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Saturday, December 31, 2005

Since I'm sitting here I might as well make what's probably my last post of the year. Thanks to everyone who has visited here this year. Hopefully 2006 will be a better year for everyone than 2005, no matter how good 2005 has been.

Friday, December 30, 2005

As I was out and about today I saw two examples of stupidity. One was some kid riding his bike inside a shopping mall. He had to be told at least three times to get off his bike by someone from mall administration. You'd think anyone over the age of 5 would realise that bike riding isn't allowed in malls. Then there was the joker who tried to get on a bus with yesterday's bus transfers. He tried to claim he was just given them by another bus driver, but the driver on the bus I was on wasn't buying it. I later overheard some discussion over the bus radio system about someone who might have been the same guy.

Sometimes I wonder about the Saskatoon Star Phoenix. One of today's front page stories was a list of psychic predictions. Hardly the kind of thing that should be on the front page of a non tabloid. As is usually the case with such predictions they were a mismash of nonsense, sure bets, and deliberate vagueness. For example its not hard to predict that Kirk Douglas might die in the next year given that his health isn't what it once was and he'll be turning 90 next year. I'll make my own "psychic" prediction. The Star Phoenix won't publish a followup article this time next year detailing how many of the predictions they printed did not happen. On the other hand there are some people keeping track of failed predictions.

The former Hudsons Bay store at 23rd St. and 2nd Ave. in Saskatoon is currently being converted into condos. Unfortunately one of the casualties of the conversion is the mosaic on part of the building. Consisting of various coloured geometric shapes much of it has already been cut away to make way for the installation of windows. I would imagine the rest will be removed or painted over in due course. Its too bad this couldn't be preserved, but I'm definitely glad to see this project go ahead. Unfortunately nothing is happening with the old King George Hotel across the street, and the longer it stays unrenovated the more likely it is that it will have to be torn down. It would be a shame, as more condos is a much better thing for downtown than yet another parking lot.
Its interesting how much difference a name can make. I had lunch with my grandmother on Thursday at the retirement home she lives in. The first choice on the menu was sauerbraten, German roast beef. Apparently though most people had no clue what it was, as they chose the alternative, roast pork. In fact so many people chose roast pork that they ran out of it. If they had simply called the sauerbraten roast beef I'm sure most of the clientle would have chosen it instead.

There was a young man at the next table visiting his grandfather. He actually ordered the large serving of whatever it was he had. Yet the only thing he seemed to eat was the meat. Most odd.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

The visitor count here sure has gone up in the last few days. Thanks to everyone who dropped in, and I hope some of the new visitors will come back.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Yes, another quick post. I was just checking out the recent hits for the blog and got a nice little nostalgic surprise. I received a hit from someone looking at the Radio Netherlands Media Network blog. Media Network is a long running Radio Netherlands program that deals with international and other forms of broadcasting. Back when I listened to a lot of shortwave radio in the early '90s I was a regular listener to the program, so its neat to get a visitor via their blog. Someday, I've said more than once, I'm going to have to try and see if I can start listening again. Unfortunately my listening has long been hampered by the noise level in the house, much of which comes from having the computer on.
Regular visitors to this blog have probably noticed the Firefox browser download icon I've recently added. Looking at the visitor statistics for this site indicates that they've got a long way to go in attracting users. Visitors using Firefox are a distant second to those using Internet Explorer in some form. Of course this is really no surprise given that most computers in use these days use some form of Windows, and IE comes with Windows. A user will in most cases have to deliberately decide to use another web browser, and this isn't an option for those who access the Internet via public terminals or systems supplied by their employers.

Monday, December 26, 2005

There was a personal irony for me in reporting Derek Bailey's death. Today I purchased Extrapolation, John McLaughlin's first album under his own name from 1969. The drummer on it was Bailey collaborator Tony Oxley. Incidently if you're a fan of late '60s jazz or McLaughlin check this one out. Saxophonist John Surman gets plenty of solo time, and in at least one place sounds to my ears a bit like Pharoah Sanders.
Sad news to report. Guitarist Derek Bailey has apparently died in London at age 75, although some reports state he died in Barcelona. Bailey began playing guitar at a young age and eventually became a professional musician playing in various conventional contexts. By the early '60s his playing began to move away from conventional forms. Initially playing contemporary jazz the trio Joseph Holbrook, which also included younger musicians Tony Oxley and Gavin Bryars, eventually became one of the first groups to play what became known as free improvisation. Bailey developed what he called a non idiomatic form of playing that was unique to itself, and would go on to play with numerous musicians of various genres, as well as extensive stints of solo playing and collaborations with dancers like Japanese Butoh dancer Min Tanaka and tapdancer Will Gaines. Despite his comment about having little interest in recorded music Bailey released numerous albums in his lifetime, his last being this year's Carpal Tunnel on John Zorn's Tzadik label. He also ran the Incus label which chronicled the free improv scene, and whose fate is likely in jeopardy given his death.

Bailey's playing isn't for everyone. To many what he does sounds like random noises strung together. But for those whose ears can hear it there is melody there, just not the kind of melody you're likely to hum walking down the street on a sunny day.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

I was outside a few minutes ago unplugging some Christmas lights. After I did I decided to look up at the sky for a couple of minutes. Imagine my surprise when I saw a meteor streak across the sky. Its neat when something like that happens completely by chance. If I'd gone out even a little bit later I probably would have missed it.
It may be Christmas Day, but the con artists are still at work. I've checked my e-mail a couple of times today, and the fake eBay messages and so forth continue. I guess they don't want to miss a single chance at ripping someone off.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Have a Merry Christmas everyone.
Its Christmas Eve, and for many today will be one of panic, perhaps even all out terror. These are the people who have left their Christmas shopping until today. I'm not talking about people buying incidentals, like buns for tomorrow's turkey supper. (You'd better not be thinking about buying turkey today, you'll probably get the bottom of the barrel.) I'm talking about folks who will buy all their presents today. As a result they'll be forced to brave massive crowds desperately hoping they can finally find the presents they need, that they're not sold out. Indeed some will still be trying to figure out exactly what they are going to get people. And is often the case when large numbers of frantic people are out and about the stupidity quotient will likely go up, driving store clerks everywhere up the wall with stupid requests and childish behaviour. Of course this probably isn't the worst day of the year for Canadian retail employees. In much of the country that will be December 26th, Boxing Day, when stores have massive sales and hence bargain hungry consumers descend en masse in a frenzy, their common sense overriden by the need to buy that 39 buck DVD player or what have you. Not to mention the dumdums who just can't get it through their heads that most places will not be taking returns that day.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Looks like its bad news for James Bond fans, at least in Saskatchewan. If you watch Spike TV you've probably seen lots of ads for their "8 Days of Bond" Christmas marathon. But what are we seeing at the moment? Not Bond, but episode after episode of VIP. No doubt its some sort of rights conflict, with some Canadian station having rights to the Bond films in the Canadian market at the moment, but its still annoying.
Weird. I'm suddenly popular in Ireland apparently, as the last few hits have all come from Ireland. Well, okay, its not me, its Megas XLR pron that's generating the hits. Naughty naughty!
Wal Mart in Canada is trying an experiment. Until 6 pm on Christmas Eve 9 Wal Mart stores will stay open 24 hours a day. One of them is the Saskatoon Preston Crossing outlet. Personally I doubt Saskatoon is currently a good market for the idea. There aren't enough shift workers who would be interested in shopping at 2 in the morning to provide enough regular customers. It doesn't help that the Preston Crossing store is located a bit out of the way for a casual shopper in the middle of the night to just drop in.

One of the things that the city needs to consider when updating its bus routes next year is improving service to Preston Crossing. Currently only two routes service the area, 22 and 27, and 27 only runs on a full schedule while the University of Saskatchewan is in regular session. The last bus out to Preston is 6:30 PM, limiting access to anyone who doesn't have an automobile, including employees of the stores at Preston Crossing. There should be more routes that access Preston Crossing more often. A route that connects the bus mall at the Centre at Circle and 8th to Preston Crossing would probably be a good idea, as residents of the east side of Saskatoon currently have to go downtown or to Place Riel on the University of Saskatchewan campus to catch a bus out there. The existing bus stops up there either need to have bus shelters installed or be moved closer to the actual stores.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

When it comes to pulling muscles pulling the ones under your chin from yawning wrong has to be amongst the more painful. I did that a few minutes ago. Ouchy.

Next time you have some junk food take a look at the weight of the fat in it. I had a bag of potato chips on Wednesday, and of the 60 grams total weigh of the package 15 grams were of fat. In other words the actual weight of the potatoes themselves is only 45 grams. Check out your favourite soft drink and you're likely to be equally disturbed by the weight of the sugar in it. Hmmm, perhaps its time to consider another "I'm gonna cut back almost completely on the junk food" New Year's resolution folks.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

It looks like Saskatoon may be in for a Brown Christmas. The forecast for the next few days calls for the daytime high to be around the freezing mark until Sunday. Definitely better than a -30 degrees Celcius like some years.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

New York City is currently in the grip of a transit strike. This reminded me of when Saskatoon had a transit strike years ago. I actually ended up walking across the city when the bus drivers went off the job mid morning. Fortunately it was spring or summer when this occured. I think it took me about 2 hours give or take to cross from the Mall at Lawson Heights to my home in College Park. I've made a similar trip on foot a couple of times over the years, and one of these days I'll have to try it again.
Condolences to the family of Wayne Gretzky. His mother Phyllis has died at 64 of cancer.

From the "only the good die young" files comes the news that Vincent "the Chin" Gigante has died of heart disease at 77. Gigante was the head of the Genovese crime family, one of the "Five Families" of organised crime in New York. For years he avoided prosecution on various charges by pretending to be mentally ill. But he was convicted in 1997 after a number of Mafia figures testified that Gigante was anything but insane, such as Sammy "the Bull" Gravano, former associate of John Gotti. Regular viewers of the series Law and Order may remember an episode from several seasons ago where a high mob figure is pretending to be insane to avoid prosecution, a plotline very obviously based on Gigante. Gigante admitted his sanity as part of a 2003 plea bargain.

And to end on a silly note there are times I wish I could bring things out of my dreams. Just before I woke up this morning I dreamed I found several empty beer bottles and pop cans in the street. I've got a pile I'm about to take in for recycling and a few more would be that much extra cash.
I'm a lucky man right now. I've got all my Christmas shopping done. Of course this is because I have only my immediate family to buy for. Finding gifts for them is hard enough. I'd hate to think of having to buy gifts for a bigger family, or for random co-workers. Its hard to say how hard it would be to find a gift for a girlfriend if I had one. It would depend on the woman of course. Of course I could have been really lazy and just bought everyone gift certificates, but there's just something about buying an actual object as a gift, something you actually put some thought into, that makes it feel more appropriate.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

My brother got lucky. He came in via Westjet Friday night. Unfortunately they lost one of the pieces of his luggage. They found it sometime Saturday and brought it to Saskatoon. Not only that they had someone drive it over here Saturday evening. Given the screwup its nice they didn't make him have to drive all the way back to the airport to pick it up.

Friday, December 16, 2005

It was announced today that the costs for the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics are going up, and that the Vancouver Olympic organising committee will seek more government money. Is anyone surprised?

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Anyone who gets large amounts of spam gets their fair share of penis enlargement offers. One would assume that the purpose of these is to make money, but another possible, darker purpose comes to mind. The folks behind this spam are really interested in putting together a list of the people who respond positively to these ads. They will then at some point reveal this list to the world, hoping to embarrass untold numbers of men by pointing out "Hey, this guy has a small penis he wants to enlarge!"

Ridiculous? Hey, its no more ridiculous than most conspiracy theories. And if it takes off you read it here first.
Saskatoon will be having a very interesting visitor in March. Former US President Bill Clinton will appear at the Centennial Auditorium March 8th to give a speech on international relations and take part in a question and answer session afterwards. The appearance will be hosted by local talk radio host and former Progressive Conservative MP John Gormley. I heard a radio ad for this today, which asked what Clinton and Gormley have in common. Although the answer in the ad is "Not much" my response is that the probably both have rather large egos. I don't imagine I'll be going. It would be interesting to see a former US President in person, but the cheap seats are 84 bucks, with the most expensive tickets being $235. A tad out of my price range I'm afraid.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

If you know someone named Jason Leitner please let him know his spam is ending up in my mailbox. For some reason over the last few days I've gotten multiple pieces of spam that have a subject line that's some variation on "Hey, Jason Leitner." Hmm, does that mean someone is getting spam addressed to me instead of me?

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

It seems that former Saskatoon-Humboldt MP Jim Pankiw is likely going to run in this election. He wants to run as an independent in Battlefords-Lloydminster. The incumbent MP in the riding, Conservative Gerry Ritz, smartly commented Monday that "He got a brand new parachute for Christmas and I guess he wants to try it out." I can't say I had really heard of Ritz before today, but I do like that comment. One can only wonder why Pankiw is running again when he seems less than interested in the actual work of being an MP, defending his absense for three quarters of all Parliamentary votes since 2000, and all of them in 2004, by stating that voting "changes absolutely nothing." Ritz thinks Pankiw is banking on voters in a largely rural riding being more supportive of his behaviour than those in a largely rural one. I suspect he's wasting his time. Ritz has been MP since 1997 when he was elected as a Reform member, and the people of Battlefords-Lloydminster apparently support his eventual membership in the current Conservative Party, or they would have voted for someone else. And Pankiw's candidacy isn't likely to hurt Ritz that much, as Ritz won by more than 5000 votes over his nearest competitor, Shawn McKee of the NDP, in the 2004 election. My conclusion? Pankiw shouldn't bother, but I guess the spotlight is too hard for him to stay away from.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Wow, Dave Brubeck has just turned 85! I hadn't realised he was that old. Fortunately despite his age he's still active as a player. Its always nice when artists can keep on doing their craft at an advanced age.
A quick hello to all those visitors who have come by thanks to Randy McDonald's link to my comments on the Memoirs of a Geisha movie. There have been quite a few of you over the last few days.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

The world of comedy has lost an influential figure. Richard Pryor has died of a heart attack at age 65. Pryor began as a stand up comic in the 1960s and eventually moved on to a successful film career, including 4 films costarring Gene Wilder. Unfortunately he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1986 which eventually curtalled his career. Pryor also had substance abuse problems, which has prompted occasional speculation that drugs played a role in the onset of his MS. Many of today's black comics such as Chris Rock would likely not have careers if not for Pryor's pioneering work, so perhaps they should consider donating money in his name for MS research.

Friday, December 09, 2005

When Arthur Golden's book Memoirs of a Geisha hit the shelves in 1997 it quickly became a bestseller. Not surprisingly the book generated controversy in some quarters. It was a first person narrative told from the perspective of a woman who was sold as a child to a geisha house in the late 1920s and her life in that world. Yet it was written by a white American male. It didn't help that Mineko Iwasaki, a former postwar geisha who Golden interviewed extensively for the book, sued him for revealing her involvement in creating the book despite promises not to, and what she claimed were inaccuracies.

Now, some eight years later, the movie version has hit the theatres. Its had a long genesis, initial preproduction work beginning back in 1999. Steven Spielberg was the first of several potential directors, with production finally getting underway with director Rob Marshall. Spielberg is executive producer. The initial critical response has been largely negative. Not surprisingly a lot of reviewers found it to have a problem I long suspected, that of language. Its no surprise the film is in English given that its an 85 million buck American production. But the choice of actresses greatly complicated things. The role of Sayuri is played by Chinese actress Zhang Ziyi, and her costars are Chinese actress Gong Li and Malaysian-Chinese actress Michelle Yeoh. Only Yeoh has extensive experience with English, and the result is apparently often stilted dialogue, especially with Zhang Ziyi struggling with her first English role. Its too bad she didn't have a chance to debut in English in a situation where her unfamiliarity with the language would be less of a problem. Ironically this problem would all but certainly have turned up if Japanese actresses had taken those roles, although Youki Kudoh, who plays a supporting role in this film, would have made an excellent choice given her English language acting experience.

Casting non Japanese as geisha has proven controversial in many quarters, but was probably inevitable. Unfortunately there are no Japanese actresses with the same kind of American name recognition as the starring trio. Unfortunately marketability is going to be the first and foremost concern with a movie like this. Some of the other changes, such as heavily toning down the traditional white geisha makeup and hairdos because of concerns they would turn off American viewers, are less easy to understand. The viewer is already being presented with an unfamiliar world. In other words one gets the impression that the filmmakers don't trust their audiences enough.

But in the end the reviews seem to indicate the biggest problem with the film is that its simply poorly written. Flaws in setting and language can be overlooked if the story overall works, but that doesn't seem to be the case with this film. It sounds like the hope was that the exotic setting would carry the film past its flaws, but it doesn't seem to have worked.

I really hadn't planned on seeing this film in the theatres anyways, but the reviews haven't helped. I think I'll wait until it appears on the cable movie channels, and maybe sit and watch with the sound off just to check out the costumes and sets.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Despite my melodramatic post of last night I'm still around. Still don't feel too great however. Hopefully tomorrow will be better.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

If you don't see a post here again its because this horrible bug I have has done me in. Boy, do I ever feell like crap tonight. My mother wasn't feeling well at the start of the week and I speculated it might be food poisoning. Guess not. If you live in the Saskatoon area good luck at not getting this thing, whatever it is.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Someone in an online forum I frequent made a comment yesterday about his frustration that so many current films seem to be remakes or based on old TV shows. This made me think that there is one film I've never heard anyone suggest was due for a remake: Citizen Kane. I wonder why. Much less well known films, such as Flight of the Phoenix, have been remade. Although the story was very obviously based in part on the story of 19th Century newspaper tycoon William Randolph Hearst its not hard to imagine a modern version being every bit as relevant to comtemporary viewers. Perhaps its considered too much of an icon to tamper with, just as no one seems to be in a hurry to make a modern take on Cecil B. Demille's 1956 classic The Ten Commandments. (Ironically Demille made a Biblical epic of the same name in 1923.) Perhaps the film is seen as a jinxed one given Orson Welles problems with Hollywood after making Kane. Of course knowing the way things go someone is even as I write this considering a Kane remake.

Monday, December 05, 2005

I'm not sure how much I'm going to post about the current Canadian election campaign. There's going to be more than enough commentary as it is. But one thing I have noticed so far is very few election signs have gone up yet. I've only seen a couple in my riding for the New Democratic candidate, Andrew Mason. I suppose its early days yet, but his signs seemed to be up within a day or so of the election announcement.

I reside in the Saskatoon-Humboldt riding, and it will be interesting to see what happens this election given how close the last one was. The current MP, Conservative Party member Brad Trost, won by 417 votes in a hotly contested riding. Second place finisher Nettie Wiebe of the NDP came in only 18 votes ahead of Patrick Wolfe of the Liberals. The wild card was the notorious Jim Pankiw, the incumbent MP at the time. Its safe to say a lot what drove the vote in 2004 was the desire by many to get rid of Pankiw. With him gone will voter turnout drop? Trost has been relatively quiet as MPs go, which is not surprising given he's a rookie and apparently doesn't have Pankiw's pechant for outrageous statements and grandstanding.

As always I encourage Canadians to get out and vote if they can, even if its to vote for the candidate you find least objectionable.
Very strange. My blog has a different background and format when I look at it from my computer than if I look at it from other computers.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Is it a bad sign when a film or TV show has major characters who have the same first name as the actors and actresses playing them? In my experience it often is. An example is a film I just watched a part of, China Strike Force. This 2000 Chinese made film was obviously intended for an international audience given the casting, which features American action adventure actor Mark Dacascos(who really should be in better roles than he usually gets), Hong Kong actor Aaron Kwok, rapper Coolio, and Japanese actress/spokesmodel Norika Fujiwara. Unfortunately it really doesn't work, having a weak script and a lot of limp acting. And to top it off we have the "real name" problem. Coolio's character...is named Coolio! Fujiwara plays a character named Norika. (The film was released in Japan as Spy N, to cash on her popularity.) When scriptwriters can't be bothered to spend 2 minutes to come up with names for some of the major characters they generally aren't in a hurry to put much effort into other areas of the film.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

I was just looking up a book on Wikipedia, and the front page presented an interesting bit of information. It had an article discussing the recent Gabonese election. The winner? President Omar Bongo Ondimba, who has ruled Gabon since 1967(as long as I've been alive), and who is Africa's longest currently serving leader.

To a North American seeing a President Bongo is a bit odd. His name sounds like something from an old film, and its not hard to imagine that many people on this side of the Atlantic, not knowing of his existence, would consider naming an African character Bongo in a piece of fiction, movie, or TV show to be bordering on the edge of racism. Yet he's a real person, not a fictional character. Most peculiar.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

If your hobby is collecting the autographs of Canadian musicians you might want to be in Saskatoon April 1st, 2007. It was announced today that the 2007 Juno Awards will be held at the Credit Union Centre as well as possibly other venues like the Centennial Auditorium. In recent years the awards have been held in various locations across Canada. Next year's edition is scheduled to take place in Halifax.
How's this for silly? A Norwegian film director believes that JK Rowling may not actually exist, and that the Harry Potter books are written by ghost writers. The woman we know as JK Rowling? She's just an actress, speculates Nina Grunfeld. Oh well, at least she's not claiming the Potter books are a plot by evildoers to convert children to Satanism.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005


This post is only a test. However, here is some random content. The picture is of my Aria Pro II TS-300 Thor Sound, this being from the eBay auction that I got the guitar through. I removed the pickguard a long while back, as these type of guitars look better to me without one. One of these days I'll have to post a proper digital camera shot of it and my Stratocaster for visiting guitar nuts to drool over.
Today there was an article in the Saskatoon Star Phoenix about the closing of HEL Music, which I mentioned on here last week. Unfortunately the article is only available online to website subscribers so I can't provide you with a link. (That seems to happen a lot with Star Phoenix articles I'd like to present here, much to my annoyance.) Owner/founder Ralph Johnstone states that his closing the store is simply for personal reasons and not market ones. In fact he says this year has been a great business year, with sales and profits up. The HEL building, which Johnstone owns and had built specifically for HEL, has been on the market since January, predating Long and McQuade's move into their new Saskatoon "big box" style home on 43rd Street. It has finally sold to the owners of Outter Limits , a Saskatoon outdoor clothing and camping equipment store also located on Broadway Avenue. Johnstone has simply decided he'd prefer the winters in British Columbia to those in Saskatoon. It must be nice to be in a situation where you can make such a decision when you feel the time is right. He also notes that although HEL Music was too big for a takeover by its employees some of them are considering starting their own musical instrument retailer sometime next year.

The HEL building has housed a number of other musical tenants over the years. Currently Ed's Musical Instrument Repair is next door to HEL Music on the street level of the building. Upstairs is the Vinyl Diner, a new and used record and CD store. The space they occupy had for a number of years housed Audio Art Recording, one of Saskatoon's recording studios. At one time HEL had their consignment room upstairs, and it was interesting to climb the rather steep stairs needed to get there. I always wondered how they got some of the heavier and bulkier stuff, like large keyboards and speaker cabinets, up those stairs.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

For those foreign visitors who've heard about the upcoming Canadian federal election and are curious about Canadian political parties here's a list. A big, long list. Frankly I'm amazed at the number of federal political parties there have been in Canada. Of course its not hard to get a few people together and call yourselves a political party. Actually running for office, let alone getting elected, is another matter.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Starting with his first recording sessions as a sideman in 1945 the recording career of Miles Davis would cover a span of nearly 50 years. During that time he would become the most influential trumpet player in post World War 2 jazz, and only overshadowed as most important jazz trumpet player period by Louis Armstrong. Not surprisingly a large number of books have been written about Davis, covering the entirety of his career. The most recent is The Last Miles: The Music of Miles Davis, 1980-1991 by George Cole. This is the only book to date to concentrate on the music Miles made in the last years of his life. His comeback at the beginning of the 1980s shocked many, as poor health and a renewed problem with drug addiction had forced him into retirement in 1975. As was often the case with Miles the music was controversial, as so much of it was more overtly commercial, for lack of a better term, than even his electric music of the '70s.

Cole provides an in depth look at this period from the perspective of someone who enjoys this period of Miles' work. He obviously couldn't discuss this music with the most important person in the story, Miles himself, but he interviewed the majority of those musicians involved with this period, as well as members of the road crew, employees of Columbia Records and Warner Brothers Records, and friends and family. Although this is primarily a book about the music we also get a look at elements of Miles' personal life of the period given that its impossible to separate a musician's work from the rest of his life, and the ups and downs of Davis' health played a considerable role in that last decade of work. Cole gives us a comprehensive look at the studio recordings, live performances, and Miles' guest appearances on the recordings of others. There are a few places where I found Cole's description of certain technical elements of the recording process slightly off, but these aren't likely to be noticed by the non musician. Overall this is an enjoyable book, recommended for anyone interested in the music of Miles Davis.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Today on CBC's Cross Country Checkup the discusssion is about the probable federal election that's expected to be called after tomorrow's non confidence vote in Parliament. As is often the case when elections are discussed a caller mentioned fixed election dates. This is a concept I'm no fan of. All one has to do is look at what happens in the US, where government business becomes sluggish for almost a year before each election. Canada's electoral system is of course far less complicated than the US system of primaries and electoral college votes, but its pretty obvious that even with our system fixed election dates will result in months before each election of blantant political antics by the political parties while the business of government gets shunted to the side. Of course there are worse electoral changes, like those who want judges to be elected. I would rather not have to face a judge who might make decisions on my case based on whether they'll get him reelected. Its ironic that people complain about politicised judges, and their suggestion to change this is to make judges another layer of politicians.
Hmm, my last post was number 666. So much for silly superstitions, nothing bad happened on Saturday to me.

I've just been watching the first Michael Keaton Batman film on TV. I don't know what it looked like in the theatre, but on TV too much of it is too dark. Its often hard to tell what's going on, especially in the final segment of the film. Sometimes TV just isn't the right medium for a film.

Friday, November 25, 2005

One more Paul Hellyer comment. I spent some time today looking at blog entries on his little speech, and only one or two of the dozens I checked out could be called even slightly sympathetic to his point of view. I would have thought there would be some pro UFO blogs on his side. Perhaps its because of some of the sources spreading the story, such as Matt Drudge's online tabloid. Maybe UFO nuts don't read them.
Trolling around blogs looking for Paul Hellyer stuff to laugh at I just found out that Pat Morita has died. He was 73. Morita was probably best known for his role as Mr. Miyagi in the movie The Karate Kid and its sequels, and for playing Arnold on the early seasons of Happy Days. He also had a starring role in the late '80s cop series Ohara.
Here's a headshaker. Former Liberal Defense Minister Paul Hellyer is supporting calls for the Senate to hold hearings on contact with aliens. Hellyer is apparently worried that the US might start a war with supposedly friendly aliens, and claims the US wants to build a military base on the Moon to fight aliens. Is he going senile? Beats me. I do know that I don't want the Senate wasting time and money on holding hearings like that.
Its goodbye to a long running Saskatoon business. HEL Music Supplies will be closing its doors at the beginning of 2006 after 30 years in business. They'll be reducing prices on all stock over the next month, and anything that doesn't sell by January 7th will be auctioned off January 8th. Its sad to see it go. Perhaps I should have bought more there, although I did recently purchase a Godlyke Powerall from them. I can't help but wonder if Long and McQuade's Saskatoon branch moving into a much larger building this year, allowing them to carry a lot more stock, had anything to do with it. Apparently their web business will continue on for a while yet. Buying and selling "vintage" items via a website from your home at your leisure must be a lot less hassle than running a general music store. It will be interesting to see whether another "mom and pop" type store will spring up to fill HEL's niche in the Saskatoon market. I suspect the answer is no. Besides L&M(there are 23 other stores in that chain) any potential music store will have to compete with the Saskatoon branches of Mothers Music(which also has stores in Edmonton, Calgary, and Winnipeg) and St. Johns Music(which has 7 other locations in Canada). Their multiple outlets allow them a purchasing advantage over a single independant store. Come to think of it the Saskatoon branch of St. Johns starting to sell guitars and basses again after a several year layoff may also have cut into the low end of HEL's business.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

The most interesting hit on this blog so far this week, you ask? Well, actually you didn't, but here it is anyway. It was someone from Triple Canopy checking out blogs. Triple Canopy is a Virginia based firm that provides contract security services, including for branches of the US Government. They were mentioned on here a while back in regard to a former Saskatchewan resident, an employee of theirs, that was killed in Iraq. Its interesting to make a comment on a company and have one of their employees read what you've written about them. I guess I'll have to keep my eyes open and see if Boeing, Airbus, or Lockheed-Martin employees hit my blog after my previous post about the Canadian Armed Forces.
It was announced Monday that the Canadian Armed Forces intends to select a new tatical transport aircraft as soon as possible. The requirement is for some 16 aircraft and will run in the range of 4.5 billion dollars Canadian. My guess is that the most likely candidate for the contract is the Lockheed C130J Hercules. Others think so too, including those in the aviation biz who figure the requirements for the program are biased towards the C130J. Other proposed candidates include the Airbus A400 and the Boeing C17. But its not hard to see why the JHerc has the advantage. The C17 is generally believed to be too expensive, running around 200 million bucks American a plane, although there had been talk of leasing them instead of outright purchase. The A400 hasn't even flown yet, and military projects have a notorious habit of being delayed past their initial first flights and so on. The C130J is currently in production. More importantly its a modern version of the Hercules aircraft the Armed Forces already fly, which should help reduce training times and so forth. The big problem with the current Canadian examples is that too many of them are too old and nearing the end of their service lives. They need to be replaced. Indeed some of them probably should have been replaced years ago, just as the Chretien government shouldn't have played politics with the military search and rescue and maritime helicopter programs, resulting in aged CH124 Sea King maritime copters still being in use long after they should have gone.

As for the Hercules itself its amazing to think that the design first flew in 1954. Few if any aircraft have stayed in production as long as the dear old Herc. How much longer it will stay in production is unclear. The J may be the last model produced, as there is speculation that the US military may cease ordering the aircraft in the near future, leading to an eventual shutdown of the production line sometime around 2010. Perhaps we'll see some of the last units to come off the line end up in Canadian hands.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Another one from the "you're expecting a little too much" file: An auction for Simon Le Bon's guitar pick. For a mere 90 grand starting bid. A little bit out of my price range I'm afraid.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

A Danish newspaper has apparently reported that Link Wray has died at 76, although his website has yet to confirm this. Wray was best known for his 1958 instrumental hit "Rumble," probably the first hit pop recording that featured a deliberately distorted guitar. Interestingly, like his contemporary Chuck Berry, Wray was pushing thirty when he first found fame. Wray had been living in Copenhagen for years, hence his apparent death being reported by a Danish paper.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Any hobby can get expensive. But its easier for your hobby to get expensive if you're guillible and you fall for fantastic claims made by clever salesmen. ILikeJam presents some examples from the world of audiophiles. It seems there's big money to be made for ridiculously overpriced speaker cables and tweeters that are designed to reproduce frequencies the human ear can't hear and the stereo amplifier they're connected to can't produce. All this makes me think of when I was a kid and was utterly convinced that listening to LPs through headphones sounded better if I left the lid on the turntable up and had the TV turned on.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

My regular computer is going to be unaccessable for a while, so I'm using another system here. Its interesting to think how much this will alter some of my habits. For example I won't have access to what must be a couple of gig of audio and video files on it, mainly mp3s, so my music listening habits will be alterered. I won't be doing any experimenting with the music making software I've got installed. And the amount, and when I post, to various places may be altered. All this because I don't have access to a certain computer. Amazing isn't it how central a box with a bunch of electronics in it can become a major part of your life.

Monday, November 14, 2005

For the past few weeks posters have been up around Saskatoon for an album release party for local musician Carrie Catherine, which included the URL to her website. I finally got around to looking at it this afternoon, and found out that she's Carrie Horachek, who released an album locally in 2003. Its not surprising given the dropping of her last name and the rather glamourous picture on the posters(and her website) that I didn't recognise her. You can see a shot of the "old" Carrie here. Apparently she's made the same decision many artists with "odd" names have, to change her performing name to something easier for the casual punter to understand and pronounce. Doing something like this really isn't a surprise when the performer in question is trying to appeal to a broad audience, but it must result in some soul searching.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Reading a post on a forum I frequent prompted me to break out the cheesy little "walkman" I own and listen to some cassettes. Boy do I have a bunch of them! I really should listen to them more often instead of abusing the CD ROM drive on this poor thing.
I recently purchased a package of Pepcid AC tablets as an experiment. I occasionally suffer from acid reflux type heartburn while trying to sleep, say once every couple of months or so, and I wanted to see what effect these tablets might have compared to convential antacids like Tums. I had an episode last night, probably from eating too much garlic bread for supper combined with a couple of large chocolate chip cookies later on. I took one when bad heartburn woke me up and it proved quite effective in stopping things, including helping with the horrible scratchy feeling in my throat that usually results. Besides taking Tums in the past I've also eaten some raw carrots, which tends to help relieve some of the symptoms for some reason.

I decided to take a quick look via Google to see what potential side effects these pills might have. I found none that directly effect me at the moment. What I did find interesting is that Pepcid AC is not only used to treat stomach acid problems in humans, but in dogs and cats as well. I do wonder about some potential use of the product though, which is in its preventative role. You can take a Pepcid AC prior to eating to prevent heart burn, and I'm a bit leery about people doing this. Self medicating like that may allow some people to ignore symptoms that might be signs of a major problem by forestalling them. The product information enclosed with the tablets warns against that kind of thing, but you know that some people will not read the product info before using the pills. The best way to prevent heart burn, unless you're advised by your physician to do so, is to be careful about what you eat and how you eat it. Drinking water with your meal for example is said to be one way to reduce the chance of later indigestion.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Oh dear. Its amazing some of the stupid names parents give their children these days. If you want a big heaping helping of them check out the blog Bad Baby Names! There are some real howlers on there. Of course you can look at the birth announcements in your own hometown and find some goodies as well. How about Eramus Maximus, whose older sister Misty's name is very tame by comparison. I'm sorry, but giving your kid a name that sounds like a Roman gladiator is just plain silly.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

A correction to my last post. The Madonna tune I heard was "Hang Up." "Hung Up" is a different tune.
Here's a 3 for 1 post.

First of all there's been a lot of talk lately in Saskatchewan about nuclear power. Some folks think we should build a nuclear power plant to provide energy for the Alberta tar sands oil project. Saskatchewan is a leading supplier of uranium, and the thought is that we should be using it right here at home instead of just selling it. But when some people make statements like this I'm not convinced they actually know how a nuclear reactor works. For those who don't, please realise that you don't just pick up a chunk of uranium, open a door on the reactor, throw it in, and sit back and watch it run. Uranium has to go through considerable processing before its usable in a reactor. More importantly I suspect a lot of these people haven't paid attention to the enormous long term costs to running a reactor. Just ask the folks at Ontario Hydro. There's also been comments from some who do support using nuclear power to aid in tar sands oil production that the reactors will need to be on or very near to the oil sites, not in Saskatchewan, given that steam generated by the reactors would be used, and such steam would be hard to move large distances. So the provincial government better do some very hard thinking even if it accepts the use of nuclear power here.

I was just driving home and listening to Rock 102Fm. The announcer stated he had some "sad news" to report at the next station break. The "sad news" turned out to be that the long range forecast for November says we'll be hitting -20 degrees mid month. And here I thought it was going to be that someone was sick or had died. Cold temperatures are just an inevitable part of a Saskatchewan winter.

I soon changed stations, and heard Madonna's new single, "Hung Up." Boy, has someone been listening to their old technopop records. The music sounds very 1981, especially the sequence that runs through much of the song. Perhaps Madonna herself is feeling nostalgic, as her music career began when bands like the Human League were at their most popular, and her early singles were quite synth heavy. And as i listened to the tune I realised that Madonna will be 50 in 3 short years. Its hard to imagine Madonna and 50 in the same sentence.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Here's a nice little present for would be electronic music makers, or those who want an extra tool in their arsenal. You can now download Propellerhead's Rebirth for free at the Rebirth Museum. It seems they've decided to stop offering the program new commercially but will give it away free to anyone who wants it. You'll need to register at the site to download Rebirth, and you'll need to be able to burn the resulting disc image file to a CD ROM. Of course this is bad news for anyone who bought the program in recent memory, or any stores that still may have copies sitting on their shelves.

Rebirth was one of the first commercially successful software emulations of real world hardware devices. The latest version comprises software emulations of Roland's TB303 Bass Line synth(two actually), TR808 drum machine, and TR909 drum machine. It duplicates both their sounds and their methods of imputing musical data, and includes a master sequencer that controls all 4 devices at once, along with effects and the ability to mix the levels of each. Although the TB303s are monophonic, that is they only play one note at a time, you can do a lot of music making with this setup, especially if you download some of the user created "mods" found on the Rebirth Museum site.

The TB303 can be called a successful flop. It, and its companion TR606 Drumatix drum machine, were introduced in 1982. Presumably they were intended to be used by home recording hobbyists who didn't play drums or bass to add those sounds to their music, and for people who wanted to make live music without needing a drummer or bassist onstage with them, such as lounge performers. Whatever their intended market the machines did not sell well and were discontinued after 18 months or so, although 20,000 TB303s may have been made. Possibly the appearance of MIDI in 1983 contributed to their demise, as neither instrument was compatible with the new interface. They were also probably too complicated to use for many hobbyists and non electronic oriented performers, while not being sophisticated enough for the pros. (Although Greg Hawkes of the Cars used them on his early '80s solo album.) But in the late '80s the TB303 found its calling when the electronic dance scene slowly began to catch on to them. The fact that the 303 didn't sound like a bass guitar or upright bass was no problem for these musicians, and the distinctive noises they made soon proved very popular. The 303 eventually became de riguer for many electronic pop styles, and instruments that in the mid '80s were all but impossible to sell suddenly came into high demand, boosting prices and encouraging the development of both software and hardware clones, although the hardware versions didn't copy the original TB303 sequencer, which many feel is central to the sound and feel of the instrument.

Monday, November 07, 2005

I went for a late night walk a bit ago, and its obvious winter is on its way. Its only -2 or -3 degrees Centigrade outside, but the character of the cold, for lack of a better term, just has that winter feel to it. I don't know if its the moisture content or what, but the air just feels wintery. There was only a slight wind, but it had that winter bite to it. To me wind is the real problem with winter. To me a temperature like -30 really isn't that bad once the wind goes away. But combine below zero temperatures with a typical Saskatchewan winter wind and you end up with a rather nasty experience.

We had snow this past week, but not enough to stick permanently to the streets. When it does the fun starts. You would think people would know better since they live here, but every year its the same. The snow comes and people drive like idiots for the first couple of days. They act like its summer and dry, driving too fast for conditions as a result and causing the inevitable accidents. And since I'm not the greatest driver in the first place I'm often quite paranoid for a while once winter driving conditions begin. Just another excuse to use the bus and not drive so much I suppose.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Lately I find I'm consulting Wikipedia more and more for general research purposes online. Its fascinating some of the things they have articles on, and often reading an article can lead to reading other Wikipedia articles, or material at external links. It seems to be fairly even handed in dealing with some of the more controversial issues, at least in the articles I've read.
Sometimes you have to wonder about why people use certain names. I heard an ad on the radio today for the Toyota Tundra TRD. You would think someone in the Toyota marketing department would have realised that TRD could be pronounced as turd. Another example is the finale for Disney's Kim Possible cartoon. It was an extended episode called "So the Drama," a play on Kim Possible's frequent use of the phrase "So not the drama." However the episode name is frequently being abbreviated to StD, which of course is also shorthand for sexually transmitted disease. Ooops.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Funny I missed this one. Canadian actor Lloyd Bochner died this week at 81. I hadn't realised he was that old. Like fellow Canadian John Vernon he often played baddies during his long career.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Wow, its amazing where your money can travel. I've always wanted to have a bill hit outside of Canada, but I never figured my first one would be in Brooklyn of all places. Someplace like Montana or North Dakota seemed far more likely.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Sorry to post this a bit late, but here's a link to Orac's Halloween costume weirdness pictures post. Please note that a couple of these may not be workplace safe, especially the bottom shot.
More traffic problems for Saskatoon. Inspectors have decided the Victoria Bridge, also known as the 19th St. Bridge, is no longer safe for vehicle traffic and should be closed. This comes after workers spent much of the summer and fall building a traffic roundabout on the street leading up to the bridge, a move many were questioning. Now it looks like the city spent a bunch of money on a traffic feature that won't see the use its intended for. You'd think the inspection would have been done before that project went ahead. Now the city has to decide exactly how they're going to repair or replace this bridge, and where the money is going to come from.
I spent some time this afternoon in the local Long and McQuade, and one of the guitars I played was a Gibson Sheryl Crowe Signature model. Very nice instrument, as it should be for 2800 bucks Canadian less tax. It had a very nice sound and a low action. You can tell how much guitar trivia I've acquired over the years that I guessed correctly that it was based on the Gibson Country Western, a lesser known Gibson model that has also been a favourite of the late Chet Atkins and Steve Howe of Yes. The Crowe model is currently made in Bozeman, Montana, so this guitar was born fairly close to me.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

If you're a fan of vintage synths you know what one of these is. Frankly even if I had the money I'd be scared to buy it. Shipping alone is probably something like a couple hundred bucks since it weighs 220 pounds or so. And I'd be worried about trying to tune the damn thing once it got here, especially given how cold it might get in shipping at this time of year. CS80s are notorious for being very susceptable to tuning instability.
Hmmm, I just ate a Quaker Oatmeal to Go bar I bought on Monday. It was Oats and Honey flavour. Not that there was much flavour to be found. Eating it was kind of what I imagine eating wood shavings would be like. It was a worthwhile experiment I suppose.

Monday, October 31, 2005

A fellow member of a mailing list I'm part of is currently in what may be the late stages of his life due to the leukemia he suffers from. He commented how the blood transfusion he had on Friday made him feel much better, and that he walked a mile today. Damn but does reading something like that, and about some of the other stuff he's doing even given his current problems, make me feel like a lazybones.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Sorry, Gandalf, but you're gonna have to wait just a bit longer. Hopefully not much longer.

Hmmm, I wonder if Halloween is the favourite day of the year of the dental profession?

Friday, October 28, 2005

The use of the term slash to denote fanfiction that involves homosexual relationships is generally believed to have originated with Star Trek fanfiction, coming from story descriptions that contained something like "Kirk/Spock" to denote gay content in the story.

Boy, will this news get some of the Trek slash fans going! George Takei, who played Sulu in the original series, has come out in a magazine article. He decided it was finally time to do so, although one would think those who know him well already knew, especially since he's been with the same man for 18 years. Takei says he grew up with the double whammy of feeling negative about his Japanese heritage because of being interned as a child during WW2, and feeling negative about his sexual preference given the prejudices of the time. Fortunately things have changed.

It should be noted that Sulu has a canonical daughter, who appeared in the film Star Trek: Generations, so he may very well have a wife. Of course in the 23rd Century of Star Trek who knows what technologies may be used to create children by those who don't want to or can't do it in the old fashioned way.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Its kind of ironic that as i was sitting here reading about guitar effects and synthesizers, including a page about the rare Yamaha DX1, I've been listening to Jin Jin/Firefly by Takashi Hirayasu and Bob Brozman, which is them on acoustic instruments in a small rural house on one of the smaller islands of the Ryukyu chain. I really wish I had some more recordings of Okinawan music.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

And the broom came
And swept the Astros away.

And the broom came
And swept the spectre of the Black Sox away.

But don't worry baseball fans, spring training is only 6 months away.
Hmmm, is that the sound of brooms I hear coming from Houston?

Talk about a grueling tv watching experience. These 5 plus hour games aren't good for me. But imagine being in an Astrodome seat for five plus hours. I would think it does some nasty things to your behind.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Just as a followup to my post yesterday about teen facist pop duo Prussian Blue I found out this afternoon there is a British blues rock group of the same name. Their website is here. I would imagine they aren't happy if anyone has told them about the American group. However they've apparently copyrighted the name, so perhaps it will stop the American group from using that name in the UK.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Rosa Parks has died at age 92. Its from small actions like her's in 1954 that revolutions are made.
Its sad the way adults exploit kids. A good example is Prussian Blue, who some are calling the Olsen Twins of the extreme right. Of course the big difference between the Olsens and these poor little girls is that the Olsens became millionaires as children, while these girls will be lucky if they don't end up in jail or dead sooner or later.

Its hard to say whether stories like this are a good idea. In some ways they could be considered little more than free publicity for the trash using these kids. On the other hand it might help some parents keep their kids away from the insidious poison these girls are being used to promote.

Friday, October 21, 2005

I occasionally get spam from alternative health types. I presume this comes from posting to places on Usenet like sci.skeptic and alt.fan.art-bell. Today I got some for something called The Health Freedom Expo, scheduled for Dallas, Texas November 4th. One of the speakers will be Hulda Clark. I knew the name sounded familar and so I looked her up. Her ideas are very dubious. Imagine my surprise to learn that Clark has a degree from the University of Saskatchewan! Its ironic a practioner of kookie stuff like that would have a degree from a university where various medical advances have been worked on, such as the "cobalt bomb" cancer treatment device of the 1950s. Of course it should be noted that Clark's degree was not in medicine, and she possesses no recognised training in mainstream medicine. Her Ph.D is in philosophy.

Looking at some of the other speakers at this conference the thought comes to mind that it would be interesting to get them in the same room together. Their beliefs tend to be in contradiction with each other in one way or another. Clark's bugaboo is parasites in the body, which she claims cause things like cancer. Dr. Joel Wallach on the other hand claims all diseases are the result of not taking sufficient amounts of the right minerals, and if you do you'll never be sick and can live to be over 100. Of course what these people do share is a common foe, mainstream medicine.

I have nothing against investigating alternative medicine claims. If they can be proven valid scientifically we should use those concepts that are effective. Unfortunately the world is full of people like Clark, who make claims but are unwilling to properly test them, and who denounce any testing that proves their inefficacy as mainstream medicine trying to suppress "the truth."

Thursday, October 20, 2005

I received a rather amusing piece of penis enlargement spam today. It was one of those that are a first person testamonial about how using the product has improved the writer's sex life. However the first name on the "From" header on the email was Joanne! Somehow I suspect a lot of their potential customers would be turned off by a female identifying person using such products.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Congratulations to the Houston Astros on winning the National League pennant, the first time they've done so in their some 40 year history. Unfortunately for them I still think its the White Sox's year. Of course the Toronto Blue Jays took only 15 years to get into their first World Series, and they won theirs.
One thing I should have mentioned a few days ago when it happened is that the thermometer spider has disappeared. I have no idea if he left or if he dropped dead. His web was destroyed when we put on the storm windows and he made no effort to rebuild it, so perhaps his health was failing.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

How's this for a ridiculous screen name? Today I got some spam from Timetable P. Defecating. Chances are its the product of some virus.

Monday, October 17, 2005

The plot thickens. I wonder if Fox will make any more ad money because the Astros-Cards series will continue for at least another game.

I had a pleasant piece of e-mail tonight. It was notification of my 200th Willy hit. Next stop, 200 bills hit.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Congratulations to the Chicago White Sox for winning the American League championships. And my apologies to the Houston Astros and St. Louis Cardinals, but I'll have to throw my support to the Soxs. Its their time to win the World Series as it will make a cool followup to last year's breaking of the Curse of the Bambino by the Boston Red Sox.
The past couple of days I've been getting some rather unusual spam. Its for the Kavkaz Center, a pro Chechin "mujahadeen" web site. Interestingly on their site today is posted the following:

ATTENTION! Administration of Kavkaz-Center informs that russian special services in an effort to carry out a provocation are sending out unsolicited emails (SPAM) to internet users on behalf of our agency.
Kavkaz-Center notifies that it has no relation to this.

You'll forgive me if I'm skeptical. I think its more likely they did the spamming themselves, but when they started to get complaints decided to blame the Russians. And reading the site I get the impression these folks aren't particularly objective.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

I had to roll my eyes at an article in today's paper. Some US right wing folks are all upset, claiming Geena Davis' new tv series Commander in Chief is intended to be propaganda for a 2008 Hillary Clinton presidential campaign. Paranoid much? Interestingly the writers for the series made President Allen an Independant, which from a writing perspective is a good idea, allowing her to do things without viewers getting hung up on the idea that "a Republican/Democratic President wouldn't do that!" Of course they may have also been trying to forestall the criticisms that have appeared. Frankly I think the complainers would be just as upset if she was a Republican, claiming she didn't represent the "true" Republican Party.

As I was thinking about this silliness Kiefer Sutherland came to mind, since dad Donald is a regular on Commander in Chief. I wonder what kind of frothing at the mouth some of these people might do about Kiefer's series 24 if they found out that his grandfather was Tommy Douglas, an actual socialist and premier of North America's first democratic socialist government when the CCF won the 1944 Saskatchewan election.

Friday, October 14, 2005

I was just playing Delta Force 2, which I bought several weeks ago. All I have to show for it is sore hands, with no progress in getting on to the next steps in the campaigns. What an annoying game. But hey, I've played DF1 for a long time, and it was cheap.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Seeing as there are some errors in my recent posts about the Chicago White Sox here's the Wikipedia entry for the team, so you'll have the proper details. After all I don't want a bunch of angry White Sox fans showing up here all to flame me.
You know the market for so-called energy drinks is getting ridiculous when Steven Seagal has his own brand of energy drink. Note that the picture on the can is of Stevie back when his films were actually popular.

Monday, October 10, 2005

As I was sitting watching the Angels defeat the Yankees tonight I was trying to figure out which of the remaining teams I should support. Probably it should be the Chicago White Sox. After all they haven't been to the World Series since the days of Shoeless Joe Jackson.

I am certainly happy that Atlanta was eliminated. Their "tomahawk chop" nonsense and stupid chanting thing annoy me to no end, and should be eliminated forthwith.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Sad news to report for Toronto Blue Jays fans. Tom Cheek, long serving voice of Blue Jays radio broadcasts, has died of cancer at 66. Cheek started his career as Blue Jays broadcaster with the team's first game in April of 1977. He would announce every game until June 3rd, 2004 when he took time off after the death of his father, a streak of 4,306 regular season games and 41 post season games. Cheek was diagnosed with a brain tumour soon after. He would be healthy enough to broadcast several games after his diagnosis and treatment in 2004, but hopes that he might broadcast some of the 2005 season were not to be.
I haven't been able to get into my main e-mail account since Friday, and as you might imagine it was rather full this morning when I was finally able to get in. One of the pieces of spam had a message line about obesity problems. Yeah, I've got an obesity problem. My wallet isn't fat enough.
Gack! I just clicked on a link that had generated a hit here, and it was a pornblog with some explicit pictures on it. Frankly I'm surprised that these continue to be allowed on blogger.com. You'd think that either someone would have complained by now, or someone at blogger.com would have decided they don't want to risk the liability.
I was just watching Game of Death, the posthumously assembled Bruce Lee movie. My advice, try and see this on tv if you get the chance and actually want to see it. I don't think its worth the money for a rental, and certainly not for purchase.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Ah, what a bunch of geniuses they are over at Rogers Sportsnet. Those of us who get Sportsnet West found ourselves cut off from the finale of the Chicago White Sox-Boston Red Sox playoff series so they could present a Calgary Flames hockey game. Right, switch over to an early season hockey game that is meaningless at the moment and miss Chicago's first post season series win since 1917. I sure wouldn't want to be the e-mail and call screeners tonight.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

What's in a band name?

As I sit here I'm listening to Blurtonia, the second, self titled album by the band of that name. Blurtonia was Ian Blurton's group after the breakup of Change of Heart in 1997.(Geez, 8 years already!) His current group is C'mon, who recently played Saskatoon, although I wasn't able to see them. I can sort of see why he dropped the Blurtonia name, as C'mon is a power trio versus the bigger Blurtonia with its more varied instrumentation. But in any case I wonder why he dropped the Change of Heart name in the first place. The interviews I've skimmed indicate he probably thought its day was done, which I can understand. Sometimes a name outlives its usefullness.

On the other hand there's something like Grady. This is Gordie Johnson's, of Big Sugar fame, current band. In his case I'm a wee bit skeptical of the name change. Johnson was Big Sugar. So why drop the name and pick up a new one? Its not as if Big Sugar didn't go through a number of sound changes over the years. The early Big Sugar releases were pretty straight blues versus the rock-blues-reggae-dub mix that made Big Sugar a big time act in the late '90s. I suspect in Johnson's case dropping the Big Sugar name may have been a way to get free of a record contract he didn't want any longer. I remember reading after Brothers and Sisters, Are You Ready?, the last Big Sugar release, came out that Johnson had been having troubles with the record company, such as wanting a song that mentioned Alberta changed or replaced. It would hardly be the first time an artist has reluctantly dropped a moniker to ensure his escape from a problematic contract.

The practice sometimes goes the other way as well. The late bluesman John Lee Hooker had material released under a variety of names in the late '40s and '50s because he would record for a record company even if he was contracted to another record company at the time. So the recording would be released under an alias, some of which were not particularly concealing, such as John Lee Cooker.
Wondering what he might think of Nick Cage calling his kid Kal El I decided to visit Peter David's website. Nothing there as I write this. But if you're familiar with Mr. David perhaps like me you wonder how he has the time to regularly write stuff for his website. This guy writes books, comic books, TV scripts, and who knows what all else. You'd think the last thing he'd want to do in his spare time is write yet more stuff.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Ever since the NHL strike was resolved Rogers Sportsnet has been running NHL related ads with the tagline "Hockey that matters." Personally I'd find that very insulting if I were a fan of non NHL hockey. If we're to take that statement at face value Sportsnet thinks if its not the NHL then its meaningless as far as hockey goes. Any sort of other hockey they broadcast during the strike? It was all meaningless. Olympic hockey, or other international "amateur" tournaments? Also meaningless. University hockey? That too.

Nice move, guys. Insulting possibly large segments of your potential hockey audience.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Time for another eye rolling name from the world of celebreties. Actor Nicholas Cage has named his new son Kal-el. No, its not a joke. Yeah, the kid will likely just be called Kal, but still, you have to wonder what the hell was going through his head. If you were gonna name your kid after a comic character, Nick, why not Bruce Wayne Cage?

Friday, September 30, 2005

Wow, rather a long stretch of not writing anything here. I really haven't had anything I wanted to gab about the last few days. The most interesting thing to happen to me this week is that my Where's Willy index reached 800 on Friday with this hit in Montreal. My 200th hit should come some time in the next week or so.

And to answer your question Gandalf...

















...despite Jesse's obvious skepticism work is getting done. Not as quickly as I'd like, but at least some progress occured over the last week. And yes, I will almost certainly get something out before year's end. Hopefully before the end of October even if I have to force it out like the last drop of toothpaste in a tube.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Yet another face from my TV childhood has died. Don Adams was 82. Get Smart, a spoof of spy movies that appeared as part of the "spy boom" let loose in the 1960s by the success of the James Bond franchise, made Adams an icon to millions of TV viewers as the bumbling Maxwell Smart, Agent 86 of CONTROL. Many of the show's catch phrases, such as "Missed me by that much!" became common lingo. However the show also typecast Adams, as is often the case when a show is so successful. Adams would go on to be the voice of cartoon detective Inspector Gadget in the early '80s, a character very obviously based on Maxwell Smart. Adams starred in the mid '80s Canadian sitcom Check It Out, about the goings on in a grocery store his character managed. (The show also featured NYPD Blue's Gordon Clapp as the dumber than dumb janitor Viker.) He reprised the Smart role in a 1995 revival of the series which was poorly done and only lasted 7 episodes, the best of which was the final episode aired in which Smart once more encountered his arch nemesis, veteran KAOS agent Siegfried, played by Bernie Kopell.

It was interesting to read in Adams' obituary that he was a US Marine who fought in the battle of Guadalcanal, and that a jungle illness resulted in him being set home to be a drill instructor. Its hard to imagine Maxwell Smart convincingly bossing around a bunch of Marines, but as always we shouldn't confuse the actor with his roles.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Many people are trying to draw parallels between the current war in Iraq and the mess that was the Vietnam War. One definite similiarity between the two conflicts is that US military deserters have been making their way into Canada. 12 of them so far have made claims for refugee status, and one group supporting them claim that at least another 75 are also living in Canada at the moment. Kyle Snyder is one of them. Snyder ended up in Iraq in January, but what he saw there made him flee into Canada in April. Snyder joined the US Army in 2003 in an effort to get health care for his pregnant girlfriend, a move that ultimately failed. He claims that he was lied to because among other things the recruiter didn't mention the Iraq war.

Personally this strikes me as incredibly naive. How could anyone join the US military in 2003 and not reasonably expect they might end up in Iraq, no matter what position they were to be trained for? For that matter anyone who joins a military is living in dreamland if they don't go in with the expectation that they might end up in harm's way and be put in a situation where they may have to use violence.

As for claims about the higher ups lieing about conditions in Iraq ultimately I think naivete is also involved. Namely the impression I've long had is that many of the top officials in the Bush adminstration believed that all they had to was get rid of Saddam and the Iraqi people would throw flowers at the feet of American soldiers. Apparently they confused Baghdad with Paris in 1944, which is ironic given the frequent comparisons of Hussein to Adolf Hitler. Rather they should have been thinking of Berlin in 1945.

As for Snyder and the other deserters I doubt they have much chance of getting refugee status. The United States is a democracy that operates, however imperfectly, via the rule of law, and is home to a free press to which someone like Snyder has access to. The deserters voluntarily joined the US military, they were not forced to do so by a dictatorial government. And there is sure to be consideration by the refugee board at the potential problems granting them refugee status will have on US/Canada relations.
I just looked at the hits this month on the blog, and they've just reached 666. Look out!

Friday, September 23, 2005

A rather amusing thing happened in tonight's Saskatchewan Roughriders/Toronto Argonauts game. Play was stopped for several minutes during the first quarter when a hare came onto Taylor Field in Regina. The hare had a good run around the field before he was chased away. Its not hard to imagine how confused that creature must have been to encounter that many people in one place at once.
Its always interesting the things you notice when you listen to a recording through different speakers, in a different listening position and so on. I was just listening to Tangerine Dream's "Cloudburst Flight," off the album Force Majeure, while reading and noticed for the first time drummer Klaus Krieger's bass drum patterns on that piece. In places he's playing multiple bass drum hits per bar instead of the standard hits on the 1st and 3rd beats or variations thereof. I suppose he's trying to emphasis the sequencer patterns being used or something along those lines. Krieger had gotten involved with the band on their previous album Cyclone along with vocalist/keyboardist/horn player Steve Joliffe, an album most TD fans, and Chris Franke and Edgar Froese for that matter, tend to view as a failed experiment. Krieger would not be back for the next TD album Tangram, which is kind of ironic given that they got pretty heavily into drum machines as the '80s began.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Part of Saskatoon's broadcast history disappeared this week. CKOM's old home on 8th Street near Acadia Drive has been demolished. For several decades the building housed CKOM 650 khz, and later several other radio stations owned by Rawlco Radio, including C95 on 95.1 mhz FM. The building has sat empty for several years since Rawlco built a new headquarters for its Saskatoon stations on Saskatchewan Crescent. The distinctive radio mast that topped the building for as long as I can remember was removed a couple of years ago. The demolition of the old building is something I've been expecting for a while now. Given what the interior of the building would have been like given that it housed several radio stations at one point it would have needed heavy renovations to make it usable for some other project, and so it likely would have been easier to just build a new purpose built building. It will be interesting to see how long it takes for a new tenant to appear and what it will be. At one point just after Rawlco began the process of building its new building there were rumours the nearby McDonald's, located in the parking lot of Wildwood Mall a block away, would build a new restaurant on the land. A small strip mall containing a Moneymart, a Vern's Pizza(a popular local chain) and a hair salon sits next door, so perhaps its days are numbered as well. Its not hard to imagine someone wanting that space as a parking lot for their new building next door if its expected to generate a lot of traffic.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

I got a piece of spam in my e-mail box this morning with a title line that read "Stop suffering! We have the medication you need to help with your pain!" Unfortunately it wasn't for a medication that would help deal with the pain of spam. Even if I was in need of medications I wouldn't order them from an e-mail spamming outfit. There's no way of being sure you'd get anything near safe.

Monday, September 19, 2005

I decided to grab an album to accompany my reading tonight, and decided it should be something I hadn't listened to in a long time. My choice was Smash and Scatteration, a 1985 duo release by guitarists Vernon Reid and Bill Frisell. Interestingly the final piece on the album, a Frisell composition called "Black Light," sounds a lot like "Industry" off of King Crimson's 1984 album 3 of a Perfect Pair. Coincidence, or was Frisell influenced by the Crimson tune? Of course the fact that Frisell used a Roland GR300 guitar synth a lot on this album got me thinking about King Crimson, since the '300 was a central part of Robert Fripp and Adrian Belew's setups in the 1980s. The '300 has a very identifiable sound, and due to its limited controls tends to produce certain sounds no matter who might be using it. I've mentioned Andy Summers use of the '300 in a past post, and another big fan of the "blue box and brown guitar" is Pat Metheny, who apparently still uses his at times. In fact its been claimed that Metheny regularly buys GR300s that turn up on eBay as spares for his own unit.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

In the past I've mentioned a group called Christian Exodus that wants to turn South Carolina into a "Christian state" by getting like minded people to move there and take over the government. But its not just the religious with such ideas. A group called the Free State Project has a similar idea for New Hampshire. Only their intent is to turn New Hampshire into a libertarian haven of minimal government. I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for them to succeed. Although they have 6,750 particpants in their group only 377 currently reside in New Hampshire. I find it amusing that one of the positive qualities they mention about the state is the absense of seatbelt and bike helmet laws, this apparently being an indication of "a culture of individual responsibility." New Hampshire's population is around 1.3 million, so I suppose that if they could get 20,000 supporters to live there they might have a moderate chance at making some changes.
Doing a bit of poking around tonight on Google for general fanfiction archives I came across the GI Joe Erotica Fan Fiction Archive. My surprise that anyone would have such a site immediately changed to me chastising myself for being surprised. I've seen more than enough smutfics over the years to know that if you can name a title that has more than a couple of fanfics to its credit someone has written a sexfic for it.

Friday, September 16, 2005

I'm a regular reader and poster to Space: The Imagination Station's bulletin board. If you've checked out my links on here you've seen the link I have for it. A lot of the regulars are very upset and confused right now. One of the regulars was Malcolm Xerxes, a Toronto based actor and stuntman. Today the board received some horrible news, that he reportedly shot his ex-girlfriend several times Monday before committing suicide sometime on Tuesday. The woman survived, but is horribly injured. As you can imagine I was sad to hear this. But for other Spacecast regulars, who knew Malcolm, or had the opportunity to meet him, the whole thing is much harder to deal with. Someone they had come to know had that dark part we all have inside us burst out in the worst possible way, and they're left wondering why, and whether they should have been able to see it. He didn't strike them as the kind of person who would do something like that, yet here we are, with a familiar face dead in a violent fashion of his own making. Some will try to look for clues in his "public" life to what he did, like his often expressed fondness for the Marvel Comics vigilante character The Punisher. But in the end no one can truly know what lead up to this no matter how many clues the next days and weeks may provide.
Here's a headstratcher. We received a letter in the mail today, advertising from a realtor. The address is right, the last name is spelt properly. But the letter is addressed to Brian Gueguen. Ain't nobody here by that name. Nobody in the phone book with that name. So why Brian? I'm used to my last name being spelled wrong, in numerous variations. A common one is the second u being missing. My father occasionally gets stuff addressed to Louise Gueguen instead of Louis Gueguen. But where Brian came from I haven't a clue.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

I just got what may be my first con job spam mail connected with Hurricane Katrina. It was an e-mail purporting to be from someone connected to Worldvision. But my BS meter was activated by the fact that it only gave a contact e-mail address, no postal address, and the e-mail itself was sent from a Hotmail account.
If you're from Norway and you discuss current Norweigian politics with North Americans don't be surprised if you get some funny looks or snickers if you mention the September 12th parliamentary elections. They're not trying to be rude, its just that hearing the Red-Green Coalition won the majority of seats in the Storting sounds funny to our ears. That's because Red Green is a popular comedy character on North American TV. So when we hear someone talk about Red Green we're likely to think of him.
As regular visitors here know I've tried a number of times to use random phrases to get hits on my blog, and that they pretty much haven't worked. Even using words and phrases others have had success with haven't worked, such as discussing Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes. On the other hand the mere use of the word porn in a single entry for a single month will generate various hits, often in horribly weird combinations of other words, such as the regular hits for Megas XLR porn. Hence the whole point of this post, which combined with my post Monday about Eva Longoria should now generate regular hits. Now if some of these folks would hang around for a while, and click on some of the links found here, we'd all be happy. Well, okay, maybe I'd be happy if they clicked certain links.

I shouldn't complain. Posting a link to several web forums I regularly visit to my "thermometer spider" post generated quite a few hits.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Wow, I just about let this day go by without commenting on the anniversary. Yes, it was 6 years ago today that the Moon left orbit. Time to go watch the program commemorating that terrible day.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Its a cliche that fame is so often fleeting. But the rise to fame can be equally rapid. This thought was inspired by hearing mention of Eva Longoria on the radio this morning. Only a couple of years ago Longoria was pretty much a nobody. She'd appeared on the Young and the Restless for a couple of years, and was on the shortlived Dragnet revival. Otherwise it looked like her career had a good chance of ending up in straight to video hell. If you'd asked people about her maybe you'd run across a soap fan or two who'd recognise the name. But Longoria got lucky and ended up on Desperate Housewives, which proved to be one of that handful of shows that appears each TV season and takes off. Suddenly she went from being just another attractive actress in a profession full of them, to being someone everyone is supposed to pay attention to, fodder for the tabloids, gossip columns, and entertainment programs like Entertainment Tonite.

Hopefully Longoria will remember that the shelflife of the hot actress tends to be rather a short one and make as much money as possible out of her current fame. All she has to do is look at the careers of some of her costars, which have had their ups and downs. Better yet look at the careers of some of her costars own former costars, like Marcia Cross's former fellow Melrose Place cast member Josie Bissett. Bissett was on what was for a while one of the hottest shows on TV, yet her post Melrose career hasn't exactly made headlines. The same can be said for much of the rest of the cast.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Another of the great American roots musicians has died. Clarence Gatemouth Brown was 81. He had been suffering from declining health, including cancer, for the past several years, but the destruction of his home by Hurricane Katrina may have been the last straw. I was fortunate to see him in the late 1980s when he played at Saskatoon's Broadway Theatre. Brown was commonly refered to as a blues musician, but he disliked this, considering the term a putdown.

There are getting to be fewer and fewer of his generation of musicians left. I was fortunate enough to see BB King on his last tour through Western Canada, and I'm glad I did, because who knows whether he'll pass this way again. So if you get a chance to see some of these guys do it.
Wednesday saw what appears to be the first death of a former Saskatchewan resident in the current Iraq conflict. Robert McCoy died when the vehicle he was in was attacked by a roadside bomb in Basra. McCoy held dual US-Canadian citizenship, his father coming from Thunderchild First Nation near Turtleford, and his mother coming from Texas. McCoy was a former member of both the Canadian Armed Forces and the US Marine Corps, and was working for Virginia based Triple Canopy Inc., a private security contractor working in Iraq. McCoy had served two terms in Iraq as a US Marine, and signed on with Triple Canopy when he mustered out. Triple Canopy has a contract with the US State Department to provide security in Iraq.

The use of private security firms in Iraq is a further expansion of what has been a growing trend in recent years, namely the use of private contractors to provide support services for operations by the US military, and the militaries of other countries.(The Canadian military for example uses commercial firms to move some of its equipment, which lead to an embarrassing situation several years ago when a shipping company refused to turn over some Canadian military vehicles on one of its ships.) The use of private firms to provide things like logistics is controversial enough given the size of some of the contracts involved. But there are even more questions when private companies are allowed to take on contracts that involve the use of lethal force. For example in a situation like Iraq, where the mechanisms of government are lacking, who policies what these groups are doing? Members of the US military must follow established military codes of conduct, and can be punished if they break them via military justice, but who does so for the employee of a private company that engages in what could be considered illegitimate activities. There's also the question of whether governments would consider using private firms to do their dirty work like the abuse of prisoners. This would allow them "plausible deniability," allowing them to claim that they had never authorised such conduct, that it was solely the doing of the company involved, if the occurance of such activities came out.

Daniel Bergner wrote an interesting piece on private security firm operating in Iraq, including Triple Canopy. Originally published in The New York Times Magazine you can read it here.

In some ways the return of mercenaries is a throwback to an earlier age. There was a time when the use of mercenaries by European powers was quite common. The Swiss Guards who provide security to the Vatican and the Pope are a remnant from the days when the Swiss provided some of the best mercenaries in Europe to whoever needed them. However as times changed the use of mercenaries declined, and by the second half of the 20th Century the profession was seen as a marginal one, at worst being perceived as a refuge for wannabe heroes with delusions of grandeur and psychopaths looking for an outlet for their violent tendencies.

Not everyone disapproves of soldiers for hire. In fact one strain of libertarianism, anarcho-capitalism, believes that there is no need for government, that everything, including policing and defense, can be done by private firms. Personally I think their arguments are naive, but they do exist. Of course it should be noted that such people generally disapprove of military interventions like Iraq in the first place.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Crap, I got burned on my last post. That Robertson article is a pretend one from a parody site, as you can see from their other articles. But the funny thing is it rings true given some of the stuff Robertson has said in the past.
Not surprisingly a number of the dumber hardline religious types have blamed the Hurricane Katrina disaster on "immorality" of one sort or another. Ironically amongst the least damaged areas of New Orleans was the French Quarter and other areas where this "immorality" is supposedly most common. And leave it to Pat Robertson to make a really dumb statement. Robertson claimed this week that Katrina is the result of Ellen Degeneres being chosen to host the Emmys this year. Robertson also claimed her prominence resulted in other tragedies, such as the 911 attack. Is Robertson perhaps starting to go senile? Nah, he's always made blockhead statements like that.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

One thing I'm surprised the Katrina disaster has yet to generate is lawsuits, or at the very least talk of lawsuits. Its a target rich enviroment for potential litigants, with the federal government, the Louisiana government, the city of New Orleans, various US government agencies and more all being potential respondents in lawsuits. Of course it may simply be the case that lawyers are having trouble getting in touch with potential clients because the disaster is ongoing. Until the displaced have found permanent or semipermanent places to live it will be nearly impossible to have consistent contact with them.

I would guess that con artists are already working to exploit the charity angle. If you're interested in donating money to the relief efforts it would be best to donate to a well established charitable organisation like United Way or the Red Cross. I'm sure the Nigerian scam crowd and their emulators will soon be sending out letters claiming to be from some poor victim of the disaster who really needs your help to get that 20 million bucks out of his bank account, and he'll share 10 percent with you to thank you for your help.

Many New Orleans residents will not be returning to the city, including many of its poor. And some people in the city are saying good riddance to the latter. They see this as an opportunity to get rid of the lower classes who they say cause crime and hurt the city's image. The fact that the city's underclass is heavily black of course leads one to suspect racism plays a role in some of these attitudes, although I would suspect you'd find such thinking amongst some of the city's well to do blacks as well. As is often the case with such attitudes those who hold them apparently have no problem with these people continuing their supposed evil ways, just as long as they do it in someone else's backyard.

Speaking of racism those idiots at the New Order, who I mentioned in a previous post as a source of some of my e-mail spam, have been more active of late. They see the disaster as a perfect excuse to spew more of their poison. I would imagine their fellow travelers in other such groups have been doing the same thing.

And some responses to the Katrina disaster are just silly and tasteless. Some writers of fanfiction are already using the disaster in their stories. Take this example, courtesy of the Godawful Fan Fiction Forum, of a Harry Potter story where evil Chinese wizards cause Katrina. Riiiiight.