On pause PlayRecent habitat 67

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On pause

Fresh tracks and timely insight.

The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Cult MTL.

Tim Hecker, “Starting Over Again,” The North Water (Original Score) (Lakeshore Records)

“Starting Over Again” by Tim Hecker, from The North Water

There’s a poignant scene in Werner Herzog’s 2007 documentary, Encounters at the End of the World. A group of Antarctic researchers trains to navigate the inevitable whiteout conditions of a winter blizzard. Their instructor mocks up a crude simulation: white five-gallon buckets are placed upon their heads to mimic full-frontal snowsqualls. A knotted rope tethers the party together. 

The exercise is simply meant for the group to move a distance of about 50 metres. But just as the gang embarks, its leader veers off course, pulling the entire crew along. Within a few steps, they’re already heading in the opposite direction, blind and blinder. This is called “cascading failure” — an early mistake becomes embedded into standard practice and exponentially misguides momentum thereafter. Is this what’s been happening since March 15, 2020? They’ve asked us to listen to science, to follow logic. Have we been following faulty logic from the get-go?

Kee Avil, “saf,” Crease (Constellation Records)

“saf” by “Kee Avil, from Crease

Governments tell us we’ve been “fighting a war.” Let’s carry this stupid military metaphor further. If you’re fighting a war and run out of troops, what do you do? Recruit more troops. If a war breaks out and you didn’t have a big enough army, it’s due to poor planning, not an overwhelming war. All wars are overwhelming. 

What you don’t do in battle is constantly try to evade the enemy. At some point, you’ve got to turn and fight. If propping up a fragile healthcare system is the only reason left for government restrictions, then another solution is to fortify the healthcare system rather than destroy the entire society that built it and every other thing. 

Should we, as Ezekiel J. Emanuel once argued, encourage premature deaths? It makes sense if the rationale is to prevent hospitals from being overrun, instead of ensuring every 87-year-old makes it to 88. What’s the endgame? To never exceed X deaths in Y time? If that’s the case, this is a pandemic of accounting, and “flattening the curve” means spreading out the statistics to make whoever holds power appear competent.

Racine, “Grosso,” Amitiés (Danse Noire)

“Grosso” by Racine, from Amitiés

Having Tom Hanks as an early COVID sufferer should have been a PR coup. Everyone should have fallen in line. America’s Dad fell ill… Forrest Gump! Paul Edgecomb! Woody! This was serious, guys! 

But Hanks wasn’t really that sick — in the media, he was quoted as feeling “wiped” — and he went on to host SNL at Home a few weeks later. Instead of succumbing to AIDS, he landed it in the Hudson, if you will. 

Implicitly, Hanks gave us the secret key to this virus: get infected, get sick, quarantine, recover, and move on with life. Hanks didn’t die. Hanks didn’t get Long COVID. He didn’t even get a Brain Cloud — sorry, I mean Brain Fog. If the pandemic began at 8, Hanksy was in hair and makeup for My Gift: A Christmas Special From Carrie Underwood, by noon. 

This oversight might have cost Control its cakewalk consolidation: had Tom Hanks died, I guarantee the entire world would be quadruple vaxxed right now. Maxime Bernier would be vaxxed. David Icke would be vaxxed. I go so far as to blame everything that happened subsequent to July 2020 — anti-vaxxers, conspiracists, supply-chain issues, whatever this Kardashian-Davidson thing is — on Tom Hanks continuing to live. I guess sometimes the past just catches up with you, whether you want it to or not.

Tony Price, “Learning From Las Vegas,” Mark VI (Telephone Explosion Records)

“Learning From Las Vegas” by Tony Price, from Mark VI

I recently got a travel writing job that involves targeting demographics of which I’m not a part — lots of pieces aimed at boomers in RVs and millennials with mad money. 

​​I was telling a young friend that I felt like Rodney Dangerfield, writing for millennials. She didn’t know who Rodney Dangerfield was, so I said instead that I felt like Steve Buscemi — “How do you do, fellow kids?” (Even my references for being outdated are outdated!)

The real gift of that job, though, is communicating with people who are very different. Because life is about having to relate to people who aren’t you, and still trying to make the planet a better place. This world’s going to need empathy and plenty of it.

Actors Artificial, “Immaterial Transience Looming in Material Debris,” Untimeliness & Default Settings (Superpang)

I’ve been thinking of all the wonderful things that would never have been had they happened during the COVID era. That romantic scene in When Harry Met Sally, for example — the one where Billy Crystal goes over to Meg Ryan’s apartment to console her while she’s sick. She’s tossing used Kleenexes all over her bedroom. That would surely be cut as a public hazard today. But it would be Rom-Com history’s loss.

Another thing that wouldn’t exist is Montreal. Founding Mother Jeanne Mance in 1657 made her second voyage back from France amidst the Bubonic Plague. I mean, the Plague! Only four women survived. But did they stop the journey? No they didn’t. They forged on and built this beautiful city, however fractured, however fucked. I love this place. And now, I fear we’re robbing the future of something just as sacred. ■

This column originally appeared in the February issue of Cult MTL. 

To see previous editions of Play Recent, please click here.