Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

They Go Twirlin’ Down And Down White Water

March 29, 2009

Vodpod videos no longer available.

I believe I once linked to this video, but this is the first time it’s been embedded.  This classic Canadian folk song, about an apparently defunct profession is quintessential Canadiana.  No one really makes animated films like this anymore.  The Log Driver’s Waltz was regularly played on TVO when I was a kid, so I am quite familiar with it.  It was one of the films I was desperate to see again, so I have to thank the NFB for giving it to the world for free.

I can understand that some people may not see the purpose of animating an old Canadian folk song.  Obviously, the audience for such a piece is limited.  That was certainly the case in 1979 when John Weldon took a version by Mountain City Four and turned it into a short film. It’s popularity, however, is almost unsurpassed in NFB history.  I think there are two main reasons for this.

First, as was the case for me, many people associate seeing this film with significant parts of their life.  It is directly linked to my childhood, and thus is a nostalgia piece. I’m sure many others share similar memories of the song and the film.

Second, it represents a way of life that is at the core of the Canadian experience.  Many of us who live in the bigger cities of the St. Lawrence/Great Lakes corridor may forget that this country was founded and has thrived on natural resources.  Logging, Pulp and Paper, Mining, Drilling, Fishing, Trapping, and Farming have been the backbone of Canada’s economic development for much of its history. Going forward, the vast supply of fresh water could surpass all of the items on that list. Certainly manufacturing, such as the steel mills of my hometown, have also played a significant role, but it would be hard to argue against natural resources as our greatest strength as a nation.  The Log Driver’s Waltz, without even intending to, casts the young lady in the role of Canada, as she realizes the value of the soft footed labourer against the bankers and doctors of the city.  Without vast natural resources, and the hard work it takes to extract them, there wouldn’t be much of a country here.

I think The Log Driver’s Waltz is an important piece of the cultural history of Canada.  The version heard here is performed in part by Kate and Anna MacGarrigle who showed up in my piece on Martha Wainwright’s concert.  I really believe that tru folk music is the sound of the soul of a nation.  In this case there can be little doubt.

John Law and the Mississippi Bubble (Two Lessons For The Price Of One)

March 22, 2009

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Today I bring you another National Film Board of Canada short film. This one is new to me, but I absolutely love it’s treatment of history.  Kern and I had a conversation on the podcast about modern documentaries and how many of them have taken the reality TV approach to teaching science and history.  I think that reality TV has convinced show producers that people crave extreme emotion.  Thus when telling an historical tale, the dramatic elements must be exaggerated, and the narrator must make every event seem like the most dire and important occurrence in history.  Perhaps educational television is being made by those who sat at the back of history class and fell asleep. At least they assume that everyone else was that person.

This 1978 Richard Condie documentary takes a fairly obscure piece of French history (oddly appropriate now though), adds a delightful cartoon, and creates a compelling story.  Besides being a lesson in speculation and currency, it is also, in my opinion, a superior method of teaching history.  The story is not over-dramatized besides the occasional comic cartoon foible.  Instead the story is presented mostly as it occured (though simplification is always a part of any documentary story), and without any unnecessary appeals to extreme emotion.  I think many of today’s documentary filmmakers could learn from this and other NFB docs.

One more question, shouldn’t cartoons play a bigger role in our education system? This doc shows how using imaginative animation can liven up a bit of financial history.  Just a thought.

Long Live The King

March 12, 2009

It’s just the only way to reach my home again, the only way I’ll fall and break.

Laura Smith


Come hell or high water there will be a new episode of the podcast tonight. Look for more of my conversation and music by the lovely Laura Smith, who has been featured on the show several times.   I expect to be posting my podcasts more frequently in the next little while because I have a bunch of ideas and plans to hatch. Kern and I touch on some interesting topics and I’m sure you’ll enjoy it.

Exciting news today out of North Korea. The ruling party swept the recent election in which they ran unopposed! Despite my willingness to weigh in on the taboo topic of religion on this blog, I have generally avoided making too many statements abut the economy or politics.  You can search around WordPress to find people who are far more qualified and far more interested in these issues.  Watching political leaders practice the art of the possible while yelling, arguing, and making ridiculous claims generally bores me to death. But one thing that does get me excited is any talk of facism, dictators, and authoritarian government.  It’s just such a fascinating topic.  Often the cult of the leader takes on religious-like qualities, and that is likely the source of my interest (remember I’m also fascinated by “traditional cults” and new religious movements).

I should start by saying there is no redeeming feature  of mass-murder, torture, assassinations, or any of the other absolutely atrocious activities of most dictators. That aside, I’m fascinated by how willing we are to allow ourselves to be dominated by other people.  This isn’t some rant about conformity, claiming we are all “sheep,” but rather an observation that history has shown that people don’t care that much about their leadership if they are happy or feel that they can’t do anything about the situation.  I mention this because I want to recommend a great book: What We Knew: Terror, Mass Murder, and Everyday Life in Nazi Germany. This lengthy tome was put together by a sociologist and a historian. They surveyed and interviewed German Jews and other Germans to discover what they knew about the holocaust during the 1930’s and 40’s.  It is absolutely amazing.  One quick caution: the book is written by two academics and contains raw survey data, commentary, and interviews.  It’s style is not that of a popular history because the others are more interested in presenting the facts than jazzing it up. This book is a must read for anyone who is interested in learning about WWII, the holocaust, Nazism, or genocide.

Duck and Cover

March 9, 2009

Vodpod videos no longer available. more about “If You Love This Planet by Terre Nash…“, posted with vodpod

This 1982 video is a stark reminder of the reality of nuclear annihilation that reached its zenith during the Cold War.  Dr. Helen Caldicott was exetremly passionate about nuclear proliferation.  Although it is a long film (25 minutes) it is worth a watch, especially for those who don’t know much about life before 1991.

I think it could be argued that the potential for an all out nuclear war has greatly diminished in the last 20 or so years.  It is certainly possible that India and Pakistan, or perhaps the U.S. and a future Russia could engage in some limited attacks using hydrogen bombs, but it is not likely.  Since the end of the Cold War, and particularly in the last few years, nations have generally backed off their efforts to create massive weapons which are capable of killing millions or billions of people.  This is partly due to the new relationships between larger world powers, such as the occasionally tenuous relationship between the U.S. and Putin’s Russia.  But the emergence of terrorism as the main opponent in global conflicts has also been a major factor.  Nuclear weapons are essentially useless in fighting an enemy who works in small numbers and without held territory.

The National Film Board of Canada featured this video on its main page in part to highlight International Women’s Day and the role of women in changing the world. Certainly Dr. Caldicott’s battle against nuclear proliferation is a shining example.  I have chosen to embed this video because it is a reminder of what life was like just 20 years ago, when many humans feared for the future of the species.  Now we are more afraid of killer viruses, asteroid collisions and limited terrorist attacks than ICBM’s with megaton payloads.  I’m not sure which alternative is better, but I do know I hate the vision of the future painted by Dr. Caldicott.

Take Me Back To That Fantastic Day

February 23, 2009

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “Take Me Back To That Fantastic Day“, posted with vodpod

I was at the Toronto Auto Show on Sunday so this is a fitting post. I found this video while poking around on Will Leitch’s personal site. It depicts a formula one driver taking a Porsche on an insane trip across Paris at speeds exceeding 140mph apparently. He drives right down streets where I was lost while on a trip in 2001. This odd fellow game up to me and started yelling random French words. I could never sort out what he wanted, but I just said “Non” and got out of there. When I found myself looking at large industrial buildings and walking under creepy rail bridges, I realized I need to get myself back to pretty Paris before someone cuts me up.But back to the video. This is one scary ride, but also visually stunning because Paris is such a beautiful and interesting city.  Keep your eye open for obvious landmarks like the Arc De Triomphe, and the Louvre, as well as the host of pedestrians that periodically poke up.

Unrealistic Comparisons

February 8, 2009

Love, love me do, you know I love you.

The Beatles

Love Me Do

I am a fan of history both old and new.  I have been rereading Peter Brown’s insider account of The Beatles, The Love You Make. For 400 or so pages Brown treats the reader to the fascinating story of the world’s biggest band.  It was published in 1983, so many of the events depicted were relatively fresh in his mind.  Although I would never compare any of my own accomplishments to those of The Beatles, especially in regards to song writing or popularity, I find the conception of Apple Corps to be somewhat similar to The Alder Fork.  Besides the obvious natural imagery in the name, the vision that Paul Mcartney expressed in at a press conference in New York City sounds a lot like my ideas about The Alder Fork.  He said, “It’s a controlled weirdness, a kind of Western communism. We want to help people but without doing it like a charity.”  While for the band this ended up being a way to avoid paying taxes on their fortune, and to spend money on wild schemes, it was a dream that still has merit. I lack the financial resources to give away money and tell people to “Go away and do it,” as Paul wanted.  I do hope, however, that The Alder Fork can contribute to helping people realize their dreams.

Before I start to sound like a pie-in-the-sky dreamer, my point is the one advantage of my “business” model has been low cost for realitively high output.  To some degree the impetus of success for The Alder Fork is the work of a community of people that is slowly growing around it. This will hopefully lead to something much bigger in a few months but I’m keeping that a secret. For now I am happy with how things are progressing on the new EP, the blog, the podcast, and a few other fun little projects I’m currently working on. I highly recommend checking out the book I mentioned above if you are at all interested in the back story of the most influential band of all time.

Steel and Water

January 19, 2009

There are other heritage/museum sites in the Hamilton area. If you like military history the HMCS Haida and the Armory provide lots of fun history.  The Royal Bontanical Gardens is a beautiful piece of nature in the city.  The Worker’s Arts and Heritage museum reinforces the labour history of the city. Don’t forget that McMaster has a fantastic art gallery, and the James Street North area is loaded with smaller independent galleries.

Meeting the Future At Full Speed

December 19, 2008

Resonating all through the maze

The Mass Romantics

The Vast Majority

New podcast is up and running for today. This one features me chatting about The Alder Fork, Timeraiser, and playing some great new music.

Featured artists are:

Kensington Prairie, whose music can be found here.It is the solo project of a former member of Maplewood Lane, a group whose music was featured on a number of television shows, and reached the Top 10 on charts across the Pacific Northwest.

The Broadcast Debut, an indie band from Seattle. They are currently recording a new album and info about them and all of that is on their site.

Karen Kosowski is a Toronto area pianist-singer whose latest album Meeting the Future at Full Speed is a beautiful piece of pop composition. Check her out here.

The final song, The Vast Majority, by The Mass Romantics can be found at the myspace linked over there –>.

In other news The Sunrises was played on another podcast, The Insomnia Cafe. It’s a great show with lots of fun music, and appears to be out of the Netherlands. The Alder Fork has gone global!

As always short post because of the podcast. Please check it out either through the link on the side, or on iTunes. If you like it and haven’t done so yet, you can subscribe to the RSS feed. Also please pass on the podcast to your friends and relations, who knows they might like it too!

I’ll be back tomorrow with a review of The Verve’s latest album, Forth.

See You Soon

December 13, 2008

I’ll be counting up my demons


Everything’s Not Lost

Welcome to Part II of my impressions of Coldplay Live 2003. Yesterday we got through 5/17 songs.  The set list is noteworthy because the band opens with 4 songs from the “new” album then ignores it for the next 8 songs.  They then give us 4 more.  We are in the midst of the middle part, so this post should be all old stuff. Well this whole DVD is old stuff now, but let’s stay in the moment with this.

Don’t Panic is a song Dave and I used to play at coffee houses in our res. That would’ve been before this DVD in the Parachutes era of things.  The crowd is quite happy right now, then when the song starts they quiet down to clap along.  The pace of the song is faster than the album version. It’s like they want it over even though its a great song. They just showed a great shot of Chris Martin with spinning lights behind him. I won’t hide the fact that I love stage lighting, I always have.  There are few things in the world that I consider cooler than a well lit performance. I’m easy to please.

In general the band members are pretty straightforward on stage.  They don’t move a whole lot and just kind of play without effort. I’m reminded of Radiohead because outside of Ed O’brien no one moves around that much on stage.

Shiver is another solid song from Parachutes. Close up and spotlight on the guitar during the intro. I like the effect.  Chris martin likes to sing into his microphone from a 45 degree angle. Pretty much all the time. It’s probably so he can see what his hands are doing, either that or he has a nervous habit.

This next song was apparently on an EP before showing up in this concert. See You Soon is a pretty little acoustic song. At the moment Martin is alone on stage with his guitar. Most of the crowd is probably bewildered by this song they’ve never heard before.  That’s how audiences react when you play something you don’t know. They just stand quietly while the odd loudmouth screams out “woooooo” or whistles for no real reason.  Probably the alcohol talking.  Kudos to the camera person who used the focus to get those cool hexagon shapes on the screen from the lights.  More slide guitar half way through and some yoddling. I heard that Martin has decided not to sing in falsetto on new songs.  It’s an endearing habit that sometimes works , at least I think so (probably because I do it too sometimes).

Everything’s not lost.  I wonder how many demons Chris Martin really has? He seems like a pretty straight-laced guy over all. He’s certainly no Keith Moon. He plays a lot of piano on the albums and in this concert. Is he our generations Billy Joel? Maybe once the solo projects start in a couple of years. Remember how I said I liked the hexagon shapes? I still do in concpet but the producer is making extreme use of them now. It’s like they just discovered they could do that. What’s next? Star wipes? Here comes the crowd again with a nice sing along of ah ah ah yeah. Despite this Martin begs the crowd to sing along more. Wouldn’t want them to be quiet during the big piano sing along of course. I won’t lie, I’ve sung along too.

Now it’s time for the song about Gwyneth Palrtow. Oddly enough it’s called Moses. I don’t associate loved ones with biblical figures but maybe I should. The ricky is back out and I couldn’t be happier. I really like this song.  More clever black and white to colour changes.  I’m not 100% sure what the intention of this was, but I guess it works as a gimmick.  I think the big challenge with making a concert film is deciding how much you want it to reflect your artistic vision as a filmmaker and how much you want to satiate the fans with good shots of the band. After all they are the stars. Frame them up and rock & roll.

As we reach the end of Part II Martin offers the crowd ice cream if they stand up. I don’t think he came through on that promise. You should never lie about ice cream, it’s way too important.  Yellow is the song that first brought Coldplay to the attention of most of the world.  I have to give them credit for the visuals on this one. The song builds up with a quiet sythn part. The band is in the dark as blue lights scan the crowd. Then all of a sudden the guitar kicks in and the stage explodes in yellow light as Chris Martin jumps for the rafters. Bravo.  He’s also put down the guitar and left the piano to just sing and dance around.

Join me on Tuesday for the final part of this extravaganza. Tomorrow I will be posting information and links for the 6 bands featured on Monday’s episode of the podcast. I highly recommend checking all of those bands out. Enjoy your Sunday!

The Difference In The End

November 20, 2008

Holy priceless collection of Etruscan snoods!


Batman (1966)

Most young people today are more familiar with Adam West as a recurring character on Family Guy but for me he will always be the only Batman. I am one of the people who didn’t learn about Batman through comics or Tim Burton’s movies, but through reruns of the campy 1960’s classic TV show.  Apparently the actor who played Commissioner Gordon was unaware that the show was meant to be satire and played his character straight. When I was a little kid I didn’t know that either and hung on every word as gospel.  The movie quoted above was a favourite of mine. My parents must’ve rented it 100 times for me and I now own it on DVD and VHS.  The reason I have chosen to quote this hilarious series is that today’s song is, in a small way, a bit humourous.

The Lights I See You In Shadow is full of earth/nature imagery.  Virtually every song makes reference to natural phenomenon or rural life in some way.  I’m not sure exactly why nature has been so significant to me over the last couple of years, but it certainly has.  Today’s track, The Sunrises, is the last of three Pinstripe Mystery songs on the album. In fact, The Sunrises was the very first song I wrote specifically for my old band, back when we had three members and no name.  It was the first song we played at our first practice. That’s your history lesson for the day.

The project file for it was called The Sunrises Again because I didn’t want it to be exactly the same as the original, which was covered by Max Woghiren at one time. If you know the Muffin Parfait version of the song you will notice the one significant change. It was actually a fairly easy addition to record, but I think it changes the song in a very major way. The title, The Sunrises, was always intended to be a verbal pun. It could be “Hey no matter what happens the Sun rises,” or “It’s been three sunrises since I left the house.” Is that funny? Not really, but I don’t write funny songs.  When it came time to write out the name, I went with the latter because it was convenient.  A lot of Pinstripe Mystery was about doing what was easy or convenient. This album has been a bit more about doing what is right, at least my version of right.

This song, like many, tries to have a narrative structure. There is a story and an argument in there. I’m not sure what comparing a person to the Sun implies. Perhaps a giant ball of gas is about as different from a human being as you can get, perhaps it’s closer than I think.

Just wait and breath in The Sunrises: