Archive for March, 2009

ShutterBugging Picture of the Day: Butterfly Save

March 31st, 2009
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To My Daughter…

March 30th, 2009
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It’s difficult to express how proud I am of you. You are a remarkable, pretty, smart and talented young woman. A number of years ago we started you on piano lessons. You decided it wasn’t for you and stopped, but a seed was clearly planted. A couple of years later you began piano again, impressively teaching yourself. As I sit and listen to you play music that is well beyond a difficulty level any reasonable person would expect, and playing it well, I am awed at what you have accomplished.

You are even more impressive as an artist, even though you are loathe to admit it. The award you will soon be awarded by the Hespeler Legion for your Remembrance Day poster will attest to your skill. There are times when you draw something and I am simply speechless. Your ability is stunning: your picture from two years ago, which your Principal kept in his office for the year, and later, a teacher requested to be allowed to keep it for her own home, proves that I speak not just as a parent with an uncritical eye.

You have never been athletic. Your first foray into sports was baseball when you were barely tall enough to hold the bat. You, and your then BFF were adorable to watch and I have rarely enjoyed baseball more. But you weren’t very good – you weren’t really expected to be – and by years end, you were too scared of the ball to have any hope of ever hitting it. It would be years before you lost that fear, and that is why I was so surprised three years ago to learn you were on the volleyball team. Your friends talked you into it, and although you never enjoyed it, you played with a smile. As you always do when your unsure, you listened to the coach, worked hard and took your task seriously. You were never the best player on the team, never got the game winning spike, but as a result of your tenacity and maturity, you never cost your team the game either.

Now you are looking for your first job, and as you look to start your work life, your latest act of generosity truly astounds. You see, you have given your mother and me $1,000, to do with as we please. My choice is to buy a laptop, and get this blog out of the basement, into the light of the kitchen. To be sure, you probably didn’t know you gave us this money, and your brother will share in the costs, but it is still overly generous.

In the next year your mother and I will receive three cheques, signed Dwight Duncan and Dalton McGuinty no doubt, from the Province of Ontario totalling $1,000. While on the surface, it may appear the above mention gentlemen are providing this windfall, let us not kid ourselves where the money is rally coming from. When Mr. Duncan announced this gift, he also announced a budget deficit of $56B over the next 7 years. This means that as I approach my mid-50’s and look to end my productive years, and you begin your career, the bill will come due for that $1,000. It will not be me who pays that bill, and it certainly won’t be Messrs. Duncan and McGuinty, but you.

Of course, in seven years it won’t be $1,000, it will be $1,400. Sometime in the next seven or so years, over the course of your education, somebody is going to teach you about “the magic of compounding,” and they will call it that. They will treat compounding as a good thing, that the pennies your bank gives you to freely use your money will one day turn into dollars, tens of dollars even. Here’s the lesson they won’t give: The Government of Ontario borrows $1,000, and sends it to your dad to buy a new laptop, all the better to blog with, my dear. When the government borrows money, it pays it back at a premium of $57.60 for that $1,000. If they borrow the money this year, and pay it back next year, they pay back $1,057.60. But the government has already said they won’t pay it back for at least seven years. Here’s the part that’s magic: in the second year they don’t pay an extra 57.60 on $1,000, they pay $60.92 on $1,057.60. This way the debt ” magically” grows to the  point where after seven years they are paying $80.00 interest on $1,400. By this magic method, it takes only fourteen years for that $1,000 to become $2,000.

However, you probably shouldn’t worry too much about the $2,000, we’ll just add it on to the $15,000 you already owe, which of course by the time they stop borrowing in seven years will be $21,000, plus any extra they have borrowed. That’s the problem with borrowing money: $1,000 here and $1,000 there and pretty soon your talking real money.

But don’t think about that now. Instead, understand how much I appreciate my new laptop, or your mother her new desk or… who am I kidding: how much we’ll all enjoy beer and popcorn night. The beer will be for me, and the popcorn for you, which is appropriate: as I relax and enjoy my new found money, your debt will be growing like popcorn in hot oil.

Dalton Dalton Dalton, Economic Fundamentalism, pimply minions of bureaucracy , , , , , , , ,

When Life Imitates Friends

March 29th, 2009
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A lack of labelling on condoms is giving sexually active Canadians a false sense of security, experts warn.

They want the federal government to require warnings on packages about how often condoms break and leak, leaving people at greater risk of pregnancy and disease…

She said the failure rates of different condoms should be written on their packages


Saturday Fluffernutter:

March 28th, 2009
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Saturday Fluffernutter – all the fluffy news about those nutty celebrities.

fluffincolorIndy and Ally sitting in a tree… Harrison Ford and Calista Flockhart  are tying the knot as the anthropologist with ‘tude is finally making an honest woman of the lawyer which broods. The 66 year old Ford and the 44 year Flockhart old  have been an item for seven-and-a-half years.

fluffincolorThis is one of those stories which drives me nuts.  For forever and a day bands, and artists, would put out a couple of albums, then shift gears.  After a few albums, it’s time to give your fans something else, a new voice: show them you aren’t a one trick pony.

This week Amy Winehouse took demos for her 3rd album to her bosses at Island records. Instead of more of the same, the songs, it is reported, had more of a reggae feel. “Her bosses don’t think it’s a wise move to change her style so sharply and have told her that.” What utter nonsense. Either trust your artist and get out of their way, or drop them. But to suggest change is bad is stupidity on a symphonic scale. I have often in my weekend pieces complained about the lack of quality that emerges from the music industry these days. This is a prime example of why that is.04_06_09


The former Mrs. Eddie Van Halen, Valerie Bertinelli  is looking fabulous at 48 and proving it on the cover of People (right).

The folks at Jenny Craig must be doing cartwheels this week.

fluffincolorAnother girl next door who recently showed she still had some stuff at 40, Jennifer Aniston released boyfriend John Mayer recently. The reason, apparently he is too busy to call, email, or text her, but has a twitter account full of messages. Seems the former FRIEND was feeling neglected while Mayer was tweeting to strangers.

Think I’d give up my twitter account. Mayer didn’t, and his tweets can be got here.

fluffincolorRobin Williams is in full recovery mode after a heart attack three weeks ago. He has since had surgery to “replace his aortic valve, repair his mitral valve, and correct his irregular heartbeat,” and is on the mend. Doctors expect Williams to make a full recovery within eight weeks.

fluffincolorDan Seals (1948-2009) – Back in the 70’s, there were folk groups who had a successful run with pretty acoustic music: Seals and Croft, Dan Fogelberg and England Dan and John Ford Coley among them. Dan Seals was England Dan, and younger brother of Jimmy Seals of Seals and Croft. Their songs were wonderfully melodic, their success great.

It was the eighties though, in the opinion of this blog, that Dan Seals provided his penultimate moment. Bop is one of those songs that reminds  how good a simple pop song can be. Three minutes of feel good, fall in love happiness compressed into half-a-dozen chords, two verses, three choruses and a bridge: perfect.

This week of England Dan Seals lost a two year battle with lymphoma at age 61.  He is survived by his wife and four children, and At Home in Hespeler expresses their deepest condolences to them.

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Blue Blogging Soapbox Blogging Tories Site of the Week

March 25th, 2009
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The Blue Blogging Soapbox Blogging Tories Site of the Week for the week of March 22, 2009 is:

Russ Campbell’s Blog

I am conservative by nature, but believe that common sense and independent thinking trumps political dogma.
Russ is a PC Party member in a PC held riding who is having problems communicating with both his local riding


ShutterBugging Picture of the Day: He Shoots

March 24th, 2009
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Book Review: Gerry Nicholls- Loyal to the Core: Stephen Harper, Me and the NCC

March 23rd, 2009

Gerry Nicholls first book, the autobiographical Loyal to the Core, begins and ends with his time at the National Citizens Coalition (NCC). Nicholls takes us quickly through his early political leanings (Liberal), to his conversion to conservatism at the University of Windsor and to his postgraduate days at London’s Western University. Chapter two begins his career at the NCC in 1985, which lasted until 2007.

Loyal to the Core

Nicholls discusses learning to keep his writing short, simple and on message, and those lessons serve him well in this book. It is tightly written with not a superfluous word to be found in the 200 plus pages of the text: if somebody offers you an over/under of two for semi-colons/colons in Nicholls’ next tome, take the under. This book reads very much like a long version of any of Nicholls well known columns in the daily newspapers. It is readable and enjoyable.

I took this book with me for a two-day visit at my mother in laws and easily read it in the two days. A true rarity in the world of political books Loyal to the Core is enjoyable and never boring. The reason for this is that Nicholls is one of those rare birds: a backroom player who is not a policy geek. Nicholls doesn’t suffer with the ego of a politician or the boring insistence that policy rules all. Instead Nicholls has a pragmatic approach to match firm convictions about what is right. His communication background means his abiding concern is making a point.

The first half of Loyal to the Core is full of good yarns about the National Citizens Coalition and it’s work through the years. If you have paid attention to Canadian politics over the lasts 20 years, then you will fondly remember many of the campaigns that Nicholls was involved in, including the famed pigs at the trough campaign to highlight MPs “gold-plated pensions”, a term the NCC created.

The juicy part of the book, however, is when Stephen Harper becomes President of the NCC. At this juncture we get an insight into Stephen Harper that is not common, neither flattering nor a partisan slag. It is not, however, a personal hack job either. While there is some personal slags, the insight into Harper’s eating habits, and the fact he was called FB, or Fatboy, by NCC staffers is one, Nicholls description of Harper comes across as honest and thoughtful: a cold and tough boss; a boss who would call the Toronto office at 4:30 on a Friday afternoon (he worked out of Calgary) to make sure his employees where still at their desks; a boss who shut down ‘Friday afternoon drinkfest,’ and banned alcohol from the NCC offices; We see that Harper’s ideas are the law, that he takes council poorly and that he was more interested in policy than the NCC’s more traditional advertising blitzes.

Lest you think this is a Harper slap-down, Nicholls is very fair to the man who promoted him to the Vice Presidency of the NCC, and gave him the title of his first book, noting that Nicholls was “loyal to the core”.

Loyal to the Core is a good read, an interesting look at Gerry Nicholls, Stephen Harper, the NCC and the conservative movement in Canada over the last twenty years. If you are interested in politics, then you should probably read it. If you are a conservative who wonders how conservatives can communicate their message in a hostile media climate, it is a must read.

Order Loyal to the Core, and other Conservative books from Freedom Press.

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Freedom of Music: Starbucks Freebies

March 22nd, 2009
freedom-of-music-headerOne likes to believe in the freedom of music.

Rush – Spirit of Radio.

If you have an i-pod and you like to pay $4.50 for you daily caffeine fix, as I do, you will know already that Starbucks gives away music. You can pick up a card at the cash for a free i-tunes download of a song by a featured artist. StarbucksTo be sure these are not songs you would normally otherwise buy: the point behind them is to create exposure for unheralded artists. Household names like Beast, The Waking Eyes, The Dears, Dido or Neko Case are only that in their own households, but they are each credible artists who in a different climate might be better known.

The commonality that runs through the pieces offered is the tendency for them to be of the alt or indy genres (can alternative really be a genre: once it is a genre doesn’t it lose it’s alternative status? And can anyone be independent and have their music available at Starbucks?) That said, of the sixteen songs I have downloaded there are several styles, including rock, pop, jazz, folk and alternative.

The music ranges in quality as well, with some being really quite good, and some less to my taste. The highlight of the group is a video download they gave out at Christmas. Yo-Yo Ma and Alison Krauss performing the classic Wexford Carol. Other highlights include the jazzy Chances by Jill Barber, Neko Case’s People Got A Lot of Nerve, Land of Talk’s Some are Lakes, Greg Laswell’s How the Day Sounds and, my favourite of the unknowns Blink Pilot’s One Red Thread.

But good or bad is somewhat irrelevant: if I handed you sixteen songs of my choosing, each by a different artist, none of whom you had even heard of before,  I probably wouldn’t fare much better picking songs you like than Starbucks does with me. Some I like, some not so much – that’s going to happen. What’s interesting is the distribution model.

As traditional methods of finding new music disappear, new ways must be found. Like or dislike Starbucks, there is a method here of promoting artists, of getting music in the hands of the consumer, of presenting new music for your consumption. Whether it is the method of the future, nobody knows. But at the very least, my i-pod has sixteen songs on it it wouldn’t otherwise have, some of which will get repetitive listens. And who knows, I may find my new favourite artist one day in the card dispenser at Starbucks. What more could you want with your four-and-a half dollar coffee?

The Freedom of Music, This Week on my I-Pod , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Saturday Fluffernutter: The Better Late Than Never Edition: Bob Dylan’s Positively Number Two Street, Eva Longoria Parker kissed Teri Hatcher, Natasha Richardson (1963-2009)

March 21st, 2009
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Saturday Fluffernutter – all the fluffy news about those nutty celebrities.

fluffincolorBob Dylan’s neighbours near his Malibu home are upset over what’s blowing in the wind. Security at the Tambourine Man Compound (that’s Mr. Tambourine Man to you…) apparently aren’t allowed in the residence they are guarding. But a man on an eight hour shift Positively must hit Number Two Street, and you can’t expect  them to, um…, in the woods. So a porta potty has been established. Six months later, when the warm ocean breeze blows in off the Pacific, Dylan’s upscale neighbours get the sweet scent of his security staffs lunch – from six months ago.

fluffernutterNeighbours are not amused, but in these times of government that regulates every action you might think of performing, nobody put a “no permanent porta-potties allowed,” rule.

fluffincolorAmy Winehouse appeared in a London courtroom this week to answer charges of an assault at a high society ball last September. Winehouse pled not guilty, but the charges have already been costly as Winehouse was denied entry into the US the week before, forcing her to cancel an appearance at California’s Coachella Music Festival next month.


Sarah Jassica Parker was spotted this week in, of all places… New York City filming a new romantic-comedy, “Did You Hear About the Morgans?” Personally, I was expecting a drama or historical piece from SJP. Other surprises, the rom-com also stars Hugh Grant.

Parker and friends are slated to being production of a new Sex in the City movie this summer also, shockingly, in New York City.


Eva Longoria Parker confessed this week that an upcoming show features a scene in which she and and Teri Hatcher share a same sex kiss. I don’t actually watch Desperate Housewives, but I might just start.

fluffincolorNatasha Richardson (1963-2009) The thing that was shocking about Natasha Richardson’s death was the story line that preceded it. She had a minor accident, which suddenly turned in to reports of her being brain dead. For my friend Richard, who doesn’t understand the fuss, this was a person who had it all, in the prime of her life, suddenly gone because a minor fall on the small hill at a ski resort.

Regardless of whether you think this was over-played in the media (it was), there is an element of tragedy in this story. Unlike other celebrities, she had a long term marriage to Liam Neeson for fifteen years and was a mother to two sons, 14 and 13. Neeson for his part played the role of Oskar Schindler and once drove a forklift truck at the Guinness factory, so he gets extra credit from me.

Condolences from At Home in Hespeler to Natasha Richardsons family, who suffer this weekend as all people who lose a loved one do.

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ShutterBugging Picture of the Day: Jump Shot

March 18th, 2009
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Blue Blogging Soapbox Blogging Tories Site of the Week

March 18th, 2009
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The Blue Blogging Soapbox Blogging Tories Site of the Week for the week of March 1, 2009 is:

Just Right

“One should doubtless keep an open mind…though open at both ends, like the food pipe, and have a capacity for excretion as well as intake.” — Northrop Frye, ‘The Great Code’
JR – Victoria, British Columbia, Canada – Classical liberal with a conservative bent. Mises, Hayek, Friedman and Steyn are tops.

Blogging Tories Site of the Week

My Lunch With Gerry Nicholls

March 17th, 2009
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I had the opportunity yesterday to sit and have lunch with Gerry Nicholls, whom I’ve met only once previously but have had a very amicable on-line relationship for a few of years now.

Loyal to the COre

Loyal to the Core

Gerry’s promoting his book, Loyal To The Core: Stephen Harper, Me And The NCC, and I was pleased to be able to purchase a copy direct from the author, who signed it:

To Brian. A friend of freedom and a friend of mine.

Aww gee, I blush.

The talk revolved around politics, covering both political philosophy and some people involved. I won’t repeat anything here except to say I was surprised that Gerry thought the one cabinet minister I like to replace Stephen Harper might be a better fit for Provincial leadership (I am still chewing on that, by the way Gerry), and that Gerry was surprised I am not a fan of Randy Hillier, which tells me I might have to give Hillier a second look.

I am off for a few days in the chilly wilds of Parry Sound, where I plan on reading my book under the nose of my Trudeaupean mother-in-law. If I don’t get my tail cut off with a carving knife I will review the book early next week.

Meanwhile, you can get your own copy of  Loyal To The Core: Stephen Harper, Me And The NCC.

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Explaining Bernie Madoff

March 16th, 2009

Ernie and the Cookie Monster explain the Bernie Madoff scandal.

h/t those guys at Mitchieville

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The Freedom of Music: What Happened to Music?

March 15th, 2009
freedom-of-music-headerOne likes to believe in the freedom of music.

Rush – Spirit of Radio.

What happened? When did music become so bad? I don’t know what it is lately, but I feel like the whole music industry has fallen over a cliff. Good God, who are these people who have taken that which was so vital in our lives, and fucking ruined it?

I recently read a book by a guy called Dave Thompson called I Hate New Music: The Classic Rock Manifesto. He frankly makes far too many good points to write off as a crank. sidebar-2Good point 1: even if you think a new song is good, will you be listening to it in a year, five years, ten years from now? I know that answer, because I’ve fallen for it too many times. Good point 2: You want to know how hard the mighty can fall? From “In My Time of Dying” to “Radioactive.” That’s how hard.

Thompson cites the end of good music as coming from between 1976 and 1978. Boston’s debut album was the beginning of the end, not because it was a bad album, but because it was so carefully crafted, and sold so many copies. By 1978 these carefully crafted albums were also selling millions:

Infinity by Journey.
You Can Tune a Piano but you Can’t Tuna Fish by REO Speedwagon.
Don’t Look Back by Boston.
The Cars by The Cars
Double Vision by Foreigner
Toto by Toto
Pieces of Eight by Styx
Hemispheres by Rush

Never again would a band go into the studio for 18 days, and come out with a masterworks like Led Zeppelin did with 1976’s Presence. Now, the music was a commodity, to be manufactured to maximize sales.

Think I exaggerate? Think the state of the music world is just fine? Riddle me this, who was the hottest selling act this week? If you answered the not guilty of paedophilia in the strictly OJ Simpson sense of the word, Michael Jackson, the freakiest freak in freakville, give yourself ten points.  The spastic, hasn’t demonstrated an ounce of talent in twenty years, and no more than that ever, Jackson was selling out 50 shows at London’s 02 arena. 50 shows sold out in 5 hours. Never mind music, what has gone wrong in our world when that many people will pay approximately $100 each to see this thing, this diddler? But hey, it’s the hottest show in music, which really should be the end of this rant. What could possibly follow to demonstrate that the world of music is no longer worth your attention?

Britney Spears, that’s what. She’s doing wonderful business in her comeback tour. This weeks New York show had the ever awful Madonna in attendance.  Despite favourable reviews (well one) Madonna caused a stir when she left mid-show. Now clear your head and ponder that one item. In the middle of a concert, Madonna leaves and that’s the news.  Would they have shut down the tour if she yawned mid-performance? Why would any body care that Madonna left? Surely they were paying attention to the singer on stage? Alas, there was no singer. The lady dancing, sans musicians, with the top hat and microphone, she was lip syncing. The whole show, except the one time when she said, “Peace, New York.” People paid up to $750 to see Britney Spears not sing? Which is, I suspect, about $745 more than they would pay to hear her sing. But fear not, merchandise, including $150 velvet ensembles and $30 knockoff top hats, flew off the shelves.  Because, you see, post 1978, it’s about the merchandise.

It’s too easy, however, to blame all that’s wrong with the music business on Britney Spears, Michael Jackson, even Madonna. Largely accurate in many ways, but easy.  When Kiss recorded their first live album, Paul Stanley can be heard at one point asking the audience, “do you believe in rock and roll?” After an affirmative cheer, he commands the audience, “stand up for what you believe in.” This was before the invention of the Kiss Army, of which I was an inaugural member, but I have no doubt listening to Kiss Alive now that the audience followed this command like an army following an order.  Yes! we believed in Rock and roll, and Yes! we would stand up for what we believed in. That’s what we thought then, music wasn’t a commodity, it was a movement. We hated disco because it threatened our way of life, our core belief.  Disco was the Taliban, circa 1975 and liking disco was a subversive act. Disco died away for many reasons, not the least of which because there was a Kiss Army to kick it’s ass.

So why was Kiss’ resident demon/fire breather/blood spitter, Gene Simmons, in Toronto this week peddling baby clothes? Because Kiss is a commodity, that’s why. Because while the Kiss Army may have believed in rock and roll, the members themselves have long believed in the commodification thereof. Because in 1978, when Kiss was releasing comic books, it stopped being about the music.  And now, thirty years later, it really is that bad.

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ShutterBugging Picture of the Day – Rockin’ Robin

March 13th, 2009