December 14, 2010

Once more in the name of love





U2's 1984 clarion call "Pride (In the Name of Love)" has been recorded by Dierks Bentley, Del McCoury & The Punch Brothers for Bentley’s album Up on The Ridge. Their gorgeous bluegrass cover was recently nominated for the Best Country Collaboration with Vocals Grammy. 

December 11, 2010

A Little Respect (Redux)



Erasure have announced the release of a brand new version of their top 5 single, "A Little Respect" – HMI Redux. A colourful new video for the track, shot in New York City and featuring Erasure lead singer Andy Bell, HMI youth and many other passers-by, will be released as well.


Proceeds from the track will be donated to The Hetrick-Martin Institute, the home of the Harvey Milk High School, in New York, and the True Colors Fund. The Hetrick-Martin Institute, the nation’s oldest and largest LGBTQ youth service organization, provides a safe and supportive environment to all young people – regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity so that they can achieve their full potential.

In the wake of all the gay bullying and related suicides that have been reported in the US over the past several months, Erasure wanted to do something special to spread a message of tolerance and to raise money for an organisation that engages in the fight on a daily basis and, because it has become something of a gay rights anthem over the years, it seemed only fitting to release a brand new version of "A Little Respect".

The HMI Redux features a youth chorus from the Hetrick-Martin Institute who also appear in the music video, directed by filmmaker Jason Stein.

The original version of "A Little Respect" was released in 1988 on the album The Innocents.

November 29, 2010

R.I.P.

Canada has exported an incredible roster of comedic actors to Hollywood. One of the earliest was Leslie Nielson (Feb 11, 1926-Nov 28, 2010), who began his film career in 1956. Leslie actually began his career as a dramatic actor on television. In 1950 alone he appeared in over 50 live dramatic shows. Viewers of his generation will remember Nielson for his roles in  Forbidden Planet (1956) --a forerunner to Star Trek-- and The Swamp Fox (1959-1961).

Nielson's career renaissance came after he was cast in Airplane! (1980), in a supporting role as Dr. Rumack. Flawlessly delivering his comedic lines, Nielson emerged as the go-to guy for deadpan one-liners. He was central to the success of The Naked Gun franchise as the hapless Detective Frank Drebin. He also appeared in the third and fourth instalments of the spoof franchise Scary Movie.  

Airplane! is my all-time favourite comedy and it never fails to make me giggle like a little kid. Some of Nielson's best moments are captured in this online tribute. RIP Mr. Nielson.

November 27, 2010

Behind every pop star...

Recently, I was at a cocktail party hosted by some friends and I was introduced to a lovely man named Ian "Koko" Kojima. An unassuming fellow, he was quiet-spoken, warm, and very friendly. He spoke little of himself, except to say that he had retired to Kingston. It was his wife who proudly dropped the bombshell: Kojima had played in Chris de Burgh's band. As in "Lady in Red". Cool!

Modest as ever we had to pretty much had to drag stuff out of Kojima. Turns out he was Chris de Burgh's bandleader from 1979 - 1994, and he played the saxophone and keyboards.  He is what is known in the music business as a session player, and he has an impressive track record.

In the early 1970s he was in the band Great White Cane, which featured singer Rick James (who went on to stardom with 1981's "Super Freak").

In the 1990s Kojima went on tour with none other than David Hasselhoff. You can catch him in The Hoff's 1990 live DVD "Live and Forever".

These days Kojima tours around the province playing music. He put together a blues band of great local talent called KokoVann. He seems to be enjoying his "retirement" and I have to say I can't recall meeting a nicer person in years.

November 18, 2010

Weeping for the future

I came across a blog written by a middle school (ages 11 - 14) English teacher, who shares things he is asked and overhears at his school.

It's hilarious and saddening at the same time. Kids sure do say the darndest things... 

October 25, 2010

R.I.P. Walkman (1979 - 2010)

Sony announced recently that the last batch of its iconic Walkman was produced in April of this year, and that no more new cassette Walkman products will be made.

The Sony Walkman debuted in 1979, and reached its peak as the must-have accessory for pop music fans for those of us who were in high school from, ahem, 1984 to 1988.

While younger folks may scoff as such antique, even quaint, technology it's worth pausing to reflect on how much the Walkman changed the relationship of music to the listener. As the first truly portable music device, the Walkman blazed the trail for personal listening and created a market for a more individualistic music experience.

There is no doubt that the Walkman was a revolutionary consumer product, paving the way for the portable CD and DAT devices and, eventually, the digital evolution to MP3 and the now ubiquitous iPod and its various spawn.

The Walkman was every much the status symbol that the iPod is today. There were clones on the market then --as there remains today--and you could walk proud only if you had a genuine Sony Walkman. In fact, I recall that the de riguer outfit was either a Lacoste polo shirt, Ralph Lauren Oxford button down, tan or brown cords, and your Sony Walkman. Some of you may recall the Lacoste knock-offs, those scratchy polo shirts with the fox sewn on their fronts, that you could buy at Sears? But I digress...

So a little tear for getting a Walkman model with auto-playback; for running out to Sam the Record Man to get the latest INXS, U2, or The Cure cassette; for having a little place to carve out in your head while you rode the bus to and from school; to the first time you could really make a statement with your music; to forging your first scaffolding of what would become your sense of self and identity.

October 14, 2010

Canada's diplomatic woes

Canada's international reputation took a beating this week, with the loss of a seat on the U.N. Security Council (the first such loss for Canada since 1945), and being asked to leave its base in the U.A.E. 

Influential magazine The Economist weighed in on the Security Council snub, summarizing Canada's current foreign policy as "better at doughnuts than diplomacy". Ouch. Canada hasn't received such a harsh barb from the venerable U.K. magazine since it labelled then-PM Paul Martin as a "ditherer".

Harper's team immediately blamed the loss of the Security Council seat on opposition leader Michael Ignatieff, saying that his criticism of Harper's foreign policy did not present a united front to the world. After pundits and editorialists rightfully called the blame game both specious and idiotic, Harper stated that Canada lost the vote because "of his government’s refusal to trade policy positions to be popular among UN voters".

Others pointed to the Harper government's decision to effectively neutralize Foreign Affairs, consolidate all decisions and power at the PMO, and its staunch alignment with Israel that played the real parts in Canada's loss of support for the Security Council seat.

The embarassment of not earning a seat on the Security Council means that Canada will not have a voice on the most powerful arm of the U.N. for the first decade since the U.N. was founded. It's a blow to Canada's diplomatic corps, long viewed as one of the world's pre-eminent foreign services. Canada was a founding member of the U.N. and had long distinguished itself as a quiet but stable influence in global diplomacy, exercising its self-appointed role as a "middle power", a status that reached its apex during the Suez Canal crisis, for which Lester B. Pearson won the Nobel Peace Prize. Canada had long pursued a foreign policy position based on quiet but influential diplomacy and a commitment to peacekeeping.

Canada's diplomatic influence is directly related to the global perceptions of its credibility. Clearly the decisions made by the Harper government have negatively impacted our reputation and lessened our ability to influence other countries. Put another way, our country's actions and policies have consequences and for the first time in a lifetime Canada's diplomatic position in the world is in deep trouble.           

October 13, 2010

For your consideration

Civic elections are looming across the province and in the effort to promote democracy and informed decision-making, herewith I present the lowdown on Kingston's mayoral candidates.

The Front Runners

Mark Gerretsen
Son of former Kingston mayor and current MPP for Kingston and the Islands and Minister of the Environment, John Gerretsen, Mark has most recently served as the councillor for the Portsmouth District. His last name provides him with strong brand recognition by association, but this is both a positive and negative attribute, depending on one's view of the McGuinty government. Gerretsen will likely enjoy the support of the local establishment and prominent members of the city's business class.

Rob Matheson 
The vocal councillor for the Loyalist-Cataraqui District, Matheson was born in Africa and lived around the world before his family settled in my former home town of Aylmer, Quebec. Matheson moved to Kingston in 1997, and he has taken a keen interest in public service and has been involved in many service organizations. Matheson will attract voters keen on his mantra of sustainability and those who are wary of political dynasties.

 
The Outsider

Barrie Chalmers
A longtime local business owner, Chalmers has not held public office before and is thus unknown to most Kingstonians. He brings a business orientation to how he views the issues and fixes for Kingston, and he prides himself on not being a politician. Chalmers' straight-talk apprach will appeal to those who think governments tend to get in the way, and those who distrust most politicians. Ironically, Chalmers' relative lack of name recognition could help him pick up the undecided who are wary of the career politicians. 


The Social Network

John Last/Kevin Lavelly/Nathaniel Wilson
With their snazzy web site "Run this Town", Last, Lavelly, and Wilson are three 20 year-olds running a mayoral campaign to eat away at voter apathy. Their approach is to tackle the cynicism of elections and to try and influence folks to get to the polls; that our civic duty is to be involved citizens in our electoral process. Their main audience is the younger demographic, who tend to shy away from municipal politics and elections. They don't expect votes but surely they will stoke the passions of a few citizens in the 18-25 age range.

October 12, 2010

You can now own a Stacy Kelly collectable

You can now own an essential and rare Stacy Kelly collectable, available to order from Chessler Books in Colorado.

Get your own signed copy of Everest: Epic Trivia co-authored by Don Travers and Stacy Kelly.  Published in 1999 this 76-page book features photos and hundreds of trivia questions and answers about the legendary mountain.

Order your copy now at Chessler Books.  Makes a great gift!

October 10, 2010

On the restaurant trail

As the dust finally settles on downtown Kingston's "Big Dig", the rather clever marketing campaign created around the revitalization of the main corner of historic downtown, some interesting developments are about to occur in our restaurant scene

First off, we may have a burger war on our hands. Last week Harper's Burger Bar opened just near the busy corner of Wellington and Princess streets. We tried to go in on Thursday night but the place was absolutely packed. They are getting the jump on Five Guys Burgers and Fries, opening up a block north. Whereas Harper's is the brainchild of the folks behind local favs Chien Noir and Atomica, Five Guys is the famous burger joint that started in the D.C. area. To add some more competition, a local joint opened up not too long ago called "Vinny's Italian Sandwiches". After a very brief run it closed (confusing all concerned) and then reopened as "Vinny's Burgers and Fries".  It will be a hoot to see which will thrive in Kingston's competitive restaurant market.

Secondly, there may be a tea war brewing as well considering a David's Tea location is opening up on one of the downtown's best blocks, just a few storefronts down from the current Tea Store. Don't know who this David person is but he's got the best location, right next to our Empire Theatre (movies) and across the street from the Grand Theatre (music & plays).

Clogging up the streets will be a poutine war, with a few new upstarts trying to unseat Bubba's as Kingston's fav poutine destination. A local operation called "Poutine Place" is opening up soon, along with a branch of the Smoke's Poutinerie empire.

October 6, 2010

It Gets Better!





As our own little contribution to the spirit and emotion behind the wonderful It Gets Better Project, I thought I would repost the interview Mark and I did about our life and love together. We celebrated 9 years together in August and our interview was a humourous and touching portrait of how two gay boys can overcome the great challenges out there and fall in love.

October 5, 2010

I can't believe the news today








RIP Asher Brown, a 13 year-old boy from Texas who killed himself after excessive bullying about his size, his beliefs, and about being gay.












RIP Seth Walsh, a 13 year-old boy from California who died in hospital due to injuries sustained after attempting to hang himself. Seth had reported being bullied for years for being gay.








RIP Billy Lucas, a 15 year-old boy from Indiana, who hung himself in his parents' barn after enduring bullying because he was gay.










RIP Justin Aaberg, a gay 15 year-old boy from Minnesota, who hung himself after suffering the torment of bullying at his high school.











RIP Tyler Clementi, a 18 year-old freshman at Rutgers University, who lept to his death after his roommate posted video online of Clementi having a sexual encounter with another man.  





These tragic and heartbreaking deaths all took place within the last month. Despite some important gains in legal protection and rights, and an increased profile of LGBT people on TV, bullying within middle school and high school remains very dangerous and pernicious for LGBT youth as well as those perceived to be LGBT.

In reponse to this crisis, well-known columnist Dan Savage has launched the It Gets Better Campaign, asking folks, both celebrity and non-celebrity, to share messages of hope and reassurance to LGBT teens who may be struggling with their own bullying, feelings of self-loathing, and may be feeling all alone. There are hundreds of videos of people sharing very touching personal stories and messages. Please have a look and please share with your social networks.

With my love and gratitude to my friends and family, who have always loved me for who I am. I would not be here without you. Love, Stacy

September 28, 2010

An old man and his guitar

Today marks the release of Neil Young's highly anticipated solo album Le Noise. 

Produced by fellow Canadian Daniel Lanois, this album features 8 acoustic songs that sound like something completely different. Lanois' studio wizardry takes the acoustic guitar to a whole new level, and he came up with a new sound, as he says in an interview, "50 years at the back end of rock and roll".

Young is known as the "Godfather of Grunge" and his signature sound, deftly enhanced by Lanois, comes through loud and clear on these songs. I am very fond of the opening song, "Walk With Me".

Without an accompanying band, Neil is left unprotected and he wails, fights, and implores the listener to care just as much as he does. The lyrics are accessible yet poetic enough to warrant repeat listens. This is a beautifully crafted yet raw album.  I can think of very few other singer-songwriters who could pull off some serious rock magic with just a mic, a guitar, and their voice.






September 24, 2010

Gimme some transcendence

Thought I would share some songs that are the kind of gems that take me out of myself and put me elsewhere...You know, the songs that take me on a journey when I listen to them. There are fewer of such songs amidst the cacophony of graffiti that passes for music these days. I encourage you to get comfortable, lower the lights and put on your head phones. No, not those ridiculous ear things that come with iPods. I mean real head phones...the kind that make you look like Episode IV Princess Lea. You know what I am talking about. So lay yourself down with those clunky suckers and enjoy some songs to take you out of yourself....

"Vervaceous" by James
I have every James album in my collection. James formed in 1982 in Manchester and you probably know them from "Laid", their 1993 college radio hit. "Vervaceous" is a different beast altogether. This awesome live version really launches around the 3:10 mark. 

"Take it Back" by Pink Floyd.
You have to hand it to Pink Floyd. They owned spectacle rock and put on a show like no one else. With the creative team of Rogers and Gilmour how could a band not create masterpieces? This live cut features the vastly underrated genius Gilmour doing what he does best. The magic starts immediately and hits its peak beginning around 3:10. 

"Half Light II" by Arcade Fire
 I drove to Syracuse recently and played this song over and over again most of the way. It breaks my heart every time I hear it, thanks to its melancholic core of saying goodye to the past and perhaps even to the future. It's a stunning song, bigger than the sum of its parts. 

"The Message" by Coldplay
This is my favourite Coldplay song, and one I think is highly underrated. When the band kicks in at 1:19 the song takes to the sky, and Martin propels the song upward with his choir boy vocals. Gorgeous!


"The Feeling Begins" by Peter Gabriel
This incredible song is from the soundtrack to The Last Temptation of Christ. Peter Gabriel gathered an astounding group of Middle Eastern musicians to perform on this stellar album. This song is the opening to the record. When those drums start rolling at at 2:55....wow!

"Shanghai" by Free Association/David Holmes
 From the incomparable soundtrack to Code 46 this song always takes me away, back to my hotel room in Shanghai, where I remember turning out the lights and sitting on the window sill and just watching the city...



"Where the Streets Have No Name" by U2
Typically it's The Edge's signature opening to this classic song that makes the hair on the back of the neck stand up, but in this stunning live version it's Bono's wailing cries that immediately grab your heart. Bono had buried his father the day before the concert was filmed and he was still very raw. Magnificent!


 


 

September 22, 2010

Jackie Burroughs (February 2, 1939 – September 22, 2010)

Legendary Canadian actress Jackie Burroughs has passed away peacefully.

While her film and stage career stretched back over 40 years, Ms. Burroughs is most well known and beloved for her role as "Hetty King" in the TV adaption of Road to Avonlea, which aired from 1990-1996. I adored this show and I particularly adored Ms. Burrough's one-of-a-kind portrayal of the kind but firm spinster school teacher.

Burroughs is survived by Zoe Yanovsky, her daughter with the late Zal Yanovsky.

May she rest in peace.

September 14, 2010

U2 test drives new songs

U2 are currently on tour in Europe, Bono having recovered from emergency back surgery, and they have been delighting fans by throwing in new songs here and there. These songs are believed to be the core of a new album rumoured to be titled Songs of Ascent that should arrive in stores before the end of the year (How's that for noncommittal?). 

Anyway, thought you might like to hear the eagerly-awaiting new material. Keep in mind that most of these are unfinished and still being tinkered with. U2 are essentially test-driving these songs in front of tens of thousand of people. Thanks to fans who put these up on YouTube!!

"Return of the Stingray Guitar"
The tour's new opening song, a great little instrumental gem of riff and drums.

"Soon"
This was the opening song for the tour in 2009. Used to be called "Kingdom of Your Love". Many expect this will be the opening track on the new album but who knows?

"North Star"
This is a lighter ballad. The kind of song we used to flick on our lighters for. Nowadays it's cell phone and smart phones...Reminds me of "Staring at the Sun". 

"Glastonbury"
U2 wrote this song for what was supposed to be their headlining gig at the famed Glastonbury music festival this year. But Bono injured himself and U2 had to cancel. Instead, The Edge showed up and helped Muse deliver a cool cover of Streets  

"Every Breaking Wave"
Of the new songs, I think this is one with the most promise for a certified Stacy favourite.  I have always loved the songs where Bono and The Edge duet.

*Bonus track*

"Winter"
This is the second version of the song, redone and polished by the band for the sountrack to the movie Brothers. For some reason I actually prefer the much rawer original.

September 11, 2010

Canadian banks named world's soundest

For the third year in a row the World Economic Forum has named Canada's banks the soundest in the world.

Hear some commentary on this ranking from Queen's School of Business professor Louis Gagnon on BNN.

September 9, 2010

Let us now praise Canadian women who sing

Canada, for unknown reasons, has produced an astonishing roster of female singers and songwriters. For the past 40 years there has always been a Canadian songstress serving notice on the music charts, and by the 1990s Canadian women were in fact dominating the charts across genres.

I thought it would be nice to highlight some of the amazing women from Canada that have ventured out from the Great White North to delight, inspire, and influence popular music. This list is not exhaustive but features some of the impressive female talents that have surely put Canada on the music map.



Anne Murray (b. June 1945)
The first Canadian female solo artist to have a #1 hit in the USA and the first Canadian to earn a Gold record from RIAA, Anne Murray hails from Springhill, Nova Scotia. I fondly remember watching her on various variety shows in the 70s and 80s on CBC. Ms. Murray has many beloved songs, none more than her 1970 cover of "Snowbird". 

Joni Mitchell (b. November 1943)
There are certainly far more commercially successful female performers from Canada but none will ever have the staggering, wide-ranging influence of Joni Mitchell. Born in Alberta, Ms. Mitchell eventually settled in Saskatchewan. Her vast catalogue of songs have been coveted and covered by many musicians, with her 1969 "Both Sides Now" as a real stand-out.

k.d. lang (b. November 1961)
Born in Alberta, k.d. lang began as a country singer with a passion for the haunting music of Patsy Cline. Picked as a back-up singer for the legendary Roy Orbison, the pair subsequently recorded a duet of "Crying" that earned a Grammy award in 1989. Her first big hit was 1992's "Constant Craving" and in that same year she came out as a lesbian and remains a prominent gay-rights activist. Her vocal abilities are astonishing, highlighted best in this cover of fellow Canadian songwriter Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah". 

Sarah McLachlin (b. January 1968)
If you attended attended a Canadian university in the 1990s odds are you made love to Sarah McLachlin's 1993 album Fumbling Towards Ectasy. Many times. Many, many times. You could not escape this album in any dorm or cafe. For the pansexual crowd McLachlin, Indigo Girls, and Erasure were on constant rotation. Anyway...in the USA McLachlin came to the fore with her 1997 album Surfacing and the inaugural Lilith Fair festival. For my money, McLachlin's two first albums, Touch (1988) and Solace (1991) remain her best. Check out the gorgeous "Ben's Song" from her debut.

Celine Dion (b. March 1968)
Okay, okay, I can already hear the groans. But love her or hate her--and there is no one in the middle--Celine Dion is the juggernaut of Canadian female singers. She is the consumate belter of pop ballads and she has out-sold just about every music act on the planet, with album sales upwards of 200 million units. Already popular in Canada her big US hit was 1993's cover of Jennifer Rush's "The Power of Love". When that 1997 movie about the boat arrived on the scene, Dion was everywhere. A long stint in Vegas and a partnership with Cirque du Soleil solifidied her status as an anchor of the pop music industry.

Diana Krall (b. November 1964)
Hailing from British Columbia Diana Krall sold more jazz albums in the 1990s and 2000s than any other female jazz singer. While she does write her own songs she primarly covers the great standards. Although already established it was her 2001 record The Look of Love that brought her to a high level of fame.

Shania Twain (b. August 1965)
From the little northern Ontario town called Timmins Shania Twain conquered the world with her 1997 pop-country crossover record Come on Over. This became the best-selling record by a female solo artist ever, with sales of 39 million units. Wow! Ms. Shain seems to have stepped back to focus on her family, as we have not heard much for her since. I have always loved "You're Still the One". 

Alanis Morissette (b. June 1974)
In the late 1980s/early 1990s Alanis was a bubblegum pop singer from Ottawa (Ontario) in the vein of Debbie Gibson. That all changed dramatically with her 1995 mega-hit album Jagged Little Pill. Fuelled by anger and passion, Alanis whipped up a record that caught on fire and would go on to sell 33 million units. I have always loved her 1998 follow-up single "Thank U".

Nelly Furtado (b. December 1978)
Hailing from British Columbia, Nelly Furtado announced her talent with her 2000 debut Whoa, Nelly! featuring the radio-friendly "I'm Like a Bird". However it was her 2006 record Loose, produced by super producer Timbaland, that propelled her to global fame. The single "Promiscuous" was her first number-one hit in the US, and it was followed by the even bigger global hit "Say it Right". I am very partial to "Powerless" from her 2003 sophomore album, Folklore.  

Avril Lavigne (b. September 1984)
Bursting on the international music scene with her 2002 debut album Let it Go, the eastern Ontario native had her first top hit with "Complicated". A solid singer and songwriter, Lavigne has now sold 30 million records. Most know her tough-girl attitude as her main persona, but Lavigne reveals her vulnerability and vocal ability in her 2004 gem "I'm With You".

September 7, 2010

New York's new establishing shot

The common device in filmed productions to provide an immediate context for viewers is to open a scene with an establishing shot. The establishing shot would show us the Eiffel Tower, for example, to let us know the action is to happen in Paris; or we'll see a fly-by of the Palace of Westminster to indicate that the events are set in London.

For three decades pretty much any movie or tv show set in New York opened with a shot of the World Trade Center, either from the harbour or from midtown. Once in a while there would be a tracking shot from a helicopter just above the twin towers. These establishing shots were ubiquitous to the point of being cliche. These establishing shot images became part of the post-modern cinemegraphic iconography. Indeed, it would be an interesting challenge for a filmmaker to shoot in New York and not once feature the usual cliche images of the WTC, Empire State Building, Chrysler Building, etc. 

Someone once made the comment, upon visiting New York City for the first time, that he felt he had already been there because he had seen the city so many times in movies and on television. I think he also stated that because of America's dominance in filmed entertainment, that the country--and by extension its most prominent cities--exists in your subconscious.

As we approach the 9th anniversary of the destruction of the World Trade Center, I was thinking about how the rebuilt site will become the new establishing shot for New York, not only in movies but also within the symbology of citizens and visitors alike.  It will be mighty strange at first, for arguably the best of American cinema was shot in New York in the 70s and the WTC in so ingrained in our mental databanks. There will be a disconnect as we see images that do not match what we expect to see.

But I am certain that it won't be too long before we accept as normal the startling, sculptural imagery of the new World Trade Center site.  You can take a look at what you can expect to see in movies and television shows for years in the following short movie.

July 22, 2010

Derek Webb takes to the Streets

Nashville singer-songwriter Derek Webb has crafted a lovely acoustic cover of U2's "Where the Streets Have No Name" for a unique project called "Democracy Vol. 1".

Webb was part of contemporary Christian band Caedmon's Call and left to pursue a solo career. His most recent album, Stockholm Syndrome (2009) caused controversy among the Christian music industry for its explicit lyrics and content. 

July 20, 2010

Mind Games

What’s the most tenacious parasite? An idea. Only one idea from human’s brain can build cities.
One idea, can transform the world and re-write the rules. That’s why, I have to take this. 



This line, spoken by Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio), drives the concept of "Inception", an intriguing, suspenseful, and delightful sci-fi romp and certainly one of the most unique films of the decade. The movie is an excellent companion to "Shutter Island", DiCaprio's other 2010 outing, wherein he plays yet another tormented widower.

Much is being written about the game-changing special effects and that "Inception" will be another high water mark in the tradition of "The Matrix". All true...However, it the relationship between Cobb and his wife Mal (Marion Cotillard) that is the heart of "Inception"; what drives the protagonist to behave the way he does and it explains his motivations and purpose.


Most films you see are instantly forgettable. "Inception" is impossible to forget, as it winds its way into your mind (like those worms in "The Wrath of Khan") and plants itself into your subconscious. There's a lot going on in this movie--probably too much for just one viewing and its non-linear, multi-layered story telling is both apt and rapturous. Although I am biased, DiCaprio anchors this film in a way that really needed to happen. I have read that it was DiCaprio who pushed Nolan to increase the emotional core of the film and the actor's instincts were on the mark. Layers of dream scapes, floating bodies, and collapsing worlds mean little if you do not care about the people inside them.

Here, Nolan has crafted a taught and riveting narrative that keeps you watching and listening. I pity anyone who left to go to the washroom. Missing just five minutes of the story  is enough for some serious knowledge deficit. The film deserves an Oscar nod for film editing, as it is a pristine, fast, and sleek cut of an ambitious idea.

One reviewer called the last shot in the film a joke on the audience by Nolan and that many have booed the ending. I wholeheartedly disagree. The ending broke my heart, as I believe it was intended to. Nolan respects his audience too much to merely wink at them and mock their attention. Audiences members who booed have been sadly induced to cynicism by years of pap from such filmmakers as Shyamalan and the b-level movies that pass for horror these days. Rather, Nolan provides a clue to his motivations in the last heart-wrenching scene between Cobb and Mal in their apartment. It is the most moving and important scene in the film and shows how strong of an actor DiCaprio really is. It delivers a critical revelation that is both devastating and revelatory. The "was it?/wasn't it?" ending is the perfect way to leave this fantastic tale of digging into your subconscious...

July 14, 2010

A spoonful of love

The late Zalman "Zal" Yanovsky (pictured at left) is best known and celebrated worldwide as the guitarist for The Lovin' Spoonful, that great 1960s band known for such hits as "Summer in the City", "Do You Believe in Magic", and "Daydream".

But for Kingstonians, Mr. Yanovsky is the beloved co-founder of Chez Piggy, the city's most celebrated restaurant. Chez Piggy opened in February 1979 and was packed from the start. Tucked away in a courtyard "The Pig", as it is locally known, is such a part of Kingston that life without it would be a lesser life indeed. A meal on the Pig's patio in the summer is a rite of passage, and decades of Kingstonians, RMC cadets, and Queen's students have celebrated life's most important moments amidst the thick stone walls of the 1812 livery stable.

By the early 1990s Yanovsky and his wife, Rose Richardson, realized that there was demand for a bakery to satisfy the restaurant's and their customers' desire for good artisan bread. They launched Pan Chancho in 1994 in a small red-brick store opposite St George's Cathedral. It was a  foodie destination, for great breads, cheeses, and other European style foods.

Pan Chancho was so successful that it was obvious the cramped quarters were not sufficient. The couple found a beauty of a limestone building on lower Princess St that was built in 1833 as a bank. It was vacant after numerous tenants, including a hamburger joint. After a nearly miraculous renovation the new 10,000 square-foot home opened in March 2002. It remains a beacon for regional foodies and is one of the veritable gems of the city.

Tragically, Yanovsky passed away suddenly in December 2002. His beloved Rose succumbed to cancer in March 2005.  I cannot say I knew Zal personally, but I  met him on numerous visits to his businesses and he always left an indelible impression. He was an ebullient and boisterous character, full of life and clearly passionate about food. My impressions of Rose was that she was the quieter but solid presence in his life; the ideal ballast for his exuberance. Together they created some real magic that lives on in these two marvellous entities that house their spirit.

We just finished watching the cancelled 2005 ABC series "Invasion" and it was quite intriguing. I was sad to see it end so abruptly. Set in the Florida Everglades the story follows a blended family as they recover from a hurricane and, later, the apparent invasion of a foreign entity into their lives. Conceived by Shaun Cassidy (half-brother of 70s icon David Cassidy), the show was unjustly canned after being poorly managed by ABC. A similar fate had befallen other sci-fi jewels such as "Firefly" (2002) and "Surface" (2005).

Like Whedon had with "Firefly", Cassidy's ace in his hand was to centre the story on a family. In Whedon's story the family was a crew on a space freighter, while Cassidy took a very contemporary occurrence--a blended family--and stuck them in the midst of chaos here on Earth.

As Cassidy says in an interview on the DVD the reality is that the family are going through the chaos of the conflict inherent within families that have two sets of parents. Both Whedon and Cassidy anchor their fantastic stories around realistic characters. Most importantly, you care about what happens to each member of the family; a deft result of pathos, something so few blockbuster movies ever seem to remember to include (yeah, I am talking to you "2012", "Transformers 2", "Wolfman", "Clash of the Titans", etc).

While cut down this series is worth watching. With 22 episodes the creators have enough room to develop robust story arcs and the show's mythology. It's far less pretentious than "Lost" and equally engaging, although the last episode's riveting cliffhanger ending will break your heart since you know you will never know what happens. Full marks go to the cast, led by the exceptional William Fichtner ("Prison Break"). 

July 13, 2010

Hot time, summer in the city

With the temperatures soaring it has been mighty nice to have a little outdoor escape hatch, in the form of our cute, albeit rickety, rear deck. The deck faces east and we can see the curved white roof of the K-ROCK Centre hovering above our grocery store (green roof).

The afternoons are blissfully shaded and we have a great breeze because of the nearby waterfront and our height on the second storey. 

In the distance to the left (north) you can see the red roof of Fort Frontenac (c. 1783) that is the home to the Canadian Land Force Command and Staff College.  On the other site of the fort is the Cataraqui River, which drains into the St. Lawrence River.

25th anniversary of Live Aid

July 13 marks the 25th anniversary of Live Aid, which is hard to believe. It was a great gesture of consciousness- raising and fund-raising about the plight of the starving in Ethiopia. It was an event that completely caught my imagination and stirred my sense of justice. I was all of 13. I remember hanging out to watch the broadcast, which was a massive technical feat at the time. The concert was live in London (UK) and Philadelphia (USA) and telecast around the world.

There were many memorable acts, some of whom I had heard of thanks to my mom's impressive record collection; notably Queen, David Bowie, The Police, and many others. But for me, Live Aid will always be about U2's 12-minute version of "Bad", a song that just seemed to say it all and Bono's famous leap off the stage to save a girl in the audience from getting crushed.  Ignore the godawful mullet and enjoy a superstar band emerging before your eyes in one of live rock's greatest performances (plus a hilarious VCR recording blip).

You can also enjoy a quick clip of Bono on July 9 reminiscing on the event here.

June 30, 2010

Celebrating Canada in the first capital

Kingston likes to boast that it was the first capital city of Canada when the Act of Union (1840) brought Upper Canada and Lower Canada together into a new colony called the Province of Canada. The governor, Lord Sydenham, helped Kingston's fortunes greatly by deciding in 1841 that the Legislative Assembly ought to be based in Kingston, then not only Upper Canada's most populous town but also its most prominent military and economic centre. In that same year a group of local Scottish Presbyterians would successfully petition London for a royal charter to establish Queen's College. But that's another story...

As it turns out when the Legislative Assembly met for the very first time, in June 1841, they actually met in the original section of Kingston General Hospital (pictured above) that had been erected in 1835 but left vacant due to insufficient funds. Kingston would be the capital city for a short time--its "reign" lasted from 1841 to 1844--and KGH was in all senses our first parliament building during that time.

Alas, for reasons of proximity to the United States and other infighting, the capital was moved around to Montreal, Quebec City, Toronto, and finally settled on the mosquito-infested, isolated, lumber town that was later called Ottawa. Kingston's glory days were over, but the rush of building and expansion left Kingston with one of Canada's greatest concentration of 19th century stone buildings and a nice sense of civic history and pride. Kingston, after all, was home to our first Prime Minister, Sir John A. MacDonald. As for KGH, it managed to begin fully operations as a hospital in 1845 and it benefited from its association with the Queen's Faculty of Medicine that had begun in 1854.  

For its part in our nation's history Kingston celebrates "First Capital Day" every June and on each Canada Day it also swells with pride for its special part in the creation of Canada.

June 16, 2010

Oh Muffy, darling, your book is here

Last September I blogged about my discovery of "The Preppy Handbook" back in my first year of university in 1989.  The tongue-in-cheek guidebook to the good preppy life was a smash hit and 30 years on the book's editor, Lisa Birnbach, has written a sequel called "True Prep".

The book is described in promotional material as "a contemporary look at how the old guard of
natural-fiber-loving, dog-worshiping, G&T–soaked preppies
adapts to the new order of the Internet, cell phones, rehab,
political correctness, Reality TV and . . . polar fleece.
Accompanied by more than one hundred original illustrations
and photographs, and at least one recipe, True Prep promises to be a whole new, old, sensation".

You can download a 12-page blad [a marketing and sales tool, used where printed sample material is needed in advance by the sales force to sell the title. A blad will often feature sections from the finished book, including the cover artwork, page layouts and images] of "True Prep" here.

June 12, 2010

Viva les Divas

Ok, so I am showing my hand here but I adore the divas that have given us the great songs. I get a lot of flack for the fact that I embrace the stereotype of loving Judy Garland and others, but I really don't care. I am moved greatly by these amazing women who have graced us with such powerful and emotional interpretations of timeless and new songs. Here is a list of some of my favourites:

"Halo" - Beyonce
My goodness, can this woman sing! She is clearly Whitney's heir and she always breaks my heart with this stunning song.

"I Will Always Love You" - Whitney Houston
This earth-shattering version is from the 1999 Divas concert and it is testament to the great power and range  that made Ms. Houston a global sensation. With much respect...

"The Power of Love" - Celine Dion
I tend to ignore all the Celine haters (most of whom our my friends) as I adore her vocal abilities and care for her fans. 

"Happy Days Are Here Again" - Barbra Streisand
From her 1965 show "My Name is Barbra" this is the final song. How sad that there is so little class and elegance in our current world. Ms. Streisand is so gorgeous and classy. 

"I Am What I Am" - Shirley Bassey
Although written for a man to sing at the end of the first act of "La Cage Aux Folles" I have always felt that Ms. Bassey took this tune to an unparalleled level. She devastates me with her interpretation. Wow!

"Ole' Man River" - Judy Garland
I cannot think of any singer which exudes such heartbreaking pathos as Ms. Garland, especially in this powerful interpretation of a song that is certainly about the challenges of the human condition. The last minute always brings me to tears.

"O Mio Babbino Caro" - Maria Callas
Puccini's aria is delivered expertly by the legendary soprano in this later recording.  I know there may be  better versions she had produced earlier in her career, but I am fond of this version for its emotional impact rather than simply the technical aspects of her voice.





 











 

June 3, 2010

Saying goodbye to another golden girl

Rue McClanahan (b. Feb 21, 1934) passed away in New York City early this morning following a massive stroke she had suffered on Monday.

While a respected Broadway and Off-Broadway actress in her own right, Ms. McClanahan came to the broader public's attention as first as the late Bea Arthur's best friend in "Maude" (1972-1978) and then most famously as Arthur's man-crazy, Southern belle housemate Blanche Devereaux in "The Golden Girls" (1985-1992).

I absolutely adore "The Golden Girls" and I watch the reruns pretty much on a daily basis, but this is a tough loss and the show is getting more bittersweet to watch. These four consummate professionals had the best timing and sense of comedy and were a joy to behold together.  Despite knowing most of the punch lines I still find myself belly-laughing, bent over in hysterics at the antics of this golden foursome.

Thank you, Ms. McClanahan, for all of the laughs and for your unique charm and grace. May you rest in peace.

June 1, 2010

The art of misdirection

There's a great program on CBC Radio 1 called The Age of Persuasion that details the ongoing history of the art, science, and impact of advertising. If you haven't caught it yet it's probably the most informative 30 minutes you can ever spend. You will listen incredulously as you come to see how you are being shamelessly manipulated on a daily basis.

One of the most recent hard-to-swallow ads was part of GM's "Reinvention" campaign, which spawned a cynical but hilarious parody. The latter was probably far more accurate and the spoof captured the public's attitude around the staggering bailout.

Canadians have recently been subject to Maple Leaf Foods attempt to re-brand itself as "Your Local Butcher" after the devastating listeria outbreak that severely damaged the company's public image and confidence. In fairness, the original apology ads were appropriately solemn and heartfelt but the new ads trying to convince viewers that your packaged meat is prepared by a small town butcher is a real stretch. In truth, the giant processing plants are anything but down-home.  

Some my not find this a problem but I always cringe at how WalMart trumpets itself as a great American company with a great social conscience that is great for the real American family yet over 70% of its products are made in China. Furthermore, "Wal-Mart's per store charitable contributions do not match up to the amount of money a store takes in the "numerous forms of public assistance--Medicaid, Food Stamps, public housing--that often allow workers to subsist on Wal-Mart's low wages. A report by the House Education and Workforce Committee conservatively places [public assistance costs] at $420,750 per store; the Wal-Mart Foundation's per-store charitable giving is just 11 percent of that amount ($47,222). [source]"

There are so many more examples but for a hint at the insidious nature of marketers and how they work on your desires watch this illuminating TED talk by Terry O'Reilly

May 29, 2010

R.I.P.


Gary Coleman (Feb 8, 1968 - May 28, 2010)         Dennis Hopper (May 17, 1936 - May 29, 2010)

May 26, 2010

Get well soon, Bono

U2 has been forced to postpone their North American tour due to Bono having had emergency back surgery on Friday. The U2360 Tour was supposed to start on June 3 in Salt Lake City but now it looks like Bono will need at least 8 weeks to properly recover.


According to U2.com, "Dr Muller Wohlfahrt confirmed, 'Bono suffered severe compression of the sciatic nerve. On review of his MRI scan, I realized there was a serious tear in the ligament and a herniated disc, and that conservative treatment would not suffice. I recommended Bono have emergency spine surgery with Professor Tonn at Munich's LMU University Hospital on Friday."

Professor Tonn, who carried out the operation, added, "Bono was referred to me by Dr Muller Wohlfahrt late last week with a sudden onset disease. He was already in severe pain with partial paralysis in the lower leg. The ligament surrounding the disc had an 8mm tear and during surgery we discovered fragments of the disc had traveled into the spinal canal. This surgery was the only course of treatment for full recovery and to avoid further paralysis. Bono is now much better, with complete recovery of his motor deficit. The prognosis is excellent but to obtain a sustainable result, he must now enter a period of rehabilitation".

We were set to catch U2 in Montreal on July 16 but now we will just have to wait for a new date in 2011. So be it. I care much more than Bono recovers properly and fully, something that The Edge hinted in a Skype interview may be a challenge for the Energizer-Bono. Here's my heartfelt best wishes to dear Bono that he has a good and full recovery. When ever the time is right I look forward to welcoming my beloved U2 back on the stage.

May 25, 2010

I love New York in the spring

We have returned from our long weekend in New York City. We rented the same apartment in the Upper East Side that we had stayed in back in May 2008, which was nice since we knew the neighbourhood well and felt like we were at home. We were supposed to be a foursome but one of our party had to drop out at the very last minute to have emergency knee surgery so we ended up travelling with our dear friend Mara.

FRIDAY
We enjoyed awesome bagels each morning from Tal Bagels before starting our daily adventures. This was Mara's first trip to NYC so we took her on a grand tour of the must-sees. The first night we took the subway down to 42nd Street in Midtown and walked over to Times Square to take in the craziness. I got us off at 42nd street on purpose because when we existed we were right across from Mara's (and mine as it turns out) favourite building in the world, the Chrysler Building. It was a hoot to surprise her by asking her to look up. She was in a nice state of quiet awe. We ended up walking a huge loop and got back on the subway at 51st Street and headed back up to the Upper East Side for dinner at one of the city's great 24-hour diners, Gracie's. We couldn't believe we were ordering dinner at 12:30 am!! I had a massive souvlaki platter that had about five pounds of pork and the greatest Greek salad I have ever eaten!!

SATURDAY
The next day we had our bagels and cream cheese some very strong coffee and then walked over to Central Park. It was a gorgeous day and we just wandered around, taking in the unique sights and sounds of the greatest city park ever. By wonderful happenstance we ended up watching a hilarious street-show by three young black guys who called themselves "The Afrobats". Their routine was a blast, littered with sharp humour and a nod to prevailing ethnic stereotypes ("White people...do not worry...there are only three of of us. We can't hurt all of you") and they worked the crowd like no busker I have seen before. They had us in stitches at they danced, jumped around, and entertained. It turned out to be one of the most memorable moments of the trip.

I then took us on a quick detour to find the cheery tree under which I proposed to mark in May 2008. While it was a little bit of a challenge to find that special spot, as the cherry blossoms were all gone, I am thankfully blessed with a very sharp sense of direction and I was able to find our special tree. Mara kindly took some photos of us reuniting with a place that will always be special for us.

We left the Park to take Mara down Madison Avenue so she could ooh and ahh at the windows of the famous high fashion houses. We finished our walk at Bloomingdale's and hopped on the subway at 59th Street and went down to 23rd Street in Gramercy Park so we could walk over to 8th Avenue in Chelsea, the city's primary gay village. Before we got there we went into the lobby of the Hotel Chelsea to see where so many movers and shakers of the art, literary, movie, and music worlds once lived.

Mark was delighted to have a proper visit in Chelsea, and after a fantastic lunch at Rocking Horse Cafe, we hit the stores hard.Mark bought himself a cool shirt at The Starting Line and me a cool shirt at Nasty Pig which was so sweet of him. We then walked down to Chelsea Market for some treats and a much-needed break.

Rejuvenated we continued our journey south and entered the West Village, my favourite neighbourhood. We walked along Bleeker Street and took a quick detour down Grove Street so we could show Mara the building used for the exterior shot of the "Friends" apartment where Monica, Rachel, Chandler, and Joey lived. We went back to Bleeker and continued browsing until we decided to line up for a spot on the patio at our favourite NYC restaurant, Bar Pitti. Just like during our trip at New Year's we had the same celebrity sighting as Famke Janssen came to dine with her Boston Terrier and a male companion about halfway through our meal.

After dinner we walked up to Washington Square Park and the hopped on the subway at Astor Place and headed back to our apartment to chill out. We ended up watching three episodes of "Sex in the City" which was a hoot to actually watch while being in the City! Given that Carrie Bradshaw lived in the Upper East Side we felt like we were neighbours.

SUNDAY
Sunday morning began with some more bagels and raspberry preserves and then we were off on the subway down to the legendary flagship Macy's on 34th Street. We saw no miracles but we did see massive crowds of people and after grabbing a pretzel we took off on the subway to Lower Manhattan and got off at City Hall, and walked over to the historic South Street Sea Port. We peeked at the Brooklyn Bridge, went for an incredible lunch at New York's oldest surviving bar, The Bridge Cafe (serving food and/or drink since 1794!!), and then Mara hit the stores. We then hopped back on the subway to our apartment for some much-needed rest.

Our threesome parted ways at 7:00 pm as Mark and I hopped in a cab down to Theatre Row to the Imperial Theatre to catch the musical version of Billy Elliott. It was a good show with some very good parts. The standouts in the cast were were the awesome Canadian Kate Kennig ("Mrs Wilkinson") and the impressive Trevor Braun ("Michael"). Our "Billy" was played by 12 year-old Alex Ko, (there are 5 actors playing the lead role) who was certainly very solid and capable and effortlessly cute. He did not have the charisma or stage presence I was expecting but he performed admirably and it was an overall wonderful experience. Oh, and our seats were amazing: we could touch the stage if we stretched out our legs!!

We ended our night at another 24-hour diner back on the Upper East Side called the Viand Coffee Shop. It was the quintessential New York diner, right out of "Seinfeld" or a Woody Allen film. I had a massive plate of leg of lamb and some side mash and string beans. Mark opted for a giant club sandwich. We left stuffed and satisfied.

MONDAY
Monday morning we hopped in a cab to JFK, with a good load of memories and Alicia Keys singing in our heads...
Even if it ain’t all it seems, I got a pocketful of dreams
Baby, I'm from New York
Concrete jungle where dreams are made of
There's nothing you can't do
Now you're in New York
These streets will make you feel brand new
Big lights will inspire you
Hear it for New York, New York, New Yoooork!

May 14, 2010

Facebook a Ponzi scheme?

For a variety of reasons, including privacy concerns, I deleted my Facebook account well over a year ago. When I want to connect with friends afar I phone or email them. If they are in town, where most of my real friends are, I get together with them to, perish the thought, talk in person.

Facebook allows folks to pretend they are much more popular than they really are and pretend to connect with their legions of pretend friends. In reality, I am much closer to the cashier at my local Food Basics than any of the so-called friends I used to carry along on my Facebook account.

With accusations flying of a (possibly criminal) ambivalence towards its users' privacy, the Facebook organization is facing some very harsh media coverage and users are starting to wake up and trying to navigate the maze of 170 options in order to manage their privacy.

Now, as the bloom is definitely off of Facebook, its actual creator ponders whether we are at the end of the Facebook era, while another fellow argues that the insidious social media platform is really a Ponzi scheme.

May 12, 2010

Things that ought to be banned

There are a number of things that I would like to submit for consideration for banishment in the hopes of making our lives better.

1. The expression "going forward".
(Annoying and redundant)
2. The constant flow of TV dramas about cops, lawyers, or doctors.
(Are these the only three careers on the planet?)
3.  The expression "from Wall St. to Main St." or any derivative.
(A patronizing rhetorical device)
4. Illegible small print on TV automobile ads.
(Impossible to read in time alloted. How is this legal?)
5. Wall-to-wall pharmaceutical ads during the news. (How medicated do we meed to be? We have made almost every part of the human condition a pathology)
6. Twitter.
(Massive waste of time and bandwidth)
7. The pseudo-philosophical crap on the side of Starbucks coffee cups.
(Because I always look to paper cups for wisdom and guidance)
8. Those horrific cow bell milk commercials.
(Simply terrible)
9. Being asked to make a donation by the cashier at local stores.
(I don't appreciate guilt-on-the-spot. If a company wants to make a genuine social contribution they should simply pledge a portion of earnings, not redistribute money from their customers and then take credit for it)
10. Uncivil people at movie theatres.
(We now pay the most money in the history of movies for the worst possible customer experience, thanks to endless chatter, cell phones, texting, and unruly behaviour)

May 5, 2010

The Right Stuff

As if FOX News wasn't enough of a mouthpiece for ardent Republicans, coming soon to cable is the Right Network.

With none other than Kelsey Grammer (yes, as in Frasier) as its celebrity pitcher, the new network is aiming its guns at the major networks and hoping to capture the hearts and eyes of the disaffected Tea Baggers and others who think the G.O.P. has drifted too far to the middle. Here's their promo trailer...

May 4, 2010

Kent State's grim 40th anniversary

Today marks the 40th anniversary of the Kent State University shootings. A student protest against the Vietnam War and the presence of the Ohio National Guard on the Kent State campus ended in tragedy when guardsmen shot and killed four and wounded nine Kent State students.

A poignant archive and documentary is available at May 4 Archive.

April 27, 2010

Numeracy and the news

I recently purchased this book at a charity book sale. Although published in 1995 it remains as relevant as ever, as the quality of our daily newspapers is only ever as good as the mathematical ideas embedded within the stories. It's an informative, humourous, and quick read, at roughly 200 pages. Paulos lays the book out in  the style of a newspaper and each chapter (or article) is just a few pages long. 

While certainly worth a read on your own, here are some of his arguments that really leaped off the pages:

- Many of us, including otherwise sharp journalists, have a "strong disposition to make judgments or evaluations in light of the first thing that comes to mind" (p. 14). This is understood as the availability error, and Paulos advises us to be wary of "facile parallels and analogies" (p. 16). He encourages us to "search for interpretations or associations that undermine the prevailing one that is so temptingly available" (p. 17).

- Due to the interconnectedness of the variables in question that exist within nonlinear dynamic systems, "much economic and political commentary and forecast are fatuous nonsense" (p. 19). Similarly, specific, long-range weather forecasts are "virtually worthless" (p. 24). A key reason for this unreliability is the Butterfly Effect, imperceptible changes in original conditions that lead to considerable deviation.

- Game theory demonstrates that "the conscious randomizing of choices can, if done right, maximize one's effectiveness" [emphasis mine] (p. 30). Hmmm...

- We tend to get correlation and causation confused. The presence of one does not indicate the presence of the other. Just so yo know, "the degree of correlation between two variables depends critically on the range of the variables considered" (p. 65). Moreover, "an understanding of the mathematical notion of  conditional probability is crucial to the proper interpretation of statistics" (p. 135).

- If it helps, Paulos reminds us that "what's critical about a random sample is its absolute size, not its percentage of the population" (137).  




 

April 23, 2010

Still better than the real thing

Spin magazine has named U2's "Achtung Baby" (1991) the most influential album of the past 25 years.

It was an audacious album with a sound that was like nothing heard before. It was hard to believe that this was the same band that had released "The Joshua Tree" (1987) and "Rattle and Hum" (1988).

Much has written about the strife and near-breakup during the recording of "Achtung Baby". Suffice it to say that in the U2 mythology the hardship bore "One", perhaps the band's greatest song.

 

April 21, 2010

Elton John set to rock Kingston

Kingston is abuzz with the announcement that Elton John will be playing at the downtown K-ROCK Centre arena in July.

Part of the buzz is disbelief that the music legend will be  in Kingston and surprise in where he is not playing: neither Toronto, nor Montreal, nor Vancouver, nor Ottawa.

Only 5 small Canadian cities will be hosting the Knight Bachelor during his world tour.

Tickets go on sale Friday, April 23.

April 20, 2010

Rediscovering R.E.M.

I was looking through my CD collection a couple of nights ago and was surprised to see that I own 8 R.E.M. albums. I write "surprised" because I have sort of forgotten about them. So, ever since, I have been rediscovering this great band.

As a university student in the late 80's and early 90s, R.E.M. was essential listening. They were the ultimate college radio band. Great musicians, relevant lyrics, unique front man, and a social conscience all combined to make R.E.M. a potent force equalled only by U2 in popular appeal.

R.E.M.'s influence has waned over the past decade but that should not stop you from getting the albums they have almost quietly released since the landmark "Automatic for the People" (1992).





 

April 17, 2010

The Mark & Stacy Show


Check out the podcast of our interview on CFRC FM radio program "Gender Bender" here (the main interview begins at 6:30).

April 15, 2010

The spread of Wal-Mart


Check out this startling visualization of the spread of Wal-Mart across the United States

April 14, 2010

The latest news


Intrigued by the concept, I have set up an account with fivver, and am offering two services for $5. Fivver is a form of micro-financing website, which allows you to procure all sorts of services for a mere $5. The website is a blast too, as you can find all sorts of things people are happy to do for a fivver.

Mark and I will be interviewed on-air this Friday at 8:00 pm for CFRC radio's Gender Bender. CFRC FM is available at 101.9 but if you are more than 50 km away from Kingston you can listen online at CFRC (just click on "Listen Live").