Month: February 2019

Interesting Times

You know you live in interesting times when you can’t tell Left from Right—when “social justice warriors” on campus, students and staff alike, try to limit the scope of free speech by filing Title IX or broader claims against faculty whose extracurricular writing offends their sensibilities, and when avowed conservatives not only lead the fight to protect the 1stAmendment but offer more compelling criticisms of capitalism than their liberal or leftist counterparts. This is our current condition. I have some first-person experience of this political flux. I live in Harlem, a historically black enclave of New York City which...

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Working Men’s Club — Bad Blood (single)

Working Men’s Club Bad Blood (Single) Melodic I don’t usually bother to review singles because, well, one track.  To be fair, ‘Bad Blood’ is backed with ‘Suburban Heights.’  Formed in Manchester, they are fronted by 17-year old Sydney Minskey-Sargeant, who also play guitar (one of them obviously plays bass, too).  The trio is rounded out with Giulia Bonometti, who also plays guitar and sings, and drummer Jake Bogacki.  Bogacki is all of 18, Bonometti is 23.  The met in 2017 and formed the band towards the end of that year.  And here they are with a record deal, on indie label Melodic, and ‘Bad Blood’ is their first single. They claim to take their inspiration from Talking Heads, Television, Gang of Four, Parquet Courts, and the Strokes. To that you could add Franz Ferdinand and The Smiths. As I listen to the guitars in ‘Bad Blood,’ I can hear all of those bands.  And yet, the angular post-punk guitars sound fresh here.  This is not an easy thing to do.  Elvis Costello was doing this in the 1970s.  So was David Byrne.  And, of course, Keith Levene of PiL, who perfected the post-punk guitar sound.  And yet, this is fresh, danceable, and bouncy. ‘Both tracks are cut from the same formula, one that has been well-used over the past 40 years.  And yet, I find myself turning back to...

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Broken Social Scene — Let’s Try the After, Vol. 1 (EP)

Broken Social Scene Let’s Try the After, Vol. 1 (ep) Arts & Crafts Broken Social Scene burst onto the, ahem, scene away back in 2001 with their astonishing début, Feel Good Lost.  But it was their follow-up, 2002’s You Forgot It In People that established their street cred.  Arising out of Toronto’s indie scene, BSS centres around Kevin Drew and Brandon Canning and has included stalwarts of the indie scene of Canada as a whole, and even some Americans.  At various times, BSS has included Leslie Feist; Stars’ Torquil Campbell, Evan Cranley and Amy Millan; Metric’s Emily Haines and James Shaw; Do Make Say Think’s Ohad Benchetrit and Charles Spearin; Tortoist/Sea and Cake’s John McEntire, amongst others.   There is no real way to describe BSS’s music, though their music is unmistakeable.  I read a review of a live show once that called them ‘baroque.’  I don’t think I would disagree.  They have become legends and darlings of the indie scene. This is not, however, to say, that they’re always great.  What they are is always creative, messy, and complicated.  The last song on their 2005 masterpiece, Broken Social Scene, ‘It’s All Gonna Break,’ is an epic tale of betrayal, sex between exes and friends, and the like.  Really, I have no idea if it has anything to do with the band, but, given this was their last album until 2010’s Forgiveness Rock Record, plus...

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The Enduring Legacy of Slavery

This came through my feed on Facebook a few days ago.  It’s worth re-posting and it’s worth a deeper commentary.  The United States was founded upon slavery.  Fact.  The Founding Fathers included slave owners.  Face.  The Founding Fathers didn’t deal with slavery in the Constitution.  Fact.  The Civil War happened because the South seceded over slavery.  Fact.  The Southern response to Emancipation was Black Codes, the Ku Klux Klan and segregation.  Fact.  Desegregation only happened because of the intervention of the Supreme Court.  Fact. But.  None of this is a Southern thing.  Slavery initially existed in the North as well.  But even after the North banned slavery, it benefited from slavery.  The American industrial revolution began in Lowell, MA, due to the easy availability of Southern cotton.  The North got wealthy, in other words, on the backs of Southern slaves.   The North countenanced slavery. After the Civil War, the North countenanced segregation.  The second Ku Klux Klan emerged in Atlanta, true, but it operated all over the country.  And, following Brown v. Board of Education, the Supreme Court decision that desegregated schools, the North was affected, most notably during the Boston Busing Crisis in the 1970s. But even with the official end of desegregation with Brown v. Board, it’s not like segregation went away.  Schools today remain very segregated across the United States due to the outcomes of racism, poverty and...

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Border Walls and Alien Homelands: Reflections on Dariusz Stola’s Lecture, “The “Anti-Zionist” Campaign in Poland, 1967-68, and Its Echoes Today.”

1. “Top-Down” versus “Populist” Movements: Accounting for a Nation’s Intolerance On 23 October 2018, I attended a lecture/discussion at the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research. The speaker was Dariusz Stola, a professor of history at the Institute for Political Studies of the Polish Academy of Sciences, and Director of the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews. Stola’s oeuvre includes ten books and over a hundred scholarly articles on the political and social history of Poland in the 20th century, the Holocaust, international migrations, and the communist regime. His lecture, “The ‘Anti-Zionist’ Campaign in Poland, 1967-68, and Its...

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