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Archive

Dec
8th
Mon
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Flashback: The Time Vice Magazine Hurt My Feelings

I’ve been in Vice Magazine twice: once when they published a feature I wrote while on an internship in Kosovo, and prior to that when they straight-up dissed me on the letters page. The latter is a far more interesting story:

It was around 1998, and I was still in journalism school. A (former) friend and classmate who worked for Vice invited me to do some proofreading with him, and I leapt at the opportunity. Back then, writers got paid but shlubs like me didn’t - instead, a few hours pouring over bad copy was supposed to get you some free shwag, i.e. shoes, CDs, etc. Anyway, it was me, this guy, and some woman who knew Suroosh. At the end of our shift, Suroosh tells what’s-her-name that she can grab a pair of Diesel jeans from off the top of the pile. As for me, I left that night empty-handed.

Rather than let sleeping dogs lie, I made the catastrophic error of writing an irrate letter to the editor, complaining about how I deserved something for my hard work. flash forward a few weeks - I’m browsing through Sam the Record Man when a friend informs me that he read my name in the latest issue. Curious, I asked for more details, but he would only divulge that “it wasn’t good.” (Click here for the full-size scan.)

At the time I was devastated, but in a way it’s a badge of honour. after all, someone went to a considerable amount of trouble to inform thousands of hipsters that Chris Paré sucks. This was a pivotal incident in my career as a writer, shutting me out of certain circles while pushing me towards others. I regret nothing.

Oh, and the guy peeking out above the text is Arish Ahmed from King Khan, back when he wasn’t a pretentious rock star.

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Dec
5th
Fri
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Alexander Robotnik, you just keep getting better…

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Dec
4th
Thu
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Nom de plume: What Are You Hiding?

I’m going to keep this as vague as possible, what with Montreal being a small city and not a place you want to piss off your professional peers. That being said, I write for a local arts/music/urban culture monthly of note, and it seems like every second contributor has some sort of convoluted pseudonym for their byline. Now, I can understand if, for example, you’re a DJ or something, and you want to maintain some kind of branding consistency with respect to your public persona. That’s fine; I get it. But for writers at large, why would you want to hide your identity? To me, it borders on being unethical…even cowardly. If you’re going to commit to putting something in print, then atleast have the balls to get behind what you’re saying and not cower behind some stupid alter ego.

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Dec
2nd
Tue
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ATHF Live Action Casting Contest!?!

omigod omigod omigod - the Cartoon Network is doing a live-action episode of Aqua Teen Hunger Force, and they’re holding a casting contest for the part of Carl! Described as “the prime, Grade-A cut of all-American man-meat who lives next door”, Carl is a human colostomy bag of middle-aged white male depravity. He also got raped by a talking dish glove called Hand Banana - here’s a clip.

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Zen and the Art of Dubstep

Our good friends over Music is My Sanctuary just posted Flying Lotus’ Essential Mix, and it’s a real lulu: Daedelus, Portishead, Slum Village, and all sorts of moody, broody goodness. Run by the one of the hardest working DJs in the 514, Lexis, Sancutary is probably the best music portal in the city, and a well-written one at that. So, uh, check it out.

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Dec
1st
Mon
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I (heart) Theme Parties

For those of you outside of Facebookvania, this is a shot of me at the Reitmans Christmas party last Friday night. I was the DJ, and one of about five people dressed up according to that night’s theme, Brow-Furrowing Virtuoso Composers of the 18th Century (but seriously, it was something like Catherine the Great).

I played to a predominantly female crowd, so I more or less knew what tracks would get the biggest reaction: ABBA, “You’re the One That I Want” from Grease, Madonna, etc…HOWEVER, I was also educated on what the average 18 to 25 year-old woman expects to hear when she’s dancing - corporate and event DJ’s, take note:

Lady Gaga - Poker Face

Lady Gaga - Just Dance

Bob Sinclar - Love Generation

Britney Spears - Womanizer

Timbaland feat. Keri Hilson - The Way I Are

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Nov
26th
Wed
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CFCF Leftovers

Has it been two-and-a-half months already? Boy, time sure flies when you’re avoiding the creeping guilt of giving up on your blog. As a peace offering to our zero readers, here’s what was left on the editing room floor of my interview with the mysterious Mike Silver, aka CFCF (Myspace page here). Dude’s 21 and he’s already remixed Crystal Castles, The Teenagers and The Presets - he has a new EP of old stuff out on Paper Bag, plus a scorching-hot split single with upstart Acephale, due out in 2009. Think Twin Peaks meets Maurice Fulton.

Crystal Castles: not much with the feedback

“I don’t know; it’s kind of strange with them specifically, ‘cause they don’t really communicate a lot with people. I don’t know if they give a lot of interviews, and they’re kind of notorious for their live shows being kind of last-minute. They definitely reacted well, they just weren’t very specific in their comments or anything. They just said that they liked it a lot and…uh, that was basically it.”

Alan Parsons Project, Quiet Village, and the “Voyager” sample

“When I used it, at the time it sounded so familiar. It was only after that I found out about that Quiet Village song that is basically an edit of the original. I felt like such an idiot for not even realizing that I had heard this song before. But anyways, in the end I figured they’re two different songs, and pretty different in style and texture. I guess I was attempting to make some dancey prog.”

Scary soundscapes and the italo connection

“It’s no coincidence that whenever you read about people who were responsible for the beginnings of italo, they always mention Giorgio Moroder or Claudio Simonetti, who was in Goblin doing horror soundtracks. It’s present in so much italo – that scary undertone.”

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Sep
10th
Wed
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I miss Brit Pop…

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Sep
4th
Thu
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You Should Write That Down

Always keep a notebook and pen handy. The missus and I watched Commando the other night when I scribbled down the following gem:

I *think* I was referring to Tommy Chong’s daughter, Rae Dawn Chong, who played Schwarzenegger’s sidekick/love interest. And for the record, I don’t think she’s ugly at all…that said, "horse-faced dog monster" is officially my new favourite insult.

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Sep
2nd
Tue
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Ask Michael! What Obama Means

Forget the platitudes, the promises and his uphill battle against a once presumptive candidate - Barak Obama is the Democrats’ brightest hope since that sax-playing chubby chaser from Arkansas. But what does this firebrand mean for America? More importantly, who the hell is he, and why do I care? For these answers and more we go to Michael R., fresh back from his trip to scenic Boulder, Colorado (pretty much the only place in Colorado where it’s safe to be gay or Democratic):

Q: Who is Barak Obama, and why does everyone love him so much?

A: There is Barak Obama, the man, and there is Barak Obama, the phenomenon.  They are quite different things.

First, Barak Obama the man: a 47-year-old graduate of Columbia University and Harvard Law School (a member the editorial board of the prestigious Harvard Law Review, who graduated Juris Doctor magna cum laude), former civil rights lawyer and member of the Illinois Senate (garnering an impressive 70% of the popular vote), and professor of Constitutional Law at the University of Chicago Law School. As a Senator, Obama contributed to legislation to control conventional weapons, delimit lobbying, prevent electoral fraud, address climate change and prevent nuclear terrorism. As a presidential candidate, he promises to withdraw troops from Iraq, establish US energy independence and institute universal health care.

Obama’s employment history has also been typically liberal in nature: a year with the Business International Corporation, a business-oriented think-tank, followed by a few years with the New York Public Interest Research Group, then on to the Chicago’s Developing Communities Project, where he was a community organizer for three years, simultaneously working with the black congregation-based community organization, the Gamaliel Foundation. In 1992, Obama worked with the Illinois Project Vote, registering black voters. In 1993, Obama joined Davis, Milner, Barnhill & Galland, a law firm specializing in civil litigation and neighbourhood economic development. At various times and for various periods, Obama has also held seats on a variety of liberal foundations, including Public Allies, the Woods Fund of Chicago, the Joyce Foundation and the Chicago Annenberg Challenge.

In short, Barak Obama represents the humanitarian, liberal wing of the Democratic Party. While there are those who would claim that he represents the American left, this is more a comment on the mainstream nature of the US left than on the man himself.

All of this places Obama in a long line of liberal Democrats who have been presidential candidates or even the President; for instance, the original great white hope of the Democratic Party and liberal America, John Kennedy; ’60s icon, Eugene McCarthy; Nobel Peace Prize winner, Jimmy Carter, or the Democrat’s last great disappointment, Bill Clinton, to name but a handful. It is worth noting that the three men named above who became President exhibited a far greater degree of liberalism out of office than in. We will return to this point.

It seems to me that Obama-fever has only one parallel in post-World War II American history, and that is the presidential campaign of John F. Kennedy. The frenzy surrounding Obama’s presidential campaign is more about the historical juncture than it is about the man himself. America, with its oversized collective ego, has never brooked defeat well. After going down in flames in Vietnam in the mid-70s, the US engaged in a veritable orgy of handwringing and self-pity, by turns overwhelming and nauseating, for some 15 years. It was only with the Reagan administration’s illegal invasion of Grenada and the illegal Contra war in Nicaragua that Americans began again to securely feel they were “number one,” a sentiment reinforced by the dubious military exercises in Libya, the former Yugoslavia and Sudan. Both American politicians and media pundits began to speak of the US as the world’s policeman.

However, the US romance with itself proved short-lived: first, the economy began to tank under the pressure of foreign competition, particularly cheap labour and the outsourcing to the Third World; then came the collapse of major industries, such as the automobile industry, with formerly vibrant working class communities suddenly reduced to black holes of unemployment and economic depression, i.e. Flint, Michigan; and, finally, nineteen men armed with box cutters carried out the single largest act of non-governmental terrorism in history, killing over 2000 people and costing the American economy trillions of dollars in the subsequent seven years to date. By the time the events of 9/11 occurred, the US had already begun its decline as the world’s leading power, and a handful of shrewd, albeit diabolical, men and women knew it.

The neocons saw in the events of 9/11 the opportunity they had been looking for. If the US was to reverse its gradual, but inevitable, economic and political decline, drastic measures were required. The invasion of Iraq was the key plank in the strategy.  (There seems to be little point in summarizing the illegal and illegitimate nature of that invasion here; the public record is glaringly clear.)  The invasion of Iraq was not, as many seem to presume, about “oil for SUVs.” The US was already importing the better part of the oil Iraq was producing – since the war, oil production has declined and prices have risen, so if access to oil was the issue, the strategy was deeply flawed. I would submit, however, that the invasion of Iraq was not about gaining oil for the US, but about how to prevent that oil from reaching the growing economies in China, India, Indonesia, etc, as well as preventing Russia from reasserting itself as a major power on the world stage. (In this regard, it is also worth looking at where the US maintains a military presence in the former Soviet Union.) Essentially, burning oil wells were better than oil wells exporting oil to America’s competitors.

But something happened that the US psyche was ill-prepared for. The US found itself getting its ass kicked in Iraq, just as had been the case in Vietnam some 20 years earlier, and its putative allies weren’t willing to die indefinitely for somebody else’s imperial hubris. So after eight years and two dubious victories for the neocon-hijacked Republican Party, with a relatively high level of unemployment, runaway levels of personal bankruptcy, a declining dollar, record fuel prices and an ongoing and apparently unwinnable war, Americans seem ready for “change.” Just as the American populace turned to Carter and Clinton in the past when they grew tired of bellicose Republicanism, they are turning to Obama now.

An inordinate amount of attention has been paid to Obama’s pigmentation. Can a black man win popular support? Can a black man win the Democratic Primary? Can a black man win the Presidency? And, most ominously, will a black presidential candidate/President be assassinated? And, more recently, if a black man can really do those things is he really a black man? (This one coming from long time black political leader and media whore Jesse Jackson, amongst others.)

Not much positive can be said about the neocons and the Bush administrations, but they did exhibit an exemplary level of colour blindness. Blacks were represented by Colin Powell and Condoleeza Rice, both of whom served as Secretary of State, arguably the third most powerful position in the administration and the most important public office, Alphonso Jackson (Secretary of Housing and Urban Development) and Rod Paige (Secretary of Education). Albert Gonzales (Attorney General), Carlos Gutierrez (Secretary of Commerce) and Mel Martinez (Secretary of Housing and Urban Development) are all Hispanic, with the latter two Cuban-born. It seems incontestable to me that the particularly prominent roles played by Powell and Rice, the former consistently the most popular figure in the first Bush administration, laid the groundwork for Obama’s presidential campaign – it is quite obvious that had Powell wished to run for the Presidency as either a Republican or a Democrat, this would have been favourably greeted in many sectors.

The enthusiasm surrounding Obama’s campaign is undoubtedly rooted in a crypto-religious faith in his capacity to turn the situation around in the US – to end the war in Iraq in a dignified way, to rejuvenate the economy and get oil prices back down and to deliver the social programs, particularly medicare, the US so desperately needs. The man’s liberal credentials speak for themselves, and he has both governmental experience and roots in his own community – even the man’s sincerity seems obvious. All of this will doubtless serve to raise expectations to dizzying heights.

This might be a good place to review the realities surrounding past liberal presidents in whom much hope was invested. John F. Kennedy was unquestionably the prototype for the “great white hope” in America. In spite of a truckload of liberal rhetoric, Kennedy was arguably the most aggressively anti-communist president in American history and succeeded in substantially ratcheting up Cold War tensions. He was responsible for the failed CIA-backed Bay of Pigs invasion in Cuba in 1961, a major embarrassment.  Out of what can only be called sheer hubris, Kennedy brought the world to the cusp of nuclear war in 1963, with the so-called Cuban missile Crisis. In the same year, he was responsible for the decision to take over the failing French war in Vietnam, flooding the country with US soldiers and setting in motion what was to become the most divisive internal conflict in post-WW II American history. And in the same year, he supported the coup in Iraq that put Saddam Hussein in power. He also disappointed civil rights leaders with his slow, clumsy and at times retrograde action regarding America’s notorious racism – for instance, in 1962, he distanced himself from civil rights legislation for fear of antagonizing southern Democrats.

Jimmy Carter, the next major liberal to serve as President, took positive steps to establish civil rights, to legalize abortion and to replace the death penalty with a life sentence (admittedly with mixed results on all counts). However, in the area of Cold War politics, Carter took a step that would serve subsequent administrations, including those of George W. Bush, in their bellicose interests in the Middle East, the Carter Doctrine. The Doctrine was written by Carter’s Secretary of State, Zbigniew Brzezinski (it might have been called the Brzezinski Doctrine, but nobody could remember how to spell Brzezinski) in response to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan (the outcome of which was an object lesson the US failed to learn). It asserted America’s right to intervene in the Persian Gulf at will to defend its national interests, i.e., access to oil. It was an essential step in the American exceptionalism that led to the current war in Iraq.

The next great liberal hope was Bill Clinton. Domestically, Clinton expanded the death penalty to include crimes that did not result in death, for example large-scale drug dealing and, most importantly, failed to deliver the universal medicare that had formed a central plank in his electoral campaign. On the international level, Clinton was the first President to raise the spectre of Saddam attaining weapons of mass destruction, and to use the claim to rationalize aggressive military action against Iraq. In 1998, following the al-Qaeda attacks on the US Embassies in Tanzania and Kenya, Clinton authorized a cruise missile bombing campaign against putative al-Qaeda sites in Sudan and Afghanistan (Operation Infinite Reach), famously destroying the Al-Shifa pharmaceutical factory in Sudan, a factory which produced 50% of Sudan’s human and veterinarian medication. He also authorized the US and NATO bombing campaign in Yugoslavia in 1999. The long and the short of it is that Clinton’s foreign policy was marked by a substantial upramping of the aggression against Islamic countries and undoubtedly served to contribute to the factors that led to 9/11.

It is in this context that one must realistically consider the Obama phenomenon. On the one hand, the forthcoming election will serve as a veritable IQ test for the American electorate. The rest of the world is telegraphing to the US the fact that they want to see Obama and not McCain in the Oval Office – Obama’s handsome, smiling face has graced the cover of virtually every major magazine in the world in recent weeks and, when visiting foreign countries, he has been uniformly well received.  In Berlin alone, 70,000 people turned out to greet him.  (And he didn’t even claim to be a German pastry known as a Berliner.) On the other hand, the powerful forces that make up the core of US capitalism, the most powerful capitalists in the world, are unlikely to be supportive of more than limited initiatives towards change on Obama’s part, and this is no small issue. In the unlikely event that Obama were to buck that pressure, countless voices have predicted his assassination, which could quickly become a self-fulfilling prophecy – doubtless the work of a lone gunman in a library repository somewhere.

So what should one expect from a victorious Obama? Some concessions to his liberal base, but don’t hold your breathe waiting for universal medicare – the insurance companies are extremely powerful and private medical insurance is an unholy cash cow – pious expressions about “peace on earth” coupled with a “realistic” necessity to remain in the Middle East, possible military expansion should the Russians continue to assert their right to control their sphere of influence and a liberal-left at least temporarily neutered by their support for their candidate, giving an Obama administration the kind of leeway Dick Cheney has wet dreams about.

Remember kids, no matter who you vote for, the government always gets in.

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