Ron Nurwisah, Boy Reporter

Boy Reporter is a Toronto-based journalist and blogger. He frequently writes about urban life, visual arts, culture and anything else that strikes his fancy.

Friday, April 29, 2005

Music isn't Just My Boyfriend... I'm his Man-Slave


I went to the Arcade Fire show last night and was blown away. This photo here is from Torontoist and was from the Wednesday show, which seemed cooler. Last night's performance was marred by close to half-a-dozen broken strings which slowed Win down and forced him to change their set a bit. And sadly they didn't play their great cover of the Talking Heads' Naive Melody. Shows like the AF last night make me feel amazingly blessed that I live in a city with such an amazing music scene.

What makes me that much happier is the community of writers, fans and obsessives that pick over every single morsel of information. The best place to start has to be at Stille Post (formerly 20hz until a rather clumsy-walleted owner of a club bought it out), but as I was writing this I found out the site seems to have been suspended. False alarm... GAME ON!

The grand poobah of them all online has to be Carl Wilson. He writes for the Globe, is a friendly guy and I want to get him crowned the smartest music critic in Canada. He's also got a great new feature called Thursday Reading where he goes over what the flock of Toronto music writers are saying.

Chromewaves also has an amazing blog and seems to go see more shows than anyone else I can imagine (sorry Hanson). Has he cloned himself? Or does his frequent and at times overwhelming amount of writing just make him seem like the most active music listener in the city?

My acquaintance Michelle is a student/dj at Glendon/blogger and her blog can be found here. This is just the tip of the iceberg too.... I simply don't have the energy nor the inclination to list all of the great TO music blogs. pheww.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

The Devil Incarnate?


The devil has come to Canada and he has a moustache and rides a tandem bike with his wife Olivia "Beelzebub" Chow!

Yes, trust Stephen "beady eyes" Harper to call the leader of the NDP, Satan not once but twice in one day. All this for trying to make a deal that may delay an election.... although this too seems unlikely now considering Harper is mighty pissed and wants to put the Martin administration "out of its misery." Whoever said Canadian politics is boring?

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Critical Mass!

Last month I finally went to my first critical mass. I didn't ride my bike much livign in Vancouver and really only started to ride when I lived in Beijing (everyone rides a bike in Beijing!).

For people who've never gone to CM, it's esentially a gathering of bikes on the last Friday of every month that bike around the streets of downtown Toronto, this photo is from a couple of years back.



There are masses in hundreds of cities around the world but the one in NYC is near and dear to my heart because of Mayor Bloomberg's recent attempts to squelch it. All this started when CMers tried to organize a protest/mass ride during the Republican convention.... I guess you can add bikes to the list of things that Republicans don't like (it's a long list and probably includes poor people, homosexuals and taxes on anyone who makes more than $100,000). Dozens were arrested and now the city government seems to want to shut down what is a perfectly legal protest (there is really no such thing as an illegal protest, just illegal actions at a protest as far as I'm considered).

Activist/Economist Charles Komanoff, who came up to lecture last week, mentioned that mayor Bloomberg should be shamed into stopping his ridiculous witch hunt. Do it now. Scratch that, do it after you get your bike ready for the Critical Mass ride on Friday.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Bam! Bif! Kapow!

The NYT gushes about the foundation of contemporary comic book culture, the superhero. On a side note there was also Guy Leshinki's essay on how the superhero gets no respect in the all-around excellent blog, The Cultural Gutter.

But back to the NYT. John Hodgman, the article's author, instead of giving us the titles of a few good superhero comics, goes on about how the men and women who make comic books are, uhm, like superheroes.

There's Chris Ware: "I think it was when I saw the ''Professional Futuristic 3-D Picture Viewer'' -- an operating, hand-crank-powered stereoscope that Ware designed as a cutout and build-it-yourself prize in an issue of his ''Acme Novelty Library'' pamphlets that I quailed. Never mind the ingenuity and physical beauty of his work; the long physical labor clearly required to produce it makes it seem beyond human ken -- the work of a strange alien visitor to our world."

And Jaime Hernandez: "When you make a list of all the things Hernandez draws and writes and knows better than pretty much anyone -- Chicano culture across all classes, the 80's punk scene, the inner lives of women, the inner lives of men, women's wrestling, love and, er, rockets -- it's hard not to suspect him of secretly being 10 brilliant artists and writers, or just one of the most talented artists our polyglot culture has produced."

Hmmm, maybe the metaphor isn't that far off the mark.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

About Nick Hornby

I've liked Nick Hornby's work for a while. High Fidelity was a good novel and fortunately the film version didn't get mucked up too much. But I can't help but be really really really jealous about just how cool this guy is. I can't think of many authors that approach Nick Hornby coolness.... Salman Rushdie is just too cool, all this dating models hanging out backstage with U2. All of this is probably because he was getting threatened by a psychotic theocracy.

But Nick Hornby is closer to what all us geeks aspire to be.... He too was a struggling music critic. Now he gets to play music critic with Dave Eggers and crew, and probably makes more money than all those schmucks at NME that turned him down. He gets to be a sports writer but without attending all those pesky games, going on road trips and having to worry about things like newspaper deadlines. And did I mention the oodles and oodles of cash and hanging out with really attractive actresses?

He's also got a new book coming out.... here the Guardian gets chummy with Nick Hornby. Enjoy.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

What's the Frequency Abbas?

The single best resource for finding out what was going on in the insular and incestuous indie rock community in Toronto was 20hz. The board seemed to be attracting the wrong kind of attention though. It was pretty clear that journalists of some note and influence (read, those outside of Toronto) were starting to mine it for info, leads and tips on the next big thing. Last October the site actually ran out of bandwidth! In short it was beginning to look like you could actually make some money off the damn thing....

Enter Abbas Jahangiri, one of the most loathed people in the indie community mostly because of his attempt to eviscerate legendary dive the El Mocambo. Needless to say his approach to 20hz was kinda silly: inviting friends who are noobs to the community to post messages about how you're a saint in the indie rock community probably isn't a good idea, neither is deleting the dozens of critical messages.

I'll let Zoilus and Stuart Berman of eye continue the story. Needless to say the diehards of 20hz have moved on to a new board. Kinda like rats leaving a rapidly gentrifying neighbourhood. Be sure to update your bookmarks!

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Oh China, You Make Me Laugh

So apparently there have been a rash of anti-Japanese protests all over China, and now in HK. The one thing you have to realize about protests in China is that post-Tiananmen, if a protest gets bigger than a few dozen people it's officially sanctioned by the government. A kind of sleight of hand measure that lets the government look open and accountable.

Usually these protests are targetted at a foreign power (the US is another popular target) to deflect attention away at real problems at home. Anyways, the recent rash of protests are happening because Japan (along with India) are lobbying for permanent seats at Kofi's playhouse. It's also led to some funny statements like this one....

"Only a country that respects history, takes responsibility for history and wins over the trust of peoples in Asia and the world at large can take greater responsibilities in the international community," the premier said." That's from Premier Wen Jia Bao.

If you know your contemporary Chinese history you know this is just downright hilarious. The Japanese should damn well apologize for their war crimes, I don't disagree with that. But the Chinese government telling others to take responsibility for history and winning TRUST?!

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Are There Magazines Not From Toronto?

I read recently that the Atlantic Monthly, easily one of the best mags around is leaving Boston for Washington DC. The Atlantic is a much better mag in the last five years. They've published some downright amazing stuff: Wiliam Langewiesche's American Ground comes to mind but there have been many others. But the mag, which has been in Boston for 150 years (that's longer than any mor Canadian mag has been around btw) decided to leave for DC because it was cheaper.

It got me thinking about Canadian mags and whether moving cities was actually a plausible thing. Could a large and well established Canadian mag, Macleans or Chatelaine, for example be published anywhere else but Toronto? Can a magazine not published in Toronto call itself a national mag? Maclean's/Chatelaine/Azure are "national" magazines and not Toronto magazines. But almost any mag outside of the Toronto media orbit is relegated to being a "Montreal/Vancouver/Winnipeg/Calgary" mag.

Are there mags outside of Toronto that you'd consider "national"? Maisonneuve out of Montreal is one, Geist from Vancouver is another, and even this is debatable.... but who else? What about the East Coast or the Prairies, there are plenty of great writers in both regions so where in the world are their mags?

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Development Event

If you're in the Toronto area and care about development (and who doesn't care about development?) Here ya go!

POLICY ON THE FRONT LINE - April 18th

First, we've been busy planning the upcoming event, Policy on the Front
Line, and it's looking to be a great evening. If you attend, you'll have the
rare chance to sit down and have an intimate discussion with a small group
of dynamic and experienced leaders and policymakers who are making a
difference around the world in international development - so don't miss
it!!

The RUNDOWN:
WHEN: Monday April 18th, 6:15pm
WHERE: Committee Room #4 at City Hall (Queen & Bay)
ADDRESS: 100 Queen Street West, 2nd floor

WITH EXPERTS FROM...
Canadian Physicians for Aid and Relief (www.cpar.ca)
Canadian Executive Service Organization (www.ceso-saco.com)
Save the Children (www.savethechildren.ca)
Environment Canada/Air Quality Monitoring and Integration Division
(www.msc-smc.eg.gc.ca/msc/contents_e.html)

-------
It's an event I helped plan with Canada25. RSVP to toronto@canada25.com if you wanna come!

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Saul Bellow and Books not completed

I was reading Robert Fulford's article in the National Post on Tuesday about books that are bought and not finished. It's a plight that affects pretty much everyone who reads books. Fulford cites books like Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (yikes!), Voltaire's Bastards by John Ralston Saul and Don DeLillo's Underworld just to name a few.

Finding out about Saul Bellow's death also reminded me that his fine novel Herzog was one of those books. A friend in Sydney handed me an old copy of Herzog (it even had the "removed from circulation" stamp on it) and I struggled with reading a book about a middle-aged Jewish man while the weather was perfect and cold Aussie beers were waiting. The book somehow got packed with my luggage going back to Canada, left in a box somewhere for years. I eventually finished the book after restarting it over Christmas break.

There have been other books left incomplete. Foucault's Madness and Civilization was assigned in first year but I'll be damned if I'll ever get through it. DeLillo's Underworld kicked me in the ass ditto Gravity's Rainbow and almost anything else by Thomas Pynchon.

A part of it is because I see books as an investment. So despite the fact that I haven't cracked open that copy of Mason and Dixon or the Iliad, one day I just might.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Move Over Mapquest!

Why anyone would still use mapquest when the almost completely superior googlemaps is available is beyond me. Granted, I've had some issues finding things on googlemaps but I'm sure many of these bugs will be ironed out soon.

GM has also started to use satellite imagery. So let's say you want to figure out what kind of neighbourhood something is in, use the handy satellite feature on google maps. Or let's say you want to take over a city, use the handy satellite feature.

Check it out.

Monday, April 04, 2005

Radio, Radio

A few of my friends work at CIUT 89.5FM, the "U of T" radio station. And in true community radio style, it's time for their spring fundraising drive. The folks at CIUT play great music, you can listen to them online. I highly recommend my friend Sarah's show Roadrunner (Tue. Noon-1pm et.) and Emily's show Emily's Attic (Mon. 2-4pm et). They play a lot of the music that the cool kids are listening to, all that indie-rock/pop, alt-country non-sense. Sarah's even had long-time troubador Jonathan Richman on her show!

The Spirit of Capitalism Infects Me

I must buy this man's book. This is what it looks like. And like every good drug dealer, the first one's free....

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Pick up Time Canada this week

An old friend from university co-wrote the cover story in Time Canada this week on the Arcade Fire. The Montreal band has already been praised in the Times, loved by Davids Byrne and Bowie and is hitting Toronto and doing all kinds of good for the island of Haiti by playing sold out shows later this month. If you haven't already picked up the album Funeral, go NOW!

If you have the album, pick up a copy of Time Canada.

Forget about People's 50 Most Beautiful People List

This list of the 50 most reviled New Yorkers from the New York Press (the other alt-weekly) is WAY more fun and catty. That's reviled mayor Michael Bloomberg btw, I hate him too. For being a general asshole, the smoking ban and bringing the RNC to town. WTF.

I think we should get a Toronto publication to be this catty... who's with me?! Who'd be on the list? I could think of a few city councillors, Globe and Mail columnists and former local area MPs who deserve to be lambasted.

I'd like to thank the kids at the Ryerson Journalism Program for the link... shouldn't you be putting out a magazine or something?

Friday, April 01, 2005

Expo, Schmexpo

Word on the street is that our lovable mayor David Miller is behind a Toronto bid for Expo 2015. Maybe we're still smarting at losing the Olympics to Beijing but does Toronto really need an Expo?

Are Expos (or World's Fairs as they used to be called) still relevant? I don't actually recall where the last one was held (Hanover, in case you were wondering), and barely know that the next one is going to be held in Aichi, Japan.

Expos/World's Fairs used to be a big deal. The World's Columbian Exposition held in Chicago in 1893 introduced things like alternating current and fast food. Dvorak composed the New World Symphony in honour of it and guess where Pabst Blue Ribbon got the blue ribbon from? (NB. To read more about this amazing event pick up The Devil in The White City). Seattle's World's Fair arguably put the city on the map and gave it its best known landmark. Montreal's Expo apparently marked the "last good year" according to Pierre Berton.

Back then World's Fairs meant something. They were showcases of things exotic, foreign and exciting. New technologies and new development in the arts and cultures were draws. People came for the spectacle and for an 'exchange of ideas'. That's how the organizers of Aichi's expo are selling their expo to us.

"The participants of EXPO 2005, the nations, regions, private enterprises, independent citizens, NPOs/NGOs, and volunteers that form the backbone of global society, will be the weavers on this loom, sure to produce a wondrous fabric for the world."

But do we need a massive Expo costing billions and one that will be so obviously corporatized and sanitized? Frankly there are plenty of institutions in this city that contribute to this 'fabric for the world' (what a terrible metaphor!). It happens everyday when students from all over the world chat over coffee at U of T, When a gallery like the Powerplant brings in artists from the UK and from Asia. And yes, even in events like Bruce Mau's Massive Change exhibit, which feels like an expo-lite.

You want to leave a legacy for the city Mayor Miller? Don't wait until 2015 for an Expo. Start digging deep and really supporting those institutions that have been doing the things that an Expo does everyday and without mega funding. You do that and I guarantee you that'll leave a legacy, it'll put your city on the map and it'll be that much faster than waiting until 2015.

Spring is here...

Which means Toronto's music scene is awake again! I took a quick list at the shows listing on 20hz and was reminded that I'm going to see three shows next week: Black Mountain, The Weakerthans/Constantines, a TSO concert and I'll probably go to one more show sometime during the week.

It's also great to be able to bike again! Hooray!