Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Friday, August 13, 2010

This Movie is Broken

Last night, we attended an Open Roof Films screening of This Movie is Broken in the parking lot of Amsterdam Brewery.  Prior to the film, a Toronto band called The Little Black Dress (not to be confused with Little Black Dress) played a few tunes.

I guess it's common for more than one band to choose the same or similar names.  The difference here is the definite article.  I don't like the name at all. I think both bands should give up and try a new name.  Leaving that aside, I was not terribly impressed with the band.  The sound was OK and the music was not too bad, but I couldn't get past the lyrics and the vocals.  Maybe it just wasn't my cup of tea.  Anyway, on to the movie.

I love Broken Social Scene.  I like many of the offshoots too.  So, I was happy with the live concert, documentary portion of the film.  I enjoyed that part very very much.  As for the rest of the film, well, not so much.  In fact, I felt that the film was quite boring aside from the music, at least until we got to the twist near the end.  Yes, that was surprising and it served as a wake up segment.  But, I found that scene hard to believe though well done.  Still, it was enjoyable, and then we had a leisurely bike ride home along the very dark waterfront trail.

That's it.  Have a nice weekend.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Reads

Pseudo-reviews of some of the books I have read recently...

The Zero by Jess Walter - This is the second Walter book I have read (the other being Citizen Vince).  IMHO, The Zero is better.  This book also happens to be the third 9/11 book I have read.  I'd rank Ken Kalfus's A Disorder Peculiar to the Country higher than The Zero, but I'd place The Zero ahead of DeLillo's Falling Man, a novel I did not really like, though I admit it has moments of genius.  The Zero is a kind of thriller, I suppose, and a sort of dark comedy with some noir thrown in.  It'sa good summer read.

The Grifters by Jim Thomspon - Essential Jim Thompson.

The Elementary Particles by Michel Houellebecq - I loved Platform very much. This book?: not so much.  Despite the graphic sex that should appeal to me, the book reads like a too-long essay on the social history of France told by way of biographies of two half brothers.  The trouble is that the novel is unbelievably boring.

A Partisan's Daughter by Louis De Bernieres - I am a huge fan of this writer, but I hated this book. 

Choke by Chuck Palahniuk - I really wanted to like this book, but I didn't.  I mean, it's OK, and it's certainly not terrible.  If you removed the sex parts, though, you would be left with an unreadable book.  I'd really hate to use the word stupid to describe this book, but I might have to.

The Raw Shark Texts by Steven Hall - I imagine that if the publisher packaged this book as a mass market paperback and placed it at the checkout at supermarkets, it would sell quite a few copies.  I fail to understand why this book is being referred to as literary.  I just don't see that.  It's a quirky sort of book that is not challenging to read.  Literary it is not.  It might pass for good.  It's not brilliant.

Ratner's Star by Don DeLillo - I'm a big fan of DeLillo. I've loved everything I had read, except for Falling Man, as I have already mentioned.  This book is great, but a bit of a chore to get through. If you are a serious DeLillo fan, you will already have read it anyway.

Kockroach by Tyler Knox - Kockroach is sort of the reverse of Kafka's Metamorphosis.  Imagine a cockroach turning into a man who gets involved in organized crime.  It's a fun read.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon - The idea behind this novel is fascinating and I enjoyed it at some level, but I would say that it shouldn't have been a novel.  I really think that this book would have been better as a long short story or a novella.  I think it was difficult for the author to sustain the story, or maybe I simply tired of it.

The Bedroom Secrets of the Master Chefs by Irvine Welsh - I suppose this is a modern twist The Picture of Dorian Gray.  It's thoroughly enjoyable, but you have to accept the crazy supernatural concept.

Leading the Cheers by Justin Cartwright - Not bad, but Justin has done better.  White Lightning, for example, is better.

Señor Vivo and the Coca Lord by Louis De Bernieres - Awesome.  This is book two in the Latin American trilogy.  Book three is waiting for me. De Bernieres is a talented writer and he has a gift for comedy and political satire.

Monday, August 09, 2010

G20

Thankfully, I was unable to go downtown to have a look around the G20 protests.  If I had, I am sure I would have been arrested, probably for the crime of taking photos or simply for being in the wrong place at the wrong time, even if that place was the designated protest site.

As we have heard, the police arrested people with very little or no cause, including reporters.  I think the police ought to be held accountable for the failure to contain the violence everyone knew was coming, despite the obscene amount of cash spent on security.  The police ought to be accountable for the catch-and-release program, in which they illegally arrested people just to get them off the streets, even if they were peaceful protesters.

I am a law-abiding citizen who has never had anything but respect for our police, but I am shocked and appalled by the police tactics during the G20.  We lived in a police state during the summit.  It was like martial law without the declaration. 

We need a comprehensive and independent review of all police actions during the summit.  We also need clarity of the issue of the security fence being declared a public work.  After a brief visit to the fence to take a couple of shots, I bailed, when I saw others with cameras being searched and asked to produce ID for no reason.  

I would never have described myself as anti-police, but after the G20, I have lost faith in the police.

Friday, August 06, 2010

The Funeral

Back in May, I had the solemn task of attending my father's funeral.  Of course, it was a sad day, and yet it was punctuated by stories and laughter, as always happens at funerals when family and friends remember the lives of those who have passed.  In some ways, it was like any other funeral I have attended.  We had an afternoon visitation and an evening visitation, followed by the funeral the next day. 

Perhaps it's my age speaking, but I have to say that I was stunned by what people choose to wear to the visitations.  My cousin wore a pair of ratty old jeans, white running shoes, and a faded yellow t-shirt.  Others came in shorts and sandals, short skirts and halter tops, and garments that made it look like they had been out for a hike.  I do not think that a black dress or suit are requirements any more (though I wore a black suit), I think that people ought to make an effort to dress properly to show respect.  I think it's insulting to the family to show up wearing something you would wear to a bar-b-que or to change a flat on your car.

At the funeral home, I was greeted by an aged woman who asked if I knew who she was.  A name popped into my head immediately, but then I rejected it thinking that it was an impossibility that she could still be alive.  After a few seconds, I uttered her name at the same time as she.  I almost fainted.  How is it possible that you are still alive, I wanted to ask.  I manged to restrain myself.  My grandmother is older (now 91), but I always thought that this woman was even older, but maybe that has to do with the beard and mustache she has sported for her entire life.  And, of course, this explains why she never remarried after her husband died a very young man.

I knew the even older woman standing beside her instantly, though she was even older.  She is someone I could never forget.  Throughout the day and the next, I saw people I hadn't seen in 20, 30 or more years.  So, I guess the themes of the day were grieving, nostalgia, remembrance, and reacquaintance.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Bike Tax

What is it with all of the people suggesting that cyclists should be taxed or licensed?  You've got to be kidding me.  Stop the madness!

1) Erecting financial barriers to physical fitness is a bad idea.  We ought to do whatever we can to encourage exercise - walking, cycling, running, etc.  Imposing costs will prevent at least some from cycling, and will ultimately put pressure on our health care system.  We are getting fatter, or so I have read.  Let's all get some exercise.

2) All levels of government should do everything they can to promote green methods of transportation.  Whether you accept the theory of climate change is irrelevant.  Cars pollute; bikes do not.  I've cycled through enough exhaust to know that we need less pollution.

3) I am frustrated by those who suggest that cyclists ought to pay for the road since they use it.  By that argument, we ought to tax everyone who uses the roads and sidewalks.  This would include skateboarders, roller bladers, runners, and even pedestrians, including moms pushing baby carriages.

4) Cyclists pay taxes, despite what the anti-cyclists say.  Even renters pay taxes indirectly.  We all pay tax.  Cyclists ought to get a tax break, not penalty for helping the environment and getting some exercise.

5) Bikes do not damage the roads. Cars and trucks damage the roads, and so it makes sense for them to pay for vehicle registration and other fees.

6) Many lower-income residents (especially students) can not afford such a fee.

7) I've read long rants from drivers who complain about cyclists getting in their way, slowing them down on their way to work or to the corner store.  Drivers ought to promote cycling.  Imagine if all of the cyclists they drive past were drivers stuck in traffic in front of them.  Wouldn't it be better to get some of those people out of the cars on the road ahead and make more room on the road?

Imagine a family of four that wants to take a bike ride through some residential streets on a Sunday afternoon.  Suddenly, they have to pay for four licenses?  It's ludicrous.  And, what if you have two bikes?  Do you pay twice?

Despite what Rob Ford believes, cycling is good for everybody.  Rob Ford really needs to hop on a bike and go for a ride.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

A Pause

I will probably not post anything for much of the summer.  My blogging enthusiasm has waned and I have little interest at the moment.  Maybe later this summer or fall.  Have a nice summer.

Monday, May 17, 2010

RIP

I am sad to have to write that my father passed away on Friday, May 14th.  It's been a difficult year, with my brother's stroke and my mother's declining health: she is frail and depressed and looks ten years older than she is.  I will make a return trip to the town of my birth for the funeral this week.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Sad Day

I am taking the kids to see their grandpa today, probably for the last time.  The doctors don't expect him to make it past the weekend.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

My Dad & Brother

I headed out to the rural parts of Ontario last weekend to visit my father in hospital.  He has been battling various types of cancer for a few years, but the illness now seems to be taking a greater toll.  I am sure that the steady stream of pharmaceuticals are also inflicting some sort of hell on his brain and systems.  He was not vocal at all, only managing a few mumbles, though since the visit, he has been more communicative.

My step-mom fed him soup and ice cream,  I have to say that watching one's formerly vital father being fed is not a pleasant sight.  It reminded me of when I fed my children.  It's the same really: they turn their heads to refuse the offering; they decide they want more; they change their minds. He looked weak and frail, something I could never have imagined when I was young.

My dad's future is uncertain.  Doctors are reluctant to offer an estimate on his remaining time, but seeing as though the cancer has migrated to his spine, his time here would seem to be severely limited.  Even if he rebounds, he will not go home.  My step-mom can't control him.  It may have been the drugs, but he recently moved some furniture out of the house and threw a plant out the door as well. Even when he was at home, he wanted to "go home" and waited for the movers to take his stuff back to his real house, in his real town, and be with his real wife.  This may be Capgras Syndrome, wherein those afflicted feel that a family member is an impostor.

My mother has been in a nursing home for two or three years, since she broke her hip.  Her mother, now 90, is also in a nursing home.  She has no idea who anyone is anymore.  And then there is my brother.  The good news is that the doctor was proven to be completely wrong in his diagnosis.

My brother, once thought to be on his deathbed, executed some sort of remarkable recovery.  He can walk with the aid of a walker.  He can talk.  He has problems with short-term memory.  His is weaker on one side.  He remains, it has to be said, susceptible to further strokes.

My brother, should he continue to improve, will be placed in a rehabilitation facility. My dad, should he improve, will end up in a nursing home for some period of time.  Most of my family will be in institutions.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Gum Thief

I guess I keep hoping for the best whenever I pick up a Douglas Coupland novel.  I liked the early stuff, such as Generation X and Shampoo Planet, but then I hated most of the other stuff.  Microserfs is the worst book I have ever read, and probably the worst book ever written.  It perplexes me when I note that someone has awarded it 5 stars on Amazon.

I read Eleanor Rigby when it came out.  I got an advance copy directly from Mr. Coupland.  He signed it for me too.  I hated it.  I hate The Gum Thief too.

The book has no plot.  There is a vague story with lots of his quirky pop culture references, but the book has little to keep one reading, except for the bizarre Glove Pond novel-within-a-novel sections.  To me, this is the most interesting part of the book, and it goes nowhere after its dusty beginning, except for a meandering ending.

The only real plot event is one that is telegraphed early in the book, and it follows a clichéd trip to Europe device that is disappointing and not terribly interesting.

Of course, those of you love DC will love it.  I will probably avoid Mr. Coupland from now on, but I still plan to finally visit Canoe Landing Park this summer.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

A Look at my CD Collection, Part 9: Daniel Ash (and David J)

Got distracted by various things.  Life is busy, and I have been neglecting my blog. I took an extra long weekend last week and have another long weekend this weekend.  Every weekend ought to be long, if you ask me.  Anyway, because I have nothing better to write about and because blogging expectations have rarely been lower, I continue with a series of self-indulgent posts.

___

Bauhaus disintegrated into several subsequent (and less interesting) parts starting in 1983, when the band first broke up.  Bauhaus reformed many years later, but I have no idea what is happening now.  I will save my discussion of Bauhaus, Peter Murphy, Love and Rockets, and Tones on Tail for later.  But now, I have to talk about Daniel Ash and a little bit about David J, both of whom were members of Bauhaus.

I would describe Daniel Ash's first solo record, Coming Down (1991) as a mediocre affair.  I got this CD free from CFNY.  I got lots of freebies from CFNY over the years.  I was never comfortable with calling this station The Edge.  To me, this station died when it stopped being The Spirit of Radio.  Sadly, it is now owned by Corus, and has been reduced to a crappy radio station, just like all of the others.

Coming Down isn't terrible but it isn't great either.  A highlight for me is the title track.  I also like the guitar lick in Daniel Ash's This Love too.  The sad truth is that I haven't played this CD in probably 15 years, which says a lot.  Perhaps I should sell it.  Not surprisingly, I have no other CDs from Mr. Ash.

Having said that, I was less impressed with David J's solo work. I picked up the Candy on the Cross EP and was quite interested to learn that he covered one of my favourite John Cale songs, Antarctica Starts Here.  This track did nothing for me, and I think that the sad experience of listening to that EP scarred me and prevented me from buying any more of his music.  Maybe that's unfair, and I guess I ought to investigate his other music.

The truth seems to be that Love and Rockets and Tones on Tail are better than Daniel Ash of David J on their own.  The same is true of Bauhaus, a band that is far greater than the sum of its parts.



Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Trip Recap, Part 6

Still in Zurich...

It's funny how some individuals have problems with certain things.  Maybe you are squeamish about small birds; maybe you are scared of heights; maybe you are unable to use a cork screw; maybe you have problems opening and closing locks...well, European locks at any rate.

Imagine having meandered around Zurich, stopping here and there, checking out the scene, withdrawing funds from Swiss bank accounts, when suddenly, deep within the Zurich University Botanical Gardens, an urge to micturate overcomes you.  Naturally, you would seek out the facilities, which, in our lucky case, happened to be dead ahead of us.

So, my traveling companion heads straight for the small building which appeared to house toilets.  There were three doors.  Suddenly, I had flashbacks to Monty Hall's Let's Make Deal.  Will she take door number one, door number two, or door number three?

First, she heads of door number one and either pushes it or pulls it, but the door doesn't move.  She moves on to door number two and either pushes it or pulls it, but the door doesn't move.  Note that she either pushed or pulled, rather than attempting both directions.  I was standing back, admiring the view of the city, as the gardens are raised and one got a rather good view of Zurich.  The third door had a set of keys dangling provocatively in the lock. I hadn't noticed this until I turned to see C. turning the key in the lock, back and forth, round and round.

Of course, I had seen these lock manoeuvrings during our stay in Paris, at the impossibly small apartment.  I neglected to mention that the door to that apartment had three locks.  My companion, I realized, is European-lock-challenged.  North American locks seem to pose no problems.  It's the turn-left-two-and-a-quarter-turn type of lock that seems most confounding.

Suddenly, we hear banging and clanging and panicked screams from the inside.  Within a few short seconds, she had managed to lock a workman in his office and was unable to unlock the door.  I imagined that the Swiss gentleman must have been worrying that we were locking him in so that we could make off with various botanical samples, or worse.

I hurried over the scene, and freed the man, who looked completely stunned after having been confined to his office by two strange Canadians.  His expression suggested that he needed an explanation, and my companion tried to comply, but then he looked decidedly non-impressed.  I suppressed the urge to tell him that this is what happens when you leave you keys in the lock, but I was afraid of being expelled from Switzerland.  He removed the keys from the lock and went back into his office.  I hope he learned his lesson.

After rescuing the man, I wandered over and pushed or pulled on the door (you know, like tried both directions) of what appeared to be the female can and it opened.  With her bladder empty, we were able to continue on through the foliage.

Monday, March 22, 2010

A look at my CD collection, part 8: Anjani - Blue Alert

Finally, changing topics...

Q: What kind of a 76 year-old-man dates a 51 year-old-woman?

A: Leonard Cohen

I kind of hate Leonard Cohen, with his constant cadre of women and his perfect songs.  Damn him all to hell.  Blue Alert is what happens when you pair the best song-writer of the 20th Century with a good voice.  It's a jazzy affair, but I think the lyrics are stronger than the music.  There is something not quite right with the musical direction on the album, but I can't put my finger on it.  Maybe it's that the mellowness overwhelms the lyrics to such an extent as to make the songs anemic.  But, I am not a jazz expert by any means.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Sometimes, Doctors are Wrong

Soon after visiting my brother in the hospital, he developed a fever.  This turn of events seemed to strengthen the belief that the doctor had been quite correct.  Everyone thought that this would be the thing to end it all, but then something almost miraculous happened.

After ten days of unconsciousness, he "woke up."  This is amazing, unexpected news, but it is not exactly as good as is sounds.  He cannot speak.  He can only open his eyes for a few seconds at a time.  His is so weak on the right side, that he cannot really move his right arm.  He cannot swallow, meaning that they have to keep a tube in his throat.  He cannot eat because his stomach will not function properly and nothing is kept down.  He is on oxygen.  Of course, since he cannot speak, it is unclear if he is suffering from any brain damage, aside from the obvious speech issue.  He did manage to shake his head in reply to some questions.

What lies ahead, should he continue to come out of this, is months of rehabilitation and a long, slow recovery.  I am not sure that recovery is the correct word since he will most likely have limited mobility and a poor quality of life.  The doctor emphasized that my brother remains in grave condition and that he is very ill.  The doctor is uncertain what lies ahead.  In fact, his original prognosis might still hold true.

So, again, we wait.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

I Have two Brothers but I am Brotherless

My brother is going to die.

It's almost impossible to describe the overwhelming sense of sadness in that hospital room.  With my sister, step-mom, my brother's step-daughter, and her child, we stood around trying to make sense of it all.  Five days after his hemorrhagic stroke, he is still unresponsive.  The doctor described two possible outcomes. The less likely is that he will surface and, in the best possible scenario, will de disabled and have massive brain damage.  The other - more likely scenario - is that he will slip into a coma and die of something else, like an infection, perhaps pneumonia.  So certain is he of this outcome, that we all agreed with a "do not resuscitate" plan.  In short, my brother is going to die, but we don't know exactly when.  It could take hours or days or weeks or longer.  But, the timing is irrelevant: my brother is already gone.

The average hospital bed is not up to the task of containing a 475+ pound man.  By some estimates, he is over 500 pounds, but that won't last, not in a hospital bed, especially since his stomach no longer functions: the food forced into him by a tube is regurgitated immediately.  My brother fills the bed completely, like a child lying in a bed made for a toy doll.  Cables and tubes connect him to an array of medical instruments:  a heart rate monitor, a blood pressure cuff, two IVs, and a respirator with its long tube running down his throat.

Throughout the day, I experienced a deep sense of guilt and anger.  My brother is such an asshole.  It's difficult to write that about a family member, one who is on the verge of death, but he is an asshole and it has always pissed me off.  I was supposed to be his friend.  I was supposed to be close to him for my entire life.  We were both supposed to have kids who would play with each other and come over at Christmas.  We were supposed to go to the beach together.  Or, he was just supposed to be around, to be an unconditional friend, to a part of my life.  Instead, he bailed on his entire family, after being a jerk when he was an adolescent.

His three kids (the first of whom came when he was only 16) were sexually abused; the mother and step-father were sent off to prison, the kids being distributed to various foster homes, never to be seen again, though we are looking for them.  Sure, he paid some child support, but only after court orders, and then that dried up when he went on a disability pension.  He made no effort to find them.  He didn't try to obtain custody after the trial when their step-father was found guilty of sexual assault and the mother found guilty of permitting it to happen.

I am angry with my brother for ruining so much of my childhood.  From his violent behaviour toward me to the theft of family possessions, he was a complete bastard.  What can you say about someone who would steal from his own family? At least my other brother, the one who left home when I was 4 years old, never stole from us.  He sold drugs and paid the price, and then I never really saw him again. He disappeared and I have seen in a handful of times, and only twice in the past 25 years, maybe 5 times since I was four years old.  It's like he was never my brother.  He is a mystery to me and I can't even say that I know him.

In the hospital, staring at him in the bed, I was inexplicably on the verge of tears, for a man I never liked, for a man that failed to be a brother, who was a terrible son, a lousy human being, and a disinterested father.  He spent his life barely able to survive, finally ending up a on disability pension because he was too obese to work.  He has sleep apnea, hypertension, diabetes, asthma, troubles with blood clots, and a weak heart. By all accounts he ate massive amounts of unhealthy food and had an immense passion for smoking.  I still insist that this is the outcome he wanted: he wanted to be pitied, to be the village freak, and he did it.  In the end, I might compare him with Ignatius J. Reilly, but without the creativity, or maybe Homer Simpson, but a Homer without any sense of responsibility or love for anyone other than himself.

You may think this uncharitable, but it's true.  The way he spoke clearly indicated that he loved attention.   If he was sick, everyone knew about it.  Everyone knew how many pills he had to take each day because he displayed them in his apartment for some sort of pitying effect.

After a conversation with the doctor, we went to have lunch, and then drove to his apartment.  It's difficult to think about him as being dead, when his is still alive and breathing, but we were forced to investigate the bills, to pay the landlord the overdue rent, to plan for the emptying of the apartment.

The floor around his bed is scarred with burns from cigarettes that fell through his hands as he drifted off to sleep.  Miraculously, there was never a fire.  He gave up smoking six months ago when he needed oxygen.  The bedroom has six oxygen tanks; he has a night-time breathing apparatus.  Another oxygen machine sits in the living room.  I looked around the dismal place and was stunned to see a shelf of family photographs.

I didn't speak to him over the past 25 years, maybe once or twice.  I was angry with him and could never understand how my father could have forgiven him so easily.  My mother too.  But, I guess that's what parents do.  Standing there, staring at the photographs, I began to feel angry with myself for being the holdout, especially when my sister said she had been speaking with him recently.  And then, I saw two photos of me and my two kids (whom he has never met) on a shelf along with recent photos of my sister.  My sister had sent him photos and he ran out to buy frames so he could display them.

I felt like such an idiot.  In the back of my mind, I always assumed that our paths would cross, that we would speak again, that we could forget all of the garbage of the past, but now that's impossible.  He is dying in a hospital, and I am pissed off, but I am not sure if I am angry about him dying or for him failing to be a brother.  How is it that I ended up with two brothers who walked away from their family and never tried to keep in contact with any of us?

I got back in the rental car and headed back to Toronto, feeling a profound sense of loss for a brother I hardly knew.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Brother

My estranged brother has had a stroke.  This is both odd and not odd.  It is odd because he is young, only 17 months older than me.  On the other hand, he is morbidly obese and he leads a very unhealthy lifestyle.  (You can read more about my brother here and here).

He remains unresponsive in a hospital bed, about to be shifted to a different hospital where a neurologist can examine him.  Initially, we were told that the prognosis is grave.  Currently, I have no idea and am just waiting to get the updates.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Olympics, a few words...

In the spirit of athleticism, I spent most of the last four days on the couch watching the Olympics.  Too bad I had to go back to work.  Well, there was a break long enough for a trip to the theatre to see Up in the Air.

Thank God we got a gold medal.  I was sick of hearing that we had never won on home soil.  It was as if that was all the reporters could find to talk about.  The media kind of sucks, when you think about it.  The media pumps up medal hopes to a point of hysteria.  How is that fair to the athletes?  You would have thought that gold in the men's downhill and men's 500m speed skating were guaranteed.  Give it a rest.

And, a word to Brian Williams about math.  He suggested that Canada has gone 33 years (or so) without winning a gold.  That is stupid.  The Olympics have not been running continuously in Canada since 1976.

What else?  Dale Begg-Smith is a loser, a loser who made a fortune creating malware that might have infected your computer.  I have never seen someone so upset with a silver medal.  What a suck.  Stay in Australia.

More later.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Olympics: Opening Ceremonies

Boring, boring, boring.
Olympics: Opening Ceremonies

I wonder if Ashley MacIsaac is wearing underwear.
Olympics: Opening Ceremonies

The song sung by Nellie & Bryan is lame!  It sucks.
Olympics: Opening Ceremony: Anthem

Who the hell came up with this arrangement for the National Anthem?  I think it sucks.
Trip Recap, Part 5

Skipping ahead to Zurich, here's something you would never see in Toronto: a bar under a freeway.  It worked.  It's really difficult to explain why this worked and I am not sure how such a thing would be received in Toronto. I tried to imagine such a place under the  Gardiner, and I couldn't.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

A Look at my CD Collection, part 7: Aidan Baker, including ARC

Several years ago, I picked up a copy of ARC's Feral and was really impressed.  Later, I made sure that I checked them out when they played at C'est What? (on August 19th, 2003).  My CD collection contains:

ARC/Aidan Baker  -  Repercussion (Piehead Records 2002 Series – Volume 1) 
ARC  -  Feral
Aidan Baker  -  Concretion
Aidan Baker  -  Cicatrice
Aidan Baker  -  Within the Final Circle
Aidan Baker  -  Ichneumon
Aidan Baker  -  Tense Surfaces
Aidan Baker  -  Dance of Lonely Molecules

A couple of these were free downloads.  It's Thursday, but it really feels like Friday because I am taking tomorrow off and Monday is Family Day, so I am looking ahead to a four day weekend.  What I am trying to say is that I have not the energy to try to describe the music.  Also, I just got back from an hour of lunchtime yoga, and I feel all bendy and relaxed.  My fingers are not responding well to the task of typing.  But, here is a good review of Feral.

Baker likes to use looping techniques on various instruments, notably the guitar, but also the flute, for example.  If you like this kind of treatment, you might like it, but this is not the kind of music you would sing along to or dance around the bedroom to while putting away laundry.  It's more complex than that.

Oddly, everyone I spoke to at the Ambient Ping that evening assumed that I was a musician.  I am not sure why.  Perhaps ARC is musicians' music or perhaps it's that musicians seem to have more of an open mind when it comes to music than your average iTunes shopper.  It really kills me, as I have often said, that people only want to buy a song or two from a CD.  I have always been an album man.  If there are only one or two good songs on an album, I wouldn't buy it.  I still listen to albums, rather than songs, but I do occasionally put the iPod on shuffle to see what kind of magic might happen.

Why, just yesterday as I was walking with the iPod, I heard European Son by the Velvet Underground followed by Bowie's Queen Bitch and then Bauhaus covering Bowie's Ziggy Stardust.  That was quite the playlist.  Sometimes, the shuffle seems to be possessed and every other song is from the same artist, which is odd.

Baker is a poet too, and has published a few volumes.  I am not familiar with his writing.  He has an extensive discography.  Check out his Wikipedia entry for those details.

Happy Friday and have a good weekend.

Monday, February 08, 2010

ZF's Perfect Frittata Recipe

The perfect frittata starts with a chicken.  Oh, and if you don't have any idea what a frittata is, let me enlighten you. It's evidently of Italian origin and normally made with eggs and chopped vegetables or meat.  It's probably best just to look up a few recipes, and then try this one as it is the best one.

So, as I was saying, the perfect frittata recipe commences with a chicken.  So, first you buy a nice chicken and take it home.  You will want a dead chicken, unless you are fond of killing things. Slather some olive oil and sea salt on the chicken and set the bird aside.  (If you have a preferred chicken recipe, please follow it. Alert: don't put potatoes in with your chicken because they don't belong there.  If you really want potatoes, roast them in a separate pan. And, for the love of God, don't put plain white potatoes in the frittata!).

Step two: cut up lots vegetables.  And, by this I mean parsnips (remember to cut out the woody cores), carrots, sweet potatoes (yams), one or two onions, and squash.  Alert: please use butternut squash.  Most other types of squash are inferior.

Put the vegetables in a large roasting pan.  Remember I said to cut up lots of vegetables?  We need extra for part two of the recipe, so cut up lots and use a large roasting pan.  I use a pan large enough for a turkey or a medium penguin.  Throw in the vegetables along with sea salt and olive oil.

I like to give the vegetables a head start, so pop them into the oven for ten minutes or so at 375 and then throw the bird on top and cook until done.  When I was a younger man, I hated recipes that said "cook until done."  How the hell are you supposed to know what that means  if you have never cooked before?  I am so over that now, so I can say things like "cook until done" and laugh at those who have no idea what it means.

Now, eat your chicken and vegetables, but remember that we have to save some for the frittata that you will make the next day.

After dinner, go to bed.  Well, I suppose that you will have to clean up the kitchen first, and put the leftovers in the fridge.  Get out of bed the next day.  Now, you can either have the frittata for breakfast, brunch, lunch, or dinner. Yes, it is that versatile.  If you are having it for breakfast or brunch, start making it when you get out of bed.  Otherwise, cook up some bacon and eggs for breakfast and do this later.

OK, so here is the recipe.

Chop up some bacon.  Use half a package or a third of a package.  This all depends on how many leftover vegetables you have and how big of a frittata you plan to make.  Throw the pieces of bacon into a cast iron pan and cook until crisp. Once crisp, remove from pan and place the bacon on a paper towel.

Retain some or all of the bacon grease in the pan and add a sliced onion and garlic.  When these have partially cooked, add a zucchini (cut in rounds) and a red or orange or yellow pepper (cut in slices).  Alert: please do not use green peppers.  This is an inferior pepper.  And, remember a green bell pepper is simply an immature red pepper.  It's like eating a green banana. You want a ripe red bell pepper or its luscious cousins, the yellow or the orange.  Oh, and you could add broccoli, but I only do that if I have no zucchini. It's OK, but I think it's not as good as using a zucchini.  You could also use asparagus.

Once the vegetables are nicely on their way, add the leftover vegetables from the chicken.  Stir it up and  let it all warm through.  Beat some eggs in a bowl.  The size of your pan and the amount of vegetables will determine the number of eggs.  It could be 5, 6, or 7 or more.  Don't include the shells.  Add a bit of milk (soy milk, please) and some pepper.  You won't need any salt.

Pour this over the contents of the pan.  You may find that you will need an extra egg.  If so, beat one up and pour it in.  It's probably best to cover the pan with a lid to help it cook through the middle.  When it looks cooked on top, just stick a knife in to make sure you don't have any gooey egginess inside.

Now, you will stick the pan under the broiler in your oven.  I put in in for a short time, and then sprinkle the bacon over the top.  Some of you people who are addicted to cheese may want to add  the congealed breast milk of a hairy 2000 pound animal, or even parmesan.  Feel free to ruin it, but I would prefer if you didn't.   Don't burn it.

Cut it and serve it, perhaps with a salad on the side, if this is a lunch menu item.

And, there you have an easy recipe.

By the way, you can use the leftover chicken in any number of ways.  I like to make chicken salad.  Mmmmn, mayo...

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Blogger Fail

Well, you know when you have failed as a blogger when you receive email like this:
More importantly, what has happened to your blog? It used to be hip (like the Simpsons) now it's not (like the Simpsons).  Perhaps you can inject some life into it by writing entries under a series of "guest contributers" such as "Lionel the 30-Year Old Bedwetter" or "The Fetus."  Just a suggestion.
I am not sure about writing guest entries myself, but I'd be happy to entertain posts from guest contributors.  Send them on.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Be Careful what you Ask for

The temperature in my office soared to a crazy 80.6 degrees after hovering around 61 degrees for weeks.  This, after it was fixed, and fixed a bit too well, if you ask me.  Still, I'd rather work in the 80s than the 60s.  I couldn't really type with cold hands, but in this heat, I am all limber, but craving a piña colada and wondering where my sandals are.

After leaving my office door open, and permitting some of the heat to flow out, it drops a bit, but it is still a bit too hot.  I'd hate to complain, and be thrust back into the ice age.

On the downside, the high temperatures force me to remember to put my lunch in the fridge, something I normally forgot to do, but with such cool temperatures, it mattered not.

Oh, and I think (as I crack a yawn) that the warm temps are causing me to tire more quickly that when it was cold.  I need to create space under my desk to sleep, like George Costanza.  That would be sweet.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Heat!

Finally, I have heat!  My office has been cold, very cold, as cold as 60 degrees, necessitating the wearing of a fleece.  It was so cold, I had difficulty typing.  I hated coming back to my office, preferring to stay wherever was warmer, like my bed.  But, finally, after some visits from the folks who are supposed to fix things, it is fixed.

The dude climbed into the ceiling and noted that the vent to my office was closed.  He opened it and I can actually feel the heat coming in.  It is so nice.  Of course, if it gets too warm (unlikely in this brutal building), I might need a nap.  Wait, I need a nap anyway, owing to the difficulty I had in sleeping last night.

I am generally a good sleeper, taking no longer than a few minutes to fall asleep.  But, last night, the hours ticked away and nothing.  I hate it when that happens.  So, I am yawning.  In fact, I am yawning while I type this, but at least I am warmer.  No more long underwear in my office!

Monday, January 11, 2010

A Dream

Last night, I had a dream that I was hangin' out with David Bowie.  I am not sure if we were friends, but I was in his house, helping myself to beverages from his fridge, which had doors at both front and back, I gather so that nothing got lost in the recesses of the appliance.  And, the fridge was situated in such as way so that you could approach it from two sides.  Talk about conveniences.

After eying a nice, cool drink, I suddenly was only able to find small cold medicine vials and other things that appeared to be homeopathic substances. I never did find my drink, and then Iman came into the kitchen and I decided to find out where David went.

The end.
WTF?

At lunch, I stood in line behind a youngish-looking university student as she paid for her $1.00 can of pop. I have yet to understand why people drink diet pop (or even regular pop for that mater).

I considered that topic for a moment and was then stunned as I watched her pay for her purchase.  After tax, she was looking at a massive $1.13 bill.  Out came the debit card.

Seriously?  She used a debit card to pay for $1.13!  I never use any kind of plastic if it's under $10.  I bet her transaction fee was 50 cents.  For a brief moment, I considered paying for her drink, but that feeling of chivalry (or whatever it was) passed quickly.

This was on my way back from checking out some lingering sales.  I am in a clothing crisis and really need to add to my wardrobe in a bad way.  I am not done yet, though I picked up two shirts and two pairs of pants.

Friday, January 08, 2010

On Books and Trophies

My bookcases are overflowing.  I have boxes of books in a closet that I have not unpacked since the last move because I have no shelf space for them.  I acquire new books frequently.  I may have finally figured out why I have so many books.

While watching Dexter the other day, I was hit with an interesting insight, which may or may not be original.  Dex finds his way into a serial killer's house and notes the killer's collection of trophies.  These were award plaques hanging on a wall for various projects he had undertaken that correspond with and commemorate his kills.  If you watch Dexter, you will know that Dex has his own collection of trophies.  I thought about that while thinking about the Kindle and book piracy and music downloading.

I have zero interest in the Kindle or any other eBook reader.  To me, an eBook reader is about as exciting as a lump of coal.  I have always loved the tactile experience of reading: turning the pages, holding the book, appreciating the design, deciding if the font is a good choice, touching the paper.  Much of that disappears when a book is transformed into ones and zeros.  I think that sucks and it could well mean that the end of the world is upon us.  I feel the same way about music: I like to own the CD, not an inferior digital copy.

For some reason, I do not necessarily feel this way about movies or TV shows.  These have always been disposable to me.  Although I own some DVDs, I don't have an urge to collect them, unless they are absolute favourites, like Seinfeld, or are ludicrously cheap, like Strangers With Candy (the movie), which I bought for $1.99.

I have often wondered why I like to own books.  I rarely read library books and I rarely borrow books from others.  I like to own books.  Here's another curious fact: I rarely read books twice, though it has happened (Brave New World, for example). So, why do I own them?  Well, there I was watching Dexter and then it occurred to me that perhaps I get the same pleasure from having shelves of books as Dexter does from having a bunch of microscope slides with drops of blood.  Both are trophies.

I can look at my shelves and feel a certain sense of accomplishment, a certain sense of erudition (though that is arguable), and a certain sense of my own history from what I see lined up.  Of course, if that were truly the case, I ought to eliminate the books I attempted to read but stopped from boredom or frustration.   But, I suppose they are also part of my reading history.  There are, of course, those books I have acquired but never got around to reading.  Maybe someday, my pretties, maybe someday.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

A Look at my CD Collection, part 6: Apostle of Hustle



Well, I hope I am not boring you with these musical excursions.  If I am, so be it.  So, on to Apostle of Hustle (as much as I hate to link to a myspace Page; is there anything uglier than myspace?).  By the way, I am still in the A section.

Andrew Whiteman, the guy who formed Apostle of Hustle, is also the lead guitarist for Broken Social Scene (note that I opted against linking to myspace).  By the way, more about BSS later.  In my opinion Folkloric Feel, the first A of H Album, is the best one, and Folkloric Feel is the best song.  You might disagree with me.

I read somewhere that Andrew Whiteman dated Feist for a while.  I think this was before she appeared on Sesame Street.  I don't keep up with celebrity gossip as it takes too much brain power.  I walk around in a state of blissful ignorance.  I can confirm that ignorance is bliss.  I am ignorant about so many things that my life is almost pure bliss.

And now, a very weird video from Apostle of Hustle:

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Church Bulletins

I don't normally post this type of thing, but I found this to be rather hilarious.  I have no idea where they came from.

Thank God for church ladies with typewriters. These sentences actually appeared in church bulletins or were announced in church services (Summer, 2008 Release).

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The Fasting & Prayer Conference includes meals.
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The sermon this morning: 'Jesus Walks on Water.' The sermon tonight: 'Searching for Jesus.'
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Our youth basketball team is back in action Wednesday at 8 PM in the recreation hall. Come out and watch us kill Christ the King.
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Ladies, don't forget the rummage sale. It's a chance to get rid of those things not worth keeping around the house. Bring your husbands.
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The peacemaking meeting scheduled for today has been cancelled due to a conflict.
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Remember in prayer the many who are sick of our community. Smile at someone who is hard to love. Say 'Hell' to someone who doesn't care much about you.
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Don't let worry kill you off - let the Church help.
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Miss Charlene Mason sang 'I will not pass this way again,' giving obvious pleasure to the congregation.
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For those of you who have children and don't know it, we have a nursery downstairs.
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Next Thursday there will be tryouts for the choir. They need all the help they can get.
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The Rector will preach his farewell message after which the choir will sing: 'Break Forth Into Joy.'
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Irving Benson and Jessie Carter were married on October 24 in the church. So ends a friendship that began in their school days.
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A bean supper will be held on Tuesday evening in the church hall.. Music will follow.
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At the evening service tonight, the sermon topic will be 'What Is Hell?' Come early and listen to our choir practice.
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Eight new choir robes are currently needed due to the addition of several new members and to the deterioration of some older ones.
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Scouts are saving aluminum cans, bottles and other items to be recycled. Proceeds will be used to cripple children.
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Please place your donation in the envelope along with the deceased person you want remembered.
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The church will host an evening of fine dining, super entertainment and gracious hostility.
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Potluck supper Sunday at 5:00 PM - prayer and medication to follow.
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The ladies of the Church have cast off clothing of every kind. They may be seen in the basement on Friday afternoon.
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This evening at 7 PM there will be a hymn singing in the park across from the Church. Bring a blanket and come prepared to sin.
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Ladies Bible Study will be held Thursday morning at 10 AM. All ladies are invited to lunch in the Fellowship Hall after the B. S. is done.
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The pastor would appreciate it if the ladies of the congregation would lend him their electric girdles for the pancake breakfast next Sunday.
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Low Self Esteem Support Group will meet Thursday at 7 PM. Please use the back door.
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The eighth-graders will be presenting Shakespeare's Hamlet in the Church basement Friday at 7 PM. The congregation is invited to attend this tragedy.
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Weight Watchers will meet at 7 PM at the First Presbyterian Church. Please use large double door at the side entrance.
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Tuesday, January 05, 2010

A Look at my CD Collection, part 5: Alexisonfire


Alexisonfire is a so-called post-hardcore group from St. Catharines, Ontario.  I picked up a copy of Watch Out! for a few dollars a while back.  I listen to it from time-to-time, but it's not in high-rotation because it isn't the kind of thing you would throw on while kicking back with your favourite novel or when hosting a dinner party.  But, it's rather good for the iPod.  For some reason, I prefer listening to music that has an edge on the iPod.  Maybe it gets me in motion and gets me there faster, unless I am on a train of plane.  In those cases, I usually select something quieter, like Brian Eno or maybe something like Bob Dylan.

By the way, the group is pronounced like "Alexis On Fire."

Monday, January 04, 2010

The Best of Zydeco Fish 2009 (You might also enjoy: best of 20082007, 2006; 2005; 2004; 2003)

Well, here it is, my annual list.

1) Shining 'cross this dark highway where our sins lie unatoned - On music and cycling in winter, sort of.
2) Gran Torino - A review.
3) Pink - The colour, not the singer.
4) Damn those Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses - I hate religion.
5) The Numbers - The stats on the European vacation.
6) Shopping with the Ancient and the Insane - I don't think I have ever gone back on a Friday.
7) Trip Recap, part 2 - Musings about a free, but tiny, apartment.
8) C@#* Explosion! - Wifi craziness.
9) On Jacket Holding, Photography, and the AGO - No, I have not been back

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Stopping to Pull up My Socks

It's been so long since I've owned a real, insulated pair of winter boots, that I had forgotten something elementary: one's socks tend to slip off inside the boot while walking and when removing the boots.  I am having flashbacks to my childhood days.  It's irritating to say the least.  On the other hand, my feet have never been so warm.  In fact, while walking in -20 degree weather this morning, my feet remained warm, almost too warm.  Is it possible for boots to be too warm?  It might be. 

So, this is the last thing I will say about these new boots.  Reluctantly, I go back to work on Monday :-(