Cole / Ryder Trade

Categories: Hockey and Sports.

Habs Get: Ryder, 3rd rounder Stars Get: Cole This trade seems like a bit of a wash to me. The Habs get slightly younger but get an arguably less effective player (though they get a low pick for their trouble) and the Stars get someone who may potentially score some goals for them. I used to like Cole. I can’t say that I’ve much liked Ryder except for one brief stint when he was on Boston. This seems like a reasonable deal for both sides since neither is happy with the player they traded away. Read More

The Least We Can Do is Wave to Each Other (1970) by Van Der Graaf Generator

Categories: 1970 and Music.

The first proper VDGG album (2nd official) is about as loud as prog rock got in 1970, which is a good thing, but likely doesn’t give us a good hint of what they actually sounded on stage. The songs aren’t quite there yet – though they are considerably better than some other prog bands’ – and the whole thing feels a little unfinished (both a blessing and a curse). Hammill is captivating as usual, but sometimes the arrangements around him are not quite there. On the whole it’s pretty strong, and a good indication of where they were heading. 8/10 Read More

The Secondman’s Middle Stand (2004) by Mike Watt

Categories: 2004 and Music.

Watt’s second album is an interesting thing: a guitarless trio playing what I guess you could call post-hardcore rock and roll with lyrics that often seem almost country. I’m not sure if that description sums it up. Idiosyncratic might do a better job. The musicianship is excellent – this is Watt after all, perhaps the best bass player to emerge from the various American punk scenes of the ’80s – and the arrangements are consistently interesting. The songs aren’t the most compelling despite, or perhaps because of, their idiosyncratic nature. It’s certainly a unique beast. 7/10 Read More

Difficult Loves (1992) by Weddings Parties Anything

Categories: 1992 and Music.

Canadian music is usually ignored by American and British music critics (at least prior to the recent Canadian music explosion into respectability). Music critics from the two countries which have produced the most great rock music seem genuinely surprised when something from Canada stands up their own music. Prior to the recent explosion of Canadian music, there were few Canadian groups to get recognition outside of Canada. We had the Guess Who (who may have been overrated by American critics), the Band (who everyone consistently mistakes for American), Rush and maybe a few others (this is excluding the one-hit wonders). Read More

Stranger than Paradise (1984, Jim Jarmusch)

Categories: 1984 and Movies.

For me, this is probably the hardest Jarmusch movie to get into, mainly because it seems like there is some kind of inside joke we are missing, at least for a while. But it is sporadically funny despite this, and though it is hard to really care about these people, I do think we eventually grow to be concerned with their relationship. For me, it’s the ending that redeems the monotony of the vast majority of the movie. Without it, I probably wouldn’t have liked this. 7/10 Read More

Warning Sign (1985, Hal Barwood)

Categories: 1985 and Movies.

Based on the premise – which had been done before – and the bad ’80s horror movie soundtrack, I was a little worried about this one. And there are some glaring plot holes to go along with the obvious low budget (there is a distinct lack of sets, for example, as most major events appear to take place within a few rooms). But the cast is rather fantastic for something like this and they mostly do a good job with what is often a clunky script (though, in the script’s defense, sometimes it veers from tradition in nice and unexpected Read More

Spirit of Eden (1988) by Talk Talk

Categories: 1988 and Music.

Ever since I became a fan of the horribly named genre post rock in the early ’00s, I always wondered where it came from. It has long seemed to me to have emerged from nowhere. What music from the ’80s could have possibly told us we would be listening to “rock” bands trying their hardest to make non-rock music on rock and non-rock music? It just seemed to me that something like Hex just came out of nowhere. Now I know better. I only wish I had known sooner. I sort of wish I had someone to expose me to Read More

This Heat (1979)

Categories: 1979 and Music.

This is like some unholy combination of ’60s avant rock, early industrial music and the earliest post-punk. And that description really isn’t fair. Really, there’s little out there like this, especially so stylistically diverse. Usually experimental music is experimental in one or two ways; this manages to run a whole gamut. Like little else. 9/10 Read More

Jackson Hole Mountain Resort

Categories: 2013 and Travel.

I have just returned from spending five nights at the Elk Country Inn in Jackson, Wyoming, where my brother and I skied (and snowboarded) at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, just outside of Jackson. We did not know this, but JHMR is widely considered one of the most difficult ski resorts in North America (we were told this after four days of marveling at how steep the mountain is). Jackson Hole is one of the larger ski resorts in the US: it has the 3rd highest vertical drop in the US (and 6th highest in North America) and it is in Read More

Symphonies Nos 1-7; Kullervo (2009) by Silbelius, performed by London Symphony Orchestra, Colin Davis

Categories: 1892, 1900, 1902, 1907, 1911, 1915, 1919, 1923, 1924, 2009, and Music.

Sibelius’ symphonies range from really over-the-top late 19th century folk-inspired stuff to the kind of subtle innovation this unsophisticated listener might associate with Mahler. I am still a complete neophyte (tyro?) when it comes to discerning great symphonic writing from okay symphonic writing, so it’s the 1892 Kullervo that I notice the most, and it doesn’t seem like it has dated so well. So his other symphonies come as great relief. I can’t say I know why they are or aren’t truly great, but I do know that I’d rather listen to this than, say, 19th century pre-impressionist French symphonies. Read More

Mark Rubio Drinks Water

Categories: 2013 and Philosophy.

As do I, Riley Haas. Contrary to what some “Eastern” mystics say, all human beings need to drink water to live. A human being may need to drink water during a speech. A human being may need to drink water on camera. A human being may need to drink water on camera during his own speech. It happens. It is a biological need. Criticizing your political opponent because he is human is the opposite of constructive. It is divisive and frankly ridiculous. I am a self-described liberal, and to you self-described liberals who think that Mark Rubio drinking water on Read More

The Pope Resigns

Categories: 2012 and Philosophy.

The pope is apparently resigning. So what? I am not sure we would hear if it were someone else. Okay, so maybe we would hear if it were the Dalai Lama, for some reason. But would we hear about it if the Somdet Phra resigned? Or, to bring it closer to home, any of the Bishops of the “old” Catholic Churches? Do we even know there are such things? I never hear anything in the news about the Primus inter pales. And I rarely hear anything about any of the numerous protestant leaders. What about the imam for that matter? Read More

Money, Power and Wall Street (2012)

Categories: 2012 and Movies.

This is about as thorough an explanation of what happened to the world economy in 2008 as you will find. It is a little repetitive at times and it sometimes fails to draw the biggest implications from the behaviour of the banks prior to, during and after the crisis, but on the whole it is fair and exhaustive. It is well worth finding the DVD and watching it. 8/10 Read More

Vegucated (2010, Marisa Miller Wolfson)

Categories: 2010 and Movies.

This is an advocacy film for veganism. However, if you are vegan and thinking of watching it, know that it is directed at non-vegans and may feel condescending if you have, say, seen Food Inc. The film is too focused on the director (frankly until the “contest” started, I really didn’t give a shit what her personal choices were). It fails to adequately show whether or not Miller Wolfson chose a reasonable set of people who could be expected to be dubious about the diet. The filmmakers fail to understand that people make the choices they make by habit and Read More

Debussy: the Complete works for Piano (1995 compilation) by Walter Gieseking

Categories: 1995 and Music.

Debussy’s piano music is as significant as Satie’s, even if it isn’t always as obviously revolutionary. Debussy eventually became very mainstream and so his music had much more currency. And it’s been absorbed so much it’s sometimes hard to tell how exactly he was breaking away (but other times it is very obvious). As someone else said, this sounds modern. Yet it is easier to listen to then, say, the very consciously “modern” music of the Viennese school. 10/10 Read More

The Life of Graham Greene Volume One: 1904-1935 (1989) by Norman Sherry

Categories: 1989, Books, and Non-Fiction.

Sherry’s biography of the first 35 years of Greene’s life is exhaustive, that is probably the thing to start with. If you are not a fan of Graham Greene, I cannot emphasize enough that you should not read this book. Though Greene had an incredible life, this biography is not meant for those who just want to know about his travels. Rather, this is for Greene obsessives. Even, a huge fan of Greene – he is probably my favourite English language author – was not thoroughly enough prepared for this. To fully appreciate it I would probably have to have Read More

Stormcock (1971) by Roy Harper

Categories: 1971 and Music.

Harper’s middle name should be Idiosyncratic. This is the first studio record of his that I’ve heard and, if anything, his idiosyncrasies are even more on display in the studio. He doesn’t seem to care for segues, he just pastes bits together to form these 4 “songs” (the shortest of which is nearly seven and a half minutes). That was quite common at the time, of course, but the prog rock bands did it with more obvious musicality (for lack of a better term). And this particular set of songs is hardly Harper’s most direct set of lyrics. So those Read More

Bert Jansch (1965)

Categories: 1965 and Music.

Jansch’s debut is hard to place in context if only because this particularly thing has been done so many times since, and better. But in 1965 in Britain there were few British inger-songwriters this good, especially this good at guitar. And that’s the real value of the album: the guitar playing (Jansch is the British John Fahey only he sings…). Jansch was a huge influence on, among others Jimmy Page – who I believe stole from Jansch as he stole from everyone he admired – and Neil Young. Jansch’s lyrics are a little less strong: they range from pretty great Read More

The Social Network (2010, David Fincher)

Categories: 2010 and Movies.

The first few scenes of this movie worried me: I didn’t like the dialogue – I generally find that Sorkin over-writes pretty much everything – I didn’t like the cutting and I didn’t like the score. But Fincher is such a good director – and arguably the material is so compelling regardless of whether or not people actually talk like this – that I eventually only cared about what was going to happen (even though I knew the outcome). It is the mark of a great filmmaker when he can wring suspense out of a story you already know, and Read More

Chris McGregor’s Brotherhood of Breath (1971)

Categories: 1971 and Music.

It seems that finally some British jazz is getting its due after being completely ignored by American critics for ages and ages. And hopefully South African (or, in this case, South African and British) jazz will also get its due. Regardless of where this band came from, they are incredible. They same able to do anything and everything that constituted “jazz” in 1971. Some of their music could have been written in the previous decade (or maybe even earlier) while other pieces sound as out there as anything the avant garde was doing in the US at the time. (One Read More

Suspiria (1993) by Miranda Sex Garden

Categories: 1993 and Music.

This band seem to have stumbled upon something pretty unique, in their mix of “angelic” vocals borrowed from the western classical tradition and alternative rock. It’s pretty hard to pin down. It also feels like it came out of nowhere. But, on the other hand, the production isn’t particularly great and the “mantra” style of singing (for lack of a better word) means the lyrics are a little lacking. But, for the most part, a unique and great record. 8/10 Read More

Ys (2006) by Joanna Newsom

Categories: 2006 and Music.

Newsom’s debut introduced one of the best songwriters of her generation, with a sense of fun – and inaccessible voice – that was practically Dylanesque. On her second album she takes a pretty big risk: she writes longer, less accessible songs, with only her harp and her voice, but then she has them orchestrated by one of the most idiosyncratic of popular music arrangers. The results are pretty fantastic, in fact I think I am willing to say they are great with a capital ‘g’. I want to say that the finished product is one of the great works of Read More

Ezz-thetics (1961) by George Russell

Categories: 1961 and Music.

Too avant garde really to be post bop but too obviously bop / modal (too often) and too traditional to be truly considered part of the “new thing” (i.e. free), this one really defies categorization. But that’s okay. The playing is excellent on all accounts and this sort of feels like a direction a lot of modern players are attempting – post bop that is aware of, and inclusive of free – despite the fact it was released in ’61. Pretty wonderful stuff. 10/10 Read More

Satie Piano Works (1987, 2003, 2012) performed by Aldo Ciccolini

Categories: 1884, 1885, 1886, 1887, 1888, 1889, 1891, 1893, 1897, 1903, 1906, 1907, 1908, 1909, 1912, 1913, 1914, 1915, 1917, 1919, 1920, 1987, and Music.

Erik Satie’s piano music changed the way many people thought about music. It’s hard to imagine John Cage, cool jazz, ambient, post rock and a bunch of other things without this. It’s also really cool to hear the ragtime stuff. Read More

Ellington at Newport 1956 (1956, 2009)

Categories: 1956 and Music.

Though Ellington is one of the most famous leaders in jazz, and probably the greatest composer in the music’s history, this is the first set I have ever heard (deliberately) by his band. The reason for that is simply because I got into jazz through Miles Davis, whose entire career has been played in the post-Big Band world. The little inquiry I’ve made into earlier jazz has been into Dixieland. In 1956, Big Band was definitely passe: Bop and Afro Cuban had existed for about a decade each and Cool for more than half a decade. Moreover, Hard Bop was Read More

Unscripted (2005)

Categories: 2005 and TV.

If you can over the total utter Soderberghishness of this (much of it feels like it is Traffic without the drugs and cops) this is an excellent series. Don’t focus on whether or not it was improvised or semi-improvised; I don’t really see why that matters. This is probably as close as we will get to fully understanding how hard it is to make it in Hollywood. Now, that in itself is pretty inconsequential; I mean who really cares about actors? But the leads are all very convincing as people – whether or not they are truly playing themselves – Read More

Seven Psychopaths (2012, Martin McDonagh)

Categories: 2012 and Movies.

McDonagh’s second feature is considerably different from his first, though it is, for the most part, equally violent and equally funny. This time McDonagh gets extraordinarily meta, and this is both a detriment and a plus. At times, the film is a very enjoyable parody of action films but at other times it’s a little too much “we’re making a film about me trying to write a film!”. The latter has been done many times, perhaps two too many at this point. And though the whole film is very enjoyable and funny, it’s also a little too obvious with its Read More

Just a random thought about how I don’t miss Pat Quinn as coach of the Maple Leafs

Categories: 2006, Hockey, and Sports.

I am slowly but surely tagging this blog and the old blog so that it will be browsable and I came across this hilarious post from January 2006: “Take a look at last night’s initial lines: Kilger-Sundin-Tucker Stajan-Wellwood-O’Neill Poni-Pohl-Czerkawski Domi-Wilm-Steen And the PP: Pohl-Sudin-Tucker; O’Neill-Wellwood-Czerkawski Goals resulting: 0 And then, as is usually the case with this season, Quinn was forced to change his plans due to injuries. Steen got bumped up to the top line (where he belongs, or at least on the second), result: 2 goals almost instantly.” A lineup like that makes other coaches look like geniuses. Read More