Sunday, November 26, 2006

Look Up, Way Up

That's what I do now. I cleaned my room today and reconfigured the computer desk such that my monitor now sits above me; it's probably a foot taller when I sit. I did this for two reasons: 1) I hope it helps my posture to sit up and look up, as opposed slouching and looking to the right; 2) I wanted some extra space so my computer could go where the monitor was. This will be an adjustment. At least most of my work for the December issue is done, meaning I won't have to wear out the backspace key on Commerce-related, time sensitive stuff. It's only been a few hours since the change, and I'm shocked at how weak my back muscles must be. Perhaps this isn't the most natural position for PC usage, but until a doctor tells me that I'm actually doing myself harm, it be this way.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Those Crazy Spammers

Why do these people think anyone would buy from them if they can't spell the name of their own product? Sure, they want their messages to slip through the cracks and avoid spam filters, but is anyone really in the market for some v|ilargra or a hrome lwoan? At least street venders who sell fake watches make no pretense about their authenticity. It's all, "Dude, this looks the shit, but it's as fake as Sasquatch's myspace account." The only good thing about this whole nuissance is the ease with which I can comb through my junk folder; proper English = move to inbox; gibberish = cheap advertisement. [/Observation]

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Montréal Part 6: For Those Of Us On Foot

31 October 2006 continued...
Being the clever fellow he is, Marc-O had the foresight to bring a deck of cards. The show is supposed to start in half an hour, which should be an easy chunk of time to pass, but with all the delays that kept us outside and scrounging for fun, we all get schooled on how to play 31. I won't describe the rules or objective in here, not because it's a bad game, but I know some of my readers want to know about the show. Without further ado, the opening act, Crystal Clyffs...

...SUCKED. The only saving grace was the fact the lead singer was fairly attractive, though a little egregious in all non-superficial aspects. She was supposedly dressed as Mother Nature, and she spent half the performance making love to the stage. She chastized the crowd for being mostly uncostumed, suggesting we have no soul. Worst of all, she was a member of that horrid, horrid band. I think it's fair to say that it was the longest half hour of my life. I recently read an article about the U.S. military using the latest Chili Peppers album to torture prisoners into revealing classified info about terrorist plots. I thought it was kind of funny that religious fanaticals could be so easily broken, but if I were captured and forced to listen to Crystal Clyffs, the enemy would have the coalition surrounded and captured within the hour. Now then, the important stuff.

As we discussed at the show, Deerhoof are way too humble for their abilities. Once the freakshow band was done, these normal people in casual, around-the-house clothes take to the stage to help the amateurs pack their gear.

Once everything was set, the band left the stage for what felt like another eon. The lights finally dimmed and Deerhoof (reduced to a three piece in May) returned dressed as zombies. Saulnier started the set by rhythmically assaulting his high hat, and the rest of the band joined him lightly at first, building suspense until they finally launched into "Twin Killers".

I don't have words to describe the rest of the set. Without exaggerating--and I've had time to reflect on this--it was the greatest live performance I've ever seen. All I can say is that Deerhoof are a band about moods and feelings. Anyone looking for enlightenment in their music is denying themselves a very primal and exhilerating wilderness adventure.

Another cool thing was how Satomi Matsuzaki noticed someone dressed as the Milkman and invited that person onstage in the middle of the first or second song.

At no point was I farther than 15(ish) yards from the stage, and this only happens in cool places like Montréal and at indie shows therein. Beyond saying what I have, all I can add is that everyone must see this band if they have the chance.

The Fiery Furnaces
First of all, I convinced Marc-O to follow me to a much closer position to the stage. We watched my heroes and their new set musicians setting up, and finally the set opened with pre-recorded banter that I believe they recorded just prior to playing. It spoke of Halloween and the band taking over the universe, or something along those lines. At this point I'm sweating a lot and I really have to pee, but I decide to trudge on. I mean, I'm far too close to the stage to move.

On record, the Fieries are my favourite band. Matthew Friedberger has a flair for writing original, loveable characters and complementing his credible and downright endearing phrasing with the perfect soundtrack. I can't even think of Fiery Furnaces albums as mere CDs, because the experience of listening to them conjures such vivid images in my mind's eye that calling them audio movies makes much more sense. That said, they failed the capture this essence during their performance.

It was evident that Pete Townshend is God to Friedberger, because his songwriting gems were given such a steroidal, ball-shrinking jolt that it melted into some kind of sonic soup that corrodes the tongue. If they couldn't hear this performance in space, it proves that sound can't travel in a vacuum.

Eleanor's voice was practically shot, and it was no wonder; she had to shout over the damn music. Speaking of the music, the bass is really loud and penetrating, and it's causing my internal organs to resonate at levels that induce, well, a need to deplete their contents. So, as the band is nearing the end of their 30-minute version of Bitter Tea, just as the misplaced "Teach Me Sweetheart" is starting, I have to extricate myself from the crowd and find the nearest damn toilet I can. And I do. And from downstairs in the stall, I can still hear the speakers hollering.

I return to the table and sit out the rest of the show. The band plays a hodgepodge of material, all of it sounding beefed up and somewhat heartless. Don't get me wrong, these musicians are talented as hell, but the music sounds more like a 100-metre dash than anything remotely artistic.

For an encore, Matt and Eleanor perform stripped-down versions of "Spaniolated" and "Police Sweater Blood Vow", which are, for me, the highlight of what the Furnaces offered the entire night. Simply, Eleanor's not competing with the noise just to be heard, and the sweetness in her hoarse voice is a little more prominent.

Closing Thoughts
The rest of my trip, as well as the few days I spend on the train and in Halifax, are not something I care to describe. I had a great time meeting Reg and Devan for coffee. Reg and I also discuss future plans. I may have seemed fairly competent between Halloween and 4 November when I finally got to sleep in my own bed, but it was mostly from necessity. It's funny how our bodies are capable of resiliently not collapsing, which mine wanted to do many times during this trip. I'm very blessed to have an understanding boss who was willing to let me go, even though there was some work to do in my absence. Nothing pressing, but I was new to the job and it would have been perfectly reasonable for him to want me to stay closer to home. It will be a while before I take a similar trip, but I can't sufficiently thank everyone who helped me along to the way, especially Reg, Marc-O and Marie, Jean and Bill, and my family. There were also many others in Halifax who had offered me places to stay in Halifax; I am very grateful to these folks as well. I've now seen two bands that I'll still be listening to for the rest of my days, and it means more than I probably understand. Being the perfectionist, anal retentive fool that I am, I feel I need to mention that all of these entries have not been subject to my editor's hat, so if anything is grammatically inferior, don't fucking mention it to me. :)

Montréal Part 5: Getting To The Show

31 October 2006
The majority of this day is a blur. I've been sleeping well at night, but it's simply not as restful as my own bed. I've been struggling to complete a freelance assignment I've brought with me in the form of an interview tape, but I feel unfamiliar with the subject I need to cover (commercial insurance), so attempts to write are pretty fruitless.

Did I just absentmindedly switch to first person? Oh well.

I carefully watch my diet, avoiding all foods that have been problematic in the past. I decline Marie's gracious offer to teach me how to use the coffee maker because I don't want to consume any more milk products before I lay eyes on my home throne. It occurs to me that the water is the problem, as many places have safe but troublesome bacteria to which foreigners need to develop an immunity. While I have no doubt this is only a temporary problem, it couldn't happen at the worst time, but I suck it up.

A few hours before the show, Marc-O discovers that the doors open at 7:00 where we previously thought 8:30, so we expedite our preparations. When offered the choice between local products and a microwave pizza, I choose the latter for precautionary reasons. Stupidly, I also take tap water to wash it down.

I change the clothes because I feel a little ill and think that new linen against my body might make me feel a little cleaner, not that I'm particularly dirty. Beyond that, I make the transition from stuck-up hipster to rabid fanboy, swapping khakis and a sweater for jeans and a Fiery Furnaces tee.

Marc-O and I take it to the streets and walk at a fair clip until we see the bus we intend to catch pulling away from the stop. We then proceed to the next most reasonable waiting place, but it seems we miss that one too. Unlike the night of the Love Is All show, it's not raining, but it certainly isn't warm out. We stand amidst a woman that appears close to our age, an older lady who seems confused, and two thugs. Others gradually join us.

Many buses approach, but most of them aren't in service (désolé). Supposedly, we're near a bus depot where they gather at the end of their shifts. This being Halloween, we see a few people in costume. Marc-O notes an interesting expression backwards on the windshield of a Jeep that pulls up to a red signal light: If you can read this, roll over. Oh Jeep owners, I bet people in sedans get just as many blow jobs. Silly, silly Jeep people.

Finally, an active bus stops at the curb and we're on our way. Of course, it's packed and we have to stand, but we're en route to seeing Deerhoof and the Furnies. I'm definitely psyched. We get to the venue, La Tulipe, to find that the doors won't open until 7:30. Isn't it great when people are disorganized. We later find out that they're waiting for the organizer or someone important. I spot some vans out front with New York plates, so I assume the bands are already inside, which of course they must be. Nevertheless, Marc-O and I have time to kill, and he suggests we cross the street to observe the exciting world of bingo. I tell him that it's a senior citizen's game, but he's never attended a session, so we make our way to the festivities. An irate security guard kicks us out within a minute, as soon as he discovers we aren't there to actually play, but just to conduct a pseudo-behavioural study on the people who live in Canada's cultural hub but spend their time watching balls drop from a big jug. Still, I'm sure this is less of a ripoff than the casinos.

We follow that riveting experience with a trip to an outlet store that no doubt houses the city's worst collection of used CDs. Marc-O and I make a contest of who can find the most copies of Monster, but we tie at three apiece.

When we return to La Tulipe, we find a larger crowd, and we have to wait until nearly 8:00 before anyone can enter the building. As we're chilling in the autumn weather, one of the clerks from Atom Heart drops by with a lady friend. We spend a few minutes joking about bingo and other miscellany, and then we finally get inside and secure a table.

Montréal Part 4: Some Assembly Required

29 October 2006
If you've ever emptied your stomach's contents before sleeping, you probably understand how I awoke a new person on this Sunday. Marc-O wasn't faring as well, his liver having to absorb all the toxins he consumed the night before.

I had my first genuine Montréal bagel for breakfast, topped with peanut butter. The morning passed quickly, and for lunch we drove to the part of the city known as le Plateau to a restaurant called la Banquise. There we had poutine, which was less than exceptional (thanks a lot, Vice Guide). From there we walked one of the many shopping districts, and Marc-O and Marie found a nice print of a promotional poster depicting a Spanish matador.

We then went grocery shopping, and I managed to pass up a free beer sample at one of the kiosks in the store. Would my discipline help to prevent three days of gastrointestinal woes? No.

I wouldn't mention my, uh, complication to Marc-O until after the Halloween concert, but it started that afternoon. I'll spare everyone the details, but it definitely made moving around the city riskier than it ought to have been.

After supper we went to a very cute independant cinema where we took in a homegrown film entitled Congorama.

30 October 2006
This day is a blur at this point, which is why I should have probably written more sooner. Nevertheless, I finished reading Generation X and spent a few hours wandering the city by myself. It was interesting to see how much culture Montréal encapsulates.

Monday, November 06, 2006

A Brief Interruption...

Might as well announce to the world that I'm the new Managing Editor for Latitude Publishing/Commerce Magazine. I'll also be helping to develop a new publication, the details of which I'm not at liberty to disclose right now. Anyway, I'm loving the creative freedom and constructive challenges of the publishing industry. I also pick up my new (to me) car this afternoon. Anticipating reader questions, it's a 2003 Corolla. Adulthood, thy name is Wood.

More on Montréal to follow shortly.

EDIT: Seems I already posted about this. So yeah, it happened.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Montréal Part 3: Sleeping In The Midday Sun, Don't

28 October 2006
I met Marc-O's girlfriend, Marie, who makes fantastic coffee on top of being as nice as our esteemed hipster. The afternoon's events are kind of hazy now, and I do think we left the apartment for some reason. Not to get the Love Is All tickets, those we had gotten at Atom Heart. If I'm keen, I may edit these posts so this fact is reflected in the previous one instead of this, but I'm sketchy on so many details that I'll let my stream-of-consciousness approach guide me through the rest of this recap.

We all went for dinner at a great Vietnamese place, where I had some kickass soup, some wickedass rolls, and I taught myself to use chop sticks adequately. Marc-O's concert hopping friend Seb met us at the end of our meal, and we proceeded through the streets of Montréal in the rain and wind, a trek where umbrellas were recommended but useless. We ducked under an overpass and finally made it to the venue, but the doors weren't open to the public yet so holed away at an adjacent bar where we watched the Canadiens assault the Leafs and got a headstart on drinking.

When we got into the concert hall, there were few people with whom to compete for tables, so we secured some of the few available seats and continued to sample some locally brewed ales. I investigated the merch table, which had a few CD singles, some vinyl, and a bunch of too-pink t-shirts. The guy manning the table didn't have a price list, but he spoke to me briefly. I told him I was from Nova Scotia and had traveled a long ways to meet some friends and see the Fiery Furnaces. He thought that was cool and said he was Love Is All's tour manager. He then ushered me to the centre of the room to ask what I thought of the the merch area. I told him it wasn't aesthetically displeasing and that the few red bulbs that hummed down on the (again) pinkesh products was nice and subtle. A few strangers approached him, at which point I joined the fellas at the table.

I forget the opening acts' names, but the first band reminded me of an industrial We Are Wolves; a poor man's WAW, if you will. The second act was a James Bluntian fiasco, some guy who supposedly drums for another band. Marc-O remarked that he was a fairly competent drummer to which I replied Phil Collins was the same. I also sang a line from that horrid James Blunt song, the equivalent of me going on stage and kicking the guy's ass (in terms of indie insult). Anyway, this fucker had a strummy song during which he repeated the phrase sleeping in the midday sun way too much. This tag line is destined to become an inside joke with me. I apologize in advance to those of you who will be subjected to it. Just pray you never hear the music that inspired it.

Love Is All were fantastic. They don't play very tight, but that free-spiritedness is what makes them and their music kind of special. Marc-O and I were head-boppin' it up at the table, and fun was had by all. I bought the CD singles alluded to above, and we took it to the streets. We were half in the bag at this point, and Seb stumbled into a Petro Canada station to return with cheap cigars that might as well have been obsconded from Castro's lips after that much booze. Well, I guess they did taste pretty awful. I even bit the end off of mine, thinking it was necessary, but they had already been clipped. Yep, cheap. Marc-O managed to cleave his, and I don't remember exactly how. He also purchased a bunch of bagels for us to share, but I wouldn't try any until the following morning.

We found another watering hole where we ought to have ordered water, but it was beer and foozeball for us. In a calamity of errors, Marc-O approached the staff to ask whether Bleu Nuit always played on a Saturday night, not the least bit offended by naked female bodies onscreen, but the channel was then shifted to a badminton match against my will. Fast forward to me hugging the bowl of Marc-O's toilet, puking twice, and passing out on the mattress that would be more and more of a warm blanket as the week progressed. Sleeping. In the midday. Sun.

Montréal Part 2: O Poutine, My Poutine

27 October 2006
Twenty-two hours is a long fucking time. Twenty-two hours on a train is even longer. Even animals in the wild allow themselves to sleep in a reclined position, which was not an option for me. When I finally disembarked, I was very worn. I took my carry-on bag and sauntered into the Gare Centrale where Marc-O spotted me before I saw him. He patiently awaited for my other luggage to appear from the depths of the VIA Rail private rooms. I plucked my clunky valise from the conveyer belt and we infiltrated the city through a series of underground tunnels and the subway.

I showered at Marc-O's, after which we went out for breakfast at a quaint Italian restaurant (name forthcoming). Naturally, we discussed music in extensia throughout my stay, and this morning was no exception. I ordered L'Intéressante, which is French toast with ham and cheese, and it was brilliant. I tried to get some work done that afternoon, but I was too exhausted from my 800-mile journey to focus on writing an advertorial about a local insurance company (name witheld until they float me some money for namedropping them). I chose instead to peruse his bookshelf, and on his recommendation I began Douglas Coupland's Generation X. Scary how much that book echoed my own sentiments past and present.

Marc-O's afternoon was more productive than mine, and when he was ready for a break, we retreated again to the subway to visit his favourite record shop, Atom Heart. I bought the Hall Ranaldo Hooker collaboration album (Ranaldo being a Sonic Youth regular, for those who don't know--most of you). I also bought the reissued Animal Collective live EP Hollinndagain several days before its original release, a moot point considering I've yet to listen to it. So much for getting a headstart on those who haven't downloaded the thing.

I helped Marc-O prepare dinner, sheepishly chopping broccoli and other miscellany, and we watched Seven Samurai afterwards. I crashed on an air mattress we inflated. Sleep was badly needed at this point. Real sleep, that is.

Montréal Part 1: Dummy Discards A Halifax

(Originally written 30 October 2006)

25 October 2006
Took the Cloud 9 shuttle to my old stompin' grounds. I thought it a good omen that my favourite of their drivers was the one to arrive at my place as 8:30 AM crept up. Not that she experienced more in her life than the other staff, but she seems more open to discussion and seems more accepting of life's unexpected surprises. She spoke of having been a bit unhinged as a teen, a time from which she extracts the required wisdom to successfully raise present day children. Also aboard the shuttle were a silent guy, a conservative (ish) woman, and an gentleman the driver described as an old, French, cosmopolitan fellow. He even left the keys in the exterior side of the knob so he never loses them within the confines of his house.

In Halifax I passed the day with an old friend. All I care to say about that experience is life is a series of choices. I remember foregoing an opportunity to study in France my third year at university. I chose to stay in Canada to be around a lady I believed to be a permanent fixture in my life. That's the only reason I was around to meet the person with whom I spent 25 October. This person, unlike me, has made some practical choices. I've known her to pursue career goals instead of nurturing a romantic relationship. She is living proof that such pursuits aren't always for the best as it bit her square in the ass. I somehow feel better about my tendency to over-romanticize life. Nevertheless, I wish her well in all her endeavours, but she will soon learn--if she hasn't already--the difference between dreamers and achievers. I genuinely hope she completes her screenplay; if it must perish, let it be on paper instead of the mind's oblivion. (May my novels in progress share a similar fate.)

I must say, my novels are beyond the fetal stage, and time is escaping me of late. Further evidence this trip was necessary.

I spent the night at Reg's new pad after meeting him at his running group HQ. One thing that must be said about Reg: many could benefit from him as a role model, especially if they understood the work he's invested into his new place. He also introduced me to mixed martial arts, aka the UFC.

26 October 2006
Had French toast at Pete's, bought a Deerhoof album I lacked, and boarded the train much closer to departure time than I intended (almost dangerously close). I took a solitary seat, spun Apple O' for the first time, and basked in the countryside as we slowly rolled away from the station. The first few hours passed quickly.