Friday, October 31, 2008

Just in Case You didn't Think I was a Geek

Yesterday I completed a Google Picture meme. The last question asked What is the first thing you would buy if you had a million dollars? My answer was this:

While that answer is generally correct, the more specific response would be:
What do you get for the man who has everything? A freaking big dictionary.

Found Music

I've been digging through boxes of cds looking for the Rocky Horror soundtrack. What can I say? It's Friday, it's Halloween and I'm a geek - kind of a perfect storm, as it were. Anyways, while digging through the discs, I've dug out a number of discs I really haven't listened to in far too long. So while I currently have Rocky Horror playing, it will soon give way to some music I haven't listened to in far too long.

This, then, is my playlist of the neglected:

1. Mazzy Star - So Tonight That I Might See

2. The Beta Band - The Three E.P.'s

3. Johnny Cash - The Sun Years

4. Cat Power - What Would The Community Think

There's more, but I do have to go to work today.

So, what discs have you been neglecting lately?

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Meme on the Beach

The Bad Tempered Zombie ( has tagged me in a meme. Rather than anger a zombie this close to Halloween, I have decided to complete the Google Image meme. For this meme, I apparently have to answer the questions with images I google. Here goes:

1. The age you'll be on your next birthday -

2. A place you would like to travel to -

Kyrgyzstan - Saw it on an episode of lonely planet once and always wanted to go.
3. Your Favourite Place -

The North Shore of Lake Superior

4. Your Favourite Food -

The Hoito, in Thunder Bay, has the world's best pancakes.

5. Your favourite pet -
A tough one, as I live a petless existence. Here is the closest I've come lately -

Last spring, I was accompanied to New York by this monkey (who is still known as monkey, I believe). We took the Staten Island Ferry, went to MOMA, a Rangers game walked the Brooklyn Bridge and hung out in Times Square. The monkey now hangs out with my 5 year old neice up in the north country. I made a little book of it for her.

I cheated on this one. While I could have eventually found it through google (it's on my blog somewhere, it was just easier to get it off the hard drive.

6. Your favourite colour combination -

7. Favourite piece of clothing -

8. All Time Favourite Song -

Vision of Johanna - B. Dylan

9. Favourite TV Show -

10. First name of significant other / crush:
I'm going to have to pass on this one.

11. The place where you live:

12. Your screen name / nickname:

I used my blog name.

13. Your first job -

14. Your Dream Job -

15. A bad habit you have -

It's not the reading, it's the buying.

16. Your worst fear -
What can I say? The Zombie already had blindness so I'll fall back on my fear of the Leafs winning another cup. Of course, sudden total blindness is probably much more likely to occur.

17. One thing you would like to do before dying -

Other than dabble in immortality, I guess it's this -

Circling the globe without taking a plane. Starting with the QM2 to London.

18. The first thing you'd buy if you had a million dollars -
I'm sure I'd think of lots of other things, but I know myself too well to think I wouldn't be making a trip to the bookstore sometime shortly after the windfall.
Now it's time for a bagel and coffee. Thankfully, I live less than a five minute walk from 4 Starbucks and about a three minute walk from What A Bagel, home to Toronto's best bagels.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Stealing from Ninjas Again.

Paint like the master. Give it a shot. Alas, I haven't found a way to drop cigarette butts and other stuff onto the canvas. Other than that, it works fine. This link was lifted from the ninjas' hangout ( while they were out doing what ninjas do.

While I'm at it, I might as well offer up a few more cool links: - an amazing collection of Rheos concerts to download. They always were a great live band. - a list of all the radio stations in the Toronto area with frequencies. Handy for someone like me who can never remember the university stations' frequencies when I go looking for something different. The site can be toggled back and forth between english and esperanto which is about as random as it gets, I guess. - if you want to know how long your long walk was, try this. - where hermits hang out. Just don't tell anyone. They don't want to lose their hermit cred.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

101 for the Year / a revelation

This is my 101'st post for this year. Where does the time go?

Anyways, I was playing with itunes genius. On a whim, I started a playlist with a Beatles tune. Usually, this draws a blank. For a while, genius did not seem to be able to work with Beatles. Today, it worked perfectly. Hm. . .

It's still not the greatest thing since sliced bread, but genius just got a whole lot better now that it recognizes the best pop band of all time.

Getting all Sarah Palin-y. . .

Don't worry. I'm not wearing a skirt and spouting folksy gibberish (now there's a visual I'm not sure the universe is prepared for). I'm actually just conducting a cull of my library. I've gone hunting for all the crappy books that have taken up space for too long (some since high school). (I guess hunting for books is sort of like hunting for moose. . . ) At the same time, I'm also hunting for some of the merely ok books I'm not likely to open again. It's been somewhat painful, but I'm feeling better now. Now I just need to find a place for the carcasses to go. I'll probably check with the local library first.

So now I'm taking a break. I'm listening to The Rat Pack Live at the Sands and wishing I had a martini. And a cigar. Though I don't smoke and rarely drink. The persuasive power of music. . .

Went out to a reading at Harbourfront last night. 5 authors - 3 Canucks, 1 Yank and 1 Brit. I went mainly to see Richard Russo - who was good - but I was blown away by Rohinton Mistry. What a wonderful reading voice. It was magical.

Listening to a writer read his or her work - especially a favourite writer - is always a crap shoot. As much as I love his work, my appreciation of Bukowski took a hit the first time I heard him read. There was just no connection between the voice coming from the speakers and the voice I heard in my mind (of course, watching him fly into a rage and kick his girlfriend during an interview didn't help matters much, either).

With Mistry, it went the other way. You just knew you were in the presence of a natural storyteller. It's a good thing he was the last one to read because there was no way anyone could follow him and not seem like a total bore.

Afterwards, I proved yet again just how big a geek I am. For reasons I don't really understand, I get starstruck meeting favourite authors. It happened last summer when I saw Sherman Alexie read. When I went up to talk to him after the reading, I just clammed up. Any semblance of eloquence left me and I stuttered and stammered and just barely managed to say I loved his work. True, my goal was to tell him I loved his work and to basically thank him for writing these books, but I did it in pretty much the most awkward, embarrassing way possible.

Last night was a little better, but not much. I waited until all the people with books to be signed had got them signed (I hadn't really thought far enough ahead to bring my tattered copies of Mohawk or Straight Man with me) and went up to talk to Richard Russo.

Richard Russo is one of my all-time favourite authors. He writes the sort of novels that I truly get lost in, big stories about not so big people living mostly in small towns and cities. He's a yarn spinner and I look forward to a new Russo novel in much the same way I look forward to a new Irving.

You would think that, having read all his books, I could come up with something at least a little bit interesting to say. You would be wrong. I got nervous. My mouth went a little dry. I had to content myself with tossing off a few lines about loving his work (kind of obvious) and how I look forward to his next one (well, duh).

Next time, I should probably just write a letter.

The upside is he told me he should have a new book out next year (which is surprisingly quick for him).

What's Playing

The evil genius behind Bad Tempered Zombie ( has found a cruel and dastardly way to keep me from my apartment cleaning. She completed the Top 25 Most Played Songs meme and posted the results on her blog. Now I must take very important dusting time and spend it listing my 25. Curses.

Of course, this list is skewed for a number of reasons. The biggest reason is that my ipod is mostly full of entire albums ripped from cds I own. As such, a lot of songs get played because they are on cds I like, even if they aren't favourites.

That's just as well. Listing my personal top 25 would be a far more difficult and foolish task. Whenever I contemplate doing a full-on, all-time top 5, 10 or 25, I just think of Rob from High Fidelity (the book or the movie) and realize that a) it would take far too much time and b) it would never wind up totally right. So I'll let itunes offer up a list that isn't too embarrassing and leave it at that.

Without further ado, I offer up my top 25 and the number of times played:

1. Atlantic City by Bruce Springsteen (46)
2. Long Haired Child by Devendra Banhart (40)
3. Long Way Home by Tom Waits (38)
4. My Sweet Relief by Martin Tielli (36)
5. Mansion on the Hill by Bruce Springsteen (33)
6. This Lamb Sells Condos by Final Fantasy (33)
7. Lua by Bright Eyes (32)
8. Just Like A Woman by Nina Simone (Dylan cover) (32)
9. True Patriot Love by Joel Plaskett (30)
10. Poor Little Rich Boy by Regina Spektor (30)
11. Nebraska by Bruce Springsteen (29)
12. The Bridge by Elliott Brood (29)
13. So Everyone by Bonnie "Prince" Billy (27)
14. Johnny 99 by Bruce Springsteen (27)
15. Irving Berlin by Ian Tyson (27)
16. Ode to Divorce by Regina Spektor (25)
17. Samson by Regina Spektor (24)
18. In Your Head by Jim Chevalier (22)
19. Double X by Martin Tielli (22)
20. Plea From a Cat Named Virtue by The Weakerthans (22)
21. Highway Patrolman by Bruce Springsteen (21)
22. Bridges and Balloons by Joanna Newsom (21)
23. Fidelity by Regina Spector (21)
24. Rehab by Amy Winehouse (20)
25. State Trooper by Bruce Springsteen (20)

Can you tell I went through a serious Nebraska phase at one point? Where would we be without itunes to record that I have played Bruce Springsteen's Atlantic City a whopping 46 times?

I am pleased to note that my friend Jim makes the list at a very respectable 18'th place.

And now it's time to get back to the housework.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Sometimes Real News. . .

. . . Is as funny as fake news:

Only 2 more weeks of this hilarity left.

Monday, October 20, 2008

McCain Trapped on a Bus. . .

With the Daily Show, Colbert and the Onion to keep us informed, why do we even have mainstream media?

John McCain Accidentally Left On Campaign Bus Overnight

I couldn't resist one more. How cute.

Precocious Youngster Sells Cookies To Buy Attack Ad

Top Five Favourite Country Music Songwriters

A quick list. I initially wanted to explain it all but soon realized there is no point. You either love country or you don't. I do.

Instead, I'll offer up a favourite song for each.

1. Kris Kristofferson - Sunday Morning Coming Down

2. Willie Nelson - Hello Walls

3. Billie Joe Shaver - Old Five and Dimers

4. Lefty Frizzell - If you've got the money, I've got the time

5. Ian Tyson - Irving Berlin (is 100 years old today)

Canuck Book 5 - The Flying Troutmans by Miriam Toews

I was never really sold on A Complicated Kindness, Toews' breakout GG winner. The premise was good but the story never grabbed me.

When I first heard about The Flying Troutmans, I had a feeling that this one would be different and it was. A road story of the highest order, this book is a real charmer. The only reason why I'm glad to be done this book is that I was getting tired of missing my bus and subway stops on the way to and from work.

The story deals with the 15 year old son and 11 year old daughter of a woman who has been hospitalized because of mental illness. Their 28 year old aunt returns home from Paris and a failed relationship to take care of them. Soon enough, they are on a transcontinental road trip in search of the father that was forced out years ago by the mother.

It sounds like a road movie in the Little Miss Sunshine vein and it plays out that way. Thankfully, Toews is such a good writer that the story doesn't slide into cliche and pat solutions. Instead, she hits all the right notes so well that you can't help but falling under the spell of this bittersweet tale. The ending will not come as a shock but that's beside the point. A good road trip is all about the journey, not the destination and this book is no different.

I read the last 20 pages or so in a rush last Friday because I didn't want to take a book up north with me that I would be finished with so soon. After I finished it, though, I still wound up carting it up north because I realized a book like this demands to be shared amongst friends and families. So I took the book up north and now it's my sister's turn to take the trip.

Friday, October 17, 2008

The Soundtrack for My Friday Night

Had to rinse the dirty taste of politics out of my mouth by offering up something a little lighter. As such, here is my soundtrack for this Friday night while I do laundry and get ready for a trip up north:

1. Help Me Make It Through the Night - Kris Kristofferson - one of my all-time favourite songwriters. One of my favourite songs.

2. String Bean Jean - Belle and Sebastien - I've become a B&S junkie and I'm not afraid to admit it.

3. Easy Does It - Bonnie Prince Billy - My friend Ezio turned me on to Mr. Oldham's wonderful music. It took me a while to fall under the spell, but I did.

4. Tank Park Salute - Billy Bragg - I put this on a mixed cd I recently made for a friend and now I can't stop listening to it.

5. Angel of Lyon - Tom Russell - Americana never sounded so good. My foot stomps and my heart soars just thinking of it.

6. Willow Tree - Chad Vangaalen - Barbara is right. He is great.

7. Born On a Train - Magnetic Fields - Oddly perfect pop is what they do and this is both odd and perfect.

8. Most of the Time (alternate version) - Bob Dylan - Even his outtakes are golden.

9. Famous Blue Raincoat - Leonard Cohen - The weather turns cold and my heart turns to old Cohen songs for sustenance.

10. The Needle Has Landed - Neko Case - What a voice.

11. Country Road - Forest City Lovers - Saw this band at Word on the Street. Fantastic.

12. He Stopped Loving Her Today - Johnny Cash - George Jones does do it better, but this one, with Cash's aged voice and simple accompaniment, is a gem in its own right.

So, what are you listening to right now?

The Canuck Election or Safe and Sorry

The good news is that Harper lost. Sure, they will spin it by saying they expected to win a minority but they are just lying to themselves. And us. There was nothing to be gained from this little exercise if all they wanted was another minority. For all his faults, Harper is far too smart to do something that foolish. Fortunately for the rest of us, even a smart man is not immune to hubris. That is why we are sending another minority back to Ottawa.

The irony is that this minority victory is a very bitter defeat for Harper. He picked the right moment - before our economy starts to follow the American economy over the ledge - and faced a Liberal leader that was even less charismatic than he is. Add to this the fact that Dion was bound and determined to chase a grand unpopular ideal in his green shift and you had a victory that even the foot in mouth conservatives couldn't screw up. But they did.

As for the green shift, here are my thoughts. The world is a mess right now. Something needs to change or we will watch our affluent lifestyle slowly slide away. For better or worse, the green shift was a shot in the dark, an attempt to jumpstart us and point us towards a better future. Sure, there were some ugly realities tied up in the plan. It was going to cost us a lot. It was going to make things harder before they got easier. It was going to force a society accustomed to ease and convenience to work a little harder, do a little more. What's more, even then we couldn't be sure it would work.

The one thing we can be sure of, though, is that we can't take much more of the status quo. Even ignoring global warming - which far too many people seem willing to do - we have created a terrible mess with our willingness to pollute. Drugs in the drinking water. Smog related respiratory problems. Dangerous chemicals being found even in baby bottles. We haven't just paved paradise, we've paved everything else as well.

You have to give Dion some credit. At least he tried something different, even if it was political suicide. He at least tried to show some vision and daring - two qualities that are sorely lacking in most politicians these days - even if it fell apart. Of course, one of the main reasons why his vision and daring went unappreciated is because he really is not a leader. A smart man, yes. A leader, no. It wasn't just the language issue. Even with his much mocked accent, Chretien could still make himself understood. Not that I'm a great Chretien supporter, but one has to admit that he was a politician and a somewhat adept one at that. As a politician, Dion made a good academic.

When it came to choosing between the Cons and the Libs, it really was about choosing between safe for now and prepping for the future. Canada chose safe for now. Me? I chose neither, but that's another story. . .

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

That is the sound of Hank Williams rolling over in his grave. . .

I think we have a new contender for worst desecration of a parent's musical legacy ever. At least that Monday Night Football song he did was as easy to avoid as it was to ignore. Now Hank Williams Jr. has redone one of his forgettable "hits" into a creepy hymn to Palin-McCain:

I can only assume he is referring to Palin as the "hey good-looking dish" but I refuse to be surprised any more. Furthermore, if that's what everyday Americans want to listen to, then I'm glad to be a far from everyday Canuck.

Since when did "country" music become about rich white people shilling for rich white people? How did we go from "I'm so lonesome I could cry" to "the bankers didn't want to make all those broken loans"? I love country music. Cash and Nelson and Wells and Williams all get heavy play on my ipod. I love the newer alt country acts, the ones you would read about in the sadly defunct No Depression magazine. I love the older stuff - the Carter Family, shape note singers, bluegrass pickers. There is a rawness to the music that floors me in much the same way that the best blues does.

This song has none of that. It's clumsy and childish. If that's the best that McPalin can come up with, they might as well just stop now.

This rant was brought to you by the letter "G". Underused by Republicans for 8 years and counting.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Nuit Blanche or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Art

Last night, I went out at midnight to take in Nuit Blanche. They bill it as an all night contemporary art thing and they are dead on the money. It's a night of wandering all over downtown taking in art in all its many forms. It's a truly wonderful event. It runs from sunset to sunrise and the crowds are positively huge. It's all these people of all ages from all walks of life taking a night to enjoy art.

Like all the best art things, there were things I loved, things I didn't, things I thought were cool and things I just did not understand.

Wandering around downtown, taking in both the crowds and the installations, I had a lot of time to think about art. Recently, our wonderfully forward thinking conservative government cut a bunch of arts funding because "normal people don't care about art". I would argue that, due to the ignorance of modern politicians, normal people have not been given proper exposure to art, but what would I know? Of course, a night like last night goes a long way to proving the conservatives wrong.

I don't get it when people sneer at art because they don't understand it. As if they need to completely understand everything to make it worthwhile. What a ridiculous notion. I mean, I don't understand how my microwave works but, with a little faith and a few instructions, I can have a bowl of popcorn in three minutes.

Then there's the internet. This morning I wrote a letter to a friend in New Zealand. Due to the wonders of modern technology, I just expect that she will read the message the next time she turns her computer on. Do I understand how that works? Not really. Does this lack of understanding impact my ability to use and enjoy the internet? No more than not understanding how my remote controls works affects my ability to watch the hockey game on Saturday night.

Understanding is over-rated. I always go back to what Ian Tyson said about Ondaatje's novel Divisadero in a Globe and Mail Interview - "I love that book. I don't understand it, but I love it." That's how I feel about some truly great art. That's how I feel about some truly great poetry and novels and music. I have never been afraid to be mystified. Sometimes I try to unravel the mystery. Sometimes I leave it be.

There are a lot of things I don't understand about art. There always will be. This does not stop me from going out and experiencing it. Why should it? I believe that arts and culture are the backbone of a society, a touchstone for the people and a way of recording who we are. After all, what would we know about the ancient Romans or Greeks, if not for art?

Last night proved that I am not alone. Last night showed that even in an age when people are finding less reasons to go out - what with the internet and home theatre systems - that we are still social creatures and that we still communicate best through art.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

If I do buy a book in the near future. . .

. . . it will probably be this:

Alas, I have bought far too many books recently. My TBR pile is on the shortlist to become the eighth wonder of the modern world so I will have to put it on hold for a while.

Besides, with all the elections happening recently, I am getting more than my fill of primate ponderings just by watching the news. On that note, won't someone please toss Tucker Carlson a banana so he will have something to stuff in his mouth other than his foot?

Just a thought. . .

Night and Day

One question. Two candidates.

Argh. . .

(unfortunately you have to sit through an ad, but it's worth the wait)