Saturday, December 31, 2005

Obligatory Year-End Post

Okay, so 2005 is almost done. Hard to believe, right? I mean remember when everyone thought the world would blow-up in 2000? Well, the apocalypse is now over six years late. Also, the robots didn't take over yet. Though really, given the state of political leadership, particularly here and in the USA, maybe we should just let the machines run things anyway. But enough, I'm not much for preambles anyway. Here are my my favourite things of 2005. The categories are completely random and so are the selections I made in each of them.

Coolest Store:
That would be City Lights, a bookstore in San Francisco. Now I know that indie bookstores are usually cool anyway, but this one had stuff I had never seen anywhere. A two-volume set of Dostoevsky's diaries? Who has that? Tolstoy's Sebastopol Sketches? Brilliant. Add the cachet that this store was frequented by Jack Kerouac in his day and yeah, City Lights was the coolest store that I went to this year.

Best New Album:
Twin Cinema by the New Pornographers I'd say. There were a lot of great albums that came out this year. But nothing has me turning up the volume as much both at home and in the car. The first two New Pornographers albums never did all that much for me, but this one I'm loving. If you want to download a taste, my favourite tracks are: Twin Cinema, Bleeding Heart Show, and Sing Me Spanish Techno.

Best Old Album (That I Picked Up):
Sandinista! by The Clash of course. You need this album, I cannot emphasize this point enough. On London Calling The Clash were branching out from punk, but here they seem completely unimpeded by the dictates of genre. Is it long? Yes. Is there a few tracks that are arguably filler? Yes. But still, you need to hear this album. The Clash carried the spirit of punk into new territories here, they refused to stay in a three-chord ghetto. For the all the attitude and the scary outfits, punks seem to be profoundly conservative with their genre.

Quote of the Year:
Ziggy: "People stare at me at the swimming pool. I think it's 'cause I got a hairy back. So I'm going to shave a middle finger into it."

or perhaps,

Neil: "I don't have my wallet, and I'm wearing your underwear."

Kazakhstani of the Year:

Accomplishment of the Year (by Me):

Getting into teachers college? Pssssh, that wasn't too hard. Completing my fretless bass project by refinishing and modding it. Yeah! That's an accomplishment!

Surprise of the Year:
I can still paint, and not too badly either it seems. (Kie better hope this is true.)

Person of the Year:
Ziggy (aka: Tzvetan Dragnev). I don't even know where to begin. I think at first I was a bit unnerved working with this crazy Bulgarian. But now I miss the guy, everything from the crude jokes and stereotypes to the insightful discussions on literature. Unfortunately Ziggy's back in Bulgaria now, taking care of his folks, or smuggling arms maybe, I don't know. Either way I'm sure he's drinking vodka and cheering for Levski. Make your movie someday, Ziggy, we all want to see it.

Read of the Year:
Probably the last two books of the Deptford Trilogy, The Manticore and World of Wonders.

Okay. That's all I have for now. Maybe I'll add more later. Be safe tonight people.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Merry Christmas

Or, you know, whatever you do with your winter solstice, have a good time with it. Watch out over the next week as I try to compile some random year-end lists of stuff.

Friday, December 23, 2005

A Tattoo Worth Getting?

I must confess that, for some time I've thought about getting a tattoo. I like the idea of it, but what to get? I wanted to get something that would mean something to me for the rest of my life, so things like band names, or things that related to my life as it was right now, they were all out of the question. Most spiritual tattoos are sort of cliched, so I didn't want a crucifix (a symbol the early church didn't use anyway) or something of that sort. I've seen some cool creative variations on it (yes, I'm talking about you, Deb), but couldn't come up with any myself. Anyway, I think I found something that has deep spiritual and social meaning to me:


It's a Zulu word that doesn't translate easily but it means something like, "I am because we are." It's a word I learned through reading about Desmond Tutu. Ubuntu captures something that no one word in English does. Though Ubuntu doesn't exist in English, I think it's an imperative concept. I have never seen it tattooed, but the more I think about it, the more I feel like it really is an idea that I might want to carry around on my skin all my life.

"My Sinhalese has gone to shit."

My friend Jam is in Sri Lanka right now and he has put an audio update on his blog about his travels there. I think he's there till about March, so I'm sure more curious posts about strange adventures are going to follow. Jam, just don't try to go to Afghanistan this time.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005


I've been listening to Von, the first Sigur Ros album quite a bit in the last couple of days. It's an interesting listen, because their subsequent albums went further and further in defining their sound. Von is looser, less defined. You aren't assured of hearing the familiar textures of ambient keyboards and arpeggiated guitar parts that define their subsequent output. Von floats about you, darker, more alien, less predictable. It was impossible to find this album for a couple years, but now that it's been rereleased you can find it all over. It's worth checking out, even - or perhaps especially - if the rest of the Sigur Ros catalogue does nothing for you.

Music at the Toad

Well, I was out with The Roan tonight and they were playing the most bizarre selection of tunes at The Tickled Toad (cheesy local bar). Some cool stuff from the 1980s and really cheesy 1990s house music. Nothing newer than 1995 I don't think. A few of the 1980s tracks were real gems though. Like I can't help but smile when I hear Electric Avenue. And Erasure's A Little Respect? I'll cop to that being another guilty pleasure. It was fun to hear something different playing in a bar anyway. I'm tired of bad hip hop and fossilized classic rock anyway.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Taking a Break From Lyrics

Everything I've listening to lately seems to be instrumental. I'm not sure why, and it hasn't be deliberate, but yes, it appears that I'm taking a break from music with lyrics these days. I'm not sure why that is either, it's just what I've been doing. I suppose lyrics are intelligible to anyone who speaks the language of the lyricist. You might have trouble making them out, and sure, once you do, they may be nonsensical, but you at least know the language. It may be that the more one understands of music, the more one understands the language of music itself. Harmonies, chord changes, rhythms can contain moods and feelings in the same way that words can.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

First Birthday

I created this blog one year ago today. I'm pleased to see that it has survived this long. This is actually my third or forth crack at creating a blog, and none of them stuck like this one. I'm not sure who all reads this thing and I'm sometimes surprised who will reference my blog back to me. But thank you for paying attention, all of you.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Good: The Enemy of Great or My Least Favourite Part of Painting

So right now, as you can see if you scroll down, my painting for Kie is looking pretty good. I like how some of the new colours and forms are balancing it out and defining it. Therein lies my problem. Right now it looks pretty good. It's not finished, but it looks good enough that it makes me hesitate. I want to leave things, I'm afraid to mess with what's worked so far. But I know it's not done, I know that I can make it better. It's a frightening place to be in art, or any creative act. Here goes...

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Free from Want

Life has been a thousand desires for me lately. I want this bass, this song, this look. I want to be cooler, I want to transcend cool. I want to dance like Stuart Murdoch. I want to play some gigs. I want to be better read. The thing is, I have no idea how I should go about getting anything. I think I'm understanding why Buddhism says that desire is the root of suffering. Part of me wants to be an ascetic when I get in this mindset. But then, am I not desiring to be an ascetic? So it seems I can't be free from want.

Friday, December 09, 2005


After carefully considering both versions, I have to say that I like the Stars' cover version of This Charming Man better than the original. It's slower and sexier and the song works that way. Yes The Smiths are excellent, and no one can take away what they've done. I would go so far as to say that anything good coming out of music today owes something to at least one of The Smiths, The Clash, Joy Division, or The Velvet Underground. Besides, there's no shame in being superseded by a cover version. It happens with Leonard Cohen damn near every time. (How many superb covers of Hallelujah are there?)

Help Argentina's Workers

Heather posted this, and I think it's worth passing on. So I'll take a stab at as the Go! Team plays the soundtrack to the coolest party I've never been to in the background.

I actually I have some awareness of this issue ever since seeing the Toronto premiere of The Take with Jam. (Side note: ooooh, I saw Naomi and Avi in person!) The Take is a documentary about Argentina's workers and what they did after their government's economic policies screwed the whole country. Businesses were shutting down everywhere, people were being forced out of work. Instead of accepting the whims of big business (like workers are told they have to) workers in Argentina did something else. Since many of these companies owed them wages the workers felt little guilt about going back into shuttered businesses and restarting the machines.

To make a long story short, people decided to do something other than accept what their corporate masters told them (in short, "there are no jobs, go away"). Of course there were all kinds of legal battles since what the workers are doing definitely falls into a legal gray area. The petition here is all about appealing to the leaders of Argentina to support the workers as they recover businesses that the corporate elite are happy to let decay. The workers of Hotel Bauen are not asking for a handout, or special treatment. They are asking for an opportunity to earn a living.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

I have dating autism

Okay, that's probably offensive. So let me try and explaing this so you all understand. Today I just learned that "a girl who talks about seeing a movie, when she's not all that into movies is a baited hook." Oh. I thought it was just a discussion about film. This is my problem, I become so focused on the subject matter for the conversation, on ideas or art or whatever, that the other person gets lost in my mind.

I had no idea, none whatsoever that this was a hint. How many of these have I missed in my life? I'm not going to flatter myself and suggest that everyone's lining up to date me (they really aren't), but if I'm completely missing it this time, how can I know who is interested? Like someone with autism, it seems I'm completely in my own world. There is very limited communication that gets in our out of this world it seems, and what does is often confused and confusing.

So yeah, you'd pretty much need to shout out in my face "I WANT YOU TO ASK ME OUT!" Except that wouldn't work, because, well, I'd assume it was a joke, or a ploy. Dammit.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Another Update on Kie's Painting

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Here is the canvas version as it now appears. Once again, comments are welcome and even appreciated. Let me know what you think. Especially those of you with any kind of art background.

Edit: Not that a lack of art background should disqualify you either. Just tell me what you think. All of you.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

A Dreadful Fear

Have you ever been consumed by the worry that you are leading a terribly dull life. It's been bothering me for the past week. It makes me want to abruptly alter the course of my life. Like sell all my possessions and move to another country, that's what I'm having fantasies about now. Of course that may simply result in me leading a dull life in a place where I can't speak the language and I have no possessions. Do I need to be more interesting? If so, what should I do to make it so?

Sunday, December 04, 2005


I was checking that site that had the U2 tribute to Johnny Cash and guess what they have up now! U2 and The Arcade Fire covering Joy Division's Love Will Tear Us Apart!!!! Soooooo good! Easily the coolest thing I saw all week. I would have done anything to be at that show!

Things Said This Evening

Tonight we had a little gathering for Michelle, our favourite Denver resident before she heads to Ireland to visit Deb. A couple things stuck in my mind as funny quotes, and so here I will share them with you:

Michelle on living in Denver:
"I'm a woman, and I didn't know that was a problem until I moved to America"

Neil to American Apparel cashier:
"I don't have my wallet, and I'm wearing your underwear."

Another Neil-American Apparel staff exchange:
"I need green tea to help with my hangover."
"I work at Starbucks, let me go across the street and get you some."
"If you bring me green tea I'll give you 50% off your underwear."


In a more serious exchange, I tried to explain my anxiety with dancing. I would very much love to dance, to go to a club or some other place and go dancing. But I fear that I'm terrible at it. The usual reply was raised: you just have to let go, don't worry about other people think. And I replied that I wasn't worried about other people, I was worried about what I would think. Upon further reflection, I find that statement not entirely accurate. I think what I really fear is not being able to do justice to the music. I don't know that I could adequately explain what I mean beyond that. I don't want to flail, but I don't want to be lame and just bounce side-to-side either. Like I said, the whole thought of it fills me with anxiety. I need someone with an insane amount of patience to drag me out on the floor I guess... Any takers?

Yeah... That's what I thought...

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Saturday morning, and I'm thinking about Joy Division

Ian Curtis would have benefitted from recording in the digital age perhaps. When I listen to Joy Division it's sometimes hard to get past the, uh, imperfect intonation of his voice. With Pro Tools (or whatever) you can fix all of that now. But, what you be left with? This is the great trade-off with digital recording; you're able to fix everything, yes, but does everything need fixing? Too often everything sounds really compressed. And all those perfect voices? Pleasing at first, but nothing can match the intensity of Ian Curtis. The shouting, the pleading, all twisted together with those metallic and melancholy sounds. The parts were simple (they were punks, remember?), there wouldn't be too much to covering any of their songs. And yet their music lingers. It lingers in a way that New Order cannot match, in way that almost all the punks and goths that adopted Joy Division as their heroes cannot match.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

In the Last Two Days...

... I have had quite the opportunities to be creative. Last night I met for the first time with a couple of other visual artists to get feedback on the painting I am doing for Kie's office. I found it helpful, and was encouraged by the fact that they seemed to have the same ideas as I did about where the painting needs to go in order to be successful. The real trick now is getting it to go there. Thanks, Candace and Niwah!

Tonight I got to do some jazzy improv stuff on the bass. The guitarist I was playing with is really gifted, but he plays these weird chords and progressions. I had to abandon all hope of just recognising the standard chord shapes and going along with them. Instead, I reckoned the key that they were in and I lept. That's what it felt like, Kiergaard's leap of faith. Every new note I played it was leap like that, and sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn't.

My aunt recently asked me about the experience of playing music and this experience reminds me of how i described its appeal. Music, like dance, is organised by time. You can do a painting over a few weeks or months and it's not necessarily important how long it takes to do it. Music has to exist in a set piece of time. It's all bars and measures and tempos. To play music is to fill those moments, to live in each one, connect each one to the ones before it and after it. But you can't look too far forward or backward, you have to be in that note, that bar, that measure that you're in.