Thursday, December 31, 2009
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
Thursday, December 17, 2009
Originally published in a December issue of prairie dog magazine.
You Should Have Killed Us When You Had the Chance
Proof there’s no God: The Parkas were twice as good as Two Hours Traffic, yet somehow failed to reach even half the national profile of the Two Minute Miracles. The Parkas played their final show last July in Toronto and you probably didn’t even know they existed until you read this paragraph. WTF, my friends?
You Should Have Killed Us When You Had the Chance comes to us like an infant in a rocketship from a doomed planet. Each song is a feat of strength magnified by our yellow sun and lesser gravity. “Isolation Pay” is David Bowie’s “Rebel Rebel” ferociously played as if an outtake from This Year’s Model, the lyrics rewritten as a convincing blue collar anthem. “Bad Comedian” is one of two odd setpieces (the other is the brilliantly simple “Face the Facts”), a roman a clef that recalls Toronto writer Jason Anderson’s overlooked 2005 novel Showbiz in the way it plies the tragedy out of comedy and then socks it right back. “Brighton Hurricane”, “Don’t Say No” and “The Gang’s All Gone” are prime examples of the meaty, muscular brand of rock the Parkas have always excelled at. “Goodnight, Nemesis” calls back to the themes of the Parkas’ first album, 2003’s Now This Is Fighting, and highlights how the band has matured. Back then, on “Giants in My Field” the Parkas cheekily riffed on Aretha, spelling “R-E-V-E-N-G-E, find out what it means to me.” Now, older and wiser, they broodingly tell us “Sometimes justice is just a grudge." You Should Have Killed Us... shows a band that held on to all that was good and interesting about itself and continuously found new ways to make it work.
mp3: "Face the Facts" by Parkas from their new, final album You Should Have Killed Us When You Had the Chance
mp3: "Scam the Tram" by Parkas from their first album Now This is Fighting
Sunday, December 13, 2009
Wednesday, December 09, 2009
Monday, December 07, 2009
Thursday, December 03, 2009
Tuesday, December 01, 2009
I live in Vancouver, I don't actually need a parka. I could get away with a windbreaker over a sweater. Growing up on the Prairies, though, I had some parkas, yes sir. Big puffy numbers from the Hobo Shop, three-quarter length Hudson's Bay doozies, and yeah, oversized army surplus parkas. When I was 15, everyone I knew either had a green army surplus parka or was about to get one. Friday nights we slouched and loitered around the South End of Regina imagining ourselves ruthless street toughs until the minivans and station wagons rolled into the DJ Cinnamons parking lot at 9:30 to take us home, where, if we were lucky, our mothers would make us hot cocoa and popcorn.
mp3: "The Gang's All Gone" by Parkas
Monday, November 23, 2009
A quarter century in, Bon Jovi makes the most vital album of their career with The Circle. It’s not just a return to the rock power anthems we expect from Bon Jovi after a slight detour into country power anthems on 2007’s Lost Highway, it’s total fucking dominance of the rock power anthem. You’ll hear songs from this album in locker rooms, auto ads, and on the campaign trail for years to come.
Two intertwined things make The Circle work so well. One, it’s the Bon Jovi-est album Bon Jovi has ever made. They haven’t merely refined their sound, they’ve definitively mastered it. “We Weren’t Born to Follow”, “Live Before You Die” and especially “Work for the Working Man” actually include immediately identifiable elements of previous Bon Jovi hits and repurpose them into mostly better songs. Two, the album is essentially a song-cycle about the shitstorm of economic uncertainty and cultural fear America has created around itself.
“Work for the Working Man” is one of the album’s most intriguing and most problematic songs. It’s a remake of 1987’s “Livin’ On A Prayer” for the Corporate Bailout Era. While it’s pretty righteous to hear JBJ howl for American labour, the song lacks the emotional power that came with “LOAP”’s narrative of Tommy and Gina. Sure, that’s a trick Bon Jovi stole from Springsteen, but it’s a good trick and it works. The lyrics of “Working Man” have no such emotional hook and, though the chorus does its best, it never quite achieves the resonance of “Livin’ On A Prayer.”
It’s Recession Rock, with a Bon Jovi twist: In the internal logic of all Bon Jovi songs, there are no problems that can’t be solved by some brash expression of rugged individualism, like driving a fast car, playing baseball or saying “Yeah!” Hey, this is Jon Bon Jovi, not John Kenneth Galbraith.
Tuesday, October 06, 2009
Sunday, September 27, 2009
So Dome-Lovers like Pat Fiacco, Brad Wall, John Gormley and Kevin Blevins might be guilty of narrow-minded, irresponsible arrogance. Big deal. This is Melville-level sleazebaggery, Moosejavian at best. If these fellows really want Regina to be a world class city on par with, say, Vancouver, they're gonna have to try a little harder.
Here in the Lower Mainland, we've made something of an art of scuttling sensible priorities in favour of corporate-interested extravaganzas. Gordon Campbell's Liberal government has lately made sweeping cuts to education--including pulling funds already promised and budgeted for by school boards, sports teams and parent groups--and health care. All standard issue deficit-battling that should be familiar to all who remember the early years of the Romanow gov't in Saskatchewan, with the big difference being that amid all these "tough love" cuts Campbell has boosted Olympic spending by 27.5 per cent. These aren't cuts to high-falutin' sculptors who make statues of dead Paraguayan tone poets out of cat feces (though, yes, there are some killer cuts to the arts) or cancellations of programs that protect the rights and safety of drug addicts (likewise, nasty cuts), these are cuts to high school sports, which purportedly are the foundation of the ideals the Olympics are supposed to be promoting the first place.
Y'know, at least Fiacco is being upfront about his vainglorious, wasteful, potentially harmful plans before the election. On a sliding scale of scumbaggery, that puts him in misguided oaf/lackey of industry territory well below Gordon Campbell's Lex Luthor-level of treachery and deception.
mp3: "Pennies, Fountains And Stars" by Mack Mackenzie
mp3: "Used Car Salesman" by Ira Lee
*some of my best friends are well-fed white guys
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
I was actively minding my own business. (jump in don't get hung up on first sentence) I had just sat down outside CC with an A'cano and the NYT x-word puzzle. (first sentence + last sentence: fact/question/observation) This was how I liked to start my day back then: By withdrawing, in public. (opening paragraph: topic sentence knock it out and get to the next paragraph)
Sunday, August 16, 2009
or, Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret Atwood
from the Aug. 13, 2009 issue of prairie dog magazine
by Emmet Matheson
“The sad fact is that the next generation of Canadian writers is working at Starbucks because writing doesn’t pay the bills.”
Richard Rosenbaum is being a little facetious, but probably not as much as he wishes he could be. As associate and online fiction editor for Broken Pencil, the magazine of record for zine culture and independent arts, he’s better positioned than most to know what’s going on with the Giller nominees of 2025.
Rosenbaum recently edited Can’tLit, an anthology of fiction published by Broken Pencil over the last decade, which will be published by ECW Press this fall.
Assuming you already have a latte, that’s where you’ll find Canada’s freshest writers.
You’ll also find them in magazines, at least for now. But magazines are in trouble around the world, facing the double whammy of a global recession and an online audience that expects everything for free. Canadian mags are even more vulnerable, faced with the overwhelming free flow of content from the U.S. and a federal government that’s at best suspicious of all things cultural.
Most ominously, Masthead, a Canadian magazine about Canadian magazines, folded last October. But while they last, magazines like Broken Pencil, Winnipeg-based Border Crossings, and The Walrus continue to present the best in Canadian writing, both fiction and non-fiction.
“Magazines that publish fiction are always at the forefront of discovering new talent,” says Rosenbaum, “because the newest writers who are just discovering themselves and experimenting with forms are writing short stories, and magazines are practically the only medium that prints individual short stories.
“If you’re looking for really exciting writing, that’s where you’re going to find it,” he says. “I don’t think most people realize that. Because if they did, Canadian magazines would be in a much better state. Broken Pencil has been around for 15 years but it’s always just barely kept its head above water. The Walrus is practically bankrupt. It’s a matter of insufficient funding certainly, but it’s also that I think people just don’t realize how much great stuff there is out there.”
The Walrus was founded in 2003 as a Canadian answer to high-minded American general-interest mags like Harper’s or The New Yorker. Since its launch it has consistently cleaned up at the Canadian National Magazine Awards, and was recently awarded the “Best Writing” prize from the Utne Reader’s annual Independent Press Awards.
The Walrus boasts a paid circulation of 60,000. Not bad for what publisher Shelley Ambrose calls “a Canadian magazine for smart people.”
But perhaps The Walrus’s most notable achievement, the reason it deserves to be enshrined as a national treasure, was its March cover-dated issue. At a time when every magazine, American, Canadian, Uruguayan, whatever, had U.S. President Barack Obama on their cover, The Walrus stood out on the rack with its cover featuring a Marco Ventura portrait of Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
Ambrose recently posted a video appeal on the magazine’s website, calling for donations to the Walrus Foundation, the non-profit organization that guides and provides a third revenue stream for the magazine, beyond the traditional circulation and advertising dollars. But as the global recession claims its casualties in the corporate world, the once-titans of ad buying, like GM, just aren’t spending like they used to.
“Our advertising revenue has plummeted,” Ambrose says, “because we are attached to the outside world.”
That’s why The Walrus was founded on a model based on the funding structure of U.S. mag Harper’s, which is partially funded by the McArthur Foundation. Similar to the concept of Community Radio, The Walrus accepts that what it’s doing may not always be commercially viable, but nonetheless takes on the important and vital task of presenting Canadian voices.
The Walrus has bet its life that means enough to Canadians that they’ll support it.
“If Canada is going to have a magazine like this, it’s going to have to be based on that funding model,” Ambrose says. “Though it’s difficult for many Canadians to understand why they should give money to a magazine. There’s no reason for someone to pick up The Walrus instead of a magazine like Harper’s or The Economist except that it’s by and for Canadians. Those other magazines, as good as they are, don’t talk about us.”
Lee Henderson is a Saskatoon-born writer living in Vancouver. His short story, “The Nerve”, is featured in the recent “Summer Reading” issue of The Walrus alongside fiction by Joseph Boyden and Stephen Marche.
Henderson’s first novel, The Man Game, recently won the Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize at the B.C. Book Awards.
“If The Walrus didn’t exist in Canada, the country’s national identity once again goes into hiding,” says Henderson. “We need this ferociously weird, shaggy broom-bristle-moustached ice monster to stand tall for our shiftless, passive national intelligence.
“I love The Walrus,” he says.
Henderson is also a contributing editor at Border Crossings. Border Crossings published his short story “Conjugation” in 2005, which went on to win the gold medal for fiction at the 2006 Western Magazine Awards.
Henderson has also written journalism and criticism for both Border Crossings and The Walrus.
“Journalism is a necessary part of a writing life,” he says. “It takes me out of my sordid brain and into the world to meet real people and learn their stories. At its best, journalism is a deeply selfless art. I look to do journalism that will help me research or inspire my fiction projects.”
Both Henderson and Rosenbaum attest that Canadian readers do indeed have a desire to read Canadian writers.
“Broken Pencil’s annual online fiction contest, the Indies Writers Deathmatch, I think has proven that Canadians do have a craving for the new and the weird if they just knew where to look for it,” Rosenbaum says.
“We have to find a way to let Canadian readers know that this is really where the boundary-pushing art is happening. Nobody has a lot of money right now, but if you knew that for like 20 dollars a year you could discover all this great new stuff that would genuinely enhance your life and help Canadian artists survive, wouldn’t you want to do it?”
Can’tLit features nearly 40 different writers ranging from total unknowns to more established scribblers like Joey Comeau and Zoe Whittall. Rosenbaum is quick to point to highlights like Emma Healey’s “Last Winter Here” as “one of the best things we’ve ever printed,” “Panties” by Greg Kearney as “hilarious and weird in exactly the way we love” and Janette Platana’s “heartbreaking” tale of the Clash playing in Regina, “Some of This is True”.
Canadian writers, it seems, will always be with us. They’re a tenacious bunch with something to say, usually about ourselves. Often unflattering.
One believes, one hopes, that in a world where Canadian bands like Arcade Fire or Broken Social Scene can attract the gaze of the world, Canadian writers will somehow, some way, finally attract the readership they deserve right here in Canada. Maybe Canadians will someday come to appreciate learning about themselves, perhaps from a magazine that dared to put Stephen Harper on their cover at a time when it was really important for Canadians to know something about Stephen Harper.
“If The Walrus weren’t around,” Shelley Ambrose muses, “where would you be reading an in-depth profile of the sitting Prime Minister? Not in Harper’s, not in The Economist, not in The New Yorker.”
Maybe Fox News?
mp3: "This Is It" by The Wheat Pool, from their forthcoming second album, Hauntario
Saturday, August 15, 2009
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
That's Jon Ronson, the British writer and broadcaster, from a May, 2007 column in the Guardian, and also from a BBC4 Radio doc.
"Instead of coming across as an intelligent commentator, you came across as an asshole," he writes. "And even a strong argument is difficult to make from way up in there. I tell you this for your own good."
Something to think about over the next few weeks as I take my summer hiatus and go back to that part of the world what sprung me and spewed me forth. I don't know when I'll get back to blogging, but I'm sure I won't be long without an opinion, ill-advised or ill-expressed, that I can't contain.
1. Son of a Smaller Hero SandwichPat, either Fiacco or Book (I know they both read the blog), also sent in a lit-chit:
2. A Choice of Entrees
3. The Apprenticeship of Duddy Radish
4. Cork, Sir?
5. St. Urbain's Horsemeat
6. Joshua Hen and Sow
7. Solomon Gherkin Was Here
Omlette (Hamlet)Finally, Sask-Lit titan Cliff Burns dropped a note on my pouty post about Regina:
the Ketchup On The Rye
Lord of the Fries
the Fry Machine
To tell you the truth, Saskatoon is more like my kinda town. It just seems hipper, less uptight, more open and artsy. I lived in Regina for over 10 years and formed some roots...but with the loss of places like Buzzword Books in the Cathedral area, friends who have moved on, it's just a place I visit (and very rarely).
Before I go any further, I highly recommend you seek out a copy of Burns's Righteous Blood (straight from the guy himself is probably your best bet!), a twisted pair of horrific novellas impressive for both their ambitious imagination and economy of narrative.
Anyway, thanks for reading, Cliff! I'm glad you mentioned Buzzword, because it was actually the memory of that 13th Ave. bookstore that prompted the essay. The first draft actually wound up being an attempt to talk myself into moving back to Regina to open up a bookstore. I nearly had myself convinced.
But man, Gord pushed so many great books and authors on me, and also just had weird and interesting stuff on hand. He pushed all the big name writers from The Wire (Price, Pelecanos & Lehane) on me before The Wire was even a concern. He always had a great selection of books on jazz, like the Roland Kirk biog Bright Moments. When Buzzword shut down, well, that was kinda the beginning of the end for me in Regina. There were lots of other factors, but none so thematic as the loss of a cultural landmark in my own personal Queen City topography.
Durham, N.C.'s Megafaun is in town tonight, playing a show at the Biltmore. They sound kinda like the psychedelic-side of the Sadies mixed with the Alan Parsons Project. In a good way. So it's no surprise they're pals with Bon Iver. They're pushing their new record, Gather, Form & Fly.
Friday, July 24, 2009
Sure, he's not the first L-P opinion writer to combine a small and dim worldview with unimaginative and lazy prose, nor is he the only Reginan who seems to think that anyone who criticizes the Queen City's abysmal record of dealing with urban issues like sprawl, poverty, addiction, housing, transit, business development , etc. is a hare-brained communist.
"A city is many things," Blevins writes in response to Regina activist Jim Elliott's criticisms, "And it can't just be about trying to solve poverty issues, which seems to be Elliott's position over and over again."
Maybe, just maybe, if Regina actually did something to address its poverty issues, Elliott wouldn't have to stand up for them over and over again.
I'm not going to fume too much over this here, because Wade already did and the Jurist already boiled it down. If you want to read how a real journalist blogs about Regina's dome of destiny, here's Will Chabun on the matter.
If I've had Regina on the brain lately, it's because I'll be there during the first two weeks of August. I mean, isn't there enough urban blight in Vancouver to keep me occupied?
mp3: "The Place Where We Lived" by Hayden
Saturday, July 18, 2009
My friends Scotty and Kristen, of the pop group the Choir Practice, came back to Vancouver last summer after playing shows in Regina with shocking news. They loved it.
This was not what I was used to hearing from touring musicians who play my hometown. Empty clubs or inattentive bar crowds who talk through the whole set are the usual reports from the road, so Scotty and Kristen’s raves about their enthusiastic audience and great gigs left me a little confused. Then Kristen gushed about the vibrant downtown and beautiful Victoria Park. And that’s when I knew what they were talking about.
They didn’t play a show in Regina, they played the Regina Folk Festival. A totally different beast. The Folk Festival is one of several times throughout the summer when, like the lost city of Shangri La, a different Regina reveals itself. It’s the Platonic Ideal of Regina, a place where arts, culture, food and community are valued and celebrated. It’s a city that approaches the cosmopolitan. It’s the Regina that Regina could be all the time, if only it would let itself.
That’s not the Regina I left three years ago. The Regina I walked away from was the one with only one, almost quixotic movie screen left downtown. It was the city whose economic growth didn’t have room for the inner city neighbourhoods, where urban sprawl is valued over urban growth. It was a city that no longer had a centrally-located new bookstore where you could just easily find Saskatchewan authors Dianne Warren, Cliff Burns and Dave Margoshes alongside works by Noam Chomsky, George Pelecanos or Richard Meltzer. It was a city I wasn’t sure shared my values anymore. It was a city I had little confidence in.
A few years ago, back when I still believed in Regina, my friend Mike Burns, that great promoter and defender of the arts in Regina, liked to repeat a line from the David Mamet film State and Main: “Everybody makes their own fun. If you don’t make it yourself, it isn’t fun. It’s entertainment.”
It all seems so easy and simple during the honeyed days of summer. From the Cathedral Street Fair to the Folk Festival to the Farmers Market, there’s that Ideal Regina, making its own fun. That’s the Regina I love, that’s the Regina I miss.
I keep hearing that Regina’s changed these last three years, I hope it’s been for the better.
The Three Muskox-Eaters
The Grape Gatsby
A Complicated Winelist
Szechuan & Sensibility
A Farewell to Coleslaw
The Coleslaw of the Wild
Are You There God? It's Me, Coleslaw
A Coleslaw Orange
The French Lieutenant's Coleslaw
A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Coleslaw
The Spy Who Came In From The Coleslaw.
thank you, goodnight.
mp3: "Memory of a Specific Silence - to Paul Auster" by Mats Gustafsson
Sunday, July 05, 2009
In between breaking up the Pixies in 1992 and reuniting with them in 2004, Black Francis released nine albums as Frank Black. The first song on his 1993 self-titled solo debut was “Los Angeles”. The last song on 2003’s Show Me Your Tears, his final album with his country-rock band the Catholics, was “Manitoba”. Kind of like Nia Vardalos in reverse.
Now, a decade might seem like a long time to cover the distance from the world capital of show biz to the longitudinal centre of Canada, but consider this: In 25 years of writing Philip Marlowe, Raymond Chandler never achieved the required artistic confidence or intestinal certitude to send his private investigator to The Pas. Frank Black not only went there (at least in his song), but he brought in Van Dyke Parks to work on it.
Fascinatingly, during the 1920s, Manitoba had a provincial treasurer by the name Francis Black.
The Pixies’ six-year-run of off-kilter, noisy pop and infighting makes for great rock & roll mythologizing, and it’s hard to argue with Surfer Rosa and Doolittle as two of the best albums of the 80s, but it would be a shame to overlook--as many do--Francis’s solo career, which has been just as interesting, rewarding and often as surprising as his Pixies material.
He’s travelled through styles, growing out of the Pixies’ sound over his first three albums. He’s done country songs and soul songs, and even cut an album of wild minimalist electro-jazz remakes of Pixies songs with David Thomas of Pere Ubu’s collaborators Two Pale Boys. He quit making records for labels in the 90s, just before labels quit making records. Instead, he makes his own albums and then licenses them to labels for promotion and distribution. He once told me that he’s taken voice training. He’s one of the most down-to-earth people ever to record an album inspired by a semi-obscure Dutch painter (2007’s Blue Finger celebrates the late Herman Brood). Lately, he’s started a new band with his wife Violet called Grand Duchy and released their debut album earlier this year. He’s equally effective singing about Pong as he is about Spanish missionaries showing up in what would become the state of California. He’s an artist who is endlessly fascinating because he himself seems endlessly fascinated with the world.
In 1998 he recorded a song about Jonathan Richman, a fellow Bostonian whose first band the Modern Lovers cut what was probably the first actual punk rock album in 1972, but broke up before it was released in 1976. Richman, in fact, had by that time completely changed his sound, and to this day disappoints fans who come out to hear “She Cracked” by singing about Johan Vermeer. Surely there was some self-reflection involved when Frank Black wrote “The Man Who Was Too Loud.” I wonder if he’ll play that song at his upcoming acoustic show when Pixies fans shout out for “Debaser”?
Vancouver-related: Mats Gustafsson of The Thing was in town last week, playing half a dozen shows for the ends-today Jazz Festival, and I missed them all. But the new Thing album Bag It! is killer.
mp3: "Drop the Gun" by the Thing
Thursday, July 02, 2009
Okay, A.J., fair enough. But how do you account for Jana Pruden's column in the Leader-Post? I knew Jana when I was at the L-P, and I've known her husband Evan since I was in high school. They are both smart, hip, funny, even sassy. They are both very nice people. So why does Jana's column in general, and her most recent one specifically, bug me so much?
Because it's not smart, it's not hip, it's not funny and it's not sassy. In fact, it reminds me of Peggy Hill's Musings columns from Mike Judge's King of the Hill, only those were actually funny.
Wednesday, July 01, 2009
mp3: "Saskatchewan" by the Wooden Stars - Rheostatics cover by one of Canada's best groups
mp3: "Louis Riel" by John Millard - great, idiosyncratic folk, often with a cabaret twist
mp3: "Louis Riel" by Doug Sahm - not the same song as above, but at least Texan Sahm knew how to pronounce Regina.
Monday, June 08, 2009
Sunday, June 07, 2009
At the very least, I coulda--shoulda--done better by the many people who tried to help me. The other day we were browsing the online Arts & Entertainment section of the Leader-Post, the Regina daily newspaper for whom I wrote for five years. Nicole asked a seemingly innocuous question about an article, and my mind flashed on a particular episode about midway through my time at the L-P. But looking back on it, it was painfully obvious that I had misread the whole thing. And if I misread that, well, probably I was wrong about most everything. But what's really eating me is how wrong I was. For five years, I was wrong to Gerry Krochak.
Gerry was the one who'd invited me to write for the L-P. I'd been writing for prairie dog magazine and the student press for about four years at that point. Much respect to Mitch Diamantopoulos and Stephen Whitworth at the dog for their invaluable faith, encouragement and patience during those early years, but it was at the Leader-Post that I really started to become something resembling a writer.
I used to give Gerry sideways looks when he'd bring me leads and assignments. Can you imagine? Here's this guy, giving me the opportunity to make money doing what I say I want to do, and I'm acting like an asshole. I'm acting like he's kicking dirt on my new sneakers. I even through a tantrum or two. Meanwhile, I'm blowing deadlines and carrying on like, I dunno, like I'm too good or something. Like I'm such a great writer and I shouldn't be wasting my time on the Doobie Brothers or whatever. But Gerry kept bringing me leads, kept bringing me assignments. Gerry--along with Nick Miliokas, one of the finest wits and best editors in the whole racket--kept giving me gigs though, and most of the time, I kept taking them.
So, like, this must have been around 2003, maybe 2004, which were the prime years of my arrogance. Gerry asked me to speak with another aspiring entertainment writer, maybe give him some tips, point him in the right direction. And me, I'm all chuffed. Like, why is he putting this on me? All these years, I'd been carrying that as an insult, as an offence against me.
So the other night, after Nicole's words had spurred that memory, and I saw so clearly, that wasn't an insult, that was a compliment. And not a small or hollow one, either. The whole time, Gerry was helping me out. And I was too wrapped up in my own arrogance to even see that, let alone show some gratitude.
Now, in the present, I'm sticking some toes back in the kiddie pool, doing a few CD reviews and the odd interview, and building up to bigger things. You can find my name from time to time in prairie dog magazine and Planet S, thanks to the friendship and forgiveness of Stephen Whitworth. And, inevitably, you'll be seeing my byline everywhere and you'll be so sick of me. I'll be rich and discovering a whole new kind of arrogance, you thought I was insufferable before.
Gerry's moved on from the L-P, to Calgary, I've heard. I hope he's doing well, and maybe sometime he'll come out to the coast for a Lucinda Williams show or something, and he'll look me up and let me buy him an Indian lunch, huh? Who knows.
mp3: "The Highway Divides" by the Parkas
mp3: "Back Where I Started (Live)" by Marcellus Hall & the Headliners
Sunday, May 31, 2009
ITEM: Vancouver weekly the Westender wonders on its current cover: "Are bloggers making it hip to have kids?" I haven't read the article because I don't live in the West End, and, y'know, I stay outta theirs, they stay outta mine. A friend who does live in the West End told me, though, that the report says the ME of Only Magazine--which I can't read either, since I have siblings--has column about being a dad. Another reason I can't read Only Magazine is because they filed their Eugene Mirman article under "Music" instead of "Not-Music". Other than that, Only's pretty fine. Maybe they'll Google themselves, find this page and ask me to write for them. I wouldn't automatically say no.
Back to blogging dads, well, more power to them. For this dad, blogging's been at the bottom of my priority list because A) who wants to blog when you can make noises with a six-month-old? B) I'm taking a writing class and y'know how that is C) I'm doing a tiny little bit of writing out in the world with an interest, if not a lot of time, to do more D) Did I say blogging was at the bottom of my priority list? That's just cuz listening to music didn't even make the list. E) is for Emmet F) is for Fiction, which is slowly, oh so slowly taking shape G) what, I still have to explain myself? Didn't you see reason A? That's my bottom line. The fam. It's where I'm at, it's where I'm happy, it's where I'm (kinda) needed. I'm also not blogging that much about my little girl because I'm saving all my observations and experiences to pitch a sitcom to HBO about what it's really like to be a parent.
ITEM: I think I was also going to say something about Paul Auster, but, um, I'll save it.
mp3: "Dangerous Fun" by Jesse Winchester
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
mp3: "Hard Times" by Baby Huey
Saturday, May 09, 2009
Of course, now that I'm a parent--now that I have just the slightest idea of what it's like to be a mother--I get it. While we were busy watching Han Solo get frozen in carbonite for the 80th time, Mom was busy, y'know, TCB. Motherhood, like rust, never sleeps. Never watches Return of the Jedi, either.
Not that she wasn't familiar with the material. She used to let me stay up late to listen to the Radio Dramatization of Empire on CBC. She helped me learn to read with the Star Wars storybooks and novelizations. She abided my ambition to become a Jedi Knight, tolerated my Lego tornadoes and dutifully reminded me when I had left my action figures in the freezer again.
These days, I've got a baby of my own. I'm a pretty good father, in my opinion. I'm getting better at it all the time. I like to think that if I had to, I could take the world on my back for my little girl. But my wife, the beautiful mother of my beautiful little girl, she's there carrying the weight every single day. I don't want to undersell the importance or hard work of fathering here, but mothers, man, I don't know how they do it. I do know, though, that I couldn't do it without 'em. And I certainly wouldn't even want to try.
This is all an inadequate show of appreciation for both my own mother and the mother of my baby, and all the sacrifice, hard work, and love they commit every single day.
Sunday, April 26, 2009
Which is not to say that newspapers never let me down. They do. Frequently. Yesterday's featured Issues & Ideas essay was from lifestyles columnist Shelley Fralic, sort of the Bob Hughes of the Lower Mainland, and warned us that we'll miss newspapers when they're gone.
Where, for instance, will Canucks fans find in-depth daily coverage of their beloved team -- the locker room perspective, the game analysis, the stats upon which hockey pools are won and lost?
It won't be from radio, which can air a game, but already rips and reads much of its content from newspapers.
It won't be from television, which can broadcast a game, but can offer little
beyond 30-second news clips.
And if you think that bloggers, Tweeters, Facebookers and fan sites will provide the quality of sports reporting you now get from this newspaper, coverage you've enjoyed these past 40 years in hockey-mad Vancouver, you're dreaming.
Really? Is that the best you've got? Cuz the broadcast media and the Internet have been kicking newspaper ass in sports coverage for years. The Internet might as well have been invented for fantasy sports leagues (the jock version of D&D) and hockey pools. It will even do the hard math for you! When was the last time a newspaper did your math? Also, the Sun's sister paper, the Province, is generally regarded as most sports-friendly.
Fralic goes on to blame newspapers' woes on free online content, rather than, y'know, 30 years of corporate greed, convergence, monopolies and mismanagement. Newspapers have survived and even prospered in the face of far more radical societal changes brought on by radio and television. It's not the Internet that's killing newspapers, it's newspapers.
The last few decades have seen newsroom staffs cut in half several times over, inevitably leading to reduced coverage of local issues. In its place, we got more wire copy, more celebrity gossip, more rewritten press releases, more of what one of my former newspaper colleagues sneeringly calls bumf, short for bum fodder.
Sadly, newspapers either don't have the will or the capital to put up a decent struggle anymore. I love the newspapers, and I hope to see them back on their feet someday. In the meantime, wouldn't it be great if they decided to go out with their heads held high? With a little class? If they decided to be truly papers of news. Be papers of depth. Be papers of investigation. Papers of questions and answers. Papers of consequence. Papers of integrity. Papers worthy of our esteem. Be good, be better.
Speaking of good and better, I saw my dissimilar doppelganger again the other day. Lee Henderson was at my favourite coffee/book shop Friday afternoon. As was I. Once again, I didn't introduce myself, for a variety of reasons. Mainly, because I have to to finish reading his novel, The Man Game. I was about two-thirds through it when my new roommate showed up and completely disrupted my habits. I want to finish the book before I speak to him. I think that's really the decent thing to do. Also, I probably suffer all kinds of social anxieties that make me a terrible person to know. I only even brought it up because yesterday Henderson was announced as the winner of the Ethel Wilson Prize at the BC Book Awards. The prize money will buy him, if he so desires, 1,000 Americanos at the coffee/book shop. Congratulations.