Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Road Trip / New Dylan

So I'm checking out the Dylan webpage. His new album comes out today so I'll be making the postwork trek to Soundscapes. Or perhaps Sonic Boom, which is usually less punishing to my wallet.

Anyways, Bob is touring this summer with Willie Nelson and John Mellencamp. Now I'm not the biggest Mellencamp fan, but I am a big fan of both Dylan and Willie. It looks like this is going to be another summer of smaller cities and ball parks and sadly no Canadian dates.

The last time I saw Bob and Willie play was the summer of my aneurysm. My father and I drove down to Cooperstown to see them play at Doubleday Field. We also spent a night in Syracuse, saw the Skychiefs play (Toronto's AAA affiliate) and had a great time traipsing through upstate New York. What a beautiful area. It was a great trip.

Since then, we've kept talking about making another trip to the area. Not necessarily to Cooperstown - the baseball hall of fame is actually kind of dull what with its wall after wall of baseballs that all kind of look alike - but to upstate New York. Of course, it doesn't hurt that we're both big fans of Richard Russo's novels. So many of them are set in the area.

For one reason or another (mostly work), it just hasn't panned out. This summer, though, I'm thinking it might. There's a concert in Syracuse on the first Friday of my vacation in July. My father is recently retired so work shouldn't be an issue for him. If we can find a ball game in the area, all the better.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Canuck Book 9 - Come, Thou Tortoise by Jessica Grant

The short review goes like this - go out and read this book. You will not be disappointed.

The longer review would deal with the fact that this is a book about a woman who didn't score so well on an IQ test who returns home to Newfoundland to be with her sick father and then has to unravel the mystery of who her family is. There's also a rock climber, a man with one arm longer than the other, a Christmas light maker and a really smart tortoise. What more could one want?

Friday, April 24, 2009

Playing Around At The Homestead

I knew if I took a walk up the stream by my parents' place in the spring, I'd get some decent shots:

Another month or two and it will be mostly gone for another year.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Michael Pollan

I mentioned in my last post about reading Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma. If you want to get an idea of what his ideas about food, check this out:


Something Interesting And Far Too True

I've been spending some time lately reading and thinking about food. I'm working through both Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma and Mark Bittman's Food Matters: A Guide to Conscious Eating. After that I plan on reading Pollan's In Defense of Food. It's some sobering reading. I don't even like corn on the cob but it looks as though a huge percentage of my diet is, in fact, corn.

Basically, I'm trying to figure out why, after all this time, I'm still far too quick to opt for the unhealthy foods. Sure, I've made great strides when it comes to sweets. That's a good thing. What I haven't done is made any sort of meaningful strides when it comes to processed meats, white flour and sodium, three areas in which most of us could do with a habit change.

So, I'm picking up the books I once kind of avoided. Avoided? Yup. Basically I didn't want to hear what these writers were saying. Out of sight, out of mind, as it were. Which is a shame because I do like these books. Both of them are well written and contain a lot of those a-ha moments where you read something and then wonder why you never realized this or thought about that. I'm also left a little nervous (how are we going to get out of this mess?) and a whole lot pissed off (how can an elected government opt for the oil and industrial food business at the expense of the health of their citizens?).

I'm not predicting any earth shattering changes for myself, though I'm going to try. I kind of like the simplicity of the mantra on the cover of Pollan's In Defense of Food - Eat Food. Not too much. Mostly plants.

The catch is that most of the stuff you find in the grocery store is not food. Pollan refers to all the processed stuff as food like substances. Sounds extreme, but it really isn't. It's surprisingly and scarily prevalent. Just look at Wonder Bread and its "enriched white loaf". Think about what they have done. They have taken good healthy grain and sapped it of all nutritional value. After doing that, the inject the product with nutrients to replace the ones lost when they sapped it of all nutritional value. And then they market this atrocity as a smart choice for kids. Nice.

As always, once you start thinking about something, it's amazing how much info. starts to pop up that you missed before. For instance, I was doing my morning scan of the Huffington Post and found this article:

How Unhealthy Foods Hijack Our Brains

So that's what's on my mind today.

ps - On Newsworld, it looks as though poor little Dow Chemical is going to fight the Ontario pesticide ban because they are being treated unfairly. I'm shedding real tears here. It's just not fair that we want to keep them from unnaturally warping the environment with chemicals. I feel for them.

Perez Hilton versus the Beauty Queen

I'm sure you've likely heard of this one by now. Slimeball Perez Hilton asks aspiring Miss USA about gay marriage. She answers in the negative. Hilton feels that's what cost her the crown. Yada. Yada. Yada.

I don't know who annoys me the most from this exchange:

On the one hand, you have the beauty queen who says that the great thing about America is that you can have it both ways, same sex and opposite sex marriage. She follows this up by contradicting herself, saying that, in her America (Amoronica?), only opposite sex marriages should be allowed. And goldarnit, that's just the way she was raised. So, apparently, the great thing about the States is you are free to believe exactly what she believes. Cue brave I stayed true to myself smile.

Um, yeah. . .

Before you think this is a clear cut case, though, I think you should ask yourself what Hilton was doing asking this question anyways? At it's best, it's a cheap shot. He asked her a loaded question about a divisive topic hoping for her to stumble. When she did, he gloated in front of any camera that would point his way. Maybe I'm wrong but I just don't see what the question has to do with winning a beauty pageant. As sad as it is to admit it, she would have likely annoyed just as many people if she had voiced support for gay marriage. Not a pleasant thought but it's probably true.

I'm not saying it should be a divisive topic. It seems ridiculous to me that, in this day and age, people still get so hung up about such a non-issue. But they do. I guess the conservatives find it easier to fight the imaginary evil of homosexuality rather than face the very real evil of, say, global warming.

I think I have to stop watching american news. It's too depressing. With all the revelations this past week about the use of torture, it's kind of sickening that people are spending so much time worrying about a spat between a pagent contestant and an attention whore.

Other than that, it's been a good day.

Update from the next day: Yup, I do appreciate the irony of this post in light of that paragraph about american news. What can I say? It was far too late at night / early in the morning when the post was written.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Sun didn't come up but it's Tuesday morning nonetheless

On Record Store day, I made a postwork trip to Soundscapes and picked up Joel Plaskett's latest, Three. I highly recommend it to one and all. It's just freaking good.

I was also looking for something to add to my soul section, so I picked up The Best of Jimmy Hughes. Hughes, apparently, was a preacher turned soul singer who recorded at Muscle Shoals in the early to mid 60's. I'd never heard of him before. The disc is fantastic - a great mix of ballads and uptempo soul that just rocks. If your foot doesn't start tapping while listening to this, you'd better go to a doctor.

One more week until the new Dylan album comes out. I've been listening to a fair bit of Dylan lately, everything from his early Woody Guthrie acolyte stuff to his more recent road warrior blues'n'roots'n'rock and roll stuff. I keep meaning to post a list of my favourite Dylan tunes but I don't really have enough time to list them all.

Today, it's the new Bill Callahan (used to go by Smog). Strange stuff - some of it reminds me of Lou Reed at his druggy best but slowed down. It kind of matches the grey day outside.

Oh yeah. . . 29 days until I fly off for my island vacation.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

A pet peeve / Robert Downey Jr. is a Genius

First off - why do online retailers insist on using courier services like fedex or ups? Fedex and ups work great for businesses because businesses keep business hours and are always around from 9am to 5pm to sign off on the package.

The average working stiff? Probably not available weekdays from 9 to 5 because they are working. Heaven forbid you should miss a delivery, though. Then you're stuck going to some warehouse on the edge of the city which may or may not be accessible by transit just to lug the thing home.

There should be an option where one can choose to have the package delivered by mail. It's likely cheaper and the great thing is, if you miss the delivery, you don't have to go halfway to Siberia just to pick it up.

Second, I watched Tropic Thunder last night and it is, hands down, the smartest dumb movie I've seen in a long time. Can Robert Downey Jr. do anything wrong? Tom Cruise proves once again that he is at his best when playing an over the top asshole (remember Magnolia?). For some reason, it just comes naturally for him. The sad thing is that it is still Tom Cruise and you are left wondering if he is really in on the joke or is this just another calculated manoeuvre? For all the power and authority he is supposed to wield because of his Scientology ties, one can't help thinking he has more in common with the little old guy behind the curtain in Wizard of Oz.

Anyways, I'm still sick and that sucks. I am, however, doing a good job of getting my cd collection ripped into itunes. 120 gigs is a whole lot of space.

It's Done!

I've now bought my ticket and made my hotel reservation. 6 nights and 7 days in one of the only countries with a capitol north of Ottawa. Even better, I went digging for this black nylon pouch I always use to hold my travel documents and found the plug adapter I used when I went to Paris. The guy at the apple store confirmed that ipods can work off of 120v or 220v so I shall have tunes for the hotel room.

I'm also booked for two tours: The first is an afternoon of whale watching. Apparently, the boats also go close to a couple of islands where puffins nest which should be cool. I'm hoping it's better than the last time I went whale watching. That time was up by Tofino on Vancouver Island and all we wound up seeing was one glimpse of a bit of the back of a whale. At least we were in a zodiac so it was a fun ride. The second is a tour to see a huge waterfall, some geysers and other natural wonders.

Now if only I could shake this cold, everything would be perfect.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Ahhhhh. . .

The weekend is such a great thing. Even if mine starts on a Monday this week.

Today, I'm doing lunch with family which will be fun. They've actually managed to pry my mother away from the homestead for a day so I'm looking forward to it (my mother is not a city person).

After that, it's down to Open Air Books (Toronto's only travel bookshop) to look for the Rough Guide to Iceland. I'm a big fan of travel books. I find the more you read about a place beforehand, the better the trip becomes. You have a pretty good idea in advance of what you want to see and do.

Sure, things pop up. I expect them to and, when they do, I run with it. I will never let plans get in the way of whimsy. I still like to be prepared.

Other than that, I'm pretty well stocked. I can go bag or backpack. I've got 5 gigs worth of memory cards for my camera (which is massive overkill, I know, but I got a good deal). I think I may even take my sound recorder with me as well. Who knows what I'll find.

Well, the visitors are on the doorstep so that's enough for now.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Strange travel suggestions. . .

. . . are dancing lessons with God. Apparently, Kurt Vonnegut said that once. It's a nice thought.

For the first time since February of 2008, I have some vacation time coming up. Initially, I was going to keep it low key - stick around the city, go up to the cottage, head down to Sarnia - but curiosity and the travel bug got the better of me.

How did we ever travel before the internet?

So I started looking at places to travel. New York has some great new hotels with cheap prices (the trade-off being that the rooms are tiny - single and bunk beds) and getting there is cheaper than it's been in a long time but this time I want something new.

Resorts don't really interest me. I did one in Cuba once and I liked it. Just not enough to repeat it. I like doing things my way even if my way is foolish, quixotic and much more complicated. I understand why people like resorts and I think that's great. I'm not all snobbish about it or anything. It's just not my thing.

Asia is a little too involved. I tell people that the month I spent in India and Nepal was not enough time and I mean it. By the time I fly halfway around the world and then acclimate myself, it will be time to come home. Besides, I've done India in May once and I'm not likely to repeat it. Too hot and too dusty (fall is the time to go).

That leaves me with Europe, I guess. Well, South and Central America too, but, again, I'd want more time if I finally got down to, say, Ecuador so I could wander around and also get to the Galapagos Islands.

So, the places I've checked out so far: Paris, Berlin, Glasgow, Barcelona, Prague, Croatia and Greece (not sure where in Greece). As far as continental Europe goes, I'm leaning towards Berlin. Not sure why really. It just seems cool.

Oh yeah, I also checked out Iceland. The subway these days is plastered with Icelandair ads. Furthermore, I came away with more of an interest in Iceland after watching White Night Wedding at last year's film fest. So I poked around on the web and found some decent deals. Glaciers, hot springs, history.

I think I'm going with Iceland. It just sounds cool, doesn't it?

Speaking of White Night Wedding, I've found a trailer (http://www.traileraddict.com/trailer/white-night-wedding/trailer). It's interesting how they edit these things as the movie was a lot darker than the trailer portrays. I mean, it was funny but at heart it was a lot more serious than most comedies (in a really good way, though).

Here's some pics of the last time I went overseas:

The only time I've ever been freaked out by an elevator was at the Eiffel Tower. Way too much jerking and shaking.

Aside from the first day, it was cold and wet the whole time. It was fun though. My sister Nikki accompanied me on this trip.
The obligatory Eiffel Tower sticking out of my head shot. This is on the roof of La Samaritaine department store.

Thursday, April 09, 2009


And to think I usually hate internet acronyms and excessive punctuation. However, I just watched Billy Bob Thornton's interview with Jian Gomeshi and I think the blog title says it all.

How does one get so angry at Jian Gomeshi? Come on! The whole point of Jian Gomeshi has always kind of been that he is likable. I like him. You like him. Your grandmother probably likes him. Not to take away from what he does or his considerable knowledge, it's just that he is what he is - a nice interviewer who chats with musicians and artists. He does it well. Even dealing with an ass like Billy Bob, he held it together far past the point where most of us would have given up (or thrown a punch [not that I advocate violence, mind you, but it would have been nice]).

The point I'm trying to make is that if Billy Bob can't handle being interviewed by Jian Gomeshi, he has no business being in the entertainment industry. Grow up, get over yourself and maybe trim that ego a little until you have proven yourself as a musician. You can talk about going on tour with Willie Nelson but lets not forget that Willie has played with his share of shitty musicians in his day. Or had plenty of shitty musicians open for him. Just being on the same bill as a great doesn't make you a great.

On the other hand, deliberately sabotaging an interview because your hurt ego is more important than good press for your band is just childish. Let's be real. Nobody is going to remember Billy Bob as a singing drummer. That's okay. I mean, I truly doubt anyone is going to remember Phil Collins (a singing drummer) for his role in Buster, either. That's life.

Truth be told, how many people are even going to remember Billy Bob for anything other than going "mmm-hmm" and exacting vengeance on Dwight Yoakam in Sling Blade, anyways?

(All that and I didn't even have to get into the stupidity of comparing his vanity project to the work of Tom Petty.)

As for Jian Gomeshi, I still wish he would bring back the national playlist. But I guess that's another story. . .

Sunday, April 05, 2009

How to tell a good book. . .

My TBR keeps getting higher but every once in a while I get waylaid by a new addition to the pile. In this case, it's Jessica Grant's Come, Thou Tortoise. I stayed up most of last night finishing Richard Price's Lush Life (an excellent book in its own right) just so I could start into this book.

Anyway, I've just barely started Come, Thou Tortoise and already I think I'm in for a treat. Why? Well, on page 23, there is the following observation about flying - When you're flying, the newscast is always cheery. Notice that. There are no plane crashes. If you could just keep flying forever, there'd be no plane crashes.

Understand that this passage occurs after the protagonist, Audrey Flowers, has disarmed an air marshall because guns are on the top of the list of things you can't take on a plane so, therefore, the person must be a terrorist.

Oh yeah, there's a thinking tortoise in there somewhere, as well.

And it's by a Newfoundlander, so it'll bring me one step closer to completing the Canuck Book Challenge.

In other news, I wound up going for an impromptu long walk yesterday through the Don Valley and up through Riverdale Farm into Cabbagetown which was incredible. To think, I've always passed this by and walked the Bloor Viaduct. The bridge is nice but the valley and farm were more interesting. And the uphill walk out of the valley didn't kill me either.

Today, I'm going for a planned long walk. This will be better as I will actually be wearing comfortable walking shoes. I was halfway into yesterday's ramble before I realized that error. Thankfully, no blisters.

I'm thinking my goal for this summer is to walk all 11 of Toronto's Discovery Walks. They're a network of walks through the city and parks highlighting various features of the city, from natural history to historical buildings and neighbourhoods. I've walked parts of a lot of them and stopped to read many of the signs found on these routes (if you're ever wondering who actually reads all those historical plaques and signs, that would be me). I figure walking all of them would be a fun and healthy goal for my spring and summer walking.

Tomorrow, I'll be popping by City Hall to get a copy of the Toronto Walking Map. It has all the parks, streets and subways on it. I'm kind of wondering why I've never picked it up before.

Friday, April 03, 2009

5 Admissions

I will be back later with a more substantial post. Until then, I offer up 5 not so stunning admissions about my life:

1. I read Get Fuzzy (found at www.comics.com) compulsively. Have for years. (I also read For Better or For Worse until that ended)

2. My music collection includes Guns n Roses, Neil Diamond and Jimmy Buffett. And not just for irony's sake, either.

3. When vegging in front of the flickerbox, I have a hard time flipping past Til Debt Do Us Part.

4. My urge to always see what the fuss is about has lead me to read all the Harry Potters and also Bridget Jones's Diary. I have yet to read a Harlequin Romance, though, in spite of the fact that one of my favourite profs back in university recommended doing that just to see how a formula novel is put together.

5. While I don't play near as many video games as I once did, I still check out the reviews regularly on ign.com (for games I'll likely never play, no less).