Thursday, June 26, 2003

I always like to have a book on the go, but I’m not reading anything at the moment. The last book I read was Universal Recipients by Dana Bath, who read last week at Milk (where the belter emceed and my friend Shockk provided b.g. music until he was beaten down by p.a. glitches). It wasn’t bad. The quality writing compensated for the fact that I didn’t love the narrator persona she often projected. One story featured a scene at the Hope Slide, which gave me a little thrill. The Hope Slide is one of my favourite things on earth.

I’m not reading anything right now because my eyes need a rest. Some weeks I have days where I get up, answer email, read for an hour on the bus/train, read and edit stuff all day at work, read for another hour on the bus/train home, then edit for a couple more hours at night. After a few days of this, I go temporarily blind.

My sight doesn’t fade to black, exactly, but I get quicksilver spots in my vision where I can’t focus on anything. I can’t read. I have to go for a walk or lie down with my eyes closed for a couple hours to make it go away. I think these might be migraines.

It’s not a tumor.

Tuesday, June 24, 2003

We hit the road unnaturally early on Saturday morning, en route to a Tim Horton's before heading out to Maple Ridge. We were listening to CBC Radio 1, partially because we didn't have any tapes, but also because we couldn't miss a second of their exciting Harry Potter book launch coverage. This one reporter was roaming a parking lot in Hatzic or somewheres, talking to the kids. "Oh my, you should really see this," she said. "There's kids dressed up in all kinds of costumes. There's some dressed as witches, and some look like little goblins..."

You could really tell she'd done her research.

Every day I see someone with one of those J.K. Rowling doorstops cracked open on their lap. My coworkers are reading it. So far I've managed to ignore the whole phenomenon, but with Cypress's ability to finish anything by Cleary in about 15 minutes, I'm intrigued with the possibility of handing her a 700-page book. I'm curious—with music, for every million-selling blockbuster artist or album, there are two dozen underground equivalents who are way better. You just have to dig a bit to find them. What about children's lit? Is Potter as good as it gets?

Monday, June 23, 2003

Smash and I showed up at the appointed time and place to jam yesterday. Unfortunately no one else did. We drove around South Burnaby, looking through windows and buzzing intercoms, trying to rouse the troops, but it wasn’t any use. Nobody home.

We ended up at Smash’s place, camped out in front of the stereo. I’d packed the promo stuff I’d got from Adrian earlier that week, so we previewed some of that, along with the new Himsa album that Smash picked up at the show last Thursday. It was a good afternoon, trading off tunes and making plans for different bands with different lineups of friends. Even if our ideas never amount to anything, it’s at least fun to speculate what might happen.

In the meantime, Smash has a Stoke album to finish, I have about half a dozen unfinished/unmixed nuggets of crap to work on, and JR has custody of some eight-year-old Café Flesh ADATS that he needs to extract some quality moments from. If everyone finds the time, this could be a productive summer for the SoBurn scene.

Sunday, June 22, 2003

Credit goes to Asteroid Belt for this one.

You're Edward Van Halen!
Dude, you're Eddie Van Halen!!

Which Classic Van Halen Member are You?
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Friday, June 20, 2003

Yesterday I went to a funeral for a friend’s father. The church was full, which shows how well this man was liked, and how many connections he made and maintained through his life. It was good to see. He had a lot in common with my dad—he talked loudly on the phone, he was a healthy measure more gregarious than his son, he was very content with himself and his life, he raised a family of good people, and he tied his son’s ties for him. He also chose a nice neighbourhood to live in.

It was a fine sendoff—laughter during and after the service, superb tributes from family members, lots of friends catching up over sandwiches and tea at the reception in the church basement. I mean, that’s what it’s all about. Not that sadness and mourning don’t have their function, but...

I’m a great believer in memory. Right now is just the tip of the iceberg, and the accumulated memories below the surface are what’s keeping the whole operation stable. I have to live life always remembering that I’ll never really die as long as someone remembers me (fondly, I hope).

I think I’m fighting the after-effects of seeing Waking Life again last week.

After the funeral my dad and I stopped by his place so I could pick up my mail. I’d been looking forward to something good in the post, but it turned out to be a bill from the Medical Services Plan, overdue, with threats of enforced collection. Christ. I drop 500 bucks a year into that bloody thing and I haven’t seen a doctor in nearly 20 years.

I paid up at the bank after work. If I don’t go for a checkup soon, the next time I’ll see a doctor is when the belter kicks my ass into the emergency ward.

Monday, June 16, 2003

We went Lougheed Mall-ward on Saturday night to hang out with JR and Rob. After dinner they took us on a tour of their building, which is one of a cluster of apartment towers next to the mall. I hadn’t had the tour for nearly 10 years, when JR first bought his place. Time flies. We checked out the laundry room (75 cents a load), the common areas done in weird '70s rustic style, the swimming pool, a tenant’s classic car collection on P2, and the view from the roof. Tower blocks have weird personas, like they’re ruled by unseen, dullwitted overlords with clipart fetishes and massive Reader’s Digest collections for the laundry room library. JR's building is very Arrowhead.

JR interrupted himself at one point with “I’ve got to show you what I want!” and then took us by someone’s parking level storage locker to view an old Maudite gift set box, which he coveted like a holy relic. We all agreed it was a handsome item.

The belter found salvation by the building’s pool, and while she sat on the edge with her feet in the water I contemplated buying a place. But I don’t know; it’s too scary an undertaking, what with maintenance fees, demented strata councils, plus the worry that the walls are rotting around you. I love where I am right now, except for the fact that the general public basically has free access to our hallways.

I almost got to hear the new Metallica, but the night got away from us. Had to give the Zeppelin DVD priority.

Thursday, June 12, 2003

St. Curiosity
I’ve decided I need to hear the new Metallica album. It’s been so universally & variously condemned, defended, mocked, hailed, that I’ve got to step into the shitstorm of debate myself. The more “senior” critics out there—Don Kaye and Martin Popoff, for example—have made it sound like a genuinely original, interesting album. Meanwhile, the review at SSMT and the postings on Blabbermouth have equated the album to a crime against humanity. “It’s HORRIBLE,” Adrian Bromley told me on the phone the other night, each uppercase letter sizzling with contempt.

St. Anger’s misdemeanours include long, pointless songs, no solos, laughable lyrics, and, interestingly, a bad drum sound. I’m pretty forgiving of drum sounds. I prefer them natural and unprocessed, but I can put up with anything except 1985-style Defenders of the Faith electro-cannons. And I hate it when the drums are mixed too high—see South of Heaven and The Temple of Knowledge. I’m always curious about what others consider a bad drum sound, so that’s another reason I want to hear St. Anger.

Monday, June 09, 2003

I spent all day Saturday at a volunteer strategy session for my professional association, which was as exciting as it sounds. At least I was downtown, so I got out during the lunch break and browsed through A&B. Not much excitement to be found there. White-tagged stuff was 20% off, so I'd brought a short list with me. Unfortunately they didn’t have most of it. This happens more and more to me. Either A&B is narrowing the variety of stuff they order or my tastes are getting more obscure…it’s probably some of both.

I don’t think anything on Relapse Records is all that obscure, so I was disappointed not to find the new Dysrhythmia album. Guess I’ll go to Scrape for that one.

I walked out with a copy of Sad Days, Lonely Nights by Junior Kimbrough. I felt like some more Junior, having enjoyed his first, All Night Long, for the past year. After one listen, Sad Days… definitely has the goods. I also got the impression that there’s not much variety between songs, resulting in an album-length blues dirge more suited to autumn than the summer-like weather we’ve been sweating through recently. I’ll keep spinning it, though, knowing that its time is gonna come.

Which brings me to Led Zeppelin, a band for all seasons. I picked up How the West Was Won a couple weeks ago. Any Led Zeppelin release is a household necessity, and How the West… has installed itself in our apartment as permanently as the fridge, the mousetraps, and the belter’s bucket of nail polishes.

This new release features a less jaded Zeppelin than their other live album (or original motion picture soundtrack). They’re nevertheless prone to bloating the songs to prodigious length and girth. I think this album has more interesting epics than The Song Remains the Same. “Dazed and Confused,” for example, breaks into “The Crunge” (from the then-unreleased Houses of the Holy) at one point, while the 23 minutes of “Whole Lotta Love” features a more extensive blues/rock ’n’ roll medley than the version on TSRtS.

Other plusses: “Stairway to Heaven” hasn’t yet become Robert Plant’s personal musical albatross, and he performs it with fewer asides and minimal scatting. The acoustic set that closes disc one represents an aspect of the Zeppelin sound that TSRtS entirely neglected.

Possible minuses: No “No Quarter” or “The Rain Song,” so the album downplays Zeppelin’s more ethereal side somewhat. I’m not sure if there’s a stretch of music on here that can equal the panty-removing properties of TSRtS’s side three. And the packaging, as Steve Newton in the Straight pointed out, is pretty chintzy.

The sound is spectacular. John Paul Jones could always be louder in the mix, but that’s a personal preference. The whole band sounds great, and you can clearly hear what’s going on at all times.

To sum up, it’s the new Led Zeppelin album, and it’s a crusher. Don’t take it for granted. Bring it on home.

Friday, June 06, 2003

The Skytrain stopped between Rupert and Renfrew on the way home today. Hearing those emergency brakes grinding, I knew this wouldn’t be a short delay. We had a sketchy guy in the car: “This sucks. Fuckin’ sucks. Really, really sucks.” He wouldn’t sit down even though there were plenty of seats, which made me nervous.

After a couple of minutes mission control backed us into Rupert and opened the doors. An attendant came into our car and told us there’d been a track incursion at Renfrew and he didn’t know when we’d get going again. Nearly everyone got off and walked up to Broadway to catch the bus.

People started trading track incursion stories while they waited for the #9. There was that time at Stadium Station. Guy had a heart attack, fell on the tracks. What happened that time at Waterfont? Blind person walked between the cars. That’s sad—blind. Sad. I wonder if she had a dog? No, definitely not.

It was jeezly hot today. Crossing over the Grandview cut on the #9, I looked down into Commercial Drive station. A big crowd of people on the platform waited for Skytrain service to resume. They gathered under the shade, well away from the platform edge. They had the right idea.

Wednesday, June 04, 2003

Ozzy Osbourne, Finger Eleven and Voivod: June1, 2003, GM Place
My good friend Bob Sox came through with some comps for this show, charitably promoted by the Sun’s “Queue” section as a “white trash be-in.” This is in contrast, I presume, to the sophisticated events the Sun endorses, at which Malcolm Parry climbs a step stool and happily snaps away while the city’s intelligentsia mash their fake breasts together.

Anyway, after pre-show drinks at Dix (where Scum dropped a you-had-to-be-there reference to the blue Beatles double album), we headed to the rink. We had to be on time for this gig—no Trowering!—because Voivod were first on the bill.

Smash was hell bent on exchanging his comp ticket for a floor ticket, but the scalpers wouldn’t go for it, nor could he fool the folks inside GM Place giving out green wristband passes to people with floor tickets. Our seats turned out to be just fine—16 rows up on the left side of the stage.

When you’re facing a big unknown like a job interview or a major trip, you can mull it over for a long time, posit a scenario from all the variables and contingencies, and decide you’ve got a good handle on it. But oftentimes when the event arrives and you’re in the midst of it, you realize that you had no idea all along. This is what happened when the lights went down and Voivod came on stage.

Piggy struck up the crawling two-note intro to the Voivod theme song, the self-titled track that opened up their debut album—just like on Sabbath’s first record. “Ha-ha, a nice little teaser,” I thought. “Now they’ll go into something from the new album.” Snake played a little air violin for the crowd down front—the floor was about 1/3 full at this point, with a few hundred other people scattered around the lower tier of seats. Piggy finished the intro with a final note rising to full volume. Snake walked up to the mike…


Christ on a crutch! Away they went, thrashing like it was 1984, playing “Voivod” by Voivod in GM Place with an ex-member of Metallica on bass. Whoa. This wasn’t on the tickets or in the ads. There was no recent post on Blabbermouth saying, “Voivod to open set with ‘Voivod’”. I went a bit mental.

They didn’t peak with that molten oldie either. They maintained the mania through a stupendous seven-song set, which balanced the new—“Rebel Robot,” “We Are Not Alone,” “Gasmask Revival” and “We Carry On”—with the old, including a rock solid version of “Tribal Convictions,” the “hit single” (in South Burnaby or on Ganymede) from 1988’s Dimension Hatross (the tremolo guitar part near the end sounded huge in the hockey barn) and set closer “Astronomy Domine” where Piggy compensated for muffing up the solo by pulling out his toy laser gun for some spatial FX. A glorious half hour, which I’m still buzzing from.

After declaring a crushing victory for rock ’n’ roll, Smash took off for parts unknown while I waited for Finger Eleven to come on. When they did, F11 brought out the grumpy old man in me, with their overblown Percussion Institute of Technology-grad drummer and guitarists who thought they were in the Dillinger Escape Plan or Botch, spasming across the stage like electrified mice while playing F11’s heavily amplified campfire songs. The crowd didn’t take to it either, and started chanting, Ozzy, Ozzy… “He’ll be out here soon,” promised the singer, “but not soon enough, I guess.” I went for a walk after four songs.

Ozzy opened strong with “War Pigs” and paced himself through a nearly two-hour show. I’d been expecting an hour plus an encore at most. While I’m not a great fan of solo Ozzy, a lot of other people are, judging by the number of his tunes in Popoff’s top 500 book. The set list delivered the usual—“Mr. Crowley,” “Crazy Train,” “Suicide Solution,” “I Don’t Know,” “Flying High Again,” “Mama I’m Coming Home,” et cetera. To my relief, he busted out some excellent Sabbath surprises, like “The Wizard,” which kicked off a medley of “After Forever,” “Into the Void,” and “Fairies Wear Boots.” He also sang “NIB,” and sang it very well; better than he did in 1970, in fact (I have a videotape that can prove it!). He resorted to confused slurring at other points, especially the last part of “After Forever.”

As for the rest of the band, Jasonic was doing his best at being Geezer with a plectrum. I thought his tone suited Voivod better than it did Ozzy’s more bluesy material. Guitarist Zakk Wylde is like some genetically engineered, lab-tested rock star (yeah, and didn’t he play a rock star in Rock Star?), grimacing and sweating and soloing like a sumvabitch, and throwing in an excerpt from “Eruption” during his solo spot. When we compared notes after the show, Ken stated that he’s not a huge fan—“Zakk Wylde’s not a blues guy. I think Ozzy should hook up with Marino.”

Ozzy himself was quite low key, for Ozzy. Close-ups on the big screen showed his face screwed up in concentration while he sang, his gaze not connecting with anything except the teleprompter at his feet. He made an effort while away from the mike, attempting a few leapfrog jumps, getting the crowd to clap their hands, and throwing bucketfuls of water over the first few rows—don’t slip a disc there, Ozzy!

Near the end of the show, he abandoned his “go crazy!” and “I love you all!” mantras to give us an update on Sharon’s cancer (beaten) and Jack’s stay in rehab (going well), and a warning against drinking and driving on the way home. His current fame as a TV dad was reflected in the number of parents with kids in the audience. I won’t say much about the suitability of Ozzy on TV or in concert for impressionable 10-year-olds other than better Ozzy than Grand Theft Auto. I will say that I hope all the Billys in attendance got a wholesome dose of Voivod as well.

When the show was over, I waited for Smash to come back from the floor—he got down there using a wristband that Ken fashioned from excess green tape and dental floss—then we merged into the flow of people heading to the exits. We found Scum and Ken all right, but Sox never turned up. I didn’t get a chance to thank him for the ticket on the way home, so I’d like to do it here. Cheers, man. It was a great night.

Tuesday, June 03, 2003

I read the news today oh boy about parents using the Fraser Institute’s annual high school rankings to select the "best" schools for their kids. The Liberal government says parents are free to choose any school regardless of where they reside in the city. Choice is good, competition is good (the message goes), whether it's stereo equipment or your kid's education. Forget about your neighbourhood. The Fraser Institute says the school down the block sucks, so you might as well let it rot and join the queue of SUVs headed west every morning.

East Side high schools like John Oliver are below capacity, while West Side schools like Eric Hamber have to install portables to meet the demand for space. Stories like this make me want to smash stuff with a crowbar.