Monday, December 25, 2006

God bless

Last night at 11:45pm MST James Brown passed away.

He will be missed.

Rest in peace.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

first single: the dark king (mister snuffles)

eli stern: and some day i will start my tongue-in-cheek death metal band, Apocalypse Fetus

*Allene*: 0_o eek

eli stern: the fun part is that we will actually be singin' about real positive stuff, rainbows and kittens and the like. but nobody will be able to tell, cos we'll be screamin'

*Allene*: just don't include lyrics in the liner notes

eli stern: indeed. or if we do, make the liner notes all 60s psychadelic with flowers and rainbows

*Allene*: people will feel like suckers cause they'll be all hardcore, with albums covered in flowers and smiley faces

eli stern: maybe we'll just make those things in again. or totally hardcore. i mean, fuck yeah!

*Allene*: dang. it's a foolproof plan

eli stern: all of a sudden the metalheads of the world are a lot less scary and a lot nicer smelling

*Allene*: and have a new appreciation for kittens

Saturday, November 25, 2006

I fell in love with a girl at the rock show

Last night I had the distinct pleasure of hanging out with my friends The Red Hot Daggers. The occasion? Their headlining gig of Edmonton Indie Unscene featuring Circle/Square, Atrophy Manuscript, Snic and a band on the label the Daggers run, Champion City Records, Desiderata. While I was originally planning to just go for the Daggers' set at the end of the night, Eric asked me to show up early to see Desiderata.

I'm glad I did. The band definitely has a definite (post?) hardcore feel and a lot of the screaming I'm usually not a fan of, the band plays their instruments well and singer Blair Drover has a stage presence that can only be described as powerful. And they had their brand new album for sale. So I bought it; what else could I do? The verdict: fantastic.

The rest of the evening was pretty great, too. The next three bands didn't top Desiderata, though Atrophy Manuscript definately came close. They lost points for complaining more than once about how they needed the polarity on the lead singer's mic switched because it was shocking him. Eventually he just draped his hoodie over it (+10 for ingenuity!) and finished the set.

But Friday belonged to the Red Hot Daggers. I've been to all but one or two of their shows and this was probably the best yet. Energetic, passionate and a little scary to be honest. My favourite song was almost shortened but at the last minute they decided to do the full buildup. Made my night. Most of all, they seemed to be really having fun whereas previously things have gone wrong technically for them and it's ruined their whole vibe. Everything was perfect last night, they were all working really well together despite being so tired and having to be up so early today for a video shoot. What I love about these shows is the sense of camaraderie everybody has; the bands all know eachother and most of the fans are friends and their friends, so everybody has a really good time.

I don't know what to say about the Red Hot Daggers to really sell them. They're a fantastic band. They'll blow you away. Give them a shot and check out the new demo on their website. [Edit: Actually, I do have something to say; the whole night was so good, so loud that my hearing only got back to normal about half an hour before I got to my staff Christmas Party at 7:30.]

But before I go, the setlist:
-6 (new song)

Yeah, that's right.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Seriously this is not unexpected

Noted alcoholic Albertan premier Ralph Klein holds his farewell party in a bar. But to be fair, it has nostalgic value; it's the bar where he decided to go into politics.

Just about the worst hangover Alberta could have had.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

I'm sick. After weeks of the rest of my family, friends and coworkers all coming down with something, it's finally caught up to me. And this upcoming week is one where I can't afford to really have any downtime; I've got a Red Hot Daggers concert tomorrow night I promised Eric I'd go to, Dr. Studer's Christmas party on Saturday that I promised Melissa I'd meet her at and oh yeah... my second term internship assignment.

Kill me.

Like bacon

After three weeks in transit, my 2-disc deluxe reissue of Pavement's Wowee Zowee finally came yesterday. It shipped via air from New York and cleared customs on the 6th, 1 week after it shipped. Let's work that out:

a)1 week to make a 2 hour drive.
b)2 weeks to make a delivery that usually takes 2-3 business days

Something seems off about that. I'm not sure what, maybe you can help. It is the week? The two? The in explicably long air transit? The fact that this poor a level of service implies not just ineptitude but genuine mental retardation? There's just too much to pick from. Comment or send an email. Write-in candidates welcome.

Oh yeah, and the album is amazing. I look over at the bonus 7" it came with and just smile. But that's not the point, is it? Is it? Spite is, and you can never have too much of that.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

With the light out it's less dangerous

This is just about the best thing I've seen in a long time. It's not often you find a cover that divergent from the original. Or that good, period. Look at the dude on the far left; that's intense.

The hypothetical third person

Wow. One minute a dude is playing Children of Mana and it's 11pm, the next it's 1am and he's got a list of things to do. But now he's catching up on his schoolwork, the garbage and recycling are behind the house, he's tidied up the upstairs and shredded his old documents. Old pop cans are emptied and collected. The doors are locked. He's ready for bed.

Hm. What's left? He's missing something.

Oh yeah. Children of Mana.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Casino Royale

Every few years, a new Bond film comes out and at some point or another, my Dad and I watch it together. This goes back to when I was a kid and TBS ran its month of Bond movies and we'd watch them together, night after night, him telling me all these stories about the actors. It became something we looked forward to, a way for us to spend some time together and grow even closer, much to my Mum's chagrin by the time the month was halfway through and I was asking her if she expected me to die. When Goldeneye came out in 1995, it was one that my dad and I enjoyed together. Over the next three, our interests waned a bit and by Die Another Day we both saw it but not together. When a new one was announced, neither of us took much notice.

But on Thursday night, Dad came upstairs and asked me if I wanted to see Casino Royale on Saturday. Just starting to nod off, I said yes and we agreed to talk about it on Friday. At some point after dinner, he told me the story behind wanting to see it: when he was around my age, he read the book and enjoyed it so much, he even went to Monaco to go to the real Casino Royale. This shaped a good part of his wandering time in Europe and the rest of his life. Suddenly, another part of the mystery of my father's young life came into better focus. And I wanted to see the movie even more.

After over half an hour of driving through the parking lot and waiting in lines, we sat down with our popcorn and talked a bit, the idle chit-chat of something very familiar. When the lights dimmed, we were somewhere else. I was a kid again and I was going to hear some stories. Of course, that's never the way it actually works when you're in your twenties, not quite. I'm not twelve, that can't be helped. But we whispered jokes to eachother and snuck eachother grins. Dad pointed out the original Aston Martin from Goldfinger and we grimaced when the new one was destroyed. He teased me after the climax, reminding me that he know how it ended. Eventually, we stood up and left with everybody else.

The movie was good. For all the world's worries, Daniel Craig plays a very good Bond, very much like Connery in the first films I saw as a boy. He's a very serious Bond, just learning some of his later flair. And he's not very likeable, but very few murderers are. I'd recommend it wholeheartedly and see it again. The plot is smooth and well thought out with enough twists to keep it interesting. The characters are vivid and M is at her most sympathetic yet. Casino Royale is Bond stripped down to the bare essentials, and I'm very much looking forward to the next one. At the very least, I'll get to hear a few more stories.

Saturday, November 18, 2006


Swimming in a suit of feathers
They tarred on last night
The whisper on the strip
Say that he's not long


Another quicksilver winter
Jack be nimble, flash
It's the god-honest truth


Everybody's wearing white sheets
I'm looking for feet
But it's all the same these days
They're everywhere

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Purchased at The Gap

-Sandblasted vintage jeans, loose straight leg
-rugby striped scarf, blue/navy
-hoodie with reverse seams, beige

And yet I actually went in for a pair of cords for work, which I didn't actually buy. Oh well.


I got to the WEM Police Station last night and walked in. The constable, sitting at a table at the back, looked up as I walked up to the counter. After a few seconds, he mumbled a greetings and asked me to wait. So I waited.

And waited.

Five or so minutes later (forgive the approximation, it's hard to tell for sure when you're in a place where it seems like time stands still), he sauntered up to the front. "What do you need?"

"I was told to come drop off an accident report for Constable Klenke."

"Accident report?" You'll have to imagine a sneer here, it was pretty spectacular.

"Um... yeah. I witnessed an accident on Saturday."

"I'll get you the sheet," he grumbled and returned shortly with it. Now, I understand that they probably DO need the triplicate carbon paper copy of the summary, but they specifically asked me to write it up at home and bring it in. Whatever, I guess. No real harm there. So I sit down and get to work transcribing a report that I can only describe as painstakingly crafted. While doing so, I overheard him be just as rude, lazy and unhelpful to two more people, one of whom was looking for a missing child. That's serious stuff, people! The police should be here to help, no?

Anyway, back to business.

I finished and headed back to the desk, where he proceeded to make me wait again. Eventually, he grumbled something I can only presume was a goodbye, though it easily could have been "Go loiter somewhere else, punk," "I've got important things to do" or "Get cancer."

I've never been treated so rudely by an EPS officer before. Obviously this man is an exception because I've never found another officer in the city, EPS or RCMP, to be anything short of polite, friendly and professional. The moral? Don't even bother with the West Edmonton Mall Police Station if possible, just drive the five or ten minutes to West Division and guarantee that you'll be treated like the law abiding citizen that you are.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

And after all that...

the Police station was closed at 5pm, which they failed to tell me when they asked me to drop off my accident summary. I guess the law took an evening off. That explains all the hubcaps in my trunk.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Givin' me the wiggins

In August, Michael and I were at West Edmonton Mall looking for a backpack that would fit his 17" Macbook Pro (jealous? I was; then I got my own 13" Macbook.) As we were pulling out of the exit near HMV - yes, it doesn't matter if my friends are there, I just drag them along - when the light changed, I had to immediately jam my foot on the brakes because some dude was speeding through a red light. Scary, yes, but we survived with nary a urine stain. And until recently, it was just something near the back of my head telling me to be extra careful when I left the mall.

That is, until Saturday.

When I was leaving HMV (again!), a car at the front of the line pulled out only to be hit by a truck going through the red light. The 16 year-old kid managed to slow down enough that he didn't seriously injure anybody in the vehicle he hit. Everybody was a little spooked, but they all limped off to the mall Police station to file a report, something I still have to do tomorrow night. The creepy part, however, is the situation of the accident: same intersection, same day of the week, same time of day. A little creepy. I guess I'm gonna have to be even more careful from now on. Actually, this sounded a whle lot creepier before I typed it all out. Ah well.

(And yes, that's a Buffy reference in the title. You'll have to bear with me for a while with this.)

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Conversations with dead people

Today I bought the Buffy the Vampire Slayer Chosen Collection of all seven seasons on DVD and I'm very excited about it. Buffy was one of the first live action shows besides M*A*S*H I can remember watching, a show that dealt with the idea of growing up as I was doing it myself. Cheesey? Hell yeah, but it's true. The show had a remarkably potent effect on me during my formative years; it's become the gold standard for what kind of writing and dialogue I crave.

The plan is to watch the entire series from first episode to last (except for the first two episodes, which I watched with Michael and Shani fairly recently) and basically relive one of the more awesome parts of my childhood. And by that I of course mean Alyson Hannigan.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Itsa me

Last weekend I went out to see Borat with some friends but due to theatre hoppers we ended up getting ticket refunds and free passes to The Departed, which was TOTALLY RAD. At that point I was still pretty enamoured with all the positive press Borat had been garnering, all the "comedy of the year exclamation point exclamation point" blurbs really did sound tempting. But over the course of the week, I started to get bored with the shtick as I saw more and more television appearances. And let's face it, it really is just a shtick. And if you like that shtick then 90 minutes of it is going to be pretty awesome. If you don't, then hopefully you've got a big enough popcorn bag to fit your head into.

The movie, as I saw it, comes down to a few recurring gags:
-bad grammar
-poop jokes
-Americans being asses
-rape jokes
-Jew jokes
-male nudity

And yeah, the nude manfight is as awesome as it sounds, but that's not enough to save the movie. They didn't even show anything good.

Maybe it's my job that ruins the rape jokes for me, but I just couldn't get into the "Oh Borat" mindset that the movie requires; the fact that these got laughs but the crack about the Jews being responsible for 9/11 was too far is just depressing. I mean one is knee slapping fun but the other gets gasps? I just don't know anymore. That shit's just depressing. All in all, the movie was just too long. If I hadn't seen so many commercials, reviews, blog posts and TV appearances then I might have made it through at least the first hour. After that I probably would have reacted the same way and that's okay. I am very clearly the minority here, judging from the nearly sold out theatre and raucous laughter, so I'm not going to hold any sour grapes. It has its audience and it will make a lot of year end lists. I don't need every movie to cater to me, I just wish that I'd spent $10.95 on Stranger Than Fiction instead.

Friday, November 10, 2006

I love my sister, oh Lord I do, but whenever she comes up for a weekend I am "encouraged" to keep my schedule clear so that we can spend time together, which is not only disruptive but also misleading. As an adult without a learner's permit, she inevitably asks me to merely drive her and her friends somewhere. So naught but moments after I give cautious maybe-laters to a few friends' offers for excitement tonight, this request is the third sentence out of her mouth after she comes in the door.

So I said no. And now I feel like shit.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

I mean really the choice is simple

It is no secret that Michael and I have differing opinions about music, Radiohead and Beck aside. For example, he hates Oasis, whose album (What's the Story) Morning Glory? was the first I ever bought, igniting a lifelong love of the band. After a recent discussion started, things quickly took a turn for the worse and it wasn't really his fault. But to be fair, he came close to invoking Godwin's Law while I invoked the generally more well-liked John Lennon.

eli stern: All we are saying is give peace a chance.

Mïchælberg: That should not be used to defend oasis.

eli stern: But noel and liam are huge john lennon fans! He is like the one person they won't badmouth! Liam even named his child after him!

Mïchælberg: Bad people can like good people. Mark david chapman liked Lennon too.

eli stern: No they can't, it's a scientific impossibility. He is misunderstood! Also, crazy! Surely you can't badmouth a dude who's mentally ill that much!

Mïchælberg: I am sorry you can't use science here either, since you have clearly demonstrated you lack of reason and logic in liking oasis.

eli stern: Science is for everybody, not just you boy-hungry awesome-o-phobes!

Mïchælberg: Science damn you!

eli stern: So put down the NAMBLA newsletter and start feeling the legal kind of love!

Mïchælberg: See... irrational.

eli stern: I already established in the previous statement that you're a gay pedophile. Or at least that is my hypothesis. Only science can say for sure!

Mïchælberg: Ramblings.

When I offered to get him into a study at my work where a psychiatrist is measuring mental arousal using EEG when subjects look at pictures of children, teens and adults, he backed out, citing a lack of time! Like grad students actually do anything! Valid reason, or panicked attempt at self preservation? ONLY YOU CAN DECIDE.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

On a season-long plot arc about serial rape on Veronica Mars

Now harder to take my mind off work when I get home on Tuesdays. I mean come on, leave that to CSI: Miami.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

...of fun!

My job has its ups and downs, its highs and lows, its moments... Actually, I could keep going on that for a while, so let's just cap that with the vernacular, if I may. It's a rollercoaster. I've said before that it's challenging, but really, what else would be expected on a unit for the treatment of convicted sex offenders? Sometimes, a patient will surprise us and make us reevaluate where we think they are in treatment, other times they... well, not so much. On a lot of days, we see both those things. As I'm sure that you have surmised, dear reader, today was one of those days, making everything up to a now an elaborate way to state the obvious.

A lot of this is actually pretty standard. Some patients are on positive bends right now, others: not so much. High Risk group was especially difficult, but it often is. The more cognitive groups can be more difficult, especially after an emotional day of psychotherapy. As things often do in life, confusion gives way to embarassment and very often a healthy dollop of anger, which means that an equal amount of effort is often needed to work through this. At its best, the group takes care of this as peers help those having difficulty work through it. Almost as often, though, there are some who end up making it worse. Today was, let me hear it: BOTH! It's a lot of effort, but yeah, it's satisfying. I was able to talk to the unit psychiatrist (no, not about that, Hana!) to summarize one of the more stressful groups and got a lot of positive feedback for what I said in it. After some months on the job, I'm getting pretty good at calming down agitated patients. This ended the workday, which was good.

Apolgies for vagueness, but it's required. Working in a healthcare facility is one part of it, but I'm also working in one of the most secretive aspects of it, given the sensitive nature of the clientelle. Yes, I do realize that's pretty anticlimactic after the epic introduction. For that, I beg your forgiveness. Formalities aside, the hourlong drive home and trip to the grocery store is always a way to let the stress evaporate. And that's including bad road conditions and other drivers! Fuck yeah!

Epilogue: As some of you know, I've been theoretically participating in NaBloPoMo, but have missed a few posts already. I've been battling the beginnings of a cold and have been falling asleep before my routine posting time as a result, making the last post somewhat of a painful stopgap. The weekend summarizing post is often that, I've found. The point is, I'll make up for those posts.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

And for my next trick

I just had a nice lazy weekend. After some Friday excitement where Michael, Shani, Theo, Jesse and I went to see Borat but ended up seeing The Departed (there weren't any seats left though we had bought tickets, so the theatre refunded us and let us all see another movie for free), I settled into a nice relaxing next 48 hours of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the November issue of Vogue, Jeff Tweedy live tracks and about 7 hours of Children of Mana.

Wow. Did you hear that? That was the sound of your envy. Or my virginity. These days, I'm not sure I know anymore. Regardless, I still had a fairly fulfilling weekend. I mean yeah, to some the only discernible sound might be that of haunting loneliness, but sometimes that just sounds like Bauhaus turned up or early Ryan Adams sung in the shower. Not exactly jetsetting, but hey, I reap what I sow. The only thing that could have gone better would be early afternoon bento with Shelly, but she and her husband were out in Sherwood Park making roasted pepper somethingorother.

I am way too old to be 21.

Friday, November 03, 2006

It's a good life if you don't weaken

I have the worst luck with ordering things and using the postal service. When I was six, my Nintendo Entertainment System came with a free subscription to Nintendo Power magazine. So I dutifully filled out the card and sat quietly as my mum drove me to the mailbox and I tipped it in. Almost sixteen years later, it still hasn't arrived. Should I send a letter?

In mid August, I ordered my Macbook and was given an estimated delivery date of the next week. The day after that rolled around, I got an email saying it been delayed another week. A week after that, I got a similar email. After a series of phonecalls with Apple, I got the computer discounted and the shipping upgraded to expedited for free, but nobody told Fedex. It shipped standard. Eventually, on September 6th, a full three weeks after it was supposed to be delivered, I finally got it. But they didn't deliver it - no, that would have been too simple, too easy; THEIR JOB,. I had to drive to the other side of the city with directions to the warehouse that included intersections that didn't exist. Think of something that could have gone wrong; it did.

On September 17th, I ordered two Sigur Ros singles off Amazon. The latter, Hoppipolla, had an estimated ship date of 1-2 weeks. On October 4th, an email said it was delayed 4-6 weeks. On Wednesday, another email amended that to another 4-6 weeks from now. The delivery date is now anywhere from December 4th to the 20th. That's three months after I ordered it. I've got no idea what to do; if I cancel it and order it in-store, it'll ship from the same place and likely take just as long. I've got this sinking feeling that next July as I step off the plane in Reykjavik, my first stop will be to a record store, who will probably just make me order it anyway.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

one two one two one two

It's no secret that I've got some odd tendencies. For years, it was just tidying tables and counters to have everything neatly organized in rows. A year or two ago, I started habitually making sure the doors were locked before I could get to sleep. If I didn't and thought about it, it'd bother me enough that I'd have to get out of bed, or it'd start eating away at me and I wouldn't sleep. The same thing for lyric ideas. I jokingly dismissed this as my "OCD tendency" to one of the forensic therapists at work, and after a few questions he got a distressed look on his face. "Yeah, that... could be worrying," he told me. But come on, making sure things get done? That's useful! That makes sure that my nightly routine gets done! So for a few months, I forgot about it. It wasn't really there, it wasn't even a shadow.

Now it's starting to bother me a bit more. A lot. It's getting to the point where an increasing amount of my thoughts every night are devoted to this routine. To making sure the pillows and duvet are in a certain position, that my pajama bottoms and shirt are in a certain position, that the mattress is okay. Earlier in the week, I spent two hours each night constantly rearranging these and getting out of bed to check the doors, touching the locks and pulling to make sure everything is just right. It's not uncommon these days for me to walk back and forth between the doors, checking and checking again. By 2:30 or 3 I get my mind off it long enough to fall asleep, or maybe it's just worn me out so much I can't help it.

This isn't normal and it's probably not healthy. I'm scared that it's actual obsessive compulsive disorder but I'm even more scared of actually talking to people about it. And it's not like I don't have good supports, I work on a unit with a psychiatrist, three forensic therapists, a social worker with a psychology degree and a psychologist as my supervisor. At a mental hospital, with countless professionals. I talk with the staff about everything else, but for some reason I can't seem to do it now. I'm starting to become afraid to go to bed, I'm not sure whether I'll be able to fall asleep or not. I don't think I can control it anymore, I definitely can't joke.

A mystery wrapped in an enigma wrapped in bacon

Since I'm so much younger than almost the entire staff at work, it seems to be a common interest on the unit as to my love life. Generally speaking, it's just Shelly talking about me loving her, but occasionally I make a mistake. Like baking and bringing it to the unit. Now, everybody is just plain confused as to my being single. I'm getting all these comments about how "it will happen soon" and I'm "going to get snatched up" but all I can think of is not blushing.

[EDIT: This was NaBloPoMo post #1, so just pretend I got it in four minutes earlier.]

Saturday, October 21, 2006

A perpetual contest to see can get to Hell the fastest

Me: So, Stephen Hawking is getting a divorce.
Dad: What, is he not very good in bed?
Me: Yeah, I guess he just lays there.
Dad: It's a miracle he's still alive. But I don't think he's as smart as everyone says he is. He can't even talk without that machine.
Me: That's classy, Dad. Seriously, a new height for you.
Dad: I'm just saying, he uses a straw to type onto a keyboard and brilliant things come out. I think he's just a puppet.

Sunday, September 10, 2006


Last night while taking a brief break from watching Battlestar Galactica, I suddenly just started humming a tune. Before long, I was singing.

Sugar hearts are impossibly sweet
They'll rot your teeth
Unless you flush them out
White houses all in a row
They're burning down
And you're kissing her

Don't you know?
My mummy warned me about girls like her
We're dying
My mummy warned me about days like this

Empty rooms and open doors
Too hot to breathe
The summer's over
You're supposed to be left wing
But you're jumping
And it's breaking

Don't you know?
My mummy warned me about girls like her
We're killing
My mummy warned me about days like this

Summer hearts in the pale air
They're serving killer punch next door

My mummy warned me about friends like this

My mummy warned me about days like this

Thursday, September 07, 2006

New music

Theo sent me a link to a new Joanna Newsom track tonight, and so far I'm really digging it. I'm told it's a lot spacier than her other stuff, but this is the first song of hers I've heard, so I'm not a very good judge. I do like it, though. This is probably another album going on the list of purchases to make.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Three's company too

A long weekend is usually a time to relax and enjoy oneself, but I was actually pretty glad to get back to work today. While my naturally sedentary tendencies generally clamour, which is to say mildly express desire for something like this, something just seemed off this weekend. Maybe it's the fact that for the first time in my life I truly love my job. Maybe it was the uncomfortably warm weather on Monday or the fact that after Saturday my aunt and cousin weren't in town anymore. But it was probably the part where I had to help my grandparents move.

After my grandma's accident in the spring, her reduced mobility and both grandparents' imminent need for additional care meant their seniors-only independent living apartment building wasn't really appropriate anymore. This meant a move to a semi-independent living building, and just our luck there was one in a new development in our end of town. Unfortunately, a series of absurd regulations (who gives adult tenants a mandatory dress code?) meant that they had to settle for a smaller apartment in a building closer to their previous location. That's good, right? It's less distance to move everything and besides, do they really need all that extra space? They're provided with all their meals if they want, so they don't need a kitchen and as long as there are channels for my grandmother's walker to move through it's all good, right?

Not a chance in Hell, apparently.

It turns out that my grandma has spent the bulk of her adult life amassing posessions she no longer uses but can't bear to part with. She's also trying to maintain control in the only way she can, by making demands about furniture placement that can't actually be met. This was bad enough on the weekend; my dad is absolutely burnt out from three days of yelling and tension. I made it out relatively unscathed, with a few evenings put in, but my family's still dealing with the aftermath, which meant that even the last two days of the long weekend were spent simply recouperating. Do you know how many times a stressed out 89 year-old man can accidentally pull out the phone, cable and internet cables over the course of two days? Despite them being taped together and to the wall to make sure it doesn't happen again? Despite constant requests to leave it alone?

You'd be surprised.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

I shot my baby

I've been getting flashes of lyrics again after mostly finishing preliminary work on one called "All to Sea" back at the beginning of May. The stuff that's coming up as of late is a lot different than other songs I've written or ideas I've gotten, and it's even snuck into "All to Sea" as well; a song that started out as a restless plea for a change of pace has become something far more sinister and fractured. Suddenly, Brian Wilson's sun-dappled beaches are becoming Neil Young's "Down By the River," a song about hope and frustration that he wrote in the grips of a 105-degree fever and still carries that sense of immediacy and desperation. Sooner or later I'm bound to even out a little and write a few more Macca pop songs, but in the meantime:

All to Sea

So you flew in by Miami BOAC
I didn't get to sleep last night
I kept dreaming of the coast
And that treble in the sand

The black floor frightens
Seas of legs to the clouds
I've got a salt heart
It just sits on the road

Roadsigns on (to California)
No more pictures (of California)

I need something to look at, waves to drown
I didn't get to sleep last night
Drove into the river
Shot my tires, floated up

Onwards to Mecca
Eyes up, hands out

Down to the river
All to sea

Searchlights out (on the water)
Towers of fire (on the water)

Up to the first chorus is what I wrote in Psychology 323, and that's more or less the first mindset. After that, minus the last chorus, is what I wrote on a sunny afternoon in a café downtown by the courthouse, feeling kind of out of sorts. It's been smoothed out a little since.

Friday, June 02, 2006


It's been four weeks on the new job, so I feel pretty safe in saying that it's the best one I've ever had. Admittedly, I've only had three others, and two of them were concurrent, so perhaps I'm not quite sure what a good job is. Maybe the paid stat holidays off are just going to my head. I mean seriously, I get paid to not come to work? It could be the cute evening nurse that I enjoy talking to or the free gym/yoga access. Hell, it might even be the newfound, corrupting power over others that I can only assume is eating away at my soul as I slowly fester into a deplorable husk of the man I once was. Whatever it is, I actually look forward to the 45 minute drive to work every morning, to working with convicted sex offenders for eight hours per day and to the hour-long drive home. It's challenging, interesting and I'm constantly learning; it's a multidisciplinary team so there's always something new. For the first time in a long time, I'm taking something from a job besides a paycheque.

Other things are going as well as can be expected. There's money for a few nice things and time for leisure. A few shoes, some albums, a little bit of yardwork. There have been movies and a few other good times. Tuesday night, Ashley and I hung out with the guys out at Hipster Twister for a little while before I got home in time to get a decent night's sleep before my eye surgery. This was to place a plastic valve in my eye to permanently drain fluid and keep the pressure down. Judging from my one day checkup, things are looking up, and a future without five different medications per day might one day be mine.

Maple Sugar is still going, though I missed last Saturday's deadline by a day and Phil's decided to just run the reviews next week. I'll get two more to him by deadline on Saturday night and see if he'll run a double update just to help me catch up with new releases. I've got ways. There's talk of me being involved with the label that The Red Hot Daggers - my friends Eric, Taylor and Eric - might start, which would be pretty fun. I'm not counting on anything just yet, but if it happens, it'd be a blast with those guys; the only problem would be getting any actual work done instead of just messing around all the time.

All in all, life is actually going pretty well for me at the moment; it feels so blatantly and annoyingly self-congratulatory to say it, but what else is there? Good job, my own car, good health, good friends, good times. Whoa, fuck. When did things get so good, and when did I become such a dick about it?

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

It is a serious affliction

The first two installments of Maple Sugar are up over at Club Mac. I opened it up with reviews of Mogwai and Two Gallants' latest albums, and I'm generally fairly pleased with the results. One can only hope it will leave the Australian coeds in the throes of what I can only attempt to call Maple Fever.

Sunday, April 23, 2006


The logo:

The update: At least one review will be up on the 31st.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Burning up his fuse out here alone

We all know that pop culture is cool culture. No surprise there. Because of this, combined with the increasingly short span of the average star's career, a good amount of their effort can go to remaining relevant. But at some point, it becomes a little excessive. I mean, this isn't "Rapper's Delight," it's not all F-L-Y. Eventually, it wears a little thin.

Case 1: Lloyd Banks, "I'm So Fly"

Really. The title should be enough. At this point, we know what the song's about, but maybe a closer look will surprise us.

I'm so fly, I got money
So that's good enough reason to buy the things I buy
I'm so high, I'm on point
And I could tell that your jealous just by the look in your eye
And when I ride by
I don't care, G-Unit's going straight to the top this year
Nigga I'm so fly, I got money
So that's good enough reason to buy the things I buy

I guess not. He's rich and has lots of things, we're jealous, he doesn't care. If that weren't enough, have you seen the video? He's rich and has a lot of things (a futuristic house!), and I guess we're jealous. Or he thinks we are. I don't know anymore. The bulk of the video, in between cutaway shots of his house, is Banks in front of his house just rapping, throwing money around. Just throwing it away, all over the street. And with all this, he doesn't even blink. Maybe they're all ones, I'm not sure. But the sheer nonchalance of it, the way he's practically just saying, "I'm not even going to pick these up. I pay my taxes, the city will come sweep them. Or maybe they'll run down the drain, it looks like rain," it's just too much. Nobody needs to try that hard.

Case 2: Destiny's Child - "Soldier"

No, it's not about the war, Green Day did that one. This is a song for all us hopefuls, the dudes who really, really need some of that ice cream. Double chocolate? Swirl? We don't mind. Unfortunately, most of us won't make the cut. Check the chorus:

If his status ain't hood
I ain't checkin' for him
Betta be street if he lookin' at me
I need a soldier
That ain't scared to stand up for me
Known to carry big things
If you know what I mean
If his status ain't hood
I ain't checkin' for him
Betta be street if he looking at me
I need a soldier
That ain't scared to stand up for me
Gotta know to get dough
And he betta be street

Street? Really? Beyoncé, your dad had a six figure salary before he managed your career. Kelly? You lived with them. You've been hanging out with Jigga too long if this is what's rubbing off on you. You're popular, beautiful, and the music's already made you wealthy; you don't need to pretend to be anything to sell records. Maybe it's not like that, though. I can almost hear the resignment in Beyoncé's voice. "Street?" she says to the producer. "Really? Fine, I'll do it. But not that part." She even throws Michelle a bone with a verse of her own. "Here, honey. You need this more than I do." I guess some people need to pretend now and again, even if it's just that people care about them.

Cool should be casual, almost effortless. You don't need the attention or the gift bags, but fuck yeah, you'll take them. It would be rude not to. Maybe you'll just toss it in the corner, or something. I don't know, and that's what makes it cool: the mystery, the sense that it doesn't make a difference what I think. Think James Dean or Prince, guys that just ooze whatever it is. You just know that when Prince goes home at night to his purple house (have you seen the pictures? It rocks!), he's still Prince, and that's the difference.

Friday, April 07, 2006

A faint tingling

Back in January I, in a rare time of care for my future, applied for the university's Psychology Internship program, wherein I would work for 12-16 months in the field, gaining what I can only imagine is valuable experience and a juicy centre to call my very own. I got conditionally accepted, which basically meant that I was in the program, assuming I was actually employable. And after a couple good interviews yielded poor results, that was starting to look less and less likely, and as I am wont to do, I started getting anxious and nervous. After all, if I can't even be a probation officer, how can I do something more clinical? Should I just give up right now and get a BEd? I don't even own a rumpled sportscoat.

Thank God that's not going to happen for another year at least. Today I got a call from Kimberly in Alberta Hospital's human resources department saying what basically amounts to a successful conning of three distinguished professionals into thinking I'm actually the best person for this job. That in itself is impressive. I mean, I work at a grocery store, and I somehow translated that into valuable skills. With psychology. With sex offenders. Wow. Moreover, maybe I'll no longer feel out of place with some of my friends; the one in grad school with grants, the one finishing up nursing programs, the one who's the campus Chief Returning Officer or even just the ones living on their own. It actually feels like I'm doing something, that I'm stepping forward.

And you know, that feels pretty good.

Monday, March 13, 2006

How come you taste so good?

One of my Australian friends, likely after getting sick of all my music recommendations, decided to shut me up by offering me a column on the website of the student group he's part of, Club Mac. Understandably, my first concern was the column name:

James: Also, I need a snappy name for this column. Something distinctly canadian, yet oddly sexual
Phanatic: Gnomey's Gmusic :D
James: I know! MAPLE SUGAR
Phanatic: Hahahahaha! :D That's gold

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

I am talking Papal levels

As you all know, I love music. It probably does not surprise you then that one of my favourite times of the year is around the new year. At this time all the year-end music lists come out, from Pitchfork's to John Allison's. And every year a month or two later, I make mine. It's not that I don't love the music or want to introduce people to something new, it's simply due to disdain. And not for you, dear reader; for topicality. Late December positively reeks of it, as does most of January. In order for a review to be truly timeless, it has to be separated from timeliness. That is why, two months to the day past punctuality, I present to you my top 20 albums of last year.

20. Buck 65 - Secret House Against the World: After 2003's Juno-winning breakout album Talkin' Honky Blues, Buck returned this last year with a new direction altogether. With Secret House, he moves away from the folky hip-hop into a more freewheeling, jazz-based territory. The result is one of his most challenging but rewarding albums to date. Key track: Devil's Eyes
19. Deerhoof - The Runners Four: San Fransisco's Deerhoof are exuberant, challenging and tremendously weird. Even this, their most straight-forward guitar rock album to date, is still at times a difficult listen. Given some time, however, the quirks and deconstruction really start to work for the band and the listener. Key track: Siriustar
18. Bruce Springsteen - Devils & Dust: This is Springsteen's first album sans-E-Street Band since 1995, and he takes it in very much the same character-based direction as his other solo albums. But whereas The Ghost of Tom Joad was alternately bitter and compassionate, Devils & Dust follows in Nebraska's footsteps more: weary, broken and hoping for just a little bit of grace. One of his best. Key track: Devils + Dust
17. Okkervil River - Black Sheep Boy - Will Sheff's country-tinged indie rock is brooding, literate and occasonally full of explosive energy. Emotional and superb. Key track: Black
16. Explosions in the Sky - The Rescue (Travel in Constants Vol. 21): Sweeping, grand, intricate. Texas' Explosions in the Sky make instrumental rock in the way of bands like Mogwai, but with a softer and more sprawling sound compared to Mogwai's harder edge. The Rescue is out of print, but more than worth the effort it will take to find a copy of it online. This is the soundtrack to life-altering events. Key track: Day 4
15. Beck - Guero: Beck has always hopped between genres, from the spazzed-out fusion of Mellow Gold and Odelay to the lo-fi folk and country of Outations and Sea Change to the late night funk of Midnite Vultures. If Guero is Beck's least surprising album, it's because it's his most expansive. Whereas he has previously fused genres on his album, here he fuses those albums together. "Black Tambourine" blares fuzzy energy, while "Qué Onda Guero" is a throwback to his childhood and its Latin music influences and "Missing" is a tropicalia-influenced track that would be comfortable on Midnite Vultures or Mutations. Expansive and intriguing. Key track: Girl
14. Paul McCartney - Chaos and Creation in the Backyard: On his latest album, Paul McCartney plays it like it's 1970; much like that year's eponymous album, he plays virtually all the instruments on it, and it is perhaps his best album since. Producer Nigel Godrich pushes McCartney to try new things and the resulting album shines with it. Key track: the brooding Riding to Vanity Fair, one of his darkest songs to date.
13. Ryan Adams & The Cardinals - Jacksonville City Nights: Adams' second release of the year with new band The Cardinals exchanges the jammy folk rock of Cold Roses for more traditional country. He channels the music of his youth in North Carolina, and he comes off more comfortable and at home than he's been in years. Key track: The End
12. Sarah Harmer - I'm A Mountain: After an acoustic tour in support of preserving the Niagara Escarpment for PERL, Harmer released an album of like-minded acoustic music in the vein of bluegrass and folk. It's her most energetic and emotionally resonant album yet, buzzing with the sun, showers, soil and seed of her home. Key track: The Escarpment Blues
11. Spoon - Gimme Fiction: Britt Daniels makes exciting, idiosyncratic indie pop music. By using a piano instead of rhythm guitar, his music is more fresh and entertaining than most out there. I fell asleep listening to this album the afternoon I bought it, and I haven't slept as well since. This is how good Spoon is. Key track: The Beast and Dragon, Adored

10. The National - Alligator: 2005 was The National's breakout year as they rode on the back of this album. Matt Berninger's bleary, depressed tales are perfectly suited for sleepless New York nights, and his baritone vocals mesh perfectly with the country-tinged alt rock of the rest of the band. Since Sad Songs For Dirty Lovers, Berninger's lyrics have gotten more cryptic and subtle, just one way the band has gotten better. Key track: Daughters of the Soho Riots

9. Wilco - Kicking Television: Live in Chicago: Live albums are often trivialized by essentially being greatest hits packages in lieu of a real release, but Kicking Television is as vital as almost anything else the band has done. Tracks from 2004's release A Ghost is Born are warmer and less sterile than the studio originals, and older pre-Yankee Hotel Foxtrot songs are updated with the band's more current sound and unified with newer material. This is a great introduction to the band for newcomers, but a valuable contribution to a fan's collection. Key track: Misunderstood

8. Iron & Wine - Woman King: Sam Beam's music has always been lo-fi, woozy and most of all, hushed. But if last year's Our Endless Numbered Days was a small step forward, Woman King is a leap. It utilizes Days' full band arrangements, but this time plugged in. Beam's new usage of electric instrumentation provides new horizons for the band's music, crackling with newfound energy. This EP belongs to a messed-up relationship from last year, and for a long time after it ended I couldn't listen to the album; it was too personal, too painful. This is Iron & Wine's strength, to become your own soundtrack. Key track: Evening on the Ground (Lilith's Song)

7. My Morning Jacket - Z: My Morning Jacket's sound has always been grand, with Jim James' voice echoing through the landscape of guitars and reverb. With Z the band has departed from this sound partially, in favour of a more diverse, crystallized sound. They also moved studios, from the abandoned grain silo their previous efforts were recorded in to a professional modern studio. The result is an album more ambitious than the spacey country-soaked rock of their older albums, and much more varied. "Gideon" soars with Who-esque guitars, while "Off the Record" finds a reggae groove and album closer "Dondante" is the closest to the older My Morning Jacket, with James' high falsetto, driving rhythm and elusive guitars. For all the variety, Z still feels like a cohesive album, and only helps My Morning Jacket's growing reputation as the American Radiohead. Key track: Gideon

6. Ryan Adams & The Cardinals - Cold Roses: Around New Year's 2004, word started to get out that Ryan Adams had not only recovered from breaking his arm onstage in Liverpool earlier that year, but was readying new releases for 2005. Soon, it became known that he was preparing three. The first of these, Cold Roses, was perhaps his best of the year. It's a double album, but largely avoids the pretension that phrase evokes. More than that, Cold Roses finds Adams at his songwriting finest, full of longing and women you didn't do right by but didn't deserve anyway. The Cardinals add an easy, worn-in feel Adams hasn't had since his 2000 debut Heartbreaker. The music has an airy, Grateful Dead feel that's suited for live performance and hazy summer afternoons. Key track: Meadowlake Street

5. Broken Social Scene - Broken Social Scene: I have something to admit: I really didn't like You Forgot It In People that much. Something about Broken Social Scene's breakout second album just didn't connect with me. Yeah, the musicianship was there, but the music just didn't strike me as being that special. It was so polished, so... bland. But with their latest album, Broken Social Scene have really hooked me. The same guitar-based pop song cores are there, but the mixing is muddier, the hooks more elusive and the music that much hazier. It's a more difficult album, but in the end that makes it far greater. Album closer "It's All Gonna Break" is an incredible glimpse at the anxiety, excitement and pressure of the band's expanding popularity, a fitting end to an album that can only increase the band's fame. Key track: It's All Gonna Break

4. Sigur Rós - Takk...: After their album ( ) failed to garner as much critical acclaim as Ágætis Byrjun, the pressure was on for Sigur Rós to regain their form, and Takk... does just that. Whereas Ágætis Byrjun was ambient and lulling, the melodies on Takk... are more forceful, the crescendos are deeper and the album truly rocks out, something the band has never really done before. Sigur Rós uses more piano and horns here to provide something new to the listener, with tracks "Glósóli" and "Hoppípolla" showing something more. Lyrically, singer Jónsi Birgisson abandoning his made-up language of Hopelandish for the first time in favour of his native Icelandic, which lends the songs, folklorish tales of magic and children, even more whimsy. Takk... succeeds moreso than the band's other albums because it retains their strengths while still expanding their musical horizons. Key track: Glósóli

3. Wolf Parade - Apologies to Queen Mary: Victoria's Wolf Parade arrived last year amidst tonnes of buzz, having ties to the Arcade Fire and been discovered by Modest Mouse's Isaac Brock, who produced the album. But eyes on the prize, kids, the buzz isn't important: the music is. Apologies to Queen Mary is a reference to a passenger liner long part of musical history, having played host to Led Zeppelin, Guns N' Roses and The Sex Pistols. Only Wolf Parade, however, have the dishonour of being kicked off the boat, having tried to channel the spirit of Winston Churchill in the ballroom named after him, causing significant damage to the ship in the process. This fiery, destructive energy permeates every moment of Apologies to Queen Mary. Twin songwriters and vocalists Dan Boeckner and Spencer Krug lend every song a manic, shizophrenic energy, with shuffling, off-kilter beats and jagged guitars. The highlight of the album is "I'll Believe in Anything," a frenzied plea for romance that culminates in a full minute-long apex, sustaining the energy throughout the song. By the time it has ended, Wolf Parade have earned our attention and our praise. This is spazz-pop at its finest. Key track: I'll Believe in Anything

2. Low - The Great Destroyer: "You better just stand back, I could turn on you so fast." It doesn't come until almost halfway through The Great Destroyer, but this is all the warning Low gives us. Duluth, Minnesota's chosen children have long been known as one of the driving forces behind the slowcore musical movement, with their minimalist compositions and slower-than-slow tempos. It's been their style for over a decade, which is why The Great Destroyer took fans by such surprise upon its release. It actually has the audacity to rock. The tempos are still slow, but whereas gaps in older songs were filled with silent tension, songs like opener "Monkey" grind along with feedback. Drummer Mimi Parker's traditional setup is comprised of just a snare and a high-hat, but now she utilizes a full kit, toms and all. "When I Go Deaf" encompasses the band's stylistic change, veering halfway through from a subdued, acoustic track into a squealing, hissing pool of guitar feedback. The image of Time the Great Destroyer comes up throughout the album, and when album closer "Walk Into the Sea" finally closes, Low come back to the listener. "But when it finally takes us over," they sing, "I hope we float away together." Key track: When I Go Deaf

1. Sufjan Stevens - Illinois: But without a doubt, one album stood above them all last year. It was everywhere, garnering praise from all corners of the business. Sufjan Stevens' second installment in the 50 States Project, Illinois, is ambitious and grandiose, but always welcoming. Maybe it's the sing-along choruses, or the sheer scope of the research of this peal to Michigan's neighbor. Or maybe it's the universal nature of the song subjects. Oh, I know. It's the xylophone. Whatever it is, Illinois is grand without being pompous, ambitious without overreaching and exuberant but still intimate. There's something here for everybody, from the airiness of "Concerning the UFO Sighting near Highland, Illinois," the heartfelt pain of "Chicago" and "Casimir Pulaski Day," the familial rehabilitation in "Decatur," or the chilling ode to our secrets in "John Wayne Gacy, Jr." Give it a chance, it'll suck you in. I barely go a week without listening to it, and as early as last night I was recommending it to somebody. That's its power. Key track: Chicago

And that's it, my summary of the best albums of last year, 100% infallible. Infallible.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006


Watching former supermodel Tyra Banks lecture a woman on selling her body.

Monday, January 23, 2006

D to the O

Every once in a while, I have a dorkier weekend than usual.

(a) On such an occasion, I might forego even considering a night out with people at the bar in favour of a quiet night at a friend's house watching DVDs. This week, it was at Ted's, and it was time again for the one with a degree in film studies to show me something new. The first was Gatchaman, a decades old anime show he enjoyed as a kid back when my aunt was still babysitting him. After that, it was Woody Allen. We started it off with Sleeper, and ended it with Bananas. Good fun, especially when I haven't enjoyed good slapstick in quite a while.

(b) It's also inevitible that I'll stay up late anyway, reading Rolling Stone and playing Mariokart until 4:30 in the morning.

(c) I'll sleep in. But to any time you'd generally call sleeping in. Just until 9, then doze until 11.

(d) I'll lounge for a while, checking the internet and reading, until New Scandinavian Cooking is on. They don't seem to be showing it anymore. You missed out.

(e) Staying at home and catching up on work isn't dorky, but this weekend I went over to Michael's house and we baked cookies while playing Mariokart wirelessly. He shows me the harmony in his new cover of Radiohead's "Subterranean Homesick Alien" and I play right-handed chords on his guitar. He plays The Beatles' "Something" on his baritone ukelele. I drive him and Shani somewhere on my way home.

(f) Saturday night at last! Time to go out, right? Nope. I've got to work tomorrow morning, and I went out last weekend anyway. It's time to listen to Sonic Youth and try to convince people that they really are that awesome. Go buy Sonic Nurse, it's fantastic. Believe me this time.

(g) Sunday doesn't count. I just listen to more Sonic Youth and gossip about characters on Grey's Anatomy anyway.

Just kidding. I do this every week.