Archive for November, 2011

Politicians Are Economically Illiterate

November 30th, 2011
Comments Off on Politicians Are Economically Illiterate

Do you ever wonder how we got ourselves into this mess? How western countries, rich beyond all human experience, are so broke. How countries, any country, can owe so much money, and it’s leaders can seem so blasé about the fact.

Maybe, probably even, the problem is the politicians are all economically illiterate.

Oh sure, they all know about interest rates, monetary policy, the value of the dollar and the difficulty in budget projections. But they also live in an information bubble, being fed ideas and figures from self interested sources all day, every day. Then they go to the office and make decisions to spend amounts of other peoples money greater than even the richest politician could dream of spending without access to the public purse. Even the most money conscious politician loses touch the what real money is worth.

Case in point: Currently in Toronto, there is a mayor – complete with minions – who believe that spending is out of control. Their goal, “stop the gravy train.” The Budget Chief on this governing body, i.e. the guy who’s good at the math, is Mike Del Grande .

The Toronto Sun’s Sue-Ann Levy has had a bug up her flue recently about Toronto’s public art. How can a city that is $700-million in the hole spend money on art for the park &tc. Last week she ran a story on a piece of public art she calls the Yorkville Rock. Eighteen years ago, the June Rowlands led City of Toronto spent $284,000 buying, shipping and installing a 500-tonne piece of the Canadian shield in Toronto’s uber-trendy Yorkville.

Mike Del Grande , she tells us, says the $284,000 rock would “easily be $800,000 in 2011 dollars.” That’s an increase of a factor of 2.8, or approximately 180%, roughly 10% per year (I know, I know, I haven’t taken the magic of compounding into consideration). Does that seem right?

Back in 1994 we bought our first house, a small bungalow for $120,000. Now granted there’s been a major housing bubble in the last ten years, and Canadian prices, unlike American ones, have not abated. That style of house, in that neighbourhood are currently listed for $219,000, a less that %100 increase.

We can all agree gas prices are crazy – I mean, holy crap we pay a lot for gas than we did back in the 90’s crazy? From the end of the Gulf War until almost Y2K, gasoline stayed stable at 60-cents a litre. Today, according to gas busters, it is a whopping $1.14 to $1.20 a litre, more or less double. If gas had increased $180%, it would be $1.68 a litre. Even when gas was going through the roof, did you pay $1.68 a litre? Nor would you pay $336,000 for a 1,000 square foot bungalow in Hespeler, the cost of that first house if it increased by a factor of 2.8 over the last twenty years.

I know, I know, your sitting there saying to yourself, so he cherry picked a couple of items to prove some point or another. But according to the Bank for Canada, inflation has run at 41% between 1993 and 2011. My examples are both high, not low. A $284,000 rock in 1993 should cost $400,000, half of what Mike Del Grande suggests it would cost.

Don’t get me wrong, I like what these guys are trying to do, get control over spending in the City of Toronto. But how do you do that when your fiscal hawk budget chief has no basis in financial reality? Getting your financial house in order is not just about deciding what’s wasteful and what’s not, it’s also about knowing the value of something when you decide to spend on it.

If everybody in government thinks inflation has been running at 10% a year, is it any wonder the worlds in such a financial mess?

Economic Fundamentalism , , ,

The Freedom of Music: No Regrets

November 27th, 2011
Comments Off on The Freedom of Music: No Regrets


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

In 1979 I was visiting Belfast. During the trip I was at an old neighbor’s house. Their son, a few years my senior, was in University in England. He had to quit his band, he explained to me, when he left for school. sidebar-1

Stiff Little Fingers are more influential than they are popular – Green Day, among others, cite them as an influence – at least here in America. But the band would release four albums before dis-banding in 1983, and have released a number more since they reformed in 1988.

My old neighbor? He’s another middle aged guy with a job. I haven’t seen him in over 30 years, and I don’t know if he has any regrets, but I’d be willing to bet that on pub nights, he tells the boys over pints of bitter that he used to be in Stiff Little Fingers.

Terry Reid is an English singer. Recently interviewed at his Florida home, the still active performer said he had no regrets. Having had a career that had saw him eventually landing in Florida with enough assets to buy a home, that seems logical enough. What would Terry Reid have to regret?

In 1968 Jimmy Page was forming a new band in the aftermath of the Yardbirds breaking up. He had an idea for a singer, a guy who could powerfully belt out the blues, Terry Reid. Reid had some recent commitments and a reasonable prospect of success on his own, so he respectfully declined. He did, however, know of a bloke, Robert Plant.

If Reid really has no regrets about declining the gig as lead singer of Led Zeppelin, then he’s a fool. Here’s the lesson to take from the Terry Reid story: always demand a finders fee of 1 point on every album sold.

At least my Irish friend and Terry Reid made their choices. Not so Pete Best.

Best had the bad fortune of being the dues paying drummer in a nothing band called The Quarrymen, who got the boot just before they became The Beatles. On the verge of a record deal, Paul McCartney, John Lennon and George Harrison were told your drummer isn’t good enough. Out went Best, in came Ringo Starr.

If you think, well you can’t spend your life worrying about what might have been, consider this. Ringo Starr backstopped The Beatles for seven years, had one of his songs turned into a movie, another into a TV show. By the time The Beatles broke up he was very wealthy. He then had a reasonably successful solo career and developed and starred in a little TV show called Thomas the Tank Engine. For the last 22 years he has spent the summers touring with the Ringo Starr All Star Band, featuring an ever changing cast of the worlds best musicians. Oh yea, he married a Bond Girl.

It’s easy to say no point worrying over what might have been, but your life was never going to the one Ringo Starr got.

Pete Best, who turned 70 last Thursday (and many happy returns to him), has said in past interviews he too has no regrets, that he’s lived a good life and wouldn’t trade any of it. Fair enough, but as his 70th birthday passed, do you suppose somewhere deep in his being a little voice said, “just let me outlive that bastard Ringo Starr!”? He who gets the last laugh, and all that.

Still, some last laughs are louder than others, wouldn’t you think.

Birthday Wishes, The Freedom of Music , , , , , , ,

In Memory of a Fallen Soldier: Pte. William Jonathan James Cushley

November 11th, 2011
Comments Off on In Memory of a Fallen Soldier: Pte. William Jonathan James Cushley
William J. Cushley arrived in Afghanistan in August 2006 as a member of 1st Battalion, Royal Canadian Regiment. He was 21 years old, had a girlfriend, Karine Rousselle, a member of the forces herself, and RCR tattooed proudly on his back. On September 3rd, 2006, Sunday of the Labour day weekend, William was killed by Taliban fighters during Operation Medusa, a major offensive in the town of Panjwayi, 30 km west of Kandahar city. Four Canadian Soldiers, including William, lost their lives that day, and a reported over 200 Taliban fighters.

William has been on my mind since the Toronto wear red rally and I came into close contact with his father, Errol Cushley:

I watched Mr. Cushley closely after that. I kept thinking that, while I agree with the mission, agree that Canadians belong in Afghanistan, I knew that if given the deal, the Faustian bargain, my son for the mission, I would say no: Let the damn Taliban have the place, let them have this one too. I’ll give Canada over to the Muslims, rather than pay that price. But Errol Cushley paid the price, and here he stood barely three weeks later, supporting the troops, supporting the mission even.

William was born in Port Lambton, Ontario, and is buried there. He is survived by his father, mother and three sisters – not to mention his girlfriend Karine.

On this Remembrance Day, instead of doing the usual foot shuffle, I used the two minutes of silence to offer a prayer for William Cushley and his family. I told my children about William, or at least tried to but couldn’t do so without becoming verklempt. For me, this year, Remembrance Day became personal.


Reposted from Nov 11, 2006. Lest we Forget.


In Flanders Fields

November 11th, 2011
Comments Off on In Flanders Fields

In an At Home in Hespeler tradition, the 5th anniversary of our presentation of John McCrae’s In Flander’s Fields


In Flanders Fields

remembrance-poppyLieutenant Colonel John McCrae, MD (1872-1918)
Canadian Army
IN FLANDERS FIELDS the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.



November 8th, 2011
Comments Off on IV@40


If you came of age in the mid-1970’s, as I did, Led Zeppelin IV (aka ZOSO) was always there. You go to the carnival, and the Tilt-a-Whirl guy is blasting Rock and Roll, Black Dog and When the Levee Breaks. Guys driving down the street would be blasting it out of their 8-track player. You didn’t hear it for the first time, you absorbed it over time.

IV wasn’t even the first Zeppelin album I found and loved. That honour would fall to their third album, which I “borrowed” from my older brother on such a regular basis he bought me my own copy for Christmas the next year.

The follow up fourth album soon joined III as a staple of my record player. Mostly side one, it has to be confessed, for the obvious reasons. Frankly, song  for song, I’ll still take side one even now, with the exception of When the Levee Breaks which may be my favourite song on the album.

Everybody has favourites, and most Zeppelin fans will probably chose an album other than IV as their’s. But make no mistake, none will deny the greatness of Led Zeppelin IV. From song 1 to song 8, it contains no flaws, no misses. And in fact, in age when artists worried about the flow of the entire album, IV has two very different, but flawless sides, and still works as a complete unit. In other words, whether you throw on side 1, side 2 or the good old standby, 8-track and hear the whole thing through, it works.

But it’s still the songs that make the album, and IV features Led Zeppelin at their best. Rock and Roll, the bands answer to critics who said they had gone soft. Black Dog, a unique call and response style song unlike anything recorded before or since.

Battle of Evermore, the prelude to Stairway: Angry Hobbits with mandolins. Page and Jones, with just mandolins, acoustic guitar and, reportedly, a Dulcimer make the earth shake. Stairway to Heaven, in the aftermath of Battle of Evermore is like the dawn after battle. It’s message of hope in direct conflict with Evermore’s war call. Stairway to Heaven, the song that ended a thousand dances, more of a ritual than a rock song.

Side 2, if your using old school formats like me (or actually track 3 and 4, which is how I have listened to IV the last few times I’ve had it on), starts with the albums two weakest songs. Misty Mountain Hop, the hippy anthem. This falls in the category of second tier Zeppelin songs that prove just how good Zeppelin was. Four Sticks is a drum driven song with rather complex time structure. Again, most bands would kill to have this song in their repertoire, for Led Zeppelin in 1971, it was weak.

Going to California is the ultimate Zeppelin folk song. They had done folk before, had built the third album around folk songs, but Going to California trumps them all. Give Led Zeppelin acoustic guitars and mandolins and they were still the best rock band in the world, and Going to California is exhibit A.

Finally, the tour de force. Of all the songs on Led Zeppelin IV, When the Levee Breaks may have aged the most gracefully, which is odd considering it has all the grace of a charging Rhino. Built around John Bonham’s great drum pattern, the most sampled drum pattern in all of rap, Zeppelin rolls for 7 minutes of chicago blues like no other. It is pure driving rock yet, thanks to Bonham, swings like an old soul song.

Left off the album destined to  appear on 1975’s Physical Graffiti, the songs Night Flight, Down By the Seaside and Boogie With Stu. Those three songs, the afterthoughts, those are a career for some bands.

Forty years ago today, November 8, 1971 Led Zeppelin IV was released. It  may have been the best album of the rock era, yet not Led Zeppelin best album. It is good enough to be called that, and Zeppelin good enough to transcend it.


The Mighty Zep , , ,

Picture of the Day: Jason Bonham’s Stairway to Heaven

November 7th, 2011
Comments Off on Picture of the Day: Jason Bonham’s Stairway to Heaven
Copyright Brian Gardiner 2011. Use by permission only

Copyright Brian Gardiner 2011. Use by permission only

Picture of the Day, The Mighty Zep

Weekend Magazine: Celebrity News

November 6th, 2011
Comments Off on Weekend Magazine: Celebrity News

The Fluffernutter: The Girls, Girls, Justin Beiber and Girls Edition

All the fluffy news about those nutty celebrities

fluffincolorE! Network went into emergency lockdown Monday, as brass went into panic mode when it was announced that some person who is infinitely famous, and entirely unaccomplished, and her basketball playing husband (and former Toronto Raptor), are divorcing after 72 days. E! paid millions to air a multi-episode show of the wedding, which they only finished airing last week.fluffposter01sample

Sadly, shame is not known to have permeated the E! meeting, in which executives who foist this crap on the public bore no real responsibility for their actions. I mean, even I, a sniping blogger who employs and old fashioned and backward approach to criticism (read: I have morals), won’t use her name.

Achievement first, then you get your name in the Saturday Fluffernutter.

fluffincolorThe worst kept secret in celebrity-dom was confirmed this week: Jessica Simpson is pregnant. Simpson was rumoured to be shopping the official announcement to various publications. Showing uncommon restraint, the celebrity press all declined to pay the reported $500,000 to have the scoop for all of thirty seconds.

However, pregnancy is only a secret so long, and this week Simpson announced what everybody already knew – Simpson and fiancé Eric Johnson will have a ring bearer/flower girl for their wedding, expected before the end of 2012.

fluffincolorOh-oh. Lindsay Lohan faced the full wrath of the law Wednesday, facing Judge Stephanie Sautner for various probabtion violations. The judge threw the paperback at Lohan, handing her 30 days in jail, of which she will spend… minutes before being released. She will likely be out, said Sheriff’s officials, without having to change her clothes.

You know what I don’t understand, I don’t understand why Lohan doesn’t take this more seriously.

fluffincolorThis is a story that, if you’ll excuse the use of the phrase, doesn’t really pass the sniff test.

A Justin Beiber fan claims Beiber is the father of her three month old daughter after having, “sex backstage at a concert in Los Angeles.”

Maybe it’s just me but, “sex backstage,” gives an image of banging groupies on the buffet table, ala backstage at Mötley Crüe as described in Nicky Sixx’s Heroin Diaries. I imagine a young, tightly scripted, image conscious money machine like Beiber doesn’t have the chance to have sex backstage, on the buffet table or anywhere else.

Paternity tests will occur, and my bet is, this story goes away just as quick as those tests can get done.

And if not, the law seems to be on standby to ask the fan in question why she was having sex with a minor, backstage or otherwise.


Cool For Cats Friday

November 4th, 2011
Comments Off on Cool For Cats Friday

Coming this week, Tenor Alfie Boe and Robert Plant, duetting on Tim Buckley’s Song to the Siren. Here’s a sample of what it will be like (he does a good Robert Plant impersonation, for a line or two).

You know what it needs? Saxophone.

Candy Dulfer

Candy Dulfer

Cool For Cats , , , ,

Picture of the Day: An Irish Drive

November 1st, 2011
Comments Off on Picture of the Day: An Irish Drive
Copyright Brian Gardiner 2011. Use by permission only

Copyright Brian Gardiner 2011. Use by permission only

Picture of the Day , , ,