Archive for December, 2010

Jack Layton for Stornoway?

December 15th, 2010
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Interesting piece by John Ivison in today’s National Post: Jack Layton apparently has his sights sets on leader of the official opposition.

The task looks Herculean – the Liberals polled an average of 29% in the four polls this month: the NDP just over half that…

It may seem nuts, but I like Layton’s chances, just as I like the Conservatives chances of forming a majority. The truth that’s not being told is, Ignatieff has never been a big player in a high level campaign. He ran one leadership campaign, was way out ahead when it began and blew it: the more Liberals saw him, the less they liked him.

His second leadership campaign he won by backroom manoeuvring, taking the decision making out of the hands of Liberal party members and their inconvenient votes.

You can’t backroom your way through a general election.

Everytime I see Ignatieff, my spidey senses tingle the same little tingle: when the going gets real and tough, this guy will fold like an Ikea chair at an overeater’s anonymous meeting.

Jack Layton is right (yes I wrote that: Dec 15, 2010, mark it on your calendars), Michael Ignatieff is very vulnerable in a campaign. He talks about a campaign on leadership, but what he means is he thinks Ignatieff isn’t up to the job of winning peoples minds and hearts when it counts.

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Twelve Days of Christmas, Day 3: In Dalton McGuinty’s Ontario

December 15th, 2010
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A Book on Every Bed

December 14th, 2010

Here in Hespeler we have a new addition to our downtown, Millpond Records and Books a used book and record store. While I personally love the record store aspect, this week I’m heading there for a couple of kids book.aaae130d

Literacy is so vital to a person’s well being. Literate kids become happier, more successful adults. Literacy begins with the simple act of reading.

Columnist Amy Dickinson, in association with The Family Reading Partnership, is starting a new program, A Book on Every Bed:

This holiday season I am putting my column where my heart is, and so I’m asking my readers to celebrate the giving season by giving a book to a child, trrough a homegrown, grassroots program called “A Book on Every Bed.”

Here’s how it works:
Take a book.
Wrap it.
Place it on the child’s bed so it is the first thing the child see’s on Christmas morning (or whatever holiday you celebrate)
That’s it…

Santa brings a Pulitzer: This idea was inspired by… Historian David McCullough (author of John Adams)(who) says that every Christmas morning during his childhood he woke up to a wrapped book at the foot of his bed, left by Santa.

…“There are few things that start the day off better, and especially Christmas, than discovering a new book at the foot of your bed. I thinkk my love of books began on Christmas mornings long ago and the love has never gone stale.

It doesn’t have to be an expensive new book. Pick one up at the goodwill store, give one that is in your collection that was special to you as a child. Or do as I’m doing, head down to your town’s own Millpond Records and Books. It’s not about spending a lot of money, it’s about giving a child literacy.


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Twelve Days of Christmas, Day 2: Kristmas Kitty

December 14th, 2010
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Tree of Angels

December 13th, 2010
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Hundreds of children in Waterloo Region wake up Christmas morning with nothing under their Christmas tree. If your near Waterloo this Sunday, you can help give presents to kids from needy families, and enjoy some great music in the process.149196_1627011787421_1000348616_31706798_1947112_n

The Tree of Angels concert takes place Sunday December 19th at the Lancaster Tavern in Waterloo. Nine bands will take the stage between 2:00PM and 9:00PM giving their time to help give some kids a Christmas. The Tree of Angels is an all ages event, and the cover charge of $10, plus any toys, non-perishable food items or cash donations will be distributed by Salvation Army through the Christmas Bureau to needy families in the region.

My own band, Modest Doubt, will be opening the show, performing from 2-2:30. We would love to see a large Cambridge contingent out to support this cause.

If you’re tired of the malls, spend the Sunday before Christmas hearing 9 local bands, donating to local kids and having a fun day at the Tree of Angels. The kids would love to see you there, and so would the bands.


Twelve Days of Christmas, Day 1: Hallelujah

December 13th, 2010
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Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus, performed by a flash mob at a Welland, Ontario mall:

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The Freedom of Music: Kimono my Propaganda

December 12th, 2010


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

A quick story:

In late 1974, Sparks were one of the biggest bands in Britain…. There was only one shadow on the duo’s horizon. They had just dismissed their lead guitarist. So they… began casting around for a suitable replacement. Somebody well known. Somebody respected, but somebody whose career was maybe on a distinct downward spiral. Somebody… like Brian May.

… His band, Queen, had shot their bolt…

“I did like the band,” May reflected. “I loved ‘This Town Ain’t Big Enough For Both of Us.’ Anyway, they came around, the two brothers, and said, ‘Look, it’s pretty obvious that Queen are washed up; we’d like to offer you a position in our band, if you want.’ I said, ‘Well, I don’t think we’re quite dead yet.”*

sidebar-4You get that? The boys in Sparks thought Queen guitarist Brian May might want to lose his washed up band and join the one that was bound for greatness. Of course Sparks were in the year when they would record their two greatest albums, Queen was still a whole year away from theirs. But nowadays you can be forgiven if you ask of Sparks, who?

I am one of the worlds few people who would rather listen to Sparks 1974 album Propaganda than Queens defining work of a year later, Night At The Opera (featuring Bohemian Rhapsody). What is surprising is, I may not be the only one.

It was probably more than twenty years between having a discussion of any sort with somebody about Sparks. They would, and still do, occasionally churn out a new album, having gone through an euro-electro-pop phase in the early 80’s. In 2009 they released their 22nd album, The Seduction of Ingmar Bergen. Yet I have never known anybody to buy one, never saw a Sparks CD and never heard of anybody replacing their copies of Propaganda or Kimono My House on CD.

I had forgotten about Spark completely, actually, until about two years ago when I stumbled on an MP3 download of the aforementioned 1974 albums. I downloaded it, assuming they would be an embarrassing memory, rather like Loverboy. Instead, I found in Propaganda an album that I remember loving, and still think is an excellent album. In fact, if I was piecing together a list of my 100 best albums, Propaganda would be on it. The other album, Kimono My House, which actually came first, is almost as good.

I’ve been doing the rounds of record stores, record shows and that sort of thing a fair bit lately. Now that “vinyl is back,” there seems to be more opportunity than there has been in years to browse records. On top of used, there is a fair bit of new vinyl records out there, including a big whack that is being re-released all these years later as “160 gram vinyl.” To understand it, 160 gram vinyl is short for, “much better quality than we sold you back in the day when we could take you buying our product as a given.” They are, finally, providing really good quality vinyl albums, and they are doing so at a price point that would commonly be called, not cheap.

Of the albums that has been re-released, and is in stock in every store I’ve been in that sells new records, the most surprising has to be Kimono My House. And it’s not just there. It keeps turning up wherever I buy records. Last week I was at a record show and saw three copies of a record I have never seen at a record show before. Last week a Facebook friend posted a video of This Town Ain’t Big Enough For Both of Us. I was shocked that I knew somebody who remembered this band.

For the uninitiated, Sparks circa 1974 is hard to explain. Singer Russell Mael and his Charlie Chaplain/Hitler look-alike brother, keyboard player Ron, are the heart of the operation. Russell sang in an operatic falsetto over a solid rock and roll beat. When I say operatic, don’t think Bohemian Rhapsody, rather like Grace Bumbry singing Sausalito Summernight. Or, more aptly, Luciano Pavarotti imitating Grace Bumbry singing Sausalito Summernight. And yes, I know I just described a somewhat obscure band using a somewhat forgotten, if not obscure song. But Sparks are like that, in that they are unlike anything you have ever heard before.

Here’s a prediction: if you decide to check out Sparks after reading this you will either like them a lot, or dislike them… a lot. There really is no middle ground. If you can get past the operatic vocals, there is some great rock and roll being played. And once you get past the vocals, you will find you like the vocals, and soon, you will start to understand the vocals (hint: he doesn’t sing as fast as it sounds like he’s singing). Once you get to that point, well Kimono My House is available just about everywhere records are sold these days. You’ll want to be getting it before it disappears again.

From I Hate New Music, page 50.
Thompson, Dave. I Hate New Music: the Classic Rock Manifesto. New York: Backbeat, 2008. 49-50. .

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Cool for Cats Friday

December 10th, 2010
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Dec 10, 2007. I was on a great adventure that saw me travel to London and watch a concert that millions wanted to see. The fact it now looks like it was legitimately Led Zeppelin’s last hurrah makes it no more sweeter, but boy it’ll impress the grandkids one day.

Here’s my review of the concert.

Here’s Led Zeppelin, live in London 1979 (a concert I missed by mere hours)

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Hey Kobo…

December 10th, 2010
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Why don’t you build an e-reader that doesn’t crash on shutdown every other day, instead of trying to become the next Facebook.

koboI own a Kobo. It does one thing, makes books available electronically, using E-ink display technology. One thing: on, off, read. So simple, Microsoft could design it. Yet the Kobo crashes regularly. Very regularly. It’s like designing a calculator that crashes.

When I bought the Kobo in July, I was promised magazines and newspapers were available for it. They weren’t. And they still aren’t in my area. What the hell does that even mean? This is the Internet age, there is no area. The National Post is a Canadian Newspaper. You can either offer an electronic download of it, or you can’t. They can’t.

The Kobo promises ten days, or 10,000 page turns of battery life: I get maybe ten hours, a couple of hundred page turns.  That’s OK though, because when I bought it I was told not to plug it in unless battery was drained, because every time I plug it in, I shorten it’s life span. That’s good, the shorter the life span, the sooner I get an e-reader that works.

And don’t get me started on the price of books. A new book is upwards of $15, yet you don’t even get a file to store for the day when you switch to an e-reader that works. Done with your Kobo? The book is gone into the ether. Fifteen dollars for nothing.

But now, after delivering on none of the promises of their product, they are expanding into social media.

On Thursday, the Toronto-based e-publishing startup will launch Reading Life, a new e-reading iPad application that integrates with the company’s digital bookstore designed to bring social-networking capabilities to the world of electronic books…

Seriously, instead of concentrating on fixing their piece of S*%t product, they are going to try and turn reading into something you do with virtual friends.

If your thinking e-reader this Christmas, they are magical machines that are truly wonderful. But save yourself the frustration and buy something other than Kobo. Their machines are junk, and they are more interested in monetizing their web site than fixing it.

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It’s My Blogiversary and all Anyone Can Talk About is Stephen Harper

December 9th, 2010

Yesterday I hit my five year blogging mark. To celebrate the occasion, the Conservative Party held a conservative party. It is appropriate. Five years ago the Conservatives were in opposition. Six weeks after I took up the mantle, they were governing.

It’s been a wonderful five years: I have had some fun, took some pictures, and run, very unsuccessfully, for Senate.

But lest we think Prime Minister Harper is ungrateful for all I have done, here he is, singing my praises last night:

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Stephen Harper Christmas Concert

December 9th, 2010
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Holy cow! Prime Minister Harper took his Little Help From My Friends schtick from last year, and extended it last night. This year for an encore he took a full band onstage in Ottawa, Celtic band Herringbone,picture-10 and performed a five song set, plus a snippet of John Lennon’s Imagine, in honour of the musician who died 30 years ago yesterday.

Here’s the setlist

Sweet Caroline
I’m on My Way
The Seeker
Share the Land
Jumpin’ Jack Flash

Audio of the whole show is available at David Akin’s blog: here

Here’s some video snippets.

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U of Waterloo Redeems Itself

December 8th, 2010
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I was disappointed in my alma mater, the University of Waterloo (UW), after the Christie Blatchford debacle last month. Et tu, Waterloo I mumbled to no one in particular.blatchford-helpless2

However, unlike other Ontario Universities in Premier Dad’s Paradise, UW stepped up with an immediate, and unequivocal apology:

The university considers Friday’s events as an attack on its presence as a place where issues are explored, discussed and at times debated. The freedom to speak and to learn is fundamental to the institution.

Yesterday, the university had Blatchford back:

flanked by dozens of police,” to give her speech. Agitator Dan Kellar was nowhere to be found, having been banned from the campus….

“God bless Dan Kellar. Driving up book sales wherever he goes,” Blatchford said afterward.

Good on Christeie Blatchford, and good on UW for making sure this event went off safely.

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John Lennon: 30 Years Gone

December 8th, 2010
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It’s about the music, the simple, beautiful music. Watching the Wheels, a song about people’s reaction to John dropping out of the music industry to raise his son, Sean, between 1975-1980. It is simple, elegant and beautiful. What more where you looking for in a song?

Rest in Peace John Winston Lennon, 30 years gone.

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The Pimply Minions Rebellion of 2010…

December 6th, 2010
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returns us to the days when officers of the law were pigs, and pigs were breakfast:

Ridley (Pimply Minion Graham Ridley) staked out Tijssen’s (Major Mark Tijssen) home for five full days in November 2009, watching from a tree-house on the neighbour’s property, waiting to see whether anyone would leave Tijssen’s property with meat.

…the following evening, after dark, Ridley raided Tijssen’s property accompanied by four police cars and two MNR trucks, lights flashing. Armed police officers searched the property painstakingly and carried off 14 articles of butchering equipment.

The crime this major in the Canadian Forces with a degree in biomedical toxicology from the University of Guelph, committed? He legally slaughtered a pig, for personal use, on his own property, then shared the meat with his friend, half owner of the pig.

Jacobian Piece of Impertinence, pimply minions of bureaucracy

Cool For Cats Friday

December 3rd, 2010
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…(she’s) a drunkards dream if I ever did see one…

Ringo Starr’s Allstar Band, 1989 (the first one).

Ringo Starr
Billy Preston
Dr. John
Joe Walsh (Eagles)
Levon Helm (Band)
Rick Danko (Band)
Garth Hudson (Band)
Nils Lofgren (Bruce Springsteens E-Street Band, Neil Young’s Crazy Horse)
Clarence Clemons (E Street Band)

And of course, no Ringo Starr Cool For Cats Friday would be complete without Mrs. Ringo Starr


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