Thursday, December 24, 2009

Trip Recap, Part 4

It rained and puddles formed below the Eiffel Tower. For some reason, I decided against going up the Eiffel Tower.  After all, I have to have something to do the next time I go to Paris, right?

Lots of souvenir hucksters were actively selling paraphernalia round the tower.  I even saw a couple of guys pack up and flee when the cops came.  I wondered if they were illegals or simply unable to pay the fine, whatever it is for selling shit without a vendor permit.

Anyway, the tower is quite awesome.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Trip Recap, Part 3

The view from the first place we visited (extended family), but didn't stay. Instead, we dragged our bags around the corner to the smallest apartment in the world.

Soon after snapping this photo, we walked to the Eiffel Tower, which I am sure you have already noticed, is at the top of the frame.  Visiting what is arguably the most iconic edifice in Paris, was a great way to start the vacation.

I did have a quick nap in this apartment, which was nice, but way too short.

Friday, December 18, 2009

A Look at my CD Collection, part 4 - Laurie Anderson

I acquired a cassette copy of Home of the Brave years ago from a friend (Thanks Pete).  At the time, I was fascinated by the guitar playing of Adrian Belew, who showed up on the three glorious King Crimson albums in the 1980s, and many more later on.  The first of that trilogy (Discipline) remains as perhaps my most favourite album of all time, but more on that another day. Anyway, Adrian plays some wicked guitar on Mister Heartbreak and Home of the Brave.

Later, I added some Laurie Anderson vinyl to my collection, most of which I still have.  Yes, I am old enough to remember vinyl.  I regret selling some of my records when I became infatuated with compact discs, mostly because early digital mastering really sucked, but it has gotten better.  Still, there is something about the warmth of a vinyl recording that is lacking on CD.

The most perplexing thing about Laurie Anderson is not her weird music; that, I like.  The first track of hers I ever heard was O Superman and I couldn't really believe what I was hearing.  I still think this song is awesome and I continue to appreciate the bizarreness of it.  I have included the video below, thanks to YouTube.  As I was saying, the most perplexing thing about Laurie Anderson is that she married Lou Reed.  I am a huge Lou Reed fan and I have all of his albums and those of The Velvet Underground too.

(see other posts about Lou: one, two, three)

So, although I like Reed's music, isn't it generally agreed that he is somewhat ugly?  Who am I to judge?, you might ask.  Good point. Someone once said that beauty is only skin deep.

Anyway, I have three Laurie Anderson CDs and some vinyl.  I like her music very much.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Remembrance of Things Past

With the temperature hovering around minus 11 Celsius, and knowing that by cycling, I would create a wind chill on top of whatever the wind chill was this morning, I dressed warmly for the ride in to work. The choice of clothing included my new Caribou Sorel boots (good to minus 40 degrees), a winter coat, (suitable for cycling), and two additional layers below. I pulled on my Hot Paws mitts that have never failed to keep my hands warm. Below my helmet, I wore one of those furry hats with the earflaps. The only thing that was cold was my face, and I can't do anything about that because a scarf causes my glasses to fog up and then freeze, leading to a potentially dangerous situation.

I wheeled around the corner and the fist thing I saw reminded me of my youth. A high school student ambled along in nothing more than a hoodie. He had no mitts or gloves, no hat, and no boots. He reminded my of my winter high school days, but even then, I elected to wear mitts and a coat. I just avoided hats, mostly because I hated to disturb my nicely coiffed hair.

I reflected for a moment about how old I have been feeling recently. Happily, I noted that I don't really care if anyone sees me wearing a hat anymore, just as long as it lacks those ridiculous pom-poms.  I hate pom-poms, and I have previously owned hats that forced me to hack off the dumb pom-pom.  Who created this abomination anyway?

I wonder if this kid will be found later, frozen and blue.  I would have said frozen in s snowbank somewhere, but there really isn't any snow to speak of in Tdot at the moment.

A Look at my CD Collection, part 3

Because I have nothing else to write about ...


It's often difficult to recall when or why I have acquired certain CDs. I have no memory of when I bought this one, but I think I picked it up on the basis of its price and on the fact that it contains a track by Ali Farka Touré and Ry Cooder (Diaraby) and another by Henri Dikongué (Ndol'asu). Also, I was really interested in African Music, at one point, especially musicians like Babatunde Olatunji. There's something about African drumming that really appeals to me.  I love Brazilian drumming too.

Africanesque is a fabulous introduction to African music, containing roots music and well as other genres, like European fusion.  It represents many, but not all, African nations.  But, unless you like African music, you probably wouldn't like this.

Arabica - A North African Voyage into Sound 

It's often difficult to recall when or why I have acquired certain CDs. I have no memory of when I bought this one, but I think I picked it up on the basis of its price, since I had no idea who any of these musicians are.  The CD contains traditional North African musical styles fused with Arabian, Middle East grooves and European electronica.  Some tracks are better than others.  It's not a brilliant collection, but it's not too bad.

My goal for today is to finish my Christmas shopping.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

ZF has a New Pair of Boots

Yup, I bought a pair of Sorel Boots.  My feet have never been so warm. As a matter of fact, as I cycled home this evening, I wondered if perhaps they were too warm.  But, the temperature will drop lots more, and I will be grateful for the superior warmth of these fine boots.  Sorel ought to pay me for such an endorsement.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

A Look at my CD Collection, part 2 - John Hudak

I downloaded two releases (legally) by John Hudak with -1348- from The Internet Archive some time ago.  The Internet Archive is a great source for all kinds of things, especially music.  If you are a Dead Head -- and I am not -- you should definitely check it out.

I am really interested in musical experiments, and I am fond of minimalism, drones, and repetition.   That's not to say that I don't enjoy a fine melody, because I do.  There is something about extended drawn-out soundscapes that contain very little in the way of variation.  Of course, this reminds me of a dinner party I had at my house once for an association of which I was president.  I put on Steve Reich's Music for Eighteen Musicians, thinking that it would be a pleasing accompaniment to dinner and conversation.  About 15 minutes into the piece, someone (perhaps the secretary or the treasurer) complained that the music was giving her a headache.  Good thing I hadn't put on Gavin Bryars' Jesus Blood!

Reich's piece has much more going on in it that I require.  There have been times when the drone of a piece of machinery has struck me as the perfect piece of music.  I also like symmetrical structures.  If you add these two together, it says a lot about what I like photograph, normally. Brian Eno's Thursday Afternoon is a fine example of ambient minimalism.  It's 61 minutes of perfect music, and not just for Thursday afternoons.  I also like noise, or music from the avant-garde that employs dissonance and atonality. There are lots of examples of this genre, of course, but to give you some examples, I would suggest the music of John Cale and Tony Conrad from the Inside the Dream Syndicate years, as well as the music of Lamonte Young right through to Sonic Youth and Lou Reed's Metal Machine Music.

I think I am getting sidetracked.

Since I really do not like listening to music on a computer, I burned the two John Hudak releases to CD.  They are:

-1348- and John Hudak - Tacitus Journey
-1348- and John Hudak - The Idiot

These releases contain hints at some of the things I mentioned above. You might not like it, but you just might.  Hudak's discography is quite long and he has made appearances on many other recordings, if you care about that.

Three more days of work, and then I am off until January 4th :-)

Monday, December 14, 2009

A Look at my CD Collection, part 1:
1-Speed Bike: Droopy Butt Begone!

This was the first release (2000) from Aidan Girt, the drummer from Godspeed You! Black Emperor and Exhaust.  I believe that he played drums on the first release from A Silver Mt. Zion entitled: He Has Left Us Alone but Shafts of Light Sometimes Grace the Corner of Our Rooms.

For this release, Girt re-used some of his old beats. He cut them up, looped them, and added some field recordings.  The last thing you will hear is the sound of a toilet flushing to compliment the final track, Any Movement That Forgets About Class Is A Bowel Movement.

Constellation records describes the CD as follows:
The heart of the record finds slow loping beats ebbing and flowing around a beautiful palette of melodic figures and harmonic whirrs on “Just Another Jive-Assed White Colonial Theft”; a sustained hip-hop groove anchoring the playful sample stew of “Why Are All The Dogs Dying Of Cancer” and the house-inflected beat workouts of “My Kitchen Is Tiananmen Square.” link
I couldn't have said it any better, so I won't even try.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Some Recent Reads

OK, so here are a bunch of mini reviews/comments on some of the books that I have read recently, which probably means within the last couple of months, or so.  I am sure that I have missed a few.

Justin Cartwright - In Every Face I Meet

I still fail to understand why Justin Cartwright is not more famous.  He ought to be.  This book was short-listed for the Booker Prize.  It didn't win.  I am not certain that it should have won.  It's good, for sure, but not his best.  I still prefer White Lightning, but this is certainly a good book.  I'll give it an 8/10.

Jess Walter - Citizen Vince

I don't normally read crime fiction.  There might be crime in the fiction I read, but the genre is not something I normally check out.  I can't really say why that is.  It just is.  So, I read Citizen Vince mostly because I liked what was written on the back cover.  The blurb mentioned sex, drugs, prostitution - all good things, really.  It mentioned mobsters and a cross-country chase.  While it is true that all of these elements are part of this book, I have to say emphatically that the blurb is over-written.  That's not to say that I was disappointed. After all, the book is a lot more subtle than the blurb would have you believe.  The protagonist is not such a bad guy, for a bad guy.  He's truly reformed, though still earning some money on the side by means of a few illegal activities.  So, yes, he's a bad guy doing bad guy things, and yet we like him in a noirish way.  He's alright, in many ways, and one feels for his plight. The book is alright too, but I wouldn't suggest that you read it.  I would suggest that you read the blurb and then decide if you want to read it.  Just remember that the cover copy is over-written.  I give this book a 6.5/10. If you are one of those crime fiction readers, you would probably rate it higher, maybe even an 8.5/10.

Paul Quarrington - King Leary

Paul Quarrington could be my favourite Canadian writer.  Sadly, he has been diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer.  I have read many of his books and recently read King Leary while on the train to Montreal. Leary won the Stephen Leacock Memorial Medal for Humour.  Stephen Leacock was a funny Canadian writer who wrote lots of funny things, by the way.  This book is probably deserving of the award, as it is funny and a good read.  But, I have very little to go on, since the only other Leacock winner I have read is Jake and the Kid by W.O. Mitchell, but that was really read to me in public school by the teacher a long time ago.  I tried to read Barney's Version, another Leacock winner, but found it unbearably boring.  My fav Quarrington novel has to be Whale Music, but his best piece of writing is The Boy on the Back of the Turtle.  I give King Leary 8/10.

Jim Thompson - After Dark, My Sweet

I don't normally read crime fiction.  Wait, I already said that.  This book, however, might better be described as pulp fiction, but not in a Tarantino kind of way.  It may be that Jim Thompson has been overlooked as a writer, despite the evidence that he was on to something.  This book was made into a film.  I know, that's not really a good indicator of a book's relative value, but it is interesting to consider, especially when you note that other Thompson books were filmed as well. These books include The Grifters and The Getaway, which was filmed twice, I believe, the first time by Sam Peckinpah.

Anyway, I liked this piece of noir pulp fiction and I am thinking that I should locate the film.  I'll rate this book a 7.5/10.

Louis de Bernières - The War of Don Emmanuel's Nether Parts

This book is a satirical, magical, and hilarious look at a fictionalized nation in South America.  The writing is so genuinely terrific that it is a difficult book to put down.  Other words that might describe this book could be zany and beautiful and violent.  At the heart of this book is a parody of third world banana republics, filled with unusual characters and with hilarious yet poignant observations.  It might not be everyone's cup of tea, but I loved it.  I have almost finished the second book in the trilogy: Senor Vivo and the Coca Lord, which is funnier that it's predecessor.  The third and final book in the trilogy - The Troublesome Offspring of Cardinal Guzman - is waiting for me on my bookcase.  The first two books in this trilogy deserve a rating of 9.9/10.

Don Delillo - Falling Man

I never thought that it would happen, but Don DeLillo has finally penned a novel that I did not like.  Sure, there are the usual pieces of genius and his poetical use of the English language, but this book left me unimpressed.  Let me just say that the dialogue irritated me. No one speaks the way they do in this book.  It doesn't mater who the character is, everyone speaks in a jarring, fragmented fashion that is difficult to accept.  I appreciate what DeLillo is trying to achieve, but I am not convinced that he pulled it off.  For that, I have to give this a 6/10.

Graham Swift - Out of this World

This is perhaps a minor work from Swift and, while I think I enjoyed it, it really didn't stay with me.  I have no complaints, no praise, and not much at all to say about it.  The book is fine, but not at all out-of-this-world.  If you are planning to read Swift, better start somewhere else, say with Last Orders.  6.5/10 for this one.

Gao Xingjian - Buying a Fishing Rod for My Grandfather, Stories

Are these really stories?  They feel more like random pieces of prose.  I suppose that they qualify as both.  This is an entertaining book and it's extremely well-written.  It's enjoyable, but I didn't think too hard about what I was reading.  The words just flowed over me and I absorbed them.  8.5/10

Wednesday, December 09, 2009


So, I cycled today, which may have been a mistake.  I discovered that my boots are no longer water-proof and so my feet were swimming in cold water by the time I was less than halfway through my ride.  I have a dry pair of shoes in my office, which I am wearing without socks.  I hope the socks dry before my cycle home, but it probably will make no difference, since the boots have no chance of drying in such a short period of time.

It's a shame because I bought a crazy-ass pair of boots that are good to minus 40 and water-proof.  In fact, I used them to shovel the wet wintery sludge from my sidewalk this morning.  I felt that they were too cumbersome to cycle in, but they would have been a much better choice.  Fashion should never trump comfort.  That fashion can lose out is a sign of age, if you ask me.  By this logic, I am not yet old.

I remember walking the 1.5 KM trip to and from high school in minus 20 or worse weather and foregoing a hat.  I was too concerned that someone would see me.  Dumb, you say and I agree.  On those days when it was even colder, I would take the route less travelled, with my toque on, taking a risk that someone would see me, and then removing the hat for the last part of my journey, as I closed in on the school.  Yes, it was dumb, but I never got any frostbite.  Oddly, I wore my hat after school during winter track when we ran around the frozen streets, but I guess the coach prevailed upon us.  At least I am now comfortable wearing a hat, so maybe I am aging after all.

OK, well, maybe I can dry my socks using the hand dryer in the bathroom ...

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

The Road (The Movie) - Two Ratings

If the success of a movie is to be measured by how faithfully it translates the written word to the big screen, then The Road deserves a score of ten out of ten.  The cinematography is sublime.  The disintegrating post-apocalyptic world is rendered hauntingly and precisely.  It's a grey world with little to no colour.  It's a depressing landscape filled with dead trees, an ashen sky, burnt out cities, and roving bands of cannibals.  All of this is impressive and faithful to my reading of the book.

The plot, too, follows very closely that of the book and I have no issues with omissions or minor changes.  For this, I give the movie a ten out of ten and would argue that this film is the best possible adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's novel.  But, that doesn't necessarily make it a good film.  At the conclusion of the film, C. assessed it at 6.5 out of ten.  She might be right.

I really like the novel.  It is a gripping story and I read it compulsively.  Good books don't always make good movies, and The Road is a prime example of that phenomenon.   So, while it may well be a great book, the movie just doesn't work.  Still, I would give it a 7.5 because I liked the novel so much.

With the exception of Wonder Boys (as I often mention), I generally prefer the novel to the film adaptation, and so it holds true for this film too.  Read the book; skip the movie.
Happy Birthday to....


I'll be in an all-day colloquium today and an all-day meeting tomorrow :-(

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Down with Twitter!

My experiment with Twitter ended a few weeks ago.  I posted my last so-called tweet is late October, and now, I move on for many reasons.

1) Twitter is a dumb word.
2) Tweet is even dumber.
3) 140 words is too short for anything but a semi-grammatical grunt.
4) I kept attracting unsavory followers offering hidden links to scandalous sites.
5) Twitter is continually over-capacity.
6) I am all for Web 2.0, but Twitter's purpose is to limited that I only ever see things like: I am about to take a dump; I am off to the to store to buy condoms.  In other words, it is a constant source of useless micro-information.
7) I don't need constant reminders that people lead boring lives.
8) I already have a few Ego 2.0 outlets, and don't need another.
9) I really think Twitter inflates one's perceived sense of importance.
10) Twitter would have been much better if I had thought of it and had given it a good name.

I hope Twitter dies and soon. Down with Twitter!