Author: Matthew Barlow

Resurrecting Les Négresses Vertes

One of the wonderful things about growing up in Canada was official bilingualism.  This meant, for example, that growing up in Vancouver, I could see my beloved Habs every Saturday night on La Soirée du Hockey on Radio-Canada.  It also meant that the French-language version of MuchMusic, MusiquePlus, was broadcast across cable in Vancouver, direct from Montréal. For the adventuresome young music fan, there was this whole other world out there from France, Belgium, Québec, and French Africa.  Musiqueplus is how I first heard a whole raft of great French artists, from Youssou N’Dour to Noir Désir to Jean...

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Michael Head & The Red Elastic Band: Adios Señor Pussycat

Michael Head & The Red Elastic Band Adios Señor Pussycat Violette Records, 2017 Michael Head is another one of Liverpool’s long line of brilliant musicians who went nowhere (seriously, the NME once put him on the cover and called him a genius). And more’s the pity.   Back in the early 80s, he fronted The Pale Fountains. Formed in 1980, the Fountains weren’t exactly what you would expect to be coming out of the dying industrial cities of England’s north. It wasn’t punk. The Fountains were influenced by the Beatles and Burt Bacharach. Despite landing a record deal, they didn’t...

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The True North Strong and Free

Last week, Canadian Governor General Julie Payette gave a speech at what the Canadian Broadcast Corporation calls ‘a science conference‘ in Ottawa.  There, she expressed incredulity in creationism and climate change denial, and called for a greater acceptance of scientific fact in Canada.  Payette is a former astronaut, holds an MSc in computer engineering, and has worked in the field of Artificial Intelligence.  In other words, when she speaks on this matter, we should listen. Her comments ignited a storm of controversy in Canada.  Some people are upset at her comments.  Some people are upset the Governor General has an opinion on something.  With respect to the first, Payette spoke to scientific fact.  Full stop. Not opinion.  Fact.  With respect to the second, Governors General and opinions, I will point out that our former Governor General, David Johnston, also freely expressed his opinions.  But, oddly, this did not lead to massive controversy.  What is the difference between Payette and Johnston?  I’ll let one of my tweeps, author Shireen Jeejeebhoy answer: Personally I cldnt care less. Our prev *male* GG was pointed on some of *his* views.Did anyone give a damn? No. Sexism lives in #cdnpoli MSM — Shireen Jeejeebhoy (@ShireenJ) November 3, 2017 But then I found a particularly interesting tweet.  The tweet claimed that for the very reason that Canada has the monarchy, the country cannot...

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Wolf Parade: Cry, Cry, Cry

Wolf Parade Cry, Cry, Cry SubPop, 2017 Perhaps no one was sadder than I when Wolf Parade hung up their guitars and drumsticks and went on hiatus in 2011 in the wake of what I (still) consider their best album, Expo 86. There is always a personal dimension for me with this band. They’re from British Columbia, I grew up in Vancouver. Expo 86 got its name because they all realized they were at Vancouver’s World’s Fair in the same week in 1986. I also went to Expo 86 a bunch of times. They formed in Montreal, I’m originally...

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A History of Globalization

I read Susan Sontag’s Regarding the Pain of Others last week.  For some reason, Sontag has always loomed on the fringes of my cultural radar, but I had never read anything by her, other than a few essays or excerpts over the years.  In some ways, I found her glib and in others, profound.  But I also found her presentist. At the start of the second chapter, she quotes Gustave Moynier, who in 1899, wrote that “We know what happens every day throughout the whole world,” as he goes onto discuss the news of war and calamity and chaos in the newspapers of the day.  Sontag takes issue with this: “[I]t was obviously an exaggeration, in 1899, to say that one knew what happened ‘every day throughout the whole world.’” We like to think globalization is a new phenomenon, that it was invented in the past 30 years or so and sped up with the advent of the internet and, especially social media, as we began to wear clothes made in China, rather than the US or Canada or Europe.  Balderdash.  Globalization has been underway since approximately forever.  Europeans in the Ancient World had a fascination with the Far East, and trade goods slowly made their way across the Eurasian landmass from China to Italy and Greece.  Similarly, the Chinese knew vaguely of the faraway Europeans.  In the Americas, archaeological...

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