Author Archive

Unbiased Journalism in Action

March 1st, 2016
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The CBC runs a piece about changes to income tax laws, complete with puff-piece picture of Prime Minister Trudeau and his family.


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Fluffernutter Friday

February 19th, 2016
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Some new Joe Bonamassa, Drive. You can download it free.

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Picture of the Day: Squirrel at the Manse

January 25th, 2016
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The Freedom of Music: Bowie, anti-Bowie

January 24th, 2016
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One likes to believe in the freedom of music.Rush – Spirit of Radio.

Procrastination is an ugly thing. It lends itself to taking a task, simple or complex, and making it harder. Case in point, David Bowie died and I was going to write about it, maybe discuss how often Bowie eulogies seemed to start with “I’m not one of those Bowie freaks, but I really liked x,” x being a song, en era, a character.sidebar-2 Bowie offered, I would have written, seemingly something for everyone. But instead of writing it, I procrastinated, held it off a week. And then Glenn Frey died.

Glenn Frey of the Eagles may be the anti-Bowie, never out of character as the cool guy. Instead of being the kind of act were everybody likes something in the catalogue, the Eagles are always surprisingly contentious. There is much more of a love/hate element to the Eagles. Who could imagine, for instance, The Dude getting thrown out of a cab protesting, “I fucking hate David Bowie man!”?

So I procrastinate, and now I have to weave together a web that interestingly compares David Bowie and Glenn Frey. Good luck with that, I’d say.

Do you remember when Farrah Fawcett died? It was the same day as Michael Jackson and of course the sad news of this beautiful woman, a highly talented and successful actress, was buried in the avalanche of grief for Jackson. So too is the fate of Dale Griffin, whose passing was announced a few hours before Glenn Frey’s.

Dale Griffin passed away on Sunday at age 67 after suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. He was the drummer for 70s British glam-rock band Mott the Hoople. Mott the Hoople spawned the careers of Ian Hunter and Bad Company’s Mick Ralphs. Their biggest hit was All The Young Dudes, written by, wait for it… David Bowie.

Considered to be a youth anthem, Bowie protested that All the Young Dudes was nothing of the sort. “All the Young Dudes is a song about this news…” the news being that the world had only five years left to live, as told on the Ziggy Stardust song “Five Years.”

Pushing through the market square
So many mothers sighing.
News had just come over,
we had five years left to cry in.

Like so many Bowie songs, five years is a story that begins by introducing a person, or in this case, persons, as in mothers sighing. The mothers may sigh at the news and the young dudes may carry the news, but All the Young Dudes opens with Billy rapping “all night about his suicide…”

Five years opens the Bowie album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust, featuring the song Ziggy Stardust:

Ziggy played guitar,
jamming good with Wierd and Gilly,
and the Spiders from Mars…”

Story telling is at the heart of art. We all get that a great book, or play, or movie tells a story. Fewer think along those lines when it comes to a picture, but spend an afternoon at a good gallery amongst the renaissance masters and you’ll find stories of heroic deeds and stories of saints and historical stories and even stories of average people, or at least average people of some degree of leisure.

But pop music as story telling? Oh sure, we all get the Bob Dylan is a storyteller, even named his box set Storyteller. And yes, we get that The Who’s Tommy has some vague storyline, if only because we have been told as much so often. And above you can see that Bowie was telling stories, but it’s hardly the same is it? It’s not like you open a song with “it was a dark and stormy night.”

On a dark desert highway,
cold wind in my hair.

And so the Eagles open Hotel California with a variation of “it’s a dark and stormy night.” Like the opening to many a good story, it presents a time and a place, the desert at night, and creates an action, driving. Here’s another, see if you can spot the elements of setting:

I’m standing on a corner in Winslow Arizona…

The essence of good art is good story telling. In the last two weeks we have lost David Bowie and Glenn Frey, two men who were outstanding at telling their story through pop songs, no easy feat. They had different styles, used the format of the three to five minute song in different ways, but at their heart, they both told stories that we as an audience responded to.

May they rest in peace.

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Picture of the Day: Foot Bridge

January 5th, 2016
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The Freedom of Music: Andrew Lipke: Siddhartha

November 15th, 2015
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One likes to believe in the freedom of music.
Rush – Spirit of Radio.

Playing for a tribute band is not necessarily the most creatively fulfilling activity for a musician. Andrew Lipke is keyboardist/guitarist/multi instrumentalist for the best Led Zeppelin tribute band on the circuit, Get the Led Out. The band travels the US in a proper rock star tour bus, travelling with a crew, a full lighting rig and enough guitars to open a guitar store. Up to five nights a week, they give two hour shows with note perfect renditions of Led Zeppelin classics and deep cuts. sidebar-6

But there’s to more Lipke than keyboard player extraordinaire playing other peoples songs, and he spends his time at home at home in Pennsylvania producing, playing with the Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia and Pittsburg Symphony or singing God Bless America at the Phillies game. Last year, Lipke released the first of a series of albums based on the novel Siddhartha by Herman Hesse. Hesse’s novel had an immediate impact on Lipke and he says he “always knew it would be the inspiration for something I would create.”

Lipke may be a Zeppelin devotee playing in a Zeppelin band, but Siddhartha owes very little to Led Zeppelin, even if opening track, The One does start off with a drone that Jimmy Page would approve of. 

I love the second and third tracks, Erased, which has a New Radicals pop groove to it, and Head Down Vagabonds, which defies comparisons, save a hint of Christmas Vacation in the melody. 

Then there’s I’m Gone which is on the first round ballot of this years Grammy Awards in the “best arrangement, instruments and vocals” category. Even if Lipke doesn’t make the final ballot, that’s quite a nice recognition, and well deserved: the arrangement on  I’m Gone is beautifully orchestrated and ends with a harpsichord plus choral voices outro. 

Get the Led Out are coming to Mississauga on Dec 9, their first ever show outside the US. It is a must see band, and know when you see them your not just hearing the best music, played by high caliber musicians, but in at least one case, a Grammy caliber musician.

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Van Halen Rising: How a Southern California Backyard Party Band Saved Heavy Metal: Greg Renoff

September 30th, 2015
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June 1978. At my high school there’s a guy, that guy, with a van that has a bar and a bed in it. We’re hanging out by the smoking area, playing frisbee, drinking beer with fake “Poopsi” labels on them and he’s got the stereo cranked. “What, who, is this?” I ask.

van_halen_rising_3601“A new band called Van Halen,” he tells me.

As song rolls into song, including a wild version of The Kinks You Really Got Me, it’s obvious this is some band. How did these guys come up with this? Where did they even come from? I wondered. It was obvious to us, even as it wasn’t to the people who ran the music industry, this was paradigm shifting (although, being stoned high school kids, we would have phrased it not as “paradigm shifting,” but as “cool, man.”).

Van Halen Rising: How a Southern California Backyard Party Band Saved Heavy Metal by Greg Renoff answers the question “how did these guys come up with this?” or perhaps more to the point, “where did they come from?” The answer is, as the book title suggests, Southern California’s backyard party scene.

Walking the reader through the cultural and musical history of the Van Halen brothers and David Lee Roth, the book charts their concerts and performances going back to the original high school band. It charts Roth’s attempts to get into the Van Halen brothers band (Eddie was the original singer) and how Roth’s background at a predominantly black high school influenced him to have a completely different take on rock/pop music.

You learn about the hundreds, thousands of shows the band did. How they rehearsed for hours 6-days a week and Eddie would practice far more than that. And you learn even at that how hard it was for them to get a record contract. You learn about their sudden ascension to the top of the rock ladder as their debut album sells a million copies in it’s first year.

Van Halen Rising is exactly what it promises, the story of an up and coming rock band. It takes you through the teenage rock scene in the LA suburbs of the 1970’s, and up to Van Halen’s first album, first tours, and then it is done, leaving the rest of the story for others to pick up. And it doesn’t disappoint in the process.

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Book Review

Ringo: With a Little Help: Michael Seth Starr

September 25th, 2015
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We all have our favourite Beatle. Personally, I’m a George guy, being a guitar player and as I love his playing and songwriting. But Ringo Starr comes in a close second. His good natured humour and tendency towards simple pop in his songs has it’s appeal.

513tnkxuonl_sy344_bo1204203200_Ringo: With a Little Help by Michael Seth Starr is a fairly comprehensive look at the worlds most famous drummer. Covering his early years, his time before the Beatles with Rory Storm and the Hurricanes, the Beatle years and beyond, With a Little Help covers all the points of Ringo’s career.

It is also, to a degree, a defense of Ringo Starr the drummer. Often maligned (“He’s not even the best drummer in the Beatles,” John Lennon once said of Starr), With a Little Help is definitive on the point, Ringo Starr was the best drummer in Liverpool in 1962 when he joined The Beatles, and his drumming, while sometimes in-elegant, was crucial to their sound. He has a unique style due to being a left handed drummer using his set right handed, he is clumsy on fills (for much the same reason), but he is a solid to very good drummer.

With A Little Help is not all a defense of Starr, however. His very limited vocal range is an important part of the narrative and Ringo has success as a singer when he has material within his “six-note range.” As well, Ringo’s alcohol problems are well documented, as his much of his negative behaviour during his long bout of alcohol abuse. His later career work ethic is questioned and the breakdown of his first marriage to Maureen is well documented, including his affairs during the legendary “LA lost weekend” period of the early 70’s.

On the bizarre side, the author cites diary entries of teenage Ringo fanatic Marilyn Crescenzo some seventeen times, following her feelings over events in The Beatles lives in 1964-65 time frame:

This morning ten o’clock, I heard a report from the Beatles hotel and Ringo and George were talking—I said to my mother “why didn’t you let me go down there—Everybody is there.” I then walked into the bathroom and couldn’t hold back -I just cryed! [sic] I couldn’t help it!

Intended to provide color I gather, these diary entries really just fill some page space.

Ringo: With a Little Help is a good read, and an interesting look at one of our times more interesting, if reasonably unimportant, people.

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The Pimply Minions Rebellion…

September 14th, 2015

…and the burning of the non-taxable book.

imagesI’ve been pondering designs for a few weeks now for a little free library. The idea is simple, you build a little book house and post it at the front of your house. Neighbours and neighbourly-types can put in an old book, others can borrow the book. It’s a lending library with 20 or so books.

There’s a couple in my neighbourhood, and I was planning to get in on the action, share some community spirit and a few books I have lying around. Problem is, those pimply minions of bureaucracy have come up with an all new “vile, Jacobian, jumped up Jack-in-Office piece of impertinence:” a permit for your library

As The Atlantic’s Conor Friedersdorf explains, local governments in Los Angeles, Shreveport, LA and Leawood, KS have all tried to levy fines and other sanctions against people who put up these tiny birdhouse-like lending libraries.

I’m no longer planning on putting one up, I’m getting it up as fast as I can.

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Jacobian Piece of Impertinence, pimply minions of bureaucracy

RIP Gary Richrath

September 14th, 2015
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690fbcb294ffb5909ebc8e3a72a8d341Everyone who thinks REO Speedwagon are a cheesy 80’s band have never heard their love album, You Get What You Play For. A great straight up rock band.

I’ve always love Gary Richrath as a guitar player. So sorry to hear he passed away this weekend at the young age of 65. May he rest in peace.

I remember watching this one live.

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Saturday Fluffernutter: The Skinny Pig Edition

September 6th, 2015

All the fluffy news about those nutty celebrities


Perhaps they got Kermit all wrong. Perhaps he’s supposed to be Kermit the dog, as in “you sly old…” The “it’s not easy being green,” singer (as real media would describe him) has dumped his longtime gilt-friend Miss Piggy for a new, slimmer pig.knife-and-fluff

And because we live in an insane world, people are upset about this. “How can he do this to Miss Piggy,” say some, while other, truly deluded, people, are up in arms because Denise, the new pig, is too skinny. As if the puppet has body image issues.

That’s right, I said it.  Puppet! The frog, the pig, the other pig, the dog who plays piano, all puppets. Sheesh, get over yourselves.

Although personally, if I was the frog, I’d hit on that blonde bass player.


Some James Bond controversy this week. Anthony Horowitz who wrote the latest Bond book, Trigger Mortis, has stepped in the PC muck. Then he made a mess of things.

First the PC muck. There is noise of late that the next movie Bond should be black. The name Idris Elba seems to come up a lot. He’s “a terrific actor,” says Horowitz. “But I can think of other black actors who would do it better. For me, Idris Elba is a bit too rough to play the part… a bit too street.”  Oh-oh. You can’t say that. It has racial overtones, or is code-speak for something or other.

As far as I’m concerned, so far so good. An opinion stated, leave it at that an do forth. But no, Horowitz had to go and make me not want to buy his stupid rip-off book (seriously, invent your own character, plots &tc.), and apologized via twitter. Oh look, James Bond is being written by a weak-kneed beta-male who grovels for the PC morons. That ought to make for the next Daniel Craig movie.


Meanwhile, current Bond Daniel Craig got our hopes up this week and hinted Spectre, due in theatres in November, might be his last Bond movie. In short, he suggested it’s time to get on with his life- as compared to stagnating by spending three-months every two-years being paid millions to make a movie.

As for who should play the next Bond, who cares. A tuxedo clad Miss Piggy would be a better, tougher Bond than Craig. Black, Pakistani, street, who cares. Just not another metrosexual Bond who wears a seat-belt to press events.


Tough week for Avril Lavigne. Started off last Sunday when her ex-husband, Sum 41’s Deryck Whibley, got re-married. Whibley, who a year ago was in a coma with multiple organ failure due to his drinking, has sobered up and pledged his troth to Ariana Cooper.

The bride, you’ll be breathless in your desire to know, wore a beaded, strapless white gown.

While I’m sure Lavigne is happy for Whibley, his wedding was followed by the news that Lavigne and Nickelback’s Chad Kroeger have split. The pair married in 2013, after a short courtship that apparently didn’t involve hearing each others music.

For the record, Lavigne was married to Whibley for longer than Kroeger.


When I said earlier we live in an insane world, I was dead serious. People have gone stupid, and too many papers will dutifully report the crazy like it’d normal. I submit for your perusal: Taylor Swift is in the soup for “whitewashing” her latest video. As in music video, you now, those three minute song advertisements that gave the phrase “video vamps” to the world.

Apparently  the video is based in Africa, and there are not enough black people in it. The Director, Joseph Kahn, has defended the video noting it was produced by a black woman and edited by a black man. He also said, “…it would have been historically inaccurate to load the crew with more black actors as the video would be accused of re-writing history.”  Because as you know, history books can re-write history, but heaven forbid a pop-video do so.

Dear Joseph Kahn. Shut up! and stop treating these loony’s like they’re not completely nuts, lest we get the impression you are too. And that goes double for you, Anthony Horowitz and Kermit the Frog.

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The Smug, Sneering Condescension You Hear…

September 4th, 2015
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are the “journalists” whose salary you are forced to pay.

group1000_645_399_55Something by the way of a juxtaposition:
From Lifesite News

As thousands of “outraged parents” gathered today in front of 103 of the 107 MPP constituency offices across Ontario

Heard on CBC Radio 2 on Wednesday (sorry, no link. I heard this myself and wrote it down verbatim):

Some parents protested outside the offices of Provincial politicians today. They’re upset about the new sex-ed curriculum.(emphasis mine)

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bad journalism, CBC, Media doesn't matter

Mark Steyn: “A Disgrace to the Profession”

September 1st, 2015
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One can’t help but wonder if Mrs. Mark Steyn lets her husband win the odd fight, lest a 900-page rebuttal in 3 parts be published, highlighting the ways in which she argued illogically over the course of their marriage. Likely not, but then who’d of thought suing the guy for libel would get you one of those.

dttpfrontmedbCertainly not Michael Mann.

When Mann sued Steyn, I was one of those who thought he picked a dangerous sparring partner, and having read Lights Out, his response to an action against him in Canada, I knew Steyn wouldn’t just roll over and accept what Mann was giving. He would, at the least, make it uncomfortable for Mann. After all, he took on Ryerson Journalism Professor John Miller in Lights Out, and has not been afraid to absolutely skewer the occasional correspondent to his own website, Even positive reviews that dare get the name of the next Bond movie wrong get their error highlighted. So it was a good guess that Mann v. Steyn would have its entertaining moments.

With A Disgrace to the Profession: The Worlds Scientists in Their Own Words – on Michael E. Mann, His Hockey Stick, and Their Damage to Science: Volume One, he doesn’t so much a make it uncomfortable for Mann as eviscerate his. The book is 300-pages of climate scientists, physicists and others with Ph.D. after their name, speaking ill of Mann and his work. With Steyn’s witty apercus throughout, A Disgrace to the Profession reads quite comfortably, not bogging down in technical details as a book devoted to science such as this is always at risk of doing.

A Disgrace to the Profession is a comprehensive take down. Mann may have thought he could sue Steyn into silence and he was wrong. But if he thought his reputation had been given a hit by Steyn, and he could regain it through the courts, he was as wrong as he’s ever been (and as Steyn makes pretty clear in A Disgrace to the Profession, that’s saying something). Win, lose or tie in the DC courts, it seems unlikely Mann’s reputation will survive his ill-advised fight with Mark Steyn.

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Journalists, Your Intellectual Superiors…

August 31st, 2015
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Canadian journalist Kate Heartfield from The Ottawa Citizen in August 2010, as quoted in an email, on Hillary Clinton’s illegal, unsecured email server (search either Canada, or Kate Heartfelt – it’ll be the first email, headed  “Article I mentioned from Canada”):

The U.S. Department of State has made it very clear: The security of information on BlackBerrys is not just about economics.

It’s also, in the words of spokesman P. J. Crowley, “about what we think is an important element of democracy, human rights and freedom of information … You should be opening up societies to these new technologies that have the opportunity to empower people …”

Canada’s government has made, at least in public, no such link between BlackBerrys and democratization…

But there is no Hillary Clinton pushing the government to do better

The gist of the story is, those secretive, mean old Conservatives need to get on the e-communication bandwagon, like Hillary.

If only Stephen Harper had set up an email server in my spare bathroom like I recommended.

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bad journalism

King George VI Visiting Ottawa

July 18th, 2015
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When my friend Ron was going through his late mother’s photo albums, he turned up this gem. His mother was a 13-year old girl living in Ottawa in 1939. When King George VI and Queen Elizabeth (The Queen Mother) dedicated the National War Memorial on May 21st, 1939, they would be within’ a few blocks of his mother’s home. It is at the dedication we think this picture was taken (the clothes are the same from the pictures of the dedication and the Queen is carrying the same book).


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