Friday, December 31, 2010

The Year in Good Things

Here is the requisite year end post containing my favourite things from this year. I'm terrible at explaining my choices so I leave them for you to interpret.

Top 5 Albums of This Year
1) Tokyo Police Club-Champ
2) Broken Social Scene-Forgiveness Rock Record
3) Vampire Weekend-Contra
4) Gorillaz-Plastic Beach
5) Sufjan Stevens-All Delighted People EP

4 Favourite Movies (That I saw)
1) The Social Network
2) Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World
3) Inception
4) Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows: Part 1

3 Favourite Games
1) Modnation Racers
2) Red Dead Redemption
3) NHL 11

2 Favourite TV Shows
1) Community
2) Caprica

1 Favourite Moment
1) Hugging a complete stranger after Sydney Crosby scored the game winning overtime goal during the Olympic Hockey tournament.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

A Christmas Gift (1 of 2)

Foreword: This year for Christmas, my family decided to exchange gifts that were made by us instead of buying things for each other. I was to make a gift for my oldest sister, so I decided to write something. This post is the first of two for my sister. Merry Christmas Ali


Sitting in the back of a coffee shop seemed like the smartest idea right now. A coffee shop is like the ultimate place where you can be quietly anonymous but still be around people. Sometimes it’s the safest place to be. Besides, I needed something to clear my head and figure out what the heck I was doing. Caffeine seemed like a suitable drug for this purpose.
As I sat there in the back of the coffee shop I thought about what to do next. I thought about if I should do anything next. Plans began to wander their way into my mind and I started carrying them out in the privacy of the coffee shop. I think if people could read minds, people would instantly become much more interesting. Instead of blank faces on the subway, you could see people reliving their dreams of flight from the night before, and thoughts of evenings filled with german board games and dive bars. People’s deepest secrets revealed with only a glance.
I idly began playing with the stir stick in my now lukewarm coffee. Having a moment to myself meant that I was finally able to pause and enjoy the weather outside. Snow had been lazily dropping from the sky for the last couple of hours. When I was outside I hadn’t really noticed it but now that I was inside it seemed like the only thing worth paying attention to. As I watched the snow fall, I wondered what would happen if it never stopped. Snow constantly rising until it reached above the windows, leaving all of us stranded in this coffee shop. From there I immediately started thinking about who would take charge in this post apocalyptic scenario. The overly friendly barista who made my drink seemed a likely candidate for panic. The guy in the suit who was obviously engaged in some type of meeting would probably try and take charge. Who would we eat first once we ran out of food?
This is why I’m here. I take things too far. We were just talking about what movie to watch and all of a sudden my whole life flashed before my eyes starting with a proposal and ending up with me laying roses on a grave stone. It was like I had temporal diarrhea and couldn’t keep my brain locked in the present. Instead of occuring in slices, time got squashed together like roadkill, and I thought about it without any divisions. So I ran away and ended up here.
Sometimes it’s really easy to identify your dysfunction, but impossible to deal with it. Also what do you say to someone when trying to apologize for something like that? “I’m sorry I can’t view time in a linear fashion”? Not a very convincing apology scheme. I can see that whole argument right now and the ending feels really familiar.
I pick up my mostly empty cup and dispose of it, heading out the front door. I feel the blast of cold air on my face and the prickle of snow on my face as I leave the coffee shop. Words start to scramble together in my head which I will say when I get home. I breathe in deeply through my nose and let the air chill the back of my brain. Maybe the cold air will keep my mind from it’s time travelling ways.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Morgan Freeman Shares his Thoughts on Racism (which mirror my own)

I think this explains my thoughts about racism a lot better than my earlier post.


Monday, December 20, 2010

The Continuing Saga of my Inevitable Breakdown

I'm having a hard time finding purpose these days. School keeps me so busy that when I don't have something school related to work on (like right now) I wonder what I'm even doing. I don't get the same level of pleasure that I used to get out of things, and it's very unsettling.

I guess it's a good thing, not feeling the same way about things. If I got the same level of pleasure out of playing Halo for the 50th time, then I would probably never do anything else and my life would be very meaningless. It's just such a jolt every time it happens because I get to the part of the year where I have no school and I have to reevaluate my purpose in life.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Endless Documentation

Remember in the old days how photos were special. It cost fifteen bucks for 24 pictures and took time. You had to go to Wal-Mart and even on a good day, it took 24 hours to get your photos back. Instead of snapping every picture possible, you took time to pick photos and selected carefully. Then once you had your photos, they went in an album on a shelf to be pulled out once every year to look at.

Now we live in a world where everyone documents everything endlessly. Everyone has 8 cameras on them at all times and uses them to take pictures of just about anything (ex. lunch, a dog walking past, the newspaper on the front porch). Then on top of that they get posted everywhere. It is very rare for an event to occur where people just go and don't document it. I'm usually quite surprised when I attend something and discover that no one has posted pictures on facebook.

Sometimes I like the fact that there are pictures of lots of things, but at the same time I get sick of it. I didn't need to see a picture of your lunch yesterday and did you really need to take a picture of it? I didn't need to see 35 pictures from the same event featuring the same 5 people in different goofy poses and variations on the duck face.

This is why there are few pictures of me from recent times. Its because I'm actually participating in events instead of documenting them to death. I'll let time sweeten my memories and allow them to change over time.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Some Thoughts on Being White (Part one of several)

Sometimes I have to fill out these forms and put down my race for one reason or another. I usually look for the box marked "white" or "caucasian", but I always feel silly putting that down. It doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me. What is a white person. If I ask you about white people, I get the feeling that you'll probably talk about things like how we're wealthy, oppressive, and with a religious background that's rapidly turning into a split between Christianity and Atheism. It's very vague though. We're not very well defined as a race and I don't think we ever will be.

This creates the problem of identity for any white person. How do you define who you are in a historical context? Where do you hail from? I have the problem of coming from an assortment of European countries (Germany, England, Poland) with so little cultural transference that I can't identify with any of these places. I usually tell people I'm Canadian, but my family hasn't been here for very long so that's tough to glean an identity out of too.

It doesn't help that just about everyone seems to have some kind of beef with me and my loosely defined collection of people and our "race". Some people that came before me and had the same colour skin as me did some really stupid things, and it appears that some people want to continue that, while others want to apologize for it. How are you supposed to be born into something like that? Maybe asking the question is just playing on my ignorance, but from my perspective, how am I supposed to answer for the crimes of some people who've lived here before me?

I think I'm just trying to figure out who I am and why everyone seems to be so angry at me.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Clothes and Some Other Stuff

Sometimes it's tough for me to come up with things to say here. I like to make posts that get to some kind of point or speak about a specific event. Do to the average-ness of my life that means that some weeks, there's not really a whole lot to say and so there's a lack of posts. Sometimes I don't post for other reasons too like work load or depression but usually it's just because nothing has happened that I can talk about.

This week I didn't post because most of the week consisted of staying up til 2 AM working on assignments and studying, and then when I Wasn't doing that I played a show in Coburg with Graven and with Silver Speakers so I was just busy.

I wandered around Toronto for a while yesterday though. I was killing some time and thinking about Christmas shopping but just got totally overloaded. I ended up at the Eaton's Centre just walking back and forth and exploring while witnessing the craziness. How do people get anything done there? It's like an explosion of people or something.

While I was wandering around I started thinking about how it looked like people got all dressed up to go shopping. I don't know if this is just because I'm a guy or if its because I pay very little attention to my appearance but it seems like girls put a lot of thought into what they put on just to step outside their door. It must be exhausting. It seems the same for some guys in Toronto as well but not to the same extent. I don't know how you people do it. I feel tired as is, I can't imagine how much worse off I'd be if I paid more attention to my appearance.

I was thinking about this while I was watching the Kingston Symphony play Handel's Messiah today too. I was just wearing a sweater and jeans and the one pair of shoes that I wear outside these days, which is not to say that I was dressed poorly but I was dressed about as nicely as I get without putting on a suit. I was dressed down from the rest of the crowd though and I couldn't help but think that any widening of my "style band" would require a lot more thinking and a lot more consistent laundering.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Home Stretch

It feels like all I talk about here now is school. I do this because I write about what I happen to be experiencing at the time, and right now what I am experiencing is a large amount of school-related stress. The good news is we're nearly done. I've got 5 more days of classes and a grand total of 21 days until my last exam.

It's times like this when I like to reflect on what's gone wrong so far this year. Here are some lessons I've learned.

1) Keeping up with readings when you're a science student is a silly idea. You will never have enough time to keep up. Just pay attention in class.

2) Visiting your professor is a great way to get help. They tend to know the answers to your questions (surprise) because that's what they get payed to do.

3) Despite all of your best intentions, it's pretty much impossible to start the next assignment before the previous one is finished. Your best bet is to finish each assignment as quickly as possible so you can move on to the next one instead of trying to juggle two simultaneously.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Too Much

You know how normally you don't spend a lot of time thinking about your existence and things of that nature? I've been thinking a lot about existence lately. I haven't been thinking anything specific, but when I'm sitting in front of my computer at 3 AM for the third night in a row, I catch myself thinking "I exist!" a lot. It's a little strange.

In other news I'm starting to lose my grip on linear time. I have no concept of what day it is, I only understand how much time I have left to finish my projects, and that I'm close to the end. It feels like I'm not a real person anymore. Only a week and a half more of this.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

I've decided that this semester has been hard enough that it may warrant a cigar and a glass of scotch to celebrate its end.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

I can divide my days into one of two categories; days when smoking seems like the most disgusting thing in the world, and days when I could really go for a cigarette.

Friday, November 12, 2010

"Sweet Times"-Friday

12:25 PM- Well, after an hour and a half review session last night, I went home and promptly did nothing. I awoke this morning, also did nothing, then went off to write my exam. It went amazingly well(6/6). Sometimes I leave and exam feeling like I've just done terribly, but this time I actually knew most of the material on the exam and felt like I was able to give decent answers. The only problem was I completely missed the first question, but it was only worth 3 marks so I don't think it will hurt me too much. Thus, "sweet times" are now offically over meaning that I can get back to normal school life. I hope you enjoyed this brief forray into the life of a stressed undergraduate.

"Sweet Times": Thursday

10:45 AM - Spent some time going over stats last night but not much. This week is taking its toll on my focus. Went to bed at 11:30, woke up at 8 AM ready to study. Have been preparing on and off all morning. Now I'm off to the bus for class, then exam, then class. Only 2 more exams to go.

5:00 PM While in the middle of my midterm(5/6), I experienced a "blank out" for the first time. I completely forgot a simple piece of information that prevented me from answering a couple of questions. This means I went from being well prepared to possibly failing. It's not a huge deal because I'm already doing pretty good in statistics but it was very frustrating. Now off to a review session before my ecology midterm tomorrow. Will probably get home around 10.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

"Sweet Times": Wednesday

6:00 PM-I managed to attend all my classes today. This is a rarity during "Sweet times" so I'm glad I was able to pull it off. I discovered there was a quiz in Cell biology which we did (3/6) in class and marked. I'm pretty sure I did terrible but I'm also pretty sure that it won't count for me.
Now I'm back at home and am going to crack into some statistics in preparation for my midterm tomorrow. It shouldn't be too hard due to my teacher's excellent policy of setting assignments every 2 weeks which requires that I actually keep up with the material. So I'm going back over the last two assignments and then I should be all good to go.
I will most likely get a normal amount of sleep tonight which is absolutely awesome in my opinion. I almost fell asleep in Cell Bio today just because we were waiting for people to finish the quiz and doing nothing....I need stimulation to stay awake.

"Sweet Times": Tuesday

4:00PM-After missing all but one class for the day, I head home to study for Linear Algebra. I don't have time to figure out one topic but feel relatively prepared. Taking some advice from my girlfriend's cognitive psychology course I take a nap to help me retain the information.

8:00 PM- I am finished the exam (3/5) and head over to "The Sports" for turkey dinner and to watch the Leafs game. The one topic I wasn't able to figure out was an entire 8 mark question on the exam. Other than that though things went well. I will sleep early tonight and prepare for Thursday's Statistics midterm for most of tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

"Sweet Times": Monday

In a fit of deeply tired inspiration, I decided to log the madness of this week here for all of you to see. This week is notable for containing four midterms and an assignment within a five day stretch. This is affectionately known as "Sweet Times" by myself. Here for your reading enjoyment is my record of "Sweet Times"

1:20 AM-Been at work for most of this evening. Attempting to finish an ecology assignment so that I can get to studying for the two midterms I have on Monday and Tuesday. Thus far I've consumed 2 cups of coffee and a bottle of Coca Cola. I'm currently in the library but it closes in 25 minutes so my girlfriend and I will be leaving soon. At that point I'll be going back to my room to quietly finish up before getting a little bit of sleep for tomorrow. If I am lucky, I will sleep for 6 hours tonight. This is highly unlikely though.

5:00 PM-After going to bed at 4 AM and waking up at 8:15 AM, I managed to finish my Ecology assignment. I also managed to do a little bit of studying for my animal Physiology midterm before crashing. Awoke to a call from my parents inviting me to breakfast. On the way to breakfast I dropped of my paper (1/5). Went to 2 hours of class, followed by the animal physiology midterm which took me half an hour to write (2/5). It went surprisingly well for being really tired. Now I'm home for a little bit before I head out to study for my linear algebra midterm tomorrow which I'm not prepared at all for.

9:00 PM-I have finally arrived at the library. I now have exactly 19 hours before my Linear Algebra midterm tomorrow at six. I made up a set of problems from some that we've been given and I'm going to try and finish as many of them as possible tonight.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Post #176...In which Ben says "making plans" a lot

I'm a plan maker. I make plans. I call people, set up things to do and places to go, and then end up fingers crossed hoping that people actually show up. Sometimes people bail on me, sometimes they don't.

In my plan making madness, I often have fits of inspired thought. The other day I was thinking about making some plans when it occured to me that I was stressing out about making plans with this person, and they had never made plans with me. Suddenly I realized that so few of the people I hang out with are plan makers. There's a few here and there and I tend to hang out with those people fairly regularily, but a lot of my friends seem to be loafers. They don't make plans with me, they simply wait until I make plans with them otherwise we just never hang out.

Am I being ridiculous here? All I really expect is that we can share the load of making plans. I will start by making the plans and then you will make the plans for the next time we hang out. Why can't we just do that? That way we both feel equally involved in the planning process and we're both expressing interest in each other instead of feeling somewhat desperate at times.

People who make plans seem to be the people with the most friends. I have a friend who's a highly effective plan maker and he knows more people than I can possibly imagine. Maybe I'm just destined to be a plan maker who makes plans and reaps some of the benefits of plan making.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Some Philosophy About Neurons

What's going on in my head? I can make guesses, assumptions, and analyses, but when it comes down to it I really don't know what's going on. There is so much that happens in there that I don't get.

This has a lot to do with how the brain works. The brain works using huge networks of neurons which are like little decision making cells. In the simplest terms, neurons take input from other neurons then either pass it on or stops the signal. If a neuron fires, it causes some kind of effect somewhere in the body.

Neurons work a bit like having your finger on the trigger of a gun while driving down a bumpy dirt road (just wait...). At any moment, a bump could cause the trigger to shift in a way that causes the gun to fire. You can make this more likely to happen by putting pressure on the trigger. Then it takes a smaller bump to cause the gun to fire accidentally. You can also take your figure off the trigger which makes accidental firing less likely. This kind of action is useful because it doesn't require the kind of information that neurons transfer to be very complicated, all they have to do is fire or not. At the same time, it allows neurons to make decisions based on an infinite number of inputs, generating networks of cells capable of making complex decisions very quickly.

There's a catch to this though. In the same way that you'd never know if it was your shaky hands or the bumpy road that caused the gun to fire, you can never tell why a particular neuron has fired. All you can tell is if a neuron has fired or not, not why it fired. This has some implications for us in the world of conscious thought.

It means we can never really know why we're thinking things. We can know that looking at old photographs makes us happy, but we can only guess as to what it is about old photographs that makes us happy. We can identify the effect, but the cause is hidden behind a shroud, totally unknowable, which is a bit scary.

So how am I supposed to know who I am and how I work?

Monday, October 25, 2010

A Friend of a Friend

I was talking with somebody recently about an experience they had on Facebook. They added an friend who they'd lost touch with and went to this person's wall. Upon arriving at the person's wall in the interest of leaving a post, they discovered that the person had some words on their wall that this person was not expecting (not unlike a few of the words that occasionally find their way into my posts. "I remember them being different" was the general sentiment.

I'm hung up on this situation. Not because it's about language, but just because of the reaction. We live in a culture of three second attention spans and relationships so shallow you couldn't skip a stone across them. What then makes us think that we actually know people? What makes us think that others have lost their power to surprise us?

You can get a read on a person pretty quickly. I have a friend who can have a general idea of what anyone's going to do in about 2 conversations. I'm not quite that good but I can have a profile of you in about 3-5 encounters. Even then though, you shouldn't expect that you have the person pegged that quickly. People get married and continue to learn things about each other for years. It's kind of silly to expect any different of a friend who you spend way less time knowing.

I feel like I'm meandering around the point a bit. The point is this. It's a bit naive to think you have someone pegged. People can always surprise. It's part of what makes us human.

Friday, October 22, 2010

An Interview (or Questions I wish people would Ask Me)

Last night I took some time to sit down and catch up with a man I've know for my entire life, but seem to have lost touch with more recently. We took some time to have a drink and talk about a few things. Below is a transcript of our conversation.
Ben, what's your deal?

laughs That's kind of an open ended question, where should I start?

Wherever you want. It's an interview with yourself after all...

Yeah, but the whole point of interviewing myself is so that I don't have to seem pushy...

Ok, what's new in your life?

...because that's so much less open ended. What's new in my life? Well, I picked a new profession of choice for the next six months.

What's that all about?

I discovered recently that I lower my expectations for what career to partake in about every six months. In first year it was possibly medicine, then dentistry, then it was nursing, then it was biology research.

What's this half-year's choice?

Law.

laughs Seriously?

Yes, seriously. I was thinking about something that a guest at House Famous said about law . He was recounting the story of how he ended up at law school, and was saying that he tried his hand at a couple of LSAT questions and found he was pretty well suited to that kind of thinking so he borrowed some money, took a prep-course, and ended up in law school. So I was thinking about this one day and though "why not?", mostly because the LSAT contains no information, it's all about thinking and reasoning instead of knowing content. I went to indigo and bought a book, and now I'm looking at writing it in February, depending on how things go.

Are you going to take a class?

They cost like...$1000 so I probably won't consider it unless I'm still pretty serious about this whole thing in a couple of weeks.

Whatever happened to your plans for a music career?

They're still there but I've got so much else on my plate right now that it's hard to find a spare moment to work on that stuff.

What are you doing music wise right now?

I started taking guitar lessons, which is going really well. It's not just guitar lessons, there's a lot of improvising and music theory in it as well so it's there to kind of expand my music vocabulary. I've been feeling really limited in terms of what I can express on an instrument so hopefully this will help me.

What happened to your grand "one song a week" project

It was a spectacular failure. I write songs very slowly, and I need to be in the mood to write, so trying to put out one song per week just wasn't going to happen.

So you just choose not to push yourself creatively?

Sort of...there's a tension there between what I want to do and what I can do. I want to write more music and sometimes goal setting helps me to do that (like during RPM 08) but then sometimes it just makes me bitter about having to output creatively. Somewhere in between accepting how I am and pushing myself to do better, there's a sweet spot where I'm most effective as an artist.

You write about your faith sometimes, without ever really getting specific. What's going on there?

I don't like that phrase "My faith". Faith makes it sound like it's some kind of thing I think about sometimes and then just forget about it the rest of the time. It's so much more than that. For me it translates into a lot of thinking about how Christianity works in North American society where we have so few needs and everything is made a shit-load more complicated by how much leisure time we have.

Ok, so forget "faith". What effects does Christianity or Christ have on your life?

It's so hard to talk about faith without saying something cliche....

What do you mean?

The question, "What effects does Christ have on your life?" initiates this kind of gag reflex. I don't know if it's my inner hipster hating things that get said a lot or what but that's what I think. I suppose I should answer the question though. To me it's so complicated it's hard to comment on. When you get down to it, Christ is all about love and loving those around you and the God who created all of you. But that's so complicated when we live in a society where people are independent. Oftentimes people don't see the need for or the importance of love, and so this entire ideology or way of living becomes this unnecessary set of rules for them and they totally miss out. In the meantime, we manage to fuck it up and distort it in every way possible. Everyone has a story about how they've been burned by the church or by someone who claimed to be a follower of Christ, and it just makes everyone even more wary of those who claim to be followers of Christ.

It sounds like that's something that upsets you a lot...people distorting Christ

It bothers me that no one sees anything wrong with that. It bothers me that there are people in the church who engage in destructive and manipulative social practices like gossiping and venting, and see no problem with it. It also bothers me that people think that they can identify the problems of others better than others can. Jesus says right there in the gospels "Take the log out of your own eye before trying to remove the speck from your brother's eye". That's what we are. We're a bunch of log eyed fools sometimes. I honestly wonder what God is doing with us at times.

I'd love to hear more about this but I think we're getting near to the end of our space. Any last words?

Not really. I'm terrible with endings.

Until next time then...

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Reverse Psychology

Why do I like things? Broad enough question, I know. What I mean to say is, why do I do what I do?

I was thinking about this today while watching the Social Network again with some other people (Give me something engaging and I’ll get completely wrapped up in it. Give me something that I’ve seen already and you’ve given me 2 hours to sit and think). What are my motivations for doing things? I like to argue with people. Sit down and tell me something, anything, it could be about a sports team, a movie, a current event, a lifestyle choice, and I can almost guarantee you that I will disagree with you. I don’t like what you’ve just said even though, five seconds ago, I didn’t have an opinion on it.

This stunning realization while watching the movie gave me time to skim brief life choices. I determined that the real reason I like plant biology is because in High School, a girl I liked told me she hated plant biology so I decided that I would like it. Why am I interested in evolutionary and ecological biology? Because everyone else at my school said they liked life science. What was my first reaction? Fuck them, I like the other stuff. I didn’t have an opinion about it before but now that there’s someone to argue with, I’ll go to town with it. Recommend a band to me and you’d have been better of telling me that they really suck.

Does this apply to my relationship? No. Does this apply to my faith? Yes. I don’t really get it. How did this happen, and what am I supposed to do here? Do I embrace the fact that my first response to everyone is to give them the finger or do I try and change this? I’m not really making decisions for me anymore, I’m being some kind of reactionary jackass.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Big Ideas

I just watched The Social Network this week and it's got me thinking about ideas. The movie is about the creation of Facebook and all of its associated controversy, but it's also about a big idea. Facebook was essentially a really great idea that had fantastic implementation, but even if the implementation had been terrible, it still probably would have taken off given the right set of circumstances.

Ideas are contagious. Inception explored this in pretty great detail but it's true. If you have one good idea, it can spread like wildfire and its value can be worth anything. Ghandi's great idea of non-violence got him the independence of an entire country. Mark Zuckerberg's idea of a network where people can share everything with only their friends got him a 25 Billion Dollar company. Both ideas were very valuable, but for different reasons.

I think our society needs to focus more on new ideas. Too often we're stifled by the learning process which encourages us to learn from the ideas of others. Can you imagine what would happen if instead of memorizing lists of facts, we came up with ideas and then were guided along the process of forming them into something complete?

Album Review: Sufjan Stevens-All Delighted People EP

If anyone else in the universe made an EP it would contain 4-6 songs totaling no more than 25 minutes in length. Sufjan Stevens doesn't really follow those kinds of conventions. Here we have an EP that's 60 minutes long (52 minutes if you don't count the alternate version of the title track) containing 8 (or 7 depending on who's counting) songs, and enough production to count this is something more like a full release.

I almost wonder if Sufjan called this an EP because it doesn't have the cohesiveness of his earlier material. All Delighted People plays a bit like a show with a main act and then a much quiter, more downbeat backing band. The main event here is the title track "All Delighted People" which has Sufjan experimenting with the long form song once again. Some people might be confused by this since the longest song Sufjan has released to date is "Detroit" which clocks in at 8 minutes, but Sufjan released a song on the compilation "Dark Was The Night" last year that was 10 minutes long and experimented with similar long forms, and on his last tour he showed off a song called "Majesty Snowbird" which is also long form. "All Delighted People" plays like an emotional roller coaster starting off quietly, building to a frenzied climax about halfway through before dropping into another quiet section, only to build up to a crescendo at the end. It's well worth the 11:38 it takes to listen to.

Then you would think that that would be the end of it, but All Delighted People continues with 5 beautifully quiet numbers exhibiting some beautiful melodies and thoughtful lyrics. Sufjan probably could have called these an EP and everyone would have been happy but here they are almost as an afterthought to "All Delighted People". They are definitely not second rate songs though.

The album ends with its longest track (I know, right?) "Djohoriah" which plays out a bit like "Sister". It's got a very very long instrumental component at the beginning, with the "Song" at the end, but it's such a well moving song that I haven't yet noticed its length while listening to it. It's 17 minutes long but makes really good background music without getting annoying and repetitive.

Sufjan's come out of retirement, and this EP (which isn't his main work for this year) shows an artist who's evolved, but still has a gift for melody.

Friday, October 1, 2010

On University

I went on a field trip last week and spent a lot of time meeting new people. Something that seems to come up a lot in conversations with new people is "What do you want to do with your life?". This weekend I heard the answer "I have no idea" more times than I can count. What's the deal?

My great uncle got his university degree back in the 60's (he had a master's in Social Work), and when he got his degree, he had all sorts of job opportunities lined up at his door begging him to come work for them. When I heard this story from somebody else I just laughed because times have changed so much. When you get to the end of university now you're scraping around for any kind of career opportunity because the job market is flooded with value-less bachelor's degrees. Everyone looks at you with the same basic attitude. You're just another person with a university degree and unless you're some kind of demigod over achiever, no one's going to woo you into anything.

And you can peg the overachievers for being the problem, because they're so easy to get mad at. Nothing they do goes wrong, and they have the kind of life that people love to hate, success in everything. But it's not the overachievers that are the problem. The problem is that we're all overachievers.

Somewhere back in the 80's we all decided that if you didn't go to university you were "stupid" and so, not wanting to be labeled, we all started gunning for university. We worked away in high school with hopes of attending a fine academic institution to study a subject that we really have no intrest in but don't admit that because we wouldn't want to be called stupid. Because so many of us did this, university became something that it wasn't before. It used to be a specific institution for people to gain specialized training for specific roles in society. Now it's a catch all.

And now, standing on the edge of the end of my university career, I'm wondering if I should just quit now and give this whole mode of thinking the finger. I'd make more money after college anyways.

Album Review: Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World-Various Artists

There's a couple of Sufjan albums that I need to review shortly but before I get to them I need to clear out my backlog of reviews, thus we come to the odd man out in my reviews this year, a soundtrack.

I should probably tell you right off the bat that I LOVED this movie. I saw it twice before it went out of theatres (which happened in 2 weeks) so I am somewhat biased towards Scott Pilgrim related things. That being said, after the fuzzy feelings wore off, I came to a couple of harsh realities about this soundtrack.

It's composed 50% good stuff and then the other 50% is music that fits with scenes in the film but falls flat as a track on an album. Let me discuss both seperately.

The Good Stuff: Lots of new music was written by some pretty big bands for this movie. Beck wrote a number of songs that serve as the tracks for Scott's in movie band Sex Bob-Omb, Metric finished a track to sub in for another band, and Broken Social Scene wrote some of the shortest songs ever written for "Crash and The Boys". The original music that's here is great. I complements the movie really well and sounds pretty decent on its own. As far as non-original tracks go, there's some good stuff in here from Plumtree (an old band from Halifax that no one had ever heard of), Frank Black, and Beachwood Sparks.

The Flat Stuff: These are topical songs "Teenage Dream", "O Katrina", "Sleazy Bed Track"...the list goes on. There's about 8 or 9 tracks on here that don't fit at all with the rest of the music on the album and seem to fight it at every turn.

It's kind of a shame that this soundtrack couldn't be better. The good stuff that's here is absolutely perfect but it gets interrupted every three songs by something that doesn't fit at all. My advice is to buy the good tracks individually on itunes instead of grabbing the whole album.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Mixing


Right now I'm mixing a Graven EP. Bands always talk about mixing like it's some kind of mystical process and they spend weeks at it sometimes trying to get the "right mix". Since I was once mystified about the whole process, I thought I would sit down here and share a little bit about it with you.

Mixing is the process by which you take the tracks that have been recorded during the original session (a process known as "tracking") are mixed and produced so that they are all at the volume that they need to be at so they can go to be mastered (which is a process that I still don't entirely understand). It's basically the part of the recording process where you get to decide if you want the guitar to be louder or if you want reverb on that vocal track. It involves a whole bunch of little decisions to make minor tweaks to the sounds that you generated during tracking.

This means that I'm spending 4-5 evenings a week sitting down listening to the same song 10-20 times while trying to make sure that all the individual tracks work well as a group. I also have to make sure that the tracks aren't peaking out (where their output level is higher than the level of output that sound hardware can handle resulting in ugly distortion and the loss of some audio information) and add fades at appropriate times. This results in a lit of repetitive tasks and sitting around listening to stuff while going crazy. It can be a very lonely process.

As I'm writing this post, I'm waiting for my main mix to finish recording for the last song I'm working on tonight. This is my 4th pass at a main mix so I've listened to this song all the way through 4 times in a row now and it's started to drive me a little crazy. I like listening to music I'm recording but sometimes these things drive me a little crazy.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

About Today....

Some days I have a huge thought to hammer out here in my blog. Today is not one of those days. Today was a very long day. I think I'd just like to relax now.



Thursday, September 9, 2010

A Series of Short Thoughts

-There are three types of friends. Friends with no awkward silences, friends with awkward silences, and friends that you only wave to and say hello. It's ok to be the last kind. That wave is kind of like a mental pat on the back.

-I'm really sick of having people try and shove things about Christianity down my throat. I grew up in the church. I think I have a basic sense of right and wrong and how that plays out for me. We don't need to argue about it.

-Sometimes I worry about how I'm going to sell my loft bed when it comes time that I don't need it anymore. There are a hundred problems in my life right now and this is what I worry about, how to sell a bed I've had for 6 years...

-A little while ago I discovered that music can feel a lot like working. It's enjoyable work but recording and songwriting are absolutely exhausting processes. I have more respect for working musicians now.

-I wish people would be ok with showing a little immaturity now and then. I'm not talking about the kind of immaturity where you are a jerk to people, I'm talking about the kind of immaturity where you sit down and build lego for twenty minutes because it reminds you of being a kid.

-Somewhere back along the line I started to develop hermit-like tendencies. I have only just recently begun to break free of these. It's very difficult to change your living style though. It's a bit like trying to change handedness or how you write. It takes forever and you're never really great at it.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Album Review: Arcade Fire-The Suburbs

Sometimes you worry about whether a band will deliver on their early promise. So many bands show great potential on their first album and create amazing art, only to completely collapse during the production of their second album. And it's a rare few bands who succeed in producing more than one great album.

So it is with great joy that I tell you that Arcade Fire have succeeded in producing another great album. The Suburbs plays like a big sprawling housing development. It explores a lot of territory over a long time (16 tracks over an hour) and looks so good while doing it.

A friend of mine pointed out that he liked Arcade Fire's continuity in their albums. They produce works that have an excellent sense of cohesiveness. All the songs fit together in ways that create a musical flow from one end to the other, and the songs often link into each other in ways that serve to enhance each song.

But The Suburbs doesn't just work as an album. It's full of songs which are great in their own right. Title track "The Suburbs" explores some more modest emotional ground that the band hasn't really delved into too deeply, "Month of May" shows us what Arcade Fire could be if they threw down their violins and became a straight ahead rock band, and my personal favourite "Empty Room" explodes right from the beginning with a string riff that sounds like it's about to explode.

This is normally the part of the review where I say what I don't like about the album, but I think this is a solid effort and doesn't really have any specific weak points. This is a good candidate for one of my favourite albums of the year.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

You're my Favourite?

I don't like the way people use words sometimes. For example, people use the word like way too often in North American english. This isn't a big problem as it's only an annoyance, and doesn't lead to any kind of serious communication errors. What I'd like to talk to you about today is hyperbole gone terrible wrong.

For those of you who are confused, hyperbole refers to a gross exaggeration, usually for the purpose of emphasis. For example I could say that I work a billion hours a week and you would know that I was exaggerating because there aren't a billion hours in a week and there's no way I could work that much. But from what I've said you now understand that I feel like I work a lot more than anyone should. This is ok because these types of hyperboles are easy to identify (try playing spot the hyperbole with your friends sometime and you'll see how easy it is to identify in most cases).

The problem comes in when we start producing ambiguous hyperbole. This means that your hyperbole isn't easy to identify or could be interpreted as a truthful statement. Consider the following exchange between Jane, a beautiful young lass, and Margaret who desperately wants to be best friends with Jane.

Jane: Margaret can I borrow a pencil?
Margaret: Sure, here you go.
Jane: Thanks Margaret, you're my favourite!

Now this puts Margaret in a bit of an awkward spot. True, she did just provide Jane with a valuable service, but has her looseness with pencils really gained her number one status in Jane's friend list? Most people would say no but for Margaret, she desperately wants to believe the answer is yes.

Ridiculous examples aside, I have a big problem with this. While girls are the most common culprits both genders are guilty (you have no idea how many people have told me I am their favourite because I've given them a muffin). It's like they're looking for excuses to tell people that they are their favourite and it demeans the concept of being someone's favourite and confuses the hell out of some people.

And really, why is it necessary? Why can't we just say "thank you" or "I appreciate your gesture"? Why are we going out of the way to try and make people feel more special than we actually think they are. Why don't we just cut all the crap and say what we feel instead of making stuff up? In fact I'm going to start right now. Thanks for reading reader. You're not my favourite but you're ok.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Best Birthday Present of All

I'm a solitary guy. I spend a lot of time by myself, doing solo-type activities. I feel awkward in social situations and I don't always know how to set up friend dates so the opportunity for me to interact with people is less frequent than I would like.

This was slightly different today though. Today was my birthday. This means that I was greeted, called, and messaged on facebook by a great many people. It was very nice. It was a day full of nice social contact. I also got to respond to a lot of these people and discuss each other's lives and what we've been up to and how life is. It was very nice to get all of these updates.

So I have decided that the best birthday present from today was the conversations and exchanges I had with people. Thank you for all being a part of it.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

A Brief Moment in Theology

I used to live in a house with some people. One of these people I lived with was named Brendan. Brendan is a very interesting guy, especially if you sit down and talk with him about some of the things he believes.

Something Brendan used to mention periodically was a story about Ghandi. He said that there was a period of time in Ghandi's life where he became obsessed with the idea of non-violence. It became such an obsession that he began to structure his life around it. Brendan always mentioned how Ghandi struggled to learn how to do every little action non-violently, even eating. Ghandi spent a lot of time thinking about how to eat non-violently.

This got me thinking about another concept recently. My chuch (Next Church) is doing a little sermon series on a little phrase in the bible that says "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself". I've been thinking about what this means and why it's a thing that I feel I should do.

This related to the Ghandi story though because this idea has been making me look at things in my life differently. For instance, I was driving into work this morning and thinking "How can I love God while driving to work?". I just got out of the shower and while I was showering I was thinking "How can I love God while showering?". These seem like such ridiculous questions to me because showering doesn't seem like a context where you can love God, but this idea is causing me to reexamine all the things I do and how I do them.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Standards?

Once upon a time, I played in a Led Zeppelin cover band. It was a time when I was a much poorer drummer than I am now, and the music school where I was taking my drum lessons was offering this program where they'd hook you up with a cover band. One day we were trying to get together "Rock and Roll" by Led Zeppelin which was taking an unusually long time for some reason. In a fit of frustration, our teacher went out on a rant about how we didn't know what he considered to be "Rock and roll standards"; songs everybody should know.

Some time later, I was reading about a jazz trio called "The Bad Plus" who do a lot of rock and roll song covers. In an interview, they were asked why they do these types of songs. The interviewer was wondering if it was for irony or if it was to prove some kind of point. The band responded by talking about the jazz concept of "Standards". There is a list of songs referred to as "Standards" in Jazz music which are songs which are common for jazz musicians to know. Most of these standards are old songs written in the 40s which have since been adapted by jazz musicians for use in many different contexts. The band discussed how if you play an exceptionally old song it's referred to as a standard, but if you play a new song it's called a cover. They said they didn't understand this difference and decided to make some contemporary songs into standards, hence their performance of rock "Covers" or standards.

These two separate events got me thinking today about what songs would be considered modern standards. We have such a diverse array of available music that it makes me wonder if there are any songs that we could consider essential to know. I've decided to think about this from now on and try and come up with a decent list. If you have any thoughts about this, or any songs you think are essential for a musician to be able to play through without previous practice, comment away.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Coulda Sworn....

So I'm having a birthday party. Today I decided to make the facebook event for my birthday party. This involved setting a location and a date and then inviting people to come to the party. The first two parts went swimmingly but when I got to the third part, I struggled. Who do I invite? I don't want to invite a bunch of people who will say no, but I also don't want to exclude people. I also have the problem of having a bunch of friends who are all working at camp right now so none of them can come.

When I finished making the invite list all I could think was "I thought I had more friends than this who I would invite to a birthday party".

After pondering on this briefly I figured out that summer is a terrible time to have a birthday party because everyone is either working or out of town.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Album Review: The Roots-How I Got Over

The track listing on the back of The Roots latest album starts somewhere around 140. This is a clever way of saying they've been around for a while. Even without the clever track listing though, The Roots show their experience on their latest album "How I Got Over" (or how i got over if you're into being literal about typography).

The album is full of additional musicians. Indie heros Dirty Projectors and Jim James of My Morning Jacket both make appearances. The Roots don't bring these people in just for the sake of adding indie credibility. Instead, these artists make big contributions to the sound of the album. On album opener "A Peace of Light" the girls from Dirty Projectors generate some interesting harmonies that are used in such a way that they sound more like an organ than a group of vocalists. It lends the song a very interesting texture and serves to capture the listener from the album's opening.

The album builds momentum as it goes until it reaches the title track "How I Got Over", after which the album slowly loses steam before giving a last punch at the end of the album with "Web 20/20". There's a bonus track on the end ("Hustla") but it seems to be tacked on and doesn't really jibe with the rest of the album. The low-high-low feel of the album seems to work, but I don't know how well. I've been finding myself skipping over some of the earlier tracks, just because the album picks up so much once it hits "How I Got Over".

The highlight of the album for me is the trio of songs that follow "How I Got Over". "DillaTUDE", an instrumental followed by the amazing groove and inspiration of "The Day" and then my favourite track of the album "Right On" featuring Joanna Newsom. On these songs The Roots really show what they're best at; building grooves that carry their songs to the next level. The drum track on "Right On" alone is substantial enough to carry any song, but the song also includes a perfect bass line that slides in and a sample that just works.

When you look at this album, you're looking at a hip hop album with some great grooves. There's a few tracks that don't really do it for me, but I still would recommend this album to anyone who finds themselves being caught up in a rhythm section.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Losing Sleep

Last night I woke up at 4 AM and all I could think about was how I needed to scoop ice cream sundaes.

This summer I started a new job working as a kitchen supervisor at the camp where I always work. I initially tried to get a job somewhere else doing something else, but then I couldn’t find another job and someone at camp approached me and offered me the job with no previous interest expressed. At this point in the summer I had figured out that I needed the money very badly so I agreed to the job and here I am.

My job involves running the kitchen when another cook is not present. This means doing anything from cooking large amounts of meat (14 kg of ground beef!) to ordering people around ("peel 250 potatoes") to doing laundry.

I enjoy my job but it can be very stressful at times. When it comes to meal times often you'll find me running around, sweating, and generally in a bad mood. Lately it's been troubling my sleep. The last couple of nights, I've woken up in the middle of the night in a panic about having to finish something on time. One night I woke up thinking that I had to put meat in the oven or dinner was going to be late. It took me a solid 5 minutes to get thinking straight and remember that it was night time and I needed to go back to sleep.

So last night I woke up at 4 AM thinking that I needed to scoop ice cream, only to discover that I was nowhere near ice cream or scooping. I think I need some kind of stress release.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Album Review: Shad-TSOL

I'm probably the most unqualified person to be reviewing a hip-hop album. While I listen to a few artists in this genre, I'm not really sure I understand the subtleties of what makes good hip-hop. Nevertheless here I am, attempting to review London rapper Shad's latest album.

Shad came to my attention about a year and half ago after I saw a video for his song "The Old Prince Still Lives at Home" from his previous album "The Old Prince". The video was kind of funny to watch, but it was the way that Shad generates his lyrics that attracted me to his music. He gets this flow going where you think he's going to run out of rhymes or stop but he just keeps going right into the end of the song.

On this album, Shad is doing exactly what I like him best for. He's rhyming in a way that sounds very unique. "Rose Garden" and "A Good Name" are both good examples of this steady stream of rhyming. It helps that all of the songs have very catchy hooks. Again, "Rose Garden" is a perfect example. Even if he wasn't rhyming on top of it, the song would still be catchy as hell.

His rhyming skill wouldn't really matter if the content of his rhymes wasn't good, but there's a lot of depth in the lyrics here. Shad speaks to themes that seem to be skipped over by a lot of other hip-hop I hear. On "Keep Shining" he gets into his views on how women should be viewed, putting them on an equal footing with men instead of viewing them as objects. The aforementioned "Good Name" dives into Shad's personal history and his namesakes. It reads like a letter thanking the people who he's named after for their contributions to his life.

The album follows an intro-interlude-outro pattern which works for the album. It's not a format that I'm a huge fan of but it makes the album flow pretty well. All in all this is a solid album from a solid Canadian artist. If you're looking for an alternative to the lyrical content of a lot of mainstream hip hop, this is an excellent pick.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Album Review: Tokyo Police Club-Champ

Sometimes when you put on an album, you're not looking for some kind of deep emotional experience or thrilling journey. Sometimes you just want to listen to some catchy songs on the way to work to give you a kick in the pants to make it through the day. I am happy to report that if that's what your looking for, I have the perfect album.

Tokyo Police Club's second full album "Champ" is an albums worth of songs which are all dangerously catchy, fun, and upbeat. The album opens with "Favourite Food" which starts off slowly by exhibiting singer/bassist Dave Monk's scratchy voice singing earnestly. About halfway through though the songs picks up dramatically and we launch into a full Tokyo Police Club assault on the rest of the song featuring all of the hallmarks that the band has developed in their very short career; a speedy, screeching guitar line loaded with reverb, a well accented drum beat, a bass line that fills out the song and is very audible, and some synth work in the background that polishes everything off. The album continues on like this from here on out. Every song is a little different, but each one exhibits these elements with startling polish.

Lyrically, the album explores elements of youth as an adult. It's not anything incredibly profound, but it's great stuff to sing along to since the themes in the song will feel very familiar.

Out of all of the albums I've reviewed thus far, this one is my favourite, just because it's so easy to listen. If you're looking for a soundtrack to your summer, this is probably it.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

And Now For Something Completely Different

Sometimes I play videogames. My parents will tell you that this is a gross understatement but I feel it expresses my level of dedication towards them. When I am not sometimes playing video games, I often keep tabs on things that are going on in "the industry". I like to know what company is putting out which games, how they're doing financially, what new technologies they're coming up with, things like this.

So today I was browsing around the internet, and I started thinking about Sega. You see, Sega is a video game company from Japan who made both some excellent decisions and some very poor decisions. They began producing video games in the early 1990's with something called the Sega Master System which was a complete failure. Then they made a system called the Sega Genesis which was a great success. After that they made the Sega Saturn which was a success in Japan but a complete failure in North America, only lasting just over a year. Following this they developed a system called the Dreamcast which played host to some of the greatest games of the last 10 years, but was a financial failure for other reasons and ceased production after 4 years. After this, Sega said they had finally had it and moved to become a software only company instead of making game consoles.

Which brings us to my thoughts of today. You see, if you look at Sega's website you will see two types of games. 1) Games which have nothing to do with Sega as a highly skilled developer of games, and are only being published by them because it's a smart financial decision and 2) Games which are direct ports of older sega games, usually from the Genesis but sometimes from the Dreamcast or Saturn. As I looked at this I wondered what happened to the company that once upon a time developed some of the greatest and most daring games of the modern day. Where were all the risks that they used to take? Have they lost their confidence? I honestly hope Sega starts taking risks again soon because right now they look like a shell of the company they once were.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Album Review: Wintersleep-New Inheritors

I try to say mostly positive things about the albums I listen to. I think all bands or artists are really trying their best and should be commended for their hard work. Sometimes an album just doesn't quite hit as hard as you think it should. This latest album from Wintersleep is one of those albums.

It's a decent enough album. It's fairly consistent, it's got some very good tracks ("Mausoleum" and some others. The whole back half of the album is pretty strong), and there's a lot of emotion in the album but the ride through the album feels a bit bumpy at times. The album starts with heavy dark tracks like "Experience the Jewel" only to be jilted off course by the upbeat title track "New Inheritors" before being thrown down into the depths again with "Black Camera". On their own these are well written songs but the way they're put together just feels very jumbled to me. I like to sit down and listen to an album all the way through, and when I find myself skipping through songs to get to the same pack of tracks at the end of the album, I can't help but think the album could have been a bit more organized.

There's still plenty to enjoy here. Like I said before, the back half of the album has a lot of good tracks and it's good music to listen to if you're feeling angsty, but I feel like the tracks could have flowed into each other better and the album could have been more cohesive.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Album Review: The National-High Violet

I have a problem with traditional reviewing processes for music, simply because sometimes it takes a while for an album to brew away on the back-burner before you start to get a sense of what the artist is doing. I've noticed this a lot while doing this series of album reviews. Some of the albums are things that I caught onto immediately, but some of them have taken me a while to get what the band is doing. The National's lates album "High Violet" is one of those albums.

I was lucky enough to get a chance to listen to this album a few times before it was released on the New York Times website and I felt like it just wasn't the kind of album a band like The National would make. It sounded too mellow and understated for a band who's known for being a stadium rock band with no stadium.

Fortunately I took my chances, went ahead and picked up the album when it was released, and after a few more listens I think I finally got it. They don't seem to be interested in yelling or even grumbling about the way things are going. With the weight of a few more years behind them, the lyrics and the music now turn to an acceptance of the way things are and possibly even an embrace.

This means that instead of Matt Berringer screaming "I won't F--- us over" we hear him quietly reflecting "Sorrow waited, sorrow won". It's a sad line, but it's sung in such a way that makes it seem like he's accepted the sorrow of life and has learned to see its beauty. This also means that the guitar parts have been scaled back to create quiter sonic surfaces like the ones on the aforementioned "Sorrow" (my favourite track on the album) or on "Conversation 16" where you can just barely hear the strumming in the background, but you can fully understand how it lends itself to the lyrics.

High Violet is probably not one of the years greatest albums. The albums tone is too narrow to appeal to a wide array of people. But in the right setting, under the right mood, the album couldn't be more perfect.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

A Show

Yesterday I went to see a concert. Starting a post like that makes me feel like a first grader. It's like, where do you go from there? "Yesterday I went to see a concert. It was fun. I had a hot dog. There were a lot of seagulls." I've spent a lot of time thinking about how I say things lately jut because I find that there are certain phrases that I say and it bugs me that I say them or I feel like they're wearing out or they're somewhat juvenile. Things like inserting the word "like" as a substitute for many other words, starting a sentence with the phrase "it's funny how", or a number of other things that I repeat a lot. This has nothing to do with what I wanted to post about though.

I went to see Broken Social Scene yesterday. Every year (almost) they play a show on Toronto Island with some other band. One year it was Modest Mouse, another year it was Bloc Party. This year they were playing with a band called "Pavement" who can supposedly be considered the fathers of college rock. I was in attendance with my girlfriend and a friend from school and we had a sweet time. Getting to the island is always a chore and because the show was sold out this year it made it even more difficult but we got on in reasonable time and managed to get in.

The set that BSS played was so calculated it was incredible. They're a band with a number of members who have become too big to keep touring with the band regularly, but because this was a special show, they were able to get these members back. They started with their normal touring lineup but a few songs in they revealed that Feist was there to sing some songs with them, then a few songs later Emily Haines appeared on stage to sing, and the two ladies joined regular member Lisa Lobsinger for some vocal duels. They were also backed by a full six or seven piece horn section and two string players.

The set list was well constructed, containing most of the songs from their newest album "Forgiveness Rock Record" and having some choice cuts from their older material. The only complaint I had was the lack of a piano from "Lover's Spit" but that's a really minor gripe.

The weather was perfect, the lineup was well constructed to allow for easy exit from the island (BSS played second last which helped to reduce major ferry congestion), and the only hiccup was the fact that the beer tent involved an obscenely long wait with limited success. It was another great show on Toronto island.

P.S. Thanks for all the complements on the layout. Google added some new layout features that make everything look more like tumblr so I took advantage of them and produced what you see here.

Monday, June 14, 2010

In The Bush

It's been a little while, mostly due to a combination of sickness, a fishing trip, and general lack of motivation. I'm finding my head is more empty nowadays because there are other things to take up my time and energy.

I just spent 3 days in the woods and I'm sort of recovering from the isolation. This involves babysitting for three days followed by a concert in Toronto. I like to pack in my civilization into large chunks for general goodness.

Sometimes I wonder if I'll ever become the kind of person I want to become. The more things change, the more they stay the same but I'm different now than I was so maybe I just can't see the change. In the bush you can see the change in me. I'm definitely less whiny than I used to be. I guess I am changing, just very very slowly.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Album Review: The Hold Steady-Heaven is Whenever


(Note: I meant to do this almost two weeks ago. Sorry it's so late)
When I listen to a Hold Stead record, I expect three things. First, I expect to hear lead singer Craig Finn's deep gravely voice singing life into party-goers and drug dealers in a way that makes them sound like stand up characters even though they're screwing each other and screwing each other over in every song. Heaven is Whenever continues to deliver here. Familiar characters make returns (I'm pretty sure "The Weekenders" is about the girl from "Chips Ahoy" but that may be a mis-read on my part) and new ones pop in like the band that gets started in album opener "The Sweet Part of the City".

The Second thing I expect on a Hold Steady record is some sweet keyboard/accordion parts being plated by Franz Nicolay. This record is sorely lacking in this department as Franz Nicolay has departed to do his own thing. The good news is that the band doesn't fall over without him. There are still keyboard/piano parts aplenty on this record and they add to the sound, but they don't make songs like the used to, especially tracks like "One for the Cutters" on 2008's "Stay Positive". The band has embraced a few new sounds on this album though, possibly to make up for Nicolay's absence, possible for no reason at all, and the most prominent example of this is the albums opening slide guitar riff from "Sweet Part of the City". It's nice to hear a bit of a change in the sound of a band that's been running things fairly consistently for the last couple of albums.

The Third thing I expect is some extremely heavy and creative guitar riffs from lead guitarist Tadd Kubler and here is where this album really kicks my expectations in the pants. Without Franz Nicolay to steal the spotlight, Tad's guitar playing rips right through this record's sound. From heavy tracks like "The Smidge" to my personal favourite track on the album "The Weekenders", the guitar becomes much more of the focus of the sound of the band, and I feel it's a welcome change.

There's another thing I always expect from a Hold Steady album that I don't like to mention though. That is a slow number somewhere in the middle that doesn't quite flow right. 2006's "Boys and Girls in America" had "First Night", "Stay Positive" had "Lord I'm Discouraged" (which is probably their best shot at it), and this album has "We Can Get Together", a song which has a lot of great moments but unfortunately doesn't fit together quite right. It's not something against the sound of the album but it is a speed bump on the road to what might have been an incredible album otherwise.

I also feel like I'm bashing on endings with most of these reviews I've been writing but the ending of this album is very drawn out and I don't really like it. It may just be my personal preference but when "A Slight Discomfort" ends with the same chords, wash of sound, and one repeated drum fill for two and a half minutes, I can't help but wonder if the band could have done something a little more creative or concise.

I like this album a lot, but in the scheme of all The Hold Steady albums I've heard, this one drops in just below "Boys and Girls in America" and well below "Stay Positive". It's good but I hope the band can find some smoother flow for their next album.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Insomnia

Sometimes I drink too much pepsi/coke and end up sitting in front of my computer until 3AM. It gives me time to think about stuff but it also sucks because it means that I'll be very tired tomorrow which is unfortunate.

When I was in grade school I used to sit up in front of the computer until very late at night, usually due to the fact that I was playing Counter-Strike and didn't want to quit. I was never very good at it but the social aspect had me hooked. I also remember I used to blog a lot late at night on Xanga.

Man, Xanga takes me right back to grade 10. I used to blog all the time because it was therapeutic and because it was high school and you have to do something to get through it because everything's going on all at once and it's hard to keep track of it all. I learned a lot about blogging from that blog.

1) Don't tell your family or friends about your blog until you've gotten into a groove
2) Don't divulge any specific personal details about yourself. Keep everything nameless and generic
3) Just posting an online diary instead of coming up with meaningful posts is a bad idea.

I also wrote so much that I ended up getting much much better at organizing my thoughts fairly quickly. I used to re-write a post five or six times but now it's pretty much a one shot deal. I think that comes from blogging every single day for close to three years. I'm still not great at this whole thing as this page seems to be a little scattered, but I'm better than I was when I first started.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

This Kid From Stratford

I don't get it.

In late 2009, a mall appearance by Stratford native Justin Bieber had to be cancelled after 3000 rowdy pre-teen girls showed up at the mall hoping to see the musician. Extra police had to be called in to disperse the crowd and charges were laid on Bieber's manager after it was found that he refused to inform the crowd via twitter that the appearance had been cancelled.

In 2010, a second appearance, this time in Australia, led to a number of fans being trampled or crushed while waiting outside at 3 AM for Bieber to perform 3 songs at 8 AM. The event had to be cancelled meaning that those injuries were incurred while waiting for a concert that never happened.

Then, after Bieber posted a twitter message, jokingly referring to Kim Kardashian as his girlfriend. Bieber later had to clarify that she was only his friend after Kim started to get DEATH THREATS from female fans of Bieber's.

Seriously? A fan base that tramples, makes death threats, and requires police crowd control? I've talked with people about this subject before and we usually bring up The Beatles, and Backstreet Boys but if I recall correctly The Beatles are one of the most important acts in pop history, and The Backstreet Boys could sing before they were discovered, and I don't think either of them caused any tramplings or made any death threats to girlfriends, or at least not as publicly as Bieber's fans seem to.

And Bieber can't really sing very well. This is the thing that confuses me. These girls are screaming and trampling and raving for a guy whose voice doesn't sound very much like what they hear on the radio. In fact he could probably benefit from some vocal lessons.

So I don't get it. I don't get you Justin Bieber.

Update: Apparently I didn't check my facts very well (not surprising coming from me). Check the comments for a little more info.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Album Review: Broken Social Scene-Forgiveness Rock Record

The first CD I bought that I actually put some thought into was Broken Social Scene's "You Forgot It In People" in the winter of grade 10 (2004 for those of you counting). 6 years later, I still listen to that album on a semi-regular basis, so when I heard that Broken Social Scene was coming out with a new album, I got excited. After all, it's been 5 years since their last album (2005's "Broken Social Scene") and I wasn't exactly thrilled by their last outing. I felt like too often it degenerated into a drum beat and some random bass notes, or a chorus of very quiet lead guitar riffs. The production seemed to push the band in the direction of being a very quiet noise rock band, which didn't make sense and didn't make for easy listening.

I say this because in order to understand what I think about this newest Broken Social Scene album, you have to understand what I think about the last two. On this new record, Broken Social Scene have gone with a new producer (John McEntire who plays in a band called Tortoise) which seems to have pushed them in the direction of finally cleaning up their sounds, picking the parts of songs that work, and playing them loudly. BSS has always structured songs in fairly simple forms,probably because it's difficult to teach 15 people a song with lots of changes, but it works for them. You can hear every member's little contribution to the song, a little part here or some horns there, and there's enough of it that you never get bored listening to the songs.

I want to say which are my picks for best tracks on the album, but there's just so many. "Forced to Love" is so full of emotion that I find it hard to think about sometimes. The song builds to a point where you think it can't go any higher and then at 1:48 Kevin Drew (singer, lead guitar) screams on a part that just pushes the song over the edge. Andrew Whiteman (Lead Guitar, sometimes vocals) takes over with "Art House Director", a song that's a big departure from the traditional indie rock sound with it's blaring chorus of horns in the background, and Emily Haines (of Metric fame) finds time to pop in for "Sentimental X's" which builds from a quiet beat, to an all out frenzy at the end.

I think what makes me enjoy this album so much is that it's Broken Social Scene doing exactly what they did so well on "You Forgot It In People". They play a mix of songs that are cohesive enough to fit together on an album, but varied enough that you never get bored. It's almost like a one band mix tape, probably made easier by the fact that the band has enough members to start 5 other bands.

The only gripes I have with the album are track number two "Chase Scene" which doesn't quite fit with the album and seems to kill momentum from the album opener "World Sick". It's a decent track but I don't know if I would have put it where it is on the album. My other thought is the band seems to have been unable to come up with solid endings for a couple of the songs. "World Sick", "All to All", and "Ungrateful Little Father" all end with this wash of quiet, undirected noise and don't really seem to finish with the promise they began with.

These are just nitpicks though and shouldn't detract from what I consider to be a great album. I'm sure I'll enjoy this one for at least another 6 years just like their last one.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Album Review: Gorillaz-Plastic Beach


Note: I think I've spent enough time reading reviews on Pitchfork to finally say that I'm sick of reading reviews that seem to have little to do with the music, and more to do with making personal judgements about the artists. Normally I would just talk about how they're stupid, but this year because so many artists I enjoy are putting out albums, I have decided to sit down and write reviews on all the CD's I purchase this year just to see what happens.

Maybe this is an odd album to review as the first I've done on the site. I mean I'm not exactly Gorillaz frontman Damon Albarn's target market. I listen to a lot of indie rock, and not much hip hop. But somehow Gorillaz have always managed to hit some kind of spot with me where I find myself going back to their stuff and enjoying it.

When I picked up this album two months ago, I did so because I had heard the first two singles ("Stylo" and "Superfast Jellyfish") and figured I had a pretty good read on the album. I was very wrong. The last Gorillaz album "Demon Days" delved fairly heavily into hip-hop conventions, but this one moves in a very different direction.

Instead of looking for good hooks and an array of rappers to back him up, Albarn looks to some very retro sounding production. About 1/2 of the album consists of songs which make heavy use of 8-bit synthesizers generating beautiful melodies, and Albarn's voice lies humbly on top of these melodies happy to either just float along with the song ("On Melancholy Hill") or to add to it's emotion ("Broken").

When the album does go into hip-hop conventions, it does it in a way that is very unique. The aforementioned singles are a good example. Neither "Stylo" or "Superfast Jellyfish" sound exactly like anything else you might hear on the radio but their close enough as to not feel weird. My favourite song on the album "Sweepstakes" also does the same by incorporating a drum beat, but a very unconventional one (a 3 over 4 polyrhythm for those of you who know what that means) and done with some very interesting timing. It's strange but once you start to catch the feel of the song you appreciate its uniqueness.

It took me a little while to find the right environment to listen to this record, but after a road trip to Halifax, I found that this album is most easily appreciated in quiet times on your own, whether it's while working on a project or on a long drive. You feel like you've brought someone along with some very interesting ideas on your trip.

If you have any intrest in Gorillaz, 8-bit music, and enjoy some hip-hop moments, then I would recommend picking this one up. If you're looking for something that's exactly like Demon Days though, you may want to take a listen before you make a decision.

Friday, May 7, 2010

What is real?

I was having coffee with a friend the other week and we were catching up on each other's lives. Somewhere in the course of the conversation, we started to talk about relationships and dating. You see, my friend is a single person who wants to be in a relationship, and I am a person in a relationship who has had some time to reflect on it. So our conversation eventually turned to my friend being in a period where I once was.

As we discussed this topic, we came to a point where I said "You should enjoy being single now while you have the time to enjoy it, and then when a relationship comes along you can go ahead and enjoy that." My friend could not do that though. She didn't feel like she could enjoy single life, even though she knew that I had been where she was and knew from experience. What I was saying to her wasn't real to her.

Maybe you've had this experience before, where someone tells you something and even though you can understand what they're saying and it makes sense, you don't feel like it's true. I've been seeing this a lot lately. I think that somewhere in between your head and your heart there's a link that needs to be made, and I have reason to believe that this link requires you to experience things for yourself in order to make the link properly.

What use is this though? If anything, it should be an encouragement to do things. If the only way I can truly understand things is by experiencing them, then I should be out there experiencing things. I should be taking chances and trying to take in things to learn as much as I can, because otherwise I'm just going to be stuck believing the same things for the rest of my life but not ever really understanding them.

Monday, May 3, 2010

The Employment Situation

So I did manage to get moved. You can read about it here. The only thing I might have to add to what Cait said is that cleaning out my apartment took much longer than anticipated, but my landlord commended me on my cleaning job so that felt rewarding. Also, I am going to be in wicked shape because getting up to our apartment involves running up twice the amount of stairs when compared with my old apartment.

I tried to get a job, but that failed miserably so now I'm doing freelance work for various people. This week I'm spreading mulch for my girlfriend's parents. Next week I'll be assisting my sister in a number of tasks. After that I'll be working weekends at camp in the kitchen and attempting to find whatever else I can. It's been good to see that work has come up, even when I have to official employer. I almost feel like this is the best thing that could have happened to me.

I will keep you folks updated on how the summer goes.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Watching People Crash

I'm finished second year. Suddenly I have absolutely no idea what I'm doing. Job hunting thus far has been a total bust, there's no way I can go back to camp now, and I don't even know what program I'm doing next year. Everything is uncertain. I almost wish I still had school.

With all this spare time, I've got plenty of opportunities to procrastinate without really procrastinating against anything though. This means lots of random internet browsing. Today's random internet browsing led to me watching the first 3 minutes of "The Hills" before I realized why I don't watch anything on MTV and it's affiliates. It did get me on a page for another article about Heidi Montag's recent pile of plastic surgery.

Just as background (from what I know from skimming wikipedia and reading the article) Heidi Montag felt very insecure and so she decided to go in for cosmetic surgery which resulted in her getting I a whole bunch of stuff done all at once. She comes home and her mother basically tells her to her face that she was prettier before the surgery, that she thinks it was a bad decision, and then proceeds to make fun of her for not being able to eat properly on account of her jaw being very sore from the surgery.

The whole time I was watching these clips I was smiling to myself. I get a kick out of watching big time celebrities get told off by people in a position to tell them off. Watching Heidi's mom tell her that she needs to deal with her insecurities by dealing with the problem on the inside instead of getting cosmetic surgery to fix what she sees on the outside was immensely satisfying. It seemed to validate everything that I believe about insecurity, and made me feel like I was much smarter than Heidi.

I know that this attitude doesn't really line up with my faith (i.e. the whole being humble thing) but some part of me feels validated when I see people who are so engulfed in capitalism and North American living finding out that things are not what they thought they were.

(p.s. what insecurities? She's on one of the most popular TV shows, is on magazine covers, and could probably date any guy she wants. What is she insecure about? I'm not doubting that she has them but I would honestly like to know what these insecurities are because I can't think of what they might be)

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Moving

Note: I think I wrote about this last year when I moved, and the year before, but talking about the transience of modern life never seems to get old for me.

I'm moving in a couple of days. I'm packing my things and getting out of this apartment to go life in a trendy 7 bedroom upstairs apartment with 4 friends on the main street downtown. Every time I do this, I'm blown away by how easy it is to just pick up all of your things, plop them in boxes, dismantle your furniture, and relocate. It's like I have no real hard connection to any of the places I live or have lived. My parent's house isn't really "home" anymore, other places I've lived aren't the same after I've moved on, and the house I grew up in is full of someone else's life right now.

I'm a little frustrated about this. I wish I could just sit down and plant some roots and have it be "home" (whatever home means). I don't like having to be in this constant state of possible relocation. It's almost like I'm on edge all the time.

This feeling gets to you after a while. It's like you're living out of a suitcase no matter where you go, and you don't really know when it's going to end. It reminds me a lot of the movie "Up in the Air" where the main character says that he finds traveling to be the place where he calls home. For him, being on a plane is more home than being at "home" in his apartment. Sometimes I feel like that, but on a less extreme time scale. Home is wherever I am at that moment, and not some fixed location.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Strange

I'm a strange person. I don't mean this in a self-depricating way, I mean it in a factual, objective way. I happen to think that everyone is strange in their own ways, most of which no one ever hears about but I'd like to share with you some ways in which I am strange. Perhaps if you're feeling brave you might like to post a comment stating what makes you strange. You could even make it anonymous so that no one would have to identify this strange fact with you.

The bathroom is my favourite room in a house/apartment/hotel room. I don't really know when this started but my mother can attest to the fact that for the last 3 or 4 years I lived at home, if she couldn't find me I was probably in the bathrooom having a bath, or just sitting in there reading with the fan on (white noise is something that makes me feel really good), or occasionally napping. Yes it's true, sometimes I would grab a sleeping pad, a pillow, and a comforter, and take a nap in the bathroom. Some of my best sleeps ever happened in the bathroom, and I realize this is strange but it just seems to be the way I am.

Something else about me. I hate furniture. Maybe that's misleading. I don't hate furniture, but I like to have an extremely high floor space to furniture ratio. Like...I like having nine to ten times as much floor space as I do furniture. I like it so much so that when I first moved into my apartment, I just kept it empty, and sat on the floor when eating or watching TV or the like. It was pretty sweet. Now that I'm moving, there's no furniture in my apartment and I absolutely love it.

So there you go. I'm a little strange. If you take a moment to think about it though, I think you'll find that you too are a little bit strange. I think one of the people who understands this fact very well is Douglas Coupland. He's an author who writes lots of different kinds of books about lots of different things, but something notable about his writing is that his characters are all a little bit strange. They all have something about them that makes them unique, and distinct from the landscape of people that surrounds them.

This is something that I think people need to embrace. We spend so much of our time trying to fit in or trying to be distinct from other people, but if we all just embraced the parts of us that are a little bit strange, I think we could stress out about these kinds of things a lot less.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Priorities

Sometimes I experience this phenomenon where I'm talking to somebody, and I start saying something, and I realize a day later that it was a good idea. This idea is once of those ideas. I came to this realization while talking to a friend about priorities and it dawned on me that it's a fairly good model for predicting people's behaviour because a) it's simple and b) it seems to be reasonably accurate.

This friend and I were discussing how another person that we both knew, seemed to have little time to hang out with us. This was ok because we like this person and want to hang out with them, but they just could not make time for hanging out. This led to a discussion about why this is, and I came to a stunning realization. Everyone has priorities.

In and of itself, this isn't a particularily stunning revelation but imagine that everyone has a hierarchy in their brain of how important things are. It's a kind of ordered list where often things like school, or career go up at the top. Take my list for example. Though this is not how I'd ideally like it ordered, it looks something like this.

1) Relationship with significant other
Tie 2) People
Tie 2) Family
4) Church
5) School
...
84) Shopping

So this means that given the choice between spending time with people and studying for something, I will usually pick spending time with people. This has to do with a number of things, but the important thing is that knowing this about me, you could make some reasonably accurate assumptions about how I would make decisions.

I've been attempting to apply this to other situations with some success and it seems accurate. This all makes sense though because people tend to act in accordance with how they feel, and if they feel something is a priority then they feel it's best to act in accordance with that.

Thus I leave you with another hidden bit of obvious truth.