Tuesday, January 31, 2006

I've been watching Spike TV's new series King of Vegas. Perhaps by the time its done I'll have a bit less vague idea of how to play poker. On the other hand I could probably play blackjack without making too much of a fool of myself.

It would be interesting to know what exactly is behind the rise of interest in poker over the last 3 or 4 years. Is it simply because its being seen more on the TV sports channels? Beats me.
A recent incident involving an armed American criminal at a border crossing has lead to calls for Canada Customs border inspectors to be armed. Today while buying a donut at the local Tim Hortons I noticed a CN Rail police officer sitting in one booth. He was armed. It brought up the obvious thought that if a railroad cop is armed then shouldn't at least some Customs officers be as well? After all they are more likely to face smugglers, terrorists, or other potentially threatening people, not that its hard to imagine situations where a CN Police officer would need a firearm.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Its been a while since I randomly posted a picture, so here's one. For those of you not familiar with these loons they are Emory and Oglethorpe from the cartoon series Aqua Teen Hunger Force. Oglethorpe is the orange one and is apparently the boss, while Emory is his long suffering assistant/sidekick. Although they are Plutonians Oglethorpe has a pronounced German accent(with the usual pronouncing of W's as V's), and since I'm a sucker for weird cartoon voices I find him and his antics very entertaining. Although they want to take over the Earth they are utterly inept at doing so.
Its hard to believe its been 20 years since the US space shuttle Challenger blew up. I was a University of Saskatchewan student at the time, and my first inkling something had happened was half hearing a radio news report on the accident as I walked through Place Riel. On the MSNBC website James Oberg has an article discussing 7 myths about the disaster. Oberg has written numerous books and articles about the space programs of various nations, and is considered an expert on the Soviet and Russian space programs.
Its amazing some of the goofy names people give children these days. Then there are those folks who take familiar names and spell them in some ridiculous fashion. Some of these people might do well to read this commentary from Canadian academic and writer Misao Dean on having to deal with having a Japanese first name despite not being in any way Japanese.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

I was just listening to an album(or a cassette to be accurate) I hadn't listened to all the way through in a long time, Split by Lush. Lush came out of the late '80s British "shoegazer" scene that produced groups like My Bloody Valentine and Swervedriver. The music on Split fit in quite well with sitting in front of a computer on a Saturday afternoon fooling around. The song "Hypocrite," one of my favourites on the album, gives a hint at the sound Lush would go for on their next album, the more straight ahead sounding Lovelife. This unfortunately would be the group's last album, as drummer Chris Acland hanged himself on October 18, 1996(by coincidence my birthday), with the band officially breaking up in 1998. Lead singer/rhythm guitarist Miki Berenyi is of mixed Hungarian and Japanese heritage, and her mother is Yasuko Nagazami, who appeared as Yasko in several episodes of the series Space: 1999. Berenyi's parents divorced when she was young, and its not hard to assume that the lyrics to the songs "Light From a Dead Star" and "Kiss Chase," which open Split, may be about her childhood.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Some visitors, especially Canadians, may remember singer/performance artist Meryn Cadell. Cadell had a top 40 hit in Canada in 1992 with a piece called "The Sweater." My mother mentioned today that she had heard something to the effect that Cadell had become a man. A bit of research soon indicated that was the case. Cadell, retired from the music biz, is now a professor of creative writing at the University of British Columbia. Reading about the now him got me thinking about transgendered musicians.

The most famous transgendered musician is probably Wendy Carlos. In 1968 the then Walter Carlos released Switched-On Bach, an album of Bach pieces recorded entirely on an early Moog modular synthesizer. The record became a platinum seller, and inspired a raft of imitators over the next few years, ranging from Japanese musician Isao Tomita's well regarded recordings to slapdash schlock.(A frightening example being "The Ballad of John and Yoko" from The Plastic Cow Goes Moooog. Well, I find it frightening.) But Carlos was already beginning the transition to be being female, and would undergo gender reassignment therapy in 1972, releasing her first album as Wendy Carlos, Switched-On Brandenburgs, in 1979. Not knowing the story behind the transition when I first started reading about electronic music in the early '80s this all proved rather confusing, and I'm sure there are people who were fans of her early work who today don't realise Walter and Wendy are the same person.

The firing of a transgendered musician resulted in controversy involving Canadian country band Prairie Oyster. Bohdan Hluszko was drummer for the band when he became Michelle Josef. She was fired from the band in 1997, and claimed that the firing was because the band was afraid of what effect a transgendered member would have on their popularity. Prairie Oyster claimed Josef was fired due to other legal complications unrelated to the gender change.

Then there's Neil Megson, better known to the world as Genesis P-Orridge, founding member of industrial music pioneers Throbbing Gristle and Psychic TV. A denizen of the fringier areas of art and music for nearly 35 years its not surprising that he's also gone to the fringes in his personal life as well. He now sports a pair of breasts and tends to dress like a woman, yet has retained his male genetalia and is married to his second wife, Lady Jaye. P-Orridge considers himself "pandrogenous," and has had other surgeries to make himself look more feminine. Rockers like David Bowie and Lou Reed played with the idea of androgeny in the early '70s, presumably as much for shock value as anything else(versus say Brian Eno, who did so in his early career as a way of broadening his creative horizons). But P-Orridge is actually putting his money where his mouth is.

As a straight male with no questions about his gender its hard for me to imagine what life is like for these people before and after their changes. But it surely takes courage to change yourself in such a profound way knowing that so many will neither understand or accept the changes.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

My parents received a membership to Costco for Christmas, and today I tagged along. An interesting place to visit once, but I don't think I'll be back anytime soon, since I don't need to buy stuff in large quantities. Its amazing the amount and variety of things they carry, including a few musical instruments. And the chicken fingers and fries I had from their snack counter were very good. One thing that did surprise me is that they only open to general customers at 11 AM, and to business customers at 10. I would have thought they'd be open at 8 AM or earlier.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Via Randy McDonald's Livejournal, here's an interesting take on the Canadian election by American expat piratehead.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Its deja vu time, with another Canadian federal minority government. The Conservatives and the Liberals switch positions, the NDP gains seats, the Bloc Quebecois loses them, and the Green Party comes up short. My condolences to the Greens. Although I didn't vote for you I would have liked to see you win at least one seat.

Several minutes ago Paul Martin announced he will not lead the Liberals in the next election. So the obvious question becomes when will the Liberal leadership campaign begin? Who will be willing to take the risk this time of leading the party with the electoral future uncertain? It will probably have to be held as soon as possible, since there's no way of knowing how long the new Conservative minority government will last.

Long serving former MP Svend Robinson of the NDP was defeated tonight in Vancouver-Centre by Liberal incombent Hedy Fry. Given some of what has happened in his life in recent years perhaps he's been in politics too long and should try something else for a change. NDP veteran Lorne Nystrom lost tonight in his attempt to take Regina-Qu'appelle. He might do well to follow a similar course and do something else.

I would have liked to see at least one NDP member elected in Saskatchewan. However I suspect that the unpopularity of the provincial NDP government doesn't help the federal party's chances here, and that this won't change until there is a change of government in Saskatchewan.

Brad Trost was reelected in my riding, Saskatoon-Humboldt, with a bigger majority than last time. If political signs were any firm indication of electoral success Andrew Mason of the NDP should have won, as he seemed to have the most signs, and had his signs out the earliest. However it should be noted that part of this riding is rural, which skews things when considering subjective evidence like lawn signs.

As I predicted a while back Gerry Ritz of the Conservatives won the Battlefords-Lloydminster riding handily. Jim Pankiw, the notorious former Reform MP, didn't have a chance, despite a boast a few days before the election that he was going to win.

I can't help but wonder about Conservative MP Maurice Vellacott, who retained his seat in Saskatoon-Wanuskewin by almost 9,000 votes. He didn't behave of late like someone with a firm hold on his riding, most noteably his attempt to get the Christian Heritage Party candidate Dale Sanders to step aside to avoid splitting the "Christian" vote. Sanders got 307 votes and was thus far from being a decisive factor in the riding. Last week he also announced his intent to sue a website calling on people not to vote for him, another example of behaviour which to me at least made him seem very insecure.

Soon to be former Finance Minister Ralph Goodale of the Liberals won his Wascana riding without much trouble. Talk of his involvement in a Liberal scandal that came out mid-campaign had no apparent effect on his vote count. Apparently the folks in Wascana see the value having a major Liberal as their MP.

It will be interesting to see if Saskatchewan gets any members in the new Conservative cabinet. It will also be interesting to see how long it takes for the new government to have its first scandal. Given some of the loudmouths in the party I doubt it will take too long.
Today's magic number in Canada is 155. For a party to form a majority government after today's Canadian election they will need to win 155 of the Canadian House of Commons' 308 seats.

If you're a non-Canadian passing through here's how our voting system works: The current Canadian system is what is commonly refered to as a "first past the post" system. In other words the winner of a riding is the candidate with the most votes. We don't use any form of proportional representation or preference based voting. Given that its common for three or more candidates to be running in any one riding that means few members of Parliament are elected with a majority of votes in their riding, and even in a majority government situation the government party usually did not win with a majority of votes, but a plurality of votes, that is the most votes of any one party. We have a dual house system, but the upper house, the Senate, does not have its members elected, but appointed. There have been more and more calls in recent years for an elected Senate and a change to another form of voting system such as some form of proportional representation, but neither has come close to being implimented yet.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Time for a little bit of nagging of my fellow Canadians. Go out and vote tomorrow, assuming of course you haven't voted at an advanced poll. If you don't vote when you could have please don't whine afterwards at whatever the results are.
A post I made recently about a scam letter from "Madam Felicia Hines" has generated a couple of search engine hits. This of course makes me wonder how many people the scammer actually sent the same e-mail out to. Obviously scammers have to hit as many e-mail addresses as possible in the hope of actually finding someone willing to take the bait, so the number of those bothered by this one letter could reach into the tens of thousands, or more.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Here's a followup to my last post, thanks to a photo in today's Saskatoon Star Phoenix. The people behind the sign display I mentioned are young voters Vince Detillieux and Chris Dutchuk. They say their creation honestly reflects their confusion regarding who to vote for in this election. The duo state that every time they think they've made up their minds on who to vote for the party in question will do something wrong, making them reconsider once again. They've definitely come up with a cool way to express their dilemma. Nice work, gentlemen.

Friday, January 20, 2006

On the front lawn of a house on Saskatoon's Acadia Drive is one of the more amusing political commentaries I've seen this election. There's a sign for each of the candidates running in the Saskatoon-Humboldt riding. There's also a sign that says "I'm confused." I would guess this is a statement that applies to a lot of folks who will be voting in this election.

There's a letter in today's Saskatoon Star Phoenix suggesting that voters send a message to politicians by not voting. I'm afraid that doesn't really work. After all a politician has no way of knowing why the people in his riding didn't vote. For all he knows they approve of his work, or are too lazy to vote. Its much harder to ignore who those who voted actually voted for.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

More bad news from the world of R&B. Wilson Pickett has died of a heart attack at age 64. Bad enough that this has happened, but it comes only a short time after Lou Rawls died of cancer.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

If you're married don't think that means you can look at your naked spouse. According to an Egyptian cleric you're not supposed to be naked while having sex. Hmmm, I wonder if Rashad Hassan Khalil is married? Perhaps he's looking for some excuse not to see his own wife naked. And while we're on the topic of religious inspired dumbness New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin has apologised for comments he made on Monday that the US has been hit by several major hurricanes over the past year because God is mad at the US in general, at blacks in particular, and that New Orleans will be a primarily black city when its rebuilt because "it's the way God wants it to be." Why, so he can smite all those black folks again in a few years if they don't behave? Perhaps Pat Robertson's foot in mouth disease is catching.

(These two tidbits come from Stupid Evil Bastard.)

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Yep, more Germanism. Tonight its Radio Waves, a bootleg by Can I picked up years ago. But don't fear. Since I listened to some Tangerine Dream after making last night's post chances are I'll drag out something non German tomorrow and not comment on it.

One of the mysteries of Can is Irmin Schmidt's Alpha 77, an analog doohickie. I've never really gotten a clear description of it, and the only picture I've seen online is too small to really tell me much. Sometimes its refered to as a synth, but I suspect its closer to an effects device. In any case much of the keyboard stuff heard on Can recordings is actually Farfisa organ and electronic piano.

Monday, January 16, 2006

The German evenings continue. Tonight its The Man Machine by Kraftwerk. When I first heard this album several years ago I was quite surprised to find that some of it was familiar to me. The local CBC TV station used edited versions of "Spacelab" and "The Man-Machine" as filler music in the late '70s or early '80s. They were used with the test pattern before the station came on air in the mornings if I remember correctly, as well as during the occasional technical difficulty.

I had other music running in the computer's CD drive today as well. First was trumpeter Donald Byrd's Free Form, another of the Blue Note reissues I previously mentioned, which I purchased today. I also played much of the London-Paris disc of the double live Yellow Magic Orchestra album Fakerholic.
It seems I'm on a late night German music kick. Last night I was listening to Neu!'s self titled debut, and at the moment I'm listening to Faust IV by Faust. Perhaps I'll listen to some Kraftwerk tomorrow night, and some Can the next.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

PZ Myers has an interesting take on the new King Kong movie. I haven't seen it yet, but the stills I've seen do coincide with what he says about the island folks. And chances are I won't be seeing it until it appears on TV. I'm not much on going to films these days, and when I do its something at the cheap theatre.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

A couple of deaths to mention tonight. Shelley Winters has died at 85. The veteran actress had a long career in films ranging from the sublime(Alfie, Lolita) to the ridiculous(Jury Duty). However to many younger folks she's best known as Roseanne's grandmother, a role she played in 10 episodes of Roseanne. Ironically Estelle Parsons, who played Roseanne's mother, was only 7 years younger than Winters.

State TV in Kuwait has announced that the Emir of Kuwait has died. Sheik Jaber Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah was the 13th ruler of Kuwait's al Sabah dynasty. Who ends up being his successor could have a major impact on US policy in the area, as Kuwait is an important regional ally and base for as many as 30000 US troops. It may also be an opening for reform, as both democracy activists and Islamists had called on the Emir to loosen his control on the state and share power.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

A piece of advice to scammers: If you're going to pretend to be from England, please work on your English. I got a scam e-mail today from "Madam Felicia Hines" of Chelsea, England. The subject line was "USE THIS FUND FOR THE LESS PRIVILLEGE." Some other gems included "Here writes Madam Felicia Hines, suffering from cancerous ailment," that she is "married to Engineer Silas Hines an Englishman who is dead," has only a few days to live because of "LUCAMEA" and on top of this suffers from the effects of a stroke. And there's the howler "My happiness is that I lived a life worthy of emulation." Right, emulating some scammer is a good idea. Being a good Christian woman she wants to give me 10 million pounds to help the poor and downtrodden. Its amazing how shameless these folks are, with "Madam Felicia" saying she's ready to meet her maker and "With God all things are possible." Do these people actually believe in God? They certainly believe if they send out enough of these things they'll catch someone who is as greedy as they are, but considerably stupider.
Another weird hit on the blog today. It was from someone looking for stores in Israel that sell penis enlargement machines. I don't even want to think of how a penis enlargement machine would work. I do have to wonder if people who run searches like that realise that such data is being collected by many of the websites they hit. I'm not too worried about my search engine activity being tracked given how silly some of my searches are.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

I'm currently listening to Grant Green's Goin' West album on headphones. At times you can hear someone singing along as they play. Given where the voice is coming from in the stereo image I'm guessing this is probably Billy Higgins. Unfortunately neither of these musicians is still with us.

I've been on kind of a jazz buying spree the last few months, picking up titles by John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Cecil Taylor, John McLaughlin, and Horace Silver along with Green. Part of this has been because the local A&B Sound has had a bunch of Blue Note albums in a 50% off clearance bin. Someone else is obviously hip to these, as when I went looking again this week most of them were gone. Fortunately I picked up Horace Silver's The Cape Verdean Blues, and there's a Jackie McLean CD still there I'm hoping to snag next week. These Blue Note titles are all from the 2003 reissue series mastered by Rudy Van Gelder himself, who recorded them in the first place. If I have a criticism its that there's some tape hiss audible which I'm kind of surprised at. Perhaps he didn't find the various digital de noising programs currently available to his taste. Of course this kind of noise is somewhat more audible when you've got a pair of headphones on and aren't listening through speakers.
I just came in from a late evening walk. This capped a day where I did a lot of walking. Hopefully this will counter the fact I did a lot of eating today. I'm hoping to cut back on my eating a bit and keep my exercising up, especially after the last couple of days. Some day I should really do some research and see what else I might do to exercise beside walking a lot.

Monday, January 09, 2006

As is usually the case this Canadian federal election campaign is producing all sorts of odd behaviour. Dale Sanders, the Christian Heritage Party candidate in the Saskatoon-Wanuskewin riding, feels that Conservative Party incumbent Maurice Vellacot tried to intimidate him into dropping out of the race. He also says that Sam Magnus of the Conservative Party's national council made a similar phonecall. Both men supposedly wanted to know why Sanders would run against Vellacot when they're both Christians and doing so might split the conservative vote in the riding. CHP leader Ron Gray says he received a similar call from Vellacot regarding Sanders, and that Vellacot suggested the party should make all its candidates drop out, because they might split the vote and allow Liberals to be elected. Vellacot told Lana Haight of the Saskatoon Star Phoenix that he sees nothing wrong with asking such questions.

Such a premise strikes me as flawed. It assumes that all CHP voters would vote Conservative if the CHP isn't running candidates. This of course isn't the case. Some would vote for other parties. Others wouldn't vote at all absent a CHP candidate. And some might not like a specific Conservative candidate running in their riding and not vote for him, whereas they would vote Conservative if another candidate was running. Its also an amusing worry when you look at the results in Vellacot's riding. He beat Liberal Chris Axworthy, the second place candidate, by almost 5000 votes. Does he really think this election will be that close in his riding that the several hundred(if he's lucky) votes Sanders might get will prevent him from winning? In fact given the limited profile the CHP has its hard to imagine their slice of the votes being significant in more than a riding or two if at all.

Over in the Battlefords-Lloydminster riding Jim Pankiw is stirring up things again. He's called on the Elections Canada commission to charge Conservative MP Gerry Ritz with tampering with his election signs. Pankiw's father found Ritz removing one of Pankiw's signs from private property. He also implied in his letter to the commissioner that Ritz may have had a role in some of his signs being vandalised. Ritz says he was removing the sign at the request of the property owners, who he states did not give Pankiw permission to put up the signs. He claims to have received at least 50 phone calls from folks who've had Pankiw signs put on their property without permission. Given Pankiw's previous antics this wouldn't surprise me in the least. It also amuses me that Pankiw, like a lot of vocal "get the government out of my business" types, is quick to go to the authorities when it involves something affecting him.

Pankiw is also the subject of a parody website. Any complaints he might have about this sort of cybersquatting will ring a little hollow however. In the 2000 election he acquired a web address including the name of then Liberal candidate Morris Bodnar and established a website there that redirected visitors to anti gun control sites. The same person behind the Pankiw parody site, who declined to give his real name to the Star Phoenix, is also running a parody site lampooning Saskatoon-Humboldt Conservative incumbent Brad Trost.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

I've been watching mixed martial arts broadcasts for something like a year now. The sport is one that's getting increasing coverage on TV as it sheds its early image of being a brutal bloodsport. It would be interesting to know the demographics of the audience for this stuff. For example I couldn't help but wonder what kind of gay audience there is for it. Many matches end up as grappling contests, and sometimes its hard not to draw parellels between the movements of the fighters and a sexual encounter. Are sweaty, muscular men rolling around on the ground, their bodies intertwined, a selling point for a general gay audience, as opposed to those gays who have a strong interest in physical combat and the martial arts? You could similarly speculate along those lines for a female audience as well I suppose.

Another thing I can't help but speculate on is how long it will be, assuming it hasn't happened already, before these broadcasts are implicated in a serious injury or death to a child? Professional wrestling has been claimed to be a factor in such cases a number of times in the past. However a lot of what the typical mixed martial arts match involves either isn't specific to the sport or would be hard for a child to imitate. But it seems inevitable that it will be claimed as a contributing factor in some legal matter sooner or later no matter how little a role it may actually have played.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Goodbye Lou Rawls. The R&B singer has died of cancer at age 72. Too bad that one of the great voices has been silenced.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Taste is a strange thing. I was just drinking a Diet 7 Up. I can actually stomach a Diet 7 Up. It does have that aspertame aftertaste but its reasonably drinkable. On the other hand I can't stomach Diet Coke. It just tastes awful. I haven't tried the new Coke Zero, which supposedly tastes like regular Coke, because I suspect I won't like it. I had a bottle of Coke C2, which is calorie reduced by using aspertame, a while back and I thought I could taste a bit of an aftertaste, but it may have been my imagination. Otherwise it tasted pretty close to straight Coke.

My brother was in Saskatoon for Christmas, and he was the one the Diet 7 Up was purchased for. Its not something I'd go out of my way to buy. He left this morning for Victoria, delayed by half a day. Because of some screwup last night the flight from Saskatoon couldn't connect with the flight he was supposed to take from Calgary, so he took this morning's flight instead so he didn't have to spend the night in an airport. Regular visitors will remember I mentioned in a December post that they lost, but fortunately found, a piece of his luggage. So it was kind of an odd trip for him.
I was just reading some stuff about an electronic music festival in Arizona. Looking at the pictures and reading about the locale its amazing how manyfairly large spiders and so on are out there. Not exactly the kind of thing that would encourage me to visit Arizona.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

I found rather a surprise in today's Saskatoon Star Phoenix. There is actually a member of the Communist Party of Canada running in the Blackstrap riding, which includes part of Saskatoon. She's Sonja Kristtorn, and is one of 21 candidates running for the party in this election. Somehow I doubt incumbent Conservative Party MP Lynne Yelich is much worried about being defeated by Kristtorn. The rival Marxist-Leninist Party of Canada aka the Communist Party of Canada (Marxist-Leninist) has considerably more candidates at 71. Between them the two Communist parties received a total of 13629 votes across Canada, so don't hold your breath expecting either party to elect anyone this time around. On the other hand they got a lot more votes than the Libertarian Party of Canada.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Its kind of cool that I got my first blog hit from Vietnam today, following getting my first hit from mainland China a couple of days ago. Too bad the Vietnamese visitor was looking for gay pron(deliberate sic), and not something more interesting.
Bizarre. I just saw a political ad, for the Conservatives, on Teletoon of all places. What a peculiar place for an election ad. Beats me who the typical evening Teletoon viewer would be interested in voting for.

Monday, January 02, 2006

I hope you had a good New Year's Day. Hopefully you've recovered from any heavy partying you might have done. Me, I always spend New Year's Eve and Day sedately, and since I don't drink alcohol even if I did party I would have avoided the horrors of the hangover.