Pattys and Punks: Couple of Market Docs

This is a pretty great short documentary about the Canadian government’s bizarre fight with Jamacian Pattys in one of my old neighborhoods. I moved there at age 18 in the mid-nineties, at the end of the heroin wave, which hit the place hard, and was able to get a room in a hostel for Chinese students with a shared kitchen, shared bathroom, and shared showers for $260 a month — $40 below the $320 housing allowance offered by welfare. That was cheap even then. Just another Market Rat, I lived in that building for 3 years — until we were forced out by the new owners. They turned the building into a spot for European backpackers. I think it’s still that.

That’s a whole other story — involving harassment by thug janitors hired out of the homeless mission, fights in the hallway, and the sudden formation of a tenant’s association. At the time I was sort of sick of The Market and its drama –there was always some– and I wanted to move anyway. So I made the new owners pay me off. They gave me a bunch of money, few months free rent, and I took that money and fucked off to Costa Rica.

Although this doc has a nice light touch, I think it’s important to mention a couple of backdrops to this whole thing. Canada of that era had a lot of anti-black, anti-Caribbean, and, specifically, anti-Jamaican racism. It likely still does. I don’t know if things have improved or changed but, back then, that shit was pretty dire.

In the Market itself, there was also a thing going on. A sort of longstanding attempt to gentrify the place through regulation and ticketing. Back then, Kensington Market was a low-rent open air market. It was immigrants, working class, punks, hippies, anarchists, artists, all brought together in a small, tight-knit but undeniably urban community. There was no where else like it in Toronto. But aside from being so totally culturally different from the rest of the city, it was also on some prime real estate. Everyone was always fighting to keep the condos out, keep the creeping boutiques in check, and let the market retain its character.

We didn’t even have a word for gentrification then. Way we all thought about it was, no one wanted to see it go like Yorkville –a former hippie stronghold full of draft dodgers, which became a playground for the rich. The war to keep The Market went on for ages. It was lost slowly then very quickly. Some of The Market still remains, I’m sure but . . . Well, shit changed a lot. And probably not for the better.

I don’t want to get too nostalgic about it. The Market had its problems. It could be unbelievably petty and snobbish. A lot of people were stuck at age 17 forever. There was a crabs in a barrel feel and the feel of crabs in a lot of other places. And, of course, drugs and drink chewed a lot of people up. There was a reason I wanted to leave. But The Market was the first place I ever moved, and there was a reason for that too. A punk could survive in The Market. You could scavenge. If you didn’t mind a little rot, you could feed yourself pretty well off the waste from the fruit markets. We were called Market Rats for a reason. That place really formed me in some important ways. Whether I loved or hated it, it was a sort of family.

And the other thing I want to say about this doc, is the whole scenario was just so fucking typical. Now, don’t get me wrong. I believe in socialism. But all this happened when Canada and Toronto was probably about as socialist as it ever was and it was a typical thing to happen. There’s a sort of stupidity you can get under socialism and it looks a lot like this.

Like, I’d vote NDP (though usually just voted Full Communist or for Steve Goof) but that doesn’t mean I liked the NDP. I mean, they were better than the alternatives but Jesus . . .

Living in Canada often felt like an endless struggle against this sort of thing –small and large– and the racism of food inspection is a real fucking thing. But it’s almost impossible to describe to, let’s say, Americans, without sounding like a nut or making the place out to be some terrible dystopia. For a long time, if you heard a Canadian describe themselves as “libertarian” it largely meant that they were against this sort of bullshit, not that they were against universal healthcare. Some things just don’t translate well.

I mean, I once tried to explain that bag of shit Jian Ghomeshi and his crap band Moxy Fruvos to some yanks and well . . . You sound crazy. It’s like, due to Canadian content laws and the national broadcast system, the government shoved this shit band down our throats for a long time –a sort a peppy twee garbage band for university WASP socialists with a future in politics and no interest in real change– until their nostalgia got him a radio show on the government station, then BAM, turns out he’s scum. Like, none of that makes any sense to an American. The government made a band popular? It just sounds paranoid. And it all sounds worse than it is.

So yeah, this doc is pretty good because the tone is sort of light but it still gets across the seriousness and ridiculousness of the whole thing.

And here’s another one about the same era in the same place but more the punk thing.

log: mad in a bank

벌레 일지 WORMDATE: L4: 1,709 – 257,110: 5 – 2,308: 57.7 %-32.7 %

Mad in a bank is a specific feeling. Probably a pretty common one too. At some time, most people will enter a bank in a pretty cheerful and friendly mood only to exit that same bank mere minutes later ready to become a bomb-throwing anarchist. It’s not a great mood, nor one to be particularly proud of, but it is a mood that I’ve had ample time to experience over the last few days. Reason being, I’ve had to open a checking account. It’s taken three days.

I would like to say that South Korea has a particularly onerous amount of paperwork and whatnot to do when opening an account as a foreigner. That may be true. But, honestly, I went through the same thing when I moved to America. There, in the credit union, I had pleasure of having The Patriot Act quoted at me. At least, in Korea, they don’t feed you candies and refreshments like you’re at a child’s pop and chips party while they’re putting you through it. That infantilizing shit just adds another layer of humiliation to the process of being refused a basic account. It’s like, motherfucker, I do not require another chunk of hardened sugar to suck on, I require a basic checking account. Having said that, I did eat all the candy I could get my hands on because, well, free candy. I’m not a monster.

Not that you would know that from the banks. I do understand that my finances appear a little shady at the best of times. I’ve conducted most of my fiscal life in cash, in other people’s names, and off the books. Like, I didn’t even have a credit rating until I was 40 and I’m actually not sure if I have one yet. This has been excellent for getting deals on suits. In terms of dealing with respectable financial institutions? Much less excellent.

Anyway, first bank I tried here, after some fuckery, I was roundly refused an account. It’s hard to say why. My Korean is adequate for buying a squid but I’m not quite ready to discuss banking regulations. And this sort of muteness totally disarms me.

Hard as it may be to believe, charm is one of my primary tools. Like, I can talk my way through, around, and into a lot of things. I mean, that’s how I eventually got set up with an American account — once I understood their angles. But you take my ability to bullshit away? And judge me on my merits? Or my paperwork? Yikes! I am fucked! So very very fucked. Just totally fucked.

At any rate, I left that bank a feeling demeaned and a little angry. I didn’t throw a tantrum or anything, I generally avoid that, but I was screw-faced. More so than usual even.

I had better luck at the next bank I tried. They had a translation service. Seems the issue is a problem with wire fraud. Now, I don’t even know how to commit wire fraud. But I do know this — I am a great believer in a very simple guiding principle: Never commit a misdemeanor while you’re committing a felony. This principle, like if you’re going to hang for stealing a sheep, you might as well shag it too, is part of the ancient wisdom my Nan passed down to me. This is the shit I live by. So, like, if I was interested in committing wire fraud, you can be damn sure my paperwork would be in much better order when trying to open a checking account. Like, if I was trying to commit some crimes, every single other part of my shit would be above reproach. It would be impeccable. That’s how you get away with the crimes!

Security. Swear to Satan, security has to be about the daftest enterprise humanity has ever embarked upon. Most the time, it just inconveniences the innocent while increasing opportunities for the guilty. Locks slow down everyone except criminals.

But anyway, this bank agreed to let me open an account, provided I provide more paperwork. This meant a trip to the phone company to get 3 bills. A trip back to the bank to give them these 3 bills. Turns out, they need 3 different bills –like bills for different things– instead of 3 bills with my name on them. So that was a walk up the mountain to find the bills, which are in my wife’s name, then a walk back down the mountain to bring these in.

And that worked. However, this last appointment was taking so long that I caused a traffic jam in the bank (미안해요!) and had to be shuttled upstairs to a special desk. Upstairs, it was about two hours of being interviewed and filling out forms. I was in the bank until half an hour past closing time. But this time I didn’t leave mad. I had acquired a checking account.

Cute bankbook tho

What I did not acquire was an ability to actually access said account. I have to head in again on Tuesday to get an ATM card. Hopefully, that will go okay.

은행 계좌를 개설하는 것은 쉽지 않습니다.

Aside from all that . . .

Things are going pretty well. The numbers remain high and we’re still under Level 4 but my first vaccine appointment is coming up. It does, however, look like there might be a strike by healthcare workers this week and I’m not sure how or if that will impact my appointment.

School is progressing though I wish this module would hurry up and open up. I get a bit bored of waiting. Wife and I have gone on some lovely late-night walks.

We got caught in the rain without umbrellas on one of theses walks. It was very romantic. It would be nice if, one day, humans could figure out a way of being romantic while remaining dry but, so far, that seems basically beyond our capabilities. Dream the impossible dream, I suppose.

And finally . . .

Know I’m late to post about this, here at least, but Lee Scratch Perry, The Upsetter himself, died. The crazy thing is, for about a week before his death, I’d broken out my headphones again and had him on steady rotation thinking, man, I really should share some of this before he dies because, well, he has pretty much got to die soon. Then, before I could be arsed to get around to that, he up and fucking died. Upsetter, indeed.

This guy was one of my favorite musicians for a long time. Probably still is. Like, if I had to rank people, he would be up there. Waaaaaaay up there. Like outside the stratosphere, outside of low Earth orbit, up there where there is no up. He’d be in space. A fucking astronaut. He was a fucking monster who birthed monsters.

He was 85, lived what seemed to be a pretty great life, and was incredibly prolific and influential, leaving behind a fucking incredible body of work and his stamp and influence on a lot besides, and it’s not like I knew him, so it’s hard to be all that broken up about his death, but he was a fucking giant. On the occasion of his death, some sort of tribute seems fitting. He really was one of the all time greats. People like him do not come around every day. Always sad to lose one. There won’t be another.

So, if you don’t know him –and I don’t see how that is really possible– maybe take some time to learn about him and go through his catalog. If you do know him, you know what to do and have probably already done it. Get out the headphones or hi-fi and, er, whatever else you believe is appropriate, turn up the volume, you need this shit LOUD, and send his ghost off in good form.


log: DOOM

WORMDATE: L2-2.5: 870-66,688: 19-1,046

First week of winter sessions and I’m a bit buried beneath schoolwork. This history of Korean civilization class is not fucking around. Week one is 26 modules, six chapters of the text book, write 33 slides with 5-7 points about each term on each. There’s also independent research required. 수업이 힘들지만 좋어애요. 전 너무 이상한 사람이에요.

It’s just nice to have a class that was online before the pandemic and was designed to be online instead of the zoom-based, ramshackle nightmares that we’ve had so far.

My main problem is figuring out how the fuck to make slides. I have lived a life lacking slideshows. That was not an accident. I don’t like the things. Never have.

My other class, conversational Korean, uses zoom but this professor has taken to the online thing like a fish to water. I also had her for Korean 1 and am happy to have her again. There’s a lot of work but the lectures are really engaging and interactive, we get to speak to her and to each other, and we really get a lot of practice in. I don’t want to knock my other prof but I feel like I’ve gotten more out of one week in this than I did all of last semester.

So, yeah, busy. Not sure if I should even be taking the time to write this thing. Not sure that I have time to spare. But, oh well, fuck it, I guess.

On the 코로나19 front, we’re seeing a downward trend in our numbers. Dipping below 1000 cases a day. Deeper dips, longer dips. Knock on wood. Whatever is being done seems to be working. But, honestly, with this thing, it feels like once you’re at 20-30 new daily cases, you’ve entered The Unpredictable Lands. At 870 today, we’re hardly out of the woods.

My first piece of news of the year, first thing I woke up to on Jan 1 2021 was the death of MF DOOM.

A lot has been written about his influence, flow, and ability as a lyricist, and yeah, no doubt, the man had some incredible fucking skills on those fronts. I don’t have much to add to that conversation. I don’t think many people do – lines like “there’s four sides to every story, if these walls could talk, they’d probably still ignore me” speak for themselves.

But, what I think gets overlooked about DOOM is how much heart his music has. Just how much feeling is in it. Just what a dirty dark dive bar –sort of place I spent most of my life– feeling he can impart. He’s not some clever novelty act, you know? He was real.

Like, that metal mask might be funny but that mask was no joke. That metal mask had meaning. If you know, you know.

I don’t know what to say about it. In some of the worst parts of my life, MF DOOM picked me up, threw me on his back, and fucking carried me. I don’t know what to say about that. What do you say about a person you’ve never met but has done that for you? A person who never even knew they did that? What the fuck do you say? Thank you, I guess. I don’t believe in an afterlife, but if there is one, thank you, DOOM. Never knew him, fucking miss him tho.

이날치 – 범 내려온다(with 앰비규어스 댄스컴퍼니

Was in a bit of a 코럿 hole yesterday and actually stumbled into a band –or at least, a song by a band– that I liked. Honestly, I clicked on the vid because glowing geometric shapes against a magenta background? I’m into that. I also really like 판소리 and this is really influenced by that. Anyway, no sense talking about music when you can just play the shit so:

앰비규어스 댄스컴퍼니 (Ambiguous Dance Company) I recognized from commercials. They’re in a whole series of commercials for different cities and, honestly, they’re kinda awesome. Here’s the Busan one:

Lang Lang Plays Bach (finally)

Lang Lang has recorded and released two versions of Bach’s Goldberg Variations.

I love both Bach and Lang Lang. In Toronto, I even had the great pleasure of seeing Lang Lang live. I’ll never forget it. His concert was part of a program that offered extremely cheap tickets and a friend and I got into the habit of attending various classical shows. Only three performances have really stuck with me: One was of a symphony by Witold Lutoslawski and I’ve never found a recording of his work that does justice to seeing and hearing it live, another was a waltz by I can’t remember who –but it was an anti-war and anti-bourgeois values song where the waltz kept descending into chaos, it might have been Shelling’s “Victory Ball” but I’m really not sure– and the third was Lang Lang.

The Lang Lang performance was odd. Really odd. He was well regarded but it just didn’t seem that great. He ended his performance to unenthusiastic support. Then, you could just kind of see he was unhappy with this response. There was the sort of an air of “don’t these people know I’m Lang Lang?” So he decided to show us. He did another song. One that was supposed to be reserved for the expensive performance the next night.

And Holy Dark Lord Satan! This mother fucker suddenly turned into some sort of classical Jerry Lee Lewis. Even without the sound, the acrobatics would have been impressive. (It’s no wonder he’s injured his arm.) With the sound? It was like getting hit with a wave of lava. Just pyrotechnic emotion. The crowd lost its damn mind. Standing ovation. And not just a polite one either. We might have been shouting. High fives may have been exchanged in the convert hall. Who really knows what happens when you let us in. But I know this — I’ve never forgotten the name Lang Lang.

The knock on Lang Lang is that he’s tasteless. Might be true. I don’t know. I don’t care. Good taste is boring. That’s both the strength and the weakness of good taste. If liking Lang Lang makes me some sort of crass vulgarian, I’ll live. I’m just some dude who saw him on the cheap and had my goddamn socks blown off. He’s great. Really great. And he’s not boring. If he’s ever in your town, make the time.

Lost and Found Techno Futurism

When this blog was down, I went and had a quick stroll around Tumblr. It seems to be basically the same psychedelic circus it always was. I have a soft spot for Tumblr. I don’t plan on using it much but I do think ‘ll keep popping my head back in there. Add me if you want, I may or may not be there. I have no plans. We’ll see what happens.

Anyway, while there, I ended up visiting an old group I used to be a part of, and found this interview. Turns out I’d posted it to that long defunct group. I’d been looking for this for a long time. Couldn’t remember who the interview was with –Jeff Mills as it turns out– or what it was called or anything about where I’d found it or put it. But I remembered this one part of it in cloudy detail and it always really stuck with me:

“I’m trying to show my idea of what life will be like in the twenty-first century. Technology is going to shape the way we think. For example as things get more expensive, space will be rare. I can see that happening already in London. So technology will create spaces in other ways. Virtual spaces. Sound spaces.” Detroit techno is architecture. This why there is no narrative progression, no chord changes, no unfolding of themes, no counterpoint. Sound spaces, not sound travelling through time. “So few people understand that” says Mills, talking about minimalism, “how to just let it play…”

Over the years, this part has kind of morphed into my mind as Detroit techno becoming a part of design and living space, of it emerging from being stuck in rooms where the cheapest and quickest way to get into a new environment is to change the lights and the music. There might even be another interview that goes into more detail on that thought. But I think this is the one. I’m not totally sure. It was all a long time ago. Forget it, Oakley. It’s Tumblr.

Anyway, I’ve got a day ahead of me. 설거지는 제가 할게요.