Friends, Enemies, and Internet Losers: I have returned.

Posts tagged “humor

SWAN[K!] Song

When I was 15, I went to Europe with my parents. We took the “Grand Tour” and I found myself face to face with the Leaning Tower of Pisa. I also found myself in another of my bell-ringing arguments with my father. At the end of it all, stubborn and moody, I refused to climb the tower with the other tourists. A couple of years later, the tower was closed to the public for safety reasons and I had missed an opportunity that was truly once in a life time.

Twenty years later, I was at a sold out show at the Commodore. The Town Pants were having their first Boozapalooza to celebrate their 10 year anniversary as a band. I didn’t miss SWANK! that night; I kind of got so drunk that I forgot them. Unlike Pisa’s stone banana, however, it was an omission I could rectify.

Boozapalooza

The release party for Campfire Pslams remains the best album release party I have ever attended. The Railway club was filled with well wishing friends and partiers who got exactly what they came for. SWANK! played an acoustic set, followed by their friends singing karaoke versions of the songs from the new album (the karaoke disc came as an extra with the actual CD). The evening was capped off with SWANK! blowing the doors off the club in all their amplified glory.

SWANK! circa 1996

Why the nostalgia?

This Friday (Oct 1, 2010), SWANK! will play their final show. After 18 years of wearing out dancing shoes the world round, SWANK! are powering down the amps for the last time. They’ll be closing the second of the Sound Lounge Presents Concert Series with The Jardines and Jonathan Todd.

The Jardines will be playing with the full 8-person compliment on stage and Jonathan Todd, a stranger to me, who managed to wow the socks of Kirk Douglas recording at the Sound Lounge; not an easy task to be sure. It is destined to be an evening of Vancouver music legend.

In Ireland 2006

I lost my only chance to see Pisa from her leaning tower. I’ll be damned if I miss my last chance to see SWANK! perform as a band. For those of you who find this the first, last, and only chance to see SWANK!, do yourself a favour and head down to the Anza Club this Friday and write yourself into legend.

The Sound Lounge Presents

SWANK! w/

The Jardines & Jonathan Todd

Friday, October 1, 2010

The Anza Club

3 W 8th Ave
Vancouver, BC
(604) 876-7128

Tickets: $10

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The History of the Hipster

The common mosquito, in its current form, is over 95 million years old. Despite its many eons of bothering the hell out of others and the sad truth that it probably isn’t going to go away any time soon, we still feel the need to complain about it, them. This is not hard to believe of course; they are annoying as hell and generally don’t provide a whole lot in return. Some would argue the same could be said of hipsters. I’m deciding. Granted they haven’t been around for 95 million years. Contemporary hipsters can be traced back a decade or so. But, as I will explain, there have always been hipsters, the parasitic culture gentrifier.

A Time article, written almost a year ago to the day, outlines the modern hipster. Dan Fletcher describes them as “smug, full of contradictions and, ultimately, the dead end of Western civilization.” This may be a bit harsh, but it’s not the first time it has been said.

Herb Caen, a columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle, coined the term “beatnik” in 1958. Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg were not amused. If you read the Beat writers’ work, you’d know they almost always had jobs and worked very hard to play very hard. Kerouac was admitted to Columbia on a football scholarship, a strange crossover for the King of the Beats. They did not create a scene, but drew attention to it. This is the invitation, the opening of the door that beckons to all the hipsters. In a letter to the New York Times Ginsberg wrote, “if the beatniks and not the illuminated Beat poets overrun this country, they will have been created not by Kerouac but by industries of mass communication which continue to brainwash men.” When Ginsberg wrote of “Angelheaded hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly connection to the starry dynamo in the machinery of night,” I suspect he was referring to those who came before, those who were the scene, not the ones who made it. Even the French Revolution was going along swimmingly until Maximillien Robespierre hijacked the Committee for Public Safety and kind of ruined it for everyone. Hipsters have existed everywhere.

The term “hip” is from the jazz clubs of the 30s and 40s. Before that, the etymology becomes a little hazy. Suffice it to say, to be “hip” meant that you were in the know. To be “in the know” now is not very difficult, especially in the digital age, when music and image are swapped like so many hockey cards. I think what angers a lot of people is that the hipster culture isn’t a culture; it’s a flea market where culture is bought and sold. Fletcher writes, “…instead of creating a culture of their own, hipsters proved content to borrow from trends long past.” Indeed. I once had a 15 year old kid tell me that I was responsible for Kurt Cobain’s death because I “didn’t appreciate him.” I didn’t have a calendar on hand, but simple math revealed that he would have been two years old when we killed Cobain and not even an egg-seeking sperm when “Bleach” was released. That’s probably why I don’t remember seeing him at a show.

You would never go to the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, D.C. dressed as a veteran if you were born in 1987. The Black Label Society had to cancel a show in Manchester because of threats of violence from a local motorcycle club. The club argued that BLS’s use of “rockers” on their jackets was an insult to any 1%er who’d actually earned them.

So is there anything actually wrong with a parasitic subculture intent on the lifelong search for cool? If there is, I blame Henry V. His Saint Crispin’s day speech called out all the “gentlemen in England now abed” and called their “manhoods cheap.” Essentially, if you’re not at the party, if you’re not hip, you suck and should think yourself “accursed.” Maybe that’s a bit of stretch. We are a society of consumers, of course, but cultures are supposed to produce as well. The true danger of a parasitic culture is not what it feeds on but how it feeds.

If beauty is in the eye of the beholder, a sentiment first expressed in the 3rd century BC by some Greek guy, then it doesn’t actually exist except in the abstract. We must see it for it to exist. This would also imply we should look for it. But if our search only extends as far as what someone else has told us is beautiful, the buck stops at the “industries of mass communication” Ginsberg railed against.

Candace Pert was responsible for discovering the opiate receptor in the human brain. In a 1981 interview with OMNI she stated, “Heroin bludgeons the opiate receptors into submission, functionally shrinking them.” In other words, if we keep outsourcing our opiates (she also stated that most drugs have less potent, natural analogs within the human body) our bodies can lose the ability to use our own; if we never leave the house, we become dependent on the deliveryman. This is the danger of the cool-seeker who doesn’t actually look. Hunter S. Thompson takes a similar stab at Leary’s Acid Culture in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, calling them “a generation of permanent cripples, failed seekers, who never understood the essential old-mystic fallacy of the Acid Culture.”

I too am a cool seeker. I too am a hipster in some aspects. But I want to believe that I replace that which I mine from the depths of culture in equal measures. I write about culture and society not to hand down truth from on high but to inspire you to take up the search as well. As Shakespeare wrote in Love’s Labour’s Lost, “Beauty is bought by judgement of the eye, / Not utter’d by base sale of chapmen’s tongues.”

So we continue to swat at the hipsters buzzing around us. They’re not going anywhere though so get used to them. As for yourself, art can be art for art’s sake but cool shouldn’t be cool for its own sake. Cool is the blind faith of the unoriginal. At least that’s what I heard.


Border Towns: Myth v. Fact when it came to my passport[s]

Someone once told me that the United States doesn’t recognize dual citizenship between the US and Canada. That didn’t sound right to me. Guess what… it wasn’t. The United States most certainly recognizes dual citizenship between our two countries. You only run into problems if, when you became a citizen of Canada, you meant to renounce your US citizenship. For myself, I didn’t. In fact, becoming a Canadian citizen was a passive act for me. While I sat (or stood) doing whatever it was I was doing on my 24th birthday, I became a Canadian citizen.

I was born in the US – Greenwich, CT to be exact. I have often joked that having been born in Greenwich and raised in West Vancouver, BC, my snob pedigree is perfect. Both my parents are Canadian (born and raised in the Kootenays) so I was considered a Canadian citizen born abroad. Because I lived in Canada when I reached the age of 24, I became a full Canadian citizen.

When I applied for my Canadian passport, I needed a guarantor’s signature, and those of two references. For my US passport, I just needed my birth certificate (stamped with the seal of the issuing State) and picture ID. I used my Canadian passport. Which leads me to myth number two: The US won’t allow you to carry two passports.

BUZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ. Thanks for playing.

The woman at the US Consulate in Vancouver told me that when arriving in the US, arrive as an American. When arriving in Canada, arrive as a Canadian. That’s two passports kiddies. Surprised me too.

Lastly, though it pains me to say it, these idiot Tea Partiers might actually have something with this smaller government thing. It took two and a half weeks for my Canadian passport to show up and about two hours to apply for it. My US passport took me less than 45 minutes to apply for and arrived a week and a day later. Of course, when it comes to government, if the US can figure out healthcare and education for its (our?) citizens I’d be willing to wait another ten days for my passport.


keeping positive.

The only thing worse than being sick is being dead – that and “Jersey Shore.” In an effort to keep my spirits high, I have decided to look at the upside and write about all the good things that come about as a result of the world famous, head cold. So, here is the silver lining that is slowly dripping out of my sinus cavity:

A) People don’t know what a sap you are: Because your eyes are watering so much, they can’t tell if you have a cold or if you just watched the episode of “Highway to Heaven” where the little girl with leukemia gets to swim with the dolphins after replacing her prosthetic legs that were lost in the horrible school bus crash caused by her family swerving off the road to miss Terry Fox running  with a box of puppies.

B) Drugs: Nobody wants you to go to work and make them sick too so you get to sit at home watching the walls melt.

C) Better seats on the bus: These days one sneeze/snort combo and you’re riding in style with a whole section to yourself until another sick person gets on and your section kind of turns into a leper colony.

D) Lots of hot showers with no guilt: It was Mother Nature and her germs that did this to you so the bitch can suffer with you for a day.

E) Soup: Soup is awesome. Let’s all just admit this and move on.

F) Oprah: She’ll be gone soon. You better try to get in some “me” time while you can. See “A” above.

G) You have at least one day of bossing your roommates around: They’ll put up with you for one day because they want the same treatment when they get sick and one look at you and they know they will.

H) Cherry Halls: “Dissolve one tablet slowly in the mouth as required.” *Crunch* Next…

I) Pajamas: I have long been a supporter of the notion that one not get dressed should they not need to. Pajamas are the shit, even you have to have several pairs on call with all the joyous night sweating that goes on.

J) The Fever: Suckers all over the world shell out good cash for designer drugs to feel the way you do the night you have the fever. Fever dreams are so intense that being sick is almost worth it for that exact reason. Bon Voyage!


Relationship advice

I don’t ACTUALLY freak out

it’s fine until I start thinking and thinking about it

I’m actually insane


Did I mention I love mail?

Somewhere in New York, two women are laughing themselves silly. Maybe it’s because of the Valentine’s Day card – “I think the best time to get cards is a week or so after the holiday for which they are intended… It adds an element of surprise… Surprise!” – but I have a sneaking suspicion that it has more to do with the other contents of the package. The drawing, poem, and letter were greatly appreciated but their service to our wonderful city did not go unnoticed. Seems they, like everyone else in the world, have perceived that Vancouver is having a little problem with the “Winter” part of our Winter Olympics. I love mail.


I see dead people

I try not to dwell on the death but every once in a while a memento mori (reminder of death) comes floating through your field of vision. One of Facebook’s more annoying little traits is a list that pops up in the upper right hand corner of your home page, telling you what an awful friend you are. It tells you you haven’t connected with so-and-so in such-and-such a time and that if you weren’t such a self-centred bastard you would send people messages once in a while. I have two friends who are on this list quite a bit but there is a very good reason I haven’t sent them a message: they’re dead.

I actually have three dead friends on my Facebook Friends list but I am assuming the third hasn’t been dead long enough for Facebook’s automatic “lousy friend” system to pick up that no one sends him personal messages anymore. Oddly enough, all three of them are musicians as well. I’ve had other non-musical friends die before but it was before the invention of Facebook and though the dead may retain their Facebook pages, they rarely start them.

Hardy Hansen was the last to go: Cancer. He fought it hard but death will always win out in the end whether it hits you with the first or third pitch. Hardy had been singing in musicals dating back to 1955. I met him at karaoke a few years ago. It is no secret to anyone that Hardy annoyed the hell out of me on even the best of days. The fact that he did annoy me is unimportant (it isn’t that difficult). What caused him to annoy me was important: he always wanted my opinion.

In his later years, Hardy parlayed his appearance and singing voice into a sweet little Sinatra Tribute gig. He’d break out the bow tie for Cancer fundraising events and contests. He really was pretty good. But he was always a little uncertain of himself – Should he do this song and that gesture? After a while it got annoying but I always respected that he wanted to be all he could. He just wanted to be good. Well Hardy, you were.

I met Paul Preminger when he was drumming for The Smugglers. The first time I went to The Town Pump, I was underage and using his ID. His laugh could fill a stadium. It was more of a good-spirited cackle, actually. His father found it strangely fitting that such a caring and giving person should die of an enlarged heart. Paul and I hadn’t seen each other much in the years before he died, but it was, ironically, Facebook that allowed us to reconnect. I still see Paul everywhere. But I don’t hear that laugh anymore and that is how I know he is really gone.

If Paul was a shock, Mike was a crime. Mike Gurr, another drummer, hadn’t even made it out of his twenties when an tour van accident in Manitoba punched his ticket. Admittedly, I didn’t know Mike as well as his other friends and I feel bad that we never got the time. But we did have time together and I still shudder to think how much of that time was spent in the van that would eventually be his death. Mike’s death was one of the moments in my life where I stopped and took stock, then decided what direction to head off in. I guess I can thank him for that too.

Hardy’s site hasn’t been picked up by the Facebook bots yet, but it will. When he does, Hardy will be another “friend who doesn’t visit anymore” who periodically checks in with me to see what mundane fact I am throwing up on Facebook that day.

Most of you are familiar with my workspace but I wonder if you have ever seen these: a hand-drawn picture of Mike, The Smugglers’ first 45, and a bow tie. Facebook isn’t the only thing that remembers.