by Sean
Please note: MP3s are only kept online for a short time, and if this entry is from more than a couple of weeks ago, the music probably won't be available to download any more.


I'm back.

Thank you so very much to the guestbloggers who filled in when I was away, and to all those who shared your comments. Thanks to Adrian for making it possible. Thanks to Monica (whose mystery was solved), to Howard (read the comments for a crackin' Loveless argument), Liz (I wish her well as she tramps across the Continent), Sasha (amazing eloquence, and UB40 with bite [!]), Julian (the Jim Giuffre 3 track is like a sad, strong, hot, long drink), Dan (yes, he would be pink), Brian (buy his new EP), Benjamen (read the comments for a discussion on the ethics of murderers' music, and, well, politics), and Tuwa (succulent, blue sounds). I hope it was as much fun for you as it was for me to read your pieces, listen to your selections, and then to see what others had to say. You must all start a group-blog called Music for Awesome People Who Rule.

Thankyou also to those places, like Fluxblog, who pointed people our way. Matthew kindly called my vacation "well-earned." It probably wasn't. :) But you must not miss his MTV VMA play-by-play, if only for this cogent observation: "The guy from Yellowcard looks like Alan Cumming playing Eminem in a tv movie." Let me tell you, the "guy from Yellowcard" was a stain upon my MuchMusic-watching hospital stay.

There's music below, once we make it through the long grasses of the opening monologue --

So it was a very pleasant holiday, all staring at a lake and listening to music (Glenn Gould! Kanye West!), and reading thrown in for fun. Started on Saturday with a drive to Shawinigan, patronage capital of Quebec. Kosmogonia is a swanky outdoor rotating-stage circus thing, where acrobats fight creaky flamethrowing "oiseaux-tonnerre". It was extremely earnest, quite capably performed, and burdened with a most convoluted, synchronistic plot. ("The Alphas choose their Omega babes this time! But the thunder-bird is angry! So they fight! And he turns into the Sun! And steals some girl to be the Moon! And then Time comes and he has giant fingernails! So they lift-off on an ancient greek rocket-ship!") What I found most interesting about it was the idea of Kosmogonia as Canadian tourist attraction. Contrary to your expectation for such things, it wasn't the content that felt Canadian (it was a weird Xena-fantasy pastiche, albeit with aboriginal design flourishes) - but the form. This is the sort of theatrical, high-concept circus that Cirque du Soleil brought to worldwide prominence, and I'm sure that most of the performers were trained in places like Montreal.

The next morning, visited Noah's Ark, which brought us to Shawinigan in the first place. It was really an outstanding collection of sculpture - thoughtful, entertaining, and immediately compelling. An extraordinary variety - from Picasso to Nick Park, - but it never felt pretentious; always whimsical, clever and inspiring.

And then to an auberge on Lac à la Loutre. En route, the roof-rack blew off, we blew a tire, found the spare was flat, and I closed my dad's hand in the car door, but all emerged (mostly) unscathed and spent the next seven days in deep relaxation. Since the shower relied on lake water (and I still nurse a lake-infected wound), I didn't wash. But smelly people can still enjoy a holiday, and since coming home I've rectified the situation.

I read some books:

Mordecai Richler - The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz. Sean's attempt to catch up on the classics continues (see also this summer's forays into Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Nathaniel West and Flann O'Brien). Richler is (was) the grande old father of contemporary canadian fiction, and it was a pleasure to dip a toe into his early 20th c Montreal. Very peculiar to be reading a book where much of the action takes place steps away from my old house. I was taken by the characters, by the scruffy energy of the book, but ultimately... I don't know. The ending sort of slipped into a grey lake and I didn't quite care. Richler's prose was surprisingly dull; like a masculine Atwood, utilitarian and without panache.

Peter Carey - Oscar and Lucinda. Carey writes wonderfully. His books are dense with charm and detail, like bits of seaglass pressed into a wall. I enjoyed Illywhacker very much, up until the dreary end, and Oscar and Lucinda suffers from the same flaw. Carey takes such care to build up his structures, to erect them for a shining moment in the middle - but then he knocks them right down, always just a little too soon, before we will quite have a sense of what we lost. Still, it's an excellent and surprising love story: gambling, god and Australia.

Tove Jansson - Moominland in November, The Exploits of Moominpappa and Moominpappa at Sea. As memory-jog for the upcoming trip to Finland, I grabbed three of the melancholiest moomin books (couldn't find Moominland in Midwinter). And it's reaffirmed: Jansson was a treasure. These books are so filled with whimsy, sadness and love - like the wisest stories that a child might ever imagine, or the best things an adult might ever dream. For those of you who don't know them, you must. Go find Finn Family Moomintroll immediately. Thank-you.

Mark Haddon - The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. Haddon's "murder mystery" has scaled the bestseller charts, and it's easy to see why. The writing is light, intelligent, and full of humour - better still, the autistic protagonist is totally arresting. We never sit too long on a particular topic - prime numbers, red-car-counting or outer-space - and instead skip about, catching only snatches of what's 'truly' going on, the blunt reality of Christophers mum and dad. Unfortunately (sense a trend, here?), the ending is awful. Everything is wrapped up in a neat few pages; the resonances are silenced; and the lasting impression one of mere fondness, not depth.

James Joyce - Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man. I like Dubliners very much, and hated most of Ulysses. I hoped Portrait would be a middle ground, but - sigh. My frustration with Joyce is in his indulgence. He is an astonishingly gifted writer; he plays with language in ways I can only envy-

He was alone. He was unheeded, happy and near to the wild heart of life. he was alone and young and wilful and wildhearted, alone amid a waste of wild air and brackish waters and the seaharvest of shells and tangle and velied grey sunlight and gayclad lightclad figures, of children and girls and voices childish and girlish in the air.
But as a novel - as a novel to enjoy, to sink into, to draw personal meaning from - Portrait (like Ulysses) sucks. There's much to admire formally, much to think about (and oh yes, many connections to be drawn). But I feel such frustration, dredging through the 15 pages of the preacher's sermon. Who cares? And turning the final page, that's the foremost thought. What of this lingers in me - in my heart and not my mind? Why wouldn't he stop fucking around!?

John Le Carré - Absolute Friends. This is the best novel LeCarré's written in years. And - woosh! - the man's found some new fount of energy. The whole book is electric, its characters positively brimming with life. Munby is a delight - kind, whole-hog, smart and certainly as naive as his beret-wearing pal, Sasha. We travel from post-raj Pakistan to Berlin's radical 1960s, then through the fog of the Cold War and into today's harsh, clear air. It's a dazzling, exciting, likable book, and one that punches you in the gut just as it's wrapping up. It's a cruel world, this post-911 place. If only the ending weren't quite so clumsy, politically. LeCarré commits - for the Left - the very same sin that his characters criticize in the Right: he portrays all of the baddies as a single, colluding group. That's blind, partisan foolishness.

and I'm mid-way through Jose Saramago's Stone Raft, which is very good. But has too many commas. (Like me!)

Why aren't there bookblogs, like mp3blogs, with thumbnail reviews and two-page chunks so we can sample a bit? Someone start one.



The new Tom Waits has leaked, and it's something very interesting, but you won't hear anything here because no songs on Real Gone are truly "Singapore"-level fantastic, and you're all gonna listen to them anyway. I'm tempted to post something more from that fresh Wolf Parade EP, though, because it is rad.

irregardless, you should listen to these:

Dinah Washington and Brook Benton - "Baby (You've Got What It Takes)". Tuwa wanted to include this in yesterday's post, but it just didn't fit. Since we don't want to let grand things go to waste, however, here we are. Oh my - listen to (feel) the guitarline, the highglossy nudges of strings. And oh oh oh of course there's Washington and Benton, playing and smiling. Cherries and milk chocolate, a first date that's full of nonsense. It rains umbrellas, there's chain-gang on the board-walk, the philharmonic is wearing victorian swimming duds. Through it all they dance dance dance, their shoes squeak, and (fade out) the night won't ever end. no. (This was recored in 1963. Dinah died three years later. Sleeping pills.) [buy]

Antony - "The Lake [live]". A - the - lake. Antony's voice trembles like water ripples. The piano starts bare as ice, then thaws into a deep, full blue. He got his start in NYC's afterhours cabarets and you can hear it here - Vincent Gallo's sipping a chilled drink, Devendra Banhart's sober and blackeyed. The song is so wobbly and yet so strong - one moment erect, then suddenly tipping leaning swooning over that darkbright still-lapping lake. It's peculiar that such a thing can be so powerful; that the artifice fades in the flow of the song, that its affectations fade under the dilute light.

Antony does interesting, arty things - he's in Buscemi's Animal Factory (anyone seen it?), and sings on Lou Reed's The Raven. I heard this on Banhart's psychfolk Golden Apples of the Sun comp, which is basically impossible to find... But you can buy "The Lake" on the Live at Saint Olave's split. Antony "and the Johnsons" also have an EP due coming out in November, and an LP due next year, both on Secretly Canadian.


Music is a Virus is a fine, fresh mp3blog (yes, another!), that runs the gamut from Herbie Hancock to My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult. And, reminiscent of Mewsic, it's got a nice Democratic sheen.

Pregnant Without Intercourse is Ottawa-based (!) and points to fine local acts such as the Hi Lo Trons (heard here last week), and Jim Bryson.

It seems Julie Doiron has a new album coming out in September called Goodnight Nobody. I haven't heard it yet, but there are two mp3 samples here, and both are wonderful. Herman Dune is the backing band. I am very excited.

Finally (hoo boy this post is long), the sidebar now was a little addition to show me just how much lifetimes have been spent, writing here. Said the Gramophone is currently words long.

Posted by Sean at August 31, 2004 1:21 AM

the roof-rack blew off, we blew a tire, found the spare was flat, and I closed my dad's hand in the car door. Well. I'm glad you got past all that to have a good time. And your father is lucky his hand is okay; I had my thumb slammed in a door about 5 years ago and it still hurts like hell any time I bump it.

You're right, the Julie Doiron is very good.

Posted by Tuwa at August 31, 2004 1:58 AM

richler, homie, is anything but dull. read barney's version. or joshua then and now, to a lesser extent.

Posted by optimus at August 31, 2004 2:49 AM

welcome back indeedy!

you should add the book stuff even though it will be more work. Pregnant without intercourse! wow

Posted by bw at August 31, 2004 10:13 AM

"irregardless" is not a word, like the repetition of "in this ever chaging world IN WHICH we live IN" is silly. regardless . . .

Posted by nitpicker at August 31, 2004 10:16 AM

Gotta disagree with you on the new Tom Waits...

I'm actually planning to post "Don't Go Into That Barn" sometime this week. Perhaps Day After Tomorrow as well... we shall see.

Posted by Keith at August 31, 2004 10:24 AM

Wow... I never thought I'd hear of someone who had the same opinion on Portrait of the Artist as me.

Posted by EK at August 31, 2004 10:59 AM

I've got a copy of Banhart's comp. Golden Apples.. let me know if you want a copy.

Posted by Jorge at August 31, 2004 11:20 AM

I like your site, but jesus -- "as a novel - as a novel to enjoy, to sink into, to draw personal meaning from - Portrait (like Ulysses) sucks." And MP3 bloggers wonder why there are people just straight linking to the tracks?

Posted by Softly Weeping at the Oki Dog at August 31, 2004 12:47 PM

So i'm not allowed to dislike these books?

Posted by Sean at August 31, 2004 12:49 PM

Of course you can dislike them, Sean, but to say they "suck" is ridiculous! I mean, obviously this is your site with your opinions, but a statement like that -- so definitive and final -- surely deserves a qualifier? Even a simple "It's not my bag..."
I took offense to the comment, since "Portrait" is a book that I HAVE derived enormous personal meaning from. So when someone says it "sucks" so flippantly, I have to go to bat for it. I'm sure you can relate.

Posted by Softly Weeping at the Oki Dog at August 31, 2004 1:17 PM

Yes! More Wolf Parade! Please!

Re: Portrait, SWOG, you didn't really go to bat for the book in your first post, you just sort of took a swing at Sean. If you want to defend it, that's cool, but that's not what you did.

Posted by Scott at August 31, 2004 1:22 PM

As pirate shanties go, "Hoist That Rag" absolutely mortifies "Singapore." I'm sorry, but it's true.

HOIST THAT RAG. Not sung, not even growled. Breathed. It's a scary, massive sound, twice the size of the Black Pearl and just as dark. And Ribot's solo? Oh... My... God.

I'm sorry, Sean, but you're just wrong.

Posted by Paul at August 31, 2004 1:24 PM

Thanks for the link to Pregnant Without Intercourse! It's a wicked cool MP3 blog. Oh yeah, and that Antony song is awesome too.

Posted by J-Tron at August 31, 2004 2:29 PM

just a suggestion sean: it would be helpful if you mentioned the album/label at the end of each mp3 blurb, like fluxblog does. and maybe the year. that would be helpful for me at least.

Posted by george at August 31, 2004 3:17 PM

I'm pretty much with you on the Joyce. But I also felt the same way the one time I tried to read Flann O'Brien (at swim two birds) -- so clever and tricksy that it stuck more in my head than my heart, and finally I got exasperated and gave up.
I can't believe how much traffic a link from you generates. About 3x the traffic from a porn site link, FYI.

Posted by gretchen at August 31, 2004 3:24 PM

Welcome back, I've never commented before, but I'd just like to thank you for doing this. Your mp3 blog is one of my favorites.

And I also recently read Portrait of an Artist, and you are right, it does indeed suck.

Posted by debby at August 31, 2004 5:14 PM

Great choice of guest bloggers and they were all so different and opinionated. You can have an amazingly wide "small circle of friends" in a blog(not to say that you don't have friends you see in person as well)

Posted by annette at August 31, 2004 5:26 PM

p.s. -- antony & the johnsons are one of the loveliest live acts I've ever seen. I caught them in san francisco, only a week or so after the murder of a tranny in the east bay. so the city was hanging in that fog, but it hadn't made the national news, & someone in the audience brought it up and ended up explaining the whole story. so antony dedicated a cover of stephanie says that made my eyes well up. it was a mass catharsis. I'll never forget it.

Posted by gretchen at August 31, 2004 5:58 PM

The book does not suck, Debby! You didn't like it, for whatever reason! Just like I don't care for seafood! Seafood doesn't suck! I just don't get out of it what I could get out of something else! Why can't you get this concept?!?! FUUCCCCCCKKKKK ! Okay, you guys win. James Joyce "sucks." The Beatles "suck." Everything "sucks." Talk about your "nightmares from which I am trying to awake"!

Posted by Softly Weeping at the Oki Dog at August 31, 2004 7:39 PM

But, SWOG, you're ignoring the fact that sean did qualify his statement. He even gave an example of why he disliked it! You're acting like he didn't say anything else about the book other than that it sucks. Sounds to me like you just want people to think you're smart...

Posted by Anonymous at August 31, 2004 8:06 PM

Well, clearly, the jig is up -- my true motives have been exposed... did it work? Do you think I'm smart?
But still, if you'll re-read the posts, you'll see that the type of qualifier I am looking for is one where Sean says something to the effect that he understands that his is just one opinion amongst many, and that he realizes that when he says that something "sucks," it can come off as a bit arrogrant. Unless Sean really, truly believes that the book fundamentally SUCKS, and couldn't possibly hold any value for anyone else. In which case, he is nuts. But I don't think he does believe that.... I think that Sean personally thought it sucked. Which is fine!
I just wish he said "I thought it sucked." Not "as a novel to draw personal meaning from... it sucks!" Because that is simply not true, without the qualifier.
Look, I say that things "suck" all the time -- I realize I am being particularly nitpicky here since I feel so strongly that the book in question absolutely does not suck in any way -- but I also recognize that these things that I say "suck" might be someone else's favorite things -- and that doesn't make either one of us right. You know? Or do you guys think I am still way off?

Posted by Softly Weeping at the Oki Dog at August 31, 2004 9:41 PM

Actually, SWOD, I believe Sean is being quite tolerant, at least compared to recent guest blogger Benjamen Walker's comments a few days ago. If Benjamen Walker had written this blog entry, it would have read, "Ulysses sucks, and you are a mother-fucking idiot if you think it is good." So all in all, I'd say Sean is being pretty respectful. :)

Posted by Matt at August 31, 2004 11:06 PM

here i'll help everyone out by providing an opposite perspective a novel to draw personal meaning from.. it BLOWS!

oh no i didn't!!!!1

(okay, so i haven't read it.. but i do love a good opposites-that-can-mean-the-same-thing-slang-interlude)

Posted by justin why at September 1, 2004 12:27 AM

I understand you a lot better now, SWOD. I do wish you hadn't taken such a cheap-shot at me in your first post, though. Stuff like that stings. (I know, I'm a softie and a fool.)

In terms of the "sucks" comment, I think that whenever someone says that something sucks, the "in my opinion" is sort of implied. "How was the movie?" "It sucked." "Really!?" Well, no, just in my opinion." Even more than that, James Joyce's novels aren't exactly literary pariahs: there's certainly enough raving out there that few would accept my comment as the absolute, end-all statement ("The novel sucks, according to the One Absolute Truth").

All that said, though, I also appreciate how maddening it can be to read a flippant dismissal of something that means a lot to you. And so my "sucks" line was rather petty, especially given that "Portrait" isn't a piece of garbage. It's clearly a novel that offered a lot of people some deep rewards - just not (unfortunately) myself.

Posted by Sean at September 1, 2004 1:02 AM

first off, let me say that all your posts should be this long. second off, let me say that portrait of an artist has a tone of literary merit, but you have the nail on the head. third off, golden apples of the sun is 12 bucks at arthur magazine's site. i picked it up at the vetiver/newsom/banhart show and for interested parties it is more than worthwhile. that's about it.

Posted by cody at September 1, 2004 8:32 PM

great site! . . . i've been visiting for a few weeks and been introduced to some great stuff.

i'm reading ulysses right now. its the single most brilliant piece of literature i've ever read . . . not to say that that fact always makes it enjoyable for me to read. sometimes its great, and sometimes i'm bored. you've gotta have the annotations, though ...its way too dense to understant it the first time through without them.

obviously, we all have different opinions on what makes a book "great" or "suck." and not to get into it, BUT i do understand SWOD's distaste at the comment. joyce is a BADASS ... i doubt many people (whether they like his work or not) would argue against that. to someone who enjoys his thick brand of literature, an insult to him is kind of like saying "shakespeare sucks"--it just doesn't make sense. whatever. joyce was a phenomenal writer, but you don't have to like his stuff.

Oh yeah, and while Ulysses can be a bit much sometimes for me, Portrait is in my top three books, and many other people agree. epiphone on the beach?--thats a great scene! i'd recommend getting some notes or background information, and giving it another shot. peace out and no hard feelings intended.

Posted by human at September 1, 2004 11:09 PM

Can't say I have ever read James Joyce, apart from that sappy short story about the girl who wants to escape her proletarian Irish upbringing & a father who expects her to assume the role of her deceased mother. This disqualifies me from adding anything meaningful to the JJ debate.

I did enjoy Milkwood by Dylan Thomas, although my friends have accused it of "sucking". It is the prose equivalent of whole milk, chock full of nutritious metaphors and poetic, flowery rambling. My point is, taste is very subjective and I don't think any novel can really "suck" if some people can draw inspiration or enlightenment from its pages. (Unless we're talking about a Tom Clancy novel or something!) :)

Still, I must leap to the defense of my compatriot Sean. He doesn't deserve an ad hominem attack, especially not from somebody who hasn't presented his viewpoint for the world to see (besides, what does a James Joyce dis have to do with straight-linking to MP3 tracks? How many other Mp3 Bloggers actually write book reviews? This is very confusing!)

Posted by Jeremy Brendan at September 6, 2004 6:11 PM

Hey, wasn't Morley Callaghan the grand old man of Canadian fiction?

Wonderful blog! Thanks for all your work!

Posted by Another Paul at September 8, 2004 10:39 PM

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about said the gramophone
This is a daily sampler of really good songs. All tracks are posted out of love. Please go out and buy the records.

To hear a song in your browser, click the and it will begin playing. All songs are also available to download: just right-click the link and choose 'Save as...'

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Said the Gramophone launched in March 2003, and added songs in November of that year. It was one of the world's first mp3blogs.

If you would like to say hello, find out our mailing addresses or invite us to shows, please get in touch:
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"And I shall watch the ferry-boats / and they'll get high on a bluer ocean / against tomorrow's sky / and I will never grow so old again."
about the authors
Sean Michaels is the founder of Said the Gramophone. He is a writer, critic and author of the theremin novel Us Conductors. Follow him on Twitter or reach him by email here. Click here to browse his posts.

Emma Healey writes poems and essays in Toronto. She joined Said the Gramophone in 2015. This is her website and email her here.

Jeff Miller is a Montreal-based writer and zinemaker. He is the author of Ghost Pine: All Stories True and a bunch of other stories. He joined Said the Gramophone in 2015. Say hello on Twitter or email.

Mitz Takahashi is originally from Osaka, Japan who now lives and works as a furniture designer/maker in Montreal. English is not his first language so please forgive his glamour grammar mistakes. He is trying. He joined Said the Gramophone in 2015. Reach him by email here.

Site design and header typography by Neale McDavitt-Van Fleet. The header graphic is randomized: this one is by Neale McDavitt-Van Fleet.
Dan Beirne wrote regularly for Said the Gramophone from August 2004 to December 2014. He is an actor and writer living in Toronto. Any claim he makes about his life on here is probably untrue. Click here to browse his posts. Email him here.

Jordan Himelfarb wrote for Said the Gramophone from November 2004 to March 2012. He lives in Toronto. He is an opinion editor at the Toronto Star. Click here to browse his posts. Email him here.
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