Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Beatles, Billy and Belle. . .

Got in an order of discs from Drag City Records. I will now spend the weekend getting acquainted with Will Oldham's Palace era output. Kind of a Christmas gift to self.

If the name doesn't ring a bell, Will Oldham is the ridiculously prolific man behind Palace, Palace Music, Palace Brothers and Bonnie Prince Billy. It's alt-countryish stuff that just kills me. Any good cd collection should have the BPB album I See A Darkness. Lie Down in the Light, his album from this year was almost as good. He's got a new album coming out this spring.

The last couple of days have been my own kind of Beatles revival. I'm listening to Help! right now and marvelling anew at how freaking good they were. I could fill a desert island list with Beatles albums, actually wind up on a desert island and never get bored.

And now I will leave you with a video. Books, Scottish pop icons and pretty women. . . What's not to love?

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

An admission. . .

I'm starting to like both House and Trailer Park Boys. Hooray for reruns on Showcase.

Monday, December 22, 2008

A Weekend in the Country - Some Notes

Spent the weekend in the north country with the whole family and the niece. Way too much snow but it made for great tobogganing. I'm really glad I bought some good winter boots last week. Last year, for my one foray out into the snow, I made do with about 3 pairs of work socks in a pair of doc martens and, while it was okay on a mild day, it wouldn't have worked this year. Instead, I now have a pair of Baffin boots that are amazing.
My mother's pride and joy is sadly not me; it's her cookstove. It worked wonders over the weekend keeping everyone toasty warm. There's nothing better than wood heat, especially on a cold day.

For the first time in a long time, we had all six family members around for a game of pictionary. Much hilarity ensued. You can have your home theatres and your satellite dishes. A good board or card game with friends and family is much more fun. And cheaper too.

While I was up there, I finished Anne Fadiman's Ex Libris. It's a book of essays for book lovers. Serious book lovers. The sort of people who consider a road trip to a used bookstore a romantic birthday outing (I mean, who doesn't?). I loved it. From the difficulty of combining libraries with a spouse's to the joys of reading a book in the location where it is set, Fadiman offers up a great little collection that I will definitely enjoy revisiting from time to time.

I love living in the city and I really can't imagine living anywhere else. A break in the country, though, is a lot of fun and it ended far too quick. Thankfully, I only have three days of work and I'll be heading back up there.
My father in his front yard:

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Still waiting for Andrew Dice Clay's children's book

Why not? Everyone else has one.

Made a trip to Mabel's Fables, a wonderful children's bookstore over on Mount Pleasant, to pick up some books for my niece. I've been going there for almost six years now. Coincidentally, my niece also happens to be almost six.

The only problem with a store full of kids books is that you begin to realize how many celebrities have used their celeb powers to write children's books. Sadly, even Bob Dylan has fallen into this trap.

If you're looking for a vanity project, why not take up painting and leave the helpless children alone? The books I remember from my childhood were all written by authors, not moonlighting celebs. The reason for this? Good writing is just as difficult when you are dealing with kids. It only looks easy because the good writers do it so well.

Must be going now. More Christmas shopping and then I'm heading north for the weekend where I will get to hang with the aforementioned niece.

Have a good weekend.

Canuck Book 6 - The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway

A couple of years ago, I picked up a remaindered copy of Ascension, a novel by Steven Galloway. The story deals with an aging tightrope walker. For whatever reason, I still haven't gotten around to reading it. It always lingers somewhere near the top of my to be read pile but never quite breaks free.

Something tells me that will change soon. After reading Galloways latest, I'm definitely going to go back to Ascension. After that, I'll likely pick up his first novel, Finnie Walsh, as well.

The Cellist of Sarjevo is an incredible book. Taking the real life person of the cellist as a starting point, Galloway weaves a tale of three very different people as they struggle with the enormous task of trying to remain human in very inhuman times.

In response to the senseless death of twenty-two people waiting in line for bread, the cellist would perform Albinoni’s Adagio in the street where the deaths occured. He performed the piece once a day for twenty-two days (once for each person killed in the bombing).

The novel follows the life a baker, a father and a sniper who are all caught in a city under siege. Directly or indirectly, their lives wind up being affected by the cellist and what he stands for.

Everything about this book rings true, from the fear and paranoia to the random thoughts that goes through one's mind in spite or because of the horror one faces. One can't help but marvel at such a well told story.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

The Bible in Lego

My favourite part is the content notice:

"The Bible contains material some may consider morally objectionable and/or inappropriate for children. These labels identify stories containing: N = nudity S = sexual content V = violence C = cursing"

Lets see the book banners ban this book.

Lazy Man's Stalking

Earlier this week, I posted a link to a site that profiles writers' working spaces.

Today, I'm checking out peoples' listening preferences. It's a sad compulsion but it's a dreary Sunday morning so what else was I going to do?

The story is this - I was checking out the new Nina Simone set put out by Legacy Recordings, deciding if I really needed another four disc's of music, when I saw a sidebar thing offering up classic celebrity playlists by a wide assortment of celebrities, including William Shatner. I couldn't resist seeing what Captain Kirk is listening to so I followed the links and eventually got bounced over to itunes american site where there are pages of these playlists with short notes for each song.

The results? Interesting to say the least. The most boring ones are the people who play it too straight. R.E.M.'s list is exactly what you'd think R.E.M.'s list would be. As is Kevin Costner's. And Diablo Cody's. Blah.

There were some interesting things:

Kelly Ripa, of all people, has enough odd stuff (Broken Social Scene, Massive Attack, Nick Drake) to make you think she wasn't just offering up a token indie tune to look cool.

Jimmy Kimmel offered up Cyndi Lauper's Time After Time.

Chris Rock listens to the White Strips, Red Hot Chili Peppers and The Cure.

Mike Myers likes the Magnetic Fields. It still doesn't excuse The Love Guru, but it's a start.

Margaret Cho wants to join Broken Social Scene. (actually, BSS gets cited by a number of celebrities)

Turns out I'm not the only one listening to this Joni Mitchell person. She's probably the most widely cited artist out there.

U2's One is probably the most cited song.

As for athletes, Giants' pitcher Barry Zito listens to Jeff Buckley and only one hockey player cited The Tragically Hip.

Julie Delpy cites the Clash, Bowie, Neil Young and Elliot Smith among others. But, then again, she could cite the phone book. . .

Rufus Wainwright citing Kurt Weill is kind of expected. Citing songs by mom and sis but not dad is interesting.

The absolute worst list is by Poison. Citing the song Sexyback and the band Nickleback will never bring the hits back. Citing two of your own songs is just sad.

Thom Yorke (calm down, Ms. Zombie) gives instructions on how his list is to be played.

There's plenty of Beach Boys on Brain Wilson's list, but, oddly or not, no Beatles. Probably still a sore spot.

Cat Stevens citing Sufjan Stevens' Chicago just seems like a perfect choice.

If you're looking for the playlists, go to the itunes store and search for celebrity playlists. It will come up in the 'related' box. For a bigger selection, switch to the US itunes store first.

I really should get a hobby or something.

Doing Leonard Cohen

Last night I finally got off my but and did something I've been meaning to do for a while - I went to the theatre. It's kind of like going to the TSO or the Opera in that I always say I want to go but then just don't bother.

Now I'm kicking myself. You see, my only real exposure to plays come from seeing a big production with a big name at some big theatre. I saw Judd Hirsch as Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman at the Royal Alex. I saw the guy who played John Boy Walton in 12 Angry Men at the Princess of Wales Theatre. I saw a Mamet play down on Broadway with Nathan Lane.

Last night I went to see Doing Leonard Cohen at the Young Centre down in the Distillery District. Not a traditional play, the first act is a series of interpretations of short Cohen poems. The second act distills and deconstructs Beautiful Losers, Cohen's second novel.

I went on a whim and was blown away. The only time I'd ever seen a play in such an intimate setting before was when I spent a few days enjoying the Winnipeg Fringe Festival while hitchhiking to Vancouver in the early 90's. I forgot what a magical experience it can be to watch people perform and not feel like you're a million miles away and entirely divorced from the action.

The play, itself, was a blast. They really played up a lot of the humour of Cohen's work, dividing the work between the actors and bringing the works to life in incredible ways. There was a sheer physicality to the production that I wouldn't have imagined to be possible with Cohen's work.

Just to prove it isn't just about the Stampede, Chad Vangaalen and a Zombie, the troupe performing the play, One Yellow Rabbit, is based in Calgary. One of their next productions will be an adaptation of Dave Bidini's hockey erotica, The Five Hole Stories. Apparently, they will be touring with the Rheostatics providing live music!

I think I'm going to have to check this theatre thing out more often.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Friends / MuchMusic Redux

You know how old I am? I'm old enough to remember when MuchMusic actually played videos. I'm even old enough to remember them playing some pretty cool indie videos, something that would never happen nowadays.

They even played a video by my friends' band, Chewy. At least once. And someone had a vcr running.

Now it's on youtube. Probably doesn't resonate as well for anyone who didn't go to high school in Sarnia in the early 90's but that's ok.

I will now reminisce . . .

Monday, December 08, 2008

Guilty Pleasures

I spent this weekend organizing things. Saturday, I put together a bookshelf. Sunday, I put together a massive cd rack that now holds my entire collection (with room for more). It's almost too big. My 19 inch tv just looked small before; now it looks tiny.

Anyways, the new bookshelf is in the living room. While I don't have too many people over, I did want to make sure that the books I leave on display are a decent representation of what I read (or what I want people to think I read, at least). It may be the sort of vanity that only a geek would engage in, but it was vanity nonetheless.

So there might be a little more poetry on the new shelf than in the rest of the collection, more capital L literature than I'd normally have. Also, there are no guilty pleasures.

Guilty pleasures. We all have them. I mean, one can't read Joyce and Tolstoy every day, can they? So there are the books that don't make it onto the shelf. If they do, they wind up in a bottom corner or "haphazardly" placed so the spine can't be easily read.

I'm talking about genre fiction, the pulp novels one reads. The harlequins and spy novels, Harry Potters and Tom Clancy's. Candy books is the way I look at them - they provide a quick rush but are just as quickly forgotten. We all have them.

The one good thing about moving last spring is that most of my guilty pleasures didn't quite make it along for the ride. I went through my collection and got rid of most of the books I'm not likely to touch again. So gone are the Andrew Vachss novels. Also gone are the Harry Potters (happily, they wound up in the hands of a young family at my old building).

Which makes things a little tougher for me. I wanted to talk about guilty pleasures but my shelves are fairly bare of them. This won't last for long, of course.

On closer inspection, I did manage to dredge up two prime examples of the guilty pleasure - Slash's autobiography and Pamela Des Barres groupie tell all "I'm With The Band". What can I say? I grew up listening to 80's metal and 60's and 70's rock. They're prime examples of the guilty pleasure - books that were enjoyable but that I'm not likely to namedrop in a conversation (but I'm willing to blog about them. . . ).

But there I go justifying things when I really shouldn't have to. Do I feel the need to justify myself if I watch a sitcom instead of a documentary?

Sometimes I like to read trash. I'm not one for manifestos or slogans but that is mine for today. And sometimes I like to get paid for work. And they won't pay me unless I show up. And I'm running late so I will leave it at that.

One last thing. Now that I've offered up a couple of my ink and paper indulgences, I'm curious. What have you been reading?

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Something new. . .

I finally got my new bookcase put together. Things are a lot less cluttered at my place (for now). I didn't really do much in the way of organizing but I did devote one whole shelf to books of letters and I almost filled it (I needed John Cheever's short stories and his journals to totally fill the shelf).

I also made sure to group my WPA guides together. It wasn't hard today as I only have three so far (New York City, California and Wisconsin). Eventually, I'd like to track down the whole set. They were guidebooks written by the Federal Writers Project of the Works Progress Administration during the depression. Not only are they a wealth of interesting facts about 30's USA, they are also great to read. Many of the writers went on to have impressive writing careers after the depression.

The rest is a jumble in the best possible way. Poetry, prose, fiction, nonfiction all stuffed together. Now I just need to do the same for my cds. . .

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

I really don't want to do this. . .

I'm tired of political rants. We had a good summer and fall of politicking and I'm almost full up. I want to wipe my mouth and push away from the table, grab a coffee and devote my time to something more interesting.

But the political stuff keeps coming. Harper is flailing about and trying to do what he normally does when pressed - duck, weave and avoid the questions he doesn't want to answer.

Before you start to believe the conservative party line about some grand 'socialist/separatist conspiracy', consider this:

The conservative parties floated the notion of coalitions with the bloc twice in the last decade.

The supposed proof of this conspiracy was taken from a phone call recorded surreptitiously and then made public. If the government is willing to do this just to score points, where will they stop? Not terribly democratic.

The root of this crisis lays in an economic framework that did nothing to help the economy. What it did do was A) stripped workers of their right to strike without reason and B) attempted to strip the opposition of any ability to oppose the conservatives in an election. For a party that talks so much about 'democracy', they sure don't back up their talk.

A coalition is not unconstitutional. Nor is it undemocratic. In fact, it may be the only way for government to act effectively and in the interest of all Canadians. We've had two Harper governments that talk about co-operation and then do anything but. A coalition forces the sort of cooperation that Harper would never dream of engaging in.

Argh. . .

Monday, December 01, 2008

Song Titles. . .

I bought an album Saturday based on song titles alone. I couldn't help it. After a jazzy morning, I was flipping through the jazz racks at Sonic Boom (which is fast becoming my favourite music store) and chanced upon Mingus' Let My Children Hear Music.

How can you not buy an album whose opening cut is "The shoes of the fisherman's wife are some jive ass slippers"? My second favourite track? "Don't be afraid, the clown's afraid too".


I also walked out of there with Otis Redding's Otis Blue. Dead at 26. What a horrible waste.

Time for bed. Good night all.