Thursday, July 31, 2008

I feel all served and protected

I received this security advisory at work this morning:

Campus Community Advisory

Moose tranquilized and safely removed from campus

Alberta Fish and Wildlife Officers successfully tranquilized
and removed a young moose from campus this morning.

The moose wandered onto campus at about 8:20 a.m. and broke
through a window in the link between Reeve Theatre and
Craigie Hall. Fish and Wildlife Officers had been in the
area and were able to tranquilize the moose shortly
after 8:30 a.m.

Alberta Fish and Wildlife Officers were to monitor and then
release the moose.

This message has been sent to all members of the University of Calgary community.

If you have any information regarding this incident, please contact Campus Security at

I feel so much more secure now, knowing that no moose is going to come busting through my window. If I had a window, that is.

In other news, I just discovered that the lyrics to ABBA's Take a Chance on Me are "honey,
I'm still free", not "I'll be up till three", as I had thought for decades.

My favourite phrase currently is "crisp white shirt".

Guess who's coming back to North America tomorrow? YAY!! Anybody going to Lolapalooza this weekend? I'm counting the days till Seattle myself.

Also tomorrow, we will proudly bring you the Zombie Awards for Best Of Moments at this year's Calgary Folk Festival, as threatened promised.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The Volunteer Monologues 2.0: singing through the storm

Sunday, July 27
Does it get any better than this? Not only did I have the full day free of volunteer duties to attend workshops, but my evening shift was located at the satellite record tent which has a perfect view of the main stage, PLUS falafels were on the menu for lunch at the hospitality tent. Sunday was shaping up to be a perfect day, providing we hadn't provoked the weather gods too much.

The Indie 500 Workshop (Basia Bulat, Great Lake Swimmers, Julie Doiron, and Sam Parton (Be Good Tanyas) was the perfect Sunday morning gathering. While the Spousal Unit checked out of the hotel, and I secured our super-secret main stage property, the Resident Offspring scored the most incredible seats at the leafy haven of the Ship and Anchor stage. We are a precision instrument of a festival machine, our family, and we settled back in our front row seats to luxuriate in the melding of voices on stage, glorious regardless of how late they had stayed at the after party the night before.

After indulging my falafel addiction, I managed to catch a few minutes of the Dukhs' hosted workshop and then it was off to meet up with the family once again for what turned out to be my favourite workshop of the weekend. Spin Doctors, hosted by the groovilicious no luck club, turned into a funkadelic dance party, featuring the deliciously robust mixes of Klezmer hip-hop artist Socalled, the eclectic noir genius of Wendy McNeill, and the hometown charm of musical chameleon Kara Keith. A goodly portion of the audience was up getting their groove on during the entire workshop, while the rest of us chair-danced.

And then the weather changed.

Partway through the next workshop, there was a lightning bolt and a simultaneous crack of thunder that jolted musicians and audience alike into alert silence. To the north and the west, the thunderheads were rolling in rapidly, and we learned later that a tree had been struck by lightning and someone slightly hurt when they were hit by a charred branch.

I had some cd shopping to do and I decided that this would be the perfect opportunity to hit the record tent as a civilian, so I left my family to fend for themselves in the coming storm and I got to the tent just as the heavens opened and the weather gods poured out all their wrath onto us with all the torrential rain and hail and furious lightning that they could muster.
Power was shut down for a while, for obvious reasons, and the record tent became Noah's ark, complete with hordes of rain cape clad refugees huddled over plates of chick pea curry.

And then almost instantaneously, the sun shone hotter than before, everything started to steam, and I managed to catch part of one more workshop before my shift.

Back on duty at the satellite record tent, I was kept hopping for a while so was able to hear, but not really pay a lot of attention to, the final evening's main stage performances of Sony Landreth (who plays an absolutely smoking blues guitar and whose cds we subsequently rapidly sold out of), the duo of Jayme Stone and Mansa Sissoko, the Appalachian-Chinese stylings (yes, you read that correctly) of Sparrow Quartet (that fabulous collective who brought with them the astounding vocalist Abigail Washburn, the cellist Ben Sollee, the fiddler Casey Driessen, and the spectacular banjo virtuoso Bela Fleck).

And here is where I have to eat my words and officially apologize to Conor Oberst. Mr Oberst, I have to admit that I have always dismissed your music as the epitome of emo, and I could only listen in short bursts. But Sunday night, with The Mystic Valley Band backing you, you rocked the island and completely blew me away with an energy that I have never heard in your music before. I really wish you had brought your new cd with you to the folk festival, because we would have sold out, I guarantee you.

Ani DiFranco returned to the festival to close out the final night, and although the rain starting pounding down again in earnest during her rollicking yet heartfelt set, her fiercely loyal fans were not about to let a little cold rain and gusting winds stop them from worshipping at the altar of this righteous babe.

Dreadlocks flying, they danced in the pelting rain. And that's a perfect way to end a folk festival.

Coming up, the Zombie Awards for Best-of-Moments at the 2008 Calgary Folk Music Festival.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Volunteer Monologues 2.0: Voices in the rain

Saturday, July 26
After learning the hard way that your rain gear and tarp do you absolutely no good when they are in the back of the urban assault vehicle that’s parked several blocks away, we have accepted that there is no such thing as over-preparing for the possibility of inclement weather on Prince’s Island, and we schlep everything with us. This philosophy served us well on both Saturday and Sunday of the Calgary Folk Festival this year.

Saturday morning dawned with perfect festival weather and, because I was scheduled to work an early shift at the record tent, I strolled right past the lineups waiting to enter the park, tapping into the vast powers imparted to me by my volunteer badge and shirt. It was disturbingly empowering, this fast-track status, and I vowed to only use that incredible power for the purposes of good.

Volunteering at the record tent from 10-5 meant that I was only able to partake of one workshop during my break that day, so I had to choose prudently. Would I listen to concerts by Martyn Joseph, Wendy McNeill, or no luck club? Or would I catch one of the three workshops that were running simultaneously? Ultimately, I decided on the Wicked and Weird workshop, featuring the Weakerthans (my only chance to see them this festival), Calexico, the Handsome Family, and Torngat. It was under the shady canopy of trees surrounding the Mercury Stage that I chanced upon my first online to real-life encounter of the weekend and then met up with the entire Zombie family as well. Eventually you will see everybody at the Folk Festival.

Volunteering in the record tent continued to be the best thing in the history of best things. Talking to people about the incredible lineup of musicians at the festival, making cd recommendations, helping them find out who was that band I just saw anyway? You know the one, they played at that stage and they had that guy who played that instrument? It’s times like this that you are really able to put all those years of research training to good use. I was thrilled to meet Stephanie and add another notch onto my blogger meet-up belt, and I really hope we have the chance to see each other again at the Radiohead concert in Seattle next month.

I was even able to sneak out for five minutes to have Basia Bulat sign her Polaris Prize short-listed cd for me. Don’t fear, I stood in line like a civilian and did not abuse the power of the yellow shirt. Basia is incredibly friendly and welcoming, and later at the hospitality tent, we got into a “you first, no you first” scrap when we ended up at the plate pickup at the same time. She is the furthest thing imaginable from a prima donna.

I had arranged to meet the Spousal Unit and Resident Offspring at our tarp after my shift, but made a detour to the hospitality tent first to pick up a plate of grilled portabello mushroom, three salads, a slice of hearty bread and a chocolate chip cookie. Good healthy festival grub. The skies had been looking increasingly threatening on the way into the tent, with mutterings of thunder being distantly audible, and by the time I left with my plateful, the rain had begun. I briefly considered heading back into the tent to eat in comfort, but the main stage show was about to start, I had seen only one workshop that day, and I was at a folk festival damn it, a little rain was not going to kill me.

The rain was coming down in earnest when I got back to the main stage, and, as everyone had now pulled an identical blue tarp over themselves and all their goods, and as I had not yet been to this area that day, I wasn’t entirely sure where my zombies were located, so I pulled up the hood on my windbreaker and stood on the periphery, tucking into my meal before it got too soaked.

There could not have been a better opener for the night, given the circumstances, than Josh Ritter and his band of gingers. (Okay, they weren’t all gingers, but they certainly did represent.) We didn’t even care that we were getting soaked when Josh Ritter started playing. Smart and socially conscious lyrics, criminally catchy tunes, and choruses that make you sing along even when you don’t know the words, this is the sort of music that will get you through the rain. I am ashamed to admit that I did not know his infectious music prior to the festival.

And the man himself is absolutely adorable. When the sun broke through the rain and the rainbows started appearing, they could not compete with the big grin on Josh Ritter’s face. We loved him and I consider him to be one of my big discoveries of the weekend. My only regret is that I did not run over to the record tent to buy his cds right away, because they were sold out by the time I did get there.

It had temporarily stopped raining when the Duhks took the stage next. They are a young band from Winnipeg who draw upon that city’s multicultural roots to bring a jaw-dropping and high energy mix of zydeco, gypsy, celtic, and Franco-Manitoban influences. Sarah Dugas belts out the songs with such obvious joy that the Duhks are nearly impossible to resist.

After an Arabic fusion miniset by Maryem Toller and the Toronto Cairo Collective, A Hawk and a Hacksaw took over and seduced us with their strange but oddly compelling Turkish remixes on accordion and violin. You could hear the Neutral Milk Hotel pedigree in the accordion playing of Jeremy Barnes. And I believe the sun was back out by this point.

James Blood Ulmer then laid down some pretty funky grooves on his guitar, but from his banter, which sounded more like a directive, I got the impression that perhaps he was the prima donna the festival had been missing thus far.

We got some more Gurf Morlix (the man with the coolest name in music) when he joined Sam Baker for a mini set, and then it was the highly anticipated The Men They Couldn’t Hang. In an era of olde punks relocating the keys to their tour buses and regaling us with their signature sounds, The Men They Couldn’t Hang are a welcome addition to the likes of Wire, Butthole Surfers, and The Feelies. And in a nod to the fact that olde punks are indeed getting older, I did notice that the MTCH t-shirts that we were selling in the record tent were available in some pretty generous sizes.

Despite the fact that the miners’ strikes in Britain are long over, and Margaret Thatcher no longer rules with an iron fist, the celtic punk songs of social justice still bear relevance today, and The Men They Couldn’t Hang had people up dancing and they had me singing along with The Green Fields of France.

When Mark Erelli started his short set prior to the final act of the night – Blue Rodeo – the rain started in again for the third time. Despite having just been energized by a group of punks who refuse to get old, some of our group were reminded by our yawns and shivering that we were in fact no longer twenty. And once the Spousal Unit and I both admitted that there was no way we had it in us to stay for even the start of the volunteer after party at midnight, we thankfully called it a night.

I was determined to have lots of energy for a full day of workshops the next day, followed by much coveted shift at the main stage record tent, where I would be able to see the evening’s performances while flogging cds. Best of both worlds.

Monday, July 28, 2008

The Volunteer Monologues 2.0: A perfect night, listening

Friday, July 25
Great Lake Swimmers have a quietly spiritual edge to their music. Their heartbreakingly gorgeous and deceptively simple songs evoke the feeling that you are a tiny but integral piece of some glorious spectral puzzle.

I decided to forego the bluegrass banjos of the Carolina Chocolate Drops and the crazy harmonica of Charlie Musselwhite over at the main stage to lounge instead on the grass in front of the more intimate alternative evening stage, luxuriating in a performance by Great Lake Swimmers. Although a tabletop home cloning machine would certainly come in handy for times like this, I have no regrets. With Tony Dekker's fragile but timbered voice drifting out over the crowd and out above the treeline to be carried off into the cosmos, I couldn't help but feel a connection with the others who were gathered. Sometimes there is peace to be found in quiet listening.

But you can only be peaceful for so long, and all too soon we were again on the move, this time foregoing what I was later told was a great set by Bill Callahan at the evening stage to join the throngs at mainstage. We just missed perennial festival favourite, Wendy McNeill's, mini set, but were able to get comfortably settled with a gigantic bag of kettle corn on our blanket in our top secret location to catch the start of The Be Good Tanyas' sweetly lyrical set. I have been listening to their addictive form of new grass for years, but have never had the chance before to see them perform. They were charming and elegant and a little bit sassy.

And then after listening to the evening's MC, Shane Koyczan, recite poetry for far too long (an occurrence which was inexplicably repeated on Sunday night), we were finally treated to a performance by the musically enigmatic Andrew Bird. I do enjoy listening to some of Andrew Bird's vast back catalogue when I am in a particular mood, but I was not quite prepared for the mind-blowing experience of watching him perform his music. As is always true, it is better to see the music performed live, but with Andrew Bird this truth goes one step further; watching him play violin, guitar, and mandolin, and listening to that unbelievable whistling, while he weaves his intricate and looping sonic landscapes, takes the experience to an entirely new level. Many of us stood for an ovation at the end of his set (and at the folk festival, this is not a meaningless and overdone cliche as it is too often in the real world) and he graced us with a short encore.

The lovely Basia Bulat, she of the powerhouse voice and the voice that is somewhat reminiscent of Tracy Chapman but so much more than that, performed a short solo set, whilst accompanying herself on autoharp, and then the highly anticipated Calexico took the stage. They are another band of musical chameleons, primarily focusing on mariachi sounds, but drawing from a much broader base than just another mariachi band. As is so true of that area of the world, the musical influences are broad and varied, and Calexico has a vast background of musical influence to call upon.

It was dark by the time Calexico hit the stage, and the lights of the various tents lining the grassy area had already flickered to life, imparting upon Prince's Island the almost magical feel of small village - a hobbit village perhaps - nestled amongst the trees and shielded from the world by the fast-flowing river on either side. On Friday night, Calexico were at their best with horns swirling and latin rhythms flowing. I though perhaps they played a few too many slower, more contemplative pieces that would have been better suited for a spot earlier in the evening. By now the field of tarps and blankets were ready to dance under the stars. You could just feel it in the vibes.

Gurf Morlix followed up with a mini-set, and although his laid-back Texan drawl may not have exactly suited the mood of folkies ready to dance, there is no denying that he bears the best name at the folk festival, perhaps even in music today. I think it will be a very long time before we stop using his name as an expression of surprise in the Zombie household. "Gurf Morlix, that's a big spider!" Stuff like that.

Bedouin Soundclash, returning for a second year, had the honour of closing off Friday night of the festival. Their appearance was met with a roar of approval, and a good quarter of the field got up to dance. Somewhat surprisingly, they played a rather more soulful set than you might expect for a band that, for me anyway, conjures up a nouveau reggae feel. They played a heartfelt and personal set, calling out tributes to Joe Strummer and to grandparents who had passed.

Bedouin Soundclash benefited from having top billing by virtue of the fact that during their set the Lamplighter Parade, which is a nightly folk festival tradition consisting of a meandering line of lighted lanterns of varying fantastical lighted shapes (flying pigs, watering cans, peace symbols), ambled their way throughout the audience, ultimately lighting the way for festival goers to traipse their way home from the park. It truly was a magical sight, that imparted a slightly surrealistic atmosphere to the festival, and by extension, to the final performance.

After a glorious evening (and the last of the reliable weather, we were soon to discover) we had a quick walk to our hotel, where we had no responsibilities and a breakfast awaiting us the next morning for a very long full Saturday of workshops and record tent duties and mainstage performances that prevailed over inclement weather.

Details of all this, and of some great encounters, to follow.

Friday, July 25, 2008

The Volunteer Monologues 2.0: we return to serve

Thursday, July 24
Serving as a sophomore volunteer at the venerable Calgary Folk Music Festival is, if this is even possible, even better than being a newbie. You know where the volunteer hospitality tent is and when those incredible meals are being served. You know pretty much what needs to be done, so that when you arrive for your first shift at the record tent, you can start being productive right off the hop. And the best part is you can ask all the newbie security people, "where's your walkie-talkie? I thought you guys all got walkie-talkies." That never gets old.

The first night of the folk fest boasted pretty much perfect weather, and the area in front of the mainstage quickly filled up with tarps and festival chairs and a healthy representation of rocker kids eager to see Sam Roberts. During my break from the record tent shift, I scooted off to the hospitality area for my free volunteer dinner of lemongrass chicken and salad, had a nice chat with another random volunteer who was kind enough to share her table with me, and then headed back past the mainstage area where I was pleased to see that the Spousal Unit and Resident Offspring had arrived in time to score our optimal spot which boasts a perfect view of both jumbotrons and shade from the glaring evening sun. Of course I cannot tell you the exact location because it is a sworn family secret and we are forced to kill anyone who divulges it to the general population. But it's a great spot.

I had to forgo the first part of the mainstage show last night, as I was busy serving patrons with their cd purchasing needs. Pointing out that 80% of the cost of the cd goes directly to the artist actually goes a long way in helping people decide that, yes damn it, they will take all three cds then.

Behold the Thursday night lineup:
- Master Musicians of Jajouka
- the Weakerthans
- Joel Fafard

- Aimee Mann

- Tony Dekker (Great Lake Swimmers) and Basia Bulat

- Sam Roberts Band

I didn't finish my shift until partway through Aimee Mann's set, so sadly I missed my favourite homeys, the Weakerthans. We were able to hear their set from the record tent, though, and they sounded as fine as they always do. And I know they must have really struck a chord with the audience, because immediately after their set finished, the tent filled up with people eager to purchase cds.

My favourites were the little indie couple who danced into the record tent, and headed over the middle of the cd stacks, about the G section I think it was, dancing a little hopping up and down dance the whole time they browsed the cds. I watched them for a minute or two and then walked over to them and said "you look like you're looking for the Weakerthans". They paused their little hopping up and down dance to ask "how did you know?" It was obvious, my little indie couple, it was obvious.

When I joined the family on our tarp at mainstage, I was quite blown away by Aimee Mann, who sings very sharp and clever songs. The title of her latest cd, @#%&*! Smilers, gives you some indication of her mindset and her attitude toward people who tell you that it takes more muscles to frown than it does to smile. We thought she rocked.

Tony Dekker and Basia Bulat, two of the most compelling voices in Canadian music today, shared a mini-set, where they performed a slew of old Great Lake Swimmers' songs. Their voices blended so beautifully, they almost made me teary, and I am really looking forward to some of the workshops they will be doing together over the weekend.

The evening ended with Sam Roberts. He was a huge crowd favourite, and although I admit to not being very familiar with his music, his band did a great job of ending off the first night (traditionally indie night) of this year's Calgary Folk Festival.

We're currently ensconced at the Sheraton, where we will be splurging on two nights away from home in order to fully immerse ourselves in Folk Festival culture. In a few minutes we will be walking a few steps over to Prince's Island to indulge in the Friday night offerings.

More updates from the island coming up.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

look for me when the sun-bright swallow sings upon the birch bough high

Proof! That if called upon to pull a miracle out of me arse, I can actually sew.

I am quite pleased with how the volunteer t-shirt reconstruction turned out. Do note the sassy v-neck; I am quite pleased with that. And the part of which I am most proud is that I managed to sew up the gaping armpit holes without making the shirt all Frankensteiny and lumpy.

I used a little engineering to make a straight line down the side seams from where I was sewing up the armpit holes. And then I made certain I sewed up those new seams real good, even a couple of extra times, because the last thing I need is for the girls to come busting through a failed seam. There is an alarming amount of pressure being held back by a few threads. Nobody needs to see my shabby bra.

We had our orientation meeting at the record tent tonight. I was really happy to see that so many of us who worked the floor last year have returned. It was lovely to see all those little faces again, and I cannot wait for the folk festival to begin. One more sleep!

My work schedule is quite decent: 3-8 tomorrow, with an hour break at 5, 10-5 Saturday (break at 11:30) and 5-11 Sunday at the mainstage satellite tent, so I will be able to watch the mainstage concert from work that evening. Bonus.

Sadly, I won't be able to catch the Weakerthans' mainstage show, but we all have to make sacrifices for the common good. I should be able to catch one of their workshops during my break on Saturday.

Please drop by over the weekend for updates on the music, the atmosphere, the food, the encounters, and the surreal image of all those volunteers swanning about in our Hari Krishna-inspired t-shirts.

We will be challenging the very yellowness of the lilies in my garden.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

lives are digital

I'm sure that by now you have seen the finished product, and if not, Thom is even offering you a higher quality version than the ones that are floating amongst the webosphere. It is worth seeing, this House of Cards video.

The story behind the making of the video threatens to eclipse even the awesomeness of the video itself. The images were produced exclusively with lasers, resulting in a video that is simultaneously abstract and beautiful and other-worldly. The video about the making of the video is a fascinating excursion into the world of those who are even more deeply immersed in digital culture than you are. I still wouldn't have minded being in that party scene, just for the bragging rights, even though nobody would ever be able to recognise me.

If you've always secretly wanted to direct, you can even download the data and play with the images yourself. Or you can just play with Thom's head in 3-D.

Hours of fun brought to you by the good folks at Radiohead. Vapourization!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

glutton for film

(David Mackie photo)
With the Spousal Unit away on his Manly Fishing Trip and the Resident Offspring enjoying a rare Saturday off work, the RO and I decided to indulge ourselves by not only going to a movie on a Saturday afternoon, but by going to the screening of one of the most widely anticipated block busters of the summer which had only opened the night before, and which was showing at the most insane shopping mall in the city, if not the world.

I know what you are thinking. Did I not learn from the last time I went to that mall on a Saturday? Do I have a secret death-wish or am I just a masochist in zombie's clothing? Those are all things which I kept asking myself as we headed there, but I was delighted to find that nobody (relatively speaking) goes to that mall on a beautiful summer weekend, so not only were we able to park, but we were able to shuffle into the temple of conspicuous consumption and find decent seats at the theatre.

I have to admit to being skeptical when I started hearing Oscar buzz about Heath Ledger's performance as The Joker in The Dark Knight. I dismissed it as mere sentimentality for a young talent prematurely demised. But to be truthful, he really did turn in a mesmerizing performance, certainly surpassing what you would expect from a comic book movie.

Some of the dialogue in the Dark Knight is pretty lame, but this is a comic book movie after all, and, as the Resident Offspring so rightly pointed out, DC Comics to boot, so this was excusable. I could not, however, get past the bat-voice. Christian Bale speaks normally when he portrays Bruce Wayne, but when he switches to his Batman persona, he adopts an annoyingly harsh stage whisper, which is bad enough, but it gets worse.

Have you ever had to wear a retainer or that plastic guard on your teeth to keep you from grinding them at night? Do you know how it makes you talk like you have a mouth full of marbles? That's what Batman sounds like. Why Batman has to wear a retainer to disguise his voice was something we could never quite figure out. I mean, he had the high tech suit and all (although not nearly as cool as Iron Man's suit), why wouldn't he use something a little more technologically advanced than a mouth-guard to dissuade voice recognition? A vocoder or something.

Griping about details aside, I really did enjoy The Dark Knight. It's not Iron Man, but it's still worth the ticket. I'm still a little stunned to admit that I have seen two comic book block busters this summer at the theatre, but one must keep an open mind.

Then, because we hadn't sat on our butts nearly enough for one day, we headed home and watched The Savages.

I recall Urban Blonde reviewing The Savages a while back and thinking that she enjoyed it far too much for such a bleak sounding film. And the subject matter is certainly not sweetness and light, dealing as it does with a brother and sister who are forced to step in to care for their alienated father, who is now suffering from dementia. Jon and Wendy certainly have enough issues trying to cope with their own fragmented lives, and they now face the burden of this additional responsibility and must struggle with what it means to be a family.

But for all the heaviness of the subject matter, this is a wonderful film. It is darkly comedic, and it is smart, and it has what is probably the most realistic portrayal of the complexities of sibling relationship that I have seen in film in a very long time. Philip Bosco is wonderfully poignant as the ailing father, and
Laura Linney and Philip Seymour Hoffman are both outstanding as the emotionally-scarred siblings. Their characterisations are multi-faceted and completely believable. Wendy is an anxiety-ridden, struggling playwright, involved in a relationship without a future; Jon is a theatre professor who lives in semi-squalor and is about to forgo a relationship to which he cannot commit. They may be needy and dishonest and crippled, but they are also clever and witty and drawn from life. The Savage family is hugely dysfunctional, but they are still family. Personally, I have a hard time believing that they are fictional.

Do yourself a huge favour and rent this one. Better yet, buy it.

Friday, July 18, 2008

bad-ass local CBC host makes waves nationally

Just how bad-ass is Jim Brown anyway?

You remember Jim Brown? He is the criminally clever host of the Calgary Eyeopener who has taken over summer hosting duties for the Current on the national network.

Well, this is how bad-ass Jim is. Not only did he co-write and co-direct the subversive and Genie-award winning documentary, Radiant City, with film-maker Gary Burns recently, but he has been unabashedly pronouncing the word "issue" as "ish-shew" instead of the CBC-approved "is-see-oo".

What a maverick.

Does anybody have any idea how to cut the sleeves off a t-shirt without making it look like a wife-beater?

We are encouraged to personalize our folk festival volunteer tees (and make them more comfortable for those long hot days serving the public). Last year I tried to make a tank out of mine and then had to sew up the big gaping armholes that resulted when I cut the sleeves off.

With my sewing skills, the resultant tee resembled Frankenstein after a botched mastectomy.

I have one weekend to learn how to sew.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

bringing an Uzi to a knife fight

Have you ever over-prepared so much that you ended up jeopardizing your entire effort?

I thought that was what happened with my interview today.

I prepared so much for the hard questions, the situational and the behavioural ones, that when I was asked nothing but traditional softball ones, I completely flubbed the answers.

The interview, for a fund development position with an arts centre, was alarmingly short - 20 minutes tops. But I was told that this was just a prescreening and that subsequent interviews would be held next week, with notices being given tomorrow. A one-day turnaround period is pretty decent, if you ask me, and this is an organization that I would definitely be interested in working with.

So I wrote a nice thank you email, as I have been taught to do. And lo and behold, if I didn't receive an answer back in 15 minutes, saying that my strengths had been discussed with the Communications Director and that they felt I would be better suited to a communications job, if I was interested in shifting focus.

Hell yeah! In fact, I had applied for the Communications Coordinator position as well, because it really spoke to me and sounded like so much fun, even though I didn't think I had the qualifications (i.e a communications degree). But sometimes it pays to be pushy and wordy, I guess.

I will definitely keep you posted.

In the meantime, I have a couple of questions:
1) have you ever over-prepared so much that you ended up totally ballsing things up?
2) have you ever thought you totally ballsed things up, only to be handed the thing you really want on a silver platter?

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

I'm not sure I'd want to search inside

This was the book that was being prominently displayed at the bookstore at work today.

It is a legitimate medical textbook, and although I did not buy a copy, I sure did appreciate that somebody at the bookstore has a wicked sense of humour.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

I have seen the devil

... and apparently he now goes by the name Ticketmaster.

Tell me how this is even legal. Concert tickets go on sale on Ticketmaster and very rapidly sell out. Ticketmaster then directs you to look for tickets on TicketsNow, which is owned by Ticketmaster. And lo and behold, there are lots of tickets available there - at hugely inflated prices.
Case in point: Bloc Party tickets which were listed at $27.50 each were strangely never available on Ticketmaster whenever I tried to buy them. I even physically went down to a Ticketmaster outlet, where the clerk initially told me that there were lots of tickets available. When she tried to access them, however, suddenly these were also unavailable. Her coworker overheard our conversation and came over to tell us that she had been having similar issues.
So out of curiousity, I went over to the TicketsNow site and was told I could now buy these $27.50 Bloc Party tickets for ... wait for it ... $247.00 each.
Just because this rip-off is being perpetrated by a huge corporate monopoly instead of some schmuck standing in the rain outside the concert hall, somehow this no longer constitutes scalping? Forgive me for not being the sharpest crayon in the shed, but I fail to see the difference. Except of course that this is done on a grander scale and one barely had an opportunity to purchase the tickets for face value in the first place. I have to reiterate incredulously, how is this even legal?
If Ticketmaster didn't have a monopoly on tickets sales for a lot of concerts I am desperate to see, I would burn that fucker to the ground and piss on the ashes.

Gripe #2: It has now been over one year since I hobbled on crutches up to the management office of our neighbourhood mall (which considers itself to be upscale), to alert them about the big bloody hole in the parking lot in which I had sprained my ankle.
And oh how they expressed their concern and thanked me for bringing this dangerous situation to their attention! Except for the little toady assistant manager at Safeway, whom I still cannot look at to this day. When I initially asked him whom at the mall I should speak to about the ankle-spraining hole, he immediately informed me that once I was outside the store, it was no longer Safeway's responsibility. But that's a whole other rant.
Over one year on, guess what still holds a place of honour in the parking lot? The same damned hole.
I believe that it's time I buy a can of spraypaint and add a little political signage to the parking lot. Something nice and big and bright, so the senior citizens can see it and not end up breaking a hip. I'm thinking something along the lines of:

they said they cared
Any suggestions?

And while I am on a roll, another thing that drives me crazy is when the cashier at *insert an increasing number of store names here* asks me, "would you like to make a donation to prostate cancer?"
No. Why would I want to support prostate cancer? It's a nasty disease. Ask me if I want to make a donation toward research into a cure for prostate cancer, and we can talk.
And just so I don't leave you with the impression that all is bitchiness here at Zombie Central, here is something that made me insanely happy - finding a copy of ABBA Gold at the used record store yesterday! I actually used it for my workout cd this morning and wore a big cheesy grin the whole time.

Friday, July 11, 2008

the joys are brief, the disillusionment swift

One hundred dollars per day.

That's what the brand spanking new replacement cd player in my urban assault vehicle is costing me. Let's see, on Monday I paid $400 to have it replaced, on Friday morning it stopped working. Yup, the math is right.

At that price, I can buy my own marching band.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

silver speakers that sparkle all day

It's heavenly to have my mobile listening studio operational once again. This morning I rediscovered Neko Case's Fox Confessor Brings the Flood, Ms Case's sweet and powerful voice filling all the corners of the urban assault vehicle as I inched along the Deerfoot. Yesterday, I howled blissfully along with Neutral Milk Hotel. It was glorious.
But I must confess that I have been spending a great deal of commuting time falling in love with Sigur Ros. I guess I was never in the right frame of mind when I heard their music before, as I dismissed it as durge-like. And perhaps some of it is, not that there is anything wrong with a good durge every now and then. But their brand new album, Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust, is exquisitely beautiful, a delicate balance of poppy melodies and sweeping ethereal pieces.

Jonsi Birgisson has an achingly lovely voice, for which I have completely fallen. I would like to see Jonsi, Stuart Murdoch, and Thom Yorke go head to head to head in a sing-off battle, to see who can be the first to make the angels weep. I'll bet it wouldn't take very long.

Speaking of Radiohead, the boys are now back home till the end of July, having finished their European tour in Berlin on Wednesday night, in fine Radiohead style - in the pouring rain. August 1, they will once again be on the same continent as one increasingly excited little Zombie, when they start off the second leg of the North American tour with Lollapalooza in Chicago. Of course they are probably way more excited about the Seattle show on August 20.

I am completely prepared for the trip to worship at the altar of the most important band in the world, having just booked the hotel and car last night. I now have an appreciation for the work that a travel agent does. Being an anal-retentive Libra, I spent more time and sweat than I care to admit, pouring over websites, reading hotel reviews, investigating neighbourhoods of Seattle, comparing prices among travel sites. Many props to you sweet souls who gave me valuable input on Seattle hotels. You are all mensches. I am pretty comfortable that the place I chose strikes a good balance between amenities/location and price.

You may recall that on the final day of the Sled Island Festival, the Dodos were just starting their set when we had to leave. I dragged my heels in order to hear them a little longer, as they were playing some pretty infectious music. A few days ago, I was sent a link to some concerts they put on at Amoeba Records in Hollywood, along with an interview they did there. Check it out if you are curious about the Dodos. I know I will be looking for some of their music.

I picked up my volunteer shirt for the Calgary Folk Festival the other evening. The neon buttercup yellowness of this year's edition should make it next to impossible for anybody to have any difficulties identifying a volunteer this year. Unless they mistake us all for Hare Krishnas or Buddhist monks or something, which is a distinct possibility. I'll let you know if I manage to recruit anybody.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

I was sure I was going to end up tumbling into an abandoned well half-filled with rotting corpses

It’s stupid season around these parts again. And yesterday the Resident Offspring joined a gaggle of kids to head down to the Stampede grounds to spend a shit-load of money getting nauseous from the sun, the grease, and the G-force spins. Good times.

Fairly early into the evening, the phone rings and it’s the RO,
screaming into the cell phone over the cacophony of the midway that there is talk of a sleepover at one kid’s place and if it’s a go, can she join in? Oh, and can I bring her toothbrush and some other necessities over to said kid’s house? If it’s a go, that is.

After much toing and froing and calls made from the crazy mouse spinning coaster, it was established that sleeping over was indeed happening. But it had taken so long that by this point, I had already called the kid’s house (thinking I was actually calling said kid’s cell, as the RO had hers turned off) and ended up talking to someone I assume was her mother. She had no idea that these plans were in the works, but said, “meh, C brings kids over all the time, she doesn’t have to tell me first”.

I pointed out that it sounded like there were going to be 10 kids descending upon her house,
because I sure as hell would want to know a little detail like that, but she was completely nonplussed. Cooler mom than I am, I thought.

By this point it was getting late, the Spousal Unit had long ago headed for bed, and I apologetically told her I would be dropping off some stuff at her house but wouldn’t be able to get there till about 10:30. Would it be alright if I came by that late?

It was at that point that I realized that I am no longer the party animal that I still am in my head, when she said, “well, we’re going to be heading out to see a movie around then, but hopefully my son will still be home”. Heading out at 10:30? Shit, we don’t answer the phone after 10.

So I grabbed the RO’s stuff, threw a cd into the newly resurrected player in the urban assault
vehicle, thank you jeebus, and drove north, along the way dodging a group of twenty-somethings giving each other celebratory rides in shopping carts across MacLeod Trail. You get that sort of thing during Stampede.

There weren’t really many houses on the street that I had been directed to, just a fire station and the backs of some businesses. So I had to guess that the house I was looking at was the right one. It was hard to tell, as nobody had put a porch light on. Actually there wasn’t a porch. I got out of the car to investigate and saw, peering at the place through my cataracts and night blindness, that the left side had a house number on it, one number higher than the one I was looking for. It appeared to be a duplex, although I couldn’t be sure, as it was pretty dark and I am pretty blind.

And then I noticed another house, hidden behind a overgrown mass of hedges, with a small
gap in the hedgerow where some paving stones led toward the house. I thought maybe that was the place. This house was even darker than the other one, and as I approached it on the cracked and uneven paving stones, the hedges seemed to close in behind me, sealing me off from the noise of the traffic. I started to get distinctly uneasy.

The pavers ended before I reached that dark house with a single light burning deep inside one of the far rooms. I stepped onto the grass, and the ground was rough and broken, an uneven minefield of mysterious hillocks and secret caverns, secrets that I had no desire to ever uncover. I took another step and the mosquitoes swarmed to meet my flesh, just as the voices inside my head started screaming, “don’t go down into the basement, you fool!” And that’s when I realized I had no desire to be in a Rob Zombie movie and I got the hell out of there, taking care not to break my ankle on the way back to the city sidewalk.

In the end, I walked up to the other side of the duplex, finally spotted and confirmed the house number and then, when nobody answered the doorbell, left the Resident Offspring’s stuff in a heap in front of the door.

I figured she could look after herself from that point on.

Monday, July 07, 2008

return of the Jetta

It's actually a Nissan, but I've always wanted to say that.

I'm starting to get the impression that customer service is slipping somewhat at my Nissan dealership. The last time I brought the urban assault vehicle in for maintenance, I had to wait 45 minutes for the shuttle, which is understandable, they get pretty busy and can't always plan ahead. But then the work that needed to be done, which I was originally told was under warranty, turned out not to be, so I had to pay for it, and I've overheard a few other customers complaining about some work that wasn't done to their satisfaction.

But what really drove the coffin nail in was the phone call I made there this morning to ask about the replacement radio for which I had been waiting two weeks. Parts dude told me it had arrived a week ago.

When were they planning to tell me?

And I never did get an apology from the service advisor for the additional week of suffering (although he did wash my car).

But now I am all excited about picking out just the right cds to take with me on my commute to work tomorrow. I can't decide what to bring. The new Sigur Ros for sure, maybe a couple of mixes, a little Belle and Sebastian is always good. And I haven't listened to OK Computer for a long time. This is better than Christmas.

Any suggestions for my foray back into musically assisted commuting?
The Calgary Folk Festival have announced the Saturday and Sunday workshops and there are some wonderful combinations of musicians that I am getting increasingly excited about seeing. The Mainstage and Twilight stage shows look really great as well, but it's the workshops that always win my heart. There are some stellar and inspired match-ups on both days.

Tomorrow after work I will pickup my volunteer shirt and badge and get a sneak peak at my work schedule. And then I will need to start doing my homework, familiarizing myself with all this year's musicians, so that I can be the best damned record tent volunteer in the history of record tent volunteers.

What can I say? It's a calling.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

I'll never be anybody's hero now

Singing is harder than it looks.

I know this because it has now been two weeks since they ripped the cd player/radio from the urban assault vehicle and I have been forced to provide my own entertainment while awaiting the replacement. And although I have always enjoyed singing along lustily, it is quite another story when I've got no backup singers, nobody to prompt me when I forget the order of the lyrics, no one to cover for me when I fall flat.

Frankly, I've been finding it too taxing to sing and remember the lyrics and stay on key for the entire 50 minute drive to work, so now I drive in silence. And the scary part is, I'm starting to get used to it.

Deprived of my mobile sound studio, I don't feel as though I have really given Með Suð í Eyrum Við Spilum Endalaust the proper listen it deserves yet. How am I supposed to brush up on my Icelandic now?

How do you amuse yourself on your commute?

Friday, July 04, 2008

comic sans is not historically accurate

Happy Independence Day to all my lovely American friends.

For you, I present this Independence edition of
Friday Favourite Fives:

the five best photos I took in my garden today

- lady bug with droopy candle -

- resident flamingo -

- escape from the secret garden -

- garage in the evening light -

"oooo, 'garage'!"

"well, what do you call it then?"

"car hole."

- rhubarb harvest is overdue -

Wanna see a treasure map of Zombie Central?

Alberta Views
blog's June challenge was to submit a map of hidden gems in your community. I could think of no place I would rather be than my own yard, because all my treasure spots are right at hand.
Have a look.

I hope your weekend is shaping up to be as glorious as it promises to be around here. I am sure to be quaffing a few of my newly invented Glitter Gun drinks here at Zombie Central this weekend.

What's your poison this weekend?

Thursday, July 03, 2008

sleeping with the elephant

What is the official name for that big American holiday anyway? Just 4th of July? You'd think a big holiday like that would have a real name, not just a date.

Regardless, as we sit on the cusp of the 4th of July, I keep thinking about the fantastic and extremely American film I saw recently. I'm talking about Iron Man.

To paraphrase my mother-in-law, I am not for summer blockbuster; I am for art film. But Iron Man is an exception. I always knew that I wanted to see it; it boasts my favourite American actor, after all, and besides the trailers looked really cool. Turns out that is an understatement.

Robert Downey Jr is perfect in the role as the brilliant, womanizing, wise-cracking industrialist-turned-superhero. He has a knack for choosing smart and engaging films, in which he consistently performs brilliantly.

Iron Man is no exception.

Yes, it's a comic book movie, but, as the Resident Film Student so correctly pointed out, it is also one of the most intelligent portrayals of the American "war on terror" you will see on film. It not only addresses all sides of the debate, but it does so with a degree of subtlety that you would not expect from an escapistic comic book film.

And then there is the suit. Oh. My. God. Is that suit the coolest thing you have ever seen or what? I sat there with a big shit-eating grin on my face throughout the film, just fantasizing about how awesome I would be if I had a suit like that with which to kick some ass.

Iron Man has quick-witted humour, it has some powerful leads giving highly credible performances, it has an ending that could easily have become a cliche, but which it steers away from at the last second.

And it has shit blowing up real good. My inner eight-year-old boy was thrilled.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

this summer I'm going to get us a motorbike

I get bored with exercise very easily. To keep myself motivated, I need to change up my music a lot, so I have stacks and stacks of mix cds that I have made over the years with the express purpose of burning fat.

Yesterday I needed something new, but was too lazy and too time-constrained to burn a new mix, so I looked back through some really old ones to find something refreshing to entice the sweat glands to release their precious cargo. I came across a mix that I had originally made for a summer road trip and listening to it instantly transformed me back to that dusty highway, the sun glinting off the crack in the windshield, the bag of Hawkins Cheezies open on the dashboard.

Here's a bit of a taste from my Hot Noise mix:

blister in the sun - the Violent Femmes
Crabbuckit - K-Os
all hell for a basement - Big Sugar
Ilfracombe - Hawksley Workman
the tide is high - Blondie
can't stand me now - the Libertines
phantom pains - Christine Fellows
Mass Romantic - the New Pornographers
sit down - James
A Summer Wasting - Belle and Sebastian

There's more, of course, or it would be a pretty short workout, but those are the ones that really fired up the Tardis for me yesterday. And today, our heatwave over, the rains making everything clammy and chilly, I'm welcoming the memories.

What songs transform you back to a summer roadtrip?

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

true patriot love

Today we eat strawberries because they are red and ice cream because it is white. Also because it is ice cream.

Today we haul the battered flag out of the garage and hang it from the front deck, where it will be flapping in our faces for a week or so until we get annoyed and put it back in the garage till next July.

Today we drop the Resident Offspring off at work, she wearing her Hutterite meets tablecloth uniform, and marvel at how many people are traipsing
into Heritage Park already at this ungodly hour. And secretly we are very glad that it is she and not us who is scooping ice cream there today.

Today we put Extra Old Stock beer caps in our eyes to honour the memory of Wilhelm Georg Bruederlin, who would have turned 86 today.

Happy Birthday, Canada, our true north strong and free.

Happy Birthday, Papa, you maverick.