Saturday, November 29, 2008

Funny. . . Or some thoughts on politics

Isn't it funny that, when it comes to Harper's power grab, everyone is talking about the clauses removing public funding of political parties but no one is talking about the clauses denying workers their legal right to strike?

Or how about the fact that Harper now says creating a coalition to gain power is undemocratic when that is what the right leaning parties did to create the conservative party?

I used to think Harper got his inspiration from Machiavelli. Now I think he's been reading too much Orwell.

For those in the rest of Canada who are trying to figure out what Flaherty is up to, it is this: Rather than find constructive and possibly innovative solutions to the financial crisis by working with the cities, municipalities, provinces and territories, he will simply start downloading. He will keep the federal government on an even keel by dumping all the financial responsibility onto the provinces and territories. It's the same thing Flaherty did when he was part of the Ontario government and dumped everything onto the municipalities. The municipalities, by the way, are still trying to dig their way out of the hole the PC's created. Enjoy. A minority of you voted for this.

Of course, if you happen to live in Flaherty's riding, fear not. I'm sure there will be some goodies that head your way. That just the way these fellas roll. Let the big left-leaning cities crumble but keep the pet projects coming to their hometowns. Makes you realize that they weren't really angry or upset by Chretien's financial dealings; they were just jealous.

It's nice to see the opposition show a backbone, though. Let's hope it's a particularly gamey crow that Stevie is eating right now.

Hawksley, Julie Delpy and a jazzy morning

First of all, Hawksley was amazing. It was a wonderful fun incredible show despite some technical difficulties.

The best part of the show was that it was fun. There were all sorts of weird segues like when he jumped into The Culture Club's Karma Chameleon and then shifted to Starship's We Built This City showing that, for better or worse, he too was a child of the 80's. Sometimes you just had to marvel at the audacity of it all - the theatrical vocals, the screeching violin solos by Jesse Zubot, the fact that a show so big (it's Massey Hall!) could actually seem relaxed and intimate.

My favourite moment, though, was when the PA crapped out. It took the band a while to realize because their monitors were still working but, when they did, Hawksley stepped up. He borrowed an acoustic guitar from openers Hey Rosetta! (who were quite good, by the way) walked up to the front of the stage and sang to the crowd. When the PA kicked in halfway through the song, he switched back to his electric and finished the song with a flourish. It was only half a song, but it was a great moment, turning a gaffe into something to be remembered fondly.

The end came far too soon as far as I was concerned (isn't that always the case?). Unfortunately, it seems that Massey Hall has a curfew, so at 11 we were all sent out into the streets to mull over what a great show we had just witnessed.

This morning, I'm listening to jazz. For some reason, Saturday mornings and jazz just seem to go hand in hand for me. I guess I spent so many years working weekends that having a free Saturday morning just feels decadent. I get up slowly, read in bed for a bit, toss on jeans and a t-shirt and shuffle off for a cappuccino (decadence doesn't stand for my usual black coffee), come home and throw on some jazz while I plot my day (or blog, as I'm doing now).

Personal favourites for a Saturday? Dexter Gordon's Our Man in Paris, Coltrane's My Favourite Things, Mingus Ah Um. If it's a particularly sunny Saturday (I don't know why, but it has to be sunny), I'll put on Pharoah Sanders' Karma album and let my mind be opened by the 32 plus minute track The Creator Has a Master Plan. It's wave after wave of acid jazz wonkiness but it works.

Today I started with some Nina Simone. I'd never really heard her until I watched Before Sunset. Watching Julie Delpy's character talk about and sing along to Nina Simone sent me out to the jazz section of Sam The Record Man's (it's a good thing she wasn't talking about and grooving to scientology. . . ). It doesn't really matter how I found Ms Simone, though. I'm just glad I did.

Anyways, I've rambled on long enough. I'm off to Meet The Presses this afternoon. It's kind of a breakaway event started by one of the guys who started the original Small Press Book Fair. There was all kinds of ugliness and intrigue but the upshot is another chance to talk with authors and bookmakers. And hopefully not buy (too many) books.

Friday, November 28, 2008

In other news. . .

I can never just post one post, can I? I'll go a few days with nothing to say and then I finally muster up the motivation to say something anyways. Once the levee has been breached, it's just easy to add another post of something that is completely unrelated.

That being the underlying motivation of this post, I will go on. I can't go on. I will go on. I will say that I am operating on too little sleep (if you could not tell) and that all annoying run-on sentences are not my attempt to get back to my 18 year old beatnik wannabe coffeehouse self but really a symptom of too little sleep because I worked until 2am last night and couldn't really sleep in this morning but I wrangled a deal with the supervisor so I will only have a 6 hour shift tonight and I will indeed be going to see Hawksley Workman at Massey Hall tonight.


He's fun, flamboyant, ridiculously talented and from Huntsville. What a strange mix.

I will shed a tear going to this show, though, because the last (and only) time I was at Massey Hall was to see the Rheostatics' last show.

That's it for now.

Perhaps Black Friday Should Be Rethought

There is just so much wrong with the above story. Not least the fact that it's a friggin' Walmart. Are cheap cleaning products and household items really worth stampeding over?

Is anything worth stampeding over?

What a freaking mess. On Thursday, you have a ginormous turkey ostensibly to give thanks for what you have. The next day, you're up before dawn to buy more crap because you really weren't happy with what you have. You were just holding out for a sale.

It makes me hope the economy tanks and that whole malls wind up shutting down. Maybe that way, we will go back to a culture where we buy what we need, not what we (think we) want. This will be a good thing because our society has gotten to the point where we really don't know what we want anymore. We see the shiny bauble. We crave it. We buy it. We see the next shiny bauble. We've gotten to the point where we are willing to trample a fellow human being just to get more cheap crap because the sign or the flyer says that this cheap crap is the cheapest bestest cheap crap there is.

Me, I'm going to pay a little more and buy a little less. I'm also going to avoid the stampede.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Late nights and youtube. . .

It started off as a quest for videos of the various Wainwrights. It devolved to watching a talented girl with a ukulele and way too much time on her hands. . .

I've never liked this song but I can't help but admire this version of it - ridiculous but infectious:

She also does a decent version of Her Majesty, one of my all time favourite Beatles tunes.

If I was to play 6 (well, 8) degrees of Youtube, it went kind of like this -

1. Martha Wainwright's BMFA to

2. Rufus Wainwright's One Man Guy with Martha singing back-up to

3. Loudon covering One Man Guy to

4. Loudon doing Daughter to

5. someone named mrabaz doing Daughter to

6. mrabaz doing Bright Eyes' The First Day of My Life to

7. Julia Nunes doing The First Day of My Life on Uke to

8. Julia Nunes doing Survivor

My advice? Skip steps 5 and 6. The rest of it is decent.

Monday, November 24, 2008


New Year's Eve or When Yr Drunk, You'll Photograph Anything. . .

My travelling companion from my NYC journey (see my posts from early Feb. for an explanation and more pics).

More NYC.

Screwing around with my camera in Ottawa. Always knew Ottawa leaned to the left.

Even my parents likely don't know why they have this thing. . .

When I'm wandering around the parents' property, I always get distracted by wildflowers and berries.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Petty details or foolish acts of hubris. . .

I'm a big fan of double and triple checking things. With the internet, it's just so easy that I can never understand when people don't double check things. It's something I can be a bit cocky about, truth be told.

And then I go and do something foolish. I buy a ticket in a rush and don't bother double-checking the details. So, while there is a Loudon Wainwright concert happening in Toronto on a November Sunday, it turns out that it is actually happening next Sunday.


I figure by then my face will not be quite as red.

In other news, I watched Touch of Evil this weekend and was impressed. I'd never really taken the time to watch any of Orson Welles' movies before. It's one of those things I've always meant to do but never gotten around to. As for this movie, I basically picked Touch of Evil to start with because of Tom Russell's song of the same name. Next weekend, I think I will finally get around to watching Citizen Kane.

I've been spending the last month or so reading through the books I have rather than buying new ones. It's amazing how many books I've bought because they were on sale or because I found a good used copy and then never actually read. Right now, I'm reading Fitzgerald's The Beautiful and Damned. Not quite the thrill of Gatsby, but a great read nonetheless.

It's amazing how much book buying became a habit. I could find all kinds of excuses to go out and pick up a new book. If I was being frugal, then I'd hit the used book stores. I'd still wind up spending money, but I could excuse it as a 'deal'. Right now, when I find a book I must have, I take advantage of ChIndigo's wishlist function and store the title there. That way, I can go and look at it when the embargo is done. For now, I'm doing fine reading books from my own library.

On that note, Mr. Fitzgerald is waiting. . .

Now it's all covered with snow. . .

It's been a while since I added some pics. I took these this summer and fall around Parry Sound:

My parents pride and joy, their new house. They face towards a big field and then the tracks. Down the hill behind the house is the lake and cottage. It works great. Next summer when they head north to cottage country, they'll have about a five minute walk.

My father driving a southbound freight by his new house.

My uncle is building a log house. . . By himself. It's incredible. He's picked up a number of old tractors, trucks and pieces construction equipment to help with the job. They may not look like much but he keeps them all running when most people thought they were lost causes.

This one's for my sister. She's a bit of a John Deere aficionado.

Bittersweet. It sucks to see a farm fall into disrepair. On the other hand, it makes for a nice pic. I lucked out with this one because I took it from a moving car.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Friday night, early winter - some impressions

Tonight was a night of breath clouds and car exhaust clouds where everyone charges up and down sidewalks hunched in the cold like Bob Dylan on that album cover. The air was winter night clear and electric and I was glad to be out in it, if only for a short while.

I love the city at night. I love the crowds of people walking talking gliding from movie houses and coffee houses and off to bars and parties or maybe just to home. At night, the city dances to the rumble of subways underfoot and the whooshing of cars going uptown and down. Bits of conversation fly on the wind.

The pigeons have gone home to roost. The CN Tower is covered in strange light. Steam rises from manhole covers. The sushi joint waiter stands patiently while the last table lingers.

I think of a Cowboy Junkies' song - "When a bum asks for a quarter / you give a dollar / if he's out tonight / he must be truly down" - and would do the same. But there are no bums out tonight, at least not here.

The guy who works in the local video store has great taste in music. On a night like this it's hard to consider any movie that isn't black and white, so I don't. I walk home thinking this night would be perfect, if only there were some stars in the sky.

Random bits. . .

It's an aimless Friday so I'll offer up a suitably aimless post:

Through the wonders of my cable on demand thingamabob, I'm catching up on 30 Rock. I never manage to watch much primetime tv but, if I did, this would be the show. It's one of the funniest shows I've seen in a long time. Well, that and Canada's Worst Driver but the latter is much more a scary funny kind of thing.

I'm going to see Loudon Wainwright on Sunday at Hugh's Room. He's a great songwriter and he's playing at one of my favourite venues.

They're making a biopic of Allen Ginsberg. Not sure I see James Franco as Ginsberg but, still, they're making a biopic of Allen Ginsberg! Maybe this will give me the incentive to finish Bill Morgan's I Celebrate Myself. It's a brick of a book that I've been whittling away at for too long.

Tomorrow, I'm off to the Toronto Train Show. I haven't been to it in years. It's amazing the amount of detail they put in to the layouts. I used to say model railroading is the hobby I'd take up when I retired. Then I saw remote control airplanes. . .

Monday, November 17, 2008

Holy Canuck!

So, I was wandering around wikipedia, looking up useless info. Actually, it all started by looking for information on the new Guns n Roses album that may actually be released next week but I probably shouldn't admit that. (what can I say? I might not listen to much metal anymore but I am curious about what such an expensive, time-consuming project might sound like.)

Anyways, I was wandering around wikipedia when I chanced upon the top 10 best-selling albums according to Neilsen SoundScan. What surprised me is that 3 of the top 10 are albums by Canadians. Very cool. Alas, the 3 albums are Shania Twain's Come On Over (#1), Alanis Morisette's Jagged Little Pill (#3) and Celine Dion's Falling Into You (#10). Not exactly my favourite 3 Canuck albums but not bad considering the list also features such heavy hitters as *nsync, backstreet boys and creed.

I was trying to keep a straight face when I said heavy hitters but I can't. It just goes to show that if you want to make it big, you should probably marry older guys, hire songwriting factories or have a somewhat creepy relationship with that guy from Full House.

Union Bashing

Now that the auto industry is looking for a bailout, we get to deal with a fresh batch of the oldest arguments around.

Obviously, the reason why the auto industry is in a bad way has nothing to do with costly oil, a credit crunch or a global economy that puts first world manufacturers at a serious disadvantage.

Nope, it's the workers that are to blame. The greedy workers that asked for (and received) decent compensation for their labour. Tsk. Tsk.

I love hearing people calling in to news shows outraged that those lazy union workers make more than teachers or some other group of workers. The suggestion is we should solve this problem by cutting back the wages and benefits of the auto workers.

Am I the only one to think this is a short sighted, ridiculous notion? Who does this serve? Definitely not the teachers and other workers. Will they really feel better knowing that the auto workers are now making the same low wage that they are? What a victory. Rather than suggesting that teachers and other workers should make more, we'll just let the auto workers make less. Yay.

When the bank bailout was put together, people didn't attack the bank tellers and accountants for making a living. Now that it's the auto industry's turn, let's lay the blame where it deserves to be laid. . . In the boardroom.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Eunoia goes to the Brits. . .

I'm sure bookninja will have this link by Monday, but I couldn't resist. Eunoia is a wonderful book of poetry by a great Canuck writer (Christian Bok). It's a book every poetry lover should own. It's great to see it getting some attention overseas:

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Two More Videos

Tom Russell is one of my all time favourite songwriters. He's one of the reasons why country music is still relevant today. Well, at least some of it is, though it's not often called country anymore. Most of the good stuff is being packaged as americana or alternative country just to differentiate it from the watered down, paint by numbers stuff that comes out of the corporate bowels.

I always figure the people who claim to like "any kind of music except country" have just never had a chance to listen to real country music. You peel away all the corporate gloss, jettison the repackaged pop tarts, ditch the stereotypes and then add feeling, musicianship and intelligence and you wind up with music that is relevant, powerful and original.

The first one is more traditional, storytelling fare. It's also a great tune. Apparently, Johnny Cash did record this once but it was never released, which is a shame.

His later stuff has gotten more introspective. He's still a storyteller, but the focus has shifted and narrowed.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

A Cool Video

Remembrance Day

Today I will remember the soldiers who died and the ones who lived. I will think of the people who have given their all because that is what their country asked them to do. Today I will observe the silence and wear a poppy and take a little time to think of how lucky I am to be a Canadian.

Tomorrow, however, I suggest we remember the reasons for these wars. Tomorrow, I suggest we remember that the best and the brightest of too many generations have been offered up as cannon fodder so that rich, powerful rulers can become even richer and more powerful.

We are too quick to tell ourselves that we must fight. We are too quick to accept that war is the only answer. We are too quick to believe the headline and ignore the fine print. If war is truly the only answer, then why doesn't it work?

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Missing the Fall Nationals

November is just not as much fun without a string of Rheostatics shows at the Horseshoe to look forward too. The Rheos were never a band to take themselves too seriously so the shows were generally loose and fun and sometimes magical.

I've been thinking more and more about the Rheos since seeing Martin Tielli play at Hugh's Room in September. Tonight while I was composing my auto industry rant (see previous post), I was listening to a Rheos show done at Centennial Secondary School in 2000. The band was accompanied by the school's bands and choir. What other rock band would do such a thing?

The Fall Nationals were a blast. Taking over the Horseshoe for the better part of two weeks, they would hit the stage every night and remind people about just how much fun music can be.

Even better, they had a knack for picking great opening acts. It was at a Rheostatics shows that I first saw Serena Ryder play. How someone so young could have such a powerful voice I still don't fully understand but it was a treat. Another year, it was Danny Michel - one of Canada's truly great singer-songwriters.

Now, it's all just a bunch of computer files, a bunch of digital memories to be revisited on these long cold nights.

A Not So Smart Way to Waste Billions of Dollars

Now that the Americans have fixed the economy by spending 700 billion dollars bailing out helpless victims of the economic crisis (namely, huge banks), they are going to start throwing billions of dollars at the auto industry. Smart idea. Why flog a dead horse when you can line its pockets with taxpayer's money?

It's not like the auto industry has done anything to create this problem. Who could have seen that shaping your entire business around the sale of oversized gas guzzlers could be a bad thing? Who knew that ridiculously cheap oil might not last forever? Certainly not the forward thinking auto industry.

Besides, hasn't the auto industry always been there in the past to help us? Those little fits of economic blackmail? The threats to move plants to or from Mexico or the U.S. or Canada or China or wherever if more subsidies aren't provided? Well, that's just a misunderstanding. They don't want to bankrupt communities. Rather, they just want to enrich the good hardworking folks in the boardrooms of some far off city. What's so wrong about that? It's kind of like Robin Hood in reverse and we all know Robin Hood was a good guy.

What has the auto industry ever done to hurt us? Nothing really. Just a few minor misunderstandings:

Personally, I say we take the hit. Let the auto industry fend for itself for a change. You know we are in dire straits when even the auto industry is talking about a move away from oil. That's kind of like Keith Richards waking up one day and not reaching for a vodka and orange juice for breakfast - a noble thought but probably a few decades too late to do any good.

Can we really trust our future to an industry that has been governed by greed and wanton self-indulgence for so long?

Instead of bailing out a failing industry one more time, lets spend the money on things that will help us, like transit and more liveable cities. If we spent wisely, we may even have some money left over to help the arts (because the mental environment is almost as important as the physical one).

Just don't tell Stephen Harper that as he has yet to find an arts program he couldn't gut.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Cows and such. . .

Hello blogreaders,

Tuesday was a good day indeed. I definitely hope we're in for at least four years of more rational, balanced behaviour from our southern neighbour. It's about time.

Besides it's nice to see a real leader get the chance to lead. You listen to Obama talk and you can't help but listen and feel that things aren't quite as bad or maybe they are but now we have someone to lead us out of the abyss. It's a rare thing these days.

The world has been in need of a few good leaders for a while now. Just look at the G8. Until Obama showed up, there wasn't a true leader amongst them. Lots of politicians, but politicians tend to just muck about without someone to guide them.

Russia? Putin's KGB roots betray him. He controls instead of leads. It may sound like splitting hairs but it's not.

Canada? We really haven't had a natural leader since Trudeau. Anyone who has to advertise what a normal family man he is is not a leader. For that matter, an idealist academic with charisma issues is not a leader either. For the record, I'm not saying there weren't faults to Trudeau. There were many, but leadership wasn't one of them.

As for Great Britain, Blair and his successor Brown don't strike me as leaders either. Blair was too quick to defer to the Americans after 9/11 and I don't think they've really recovered. For a once great nation, England just seems to muddle about now. But, then again, my views have been tainted somewhat by years of listening to Billy Bragg, so maybe I'm wrong (but I doubt it).

Germany, France, Italy, Japan? I can tell you who runs their countries (actually, I had to look up the leader of Japan), but that's about all I can tell you.

I think that's part of the reason why we seem to be drifting about these days. I look back on the 20th century as a great age for leaders. Not all of them were good and the good ones all had faults, but at least they provided direction. Nowadays we keep talking about what should be done but no one has the strength or courage to take the helm and steer us there.

Perhaps now we have someone like that. Perhaps. It could all still go wrong but I think this is the first good chance we've had in years. And that makes me guardedly optimistic.

I was actually going to write a post about going to the Royal Winter Fair tomorrow with my sister. It's a tradition we have. What better way to spend a fall day then to wander amongst farm exhibits and livestock shows? Alas, I've taken up far too much of your time with my political musings.

Hope all is well,


Sunday, November 02, 2008

NPR Preps Listeners Who May Want To Move North After Tuesday

It's a short list so glaring exceptions are the rule rather than the exception. Personally, I like it for its wonkiness. No, it's not a great representation, but what is? Everyone could do a better list, but everyone's list would be different. At least this list has some unusual choices. The Maestro thing is a little off but, for better or worse, it was a huge hit. I just get a kick out of seeing him and Glenn Gould side by side, a strange contrast for a nation of strange contrasts.

Ouch / Sympathy for the Actor

The New York Times printed a pretty brutal review of Toews' The Flying Troutmans. I say they're horribly wrong.

They did, however, print a good article about the unlikely adoption of Hemingway's For Whom The Bell Tolls as a favourite book for presidential candidates. McCain demonizes Obama for being a socialist yet idolizes Robert Jordan, the socialist freedom fighter from Hem's book. Irony, you are alive and well.

Anyways, last night I went out to the fall edition of the small press book fair, an event I've attended for years. This year's edition was a letdown. For whatever reason, they decided to try an evening set-up with a full slate of readers and musicians on stage. The tables for the small presses to sell their wares were significantly reduced.

That was a mistake. The joy of the fair for me had always been walking amongst the rows of tables, talking to the various authors and bookmakers. I almost always left the fair with a backpack full of chapbooks and zines and a head full of ideas for projects of my own. While reading are nice, I've always considered them to be an addition to the fair, not the fair itself.

The fact that there were still some tables actually made things worse because there really were not that many people paying attention to what was happening on stage. People were too busy talking to what writers there were, leaving the poets to read their works to a non-audience.

So I went, was underwhelmed and left less than an hour later. I popped by Mr. Jerk for some takeout supper (they have really great jerk pork) and headed for home.

The night being young, I rented a couple of movies. While watching the first one - smart people - I started thinking about acting. It's funny how we take things for granted. We just expect actors to portray a complete range of emotions, to inhabit other peoples' lives even in a so-so movie like smart people. I couldn't imagine doing that.

I mean that. I truly couldn't imagine acting in a movie, portraying the life of a character, displaying someone else's emotions. I tell people I took grade 13 drama because I had run out of english classes to take and they usually chuckle. It sounds absurd but it's actually true. I liked the writing part of it a lot, though, and that's about the only reason why I got a decent grade.

Man, it's a beautiful day out there. Yesterday was a day of cleaning and puttering about. Today, I think I will grab my camera and go for a long work.