Wednesday, March 28, 2012

That was a close one.

A couple of weeks ago, I came home after work one day, put my bag down, glanced over at my phone, and the answering machine said "0" like it normally does. You see, most people send me email, or we chat on some sort of instant messenger service, or we use homing-pigeons (a lost art, I say; Mike Tyson has been into them since he was a kid).

I thought to myself, "I'm paying $34 a month for my landline. Shoot, that's how much some cell phone plans cost. Why am I doing this?" So, I started checking out various cell phone plans, intent on ditching the landline once and for all.

And, boy-howdy, there's a lot of cell phone providers out there. There are pay-as-you-go plans and month-to-month deals, and of course the always dreaded year-or-two-or-eight contracts that the Big Guys lock people into. Some offer free phones; I have a fairly recent Blackberry, so I don't really need one.
  • We give you X local minutes free per month!
  • Unlimited texting to Canadian and US numbers!
  • Evenings and weekends, as many minutes as you want!
  • Free beer!
It was enough to make a fella's head spin. And, nobody seemed to give the right mix of features that I wanted for a price I thought was fair: I don't need a data plan, I don't need unlimited North America-wide long distance, I don't need a newfangled touchscreen phone.

And then there's the X minutes per month thing. Some months I might talk on the phone less than 30 minutes in total; other times I'll call up an old friend and we'll chat for two hours. How do I know how many minutes I'll need, in advance? There's really no way to tell.

Yes, I could've gotten around some of those issues; if I wanted to call up an old chum and chew the fat for a good long while, I could dial them up using Google Voice for free. Primus has this phone system which only needs a high-speed internet connection. Skype might've been an option.

In the end, everything which isn't a landline is a giant damn hassle. I've had a VOIP phone before (years ago with Rogers Cable) and the quality was shitty; my parents have the same thing now with Cogeco and they've had service guys out to their house so often they probably know 'em by name. If I was to go cell-only, I'd have to charge the damn thing all the damn time, it wouldn't work if the power was out, and if I lost it I'd be totally fuuuuuuucked (as so many people seem to be when they lose their designed-to-be-lost cell phone in a cab or at a rave or in a wax museum or wherever the deuce it is people go these days).

So, I called up Bell, asked what they could do for me, and they hacked $10/month off my bill. Status quo achieved! Landline and a cell I use sparingly, it'll remain.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

One-sentence random thought #16.

I've never been able to figure out how much irony Eric Clapton, who was once a voracious consumer of a certain white powder, intended with his song "Cocaine".

Sunday, March 25, 2012

It's that time of year.

Sure, it's tax time.

Sure, it's almost Opening Day (and the Tigers are looking gooooood).

Sure, it's spring.

But it's also that time of year where things get a whole hell of a lot busier for yours-truly. I'm coaching baseball again, and for April that means two morning practices a week. Gonna have to be at the school at 7:30. That means getting up at 6:00. Good christ.

* * * * *

Currently listening to a streaming preview of the new album by The Mars Volta, Noctourniquet, on the Rolling Stone website (here). If you've followed the Volta for the past few years, you know they're not the easiest listen in the world. Far from it, actually; they make absolutely terrible background music. You put this on, you're gonna want to cancel all your plans.

The biggest hurdle for most people is the vocal stylings of Cedric Bixler-Zavala, who is a unique singer to say the least. For their first two albums he was somewhat Geddy Lee-ish, normally hanging out up-high; it was peculiar, but at least you knew what you were getting. Afterward, he's gone down in his vocal register quite a bit, and to be honest I don't really like the sound of his voice down there as much as before. It's just... weird.

As for the music, it's gotten a little less wacked-out-19-minute-prog-epic-ish... but to be honest that's why I started listening to them in the first place. However, on Noctourniquet, some of that comes back, and I'm a fan — you can really hear it in the third track, "Dyslexicon". That's some vintage Volta right there.

Be forewarned, though. The first track, "The Whip Hand", is not kind. It is just not a kind thing to do to your ears. If you really can't handle it, though, I assure you the next few cuts are gentler... but they ain't no Barry Manilow LP.

Rhythmically, they're up to a lot of their usual tricks: odd beats, changing time signatures, the usual fare which we've come to know and love.

So yeah, give it a listen. Don't cost nothin'. Might change ya life.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

"My Girl": A Lyrical Deconstruction.

The song in question is "My Girl" by Canadian rock band Chilliwack. If you've ever listened to a Canadian radio station at any point in your life, you've heard it; the full name of the song is "My Girl (Gone Gone Gone)", which should help too. Just to refresh you memory, though:

So yeah, that's the song we're talking about. Here we go!

Verse #1

Ever since she left me
I sure feel all alone
Aw, she left him. And he's bummed. Let's see what happens!

A little misunderstanding
I can't get her on the telephone
These days, with cell phones and voicemail and texting and whatnot, you can pretty much always get anyone. This song came out in 1981, though, so we're talking totally different times. (I believe people used Telex as their main form of communication.)

Hanging out down on Main Street
Living in a different world
We're probably talking about a small town, if it has a Main Street... then again, Toronto has a Main Street, so I guess we could be anywhere. My guess is Chilliwack, BC — for the obvious reason.

Standing around with the gang on the corner
Talking about my girl
This is where the song starts to fall apart for me. Who stands around with a gang on a corner — are we talking about 1950s "street toughs" here, clad in leather jackets? And who stands around with their buddies talking about the girl that dumped them on a street corner? You'd probably want to do that in a bar while drinking heavily, if you do it at all. Besides, guys don't talk at length about women who dump them; the most you'll get is, "So, that bitch Karen left. What a whore. I think she stole a loaf of bread from my kitchen on her way out, too."


My girl, she was the world to me
She's gone, away across the street
Wait, hold on. Across the street?! She's across one street and you're writing a lovesick song already? What's that, thirty feet, tops? Wow, this guy'll get worked up over anything. (For years I thought the phrase was "across the sea," which makes a hell of a lot better justification for a lyrically-sad song like this.)

My girl is just a memory
She's been so long away
SHE'S ACROSS THE STREET. Wait until the little orange hand turns into the little white walking dude, and CROSS THE STREET. It's not hard.

Verse #2

She didn't have to leave me
She didn't have to run
Maybe she does marathons.

She didn't have to go
Without a word to anyone
Maybe she's a mute.

I hope she's doing alright
I got no way to know
We do have Facebook these days for this sort of thing, unless that bitch Karen de-friends you too.

Unless she gets to hear this song
Hear it on the radio
...or in a podcast, or through streaming audio, or downloaded through a torrent, or on YouTube.

Chorus again; Verse 3

I hope she gets the message
Got to get her back, you know
I do now, pal.

Gonna track her down, I'll find that girl
Gonna tell her that I love her so
Careful, there's a fine line between "romantic pursuit" and "stalking." Trust me, this is rather difficult to explain to a judge.

Put the word on the grapevine
Spread it all around the world
"Twitter is the 'grapevine' of the 21st century. Discuss." (N.B. I still don't "get" Twitter.)

Sooner or later I know I'm gonna get her
I'm talking about my girl
I don't know, man. Karen meets a lot of guys. The guys on the corner I was standing around with told me she was hitting on Rodriguo the other day down at the mini-putt. Might want to check that out.

...and, thankfully, we're done. Here is what could very well be the worst cover of any song, anytime in human history; fortunately it's satirical (and hilarious), but... well, just listen and watch.

Oh my god I love Eugene Levy.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Hello from Florida.

Early on Monday morning — we're talking 5:30 here — I was crossing the parking lot at the hotel on the outskirts of Flint, Michigan that I stayed in, before flying out to Florida, wondering what the hell I was doing going all that way when I clearly didn't need a jacket even in the north.

And from all reports, it appears as if things have become even warmer in Ontario in the days since then; the current 7-day forecast from Environment Canada has no days under 14°C for the forseeable future. Which is weird.

What isn't weird, though, is being down in central Florida this time of year and have temperatures scraping the upper-20s. Which they are.

This year I juggled my flights such that I arrived on Monday morning, and am leaving Thursday night (that's tomorrow). Four fairly-full days, with three nights... I'm not sure, but this could be my shortest Florida trip yet. It honestly feels like I just got here, and could use another couple of days soaking it all in.

Yesterday I drove out to the Gulf coast (and south a bit) and hung out with a co-worker; she brought her daughter and her daughter's friend, I imagine to keep them out of trouble back in Toronto. We hung out on the beach and went for a nice dinner afterward, wherein I had a very turquoise drink. It was lovely.

Monday and today were spent at the ballpark, nerding-out on baseball. Both the games (a.) were against the Mets, (b.) were in Lakeland, and (c.) went to an extra inning, the first one ending in a tie and the second ending in a Tiger victory. (They don't go past the 10th; it doesn't really matter if they win or lose, so long as they look at their potential players, especially the pitchers.) Tomorrow's game is against the Orioles, again in Lakeland; Justin Verlander (swoon!) is starting for the Good Guys.

Oh, and today I met Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski. Wheee! Nice fellow.

Hot Lakeland restaurant tip: Red Door Wine Market. The restaurant itself is tiny; the largest dining area (and the only part with proper tables, as far as I could see) was out on a lawn. Two different stouts on tap; both were delicious. And former-blogger ECB would've been solidly impressed with two separate walls of wine bottles. It's an extremely easy place to miss, because it doesn't look like a restaurant at all... but, just look for the red door at Tennessee and McDonald.

So, tomorrow it's back to reality. I'm not looking forward to driving an hour and half across an exceedingly boring part of the world starting at about midnight tomorrow night (after I land in Michigan; going to my parents' place for the night), but I guess that's what I do for March baseball.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Enjoy the warm weather, GTA.

Don't be me wrong, this is pretty great for Toronto in mid-March:

I, however, will be in central Florida:

It'll be tough, but I'll find a way through it.

Monday, March 05, 2012

Here are five albums I'm digging right now.

In no particular order...

Dire Straits — Communiqué (1979)
Their second album sounds a lot like their first, which is just fine by me. It's laid back but finds nice grooves. A couple of the songs drag a little, but then they pick right back up and you're moving again.
Current pick: "Single-Handed Sailor"

Steve Winwood — Steve Winwood (1977)
Yes, some of the keyboards sound pretty dated... but if you can get past that, this is really quite a solid album. This was before Arc of a Diver, and definitely before his '80s schlock-pop days... thankfully.
Current pick: "Midland Maniac" (a live version, but a decent guitarist, I think)

Blitzen Trapper — Destroyer of the Void (2010)
See? I like new music too... but for the Trappers, this one hits me a little more squarely than their current LP, American Goldwing (but that's a solid album too). A little twang, a lotta guitars, and copious fun.
Current pick: "Sadie" (a live-in-the-studio version which sticks fairly close to the original)

Kula Shaker — Peasants, Pigs & Astronauts (1999)
They only really had one hit single in North America, "Tattva", from their debut album, K. The Indian stuff gets a little kitschy at times, but you can't deny this is a pretty solid record.
Current pick: "Great Hosannah"

The Bees — Sunshine Hit Me (2002)
Every album they release is different in its own way (like Sloan). What keeps drawing me back to this one is its simplicity and earthiness; after all, it was recorded in a shed, mostly by two guys.
Current pick: "Sunshine", but that's not streamable anywhere, so we'll go with "Lying In The Snow"

So, there we go. A little sampling of the musical part of the mind of J, in early March, 2012. Enjoy! (Or not.)