Sunday, April 30, 2006

Say, do you have a ship and a dozen able men that maybe you could lend me?
- Our Retired Explorer (Dines with Michel Foucault in Paris, 1961)
- the Weakerthans
Probably it's the weather today that made this book review really catch my eye (it's snowing on and off!), but I was mesmerized by a review in the newspaper of The Lost Men: the Harrowing Saga of Shackleton's Ross Sea Party by Kelly Tyler-Lewis.
Sir Ernest Shackleton, already heralded as a hero for his previous Antarctic expeditions,
planned to trek across the 2,400 kms across the continent in 1914. As he would not be able to take sufficient supplies with him for the entire expedition, he dispatched a ship to the Ross Sea on the opposite side of the continent. The men on the ship were to lay an 850 km chain of food and fuel caches that his team would access on the final quarter of the journey.
They made their base at Cape Evans on Ross Island in a vacant hut, used their moored ship as a floating warehouse, and began sledging out to lay the caches. In May of 1915, a blizzard blew the ship out to sea where it became stuck to an ice flow, dashing any hopes of retrieving it to Cape Evans.
With about half the sledging completed, the ten men, believing that the lives of their leader Shackleton and his expedition depended upon them, vowed to finish their task.
The thing is, Shackleton's ship had been crushed by pack ice in the Weddell Sea, and his expedition never started on their journey across the Antarctic. Of course the Ross Sea party were unaware of this. Suffering from snow blindness, scurvy, toe amputations, and having lost most of their 26 sled dogs, they calculated how to lay the rest of the caches within the allotted time. The quest took them two years, resulted in the deaths of three of the party, and covered 21,000 kms, but they accomplished it.
The survivors were eventually rescued by Shackleton himself, who had returned his original party to South America and then returned to save the rest.
I'm not usually drawn to historical tomes, but the story behind this one fascinates me. I think I'm going to have to read it.
What part of the Sunday paper do you read first?
The comics, right? Me too. In fact, there are 24 comics in the Sunday paper. I hate 10 of them, and I read them all every single week.
It used to be worse. They made some changes recently, but I used to hate 12 of them (half of the comics!) and still read every single one.
What a masochist.
Best comic in my newspaper = DILBERT!
Worst comic in my newspaper = toss-up between BC and The Family Circus

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Barefoot with a beer in the backyard
First time this year! It was lovely!
Okay, okay this picture was actually taken a couple of summers ago, but soon my yard will be looking like this again.
I even got the perennial beds cleaned up, so I earned that beer too. I wasn't in any hurry to get rid of last year's growth because you know we'll get a couple more snows this spring and I don't want to chase the ladybugs out of their nests just yet. But hell, it's time they got going already. I'll keep the dead stuff in an open bin in the garage for a couple of weeks before composting just in case there are any ladybugs still sleeping in there.
I'm not as interested in gardening as I once was. I still like to have lots of greenery around but I just don't want the work anymore. Fortunately my garden is mature enough that I now have minimal work to do for maximum returns.
I can't believe how much things are growing already. The anemones and the rockcress are already blooming, and the daylillies are about to.
And with all the dead crap gone, everything looks so fresh and lush, and makes me long for those evenings when we eat supper outside and huck our corn cobs on the lawn and then lounge over another glass of wine, and maybe later have a fire in the pit.
When are you guys going to come join us for a barbeque?

Friday, April 28, 2006

What is a mardy bum anyway?
I've been running into this phrase a lot lately (I guess on account of the Arctic Monkeys' song) and I think it's great and I would love to use it in conversation, but I don't know what it means. I think it's probably not flattering.
Oh. I just googled it and it's a moody, sulky person. Well that's not as much fun as I thought it would be. But I'm still going to use it.
You know what's really mardy bumming me out?
I've just noticed these tiny little wrinkles starting to form around my lips. Overnight! They're not bad now, but what will they be like tomorrow? I don't even notice the deep horizontal crevasse I have on my forehead over my right eyebrow (from cocking my eyebrow disapprovingly at people), so I don't know why these miniscule little wrinkles bother me. I guess I'm just being a mardy bum.
HAHAHA the NME cartoon this week is entitled "Chris Martin sparks naming-kids-after-your-songs frenzy!", because the new baby Martin is called Moses and Coldplay have a song called Moses. Or was that painfully obvious? Queen of the painfully obvious I am.
Anyhoo, he's holding a bearded baby and saying "Moses Martin, my little wave parter".
Alex Turner is saying "Mardy Bum Turner, always whining" (there it is again! See?)
Carl Barat is saying "You Fucking Love It Barat, he'll thank me when he gets older." (haha I'll bet he will!)
And Thom Yorke is saying "2+2=5 Yorke, she hates George Bush." (Well at least he didn't name her Idioteque)

Have a great weekend, you Mardy Bums!

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Critter Night
Mrs. Ritchie informs me that, in the next episode of the further adventures of Marmalade the shaved cat, Marm's parents are upset that, now hairless, he rolls in the dirt and then licks himself until he makes mud.
So they decided to bath him.
This is a bad tempered cat who has previously been tossed into a kiddy's wading pool and a bathtub. So he is aware of water. And he don't care for it.
Marmalade's dad now sports bone-deep gouges that run from wrist to elbow on both inner forearms.
Eva's friend's new cat fell into the toilet the other night. So she dried her off on her brother's towel because he's the one who left the lid up.
The rabbits who own the neighbourhood are turning brown. They must get pretty itchy when they shed because yesterday I watched one of them roll around on its back in a dirt spot on the neighbour's lawn. They have zero fear. They are like a lupine Chuck Norris.
Bugs Bunny has always been pretty hot for a rabbit.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Guess where I'm not going tonight. You've got it: I'm not going to the Franz Ferdinand / Death Cab for Cutie concert. I obviously need to work on my reflexes, as my internet finger is not yet up to lightning speed. When concerts sell out in minutes, you've got to be in top shape to compete with the youngsters who have been computing all their lives.
What a good show this should be, too. I'm very fond of Franz Ferdinand. Despite the Russian constructivist art on the cover of their latest cd, they make no pretensions about being a high concept band. They simply make fun, catchy music that girls can dance to.
I was so relieved when You Could Have It So Much Better turned out to be as great as it did, because I always get terribly nervous about the sophomore release from a band I admire. All the press about so much of their material being trashed and rewritten didn't help relieve my fears either. But no need to have fretted. I actually rate it higher than their debut cd.
Death Cab for Cutie will be an interesting match-up for the tour, as well. While I can't listen to too much DCFC in one sitting (too much moodiness, too much introspection), I do like them quite a lot.
If you are going to the concert tonight, have fun (you ticket-stealing bastard)!
Chances are I wouldn't be going even if I did have a ticket, as poor Eva is still sick. She actually started coughing up blood this morning, so I'm taking her to the clinic.
health update: She's not dead yet, but she'll be home the rest of the week, as this bronchial thing is still infectious (yay, I get to spend more time around Typhoid Mary). The elephant tranquilizer-sized pills (30 of them) were a big hit. The fever must have cooked her brains, because she laughed her head off for 10 minutes when she saw them. PLUS she's excused from running in gym class for the next 10 days via a doctor's note (she made sure we didn't leave the clinic without scoring that first).

Monday, April 24, 2006

Take a close look because it's the last toy we'll be buying for a long time
We bought this big fancy-ass barbeque just before we did our taxes.
So we're going to end up living under a bridge, but at least we'll have this nice shiny barbeque to keep us warm. And we'll be able to grill up some tasty squirrels.
I thought I saw my arch-nemesis in Safeway today, but he was a different old man with an oxygen tank! If I can remember where I put my post about the time I got into a fight with the old man with the oxygen tank in Safeway, I'll post a link.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

If Bil Nye had been around when I was in school, I might have taken physics
(gotta love the eybrow waggles and hand gestures - Morrissey would be proud)

Stuff I haven't quite figured out yet
How come all the young check-out guys at the Safeway have started calling me Miss when up till six or seven months ago they all called me Ma'am?
As much as I would like to believe that all of a sudden I look considerably younger than I used to, I think that's delusional. Here's what I think happened: a policy came down from HQ that all women of a certain age range are to be addressed as Miss by the young male employees to flatter the customer and to cinch the lucrative cougar market.
That's probably the real scenario, but I prefer to believe that it's just that I am so damn hot.
Why does my kid insist upon putting olive pits in her pockets? I always miss a few in the laundry and then I end up finding freshly laundered olive pits in my stuff later.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

I guess we'll party like it's 2004
We were driving home, shell-shocked, from the accountant's last night (we owe how much in taxes?), when we passed a gaggle of adolescent boys on the boulevard in front of the school. They were all decked out in their Calgary Flames paraphernalia and waving a huge Canadian flag and were hopping up and down and doing little hockey fan dances. When we gave them a little thumbs-up toot on the horn, one of them flashed us his scrawny little chest. I think they've spent some time down on the infamous Red Mile during the 2004 playoffs. They looked like they were auditioning for another edition of Girls Gone Wild.
So, hockey playoff fever has swept Calgary again, in a big hurry this time. In 2004, it took a while for the momentum to build. The Flames were not expected to go very far in the playoffs and their Cinderella story charmed everyone. We used to be able to hear the horns honking all over the city whenever the Flames scored. It was actually pretty damn fun.
This year, of course, the expectations upon them are pretty intense.
The city police are cracking down on festivities on the Red Mile (aka 17th Avenue), as there was a lot of debauchery and public urination last time. There are a lot of bars and restaurants down there that do exceedingly well during the playoffs, but most businesses only suffer the damages of vandals and people pissing in their doorways. As one shop owner explained, "drunken hockey fans do not buy a lot of carpets".
I heard something really heartening today. Have you heard of Bent Fabric, the Danish musician? He's 81 years old and he just released a new album, Jukebox. I heard a cut on the radio today and it's really catchy. It's a mix of house, electronica, jazz. There are a bunch of other musicians lending their voices to it, so it doesn't sound like an 81 year old man doing dance tunes.
It gives me hope for the longevity of my own love of new music, and also makes me feel slightly less pervy for hanging around with the youngsters.

Friday, April 21, 2006

The book that all Canada should read:
Congratulations to Miriam Toews on a great honour for a great book (my favourite of the year)! And congratulations as well to John K Samson for advocating this book so well.
Here's a review of A Complicated Kindness by Dave Weich that I lifted off the web:

Miriam Toews Breaks Out
Dave Weich,
Nomi Nickel's family is falling apart. First, big sister Tash fled their Mennonite village. Soon after, Mom followed. "Half of our family, the better-looking half, is missing," Nomi tells us at the outset. "If we could get out of this town things might be better but we can't because we're waiting for Trudie and Tash to come back."
Nomi's narration is a genuine wonder. "The narrative voice is so strong," a Guardian reviewer marveled, "it could carry the least eventful, least weird adolescence in the world and still be as transfixing."
Toews herself was raised Mennonite in small-town Steinbach, Manitoba. In addition to two previous novels and 2001's poignant
Swing Low, a biography of her father, she has written for This American Life and the New York Times Magazine.
More than a barbed polemic,
A Complicated Kindness is the story of a bright young woman straining under the pressure of family, boys, and authority, common enough conflicts drawn here in extravagant, heartrending particulars. Head-scratching details emerge so inconspicuously, in fact, and Nomi's trenchant commentary is stitched in with such insouciance (to use one of her boyfriend's favorite words), that in this moving, timely portrait of the havoc religious fundamentalism has wreaked on one well-meaning family you rarely sense the author is actually trying to indict anyone.
"There is a kindness here," Nomi assures us, "a complicated kindness. You can see it sometimes in the eyes of the people when they look at you and don't know what to say. When they ask me how my dad is, for instance, and mean how am I managing without my mother."
Sharp and often howlingly funny — but insistently generous — A Complicated Kindness is my favorite novel of 2004.
mine too, Dave, mine too
Filled your gas tank lately?
Yeah? So you're aware of how much more it costs to fill that Lexus now. And that of course means that Calgary is once again swaggering its way through an oil boom.
It's crazy around here. House prices are hugely inflated. Our house has almost doubled in value from when we moved here in 1997. Which is nice to hear, but essentially meaningless, unless we wanted to sell and move to Regina or something. (not going to happen!)
We live in a neighbourhood which has two man-made lakes (and also a lot of planted trees, to give the illusion that we are not living in the middle of the bald-ass prairies). The area surrounding the lakes is known as The Estates. We do not live in The Estates; we live in the fallout zone surrounding The Estates. We lesser folk serve as a buffer against invasion, giving The Estate dwellers time to pack up the silver and the Picassos, and heat up the boiling oil to pour over the castle walls when the pillaging hordes finally finish burning our shacks.
I've been getting a lot of realtors' flyers in the mailbox lately. The average selling price for an Estate house from January 1 - March 31 was $1,275,000.00. That's insane! And houses are selling within minutes and there are bidding wars, with people paying up to $200,000.00 above list price.

And of course, for every boom there is a corresponding bust. Apparently there was a bumper sticker that surfaced in Calgary during the 1980's bust which read:
Lord, grant me one more boom and I promise not to piss it all away this time
So, the local CBC morning show - the Calgary Eyeopener - is holding a contest, dealing with the current boom. They are asking for variations on the above bumper sticker. Here are some of my favourites so far:
  • Lord, I'm pissing this one away too, so I'm going to need you to send another one
  • Carpe boom
  • Lord, I may have pissed away the last boom, but this time I have people to do it for me

Thursday, April 20, 2006

You thought yesterday's picture was scary...

This is Mrs Ritchie's mother-in-law's cat. I'm told it was the nastiest, most anti-social creature you could hope to meet. And then they shaved it, as per Exhibits A and B, above. Mrs R told me that the shaving made a world of difference to this cat's attitude, and I was thinking, well, yeah, it's probably pretty cowed and embarrassed now.
Au contraire, my friends. Apparently it has now morphed into a face-rubbing, mega-purring love monster. Does he not look like he figures he's one pretty fit fellow?
Look what's still in contention in Canada Reads:
A Complicated Kindness
Here's how the voting went today:
Maureen McTeer voted against Three Day Road
Nelofer Pazira voted against A Complicated Kindness
John K Samson voted against Three Day Road
Scott Thompson voted against Rooms for Rent in the Outer Planets
Susan Musgrave voted against Three Day Road
So tomorrow, the final day, it comes down to A Complicated Kindness versus Rooms for Rent in the Outer Planets. A rebellious Mennonite teenager against the raunchy, rowdy poems of Al Purdy.
Susan Musgrave - poet and wife of bank robber, Stephen Reid versus John K Samson - musician, publisher, and husband of musician, Christine Fellows. Whose judgement would you trust?
If Nelofer Pazira can keep her kindergarten-like bickering antics under control tomorrow, we could have quite the debate. If not, if could be a very interesting pissing war.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Kelly the fireguy and Maureen, THIS is seething

Hey, you asked.


"He didn't have sex in 2 1/2 years - I lost respect for him" - Scott Thompson

Back at Canada Reads, Deafening got turfed today. John Mutford has been giving some really good synopses on his blog and today in particular he was spot-on. He can fill you in on today's details very eloquently.

I think that it is looking very promising for A Complicated Kindness, though. It was finally discussed today, and very well received by everybody. Best line of the day goes naturally to Scott Thompson. Here's the setup:

Bill Richardson: John Samson, you are being very quiet over there. I think you are engineering this all.

Scott Thompson: That's very Icelandic of you. You people are very very shrewd. You are the whitest of all.

I lolled so hard.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Watch your back, John K Samson!
Oh it was a dog fight on Day 2 of Canada Reads. Two people voted against Rooms for Rent in the Outer Planets, two people voted against Cocksure. And then John K Samson's turn came up and he voted against Deafening. So there was a tie. And then the host, Bill Richardson, told JKS that he had to break the tie.
What a tough position for a guy who has been trying hard (and successfully so far) to fly under the radar!
He voted off Cocksure. His rationale was that it is important that poetry is recognised as a legitimate part of Canada Reads.
Oh and then the discussion got rather heated, with barbs flying about the nature of satire versus political correctness. Woof!
And Scott Thompson got right snarky, as his book had been dropped so he's got nothing to lose. Not that he ever did.
Some vintage Thompson quotes:
I have no problems with ultra violence, but I do have a problem with poetry.
I am not a humour fascist!
I'm one of those Philistines who don't read poetry unless it's set to rap music by men not wearing any shirts. Maybe if they said "yo yo"...
<---- the perpetually sassy Scott Thompson
Oh and they printed my email on the Canada Reads website today. They probably print all of them. But the really weird thing is, they also printed the email of the woman from whom we bought our first house in London, Ontario in 1988. Two emails away from mine.

Monday, April 17, 2006

When you don't know what to bet on, bet on a genital
- Scott Thompson

Canada Reads began today. If you are unfamiliar with previous versions, five books are chosen for the short list of the book which everybody in Canada should read (but I think my American and British friends should get involved as well). Each book is pitched by an advocate. Each day one book is dropped from the list (Survivor for the literary set) and the book left standing at the end of the week is declared "the book everybody in Canada should read".

Here's the list:

  1. Three Day Road by Joseph Boyden - advocated by Nelofer Pazira (the tale of aboriginal Canadians fighting in the First World War)
  2. Rooms for Rent in the Outer Planets by Al Purdy - advocated by Susan Musgrave (first poetry book to be listed)
  3. A Complicated Kindness by Miriam Toews - advocated by John K Samson (the tale of a rebellious teenager in a small religious community)
  4. Deafening by Frances Itani - advocated by Maureen McTeer (set during WWI, a girl loses her hearing as a young child)
  5. Cocksure by Mordecai Richler - advocated by Scott Thompson (satire of the entertainment industry in 60's London)

So far Scott Thompson (of Kids in the Hall fame - or infamy) has been the most outrageous and the sassiest (as would be expected). Love him as I do, I am firmly behind my hero, John K Samson, frontman of the Weakerthans, songwriter, poet, publisher, and avid curler. A Complicated Kindness was the best book I read last year and if it's good enough for JKS, it's good enough for me.

<---- the lovely and talented John K Samson

I'll keep you posted as the week progresses.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

A bird flew against the living room window this morning. The poor thing left a feather smooshed against the glass, and then it huddled under a little table on the front deck. The cat had been sleeping on the rocking chair by the window, and her eyes became as big as dinner plates, and I swear she never blinked or took her eyes off that bird for 10 minutes. Then she crept up to the window and went eyeball to eyeball with the robin. I don't think it freaked the bird out too much though, as it probably had a massive headache, and I think by then it had figured out that the window was rather impermeable. 20 minutes later the bird had disappeared. Except for the feathers stuck on the window.
The other bird (aka turkey) has been in the oven for 2 1/2 hours now and the smell is driving me crazy! I know other people often have lamb or ham for Easter dinner, but we had lamb last night and none of us are too wild about ham. But turkey!!!!!!!! I could eat turkey every day.
Six kgs (that's about 14 lbs) for three people ... do you think that will be enough? Leftovers are very important with turkey, you know. With any luck I won't have to cook supper all week. Except that I know somebody will be bitching about it by Tuesday.
Eva's Easter basket had the new NME in it, with Thom Yorke's face on the cover. She was thrilled to crawl out of bed to be met by the vision of over-sized Thom glaring at her (actually she was). The unsightly ginger fuzz that was threatening to take over his face seems to have been reigned in somewhat. He looks rather pretty again.
Trailer Park Boys starts a new season tonight! Apparently Bubbles will open up a theme park for his kitties.
And Canada Reads starts tomorrow!!!! 11:30 am every day this week on CBC Radio 1.
John K Samson (the Weakerthans) is advocating for Meriam Toews' A Complicated Kindness (my favourite book that I read last year) and Scott Thompson (Kids in the Hall) is pitching Mordecai Richler's Cocksure. It's going to be GREAT! More details tomorrow.
*Zombie Jesus Day greetings compliments of Jax (kids these days)
How to burn off those bunnies
I made myself a smokin' new workout cd yesterday, in anticipation of mega chocolate glomming today. And it worked. I did 12 miles in 40 minutes yesterday, which is the first time I've done so for a couple of months now. You can never had too many workout cds, because every now and then you just need a little fresh inspiration .
Here's the playlist:
Werewolves of London – Warren Zevon
White Collar Boy – Belle and Sebastian
Roam – the B-52’s
Poison – Constantines
Star Bodies – the New Pornographers
Thank You for Sending Me an Angel – Talking Heads
Speak Slow – Tegan and Sara
When You Wasn’t Famous – the Streets
The Blues are Still Blue – Belle and Sebastian
Psycho Killer –Talking Heads
Airline to Heaven – Billy Bragg and Wilco
I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles) – the Proclaimers
Movin’ On Up – Primal Scream
String Bean Jean – Belle and Sebastian
Sometimes Always – the Jesus and Mary Chain
Let Down – Radiohead
The Cloud Prayer – AC Newman
You and the Candles – Hawksley Workman
On the Bus Mall – the Decemberists
Hold on, Hold on – Neko Case
I'm glad I put String Bean Jean further down on the list so that it came on during weights and not during cycling, because I always have to sing along with Stuart: "I had to catch a buuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuus".

Friday, April 14, 2006

Mike Skinner is a cocky little bastard
(I mean that in the nicest possible way of course)
I've never been very fond of hip-hop. With the notable exceptions of a few hip-hop musicians such as Buck 65, K'Naan, K-OS, and maybe the Beastie Boys, I have given the genre a pretty wide berth.
So how was it I ended up buying three the Streets cds on the same day? I suppose it might have been my obsessive-compulsive disorder surfacing, but I'm going to blame Will. The other day Will put a video up on his fabulous New and Used Records site of the Streets' new single When You Wasn't Famous . Well, I ended up spending way too much time going back for yet another listen, because not only was the song insanely catchy, it told a great story.
See, that's the thing about Mike Skinner, aka the Streets. He is an incredibly gifted, yet quirky, storyteller.
So anyway, I was in the music store looking for the new cd. Will had highly recommended the previous release A Grand Don't Come for Free, so I was considering getting that as well. I couldn't find anything, so I asked the lads working there, and when they found it for me, I told them I was thinking of getting a previous cd as well. They almost fell over themselves in glee. "Original Pirate Material!!!" they both squealed simultaneously. "Um, actually, I was thinking of A Grand Don't Come For Free" I replied. "Oh that one's really good too", they gushed, "but OPM!!! OMG!!!"
What could I do? How could I turn down a recommendation like that? So I bought them all.
The album Original Pirate Material, with its breakthrough hit Has It Come to This, was heralded as a saviour of UK Garage music, and was critically acclaimed, including a nomination for a Mercury prize.
But it was with A Grand Don't Come for Free, that Skinner's storyteller really came into its own. The cd is essentially a concept album, starting with the story of Skinner losing a thousand pounds, going through relationship problems, and finding the money again. It was the stories (sorry, songs) on this cd which led to Mike Skinner being described as "a thinking person's soccer hooligan". The songs are all highly personal: hanging with sometimes untrustworthy mates, being intimidated by a beautiful woman, forgetting to return the rented dvd on time. Tedious stuff of all of our tedious lives, told in the most compelling manner.
The Hardest Way to Make an Easy Living continues this style of highly personal narrative, but from a post-fame perspective. Fame which has not always been kind to Mike Skinner. But instead of whining about poor me, I just need my space from the paparazzi, Skinner brilliantly turns the tabloid tales about himself to his advantage. When You Wasn't Famous tells the story of shagging a famous (and famously unnamed) personality. Hotel Expressionism deals with trashing hotel rooms as an art form, while the title track gripes about the financial pitfalls of being a pop star. But what I think is perhaps the cleverest example of Mike Skinner's ability to capitalize on his boorish behaviour comes on Fake Streets Hats. This tells the story of the infamous concert in Amsterdam, where he showed up late and blitzed and proceeded to harangue the audience for wearing "shit-hole fucking fake Streets hats", only to find out later that they were in fact real Streets hats, given out as promotional material. I can't think of anyone else who could handle an embarrassing situation like this and turn it into a compelling song. He is not afraid to look like a fool. Actually he seems to encourage it.
Tracks like Can't Con an Honest John and Two Nations are riveting lessons in how to pull off a con job and the differences between the UK and the US.
The track that really floored me, though, was Never Went to Church, in which Skinner talks to his recently deceased dad. It's a far cry from the sassiness of the other tracks, it's heartfelt and surprisingly moving. I was astonished to find myself misty-eyed while listening to it as I drove to work. Now, I'm a crusty old thing; I don't cry for nobody. But I cried for Mike Skinner.
Should you buy The Hardest Way to Make an Easy Living? Hell yeah. Why not buy all three?

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Prepping for Holy Day
When is that Easter parade in Manchester anyway - Sunday? The one that runs through the red light district and Jesus will sing Joy Division and the Buzzcocks and the Smiths. Is anybody planning to go? How about you, Ben? How far is Manchester from your place?
One of Eva's schoolmates gets a BBC channel at home. Maybe we should drop by their place on Sunday. We'll bring some eggs or something.
Hey, guess what I'm using! My own computer again! After we almost wrecked Jerry's laptop. I think we broke the internet last night.
Tomorrow I'm planning to review The Hardest Way to Make an Easy Living - the Streets. What will I say about it, do you think? Will I love it? Will I hate it? Will I call Mike Skinner a sassy genius, or a cocky little bastard?
Tune in and find out.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Break Out the Power Suit
Did I mention I have an interview next week?
Folks who have been visiting for a while will know that my job is ending in July. Since my boss moved to University of Oxford a year ago, it's been obvious this will happen, as the grants that run everything expire June 30 and cannot be renewed without him being in Canada.
I applied for a Communications Co-ordinator position with an agricultural communications company a few weeks back (my degrees are both in agriculture), and didn't get it, but they contacted me last week, as they have a couple more positions being created. We'll see what they have to say.
It's a lot closer to home. I could get there in 10-15 minutes, and after 40-60 minute one-way commute for the past seven years, I am ready to ditch that shit.
I've probably just jinxed myself, but I'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

the Germans have a good word for it
Ohren wurme
Literally translated, it means "ear worm", and it's a pretty good description of one of those songs that get stuck in your head and won't leave. I've had the Streets' new single "When You Wasn't Famous" stuck firmly in my head for the last considerable while. Damn you, Mike Skinner! And then all the reviews of "The Hardest Way to Make an Easy Living", which was released this week, have come back fairly raving. I'm starting to think I need to find a few minutes to go cd shopping tomorrow. While I'm at it, I'm thinking I'd better get the earlier Streets' cd "A Grand Don't Come for Free" (who taught Mike Skinner grammar anyway?), because Will LOVES it, and he's got good taste.
I'm pretty damn happy, though, that I found the receipt for Eva's ipod, which is not working properly. Also not working is our computer (you already know about this), our Bose sound-dock for playing and recharging the ipod (and they are supposed to be indestructible), and now the computer next to mine at work. I'm starting to think I have some kind of negative electrical force field surrounding me, which is fucking up all electronics I come within spitting distance of.
Anyhoo, I bought the ipod for Eva's birthday last May, so I knew the warranty was fast expiring, but when I checked my neatly labeled "electronics receipts" folder, no sign of the ipod receipt. I thought I was hooped, but today I had an inspiration and checked the pile of papers awaiting filing. Woohoo, ipod receipt! I'm thinking maybe I need to file more than once a year.
Now I have to start finding the income tax stuff.

Monday, April 10, 2006

She Just Gets Cuter Every Year
Happy birthday to Berni, my big sister!
Although I've got a good 4 inches on her.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Some things are pretty great
- sleeping in your own bed again is pretty great. Even if you've only been away from it for one night. Especially if you take the time to put freshly laundered sheets and clean blankets on and make sure that they are crisp and wrinkle-free. And for the best effect, do this earlier in the day, so that every time you happen to pass by your bed, you can see those smooth sheets and fluffed pillows beckoning you so beguilingly. Aaaaaahhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!
- opening all the windows in the house on the first really nice spring day is pretty great.
- Scottish accents are pretty great. I was just finishing exercising today when I ran out of music. Rather than put another cd on, I un-muted the tv, where Colin and Justin's How Not to Decorate was on. I had never heard them speak before. OMG they have the loveliest accents! I couldn't understand half of what they said, but I loved hearing them say it. And I think that's part of the reason I love Belle and Sebastian so much.
- that guy getting his dog Rocco back is pretty great. A Calgary man's yellow lab disappeared from his backyard a couple of weeks ago. The gates were all still closed, leading him to believe Rocco had been stolen. He took out full page colour ads in all the papers offering a $10,000 reward plus a $3,000 donation to the children's hospital for his return. He had actually been found by someone on a acreage who did not know the situation, and who turned him over.
My friend Grant said "I sure wouldn't do that for my dog. I'm not even sure if I feel that way about my kids". That's pretty great, too.
And some things suck ass
- the life expectancy in Zimbabwe is 34 years for women, 37 years for men. The high rate of HIV-AIDS and the collapse of the health care system are cited as factors. The suckage rating for these shocking statistics, straight out of the Stone Age, is 10/10.
- not only do we get the NME a week later than the rest of the world, we have to pay $8.50 Cdn per weekly issue, PLUS somebody liberated the free cd which was supposed to be included in the April 1 edition from every magazine in Indigo. The suckage factor for this is 6/10.
- the bald-headed bastard across the back lane has once again taken to idling his diesel truck behind our back fence for eons at a time. This of course coincides with the first really nice day of spring when we open all of our windows, thereby seriously cutting into the enjoyment factor of said really great thing mentioned earlier. Suckage factor = 8/10
But today I decided I'm going to be proactive and went over to confront him, while he was vacuuming said truck with the engine idling. Here's how it went (after Jerry warned me to play it cool and be nice):
me: Hi, how are you?
bald-headed bastard: fine
me: do you mind not idling your truck, as we now have our windows open and the house fills with exhaust fumes?
b-hb: well it takes 10 minutes to warm this truck up
me: I appreciate that, but it's been running for 40 minutes now
bh-b: well I haven't run it all winter, I need it for work. Fine. *shuts off engine*
me: thanks
Jeez, Jerry was right, and I was ready to scratch the guy's eyes out and instead I can now claim the high road. Sweet!
I am such a poor winner. I've been strutting around the house all afternoon since then, singing in my Cartman voice "I told the bald-headed bastard off, I made him turn off his engine!" I need to either a) not get into any more fights, or b) get into a lot more fights so that I learn how to be gracious about winning them.
All in all, a pretty good day.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Churchful of Hawksley
Hawksley Workman, spectacular musical odd-ball, filled Knox United Church on Thursday night, literally and figuratively. Every available pew had a bum squeezed into it, and the belfry reverberated with the power of Hawksley's enormous voice.
I had seen Hawksley perform at the Calgary Folk Festival last year, so I knew the kind of power that his performances hold. I had been dazzled by his flamboyant showmanship then, by the spell that he holds over an audience, but I wasn't sure how that was going to translate from the laisse-faire attitude of a folk festival (the last bastion of hippiedom) to a sacred space like a church.
I needn't have worried.
With no opening act, the show began with several songs from his new cd Treeful of Starling. Accompanied by his faithful pianist, Mr. Lonely, Hawksley sat quietly with an acoustic guitar, and in true troubadour style, performed songs like A Moth is Not a Butterfly, Ice Age, and You and the Candles, all of them heartbreakingly lovely and introspective. I vowed right there I was buying that cd first chance I got.
And then, ditching the chair, switching to an electric guitar, but without even removing any clothes, the troubadour was transformed into the sassy cabaret performer. Guitar perched jauntily on one hip, he launched into No Sissies and we went wild.
From that point on, the show was vintage Hawksley Workman, an almost indescribable mix of rock concert, cabaret, performance art and what can only be described as a glimpse into the odd mind of Hawksley Workman. There were snippets of the Tragically Hip incorporated into songs, as well as I think it was Queen, and even bits of Bjork's Hyper Ballad, along with an extended explanation of the critical contribution of chair testing toward fueling the economy. And then just when you think that Hawksley has lost it, he manages to bring it all back around to where he left off. The man has impressive comedic timing, really.
Some highlights include him climbing on a chair to sing Striptease while playing casinets (yes, Stephanie - he did play Striptease in church, And Tarantulove! And Paper Shoes!), an absolutely smoking rendition of Jealous of Your Cigarette, a version of Anger as Beauty which went off onto a strange but oddly effective tangent, Smoke Baby, and, the song which had been stuck in my head all that day - Safe and Sound.
And if that weren't enough, he then played two encores. This review does not begin to do this performance justice. It's very difficult to begin the describe Hawksley Workman's music to someone who is unfamiliar with it. The closest I can come, I think, is to say that he is an artist.
Eva took pics and I will be posting them here when we get our computer back. In the meantime, I'm going out to buy Treeful of Starling, because it is absolutely beautiful.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

D'ya Miss Me Yet?
My computer is fuckered again, so I've got the old man's laptop right now. But the nerve of him, he's taking it with him to work tomorrow! The day I am home! Computerless!
Okay, I've got the hyperventilating under control now. Perhaps I will see if I can remember how to use the phone instead.
BUT ... I am going to see Hawksley Workman tonight! SO EXCITED!!!!
And tomorrow night, the Marthas and all the Martha boys and the new baby Martha as well are all coming over to play cards and crokinole. So I'll scrub toilets rather than blog.
But I will still miss you.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Separated at Birth?
Should my sweater be invited onto The Hour for a reunion?
Is it merely coincidence that my sweater and The Hour background look remarkably similar? Who stole the idea from whom, do you suppose?
The Hour is in its second year and I've only had my sweater for a month or so, but I bought it at Value Village, so it is entirely possible that spent its earlier life walking around the streets of Toronto, where some sharp-eyed fledgling Hour producer spotted it and thought "hey now, that would make a really fine background for our new show".
Should my sweater insist upon visitation rights?
Should my sweater be calling its lawyer to discuss commercial revenue shares?

Haha gotcha!
Happy Birthday, Chris!
My big sister Chris is 60 today, but she doesn't want anybody to know, so don't tell anyone.
(Look how my sister Berni is smirking in the background because she's decades younger, as am I)

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Yeah, what he said!
Kevin Drew of Broken Social Scene summed up my feelings about the Juno awards perfectly the other night when he pleaded "Fight for better music, Canada. Fight for better music." Look even Chris Murphy from Sloan is so overwhelmed at his words that he's giving Kevin a kiss.
I know I've been ranting on to anybody who will listen about how the Junos do not represent what is happening in Canadian music and once I finish this rant, I promise it will be out of my system, but right now it is still pissing me off.
Canada is gaining a well-deserved reputation for making ground-breaking and critically-adored music. And what do we chose to honour at the national music awards? The polluted rip-off crap represented by, what was it, five Canadian Idol contestants. And performances by and awards to Coldplay (whom I have nothing against, but excuse me, don't we have a few bands in Canada that some of us might like to see perform instead?) and *puke, puke, puke* the Black-Eyed Peas.
I'm not even going to get started on Pamela Anderson; I'm concentrating on the music here. But I think you can probably guess how feel about that choice of host.
Sure I was glad to see bands like Bedouin Soundclash win new group, an artist like Buck 65 win best video, and Broken Social Scene win alternative album. But that, my friends, is merely a spit in the bucket. How many nominations were based solely on sales, not on merit? The majority of them.
Now I really hold no hard feelings against Michael Buble for winning a mitt-full of awards. I would likely never buy one of his cds, but at least he has some genuine talent, but these Canadian idol contestants with their manufactured pop celebrity crap have no place being nominated for anything. Their shit records sell because stupid people see them on tv. Period.
In the meantime, hugely talented and acclaimed musicians like Metric, the Weakerthans, Wolf Parade, Matthew Good, Constantines, New Pornographers, Joel Plaskett, Christine Fellows, Stars, Matt Mays, Hawskley Workman, Martha Wainwright, Ron Sexsmith, oh shit I could go on for days, tour their asses off around the world and don't get recognised at home. Until that changes, I will not acknowledge the Juno awards as a legitimate honouring of Canadian talent.
I'm done.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Gather at the church say a quiet prayer
hold each other's hands praying that you might be there
- Anger as Beauty
- Hawksley Workman

As a dedicated agnostic, I don't very often darken the doors of places of worship, but I am so stoked about going to church this Thursday night. Cause it's not just any church; it's Knox United Church, and I'm going there to see my man Hawksley Workman.

What a great venue this is going to be for a concert! It's a beautiful old building (well, old for Calgary anyway) right in the heart of downtown. It's got fantastic acoustics, having been built before the age of microphones when the preacher's voice had to carry to the back pews, it's got gleaming wood pews and altar, and stained-glass windows that catch the evening light.

And on Thursday night, it will have the master showman, Hawksley Workman, at the temple of sound.

I saw Hawksley at the Folk Festival last summer and he completely blew me away with his performance. Workman is a completely eclectic performer. He brings in elements of cabaret style, hard-driving rock, evangelical holy rolling, all with this enormous theatrical flare. He has a huge vocal range and an even larger stage presence.

I've always been a proponent of live performance; a live show brings elements to the music that you will never achieve on cd or video. Hawksley Workman cranks those elements up to the ultimate. I think having this show in a church will make me want to raise my arms up to the skies and throw my head back and sing lustily (just like I do when singing along with his song Old Bloody Orange)

The last musical performance I saw in a church was Handel's Messiah. I think this will be a completely different experience.