Sunny Winnipeg

I am back from my brief vacation in Winnipeg. It was quite a good time, shockingly warm. I visited the iconic intersection of Portage and Main, and failed to cross it. I searched for the forks beneath the forks; I felt the awesome force of the temple of Masonic energy known as the Manitoba Legislative Building; I enjoyed the inaugural Hockey Night in Canada for the 2010-11 season; I had several tasty breakfasts. I even had a side trip to the Sahara.

Crossing the border on the way there, the Canadian customs agents looked upon our wish to visit Winnipeg with some skepticism and made us get out of the car for a brief little interrogation. Where's the pride, Manitoba? No one seemed to believe that anyone would elect to go to Winnipeg. But in a game-theoretical twist, that makes it the perfect place to go. Nothing is overcrowded. Locals in the service businesses aren't well-versed in the patronizing niceties reserved for tourists, so you tend to be regarded with genuine courtesy. You rarely encounter other tourists, so you don't have the unnerving sense of seeing others doing what you are doing and having it seem lamer or too predictable or something. That is to say, you can be a tourist without being made to feel like one at every turn.

Despite being at the center of the North American continent, Winnipeg is not really on the way to anywhere (unless you are headed to Hudson Bay or something) so it's unlikely to be overrun any time soon. Still I feel strangely hesitant to recommend it to anyone. I want my taste in provincial Canadian cities to be unique, or at least distinctive. That attitude is illustrative of how messed up I've become with the whole pursuit of authenticity, and probably why I denounce it so often. In traveling for pleasure, I find that I want to go to places that no one else thinks to go to, places that are both profoundly inconvenient and comfortably ordinary. In a way, I travel as if on business, but the project I am managing is my sense of my own eccentricity.

Nevertheless, the majesty of Winnipeg dwarfs my narcissism. Interpret that with as much irony as seems appropriate.

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Marcelino Truong launched his autobiographical account of growing up in Saigon during the Vietnam War with the acclaimed graphic novel Such a Lovely Little War: Saigon 1961-63, originally published in French in 2012 and in English translation in 2016. That book concluded with his family's permanent relocation to London, England, as the chaos and bloodshed back home intensified.

Now Truong continues the tale with Saigon Calling: London 1963-75 (originally published in French in 2015), which follows the experiences of his family after they seek refuge in Europe. It offers a poignant illustration of what life was like for a family of refugees from the war, and from the perspective of young children (granted, Truong's family were a privileged and upper class set of refugees, well-connected with South Vietnamese and European elites). While relatives and friends struggle to survive amid the bombs and street warfare of Vietnam, the displaced narrator and his siblings find their attention consumed by the latest fashion and music trends in London. The book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

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The World of Captain Beefheart: An Interview with Gary Lucas and Nona Hendryx

Gary Lucas and Nona Hendryx (photo © Michael DelSol courtesy of Howlin' Wuelf Media)

Guitarist and band leader Gary Lucas and veteran vocalist Nona Hendryx pay tribute to one of rock's originals in this interview with PopMatters.

From the opening bars of "Suction Prints", we knew we had entered The World of Captain Beefheart and that was exactly where we wanted to be. There it was, that unmistakable fast 'n bulbous sound, the sudden shifts of meter and tempo, the slithery and stinging slide guitar in tandem with propulsive bass, the polyrhythmic drumming giving the music a swing unlike any other rock band.

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From Haircut 100 to his own modern pop stylings, Nick Heyward is loving this new phase of his career, experimenting with genre with the giddy glee of a true pop music nerd.

In 1982, Nick Heyward was a major star in the UK.

As the leader of pop sensations Haircut 100, he found himself loved by every teenage girl in the land. It's easy to see why, as Haircut 100 were a group of chaps so wholesome, they could have stepped from the pages of Lisa Simpson's "Non-Threatening Boys" magazine. They resembled a Benetton knitwear advert and played a type of quirky, pop-funk that propelled them into every transistor radio in Great Britain.

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Acid house legends 808 State bring a psychedelic vibe to Berlin producer NHOAH's stunning track "Abstellgleis".

Berlin producer NHOAH's "Abstellgleis" is a lean and slinky song from his album West-Berlin in which he reduced his working instruments down to a modular synthesizer system with a few controllers and a computer. "Abstellgleis" works primarily with circular patterns that establish a trancey mood and gently grow and expand as the piece proceeds. It creates a great deal of movement and energy.

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Beechwood offers up a breezy slice of sweet pop in "Heroin Honey" from the upcoming album Songs From the Land of Nod.

At just under two minutes, Beechwood's "Heroin Honey" is a breezy slice of sweet pop that recalls the best moments of the Zombies and Beach Boys, adding elements of garage and light tinges of the psychedelic. The song is one of 10 (11 if you count a bonus CD cut) tracks on the group's upcoming album Songs From the Land of Nod out 26 January via Alive Natural Sound Records.

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