Saturday, 31 July 2010


  Lazing around the apartment was getting pretty old, and schedules were needing to be aligned pretty quickly, so a fairly last minute trip to Brooklyn ensued.
  I was supposed to do one of those "fast after 8pm and go in and have your blood tested" things this week, and have plumbers come and work on all three fixtures in the apartment.  The plumbers were told they could come when I was away, and I fasted and had my blood tested before Friday's travelling.
   As some know, my birthdate (including year) and first and last names are identical with those of a convicted felon in the Ottawa area, so many times when I cross the border, I have to be handcuffed, yanked across all the lanes of cars waiting at the border, and explain in the little room (where I am handcuffed to a bench set in concrete) that I am a different guy entirely.  Then they let me in.
  Last time, the guy was especially helpful.  He stamped my passport, even though you don't do that to come into America from Canada, just to help indicate that I was let in, and told me to try including a note next time.  I was dubious, but set out with a note in my passport saying "For your information: I share the EXACT first and last names, and birthdate (including year) with a convicted felon" and etc.  After more than an hour-long wait, I gave the border guard a note, saying "In December they said to give you a note."  He took a look, as two miles of six lanes of cars waited.  Border guards were everywhere.  I waited to hear "Sir, can you turn the engine off and place both hands on the steering wheel.  Now can you take your keys in your left hand and give them to me."  
  It didn't come.  He chuckled and said "That was you?" and I realized he was him.  He was the exact same guy who'd stamped it last time.  
  He paused with his finger over his keypad and said "I really hate to type the number in in case it goes off, but I have to."  He entered the passport number, waited, and breathed a sigh of relief.  "What I did last time was I flagged your passport number, saying you were a different person from the other guy.  Looks like it worked for now.  No guarantees in future.  Anyway, you have a nice time."
  Then it was to New Jersey, where I left my car with relatives, who drove me to the train station.  From there, a short train trip to the World Trade Centre, which oddly, seems to have an awful lot of construction work going on.  Some of the most unhelpful, lacking and "arrows pointing in the opposite direction" signage I've ever seen was there.  I asked a guy "Which way to get to the subways?" and he did the whole "are you scamming/on crack/stupid?" reaction, wondering why I just didn't know where to go, like everyone else.  "I'm from Canada" I said, to explain why I didn't 'just know' where to go.  He then escorted me through some Do Not Cross tape and lifted aside a barrier so I could get through and said "You have a real nice day."  Then I was out of the under construction part, and followed better signs "to the subway" which led me out of the building and then sent me to go up a block, turn right, and then walk two blocks and look around the right corner, where a subway entrance was. 
  Then it was a matter of figuring out subway service that has been specially altered this weekend, and arriving at the brownstone.  Then it was sitting on the stoop with friends, drinking a beer and eating ice cream while the neighbourhood went on around us.
  This afternoon, Brooklyn is steamy and sweat-stained, with a thin patina of greyish grease, as always.

Sunday, 25 July 2010

Summer Blahs

  I always have trouble not getting a bit down in the dumps (understatement) when I have too much time off.  Problem is I'm a teacher.  I need to keep myself occupied, and have stuff I'm looking forward to doing, or I just lie around and my days feel and get very pointless.
  It's hot, this summer.  I've been keeping at the fruit smoothies, which is, no doubt, very healthy, and eating less.  That's all good.  I've not been getting out and getting exercise, which isn't.  Also, due to the extreme heat and all the fruit, I've gotten quite the cloud of fruit flies around my kitchen sink.  Dunno how you get rid of those.  I just hope they die out when the garbage is taken out this week.  I'll look them up online.
  Every time I teach English (including Creative Writing) I tend to teach "the hero's journey," and I reference all of these movies that follow the "hero story" structure.  It's fun, but I wanted to finally edit something together.  Therefore, I have got snippets of any number of movies that I am taking bits out of and sticking said bits into the appropriate one of ten folders, each with a hero's journey element ("Hero is pulled into the danger" "Hero refuses his/her calling" "Hero receives a talisman/weapon to help in his/her quest" "Hero is brought to the end of him/herself and has a symbollic or near death" and so on).  Buffy, Hercules, Spider-man, Superman, Luke Skywalker, Frodo, Ralph Macchio in The Karate Kid and so on.
  I eBayed a lot of repro (someone took molds and remade them) little weapons for the 1977 Star Wars figures I'm collecting.  It was cheap, and it helps the authenticity of the collection for them to have the weapons.  Figures still in their packages would cost $500-$1000 each, of course.  These cost me maybe $2 each because I bought them loose in lots.

Thursday, 22 July 2010


This song I just remixed this evening. Was intending a bunch of music room additions (tubular bells, huge bass drum) and may still. For now, here it is.

This is another of my old songs I want to make bigger and bombastic-er. And with a Lord of the Rings elves part in the bridge. Notable things in this song are that I'm playing all instruments (organ, piano, guitar, crash symbols, drums, pennywhistles) except the violins, and Julian was holding the microphone against his neck and humming in a bass range below what I can quite hit, to give an ominous threatening rumble. An entire choir of my sister is singing the bridge. Bill amused us all with that scream, which he did first take.  We said "Are you Ok?!" and he said "You need a couple more?"

Sunday, 18 July 2010


Like so many things, it started right back when I was a kid.  I noticed that in most social situations, we were very much expected to be happyfake.  The people who said not to lie to them lied all the time and asked us to lie to others.  It was largely about giving the expected impression even if that meant giving a false impression.  Being in church circles made that get worse, not better.  We were not to tell unpleasant or awkward truths.  We had to like everything and think everything was fine all the time.  I think being Canadian is more that than being American is, and not so much "that" as being British is.  Probably about on a par with being a New Zealander, and more than being an Australian.  We're not very blunt, in Canada, to speak in generalizations, as one needs to do on occasion.  We're just not.  We can only gaze on in baffled amazement at the confident, strident nonsense so many Americans seem willing to spew.

Our house was almost always deadly silent.  I wasn't to run up the stairs.  Ever.  Voices were not generally raised in our house, and when they were, it was my dad who got to do it, and you'd better believe something bad was about to happen.  Raising my voice in annoyance, or expressing annoyance, or being negative about anyone or anything we were too closely connected to was just rude.  Judging other, disconnected people was ok, of course.  Judgments that no one present could in any way take personally were idle chit-chat.  "Saying the wrong thing" to or about someone who was present, though, was something we lived in terror of.  We still do.  When you "say the wrong thing" people walk out of the room.  They stop talking to you.

You weren't to complain in any way that mattered.  It had to be impotent complaining to be OK.  You could complain endlessly about stuff you bought in stores and service in restaurants, but NEVER to the people in question, and never in aid of seeking a refund, an exchange or an apology.  To do that would have been ridiculous and unthinkably embarrassing.  When anyone we were with actually did it, we were mortified and resented them.  It wasn't done.  None of the complaining seemed to result in people getting in touch with their feelings and getting themselves figured out, either.  When people were angry, half the time they didn't know it, let alone admit it.  If they did admit it, they would have had to apologize.  Being caught feeling angry was NOT OK.

A church youth group was about teenagers being together and having a good time, without (in theory) using cigarettes, alcohol, drugs, sex, TV or movies to have said good time.   That's what you were to do.  Prove that the good time could be had.  Not fitting in, not having a good time meant something was wrong with you.  Not enjoying what was going on (I remember board games, volleyball and songs, as well as a lot of standing around) meant something was wrong with you.  Was something wrong with you?  It was like social groups at school, and it was like living in suburbia, only a lot worse.

When people asked you how you were, you were fine.  When people asked if you liked what the speaker had said, you did.  When people asked if you were looking forward to, well, anything at all, including school (in September when it was August and you were 12) of course you were.

I had a problem.  Something was wrong with me.  I'd say "Not really."  I'd say "I have allergies."  Sometimes I'd just baldly say "Nope."  Unacceptable.  Problematic.  Negative. (grammatically so)  Not how to meet and keep friends.  Asshole behaviour of the first order.  People would take me aside when I was 12, when I was 16, when I was 18 and reveal that, obviously, most people felt most of the things I did, that NO ONE felt like they fit in (especially the leaders) but that one didn't refer to those feelings, as they weren't constructive.  They skewed the status of the quo. Stiff upper-lipped smile.  Tough it out.

I still "say the wrong thing" all the time.  Sometimes I mean to and I still think afterward that it needed to be said.  Too often I didn't see the negative reaction coming and didn't know it would be "the wrong thing."  That always makes me feel like such an idiot.

So, if I could somehow, magically just not have negative (or disconnected) emotional reactions (or lack of reactions) to anything, then I'd have more friends?  People would like me more as a unique, special human being?  Oddly, I have found the opposite to be true.  If it's about "true" (and I try to live as if it is) being honest whenever you can (and most of us aren't even trying most days) makes quite a difference.  Part of that difference is you are inconvenient.  You are being (cardinal damning adjective of the early 21st century) awkward.  You're not supposed to tell the truth if it's going to make people feel awkward.

Saying something that makes people feel bad is looked at as having uttered something that was somehow inherently, regardless of context or intent, "negative."  Similarly, saying things that make people feel awkward is looked at as having given voice to something that was somehow inherently, regardless of context or intent, "awkward."

Grammatically perfect, eloquently constructed sentences can be "awkward" now, if anyone feels funny once you've said them.  And if you do enough awkward things?  You are a "creeper."  And no one wants to be a creeper, right?  Even if they are telling the truth?

Funny thing: when you are the first person to tell the awkward, creepy truth about something, whole herds of people find it makes them glow inside, every bit as much as it makes them squirm outside.  They don't want to be near you in public, they sometimes don't even want to be seen talking to you or seeming to support you, but they glow inside anyway.  Sometimes they tell you secretly, afterward, trusting you to not reveal they ever did that.

If Christians are to become more like Jesus, they'd better give up on fitting in, keeping a low profile and just being quietly supportive, as well as keeping their mouths shut when they see hypocrisy and abuses of power and authority.

When I worked for the first time with a whole lot of people from  a large number of other cultures, I suddenly found out how uptight and emotionally shut up we really were in Canada.  I learned that if someone from Somalia or Lebanon disagrees with you, they may well simply tell you in no uncertain terms.  They may not even feel the need of having a handy argument ready.  They might simply not like your idea and tell you that and say nothing else.  They may not say "I'm sorry, but I feel..." at the start. They may not say "I'm sorry, but that's just how I feel" at the end.  They may not say "OK, but have you considered..." in the middle.  There is much less ambiguity and doubt in the discussion when it rolls like that.  People speak their hearts, even if they're angry, like they've simply got that right, and all in a country where being angry is something one generally needs to apologize for, just like getting teary.  "Sorry.  I got a bit emotional.  Give me a moment to compose myself.  If I can't get myself composed, I'll leave of course, even if it's my own mother's funeral.  I promise not to trouble you with my emotions.  OK.  There.  Now what were you saying?"

I was raised that Hispanic people were known to generally be hot-tempered and passionate people.  That black people had an easy, open, natural emotionality and connectedness to their feelings.  That Asian people were excitable.  That Greeks and Italians were too.  That Arabic people were hot-tempered and passionate too.  Even people from Newfoundland, on the east coast of our country, were weird.  They were blunt.  They laughed and partied and joked more.  They cared how they looked and what people thought less.  Eventually I realized: it's just us.  It's not really a matter of all of them being more something.  It is us  being less a bunch of very human, very emotional things.  It's a matter of us faking stuff, and repressing and suppressing stuff.  (the difference between repressing and suppressing stuff is that you don't know it when you've repressed stuff)

To this day, when someone is ungodly happy in a conversation, and is presenting the image of  "Oh, I'm not actually in a giddy mood at all.  This is just me! I'm just the sort of person who walks around smiling and humming to myself most days!  Yup!  This really me!  I'm just happy most of the time!  I LOVE exclamation points too!  Don't you?" I immediately think "Fake.  You aren't that at all.  Not really.  You're just BEing it because you think it's how you want people to view you."  And too often, with white people in Canada?  I'm right.  I'm tired of that.  Being right is so not enough.

Some Trite Words for Sunday

Inspired in part by the Slam Poetry Finals I taped.

When I meet people, there is always a little part of me that wants to "adjust" bits of them.  Not big changes, just little adjustments.  Things like "Why are you dying those colours into your hair?" "Why are you using that weird voice when you want people to laugh?"  "Why are you trying so hard to be good-looking when you're already good-looking except that now your desperate efforts to fix perceived faults are eroding that and underlining/creating said faults?"  Stuff like that.

If any of us somehow gained the ability to simply "adjust" everyone to be more to our liking, a lot of the differences would go away.  Certain kinds of traits and behaviours in certain kinds of people would disappear entirely.  There might not be a single mullet-wearing hunter, yuppie douchebag, dirty hippie or soccer mom left on the planet.  People would be much more "the same."  And that really wouldn't be good, no matter how tempting it can sound.  It's not what God wants.  He has no intentions along those lines.  He's really not about conformity.  He's rather into diversity, to say the least.  I mean, how many kinds of butterflies does He actually need to make...

This all seems too obvious to be worth mentioning.  Obviously as well, if this is true, every time I meet someone and something small bugs me about them, the fact that I can't change that thing is what's keeping the world full of diversity.  And without diversity, it would be a whole hell of a lot more boring.

Thursday, 15 July 2010

Bitterness (originally "The Blade of Bitterness")

This song is about the damage it does to you to be eaten away inside by bitterness. I get accused of that all the time. I think there is a difference though, between correctly attributing harm that was done you, and "dwelling" on it. You have to deal with stuff, and if you don't, and try to "just move on" or "get past that," you'll see the damage soon enough. It was based on the idea that you can arm yourself, with the attitudinal equivalent of a steel blade, to feel safe, but if it has no handle, you can clutch it tight and only end up bleeding everywhere.  The idea that this was rather like a razor blade and teen acts of self-harm, and that it felt, in my troubled adolescence like I was walking around bleeding mysteriously from no one place in particular are all in the song.  It's as emo as I got, I suppose.

This song was supposed to be bullfighting music from the beginning, with the idea of loud guitars eventually added to give more nastiness.  Chris Lochner was amazing at casually ripping out those melodramatic, over-the-top flamenc-ish guitar bits.  I am tempted to learn this style of guitar myself.  It's so dramatic.

I did trumpets for this song, taking advantage of the fact that I'd been playing trumpet with the teacher's brass band at school in order to perform Bohemian Rhapsody at graduation and was in better shape for playing trumpet than usual (because I'd been, you know, playing it).  I played shakers, conga drums (huge ones), chimes and organ.  I messed around with various people singing the chorus as guest vocalists, and wasn't happy with anything that got put down to tape, so I just did it myself today and AM banded it to make the choruses more different from the verses without a different voice.  My sister was doing "aaaaaaaahs" in the song, and I had her actually scream, and mixed that in quietly, then slowed it down and made a "wolf pack howling" effect out of the slowed-down screams, and generally tried to make the song sound very upset.  It's slightly briefer than my other songs, despite the prolonged intro and outro soundscapes. 

Wednesday, 14 July 2010


This song was definitely me "reaching" a bit.  Trippy space funk  like Pink Floyd?  Sure.  I enlisted Adam Fogo and Mike Dubue bass guitar and keyboard players extraordinaire respectively.  They were good at that kind of thing and also played together in a band called Gammahootchie.  That was all ten years ago at least and I don't see either of them around anymore much.  Dubue is lead singer for an Ottawa band called The Hilotrons.  Those guys certainly aren't about making slow, draggy music like I tend to do.

So, Bill played the drums without much chance to practice.  They weren't expertly played and they were worse recorded.  Sounded like the kick drum was a five year old kicking a cardboard box.  If I'd actually recorded  a five year old kicking a cardboard box, it might have been interesting.  It wasn't really the recording engineer's fault, either.  The studio's gear sucked.  I liked the interplay between Adam the bass player (who was playing to a simple acoustic guitar track and taking it very much on trust that this song would have any groove or funk to it at any point) and Mike the keyboardist.  I liked the crazy guitar sound I got by putting a distortion pedal before a wah pedal in my effects chain.  I liked my sister singing like Tori Amos when I'd asked her to sing like Clare Torey.  (Clare Torey sang the wordless, orgasmic vocal parts on "Great Gig in the Sky" on Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon.  Tori Amos did not.  Clare Torey is a little white British woman who can moan and howl.  Tori Amos sings in a mumbly, whispery voice.  But I liked it.)

The song itself was about the wonder and sense of awe that men feel when they meet a woman who makes them think immediately, irrationally of commitment.  (When I was 20, pretty much any woman who smiled at me and had some features I liked qualified.  Many looked like the Plymouth Brethren church girl I drew in the illustration here.)  My friend Mark told me that women "get under men's skin," and that men "let women in."  He said that's why "Hey Jude" says that.  He said sex is God being funny, because it works backwards to that, so the psychology and the physical are opposite.  He said men love their own bodies and their own selves (witnessed by how they protect themselves and their own so unthinkingly and universally), and so they love a woman as if the woman was their own right arm and heaven forfend anyone mess with her.  He said that, by contrast, women were not predisposed to love themselves as naturally and unthinkingly, and tended rather to love from their skin out, taking care of people and places and things that are near them, in their living space.  So I wrote this song about that conversation.

I later recorded Chris playing drums more the way I wanted them, and despite using only a very few, very crappy mics, and my computer putting stuff randomly off beat so I had to end up looping the drums and pasting them back into the song, I was happier with them than the studio work. 

I played a bunch of trumpet parts on it.  I also tried to talk like Barry White throughout, but this made it sound too funny, so I left that bit out in the end. 

I asked Troy to make beep-beep, spacey sounds with his guitar (I could have done it, or asked Joel, but Troy was around and I wanted to give him a part to play, as he had skills and gear).  Today I ran his beeps through (of course) the rotating Leslie Speaker Cabinet and spend the evening messing with stuff.

A facebook friend linked me to a YouTube video of Paul Washer, a preacher, so I "stole" him shouting "That's not Poetry!" and sampled that in to make it sound more "modern" and fiddled and fooled and messed with it until I was so sick of it that I quit.  It ended up like this

Monday, 12 July 2010

Turning Black

"Turning Black" is one of my oldest songs.  Today, after talking to a hot girl at the bank where she works, I imported the song into Pro Tools and did some stuff with it.  For instance, I took that already recorded "pipe organ" keyboard track I had played, and ran it through my Leslie rotating speaker cabinet.  The Leslie played the organ track without the rest of the song, while spinning, and I put two mics on it and recorded what that sounded like.  It made the organ sound all stereo and swirly.

Then I took a single smack of the giant monster bass drum from the music room that I had recorded for "The Romantic Song," and cut and pasted it throughout to make Chris Metcalfe's drums sound enormous.  I even used it to make "gunshots" to echo a line about "razor blades, knives and a gun in my hand."  I took the closest thing I had to a gun (a Han Solo blaster made from a replica Mauser pistol) and used it to record a cocking gun noise.  I turned up the voices of people I haven't seen for ten years, singing in the background.  One would no longer speak to me now if I met him, and the other would, but I have no idea where he lives.  Still, they're singing harmony vocals on my song.  I fought it sounding like mud/mush/crap, and was partly successful.  People always say this song sounds like Pink Floyd.  I'm shooting for a more upset sounding, aggressive piece than Pink Floyd, but I love Pink Floyd, so shouldn't be too upset to have it compared to them, I guess, though it makes me feel like I've just imitated, rather than created.  The fact is, though, that I was thinking of Bruce Springsteen's "The River" when I wrote it.  I can still hear that in the movement of the chorus a bit.  The verse owes more (in terms of me listening to songs that had verses with just two chords repeating) to The Rolling Stones' "You Can't Always Get What You Want." 

This song shows pretty clearly that I was very unhappy at school and even more unhappy at church youth group, but didn't have the musical vocabulary to really talk about that, so made what is kind of a "heavy as lead, growly" country song.

Joel's caption for the scanned bag of Star Wars toys was characteristically funny and inappropriate (Joel specializes in "funny due to being unexpectedly inappropriate): He said "A Star Wars Auschwitz."

Sunday, 11 July 2010

Christianity with a Dominance/Submission Fetish

I have been interacting on the 'net (and throughout my life) with people who look at the bible, their spirituality and their relationship with God purely in terms of obeying, in terms of submitting.  They go on Facebook and make their status something like Tom Jeffrey just wants so very much to truly just submit to and really, really obey his dear Saviour the Lord Jesus Christ in absolutely every part of his worthless, wretched life.  Let me lie at his beautiful feet and never forget the dog that I am.  Hallelujah!  Praise Him!

There are countless hymns about lying at the Lord's feet forever, about us being worms, or dogs, or filthy beggars and on and on, submission, submission, submission.  It sure looks holy...  (And these are some of the most arrogant people I've ever met, the most high-handed and closed-minded in dealing with all others, particularly nonChristians, so that 'submission' sure must be a sacrifice!  Goodness knows they go on and on about it...)  I'm all like "There are clubs that cater to that fetish.  God, on the other hand, does not."  Just as, pointed out once on The West Wing, being a Star Trek fan doesn't mean you have to write stories about Kirk and Spock having sex, being a Christian absolutely does not mean you are supposed to be putting on 24/7 public displays of supposedly grovelling before God, and then getting your hands on whatever church/committee/political status you can get, all so you can "humbly make a difference.  For Him."

Let me put it like this: When I talk to these guys, they view the bible entirely in terms of things to obey.  They've read the bible, some of them, but their mental highlighters were only turning yellow things that sounded like structure. Things which set limits.  Things which were worded as or could be misconstrued as directives.  Things you could look down on others for not adhering to, in essence.  Much of the bible is about liberty.  Some of it's about sex.  These guys, though?  They tend to ignore or throw out or generally not be able to discuss any part of the bible that isn't giving them points because they're "obeying" it.  They talk of somehow "obeying" parts of the bible that are worded as neutral statements, open rhetorical questions and general comments. (also other people's prayers, lyrics, poetry and personal reflection) I tend to point out that this distorts the quotes themselves, and hijacks them to an "obedience!" agenda.  One properly merely thinks about and responds to statements, questions and comments, while one obeys or disobeys only things that are worded as orders/directives/instructions.  It is pretty easy to look in the bible or any piece of writing and see if you're being told to do (or not do) something, or if the writing is not worded that way.

Here's how easy it is.  Here are three bible quotations.  Imagine trying to obey or submit to them:

Ecclesiastes 12:5-8 they are afraid also of what is high, and terrors are in the way; the almond tree blossoms, the grasshopper drags itself along, and desire fails, because man is going to his eternal home, and the mourners go about the streets-- before the silver cord is snapped, or the golden bowl is broken, or the pitcher is shattered at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the cistern, and the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it. Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher; all is vanity. 

Song of Solomon 4:5 Your two breasts are like two fawns, twins of a gazelle, that graze among the lilies.

Matthew 12:34-35 (Jesus telling religious hypocrites what he thought of them) You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.  The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil.  

 And here are some which are worded as instructions:

Proverbs 5:18-19 rejoice in the wife of your youth, a lovely deer, a graceful doe. Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight; be intoxicated always in her love. 

Matthew 6:1-4 (Jesus instructing his followers how charity work and acts of good were to be done) Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.  Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. 

Galatians 5:1 For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.  

So what I'm dealing with is people concocting some rule from their own interpretation and application of the bible, and then bothering other people with it, claiming the disobedient wretches are not submitting to the bible or obeying God. What's really going on is that they're taking statements, comments, stories, poetry and prayers and making them into rules, and mentally tossing out the rest of the bible if it can't be converted into Things To Do. Then, to make things match, if any instruction in the bible doesn't suit them (the Matthew 6 one, for instance, about not advertising to the world that you've read the bible, or prayed, or given money to charity or whatever, because that cheapens the act and makes it about you looking good) then they argue their way out of it using cobbled-together, patchwork quilts made of scripture scraps torn from any original context and missing the bits that come before and after.

Bono does more charity work than anyone knows.  That's good.  Many celebrities have t-shirts, bumper stickers, ads and things on their web sites, ostensibly to "raise awareness" of charity organizations.  Just by being a celebrity and making it known that they are doing good works, they instantly distract people from the problem they're trying to help, get credit as a charity worker, and raise awareness of themselves more than the thing they're doing.  People say "Oh!  Beyonce!  She does charity work."  And later people say "What do you know about Beyonce?"  "Well, she does charity work."  "What charity work?"  "I dunno.  I forget.  But it's cool that she does charity work, right?  I mean, that proves she's not just in it for the fame and popularity.  I like Beyonce."

There's something... fishy... about how public Christians (well, the annoying, bad example ones) want to make what should be (what most people desperately wish was) private Christian stuff.  They say "I'm obeying God and ANNOUNCING the good news!  Don't be a prayah h8ah!"  My response has been of late: "Can you tell good news without mentioning yourself?" 

Saturday, 10 July 2010

1977 Star Wars figures

These figures look pretty ineptly made today, but back in the day, they rocked my world.  When my father forbid my buying them, because "The Force" sounded like it could be the force of Satan, or certainly something one could learn from the Eastern philosophers, this only elevated them to being pure magic.

To buy them nowadays (the original ones) is prohibitively expensive.  What I found is that if you buy a big bag of them on eBay, they are suddenly a lot cheaper, so long as you don't care that they're not in their packaging.  This is a scan of two big bags I bought on eBay.  I go through them and pick out a few favourites, and then resell them, at slightly more than I paid for the original, unpicked-through lot, at a store down the street.

These are most of the ones I'm electing to keep.  For some reason I'm most proud of the "Sebastian Shaw resurrected ghost Anakin Skywalker instead of Hayden Christensen digitally superimposed over Sebastian Shaw thirty years after the film was made" figure.

the Heat

I hate the heat.  I can't get rid of it.  I have no idea why people pay big money to lie on hot sand under hot sun being hot.  The water I get.  It's not hot.  In winter, I don't bother wearing a coat or gloves or anything, if I'm only walking out to my car and driving it (heated) to work, and then walking into a heated building.  The coat simply doesn't make that much difference (if you're wearing a coat in Canada in January, you're still cold, of course.  It doesn't stop you from being cold.  It slows down your freezing to death if you stay outside for too long).  And I forget them everywhere if I do wear them.

I don't get coffee and tea.  They are hot.  To relax I like to drink something cooling, not something that burns my tongue, and I can tell you, if you're a regular coffee or tea drinker, I would have to repeatedly burn off the outer layer of skin on my tongue before it stopped burning.  As for me, I wish water and other drinkable stuff froze at a lower temperature, so that when I poured chilled Red Bull over ice in a frosty stein that's been in the freezer, it didn't start turning to slush.  My sister buys drinks of all kinds, and even does neat stuff like buy two frozen juice concentrate flavours, mix them with Perrier and then...leave them on the counter all day in the middle of July so they are lukewarm and sticky and hour later.  And then she drinks them!  It's like people who prefer lukewarm Diet Coke to nonDiet, chilled and on ice.  Huh?  Evidence of life from other planets.

It has been very hot here, in Canada, this week and last.  92F/33C a lot of the time.  I was pretty certain I was feeling hot, so I checked weather reports so I could know for sure.  Quite a bit hotter here outside of Canada's capital than Mexico City or L.A.  Hotter than Miami, Florida.  Only slightly hotter here than in Marrakesh, Morocco (in Africa).  

How to deal with this when the air conditioner is too old to bother installing?  Well, the apartment is, of course, extremely clothing optional at this time, and the blender is out making fruit smoothies and Orange Juliuses of various fruits I have purchased, all the live-long day, rather than cooking meals.  (I used to use my blender once, and then bemoan for a week afterward that now it had dried stuff encrusted in it, and that I didn't have a dishwasher, and that it was awkward and actually pretty hard to clean.  Now I know that, as soon as you've used the blender, you can pour hot water and a bit of dish soap into it and run it, making it its own dishwasher.)  And I don't move much.  Mostly I make smoothies and watch reruns of The West Wing and Weeds.  And plan recording more music.  Acoustic piano seems like something I could add.  

As I wait for the heat misery to end, I find it gradually starts getting less miserable.  I might actually be getting used to it being equatorial in here, at least for a few weeks.  I was messing about earlier with running stuff I recorded long ago through a rotating Leslie speaker cabinet to see what that sounded like (electronic keyboard sounds, backwards guitar sounds, harmony vocals, conga drum bits, bass guitar, you name it).

Monday, 5 July 2010

Stealing into the music room at school

  I was told I could use the music room whenever I wanted, including the glockenspiels and miscellaneous other things in there, whenever I wanted.  (I just typed glockenspiels and miscellaneous without getting corrected by spell check, and am feeling pretty sassy about that, though "sassy" isn't itself part of the British spell check I'm using, apparently, as it's underlined in red both times I've typed it.)
   I often write simple, simply songs that are supposed to be slow and sad.  In folk music, and even in country music, people get this.  Often though, unless a slow, sad song really reaches out and grabs people by their weepers (I can make up any words I want), they are going to say "That song is boring" or "That song has no groove" (which is rather like saying "That song has no point, no reason to be).  So, I fight that.  I take songs that are sad and quiet and long and try to make them have some depth and drama, some sturm und drang to them. 
  I wrote "The Romantic Song" in 1992 and played it for a friend of mine.  It was about repeatedly realizing that this girl or that girl, whom one had pined over for months that seemed, to an adolescent mentality, to have been lifetimes, simply wasn't that into me.  He said it was good, but that playing a song for a dude to hear was kinda gay.  I agreed and few people heard it again.  It's not a crowd-pleasing song to whip out at open stages or anything either.
 For some reason I kinda envisioned it as a kind of slow, torch song, a jazz song that makes one weep.  I am not Jessica Rabbit (though Mindy can sing like her and would sing like Jessica Rabbit into my microphone if I asked her to, OR talk like Lisa Simpson) but I had this idea.  I wanted it to be a slow, beautiful piano thing, but don't really play much piano.  I asked a pianist to play it when I was recording it in the studio.  I asked him to play piano like in a Meat Loaf song and he kinda refused, after mocking how Roy Bittan of the E Street Band tends to play songs on Meat Loaf albums.  Then the piano part got lost somehow.  And I had this song with loud guitar that swirled like sludge, and didn't quite work.  Saxophone was considered but not really done.  A five string bass part was played by an unimpressed and inebriated bass player.  I liked the low end that this gave.  
  Then, one night in my car, I played some of songs for Mindy (whose almost-completed tattoo is pictured in the above photo), who I was driving home after she'd sang for me.  She objected to "The Romantic Song" in terms of things she'd forgiven in the others.  This was the song she felt had no groove, and wasn't going anywhere.  It is supposed to be a "interlude between two other songs, changing the mood up from what they do" kind of thing, and a kind of "bringing the mood right down here" experience.
  So one evening, I sat on the futon with an acoustic guitar, and simply recorded it simply.  I wanted to do it "all simple" like Rick Rubin recording Johnny Cash shortly before his death.  I heard "God's Gonna Cut You Down" and likes the scrapy drum loop.  I turned a drum loop backwards to get a scrapy sound to the snare, and sang and played the guitar all in one go, without redoing either part, or doubling them or anything.  Then I hid two harmony vocals, some quiet orchestral string pads and a bass guitar in there. I liked it.
  It was simple and good.  Then I took some pre-recorded timpani (kettle drums, the "Theme from 2001:A Space Odyssey" ones) and put them in to add some solemnity and drama.  I was surprised to find that timpani are tunable because you can play wrong notes on them, given what the song is.  I had some trouble finding properly pitched pre-recorded timpani, and decided I could use the ones in the music room at school. I also put Sad Trombone from at the beginning to make it a little more tongue in cheek.
  Now, it is summer, and the music teacher has retired.  I went in to the darkened, air conditioned room this morning before lunch, and indulged myself.  I decided to forswear the timpani entirely and use a monster, giant marching band bass drum.  Not the regular one with the school logo and mascot picture on it that we use.  The one that's too big and too heavy.  That one.  Then I got a gong and played it in there a bit.  And then I tried something I've REALLY always wanted to do: I stuck my two SM57 microphones (not even using mic stands) under the lid of the piano, one at each end, and played crashy left hand octave chords really hard at strategic places in the song, in the manner of how the piano is done on some of the Johnny Cash stuff (like "I Hung My Head").  Then I went home, walking right by the xylophone, glockenspiel, tubular bells, vibroslap, and other blandishments.
  At home, I messed with it. I messed with it and messed with it, concluding that the really dead strings that had been on my acoustic when I recorded the simple bed track sounded thin (i.e. like crap).  I really didn't want to redo that base track, so I decided to add supplementary acoustic guitar.   I plugged the acoustic into my rotating Leslie speaker cabinet.  It sounded kinda processed, kinda chorussy and 80s, but I did it anyway.  Not sure about it.  Here is what I have, though.

Sunday, 4 July 2010

Evangelical Christianity vs. Alcoholics Anonymous' Twelve Steps

First, here're the Twelve Steps:

1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable.
2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

 I think it's safe to say the evangelical Christian analogues (as practised by those I have met) too often are:

1. We admitted we were powerless over sin—that our lives had become unmanageable.
2. We claimed to believe that God, a Power greater than ourselves, could restore us to righteousness.
3.  Made a decision to daily try to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we felt we knew Him.
4. ________________________________________.
5. Daily admitted to God, to ourselves, and perhaps to another human being the exact nature of our characteristic, general wrongs as we became convicted of them.
6. Tried to use church attendance, daily bible study and prayer, and above all, the consistent application of our own willpower, to suppress these defects of character.
7. Humbly asked God to remove our shortcomings, but readied ourselves to strive against them daily, as we believed that is a Christian's lot in life.
8. Took some note of all Christians we harmed as we lived our Christian lives, and became willing to express regret about it to them all (unless we felt we were right.)
9. _________________________________________.
10. ________________________________________.
11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
12. Having built a religious program out of these steps, we tried to carry its message to sinners, and to practise these principles in all our affairs.

Saturday, 3 July 2010

Got my microphones!

My Shure SM57s came in the mail today.  I put one on one side of the Leslie speaker cabinet, and my AKG CS1000 on the other side to get a stereo ping-ponging effect in the ears as the speaker rotated.  Mike the Math Teacher from school came over to help me lift my apartment-size (right size for an apartment, not the size of an apartment) dishwasher up the several flights of stairs.

Once it was safely bestowed in my kitchen, I had Mike noodle on the slightly out-of-tune guitar as I recorded what it sounded like through the Leslie.  Keep in mind that there are no effects on this clean, electric guitar apart from the sound coming out of speaker inside the cabinet which is spinning.  It can go two different speeds.  It is here. It probably won't sound like much through a laptop, or any system without some good speakers which are a few feet apart to give a stereo effect.  Headphones would be best, for full "mysterious shimmer" effect.

Friday, 2 July 2010

Canada Day

Canada Day is July 1st.  I live 30 minutes drive from Ottawa, where the Queen was making an appearance.   Instead of going to that, I went to Brockville, to Peter's house, and a bunch of us sat on the deck overlooking the St. Lawrence at sunset, as the street below filled up with cars parked all over the place, including the middle of the street, and the seaway filled with the lights of boats of all kinds, all around the fireworks barge that was floating not far from us.  Two blocks down, a Kiss cover band called Destroyer was playing.  I amused myself my naming the muffled, distant, reverberant songs and by telling everyone they'd be playing "Rock 'N Roll All Night" at 10, as this was when the fireworks were to start (What other song might a Kiss tribute band end with?)  Teenagers were everywhere, the lights of their cell phones shining in the dusk as they texted each other about important things ("im in joshs truck with josh n steve n destiny isnt hear yet WTF LOL", "im still in joshs truck n the fkn fireworx hvnt strted yet they want me to do both of them in the back of teh king cab should i :( ")

There was also an Elton John cover band, Finger 11, and Emily Osment (apparently from Hanna Montana).  When we were sitting out waiting for the fireworks, though, it was Destroyer that was providing the soundtrack for the sun to set, with note-by-note accurate Paul Stanley squealing and so on.  Destroyer played "Rock 'N Roll All Night" and the fireworks began as we ate tea cakes and sugared fruit sprinkled with champagne.  Steve had his iPhone, so he could tell us when the large, Great Lakes bound ocean-going vessels would plow through, needing the smaller boats to move.  The timing was perfect, in that the last big ship went through before the fireworks began, and and the next two came through once they were over.  This meant a myriad little sailboats didn't need to panic during the fireworks and try to tack toward the U.S. or Canada shorelines in a hurry.

After the huge traffic-on-a-one-way-street mess unsnarled itself, I drove back home.  This morning, I was at the computer wondering who to get to help me lift the Leslie speaker cabinet up the stairs, and the smell of Bob from downstairs having a cigarette on the fire escape under my window wafted in.  Cigarette smoking has a price.  Bob agreed to give me a hand and the cabinet is now where a chest of drawers was, and the chest of drawers is headed out into the street with a "Free" sign on it.

Looking at apartment-style dishwashers on kijiji.  Having one will both fix the "dirty dishes in the sink that are scary to wash if you leave them for a few days" problem, and will also give me a place to put a couple of small appliances (a rice steamer and crockpot should fit on top of the dishwasher), thereby freeing up counter space.  Fighting valiantly (mostly with my VISA) to keep from sliding into a slough of inactive despondency, which is a problem whenever I get more than a couple of days off any job, I have contacted a Ford dealer about a safety recall on my van (hoping they will fix an electrical problem they've reported, and that it will make my speedometer work again) and ordered a new bearing for my Leslie rotating speaker cabinet (and early summer hobby item.)