Friday, August 28, 2009

they broke the mould

She was fierce as hell.

I have to admit that sometimes she drove me nuts, but she was certainly never boring. And some of our best family stories revolve around her quirks, her skewed view of life, and especially around those mystifying pronouncements that she would regularly offer up as fact.

The Spousal Unit's mom passed away yesterday. She was one of a kind.

We are heading to Ontario tomorrow for a few days, before rushing home to repack and drive the Resident Offspring to the west coast to begin her university career. So things will be a little silent in this corner of the blogosphere for a few days.

Be nice to each other til I get back. We're all we've got.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

move along, there's nothing left to see

While I realize that you very likely keep a sharp watch on all Radiohead goings-on, refreshing your Radiohead RSS feed every five minutes as is only proper, there is always the slim chance that one or two of you may have missed some recent breaking news. To assist you in maintaining your razor-sharp cutting edge, may I now present the following information shamelessly swiped from around the internet:

Those old guys who do the Breakfast at Sulimay's series have weighed in on These Are My Twisted Words. What's not to love about cute old people talking about current music? The fact that they confuse the song with the also recently released Harry Patch (In Memory Of) only makes them more endearing.

Thom's slightly less famous brother, Andy, joins him on a track for the compilation Ciao My Shining Star: the Songs of Mark Mulcahy. The album, featuring songs covered by the National, Michael Stipe, Frank Black, Dinosaur Jr and more, was compiled to aid the former Miracle Legion front man following the sudden death of his wife last year. All for the Best, the track covered by the brothers Yorke, is quite beautiful and wonderfully restrained. Do take a listen. Buy the album. You'll get karma points in addition to new music.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

got a machinehead better than the rest

The lawn mower kids, we call them, the three little boys who live next door.  The trampoline kids live on the other side of us, and they spend a considerable amount of time on their backyard trampoline.  But it's nothing compared to the dedication that the lawn mower kids lavish on objects of their collective fascination.

The oldest one is starting to grow out of the phase a bit, I think, as he is heading into grade one or two and is so much more mature now.  But the two younger ones are still entirely enthralled by those machines.  As soon as a lawn mower fires up anywhere in the neighbourhood, those two are out the door like greased lightning, vying for the best viewing spot before the grass cutter has time to make even one pass of the lawn.

The youngest in particular is absolutely mesmerized.  He will stand transfixed the entire time, swaying from side to side, until the machine is finally turned off again.  I don't think he blinks once.  I suspect he may even hold his breath.

Yesterday when I went out to cut the front lawn, the lawn mower kids were nowhere in sight.  But as I fired up the machine, I knew it was just a matter of seconds before I would sense their presence in my peripheral vision.  

As I glanced up from the neat row I was trying to maintain, I saw the middle son tracking me step for step along the boundary between our yards.  And there was the youngest one, standing in the shadow of the large spruce tree, buck naked and holding his wiener in his hand, swaying from side to side.  I couldn't look him in the eye.

I sincerely hope I wasn't responsible for giving him his first woodie, with my wanton lawn mowing ways.

Monday, August 24, 2009

I won't take her to the movie, I'm worried that the lines become all blurred

Recently the Resident Offspring and I watched two films about quarantined zombies - one Spanish, the other Canadian. Other than that premise, they had far less in common than you would have expected. Add to those, the animated documentary and the mathematical thriller we also viewed and you have yourself a veritable smorgasbord of film.

We like to mix things up and keep them a little spicy here at Casa de la Zombie.

[Rec] is a Spanish film shot from the point of view of a local television film crew who follow a EMS crew to an apartment building to rescue an elderly woman trapped in her suite. When the rescue crew are attacked by the woman, local authorities outside the building inexplicably quarantine the rescuers and the residents inside the building. All hell then proceeds to break loose.

The story itself is not overly groundbreaking, and it does not shy away from cheap thrills and gore to get the point across, but the camera work used is what makes [Rec] noteworthy. It is filmed entirely through the tv station's camera, the point of view that of the camera operator. This becomes particularly effective as the situation begins to deteriorate, and the camera work becomes more unstable, with the microphone failing quite convincingly on occasion. Of course this is a similar technique to that used infamously in the Blair Witch Project, but in [Rec] it is frightening, not annoying. I found myself succumbing to that same sense of dread that used to fill me during particularly intense games of hide and go seek as a kid.

tagline: whatever you witness ... never stop recording

Pontypool, on the other hand, tells us to stop making sense. The latest offering from Canadian film maker Bruce McDonald (Highway 61, Hard Core Logo) is a darkly funny and entirely engaging zombie film.

In the small Ontario town of Pontypool, a former big city talk radio host, demoted to hosting a morning show broadcast from the basement of the town's church, finds his bloated on-air musings and the usual school bus cancellations and traffic reports interrupted by disturbing reports of mob violence throughout the town.

As the radio team barricade themselves against waves of attack, it slowly becomes evident that the zombies are infected by a virus spread through the English language.

Pontypool is a fascinating and entirely unique take on the zombie phenomenon. The exploration of the power of language, the strange speech patterns that afflict the newly i
nfected, the attempts to devolve the strength of a word through repetition, and the radio team's attempts to communicate in Canadian high school French, elevates this film to a new gold standard in the intelligent zombie flick. At last, a literary zombie film!

tagline: shut up or die


I am still kicking myself for not paying as much attention to Waltz with Bashir as I should have. BLIPping and carrying on email conversations while watching a subtitled film is not the wisest use of multitasking, unless one understands Hebrew, which I don't.

I will rewatch
this film properly sometime. Waltz with Bashir is a full-length animated documentary in which director Ari Folman explores his memories of the 1982 Lebanon War. Through interviews with others who shared his involvement in the Israeli Defense Forces during the time of the massacres at the Sabra and Shatila Palestinian refugee camps, he attempts to understand a recuring dream and to reconcile his own actions as an infantry soldier.

This is a grim film, but visually stunning. The animation is simply stellar and the soundtrack very powerful. With the myriad of awards and accolades piled on Waltz with Bashir, I really owe it to myself to give this film my full attention next time.


I had some seriously nasty flashbacks when we first started watching Pi, as it is filmed in the same over-exposed black and white as the most excruciating film of all time, Eraserhead. Fortunately, that's where the similarities ended and I was not forced to gouge my own eyes out with a rusty spoon after all.

In actuality, Pi is a rather mesmerizing film, despite the fact that I didn't really
understand what was happening much of the time. In brief, it's about a paranoid mathematician who seeks to find the key to all the patterns in the universe. Ostensibly, he is trying to find a system that will predict the behaviour of the stock market. His investigations arouse the interests of a cabal of Wall Street heavyweights and a secretive society of scholars of Jewish mysticism.

The soundtrack, featuring Autechre, Massive Attack and Aphex Twin, is great. The imagery of fractals and numerals, as well as more disturbing ones involving puslating brains and nose bleeds, is visually very satisfying. See it for the mystique, don't try to fully comprehend it.


Seen any good movies lately?

Saturday, August 22, 2009

random acts of stupidity I have survived through the years:

- full-force hand placement on a red glowing stove element to see if it was still hot now that mom had lifted the pot off it (age 5)

- believing the evil guidance councellor's assertion that I would surely end up living in a cardboard box under a bridge if I did not give up ideas of studying literature in university, in order to study science (age 17)

- almost everything I did from age 18-25

- falling asleep on the back of a motorcycle on the highway (age 23)

- opening a frozen pop bottle which then exploded in my hands requiring 21 stitches, while still on crutches with a broken ankle, with an 18-month old baby underfoot (age 34)

Since then I have been the epitome of wisdom.

Have you always been so wise, or do you also have some deep dark
demons of idiocy in your personal history?

Time to share!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Ms Zombie wishes to convey her pleasure

After much deliberation over what exactly one feeds a Mutford anyway, the Zombie household is pleased to announce that they have successfully met with the Mutford clan, and it was good. Such an entirely cute family is indeed a rare and lovely thing.

The Zombie clan found each and every Mutford to be utterly charming and simply adorable. The laughs were endless, the stories flowed effortlessly, and there were only a handful of injuries.

The Zombies wish to thank the Mutfords all for gracing them with their delightful company and would like to invite them back to brighten the lives of said Zombies any time they wish.

One hopes that the dinosaurs were equally pleased to make their charming acquaintance.

Monday, August 17, 2009

now the girls sing

Allison Brown, Sarah Burton, Diana Catherine
Ironwood Stage and Grill
Aug 16/09

The Ironwood Stage and Grill is the sort of place where you can invite
the performer out the back door to the parking lot, in order to conduct an interview in the urban assault vehicle, and nobody thinks twice about how weird that is. The front door is propped wide open, the stage is a tiny triangle at the back, a mere foot off the floor, where friends of the band will wander on and off to add a few vocals or some crazy harmonica, if the song demands it. Bar staff will cheerfully jump in and move an empty table or two over to the side if people feel like dancing, and with the grill going all night long, you never know whether that next song is going to be tempered by the wafting scent of grilled steak or some melty cheese.

We got there early, so that I could meet up with Allison Brown to ask her some questions about her cross-Canada Greyhound tour and the new album she just finished recording at David Essig's studio on Protection Island off the BC coast. When Allison was called up to the stage to start the show early, Urban Blonde (my charming date for the evening) and I chose a table right near the front, ordered drinks and settled back to hear an evening of roots and folk rock, done girl style.

In keeping with the lack of formality at the Ironwood, Allison simply walked onto the stage, looking ever so demure in her flowered dress and sensible sandals and her glasses, but when she let loose with those first notes, all preconceptions were out the window. With a gorgeous voice that seemed way too big for one person, and accompanying herself on guitar and ukulele, she easily sang over the building ruckus from the drunk guys at the front of the bar. And she was remarkably good-natured about it as well, fielding shouted requests for Iron Maiden with charm and an almost believable regret that sorry, she couldn't play that one.

Next on the playbill, Sarah Burton upped the rock factor in the folk rock evening, starting out with an accompanying drummer, inviting Allison Brown back onto stage to join her on "totally trad" Wayfaring Stranger, and finally morphing into a full band sound when playbill partner Diana Catherine brought her crazy harmonica playing and her bassist to the stage for several songs. They've obviously played together quite a lot, judging from the tightness of the sound, and it came as no real surprise that they had pocketed $30 from busking Tom Petty's Free Falling the day before at the Banff bus station.

Sarah Burton's incredible mullet came dangerously close to overshadowing the music, however. Scandinavian blonde to play up the no makeup look, and unevenly hacked, it was simply a marvel of DIY barbering. At the risk betraying my gender by focusing on a female artist's physical attributes, I have to say that I could not take my eyes off her hair all night, that's how awesome it was. Definitely keep the mullet, Sarah!

During the break, Allison and I retired to the urban assault vehicle to chat, so that my Barbie Cub Reporter recorder would be able to record more than just those drunk guys over by the tv. When we returned, Diana Catherine and the Thrusty Tweeters were already wailing away on stage, stealing hearts with their ballsy bluesy sound.

As I often do at shows, especially those featuring emerging musicians, I bought a pile of cds at the Ironwood that night, but I regret only buying one copy of Diana Catherine's release, The Spirit Ranch Sessions, because I would love to send each of you a copy. It's that good. It's an album that even manages to capture some of the stage presence that Diana oozes. You may not be able to see that swagger on the disc, but you can sure hear it in her voice and in her insane attack on the harmonica.

My advice to you is if you get the chance to see any of these incredible musicians while they are touring the country, just do it. Better yet, see them all on one playbill. I guarantee you will have one memorable night to tuck away into your mental scrapbook, and I am willing to bet you'll have a few new cds as well.

Friday, August 14, 2009

when I get a new guitar, you can have this one and sing me a lullaby

It certainly wasn't a Gibson Les Paul. In fact, it was just an old acoustic guitar. But when I hauled that long abandoned instrument out of the closet yesterday, I thought of the story of Les Paul, recovering from a near fatal car crash, with an badly broken arm, asking the doctors to set his arm at a right angle so that he could continue to hold a guitar while he healed.

And I figured that, considering I had no broken bones plus I had a couple of hours alone in the house, the least I could do to pay tribute to the legacy Les Paul left behind was to try to play the damn thing.

i had experimented with the old guitar a few months before, after surreptitiously eyeballing it when it had fallen into disfavour by the former guitar student in the house. I had picked it
up and plucked a few strings, pressed on the frets a bit, strummed it a few times, and tried to remember some inkling of the lessons I had taken in grade six.

I put it back in the closet after about seven minutes.

But yesterday, it all felt different. Maybe it was the cold drizzle spattering against the living room windows that made lounging back on the futon with a warm guitar in my arms feel so inviting.

Maybe it was the fact that I was holding my prized authentic Elliott Brood guitar pick. That little black plastic triangle, infused with genuine rock star sweat, is such a powerful reminder of both an incredible band that I admire the hell out of and a dear friend who spoils me with thoughtful gifts. You would use an Elliott Brood besweated pick to fuck around on your kid's old guitar? I hear some of you gasp with horror. But I believe that using sacred objects is the best way to honour them. Even the Eames chair is meant to be functional, after all.

Maybe some smidgen of the spirit of Les Paul, floating about in the afterlife, passed over zombie central that afternoon and gave me a prod. All I know is that I messed about and tried a few things on that guitar, and that the pick felt so good, so charged with vibes, between my fingers, that when I finally looked up, I was a little stunned to discover that I had been playing with that guitar for 45 minutes. And I didn't even sound all that excruciatingly horrid.

I do believe a monster may have been created.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

drill holes in themselves and live for their secrets

They were startling the first morning.

Initially I thought that the flashes of white were glints from a mirror, but they were too fleeting and too many. As I glanced out the window, I saw the seagulls traversing north to south in small groups across the early morning sky. Although dark clouds still blanketed the earth below in shadow, the birds were high enough in the atmosphere to catch the rays of sun that were breaking through far above the horizon. Their white wings captured the zenith of morning sun, their rhythm refracting the wavelengths, scattering the polarity of light into droplets of
oblique brilliance.

I have seen them every morning since, like clockwork, in roughly the same numbers, reminding me to look up from my earth-bound or inwardly-focused gaze periodically.

Last night the meteors passed by, on their annual migration to wherever it is that meteors spend the autumn. Perseids are here we called to each other as we pulled on sweaters and pulled the door shut behind us. Too cool near midnight to lie back on a blanket, with not enough forethought spent to find a sheltered spot not visible to the neighbours and the odd passing car. But standing so that the branches of the mountain ash blocked the glare of the streetlight, we craned our necks to revel in the oddly jerking motion of those shooting stars, tails trailing ostentatiously behind them far longer than decorum dictated. Showoffs, those celestial bodies, second only to that master showman, the solar eclipse, in knowing how to strut their stuff.

How is it that they don't bump into those ones and zeroes which rocket their way through the ether, teleporting the dreams, wishes, and lolcats that race amongst us?

Sunday, August 09, 2009

memory will rust and erode into lists

In a month from now, the Spousal Unit and I will have returned from the left coast, having left behind the Resident Offspring (whom I guess will then need to be redubbed the Offspring Formerly Known as the Resident Offspring). I am trying not to indulge in preemptive nostalgia at this point, but it's difficult not to fall in the habit of noting finalities. Having such a close relationship with the RO is, of course, a blessing and that will never change, but it will make the separation more intense.

Right now I am trying to squeeze every drop of enjoyment out of these next few weeks, and am really rather grateful that the current economic reality keeps her from wasting her days slaving away at a McJob. And of course, I am also grateful that my own hobby job allows me the freedom to seize all the time I can to bask in the sparkle of her wit. As a wise friend advised me last night, this is not the time to be thinking about missing her. This is the time to enjoy adventures together while she is still at home

I know the dynamics of this household will change dramatically come September, such is the reality of having only one offspring to see off into the world, but new fangled technology should help to ease that somewhat. And with new fishing destinations to keep the Spousal Unit's imagination occupied and new creative projects unfolding to engage mine, I'm pretty sure we can keep our shit together until the Christmas reunion. I may just need to find some more friends my own age is all.

I have finally finished mulling over what I thought of Donna Morrissey's What They Wanted, the first book I have read for this year's Canadian Reading Challenge (which began July 1, so this is not as pathetic as it seems at first glance). If you would care to read my review, please head over to The Bookworm Collective, where of course you will find a myriad of other book reviews as well to whet your appetite.

You know, just in case you have already plowed through your own summer reading list.

Friday, August 07, 2009

rattling home the long way down the Trans Canada

I still find it hard to believe that one day next week, this:

will be loaded onto a truck and driven 125 kms to here:

I sure hope they know what they're doing. Fortunately the Spousal Unit will be on point to oversee the operation. And presumably to help catch the cottage if it starts to slide off the truck at 85 km/hr.

When I was taking out insurance for the new cottage today, the agent asked me if $85,000 would be sufficient to replace the contents of the cottage. I could be wrong, but I have the feeling that amount will buy a pretty sweet replacement for that air mattress and folding lawn chair.

You will be coming to the house warming party, I assume?

In the meanwhile, I've got some goodies to give away. I've compiled my annual Calgary Folk Festival sampler cd, featuring some of the artists who entertained me at this year's gathering of zombies and hippies. If you'd like your own copy, complete with a customized zombie-designed liner booklet, all you have to do is ask.

Make sure you fill up your weekend with music and laughter. None of this house-moving nonsense for a couple of days, okay?

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

dear catastrophe cashier

Say you worked in a photo processing chain, let's call it Crack's, where, like so many other commercial businesses, the onus is more and more on the customer to provide their own service. Much like grocery store chains that now have self-serve checkout counters, your photo processing chain has installed a self-serve photo finishing kiosk, to which customers are directed, so that they can customise their own photos.

So when a customer brings in their nerd stick, you take them over to the kiosk and you show them how to start it and then you leave them to it. Right?

But what happens when that customer returns the next day with the slip that the kiosk has given them, containing their transaction number, to pick up the photos they assume are now printed? Is that the proper time to inform them that the slip of paper the kiosk spat out at them after it finished is what the customer should have then given you yesterday, so that you could enter the order into the system?

And when you are telling them that, sorry their files no longer exist in the machine, what do you expect them to say when you lean over and tell them consolingly "you're certainly not the only person that this has happened to"?

Although it is good of you to assure them, when they suggest that well then perhaps someone should post a notice on the kiosk informing customers of this fluke, that by golly, you are going to do that! That makes everyone feel so much better that Baba is not going to get her photos for at least another few days.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

and in your soul, they've poked a million holes

How have you and your blog been getting along lately? Are you still getting that rush that you used to jolt you when you first started your relationship? Have you settled into a comfortable but mundane partnership? Or have you (gasp) been flirting with younger, sexier social media?

I've always subscribed to the notion that a blog needs to be tended, needs to have regular attention, needs to be pruned and tweaked here and there, needs a well balanced diet to flourish. And I have been a rather poor partner in my relationship with my blog lately.

It started off innocently enough, miss a day of posting here and there, miss day of visiting other blogs now and then. And then when the world didn't end, it became easier and easier to leave the blog wilting in a cramped pot of parched soil for longer periods, only to return with a vengeance, all remorseful, and cram it with daily massive tomes that anyone but the most hardy of masochists would find too long to read. Seriously, if that last bout of folk festival posts don't belong in the TLDR category, I am sure I don't know what does.

Of course I can justify all this. It's always easy to justify something, isn't it? Travel, events, life, they are all excellent excuses to both neglect the poor maligned blog and alternatively to smother it with content.

Fresh start time. Like that pile of unread newspapers that I have finally decided is no longer news and which I will now put directly into the recycling bucket instead of making futile
attempts to catch up, I will let go of those half-formed blog posts that have been purcolating inside my skull. They are only fit for wrapping fish in at this point.

But if you thought I was announcing the demise of this blog, sorry, you can't get rid of me and my blatherings that easily. You just get a reprieve from the last month or so of reading every thought that I have ever had.

Except for this -
Top Five Good Songs that are the Wrong Length:

Rise - PiL (too long)
Black Sheep Boy - Tim Hardin (too short)
All My Little Words - Magnetic Fields (too short)
Oh Comely - Neutral Milk Hotel (too long)
Drive on Driver - Magnetic Fields (too short)
In my humble opinion only, of course.
What songs do you think fit into this list?