Tuesday, February 28, 2012

winter leakage

It's shaping up to be another music-mad summer.

The Calgary Folk Music Festival has been sneakily releasing their leak of the week on Mondays, giving us all a reason to make it through Sunday night. So far some of the 2012 artists include the Barr Brothers, Justin Townes Earle, Serena Ryder, and this week's leak - Beirut.

In further OMGOMG news, today Sled Island Music Festival leaked some of their confirmed acts, including Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks, Timber Timbre, Feist, and Thurston Moore.

I'm a firm believer in inherent patterns in nature and I like the way this one is shaping up: Lee Ranaldo last year, Thurston Moore this year... Kim Gordon next?

It's enough to make us want to lie on our patch of grass and dream of summer.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

the walking awesome

I have to admit, I am seriously Jonesing for a Walking Dead action figure. Evidently the zombie biter, on the right, has a spring-loaded jaw. How perfect is that?

And who wouldn't want a Daryl Dixon doll? Sure, he's a redneck hillbilly and all, but he definitely has moments of humanity, even sweetness. Not to mention a totally bad-ass crossbow. And you have to admit that squirrel belt makes a pretty powerful fashion statement. Go Daryl.

The burning question of the day, though, is at what point do zombies lose their zombieness?

We've all seen completed bisected zombies continue to be a viable threat (at least in their minds), but how far along in the process of
natural decomposition can they continue to do so? How much damage can a zombie realistically do if they have lost teeth and hands, even if their brains remain intact? What are they going to do, put you in a leg-hold? Gum you to death?

And then there is the question of putrification of the brain itself. Zombies continue to decompose as time passes. Presumably the brain decomposes at the same rate as the rest of the soft tissue. Does a zombie gradually lose its zombie characteristics as the brain decomposes? How much of the brain must remain intact in order to maintain zombieness?

These are all questions that keep me awake at night.

Friday, February 24, 2012


Volunteer season is starting to ramp up around here. I volunteer with four different agencies, contributing regular blog content to two of them, being decidedly more hands on with the other two. The hands on work is seasonal and is now beginning in earnest.

I have been serving on the communications committee for the annual fundraising book sale for Calgary Reads, an early literacy initiative, for a few years now, and I am really pumped about some new developments this year. At the risk of sounding all mysterious, since I can't divulge details at this point, the signs are pointing toward some really creative partnerships, resulting in an absolutely fabulous multidisciplinary aspect to this year's sale. Stay posted for cool coolness.

I can talk about the Books As Art aspect that is being added to the sales pitch this year, encouraging people to think about what they can do with used books in addition to reading them. Despite the radically lowered expectations for my results, I would love to try my hand at something like this.

Regular visitors will know that I have been volunteering with my homies, the Calgary Folk Festival, for several years. It's kinda like my Christmas and the record tent is my stocking.

This year I am super stoked about being asked to judge the Calgary Folk Fest's Untapped Newcomer Songwriting Contest. If you've got a song burning in your soul, you too can enter, for a chance to win big money and godlike status. Deadline for entry is March 16; bribe station is now open.

Or if, like me, you are more of a music lover than a music maker, you can come down to the Ship and Anchor on Sunday, April 29 to watch the finalists and to see me sweat my way through the judging. I'll even buy you a beer.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

the algorithms are restless

How is this even possible?

Yesterday I booked a rental car for an upcoming trip. I used the same rental company I have been using for years to book a compact car for four days over a weekend, an exact replica of many previous rental bookings.

Imagine my surprise when the reservation quote came back at $692.00. I can take a hell of a lot of cabs for that amount.

So I tried again, using a different link on the same coupon, but keeping all the other parameters exactly the same, and the price magically dropped to $341.00.

One more try brought the final price to $293.00, which was more in line with what I normally pay.

Perhaps I should have just kept trying. Eventually I was bound to get to a point where they would be paying me to rent the car.

I would love to see MythBusters investigate the rental car conundrum, the seemingly random generation of rates. After seeing them overwhelmingly prove the Monty Hall Paradox*, I am confident they have the mad math skills needed to explain it.

* The Monty Hall Paradox is really cool, a double whammy of psychological and mathematical oddities. Contestants on Let's Make a Deal almost always chose to stick with their original choice rather than switch doors, after the third door is opened to reveal nothing. Psychologically, people prefer to stay with their initial gut instinct. Yet, switching one's choice actually increases the odds of winning from 1 in 3 to 2 in 3. MythBusters proved it!

Saturday, February 18, 2012

better in the matinee

I can't remember the last time I went to the movies.

Oh wait, I do. It was in October, at the Vancouver International Film Festival. My fellow Communiqueters and I took in the late morning screening of the Andrew Bird tour doc, Fever Year.

I've always preferred matinee showings - less crowds, more room, and if you play your cards right, you and your movie date will be the only ones in the entire theatre, which allows for unbridled commentary. Nothing enhances the film experience quite like the license to loudly slag the movie's flaws as they unfold.

I'm still disappointed that there was absolutely nothing showing in the theatres over the Christmas holiday. The Offspring and I have always enjoyed our Christmas holiday matinees, but Twilight movies are not going to cut it, I'm afraid.

And now that the all the Blockbusters have closed down, the nearest video store is a half hour drive away. It's a really good independent video store, but I am not prepared to do all that driving, to watch a movie at home by myself. Oh sure, I know you've got your Netflix and other fancy things these days, but I am sure I could never watch it enough to justify signing up. Besides, I am a notoriously late adapter.

How often do you go to the movies?
What was the last movie you watched?

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

wired for speed

PechaKucha Nights never fail to inspire me. Regardless of the night's theme, I always come away with mind racing, heart full. Perhaps the local planning committee is just really gifted at choosing engaging speakers, perhaps Calgary has an extraordinary number of visionaries who also know how to work a crowd, I don't know. But these are my people.

As is only fitting for an event on Valentine's Day, I left the Spousal Unit at home on his own to attend last night's PKN. I had invited Urban Blonde to join me before I realized that the event was actually sold-out, and since I had already registered for my own ticket, I then had to uninvite her. I'll have to take her out for coffee soon to make up for my boorish uninviting ways.

I certainly don't mind attending PKN solo. I've done so before. I usually know a few people, recognize a few other faces, and inevitably end up meeting a bunch of new folks. There's an inherent camaraderie amongst people who leave the house to hear other people speak. Calgary is a big city, but the circles are small.

As I drove home last night, stopped at the traffic light leaving Kensington, I felt that familiar surge of wonder that the lights of the city, spread out before me on the other side of the river, always give me. There's comfort in the lighted windows of the office towers, community in the purple glow of illuminated bridges spanning the water. Somebody built those, I marvel to myself. For some reason, I find it comforting to know that there are people who can build things like bridges and highrises. Because I can't. But I can bask in the glow of their vision that warms me until I reach my own door.

If you want to know more details about PechaKucha Night #11, here's my recap.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Saturday, February 11, 2012

past this great change

I Can't Keep All of Our Secrets - Rae Spoon

The broken-hearted catch still haunts the voice, sweetly sad amongst the relentless rhythm of programmed drum beats and analog synths. With I Can't Keep All of Our Secrets, Rae Spoon's most electronic adventure to date, the former folk artist moves ever deeper into the world of electronica and dance beats. But one foot remains firmly planted in country heartbreak. This is no shiny happy dance album.

On first listen, it's easy to gloss over the deeply personal lyrics in favour of the upbeat vibes and hypnotic danciness. That all changes when When I Said There Was an End to Love I Was Lying starts playing. In the first of the understated ballads on the album, the instrumentality is stripped back to allow Spoon's sweetly plaintive voice to take centre stage. The raw emotional power is enough to make you go back and really listen to the tracks that have gone before.
Each subsequent listen reveals more depth.

Rae Spoon has an achingly evocative voice that you don't normally hear in electronic music, and that in itself makes this album an anomaly. That this is a deep and intensely personal electronic album cements that anomaly.

I Can't Keep All of Our Secrets, written in the aftermath of a friend's sudden death, follows the complex path that grief can take. In between the nostalgia and the pensive moments, nestled amongst the electronic beats, are inklings of hopeful connection, queer-positive openness, and gratitude.

Recommended tracks: Crash Landing, When I Said There Was an End to Love I was Lying, Curses on Us. Definitely worth repeated listens.


Wednesday, February 08, 2012

sympathetic at war with the parasympathetic

So there I was, walking along a downtown sidewalk, minding my own business. I was a little late for an appointment so I was striding along fairly quickly. Well, as quickly as one can while still favouring a bum knee, although lengthening my stride is something I have been conscientiously working on.

And then I hit a crack in the pavement. Oh sure, I have stumbled before, many times. But I am fairly confident that this was the most spectacular and protracted semi-aerial display of forward motion that the other pedestrians had ever witnessed. Arms flailing, body bent double, I lurched on for a good eight or nine steps, trying desperately to right myself, thinking all the while oh fuck, this is going to hurt so bad.

Amazingly, I did not fall. Knees, elbows, and chin saved from a crash landing with the pavement, I did what we all do in that situation. I glanced at the bottom of my shoe, glared over my shoulder at the crack in the sidewalk, then checked the bottom of my shoe again. Just so everybody knew it wasn't my fault.

Hours later I could still feel the post-adrenaline throbbing around my eye sockets, and my entire body ached liked someone had taken a baseball bat to me. But at least it was only my pride that got skinned.

What's the most embarrassing public tumble or near-miss that you have had?

Monday, February 06, 2012

the air up there

Not much time to breathe lately. I have as much work as I can handle right now. And that's good.

I worked several high energy evenings at Cantos last week, one of which was an all-ages blues jam session. I have a massive bruise on my chin from where it hit the floor when I heard a brother and sister, just barely into their teens, belt out some really nasty-awesome blues standards, while laying down some smoking guitar licks. Definitely the highlight of my week, hearing those two.

In my other work, I have been making my way around East Village, meeting all the neighbours, talking about the future. Everybody has a story. I'm gathering them.

And in my other other work, the latest issue of BC Musician Magazine, the venue issue, has hit the streets. My contribution, Jamming with Ghosts, brings it all full circle.

What are you up to?

Saturday, February 04, 2012

she's your man

We have a winner!

Hats off to Mrs Ritchie, the enigmatic former brooding teenager, who sent in this suitably Cohenesque free verse composition rife with
post-post-coital anxiety and bearing the scars of Grace Slick channelling the metaphysics of Alice.


My lover has left me

In shadows, alone

The sky above is gray but salvation lies before me

I swallow it down, down, down falling through the rabbit hole

I see him, just a glimpse

wait, my love,



Take a bow, Mrs Ritchie! Your teenaged angst served you well, after all. Our friends at With a Bullet will be sending you a fresh new copy of Old Ideas. Embrace the darkness.