Saturday, May 28, 2016

I'll Keep Singing the Same Songs, I'm Sorry if You're Bored Now

Punk ideology is supposed to mean resistance. A punk is supposed to not fit in. They are supposed to not agree with the majority. Punk aligns with the political left. Part of a punk is identifying the things you believe are right and then sticking to those beliefs not matter outside pressure to abandon them you receive. You are supposed to feel like a tree branch stuck upright in the riverbed battling the current, even though battling that current is tiring as all hell. You should take pride in that tiredness and feel camaraderie with your relatively small community of like-minded individuals. Stick with your allies and find comfort in the fact that aren't alone in realizing how fucked up the way that the world works is and trying to resist that.

I say all this because in the world's current climate, it's increasingly hard to stay punk, as dumb as that sentence sounds. Though punk 100% started as mainly as a fashion choice in the 70's, any of the socio-political ideas that went along with it, like worker's rights, distrust of ruling entities, anti-racism, anti-homophobia, anti-sexism, and were what really made the subculture important, are completely divorced from the idea now. This really sucks because those socio-political ideas are what resonated with me and drew me to punk in the first place. I didn't start listening to punk because I wanted a reason to wear tight pants and shave the sides of my head, I started listening to it because it was the sonic analogue to ideas I had about the world and how I felt.

It's hard to still believe in punk and stay punk because I've watched the ideology fall apart me as I age. I've watched people form the scene abandon it to become bros. I've seen people from the scene become (or maybe reveal how they are) pieces of shit and do things to my friends that are reprehensible. The band's I care about mostly broke up or started making shitty records.

Through mass culture and media, punk music has come to mean mid-tempo rock music played with distortion by men who wear leather jackets. The songs are mostly about drinking and self-loathing now, instead of giving a shit about anything at all. This isn't nihilism either, it's just ignorance. It makes me want to tear my hair out that most punk bands just don't give a shit about what punk really does mean and how important and powerful it can be. It's so disheartening to me to see so many bands who just don't seem to "get it". I know that this makes me sound incredibly self-righteous, but it's something that jumping out at me through my headphones and record reviews and at shows for a long time. How am I supposed to believe in this important thing, if it's constantly failing me?

But if the only option is to give in and abandon what I believe in, then fuck that. I'll dig my feet in and plant myself even more firmly in the riverbed. Let the current give me all it's got. It doesn't matter if mass culture can change what punk means to most people, because they can never change what it means to me.

With my rant out of the way, I will say that Dillinger Four are one of the few bands who still make me believe. Their songs make point my finger at nothing and scream the lyrics along because they tap into that feeling of not being alone in your fight against indomitable cultural and political powers that drew me to punk in the first. Even as I become exasperated at the dilution of the genre, D4 reminds me that it's just a trimming of the fat. Who cares if these people aren't with it? They probably never were to begin with.

The fact that Dillinger Four can make me continually make me believe and make me feel positive about my beliefs and choices is very important.

Fuck 'em all.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Good Material

I think it's a really good thing when I start a blog post with no idea how it's going to end up, because then finding out how it's going to end up becomes the main thing, so I usually end up ~"saying something"~.

This past weekend, I volunteered with the Toronto Comic Arts Festival (henceforth known as "TCAF"). Since I had some previous experience running public events at KW|AG, they allowed me to run one of the venues all on my own (not really, but mostly). I took care of a bar a block away from the Toronto Reference Library, where the festival held panels and interviews throughout the weekend. Everything went really well too! No real problems! Go me!

I had heard of the festival before and thought about attending in 2013 because Liz Prince was attending and I wanted to pick up some of her stuff that I was missing. I ended up skipping it that day to hang out with my friend Lisa in Pickering. That turned out to be a whole other adventure. I think I wrote about it on here? Maybe? I just tried to find the post to link it, but had a hard time. I guess your only course of action is to read my entire blog and maybe come across it.

TCAF did seem really cool though. Even though the vast majority of the comics I have read have been mainstream Marvel stuff, I really love the idea of people creating their own weird niche stuff and me getting to support these people directly by buying their stuff right from them. I find that a lot of the stuff I appreciate in punk is present in indie comics as well (and not just in Mitch Clem and Liz Prince).

When I was in Vancouver earlier this year to present for a conference, one of the other presenters specialized in comics as a subject of study in art history. In my undergrad, I thought about pursuing that avenue of study many different times. While we were talking about just that, he said that he would be presenting at TCAF that year and invited me to come. I said I would and meant it. Later, when I was back in Toronto, I looked into volunteering. I had the end of my thesis planned out, but didn't yet know what I would be doing when it finished. I figured that since I would probably have a lot of free time, I could dedicate a significant portion of that to TCAF. I signed up to be a Head Volunteer (more responsibility than a regular volunteer!) and devoted most of that week to TCAF activities.

I really didn't know what to expect when Saturday morning rolled around, but was pretty sure that I would be fine. I am "good" at running these sorts of things. Plus public events are this weird sort of organism that mostly takes care of itself once it gets going. Everything went fine. It helped that all of TCAF's stuff at The Pilot was pretty cool too. It's easier to pull a crowd in when you have things that they are actually interested in seeing.

I will admit that when the weekend started, I did not know any of the names at The Pilot, but what was interesting was that when they were presenting, I immediately recognized their work. The first time this happened was during the second panel featuring Jeff Lemire and Ray Fawkes. I knew Essex County, but I didn't know that was this guy until it was mentioned. Neato.

Then, two panels later, I realized that two of my favourite internet cartoonists, those behind The Perry Bible Fellowship and Boy's Club (well, Boy's Club is actually printed stuff, but much of it's notoriety comes from the internet, so I'm lumping it in here) were speaking. "Damn," I said to myself "maybe I'm more tuned into all of this than I originally thought!"

What I wanted to get to though was the third last panel of the second day, featuring Simon Hanselmann and HTML Flowers.

I was first exposed to Vice magazine by my brother, who would keep random copies around in our parents' basement. After he showed me them, I read through an entire issue and thought it was cool for the following reasons:

1. One article had a picture of boobs in it. Bare boobs! I was in like grade 9 and that was sick.
2. The articles were all about weird stuff that I would never expect to see in a magazine. It was almost like I kept reading just to see what the next thing would be.
3. Most of the ads were for skate companies, which was crucial in me linking all of these new weird things I was reading about to a subculture I already understood, that being "skateboarding".
4. There was lots of swearing.

After that, I started to pick up issues of the magazine whenever I was downtown. They were always free, which I thought was fucking sick and anti-establishment and I noticed that they were always in stores like independent skate stores or small, hip clothing stores and not in chains. I also thought that was cool. You had to seek it out and that contributed to the enjoyment of it.

One of the things I always looked forward to in those issues was reading the surreal and nihilistic and dark comic strips that were on the inner back cover. It was always a very weird story that I didn't quite get, but still enjoyed reading. What I didn't know until this past Sunday was that those comics were the work of Hanselmann and HTML Flowers. When I figured this out shortly into the interview, I was delighted.

Though I wouldn't say the two artists and I are similar in many ways, I do see certain parts of myself in them. I think we consume and evaluate pop culture in the same way. Their comics are the result of the darkest parts of life. Throughout the whole weekend at The Pilot, I saw a big variety of comic styles. Queer stuff. Sex stuff. Fucked up horror manga. Webcomics. Mainstream stuff from Image. None of that was the result of truly fucked up experiences like the stuff from Vice. I think it's so wonderful to look at the world and say "Fuck it all" and completely do your own thing and that is what Hanselmann and HTML's comics do. Bright cartoons that show the darkest parts of your brain and everything around you.

These two were by far my favourite part of the whole weekend. Whereas everyone else treated the panels like an important professional event, but these two went right for the bar and then shot from the hip for the whole interview. Though none of the cartoonists were meant to me, many were dismissive and a few big-leagued me when I would try to see if they needed anything. These two actually asked what my name was and talked to me.

During the talk, they mentioned that they both grew very poor in bad situations and HTML said that that made him appreciate things more when he got them. I guess it showed through this too.

I would also like to say that Kate Beaton was also very nice!

Friday, May 13, 2016

Push You Away

19 days since my last post! That is a very long break. I think a long break was due though, as my life changed in a pretty significant way since my last post.

The first is that on April 26th, I successfully defended my Master's thesis, Engineering Failure: Historiographical Changes in Artist Biography, which was the unofficial end (I'll get into that) of MA in Art History in Visual Culture at Guelph. Big life events life this are weird, because you know beforehand how important and significant they are. They don't blindside you like a break-up or a death or something. At times, it certainly felt like finishing my thesis was impossible, but I always knew I was going to be able to do it. Since you know a huge event and its ensuing change is coming, most would assume that it would be underwhelming, but that wasn't the case at all. In fact, when I got home from the defense, my mom asked me just that. The people that attended the defense were cross-section of the important people in my life from the last 3 years; Sally, who has guided and helped me more than anyone, Christina and Dominic, who conducted my interview for the program, Vanja, who became one of my best friends along the way, new friends in Emily and Paul, my parents. Even the people who weren't there, were still kind of there. I got texts from my siblings the day before. Rebecca, who I started dating way back in the first year of my master's and now live with, Matt, who I met in first year, Coni, once part of a strong trio, but now living in New York. I got to show what I had done by doing what I'm best at, and in the process was showered with love for the whole day. I guess I deserved that? I guess.


The night of my defense, the Raptors came back from 17 points in the 4th quarter, which was pretty cool.

Two days after it, I interviewed for a gallery attendant position at the Power Plant. Got that. Applied for a big-boy art fellowship at the same gallery. Got that.

It felt weird being so wrapped up in researching and writing and thinking about failure for so long. I thought about it a lot. I experienced it. I felt like a failure. I'm not? I'm not.

Beat Noir is... still a band. A and who hasn't done much publicly, but a band nonetheless!

It'll take me a minute to find my sealegs here again, so I'll leave you some thoughts about a lot of stuff.

Thrasher's King of the Road skatevideo series has started again. First episode is here. Chocolate and Toy Machine are improvements on last year's teams, but everyone is still playing Sammy Sosa to Birdhouse's Barry Bonds. They are quickly moving my ranks of favourite skate teams ever. Maybe the number one spot? Honestly, maybe. They are so much fun to watch. Skating was such an important part of my friendship with Damien, Pat, and Paul, so when I see pros who are truly friends, as Birdhouse seems to be, it warms my heart. They just want to skateboard with their best friends and have as much fun doing it as they can. THAT is what skateboarding is fucking about.

I also watched a short documentary by Vice about Chief Keef, drill rap, and gang violence in Chicago. Kudos to Vice for investigating and showing the true effect of a mostly-white media's interest in black gang violence leads to, and illustrating their mistakes in the process. Very interesting and moving stuff. Being a fan of Chief Keef's music myself, this caused some self-reflection and thinking about what it means to be a white middle-class person who like gangsta rap. Always be conscious of what your choices mean.

I promise IMU won't become a Vice content dump! That's already reserved for AVClub articles! Plus KotR doesn't count as Vice anyways! Don't care who is making it!

Nothing's new album Tired of Tomorrow is fucking excellent. Super dreamy, gazey, and heavy and is hitting all the right notes for me currently. Best thing I've heard this year. Teaser below:

Pity Sex, another one of my favourite current bands, recently put out the follow-up to Feast of Love, which is one of my favourite albums of the last five years or so. It's...okay. A little disappointed.

Modern Baseball's new album was getting hyped by a lot of people on my social media feeds, and I gotta say, it does not do anything for me. OH WELL.

Maybe I should introduce more hate to IMU. Fav for yes, share for no.