Archive for September, 2007

07w39:3 Matador

by timothy. 0 Comments

Rogue city agency trying to lay waste to Dovercourt streetscape |
Shawn Micallef
[quoting Christopher Hume:] “‘Truly, Toronto has lost its way. Truly, whatever our aspirations may be as a civic entity, they are fast being undone by a bureaucracy so out of touch with reality it’s frightening. And where are the councillors in all this? Does their silence signal agreement? Creeping suburbanization is one thing, but this is neanderthal.’

Then, the answer to Hume’s question – where are the councillor- was on Global News at six tonight when Adam Giambrone was asked about this and shrugged, saying a there is a need for parking in the area and he would support a motion to expropriate. He was repeating the position of Toronto Parking Authority president Gwyn Thomas who said as much to The Star earlier this week. […] But its legendary status and history (Leonard Cohen, Neko Case, etc.) are beside the point here and almost irrelevant because the city – our city – wants to expropriate and tear down a fine and sturdy piece of the urban fabric, located in one of the most desirable and valued neighbourhoods in North America, and turn it into twenty (20!) parking spots, spending $800,000 in the process (insulting to the owner, offensive to the rest of us who are enduring the current budget crunch and trying – so very hard – to believe and support the Giambrone side of things).

This is madness’.

From the Facebook Group Save the Matador discussion:

Sara O’Reilly wrote
at 3:23pm on September 26th, 2007
By the way – Adam Giambrone is Chair of the TTC – figure that one out. The chair of the TTC wants to making parking spots instead of encourage people to take public transit. Brilliant.

[emp mine]

Filmed at The Matador in 1992:

07w39:2 Speechless

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For those of you who only heard about the Jena Six last week, here’s a back-grounder from way back in July, proving that Democracy Now! is the only news source that matters.

For those of you who are concerned that the USA will attack Iran, consider that Sarkozy is playing the role of Blair this time, and that the MSM US media is displaying the same lack of skepticism all over again. It seems like it’s only a matter of time before we hear ‘we don’t want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud’ soundbite on the Sunday morning shows.

Ahmadinejad Speaks at Columbia Amid Protests,
Univ. President Excoriates Iran Leader from Podium

The Secret Dealings of Israel, Iran, and the United States
‘ERVAND ABRAHAMIAN: He is right on target, yes. I think Juan Cole sums it up. And the question is, then, why is basically in American politics so much focused on Ahmadinejad? I think he serves the function that Saddam Hussein played. He’s an easy person to demonize. And yesterday’s Bollinger’s introduction, when he described him as a dictator, I think, shows how little people like Bollinger really know about the Iranian political system. One can call Ahmadinejad many things, but a dictator he is by no means. He can’t even — he doesn’t even have the power to appoint his own cabinet ministers. It’s a presidency with very limited power. And to claim that he is in a position to threaten the United States or Israel is just bizarre, frankly. I think someone like Bollinger should know more about Iran before they sling around smears like terms such as ‘dictator.’

Don’t Taser me, I’m a writer | Heather Mallick
The sight and sound of someone screaming in pain as a cop shoots 50,000 volts into him, well, it Tasers my soul. Now I have a new trauma: the sight and silence of hundreds of students at the University of Florida sitting quietly and obediently last week as a young man was wrestled to the floor by a gang of cops, handcuffed and then repeatedly given agonizing zaps that made eerie clicking sounds. The student had no gun, only a loud voice. For this, he was tortured with a hand-held cattle prod? […] Two years ago, Britain’s New Labour Party manhandled one of their own delegates, an 82-year-old Holocaust survivor, out of a meeting for heckling. In the U.S., people are barred from political meetings for printing the wrong message on their T-shirt, or having the wrong bumper sticker on their car. In Canada, your fellow demonstrators with rocks in their hands may well be undercover cops who didn’t think to change their damning jackboots when they went into disguise. Surely it is time to remember that free speech is free speech; that people are allowed to behave badly, even grotesquely, in public as long as they obey the law. [emph mine]

The former president’s pool boy | Chris Colin
Razsa cleans former President George H.W. Bush’s pool, in Kennebunkport, Maine. […] Maybe his education about “the ignorant rich” is worth a few additional pennies: “I didn’t know places like this existed in Maine. Half an hour from the trailer where I live, there are places with multiple Ferraris, and guest houses five times larger than my trailer,” he says. Granted, the stakes are high at that level. Razsa recalls one day when former first lady Barbara Bush was on her way over, and it looked like there wouldn’t be time to bring the pool’s temperature up to her desired 82 degrees in time. The family’s caretaker was in a panic, he says. “He kept shouting, ‘Barbara will go crazy! Barbara will go crazy!'” Razsa recalls. “This is the same woman who after Hurricane Katrina said (of the Houston Astrodome refugees), ‘You know, they’re underprivileged anyway, so this — this is working very well for them.'” […] For Razsa, his job — the only one he could find — put him directly in touch with the very sort of power he holds partly responsible for his, and other people’s, hard times.

“I look at the biggest middle finger in the world all day,” is his more succinct explanation.

07w39:1 William Gibson

by timothy. 1 Comment

William Gibson latest novel, Spook Country was released on August 7th and was followed by the American booktour, resulting in a clustering of `william-gibson` tagged content across the net. This Goodreads assembles such content that I’ve come across, as well as the interview I did with Mr. G last week.

Gibson’s is one of my favorite writers, for many reasons. I love his way with words, and I loved his descriptions of the 21st Century found in his Sprawl Series. But also, his work almost always involves art and artists, and for this reason his work was extracurricular reading material during my years at art-school, informing my studies with its perspective.

Of Spook Country, I’ll summarize:

Hollis Henry is freelancing a 7000 word article for Node magazine, a competitor to Wired which aspires to be obscure, aimed at an elite and invisible mass of people, who like the artists and the art she’s to write about, exist only when you’re wearing special glasses. Node is one of the more recent projects by the Blue Ant advertising agency, directed by Saatchi rival and child of a Situationist International affiliated mother, Hubertus Bigend, a Belgian with a resemblance to Tom Cruise and a name that perhaps should be pronounced ‘Bay-Jahn’. The last time Hubertus hired a chick with a Mac laptop, in the summer of 2002, he had her track down the originators of some pre-YouTube viral video, the end result of which was an ad campaign which, in the words of Hollis Henry, ‘was fucking horrible’.

Henry’s to write a feature on locative art – the latest thing you’ve never heard of, because it involves artists, computers, and the internet. The art world, as you may or may not know, has barely figured out podcasting, and anything involving the GPS grid, skin-texture rendering and VR glasses is surely to escape their attention. Gibson’s locative art, as he’s pointed out in recent interviews, is entirely possible at the moment, yet this aspect is so fictionalized that it cast the entire novel into something other than the real. And yet, what’s precisely believable about it is, as he’s said, ‘it’s done by artists who are likely to be found in Juxtapoz magazine and not “upscale, older people’s galleries”. (Boing Boing interview, around 28:35)


‘It’s all going to change, Yamazaki. We’re coming up on the mother of all nodal points. I can see it, now. It’s all going to change.’
‘I don’t understand.’
‘Know what the joke is? It didn’t change when they thought it would. Millennium was a Christian holiday. I’ve been looking at history Yamazaki. I can see the nodal points in history. Last time we had one like this was 1911.’
‘What happened in 1911?’
‘Everything changed’.
‘It just did. That’s how it works. I can see it now.’
All Tomorrow’s Parties, page 4

And yes, Gibson got the digits right. Our mother of all nodal points came on a 911, but here Gibson just refracted an essay by Virgina Woolf, in which she claimed ‘on or about December 1910 human character changed.’ She was thinking about the reception toward modern art, given how well a show of then contemporary paintings were doing at a London gallery.

We have not yet had anyone say that ‘on or about 9/11 human character changed’ but it is certainly obvious that the politics and the culture are dealing with it as a central defining moment on which it all changed. Fredric Jameson has pointed to this thought (referencing Count Zero‘s ‘When-It-All-Changed’) as defining characteristic of the postmodern. And so, when Gibson says as he does in the Agony Column Podcast interview (recorded in August), ‘I think 9/11 was what the characters in my previous set of novels called a nodal point’ (2:15) one can’t help but see exactly what he means.

‘You know what your trouble is?’ [Rubin] says when we’re under the bridge, headed up to Fourth. “You’re the kind who always reads the handbook. Anything people build, any kind of technology, it’s going to have some specific purpose. It’s for doing something that somebody already understands. But if it’s new technology, it’ll open areas nobody’s ever thought of before. You read the manual, man, and you won’t play around with it, not the same way. And you get all funny when somebody else uses it to do something you never thought of.’

Rubin Stark, from the short story The Winter Market became for a time my idea of a 21st Century artist, assembling electronic components into robots programed to insult passers-by wearing a particular designer’s clothes, self-destructing, or shitting batteries. An artist who wore LL Bean gumshoes and ate cold samosas and plastic-cased stale sandwiches. Who had an agent, which I later learned, would be his dealer. All I though circa 2015. And his thoughts on ‘reading the manual’ were an insightful way of looking at the flourishing gadgetry around me. This was echoed by Ben Fry, who as a student at MIT said this about Palm Pilots: ‘typically, palm-sized computers are used for phone lists and calendars, which fail to realize the potential of the rich computational environment afforded by such a small device’.

The Winter Market story haunts me with its sentences and its snapshot of an artist’s life in the 21st Century. ‘There was coffee, life would go on,’ muttered to myself on many a morning as I rose cup to lip. This story was in my thoughts a lot last spring, as I thought about the character Lise, an artist whose medium was a new technology, dreaming her pain to a wide fanbase of people who could relate. Not chasing a career or awards or exhibitions, but expressing experience and others just happened to be deeply affected by it.

His appearance in Toronto last week enabled me to talk with him in person. So we sat down on the patio of the Second Cup at Queen & John, and surrounded by the noises of the city had a little conversation, which I recorded, and which is linked to below.


Gibson talks, and whets appetites for Spook (with audio interviews) |
John Burns

Interview with William Gibson | Rick Kleffel, Agony Column Podcast

Spook Country Review | NPR Books (2007-08-19) Podcast
Mp3 Link

Spook Country Review | New York Times Book Review Podcast
Mp3 Link

Spook Country | The Leonard Lopate Show (2007-08-14)

Novelist William Gibson | On Point (2007-08-07)

Boing Boing Boing 015 William Gibson | Boing Boing Podcast
Mp3 Link

William Gibson Book Club | CBC Words at Large Podcast

William Gibson Interview 2007-09-20 | Timothy Comeau

Related links, referenced in the interview:


Original Proposal for William Gibson’s Spook Country

Compilation of ‘Spook Country’ Blog Postings | (From Gibson’s 2006 Blog)

Spirits in the Material World | Dave Itzkoff

Interview: William Gibson | Brian Joseph Davis

William Gibson: Sci-Fi Icon Becomes Prophet of the Present

William Gibson’s Spook Country | Cory Doctorow

Spook Country
“This blog is discusses and analyzes the new book Spook Country by cyberpunk author William Gibson, published in August 2007”.

Now romancer | Dennis Lim

Q&A: William Gibson, science fiction novelist | Steve Ranger,39024876,39168006,00.htm

Sound bytes from William Gibson

William Gibson *hearts* Juxtapoz


Spook Country | William Gibson’s Official Site
YouTube version

Gibson in Second life 2 August 2007

More on YouTube


On About December 1910: Early Bloomsbury and its Intimate World | John B. Osborne
“While admitting that there is much hyperbole in Woolf’s memorable turn-of-phrase, Peter Stansky attempts to demonstrate the validity of her observation by examining the lives of the Bloomsbury group and the developments of 1910 that shaped them. Foremost among these events were the publication of E. M. Forster’s Howard’s End and Roger Fry’s Post-Impressionist exhibition, which introduced the works of Cezanne, Van Gogh, and Gauguin to Britain. Stansky believes that these events marked the birth of “Modernism,” which he defines as the rejection of the Victorian and Edwardian stress on realism and surface beauty in art and literature and a new focus on the underlying forms of things as well as the inner character of individuals”

English Modernism: A Big Weight to Hang on 1910 | Michiko Kakutani
Published: November 29, 1996

07w38:1 Police State

by timothy. 1 Comment

Arrested for asking the wrong question in the land of the free.

And the home of the brave. Why did the other students just watch? What ever happened to that good old ‘my fellow Americans, let’s roll’?

Why did John Kerry let it happen?

‘I was grabbed and thrown in U.S. jail for crossing road’
A distinguished British historian claims he was knocked to the ground by an American policeman before being arrested and spending eight hours in jail – all because he crossed the road in the wrong place.
From Boing Boing 29 August 2007:

Moment of TSA surrealist zen @ LAX: Xeni
I flew from JFK to LAX today, and something really weird happened when I arrived (at about 230PM local time).I walked from the arrival gate towards baggage claim, and when I was about halfway there, all of a sudden about a dozen or more TSA personnel and private security staff appeared, shouting STOP WHERE YOU ARE. FREEZE. DO NOT MOVE. Not just at me, but all of the travelers who happened to be wandering through the hallway at that moment.


From Boing Boing 1 September 2007:

Papers Please: Arrested at Circuit City for refusing to show ID, receipt
Boing Boing reader Michael Amor Righi says, “Today I was arrested by the Brooklyn, Ohio police department. It all started when I refused to show my receipt to the loss prevention employee at Circuit City, and it ended when a police officer arrested me for refusing to provide my driver’s license.”

I'm voting YES on October 10th

by timothy. 0 Comments

Because I believe proportional representation would be a good thing. I also notice the complete lack of MSM coverage to inform the citizens that they are also voting in a referendum on October 10th, thus doing their jobs as political and corporate lackeys. Why would these traditional old-school ‘no new taxes’ ‘no funding for public transit’ ‘free trade is good trade’ politicos want the citizenry informed and thus threaten their cushy position of being able to take power with less than 50% of the public’s vote? No, MSM will not be doing the informing on this one.

Spread the word: voting reform will only pass if it gets a greater than 60% majority. This is what they’re counting on: that we will remain ignorant, vote no out of that ignorance, and thus keep the status quo.

07w37:4 The Mediocrity of Music

by timothy. 0 Comments

Pitchfork Gives Music 6.8 | The Onion
“Coming in at an exhausting 7,000 years long, music is weighed down by a few too many mid- tempo tunes, most notably ‘Liebestraume No. 3 in A flat’ by Franz Liszt and ‘Closing Time’ by ’90s alt-rock group Semisonic,” Schreiber wrote. “In the end, though music can be brilliant at times, the whole medium comes off as derivative of Pavement.”

07w37:3 The President of 9/11 and the 9/11 of Britney

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President of 9/11
President of 9/11 | The Onion

Martin Amis on 9/11The summary: ‘Our correspondent contends that our response to September 11 has been deficient. Radical Islam, he argues, must be recognized as a fanatical death cult, such as Nazism or Bolshevism’ Blah blah blah, haven’t heard that before. I didn’t read far enough to get to that, I only read over the ruminations on the naming of the event.Meanwhile, Matt Drudge at the Drudgereport had this headline: ‘KID’S BBC SITE OFFERS CURIOUS 9/11 EXPLANATION…’. This curious explanation reads:

Why did they do it?

The way America has got involved in conflicts in regions like the Middle East has made some people very angry, including a group called al-Qaeda – who are widely thought to have been behind the attacks.

In the past, al-Qaeda leaders have declared a holy war – called a jihad – against the US. As part of this jihad, al-Qaeda members believe attacking US targets is something they should do.

When the attacks happened in 2001, there were a number of US troops in a country called Saudi Arabia, and the leader of al-Qaeda, Osama Bin Laden, said he wanted them to leave.

But who cares right? That shit was six years ago. This is much more important:

07w37:2 Brown Clark Nonfiction Search Engine

by timothy. 2 Comments


I first learned about Joe Clark through a Google Alert which let me know that he liked something I wrote enough to tag it with my name and ask rhetorically:

Who is this Tim Comeau and why is he not an esteemed colleague already?

I came back to Mr. Clark’s blog through a recent William Gibson interview (impending Gibson roundup on GR btw) which contained a link to Clark’s annotated Pattern Recognition site.

A recent posting goes off on Jess Brown, the new CBC Radio 1 show Search Engine and the ‘journalist’s Trampoline Hall‘ called Nonfiction, which began in June. Facebook has the event listing for the next Nonfiction meeting to be held on September 19th:

Non Fiction Sept 2007Nonfiction is a place for journalists of all kinds to tell stories that never made it to the public: stories killed by editors, blocked by producers, or self-censored by journalists themselves. These are the stories usually told privately, between journalists, and over drinks.

Featured speakers:
Ian Brown (and friends) on going long
” Ouimet” on clandestine corporate blogging
Paul Terefenko on why he recorded the last Nonfiction
Michael Adler on the one thousand indignities of writing for a community newspaper
Jason Anderson on film junket junkies
Kathryn Borel on why her therapist refuses to prescribe her antipsychotics despite her looming book deadline

hosted by Jesse Brown

Produced by Nonfiction: Kathryn Borel, Jesse Brown, Ian Daffern, Jeremy Gans, Sheila Heti, Geoff Siskind, Dave Wells

Mr. Clark’s first report from June 21st made three good bullet-points, of which I’m quoting the third:

The show came to a halt halfway through. On arrival, one had been presented with a “program” (actually just a postcard) declaring ALL STORIES TOLD AT NON-FICTION – suddenly it’s hyphenated – ARE CONSIDERED OFF THE RECORD AND MAY NOT BE REPRODUCED IN PRINT, BROADCAST OR CONVERSATION. Yes, these junior fascists want you not to even talk about what happened. (Then why was there a cash bar? What are we supposed to talk about, the weather?)

Exactly. Why sell tickets to something you can’t talk about? Clark goes on to report:

It all came to a head when our host, tall, handsome, affable Jesse Brown, acted like an RIAA lawyer or a security goon with binoculars at a Rush concert and accused somebody of recording the event. Would that person like to come onstage? Well, of fucking course they wouldn’t. But, a moment later, up trotted Paul from Now, who plausibly and apparently honestly explained he’d just gotten there, hadn’t been warned, and had asked people if it was all right to record. (The answer he got was, in essence, ‘meh.’)

But as we can see in the event listing, this outrageous act has only earned Mr. Terefenko’s a place on the stage at the next show.

What’s really alarming about this kind of thing is the explicitness of there being two streams of public dialogue. What exists in print (and thus the historical record) and what can exist spoken between people. I know what Antonia Zerbisias spoke about because it was told to me over a meal and drinks, where I also shared unprintable facts about things. Am I corrupted by the knowledge? Am I a danger to myself and society for knowing these things?

Do we need more evidence that our ideas that we live in a democracy are false?

I mean, sure, we have enough freedom of speech to sell tickets to the airing of secrets, but freedom of the press has apparently vanished beneath the concerns of advertisers and the censorious pen of editors.

What I’d like to critique about Nonfiction is the use of the image from Suicide Food, a blog which assembles the understandably morally outrageous and disgusting depiction of animals attempting to enjoy their fate as human meals.

Links below are to Clark’s somewhat amusing grumpiness about Nonfiction, Jesse Brown, and Search Engine. (Search Engine‘s site, btw, is linking to its eponymous Google Alert roundup, and saying this about Clark’s words:

Joe Clark of Toronto has some scathing words for us on his personal weblog (WARNING: some profanity).