Tuesday, July 30, 2002

I picked up the parentals at the airport last night. Their plane was full of Catholic youth returning from Popefest. God showed his approval with a thunderstorm that forced them to wait out on the tarmac in Toronto for two hours. Anyway, it’s nice to have Clive and Sally back. Soon as he got back from his walk this morning, Dad was on the phone to the municipality, asking them to pick up four old tires someone had dumped along Huxley Ave. (“Rob, how long have those tires been there?” “Can’t say I noticed them, Dad.”) He’s always “on,” that guy.

Breakfast soundtrack today was Gong, Angel’s Egg. I went straight for “Oily Way” midway through the album, which was a mistake. Now suffering from endless-loop-in-head effect. I should turn Super Robertson onto this album, if he hasn’t already been. I have to remember that he was a tree planter.

I’m going to eat my words at some point, but I’m enjoying the bus ride these days—thanks to the magic of reading. I’m tearing through books at a great rate. Thanks to Tweek for lending me a couple massive things when I was in Edmonton. I read Head-on and Repossessed by Julian Cope first (two books in one handy volume). I know nothing of the Teardrop Explodes’ music, but Jesus Christ, this was a hilarious book. I’d like to come back to it again and again here on Difficult Music, because I can’t really do it justice in one go. If you’re interested in the birth of (English) punk rock, the music industry, drugs, or toy collecting, I give it my highest recommendation.

I moved on to Dave Bidini’s Tropic of Hockey next. When I was a kid I was really only a true hockey fan for a few years. My fetish for stats got transferred to auto racing pretty quickly. But hockey’s never really left my life entirely. I’ll watch a few games during the regular season (more out of happenstance than by choice), follow the playoffs up to a point, play some street hockey. I even had a character-building foray into intramural floor hockey earlier this year. Dave approaches his book from the POV of a lapsed hockey fan, which I could relate to. He moves back and forth between travel writing and rants about the state of the NHL and Canadian hockey in general, never staying in one place for too long. I could identify with Bidini’s attempts to reconcile his love of the game with the fact that it’s a sport for assholes. I live with that kind of dissonance every minute of every day. So, yeah, I enjoyed the book. And I’ll never see Jim Cuddy in the same way again.

Tweek also lent me Have Not Been the Same: the CanRock Renaissance, a 750-page doorstop that I started last week. I was scared, but lo and behold, it’s killer. Lots of great stories within. The early chapters are going city by city, and I’m on the Montreal chapter right now. Sad story of wasted potential with the Nils. I remember them from the Decline of the English Murder days, when I tried to keep an eye on what was going on. I heard them a lot on BNW and liked what they were Husker Du’ing. I’m now a few pages away from the Voivod section, so my lunch break can’t come fast enough today.

Monday, July 29, 2002

Random Notes
Weird thing I saw on TV tonight: a SportsNet promo piece with background music by Peter Tagtgren's Pain. The piece cut between the promo material (an interview with Don King[!]) and the video for the song. There was Peter in all his cadaverous glory. Before the helpful SportsNet caption identified the tune, I thought it might have been Sentenced. That would have been even more unlikely, I suppose. Next up: Amorphis rejigs the Friends theme.

If you're curious, check out some freelancing the Belter and I recently completed. David Zieroth is a marvellous writer, poet, and a nice guy to boot. Help his site move up the Google rankings!

Looks like I'm moving out of the house this weekend, an event that coincides with the inaugural game of the Hades Hockey League.

Monday, July 22, 2002

L’Homme du Sport
On Saturday, during a break in culling the tons of Print Futures-generated paper I’ve accumulated (my bedroom now has a floor!), I checked out what was happening in Alan Partridge’s life. Quite a lot, it turns out—a new BBC Web site, and a new series airing in the autumn. I’m very excited, and a bit anxious. What if it doesn’t air over here? What if does air, but only on BBC Canada? Does anyone subscribe to that, or even know someone who does? If so, I’ll trade you a superficially damaged chocolate orange for some VCR time. The belter and I pondered whether we should take some holidays in the UK when it airs. It might be worth it, because I’m Alan Partridge was one of the greatest works of televisual art ever produced, and Steve Coogan is a frigging genius. Alan manages to be a complete shit and compelling at the same time. I want to follow the guy 24 hours a day. He’s completely oblivious to the effects he has on people. I think he embodies the worst fears I have about myself, so that while I might be laughing at him, I’m practically climbing out the window with dread over my very existence. The new series can only probe deeper into the tormented Partridge psyche, and imagining the tortures ahead for poor Alan fills me with a very blackened kind of joy.

Wednesday, July 17, 2002

I Wanna Be in (The) Pink Floyd
It's been a long time since I've been handed some "secret tapes." Smash surreptitiously slipped me a couple C90s during the latter stages of a very pleasant, very welcome listening party at his and Mai's new "pad" on Saturday night. The tapes came from someone at Smash's work, and are packed solid with early The Pink Floyd and Syd Barrett solo stuff. Wow, I'm all over that.

I had a listen to the first side of the first tape, and here is my report: the tape begins with a couple tracks straight off The Madcap Laughs--"Golden Hair" (an adaptation of a James Joyce poem) and "Terrapin" (one of my all-time favourite songs). From there, we move to a very early (pre-Piper at the Gates of Dawn) CBC Radio interview with the Floyd. "In a frenetic haze of sound and sight, a new concept of music has begun to penetrate the senses of Britain's already hopped-up beat fans," intones the female interviewer, and we get to hear Syd and Roger talk about the racket they make and the lights they flash, and how they moved from 16-bar structures into sort of 17 1/2-bar structures and so on. Then it's back to Syd, barely keeping it together through "Milky Way." This sounds like a bootleg recording, but both it and a couple other tracks on this tape--"Wouldn't You Miss Me (Dark Globe)," "Opel" and "Word Song"--were released on the outtakes collectionOpel back in '88 or so. For all you Voivod fans, there's a storming version of "The Nile Song" on here as well. Not sure where this is taken from. It could be from a Peel Session. "Scream Thy Last Scream," the whacked-out and wonderful "Vegetable Man" and a Syd song I couldn't identify take us to the end of a fun evening of Floydspotting.

On to side two. I hope "The Gnome" is on there somewhere.

Tuesday, July 16, 2002

Still grumpy about the pictures thing. Either I’m a moron or Blogger is screwing up. There’s a lot of “Fuck you, Blogger!” sentiment on other folks’ sites right now, with references to template troubles, so I guess I’m not alone. I wouldn’t be having these problems if I was clever enough to create my own template .

I had a nice phone call from the belter last night around dinnertime, which did much to cheer me up. She and her mom had a good shop yesterday. I hope the rest of her week in Ont. is as pleasant. Looks like she’ll be in Toronto Thursday for a visit with the legendary Joan. Still, I want her back home, so we can get on with the rest of our summer. Exciting developments await.

Robbie’s Holiday Camp
Meanwhile, back in Harrison…

The gig was in Harrison Holiday Park, a mile or two away from our rendezvous point at the Crossroads Motel. Roger and I arrived at the venue first and, after locating someone with the keys to the place, started unloading our gear. The hall we were to play in was an average-size banquet room with a large, low stage. The place reeked of cedar. The back wall, right behind where I set up the drums, featured a big stone fireplace. I had flashbacks to The Fishin’ Musician on SCTV. Maybe The Tubes would turn up.

As Phil likes to point out, I am no ordinary drummer. I can set up my kit in no time flat. My alacrity left me with a lot of time to kill, however. I sat down on the steps at the side of the stage and had a sulk because I didn’t want to be in Harrison with Blueshammer and I didn’t want to play another gig. I wasn’t looking forward to a two-hour drive home in the dead of night, either.

After everyone else got their stuff wired up, we did a quick soundcheck. The PA was horribly loud, so we rolled it back a couple notches, and we were good to go. I need some fresh, less cedar-infused air, so I took a walk through the Holiday Park. Quaint little road/paths, RVs packed side-by-side, playgrounds, drifting barbeque smoke. An excerpt from Tommy played in my head—“The holiday’s forev-ahhhhhh!” I stopped at a picnic table adjacent to the hall. Murray and Carolyn joined me and began discussing the latest developments at the WCB and the LDB. I watched a young couple playing catch and tried not to slip into a coma.

Dinnertime arrived. We went back into the hall and chose a band table. Roger introduced us to several of the guests, my favourite of whom was a certain “Baron,” the brother of the bride. He was gay as all-get-out. He said he worked at an Aveda counter, and I could tell that he’d be really good at the job (excursions with the belter have been a crash course in the cosmetics realm). Roger seemed very fond of the guy—he did have charisma, that Baron.

Dinner was excellent, a festival of prime rib + taters + salad. The roast potatoes were a bit underdone, but you didn’t hear me complaining. With a couple glasses of red wine as final catalyst, I began to cheer up. Chemistry.

So, on to the first set. As happened at the Cottage Bistro earlier in the month, we were way too loud from the get-go. The people were into it, though, and the dancing started immediately. The blues overtook them, you might say. Baron was grabbing all the old ladies and taking them for a whirl. I settled into our opening number and tried to enjoy my surroundings. The wall on the left side of the stage had a window with a view of the Holiday Park swimming pool. It was still daylight out. The scene on the deck was more John Waters than Aaron Spelling, which wasn’t a bad thing.

Mark, the bride’s other brother, joined us on guitar and vocals for the second set. He was a seasoned vet of the cover band circuit, and had hundreds of screaming licks at his disposal. I have to give the guy credit for learning the tunes quickly, but his sound was a little too metallic. Still, it gave Murray a break to have him sit in with us.

The third set…ah, the third set. Why do we need a third set? I don’t know. Every audience we’ve ever played for has been well blueshammered by the time we reach the third set, and this crowd was no exception. After the second set, the canned music took over, and the people seemed happy with the situation. I was all for packing up and hitting the highway, but instead I had to wait while we decided if we were going to play again. During this interval, I witnessed something that no should have to witness.

There was a group of women on the dance floor grooving to the hits of the sixties and seventies. I know Smash doesn’t like it when I harp on appearances, but can I point out that all these ladies had big perms? Okay. “Paradise By the Dashboard Light” came on, and the youngest perm rushed over to the stereo. “Great,” I thought, “she’s turning it off so we can get this last set over with.” But I was so wrong. Up went the volume, and crazy went the ladies. One woman, the queen of the perms, took up a stance and play acted her way through Meatloaf's mini-epic, throwing her head from side to side and fiercely mouthing the words. Oh god, I was so glad the belter hadn’t come with me. There would have been a bloodbath. “Paradise…” is perhaps her most-loathed song…besides “Bohemian Rhapsody” (we haven’t had to seek counselling about this yet).

We did play a very short third set to a depleted audience. If you’ve been to a Blueshammer show, you can picture the scene. We quit after about four songs, and I packed up and hit the road around midnight. Murray left at the same time, and he led me through Agassiz to Hwy. 1, which was a much quicker route home than the #7 would have been. I floored it all the way home, and I thought about what Jochen Mass said after a demon lap at the Nurburgring in ’75: “If I’d have left the road, I’d never have stopped travelling.”

That’s it for Blueshammer for the rest of the summer. I’ve told everyone outside the band that I don’t want to continue with them. Every gig we’ve done this year has fallen on a date where I wanted desperately to do something else, attend another event. I don’t think I’m in love enough with playing live to keep doing it, and I’m definitely not in love with the music we play. This break will be good. I’ve got too much going on with work, volunteer stuff, and with people outside of the band that I care about. I’ve picked up the guitar again. I haven’t written anything in over a year, and I’m very curious as to what my next song will sound like.

We were paid a nice sum for that Saturday night in Harrison. I got my cut from Roger in the mail yesterday. Dinner's on me when the belter gets back.

Monday, July 15, 2002

Dammit, I want nothing more than to post pictures here. Do you think I've been able to do it? No, I haven't, and it's ruining my day. I wasted all last night on the endeavour, too. I got the stupid GeoCities site to store the pictures, I've uploaded them, I've linked to them from here, but nothing. No pictures, no joy. Grr.

Thursday, July 11, 2002

I realize that I haven’t finished my Harrison saga yet. When I have some time I’ll sit down and polish it off. There’s not too much to tell, really, but once I start writing I might find a few digressions that I’ll want to explore.

I’m reeling from the fanciness today. The summer’s good, eh? I was never a big fan of summer, especially after I joined the working world back in the late ’40s, but I’m liking it these days. I’m not sure why. I used to resent all the summertime fun people, blocking the Gastown sidewalks that I needed to use to get home from the office. But they’re no longer my enemies. I’ve found my own scene. I’ve overcome my fear of wearing shorts in public. I wear tinted lenses to protect my eyes; sometimes a hat to cool my head. Plus I don’t have to go anywhere near Gastown anymore.

As the 133 merged onto the highway this morning, I saw a test train going into Brentwood Station, which produced a mild excitement. Once the new line is operating I expect getting to and from Xantrex will be less torturous.

There’s a derelict on-ramp at Gaglardi Way that’s totally giving me a boner. I want to drive out there one weekend morning and take some pictures. Scatter tabloid clippings of Jayne Mansfield, Princesses Grace and Diana, James Dean and Lisa Lopes on the weed-ruptured asphalt.

I get about 15–20 minutes every morning to listen to music. I look forward to this time. Morning music, when I get to choose it, is the best. Today was Boards of Canada, Geogaddi, an album that is growing on me a lot. I bought it on musique machine’s recommendation, and it was pretty much what I expected it to be—I don’t really know how to classify it. You’re better off hunting down the original review if you’re curious. The catchiness and complexity of their music is gradually revealing itself, though, and I imagine that if I listened to nothing else for an entire month I’d gain a full appreciation of what they’re doing. It made a nice soundtrack for spoonfuls of slightly milk-damp Raisin Bran this morning. It’s been a belting week thus far.

Tuesday, July 09, 2002

One-handed Reading
No, this is not about those couple pages near the back of Bust magazine. You're dirty.

I had to stand on the bus this morning, which was a drag. Before you start sawing away at the World's Tiniest Violin, let me explain that I'm reaching the end of a really good book: Purple America by Rick Moody (lent to me by the belter, who hasn't steered me wrong yet). It's hard to turn pages while holding on and trying to stand up on the 133 SFU as it barrels down Hwy 1.

There's more brilliance in one paragraph of Purple America than I could muster in a lifetime of wordsmithery. I guess Moody is most famous for writing The Ice Storm. I haven't read it, but I thought the movie was the feel-good hit of the year. Purple America casts a similar glow in its dissection of the well-heeled and uneven keeled. Its shifts in voice and tone are brilliant and Moody strikes me as one of those guys who's scarily intelligent. He certainly knows a lot about power grids, utilities and suchlike. I wonder what he did in his previous work life. Perhaps there'll be a job opening for him at Xantrex once he's done with the writing thing.

At least I know I'll have seat on the milk run going home—an interminable journey on the 144 that winds its way down Burnaby Mtn., across Kensington, into the loop at Bby Municipal Hall (tantalizingly close to home, but too far to walk and save any time), through Heritage Village for god's sake, and concludes at glamorous Metrotown. I'll get to finish the book off then.

Friday, July 05, 2002

As per the guestbook entry from Super "Marlon Perkins" Robertson, please read "heron" for "crane" in the previous entry. I thought about going in and changing it myself, but I didn't want to pull a Sharon Osbourne and wantonly taint the artistic achievements of the past.

Thursday, July 04, 2002

On the last night of our long weekend on Mayne Island, the belter and I walked out to the point after dinner. For the last 48 hours the island had been teeming with people, but when we reached the end of the trail I was relieved to see that the point was free of visitors.

The only inhabitant was a crane standing down by the water. It noticed us and took off, flying a short distance to the rocks in the middle of the channel between the point and Georgeson Island. It resumed scanning the ocean for any fish-related activity. We found a rock to sit on and began scanning for any seal-related activity.

Apart from a few distant splashes, the seals weren't putting on much of a show. We stuck around anyway. It was one of those nice summer nights when it gets dark very very slowly. "When you're down here, something always happens. All you have to do is wait," said the belter.

The crane was being very patient, just changing position once in a while, pivoting around on its twiggy legs. I looked away and watched the ferries heading back and forth between Active Pass and the Mainland. When I turned to look at the crane again, something small and black was wriggling in its beak—it had caught a fish! Hooray for the crane! I thought.

I was about to point this out to the belter when something very big and very dark swooped over our heads. A bloody great bastard eagle was flying directly towards our crane. The crane had just enough time to choke back its fish and take off, with the eagle in close pursuit. The dogfight was on. They arced above us, and I thought for sure the eagle would grab the crane, bring it down and most likely rip open its neck to extract that fish. But the combination of a larger wingspan and (probably) sheer panic enabled the crane to get away. Phew.

The thwarted eagle took over the crane's spot down on the rocks. It stood there for a while, looking stupid, then flew off to a treetop perch on Georgeson.

We decided on the walk back home that eagles are the assholes of the air.