Roaming the wilds of art and culture

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Recent Reading: February 2023

Weird horror (in written and graphic form), a new approach to understanding monopolies in the culture industries, a phenomenology of reading, and fairy stories from one of the great novelists of the 21st century.

Recent Reading: January 2023

Visions of possible futures, an explanation of the emergence of consciousness, a fusion of cosmic spectacle and rural family drama, and a sci-fi story about brewing tea and finding purpose.

Books I read in 2022

Apparently I read somewhere in the range of 6,500 pages, and a lot of them were about how trying to quantify everything is alienating us from meaningful living.

October/Schlocktober Letterboxd Roundup

I can’t deny this was a bit of an indulgent Schlocktober — not a lot of highbrow viewing, but definitely an enjoyable amount of campy horror. This doesn’t include Guillermo Del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities anthology, mostly because I feel like I have more to say about what that series has to say about the…

Hyperextended cosmic blues: Weils – Fugue State

Weils’ brand of blues demands—and rewards—an almost excessive degree of patience. Their songs consist of minimal riffs expanded to the point of absurdity, sometimes stretching minutes between a single chord change. But where that should create sheer monotony, they’ve somehow managed to invert the formula, tapping into something supremely comforting and occasionally even transcendent. The…

Calgary International Film Festival 2022 round-up

Eight films in 10 days isn’t much of a marathon, but it’s more in-cinema movie-watching than I’ve done in probably the last year combined. Via Letterboxd, here are some quick, capsule-style reviews of seven of them. The eighth was a screening of Murnau’s Nosferatu with a live score by Calgary’s Chad VanGaalen — a great…

Summer film roundup

Collecting some Letterboxd reviews from the past few months, some more obscure, some very much not so. I haven’t been watching as many films the past few months, but between the start of the Calgary International Film Festival and the looming winter, that’s bound to change—expect more of these roundups in the months to come.

“Prompt hoarding” and the future of art

The idea that “future writers are hoarders of prompts” strikes me as deeply dystopian, an abdication of the creative impulse to something superficially related but profoundly different. Because it reduces art to strictly something to be consumed, ignoring the other side of the creative process—which is a profound and deeply rooted human drive, with its…

Album of the day: Space Opera – S/T (1973)

Album of the day: Space Opera – S/T (1973). Incredible Byrds/CSNY country-rock, with brilliant harmonies and jaw-dropping 12-string guitar tone, plus some prog/Zappa influences to take it all to the next level. Reasonably priced on Discogs, too.

The Hardy Tree – Common Grounds

Serene and subtly haunting, the latest from The Hardy Tree takes a twilight stroll through empty streets and abandoned shops, capturing a portrait of a neighbourhood in the midst of the pandemic.

Kindle Highlights: July, 2022

Another month, another collection of uncatagorized quotes and excerpts, including unattributed selections from Instapaper. As always, these are more for my own reference than public consumption.

Music from the First Half of 2022 p.4: Jazz & Experimental

The final part of Wander Lines’ half-year review collects another 11 albums from the realms of jazz, neo-classical, and experimental music. Diverse as the selections are, there are common threads that run through many of them—a connection to nature, a commitment to introspection, an emphasis on repetition and minimalism. With a couple of exceptions, these…

Music from the First Half of 2022 p.3: Rock & Psych

Continuing on from the electronic and pop-adjacent selections of the first two posts, these 10 albums and EPs run the gamut from wiry post-punk to ocean-breeze dream-pop, with an emphasis on reverb, echo, and lysergic tendencies. Most of the artists here have found a way to balance nostalgic tendencies with forward-thinking restlessness, carving new niches…

Music from the First Half of 2022 p.2: Folk, Pop & Pop-Adjacent

If calling the last batch of albums “electronic” felt a bit arbitrary, tagging these as “pop” is even more reductive. The artists below are pulling from a wide range of influences, some accessible, others obscure, and the collection of futuristic soul, nostalgia-minded exotica, orchestral folk and other indescribable sounds don’t comfortably fit under a single…

Music from the First Half of 2022 p.1: Electronic

Part one of what will hopefully be a four-part look at some early favourites from the first half of the year. “Electronic” is a vague category, and even within that, there are albums here that hardly fit the descriptor, mixing live performance and organic instrumentation in with their synthesized sounds and sequencers. From minimal synths…

Kindle Highlights: June, 2022

A shorter collection of excerpts this time around; starting a new job has cut down on my reading time. At some point I’m going to have to try to summarize SSOTBME and Ministry for the Future, but for now, as with all these highlights, this is for my own interest more than anything I expect…

Soothing video of abstracted flowers

From Barcelona’s Andrés Reisinger, “Pollen” is a non-narrative CG short consisting of constantly shifting clouds of flowers. The gauzy textures and gently swaying branches make for soothing viewing, even if the whole thing feels unsettlingly alien, like the refracted fauna in Annihilation.

Wild boars are invading Canada

Jana G. Pruden’s article on the ongoing wild boar invasion of Canada is the kind of piece where I can’t go more than a few sentences without quoting something to my partner. Its description of the boars is consistently fascinating and more than a little terrifying, making them seem almost supernaturally tough to control —…

Time Wharp – Spiro World

A marvelously eclectic “full-length coming of age collection” from Brooklyn-based composer and artist Kaye Loggins, Spiro World doesn’t lend itself to easy categorization. There isn’t a clear overlap between the burbling melodies and spacious atmosphere of opener “East River Dusk,” the Brainfeeder-esque ambient jazz of “TOTP,” and “Mixo World’s” woodwind-laden kosmische, but the lack of…

Kindle Highlights: April and May, 2022

Again presented largely without commentary (and in the case of May, largely without highlights… getting married and preparing to start a new job apparently takes away a lot of your reading and writing time). The main books involved here are Jeremy Lent’s The Web of Meaning, Lionel Snell’s SSOTBME Revised, and Kim Stanley Robinson’s substantial…

How to Grow Old

An individual human existence should be like a river: small at first, narrowly contained within its banks, and rushing passionately past rocks and over waterfalls.

The Landfill of the Future

I’ve been in pretty dire need of more optimistic stories lately, and this piece in Hakai Magazine is a good start. A look at 3F Waste Recovery, a Newfoundland start-up that repurposes waste from fishing, farming, and forestry to create consumer products, it touches on circular economies; creative re-use of waste materials; resilient communities; and…

Directions and Destinations

“The problem is whether we are determined to go in the direction of compassion or not… If I lose my direction, I have to look for the North Star, and I go to the north. That does not mean I expect to arrive at the North Star. I just want to go in that direction.”…

Station Eleven and the Fantasy of the Hard Reset

It was an essay about podcasting and Spotify, of all things, that helped me understand something new about apocalyptic fiction. I probably shouldn’t have been surprised by the insight, given that the essay was written by Roxane Gay, but it still caught me off guard. Gay was writing about her (justifiable) unwillingness to share her…

March Kindle excerpts

Everything I highlighted on my Kindle last month, presented (as usual) without context, commentary, or adequate citation. More for my own reference than anything, so, reader beware.

Habitual Contempt and Helvetica

Habitual contempt doesn’t reflect a finer sensibility It’s been 15 years since design doc Helvetica came out, which means it has been 15 years since I noticed this quote in the background of their interview with designer Stefan Sagmeister. In that decade-and-a-half, my memory contorted the quote just enough to make the source impossible to…

Sound of Ceres – Arm of Golden Flame

Sound of Ceres, the cinematic dream-pop evolution of shoegazers Candy Claws, has announced an ambitious new album “inspired by Maurice Ravel’s ballet Daphnis et Chloé, Gustav Holst’s The Planets, and Les Baxter’s midcentury exotica.” The album follows a three-act narrative structure to explore the emergence of mind and meaning in an otherwise meaningless universe, which is quite…

Love and Longing in the Seaweed Album

A lovely essay from the Public Domain Review, on the 18th and 19th century fad of seaweed collection, touching on its countercultural and feminist connections, and some of the fascinating figures who became obsessed with the “useless” plants. Sasha Archibald captures the strange allure of seaweed collecting, seen by its advocates as a more refined…

Monday Short: Dreamland

Monday Shorts is a blog series I write for the Quickdraw Animation Society, spotlighting an independent animated short each week. Festivals and film critics are prone to splitting films into binaries to make them easier to talk about. Films are fiction or non-fiction, comedy or drama, animated or live action. Within animation, films are 2D…

Podcast: The AM, Mar. 7, 2022

Atmospheric sounds from Loscil and Earthen Sea, psych-tinged folk from Spencer Cullum and Alabaster DePlume, fuzzed-out guitars from Lorelle Meets the Obscure and Did You Die, and other soul-sating sounds for a Monday morning in March. Plus, Wordfest’s Shelley Youngblut joins in the third hour to talk about ImagineOnAir’s upcoming programming. Enjoy.

Transcendence: How Humans Evolved Through Fire, Language, Beauty, and Time

In trying to pin down the traits that have helped humanity thrive over our 35,000 post-Ice Age years, Gaia Vince lists four key technologies: Fire, Language, Beauty and Time. Really, though, she’s listing four aspects of a single technology. While I never would have thought to connect them in this way, Vince makes a compelling…

Longreads: The Sounds of Silence

My first piece for Longreads was published this week, sharing five articles about listening to nature. The Reading List format is a pretty natural one for me—I’m much more comfortable sharing other people’s thoughts than passing off my own as in any way authoritative—and the process of writing it helped me to clarify some of…

Kindle Clippings, Feb. 2022

Everything I highlighted on my Kindle over the last month. As always, presented without context and for the Instapaper excerpts, without attribution. Honestly, these posts are more for my own reference than anyone else’s interest, but hey—maybe something will catch your eye.

Congotronics International – Banza/Beyond

Ten years in the making, the debut from the supergroup Congotronics International is sounding fantastic so far. The two singles released so far really highlight the group’s range. “Banza Banza” is as raucous as heck, a high-energy mish-mash of skronked-out guitars, distorted thumb organs, and other unexpected sounds. “Beyond the 7th Bend” is more subtle,…

The Lion-human of Hohlenstein-Stadel

The Lion-Person (its intended gender is the subject of debate) is “the oldest known physical representation of a supernatural being,” a 30cm figurine dating back approximately 40,000 years. Carved from a mammoth tusk, scientists estimate it would have taken a skilled person around 400 hours to create with the tools of the era. That long…

What I Read in January 2022

Non-fiction New Dark Age: Technology and the End of the Future (James Bridle, 2018) Read in preparation for Bridle’s upcoming Ways of Being, which sounds like a more optimistic expansions of New Dark Age’s themes. Not that I think Bridle was wrong to be concerned about the consequences of our current technological direction, and New…

Podcast: The AM, Feb. 28, 2022

Take a deep breath and submerge yourself in the oblique sounds of The AM, a three-hour respite from a chaotic world. This week is bookended by new music from Bitchin’ Bajas and Orange Crate Art, finding room for vintage soul, modern pop experiments, jangling guitars, desert psych, and other offbeat albums old and new.

Pneumatic Tubes – A Letter From TreeTops

A project from Mercury Rev and Midlake multi-instrumentalist Jesse Chandler, A Letter from TreeTops was written in the aftermath of his father’s death, its foundations laid in only a few days of solo recording in his family home. Knowing that, you can certainly pick up an undercurrent of melancholy in TreeTops’ meandering melodies, but it…

Podcast: The AM, Feb. 21, 2022

The holiday Monday made for a groggier-than-usual episode, but fortunately the music holds up even if the hosting is slightly off. After all, it’s hard to go wrong with new tunes from Cate Le Bon, Animal Collective, Exek, Ombiigizi, Congotronics International, Reptalians, and the list goes on…

Podcast: The AM, Feb. 14, 2022

A Very A.M. Valentines: We’ve got weird love, true love, lighthearted love, love and happiness, and other facets of that many-splendored thing. A bit sentimental, a bit cheesy, but sometimes that’s exactly what you need on a Monday morning.

“A Story of America in Three Scams”

A blend of a whodunnit, art appreciation, and political analysis, Richard Warnica’s Rothko at the Inauguration traces the history and repercussions of one of New York’s biggest art scandals, its connection to Donald Trump’s inauguration, and the lasting impact of the battle over Rothko’s legacy.

Podcast: The AM, Feb. 7, 2022

This week’s episode of The AM (also streaming at From the foggy beginnings of Easy Idiot’s dungeon-synth and Concretism’s VHS-inspired synths, to the jangling guitars of The Reds, Pinks & Purples and Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever, the first AM of February is here to wake you into a bright, sunshiny week.

Steve Gunn – Protection (ft. Mdou Moctar) (Matador)

Mdou Moctar is known for his scorching solos, but his contributions are more restrained here, approaching the tune like a sister-song to his recent album closer “Bismilahi Atagah.” It’s all sunshine and warmth, four and a half minutes of shelter from the world outside.