Thursday, January 30, 2003

Come to Grief
Not a good day today. The details about my contract renewal at work came through, and they're lame. A whole three months' extension, with no pay increase. It's not what my immediate supervisor was saying I'd probably get.

The company didn't have a good year last year, and held a two-hour pep rally (complete with PowerPoint presentation on a 20 x 20 screen and snacks during intermission) yesterday to announce this fact. I also learned that if the product I'm currently documenting hadn't tanked so spectacularly on its initial release, we'd all be swimming in money. The whole event was a tiresome little preview of the massive bumming-out I'd suffer today.

If the company has a good first quarter this year, they might offer me a better deal. The other project I'm working on is going until July, so keeping me on would be to their advantage.

This new Grief album I got today is sounding good.
From Christmas to Valentine’s Day to Halloween, the belter’s mom marks the occasion by buying holiday-themed junk, packing it in boxes, and sending it out west to her daughter and granddaughter. The size and punctuality of these deliveries leads me to believe that doing this makes old Barb very happy. Maybe a little too happy. I think she sees sending stuff to Jenni and Cypress as her main purpose in life. She’s quite a lonely woman—lonely but not alone, as they say. Giving gifts keeps her connected.

The Valentine’s Day stuff—four boxes worth—arrived Monday and Tuesday. Everything inside is either heart-shaped or pink, except for my present, which was one of those mini R/C cars (pretty cool, really). I’m practicing my driving so I’ll be able to run over mice with it.

Barb’s big on toys. Sometimes in these boxes Cypress gets little plastic wind-up animals that walk along and drop lumps of “poo” (actually jelly beans) out of their spring-loaded butts. I got one last Christmas, too. I’m glad we’re spared these on Valentine’s Day.

There’s always one or two items that make us go “what the hell?” with their randomness. They send us into analytical overdrive as we try to trace Barb’s line of thought while she purchased, packed and sent them to us. What did Jenn say to her last month? What did Barb say to Jenn? Was this on sale? Is this a joke?

This time the randomness prize went to a pink ceramic pitcher in the shape of a pig—a sitting pig, with neck outstretched and mouth agape. Your beverage of choice comes streaming from its maw into your glass. That mouth…it was disturbing and flared. It looked more like a receptacle than a spigot. My first thought was to place the pig by the bedside in case I needed to take a leak at night. The belter ended up putting a flower in its mouth and taking it down to the “free stuff” table by the mailboxes in our building—“Look, everybody—novelty vase!” Miraculously, it was gone the next morning.

I don’t want to sound ungrateful, because sometimes Jenni’s mom sends us nice stuff. The box of assorted cheddar we got was nice, as were the brownies. The cutting boards that Uncle Gord made are great. Anything we can eat or store conveniently is welcome.

Same goes for the set of dishes we got a couple months ago. They belonged to Jenn’s grandmother, and they’re almost too good for sketchies like us. You’d expect to see them on the Antiques Roadshow—good Staffordshire quality, with an olde English country scene motif that reminds me of an early Genesis album cover. Hey, Supper’s Ready!

But the nice thoughts generated by those gifts quickly go away when the next onslaught arrives, and we have to borrow hand carts, friends, and vehicles to bring the boxes home, and our living room floor disappears under drifts of bubble wrap, wadded newspaper, and stryrofoam peanuts, and we resign ourselves to throwing away 90 per cent of the junk we’ve unwrapped. That’s when I have to agree with the belter: “she must be stopped.”

Tuesday, January 28, 2003

A Pretty Boy's Vancouver
Because of Nick Tilsley's remarks on Coronation Street last week, people around the world now believe that if you live in Vancouver you can scuba dive in the morning and ski in the afternoon, that the beach at Spanish Banks has golden sand that stretches for miles and miles, and that we Vancouverites enjoy nothing better than a mess o' waffles for lunch.

He might as well have claimed we'd be an ideal host city for the Winter Olympics, too.

Wednesday, January 22, 2003

On Friday night the belter and I went to the Montmartre Café to see Marcello Di Cintio read from his new book, Harmattan: Wind Across West Africa. Also in attendance were John Vigna (Print Futures Class of ’01), his girlfriend Anne-Marie, and Carla Elm. John, Carla and the belter know Marcello from the Otherwords literary festival, where they attended workshops, readings, and generally wallowed in each other’s wonderfully chosen words for a few days.

During the reading I was once again struck by how many parallels there are between the publishing world and the music industry, especially at the independent level. The perils for the fledgling artist are similar.

The Montmartre was another stop on Marcello’s cross-country tour to promote his new book—one more gig, if you will. He had little advance publicity. The Georgia Straight listed the reading (a listing arranged, I presume, by his publisher, Insomniac Press), but there were no posters at the venue. Marcello’s reading the night before at a travel bookstore had gone badly. The staff generally ignored him, and they closed half the store before he started. Unfortunately, this was the half with the cash register, which meant that no one who liked what they heard could buy a book.

So, on to the Montmartre for Friday night. Here’s Marcello, who’s traveled in pretty scary parts of the world, worked his ass off to record what he’s experienced, gotten a publishing deal, put out the book, gone across Canada with a box of copies to sell, and the only people who show up are his friends.

There's one important difference between a book tour and touring with a band, however. Authors don't sell t-shirts. (I think they should. When the belter goes out for her book, she should offer a complete selection of long sleeves, tees, baby-tees, panties, headbands, stick pins and belt buckles for her public to lap up.)

When Marcello finished, we congratulated him and settled down to some dessert crepes while a jazz trio (who turned out to be really good) set up their gear. Anne-Marie, the belter, and I discussed Quebec metal bands: Voivod, Obliveon, Grimskunk. I’d forgotten I’d seen the last band once—Smash and I in a Starfish Room full of homesick Quebecers. Were we there to see the smalls? I can’t remember.

Monday, January 20, 2003

Here's a story about Westwood, where I spent many weekends as a kid. It's gone now. Minivans now ply the plowed-under pit lane, and we have to make do with the unloved, soulless, and miserably named Molson Indy.

Saturday, January 18, 2003

Ain't Love Grand?
From an interview with Herr Morbid of Forgotten Tomb:
"Every day I wake up and I feel shame because I’m forced to live my existence between these fucking mindless beings that represent the plague called humanity… Fortunately I feel quite un-human so I can survive and feel better, vomiting all my scorn and hate towards people through my music and my words. And I feel good when I see that there are intelligent people that understand my philosophy. I hate friendship and I have very few reliable friends, because to be a friend of mine you have to be really un-human… I saw a lot of old friends starting as true un-human guys and then slowly falling towards a classic shameful human existence; it’s really sad in my eyes. Sometimes you feel really lonely when you decide to live this way. Fortunately I’m married with a wonderful and un-human girl, and she’s the only person I can actually consider unique on this fucking planet."

Saturday, January 11, 2003

We had a nice, low-key bowling night on Friday. The whole place was empty when we arrived, and stayed that way through most of our first game. When we started the second game, about half the lanes were busy. Nice to see Billy Idol a couple lanes away…or was it Jim Jarmusch, or possibly Johnny Slash from Square Pegs? Friday’s definitely a good night to go to the Grandview Lanes.

Our lane was pretty stingy with the strikes, though. I think someone must have spilled a Coke right where they set up the pins. Something was definitely making them stick. You’d bowl what looked to be a strike, only to be rewarded with the dreaded “goal posts.” Lane 13 is a harsh mistress.

I also got a swell birthday present in beer form from Mel and Adam. Laying the cans side-by-side, I can almost recreate the fondly remembered “Famous Ales of Britain” box, a delicious array of beverages that saw Acmac and me through recording the Huxley album.

Stopped in at Scrape Records today. JJ, who by now knows all too well what I like, thrust the Repertoire Records catalogue at me and put on a CD he’d ordered from it simply because of the cover. Man. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Birth Control, a band with a discography unparalleled for its sheer visual assault. Shark Sandwich and Brain Hammer have nothing on these. The music is equally as splendid, I’m happy to report.

Friday, January 10, 2003

Yesterday was all craziness and running around, nervousness and confusion, buses and trains. To accommodate my interview with Mr. Townsend, I worked a split shift--two hours in the morning and four in the afternoon, with the interview, some lunch and a surprise visit from the belter in between. I didn't like the feeling of being out and about in the middle of a weekday. It was too much like being in school again. The interview with Devin went well. He called at the appointed time, and we talked for half an hour. It was a new experience for me, but old hat for "the Dev" (he actually referred to himself in the third person at one point). I'm not a great interviewer, so I hope that I can pull a story together out of the things we discussed. I gag a bit at the thought of becoming a rock journalist, but I've learned not to ignore opportunities when they're dropped on my head.

By the way, the new Strapping Young Lad album is great. It's almost Canada's answer to Slaughter of the Soul.

Tuesday, January 07, 2003

Adapt and Survive
After the show at the Cottage Bistro Friday night, Super Robertson gave me a lengthy explanation as to why The Beggars hadn’t put “SarahLou2” in the set. Maybe he thought that he had curtailed some Mule ego trip. The explanation wasn’t necessary. I didn’t care that they hadn’t played it. I’d had a good time, and the non-Jackass Beggars songs were already slotting themselves into my mental jukebox. “I am a failure and I know it” was a common refrain around the place all weekend.

Smash recently pointed me in the direction of Super’s 21 Tandem Repeats album, a release I’ve neglected terribly. The Beggars have adapted a handful of songs from it for their set, whipping them into stage-ready form. The original recording is nicely layered, sometimes wispy and ethereal, courtesy of a mix by the Shockker. Played live by a three-piece rock band, the songs become loose and friendly three-chord toe-tappers. I really enjoy it when bands can adapt their music to different group configurations, venues and the like.

Stoke, the headliners on Friday, have done the same thing to a certain extent. They played a revised version of “Paulina” (from the Huxley album) that I hadn’t heard before. It was always a great song, and I’m glad Alick’s reworked it for the black ‘n’ blues format. As far as I could tell, the revisions excised most of the Scorpions-like stuff from the original (“You’re my Warsaw woman,” etc.), and rejigged the bridge or middle 8 or something.

When Stoke play it’s interesting to hear how their drummer plays some of the parts I recorded originally. I like what he does with Klagg’s “Orange Cat.” It’s funkified in a manner I couldn’t muster when Ian first came up with the riff. I thought his treatment of “Spider in a Jar” on Friday night wasn’t as sympathetic to the needs of the song, however. I remember working on those parts (in consultation with Alick) for quite a while before we recorded it. I always thought of the song as a little epic, with each verse/chorus building on the next, restrained at first, then introducing new elements with each section, then a final release for the concluding solo. You could say the new approach is groovier. It’s certainly not enough of a deviation to ruin the song.

Unfortunately he didn’t heed the unwritten law of the Bistro and make another vital adjustment to his playing—he was too loud. Or maybe I’m too old.
Today is my birthday. I was born beleventeen-seven years ago in Boston, Lincolnshire. Before she was taken into the delivery room, my mum insisted on watching all of Top of the Pops. The Rolling Stones were big that year. She hasn't been much of a one for pop music since.

Monday, January 06, 2003

I had a decent entry all ready to go, but I forgot to email it to myself when I left work today. Damn.

Another thing I like to do at work is read (or is that "decode"?) the Robertson Chronicles. He appears to have started a "Chronicles II," deleting the old chronicles in the process. My attempt to piece together Robertson's biography (pyromaniac, scientist, tree planter, musician, mailman, hockey player—but in what order?) has been thwarted!

Spent part of today trying to set up an interview with Devin Townsend. The Energizer wants me to talk to him about the new Strapping Young Lad album. I hope it works out okay.

Sunday, January 05, 2003

During the post-game interview last night on HNIC, we heard Scott Russell actually use the phrase "It's a beauty way to go." Gee, did someone just get the Bob and Doug album for Christmas? It would have been sweet if Geddy Lee had walked into the shot to show Scott how it's supposed to be done.

Friday, January 03, 2003

What struck me about karaoke last night was how everyone twists the format to their own ends. The hipsters get to be ironic and wacky, the Shannons and Garies get to be all in earnest, and the gay guys get to be Donna Summer. It was an interesting mix of people.

Those who just want to be themselves have difficulties in such establishments.