Archive for January, 2010

The Freedom of Music: LP’s under the Christmas Tree

January 31st, 2010


One likes to believe in the freedom of music.
Rush – Spirit of Radio.

Pictures from my youth. The family is gathered around the Christmas tree. It’s Christmas morning and wrapping paper is flying. A flat square, wrapped in red paper, gets passed across. There can be no mistaking what it is: a record. Twelve inches of vinyl that when rotated 33 1/3 times a minute with a needle stuck in it’s grooves, produced music. The question isn’t what is it? – although it is often asked with humour – but which record is it? The Christmas in question peeling back the wrapping paper produces a familiar red cover, with what looks like an impatient vulture, staring into the distance with it’s arms folded.sidebar-4

It must be twenty years between receiving an LP for Christmas, but the musical landscape is changing and this Christmas brought Them Crooked Vultures in all it’s double LP, gatefold cover glory. I reviewed the album via you tube download, when it first came out. If your interested in what I have to say about the music, that review still stands.

The bigger question is, why am I getting it on LP? How did it come to pass that 2009’s super group, Them Crooked Vultures, are releasing their inaugaural disc on vinyl? The answer, in my opinion, is two fold. LP records are back, and they came back because they make more sense as a keepsake in the era of MP3s, and because humbled record companies are, finally, giving their customers what they want.

To the latter point first. Records, or fans of the record, have never gone away. Always a substantial minority, CDs began to overcome records only after the record companies started restricting records. Up went the price, down went the supply and that’s a bingo, we live in a CD universe where the record companies profits double per unit sold and Yuppy morons were trading in their Saturday Night Fever soundtrack LPs and buying Phil Collin’s and Sting CDs. Soon the rest of us had no choice and, in the name of quality, we are buying our second copy of Born to Run, this time on CD sourced from the same LP we still have. Who voted for this business model?

Actually, no one voted for it because there never was a choice. Not for ten years or so anyway. But soon enough choice reared it’s ugly head in the name of Napster and in the form of MP3s. Suddenly there was another way to listen to music, and people voted for “not the CD.”

To be sure, CDs had their advantages, convenience being the main one. You could throw it in the CD player, play song 2,4,7 and 9 without having to hear the rest and without scratching your record or having to turn it over. It didn’t take long before you could program your CD player to play those songs, and soon after you could buy a CD player that holds 5 CDs, push on random and not have to hear the same song twice between dinner and the Tonight show. I was at many parties between 1988 and 1995 when the home stereo was turned into a muzak player, with a constant rotation of Sting, Phil Collins, Mariah Carey, Celine Dion and The Eagles (if the hosts put as much thought into the selection of beer as they did music, I never made it to Sting song #2).

Eventually CD’s became portable. It took a while, but the hardware makers developed the Discman, and you could stick a CD player in your pocket and listen while in the line at the bank. You couldn’t move and listen to it without it skipping, but you could still take it with you. Eventually they solved for walking, even if running was still a problem. By the time portable CD players became obsolete, they had solved the running problem too.

They put CD players in cars too. In a list of life’s great mystery’s, one has to include the following: how do they get the Caramilk in the Caramilk bar? Who put the ram in the ram-a-lam-a-ding-dong? How come they had CD players that didn’t skip in cars by 1990 but you couldn’t do the Terry Fox run without your CD skipping until 2005? But they did it, they had CD players in cars. You could plunk it in and go. Buy that Spin Doctors CD and sadly discover that while you could listen to Two Princes from Milton to Niagara Falls, you would gladly stick knotting needles in your ear before you listened to any of the other songs on the CD again? No problem, just keep hitting the back button and you could repeat the same song over and over. Because it was CDs, and if the music they were putting on them was, on the whole, crap, the CDs themselves were a great convenience.

But the advantage of CDs ends with their convenience. The quality argument never really held water and even if CDs had superior quality, what MP3s prove is that people don’t care that much about the quality. It was good enough on record, and it’s still good enough on the far inferior MP3s.

And if we can stand the sound of MP3s, they’re extremely portable, can be got or purchased without leaving your bedroom, are available for free, although often not legally, and work regardless of whether you put them away properly. Soon came the MP3 player, and suddenly it’s never mind Terry Fox, you could do Jump Rope for Heart and not have your music skipping. You can program them, carry around hundreds of albums and literally thousands of songs. Five CDs playing a random selection of songs? Now you can DJ a wedding with nothing but a good amplifier, 2 good speakers and an I-pod – and never play the same artist twice. DJs used to show up in vans, now if the hall has a good in-house PA they show up on a Vespa and still have room for an assistant.

MP3s, however, don’t make for a good collectable. If you can have far better variety of music on hand at all times without causing a bulge in your pocket, CDs lose their convenience. But if you want to collect music, LPs have always been a better choice. Bigger covers mean that you can print who played keyboards on song #3, or the songs lyrics in a font bigger than that found on an Asprin bottle. And the new LPs are being made of more, and better quality vinyl, creating a quality of sound inarguably as good as anything you can get on a CD. They stack nice against a wall, and look good doing so, while the smaller yet bulkier CD take up more floor space. LPs also allow for cooler covers. Now you don’t have to have a close up shot of the singer, you can do some actual art.

LPs are back, made useful again because the advantages they always had over CDs still exist, the advantages CDs had over LPs are made redundant by MP3s. And the record companies, losing customers, power and money had no choice but to listen to what their customers demanded: 20 years too late perhaps, but finally they listen.

And finally, a new record under the Christmas tree. Yes Virginia, you can go home again.

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Saturday Fluffernutter: Olivia Newton HockeyMom; Walking on Sunshine with Tegan and Sara; Pernell Roberts 1928-2010; J.D. Salinger 1919 – 2010

January 30th, 2010

All the fluffy news about those nutty celebrities

fluffincolorIn one of those “I knew I’d type this one day” moments, Olivia Newton John is set to start filming a hockey movie in Toronto. Hockey: The Musical will star John, and singer Marc Jordan as hockey parents helping their son the star hockey player come to terms with his new found fame and pressure to fight.

Because you become a star hockey player from years of never, ever, fighting.

fluffincolorWho the fuck are Tegan and Sara and why do I have the urge to email them an MP3 of Walking on Sunshine?

fluffincolorPernell Roberts 1928-2010

Most people know Pernell Roberts for his role as Adam Cartwright in Bonanza from 1959 -1965. Until his obituary this week, I had no idea he was in Bonanza. To me Roberts is the older wiser Trapper John MacIntyre from Trapper John M.D..

One of my favourite shows from the time, Roberts played the Trapper John role longer than Wayne Rogers (it was also played in the movie M*A*S*H by Elliott Gould). Roberts passed away this week, age 81, of Pancreatic cancer.

RIP Trapper John MacIntyre the 3rd.

fluffincolorJ.D. Salinger 1919 – 2010

I never liked Catcher in the Rye. Always thought Holden Caulfield was a whiny a******, and assumed if you were one of the many who related to him, you might be a whiny a******. Which is, I suppose, a roundabout way of saying the book didn’t speak to me.  However, it must be said that many, many young men did see themselves in the depressive misfit Caulfield and Catcher in the Rye very much spoke to them.

Like him or not, Salinger was undoubtedly a giant in writing and one of the most influential writers of the 20th century.  An eccentric recluse Salinger has not been seen in public in years. Catcher in the Rye was his only novel but the publishing world is hopeful of a treasure trove of written material.

May he rest in peace, because I suspect his legacy is about to get very active.

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Two for One Day

January 29th, 2010
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Hey Osama, that’s not global warming… 

That’s the Americans knocking on your cave door.


Hey Osama, that’s not global warming…

And those aren’t virgins.


Does anybody remember when this guy was going to kill us where we live? Now he’s going to short our dollar and tax our carbon.

 I guess it’s safe to say without being accused of hyperbole,  if you impose cap and trade the terrorists have won.

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Toronto the Not in a Death Spiral

January 23rd, 2010

spiral toronto

A TTC union reacted to the media firestorm over a napping collector yesterday by criticizing the rider who took the photo, even as a second photograph of another sleeping TTC collector emerged.

“It is very discouraging that the picture taker and, apparently, other customers made no attempt to determine of there was anything wrong with this TTC employee (George Robitaille)” said Bob Kinnear, president of the Amalgamated Transit Union.

ttc_man_sleepingLeaving aside that it’s possible people could see evidence of life, the chest moving the nostrils in and outing that sort of thing. Leave aside that a man that size, with his head at that angle was probably snoring like Fred Flinstone on a camping trip. Ignore the fact that people having heart attacks don’t rest their hands on their stomachs but grab their chest. The reason they know he is not “unconscious as a result of some medical problem,” is that people stroking out don’t stop and put a piece of cardboard over the money slot so that nobody will bother them while they die.

So question for Bob Kinnear, who does have a legal responsibility to give this guy full and effective representation. To paraphrase Jack Nicolson: Please tell me you have something more. Please tell me his representation hasn’t pinned their hopes on a catastrophic medical situation.

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Some Candidate: Some Star

January 20th, 2010

Memo to Ross Rebagliati

Something else happened (when Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff was giving a speech) at UBC. There was a protest, in the middle of the town hall. But Mr. Ignatieff didn’t lose his cool. He listened, addressed their concerns, and made no apologies. That’s how democracy is supposed to work. Can you imagine what Stephen Harper would have done?

Hey, star candidate/stoned guy. Do you really believe Stephen Harper has never been interrupted by a protest? Of course he has, hundreds of times. Now, cite the case where he handled it any differently than Michael Ignatieff.

Can you imagine what Ross Rebagliati would do if reality interrupted his fantasy life?


Stephen Harper’s a Big Mean Bully…

January 20th, 2010


… Stephen Harper plays the politics of spite and spin, cynicism and apathy

Star Liberal candidate Ross Rebagliati to the federal Liberal caucus (Jan, 19, 2010).


Happy 55th Birthday…

January 18th, 2010

Kevin Costner’s bio lists 45 acting credits. At his peak, he played Wyatt Earp, Jim Garrison (in JFK), Robin Hood and Whitney Houston’s bodyguard. bull-durham-mv04At his best he was Ray Kinsella in Field of Dreams, “Tin Cup” McAvoy and Eliot Ness. At his worst, he was mocked mercilessly for the hugely expensive, and disastrous Waterworld.

But we wish Kevin Costner birthday wishes for none of that.

In 1988, Costner strapped on the catcher gear to play career minor league ball player “Crash” Davis in Bull Durham. Costner captured Davis flawlessly, the perfect foil for Tim Robbins “Nuke” LaLoosh and Susan Sarandon’s southern belle Annie Savoy. A catcher with a better brain than arm, Davis gave us such memorable quotes as

Strikeouts are boring! Besides that, they’re fascist. Throw some ground balls – it’s more democratic.



 I believe in the soul, the cock, the pussy, the small of a woman’s back, the hanging curve ball, high fiber, good scotch, that the novels of Susan Sontag are self-indulgent, overrated crap. I believe Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone. I believe there ought to be a constitutional amendment outlawing Astroturf and the designated hitter. I believe in the sweet spot, soft-core pornography, opening your presents Christmas morning rather than Christmas Eve and I believe in long, slow, deep, soft, wet kisses that last three days.

It is for his performance as Crash Davis that At Home in Hespeler wishes Kevin Costner a happy 55th birthday.  Now, about that rumour that your planning to do anothe rbaseball movie.

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Saturday Fluffernutter:Late Shift II; Tanner and Glover plead stupid; Teddy Pendergrass (1950- 2010)

January 16th, 2010
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All the fluffy news about those nutty celebrities

fluffincolorThe Late Shift II: Conan the Leftoutinthecoldian – There really is one story in entertainment this week: Leno vs. O’Brien. In a redux of 1991’s decision to replace Johnny Carson withfluffernutter Jay Leno instead of heir apparent David Letterman, NBC announced is shaking up The Late Show, once again anointing Leno and leaving hair apparent O’Brien out in the cold.

Leno’s new 10PM show has bombed, and NBC announced they were moving Leno back to 11:30 with a new half-hour show. O’Brien balked at being moved to midnight, telling NBC to go letter their man. Leno will return to the Late Night fold, with Jimmy Kimmel retaining O’Briens old 12:30 slot. And O’Brien? It appears he will take heed of Leno’s advice to NBC when the story started to break last week and travel: Fox, he said, is beautiful this time of year.

Who the long term winner will be is anybody’s guess, but it seem likely there will be one long term loser: Leno’s reputation as a nice guy.

fluffincolorActor Antwon Tanner of the TV show One Tree Hill was sentenced to three months in prison, and five months of home release by a Brooklyn judge this week after he was convicted of dealing in stolen Social Security numbers. His lawyer, Gregory Watts, blamed it on “Stupidity.”

Well either that or moral turpitude.

fluffincolorSpeaking of the stupid defence, meet Danny Glover:

“What happened in Haiti could happen to anywhere in the Caribbean because all these island nations are in peril because of global warming.”

“When we see what we did at the climate summit in Copenhagen, this is the response, this is what happens, you know what I’m saying? We have to act now!”

The science is settled: tectonic plates don’t cause earthquakes, human CO2 emissions cause earthquakes.

The defence pleads stupid your honour.

fluffincolorTeddy Pendergrass (1950- 2010): Singer Teddy Pendergrass passed of colon cancer this week. The five time Grammy nominated singer was wheelchair bound since an automobile accident in 1982. I’ll personally always remember his very moving first post-accident performance at Live Aid in 1985.

RIP Teddy Pendergrass

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Rush’s Neil Peart drums the Does the Hockey Night in Canada Theme

January 15th, 2010

Credit Where It’s Due

January 15th, 2010

If I recieved an email from that was politicizing the Haiti catastrophe, I would be all over the Liberals, so it seem fair to offer kudos to Michael Ignatieff’s Liberals for using their mailing list to send a message asking people to donate to Haiti relief. Equally, consider this At Home in Hespeler’s call to donate what you can.


It’s time to stand with Haiti.

The scenes of devastation beamed from Port-au-Prince and elsewhere have shaken all of us. But they have also reminded us that our first instinct as Canadians is to ask “How can I help?”

Our ties with Haiti are strong. We have a Haitian community in Canada that has contributed so much to our national life, and Canadians across our country are connected to Haiti through friends and loved ones living and working there.

I know that you were just asked to donate on Monday. But this is not about politics.

In these exceptional circumstances, now is a time to come together as people. Now is a time to act.

That’s why I am asking you to please support the relief effort in Haiti by clicking on one of the links below. Yesterday, we asked the government to match funds given to charitable organizations for relief efforts and today the government announced that it would – which means that your giving power is now twice as strong.

Canadian Red Cross
Doctors Without Borders
Oxfam Canada
Oxfam Quebec
Centre for International studies and Cooperation (CECI)
CARE Canada

The Humanitarian Coalition

Let’s show that we care. Let’s help Haiti in this time of need.

Thank you,
Michael Ignatieff

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Toronto Sun Cover

January 14th, 2010

Rather, it is about cultural sensitivity, social responsibility and common sense.


Back when the Sun was refusing to print the Muhammad cartoons – still haven’t shown any even though a Muslim fanatic tried to murder one of the authors of the cartoons last week – they gave a self serving defense. It is available in it’s entirety here. At the time I said:

Remember this argument next time they run a front page with a picture of some poor guy running from a burning house in his underwear.

So this morning, I turn on The John Oakley Show show on The Home of the Leafs AM 640, and they are doing a segment on the today’s cover of the Sun. It is, according to the folks on Oakley, “news porn”. Frankly, it doesn’t bother me. But neither did the Muhammad cartoons. The question is, based on what I heard this morning, does this qualify as “cultural sensitivity, social responsibility and common sense”?

Based on the Sun’s own criteria, this is a questionable cover.

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In Dalton McGuinty’s Ontario…

January 12th, 2010

The Province is appointing a crown attorney to proceed with criminal charges against the provinces top police officer:

The Ontario government is going ahead with plans to appoint one of its own Crown attorneys to prosecute Julian Fantino…

A provincial Crown will first address the matter in court on Friday morning.

Even though OPP commisioner Julian Fantino will answer for to a criminal charge, one lonely blogger calls for his resignation.

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Saturday Fluffernutter: No Osc for Jay Lo; “Tipsy” Mariah Carey; Tiger – the prison picture; The sad death of Casey Johnson (1979-2010)

January 9th, 2010
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All the fluffy news about those nutty celebrities

fluffincolorJennifer Lopez is reported to be “upset with the academy” because she was not given an oscar nod for 2006’s El Cantante. Lopez starred in the movie alongside her husband Marc Anthony about the life of Puerto Rican salsa singer Hector Lavoe. fluffernutterAccording to the New York Daily News, Lopez is frustrated that the members of the academy never saw El Cantante, therefore couldn’t properly judge her superiority.

No fear, Lopez fans. Lopez herself says “I have the utmost faith and no doubt that it will [happen] one day.”

As if they’re giving an Oscar to Jennifer Lopez before Madonna gets one.

fluffincolorIn other Diva news, Mariah Carey gave a seven minute acceptance speech after winning some award or another at the Palm Springs International Film Festival. Some called it rambling; some suggested she was jet lagged; some have said she was “tipsy on champagne.”  However, I know too much party, not enough brains when I see it, and this girl has had too much party:

fluffincolorSo your Tiger Woods. Your nice guy image is in tatters, your reputation need rebuilding. Your wife is leaving, and taking with her the kids and $300M. Pat Burns is on Montreal radio telling the world your gorgeous Swedish wife took a nine iron to your face before you got in the Cadillac, which she then took the nine iron to the windows of. What do you need to revive your image? How about a magazine cover with you looking like it was taken in the prison yard:


The world is upside down when I feel sorry for Tiger Woods.

The death of Johnson and Johnson heiress Casey Johnson may be one of the saddest spectacles you’ll ever witness. The 30 year old was found dead in her home and the death was announced by her “fiance”, reality star Tila Tequila. Tequila has been in a piddling match with blogger Perez Hilton and, in the illiterate twitterings of access hollywoods Billy Bush:

Gross… claims 2 b mourning fiancée but seems 2 b pumping her new gossip blog.   (How come he can’t spell “to be” but can get the accented é in fiancée?)

Now Johnson’s longtime girlfriend Courtenay Semel, daughter of Terry Semel, the former chairman of both Yahoo! Inc. and Warner Bros., has lashed out at Teguila:

The thing I find the most sickening is that the media is giving [her] the one thing she craves: attention. Tila, you knew her for a week.

I understand her sentiment but, frankly,  this whole thing is pretty sickening. If you take no other lesson from At Home in Hespeler kids, take this: if you seek fame regardless of price, don’t be surprised when the bill comes due and the cost is your dignity – in life and in death.

The above aside, this the sad death of a 30 year old woman. Her life was uneasy, with drugs, debt, estrangement from her family, a recent burglary charge. A woman who appeared to never got comfortable with life. Her family is apparently devastated, her father, Jets owner Woody Johnson, lost a brother to drug abuse in 1975, has now lost a daughter. It’s a sad story, and condolences to the people who loved Casey Johnson.

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John Tory: Does Toronto Really Need Another Liberal Running for Mayor?

January 7th, 2010

John Tory has apparently decided not to run for mayor of Toronto in the upcoming municipal election. Reading the story, what struck me was the people who managed his previous campaigns:

Jeff Bangs, who managed Tory’s 2004 campaign for the Conservative leadership, decided to run former Liberal provincial minister George Smitherman’s campaign for mayor.

As well, Rocco Rossi, who managed Tory’s failed bid for the mayor’s chair in 2003, announced his own candidacy.

Jeff Bangs is now off to run former Provincial Liberal cabinet minister George Smitherman’s campaign. Rocco Rossi is the former executive director for the Liberal Party of Canada. You might remember him for his Kayaking to save the Liberals last summer.

Russ Campbell comments today on the fate of the Provincial PC brand here in Ontario:

The lost years under John Tory may be too hard to overcome.

The reason for that Russ, is that he was never a Conservative, just a Liberal in PC clothing.

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Happy 64th Birthday…

January 3rd, 2010
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John Paul Jones.

For the first time in what must be twenty years, I got a new record for Christmas. Pristine, in the package, never before played, the music was also new. What is old is new again.them-crooked-vultures

Last year at this time, I wished for John Paul Jones “may your year be filled, and thus ours, with music.” It was, but not in the way I was expecting. Them Crooked Vultures took the rock world heavily in 2009, combining front line talent from three different areas of hard rock. The result was fantastic, receiving best release of the year in some year end reviews. John Paul Jones had done it again, and my Them Crooked Vultures LP was the highlight of Christmas morning.

Happy Birthday John Paul Jones, and may your year be spent making music with friends, old or new.

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