Friday, January 26, 2007

On beards

If you are a regular user of Facebook, you know that I am currently growing a beard. You also know that Carley, my girlfriend, disapproves of this, and has started a campaign, titled: "When bad beards happen to good boyfriends." If you are a personal friend of Carley and I, you will know that this is not the first time we have come head-to-head on the subject of facial hair.

I love beards. I have been fascinated by them since I was a child, when some my favourite activities included using my mother's mascara to experiment with goatees, soul patches, and scruff; applying the same mascara to my sisters to play games such as "The Who" and "The Beatles,"; and drawing pencil pictures of male faces, representative of my imaginary band, Sunny Rain (later Tidal Wave), and adding and subtracting hair to represent different phases of our career. I once drew a picture of Tidal Wave performing live with a three-piece horn section and percussionist, which became the cover photo of our highly regarded live album, Tidal Wave in Concert. Every band member sported some kind of facial hair. Song titles, writing and musician credits appeared on the back of the cover.

My love of beards is obviously connected to my love of rock and roll, and in particular, my fascination with The Beatles. As Andre Mayer points out in this clever article for CBC Arts Online, facial hair has come to represent artistic credibility in rock music, a trend that likely began when The Beatles appeared on the cover Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, their most conceptualized artistic statement, wearing funny little moustaches. And that was only the beginning: "The more deeply entrenched the Beatles became in the studio, the longer their beards got," Mayer writes. "Looking at the Beatles’ catalogue, we automatically slot their output into one of two eras: the clean-shaven period of lighthearted jangle-pop and the disheveled period that produced dark masterpieces like Abbey Road and The White Album."

My personal story of beard growth is a tale of struggle. I have yet to reach a point where my moustache connects with my beard, a common problem for men my age. This is particularly problematic for me, due to my Mediterranean features - I look like a Latino gangster. And yet, I will press on, hoping to one day look like Paul McCartney during the Let It Be era. A man can dream, can't he?

Saturday, January 20, 2007

An offer you can easily refuse

Musically, I feel stuck. I've sunk into the sad nostalgia of listening to mix CDs I made years ago, in a vein attempt to relive past sonic glories. Since this cannot continue, I'm making an offer to each and every Extended Drum Solo reader. Make me an MP3 mix of albums. In exchange, I will write a paragraph-length review of each album and post them here. I'll also make an MP3 mix for you. Deal?

Friday, January 12, 2007

On The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen

Television news generally does a terrible job of covering policy stories. Policy – government, foreign, and otherwise - is best discussed in journals, or at least, in magazines or newspapers, since the video footage necessary to make TV news work either distracts the viewer from the issues, or worse, subverts the meaning of the story. Even the best TV coverage of policy, the coverage that goes beyond eight-second sound bytes, the coverage with credible sources, the coverage with balanced interviews and helpful graphics, (the coverage on CBC), doesn’t compare to a well-structured, well-written print article. It’s simply the wrong medium for the message.

The same thing applies to blogging about a novel, especially a novel like Jonathan Franzen’s The Corrections. How can a medium best suited for short commentary and the occasional link ever give due attention to a book that is over six hundred pages long, a book that contains sentences loaded enough to base an entire graduate thesis on, a book that is at once funnier than classic Simspons, sadder than a lovelorn Wilco ballad, and closer to reality than anything on CNN? As you’ve probably guessed, it can’t.

The Corrections is the kind of artistic achievement that spawns new theories of American literature. It’s the kind of artistic achievement that allows reviewers to write things like “All who care about the direction of this world must read this book,” and get away with it. It’s the kind of artistic achievement that always overwhelms me. In the English classes I took at university, there were always books (White Noise, The Sun Also Rises, Anne of Green Gables) I loved so much that writing about them became impossible. It was as if I became so deeply involved with the text that I couldn’t dig my way out to explain it. And for those books, for those classes, I was allowed to write essays, with citations, and long quotes taken directly from the author. You don’t, you can't, write English essays on blogs.

According to the back cover of my paperback edition, “The Corrections quickly became one of the most talked-about books of the year” when it was published “to international acclaim.” If this is true (and when has the back cover of a novel ever been known to contain untruths?), then I’m certain a Google search will provide you with plenty of serious discussion about the book, should you be interested in it. Nevertheless, I have chosen to write about The Corrections by not writing about The Corrections at all. Because the blog is not the place for such discussion.

In other words, ban television news.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

On David Beckham and the MLS

David Beckham, husband of former Spice Girl Victoria Adams (now Victoria Beckham), has signed a £128m five-year deal with the Los Angeles Galaxy of the MLS. Toronto FC begin their inaugural season in the MLS in April. Matthew Chung and I have talked about going to some games. Here is a conversation that may very well take place between the two of us when Beckham and the Galaxy hit town.


You know, boy, some of the players you see tonight may make it to the big, European, leagues, one day.

What? Aren’t we going to see any washed-up Europeans?

Sure, we get a nice mix here.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

On the weather

What, the fuck.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

On James Brown

The music publications are all doing the whole commemoration thing for the Godfather of Soul, James Brown. None of these write-ups, however, are as essential as the brilliant profile Jonathan Lethem did on James Brown for Rolling Stone a few months back.

Being James Brown