Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Holy Crap

I just surfed past the opening disaster on tonight's Canadian Idol and watched eight youngish people absolutely massacre The Who's My Generation. If I were The Who, I would sue, for a lot of money.

Not being at work is impeding my blogging, but I am sure it will get back to normal later this summer.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Right now, I am sitting on my back deck with my computer and camera, watching a squirrel attack the grape vines and listening to the neighbour's air conditioner. It has run continuously since Lord knows when, and for no good reason. There is a nice breeze today, and I am more than comfortable. Oh, I am taking some time off, which I think I mentioned. I am just about to launch Photoshop and create a few masterpieces. Sadly, I didn't have the proper lens on my camera as I cycled past a groundhog today. He was a cute beast and rather chubby. I was within a few feet when he got scared and went back down his hole.

update: ...but, a neighbour just came out to smoke, and the wind is coming this way, which sucks. I have smokers on both side and I just wish they all f@&% off and stop smoking!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

If I had a world of my own, everything would be nonsense. Nothing would be what it is, because everything would be what it isn't. And contrary wise, what is, it wouldn't be. And what it wouldn't be, it would. You see?

Friday, July 25, 2008


Well, I am taking some time off work, culminating in a trip to Quebec City for a conference. I will have some time to have a look around the city. I have been there twice before, but it has been ages and I am looking forward to a return visit.

Last week, I had my right eye lasered, picked up my new glasses, had a dental appointment, went back to the optician to check if the prescription was right, went to my optometrist for some in-depth follow-up tests, and then headed back to the optician with a new prescription. I had been "over-prescribed" and am suffering from eyestrain and muscle fatigue. I really hope that the new prescription is correct.

And now, I must go to bed for I am very very tired.

Thursday, July 24, 2008


This is me, drawn my my daughter. I think she has a future as a police sketch artist.

I am going back to the Optometrist today to have my eyes re-examined. I am sure that the prescription is wrong. Amazingly, the place that made my glasses will redo the len(e)s at no charge, even though they did nothing wrong. I just walk in with a new prescription, and they do it again. This is weird, but cool.

I can't believe it is raining again. Merde, il pleut!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Overrated, part 10 of 10

(see: parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9)

Finally, we are at #1. First, Steven Page. I am not a fan of BNL (they don't make this list, but I am not that interested in their music, tho I once was). I guess that kills my plans to be a rock star. If such a straight-laced and nice guy can fall for the temptations of cocaine, what hope is there for me? I would be doomed. I have met Steven. In fact, I once had a chat when they were busking on the streets. I sat at the next table at the CASBY Awards one year. He seems like a genuine guy, which makes this all the more sad. Anyway, onto something sinister...

1) Tori Amos - Apologies to the Toriphiles out there for what I am about to write. I loved the first Tori Amos song I ever heard, because I thought it was a joke. I even laughed. I thought she was some sort of satirical act, a female Weird Al Yankovic. Oh yes, there was that breathy self-important voice, a kind of small Kate Bush singing Nirvana's Smell Like Teen Spirit with so much faux emotional intensity. Who wouldn't laugh at that? It was a classic case of recasting a song in an opposing style. Strip out the furious guitar riff, the plaintive voice, and make it all soft and warm - I mean weak and pathetic.

And then, I found out that she was serious. I'd been had. The song had been chased up the charts because some listeners, like me, liked her funny one-hit Nirvana rip off. Later, she destroyed a perfectly good Cure Song. Take the time to go to that link and tell me honestly if you think that it is good music. It's a textbook case of a complete annihilation of a good song. Death by Tori. It is waffling, airy garbage. I am embarrassed for her for releasing such a pile of junk. But, the fans adore it. They love her messages delivered in pseudo-whispers, but I find all of her songs to be emotionally vacant and corny.

On close listen, what one discovers is that she cannot sing, not even close. She covers up her limited vocal range with bizarre and quirky vocalizations that sound halting and dumb. And then there's the breathing. I can't think of another singer whose breathing interferes so much with the lyrics. She hasn't the power of someone like Kate Bush. Earlier, I said she was "a kind of small Kate Bush." Kim Hughes might have said it better when she referred to Tori as a "poor man's Kate Bush." I find nothing original in her music, just a weak attempt at imitation.

Some fans are turning on her too. I think this is a reflection of her decision to self-produce, which either means that one has completely lost perspective or one is a musical genius. The latter is certainly not true in her case. Judging by her lyrics, I'd wager it's a loss of perspective. Here a rather bizarre piece of writing from Ms. Amos:
Father, I killed my monkey
I let it out to
Taste the sweet of spring
Wonder if I will wander out
Test my tether to
See if I'm still free
From you
I rest my case.

...but, if you want a good laugh at the pre-Tori Tori, and by that I mean Y Kant Tori Read, try this. If you have a thing for women who can play the piano with one of their legs resting on the keyboard, this is for you. Yes, yes, if you want to leave abusive comments, please go ahead.

I am off to the dentist and then to the optician to figure out why my new glasses don't work properly. The right eye is blurry :-(

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Overrated, part 9 of 10

(see: parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8)

I was thinking about alternate careers lately, and I realize that it is probably too late to really switch careers, but if I could, I would choose astronomy or psychiatry.

Yesterday morning, the doctor lasered the retinal tear in my left eye. I wouldn't have described the procedure on the right eye as painful, but the left was a different story. Evidently, the tear was very close to a nerve and, man oh man, did that hurt. It felt like someone was repeatedly sticking a red hot poker into my eye and it continued to hurt for the rest of the day. The only other thing that painful, is listening to Queen, my number 2 overrated act.

2) Queen - Brian May is probably a good guitarist, but I am more impressed with his academics. Did you know that he recently finished his Ph.D. in astronomy? His dissertation is entitled: A Survey of Radial Velocities in the Zodiacal Dust Cloud. He has also published a couple of articles and co-authored a book entitled "Bang! – The Complete History of the Universe." That's cool, right? But, how weird is it that he would end up in a band with someone called Freddie Mercury? What are the chances of that happening?

It should be no surprise to see Queen on this list. After all, I chose Bohemian Rhapsody as the worst song ever to the dismay of at least one person. I find is especially bizarre that many Queen fans take this song seriously, as I have already discussed. I violently hate Queen's fake operatic crap. Let's have a closer look at some Queen songs.

Another One Bites the Dust - disco crap.

Flash - This has to be an ironic song. It's very gay, not that there's anything wrong with that. The song just makes me have gay thoughts - you know, Buck Rogers in tights and all that. "Flash a-ah Saviour of the Universe!"

Under Pressure - How disappointing that Bowie brought back this piece of garbage to his concerts. I had to suffer through it the last time I saw him. Bowie even managed to find a woman with Freddie's voice to do the Freddie's parts.

Somebody to Love - More fake opera. "Got no feel, I got no rhythm" I imagine this song being featured in a ballet of lepers.

Bicycle Race - Just go ride your bike, and don't sing about it!

Fat Bottomed Girls - Why does anyone like this one? Please tell me. I need to know.

Crazy Little Thing Called Love - This has to be the greatest rockabilly failure ever. "I gotta be cool relax, get hip, Get on my tracks, Take a back seat, hitch-hike, And take a long ride on my motor bike, Until I'm ready, Crazy little thing called love." Dumb and the video is even dumber.

Radio Gaga - The insipid lyrics say it all:

All we hear is radio ga ga
Radio goo goo
Radio ga ga
All we hear is radio ga ga
Radio blah blah

The video borrows heavily Metropolis.

We Will Rock You/We Are the Champions - Overplayed and underdone. But, go back to that album, News of the World, and cue up Sheer Heart Attack, Fight from the Inside, Sleeping on the Sidewalk, and Get Down, Make Love and you will discover that Queen had a small number of sort of OK songs. That's it, really: the rest are abominations. Have a look at their greatest hits CD and you will see what I mean. It should be called Greatest Failures.

A not-so-bad Queen song:

See: part 10

Monday, July 21, 2008

Overrated, part 8 of 10

(see: parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7)

I thought about including Meatloaf on this list, but I changed my mind. You know, Marvin is a pretty good actor, so I couldn't do it, even though I hate all of his music passionately. I can see through that and understand the attraction. He's like a one man quasi-opera for poor folk, peons, plebeians, and the proletariat. As an youngish boy, I thought that there was something to Paradise by the Dashboard Lights and I related to that. So, the adolescent boy in me kept him off the list. Besides, no one could describe his music as boring, which segues nicely into number 3.

3) The Eagles - Yawn. They remind me of certain words, like:

dull (dŭl)
adj., dull·er, dull·est.

1. Intellectually weak or obtuse; stupid.
2. Lacking responsiveness or alertness; insensitive.
3. Dispirited; depressed.
4. Not brisk or rapid; sluggish: Business is dull.
5. Not having a sharp edge or point; blunt: a dull knife.
6. Not intensely or keenly felt: a dull ache.
7. Arousing no interest or curiosity; boring: a dull play.
8. Not bright or vivid. Used of a color: a dull brown.
9. Cloudy or overcast: a dull sky.
10. Not clear or resonant: a dull thud.

SYNONYMS colorless, drab, humdrum, lackluster, pedestrian, stodgy, uninspired.

bor·ing (bôr'ĭng, bōr'-)

Uninteresting and tiresome; dull.

SYNONYMS monotonous, tedious, irksome, tiresome, humdrum.

Listening to the Eagles is about as interesting as watching paint dry. Writing about the Eagles is like writing about paint drying. I'd rather listen to white noise; I'd rather write about dandruff. But, I will do my duty and finish this post. Can any musician or group of musicians be more boring than the Eagles? I think not. Nothing comes close. Well, there is Barry Manilow.

When the Eagles broke up in 1980, I just said thank the lord! Thank the lord that we don't have to have any more dreck like The Long Run thrown at us. Just how in hell does a ridiculous song like Heartache Tonight make it to number 1 on the charts? It's only marginally better than I Love a Rainy Night. For some reason, these songs remind me of each other. It's probably the pedestrian melodies and the stupid lyrics, like:
We can beat around the bushes;
we can get down to the bone
We can leave it in the parkin' lot,
but either way, there's gonna be a
heartache tonight, a heartache tonight I know.
Imagine rhyming 'bone' with 'gonna'. It sounds clunky to me.

Apparently, Don Henley once dated Stevie Nicks. Why would anyone date Stevie Nicks? That's reason enough not to like the Eagles. Henley and Nicks even recorded a song together. I decided to listen to Leather and Lace so that I could give you an informed opinion of it. That song is going to give me nightmares. You can listen here, but be careful for it could really inflict some serious damage on your ears. The Tom Petty and Stevie Nicks duet is only marginally better. I have some respect for Tom, and I was really upset when that dud of a song came out.

Hey, I have rewritten the first verse of Desperado:
Dear Eagles, why don't you come to your senses
you're a washed up old band with nothing to say
Oh you're a lost bunch
I know that you've got your reasons
Money and fame that are pleasin' you
You want your pay day
Not bad, huh? I did the last verse too:
Dear Eagles, you need to come to your senses?
Come down from your stages, burn your music
Why don't you go away?, your last album really sucked
It may be rainin', but there's no rainbow above you
It's the best to do thing before you really lose it
I planned to do the whole song, but the tune of Desperado got stuck in my head and it was driving me mad. Is it just me, or was the last part of the preceding sentence also to the tune of Desperado? Maybe I am imagining it. That song is infectious, but not in a good way. It's more like a virulent white plague. Hang on while I put on some good music to flush out the Eagles.... Ah, that's better.

My sister is a big Eagles fan, along with classic bands like Heart, Styx, Trooper, Journey, etc. I once said I didn't like the Eagles and I think she must have thought I meant the Philadelphia Eagles, which was a reasonable enough assumption, I suppose. She wondered aloud, "who doesn't like Hotel California?" Me, that's who. That song is idiotic. I am aware of the band's interpretation of the song, and I guess I can see where they are coming from, but it seems like the quintessential example of a drug-induced song that completely fails to hold my interest, which is strange because I am all for drug-induced music.

This is better:

Hell would have to freeze over before I will ever be an Eagles fan.
I am off now to have my other retinal tear lasered. Later.

See: part 9

Friday, July 18, 2008

Overrated, part 7 of 10

(see: parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6)

I used to have longish hair, believe it or not. Someday, I might even post the photographic evidence. Well, don't bet on that. Recently, I have been giving serious thought to regrowing the flowing locks, maybe all of the way down to my ass. It would cause quite a stir in certain quarters, but that is what I am after: shock and awe, my friends, shock and awe. The youth have it easier when if comes to shock value options. As we age, there is less we can do, so, aside from new eyeglasses (they are on the way), long hair may be my only choice. Oh, and tattoos, but I already have one.

And now, number 4 on my list of overrated musical acts. (note that
I have omitted all Idol winners, as they are a bunch no talent wannabes). And now, number 4...

4) Bon Jovi - I bet you didn't know that Bon Jovi (the group, not Jon Boy) has sold over 120 million albums. If you do the math - like I did - you'll decide to quit your day job, grow your hair (maybe just so you can cut it later), get some plastic surgery (so you will have chiseled Kevin Baconish good looks), surround yourself with songwriters (who can pump out the ballads), plus a group of musicians willing to live under the shadow of your surname. Yep, that's a recipe for success, my friends, a recipe for success. I am getting on this right now.

If there's a good side, and maybe there is a good side to everything, it might be that JBJ doesn't seem to like George Dubya Bush. This is the only good news. The bad news, of course, is JBJ's foray into acting. But, you see what's happening, don't you? It's virtually impossible to discuss Bon Jovi without it becoming a discussion about Jon Bon Jovi. So, I will treat them as the same thing, my friends, the same lame thing.

But, back to the acting. It is refreshing to see people make fun of themselves, so I appreciate this SNL skit:

But, that's all there is to admire, as far as I am concerned. Most of the songs sound the same. Worse is the fact that all Bon Jovi videos look like ads for a satanic hair salon. And the lyrics. Oh, man, check this out:
With an ironclad fist I wake up and
French kiss the morning
Say what? I am all for poetic license, but this stinks.

Have you ever checked out Yahoo! Answers? You can post a question and gets lots of answers. Here's an interesting question, that someone once asked:

Q: Is Bon Jovi gay? i have a shirt that says bon jovi and some people refer to it as the gay...is that true? should i take the shirt back to the store?

(Who knows if the questioner means the band or JBJ. Anyway, on to some answers:)

A: Bon Jovi is not gay his music is but he is not.
A: Are the sleeves cut off?
A: Bon Jovi the man is not gay, just his music

Because I can't resist the Urban Dictionary...
12. Bon Jovi

another name for an erection. It's about time for a new word for erection.

14. Bon Jovi

When you see a girl from behind with tight jeans, long flowing hair, only to find out its a guy from the front. Hey, check out this broad... Oh, shit its a Bon Jovi!!! GROSS

15. bon jovi

A transvestite that has attempted too many times to release a good album, let alone a good song. Is a disgrace to the face of humanity and rock and roll. Sold his/her soul to the devil and owns a shitty Arena Football team that nobody gives a shit about.

16. Bon Jovi

a really gay singer who has no good songs and all his songs sound exactly the same.
did you hear greenday? ya they're just like Bon Jovi.
Finally, confirmation from the Urban Dictionary. And, now I just have to rewrite a bit of one of his songs:

Shot through the heart
And you're to blame
You give New Jersey a bad name

The list will continue on Monday.

See: part 8

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Overrated, part 6 of 10

(see: parts 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5)

I acquired a few CDs at a lawn sale recently. I am especially enjoying the two Decemberists CDs that I got for essentially no money. What else did I get from that sale? .... oh, a Van Morrison CD, the Concretes, a couple of FemBots discs, a Flaming Lips CD and DVD, for example. There was also some punkier stuff, like Ikara Colt, The Hives, and the Fatal Flying Guilloteens. So, you see I have nothing against harder stuff with electric guitars, well some of it at least, which brings us to number 5 on my top ten list of overrated acts.

5) Guns 'n Roses - When I first heard that Axl Rose was working on Chinese Democracy, I took it literally and thought this was an admirable post-pock thing to do. Why him, I wondered? It makes no sense. I was quickly disabused of my false notion. Chinese Democracy is, in fact, a long-promised new album. I fear the worst for the legions of G 'n R fans awaiting an album that has been in production for 10 years. It will have to be a huge letdown once it finally sees the light of day. The weight of expectation will certainly overwhelm whatever they manage to put out on CD.

I have never appreciated the high-pitched vocals of the heavy metal set. I am aware that the blame for this might lay with Led Zeppelin, a band I have always admired. It may be so. And yet, there are major differences, I think, between Robert Plant's vocals and those of the heavy metal acts that followed. Plant's vocals have a lot of blues in them, at least to my ears, while the vocals of G 'n R sound more like the screeching of someone who really cannot sing.

Apparently, Appetite for Destruction is the second biggest-selling debut album of all time, just behind the first Boston album (no, I am not a Boston fan either, but I like the city very much). Maybe I was listening to the wrong radio station, but it was several years before I finally heard a song from G 'n R. At the time, I was TV-less, and paid no attention to commercial music, like G 'n R, so I missed it all. In hindsight, I am happy to say that I didn't miss anything, except for an interesting wedding gown.

As always, I like to branch out to the web to gather other opinions of acts. The Urban Dictionary is an unlikely place to look for opinions on bands, but in this case, it informs. I provide a few choice excerpts:
1. guns n roses

A REAL rock band. Unfortunately some people listen to a single song and say they suck, but you're wrong.

Over 9.6 million Guns 'n' Roses fans CAN'T be wrong!
Of course, s/he meant to write "they're wrong" so that it agrees with "some people." What I'd like to say to this person is: "500 million Michael Jackson fans can't be wrong! (Thriller has sold over 108 million copies alone). So there!" Of course, I hate Michael Jackson's music.
2. guns n roses

The Best Band Of The 80's, they made me feel so good about myself, before Nirvana came along (gives Nirvana Deathstare). Nirvana made 80's metal look artificial, when really, it was F**KING AWESOME! Axl's a babe! They're all babes!
How can you say Nirvana and metal in the same sentence, dude? But, it does beg the question as to why certain women, and I think they are largely teenagers, fall for long-haired men who wear make-up and skin-tight leather or leopard-skin pants? And that brings us to definition number 9:
9. guns n roses

lame shitty 80's hair metal band
really big among teenyboppers
That's exactly what I am saying. And, on to definition number 11:
11. guns n roses

Worst band of the entire 80's!!!!
And that's saying something because the 80's sucked Satan's balls!!!!!!
Note the number of exclamation points! I wouldn't use such vulgar terms to describe the 80s, and I don't like the image of Satan being all dog-like, but you have to admire the passion in this person's definition. S/he seems to know music.

By the way, Knockin' on Heaven's Door was written by Bob Dylan, in case you G 'n R fans missed it.

See: part 7

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Overrated, part 5 of 10

(see: parts 1, 2, 3, and 4)

I hope you are not bored yet. I am reminding myself of those long countdowns I used to listen to on the radio, especially at year's end. We'd get the top 500 songs of the year or the top 500 songs of all time. Either way, the lists were completely wrong. I recall that Stairway to Heaven seemed always to top the list of best songs. I am a Led Zeppelin fan, and I have to say that it is not the best song ever; it's not even close to the best Zeppelin song. In fact, it wouldn't even make my top 25 list of best Zeppelin songs. But, on to number 6 ...

6) Van Halen - Eddie Van Halen is known for his musical technique of tapping, in which he uses both hands on the guitar neck. Tapping has been around for as long as we have had stringed instruments. Lots of other guitarists have used this technique as well. The thing about Eddie Van Halen is that his style is really all about speed, which is bound to impress certain people.

Perhaps the most irritating thing was Eddie Van Halen's guitar solo in Michael Jackson's Beat It. I didn't like the song, but I have to say that it is very appropriate to place a masturbatory, self-indulgent guitar solo in a song called Beat It. Wikipedia notes that Beat It "is regarded by many as one of Jackson's masterworks." That really isn't saying too much.

Here is the mercifully-short Eruption highlighting his style:

There is nothing musical to me here. It's just speed and self-indulgence. If you want an excellent example of instrumental rock music in under 2 and a half minutes, check this out:

By the way, even though I am not a fan, I was unhappy when David Lee Roth left the band because that led to the inevitable solo career. One summer, while planting trees in southern Ontario, I must have heard Just a Gigolo about ten thousand times in my uncle's old Dodge Dart that only had an AM radio. I can still recite the lyrics. Sadly, science has not figured out how to regrow dead brain cells.

See part 6

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Overrated, part 4 of 10

(see: parts 1, 2, and 3)

I have some Canadian content (the only Canadian content) for you today in my list of overrated artists. A list of my least favourite artists would be too easy. Right, on to number 7...

7) Bryan Adams - I will admit that certain tracks on Cuts Like a Knife still sound OK to my ears. Reckless, on the other hand, has aged very badly. I would be happy if I never had to hear It's Only Love, that messy disaster of a duet with Tina Turner, ever again. I think Tina was OK back in the day, and I mean waaaay back in the day with Ike. I blame Mark Knopfler for her resurgence in the 80s with that damned Private Dancer song. I can't believe he wrote that for Dire Straits! Bizarre. Her comeback led to a whole series of bad duets with the likes of Adams, Mick Jagger, Eric Clapton, Rod Stewart, and David Bowie. I bet I could get Tina to record a duet with me.

After Reckless, Bryan went from bad to worse. There is the anemic (Everything I Do) I Do It for You with its ponderous chorus. If you think that is bad, check out All For Love:

Why in Hell would Sting get involved in such a piece of shit? I think he has more integrity than that. I could go on and on, but I think, once you have watched that clip, they will be no doubt in your mind. Bryan Adams sucks.

Just to prove to you that I am human and have nothing to hide, I will confess that I have two pieces of Bryan Adams vinyl: his first self-titled album and Reckless. I will sell those to the person with the best offer.

Oh, and I suppose I ought to say something about his photography. I think Bryan is quite a talented photographer.

See: part 5

Monday, July 14, 2008

Overrated, part 3 of 10

(See: parts 1 and 2)

My list of top ten overrated acts continues. Number 8....

8) Depeche Mode - In the early days, Depress Mode was a slightly offbeat, perhaps alternative, band. They fit firmly into the New Romantic Camp, part of the New Wave movement. (As an aside, I really hate how the term "alternative" has been hijacked by the music industry to define the herds of new guitar rock bands that emerged in the 1990s. The corruption of that term is a slap in the face to the true alternative music scene of the very late 1970s and early-to-mid 1980s. Down with corporate music! But, back to these chaps with the hurry-up lifestyle).

When I first heard Master and Servant, I was amused. It had some slightly risqué content, but the disco beat was really too much for me. You see, I had spent much of my youth fighting the disco forces, and that largely meant my brother and his love of the disco queens. In contrast, I was listening to Alice Cooper, KISS, Black Sabbath, and Led Zeppelin. His bad taste extended to the Solid Gold too, and the only good part was the female Solid Gold Dancers. You must click on that link if you have no idea what Solid Gold is.

I enjoyed Blasphemous Rumours for a while, but quickly tired of it. God was probably laughing at that song. I'm not the first person to think that Depeche Mode's lyric "I just can't get enough" could be easily misheard as "I just can't get it up." It's a pseudo-mondegreen.

The Pet Shop Boys have said that they were influenced by DM when they were recording Behaviour, so I rest my case. Pseudo-disco breeds pseudo-disco. Why have I used pseudo so many times? I am not sure, but I am reminded of Sussudio, that insipid Phil Collins disaster of a song. I originally thought it was spelled Psue-pseudio. Boy, was I wrong. Just to digress even further, Sussudio checked in at number 24 on VH1's "40 Most Awesomely Bad Songs Ever." There is also a list called the 40 Most Awesomely Bad Dirrty [sic] Songs...Ever, which is very amusing. Have a look at that, since I can't find a link to the other list.

Which leads me to KMFDM. If you are a Depeche Mode or KMFDM fan, you know what follows, so I don't have to say it ;-)

And now, Instant Club Hit, by the Dead Milkmen:

See: Part 4

Friday, July 11, 2008

Overrated, part 2 of 10

(See: part 1)

Welcome to part two of my whimsical countdown of the most overrated stars in music. As I said in the first post, I am excluding those talentless acts that are known to stink, like Jacko the Whacko, etc. And now, number 9....

9) Billy Joel - This had to be expected, coming after Elton John at number 10. In some respects, the Piano Man is a poor man's Elton. They have so much in common, they even toured together. But, I believe that Elton is a far superior pianist and his songs are far more musical.

They share an uncanny ability to write some serious duds. In Billy's case, one only has to think of Only the Good Die Young, Big Shot, and Just the Way You Are, She's Always a Woman, the ridiculous Uptown Girl, and many more! On the plus side, Joel composed Allentown, clearly his best song, both in musical style and message. Well, that's just my opinion.

I couldn't help thinking about Billy on Tuesday, when I dropped into a record store. The dude next to me was purchasing some sort of special edition of The Stranger. Why would anyone do that? I wondered. True, there was a moment in my life when I was momentarily interested in his music, but that faded and all that remains in one piece of vinyl. I will sell if for the best offer.

The good news is that Billy retired in 1993. The bad news is that he still tours and pumps out a series of greatest hits CDs. The even worse news is his foray into "classical" music. I guess he thinks he's Paul McCartney. Joel had considerable "help" in composing the pieces on Fantasies & Delusions, so I am not sure if it even qualifies as a Billy Joel album. On the other hand, the album lives up to it's name. Others have been harsher in their criticisms. Just read the one star reviews at Amazon and you'll see what I mean.

What's the matter with the songs he's singin'
Can't you tell that they're pretty lame
After listenin' to a couple albums
Well, they all start to sound the same

So he tried to change his musical style
He tossed all his ballads in the circular file
Then he found the punk sound
Breakin' ground all around
It's still Billy Joel to me

What's the matter with the tune he's writin'
Well, you know it's gonna be a smash
It's so nice when you're a big name artist
Doesn't matter if it sounds like trash

Now everybody thinks the new wave is super
Just ask Linda Ronstadt or even Alice Cooper
It's a big hit, isn't it
Even if it's a piece of junk
It's still Billy Joel to me

Woah, it doesn't matter what the critics say about him
'Cause he doesn't worry how they feel
When you're record's sellin' millions and it's goin' triple platinum
You don't worry 'bout your next meal
'Cause money is no big deal

Maybe he should dye his hair bright pink
And stick a safety pin through his cheeks
Then he'd really fit the new wave image
But he couldn't sit down for weeks

Don't you know about the record business, honey
You gotta be trendy if you wanna make some money
Now everybody's sayin' that he sure sounds funny
But it's still Billy Joel to me

All right, Alfred

I can hardly wait 'til his next album
Well, I'll bet it's gonna be the rage
Buy a ticket to his next big concert
Well, I wonder what he'll do on stage

It might be disco and it might be the blues
Or maybe even somethin' like the B-52's
Just a handclap, finger snap
Even if it's mindless pap
It's still Billy Joel to me

Everybody's sayin' that he sure sounds funny
But it's still Billy Joel to me

See: part 3

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Overrated, part 1 of 10

I once wrote about what I thought was the worst song of all time. I could produce a huge list of sucky bands and singers without any trouble. A sample list would include such "artists" as Michael Jackson, Madonna, Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston, George Michael, Culture Club, Duran Duran, Celine Dion, Spice Girls, Backstreet Boys, ABBA, Britney Spears, etc. That would be easy and pointless because everyone knows they are all talentless. I know you agree with me :-)

What would be better than that is a list of bands or singers that seem to get some critical acclaim but suck in reality. I came up with ten, just like Letterman.

10) Elton John - I am willing to admit that I was a fan of Reginald Kenneth Dwight when I was about 10 years old. I had some 45 RPM records and a few albums. In truth, there are a very small number of Elton John songs that I can still listen to. These include Funeral for A Friend, Levon (his finest composition), and Tiny Dancer, for example.

I even enjoyed watching him on Inside the Actor's Studio. But, the music has never done anything for me for a long long time. I am not sure when it all started to go so wrong for him, musically, but Sasson Says so Much didn't help matters. And, his reworking of Goodbye Norma Jean was simply embarrassing.

If you like him, I'd like to know why.

Read part two.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Pee Mobile

I've been thinking a lot about alternative energy recently, given the skyrocketing price of Light Sweet Crude. I am happy that alternative forms of energy are getting serious attention, but I am dismayed by the direction some of the trends are taking. I really think that we should be investing in clean energy, but this seems not to be happening.

Electric power is not clean. It is often manufactured by burning coal or by controlled nuclear reactions. Neither of these are clean sources of power. Until we have figured out what to do with the radioactive waste, and I don't mean burying it in the Canadian Shield, we shouldn't be using the technology. I realize that some electricity is generated by other means, like hydro electric power, but this is fraught with serious problems. One only has to look as far as the Three Gorges Dam or the destruction of the pacific salmon fisheries for evidence.

Ethanol is not clean either, and it could better be used for food. After all, there is an international food crisis. And then there is the issue of how much carbon must be used to produce ethanol. It makes more sense to me to use agricultural byproducts rather than food itself, so I am sort of happy that the Ontario Government has invested $7.5 million in project (at the University of Western Ontario) to turn things like corn husks and manure into fuel and biogas. Still, I wouldn't describe this as clean energy.

There is lots of conflicting information surrounding various water-powered cars, like those from Denny Klein or Stan Meyer - who was not poisoned, despite the rampant conspiracy theories - or the Genepax car. This still seems to be a dream, and I wonder what impact it would have on our water supplies. But, such an invention would be a step in the right direction. In my opinion, what we need is a car that runs on urine. It would give fill 'er up a whole new meaning.

There are lots of hits on Google for this topic, but I am not convinced that such an invention is ready. Urine certainly qualifies as a renewable resource. I guess we'll have to carefully study the emissions - of the car that is. It would also lead to other sources of revenue. Instead of finding a public washroom, you could ask someone if they require a fill up. I would sell mine for an affordable 25 cents per litre.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Meme (borrowed from Kate)

We had a power failure this AM, so I opted for an easy meme now that we are back online.

1.What is in the back of your car? - I don't have a car. In the back of the last one, you would find a snow brush and a box of tissues. The trunk was a different story.

2.What color is your toothbrush? - Grey, white, and blue.

3.Name one person who made you smile today. - A colleague who made a joke about the power failure.

4.What were you doing at 8:00 AM? - Sleeping :-)

5.What were you doing 45 minutes ago? - Working an a very short article for a newsletter.

6.What is your favorite candy? - Dark chocolate, but I am not sure it qualifies as candy: it is so much more than that. It's a lifestyle, really.

7.What is the last thing you said aloud? - "I don't think so."

8.What is the best ice cream flavor? - I don't eat ice cream, but I like Lemon sorbet. In my ice cream eating says, it would have been French Vanilla.

9.What is the last thing you had to drink? - Water.

10.What are you wearing right now? - A short sleeve button-down shirt with a pair of olive-coloured pants and black skate board shoes.

11.What is the last thing you ate? - A bowl of gluten-free corn flakes with soy milk.

12.Have you bought any new clothes this week? - No, but I really need to.

13.When was the last time you ran? - Last night at about 10:30 PM.

14.What was the last sporting event you watched? - The gentlemen's final at Wimbledon.

15.Ever go camping? - Yes. This was my family's annual vacation, but as I have said before, never take me camping.

16.Do you have a tan? - Just a bit on my arms and back of my neck.

17.Do you take vitamins daily? - Never. I don't believe in vitamins.

18.Do you go to church? - Never. I was dragged a few times over the years. I am not a fan of organized religion.

19.Do you like Chinese food more than pizza? - No, but I eat neither.

20.Do you drink your soda with a straw? - I hate straws.

21.Are you someone’s best friend? - I hope so?

22.What are you doing tomorrow? - Working.

23.Where is your dad? - At home, I suppose. He is recovering from some radiation treatments.

24.Can you say the alphabet backwards? - I have never tried, but I'd like to believe that I can, if only I had the brain energy.

25.Do you have a maid service clean your home? - How ridiculous. Wait, are there still French maids?

26.Do you have a favorite pair of shoes you wear all the time? - No.

27.What color is your car? - Don't have one, but old ones were - in order - brown, champagne, red, red.

28.How do you like your popcorn? - I rarely eat it, but perhaps with salt and maple syrup.

29.How did you get your worst scar? - It's on my right shin and I got it from falling from a ladder while painting the shutters of a hotel.

30.Look to your left. What do you see? - A vintage desk chair covered with turquoise leather.

31.What color is your watch? - White face, silver metal, and a black leather band that needs replacing, which is why I haven't worn it in about two years.

32.What do you think of when you think of Australia? - Funnel web spiders, dung beetles, surfing, sun hats, snakes, crocodiles, jelly fish, sharks, koala bears, The Dreaming.

33.Do you use chap stick? - Not once in my whole life, but I use chop sticks.

34.Do you have a dog? - No.

35.Last person you talked to on the phone? - A systems colleague.

36.Have you met anyone famous? - Yes: see point 5 in this post.

37. Any plans today? - Work, grocery shopping, buy the new Beck album.

38.How many states have you lived in? - Zero.

39.Do you dye your hair? - No. Why would I do that? Wait - maybe blond would be good...or red.

40.Do you like cats? -Yes, but I am allergic to the little bastards.

Monday, July 07, 2008

In Support of Dr. Henry Morgentaler

I wholeheartedly approve of the decision to award the Order of Canada to Dr. Henry Morgentaler. Some people have spoken out in opposition to this award, among them the Catholic Church and the reactionary Canada Family Action Coalition (CFAC).

Let's be clear on what the CFAC stands for. The CFAC is a homophobic, right wing club that is opposed to gay rights, same-sex marriage, and the rights of women. It has spoken out against Gardasil. It supports Bill C-10! CFAC is a collection of reactionary bible freaks trying to promote its religious agendas by hiding them in popular political issues, especially financial ones, such as taxation reform.

Here is an excerpt from Brian Rushfeldt spewing hatred against gays (you'll have to excuse the grammatical errors and ponderous writing in this segment. I've discovered that these people can't form a proper sentence half of the time):
"It is not respectful of diversity when I or others “like me”, whom oppose a certain sexual behavior are labeled, attacked. That sexual behavior I refer to happens to be very unnatural and in fact is known to spread a tremendous amount of diseases. But for me to oppose IT gains me and those “like me” reputations of bigot, homophobe, hateful, narrow minded, intolerant, fascist, Taliban and other nasty verbs and adjectives that I will not repeat. In fact my opposition to sodomy caused one person to send me, unsolicited, in an email (which the police are investigating), graphic images of two men sodomizing each other. The images reinforce the fact that it is an unnatural, unclean and unhealthy act upon another human being. This is not even an opinion , it is scientific fact in the 2000s. To those who disagree, I say get into the “progressive” learning curve and out of the stone age."
Thank you, Brian, for that meandering piece of garbage that simply promotes hatred. In another document, the CFCA refers to Svend Robinson as a "bisexual activist." Why can't he just be an activist? Go to the CFCA website, and you will discover lots of hatred, right wing propaganda, so-called Christian values, and grievous errors in syntax.

But, I am straying off topic, so let me get back to the point. Dr Morgentaler has been fighting for the rights of women for more than 40 years. He served time in prison defending the rights of women. He fought for the rights of women with great personal sacrifice. It's about time he was recognized for his achievements.

I am certain that the Governor-General will not give in to the religious fanatics. It's about time that Morgentaler was honored for his work. Let's keep the right wing hands off of his award.

Friday, July 04, 2008

A Play in Two Acts


(Thursday, July 3rd, 2008. Zydeco Fish, wearing a black t-shirt and blue jeans, sits in his office. He reluctantly picks up his black office telephone and dials the phone.)


Good morning, [states name of company]. May I help you?


Hello. I am calling from _____ in Toronto. We ordered some _____ from you some time last year, and we need to re-order.


Thank you. I will have to transfer your call.


OK. Thank you.

(Zydeco Fish shifts is his chair, listening to the sounds of the phone being transferred. He glances at the clock and looks visibly disturbed that it is still morning. He picks up the apple on his desk and puts it down again.)




Hello. I am calling from _____ in Toronto. We ordered some _____ from your company some time last year, and we need to order some more.


Oh, I am sorry. That didn't work. Let me try transferring you again.


OK. Thank you.

(Zydeco Fish rolls his eyes, shifts is his chair, listening to the sounds of the phone being transferred. He picks up the nectarine and examines it. He puts it back down, and looks up at the clock. He watches a colleague sit down at the scanner just outside of his office.)




Hello. I am calling from _____ in Toronto. We ordered some _____ from you some time last year, and we need to make a new order.


I'm sorry but I have no idea what you are talking about.


Oh, I guess I was transferred to the wrong person. I will call her back. Goodbye.



(Zydeco Fish presses the release button on the phone and redials. He slouches a bit in his chair.)


Good morning, [states name of company]. May I help you?


Oh, hi. I just spoke with you a moment ago and you transferred me to someone who has no idea what I am talking about.


Oh, well, let me try again.


OK. Thanks.

(Zydeco Fish shifts is his chair, listening to the sound of the receptionist shuffle paper or drop something. He hears the familiar noise of the phone being transferred again. He brushes a couple of random hairs from his t-shirt. He toggles to his Flickr account to see if there are any new comments. He refreshes his email window. He clicks on Scrabulous in Facebook, but his two opponents haven't taken their turns yet.)



Hello. I am calling from _____ in Toronto. We ordered some _____ from you some time last year, and we need to order a new batch.


I'm sorry but I have no idea what you are talking about.




This is the Human Resources Department.


It is? Your receptionist transferred me to you. Why would she do that?


I have no idea.


I guess I will just call her back.


Sorry about that.


No problem. Goodbye.

(Zydeco Fish presses the release button on his phone and redials. As he waits, he types www.msnbc.com and clicks on the Tech and Science link. He opens the article about Voyager 2, launched 30 years ago, which has reached the Termination Shock.)


Good morning, [states name of company]. May I help you?


Hi. I have spoken with you a couple of times just now, trying to order some ____. No one seems to have any idea what I am talking about. The last time, you transferred me to the Human Resources Department and the person I spoke with couldn't figure out why.


I thought that she would know who you should be speaking with. I am just filling in today. Can I put you on hold for a moment?


Why not?

(Zydeco Fish waits. He looks at the clock. The red voice mail light on his phone has lit up.)


OK. Let me transfer you.


Thank you.



Oh, hello. I am calling from _____ in Toronto. We ordered some _____ from you some time last year, and we need to order more.


I'm sorry, but I don't know what you are talking about. Where are you trying to call?


Mississauga...from Toronto.


But where in Mississauga.


Your office at ____ ____ Parkway.


But, you are speaking with someone in Halifax right now.


That's odd. Your receptionist transferred me to you.


We don't have a receptionist.


You don't have a receptionist? Then who transferred me to you?


I don't know.


So, you can't help me?


No. I have no idea who you should be speaking with.


Alright. Thanks for your help.

(Zydeco Fish hangs up the phone, picks up the apple and takes a bite. He looks disappointed with the apple.)


(Friday, July 4th, 2008. Zydeco Fish, wearing a brownish t-shirt and blue jeans, sits in his office. He reluctantly picks up his black office telephone and dials the phone.)


Good morning, [states name of company]. May I help you?


Hi. I called yesterday trying to order some _____. I was never able to speak with anyone who could help me.


I don't know who to transfer you to. I can't help you.


Does your company sell ____?


I really don't know.


Wow, this is a very strange company.


Can I help you with anything else?


You haven't helped me with this.


I'm sorry. I have no information about this.


Alright... Goodbye.

(Zydeco Fish hangs up without waiting for a reply.)



Wednesday, July 02, 2008

I'm Back, Baby I'm Back

Here's the best story from my weekend trip to Rural, Ontario to visit certain family members. While in the nursing home where my mother lives (probably for the rest of her life), my daughter decided to play the piano in the lounge area. Just then, an aged woman ambled in and said: "how wonderful." My son was trying his best to interfere with his sister's piano recital, but the old woman repeated her refrain: "how wonderful, how wonderful" even as the protests commenced and the voices of the children became louder and louder.

She went on: "I was a school teacher." I felt a bit sad for her, but also was happy that these two children, now getting seriously irritated with one another over piano access, brought her some joy. While my daughter played a lovely rendition of Doe, a deer, a female deer, the ancient women found a seat, spread out a large absorbent pad (I suppose in the event of spontaneous incontinence), had a seat, and stared out the window.

While chatting with my sister and my mother, I heard snippets of the babble coming from the old lady, such as: "a school teacher...lovely, I was a school teacher..." I suppose she had gotten lost in her reminiscences. Seconds later, without any warning, she let out a loud "bitch!"

The good news is that this caused my mother to laugh. "What's she going on about now?" my mother asked. "She's a crazy one." I laughed a bit too, and then wondered if she had been my one of my school teachers, but decided against the possibility.


I feel like I have been away from work for a week, mostly because I have. I was at a conference last week (sorry, no review for you today, or ever, if you are lucky). On Monday, when I should have been enjoying an extra long weekend, thanks to Canada Day falling on a Tuesday, I was at an appointment with a retinal specialist, who confirmed that I have two "potentially dangerous" retinal tears. I think half of Toronto was in his office that day. He lasered one tear after a wait with dozens of others needing similar treatments. I go back in three weeks for another laser weld job.

I have spent most of today in meetings, which is not a good thing.