Jan 24 - Statutory Holly Day

Friday, January 21, 2005

Brrr. It's cold out there, and windier than the north shore of Hawaii. Thanks to the wind, the roads are completely drifted over, and thanks to the ice underneath, if you don't already have forward momentum (i.e. you get stuck), you're stuck. I pulled the car out of the garage and with the headlights bright, got a good look at what lay ahead. The snow drifts were higher than the clearance of my car in places. I thought about taking my dad's SUV to pack down a path, or staying home and clearing the driveway before going to work (I already regret not doing this), but instead I decided to charge forward with my car.

I made it through the drifts in the driveway, which I knew would be larger than anything I saw on the roads since there's no traffic to pack them down, and thought I was home free. Getting through the drifts was a lot of fun, sort of like skidooing. Grasswood road continued the ride. With the snow pulling at the car and the ice underneath giving no traction whatsoever, I was on the verge of losing control of the back of my car several times and was all over the road trying to get through. This was also fun.

Then I got to Grasswood. A semi was stuck on the turn to the service road. That should've been a warning. Another semi got in front of me and took the turn REALLLLLY slow. So I had to pretty much come to a stop behind him and then I was done for. Stuck in snow that was much less deep than the driveway because of the semi.

A guy in a car who also wanted to get through came out to help me and the semi driver also came but I just couldn't get any traction. Another guy driving by in his truck stopped to help push, and we spent 15 minutes trying to clear the area enough and get my car going. Obviously we finally did and the rest of the trip to work was uneventful. The worst part of getting stuck is not actually being stuck, nor embarassment over it, it's getting out. See, once you get out, when the roads still are as drifted as they were, there's no stopping (unless you want to get stuck again). So you can't really get out and thank everyone for their help, you just sorta drive off feeling like a jackass for the better part of the day. Not that anyone reads this anyway, but just to make myself feel a little better, thank-you to the good samaritans that helped me outside Saskatoon that cold and windy morning of Jan 21, 2005.

Now, if it's any consolation, the worst has not yet come, according to a recent report. It turns out that the worst day of the year is supposed to be Jan 24. Which should be about right, given that it's a Monday and this is likely going to be a busy weekend with little to no sleep to say the least. There should really be a long weekend in January since after New Year's, there's not another holiday until Easter. We have enough things to celebrate here in Canada that we could make excuses for another long weekend or two. Like young pretty girls named Holly.

Fun links for the day:

What I Wished I'd Known In Highschool - An interesting if a bit rambling look at life and success.
Drums - How to play "rock and roll"... using a keyboard.

Corporate Radio Suicide

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

That's it. They've done it. The final piece is in place for a musical renaissance. But pay attention, because as a more erudite friend told me, "This revolution will not be televised".

Read this and come back and visit me: Electric Dreams?! Electric Nightmare.

There was a time when radio played good and current music. Where you could tune in and here The Beatles or Led Zeppelin or any number of 60s/70s greats. Somewhere in the 80s, however, good music and pop music separated. This separation led to increasing commericalization and the development of a "music industry". Radio play became more homogenized as radio execs started dictating playlists instead of disc jockeys, and in turn major labels began only producing music that "would sell". This has culminated today into not only what type of music will sell, but who can sell it. You see, it's not enough that the music (and I should be using quotes around the term as it applies here) is formulaic, derivative, and can only be signed if it sounds like something else which has already proven successful. Now, thanks to MTV, you need a sexy female (or in cases several homosexual male) front to pedal the dreck. And so we come to Britney Spears and Backstreet Boys. When you can't sell the "music" on its own "artistic" merit, you sell sex. Brilliant.

So we now are at today, where the music industry is a means of selling sex and promoting horrible role models for young girls in particular. Where bands don't write their own music, sometimes where the frontman/woman doesn't do anything aside from dance and lip sync, and where songs by one band sound indistinguishable from another. And, for some reason, piracy runs rampant because, guess what, people don't care about these so-called-artists. Especially when the RIAA, which allegedly represents these 'artists', starts suing them. They want the latest popular song because their friends are listening to it and they don't know where else to go for music. Some are so tired of this that they've turned to oldies stations playing the last good music that the radio ever played from the 70s and maybe a few tracks from the 80s.

I was made aware of the final nail in the coffin yesterday. Go read the article, but in summary, the majors have taken to using a computer program to electronically weigh the potential success of a song before it is even printed. Yes, that's right. A computer decides what music is going to be made in the commercial world. And this is before the robots in radio decide what will keep people listening to drive advertising. What's worse, this robot evaluates a song's potential based solely on previous songs' successes. Invented a new genre of music? Forget about it. The only music that can ever be succesful has already been invented. If this doesn't sour you diehard commercial crap listeners, I don't know what will.

So what is the future of music? It's indie. It's music that's created as art, not as a marketing tool for soulless radio stations and a money maker for clueless major labels. We're already seeing the beginning of this renaissance. Watch an episode of The OC, you're liable to hear strains of The Walkmen (or so I hear). Go rent Garden State, and you'll hear the characters raving about The Shins. Listen to a pop satellite radio, and you might even find the occasional (admittedly big-time) indie acts that have become pseudo-mainstream without selling out, like Franz Ferdinand and Modest Mouse. Heck, the Pixies' reunion tour in 2004 was the most successful indie tour ever.

With the internet, the proliferation of MP3s, free indie music 'zines like Pitchfork and TinyMixTapes, and countless music communities, it's easier than ever to tap into real music which as little as ten years ago, would have been utterly inaccessible without devoting part of your life to the pursuit of new music.

As the formula gets tired, people are going to move in droves from mainstream to indie, to a point where, finally, a decade late, the mainstream execs will finally get it. What happens then is anybody's guess. Will indie become mainstream and derivative again, allowing the cycle to repeat, or will we find a balance where we can balance music as art and profitability for the 'industry' folk. I don't know. But I'll see you there.

In the meantime, just a few good places to hear great music:

KEXP Radio
KCRW Radio
CBC Radio 3

DaVinci Code and other Phenomena

Monday, January 17, 2005

Well, on the personal front, we now have a show at Amigos (Fri Jan 21) and at Seedy's in Edmonton on the 22nd, so lots of time has been going into that. The week was pretty uneventful as usual. Aside from band practices, there's not much going on with me right now, which is okay because it's fricking freezing. Nothing like -52 with the windchill. That was Friday, and I cleverly stayed home and read The DaVinci Code. Saturday I went to get my tires checked/replaced as needed because I had a whole in the sidewall (or so Acura informed me on Friday). KalTire took care of it for me under warranty, no charge, though I don't know how fond I am of a tire that has a whole in the sidewall after 6 months. I stopped at the mall for awhile and grabbed a bite, but didn't buy anything.

John & I went and saw The Life Aquatic that night. I was surprisingly late and so I sprinted to the theatre, where, luckily, John had bought my ticket. We got our popcorn and got into the movie a few minutes after it had started, and as I went to take my glasses (which I hooked around the zipper/collar of my jacket (it wasn't done all the way up)), I realized I'd lost my glasses. Which I got like three weeks ago. And spent a lot of money on, not to mention time picking out. So I left the theatre and scoured the hallways and even asked at Rainbow & Centre again if they'd seen any. Nope.

So I wasn't able to fully enjoy the movie because that was on my mind, but it was pretty funny nonetheless. Very subtle humour, like Rushmore, I found myself laughing more than almost anyone save John, who laughs at everything. Which, I suspect, is why we get along. I did think that the character development was a little lacking as I felt no sympathy for Steve "New to fatherhood" Zissou, no loss when a certain character dies, nothing (just surprise that he/she'd died for what appeared to be no reason). So in this respect, I'd say that this particular movie falters in comparison with earlier movies Wes Anderson has done.

Mike hadn't called by this point and I had to eat so we went for drinks at Athena and scavenged leftovers from a neighbouring table (whom I knew, so it's not as bad as it sounds). I also ordered perogy nachos and left a 'leftover' to give back to them. We had a few pints and decided we didn't feel like sitting at a concert with bands we weren't really THAT interested in seeing. So we rented Amelie and State & Main and watched Amelie, which was maybe even better the second time around. Audrey Tautou is awesome, and it's just such a funny movie. If you haven't seen this movie, go rent it now.

The next day I went and got my tires fixed and aside from a brief interlude at the mall to look for a new book and grab a snack, I continued reading and finished The DaVinci Code. This has to have been one of the best books I've read in a long time, despite the hype. The historical tie ins, the conspiracy theories, and fictional adventure blend seamlessly to make for an incredible read that you will be hard pressed to equal in any other modern novel. It is an instant classic in every sense imaginable. I may pick up another book by Dan Brown to see if this was a one-time success, which I imagine it is. I can't imagine he's been writing other books of this quality that have gone unnoticed, so I'm a little scared, but we'll see. In short, if you haven't read this book, go pick up the illustrated edition. You won't be disappointed.

I guess I love books that tie together theories, fact, and fiction. Not that it's anywhere near being in the same class, but I remember really enjoying Clive Cussler's Atlantis Found for a similar reason. You learn a little about theories, history, and do so through a compelling (or certainly entertaining) story. I know that Clive Cussler (like Stephen King and his ilk) is mass produced dreck, but darn it, Atlantis Found was still enjoyable in spite of that. If you have any books of a similar bent to recommend, please do! (just leave a comment). That's where I'll leave you today.

Incidentally, I did find my glasses after the movie - we backtracked again and I remembered being cut off by a woman with a cart and asked the coffee shop cashier if she had found some glasses.

Weak Week

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Another week passed, and painfully little of interest to report. I went out on Friday to the Overdrive, which, sadly, was almost as horrible as I remember it. I've never really dug the bar scene, much less the scuzzy bar scene, though I can't think of many bars in this city that aren't either:

1) Scuzzy
2) <15
3) Scuzzy & <15

I was there for John's sister's birthday, and it was nice to see some of those guys and girls again, but man oh man. Saturday was a bit better, I met up with Dan, Amanda, Darren, Trinity, and Lauralee from the restaurant sat with us a while. It was a quiet evening which was just what the doctor ordered, but fun, too. Dean Papadatos & Dino (Ted) were in, so I sat with them & Sean and Nicole for a while and then stuck around to close the restaurant.

Sundays and Wednesdays are practice days for the band, and we went for about three or four hours on Sunday (and 1.5 on Wednesday). The new songs are pretty good and I'm excited about playing them live. We have a show in Edmonton next weekend (Jan 22) and we should know by the end of the day if we're playing a show on Jan 21 in Saskatoon (Amigos) or in Calgary (Weeds). By which I mean that if we haven't heard from Calgary, I'm taking the Saskatoon show.

Otherwise, not much else to say. I just picked up The DaVinci Code, I've only gotten about 5 chapters in, I've discovered that Futurama was a great show after all, and finally got Mariah's computer operational and loaded Rollercoaster Tycoon 3 on it. They've added a bunch of new features as well as bugs and difficulty, but she'll probably get the hang of it eventually.

I'm thinking of starting a new blog (even though I don't have enough material for this one) of writings, ramblings, and so on. A Poem Tome if you will. We'll see.

Billy Strobe

Thursday, January 06, 2005

I just two hours ago finished this book that I found in my stocking Dec. 25. I admit I not only didn't hold out any hope for it, but wasn't even sure I'd read it. The book was John Martel's Billy Strobe, a book about a law student put in prison for insider trading who completes his degree in prison and sets out to clear the name of his father and of a man he met on the inside. So it got marks for originality. But it was also compared to Grisham right on the cover, an author I've never read and never really had much interest in. But, I'd finished Pattern Recognition over Christmas, and The Giver (an interesting children's novel even if it made me cringe inside thinking of the delight with which this book would be put into the American school curriculum as anti-communist doctrine) had only taken an evening.

So I was without a book and decided to read it anyway. The first chapter or two did not bode well. The book starts with the backstory, as always, and you're brought to the present, where Billy concludes that his last few years will be tougher than the first. Given that he's now been arrested. SHOCK! I didn't read the synopsis at the back. He's in jail?! Then it jumps back from the present again to why he's in jail, he gets into a car with some rich kids and they plot this scheme. Retelling this story, he digresses to say something about his father being framed, which he promises to get to later. And you can just see the publisher thinking that this is hooking the reader and meanwhile all I can think is that I'm not the least bit interested and could you please get to the actual story?

So I read the first two chapters and put it down no problem. The next night, I thought, well, I'll read a little more before I abandon all hope. And suddenly, once the awkwardness of the backstory had faded to legend and then myth in my considerably short memory, it started to get interesting. Quite interesting.

I'll admit that I found the characterization lacking development and at times believability at certain points in the book, but that was won out by an otherwise well crafted story and well developed plot. I literally couldn't put it down. Ironically, I had no problem putting down Pattern Recognition, which I loved, but this book which I'm at best conflicted about, was, to coin a phrase that I definitely invented, a page turner.

And at the end of the day, I left myself with the age old question of art vs entertainment. I really enjoyed the two books on completely different levels, and I suppose that's enough. Sometimes it's nice to read a book that is just fun and really draws you in, even if there's nothing much below the surface. And sometimes it's nice to read a book that maybe doesn't leave you enraptured but perhaps gives you pause or causes the mental activity LED to light.

So, with it clearly stated that this book is all about entertainment and that even then it is far from perfect, I still can recommend it as a borrower. If you want an entertaining book that's worth a buy and I can virtually guarantee you haven't read, try Timothy Zahn's Icarus Hunt. A detective novel in space, and quite the "page turner" to boot.

Clark Kent Syndrome?

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

I recently got glasses. As in, less than a week ago. Years and years of computer use have finally made me a bit nearsighted. The funny thing is, I don't think I need them. First of all, the only reason I went to the optometrist is because I sometimes get very sore eyes from work and my monitor. These glasses are for far away and she even recommended that I not use them at work. But although they do sharpen up stuff far away, it's not like I'm ever reading things at that distance anyway.

I have noticed that when I first wake up my eyes are quite a bit more blurry than a little later in the day, and this was how my eyes felt during my eye test. I wonder if perhaps I should get them checked when I'm not fresh out of bed and have just come back from New York and not sleeping for more than 5 hours a night.

The biggest fear, aside from inconvenience and worse still, increased dependence, is obviously of vanity. I've never been able to pull of glasses of any sort (nor hats, but that's a blog for another day). And now I have these things that are supposed to be on my face every time I hop in a car at the very least. Will this further entrench my singledom? Is my non-geek facade (yes, just facade) dead? Will my laugh be forever and inexplicably altered, perhaps to include a snort or incorporate more of a chortle? Stay tuned...

Welcome to the Future

Sunday, January 02, 2005

We're two days into 2005 and I haven't figured out what I'm shooting for this year. You know, the New Year's resolution and all. I don't really believe in them to the extent that I think a person should always be on the lookout for things they can do to improve themselves and their life, but I like to know where I'm going or what I'm after.

As far as self-improvement goes, I think that I want to be a bit more outgoing than I am. I also have more work to do in relaxing my ridiculous standards and trying not to take myself too seriously. And, of course, a healthy dose of physical activity for at least a couple months. We should be moving the treadmill soon, so I can get some cardio in and then maybe the weights at the gym would be enough to make a noticable difference.

That's the easy stuff (to aim for, not necessarily achieve). But what about my overall plan, ambitions for the year, and so on. What do I want to have done? I want us to have recorded a CD. I know I want to go to Europe and live there for awhile, if for no other reason then to help with the aforementioned self-improvement (anonymity makes change a little easier - a watched pot and all that). I also would like to learn Greek (living and working in Greece should help that), become more independant, and, the more I think about it, the more I'd like to also learn French. I occasionally think that politics might be something worth putting some time into.

Unfortunately, this year's not so great for getting away as Larissa graduates from high school, I really should get at least two years of experience (this happens in May) and, for my geeky side, I'd kinda' like to be here for the final Star Wars, too (though this obviously isn't the deal breaker). I could leave in July, I suppose, and have all that stuff taken care of, but I imagine that it'll be pretty hard to find work in the summer and in the fall when things slow down, it might even be more difficult. But as far as being able to get away, this might be the best opportunity.

I suppose, re-reading this, I do know what I want to get done this year. I'm just not sure about how or when. But if I knew that, what fun would it be?

New Year's Eve

Saturday, January 01, 2005

Although it didn't look like much coming into the evening, this particular year New Year's Eve was one of the best I've had. Let me give you a little back story. For the past four years, Mike, Dan, myself, and sometimes John (he generally pops in on the parties but usually is elsewhere with girlfriends, other friends, and so on) have celebrated the evening at the Saskatoon Inn. I don't know why, exactly. I think it became a tradition after the first year where Blair & Ally (I should probably just say Ally) organized it. And the first year was fun, despite Craig driving home drunk like an idiot and the various fisticuffs that nearly ensued from inviting various underage parties to our room to partake in our pizza and annoy the snot out of us.

It kind of went slowly downhill from there. I mean, sure, the next year there was Donna, and who could forget Scott's various hookups and Dan's Baileys & Cigar hangovers, not to mention breakfasts at Grainfields and so on, but it continued to be more and more lacking as the focus shifted from hanging out with our friends to trying to meet some girls at whatever party we were crashing.

Lisa had emailed me about a cruise thing at the Radisson, which I really didn't read, but it was sponsored by Magic 98 and was $40, so it didn't really seem all that interesting. And as always, I'd be working at Athena anyway, which was where I thought I'd spend my New Year's. The family's there, I've got friends there, and a ride home if needed.

But, as I said, it wasn't looking up. However, New Year's Eve was one of the busiest we've had. The lounge didn't empty from before 3:00 and at dinner the place was full to the rafters, lined up, and generally insane. We usually can sit and eat by 9:00, but we were barely able to do so at 10:30. It did eventually empty out just enough that we could move around freely but still felt very happening and busy.

The DJ was on loan from Ally Katz and mixed in some indie with the other stuff (I heard some Franz, Modest Mouse, Interpol, and others), the young women were plentiful, and not only did family and friends come by, but John also showed up. Also, Dan (Coode), Amanda, Trinity, Kurt, Terry, and some of their friends all showed up which was really great. We ended up partying together all night although even among them, I didn't get to spend as much time as I'd've liked since I was drunkenly flirting with various ladies, but I suppose priorities have to be made.

As far as the night went, it was just a big party and I did a pretty good job of losing the inhibitions, I think, which is not as easy as it sounds. I two-stepped (if you can call it that) with Trinity, danced with my cousins/sister and other non-related girls too(!), drank with my friends, and flirted with more girls than I can name. What more can you ask for in a party?