Sunday, November 13, 2005

That's the sound a bird makes.

On Friday I got my hair cut, but in lieu of the "layered shag" I've gone with over the last five years, I decided to go for something different. Having watched almost the entire first season of Scrubs that week, I went for my own version of the Zach Braff feathery indie pompadour. The results? Terrifyingly awesome. The style? The poof? It's like a magnificent bird, taking flight. That's a simile you can quote me on.

The hair got road-tested on Friday night at Halo to little response, but that may be because not seeing my friend there, I bailed after less than half an hour. Tomorrow's the true field test, with 9 hours of work followed by a family dinner with visiting relatives and a Raveonettes show to top it all off. That's a long day for a new haircut, but I think we're up to it. Ladies, you have been warned. Sexily.

Pictures will come when I locate a camera. In their stead, enjoy a little hair-related conversation I had earlier:

James: but tomorrow, i shall sex up my new indie plumage, hit the show and enjoy some feedback. once i get some pictures taken I will show you my sexy new haircut. you can print it out, show it to all the ladies
Donell: haha
James: tell em there's a show that comes with all that plumage
Donell: i will put it on my door
James: ca-CAW

Thursday, October 27, 2005

This never happens to me in real life

Last night I had a rather confusing dream. A friend of mine whom I have known since my first year of university was talking with me, and almost immediately it came out that she was interested in me. We started dating, and with that came the sex. The funny thing was, that despite her apparent (though entirely theoretical) satisfaction, I could never remember actually having sex. You'd think that would be something I would remember, but I didn't even have any knowledge of anything leading up to or immediately following it. The dream promptly sunk into a sitcom-esque subplot of a former girlfriend of mine coming to visit and having to hide her from the current relationship, but that's clearly unimportant, much like all the episodes of Happy Days it was based off. What is important that now I'm feeling awfully awkward about having to go to class with the girl today, because the dream was too damn vivid. Nothing will happen, but the question still begs:

Will it be as awkward as I'm imagining it to be?

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

How you can tell I made my own dinner tonight

- I ate at 10:30.
- In front of the television.
- It consisted of two cobs of corn, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and two Chunks Ahoy! cookies.
- I ate the cookies first.

Monday, October 17, 2005


Two of my most anticipated albums of the year were Paul McCartney's Chaos and Creation in the Backyard and My Morning Jacket's Z. However, when trying to upload them to my computer, I ran into a problem that thousands of music consumers are running into: copy protection. Now up until recently, I didn't have a problem with Copy Protection because the protection on CDs wasn't invasively done; I could still upload albums to iTunes and copy them normally to CDs for other family members. However, in recent months two of the four major label groups, EMI and Sony BMG, have begun to make their CDs compatible only with Windows Media Player in response to Apple refusing to license out FairPlay iPod compatible copy protection or raise prices of songs in iTunes. As a result, the albums are incompatible with iPods, the leading digital music player in the world.

What I find asinine about the debacle is that amidst a season of low CD sales, EMI and Sony BMG have decided to inconvenience potential customers in a way that many, like New Jersey banker Ryan Kuczynski, are deciding to cease being customers entirely. In this case, the labels are directly driving many consumers to download the album illegally or through iTunes. And without the support of Warner and Universal, the latter of which is the world's largest label and fundamentally disagrees with copy protection, EMI and Sony BMG don't have enough clout to force Apple to cave.

In this scenario, who am I to support: Apple, a company that may be legally inconveniencing other companies but has provided me with great and consistent products and service, or two major labels who are directly inconveniencing me?

I wonder.

Monday, October 03, 2005

made my day

Today in Abnormal Psychology, Dr. Wardell was lecturing on self-report measures of stress, specifically LCUs (Life Change Units.) Essentially, this is a system assigning numerical values ranging from 1 to 100 to stressful events. It is based around marriage at 50 LCUs and death of a loved one, which comes in at a whopping 100. A person looks at the list, marks down what stressors they have (in what numbers) and totals their score. Scores of 100 and 200 are serious enough; a person who climbs the stress ladder to a score of 300 indicates a 3 in 4 chance of suffering from a serious stress-related health issue in the near future. As Dr. Wardell put it, "to reach this point in the simplest way, a person would have to be married three times in one year and have all their spouses die. At that point they're looking at a serious prison sentence." He added with a smirk, gesturing at the chart, "Which, as you can see, is another 63 points."

Mathematical inconsistencies aside, that was spectacular.

Friday, September 30, 2005

My Big Damn Heroes

Back in 2002, a show came on the air that captured my interest and imagination as soon as I started watching it. Though it only ran for a short period of time before being cancelled, Firefly became and remains one of my favourite television shows of all time. The 'Verse of Whedon's creation was refreshing, intelligently thought out, and believable in its humanity; in short, everything that Star Wars and Star Trek weren't. Whedon showed viewers a future where people have expanded into the stars and found nothing besides themselves staring back. Without aliens, Whedon didn't have that failsafe that Roddenberry and similarly-minded science fiction auteurs relied on. His characters had to be people, and be believable in that role. This engaged me more than any other science fiction. As a space western, it was a success because the two halves fitted so well together. It avoided the one thing that always bothered me about other science fiction: sound effects in space. The more I watched, the more I fell in love.

So of course, I was crushed when it was cancelled. Like many other fans of the series, I resented Twentieth Century Fox for its marketing blunder and lack of confidence. As we turned our anger outwards, we found that we weren't alone, that thousands of others felt the same way we did. Many of us fought a guerilla marketing campaign, spearheaded by such fan groups as Gradually, we realized that as consumers, we still had influence. We bought the series DVDs and lent them out, and as we did this, something great happened. The people behind the show responded. They talked with us, shared our frustrations, and helped us fight. The cancelling of Firefly was in many ways a blessing, because it brought together thousands of us Browncoats in line behind our Big Damn Heroes. They went to cons halfway around the globe, where Firefly never aired, and found out DVDs were selling out; they found more of us. After much effort, we got finally got victory. We finally got more Firefly. We finally got our Big Damn Movie. Joss, like us, never gave up, and tonight we get our reward.

I'm seeing the movie tonight as soon as my shift at work is done, and I'm so excited I can barely sit still. Every time I see a trailer, I squeal uncontrollably. Tonight is a personal victory for me and Browncoats alike, evidence that there is room in Hollywood and multiplexes for us. Tonight, as we head to the cinemas for our victory lap, we can't help but think one thing:

We've done the impossible, and that makes us mighty.

Friday, August 19, 2005


Last night was pretty slick. Donell came by and we just kicked it for a while. After watching Aqua Teen Hunger Force, which was as hilarious as Donell had promised, I switched the night's programming from Lost in Translation to the two hour series premiere of Firefly. I knew that if I could just get Donell to watch it, I could get him to love it. Why? Because I haven't enountered a person yet who didn't watch the premiere and love it. Without fail, Donell enjoyed the premiere and made some comments about needing to buy DVDs. Success.

After that, we pulled out our guitars and Donell proceeded to not only try to correct my atrocious posture and technique (well, that's what I get when I play my guitar once a month or so,) but to teach me the Foo Fighters' "Everlong." Progress was slow, but made. I didn't quite get the proper pattern of chords, so we just played a stripped down version. It was also turned into a very necessary lesson in technique and fingering. All in all, it was a good night and Donell's rad for putting up with all that. Now I just have to keep practicing and keep learning. Given my track record, that's a tall request but I think I'm up to it this time.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

I'm writing again, at least tentatively. The muse has been gone for a long time now, but it's been sparking recently. Of course, it has been sparking at 2 or 3am when I'm trying to catch three hours of sleep before work, so the thrill of being inspired is somewhat bittersweet. I try to just scribble down a note or two then try to get somee rest, but I'm still a slave to it.

Just like old times.

The idea is a play. Three acts, naturalist setting, moving at a slightly stuttering pace. It's about a disfuctional relationship between two people whose idea of romance has long since been replaced with boredom and reciprocal domestic violence. Think Streetcar Named Desire's Stanley, except ripped roughly down the centre. So far it's fairly fun to play out bits of scenes in my head. Things are looking good for now, and it's nice not to be stuffed behind a deadline like I was for Fractions.

Here's to the muse.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Story time

A long time ago, while my Aussie friend Hugh and I simultaneously dated similar-looking girls named Ali, Hugh mentioned to me his concerns that his friend Patrick was interested in Ali. Never one to make any situation easier, I gave him what became to be known as The Picture: a mental image of Pat and Ali standing naked together, Pat doing naughty things from behind as Ali merely looked at the mental camera and gave a knowing, insidious smile. He was, understandably, somewhat scarred.

A year later, Hugh still calls me a bastard any time I mention The Picture, even though he and Ali have long since broken up and he is "over her like a bridge." I responded by telling him that he was indeed over Ali "Like a bridge," but one on his commuting route that he goes over "10 times a week." Even he had to admit it was funny and true. It was after this, of course, that things got cruel. Tonight, he told me that he wouldn't be that surprised if Pat and Ali got together, despite her repeated involvement with a girl named Steph (one time in his bed!) In fact, he would be concerned for Patrick. What follows is the MSN conversation that resulted:

Hugh: Ya'know, I actually wouldn't be suprised if her and pat got together. And I would care, but more for his sake really.

Me: So how traumatized does The Picture still get you? Because I could tweak or elaborate it, if need be. I mean, just imagine his arms slipping down her arms slightly, his face squinting slightly while he gives a thrust, but that smile never leaving her face. Maybe she closes her eyes a little, or maybe she just winks.

Hugh: However, that is far more traumatic and I hate you.

Me: Bwa ha ha ha!

Hugh: You're a master of poetic darkness

Me: Hail to the king, baby!

I've still got it.

Folk Fest 2005

Sunday afternoon I headed over to Gallagher Park to catch the Sunday night mainstage performances of the Edmonton Folk Fest. The performers for the night were slated to be, in order, Ryan Adams & The Cardinals, Alison Krauss & Union Station, and John Prine. I was also supposed to meet Stefan and Taylor down there, but none of these things ended up quite happening. Prine wanted to catch the redeye out, so he switched with Krauss, and neither Stefan nor Taylor gave me a cell number to contact them at like we had agreed. While I was trying to find a seat, I ran into Dave and his girlfriend, so I just sat with the Mahoods all evening.

Adams came on fairly promptly, and gave a pretty exciting set. Fresh from performing with Grateful Dead member Phil Lesh last month, Adams' music all seemed to be coming out of that kind of filter, to great effect. Hearing old songs with a new sound was the best part of the show; "Shakedown on 9th Street," a longtime favourite of mine, still retained its ragged country punk vibe, but was extended to a marvelous length more than double that of its studio length. "Please Do Not Let Me Go," a favourite off his Love is Hell album, was transformed from a stripped-down acoustic affair into a slow but rollicking plugged-in number. "To Be Young (Is to be Sad, Is to be High)" gained new life as a bluesy affair. His set was heavy in songs from his upcoming September 27th release September, so it was interesting to get a sneak listen to these before the album release. Catherine Popper was great on bass, as was Jon Graboff on steel guitar. Brad Pemberton, the drummer, was better than I've ever heard him before, especially the rollicking drums on "Shakedown on 9th Street." Electric Guitarist JP Browersock was missing from the lineup, which forced Adams to play better than he has on previous albums. For once, he was able to handle the extended solos and jamming that he's previously let JP handle. He closed the set with a great rendition of a Sonic Youth classic, "Expressway to Yr Skull," complete with a jam that Thurston would have been proud of.

Between songs, Adams was the bizarre, manic, and rather amusing peformer that fans have become accustomed to. He pretended to give an announcement about a parked car, commented on how if he knew the colour theme this year was orange he would have "slipped some oranges... into the morphine," and introduced a song written in 2000 as something he wrote 8 years before his birth, something that had a baby Bob Dylan mumbling accolades about.

Yeah. For the record, Dave did ask me if I "knew he was crazy before [I] came."

He made a joke pretending to mistake the folkfest for Glastonbury, a show he was supposed to close at over a month ago, but was forced to miss because of illness. He then took on an English accent and made fun of soccer hooligans, later apologizing for it. "I wasn't trying to make fun of England... just English people... Just think, if I do this twice more I won't ever have to go overseas again." Some critics are right, he didn't try to engage the audience with banter the same way Prine or Krauss did. Instead, he just mumbled a little and then went back to a splendid performance. Can you blame him?

As marvelous as the set was for a fan, however, Adams may not have been the best pick for the FolkFest crowd, a crowd perhaps not as interested in alt-country infused with Grateful Dead psychadelia as they were with stripped-down folk or bluegrass. To get people interested in it, a later set time may have been better. Just after 6, folks with evening tickets were still filtering in and trying to find seats. Many weekend passholders were still getting food, beer, or coming back from the sidestages, as I found out by talking to people. Mr. and Mrs. Mahood hadn't heard of Adams, they said, so they stayed in the beer tent for his set. Would they have come back sooner for somebody like Prine, with a more established reputation amongst older age groups? Perhaps. Dave admitted that he almost never really pays attention to the first act of the evening. By the time Prine came out, it was starting to get dark, you could actually see the performers on stage since they weren't buried in shadows, and everybody was back at their tarps with their food. Perhaps Adams partially got caught in a transition period, or maybe I'm just making excuses for a performance that I thought was amazing by a performer I adore. Just don't read the Edmonton Journal review. As much as Ms. Sperounes congratulates Adams for a well-performed set, she also focusses a lot more on the kinds of speculations that may have been more appropriate before the show, speculations based on his tempestuous past that somebody not familar with Adams might overindulge themselves on. For a far better story on Adams, read his two Pitchfork interviews, from 2004 and 2005, respectively. They give a far better view of Adams than Ms. Sperounes, who at best seems to be vaguely familiar with the idea of there being a Ryan Adams.

This post is long enough, so I'll review Prine and Krauss' excellent sets tomorrow. But first, in all my fanboyish glory, the setlist:

1. A Kiss Before I Go
2. Peaceful Valley
3. To Be Young (Is To Be Sad, Is To Be High)
4. Beautiful Sorta
5. What Sin Replaces Love
6. The End
7. Shakedown on 9th Street
8. Please Do Not Let Me Go
9. Madonna, Sean and Me / Expressway to Yr. Skull (Sonic Youth cover)

Friday, August 05, 2005


Tonight at work I was helping a customer with finding an item in the dairy case when I heard a woman two feet to my left mutter something sounding like, "Oh no..." to her small child. A minute or so later, she turned around, came up to me and said, "Excuse me, there is a broken egg on the floor." I looked around and sure enough, there was a broken egg sitting next to a closed carton of eggs. She was already walking away.

What I responded with was a polite, "Don't worry, I'll take care of it," but I really just wanted to speak my mind. No, there is not just a broken egg on the floor. Broken eggs do not just appear on the floor. They are not naturally occurring entities. Madame, you or your child broke the egg, I can tell this from the carton you closed. This is not something to be ashamed about. I cannot get annoyed about it. I myself do it occasionally. What I can get annnoyed with however, is that you did not tell me the truth. For whatever reason, you deemed it unseemly to take responsibility for a simple mistake. That is simply disrespectful. Please go away now, and let me clean up your mess. It is my job.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Yummy in My Tummy

After I finished work tonight, I went out looking for some rapini (broccoli raab) to make with Italian sausage and pasta for dinner tonight. Before eventually finding it at Superstore for $1.98/lb, I stopped in at the Starbucks by 170th street and 100th avenue. Now, normally when I go to coffee, I go to the Second Cup in Oliver Square. Cori, my junior high crush, works there, and after seeing her for the first time in years she told me to come back all the time and visit her. Flirting? Not likely, but I'm not one to take that chance.

When I'm not being this irrational, I just go to Starbucks. When it's warm out, nothing beats a mint mocha chip Frappucino. I've got two main choices here: the one in Jasper Gates and the one in the Chapters on 170th street. They both have their plusses. The Jasper Gates location has cute baristas and is slightly closer, and the 170th street location has my friend Dru. This one often wins out, because when forced to interact with a cute girl I have no chance with, I'd much rather pick the one where I can cut through all the awkwardness, infatuation, and depression and skip straight to the ooey gooey nougat centre of denial and rationalization.

I just never get tired of the nougat. Sure, it's a little chewier and sticks to your teeth, but it's worth the trouble because it goes with everything.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Pet Project

Once I get around to it I'll be remixing the latest Nine Inch Nails single "Only." Much like he did with the first single from With Teeth, Trent's released the complete master recording tracks for the song, except this time in a format other than Garage Band only. Once I download Sony's Acid software and quit my stucco job, I'll probably start working on it. Too bad I'm completely unfamiliar with the software and I've never remixed before.

Still, I have ideas. The original has some interesting drum and synth loops with a definite disco feel that I'll likely want to play with. I'll probably isolate the high hat loop and focus on it, but that's about as far as I've gotten so far in the planning. Maybe attach sort of a sine wave pattern to the organ loop if Acid allows it. Lighten the guitar. All in all, this should give it a very Mogwai feel. The real problem, of course, is the same one I've always had with Reznor's work; the lyrics. Great sound, but a little too melodramatic for me. Chances are I'll just eliminate lines like "I just made you up / to hurt myself." The following lines are pretty good, so I'll likely overdub and layer them. Hotness.

This is going to be such a trainwreck.

How do you live? How do you live?

This morning Global News: Morning Edition did a report on the new Harry Potter book release this weekend. The piece explained the 12:01 release this Saturday, the offer from the publisher to a few customers who were accidentally given copies to keep the plot secret, and focussed on the factoid that the book has been topping bestseller lists since presales started several months ago. Following the report, the anchors chatted about the book and Andrea Engel, never the quickest person on the broadcast, asked the following: How were the publishers able to ensure no plot leaks from the book if so many people had bought their copies months ago on the internet and in store?


I mean, wow. This definitely tops forgetting to turn her microphone on and doing a whole broadcast anyway.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

You know you're a bit of a music geek when...

...You find yourself discussing the arrangement and chord changes of a remix on a music blog.

And I still prefer Reznor's original to the DFA remix.

Sunday, July 03, 2005


Friday kicked off a very important period for me: my last month working construction. By the end of July, weather permitting, I will have more than enough money for university tuition and books. This is a huge relief, since I've basically been running myself ragged with my sleep schedule for the last year. This is what I have planned for the last month before school:

-August 1-6th: Work sparingly at the IGA, only in afternoons and evenings. Catch up on sleep.
-August 7th: FolkFest
-August 8th-9th or 10th: Laser eye surgery and recovery
-August 14th at the latest (likely): Help Jessie move out. Have margaritas aplenty
-August 15th-30th: Work at the IGA lots to get some spare cash
-August 31st: Eye checkup with Dr. Tennant.
-September 1st (if not August 31st): Invasive eye surgery
-September 2nd-6th: Recovery

At some point during this period I'll buy the second season of The OC on DVD, some new clothes, and replace the needle on my record player (or just the player itself). This will be followed by a few days spent in my bedroom curled up in the corner with the lights off and the blinds shut, listening to music.

While we're on the subject of vinyl, I really wouldn't argue with somebody buying me the new limited edition first pressing of the PAS/CAL and La Laque's split 12" EP. It's available here. Pretty please.

Monday, June 27, 2005

About damn time

Since I have been slacking for a while, here are reviews of the albums I have bought over the last few months.

Bruce Springsteen - Devils & Dust

Devils & Dust is Springsteen's first album sans-E Street Band since 1995's The Legend of Tom Joad, and much like its predecessor it's a rather lo-fi album, with Springsteen on acoustic guitar accompanied by sparse occasional instrumentation. It is also an album of character songs, and Springsteen does his best to make them as personal and crushing as possible. On this album, Springsteen's message through his characters is how hard salvation and peace are to find; a soldier in a desert war realizes God can't be behind both opposing sides and the bleak realization takes his "God filled soul" and "[fills] it with devils and dust. A man shares a meaningless night with a prostitute in Reno: "not even [his] best / not even close." Two sons lose their mother, and an aging boxer relfects on a career made virtually on murder. Ultimately, salvation for these souls lies not in religion, but in eachother and a faint thread of hope that they can't even see; only trust in. [4/5]

Death Cab for Cutie - The John Byrd EP

In honour of their longtime sound technician, Death Cab for Cutie released this live EP. It also marked the end of their career as an independent act, a final (and retroactive) release on Seattle indie label Barsuk. Originally reported to be only available from the band's label and select independent record stores, I eventually purchased it at worldwide chain HMV. The songs are well-treated and well-played, and Ben Gibbard's inter-song speeches are pleasant enough, but in the end the album serves its purpose best as an introduction to the band for an interested party, or simply to complete the collection for serious fans. [3.5/5]

Johnny Cash - My Mother's Hymn Book

The Man in Black's latest posthumous release is a collection of songs originally in the Unearthed boxed set. No highly-priced set of rarities could hold this album back, however, an album Cash called his finest. The album was of personal significance to Cash; when his mother died, he inherited her hymn book. This book contained some of the music that meant the most to Cash during his childhood and later struggles in life; songs that offered him comfort when nothing else did. On My Mother's Hymn Book, Cash plays his favourite songs solo on an acoustic guitar. The entire album is surrounded by a hushed sense of love, faith, and wonder that transfers itself to the listener. For most of my life, I've struggled to find comfort in religion; I'm not even comfortable in most churches. However, this album soothes me. Cash's earthy baritone treats these songs so lovingly, so tenderly, that they take on a beauty no choir or congregation has ever translated to me. This is something that speaks to the uneasy faith deep inside me, that calms it and helps me find things I try to find. It is separate from religion, and comes straight from a soft faith. Even when I don't agree with some of the words, I can appreciate that I'm not afraid to challenge them. Cash has taken away the intimidation from these songs, and helped me make them beautiful. That's the best review I can give. [5/5]

Coldplay - X&Y

With their third LP, Coldplay are poised again to become the biggest band in the world. Whereas 2001's A Rush of Blood to the Head moved away from the Bends-era Radiohead-inspired guitar rock ofParachutes towards more stately piano, X&Y moves even farther into woozy atmospherics. This is Coldplay making their Joshua Tree, something the band has admitted. Opener "Square One" eases in but picks up quickly, as does the next track "What If." Much of the album uses atmospheric electronic flourishes to give the tracks extra effect, but ultimately the band is still taking far few risks and writing very familiar songs, even if they are pretty. X&Y has a few standout tracks, however, namely "Fix You" and hidden track "Til Kingdom Come." "Til Kingdom Come" is a subdued track, comprised almost entirely of Chris Martin and his acoustic guitar. The hushed feeling lends the song an extra air of importance, and it's tenderness is worthy of the man it was written for, Johnny Cash. "Fix You" is the band's finest song to date. It opens with an airy organ and Martin's choirboy falsetto as he sings your heartbreaks. As the piano enters, Martin's chorus tenderly promises to "try to fix you." Layers of organ, guitar, and percussion build up to a stunning Buckland solo and brilliant four part harmony. This is Coldplay's genius at its best, the stunning anthem the album builds up to and tries to regain. [3/5]

The White Stripes - Get Behind Me Satan

Much was made about the new direction Jack White was taking the White Stripes with their latest LP. While it was recorded in similar haste to previous efforts, with songs reportedly unfinished when their recording began, White made one large change. A renowned guitarist, he reportedly ignored the instrument for most of the songs in favour of piano and marimba. Pretty huge, right?

Not quite.

The rumours were true; White did indeed focus largely on new instruments. The problem is, not only did he use a lot of piano on De Stijl, he is still writing the same songs he always has. The structures are the same, the chord progressions are similarly designed, and Meg still can't drum. Despite White's changes, this is still a very recognizable White Stripes album, like The White Stripes, De Stijl, White Blood Cells, and Elephant before it. This isn't to say the album isn't good, it's just infuriatingly familiar for listeners hoping for something truly new. At times, I had to struggle to not hear White's absent guitar, because he plays the piano so similarly. Tracks like "The Nurse," "My Doorbell" and "Forever for Her (is Over for Me)" are brilliant, but they can't save an album plagued by misleading hype and White's ego. White's tight control over production may have also been what largely contributed to the disappointment, but in the end the album is simply good, but not great. [3.5/5]

Oasis - Don't Believe the Truth

Since their 1995 North American breakthrough (What's the Story) Morning Glory? Oasis have struggled to reclaim that success. 1997's Be Here Now was enough of a disappointment to North America that their later four releases went all but unnoticed. Probably for the better, because even though Standing on the Shoulder of Giants and The Heathen Chemistry had their moments, they were generally considered to be halfhearted meandering that even Noel Gallagher was quick to dismiss. With Don't Believe the Truth, they've tried to recapture the buoyancy and excitement of their first two albums. The opener "Turn up the Sun" has the cockiness and bounce of Definitely Maybe, and many of the songs follow in its stead. Lead single "Layla" is one of their finest singles in years. Two of the finest songs though, are some of the quieter ones more reminiscent of Morning Glory. Noel's finest song on the album is "The Importance of Being Idle," a fittingly laid back and swaggering song about taking time to yourself. The real surprise, however, is Liam's finest song to date, "Guess God Thinks I'm Abel." On this one, he's even gotten Noel stumped as he declares himself to be Abel, but also tells his Cain, "You could be my lover." Noel assumes the struggle in the song is that between two brothers, but for once Liam's seeing a far bigger picture. "Guess God Thinks I'm Abel" is a tender song about betrayal and trying to reconcile before things get out of hand. After years of trying, Oasis has finally regained both the swagger and the philosophy. [4/5]

Sleater-Kinney - The Woods

The Woods is Sleater-Kinney's first album on Sub-Pop and it also marks a change in style. While the band still bares their punk edges, much of The Woods is influenced by 70s era rock and roll like Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple, which the band studied extensively (read: got stoned and listened to) in the studio while recording. What results is a punk album that's not afraid to write longer songs and indulge in finer musicianship. "Let's Call it Love" is the best example of this shift, an eleven-minute jam that isn't afraid to explore. First single "Entertain" is an energetic indictment of hipster musicians imitating the 1980s and one of the album's highlights. With The Woods Sleater-Kinney have also grown more subtlety in their lyrics; still feminist, they can also be more construed in a universal setting. All in all, this helps to give a tight, solid endeavor more chances in a wider audience without alienating many of the listeners but still getting it's point across. A fine move for a fine band. [4/5]

Nine Inch Nails - With Teeth

Over the last few months, my view of Trent Reznor has changed exponentially. When I first heard of and listened to the Nine Inch Nails, I couldn't believe it. The lyrics were so melodramatic and self-indulgent that I was never able to enjoy the rest of the music. Then I heard "Closer."


The layers, the energy, and the melody blew me away. For years I'd been drifting towards electronic music and building an appreciation of finer production, and finally I was able to look past what I still believed were often questionable lyrics and see the musical genius behind. On a friend's recommendation, I downloaded some songs designed to get me intrigued. Success. I convinced my cousin to buy The Downward Spiral so I could get a burned copy. I enjoyed it. Eventually, I was faced with a tough choice: should I buy With Teeth, Reznor's latest album in six years, or just test the water a bit more? I took the bait. Good thing.

With Teeth isn't necessarily Reznor's finest work, but it's incredibly solid. After the lukewarm reception to The Fragile, his 1999 double album, he retreated from the public eye and dealt with issues of substance abuse and depression that had been creeping up on him. When he finally started making music again, he focussed on making it sincere and true. What came out is With Teeth. It discards the Fragile-era navelgazing for a more aggressive approach in line with Pretty Hate Machine and The Downward Spiral, but don't be fooled by this description: it's not a complete retreading. It's a bit smoother than his previous works and he does incorporate certain aspects of The Fragile in it. Songs like "The Collector" and "You Know What You Are?" are very aggressive, backed by Dave Grohl's steady drumming, but "All the Love in the World," "Every Day is Exactly the Same" and "Right Where it Belongs" are softer songs with their edges. Lyrically most of the songs are similar to Reznor's older works but with them comes a more surefooted voice. He's still angry and in pain, but he's come farther with it. With Teeth is the sound of a man making sense of his life. [4/5]

Ryan Adams & The Cardinals - Cold Roses

By far this was my most anticipated album of the season. A few months ago, Ryan Adams' website featured a phone conversation between Adams and two of his label execs, in which he admitted he was planning on releasing "five or six" albums this year. With their insistence, he settled on the still-prolific three. The first of Adams' 2005 releases (Jacksonville City Nights will be released in August, and 29 follows in November) is Cold Roses, a double album. The main risk with double albums, even from a talented and prolific songwriter like Adams, is that it can seem bloated or grandiose (see the Nine Inch Nails' 1999 release The Fragile. Because of this, most artists simply whittle studio recordings to an LP and a number of b-sides. Not Adams.

Neither does he entirely disappoint. While it suffers to a degree because it's a double album, Cold Roses is Adams' most solid and cohesive album since his 2000 debut Heartbreaker;. By splitting his output for the year into the "honkytonk" Jacksonville City Nights, "story songs" of 29, and the more familiar alt-country of Cold Roses, Adams has perhaps finally allowed himself to make the cohesive three albums that Demolition should have been had it been the four albums he originally invisioned. Where he previously used punk and hard rock glimpses to break from alt-country, Cold Roses lapses more into a folksy Grateful Dead groove, with flourishes and trailing solos that give songs like "Sweet Illusions," "Beautiful Sorta," "Easy Plateau" and "Let it Ride" a new sound while remaining familiar. Adams sings in falsetto more than he has in the past, but without the strain that marred a few tracks on Rock N Roll.

Lyrically, the album is more straightforward and sparsely poetic than Adams has been in a few years. Songs like "Now That You're Gone" and "Friends," both previously available on 7" singles or bootlegs, would fit nicely on Heartbreaker or its unreleased precursor and follow-up Destoyer and The Suicide Handbook respectively. On many other tracks, Adams lapses into a rootsy brogue he's only danced briefly with before; on tracks like "Magnolia Mountain," "Meadowlake Street" and "Mockingbird" Adams uses a simpler style of speech, filled with colloquialisms and similes. It works.

However, Cold Roses is still a double disc, and while it is certainly neither bloated or conceited, it is at times somewhat meandering, especially towards the end of the second disc. Luckily, Adams finishes the album with the spectacular "Friends" and reminds listeners that this is an album filled with what he does best: simple songs and heartbreak.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Father's Day

I often have a hard time shopping for presents for members of my family. My mum's taste in jewellery and clothing is so picky that unless she picks out exactly what to get her (and even sometimes if she does) she will either return the gift or just never wear it. She'll say she loves a movie or album, but won't watch or listen to it if you get it for her. If you get her a book, she'll read it then take it to a used book store and exchange it for something else. My sister's tastes are so obsessive and rapidly changing that the only thing to get her are dvds. And I just don't know other members of my family well enough to get them gifts they'll like.

But not with my dad. My dad and I have always been close, and I've always been able to be inspired to get him gifts I know he'll enjoyl; gifts that will mean something to him. A few years ago he gave me his old favourite science fiction books, save one. This book was his favourite, and it was a loan only. It was Nine Tomorrows, a paperback collection of short stories by Isaac Aasimov that had been out of print for several decades. His favourite short story, "The Last Question," was in it, and I recommend it to all of you to read. He warned me not to lose it under any circumstances. I loved it, of course. Against his warning, I shared it with a friend, and promptly lost it. Often when we talk about "The Last Question," he'll muse about where his copy is, and every time I feel a wave of shame when I have to admit that "I think I lost it, I don't know for sure. I can't find it anyway." I always felt like I disappointed him somehow.

But this year is the year I make it up to him. I have located in California a first edition hardcover of Nine Tomorrows, in good condition, with the original dustjacket. It cost more than I usually spend on family gifts, but this is my dad. He's worth it.

My dad taught me to unwrap presents meticulously and neatly fold the wrapping paper, but I don't think he'll be able to keep from ripping it a little. I can't wait to give him a big hug and apologize for the grief I put him through, and just tell him I love him. I can't wait to see his smile. I can't wait.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Back when The Day After Tomorrow was released, I avoided it like the plague. The trailer looked overblown, the hype looked overblown, and every single review said the movie was implausible and, you guessed it, overblown. This morning when I got up for work, it was just starting to air on one of the digital movie channels, so I watched the first half hour. This evening, I watched the entire film.

I have to say, the movie was enjoyable. The starring cast played their roles solidly, if not spectacularly, especially Dennis Quaid. The romance between Sam and Laura (played by Jake Gyllenhaal and Emmy Rossum) was a little silly at times, but most of that was due to the fact that as a disaster film, simply not as much attention was paid to it as it was in say, The Good Girl, where it was sort of the point.

Missing the point is something a lot of reviewers take far too seriously. Overblown? Implausible? Mr. Travers, eyes front and centre. It's a disaster film. A disaster film based on sudden weather changes brought on by global warming. What did you expect? If we believed it, if it didn't have clichés, it wouldn't be a disaster film. It would be a drama. Learn to make a distinction, or just please resign.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Yesterday morning started off very similar to any other construction morning. I barely clawed my way out of bed, checked the weather channel for signs of rain, made a lunch, got dressed, and quickly shoved an All Bran bar that I'd never get around to eating into my backpack. That is, until I looked at the cover of the entertainment section of the newspaper and caught a glimpse of something interesting: the name Adams.

That sent my heart aflutter a little.

Hesitantly working my way over to the table, wary of scaring away any good news, I read the best news I've probably heard all year: The Edmonton FolkFest, after several years of trying, landed Ryan Adams for the mainstage on the closing night.



Don't yell.

Quit that dancing.

None of this really worked however, and I instantly found myself unable to sit still. Through the entire day of work, I couldn't think about much else. At home was an article that would tell me, if I ever got around to reading it, when I could buy tickets to my favourite musician.

Tickets went onsale today, and I made sure to get mine as soon as they went on sale. I still have no idea what if I'll even attend work that day, or if I'll stick around past the Ryan Adams & The Cardinals and Allison Krauss sets, but that's not important.

I'm going.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

For the last week I've been noticing for the first time how bad the dark circles under my eyes have gotten. It's now been over a year since they showed up for good, fuelled by long days and not much sleep. First it was construction last summer, where I stayed up late to get things done. That was 4-5 hours of sleep a night most nights. Then the schoolyear started, and since I didn't have to get up at six every morning, I didn't have to go to bed until 2, 3, or even later.

I've found myself sleeping a bit more these days, but not much. Not enough to shrink the circles, though. It just hit me that the average person I know, at school, work, or on the street, has never seen me without these dark circles; they're just part of who I am.

It scares me that I've gotten this bad, that my sleep is that unhealthy, but I know it's not going to get better any time soon unless I make it.

So goodnight.

Monday, May 02, 2005


Sunday afternoon, my dad came in and said he had something for me on the counter. What he had were a sock and a small steel mounting bracket for a shelf that were left in the back of the van on saturday. The former belongs to Rachel's father, and the latter to Rachel herself. I knew Rachel would need the bracket, and I knew I had no need for such a freakishly small sock, so I drove off tonight to return both. This is what followed:

Kate: (answering the door) Hey
Me: Hey (holding up the sock). This was left in my van on saturday
Kate: I... don't think that's ours.
Me: It is. (Now, what I have said next was, "IT SURE DOESN'T BELONG TO ME OR ANY OF MY FAMILY, OUR FEET ARE NORMAL SIZES, but since that doesn't typically go well:) It's your dad's. We used it to cover an edge.
Kate: I... don't think I want to touch that. (chuckles a little)

At this point her dad and mum comes out, and her mum also chuckles and tells me they really didn't need the sock.

Oh boy. Awkward. I don't want them to think I'm a weirdo. I am, but that doesn't mean they need to know about it. It'd come out eventually I'm sure, but it's nice to be normal for a little bit in somebody's mind. Okay. So how do I fix this?

Me: I'd just feel weird about keeping something like this... (holding out my arm as I let the sock slip out enough that it's no longer scrunched up in my hand) About... as weird as I do holding it right now.

Laughter all around. Bingo.

So now I say I'm off to the pool to meet Rachel and give her the bracket, and we say our goodbyes. Her dad asks me to wait, and like on saturday he holds out his hand as if to shake it. Again, like Saturday, there is a ten dollar bill in it. I guess he really did mean it when he said he'd have given me more. Awkward again. What can I do? Why, jump off the porch, chuckle, and politely decline while moving the other direction, of course.

I never said I was a pro.

Proving again how awesome they are, the Woynorowskis laugh and we say goodbye. The final outcome of the night is that yes, they know I'm weird. The lady at the pool did too when I dropped off the bracket for Rachel like she asked. But the Woynorowskis fine with it, which is the best I can ever hope for.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

It is just wrong

Moving is in the air. Gabby is moving back Edmonton on monday, my cousin Allene moved home today for the summer (before she moves to Ontario in the autumn), as is Donell, and Claire and The Smitten both moved recently. Most immediately, I helped Rachel move today, which is always enjoyable.

Wait. Moving - enjoyable? Yes.

First, I wasn't the one moving. I wasn't the one uprooting themself from the house they've grown up and leaving the family they've spent almost twenty years with. So of course I'm not going to fully understand the immensity of the first moment alone or trying to fall asleep. I don't know what's in Rachel's mind right now. Could be mostly excitement, could be mostly fear. I'm betting on the former, but I really don't know, and I won't until next may when I move.

One thing I know, however, is that Rachel has an amazing apartment. What it has:

-A top (seventeenth) floor location
-Hardwood floors
-A location a block away from my favourite pub, The Druid. This is the pub that used to be my grandfather's workplace at Beaver Lumber, the place with a complete hardwood interior, where I love to go in the early evening and relax with a paper and a pint in the corner that used to be my grandfather's office.
-Great Spectacular view
-That just happens to be out a full wall of windows
-Spacious living room and bedroom

It's an apartment that I was dying to have as soon as I saw it. I could spend all day sitting in front of the window cross-legged staring out. I could dance naked all I wanted. I could live there easily.

What I really understand, however, is boxes. Last autumn Edmonton was hit by torrential rain and my basement flooded with two feet of sewage. In the wake, we also used leftover insurance money to pay for long-overdue kitchen renovations. Either way, we had to box everything we could salvage, and unpack it at a later date. This meant stacks of boxes, and my favourite part: the unpacking. While almost all of that is being done by Rachel, I got a glimpse of what I'll enjoy in May 2006. To me, going through the boxes is like unpacking from a vacation; it's reaquainting yourself with yourself. I love going through boxes, and finding room for everything in drawers and on shelves, looking at everything you own. Not many people understand this love.

What even fewer people understand is how much I love the organization that comes with the unpacking. When I move, I have the image of carefully placing electronics, cds, dvds, and books in organized boxes (I can organize/alphabetize them later), but tossing most of the rest of what I own loosely into boxes. This will allow me to go through each of those boxes when I arrive, and engage in my system:

1. Loosely placing objects in groupings (including a "to-be-determined" pile for even more organizing)
2. Slowly going through those groupings and making them into subgroupings
3. Organizing these subgroupings in small, neat rows and piles
4. Slowly transferring these rows and piles to their ultimate storage areas, complete with readjusting the piles, rows, and stacks again.

Most of this system involves repeating earlier steps as much as possible. It's a disease.

And I LOVE assembling furniture. You have no idea how much I love furniture. The last time I got new furniture, I insisted on getting as much as possible at IKEA so that I could spend an entire afternoon assembling it.

Other than my secret clandestine pleasure, the move was fairly uneventful. We took everything in two trips, using the full five vehicles in the first run and only the three biggest in the second, which was completely furniture. The movers for someone who was leaving didn't come, so we couldn't use the easy way through the loading dock and someone had to hold the door open as it was too heavy for anything to hold and too low to wedge anything under. I met Rachel's family and boytoy. Duncan is great, her parents loved me and I returned the sentiment, to Rachel and Duncan's confusion. Maybe when I am not a daughter or the man who is or may one day be hypothetically boinking her, I am allowed a certain grace. I don't know, I'm just guessing. Her dad even cornered me and when I tried to refuse/back away, followed and jammed a ten dollar bill in my jacket pocket, sheepishly saying he'd give me more if he had it, but he kind of spent a lot of money on Rachel already.

Ooh la la. Saucy.

Rachel's sister was awesome, too. She loved my Auf der Maur jogger, complimented me on my pink belt, and as it turns out, is both a stimulating conversationalist and very similar to myself (though we own different Björk albums.) She has a bookshelf full of Dickens, Hemmingway, Faulker, Homer, and Dante. She was blown away by Michael Ondaatje's Running in the Family too, which nobody else I know has heard of. As she noted, it is just plain nice to run into people like that.

All in all, it was a good day. I met some new people, had some laughs (and pizza!), and was reassured that when I take that big step, it won't be overwhelmingly scary. Phew.

Monday, March 14, 2005

A rather impressive haul.

I'd like to send out a congratulations to all the winners of this year's Bloggies, especially one woman in particular: Heather B Armstrong. This year, Dooce picked up 4 awards: Best American Weblog, Best Tagline of a Weblog, Best Writing of a Weblog, and Most Humourous weblog. For those of you who pay attention to that kind of thing, that's every single one she was nominated for.

I enjoy reading her site every single day, and it's wonderful to know that other people feel the same way and that the Armstrong household will be receiving some lovely gifts soon. Who knows, maybe the prize money and gift certificates will pay for some Good Dog Carl books.

Saturday, February 05, 2005

I don't know when it was that Blogger became legitimate again. Back when I started Woozle, it seemed that nobody used it. The interface was rudimentary, the servers were down more than they were up, and it got even less respect than Livejournal. Livejournal.

You didn't think that was possible, did you?

Eventually, I was lured away from Blogger by the more stable servers of Livejournal, a shinier interface, and the fact that I actually knew people who used it. And like every other person, I fell into the trap of 5 word entries and the same quizzes and memes that every Livejournal user does. These posts started to become more and more prevalent on my journal, until eventually I stopped having real posts altogether.

And overnight, Blogger became something real. The servers stabilized, the interface was polished and given more features, and it seemed that a mass exodus from clients like Xanga, Diaryland, and Livejournal started to occur. But I didn't switch then, not yet. I knew how absurd Livejournals were, but I still couldn't bring myself to trust Blogger again after months of troubles and lost posts. Then Tony wrote a really fucking funny guide to blogging, and wham.



Here I am. Again. Maybe for real.