Title Comment Comment Date Comment Link
Film Log

...never!? Maybe this should be archived.

I haven't been watching many films lately, but a grip of favourites are playing in my local theatre in the coming months (Tokyo Story, Breathless, Wings of Desire, Stalker (!)... Kiarostami(!!!)). Maybe that will get me back into the swing of things, and I'll resume marking some stray observations. Have you seen anything particularly noteworthy lately, worth recommending?

1/24/2016 View
Critics Ranked and Reviewed

Jay-Z is incomparably better than Nas, imo. "Ether" is way more direct, and I can almost see why people say Nas won based off its strength, but "Takeover" only addressed him in one verse and was able to dismantle his entire career; there is something to be said about succinctness. Most importantly, "Takeover" is the better song; "Ether" isn't particularly enjoyable to listen to unless you want--for some reason--a breakdown of Jay-Z. While I'm on the subject, I think American Gangster is a really great album that is inexplicably overlooked.

I love Drake; Take Care easily gets the nod as his best album. It's the most ambitious, coherent, musical... I remember reading The Weeknd had a heavy hand in its creation, which makes sense. I like If You're Reading, but it's not as strong. Stand out tracks include "Preach" (maybe my favourite song of the year?), "Star67," "10 Bands," "No Tellin"... Nothing Was The Same was the album which surprised me in its utter uneveneness... Lots of forgettable tracks, though I love "Tuscan Leather," "Pound Cake," "Too Much" and a couple others. That said, I wouldn't go to Drake looking for depth, although he often seems convinced he's being profound. But that doesn't, for me, diminish the pleasure.

Am interested to hear your thoughts on Beauty! One of my favourite tracks of his that isn't on an album: King of the Fall.

12/18/2015 View
Best Canadian Stuff

There's no denying Frye was remarkably intelligent, but I suppose it's a matter of temperament. He's really interested in taxonomies of knowledge, and--frankly--all those ideas about archetypes and myths and topos leave me a little cold. I prefer the close textual engagement of critics like F.R. Leavis, William Empson, Ross Posnock, Helen Vendler, etc. And Erich Auerbach, Mimesis might be the best book of criticism ever written. He was a German-Jew who fled the Nazis to Istanbul where he wrote his masterpiece, which covers European literature from Homer to Woolf. Hugh Kenner seems like a pretty great Canadian crit from the little I've read of him; The Pound Era is generally regarded as the finest book on the poet.

Some Livesay: Bartok and the Geranium, The Unquiet Bed, Day and Night (excerpt). I genuinely enjoy her work, but I would also note that she does not rank as an overall favourite; only within the parameters of Canada.

12/15/2015 View
Critics Ranked and Reviewed

Black on Both Sides -- too long, but "Mathematics," "Ms Fat Booty," "Mr. N***a," and some others are great
Illmatic -- some really fine tracks ("Memory Lane," "NY State of Mind") despite the fact that Nas usually bores me to tears
Dancing in Your Head -- wonderful; hat tip to Xgau, I think.
Yeezus -- great, but not something I play as much as his first two. I like it front to back but standouts include "Blood on the Leaves," "Send it Up" and "Hold my Liquor".

I'm really interested in the Louis/Duke album but am somewhat skeptical, because it is becoming increasingly difficult for me to listen to Satchmo's, say, post-30's output. The artistic power recalls his earlier work, but it's just not the same.

Have you heard Beauty Behind the Madness? I love it.

12/15/2015 View
Best Canadian Stuff

Despite being Canadian, I know little about our artistic culture. Naturally, that doesn't stop me from having an opinion. Dorothy Livesay is probably my favourite Canadian writer, and I don't get the fuss about Frye. I prefer Ararat to Exotica, and you might want to check out Michael Snow and Jack Chambers for really captivating experimental film, though I like Cronenberg more than either. The absence of the Group of Seven is particularly agreeable, but you're missing Drake.

I need to read Carson.

12/15/2015 View
Critics Ranked and Reviewed

I remember Prindle's reviews being funny but I looked up the wife thing and good lord some of the stuff cited here is depressing.

12/6/2015 View
Favorite TV Shows

Master of None is so bad; the pandering to liberal values with zero subtly or intelligence is embarrassing.

11/12/2015 View
Favorite Music [archived]

The Weeknd >

10/29/2015 View
Favorite Directors

I'm shocked... Chantal Akerman committed suicide on October 5th at the age of 65.

Truly one of the greats.

10/10/2015 View
The Greatest Albums Ever

"The Beatles broke up because they were idealistic enough to be convinced of their historical mission and realistic enough to know they were no longer capable of carrying it forward. The Beatles broke up because they didn't see or care that the corporate life of a rock group could endure long after its collective life was kaput. The Beatles broke up because the couple is a more stable structure than the four-way. The Beatles broke up because three of them believed they were geniuses and only one of them was. The Beatles broke up because they thought they were immortal. The Beatles broke up because they couldn't stand each other anymore." -- Robert Christgau

Christina Rees has an amusing theory about how it was written.

10/8/2015 View
The Greatest Albums Ever

Naw, his poetry is def really banal imo. If being better is central to passing judgement then the whole critical enterprise is sunk.

10/7/2015 View
The Greatest Albums Ever

I know little about rock journalism but Xgau is bar none the best writer I've encountered in the field. His reviews of Exile, The Indestructible Beat A Thousand Leaves, Kid A, Before the Flood, & so many others.... his six sentences on why The Beatles broke up... All are examples of great, incisive writing (nothing like Scaruffi's elephantine prose).

Plus Xgau gave Soulja Boi an A-, how can you not love that?

10/4/2015 View
Favorite movies

In my view the disdain for women in Nostalghia isn't a genre thing at all, but just disdain for women. I know Rosenbaum says Tarkovsky's "sexual politics are Neanderthal".

Tangentially re: Tarkovsky liking The Terminator; the one that always puzzled me was Bresson's love for For Your Eyes Only.

8/9/2015 View
Favorite albums

If you're saying that there may be multiple, even contradicting, views that are objective, then I have nothing to really disagree with. That's relativism right there, though perhaps the vocabulary is different. I'm wary of analogies because they can sometimes encourage false equivalencies. For one, I don't think there is anything objective about journalism. Chomsky and Herman showed this quite clearly with Manufacturing Consent. The simple choice to write about a particular event, or certain facts, or whatever, emerges out of an intersection of personal and institutional negotiations a journalist must make. Jackson Lears has brilliantly shown how the writing of an important academic like Jared Diamond is unmistakably stamped by a particular ideology. Science, mathematics and physics are constantly in a flux; the most famous example being Einstein and his critique of Newtonian mechanics. Neils Bohr would, in turn, show lapses in Einsten's thinking. We're constantly finding out how little we know. The world of nutrition is, in any case, hazy; a couple of decades ago they were saying eggs were bad for one's health. Similarly, contradictory reports keep emerging about the perceived benefits of red wine. (Sugar is wonderful, Carême said: "The Fine Arts are five in number: Painting, Music, Poetry, Sculpture, and Architecture–whereof the principle branch is Confectionery.") The Beethoven / Spears example circles back to 'interpretive circles', people who agree about what constitutes good music will likely reach the same opinions about both artists. For me, Beethoven is unfathomably better (I've been spending a lot of time with his sonatas lately, supplemented by Schiff's lectures) but this is a personal truth, not a universal one. To say the human brain is "destined" for something is to inscribe a teleology that doesn't really fit with reality, as it fails to account for why people go their whole lives eating poorly, reading trashy gossip, not looking after their health, not listening to classical music, etc.

I'm struggling to fully grasp your second paragraph, but a few thoughts: For one, I don't think a work of art has to conflate with my worldview in order to be considered good. That would be amazingly self-indulgent. Leavis's brilliant essay on Eliot's "Four Quartets", in which he appreciates the poetry but rejects the Christian worldview, is an example of how one's ideology need not completely interfere with an engagement with the arts. If "Art can be objectively good or bad" sounds better to my ears than "Art can't be objectively good," despite the latter's agreeable message, then I am happy to exalt the former. Furthermore, I'm not certain why a personal opinion would be called objective. I don't care if people are relativist or not, but I strongly feel that one should, for example, not support Israel's foreign policy. Even though I wish everyone else was on board with that opinion that doesn't mean I'm being objective. Rather, it's a point of view that unmistakably emerges out of material circumstances; personal, sociological, and historical. I guess, like so many times on Listology, things come down to semantics. The word "objectivity" to me signifies a universal, incontestable, perhaps provable truth. Like I said earlier, however, I don't think we're in complete disagreement, just perhaps our diction differs. And I feel there are less certainties in this world than you do. ("There are no fixtures in nature. The universe is fluid and volatile. Permanence is but a word of degrees....")

7/24/2015 View
Favorite albums

Rather than objective I think a better term would be inter-subjectivity, where a group (an 'interpretive community') comes together around a shared criteria. Saying that a work has more "compassion" than another isn't scientifically verifiable, but you are likely to reach the same conclusions as someone else who has come to the same social agreement as to what constitutes a good, and a bad, piece of art. This, I think, explains why people have lists that are so similar to Scaruffi. Or Rolling Stone magazine. Or B.H. Haggin. (Well, that or ideological indoctrination). While I don't think there's such a thing as objectivity in the arts, I also don't believe in extreme subjectivity. Each of us are embedded in a complex social framework that shapes our perception.

I'm too much of a relativist to think that something like morality, let alone art, can be discussed scientifically or objectively. Cultural anthropologists have shown this time and time again.

I can't resist quoting Emerson on influence (and by doing so I fall into the trap he describes):
"Meek young men grow up in libraries, believing it their duty to accept the views, which Cicero, which Locke, which Bacon, have given, forgetful that Cicero, Locke, and Bacon were only young men in libraries, when they wrote these books."

7/23/2015 View