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Selfless path to super achievement

Name your favorite superpower. I'll say flight because I can see my other favorite, time travel, getting me in to big trouble. It's fun to dream of having  superpowers but for now, most are the stuff of comic sci-fi and Hollywood CGI. That's not to say that mere mortals have not achieved super-human feats of strength, speed endurance and heroism. So what's the the secret to super-sizing your natural powers? Authors Brad Stulberg and Steve Magness have written a book about it called 'Peak Performance' and they've concluded that the key to overcoming limitations and fears is a concept they call self-trancendence. Sounds kinda touchy-feely doesn't it? But, really, what they've discovered is a trick that champions of all stripes have learned to super effect, and that is if you want to be your best self, stop thinking about  your self so much and focus on a greater purpose. To be honest, I don't think Stulberg and Magness have coined any thing revolutionary here. I mean, mindfulness is the buzz word du jour and Zen monks have long sought to achieve a state of detachment through mindful selflessness. But, the co-authors have framed the message in a way that has something for everybody, not just champions. A recent study of hospital janitors who cleaned bedpans and mopped floors found they derived more meaning from the mundane when they thought about how they are helping patients get healthy by keeping the hospital clean. And, the concept has found its time. As our village becomes global maybe we're spending less time thinking about ourselves alone and more about things like the environment and the climate. Of course, we're only human and not many are surrendering their ego without a fight. But even there we can dwell on someone other than ourselves. There's a guy in the White House with an ego as big as a planetoid no doubt we're better than that!

 

 

What would you name your asteroid?

One of my favorite Simpsons moments is when Homer becomes a Big Brother to a little boy named Pepe. As the two bond, gazing up at the night sky Pepe exclaims, " Papa Homer tell me more. I want to know the constellations!" Homer points upward and explains, "Well, there's Jerry the Cowboy. And that big dipper looking thing is Alan the Cowboy." Anyone who has ever looked through a telescope has probably asked himself or herself, "If I were to discover, say, an asteroid, what would I name it?" Well, before you let  your imagination or sense of humour get the best of you, there are apparently lots of rules about that sort of thing to prevent people for naming heavenly bodies Boaty McBoatface or whatever. The Minor Planet Center at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory in Massachusetts under the guidance of the International Astronomical Union run potential names through a strict selection process. Check their guidelines at the Minor Planet Center website where it states, "The name should be 16 characters or less in length; preferably one word; pronounceable, non-offensive; and not too similar to an existing name. So, on that count at least, Alan the Cowboy could be a serious contender if it was all one word. But wait, there's more. Asteroids that cross or approach the orbit of Neptune must be named for mythological figures associated with the underworld. But, if the 'stroid travels outside of Neptune's orbit, it has to be named for a mythological figure related to creation and, I'm guessing you need a bigger telescope. You can't name your asteroid after a pet, but in 1985 an astronomer did successfully name one Mr. Spock, named after a cat that kept him company on those long , lonely nights. And, just in case you're looking to make a buck our two off your discovery, sorry, you can't sell the chance to name your rock, but naming contests are acceptable. In 2012, NASA asked students to name a near-Earth object and the winner was Bennu, an Egyptian mythological bird which looks like a heron. It's common practice to simply name your discovery after yourself. Think about it. As long as there's human civilization on Earth your name will be immortalized in space, unless of course your asteroid is the one that comes crashing down, destroying all life on the planet and surprise, it has your name on it. That would really suck.

 

Toilet Technology - an all new way to deal with a crappy situation

In rural Madagascar, life is a dichotomy. The roads are dirt, the homes and shops are shacks yet, most here have TVs, stereos, second-hand cars and cell phones. The one thing that hasn't come to rural Madagascar is a proper sewage system. No pipes means ditches and streams are severely polluted and when Mother Nature calls, her voice is coming from the outhouse latrine around back. It's more than a health hazard, maintaining a latrine means having to clean it out every six months which is gross and expensive. The World Health Organization estimates 2.7 billion people around the world don't have access to proper toilet facilities, yet, Elon Musk can land a rocket on its tail like Flash Gordon. So tech-heads, where's the toilet of the future? Well, do we have a loo for you.  Virginia Gardiner is a Stanford grad and now, CEO of a London-based company called Loowatt, and this is the best thing to happen to the john since Thomas Crapper. To the uninitiated the Loowatt is indistinguishable from from any other throne but, when flushed, instead of releasing a swirl of water that spirits the nastiness away, it releases a biodegradable film that envelopes and seals the waste, pushing it into a collector underneath, all odor-free. Then Loowatt's service team replaces the biodegradable bag once a week which costs Malagasys about 3 English pounds per month. It's not cheap but cheaper than maintaining a latrine and way more pleasant. Plus, after the poo-collectors take your deposit each week, they bring it to a Loowatt waste-processing facility where it's converted to fertilizer and biogas, an energy source that ultimately provides charging power for Madagascar's cell phones. Now, that's what I'd call a smart throne. Apple should get in on this.

 

 

I'll wake up when I'm done


I love sleeping. It's probably my favorite thing to do when I'm unconscious. I'm really quite good at it too. I almost never wake up before I'm done, and no alarm clock can tell me different. Sounds like a pipe dream? Unfortunately, it is for the vast majority of us. Getting up and taking on the world is a sad fact today's hectic life. As The Pursuit of Happiness sang, " When  you're an adult it's no cliche, it's the truth." Our sleep pattterns are regulated not by our bodies but by a sad little mechanical or electronic device called an alarm. Even the word instills a sense of panic which is no way to greet the day. But, let's imagine a  utopian world where there were no alarm clocks, what would that feel like? Some intrepid investigative journalist popped that question to Dr. David Rapoport, the research director at Mount Sinai's Integrative Sleep Center. He answered simply, "It would be great for your health. It's the way we are designed." He goes on to explain that sleep is governed by our sleep cycle which is a roughly 90 minute process our bodies go through multiple times per night, and circadian rhythm or our bodies' own internal clock.  Rapoport concludes, "An alarm clock is an external cue that says 'Get up' at a time when your body doesn't want you to." So, there you go; clinical proof you can take to your boss next time you're late for work. Oh, and the urban myth that you can make up for it  by sleeping in on the weekends is exactly that; a myth. If you sleep in 'till 10 or 11 on Saturdays or Sundays, come Monday, your body will want to wake up then too. I mean, come on! It's a body clock, not a body calendar!  But, let's get back to that pipe dream of waking up when our body tells us it's ready too. What would that really feel like?Dr. Rapoport's eyes glaze over in a sense of blissful well-being as he tells us, "You would feel great. Radiant. Magical! It may not cure what ails you or a add a day to your life but you know, feeling good is not a trivial thing, so I wouldn't downplay it." Close your eyes and dwell on that word to the wise for 8 or 9 hours. 

 

 

The Beatles - Doing the best that they can.

The Beatles, the musical gift that just keeps on giving. I mentioned the other week  that I had seen the PBS documentary, Sgt. Pepper's Musical Revolution, which through demonstration and detailed analysis revealed the genius behind an album that 50 years on still ranks as history's greatest. So, not to be outdone, rock critic, Bill Wyman, took on the gargantuan task of ranking all 213 Beatles songs ever recorded from worst to best. It should be noted that this isn't The Stones' Bill Wyman, which would have been galling although, not nearly as galling as The Kinks' Ray Davies who famously called Revolver, my favorite Beatles album of all time, "a load of rubbish". And, while Wyman did exclude the orchestrated instrumentals from the movie soundtracks and other fluff, he left songs that the Fab Four covered on the list like Long Tall Sally, Mr. Postman and Roll Over Beethoven which seems unnecessary when weighing the career output of one of the most celebrated songwriting duos of the ages. And, on that note, Wyman wears his biases on his sleeve, constantly ragging on McCartney as the man behind the Beatles' silly little ditties while Lennon did the heavy lifting, nowhere more apparent than his choice for the worst Beatles song ever, Good Day Sunshine which stabbed me in the heart. You see, when we were kids, the parents would take us camping on Okanagan Lake where we'd pitch a big tent and a small, canvas pup tent for me and my brother. My older bro had this neat 45 player that you pushed the vinyl singles into like a CD player in your car. My fondest childhood memory was lying on an air mattress, smelling the heat on that canvas tent, reading Green Lantern comic books and listening to Good Day Sunshine. On this show's Touch Of The Familiar we recently featured Grupo Fantasma's Porque, a Spanish take on the spine-tingling Beatle vocal performance of Because, another example of their genius which Wyman ranked at a dismal 141st. Despite my own critical differences with Bill Wyman, the list is a notable achievement and I'm not going to spoil the fun by telling you which song is number one. Check it out yourself at vulture.com all 213 beatles songs ranked from worst to best, but I will say this; with some of the obvious flops the band did spit out like Revolution #9, Rocky Raccoon and Obladi Oblada, I just can't imagine why he had to dump all over my childhood memory. And, as far as I'm concerned, he can take his opinion of Good Day Sunshine and stick it where the sun never shines

 

 

Winning the battle of losing stuff

 

Maybe I'm too hard on myself, but when I lose stuff I feel like a real loser. And, it's funny, I can live with the fact that I might occasionally lose my temper, lose my religion or lose my mind, but what really makes me lose it is when I lose stuff. We all do it; phones, keys, credit cards ... but for organizationally-minded OCD types like me, it's like a rift has opened up in the space/time continuum, a great disturbance in the force, an impossibility yet, there it is, gone. Cris Sgrott-Wheedleton (boy, that's a hyphenated last name I bet he wishes he could lose) is a productivity consultant and Certified Professional Organizer at Organizing Maniacs and he says it's not our fault. The reason we lose things is because we fall out of  our daily habits when we are overwhelmed by everything being thrown our way. In other words, the frenetic pace of the world makes us periodically leave our key in the door instead of putting it in the basket on the table. But, if you've come so far as to usually put your key, phone, glasses whatever in the same spot every day, the incidence of losing said item is greatly reduced. That even works for the non-everyday items like extension cords or light bulbs. Sgrott-Weedleton assures us that if we assign a place for everything and everything in its place, instead of losing it, you're a winner, winner, steak dinner. But, what about when you do lose something? Is there anything I can do about that feeling of self-loathing and panic? Weedledude says, "The more frustrated you get, the more your body is reacting to it, the more you become blind to finding whatever it is you're looking for." He suggests you take a deep breath and try to focus on the last time when you saw the missing thingy. I know, duh! Right? But, you need to be more specific in your recall. Think not of the item but of the circumstances at the time. It might remind you of that one distraction that caused you to deviate from your daily habit and there in you will find what is lost. Or, you may have to get another one, but it's worth a try.

 

 

MP3s march quietly to obscurity

So, just to make sure I have this right, there's real news, there's fake news, there's underplayed news which only gets cursory mention and then there is news of global significance which receives no attention at all. Surely this is one of those stories. About a month a go, the Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Circuits (sound like college for robots doesn't it?) quietly, with no fanfare whatsoever let their patent on the ubiquitous MP3 format expire, effectively rendering most people's music libraries obsolete. In a press release the Institute said, "Most state-of-the-art media services such as streaming or TV and radio broadcasting use modern ISO-MPEG formats like AAC, which can deliver more features and a higher audio quality at much lower bitrates than MP3s.  Now, I wont deny that the MP3 was revolutionary when it came on the scene in the late 90s, reducing audio file sizes by as much as 95 percent. But, as an audiophile and avid collector of music my whole life, I always resented the 'dumbing down' of music that came with the digital format. Not only did it eliminate vital information about composition, performance and lyrics found readily in the liner notes accompanying a CD or vinyl or other physical form, Not only did it render album art as non-essential, which, even in the CD era and continues to be a vital and relevant visual medium. At the end of the day the MP3 is and was a crappy format for music. The sound quality sucks and does no favors to artists who spend big bucks to get their art mastered to perfection. As a matter of fact it's a crime that iTunes would charge 99 cents for something which in my opinion was completely worthless.But, that's all in the past. Apple has quietly shifted to the AAC format too so the impact on you and me should go relatively unnoticed, except you may notice your newer stuff sounding better than your old downloads. Now, with all that said, the MP3 still should be acknowledged for being the game-changer it was in the continuing development of digital audio, so rather than letting it quietly march into obscurity, let's take this moment to salute the MP3. Now, don't let the door hit your arse on the way out. 

 

 

 

Scotland Yard's new squad never forgets a face

How are you? You know your face looks familiar but I just can't seem to recall your name. It's one of those recurring socially awkward moments we've all had to deal with. It's even worse when the John or Jane Doe remembers your name. So why are names so much tougher to recognize than faces? Research tells us that's because names are essentially arbitrary and meaningless. We often resort to mnemonic tricks like matching a name to a song or just applying stubborn old memorization. Now, imagine you had the same problem with faces. Face blindness is a thing. it's called prosopagnosia and while it may be the side-effect of a stroke or brain injury, most of the time it's simply hereditary. It's not so bad for prosopagnosiacs because they rarely talk about it and therefor assume the rest of us have the same problem. But, as a matter of fact there are some who are the exact opposite, possessing a facial recognition super power, and Scotland Yard has employed a squad of these super-recognizers to help catch the bad guys. It's estimated there are a million CCTV cameras installed around old Londontown. While still mayor, Boris Johnson said "When you walk down the streets of London, you are a movie star. You are being filmed by more cameras than you can possibly imagine."  So, the chances of catching a baddie in the act are good, but if no one can recognize him or her, you're no further ahead in your investigation. That's where this squad of super-recognizers turn the tables. After viewing perp sheets they watch crime footage taken from CCTVs. If the face looks familiar, they can make the match.  Like all super-powers though these facial forget me nots have to deal with the down side which is, "Where's the off switch?" One squad member admits it's become a bit of a burden. Six months since joining he has made six hundred identifications and still makes as many a five arrests a week while off-duty! Sounds like what he needs is a super hero mask ... without the eye holes.

 

 

The Future Of Fusion is here .. in the hood!

50 years a go, science predicted the Holy Grail of limitless, clean energy resources was almost here ... just give 'em another 50 years. Well, we've heard that song and dance before. They also said we'd have flying cars and colonies on Mars. Now, 50 years on, there are a number of flying car prototypes but they're completely impractical. You know how many bad drivers there are on the road. Can you imagine if they were in the air? Oh, the humanity! Mars is definitely a hot topic but I'm guessing it will be another 50 years before we do anything like trying to live there. But, guess what? Nuclear Fusion? It may just look like science got that prediction right. It is here and by here I mean right in our hood at a Burnaby-based start-up called General Fusion. Fission reactors, where atoms are split apart to create energy are radioactive nightmares waiting to happen, or have happened as in the case of Chernobyl and Fukushima. But, by fusing two atoms together, according to Einstein's E=MC2 formula, you can release a ton of energy and all you need is a little sea-water. Best part, the only byproduct is helium (which the earth is running short on anyway). General Fusion's VP, George Rubin says, "We can definitely make fusion. We have not been able to demonstrate fusion that produces more energy than we have to put into it. But it's not like we're violating the laws of the universe here." And, there's the rub that has kept fusion out of reach, just 50 years away. Without getting into the hard science of it all which is pretty tricksy, Rubin and his team are working on an alternate reactor design called Magnetized Target Fusion that can create more power than it takes to make it. They figure they'll be ready for tests in 3 to 5 years and that a full-scale design will be ready to plug and play by 2030. OK, so that's not right now, but it's less than 50 years and that's at least encouraging news as humanity continues to feed its nasty carbon habit. Keep an eye on General Fusion. They deserve our support and interest.

 

Royal Barbs & Burns

So, it's Freedom 95 for Prince Phil. Queen Elizabeth's long suffering hubby is stepping out from her imposing shadow and the leering public eye, which begs the question, "How do you retire when you don't have a job in the traditional sense?" Well, you just stop showing up for special appearances. And, let's face it, when you're royalty, any appearance is special. It's all for the best I'm sure. I know I wouldn't want to be paraded around at age 95 like some pop star. Showing obvious signs of grumpy old man syndrome, the Prince's sharp wit is starting to sound more and more like a Don Rickles routine, may he rest in peace. Politically incorrect, bitingly insulting and, to those of us with sick senses of humour, side-splittingly funny, Philip's famous gaffes make an entertaining list. Visiting our home and native land in 1969, he took the podium and stated, "I declare this thing open, whatever it is." On seeing plans for the Duke and Duchess of York's house in 1988 he provided this diss, "It looks like a tart's bedroom." Ouch! 13 year old Andrew Adams told Phil he wanted to go into space, to which the prince replied, "You're too fat to be an astronaut." Call 'em the way you see 'em, but certainly he has nothing but praise for his own daughter, Ann, the Princess Royal, right? He summed her up this way, "If it doesn't fart or eat hay, she's not interested." On the subject of marriage, "When a man opens a car door for is wife, it's either a new car or a new wife." Bazinga! And who knew Phil moonlighted as a music critic. Watching Sir Elton John at the Royal Variety Performance, he muttered, "I wish he'd turn the microphone off." And, finally, when there's nobody else around to burn, the prince is just as happy taking aim at himself. In 2011, approaching his 90th birthday he described his golden years this way, "Bits are beginning to drop off."  I'd say long live the prince but he'd probably say, "Been there, done that, got the medals to prove it." 

 

 

Internet ink worth rethink

Hey, none of us are getting any younger. I've been tattoo-curious since I was a kid, so February 1st I went to see the fine people at The Fall Tattoo Gallery and got myself inked. It's a design that's playful, hip, masculine and speaks to my love of old time science fiction. But, more than any of those things, it's an original piece of art. While I was still considering losing my virginity to indelibility, I kept a Pinterest page of ideas that had caught my eye and slowly a concept started cooking in my brain. My artist liked the ideas I left for him, and then I left the gallery and let him run with it for a few weeks. When I returned I was blown away with how he captured that grab bag of thoughts, ideas and examples in a piece that he was just thrilled with. That's when I knew I had my tat. So, to be clear, Pinterest was a great way to start formulating some concepts and ideas. The problem that's developing now is people are purchasing body art the way they buy everything else on Amazon. You scroll through tons of choices, find the one you want and give it to the artist to copy. Unwittingly, these impetuous, younger walk-in ink buyers are hurting the craft. The 20-somethings (47 percent of which have tattoos) are less interested the the styles of specific artists and less open to input. They'll walk into a shop with a photo and ask the artists to replicate it. This has two downsides: 1/ Remember we live in a world of alternate truth. There's every likelihood the photo you got from Pinterest is fake. And 2/ You've just reduced the role of your skilled body artist to that of a tattoo tracer. Tyler Mate of Flyrite Tattoo in Brooklyn explains, "Sometimes the internet images are photoshopped or just freshly done, which isn't representative of what the tattoo will ultimately look like." So, if in your pursuit of instant gratification you can't consider your ink purchase for any longer than it takes you to buy a pair of jeans, the pros suggest you go back to the tried and true. Find a reputable tattoo shop, check out the flash on the walls and leaf through some of the scrapbooks of the artists' other work. Tyler sums up this way, "People have this idea that you can't walk into a tattoo shop and get something off the wall, because it'[s not original, and yet they'll pick something off the internet." So be tat happy and choose wisely. Remember it ain't coming off, which is probably why tat cover-ups are such big business these days.

 

Open your Eyes and be Blinded By Science

Maybe more and more of us are developing a social conscience or maybe we just need to be motivated to get outdoors for some fresh air and exercise but mass marches seem to be on the rise, whether to support women's rights or protest the P-grabber in chief for showing them no respect. But, what about the mother of all mothers who supports us all, Mother Earth? Who's pounding the ground for her? Well hundreds of thousands around the planet during The March For Science on Earth Day. From Antarctica to America the rallying cries changed tone from climate change protests to medical research support. But, in the States especially, people turned out in droves to to denounce Trump's anti-science policies, climate change denial and cuts to the National Institute for Health. Participants in 500 countries came out waving placards, including in every major Canadian city. And while academics, scientists and medical professionals aren't known for their knee-slapping comedy, there was some pretty witty sloganeering going down. Some, as you might expect flew well overhead of most people. For instance one sign read "Grab me by my P-Value" a sly reference to the Donald's infamous and outrageous comment. P-value is an indicator of statistical significance in testing a hypothesis. OK, so the joke's not that funny if you have to explain it. But, how about this, a placard with a cartoon of Trump holding his cell phone with the words, "There would be no twitter without science." That's better and in 40 characters or less. A couple of heath-related yucks were on display; "If bacteria can resist so can we!" Or, "Got polio, me neither, thank a scientist." Oh, that's very good! The sentiments were universal and far-reaching. Another sign read "Support our troops? Then science matters" followed by the chemical compound for Kevlar, which, the placard continues "has protected my husband through 5 deployments. It was developed by a female scientist named Stephanie Kwolek." The March for Science gave pause for thought and a challenge for those of us who just enjoy some good old-fashioned worldplay. From Halifax there were slogans like "Defiance for Science" and "Without Science, It's just Fiction." I hope next Earth Day marches into the record books.

 

 

The Internet of Olde

I got the chance to embrace the future and I blew it. My internet service provider started rolling out super duper high speed fibre optics in my hood this month. This is the coaxial replacement we've all been waiting for. Upload as fast as  you download through fibres as thin as a human hair. When we moved into our new laneway home 3 years a go we thought we had considered all the smart home bells and whistles; Sonos sound in every room, Nest smart thermostats, you know. So when the internet guy showed up at my door with offer in hand I hardly blinked. This was a no brainer, except, come installation day I discovered that the junction box where our modem and stuff lives is actually underground and there's no way to run fibre optics into our house without drilling through the foundation. I'll find a way. But it got me thinking about the early days of the internet when things were really slow and, it turns out surprisingly charming and wholesome. In London they'd installed an exhibition called 64 Bits, a free journey back in time to the world's first website in 1991 (you can check it out yourself at info.cern.ch) to the death of Web 1.0 in 2005. It's the creative anachronistic vision of Digital Archaeologist Jim Boulton. 64 Bit was free to visitors who could backspace to a simpler, uncrowded web on vintage computers, like the odd shaped laptop Reese Witherspoon had in Legally Blonde, and be thoroughly entertained by the world's first meme which was a page of dancing hamsters or the follow up dancing Oogahchaka Baby from 1996. You could even try out the prehistoric selfie making machine from Bell Labs. Created in the mid-sixties, it used what amounted to an ancient webcam hooked up to a dot matrix printer which would spit out a highly pixelated self-portrait. 64 Bit recently went offline in London but I think they should take the exhibit on the road. It seems like great therapy for those of us drumming our fingers during downloads to remember just how far things have come (for better or worse) during such a small slice of human history.

 

Jelly Bean On Your Back?

 

If Easter didn't take care of that sweet tooth, take heart, April 22nd is International Jelly Bean Day. I vaguely remember a story about a salesman who kept a bowl of jelly beans on his desk. If you were negotiating a deal with him and absent-mindedly grabbed a bean from the bowl during the conversation, he had you at a psychological disadvantage, because however small the jelly bean, you now were in a position of owing him one. Ronald Reagan became obsessed with jelly beans after using them a substitutes for cigarettes when he gave up smoking. Then California governor Reagan famously said, "You can tell a lot a fellow's character by his way of eating jellybeans." When he became president he kept a crystal jar of the little sugary devils for Cabinet meetings, encouraging his department chiefs to eat them when they needed energy. But, let's get back to what jelly bean eating says about our character. A 51 year old man was recently admitted to an Ontario hospital after suffering for three days from abdominal pain, appetite loss, vomiting and dry mouth. Test results showed he had dangerously high blood pressure and hypokalemia or low potassium levels that can lead to lethal heart arrhythmia. As it happens the active ingredient in licorice is glycyrrhetinic acid which triggers both low potassium and high blood pressure. Guess what? Our 51 year old had a nasty jelly bean on his back, draining a 50 bean bag of the suckers each day!  In Spain a 47 year old woman fell ill with the same symptoms. She had been eating raw licorice she got from her herbalist, no doubt with the best and healthiest of intentions. But hey, don't let me spoil International Jelly Bean Day for you. Like almost everything else in life moderation seems to be the key to health and a sign of strong character. But, nobody expects you to eat just one. Oh, if you're at all curious, on October 15th, 1999 the world's largest jar of jelly beans was revealed. It weighed 6,050 pounds. Some beanaholic is still probably trying to work his way to the bottom of that one or has already died trying.

 

 

The Trolls Have Taken Over The Internet Asylum

Never mind outdated concepts like chivalry, plain, old-fashioned civility has bought the farm, or as Canadians are apt to say, had the biscuit; on the internet at least. Let's be honest, people are pissed and they're scared of their governments, their privacy and the credibility of the information they're bombarded with online. Some think of the net as a swamp, murky, dangerous and stinky. I prefer to think of it as a mine field. One misstep and you're troll bait. Last week I reposted what appeared to be incredible footage of a stunt plane losing a wing and pulling off a miraculous landing. It turns out, if I'd taken the time to snope the footage, the only thing miraculous was the editing between the the real plane and an RC model. Oops! Fortunately, the con was so good, most people were fooled and I didn't receive any backlash. But, generally, according to a Pew Internet poll, the trolls are holding their own. The research firm posed just one question to 1,537 tech experts, academics, government leaders and the like; “In the next decade, will public discourse online become more or less shaped by bad actors, harassment, trolls, and an overall tone of griping, distrust, and disgust?” 42 percent of respondents said they expect the web to stay as it is now and 39 percent expect it to get worse. So, how do we fight back? Well, increased surveillance is one way, but who wants to give up even more privacy to their government or startup bros in Silicon Valley? On the bright side, twitter is doing away with that nasty anonymous egg in favour of a more human-like amorphous blob. And, I guess I'll just have to be even more vigilant in screening what I repost lest I incite the wrath of the trolls. By the way that could be the title of a cult film classic. Cheap to make too because of course, all the actors would be anonymous.

 

Happiness and where not to buy it

Oh happy, happy, joy, joy!  The World Happiness Report for 2017 is in and Canada ranks as the 7th happiest country on the planet. But wait a sec. Those smug Norwegians are number 1 happy? That kinda makes me unhappy. I mean, I'm a competitive guy. Who are these bummed out Canadians who are harshing my mellow? And, what does Norway have that we don't? Herring? Ski Jumping? Humph, Just imagine how the Danes feel dropped to 2nd getting, kicked out of the top spot by them thievin' Norwegians. Second banana Denmark is  followed by Iceland, Switzerland, Finland, Netherlands and then us. Our neighbors to the south ranked 14th. Of course they have good reason to unhappy. Look who's running the country. The ranking was based on GDP per capita, healthy life expectancy and freedom to make life choices, but you notice GDP per capita is mentioned first. So, can money really buy happiness? It's a question as old as time, and with the US GDP rising, Americans should be be all sunshine and roses. The answer can be found in the methodology used by the World Happiness Report to achieve its rankings, something called the Cantril ladder. It asks respondents to think of a ladder, with the best possible life for them being a 10 and the worst possible life being a 0. They are then asked to rate their own current lives on that 0 to 10 scale. The same ladder was positioned next to 155 countries and the conclusions should be of interest to all of us, not just the States where GDP and life expectancy did help elevate their ranking. But, four social variables; generosity, social support, freedom and corruption dropped them down a few rungs. In 2010 they did a study at Princeton, which found that greater income only equalled greater emotional well-being up to 75 thousand dollars. After that the emotional quality of a person's everyday experience does not improve in relation to income. So, ya. If you're like me, you still have good reason to be bummed every once in a while. But, the bottom line in terms of happiness isn't the bottom line at all. If we truly want to be happier, we have to let our governments know they need to grow a social conscience. It might not fix our economy but maybe we'll come up with a working solution for that when we're all in a better mood.

 

I Dream of Drones

Well, there's no doubt about it. Drones are literally flying off the shelves. Literally! 2016 statistics show a 224 percent growth last year, and sales are expected to top 7 million by 2020. And there's so much more to the story than four spinning blades and a Go Pro. It was recently revealed by the US military that a 200 dollar drone purchased on Amazon was blown out of the air by a 3 million dollar Patriot missile. General David Perkins delivered the admission in typical hawkish fashion saying, "The drone didn't stand a chance." Adding, "I'm not sure that's a good economic exchange ratio." Speaking of hawks and other birds of prey, Dutch police are training eagles to attack and bring down wayward quadcopters, presumably a much cheaper option that a Patriot missile. Even Amazon, itself who's drone sales are soaring made it's first autonomous drone delivery on December 14th in Cambridge, England, just in time to be wrapped and put under the tree. The trip took 13 minutes and some lucky girl or boy got an Amazon Fire TV media streaming device and a bag of popcorn. Starting with a light load makes sense. No word on whether it came down the chimney. So popular are these flying technological marvels that just the other week the Canadian Federal Government tabled new drone regulations restricting their flight away from people and buildings and, of course there have been close calls near airports already. Poor pilots who up 'til now only ran the risk of being blinded by laser pointers now have to dodge these little buzzing bandits flown by careless miscreants. Is this the way of the future? How do we walk, head down texting on our cell, and still keep one eye on the sky scanning for falling drones? Well, fortunately, there's a drone for that and more on the horizon. For example, 250 bucks can get you a Zano auto-follow drone which will follow above and around you at a distance of 15 to 30 meters from your phone taking extreme, HD selfies as you climb, snowboard, bike, hike, parkour or perform your own specialty human trick. Imagine, all your life's adventures captured in spectacular arial imagery. And, we haven't even touched on synchronized drone dancing like at Lady Gaga's Superbowl halftime show which could make costly fireworks pyrotechnics obsolete. Safe to say, if you can dream it, you can drone it. And that, my friend, is copyrighted and trademarked.

 

Why the Fitbit may be Bulls%#t

At the gym I must stand out like a sore thumb. Actually, it's not because of what's on my hand but what's not on my wrist. Yes. I'm the last guy at the gym who doesn't have a fitbit or an Apple watch or any fitness tracker of any kind. I don't have anything against them, I'm just too cheap to buy one. And, I don't generally enjoy having my movements and habits tracked by a machine. Pro fitbitters are right to argue that is precisely why I do need one, to push me into a healthier lifestyle, to remind me to stand up regularly during a long day pounding the keyboard; to workout more effectively by monitoring my heartbeat for optimum training. Well, Aaron Carroll has his own fitbit beefs which he outlines in a New York Times article entitled Wearable Fitness Devices Don't Seem To Make You Fitter.  It's kind of a spinoff from another contentious piece he wrote where he showed conclusive evidence that diet, not fitness is the way to lose weight. He claims the same evidence disqualifies wearable fitness devices as aiding in weight loss. A two year group trial at the University of Pittsburgh involving 470 subjects found that those with wearable devices lost an average of 7.7 pounds while the bare-wristed folks lost 13 pounds on average. Still weight loss needn't be the main purpose for these gadgets. Aaron Carroll found that his fitbit encouraged him to get his 30 minutes of daily exercise, but ironically, once that exercise regime became part of his daily routine. Guess what? He didn't need the device anymore. Could it be that like everything else in this disposable world the real issue with the fitbit is it's built-in obsolescence? I predict a run on used fitbits on e-bay.

 

Fur Babies For Rent

A word or two about our fur babies. When we were ready to share our home with a couple of cats we did some research and found a charity called VOKRA which stands for Vancouver Orphan Kitten Rescue Association, kind of a pre-emptive effort to find good homes for kittens before they end up in a shelter. VOKRA uses adoptive parents who ensure a safe, healthy environment for little kitlets until they are old enough to find a full-time family. Prospective parents scroll through pictures at the VOKRA website to find their new furballs. In our case, we were looking for two siblings, which we found nearby; two adorable brothers we named Dinger (for Shroedinger) and Maxwell for (James Clerk Maxwell). Yes, they are named for two theoretical physicists. Meanwhile, Dawn Sabins wanted to surprise her son with a new puppy. She went to a pet store and purchased a purebred golden retriever for two and a half grand. A few weeks later she checked her credit reports and saw a $5,800 charge from a company called Wags Lending. Dawn called Wags. “I asked them: ‘How in the heck can I owe $5,800 when I bought the dog for $2,500?’ They told me, ‘You’re not financing the dog, you’re leasing.’ ‘You mean to tell me I’m renting a dog?’ And they were like, ‘Yeah.’ ” It turns out Dawn didn't read the small print on the financing contract she signed at the pet store which stated she would agree to make 34 monthly lease payments of $165 dollars. Now check this. The CEO of Wags Lending is Dusty Wunderlich. He wears ostrich skin cowboy boots and flat brimmed baseball caps; the epitome of startup chic, as if his name alone doesn't scream 'dirtbag'. Dusty rationalizes his heartless cash grab this way and I quote, "When i take a good hard look at what the world will be like in 10 years, I think most things are going to be on lease." I mean, come on Wunderlich, a condo or a Hyundai sure, but living, breathing members of the family for rent? Where's the love in that?

 

 

Shhhhh, The Movie Commentary Silenced

For movie buffs there can be no greater insight into the craft of film-making than the Director or Actor Commentary version of the flick. Inevitably, the best part of any DVD or Blu Ray movie extras, aside from the out-take reels and deleted scenes is the movie from start to finish with running commentary on each scene, plot lines and character development. But, wait a sec. What the heck am I talking about? Who watches DVDs or Blu Rays anymore? Movies are either rented on demand from your cable provider or more likely, viewed on ill-gotten Netflix or You Tubed for free. Sales of physical discs fell 10.9 percent in 2014, 12 percent in 2015 and continue to free-fall.. And many of the special features used to market discs are not being picked up or used by major streaming services. And, like I say, that's a dog gone shame because there have been some doozies. Take the sci-fi (easy on the sci and heavy on the fi) epic blockbuster Armageddon, where Bruce Willis and his team of oil drillers save the world by nuking an approaching asteroid. Ben Affleck was asked to do the movie commentary version and, in turn he asked director Michael Bay why it would be easier to train oil drillers to be astronauts than to train astronauts to be drillers? That's when Bay told him to shut the f up. You don't get that in the G-rated cut! Harry Shearer, Christopher Guest and Michael McKean did a commentary version of their  mockumentary, This Is Spinal Tap, without breaking character. It's almost as funny as the movie itself. The Lord Of The Rings trilogy Special Edition box set contains not only commentaries from Driector Peter Jackson, but from the design crew, production crew and each of the films' major actors. With these resources the super fan or film student, could end up knowing more about the movies than the stars themselves! If you're obsessed with a movie, chances are if you search You Tube, torrents and services like RiffTrax you may still find a commentary rendition of it. But, those odds are shrinking along with people's physical film libraries.

 

Here's A Thing About Wings

 

Food is often used as a metaphor for global music. We talk in terms of spice, heat, stews and fusions when describing the diversity of musical flavours, as if we are real epicureans. The truth is, I'm no gourmand. I mean I like to samples recipes from around the world but I'm no Anthony Bourdain when it comes to a taste for the exotic. Take chicken wings for instance. They're kind of like the foodie equivalent of the drum, ubiquitous  to many different cultures, prepared in many different ways from teryaki to honey and garlic glazed. But, I prefer the old buffalo standby with lots of napkins. Another reason they're so popular is they're cheap like borscht. I Yelped wing specials in Vancouver and found 50 cent wings at Five Point in Mt. Pleasant, 40 cent wings at St. Augustine's on the Drive 33 cent wings at Elwoods in Kits and for true wingnuts on a budget there's The Moose Vancouver, Downtown who will sell you a wing for a quarter. But, in Hong Kong, chef Daniel Calvert offers his signature chicken wing for 30 dollars each and he can't take it off the menu because his patrons are clamouring for it. So,what goes into a 30 dollar wing? Well, it takes three cooks for starters, one on sauce, one of glaze and one on plating. The wing is deboned with taxidermy-precision and stuffed with a mixture of rice, eel, foei gras and mushroom. But is it worth 30 bucks for just one wing? It's a question Chef Calvert has grown bored with. His reply is, "That's what the wing costs. If people don't like it, they don't have to order it." Which they do, sometimes two because who wouldn't still be peckish after one wing?

 

A Case For Slamming Slam Voice

I pay little or no attention to Kim Kardashian but I do think she should answer for the product of her influence. I'm talking about the vocal fry or pulse register, laryngealization, glottal rattle or strohbass. I assume it's a vain attempt by some women who have squeaky high voices to drop their vocal register and if you've ever had to listen to vocal fry for any length of time you know how punishingly annoying it is to the ear. And, dudes aren't exempt. I know a certain newscaster who overcompensates for his high tenor by employing vocal fry and after 5 minutes you're ready to reach into your radio and throttle him. Similarily, there's a reason why slam poetry has a growing legion of detractors. It's something called slam voice and Lindsay  Alley, a regular at the Vancouver Poetry Slam (the longest running event of its kind in Canada) can tell you all about it. "The two main things are pitch and intonation", she explains. "Slam voice is pitched higher than regular speech and there's a repetition of pitch patterns and rhythms." Poetry is all about rhythms right? So far so good. What makes slam voice annoying are elements of Indie Girl Singer Voice; the trend toward vowel warping which makes 'me' sound like 'maay' and 'you' sound like 'yee-oo'. And, the even bigger distraction of Shatner-speak; Over.Emphasizing. Each. Word. To. Show. Your. Audience. How. Intense, You. Really. Are. Lindsay Alley's advice to poetry slam newbies? Slam voice is an easy trap to fall into especially combined with stage fright. so just, try to relax and be your own voice AND keep it real. Word. I'd drop the mic here but this one is kind of expensive.

 

When Time Doesn't Fly

Has it really only been three weeks? It feels like three years! Our brothers from different mothers have been under new management for less than a month but the days just drag by. Blame it on a lack of dopamine, the  chemical our brain produces when we're happy. We've all been there.  You're on vacation, you're relaxed, not a care in the world and before you know it, it's time to pack your bags. Our brains really do distort time and that works the opposite way too, when we're not blissed out but stressed out. Ruth Ogden, a psychologist at Liverpool's John Moores University says it comes from how we evolved. If we feel threatened by say, a pack of wolves, our inner clock slows down to give us more time to react.You know this if you've ever been in a car accident. The incident seems to unfold in slow motion. But how do we cope when the actual wreck is going to take four years? I notice a lot of my facebook friends filtering out the daily news feed in favour of cat videoes. If you're feeling trapped in slo mo, Dr. Ogden recommends mindful meditation as a way to calm and clear the mind. I'm thinking music therapy might be good for relieving anxiousness as well. And, don't forget to smile. You know what they say, "Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana."

 

A Bug In Your Ear About Ear Buds


If you're listening through ear buds I won't give you an earful because they already are ... you know, full. But hear me out. I saw a couple of guys on the bus and one had his buds in and was really rockin' out. In the spirit of sharing he took one bud out and handed it to his bro who promptly stuck it in his ear. OK, that kinda creeps me out and Otolaryngologist, Dr. Anil Lalwani agrees. No only do you lose stereo perspective but it's not a good idea to share anything that's been jammed into one of your bodily orifices .. on the bus that is. But, say you work in an office not an orifice and you listen to music all day ... or better yet what would happen if you never took out your earbuds? Doctor Lalwani explains that the whole time your buds are in your ears there's a ton of wax accumulating behind them. Wax is slippery so the user tends to jam the buds in deeper pushing all that wax further into the ear. Along with wax, moisture and debris builds up which could cause infections in a matter of weeks. It only gets worse from there. The ear canal develops something called granuloma (tat doesn't sound very good does it?) It's a mass of inflamed tissue that, combined with the infection will rupture your eardrum. The good doctor goes on, “If you push something into the deeper two thirds of the ear canal where nobody ever goes, where it's just skin on top of the bone, that could cause erosions of skin over the bone in that area, exposing the bone of the ear canal.” Ouch! But what about hearing aids you ask? Well those are designed to sit deep in he ear for months until the battery dies. In-ear monitors like the ones you see Bono wear on stage are custom molded to his ear so the fit is precise. In all honesty, Dr. Lalwani concludes, you can leave your one size fits all buds in for a few days and you'd still be OK, as long as you haven't turned it up to 11.

 

Top Secrets for Trump

 

Like the rest of the world, I spent the week after the inauguration waiting for the other shoe to drop. I guess I should have figured he has many shoes.  What made me curious though, is along with the keys to the White House what cool Secret Sam stuff does Donald Dorito Dust get to know about? Well, thanks to  the internet, there are no secrets anymore and thanks to Politico Magazine we have a handy dandy short list of super classified things at the president's disposal. That includes The Kill List; a fairly new power where the prez gets to sign off on Predator and Reaper done strikes on specific enemies of the state. Afterwards, the Chief and VP can watch the actual footage taken from the drone itselt. Don't tell me Donald won't want to try that out. Keep your eyes on the skies Alec Baldwin. More than secret or even top secret, The Commander In Chief is privy to Special Access Programs which are the super duper secrets, like Angela Merkel's telephone conversations. The name's Trump but you can call me 001. Yes, secret agents are real and Donald will know who is on the payroll, including foreign leaders who have been paid off.  Of course there's the nukes. Let's hope he doesn't want to play with his new football. There are Spy Satellites and Secret Aircraft; Nevada's Area 51 is still in use and highly classified. Some flying stuff we'll never know about is parked and tested here. And if Trump can't contain himself, which he can't, we just may find out if there are any aliens under wraps. And, there's secret law; policy decisions on national security that even Congress doesn't know about (kinda like the Donald's tax returns). The two most recent presidents received weekly Counterterrorism Reports. Obama prefered to pour over the threat matrix on Tuesday afternoons which the White House called Terror Tuesdays. Not sure what the dress code is on Terror Tuesdays. And, the list rounds out with a pervy peek into the personal lives of world leaders and fellow Americans courtesy of the FBI, who I'm sure will be spending a lot of time looking the other way until the big guy dishes the dirt in a hail of tweets. So much for secrecy.

 

Eh? is for All-inclusive

How's it goin', eh? (to use the Canadian vernacular). Love it or hate it, Canuckleheads are stuck with this verbal tick whether we use it or not. But, it could be worse. Our American cousins love to tease us. "You guys sure say eh a lot, huh?" Next time you become the butt of that joke, do the polite Canadian thing; smile and move on. And, know this, 'eh?' implies much more than 'huh' which is the equivalent of a comedian saying, "Get it?" after a joke, almost demanding a response. BTW, the one that gets me in when you say thank you to an American server they reply with uh-huh. That's not very gracious. Anywho, eh?, according to Elaine Gold, the founder of the Canadian Language Museum, implies inclusion. It offers the listener to be a part of the speaker's statement. Say, you tell some one, "Go jump in a lake, eh?". Your intended drowning victim is then free to respond, "No thanks. I'd rather not." It doesn't work if you pepper your speech with it like Doug and Bob McKenzie, but used to add emphasis to a statement, request, command, what have you, it asks for reassurance or confirmation; as if to say "we're on the same page here, right?" It downplays the strength of the statement in an almost self-depricating way (a stereo-typical polite Canadian thing to do). It's folksy too. You're likely to hear its use more often in rural conversations that in big city conference rooms. It's also not particular to Canada. Eh? is common in New Zealand. I always considered Kiwis to be chill. It's also used in Scotland and Northern England, especially in nursing homes where it's meaning is quite literally What? or Pardon? I didn't catch that last bit. At the end of the day, eh? is just another Canadianism which will probably stick around through our 150th year, along with chesterfields and kerfuffles. But, it is about time people stop thinking we say aboot, eh?

 

Let Them Entertain You

I've been waiting for this moment for all my life, oh Lord. I saw Phil Collins with Genesis at the Pacific Coliseum in Vancouver many moons ago and I remember the anticipation I felt as I hunkered into my seat and the the lights dimmed. Then the Bic lighters came out, flames shimmering in the darkness instead of today's sea of glowing smart phone screens. Phil remembers too, "When the lights used to swing out into the audience on the Genesis tour," he recalls, "everybody had sunglasses on. Now you see 15,000 cameras. They're half consumed with whether it's in focus or the getting the best light, just so they can go home and enjoy it." Doesn't that strike you as ironic? We pay big bucks to be entertained but when it's showtime some are more concerned with being amateur videographers. And, amateur is accurate. I see the clips on Facebook the next day. The  images are distant, shakey and static at the same time and the sound quality sucks. That's why we have professional lenspeople, and in my humble opinion I work with one of the best concert portrait photographers in the city. Visit our photo gallery at worldbeatcanada.com and check out Garry's amazing stage shots. And, it takes more than a good eye and an expensive camera. Photo journalists are granted access to the pit, directly in front of the stage for optimum distance and lighting, then they blow off hundreds of images which they later sift through in search of one or two magic moments that flatter the performer and wow the viewer. Plus, playing at cell phone videography not only denies you the full entertainment experience, it can quite possibly affect the quality of the entertainment itself. Metric frontwoman, Emily Haines reasons, " It feels like the risk of being totally spontaneous is not worth the consequence, if somebody has posted it on YouTube before you've even left the building." A concert is a moment shared between the performer and the audience. We all have the chance to be in the moment or miss out, trying to capture it on our phones. 

 

 

Close Encounters of the Religious Kind



Well, Happy New Year to ya. I spent part of  New Years Eve day watching The Day The Earth Stood Still. Not the God awful Keanu Reeves remake, but the 1951 black and white original. It’s classic Sci-Fi from the dawn of the Cold War when people feared that rocketry and nuclear arms might be a dangerous combination. So does Klaatu, an alien summoned to Earth urging humans to pull back from the brink or be destroyed in the name of cosmic peace. And, it got me thinking deep thoughts. If we find out there is intelligent life out there, what would it do to religion? Naturally, I’m not the first thinker to have thunk about this. Way back in 2014, NASA awarded a 1.1 million dollar grant to The Center For Theological Inquiry for study into the societal implications of astrobiology. The Freedom From Religion Foundation was notably pissed but as Carl Sagan pointed out “space exploration leads directly to religious and philosophical questions”. This study is being called Astrotheology which puts me in the mind of popes in space. The central problem is that major religions subscribe to the idea that we have a unique relationship with a creator. If we were find out we are not alone in the universe it would shatter that belief to its core. Paul Davis, author of ‘Are We Alone?’ tackles Astrotheology by following its implications way down the rabbit hole. One thing for certain, if we keep discovering planets with the possibility of sustaining life at the current rate, they will total a million by 2045 so it’s not a waste of time to consider the implications of extraterrestrials. And, who is to say our star-siblings are morally compromised and in need of spiritual redemption? Like in The Day The Earth Stood Still, maybe we’re the only ones who need saving.

 

 

 

 

 

A Survivalist Guide to 2017

 

So, what did you get? My Christmas gifts had a distinctly survivalist theme to them. For instance, I got a New York Times bestseller from The Oatmeal, 'How To To Tell If Your Cat Is Plotting To Kill You'. This should prove very helpful because I don't have a cat; I have two cats, which means more than plotting, they could be downright conspiring. I also got a handcrank radio so when Donald Trump has a hissy fit and decides a good ol' thermonuclear exchange is the best way to clear the air, I can crank up my radio and scan the airwaves for signs of life. Do I sound less than optimistic about 2017 you ask? Hell no. I'm scared shirtless. I have never in my life faced down an oncoming year that holds the promise of such catastrophic meltdown. But, let's find out what expert prognosticators see in their crystal balls, specifically the Grand Poobah prophet of the 16th century, Nostradamus. Here's his top 10 for 2017: This will be the year Russia & the Ukraine come to an agreement – the terms of the agreement are unclear at this time. The United States will oppose the new truce, but Germany and other EU members will embrace it. China will make bold moves to cure the “economic imbalance“ in the world. Its actions will have far reaching effects. Unemployment and loans will make Italy the “epicenter” of the EU financial crisis, shifting attention away from Greece and Spain. He also predicted that the term ‘cloud’ will disappear from the phrase ‘cloud computing’ by 2017 because most of the computing  will simply be assumed to be done in the cloud. That's kind of specific, even for you, Nostradude. The USA will become increasingly ungovernable and incompetent to take care of the world. Ideological polarization, political corruption, growing inequality, globalization of corporate and financial elites, and large-scale social system failures will be the growing factors. Wars will break out due to global warming and diminishing resources. As far as the warfare itself goes, the greatest threat will be terrorists and bio-attacks. Commercial space travel is the real deal, but beyond orbital flights things will become exponentially more difficult. Solar technologies could account for a significant portion of global power generation,helping economies and businesses guard against rising energy costs and the impact of climate change. And, another promising prediction? Nostradamus sees North and South Korea merging. Kim Jong-un will be dethroned for being too cruel and will seek refuge in Russia. No word on whether that haircut of his will catch on.

 

 

Christmas Around The World

So this is Christmas, and what have you done? Another year over and a new one just begun. Whether you're celebrating Christmas, Chanukah, Kwanzaa, Saturnalia or Festivus for the rest of us, our wish is that this moment finds you in the company of those you love and that a little light illuminates the darkness of the winter. Light calls for festivities, festivities turn into traditions, traditions play off cultures and customs and human beings make them cray beyond compare. Every yin has its yang and in Austria as well as other parts of Europe, Father Christmas arrives with the Anti-Santa, Krampus who scares the crap out the kids. Speaking of crappy Christmas traditions, in Catalonia, families feed the Caga Tia or pooping log, a hollowed out log that must be fed every day from December 8th to Christmas when kids beat it with sticks until it poops out candies and nuts. It even has a song:

poop log,
poop turan,
hazelnuts and cottage cheese,
if you don't poop well,
I'll hit you with a stick,
poop log!

Catchy right? In Greenland they snack on Mattak, raw whale skin with a little bit of blubber still attached. The big meal is Kiviak, which is an auk (small Arctic bird) wrapped in sealskin and buried for several months. It's dug up at Christmas for a decomposing treat.  Not to be out-delicacied, in South Africa they chow down on the deep-fried caterpillars of the Emperor Moth. And you thought Nanna's Brussel Sprouts were gross! Chickens and turkeys are rare in Japan's supermarkets this time of year but Christmas with The Colonel is hugely popular, so much so, KFC outlets recommend you order your bucket well in advance. In Germany a pickle is hidden in the Christmas Tree, at least that's what crazy  Uncle Klaus says it is, In Caracas parishioners make their way to mass, Christmas morning on roller skates because ... you got it. That's how they roll.

 

Facebook from cradle to grave

Have  you posted your Facebook Year In Review yet? Mine's not suitable for mass consumption. Not that there's anything inappropriate or compromising in the final edit, and that's exactly the point. How can a year fly by, presumable because the days a filled with a flurry of activity yet my review is a dull as ditchwater? But, if Facebook can make a year of your life a total yawnfest, imagine what could they do with your entire life in memoriam!  Welcome to todays social media which really does have you covered from cradle to grave. Since 2012, Facebook has offered the loved ones of a deceased user the opportunity to turn the dearly departed's profile into a memorial. Currently, more than 30 million accounts belong to people who have shrugged off this mortal coil, their memories preserved for eternity in the digital realm. There's nothing ghoulish about it and it makes total sense in an age when social media has effectively replaced scrapbooks and photo albums. And, as we become more comfortable with the notion of the big sleep, more and more people are taking their lives into their own hands so to speak. There's a number of apps like Cake, Lifeposts and my personal favorite, MyDeathSpace, which are kinda like Pinterest for the end of life obsessed. Once you create an account in Cake for instance you're prompted to create your own funeral playlist. Now that, I have to admit is something I could really sink my teeth into. Dwelling on the perfect playlist may not make my year in review any more exciting but I'll be checking out with some killer tunes for sure. Looking for some final sounds for your funeral? We'll be counting down the to global albums of the year later this month. 

 

 

Psychologists: Parents, don't peddle the Santa lie.

I hope the kids are tucked in bed or out of the room depending on what  time you're tuning in because I want to take a moment to discuss The Jolly Old Elf, Kris Kringle, Saint Nicholas, Father Christmas aka Santa Claus, the man, the myth and when it's the right time to share the truth with your offspring. I know almost nothing about parenting but I did stay at a Holiday Inn once. I also came across an article published by two clinical psychologists in the journal Lancet Psychiatry, which warns that children's moral compass may be permanently thrown out of whack by perpetuating the great Santa lie. The study by Kathy McKay a psychologist from Australia and her colleague , Chris Boyle of the University of Exeter summarized that "The dark reality, is that lying to children, even about something fun and frivolous, could undermine their trust in their parents and leave them open to “abject disappointment” when they eventually discover that magic is not real." Some parents may use Santa as a method of behavioral control. You know, be good or Santa won't bring you any presents, which our intrepid psychologists see as doubling down on a lie about a mythical being. And, when the truth eventually does come out, which, as surely as kids learn to google it will it has deep implications for the parent-child relationship of trust. Kids are bound to ask themselves, "Hey, if my parents can lie so convincingly and over such a long period of time, what else can they lie about?" Sorry Santa, but as soon as kids are able to understand such things, they should learn that white bearded, chimney free-climbing fat man with a sack of presents has more in common with Snow White, Cinderella and Frozen than with reality.  That said, they 're you kids; I'm not going to burst their bubble and I'm pretty sure I'll be the one getting a lump of environmentally-unfriendly coal in my stocking Christmas morning.

 

Tourism Slogans Around The World

 

Welcome to World Beat Canada, keeping time with the beat of the world. Well, that's what I came up with. If you're building an identity you simply have to have a slogan. Nobody knows that better than the tourism industry around the world. By the way, if you've been here for a  few years  you may have noticed that British Columbia is no longer the Best Place On Earth. It turns out that was just advertising for the 2010 Winter Games. Besides you can't go calling yourself the best place on earth for very long without some other place getting its nose out of joint. Super Natural British Columbia is a good one which still gets used, just not to tag your vehicle with. So, what slogans do other places around this planet use to entice visitors to try them on for size. There's an amazing variety from the real head-scratchers to the unbelievably hip. There are stark contrasts. Take for example El Salvador which calls it's diminutive self the 45 Minute Country. It hardly seems worth going if you've been there, done that in 45 minutes. Latvia on the other hand demands a little more of your time with the slogan, Best Enjoyed Slowly, I'm guessing maybe the service isn't the greatest?. Some cut right to the chase like Armenia, Visit Armenia, It Is Beautiful, sadly not much different from Syria which boasts Always Beautiful. Greece nails it as an All Time Classic while Belarus seems unclear on the concept of tempting people to your country with this zinger, Belaroos - Hospitality Beyond Borders? Alliteration is very popular from Inspired By Iceland to Epic Estonia to Live, Love, Lebanon. Some seem inappropriate considering the current management like It's More Fun In The Philippines. But, I gotta say, my favorite country's tourism slogan comes from the land of my heritage, Netherlands, The Original Cool. Runners up would have to be Argentina, Beats To Your Rhythm  and Jamaica, Get Alright. Check out the slogan map at familybreakfinder.co.uk and as they say at the Uganda Board of Tourism, You're Welcome.

 

A Kind Reminder Humanity: Lease Expires 3016

We're so lucky to have a great mind like Stephen Hawking living among us. People like him can seemingly gaze into their crystal ball or Macbook Pro and glimpse the future. Then we mere mortals can look forward to the latest prognostications from Brainiac Headquarters. It's a wonderful time to be alive on planet Earth. Just don't get too comfy says Hawking. If his latest calculations are correct. the lease runs out on these digs in 3016. That's right a mere 1000 years from now! I know, right? That's just about the time your Vancouver condominium becomes mortgage-free. So why the bum's rush? Well, if the rise of artificial intelligence, climate change or nuclear terrorism doesn't get us first, Hawking believes humanity faces the probability of mass extinction. That's why to ensure the future of the race he strongly advises that we step up efforts to colonize outer space. As daunting as that sounds NASA's being checking out the cosmic real estate market since 2009 and so far has identified more than 4,600 planets which might be a good fit for humans. Sure, some would be fixer uppers, and there is that troubling possibility that they might already be inhabited. Oh well, we'll cross that vast expanse of space when we get to it. First things first. We have to get behind other brainiacs like Elon Musk to transport us through space without blowing us up on the launch pad first. Hawking offers one caveat to getting out of Dodge which would involve getting through what he calls the precarious century ahead. His biggest fear is that when we develop Artificial Intelligence, it will start to redesign and upgrade itself at an alarming pace, unfettered by the slow biological evolution process. Humans would be, well, superceded and resistence as we all know is futile. Thanks for the pep talk, Stephen.

 

Pick Me Up Playlist

These days were designed for a pick me up, because life is currently shaking up a dark cocktail of dipping mercury, political disappointment, global uncertainty and only the smallest dash of sunshine (at least for those of us on the Wet Coast). When the hell is Happy Hour? And, any smile alcohol brings fades to a frown the next morning. So, what can we turn to for a little lift that won't break the bank or make you ill? Why music of course! You're no doubt familiar with the good work being done in the field of music therapy, but it can also be a real tonic for anyone just feeling the winter blahs coming on. To give the matter proper study, the University of Groningen in the Netherlands charged a neuroscientist, not a DJ with the task of putting together an uplifting playlist of 10 songs. Obviously, with music being so personal, subjective and pervasive, science had to restrict the study to popular material. DJ Doctor Jacob Jolij concluded that two distinct components were shared by each tune on the list: 1/While the average serving of pop lopes along at 118 beats per minute and any club DJ will tell you that booties don't start shakin' until 124 beats per minute, a feel-good song notches up the beat to blood-thumping 140 to 150 bpms. 2/ A major commonality between the ten tracks was that all but two or three of the songs on the happy list were in a major key, as opposed to a minor one. Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D Minor ain't going to make any one do a happy dance. So who made the cut on Dr. Feelgood's Pick Me Up Playlist?

Queen - Don' Stop Me Now
ABBA - Dancing Queen (Queen to Dancing Queen - there's irony)
The Beach Boys - Good Vibrations
Billy Joel - Uptown Girl
Survivor - Eye Of The Tiger (presumably made the list for it's lyrical up-liftyness)
The Monkees - I'm A Believer
Cyndi Lauper - Girls Just Want To Have Fun
Gloria Gaynor - I Will Survive (again, Survivor and I Will Survive on the same list)
and Katrina & The Waves - Walking On Sunshine

Got a a favorite that puts a smile on your face and a spring in your step? Post it to our World Beat Canada facebook page.

 

Literally Unforgettable

I worked with a radio talk show host who has since left us. He was cantankerous and controversial as hell but a formidable opponent to anyone with the guts to call the open line and pick a fight. You see, he had a photographic memory and could pull historical factoids out of thin air that would create an airtight argument, demolishing any takers. I always thought that would be a handy little gift because seriously,  somedays I can't remember what I had for lunch. Today, experts are studying something they now call Highly superior autobiographical memory or HSAM. It's worth noting that some of their test subjects can't remember what happened 5 minutes ago but can recall precise details dating back to the earliest moments when they became aware. There's nothing anatomical about it either. It's not like these people have a third hemisphere in their heads. But, it turns out after profiling 20 such HSAM I Am's, experts did find a commonality in all of them toward fantasy proneness (the tendency to daydream) and absorption (the ability to pay super close attention to sensations and experiences). One subject remarked that she was "extremely sensitive to sounds, smells and visual details." Like anything; playing music, getting good at a sport, practice does make perfect. Simply replaying an event in  your head for a few seconds will give you greater recall a week later. And, as with any super power HSAM has it's pros and cons. Imagine being able to walk into art galleries around the world and later, be able to recall every painting in detail down to where it hung on the wall. The downside lies in that old adage, 'forgive and forget'. HSAM people may deal with a lot of open wounds that time just won't heal. One subject in the study rationalized that this downside of Highly superior autobiographical memory helped make him a better person. "Since forgetting is a luxury I don't have", he reasons, "I need to learn to genuinely forgive, not just others, but myself as well."

 

 

Vacation Shaming

 

Every generation thinks they had a harder go of it than the next and in some cases, they're right. My parents lived through a World War, immigrated to a new country and lived in near poverty only to pull themselves up by their boot straps to ensure a better life for their children. And, my sibs and I did and still do enjoy a better life, not to say it's not always without its challenges. So, I feel for Millennials who routinely get criticized for being plugged in but out of touch with reality. Their reality is fewer job prospects than ever, crappy wages, the death of the single job career and unaffordable prices for everything, especially major purchases like a car or God forbid, a home are pure pipe dreams. This has created in them a stoic, borderline nihilistic approach to work. Gen Ys and Millennials are indeed susceptible to something now being tagged as work martyrdom, and that kinda sucks for the rest of us. In a survey of more than 5600 working Americans, Project Time Off found that nearly half (48 percent) of Millennials surveyed said it is a good thing to be seen as a work martyr by the boss. Project Time Off you say? Well that's the rub. Work martyrs develop negative attitudes like vacation shaming others who take their legitimate time off to unlax and rewind. It's estimated that 55 percent of workers in the States didn't use all of their vacation days in 2015. So, how do we reverse this workier than thou attitude? Project Time Off says we need employers who know the value that time off can bring to an organization, you know, keeping creative minds refreshed and recharged. Let me know when you find one blood-sucking boss whose gonna fall for that when he had to walk to school every day, uphill both ways.

 

Music Night With The Obamas

When we’re born, life’s rich pageant starts with a parade of firsts; first steps, first words, first dates … then comes a period of been there done thats and finally when you retire the list looks at your lasts. I’ll miss The Obamas in the White House. Along with the heaps of class they brought to its vaunted halls, they were totally in their element when it came to pop culture, especially music. I mean Michelle belting out the carpool karaoke with James Corden as they drove around the grounds in circles was especially human and down to earth. The other weekend marked their last Music Night at the White House.  The Potus and First Lady took advantage of their last chance to burn down the house with some high profile musical talent who filled the air inside and out with strains of classical, country, blues, Motown, jazz, gospel, Broadway and Latin. "We've had Bob Dylan and we've had Jennifer Hudson. Gloria Estefan and Los Lobos. Aretha, Patti, Smokey," Obama said to open the show. "I've had Paul McCartney singing 'Michelle' to Michelle and Stevie singing 'Happy Birthday.'" "We've had Buddy Guy and Mick Jagger getting me to sing 'Sweet Home Chicago,'" he continued. "So this has been one of our favorite traditions, and it's with a little bit of bittersweetness that this is our final musical evening as president and first lady." The Prez likened the perk of being able to summon the stars to having Air Force One and the Marine One helicopter at his beck and call. The White House has a long history of spotlighting music, especially music that’s made in America and speaks to its diversity, going back to 1801 when the U.S. Marine Band  played the first reception for John and Abigail Adams. John F. Kennedy did the twist in the East Room which was “kinda the twerking of the time”, quipped Obama. Always the class-act, that was where he put the brakes on at his last Music Night. “There will be no twerking tonight, at least not by me.” He told guests adding, “I don’t know about Usher”. I wonder if Bill will be bringing his saxophone to the White House when he becomes First Gentleman or whatever?

 

Copyright vs Copy Cats

 

The problems with an ever-expanding billion song universe is first, nobody has the time to pick through it all to find what to include in his or her personal playlist. That’s why you have people like me to do the curating for you because people like me have too much time on our hands. The second problem with so much music is that it’s increasingly inevitable that two or more songs are going to sound similar.  And when there’s a lot of money riding on it, like in the case of Robin Thicke losing a 7.3 million dollar lawsuit to the estate of Marvin Gaye or the band Spirit losing their claim to the riff from Zep’s Stairway To Heaven, who are you gonna call? Well, forensic musicologist, Peter Oxendale. Does that sound like a great gig or what? The former glam rocker lives in a penthouse overlooking the English Channel, but his job isn’t all glam and lifestyle. He takes on about 450 cases a year with thousands and thousands of pounds hanging in the balance. “The duty of care is quite terrifying,” he admits. In the Americas we have Joe Bennett, dean of the Boston Conservatory at Berklee College Of Music. He says he’s been analyzing music since he was 5, picking out Beatles tunes with one finger on the piano and learning by ear; a skill which he turns to in deciding between two works and if it’s there’s a case for copyright infringement. “Society has become enamored by the romantic myth of creativity,” he explains. “Often for songwriters, that’s how it feels, emotionally. But, allowing yourself to be influenced by a song, not just copying the chords, lyrics or melody is perfectly fine. I mean, isn’t that what songwriting is?” Meanwhile, back across the pond, Peter Oxendale may or may not be giving testimony in another high profile case involving Ed Sheeran’s Thinking Out Loud and, once again, Marvin Gaye’s Let’s Get It On. Here’s a taste of the two back to back.

https://youtu.be/0tGeExc0U_k

What do you think? Personally, I think Ed should comb the hair out of his ears and everybody should just stop trying to sound like the late great Marvin Gaye.

 

 

Top Ten Tidy Signs

 

The world is a messy place. Our role as global citizens, as I see it anyway, is to do our part to keep it neat and tidy and clean. OK, nature by nature is not orderly but the environmentalist in me says we shouldn’t be adding our own waste to the chaos. That’s not being a neat freak, it’s just being a responsible steward. But, alas, it is a neat freak that I am, and I’ll be damned if my immediate surroundings decay into a state of entropy. Call it OCD if you will but I’m passionate and proud of it. If you’re not sure whether you tend to err on the side of neat freakishness, here are ten signs from Houzz.com to consider: Anything can be tidied, period. If it takes up space in your space, there’s a neat way for it to exist. Out of sight, is not out of mind. The fact that it lives somewhere in your world in a random state will inevitably keep you up at night. An arranged drawer is a work of art. One of the things I’m most proud of in our new little home is the pull-out spice drawer with all identical bottles, labeled and alphabetized. Organized clothes take the stress out of what to wear and save time. Cleaning products are to be researched for effectiveness, placed for easy access or displayed handsomely. These are serious and beautiful to a neat freak. Stuff is not the enemy, although hoarders make a neat freak’s skin crawl. Minimalism isn’t the point. It’s the old adage, a place for everything and everything in its place. Signs 7 and 8 deal with education of children and home mates but we must understand that not everyone is bent on order. The mindset for the clean –inclined is to look upon each mess as another tidying opportunity. Which brings us the final 2 signs on this neat little list: the work is never done. It’s a part of life which we’ve accepted AND nobody is completely perfect. Even the neatest of freaks has a secret messy stash. Mine’s in a basket under my desk. Don’t ask me what’s in there. I couldn’t tell ya.

 

 

 

Robot, Robot, Robot your Boat, Gently Down The Stream

 

Frankly, this technological race toward autonomous automobiles baffles me. I mean, drivers are distracted enough without giving them reason to give up altogether and pay no attention at all to the road. I like being in control with my hands at 10 and 2.  It’s like science is trying to emulate comic book science fiction. Cars drive themselves and people video conference on their wrist watches simply because they can. But, does it make the world a better place? Well, trust the Dutch to put their own wet and wonderful spin on autonomous transportation. Amsterdam is testing self-piloting canal boats for a city whose area is one quarter water. Are you paying attention, Venice? But, these roboats (Get it? Robot boats) aren’t watercraft in the traditional sense. They resemble square little platforms that can interlock with one another like Legos depending on the amount of people or cargo  you want to carry. They can even connect in a line to create a floating bridge or in a big square for say, a music stage. Pretty cool, huh? They will even be put into service to help out with some of Amsterdam’s more unique problems. Where you have kilometers of canals and thousands of bicycles, you end up having to fish about 1200 bikes out of the canals each year. Speaking of water quality, the roboats could also carry out testing for bacteria levels and collect a host of other helpful data. Courier companies can use them to make deliveries and while maybe not as jaunty as say, the gondoliers of Venice, they will be put to work as water taxies as well. Which, I guess is another thing we can always count on science and technology to do and that is to take a little of the romance out of life.

 

 

Roger, Copy That, Over and Out
 
Lord knows I ain’t no etymologist but I spend a lot of time on public transportation and pick up on bits and pieces of conversation. And, in this abbreviated world of LOLs and BFFs  my ears perk up when I catch old timey words and phrases sprinkled in with the ‘as ifs’ and ‘whatevers’. I kid you not, the other day on the bus the driver shouted at this girl half my age to turn off her ring tone, (which by the way, was the shower sequence strings from Psycho), to which she replied calmly, “You got it, Pontiac.”, a catch phrase from car ads in the 1980s. I doubt she was even born then. Another phrase I’m hearing more often these days is “Roger that.” Popularized by the Apollo missions that slang for ‘message received’ typically capped in-flight radio chatter during World War II, usually followed by the acknowledgement, ‘over and out’. Because of radio static and the consequences of say mistaking an M for an N which could be fatal during combat, British and American flyers developed the spelling alphabet which goes a little something like this: Able, Baker, Charlie, Dog, Easy, Fox, George, How, Item, Jig, King, Love, Mike, Nan, Oboe, Peter, Queen, Roger, Sugar, Tare, Uncle, Victor, William, X-ray, Yoke and Zebra. Roger standing for the letter R was short-hand for ‘Received’. At other times in modern history, Romeo or Robert stood for the letter R. I guess ‘Romeo That’ sounded a bit too familiar for fighter jocks and astronauts. Another anachronism I hear in business conversation is “Copy that”, which means essentially the same thing as Roger Dodger but its origins lie in trucker culture and CB radio talk. Long distance haulers had plenty of miles of road to think up code words and phrases to confound the cops or bears if you will. For archival reference just You Tube Smokey and the Bandit or C.W. McCall’s ‘Convoy’.

 

Old Apples Aren’t Just For Apple Sauce
 
Boy, those guys at Apple are like saints, aren’t they? Their single-minded pursuit of a future where computers and humanity interface so seamlessly you can’t tell where one starts and the other ends. Their vision is a beacon of altruism, unless you happen to be a competitor. Then, sorry, you can’t play in Apple’s silicon sandbox.. The iPhone 7 is the latest salvo fired in the company’s proprietary pursuit for global domination. Just try to jack in your dope and ridiculously overpriced Beats by Dr. Dre headphones because cords aren’t the way this phone rolls (which makes me wonder why they coughed up 3 billion to buyout Beats headphones in the first place). Instead, Apple has created its own wireless technology and cordless airbuds. They claim the sound quality is unsurpassed but I’ll never know, because I don’t like sticking speakers inside my ears, which seems like taking the fast lane to hearing loss. Plus, the Apple aftermarket for replacement buds is going to be HUGE. How many kids do you see with busted screens on the iPhone? How many times have you lost your keys? The world will be littered with single airbuds like single socks. And, by the way, sometimes newer isn’t necessarily better, even in Apple’s world. Remember about 16 years a go when iMacs came in blue, green orange, grey see-through plastic? Those ancient machines ran on the OS 9 platform which pre-dates the OS-X and its subsequent upgrades. At that time you’d have to go to the zoo to experience lions, tigers and snow leopards. Well, there are still holdouts around the world who refuse to upgrade from OS 9, and surprisingly many of them are sound engineers, the very people who eat new digital technology for breakfast. According to ARS Technica, “Because of the way OS 9 handles multitasking, where system resources are allocated to whatever program is "open" at the time, things like ProTools and general audio production workflows just run smoother on OS 9.”  I’ve been increasing embarrassed to admit that I’m running my Pro Tools on a very early OS-X platform which works as well today as the day I bought it but now I have an excuse. It’s all well and fine to jump on the last and greatest if you can afford it, but there’s something to be said for if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

 

Finding the Fast Lane Out of the Supermarket
 
Down-sized living in the new urban reality means no walk-in pantries or chest freezers and, for me anyway, includes near daily walks down to the supermarket to get dinner and stuff. I’m OK with that. It somehow makes me feel more continental because Europeans have been stocking up that way for ages. The trick, is knowing how to check out as quickly as possible. I try to find a lane that has a higher proportion of guys as sexist as that may sound and here’s why; guys being the dogs they are fend for themselves leaving the big family buys to the woman of the house who also has to shop with the kids in tow. That’s a lot of people and carts and baggage to get through a narrow lane. Men will do anything to avoid a grocery cart, so their purchases are whatever they can carry in their arms or in a basket. But, the New York Times begs to differ and these are their tips for a quick get-away from the super stupid market checkout. As counterintuitive as it sounds, get behind a shopper with a full cart. Research has done the math. One shopper with 100 items takes on average 6 minutes per transaction, but if you get behind 4 people with 20 items each, it will take 7 minutes to get to you. Go left young man. Most people are right-handed and will veer right. Avoid chatty cashiers. Enough said. Some supermarkets employ the single line feeding into several cashiers system. If you have that choice go for it, although, here in Vancouver anyway that set up is usually reserved for self-checkout. Beware the hidden danger. If there’s a corner or a wall or obstruction between your line of sight and the cashier, you won’ see the time sink coming until it’s too late. You, yes you can help speed up the process too. Face the bar codes on your items towards the cashier, remove all hangers from clothing purchases and if you’re lucky enough to be shopping in tandem, split up the items and each head for a separate express lane. Most of all, keep a positive attitude. Don’t think you’re jinxed if you keep picking the wrong lane. We’re only talking about a matter of minutes. We all have to check out eventually and on that count none of us is looking for an express lane.

 

 

 The Inflatable Butt
 
That spectacular Space X launch pad explosion made me think of that other iconic fireball photo of the Hindenburg Zeppelin blowing up real good, except for, thankfully “oh the humanity”. The only positive thing you can say about that shot from May 6th, 1937 is that it launched Led Zeppelin’s historic discography and brand. There is an unusual connection between lighter than air craft and heavy metal that continues today. Bruce Dickenson, front man for Iron Maiden and an avid aviator is helping bank roll a renaissance in airships. Enter Airlander 10, the world’s next gen commercial carrier for freight and passengers. The craft is as big as a soccer pitch and has a top speed of 160 kilometers an hour but that’s as the crow flies, and it uses non-flammable helium instead of hydrogen. Airlander 10 resembles two cigars stuck together side by side leaving a crease or crack down the middle earning its unfortunate nick-name, The Inflatable Butt. Futurists have long predicted the return of lighter than air ships but helium, which is the second most abundant element in the universe, is becoming more and more rare here on earth. Since it’s lighter than air, a lot of it just floats out of the atmosphere. The US currently supplies 75 percent of the world’s helium and reserves aren’t expected to start running low until 2020. But, what happens to airships then? Not to mention birthday balloons and the simple pleasure of inhaling helium to sound like a cartoon character? It’s all up in the air for now.

 

 

Olympic Bronze, Silver & Gold – There’s A Tax For That.

Taxes really are all the rage these days.  There are fuel taxes and transit taxes designed to fund mega projects like bridges which will be tolled. Toll, tax, you say potato. Some taxes seem to have their tiny hearts in the right place like the new foreign ownership tax in BC. After all, Canada isn’t the Cayman Islands if you’re looking for a safe place to stow your dough. When they legalize weed and tax it, some of that windfall could go towards improving health care. Imagine, 4/20 slackers could end up being the biggest humanitarians in the country. But, file this one under taxes I had no idea about until I read an article in the paper, entitled  HYPERLINK "http://business.financialpost.com/personal-finance/taxes/why-canadas-olympic-medalists-cant-outrun-the-taxman-yet" ‘Why Olympic Medallists Can’t Evade The Taxman’. Along with that shiny medal our heroic athletes return from Rio to a bonus for their accomplishments; 10 grand for a Bronze, 15 for Silver and 20 large for the gold. It’s Canada’s way of saying, “You made us proud. Here’s a little something to tide you over until those endorsements start rolling in.” Well, that ‘prize money’, says Canada Revenue is taxable because under the income tax act because it is not considered a prescribed prize. That’s any prize recognized by the general public to be awarded for meritorious achievement in the arts, sciences or in service to the public. So if you want tax-free winnings, forget about athletics, go for the real gold and win a Nobel Prize. By the way, this issue hits the fan after every Olympics here and in the US where they go so far as to tax the valuable metal in the medallions themselves. Talk about going after your gold fillings! There’s only one percent real gold in an Olympic Gold medal. Thankfully, a bill before the House of Representatives to make Olympic bonuses tax-exempt passed unanimously and is expected to be signed into law before Barak Obama leaves office. What say Canada follows suit, huh?

 

But Does A Burkini Get You A Free Fill-up? 

 

According to Dictionary.com the dog days are behind us, though you’d never know it by the overall lack of motivation in the air. In fact the only ones who seem to hitting the pavement are the ones who are making it. Why road crews pick the hottest days of the year to spread molten tar and asphalt is beyond me. So, ya … the dog days are defined as ‘the sultry part of the summer, supposed to occur during the period that Sirius, the Dog Star, rises at the same time as the sun: now often reckoned from July 3rd to August 11th is   a period marked by lethargy, inactivity, or indolence’. And, it’s a global thing. I’m surprised people have the energy to fight a war in the Middle East when it’s 65 degrees outside. In the Russian republic of Tatarstan  (or for spud fans, Tatar-stan) a chain of enterprising gas stations figured the dog days were a perfect time to launch the mother of all promotions. For 3 hours, one day only, customers could fill the tank for FREE if they came in wearing a bikini. Now, at first blush, this sounds like the most objectifying, sexist stunt anyone has ever had the cajones to conceive. And judging from some of the pictures accompanying the story there were a few fine-figured women up to the challenge. After all the allure of a free tank of gas is enough to get over your modesty. But, whether the promotion was sexist could be argued because they didn’t specify that you had to be a bikini-clad woman, and the men of  Tatarstan are obviously more motivated by free stuff than what they look like in an itsy bitsy two-piece. And, trust me that’s something you can’t unsee. Apparently 200 vehicles got free fill-ups, every one had a laugh and dressed comfortably for the heat. If I could hear those conversations between Tatarstanian couples. “Honey, I’m going out to fill up the car. Where’s that little polka dot number you wear at the beach?” Yikes!

 

 

Traffic bottlenecks on the info superhighway
 
If you told me a few years back that we'd be concerned about bandwidth, I’d agree that our aging rock heroes were starting to look a little ridiculous as their leather pants got snugger around the waist. But, I geek musically, not computerly. Today, I realize that bandwidth on the internet is like our traffic corridors in Metro Vancouver. When you open up ten lanes, things flow quickly and smoothly, but cut them back to four like at the Massey Tunnel or even three, like on the Lions Gate Bridge and you’ve got yourself a bottleneck. Today, as noted in a recent article in Nature, researchers are working hard to expand the pipeline so the internet of things doesn’t slow to a trickle or burst at the seams. A good example of that happened to HBO customers in the States on June 19th when a highly –anticipated new episode of Game Of Thrones was streamed. That caused so much traffic, winter arrived early for some 15,000 fans that ended up looking at blank screens.  Indeed the web is a marvel but it’s also a spindly patchwork growing on the back of a century-old telephone system. With internet traffic increasing 22 percent per year, the demand for bandwidth has out-paced the suppliers’ ability to provide it. Fibre-optics are a big part of the solution. Strands the width of a human hair can carry trillions of bits of info between massive data centres. My local provider says in East Vancouver we’ll have fibre-optics plugged right into our home modem within two years. But, a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. Our oh so smart phones still use a radio signal to get our calls and texts to the data centres where they are converted to optical, which produces a lag or latency. You know how difficult it is to hold a conversation when there’s a delay on the line. Imagine how that might affect split-second maneuvering in your autonomous automobile of the future. Still, experts are optimistic, despite bottlenecks and bumps in the road, fast times are on the horizon for the info superhighway.

 

Mars Voyage lacks clear vision, literally!
 
Gather around space cadets, because when things look shot to hell down here we can always set our gaze out there to where, just maybe a brighter future lies. Brighter, if not a little fuzzy around he edges, and that could spell real problems for any mission to Mars. But why do we think things would be any better in space? Well, even a Sirius Dog Star Trek like Beyond illustrates the benefits of humanity putting aside its differences and uniting against a common problem or threat. In the latest Trek vehicle it’s a big green alien named Krall who hates the Federation. Here on earth it’s a big orange idiot named Donald who hates the Federation. I doubt that was an accidentl  But, first things first, and why our own physiology could make it difficult to get as far as Mars. Microgravity takes a toll on our senses, most troubling is blurred vision which can continue haunt astronauts long after they return home. According to Space.com the problem stems from increased pressure in the skull. Cerebrospinal fluid is dragged down in normal gravity, but in little or no gravity it travels along the optic nerve and pushes on the back of the eyeball, ultimately flattening the eye itself. Naturally, we can’t have space farers conducting precise maneuvers and exacting procedures when they can’t see straight. Researchers believe micro gravity might not be the only culprit either. The international space station for instance has elevated levels of CO2 which can dilate blood vessels. Oddly, the solution has been spinning before out eyes since 2001, A Space Odyssey. Honestly, after seeing those orbiting twin wheels turning in the 1968 sci-fi classic, I’ve always wondered why the real life international space station was never set spinning to create artificial gravity. Rotating part or all of an interplanetary craft could mitigate the effects of micro G even if for just sleep periods. For astronauts it would be like all the fun of the bed spins without the night of hard partying before.

 

Headphones,  your personal Force Field
 
Let’s face it, with the advent of personal listening devices, headphones have become the audio equivalent of wearing dark sunglasses in places where the sun don’t shine, like subways. It’s a way of telling the person next to you, “I’m in my own space and really don’t want to be disturbed  by you or anyone else.” Not that there’s anything wrong with that. It’s a busy, noisy crowded world we live in and headphones are a great way to tune it out, like your own portable force field. Sonically, there are very good reasons to opt for bigger over-the-ear style cans as opposed to the unobtrusive ear buds, which cannot reproduce the entire sound spectrum, only the middle frequencies, drilling those straight into your brain. No, the big colourful Beats headphones and such send a strong signal to those around you that you’re not only in your own space but you’re doing some serious, bad-ass listening. And, respect for our personal force field didn’t happen over night. Ironically, the original Walkman prototypes in 1980 had two plug-ins because then Sony C.E.O. Akio Morita “thought it would be considered rude for one person to be listening to his music in isolation.” Also ironic, is that people who listen on headphones in public at idiotically loud volumes, bop and chicken neck and dance to show those around them that “Hey, I’m kickin’ some wicked beats here and you’re missing out.” A recent article in the New Yorker made an interesting observation about headphone-wearers and their affection for empowerment anthems like Survivor’s Eye Of The Tiger, Katie Perry’s Roar or even Chariots Of Fire. With these internalized soundtracks, the wearer approaches each day as if going into battle and then when she gets home and throws open the front door it’s like Rocky ascending the top step and raising his arms in triumph at another battle won (note to self, add We Are The Champions to iPhone playlist).  Yes, headphones keep the world at bay while providing a soundtrack to our own secret film in which we are the conquering stars. The New Yorker piece includes a brilliant quote from W. H. Auden who wrote in his poem “Prologue: The Birth of Architecture,” “Some thirty inches from my nose / The frontier of my person goes.” 

 

Let’s (not) do Lunch – the new anti-social meal
 
When was the last time you said, “Let’s do lunch”? More to the point, when was the last time you said “Let’s do lunch”, and really expected it to happen? The days of the power lunch may not be over for powerful folks but for the rest of us plebes, it just doesn’t fit the digital workday where the mantra to success is ‘efficiency’. That’s why increasingly, we eat our lunch at our desks. On average, it takes just 15 minutes to actually scarf back a midday meal. One study found that one quarter of millennial employees agree with the statement, “I eat alone to multitask better.” Once again  the predatory masterminds at Uber are ready to pounce, offering UberEats, a meal delivery service from the restaurant of your choice. So now, after getting to work by putting your life in the hands of a complete stranger who may or may not be qualified to provide safe public transportation, you’re letting that same stranger touch your food. But, I Uber digress. There are less elaborate ways to make munching lunch at your desk more efficient, like scaling back the whole meal to a snack or better yet, just drink it. In Silicon Valley, there’s been a 300 percent increase in sales of a meal-replacement drink called Soylent! Soylent … these techno geeks are so busy they haven’t seen the movie? It’s people you morons! You’re drinking people. Ok, probably not. This trend will cycle through I’m sure, just like breakfast which used to instant, and now is the most important meal of the day. For now, leave me to my sandwich in peace, same time, five days a week. Let’s do coffee instead.

 

World’s Oldest Melody (even older than Stairway To Heaven)
 
Depending on how many orbits you’ve been around the sun constitutes what you consider to be an ‘oldie but a goodie’ in musical terms. But how old can you go? It turns out the world’s oldest surviving melody comes from 1400 BC. That’s 1400 years before Christ and 3,370 since Andrew Lloyd Webber penned Jesus Christ Superstar! The song is from a collection of hymns written by the Amorites excavated on clay tablets from the Canaanite city of Uragit. The lyrics, tuning and intervals are all described in cuneiform. Cuneiform was a complex of many different writing systems developed by the Sumerians  3000 BCish. The sharp, angular pictaforms and symbols would be carved into clay tablets and it’s amazing to think that there are people today who can interpret these lines and squiggles. More amazing still is that the hymn, written for ancient harp or probably more accurately the lyre, can be recreated in the 21st century by ancient music expert Michael Levy. Have a listen HERE.   If there ever was an argument for the elemental importance and the universality of music this has to be it, barring music from outer space. The Hurrian Hymn as the work is being known is of course controversial as other archeologists and musicologists weigh in on the exact definitions provided on the unearthed tablets. By the way, there are currently no pending copyright violation lawsuits being filed against Robert Plant and Jimmy Paige of Led Zeppelin.

 

Uber Drivers not Uber Rich
 
We live in an uber cool world full of uber beautiful people using uber technology to bask in uber luxury. So it stands to reason that Uber drivers exemplify the successful uber entrepreneur. Not according to leaked Uber data from three major US markets. Speaking of Americana, did you know the term Uber or ‘above’ gained a place in mainstream consciousness through American punk music? In the 1980’s hardcore band The Dead Kennedy’s wrote a little ditty called California Uber Alles, riffing on the German motto Deutschland Uber Alles or Germany above all. The term was picked up by punks and surfers and now as part of the interlexicon it has become uber-omnipresent. But, back to the ride sharing and more specifically, the driver’s share. In 2013 Uber, the company told the Wall Street Journal that a typical driver takes home 100 grand a year in gross fares but the leaked data from  Denver, Houston and Detroit would suggest otherwise. Denver Uber drivers make 13.17 per hour after expenses. In Houston that drops to 10.75 and in the Motor City of Detroit, drivers pocket 8.77 per hour. Spreadsheets breaking out these wage figures found their way to the offices of BuzzFeed News. Steve Rogers is a 61 year old full-time Uber driver from Detroit who corroborates those figures.  He says, “I like the job but financially it’s not doing it for me.” Rogers plans to keep driving for another year until social security kicks in, admitting he’s kinda stuck doing this because it’s hard to find something else he can do at his age. Of course, he could make a buck and a quarter more as a Walmart greeter. Come to think of it, the ride sharing platform doesn’t sound uber anything when you put it that way.


Hit by space junk. A Chicken Little chance?

Ever since  the Russians launched tiny Sputnik in October of '57, human kind has looked up to the sky and wondered, "Am I in danger of getting brained by some space junk?" It's true. what goes up must come down, but even today with a scrapyard of debris orbiting our planet, there's a chicken little chance of the sky falling on you. Nevertheless, isn't it a comfort to know some of our brightest minds are hard at work trying to keep those odds low? At the German Space Agency's Wind Tunnel test facility in Cologne, they're simulating what happens when space junk re-enters the atmosphere. This ain't your average 3-speed table fan. The wind tunnel can produce wind currents 11 times the speed of sound! The experiments drop various objects representative of satellite kibbles and bits through these supersonic air currents. Each test last about point 2 seconds, but it's enough time to take many pictures and measurements which are fed into computer models to determine what happens to satellites and such fall to earth. Much of the smaller stuff just burns up on re-entry but there is junk up there the size of school bus. If the satellite is still alive, it's descent can be controlled to, say open water. It's the ones that wink out that are worrisome. Typically, large bits take the big dive every three to four days and the problem will persist for many years to come. These aren't just flimsy bits of satellite either, some are rocket propellant tanks which will fall intact. But, don't run screaming for cover just yet, little chickies. Odds are in our favour. There's a one in 2,500 chance of anyone being killed by space junk. More than 1 million are killed in car crashes each year. An occasional glance up at the night sky is still good for the soul, and if you catch a falling star it's even good luck, apparently.

 

Can a blockbuster movie buy you a house in Vancouver?

A thought crossed my mind, as can happen from time to time. I was looking at the Vancouver real estate listings for shits and giggles and I noticed that often I wasn’t sure if I was looking at the phone number or the price point. As if to rub salt in the wound, the weekend paper ran an opinion piece with the headline “Sorry kids, no detached home for you here”. I’m old enough that I got into East Van when it was still considered the wrong side of the tracks, just across the tracks actually from Vancouver Film Studios, the largest film production facility outside of Los Angeles. And, then the thought hit me. What about the people working on these blockbuster movies? Surely they can turn a paycheck into a down payment. Well, the clever boots at Vanity Fair have produced a credits roll that attaches amount earned to each credited role, and the Hypothetical 200 Million Dollar Blockbuster breakdown is a real eye opener. Naturally it’s a top heavy budget with the Director claiming 4 mil. That’ll buy you a Vancouver fixer upper. Writers can pocket between 250 thousand to 3 and a quarter million. A visual editor commands 924 thousand, but the original score gets you only 800 thousand and the costume designer only 300 thousand. You can win an Oscar for those gigs! The lead actor brings home 12 million while his or her stunt double? Just 116,250 dollars! That doesn’t seem fair. It also makes Tom Cruise look like a shmuck for doing his own stunts. The Set Designer Assistant gets 22 grand and I don’t imagine that’s easy work. And, a model maker makes 7 thousand dollars, a little less than the product placement coordinator who nets 500 dollars more. So a career in the movies could get you a house in Vancouver, but for most, count on a condo, maybe in the ‘burbs.

 

Music Fests wax nostalgic faced with waning dollar

 

“We’ve seen upward of 20 festival cancellations in North America this year”, that sobering news from Evan Harrison of Huka Entertainment, the organizers of the Pemberton Music Fest. It looks like we’re poised for another hot, dry summer on the South Coast but picture perfect weather alone might not save the day for one of the most tenuous festival seasons in memory. The problem rests at the webbed feet of the diving loonie. Big stars draw big crowds and naturally that’s why they get the big bucks … big American greenbacks that is, and Canadian pockets just aren’t that deep. There are other factors at play like a changing demographic for festival goers which includes more  middle-age rockers who have more substantial entertainment budgets to spring on music festivals. Artistic directors are playing into their hands, the way radio has always done in the past; programming nostalgia. Take the aforementioned Pemberton Fest with headliners Pearl Jam, Ice Cube and Snoop Dogg. The TD Vancouver International Jazz Festival is bringing back Joe Jackson and Downchild Blues Band. The Folk Fest is back at Jericho Beach with headliner, Bruce Cockburn. Apparently even folkies have their own brand of ‘heritage acts’. So, what’s left for new music fans with no-frills budgets and sophisticated tastes? Say no more. Do I have a great festival that meets your needs, right here at home, and I’m talking to my fellow Vancouverites here. June 17th, 18th and 19th on the northeast shore of False Creek, join your truly for one night and two afternoons of great global grooves; international performers and the best fresh beats from our own backyard. Since the late 90’s I’ve been producing and presenting the World Beat Stage at what has become the Concord Pacific Vancouver Dragon Boat Festival. This year with the support of our home-base 983 Roundhouse Radio I’m proud host a parade of planet-conscious talent, from Afrobeat, and Sitartronics, to Psych-cumbia and Global Soul, professionally staged with state of the art sound and lights. Best part? It’s absolutely free! Great music for new music lovers of all ages! Bring the fam and save your change for the fabulous food trucks and beer garden. Be nostalgic with your own music collection, but the festival experience should be about looking forward into the light of a brighter future. I hope to see you there.

 

Jane Bond – Quantum of Silliness


I grew up with James Bond. I’ve enjoyed minute of every movie and if a movie channel throws out a 007 marathon, I’m there on the couch with a license to chill. I even enjoy the Roger Moore ones, if only to watch my partner roll her eyes in disbelief. Now facebook is all a twitter (there’s irony for ya) with the prospect of Gillian Anderson from the X Files taking over the gentleman spy franchise as Jane Bond to which I ask respectfully and politically incorrectly, “Why?” If it’s to be a simple role reversal of the sexes, there are story elements which are going to be problematic. On a base level, my female facebook friends are drooling at the thought of Bond girls transforming into beef cake. But Bond wasn’t into schtupping just any young thing. As Daniel Craig told Eva Green in Casino Royale, “Don’t worry you’re not my type.” “Smart?” she asks. “Single.” Bond deadpans. Does it strike a blow for feminism if Jane Bond becomes a homewrecker? OK, maybe with some clever writing but what about the fact that Bond, the male variety, routinely gets the ever lovin' crap kicked out of him? We’ve been desensitized to that kind of violence when the victim is male but I’m sure I’m not the only one who would find it hard to watch a female double-naught spy getting pummeled. Then, there are the car chases. Certainly these could play out with a female lead. There’s no reason a woman can’t be a skilled driver, except, women hate car chases. So, a simple swap of female for male isn’t necessarily going to work. And besides, where’s the creativity in rebooting a tired old franchise? Bond has scored, he’s scarred and probably a little scared as we all are later in life facing down our mortality. And, he’s already been spoofed 3 times by Austin Powers. Remolding the same piece of clay isn’t going to make it any better or more equitable. There’s plenty of room for more female action heroes like Laura Croft: Tomb Raider, Marvel’s Jessica Jones, even Tarantino’s Kill Bill. Speaking of which, if they do make Jane Bond, guys may lose the Bond girls but formula dictates that we would get a great female super villain in return and we already know Uma Thurman and Angelina Jolie look hot in an eye patch. Just sayin.

 

Mars - Are We There Yet?

You know that old saw, " It's the journey, not the destination."? Well, we touched on that last week under the topic of  hyperloop technology. Ask any commuter whether they enjoy the journey and you're likely to get a single digit in return. But, the frustration of gridlock is a minor nuisance in comparison of the intolerable tedium of a 520 day flight to Mars. What's really mind-blowing is that Russia, France Italy and China found six guys who were willing to experience it here on earth in a controlled environment. The Mars 500 pseudo-astronauts spent almost a year and half together in isolation to study the psychosocial effects and challenges. Aren't there some prisoners who could testify to that? Anyway, I'm sure it was more like The Breakfast Club, if detention was 12,480 hours long. Czech Republic recently published the findings from the experiment which ended in 2011, along with some insightful quotes from the Mars 500 team. The first 2 to 4 months involved adaptation, you know, assigning duties, performing routines, getting to know you, getting to know all about  you. Then sheer boredom sets in. ou know, when the kids in the back whine, "Are we there yet?" One crewman explained, "it was like the same month repeated over and over again." So at this point in the journey it was less like The Breakfast Club and more like Groundhog Day. Speaking of special days, birthdays and holidays brought welcome relief and reason to celebrate with freeze dried whatever. The 30 days spent in the landing simulator were the hardest and the best, after all, this is what the crew virtually came for. Still, only three out of the six would set foot on Mars. The other three just stay in orbit. How would you like to be on the losing end of that coin toss? Then, from a psychosocial standpoint comes the worst; the drive home, which each of the Mars 500 crew described as difficult and depressing. I  hope somebody threw these guys a party at the end of the experiment. That's 520 days they'll never get back.

 


The Hyperloop Hype

I love driving, so natch, I'm not sold on driverless cars. Doubtlessly, if you're stuck in traffic right know or being tailgated by some bleephole, you'd disagree. But, I'm not talking about that kind of driving. I'm talking about the winding open road with the wind in what's left of your hair and a heapin' playlist of driving tunes for your soundtrack. So, if I have to commute, I'll use transit but if I feel a road trip coming on, I want my hands on the wheel. And, if I'm going to commute I want the fastest transportation possible. So, I can't wait for 2020 when techno guru, Elon Musk, the man whose name sounds like stinky cologne from the 70s, brings on the first operational hyperloop tube. A prototpe was successfully tested last week in the Nevada desert (where all things fast and dangerous seem to be tested). Someday in the not too distant future we will be able to step into a passenger pod (like a subway car only it levitates on a cushion of air). Once the car is shut tight, most of the air gets sucked out of the tube so you can rocket along at near supersonic speeds without the drag and friction of air building up in front. And, here's the really clever part. The hyperloop technology electric motor sucks any residual air from the front and shoots it out the back giving an even bigger push. Imagine, traveling from Vancouver to Calgary in less than an hour, on or under the ground! Of course, passengers aren't the only valuable cargo for this technology. Can you imagine what a magnetic field day Amazon could have with the hyperloop? They'll still need a drone to get it it to your door but it should substantially speed up the process. Or FedEx when it absolutely, positively has to be there yesterday? Of course Elon is still trying to land a rocket on its tail so there will be snags. Time will tell if the hyperloop is worth the hype.

 

‘Likes’ Losing Lustre
 
Just when I thought the new selection of facebook emojis were bringing us closer to the Holy Grail, I’m of course talking about the elusive ‘dislike’ button, comes word that the primordial parent of them all, the ‘like’ button is becoming irrelevant. Surely I jest. You know I do it all the time. But, not this time. First, let’s back up. How are you liken’ them new emojis anywho? The sad and mad faces kinda start to do what a dislike button would be capable of, and I’ve been using them with some degree of satisfaction. The hearty laugh emoji is good for a laugh. The surprised wow face kinda sits on the bench a lot though, maybe because I’m cynical and nothing surprises me anymore. It’s the thumbs up that leaves me at a loss. I mean, isn’t that what the like button is for? The “like” has always been the basic unit of currency on social media: a universal measure of a post’s quality, popularity, and power. But, ironically, facebook’s new expanded array of reactions has diluted the like’s potency, not just to people looking for easy validation, but to brands and companies looking for popular, high-engagement accounts. And, speaking of currency, cold hard cash still speaks strongest. A few grand to the right blogger will get you all the likes you want. Now, the proof of our genuine online appeal is in the ratios; ,for instance, of likes to minutes. If your post bags 60 likes in 5 minutes, that indicates attentive followers. If, on the other hand, we look at the ratio of likes to followers, it can also be a strong indicator of whether those likes are honest or not. If you have 1000 followers and get 600 likes, props to you my friend. That gives you serious integrity.  Nowadays likes on social media are more an indicator of  “message received” or “yes, I saw this” until someone comes along with a new way to give us our much needed validation, which is yet another reason the dislike button isn’t going to make an appearance soon.

 

Once more unto the sidebars
 
Once more unto the breech, dear friends, once more. Some are now saying if Shakespeare were alive today he wouldn’t be a playwright, he’d be doing political satire on the Daily Show. No doubt he loved to take pokes at the ruling class. Could you imagine how badly he could shred a guy like Trump? But our breech today is in the sidebars where all the weird and wonderful stories live. tlhIngan Hol Dajatlh'a'? Do you speak Klingon? A group called the Language Creation Society wants the US District Court to rule that Klingon is a spoken language therefore beyond the reach of US copyright laws. You see, Paramount Pictures is suing a small, company who want to make a fan-funded flick that emulates a true Star Trek movie. Needless to say, Paramount acts without honour. Here’s an ethical dilemma for ya, newly weds get into a car accident. The new wife makes it but the groom doesn’t. They had always talked about having children, so she hires a hearse, gets the body to a hospital where they extract the still living sperm and impregnate the bride. It can and does happen. Apparently our bodies don’t die all at once and dead man’s sperm can still do its job. Kinda creepy but, if you want to leave a legacy I suppose … Ever wonder what the dreams of blind people look like? Well, if the person has been blind since birth, his or her dreams rely more on sound, smell, taste and touch. Interestingly, when in the REM state where sighted peoples’ eyes rapidly scan back and forth under their lids, blind dreamers’ eyes remain still. Obviously, if the person has been previously sighted, it’s a different picture. But, if you’ve never known vision, your subconscious can’t replicate it. And, the final word is for man’s best friend. Humph, as if. It turns out when you give Rover a hug, he’s only just tolerating you. Stanley Coren, a psychology researcher who specializes in canines, examined 250 internet images of people hugging dogs. He found that 81.6 percent of those dogs demonstrated signs of stress: heads turned away, eye-whites showing, ears down.  But, dogs do recognize facial expressions and if they see that hugging makes us happy, they’ll put up with it. So, I like you human, but lets just shake paws and I’ll go chase something for ya.

 


WOMAD – The Future Sound Of Howe Sound


 Oh boy, oh boy, globalistas unite and lift your voices in triumphal accord. As Astronaut Dave Bowman told HAL 9000 in the 2010 sequel to A Space Odyssey , “Something wonderful is going to happen!”
In a year beset by one musical tragedy after another, finally comes some wonderful news for 2017 and the festival scene in the Pacific Northwest. If you were in the least bit bummed about the demise of the Squamish Valley Music Fest, turn that frown upside down. For 2017 the internationally acclaimed WOMAD Festival could make a Canadian home at the same Squamish site. Peter Gabriel started the World Of Music Arts and Dance 34 years a go and annually, the global music feast has favored only select cities around the world like Cáceras, Spain, Pyatigorsk, Russia, WOMADillaide in Australia Abu Dhabi and the parent fest in Wiltshire, England.  My only opportunity so far to experience WOMAD was in 2001 at the short lived WOMAD USA in Redmond, Washington, and it opened my eyes and ears. The world-class standard of presentation was palpable everywhere on stage and onsite. I interviewed Simon Emmerson of The Afro Celt Sound System a few hours before they capped the event on a huge stage in front of thousands and thousands of fans at sunset. Far from being mere side show oddities at folk fests or superpaloozas, the crème de la crème of contemporary global music are the focus at WOMAD. World Music may be an after thought to the music industry, but it draws massive crowds at this success story. “Musical acts are not “A-listers,” explains Tom Corbeth, head of WOMAD Canada. “That is not what we are about at all. We are about introducing different cultures and bringing them together.” Crowds of 60 thousand would be the aim over the weekend. First Nations would be integral and small town Squamish is ideal because in Corbeth’s words, “We don’t deal with major brands. We look at what is local for food, wine, craft beer etc.". The festival is expected to raise 4 million in revenues and create 100 jobs. I hope nothing blocks the road from WOMAD in Squamish becoming a reality. This will be the most exciting and distinctly different festival experience BC has ever witnessed.

 

Star Shot!

Calling all space cadets! Who ever has dreamed about seeing our nearest galactic neighbor, the binary star system Alpha Centauri up close and personal raise your hand, unless you’re driving in which case an enthusiastic nod will be sufficient. Ya, me too. I still have an original hard cover copy of Heinlein’s kiddie sci-fi classic, Space Cadet, which I’m too scared to return to the public library. The fines would be in the tens of thousands by now. Well, the smartest guy we know, Stephen Hawking shares our dreams for interstellar travel and, along with Russian tech tycoon Yuri Milner (what kind of Russian name is Milner anyway?), well, they’re making 100 million dollars worth of plans  for a ‘starshot’ to Alpha Centauri. No, they won’t be going personally, nobody will, because their plan calls for the journey to take a generation to complete if (and there are a lot of ifs), if they can get the speed up to 160 million kilometers per hour. Today’s fastest space craft lope along at a measly tens of thousands kilometers per hour. Brainiac and the Russian’s plan calls for not one bulky ship but an armada of nano craft with gram-scale computers and sensors. This micro fleet would travel behind a solar sail propelled by light particles. The idea may work only IF Moore’s Law holds true which states that computer processing power will continue to double every two years, and IF rapid advances in nanotech will allow for the creation of super light solar sails. But, even then, there’s no way the craft will reach the desired speed to get to Alpha Centauri within a generation. Yuri Milner’s solution is a very, very big laser to push the light sail along. I hope you caught my air quotes around “laser”. It’s worth a giggle to think that whether you’re a villainous mastermind like Dr. Evil or a benign one like Stephen Hawking your ‘go to’ fix is always a big ol’ laser.

 

Binge Drinking Water - Good or Bad?

 

You know, it’s hard to think about the situation in Flynt, Michigan for more than a moment without shaking your head in utter disbelief and counting your lucky stars. I mean here in Vancouver, we are so incredibly fortunate that turning on the tap and filling a glass is an unconscious activity. And, a lot of us are kinda puzzled why anybody would actually buy bottled water. You just turn on the tap, fill up a bottle and voila, bottled water. Still others figure that if you have a consumable in abundance, consume it in abundance to find out what happens. And by those  people I mean this guy, Thrillist staff writer, Wil Fulton. Well, if you’re going to write for a venerable publication called ‘Thrillist’ you’re going to have to take some chances I suppose. He volunteered to drink a gallon (that’s 3.7 litres in Canadianese) of water a day for a month. You remember what happened to the guy who ate only McDonalds food for a month don’t you? I didn’t expect this particular experiment to turn out well either, but I was wrong. Aside from peeing every 20 minutes, by Day 10 our intrepid and waterlogged scribe started to notice his skin looking more supple, his hair took on a sheen and his forearms were getting ripped from carrying around a gallon jug of water around all day. By Day 15, he noted his energy level increasing, he wasn’t hungry as often and super-hydration had improbably, left him feeling thirsty more often as if his body had acclimated to the daily deluge. Day 30 passed with very few negative side effects other than a stomach ache, crystal clear pee and the ability to go 4 times in 8 minutes. I think this was an effective, no cost study, that just some guy, not a scientist undertook, producing positive results that while maybe not earth-shattering certainly revealed health benefits of drinking more water. Hell, Wil Fulton, you should be nominated for a Nobel Prize! I know I’m going to start drinking more water. Not 3.7 litres a day mind you. I can’t afford to waste that much time on potty breaks.

 

 

The Kardinal Offishall Last Word On The Junos

 

Ah, last Sunday night, tens of Canadians dropped everything they were doing to gather around the old cathode ray tube and watch their country's musical heroes duke it out for the plexi-glass trophy we call, the Juno Award, Canada's coveted Grammy Award equivalent. This year it looked like a little see-through headstone.  And, talk about a dog fight, because after all, the field of contenders was huge, the collective talent overwhelming; there's Drake, Bieber, The Weekend and um, did I mention Drake? But, that's just me being cynical. Kardinal Offishall has been nominated 17 times and he's still not cynical. He says, Canadians shouldn't be underwhelmed about the Junos because the true north has much more to offer the world musically than the top three. “I know a lot of times we spend talking about, like, the top three, but there’s literally like dozens of artists that are doing so amazing around the world,” he says. Wow, dozens! That's more than the tens of Canadians tuning in for the Juno telecast!  Kardinal goes on to explain why Canadians need a shot of Vitamin Self-Confidence, because we're pretty darned awesome. He illustrates with this poignant allegory. "“I’ve been seeing in the media recently – they love to say, ‘Oh, Canada is now cool.’ I think you can’t look at it like that. I think Canada has always been cool. It’s kind of like that pretty girl who doesn’t think she’s pretty until some handsome guy comes along and is like, ‘Yo, you’re beautiful.’ And all of a sudden she thinks she’s beautiful. Canada has always been amazing.” Yo, it's Offishall Canadians. We're freakin' hot, and I'm not just talking about Prime Minster Dream Boat! Talk about out of the mouths of babes.  There is a spark of wisdom to Mr Offishall's words though, 'cause it's true, Canadian artists can compete globally and can do very well in other markets around the world. But, Canada is a big country with a puny population and if  you're only concerned about being a big shot in your own backyard, you'll probably starve before you get there. So Canadian artists, don't worry too much if you haven't been able to add a Juno to your mantle, consult your social media stats and figure out where in the world your biggest fans come from.

 

 

 

Old Stones Still Rolling In Cuba

 

Big props to The Rolling Stones. It's hard to imagine that in an amazing half century career together that they could ever top their previous achievements, but Friday, March  25th, they took the stage at a decrepit sports complex outside of Havana, Cuba; the first rock and roll concert ever performed in the country by foreigners. And, it seems more than appropriate that the honour would fall on the Stones.  After all, like the vintage cars synonymous with the long embargoed island, held together with spare parts, spit and baling wire, so too, Mick and  his aged crew miraculously keep rolling. President Obama's historic visit paved the way for the show, but the challenges were still staggering. Enough staging and sound to tickle the ears of 500,000 people had to be flown in and you know it didn't fit in carry-on. The speaker towers alone were 3 stories high. But, The Stones spared no expense. It's estimated they spent 7 million dollars on the spectacle. And, they didn't make a peso on their investment. In an island nation where workers typically make 20 dollars a month, Cubans couldn't afford a beer and a hot dog at a modern rock concert. And, the hurdles weren't only financial or physical. Rock music was once outright banned by the communist government so the Stones had to polish up on their diplomacy as well. By all accounts the show, the last leg on their Ole Latin America tour which included Brazil, Uruguay Chile, Argentina and Mexico was a rave success. Eddie Escobar, founder of a live music club in Havana summed up this way, " Rock music, I hope, will open everything else - politics, the economy, the internet. We're 20 years behind absolutely everything." It's a feel good story, because the one thing Cuba has always given us despite its isolation has been the gift of its music. The Stones have provided an opportunity to return the favour. A Cuban choir joined the lads on stage for the rousing refrain of 'You Can't Always Get What You Want'. For 2 hours, Cubans got all that and more.

 

Hot Dog University

 

Watch any big city crime drama and there's a point about half way through the plot where the buddy cops, or buddy gumshoes or buddy lawyers are at a crossroads. Naturally, you don't make life's big decisions on an empty stomach. That's how I learned that big city crime fighters eat a lot of hotdogs from street vendors. But, is Mr.Tube Steak the weenie benchmark? It'll cost you two days and 699 dollars to find out. Welcome to Hot Dog University, an actual course offered by the Vienna Beef Company just outside of Chicago. There is hot dog history; something the 123 year old company knows something about. The humble frankfurter on a bun was traditionally bulked up with onions, tomatoes and pickles as a meal for the proletariat when times were lean. But, the Chicago dog has evolved into a very specific species. Here's the recipe; an all-beef hot dog on a steamed poppyseed bun, dressed with mustard, diced raw onions, neon green relish, a dill pickle spear, tomato slices, a pepperocini or similar pickled pepper and a dash of celery salt. Any variation makes the 'Chicago' first name of your dog null and void. So, what's the course curriculum like at HDU? I mean, what else do you really need to know? Plenty; like size really does matter or more accurately, girth. The smallest franks on the market are ten to ones while jumbo dogs can be  up to 4 to ones. Don't even ask about smokies.  Proper assemblage is a big part of wienerology. Always dress the dog not the bun to avoid sogginess. That nuclear green glowing relish is a result of Blue food dye Number 1 and  Yellow Number 5. Being able to spot wiener freshness means identifying spots. And, there are a lot more best practices between the bun at Hot Dog University than you can shake a weenie at, which all makes 699 bucks a good investment for anyone considering breaking into the biz. Just on a personal note, never, ever put ketchup on a hot dog. You already know that's like so wrong.

 

 

Hugs & Kisses

 

Coming from traditional European stock my family weren't big huggers, but greetings were very warm if not tactile. Dutch custom holds that you hug with hands on the shoulders followed by three pecks on the cheeks, right, left and right again, presumably just in case you awkwardly messed up that first smooch. In the rest of Europe they kiss twice, once each cheek and the further south you go the more hugs you get which applies in the Americas too. Brits of course are good with a hearty handshake and a stiff upper lip. But how would you feel about a big hug from the boss. Not just a bear hug but a lingering embrace that lasts at least 30 seconds. Hmmm, sounds kinda creepy doesn't it? But, according to futurist Nikolas Badminton, cuddling up to the CEO and other more extreme 'biohacks' may give employers an edge in their field by stimulating creative problem solving and collaboration. Hugging before a big meeting for instance could produce a more positive outcome. A hug of 30 seconds or more causes the body to release oxytocin, the cuddle hormone. Bet you didn't know you had that in ya, did ya? But, if you're like me and the thought of latching on to the boss like a remora to a shark makes you a bit queasy, you might prefer to take your meeting on the road. A brisk walk or cycle around the seawall with the head honcho will flood your brain with oxygen and it could make you particularly brilliant. There are still some bugs to work out before we get into things like computer implants to boost employee cognitive power but some at the edge are experimenting with super low, micro-doses of LSD, not enough to cause hallucinations but enough for your R&D department to develop new ways of thinking. Man, being an employee in the future sounds tough, right? Whatever happened to keeping your head down, your browser clean and your eye on that employee of the month plaque in the lunch room?

 

 

Is movie smoking addictive?

 

If there ever was a sign that we're evolving as a species it would be our highly-developed BS meters. Like all evolutionary steps it's grown as a matter of survival. We are inundated with scams and overwhelmed with deceptions every day, so to have a finely tuned BS meter keeps us from being chumps, though you'd never know it looking at the political circus to our south. Maybe this development is strictly a Canadian thing. Anyway, my BS meter started to ping while reading the newspaper's opinion piece, 'Time to get tough on smoking in movies'. My first reaction was, 'Wait, where do people still smoke in movie theatres?" But, no, apparently the World Health Organization in early February stated that onscreen smoking prompts more than a third of young people who smoke to do so, to which I say, prove it. I quit smoking years ago and they say there's nothing worse than a reformed smoker so there's no love lost between me and cigarettes but come on, people! Smoking on film helps bring reality and believability to any period piece. Don't forget how integral smoking was to everyday life up until the 21st century. There were fancy ashtrays, silver cigarette cases, stylish lighters, pipe cleaners, cigar snippers and people smoked, a lot. So here's the rub. If all these kids are lighting up after a night of Netflix that means that they are eschewing science fiction (because everybody knows nobody smokes in the future) along with modern day comedies, dramas and romances and instead are watching period pieces. As if.  The OpEd cites the Oscar-nominated film Carol in which Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara gratuitously smoke cigarettes as they flirt. That movie is set in 1952. How many impressionable kids do you think where climbing over each other at the Cineplex to watch Carol when The Force Awakens and Road Warrior were in theatres One and Two? Even when there's smoking portrayed in the modern day, it's not glamorized. When I tuned in to the new X-Files, 'Smoking Man' was taking a puff through a tracheotomy hole in his neck. Like it or not, smoking was an ugly but abundant part of our past. I'd rather movie makers reflect that then start creating some alternate universe where nobody in history smoked. As for the present, let's make sure that the laws about not selling cigarettes to minors are strictly enforced.

 

Why LIVE music is still alive

 

I know I subscribe to some pretty old skool ideas about music. While everyone else’s collections live in the cloud or in the stream, mine lives on the shelf … many, many shelves actually. New consumer attitudes about renting rather owning music has shaken the industry to the core, although there are signs that the big labels (now down to three because of consolidation) are turning the corner with new marketing strategies to deal with Spotify and the like. You may remember a time before Netflix when you had the choice to either cough up 10 bucks to see a first-run movie at the theatre or wait 6 months and rent it for 5 bucks. Streaming services may adopt a similar model and offer a cheaper subscription for just back catalogue titles. Meanwhile, consumers are forking out for ‘click and  play something familiar’ services because, once again, it’s just like the old days of walking into Virgin or HMV facing a choice of 20,000 CDs and not having a clue what to buy. Ironically, in the face of all this technology, radio programs like this one still offer a valuable service to music fans, and that is curation or ‘DJ as selector’. And, the oldest form of music presentation is still the healthiest of all; LIVE music revenues are raising the roof. Live Nation Entertainment, the world’s biggest concert-organizing company, announced five consecutive years of record revenue when it released its 2015 results last week. Live Nation’s $7.6 billion of revenue is up 11% from the previous year and its concert and festival attendance saw a boost of 8%; Ticketmaster, the ticket-selling division it acquired six years ago, reported 12% growth in global gross transaction value. So, while music fans may becoming detached from music collecting, they are building personal relationships with the art in the most basic of ways, and that can only be encouraging.

 

Brain Science


You like that there brain science stuff? I think it’s fascinating that with each new research breakthrough, we learn that any two people can be wired completely differently. I don’t mean the psychological stuff like attitudes and dispositions, and not abnormalities. These are actual, physical, mechanical variations on the theme of a healthy brain. For example, Dr. Daniel Casasanto of Chicago University recently told the Association for the Advancement of Science conference that for right-handed people, the happiness and creative centres of the brain are on the left side, but for left-handers it’s on the right. This has profound implications. We unconsciously favour the side we find most dexterous, so if a right-hander spots two equally attractive people in bar, he or she will instinctively gravitate to the one on the right. Apparently, that even applies at the ballot box where a lefty will be inclined to choose a candidate from the left hand side of the ballot. Come to think of it. That’s kind of scary. It also got me thinking about NASCAR racing where the cars almost always circle the track counter-clockwise. The rational there is that in the US as in Canada, the driver is in the left-hand seat. Racing counter-clockwise affords drivers a better view of the track. But, does that give left-handed race car drivers an advantage? Well, no matter how our heads are screwed on, we want our little grey cells healthy and happy. Again, modern brain science comes to the rescue with an exercise regime that may interest global music fans. A multilingual brain is nimbler, quicker, better able to deal with ambiguities, resolve conflicts and is able to stave off Alzheimer’s and dementia longer. In the short term, your native language skills may suffer a bit like forgetting the occasional word you’ve known for years, but the long term benefits of learning another language are substantial.

 

Hey Musicians, Look Who Just Gave You 15 Million!  

The BC Liberals are tossing favors at the electorate. Can a provincial election be far away? Well, actually yes, it's not until 2017, but it's prudent to get a head start wooing voters, especially those who are least likely to vote for you. That's why Premier Christy Clark has announced a 15 million dollar BC Music Fund. Smart move, because many of the musicians I've had the pleasure of meeting are socially and environmentally conscious idealists who would seem diametrically opposed to the pipeline, LNG, wolf cull policies that Clark's party stands for. She says, "If we can become the LA of Canada for film, why can't we become the Nashville of Canada for music?" Hmmm, maybe because that's comparing apples and oranges? While the film business flourishes in Canada because of tax breaks and the weak dollar, the music industry is increasingly becoming a loose collective of small business owners because the big labels are sucking wind. The province's local music industry is in serious decline mostly due to massive changes in the global music ecology, specifically digital technology like oh, i don't know, Spotify perhaps? Clark says her 15 mill will help by generating music education, red tape reduction and much more. Sounds good. But, she goes on to say that fund would help keep local musicians in BC. Not with today's housing prices. Besides, just on population alone, the potential fanbase is too shallow in BC. Artists can't thrive in an artificially propped-up bubble. They need to  compete globally. There are BC bands who couldn't get arrested in our province but have huge followings elsewhere. It's true, we do in a global village and musicians  have to find their market out there in the big bad world. Speaking of bubbles, the Liberals trotted out Michael Buble to cheerlead the announcement because he's a Burnaby boy made good and he cleans up well. "Today, the rock stars are cheering for you", he told Christy. In her speech, the premier referenced Buble as an example of the importance of supporting local musicians ... oh , and Green Day as well. I guess they must be from South Van, really, really South Van.

 

More Oddball Headlines 

 

Let's face it, the daily news can be a real buzzkill. And, if you want truly edifying and entertaining items you have to seek them out, because they're out there, just hiding in the cracks and especially the sidebars; those short, head-scratchers that deliver true insight into the human condition. Here are a few choice nuggets I found recently neatly grouped together in brief. Dateline, Australia where Parliament has enacted changes to the rules which will now allow members to bring their babies in the chamber and breastfeed them. Struth! None of the 30 female MPs seemed keen on the idea, though. You'd figure members would be used to all the  whining and crying in the chamber by now. It kinda gives whole new meaning to MPs sucking at the public teet. On to Netherlands where they are considering training raptors like eagles to see rogue drones as prey. So if you're flying where you shouldn't  your new toy could end up lining a nest. And, don't even think about going after it. Does anybody still smoke? Not here in Canada so much, but one third of teens between 15 and 19 in France, still light up every day! But it's not the cancer administrators are worried about. They want to bring smoking back to the school grounds so their little addicts don't become targets for extremists. Wouldn't that be kind of an incentive to butt out? Don't try to get away with that in Italy where now in addition to stiff fines for smoking in public places, smokers face fines of 600 dollars US if they're caught puffing in their car with a child or pregnant woman. And, if you're spotted, don't try tossing the evidence. The 600 buck fine still applies under a different anti-litter law, which also punishes spitting out gum or chucking shopping receipts. So, no matter where in the world, butt out if you can. It's the hardest thing you'll ever do but the rewards and the savings are so worth it.

 

Vacation Complaints

 

Last year about this time, we joined the luckiest of the lucky shmucks who could actually escape the grey and rain for a week in Hawaii. Our plane was scheduled to depart at 5:30pm but there was a problem with the aircraft which was going to delay the flight to 8pm. But, the fix wouldn't work so they had to fly in a replacement from Toronto which pushed back our departure time to 11pm. We got into Honolulu at 3:30 in the morning, but seriously, who cares? We were in Hawaii! How can you complain about anything that is nothing less than a First World problem? But, people do. Do they ever! Here are some actual complaints received by Thomas Cook Vacations from disgruntled vacationers:

"They should not allow topless sunbathing on the beach. It was very distracting for my husband who just wanted to relax." Suggestion? mirror shade sunglasses.

 "On my holiday to Goa in India, I was disgusted to find that almost every restaurant served curry. I don't like spicy food."  You best stay away from Micky Dee's Maharaja Mac as well. Serious, that's a real thing in India.

"The beach was too sandy. We had to clean everything when we returned to our room." And, what's worse than a sandy beach? 

"We found the sand was not like the sand in the brochure. Your brochure shows the sand as white but it was more yellow."

But, enough about the beach, how was that blue green tropical ocean, huh?

"No-one told us there would be fish in the water. The children were scared."

And what about the luxury accommodations?  "Although the brochure said that there was a fully equipped kitchen, there was no egg-slicer in the drawers." Yah, nobody said we were going to be roughing it. 

And, as I mentioned off the top, there's always going to be something about the traveling itself that's going to rankle and some of those complaints can be quite legit. And, nobody enjoys the return flight from vacation paradise, but the sheer stupidity of this next complaint would surely leave anyone gasping to come up with a response. Check this out:

"It took us nine hours to fly home from Jamaica to England. It took the Americans only three hours to get home. This seems unfair."  Yep, no matter how much you complain about it, distance is a bitch.

 

The Anonymous Automobile

 

I’m glad our cities and municipalities are looking at ways to get people out of their cars, but let’s be honest, apart from the issue of traffic congestion, it’s the internal combustion engine we have the most problems with, not the automobile. In the 1998 near future film, Gattaca, starring Ethan Hawke and Uma Thurman, the cars of the future are the classics of the past. In our hero’s case it’s a 1963 Studebaker Avanti fitted with a charging plug under the front bumper. That’s the future I want to live in. It’s kinda  like the resurgence of interest in classic vinyl. You just swap out the polluting power plant with electric or hydrogen or whatever is just around the corner and you can still own a piece of rolling art that reflects the individual character, style and spirit of its owner. Instead, we’re heading down the road to a future as envisioned by Woody Allen’s 1973 sci-fi spoof, Sleeper, minus the orgasmatron of course, where everybody drives around in amorphous eggs. When I was a kid, I could tell you the year make and model of anything on the road at a glance, today I can’t even tell if a car is domestic or imported. We’re living in an age of automotive anonymity that’s even changing the way cars are being marketed. Take the current Buick campaign for instance. A women walks in on her own surprise party because despite looking out the window at her parking space, the surprise guests didn’t recognize the car for what she said it was; a Buick. Or, the restaurant valet who’s handed the keys by a patron, who says with a twinkle in his eye, “It’s the Buick.” The kid dashes into a parking lot full of similar looking vehicles, unable to identify the Buick until it chirps and blinks its headlights when he hits the unlock button on the key fob. But, the latest commercial to market a vehicle based on the fact that it looks like every other vehicle is most telling. A sample group is introduced to a Chevy Malibu stripped of all its identifying badges. When asked what kind of car it is, the group is sincerely puzzled, guessing a BMW or a Lexus. No you idiots, it’s a Chevy Malibu, which costs half as much as those other marques but looks every bit as unremarkable. It may be a gas hog, but I’m hanging onto my ’71 Firebird until it falls apart or I do, which ever comes first. At least I can always find it in a parking lot.

 

Manners Matter

In our loud, crowded, frantic, impersonal world, social graces seem about as relevant as Downton Abbey. But, mother's advice to mind your manners because manners matter is still sound, especially when you're doing something like, oh I don't know, looking for a job! In the weekend edition of the Vancouver Sun, Etiquette Consultant Carey McBeth explains 'Etiquette tips for a shifting business landscape'. As a public service, I'd like to share some of her tips with you because it's the polite thing to do. First off, Carey notes that 60 percent of business is done over a meal which immediately puts a guy like me at a disadvantage. My motto has always been, "Can't talk, eating." To further stack the odds against me she cites that knowledge is 15 percent of why you're going to get the job, the rest is social skills. Then comes the good part, the grocery list of do's an don'ts: At lunch for instance, don't talk business until you've ordered (I'm guessing because you'll be constantly interrupted by the server who's anxious to get the show on the road). At dinner, no blabbing about business until after the main course. A BIG don't to putting your cellphone on the table, unless you're regifting it to your host. BTW, It's not necessary to cough up anything for the meal other than a hand-written thank you card later. Business etiquette also requires your potential employer to pick up the tab. Don't order spaghetti. Wearing your meal is not a sign of how much you enjoyed it. Don't order the most expensive thing on the menu. This makes you look financially irresponsible. It's better to be a cheap date. Do follow your host's lead. Sit when he sits, grab your napkin when she does and so on. For networking events Miss Manners McBeth suggests keeping  your right hand free to shake hands. So, unless the job you're going for is professional juggler, grab a drink or a nosh with your left, but better not try both. Carey McBeth has plenty more manner minders but I take exception to one in particular, "Cheese causes instant bad breath." she says. Who is she to diss a brie when Best Health magazine counts cheese and yogurt as two of the best fighters of halitosis? No, my personal recommendation is to ease up on the shrimp,oysters and crab puffs, because if  you get in my face and your breath smells like a tuna trawler, I'm liable to puke on your shoes.

 

C’mon! Pay Your Performers!

 

My dad used to tell me, “Son, if it’s worms you’re looking for, or anything slimy, creepy or crawly for that matter, you don’t have to turn over a lot of rocks to find them.” Nah, he never said that. I just made it up. But, I’m not a father so I have to practice dispensing pearls of wisdom. And, for my money, or lack thereof, they don’t come any creepier or slimier than those people who expect artists to perform for nothing, qualifying this with that old saw, “We can offer you great exposure.” Ha! Trying buying dinner with that! And, I’m not talking about Monday open mike night at your local pub. Besides if you do well there, you’ll probably score a beer out of the deal, so that takes care of dinner. No, I’m talking HUGE corporations who should know better. It turns out the Jabba The Hut of slimy worms is our beloved Oprah Winfrey. This is the story of Vaudeville hula hoop performer, Revolva who was asked to perform at Oprah’s ‘The Life You Want’ Tour. Winfrey’s producer told our intrepid hula hooper on the phone, “Okay, so just to be clear, you’d be on a stage outside the event. And, you know, just to be clear, Oprah will not be on that stage. Oh, and just to be clear, this gig isn’t paid.” Now, just to be clear tickets for the tour started at 99 dollars and ballooned up to 999 dollars, and the richest woman on the planet can’t afford to pay the talent she hires? You can bet Deepak Chopra got his cut. I know, people are sensitive to Oprah-dissing so let’s choose an entity we are more ambivalent to. MacDonald’s sponsored a showcase at Austin’s influential, taste-making music exhibition South By Southwest. Ex Cops, a pop punk duo still emerging into the limelight were asked to perform but were told by Mickey Dees that the 97 billion dollar corporation did not have the budget to pay performers at their showcase, with this caveat; they offer “a great opportunity for additional exposure,” and that “McDonald’s will have their global digital team on site to meet with the bands and help with cross promotion, etc”  And, get this, they will feed the audience! Brian Harding from Ex Cops responded in part by saying, “I don’t doubt that tons of bands will kowtow to this lame, lame attempt at a rock show. And I’m aware that to achieve any exposure in this age is a Herculean task , but these attitudes will continue to exist if we, as artists, keep saying yes in exchange for a taste of success. Even if smells like a shitty fish filet.”

 

Final Bows

 

The world IS a stage and while the metaphor has a special ring of truthiness for world musicians it’s no less applicable to musicians and actors of all stripes. At any given moment, anywhere on the planet someone nervously steps into the spotlight for the first time, while someone else returns to the stage for an encore and yet another takes a final bow. Last year had its share of final bows, especially at the final curtain. A Vancouver legend; the last of the great big band leaders, Dal Richards was looking forward to performing his 80th New Years Eve celebration, but the 97 year old passed away instead on the last night of year, just days before his 98th birthday. Dal was a living link to a generation which is slipping into memory, and to that Benny Goodman-style big band jazz that brought joy and promise to the troops in World War II, energized North America and built the foundation for a new breed of crooners that would dominate popular music; crooners like Nat King Cole. His daughter, R&B/Soul sensation, Natalie Cole also left us on New Year’s Eve. Artists are sensitive souls, which makes for wonderful, emotive music-making but also leaves them prone to depression and addiction. Natalie Cole fought those demons for years but eventually succumbed to their damages. She was 65. It was a hard year for bass gods too, especially for fans of the Rickenbacker bass. With its distinctive growl and gorgeous shape, the Ricky really is the E-Type Jag of bass guitars. In the hands of Chris Squire from Yes, the Ricky tore through the band’s dense mix and complex time signatures like a groovy jack hammer. Chris Squire lost a short battle with leukemia on June 27th last year. He was 67. Yet another Rickenbacker aficionado, Motorhead’s Lemmy Kilmister lost his fight with a particularly aggressive cancer December 28th just 4 days after his 70th. He utilized that bass growl to lethal effect, over-driving his amp until the tortured tones roared like the dogs of hell. The next day Victoria and Vancouver felt a snappy little earthquake. One poster in my Facebook circle quipped poetically, “That was no earthquake, Lemmy just plugged into his amp.”

 

 

Words and Phrases to Leave in the Past

 

Happy New Year! Last week we treated you to the best worldbeat of 2015 for Boxing Day. I hope you enjoyed it and are ready to join us for a New Year of musical adventures. It’s nice to look back but it’s not healthy to dwell there. As  a matter of fact, I’d like to take that one step further and suggest that to leave junk acquisitions in the past is a great housecleaning exercise that lightens your load as we step into the future. In that spirit, I always look forward to the Oregonian’s list of 10 words and phrases that should be dropped from our lexicon in 2016. Let me know if you can’t seriously live without any of the following: Manbun – fake clip-ons of this hairstyle are still selling like hotcakes on Groupon, or should I say, selling like hot cross buns. What you do with your do is up to you, but let’s burn the word manbun. Remakes or Reboots – maybe the words themselves aren’t as cringe-worthy as the concept itself. Come on film and television, the world’s your oyster, stick with fresh creativity and let’s leave the original boots in the archives. Break the Internet – like when Kim Kardashian appeared nude on the cover of Paper Magazine. When so many of us a reliant on the world wide web for our professional and personal edification, imagine if the internet really did break. Sure, go viral if you can, but leave the net intact for the rest of us. Taylor Swift – I’m not hating on her it’s just that I’m suffering Swiftian-fatigue. Call it too much of a good thing, if you’re still a big fan. But, variety is the spice of life. Same goes for Jennifer Lawrence. #Squad Goals refers to Taylor and her club of equally over-exposed stars and has since morphed into a term for any gathering of friends in a group. If this were a game of word association and someone said “squad” I would reply “firing”. Let’s change it up for 2016. Hacks, as in cleaning hacks, food hacks, furniture hacks … I think the word you’re looking for is tips. Basic; it started as a wardrobe diss and is now a fashion trend. It ain’t Haute Couture. We get it. Next? Yasss, normally spelled with an ‘a’ followed by an ever increasing annoying succession of ‘s’s’. Can we have our yes back now please? Just nod.

 

 

 Using The Force For Evil

Well, Merry Christmas, a time of reflection as everyone scrambles to put together their 'Best Of' lists and, this year especially, it's a time of new awakenings, because somewhere between episodes 1 and 3 the Force nodded off. But, if you're really bound and determined to somehow mash up these two events, search YouTube for the Star Wars Holiday Special. Yes,  Padawan, it actually happened a long time ago ... 1978 to be exact. It came to pass between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back, when George Lucas thought it would be a good idea to help the franchise's forward momentum along by creating a TV holiday special slash variety show. Patience you must have. Way worse it gets. Pre-empting both Wonder Woman and The Incredible Hulk, the special aired telling the harrowing tale of Han and Chewie racing to the Wookie home world to join Chewie's parents and baby brother for Life Day. Naturally the bad old Empire tries to scuttle those plans and we're left for the duration of the painful exercise on Kashyyk listening to Wookie-speak with no subtitles, which put me in the mind of walrus mating season. Speaking of mating, human shop keeper, Art Carney brings gifts for his favorite Wookie family including a soft core porn hologram for Dad featuring a seductive Diahann Carroll; an inter-species gross out that will haunt you by it's mere suggestiveness. The show continues to spiral down a black hole of nonsense from there on. Who knew loyal Imperial commanders enjoyed Jefferson Starship videos? Harvey Korman slapsticks his best as an short circuiting robot. And then ... and then came Maude; Bea Arthur running the cantina where the band still only knows just the one tune. Edited together with the precision of a stormtrooper's aim and you have a Star Wars experience that makes the prequels look like Gone With The Wind. The critics weren't kind especially Carrie Fisher who says she puts on her copy when it's time for everyone to leave the party. Nathan Rabin of AV Club summed it up this way, "I'm not convinced the special wasn't ultimately written and directed by a sentient bag of cocaine."

 

 

Happy, Happy Foodies

 

So, UBC, look at you; so busy with all your research studies! Two weeks a go you ‘splained to us why Facebook envy is making people depressed and now Yann  Cornil, a professor of consumer behaviour at the university’s Sauder School of Business has concluded that ‘Foodies love life more than dieters.’ That’s kinda cruel to point out at this time of year especially considering those who on the advice of their doctors are steeling themselves to make a New Year’s resolution of dropping a few pounds. And, to rub seasoning salt into the wound, Cornil’s research says that Foodies or Epicurean eaters are no more likely to be obese than other people. No, they simply have a different attitude toward food. Epicureans eat less because they know that you don’t require large quantities of food to be happy. So who are these super-humans smugly smiling in their superiority. Well, that’s the insidious part isn’t it? They are neither older, nor richer or better educated than other folk. They cook as well as eat out and they take care of their bodies through food. In other words, they’re freaks of nature who can have just one potato chip. And I say to these epicuriosities, “This Christmas when I grab that second helping of turkey and pumpkin pie it will be with a big grin on my face, and later on the couch in a tryptophan coma with the top button on my pants open for all to see, I’ll be dreaming of giblets, potatoes and gravy. Because, remember this one and all, Christmas is about joy to the world not just the foodies.

 

 

Novels for Your Naughty List

Great experiences are even better when they're paired with something else; The right wine for the right dish, the right travel partner for the right vacation and the right music for the right book. If you choose well, you can almost create the perfect soundtrack for the novel you're reading. But, according to Jeffrey Somers of About Entertainment, nary the sweetest sounds in the world could bring pleasure to this list of truly terrible bestsellers, like the aptly titled 'You've Been Warned' by James Patterson and Howard Roughan. With its exhausting narration, howlingly bad one-liners, this one, according to Somers goes beyond phoned in. You've Been Warned, you've been served. Remember The Producers where Gene Wilder and Zero Mostel set out create the worst play ever? Journalist Mike McGrady got 23 friends to each contribute a chapter to what he hoped would be the worst book ever, to prove that the public likes its trash. It worked. 'Naked Came The Stranger' by Penelope Ashe became a best-seller. James Redfield framed his lessons on existence in the form of a fable called 'The 'Celestine Prophesy'. Despite the characters being paper-thin and the lack of forward motion, it set epic sales figures. As did Ayn Rand's 'Atlas Shrugged' which did away with plot and character development all together in favour of a 60 page speech explaining her wacky philosophies. Somers ends his list of bad best sellers with 'Jonathan Livingston Seagull' by Richard Bach; more self-help in the guise of a novel, and how much can you expect to learn from a gull anyway. They're not exactly the Einsteins of the aviary world. It was required reading for me in high school. I never read it. Any of these titles would make a great gift for that naughty person on your list. Maybe pair it with something by Justin Bieber.

 

Facebook - The Depressing Social Network

 

If I could count Mark Zuckerberg amongst my facebook friends, right about now would be  when I would give him the old heave ho. New research co-authored by Izak Benbasat at UBC's Sauder School of Business concludes that this insidious social platform can be linked to depression, anxiety and narcissistic behaviour. The study identifies the root of the problem which is that Facebook allows us to create a larger social network than ever before; much larger than our circle of family and friends. As an example of how this can be depressing, it points to the practice of posting sunny holiday shots and photos of us looking at our very best as instilling a sense of jealousy in others, making their lives appear unfulfilled by comparison; and so begins a vicious cycle of one-upmanship. Professor Benbasat says, "We found envy to be the missing link." And, I find that odd. Not that I'm immune to envy but I like looking at other people's holiday shots, smiling, looking good and having fun. It might even motivate me to get out of my funk and do something to lift my own spirits. No, my own facebook anxiety stems from the root problem of having too many FB friends, some of which are quite frankly whack. I mean they're nice enough on the surface but they come with some pretty crazy ideas about the issues of the day and that's what really gets under my skin. I don't expect everyone to agree with me on every topic. It wouldn't be very interesting if they did. But, honestly, I know I'm not alone because I've had other friends take facebook time-outs, announcing that they will rejoin the 'hive mind' after a break. But, that's not really accurate either, because in a hive mind, every one thinks alike. If we've learned anything from the Borg, it's that. Yet, Zuckerberg and Co. refuse to equip their platform with the simplest and most elegant solution; the Dislike or Disagree button because they figure it would send the wrong message. I agree to disagree, and think facebook needs to revisit the model if it's making the people who use it supremely unhappy.

 

Science says Bass is the Place

 

My bff and guitar player in our band gave me a hoodie for Christmas a couple of years back. On the chest it says ‘Awesome Bass Player, and humble, too!’ I still wear it proudly even though I’m neither awesome nor particularly humble. But, it illustrates the disconnect between the bass player’s perceived second class status in the band and the truth, which new research by scientists at Canada’s McMaster Institute for Music and the Mind has conclusively proven; bass rocks our world. It ain’t rocket surgery either but it’s interesting. Test subjects were asked to tap their fingers along with rhythms which were lightly seasoned with mistakes. The rhythms were played at differing frequencies. Results showed that people could pick out the mistakes easier at lower or bass frequencies that at higher frequencies, so our brains are wired to perceive rhythms in lower registers. But, it’s also a mechanical function of our ears. When you start to lose your hearing for instance, it’s the higher frequencies that go first. But, what makes this interesting from a global music perspective is that no matter where you go on this planet and what you’re listening to, from classical Indian to Gamelan music from Java, it is always the lower registered sounds that drive the rhythm. It gets even more primal when you take hearing out of the equation. In the womb we don’t hear mommy’s heartbeat, we feel it; same goes for buddy in the car next to you at the light whose subwoofers are rattling his license plates. That’s why we all love it when the DJ drops the beat and that’s why the humble bass player should be worshipped as the music god he/she/we are. BTW, this week you have the opportunity to download Metallica bassist, Robert Trujillo’s new documentary, Jaco, chronicling the life and loss of one of the greatest bassists ever, Jaco Pastorius. A DVD/Blueray hardcopy is also available in celebration of Record Store Day.

 

 

Rock recordings from the dearly departed

 

Recently the Vancouver Sun ran a music opinion piece, (which is dangerous to begin with because there are as many opinions about music as there are musicians making it). Under the banner, 'Let Dead artists rest in peace' - We should feel shame paying money for posthumous albums, like Kurt Cobain's latest, the documentary soundtrack to Montage of Heck: The Home Recordings. The journalist was obviously so passionately against the release of posthumous material that he/she finished the piece with a plea for artists to be proactive in destroying unfinished or unreleasable material or leaving orders for their executor to do it once said artist shrugs off this mortal coil. Ironically, in the sidebar, 5 very good examples are provided of posthumous recordings that provided valuable insights and made substantial contributions to the parted artist's body of work, like 'Made In Heaven', released 4 years after Freddy Mercury's death. His condition provided enough time for him to record as many vocals to new material as he could, which he asked the band to finish for him. There's 'Cry Of Love' released in 1971. At the time of his passing, Jimi Hendrix was working on a double album so there was lots of new material to package for posterity. My point is, yes, these music legends never intended some of this material to be heard, but these performers probably never in their wildest dreams imagined that they would still, today, means so much to so many rabid fans who are willing to drop hard earned bucks to hear Kurt Cobain for instance, burp and fart his way through some home recordings in the rough. Is Kurt embarrassed that this material is being paraded in public? I dunno. Why don't you ask him? Certainly art belongs in the hands of the living, but let's face it, rock has lost its way and rock idols are a thing of the past. Let's forgive those want to hold onto every shred of work from artists who really mattered in better times.

 

 

Iran's Musical Emancipation

Putting the wraps on Remembrance Week, we Canadians are feeling especially grateful for the freedoms we enjoy; freedoms won at the cost of thousands of lives given in wartime. The recent federal election hammered home just how seriously we take those freedoms when we feel they are being threatened. So just imagine the mood of next gen Iranians who for 20 years have been living under a music ban which today is grudgingly and gradually being lifted under their new and relatively moderate president Hassan Rouhani. Iranians remember that not too long ago only Iranian traditional music, performed only by Iranians could be heard. Radio or television broadcasts and live concerts of music, Iranian or foreign were crimes. 34 year old Amir Khaki lives like musicians anywhere in the world, earning a pay cheque by day at the foreign exchange office and following his musical muse at night. "I've never seen such an open and flourishing environment as these two recent years." he says.  "I don't say there are not restrictions now, but I don't doubt that a new generation can make a revolution in our music industry." And, what kind of music do Iranians want to make? 18 year old Tehran native, Aryo exclaims "Metal music is great. We listen to everything from hard rock bands such as AC/DC to power metal bands such as Helloween, even Scandinavian death and black metal bands. We love metal music." Well, there goes the neighborhood! But, Amir Khaki has a different take on it that's surprising and he offers insight with this example: "an American musician may be able to play the kamancheh (a traditional Iranian instrument) technically well, but he cannot convey its real feelings. It is the same for rock music. We gradually realized that instead of imitating Western rock or metal, we needed to create our own music – music that belongs to this land." So, after decades of being the only game in town, traditional Iranian music still resonates with young artists, who ultimately will be the ones to preserve it and renew it. There's irony for ya.

 

 

Global Artists Lost & Found

 

Compared to the stars of the pop music machine, global artists make their music in relative obscurity. But, that's not to say they don't have incredible stories to tell. There's the story of Puerto Rican innovator, Abraham Gomez-Delgado who, for more than a decade thrived on being at the centre of the massive musical conversation of an avant-garde Latin big band. He left that behind, moved to the Bronx and pursued a degree and professorship in Sound Art at Bard College. But he missed all those voices and ideas, so he invented his own instrument which he called Eje. The complex setup allowed him to come home, close the door and become a one man salsa band. Then, one winter, the heat didn't work in his tiny apartment, bills were piling up and he fell into a deep depression. He sought help and was prescribed pills which left him in a deadened stasis. No longer able to handle the company of other humans, he immersed himself in the Eje and shut out the world. Somehow he began  a relationship with his current partner, jewellery designer, Olia Toporovsky. She recognized the need to ween him off the pills. As his soul gradually reawakened through her efforts and the power of the musical instrument he had invented, his senses reopened and eventually he revived the band, Zemog El Gallo Bueno. He's just released ' The You You Me Tu Trilogy', a collection of  lost songs and startling new material that hints at the future.

 

Profound Shower Thoughts

 

Hey Canada, I'm glad we've cleared the air of all that divisiveness, because I'm here to tell  you there are two kinds of people in the world; bath people and shower people. We all start out as bath people. Nobody ever said, "Don't throw the baby out with he shower water." Personally, I've grown out of baths. I don't have the time to soak and I can't figure out how you can get clean by stewing in your own juices. Our laneway home is big enough for one or the other so we chose a spa-like rain shower which I adore for the 5 minutes I'm in there. What's surprising is that in those brief moments you are prone to profound thoughts. No, you won't find the key to cold fusion in 5 minutes. Teenage boys have plenty of profound thoughts in the shower, but they take 20 minutes to half and hour! Tikld.com  offers a list of profound shower thoughts and I thought you might enjoy hearing a couple. For instance, the object of golf is to play the least amount of golf. Presumably, so you can spend more quality time in the clubhouse bar. The sinking of the Titanic must have been a miracle to the lobsters in the kitchen. I can't speak crustacean so I'll assume that's true. April Fools Day is the one day of the year that people critically evaluate news articles before accepting them as true. True dat. Since smart watches can now read your pulse, there should be a feature that erases your browser history if your heart stops beating. Always thinking, thinking. And, this one's kinda dark but worthy of sharing; Waterboarding at Guantanamo Bay sounds super rad if you don't know what either of those things are. Happy thoughts when you hit the shower

 

World Beat Canada on Roundhouse Radio

 

Oh, this is a special week for us. Give me a sec. to reintroduce the program for the uninitiated and introduce a new voice to the airwaves. 983 Roundhouse Radio in Vancouver began transmitting 24 hour programming on Monday. It's a different approach to the medium; not talk radio but a conversation station. Just like its First Nations namesake, Roundhouse is a gathering place for Vancouvercentric issues and ideas, broadcasting at street level in the original working heart of the city. Even its showstopping control room was designed in the round to encourage the dialogue. And, our role in this, you ask? Well, for these 2 hours every Saturday night we make the conversation global through the universal language of music, reflecting the cultural vibrancy of urban centres everywhere. Now, all those voices without context could be confusing and it was never our intention to just throw you in the deep end. Accessibility defines the music on World Beat Canada. Each show is an adventure but we give you familiar touchstones along the way. The concept was simple; if you took the commercial hit radio format and switched out the manufactured music mix for contemporary global sounds, but left in all the bells and whistles and added the artists' incredible stories ... what would that sound like? Well, let's find out. My name's Cal Koat and it's your World Beat, Canada, welcome to it.

 

 

I Want My Dislike Button!

 

According to the Smithsonian, Forest Gump did not invent the 'smiley face' It's believed to be the handiwork of the late Harvey Ross Ball, an American graphic artist and ad man who came up with the image in 1963 when he was commissioned to create a morale booster for an insurance company. With it came the salutation, "Have a nice day" and the world's first emoticon was born. This past week in Spain and Ireland, Facebook users began testing 6 new takes on the smiley face designed to accompany the regular thumbs up 'like button' on the social platform. The seven dwarfs of emotion include; ha ha face, yay face, wow face, sad face and angry face (whose reddish tint on the familiar yellow can only indicate real hypertension issues). Oh, and you can 'heart' someone with the new love emoji. All of this, as a PC alternative to what many like my self have been wanting for years, which is a simple thumbs down, dislike button. Adam Mosseri, head of Facebook's new team says the ability to dislike posts "wouldn't be in the spirit of the product we're trying to build." Maybe so, but cluttering up the feed with a bunch of adolescent emoji, I think will only lead to more misinterpretation of what it is about a post that caused you to react emotionally. Example: your perennial conspiracy theorist FB friend posts supposed new evidence that the first moon landing was staged. You, knowing that to be crock, respond with an angry emoji. Your friend is left to figure out if the fact that we were duped by an evil propaganda machine during the cold war made me angry or if I disagree entirely with the assertion that the moon landing was a hoax. I hate to sound like Mr. Spock (rest his soul) but isn't the friendliest, sober-minded, analytical approach to keep emotions out of it and respond in the negative or the positive? Wouldn't it be easier to gage the responses to your post if you could just count up the likes and dislikes? I'm just saying, when you attach emotion to a response it means that to a degree, you've taken it personally, and I don't think hurt feelings are in the "spirit of the product" either. Sometimes it's best to just agree to disagree. What do you think? Let me know at the worldbeatcanada facebook page.

 

 

Stories In The Sidebar

 

I’m a news hound and I get my daily fill from many different sources like electronic and social media but I also like to kick it old skool with the newspaper. Not the online edition, not even the freebies you take on the bus when your phone is almost out of juice, no I’m talkin’ the tree hungry broadsheet dropped at my door by some wonderful carrier who gets up way before I do. There’s no denying it’s a user-friendly interface and everybody has their own way to read it. I skip right to the letters because they express the opinions of real people grappling with the issues, just like Facebook, without the cute cats. I save the comics for lunch. That’s about as long as I can wait to catch up with Rex Morgan MD. And, I always make a point of scanning the sidebars, because often that’s were the oddspots live and those can be fascinating. This past week the sidebars were brimming with Stupid Pet Tricks and Darwin Award nominees. Two people in Northern Mexico died in a car crash because the airbags had been replaced with bricks of cocaine which don’t absorb impact nearly as well. A dog drove a truck into a lake in Ellsworth, Maine. His human put him in the running truck after an encounter with another dog owner. While the two hashed things out the Yorkshire Terrier put his ride in gear and headed for open water. And, we wrap another animal roundup. Beatrice the emu had been running wild through New Hampshire for a week before his owner, Kermit Blackwood was able to retrieve him and take him home to Vermont, apparently in the back of a Toyota Prius. I did not know they had that much cargo space. And, isn’t it odd that Kermit has a big bird?

 

 

 

Happy 40th Rocky Horror!

 

I would like, if I may to take you on a strange journey. The Rocky Horror Picture Show turned 40 on September 26th, and this could very be the first time you heard those opening words from Charles Gray, the criminologist/narrator, unless of course you caught the flick on TV in the safety of your living room. In the theatre his words would have been lost in the din of boos and chants of boring, because Rocky Horror was the first and, as far as I know, only feature film that actually encouraged audience participation, especially at key moments, including any time Charles Gray appeared on screen. James Bond fans will recall him as the villain,  Ernst Blofeld in Diamonds Are Forever. Some savvy friends told me what to bring to my indoctrination into Rocky Horror culture, a midnight showing at the Langley Twin Cinemas. ‘Must have’ action items included rice for the wedding, a squirt gun for the stormy night, and a flashlight for the light over at the Frankenstein Place. I remember the movie was restricted; I’m guessing because it exposed some (at that time) social taboos, such as cross-dressing, bisexuality, incest and mass Time Warping, which all seem pretty tame by today’s standards. Oh, there is cannibalism, but come on, isn’t Meatloaf everybody’s favorite comfort food?  But, what I find totally revealing is, despite all its cornball, campy cultiness, the music, the story and the indelible characters of Rocky Horror still stand up, 40 years later. Millennials can show you a jump to the left and a jump to the right as well as their parents can put their hands on their hips and bring their knees in tight; and we all still feel a little prickle of sadness when Dr. Frankenfurter meets his end at the hands of Riff-Raff and his evil sister, Magenta, especially when his pleas for mercy through smeared mascara fall on deaf ears. Yes, his lifestyle was too extreme, but meh, who are we to judge? And, as far as horror goes, the only truly scary thing about the movie is how damn good pop-eyed Tim Curry looked in mascara, and man could he ever belt out a tune! 40 years on, Frankenfurter is still a sweet transvestite and the Rocky Horror Picture Show is still a blast.

 

Life’s No Contest

 

Since when did life and everything we do in it become a contest? Well, apparently since prehistory, but that’s not the point. No matter what you do or what you pursue, there's a contest for that. And, for me anyway it’s taking the fun out of some of life's greatest pleasures. Now, talent contests have been around for ever but music contests or to use the vernacular, 'band wars' have become all pervasive. The long list for this year's Polaris Music Prize has been announced, whittling the massive field down to 40 acts with 40 albums vying for the 50 thousand dollar grand prize. Those standing on the bodies of the fallen include such sensitively named projects as Viet Cong from Calgary with their self-titled release and B. A. Johnston's 'Shit Sucks'. We really are scraping the very bottom of the band name barrel these days, but that's a topic for another rant. But, apparently the gloves really came off behind the closed doors of the Polaris Prize jury deliberations. Johnnie Regalado was called and wrote a piece for Canadalandshow called 'I was a Polaris Juror and it Sucked'. Johnnie 'splains, "Instead of discussing music and artists, I faced a hostile boy's club atmosphere. Discussions about music were a distant second to bullying and overblown egos. And, that's the thing about contests isn't it? Eventually feelings get hurt and sometimes it even comes to blows. Another one of life's little pleasures, eating has been exploited by contest culture. In Danville, Kentucky, a woman was hit in the head, neck and shoulder by a hot flying brisket at the annual BBQ contest. 42 year old Mike Owings told officers he threw the brisket because he lost his temper, presumably after losing, in a case of what may best be described as ' Roast Rage'.

 

 

Why the new Colbert is leaving me cold

 

I love satire. So, is it any wonder I made a case study of Stephen Colbert over the years? And, I learned a lot. His entire shtick was a satirical shot at the far right in America. Talk about mining a rich vein of material! But, I also adored his word playfulness. When he'd drop a particularly creative gem, I’d scramble from the couch to grab a pen and paper so I could remember it in the morning and steal it later. It was a special treat when he would tease Canadians, during the Rob Ford meltdown for instance, and his visit to Vancouver for the 2010 Winter Olympics was a highlight for me. As he pointed out during his debut as the new Late Show host, settling his butt in the chair vacated by the great David Letterman (whom I've also learned so much from); "I used to play a Republican narcissist," admitted Colbert,  "now I'm just a narcissist." And, maybe there's a truthiness in that admission that's leaving me cold after the first week. Colbert's too much of an original to simply pick up where Letterman left off but for starters, I'm not feeling the love for New York that used to radiate out from the Ed Sullivan Theatre, like getting to know the neighborhood with visits to the hole in the wall Hello Deli for a chat with the equally unremarkable Rupert Jee, or how about the tacky souvenir-floggers from Bangladesh, Mujibur and Sirajul? Classic stuff away from the set. Now, one week is hardly enough time for Colbert to get used to his immediate surroundings in studio but I hope that once he finds his legs he puts his own spin on the man in the street'. My final gripe in this preliminary critique is for the band of Jon Batiste. The multi-talented Louisiana bandleader was no doubt a calculated choice By South Carolinian Colbert to bring some Southern spice to the Big Apple. But, once again, there are big shoes to fill in the absence of Paul Shafer and the CBS Orchestra. Paul and the band had the bombast necessary to keep the energy up after midnight when viewers are starting to fade. They would wake you up from a commercial break stupor with 10 seconds of powerful punchiness. Batiste's melodica solos and eclectic arrangement of sidemen simply don't rock hard enough. But hey, I know everyone's just getting their feet wet at this point, and Stephen's binge on Donald Trump and Oreos that launched his first shot at The Late Show was classic Colbert.  Let's see how he fairs this week.

 

 

New Anxiety Apps
 


The hazy, lazy care-free summer lifestyle is rapidly ramping up to the anxious, activated buzz of autumn. It’s not just school kids who feel it.  After years of conditioning during our most impressionable years, I’m sure I’m not the only one who considers this a time of new starts and renewed efforts to carve out a better life. Some people feed on it, while others become increasingly trepidacious and sleep-deprived which can lead to some serious mental health issues. But, buck up buttercup, there’s an app for that. Actually, there are several new ones available for your smart device. A wonderful article in the Vancouver Sun looked at the pros and cons of the new breed of therapist in a box. The clever names make you want to come up with your own. There’s Headspace or Calm and Buddhify for meditation, Sleepio for insomniacs, even Pacifica and Joyable which employ Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, a therapeutic treatment that trains you to replace negative thoughts with positive ones. Simply put, how to turn that frown upside down. That’s an app I’d like to call iFreud.  But, it’s the meditation apps that are taking the most flack, because meditation is an ancient art which the apps cannot do justice without the personal training. Author David McMahan explains, “Meditation was invented with the idea of lessening people’s anxiety and decreasing what Buddhists call The Three Poisons; greed, hatred and ignorance.” If corporations are greedily making big bucks off these apps it makes for pretty crappy karma. Also, in today’s world of instant gratification, forgoing the master/padawan relationship in favor of a quick-fix app is kinda greedy in of itself. I mean, come on! Who has time to lie on a couch sharing fears and frustrations with a therapist? Today, we only have time to consult our phones for psycho-analysis, preferably in 140 characters or less. 

 

Bachelor of Beyonce Degree

 

Welcome back to school kiddies. I'm Mr. Koat and I'll be your guide to our continuing exploration of contemporary ethnomusicology. This should be an easy way to buy yourself some course credits. Puffball electives go all the way back to junior high-school. the first place where the system finally gives cunning young minds a choice in how to waste at least a portion of their valuable eduction. My buddy and I chose our first puffball elective course in 9th grade enrolling in a home ec class because, well, the teacher was kinda hot and we wanted to see if we could justify ordering a bag of potato chips as an essential ingredient for one of our recipes. Of course it's university where the stakes are as high as the tuition and potato chips to go with your Liberal Arts degree come in many different flavours. At Chapman University in Southern California you can take a course in the movies of Quentin Tarantino, while Tiffin University in Ohio lets you study the music, lyrics and history of Canadian rock icons Rush (come to think of it you could learn a lot in that program). Now The Universities of Victoria, British Columbia and Waterloo, Ontario offer students Beyonce 101. While I admit there is a certain allure to carefully studying Destiny's most famous Child from head to toe, what possible knowledge can enrollees take from this course to enrich their lives and prepare them for the job market (apart from a potential ET correspondent or TMZ paparazzo)? UVic's Melissa Avdeeff explains that 20 somethings have "had Beyonce in their lives their entire lives." Which I guess means you won't find the course offered as part of their adult education programs. Meanwhile, in Waterloo, instructor Naila Keleta-Mae points to Mrs. Carter's self-titled visual album which she figures, "operates on on many platforms. She spoke about wanting all of these videos thought of as a movie of sorts." Which, come to think of it, no Tommy by The Who or Pink Floyd's The Wall has ever realized before. Keleta-Mae says Beyonce's use of digital media as an informational resource speaks a lot to the moment that we're in." And, if you're just figuring that one out for yourself, good luck with bread and butter courses which will actually try teach you something useful, if you can pocket your phone for an hour or so. Best wishes to the class of 2015, don't forget to learn something.

 

Creative Careers: Better or Worse in Digital 

 

July 11, 2000, the demise of  the creative career was thought to be forged in metal when Lars Ulrich of Metallica squared off against Napster in front of a senate judiciary committee. Ultimately, metal slew the digital demons on that day, resigning Napster to the depths of bankruptcy.  But, 15 years later in the face multiple digital streaming services, musicians continue to sing the 'dirt wages blues'. But, according to author, Steven Johnson in a massive 30 paragraph article for the New York Times, the numbers are actually painting a much rosier picture. For the attention defected, here's the gist of The Creative Apocalypse That Wasn't. Yes, recorded music is not the main bread winner it once was. People are spending less on recordings it's true, but they are spending more on average for concert tickets (when was the last time you heard a major recording artist echo Tom Petty's classic promise to put an affordable ceiling on what his fans would have to pay to see him play?). Sky's the limit these days and people are willing to cough it up. In place of massive studio rental fees, samples from suppliers like Native Instruments, give home producers the ability to dress their compositions with Abbey Road ambience, string ensembles or proto-synth mellotron cool for a couple of grand. Distribute and sell immediately through Bandcamp, expose through Souncloud on social media, connect with gaming, film and television marketing seeking out original compositions for their latest soundtracks for big bucks. Pinpoint your fanbase anywhere in the world. Kickstart your tour and after a flurry DYI project, it turns out musicians are still starving but actually less than at the turn of the 21st century, and the same goes for anyone trying to carve out a creative career, be it music, writing, art or otherwise. There are just many, many more possible roads to success. 

 

Masterdebaters

 

Last week saw a watershed moment in North American politics. Jon Stewart, the man who reinvented 'the fake news' to include conscience and truthiness, becoming the most trusted voice of news and politics for a whole generation of disengaged electorate north and south of the 49th, stepped away from The Daily Show after 16 years. Oh ya, and there were some kind of televised leadership debates in both Canada and the US as well. In the Republican presidential candidate debate, some interesting sparring took place but the spectacle far from produced a clear victor. The only sure thing; that front-runner, Donald Trump, who promised to be civil, was anything but, lashing out again at the sinister Mexican government. At least he conceded women are not all stupid and ugly as he previously decreed (expect for Rosie O'Donnell of course). Here in Canada the four federal party leaders went mouth to mouth for the cameras producing neither a clear winner nor loser, because that's the polite Canadian thing to do. But, isn't it ironic that the disenfranchised generation of voters the leaders desperately want to make an impression on have all but given up on network television, the forum for these master debaters? Prime Minister Stephen Harper who probably resonates the least with said next gens, cunning as ever anticipated this by releasing a promotional video prior to the debate, in which he promised to allow Nettflix to operate freely in Canada, despite howls of protest from Canadian media giants. Also on the eve of the debate he decided to lift the ban on Czech and Swiss Army automatic rifles, recognizing that gun-owners are some of the few friends he has left in our 'Anyone But Harper' pre-election climate. I'm assuming the Swiss Army rifles also function as a corkscrew and nail file. Ted Cruz fried bacon on one so presumably they're not just for riddling things with bullets anymore. "Time to dust off your newly freed rifles and post pictures of them", encouraged the Canadian Gun Nutz web forum. That's nuts with a Zed for added cuteness. Because, when all is said and done, guns don't kill people, gun nutz kill people. Where's Jon Stewart when you need him most?

 

This is not another Cecil love letter

 

The truth is I wouldn’t be able to tell Cecil the lion from the MGM lion and the other lions living without names. They’re all magnificent creatures. Although I think those two professional guides who were bribed to look the other way, knew him well by his telltale black mane. The same goes for Dr. Dickhead the dentist, sometimes you can judge a book by its cover; that incandescent fake white smile and the slightly oblong phallus cranium are the first glimpses into this guy’s character. And, he’s a trophy hunter which only underlines the fact that he’s overcompensating for inadequacies below the belt. But, what’s with the crossbow? Does that just add gravitas to the subsequent story he tells about how he bagged a charging beast armed with nothing more than a bow and arrow? Which brings us to the really galling part of this whole sad story, this guy is a man of modern medicine. Pain abatement is what 21st century dentistry is all about. Yet, not only did he shoot Cecil with an antiquated and underpowered instrument, as if to draw out the thrill of the hunt, he went back to camp or wherever for a good  sleep while the mortally wounded creature suffered through the night. Then the next day he went back to finish the job. Social media was suitably outraged, yet not everyone can eloquently express their feelings in 140 characters or less, so there was a steady stream of threats and vitriol leading some to question whether this kind of public shaming is sending the right message to our kids. Well, hell yes. It says that as human beings we haven’t completely broken our moral compass. It says this kind of barbarism is no longer tolerated in civilized society, And, it worked. Face it, Dr. Dickhead’s practice is toast. Nobody wants to have their teeth whitened by the guy who beheaded the Lion King. He’ll never be able to raise another 60,000 dollars to satiate his bloodlust again. He’s in hiding and I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s contemplating ending it all instead of being extradited to face jail time in Zimbabwe. After all, that’s what cowards do don’t they?

 

 

Congrats Worldbeaters! UBC study says you have class.

 

Thank goodness billions of people apparently think Taylor and Kanye are the cat's ass and just ass respectively. Because if the talented worldbeat artists we hear each week on this program were prone to that kind of massive popularity, we, as fans, would no longer feel special about our unusually cultured musical tastes. Oh, I hear ya. There's no need for that kind of snotty smugness when it comes to musical tastes. After all, it's all subjective anyway. One's taste in music has little to do with intelligence or status. "Wrong", says University of British Columbia Department of Sociology professor, Gerry Veenstra. His study of social class and how it informs our cultural attitudes was recently published in the Canadian Review of Sociology. "Breadth of taste is not linked to class", Vennstra explains, "but class filters into specific likes and dislikes."  The sample group included nearly 1,600 telephone interviews with adults in Vancouver and Toronto who were quizzed on their preferences for 21 different musical genres. Here are the facts, Jack; like 'em or not. Poorer, less-educated people tended to like country, disco, easy listening, golden oldies, heavy metal and rap (presumably not at the same time which would certainly elevate their status). Wealthier, well-educated people prefer classical, blues, jazz, opera, choral, pop, reggae, rock and, you guessed it, world music. Apparently, this is a hotly debated subject amongst sociologists; whether class is accompanied by specific cultural tastes and whether "elites' are defined by a broad palette of preferences which sets them apart.  Veenstra's study also showed that what people don't like listening to plays a key role in creating class boundaries. "What upper class people like is disliked by the lower class and vice versa," says Veenstra.  Of course, at worldbeatcanada, our philosophy has always been to deliver music without borders or boundaries, social status or otherwise and this study would seem to reflect favorably on those who enjoy a wide variety of influences in their listening material. The dark side of the study however is a sad comment on society. When the Taylors and Kanye's of the world achieve astronomical popularity does that underline a groundswell of people who are poor and under-educated? For the sake of society, let's hope not.

 

Think transit's just a local joke? Think again!

 

I don't mean to flog a dead horse. That's why we have the Calgary Stampede. In this instance it is the recently defeated, but oh still contentious transit plebicite in Metro Vancouver. A Yes vote would have ensured funding put in place to upgrade our transit system in light of the hundreds of thousands new residents expected to move here by 2020, a system which is currently overwhelmed to the tipping point. The NO side is patting itself on its back for reflecting the sober judgement of Metro voters not to take the first proposed package they're offered, citing incompetence of the part of Translink, the government-appointed operator to make solid, cost effective procurements, upgrades and maintenance of the system. Many a comparison has been make to other rapid or light transit systems in other cities that are oh so tickedy-boo. Cities like Portland, San Francisco, Tokyo and Paris among others where apparently no mistakes have or will ever be made. So this international item brought a bit of a smile to my face. French rail chiefs are being accused of failing to measure up after ordering new trains from Canadian manufacturer Bombardier that are a few millimeters too high to pass through tunnels into Italy! Gee, that would be embarrassing enough, if it wasn't for the fact that this miscalculation follows a recent uproar caused by the previous order of trains which turned out to be too fat for 1300 of France's rail platforms, Incroyable! Back on this side of the pond, I guess Bombardier's designers are grappling with the new challenge of dropping the trains like low-riders. Maybe they can get them to bounce up and down too. That would be sick. And, in Vancouver, Translink's  management has been flushed out the door while residents, mayors and the provincial government desperately seek Plan B where none existed before. My advice would be not to look too hard at the solutions that have worked else where. They might not be a good fit for us.

 

Bubble Wrap addicts to go 'Cold Turkey'

 

Truth be told, I have a classic addictive personality. Fortunately, I also seem to know when to stop abusing whatever I'm addicted to at the moment. I quit smoking long ago, I love coffee but have been decafinated for years. Robert Palmer told me, " You might as well face it, you 're addicted to love." But, I was never addicted to the music of Robert Palmer. No, for me it's bubble wrap. Not the tiny Aspirin sized bubbles on the inside of mail out envelopes. I'm talking the super-sized Sci-Fi B movie stuff that you can get a real bang out of. Well, fellow bubble wrap junkies, chasing this dragon is coming to an end and the only cure is Cold Turkey. The manufacturer of Bubble Wrap (which it the brand name by the way) has re-invented the product so that when you squish the air out of one bubble, it just transfers to another. Insidious not? So, what is the deal and why do we Jones for busting bubbles? It turns out that like all quirks of human behavior, some psychologist somewhere has written a study on it. That would be Kathleen M. Dillon from Western New England College. Professor Dillon suggests it all has to do with the calming powers of touch. "In ancient Greece it was customary, and is still in so much of Asia, to carry a smooth-surfaced stone, or amber, or jade, sometimes called a 'fingering piece.' Such a 'worry-bead,' as it is also named, by its pleasant feel, serves to produce a calming effect. The telling of beads by religious Catholics seems to produce a similar result.", she reasons. Attacking a sheet of Bubble Wrap can produce the same kind of satisfaction as doing needlepoint for instance. Busy hands are happy hands. Maybe I'll stock up on a few sheets to get me through the first week or so of withdrawal.

 

 

Is America ready for the first female President? Canada is.

 

Well happy 148th year of confederation, Canada and God bless America; a happy Independence day to our brothers of different mothers, or as the British like to say, "Thanks for nothing ungrateful colonists." Personally, I can't think of a country I'd rather live next door to ... you're in the 10 best anyway ... at least in the top 50 percentile. But, surely I jest. Canadians are rabid consumers of America's brand of pop culture, news makers and polarized politics. We have our own federal election coming up in the fall and the issues, ideologies and candidates are equally as contentious as anything in the States. We just have 3 major parties instead of two, or as they say in Quebec, a 'menage a twits'. Funny thing though, Canadians seem to be much more in consensus on who should be President than who should be Prime Minister. It's common knowledge that Canadians have an ongoing love affair with Barack Obama and conversely believe George W. Bush is solely responsible for the decline and fall of the Middle East. And, there's no love lost between us and ex-pats either. According to a Mainstreet Research survey commissioned by Postmedia, a whopping 72 percent of Canadians said that if they had the chance, they would vote for Hillary Clinton as the next US president. More telling than that, 11 percent were not sure, leaving just 16 percent who backed Jeb Bush. As for Calgary born Senator Ted Cruz? He ranked dead last amongst Canadians, scraping the bottom of the barrel with Marco Rubio, Rand Paul and the Donald. Here at home, we're no way near as enthralled with our own commander in chief. Prime Minister Stephen Harper is not so enjoying his current, historically low approval rating of 32 percent. That's with a boat anchor not a bullet. So while we're contemplating sharing even more resources across the longest friendly border in the world, let's consider human resources as well. While Canadians may have their own thoughts on the matter, we would never presume to tell you who to vote for. But, we like how you've been choosing lately and we're liking the lady in the race to 2016. And, to Congress, after you finish pummeling your current prez until his hair is white as snow, can we have him? I think Obama would be a great senate appointment. We're not having much luck with our current batch of those weasels either.

 

 

RIP - Chris Squire

 

Let me tell you a story. Back around 1980 I got a Mel Bay book, rented a bass guitar and decided I would follow the musical path chosen by my heroes like Paul McCartney, Jack Bruce, John Entwistle and, way out there in the unfathomable reaches of bass playing excellence, Chris Squire from the prog rock band, Yes. I would listen to his iconic line on their biggest hit, Roundabout, bedazzled and bewildered by the speed and intricacy of the riff. I don't think I'll ever be able to to duplicate it. It remains the unobtainable. But, more than anything else I fell in love the unique, unmistakable sound of his instrument; the Rickenbacker bass. Not only is it the coolest looking bass on the planet, with its raked body, chrome hardware, long, elegant neck and crown-like headstock, it has an inherent growl and buzz like a muscle car exhaust note. It bites and claws its way through the densest of arrangements to make its voice heard. Chris Squire made it even more pronounced by picking it with a shaved down shilling piece. I ended up buying a second hand Ricky as I knew I eventually would. One day, the rental house I was sharing with friends was broken into and the Ricky was gone. To my credit I had insurance. Wayne in the bass department at my favorite music store didn't have any Rickys for me to look at as a replacement but noted that the factory was releasing a short run of Chris Squire Signature Edition basses which featured custom tweaks and millwork designed by the bass great himself. Could I even presume to go there? Me, with my merely adequate abilities? Hell ya! This weekend, Chris Squire lost his battle with acute erythroid leukemia. He was 67 years old. Once again, I'm left looking at his name on my bass, wondering whether I'm worthy. Here's what he had to say on the subject, “There’s so much choice of what you can do whether you are gifted or dumb, qualified or not. I mean, someone like me with no great academic ability can be successful.” Chris Squire was, for the better part of 50 years, and he’ll be much missed.

 

 

Populist vs. Popular Music

 

Well, that couldn’t have gone better; one sublime evening shore side, two idyllic afternoons in the sunshine, 12 incomparable bands, and one World Beat Stage at the 27th Annual Rio Tinto Alcan Dragon Boat Festival. Since the inception of the stage in 2000, I can’t recall a more satisfying experience.  I produce and present this event every year for the Canadian International Dragon Boat Festival Society, a not for profit that not only hosts North America’s largest Dragon Boat regatta, but promotes environmentally-friendly paddle sports throughout the year as a way of instilling positive values in inner city youth, building corporate team spirit and fostering culture, community and competition all in one boat. The World Beat Stage is my personal contribution to the event and a great honour. I am entrusted each year by the board of directors to program and host the stage as a reflection of the community we live in, which brings me again to the question, why isn’t contemporary global music more popular than it is? Friday evening, Saturday and Sunday afternoons played out to large, enthusiastic crowds who couldn’t possibly have heard much of this music before, but I do feel that the stage became a mirror into which they could peer and see themselves in all their diversity and vibrancy. Add to that the fact that much of global music is conceived in equatorial climates, the sunshine, the warmth and the spirit of celebration gave meaning, purpose, relevancy and context to these Caribbean. Latin, South Asian and African grooves. It all makes perfect sense in the summer sun. That’s why people move they do they do to these rhythms. No, World Music is not popular. Not by a long shot. But, it is Populist music, for everyday people, by everyday people and for the World Beat Stage this past weekend, the everyday was extraordinary. My thanks to, in order of appearance, Locarno, The Paperboys, Jocelyn Pettit, Freeflow, Mazacote, Caracas, Kara-Kata Afrobeat, Naad World Fusion Collective, Coco Jafro, The John Welsh Band, En Canto Brazil Orchestra and Pacifika. You guys rock my world.

 

 

Early Summer Odd Spots 

 

It isn’t officially summer quite yet, but thanks to a high pressure system over the Pacific Northwest it certainly feels like it. And, along with that summer sunshine come further indicators that the dog days are already upon us. For me, a sure sign is the appearance of odd spots in the sidebars of the daily newspaper. You know, those weird little stories that make you question whether human beings really are the sharpest knives in the drawer. Here’s a collection from page B4 in the June 10th edition of the Vancouver Sun. ‘Resort rolls out pot-smoker special’, The 70 hectare CannaCamp in Colorado opens July 1st as a cannabis-friendly ranch resort. They won’t sell it, but you can bring your own and enjoy Mother Nature by smoking Mother Nature. It kinda gives new meaning to the term ‘dude ranch’. On to China, where rules making it easier to file laws suits seem to be inviting some frivolous claims: a man is suing actress Zhao Wei, one of the country’s biggest and richest, and star of the prime time TV series, Tiger Mom. This guy claims Zhao stared at him too intensely through his TV set causing him spiritual damage. Man, if I had a dollar for every time TV has spiritually damaged me. In Germany 102 year old Ingeborg Sylim-Rapoport wasn’t allowed to defend her doctoral thesis in 1938 under the Nazis, so she’s done so now making her the oldest doctor in Germany. Ironically, she’s neonatologist, a specialist in the care of newborns. Finally, Steve Carell may have coined the term in his performance as the 40 Year Old Virgin, but in Japan to condition is so wide-spread they even have their own brand. Middle-aged male virgins are called ‘yaramiso’. Blame the rise of single person households, a breakdown of family structures and economic emasculation. Virgin Academia offers lectures on how to establish healthy relationships as well as activities like nude life drawing classes. Presumably, if you can draw it without drooling, you’re on the road to recovery. 

 

 

Apple's battle to stay cool

 

Man, this getting old stuff just doesn't get any easier. When it comes to music, I always thought that staying current, staying relevant and staying critical were important for programmers and enthusiasts alike. Still do. But, to believe the audio world consultants and analysts, what's more important than the music itself is the format we listen on. It's hard to believe that it was 14 years ago that Apple opened the doors on the iPod-centric Apple Store for the first time, offering a new way to own music; 99 cents at a time. Well today, streaming services like Spotify, Pandora, Rdio and Jay Z's new Tidal aren't merely switching up formats like vinyl to CD to downloads before them, they're challenging the very concept of music ownership. That's why Apple recently spent 3 billion to purchase Beats headphones and more importantly the human curated Beats Music streaming service. As consultant Ken Pohlman recently told USA Today "Apple has this emotional attachment to music that in some ways was (Steve) Jobs' crowning achievement, from the iPod to iTunes. And, Apple has to remain cool." It's funny though, in this new world of streamed audio which is so intent on servicing the next generation of music consumers, it's the older, well-established adults who are most likely to pay for established brands like Beats or Pandora or Rdio to top up their smart home Sonos wireless systems and the like. The kids meanwhile are trolling the free streaming chaos of Soundcloud and even YouTube. So, it's nice to have cache and cool but when it comes to your target market, free wins out every time. Pohlman, like all consultants considers his last words to be definitive. He concludes, "Downloading is going away, we know that, so it's really about being best positioned in this new world of music." My worry is that in this new world of music, music itself seems to be of less value than ever before.

 

FM Translators – The Future of Radio

 

 
First , a big shout out to our growing list of subscribing radio stations. Starting with our new friends at WRFA-LP in Jamestown, New York, CILU. Homegrown radio in Thunderbay, WUAP-LP in Clay County, West Virginia, Dolphin Radio at Delgado Community College in New Orleans, Radio Laurier campus radio in Waterloo, Geneva Community Radio in the Finger Lakes, New York, Neopa Community Radio in Canton, Ohio, CHLY Community Radio in Nanaimo and Main Island, BC, Northwest College Radio in Powell, Wyoming, CJMP Community Radio in Powell River, BC and The Juice, CJUC, Whitehorse in the Yukon Territory. To all of you, and all of you listening on these forward-thinking carriers, Congratulations, in the new radio reality you may very well be the future of the form, or at least that’s what Bill Brady, President of Futures and Options and former big wig at Clear Channel & Citadel Comcast surmises in a recent bog post. The LP or Low Power stations are known as FM translators, with the equivalent wattage of campus radio. They’re popping up everywhere on both sides of the Canada/US Border. In urban areas they’ve been dubbed ‘Metro Stations’. And, if you think about it, they make total sense. Radio’s biggest advantage over other mediums, aside from immediacy, is localization. Here’s how Brady sees the current radio reality, “Marginal FM music formats will disappear due to lack of viability, and FM stations will vacuum up news/talk and sports format opportunities in their markets—leaving AM a wasteland of ethnic, religious and brokered time programming; something that has already happened in some markets, where the AM band is a desolate place.” Meanwhile, “ SiriusXM already has 20 million subscribers.  New automotive infotainment stacks, in-car Wi-Fi and docking stations will bring the pure-plays (streaming, personal collection listening, podcasts and the like) into the car.  Even if the current mobile trend doesn’t translate entirely to the connected car, the pure-plays will cut into broadcast radio’s share. As a result, audiences will be smaller, maybe substantially smaller, which will ultimately affect radio’s share of ad revenue.” So, if radio plays to its strengths it makes sense to downsize and localize: downsize because the bigger the station, the bigger the potential bust, and localize because all web-based media target globally not locally. Radio does community better. Best wishes to radio broadcasters everywhere. It’s what we love to do and there’s no reason to stop, just adapt.

 

 

Vancouver, it’s not for everybody

 

We’re duly proud of Vancouver, our city by the sea. If you ever visit when the rain gods aren’t angry (and they’re plenty pissed in this corner of the world) I dare you not to find any vantage of the city skyline, Coast Mountains and surrounding inlets and not be left slack-jawed by its idyllic beauty. But, it’s not for everybody and despite rave reviews from tourists, Vancity has it’s share of detractors too. And, at the risk of undermining the hard work of our tourism industry, here are some recently published criticisms of the places we Vancouverites are mostly proud of (source: Vancouver Sun). Every city has its dark corners where visitors are best to avoid, unfortunately for Vancouver two of it’s ‘historic attractions’ (I hope you’re reading my air quotes because the place is only 129 years old) border its most depressed core, the Downtown Eastside. There’s Chinatown which a critic on TripAdvisor suggested, “If you like the ghetto, you’ll love Chinatown”. The other attraction bordering the poverty of the Downtown Eastside is Gastown, the original heart of Vancouver. Another TripAdvisor contributor from Washington was so fear-stricken, “they didn’t dare stop and get out of the car. My children were almost in tears because they were so scared.” OK, that one stings a little; I mean what kind of bubble have these kids grown up in that they quake at the mere sight of the down and out? There’s the reviewer from Ohio who was nonplussed by Robson Street, our hoity-toity shopping district where he/she found the garbage cans overflowing. I couldn’t agree more. Somebody from Montreal called our infamous nudie hangout Wreck Beach “a nude haven for doper gangs and alcoholics” Probably, but how do you know they’re gangs if they’re not wearing their colours? But, one reviewer from Manchester, England had the gall to call Stanley Park, our crown jewel, a waste of space.” A waste of space?!! Hey, jolly olde Englander, Stanley Park is exactly what a temperate rainforest looks and feels like. No one can ride, walk or drive around it and not leave feeling thoroughly decompressed and happy to be alive, so there. BTW, Man United can kiss my Arsenal. 

 

Swedes invent Gaydar!

 

Ok, I’ll make this quick. Microsoft says our attention spans have shrunk from 12 seconds in 2000 to a mere 8 seconds in 2015, that’s one second less than the attention span of a goldfish and I can already start to feel you drift. What I need right here is a word that snaps you back and that word is Gaydar. Yep, those crafty Swedes have invented it. Actually, to be fair, it’s not gaydar, it’s gay sonar and for a Nordic nation that isn’t especially known for its sense of humour (although some of those Ikea ads can be hilarious) it’s a pretty sharp jab with tongue firmly in cheek, aimed at stray Russian submarines. Dubbed ‘Operation The Singing Sailor’ It’s an underwater defense installation that plays on the Russian military’s greatest fear … gaydom. The installation is the brainchild of the Swedish Peace and Arbitration Society. What those clever boots have done is place a sonar device on the Swedish archipelago which sends out a Morse Code message saying, “This way if you are gay.” Imagine being Sparky the radio man and having to relay that message to your submarine commander. And, for periscope depth, the device features a neon sign with a sailor waving a white flag and the words “Welcome to Sweden – Gay since 1944 (the year Sweden legalized homosexuality). Nothing warms up a cold war like a splash of fabulous!

 

Foodie (and other annoying foodie words)

 

Out of all the things I like to eat, food is right up there. Sure, when I've made people angry, I've been told to eat their shorts or, on occasion, eat crap and die. Thanks but no thanks. I'll stick with one of my favorites. And, while I love preparing food, cooking food and consuming food, I would never consider myself a foodie, because, frankly, I think the word is annoying. A foodie by definition is someone who likes food which kinda includes, oh I don't know ... everybody. If you don't like food, you're either at death's door or near it. And, while I'm at it. here's a short list of culinary word creations being bandied about lately which should be composted. At the top, my personal pet peeve, 'Artisanal', which essentially means the food creation didn't come off a conveyor belt and it wasn't made by robots. We already have 'Homemade' which should be sufficient, but ironically, also at the top of the list of annoying foodie words because homemade is the whole reason we choose to go to restaurants instead. Then there's 'Gourmet'. Everything can't be gourmet so in light of its overuse, we now need a new word to describe food stuff that truly is gourmet, which is why some clever boots in marketing came up with the term 'Craft'. To me craft sounds like it's made with white paste glue and construction paper. Speaking of arts and crafts, when it comes to serving food, it's all in the presentation isn't it? When it's not, it's callled 'Deconstructed', which means it sits in a heap on your plate. Where your food comes from is so terribly important these days as well, which is why many of us claim to be 'Locavores'. A locavore is someone who only eats local food and who was never hugged as a child. As long as we're totally making up words, when the hell did the simple sandwich become a 'Sammie'? If I hear someone ordering a hammie sammie, they can eat my shorts. Finally, something interesting to wash it down with? Don't ask your bartender who now has a degree in 'mixology'. BTW, you'll find the best of those working in pretentious 'Gastropubs'. All this time I thought DJs were mixologists. 

 

TIDAL: Wave or trickle in the stream?

 

I took a fall on the weekend and broke my clavicle and two ribs. Emergency sent me home with an 18 dollar sling and a prescription for pain killers. Can’t medical science mend bones like Madam Pomfrey at Hogwarts? This getting old ain’t what it’s cracked up to be. Cracked … get it? Ouch that hurt! Josh Greenberg and Sam Tarantino, the founding heads of the Grooveshark streaming service have a powerful hurt on after losing a landmark legal battle with Universal, Sony and Warner Music, Grooveshark’s signature fin out of water logo will no longer prowl the music streams. Visitors to their ex-website will find a brief letter from the two stating: “"Despite [the] best of intentions, we made very serious mistakes. We failed to secure licenses from rights holders for the vast amount of music on the service. That was wrong. We apologize Without reservation." So, a month or so after the star-studded launch of Jay Z’s artist–approved music stream, Tidal, I thought it would be a good time to check up on how the new venture is doing and how well it’s being received.  Sources say they have 60 million users right now, but I imagine nearly all of them are on the app’s free trial download. Time will tell if people are so smitten with the high fidelity service that they will be willing to fork out 20 bucks a month because, let’s be honest, people don’t like to pay for something they had already been getting for free (even  if legally questionable with even more questionable audio quality). And, what does John Q Public think of Tidal? One of the reviews at the iTunes Store summed up this way: “It's an OK start if this would be a start up or random app maker, but this is coming from Jay-Z. It's a good idea but it needs a lot more content, the radio feature does not work good. Creating a station from an artist or song works much better in Pandora, iTunes Radio has a greater variety of songs and a similar quality. On top of this you need to have good headphones, somewhat over 100 dollars. If I am expected to pay over 20 dollars for a premium service not only do I expect a quality product but also a good amount of content that I can choose from. If I see news that Jay-Z has struck a deal with major labels and the content has increased, I would certainly give it another try. To new users, definitely give it a try.” Other reviewers cited annoying bugs but those can be expected of any new app. When it comes down to it, I’ll pay for television content, but I have a far more personal relationship with my music. If I have another 20 bucks left at the end of each month, I’ll go out a buy an album.

 

Norway shows FM the doorway
 
Hooray, hooray, for the month of May. May 8th is going to be particularly interesting. My alma mater, The British Columbia Institute of Technology's Broadcast and Media department is holding their 50th anniversary. That's 50 years of polishing raw talents who would do anything to avoid a desk job, into shiny, perky radio and television professionals. Looking back, I have to admit my two years at BCIT were some of the most enjoyable times of my life. But, if the broadcast program wants to be around for another 50, it has to keep pace with a rapidly changing media landscape. Wisely, they've put together a rag tag fleet of grizzled vets like me and younger recruits from the field to serve on a Professional Advisory Committee. Our role is to give the faculty direction in terms of the kinds of skills that are relevant and necessary for radio heads to acquire these days. One sure thing has come out of these round table discussions; the transmission method is not as important as content creation is. That said, it makes anyone in the industry nervous when a forward-thinking, nordic country like Norway, pulls the plug on its FM service entirely in favour of digital. The reason? Big cost savings. Granted, Norwegians only have 5 national stations to choose from, but in 2017 those transmitters will be turned off and those outlets are going digital. It  will also open up capacity for another 40 stations of service. Fearing push back from those strapping Scandinavian seniors, the country created a digital channel just for them which has become a huge success already and I believe that's the ticket for broadcasting on digital. The internet is a global marketplace,  there's no room for the traditional 'broad' casting form where you cast your net as wide as possible. Radio needs to be a specialist on the net. Conversely, radio's greatest strength is it's ability to localize. Low power FM transmission will become increasingly more important for communities and campuses with the kind of station you may be listening to us on right now. I'm not sure about the future of hit radio or the audio wallpaper stations but for those willing to think outside of the box with the dial on it, these could be exciting times.

 

 

A Good Head on Someone Else's Shoulders

 

No branch of science bumps up against the big questions of ethics and morality more than medicine because, let's face it, it deals directly with us as human beings and we're kinda sensitive about these things. Whether it's defining the beginning of life, life's wear and tear, or dealing with the end of life, medicine is where it gets personal. I loved the movie Gattaca with Ethan Hawke and Uma Thurman, set in a not too distant future where parents can design their child for perfection, free from any defects. Tests are being carried out right now by NASA on the popular sci-fi premise of suspended animation or as the eggheads prefer to call it, 'torper' which cools the body and induces a prolonged sleep. For astronauts, for instance, it means less food and air and water to pack long to Mars or wherever. Medicine is looking at the technology as a way to save gunshot victims as well. But, by far the most controversial and creepy efforts  are underway by Dr. Sergio Canavero, director of the Turin Advanced Neuromodulation Group in Italy who claims to be be just a couple of years away from performing the world's first head transplant and he already has his first willing subject, Valeri Spiradonov, a Russian suffering from a degenerative disease called Werdnig-Hoffman Disorder. Of course, besides the Frankensteinian overtones, Canaverero has a bigger moral an ethical dilemma on his shoulders so to speak. Who is the patient if the transplant is a success, the body donor or the guy who gets his nutcase lopped off? And, how can they possibly hook up the brain stem completely; where motor skills, sensory, pain, temperature, itch, cardiac and respiratory functions, consciousness and sleep, are all wrapped up in two bundles of nerve connections. There's every possibly the patient could wake up to a living nightmare of confusion and miscues. No wonder Frankensteins monster was so irritable! And, what happens if your body rejects your head or vice versa. I'm thinking this isn't the way to get that hot body you've always dreamed of.

 

Balancing Body Image with Grilled Cheese

 

I try to make time for a trip to the gym on the weekend. I know lots of people who go 4 or 5 times a week but honestly, I don’t know when they find the time. Besides I keep myself active throughout the week and at this point in my life I’m content to leave the six pack in the back of the fridge; and I’ll add that it’s a fairly compact fridge, not one of those double door, side by side jobs with the automatic ice dispenser. And, I think that because of society’s body image hyper-sensitivity, guys probably can get away with a more lackadaisical attitude toward pot bellies and pea shooter guns for biceps (although I admit to being intimidated by more than one Calvin Klein underwear ad). No, it’s still women who face the greater pressure of unrealistic body image. That’s why I say “Touché France!”. Under a new law passed last Friday, France will ban excessively thin fashion models and expose modeling agents and the fashion houses that hire them to possible fines and even jail. France, with its fashion and luxury industries worth tens of billions of euros, joins Italy, Spain and Israel which all adopted laws against too-thin models on catwalks or in advertising campaigns in early 2013. The measure is part of a wider crackdown on anorexia. Women are being encouraged to embrace their curves in more subliminal ways as well. Sunday was National Grilled Cheese Day if you didn’t know and dating site Skout surveyed  4,600 clients discovering that grilled cheese lovers are way more active lovers, they’re happier, more adventurous and more charitable. Now if that doesn’t send a positive message to young women about healthy appetites being sexy, I’m sure Cadbury can come up with similar statistics about chocolate. One note of caution; grilled cheese sandies may be yummy but they are also 100 percent fat, protein and complex carbohydrates. Eat too many, and you won’t be able to tie your shoe laces, and that’s an image nobody wants to see.

 

Smells Like Teen Dinner

 

This weekend the house started to fill with the delicious aroma of bread, raisins and cinnamon. Sure enough, my better and baking-inclined half had decided to take a crack at making hot cross buns. For a moment I thought, wow, they should bottle this. I'd like to smell like that, but then it struck me that anyone who has ever worked at Cinnibon probably has to suppress a gag reflex every-time they catch a whiff of anything from pumpkin pie to cinnamon chai. There is such a thing as too much of a good thing. I do think it's interesting though, that humans enjoy smelling like food; a hint of citrus here, a sprig of mint there, a little vanilla perhaps and yes, cinnamon. There doesn't seem to be a market for savory scents like 'A Herring's Eve in Copenhagen' or 'Eau du Anchovy', but Burger King thinks they may have found one in Japanese teenagers. Introducing 'Flame Grilled' cologne. The one day promotion of bottled Whopper cost 5,000 yen or about 40 bucks and came with a burger. 17 year old student Yuki Ishibashi bought one out of curiosity and described the scent as 'spicy'. By the end of the day 90 outlets around Japan had sold out of 'Flame Grilled', leaving many parents wondering why their kids reek of fast food all the time. For Canadians, this could have farther -reaching implications now that Burger King owns Tim Hortons. Don't be surprised to see in-store products like 'Double Double Deodorant' creeping onto the shelves next time you pop in for a cup of beans.

 

Connecting With Listeners 

 

Oh how we do love hearing from you, especially when it's to tell us we're doing something right. It may come as a surprise to hear, but radio personalities who seem to get off simply on the the sound of their own voices, really have some of the most fragile egos out there. The ones I know are sweet, kind people who need an extra amount of encouragement and reassurance. And, no praise comes more appreciated than that from listeners, because they are the ones we're talking to in the first place. It changes the game entirely from a monologue to a dialogue and that connection; that conversation is what it's all about. worldbeatcanada radio and Celt In A Twist have been picked up by a handful of  courageous campus and community stations around North America. Among them, CJMP, 90.1 FM in beautiful Powell River, British Columbia, just up the Sunshine Coast from us in Vancouver. Bob listens there and took the time to write us with his thoughts on worldbeatcanada radio. And, Bob brought up some great points which I hope he doesn't mind me quoting now. "The world has at least 6 continents, last time I checked", Bob writes. "Why is it then that we only hear music on our standard FM stations from only North America? I am so tired of the 4 hour continuous loop of the same old shit day after day. Can you imagine only eating oatmeal for every meal for every day of your life? I can't. What amazing and fantastic music coming out of every corner of the world, yet  90% of people never hear it. What a waste and what a shame. I swear Cal if I hear Smoke On The Water one more time I will projectile vomit on every C.R.T.C. controlled radio station in North America from where I stand. In music, language to me is not important, it is the instruments the beat and the freedom of expression." Thanks a bunch, Bob! That, my friend, means so much more coming from you than me and I hope you can stomach what I have coming up on today's Touch Of The Familiar.

 

Hawaii 50 Something

 

Growing up on Canada's west coast, Hawaii always seemed to be everybody's 'starter vacation'. If you had rich parents, you might get the Aloha experience as a school kid. If you were middle class or economy class for that matter,  you might have had to wait  until  you saved enough for that famous Hawaiian tan. I know central and eastern Canadians, because of proximity are more prone to destinations like Florida, the Mayan Riviera or Cuba, and in recent  years, more westcoasters opt for Mexico's Pacific side, but Hawaii's charm hasn't faded. It's still just a five hour flight and it's a treat to rediscover through, shall we say more mature eyes. I've always loved Hawaiian slack key guitar so I knew I'd be hearing some great music, but this visit I had a chance to delve deeper into the incredible history of the Polynesian people and their gift for navigation.  Sorry Columbus, these folks knew the world was round when you were still scared of sailing over the edge. We didn't get too far off the beaten path, but I don't mind the crowds. Watching life's rich pageant is all part of the vaykay for me. I'm not the deserted island type. Two observations I wanted to share with you: first, fewer fair skinned northerners like me were willing to risk the burn, than I noticed in the past so folks are heeding their dermatologist's warnings.  But, some still like to play it old school, like our neighborly grandma with the shock of Billy Idol spiked white hair and skin that looked like my distressed leather easy chair. We'd catch up with her outside the building enjoying one of those Pall Mall 100's. Those are some hearty genes. The second thing I noticed a lot of are the selfie sticks; a phone on a pole that enables you to get some background into your me moments. Not that you would think of shooting the scenery on its own without your visage at the centre of attention. I think they should call them 'narcissticks' don't you?

 

The Future of Libraries

 

My dad was a high school English teacher and resident librarian, which is probably why cataloguing and curating my library of over 5000 worldbeat CDs  has become more than a passion, I see it as my duty to preserve this unique and growing archive for future generations on the highest quality, most durable format. Ya, I know, most people don’t even own a CD player anymore, but we sent CDs into space, we’ve buried them in time capsules and I’m pretty confident that intelligent life elsewhere or in our own distant future will be able to figure out what to do with them. But why bother, you ask? Well, look no further than a Star Trek season 3 episode called All Our Yesterdays, when Kirk, McCoy and Mr. Spock (rest his soul) beam down to a planet whose sun is about to go super nova. There, they discover a library containing all of the civilization’s accumulated knowledge and one lone life form, the librarian. It doesn’t go well from that point but Gene Roddenberry wasn’t the one to envision a library that stands the test of time. The Long Now Foundation, is a nineteen-year-old organization dedicated to archival projects on a 10,000 year timeline. The Rosetta Disk, for example, is one of its attempts to create a permanent archive: it’s a wafer of nickel containing all the world’s languages in raised microscopic text. “We aren’t creating the Rosetta Disk specifically with an apocalypse in mind, or for a society that's undergoing major upheaval,” Long Now Director Laura Welcher explains “but over the span of millennia, I think you have to expect that to happen occasionally.” It wouldn’t take much. An electromagnetic pulse from a nuke exploded high in the atmosphere or a massive solar storm could potentially be a civilization threatening event, frying all  electronics including that modern library of all knowledge, the internet. But, what of the lowly librarian? In the distant future, there would be machines to handle the grunt work, yes? No, says Ilya Kreymer, former engineer at the Internet Archive. “I believe, perhaps naively, that ultimately a human guidance will still be necessary to direct any Artificial Intelligence., especially if we're talking about all human knowledge. Without human curation, it is all just meaningless data, really. Or, meaningless music, I say. Keep those CDs coming.

 

Three Days In February - a trio of awesome concerts

 

Given my druthers, I’ll hole up in my little studio and lose myself in the great music I get to share with you each week. But, I have to remind myself every now and then that music can be an extraordinary live experience. Certainly, it’s a rush to perform on stage, but experiencing it a crowd of similarly appreciative aficionados can be equally sensuous. It sounds like I’m stating the obvious here, but  think about the things that can hold you back from taking in a live show like traveling and crappy weather, late night on a school day, sketchy sound or venue and especially overpriced tickets and drinks. Well, last week Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, our photographer and I were lucky enough to experience a 3 day festival of our own making that made me appreciate live music all over again. Wednesday was a double bill of brilliance with Brownout from Austin, Texas followed by Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe, an unparalled funk fest! Both bands were big on horns and guitars and when they started pumping the groove in unison, it was like a sonic jack hammer; dynamic and impactful. Thursday was my first taste of the impeccable Imperial, a new venue to Vancouver that is rapidly becoming a favorite amongst players and fans alike. The beautiful space can hold about 500, but when you walk in, you can feel your ears close in they way they do in the best recording studios. The dead acoustics provide a stunning stage sound which Bebel Gilberto and her band worked to their favour with the dreamy bossa textures from her new album, Tudo. Finally, on Friday, it was my turn to hit that same stage to introduce psyche rockers, Twin Wave from Brooklyn and Zvuloon Dub System, Israel’s top reggae band, to kick off the 15th anniversary edition of the Chutzpah! Festival.  Zvuloon with their unique blend of one drop and 6/8 Ethiopian time and their Amharic-singing vocalist were hugely entertaining. I suppose I just have to get out more often.

 

The Greying of Valentines

 

No wonder that 50 Shades flick was all the buzz this Valentines. Grey kind of sums up the holiday, apparently for all strokes of folks. If you’re single, unattached and somewhat ineligible, you might feel the wrath of cupid stabbing at thee from death’s heart for 24 hours, but then all your buddies will be available to come out to play again and life goes on. At least you’re not out of pocket. Guys otherwise encumbered with a female appendage curse Hallmark for ever conceiving Valentines in the first place and are happy just to wipe the cold sweat off their brow with the wad of cash they relievedly hand over for a saving grace purchase of over-inflated merchandise or services designed specifically to capitalize on the occasion. The web’s love cup even overfloweth with posts about how hard attractive women have it on Valentines, contending with unwanted cards and chocolates from unsuitable suitors, struggling multiple bouquets and stuffed animals home on the bus or preparing to fend off any man who might make the bold attempt to go where no man whom they never wanted in the first place has gone before or ever will. But, you know who I feel most sorry for? It’s the underprivileged who sustain the industry that sustains the holiday. Like 47 year old, single mother, Lydia Gonzales in central Colombia. Her day begins at 3:30am so she can make it to the flower fields by 5am where she works until 5pm. Carpal tunnel syndrome, tendonitis and other repetitive strain injuries are common for these women who are expected to work at incredible speed, while being exposed to toxic pesticides, all for the equivalent of 250 US dollars a month. Lopez says, “With the profits they make, they could provide us with much better working and economic conditions, with a dignified wage and a fair job.” It’s true. Love hurts, especially on Valentine’s Day. For the self-absorbed that might mean a blindfold and light flogging, for the broken-hearted it might mean a sharp twinge of loneliness but for the disadvantaged, well, it’s no holiday at all.

 

Canadian Netflix for Cinematic Stinkers

 

Gather around kiddies, whilst I regale ya with a story from the olden days. It would probably be, oh I don’t know, a good ten years into our distant past. That’s right; I have adult memories from a decade ago! Back then before on-demand and Netflix we would put on our shoes and walk a good few blocks to the video rental store to pick up a couple of movies which had recently become available on DVD; that’s a glass, laser-etched round thingy like a CD, only for visuals. Never mind, it’s not important. The thing was if you went to the video store on a Friday evening, all of the good movies had been rented out already and you’re stuck with the garbage which may be new, but nobody wants to see anyway. That’s almost exactly what Canadian Netflix is like. So, this weekend I caught a couple of real stinkers, Noah, starring Russell Crowe and The Interview with Seth Rogen and James Franco. Both were epically bad, but I’m disappointed to have to say that The Interview, the movie Kim Jong-un didn’t want the world see upon threat of nuclear annihilation was actually, the most watchable of the two. For one thing, it makes the supreme ruler of North Korea look like a dumbass despite the dumb and dumber antics of Rogen and Franco. Secondly, it was the right length, 90 minutes tops. And, three, things actually happen. Conversely, in Noah, nothing happens … for excruciating long periods of time, which makes you wonder why on earth you decided to commit 2 and a half hours to this snoozefest. And, that’s not to diss the Bible’s version of events. It’s a great story about the seemingly mad man who builds a giant boat nowhere near water and ushers in all the animals of the world 2 by 2, before God unleashes a flood upon the wicked  by making it rain for 40 days and nights. Let me stop right there to interject. I live in Vancouver. We call 40 days of nonstop rain, winter. No big deal. The screenplay veers wildly away from the Biblical account to include giant six-armed stone ‘Watchers’ who help build the ark, and an evil stowaway who periodically munches down on one of the animals. Can you imagine how many species he would have destroyed over the course of 40 days? Thanks Canadian Netflix for making me scrape the bottom of the cinematic barrel. I can’t wait until next year to see this year’s Oscar favorites.

 

Drumming up music appreciation in our kids

 

Last week we were bemoaning the demise of the family piano. Can the family drum kit be far behind? On the weekend, a colleague of mine asked me if I knew any drummers who could tutor his 7 year old son.  I know, right? He’s never  displayed any masochistic tendencies. Kidding  aside I posted on facebook and got some names and numbers. I always admire guys like Dave Grohl who can flip from guitar to drums and back. I never had the coordination to play a kit, but I kinda wish I did. Too late for this old dog, but 7 years old seems like a great time to pick up the skill. Percussion is a great gateway to global music as well. Britannia Secondary School on Vancouver’s East Side started a marimba ensemble through the visionary work of one of their librarians. I’ve since seen those students go on successful music careers with some of the city’s most talented emerging bands, and most encouraging, they’ve retained that love for global rhythms and bring that influence to table, whether the project is rock, jazz, hip hop or R&B. Getting kids interested in the world of drumming is a pretty easy sell, really. It’s instinct for kids full of piss and vinegar and fructose to bang off some of that excess energy. Channeling it into drumming is a win/win for everyone as long as there’s someplace else to do it. Teacher Laurae Dykema from Berg Elementary in Dickenson, North Dakota, was surprised with a grant last week to help her fund instruments for her World Drumming Project. An online cultural exchange with an elementary school in South Africa sparked the idea. Laurae is giving hands-on drumming instruction to 247 grade sixers. Even the local junior high is feeling the rhythm. They’ll be hosting a World Music Drumming workshop open to everyone, offering insights into African, Polynesian, Caribbean and Native drumming. I hope other educators catch the beat. It can only help to make the world a better place … or for that matter, a beater place.

 

Family piano out of tune with 21st Century

 

My dad played piano right up until his final days. I'm convinced the cognitive exercise, hand/eye coordination and the reading of reams of sheet music is what spared him from the throws of dementia, which eventually robbed his brother of his own golden years. It was easy for me to take the piano for granted because there was always one in the house, be it the humble upright or the Kawai baby grand that eventually graced my parents' living room. Dad would serenade the house after dinner as we went about our separate lives. It didn't matter if we were paying attention or not, it was just a pretty part of the background soundscape. I took formal piano lessons in junior high. Of course, even before that I would fart around with the instrument when I was bored, putting things between the strings or listening for how long it would take for a ringing note to completely fade (like at the end of A Day In The  Life). The Beatles and Elton John especially made me take a more serious look at the piano and its value as a composition tool, but the adolescent me never stuck with it. Today, blame it on advances in digital keyboards, and downsized living environments, but the family acoustic piano is falling out of favor, so much so that major retailers, like Harrods in the UK have stopped selling them altogether. Of course there are cultural exceptions. The dedication, hard work and schooling required to attain proficiency in tickling the ivories finds favor in Chinese households, as part of their children's disciplined upbringing. And, where there's skill and discipline, inevitably you'll find the spirit of competition to nudge things along. This March, The Flint Institute of Music in Michigan hosts the 44th annual William C. Byrd Young Artist Competition and this year's weapon of choice is the piano. Thirty young contestants from around the world will duke it out on 88 keys for the grand prize of 6,000 dollars and the opportunity to perform with the Flint Symphony Orchestra. The money might not sound like much. It could buy you a good used upright piano if you have the space. But, imagine. with all that good music theory under your belt and six grand in  your pocket, you could score a wicked guitar, and as BTO tells it, "chances are you'll go far if you get in with the right bunch of fellows."

 

 

Music to do the deed to (Free Download!)

 

Back in the bad old days when men were even dirtier dogs and women were notches on the water bedpost, shaggin' wagon-driving, Drakkar Noir drippin' masters of the art of seduction always had one final ace up their polyester sleeve to get them round third base with the goal of stealing home plate, the mix tape of make out music. Be it Barry White or Sade, these magical mood makers were seemingly composed for no other reason than to seal the deal. Well, today, thanks to the fine people at Superdrug.com - (drugs that are better than good because they're super), you can now download the world's first 'sexercise' music track. The track was created by a team of fitness experts ('cause nothing says great tune-smithery like a team of fitness experts). It's 22 minutes in length which is apparently the average length of a sex sesh determined from a polling base of 2000 British couples. It begins at a warmup of 90 beats per minute and accelerates to the money shot at an adrenaline pumping 130 bpms. I'm guessing at this point you no longer have any cognition of music at all, so it's mostly in frequencies that your dog will enjoy. Then, the afterglow at a comfortable 100 bpm, best enjoyed with a cigarette, and then ... silence, regret and the walk of shame. Go ahead, download it for free at superdrug.com/sexercise. Frankly, I think the music has been repurposed because I swear I heard it once before when I was on hold with tech support for 22 minutes.

 

 

Putting music in its place and space

 

Last year, we helped design our new domicile; a custom-built laneway home in East Vancouver that fits us like a glove. Seriously, it’s changed our lives.  As a result, I’m drawn to these HGTV and DIY network build-it shows, like Leave It To Bryan and House Hunters. I especially like the International version of that program. I just discovered a British series on YouTube called Grand Design which focuses on visionary, adventurous homeowners who have built underground, precariously perched on hilltops and everywhere in between that’s out of the ordinary or off the beaten path. I’ve always thought music performed in a truly inspired environment heightens the experience. So often converted warehouses or movie theaters feel like exactly that; repurposed spaces that look best in the dark. Of course you can argue that some of contemporary music’s watershed performance moments happened in settings as humble as Max Yasgur’s farm in rural Woodstock. But, nostalgia aside, today’s Vancouver has fine examples of both indoor and outdoor venues. It’s hard to beat Jericho Beach in the summertime during the annual Folk Music Festival. Even my own production of the World Beat Stage in the plaza of Millennium Village, overlooking False Creek and the downtown core is stunning in the sunshine. There’s the acoustically stellar cylinder of the Chan Centre at UBC. And, we can’t forget the Commodore Ballroom, one of the ten best in North America. Thrillist, an online guy’s magazine just posted a list of 15 exceptional music venues in our world. No Canadians made the cut but there were a couple of notable inclusions from not too far away. The Gorge Amphitheatre on the Columbia River in Washington State is one I have to visit and soon. The 27,500 seat outdoor, natural amphitheatre offers both great acoustics because of its funneling shape, and stunning vistas of the river and the Cascade Mountains. Another beautiful outdoor venue is the Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Morrison, Colorado. Globally great are The Giant Egg in Beijing. The curvy titanium and glass ovoid has three halls and seats over 5,000 people. There’s London’s Royal Albert Hall which, thanks to John Lennon, we know holds 4000 holes. And, no list of music venues would be complete without the iconic sails of the Sydney Opera House, costing a cool 102 million, just 14.5 times over the 7 million dollar budget. It took 14 years to build. But hey, the Roman Coliseum wasn’t built in a day, which come to think of it could have been a great place to play, if it wasn’t for dodging man-eating lions and gladiators and stuff.  See the full gallery here.

 

 

10 Ways To Avoid Irritating Others in 2015

 

Welcome to January, where the longest lines aren’t at the stores, the movie theatres or the night clubs; they’re at the gym. People bound by a sense of commitment to their resolutions to get fit, lose weight, become active or all of the above, flock to the fitness centres hell-bent for healthiness. That’s fine, by March most have fallen off the treadmill. I’m convinced these kind of lifestyle resolutions are best pursued when you feel motivated, not because the calendar tells you to. But, thanks to Linked Influencer, Jeff Hayden, here’s a list of 10 behavioral irritants which are easy fixes and can attract more people to you, and make you feel better about yourself immediately. Numero Uno: Don’t thoughtlessly waste other people’s time. When checking out your groceries, have your payment, debit, credit, whatever ready in hand, instead of searching your pockets or purse. You aren’t the only person who matters. Two: don’t ignore people outside of your own ‘level’. That really heavy guy working out next you, he’s trying, probably on doctor’s orders. Give him an appreciative nod or say hi instead of looking the other way. Three: don’t ask too many favors. The world doesn’t owe you anything. People tend to help those who help themselves. Four: at the same time, don’t ignore those in genuine need, if only for the good karma that will come your way. Five: don’t start a conversation under false pretenses so you can just hear yourself talk. Six: Don’t pull a “Do you know who I am?” People will like you better if you act like you don’t know you’re somebody, even if you truly are. Seven: dial back the “I’m just me being me” disclaimer for constantly expressing your individuality. It’s the difference between being likable and being an ass. Eight: self-deprecation only works one way. If someone puts himself down, it doesn’t give you permission to take poke at him. Number Nine: don’t be a humblebragger. No one wants to hear how stressed you are about your upcoming TED talk or how hard it is to maintain both a home and a vacation property. Always consider your audience and that audience will grow with interest. And, ten: don’t push your opinion unless asked. Pick your moments and offer your advice, knowledge or experience in an attitude of sharing. That’s a toughie for sure ‘cause everybody has an opinion, me included, big time. Thanks for these, Jeff Hayden.

 

Transit to 2015

 

All right. Let's do this thing. We've got the green flag for another orbit around the sun and already, things are looking up for the transit through 2015. December 31st marked the last day for Air Care in British Columbia, an ordeal many classic car owners like myself have been tormented with for 20 years. My 44 year old fuel hog stays parked for most of the calendar, because it's just for sunny Sunday cruises. Never the less, every January, I'd have to jump start it and drive to the inspection centre, hoping, praying that the carburetor hasn't drifted out of tune enough to earn me a fail, which immediately incurs 250 dollars worth of repairs, even if it's just a turn of the screwdriver. That's one tax grab I'm happy to see shrink and vanish in the rearview mirror. Yet another taxing question looms on the immediate horizon though; a mayor's referendum on whether Metro Vancouver residents want to fork out an additional .5 percent tax for much needed transit improvements, which I'm all for in principle. The trouble is, the corporation in charge of running the show, TransLink can't even get the tap in, tap out Compass card payment system to work, which has been in BETA test mode for ever. Two major meltdowns of skytrain in 2014 left a wake of commuter chaos for a supposed high tech rapid transit grid that just happens to be  programmed on floppy discs. Meanwhile TransLink executives appeared more concerned with how to implement a lucrative bonus pay scheme for themselves without appearing overtly greedy to a public who paying the highest housing prices in the country. Too many questions, too little accountability; maybe what's needed is a change of management before sinking more tax dollars into a trouble-plagued transit infrastructure. To borrow from Winston Churchill, it's "a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma." Of course, he was talking about Russia at the time, which, no surprise is still a political turduckin, but the trip has only just begun. No doubt still bigger issues will cross our path before this orbit's over. 

 

 

The Interview that (almost) never happened

 

Happy holidays! I hope this week is bringing you some quality time filled with warmth, love, reflection and rest. One thing I look forward to is catching up on some movies I've been meaning to see. The low light conditions are ideal for home viewing. I saw Elf for the first time on the weekend. I gotta say, I didn't see any reason to cast a platinum star like James Caan who snoozed his way to a paycheck in that one. This week I'm catching a cheapo showing of Interstellar at the local mom and pop theatre. They have good seats which my butt will appreciate as it slowly numbs toward the 3 hour mark. One flick we've all been spared from is The Interview, which Sony Pictures execs cancelled the release of and promptly ran for the hills from. Maybe they were genuinely scared by the cyber threats or maybe they were afraid of the giant turkey of a film they had on their hands. I've seen the trailer and I've always found Seth Rogen's brand of comedy to be as dumb as a sack of hammers. But, talk about miscasting! Kim Jong-un looks positively formidable in the movie, whereas in real life he's a chubby-cheeked, Pillsbury doughboy with gout and an adolescent sense of entitlement. As George Clooney ranted, "We cannot be told we can't see something by Kim Jong-un of all f---ing people!" US President Obama wondered why his counterpart at Sony, Michael Lynton never gave him a call before caving to North Korean threats. And, I do love Obama's public response to the cyber attacks; "We will respond proportionately and we will respond in a place and time and manner that we choose." In other words, it's going to hurt and you won't see it coming. And that, is the only threat that carries any weight with an insolent child. Just ask your older brother.

 

 

Christmas with Avril & The Chipmunks

 

Come, gather 'round the virtual glow of the fireplace channel. If you recall from last week, marketing gurus know you want to hear a story more than anything else, and at what better time than the holidays? And so it came to pass, I was grocery shopping at the largest Real Canadian Superstore in British Columbia. This thing is so humongous I count my regular visits toward my weekly quotient of cardio workout. I was accompanied on my appointed rounds by the sweet strains of Alvin, Theodore and Simon singing Christmas Don’t Be Late. Boy those chipmunks could really hit the high notes! Sadly, the next holiday hit on the All-Christmas, All the Time radio station was Avril Lavigne crucifying ‘O Night Divine’ in that bratty, nasty whine of hers. Why she picked one of the most challenging carols to maim, is beyond reason, because it crescendos with that impossibly high note which she didn’t even attempt to hit. Alvin and The Chipmunks would have nailed it. It got me thinking about how so much of Christmas is putting lipstick on a pig. If it was truly the most wonderful time of the year, it would be in August. Now, I’m not so jaded not to recognize that kids still dig it, but it seems the older you get the less you look forward to time with family and friends and the more you think about those who won’t be there to celebrate anymore. Plus, you have way more time to dwell on the downer things now that Christmas arrives the day after Halloween. As, Patricia Fraser from Celt In A Twist pointed out,  in Winston Churchill’s time, the tree was cut down and brought inside on the 24th and it was gone at the end of Boxing Day. I think that sense of fleetingness is what made the holiday magical. Anyway, I get to checkout and, I’ve never done this before, I said to the girl scanning my items, “I really don’t think Avril Lavigne should be singing Christmas carols”, to which she replied, “At least it’s better than those damned Chipmunks.” I guess every generation brings something new and annoying to Christmas, and I suppose there’s a certain comfort in that tradition

 

 

The top worldbeat albums of 2014

Every month, worldbeatcanada.com publishes our top 30 singles based on airplay, featuring our Album Pick Of The Month at the bottom of each chart. Here is a list of the year’s best discs. The list, left to right, in chronological order of appearance from January to December 2014.

 

 

A story about 'Storytelling' & 9 other buzzwords to banish in 2015

 

Marketing gurus insist what you want more than anything is for someone to tell you a story. OK, let me me tell you a good news story. I had to renew my passport this week and I got in and out of the federal government office in 5 minutes. "Incroyable!" as we say in our second official language. Now, I don't know which rock I was under when 'storytelling' became the big buzz in our industry but I found out the hard way. Check out this story. I sit on the advisory committee to British Columbia Institute of Technology's Radio Arts & Entertainment department which is going through a rebranding process. Last week's roundtable produced a new vision statement, 'Empowering new generations to create stories that make a difference' with emphasis on 'transmedia storytelling'. "Why not call it what it is," I misguidedly suggested, "content creation." Well, you could have blindfolded me and stood me up against a wall. As we say in our other official language, "Faux pas!". I mean, come on, there's nothing wrong with storytelling, it's as old as language itself. My reasoning is this; Johnny wants to be on the radio (God knows why) but he's a little shy on tuition. So, he asks the parental units for a loaner on his education and shows them this great program he wants to enroll in where they'll teach him to tell stories. Yah, we should be willing to part with a few grand for that, said no parent, ever! And, it's not just me. 'storytelling' tops the list of 10 Marketing Buzzwords That Can Die in 2015 compiled at newscred.com. The remaining 9 include: 'agile', 'impact', 'learnings' (as in: "We'll take the learnings from our campaign to impact further iterations."). There's 'immersive' and 'leverage' or leeverage ( just what the world needs, another buzzword that can be pronounced two ways). How about 'thought leaders'? It sounds like mind control to me. Rounding out the list are 'gamification' and 'ecosystem' which has nothing to do with David Suzuki. It's like, "Our content ecoystem spans traditional and digital platforms." As David Ogilvy, the father of advertising observed, "Our business is infested with idiots who try to impress by using pretentious jargon." Now that's a great story and I'm sticking to it.

 

Recorded music finds its future in its past

 

My favorite quote comes from Arthur C. Clarke. In 1986 during Expo in Vancouver, his words graced the inner circumference of the Science World sphere, "The future ain't what it used to be." It rang brilliantly true in 1986 as elevated linear induction rapid transit was introduced to our city and the world was poised on the brink of a communications revolution, with smart phone technology right around the proverbial corner. Strangely though, today, the future is starting to look more and more like yesterday's vision. In 3 years, the first flying car will be available to consumers (don't ask me how that's possibly going to work when hobbyist drones are becoming a menace in the skies and people can't even park their ground bound cars between the lines). Space X is landing reusable rockets on their tails just like in Flash Gordon and, surprise, surprise, the bricks and mortar music store is making a comeback, along with vinyl and, AND CDs are going to repopulate the shelves! HMV used to own the priciest real estate in Vancouver's downtown at the corner of Robson and Burrard, now a humungus Victoria's Secret store. No, HMV can't compete with that kind of sexy but they're reopening this week just down the street in the old Lululemon store front with 3000 square feet and 19 staff to look after your future video, vinyl and CD purchases. HMV CEO, Nick Williams states, "It's a 240 million dollar a year business and HMV corners 40 percent of the market in Canada." And, while consumers and musicians alike have been shoveling fresh dirt over the deceased CD, guess what? Williams' research shows, " Not only do people enjoy the pure sound, they enjoy the album art and sleeve notes.” No, downloads and music streaming aren't going anywhere. That vision of the future is our current reality. But, this week's reopening of HMV on Robson is perfectly timed for Christmas shopping with good reason. CDs and vinyl are making music special again; special enough to put under the tree, along with CD players and turntables. Don't say I never told you so.

 

 

Vancouver salutes The Commodore

 

 

If you're outside of Vancouver and you ever plan to be in the neighborhood, you, being the music fan you are, have to take in a concert. It really doesn't matter which musical ensemble you wish to see, as long as it's happening at the fabulous Commodore Ballroom, voted in 2011 by Billboard magazine as one of the top 10 most influential live music venues in North America. The site lines are such that there isn't a bad seat in the house. The sound system is so sweet, if the audio engineer tweaks her just right, it's like listening to the world's most powerful stereo setup. And, if sitting ain't your style, you can enjoy the sympathetic bounce of the Commodore's legendary sprung dance floor. Of course, it's not been as bouncy since House of Blues sunk 3.5 million into renovations which finished in 1999, initiating the modern era of the ballroom. But, it's history in Vancouver goes back to the late 1920's when it became the night spot for Americans looking to imbibe in a little prohibition alcohol care of their Canadian barkeeps. This week, the stately old art deco lady gets her official recognition with a plaque from the Vancouver Heritage Foundation and the release of a new book by Vancouver musician and author, Aaron Chapman called 'Live At The Commodore', a compendium of anecdotes and factoids from every decade in the venue's lively life. Plus, there are rare pictures and personal insights from someone who shares a long love relationship with the room. Fans of our sister broadcast, Celt In A Twist, will have heard Chapman with his Celt Punk friends in The Town Pants, one of the few local bands of late to sell out the 1000 capacity ballroom. He also worked as production manager for House of Blues and often greets visitors at the front doors with the security detail. Live at the Commodore also serves as a tribute to the recently passed Drew Burns who operated the room from 1968 to 1996. No, the walls can't talk, but Aaron Chapman's accounting of the life and times of the crown jewel of Vancouver venues is a good substitute, that undoubtedly will jog a few memories for music fans from 4 generations and counting.

 

Voting: It's Better When It's Personal

 

 

Meet the new boss, same as the old boss; well, in Vancouver anyway. We went to the polls on the weekend in a civic election. It was close , but the incumbant fought off a strong challenge. As a matter of fact, when the dust settled, it appears little has changed in city hall's balance of power, which is fine, because Vancouverites are passionate about our city beyond all else and we like the way its shaping  up. I love voting in civic elections. Yeah, you have to wade through a swack of names for parks board and school board and councillors, but it's the one Canadian election where you can open the ballot and make your mark beside the name of he candiate you think will do the best job of running the joint. Wouldn't it be great if you had the same opportunity in a provincial or federal election? I think our current Prime Minister sucks so this federal election I'm going to vote for this person instead. But, our system doesn't allow citizens a shot at that kind of empowerment. We have to vote along party lines for representatives we'll never hear from again until the next election. In my neighborhood our Member of Parliament has been in office since confederation. Seriously, you actually have to erase the X beside her name to vote for anyone else. And , her party has never been in power so, really, what's the point in voting? Federal and Provincial elections bring out the poker player strategists, you know the ones, "If I vote for this person here, it will split the vote between these two an ultimately benefit the party I hope gets in." No, if I had my druthers, we would all be able to choose the person, not just the party that runs our country and our province, as well as our city. That's empowering, and when people feel their opinion carries real weight, it's bound to be a cure for voter apathy as well. 

 

 

Facebook needs a thumbs down

 

There are two kinds of people in the world, Tweeters and Face Bookers. I gravitate toward the latter, although since both are joined at the hip for the hip, most everything I post goes to both social mediums. But I can't tell you the last time I looked at my twitter feed. If you're a longtime listener, you know I have a lot to say and 140 characters just doesn't cut it. Many tweets use so much short hand it's like trying to read so many vanity license plates. But, I do think facebook should revisit the idea of a dislike button. The logic behind its absence is the implied negativity, which can lead to hurt feelings and Zuckerberg, despite his shmuck-like qualities is nothing if not a humanitarian. But facebook has morphed into a court of public opinion and as such, shouldn't dissenters be afforded the same opportunity as assenters? The recent firing of CBC radio host, Jihad Ghomeshi was a perfect illustration. Formal charges are still only being considered but he was tarred and feathered and run out of facebook town on the first day and rightfully so. He abuses women and he's an arrogant ass so I definitely don't want to waste time on him here. But, if people are going to use facebook to sort out their feelings on any given issue, why should those in favour be able to weigh in with a simple click of the thumbs up, and those who are opposed have to resort to a comment. And, if I'm going to go to the trouble of leaving a comment, it's going to be pointed and clear, pulling no punches, and that, I've found is when feelings really get hurt. No, a dislike button on facebook might not project the warm and fuzzy image its creators are going for, but to the user it would provide valuable metrics on any given topic. Put up a post, let it simmer on the newsfeed and check back to see a total of likes and dislikes. Now you know where you stand with the people you care enough about to include in your circle of FB friends. You could make both thumbs up and thumbs down anonymous so no one gets hurt. Seriously, how often do you check into who the likes for your post came from, well at least I rarely do. Go ahead, tell me what you think. It's OK, my hyper-sensitive, frail ego can take it. At least, I hope it can.

 

Space Race Part 2 - The Corporate Challenge

 

Space, the final frontier. We all know how we're supposed to get there. Humanity moves past its petty differences and advances to the stars representing our collective species as citizens of the galaxy. After all, isn't that what the International Space Station is all about. It's like the neighborhood tree fort. Any kid who can make the climb is welcome to play there. But, then the shuttle program ran its course and NASA was in no financial shape to take it to the next level, so to speak. And then, Uncle Vlad got his nose out of joint and took away America's carpooling privileges. Which, brings us to today and the tenuous first steps of corporate space flight, which suffered a couple of major setbacks recently. Orbital Sciences Corporation of Dulles, West Virginia got its Antares cargo rocket to the launch pad and promptly blew it up real good. But, don't blame good ol' American know-how. The rocket is powered by two reconditioned NK-33 Soviet-era engines. Orbital competitor and weirdest tycoon name ever, Elon Musk, whose own Space X innovations have developed a rocket that goes up and back down to earth landing on its tail just like Flash Gordon, says using recycled Russian engines sounds like "the punchline to a bad joke". And then, there's Richard Branson's space plane, the Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo which suffered a more serious malfunction this past week, killing one test pilot and seriously injuring another. His Holy Grail is the boyhood dream of creating a space tourism industry. Branson has already taken deposits of more that 80 million dollars from 700 people who are probably a little more gun shy than gung ho this week. Among the wanna be space cadets are Ashton Kutcher, Russell Brand, Stephen Hawking and Justin Bieber. Could you imagine if they were on the same flight? What could Stephen Hawking and Justin Bieber possibly have to talk about on the way up?

 

New Travel Attractions

 

Happy Diwaliween from worldbeatcanada! Whether you're celebrating the Festival of Lights, All Hallow's Eve or Dia de Muertos, one thing's for certain, your kids are going to eat way too much sugar this weekend.  For adults facing the long winter ahead, thoughts of white sandy beaches are already filling our heads. I'm kinda hoping this is the year that I can actually take a week off to relax somewhere warm and sunny. For many living in parts of North America where winter is bleakest, it's surely not just a happy thought, it's a prescription for good mental health. Not really a winter hotspot, but if you're still drawn to the dark side after Halloween you might consider visiting the  underground City of Skulls in the catacombs of Paris, which has now extended it's open hours to 8pm for additional after dark creepiness. Two kilometers of underground labyrinths lined with the skulls and bones of six million ex- Parisians. What's not to love? In Mataelpino near Madrid, PETA has been successful in creating a humanitarian alternative to the Running of the Bulls. It's called the Running of the Balls. Seriously, those with the aforementioned cajones race down the village's sloped streets being chased by 125 kilogram polystyrene balls instead of bulls. You'll need balls and total lack of vertigo to enjoy Moscow's latest tourist trade. Andrey Zolotov charges 1000 rubles or 28 dollars to join him to the very top of some of the city's tallest skyscrapers. 'Roofers' as the crazed are called are know for their crazy photographs. But, technically, the practice is illegal and literally, you do not want to be thrown in a Moscow jail. Or, if you're looking for something that goes straight to your butt, consider New Hampshire's Ice Cream Trail; 42 delicious destinations covering over 3000 kilometers. To lick the trail, you need to eat about 4 servings of ice cream a day, proving that even with travel there sometimes can be too much of a good thing.

 

 

Platinum too rich for slumping Pop sales

 

If you’re looking for your fix of the fabulously wealthy, you can do no better than flip through the pages of Forbes Magazine. But, chances are good you’ll find fewer and fewer musicians there, including the pop mega-stars. According to contributor, Hugh McIntyre, not one single artist has managed to achieve platinum status in 2014. In the States, the magic number to crack is a million sales. Only one album broke the platinum wall, and that was the movie soundtrack to Frozen. Some people just can’t let go of ‘Let It Go’, to the tune of 3.2 million copies so far with sales expected to rise with the approach of the holiday season. Why anyone would want to spend quality time during the ice and snow listening to songs about ice and snow is beyond me, but whatever. To put this in a global music perspective neither Justin Timberlake nor Kanye West or Katy Perry; not even Queen Beyonce herself could register the kind of consumer interest of the Buena Vista Social Club, which shipped platinum in 1998 when it was released, and so far has sold over 5 million copies. So, what’s the reason for this lack-luster performance, especially in what bean counters will tell you is the lucrative 4th quarter, which generally enjoys a spike in sales growth?  Well, by now, most people are aware that that the music industry is fighting its way out of a downward spiral, unable to respond effectively to digital sales, digital piracy and the new reality of the singles market. And, it’s not for lack of trying. Labels are sweating all the details to ensure hit material, including reliance on the ‘thousand monkeys in a room full of typewriters’ approach of  writing camps to fine tune any tune to manufactured perfection. Ironically, new research also indicates that consumers are finding pop music is becoming too homogenous. And, if it all sounds the same, why invest loyalty and cash in any one artist? Maybe more insidious is the generational shift of attitudes toward music in general. A recent local poll suggested that a high percentage of recipients consider illegal downloading of copy written material to be a misdemeanor at best. Is it any wonder that some folks are actually ticked that their new iTunes comes preloaded with a free album from U2, one of the biggest rock success stories of the century. Today, ‘Songs of Innocence’ is set to debut with the band’s lowest position on the UK Top 40 in 30 years, hitting the charts right behind some teenage X-Factor winner. The iTunes giveaway, even Bono admits, was an unqualified PR disaster. In a way, Songs Of Innocence represents innocence lost for an industry that once defined pop culture.

 

 

Feeling thankful, no thanks to some

 

Gobble, gobble, I got turkey in my belly. This past long weekend, we celebrated Canadian Thanksgiving with all the trimmings as my inner voice counted down all the things I'm truly thankful for, you know, health, family, shelter, food, water, yada yada yada ... but I find increasingly that my thank-yous are tempered with a certain pissed-officy. Like, I was waiting at the bus shelter and a guy came along finishing a styrofoam bowl of salad. With a big smile of his face, he said, "They're giving out  free turkey dinners across the street!", pointing to St. Michael's multicultural church. I'm thankful that in church basements around the city, the hungry are being fed. I'm just pissed off that so much of the world is starving and there seems to be so little will to do something about it. I"m thankful that I'm living in a corner of the world that enjoys relative peace and stability and I"m pissed off that a gang of thugs in the Middle East are eradicating that existence from entire countries. I'm thankful for nature in all its glory and I'm pissed off at the corporate greed that rapes the planet for its dwindling resources and poisons the environment. But, mostly, during those time when I'm presenting worldbeatcanada radio, I'm thankful for the extra-ordinary music and the opportunity to share it with you. Ya, I'm pissed off at big media for continuing to pump out bland, sanitized pap for the masses, but that's another battle for another day.

 

 

 

Music, the cure for the world’s ills? Hardly.

 

As the world spirals down the drain of conflict and turmoil, at least we always have the comfort of music to buoy us. It gives voice to those who have been wrongly silenced. It offers love and communion in the face of violence. It brings joy and vibrancy to our neighborhoods. I mean, it does, doesn’t it? October 1st, France once again led the planet in song, celebrating World Music Day or Fete de la Musique. A day intended to promote amateur and professional music by encouraging players to take to the streets. There are only two caveats: no one gets paid to play and businesses can’t open their doors and broadcast music out onto the sidewalks because of noise bylaws. Otherwise, the atmosphere is totally celebratory, especially for the musicians who have to find some other way to pay for dinner that evening. But, at least music is non-violent, I mean, nobody gets hurt, right? Also October 1st, 47 year old Florida man, Michael Dunn was found guilty of murder after an incident at a Jacksonville gas station. 17 year old Jordan Davis and his buddies were blasting thug rap out of an SUV. When Dunn told them to turn it down and they wouldn’t, he went back to his car, pulled a 9mm from his glovebox and fired 10 shots into the SUV, eventually killing Davis who got struck 3 times. But, at least the business of music is still alive, right? I mean, it’s seen better days, but reminders of that golden era are reappearing, like the huge resurgence of interest in vinyl. Now, that’s a good thing, isn’t it? According to Matt Earley who runs Gotta Groove Records in Cleveland, the business of vinyl has ‘pressing’ concerns, pun totally intended. Most of his equipment is at least 40 years old. As he puts it, “My biggest worry is what is going to break when, not if it will break. Everything breaks.” The old presses will run if you change the parts but, now that stacks of wax are cool again, record plants are burning through their machines twice as fast. Vinyl sales in the States have increased 517 percent since 2007. So, that at least seems to be truly something to celebrate. It’s not going to fix the world, but that’s for the people making the big bucks, not musicians.

 

 

Forget the Fade - In Praise of the Big Finish

 

Slate contributor, William Weir bemoans the demise of the studio fadeout in a piece I found, ironically, tucked into the bottom corner of the newspaper near the obituaries. He writes, "The once-ubiquitous but tragically underappreciated fadeout in music appears to be near it's end." About bloody time I say. He cites research done at the Hanover University of Music in Germany which suggested that people bop along with the beat longer when there's a fadeout, alluding to the song dissolving into the infinite. Sounds like so much psychobabble. The fadeout began as an easy way to cram a song into the 3 minute pop parameters for radio play and I've always hated it.  My favorite songwriters like Bob Mould know the power of the big finish. So did every classical music composer in history. My band prides itself on knowing how to really blow up a song at the end. It's punctuation, ending with an exclamation rather than a period. The fade robs the artist and the listener of that thrill. When we started to play some covers, it became necessary to make up our own big finishes for fadeout songs, even great ones by The Beatles for instance like Paperback Writer or Taxman. As a matter of fact, I'll throw this TV documentary idea out there for free to anyone who can produce it. I only ask for a concept credit. It would be a Behind The Music kind of doc, where studio engineers and producers who still have access to the masters of some classic fadeout songs, let us hear for the first time what happened after the fade. I've always been curious. Isolated vocal, guitar, drum and bass tracks are all the rage on social media and I think this idea could go viral. Probably, many of the fadeout songs eventually devolved into train wrecks, but wouldn't that be fun to hear? Let me know what you think. Write to us at our contacts page, www.worldbeatcanada.com. Fade or finish? Remember what Neil Young said, "It's better to burnout than fade away." Amen and ... we're done.

 

A Night of Fashion& Dub

 

My good friend and longtime worldbeat fan, Garry Kettleson is also our unofficial photographer. Check out our gallery at www.worldbeatcanada.com for a collection of some of his colourful performer portraits, captured at some of our most memorable shows together. We make a good team. I take along my portable recorder to grab interviews and station IDs, while Garry wades into the mosh pit, front and centre to collect visual moments. During the shows, he likes to stay up close and personal, while you’ll find me at my favorite spot in the whole room, well back next to the mixing console. Not only do I breathe easier without the press of humanity bearing down on me like on a rush hour bus, I figure if the sound guy is making it sound good to his ears; it’s going to sound its best near him. Garry mostly does fashion and glamour photography, a regular contributing lensman to Vancouver Fashion Week which just wrapped up on Monday. Last Thursday, we both enjoyed a double exposure. First, I joined him in the camera pit at the end of the runway for one of the week’s worth of designer collections, and later, we both went to see Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad and The Easy Star All-Stars for their 10th anniversary Dub Side Of The Moon tour. Two things struck me that night. One; fashion models never blink when they’re Voguing for the cameras, which makes a lot of sense when you consider that the photographers have just a few seconds to rip off a dozen shots. Nobody wants the shot ruined because the model’s eyes were closed. Combined with ridiculously high footwear and some constrictive hemlines that make them walk extra carefully, the non-blinking, pose-generating models look a little like automatons. From moving mannequins onto my second revelation; the sound guy doing a live dub show is almost as entertaining as the show on stage. In addition to some radical knob-twiddling on the console, he’s armed with a display of stomp boxes and vintage tape delays with which he creates the spacey effects that typify that authentic dub sound. I especially liked the one red button on the centre of the mixing desk which he would punch in time with the beat every twelve bars or so, triggering the snare shot to explode in a thunderous echo chamber. Way cool! Check out Garry’s fashion portfolios at www.garrykphotography.net, and keep an eye on our worldbeat photo gallery for fresh images from our latest adventures.

 

 

Little Gear, Big Recordings 

 

Last week I was going on about the Lady Who Lives Down The Lane dot com blog post about the modestly-sized digs the old time TV families lived in. Not everything was smaller back then. Cars were humongus as were recording studios. I was twiddling with the mix of one of my band’s songs on the weekend. We recorded on the cheap, miking up the drums in the rehearsal space and renting a 16 track portastudio to capture the kit. Everything else was tracked and mixed at my home desktop studio. It sounds surprisingly good. But, since the late 80s MA Recordings have been creating sonically pristine albums with a much simpler set up than I have. The company was started by one Todd Garfinkle. You remember Simon and Garfinkle of course. He bought a custom-made microphone preamp, a pair of Bruel & Kjaer microphones, and a specially modified high-resolution digital recorder. Instead of looking for soundproof environments, he’d go to old churches, concert halls and rooms where he knew the ambience sounded good. Then, he’d record. That’s it. No reverb or effects needed because, unlike studio recording where the sound is created after the performer leaves, Todd’s technique relies on the artists to create their perfect sound, no post-production or mixing required. It works astonishingly well and Todd’s MA Recordings now have 84 albums of world, classical and jazz under their belt. He lives in LA but, since he and his gear are highly portable, He records in Japan, Hong Kong, Spain, Portugal, France, Italy and Argentina among other global destinations. But, don’t go looking for any of his albums at the iTunes store, because MA Recordings are only available on CD, vinyl and CD ROMs with high rez wave files. They’re not cheap either. Each album will set you back at least 30 bucks. So, let me see if I have this straight; a record company with little or no overhead, creates superior quality audio and charges consumers through the nose for it. If that’s not beating the system, I don’t know what is.

 

TV's Family Home - it's smaller than we remember

 

Patricia Fraser, the mild-mannered host of Celt In A Twist radio lives a double life, her alter-ego being the blogger/boffin, Lady Who Lives Down The Lane dot com. I hope you've been checking out her posts on laneway home living, urban densification, affordable housing and down-sizing. Now, if you're listening somewhere on your acreage, you're probably living the North American dream with a big house to go along with that big property. But, if you're a city dweller like me, you know that expensive things, like homes and diamonds come in small packages. And, the dream might be bigger than the reality ever  was. Patricia's latest post, 'Home, home on the screen' provides a fascinating look  at how famous television families of the past lived the dream on TV. Going way back with Leave It To Beaver, the Cleavers lived in a two level, 2.5 bath home, but Wally and The Beav still had to share a bedroom. Rob and Laura Petrie had a one and a half level bungalow-style home with a sunken livingroom into which Dick VanDyke fell head over heels at the start of every episode (surprisingly, that never got old), Darren and Samantha Stevens' bewitching digs seemed suspiciously similar to the Petries and The Brady Bunch? Well, Mike Brady was an architect who designed the home sweet home of his blended family. Even still, with all those kids, remember how tiny Alice's kitchen was? On average homes in the 50s were just 983 square feet whereas today, the family house has ballooned to 2,262 square feet. Another survey in Patricia's post tracks the average family's movement through their domicile and most of their time is spent in less than half the house. And, that 'must have' formal dining room is nearly completely a waste of space. Who eats formally anymore anyway? You're lucky to be sitting down at the time. No, the dream never was as big as we thought it was when we were kids, and it's becoming less affordable and practical every day. Cars used to be better bigger as well. Same goes for recording studios. But, today with 7 billion of us elbowing out our own piece of the planet, it seems like the responsible thing to do is to learn to love living small.

 

 

Nipples and Navels

 

So, it’s apparent that the Russian people like a leader who acts strong, talks strong and shows a lot of nipple. This week, Uncle Vlad told a group of pro-Kremlin kids, “It’s best not to mess with us.” So what? They’ve annexed Texas now? But, back to the teat at hand; the nipple, more precisely, let’s set our gaze a little lower to the humble navel. We all have ‘em. Outies are rare. Only 10 percent of the population has actual buttons on their bellies which leaves 90 percent of us with lint traps. You may never have contemplated your navel’s appearance but scientists have and they’ve come up with a formula for what makes a navel cute as a button. This from the Daily Mail, “Surgeons at the University of Singapore’s Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, whose research was published in ASJ, analyzed images of 37 Playboy Playmates  to assess the ideal length, shape and position of the navel. With the help of a computerized tool called an ‘Aesthetic Analyzer’, they established that a perfect belly button has a ratio of 46:54, and a midline horizontal position. The ideal length is 5 percent of the length from the lower breastbone to the lower part of the vulvar cleft, and the ‘hood,’ or flap, is very small.” There you have it in plain English, I think. By the way, a number of those surgeons expressed surprise at the Playboy Playmate images, saying they only ever read the magazine for the articles. So, to sum up today’s navel exercises, the belly button should indeed be positioned in the centre of the belly, preferably vertically-oriented, not too deep with a small hoodie. Alfred Hitchcock apparently lost his navel due to surgery, so did super model Karolina Kurkova who looks kinda like, well, Barbie. As for Putin, I hope he’s not planning a show of navel force any time soon.

 

 

Tipping is back on the menu, boys!

 

To tip or not to tip, it’s not even a question in today’s negative option, compulsory tipping world. I’d prefer restaurants just factor the tip into the price on the menu because frankly, I don’t like doing the math, especially on a full stomach. Fortunately, there’s an app for that but I suspect I’m not alone in picking what I believe to be a fair percentage for service rendered and just going with it. I won’t bother scaling it from poor to excellent. Even when the service is especially bad I’ll leave a tip and simply never come back. A Vancouver Island eatery made Canadian hospitality history 3 months ago by increasing its servers’ wages past 20 dollars an hour, making them stake-holders in the company and dispensing with tipping all together. Of course those expenses were passed on the customer as well so since June, a hamburger at Smoke ‘n Water in Parksville would set you back 20 bucks. Now this from owner, David Jones, “After 3 months of pioneering the no-tipping concept in Canada, we have chosen to listen to the majority of our local customers who have expressed their desire to have a say on the quality of food and service they receive.” Translation? Tipping is back on the menu, boys! Nice spin by the way, Mr. Jones who is saying, in effect that his patrons are so obsessed with registering an opinion table-side on the service they have just received, that they are willing to pay for the privilege, which to my mind sounds as ridiculous as paying to take a phone survey. It’s also hard to swallow that these compulsive tippers are more concerned with offering a critique than considering their 15 percent giftie on top of the bill as being kind and generous to the poor shmuck who just waited on them hand and foot for the past hour or so, and in most cases, for minimum wage, which created the whole idea of mandatory tipping in the first place. Oh, and by the bye, staff are probably smokin’ mad at Smoke ‘n Water because that guaranteed 20 dollars an hour is no longer on the table. And still, Jones won’t fess up to the epic fail. His parting words? “I say, ‘Good try, it was an interesting experiment,’ but I think it’s way before its time in this current culture.”  I believe if you google image hubris you’ll see his picture.

 

Body Art at the Beach a Family Thing

 

Nothing illustrates the current popularity of and propensity for tattoos like a week at the beach. Our regular summer pilgrimage to Okanagan Lake in sunny Penticton is timed for ultimate relaxation and decompression We arrive a full week after the Boonstock music festival, on the last day before the Peach Fest carnies pack up the midway rides. All the action is over on the other end of town on Skaha Lake, leaving us with the families and old timers to enjoy the simple pleasures of a dip in the lake, a good book, and several hours made in the shade, under a big tree for pale, white folks like me. What surprised me this year was the amount of ink on display, for such a mild-mannered crowd. It was the first time I noticed multi-generational tats on dads and moms and their 16 years or over offspring. The jocks have their guns adorned, while the hipsters go for the ‘in your face’ statements with ink on their necks and heads. I guess I notice tattoo art because I’ve long been intrigued by it, though I remain virginally tattooless. I notice that the more pale you are, the better bright colours look on your body art, while the tribal designs definitely suit darker skin tones. It also appears (to my eyes anyway), that tattoos look better clustered rather than little designs here, there and everywhere. On women, I think a sleeve of ink down one arm or a side design from the underarm to the hip can be very alluring. Obviously, on the beach one will catch a glimpse of even those discreetly placed motifs that your boss would never even know you have. Statistics state-side indicate the art is very much a going concern with 45 million Americans owning at least one tattoo, fuelling a 1.65 billion dollar industry (not counting prison tats of course). For the rest of us there are two ways of  rationalizing our lack of tat: inwardly admitting that there will always be far more inspiring canvases than my unremarkable bod, and externally boasting with smug defiance that, “You wouldn’t put a bumper sticker on a Lamborghini now would you?”

 

Big Oil and Auto-Tune have history

 

What do Big Oil and Auto-tune have in common? Aside from the obvious that life would be better if we reduced our dependency on either of them, the T-Pains, Chers and nearly every Jamaican dancehall artist owes that weirdo flangey vocal effect, in part to Exxon Production Research, and in particular, one oil industry scientist by the name of Andy Hildebrand. Handy Andy developed software for reflection seismology, a method of pinging the planet with reflective seismic waves to get a better idea of what is actually beneath our feet. It works magic for finding oil deposits. But, Andy’s passion was not crude. He also happened to be a professionally trained flutist, and one day in 96 or 97 someone made a fluke comment in his direction, about how great it would be if there was a gadget that could keep singers in pitch. The idea came to Hildebrand like a blowout at an oil rig. Reflective seismology works by manipulating acoustic data. His software would became the template for Auto-Tune, which when used sanely and wisely by audio professionals can adjust a pitchy delivery almost imperceptibly. I believe Brittany Spears made a career out of it. Even gifted vocalists can benefit from Auto-Tune. The first vocal take at any session is usually the strongest, freshest and most energized. If the producer wants a second pass to fix a pitchy line in the first chorus, the vocalist will be thinking of nothing else but nailing the note the next go around. Auto-Tune can fix an otherwise keeper performance. But, like any powerful tool, it can also be wielded for evil. In 1998, some studio hotshot discovered that if you run Cher’s voice through Auto-Tune at the most aggressive setting, it sounds kinda like C3PO and that’s when the world changed, and not for the better. So, do you believe in life after Auto-Tune?

 

 

"Indie Rock is Dead!" – Thus Spaketh The Sun

 

And it came to pass that a great crowd gathered in the wilderness for the Pemberton Valley Music Festival, a megafest in the middle of nowhere, British Columbia. Amongst the throng was a music journalist of such verbosity, his opinions on everything from Folk to EDM appeared daily in Vancouver’s most prestigious newspaper. The scribe was movedth by what he saw and hence, returning from the valley he proclaimed to the people in a loud voice, “Hark!” (Well, he didn’t exactly say hark), but he spaketh these words, “Independent Rock is dead!” His festival forensics noted that while indie acts like Arcade Fire had their faithful; it was the house music from the likes of Deadmau5 that really drove the millennial girls gaga. But, what it really comes down to is today’s music festival is mixed media; there’s the music you watch and listen to, and there’s the music to which you mindlessly dance like a hypnotized chicken at 120 beats per minute. One medium is observational; the other is a communal experience. As for the demise of independent rock, I was a huge REM fan. I bought every album and went to every concert because nobody sounded like them. But, in the billion band universe, there’s always somebody who sounds exactly like the next guy. That’s why algorithm-generated services such as Pandora or Rdio are so popular. It’s easy to stitch together a plump playlist of like-sounding tunes. It also leaves little room for band loyalty. So, it’s the festival that’s changed its stripes. It's now less of a concert and more of a happening, which raises two questions for me: 1/ What’s the point of a stage when all there is to look at is a giant foam mouse head and a laptop?  And 2/ What are millennials listening to when they’re sitting still, on the bus, at the office, in Starbucks … that’s a better place to start if you’re trying to determine what’s really dead and what’s just totally sick.

 

 

3 days of music fest in 6 hours

 

Whatever happened to Martin Mull? He famously said talking about music is like dancing about architecture. But, I did join the crowds at the Vancouver Folk Music Festival this past weekend and I wanted to share my take away. My first taste on site was one of the fest’s patented workshops. Not much work at all really, it’s just a jam between some of the acts who happen to be around that day. The cutesy name was OutSpoken featuring First Nations poet/singer Leonard Sumner, diva Mary Lambert and the rhythms of Zimbabwe’s Mokoomba to light a fire under all that folk music. Then, off to Stage 2 for a sublime set with Scottish singer Karine Polwart who cast a spell with her very charming brogue. On to Stage 5 for Culture Crawl, another workshop surrounding last week’s guest on the show, Tamar Ilana and Ventanas, along with Geomungo Factory, a seated but deadly non-traditional Korean group on very trad instruments and a wah wah pedal, La Manta from Mexico and the lovely and throaty Alejandra Ribera of Argentinean and Scottish roots. Right next door at Stage 6 my local faves, Pacifika set up for a dreamy, groove-laden hour. Then, picking myself off the grass I made haste to the main stage for Seun Kuti and Egypt 80; authentic, bubbling Afrobeat created in reverence for its father, Fela Kuti. While finishing a quick bite, I heard the strains of turbo-charged Cajun next door at Stage 3 where I ended up for a balls to the wall session with Lost Bayou Ramblers. This you have to hear and you will if you tune in worldbeatcanada radio. In anyone’s book, that has to add up to a full menu of music. I also jammed with my own band on Friday and took a gorgeous boat cruise into the Salish Sea on Saturday with family and friends. That’s the kind of weekend I’m talking about; variety and balance. A three day festival is a big time commitment and there’s lots else to do during the summer. I got my fest on in 6 hours without feeling pressured to stay ‘til the fat lady sang and I certainly got my fill.

 

 

 “And the colored girls say Doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo” - Lou Reed 

 

We figured out Netflicks for our smart TV on the weekend after giving up on the summer fare across the major networks. So, who’s smart now, idiot box? Of course, it was Canadian Netflicks, which is as politely boring as it sounds, but the expert selector in our household did find us a gem to watch; a documentary about the backup singers called ‘20 Feet From Stardom’, which opens with Walk On The Wild Side’s iconic Doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doos, as the girls fade up in the mix from the distant background to front and centre, which is essentially the thrust of the film. There really were only a handful of them and they deserved the fame as much as the stars they propped up, though it was the music they were in it for and the freedom, when offered to truly let loose. Think about Merry Clayton who got the call late one night to help out the Rolling Stones in the studio with a song called Gimme Shelter and proceeded to blow Mick Jagger away with her impassioned wail. Or how about Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductee, Darlene Love, kept for years under the thumb (no Rolling Stones pun intended) of flaky Phil Specter, then to suffer the indignity of having to sing ‘Sweet Home Alabama’ for Lynard Skynard’. She lifted her voice and cried out with all the bitter irony she could muster. There’s Ike and Tina and David Bowie’s secret weapon, Claudia Lennear and Stevie Wonder’s wonderful vocal foil, Tata Vega. And, the woman who gave up a solo career because she just preferred blending in as a backup singer, Lisa Fischer, a staple of American R&B, often in the spot light anyway, trading vocal riffs on stage with Jagger and the Stones. Hers is a voice of such range and versatility as to trivialize the vocal calisthenics of squealers like Mariah Carey. The ringing truth about 20 Feet From Stardom is that the backup singers were brought in to dress up the song’s hooks and those are the bits you ultimately remember. You might forget the lyrics but you’ll always remember the Doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doos. Far from being  background ingredients, these talented women are more often the icing on the cake.

 

 

Music Fest, meet Miss Manners

  

Ever since Casey Kasem counted down the Top 40 (may his soul rest in peace), lists have been the go to for any media content provider with writer’s block. If we can’t think of something meaningful to say we can at very least arrange the subject matter in an orderly fashion. By the way, don’t forget to check out our monthly contemporary global music charts at www.worldbeatcanada.com. Just as December brings the obligatory ream of year enders, summer clocks everything you need to know about outdoor music festivals. Some lists offer practical advice, like dress comfortably, drink lots of water, bring a hat and sun block and never camp within 5 minutes of the toilets. Camping at music fests is one thing I just don’t get. I don’t like lying in the dirt at the best of times but isn’t the idea of camping to get away from hordes of people, not closer to their aromatic festival funk? The other thing I don’t get is people bringing their acoustic guitars or the dreaded djembes. Is there not enough live, professionally executed music on stage? I only attend one 3 day festival each summer and it’s close enough that I can bus in and back home each day. But, even the venerable Vancouver Folk Music Festival which has had 36 years to work out the kinks, has built-in etiquette issues that rankle. The Friday afternoon kick-off traditionally begins with something dubbed the Birkenstock 500, where early arrivals race to the main stage and stake out their real estate with lawn chairs and blankets; no pill boxes, trenches or machine gun nests, apparently grandma’s quilt is all that’s need to fend off intruders. And, there they sit, or loll in the sun, be the entertainment to their liking or not. These stake holders know that after stretching their legs, watering their horse or gorging on beaver tails their hallowed ground will be waiting for their return. Now, imagine this from the performers’ perspective. They gaze out from the stage at one of the most spectacular vistas in existence. Honest, Jericho Beach is breathtakingly beautiful. But, the first, conscious, standing bodies they can draw energy from are over 100 yards away behind a sea of blankets and beached sea lions. I’m looking forward to July 18th through 20th at Folk Fest. The line-up promises lots of great global music from the likes of Seun Kuti and Egypt 80, Ozomatli and local faves, Pacifika. And, mark my words. If I spy one vacated blankie during Ozo’s performance, I will claim it for my own. You can look for your bed covering later at the lost and found.

 

The Vogue Theatre Series at Jazzfest

 

Happy Canada Day and Independence Day to our friends north and south of the 49th. My thanks to the Coastal Jazz executive for yet again entrusting me with the enviable job of hosting the Vogue Theatre Series for the 29th Annual TD Vancouver International Jazz Festival. Next year she turns 30, if she wants. It's a festival's prerogative to stay 29 for as long as she can pull it off. No doubt, they'll be wanting to pull out all the stops next year, so this year's event was a solid business success, I'm guessing from the pinpoint precision of the programming. There's more to it than selecting a great roster of artists. Good programming is about putting the right artist in the right room because one size definitely doesn't fit all. There weren't any chances taken at The Vogue. The fest even took a break on a couple of nights. But, the shows were either sold out or at capacity and that's bound to make the bean counters happy. What it meant for me was a series where I was surrounded by legends; proven performers like John Scofield, Maceo Parker, Charles Lloyd and Cassandra Wilson. Sure, I would have loved to have seen more global grooves but that's been an ongoing problem since 9/11. A lot of the world artists are being turned away at the border, and again I implore the government to give its collective head a shake. These talents are cultural ambassadors, not terrorists. I did get to meet Cuban trumpet master, Arturo Sandoval who was mentored by Dizzy Gillespie himself. The 10 time Grammy winner was incredibly humble and gracious. The best usually are. Of course, with a citywide event like Jazzfest, you even have to make room for the people who wouldn't touch jazz with a ten foot pole. The Vogue Theatre Series served up a night for them with the white as Wonderbread double bill of Royal Wood and Jill Barber, a show so adult contemporary, I just about fell asleep. No mean feat considering I was standing at the time. Congrats again to Coastal Jazz, the little not-for-profit that could, and has done for almost 30 years. 2015 should be killer!

 

How would you like to be introduced on stage?

 

I’m full of opinions. Sometimes I may be full of fertilizer, but I try to stick to topics to which I can bring a unique or different perspective. We’re in the thick of the TD Vancouver International Jazz Festival which, after 14 years of hosting has given me a unique perspective on the art of the on stage introduction. It’s not as easy as it looks, and unlike people, of which there are only ever two different kinds, intros come in three different varieties dictated by three different types of  artists and their expectations. The first kind and vast majority of musicians, thank goodness, are just happy if you get their name right. If you can deliver that with some gravitas, they’re your best friend for life because, in my experience, artists perform better when they walk onto the stage to large applause after being anointed in accolades. The second kind are the sticklers for detail. Usually, these are younger artists who have incredible talent and achieved much success quickly. They are micro-managers and perfectionists (as many musicians are). They would prefer to know verbatim what you are going to say about them and they have specific demands for exactly how they are to be referred to in the introduction. This second variety makes up a relatively small percentage of the artists I’ve encountered backstage and, I treat it as a challenge to give them everything they expect and hopefully a little more. The third kind or artist is an MC’s worst nightmare and thank goodness, rare. These are the performers who either have their own opening shtick or worse, would like to come out 5 minutes after the introduction. That’s like making the pitch, throwing a strike and waiting 5 minutes to hear the crack of the bat. It never goes well and sucks all the energy out of the room. In the case of a festival, there is a good deal of standardization needed to build the brand and that includes introductions. Sponsors want their name associated with that eruption of applause to welcome a performer to the stage. This third kind of artist needs to recognize that he/she/they are part of something bigger, it’s not just another show on the road. Coming out when you feel like it would never cut it on TV, so why should OK at a live event? What it says to me is that you need a little extra time to haul your gigantic ego to the stage.

 

Fifa Opening Ceremony Lacked Kick

 

I made sure to PVR the World Cup Opening Ceremony but I rapidly lost interest. I don’t know, I was expecting something more Olympian maybe, and well, to be frank, lustier. I don’t necessarily mean that in the titillating sense, although from the nation that lent its name to the mother of all bikini waxes I did expect to see less cute kids and more g-strings. This is the same Brazil that celebrates Carnaval each year, the biggest, wildest, most colourful and most energized street party in the world. Instead, we obviously got something programmed by committee with textbook cultural nods. Sure, Sao Paulo is a long way from Rio, but the lack of real music was truly astonishing. Every Brazilian baby is born with a rhythm in its soul. But, when the giant soccer ball opened “like a flower”, the CBC colour man cooed,  who pops out but Pitbull, J-Lo and local star, Claudia Leitte performing the uninspired Fifa theme song which certainly was put together by a committee. That’s nothing new for Mr. and Mrs. Bull’s little boy, Pit. His hits are routinely manufactured by a team of seven to ten writers. I’m sure J-Lo does the same. Even the queen diva of pop, Beyonce, whose smash with hubby Jay Z, Drunk In Love lists eight collaborators. Conversely, Pharrel’s Happy, the longest running Number One hit of the year was self-penned. I’m certainly not knocking songwriting collaborations. It worked for the Gershwins and many other partnerships through modern history, but art by committee is seldom strong. Personally, I would appreciate more expressions of individual artistic vision, whether at the opening ceremonies on the soccer pitch or in the recording studio.

 

Music curation to fix streaming

 

Yes Virginia, there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. Last week we spoke briefly about Apple’s acquisition of Beats and how the stylin’ headphones are the apple of Apple’s eye as they pursue a fashionista approach to wearable gadgets. But, the other half of the Beats 3 billion dollar buyout has farther reaching implications for music lovers, especially those who dive into the stream of things. Beats Music streaming will eventually become iTunes Radio, a service that will introduce a very old music radio concept to the universe of unlimited music and that’s one of human curation. Instead of relying solely on electronic algorithms to generate a playlist for the subscriber, Beats Music is, according to their marketing, “programmed by a trusted team of well-respected music experts with over 300 years of experience across all genres, Beats Music delivers the right music for any situation, any time, and any preference, personalized to your tastes.” Wow, 300 years experience. That takes us back to the 1700s before there even was recorded music. Silly statistics aside, the formula goes a long way to addressing a very real problem with unlimited choice, as noted by co-founder Jimmy Iovine. Too much music can leave the neophyte in a kind of decision-making paralysis, or worse, a cycle of running over the same old ground because that’s familiar and safe territory. In the golden age of music radio, listeners relied on the DJ as selector; an educated ear with access to a great variety of music and possessing the skill and patience to handpick the most interesting and most accessible. That human connection is what’s missing, not only in the world of digital streaming but in commercial hit radio, which also depends heavily on algorithms, music sales and charts to take the guesswork out of programming. But, where’s the fun in that? Beyond all else, music should be sheer enjoyment and that’s why we handpick every hour of worldbeatcanada radio and Celt In A Twist. Because, sometimes it’s just nice to chill and let someone else make the decisions, especially when there’s too much of a good thing.

 

Apple iWill Get To It Later

 

Steve Jobs had a laser-guided, high definition vision of the future. It was sleek, it was intelligent, it was powerful and it was expensive. So, when did Apple’s next big thing become the iWill Get To It Later? In the news this past week, Apple acquires Dre’s Beats for a cool 3 billion dollars. We'll talk about Beats' 'curated' streaming next week, but for now, let's focus on the headphones. They’re on the ears of celebrities and sports figures and every flat-brimmed cap playa on the street because they embrace the Apple esthetic; sleek, powerful and expensive. For me the question is, why does Apple have to acquire such technology when in the past they would have designed it themselves? Well, Apple is eager to exploit the popular fashionista brands to create the next ‘gotta have’ wearable gadget. This month it’s Beats headphones and on the iRadar are fashion houses like Stella McCartney and Burberry. Burberry? Does anyone really want a plaid iPad? And, where’s the next big Apple thingy anyway? This is the company that took my hopelessly outdated iPhone 4 with its hip 3D app graphics and has progressively dumbed down the look with the iOS7 software system to the point where my phone now looks like its programming was designed by an iBaby. Looking forward to iOS8 ... not. iTunes has been through more updates than Joan Rivers’ face, but in the end, try getting some customer service for your iTunes podcast and see how far you get. Meanwhile, I’ve hot rodded my Mac Pro with enough RAM and ROM to store and run my entire brain when this mortal shell gives out (that’s the plan anyway) but, because of my old operating system, I’m seeing the beachball or as I prefer to call it, ’the pinwheel of death’ more and more these days. Look, I’m willing to buy into Apple’s exclusive technology because I bought into Steve Jobs’ vision long a go. But, if Apple isn’t doing anything to achieve their next legacy, at least they should support and maintain the ones they’ve created.

 

 

Windsor Hums & Rio Rivals 

 

You just don't hear anybody happily whistling or humming a tune anymore. We have portable devices to do that for us. So, music appreciation has become more of a visual expression, like  head bopping or chicken necking. But, the hum is alive and, well, humming in Canadian Detroit; Windsor, Ontario where presumably, automobiles are fitted with litre-measured fuel gauges and speedometers that go up to 300 kph. Only, this tune affectionately known as, you guessed it, the Windsor Hum is worse than an ear worm. It's an annoying buzz that is causing tens of thousands of residents to reach for the ibuprofen to treat their aching heads. But, at least now, thanks to a 60,000 dollar study they can take comfort in knowing that hum isn't in their heads (as they had been ridiculed for in the past). It's deep vibrations coming from a blast furnace across the river at U.S. Steel, a company that's been in the smelting business since 1901. Unfortunately, there's no buzz on when a solution might be found. Windsorites would like studies to continue on the ground, south of the border. Further south in Rio, home to the forthcoming Fifa World Cup, the angry buzz isn't vuvuzalas, it's a pitched battle of the anthems. Which song will become the official ditty of the World Cup. The defender is fading fast. We Are The One (Ole Ola) by Pitbull, JLo and Claudia Leitte is an ultimately unhummable tune and Brazilians are not impressed, calling it a collection of cliches that doesn't pay homage to Brazil's rich musical heritage. Plus, Pitbull looks ridiculous in a samba thong. In the other corner, wearing a smile beneath her attractive abdomen is Shakira singing La, La, La (Brazil 2014) co-penned by Brazil's Carlinhos Brown (we'll hear something from him later). If it sounds all too familiar, it's because you hear it every commercial break as Shakira's smiling belly advertises yogurt that makes you poop. Portions of proceeds from the yogurt sales go to the World Food Program so that's cool at least.  Coincidentally, Carlinhos Brown used to write advertising jingles before he became famous in Brazil and if you recall, Shakira was the one taking the heat in 2010 for that year's official World Cup anthem, Waka Waka. African's couldn't figure why an African artist wouldn't contribute the theme to a tournament hosted in Johannesburg. I think the sound we're hearing isn't a hum or a buzz, it's the sucking noise world music makes when it becomes commercially exploited.

 

Queen Vicky Mash Up 

Gotta love the May long weekend. It’s the first kick at the can for campers, backyard barbequers and patio partiers. And, if nature cooperates it can be a sensual delight; the chance to doff a layer or two of clothing and revel in the first warmth of the sun without sweating bullets. In Canada it’s the Victoria Day long weekend, often referred to as the May 24th long weekend for Queen Victoria’s birthday (she would have been 148 this year) or just the ‘two-four long weekend’ to remind us of how many brewskies to take to the campground. Victoria Day of course has special meaning for us in British Columbia because it’s a reference to our provincial capital, Queen City. Nah, I’m just messin’ with ya,  it’s Victoria of course, crown jewel of Vancouver Island and one of my favorite places to visit as a kid, until BC Ferries made it entirely cost-prohibitive for taxpayers to make the journey, but that’s one for the political talk shows. This is a music program, and old Vicky scores on that count too. Turns out she and her hubby Prince Albert were huge music fans, taking in 50 concerts a year, and they were both accomplished pianists and singers. Freddy Mercury wouldn’t be born until 1946, so what did Queen V and Albert groove to anyway? Well Johann Strauss hopped the channel to perform for Victoria’s coronation which got him the gig to provide music for her accession to the throne in 1838. Felix Mendelssohn apparently had long-time Beliebers in the queen and prince, so much so, Victoria was more than a little star-struck when the composer came to dinner. Mendelssohn raised the palace roof after dessert, mashing up the Austrian national anthem with ‘Rule Britannia’. Sick licks, Felix! I always think of the Kinks’ minor 1969 hit ‘Victoria’ from the album “Arthur (or the decline and fall of the British Empire). Great hooks! Vancouver punkers NoMeansNo thought so too. They covered it and changed the lyrics to reflect Victoria, BC:

 

“Newly weds, nearly deads

 

Seas of green skies of lead

 

Constant rain on my head

 

Stately homes for the rich

 

Bowling green, cricket pitch

 

Victoria, what a bitch.”

 

 

 

Intelligent Life on Planet Banjo

 

The irony of two major banjo concerts, two days in a row on the west coast this past weekend wasn’t lost on Sun newspaper journalist, Francois Marchand. His cover article of Saturday’s Arts & Life section was titled “Planet Banjo” From Bela Fleck to Mumford & Sons and Steve Martin, five-strings rule the world. Mr. Fleck and his banjo virtuoso bride, Abigail Washburn plucked away in the classy confines of Vancouver’s Chan Centre on May 10th and, across the Salish Sea in Nanaimo’s Port Theatre, the overly multi-talented Steve Martin performed on five strings with his Steep Canyon Rangers and Edie Brickell. Bela Fleck remarked on the instrument’s sudden popularity in his interview with Marchand “I like it when it’s good and I don’t like it when it’s bad. Just because it’s wide spread doesn’t mean it’s good.” In an interview I did with Fleck a few years ago, he explained how he, fell in love with the banjo after hearing Earl Scruggs pick out the theme to the Beverly Hillbillies. So, did I and a whole generation of banjo fans. Steve Martin credits Scruggs with inspiring him to finally record his first banjo album, The Crow after he had the chance to collaborate with bluegrass king back in 2001. Recently, I spoke with Malian artist, Habib Koite about the banjo he was given by American bluesman, Eric Bibb, which he took home to Africa, where the instrument has its origins. “When the tour is done, Eric,” he recalls, “please, this banjo must go another way … back to Mali.” That particular banjo became the centerpiece on Soô, Koite’s latest album. Locally, new folksy acts like The Matinee, The Washboard Union and Current Swell hope that the ‘It Instrument’ doesn’t become just another passing fad. As Dave Lang, guitarist for Mumford and Sons puts it, “I hope we don’t end up making the banjo not cool.” I doubt we have to worry about that anytime soon because there are strong signs of intelligent life on Planet Banjo.

 

 

CDs RIP? LOL! 

I had one of ‘those’ facebook convos this week which I wisely dropped before it turned ugly, because the other party is a global music artist of note whom I respect and admire. But, this person was waving the FB equivalent of a placard saying, “Repent, for the end of the CD is nigh.” The frustration was palpable and understandable. Among the more compelling arguments; kids don’t know what to do with CDs, new Macs don’t even come with a CD/DVD drive, and the dilemma?  What are artist supposed to sell from the side of the stage now, a lousy t-shirt with a download card attached? I hear that, but, for me, as a broadcaster and music journalist, CDs are invaluable tools that are as effective a hard storage system as those little glass cubes on Star Trek and will be for some time to come, and I believe artists will have to continue to burn a number of retail-ready packages, if only for promotional and marketing purposes. For my business, I don’t accept downloads because MP3s do not accurately reflect the quality of the recording. CDs also enclose lots of valuable information which I require to ensure that the artists get royalties for airplay, including composer/author credits, production credits, even UPC codes which I have to file with SOCAN (the Canadian counterpart to ASCAP). Besides, a good package speaks volumes about the image artists wish to project with their music, and the effort artists are willing to invest in their careers, which tells me whether they’re serious or just noodling around. Anybody can load some mp3s onto Reverbnation or Bandcamp and presto, meet recording artist (insert algorithm-generated band name here). Yes, kids have no use for CDs but they also don’t collect music anymore because for the most part, it’s become completely disposable. Music is my job and I require hardcopy backup, even if I have 6 terabytes of storage with double-redundancy backup in the virtual world. New Macs don’t have disc drives because that would compromise their ultra slim design. But, you can sill pick up a new external drive for less than 50 bucks. Look, vinyl is still here and records still get scratched. For music professionals and serious collectors there will always be a place for CDs or similar physical, digital format.

 

Fun Run in No Fun City

Celt In a Twist host, Patricia Fraser and I decided to spend some quality time away from the studio this past weekend so we signed up for the Vancouver Sun Run. Over the past 30 years, this 10k mini-marathon has grown into a Vancouver institution and one of the city's biggest public events with over 40,000 registered for 2014. Apart from some strategically placed cover bands along the route and the spectacular urban scenery there's little to entertain the casual entrant, so some company is a great way to keep pace and keep motivated. By casual, I mean neither Patricia or I had any intention of actually running, so at race time we were cued well back in the pack with the weight-watchers and Geritolers because, damn it, that's the way we roll. My bib with registration number was purple and hers, red, so her heat was to start just behind mine. Being the chivalrous rogue that I am,  I took the handicap so we could walk the course together and not start out playing where's Waldo. Did I mention we each shelled out 50 clams for the privilege of hoofing around our city's streets? Anyway it all goes to a good cause. And, I know volunteers are the backbone of an event of this magnitude but seriously, when it comes to security, put a radio and a reflective vest on some people and they're ready to kick ass and take names. So, one beefy boy sees that our bibs are different colours and demands I elbow my way through the red horde to take my rightful place with the purples. Talking about raining on what one placard waving cheerleader on the side of the route cheekily wrote was "The worst parade ever!" By the time we even got to starting grid, defending mens champion, Kenyan runner, Paul Kimugul had already crossed the finish line in 28 minutes 59 seconds. Congratulations to all who made it from one end to the other without losing their smiles along way. After all, it is and was a fun run for most of us. And to the security dude, remember, your job is to assist in that process not prosecute, so chillax cowboy, which coincidentally is  the thing we do best in the west 

 

Well Done André Rhéaume!

Now don’t go telling me how crappy your job is, because according to a new report from CareerCast, mine breaks the top 5 of the year’s worst. At the top, Lumberjack, number 2, newspaper reporter, 3, enlisted military personnel, 4, taxi driver, and holding down the number 5 spot is broadcaster. Actually I love my job once I look past the poverty, long hours and little or no respect. But, it’s the cold hard reality of the digital world that newspapers and terrestrial broadcasting are going to have to share a smaller slice of a much larger media pie from now on, only, you would have thought 10 years ago somebody would have seen this coming and better prepared the industry for it. CBC obviously didn’t as reflected in their latest blood-letting, especially out east. Artsy afartianados across the country are screaming foul but the truth is our dear Mother Corp has to compete in an industry that is rapidly learning to do much more with far less. Yet, our Canadian technical institutes are overflowing with applicants willing to fork out 4 or 5 grand to study the broadcast arts. I guess today’s budding broadcasters are confident that they are the exception, and long-term, full-time, gratifying employment awaits somewhere down the dial. Big props to André Rhéaume, a fellow world music broadcaster, next door neighbor and CBC French-language broadcaster for 30 years presenting Round the World on Ici Musique. He was one of the few CBCers west of the Rockies to lose his gig in the recent round of firings. Though we spent many years next door in a small French-Canadian enclave of Vancouver, I found out the sad news from a Montreal-based musician friend who is a huge fan. No doubt he has many. He has a breathtaking knowledge of all kinds of music from all over the world and an engaging, soothing on-air manner. More importantly, André’s show was really the poster child for the grand CBC manifesto of accessible, home grown programming in both official tongues for all Canadians. On top of that; he presented a French-language world music program based in Vancouver? Incroyable! Good luck, André my friend in the next chapter of your broadcasting career. It’s our passion for this that keeps us here, little else.

 

 

Choice Words make a Fair Sentence

 Props to the writers out there; the craftsmen who can cobble together a few choice words into enduring sentences full of weight, wonder and something else pithy that starts with a W.  The editors at The American Scholar dot org. have revealed their picks for the 10 best sentences of all time, but honest to Pete,  some of these, like a hefty nugget from F. Scott  Fitzgerald’s Great Gatsby are so long, I started to nod off after passing the third comma. That’s right, I was nearly stricken commatose. Here’s a couple of snappier examples; from James Joyce – A Portrait of An Artist As A Young Man, “I go to encounter for the millionth time the reality of experience and to forge in the smithy of my soul the uncreated conscience of my race.” Try that next time you’re looking for a good pickup line. In Sula, Nobel Prize-winning novelist, Toni Morrison penned, “It was a fine cry—loud and long—but it had no bottom and it had no top, just circles and circles of sorrow.” Not such a great pickup line but it should win you some sympathy. Ah, here’s one for Jane Austen fans from Pride and Prejudice, “For what do we live, but to make sport for our neighbors, and laugh at them in our turn?” Yes, charity begins at home but comedy begins on the other side of the fence. Vladimer Nobakov wrote this in Lolita, “There is nothing more atrociously cruel than an adored child.” Read them all at The American Scholar dot org but don’t forget to scroll down to he comments where one Daniel Carpenter submitted my personal favorite on the page. In Hitchhikers’ Guide To The Galaxy, Douglas Adams ruminates, "The ships hung in the sky in much the same way that bricks don't." By the by, the original radio cast of the comic space opera reunited recently at London’s BBC Radio Theatre for a live broadcast. You can find a link to the broadcast on BBC4 right here at our articles page, worldbeatcanada.com but fair warning, the episode is currently not available on BBC iPlayer Radio. Or, as Douglas Adams would put it, “For a moment, nothing happened. Then, after a second or so, nothing continued to happen.”

 

Colbert for Letterman in 2015?

The other night my best bud in the radio biz shared a You Tube clip featuring two of our mutually most favorite acts; David Letterman and REM. It was a vintage performance of Radio Free Europe and South Central Rain from 1983. During the 80’s I spent many a bleary-eyed morning after a Late Night with Letterman. Not only did he have great musical acts, his out of studio bits were good natured adolescent fun; like dropping things from a  5 story tower or squeezing things in a giant press, or exploding things, you get the idea. But, mostly Dave was and still is a great interviewer, a hell of a broadcaster who consistently comes off as an affable character. He even handled it well when he got caught shtupping his assistant Stephanie. But, after 30 years of late night TV, he’s pulling the plug on his mic and speculation is rife on who will fill his considerable shoes. So far the front runners include Steven Colbert, Chelsea Handler, Conan O’Brien, Craig Ferguson and Piers Morgan. Personally, I hope Colbert gets the shot. The Fox TV/Tea Party crowd will be watching Jimmy Fallon anyway so CBS doesn’t have to worry that Stephen’s right wing nutball shtick is going to alienate them. Colbert’s got the frenetic energy; he’s sharp as a tack and so quick on his feet; maybe quicker than Dave. He has the best writers in show business and like Dave, he has great musical guests. And, Colbert does something none of the other late night hosts do; he’ll sit down the whole band and interview them prior to their performance. Frankly, I don’t know why no one else has picked up the practice. Because, sometimes the only thing better than listening to music is listening to music when you know the story behind it. Bring on an hour of Colbert. Late night television could do much worse.

 

Music Marketing Gimmickry

I found myself watching Gypsy over the weekend, a 1962 movie on TCM Classics starring Rosalind Russell, Karl Malden and a stunning Natalie Wood in the role of  the grand dam of burlesque strip tease, Gypsy Rose Lee. I’m sure any good stripper would tell you that the art is in the antici …. pation. For some reason, that got me thinking about all the gimmickry that’s used to sell music, especially by some of the biggest names in the biz. I realize Beyonce’s fifth album; an epic of audio and visual stimulation, released with a film short to accompany each song won raves, but where’s the art in instant gratification? Could the music have stood on its own if even for a short while without Mrs. Carter’s handsome visage in HD to prop it up, immediately? I know. If you got it, flaunt it. There’s a lot riding on superstars’ recording contracts and they want to make sure they get it just right. Maybe that’s why the New York Daily News is speculating that the delays in U2’s new album, which was supposed to come to market back in the summer, are because Bono is experiencing writer’s block. With a career that’s lasted as long as theirs  I’m impressed they can come up with any new ideas at all. They could trot out the old stuff on stage for years to come and fans would be happy. But, one recent instance of music marketing gimmickry really steams my carrots. I’m talking about you, Wu-Tang Clan who in a feat of stupendous hubris are releasing only one physical copy of their upcoming double disc, ‘The Wu – Once Upon A Time in Shaolin’. The disc will tour galleries, museums and festivals before being auctioned off to one collector for multi-millions. Wu-Tangs’ Robert Diggs says, “This is like somebody having the scepter of an Egyptian king”. Oh really? Have they been taking humility lessons from Kanye? As for the real hip hop fans  who have been waiting since 07 for some nu Wu, they’ll have to settle for plugging their 300 dollar Beatz by Dr. Dre headphones into a crappy MP3 download of Once Upon A Time in Shaolin. This is one music marketing gimmick I hope blows up on the Clan, and not in a good way.

 

 

Chose your words, they can make or break your song

Know anyone who says they never listen to the words when talking about popular music? I'm probably the worst for that, programming world music which is more often than not in a language other than English. It's painfully obvious from my pronunciation of foreign song titles, that the Anglaise is the only lingo I'm halfway fluent in. If translations are provided in the liner notes I hungrily devour those. They may only approximate the art of the poetry but at least they provide clues to the themes and emotions driving the song. While listeners can chose to absorb or ignore the lyrically content, it's a good idea for the artists themselves to give them more than a passing thought. Two researchers at North CarolinaUniversity did analysis on number 1 songs on the Billboard charts from the 50s through to the double naughts and identified the 12 most common lyrical themes in the most popular songs. Breakup tops the list throughout the decades. In the 60s we also heard a lot about Nostalgia, Pain and Rebellion. The 70s were similar except Pain gave way to Jadedness. The 80s brought us a  sense of Loss, Aspiration and Confusion. Apparently, we still resonated with Loss in the 90s though with less Aspiration and more Inspiration, less Confusion and more Escapism. And so far, the 2000s continue to ring with Inspiration mixed with Desperation and something which hasn't been big since the 60s; Pain. Well, what goes around comes around. What constantly surprises me is how melancholy popular music is, I mean nothing says "Let's party" like lyrics about loss, confusion and pain, am I right? Still at a loss for words to the next megahit? The research also identified the most influential words throughout the decades. No real surprise that Love reigns supreme. The other big words are ones of Quantity, you know More or Less. So if your lyric contains the phrase "More love" or "Less love" or if you "ain't getting no love", you won't get any sympathy from me because your song has hit written all over it.

 
 
St. Patrick meets Medical Science
 
March 8th  and already I was cautioning the Irish massive from the stage of Vancouver’s Rickshaw Theatre. Hermitage Green, all the way from Limerick on the Emerald Isle had just wrapped up a heartfelt set opening CelticFest Vancouver, all the while battling the increasing drunken din. “It’s only the 8th”, I chided the crowd, “And, you’re already knackered. Do you honestly think you can keep this up ‘til St. Patrick’s Day?” Well, Sam Matthews is an intrepid video journalist in the employ of Vocativ, a global social news network, who took the assignment of getting faced, five day in a row to test hangover cures. Check out our articles page at worldbeatcanada.com for a link to the clip. Sam’s self-abuse has been edited to a watchable 7 minutes. With a medical professional tableside, the hapless reporter got sloshed for science and then tested 4 hangover cures the mornings after with varying degrees of success. This is what we learned: Hair of the dog, the theory that drinking more alcohol the next morning will lessen the side-effects of your piss-up the night before only delays the headache and nausea and actually contributes to further dehydration, so that’s a fail. Eating greasy food to absorb the alcohol is another old wives' tale. Besides contributing to your ballooning beer gut, the KFC original recipe and fries with gravy will further irritate the lining of your stomach and increase the chance of you talking to the colonel personally on the great white telephone. There are over-the-counter products bearing mixed results, like Blowfish, a pair of effervescent tabs surprisingly similar to good old Alka Seltzer with the addition of caffeine, giving you a wide-eyed hangover  you can enjoy fully alert with all your heightened senses tingling. Finally, Sam finds the only cure worth the billing, an intravenous drip to rehydrate and dilute toxins, administered by a doctor of course. This method of handling your hangover really does bring relief but, you have to ask yourself, “If my drinking in excess requires medical attention, isn’t it time to learn how to pace myself?” I hope you came through St. Patrick’s Day unscathed by dog bites or snake bites or whatever demon you did battle with the night before.
 
 

CanPorn – Exposing Down South in the Great White North

Fine, call me unpatriotic, but CRTC-regulated Canadian Content percentages are over-protectionist garbage, which create an artificial, insular environment for music, television and film in Canada. And, they don’t serve the artists well either. Canadians have to be able to compete in the global marketplace and in our connected world that’s actually liberating because if your audience isn’t in your own backyard, you can find it somewhere else. Maybe you’ll be big in Japan. It’s happened more than once. Try programming contemporary global music when 30 percent or more of your music has to come from Canada. We don’t and we won’t. On what planet does that reflect what is truly happening in the scene? Well, the bureaucrats at the Canadian, Radio, Television and Telecommunications Commission have become the Brent Butt of many a facebook post this past week for their latest ‘make work’ project. Thy now claim he AOV Movie Channel, AOV XXX Action Clips and AOV Maleflixxxx are failing to meet their requirements of 35 percent Cancon. So, come on Canada, it’s time to shuck your riggin’ and shave your nethers. The CRTC needs you to go into the porn business! Social media speculates that what tipped the regulators off was they weren’t seeing enough images on the adult channels of people having sex in a canoe. Time for Gordie and Marie to make a porno, eh, and tap that thing like you’re drilling for maple syrup. Bu, here’s the kicker; 90 percent of that 35 percent naughty northern programming has to be captioned! What I want to know is how do you make the moans and groans and OMGs scroll by on the bottom of the screen to show increasing speed and intensity leading up to a final big gasping O. And more importantly, who’s actually looking at the subtitles? 

 

 

Little Known Oscar Facts

Congratulation to this year’s Oscar recipients, because at the PC Academy Awards there are no winners or losers and haven’t been since 1988 when presenters stopped using the phrase “and the winner is …” in favour of the kinder, “and the Oscar goes to.” It may hold true amongst the stars, but, Canada’s biggest loser, the mayor of Toronto was in the audience this year. I hope the new crop of statuette holders use its leverage for good, not evil, which Liam Neeson seems to have forgotten with his most recent ‘Mistakes On A Plane’. Doesn’t he remember he was Oscar Schindler? By the way, only one person named Oscar has ever taken one home and that was Oscar Hammerstein II who won twice for best song, ‘The Last Time I Saw Paris’ from Lady Be Good and ‘It Might As Well Be Spring’ from State Fair.  The Academy Award of Merit was nicknamed the ‘Oscar’ in 1939 because one of the librarians thought it looked like her uncle, Oscar. That was ten years after 15 people brought home the golden boys in the very first ceremony which took all of 15 minutes. That’s shorter than one of Meryl Streep’s acceptance speeches! Not to pick on Meryl; she’s been nominated 18 times including this year’s August: Osage County but has only had to give an acceptance speech on 3 occasions. Composer John Williams beats that stat by a county mile, with 49 nominations. But, if there ever was an Oscar loser, it would have to be poor Kevin O’Connell; a recording engineer who has been nominated 20 times since 1983’s Terms of Endearment and has never ever won the prize. His last kick at the can was 2007’s Transformers, an extremely loud summer blockbuster. If he keeps that up he’ll be deaf before he’s nominated again. Exactly zero movies released in the spring or summer have received Oscars because according to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, blockbusters don’t constitute ‘art’. Go figure. The record holders for most Oscars at 11 each are Ben Hur, Titanic, The Lord of The Rings and The Return of The King. Not a blockbuster in the bunch!

 

Apocalypstick – pimping disaster porn

Sci-Fi is one of my greatest pleasures. There’s a morbid deliciousness to the myriad end of the world scenarios futurists envision, be it by environmental cataclysm, celestial catastrophe like, oh, I dunno, the sun blows up, or the perennial favorite; a meteor or comet impact. In an attempt at clever wordplay, my band named our first CD, Apocalypstick (a nod to my fascination with global destruction and the trend at the time to heavy, dark gothic make-up). Now, the title seems almost prescient. Politico magazine writer, Sara Kendzior has written a jolting piece subtitled, “What does our addiction to disaster porn say about us?” She points to high rez images from the nighttime street violence in the Ukraine and asks, “When did the media ever care about the Ukraine?” When the Chernobyl reactor melted down maybe? Disasters certainly light up our eyes, but I doubt many of us look for answers behind the startling apocalyp-clips. In our inter-connected world, just pick a spot, turn out the lights and turn on the pyrotechnics and the world’s end springs to life. The photos from the streets of Kyiv could just as well from Thailand or Venezuela or Egypt. Or, they could be HD close-ups of anonymous sex, or the weather porn we’ve been consuming all winter; the fact is we just can’t turn away. As Kendzior recounts in her article, in 2002 artist Damien Hirst horrified us by comparing 911 to a masterpiece. Indeed, there is a split second when one of the passenger jets impacts the tower and leaves an airplane-shaped hole in the building before blowing up. If a disaster movie painted it that way it would have been held up to mockery because it really looked like something out of a Road Runner cartoon. That image is indelibly etched on my brain. And, that was Kendzior’s rational behind the piece. We can’t look away, so it’s important to look at the story behind the images, so ultimately we empathize and pray for less violence, not more porn.

 

Radio on the Big Screen

Too bad about Philip Seymour Hoffman, I enjoyed everything I ever have ever seen him in. The brightest lights really do burn quickly. The news made me think of  2009's Pirate Radio, a fictionalized recounting of the heady mid-sixties when boats anchored in international waters off the British coast  would broadcast the rock and roll the BBC refused to play. Hoffman played an American DJ named 'The Count' who led a rag tag crew of radio heads through hi-jinx and hilarity. Strangely, there have been a few flicks about the business of radio, offering a glimpse in the the psyche of the people often heard but seldom seen. Clint Eastwood was a jazz jock who broke radio's cardinal rule and had a brief fling with a crazed caller in Play Misty For Me. Every jock has one of those stories. During my first gig in Chilliwack, BC, I received a hand-drawn love letter written in lipstick and crayon. Enclosed was Polaroid selfie of my fan in what I'm sure she thought was an attractive boudoir pose (a little flattering and a whole lot creepy). In Oliver Stone's Talk Radio, Eric Bogosian plays a caustic broadcaster who made an enemy out of one fan. Spoiler alert; it ends badly for the talk show host. Who didn't love Wolfman Jack spinning the soundtrack to American Graffiti with sticky popsicle fingers. And, my guilty pleasure? 1978's FM with that great Steely Dan title track. It glamorized the biz and set the stage for the small screen's WKRP in Cincinnati, another guilty pleasure of mine. Howard Hessman's Johnny Fever would stand as my muse going through radio school at BCIT. Seriously, if people knew about the loneliness, the long hours in little boxes and the low, low, low pay, I swear nobody would get into radio; except morons like me of course.

 

 

For Family and Country

It’s not often I get to cheer for the country of my birth as well as the country of my heritage, but both Canada and the Netherlands got an early start to the medal count at the Sochi games and that makes this Gen 2.0 Dutch Canadian proud. It’s no surprise for us who live a couple of hours from Whistler, BC that Canucks make a good showing in sports like freestyle skiing and snowboarding. West coast kids have been trick riding downhill since they were ankle-biters. Holland’s gold medal performances in speed skating are equally predictable and no less impressive. Their relationship with marathons on flat ice goes back to the tale of Hans Brinker and the Silver Skates. My father was known to regale us with stories of skating along the frozen canals in his youth. This week also marked BC’s very first statutory (as opposed to Hallmark) holiday in February. Our provincial government threw voters this bone to help get us through grey days until Easter presumably. February 10th was Family Day in BC, but if your family lives anywhere else in Canada, they won’t celebrate Family Day until February 17th. Good luck arranging long distance get-togethers (another baffling bit of bureaucratic logic). For those of us lucky to have family close at hand it is a fresh opportunity to create a new family tradition. We kept things fairly simple by going out for brunch and spending some quality time at Burnaby Village Museum. For our BC listeners, I hope the break gave you an opportunity to cheer family and country; and sleep in of course.

 

 

Dining with Strangers? Can't Talk. Eating.

Forget your mother's warnings. The mayor of Vancouver not only wants us to talk to strangers, the Mayor's Engaged City Task Force wants us to share a meal with them. Task Force member Dennis Chan says "If residents get to know each other there will be less isolation they will feel." True that. Let's start the conversation while waiting for the bus, pumping gas into the car, waiting in line to check out your groceries, or use the ATM, or get a coffee or any of the many places where we waste time standing around ... but no. No, that's not enough says councilor Andrea Reimer. That's why City Hall is looking at a pilot project started two years ago where long tables were placed in public spaces and participating restaurants. Some of these communal conversation tables are currently operating successfully in Vancity eateries. Now, I appreciate the Amish thing, where after a long day building a barn, you gather at a long table for conversation and food , basking in the glow of shared accomplishment. But, I also have to admit, I don't like eating with strangers. Don't get me wrong. Mom taught us proper table manners, but when we eat, at least when I eat, my brain shuts down to a more primitive state. Our Neanderthal ancestors probably didn't eat with strangers either because there's always the worry that they are going steal your lunch. No, on this one, I have to side with Homer Simpson who uttered those words of timeless wisdom with a mouth full of  fried shrimp, "Can't Talk. Eating." Sorry strangers. I'd love to say hi, but Mom also taught me never to talk with my mouth full.

 

 

FM dogfight for Surrey

There was a time when a radio station license was a license to print money. Even if they weren’t able to make a go of it in a competitive market, license holders could still sell the operation for boatloads of cash. That is, once the sale has been approved by the governing body that regulates the broadcasting industry and issues those precious licenses in the first place. In Canada, that’s the CRTC, and this week that board of bureaucrats is holding hearings in Surrey, British Columbia as 11 applicants duke it out for a low power signal to service their community. It’s an interesting dogfight, because Surrey has a unique cultural demographic. A full 50 percent of the population is South Asian. It follows that any reflection of the community should include a substantial number of hours targeting South Asians, possibly in their native languages. But, proposed formats inclusive of third language programming are distinguished as applications for ethnic radio licenses not community radio, and that’s a whole ‘nother ballgame with a whole bunch of established players who wouldn’t welcome the added competition in a saturated market. The proceedings will take all week but I think the CRTC is going to have to decide what kind of service, community or ethnic it’s willing to consider. It’s going to be a tough call. While I don’t have a hat in the ring, my personal favorite application is proposing English language programming with worldbeat music to reflect the cultural diversity of the community. I always knew worldbeatcanada radio was ahead of its time. It’s nice to see the format of the future which we’ve pioneered finally start to catch on in the industry. And with commercial radio’s days numbered in a new media world, a localized, low-power operation might just be the right spot for it to take root.

 

 

S.A.D.? No LOL on FB

Well I hope you’re still smiling after the most depressing day of the year.  As if Mondays weren’t bad enough, the third Monday in January is supposed to be a major buzzkill, and it doesn’t surprise me a bit, because the emails, the texts and even the facebook posts I’m receiving are tagged with frowny face icons. Yes, even facebook, that sanctuary of sort of funny memes and kitty pictures seems like a nastier place these days. For instance, I learned this week never to get into a facebook debate with a conspiracy theorist because their pat defense in any argument is, “It sounds  like you drank the kool-aid too, usually tagged with, “you fascist” or “you Nazi” or some other term of endearment. Even my best buddies were teasing me about giving them the texting version of the cold shoulder because I was little tardy in replying. C'est la vie, at least I haven’t been guilty of one of these epic text fails from grown-ups to kids: Mom to David; “Your great aunt just passed away, LOL”, David replies, “why is that funny?” “It’s not funny, What do you mean?” “Mom, LOL means laugh out loud.” “Oh my goodness, I sent that to everyone. I thought it meant Lots of Love.” Or, how about this gem from Dad to his son? “Please stop changing the Google logo so much. I like the original one.” “Dad I don’t change the logo. Google changes it.” “On my computer? You don’t run the Google? “If I did I wouldn’t’ be driving a 204 Ford.” There are lot’s more of these at smosh.com. They’re worth a few giggles, and a few giggles might be all it takes to get past the darkest day on the calendar and turn that frowny face icon upside down.

 

Weighing In on the Great Gym Debate

You don’t hang around this business long without being able to recognize a brilliant stroke of marketing when you see it. Canadian gym giants, Fitness World have taken advantage of the only pseudo-news story in traditionally the slowest news cycle of the year to stir up the perfect storm, in which any one who makes New Years resolutions is going to have an opinion. They are tearing down the walls of sexual segregation at their Vancouver West end location and going co-ed, just in time for the unfit masses to make good on their personal promise to work out in 2014. I don’t make New Years resolutions by the way. I make fresh starts in September, the beginning of the school year, the way I always have. Because, life is nothing if not an education and the world is nothing if not a classroom. Fitness World claims it’s what their clientele had been asking for, but most women it seems are plenty peeved because of the ‘ogle factor’ that comes with working out in front of guys. Of course the most intimidating steroid monkeys aren’t strutting, grunting and flexing for the females, they’re showing off for the other lunks. The men meanwhile, take exception to the women’s charges, saying they prefer the ladies have their own space because all they do is make phone calls, chat and pretend to work out while hogging the equipment. I’ve been going to Fitness World since it was a mere planetoid and I’ve seen very little to support either argument. If she's young and beautifully buff in her lululemon too-sheer yoga pants, I might steal an appreciative glance, but I’ve never heard any cat calls. Conversely, I see a lot of women working out way harder than I ever have and they tend to be the ones less likely to tie up a machine for 120 reps or leave it simmering in a pool of disgusting sweat. Besides, the women paid their dues to have a little privacy for their workout, and Fitness World should respect that. Most importantly, I just mentioned Fitness World 5 times in the course of this editorial and if that doesn’t make this whole issue brilliant marketing on their part, I don’t know what does.

 

Winnipeg – Almost Earth-like

To quote Sir Elton of John (more precisely, Bernie Taupin) “Mars ain't the kind of place to raise your kids. In fact it's cold as hell.” But, it ain't as cold as Winnipeg was last week. What has to be one of the most shocking statistics revealed last week was that the mercury in Winnipeg was minus 31 degrees Celsius (it actually dipped to minus 37.9 at one point, the coldest it's been in eighty years). Meanwhile the Curiosity Rover recorded the temperature on Mars at a balmy minus 29 degrees. So, the wife remarks, "It makes you wonder doesn't it? If it weren't for the whole atmosphere thing, we could live there." To which I replied, "Where? Winnipeg?" Ya, we both had a good laugh about that one and I'm sure karma will come and kick our asses for it. Back in the 'peg, (where it's also colder than the North Pole) with the wind chill, it felt like minus 41 degrees, which of course feels like nothing at all because what ever is exposed to it is frozen numb anyway. I saw a demonstration on the news where someone blew a soap bubble and then poked it. It didn't burst, it shattered. We also learned about the rare natural phenomenon known as frost quakes as the polar vortex continues through central Canada and the States. Torontonians woke up to loud booms which sounded like gunshots. Some probably guessed it was Rob Ford playing with his friends again, but it was cryoseism or frost quakes, which happens when a lot of water gets into the ground table and then freezes and expands, releasing a bunch of energy all at once, again, kind of like Rob Ford on one of his cocaine-induced rants. And, on the Big Rock, Newfoundlanders find themselves experiencing a series of rolling blackouts to conserve energy in the face of the freezing storm. To Canadians everywhere, we send warm wishes from the West Coast where it's 8 degrees but feels like 15 in the sunshine. Don't worry, we'll have our day when all that Fukushima fallout makes landfall.

 

Planes, Trains and Automobiles

Ah, home for the holidays; this year it was a particularly onerous commute to make it happen. We had to slide into our shoes, out the back door of our new laneway home, and walk, oh I don’t know, it could have been at least 25 feet to the kids’ house. But, I always like to get some solid exercise in before strapping on the ol’ feast bag. The other night I caught a John Hughes heart-felt comedy from 1987 called Planes, Trains and Automobiles starring John Candy and Steve Martin as two hapless travelers trying to get home for the holidays only to be met with calamity around every baggage carousel, curve in the train track or bend in the road and it reminded me how lucky I was to avoid the inevitable screw ups that come with holiday travel. This winter’s ice storm back east no doubt stranded many and I feel bad for them. But, imagine getting that seat on that delayed flight, leaving the tarmac and then experiencing this from travel writer, John Lee in the Globe and Mail. The Leaving on a High Note Award... goes to the female passenger on an American Airlines service from Los Angeles to New York who insisted on warbling Whitney Houston songs at the top of her lungs. Fellow passengers were left fondly recalling those flights where babies scream their heads off, while the plane was diverted to Kansas City to deal with what authorities later called a ''very unruly passenger.'' Restrained and cuffed by an onboard air marshal, the karaoke queen was escorted through the airport by two grim-faced officers - whilst belting out her hackle-raising rendition of I Will Always Love You. I hope your trip home to family and friends was more divine and less diva.

 

Low Highs and High Lows

Even the highs were kind of low this year, don't you think? There was the high treason of Edward Snowden and Bradley Manning, the high anxiety of Fukushima, The Philippines and Syria, the high jinx of Mike Duffy, Pamela Wallen and Patrick Brazeau, and the contact high you get standing any where near Rob Ford. The truly high moments this year seemed tied to acts of courage, like 'The People's Pope' Francis opening the Vatican's eyes to a more compassionate view of this world, Malala Yousafzai's Nobel Prize nominated stand for the rights and freedoms of girls and Angelina Jolie's public battle with breast cancer. There were those runners who crossed the finish line of the Boston Marathon shortly after the bombing, who kept running to nearby medical facilities to donate blood, and the tenacity of one Chinese man who found his way home 23 years after being abducted when he was just 5 years old. Google Maps helped him to recognize his hometown. But, the ground-hugging lows and the people who perpetrated them were brain-numbingly stunning in their disregard for people and property; like the cavalier carelessness of the rich and stupid, crystallized by the BC Ferry customer who abandoned his Porsche on the car deck and took the bus home instead. Or, how about Kanye West who abandoned a whole tour because the ginormous stage he conceived to cradle his massive ego turned out to be untransportable? Liverpool Philharmonic conductor Vasily Petrenko set back feminism 40 years by claiming that women can't be conductors because they're too distracting to male musicians. And, no one knows how better to deal with female distractions than young Kim Jong Un who had his ex-girlfriend executed while her family were made to watch. That was before the seasonal North Korean regime's new tradition of killing off an uncle for the holidays. Because, when it comes right down to it, Christmas is all about the family, isn't it?  I hope yours is safe and warm and loved this week.

 

Reality On History Channel

As a new home owner, I appreciate the glut of home purchase, design, restore, demolish, purchase and flip reality shows on HGTV and DIY. But, that’s about all the reality I can handle on an entertainment basis. I certainly don’t need someone else’s drama when I’m looking for escape from my own. That’s why in literature and television I much prefer fiction to non-fiction. Biographies are OK, but I avoid autobiographies, because if the life is interesting enough to write about, that story should come from somebody other than he subject shouldn't it? Otherwise, he or she could be making the whole thing up. The world around us continues to fascinate, however, be it nature’s rich pageant or the history of humankind, I can appreciate a good stalk and feed clip on Discovery or a walk back in time through major moments in time with History.  I also appreciate that cable channels have a lot of time to fill and to do it all with episodic, original programming would be cost-prohibitive, but I think it’s time we call out History and Discovery channels for their snake oil salesmanship. The History Channel has some historically relevant programming that doesn’t include Ice Road Truckers, 3 Pawn Shop reality shows or Outlaw Bikers. I mean, just because you started to grow your beard in the 1960s shouldn’t qualify as historical programming, or reruns of MASH for that matter. Discovery’s schedule doesn’t fare much better. A whole lot of grid time per week is covered by Canada’s Worst Drivers; it’s like commuting without having to get in your car. There’s Moonshiners; I mean, who knew brewing kickapoo joy juice was a multi-million dollar industry? It’s more than a fact, it’s a discovery, and soon it will be history. I don’t think there’s any deliberate misbranding by the cable channels. I just think that trying to create and maintain relevant, quality programming in today’s media landscape is becoming increasingly challenging. They don’t call it reality TV for nothing.

 

Soft Kitty, Psycho Killer

It’s hard to think of soft, warm Mittens as a cold blooded murderer, but in his tiny little chest beats the heart of a savage predator. And, just as owners must take responsibility for fostering aggressive behavior in pit bulls and mastiffs, they have a choice whether Cuddles lives life as a furry throw pillow or as a serial killer racking up an impressive body count. In Canada, it’s estimated that 269 million birds die each year and a whopping 75 percent of those avian fatalities are caused by domestic cats. Those results were recently published in Avian Conservation and Ecology, an online journal by the Society of Canadian Ornithologists. Our two boys are adjusting nicely to our new laneway home which provides them with stairs (the 2 year olds have never experienced this up/down conveyance in their short lives) and tons of window sills above the action outside and at ground level.. I know they are going to be very happy here. But, apart from some leashed EVAs around our balcony, in the house is where they’ll stay. It’s not just the responsible thing to do, it’s the kindest thing to do, even when they spot the neighbor’s cat roaming around the yard, checking out our new digs. I think there is a mistaken sense among some cat owners that to deny the animal its freedom is cruel. “In fact, that’s a myth”, says  Francine Hicks the northeast regional director of the international Cat Association. “Cats love being indoors and they love litter boxes which they use instinctively.” Still skeptical? There’s an easy way to trap a cat. Take an empty cardboard box and leave it anywhere in the house. Come back a few minutes later and dollars to doughnuts there’ll be a cat inside. They love enclosed spaces. So do the right thing if a cat is part of your family. Get him neutered and keep him indoors, if not for the sake of our song birds, for what’s best for Fluffy. Statistics also show that outdoor cats live on average, 5 years, while indoor cats live 12 to 20 years and that’s in real time, not cat years.

 

 

2013’s BEST CONTEMPORARY GLOBAL ALBUMS FROM OUR MONTHLY TOP 30 CHART

 

 

Dub Colossus      - Addis Through The Looking Glass   (Real World)

 

 

 

Calexico – Algiers (Anti-)

 

 

 

JEWDYSSEE- 5773  (Pan Shot Records)

 

 

 

Bajofondo –  Presente (Sony Masterworks)

 

 

 

Bombino – Nomad (Nonesuch)

 

 

 

Warsaw Village Band - Nord  (JARO Median GmbH)

 

 

 

The Garifuna Collective – Ayó  (Cumbancha)

 

 

 

Kobo Town - Jumbie In The Jukebox   (Cumbancha)

 

 

 

The Cat Empire - Steal The Light (Two Shoes)

 

 

 

Gogol Bordello - Pura Vida Conspiracy (Maple Music)

 

 

 

Boban & Marko Markovic Orchestra - Gipsy Manifesto (Piranha)

 

 

 

La Vida Boheme – Sera (Nacional)

 

 

Ikea hacking the common word

Please don’t ask me to assemble Ikea furniture ever again. It’s moving week and my nerves are rattled and my knuckles are skinned. Since this is my last move, ever, seriously, from this point forward I’m turning my tinkering to our English language, because there are few words that can’t be repurposed with a little Ikea hacking. The Washington Post would seem to agree and each year they host a contest to judge the very best in neologism (nee-all-ah-jism); breathing new life into some old words.

16  Bozone (n.): The substance surrounding stupid people that stops bright  ideas from penetrating. The bozone layer, unfortunately, shows  little sign of breaking down in the near future.

15.  Foreploy (v): Any misrepresentation about yourself for the purpose of getting laid. 

14.  Cashtration (n.): The act of buying a house, which renders the subject  financially impotent for an indefinite period.

13.  Giraffiti  (n): Vandalism spray-painted very, very  high.

12.  Frisbeetarianism (n.): The belief that when  you die, your soul flies up onto the roof and  gets stuck  there.

11.   Inoculatte (v): To take coffee intravenously when you are running  late.

10.   Hipatitis (n): Terminal coolness.

  9.  Osteopornosis (n): A degenerate disease. (This one got extra  credit.)

  8.  Karmageddon (n): its like, when everybody is sending off all these  really bad vibes, right? And then, like, the Earth explodes and it's  like, a serious bummer.

  7.  Decafalon (n.): The grueling event of getting through the day  consuming only things that are good for you.

  6.  Glibido (v): All talk and no action.

  5.  Dopeler effect (n): The tendency of stupid ideas to seem smarter when  they come at you rapidly.

  4.  Arachnoleptic fit (n.): The frantic dance performed just after you've  accidentally walked through a spider web.

  3.  Beelzebug (n.):  Satan in the form of a mosquito that gets into  your bedroom at three in the morning and cannot be cast  out.

  2.  Caterpallor (n.): The color you turn after finding half a grub in the  fruit you're eating.

  And  the pick of the literature:

  1.   Ignoranus  (n): A person who's both stupid and an  asshole.

 

Closing the Door on the Knob

Kids learn all the Rob Ford words at an early age, or as George Carlin used to call them, the seven words you’re not allowed to say on TV. But, the little dickens also come up with a whole list of pejoratives they can use in mixed company. When someone rattled my cage as a youngster, my fave put down was to call them a door knob. I still like the ‘knob’ part. Besides its genitalia reference, which is fundamental to any good put down, it implies dull and obtuse and it feels good to expel the word in anger because the o-b combo offers satisfying closure like ‘slob’. But, in Vancouver anyway, the knob won’t only be leaving the lexicon, it will be leaving the door. Our city is the only one in Canada with its own building code, a fact that’s not lost on me as we put the finishing touches on our new laneway home, which doesn’t contain one single door knob. Next March, all new builds will require lever door handles instead of knobs to fulfill the utopian dream of universal access. Levers require less force to operate than knobs, so they’re easier for the elderly and infirm. It seems like a shame though, that heritage buildings like city hall itself which sports VCH logos embossed on every vintage brass knob in the building, need to refit with out-of-character levers. And, there’s a ‘nanny state’ undercurrent to the legislation which is irksome. Ever try to buy an incandescent light bulb, or how about a regular toilet in our new low-flush world? A whole ‘nother list of pejoratives goes down the drain with that one. Not that I’m opposed to eco and ergonomically-minded updates, and like those other legislated items, the door knob will take a long time to phase out completely. But, I do think City Hall is being a little heavy-handed about it, or heavy-handled if you prefer. Finnish architect Juhani Pallasmaa called the door handle “the handshake of a building.” And, I guess at the end of the day, who wants to shake hands with a total knob?

 

Can Toronto Afford Ford? 

As much as Canadians like to fly under the radar, we're front page, top story, the joke on every talk show host's lips thanks to the beleaguered mayor McCheese of Toronto, Rob Ford. And, I think it's safe to say that most Canadians, even those who have distanced themselves about as far as you can get from TO and still call themselves Canadians, like my fellow Vancouverites, have an opinion on his recent fall from grace. It's easy for us to be smug on the best coast because our mayor is all about  the bike lanes and fruit juice not the crack pipes and vodka, which really makes me wonder what Torontonians saw in this guy in the first place. He always appears to be on the verge of spontaneously exploding like Monty Python's Mr. Creosote. If I saw someone who looked like him coming toward me in the street I would provide a wide berth, which, coincidentally is probably at the root of his problems; low self-esteem due to obesity. And, when he does eventually take the good advice many are offering and seeks help before checking out for good, his weight problem will be a fine place to start. But, let's forget about his behavior and appearance and look at his record on the job. He must be good at the books, cooked or otherwise because in 2012 he somehow managed to take a 774 million dollar deficit and squeeze out a 90 million dollar surplus for the city. As a city full of bean-counters, Toronto must LOVE that about Rob Ford. Any Vancouverite working in the corporate sector knows that when you get kicked to the curb, your pink slip comes with a Bay Street return address. But now, Torontonians have a decision to make; do we keep the guy in charge and look the other way because it looks good on paper, or do we seek out someone with less baggage who can actually go aboard to sell America's 4th largest city without getting turned away at the border because of drug use or ties to the criminal underworld. And honestly, I don't think they have to look far. Deputy Toronto Mayor Norm Kelly showed a lot of class and compassion through his boss's public meltdown. Council will be in good hands while Ford takes a little 'me time' to sort through his issues.

 

Time Change Heals All

 Yah, I got nothing. Usually, I have a backlog of prime peeves to share with you during these moments. That’s the way it’s been throughout my life. The only people who get to share in my vitriol are those that I care about the most. Kinda gives you the warm and fuzzies doesn’t it? But, this week, the clocks fell back, I got back my lost hour of sleep and everything is right with the world again. It’s like coming off half a year of jet lag when I’m grumpy and groggy and many of the rest of Snow White’s dwarfs all rolled into one. It’s small comfort that many of the rest of us suffer the switch to Daylight Savings Time with varying degrees of stress-related trauma. It’s a well-documented statistic that car accidents (especially during the morning commute) for the first week after losing a precious hour of sleep increase markedly. I know if I have to get up an hour earlier for any old reason, I anguish about it so much I have a crappy night’s sleep on top of the unwelcome wakeup call.  So who do we complain to about it? Is there some secret international controlling body of time barons messing with our sleep patterns to make us more malleable and impressionable? I was certain of it when I decided to consult the fount of all knowledge, verifiable or not. Googling “Who decides Daylight Savings Time?” brought me to this from Wiki Answers, “God. In the Old Testament God is said to have said, If I turn the clock one hour ahead in the Spring, I can get all sorts of stuff done. Jesus was overheard saying, But, we’re in heaven, there are no clocks, to which God replied, No, I’m pretty sure you’re thinking of Vegas.” Well, if I ever find out who’s really in charge, I would like to propose the following compromise; next Spring, let’s move the clocks ahead a half hour and just forget about it. The refreshed and rested me thinks that’s perfectly reasonable.

 

Kanye vs The Mountain

Major thanks to Tarab, The Paul Tavai-Latta Polynesian Dancers, Ezra Kwizera,  Prakriti, LOUD and Kalan Wi; last week’s Festival MOSAIC fundraiser for the MOSAIC Foundation played to a standing O during the grand finale, all-in global jam. The annual event is a unique a fast-paced production, 6 acts in 90 minutes, accomplished through creative staging and careful planning. Each group was given 10 to 12 minutes to share their art, just a taste really, but they were all thrilled to be in the company of other gifted musicians and to drink in the appreciation of the audience. That’s why I love working with our community of globalistas; they’re gifted, appreciative and at the end of the day it’s not all about them. Travelling back another couple of days and a couple of hours south, last Saturday in Seattle, Kanye West tried to launch his Yeezus Tour, a spectacle of such gross excess and unimaginable conceit it had nowhere to go but nowhere. The next night the Wrath of Kanye ™ was to descend of Vancouver, but the production, which includes a fake mountain, eventually scaled by a fake Jesus, is such an unwieldy behemoth to construct and transport, that it turns out the Yeezus Tour will be unable to play two consecutive nights. The Vancouver show will happen on Halloween instead. Can you imagine holding a stadium for a couple of days while a massive temple to your own genius is being built? I know he’s loaded but that’s got to cost big time. Back in Seattle, opening his 24 song sermon on the mount, West looked down on his faithful minions below and spaketh these words, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Talk about hypocrisy or hiphopricy if you prefer. King Kanye’s spirit is so inflated with self-love, I’m surprised there was room in the arena for both the mountain and his looming ego. With apologies to Francis Bacon, If the mountain can't come with Kanye, Kanye can come without the mountain - what an egomaniacal ass.

 

Conservatives’ Chincy Treats

I was trying to remember the all-time cheapest and worst Halloween candy I’d bag when I was still trick or treating, but 2012 seems like ancient history now. They had many different names, but there were those little rolls of pale rainbow-coloured candies that tasted like chalk. They were about as far away from mini-Mars bars as you could get. At the house of parliament this past week, Prime Minister Harper was dishing out some pretty cheap treats during the throne speech., deserving of serious TPing or at least a flaming bag of dog poop on his front porch. But, his promise to make the big cable corporations unbundle their channels and allow consumers to pick and pay for what they watch, I have to say, really floats my boat. Yah, first world problem, right? It does nothing for the environment, jobs or housing the poor, but it resonates with the average Joe, right where he lives, literally. When you can’t afford to go to the movies, dine in restaurants or entertain yourself in night clubs and concerts, what’s left are you, your living room and a screen that holds the promise of some edifying programming. In my hundred channel universe that includes a list of favorites I can count on my ten fingers. There are other programs like The Colbert Report I’m a big fan of, but which has since been taken off the CTV network, and now only accessible on Comedy Central, a specialty channel that can’t be purchased a la carte on my or any other cable giant provider. And, remember the stink these corporate cry babies raised when there was rumour of Verizon’s interest in entering the Canadian market? Bell, Rogers and Telus squashed that one like a bug. I don’t believe in big government interference in the marketplace, but, sadly, they are the only body with enough clout to stand up to corporate gouging. Newspapers dismissed the pick and pay promise because they see television as an industry that’s in its death throes, and they may be right. But, how soon they forget that the world has gone paperless and it’s their own medium’s head that’s on the chopping block first.

 

Curtain fall for the Red Robinson

Red Robinson is a name synonymous in Vancouver with the introduction of the ‘devil’s music’, rock ‘n roll. In 1957 he emceed Elvis live and in 1964 he introduced Beatlemania to Vancouver at an old outdoor football field called Empire Stadium. He’d be the first to tell you that, and add proudly that historic impresario, Murray The K was the only other personality to emcee both iconic artists. The ‘Red Head’ is a radio personality; remember those? They were the expert super fans who got their hands on the music before anyone else, picked their favorite tracks and broadcast them to the world. Oh, never mind, that transmission signed off ages ago. And, since Red played a part in Vancouver’s entertainment history, he’s honoured with having the venue at the Boulevard Casino in the city suburbs named after him; ‘The Red Robinson Show Theatre’.  But, apparently, those kind of honours last only as long as convenient to the developers. The casino has new landlords and a new name next year, and the Hard Rock Casino won’t be keeping Red’s name on the marquee.  Executive Director Raj Mutti says, “There’s nothing against him at all.  We’re very thankful and grateful for his contribution over the years to the Boulevard property.” For his part, Robinson graciously pointed out that, “there are no certain things in life.” True, but casinos traditionally have an uphill battle to make a good impression on their community. Good corporate neighbors don’t prey on hapless addicts to turn ginormous profits. I’m no marketing genius but it seems to me if you want to ingratiate yourself on the community you serve, you make a gesture of respect for its culture and heritage. Red’s made a big contribution to both and his name should be remembered. The monogrammed theatre was a fitting tribute.

 

The Minefield of Modern Feminism

A lot of the little I know about feminism I learned from music. Thanks to Pat Benatar, I realized that Love Is A Battlefield. 40 years ago last month, Bobby Riggs and Billie Jean King played out the Battle Of The Sexes, and the lines were fairly easy to see. But, today, it seems to this addle-brained guy, that the battlefield is more of a minefield and modern feminism is a clockwork of such complexity, I best keep my fingers out of it lest it blows up in my face. So, here I go anyway. Sinead O’Connor sent an open letter to Miley Cyrus imploring her not to let the system make her another sexual pawn in their ‘set ‘em up to watch ‘em fall game of star-making. Miley responded with a, “I have no time for you, I’m hosting SNL.” Annie Lennox also weighed in on the ‘Sex Crime’, without directly naming Miley or Rhianna or their ilk. She wrote, “It’s depressing to see how these performers are so eager to push this new level of low. Their assumption seems to be that misogyny — utilized and displayed through oneself is totally fine, as long as you are the one creating it.” But, is celebrating female pulchritude always evil? The weekend Sun newspaper ran an opinion piece by a female Research Associate at the University of Toronto headlined, Why Nina Dauluri Matters, she’s the new Miss America, the first of Indian descent. The writer noted that modern beauty pageants are a “screening for a media-savvy celebrity who will represent her country in an inter-connected, and troubled world.” Understood, but before we got to know about Nina’s impressive academic cred, her desire to become a doctor, and her inspiring struggles, we first got a look at Nina, the hottie. It’s a beauty pageant after all. I mean, it’s a truism; attractive people are hired more often than the unattractive, they are more successful and more than likely, more happy. This paints a decidedly un-feministic attitude toward physical beauty which may be suppressed, but I doubt will ever disappear. It’s pretty primal, no? Aboriginal artist, Kinnie Starr has three pieces hanging at Vancouver’s Bill Reid Gallery in an exhibition called Rezerect – a display of indigenous erotic art. She joins me later in the show to talk about her views on feminism and eroticism which she explores on the new album, ‘Kiss It’. Me, I’m thrilled to have someone walk me safely through the minefield. Keep listening and watch for the interview transcript.

 

Godspeed You Master Manipulators 

Godspeed You! Black Emperor – ever heard of them? Me neither, even when they won the Canadian independent music Polaris Prize. It wasn’t until they made hay by releasing a statement explaining why they never showed up to accept the award in the first place that facebook and the twitterverse lit up like  klieg lights shining their spots directly on the band, that I You Tubed them to find out what all the fuss was about. In all honesty – not much; their brand of noisecore has the mass appeal of an ear infection and they probably should be grateful for any moments of exposure because I doubt they will ever appear on the cover of the Rolling Stone (though odder things have happened). But, that’s not what they’re after anyway. The statement makes 3 points on behalf of the band, “ 1/  holding a gala during a time of austerity and normalized decline is a weird thing to do. 2/ organizing a gala just so musicians can compete against each other for a novelty-sized cheque doesn’t serve the cause of righteous music at all. 3/ asking the Toyota motor company to help cover the tab for that gala, during a summer where the melting northern ice caps are live-streaming on the internet, IS FUCKING INSANE, and comes across as tone-deaf to the current horrifying malaise.” That was too much for the music press which blasted back with headlines like “Godspeed such glorious hypocrisy.” But, why so indignant? The Polaris Prize is a one off for the winners anyway. They’re not coming back to the podium again, probably ever, so why not gather as much publicity as possible in the moment? Their stunt wasn’t very gracious, but punk never is. As for the mostly meaningless Polaris Prize and similar dog and pony shows, Letterman said it best at the beginning of every Stupid Pet Trick segment, “It’s an exhibition, not a competition, please no wagering.” The bragging rights are small and short-lived. I think Godspeed You! Black Emperor should be recruited by Polaris next year to host a master workshop in how best to manipulate the system.

 

Who Sampled Who?

Let’s talk Tone Loc. His name is actually pronounced Tone Loke, which tells you how little I know about rappers. It wasn’t until I saw his handle printed out with the macron over the O in Lōc (you know, the little straight line over the vowel that indicates a long sound) that I realized not only my mistake, but that we were dealing with one of the original gangsta rappers who actually has an appreciation for lexicography. But, that isn’t why I immediately bang my head whenever I hear Funky Cold Medina or Wild Thing, it’s because of the great samples. I thought I was pretty clever figuring out that Wild Thing pinched the guitar lick from ‘Jamie’s Crying’ by Van Halen and Funky Cold Medina stole it’s crunch from the verses of Foreigner’s Hot Blooded. Now I find out, that wasn’t even the half of it! Tone Loc’s Funky Cold hit also swiped bits of ‘Honky Tonk Woman’ from the Stones, ‘Christine Sixteen’ by Kiss, ‘All Right Now’ from Free, ‘You Ain’t seen Nothin’Yet’ by BTO and ‘Get Off Your Ass And Jam’ by Funkadelic; in other words, some of he most slammin’ grooves in pop/rock and funk history. Well, now we don’t even have to wait for the Wiki post to find out who sampled who, thanks to a new innovation from SoundHound with the not so innovative name, ‘Who Sampled’. The song recognition app’s new tool is aimed squarely at miserable music addicts like me who love to  “Explore the DNA of Music” . At its core, WhoSampled contains the world's largest, most detailed and most accurate database of sample-based music, cover songs and remixes. There’s Eminem’s ‘Berzerk’ which samples Billy Squier’s ‘The Stroke’ or Jay-Z and Justin Timberlake’s ‘Holy Grail’, which snatches the sacred ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’. Oh, by the way, for ‘Berserk’ Eminem also sampled his own song, ‘Without Me’, which is either gross self-plagiarization or and act of serious narcissism, or both. I can’t wait to discover more stolen treasures with my new WhoSampled app. At least, I hope I discover some, or else iTunes just sampled 2.99 from my account for nothing.

 

Canadian protectionism hurts the music business, again

Canada has nearly no military to speak of, and we’re OK with that, even though we have the second largest land mass of any country on the planet to protect, we’re everybody’s peaceful, polite pal so what’s to worry? What we do fear, is encroachment from an insidious enemy so bent on the destruction of our way of life and so void of morals or common decency that they target the very poorest among us. I’m talking, of course, about foreign musicians. Last week’s Vancouver Sun newspaper did a bar graph comparative of the averages wage for a cross-section of occupations. The lowest rung on the ladder was 13,500 dollars per year, the average income of a Canadian musician. So in the guise of leveling the field for this impoverished sector, the feds quietly passed new regulations at the end of July, aimed at fending off those money-grubbing foreign artists who are taking away Canadian jobs. Here’s the new deal. If your venue makes it’s primary business from anything other than music, say a bar or pub or restaurant, you will have to pay 275 dollars for each foreign head that not only takes your stage, but does sound, loads the equipment, or looks after the guitars, in addition to the 150 dollar work permit and whatever you’re paying them for the gig. Spencer Brown, booker for Calgary’s Palomino Smokehouse told the National Post, “There’s no way to start already 1700 dollars in the hole (for the average band). It’s impossible”. “They are targeting the little guy, they are targeting small venues, they are targeting small business.” To pour salt on the wound, Sir Elton for instance can play the Saddledome down the street tax free. The negative impact ripples throughout the industry. Local music festivals routinely make it practical for international acts to perform in town by allowing them to bolster their one-off festival gig with some smaller shows at the local watering holes and the like. That’s not likely to happen anymore and that's going to make life even more difficult for struggling cultural events. And, who are we protecting our own talent from; the opportunity to be inspired by music that has sprung up outside of our borders, or the reality of having to compete in a global market? Any touring Canadian will tell you you can only cris-cross this land so many times before looking elsewhere to make a buck. It’s just as stupid as Canadian Content regulations on radio. You can’t erect walls around a global industry without starving it to death.

 

Classic Old Skool Chauvinism

Good golly Miss Molly, not another rant about sexism in music! I’m afraid so my long suffering world-beater. But, this story isn’t about gangsta rap bangers bitch-slappin’ their shorties, or even the recent Frosh Week celebrations at eastern and western Canadian university campuses that engaged students in some spirited sing-alongs advocating the rape of minors. No, this sad sexist commentary is dressed in coat tails and white gloves and reflects some well-heeled and old skool attitudes toward women in classical music, particularly those who dare venture onto the podium to conduct. Get a load of this recent statement from by Vasily Petrenko, principal conductor of the National Youth Orchestra and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic (I’m paraphrasing here); Petrenko believes women are far too distracting to stand on the podium. "They’re too cute to be conductors, creating too much 'sexual energy' among the male members of the pit. They’re Delilahs to the Samsons in the strings.” Mezza-soprano Sarah Connolly points her womanly wiles right back at  Petrenko’s baton responding, “His words were insulting not just to women. What is he saying about the men in the orchestra? Does he really think experienced musicians are going to lose focus during an intense performance of Mahler, say, just because the conductor is cute?” Musicians; they ‘re all the same; whether it’s Mahler and bad conductor mama or Nickelback and strippers. The chauvinistic remarks did emphasize however, just how many more women conductors are needed in classical music, especially as role models. Saturday’s BBC Symphony performance for the illustrious Last Night of The Proms marked the first time in the event’s 118 year history that a woman took the podium That was Marin Alsop, the principal conductor of the Sao Paulo State Orchestra. Umm, boys, concentrate … my baton’s up here.

 

Crossing The Line Into September 

As the world waits to see if President Obama resets the red line on chemical weapons use, we’ve all crossed my personal line in the sand which is September 1st. I was born on the last day of August, the sentimental if not factual seasonal shift from summer to fall. The actual day is September 22nd, but who cares? You’re already back to school or work by that time and it’s a downhill slide to Christmas. I make resolutions on September 1st not New Years. For me, it’s the start of a new chapter. The music world unfortunately crossed the line with the vulgar image of Miley Cyrus and Robin Thicke performing … something at the VMAs. The blog, ‘Hipstercritedescribed the display as “an impression of Leelo and Beetlejuice doing softcore porn”, in a great opinion piece called “Forget Miley, How To Talk With Your Children About Their Shitty Taste In Music”. I will neither endorse nor vilify the post here because when it comes to children, I dodged that bullet. But, I can’t argue with some of its stronger points like, "Why do your children listen to knock-offs of Marvin Gaye? Why don’t they just listen to Marvin Gaye?” The hell if I know! They’re not the fruit of my loins. So what musically crossed the line from August into September in the past? Well, on August 31st, 1990, Jackson Browne, Stevie Wonder and Bonnie Raitt sang ‘Amazing Grace’ at a memorial service for guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughan. On September 2nd, 1964, The Beatles played a show at The Convention Hall in Philadelphia. There were race-riots days prior to the concert and the four lads, who were strong civil rights supporters, were shocked to see that their audience of 13,000 was completely white. And, also on  September 2nd, this from 1972Brownsville Station, Canned Heat, The Eagles, and Foghatwere just a few of the acts set to play over three days at the Erie Canal Soda Pop Festival. Over 200,000 fans attended the event which was planned for 50,000 and many bands withdrew as the event slowly transitioned into anarchy. In the end, three people had drowned in the Wabash River and the stage was burned down on the last day by the remaining few fans. So, yah; kids have shitty taste in music but they’ll hopefully grow out of it and I suppose a little onstage inappropriate dry-humping isn’t the worst thing that’s ever happened as pop crosses from August into September.

 


A few choice words about the voice 

Let’s talk about ‘the voice’ for a moment. Not the God-awful TV talent show, but the distinctive tones we use to communicate orally with other. The voice is reflexive so it’s easy to forget about it, unless you’re a pubescent male and your croaks foretell an inevitable change is in the air. Those who have suffered bouts of laryngitis may be more painfully aware of what a blow it is to lose the talk box. And, it must be gut-wrenching when someone who has built a career around his or her voice is silenced. The news came this week that one of the most beloved voices in popular music during the 70’s, Linda Ronstadt will never sing another note because of the degenerative affects of Parkinson’s disease. She’s 67 now, but under ideal conditions the voice is one of the human body’s mechanisms that can last a lifetime. Just listen to someone like 82 year old Omara Portoundo from Buena Vista Social Club fame. A recent posting by Vox Daily , an online blog from a voice-over agency I belong to, asked how Ben Affleck’s voice will resonate with Batman fans as he dons the mask for a new film alliance between Batman and Superman. Batfleck (as he’s now known in the twittersphere) has neither Christian Bale’s menacing hoarse whisper nor Adam West’s campy control, but the one thing many voice artists will tell you is that, at the end of the day, tone is important, but delivery is key. Affleck is a veteran actor, now director who I’m sure has good command over the subtleties of voice acting, and he’ll make it work with what he’s got in bringing Batfleck to life. I guess the opinion I’m trying to voice here is, if you’ve got a voice, you’ve got a great tool. Exercise it, play with it, and maximize it to your best advantage. It’s a gift.

 

Pour Stoli in a glass, not the street

007 had it right all along; a vodka martini is one of life’s simple pleasures. Very simple. Good vodka like Stolichnaya, a few drops of white vermouth, shaken not stirred is the only recipe. I’m not talking about foo-foo fruity cocktails poured into a martini glass. Martinis are not mixology, they are chemistry. One drop too much vermouth and the drink is skanky, one drop too little and it bites back. Now, most people in the west agree shirtless Putin and his cronies are dumb-asses for setting back equal rights in Russia to the Soviet era, especially when they’re inviting the world to Sochi this winter for the Olympics. My wish is that gay athletes win and win big, then flip Putin the bird, so I get where Dan Savage was coming from when he called on people to boycott Russian vodka and pour it out in protest. But, before you give perfectly fine martini juice the toss, consider this: Stoli is produced and distributed around the world by Luxemburg-based SPI Group, controlled by Russian billionaire, Yuri Shefler, who left Russia after falling out with the Kremlin over his views in favour of stronger political opposition. He’s also a staunch supporter of gay rights. As a matter of fact, Stoli produced a documentary series in 2006 called ‘Be Real: Stories from Queer America’. Since then, they’ve been seeking out LGBT ambassadors to represent their brand with a series of events called ‘The Most Original Stoli Guy’. So, I guess the moral to this story is a good martini knows no race, colour or orientation. Let’s protest the decision-makers and think twice before flaming grandma’s set of Matryoshka stacking dolls.

 

Simon’s Angels

Possibly one of the most successful yet reviled faces on television, Simon Cowell, or as I like to call him, Sponge-Bob Square-Head throws a bone to popular female music artists with the selection of the latest X-Factor panel. “It’s a girl’s world in the music business”, he says, “So many girls are doing so well in the charts, we thought the panel should reflect it,” It is a girl’s world and I’m sure that, one day, according to Simon’s master vision, it will be a lady’s world, and then in some distant future imagined by Sci-Fi authors and the all-seeing Mr. Cowell, it could even be possible to live and make music in a woman’s world. But, let’s not get carried away in flights of fancy. Sufficient to say; 20 year old ‘girl’ Demi Lovato, 32 year old ‘girl’ Kelly Rowland and 42 year old ‘girl Paulina Rubio and will reflect well the reign of the pop diva on the once popular talent contest.  In all seriousness, each woman does bring a level of experience and insight, and two have risen above the salacious raunch of the current crop of divas. The eldest sister, Paulina Rubio has been famous in Mexico since she was born, A successful business woman (she’s developed her own lipstick for MAC cosmetics), she’s also a humanitarian, a member of the Latino Commission on AIDS, a supporter of early childhood development in Latin America, was recognized by the American Heart Association and helped create the Lili Claire Foundation for children with neurological disorders. Kelly Rowland is one of the founding members of Destiny’s Child. In 2010 she launched I Heart My Girlfriends, a charity that focuses on self-esteem, date violence prevention, community service, abstinence, sports, drugs and alcohol and smoking avoidance, obesity, disabilities, and education. And, Demi Lavoto, well she’s famous and she’s 20, so she’s spent lots of time in rehab and what’s more reflective of a ‘girl’s world’ in the music business? But, is it sheer talent or raunch that’s shooting girls to the top of the charts? Rhianna just got her pink slip from Nivea skin cleansers who presumably don’t want the model of their products leaving you feeling a little dirty. Author Ariel Levy broaches the touchy topic in her book, ‘Female Chauvinist Pigs – Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture. The book has raised the ire of some feminists but I think it would be hard to argue with her summation, “"Ending raunch culture will require citizens to scrutinize the way they regard gender. Objectification is rooted in disrespect, condescending views of the opposite gender, and power struggles. When men realize that they have the capability to fundamentally respect women, and women realize that they have the power to present themselves as empowered, fully capable people, raunch culture may moan its last and final faked orgasm.”

 

Anacin – 6 a day will do ya

I am not the oldest guy in the world (I keep telling myself). I’ll get to him later. But, I am old enough to remember Anacin, even those handy little tin boxes with 12 tablets that you could carry around in your pocket for that next big pain in the neck. I never did bother to read the small print to find out what the hell was actually in the stuff. I just figured Anacin was different than, therefore one better than Aspirin. It turns out I wasn’t that far off the mark. Anacin was first used in 1916 and Aspirin is the primary pain relieving ingredient plus, what else? Caffeine of course! - 32 milligrams per tablet, which brings us to the world’s oldest guy, Salustiano Sanchez-Blazquez. He’s 112, born June 8th, 1901, he immigrated to the States from Spain in the 1920s. A former coal miner, Sanchez-Blazquez is also a self- taught musician and continues to be an avid music listener which is how I came across his story. Of course the first thing you want to know about the world’s oldest man is, “To what do you attribute your longevity?” And that, my friend, brings us right back to Anacin. Ol’ Salustiano pops 6 of the little caffeine bombs a day! He’s more than just alive; he’s been on a caffeinated buzz for most of his 112 years, a recipe for long life which I doubt I will follow. Besides, I don’t even know where to get Anacin these days. By the way, Anacin's side effects may include dizziness, heartburn, irritability, nausea, nervousness, rashes, hives, bloody stools, drowsiness, hearing loss, ringing in the ears, and trouble sleeping. Maybe it’s true; what doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger.

 

Music TV? Diddy Says Never Say Never!

A few years ago I had the pleasure of bringing global music to television in Vancouver. world.beats was an hour of global music videos, interviews and features, produced locally at pioneering multicultural station Channel M. Viewing habits have changed drastically in that short time. Music Television has become vapid mess of lifestyle and reality programming, and all the videos you want are right there on your phone. We music consumers have evolved beyond the days when video killed the radio star. It’s now the mobile app that ate the video television star who killed the radio star. But, for one giant, puffed up music mogul, it may be possible to time warp back to box, if only for as long as the cash holds out. According to Forbes, P. Diddy or Sean Puffy Combs or Diddly Puff (whatever he’s calling himself these days) is launching a new cable TV music channel on Comcast and Time-Warner called Revolt TV. Yes, standing his ground in the face of overwhelming statistics on viewing habits that forced MTV and Much Music to either drop music videos or go tits up, Cheese Puffy contends that cable TV is again ready for some quality time with music videos. The industry would love to see him proved right. The era of music television was the peak of its profitability, just before MP3s, file sharing and especially You Tube brought the business crashing to the curb. In the digital world there may indeed be an analog niche market big enough to sustain music television programming, in the same way collectors and turntablists have kept vinyl from disappearing completely. Time will tell. Meanwhile, do you happen to have D to the Puff’s number? I have boxes of world.beats television masters I’d be happy to syndicate on Revolt TV.

 

Spanish for ‘Shazam’

Communications technology is the stuff of science fiction, but the products and players sometimes sound like comic book creations. Have you ever spent any time with Shazam? The music identifying app should be in every music lover’s toolbox to deal with those increasing incidence of memory lapse. You just play or whistle a tune and Shazam will tell you who what it’s called, who performs it and what album it comes from. Pretty sweet, but being the prickly critic I am, I thought I would challenge Shazam’s knowledge of world music, at which the app, it turns out, is a complete novicio. Well, that may soon change for Spanish language material anyway, thanks to a 40 million dollar infusion in the further development of the app from the world’s richest man. You’re thinking Bill Gates right? Wrong! It’s Mexican wireless tycoon and cartoon villain, Carlos Slim. The 40 large is a mere drop in the océano that is his 73 billion dollar fortune. Fat Cat Slim is going to bring Shazam's services to his América Móvil subscribers in Latin America, of which there are 62.9 million, and for whom, presumably, Shazam will have to up its knowledge of south of the border music. Oddly, the injection of mucho pesos will help Shazam expand into television, letting watchers figure out the songs used in advertisements and linking them directly to the artist’s website where they can get some kind of deal on downloading the tune; this, at a time when people are watching less television and even less commercials. But, you have to admit, with names like Shazam and Carlos Slim in the news, the world’s a fun kind of place to live in.

 

Musical Odd Spots

It’s one of the summer spin offs that points back to a time when the dog days were primarily care-free, frivolous or even down right silly. I’m talking about the ‘Odd Spot’, those newspaper or more accurately today, web-based content filler stories that bring a quick smile, a raised eyebrow or even a disbelieving head shake. I’ve been collecting a few of these over the past couple of weeks which relate to the music world. Take for instance, this headline from the Bangkok Post, “Mexico’s female mariachis defy macho culture”. Out of 2000 buskers registered with Plaza Garibaldi’s Mexican Mariachi Union, only 20 are female. A male member of the famous Mariachi Vargas band was overheard saying, “Women have a long path before they reach the level of men.” Especially with 19th century thinking like that I suppose. From Global Post , “Andrew W. K. sets drumming record at MTV O Awards”. The self-described ‘party king’ played drums for 24 straight hours during the event. What kind of award show goes on for 24 hours (although most seem like it)? And, anybody who has ever camped out at a summer music festival knows there are lots of lunatics out there who can bang on the drum for 24 hours, especially during those prime sleeping hours. And finally, from NineMSN, a stunning revelation from Diane Rains of Hudson, Wisconsin who claims to have taught little Brigid and Leonari (those would be her goldfish) to play music using a specially-made pad of target dots stuck to the side of the tank. Two video cameras track their fishy movements past those targets and transmit that info to a piece of software, which plays the notes. Their favorites are Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah and Fleetwood Mac’s Rhiannon. So you can teach a fish a tune but you can’t tune a fish? The gold fish are members of the band Neptune’s Keep, along with Diane Rains, her husband, Stu (who’s thrilled about it, I’m sure) and their singer and animal trainer, Beth Hatch. Tours and recordings are pending.

In Vogue at Jazz Fest

Slam poet, Shane Koyczan appropriately got the last word on The Vogue Theatre Series at the TD Vancouver International Jazz Festival. And, once again, thanks to the executive of Coastal Jazz, the not for profit who produce, present, and ultimately make a huge contribution to our arts and culture through the jazz fest, I got a unique perspective on the series. Through ten straight nights of MCing, I set up and caught most of 17 different acts, and it gave me a real appreciation for the programming artistry of festival programmer, Ken Pickering. The guy has a real talent for finding the threads that tie together a pretty disparate group of performers. There was the opening double bill with former label mates, Alex Cuba and Michael Kaeshammer in spirited all-Canadian sets. Nick Waterhouse and his Tarots brought a touch of rock’s early years followed by Lee Fields (Soul Brother Number 2) and the Expressions with a performance of classic R&B. It was like radio used to be before it became homogenized. In the tradition of jazz there was the attack of the killer sax men with David Murray and Rich Halley. And, as you might guess, my favorite night of all brought global music goodness to the stage from our own backyard with Gordon Grdina’s Arabic-inspired ten piece, Haram and the amazing Red Baraat from Brooklyn, disappointingly the least attended of all the shows but by far the one that came closest to raising the roof. And, since programmers, like everyone else in the world, have to be conscious of the bottom line, I think overall, it was a smart slate. The numbers appeared to be up from last year. Now in its 28th year, experience and artistry are working hand in hand to sustain this colossal undertaking, even while in a slumping economy. That’s something the TD Vancouver International Jazz Festival can teach other music festivals around the world.

MC factoid – It’s no record I’m sure, but a personal best: 27 introductions of 26 different acts over 10 days at 2 festivals.

 

From the World Beat Stage

It’s nice to see our village by the sea keeping pace with the rest of the world. June 21st was World Music Day and, as if on cue from some cosmic conductor, Vancouver erupted into a feeding frenzy of live music consumption on a scale this city has never seen before. For the second year, The TD Vancouver International Jazz Festival staked its ground in the centre of it all, downtown around the Art Gallery at Robson Square for the opening weekend free celebrations. That was a long sought after and much deserved acquisition for the city’s largest music fest. But, the real estate in the Gastown and Yaletown locations they vacated was too prime to remain void for long. June 21st also introduced the new Make Music Festival. Over 250 acts performed one hour sets on the street for one day in what must have been the staging challenge of the ages. Of course, I wasn’t there for most of it. Friday the 21st marked the opening celebrations of the 25th Anniversary running of the Rio Tinto Alcan Dragon Boat Festival and the World Beat Stage roared to life with Reggae on the Rocks (all the hits in a dub stylee) and Orquesta Goma Dura, the largest Latin Jazz orchestra in the country. What followed through the weekend was a diverse, dynamic and decidedly different fusion of musical genres and generations. My thanks to all the performers who gave it their all for the love of the music including in order of appearance, Katari Taiko, Reggae On The Rocks, Orquesta Goma Dura, The Pentatonics, LOUD, Kalan Wi, The Orient Express, Kytami, The Falcons and Los Furios. Photo memories from the stage are posted at our worldbeatcanada facebook page. Check out the album a please ‘like us’ while you’re there. This week my duties as host of the Vogue Theatre Series at the Jazz Festival continues; 10 nights and 20 bands to introduce in total, but that’s a whole ‘nother story for next time.

 

World Music Days (and Nights)

 

I hope you had pleasant Father’s Day. It was a somber Sunday for us, having recently lost the family patriarch. It started with a pinch of painful reminder, followed by reflection, remembrance and ultimately an abiding love and appreciation that will transcend time and distance. To all the fathers I hope you felt some of that appreciation; same goes for the fatherless for whom the old man is gone, estranged or unknown. Friday, June 21st is the next big day on my calendar, though hardly a Hallmark holiday. Thanks to France, we have Fête de la Musique or World Music Day to look forward to. For me, it’s far more than symbolic. It marks the start of 10 intense days of music immersion, starting that evening with the opening celebrations for the 25th anniversary of the Rio Tinto Alcan Dragon Boat Festival, featuring free performances by Reggae On The Rocks and the 20-piece Latin behemoth, Orquesta Goma Dura! It’s also my first of 10 nights hosting the Vogue Theatre Series at the 27th Annual TD Vancouver International Jazz Festival. And, there’s an overlap between both events this coming weekend, which means Saturday, I’ll be presenting The Pentatonics, LOUD, Kalan Wi and an encore performance by Orquesta Goma Dura before heading downtown to introduce Alex Cuba and Michael Kaeshammer later that evening to kick off the Vogue Series. Sunday, it’s back to the World Beat Stage to welcome Orient Express, Kytami, The Falcons and Los Furios just ahead of night number 2 at Jazz Fest, setting up Bettye Lavette with local stomp and roll duo, The Harpoonist and The Axe Murderer. What follows each eve is a cavalcade o’ talent from Esperanza Spalding and the Tyson Naylor Trio, Lee Fields and the Expressions with Nick Waterhouse and his Tarots followed on Tuesday by the John Scofield Überjam Band, Wednesday night’s visit from Dr. John and The Nite Trippers, Dave Murray’s Infinate Quartet with Macy Gray lighting up the stage on Thursday. The following Friday is bhangra-busters Red Baraat with Gord Grdina’s Haram, Montreal singing sensation Nikki Yanofsky takes centre stage Saturday and the whole thing blows up with slam poet Shane Koyczan, Sunday, June 30th. So, happy World Music Day and night; I hope we get to share some live moments during the madness that unfolds the following week.

 

Steven Seagal – The Patriot?

Everybody wants to be the best at something and Russia has found its niche in the market. They want to be ‘the number 1 arms manufacturer/distributor in the world’ and they know just the pitchman to get them there; American action hero, Steven Seagal. The Russian deputy prime minister (an old bud of Seagal’s) announced, “We’ve discussed the possibility that, when we’re demonstrating the advantages of Russian weapons in foreign markets, we might involve Mr. Seagal, in order to promote our brand.” Now, I get that other Hollywood action figures might not be popular in the motherland, (considering they’re always blowin’ up Ruskies in their movies) like Arnold; a former California governor and Austrian to boot … maybe not the best fit. Or, there’s Sly Stallone, although I don’t think the New York Italian accent would work selling Russian guns. In 1998, Seagal starred in The Patriot. It went straight to video but I guess judging by his real life alliances it was a serious bit of acting. Mick Jagger’s real life musical tastes might surprise diehard rock fans, according to a playlist of his favorites published this past week by his brother, Chris Jagger (Google Image him – he really looks like his bro!). It turns out Mick has an appetite for world music from like likes of  Fela Kuti, Salif Keita and his favorite? Zydeco accordionist, Clifton Chenier; very sweet! And, a final sexist observation about the upcoming Miss World pageant in Jakarta, Indonesia where organizers are covering up the bikini competition. Out of respect for the predominantly Muslim host country: the girls will instead wear one –piece suits with sarongs. My only questions is, that's different from the evening gown part of the competition how exactly? I just hope they still throw the finalists that ‘think on your feet’ question of global consequence. That’s my favorite part. Miss Worlds say the darnedest things don't they?

 

Dude, where’s my Porsche?

Let’s be honest, between Rob Ford and Mike Duffy there’s little room for the rest of us. OH SNAP! That was way too easy. Ok, Rob Ford and Mike Duffy walk into a bar and everyone else has to walk across the street to another bar. Seriously, it’s not me. These things write themselves. But, it’s true. Between Rob Ford and Mike Duffy there’s little room for any other news at least, which made this little gem hard to find but deeply satisfying. Just before 9pm on Wednesday, May 29th, the Vancouver to Victoria BC ferry, Spirit of Vancouver Island docked at the mainland in Tsawwassen. But, after all the cars had debarked, there remained one, 2012 Porsche with no one to claim it. We’re talking about a little pavement burner that’s worth at least 100 thousand dollars. Police traced the plates and called the owner’s cell but nobody answered. The Porsche wasn’t insured either. Well, when they finally got hold of the guy, he shrugged off the incident saying he forgot about it and took a bus home instead. Now, I realize money can’t buy brains and Vancouver is gridlocked with exoticars driven by kids who have no idea what they’re worth, but who forgets about a Porsche that he just drove onto the ferry a couple of hours before? Maybe it’s our changing attitudes toward car culture. We watched American Graffiti the other night. The Toad spends half the night looking for Ron Howard’s stolen rod. Of course that was the early 60s and a good car was only a couple of grand but for crying out loud! Why wasn’t this guy pulling his hair out screaming, “Dude, where’s my Porsche!” Apparently Dubai is littered with abandoned supercars; 40 in April alone. Authorities there say people abandon their rides and flee the country to avoid paying traffic fines. Here of course, you’d have your license taken away before you could rack up that many tickets. No, something’s fishy about this ‘fast times on the ferry’ story. One thing for sure, if the guy is really that stupid, natural selection will catch up with him eventually.

 

When Broadcasters Become Politicians

Last week brought me to Ottawa, Ontari-ari-o, the vaunted seat of Canadian democracy, which was apparently rocked by a minor quake during my stay, though I never felt it. I suspect it was the aftershock of Mike Duffy’s massive head rolling to the floor. For better or worse, broadcasters-turned-politicians are increasingly leaving a mark or smudge on the headlines. For parliamentary journalists like Duffy and Pamela Wallin, a career move to the senate seems the perfect fit. They’re both, intimately familiar with the game from years of investigating it. Unfortunately, when you’re a good player, you also develop the skills of bluffing and cheating. Neither would give up their plum senate posting, but instead, stepped away from the ruling Conservative party to spare the Prime Minister the ‘distraction’ of their respective scandals. Of course if they’re both innocent of misdoings, they need only provide the necessary proof, so everyone can get on with the business of getting on. Christy Clark’s majority win in my home province, British Columbia points to another reason why broadcasters turn to politics. If communication were a martial art, broadcasters would be black belts. They can drop you or prop you up with a few well chosen, expertly delivered words. The NDP challenger, Adrian Dix didn’t stand a chance against Ms. Clark in the arena of public debate. The fact that only 52 percent of British Columbians even bothered to vote didn’t help him either. But, take heart NDPers new and old, broadcasters also have a notorious Achilles Heel. They’re some of the most insecure people I know. They thrive on acceptance. If the NDP hold on to their new found support in coastal BC, it will drive Clark crazy. She shrugged off losing her own posh Vancouver/Point Grey seat because in her words, “she was concentrating on becoming Premier of the whole province.” Yes, a broadcaster’s appetite for acceptance is insatiable. Never worry about a few thousand listeners or constituents when you can have millions.

 

Mars Needs Women. No, Really.

Did I mention I’m a bona fide Space Cadet? I have what I believe is a first edition hardcover of Robert Heinlein’s book and an early Tom Corbett Space Cadet comic book. Needless to say I’ve been enjoying Chris Hadfield’s adventures on the International Space Station, although I thought the song he co-wrote with the Barenaked Ladies’ Ed Robertson sounded suspiciously like the Big Bang Theory theme. Proud Canadians welcome him back this week as he burns through the atmosphere in a Soyuz capsule. That’s got to be the scariest part. But, we Space Cadets have been dreaming our whole lives about those moments and boldly going where no man or woman has gone before. Which brings us to the Mars One Project, thought up by Dutch entrepreneur, Bas Landorp, whose cunning plan is to send a few guinea – make that pioneers on a one way trip to Mars as its first Earth colonists. There’s no hope of ever returning to Earth, yet so far he has received 80,000 applications! Now that’s a commitment even this Space Cadet would have to take a pass on. I mean there’s no atmosphere to speak of, Linked In would be even more useless. You could keep track of your contacts on your fingers and toes. The wife says, “They should send just women and frozen sperm, that way you have no inbreeding and a large gene pool to colonize from. Great idea! Unfortunately, out of the 35 Canadians to apply, there are only 4 females so far. So it’s true; Mars needs women. Sir Elton sang it best, “Mars ain’t the kind of place to raise  your kids. In fact, it’s cold as hell. And there’s no one there to raise them, if you did.”

 

Best Job/Worst Taste

My younger, singler self would have been all over this like white on rice: a job opening in slacker’s paradise. The Australian tourism board recently posted what they describe as the ‘World’s Best Job”. The lucky candidate will spend six months down under as the country’s official, Chief Funster. The job description requires you to be a Sydney VIP, attend, organize and promote loads of PR events and festivals like their Vivid Festival, Mardi gras, the New Year's Eve fireworks party. The compensation for half a year? 100 thousand Australian dollars. The competition caught the eye of Welsh music teacher, Gaz Proctor who has moved on to the final round as part of 24 people left in the running, most of which are, no surprise here, female. Yes, in a patriarchal society it would seem that the role of Chief Funster is one where the ladies have a distinct advantage over the guys; after all, girls really do just want to have fun. Gaz is taking the overwhelming female odds in stride, rationalizing that by being a guy, his application will standout. Dream big, Gaz. Of course there are some guys who are so incredibly gorgeous they can hold their own in the female arts like, oh I don’t know, David Beckham! But, as his team mates recently discovered, looks don’t count for everything. Zlatan Ibrihimovic explains after finding Beckham’s iPod in the dressing room, “"We were looking through his play-list, expecting some cool English rock bands and hip-hop but instead, there was lots of Justin Bieber, Jonas Brothers and Selena Gomez. It is nice to know that even David Beckham doesn’t have good taste in everything." By the way, he married the only Spice Girl to have never had a number one hit as a solo artist. No wonder we’ve never seen Posh smile.

 

Droppin’ Like Flies

It seems with each week that passes, so to does another notable name from the music world. Or, as our friends in The Real McKenzies put it, “They’re droppin’ like flies, all those punk rock guys.” George Jones wasn’t a punk rock guy, but for a cowboy crooner he certainly lived the bad boy lifestyle. You think Rihanna invented the two hour waiting game she plays with her ticket-buying fans? Old George earned the nickname “No Show Jones” for ditching performances all together. But, the man had a distinctive voice and a passionate delivery that was silenced on April 26th.  He was 81. Closer to home for world music fans, Bob Brozman, a gifted slide guitar and ukulele player, ethnomusicologist and anthropologist passed on April 24th. While some, like me look at world music from a distance, he lived it, immersing himself in local music cultures from Hawaii, India, Africa and New Guinea, recording 21 albums and collaborating with the likes of slack key master Ledward Kaapana, Indian slide guitarist, Debashish Bhattacharya and Irish instrumentalists Donald O’Connor and John McSherry. In 1980, a serious car crash left him with spinal injury, chronic pain and loss of sensation in his hands. Bozeman couldn’t live the thought of never being able to play again. He was a big fan of the resonator style instruments like the dobro but his favorites were the Nationals. In Graceland, Paul Simon famously sang, “shining like a National guitar”; that was Bob Brozman. He was 59.

 

Daydream Belieber

Congratulations to Lorraine Klaasen, the 2013 Juno Award winner for best world music album, this year presented in memory of Billy Bryans who championed global music for decades before his passing last year. As George Bernard Shaw famously said, “Youth is wasted on the young”, so too are music award shows. Or, in the case of the Junos, ‘Carly Rae and the Biebs show’. He showed up at Anne Frank’s house recently during a performance stop in The Netherlands and left a message in the guest book that said, “Truly inspiring to be able to come here. Anne was a great girl. Hopefully she would have been a belieber.” That’s right. If through a folding of space and time, 13 year old Anne Frank and Justin Bieber were alive at the same moment in history, somewhere within those hidden rooms in her father’s office building where the family hid for their lives for 2 years, there would have been a wall with a Biebs poster thumb tacked to it. And, with his magical ability to make all 13 year old girls wet themselves at the thought of him, we wonder if other famous women of history would also have been true beliebers in their youth? A 13 year old Jane Austin for instance would have been a belieber, swooning at his clever wordplay which would later inspire her own austinomical literary success. A 13 year old Mother Teresa, known then as Teri, definitely would have been a belieber. As she once said, "It's not how much we give but how much love we put into giving." In this life, she would give so much, but if her teen self fell under the Biebs spell, she could never give her heart to anyone else because inevitably, she too would be a true belieber. Speaking of folding space and time, how exactly has his 15 minutes lasted so excruciatingly long?

 

Big in Japan? Not likely.

 

Strange days in the music world: once again the International Federation of Phonographic Industry is claiming further signs of recovery. Even the sales of vinyl are the highest level since 1997! No word on the sale of record players, although I’m willing to bet the guys at Best Buy wouldn’t have a clue what you’re talking about if you asked for one. The US continues to be the largest music consumer but emerging markets are the one’s fuelling the new-found optimism in the music biz. Countries like Brazil, India and Mexico are registering the biggest market growth figures. But, not everyone’s snapping up the latest from Beyonce and the Biebs. According to the online publication, Quartz headline, “Musicians no longer need Americans to rock the free world”. In Japan only 20 percent of music buying dollars goes into foreign pockets. That’s right. 16 of the nation’s top 20 songs are by domestic acts. The two exceptions being Justin Timberlake & Jay-Z fading fast at number 7 and Bon Jovi’s ‘Because We Can’ topping out at number 16. Sure you can, but apparently not in Japan There will still be examples of western acts becoming ‘big in Japan’ or Sweden for instance, but the days of achieving global domination might be in decline and it might be worthwhile to check out what the rest of the world is listening to in order to stay relevant in the global marketplace. And, what about Britain (that bastion of popular music, the birthplace of The Beatles)? Well, topping their charts this week is ‘Ding Dong The Witch Is Dead’. No doubt that joke’s going to get stale quicker than ‘Gangnam Style’. Strange days indeed.

 

Shafe In The Box

 

The most widely accepted way to break into the radio business is through an accredited polytechnic school like SAIT in Calgary or Ryerson University in Toronto. They’re safer bets than Jimbo's Broadcast and Hairdressing Academy for instance. We west coast wannabes have BCIT. Over the past few years I’ve had the great pleasure to give back to my BCIT alma mater as a member of their industry advisory committee. Last week I chaired a meeting with the fresh faces of the next Howard Stern or Rush Limbaugh depending on how they want to roll in life. Come to think of it, did either Howard or Rush ever have a fresh face? On the panel with me sat one of my greatest radio heroes, Don Shafer a.k.a 'Shafe In The Box'; a Vancouver radio legend with an on-air persona as cool a steel who played even cooler vinyl into the evening hours. After the meeting, Shafe complemented me on driving the bus so to speak, and I’m sure he knows how much that meant coming from someone I admire so much. He now runs a whole chain of stations and all of his announcers are required to tweet, give facebook, link in, You Tube and blog on top of their time in the air chair. The point being that in today’s multi-media world, broadcasters have the opportunity to grow their personal brand bigger than the station they work for. Let’s be honest; commercial music radio today is cutting the schlock pie into increasingly smaller pieces as people increasingly turn to blogs and podcasts like worldbeatcanada radio for more challenging and rewarding and focused entertainment. Sadly, apart from the talk format, personality radio is dead, but technology is giving radio personalities a chance to grow far beyond the confines of their medium. Shafe’s box just got a whole lot bigger.

 
A Foggy Do

I’m feeling a little foggy and nostalgic today; foggy, because I think I may have overdone the feastivities this Easter; and nostalgic because we coastal kids are losing some of the icons that remind us, even at a distance, that we live on the rocky shoreline of one of the world’s great oceans. Most of our lighthouses have been abandoned and soon, for the people of the UK’s North Sea coast, the melancholic drone of the fog horn will be silenced forever.  But, thanks to artists Lise Autogena and Joshua Portway . The foghorn will get its swan song. The pair has teamed up with composer Orlando Gough to create The Foghorn Requiem, which will be given a single, live performance on the North Sea coast on June 22 as part of the Festival of the North East. The fog horns of the North Sea Coast have been in operation since the 19th century and have only recently fell victim to technology. GPS; where is thy soul? The Foghorn Requiem promises to be one of the strangest concerts on record, featuring an armada of ship horns synced with computers to adjust for the time delay of the sound to reach from sea to shore where they will blend in hopeful harmony with three brass bands and the big old foghorn at Souter Lighthouse. The used to call crooner, Mel Torme ‘The Velvet Fog’, Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs gave us the Foggy Mountain Breakdown and June 22nd, it’ll be one foggy do for the record books. I can’t wait for the remix.

 

Whitehorse welcomes worldbeatcanada

I was chatting with a Scottish buddy of mine who plays guitar in a band over there called The Electrics. He said that Scottish folk relate to Canadians because we both have buttheads living downstairs. The term he used was more vulgar but we have to mind our Ps and Qs now that worldbeatcanada radio is on the air. I want to take a moment to extend warm greetings to our new listeners at CJUC The Juice, broadcasting from the shores of the mighty Yukon River. This program originates in Vancouver which is just about as south as you can get in the Great White North and I hope my new Yukonian friends don’t think of us at the buttheads downstairs, because I’ve lived here all my life and I’ve always really admired the Yukon Territory. I like to think of it as British Columbia on steroids; everything’s just a little wilder, rawer and more visceral. It’s my hope that as we journey together to the farthest reaches of this planet through the gift of music, we do so arm in arm representing the True North, South but, ya, mostly West strong and free. And for the record, I like my American brothers and sisters downstairs. But, if there’s any thing you in Whitehorse can do to keep that Mama Grizzly next door in Alaska from migrating south it would be appreciated. She really is a butthead.

 Music World Waxing But Still Wacky

Good news for the ailing music industry. For the first time since we started swapping mp3s over a decade ago, revenues are up. Well, not 30 percent, not even 3 percent but 0.3 percent. Personally, I don’t think I could even get excited in my personal income went up 0.3 percent but Francis Moore of the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry trumpets, “We’re on the path to recovery. There’s a palpable buzz in the air.” Or, is that just the sound of record executives around the world snoring at their desks? Regardless, the music biz, while not waning, sure is wacky these days. A satirical blog in The Village Voice blazed the headline, Stone Temple Pilots Fire Scott Weiland, the World Reacts. Houston, Texas Pilothead, Jonathan Williamson was outraged, “They can’t flippin’ fire Scott! That’s like the Stones firing Mick or The Blowfish firing Hootie.” Well, don’t put it past them, Jonathan. Those Blowfish are not to be trusted. And if that doesn’t smack of whack; how about the headliners for the 3rd annual Du World Music Festival in Dubai and Abu Dhabi? Topping the marquee is tenor Andrea Bocelli and Guns ‘N Roses. There’s a double-bill for everyone. I can’t wait to hear what they do with Sweet Child O’ Mine.

 

Infallibly Canadian

 

We step lightly around issues of politics and religion in these moments because as polite Canadians that’s sort of our shtick. worldbeatcanada radio isn’t about rocking the boat, it’s about rocking your world. But, good gravy and poutine, is there nothing Canadians can’t accomplish? AstroCanuck,Chris Hadfield is commanding the International Space Station for 5 long months and Canada doesn’t even own a rocket! And, speaking of heavenly things, Cardinal Marc Ouellet of Quebec is the odds on favorite to become the next Pope and, I may add, the first Canadian to become infallible! As a non-Catholic, I have to admit that would be a pretty big deal for Canada, although, we would naturally play it down because that’s the polite Canadian thing to do. Once again, Stephen Colbert nails it on the holy head. The ultra-quotable satirist mocked on the February 11th episode of the Colbert Report, “Oullet is a contender with one major weakness. He is Canadian. The Pope cannot be too polite or vague. It won’t work for Oullet as Pope to say, Sorry, but I think God might not want you to use a condom, eh?” Ok, so the ‘eh’ thing is getting a little tired, eh? A pretty funny bit though, and I hope I haven’t offended any of my Catholic friends by repeating it here. Judging by his easy smile and major qualifications (among them, speaking six different languages) it seems Oullet could be great fit for the job. He’s even a hockey player, which might be enough for lapsed Canadian Catholics to consider giving the faith another slap shot. Best wishes to Cardinal Oullet.

 

The Moviezzz

 

It’s the Oscars which means time for me to slip into my jammies and fluff up a couch cushion, it’s going to be a long night, for most of which I will be blissfully unconscious. And, it’s not just awards shows, it’s the movies themselves that have this strange soporific effect on me, and thanks to a recent article in the Vancouver Sun newspaper I now know I’m not alone. Under the headline, ‘Movie nappers: Awards season serves up snooze-worthy films’ the piece examines the many possible reasons dopey heads like me can spend big bucks on a flick and end up napping through most of it. The last film I almost watched was the Dark Knight Rises which I think I can be excused for falling asleep through because after all, it’s so dark! Some say the popcorn is like triptophan, others blame the comfy seats, but still more blame the attention-span taxing 150 minute running times of epics like The Hobbit or the stillness of The Life of Pi and, for 54 year old Long Beach, California resident, Nancy Zwiers, it was the Steven Spielberg biopic, Lincoln. Zwiers confesses in the article that “"I only have two clear memories of the movie: a bunch of old white guys sitting around talking and Sally Field in a perpetual state of angst." It may be Oscar-worthy but it’s not on my list of must-sees for that snooze-inducing reason, and the fact that I already know how it ends. If I recall my American history, Honest Abe ends up taking a considerably long nap in a theatre as well. Best wishes to this year’s Academy Award nominees.

 

These are a few of the cutest damn things

 

Well since when did CBS get so morally upstanding? A leaked letter to Grammy Award attendees from the network insisted, "Please be sure that buttocks and female breasts are adequately covered... Thong-type costumes are problematic. Please avoid exposing bare flesh under curves of the buttocks and buttock crack," I’m guessing that last part applied to the guys as well. But, seriously, what other good reason is there for watching this annual music crapfest? Well, when as it so often does, television lets us down, there’s always that bastion of the video bite, the internet. Because while it’s tough to slap lipstick on a 3 and a half hour TV pig, it’s really hard to screw up 3 minutes on You Tube. That’s where I discovered The Australian Voices and their choral ode to joy of super cute animal videos called, “The Nine Cutest Things That Ever Happened”. Under the direction of choirmaster Gordon Hamilton, the skilled Australian Voices set some of the cutest animal videos of all time to a serious piece of classical composition. Only the lyrics, a simple descriptive narration of each ‘aw shucks’ moment give the satire away. Had the words been in Latin and not accompanying frolicking lambs and bathing baby elephants it would be positively high brow. Click the link, The Australian Voices and add to its virality. It’s cuter than Carly Rae Jepson and Rhianna combined and the best part? It will only take up 3 minutes of your valuable time.

 

 

Music And The Next Mountain

 

It must be like reaching the summit after a perilous climb, and gazing out on the top of the world in all it’s glory and then seeing that one other peak over there that’s definitely higher than where you are right now. That has to be why people scale Everest, so they never have to experience that disappointment again. Musicians can be like that. Remember Walk Off The Earth, the five peeps that covered Gotye’s Somebody I Used To Know on a single guitar? They performed this stupid human trick on Ellen and she quipped back, “Wow, it’s a good thing y’all don’t play ukulele.” Enter The Waffle Stompers, a six piece band who have covered Walk Off The Earth’s cover and bettered Ellen’s challenge by 1, playing Somebody I Used To Know on a single ukulele. Check it out at viralviralvideos.com.  I think it’s a safe bet you won’t see 7 people playing the song on piccolo but I’m not holding my breath. For the flip side of this silliness, we go to Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates where we meet Ebin Rec George, a 20 year old bio-tech grad who’s going for a Guinness World Record. In a programme he’s calling Nothing Is Impossible he will play 20 different instruments for one hour. If successful he will establish an entirely new record that’s never been tried before. He is reluctant to list all of the 20 instruments that he will be playing during the musical fusion programme, though he claims he can play drums, piano, bass guitar, Arabic drums, recorder, soprano saxophone and harmonica to start. He’s been asked to capture the attempt on video for verification, something I’m sure he was planning on doing anyway because, naturally, it’ll go viral.

 

 

Silent Disco Fever

So I trust your buds are in snug or you’re rockin’ your Beats headphones by Dr. Dre at 2 to 3 hundred a pair. That’s a lot of scratch to be listening to crappy MP3s through but damn if they don’t look badass. Anyway, the chances are good you’re listening privately and if you want to share the experience, I hope you’ll forward this link. It raises the question; are we moving away from the shared listening experience? Sure there are concerts and clubs but even there, we’re seeing surprising trends toward moving to the music in your head. The latest dance craze is the silent disco. Patrons enter the space and are given a pair of headphones, sometimes with a 2 channel switch which taps you into DJ 1 or DJ 2 spinning on stage. It’s dead quiet without the phones so you can chat up the object of your desire in soft, sexy tones instead of screaming at the top of your lungs. Then, when it’s time to show her or him your moves, you both grab your phones and head for the floor. The 2 channel, 2 DJ gigs turn into a battle of the mixes, each deck-minder competing for your ears. Presumably it’s fairly obvious to tell who is dancing to what just by watching and seeing who’s really getting into groove A or B. I’ve never been but it sounds like fun. I can imagine there are awkward moments though; like when he/she switches channels in the middle of your dance together, the silent disco equivalent of texting “Sorry, I’m just not that into you.

Music Radio – Step Back To Move Forward

I subscribed to one of those Linked In discussion groups for the music biz. Considering how opinionated I am, surprisingly, I’ve had very little to say about any of the posted topics, but I’m obviously in the minority when it came to one in particular that has been attracting responses for months with little sign of petering out. “Would you listen t the radio more often if they gave independent music a chance at rotation?” That question has set off wildfire of responses, mostly shameless self- promotion from broadcasters, podcasters and independent artists but the other day one Michael Fortes stepped up to the plate and knocked it into the cheap seats. He said. “I would be far more excited about radio in general if we went back to real DJs controlling the playlists and adding some personality to mainstream radio. I've been so turned off by radio in general over the past 10 years that I only listen to NPR whenever I turn it on, and discover music via word of mouth among a community of awesome indie musicians. With some minor exceptions, radio in general does not currently support what we do and my friends really don't factor it into their careers. If radio changed in a way that made it more personable - i.e. the way the net is becoming and the way radio used to be during our parents' generation - we'd totally be more engaged with radio.” Sometimes to move forward, you need to take a couple of giant steps back. You might not be listening to music radio much Michael, but I hope they’re listening to people like you and your friends.

Living Down The Lane

Wasn’t a tree house the coolest thing when you were a kid? When I went to Disneyland for the first time and saw the Swiss Family Robinson tree house, that was it. In high school I thought it would be great to live over a garage, like Fonzie at the Cunningham’s. Later still I imagined a carriage house as the ultimate in cool living. Well, urban life, especially in Vancouver, the priciest city in North America dictates a closer look at alternative affordable housing. Containerized living spaces are growing popular in Europe, boat houses in waterfront cities, but in Vancity the option of laneway living is becoming increasingly popular. This year, we’re in the process of making a big lifestyle change, selling our Westside condo and building our own laneway dollhouse in East Van. The logistics are staggering; from listing our place, to finding the ideal builder and designer who shares our vision, who in turn, has to deal with city ordinances and permits. The home will be environmentally-friendly using green materials, high-efficiency energy sources, living roofs – I think it’s the way of the future, like the music you hear on worldbeatcanada radio and Celt In A Twist. Patricia Fraser sees the project as blog-worthy, so if you would like to follow us in this urban adventure, save .ladywholivesdownthelane.wordpress.com and check in on our progress. We break ground at the end of March and then there’s no turning back. Oh, by the way, the blog is subtitled ‘Laneway Living for the Nervous Novice’

Buzz Words To Watch For

Does anybody still say to their kids, “Sticks and stones will break my bones but words can never hurt me?” It seems that in the face of pointed barbs we’re becoming increasingly thin skinned. In the harsh light of today’s social media best mind your P’s and Q’s because you’re almost assured of leaving someone PO’d. And, as words become more powerful knowing your way around the latest crop of buzz words is an advantage. So as a public service, here are a dozen new terms you’ll be hearing and wanting to work into your patter for 2013:

Advertainment -- "Advertising is no longer about interrupting what people are interested in, it's about being what people are interested in." 

Phablets -- A mixture of a smartphone and tablet Growth hacker -- "A role that replaces traditional marketing roles in fast-growing businesses." 

Social learning -- "An individual's learning a skill through observation, without necessarily changing their behaviors or on-the-job performance. 

Alphanista -- "Successful women in powerful positions having it all." 

Acqui-hire -- "A blend of acquired and hired." 

Return on involvement -- A brand that "gets involved with their community will garner better return on their investment by getting involved hosting fundraisers, partnering with schools and giving the local residents a gathering spot." Inventreprenuers -- "An entrepreneur-inventor hybrid that markets and/or manufactures their own creation." 

Twinternship -- "An internship where the student’s mission is to promote the company and its brands using social media such as Twitter and Facebook." 

Wantrepreneur -- Someone who hasn’t "taken all the steps necessary to take the leap" into entrepreneurship. 

Minergy -- Someone who uses "minimal energy to get the task accomplished." 

Tri-ti-tasking -- "Doing three things at once." 

Since the term world music is not just frowned upon but deemed offensive by some, we’ll have to think up something new for 2013. How about 3rd Rock ‘n Roll?

 

Trends We Would Like To End in 2013

Happiest of New Years to you! Last year we weren’t even sure we would make it to this point as a species but now that’s all behind us and in front is a glistening slope of pristine powder just waiting for our virgin tracks. But, it’s liberating to take care of a little house cleaning first so in the interest of making a fresh start let’s talk about some excess baggage best left in 2012. There’s crowd funding by bands raising money to make an album which you have to admit smells an awful lot like begging online, only instead of hitting up strangers, they’re mooching on fans, friends and family. Technology makes it possible to cut an album on a shoestring if you take the time to learn the platforms and a few basic recording skills. And, while we’re at it, in today’s single music world, artists may want to question investing in a whole album’s worth of tunes when an EP of their best, or even a few rough mixes posted on Reverbnation, Myspace or some other free social media might not be a better way to test the waters. Consider the epic success of Adele’s 21 for instance; as popular as it was it was in 2012, it was also the most unwanted Christmas gift. Some 47,315 copies were promptly traded online after appearing under the tree. Flash mobs; now they’re something else that have been done to death haven’t they? The fact that people want to spontaneously break out into song and dance in the middle of everyday life tells me they’ve just seen way too many episodes of Glee. Something else I’d like gone for 2013? Glee. Finally, and I lay this squarely on Jack White’s enormously talented shoulders, but Black Keys, Japandroids, Harpoonist and the Axe Murderer all bear some responsibility and I ask you all, “Who decided that the bass player was expendable?” Anchoring both the rhythm and the melody; on behalf of groove-meisters everywhere I beg you duos, we like big bottoms and bass players got ‘em. And no keyboard players with heavy left hands either. That just doesn’t cut it.

 

Stories In The Sidebar

It’s hard not to focus on the newspaper headlines but sometimes, the best stories live in the sidebars; like the latest from the Marley marketing machine. Ever wonder how to come down after that all-nighter you pulled with only a six pack of Red Bull, Rockstar or some other cocaine substitute in a can to keep you buzzin’? Dateline Holmdel Township, New Jersey where officials have removed the relaxation drink called Marley’s Mellow Mood after several students at a school fell ill. The drink’s label (featuring Bob’s visage and the black, green and gold) indicates it may cause drowsiness. Students’ symptoms may be related to the demise of the Hostess Twinkie. Dateline Portland, Maine; Santa gets the sack from a mall in Maine where the less than jolly elf wouldn’t even let one girl sit on his lap when her parents refused to cough up an extra 20 bucks for a photo. When 6 year old Chantel asked Saint Nick for an American Girl doll, he gruffly replied, “You’ll get an American football.” Oh snap! Move over Don Rickles, guess who’s the king of the snarky come-backs now? Ho, Ho, Ho! Dateline, the final frontier; a team of former NASA execs is planning to provide private excursions to the moon for quote, “research or national prestige”. “It’s not about being first,” says administrator Alan Stern, “it’s about joining the club.” That would be the US of A presumably. The offers will be made to countries like South Africa, South Korea as well as South Beach high rollers I’m guessing. A deluxe round trip for two including flight, accommodation and astronaut food … just 1.5 billion dollars; but before you start packing, experts say it’s unlikely this venture will pan out.

 

Kim Jong-Un – The Sexiest Man Alive

The fact that among younger demographics of North Americans, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and The Colbert Report are considered their most trusted news sources should come as a stinging indictment on the quality and objectivity of journalism at the major networks. But, when it comes to disseminating convincing news satire on a global level, best beware of The Onion online. Since 1988 this plucky publication has brought peels of laughter to those in on the joke and several shades of red-faced embarrassment to those foolish enough not the check their sources. Last week, a Beijing newspaper got severely punked by an Onion article they republished as if true. Crowned as ‘Sexiest Man Alive for 2012’ they proclaimed 29 year old North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un thusly; “With his devastatingly handsome, round face, his boyish charm, and his strong, sturdy frame, this Pyongyang-bred heartthrob is every woman’s dream come true. Blessed with an air of power that masks an unmistakable cute, cuddly side, Kim made this newspaper’s editorial board swoon with his impeccable fashion sense, chic short hairstyle, and, of course, that famous smile.” And this isn’t the first time the eastern media has been summarily duped by The Onion’s razor-sharp satire. In June of 2002, the Beijing Evening News translated as true, portions of the article "Congress Threatens To Leave D.C. Unless New Capitol Is Built". The story discusses the U.S. Congress's threats to leave Washington for Memphis, Tennessee; Charlotte, North Carolina; or even Toronto, Ontario unless Washington, D.C. built them a new Capitol building with a retractable dome. And, in September of 2009, two Bangladeshi newspapers published an Onion news item claiming Neil Armstrong had held a news conference fessing up that the moon landing was all an elaborate hoax. It also speaks to the folly of certain regimes to try and censor the internet which must be a little like examining each grain of sand on the beach. Best let people squish it between their toes and decide for themselves if it’s sand or bullshit.

 

Music Fest Laid To Rest

While we all share a nervous chuckle about the demise of the Hostess Twinkie and how that fits in with the Mayan calendar’s ‘End of Days’ scenario. The waning days of 2012 have claimed another casualty on the west coast. For 12 years Music Fest Vancouver has extended the summer festival season into August with a citywide celebration of global, classical and jazz performances. But, for 2013, directors have in their own words “pushed the pause button.” (Indefinitely I might add). Like all artistic endeavors they’ve been hit hard by the air of apathy from government bodies toward what I guess to be considered less than essential services. Music Fest Vancouver budgets a cool million for the annual production but this year received only 5000 dollars from the BC Arts Council. You could almost hear that make a faint hissing sound as it was deposited against their burning deficit, 150 grand from 2012 plus 50 thou carried over from the past. And I thought Vancouver home owners were the only ones packing that kind of financial baggage. That said the board and directors remain hopeful that private funding will come to their aid, a growing trend for arts organizations that have been left hanging by all levels of government. But, it should be noted, it wasn’t just the politicians who weren’t digging into their pockets, ticket sales were way down as well. It could be that as lawns get browner through the dog days of summer, our entertainment budgets dry up as well. 

On a happier note, congratulations to Vancouver’s original purveyors of global grooves, Highlife World Music, the little record store that could on Commercial Drive is celebrating 30 years without looking back. My very best to Kevin and Dennis. The scene wouldn’t be the same without you..

 

Majoring In Minor Keys

Well, my fellow armchair music scholar, here comes more food for thought from none other a respected source than Scientific American. It turns out for the past 50 years we’ve been majoring in minors. Right around 1960, the popular song shifted from a major key to a minor one. To add to the gloom, the hits are slowing down, not in number but in tempo. In 1960 the average pop tune was 116 BPM (beats per minute) and clocked in at about 3 minutes. Today, the tops of the pops are 100 BPM and at least 4 minutes long. Researchers E. Glenn Schellenberg and Christian von Sheve believe it all points to how music is intertwined with our emotions. They figure trends toward slower, darker, more introspective music could be the artists themselves trying to give their work an air of maturity. All the light, fluffy major key ditties are psychologically interpreted by us as the property of teenagers like the Jonas Brothers and Justin Bieber. Speaking of Psy, there may be an argument for the attraction of Gangnam Style in our need for some light-heartedness in the face of globally tense times. Artists also seem to zig when we expect them to zag, creating emotionally ambiguous material like sad songs given the bright, upbeat treatment while happier themes are cloaked in minor chords and moody tempos. And, let’s leave this with one more interesting bit of speculation; it could be the preference for sadder songs reflects our growing empathy, openness to experience and less extroversion. I don’t know about you but I’m getting depressed just thinking about it.

 

Riding A Wave Of Nostalgia

As Psy beats back the mob on his way to the London headquarters of The Guinness Book to receive world record recognition for racking up almost 5 million likes on You Tube for Gangnam Style, is it any wonder the rest of us are riding a musical wave of nostalgia? Legacy acts like Leonard Cohen, Neil Young, Bruce Springsteen and Sir Paul are lined up like old soldiers on Vancouver’s concert calendar and the box office can’t print enough of the hot and pricey tickets. Or, how about the latest items from nostaliacenric Restoration Hardware’s Christmas collection; a lovely wooden dock for your iPod or Pad with a gramophone bell sticking out of it? That’s probably going back a wee bit too far for most of us but as UBC Dean of the Arts and musicologist Gage Averill notes, “We bring this music inside of us and let it assist in that process of personality formation and understanding the meaning of love and lust. That’s a life cycle thing that will happen to most people on this planet somewhere from their early teens to their mid-20s. That music is what people look back to more often than not.” The best of these artists also cross generational barriers as kids adopt their favorites from the parents’ music collection. And, you can’t just blame the boomers. People have been looking back for centuries. Averill was researching barbershop music from 1800 and found ads from 20 or 30 years later for touring barbershop quartets saying, “Think back to the good old days.” Speaking of  the 1800s, that gramophone dock uses good old physics to amplify your Apple device up to 3 or 4 times, no electricity required and it can be yours for 299 clams. It’s the one thing nostalgia will never offer again and that’s yesterday’s prices.

 

Pooches prefer Mozart to Motorhead

There’s a reason Mozart’s first name was Wolfie. A Colorado State University professor carried out a four-month study of how kenneled dogs respond to music and her findings were recently published in the Journal of Veterinary Behaviour. And you know I bet she even got grant money for it. For sure, it seems like a little play time on the surface but the author of the study, Lori Kogan says the results have implications for animal welfare and reducing stress in kennel environments. 117 dogs of varying breeds were the guinea pigs. 83 were boarders and 34 were rescue dogs. The captive audience was treated to samples of music ranging from classical to heavy metal and even some of that psychoacoustic crap marketed for relaxing your pet. It’s like Kenny G for canines. Anyway, the results were definitive if not surprising. The pooches cooled their jets best while listening to classical, especially Mozart and reacted more stressfully to headbangers like Motorhead and Iron Maiden. I’m thinking it might have been interesting to see what Spot thought of Apocalyptica for instance; the Finnish classically-trained cello quartet who cover metal tunes. Likewise what would the doggies think of some operatic bellow head ripping into Mozart’s Don Giovanni? A sidebar note of interest; there’s a Brooklyn, New York grindcore band called K-9 spelled C-a-n-i-n-u-s that actually uses the distressed barking of pit bulls as vocals for their death metal compositions. Check ‘em out on You Tube for 30 seconds and see if you’re not feeling just a little stressed.

 

 

Obama Talks Music

Wow, next Tuesday Americans go to the polls after what seems like 1 year of Obama acting as President and 3 years campaigning for a second term. We’ve seen the ads, 3 debates and have heard the candidates sound off on everything from the economy and jobs to foreign policy and health care. But, what do they think about one of the most powerful tools on the planet for effecting social conscience and change? Where do the challengers stand on the issue of music? Well, we know Obama sings a pretty mean Al Green and Mitt recently wailed along with Meatloaf in an over the top rendition of America The Beautiful because, let’s face it nothing’s more dope with the kids than Meatloaf. Well, to get the straight musical goods, Obama allowed himself to be interviewed by MTV, that’s short for Music Television. Of course, don’t expect to see music videos on MTV because all they do now is reality shows but they used to, and apparently having that on their resume qualifies them as television’s music experts. "I'd like to see a more explicit discussion of the issues that are out there right now, because music's such a powerful mechanism," Obama said thoughtfully, noting that there's not "as much directly political music" as there used to be. He remembers listening to Bob Marley in college and while he didn’t totally agree with Bob’s political message, it did heighten the president-to-be’s awareness of how the rest of the world sees their struggles for jobs, dignity and freedom. He added that he might not be up to speed on every artist discussing political issues.” I’ve been working really hard right now so I haven't updated my iPod," he said. You know what this means don’t you? The president of the United States has an iPod! Now if I can only think of some clever way to get him to subscribe worldbeatcanada radio and Celt In A Twist. That’s the kind of endorsement that has real legs. Meatloaf? Not so much.

 

Top Pop Tear Jerkers

 

Ah, “what a fool believes he sees, no wise man has the power to reason away”. Words not just from the Doobie Brothers but Michael MacDonald-era Dobbies I’m embarrassed to say, at one time they brought a lump to my throat and a tear to my eye as I nursed a broken heart. Music more than anything else has the power to amplify emotions, providing just the perfect sound track for the depth and breadth of the human experience. Singer and former USC prof, Adam Brent Houghtaling is just the kind of guy to have a computer full of dejected emoticons. He’s the author of the feel bad book of the year, ‘This Will End In Tears – The Miserabilist Guide To Music’ in which he lists of the most painful moments in contemporary music. Consider Billie Holiday’s ‘Gloomy Sunday’, the so called ‘suicide song that supposedly inspired more than one person to a self-inflicted end. Or, maybe ‘Hurt’, the unimaginably dark Nine Inch Nails treated Johnny Cash send off tugs the appropriate strings. I always dug the pathos of Major Tom floating endlessly off into Bowie’s Space Oddity. Or , who of the MTV generation can forget Sinead O’Connor’s baleful eyes as she sings the Prince-penned Nothing Compares 2 U. Well, grab a hanky and blow your schnoz because we’re here to shine a little sun into autumn’s gloom. Write us at our contacts page, worldbeatcanada.com and let us know your favorite weepy musical moment. We’ll send the winner a CD. Congrats to Jason in Colorado for picking his favorite Bond theme the other week. Jason chose Die Another Day by Madonna and receives a copy of the new Rupa & The April Fishes album for his effort.

 

Pop Music – The Joke’s On Us

OK, so pop music has always had the carnival midway, seedy side to it.  The one hit wonders, the parodies and the novelty knockoffs are healthy enough in small doses I suppose because, after all it’s pop culture and shouldn’t be taken too seriously. But, in today’s global music universe where thousands of songs come down the pipe, the punch lines are coming hard and fast. There’s not one viral hit that doesn’t spawn dozens of joke versions. Guys like Andy Samberg of SNL who is a prolific novelty song writer and performer, eclipse even Weird Al in output and satire. Nowadays popular music is to serious music what the cartoon is to high art. Don’t get me wrong. It’s not like I don’t have a sense of humour, but I am also passionate about music and I am resentful that it’s all become one big running gag. Which brings me to these two items; first, what the hell’s the deal with Psy and Gangnam Style? For sure, K-pop is an emerging global force but this global farce of an earworm drags modern music back to 1998 and A Night At The Roxbury with that crazy calliope-driven beat and Kim Jong Un in sunglasses dancing like a dork. The guy’s a Berklee School of Music graduate so you know he’s just having a joke at our expense. A wildly popular one admittedly but next week, you won’t even remember who he was or why he warranted 230 You Tube views. Andy Warhol (a bit of a jokester himself if you consider his Campbell Soup Cans) was prophetic when he said. "In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes." But, unfortunately some get a second kick at the can which brings me to my second item, Mike Tyson. The world heavyweight boxing champ and ear-biter intends to reinvent himself. The self-professed ‘baddest man on the planet’ says, and I quote, “I don’t want to spread no more of that violence in the air. I want to do some musicals.” Now that – THAT my friends is really funny. I also believe it is one of the signs of the Apocalypse.

What’s Your Fave Bond Theme?

 
It was Canadian Thanksgiving this past weekend which I think is far more practical than American Thanksgiving on November 22nd, which only gives you a month before your next turkey dinner at Christmas. I like to spread out the gobble, gobble love, so it was on Thanksgiving Sunday night I found myself on the couch drifting into a tryptophan daze watching the opening of Golden Eye on the tube. Naturally, this being the 50th anniversary of the Bond franchise, there are 007 marathons everywhere. I was trying to figure out who the voice belonged to, singing the theme in the title sequence, and even severely poultry impaired I eventually nailed it as Tina Turner, which got me to thinking about other, much better James Bond themes and the people who sang them. What’s your favorite? Write us at our contacts page and I’ll send you a CD for your trouble. Jeremy Thomas at 411mania.com was thinking the same thing and neatly laid out a list of his faves in ascending order including Golden Eye by Tina Turner at the bottom, Tom Jones with the theme for Thunderball, Duran Duran – A View To A Kill, Garbage – The World Is Not Enough (as Thomas points out, where we’re supposed to believe Denise Richards as a nuclear physicist), Nancy Sinatra – You Only Live Twice, Adele sings Skyfall which isn’t even out yet so I’m not sure how that made the list, Carly Simon – The Spy Who Loved Me, Shirley Bassey – Goldfinger, Sir Paul with Live and Let Die (my personal fave) right behind his number one pick and mine, The John Barry Orchestra with the James Bond Theme. I always wanted to see 007 contract amnesia so he could say, “The name’s something … James something.”

 

Festival MOSAIC 2012 Part 1

 

Consider it a world music festival for today’s abbreviated attention span. October 19th at the newly renovated Cultch Historic Theatre, MOSAIC presents it’s third annual celebration of music and dance from the cultures of the world; count ‘em, six acts in a mere ninety minutes! As a matter of fact, Festival MOSAIC, while not the typical day or weekend long festival affair may better display the diversity of cultural expression that exists in Metro Vancouver and how connected and intertwined it is in our urban society. The simple concentration of global influences into such a tight time frame actually intensifies and focuses the study.

 

Formed in 1976, MOSAIC is a multilingual non-profit created to assist new immigrants transition into their new lives in Canada, and address the critical issues they will encounter in their new neighborhoods and workplaces. Their mandate is to empower immigrants and refugees through the tools of advocacy, public education, community development, coalition building and bridging with the broader community. MOSAIC’s invaluable programs and services are constantly evolving to reflect today’s specific areas of greatest need. It’s tough and undervalued work that relies on volunteerism, goodwill and fund-raising efforts like Festival MOSAIC. And, it’s here, among the people that they have set out to help where they have an intrinsically valuable resource.

 

These immigrants and refugees aren’t debarking in Canada from first-class. They’re resources are limited. But, what they do possess is a rich cultural heritage programmed into their DNA. It is through the presentation and exchange of these traditions, especially through the universal languages of music and dance that they can connect with their own identity and find their distinct voice as Canadians. After all, we are a mosaic and not the great melting pot next door.

 

Maobong Oku immigrated to Canada from Nigeria. Through her Kokoma African Heritage Ensemble she’s been introducing Canadians to the rhythm and pageantry of African dance and drumming and instilling a new generation of African immigrants and next gens of all races with a love and appreciation for the culture of her heritage. Check out this compilation video from Kokoma African Heritage Ensemble; one of six global acts appearing October 19th at the Cultch Historic Theatre.th.

 

The evening also features modern adaptations and fusions of traditional artistic forms, like the dancers of Luciterra, blending early 20th century Arabic dance with western dance styles such as modern, jazz, and hip hop, while pulling inspiration from circus, vintage burlesque, and vaudeville. Check them out here:



Festival Mosaic – an extraordinary night of musical sight and sound to celebrate the cultures of MOSAIC. Friday October 19th at The Cultch.www.mosaicbc.com

 

(Next time: Festival MOSAIC is a good time for all – audience and performers alike)

 

 

Music Transcends Politics Not Economics

 

Did you feel it last weekend?  It might have been very subtle, especially if you’re in the Pacific Northwest where we’ve enjoyed one of the finest August into Septembers in memory. But, as we Norwesters obliviously went about our business in shirt sleeves or even shorts, there was no mistaking the odd brown leaf in the gutter signaling the autumnal equinox and the dawn of fall. It’s a transcendent time musically speaking as well. 15 years ago this past weekend, U2 packed up 60 trucks and negotiated narrow mountain passes to arrive in freshly battle-scarredSarajevo. The weird Pop Mart tour didn’t seem politically appropriate for the occasion; a silly indictment on consumerism which probably seemed trivial to the 45 thousand who packed Kosevo Stadium that night, no doubt grateful just to be among the living. Even so, it proved a welcome distraction. "If there's any message, it's a simple one, a banal one," Bono explained to CNN at the time. "It's that music is beyond politics." Fast-forward to this week’s 14th Annual Chicago World Music Festival, one of North America’s finest, which for the first time is going to be free of charge! The catch is, there is only 49 shows on the slate as opposed to last year’s 63. A change up in civic administration and reorganization in the festival’s management contributed to the bold move, but there’s no denying the economic pressures. Still Shoshona Currie of the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events spins it this way, "I think that making it a free event removes any notion of exclusivity and makes the festival as accessible as possible to everybody, a ticketed event shapes and divides audiences. With no-charge admission, we eradicate that idea about the arts being exclusive." Hardly exclusive, the arts are entitled to transition into an era of lowered expectations just like the rest of us.

 


 

10 Things Gigwise Wants Gone From The Music World

 

Sometimes I feel a little guilty about using these moments to air my observations, raves and rants and then … I get over it. So, today I’ll let someone else do the ranting and I’ll just sit back and deliver the goods. Just please, don’t kill the messenger. Our guest hot-head with the bug up his butt is one David Renshaw, a contributor to Gigwise.com, a London-based online music magazine or muzine as the kids like to call it, who last week published a photo essay called ‘10 Things We Want Gone From The Music World’ and believe me, the photos aren’t at all necessary for catching his drift. 

Number 10 – Chris Brown; sporting his spectacularly offensive new woman-beater tattoo, he makes out that ‘any animosity toward him is ill-placed and an insult. As if his music’s not.

Number 9 – Acoustic Bores; the sheer number of anonymous and posh men doing their thing behind an acoustic guitar in 2012 is beginning to get more than a little boring.

Number 8 – Reality TV Talent Shows; no long dominating the pop charts or TV viewing figures, could 2012 be the final year for this phenomenon? Yes, please!

Number 7 – Parody Videos; do we really need 500 spoof versions of any given song clogging up You Tube?

Number 6 – David Guetta’s influence on pop music; I had to wikisearch him; some French house DJ, apparently an irritant in Britain, but then isn’t everything French?

Number 5 - Lyric Videos; you know where the lyrics are emblazoned on the screen in huge fonts. Some lyrics are really best left unseen.

Number 4 -Virtual Stars; like Rebecca Black, hardly fodder for pub discussions 15 years from now.

Number 3 – Old songs that pop up on the charts again because they’ve been dredged up for someone’s commercial, which worms its way into our subconscious.

Number 2 – Precocious teen stars, and …

Number 1- Boy bands … those two will always be the bane of oldsters’ existence. No news there.

Thanks for the hit list, David Renshaw from Gigwise as you crusade to banish these blights on the music world. Good luck with that.

 

Neil Young Rips Digital Audio A New One

 

People have an abiding respect for Neil Young, with good reason. He’s been around the music business forever, pushing his creative limits fearlessly whether to good effect or not. He’s always been fair and honest to the music buyer. Quality is what he continues to strive for in the face of lowered expectations. His song ‘Piece Of Crap’ says it all in a few simple words, “Saw it on the tube, bought it on the phone, now you’re home alone. It’s a piece of crap.” In a recent interview exploring technology and art, Old Shakey ripped the mp3 a new one, explaining to the moderator that the current download is not sufficient to deliver the depth of the art. “The mp3 gives us 5 percent of the fidelity that we enjoyed on record in 1978”, he explains. Young thinks that in this age of tech marvels it’s unacceptable to not offer an alternative. But who’s going to produce a high rez iPod? Neil scoffs, “Some rich guy of course!” In his mind, piracy is really the new radio. You get it for free and you accept the lo rez quality. But, the technology does exist to cough up the other 95 percent of the music for those who want to experience the whole of it, and are willing to pay. Neil speculates a hi rez download would take about 30 minutes per song. When asked sarcastically whether he’d ever pitched this to Steve Jobs, he answered straight-faced, “Steve and I were working on it.” What a lot of people don’t know about the father of all of Apple’s modern miracles including the iPod, is that when Steve Jobs went home, he’d listen to vinyl. As for downloads? As Neil sings it, “I went back to the store, they gave me four more, guy told me at the door it’s a piece of crap.” True that.

 

 

Music – Where Do You Get Your Daily Dose?

 

September already? That’s crazy – crazier than Clint Eastwood talking to an empty chair (still not sure how that made it through rehearsal). The warm, sunny days just blur into memory without time for detail. But, even if your recall is more fuzzy than total, you can probably count on music having been a part of your daily consumption, even if was just background wallpaper. New Nielsen Entertainment and Nielsen 360 numbers indicate that in America anyway, 70 percent of people over the age of 13 actively listen to music at least once a day. By ‘actively’ I assume they mean that you actively made the effort to turn whatever device on. And, what device are we reaching for most often? Well, my fellow broadcasters will be happy to know that the radio, while a technological anachronism still controls 49 percent of the way we access our tunes, followed closely by the computer at 44 percent, CD players at 39 percent, which is better than I would have thought considering how often the oracles have predicted the death of the disc. And, loyal iPod listeners, the latest surveys show you are among the bold and forward-thinking 27 percent who plug in the buds and consume podcasts like this. Not too shabby. Among teens, You Tube is where 64 percent turn to get their grooves on. And, on August 28th, the brainiacs at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena along with 53 high school students made history, actively listening to the very first piece of music broadcast from the surface of Mars by the rover, Curiosity. Ubiquitous Black –Eyed Pea and philanthropist will.i.am composed ‘Reach For The Stars’ just for the occasion. Here’s a sample lyric; “Why do they say the sky is the limit/when I seen them footprints on the moon/ and I know the sky might be high/but baby it ain't really that high/and I know that Mars might be far/but baby it ain't really that far/ lets reach for the stars." Stirring, not? Hopefully the Martians were plugged in and listening to their daily of something else at the time.

 

 

Facing The Music For The First Time

 

Imagine for the first 23 years of your life, growing up surrounded by the hype, the adulation, and the intoxication of the modern music machine and never hearing a single note. Orange County film maker Austin Chapman was born profoundly deaf. Recent breakthroughs in digital technology are offering nothing short of a miracle for some patients. After being fitted with a pair of bright orange next gen hearing aids, Austincould hear music for the very first time and what he heard brought tears to his eyes. The piece was Lacrimosa, a dark composition which Mozart wrote while on his death bed. But, for Austin, he was weeping tears of joy at finally experiencing what he could only guess at his whole life until that moment. Next up, Radiohead and Devo; then Brain Damage from Pink Floyd’s Dark Side Of The Moon; you know , “The lunatic is in my head …..”. Remember hearing that for the first time on headphones? Austin describes the experience as, “like the first time you kiss a girl.” He’s holding off on The Beatles’ catalogue until he gets a really good sound system to enjoy them on. If I had to start my music appreciation over again from scratch, I think I would probably follow pretty closely in his fresh footsteps. How about you? Write to us at ourcontacts page or Facebook page and share your thoughts on what Austin should listen to next. But, be patient. He’s already received 14,000 suggestions. And, his new auditory sense comes not without its irritants. He finds chattering conversations around him to be confusing and annoying. And, "I've never heard a baby talk before," he says, "Their voices are too high." Some things really are meant to be seen, not heard.

 

 

The Elite Frown On The Common Smile

 

Back from a week’s vay kay and I’m telling you, seven days of sun, sand and surf sure puts a smile on my face and colour in my hide. Seriously, with my aristocratic milkiness there is no in-between, it’s either translucent white or lobster red. And, I’m green with envy when I see nut brown Caucasians frolicking in the noonday sun. Of course, I can be smug in knowing that later in life their skin will look like my distressed leather easy chair and that my pallor in some bygone age would mark me as one of the entitled, and that makes me smile too. So thanks Evolutionary Psychology journal for wiping that smile off my face. According to this wet blanket the oldest smile in evolutionary history was one of appeasement, which prevails even today, with smiles going beyond happiness to indicate nervousness, submission or eagerness to please – all qualities prevalent on the lower rungs of the social ladder. So there’s good reason why Posh Spice always looks like someone peed in her corn flakes that morning. It’s because she’s posh and she’s showing the world that she’s high class. And, all this time I thought it was just the numbing effects of Botox. Study co-author Timothy Ketelaar from the New Mexico State University says there is precedent. “Everybody loved Elvis Presley, even though one of his most common facial gestures was a sneer.” Then again, Johnny Rotten was pasty and sneery and no one ever mistook him for aristocracy, though he was kind of the prince of punk.

 

 

Musicians Age Slower

 

Forget for a moment that a close up of Mick Jagger or Keith Richards’ face reveals a kind of Lunar or Martian landscape, pocked with deep craters and canyons. Forget that Craig Ferguson, when talking about Sir Paul McCartney, routinely references a photo of Angela Landsbury. They may look rode hard and put away wet, but aging musicians may have the advantage of being sharper than the rest of us. According to HealthDay fromwww.usnews.com there is mounting evidence to suggest that learning to play an instrument can benefit your brain and actually counteract the, (pardon the pun), earmarks of aging. First, it’s comparative to learning another language, where you are forced to inhibit one form of language system and start thinking in another. Music is, after all the international language. That kind of cognitive juggling stimulates the brain and keeps it on its toes. Hearing improves too (unless you’re playing death metal without proper protection). Musicians fine tune their ears to more easily detect mistakes and tuning errors or unravel complex passages of music. And, motor coordination is improved by playing a musical instrument, especially strings and percussion where hand /eye, left brain/right brain independence is taxed. In the study done by the journal Neuropsychology, (which by the way, if you have a subscription to, I highly doubt you need worry about these findings) 70 musicians and non-musicians aged 59 to 80 were evaluated by neuropsychological tests and surveyed about general lifestyle activities. The musicians scored higher on tests of mental acuity, visual-spatial judgment, verbal memory and recall, and motor dexterity. So, if you’ve got a guitar in the corner gathering dust, pick it up and sign up for lessons. You’re never too old to learn or be a rock star!

 

 

Scientific Proof Pop Sucks

 

We lean pretty heavy on science today; on medical science to cure our diseases and prolong our lives so we can keep working as long as it takes, on meteorological and geological science to help us beat the big one before it beats us, on environmental science to pull us back from the brink before we kill off the ecosystem, on quantum physics to help us unlock the secret of why we’re here in the first place. Art, religion, politics – none of it means squat if it don’t have that ring of scientific truthiness to it. So, to all my friends who have discretely kept their mouths shut during an episode of The Voice or the Grammies broadcast, or shaken their heads in disbelief when Justin Bieber or Lady Gaga breaks another sales record, or stifled a groan when assaulted by a blast of pop wallpaper while trying to shop for a pair of jeans; take heart! Your opinion is not just opinion or mere conjecture, music is not subjective.  You now have scientific evidence to support your assertion that today’s pop music sucks and hard! Spanish scientists utilized the ‘Million Song Dataset’, a ginormous resource that breaks down audio and lyrical content. Led by artificial intelligence specialist Joan Serra, a team studied popular music from 1955 to 2010, running tunes though a complex set of algorithms. Their conclusions speak volumes, first about volume; excessive squishing or compression of pop, especially in utilizing every megabit of audio information in the digital format has resulted in pop music being intrinsically louder and less dynamic than ever before. But, here’s the real damning evidence, "We found a progressive homogenization of the musical discourse," Serra told Reuters. "In particular, we obtained numerical indicators that the diversity of transitions between note combinations — roughly speaking, chords plus melodies — has consistently diminished in the last 50 years." In other words pop has progressively become dumber and blander. Anybody says otherwise, just tell ‘em you have scientific evidence to back it up. Pop stunts your development, just like cigarettes. It’s not opinion, it’s hard science.

 

 

 Little Respect From Folk Fest Faithful

I enjoy writing to the editor of my local newspaper. It’s columnists express their opinion every day. I think its my duty as a subscriber to let them know I have an opinion too and not always prepared to eat what they’re dishing. The Vancouver Sun newspaper won’t publish my letters anymore after a rather pointed barb I hurled back when I saw they edited the teeth right out of one of my arguments, so it didn’t surprise me last week to see that my most recent letter got passed over for publication. But, oh look! I just happen to have a copy right here:

 

RE: Folk Fest Alive and Thriving at 35

With much respect and admiration for your music journalist, I would like speak to his assertion that Emel Mathlouthi's incredible Main Stage set was "somewhat hampered by problems in the bass mix." In defense of the Folk Fest's excellent sound engineers, there was no problem with the mix despite complaints. What the old fogy folk were experiencing was the uncomfortable tummy rumbling of subsonics, the foundation of today's electronica. Given the open air venue and powerful sound system, some of those low frequency waves were no doubt growing to the height of office buildings by the time they reached people in the back. A far bigger problem was the lack of respect the beached walruses lolling in front of the main stage showed this architect of real social change, who inspired the Arab Spring Movement with her music. That this wasn't enough to encourage the audience to their feet in appreciation, instead of simply sprawling on their somehow entitled few square feet of blanketed real estate showed a complete lack of class. Sorry, Woody Guthrie would not have been impressed.

 

Cal Koat, Vancouver

 

Woody was cited many times throughout the festival. He would have been 100 years old this month.

 

 

Time Flies Like An Aerosmith

 

I love bands but I’ve never been a fan of lead singers/frontmen. In my musical world, The Beatles were the iconic rock template; four gifted musicians, three dynamic voices and writers and Ringo. Everybody pulls their own weight without any unnecessary preening and strutting or “See how many phallic visual cues you can pick up from my flashy mic and stand work.” I realize I’m in the minority here. According to Band Camp 101, lesson one is making Moves Like Jagger. Thanks for pointing out the obvious Adam and Christina but props for giving credit where credit is due. Apart from The Beatles, The Rolling Stones were the other die to be cast in creating the great rock and roll machine, and their model replete with the King Cock of the Walk has proven the most durable. And, this year they have 5 decades behind them to prove it, which makes The Stones practically peerless. But, no accolade can be as welcome as the respect of your peers right? Well, let’s flip channels from Adam and Christina to the original idol-maker, where we find Steven Tyler running for the exit behind Jennifer’s extraordinary behind. The American Stones, Aerosmith are also in their 50th year. Tyler told the press last week, “I’ve decided it’s time for me to let go of my mistress American Idol before she boils my rabbit.” (A Fatal Attraction reference; Wiki will tell you), “I strayed from my first love, Aerosmith and I’m back.” I think it’s a simple case of meeting The Stones’ challenge.  There’s no greater show of respect and I think it rocks. Happy 50th to The Rolling Stones and Aerosmith - should every band enjoy even a fraction of your longevity.

 

 

That Other Great Canadian Jazz Fest

I devoted a lot of ink over the last couple of weeks to the Vancouver International Jazz Festival (As if anybody uses ink anymore but hopefully you’ve been around long enough to get the reference), So, I would be remiss in not mentioning the grand daddy jazziest festival of them all over on the other side of this big country which wrapped up last weekend. I’ve never been to the Montreal Jazz Festival, but its been around for 33 years now so it’s a good bet it will still be there when I get around to it. It’s billed as the largest and most diverse jazz festival on the planet and close proximity to one of largest markets for jazz no doubt has something to do with it. The home of poutine and the smoked meat sandwich is just an hour by plane from New York, which draws in the visitors from south of the border to bask in the too cool atmo of Place des Arts, the outdoor square which sports 8 free stages during the festival. Artistic Director, André Ménard has heard the same comments over the years that must rankle Vancouver Jazz Festival director, Ken Pickering. Namely, “how can it be a jazz festival if it includes other genres?” Ménard politely put it this way to the New York Daily News, ““As much as this festival is inclusive socially, where people from every walk of life can attend, we try to make it as inclusive as possible musically. We try to represent what’s current, what’s interesting and what’s historical as well. We welcome the cousins and neighbors of jazz.” Here, here. After all, the basic tenants of jazz; innovation, improvisation and imagination run deep through any and all music. Maybe, the 34th year of the festival will be my introduction to the big show.

 

Post-Party Depression

 

You know it was a great party when you wake up the next morning to greet the banality of everyday with a little melancholy. Another one of life’s sparkling moments has come and gone. You know it wouldn’t be special if it happened all the time so you put your nose down into the task at hand, accruing brownie points as if they were air miles so when that next great party comes along, you can savor the experience guilt-free. The 27th was a good year for the TD Vancouver International Jazz Festival. The new opening celebration location downtown anchored the fest as a truly citywide celebration. The programming was tight, diverse and for my part as MC of the Vogue Theatre Series full of thrilling moments, like elbow-bumping Jack Bruce backstage or shaking John Pattatuci’s hand, two of my bass heroes. Bill Frisell isn’t new to the festival but it was my first chance to see him, and in set of interpretations of John Lennon’s songs. That was a sublime moment. Introducing the Wayne Shorter Quartet to a packed house of well-healed hardcore jazz aficionados one night, only to unleash the urban gypsy mayhem of Balkan Beat Box to a room full of blissed out savages the next; that was another. My thanks and congratulations go out to John Orysik, Ken Pickering and Fatima Amarshi, the executive of Coastal Jazz and Blues Society – in affect the hosts of Vancouver’s best house party. And, the invitation was open to everyone in the world. I hope we get to do it all again next year. Here’s hoping for a steady stream of smaller moments to look forward to in the meantime.


Embrace The Isolation

 

No man is an island but I can be a real peninsula from time to time. That’s why I so enjoy working from home in splendid isolation. Not that I purposefully cut myself off from social intercourse, I mean the simple fact that I wanted to work the word intercourse into this post should tell you that I crave closeness, shared experiences and mingling as much as the next person. I just find work to be more productive when I’m not overwhelmed by distractions. Nevertheless a new poll that’s the talk of the town here in Vancouver shows that birdcage condos, cultural enclaves, virtual friends and other individualistic lifestyle choices is turning our urban centre into a society of isolationists. Why, you probably listen to worldbeatcanada radio or Celt In A Twist on a set of ear buds, plugged in but tuned out to those around you. But, instead of sounding the alarm, dropping in on the neighbors and organizing a block party (which could be fun), I think we should also consider that at today’s hectic pace, with the reams of stimulus we process every moment of every day, we physically need more time to withdraw, process and refresh the page so to speak. Seeking inner solace is more important than ever with 7 billion people sharing this planet. You have to be at peace with yourself before you can peacefully interact with others. Not that I don’t have any compassion for the lonely. I think theirs is an unnecessary burden when here are so many others who can take a little time to share with them. And, once again, music proves its inimitable benefits by reaching out in a universal language, centering and encouraging meditation and facilitating shared joy. So, don’t unplug just yet. Listen up to worldbeatcanada radio and Celt In A Twist and simply smile at the world around you. That’s as good a start as any to breaking down the barriers of isolation.

 

 

The Two Faces Of The Free Festival

 

 It ain’t easy being free. This past Saturday and Sunday afternoons were spent at the 24th running of the Rio Tinto Alcan Dragon Boat Festival and, for my part, under the bright red banners of the WorldBeat Stage setting up 10 acts and spinning in between. The Dragon Boat Festival got its start in False Creek during Expo 86. The World Beat Stage has been an integral part since 1997, a Canadian Talent Development Initiative that was created for 96.1 FM. Back then, the middle of June in Vancouver was the anticipation of summer, with shirt sleeve temps and drier days. That was before climate change. Now, Junuary as it’s reluctantly known in these parts is one of the wettest and unseasonably coolest months of the year. Saturday bore that out with torrential rains, a waterfall streaming down from the tenting covering the stage and a wagon circle of street vendor carts cooking up lunch for zero customers. You see, it’s a free festival. No one is committed to tickets they’ve invested in and even I as presenter of the World Beat Stage had to admit, I could think of a dozen other drier places to be that day. Nevertheless, the talents were troopers and the performances outstanding. As the dry spot on the stage shrunk I expressed my concerns about electrocution to one of the guitarists. He waved off the comment saying, “That’s the way I want to go anyway.” How rock ‘n roll is that? Sunday, we got the break we were praying for. The crowds came, the performers were buoyant and the smells of international delectables wafted through the air. For a free festival, weather really makes the difference between success and disappointment. My personal thanks go out to Reggae On The Rocks, Westley Hardisty and Get Back To Me, Orchestar Slivovica, Ranj   Singh and The Discriminators, Shane Philip, Zimbamoto, Pendomoja, Celtic Bhangra, Microbongo Sound System and The Boom Booms. I’m already making notes for next year.

 

 

Bradbury Inspired The Popular Song

 

Truth be known, I’m a space cadet in good standing. I remain a huge fan of space science fiction, be it books, television series, movies, video games, that’s where you’ll find me getting my geek on. Although I sat through John Carter on the weekend and to this moment I’m still not exactly sure what it was that I saw. So, it was a personal blow to find out one of my favorite authors, Ray Bradbury left this world on June 5th. Coincidentally, his favorite author was Edgar Rice-Burroughs who wrote John Carter. Sci-fi also inspires the popular song. My own band got radio play for three years with a dopey ditty we wrote called The Final Frontier. And, last week the LA Times music blog, Pop & Hiss published a list of 10 recordings made in deference to the man who penned, The Martian Chronicles, The Illustrated Man, Fahrenheit 451 and many other works. Topping the list of course is Sir Elton’s Rocket Man which was based on Bradbury’s short story about an astronaut whose wife “packs his bags preflight.” John’s songwriting partner, Bernie Taupin was also taken by The Rocket Man, an earlier song from 70’s psychedelic band, Pearls Before Swine. Canadian artists too have fallen under Bradbury’s spell. Beat rodent, Deadmau5 created The Veldt after another Bradbury short by the same name, and let’s not forget Rush. The Body Electric from their Grace Under Pressure album tributes I Sing The Body Electric, another Ray Bradbury story. Drummer Neil Peart is unabashedly a huge fan of the writer. In this way, I suppose, the author’s stories in print and in song will continue well into the future he dreamed of. Meanwhile, I’m making plans to see Prometheus so don’t tell me how it ends … although I’m sure it’s deliciously badly.

 

World’s Highest Concert (Without The Dead)

 

Your love is lifting me higher … higher and higher; 21 thousand 825 feet high to be exact. Hi, this is Rita Coolidge, I mean Calvin Coolidge, I mean Calvin Koat and can you believe it? Another week and another musical Guinness World Record attempt. Last week we told you about the 4 hundred and some ukulele players who fell short in their bid for the world’s largest ukulele lesson. Well this past week an Australian and a Frenchman played a concert for a team of climbers at the summit of Mera Peak which is close to Mount Everest in Nepal. Go figure, Sherpas apparently make decent roadies as well as guides, schlepping 3 guitars, a small amplifier fitted with speakers, microphones and a stand 4 miles up in the air where the pair played for 40 minutes. Oz (yes, the Aussie’s name is Oz) Bayldon spoke the obvious, “My fingers were freezing!” he exclaimed, “I felt like a 90 year old with asthma.” To add insult to injury, there was a cover charge! Each of the other 15 climbers had to ante up 10 bucks to catch the show and only 8 made it to the summit. The rest were overcome with altitude sickness and you can bet they didn’t get a refund. To be fair to Oz and his buddy, they did raise 54 thousand dollars for a charity in Nepal that is building an orphanage. Hmmm, high altitudes and amplified music – doesn’t that spell avalanche hazard to you? Guinness is pouring over the evidence before verifying the new world record.

 

 

Grand Attempt For Humble Ukulele

 

“Oh we're going to a hukilau, a huki huki huki huki hukilau.”

 

Summer weather has finally arrived and I can’t get that charming little ditty out of my brain, probably in part due to last weekend’s record attempt in Denver, Colorado for the world’s largest ukulele lesson. So it’s with a huki huki heavy heart that I offer condolences to maestro Lanialoha Lee and 412 ukulele pupileles for coming close, but no cigarillo. While it was the second largest ukulele gathering in the US it was only the third largest lesson in the world. The humble Hawaiian mini-guitar has received a much deserved ego boaster seat of late in the hands of contemporary masters like Jake Shimobukuro and with a little help from friends like Eddie Vedder who released the Ukulele Songs album last year. For decades, because of its diminutive size and few strings, it had been relegated to the status of a starter instrument for kids. As you’ll hear later in the show, in talented hands it’s capable of so much more. The story goes that when George Harrison would entertain at home, after dinner the ukuleles would out and the jamming would commence. Lani speculates, the instrument has found new favour due to all those couples who honeymooned in Hawaii and came back wanting to hang on to the island warmth and security known as aloha, and found it in the uke’s plucky tone. Ironically for the islands of paradise, new figures which also came out this past week showHonolulu topping LA for the worst traffic jams in America. Maybe she’s right. Aloha is whatever little respite you can find on a sunny day and four humble strings.

 

 

Handlebars & A BIG Horn

 

It’s a war out there and Vancouver is ground zero – an armed conflict between two wheels and four, fought along lines of courtesy and etiquette on the streets, and in a war of words in the daily press. Our green as grass civic government is showing favour to the cyclists, investing taxpayer money on new bicycle lanes, infrastructure and funding for city-wide gatherings like car free days. The perception being I suppose that cars have the distinct advantages of power and weight over two-wheelers, while both sides are earnestly looking for ways to ensure that they never have to come in contact with one another. And it’s not just a problem here in the Northwest where the cycling culture is new and growing. In London, England these two sides have been entrenched for decades. New technology actually creates the distractions that exacerbate the problems caused by inattentiveness. Frustration has lead to ingenious if not old school solutions. Enter the Hornster, a British made bicycle packing a three-bell locomotive air horn between the handle bars, powered by a scuba tank filled with compressed air. The Hornster blasts at a quite literally deafening 178 decibels at 3 feet. For comparison, an F-14 Tomcat taking off with burners ignited is 130 dBs at 50 feet. The Concorde landing generates 119 decibels. That’s going to get your attention and very little else will perk up your ears from that point forward. Which raises an intriguing question, “ How does the rider of the Hornster protect his own hearing without shutting out the world around him, making him an accident waiting to happen?" Oh well, signaling for help after the accident is only a blast away. The Hornster will set you back 8000 Canadian dollars if you’re still interested.

 

 

Jazz Fest Moves Up To Downtown

The TD Vancouver International Jazz Festival made big news this past week, and yours truly made the front cover of the paper. Well, it was more like a game of Where’s Waldo. I was centre left at the back of the crowd. See the guy in the hat? I’m still deciding on how I want to spin all this exposure. Oh yeah, the big news; the Jazz Fest’s opening weekend celebrations are moving uptown from Gastown to downtown. Let me explain. Every third weekend in June, for 27 years now, Vancouver’s largest music festival fires up two street-side stages in the heart of Gastown (the historic original site of the city). But if the 2010 Winter Olympics and the 2011 Stanley Cup riots taught Vancouverites anything about themselves, it’s that when people congregate in the city they gravitate to the geographic core which is Robson Square and the Vancouver Art Gallery. Fortunately, the mayor and council seem to recognize the advantage of working with nature and natural inclinations,  and for 2012 they struck a deal with the festival’s organizers at Coastal Jazz to make the party the centre of attention in the centre of it all on June 23rd and 24th. That includes three stages, a community fair, art installations, artisan markets, two (count ‘em) two licensed bistros and something described as an interactive, motion-activated experience involving Ambient Jazz Music and abstract photography or as it’s known at the smoke-in every April, 4/20. Vancouver luminaries like Dal Richards and his big band, Maria In The Shower and Locarno will be among the performers taking the stage in a number of free downtown shows over two days. Talk about great exposure! And don’t leave without seeing the Quadrabalamarimbaphone in the new Sonic Playground. Don’t ask. With that many syllables you just know it has to be good

 

SNL Stinker – Lana or Rhianna

 

She of the bee-stung lips, and Lolita looks, smoky pop siren, Lana Del Ray has been lambasted by the press for her uninspired performance on SNL’s hallowed stage. I saw the episode and yes, it did look like she was phoning it in. But, I didn’t think the songs were awful, unlike this past weekend when super-babe Rhianna hit the same stage with the most crotch-groping I’ve seen since Michael Jackson. Not that I’m a prude about that kind of thing but it did seem like maybe she was dealing with an annoying rash or something. For her second number, she chose some kind of Scheherazade harem theme with be-turbaned Sinbads brandishing huge curving scimitars and veiled belly dancer backups. The imagery was cornball and culturally insensitive at the same time. In the end though, it was the inane reverb-bathed drivel she was dishing that made me turn off the set. Back in March, the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry reported that the poor, old music industry is starting to record smaller losses, thanks in part to legit online sources like iTunes taking a bite out of piracy, and the newly discovered realization among artists that hitting the road can go a long way to recouping some of those flagging CD sales. Setting the bar is U2 of course, who last year reported making 232 million from touring the world. Meanwhile, despite her tabloid omnipresence, Rhianna’s Loud Tour was such a big disappointment, one source says, that ticket sales were barely able to cover the costs of lighting the arena; all of which kinda restores a little of my faith in humanity. We aren’t just empty vessels awaiting an opportunity to gorge ourselves on mindless pap. U2 may be dinosaurs but in the end, they do know how to pen a good tune and it’s nice to know that still makes a difference.

 

 

Uppleva – Swedish For Television

 

Welcome to Uppleva, Swedish for television! No, sorry Olaf, let me clarify. Ikea is not going into the television programming business, so forget your fantasy of blond people with heavy accents hosting DYI programs where you learn how to pimp your Blork wall units. No, Uppleva is a television, speakers, blue ray and DVD player all in one, with a little wireless sub woofer you place where ever you want. It all comes in a variety of different styles, colours and screen sizes. Best thing about Uppleva? There are no unsightly cables. So forget about that rats’ nest living behind the entertainment centre or those rough cut jig sawed holes in the back with a variety of different cords snaking through to the electronics in front. You know what I hate? Test tugging several to determine which cable is hooked up to what.  The big question of course is whether the clever Swedes can convince brand conscious electronics consumers to switch from their preference for Sony, Toshiba, Sharp or whatever to the Ikea label. It will be interesting to find out where the furniture giant is sourcing the screen and other components for the Uppleva package. It certainly plays into the new micro-home reality of today’s urban living. But, is it really a new idea? I remember as a kid playing with Dad’s all-in-one console unit with radio, turntable and speakers. It had big chunky tuning knobs and shiny wood veneer. I think in the early 60s you could get ones with a built in TV as well. Go to Ikeahackers.net to watch the Uppleva video pitch. I’m sold with just one nagging concern. I keep getting this mental picture of bringing my Ikea TV home, opening the box to find everything, including the electronics in pieces with only diagram assembly instructions and a single hex key wrench. Good luck building a better TV, Ikea, just please, don’t make me assemble it.

 

A Day For The Records

April 21st was Record Store Day around the world. Did you pick up a new slab of wax to celebrate, or more accurately, Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC)? That’s right; LPs are made out of much the same stuff as a lot of Pamela Anderson’s wardrobe. Audiophiles staunchly stand by their conviction that the sound quality on a vinyl disc is superior to digital copies, citing an analogue warmth to the reproduction you just can’t get anywhere else. Of course, if you really want to hear the difference, you need to start with a pristine pressing lovingly tickled by a diamond studded cartridge, tipped on a precision balanced tone arm, attached to an exacting speed-calibrated, direct drive turntable which will all probably set you back as much as a new Vespa. Mostly, I keep my records and a few handy LP sized picture frames so I can display the album art that’s so often overlooked in today’s micro-digital age. But, even if you have no use for vinyl, your local record store would be happy to sell you a CD. 1,700 mom and pop record stores across the globe represented on April 21st, united, making the world spin at 33 1/3 for 24 hours at least, many with live music in store. Kudos to local holdouts like Zulu Records, Black Cat and Highlife for shaking off the welcome mat and making a big deal about it - it will be interesting to see if 2012’s numbers better last year’s when sales of vinyl singles during Record Store Day increased 697 percent over the previous week.

 

Crowdfunding = Online Panhandling. Really?

I got an email update from my buddy Curtis who plays drums and percussion for Vancouver’s Zimbabwean fusion ensemble, Zimbamoto. They’ll be on the worldbeat stage this summer at the Rio Tinto Alcan Vancouver Dragon Boat Festival. The Zambai Trio is a more traditional break out project they’re recording with a little help from their friends on a crowdfunding social media site called Idiegogo. They’re almost halfway to their goal of 25 hundred dollars. Wow, I thought, finally; social media for good not evil. Then I picked up my free copy of Vancouver’s entertainment weekly, The Georgia Straight and saw the music section headline, “Boo hoo, broke bands, quit asking for charity.” Writer Michael Mann opens the expletive-studded missive with the words, “Stop trying to get me to fund your f-ing album with a Kickstarter campaign.” If you can sift through the vitriol that follows he does bring up some good points against what he calls “panhandling online”, like bands that use the funds to get the hell out of the Maritimes to summer in Vancouver and the misappropriation of arts grants by big names like Metric and Arcade Fire. And, yes, it’s pretty cheap to rent some gear and make the next great indie album in your apartment. But, in the end, groups like my worldbeating buddies in the Zambai Trio are just going to give away most of their music on the web to raise awareness and get gigs, so they can sell a few CD copies from the side of the festival stage, go home and continue to live the life of the starving artist. So what’s wrong with reaching out to your fans for the occasional handout? It’s all in the pursuit of better music isn’t it? As for Mann’s taunt, “Try writing for a living, asshole.” He has thousands of eyeballs looking at his pitiful column each week. If he can’t find a way to monetize that, then he’s the real sphincter. I told my friend Curtis to check out the piece. He did and wrote me back, “Opinions are like assholes, everybody’s got one.” I’d heard that punch line before but the smiley face emoticon at the end worked anyway.

 

Are We Ready For Beatles Version 2.0?

According to James McCartney, the only son of Paul and Linda, there’s plenty of talk about four of the Beatle offspring banding together for The Fab Four redux. James says, Dhani, George Harrison’s son and Sean Lennon are both into the idea. Apparently, only Zack Starkey is as yet undecided, though James is hopeful he’ll warm up to the idea with quote, “nature’s support”. Which sounds like some veiled threat to get him baked and talk him into it. And, it might be hard to argue with the younger McCartney’s enthusiasm for the project. James has released solo albums in addition to playing guitar and drums on his father's solo albums, and he’s not shy to admit that he’s always "dreamt of being better than The Beatles." "I'm not sure if I can do that," he added. "If anything, I would love to be equal to The Beatles - but even that's quite enough." I suspect the biggest reason for Zack Starkey’s trepidation is that he of all of them can most clearly see the expiration date on this package. James and Dhani are both 34 years old. Sean’s 36 but Ringo Jr. is 47 already! The Beatles – The Next Generation best hit the rehearsal studio soon before they look less cute and more grizzled. Although, I have to admit, it’s pretty astonishing how much these lads look like their dads. The blogosphere was quick to weigh in on what many think is not just a bad idea but possibly the worst idea of all time. Still the Guardian newspaper made hay with the headline, ‘Here Comes The Sons’. And, one commenter at least couldn’t help but read some healthy satire into the development by observing, “While the kids of the Beatles are thinking about starting a band, Yoko's daughter is thinking about ruining it." Snap!

 

Another Chapter in Music’s Never-ending Story

Another week, another chapter in music’s never-ending story – over Christmas we chatted with Bela Fleck on worldbeatcanada radio. He and an entire generation of banjo fans got hooked by Earl Scruggs’ nimble fingers each week, opening the Beverly Hillbillies. He passed on last week at the age of 88. Bela Fleck and he ended up neighbors and close friends. Guitar gods come and go and each leaves a mark, a signature riff, sound, whatever, but for the banjo, it all came down to Earl Scruggs; one man defining one instrument. The Boss gave the keynote address at the South by Southwest music conference in Austin saying, among other things, ““We live in a post-authentic world. The elements of what you’re using don’t matter. Purity of human experience and expression is not confined to guitars, to tubes, to turntables, to microchips. There is no right way, no pure way of doing. There is just doing.” I like the term ‘post-authentic’. It’s like fake but with more cred. Still I don’t expect Mr. Born In The USA to be a big proponent of auto tune and drum sampling anytime soon. Dave Grohl from the Foo Fighters had to back pedal on his Grammy acceptance in February when seemingly dissed the electronic music community professing, “This award means a lot, because it shows that the human element in music is what’s important. It’s not about what goes into a computer. It’s about what goes on here (holding his hand to his heart).” Later he admitted that he likes all kinds of music, and don’t we all? By the way, if you like the electronic dance beats there’s great news on the radio of all places. Denver-based top 40 station, Hot 107 is flipping formats to all electronic, all the time featuring some of the city’s hottest DJs free-styling during specific shows. Program Director, Brian Degrasse put it this way, "The Denver market is a huge dance market and with shows like Kaskade, Deadmau5 selling out venues, we thought, 'Why can't it work on the radio?" I’ve been asking myself the same question about worldbeat for years.

 

Pet Sounds – What’s Their Favorite Music?

ABC World News with Diane Sawyer, the internet edition wants your input for a story they’re working on, and how often do you get asked by a major network to contribute to their investigative journalism? Well, actually it’s not just your input their looking for. They want video of Fluffy or Spot listening to his or her favorite tunes. A scientist has put forward the idea that animals like something called ‘species specific music’ that has pitches, tempos and tones that are familiar to their species. ABC suggests many pet owners leave music on for their four-legged friends during those times when they are left alone. Do you? Well shoot them a video clip and they may use it in the piece they’re putting together for this week. Now, my cats have benefited (or not – it’s really not their decision) from regular exposure to a wide variety of music. But, one of the boys (who has since shed this mortal coil and gone to that great tuna boat in the sky) had a remarkable aversion to bagpipe music. First, he would get visibly agitated and start fussing with the desk top speakers and eventually he’d start yowling. I Googled this phenomenon and was interested to find out that I’m not alone. Later on, try Googling cats and bagpipes and check out the video clips. I’ve often thought about learning the instrument but never got around to it, something my neighbors and my cats surely appreciate.

 

Top 10 St. Patrick’s Hang Over Cures

A wee debt of gratitude to one Molly Muldoon of www.irishcentral.com for providing a public service of the 10 best cures for your St. Patrick’s hangover; of course, if you’re still sick from the drink at this point 12 steps might be a better choice than 10 cures and, if not, these are still good to try on when you’ve tied one on.

Number 10 – two raw eggs for breakfast and two more for lunch; not only will this make you a prime candidate for Lipitor, it supposedly neutralizes the ethanol in your system.

Number 9 – Two Advil every four hours; depending on your disposition, Tylenol is also a good choice. The daily dose Aspirins might not cut it.

Number 8 – Drink gallons of water to stave off the dehydration. Some say drinking it before you hit the sheets works even better.

Number 7 – A sauna will sweat out the alcohol (and whatever other liquids you have in your body, so refer to number 8 before you try this – besides, who has a sauna?).

Number 6 – Pickles – they’re the little green hangover remedies favored by Polish people, who know a thing or two about vodka so it’s worth a try.

Number 5 – A full on Irish breakfast including bacon, sausages, black and white pudding, mushrooms, fried tomato, fried eggs, soda bread, spud bread, baked beans and lashings of tea. Your headache will be gone and your nausea may or may not be intensified. Use extreme caution.

Number 4 – A swim in the ocean or lake or any bitterly cold body of water. As your private bits beat a retreat into your abdomen, surprisingly you’ll forget about the jackhammer in your head.

Number 3 – Sipping hot tea which may seem counter-intuitive to the hardcore elbow bender, but if you had been a teetotaler in the first place …

Number 2 - Give in. Set the laptop up in bed, order in and try to keep a brave face … you pathetic wuss.

Number 1 – You knew it, you do it, it’s why a good drinking establishment never has to worry about driving away their customers … the hair of the dog that bit ya. It’s been the favorite hangover cure of the Irish for many a year and it’s not like it’s given them a reputation or anything. So raise a glass to the sweet colleen, Molly Muldoon. You have a heart of gold.


Love The Concert? Post The Set List 

I’ve never been a big fan of corporations gobbling up smaller companies. It usually ends up watering down the original vision for the product or service. But, this is one instance where it seems to be a hand in mouth, I mean glove fit. Live Nation Entertainment, the world’s largest entertainment company embodying Ticketmaster, Live Nation Concerts, Front Line Management Group and Live Nation Network has acquired an online site called Setlist.fm. Remember when the ultimate concert souvenir didn’t come from the merch table but from the stage itself, where the artiste du jour would flick a guitar pick at you or, even better a set list? Well, at setlist.fm, you can take that one step further by posting the setlist from your awesome concert experience complete with audio and video for every song and share it with fans everywhere through the site, or, if you like, you can embed it at your facebook page and tweet it, link it in, whatever. In turn, you can vicariously relive concert experiences you missed through someone else’s posting. It’s totally user-generated, kind of like wikipedia. Of course, as with wiki there’s plenty of margin for error. As the site says on the home page, “You’ve been to a concert recently? Yes? Now show us your love and add the setlist …or whatever you remember.” Isn’t it funny how memory loss factors into the most memorable concert moments? I guess that’s what makes them so awesome in the retelling. 

 

Great Grins from Great Britain

When the world leaves you scratching your head, there’s one place you can look to make sense of it all. Actually, there’s one place which can be so ridiculous, it makes the rest of the planet seem less insane, and that’sGreat Britain. Theirs is a lunacy that’s been passed down through the generations. How else do you explain place names like thevillageofBeerwhere the welcome sign reminds visitors to please drive carefully? Or, how about the Scottish town ofLostwhere the signage routinely goes missing. InNorfolkwe find a charming pair of hamlets called Great Snoring and Little Snoring; one obviously having benefited from the invention of the Breathe Right Strip. You’ll discover Crackpot in Yorkshire and Pity Me by the sea inDevon, where you can also visit Crapstone, though no one likes to admit living there. Meanwhile a British furniture store called Sofa King was banned from using the slogan, “Our prices are Sofa King low”. And a new poll of 1,142 British women between the ages of 18 and 25 concludes that 44 percent would rather have bigger breasts than a higher IQ. Of those respondents, 24 percent said that bigger breasts would make them feel happier. Of course, if ignorance is truly bliss, a lowered IQ alone would put a smile on their faces and they’d save the expense of a boob job. Thanks as always for leaving me with a grin,Great Britain!

 

Alzheimer’s and music therapy

Music’s important in your life. That’s why you check out this program and you certainly don’t need me going on about how music is the universal language that breaks down linguistic, cultural and economic borders and boundaries, triggers emotions and even physical reflexes. You’re attuned and that’s why I truly value your role as listener. But, a recent article at www.myplainview.com by professional counselor, Alice Sawayer reminded me of something else music has the power to affect … and for the life of me I can’t remember. Oh, wait a sec; you know how the older we get the more senior moments we can expect? Well the article points out that since music, like smells can be directly tied to a particular memory, music therapists are finding that it can often be used effectively to pierce the dense fog of Alzheimer’s. Says counselor Sawayer, “Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia, affects about 4 million Americans each year. As baby boomers age that number is expected to increase significantly. It’s thought by some researchers that earlier memories remain intact, and music aids in recall and stimulates those early memories.” The article goes on to suggest that music of cultural or religious significance especially can be helpful. But, I’m thinking if we’re talking boomers with dementia, early musical memories might recall something else. And, especially as boomers give way to greying Xers, does that mean the daily routine at the old folks home will include 30 minutes of classic Kiss records, maybe Aerosmith or perish the thought, Journey? Maybe there are some musical memories best forgotten.

 

Global Gathering No Longer Welcome on Radio Scotland

I’ve always been leery of signing petitions because I can never be sure how much I’ll be asked to put my money where my mouth is. Also, along with that John Hancock all my contact information is willingly provided. This makes me doubly doubtful about online petitions. Never the less, I added my name to chorus of world music fans, professionals and artists who are upset about Radio Scotland’s cancellation of Mary Ann Kennedy’s popular Global Gathering program, a two hour showcase of contemporary folk and global music which helped shine the spotlight on great artists like the late Martyn Bennett, Peatbog Faeries and Shooglenifty .. artists you’d be very familiar with if you listen to our sister pod cast, Celt In A Twist with Patricia Fraser, celebrating ten years of broadcasting in 2012. But, I digress. Global Gathering has been what Donald Shaw, director of Scotland’s Celtic Connections Festival calls, “a window to the world of great living music,” for twenty years with Ms Kennedy behind the mic. Chiming in on that sentiment is Ian Greene, founder of Green Trax Records (one of our fave labels) who responds, “"I honestly feel that some of the people at the top of BBC Scotland have not got a bloody clue about Scottish culture. This decision is absolutely ridiculous." Generally, the comments from signators have rallied against what they believe to be the dumbing down of Scottish culture. The national broadcaster is replacing the program with classical music (for which there is much radio exposure already in Scotland). But alas lassies and laddies, I’m not the only one reticent to sign online petitions. Only 393 people have put their name officially behind the protest. If you’re game, you’ll find the petition at www.change.org. I wish our own national broadcaster, the CBC would consider giving a couple of hours a week to global music and I’d love to present it. No petition for that yet, I’m afraid. If you like the idea, just write the CRTC or your favorite crown corporation.

 

Bob Mould’s Brush With Whitney

It hasn’t been exactly fat times for the popular music industry. A lackluster year of new pop releases combined with legitimate protests from ethnic artists over being all but shut out of the Grammy Awards’ reduced number of categories, made for a pretty tepid gala and boring television. Of course the untimely death of Whitney Houston sparked some honest emotions. No matter whether you were a fan or not, 48 years is too short a life for anybody. One of my own musical heroes, Bob Mould, the brilliant singer/songwriter behind punk rock legends, Husker Du, Sugar and his own catalogue of amazing solo albums describes a Whitney Houston memory in his new autobiography, See A Little Light – The Trail of Rage and Melody. 22 years to the month ago at The Power Station, a world-class Manhattan recording studio built in the former Con Edison power plant, Bob was laying tracks for his biggest budget album to date. As he describes in his book, “Whitney Houston was working upstairs for much of the time. Even though she appeared to weigh about ninety pounds and seemingly never ate a morsel, Ms. Houston had an extensive hospitality rider with fresh fruit and deli trays every day. After she left, our second engineer would go upstairs to retrieve the leftovers. We dined like royalty on the scraps of the then reigning queen of pop.” So, thank you, Whitney Houston for unwittingly keeping great music alive and well-fed through leaner times

 

104 The Shore No More

Last week, humpday was dumpday for the employees of Vancouver’s last stand alone commercial radio station. With the sale to media mega-corp, Astral given the CRTC’s holy assent, The Shore 104 is no more. And, as must be spelled out in some sort of playbook for accepted corporate practices, no one at the station, aside from the top two salespeople I hear, survived the cut; unceremoniously flooding the local market with a fresh batch of career broadcasters to fight over what ever table scraps there are left in an industry that has been quite thoroughly automated and syndicated. Neither has the programming been spared; a homespun spin on the ever so popular Triple A format, The Shore played Triple R, that is to say Roots, Rock, Rhythm. Now, if I recall my Bob Marley catalogue, that should be Roots, Rock, Reggae, but global music had no home on The Shore. Theirs was new music for aging white men, which I guess is a viable target market. In the wake of the killer wave, fans of The Shore will now be treated to the latest McFranchise format brand from the corporate minds at Astral called The Boom. Yep, you guessed it; Boomer radio that plays the hits of the 70s, 80s and 90s. Exactly the same as the Jack format across the street at Rogers that has been steadily slipping in the rating for some time. What does all this mean to consumers of Vancouver radio? One less vehicle for new music on the dial and more duplication of recycled music in a market that’s lousy with nostalgia radio. And as for radio’s much vaunted ability to localize? Why bother when you can import programs and voices from your other broadcast mills around the country? That’s what makes corporate broadcasting successful and that’s what’s driving listeners to their iPods and the internet.

TO – Music Capital Of The World! WTF?

A couple of weeks back during our travel tips for people visiting Canada, I brought up the annoying misconception out there that Toronto is the capital of Canada, mentioning that in fact Toronto thinks its capital of the world. Well a new article in the TO-based news rag, The Grid proves my point and reveals the sheer pomposity of Torontonians by laying claim to the title of ‘Best Music City in The World’. The author of this contemptible bag of crap, one Andre Mayer points to the string of critical successes chalked up by Toronto-based artists like Feist, Drake, Austra, Fucked Up (excuse me), The Weekend and global acts such as K’naan and Kiran Ahluwalia. That is to say, according to heir Mayer, a city’s musical greatness is determined by nothing more than the notoriety of the artists who happen to live and work there. Doesn’t there have to be a prevailing breath of musicality in the air, permeating everyday life, a song in everyone’s heart and a melody on their lips? Isn’t that what you find in the world’s true music capitals like London, Paris, Berlin, Rio, Havana, New York, Memphis, New Orleans, Dublin, Bamako, Montreal and dozens more I can’t think of off the top of my head? Fortunately, the sheer audacity of the article wasn’t lost on those who posted comments in response. My favorite came from Oscar who noted, “No offense to the acts mentioned, but by looking through all of the year-end ‘best lists’ one can pretty quickly see that 2011 was a weak year for music; what better time for Toronto to claim dominance!” Congrats Toronto, you’re the best of the worst. The world doesn’t revolve around you and it definitely moves to the beat of a different drum.

Out here on the best coast, we understand that. Vancouver has an OK music scene, a great jazz festival and I think the common sense not to make outlandish claims in public. Of course that doesn’t stop us from playing the best music in the world.