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Monthly Archives: June 2013

Maps by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs is ten years old this year but I still love to play this song and feel nostalgic. The song (“My Angus Please Stay”) is a garage rock ballad written for lead singer Karen O’s then-boyfriend, and is just the perfect love song; Rolling Stone named it the 7th best song of the 2000’s, and it stands at #6 on Pitchfork Media’s top 500 songs of the same decade.

Thankfully the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s released their fourth full-length studio album in April. The band issued a music video for their second third single, Despair, three days ago from the album Mosquito which includes collaborations with James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem and Dr. Octagon (OMG Dr. Octagon!). The song, like Maps, showcases what the Yeah Yeah Yeahs are capable of — a wide range of styles from the punk-influenced rock of their earlier days (see “Y Control“) to danceable pop-electro hits like Heads Will Roll, to reflective love songs. Karen O’s voice is also so versatile and well suited for these wide range of styles, which makes me excited about discovering all the songs off of Mosquito.

Noisey, through Vice.com, offers a preview of all the songs off the new album, as well as very awkward band commentary showing how shy and quiet the band members are in real life. I actually kind of love this, especially considering O’s onstage band persona (i.e. jumping around in her wacky, custom-made outfits), as it show how the band members are just introverted art-nerds making rock music. How can you not love that?

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Instagram Success Story, @mrwallstreet83, Source: Statigr.am

Instagram Sucess Story, @mrwallstreet83, Source: Statigr.am

Wall Street bankers have predictably taken a liking to snapchat, the consequence-free sexting app hot with teenagers right now.

Snapchat, the mobile app that lets you send self-destructing photos to your friends, is taking Wall Street by storm. After becoming popular with high school students last fall, the app has recently begun drawing in a set of young, privacy-conscious financiers. In an industry where a stray Facebook photo of a drunken escapade can get a junior banker fired on the spot, Snapchat’s disappearing photos have made it a useful tool for Wall Street’s party crowd. (NY Mag)

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My dad in Banff, Alberta, as a recent single parent

Is it enough to only have a father?

I have a mother, of course, but she died more than a decade ago. And since my undergraduate university years, my dad has fronted the parent fort, watching my sister and I go through years of tuition fees and multiple boyfriends. And as much as I felt the gap left by the absence of a parental figure, I never thought I lacked a looming force of authority in the family. A feminine one.

But I often rethink this when certain people react to the fact that my sister were still relatively young when our mother passed, and we are guided by only our father at the helm. For example, when I was working full-time in Toronto I worked with “Tom” who was nearing his retirement, an older gentleman in his 70’s. This was at a financial firm and the recession of 2008 hit us big, meaning Tom had too much nervous energy and time to wring his hands, filling his days with multiple coffee breaks and some times intrusive chatter. Tom often barged into the office I shared with two other co-workers, all female, and we would all politely listen to Tom’s banter while multitasking on Excel sheets. He was an interesting character, an old-fashioned but a vehement feminist, shaking his head with emotion as he talked (yelled?) about how “Women are going to rule the world!” and “Children are nothing without women!” The latter statement being not really a feminist one … but Tom meant well.

I had to graciously interrupt him, however, when Tom minimized the role of fathers, to phrase it nicely.

“Well, I only have a dad and I think I turned out OK,” I chirped in, smiling.

Tom did not expect that, and he became flustered, repositioning his head back inwards after stretching it out and wide for his rants. And then it became awkward at the office between me and Tom, that is, until I soon packed my bags and moved to Montréal.

I knew Tom was only trying to extol the place of women in society, but he was falling into that belief that women are better parents than men. And such perspectives embrace women as “natural” caretakers, caregivers, and parents unlike men, whose natural space is elsewhere, usually at an office where he can bring home the bacon. This belief is very hardwired in Korea, where I was born, but as I was raised in Toronto I was not aware that Korean culture perceives children without mothers with a critical eye. So when my mom died my dad warned me that other Koreans may see me differently, that they would think that my character and foundation was lacking because I did not have a mom. And this meant, to some Koreans, that I was not marriage material. (Not that I really care about my grading on the marriage-worthiness scale. Plus I was never meant to marry a guy straight from Korea and not raised in this culture.)

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Humans aren’t alone in suffering from digital distraction, an anecdotal condition widely covered by New York Times trend pieces over the last few years. The Guardian reports (in a seemingly tongue-in-cheek tone) that technology is ruining nature too. The Dorset Wildlife Trust is asking people to stop using bird-call apps designed to draw birds to their cameras, to snap shots of them. Use of the apps is said to be distracting the birds from more important things, like taking care of their offspring.

This week, after eight years of hiatus, Boards of Canada released their fifth full-length studio album, Tomorrow’s Harvest. It is dark, deep, atmospheric, and a great listen. I was super excited to purchase this album — yes, despite all my streaming and um, sharing of music files, I do support my favourite musicians — and have been listening to it non-stop for the past few days. The album is blanketed with a dystopian vibe while retaining the trademark Boards of Canada-esque textural synths, distorted sounds, and cinematic rhythms without the electro beats sometimes associated with electronic music.

Songs on the album carry melancholic titles such as Sick Times, Cold Earth, and Collapse, a departure from the optimism conveyed by the Dayvan Cowboy from their 2005 album, The Campfire Headphase. This track is triumphal and affirmative, so much that a fan made an alternate video for the song set to an exhilarating footage of daredevil Felix Baumgartner skydiving. But Boards of Canada, whose name bears homage to the National Film Board of Canada, sets their two music videos produced to date to scenes of landscapes and the natural world — a nod to National Film Board of Canada’s documentary films that has inspired the brother duo. It is difficult, however, for me to watch their music videos because the group’s songs are so complex and evocative that I feel that the visual effects provided for their music never brings the tracks any justice. That said, the attempts in producing a Boards of Canada music video is a brave one, and the resulting products are always beautifully rendered.

See the music video for Reach for the Dead, the first single from their new album here.

I also go to the cinema alone – is that sad too?

This man sits alone

This man sits alone

I like going to the movies, and I occasionally go alone because it can be hard to get someone to pay over 10 pounds to spend two hours of their time watching something they unsure about in the first place. Maybe IMAX or 3D can get some people out there, but that’s cool, I get it. Movies require a time commitment, not to mention a decent amount of cash these days.

Proclaiming that I attend movies by myself isn’t meant as a grand statement about my level of cinephilia, or lack of concern with social norms, though if it is to be construed that way, I won’t object. I do like my movies, but I certainly am no expert. Also, like most people, I like to avoid awkward social situations which may involve me being pegged as a social pariah. But even the most insecure person needn’t worry about going to the cinema alone. I’m not revealing anything new by pointing out that watching a film is not the most sociable of activities (at least in the West – I once tried to watch a Bollywood film in India while pretty much the entire audience chatted amongst themselves, the man behind me bellowed into his mobile phone…snacks were also hurled across the room…but I digress). It is therefore not a big deal to buy a ticket and sit in a dark silent room for a couple of hours. People may expect you to be accompanied, but if they even notice you at all, it will be for a minute or two before and after the film. I think most people can handle that level of scrutiny.

Logic then, coupled with the findings of the informal poll (Gchat) I’ve conducted with friends (they think it’s fine) lead me to the conclusion that going to the cinema by oneself is generally considered as socially acceptable. As a rule, people don’t assume you’re a outcast for doing it. For those who remain unconvinced, the discrete nature of the venue is a safe setting where one runs little risk of being found out.

Apparently the same is not thought to be true about going to gigs alone, however. I discovered this harsh reality while informally polling friends once again more recently.

I first thought about attending a concert alone not too long ago – I saw that rapper Le1f is to be performing in town in June. I’ve only heard one or two of his songs, and am not a die hard Das Racist fan. But in keeping with my birthday resolution to start going to more shows, I figured that it could be a fun one to go to. When I sent a few messages out inviting friends to go, there was a pretty blatant lack of interest. So “fuck it!” I thought. I’m an adult. I pay rent and utilities! I know what I want.

I went online, added a ticket to a basket and started entering my bank details. This, the more I thought about it, would be quite the statement when compared to solo film attendance. It’s not that I thought attending a concert by myself was socially unconventional per se, but perhaps just a little more daring then booking a single ticket to the local Odeon. I was proudly telling my friend over Gchat about my commitment to the art, and growing indifference about the opinion of others whilst buying my ticket when he attacked my decision with a “dude, that’s weird”.

I was somewhat surprised by his dismissiveness, especially given his passion and dedication to seeing live music. I asked around, and it seemed everyone agreed – going to a gig alone is seen, amongst my, for all intents and purposes, self realized adult friends, as sad.

I wondered why is it seen as weird for me to attend an artist’s musical performance by myself. While an arguably more social event than going to the movies – alcohol is consumed, and there is an opportunity for swaying/dancing – doesn’t my commitment to the music trump all that? Apparently not: “I dunno, it’s just kind of lame”.

This all leads me to believe that it is only acceptable to attend cultural events solo if you can creep around in the dark without anyone seeing your face. That’s very limiting. You can make out people’s features at most social gatherings, let alone cultural ones. I can’t think of very many other activities than the cinema that involve said dim lighting, with the exception of dark rooms of the nightclub/bathhouse variety.

But then I wonder, for whose benefit should I refrain from attending a concert alone – if I’m ok with it, then maybe it’s that we make other people uncomfortable when we go to events without a date. Maybe my laissez-faire attitude would make others question the merit of seeking out friends and loved ones to accompany them to shows. Or maybe they’d think I was an important art critic and feel intimidated and threatened in my presence.

Clearly I was overthinking it all. Why again, would going to a gig alone be perceived as sad? My friend Dean put it succinctly:

maybe it’s simply because movies aren’t cool
and gigs are
and not having mates isn’t cool
also, gigs are more scene

That actually helps.