"Where else would you go when you have an ax to grind?"

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Home for the Holly-daze
A happy Festivus to one and all from the Woodshed, We are back in Ontari-airy-airy-Oh for the holly-daze. The flight was the usual 12 hour trial of boredom, exhaustion, bad movies and crappy airline food with the added excitement of both kids barfing all over the place just before we landed. As my brother, always the-glass-is-half-full kinda guy he is pointed out, it could have been worse - they could have puked on takeoff.
blogging forcast is for light, intermittent posting for the next week or even two. In the meantime, there is Christmas in Ponoka, RCMP-style

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

99,000 words
Would not be enough to describe the 99 strangest photos of 2006, so you'll just have to go and look at them yourself.
A tip of the hat to Man Descending.

Not the DaVinci Code
Go here and click refresh a few times to generate your very own Dan Brown novel. All I need now is a site that generates fat movie rights and publishing royalties cheques to go along with it.

Friday, December 15, 2006

In Your Ear

Kevin Wood / Daily Yomiuri Staff Writer


The Black Swan

P-Vine, 2,520 yen

Revered in Britain since his debut in the mid-'60s, Scottish folk guitar wizard Bert Jansch has undeservedly cruised just under the radar in North America, never achieving the wide popularity of a James Taylor or even a Don McLean. His latest album The Black Swan is unlikely to break into MTV's Big 10 or be featured on Total Requests Live any time soon, despite Neil Young comparing him favorably to Jimi Hendrix.

Jansch's appeal as a solo artist and as part of British folk supergroup Pentangle has never fit with mainstream pop tastes--he doesn't prance around in spandex, date starlets or regularly get arrested. What he does do is sing, write interesting songs and play the acoustic guitar very, very, very well.

Jansch's guitar on Swan is as warm and refreshing as a sudden shower of rain on a hot, sunny day. There are no head-melting solos, just solid, consistently interesting and off-beat instrumental work as Jansch backs up his own dry, deep vocals and those of guest Beth Orton on a selection of sparsely arranged tracks built around his guitar. The tracks run the gamut from meditative ballads such as "High Days" to folk blues such as "My Pocket's Empty" and the titular sci-fi story-song. There are even a pair of protest songs--"Texas Cowboy Blues" and "Bring Your Religion."

An excellent antidote to the commercial hurly-burly of the holiday season.


The Very Best of Jerry Garcia

Rhino/Warner, 3,150 yen

'Tis the season for greatest hits collections, and Rhino has assembled an excellent cross section of Jerry Garcia's recordings as a solo artist.

Best known for his lengthy guitar solos in concert with psychedelic jam icons the Grateful Dead, Garcia started his musical career as a folk banjo player, and his musical tastes pretty much covered the waterfront, something reflected in this collection that includes covers of songs by Irving Berlin, Bob Dylan, Alan Toussaint, the Beatles and Jimmy Cliff, as well as numerous joint efforts between Garcia and lyricist Robert Hunter.

The first of the two discs is drawn from Garcia's solo studio rock albums recorded in the '70s and early '80s and not all of it has aged especially well. The second disc, made up of live recordings from 1973 to 1990, offers a better example of Garcia at the top of his game, stepping out for extended solos and crossing genres from bluegrass to folk-rock to reggae.

While it contains some absolute gems, the album could have been shorter and is better suited to fans and Garcia completists than neophytes.


Live at the Fillmore East

Reprise/Warner, 2,580 yen

While not technically a "best of" collection, this 1970 concert recording of Neil Young and Crazy Horse showcases the group at their best.

Young, in 1970, had not yet reached the peak of his fame and it was performances like this one that earned him a place in guitar hero Valhalla. He wails, crunches and twangs his way through an energetic set of his early material with extended pregrunge workouts on "Down By The River" and "Cowgirl In The Sand." Also included is an early version of "Wonderin'," a minor hit for Young when he finally recorded it in 1983. This album is must-have for fans and will come as a revelation for those who only know Young's Harvest-era folk material.
(Dec. 16, 2006)

RIP Ahmet Ertegun
The R&B and soul music pioneer who popularized Ray Charles and Aretha Franklin and opened the door commercially to the British Invasion, was also a big soccer fan (betcha didn't know that!)
I think he probably went the way he wanted to go - he fell and hit his head at a Rolling Stones concert and just never woke up. I wonder what song the boys were playing at the time?

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

The art of headline writing
About the level of quality we expect from CNN:
"Leahy wants FBI to help corrupt Iraqi police force"

and from the "hell in a handbasket dept."
"'Moral decay' behind library vandalism"

(sniff) Do you smell that? (sniff)it smells like.....Pulitzer!

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Monday, December 11, 2006

Dark look into underground
Kevin Wood / Daily Yomiuri Staff Writer

A Scanner Darkly

2.5 stars out of five

Dir Richard Linklater

Cast: Keanu Reeves, Robert Downey Jr., Winona Ryder

Paranoia, betrayal, dependence and confused identities are not exactly standard themes for an animated film, but then not even the animation is standard in director Richard Linklater's adaptation of sci-fi noir author Philip K. Dick's A Scanner Darkly.

The film was made using an animation technique known as digital rotoscoping that allows animators to essentially trace and overlay photographic images with digital graphics, resulting in an impressionistic film in which characters look and move like real people, but with the altered perspective of the filmmaker superimposed.

Set in the near future, the film follows an undercover narcotics officer codenamed Fred (Keanu Reeves) who is assigned to investigate suspected drug dealer Bob Arctor. Undercover police agents in this world are fully undercover, their true identities concealed even from their coworkers and superiors through the use of a so-called scramble suit worn at the police station that completely masks their appearance and voice. Arctor is suspected of dealing in the pernicious and highly addictive substance D, a drug that gradually splits the user's mind into multiple personalities.

We quickly realize that Fred and Arctor are the same person, but what isn't clear is whether Arctor is posing as a Fred or vice versa, or whether either is aware of his link to the other.

Aside from a few twists and turns, the story follows Fred/Arctor and his friends through their descent into further drug addiction and eventual attempts at redemption. The narrative often takes a backseat to dialog-heavy set pieces revolving around urban legends, low humor and drug-induced obsession and paranoia. While the set pieces are often amusing or sad, they slow the pace of the story to a glacial crawl.

In a stroke of obvious but effective casting, noted Hollywood druggies Woody Harrelson and Robert Downey Jr. play Arctor's housemates, with Harrelson's dopey hippie an ideal comic foil for the fast-talking, occasionally sinister character played by Downey. Where Harrelson's character is generally just spaced out, Downey's is more mischievous and conspiracy-minded. One funny scene in the film has him convincing another character that he can make cocaine out of Solarcaine sunburn spray.

Downey's performance is definitely a bright spot in the film, as is that of Rory Cochrane, best known for his turn as a conspiracy buff in Linklater's Dazed and Confused and his work on the various CSI television programs. The less said about the wooden Keanu Reeves and Winona Ryder, the better, though Reeves' lack of affect does give the character the sort of blankness that can pass for confusion over his true identity.

While there are a number of laughs in the film, most of them courtesy of Downey, the overall tone is fittingly very dark as we watch the main characters spiral down into madness, desperation and even suicide.

Linklater made good use of rotoscoping to convey a sort of cinematic version of magic realism in his 2001 film Waking Life and it serves him well here, allowing him to show the jangled, stuttering and occasionally hallucinatory point of view of the main characters as they slide in and out of drug-induced psychosis. While occasionally distracting, the effect is key to the overall atmosphere of the film.

Unsuspecting fans of animation, science fiction and Keanu Reeves should be forewarned that this is a film with an important message.

At its heart, A Scanner Darkly is a plea for a more forgiving and humanitarian approach to drug addiction. In an epilogue to the novel reproduced at the end of the film, Dick wrote: "This has been a novel about some people who were punished entirely too much for what they did. They wanted to have a good time, but they were like children playing in the street; they could see one after another of them being killed--run over, maimed, destroyed--but they continued to play anyhow."

Linklater has taken a book that is clearly dear to his heart and rewritten it for the screen, probably with the foreknowledge that it would be difficult to translate the novel into a film, but he did it anyhow, because sometimes the message is more important than the medium.

Friday, December 08, 2006

As if there was ever any doubt, eh?

You are 100% Hoser, Eh?

You are a true, blue toque-wearing, beer-drinking, poutine-eating, snowmobiling, hockey playing Hoser and proud of it. You can quote freely from episodes of Codco and Corner Gas, and you actually know the current lyrics to our national anthem in both official languages. Your Canada Council membership card is in the mail.

How Canadian are You?
Quizzes for MySpace

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Today's Republican sex crime brought to you by...
The Seattle Times, who tells about a local activist in the "family values party" with a thing for 13-year-olds

Monday, December 04, 2006

If any one is looking for me, I'll be out back sawing my Yamaha up for firewood

Amazing Guitarist
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The ice machine cometh

Zamboni: The Coolest Machines on Ice

By Eric Dregni

Voyageur Press, 128 pp, 19.95 dollars

Some brand names become so identified with a particular product that they enter the lexicon. North Americans Xerox papers at the office, eat Jello for dessert, and wipe their noses with Kleenex. In Britain, one cleans up with a Hoover and writes notes with a Biro (ballpoint pen). In Japan, most offices are equipped with at least one Hotchkiss (stapler).

At last count, at least five U.S. companies and eight Canadian firms have made ice resurfacing machines, according to Eric Dregni, but only Zamboni is listed in the dictionary.

This is just one of the many facts in Dregni's corporate hagiography of Frank J. Zamboni & Co. The slim coffee-table book is extensively illustrated with photos from the company archives detailing the evolution of the world's favorite ice resurfacing machine.

Dregni has mined the company archives heavily, bringing forth informational nuggets about the development of the Zamboni and bons mots from its late inventor, the company's namesake. The author obviously spent time with several members of the Zamboni family, who continue to run the company, as Frank's descendants provide numerous anecdotes about the company's early days and the founder's penchant for innovation.

While it may be every Canadian kid's dream to one day drive the Zamboni at the local hockey rink, the big, boxy ice smoothing machine was born in Paramount, Calif., where the Zamboni brothers started one of the state's first skating rinks in 1940.

The ice proved no match for southern California's hot, dry climate, and skaters were reluctant to wait the 90 minutes it took to resurface the ice with a tractor-drawn planer and four-man team armed with scrapers, squeegees and hoses. By March of 1942, Frank had built his first prototype, a tractor-drawn model, but he didn't settle on the design that won him his first patent until 1949, when war surplus vehicles made parts easier to find.

A year later, figure-skating star Sonja Henie bought the third Zamboni--built onto a Jeep chassis--for her touring ice show, and the resurfacers spread to areas across North America overnight.

Dregni brings a light touch to what is essentially a company history, adding plenty of anecdotes of rink-rat hijinks and cross-country voyages to leaven the dry statistics.

(Dec. 2, 2006)

Saturday, December 02, 2006

"These are a few of my favorite things"
In your heart you always knew that booze, sex, drugs and chocolate were good for you, didn't you? Well, now we have proof via Fark

Top 10 Bad Things That Are Good For You

How the tories roll
Well, it look like Harper's flying monkeys have been at it again and gotten what they wanted. There is a technical term for this kind of operation, coined by Donald Segretti back in the very early 1970s. Let's just say it's a graphic expression invoking images of sexual congress with rodents.
Interesting that they are so proud of emulating Nixon's thug squad.

I, for one, welcome our new Harperite overlords
third ballot results - 5 a.m. over here in Tokyo and this is just too damn depressing.
Dion 1782
Ignatieff 1660
Rae 1385

I guess I'll see everyone back at the leadership convention this time next year after the Harper majority in the Spring. Assuming the War Measures Act hasn't been declared to put down an uprising of Vancouver Canucks fans in Calgary or Mohawks in Ontario or something. Rae was our last chance of beating Harper in the long run. Dion is a fine, smart man and a good cabinet minister, but he won't get vote one west of Toronto unless we get photos of Stevie actually eating a baby. Ignatieff -- phew, the worst that could happen is that he gets elected and moves us a little further to the right in a minority government which then falls to a genuine U.S. style Rethuglican Tory party under Harper.
Neither is very appealing and both favor recognizing Quebec as a nation. Will the last province to leave confederation please turn out the lights?

Who won the Liberal Leadership convention? Rene Levesque and Lucien Bouchard. $%#&#&%'#!

Jumping the gun
No sooner had I posted the previous entry than I found out that Kennedy is going to back Dion on the third ballot. I think that means Dion will win as a compromise candidate on the fourth ballot, with Rae a close second. Ignatieff or Rae could still conceivable pull it off, but most of their supporters are unlikely to move to the other's camp. Defectors will go to the middle, where the momentum is -- to Dion. Which probably means we had better get used to the Harper government. Of the remaining three, Rae has the best chance of beating Harper, which is why Dryden is backing him. I suppose I probably would too. If enough of Kennedy's people go to Rae (say a third to a half) he could still win, though most of the bloggers on the spot claim there is a strong anti-Rae movement at the convention.

Second ballot results
Michael Ignatieff first ballot 1412 second ballot 1481
Bob Rae first ballot 977 second ballot 1132
Stephane Dion first ballot 856 second ballot 974
Gerard Kennedy first ballot 854 second ballot 884
Ken Dryden first ballot 238 second ballot 219

Dryden will be dropped for the third ballot, where his supporters go is going to make a huge difference if they move en masse. If they split up more or less evenly, Kennedy is probably done and who he backs (I'd guess Rae) could very well determine the outcome.

In terms of momentum, of the votes freed up by candidates bowing out - a total of 478 plus the 19 voters who defected from Dryden (so much for my prediction of him gaining support - I guess the speeches really don't matter) makes a grand total of 497 swing votes.

Ignatieff gains 69
Rae gains 155
Dion gains 118
Kennedy gains 30

Frankly, I think Kennedy gaining 30 is a bigger boost than the front runner Ignatieff gaining 69. I think Kennedy might be toast, but unless he throws to Ignatieff -- well lets just hope they kept Iggy' s seat at Harvard warm for him. I don't think Iggy can do it without Kennedy or Dion throwing in with him. I don't think Rae would do it, I doubt Kennedy would do it. Since it is 2:30 in the morning Tokyo time I'll make my bet now and find out who actually won and how when I wake up later today.

Possible scenarios:
Kennedy supports Rae, who takes it on the fourth (possibly third) ballot. I'd call this the most likely as they agree on the "Quebec as a nation" question and are the two furthest left of center.

Kennedy supports Dion after being dropped following the third ballot, Dion wins on the fifth in a showdown with Iggy or Rae.

Dion supports Ignatieff prior to the third ballot, giving him the win - not so likely, as Dion thinks he can win and a lot of his supporters hate Iggy more than any other candidate.

Total long shot would be that Dryden backs Kennedy, who pushes past Dion to come third on the third ballot, Dion then supports Kennedy (very unlikely I know, in light of the "nation" thing) who wins on the fourth or fifth ballot.

My Prediction: this time next year we will be talking about how similar Prime Minister Bob Rae is to Jean Chretien and how cool Dryden's early education and child care plan is.

Kennedy supports Dion

Liberal shuffle - waiting for the second ballot results

As we await the result of the second ballot, let me recap the shifting alliances:
Ignatieff is still on his own and I'm betting he loses votes in the second ballot.
Rae has picked up the support of Joe Volpe and Scott Brison and should increase his share of votes this round, possibly even taking the lead
Dion has picked up the support of Martha Hall Findlay and may get more votes from Ignatieff defectors - he will stay in third, but he will close in on second
Kennedy will finish a very strong fourth, not far off the pace
Dryden will finish fifth, but increase the number of votes from the first ballot. Unless Kennedy throws to Dion or Rae, Dryden just might be the kingmaker, though I have read speculation from some in the Kennedy and Dion camps that Iggy could bow out and back Dion, but I think that is unlikely at this stage.

I'll be home for Christmas

I couldn't agree more if I had written the speech myself
Ken Dryden in the House of Commons addressing the government motion on recognizing Quebec as a nation within a nation.
Somebody please explain to me why he is running 5th in the leadership race at this point and not an overwhelming first. I keep reading all these reports about how his was the best speech at the convention, the polls all said he had the best chance of beating Harper and not one single person in the Liberal Party seems to have a bad thing to say about him. Why is the party trying to decide between a flashy neo-con in Liberal clothing and the most unpopular Ontario premier in recent memory (NB: No provincial premier has ever become PM) when there is a decent, thoughtful, proven, popular and broadly appealing candidate like this?

First ballot result and irresponsible speculation

Ignatieff 29.3%
Rae 20.3%
Dion 17.8%
Kennedy 17.7%
Dryden 4.9%
Brison 4.0%
Volpe 3.2%
Hall Findlay 2.7%

Joe Volpe has already announced he is dropping out to support Rae, though apparently several of his campaign staff have joined Ignatieff's team. Brison has announced he will drop out and throw his support to an as yet unnamed candidate (One of the four front runners obviously, and my guess is most likely Ignatieff)

I suspect Hall Findlay will join the Rae team and Dryden will hold out until the second ballot is done. I would have liked to have seen Dryden do a little better, but with all the delegates forced to dance with the fella that brung 'em on the first ballot, I didn't really expect much more. I do on the second ballot. I heard his speech was a great one and I think he is a popular second choice on his electability.

I think Ignatieff is likely to lose support in the second round, while Rae, Kennedy and Dion pick up more -- it will be interesting to see if there is some kind of backroom move by Rae and Ignatieff to throw a few votes to Kennedy to make sure he and not Dion finishes third in the next few rounds. I don't know if Rae wants to go mano a mano with his old Uof T roommate just yet or not, but I think that is what it is going to come down to in the end.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

The envelope please...

Please tell me this is a joke. The next great Canadian Prime Minister is to be chosen by a panel of ex-Prime Ministers that includes such luminaries as the most hated Prime Minister in Canadian history (Brian Mulroney) the most unlikely Prime Minister in Canadian history (Joe "Who?" Clark) the most disappointing Prime Minister of the 20th century (John Turner) and some one who, while breaking ground for the 15 minutes she was in office as Canada's first female prime minister, was undoubtably the least successful PM ever (Kim Campbell). Surely this like asking Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson and James Dobson to vote on who gets the Nobel Prize for evolutionary biology, or the college of Cardinals in Rome to choose the porn star of the year. While the fifty grand would be nice, I have to think that for any 21-year-old with serious political ambitions the seal of approval from these four would pretty much be the kiss of death.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Tomayto - Tomahto
What's in a name? That which we call an abattoir would still stink as bad.
If they can't even decide what to call it, what makes anyone think this delusional bunch of crooks, dolts and reactionary true-believers have the slightest chance of fixing the problem?

White House Wages War of Words Over 'Civil' Term
Peter BakerWashington Post Staff Writer

Wednesday, November 29, 2006; PageA16

The carnage in Iraq is "sectarian violence," President Bush says. It's a
"struggle for freedom," the "central front in the war on terror." It is not, no matter how much it may look like it, a civil war.Forget the debate over what to do about the war in Iraq. The White House is still debating what to call the war in Iraq. With retired generals, analysts, politicians and pundits increasingly using the term "civil war," the Bush administration insists that the definition does not fit as part of its latest effort to control the words of war.

Because what we call it and how we frame the debate is so much more important than what we do about it. How about instead of "cancer" we call it "happyfluffybunnyitis" instead? Sort of the way they call it a "setback at the polls" instead of a "complete electoral ass-kicking."

Monday, November 27, 2006

First wanker of the Christmas season sighted
And his name is Bob Kearns. He's the autocratic nutzoid head of the president of the Loma Linda Homeowners Association in Pagosa Springs in Southwestern Colorado, where they are fining a resident $25 a day for putting up a christmas wreath shaped like a peace symbol. Bob seems to feel it is a "Satanic symbol"
I guess he'd hate my idea to write "Lucifer Lives" in gasoline on his front lawn and set it ablaze for Halloween next year. I sure hope nobody makes fun him for the rest of his natural life for this. Because that would be wrong. He should be made fun of for much, much longer. Like Quisling, Gerrymander and Santorum before him, his name should become part of the lexicon. Any time someone shows themselves to be an ignorant, narrowminded, petty, pedantic, power-abusing nit-wit they should henceforth be known as a "Kearns" and abusing power in an ignorant, narrowminded, petty, pedantic, nit-witted way should henceforth be known as "Kearnsing."
(ie) "My high-school Vice-Principal sent me home from school for wearing a pair of FCUK jeans -- What a Kearns!" or "They Kearnsed me at the Post Office -- I let someone go ahead of me in line while I finished addressing a Christmas card and they made me go to the back of the line. What a bunch of Santorum-eating O'Reilys!"

Update: In the face of massive public protest, the Homeowners Association has backed off and declared the whole thing a big misunderstanding. As in, they misunderstood that bit in the constitution about "freedom of expression" and mistakenly thought they were living in Stalinist Russia.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Winning hearts and minds

"Thanks for the free exercise, G.I.! America is No.1!"
I bet these kids grow up to love America.
Five years ago that kid could have just turned on a tap in his kitchen.
Happy Thanksgiving America.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

the dirtiest commercial I 've ever seen

Friday, November 17, 2006

Poonoka's finest
Once again we bring you the RCMP's fantastically talented Cst. Douglas Enns and the the world's greatest small town police blotter

Thursday, November 16, 2006

The Turner Diaries
Poor, poor Garth Turner. After being a lifelong member of the Tory party, an MP on and off since 1988 and even a cabinet minister in the Mulroney government, he is just now realizing that the Conservative Party of Canada is an elitist old-boys network with little interest in democracy. Well boo-hoo-hoo.

"But my Conservative party believes in free speech, diversity of opinion, co-operation, equality of all people, progressive social values, true environmental protection and stands firm against intolerance, bigotry exclusion."
Umm, yeah, and I used to believe in the tooth fairy - then I turned six and got wise. Anyone who believe that about the Conservative party probably also believe in unicorns that shit rainbows and that the Queen runs England. For a former Mulroney footsoldier like Turner to be spouting all this naive claptrap about how the Conservative Party used to be some sort hippie love-in is disgusting - and what is more disgusting is the free pass that progressives are giving him simply because he is against Harper. Guess what, Osama Bin Laden probably hates Steve Harper too, but that doesn't make him my best pal. The enemy of my enemy is not always my friend and just because the conservatives kicked him out for going against the grain does not make Garth Turner any less of a total frickin' wanker. Even if he paints himself Green, it is still going to all be about Garth.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006


Kevin Wood / Daily Yomiuri Staff Writer

Orphans: Brawlers, Bawlers and Bastards
Sony Music/Epitaph, 6,300 yen

The great American lo-fi junkyard genius and hobo poet-philosopher clanks, chugs, cackles, wails and croons his way through an astonishing 56 tracks--about three hours of material--on his latest release.

Orphans began as an attempt to collect various Waits tracks originally recorded for films and tribute albums, and other assorted bits and pieces that had never made it onto any of Waits' albums. Somewhere in the collecting process, Waits and his wife and creative partner Kathleen Brennan were inspired to come up with 30 new compositions.

Along with all the new works, the material on Orphans includes a broad spectrum of covers, including the Ramones' "The Return of Jackie and Judy," the '50s R&B favorite "Sea of Love," Huddie "Leadbelly" Ledbetter's classic "Goodnight Irene" and sentimental chestnut "Young at Heart" as well as lyrics by Beat icon Jack Kerouac and meat poet Charles Bukowski set to Waits' music. And just wait until you hear his cover of the Walt Disney classic "Heigh Ho."

Waits' genius for avant-garde arrangements and unorthodox soundscapes gives a continuity to the diverse tracks that span decades in time and light years in outlook.

The first of the three CDs in the set, Brawlers, is Waits in his barroom piano-player and song-and-dance man persona, barking out blues about breaking out of jail with a fish bone ("Fish in the Jailhouse") and his baby leaving on the "2:19." Much of Brawlers sounds like material that could have come from 1999's Mule Variations.

The second CD, Bawlers showcases Waits' tenderhearted side with ballads sweet and sad, and sly love songs--if there is a hit on this album, it is the hummable "Long Way Home" from the soundtrack to the 2001 movie Big Bad Love.

The third disc, Bastards, is a trip into dark territory that includes recitations of Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht, a bedtime story bound to send most kids into therapy, a dirgelike cover of Daniel Johnston's "King Kong," stand-up comedy and a weird subterranean monologue about bugs.

"Orphans are rough and tender tunes. Rhumbas about mermaids, shuffles about train wrecks, tarantellas about insects, madrigals about drowning," says Waits in a press release accompanying the review copy. "Scared, mean orphan songs of rapture and melancholy. Songs that grew up hard. Songs of dubious origin rescued from cruel fate."

Take them home and give them the love they deserve.

The Road to Escondido
Warner, 2,580 yen

Just in time for Eric Clapton's latest Japan tour, The Road to Escondido is a reunion of the duo responsible for two of Clapton's biggest hits: "After Midnight" and "Cocaine." J.J. Cale wrote most of the 14 songs on the album and the two veteran blues rockers share guitar duties with Albert Lee, Derek Trucks, John Mayer and occasional Clapton and B.B. King sideman Doyle Bramhall II (who will be making the journey with Clapton to Japan along with Trucks).

Other guests include journeyman bassist Pino Palladino, bluesman Taj Mahal and the late, great Billy Preston.

Nothing here matches the intensity or energy of Clapton's earlier covers of Cale in the 1970s, but there is plenty of relaxed, foot-tapping blues, rock and countrified jazz. For a pair of guitar heroes, Cale and Clapton show admirable restraint in their solos and never push to hard, going for taste over flash.
(Nov. 11, 2006)

Friday, November 10, 2006

Let the trials begin

Depending which version of events you believe Donald Rumsfeld has resign or been fired in disgrace over the blazing clusterfuck that is the U.S. occupation of Iraq. He may have been pushed over the side to placate the Democrats in light of last week's electoral "thumping" they gave the Republicans. He may have quit to avoid the humiliation of a congressional investigation into just how badly he screwed up. He may be gone, but he is not forgotten

"And the war criminals must be brought to justice - beginning with Donald Rumsfeld. On November 14, the Center for Constitutional Rights, the National Lawyers Guild, and other organizations will ask the German federal prosecutor to initiate a criminal investigation into the war crimes of Rumsfeld and other Bush administration officials. Although Bush has immunized his team from prosecution in the International Criminal Court, they could be tried in any country under the well-established principle of universal jurisdiction."

And if not war crimes charges, then how about a civil suit for the wrongful deaths of about half a million Iraqis and three thousand Americans? Anyone for a criminal negligence suit? That ought to put a dent in Rummy's bank account.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

The genius of Brian Mulroney
Admittedly this is not a phrase I ever expected to type, but this week I've been listening to the 2005 Massey Lectures on CBC podcasts and I have come to the realization that the appointment of Stephen Lewis as UN ambassador was a masterstroke. Because if he hadn't been distracted by the horrible problems of Africa at the UN and had stayed focused on Canadian politics, he'd have kicked Mulroney and John Turner's collective butts around the block and been Prime Minister for the last 10 or 15 years and probably the next 10 or 15. And we would all mourn his departure when he stepped down.

Certainly, both Canada and Africa would have been better off with him at the G8 meetings. Just listen to the lectures and tell me he wouldn't have been handed the Prime Minister's office by acclaimation after a 15 minute debate with Harper or Martin. Or Harper and Chretien. Or any other political combo in the last 20 years you might care to name. Christ, if he had gotten into federal politics back in the day, he'd have eaten Mulroney alive.He could have made Pierre Trudeau looked tongue-tied. He's been named one of the 100 most influential people in the world and not without very good reason.

If only he would come back to Canadian politics, I'd suggest that he would be one of the great PM's of all time, but I don't think he would take the step down from the UN. So let's make him the next Governor-General as a stepping stone to becoming UN Secretary-General

Monday, November 06, 2006

Electoral Crystal Ball
In the U.S. Senate elections, Joe Lieberman will squeak out a narrow win (not more than 5%) against Ned Lamont and join the Republicans by Christmas unless the Democrats have a majority of at least three seats in the Senate - which they probably won't.
George Allen and Jim Webb will be so close that it will take a month to recount the votes, which means the Republicans will win the seat because they are better at fighting dirty in the clinches and control the bench in Virgina.
Rick Santorum will get his ass handed to him in Pennsylvania, Casey will beat him like a rented mule.
My best guess is the Democrats will take 15 to 20 new seats in the house, giving them a majority, though it may be a slim margin. They should take five seats in the Senate, counting the independent socialist (!!!) that is poised to take a seat in Vermont. Look for them to win in Montana, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Ohio, and (please, please, please oh Flying Spagetti Monster) Tennessee.
For all you eligible Americans, get out and vote and take friends to the poll with you. Be prepared to have your right to vote challenged, expect long lines and hundreds if not thousands of "accidental" technical screw-up with the voting machines. Rove will do his best to supress the vote, because a good turnout in which all the votes are accurately counted means a sweep for the Democrats.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

What's Farsi for "Last Stand"?
By the end of the year, at least 3,000 U.S. soldiers will have "died with their boots on." Somehow I'm not surprised to learn the head of the intelligence directorate of U.S. Central Command is Brigadier General John M. Custer. I'm busy this week, write your own jokes.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Media Matters vs. the MSM Hacks
This plea for less crapulous horserace coverage and more (any) substance should be nailed to the door of every newsroom, stuck on every computer screen on every news desk and slipped into every reporters pocket (or in the case of CNN, stapled to certain people's foreheads).

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

More Spankers!

"Stick Magnetic Ribbons on Your SUV" has drawn over 12,000 hits to this blog in the last month (and over a quarter of a million on YouTube) so I thought I'd treat all of you to some more from God's Favorite Band. This one is from the video of their tenth anniversary show in Austin. Check the links on the side of the page for their homepage and go BUY ALL THEIR ALBUMS!!! NOW!!

Monday, October 23, 2006

True punditry, thy name is Billmon
Sometimes, I write something and read it and pat myself on the back. Other times I read what someone else has written and think to myself, "Why do I bother to do this when someone else has already done it so much better than I ever will?" Sometimes that someone is Hemingway or Shakespeare or Bob Dylan or Raymond Carver. Sometimes it is Billmon. If you are one of the few people who read this blog that doesn't also read the "Free thinking in a dirty glass" at Billmon's Whiskey Bar, go smack yourself upside your own head and get wise.

When he is on, he is one of the best writers on current affairs you'll ever read, not just on the internet, but anywhere. For sheer elegance in turning a phrase and clarity of thought and expression, I'd put up against any of the TV talking heads and current newspaper and magazine opinion columnist. He could kick David Brooks' sorry ass and eat a dozen Friedmans for dessert. Comparing him with the lamer-than-lame bleating of James Lieks or the cognitive dissonance on parade that is The Corner, would be tooling up with a helicopter gunship for a knife fight against a double amputee.

"None of this babbling makes any sense, in other words. Nor is it remotely in scale with the size of the Cheney administration's failure in Iraq. Part of me thinks it's all being driven by the need of beltway journalists and think tankers alike to have something new to say about Iraq, something that isn't a variation on: "Yep. We're still fucked." But there's obviously a hard edge of real desperation -- if not despair -- behind this. America's ruling elites have had things largely their own way for the past couple of decades. But now they're looking at a bottomless quagimire that may have a much bigger disaster (like loss of access to Persian Gulf oil) hidden somewhere in the mud. And they don't
have a clue about what to do. They've lost control, which is the last thing any ruling elite can afford to admit."

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Wavy Gravy alway says:
If you remember the 60's you weren't really there, but this study on Alzheimer's and marijuana indicates that it was better to inhale pot
Actually, I think its not so much that weed prevents Alzheimer's, I think chronic chronic users are just much more accustomed to functioning without their memory working properly.

The Hockey Sweater
One of my all-time favorite stories -- I love the narration by the author, Roch Carrier.

Over the hill and picking up speed
Okay, I've been 40 years old for about 99 minutes now. I don't like it, but I suppose it beats the alternative. I guess I better go do the stuff that 40 year olds do...."Hey you kids, get off the lawn"

addendum: Dave over at the Axis of Evel Knievel fill us in on the religious significance of my birthdate - worship me puny mortal! I am He who Is! and make that cheque payable to "cash"!!!

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Dilbert's Unified Theory of Everything Financial
Everything you need to know about money in under 130 words.
From Scott Adams' "Dilbert and the Way of the Weasels."

1. Make a will
2. Pay off your credit cards
3. Get term life insurance if you have a family to support
4. Fund your 401k/pension plan to the maximum
5. Fund your IRA/RRSP to the maximum
6. Buy a house if you want to live in a house and can afford it
7. Put six months worth of expenses in a money-market account
8. Take whatever money is left over and invest 70% in a stock index fund and 30% in a bond fund through any discount broker and never touch it until retirement
9. If any of this confuses you, or you have something special going on (retirement, college planning, tax issues), hire a fee-based financial planner, not one who charges a percentage of your portfolio.

And as my mother the stock broker and financial planner always says: "Pay yourself first" meaning take ten percent of your paycheque and put it straight into the bank before you pay the bills, buy grocieries, beer or anything else.

Guilty until proven innocent
Ex-con (1) and Canadian Justice Minister Vic Toews has brought in a bill to establish a U.S. style three-strikes law in Canada that would see people convicted of a third violent or sexual criminal offense jailed indefinitely as "dangerous offenders." Now, you might be thinking "What's wrong with that? I don't want violent criminals or perverts roaming the streets!" but the catch is that the dangerous offender status is automatic unless the defendant can convince the judge they are not at risk to reoffend - in other words the onus of proof is on the accused, not the accuser.

This is so obivously a political ploy on the part of the Conservatives to show they are "tough on crime" that it is offensive that they would even suggest it. Regular reader already know how this kind of stupid grandstanding pisses me off . How dumb do they think the average Canadian is? Do they really think that someone who gets in three bar brawls deserves to be automatically jailed for life?

Even defense lawyers, who stand to make a fortune from defending all the poor bastards who will suddenly be facing an automatic life sentence, oppose the idea, saying it is abitrary, will clog the courts and lead to shortage of available lawyers. And it won't do a damn thing to fight crime. It is also completely unnecessary since prosecutors can already apply to the judge in cases involving violent or sexual crimes to have defendants declared dangerous offenders, even on a first offense. Toews is saying that he doesn't trust our justice system or the judgement of crown attorneys and judicary.

The three strikes system in the U.S. has not cut the crime rate one iota, has filled prisons to beyond bursting and tied the hands of judges to make reasoned, thoughtful appropriate decisions on sentencing. It just doesn't work (2). But it gives Stephen Harper and Vic Toews the chance to pose with big, strong policemen for the cameras and gives the Conservatives a nice little hobby horse to ride in the next election when they need to distract people from their various screw-ups.

I can see the blogging tories and ex-reform party types foaming at the mouth at the first opposition to this clearly unconstitutional move: "What?!? You mean the Liberals are siding with child molesters and murderers? Clearly such evil liberals cannot be trusted!" (Clutch pearls) "Won't someone think of the children?"

I can see the Conservatives response when the law is struck down as unconstitutional too: "What?!? You mean the Supreme Court is siding with child molesters and murderers? Clearly such evil activist judges cannot be trusted! (clutch pearls/pound podium) "Won't someone think of the children?"

(see how thorough and serious I'm being? Aren't you impressed?)
1.On January 25, 2005, Toews pleaded guilty to the charge of exceeding personal campaign expense limits in the 1999 provincial election.[55] Toews claimed that the overspending resulted from a miscommunication between his campaign and the provincial party as to how some expenses were accounted.[56] There were some calls for him to resign as his party's justice critic, but nothing came of this.[57] Toews received a $500 fine, and the charge remains on his record.[58]

2. Take your pick

Monday, October 16, 2006

So it goes
Another day, another Republican accused of nepotism and corruption.
Seriously, if the Democrats can't turn all this into a congressional majority, there is no hope -- it will be time for progressives to organize a third party or emigrate to Canada.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Religious round up
Salon has an amusing juxtaposition of articles this week: A story on Steven Baldwin, who has morphed from C-list actor into A-list evangelist; and a lengthy interview with uber-atheist and top evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins. Now if we could just get the two to take part in a cage match...

On the right we have the faithful:

"Baldwin preaches that free will is a lie of Satan -- we must shut off our brains, he says, and be led by what God tells our hearts. Furthermore, he writes, efforts to end global poverty and violence are just the sort of "stupid arrogance" that incur God's wrath, which we'll be feeling any day now in the coming apocalypse. I suppose when the star of "Bio-Dome" is advising the president and converting kids by the thousands to his gnarly brand of faith, the end is, indeed, nigh. "

While on the left we have the rational:

"What is so bad about religion?
Well, it encourages you to believe falsehoods, to be satisfied with inadequate explanations which really aren't explanations at all. And this is particularly bad because the real explanations, the scientific explanations, are so beautiful and so elegant. Plenty of people never get exposed to the beauties of the scientific explanation for the world and for life. And that's very sad. But it's even sadder if they are actively discouraged from understanding by a systematic attempt in the opposite direction, which is what many religions actually are. But that's only the first
of my many reasons for being hostile to religion. "

In Baldwin's defense, he does consider Bono a tool of Satan - and Dawkins can be a bit of a pushy prick, but still and all, what this boils down to is a dumbass encouraging other people to be dumbasses and a smart, educated guy encouraging people to be smart and educated. Which do you think is likely to make the world a better place?

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Sweet Jesus
And they wonder why there is a problem with obesity in North America? As a bit of a lardass, I suppose I'm not in a great position to criticize, but "deep fried Coke"? Why not just take a bag of white sugar, roll it in bacon fat and graham cracker crumbs, deep fry it and inject it straight into your heart?

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Rae makes splash in leadership race

Many Ontario voters would like to tell Bob Rae to "go jump in the lake" - Rick Mercer seems to have convinced him to do it.

Despite the picture scramble, I think this shows Rae has the balls to be Prime Minister - or at least that he is the candidate with nothing to hide. It also shows an admirable amount of humility and a sense of humor, things I want my PM to have.

And for Blogging Tories having this read to them: No, there is no double standard involved in the press virtually ignoring this while jumping on "Doris" Day for his arrival at his first press conference on a jet ski. Doris was trying to look cool in his wet suit at an official press conference and this was a joke for a comedy program. It's not even apples and oranges, it's more like rhinos and the national debt, or anthracite coal and sea water, or blogging tories and sane people -- you know, things that are completely different.

I think this and other similar stunts on the Mercer Report -- Rick skydiving with Gen. Hillier, going to Canadian Tire with Prime Minister Paul Martin etc etc -- show a key difference between Canada and most other nations. We refuse to let our leaders take themselves too seriously. Try to imagine George Bush going to the hardware store with Jon Stewart, or Dick Cheney hosting Saturday Night Live.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Readin' Ritin' and Rithmatic
Linwood Barclay in the Toronto Star on the Tories brave new literacy plan. Next from the Conservative brain trust: A new math curriculum that uses only prime numbers, thus saving taxpayers millions of dollars.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Awww, isn't it cute...
We've had our first troll! 15,000 hits - about 5,000 in the last week or so thanks to the Asylum Street Spankers video - and we've finally gotten trolled.

BlameCanada (on blogger since last week) wrote in the comments:
"This is the biggest bunch of crap ever. Tell that out of shape joke of a lead singer to hit the gym and get a haircut. As for him and the rest of the freak show, stop abusing free speech to attack the people that are defending and providing you with that right! You just prove to the rest of the world that Texans ARE retarded, Bush included. You can return to Canada or France whenever. Preferrably sooner rather than later."

I suspect this may be someone I know yanking my chain and hoping to get me to go off on a rant. If so, they have crafted a great and subtle parody of a troll.

Strawman argument? Check.
Misunderstanding of the original material? Check.
Ad Hominem attack and personal insults? Check.
Bad mouthing of French? Check.
General dumbassery? Check.

Now if this dingbat is sincere, let me just ask how it thinks one can "abuse free speech" when it is supposed to be a near absolute. I'd also like to know how the chowderheads whose support of the troops involved in the USA's illegal war in Iraq is limited to slapping magnets on their gas-guzzler are "defending and providing" that right to free speech. And even if the band were referring to the troops - which they pointedly are not - how exactly were the Iraqis threating free speech in the United States?

The puzzling thing is that "BlameCanada" claim to think Bush is an idiot, which leads me to wonder whether it is a real troll or a parody troll. He also dwells on the lead singer being out of shape and having long hair, when in fact the lead singer-Wammo by name and nature-looks fairly dapper in the video and not especially fat (thanks to the lighting and the slimming nature of the black tux). I therefore suspect it is Wammo or someone else from the band - though I would have expected less subtle parody from the rest of the band and more mocking of Wammo.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Spookily compatible
Bill Keane meets Friedrich Nietzsche. Yes, it is as weird as it sounds, but in a good way.
A hat to to Lawyers, Guns and Money for the discovery.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

"I'm sorry baby, please open the door"
Conrad Black wants his Canadian citizenship back. Words fail me, but not Rick Mercer. However I disagree with Rick that we should let him back in. I don't think we, as a nation, should go back into the abusive relationship we had with Lord Black. After all, he did start the National Post, and that is not something to be forgiven lightly. Mind you, when it comes to Conrad Black, I sympathize with the Alberto Gonzalez view of the Geneva Conventions as "quaint." Black has always been one of the worst people in the world and if it were up to me, he would be hunted with dogs for sport every autumn.

It's the election, stupid
Richard Gwyn has an interesting piece in the Toronto Star today on the Liberal leadership race. Discussing who will get all the votes in a second ballot, he suggests that delegates must consider who they want to lead the party into the next election and how they view the next election.

He contends that there are two basic approaches: One that considers the next election a dead loss and the leadership race a vote on who will be the best opposition leader and best choice to lead the party into the next election after that some four or five years down the road, and one that considers the next election the most crucial. The former approach, Gwyn argues favors a second ballot swing to the youngest of the four main contenders, Gerald Kennedy, as it would give him four years to work on his French, gain a national profile and make the change from Queen's Park politics to the federal scene. The latter approach favours Bob Rae as a candidate who could go to the polls tomorrow with a national profile and the ability to go toe-to-toe with Steve Harper.

Nice theory, but there are a few problems with it, just as there are with everything involved in the Liberal leadership race. Gwyn's right in this respect-- it is all about the next election. Kennedy would make a good leader of the opposition, as would Rae and possibly Dion. Both Rae and Kennedy have good parliamentary instincts and can counter-punch and run rhetorical rings around Harper. Rae in Parliament would likely eat Harper's lunch before breakfast on a daily basis, and a few years as leader of the opposition might convince Ontario voters to forget their (IMO undeserved) grudge against him for his tenure as premier. Ignatief doesn't strike me as someone who has any interest in being leader of the opposition for any length of time. If he doesn't get to be Prime Minister or a least a senior cabinet minister, he'll go back to Harvard. If we must concede an election to the Conservatives - and I don't think we do - then Rae and Kennedy would be good choices as long term leaders of the opposition who could lead the party into power four years down the road.

Unfortunately, my dog in this race - Ken Dryden- may not be the best choice for a leader of the opposition either as he is not quick with the sharp sound bite. He is not especially gifted at the the slash and parry repartee of the House, but is better at coming up with policy and making big, meaty speeches - he'd give a hell of a prime ministerial address, but as far as day to day brawling in the House, its just not his thing.

If the Liberals dig in their heels as they should and refuse to concede the next election - and there is no reason they should concede given the precarious state of the Conservatives popularity - then this leadership race is all about picking a leader whose vision and policies are acceptable and who can beat Stephen Harper on the husting next spring or summer. Kennedy can't do it - no one in Quebec or the west knows or cares who he is. Rae can't do it - the Liberals won't win without winning big in Ontario and Rae will have a real problem there. He presents a good contrast to Harper and would pull a lot of NDP votes, but he is the just the guy Stephen Harper would like to run against as he would energize the Conservative base and push the Ontario business community firmly into the Tory camp.

What about the front runner? Ignatief versus Harper in a quick election would be a disaster for the Liberals. Ignatief will get the Al Gore treatment from the former Reform party --"he's an ivory tower intellectual from Harvard, our guy likes beer and hockey." His support for Bush's methods in the War on Terror will push small L liberals to back the NDP and result in a Conservative majority. He's not likely to stay on as Leader of the Opposition in such a situation, even if offered that opportunity by the party (which he wouldn't be). His people are touting him as the second coming of Trudeau, but I don't think we really need Margret back in 24 Sussex.

Nope, if the Liberals need someone who can beat Stephen Harper and the Conservative next Spring, the best choice is Dryden. He has the lowest negative reaction among the general voting population according to the Gandalf poll and would steal a lot of swing voters from Harper across the country. He is a well known and proven element. He may not be flashy, but he is as solid as a rock on policy and has a liberal vision of Canada that matches the values of most Canadians. And most importantly, he would kick Stephen Harper's reactionary ass from St. John to Vancouver Island, from Windsor to Yellowknife.

It's all about context
the Editors over at The Poor Man Institute blow the whistle on the mainstream media's attempt to blackguard Tom Foley by taking his completely innocent emails and instant messages out of context. I smell a Koufax award in the offing.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Because its a long way to the Beer Store from Kandahar
Moosehead donating suds after troops in Afghanistan make request. Because chasing Taliban through the mountains all day is thirsty work.

Saturday, September 30, 2006

In Your Ear


Modern Times

Sony Music, 2,520 yen

The poet laureate of the baby boomer generation is back to show that he continues to age like a fine Bordeaux.

Like a good wine, as he has gotten older, Bob Dylan's bold, acidic edginess has matured to become more subtle, richer, mellower and more complex, with a more velvety feel on the palate.

It would be inaccurate to say Dylan is improving with age--you can't really improve on the delicious freshness of '60s Dylan nouveau such as The Freewheeling Bob Dylan, Highway 61 Revisited and Blonde on Blonde--but his most recent work is certainly of equal quality, if different in flavor. He may not be as prolific as he was in the mid '60s and '70s, but the level of artistry on Modern Times is as high as anything Dylan has ever done.

Modern Times is the third in a trio of new classics by the old master that began with 1997's Time Out of Mind (winner of the Grammy for album of the year) a dark, austere meditation on death and aging.

Dylan's next album, the excellent "Love and Theft" was a lighter, more amusing, selection that mixed old delta blues, politics and gentle humor into a pleasing concoction that was doomed by its Sept. 11, 2001, release date to nearly vanish off the cultural radar, although it still managed to win a Grammy for best contemporary folk album.

Modern Times shows a clear and steady progression from both of these earlier efforts, with echoes of each.

Opening with the up-tempo 12-bar roots rocker "Thunder on the Mountain," Dylan serves notice that he can still keep up, even if the top-of-the-lungs delivery of "Like a Rolling Stone" has matured into a deeper, almost menacing throaty growl.

Back at the peak of his early fame a journalist asked Dylan whether he considered himself a poet or a songwriter, and he famously replied that he considered himself a "song-and-dance man." On "Spirit on the Water" one can almost hear the scrape of leather as he does a lazy softshoe to this lighthearted and jazzy seduction blues.

Dylan retools three blues classics, writing his own lyrics for the "Someday Baby," "Rollin' and Tumblin'" and "The Levee's Gonna Break," and despite ill-informed accusations by some to the contrary, this is emphatically not plagiarism--at worst it is postmodernism, and more accurately, it is the folk process in action. Others have criticized Dylan for lifting a couple of phrases from obscure U.S. Civil War poet Henry Timrod, but he'd hardly be the first to quote without crediting the source. As Pete Seeger once said, such so-called plagiarism "is basic to all culture."

"Workingman's Blues #2" is not technically blues, but a piano-driven tune with an anthemic feel and typically ambiguous lyrics that could be read as a letter to a politician or a former lover. It is also the best vocal performance on the album--rich, warm and emotive without being over the top or sentimental.

"Nettie Moore" is a story song with minimalist backing--a bass drum heartbeat with guitar and violin accents showcasing Dylan's nuanced singing. The piece is reminiscent of Tom Waits, but smoother.

Modern Times ends with "Ain't Talkin'"--a great sinister, slithering, slow minor-key groove that harkens back to Time out of Mind. In terms of lyrics, the apocalyptic visions Dylan relates in an intimate growling whisper sound like lost verses from "It's Alright, Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)" or "Gates of Eden."

Modern Times has already reached No. 1 on the U.S. Billboard album chart, the so-called song-and-dance man's best commercial showing in over 20 years, making 2006 a very good year for Dylan.

(Sep. 30, 2006)

blog extra: The Wonderdog Institute of Dylanology delivers a slap upside the head of those who don't understand the difference between classical allusion, postmodernism and downloading term papers off the internet.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

And then suddenly,

As Keith Olbermann and I were walking along talking about how you never hear Mike Wallace talk about his son, Obie rhetorically kicked Dubya in the balls again and again and again and again and again. It was amazing.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Stick a yellow ribbon on your SUV

The Asylum Street Spankers are to a certain extent an attempt by Austin, Texas to compensate the rest of the world for George W. Bush.
I just spent a week or so hanging out with these guys at the end of their Japan tour. See them, buy their album. Trust me, its fun for the whole family.

Update: The first time I trotted this out a week ago, it got a few hundred hits. This week I mentioned it on a few blogs and it got posted on Democratic Underground among other places and word on the video seem to have gotten out. I've had 1,200 hits in the last 24 hours - which is a lot compared to my usual 20 hits a day and the YouTube version is up over 100,000 viewings after only a few days. The band asks that you check out the video on YouTube so as to get the numbers up. While you're at it, go visit the Spankers site (see other links to your right) and BUY STUFF! Lots of stuff! Get their new album -"Mommy Says No!"- the review is further down the blog. You'll thank me later.

Update to the Update: Thanks to everyone who emailed this link around, I've had about 12,000 hits in the last few weeks. So as an added bonus here is more of God's Favorite Band: The Asylum Street Spankers

Thursday, September 21, 2006

No. 29 on the ice, No. 1 in the polls
Despite the fact that Liberal caucus members and party movers and shakers don't see him as a top tier candidate, a Liberal Party Poll of the people who really matter - Canadian Voters - seems to suggest that Ken Dryden is the Liberals best hope for attracting votes. He has the best name recognition, the least negative reaction (As I feared, Bob Rae has the most negative reaction) and the best chance of pulling crossover votes from the NDP and Conservatives. And he is the only one of the leadership candidates to call for an immediate and meaningful reexamination of Canada's role in the Afghanistan War.

And the next person who tells me he is too smart for the job or shouldn't be elected party leader because he can't speak in 8-second sound bites had best be prepared to be cleared from the crease with extreme predjudice.

I want the smartest guy for Prime Minister. I want the guy who thinks things through before he speaks instead of shooting from the lip with glib, meaningless sound bites. I want a party leader who will bring more voters into the party, not divide the electorate. I want a party leader, leader of the opposition and eventual Prime Minister who is committed to the idea of Canada, who understands the soul of the country and where our national priorities must be. I also want someone who can win the next election before the current crop of neocon ideologues do anymore damage.
I've read the stump speeches, the interviews, the platform and now this poll -- I'm convinced.
Ken Dryden is the right man for the job.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Not again
How many times do we need to see this headline before people realize that alcohol and endangered species just don't mix. Please, don't drink and try to hug pandas.
Panda bites drunk Chinese man, man bites panda back at Beijing zoo

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Coming soon to an Antiwar Demonstration near you...
Apparently the USAF want to try microwaving opponents like so many convience store burritos, but they want to try it out on civilian crowd in the U.S. first. I'd suggest Fred Phelps and his slap-happy band of dingbats would be a target both left and right could agree on.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Spiritual leader of the moment
An excellent interview with folk music god, social activist and all-round good guy Pete Seeger can be found here. Thanks to the Gazetteer for pointing the way.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

It's official - I'm for Dryden

Having seen this in the Mop & Pail today, I guess I should come out and officially endorse Ken Dryden for the Liberal leadership. He's smart, articulate and has the right priorities both domestically and on foriegn policy. I like his writing, I like the way he thinks and I like his style. I don't think he's the long shot the media are painting him as being.
I'm troubled by Ignatieff's opportunism, lack of commitment to the party and endorsement of torture. Stephen Dion's an acceptable candidate, but one that might be too tied to the past Liberal government. I like Bob Rae and think he would be a good Prime Minister, I just don't think he can get the votes the Liberals need in Ontario because of the bad rap he got as premier. Gerald Kennedy is also an okay choice, but I don't think he will have a lot of appeal to swing voters and will be too easy for the Conseratives and media to paint as a screaming small L liberal.
Besides, none of them won six Stanley Cups and the '72 series against the Russians. That's got to count for something.

Monday, September 04, 2006

We have met the enemy and it is U.S.
They've done it to us again.
What the hell are A-10 pilots taught to fire at? Specific targets or just anything that moves within a 100 miles of the assigned target? Why would they strafe a group of uniformed men in a rear area camped around an armoured vehicle, when the Taliban generally have neither uniforms nor armoured vehicles?
If I were a Canadian infantry commander in Afghanistan, I'd have second thoughts about calling in air support. Of the 32 Canadians killed in Afghanistan, Pte. Mark Anthony Graham is the fifth killed by U.S. aircraft. Once is an accident, twice is coincidence -- the third time it's enemy action.

UPDATE: Our troops are clearly a bit demoralized and pissed off by this latest incident

"We should spray-paint a big circle around us, with an arrow that says 'Not here, asshole,' " one soldier said, packing up his sleeping gear.

What book has changed your life? -- All of them
Having been tagged by Dana over at the Galloping Beaver with the latest Blog meme on books, I've had to do some quick thinking to narrow down my answers to a short list of titles in response to the survey. I don't read a lot -- I read constantly. In bed, on the toilet, on the train, at the breakfast table, in bars and restaurants, park benches, even while walking sometimes -- I'm more likely to leave the house without my cell phone or wallet than I am to leave without a book. I'm sort of on hiatus as a book critic at the moment, but I still manage to read a book a week or more and usually have several on the go at once.

A book that changed my life
As the title of the post says, all of them have played their part to a greater or lesser extent -- you never step into the same river twice blah blah blah-- but if I have to pick just one it would probably be the late great Hunter S. Thompson's "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas." Twenty years ago I wanted to be Thompson. I acted like him, tried to copy his style of writing, even spent time typing out pages from his books to get the rhythm of how he wrote (A trick I learned from him, having read that he used to type out pages from the Great Gatsby for the same reason.) He was the first to make me realize that journalism could be fun, funny and intellectually dangerous. This book is one of the reasons I do what I do for a living. And it is funny as hell.

A book I've read more than once
Almost all of them. I often go back and reread favorite books, especially those by favorite writers, sometimes for the story, sometimes just for the quality writing. When reading stuff for review, I find I often need to read something lighter or heavier (or more often better) to cleanse the mental palate. Robert Heinlein's "Stranger in a Strange Land" never fails to entertain and provoke and I used to make a point of rereading it once a year in my teens and twenties. But more often now I go back to what I consider the classics: Papa's "For Whom the Bell Tolls", Kerouac's "On the Road", all Raymond Chandler and J. D. Salinger's books and I've worked my way through Lord of the Rings four or five time and Patrick O'Brian's entire 20 volume Aubery-Maturin series.

What book would you take to a desert island?
A survival manual might be good idea. Dana already stole my idea of the complete works of Shakespeare. Dafoe's "Robinson Crusoe" is temptingly ironical, but if it has to be fiction I'd take either "Ulysses" or "Gravity's Rainbow." Either James Joyce's or Homer's "Odyssey" would do me fine as I've read both, but never really fully deciphered the former and the latter is one of the all time great stories. The Thomas Pynchon is one I have started several times and always got distracted by some shiny object halfway through and put aside to finish later. Later has not yet arrived.

A book that made me laugh
Spider Robinson's first two collections of pun-filled sci-fi bar stories "Callahan's Crosstime Saloon" and "Time Travellers Strictly Cash." While the series kind of went slowly downhill in later installments, I've read these two over and over again and still get dirty looks for sniggering to myself on the train. I've recently discovered the Jeeves books by P.G. Wodehouse, which have been making people laugh for about 70 years and with good reason. Also Penn Gillette's "Sock" and Jerome K. Jerome's ageless "Three Men in a Boat".

A book that made me cry
Big, tough, cynical, macho Hemmingway-reading newspapermen who've seen it all don't cry.
Dave Eggers "A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius" brought tears to my eyes several times. The novel (and movie of course) "Old Yeller" made me cry as a kid. And I'm not allowed to read "The Velveteen Rabbit" to my kids anymore or they will start calling me a crybaby. I can't get past about the second page before the waterworks start, by the end I'm usually sobbing to hard to be understood when trying to read it out loud. And if it doesn't do the same thing to you, you must be some kind of souless cyborg with an icemaker for a heart. Now let us never speak of this again.

A book I wish had been written
"Manifest Destiny this, you fascist Yankee scum!
The Liberation and Annexation of the USA and how we solved all their problems" by the Rt. Hon. Justin Trudeau

(some day, some day)

A book I wish had never been written
"Mein Kampf," "The Fountainhead" and anything published by Regnery.

Books I am currently reading
Paul Auster's "The Brooklyn Follies", Paul Krugman's "The Great Unravelling" and David Gilbert's "The Normals"

Books I've been meaning to read
"Unforgiveable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson" has been sitting on my two foot stack of "books to be read soon" for about a year now, but I keep getting distracted by shiny objects like the latest Robert Parker Spenser novel or a suddenly discovered old copy of "Catcher in the Rye" in the same pile.

What turned me on to fiction
Like most kids, I had stuffed animals when I was little, but my favorite thing to sleep with, my verison of Linus' blanket was a well-chewed copy of my puppy book, the title of which I don't even remember. My mother still has it, but I think I may have chewed the cover and title page off. Other kids had soothers, I had this book. My parents read to me often and by the time I was in school, I was reading the Hardy Boys and Encylopedia Brown and comic books like an alcoholic locked inside a liquor store overnight. I'm surprised I don't have a permanent dent in my forehead from falling asleep with a book on my face.

Final thoughts
I love listening to music almost as much as reading and so the ipod that holds my entire music collection (I'm up past 7,000 tracks now, and most of my record collection is in storage in Canada and has yet to be downloaded to the archives) came as manna from heaven. I like vinyl and cassettes and was a slow convert to digital sound, but carrying around all the recordings I own in a box the size of a deck of cards and having access to just about anything else at the push of a button is pretty hard to beat. If Steve Jobs wants to lock in my vote for man of the millenium, he'll perfect an adaptation of the ipod for books. With solar batteries and access to the entire Library of Congress online with free downloads of stuff in the public domain. I love the feel of pages in my hands, the physical feel of a real book, but having my entire library stored in one book would be the best of all possible worlds.

I'll pass this poll/meme on to:
JJ at Unrepentant Old Hippie
MD at Man Descending
Scout at Harper Valley
Mudhooks at the Mudpuddle
and of course the host of Friday Archeology Blogging, Bazz at Oi Thump

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Karma's a bitch
Ah the glorious, glorious schadenfreude I feel when I read stories like this one: Ontario Court freezes Black's Assets
Apparently things are getting worse for the the former Canadian newspaper baron, and it couldn't happen to a more deserving pompous, thieving bastard.
The last line is especially telling: "He has also acknowledged in court filings that he has borrowed money from Lady Black."
Awww, poor Lord Tubby of Fleet Street. Remember that saying about being nice to people on the way up, because you're gonna meet them again on the way down? I guess they covered that idea at Upper Canada College after they tossed Connie out for stealing exams.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Viva Olbermann!

Keith Olbermann kicks Donald Rumsfeld's lying, facist ass around the block.

"For it did not merely serve to impugn the morality or intelligence -- indeed, the loyalty -- of the majority of Americans who oppose the transient occupants of the highest offices in the land. Worse, still, it credits those same transient occupants -- our employees -- with a total omniscience; a total omniscience which neither common sense, nor this administration’s track record at home or abroad, suggests they deserve."

"Mr. Rumsfeld is also personally confused, morally or intellectually, about his own standing in this matter. From Iraq to Katrina, to the entire “Fog of Fear” which continues to envelop this nation, he, Mr. Bush, Mr. Cheney, and their cronies have — inadvertently or intentionally — profited and benefited, both personally, and politically.
And yet he can stand up, in public, and question the morality and the intellect of those of us who dare ask just for the receipt for the Emporer’s New Clothes?"

Hit'em with the chair, Keith!

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

the edjemacation president

From the Toronto Star:

Students told `Yale Shmale'
Lakehead unveils edgy PR campaign that t
akes aim at Bush's Ivy League roots
Consider it a weapon of mass attraction.
Lakehead University is poking fun at U.S. President George W. Bush and his Ivy League alma mater in an edgy new guerrilla marketing campaign intended to lure students to its Thunder Bay campus.
Dubbed "Yale Shmale," the $100,000 promotion features an image of Bush — Yale University, Class of 1968 — on posters that will be plastered on construction sites and other outdoor locations across the Greater Toronto Area.
"Graduating from an Ivy League university doesn't necessarily mean you're smart," reads the second of two posters set for
release, "Choosing Lakehead does."

Why doesn't Yale use him for recruiting?
Probably because they have no trouble attracting students -- after all, there are a lot of legacy applicants from the families of wealthy alumni out there.
While it might be in poor taste to insult the leader of another nation in your advertising campaign,you have to hand it to Lakehead University for having the sheer brass as an institution to kick the president of the United States square in the nuts. You also have to wonder how someone with the nearly universal (The Assrocket and his ilk excepted) reputation as a moron necessary to make such a campaign effective - no one is looking at that picture and wondering what it says about W - could get elected.
How long before we see a post at Blogging Tories or in the Rightwing Wankosphere down south using this to "prove" that universities are packed with godless communists who hate America?

Monday, August 28, 2006

Thought Police polishing jackboots in Japan

It's amazing what you don't read about in the Japanese press. Anywhere else a newspaper's editorial complaining about political content of a magazine forcing the closure of the magazine, would be a story. Here, the papers barely mention the firebombing of the home of a critic of the prime minister, and the prime minister and his expected successor do not publically condemn the act. War atrocities -- down the memory hole!

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Canadaville, La.
I've never been much of a fan of either Frank or Belinda Stronach, but I have to hand it to Frank Stronach for reaching into his admittedly deep pockets and helping out people who needed help. And this isn't some kind of self serving non-donation where all the money will have to be spent buying things from the company store, I don't how he gets anything for his $10 million but a warm feeling and a tax writeoff. Nice going Frank, The Woodshed salutes you.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

In Your Ear


Mommy Says No!

Buffalo Records, 2,500 yen

The eclectic Asylum Street Spankers--self-described as "God's Favorite Band"--have once again defied expectations and classification with their latest release. Admittedly, almost anything might have been expected from a band known for blending 1930s blues and jazz novelties, punk, country and even gangster rap into a heady acoustic string-band stew of hot licks and belly laughs. But for a band whose lyrical preoccupation with sex, drugs and booze led to albums with such titles as Nasty Novelties, Dirty Ditties and the Amsterdam-inspired Spanker Madness, an album of original children's music would have been low on the list of probabilities.

Though often delightfully juvenile in the past--earlier efforts such as "The Scrotum Song" spring to mind--the Spankers have never exactly purveyed kids music. Mommy Says No, while ostensibly a kids album full of songs about superheroes, closet monsters and training wheels, is eminently appealing to anyone who remembers their childhood.

Usually sultry and seductive songstress Christina Marrs plays against type and captures the innocent playfulness of children with the opening track "Be Like You," setting the tone for an album that stylistically covers the waterfront. Marrs' sweet voice also adds additional impact to the superhero love ballad "Sidekick." Marrs' coconspirator in fronting the Spankers, Wammo, leads the band through a handful of call-and-response tongue-twisters on "Lunchbox," kicks out the punk jams on the title track and explains what binds the universe together crooner-style on the hilariously over-the-top lounge jazz opus "Boogers."

Asked in an e-mail exchange what prompted the band to do a kids album, given their predilection for bawdiness, the ever sly singer and poetry slam champion wrote, "We figured people have been making kids to our records, so we might as well make one for the kids."

Wammo also doubled as producer and has done the band proud. Mommy Says No sounds crisp and warm, with a wagonload of smart musical touches, some subtle like the toy piano on "Be Like You," and others more obvious, such as the excellent use of Marrs' spooky musical saw on "Closet" and the romping New Orleans-style brass band led by clarinetist and longtime Spanker Stanley Smith. A compilation of Smith's best, Since I Met You Baby, will be released on the same label in September.

Instrumentally, the Spankers are in their usual superlative form, with relatively new member Sick showing off some serious fiddle and mandolin chops, and guitarist Nevada Newman indulging in some fancy, er...picking on "Boogers" and seizing the spotlight on the catchy "Super Frog."

If this album has a shortcoming, it may be that it's too cool for kids. But don't worry, they'll grow into it.

The Asylum Street Spankers will be touring Japan next month. (See Gig Guide.)


Highway Companion

Warner, 2,580 yen

There are plenty of nice jangly guitars on Tom Petty's third solo outing without the Heartbreakers and his first release since 2002's The Last DJ.

Highway Companion is built around a travel theme, with journeys--some mental, some emotional, some physical--providing the basis for each of the songs. While not as immediately catchy as Full Moon Fever or Wildflowers, the new album is more intimate and very much driven by Petty's guitar and raw voice. Former Traveling Wilburys bandmate Jeff Lynne has once again produced, but with more restraint this time around, letting Petty's simple guitar riffs and unpolished vocals stand on their own merits. Put the top down, crank up the volume and head out on the highway.

Special blog-only feature

God's favorite band
is coming to Japan

The Asylum Street Spankers will be making their triumphant return to the land of the rising sun in September. Quick, somebody call Kirin Breweries and tell them to start an extra couple of batches and book me a suite at the Betty Ford Clinic for October.

9.9.06 Saturday Sayama, Japan Hyde Park Music Festival
9.11.06 Monday Kanazawa, Japan Mokkiriya Jazz Bar
9.12.06 Tuesday Osaka, Japan Shinsaibashi Club Quattro
9.13.06 Wednesday Hiroshima, Japan Club Quattro
9.14.06 Thursday Kyoto, Japan Taku Taku
9.15.06 Friday Nagoya, Japan Tokuzo
9.17.06 Sunday Tokyo, Japan Shibuya Club Quattro
9.18.06 Monday Yokohama, Japan Thumbs Up

(Aug. 26, 2006)