it was dim / Revolver's been turned over
and now it's ready once again / The radio was playing "Crimson And Clover"
London Bridge is safe and sound / no matter what you keep repeating
Nothing's gonna drag me down / to a death that's not worth cheating


For someone half as smart / you'd be a work of art
You put yourself apart / and I can't help until you start
For someone half as smart / you'd be a work of art
You put yourself apart.
Thank the empty heavens that I can't afford heroin. Scary stuff, indeed. I'll stick with booze etc. Don't worry about me since I'd never have the balls to handle a sharp object.

Wolf Parade Loft Party This Saturday!

Citizens of Montreal, can I have your attention? Please open your day planner and scribble out anything you've got planned for Saturday night. The boys from Wolf Parade sent me the following message regarding a show they've planned for this weekend:
Hello hello,


Wolf Parade is playing at GO RIN DO AKA our loft space on April 17.....booze will be sold..."secret guests"....(really)...semiotic dance party...please come as it is a benefit for DVDA Research....


Full Info:


Wolf Parade

Naomi Watts (LIghting Boltish 2 Piece)

Sunset Rubdown (Spence from W.P. Eno impersonation)

DJ Da Hijak Arab (Non stop Dance Mix Eeek-A-Mouse El-p 50cent)


Doors at 9:30-10:00

Bands at 10:30

On and on to the "break of dawn"


Beer=3.00$ (please keep on D.L.)


AT Go Rin Do 4064 St. Laurent (above Barfly)

If you haven't heard Wolf Parade yet, you can visit their official site (don't ask me why Conan the Barbarian is opening a wine bottle. I would have thought he'd be a hard liquor imbiber, or at least a Mead drinker). You can also listen to some of their songs at New Music Canada.

I've done some digging and found out that the DVDA is a non-profit organization that tries to promote the use of the DVD medium for use in all sectors of the media (education, training, etc.)

Strangely enough, it is also the name of a band formed by South Park creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker. I would assume that proceeds from the loft party will go to the non-profit group DVDA, not the band DVDA.

I'll be there on Saturday night and if you can successfully pick me out of the crowd, I'll buy you a beer. Like the Wolf Parade said, doors open at around 9:30 PM!

Interview with the Dude Upstairs

I was googling for the guitar tab "Baby Britain" by Elliot Smith when one of those heinous pop-up ads forced itself into my Netscape browser window and began to blink uncontrollably. I was about to close it with impudent rage when I noticed that it was entitled "An Interview with God". Naturally, being the curious gawker that I am, I followed the link to some sort of pseudo-New Age site with a blue background.

As a matter of disclosure, I must admit that I worked for the Dark Lord Satan during his Presidential campaign in 2000. (We won but Florida was a close call!) Despite my ties to the Lord of the Flies, I am sure that I can maintain my neutrality like the fiendish Swiss have done for so many centuries.

If you click the Macromedia Flash presentation button, you can listen to some Adult Contemporary piano and watch images of deer drinking from pristine mountain streams, superimposed with an interview with God. Although I found the images to be quite appealing, the music was far from it and I would have preferred something by Leonard Cohen (or even Gordon Lightfoot for Pete's sake) instead of this faceless K-Tel Piano bullshit.

The story goes that an individual had a dream where any question could be tossed at the Creator and all of life's riddles would be solved. The presentation takes only a minute or two but I kind of expected it to lead to a link that would sell me crosses made from the actual wood used for real crucifixions, or at least a "Get your Bible here" page.

Instead, the person asks God all sorts of easy, soft questions like "Do you have anything you want to tell your children?" Personally, I would have asked "Why did you give us free will? That was the biggest cop-out I've ever heard of. Also, why the sacrificing in the Old Testament? Do you have a fetish for watching suffering? Come on, speak up, or are Gods incapable of guilt?" He probably would have turned me into a pile of Tobacco ashes, or perhaps he would have forgiven me, depending on which kind of God he would be, ie. Old Testament=vengeful and scary, New Testament=hippy and out of the loop.

The questioner also asks "What surprises you about mankind?" Typically, God evades the question by turning it around on us, making humanity the weakest link once again. I won't spoil the whole interview by repeating it ad nauseum on this blog but please check it out. It will tell you a lot about the actual reasoning behind religion, at least from a follower's perspective. To them, the answers aren't something you must seek by spiritual growth or by philosophical exploration--no, to the Religious among us, the answers to life's puzzles are in a Holy Book, a sort of Magic Marker that dots the I's and crosses the T's, eliminating the quest for truth that we Agnostics are proud to be mired in.

I'm not saying that religion doesn't have it's purpose. To the little old ladies and frightened terminally ill patients clutching their rosaries, I say "Go ahead and believe. Just please don't try and convince me that you've seen the light when I know damn well that it's not even plugged in."

Actually, I'm glossing over an important point. Organized religion is the real curse since it divides communities and societies and causes them to consider their own religious law to be above State or International law. If everyone were to practice their own religion at home outside of the civic realm, the negative effects would be countered to a certain extent (Of course, this doesn't eliminate the Dogmatic Belief in the Supernatural, which can be a trouble in it's own right).

My father's side of the family holds a reunion every summer. It is usually held by a lake somewhere in Ontario, between Toronto and Ottawa, since majority rules and most of my father's family lives out there. This year, one of my fabulous Aunts sent the whole family an email outlining where this year's reunion would be held. Attached to the message was a document sent by the owners of the campground entitled "Camp Rules". Upon inspection, it revealed a frightening example of imposing your religion upon others. It read,

"People are expected to abide by the Bible’s moral standards."
Of course, I moved quickly to send them the following riposte.
"Hello Everyone,


As an avowed secularist, I must protest rule number
five. It can be found in the document attached to the
message about the campground.


CAMP DE LA MONTAGNE


"RULES
...


5. People are expected to abide by the Bible's moral
standards."


I respect everyone's religious beliefs but nobody
should impose their values upon others.


Besides, if there is a God, the free will he granted
humanity gives me a green light to disobey the edicts
of the Holy Book in any way I so choose. After all,
I'll be singed by the eternal fires of Hell, right?
It's my loss.


My Regards,
******"

Admittedly, I got the rule number wrong (I should have referred to Rule #4; Rule #5 reads "Stoves, fridges, microwave ovens, as well as a freezer, are available.") but my core message does make sense. Just like if I brought my family to a park that demanded we pray towards Mecca four times a day, or if it happened to be owned by Hinduist monks and we couldn't bring along any steaks or porkchops, I would respond in the same manner. Freedom of religion should be extended to people who are without a proper faith of their own. Secularists have formed a society to protect their interests in the United Kingdom but this is almost like forming a new religion in itself. I guess we Agnostics are condemned to wander the earth for eternity, calling out to the Happy Congregations in their Neat little pews and reminding them that their God is dead. So be it.

Friday, April 09, 2004

Unicorns & AF in Boston Tonight!

Dynamic Duo, anyone? Tonight, our fellow Montrealers the Unicorns and the Arcade Fire will be playing in Boston, MA. Chromeo will also appear. The Boston Globe listed the following coordinates for this Can-Rock (Yes They Can) bash: 275 Tremont St., Boston MA, 617-931-2000. Tickets will set you back $10 bucks.

Howard Stern and the Swing Vote

We all knew that Michael Moore and Al Franken were Democrats but now the Bush camp is gaining a new enemy combatant to deal with, shock jock radio host Howard Stern. On April Fool's Day, he pretended to be kicked off the air by his parent company Viacom. This hoax was followed by yesterday's announcement that the FCC will fine Clear Channel up to $495,000 USD because of Stern's online antics. He is also out of work for now.

Stern's response to the fine (and of course getting fired) is both impassioned and vitriolic, typical of his brash individualist attitude. Bush has taken on the wrong guy. Stern won't go down without a fight. He had this to say.

"This is not a surprise. This is a follow up to the McCarthy type 'witch hunt' of the administration and the activities of this group of presidential appointees in the FCC, led by
'Colin Powell Jr.' and his band of players. They and others (a senator from Kansas City to a congresswoman from New Mexico) are expressing and imposing their opinions and rights to tell us all who and what we may listen to and watch and how we should think about our lives. So this is not a surprise. It is pretty shocking that governmental interference into our rights and free speech takes place in the U.S. It's hard to reconcile this with the 'land of the free' and the 'home of the brave'. I'm sure what's next is the removal of "dirty pictures" like the 20th century German exhibit in a New York City Museum and the erotic literature in our libraries; they too will fall into their category of 'evil' as well."
A quick glance at Stern's official site gives away even further details of his ire. One of the links in the navigation bar of his page is called "Bush Facts" and lists a whole host of links to Anti-Bush or Pro-Democratic sites. Keep in mind that the majority of his listeners are males--Republicans poll better with men than with women--and many of them live in crucial swing states. Perhaps the action by the FCC is a Bush Administration tactic to limit his reach, thereby reducing his chance of swinging enough votes to the Democratic side to tip the scales in the Fall election.

One of the links I found on Howard Stern's page was about the "historical record" of the Bush family's involvement with the Nazi German state, ending in 1942 when the U.S. government seized some of the Bush family assets due to "dealing with the enemy." George H. W. Bush joined the military soon after to absolve his lineage from their previous history. I can't attest to the accuracy of their information but I will follow up on this in the future when I have the facts straight. Judge for yourself.

Iraqi Citizen Sees Sunnis, Shi'ites Allying Versus the Occupation

Today, Dan Murphy interviewed a former Fallujah resident who is now stationed in Baghdad as part of the fledgling Iraqi resistance movement. The young man had this to say and it speaks volumes about the way things are going.
"This character Sadr, I have a lot of sympathy for him now and respect his bravery...This isn't about Shiite or Sunni, or who will lead Iraq. Now it's a war of liberation to kick the occupiers out of Iraqi lands."
This supports my earlier assertion that the insurgency may begin to draw on pan-Iraqi support, meaning everyone except the Kurds (who have been too eager to assist the Americans from the beginning and therefore cannot join the movement) will throw aside their differences and begin to work together. This won't bode well for the American Democracy Project in this troubled country. In my opinion, it will sow the seeds of a future Islamist Theocratic Iraqi nation, one that respects the sectarian divisions of the population but which is fundamentally based on Islamic law. Of course, that is only assuming that they succeed in driving out the American-led mission to revamp their system of government. They are at a disadvantage when it comes to weaponry: homemade bombs and rocket propelled grenades versus F-18 fighter jets and Apache helicopters; AK-47's versus tanks. Their only chance is to recruit larger segments of the population. Otherwise, their cause appears hopeless.

What do you think? Comment below if you have something to say!

Jeremy Brendan Blog Seen on a Cellphone in Japan!

According to my hit counter, we've had our first mobile visitor, an anonymous reader using a Japanese cellular browser known as "DoCoMo". Since I'm not getting paid to do this, I must be allowed to pat myself on the back at least once or so. It keeps the blood pumping and the hands at their rightful place in the "home" position (ASDFJKL; and both thumbs above the spacebar!).

In terms of visitors, we receive between 12 and 30 visits a day, although the average is closer to 12 because certain posts garner more attention. For the computer geeks and technological voyeurs out there, you can view our site statistics (or otherwise you can click the counter in the right-hand margin of the page.)

If you are interested in joining the Jeremy Brendan team, we are offering an internship beginning May 1st. It is unpaid (if revenue is ever generated, wages will be dispensed) but will offer you an insight into the ever-evolving world of online publishing. Expect to contribute at least one article per day on a topic of your choice: it doesn't have to be long but it must hold water and also be a breezy read. (Sorry about the constant nautical references!) Contact me if you want in. (Please send at least two examples of your writing; it doesn't have to be already published)

I have to shout out some props to the guys who started all of this. Justin from Links.net is one of the first bloggers I ever read but back then (He started publishing in '94 but I only got access to the net in '95), it was just considered a repository of links. Eventually, he abandoned that pursuit and just began to chart the course of his own life online. Other sites that inspired me with their vivacity and boldness were Feed Magazine and Suck.com, before the dot-com flameout sent them crashing into the Hudson river, their sites abandoned or gone altogether (Suck stands still for perpetuity but it doesn't get updated anymore!)

I am trying to attain the same level of literary excellence without losing my rebel spirit and my cynical "glowstick generation" attitude. Get out there and blog, play music in bars, march in parades or protests, whatever is your kick--just don't hurt anyone maliciously and remember to laugh a lot. Peace.

"Freedom Fighters" and the Occupation of Babylon

Just days ago, I was still reading reports that Iraq's Shia majority were solidly behind the Coalition Provisional Authority and the American presence in Iraq. Supposedly, their natural rift with the largely Sunni Ba'athist government of Saddam Hussein meant that they wouldn't join the insurgency. In a manner of days, that has changed. The people of Iraq (with the exception of the Kurds, who will never expand out of the north) are rising up to smite their "enemy" and they are doing it regardless of sectarian divisions.

Robert Fisk, a journalist for the Independent (UK), has illuminated the state of affairs in Iraq and he reminds us that the supposed "civil war" is not materializing. Shi'ites and Sunnis are appearing to put their differences aside and join the resistance as a unified force (even if operations are being carried out sporadically without any centralized leadership).

Muqtada Al-Sadr, a relatively low-level Shi'ite cleric and son of a former spiritual leader (for whom Sadr City in Baghdad was named after Saddam was overthrown), has declared that all Iraqis must resist the occupation of their lands. He has also called for an Islamic state and formed both a shadow government for all ministries & a paramilitary force to protect the interests of his faction.

There is historical evidence that the occupation will fail. Remember the American revolution? How about the invasion of Afghanistan by the Soviets? I must agree that not all guerrilla movements are successful, and the examples I've cited may have certain fundamental differences (the American revolution was backed by France & Spain, while England could not commit enough troops to secure their colonies in North America; Afghanistan is a mountainous country and the Mujahadeen were supported by America and England in order to disrupt the Soviet plan of conquest).

Even so, they do show that if a populace is united behind a cause, it is very difficult for a foreign power to retain control of their nation. By launching a Hellfire missile and dropping a 500-LB laser-guided bomb on the wall of a Fallujah Mosque on Wednesday, the American forces may have given the Sunnis and Shi'ites a reason to join hands and aim at the same target, that being the American flag.

Imagine if the situation were reversed and America were being invaded by a largely Muslim force. If they attacked a Church (especially in the Reverent South), every Christian denomination would put their differences aside and rise up against the invasion.

Granted, there was apparently a rocket-propelled grenade fired from the Mosque's general area and this shot was directed at an American Humvee. Apparently, this voids the protection afforded to places of religious worship under the Geneva Convention, since once you use a Church or a Mosque as a base of military operations, military forces are free to fire at will.

Sadly, eyewitness accounts have announced that as many as 40 innocent civilians were killed just for being inside the Mosque at the time. They are caught in the crossfire and their deaths will only incite further Iraqis to join the resistance. They have been martyred for their cause and the ranks will surely swell. The only way out of this situation is to renounce all claims on Iraq and to hand over power to a United Nations-led peacekeeping force. It may even be too late for this.

Perhaps we will have another Iran on our hands, if Al-Sadr rises above his shortcomings (he isn't placed high enough in Shi'ite circles to really convince everyone to follow him, due to his lack of religious training), he may gain a high enough profile to be considered the leader of the movement, and therefore a potential leader or president down the line.

Christ said to turn the other cheek, not to preemptively invade your neighbours house because he may be building weapons. The Americans should have known better. And if they were just doing it to free the Iraqi people, why did they support Saddam's regime for so long? Why did they provide him with satellite information on Iranian troop movements, so that he could unleash the chemical weapons that they (and other G8 nations) sold to him for billions of dollars?

I truly hope that Iraq retains some freedoms no matter which side wins. If the resistance movement succeeds, hopefully they won't end up with a dictator like Saddam Hussein. If the Americans win the war, hopefully they won't trample the Iraqi's demands for a religious-minded theocratic democracy.

When I read about the insurgents invading Kut, driving out the Ukranian forces, raiding their base and stealing their weapons and supplies, and then raising their flag above a grain silo, I was reminded of an American computer game. It is called "Freedom Fighters" and involves liberating America from a foreign occupier (in this case, communist Russia). At the end of each level, you symbolically raise your flag above the highest building available to show the people that you are resisting and winning. Looks like the Iraqis are winning.

Tuesday, April 06, 2004

Jewish School Firebombed in St. Laurent

Today I had planned to write a review of the movie "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" but I've been deterred by today's Gazette headline: "Jewish school firebombed hours before Passover". Although nobody was injured, it is a chilling reminder that violence can appear anywhere. It may also mean that Canada will begin to take a harder tack versus "terror", much to the pleasure of George W. Bush and his Christian Crusader Alliance. According to the Gazette, sources have indicated that a note from the arsonists said that this attack was "in response to the Israeli assassination last month of Sheik Ahmed Yassin, founder of the Islamic Hamas terrorist group."

The school in question is the "United Talmud Torah School" located in St. Laurent. It has 230 elementary students who all happen to be Jewish. If this was really an act by members of Hamas, it will only fan the flames in Gaza Strip and the West Bank because this will give us a reason to take sides in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the Israelis didn't firebomb one of our elementary schools. We will obviously support the Democratically-elected Israel over the folks who chose to attack one of our schools, even if it didn't injure any of our citizens.

I have always tried to remain somewhat neutral when confronted by the whole Middle East Peace process. Although I agree that Israel should refrain from executing people without a fair trial or any due process, the Palestinian Resistance movement has to take some responsibility for it's continual attacks on Israeli citizens. If they continue to agitate and escalate, it will only bring more suffering down upon their people. Attacking Canada sends a frightening message that the situation is getting out of hand.

I think that we should open a dialogue with the Palestinians and find out if any of their groups were responsible for this reprehensible act. We should also take a stronger role in assisting the Peace talks, whether the current "roadmap" must be scrapped or not. By showing the Palestinian people that we genuinely want them to have their own state without being walled in by a new incarnation of the Berlin Wall Idea, perhaps we can avoid becoming a target in the future.

You should notice that I don't advocate invading any nations, just building connections and striving for peace for all of mankind. We don't need to be strong to win a battle against violence, we just need to be smart. That begins with education, both on the home front (students should learn more about global politics and be encouraged to take a stand on the issues) and also overseas.

I must conclude that this attack has me slightly rattled but I sincerely hope that this doesn't turn us into another branch of the American Homeland Security department. Like Lao-Tzu said, we must be like water, flowing around our obstacles, not like a rock that can be worn down by the waves.

Even so, my heart goes out to the students that lost their library and probably fear further reprisals. Hopefully, this won't encourage people to give more money to Israel. That is like pouring more gasoline on countless other fires across the world, since Israel uses a large portion of it's GDP to fund military attacks on Palestinians, which in turn produces more suicide attacks in retaliation. Only a peaceful approach might set the balance and limit future attacks on our soil.

Monday, April 05, 2004

Kurt Cobain vs. his Legacy

It has been nearly ten years since Kurt Cobain used his big toe to pull the trigger and we can't help but pay attention. Canonized by the rock critics as one of the Rock Saints, imitated by countless bar bands and overgrown garage kids for years, mourned as if he had somehow nailed himself to a cross and died for our transgressions, and Kurt can't respond from where he's been hiding. He is taking the Great Dirt Nap and we will never know what beauty could have lept from his fingers onto a record at some later date. It is the Mozart story all over again, the rocknroll equivalent of a tragedy in three acts. (Enter talented artist originating from the underground; Media whores and disillusioned fans embrace him but he can't handle the weight of their dreams; sinking deeper into the quagmire of pills and heroin, he decides to air condition his own head; Exunt.)

Kurt was a force for change, and most of us agreed that change was good. Hair metal and radio-friendly tripe had dominated the musical landscape for years and bands like the Pixies and Mudhoney were still beneath the soil of the underground, waiting for a rain that never came. Kurt put on his cocktail dress and grabbed a left-handed Jaguar in '86, forming Nirvana with Krist Novaselic and Chad Channing. Their first album released on Sub Pop sold fifty thousand LP's or so and the major labels began to sniff the air around Seattle, aware that a movement was forming.

We all know the rest of the story because it has been resold to us in lovely packaging. Hell, if you have twenty-five bucks plus tax, you can read his diary, his private correspondance with himself, and nobody can stop you. Kurt has mutated from an indie-rock guy into a Megastar and now he is a rare butterfly pinned to a piece of styrofoam, wings open for all the world to see. We all march past and push magnifying glasses up to his music or his words, seeking the truth or a hidden message from our Saviour.

As many columnists have pointed out in their "Ten Years since Kurt Knocked Over the Scrabble Board" op-ed pieces, Kurt would have hated all of this hype and attention. He would want us to walk ahead and find the next big thing, not mope around the scene of the accident and expect something to happen.

Where has music gone since Kurt exited stage left? Before you knee-jerk react and say "Boy bands, American Idolatry, pop-punk, and Mystikal urging us all to shake our collective asses", consider the amount of people who listen to multiple styles of music. It isn't uncommon to have one foot planted in hip hop, the other in punk or metal, and to still find time to listen to an electro song or some old-time country, without fear of rejection from the human beings around you. Kurt listened to bands like Cheap Trick and the Knack but he also professed a love for the Beatles ("About a Girl" from "Bleached" was written after he listened to the White Album, or so I've heard...). He also had a deep affection for punk rock and even some of his musical forebears as well (The Pixies, Dinosaur Jr., Mudhoney, etc.) He wasn't afraid of colouring outside the lines, or even in the margins, if it made the picture complete.

My musical identity was formed when Nirvana was already finished. In 1994, I was fourteen and my knowledge of music was what you might call pathetic. I knew Dylan and Hendrix and Morrison thanks to my father, the Pogues and Van Morrison thanks to my mother, but in terms of contemporary music, I was stilted into thinking that Guns N Roses were the closest thing to Punk Rock I had ever heard (witness the song "Back off Bitch" and tell me if you can resist the punk label). That is when Nirvana crawled into my head and saved me from myself. (Thanks to Corey and Justin, two Men of Wisdom; Corey taught me that "In Utero" was worth listening to; Justin gave me "Nevermind" and "Unplugged in N.Y.")

Where am I going with this? I guess I just wanted to say that whatever the Press Vultures say about Kurt and his legacy, they don't own him. They can't sell him, not to his Chosen people. He isn't a commodity like Gold or Aluminum. He was just a talented artist and we should remember him as such. He made some good music. Don't piss on his grave but don't hang a wreath either. Just pick up an instrument and make your own "Nevermind". That's what Kurt would have done if the situation were reversed.

He is still out there, though. Dizzee Rascal has cited him as an influence, even though Dizzee spits rough-and-tumble Brit Rap over garage beats. I know that creativity isn't confined to America, so perhaps the next Big Thing will hail from Scotland (no, not Franz Ferdinand, although they're very talented) or even Canada! Well, probably not Canada because we already produced the musical equivalent of the Antichrist, Nickelback. (Coincidentally, they won "Group of the Year" in last night's Juno Awards, meaning they sold a whole whack of LP's and now we're grovelling at their corny feet)

Kurt, we haven't forgotten but we're not going to sit here and wait for you. We've gotta keep running towards the horizon to catch the sun before it drops. Thanks & I hope you're in a better place.

Anybody have comments to provide? Please leave any Nirvana anecdotes or criticism of this opus below (Click "Comments", thank you very much!). I'll try to respond to anything pertinent.

Friday, April 02, 2004

Plan "B" for the American Progressive & Response to Greasey Steve

The latest polls are in and it looks like the Bush attack ads are working like a charm. Kerry's numbers have dipped and he is being tarred and feathered with words like "Tax-and-spend Liberal" or even "Massachusetts Democrat". Since many Americans haven't even begun to follow the Presidential race yet, they may be wooed by Karl Rove's brutal shock-and-awe advertising. They may just vote in Bush one more time.

Although I'm not predicting the impending collapse of the sky above, Bush may very well win. He has the financial resources to afford a massive amount of television ads (he bought $40m worth of them in March) and the titans of corporate America are cheering for his team.

Progressive Americans may be faced with a choice: endure four more years of Bush's barbaric Neocon sabre rattling or pack up the tent and move elsewhere. Although I have always been the type that stays and faces my problems, even I agree that if I were living south of the 49, I would be renting a van and heading north. Lefties and free thinkers alike, if you want to become Canadian, please step this way and keep your hands inside the vehicle at all times.

If you want to become a Canadian citizen, you can take a test provided by the government to let you know if you are eligible to emigrate via the Skilled Worker Program. I took the test just to get an idea of what it asked for and apparently if you have at least four years of work experience and a high school education, there is a good chance you'll be watching the Montreal Canadiens trounce the Toronto Maple Leafs over a bottle of Kokanee's sometime in the near future.

Speaking both official languages is also a plus although if you have more work experience or more education than high school, you can still dance through the test requirements without being refused.

Bring mittens or gloves because it gets cold up here, unless you're moving to Vancouver in British Columbia. In that case, bring an umbrella and some hiking boots. Don't bother bringing any weapons with you--you won't need them here. If hunting wild animals is your passion, we have plenty of four ought fours and twenty-two's for sale at Canadian Tire (don't worry about the lingo, you'll get used to it).

Being Canadian is a lot like being skinny. As opposed to being a powerhouse that can conquer another country in the time it takes to watch an episode of "C.O.P.S.", Canada must communicate with other nations. We cajole; we try to be diplomatic; we don't preach that we're the best, although we do tend to passive-aggressively think that we've got the Utopia of the North. We believe in the Geneva Convention, growth of international development, and universal human rights.

The great thing about our country is that everyone is OK as long as they bring some beer and don't pick fights with anyone else. I've never been robbed although I have been involved in street scuffles (I blame it on the booze).

Even so, I've observed that in my peer group, we see everyone as equal and don't live in a segregated fashion. Although Canadian politics is as interesting as a three hour film on linoleum production, at least we have several parties that vie constantly for attention by trying to bring in their platforms, instead of a Duopoly with only a fringe candidate every couple of years. I realize that I'm painting with a very wide brush but I think Canada has got some good things going on. Come one, come all, and bring your free minds!

In response to Greasey Steve's comment, I think that you should vote for the NDP because it's what you ought to do. They have the right idea when it comes to good government. The Liberals want to drag us closer to the American way of life, vis a vis participation in a North American missile defense shield and also by focusing on currying American favour (Bush and Chretien were barely on speaking terms so Paul Martin has been in Seduction mode recently). That is why they don't deserve my vote. The Conservatives are even closer to being Canada's Republican Party. They support two-tiered health care, they are against many progressive ideals like the legalization of Marijuana and same sex marriages, and their leader has the charisma of a sea sponge.

What does that leave us with? If you are a Quebecer, you can vote Bloc Quebecois, but we all know what that means. You might be telling Ottawa that you're one of the many Quebecers that want to jettison the Canadian Federation. Even though their leftist-leaning policies and constant defence of Quebec's rights agree with me, I can't vote Bloc either, because I think Canada should live on.

The NDP wants Canada to become a leader in environmental technology, in order to meet Kyoto standards in time for the 2012 deadline and to help to clean up the water, air, and soil of the world. They also want to increase foreign aid, to enhance local businesses and ensure that the wealthy pay their fair share of taxes without loopholes. They support legalization of marijuana, although some of the moderate elements of the party only favour decriminalization. Their leader Jack Layton is a fine man and a visionary of sorts--when he talks about the future of Canada, I see a hybrid of traditional Green Party philosophy with a uniquely Canadian perspective.

If we could elect a minority NDP government, or even increase to the levels the NDP enjoyed when Ed Broadbent was the leader, we would see a positive change in the way our country is run. Enough Liberal slashing of social programs, never mind the Quixotic Conservatives and their "God-fearing" Western Fundamentalist base; let's just show the world that we aren't America Jr. We're much weaker than that, and thank heavens. Vote NDP, Steve-O. You'll thank me later!