December 14, 2009

The plane's the thing


I absolutely love anything to do with air travel. I love airports, airport lounges, airport bars, etc. So with the news that Boeing is launching its new 787 Dreamliner tomorrow it got me thinking, oddly enough, about another related love of mine, the airplane disaster movie.

Now these two loves should be incongruous. For some reason I have always loved the sub-genre of disaster flicks that is the airplane drama.

Here is my list of the best airplane disaster/drama movies:

"Airport" (1970)
This is the best adaptation of the Arthur Hailey disaster novel and it spawned some awful copycats such as "Airport 1975" (1974) and "Airport'77" (1977).

"Flight Plan" (2005)
The tension in this movie is almost unbearable, as Jodi Foster tries to figure out if her daughter is missing somewhere on the plane or whether or not she is actually travelling alone. A real nail-biter.

"Die Hard 2" (1990)
Bruce Willis returns as the indefatigable "John McClane" who gets caught up in a plot by a band of mercenaries who take over Dulles Airport in Washington, DC.

"Air Force One" (1997)
Harrison Ford does what he does best as a U.S. president who takes matters into his own hands when a terrorist cell takes over Air Force One.

"Passenger 57" (1992)
Wesley Snipes is a cop who takes on a terrorist on a domestic flight.

"Con Air" (1997)
Nicholas Cage and John Cusack take on convicts who have taken over a plane transporting them.

"Snakes on a Plane" (2006)
Samuel L. Jackson unintentionally lampoons himself as he portrays a FBI agent transporting a witness for the prosecution who has to battle a plane full of poisonous snakes. Yes, it's terrible but it's a riot and some of the best fun to be had within the genre.

***Special Mention***

"Airplane!" (1980)
This movie is actually a hilarious spoof of the movie "Zero Hour!" (1957) and ranks #10 on the American Film Institute's list of best American comedies. It is packed with politically incorrect humour, slapstick, and perfectly-timed deadpan performances from veteran dramatic actors Lloyd Bridges, Peter Graves, Robert Stack, and Leslie Nielson.

December 6, 2009

December 6, twenty years later

I was in my first year of university on December 6, 1989. I had returned home for the holidays after my first term of studies and was watching the news with my mom, when the horrific story broke of the massacre at Montreal's Ecole Polytechnique.

The events struck close to heart as the targeted victims were female university students, not unlike my new friends back at Queen's. As it turns out my core friends who sustain me and who are my most intimate and trusted circle are all women I met at Queen's.

So when December 6 comes around each year it is these incredible and special women that I think of and cherish just a little bit more than usual. I can't imagine losing any of them in such a brutal and horrific manner.

I wonder about the people left behind on December 6, 1989. I wonder about how they were robbed of these precious 14 women. I wonder about what the future could have had in store for these young women, instead of being wiped out on a fateful day near the end of term on a cold December evening.

20 years later and we ought to cry in remembrance but also promise ourselves that we will do everything we can in our own lives to stop violence against women.

December 4, 2009

100 Years of Les Habs


Today marks the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Montreal Canadiens hockey team.

Winner of 24 Stanley Cups, the Canadiens are the NHL's championship leaders.

Take a look at their storied history here.

December 2, 2009

What would we do, baby, without love?


Meredith Baxter, my all-time favourite TV mom, has come out today as a lesbian.

The actress, known mostly for her role as Elyse Keaton in the smash hit sitcom "Family Ties", revealed that while she had been married to men three times before, she "was never comfortable with herself." Now, she feels like she's "being honest for the first time." You can watch her interview here.

Go Gaels Go (Part 2)

Some more video from Queen's Vanier Cup winning game. Don't mean to bug ya or anything. It's been 18 years since we won, so indulge me.

November 30, 2009

Queen's wins Vanier Cup

For Queen's fans only, a video showing the indomitable school spirit of crazy Queen's fans who make the trek to Quebec City to watch the mighty Gaels claim the Vanier Cup. Cha Gheill!!


November 25, 2009

Just the news, ma'am, just the news

I am not sure when it happened, but somewhere along the way I became a fuddy-duddy.

As I blogged recently, CBC news is head-over-heels in love with its recent extreme makeover. This viewer is not impressed. Gone is serious journalism of the kind that made CBC a globally respected news source. In its place is sound bite entertainment, and the two highly miscast anchors, Anne-Marie Mediwake and Suhana Meharchand.

The one saving grace is the reliable Heather Hiscox, but she is unfortunately stuck in the 6am-9am slot. Otherwise it's an annoying collage of images, sounds, news bites and excessive chirpy tone and silly banter.

The U.S. alternatives are not much better, what with overstated and pompous CNN and the bellicose FOX News.

Thankfully, the folks at CTV are running a mature news network. They are staid and old-school newscasts; almost out-dated in this era of user-generated media. How wonderful indeed.



For hardcore U2 fans only

Members of the premiere U2 fanzine, @U2, ventured out into the desert in search of the erstwhile Joshua tree that once graced the inside cover of the 1987 classic "The Joshua Tree". The iconic tree fell down in 2000, and the gang of crazy fans went to pay tribute...

Muppethemian Raphsody

A hilarious and wonderfully fun cover of the Queen classic by our lovable pals from the Muppet Show.

November 20, 2009

If U2 build it, they will come

U2 has announced that they will build an open-air stadium in Montreal capable of welcoming over 60,000 fans.

More than 300 employees will be employed in the construction of this facility, on the site of the former Hippodrome, which is slated to begin in May. Two months will be necessary to complete the site build and another month will be required to dismantle it. More than 300 trucks will transport the 40,000 grandstands coming from Canada.

With a cylindrical video system of interlocking LED panels, and a steel structure rising 150 feet from the floor over a massive stage with rotating bridges, the band has truly created an intimate 360ยบ experience for concert goers. Keeping with the concept that this tour is more about a unique staging configuration, ticket prices ($30, $55, $95 and $250) are set so that more than half of fans will pay $55 or less for their tickets to this tremendous concert event. U2 hits Montreal in July 2010.

The neverending mosaic

OK, so this is freakin’ awesome. Click on U2 mosaic

Let it load and then you will see a picture of U2 and a white box. You can move the box around the image to select an area of the image. You don’t have to. Just click on the image. See what happens.

Then click on the image again. See what happens.

Repeat, repeat, repeat…

November 10, 2009

Subscribe to Stacy

I am now an examiner at Examiner.com, writing on higher education in Ontario.


I will be submitting at least 3 articles per week, so please visit often and consider subscribing (it's free).

November 9, 2009

"...tear down this wall!"





20 years ago today the Berlin Wall fell, marking the first signs of the end of the Cold War.

Enjoy a gallery of images of this historic event here.

November 8, 2009

CBC takes a stand

Loyal CBC viewers and listeners, all 3,475 of us, are in a tizzy over the CBC's much-vaunted "rebranding" of the 24-hour CBC Newsworld into CBC News Network (that's CBCNN, in case you missed it).

Apparently completely re-jigged to attract a younger (read: not about to die) audience, the new format proved nearly unbearable to watch, what with the majority of the launch broadcast last week devoted mostly to the giddy new anchors babbling about the new set and only occasionally pausing their banter to mention the, ahem, news.

The greatest amount of flak being generated is that all of the broadcasters stand around the set, which is supposed to bring us closer to them and make the newscast more "transparent". This doesn't bother me nearly as much as how every time a segment anchor talks with a correspondent they ask them if they will follow-up, and the correspondent invariably says something like "Yes, so-and-so, I will follow up and keep you posted". This is incredibly inane, insulting, and rather condescending to the viewer and the correspondent.

There is also an alarmingly high level of distracting sounds, scrolling lines of text, huge moving images, and short news bites. For me CBC was always about the stories, with in-depth and incredibly intelligent reporting from what were certainly some of the most respected correspondents in the English language. The current format reminded me of a slightly more dressed up version of Much Music. I certainly can't tell most of the new female personalities from Erica Ehm. If I wanted to watch Kelly Ripa read me 20-second news bits I'd watch...well, you get what I mean. In addition, folks are also upset that some American consulting firm is responsible for this mess.

So it is with great ironic glee that I share this hilarious clip from a BBC parody of 24-hour news programs that ran in, get this, 2005. The show was called "Broken News" (a play on Breaking News). In this clip the anchors introduce us to the segment of the news called the Standing News. Absolutely priceless.

The unsinkable Nancy Pelosi

The U.S. House of Representatives, under the leadership of Speaker Nancy Pelosi (pictured) narrowly passed a transformational health care reform bill with a vote of 220-215.

Supporters claim the bill will extend health care coverage to 36 million Americans who currently do not have health insurance. The estimated cost of the bill, if passed in the Senate, will be $1.1 trillion over 10 years.

In a news conference late Saturday night, Pelosi claimed that they [the Democrats] have enough support to get the bill through the Senate. It was reported in various media that President Obama made a special trip to Capitol Hill to appeal for support allegedly imploring, "“When I sign this in the Rose Garden, each and every one of you will be able to look back and say, ‘This was my finest moment in politics.’ ”

This is a wonderfully historic victory for the Democrats and certainly one for Pelosi, already a history-maker as the first female Speaker of the House. May it also come to be a wonderful victory for America as well.


November 7, 2009

Yates Bound

No. 4 Queen's has just beaten No. 9 McMaster 32-6 to win the semifinal of the OUA championship.

Queen's will face either Western or Laurier next weekend in the championship game to vie for the Yates Cup.

Go Gaels Go!

November 6, 2009

Happy 40th!

This coming Tuesday will mark the 40th anniversary of the launch of "Sesame Street".

For those of us born around the same time (ahem), "Sesame Street" constituted an enormous part of our childhood. It's hard to believe that the show has been on the air that long and that celebrities of all stripes still want to guest on the "Street".

Even to this day the show emits a powerful nostalgic pull on our hearts. There are far too many wonderful clips to choose from, so I had to make a tough decision and share one of my all-time favourite sketches, featuring a lovable pair of alien visitors. Watch the clip here.

November 3, 2009

Yours truly presents...






Avoiding Financial Crisis: Money Management 101

The B2B networking guru is back with an engaging session full of hot tips gleaned from his journey from financial chaos to financial peace. With his trademark warmth and humour Stacy Kelly, Artsci'93, will share insights on the fundamentals of effectively managing your money.
Date:November 10, 2009
Time:6:00 PM - 8:00 PM
Location:Ellis Auditorium
Queen's University
Kingston, ON, Canada,

Cost:This is a free event, but space is limited so register now! Register here.
Details:

This session will be presented by Stacy Kelly, Artsci'93, who will be speaking about

budgeting, credit cards, credit scores, and strategies to prepare you for the next

stages in financial planning.


Registration for this event begins at 5:30 PM.

RSVP By:Nov 9, 2009

Top Trends 2009


The worker in the mirror

According to Douglas Reid, Associate Professor of Global Business at Queen’s School of Business, employees in recession-era workplaces typically fall into the following behaviour patterns:

• The Terminated: while not physically present in the organization, their memories linger and affect those that stay.

• The Fearful: these employees believe they will be cut next. They are ready to search for a new job but cling tenaciously to whatever certainty their existing situation affords.

• The Indifferent: this group is watching the recession occur and believe it is going to affect someone else.

• The Delighted: high performers who delight in the improvement in their situation relative to the average consumer via sales and discounts in the marketplace.

• The Apocalyptic: a small group that believes that the recession presents a necessary “reset” for a myriad list of failures in the existing system of capitalism.

• The Longers: Hoping for a severance package and optimistic they’ll obtain rapid alternative employment.

• The Engaged: The core of a company’s renewal efforts. They understand the consequences of the recession and what needs to be done to help the business recover.

Source: http://business.queensu.ca/news/blog/?p=398

October 29, 2009

BNN@10




Toronto-based Business News Network (BNN) is celebrating its 10th anniversary with a great
look back at the top-10 stories of the last decade. It's an informative and thoughtful reflection
on the issues that have defined our world. Check out the special feature here.

October 27, 2009

[UPDATE] Biggest concert, EVER

On Sunday night YouTube streamed the entire "U2 360" concert live from the Rose Bowl. In addition to the record-breaking 97,000 fans in attendance YouTube has confirmed that nearly 10 million streams came into YouTube from 188 countries; the largest streaming event in YouTube history. Wow!!

It was an awesome concert, and you can watch the rebroadcast here. Enjoy!

October 25, 2009

Coming Soon

On Friday Queen's School of Medicine broke ground for a new building, an exciting and much-needed addition to the resources on campus for the teaching of our future physicians.

So far the $77M project is being funded by $28.8M from the Government of Canada, $28.8M from the Government of Canada, and $13.2M from private donations. The School is currently working to raise the $6.2M balance.

Ouch!

The Gaels took a beating yesterday, losing 13-25 at the capable hands of Laurier Golden Hawks. It was the Gaels' first loss in 18 games, and it was a big piece of humble pie to eat on the road.

Still, Queen's finishes at 7-1, atop the OUA, and remains the number-2 ranked team in the nation as they head for the playoffs. QB Brannagan also finished his CIS career with 10,714 yards, the second-highest in CIS Football history (after Western's Faulds).

Hats off (or is that 'Helmets off'?) to Laurier, a team that should never be discounted. Next weekend Queen's will face either McMaster, Guelph, or Ottawa in the quest for the OUA championship, the Yates Cup.

October 22, 2009

Queen's makes the grade

Queen’s received more A+ marks than any other university in the Globe and Mail 2010 Canadian University Report.

The survey of over 38,000 current undergrads at 53 schools gave Queen’s the highest grades in 10 categories, including quality of education, academic reputation, libraries, university atmosphere and diversity of extra-curricular activities. Overall student satisfaction is an "A". You can read the full results for Queen's here.

October 21, 2009

Got Paper?

Starting next week yours truly will be volunteering as a tutor at Queen's Writing Centre. I will be assisting first and second year students with their introductions, thesis statements, conclusions, and outlines. I anticipate that I will also advise them on stylistic and grammatical matters as is necessary. If you happen to be writing a paper and need advice I highly recommend the Centre's online handouts.

October 20, 2009

How long must we sing this song?

On October 18, 27 year-old Christopher Skinner was attacked by a group of men in downtown Toronto as he walked home alone from a party for his sister around 3:00 a.m. He was first physically assaulted and then the men piled in their SUV and ran him over, killing him. While police are reluctant to call the homicide a hate crime Skinner's family and friends believe the fact that Christopher was a gay man contributed to his murder.

I suspect that the police are hesitant to attach "hate" to the crime because it has not been proven that the assailants knew that Christopher was actually gay. However, whether or not the assaulted person is gay is almost beside the point. Assaulting someone because one believes that the person is gay (or Jewish, or Muslim, etc.) is key to establishing a hate crime. In fairness, this could simply, and horribly, be a case of random violence; that Christopher happened to be the dreadfully unfortunate person whose path crossed with a group intent on violence. Perhaps, although it's much more likely that the thugs in their SUV fortress, pumped up on whatever and with bravado fuelling a dangerous machismo, spotted Mr. Skinner on his way home and marked him as a fag worth bashing.

With deepest condolences to the family and friends of Christopher Skinner. May he rest in peace.

October 17, 2009

What a nail biter!

You know all those terrible Hollywood films about sports teams that have that ridiculous slow motion scene in the last minute of the game and the movie's hero somehow manages to save the day? Yeah, I have always loathed those scenes and those schlocky films too. Until today.

Yep, I can be a sentimental sports movie cynic no more, for today Queen's superstar QB Danny Brannagan threw a 30-yard touchdown pass to receiver Blaise Morrison (pictured) in the last 13.5 seconds to win the game 27-26 over Western. Wow! Yep, you read that correctly: 13.5 seconds. And, really, could a guy have a more appropriate name than Blaise? You couldn't write this stuff and get away with it. Oh, and for the record, Brannagan became only the second QB in CIS history to throw a career 10,000 yards.

Western's great QB became the third CIS QB to pass the 10,000 yard mark as well; a rare treat for football fans to have two powerhouse QBs in one game. A generous heap of praise to Western for an awesome match up that certainly met all the pre-game hype. Queen's moves to 7-0 and is the only undefeated university football team in Canada.

October 15, 2009

40 Years of Hilarity

In October 1969 a rather modest sketch show debuted on the BBC. The oddly named "Flying Circus" would go on to do for comedy, many believe, what the Beatles did for music.

For indeed, how can we imagine a world without the Parrot Sketch, the Argument Sketch, the Spam Sketch or, my all time favourite, the Cheese Shop Sketch.

Bravo and thank you to the utterly wonderful Monty Python!!

October 13, 2009

Queen's Football 6-0

The Gaels continued their winning streak this past Saturday, bowling over the Waterloo Warriors with a final score of 43-21.

The result was almost a foregone conclusion as the real anticipation was waiting for QB Danny Brannagan to close in on the OUA passing record, which he did just fine, making him the all-time Ontario passing leader, and just 466 yards shy of the national passing lead. Meanwhile, Brannagan is just 11 yards shy of breaking the 10,000 yard mark, which he will surely do next week, making him only the second player in CIS football history to do so.

The next match up is probably the most anticipated game in Canadian football this season: Queen's will host the mighty Western Mustangs at home on October 17. Go Gaels go!!

October 12, 2009

Do Ask and Do Tell

In an historic speech to the Human Rights Campaign 13th Annual National Dinner on October 10, Barrack Obama made a commitment to ending discrimination against LGBT people in the military, in the workplace, and their families. Some excerpts from his moving speech:

"And I'm here with a simple message: I'm here with you in that fight. For even as we face extraordinary challenges as a nation, we cannot -- and we will not -- put aside issues of basic equality..."

"My expectation is that when you look back on these years, you will see a time in which we put a stop to discrimination against gays and lesbians -- whether in the office or on the battlefield. You will see a time in which we as a nation finally recognize relationships between two men or two women as just as real and admirable as relationships between a man and a woman. You will see a nation that's valuing and cherishing these families as we build a more perfect union -- a union in which gay Americans are an important part. I am committed to these goals. And my administration will continue fighting to achieve them..."

"And that is why -- that's why I support ensuring that committed gay couples have the same rights and responsibilities afforded to any married couple in this country. I believe strongly in stopping laws designed to take rights away and passing laws that extend equal rights to gay couples...For while there will be setbacks and bumps along the road, the truth is that our common ideals are a force far stronger than any division that some might sow. These ideals, when voiced by generations of citizens, are what made it possible for me to stand here today. These ideals are what made it possible for the people in this room to live freely and openly when for most of history that would have been inconceivable. That's the promise of America, HRC. That's the promise we're called to fulfill. Day by day, law by law, changing mind by mind, that is the promise we are fulfilling.

October 8, 2009

Top of the Pile

Well, a banner day for Queen's indeed, as the University is named as one of the top-100 employers in Canada by MediaCorp Canada.

Queen's was also just ranked one of the world's top-200 universities by the Times Higher-Education QS World University Rankings. Queen's placed at #118. Considering there are over 30,000 universities in the world a top-200 placement puts Queen's in the top 5% globally. Hats off as well to the other 10 Canadian universities who made the list, proving that Canadian higher education is globally competitive.

October 5, 2009

Queen's Football moves to 5-0

The Football Gaels posted their 15th victory in a row, with a 42-13 defeat over the Windsor Lancers. Special mention goes to kicker Dan Village (pictured). This win moves Queen's to the #4 national ranking.

In other sports, Queen's Men's Rugby remain undefeated as well, with a narrow 13-12 win over the mighty Western Mustangs; Queen's Rowing took home four gold medals at the Head of the Trent regatta in Peterborough; Queen's Swimming took home 12 gold medals at the Trent Invitational, also in Peterborough.

Go Queen's go!

September 29, 2009

Remastering a Masterwork

In October 1984 U2 released its fourth album, titled The Unforgettable Fire. It was a huge departure for the rock combo; featuring atmospheric soundscapes, layers of echoing guitars, and a collection of rather unconventional songs.

Gone was the bombast and three-chords-and-the-truth, in-your-face rock solids. In their place was a melodic, moody, poetic, and ambient recording. It was their first collaboration with producers Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois, and it was a bold risk for a band known for its heart-on-their-sleeve-guitar-drum-bass elements.

Music critics have always been hard on U2, typically seen as an average band for the common man rather than for the in-the-know cognoscenti. The Unforgettable Fire confounded their base audience and brought in a new listener. It was the first time U2 made a wider audience take notice, largely on the back of the accessible hit single "Pride (In the Name of Love)" and the exquisite "Bad". When U2 would perform a 15-minute version of the latter at Live Aid it was their turning point from hot college radio band to global presence.

The Unforgettable Fire remains an important album for me, as it represents the first time I heard U2. 25 years later it is a pleasure to listen to the album in its entirety; I am particularly fond of "A Sort of Homecoming", "Promenade", and the bizarre stream-of-consciousness "Elvis Presley and America". Plus, the aforementioned "Bad" remains my overall favourite U2 song.

Next month a remastered 25th anniversary edition will hit the stores. In the meantime let me leave you with what I think is the album's choice cut, "Wire". It represents the band at a wonderful stage in their evolution and craft.

September 26, 2009

Queen's Football 4-0


Queen's Football Gaels, at the hands of outstanding QB Danny Brannagan (pictured), clobbered the visiting York Lions 67-0.

Brannagan threw for 543 yards, the seventh highest in Canadian university football history. Of course, the mighty Queen's defense were also a key part in the shut-out, manhandling York's QBs.

The win moves Queen's to number-5 in the national football ranking.

September 25, 2009

Art After Dark

Last night a group of eight of us strolled around Kingston's downtown core to take in the first "Art After Dark" gallery tour.

From what we saw it was a resounding success, with attendance quite healthy at many of the sites we visited. Luckily, the weather was perfect so it helped to make the night pleasurable.

Kingston's gallery scene has literally exploded within the last three years. There is the potential for the city to become a desirable cultural destination for travellers in a 3-hour radius.

We made a shortlist of the available sites and took in the gorgeous creations at Kingston Glass Studio, then we saw a video installation at Modern Fuel Gallery, new work at the Sandra Whitton Gallery, huge b/w photographic prints at the Robert Macklin Gallery, some lovely sculpture at Studio 22, and then we finished with what I believe is the best-in-show, the Sydenham Street Studios.

I should also mention that part of the reason for taking in the gallery tour is that a member of our group is planning to open his own gallery. So we were helping him do some market research and he was able to connect with some local artists that he may be interested in representing. How exciting!!



[Attached image by Donna Brown]


September 24, 2009

September 21, 2009

Queen's Football remains undefeated

The Queen's Gaels posted another win this past weekend, downing the University of Ottawa Gee Gees 20-8. Key to the win was the Gaels' mighty defense, bringing back memories of what was called the Queen's "Golden Wall" back during my undergrad years. The win moves Queen's up a spot to number-6 in the national top-10 football ranking.

Uncorking Adventure

I recently signed up for Savvy Company's wine-of-the-month club, and received today my first selection of wines from Lailey Vineyard of Niagara-on-the-Lake. In the so-called "Savvy Selection" this month is a 2008 Riesling, a 2007 Cabernet-Merlot, and a 2007 Pinot Noir. The selection also comes with the Savvy e-zine, which includes a profile of the winery, tasting notes, and even recipes.

Ottawa-based Savvy Company is a group of down-to-earth sommeliers whose focus is on wine tastings, wine events, and wine tours. Since they launched the monthly "Savvy Selections" in 2004 they have featured nearly 50 Canadian wineries for their subscribers. I look forward to uncorking these bottles and matching them with some great food pairings.


September 17, 2009

Review: U2 in Toronto

U2 must surely find themselves in an odd situation when they tour. On the one hand you have a dedicated core group of fans whose love for the band is based on the fact that U2 refuse to stand still, reinvent themselves, and push their musical boundaries. On the other hand you have a wide-ranging audience, who are simply familiar with U2's enviable catalogue of pop/rock hits and who want nothing less than a greatest hits show.

So, despite being in the game for 30 years it was to U2's great credit last night that their 360 experience opened last night with four songs off their latest album. I am not aware of any of the remaining touring supergroups (Rolling Stones, The Who, Fleetwood Mac, etc.) that would dare attempt to open a 60,000-person show with songs that, quite frankly, only the hardcore fans were familiar with.

It was a gamble and, for the most part, it paid off. I happen to be very fond of the new album and it was a joy to hear the band transmit their sound in the way it was meant to be heard. U2 is the quintessential live band and certainly the kings of the stadium experience; a mantle they stole from Pink Floyd during the tour for 1987's "The Joshua Tree". You can currently watch Coldplay and especially their earnest frontman, Chris Martin, doing their best to assume the throne. Don't get me wrong. I love Coldplay's music. Their melodies are gorgeous. But Chris, for all of his likeability, is not Bono and Coldplay is not yet in U2's league in terms of the audacious wall of sound that these four men can produce.

The attached picture shows the set, which was a monstrous claw-like creature that was superbly lit and featured a retractable screen that raised and lowered. It made the huge venue look a lot smaller and made it feel just a bit more intimate. The production values were top-of-the-line and the sound was heart-stoppingly crystalline. A curious thing has happened as a 20+ year U2 fan--I have started to pay much more attention to the drums and bass, and the mix last night was perfect to appreciate how very good U2's rhythm section of Larry Mullen, Jr. and Adam Clayton have become (or maybe always were and I never noticed?).

As for the setlist , U2 are in the enviable place of having a rich catalogue to choose from and not enough time to play all the songs that their vast audience wants to hear. In their 2 1/2 hour concert they offered a real grab-bag of material, stretching back to 1983. For a hardcore fan such as myself, any U2 concert is about what is played as well as what is not played. Notably (and probably for some shockingly) absent were war horse standards such as "Pride" (1984), "Bullett the Blue Sky" (1987), "New Year's Day" (1983), and "Bad" (1984).

In their place U2 offered a beautiful version of "The Unforgettable Fire" (1984), a brilliant "Ultraviolet" (1991) and the completely obscure "Your Blue Room" (1995) from a side project they did with Brian Eno. The latter was appreciated by me, although it did not translate all that well into the cavernous stadium.

As for other highlights, I was pleasantly shocked that U2 managed to bring the house down (myself included) with three of my least favourite U2 songs: "Get on Your Boots" (2009), "Elevation" (2000), and "Vertigo" (2004). This trio of songs absolutely rocked the place. The groove was intense and I realized that these songs are meant to be played really loud and live, not sitting on your tiny iPod speakers. These were all-out, old-fashioned guitar riff sex and drugs songs that I have never fully appreciated before. Good on ya, U2.

Biggest surprise of the night was the live remix of "I'll Go Crazy If I Don't Go Crazy Tonight" (2009), which was just absolutely amazing. I was gobsmacked at the sound quality and the whole sound field was impeccable. It produced the night's first "Holy F*ck" from my lips. The second biggest surprise was a thunderous version of "Sunday Bloody Sunday"(1983), a song that I had hoped would be dropped from the setlist due to overexposure. How wrong I was, for it was the first time I have heard this old song delivered with such intensity and new life!

At one point Bono just stopped singing and the entire stadium stepped in to carry the lyrics to "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" (1987). Beautiful moment. The OMG-hairs-up-on-the-back-of-the-neck came with the superb "City of Blinding Lights" (2004), "Until the End of the World" (1991), and "Where the Streets Have No Name" (1987). I swear on that last one the Rogers Centre actually shook. It was breathtaking and the sound was pure and crystalline.

Towards the end of the show U2 played the requisite "One" (1991) and "With or Without You" (1987), the former with a lovely opening video featuring Bishop Desmond Tutu. U2 being U2 they had a great message video about Burma's Ang San Suu Kyi, who has been under house arrest for 20 years, and then played their song written for her, "Walk On" (2000). The stage was flooded by Amnesty International volunteers sporting Ang masks. It was cheesy but I have never given Bono flack for his genuine and passionate activism for social justice.

In fact I got quite emotional as I watched Bono on the giant screen, for he really is not only one of a kind but perhaps a last of a kind as well. Bono was once rightly called the Pied Piper of rock, and watching him sing, implore, laugh, run, dance, and gesticulate in the way that only he can made me realize that this concert was to be cherished. U2 has not changed but audiences certainly have, and my heart went out to Bono as he worked very hard to do what he does best; to engage with the front row as much as the back row; to inspire, to challenge, to help make collective dreams possible.

I am grateful. It was a memorable night, with a few touches of magic and grace.


September 16, 2009

Destination: U2

Well, just about to head onto the 401 to catch my beloved U2 at the Rogers Centre (formerly the much better-named SkyDome) in Toronto. You can see the stunning scale of U2's set in the attached aerial photo. So that's where I will be in a few short hours, screaming, singing, and--no doubt--crying.

September 15, 2009

R.I.P.












August 18, 1952 - September 14, 2009

September 14, 2009

Welcome Back, Whitney!

Before Mariah Carey, Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, Beyonce Knowles, Rihanna Fenty, Leona Lewis, Alicia Keys and a host of other divas and diva-wannabes there was Whitney Houston.

Her eponymous debut album was released in 1985, stayed number-1 for 14 weeks and went on to sell 25 million copies. I was a holder of one of those copies and I fell instantly in love with her amazing vocal ability and her range (and I am pretty sure her stunning beauty too). She went supernova in 1992 with the soundtrack to the movie "The Bodyguard" which sold 42 million copies worldwide and made a global hit of Dolly Parton's "I Will Always Love You".

So, I have been a huge fan of Whitney's since laying on my bed in my parent's house listening to that album for the first time, and it saddened me so much to watch her decline into drug abuse and marital strife. So it was with great joy that I learned that this week Whitney released her first album in 7 years. Welcome back, Ms. Houston. You were dearly missed.

September 13, 2009

U2.com > News > On Air and On The Streets

U2.com > News > On Air and On The Streets

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Queen's Gaels Now 2-0

The No.7 ranked Queen's Gaels moved to 2-0 yesterday with a win over the McMaster Mauraders, in one of the lowest-scoring matches I have ever seen. Queen's defence held McMaster at bay and squeeked by in the end with a 8-7 victory. As with the previous match against the Guelph Gryphons it was the finals few plays that decided the game.

September 8, 2009

Go Gaels Go!

It might surprise some that I am actually quite the sports fan, particularly tennis and Canadian university athletics.

September is always a great time of year here in Kingston, arguably Canada's best college town, as thousands of students descend on the city and bring in energy and buzz to the old stones.

Part and parcel of that energy is the fights on the gridiron, as Queen's Gaels take on contenders from across Ontario. Yesterday Queen's football Gaels edged out the Guelph Gryphons 52-49 in a game designed for television, as Queen's won on a 37-yard field goal launched as the clock ran out. Now that's a good football game!

In pre-season play, Queen's Men's Rugby Gaels travelled to Dartmouth College in Hanover, NH for the Royalle Lyme Classic, with matches against Dartmouth College and Boston College. The Gaels hammered their American opponents, with a 55-3 win over Boston and a 45-6 win over Dartmouth.

Of course, the Gaels are more than just football and rugby. Queen's fields 26 varsity teams in the CIS/OUA and another 15 interuniversity sports clubs, all part of an athletic tradition dating back to the 1880s.