Thursday, January 31, 2008

Alright.

Here's what you gotta do.
  1. Turn your computer's speakers up real loud-like.
  2. Dial up your web browser to the Myspace page of Howlin Rain, here.
  3. Hold onto something tight: your desk, your significant-other, your bowl of Master Choice Fruit Whirls, something. You'll need it.
  4. The song "Dancers At The End Of Time" should start playing.
  5. Revel in the Rock and Roll Kickassery.
Seriously... why are bands these days (with a very few exceptions) afraid to rock this hard and this soulfully? The organ would make Richard Dawkins fall down and praise the name of Jesus; the lead singer is the love-child of Janis Joplin and Bon Scott; the guitars are unrelenting for almost six minutes.

In the words of Robert Goulet, "do yourself a big favour" and check it out.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

I'm all giddy with anticipation.

...and no, it's not because Mariah Carey has a new album due out soon.

[Disclaimer: I randomly picked Ms. Carey because I am not a fan of her work. I intended to work a joke out of this, but I checked her Wikipedia page and... well, it turns out she actually does have a new album coming out. On April Fool's Day.]

Nope! My butterflies-in-stomach-ness is brought to you by none other than The Mars Volta.


The Bedlam in Goliath came out yesterday, and I got my mitts on a copy of it just tonight. Rolling Stone loves it, and listen to what John Bush on allmusic.com says:

It can't come as a surprise that the Mars Volta's fourth album opens with a bang -- sonic terrorism is one of the only things listeners can count on from the band -- but it's genuinely novel that The Bedlam in Goliath never lets go of its momentum, not even after a full hour's worth of unrelenting war on silence, the wrapping paper for a concept album about the power of the occult.

So, you could say my still-shrink-wrapped disc has me all tingly in the nethers (and not just from the frostbite I probably got down-yonder walking around tonight in -9 and a stiff breeze).

* * * * * * *

I've always known my taste in music was a little peculiar, overall. But lately I've come to the realization that it's not only strange, but it's broad — I'm very specific in what I like, but that specificity runs across multiple genres (rock of various flavours, indie stuff, jazz, classical, and even a touch of electronica). I listen to My Bloody Valentine and Steely Dan, John Coltrane and Hall & Oates, Soft Machine and the Doobie Brothers. I lose my shit if I hear '70s Canadian cock-rockers Triumph on the radio (as Frequent Site-Contributor ECB can attest), but I'll also listen intently for the sound of the lawn sprinklers in Spoon's "My Mathematical Mind" (great song from a great album, Gimme Fiction).

I think I'm just crazy, is all.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Three signs of the Apocalypse.

I'm not what you'd call a "religious man," but these three news stories — all on the same day, no less — have me wondering if the Mayans were about four years too late in their predictions for the end of the world.

I figure it's probably just easier to let the articles do the talking.






I hope your Y2K bunkers are still stocked with cases of corned beef. You're gonna need 'em.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Three things.

1. Kicking the Bucket

First Brad Renfro, then Suzanne Pleshette, and of course Heath Ledger. Now former Indonesian dictator (and close friend of the US), Suharto! People gotta stop dyin' around here, man. Especially ex-military dictators. I don't know why, but ever since Pinochet bit the dust, I haven't felt the same.

And please don't ask me what that means.

2. A Theory Reconfirmed

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: all the good ones are either taken or gay. In the past few days, both of these cases have been reinforced with very solid empirical evidence.

3. Beer is Delicious

I don't just guzzle down the buck-a-beer brews the Beer Store serves up (although some of them can actually be halfway decent; just make sure they're incredibly cold when you drink 'em). However, of late I've developed quite a taste for Innis & Gunn's oak-aged [went to the fridge to check the spelling] ale, which are usually used [went to kitchen to retrieve bottle opener] to age whiskey [poured beer into empty pint-glass] and give it a very unique, and very delicious flavour [took a long, contemplative sip].

Special Bonus Thing #4:

4. Living By Oneself Rocks

You can have a beer at a completely random time of the day, and nobody is around to judge you.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

On mourning.

So, as you've probably heard/read, Heath Ledger kicked the bucket.

I've never seen any films in which he's acted, although I realize he was in Brokeback Mountain. (Apparently the cowboy-on-cowboy love scenes can really cause some stirrings "south of the equator" for some of the ladies. I know that for one in particular, who is sure to read this, the aforementioned fact is exceptionally true.) He was in a few things on Australian TV, but aside from that, we're not talking about Alec Guinness or Sidney Poitier or Meryl Streep here, in terms of filmographies.

It was with a bit of perplexation, then, that I read someone's Facebook status to be updated today with "Jane Doe* mourns the death of Heath." (*pseudonym)

I mean, sure, you can feel kinda bad about the whole situation — young actor, talented guy, had a kid. But I normally reserve "mourning" for the passing of family members, personal acquaintances, or important public figures. And to me, an actor who's made a few decent flicks isn't — to crib a term from Seinfeld — "mournworthy." Hell, I saw John Candy in several movies that I absolutely love... but when he died, I never contemplated donning a black armband.

I dunno. Maybe I'm just reading into semantics a little too much here. Or perhaps I misinterpreted the word. But for me, Heath Ledger's untimely, perhaps pill-aided death is kind of a bummer to be sure, but I wouldn't go busting out the m-word over it.

Monday, January 21, 2008

This is why people are dumb.

Rolling Stone picks a random, funky, independent record store somewhere in the US, asks them what their ten top-selling albums were in the past week, and prints that list on their Charts page. Also on that page is the iTunes Top Ten Downloads. Let's compare the two, shall we?

Top Ten Albums at Paul's Compact Discs, Pittsburgh:

1. Levon Helm — Dirt Farmer
Former frontman of The Band. Musician of renown. Well-respected by all.

2. Radiohead — In Rainbows
'Nuff said.

3. Robert Plant/Alison Krauss — Raising Sand
An intriguing project by the singer of Led Zeppelin and a bluegrass legend. I actually would like to pick this up.

4. Moby Grape — Moby Grape
A re-release of their debut album from '67. Good and weird and psychedelic.

5. Burial — Burial
Alright, I have no idea who or what this is. Next.

6. Robert Wyatt — Comicopera
Another former frontman; Wyatt drummed and sang with awesome rock-jazz fusioners Soft Machine. Can be nothing but amazing.

7. Centipede Eest — Surf Licks and the Wall of Sound for World Peace
With a name like that, it's gotta be good.

8. Battles — Mirrored
My buddy James told me about these guys a few months ago. Trippy electronica, but with definite rock undertones. Well worth your time.

9. The Jimi Hendrix Experience — Live at Monterey
Also: 'nuff said.

10. Amy Winehouse — Frank
She's a wreck. She's popular. But you can't say she doesn't have talent.

Now, the artists on the iTunes Top Ten Downloads:

Flo Rida, Sara Bareilles, Chris Brown, Alicia Keys, Timbaland, Soulja Boy, Finger Eleven, Colbie Caillat, Jordin Sparks, and (gulp) Fergie.

Ask yourself this question:

In three, five, fifteen or fifty years, will anyone care about any of the artists on the iTunes Top Ten Downloads list of January 3, 2008?

Nope, I don't think so either.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Sofa shopping.

Some observations on shopping for furniture:

Kennedy Avenue.
If you want furniture stores, and you want a lot of them, go to Kennedy between Lawrence and Ellesmere. Within the same strip-mall, there were five different home-furnishings establishments, and I went into four of them. The whole street is lined with places like this. I'm sure my mom would have a ball.

Most furniture is fugly.
I wouldn't let a good percentage of the couches out there into my house, apartment, tent, mud-brick shack, or any other domicile which I may or may not be inhabiting. A lot of it makes you wonder, "Who in their right mind came up with that?" And, more perplexingly, "What furniture-company executive saw some designer's plans and said, 'Sure, let's make an upside-down-polar-bear coffee table with a glass top! People will love it!'?"

Couches can get expensive.
You can go to Ikea (which I did) and buy a couch for $200 (which I didn't). At the same time, you can go into a high-end store and pay $4000 (and I presume more) for a piece of furniture will seat the same number of people. As for me, I'm looking more towards the "budget" end of the spectrum — but, at the same time, if the couch jumped out at me and said, "J, you know you want me," and I agreed, I wouldn't be averse to dropping a cool grand on the thing.

Loveseats are overpriced in terms of seating capacity.
Couches have three cushions, and loveseats have 67% of that. You'd think, logically, that a loveseat would be about 67% of the cost of a couch. However, that line of thinking would make you dead-wrong, sucka! If a couch runs $699, the matching loveseat will cost somewhere around $679. I wish I was joking.

Most furniture stores are completely interchangeable.
Same commissioned salespeople, same soft-rock music, same fake layouts. I will say, however, that most of the salespeople were actually pretty nice — you tell them you're just browsing, and they'll pretty much leave you alone.

I'm very picky.
Most of the time, your pal JTL is a pretty chilled-out guy who goes with "the flow." But, I gotta say, when it comes to matters of furniture acquisitions, I'm one selective motherfucker. I found a few sofas about which I thought, "Alright, if this was in my living room, I guess I could like it." Even with those so-so chesterfields*, though, nothing really grabbed me. And I sure did look at a lot of 'em today.

So, in conclusion, I'll keep an eye on things. I think I have some general ideas about what I'd like, but unless someone comes out with a $400 sofa which has beer-holders, a Shiatsu massager and gets thirty-five miles to the gallon, I'll probably be fairly ambivalent about my purchase.

____________________________
* I love this word. It makes me think of both my grandmas.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs.

That's the title of a book I'm "reading" these days, by the affable Chuck Klosterman.

(I say "reading" because it's the first ever book-on-CD to which I've ever listened. I was initially wary of the format; when I read a paper-and-ink book, I like to start off each sitting by skimming about the last half-page I'd read before jamming the bookmark in. Also, I never leave a book in the middle of a chapter; I've gotta finish that sucker. So when I get to work and Chuck's in the middle of a rant about how he's irritated that The Man Show unfairly gave the perception that mens' fascination with tits could be notheing but purely visceral, I feel uncomfortable that I have to turn it off, mid-rant. I'm not one of those weirdos that sits in the car for four minutes as Don't Stop Believin' by Journey finishes playing.)

(Unless it's in my garage. Then I'm semi-hidden. Oh, Steve Perry, you soft-rock my world.)

I'm generally enjoying the "book," even if Klosterman's unvarnished hatred for When Harry Met Sally..., one of my favourite movies*, took up a good five minutes of my commute to work today, which it did. However, one of his early essays — the thing is a collection of short essays on a variety of pop-culture topics — makes the argument that, somehow, the MTV show The Real World profoundly changed American society; how people interact with each other, the increasing one-dimensionality of peoples' personas and the idea that, in essence, "it's viewed as more desirable to be identifiable than to be interesting."

I have two bones to pick with Klosterman on this. First, the idea that this show radically altered American society... it's on cable, it's stupid, it's only potentially-watched by a very small slice of the population (e.g. teenagers and early-twentysomethings). Sure, it may have spawned all the awful "reality TV" there is out there these days, but might it actually have an "impact" on how people carry out their day-to-day lives? Hell, people watched Seinfeld through a good chunk of the '90s — which a hell of a lot more people watched than ever saw The Real World — but you don't see people celebrating Festivus in the millions.

Second, his idea that the US has more one-dimensional people than it used to is easily-debunkable, on many fronts. First off, perhaps there were always that many colourless people in society, but being a self-described "nebbish" guy who liked math growing up, maybe he never met all the self-absorbed drama queens that I imagine have always existed, but he only sees on this program. Perhaps watching this inane TV show just exposed him to this facet of humanity with whom he'd never interacted.

Plus — and I'm not sure how he wouldn't ever factor this into his thinking, or at least admit he did — it's a television show. Producers manufacture situations, edit things to make people fit certain roles, and misrepresent in the name of "ratings" and "excitement." The idea that The Real World is, in fact, real — which Klosterman accepts, prima facie — is entirely laughable.

But, on a more personal front, I meet deep, colourful, multi-dimensionals characters all the time, and I don't see their numbers decreasing at all. They're old, they're young, they're "smart," they're "dumb," but very few of them are as boring as he insists people have become.

Some of them may even be reading this right now. In fact, you probably are.

(Hi.)
_______________________________
* I'm not entirely sure why this is the case, but I'll give it a shot... I find Billy Crystal funny, I found the dialogue quick and witty, and yeah, I can identify with the situation in the movie. All guys who have female friends can. (Incidentally, I think Harry's a bit off... his assertion that men can't be friends with women they find attractive without sex getting in the way assumes that the only way men would ever interact with women is in terms of having sex. I mean sure, boning her would be great, but if that's the only reason you'd ever be friends with someone — to eventually "lay some pipe" — well then, I daresay you're a sad, sad individual.)**

** And I'm not saying this from the perspective of a guy who's knee-deep in babes, looking down on the poor sexless men in the world from my high-and-mighty perch saying, "Well, shit, fellas... there's more to life than getting laid" — because that's extremely easy to say when you are getting laid. But I'm not.*** So there.

*** It is really not funny, the degree to which this is true.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Sleep.

It's a strange and necessary thing, this nightly bout of unconsciousness.

Without it — or indeed enough of it — we can't ever hope to function normally. Mornings are spent walking around in a remorseless fog, afternoons find a man struggling to stay awake — stand at attention, soldier! — and the evening is when the body finally chugs into second gear, ready to take on all-comers.

But finally, when things just get rolling, it's time to halt the proceedings and lay down again. The clock says yes, the burning eyelids say yes, but your brain says no! We just got started!

And so the fight begins, destined to repeat itself until some Good Sense strikes us at the right time, and we shuffle off, "perchance to dream," as a fellow from Denmark once opined. Tough to do, when an entire day's worth of work is begun after the Sun goes off to sleep, itself.

"Circadian" — circa, plus diem. Fickle mistress, that rhythm.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

JTL: Art Owner.

When I went to New Mexico back in June '07, we took a side-trip one afternoon to Santa Fe. The city was gorgeous, and the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum happened to be downtown where we were. So, I and a few Michiganders with whom I was hanging around took a gander inside.

I'd heard her name before, but never really connected it with any particular works of art or a style or anything. I'm pretty much a novice when it comes to art appreciation, but I know what I like when I see it (e.g. Klimt's crazy patterns, Rembrandt's incredible use of brightness and shadows).

Enter O'Keeffe's world of mind-blowing colour, swirly abstraction, overblown flowers that suck you right in, and the impression that somehow — like DalĂ­ — she sees the world in a radically different way than you or I might.

I bought some prints, and finally got around to having them framed and/or matted. Today, despite the potential protestations of Crazy Cat Lady to "all that noise up there," I got out the nails and started hammering into my rock-hard walls, which may or may not be made of some sort of space-age polymer impervious to any such intrusion. So now I have these gracing the walls of my living room:


White Rose Abstraction (1927)


Black Hollyhock Blue Larkspur (1930)


Pelvis Series, Red with Yellow (1945)

Will this turn into a full-time "art blog?" Tune in several times an hour to find out!

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Back to the nest.

I'd pretty much had it.

Phones not ringing. Voicemail cutting out. The line not releasing itself for a good minute after hanging up. Other assorted weirdness.

Ted Rogers, you just lost a customer for your Home Phone service. But, let's face it, there was thin ice everywhere from Day One, when I got assigned a 647 area code for a land-line. I mean, seriously — 647? What am I, some sort of leprous lothario who deserves a banishment to the Siberia of GTA area codes? People are going to think I have a cell phone, and we simply can't have that. The 647 is for creeps, perverts and ne'er-do-wells, and I'm only two of those things.

In the end, I decided to call up Ma Bell to welcome me back to the phone company I've alternately loathed and longed-for over the past dozen years. I have to change my number with a variety of sources, but in the end I think it'll be worth it: better service, a respectable area code, and a little revenge on Uncle Ted for renaming the Skydome.

In an unrelated note, The Ballad Of El Goodo by Big Star is a fantastic song. There's a video of them performing the song live in 1993, but if you can find the original from 1972's #1 Record, you'll want to crank it up and play along with it.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Two music minutiae.

One.

If you put ten, perhaps twenty "modern rock" bands together in a room, lock the door, fill them full of mescaline* and Fruit Whirls, and not let them out until they wrote a song, they probably wouldn't write one three percent as good as this.

Two.

Not many of my students are into rock. A few are, though, including one nice kid who grew up in Newfoundland. We were talking in physics class about sound and frequency and speakers, and he mentioned Nickelback. I shot back with a forceful, "I don't normally use this word with my classes, but Nickelback sucks."

The look on his face ressembled that of the shock he'd have if I told him I had his mom tied up in my spare bedroom and had her on a steady diet of mescaline and Fruit Whirls.

So now I know who's been buying all those albums.

Next on the list: hunting down all the Celine Dion fans and smacking them each individually on their backsides for being so downright incorrigible.

________________________
* I'm reading yet another Hunter S. Thompson book these days — Songs of the Doomed: More Notes on the Death of the American Dream (Gonzo Papers Volume 3). He talks about mescaline a lot. Also, his writing is like a goddamned rollercoaster gone off the rails: fun as hell, and you never quite know what's around the next bend; you might die any second, but at least you'll go out with the biggest shit-eating grin on your face the morgue's ever seen.

Monday, January 07, 2008

This and that, and the other.

1. The weather.

Ten-thirty at night on January 7th, and it's 14°C? That's fucked.

2. First day back.

Felt like a goddamn marathon.

3. Met my not-so-new neighbour.

Across the hall. Another teacher. Queen's grad. Far less surly than the previous occupant (also a teacher). Been there three months. Yeah, people in this building don't really talk to each other much, I find.

4. The Golden Dogs.

Any one of these should get your ass movin'. "Construction Worker" is my favourite these days. Love the girl/boy harmonies.

5. A new blog.

Frequent site-contributor ECB has a new blog. It's here. Did she live through her move to Chicago? Pop on over and find out.

6. Ellen Page infatuation.

Continues unabated.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Gives you a warm, fuzzy feeling inside.

If you type "Anally raping my grandmother" into Google, guess whose page shows up third?


Incidentally, the line comes from Clerks, one of my favourite movies of all time.

Still, though... I'm at once amused and slightly disturbed.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

A picture is worth a thousand words.

Since a graph is sort-of like a picture, but a little less detailed, I'd say a graph is probably worth a couple hundred words or so.

At any rate, this graph is particularly telling, and the three words it says to me are these: "Americans dislike Dubya."

Also, on a completely unrelated note, I had to make a gigantic change in my future life-plans today after watching the movie Juno. I've long stated that Weather Network reporter Oga Nwobosi will be my wife, but I've had to revise that.

Ellen Page,* if you're reading this — and I know you are — I already have several rings picked out, in a variety of styles and sizes. I'll get my buddy Dave to become an ordained minister through the mail. All you have to do is come to Toronto, show up at my apartment, and I will make you my bride. We will have a family band, and we will tour the countryside. And, unlike Ron Burgundy, we will invite everyone.


The J-man likes his women smart and Canadian!
______________________________________
* It's okay. She's almost 21, in real life. That's not entirely scandalous, is it?

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Lover, scoundrel, confidant, asshole.

I have a love/hate relationship with Rolling Stone.

I've subscribed to it for years, and read it faithfully every week. Back when I was a grad student and co-hosted an indie-rock radio show, the stuff I'd hear would show up as "Breaking Artists" in the magazine several months later, but these days I read about bands before I hear them. (At least I don't rely on commercial radio stations to inform me about solid new artists. Hey, 102.1, we get it — Fall Out Boy is sad already!)

Today, in the span of about a dozen pages, things went from excellent (an article talking about how CDs are mastered today with tons of compression and at an extremely high volume) to interesting (Mars Volta, Black Crowes and Breeders have albums due out in the next few months; Iran has apparently banned hip-hop) to wasted space (Ghostface Killah talks about reading the Koran and then, two sentences later, brags, "You know how much pussy I've had"; surprise-surprise, there's a young band out of England who plays loud, stupid punk music; rapper Radric "Gucci Mane" Davis was released from prison after beating a man with a pool cue).

It's a mixed bag, for sure.

But overall, I dig it.