Bird on the wire

Excerpt from a book review published in Mint Lounge, November 9, 2012
Cohen

“I suppose it’s violating some Socratic imperative to know thyself, if that’s who it was, but I’ve always found that examination extremely tedious…. I don’t find it compelling at all.”

We can consider ourselves fortunate that Sylvie Simmons paid no heed to this professed ambivalence and apathy towards self-examination. Perhaps the master of the elliptical and the sly wit was just putting her on. But she didn’t bite.

I’m Your Man: The Life of Leonard Cohen, the new sprawling, generous and ultimately exquisite portrait of the life of the Canadian master of words, is the result of her persistence.

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YYZ

College Street in central Toronto cuts through the neighborhood known locally as Little Italy (the big one is a ways up north). Oh yeah, it has its share of mouth-watering Italian foodie alcoves scattered along it, but now the hipsters have encroached. Of late it has turned trendy with martini bars and retro dance clubs jostling with chi-chi bistros. One evening some years ago, I had walked up the natty thoroughfare. No, not to sample any ooh-la-la lychee martinis or organic tiramisu – I had just music on my mind.

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Oi, you alright?

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“Hell yeah! But it took a while!” says a rock and roll survivor from India.

Published in Popmatters on July 5, 2011

“No Alcohol or Firearms” read a perplexing but ominous sign near the entrance. Then I remembered, we were in Arizona.

The jostling to get through to the turnstiles was rowdy, but the mood still had a tone of booze-soaked cheeriness about it. Surrounded on all sides by what looked like Hell’s Angels with their leather-clad vixens, we waited in the long line as it inched forward. An uncomfortably thorough full body search later, we were in. By this time the looks we were getting were making us uneasy.
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The Eternal Pied Piper

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“Free your mind…and your ass will follow” sang that zany prophet from the world of funk, George Clinton, in Funkadelic’s classic 1970s album named as such. An “experimental” album Clinton had claimed it was then. An experiment in “cutting a whole album while tripping on acid”. A mass incitement of experiments in acid was far from their minds, but retaining a firm grip on the asses of the masses was definitely on the front lobes of the whatchamacallit, the Cultural Committee this April, when the Chinese government decided to cancel the series of planned concerts by Bob Dylan in China for this year.

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