Spectres of Discord

By David Ravensbergen

New Year’s Eve seems so far away already, lost in the haze of obligations and regrets that quickly accumulate as January marches on. I can barely even remember the details of my night, although something about a kegger in Surrey comes to mind. Midnight’s promise of renewal, which makes the first days of January seem like a new playing field where anything is possible, always fades so fast, leaving you saddled with last year’s problems. But with Discorder, I get a second chance at a fresh start. Like the Chinese, Discorder insists on setting its own date for the New Year—the first of February, when the year’s lead-off issue hits the streets.

Glancing at the cover of the first issue of the new millennium, I have to wonder how strongly y2k fever took hold around CiTR. I get the feeling they really believed the world was going to end in some mysterious cataclysm, as bank computers and databases the world over announced the return of the year 1900. When everything carried on as usual, the staff eventually had to face the realization that the magazine would in fact continue to exist in the twenty-first century. While they managed to assemble some decent content, including an interview with Yo La Tengo bassist James McNew, the cover looks like a millennial oversight. Largely composed of negative space, the bottom-right corner features a hastily-drawn illustration of a man with half a face, drinking from a translucent cup. Are his facial features being sucked away by this nefarious glass? Or is the liquid contained within causing him to sprout a giant black mane? These are questions for magazine archivists more skilled than I.

A few pages further into February 2000, we find the controversial “Happiness” column by Miyu. By all indications, she made a quick trip to when the world refused to end, selected an appropriately dismal forecast for the year to come, and voila! We have a bleak little gem sure to pass the discontent filters at Discorder.

When it struck midnight, you stood up and looked around for someone to hold, but everyone else was busy with each other, so you held a cigarette and a piece of cake instead, resolutions already broken, and there you stood until she remembered you and took her arms and wrapped her sympathy around your awkwardness, and then she pulled away to look at your face, you smiled, and you didn’t think you were lying at the time you declared it to her, but you know now that this New Year isn’t going to be so Happy.

Skipping ahead two years to February 2002, we find the staff in a decidedly more combative mood. They clearly knew the end of the world wasn’t going to be as simple as a few computers getting the date wrong, and they were pissed off about it. Shindig winners Three Inches of Blood look ready to kill on the cover, screaming their disapproval at the post-9/11 world. There’s no sign of the gentle depression of “Happiness”—only a letter from a plaintive reader looking for her monthly dose of dismay. The response:

We don’t really know what happened to that column. It ended when Miyu stopped writing it. She “realized that it was really bad.”—Ed.

In the reactionary climate of 2002, there was no place for “Happiness”. After the the ascension of George W. and the attacks on the World Trade Center, Discorder writers were able to locate the tumultuous realm of global politics as the focus of their disapproval. In Doretta’s “Over My Shoulder” column, the vitriol starts off strong, condemning the WTC attacks and Gordon Campbell’s anti-poor policies alike. But midway through, she begins to frame her politics as some kind of cosmic battle (conspicuously like her arch-nemesis, the Commander-in-Chief), and the immediacy of her critique is lost.

I’ve regressed to thinking about the issues in abstract terms: good versus evil, right versus wrong. I don’t have any answers or constructive plans to put into action…

It’s the last phrase there that’s particularly distressing. We live in an age when the hypocrisy of American foreign policy is met with near-global disapproval, yet opposition to the war in Iraq remains largely verbal. Environmental degradation, a fringe, lunatic concern back when Rachel Carson wrote Silent Spring, is now in the headlines on a daily basis. But complacency rules the day, and we (myself included) still don’t have any constructive plans to put into action. A few pages over, Vancouver shoegazers Readymade summarize our current state of affairs, and make me feel like a dick in the process.

We’re passing through epochs on an almost daily basis right now, not that anyone is really noticing…this is as interesting a socio-political environment as we’ve ever seen. It might seem quiet, but things are stirring. Take just a handful of these globalization protestors, get them to shave their beards, and put down the bong for a few minutes, get a commerce degree, exploit technology to organize across borders and I think some real interesting things will happen.

2007 is shaping up to be a great year to revitalize democracy, folks—I just don’t want to be the one to start it.