Thursday, November 29, 2007

Because growing up in the 80's meant listening to this:

Music video? Or TTC commercial? Hard to tell.

A smattering of links and oddities while I think of something to write about. . .

Why we should spend more time reading for fun:

If that wasn't heretical enough in this televised age, check out the full report here: - Realize that we really are not that different from our neighbours to the south and be afraid.

A few of my favourite sites: - book and book related news rounded up with some decent comments. It's how I start most mornings. - I just know the day I am seen reading, I'll be reading something embarrassing. It's sort of voyeuristic, but I love it. - It seems like a largely quixotic quest, but Yann Martel raises some good points and offers a great selection of books to check out. - It really is the better way. Info. for transit users with some articles for enthusiasts. - How to get from point A to point B as easily as possible. - So you can carry your harmonicas in style. What? You're not carrying harmonicas? The horror. The horror. - This comic strip kills me time and again.

Friday, November 16, 2007

A short post because I'm too busy stocking my ipod

Hello All,

Not much is new here. I got my custom leather harmonica case in the mail yesterday. It is far better than I would have imagined. So, if you're looking for harmonica cases, guitar straps or even a saddle, check this guy out ( He does phenomenal work and he is a nice guy, to boot.

Anyways, getting away this weekend to the chemical city. I remember back in high school, the rumour was Sarnia was in the top 10 list of first cities to be hit if a nuclear war took place. Never a very reassuring thought, even in those heady years after the Berlin Wall came down.

As for my ipod, I now have over 14 days worth of music on it. A testament to the wonders of tiny technology. . . Yes. A sign that my schizophrenic music tastes and obsessive compulsive tendancies have been given perhaps a little too much freedom. . . Yes, as well.

Today, I've been adding a lot more classical - some string quartets, a bit of Mozart, Bartok and Wagner.
Well, must run off to work.
So long for now,
ps. - Here is my new harmonica case:

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Blame my Mom

I had a really good post planned. I was going to talk about the band I just barely hinted at in my last post (Nirvana and their Nevermind album) and expand it into a wider discussion of music, memory and influences. I had it all laid out in my head.

Then I had a short conversation with my Mother tonight and it's thrown me off in a whole different direction. So, if you're going to blame someone for the loss of my Nirvana post, blame her. Just don't blame her on Wednesday because that's her birthday and it would not be nice.

A few weeks ago, I did an impromptu spring cleaning of my book collection. It's something I've never really done before. I've always sort of looked at my library as a sort of organic construct - a jumble of piles and boxes and stacks that submitted to no logic except it's own. Sure, I could find whatever I would go looking for, but not before turning tall piles into other tall piles and finding some gem I'd forgotten about until that moment. I'd say that finding books involved quixotic quests. . . but then I'd have to go looking for my copy of Cervantes' tome and I don't have that sort of time.

So, anyways, I've been accumulating books since my early high school days. Paperback, hardcover, new, used. . . You get the idea. I still harbour visions of having my own library with floor to ceiling shelves, a gargantuan arm chair and a nice lamp. Unfortunately, my visions have tended to obscure the reality of having boxes and stacks of books everywhere. The tops of my bookcases are sort of like a literary version of Jenga (you take a book from the middle and then they all fall over and you have to stack them up again).

So, I finally decided to trim my collection. . . at least a little. I started off easy by digging into my collection of travel books. They were nice to have around, but I usually buy a new up-to-date book before I travel anywhere, so they were expendable. Once I started, it got easier. I soon moved on to small paperbacks, the penguins and new canadian library's. Old Stephen King's and some trashy detective novels I'd bought one summer when everything I read had to have fedoras and dames and stiff drinks. That's when it started to be fun. While I still was not sure what I was going to do with them (Sally Ann, most likely), I started to think of the cool books I could offer up. I started thinking of the books that I longed to find when scouring thrift store shelves of harlequins and pulpy thrillers. I've found Henry Miller's novels in Goodwill and Shakespeare nearly everywhere, so it became a matter of what treasures I could leave for the next bookworm with too much time on his or her hands. It was a game, seeing what I could give up without too much heartache. Tempting myself, daring myself, it was like creeping up to the edge of a cliff, seeing just how far I could force myself to go.

When I was finished, I had two big plastic storage bins full of books. It didn't really put a huge dent in my collection, but it was nice, nonetheless.

Next, I had to figure out what to do with the books. While I had recently seen someone set out a dozen or so books for people to take in my building's lobby, I didn't thing the owners would appreciate a small library's worth of books for kids to toss about and people to leave everywhere.

Thankfully, my parents came through for me. I think they just wanted to see physical proof that I would ever part with a book. They picked up the books and took them up to Barrie, promising to find a place where they would be appreciated.

How does my Mother tie into this? Well, as happy as I was to get rid of some books, I really wasn't that keen on doing it again any time soon. I had humoured my parents, had more fun than I thought and cleared a little room for maybe another book or two (you didn't think I could quit buying books cold turkey, did you?). So, tonight, I'm talking with her on the phone and she tells me she is taking my books to the library. I guess they are always looking for donations. And if the books don't make it onto the racks, they sell them in a small shop in the lobby. Overflow often winds up going to the local hospital. Not only that, but my mother knows of a person with special needs, as the euphemism goes, who is a compulsive reader always looking for something to read. A kindred spirit, I guess. So some of the books will likely head his way as well.

Thinking of the books going to the library, alas, has set my mind to racing. I got home from work tonight and looked at my bookshelves in a brand new way. Do I really need to keep books I've read or, even worse, will likely never read, just because they look nice on a shelf. Well, today, the answer has finally changed to maybe not (baby steps, baby steps).

I'm not saying that I'm getting rid of everything - I doubt my heart could take that sort of loss. I just keep thinking that by giving up some of these books, I'm giving them a chance to be read anew and that maybe this will lead to more people reading. Like Ice-T, but different, "I'm your pusher (of books)."

So, I'm packing up some great young Canlit by the likes of Emily Pohl-Weary and Russell Smith. I'm offering up some classics, some trash and some treasures. I'm even parting with some long time favourites, like Tom Robbins and John Irving (though definitely not A Widow For One Year - that book is a keeper no matter what). I think I'll even give up Dean Bakopolous' wonderful first novel "Please Don't Come Back From the Moon", but only to a good home. With fiction done, I'm dipping into the poetry collection, as well. And my collection of chess books? Both the ones I don't have the patience for and the ones I don't have the talent for will soon be finding a new home.

I do have to draw the line somewhere, however, so the library will just have to buy its own copy of Alayna Munce's "When I was Young and In My Prime". And so should you, for that matter.

It would take a procrastinator like me, to start his spring cleaning in the fall. . .

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Comfort Music - Guns and Roses, a bicycle and me

Last night was cold and wet in the way that only a fall night can be. Rusty leaves danced on wind gusts and street lights reflected off the cold, wet asphalt. Walking home from the bus stop, I dug into my ipod and pulled out the only music that would feel right.

In the fall of '91, my family moved to a small town outside of Sarnia. Like any move, there was a lull time between moving in and when I truly felt I belonged, with friends and a social circle of sorts. That sounds so down, but it wasn't. What can I say? I'm reluctantly social, so it just takes longer.

Anyways, my early, pre-Sarnia, high school days were spent listening to a lot of metal - hair and otherwise. My friends were into Kiss and Poison and Skid Row - real progressive stuff - so it just came naturally that I would listen to it, as well. For me, it was Metallica and Guns N' Roses. Master of Puppets was the soundtrack that accompanied me to work at A&W. As for G'n'R, I had my unsuspecting grandmother bring me back Appetite for Destruction when she went on vacation to Arizona. I still know most of the lyrics to Lies, an album I'd taped off a friend of mine. (actually, that's not saying much. my mind is a wasteland of remembered lyrics, bad and good. for instance, I can still sing, word for word, a stupid radio jingle that played for a few months on AM radio in Sarnia - it's a curse more than a gift)

This was Barrie in the very early 90's. . . At a Catholic school, no less. People generally seemed to be into one of 3 things - top 40, rap and metal. For me, it was metal. To be fair, I knew one guy with better taste than that. He was the manager at the A&W. He gave me my first taste of industrial music, especially Ministry and Skinny Puppy, and regaled me with tales of going to Lollapalooza. But that was just some weird guy with strange tastes and the lone exception to the rule as far as I could tell.

Anyways, back to September of '91. G'n'R release their two Use Your Illusions discs and I buy them the day they come out. They became my soundtrack of the next couple of months. In the evening, I would often take my bicycle out for long, meandering trips around my new town. In my walkman, I switched back and forth between the two tapes. I would just do these long circles through the neighbourhoods and let my mind wander. The town was small enough that I could ride down the middle of the road with a walkman blaring and not have to worry about getting run over. The one horse in this one horse town had died of boredom years ago. The town hobo lied down on the railway tracks one day and starved to death.

(Sorry, I couldn't resist.)

I played the two albums so often that, for me, some part of fall is tied to those songs, Slash's guitar and Axl's wailing. When the weather finally turns cold, I have to dig out the old songs and play them once or twice, if only to remember those days. So that's what I did last night and, guilty pleasure or not, it felt right.

Eventually, I got a life, got over my G'n'R fixation (for the most part) and expanded my horizons. My tastes actually became shaped more by a certain album that came out just a week after Illusions, a piece of music that opened up all kinds of new horizons for me, even if it did become massively overplayed. Anyways, nevermind. . .

Why I Hate Couriers - A Rant

Actually, my mother always said I should never say hate. Call this post 'why i (really) dislike couriers (a lot)' instead.

I've been taking advantage of the high Canuck buck and ordering in some new harmonicas and a custom case from the States. Sounds simple enough.

Until they start shipping via couriers who seem set up to deal with a 9 to 5 world and little else.

I do not live in a 9 to 5 world. I leave my apartment by 1 pm and then get home sometime around 11 pm. I tried to ask that they deliver to my place before 1 pm (seems reasonable enough) and that's when the fun starts. The first call to two different companies (I made 2 seperate orders) gave me what I wanted. They both said it would be no problem to ask the driver to do this. I'm not going to say that they lied, but they did not do a good job of telling the truth.

The second call is when I find out that the driver works with an 8 hour window and I can either work with that or make a trip up to the suburbs to pick up the parcel myself. Ironically, the driver is supposed to deliver between 9 and 5. Both times he tried to deliver, he arrived well after 6. Even if I went out of my way to be available from 9 to 5, I still would not have got my package.

Thankfully, the courier gods smiled on my and the first package arrived before I left for work.

The second package? Well. . .

I do not own a car. Nor do I want to own a car. Getting to Markham from my place by transit is not an easy thing to do. All this to pick up a parcel that I paid to have delivered to my apartment? And they wonder why I don't sound happy on the phone.

So, with that in mind, I make alternate arrangements. I set it up so they will deliver to my place of work, which is manned from 0500-0150.

I did this last Thursday. And then I waited. . . And waited. . . And called the 1-800 number, which said the package was redirected. And then I waited all weekend, because couriers do not work weekends. And then I waited through Monday and called the 1-800 number again. They apparently had a supervisor on the case now.

Then I get a call a half hour ago from the local office, asking for a clarification about my home address, completely unaware of the change of address or anything that has happened since last Thursday. DHL Express? Not quite.

I am usually a fairly understanding guy. I don't get irate and I don't hang up on people. . . Until now.

Now, both the local office and the head office tell me I will get the package tomorrow, 8 days after it arrived in the GTA.

Somebody hand me a stiff drink. . .

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Back with a top ten list of sorts

As the esteemed Mr. Pringle was quick to remind me, it has been way too long since I've posted anything.

Well, it's late, I'm tired and I have to get up early to go look at cows and pigs tomorrow (the Royal Winter Fair is on). As such, I'll keep it short and post a top ten (sic) list of sorts.

My list of favourite songs for a cold November night:

Prologue - Goodnight Irene - Leadbelly
1. I will do my last singing in this land somewhere - Rev. Gary Davis
2. Midnight Special - Odetta
3. Tower of Song - Leonard Cohen
4. Moanin' At Midnight - Howlin' Wolf
5. Tecumseh Valley - Townes Van Zandt
6. Visions of Johanna - Bob Dylan
7. Looking for the Heart of Saturday Night - Tom Waits
8. Help Me Make It Through The Night - Kris Kristofferson
9. Coney Island Baby - Lou Reed
10. Wichita Lineman - Johnny Cash
11. River - Joni Mitchell
12. Streets of Baltimore - Gram Parsons
13. He Stopped Loving Her Today - George Jones
14. Sweet Jane - Cowboy Junkies
15. Toledo - Danny Michel
16. Lua - Bright Eyes
Epilogue - Goodnight Irene - Tom Waits

That's a lot more country than I originally intended. But it fits.

Good night world.