my latest from the Daily Yomiuri
IN YOUR EAR
Kevin Wood / Daily Yomiuri Staff Writer
KELLY JOE PHELPS
Rykodisc, 2,177 yen
Slingshot Professionals is the fifth full-length album from Washington-born singer-songwriter-guitarist extraordinaire Kelly Joe Phelps. Stylistically, it follows the path laid out by 2001's Sky Like a Broken Clock, with long dramatic story-songs and impressionistic lyrics balancing Phelps' driven-yet-restrained acoustic slide guitar.
Phelps delivers a shot of intimate blues filtered through jazz and the virtuoso folk of performers such as Bert Janch, with a generous chaser of Tom Waits. The result is something reminiscent of an acoustic Dire Straits playing Leonard Cohen songs. However, to pigeonhole this music would be wrong.
Singer-songwriters often succumb to the pitfalls of their avocation, becoming too personal, taking themselves too seriously and becoming pretentious, emphasizing lyrics at the expense of instrumental work, or, as is often the case with virtuoso players, showing off their chops at the expense of the song. Many are just too whiny, too wimpy or too self-involved to be appealing.
Phelps is none of these things. His lyrics are mysterious, evocative and telling, never trite. His guitar work is restrained and subtle with just enough flash and testicular fortitude to grab the ears of the most dedicated guitar fan. To the credit of producer Lee Townsend, the music is seamless and polished but without any hint of affect or slickness. The addition of jazz guitarist Bill Frissel, a longtime Townsend collaborator, simply makes more of a good thing.
This is not an album you are likely to put on first thing in the morning unless you've been up all night. It's intense and energetic, but not in a bouncy, get-up-and-dance kind of way. Slingshot Professionals is impassioned, but never loud, and rootsy without any Nashville twang to it. It is a very rare thing: A record that contains no cheese of any kind. A sort of CD equivalent to those stay-up-until-sunrise conversations you had with your best friends back when none of you had to worry about working the next morning.
Buffalo Records, 2,500 yen
This album, the result of a single live session by the Austin, Texas, quintet Les Niglos and released under the name of lead guitarist Dave Biller for pronunciation-driven reasons of social sensitivity, is not to be missed by fans of jazz guitar giant Django Reinhardt.
According to Biller, Les Niglos was originally formed by the members to have some some fun playing the music of their hero, Reinhardt.
Both the sense of fun and the overwhelming influence of Reinhardt on the band are very evident on LeRoy's Swing. Of the 13 tracks, four are Reinhardt compositions and six are songs the famous gypsy jazz guitarist often covered, including '30s hot jazz standards like "Tea for Two," "Sheik of Araby" and "Japanese Sandman." The remaining three tracks written by Biller blend so perfectly with the other material as to be almost indistinguishable.
The decision to name the band for Biller is a sensible one, as it is really his guitar playing that is showcased. Clarinetist Ben Saffer plays Stephane Grappeli to Biller's Reinhardt, and the addition of a reed to the string ensemble gives the group a warmer, smoother sound. Bassist Ryan Gould and guitarists Anthony Locke and Jeff Seaver make up the airtight rhythm section.
If Reinhardt and Grappeli with the original Hot Club of France Quintet were a blazing bonfire, then Biller and Saffer are the same fire a few hours later. The flames may not leap quite as high, but that allows us to stand closer and enjoy the warmth more.
"Where else would you go when you have an ax to grind?"
Friday, May 23, 2003
my latest from the Daily Yomiuri
Thursday, May 22, 2003
dammit, i can't remember how to post directly.
thanks for the confirmation that i'm long-lost. i always suspected as much. i'm no vlad, but...
to anyone interested in my whereabouts, i'm living in hamilton with belle and three kids, working as a producer at cbc radio, still publishing some musicological stuff and making music.
Just so that you all know your tax dollars are being well spent, I should tell you I have just returned from a reception at the Canadian Ambassador's Residence in tokyo for Canadian journalists here. A very nice buffet, open bar with Okanagan valley wines, Ottawa Valley aged cheddar, Molson's Canadian and moosehead. Ambassador Wright is a a very nice guy and a habs fan. About 40 scribes attended - did lots of networking and enjoyed the official residence's extremely impressive collection of canadian art, including a very nice A.Y. Jackson painting and some other group of seven looking stuff.
Tuesday, May 20, 2003
Strange Weather Lately
By Kurt Vonnegut, In These Times
May 19, 2003
The following is adapted from a Clemens Lecture presented in April for the Mark Twain House in Hartford, Connecticut.
First things first: I want it clearly understood that this mustache I'm wearing is my father's mustache. I should have brought his photograph. My big brother Bernie, now dead, a physical chemist who discovered that silver iodide can sometimes make it snow or rain, he wore it, too.
Speaking of weather: Mark Twain said some readers complained that there wasn't enough weather in his stories. So he wrote some weather, which they could insert wherever they thought it would help some.
Mark Twain was said to have shed a tear of gratitude and incredulousness when honored for his writing by Oxford University in England. And I should shed a tear, surely, having been asked at the age of 80, and because of what I myself have written, to speak under the auspices of the sacred Mark Twain House here in Hartford.
What other American landmark is as sacred to me as the Mark Twain House? The Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. Mark Twain and Abraham Lincoln were country boys from Middle America, and both of them made the American people laugh at themselves and appreciate really important, really moral jokes.
I note that construction has stopped of a Mark Twain Museum here in Hartford – behind the carriage house of the Mark Twain House at 351 Farmington Avenue.
Work persons have been sent home from that site because American "conservatives," as they call themselves, on Wall Street and at the head of so many of our corporations, have stolen a major fraction of our private savings, have ruined investors and employees by means of fraud and outright piracy.
Shock and awe.
And now, having installed themselves as our federal government, or taken control of it from outside, they have squandered our public treasury and then some. They have created a public debt of such appalling magnitude that our descendants, for whom we had such high hopes, will come into this world as poor as church mice.
Shock and awe.
What are the conservatives doing with all the money and power that used to belong to all of us? They are telling us to be absolutely terrified, and to run around in circles like chickens with their heads cut off. But they will save us. They are making us take off our shoes at airports. Can anybody here think of a more hilarious practical joke than that one?
Smile, America. You're on Candid Camera.
And they have turned loose a myriad of our high-tech weapons, each one costing more than a hundred high schools, on a Third World country, in order to shock and awe human beings like us, like Adam and Eve, between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers.
The other day I asked former Yankees pitcher Jim Bouton what he thought of our great victory over Iraq, and he said, "Mohammed Ali versus Mr. Rogers."
What are conservatives? They are people who will move heaven and earth, if they have to, who will ruin a company or a country or a planet, to prove to us and to themselves that they are superior to everybody else, except for their pals. They take good care of their pals, keep them out of jail – and so on.
Conservatives are crazy as bedbugs. They are bullies.
Shock and awe.
Class war? You bet.
They have proved their superiority to admirers of Abraham Lincoln and Mark Twain and Jesus of Nazareth, with an able assist from television, making inconsequential our protests against their war.
What has happened to us? We have suffered a technological calamity. Television is now our form of government.
On what grounds did we protest their war? I could name many, but I need name only one, which is common sense.
Be that as it may, construction of the Mark Twain Museum will sooner or later be resumed. And I, the son and grandson of Indiana architects, seize this opportunity to suggest a feature which I hope will be included in the completed structure, words to be chiseled into the capstone over the main entrance.
Here is what I think would be fun to put up there, and Mark Twain loved fun more than anything. I have tinkered with something famous he said, which is: "Be good and you will be lonesome." That is from Following the Equator. OK?
So envision what a majestic front entrance the Mark Twain Museum will have someday. And imagine that these words have been chiseled into the noble capstone and painted gold:
Be good and you will be lonesome most places, but not here, not here.
One of the most humiliated and heartbroken pieces Twain ever wrote was about the slaughter of 600 Moro men, women and children by our soldiers during our liberation of the people of the Philippines after the Spanish-American War. Our brave commander was Leonard Wood, who now has a fort named after him. Fort Leonard Wood.
What did Abraham Lincoln have to say about such American imperialist wars? Those are wars which, on one noble pretext or another, actually aim to increase the natural resources and pools of tame labor available to the richest Americans who have the best political connections.
And it is almost always a mistake to mention Abraham Lincoln in a speech about something or somebody else. He always steals the show. I am about to quote him.
Lincoln was only a Congressman when he said in 1848 what I am about to echo. He was heartbroken and humiliated by our war on Mexico, which had never attacked us.
We were making California our own, and a lot of other people and properties, and doing it as though butchering Mexican soldiers who were only defending their homeland against invaders wasn't murder.
What other stuff besides California? Well, Texas, New Mexico, Utah, Nevada, Arizona, and parts of Colorado and Wyoming.
The person congressman Lincoln had in mind when he said what he said was James Polk, our president at the time. Abraham Lincoln said of Polk, his president, our armed forces' commander-in-chief, "Trusting to escape scrutiny by fixing the public gaze upon the exceeding brightness of military glory, that attractive rainbow that rises in showers of blood – that serpent's eye, that charms to destroy, he plunged into war."
Holy smokes! I almost said, "Holy shit!" And I thought I was a writer!
Do you know we actually captured Mexico City during the Mexican War? Why isn't that a national holiday? And why isn't the face of James Polk up on Mount Rushmore, along with Ronald Reagan's?
What made Mexico so evil back in the 1840s, well before our Civil War, is that slavery was illegal there. Remember the Alamo?
My great-grandfather's name was Clemens Vonnegut. Small world, small world. This piquant coincidence is not a fabrication. Clemens Vonnegut called himself a "freethinker," an antique word for humanist. He was a hardware merchant in Indianapolis.
So, 120 years ago, say, there was one man who was both Clemens and Vonnegut. I would have liked being such a person a lot. I only wish I could have been such a person tonight.
I claim no blood relationship with Samuel Clemens of Hannibal, Missouri. "Clemens," as a first name, is, I believe, like the name "Clementine," derived from the adjective "clement." To be clement is to be lenient and compassionate, or, in the case of weather, perfectly heavenly.
So there's weather again.
Enter the Scottfreek, stage left...........
I apparently represent the only female contigent on your site as far as I
can tell. Hello, Hamish, Pete, Cliff, Mike (which one?)... Anyone know
where Vlad is?
Listening to Ron Sexsmith and Neko Case. Just those over and over again.
Reading: Oliver Sachs "Uncle Tungsten" - It's about chemistry and major
elemental discoveries and is sticking to my brain about as well as "A Short
History" (Hawking) did. I don't know why I bother.
Happy May two-four all. Thought about Algonquin, as usual, at this time of
By the by - Since you are an invited member of the this blog you can post to the site without going through me via email, just go to the blogger site advertised above to get started. And the Mike in question is none other than the long-lost legendary Burlington Beatle better known as Mr. Daley.
And where the hell is Vlad anyways?
Monday, May 19, 2003
From the 'God is an Iron' dept
WASHINGTON (Agence France Presse) - Fired New York Times Reporter Jayson Blair is asking those who have supported him through the scandal not to believe "everything they read in the newspapers," Newsweek magazine reported Sunday.
and they say irony is dead...........
Sunday, May 18, 2003
Once more polishing the apple of Canadian self-esteem - any comments from those living in the Excited States?
canadians nicer than americans and getting nicer
We're nice — and getting nicer
Yankee-Canuck differences keep growing: Pollster
Americans might be more fun, but we're so pleasant
Hang on to your mukluks, folks. It looks as if there's a future in being Canadian, after all.
Just when it was beginning to seem pointless even to entertain the idea, along comes Michael Adams to insist there's a distinctive northern identity to celebrate still — and an ever-widening cultural gap between Canucks and Yankees.
"Canadians and Americans are markedly different, and are becoming more so," writes the 56-year-old pollster and author in a new book entitled Fire and Ice, which explores the collective psyches of both countries. (No prize for guessing which of the title's two terms refers to Canada.)
Based on nearly a decade of research into the attitudes and beliefs of people on both sides of the Canada-U.S. frontier, Fire and Ice provides a persuasive and arresting antidote to the popular wisdom du jour — the notion Canadians as a people are hanging up their snowshoes, wiping away their coy, deferential smiles, and forsaking both publicly funded medicine and weird, six-character postal codes, to pledge allegiance instead to the dark trinity of gods that increasingly seems to rule America — the triple-headed Hydra of money, materialism and the military.
This dreary thesis of a nation fumbling toward its own demise has been aggressively marketed by a number of Canadian pundits lately, and it's what a great many Canadians have no doubt come to believe. But Adams is on the case now, and he says it ain't, er, isn't so.
In fact, he says, the opposite is true. Not only are Canadians still a distinctly different society from their neighbours to the south, they are steadily becoming even more different, a trend Adams expects to continue for a good long time. Maybe forever.
"You've got this shy, deferential people becoming more liberal, more autonomous, more inner-directed, more tolerant of diversity than Americans," he said in an interview this week in his ninth-floor office, suspended high above the courteous urban hubbub at the corner of Yonge and Bloor. "It seems counterintuitive."
And maybe it is.
But Adams has the numbers to back his conclusions up — three major public-opinion surveys, based on more than 14,000 interviews his social research company has conducted in Canada and the U.S., first in 1992, again in 1996, and most recently in 2000 — and he says the numbers do not lie.
For Canadians, they tell a rather gratifying tale.
To put it bluntly, the age-old northern conceit continues to hold true. Yes, Americans might be richer, and meaner, and scrappier, and no doubt more exciting to be out with on a date, but Canadians are — you guessed it — nice.
And getting nicer.
Or, as Adams puts it in his engaging, 208-page paean to the virtues of being Canadian: "Canada is becoming the home of a unique post-modern, post-material multiculturalism, generating hardy strains of new hybrids that will enrich this country and many others in the world."
Why, thank you, sir. Merci. Grazie. Obrigado.
And what about those damn Yanks?
Well, dateable they might be — but they don't have the look of marriage material.
Adams' data show Americans to be: "materialistic, outer-directed, intolerant, socially conservative, and deferential to traditional institutional authority."
This last trait is another example of the counterintuitive ways in which Canadians and Americans seem to be proceeding along very separate paths.
As everyone knows, the U.S. has long identified itself with the cult of the warrior hero, the lone everyman fighting a courageous battle against the grinding oppression of a harsh, impersonal state.
Think John Wayne. Think Gary Cooper. Think Harrison Ford. Think Cowboys R Them.
Now consider what Adams has to say on the subject. The poll results, he maintains, show the U.S. is increasingly becoming a land of yea-sayers, of conformists reluctant to question authority and eager to fall into line behind one powerful leader.
Out of many, Homer Simpson.
In 2000, 49 per cent of Americans over 15 agreed with this statement: "The father of the family must be master in his own house." This was an increase from the 42 per cent of Americans who agreed with the statement in 1992.
By contrast, in 2000, just 18 per cent of Canadians were willing to grant unquestioned household authority to dear old Dad, a decrease from 26 per cent eight years earlier.
So who are the rebels now?
Canadians, it seems. It's just that Canadians are nice rebels, peaceful rebels — rebels with a pause button.
On a raft of other social and personal indicators, the results follow a similar pattern.
Americans on the whole do not seem to be especially cuddly or congenial — and they are not about to change.
Instead, it seems, they are becoming more intolerant of racial minorities, more approving of violence, more given to shallow ostentation, and less concerned about community affairs.
Canadians, in all these areas, present a much kinder, gentler public face, one that seems to be improving with age.
Most of Adams' data was obtained before the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington in September, 2001, but he says the trends he writes about would only have been bolstered, not weakened, in the wake of those shattering events.
Meanwhile, he notes, Americans are twice as likely as Canadians to suffer from obesity, and they watch 30 per cent more TV.
It all might seem too benign to be true, at least as far as the Canadian results are concerned, but Adams points to the numbers, and the numbers tell the tale. He should know.
Trained as a sociologist, the lanky, avuncular pollster has been surveying people's attitudes, behaviour and beliefs for a good long time. He founded Environics Research and Communications in 1970 and has watched it grow into a formidable enterprise with offices in four Canadian cities, as well as New York and Washington, and with annual revenues of more than $50 million.
"We're surveying regularly in more than 30 countries," he said.
Married with two children, Adams has a curly fringe of grey hair, pale blue eyes, and a rambling, loquacious manner. He doesn't so much participate in an interview as conduct the entire operation himself, posing and answering his own questions and only rarely pausing to field a query from the person seated on the other side of his desk.
He has written two previous books, both about Canadian traits and behaviour — the best-selling Sex in the Snow, followed by Better Happy Than Rich? — and says the idea for Fire and Ice came to him when he examined the results of his company's third comparative survey of popular attitudes in Canada and the U.S.
This time, the numbers leapt from the page. What he had previously merely suspected could now be presented as a clear and quantifiable trend. Canadians really are different from Americans, he says, and the two societies are diverging more from each other as time passes.
"I thought, `There's a book. I've got to tell this story.'"
Born in Walkerton, but raised in Toronto since he was 10, Adams himself is a product of a traditional Canada, a land of white-skinned people with rural roots, that is steadily being eclipsed by changing trends and shifting demographics.
But he believes the emerging country, while both more urban and far more multicultural, is nonetheless managing to remain true to itself, despite the cultural and economic pressures exerted by the U.S.
Although his book presents an almost relentlessly bleak picture of Canada's southern neighbour, its writer insists he himself bears no rancour toward Americans, a great many of whom — in fact, about 70 million of them — are very much like Canadians. Unfortunately, this particular group does not currently have much influence in Washington.
Part owner of a winery in California's Napa Valley, Adams travels to the United States frequently. "Probably half of my friends are Americans," he said.
It would be interesting to know what they think of his latest book. But it's fair to say Canadians will be pleased — and very polite.
I don't expect Johnny will last long without her
Country musician June Carter Cash dead at 73
NASHVILLE, Tenn. - June Carter Cash, wife of country legend musician Johnny Cash, has died. She was 73.
Cash died of complications from heart surgery she had undergone last week to replace a heart valve.
The couple, who often performed together, had been married for 35 years. She was co-writer of her husband's 1963 hit Ring of Fire, which was about falling in love with Cash. She won Grammys for their duets Jackson and If I Were a Carpenter.
Other popular duets included It Ain't Me Babe and If I Had a Hammer.
June Carter Cash's mother Maybelle Carter was part of the Carter Family music act that made some of the first country music recordings back in 1927.
In the immortal words of Arte Johnson "Verrry Interestink"
Marijuana possession law 'erased'
Ellen van Wageningen
CanWest News Service
WINDSOR -- Possessing less than 30 grams of marijuana is no longer against the law in Ontario, a Windsor judge says in a ruling released yesterday that compounds the chaos over Canada's pot laws.
Superior Court Justice Steven Rogin's decision has "effectively erased the criminal prohibition on marijuana possession from the law books in Ontario," said Brian McAllister, the Windsor lawyer who challenged the law on behalf of a 17-year-old client.
Judge Rogin's decision is almost certainly to be followed by judges of Ontario's lower court, where nearly all marijuana possession cases are decided.
"This decision is also likely to have significant repercussions on the viability of marijuana prosecutions across the country," Mr. McAllister said.
Hundreds of marijuana possession cases in Ontario have been put on hold pending Judge Rogin's ruling and the outcome of other cases currently
before the Supreme Court of Canada.
That shouldn't change until the Ontario Court of Appeal reviews Judge Rogin's decision, said Jim Leising, the Justice Department official responsible for drug prosecutions in Ontario.
"We certainly continue to maintain that possession of marijuana is prohibited by the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, and we'll be moving quite quickly to appeal this judgment," he said.
Mr. McAllister said police in Ontario should note Judge Rogin's judgment and stop laying charges for marijuana possession.
"Otherwise, the police will be arresting people for an activity which is no longer outlawed," he said.
Judge Rogin upheld Ontario Court Justice Douglas Phillip's decision to quash a charge against a Kingsville youth for possessing less than 30 grams of marijuana because the law is no longer valid.
The government needed to pass a new law prohibiting marijuana possession after the current one was struck down by the Ontario Court of Appeal two years ago, Judge Rogin agreed.
The appeal court ruled in favour of severe epileptic Terry Parker, of Toronto, saying the law violated the constitutional rights of sick people who used marijuana for medical reasons. It gave the government until July 31, 2001, to remedy the situation or the law would be invalid.
The government responded by passing the Marijuana Medical Access Regulations, which were found to be unconstitutional by a Toronto judge in another case involving Mr. Parker. That judge said the problem is there is no legal supply of marijuana for sick people.
Meanwhile, the federal government is attempting to get new legislation dealing with marijuana before Parliament by the end of the month.
It is proposing to make possessing 15 grams or less of marijuana a non-criminal offence for which people could be fined as little as $100. The relaxing of the pot possession laws would be accompanied by stiffer penalties for drug traffickers and marijuana growers, as well as drug use prevention, education and treatment strategies.
© Copyright 2003 The Ottawa Citizen