Sunday, June 29, 2008

burning up the final day - going Sledding 2.0

After several days of experiencing some of the most exciting music on the planet, you tend to get a little blaise. So you allow yourself to sleep in a bit on the final day of the outdoor segment of the Sled Island Festival and consequently, you miss seeing Jose Gonzalez, Women, and the Secret Machines, and you are not even particularly bothered about it because you know you still have a full day and night of performances to enjoy.

The Mewata Armouries on the west end of downtown boasts a huge field, slightly rising in elevation, which offers a superb view of the stages regardless of where you happen to be. It's easily accessible by public transit and within walking distance of all the other Sled Island venues. Plus it's right beside the Science Centre in case you need a biology break. What it doesn't offer, though, is shade, and that made for a tough day on this 28C,
absolutely cloudless Saturday. From what I witnessed, there are going to be a lot of indie kids suffering today.

Some random highlights from the day:
Best hackeysack player - Spiderman dude who was called up on stage by High Flyin'
Best use of glitter - Of Montreal
Most humanitarian touch - free water all day, cheerfully dispensed
Most Dr Suess-like performance - Jonathan Richman
Most needed but unavailable commodity - ice cream
Personal fame-whore moment - being informed by the Alberta Views staff that they had published my abysmal festival poem in the June issue of the magazine
Happiest discovery - Ombrelle SPF 60 actually works

Here is a summary of the day's performances that I gleaned from yesterday's sun-screen smeared notes:

Still Flyin':
ska band from San Francisco, they actually played three sets yesterday, two of them at the outdoor
stage alone, as they stepped up to fill in after Scout Niblet cancelled. Bar none the most energetic band I have ever seen. The dude in the red gym shorts and tee was doing high kicks and jumping jacks, and the rest of the band was clapping and jumping up and down the whole time. I tried counting the members, and kept getting somewhere between 12 and 14, as they wouldn't stay still for the count. Between sets they played beach volleyball over by the toilets. Methinks they'd been nipping into the Red Bull a wee bit too much.

The music was infectious and upbeat and reflected the energy that the band personified. Alas though, when I
went to go buy their cd, they were sold out.

Drive By Truckers:
Southern rockers with a conscience, they played a hard-driving politically-charged straight
rock set. Think Steve Earle with a rock agenda.

Hot Little Rocket:
A Calgary institution, they offered a happy and irreverent post-punk set, plus they gave away a commemorative plate from a drunken ebay spree, which they had personalized with philosophical musings. Always a crowd favourite.

Gutter Twins: Although the Resident Offspring maintains that they looked like they stepped right out of a Neil Gaimen novel, there is no denying that Greg Dulli and Mark Lanegan are an inspired musical pairing. With a set that was dark and hypnotic (some would say too much so for such a sun-filled outdoor festival), they completely drew me into the grooves that they laid down, and held me spellbound.

Jane Vain and the Dark Matter: I was starving by this point, and had seen them perform fairly recently, so
instead I checked out the festival fare on offer. Sled Island has a ways to go to compete with the likes of the Folk Festival in terms of food vendors, but the three vendors did offer the likes of burgers and dogs, fries and meatball subs, tacos and corn on the cob. Nothing too inspiring, but the pop was cold.

From what I could hear of Jane Vain and the Dark Matter, their atmospheric and broody basement music was
well received.

Jonathan Richman: Anyone expecting a Modern Lovers set was surprised (although he did play Pablo Picasso). Anyone expecting a rehashing of the former glories that made him a punk visionary, was certainly surprised by Richman's reinvention of himself as an avant garde storyteller, an intimate acoustic oddity. From tales of dealing with an unhappy girlfriend (and the subtle differences of same in several languages) to a radical stand against cell phones (man after my own heart) to dancing in a lesbian bar, he kept us puzzled and amused and scratching our heads. And oh, how that man can dance. He was really utterly charming.

Of Montreal: Like everyone else, we were expecting a great deal of spectacle from Of Montreal. And they did
not disappoint. Resplendent with fox heads and glitter guns, hot pants paired with paisley leggings, mysteriously masked figures parading balloons on poles throughout the crowd, and on-stage dramatic reenactments of something that looked to be a cross between Little Red Riding Hood and Phantom of the Paradise, Of Montreal somehow still managed to find time to belt out their sassy and criminally catchy songs. Definitely a highlight of the festival.

The Fellas:
Okay, I'll admit it, the sun was starting to wear me out so I wandered the booths in search of relief
during their set. I did hear them play their hit single though.

How often does one see two seminally influential rock acts perform in
one day? I tell you, I am not going to hold my breath waiting for the next time.

We suspect that the female guitarist with the mass of hair was not an original member of this 70's British punk band turned art rockers, but the rest of the quartet, who took the stage as the sun started to dip, were certainly the real thing. In their signature all-blacks, they launched into a lengthy set, heavy on the experimental art theme. Consummate musicians, Wire were tight and focussed, edgy and creative, and unrelenting powerful. It may have been a better choice had they worked a bit more of their infectious punk back catalogue into the set, as the audience's energy was beginning to flag at this point after too many hours under the brutal sun, but nobody can deny the importance of what they witnessed.

The Dodos: Sadly, by the end of Wire's set, the Resident Offspring was complaining of feeling ill, so we decided it was time we packed up and dragged our sorry asses home. I confess I packed as slowly as I could, because I was really liking what I was hearing from the Dodos, a guitar and drum duo. Their soaring vocals and complex drumming made me want to hear more from this San Francisco band.

And I still can't quite believe that I missed Mogwai!

And when I think back in awe and increasing disbelief about all the fabulousness that the Sled Island Festival has brought this city in the past four days, and in only its second year of existence, well it all but brings a little tear of gratitude to my eyes.

Well done, you Sled Islanders, well done.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

she liked to hang out at the art school - going Sledding 2.0

Art and Design
Friday, June 27/08
Glenbow Museum

On Friday we took a bit of a breather from the manic concerting to take in some of the art installations that Sled Island is presenting in conjunction with the Glenbow Museum.
Wim Delvoye's Cloaca No. 5 is an Inspector Gadget-like creation, designed to simulate the human digestive system. An intestinal microclimate is created through the careful addition of precise levels of various enzymes, which are timed to create the bacterial flora needed to transform food into fecal matter. The machine was digesting while we were there, thus the pooping was expected later that evening during the official opening.
The system pictured here is actually one of the other incarnations of the Cloaca Project which were available for inspection on view-master-like devices. And as you can see, this one is a money shot. Fascinating and weird, this appealed to my inner science nerd.
Noam Gonick and Luis Jacob's Wildflowers of Manitoba is a large installation, comprised of an open-sided geodesic tent, in which two men lounge on sleeping bags and sketch one another, whilst footage of a group of young men at a wilderness retreat is projected onto the walls of the structure. The footage of the men cutting up food, playing with puppies, running naked down a rural railroad track, and wanking off for the camera, is interspersed with grainy images of wildflowers.
Yeah, I couldn't figure it out either.
Peach Pit (Fan Base) is a pink-carpeted cave, covered in brown fur. It's Peaches, you know exactly what this is meant to symbolize. Invoking questions of gender identity, as well as the delineation between performer and audience, the interior of this installation is festooned with articles of clothing thrown on stage during Peaches' performances over the years. A video of fans singing her signature electro-clash song, Fuck the Pain Away, plays on a loop deep inside the pink cave. From behind the cave, waves of pinkish light emanate upward, giving off the suggestion of heat.
This was a fun installation, sassy and forward with its blatant sexuality, but strangely inviting and friendly. Maybe it was the carpeting, perhaps the heat waves.
Today is the final full day of the Sled Island Festival. We will be heading for the giant outdoor show at the Mewata Armouries early this afternoon where we will spend the day baking in the sun, grooving to some amazingly diverse and influential musicians. I shall be wearing my new sun hat, even though the Resident Offspring informs me that apparently I look like dork in it. As if I care.
Amazingly enough, there will still be numerous performances at venues around downtown tonight, most of them starting just as the mainstage is wrapping up, and continuing into the wee hours. I, however, will be dragging my sorry ass home directly after mainstage, and I will return tomorrow with the final concert review.
Please visit the official Sled Island site for tonnes of pictures, including photos from what I understand was a fantastic concert yesterday, featuring the likes of Yo La Tengo, Tegan and Sara, Elliott Brood, and Broken Social Scene.

Friday, June 27, 2008

they blinded me with science - going Sledding 2.0

Calgary Science Centre Planetarium
Thursday, June 26/08

lineup: Portico, Young and Sexy, Octoberman, Chad VanGaalen

Whoever had the brainstorm to have Chad VanGaalen play his Sled Island set in the planetarium of the Calgary Science Centre is a bloody visionary. If you can think of a better place to have this mad genius play his highly original music, while projecting his bizarre and beautiful animations on the ceiling, I would like to hear about it.

The evening began with Portico, a three-piece band (guitar, bass, and drums) from Vancouver and it began very early in the evening for the indie crowd (7:00 pm) , so there were only a handful of people in attendance. Which is a shame, because we all really liked them.

They sort of set the tone for an evening of glitches, though, as they were playing on borrowed gear, as their stuff was with the band Octoberman, who had gone missing somewhere en route from BC. There were a few issues with sound check and even throughout the set, but Portico were such an appealing trio and they handled the gaffes with such innate charm that we would have been happy to listen to their tales of historic Canadiana for much longer. The frontwoman had a lovely clear voice and the bassist had such a sassy stage presence, with her deep knee bends in her school teacherly skirt, that we were sorry to see the end of the set.

Particularly as we were then informed that Octoberman has still not arrived and that the show would be suspended until 9:00 (over an hour away). As we were all encouraged to go shopping or something, we left, stopping to play with the science toys in the lobby, and wandered the streets for a while.

When we arrived back at 8:30, we were a little discombobulated to discover that the next performance has already begun, and there was considerable confusion as people tried to find seats in the suddenly full theatre in the pitch dark. We sat on the stairs for a while until somebody thought to turn the house lights up a bit so that we could find some seats, and by that time I was grumpy and had a grudge going against the band, whom I assumed was the lost and next in the lineup, Octoberman.

I was mistaken. In actuality, it was Young and Sexy, who had magnanimously agreed to play next whilst everyone waited for Octoberman to arrive. Young and Sexy are a five-piece band, heavy on the boy-girl harmonies and a little reminiscent of the New Pornographers. The boy frontman even had a Carl Newman haircut.

At some point during Young and Sexy's set, the long-lost Octoberman arrived and they then took the stage after god knows how many hours in the van. Maybe it was road weariness, maybe it was my own begrudgement at losing my awesome seat (although there are no bad seats at the Planetarium, really), but I was a little
underwhelmed with Octoberman. I did think the violinist kicked all kinds of ass, and she played her heart out full bore the whole set. The songs were energetic enough, but lyrically were on the pedestrian side, and I could not get past how utterly bored the backup singer and the bassist looked. I got a little tired just looking at them, but then I didn't just come off a 12-hour road trip, so I shouldn't judge. And their violinist can shred!

But really, weren't we all waiting for Chad VanGaalen anyway? Calgary's unofficial mayor? Of course we were, especially as we were promised a background show of his wonderful and bizarre animations. And since we never did get the laser Kenny Loggins show that we were all naturally anticipating we would be seeing at the plane-arium, we were more than ready for a much needed dose of Chad's own brand of unparalleled creativity.

But alas, poor Chad was having a difficult night.

A Chad VanGaalen set is always full of the unexpected anyway, but last night even poor Chad seemed surprised and a little overwhelmed by home-made instruments that sounded better in his basement, by tapings from under the train tracks that he forgot to rewind, and by an accordion player who was still playing a set down the road with Women.

But even a set fraught with difficulties is a thing of rare and strange beauty in the hands of someone like Chad VanGaalen. He is without a doubt blessed with the most mad creativity imaginable. And it certainly does not hurt that he is also blessed with the charm of an enthusiastic and overgrown eight-year-old. There is an intimacy to every Chad VanGaalen show, a feeling that he is excitedly showing you his latest creation or perhaps a really neat squished frog.

Thursday night's concert was a showcase of primarily new material. Mini Televisions was the only album song I recognized, and there were a couple of others that I remembered from previous concerts, but mostly we were privy to new sounds. And a lot of the time these new sounds were interrupted with an "oh man, I'm sorry guys, I forgot to do this part" and then we would be treated to a great story about how he had recorded this piece on a tape recorder placed underneath the railroad tracks, or how cool the Science Centre is ("when I was a kid, there was only a sandbox and a bathroom"), or how amazing Grizzly Bear's performance was ("did you see that bassist, playing the flute and singing backup like Lena Horne or something and he looked like somebody, I don't know who, but somebody, it was fucking awesome").

And how to even describe Chad VanGaalen's animation to somebody who has never seen it? Where do you even start? Eyeballs on tentacles? Tooth man having sex with a toothbrush? Santa Claus pooping out a toy train? Jesus cock jump?

You really need to see for yourself - Clinically Dead:

Thursday, June 26, 2008

let loose the joyful noise - going Sledding 2.0

Central United Church
Wednesday, June 25/08
lineup: Kris Ellestad, Woodpigeon, Grizzly Bear

I've become quite fond of attending concerts in churches. The acoustics are generally superb, the setting is intimate, and some churches have even provided cushions on the pews for those of us not hard-assed or pious enough to sit for hours on a a slab of polished wood.

Last night's concert at Central United had all the intimacy and the feeling of community that you have always heard that a church is supposed to invoke, and that was due in part to the venue. With a seating area that was cozy without being claustrophobic, all the seats offered great views of the stage, and with the seats being angled to an open lobby area, you could also indulge in unfettered people watching, which of course is an integral part of any concert experience.

The evening opened with Kris Ellestad, a shoeless young hippie with an ethereal voice and some heartfelt folk guitar pieces. His set was very watchable and ended with a lovely touch as he invited all 8 members of Woodpigeon up onto a very tiny stage to join him for the final two songs. Ending, as he did, with a rousing rendition of The Log Driver's Waltz appealed to the long-time CBC junkies in attendance.

I love to see comradery amongst musicians, and the hugs that went all round among Ellestad and the Woodpigeon members was heartening. With violinist Foon Yap, however, he pounded fists instead, and that is only as it should be. I mean, it's Foon Yap, after all.

I was a trifle concerned when Woodpigeon took the stage, as there was not a spare inch, what with eight people and all their instruments. And with violin bows in use, I was fearful that somebody would eventually lose an eye. I need not have worried; these people are consummate professionals. Sadly, from my vantage point, a stack of speakers hid the bassist with the awesome giant fro from view, but a silhouette of the coif in question was visible and added a pleasingly old-timey touch to the performance, reminiscent of a paper lantern show, and fed into the
whole Prairie Home Companion aesthetics that the band displays.

Woodpigeon's major strength has always been their soaring and lush sound, and last night their sweet harmonies and sweeping melodies worked particularly well under the high-domed cathedral ceiling.

By the time Grizzly Bear took the stage, the church was packed. An appreciative roar met their arrival. And with good reason. Grizzly Bear's music is at once deceptively simple and complexly layered. With Ed Droeste's haunting vocals taking most of the lead, they played a set that was lushly atmospheric and nuanced. A Grizzly Bear song is the farthest thing you could imagine from a straight-forward formulaic pop ditty. Each song ebbs and flows, builds and recedes, holds you in a hypnotic trance the whole time.

Such an atmospheric band is not generally the flashiest band to watch in performance, but Grizzly Bear made their performance imminently mesmerizing by our sheer amazement at how they coax such sounds from their instruments and from themselves. Some very nice touches were the reworkings of a torch song written in the 30's by Droeste's great-aunt, and of course, the encore of He Hit Me.

Wednesday's concert at Central United Church was an extremely satisfying and inspiring start to the Sled Island Festival. Tonight we are chuffed to be seeing local wunderkind Chad VanGaalen in another inspired setting - the Planetarium. Opening will be Portico, Octoberman, and Young and Sexy. I expect nothing short of brilliance.

Of course one cannot see every performer at the festival, and Vice Magazine was kind enough to send me these interview/performance clips of two acts that I will not be seeing this festival:

If you can't see them in person, you might as well watch them on tv. But do see all the performances you can. Sled Island only comes around once a year, you know.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Going Sledding 2.0

While the Art and Design portion of the Sled Island Festival actually opened last night with a poster art show at CIRCA Showroom, tonight marks the highly anticipated kick-off to the much-salivated-over music portion of this year's incarnation of the festival. Could we be any more excited? We could not.

We were determined to partake of more of the offerings than we did last year (and are still kicking ourselves for missing Boredoms), and I think that we are getting a pretty good representation of the embarrassment of musical riches on offer.

We will be taking the train downtown shortly for what promises to be a stellar evening - Kris Ellestad, Woodpigeon, and Grizzly Bear. I admit to not knowing much about Kris Ellestad, but I have been a fan of Woodpigeon's sweet and sweeping sound for some time and was delighted with their performance at Sled Island last year. And of course, you simply do not want to miss Grizzly Bear. The buzz around their appearance at Sled
Island (just prior to opening for Radiohead at a number of North American dates) is pretty palpable.

Regrettably, my home cloning kit has not yet arrived in the mail, so tonight we will be missing, Clinton St John (from the Cape May), the Mae Shi, and Seven Story Redhead.

I almost plotzed trying to decide which show to attend on Thursday. I mean how do you decide between Jonathan Richman, Okkervil River, and Chad VanGaalen? Not to mention the Consonant C, Carolyn Mark, Elliot Brood, Sudden Infant Dance Syndrome, the Paperbacks, and Yo La Tengo? Someone is going to end up in tears before the night is out.

In the end, the Jonanthan Richman show appeared to be sold out anyway, and although we have enjoyed seeing our homeboy Chad in concert many times, the thought of seeing him perform at the Planetarium, where his wonderfully bizarre art will be projected onto the ceiling during the show, was just too promising to pass up. Sorry, Okkervil River.

On Friday, we are taking a no doubt much needed break from concert-going, even though the mainstage show starts that day with the likes of Yo La Tengo, Broken Social Scene, Elliot Brood, Tegan and Sara, and Deerhunter. Instead we will be saving our musical mojo for Saturday, and doing a round of the art shows instead.

That should prepare us for a very full day on Saturday, a full day boasting such an unbelievable lineup as Jonathan Richman, Of Montreal, the Gutter Twins, Jose Gonzalez, Drive By Truckers, Wire, and Mogwai. I know! How is this even possible?

If you know me at all, you know I will be taking copious notes. In my head, anyway. Please check back here for daily reviews, if you are interested, and if you don't mind a little excessive gushing. But you really should be here in person, you know.

I did warn you.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

for your viewing pleasure - a gaggle of Marthas

The resemblance is uncanny, but the top photo was actually taken at farmers' market/u-pick/tree nursery destination and contains no Marthas. The second was taken in my kitchen.

Had I known the camera batteries were going to crap out after a few shots and I was going to be too lazy/forgetful to replace them, I may not have taken these pergola shots, but I do like the lines of the shadows and the interplay of the trees and the former trees.

Separated at birth?

Marthas know how to chill, and how to strike a heckuva deal on yard art.

This gargoyle put me in mind of Allison. In the nicest possible way of course.

The Marthas were a little more low-key this weekend than in some previous Dionysian romps, so it was more of a healing and rejuvenation by virtue of simply being together under one roof than it was vamping out on the town.

In fact, all our meals were taken on the patio, all our karaoking was done in the context of a board game (won by yours truly and lorded over the others), only one road trip was made (to the above-mentioned nursery), and we even took some exercise in the form of a walk around the lake in our neighbourhood. Hell, we even climbed the waterfall. I won that too, but to be fair, nobody else knew it was a race.

Monday, June 23, 2008

a dirty daughter from the labour camps

It was so glorious this morning that, after I dropped the urban assault vehicle off at the dealership, I decided to walk home through Fish Creek Park. I needed a long trek to walk off some of the excesses of the Martha weekend without immediately resorting to full-out workout. That'll happen tomorrow.

It took me about 20 minutes to reach the park, and as I descended into the river valley, the incessant traffic noise faded away behind me, and was replaced with the the buzzing of insects establishing territory in the swaying prairie grasses. Even at 9:00 am the sun was starting to become oppressive and the thought of trekking across that long stretch of native prairie, shielded from any cooling breezes by the cliffs bordering the river valley, was daunting and I began to eye up the glade of trees that run alongside the creek itself.

I left the main trail and followed a path that had been beaten into the grass, a path that grew narrower as the grass grew longer, until I was wading through a slight sliver in the waist deep grass, waking irate insects as I passed. But when I reached the deliciously shaded glen by the water, I knew it had been the right decision. The next several minutes belonged to those all too rare life moments that you know you will remember always. Those moments when you try to drink in every sensation - the way the morning light glints off the Russian olives leaves, the way the sunlight pierces the canopy of leaves only enough to lightly dapple the red shale pathway, the way the morning air is fresh and sweet and full of the promise of the day. It's almost enough to make you want to believe in a divine plan.

All too soon, the path diverged back into the prairie and into the sun, but by then I had been refreshed and I happily trekked along, knowing that before too long I would be pouring myself a fresh cup of coffee at home.

A few years ago, this area suffered substantial flooding, and Fish Creek Provincial Park was hard hit, so much so that a number of bridges were washed out, and Fish Creek itself forged new pathways into the battered soil. The red shale path that I was on looked well-travelled enough, but I should have suspected that perhaps it no longer got a lot of human foot passage when the red-winged blackbird suddenly attacked me.

I had to shield my head with my arms and run, trying to leave the area it was obviously protecting, but I was brought to a sudden stop by the creek looming in front of me. The creek which, swollen with the incessant rains of last month, now cut me off from my destination. For a crazed moment, I considered trying to wade across to escape from the crazed wildlife. The creek is only about 15 feet across, but looks about waist-deep, and in the end I decided to turn around and run the gauntlet of the blackbird again instead.

I know someone who regularly runs in the park and always carries a big stick in case of a cougar encounter, but in my experience it's never the cougars or the bears who get you.

I did make it home eventually, and by the time I reached the big hill where you climb out of the park, I had recovered sufficiently from another of my all-too-frequent crazed bird encounters to enjoy the lung and leg taxing trek up the hill. I always like to end a workout with a big push, and as we only live two blocks from the park, that big hill is perfectly situated. For someone who hates mountains, I sure like climbing up hills.

All things considered, it was a great way to start to exorcise some of the excesses of the Martha weekend, to counteract some of the obscene amount of disgustingly decadent food we ate. With any luck, I'll have some pictures and details of those adventures tomorrow. But first I need to survive a commute without a cd player or even a radio! Nobody suffers more than I do.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

whilst they wash the filth away

Remember how your mom used to say "get away from the windows, the Jehovah's Witnesses are coming down the street"? Or maybe that was just mine. Regardless, it shouldn't be any problem picking up a copy of the new Watchtower this weekend. Nine thousand Jehovah's equals a lot of door knocking.

Fortunately none of the Marthas are jonesing to embrace their inner Jehovah's Witness this weekend, so we will be partaking of more womenly weekend- appropriate activities. I am grabbing a couple of minutes of ether time, whilst everybody is getting themselves beautiful, after having had a rather great sleep down in the man-cave last night. It's really a very comfy place to sleep once you get it de-scuzzed and add a few feminine touches, like clean sheets.

Sorry to be ignoring you all this weekend, but I shall be back later tomorrow evening
with all my tales of debauchery. And naturally I expect to hear all about your indiscretions as well.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

now I can enjoy the soothing dulcet tones of traffic

The cd player in the urban assault vehicle suddenly up and died on Monday. Coincidently this was the same day that I had to make an appointment at the dealership to have some major work done on a fuel pump or vapour lock or some such thing. Big 4 and 1/2 hour job anyway, so they tell me.

So what was the first thing I told the service advisor? Yeah, it wasn't the fuel pump detail.

Next Monday, they have to pull out the radio altogether and order a new system. Gott im Himmel, I hope they have the replacement in stock! There is no point in buying any new cds until I get my music studio running again.

Would you rather spend eternity listening to a car alarm or a leaf blower?

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

I'm in yer blogz, stealin yer ideaz

I'm pretty sure I hit Mach 2 at some point this week. In fact, I swear when I looked over my shoulder at one point, I could see myself running to catch up to me. Hence my shoddy performance in the blogosphere as of late.

But even though I have been too busy to think up any clever blog posts, you all have taken up the slack in a heroic fashion. The always stylish Beckeye has launched a lyrics contest that spans four decades and 3 difficulty levels. It was a humbling experience to realize just how badly I sucked at identifying the mystery lyrics, but oddly compelling at the same time.

Meanwhile, both the vivacious Beth and the always clever and surprising Allison have posted stimulating memes containing illuminating and sometimes shocking facts about their darling selves.
Once I have finally caught up with myself, hopefully in the next few days, I plan to partake in this meme. You have been forewarned.

When I finally had the chance to meet the provocative Urban Blonde for coffee the other day, I was thrilled to discover that not only does she live within spitting distance of my house (although to be honest, I didn't actually test that out), but it also turns out that we share a great deal of history. I do love it when online connections translate so seamlessly to the real world. I even got to meet her charming children and evil but adorable puppy. Naturally, she posted about our meeting long before I did. Over-achiever.

From the delightful Will, I am stealing the idea of top ten favourite albums from the first half of the year. My light-fingeredness is not as shameful as would first appear, since Will admits to borrowing the idea from Dusted Magazine in the first place. Honour among thieves and all that.

I am going to modify my list slightly, however.

Top Six Albums of the First Half
plus Top Four Most Anticipated Albums That I Plan to Get Really Soon:

LP - Holy Fuck
Dig!!! Lazarus, Dig!!! - Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds
Third - Portishead
Kensington Heights - the Constantines
Colin Meloy Sings Live! - Colin Meloy
A Mad and Faithful Telling - DeVotchKa
Youth Novels - Lykke Li
Oh My Darling - Basia Bulat (may have been 07, actually)
með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust - Sigur Ros (thanks to Bloody Awful Poetry!)
I Know You're Married But I've Got Feelings Too - Martha Wainwright

It's going to be a great year, I think.

Have to run, am I ever late!

Sunday, June 15, 2008

in the mirror of my steamy bathroom where the lino tells a sorry story in a monologue

I am up far too early for a Sunday morning, as the Resident Offspring had to start work at 7:30 and guess who gets to chauffeur? We really must figure out those bus schedules.

I have decided to use the chrono-functional hybrid format to revamp my cv. It's for career-changers like me. As it's been nearly a decade since I really scrutinized my cv, I am anticipating great results with this new approach. In with the new!

I swear those Calgary Herald writers have been eavesdropping on the voices in my head. Yesterday there appeared in the paper an article on the plethora of festivals that descend upon this city every summer, that pretty much summed up my thoughts precisely. If it weren't for the comics and the sudoku, I wouldn't even need to subscribe to the paper anymore.

I am giving the Virgin Festival, which is on next weekend, a pass, as I will be hosting a Womanly Weekend with the Marthas. Besides, although I really like a lot of the bands, I have seen most of them many times. I have to save up my (rapidly flagging) energy for Sled Island Festival, which starts the following Wedesday. This will be the first time ever that I have hosted a Womanly Weekend in my very own home, and the timing could not be more serendipitous, falling as it does on Virgin Festival weekend and all.

The Spousal Unit will be away in Manitoba, sussing out our little bit of land there, making plans for the Jonestown we aim to build, so he will be spared the giggling and cackling that will be filling the house once the Marthas descend. The Resident Offspring has been issued a temporary guest pass for some of the festivities. This is no small honour, let me tell you.

I have been rekindling my relationship with the Decemberists as of late. Were it not for the Decemberists, one would almost never hear the words "ballastrade", "indolent", "purloined", "fontenelle", "pachyderm", "rhapsodical", "palanquin" or, quite possibly my favourite phrase, "tryst in the greenery", in rock music. And that would be a pity.

Tonight the resident father/spousal unit will be dining on a terrifyingly large steak in honour of Fathers' Day. Not quite the suicide by rib steak as in previous years , but still intimidating enough.

Happy Fathers' Day to all you daddies. There is nothing sexier than a man who plays road hockey with his daughter, calls his son darling, reads stories to his toddler, or carries his baby around strapped to his chest (a la Jarvis Cocker, pictured here still carrying Albert around, albeit sans chest bag).

You all have my heart and my admiration.

Friday, June 13, 2008

if it's not woodpeckers eating your house, it's blue jays trying to murder you

I have a troubled relationship with birds apparently. It's a predisposition I share with my cat.

Recently the insane blue jay who hangs around our yard has gone beyond stalking the cat when she's outside and has taken to peering into our windows in a threatening manner.

This morning, the Spousal Unit opened the blinds in the office and was startled to see the homicidal blue jay looking in at him, giving him the evil eye. And a few minutes later, I heard some irate squawking and looked into the kitchen, where the cat was enjoying the view out the window, to see that bat-shit crazy blue jay swoop repeatedly at the kitchen window, trying to off the cat.

If those blue jays start teaming up with woodpeckers, I am getting out the shotgun, and if I hear any weird noises in the fireplace in the next few days, I am so out of here. At least the trailer trash robins have been keeping a low profile.

Top Five Keyword Searches on My Statcounter Recently:

1. Noel Gallagher is ugly
(you're preaching to the choir here)

2. puked on my bare feet and liked it
(hurray for sickos!)

3. Thom Yorke comb-over
(that would be a must-see)

4. what if my dog swallowed a small lego piece
(the perennial question, isn't it?)

5. feud between joy division and the dandy warhols
(somebody's getting their decades mixed up and making me feel all superior)

Why stop now?

Five More!

1. cat puke casserole
(I need that recipe)

2. how to touch someones boobs when their sleeping
(illiterate and uninformed - my favourite type)

3. matthew good hit with shoe
(that's actually a great story)

4. are turkish people bad tempered
(well we've all wondered that)

5. clothes up and personal calgary
(I'm thinking, just learning English?)

Keep an eye out for the insane wildlife this weekend, regardless of whether you are in the mountains, in the backyard, or in the bar.

It's all fun till somebody gets an eye pecked out.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

I get knocked down (but I get up again)

Guess who's going to be a free agent come September 1?

The new emperor hemmed and hawed at our meeting yesterday, using nebulous phrases, until I pushed him for a definitive answer. Which was no.

Good. Now I can move forward. After three years of uncertainty and speculation about whether there would again be funding at the end of the next quarter, I am glad to see an end in sight.

That said, I am stinging a bit. It does hurt my feelings somewhat to come to the realization that the entire world does not think I am indispensable. So I will wallow in self-pity for a couple of days, and then get over myself.

It is heartening to see that the old emperor and the good guy are both livid over this and are bending over backwards to try to change the outcome. I appreciate their concern, but I have lost my heart for this particular battle. The only fight I have left in me at this point is for a modest severance package.

In my mind, I am already gone.

Fallow - the Weakerthans

Monday, June 09, 2008

I took a photograph of you in the herbaceous border

This summer I am sticking to the game plan. Six pots of annuals, that's it.

Back before I realised that gardening was a fancy word for hard work, I used to fill 25-30 pots with annuals every year. I must have been insane. And this was at a time when I was building raised beds and laying retaining walls and nurturing newly planted perennials. I am so much wiser (and lazier) now. I figure it's the garden's turn to do some of the work.

A few days ago I had to hang around the opposite corner of the city for a couple of hours, so I planned a trip to a major greenhouse there during that time to buy my bedding plants. This particular greenhouse has a reputation for being the place for all your gardening needs. It was pouring buckets and bloody cold, so I figured I would pretty much have the place myself. And I did, but maybe it wasn't the weather that was keeping people away in droves.

The greenhouse was huge! And the bedding out section looked to be at least an acre ... of nothing.

I went painstakingly up and down every row and section, searching for something that I could bear to look at all summer long, and all I could see were geraniums, petunias, and marigolds. The biggest greenhouse I have ever seen in my life and all they carry are geraniums, petunias, and marigolds?

After some fine-toothed combing I finally managed to suss out some fuchsias, impatients, verbena, lobelia, ivy, and ornamental grasses. Nothing very exotic. But at least the meager selection kept my overbuying tendencies at bay.

And today the cat would not come outside to help me fill the garden pots, and she normally loves gardening, because there is a homicidal maniac blue jay hanging around our yard and every time Sputty goes outside, the blue jay gets all up in her grill.

Radiohead chillin. Here's Thom channeling Beth Gibbons:

Find more videos like this on w.a.s.t.e. central

For those of you who like to compare and contrast, here's the original by Portishead - The Rip.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

ear to the internet, eye to the screen

I've been rather immersed in the Daytrotter sessions today, and many thanks to our man in London for bringing this great site to my attention. My head is virtually swimming with all the new music I have been absorbing. I fear that tonight my dreams will be populated by Harry and the Potters dueling Okkervil River for the right to sit next to Basia Bulat in order to listen to the Walkmen sing Leonard Cohen covers. Or something similar.

And yet, my greed knows no bounds. I still want to get my hands on the new cds by Martha Wainwright, the Awkward Stage, and Emmylou Harris.

This particular weekend was a wash for getting any film watching done, but last weekend we watched a curious little gem - Wristcutters: a Love Story. It has the rather unique premise of a purgatory populated entirely with people who have committed suicide. In this purgatory, suicides linger in an existence very much like the one they just left, only much crappier and seedier.

Zia finds himself in this desert landscape of rundown gas stations, abandoned cars and scuzzy bars after he cuts his wrists following a breakup. Here he befriends a Russian gypsy punk musician, who, with his outrageous mustache and larger than life (or perhaps, death) personality, is quite obviously based upon Eugene Hutz, frontman of Gogol Bordello. On a cross country trip in a car that contains a portal to a black hole under the front passenger seat, they pick up Mikal, a hitchhiker who claims she is there by mistake and is in search of the People in Charge to plea her case to return to life.

I don't even want to get into much more plot explanation as, on paper it all sounds rather confusing, but there are searches for lost loves, budding new loves,
mute throat singers, messianic kings, Tom Waits, government agents, and a camp in the desert where daily tiny miracles occur.

Wristcutters is a wistfully funny film. The three main characters are all highly appealing and the supporting characters are quirky and memorable. The film is peppered with sly little details like a soundtrack that heavily features musicians who committed suicide, and the fact that Eugene is drinking a bottle of Dead Guy Ale while he commits suicide.

This is a highly watchable film, which I know I will be watching again a few months down the road.

What music and/or film would you recommend?

Saturday, June 07, 2008

I haven't worn a shirt like that since, aaacchhh, 1974

I've never been to Wales, but it sure would be fun to be there from August 15-17 (except for the fact that I will be busy then counting sleeps till I see Radiohead). But those who will be in the vicinity could certainly do worse than to take in the Green Man Festival at Glanusk Park.

The lineup looks really promising, and includes Super Furry Animals, the National, Richard Thompson, Los Campesinos!, Fuck Buttons, Caribou, the Agnostic Mountain Gospel Choir, Drive By Truckers, Black Mountain, and tonnes more.

For those of us who sadly cannot jet over the pond for the weekend, there is another opportunity to get involved and this is really neat. You can chose the band who will take the final spot in the lineup. Honest and for true. There's a poll on the site, which has videos of all the bands that are vying for the final spot on the lineup. You can take a listen to some new music AND cast your ballet for the most deserving band. Plus you have a chance to win a pair of tickets. And then you are really in a pickle, since you will then have to decide how to justify a quick trip to Wales for the weekend. I mean, since you've already got the tickets and they were free and everything...

I'm going to spend some time this cold, windy, rainy weekend checking out these new bands and pretending that I am a festival organizer.


I know you kids are starting to get worried
because I haven't talked about Radiohead in days, so I will calm your fears with the assurance that there is action in the Radiohead universe. They are currently in Dublin, having begun the European leg of their tour last night, and the word on the street is that they are now performing a new song Super Collider. (update: video footage available at You Ain't No Picasso) I am so glad I live in a world where new Radiohead music is a reality.

And of course EMI have now released the controversial Best Of Radiohead album, which no self-respecting Radiohead fan would ever buy anyway. Perhaps if they had released an album of b-sides and rarities, we could talk. Of course EMI have been real assholes about the whole thing anyway, so maybe not even then. The release coincides with all of Radiohead's albums and music videos being made available at itunes.

Including this early video from deep within the vaults - Anyone Can Play Guitar. It is the most outrageously cheesy thing I have seen all day and I am making pizza for supper. Iguanas, turkeys, flaming guitars, and a bare-chested Thom! It's so over the top and brilliant in its awfulness. Enjoy.

Friday, June 06, 2008

when they come on a different day just like this one

I did not see that coming.

I met with the director yesterday to "discuss future opportunities", fully expecting to be given a boot in the ass out the door. Instead I was told that the new emperor would be making the personnel decisions. Fair enough.

The director has commended me before on my professionalism, and when we then started a discussion about the logistics of the power transfer, I think I opened his eyes to some of the complexities of a multi-centred research group and the need to have someone to facilitate a smooth functioning of the research. I was on top of my game, I tell you.

I actually avoided talking about myself personally in the position in question, until he asked me directly what I saw my options as. When I told him that I was not committed to remaining in medicine, but was instead entertaining options in arts communications, I could see a shift in his focus. We ended the meeting with the director telling me that he was contacting the new emperor immediately and strongly recommending that he hire me to remain in my current position.

I meet with the new emperor early next week. If offered the position, I am going to demand a pay increase.

Damn I'm good.

Friday Top Five Random Thoughts Rattling Around in My Brain:
1. The robins nesting in our yard this year are trailer trash. They crap all over the place and they're butt ugly and I swear they are mentally defective. I guess that's what happens when robin cousins marry.
2. Remember when Edward Norton used to be hot? The Incredible Hulk? Please. Edward, whatever happened to Fight Club and American History X?
3. World Report on CBC radio has been broadcasting old news snippets to mark their 40th anniversary. There sure are a lot of dead CBC reporters and broadcasters.
4. The upside to this incessant coughing has been my new sexy deep voice. I can now sing along with The National pitch perfectly.
5. The giant inflated polar bear wearing sunglasses and a sumo outfit that is pimping hot tubs outside a tent on the corner of MacLeod and Heritage makes absolutely no sense.
Who's up for another list?
Friday Random Ten:
1. The clearing - Arab Strap
2. Reconstruction site - the Weakerthans
3. Optimistic - Radiohead
4. Do you wanna touch me - Joan Jett
5. Illegal smile - John Prine
6. Video bargainville - Moxy Fruvous
7. This velvet glove - Red Hot Chili Peppers
8. Sixties remake - Tokyo Police Club
9. I'm waiting for the man - Velvet Underground
10. Speedway - Morrissey
I hope all the random thoughts and random playlists that live inside your brain are in perfect harmony today. Make some beautiful music this weekend.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

introducing your latest war casualty

The political battles that have been festering at the institute of higher learning came to a head over the weekend, with emails and voice mails flying back and forth relaying developments and point counter point. Culminating in a cluster bomb explosion of a correspondence from the director, the landscape was changed irrevocably. And when the dust settled, yours truly was included in the collateral damage.

At least I expect that I was, barring some 11th hour miracle, as I have a meeting with said director tomorrow when I expect that I will be cordially invited to
fuck off.

You see, my crime was aligning myself with the old emperor. I have been told that I am a reminder of his former influence and the new emperor wants to clean house. So be it.

I'm actually rather impressed with his recently demonstrated Machiavellian tendencies. I never dreamed he had it in him. Oh sure, there are those who say that he is merely a puppet of the director and that he whined his way into this position. And while it is true that he was one of the privileged spoon-fed ones, you have to admire his political prowess. He's a better player than I am, obviously.

If I sound bitter, it's only because I am. Not so much for myself, but for the research assistant
who recently bought a house and was blindsided by this, for the assistant professor who shows true leadership but is being forced into an indentured servant role to the new emperor, and for the old emperor who built the kingdom and whose only crime was leaving to start a new empire, passing the old empire over to capable hands, or so he thought.

I expect to be told that come September, which is when the final nail gets driven into the coffin of the old emperor's influence, there will no longer be a position for me in this brave new world. I only hope they don't try to present me with a cake on my last day, as I will have a difficult time restraining myself from commenting on the perfection of receiving a fucking cake for 9.5 years of service, instead of a severance package.

Anybody need someone who can write pretty decently and pimp stuff enthusiastically?

Monday, June 02, 2008

bitten by vipers

I am almost loathe to tell anyone about my latest discovery, because it is just so perfect as is and I don't want too many people weaseling in on my action. But I promise if you come to my town, I will certainly take you there.

I've discovered AA baseball.

It's been forever since I've been to a pro ball game. The Blue Jays, prior to their World Championships, in fact. And I've never been a fan of watching baseball inside a dome.

But on Saturday evening, I sat in the sun, munching happily on a Spolumbo's sausage, my feet resting on the roof of the visitors' dugout and cheered on the Calgary Vipers as they triumphed over the Edmonton Cracker-Cats (which is one sweet name for a ball club, I have to admit).

It was a glorious evening for a ballgame. The grass was lush and brilliant from recent rains, banks of clouds moved randomly across the sky, so that just as the sun got too hot on your face, a cloudbank moved over and gave some sweet relief.

And Foothills Stadium is a premium place to take in a game. It's a real old-timey intimate ball park, with free parking right out front, and a laid back and convivial atmosphere inside the gates. People strolled about throughout the game, fetching popcorn or another sausage. Dads took their kids up to the netting behind home plate to get a better look at the batters warming up. Players came up to the gap between the netting and the dugout and chatted with people they knew in the stands. Between innings kids were called down onto the diamond to participate in everything from push-up contests to tire-rolling races to karaoke challenges. And yes there was a mascot - Slider. I think he was a
giant lizard.

The people who run the Vipers games do everything right, in my opinion. They serve Big Rock beer in the cans instead of
pouring it into those awful plastic cups and producing unnecessary garbage. Same deal with the pop. The food lineups (which offered a broad but not overwhelming choice) did tend to get a little long, but nobody got pushy or impatient, because that's the great thing about baseball, isn't it? If you miss a few minutes of the game, who cares? It'll still be going on when you get back to your seat.

And those seats are roomy and comfortable, with scads of leg room. We sat on the aisle in the first row right along the third baseline, as close as you could get to home plate without actually having to bat. You could all but feel your hair parting from the wind generated from the fastballs, that's how close we were to the action.

And all for 16 bucks a seat.

Just down the row from us sat a couple of women with a wee baby who were cheering on the Cracker-Cats. I'm assuming they were the wives of a couple of the Edmonton players, because after the game one of them passed the baby down from the stands to one of the Cracker-Cats, who snuggled with it for a while. Anyway at one point during the game, one of the women left her seat and made her way down the row to the aisle. As she passed us, she pointed to two empty beer cans that the Spousal Unit had sitting in front of him. "Do you want me to take these for you?" she asked.

You wouldn't see that at Sky Dome.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

just until the cough syrup wears off

I had the best of intentions.

I had a new favourite past-time in a new favourite local hot spot to share with you, I just finished a book that I really enjoyed that I wanted to tell you about, and I watched an awesome film last night that I am just dying to discuss. But, against my better judgment, I downed some cough syrup to drown out the rattling noise in my chest, and now I am good for nothing.

So all of these fine things will just have to wait for a day or two. Please come back when I can string
together more than one word.

In the meanwhile, here's a video by a Swedish musician whose music I've been enjoying lately - Lykke Li: