Half Mast in Cracked Axle

Ron Petrie, longtime humour columnist and enthusiastic chronicler of life in Saskatchewan, died Sunday of cancer. The Leader-Post‘s Will Chabun has a fine obit here, but for a full appreciation for the guy and for the writer (I knew, admired, and liked both) go read his columns. “Sask. at the Crossroads” and “Canada Malama, A Wop Bam Boom” are two recent classics.

Go Read: Maura Johnston On Music Writing

Village Voice music editor Maura Johnston (hopefully) puts a cap on a particularly odious run of execrable things written about women in the music press with this handy four-step guide titled “How Not to Write About Female Musicians“.

It’s worth pointing out that prairie dog‘s own Charles Atlas Sheppard reviewed the Lana Del Ray album — the subject of much of the awful rockwrite in contention in Johnston’s piece — for the current issue and did a swell job (though his Leonard Cohen review in the same issue is even better), steering clear of the asshattery described in the Voice bit.

Bang the Drum!: Conflict of Interest

Bang the DrumJohn Cameron is a fellow contributor to prairie dog magazine and the Dog Blog. I’ve never met the guy, but his writing makes him seem like an okay dude. His band, These Estates–whose name strains under too many S’s and E’s–is slammin’. They release their a 7″ single early in February. You can friend them on MySpace.
UPDATE: Mr. Cameron says the MySpace page hasn’t been updated in “like a year i think” and points interested parties toward post-2007 social media options such as the band’s Facebook page and their Tumblr blog. Y no LinkedIn?

Erin Passmore has been praised elsewhere on the Dog Blog, and with good reason. A founding member of Rah Rah, occasional member of Sylvie, she’s dropping her solo debut EP Downtown next month on Hidden Pony Records. You can download the title track here, via YouSendIt. Here she is performing “Prairie Girl” for Exclaim Magazine last fall.

UPDATE AGAIN: You can now stream the hell out of the whole EP at the brand new ErinPassmore.com! Huzzah, it’s wonderful! Flashes of Martha Wainwright & Sarah Harmer with loads of totally unique stuff too! Better than a solo album by a drummer deserves to be! You heard me, Phil Collins and Don Henley!
Emmet Matheson is a freelance writer who blogs at A Bulldozer With a Wrecking Ball Attached. You can follow him on Twitter or you can e-mail him at: bulldozerDOTwreckingballATgmailDOTcom

Why Hair Matters

Elsewhere on the Dog Blog, debate rages as to whether or not it’s fair to poke fun or criticize the hairstyles of public figures, specifically in regard to one hockey-haired hizzoner, the mayor of mullet, Party-in-the-Back Pat, etc.

Turns out the CBC’s Washington Bureau, Neil Macdonald, has been entertaining similar thoughts. Macdonald’s targets, however, are much more egregious mane offenders: the comb-overs of GOP presidential candidates. A sample:

Does Newt Gingrich, PhD, imagine somewhere in that famously esoteric mind of his that nobody notices? Does he look at himself in the mirror in the morning and reassure himself that he’s fooled Mother Nature?

Is that how a president should think?

Go read the whole thing here.

Bang the Drum!: Pronoun Trouble

Bang the DrumI filed my first record review in months last week. I tackled the new record from Rae Spoon–you can read all about it in this week’s print edition of prairie dog. Spoon, if you don’t know, is a Montreal-based singer-songwriter. Spoon is also transgendered. In my review I followed the lead of Spoon’s publicity material and used the pronoun he in reference to Spoon. Then yesterday, long after I had filed my review, I saw this post on Rae Spoon’s Twitter feed: “I like being able to be spoken about without my gender being pointed out every single pronoun #callmethey

My first thought was that I understand the frustration with pronouns, but they is plural. Rae Spoon may not be beholden to gender labels, but Rae Spoon is most definitely singular–and I mean that as a compliment. The trans community should create a pronoun not already in use, I thought.
This afternoon, though, it’s still bugging me. It’s not at all as cut-and-dried as that. I consulted my go-to source for grammar and usage issues, Roy Peter Clark. Clark gives a good deal of space and consideration to the issue in his 2010 book The Glamour of Grammar.

The grammatical problem, of course, is that the plural pronouns “they” and “their” do not agree in number with the singular antecedent “person.” Given that clear violation of standard usage, why would anyone encourage it? There are at least two good, if not persuasive, reasons: (1) These days, gender equality trumps the arithmetic logic of formal grammar; (2) that’s the way we talk.

Clark goes on to talk about transgendered writer S. Bear Bergman, champion of gender neutral pronouns ze and hir, before concluding:

If you have not yet had a conversation with a transgender person, you will. When you do, the problem of pronoun will become pronounced. So, you must be thinking, what are you suggesting? Are you slouching toward blasphemy in approving number disagreement?
My answer is an enthusiastic but limited yes […] Another answer is to write from your heart.

Frankly, I’m relieved I had filed my review when I did and can honestly plead ignorance on the issue. I graciously leave it to writers and editors in the queer community to sort it out and shall follow their lead. I looked into the issue some more and found a blog posting on Spoon’s Tumblr blog:

I decided that I too prefer “they” as a pronoun. I was tired of often being expected to perform a male role because my pronoun was “he.” After so many years fighting to be called “he” and having people ask me when I was going to modify my body (physically transition), I realized that for me being trans is not about being read as a man or changing my body. I am happy with the body that I have. What I’m unhappy with is the way things are gendered by society in general. I don’t feel like I want to carry out a male or a female gender role. Gender-neutral pronouns made sense to me personally and felt like the right decision.

The post details the ongoing struggle to get queer weekly Xtra to adopt the pronoun they for trans people.

Here are Rae Spoon and Elisha Lim singing “Stand By Your Trans” in support of their (plural, no controversy, whew) campaign for they.

UPDATE 01/27: Toronto’s NOW Magazine, as usual, rides my coattails with an interview with Spoon about pronouns and their new album. Includes audio snippets!

Emmet Matheson is a freelance writer who blogs at A Bulldozer With a Wrecking Ball Attached. You can e-mail him at: bulldozerDOTwreckingballATgmailDOTcom

Bang the Drum!: Whimper vs. Bang – 2 Out Of 3 Falls, 10 Round Limit

Bang the DrumWhat is this? The year is over already? My latest batch of kids were born just before Thanksgiving, and in some ways, I never mentally made it past that second weekend in October. I haven’t listened to much music since then, and certainly haven’t heard anything new. Like two of my favourite, Tom Waits and Kathryn Calder, have put out new albums, but I haven’t listened to them so I can’t put them on the list. Lulu, the universally panned collaboration between Lou Reed and Metallica that inspired some of the laziest music reviews of the decade? Haven’t heard it.
Hey hey, you’ll say, why don’t you listen to them now, Emmet? What, and risk waking up the babies? Are you crazy?
I was originally going to write here about how I’ve stopped listening to music and can no longer write about it with any authority, in a kind of backwards spin on Dan MacRae’s excellent 3-part examination of the entrails of his own musical taste. But, y’know what, forget that. As I was drafting such a self-serving and dull essay, cycling through the many, many music files I’ve been sent over the last few months and until now ignored, I heard No Gold‘s “Council Jam” and I got excited.

And then I wondered if I could find another 15 songs from the last year that really got me excited to listen to or write about music.
Continue reading “Bang the Drum!: Whimper vs. Bang – 2 Out Of 3 Falls, 10 Round Limit”

Bang the Drum!: what the kids are talking about means zero now

Bang the DrumDon’t get too excited. I’m not back. In fact, I might even be less back than before, depending on who you ask. Sometimes when I wake up in the middle of the night I’m not me. I’m Swedish sleuth Martin Beck and my crying babies are a mystery I just can’t solve. I suppose this makes my wife Lennart Kollberg and my older daughter Gunvald Larsson. The twins are a puzzle we’re all trying to figure out. It’s inscrutable at first, but as weeks go by patterns emerge. We do the legwork that an important investigation demands: routine feedings, forensic diaper changes, regular measurements. Bit by excructiating bit, the picture comes into focus, but the most important details remain obscured. There’s no smoking gun. There are no parlour confessions. There is the just honest work and thoughtful vigilance with no promise of a satisfying resolution. This is what it is to raise kids within a Swedish crime novel.
15. Teenland (Northern Pikes) performed by Andrew Vincent by havenotbeenthesame

I was wearing my Andrew Vincent t-shirt when Lillian was born. For the twins, I wore my Giant Sand t-shirt. We went down to Seattle to see Giant Sand about two months before Lill was born and when I saw that Giant Sand was coming to Vancouver a month before the twins’ due date, I took this as a good omen. Nicole was too pregnant to come to the show this time, but she told me to get a new Giant Sand shirt. They didn’t bring any shirts with them on this tour, though. I don’t know why I put so much stock in Rock Shirts, it’s just how I’ve always been. As I write this, I’m wearing a spit-up soaked Tricky Woo shirt. I know. Andrew Vincent, Tricky Woo…what else have I got? The Parkas, the Sadies, um, Cuff the Duke…oh wow, another Tricky Woo shirt. A lot of those shirts are wearing pretty thin, coming up on 10 years old, which is old for a t-shirt, I guess. They mostly reflect the great rock shirt time of my life, when I was covering music for a mid-sized metropolitan newspaper in a pre-Arcade Fire era when it seemed like no one but me cared about Canadian indie rock and I basically had no responsibility to anyone but myself. Is that why I hold on to them? Do they represent the wild freedom of my ill-spent youth? Or am I just too lazy to get new shirts?
Giant Sand – Shiver by FIRE RECORDS

Ten years is a long time. Ten years ago I was starting my love affair with community radio. Ten years ago I powered through Have Not Been The Same, an Infinite Jest-sized chronicle of what happened to CanRock before I was legal age. Almost everything I wrote (about music) for the next five years was directly informed by that book. To celebrate the book’s anniversary one of the book’s three authors, Michael Barclay, has curated a tribute album to the era of CanRock the HNBTS covers. I was beside myself with delight when I saw that Snailhouse was covering Al Tuck on the album. I love Snailhouse and I love Al Tuck. Mike “Snailhouse” Feuerstack was one of the very few guests I had on my show during my nearly five years on CJTR. I gave him a Tommy James & the Shondells CD and he gave me A New Tradition, 2001. Al Tuck, well, here’s an appreciation of Al Tuck I wrote last year.
13. Buddah (Al Tuck) performed by Snailhouse by havenotbeenthesame

I like that these things keep popping up. My friend Jamie doesn’t believe in coincidences. He arches his eyebrow and says, “Well, Emmet, I don’t have to tell you that there’s no such thing.” But sometimes that’s all I believe in. If the universe is random, if Bill Maher is right, and whatever meaning we’ve found in it is just the work of our imaginations, doesn’t that say something wonderful about us? We looked up at the night stars and drew pictures in the firmament! We beat back nihilism and boredom with stories and art and songs. Isn’t that worth preserving? Isn’t that worth perpetuating? ”
mp3: “Hollow Man” by John Millard & Happy Day

Emmet Matheson is a freelance writer who blogs at A Bulldozer With a Wrecking Ball Attached. You can e-mail him at: bulldozerDOTwreckingballATgmailDOTcom

Bang the Drum!: You can’t talk to the dude

Bang the DrumI’m writing this on Thursday night. My wife has been in early or pre-labour for several days. She’s catching some Z’s while my mom and my sister tuck my daughter in to sleep. That’s right, I’m in a house with my wife, my daughter, my sister and my mom. I don’t remember the last time I had a conversation with another man. We’ve been to see the midwives, the ultrasound technicians, and the foetal monitoring unit over the last few days. All women. We did see our male OB at the hospital today, but he didn’t actually speak to me.

Vancouver’s Louise Burns is heading out on tour in November with Matthew Barber. I don’t know who’s headlining. Either of them could. Barber’s been around for a while, I remember seeing him open for Buck 65 in early 2003 at what was then still known as The State. Buck has of course gone on to fame as “personality” on CBC radio. Barber’s sister Jill is married to another CBC “personality”, Grant Lawrence. Innnnnnteresting.
Anyway, like I said, Barber’s been around the block and paid his dues. But Burns has got a great voice and sound that easily recalls early Neko Case. She’s been making music since she was 11 and if there’s any justice in this crap hole we call a universe, she’ll be making music for a long time to come. Two words: Star, Power. Of course, there are no Regina dates on the tour (nor should there be, since the dates are all in Ontario).

Matt Goud, AKA Northcote, is coming to Regina however. November 1, at the Artesian. Goud’s an on-again/off-again Regina kid, currently based out of that other Queen City, Victoria. (Nelson, BC, setting of the Steve Martin/Darryl Hannah romcom Roxanne, also calls itself a Queen City. Seriously, Queen Nelson?) Goud’s doing okay for himself, building his rep on the naional stage. His latest project is a documentary series. The first part is above.

mp3: “The Hurricane” by The Migrant

I find it interesting that the hospital–St. Paul’s, downtown Vancouver–uses the oe spelling for “foetal monitoring”. St. Paul’s is a strange place, an old redbrick complex amid the shimmering glass towers. A little bit of Charles Dickens plunked into a Douglas Coupland book.

Emmet Matheson is a freelance writer who blogs at A Bulldozer With a Wrecking Ball Attached. You can e-mail him at: bulldozerDOTwreckingballATgmailDOTcom

Bang the Drum!: $#!t Maurice Sendak Says

Bang the DrumMaurice Sendak, writer and illustrator of beloved children’s books Where the Wild Things Are, In the Night Kitchen and Chicken Soup with Rice, has a new book out. To promote Bumble-Ardy, the 83-year-old Sendak has been doing a lot of interviews, invariably saying some pretty wild and wonderful things. Here are some of my favourites:

“I refuse to lie to children,” says Sendak. “I refuse to cater to the bullshit of innocence.” (The Guardian)

“I have to accept my role. I will never kill myself like Vincent Van Gogh. Nor will I paint beautiful water lilies like Monet. I can’t do that. I’m in the idiot role of being a kiddie book person.” (The Guardian)

“I didn’t sleep with famous people or movie stars or anything like that. It’s a common story: Brooklyn boy grows up and succeeds in his profession, period,” he explains in his friendly growl. (CBC)

Most children–I know I did when I was a kid–fantasize another set of parents. Or fantasize no parents. They don’t tell their real parents about that–you don’t want to tell Mom and Dad. Kids lead a very private life. And I was a typical child (I think). I was a liar. I was out to protect my parents from hard truths. Although what I assumed was a hard truth was really–hard to realize what it could be now. (The Atlantic)

mp3: “Lose Your Shit” by Arabesque

Oh, screw the world. Why should the dumb world know what I think? (Globe & Mail)

Emmet Matheson is a freelance writer who blogs at A Bulldozer With a Wrecking Ball Attached. You can e-mail him at: bulldozerDOTwreckingballATgmailDOTcom

Bang the Drum!: an alternative history

Bang the DrumI think when people say, as I’m about to, that music was better when they were young, what they really mean is that there used to be less music.
It would have been October, maybe early November when I first heard it. Definitely not September. Ninth Grade Wood Shop, man, I don’t even remember what I made. But I do remember that the teacher wasn’t really around that much and that there was a ghetto blaster in the shop and we could play whatever we wanted. That whole school year, 1991-92 was already a really exciting time for music. R.E.M. had just released Out of Time, inadvertently inventing rap-rock. Red Hot Chili Peppers would release Blood Sugar Sex Magik, furthering the rap-rock blueprint. And 1988’s most promising alt-country band would reveal a bold new sound on Achtung Baby that made bands like Jesus Jones and Ned’s Atomic Dustbin (who both played Saskatoon in the fall of 1991) irrelevant nearly overnight. You could also hear some 13 Engines or Skydiggers if you were listening to the right radio stations that fall. The coolest kids at my school, whom I made a point of standing around whenever I could get away with it, were talking about Steady Diet of Nothing. I don’t know if it was 1991 or if it was age 14, but that fall you didn’t have to be cool to seem cool.
Jon McKiel – Strands by killbeat music
(more about Jon McKiel)

Mixtapes were a thing in 1991. Everyone had them, everyone traded them. You would get weird mixes, like Leslie Spit Treeo followed by Metallica. If you asked for something, you’d probably get it, but then you’d also get a whole other side of something you didn’t want, but it was there, so you might as well listen to it. You could ask for Mercury Rev on one side and end up X-Clan on the other. You just never knew. Some of your friends were goth-ish, some were punk-ish, whatever. All that matter was that you weren’t jocks. Of course, you could still play basketball without being a jock. But you couldn’t wear your hat backwards.
So we were there in Ninth Grade Wood Shop, making who knows what, listening to a cassette of Magna Cum Louder that I had dubbed off a friend of a friend after I saw a 12th Grade girl wearing a Hoodoo Gurus t-shirt.

And this jock walks over to the ghetto blaster, he’s got his ballcap on backwards Like I said, there was a definite lack of adult supervision in Wood Shop. It was like Lord of the Flies with power tools. The jocks wore their ballcaps, and us punk/alternatives played our music. I don’t even know how we heard any music over the power tools. Anyway, this jock–Brad or Chad or Ryan or something like that–he’s got his ballcap on backwards and his Club Monaco sweatshirt inside out and he’s making a move for the ghetto blaster like he’s going to put on a tape. And me, I’m like, oh no, because the only music I’d ever seen jocks listen to at that point was Van Halen’s For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge, which was, like, the soundtrack for drinking Pepsi and beating up guys like me. And Brad or Chad or Ryan wasn’t drinking a Pepsi, so… you know, I was getting nervous. Everybody knew that jocks travelled in packs, or “teams” as they’re known in zoological circles.
But Brad or Chad or Ryan just looks at me while he puts his tape in the deck and hits the play button. The song starts off kinda quiet and then explodes and then goes quiet again. This weird, echoey voice sings some nonsense lyrics about loading up on guns and then BOOM! The song explodes again, and the voice sounds like he’s got sandpaper in his throat, which, I remember, was the tool I used the most in Wood Shop. It sounds like the singer’s in real pain, like he’s in the same kind of pain that I’m in, this pain of becoming. I notice Brad or Chad or Ryan is still looking at me, and I wonder if he in that same pain of becoming too. But I’m at least suave enough not to ask. The song wears itself out with a refrain of what sounds to me like “la-de-dye-o” over and over again and I’m amazed. I’d never heard anything like it before. It sounded like it was made just for me, like it was speaking directly to me.
Brad or Chad or Ryan does this thing where he lifts up his backwards baseball cap, smoothes down his hair, and puts his cap back on in one two-handed motion, looking right in my eyes the whole time, as if to say, “Your move, pencil-neck.” But all I can say is, “play that again…please.”

Emmet Matheson is a freelance writer who blogs at A Bulldozer With a Wrecking Ball Attached. You can e-mail him at: bulldozerDOTwreckingballATgmailDOTcom

Bang the Drum!: This Fall

Bang the DrumLook folks, I don’t know how much longer this is going to go on for. When I started this column back in January, I had no idea what the rest of the year had in store for me. Though, I must say, I found out soon enough. Twins. Yup, my wife is eight months pregnant with twins, which means that any day now my world is going to get pulled inside out and nothing will ever be the same. But you don’t care about the boring minutiae of my personal life. The upshot is that this Bang the Drum! column, this whatever-it-is, probably won’t be around for many Mondays to come (though I’d like to get one in next week, we’ll see). There will, undoubtedly, still be lots of music coverage on the Dog Blog, some of it coherent.

California’s Big Tree will self-release their second full-length This New Year on Oct. 4. I’m a fan, and mentioned them on the blog here several months. They took notice and shot me an email wondering if I could help them get in with the Regina Folk Festival. Obviously, they overestimated the pull I have in this town. Or any town. When I say “this town”, which town am I talking about?
mp3: “This Fall” by Big Tree

Haven’t heard much from Sylvie since their unforgettably named last album, Trees and Shade Are Our Only Fences. Understandable, maybe, as the band’s Passmore section (2/5) has been motoring with Rah Rah pretty much non-stop. But here’s an absolutely gorgeous, brand new track from Sylvie bassist Riva Farrell-Racette, who curiously has the same number of capital R’s in her name as Rah Rah has in theirs. Conspiracy or coincidence? Not for me to say. But hopefully this track is a sign of things to come.
Firelight by Riva Farrell-Racette

Here’s the latest from Seattle hip hop three-piece Dyme Def. It’s called “Dizzy Izzy” and the video was shot on Fearce Villain’s phone. So you got no excuse.

Emmet Matheson is a freelance writer who blogs at A Bulldozer With a Wrecking Ball Attached. You can e-mail him at: bulldozerDOTwreckingballATgmailDOTcom

Bang the Drum!: Riel Music of Canada

Bang the DrumI spoke with Lyn Heinemann of Vancouver’s Drawn Ship for the current issue of prairie dog. One thing that wasn’t mentioned in that article was Heinemann’s collection of songs about Louis Riel.
“I’m always interested in history and I like writing songs about wars and battles,” she told me.
“Is that where the song ‘Execution’, about a Louis Riel, comes from?” I asked.
“You must know Leah Abramson,” she said. “Abramson Singers?”
“Of course,” I said. “I she opened for Roger the first time I saw him play.”

mp3: “Fool’s Gold” by Abramson Singers

“Leah’s a good friend of mine,” Heinemann continued. “Years ago—we’re such typical procrastinating musicians—we were like, ‘let’s write a musical, let’s a bunch of songs about a theme and try to work them into a play!’ So we decided to write a series of songs about Louis Riel, kind of biographical pieces. Leah must have written about four, and I wrote six or seven. A couple of them show on Portico’s last record and there’s a couple more that I’ve never performed with anyone.
mp3: “The Battle of Duck Lake” by Portico

“Leah, on her last record, she’s got one of those songs too. We each took chunks of Riel’s life and wrote songs about them trying to do a comprehensive story. So the song ‘Execution’ is about Louis Riel’s decision to kill Thomas Scott. By all accounts he was a total asshole, not that anyone deserves to die, but if you were going to pick someone, you’d probably pick that guy. That’s later what got Louis Riel killed. He was tried for treason, but he was hanged for the murder of Thomas Scott. Which was kind of bogus.”

see also: Student Council
Drawn Ship plays O’Hanlon’s Friday, September 16.
Sick With The Sound by DRAWN SHIP

Emmet Matheson is a freelance writer who blogs at A Bulldozer With a Wrecking Ball Attached. You can e-mail him at: bulldozerDOTwreckingballATgmailDOTcom

Bang the Drum!: We who have so much, to you who have so little

Bang the DrumLast week, while most of the country was meditating on the ideals of Love, Hope and Optimism, the Canadian Taxpayers Federation gleefully announced that, purely on their advice, the Saskatchewan Party government would no longer be purchasing video games for use at youth correctional facilities. According to the CTF’s press release, a mere six hours elapsed between their call to Premier Brad Wall’s office and the announcement that the Sask Party had, in the CTF’s words, “outlawed” the purchase of video games for incarcerated youth by government agencies.
This is so offensive on so many levels that it’s taken me nearly a week to process my overwhelming outrage.
My first thought was, “thank god we’ve finally found something more to take away from these kids.” I’ve never been inside a youth corrections facility, but I’ve worked with a lot of people who grew up in them. They are, to a person, individuals who have been failed by the system at every step along the way. In Saskatchewan, as much as 85% of inmates in youth correctional facilities are First Nations and Metis. These are kids, as young as 12, who’ve been neglected when they weren’t abused. These are kids born into poverty to parents who were never taught to take care of themselves. If their parents weren’t brought up in residential schools, you can bet their grandparents were. The time they spend in a youth correctional facility is society’s very last chance to do right by these kids. Any argument that these kids have got it too easy is pure bullshit.
Steve Gates – Hello Jesus by killbeat music
(more on Steve Gates)
Continue reading “Bang the Drum!: We who have so much, to you who have so little”

Bang the Drum!: Parental Tendencies

Bang the DrumI’m worried about Mike. I’ve been noticing he’s been having a lot of problems lately. I can see that he’s trying really hard, like on that diorama he made for history class. He put in so many hours setting up a recreation of the Battle of Duck Lake. He painted his old G.I. Joe action figures to look like the the North-West Mounted Police, and his Star Wars figures to look like the Metis Provisional Government soldiers. Han Solo as Louis Riel and Chewbacca as Gabriel Dumont! What an imagination on my boy! It was really inspired.
But he used watercolours and it was raining the day he took it in to school. All of his work was washed away. He said all the kids laughed at him and teased him about playing with dolls. He was in such a foul mood when I got home that night. He was kicking furniture and slamming doors. He told me, “everything I do and everything I try, it never works out!”
I said, “Mike, it’s just one thing. It’s just high school. You’ll get through it. But if it’s really bugging you, maybe you should talk about it. You’ll feel a lot better.”
Then he screamed at me, “Just leave me alone! I’ll figure it out!”
I hope he does. It really breaks my heart to see him torturing himself like this.
Glass Eye by DRAWN SHIP

I go down to Mike’s room to see if he wants to shoot some hoops in the park, like we used to do. I think maybe if we do some of the things we’d once enjoyed doing together, he might open up to me, let me know what’s going on. I knock on his door. He doesn’t answer. For once he doesn’t have that obnoxious thrash music blaring. There’s no sound at all. I knock again and say, “Hey, Mike!” Nothing. So I open the door.
He’s sitting on the edge of his bed staring at, I don’t know, the wallpaper, I guess. There’s a faint but obvious whiff of marijuana in the room. I say his name again. Nothing. So I shout, “Mike, Mike!”
He jumps up and says, “What, what’s the matter?”
I say, “What’s the matter with you? I’ve been knocking on your door and calling your name. It smells like dope in here. Are you smoking dope in the house?”
Then he says, “No, mom, I’m not on drugs. I’m ok, I’m just thinking, you know? Why don’t you get me a Pepsi?”
Kathryn Calder – Who Are You? by killbeat music

This has gone too far. We have to confront Mike about his behaviour and convince him to get some help. We go into his room. Mike’s just sitting there, blank and shut down. It’s like he’s only got two settings anymore: Off and Raging Anger. The room absolutely stinks of weed and, I don’t know, rotting cheeseburgers? Phil pulls up a chair and sits down. “Mike, we need to talk to you.”
Mike says, “Okay, what’s the matter?”
“Me and your mom,” Phil says, and it’s the most attention he’s paid me in weeks, “we’ve noticed that lately you’ve been having a lot of problems, and you’ve been going off for no reason, and we’re afraid you’re going to hurt somebody, and we’re afraid you’re going to hurt yourself. So we decided that it would be in your best interest–”
And then Mike just loses it.
“Wait, what are you talking about, we decided? My best interests? How do you know what my best interest is? How can you say what my best interest is? What are you trying to say? I’m crazy? When I went to your schools, I went to your churches, I went to your institutional learning facilities? So how can you say I’m crazy?”
Phil shrugs and looks at me, as if to say, “Well, I did my best. I’m outta here.” But no, I’ve had enough. I’m putting my foot down.
“Who am I to decide what your best interest is? I’m you’re goddamned mother, that’s who. I’m not going to apologize for being an engaged parent. That’s my job, and your job is to goddamned listen to me. You want to talk about the hypocrisy of the drug laws? Fine. Let’s talk about it. Let’s have an enlightened discussion on the societal harm caused by puritanical prohibition. But understand this: You are 16 years-old and it’s 2:30 in the afternoon on school day. There is no acceptable reason for you to be so stoned that you can’t even hear your mother call your name from three feet away. Get your act together, young man. I have made every effort to be here for you, but at some point, the responsibility is on you to at least take my hand when I reach it out to you. And get your own goddamned Pepsi.”

Emmet Matheson is a freelance writer who blogs at A Bulldozer With a Wrecking Ball Attached. You can e-mail him at: bulldozerDOTwreckingballATgmailDOTcom

Bang the Drum!: Linger On

Bang the Drum(Interlude)
“We have to be careful around alligators,” my two-and-a-half year old daughter tells me. “They might want to eat us.”

(download the mp3 here)

“What happens if a alligator eats us?” she asks me.
“I don’t know,” I say. “I guess we would be inside the alligator.”

(Says She’s Mrs. Blat)

“Then mommy would try to get us out.”
The Kills – “Pale Blue Eyes” (Velvet Underground Cover) by user7122363

Emmet Matheson is a freelance writer who blogs at A Bulldozer With a Wrecking Ball Attached. You can e-mail him at: bulldozerDOTwreckingballATgmailDOTcom

Shatner/Balfour: Debunked

One of the most persistent myths of the Queen City is that William Shatner went to Balfour Collegiate. Available facts do not support this. Shatner grew up in Montreal and attended either Verdun or Baron Byng High School there. The closest link Shatner has to Saskatchewan is his appearance in the 1979 film Riel.

There is, however, a legendary sci-fi action hero with Saskatchewan roots:

Bang the Drum!: I had no idea Chris Page was in The Stand GT

Bang the Drum“No, no way. I don’t want anything to do with it.”
“That’s exactly why you’re the right one for the job, Aesop.”
Aesop looked up at the dry-erase calendar behind Gill Kane’s desk. He looked at the wall where a window would be if this was the kind of office that had a window. He looked at his shoes, black sneakers on the verge of falling apart but incongruously snazzed up with new red laces. He blew into the tiny hole on the lid of his coffee and then took a short sip. He finally looked back at his boss’s face and shrugged. “I don’t have a choice, do I?”
“It’s only one day. Maybe two. No more than three. Most people would jump at the chance to be a media escort.”
“Most people are idiots.”

mp3: “Glow Worm” by Diva

Aesop walked out across the hall to the even smaller office that he shared with the four other people on his project. The job was mostly done out in the world, but there was always paperwork to be done, mostly at the beginning and end of each twelve hour shift. There were odd down times, when there simply wasn’t any action in the streets and there was nothing else to do but wait for the phone to ring. Some of the other team members used that time to cozy up the office. Dreamcatchers, faded heavy metal record sleeves, thrift store oil paintings and Christmas cards competed for wall space. A stack of well-thumbed Daredevil comics in the top drawer of the office’s single desk was Aesop’s sole contribution to the office’s decor.

Camp Radio – Turn Up The Radio by killbeat music

“‘Sup, Ace?”
A wild-eyed beardo in a black t-shirt and cut-off jeans beamed at Aesop from the communal desk. Al Toth worked the Wednesday to Friday line and was a certified desk hog.
“I heard you got a riding partner this weekend.”
“What, did you guys decide this yesterday? Stick it on me because I wasn’t there to turn it down.”
“What are you saying? That we did this to you? Nah, man, we’re doing it for you!”
“For me? What the hell am I supposed to get out of dragging some media parasite a-hole around all day asking questions and making promises while I’m trying to get things done?”
“Media parasite? But I thought–”
“Then why don’t you do it?”
“Seriously? Me? You think the bosses are gonna let me and my Fourth Dimension collective consciousness anywhere near the press? Nah, you’re the most reasonable guy on the Downtown Eastside. That, and Ramona F., who usually handles this sorta thing is at a Harm Reduction conference in Barcelona.”

Emmet Matheson is a freelance writer who blogs at A Bulldozer With a Wrecking Ball Attached. You can e-mail him at: bulldozerDOTwreckingballATgmailDOTcom

Lights…Camera…Action Comics #1!

Hey, look! It’s the first public image of Henry Cavill as Superman from the upcoming Man of Steel movie. First impression from this Supermaniac? That’s a lot of hair. Second impression? The textured rubber kinda looks like sequins, which gives Superman a distinctly disco shimmer. I can get behind that. Third impression? The pleats give the cape the effect of looking like movie house curtains.

Frankly, the costume is too busy. Whenever I see superhero costumes full of pockets, piping, or panels I get depressed. Superman’s costume is the way it is for some very practical reasons. The red, blue and yellow made the best use of the four-colour printing techniques of the 1930s. The cape gave the artist a visual shorthand for conveying a sense of motion, which Superman was almost always in a state of during his early appearances in Action Comics. Luckily, Cavill’s Man-of-Steely gaze is convincing enough to draw your attention away from the overdone costume. Here’s some words from Cavill on fitting inside the suit (Dark Horizons).

Bang the Drum!: Out of Office Autotune Reply

Bang the Drum Gimme a break here! It’s a long weekend, there’s actual paid work to be done, the sun is shining and my daughter wants to go to the park. See ya in seven, have a good Folk Fest.

Light Fires – “Ten Feet Tall” from Light Fires on Vimeo.

Emmet Matheson is a freelance writer who blogs at A Bulldozer With a Wrecking Ball Attached. You can e-mail him at: bulldozerDOTwreckingballATgmailDOTcom

Bang the Drum!: You Can’t Judge A Lover By Her Books

Bang the DrumThis week’s music comes courtesy New York singer/songwriter Marcellus Hall, whose solo debut, The First Line was released earlier this year on Glacial Pace Records.

Aesop walked out of Richard’s coffee & book shop into the bright July sun. He squinted. He took a sip of his Americano and felt his insides approach the same temperature as his outsides. The heat came down from the sun, up from the asphalt, and now from within. Vancouver was no good in the summer. At least not in the Downtown Eastside. As miserable as the rainy season was, it offered relief from the pervading stench of urine. Though the rain never washed it all away, it at least kept it moving. The summer, though, roasted the neighbourhood in a marinade of piss that never went long without a fresh basting. The alley sides of the old hotels showed a century’s erosion from uric acid like antfarms. Rumour had it that at least one building, not far from the biggest drug corner, had suffered irreparable damage to its foundation thanks to the constant eliminations.

The smell bothered Aesop the most on Friday mornings. By Sunday afternoon, he barely noticed it. In a way, he was glad it bothered him. He was glad that even after five years (had it been that long already?) working down here certain things still managed to appall him. After everything he’d seen–daily overdoses, weekly stabbings, the unrelenting tide of human misery–he held fast to his outrage. Sure, it was easier to ward off apathy and burnout since he got off the nightshift and switched to weekends two years ago. The sweltering musk of micturate was slightly more bearable knowing that for four days starting Monday morning the strongest smell he’d have to deal with would be the whiff of his overgrown East Vancouver lawn.

Aesop crossed Cordova, turned west and then cut through the alley. A purple hoodie on a mountain bike pulled up alongside him.

“You smokin’ rock today?” the hoodie asked.

“Nah,” Aesop said, without breaking his relaxed pace. “Thanks, though.”

“You don’t smoke rock?” the hoodie weaved back and forth on his bike. “What do you do?”

“Just coffee, I guess,” Aesop held up his cup.

“I know you,” the cyclist pulled his hood back and grinned so wide Aesop could count all of his teeth: 7. “You’re one of them outreach workers.”

“Hey, Troy, how you been?”

“You wanna buy a bike? What colour you like?”

“I’m good for bikes, thanks, Troy.”

Troy shrugged, pulled his hoodie back over his big ears and turned back to Cordova. A woman leaning against a hydro pole put her pipe down and smiled at Aesop.

“Hi dear,” she said. “You bringing me some candy?”

“What? I don’t have any candy.”

“Oh, I’m sorry, dear. You’re wearing a red shirt. I thought you were one of the Christians. They give us candy if we let them pray for us. You oughtta be more careful how you dress around here.”

Emmet Matheson is a freelance writer who blogs at A Bulldozer With a Wrecking Ball Attached. You can e-mail him at: bulldozerDOTwreckingballATgmailDOTcom